Saturday, December 29, 2007

The old and new year

This is the last post of 2007. And while I have drafts of about two dozen in the works, ideas expressed in a few sentences to get the jest of it down or whole essays awaiting the review and rewrite, this is about what has pased and what may pass in 2008. We all do this, but I won't make any resolutions besides the one I have made since 1999, to be in better health and fitness on my birthday than the year before.

I make this resolution every birthday to review where my health and exercise program is compared to the year before. I made this in 1999 after turning 50 and discovered in the previous year I had totally lost it. And all because of a career and new work which created the situation I've never fully recovered. But I can, and do, resolve to get back there if only in some small measure. I'll never fully get back to where I was at 48-49 years old where I really peaked with my running and hiking, but I can try, and that's all that matters, the effort to try.

So what has happened and what has been planned?

For one I got both my digital camera and my 4x5 camera systems. The extreme difference in photography thinking and work, but the basics don't change, the aesthetics of capturing and creating an image, and the knowledge and experience of the work itself, understanding light, exposure, and the rest.

I learned to simplify the digital camera where I can use it without too much thought, minus my own stupidity and absent mindedness, and can make adjustments when the circumstances warrant. I added a film body a few months later to have both cameras using the same lenses. I can't say the images so far are beyond good, but it's worth the effort. And the large format camera is really the fun and challenge. You are everything with it. Nothing happens until you do something.

I finally am learning more about Web design. I don't use template or wysiwyg programs, I like knowing and writing code. It's harder to do since you have to learn, or in my case adapt, some programs like java/javascript into the Web pages. And I'm still learning better Web (graphic) design since it's not me forte by any stretch. So I use the kiss principle and add improvements in increments.

And hopefully this year I'll add some flash and other image viewers, and even use some of the Web design tools on my Mac and the other packages I have. I still have to see where it would fit in without disrupting the overall consistent design I have for the whole new Website/pages design. I surf a number of photographers' and other Websites for ideas, but until I can find one that does everything and is fairly easily to learn and implement, I'll stick with what I like and what works.

I didn't get my business off the ground yet, but it's in the works for 2008 to become a legal business. But I really need to improve my work, learn some business management, build a better, larger portfolio and define what work I want to do for money. So far, I'm sticking with photo cards until I become better at printing 8x10 and larger prints. And get out in the field for more images, especially Mt. Rainier NP.

My photography guide to Mt. Rainier NP is coming along. I worked on the background information and resources. I update the news Web pages monthly. The plan is to continue with better maps (researching on-line map Websites with applications) for locating trails and places. After that, it's work on the 2-3 year plan for better quadrant maps and more specific information.

I managed to develop a series of blogs. Nothing great or such, such thoughts on the world, life and my life. After watching my father take everything he knew with him to his grave, I decided to write, and work on some bigger ideas into, just maybe, some publications. Who knows, but it's the journey of thinking and writing that matters. And I'll leave the rest to what happens.

Life in the second year of retirement and a new career has been interesting. I knew it would have its downside, and I think, after experiencing some it, I'm getting through it and better. I found it better not to put too much stress and deadlines in the process, but work off milestones, and then focus on slower, incremental progress. And this is what I have that I've really learned this year.

And that is time. In short, as I tell folks, I have the rest of my life to get my photography, my business and my life to get better. And yes, I'm gettng older and some things won't get easier, but that's the trade-off. I enjoy being my own boss and person know, and while I'm not the best, by far, time and work manager, it doesn't really matter. And I'm still open to opportunities I see in passing to change things and work.

The second thing I learned, especially with my photography, is be myself, and while my photography isn't great and doesn't begin to compare with the many professionals out there, such as on or in newspapers, just ordinary, it's still mine. And the goal is simply to do more and do better. And if it sells or I get interests for more, so be it as it only adds to the fun.

So, that's it, a good second year with hopes for a better next year and beyond.

Evelyn Glennie

I recently watched the docmumentary about (Dame) Evelyn Glennie released in 2004 entitled, "Touch the Sound." It is really amazing, not just that she's deaf but that's she hears and listens through her whole body and produces really cool music from a whole array of instruments and common things, some we consider trash. And the documentary adds wonderful visuals.

And what does this have to do with photography? Everything. While her life and being is about sound, photography is about light. And it's just a mental breath between the two, a moment of translation to see, or hear, think and understand that sound is light, just using the senses differently. Evelyn shows that you can hear with all your senses and your whole body. While photography is a visual media, it doesn't mean you have to solely and totally rely on your eyes.

Since I started learning and working with my 4x5 camera I noticed it's too easy to get lost in the image you're trying to capture and the tecnical work of capturing the image you want. That's mostly the way is suppsed to be, to be so focused on that one image from what you see through the camera to what you imagine the image on film and in print. You have to be atuned to the scene, the image, the camera, yourself, and the light.

And that's the crux of the issue. It's all about the light. As with music, it's all about the sound, in photography, it's all about the light. But it's not about just the eyes, but the whole body, all the senses and the world. It's about being "in touch" with the whole of yourself, the image and the world. You have to find your rhythm with the light, to make your visual music captured on film and expressed in the image.

While the musician hears the music in the sheets and notes, the photographer see the music in the scene and film. Instead of a dance of sound, it's a dance of light. And thank you (Dame) Evelyn Glennie for remind me while enjoying your story and music.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

NPR - And now they're gone

I was reflecting this holiday, as we all do when either surrounded by family and friends at someone's house or reminising about them when you can't be there. Or, as in my case, they're now gone. Except for a sister and brother-in-law who live in Montana. I have extended family but we weren't a close family and many of my generation drifted away from the network into their own lives and families.

And I have to say over the decades since being asked to leave home by my Dad when I was 19, I haven't done much to communicate with the nieces and nephews. Most of this is that I'm an individual person who likes and is comfortable living alone. It's in my being since I was a child as I played by myself for hours and really hated the team sports and activities teachers always made you do. It doesn't mean I wasn't competitive, as I play tennis, golf and basketball in high school despite almost failing gym class.

It's just my temperment is being alone. I do all my photography alone, whether it's street photography walking around towns and cities, nature and landscape driving around or solo hiking, or my small in-home studio. I like the pace and work of photography being alone, it's just you, the camera and the scene. The rest of the world disappears from the mental viewfinder, and I move at the pace I want while the world races by.

But now and then I look back. And I realize all the problems our family had, all the interpersonal issues we played out with each other and within ourselves is history, and isn't worth much now. They're all gone. Those I hated, loved, and all the diversity of emotions and feelings are now just memories against people in graves or ashes spread to the wind. And one day I too will be gone, and all I have said and done will be markers on papers or photos I've taken.

And all the rest will be the possessions left behind for someone else to sort through or really wholesale out. Just remanents of a life once here on this planet, like billions of people before me and in my life. Gone as we all will as history moves forward a moment behind the future. The present is just a breath ahead of the past, and a thought behind the future.

None of this really bothers me anymore, it's simply the reality of our existence and the randomness of our birth, life and death. But it does bother me we make so much about the anger. We make it real and carry it with us as baggage we felt thrust upon us when we piled it on and in ourselves. We carry it forward, when we should have left it at the station before it even happened.

Why didn't we learn? And why haven't we learned. Anger doesn't help anyone or anything, it simply degrades our spirit and soul, and robs us the things that really matter, what we should be living for and doing to help others, the world and the planet. All those words we spoke and heard in anger aren't important anymore, they're the dirt we walk on everyday, and where it belongs in our life, something we left behind a step ago.

I'm thinking of my Dad and the words he spoke before and after asking me to leave, and who died after losing his elder son three years earlier and accomplished the three goals he set for himself late in life. He died two days after making them. I'm thinking of my Mom who loved a man who rarely shared his feelings and withheld so much of himself that she discovered a whole different side of him after he left. And the life she had in her latter years geting by on memories.

I'm thinking of my brother who lived the proverbial life of quiet desparation and died an early death not having chosen the life he really wanted but lived the life Dad wanted him to have. He had chances. He was angry with himself and the world he was in where the choices were few, and none without losses. He was born without the chance of winning. And he never learned to just let go.

And I'm thinking of my own life, all the anger I've carried about something or toward someone, and mostly against myself. It's said and done and all the "what if's" won't change the reality I see in the darkness at 4:00 am on a Sunday morning in December. It was and that's all there is to it anymore.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What I don't miss II

Following on the steps of the first post on this idea, found here, photography and photographers are different but in many ways similar. For one, most photographers aren't so academic to make their profession and work appear to be more than what it is, just better snapshots the rest of us can produce.

