Monday, April 30, 2007

NPR - Stuff Junk and Trash

This is the year, hopefully, I will sort through all the stuff I've carried around these decades, currently in a rented garage-sized storage area. While doing street photography I notice a lot of street people push carts around with their entire worldly belongings with them, wherever they go, they're there. Me, I have stuff from my childhood, and stuff through my entire life in boxes in the storage area.

I remember in the fall of 1970, my girlfriend, whom I later married, and I moved in together into a small apartment in a suburb of Sacramento, California south of McClellan Air Force base where I was stationed. Everything she and I owned fit into the back of a borrowed early 1950's Chevy half-ton pickup. We looked like total bumpkins with our stuff and pets in the truck. It was funny, and we always laughed about that day.

And ever since then I've accumulated stuff and rented larger storage areas to where about 10 years ago I finally rented a garage in one of those chain storage companies. It was half full when I moved into it, and now it's full. So, my goal this year is to practice triage on it, give it away, recycle it or throw it away. Plan B is keep a few things I've always cherished. My goal is to be completely out of it by the end of the year, but there is some furniture which will have to be sold.

Until I start on that storage area, I've been working the apartment and its small storage area, to get it down to the minimum. The problem is that I'm like everyone who personalizes stuff and gives it more value. But at some point, stuff is just stuff, and something I've been thinking about. Today I was taking the trash out, and I noticed I have no problem taking out the trash, but I have a problem taking out junk.

We love junk. We're not unique, it's almost a universal theme. Just watch people around the world. Very few cultures don't save stuff, and those that don't, usually do when they settle into places of their own. It's been a long evolution and history to get where we have so much stuff. I've thought we literally can produce ourselves into oblivion for the stuff we buy and save, thinking it's worth something, only to give it away. The whole recycle business, especially for clothes, is fascinating if you ever see or read stories on it.

Anyway, back to the point. I was just thinking how we put value on objects others just see as stuff. And so it goes, and I'll keep you posted on the progress of simplifying my life. The goal? To get rid of everything not in my apartment. Doable? Yes. Realistic? Hmmm..., I'll get back to you this fall.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

LF Process

Well, I wrote a couple of columns on my photography this last week, about walking around downtown Tacoma, specifically the museum district near the University of Washington Tacoma campus. It's wasn't all that a productive week, see my LF Blog for the Process column for a more complete description.

Anyway, while working through the images, which started with the one above (digital capture one), I reduced the process to three steps once you get to a place you think there is something worth the time. These are composition, camera and exposure, in that order. This works for me to simlify the thinking and focus on each step to be in the moment thinking about the image and the process.

The composition is where I see something, but just can't quite see it, or at least I don't yet. Since I'm in the learning steps for large format photography, this is often a walkaround with the digital/film camera to see what the image looks like through the viewfinder. I know the digital sensor and film size is a different ratio than 4x5, but it gives me an approximate scene, as well as using the camera's light meter to get the initial reflected light metering.

I think everyone would argue the composition is the most critical step. It saves a lot of time, like Duh, but follows that it helps you with the critical thinking through the process, the whole, the image, the light, the exposure, and the final image, to see it in your mind. This will always be the learning curve for me, and to many people walking by probably wonder what is this guy doing.

Once I have the image in mind and the location to get that, the second step is the camera. This is the process of setting it up where you get the image on the focusing screen you see. This is probably 90% mental as you set up the tripod, head, camera, lens, filters, etc. before you look at it and start making the adjustments, moving the tripod-camera, focusing, and front controls and optional back controls (the 45HD doesn't have these). All while viewing the image and the back and forth of adjustment and viewing.

And what did it look like when I wanted the above image?

The last step is the two step process of determining the exposure(s) you want, if more than one sheet of film will be exposed, and actually taking the image, simply setting the aperture and shutter, checking the shutter, testing and cocking the shutter, inserting film holder, and then take breath and take the exposure(s). For now I'm taking two exposures with different aperture and shutter speed combinations - either for seeing the depth of field at one exposure or seeing different exposures.

When you get to the moment you hit the shutter release, it's almost anti-climatic, it's all said and done, and you take what you did. And there is one last step. I sit down and write notes, when, where, what, weather, film, scene, exposure (all readings and camera), and incidental thoughts.

Black and white

This is more a rant at photographers who love technology over photography, so you're excused if you want to click back and surf on to other Web pages. I was reading several posts on Photo net's forums where people ask about black and white images, now called monochrome in the digital camera age. It's funny how many, almost all really, will respond to say you "have" to shoot color and use all the color to monochrome conversion tools in Photoshop to produce black and white images.

While I agree there are a lot of tools to produce black and white images, this argument overlooks several points. First of all is that it won't make you a black and white photographer, in my view, which I've touched on briefly in another column. It makes you someone who produces black and white images. Why? There is a difference when you shoot black and white in the field, which has been done for over 100 years of photography. It changes your perpsective from color to tone, texture, shadow, light, form and so on.

The other side has a fair argument that digital cameras capture in color so converting to black and white in the camera isn't the best way of producing black and white images. And while I agree many photographers today produce some excellent black and white images from original color, it misses the point of seeing when you're holding the camera. Seeing in black and white forces you to make judgements about dynamic range and about shadows and light. You have to translate your thinking.

Anyway, my rant is with people who espouse technology over photography. Photography isn't about the technology, but about the images, and about the tools the photographer chooses to use for their images. And if they're comfortable with traditional methods, so be it. After all they've worked for over 100 years producing a lot of images people have loved for the same time. So let's not throw tradition out simply because it's simplier and easier, and still produces excellent images. Technology is available if you choose.

And technology won't make you a better photographer. It only forces you to learn more tools, some for the better but many to simply take your time when you could be doing real photography, like using your camera. I've always said it's a choice between where you want to spend your time, behind the camera or in front of a computer. Good photographers learn to balance the two, great photographers go for the camera and add the production tools later, sometimes to be better in the darkroom than behind the camera.

Remember, in the end, it's about where you want to spend your time. And so I'll stick with shooting black and white with the camera, whether with film or digital. I make my choices based on my interests than fads or what others think is better. It's not. Tradition has value when it's expressed in your work.

Another interesting day

After a day off from the two days walking around downtown Tacoma, specfically the museums, I went back early Saturday morning to get the time where there are few people. I got some good shots. Well, ok, I like them. Anyway, after taking 4 sheets of 4x5 film, I packed up the 4x5 camera and walked back to the van to put it away and just walk with the digital camera until I got tired.

Well, as luck would have it I saw this public transit worker (above) cleaning the bus stops. He had already finished cleaning the shelter and was working on the information stand, but I took some shots of him finishing and going back to his truck. At one point he saw me photographing him. When I walked on past the shelter, he called to me and said I had no "right" to take photographs of him working. I told me anyone, and especially public workers, in public spaces, including streets and sidewalks, are fair game for photography, explained in a one page foldout.

Well, he raised his voice saying I should have asked. I said I don't have to ask, and I suggested he ask either his boss or management or ask the police about a photographer's rights in public space, from the tourist to the professionals. At that point I simply turned and walked on, but it was clear he wasn't happy with the situation. I realized later I should have gotten his name or just his truck license plate to report him for being impertinent at best and harrassment at worse.

Anyway, I now have enough exposed sheets and rolls of film to drop by the lab. the sheets. I have to remember the first bunches, like the first year or so, are learning exercises, and don't really mean much except to see how well you're doing or not doing with the exposure for the film from the information you get, which is?

Well, since most cameras have built-in light meters, many with variable settings for spot, average, evalutative, etc. metering, you pick one, make any exposure value adjustment, and shoot. With sheet film, you have to get the readings from sources, such as another camera or light meter. You read the incident light (light falling on the subject), and reflective light (light focused back to the camera and film). You do the reflective readings for the range of darkness to brightness, the dynamic range in the Zone System.

With black and white film you have to find where you want zone V to fit the dynamic range of the scene in the range of the film so you don't lose the shadows or blow out the highlights. The dynamic range in some scenes will exceed the range of the film so you have to accept some loss. Color film, however, is different, because it has a narrower dynamic range so you have to get the exposure right, generally a little under for transparency (slide) film and a little over for negative film.

It's why color film, although more expensive to buy, is easier to learn in large format photography? It's either on or off with maybe half to one f-stop latitude without losing too much. Black and white film, however, is different in that it has a wide dynamic range (arguably equal or wider than digital cameras) so you have to decide where the middle is in your exposure. So it's a part guessing game and judgement call. And some hope.