But there are two other types that are worth the discussion over Guiness at a tavern. Note I say "over" and not "with." The first are the "gearheads" and the second, the "artists."

We all know the gearheads. They know the best equipment, ask about yours, expound on theirs, and seemingly forever talk about it. And they generally talk about their images in respect to the equipment, you know, "I took this with..." They're great to ask question, but only for the first minute or so of the answer, the rest is stuff they like to show they know more than you.

And my response is usually to turn the volume down and listen for the higlights. You can't argue with them, especially folks like me who only want or like to know enough about it to get through life. I like to understand the logic and idea, and only the details when it interests me, which isn't all that oftten. But the gearheads like to let you know that, and I quickly get tired of them.

For example, when I bought my Canon 5D, I spent the first afternoon reading the user manual and going through the menus. To understand all the functions and capabilities, but mostly to set it up where I knew to use it instinctively. But the forums for Canon cameras and especially the 5D are full of gearheads who talk it to death about the littliest thing with it.

I'm not saying it's not important, it is import to know the camera, but realistically to simplify to where you don't think when you use it. This is what Galen Rowell did. He went through a new camera to set it up where just a few control, usually 2 or 3, took care of 95+% of the photography he wanted to do. This way he could go and shoot and know the results would be good.

His point was that the equipment was only as good as the photographer using it at the time, and if they spend more time playing with the camera than taking photos, they're in trouble. The only exception is large format photography where it works on both levels. Technical knowledge is essential, as Ansel Adams showed, and well as patience to make sure everything is right for the image.

In large format photography, it's all about the photographer. The camera doesn't have an on/off switch. It's all about your knowledge, experience, vision, imagination and so on. You are entirely in control and without both the technicial and artistic knowledge, you won't do well or produce good images.

Then there are the photography as art folks. You know the ones who like to make everything important. There is one field that is an exception, to a point. Fine Art photography. Fine art photography is all about producing images that are the best technically and aethestically. If you can't stand in front of one of these prints for a longtime seeing, learning, exploring. then it's not there.

But outside of that, does photography really have to be about importance and value? That's what they argue, it's relavant to the whole of society and culture, and the world. Ok, but really?

I know I treat this as tongue-in-cheek, and I know it's important, as we know the power it can provide the world. But I just don't see it in the academic sense where you analyze it for every nook and cranny of relavance to art. It's never been my interest, even going through graduate school about geography and had to sit through the lectures on the history and philosophy of geography.

You see, I take the view that, it's the basic one sentence definition of it. "Geography is what geographers do." Geography and history are the two oldest academic endeavors, simply place and time, and everything else relates to them. And to that you can add the history of visual communications. Before written language and continuing into today, visual images are the foundation of communications.

What else does writing do besides provide real or imaginary scenes in your mind? Photography has complimented and supplemented writing with images. If you want to make it important in the study of anything, fine, go for it. And I know it's important to learn and understand the history of photography and photographers. The place and time of photography.

I'm just not for overdoing it to make it high brow art. Some photographers have tried and some still try to make photography on par with other endeavors of art, like painting sculpture, writing, etc. Ok, be my guest. But for me, I'll take my camera thank you and go out into the world to take pictures.

What I don't miss

Reading a post on a photography discussion forum, the original post referenced an essay by an art historian on photography (you can read it here), I was reminded why I don't miss both the world of academia and government agencies. While I liked my work with the USGS, I don't miss the same thing acadmia pushes as its forte in the world. And that is?

When I was in graduate school, Geography Department at Western Washington University, the Chairman of the Department at the time had the opportunity to invite some distinguished professors up to Bellingham while they were attending a conference at the University of Washington in Seattle. Two accepted to come and meet the faculty and graduate students, Rhodes Fairbridge and ECF Bird.

Rhodes Fairbridge is Australian and was the editor of the Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences. ECF Bird, also an Australian, is a renown coastal geomorphologist. I have no doubt the importance of both of them to their fields, but the two couldn't have been more different and apart on the issues and views of academia. And it only reminded me why I don't care for academia all that much, and I have a (lowly) MS degree too.

First you have to understand coastal geographers and geomorphologists. While they're a very experienced and intelligent lot, they're not, or at least any I've met over the years, a snobby bunch of academics. After all, to understand coastlines, beaches, and the whole world around them, you have to get out there and get dirty. Coasts and coastlines aren't the stuff of clean office and arm chair professors.

It's about the real world. On the other hand..., and that's my point here.

When they arrived, the Chairman escorted them to the conference room where the faculty and grad. students had assembled to hear a short speech by each and do the normal "meet and greet." Well after each gave their speech, we asked the Chairman if he could get Rhodes to sign a copy of his book for another graduate student who couldn't attend.

You see this other graduate student had a fantastic encyclopedic mind and had memorized Rhodes' Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences. Really, he could cite it almost chapter and verse. We thought it would be cool to have Rhodes sign his book to suprise him later, so we asked, and the Chairman agreed to ask him.

Well, as we were standing around and away from the professors and guests, we overheard the Chairman ask, and Rhodes responded, "I don't sign books and I don't meet graduate students." Hearing that ECF Bird, standing next to Rhodes, said, "Well, I do.", and promptly walked over and introduced himself to each us, and after meeting us asked, "So, I understand there are some beaches around here?"

Several of us had worked with the coastal geography professor, whom I count a friend now, said, "Yeah." And ECF said, "So, why are we standing here? I want to go see some beaches I haven't seen before." We left in a group right then and there, waving goodbye the rest, while ECF told the Chairman, "I'm sorry, no professors allowed." Except the one who understood, the coastal geographer.

We spent the afternoon on the beaches around Bellingham in the company of one of the world's most experienced coastal geomorphologist, and at the end of the day, like the typical Aussies, wanted to take in a pint or two and discuss the nature of the world at a tavern. I left well into the evening leaving them there still talking.

The next day while we talked about the previous day, the faculty didn't look all that happy having spent the afternoon listening to Rhodes. The professor who went with us heard about it too from the Chairman, but he didn't express regret having left with us.

And in the years in the USGS, the "Rhodes" attitude prevades some offices and many scientists. Not all, some are really cool as they know the real world of earth science is in the field, not in the office. The office is nice when you're done and need to analyze and interpret all the data you collected. And the write those reports and articles.

But that's where the differences are. Many think like academia, in their attitude toward other employees and in their attitude about writing. It's why I stayed in basic data, to the chagrin of many other professional hydrologists, who wondered why I didn't want to do "science."

They never understood the value of basic data, and all the science that's in it. I always told them, without the people in basic data like the professional technicians and hydrologists, like me, you wouldn't have the best data to use, analyze, interpret and write about. I said, we make you look good, so understand and appreciate that. But few did, and those were great people. The rest were just [insert your favorite street descriptor].

Yes, sometimes it was that divisive. They were condescending to basic data folks, and I made it one of my goals in meetings to see they understood their place too. It's hard to argue with a basic data hydrologist with 27+ years, who had also had a dozen of years or so assisting researchers, and a MS degree too. And sometimes I wasn't all that diplomatic either.

And it's why I don't miss academia. And yes I had planned to pursue a PhD someday, but not now, life is too much fun to put up with the bs that prevades much of it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

JMO - Software Upgrades

Ok, this essay is more a vent of frustration or a rant of anger, but I really hate upgrading software packages. For several reasons, not just having sometimes to fork over money to a company that continually knows some of its income is from updates and upgrades than for sales. But for the fact you have to relearn what they added and removed, where they moved things, what default setting they use and can be reset, and all the new logic they built into it. And then you have to replace some of your books because some or much of the information in the old manual don't apply anymore.

Ok, we've all been down that road. Sometimes I don't mind upgrades because the company was smart enough not to do much except add features or functions to make it better and only change subtle things in the look and use of it. Adobe's Photoshop is a good example. But today it was a real, "Argh!" moment and several hours wasted installing and using the new version of GoLive.

People who know me know I'm no fan of PC's and especially Microsoft, and heaven forbid if I were the rants and vents I could write about a company that dumbdowns their software where it's either too stupid and written for grade schoolers or hides the workings of their software where it's too complex for anyone except those geeks who love it. And trust me, I worked with some of them. You know the guy that takes the multi-hundred page manual home to read it cover to cover, and loves making fun of people who don't know the tricks?

That description is an overstatement but sometimes it wasn't far from the truth as their condescention is sometimes obvious. But I'm wandering. I like Mac's for the simplicity of their software installation and of third party software, except when it goes wrong and there is nothing you can do but call the support line. I've never had a problem with Apple's software and OS-X and haven't had problems with Adobe software packages, that is until this week.

You see I've been working on Web pages since 1995. Yes that long, and long before these WYSIWYG Web design and development packages came along. I only use the Web tools to view layouts, for browser preview and Syntax checks, otherwise I'm one of those curmudgeons who writes code and has a shelf of reference books on Web design, html, css, and so on. I'm comfortable understanding the code to write KISS designed pages.

Ok, and the rant? I've been using Adobe's GoLive 8 in Creative Suite 2. I upgraded to Creative Suite 3 but it has Dreamweaver something instead of GoLive 9. I tried Dreamweaver at work a few years ago and I didn't like it. It's designed for Website development and management than Web page design. It's over kill and too complex for simple Web page work. So I decided to upgrade to GoLive 9.

Well, I bought and downloaded it. When I went to install it, it asks for the license numbers to verify it's an upgrade. Nada, it wouldn't recognize any existing license numbers. So I sent e-mail to Adobe and two days later I got an e-mail to call the support center with a case number as a reference. I did, and after an hour we had to use a backdoor approach around the license number prompt to finish the installation and registration.

But then I brought it up. And the anger began. Years ago as a data/database manager and sometime Website manager I gave up yelling as computer screens. They don't listen, so why yell except to get yourself horse. I get up and leave for awhile. When I come back I'm more sane and rational to understand what's wrong and decide what to do. This time I ate lunch and watched a little TV.

And after that I printed the manual and started skimming through it to fiind the answers I needed and wanted. And sure enough, slowly I got used to it. While it's a great software package, and has far more tools and capabilities I need let alone ever use, I did manage to understand it and replicate how I work with Web pages. I can't say it's better than GoLive 8 for me, just different.

And the neat thing about Adobe products, you can run them independently and they won't interfer with each other, unless you're trying to use them on the same file or image. That's your stupidity, not the software's. But personally I would recommend GoLive as a good Web page development package and whatever else it has. For me, I'll tinker with it while using GoLive 8 until I'm more comfortable with it.

And so most of a day spent sitting in front of a computer wondering who's stupidier, me or it. Or who's really the smarter and if I'm simply the trained seal.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Best Wishes this Holiday Season

Whatever the moments this holiday season, find time to enjoy the company of family and friends and the simple joy of life.


Monday, December 10, 2007

JMO - When quitting is winning

I love the Sunday New York Times and especially the Sunday Magazine. This Sunday's (12/09/07) issue was the "7th Annual Year in Ideas (image link above). It's one of the best issues of the year because they showcase a lot of people and their ideas and work. And one was of particular interest.

It was "Quitting can be good for you" (requires login) which talked about the research into the physical changes in the body when people try to persevere for a goal that isn't obtainable. They discovered that people will eventually sustain near-permanent physical damage if they continue past a certain point. They don't know where or when the "tipping" point is between still being good or becoming bad for you.

And this clearly flies in the face of traditional American thinking and teaching where we're consistently told that perservence to your goal is the best path to success. In many cases it isn't and is the road to disaster or personal failure. And against what many will say, failure isn't always good for you and won't make you better. It depends on you and your goals, and your ability to see when it's not attainable to make adjustments.

It's the argument against the saying, "A winner never quits and a quitter never wins." And we're consistently shown examples of this mentality where someone or a team succeeded against all odds, circumstances or adversity. But we're never shown the many examples of those who didn't get there or those who failed along the way. We like to reward the winners forgetting all those who tried and didn't become "winners."

And we're consistently told if we aren't wining, we're not doing it right or trying hard enough. We need to just keeping trying and work harder. What we're not told is that this doesn't guarrantee success and can easily lead not to failure - because it's about trying than winning - but to a physical and/or mental collapse, especially if it's life threatening work or goal or potential deadly or suicidial.

We'll consistently blame those who suffered badly or even died as not have known enough to do better or siimply failed. We fail to recognize and acknowledge the price of perseverence in the face of reality. We fail to teach being realistic and moderation, that maybe we can adjust our goals or our effort to succeed for ourselves than someone's artificial goal. We're not told being blind to the reality of things or ourselves isn't good.

What we should be teaching is the effort, to find what works for you and do that to your best, and be aware of where or when you've past the point of physical or mental damage and it's obvious that success isn't achievable or only at a high price of yourself. That's harder to teach than a simple slogan mentality. But it's more humane and realistic.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

NPR - Life is interesting

It's Sunday morning (12/9/07) here in the Puget Sound. It's in the low to mid 30's and snowing everywhere, only varying on the intensity by time and place. And it's the second time it's snowed, and not sticking the first time about a week ago, but this time the ground is cold enough for the snow to stick and stay. There was frost over everything and any water was had a frozen surface.

I wanted to call this post the reality of being, but mostly it's about that fact that we are who we are and we face the world as we are, and while all the books can argue about changing yourself, there are limits to what you can do because of who you are, where you are, and what you can actually do. And that's what makes it interesting, partly looking back to where I've been and what I've done, and where I want to go and want to do.

And all the things I don't know will happen to change anything and everything. It's the reality of being in the world today. It's changing so fast we can't keep up. The best we can do is find the best of what's out there we can afford with our time and money, and keep going. While everyone seems to be in a race forward, I've chosen a side road and wandered at my pace to somewhere I have no idea what's ahead.

As they say, all I know is where I've been. And the rest is the big unknown. So much is happening around the world anymore it's a non-stop 24/7 progress to something no one knows. Whenever we think we're current you can read on the Internet that someone has improved it, replaced it or found something new to make it obsolete. Even the things we think will take some time, ok, a little time, to do this, we're surprised how short that time is.

The problem is that just standing still automatically puts us behind, at least something. And while the studies have shown humans through evolution are pretty much single tasker thinkers, we're forever bombarded with multi-tasking work and life pressures. They're everywhere and the ads seem to promote it more and more. You can really do more with less in the less time. But they forget your brain is only so fast. Evolution hasn't kept pace with technology.

And this is where I'm learning to adjust and really accept my aging body. While I started running when I was 28 I really did reach my peak until I was 48 and ever since then after stopping for a year shortly after that, I've never reached a good practice running. The body just has problems that are unrelated to running but effect it. I had a complete physical two years ago and it all pointed to simply getting older and the body slower.

Recently, when I began running after a short hiatus I got shin splints for the first time in a long time (decades) and switched to walking 6-9 miles several times a week, but while it's interesting, it's not the same. I like running and hate that I can't. My body tells me that and my mind agrees. Running isn't just about my health and fitness, it's my anti-depressant with my Dysthymia. Running keeps me from falling into the abyss of depression.

My Dysthymia was part of my genetic present from my parents and their parents. I'm not alone in my family with this, and it has been seen and expressed in others including one suicide. It's the unspoken malady our family lives with. As we all have them in our families. We don't have a history of heart problems, breast cancer, some crippling or a debiltating disease, or worse. We have this, the slow mental decline of our joy for life.

And running is my therapy. I run outdoors, no matter the weather, and usually the worse the weather the better the run and the better the sense of myself. Even in the rain of the Pacific Northwest winters. Running helps define me to know I'm alive, and in and with the world. I don't run fast, mostly a jog with intermittent short walking breaks, a concession to being older and another physical condition (heart).

I don't wear any headphones when I run. I want to hear and know the world while I'm running. Music is something for my home with my (antiquated audiophile stereo) where I can hear music as it's meant to be heard. But that's another story. I run to be in the world and in life, to let any thoughts of depression or sadness fall away along the route like the stones under foot and rain shed from the coat. And I arrive home tired and still alive.

That's a little overstating the case, but not in so much as all the rest of the things I can doesn't do as much as running. It's my simple reality. Something given me at birth and hasn't been rescinded by life. I have to sit at the table of life I've set and enjoy what's there and what will come. And make the best of what is and will be. And in the end, it's all there is, whatever is in front of us each and every moment. The rest relegates itself to history a moment later.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

NPR - When failure is success

We all know or have stories where failure lead to success, and we all know the story Thomas Edision used when inventing the light bulb, where after over all the failures to find the filament which wouldn't burn out quickly, he said they discovered over a thousand ways that didn't work. Sometimes success is simply persistence and the patience to persist. Nothing more, just keep going.

And we all know the idea that if you have experienced failure, you haven't tried hard enough or long enough. I can't say I agree with that because there are some things or some times where stopping is better and smarter than continuing, the old adage about repeating the same experiement over and over expecting new or different results. If you continue, you have to change something or you're simply doing the same thing again.