We can all hope, and with film sometimes, until it comes back, it's all you have.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Addiction and photography? Well, it can be if you answer the question, "Do you take your camera with you almost all the time?" Which means is photography a part of your being or something you can choice to do or not do? That's what makes one difference in photographers. For some it's simply what they do and who they are, and for many it's something they enjoy and often passionate about, but they can put it down for periods of time. And some are both, meaning it's their addiction, but they also know some times you have to put it down.

When I read about commercial and professional photographers, it's clear they have an addiction with photography. They like the work, but it's not about being a photographer that matters, it's doing the work they love with a camera. They like capturing images, and they'll go where they can to get the images. Some work as photojournalists to go all over the world, where we see their images in newspapers, magazines and on the Web. Some work on assignments, such as National Geographic, often going where they love to capture image for a project or portfolio. Some of these simply like to go and photograph, and they'll sort it out later.

And some work in other areas, fashion, portrait, wedding, studio, nature, landscape, architectural, and other types of photography they enjoy. Sometimes it's not always their preference, but a photography that pays the bills where they can do the photography they like when they can find the time. One commercial photographer told me he works as a portrait and wedding photographer to afford the money to take a month off for his nature photography.

And following up on several other posts describing photography, I'll add one about photographers, what makes it an addiction whether you're a commercial or professional one or a serious amateur photographer. In this post I use the 3 A's, attention to detail, attitude, and aptitude.

Attention to detail is something we use in many endeavors, and photography is no different. This last week I had brain fade when learning my 4x5 camera and digital camera, see here and here. But that's the advantage of learning and proximity, I can go back another day and try again.

But it shows the value of paying attention to details, and in photography it's an advantage to simlify some aspects of the process where you can focus on the parts you want. I learned this doing field work with the USGS where you had to have a consistent method and process when you serviced field equipment so you can focus on everything around it such as problems, environmental conditions, changing weather, etc.

I've translated this to learning large format photography. The mechanics of learning to use a 4x5 camera is straight-forward process, you just have to practice it enough to make it faultless, and remember you will make mistakes now and then. The key is noting when you do. This frees me to focus on the important issues, like the composition, exposure, etc.

Attitude is something we all have, it's a matter of balancing all your emotions and feelings with your thinking to get the work done, and be open to the new things. Photography is often about improvisation and imagination, and to be open you have to have a good attitude. There's so much on this, but it can be reduced to simply enjoying your photography, from the moment you start looking to the final images.

Ability and Aptitude, explained by Wikipedia is about your experience, knowledge and talent (EKT). It's about what you know and what you can do, and how you use it in the expression of your photography, the images.

And so in the end, we all get an A, it's how we use our A's that matter.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Two Interesting Days

Well, this week I had some days free, and decided to pack the camera systems, the digital and large format ones, into the van and wander around downtown Tacoma. This was after finalizing the essay on go, look, and see to be a photographer. While the days were interesting carrying two camera bags around for a few hours, I did manage to take some photos with the 4x5 camera and lots of digital images. I did learn a few lessons too.

You have to keep your brain plugged in while photographing, at least enough so that you get either the images you want in a few or enough to overcome all the stupid and dumb things you did. One of my goals is to learn large format photography. I've learned the mechanics of the work is straight-forward and fairly easy to follow, the difficult ones take time and experience. As I read, nothing replaces experience and simply put, they wrote, don't worry about your first sheet of image. It's the learning curve.

I won't know for another week or so when drop the sheets by the lab. I've been using Kodak T-max 100 and Fuji Provia F 100. And as much as you think you know what to do, it's doesn't really happen. You see you have to determine the exposure and set the camera aperture and shutter speed, and then load and expose the sheet. At $4-5 per sheet for film and processing, you have to really think about the exposure. Mistakes aren't cheap.

And while you think it should be easy, it's not until you've done it many times to be comfortable and trust your judgement. And if you're think, "Yeah, right. I just trust the camera." Well, you can't. It has no light meter. You have to bring one or use another camera, and you have to judge between the incidental and reflective light, and where to put zone V with black and white film or where to put the optimum exposure with color film.

You see there is a moment you have to push the shutter release. And did I say carry a notebook and write all sorts of notes so you can read them when viewing the results? Yup, lots O' notes, like the different light readings, the range from the darkest to the brightest, and the final settings for the exposures. And don't forget the obvious, like the lens along with the really obvious but easily overlooked, like when, where, weather, sky conditions, film, etc.

Anyway, I'll see when the film comes back. The key is don't expect anything and you'll be surprised if it works. Well, that was the large format work exposing 8 sheets of film. The second half of the work was to carry the digital camera around just photographing what I see. And I learned a few more lessons about keeping your brain plugged in.

I decided to photograph the outdoor glass exhibit with the Glass Museum on the walkway from Pacific Avenue to Dock Street. It's a cool exhibit but reviewing the slides I had a hard time keeping vertical straight. Most of the images have a slight tilt, which was a surprise, but something to remember next time, along with photographing with different light.

And this lead to the second lesson. While on the overlook about the entrance to the Museum (part build under a plaza) I watched a professional doing a photo shoot for some advertisement. They used light reflector screens to balance the light. It was interesting to watch their work process, and they were kind enough to let me photograph them working. And the lesson?

Well, I learned I really have to watch the autofocus, it's easy to get wrong if you move the camera out of the autofocus points, a number were out of focus moving to the distant background instead of moving people. In short, get out the manual and read some more. I also learned I have to rest my eyes more during these walking photo trips. I generally use manual focus and use the sharp focus screen with my 5D, which is great when it works, but easy if your eye is tired.

Anyway, that's the two day adventure, and I'll leave you with an image I really like, but many might say, "Huh?". That's the beauty of photography, it's all personal, your vision, heart and soul. Ok, emotional, but I like to see and take full size images, meaning I rarely crop my photos. I use fixed focal length lenses and move where the whole image in the viewfinder is what I want. Anyway, I saw this and liked it.

NPR - One's Life

I wrote a recent column about the value of human life versus a human life, meaning the difference people keep between humanity and a stranger. It's easy to value human life, and make all sorts of claims on the value of life, but it's different when you translate that to a person, whomever they are. That's the rub, as they say, where the idea meets reality, and it's often where people get caught in the contradiction of their own values.

So, now let's take this idea one step farther, the difference between one human life and one's human life, our own. It's the obvious between where and when we make the distinction between our life and someone else's life. But what is the value we place that differs the two? Or do we have only one value, meaning our self-presevation equals to our self-sacrifice for others? Or do we make distinction based on the circumstances, situation, or the other people?

And how did these values of human life, one human life and one's own life develop and change in your life? How much was from your parents growing up that you carried into your adult life? How much changed in your adult life? Or did some event trigger a fundamental change? And which way? Values are part of what we do in our life, often in our work and careers. And if not in our work or career, then in our personal life.

We often use our work as a surrogate for our values, for all three as an expression of our service to the whole, to people and to ourselves. Do you? Or do you work in a job and find the expression of values in your personal life through religious, charity or group work? Or through a personal endeavor which helps in the same way?

I asked this because when we make changes in our personal or professional life, it changes our perspective about the world and people, and changes our perspective of who we are and our value to everything from ourselves to everyone else. I left a 28-year career in the USGS, partly from personal interest and partly from management's interest. I had to trade public service for personal values.

In short, I had to redefine my life. I spent some time exploring teaching and working for NGO's, but it's the story everyone knows trying to find a job, "Good luck, and have lots of patience." I knew this from my graduate school when I spent 18 months looking for my job with the USGS. My original goal with retirement was to take two to three years of and to (re)learn photography and explore large format and digital photography. But I wanted to keep my options open for opportunities.

Anyway, in the wanderings around photographing people, places and events, I get ideas about people and the value of life, from the universal human life to one human life, and to one's life. From the general to the specific and personal.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

NPR- A human life

I was listening to NPR Morning Edition this (Wednesday 4/25/07) morning before going out on a photo trip, specifically the stories on the Russian orphans, suicide bombers from Morocco, and abortion rights fights in state legislature, I began to think about the value we put on a human life. There are over 6 billion people in the world today, and likely as many who have lived before and now just history. So why do we treat other people so badly to the point that to many a human life isn't worth very much.

I know I'm thinking out loud, and everyone generally talks about how much they value "human life", but this view is more about humanity than a human life. What's the difference between "human life" and "a human life"? For many, probably nothing, and a semantic argument, but the inclusion of the word to focus on one life makes the difference in the discussion. It's easy to understand how anyone can value humanity, but then I find they discriminate against people or groups, or use some philosophical or religious basis to call other people "enemies."

And that's what I don't understand. We argue so much about life here in "America" but then decide it's only our America that matters, not those who don't fit our definition. I don't get it. What happened to the adage, "For there but the grace of God go I."? Have you spent time to understand someone else who you think you may dislike or worse, such as so offensive to your way of life and vallues? Or find someone just doesn't seem to be human?

With all the diversity in people, it's easy to see all of us discriminate, even hate. Not surprisingly, it's human nature. Maybe something in our evolution to fear people not like us, and we've taken it to the extreme in the modern times. I don't really know. I just wonder sometimes when I hear, read or see people mistreating others, and often worse, reducing others to objects beneath their dignity to respect or treat decently, like in the news stories.

Why this topic? Well, I like to walk around places, especially downtown Seattle and Tacoma, and photograph what I see. And while walking around it's interesting to watch all the people going about their life. In the process of walking around I often time to talk with people for a few minutes whether I'm focusing on something or not. Most of the time it's a positive experience, and you meet some interesting people.

But occasionally I get into some situations I'd rather not be, but I usually find it's a test to see how much I value a human life, to spend the time with this one person for a moment in our lives. Sometimes it's hard, such as talking to transients, or belligerent or obnoxious people, and I often give up or just walk away. I don't until it's absolutely clear it's a lost cause to get through to them.

Anyway, I was just pondering thought after the news and the day walking around. It's a big world and a lot of people we have to deal with every day, along with the many we rely on for everything we have or do. How much do you value human life and a human life?

Monday, April 23, 2007

NPR - ER show and death

The TV show ER used to be a favorite of mine until the character Dr. Greene (Anthony Edwards) died. And while there are a lot of episodes I like , the final episode of Dr. Greene death is my favorite. It occasionally it shows up on reruns to remind me why. It's a show about life and death, his death and the on-going life of those he loved and loved him. Ok, it's TV, but it's still a good episode about dying in peace. And that's why I like it.

My older brother died at the age of 47, August 21, 1991. It was the day I bought my 1991 VW Vanagon Syncro, the car I always wanted since the late 1960's, and settled for a 1971 VW Bug. The first drive home from the dealer was to the airport to catch a flight to Kansas City for his funeral. Another early trip in the van was to the ocean to deliver flowers from the funeral to the sea off Westport, Washington. He never saw the Pacific Ocean. He always wanted to, and the only time he was on the West Coast he didn't get the time off to go.

And why the show? Well, my brother was a type A personality, the first son who was supposed to achieve what Dad thought was good and right. From the age of 17 or so, it was clear to some of us, he didn't want to achieve, but find some level of comfort in life. He came close for a short time in the 1970's living in Crested Butte, Colorado, a place he really loved, and where his ashes were delivered to the Gunnison River, his favorite fishing place.

But he soldiered on as they say and became the Treasurer and then CEO of AMC Theater Company before being axed in a takeover he negotiated. He went through a few jobs after that for the last few years of his life to settle on a job he hated as the CFO of a trucking company. One day, for the first time in his working life, he came home for lunch. Being a workaholic he never did this, to the surprise of Jo, his wife, and his children.

After a short conversation with them, he sat down on the couch, lit a cigarette (being a 20+ years 2 pack a day smoker), and had a heart attack. The Coroner discovered his lungs were over half filled with liquid, needing a heart-lung transplant, his physician told him was necessary if he wanted to live very long. He declined and at home left us to his own world of peace.

While we rarely spoke over the years, when we did it was for hours on end about life. I still and always will miss him. He knew he was dying and that morning knew death was on his shoulder, and he chose the place to die. We could all ask as much.

Well, my Dad never recovered from his death, and afterward only spoke to me a few times. He didn't want to outlive his son, the one he placed so much in. In the time in between my brother's death and his death, he quietly admitted to me that I wasn't the son he wanted. Mom and Dad only wanted two children and I being the third wasn't wanted, so both of them left me to my own devices to grow up, mostly by my siblings and the school system, until I was told to leave at 19 (long story to come later).

Well, Dad had three goals late in life, after being forced to retire at 62. He wanted to pay off the mortage for the only house he ever bought, celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary, and get to his 75th birthday. He had a 5-way heart bypass at 73 so he could live longer. At 74 he came for a stopover visit on the way to Alaska, which I wrote a poem about his overnight stay.

The day after his 75th birthday, he refused to get out of bed. He fell into a deep sleep and died two days later. I wasn't there as Mom said it didn't matter, he didn't wake up and kept talking to people long since dead. He chose the time and place of his death. We wished him peace, and I hope he found some solace with his God for later I would learn why from Mom.

You see Dad and I lead similar lives in our youth. He was the third child, second son, and his Dad rejected him over the older son. He also was kicked out of the house after his first year of college, and in 1939, it was not a good time to be alone in the world. So he joined the Army and rarely went home. He missed his father's funeral and never spoke of him, only his Mom who lived into her 80's.

We were similar in that I'm the third child, second son, and my Dad rejected me over my brother. He also kicked me out of the house at 19, and in 1968, it wasn't a good time to be 1-A in the draft. He did to me what his father did to him, history repeated itself in our lives, almost to the same circumstances. I joined the Air Force, to avoid the draft, for my Vietnam years. Our lives went in different directions after that, but the relationship between us wasn't that much different, only when each of our dad's died.

My Mom only passed away last year of a stroke and heart attack at the age of 85. We spoke routinely along with letters I sent about monthly. I never saw her after Dad's funeral, twelve years I deeply regret not doing. She understood why. We had to endure living with grandmothers outliving their husbands and settling in with my parents for long periods of time, before one went home to Kansas to die in the only home she knew and the other to a nursing home.

And so this episode of ER has some personal meaning to me, a reminder of lives past and life passing.

Raw versus Jpeg

This is an argument (using the debate definition of the word) that I've learned to stay away from, but occasionally find myself in the discussion when people take one extreme position. It's actually worse than the old film type arguments when photographers would criticise other photographers because they simply used a different type of film. I got into those discussions too but left when it was clear there are no winners, only pissed off people. The raw versus jpeg argument is worse.

You can find all sorts of on-line resources about both of these types of image capture, and almost any book on digital photography discusses the two types along with other types of intermediate image formats. Personally, I would be cautious of any of the on-line resources written by a photographer unless it has, what they say, a fair and reasonable balance of the two image capture formats, which I'll also say is rare. Almost all photographers have a preference and express it on their Website.

So,is there an important reason to weigh into the discussion? Yes, if only because I personally dislike people who take an intransigent position, you know those who say, "You must..." do this or that, meaning almost all the time, "You must shoot raw." Well, that's not correct or accurate, and if you push them a little, they'll back away from their point a little, but still believe raw is the only real and true format, forgetting Jpeg outdates raw and was developed by photographers for photographers, and continues to work in many fields as the standard image format.

Well, it's interesting that those who take that position, either didn't spend much time with film photography or completely abandoning it as "unprofessional" now. They're total digital converts and only the best is worth the time. So why do many own less than the best camera and far less than the best lenses? As a philosopher said, "There is nothing worse than the clear view of a fuzzy idea." While raw film capture can be the best image format, using a less than full-frame sensor and using consumer lenses only inhibits the image quality.

Really? Not that you can really see in the final image, and that's the real idea here. It's not the capture image that matters so much as long as you have the color balance, picture style and exposure correct for what you want, and you get the final image you want. Who cares how it was captured? And if you notice many professional shoot predomiantly or exclusively jpeg for speed and ease of post-processing. It's the story if you get it right in jpeg, there isn't much you have to do except resize it and move on.

Ok, enough wandering, and my take on it? Well, for one raw has some great advantages if you have the time and want the full control over the image in the post-processing stage. But a word of note here. Raw is not 16-bit format. Almost all cameras made today, especially 35mm format ones, capture in 12-bit color and convert to 16-bit format for computers. Otherwise they'd still be 12-bit output images. This means you get a 4096 range for each color, not the 65,536 often reported. Keep that in mind when you talk about all the neat things you can dow will all those colors, it's only 16 times the 8-bit color range.