I saw this after I started with the USGS in Eugene, Oregon. The USGS reviews every field office for their field techniques and office procedures to produce water resources data to ensure everyone meets national standards and the data meet a minimum level of quality. It's the reputation of the USGS to do this consistently every year everywhere. And I spent a career doing and ensuring that.

In the first review a new employee a reviewer commented about the field and office work of one senior technician, stating that he was simply applying the same technique he learned nearly 30 years earlier. The technician was angry, and expressed it at the open discussion session with the reviewer. He told the reviewer, "I have nearly 30 years of experience." The reviewer responded, "No, you have one year's experience repeated 30 times."

And how was that possible? When we make a discharge measurement, we divide the flow into 20-24 sections with 4-5% of the total flow in each section, but that's not pragmatic or realistic as the flow varies with the width, so you have to keep adjusting the width of the section as you measure. This technician didn't and simply divided the total width by 24 and made equal width sections.

Some of his measurements didn't meet discharge computation standards. And this is what the reviewer was saying. He had failed to learn and failed to become a better technician. That was startling to me as a new technician, and I used it to always keep learning and trying in the field, within the accepted methods. This allowed me to leaern to adapt in the field and adopt small variations as the situation or circumstances demanded. In short, I kept my mind open to being aware in the field, and not simply keep doing the same thing over and over.

But I just didn't learn this idea then. I actually learned it from the thesis for my master degree. I went to Western Washington University to study geography, especially natural hazard perception. I watched the floods in the Skagit River valley in December 1975 and couldn't understand how people could live in an obvious floodplain and deny the existence of floods. I decided it would be my thesis.

I focused my entire graduate days to that topic from the first quarter of my classes and worked with my advisor to start the thesis with papes which helped write the thesis, as appropriate or accepted. It didn't always work and I did research on other topics, such as the impact of Canadians on the local economy, beach erosion hazards in a local coastal area, and so on. But I kept researching and reading about natural hazard perception and the Skagit River valley.

I managed to write the background chapter (one of three total) through several classes, writing essays on the theory behind natural hazard perception, the history of flooding in the Skagit River valley, and the methodology behind my surveying techniques. I even managed to conduct the interviews for class credit as you're allowed in the program. I was three months from the competion and graduation. So where did things go wrong?

They didn't go wrong as simply imploded from insufficient responses from the local population. I was interviewing three small communities, each about 100 homes in the floodplain, and I needed a minimum number of people to take part, first in a return mail survey and a second followup personal interview. I didn't realize that most were very private and hated intrusions in their life.

I eventually ended up with only 25-33% responses, which was relevant and interesting, but insufficient for any significant anlaysis and conclusions. Normally this is a fair number to make conclusions but in small groups, it's not. And after two-plus years of work and 80% of the thesis written, reviewed and approved, it crashed and burned in a pile of papers in a box.

Since I had been also looking for a job I got the opportunity to work for the USGS, first as a hydrologic technician and later, after finishing and defending the second thesis topic to get the MS degree, as a professional hydrologist. The career lasted almost 28 years, nearly 13 of those in the field in three states, Oregon, Arizona and Washington. I don't regret it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

So, in the end, I don't know my life and career would have been had I finished the first thesis. There were some opportunites, for jobs and further graduate school, as one professor later determined my thesis was a dissertation and was angry at the Department for allowing this - he suggested I transfer to continue it to a PhD, but I didn't. I sometimes wonder what would have been, but not too long.

I liked what I did. And to me it was never a failure, just something I learned that didn't work then.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Being and living deliberately

ballerinaMost folks are aware of Henry David Thoreau's argument to go and live deliberately which he did in a small cabin in the woods near Concord, Massachusetts. He lived in the cabin to deliberately avoid the many aritifices of life then and to live as simple as possible beyond the necessities of life.

He spent two years in the cabin before resuming life in better surroundings in Concord. He eventually took up extended walking trips around New England, written about in the books of his travels. While a lot of people make a lot of his life in the cabin, in reality it wasn't all that bad for the time. He lived on the edge of town, had an ample supply of wood for heat, visited friends often for dinner and walked the short distance to resupply the cabin with supplies.

So was he living deliberately or living simply, as it now defined? And what is there between Thoreau and a ballerina?

While you can applaud Thoreau for his endeavor in the rural woods outside Concord and especially the extensive number of books he wrote throughout his life, I'll take the deliberation and dedication of a ballerina as a true measure of being and living deliberately. It takes 3-5 years before a ballerina can do what the one in the photo can do, to stand on pointe. And once they have mastered it, it's a consistent practice to be able to stand and dance on pointe.

My point? Living deliberately is relative to your endeavor and the dedication to pursue to your best. Some endeavors, like ballet, take your youth because it's where you will achieve and excel. This is true even in the sciences, where many physicists achieve their best in the graduate school for their PhD. But some, like many artistic paths such, can take a lifetime and you never may reach your peak because you add to your work with your experience.

Living deliberately is all-encompassing to your being and your life. How many of us have the dedication and passion to live deliberately our whole life, focused on one endeavor over all others, and focus on our being on doing one thing to the exlusion of all others and sacrifice our bodies to try and hopefully achieve and maybe excel? While many may be involved in something, few focus so deliberately.

And while they say it's the way to be the best, it's not always the case. Sheer effort won't guarrantee any modicum of success. It may make you feel good about the effort, but you always need more to live so deliberately and achieve. For example, I run, or try to, some days per week, and I know that even with all the effort and training I'll never run a marathon, become a world class runner, or even anything other than another jogger on the rural roads where I live.

I warm up and stretch using the New York City Ballet Workout book - also available in video formats too but I like the book, but I'll never be a dancer. It's the reality of my body, and ok, age, but I can do so much to be the best I can within the reality of my existence. And that's the limitation of everyone, our own existence in the world today.

All that aside, though, it doesn't mean we can't live deliberately and it doesn't mean we have to soley focus on one endeavor in our life. It's about the focus on the dedication and passion when we do what we want, to be and live deliberately. When I take any one of my camera system for an adventure, I try to focus on being aware and follow the three simple rules I have with my photography.

These are Go, Look, See, Capture and then back home, Produce. That's it. And if I can follow these rules with absolute deliberation, I'll be doing my best, my mind and body focused on the art and work of my photography. And that's all I can hope for in my life and with my work.

A Point to Ponder

I was watching a historically accurate dramatized documentary on Tina Modotti and her life after she moved to Mexico to live and work for a few years with Edward Weston. It was interesting since I didn't know much about her but loved some of her images, those of Mexico and especially some still lifes. My favorite, which I saw in print, is the staircase.

In the documentary, based on her journals, she said that she read, "The art of photography is to take something ordinary, mundane, and capture it as looking at it for the first time." I can't think of a better way than the staircase. We walk up and down them all the time. We see them in all shades of light and dark, and shadows. We wear them out. But do we stop to just look for a moment? Or stop to see something we hadn't seen, to see them anew?

While watching the documentary I was struck with her statement, "And I will show you something different, from either, your shadow at morning striding behind you, or your shadow at dusk rising to meet you. I will show you fear in a handfull of dust."

I'm not sure what she meant about this with her photography and we can all interpret it as we want, since we won't really know. When she left Mexico, she rarely picked up a camera let alone talk about her past work in photography. It was a phase in her life than something throughout her life, or as with many photographers, a major part of and in their life if not their whole life.

It's always interesting how we pick and choose the pieces of someone's personality or life we admire or respect, and discard the rest by saying it simply doesn't interest us. The docu-drama about Tina Modotti is an example as later in life she was involved with communist causes, eventually living and working in Moscow before going to Spain to fight the facists, and eventually returning to Mexico.

And in Mexico she died alone in a taxi cab. The reports seem to suspect it was natual causes, since she had numerous connections with the (then) Soviet Communist Party, and along with other Russian ex-patriots or communist who left Russia to live in Mexico and die there, from an assasinations or suspicious causes, like Tina Modotti. Or we can think it look suspicious .

For me, photography has been a minor part, when I bought my first camera in the fall of 1969. I've always set it aside for periods of time because of life or work, and now looking back, it is the one thing I deeply regret. That I didn't keep it with me and take several times more photographs than I did. But hindsight is only good for that, and nothing more except to toast its passing.

And my point? Damned if I really know, I was mentally wandering aroung an idea and an image I like. But I guess in the end, we make our own sense of our photography and leave the rest to the viewer.