Another issue I have with the "raw only" folks, is when they talk about viewing the raw image. You can not view the original raw image, it doesn't have any white or color balance. You have to set that in the post-processing photo edit software package you use with the raw conversion. The advantage of raw is that you can change that with the original data, but the reality is that if you use the same setting as a jpeg, the raw image will look 99+% identical to the jpeg image in the camera's photo editor. They will be slightly different with a different photo editor because they convert the white or color balance slightly different, but that's a personal choice than a technical one.

So why shoot jpeg? For one, the files are smaller, being 8-bit color. For another you get faster to capture in the camera, meaning you get a lot for frame per second shooting for events or scenes with movement. For another if you have the picture style (usually standard works very well), white/color balance and exposure right, there's very little post-processing. For another you get 2-3 times more images per flash card, which is handy when shooting more than a 100 or so images. And you get ready to go to publication format images since the standard is jpeg.

Does jpeg have any drawbacks? Yes, one that I know and have experienced. It's just like film, if you screw up, many of your images are toast. You can do a lot of corrections in Photoshop but you can't uncorrect a wrong white/color balance since Photoshop can't undo the same settings from every camera. It's just not realistic to do so. So jpeg can be unforgiving, but then a lot of film photographers know this from experience.

My conclusion? You really want to hear it? Ok. Personally shoot for the circumstances. The neat thing is that it's adjustable in the camera so don't worry. I shoot jpeg 90% of the time and occasionally shoot raw or raw+jpeg for the few times I want to capture an image for post-processing or testing. I'm a traditionalist, and like film so I like seeing the images similar to film and what I saw, and I hate sitting too long in front of a computer on any single image. I occasionally spend some time on one, but it's mostly for printing.

So, as they say, that's my story and I'm sticking to it, and occasionally I'll sing against the voice of obstinence for raw-only shooting. As one event photographer said, go shoot 500-1,000 images in raw and see how long it takes you, and I'll shoot in jpeg and be said, done and gone to the next event well before you're done converting the raw files.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

NPR - Medical Hug

I'm sure you asking, "Huh?" Well, everyone should have a physician whom you trust and depend, and most of all, don't hate the visits. One who takes the time and interest in you when they're sitting across from you. One you can make an appointment, usually cheap with good insurance, for both minor problems or something medically you want to think out loud about.

I know a lot of women have a good physician and ob/gyn. It's not universal that all women have or know one but it is universal that they're always looking for one. A few men have them, and it's always luck they found them as women who want one. Men often settle for quick and easy than good or comfortable. Well, I was in the second until about two years ago when through a referral I found a great physician. And what, pray tell, is that?

For one, they have to be experienced and competent as a physician. Sounds fundamental, but when I asked one many years ago about starting a drug for hair loss, he wouldn't prescribe it until he researched it as he knew nothing about it. Well, I did some research, like you can't find and read the PDR? Anyway, a year later he said the same thing but said he would prescribe it because I insisted. He's a good physician if you have a minor problem, but after that, all he does is refer you or ignore you.

Well, the one I've found is a very experienced family physician. And she's one who when you make an appointment, you actually get her for the entire time. She may be running late, but it's something you are happy to wait for as you know she'll listen and ask questions. And she asks the coolest questions I've ever heard from a physician. Like?

Well, with every visit, she'll walk in sit down and ask, "So, how's your life going?" That's cool. If she has the time, we've spent a few minutes talking about life, because she knows and believe in the whole person and life. If your life isn't a whole experience, it will have effects on your body and/or mind. It's about wellness and wholeness. How can you argue with that?

And she deals with any problem with straight-forward reason. She'll explain every test and the results in every test. She'll discuss all the choices you have for the reasons you're there. She never assumes you don't know, because with all the medical information on the Internet, it's not hard to learn by yourself, but she'll be honest with you about the information. All you have to do is ask. That's not too hard with someone like her.

When we were discussing a drug regimen, she had me to through a number of test, and because I hadn't had a thorough physical for nearly twenty years. I wrote about this here. The whole series of test were fun and interesting, and made me appreciate being healthy. And after all it was said and done, she sat down and walked me through the results of all the tests, something the specialists didn't do. She wants you to know about your body. That's really cool.

Anyway, she's like a medical hug and is a wonderful person.

NPR - People who found a life

I just wanted to add a column on young people who have found a life after working in the spotlight, mostly from acting. It amazes me we tend to give actors (including actresses) either the benefit of the doubt for being intelligent, such as Richard Burton who knew every Shakespeare play by memory, or for being almost mindless. There's often few in between in our minds, so it's interesting to find people who have demonstrated knowledge and experience in a totally different field than the arts.

Ok, who you ask have I found?

For one, Danica McKellar, featured on a NPR story about an article on a mathematical proof she co-authored.

For another Mayim Bialik, from TV, who is working on a PhD in neurobiology.

And I'll add as I run across interesting young people who buck the idea about youth and especially in careers we don't often associate with their public life. These are the people the younger generation should follow than the popular celebrity culture.

Go, Look, See

After writing about the three different aspects behind one's photography, there are three simple rules I try to follow to even begin to capture an image. It's just as the title suggests. First, you have to go where you want to photograph. Second, you have to look around from the small to the large. And third, you have to see images to capture. The rest is the mechanics of being a photographer, to use your mind's eye to see the image you want to produce and to use your equipment to get it. Not hard to describe, but it's like they say, the devil's in the details.

The fist step is to go. That's easy, just pack the gear and go. If it's local, as often as you want. It's something they recommend, consistency for being there over time. If it's a distant place, you have to plan it, and usually just for a limited time when you think is the best, but often is for convenience with work, family and life. It's a compromise you try to get everywhere during the time you have. It's easy to forget you're just getting a snapshot in time of a place.

The second is to look. When you get there you have to pay attention. This means forgetting about the other things in your life and focus on your photography. You have to bring all your mental tools to open you eyes and your mind to see what's there; to look all around, follow the light, watch people or subjects, and free the artist in your mind.

The third is to see. If you're looking and seeing images of interest, you have to translate it into a photograph. This requires using the artist in your heart, the visionary in your mind, and the photographer in your brain. You have to visualize what you see into the final image to translate with your camera.

After that, you have to produce the image with the tools you have, either the traditional darkroom or digital processing and printing. And if it comes together from the moment you saw the image to the final image, you'll feel good about being a photographer.

A lot of people write about this idea, and sometimes it's the words of long experienced photographers looking back on the decades in the art and business of photography. Many write, but only a few write gems, and those are the ones you should hear or read. You will learn something, and hopefully remember it when you're in the field with your camera or sitting in front of your computer working on images.

And to add an afterthought. There are trips and days you just don't get it right. That's the reality of being a photographer and a human being. It's the nature of living. The better photographers learn to be aware and adjust, especially the professional ones who have to walk away with the images they want. The lessor of us learn and get better as we go, something I learned this last week when I just couldn't get my brain in gear for two days.

But that's why I retired, to focus on photography and learn as I go.

Daffodil Festival

Just what the image and name implies. Tacoma holds its annual Daffidol Festival the third Saturday in April. It's really a small town festival and parade, lots of local floats, organization, and high schools. The parade in Tacoma last 2 hours, but I like to go early, about 8:00 am, and walk around photographing the staging area, people getting ready or just waiting for their time to start down the street.

While I've been to it for several years, it's only the second time I've photographed it (last year was with film - not scanned yet, and learning the area). I ended up walking up and down five times to catch all the images in the collection, stopping to chat with people, and getting coffee at the nearest Starbucks, twice in fact. It's a pretty comfortable place to photograph, people are friendly and like to talk about their float, organization or interest.

Anyway, I found three sets of photographs from the collection, one about the people in the parade before it started, one about people watching the parade and one about the staging area. It wasn't my best effort a photographing the staging area, and I apologize, but there are some gems in the collection.

And so it went, after which I walked the length of the parade route for about a mile, taking a few more shots. One of the last shots was a young lass with a group of Elizabethian dressed performers handing out flyers for the Gig Harbor Renaissance Fair in the month of August. Ah, what a way to end the day, a smile from a pretty lass. We should all be as lucky.

The 3 D's

I wrote columns on factors photographers need to be good. I broke them into three word groups, one about EKT and one about PCM. To this I want to add the three D's, for determination, dedication and devotion, which is an overall D, drive. Drive is the term that many people use to describe what they do, but in reality it's a compilation of the three D's into one's drive.

So, the purpose of this? Well, sometimes I find it easier to summarize things into encompassing ideas. And sometimes I like to think out loud about what's behind my thinking, decisions and actions, what's not being done, or missing altogether. And so the three D's came to mind.

For one determination is a prerequisite. It's what is the foundation of doing something, you're determined to work on something and see it through. Sometiimes this can be a detriment or hindrance, but far more often than not, it's what gets one through the hard or long times with a project or work.

Dedication is one's value about the work. It's what the work is for, your value to something larger than yourself. We all speak of someone's dedication to their work for something, it's what gives any project or work relevance. Sometimes this has short term lapses as life or problems interfer, or sometimes we feel the weight or pressure of the work and wonder what we're doing and why. If it's still works, our dedication is restored.

Devotion is sometimes similar to dedication, but it's about the individual's character to the project or the work. It's what someone feels about their work. Devotion is probably the most tentative of the three. Without determination we quit. Without dedication we lapse. But sometimes we don't have to be wholly devoted, just enough will do for the situation or circumstances until we find it again. Sometimes reality changes it, often for the better to see it anew.

In the end it's the totality of the three that makes up someone's drive on a project or work. Without all of them, drive faulters or quits for periods of time, or simply, as with some projects or work, altogether in the face of things. We've been there, and it's always the test of our will and drive to succeed.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

NPR - Changes in Life

I've come to a small realization that you can express a major change in your life in an equation. You know one of the major life changes that take years and effect the of your life, from a career change to a personal task, like becoming a triathlete or something that makes your life take a right turn. And the equation?

Well, to me it's simple:

Ya = Yb + Yc


Yc = ( Rc - Wc ) / Lc


Ya = Yb + [ ( Rc - Wc ) / Lc ]


Y = You,
R = Reality,
W = Wishful thinking,
L = Life,
a = after - yourself after the change,
b = before - yourself before the change,
c = change - the nature of the change.

Translated means simply that you are yourself before plus the change to be the yourself after the change. And then the nature of the change determines if you're more or less than you were before the change. Which means the change is what you think you'll be minus the reality of what you are divided by life in the process. If all works out, the change is positive, or so we hope.

This means you have to have a good perspective of both yourself and the nature of the change to overcome reality and then deal with the problems life gives or throws at you. I put life as the divisor because it has that effect, meaning life's problems seem to be multiplied in reverse. Life keeps throwing things at you and the best you can do sometimes is multiple your energy and dedication to overcome them.

And what about wishful thinking? Well, it's:

Wc = | Gc - ( Hc - Fc ) |

meaning Wc is the absolute value of the equation,

G - Goals
H - Hope
F - Fears

This is because of the original equation where Wc has to be a positive number to subtract correctly to produce the answer if you're better or worse with the change. This happens when your fears exceed your hopes, and then exceeds your goals. We all know the positive or negative value of fear, often realistic, but all too often excerbated by our own thinking.

But the idea is that if you have a realistic perspective where your hopes and fears balance and your goals aren't too many, the wishful thinking becomes minimized to be close to being reality, in which case the potential of the change increases and you become greater by and with the change. And the new you comes through.


If you get through the change, you discover something few people experience:


y = Ya


Yn = ( Yb ) y

n = new you.

You find you've multipled yourself by you and the change to be a more powerful you, you to the power of change. Your sense of yourself is expanded beyond what you originally thought you could or would be. The power is in you and your perspective about what you plan to do.

It's simply up to and within you.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

NPR - Cleaning house

Well, it's spring, or the calendar says so. The weather here is another matter. But I finally decided after years of piling things in my rented garage-sized storage area to go through everything and use the triage approach, recycle, trash or keep, in that order. And I can hear the tone now, "Yeah, right." Well, I can try can't I?

It's always been my interest to only have what I keep in my place and small adjacent storage area. But then that got full and I rented a small storage area. That got full, and you can guess the story, until I finally rented a garage-sized space. It's now completely full of stuff years to decades old. You see I can't throw away a box when I buy something, because I've always planned to move and wanted the original box, "just in case."

And now 20 years in the same place I have boxes going back over 30 years, from my first move including the boxes from my first stereo system. I've tried in the past to clean it out and after a few days and little progress, I usually quit, only to fill the new empty space again with stuff. So why should I think I'll succeed now? I don't except I want to so I can get back to where I don't save beyond my place.

And the plan now? Well, it's to work incrementally, one day per week. One task or small space each time. One errand at a time, and slowly over the months I'll be down to the stuff I have to make real decisions about. You know the stuff you put personal value on because it's been with you a long time, a family heirloom, or maybe something you'll use. Well, how long will I keep saying that and haul it around for another storage space?

And what is that? Well, I have a 1960 stereo cabinet and stereo from my Dad. The stereo is really junk being early 1960's technology and not reparable or worth anything. The cabinet is a different matter. It was built by a German cabinet maker who used only used hand tools and dove tailed every joints and hid the hings (piano hinges). The back is made of 100 year old Oak. It's really cool and neat, but very retro.

After that it's my childhood German one-speed bicycle and a 1960's Peugeot 15-speed racing bicycle, both of which are in parts and not reparable or worth anything but junk. After that it's boxes and boxes, all folded from moving or empty for the stuff that was in it. And then it's just the accumulation of stuff of life.

In reality, cleaning house isn't a physical exercise - ok, it is - but it's more a mental exercise. How much stuff do you want? Me, I'm working on that this year. No hope I'll do better, it's simply do better or face the reality of seeing it every time I open the door.

JMO - Iraq

Ok, we've all heard about Iraq, it's in the news every day. And we're all get tired of the rhetoric about it and the variety of "solutions" we hear from politicians, pundits, talking heads, journalist, and on and on. And we've all heard about strategies and tactics. Well, if all these people are so well knowledgeable and experienced why don't they see one thing that any scientist knows from simple knowledge.

And that is? It's the adage we keep hearing but few pay attention to. Why does everyone keep repeating the same experiment in Iraq and expect different results? Yesterday in the face of "the surge" to secure Bagdad, over 200 people died in bombings around Bagdad. Why is that? And Iraqi's continue to be killed in enormous numbers. Why is that? What's not working? So why are we continuing to "stay the course" expecting things to get better.

I continually hear President Bush and others, especially John McCain of late, saying that the only winning plan is staying to victory. What victory is that? And how long will that be? If I hear the general correctly, they're saying maybe a decade or longer. Is that the strategy, blind faith in something with no foreseeable end and keep spouting promises? At who's expense in lives, and who's expense in money?

Isn't it time we had a new strategy and some new tactics. We're expending a lot of dead and injured American lives and a really lot of dead, injured and displaced Iraqi lives. And for what? Political rhetoric? It's time we acknowledge the reality. And I'm sorry, Senator John McCain's walk surrounded by 100 troops, snipers on roof and attack helicopters, isn't grounds for good news as "it's safe there now." Did someone check the next day or week? What happened?

Where are the leaders listening to the real voices with answers, the array of choices to consider? With all the middle east experts with decades of experience and knowledge, why aren't they being included in the conversation, discussion and meetings other than the "academic" perspective. I've heard all the active and retired generals I want saying what's wrong or right, what's working or not, and they're not helping.

So, we need a new direction. I'm not the expert, just an ordinary citizen, but I know when you keeping trying the same thing, you can't keep expecting a different result. That's not rocket science. It's common sense. Something we despartely need here and now.

JMO - Pro Choice

I don't usually become outraged about most political issues. Well, ok, a few that I'm passionate about. And when stupid old men (even those younger than me) decide to do the wrong thing, I really get outraged. What you ask?

The Surpreme Court decision to uphold the ban on partial birth abortions. It's totally offensive to the rights and freedoms of women in this country. While you might argue with me about the medical procedure as good or bad for the baby and the mother, I will always argue one issue that is not argueable by anyone. What gives anyone the right to tell a woman what to do about her body when it comes to this issue? And more importantly what gives men that right?

My personal view is very simple. The choice about abortion is between the woman and the medical professional she has for her care. That's it, nothing more. I see a lot of people trying to put the importance on the value of the life of the fetus or baby, but they always seem to forget about the mother. Doesn't she have value and rights? It's not about religious values, it's about personal values for human beings. To put the life of the unborn ahead of the mother is, in my view, simply misplaced.

We all know that at some point in a pregnancy the life of both the mother and the baby is critical, and it's time we let the medical profession decide with the mother. They will know what's right, so let's leave it to them, than stepping in with some religious dogma disguised and "right to life." If those folks really cared about life, they would help mothers, help Planned Parenthood for complete and accurate sex education in schools, help with foster care facilities to find homes for children, and with world wide health and food aid.