Monday, December 3, 2007

JMO - Why Walmart isn't right

We've read the books and seen the documentaries for and especially against Walmart. And I've ranted enough on some of Web pages about this corporation as the most anti-American one in history. I'm not saying it's the most corrupt or worst one, that easily could be argued to be those in the late 1800 to early 1900's when they were not only rich and powerful. You know the Gettys, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, etal.

I'm saying Walmart's business practice does the most to degrade American workers with low wages, less than adequate health care benefits, workplace discrimination, and so on. Mostly, however, it's their corporate attacks on American companies trying to keep businesses in America and American producing goods for less than fair wages and their continual almost exclusive purchase of Chinese goods, which in turn supports the Chinese government's exploitation and oppression of their workers.

No, not that, but something else shows why they don't work and aren't right. I live in a small town, legally defined as a city, outisde of Tacoma, Washington, across the Narrows Bridges. It has a quaint little downtown business core and a small satellite business center that dates from the first settlements in the area around the small bay. It also has a larger commercial center on both sides of the highway that bypasses the town.

About twenty years ago both centers, on each side of the highway, were small local shops with a center of one or a few larger grocery store or similar business. The necessity businesses of a community. The one on the west side also had the old, original building of the first motel established on this side of the older Narrows Bridge. It wasn't a landmark but should have been except that it got in the way of progress.

Well, about ten years ago the center on the east side upgraded itself with additional businesses around key larger businesses. Then the west side center wanted to expand. And the motel was in the way. And here is where the story really begins.

The owner of the motel died and his heirs couldn't afford the taxes on the property. A real estate broker came out of the woodwork to offer them a deal. The county agreed since this property was just outside the city limits and under the jurisdiction of the county. The local citizens planning committee discovered the broker was a front for Walmart, and the entire property and adjacent property would become one giant Walmart serving the greater population than just the local community.

The arguments for it were numerous. Walmart mounted its normal, "We're good for the community" advertising. But all the numbers showed the opposite, and would actually take business away from the existing business, including several name brands who have a long history here. Walmart argued it needed a population within a 15-20 mile radius to make it profitable when most of the local businesses had a 5-10 mile radius. Beyond that were other local business center in the county or Tacoma, some with their own big box stores.

In short Walmart secretly skewed the numbers while the citizens group showed the truth behind them. To show that Walmart wasn't good for the whole peninsula area. Over the course of about two years the city annexed the propertry and more from the county, who didn't want the court fights. The city then rezoned it out of Walmart's interest. They promptly sold it. Walmart eventually built one about 15 miles north in a semi-rural area alongside the highway in the adjacent county.

It has sat idle until this summer when a developer began construction of a diverse shopping center with businesses that didn't conflict with existing businesses and added new reasons to shop there. There will be 24-30 middle class and specialty businesses, such as Border, Coldwater Creek, Panea Bread, etc., which with the other two centers on the west side and the one on the east side bring new customers and add better jobs than any Walmart could do for the community.

In the end, the city got what it wanted, new diverse businesses which adds to the city tax base, and not rely solely on one corporate giant. The citizens got a larger diverse center which rivals many in Tacoma and other small cities in the area. Customers get businesses where there are choices of many along with the pace that fits the people.

Everyone won, except Walmart, but no one here is shedding a tear for them.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

JMO - Two Unproven Statements

I read a number of newspapers each week, usualy 3-5 papers 4-5 days a week. Ok, one of the niceties of retirement into a new self-defining career, simply time to enjoy life's overlooked pleasures. And while reading the debates on issues and all the arguments each sides spews forth into the public mainstream, I am struck by a thought. And while it's not original, it often seems to get lost in the debate and people arguing the content of their statement(s) without looking at the framework for the statement(s).

When a person on one side makes a statement, they obviouslly believe is true but can't be documented or proven and a person for the other side makes a conflict statement which also can't be documented or proven, it's often assumed by each side their statement(s) are true and the other side's false, when in fact both are false since neither is or can be documented or proven. So why do people keep insisting their statement(s) are the truth as fact?

It always baffles me how people will stand there and insist their statements are true when on the face of them they're at best debateable and at worst false or wrong. They'll use them over and over as fact without even entertaining questions about the legimacy of the statements or the logic or facts behind the statement. And then continue to insist since their statement is true, the opposite must be false.

No argument is so exclusionary as either side is wholly one or the other and the other the opposite. Every issue is complex, mutlti-faceted and overlapping to the opposing view, and it changes with time and place. So no issue is so absolute that anyone can stand there and swear their belief as fact and their opponents as not. The mere view of that is false even before they open their mouth or write the words.

It's the confusion of opinion as fact when belief is the book they use. It's also the nature of being human. We want our beliefs to be facts so we can go about our life knowing what we know is true and we can measure everything else by that in agreement or opposition to our beliefs. In reality, while it's normal, it's not reality, and why we decide to ignore reality on its face is what I don't understand.

We want to insist our beliefs are fact so we can express our opinions as truths. And we can evaluate and either accept or reject the expressions of others as real or not. It's so easy and so easy to get through the world. And we also find it hard to understand when reality shows us the obvious opposite in the events of the world. We find it easier to accept that it isn't what it seems or the events aren't real.

Denial is a wonderful mental medicine which keeps our world sane. The world we want to know and only want to see. Everything else then must be either false or not real. We can observe events in the world because it's there before your eyes, but it doesn't mean it's accepted as our world. We'll keep our world neat and tidy to know what we say is real and true, despite the opposite being equally real and true, or as others say, or in the face of reality.

Opinion is the easiest view to hold on to because it's ours, and we don't have to argue with ourselves if it's true or real. We know it to be because it's ours. The hardest thing is to simply have an objective opinion in that you want to listen and learn about the issue to form a more informed objective opinion.

Often people criticize this as not really having an opinion, but no one has yet to answer why you have to have an opinion. What's wrong with just being objective without judgement? An opinion expresses a bias, so why is an opinion a requirement when sometimes it's better not to have one to see all sides, and then maybe offer an opinion that is all-inclusive. The old argument a compromise is when everyone wins and loses something and everyone is angry about it.

But then, it's only my opinion, and as everyone else's opinion, is equally worth the two cents we all have in our mind's pocket.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Sometimes a Bad Day is Just That

As the title suggests, sometimes a bad day is just a bad day, and you left your brain at home, or at least it sure felt that way when you downloaded the images and started viewing them. There were a lot of reasons, only some of which included leaving my brain at home or not having it fully plugged in. It was the annual Seattle Macy's Day parade the Friday after Thanksgiving Day.

I've photographed this parade over the years, but always shot the parade itself usually from some good spot along the route through downtown Seattle. I've never photographed the staging area which is my preference as there are fewer people and no one minds someone aimlessly walking around with a camera. And as I've discovered, most freelance and press photographers do the same to get those initimate shots you see in the newspapers and publications.

And so after parking I walked to the "staging" area only to find it's not the normal staging area. Rather than layout the parade along streets blocked off for this purpose, this parade is staged as a just in time staging. There are only four block long streets barracaded and the entries assemble according to a specific time to arrive there. This includes the high school bands, the floats, and the other types of entries.

Well, that kinda' killed a lot of planning to wander around getting candid shots. On top of that a lot of people come to this parade when the weather is really good, like this time when it was sunny and only a little cold. Perfect winter parade weather and all the families were there. When the parade actually started they were 4-6 deep along the entire route and up into the staging area. So much for wandering around when you get in people's way.

Then I shot many of the images trying to get maximum depth of field (f5.6-f8) and found the shutter speed too slow. Handholding the camera just didn't work. And the parade is through the area of tall(er) buildings, similar to shooting in a deep canyon where the light sneaks through or reflects. In short, it didn't help the metering at all with lots of contrast. So adjustinig the metering to spot metering improved some images, but lost the surrounding image.

And even when I could get something interesting, there was always some little flaw or two. The reality of taking candid shots. Add to that the overwhelming police presence, at least 2-3 officers every block along the route who watched the crowd and wouldn't let you wander into the street as they did in past years, and you find yourself standing there wondering what in the world are you doing.

I noticed many of the press photographers were simply absent along the route working near the official viewing stand where the television cameras were and they were allowed to taking their photos. But without a pass, you were tapped on the shoulder by the cops and asked to get behind the line. And all the cafes had lines out the door for coffee too.

So, in the end I wandered a block off the parade route into a small cafe and watched all the cars and shoppers go by until the crowd thinned to drive home. Do you actually think I'd try to get some shopping in too?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Streamgaging and photography

Ok, it's a "Huh?" Well, not really, and you can insert any profession or endeavor for streamgaging and relate it to photography. Just for me though, it's streamgaging. I spent 13-plus years streamgaging in Oregon, Arizona and Washington. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and although many days weren't so enjoyable then that's the reality of it and my history.

I wouldn't change or trade it, which, if you can say that, is one of the few great things in one's life. To get to the end and realize it was worthwhile and fun. When I started I had the great fortune to learn from two senior technicians whom each handed me their different generation of knowledge and experience. I have always been grateful to them for my first years of learning the basics and finding the enjoyment of streamgaging.

One of the technicians was from the 1950's generation. He started in the Bureau of roads surveying in several of the highways in western Oregon before transferring to the USGS. He was hired when techicians did the basic job of maintaining river and lake gages and do the field work servicing them. They later taught them to produce and review streamflow data. I can't begin to recount the field work we shared.

The other one was from the 1960's generation and the one who really taught me streamgaging. He started in the northern California office when the Redwoods Park controversy was raging. He taught me about consistency of your field work, and meticulousness of your field notes. Both of these you don't realize the value for several years when you've found they're embedded into your work psyche. And you see the value, not just to streamgaging, but many other things in work and life.

Which is? Streamgages, or even lake gages, are small houses with one or more stage sensors attached to one to four recorders, which in later years are attached to various telemetry equipment. There is a proceedure you go through the minute you drive up to the gage, from the initial outside work, the work inside the gage house, any discharge measurement, any necessary repairs, and the last review before leaving.

This is where being consistent, methodical, and precise is necessary. You have to service the gage(s) in the same way you do every gage, from the time you unlock the gagehouse door to the time you lock it. It's that mundane routineness that frees you to focus on the other things and think through problems you encounter while still working on the gages. On one plane you're working instinctively and the other thoughtfully.

It's the simple idea of what I always termed being awake and aware when you're standing in the gage house. And when you were done and all the paperwork completed, you had the complete satisfaction and trust you did your best and didn't leave anything undone. Your whole world for that short time was that gage house and that discharge measurement. Nothing less and nothing more.

When I was reading about large format photography, I was overwhelmed with the equipment, the process, the field work, the films and on and on. But when I got the camera in the field, I realized my training as a streamgager and focusing on the basics of the camera and lenses, the exposure and metering, the thought process of the images, and the whole thing together, it turned out far easier than I had imagined.

First, I knew the basics of photography from over 30 years as a hobby, such as light, metering, etc. so it's was a matter of sorting it out for that the image and exposure. Second, the camera and lens, even being totally different, was something to learn and work with consistently, methodically and precise. Something I did for 13-plus years. And third, the thought process is simply focusing on the work and being in the moment at that time and place.

When I got done with my first few days with the system and then when I got the film back, I discovered I wasn't as bad as I feared, but then, I could have done better, which is the reason to do it some more. And more after that. The joy of being there and photographing what I see. Thanks to Duane and Mike.

JMO - When a war isn't a war

No one doubts the travesty that happened on September 11, 2001 when 19 hijackers crashed four airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and rural Pennsylvania. It was one of the worst acts committed by terrorists in history and the worst in US history when roughly 3,000 people from about 80 countries died in the attacks and the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings. Let's not forget it was an act of international terrorism.

And no doubts it was planned and excuted by Al Qaeada, then with a base of operations in the Taliban controlled country of Afghanistan. It was one of about a thousand terrorist acts in 2001 and each subsequent year. Terrorism is as old as man, and especially modern history when nations attack, invade, and occupy other nations or oppress or kill people in their own nation. We forget it takes two sides for terrorism to spawn, flourish and act.

But the fight against terrorists is not a war. A war is described as a conflict between two nations, such as the World Wars and the Korean conflict, or groups within a nation, such as the former Yugoslavia, today's Iraq, and some African nations. The definition has not been extended to cover international terrorist organizations against one or more nations. Terrorism is the ever-present problem of many nations in recent history, but the fight is not a war.

Why make the distinction? Because I think it's been misused in the wake of 9/11 for political rhetoric and to manipulate the American people into being afraid and selling you the appearance of security, and wanting to hate other nations or ethnic groups as many in the US have expressed about Muslims or people from the Middle East. It's not right, fair or just. We are a better nation and people than that, and we should realize it.

No one doubts the fight agaist terrorists won't end soon. But they're not out to attack our country, our way of life or our values. They simply want their homeland and they want the US to stop meddling in the internal affairs of other nations when it's politically expedient for our own national, corporate or other interests. The attack on 9/11 was a statement about international economic and corporate control, and not an attack like Pearl Harbor.

Al Qaeada doesn't want to take over America. But more imporantly, we have forgotten they don't exist without a host nation. They are not a nation or even a group within a nation. The Taliban may be in some respects, but not Al Qaeada. They're simply a small terrorist groups with a lot of money and global connections. And they have generated a lot of smaller terrorist groups with unsubstantiated claims or identified affliations with Al Qaeada.

And no doubts it will take the best efforts of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies. But make no mistake, which we seem to be doing, is that Americans are not the terrorists! Almost all the laws, security measure and intelligence gathering efforts have been directed at American citizens, and not in the work to identify terrorists. Those agencies have us living in fear against ourselves.

When polled most Americans would rather have security over freedom. That, unfortunately, is the road away from democracy to a police state. Where do we draw the line or do we simply accept more and more "security", meaning fewer and fewer freedoms, rights and liberties to protect us from an imaginary enemy that isn't us. So why on us? And why are we accepting it? And when will we wake up to realize we've lost our nation of, for and by the people?

We need some perspective to see what this is, a long fight against terrorists. Our law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies had all the laws they needed on September 10, 2001. They failed us, so why are they blaming us for their failures? And why are they identifying all of us as suspects in the fight? It's time we started asking the questions and demanding the real answers, and not political rhetoric about an imaginary enemy.

It's not a war we're in, but a fight over our freedom. We should show the world we prize that over anything and everything else. Not fear of terrorists or our own government.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Things You Learn

I'm one of those hands on learners, where you learn by doing and by making lots of mistakes. In many things, mistakes are mostly innocuous, a mess here or there, something not quite right, a few sheets of paper trashed, and so on. You simply start over, and in the process grab the manual or book and start looking to see what's behind what you want to do.

I'm also a researcher reader, meaning most of the books I've read were for research and I rarely read them cover to cover, but read chapters or selections as part of the background to what I was doing. I did this through graduate school and for my thesis. I have a small library of books and articles as testiment to it. I always copied or bought the publications so I didn't have to spend the time sitting in a library taking lots of notes I wouldn't understand later.

I also used it for work in hydrology, data management, real-time system, or whatever the topic. I would buy a book for a critical chapter or two so I didn't have to write notes. I could simply look it up. I'm one of those who believes that knowing where information can be found is more important than knowing the information. You need both in life, but most of the time, immediate recall isn't all that important as knowing how and where to find it.

And this applies to my photography? As the saying goes, "You betcha!" I have several small libraries of books. One for Web design and my Mac G5. One for all the photo processing, production and printing software. One for my Web-based photo guide for Mt. Rainier NP. And one for photography, on the many aspects of it, including large format photography, photography ideas and essays, and various types of photography, landscape, black&white, etc.

Well, when you put this together, or rather expressed as me, it results in a person who sits down with PhotoShop with an imported image(s) and learns by wandering and seeing. Looking at what's there and what happens when I do this or that. This means my work gets better in increments as I find new tools and methods. And it's always non-linear, often backtracking or sideways. And then find the book and/or manual and read a little more.

But it's who I am and how I learn. One of these days you'd think I would learn to find a way to learn better. Not. And while much of my photography is a do over, in the flow of things, sometimes I get it right the first time. Or the second time and so on. But it's the road to knowing I wander. For instance?

Well, for the life of me I was trying to scan an image I took of the Black River near Fort Apache. The slide looked fine, very good exposure (something to be said for Minolta's old metering system), but I just couldn't get the scan to replicate the slide. And after about a dozen scan and tinkering with the right setting, it worked as best you can from the scan.

This allowed me to import it into Photoshop and produce the Web image with almost no retouching in Photoshop. It's still not perfect, but then I'm not one who likes to tinker with an image until sunrise. I know I should, and some images I have spent days, but most are to almost there or close enough I can see where improvements are better or just personal choice. It's where I get to the point my brain is fried and just can't think what's better or worse.