I'm personally sick of the "right to life" talking for the baby and forgetting the rest of the issues. And I'm personally sick of men telling woman about something they don't have to fear, an unwanted pregnancy, especially in the case of rape. If my view is in the minority, as it often is, then so be it, but I'll stand up for a woman's right to control her body any day. And it's time we accepted this as a basic human right.

It's time men stood up and acknowledged it's not our place to decide for another human being we wouldn't want decided for us. Men, put yourself in the place of the woman finding out she's pregnant. Would you want someone with a religious view standing in your way and preventing you from the full array of medical services to help you make the best decision and take the right action for you in your life?

And women who support abortion rights? You should know better. There's no excuse for any woman sticking her values in the way of another woman. Think about it. What if other women decided other issues for you or prevented you from access to what you wanted. How would you feel? Outraged? Good, then think about it!

I'm not sorry for being angry here. The decision about abortion is between a woman and her doctor, and society should provide every choice to her. I'm outraged when Justice Kennedy said, "The government may use its voice and its regulatory authority to show its profound respect for the life within the woman." What about respecting a woman's right and protecting her life?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

JMO - People and dogs

Ok, the title is appropriate but it's really things I dislike a lot, and even hate at times. And these are?

How about yappy little dogs when the owners thinks it's cute to hear them bark continuously?

How about people who bring dogs into stores?

How about people who don't pick up after their dog in areas with signs and people?

How about people who let their dog ride in the back of pickup trucks unteethered?

How about people who take their dogs everywhere but keep them in the car with the window rolled down just enough for their head to stick out to bark at everyone?

How about people who take really big dogs in small cars, and then keep them in the car when they're shopping?

How about people who take dogs on trails where there are "No dogs in trails", and give the excuse their dog is safe?

How about people walk their dog and take up the whole sidewalk doing so that you have to stop, stand aside and wait?

How about people who buy clothes for their dog?

How about people who, when entering a park, unleash their dog, and it just runs over everything?

How about people who think their dog approaching people is "cute"?

How about people who lose track of their dog and walk around yelling its name at the top of their lungs?

How about people who complain about people with dogs? Ok, a rhetorical tongue in cheek question.

JMO - Rage

Rage is a normal human emotion and reaction. We all have expressed rage at a situation, at a person or group, or some circumstances. We often just use the word anger instead of rage, because rage is the extreme expression of anger, or even happiness at times. So, before we begin to demonize a young man for a violent act, we need to stop and let the dust settle, when we can see things in a better light and try to understand the rage of the young man in Virginia.

Am I defending him? No, I'm trying to understand him, and I'm a little angry at the immediate reaction of people to describe him as "strange" or "a loner." I don't doubt that something was amiss in this view of the world, and clearly something snapped, but it took awhile to get there, and likely it has been building for years. And nobody offered enough help to understand his life in this country. So, let's take a look at the whole than the act itself.

And why should we? Well for one, I'm a loner, and there are millions of people who are loners, but we're not strange and we're not anymore capable of violent acts than the whole population. It's a misplaced description for a troubled young man, who came here with his family from Korea. We owe this young man some understanding of his history to see what went wrong. It may have started years before, and even when he came here and didn't understand our society. It's hard to discern when personality problems triggers rage.

And while he may have been lashing out at his circumstances, in some ways he's no different than anyone expressing rage through violence against people. We had a situation here in Seattle where a young man killed a small number of people after a party where he felt humilated. And what do we say when a man kills his family and then himself? It's a matter of numbers, the focus of their anger, and the opportunity to commit harm.

I wouldn't necessarily say we should emphasize his writings too much. While they showed signs of trouble, how many other stories, books, plays, etc. have been written around similar violence? Stephen King? And? Some people use writing to alleviate one's anger, often with success in their career. Occasionally, however, writings are signs than therapy. It's a matter of perspective.

My point? I'm not justifying the act, and I'm not defending the young man. I'm as horrified and saddened as everyone. I'm only saying to keep a level head and get the whole picture of the young man to understand why he may have acted as he did toward other students and faculty. And I would simply add, that we should also look at ourselves in a society where guns are so easily available. Without that, it would have been a different result.

Monday, April 16, 2007

NPR - Confronting yourself

I wrote a post about being over 50. Well, now I want to continue the thought with the simple idea that at sometime in your life you have to face yourself, to confront your past, present and what may be your future. And in your 50's is the most logical time it happens as you leave one career, or most of us do - a few continue throughout their life in one career - and enter a new life and maybe a new career. I did this in 2005 at the age of 56 and haven't regretted the decision or the new life and building a new career.

So why the question? As I noted in your 50's is when you body is past the point of no return, at best you can maintain a good level of fitness and health into your 70's. You learn to adjust as you simply can't do what you did five or ten years ago. It's all you have to live with from now on, and with some hard work, be good for a long time. And as noted, you're at your peak of wisdom, maturity and experience to be more creative than you've ever been, and it's all in front of you. Where the body may slowly decline, your mind won't for most of us.

But as not noted, it's the time you face the reality of your life, the time you reflect, to sit in your home and wonder about all the experiences. I don't worry about whether it was good or bad, it's was, that's all, just was. I cherish some of the experiences as memories few people ever get the chance to experience and to just do what I enjoyed and believed in. What more can one ask in life? It's amazing to me that through the times before my career with the USGS I couldn't have imagined the opportunity that awaited me coming from an interview to start a 28 year career.

And working in the USGS was amazing. To see work done as much as a hundred years before me, and all the work in between sitting in files in file cabinets as my predecessors did, doing a job they enjoyed. I doubt they wondered what their work would lead to, and I did the same doing 13 years of field work and 15 years of management. I still prefer the former but loved the latter. And now through all that, now I'm just one of those names in those on original documents in files in file cabinets.

And now to have the opportunity to learn photography and produce images I enjoy. What can one ask, to find a new passion in life that has no end? But as life would have it, the body has to be there. While I'm generally ok, it's the saying I use, "I'm never as bad as I feel and never I good as I think I am." It's the reality of your genetics and life at a time you need them the most, and the choices you have to make to accomplish what you can to accommodate what you want.

The other thing you have to do is deal with the baggage, not just the mental baggage of your experiences, but the simple task of all that stuff you've hauled around with you. Every move takes a bigger truck, and every space get fuller. It's the way of our society, and the choice to break that to be free. You have to decide to settle in or clear the stuff out to be free, and decide how much you want to keep to pass on.

It's the time, if you haven't done it already, to assess what happens after you go. You face the reality of death, and where your life goes before that. You never know the final answer, you can only try and leave the rest to what happens. As the adage goes, "Nothing seems to happen but everything seems to pass." In no time, the next 20 years will be gone like the last 20 years went, one day at a time. The rest is what you do and the world that is.

JMO - Dear Mr Bush

Dear Mr. Bush,

I am writing this letter as a concerned citizen about the protracted war in Iraq. I think it is time you be honest with the American people who are paying their taxes funding this war, and at about two billion dollars a week being spent in the "war on terrorism" in Iraq and Afghanistan, which includes the rebuilding and associated costs, this is really beginning to try our patience when we know the money can be better spent on education, health care, welfare, social security, paying the debt, environment protection and more. We deserve answers.

It is clear to almost every American the plan to invade and occupy Iraq didn't not have either a post-war occupation plan or a exit plan, which means it's also clear you never really intended to end the war to continue an imaginary control over the American people in the name of the threat of terrorist attacking America. It is also clear our presence in Iraq has exacerbated the terrorists in both the fundamental belief of fighting America and providing a fertile training ground for terrorist.

It is time you come clean with the American people to lay out a strategy and plan for Iraq. We now know the intelligence you used to justify the war was incomplete and inaccurate at best and imaginary and invented at worst. While you may say you didn't lie, it's clear you didn't use or tell the truth. We deserve a plan other than you deciding to leave it to your successor.

You created the mess in Iraq, and it's time we decide to force the issue over it since it's clear you don't have any other plan except stay the course in an endless war. We don't like other Republicans telling us it's a decade-plus war we're in now, with no real end in sight. And we don't like money being spent for permanent bases in Iraq while you continue to say we're not do this. We demand the truth, not your rhetoric.