I once worked with a self-taught computer specialist. And while he would take manuals home and read them cover to cover - you know those 400-600 page ones - and could make software stand up and dance, he didn't have much of a sense of humor or a sense of Web design. He would criticize me for not knowing and having to read something again and again, but I didn't care. It's who he was and who I am.

He would criticize me for doing a lot of work by hand because I found it easier and faster than developing some new tool or program to do some global thing. He like automating everything and I like keep it personal. While he would develop several versions of something, comparing them, I would simply work on one, going forward, backward and sideways until I was happy with it. I would only keep a copy of the original to start over if the working one failed miserably.

He taught me, despite all his criticism, that my way for best for me. The curious thing was that for a lot of the work, we were about the same on productivity, using different methods to get to the same result at about the same time. And while his had advantages of easy global fixes, my worked better when we needed to develop something, iterations or individualized changes than developing new tools to go over and over everything with global changes.

Anyway, I learned that learning is unique to each of us and I am also how I learn.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I posted my view of the recent incident at the world bridge championship in China and the response of the US Bridge Federation. I also sent an e-mail to the Board of the US Bridge Federation and got some excellent responses from one of the members of the board. Sadly, however, I think the USBF made a number of mistakes which clearly blew the incident out of proporation and out of their control.

When I exchanged e-mails, the Board member stayed with the issue of the flagrant violation by the the women but didn't fully celebrate that simple fact they won the tournament. They continue to stand by the position the act was wrong and action should and would be taken against the women and possibly members in any future incident. But they failed to see some over-riding issues.

First, the women did not break any specific rule of the USBF, they just embarrassed the USBF and impuned their reputation at an international tournament, which they noted was in China, who sponsored the event. They also implied this action could result in losses of corporate support. And that's what the real issue was, not the act or the words, but the impact of an act of free speech on their international reputation and corporate sponsorship.

They were driven by fear than by pride. And that's where they went wrong. I wrote that all they had to do was three easy and simple things.

First, take the women aside and privately discuss what had happened. Listen to their side as well as express the USBF's displeasure. Aside from that, since no rule was broken, leave it to history.

Second, publically issue a statement stating the women were expressing their personal opinon(s) and not the opinion of the USBF. The USBF supports its member and the riigh of free speech as an American value. And that's all, a simple neutral diplomatic statement.

Third, consider bringing the issue of incidents like this to the rules committee for discussion and possible change in member agreements about act of a similar nature at future international tournament. Ensure the rule is neutral in the act and content of the act (signs, buttons, etc.) and not engage in partisan politics.

It's clear to me the USBF errored badly in their reaction and made the women representatives of American value of free speech and themselves the curmudgeons against it. And while people can argue the words on the sign, no one could argue anything different should have or would have changed the act itself. Whether you agreed with them or not, they did what every American has the right to do, express their opinion.

I applaud their bravery. And while you can be angry with their act and words, consider one thing. Do you remember John Carlos and Tommie Smith in the 1968 Olympics? If you did, what's the difference? Nothing. Both were personal acts and public expressions of conscience.

Does anyone remember the noise from it or what happened to them? No? Because you only remember the act itself. The simple act of expressing oneself as an American. I doubt the women of the USBF will suffer the same fate at Mr. Carlos and Mr. Smith in their life. But you still have to applaud their courage to stand by their beliefs and values.

And if you disagree, what are you saying about America and American values? It's only your values that matter? Or your America that's important? And if you find yourself in a minority or committing an act others don't like, how will you react to their outrage?

Don't we all stand for freedom of speech?

NPR - Life happens

I wrote about my walking and the not so original observation while on my latest walk. Well, maybe another not so original one. Life happens.

We all know the saying, life happens while we're busy going through or getting on with our life, and experience is the result of that. We all know we have a past and a future. And some say we have a present. Well, in some respects maybe we do, but in some respects we don't. Can you define the present?

It isn't always some time frame each of us use to define our present, from minutes to days or even weeks? To a physicist maybe the present is a very small slice of time that exist only for the one small slice of time, and proceeds to the next small slice of time. Meaning the present really doesn't exist, it's simply the small space in time between the past and the future.

And that's the present in reality? Not really, but yes really. When I walk, there is no present, and only the briefest moment I'm observant of the world around me. But behind, the steps I've taken, is the past, and ahead, the road I see, is the future. I'm always walking between the two and the present is simply the moving moment on the walk.

Time doesn't seem to exist for me on walks. I only know walking and observing. It's always the way I've felt hiking. I could then, and getting back in to shape to be there again, walk forever when I was hiking. I would get in a flow and just walk. I often hated finishing the hike, and especially hated driving home. That feeling hasn't returned yet, but it's getting closer and hopefully through the winter I'll get my hiking legs back with the same spirit of time and the moment.

Until then I'm enjoying just walking and observing and feeling time be something else. To exist in one moment to another, past to future.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

NPR - Life goes on

Wednesdays are usually a free day for me now, in retirement and working on a new career. I usually schedule stuff earlier and later in the week so I can have Wednesday to do whatever happens or strikes the synapse to do. And of course, the weather. Even living in paradise, we have fall and winter weather, which arrived last week and is settling in with great comfort, including a good early windstorm recently which sent trees a swaying and limbs a flying. Great stuff to watch.

And so today I had to renew my prescriptions and do some small errands about town. It's a nice 9 mile walk, which I wrote about recently. I started about 8:00 am and arrived back home about noon, in time for lunch, reading the newspapers I picked up along the way and taking a nap which is one of the joys of retirement, err, being the CEO of your own personal business.

Well, today was five stops in those 9 miles, and just enough, with the rain jacket, to fit into my really old Hine Snowbridge backpack, which is really more of a large top-loading day pack which carries about a grocery bag of stuff in it. That's about the amount I can carry 6-9 miles these days. Anyway, while walking the last 2 miles home over the only route there is, a rural road, I got to listening, watching and thinking.

And if you haven't guessed, that's dangerous for me, because besides not paying attention, I wander in the universe of mental thought were space is just that, the size of the universe, as far as I can think and mentally wander. And what, prey tell did I have a revelation that isn't new except to me at that moment? Remember, I'm a Taoist.

Ok, with all the people going around in the cars, all sorts of commercial trucks and vans going by about their work, people living in their homes along the walk and all the people working in shops, stores and restaurants and cafes, it doesn't really matter about my existence at that moment. I'm just the guy walking alongside the road on his way home. And the world goes on. And the only difference is that I'm there then being aware of a small corner of the world with a small selection of people.

And wondering about that moment around the whole world. All 6-plus billion people living and doing in their small world. And everyone else obilvious to everyone else except the people in their immediate thought and interest. I wondered how many people really think about that, the whole time and place of the moment. Everything happening at once in a moment, and then a new moment. And again and again, onward with each step and each moment.

It amazed me that everything just happens and life and the world goes on. This isn't new or really enlightening, just curious on a walk home one cold fall day.

JMO - When free speech isn't

I read an article today about the recent win by the American bridge team at the world bridge championship in Shanghai, China. During the dinner ceremony one of the team members held up a small sign which read, "We did not vote for Bush." That's it, nothing outragous or political, just a simple statement about who they voted for in the recent presidential elections. Well, it created a firestorm of e-mails in opposition to the team members.

Three of the members later issued statements expressing regret if the statement offended anyone. And the US Bridge Federation (USBF) has disciplined them for expressing inappropriate speech which included sanctions and community service in support of bridge activities. While many members and others have expressed support for the team members, many have expressed outrage.

Now I don't know about the USBF but I don't see this as political except whom they voted for. They didn't express anything against Bush, the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, or Bush's record as President. Simpy said they didn't vote for him. And while many member sported buttons against Bush or the war, they weren't on the winners podium to be seen. And the team members didn't say anything other than the sign.

My question to the USBF is this. If the sign had be pro-Bush or pro-war, or anti-terrorists/terrorism, and so on, would you still have sanctioned them? Or is, as someone suggested, that Bush has turned patriotism into only free speech in favor or or for the President, and anything different is unpatriotic or anti-American? And so it also raises a question.

If the USBF didn't have any rules against what they did, how can they impose disciplinary actions against the retroactively and without the rule to back it? Even if they are a non-profit organization and members sign an agreement with their membership, if there aren't rules on conduct or political statements, where is the justice and fairness?

And what happened to free speech? While they were in China, the team members aren't Chinese citizens. They're Americans. We're all Americans and we're all entitled to free speech. It's not against the law to express our opinions. And while it's not generally prudent to do so at ceremonial events, it's not against the law.