So, Mr. Bush, what will it be for the rest of your term as President? More of the same rhetoric about imaginary enemies and promises with nothing to show for previous unkept ones? Or can you find it in your supposedly Christian heart to be honest with the American people? You have damaged this country's international reputation with a war for no real reason. You authorized the attack on another soverign nation, and despite what we thought of Iraq, they had nothing to do with 9/11, terrorism, WMD's, or threatening America.

Well? We're waiting.

A taxpayer and Vietnam-era Vet.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

NPR - Being over 50

The subject of this column is about being in my late 50's. Something I learned recently in an e-mail communication with a friend of mine made me think about how we deal with change throughout our life. I wrote about this thought, and wanted to expand on it in a different direction. I realized that one's 50's is the most significant time in one's life for a variety of reasons, especially now as many in their 50's here in the US are finding themselves having to face major life changes, like early retirement or new careers.

I chose to retire in December 2005 at the age of 56 to pursue a new career. There's a long story about it here. It wasn't a tough decision to retire, it's tougher living in retirement after a long career, because you are for the first time in your life your own boss. It's your life now. But I'll always say I don't regret the decision or the life because I have two things we all strive for through our life and when given it, often fail to use it. And these are?

Time and freedom. Obvious? Well, yes, because you can choose anything you want, even working somewhere else. But you have to be mentally ready, and if you're not, you end up like my Dad, who puttered his life away from various illnesses and health conditions. At one point he was taking 11 drugs every day and have a quintuple heart bypass. Shortly after his 75th birthday he didn't get out of bed and died two days later. He was just tired of life.

What's my point? Well, I come to believe your 50's is the most critical time in your life. We all know the 40's are a transistion and the 60's are for retirement life and beyond. So the 50's are? Well, physically you've past the point you can get better, or not without a hell of a lot of work, and you can only stay even or slow the decline. It's the reality of our bodies where we slowed in our 40's and it's now permanent, we're not young anymore and don't have any hope to be anything close.

Mentally though, we're just starting. It's the time we've seen a lot in our life and it's the time we can redirect our lives into whatever we want to do artistically or academically. Our brains won't begin to decline for another 20 years, and even though it takes us longer to learn something, we know how to learn better and don't bother with the bullshit teachers like to feed students (ok, it's needed when young, just not when we're older).

The 50's are the time we come to terms with our own being, our sense of who we have been, who we are, and where we're going. Studies have shown that our perspective in our later years (after 50) is usually set in our mid-30's. We can change it in later years but the basic foundation is there, and if you don't have a passion for life outside of work, you're in trouble. But you don't realize it until you're there. And when you get there, you had better be ready, or you just fade into oblivion.

When you get into your 50's, you're like the photo, everything is there structurally and you have the time and freedom to refurbish the interior to be whatever you want. How will you fill your life when you arrive at the door to start a new life? Me? I'll bring my camera and wander through life taking pictures I like and write about what I think, see and feel. And hopefully find some moments that touch others. My life is centered around my Website and all it contains plus a few more things not there but within me still.

JMO - Read with scissors

Ok, and why, pray tell would I recommend reading the news with scissors? Well, I read anywhere from two to five or more newspapers at least 4 days a week, and I'd read more if I could get the daily papers here. While I know I can read any newspaper in the world on-line, I love the paper version. And besides I hate the Web pages designed by newspaper with all the links to everywhere and everything and the ads, endless ads. With a real newspaper you can simply pile by the chair and select the sections you want to read, which I do spread across the table by the window with a large mocha (hot or cold depending on the season).

Ok, I wandered, but it's a pet peeve with me about news Websites, too much hype and junk, and you have to search through section Web pages to just browse which I like to do, start at page one to scan and read every page, except the stock pages. And I read the newspapers in a certain order, from local to national, always ending with the New York Times. I'd love to get the Washington Post, but it's not printed locally. They're missing a good audience, but probably not profitable enough to print and distribute locally. And other cities' newspaper only come with Sunday's version on Friday. What's with that?

Ok, still wandering around the topic. When I read the newspapers I put a pair of 30+ year old Singer scissors next to the coffee cup and on top of a 3x5 notepad and pen. As I read I cut out articles to write about later on MySpace, the ramblings of a far(out) Northwesterner. When I see something to remember, I cut it out. After reading all of the papers, I stack the articles on the pile of things to reread and write about for the day or a column of more thoughtful reflection (ok, only slightly more).

Depending on events scheduled or rescheduled for the day, I try to sit down every day or so and add a new post to the MySpace Web page to if only make people smile, think, ponder, or unlink to my rants. I also listen to NPR news and other radio shows. The Morning and Weekend Edition shows and All Things Considered are terrific for the broad brush of the news and stories. It's always worth the two hours in the morning and one to two hours in the afternoon or evening. Add to that Democracy Now and other alternative news shows, and you get a really wide view of the world.

So, I like to read and hear the diversity of the world. It's saddening that most of the time it's sad or worse. We're better than that, and I blame the media for hyping many of the wrong things, and worse, creating news from nothing simply to appear to be news. Since when is an "expert's view" of something news? What happened to actually reporting something that happened than something someone thought may or may not happen? Think about it. Do you recognize the difference? That's why both physical and mental scissors are necessary, cut out what's just hype and focus on what's real. I try. Do you?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Three factors

I've been thinking about my photography of late, namely focusing on why I don't photograph enough. I boiled it down to three factors around one basic premise. It's one thing to go out and photograph because it's something to do, and it's another to plug your artistic and technical brain in too, but it's altogether different when you have committment to your photography with passion, conviction and motivation for a project or focus with your photography.

It's the old idea of "added value" for yourself and your work. Committment to your work changes everything in yourself and the work. And looking back on my photography I seem to have it for awhile, often working on them for awhile but quitting after sometime to do something else or life gets in the way. And that's what I was wondering about. I have some on-going projects and get back to them from time to time, but mostly I just like to wander around and take photos. When I do get back to the project(s) I usually find I have to start over to understand what I was doing and had planned, and often find myself redoing much if not all of it.

I'm not alone with this perspective, very few photographers are consistent in their projects, and those who have projects aren't usually working on them consistently let alone constantly. It's human nature, few people are so focused in their life and work to just focus on a few projects. While we may work on them for periods of time over time, sometimes years or even decades between time on some, we tend to find new projects or interests in our travels through life. Something new seems to always attract our attention.

So why is this? Just saying human nature isn't really an answer, not even an explanation, but maybe just an excuse? So, why can't be find committment in our work? It's it an evolutionary artifact of our being? Or something of late from the ever increasing pressure from technology to always find something new? And in photography, hasn't it taken another step with the ever improving technology? What happened to just being a photographer? And why are we too often defined by our equipment than our work, and especially our committment to our photography?

While thinking about this I keep a list of places and ideas for my photography. It gets longer every week and every week I get a few of them started or even done (smaller projects). I seem to keep finding new ideas for projects. So why can't I focus on a few, especially since it's what Sam Abell recommends for part-time photographers, that is find a few personal projects and focus on them during your life with passion, conviction and motivation, simply to commit to it with your heart and mind?

I keep asking myself, only to find my attention wanders after awhile working on a project. It's part of my nature and personality, to keep looking for something new with what I have done. Like the photo, I saw it in a window of a Mexican restaurant while walking to downtown Seattle. We like to have a lot of peppers for variety?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

MLS - Introduction

I decided to add another series to my blog here. It's My Life in Stories (MLS). Why? I don't really know, except some of it is simply to wander around my life and tell the stories I think are interesting, make a point, and whatever cross the synapses from the past worth a column. I've generally lead an ordinary life, like almost all of us, with some exceptions when life offered some wonderful or outstanding moments I would like to share. I'm writing this partly because my brother and father never did say much about their life, sadly because my brother was extremely smart and my Dad lived through the depression in Kansas along with a 23 year career in the military, a lot of knowledge of and experience from the past died with them.

And now I'm down to one sister and Linda (ex-wife). So, I decided to just think out loud and wander around my life. All these are true events or experiences in my life as best I can remember, but as I've read we don't actually remember our whole life, only snippets of information which we use to write a new version every time we want to remember it or it erupts into our consciousness by accident. So, these will also be an evolving story, as each chapter is written and updated as I remember them.

The stories aren't in any particular order or connected, so you don't have to read them sequentially. Hopefully, they'll be interconnected by the threads in the fabric of my life and being. You'll see, starting in chapter one, they'll be written with three different time frames in mind. My life literally hinges on one small event on December 24, 1968 and the following months, described chapter one when I went from being a 19 year old kid, to life enlisting in the military through basic training, and life beyond basic training.