These women didn't do anything wrong, and the USBF should apologize to them for the treatment they got from you and the membership who seemed offended. America is about dissent and free speech, or don't you understand that? It's our right and our right of free speech, not just what you like, but also what may offend you.

Remember, they won! Celebrate that. Americans win the Venice Cup of the World Bridge Championship. What's not to like about that?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Off the deep end

The latest issue of LensWork has an article by Brooks Jensen about traditional darkroom prints, used to print one-off or a limited number of special edition prints, and new highend lithographic prints, used for photographic book and magazine production. Well, among the fine art and large format photographers, this has created a small firestorm, or to some a small burning bush in the desert - see discussion on LF forum, either something worthy of thought, a mere noting the obvious, or a waste of time and paper.

Ok, I'm an ordinary photographer, and while I've started learning and doing large format photography, I clearly will not get into the realm and world of fine art photography, or at least until I spend a lot more time at the computer and printer. But then all my production is focused on digital printing, and most of that is for photo cards with individually printed 4x6 prints. Definitely not fine art.

I long since abandoned the darkroom. When I was learning photography in the early 1970's I worked after hours at a photo lab on base. I was paid in film to help with the lab, and they let me produce some of my on prints for photo classes I was taking at a local community college. After just over a year I kept working at the lab but decided I hate being in the darkroom. I love taking photo than producing them.

And while since retiring I've learned to enjoy producing prints, it's still not what I like the most with and in photography. It's still being out there with the camera. All too often I view the slides, negatives or (digital) images, say, "Ok.", and plan my next photo trip. That's changing to sit in front of the computer and with the printer more as I learn that people like my cards, and follow my simple rule - use them or give them away to people who will, but don't let them collect dust.

Anyway, I can understand the idea of comparing a traditional darkroom print with a digital or lithographic print, and even understand the thought against it. They're different methods and all the technical analysis won't change the issue that it's about personal choice and content (film photograph or digital image). The rest is production and presentation, and totally within the control of the photographer. The beauty of being one today with all the choices and technology at hand.

And my point? Well, reading some of the comments, and as some forum posts get, some either misunderstood the article, decided to discuss another topic, or just wandered off in another direction. But the point that bothered me the most is the perspective and tone of some of the posts. Granted I highly respect and admire the craft and work to produce fine art prints, some of them are missing one issue.

They're standing at the one yard line of one end of the field forgetting the rest of the photography world is playing in the other 99 yards, and for the most part, really don't care about fine art prints - not being collectors - or about the opinion of fine art photographers. They may admire the work in galleries on occasion, but 99+% of their viewing of photography is done through computers, magazine or books.

Standing in front of a traditional print is awesome, and I really advise folks to view them at galleries, cafes, or wherever they're presented or displaying. But it's just another way to present photographs today, and it's not the pinnacle for many people anymore. Some think it stil is. It is in a small world of photography, but not the mainstream photographers or people viewing photographs.

No one disputes the value and importance of fine art prints. And I really like LensWork magazine. The issues aren't about the equipment, it's about the photographer and their endeavor to produce a breath taking portfolio. If I ever strive to learn enough to produce one (portfolio) to submit, I'll be happy, which is about 100 to 1 submitted to accepted as I understand it. In the meantime I'll stick with my simple production and standards.

And while I like listening to the wisdom and experience of fine art photographers, I'll keep my feet in the real world of my photography.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

JMO - Boycott Eagles new CD

That's a big statement coming from a longtime fan of the Eagles. I have their albums, you know those big round vinyl, groovy things, and their CD's. But the decision to only market their CD in the United States through Walmart stores is a really dumb and stupid decision for a band who have prided themselves as environmentally friendly (like a rock band can?), and who should pride themselves in supporting fair wages and American enterprise.

With this decision they're robbing all the small and larger music distribution, marketing and sales companies and businesses, especially the small ones I shop at in Seattle, Silver Platters, who busts their butts to stay ahead of the market and support a vibrant music community and the consumer. They've been robbed by a corporate giant at the hands of a popular rock band. That's unconscionable.

I'm sorry about this decision, but the Eagles owe their longtime fans more and better choices, and allow us to follow our ethics if we decide we don't like Walmart. When a corporate monopy like Walmart becomes the sole source in the US for someone's music, they're extending their power and control over the consumer. The Eagles should know better. What you don't listen to Lou Dobbs on CNN and other folks articulating a voice of criticism against Walmart? You haven't seen the documentaries? You haven't read the books or articles?

What the fuck were they thinking? I'm personally disgusted a rock band of my generation would contribute to the monoply of a corporate giant, and especially Walmart. And so I, as a consumer, also make a decision. If it's about the money, yours, well I have an answer about mine.

You don't get my money!

NPR - Life in the middle of change

While pondering the day in the darkness on my deck at 4:00 am with a cup of coffee - it's cold, windy and infrequently rainy - I was thinking about the end of my second year in retirement, approaching in December. After retiring I've been in the middle of several major changes in my life, and I realized it's extremely difficult to assess anything beyond what you have done so far and what you want to do in the future. In short, being in the middle isn't the place to think too much.

And the changes? Well for one, retirement. To go from a government agency to your own personal endeaver, business to follow, is a big change. From being a mid-level senior technical manager, and former section chief and supervisor, to a one person operation. I set myself a timeframe of 3-5 years to have a foundation of what I would do with the rest of my life as well as achieved some things in the other areas of my life.

For another, my photography. In two ways. First, getting and learning two new camera systems, a large format and a full-frame digital is a leap from my long used Minolta manual focus system. I can't say enough about the fun it is with the cameras and the challenge to capture images. Second, is the print production, something I've always left to labs, but with the next change, I'm moving to complete in-house production except for film processing and large print (16x20 or larger).

For another, my Website and other plans, like writing, travelling, etc. This meant getting and working with a new computer. I've had computers at work - even managed and operated several in a series of satellite downlinks and data processing and dissemination software and databases. But getting a Mac G5 with several photographic and media production software was a big step into sitting in front of your own computer.

The plans for writing, which for now is several blogs and Web pages, will hopefully be expanded into chapters and later a book, but realistically way down the road. The travel plans are still there, but for the next few years I'm staying close to home. It's mostly a financially issue to ensure I don't lose track of the rest of my life plans and find myself in debt. There's a lot around here to photograph.

For another, being older. The last ten years has been the biggest change physically, where the reality of aging is beginning and the struggle to stay fit gets harder. When I was 48 I ran 20+ miles a week and went hiking 2-3 weekends a month during the spring-fall hiking season. Now I run 8-10 miles in a good week or walk 16-24 miles instead as I learned feet transporation isn't so bad. I still weight train, but less often as I find it's harder and the recovery longer.

As for my health, well, everyone has their diatribes about this or that trouble. Two years ago my physician had me go through the battery of test you're supposed to get after 50, ok, at 56, but better late than never. I took it as an adventure to understand where I was at physically, and the prospects of maintaining some level of health and fitness for my plans. The outlook is good, but it didn't defer the aging part.

For another, Mt. Rainier National Park. I first hiked in Mt. Rainier NP in 1977, but left for a career. I returned in 1987 and haven't stopped hiking as much as time, life and my body will allow, albeit less in recent years. In the mid-1990's I discovered there hadn't been a photo guide published in about 40 years. There are three overview ones now, so I decided to spend my retirement working on my own photo guide, and let it take me where it does.

For another, get back into being a student of the Tao. I "discovered" the Tao in Alan Watts book, "Tao, The Watercourse Way" when I was studying hydrology and water resources. I've always had an innnate connection with rivers, and partly why I joined the USGS as a hydrologic technician and later hydrologist, and became an infrequent fly-fisherman. Over the years life interceded and I wandered away from my study of the Tao, and now I'm going back, or forward anew.

For another, reviewing what I have (own) and want to keep. It was my goal to go through everything in my life, all the stuff we've collected and hauled around, and shrink it to what's in my place, no storage except the garage-type stuff and personal stuff I've had since childhood. Unfortunately this is one of those really major chores in life, and it's always easier to procastinate this into the to do list.

For another, something else. This is an on-going one that relates to my whole life. And I won't say more until it's clearer how the future will look. It's not about what but how it goes and what happens. This is one change it's done as you live. That's all you can do, and adjust on the way. Everything else are hopes and wishes.

In the end, it's the simple notion that pondering the universe at 4:00 am on a late fall morning is fine, pondering your life isn't. So, I'll drink the coffee and watch and listen to the early morning darkness.