Everything in my life can be seen through my eyes and memory in these three periods, glasses with which I saw the world and myself, and I see myself in hindsight. Every story has these three layers of experiences because they're still me, just at different times. We've all been there, trying to remember who we were as we look back, but I'll try to show who I was then looking forward. We're all naive then, and hopefully, I try to show that too.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

NPR - Friends and loves

Recently I heard of the sudden death of a friend's husband. The woman was a friend at work whom I worked with for several years before I retired. I admired and respected the quiet friendship she offered me as we worked on content of the USGS's annual Water Data Report for Washington (see 2001 Water Year). She was the publication specialist and I was the data specialist with the responsibility of producing this volume.

I had to coordinate the production of the data from the field offices and projects and produce the data pages of the data for the report, and oversee the overall contents of the report, which meant, making sure everything that should be there was there and all in the right order including reviewing the maps for completeness and accuracy. She had the harder task of assembling it and putting it together for the draft and final reviews. If anything was wrong, it would be me who would answer for it and she and I would fix it. Sounds easy for many, but for 500-plus pages, you give it a try some day when you have 6 months to spare.

Well, she always had a wonderful sense of perspective and humor despite all the small things that had to be done and all the quirky people you have to deal with for their time and work. While we weren't always fast, we were the best at it, something management didn't learn until later volumes when management wanted it faster and sooner, and didn't mind mistakes, which happened with later volumes. Such is life in work where perspectives are misplaced.

Anyway, while I retired for a new life and career, she had a few years left to go. She is one of the few people I miss from work. Recently I heard her husband passed away. I am deeply saddened by her loss. I'm always at a loss for words when hearing about such losses. Death is part of life, in the news every day. It's only when it happens to friends we feel the depth of it's pain and hurt. I'm always reminded about this closing to a letter I found on a monument to World War II soldiers in the letters home, and know those that left us want us to know about their love.

I'm not sure what else I can say about her loss. I can only say I am honored for Ginger's friendship for the time we worked together and I wish her the best during this time of loss.

Friday, April 6, 2007

An April Day

It was an April afternoon in Volunteer Park in Seattle. I was in Seattle for monthly errands, places only Seattle has to get stuff and just enjoy a great city. I ended up in the park for the afternoon to get some photographs, but never got around it except for two sheets with my 4x5 camera. I kept getting interrupted by people getting in the way to get snapshots of friends or relatives in front of the sculpture, asking about the camera, or waiting for me to hear something, like this poet.

Anyway, I took the ferry across from Bremerton to downtown, and after the last ride, I didn't take photos on the trip. No, I wasn't worried about the WSF employees bothering me, just dumb passengers who don't know a local photographer from a terrorist. It was a hazy day anyway, so the shots wouldn't have been all that great. And I had things to plan the day for, like driving in downtown Seattle on a weekday. Fortunately the locals are cool, it's the tourist who are the dangerous ones with their walking and driving, either reading or not reading signs.

After the errands around Seattle for the normal stuff of life, like getting software updates at the Apple Store (they have a great high speed connection for ProCare owners, just bring your CD's), Glazer's for browsing and things (what photographer doesn't keep of list of things to buy?), and my life coach I've been seeing monthly for nearly two years (can't say enough about having one for help with all matter relating to life and living), I had a few hours so spend, so I went to Volunteer Park (also the Asian Museum is free on the first Thursday of each month too).

And so I walked around looking for a good place to set for a photo of the sculpture, and when did, I went back and got the cameras. And, true to form, shortly after starting, both of these gentlemen showed up, one to talk and one to recite. After nearly 30 minutes I had to get on with my work, but the poet didn't get the hint, just the other guy. And on top of that people kept sneaking into the scene with the sculpture or sitting near it to rest, eat, sleep read or talk with friends.

Morale of the story? Don't go to a busy park on a sunny afternoon with your 4x5 camera. You won't get anything done. Photographically anyway, but you'll meet some interesting peole, educate some, and attract some unusual one. But it's ok. After all who can complain about a sunny day in the park with free admission to a museum of art? Bring a lunch and you can have a nice time, and don't forget the camera. And yes, I finally got two sheets exposed but I forgot the color transparency sheets. It's always something to remember.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

NPR - Perception and Reality

Perception and reality? What we think we see and know from our experience is based on just that, our perception and understanding of reality. Or so we think. Some psychologists tell us our lives are just an illusion. We live in our own world in a greater world, and don't really see reality, only our view based on our knowledge, experience, education, and so on as we go through the world.

What we process in our brains is just a fraction of a percent of what we actually see. What we process and store in memory is still only a fraction of that. And what we remember over our life is even a fraction of that. And what we remember isn't complete, it's snippets of a novel, like keywords in a blog, and our brain recreates the event, place, person, emotion, and so on, each time we recall it or remember it accidently (those sudden realization moments).

The photographer isn't any different in our perception of the world. We only use a camera to capture what we think we see and try to produce images to make it interesting. Sometimes it's not perfect or what we really wanted, or even what we think we saw. Cameras record images differently than the human eye. Film is closer to the human eye, but each type of film has it's own characteristics. Digital is completely different, which is why it's harder to learn, and why some digital images look artificial.

I raise this because I try to make my images what I see, but all too often come out different. Like I should have known, but it always suprises me, especially when it does come out the same as I remember. And that's the difficulty with photography, the photographer isn't paying attention to the world anymore, but their camera perception of the world to see and capture an image. It's an illusion of an illusion in some respects.

And the point? Not much, just wandering along and thinking, partly from a friend's e-mail, to see how we see the world and interpret someone else's view of it, and our decisions in life.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

NPR - A few decades apart

I wrote in another column about the reality of choice and a friend's e-mail. Well, another day has passed with the thoughts in the back of my mind rumaging in old memories, here and there, a synapse connection reconnected, and it occurred to me that we were coming from two different models of our perspective. Not our experience, but our view at different ages in our life, mainly a generation apart.

I won't get into the nature of the life change, that's deeply personal, but it occurred to me the difference is between making a life changing decsion in your late 20's versus your late 50's. I don't doubt there are also differences in one's personality and temperament which effects the decision, but I think there is one clear distinction between the two times in our life about decisions. If you're over 50 you understand, and if you're not, I'm sorry, it really is a been there, done that thing.

And what pray tell am I talking about? Simply youthful exuberance to get through something and the wisdom to understand the journey. In our youth we rush to get something done, we pay less attention on the process to get through it as just getting through it and get on with our life. Our interest isn't on what's happening but on what we're doing to get by in life and through the change. It's the wonderfulness of being young knowing it's all in front of us and knowing we can and will succeed.

After a few decades, life has had its chances and turns at us, and we slow up the enthusiasm to focus more on the process than the goals. We've been around the block a few times to know change takes time, patience, perseverance, and all the rest of our resources. So, sometimes we like to watch what's going on as we go. We, hopefully, have a greater understanding of ourselves to know what's real and what's bullshit, and we've learned to address each appropriately along with learning to, as the saying goes, "...accept the things we can't change, the courage to change those we can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

What also caused my reaction to the friend's e-mail? Well, it's that I've always been an organization and process thinker and doer, and to someone who focuses on the priorities, goals and schedules, this (my) perspective can be frustrating. I enjoy understanding the work as we work, asking myself if there are different ways to do something, to learn new methods or techniques, to play and research, and so on. I hate getting a way into something to start over, so I'm often reviewing and evaluating everything.

I explain this to someone as driving to Seattle. What do you think about and do? You can talk about the goal and destination, what you plan to do when you get there. You can enjoy the company of friends or the radio. You can enjoy the scenery. And you can simply driving and listening to the van. I enjoy them all during the one hour drive, but mostly the scenery and the van. I've already thought through the plans when I get there, but I like just being in the moment of driving.

This, however, seems to frustrate some people. I had a boss who hated hearing explanations about the why's, how's and how to's. And sometimes friends, unintentionally, step over the senstivity line with words that cut into the very heart and soul of a person. They do it out of friendship, and sometimes the words are warranted to help, but it doesn't dimish the hurt and pain.

And the problem? Nothing really, except that people shouldn't criticize when we make our choices later in our life with different criteria, and we won't criticize you for focusing too much on the goal. We must not forget the exuberance of our youth while keeping the wisdom of our age.