Saturday, June 30, 2007

JMO - iPhone

So, do you want an iPhone? Or do you have one already? Well, I only recently upgraded my cell phone from a decade old analog one to a Motorola Razor, and I barely use it. But listening to an editorial on the radio about the iPhone, there are two sides to having an iPhone and it's not about the technology, although it is kinda' revolutionary in its interface and operation, and this creates a contradiction in philosophy about your life. Overblown? Well, maybe, but worth the thought.

First, it's about communications. We all know the capabilities of cellphones, and we know the potential is unreal if the wireless companies would allow the cellphone companies to make the cellphones they could. Did you know the wireless companies are the ones restricting the technology and not the cellphone companies? That's a different thread, but the iPhone points this out where the users are being had by the wireless companies. They want to sell the services while the cellphone companies want to make standard in the phones.

Anyway, as we see, having a cellphone is about communications wherever you are. You can talk to anyone, surf the Internet, listen to music, watch videos, and on and on, anywhere you are and anywhere on your way. It's the sheer power of being in touch with anyone anywhere, and that's the contradiction, it voids you of being where you are. Huh? It's about being where you are, being present in the moment.

And while you're scratching your head saying I'm where I am, so what's the question. Well, the iPhone, and any cellphone and laptop on wifi, takes you away from being present where you're at and paying attention to the world around you. I often find myself at cafe, and I don't care if it's a wifi one or not - I don't have laptop and don't use my cellphone when I'm out (it's for emergencies). I like to sit with my mocha or dopio con panna and absorb the world around, watch the people, see, hear and smell the cafe, and pay attention to the world outside.

I also like to walk, whether it's exploring a city or hiking a National Park, but especially in cities to see the number of people going through life with a cellphone stuck to their ear, texting someone, listening to the ipod/mp3 player, or whatever else they can do with their cellphone. But if you ask them about where they're at, they're almost dumbfounded to describe it, except the people at the cafe who takes their card or money.

The irony is that this isn't really new. We all know that people used to be so absorbed in their work, getting somewhere, thinking of something, or whatever that they're oblivious to the world around them. The cellphone only multiples that now that they can communicate with anyone or anywhere now while they're oblivious to where they're at at the moment.

It's the reality about being and doing versus being in the moment where you're at. Or not. That's the beauty of choice and your reality.

JMO - Revisit the past

I saw this poster in an article about show of posters by Shepard Fairey. It reminded me about the talk over discussing the period of late 2002 to March 2003 when George Bush and company - I would say his administration but Cheney, etal. are running the White House like a corporation than as the President and the Excutive Branch of the government - made the case for the invastion and occupation of Iraq. And the role Congress played in passing the war authorization bill which started the whole chain of events we now live with here in the U.S. and with our international reputation for democracy, civil rights and human rights.

And while I agree we need to focus on the ways to resolve the dilemma we're now stuck in Iraq, no thanks to both sides - the President, etal and Congress, I feel we need to always revisit that period and determine what happened, what went wrong and who did what and why. It's the old adage, if we don't learn from a review of this we'll do it again, and the next President will have the lessons and tricks of Bush to use for their case for war, much of which may be wrong, unethical and/or illegal.

So there is meit to looking at the past and there are valid reasons to be more hesitant the next time, if not staunchly against it without clear and overwhelming evidence, and not imaginary, manipulated or falsified information. And while much of my anger is focused at Bush and company, my real anger is aimed at congress and the media. Congress in the shadow of 9/11 was bullied into a war that has far exceeded the cost in lives and resources than the act of 9/11 itself and the media in fear of their own shadow was bullied into following lock step with the President and not doing their job of questioning the facts and story.

I think everyone of those in Congress who voted for the war not only owes the people of this country an apology, and especially to the families of the dead and injured soldiers, but owes us an explanation why they didn't stand up and ask questions. This was not something that should have been secret, they used our money and lives to fight a war that has proven now to be unjust, illegal and flat out wrong for the American people and in the fight against terrorists.

Every member of Congress who voted for the war failed to do their job representing the American people. They chose the route the President handed them and acquiesced their power to the war mongers at the White House and the President who was driven by religous fervor to wage a war against Muslims. The members owe us the right to ask them to resign in their failure to do their job. I don't care how long they have served or how well they have served, the honor of being a representative of the people was neglected and they should ask us for the right to stay on this one subject alone.

And I don't mean an election but a referendum about their role in the lead up to and vote for the war. Nothing else. What did they know, and if they didn't tell us everything, why not. We demand honesty from them than politicial rhetoric or lies. And next time a President asks Congress to wage war, follow the advice they give us about drugs and/or almost anything else, just say no. No, empathically until the American people have been give the facts and reasons, and allowed to express their views about committing American lives again in the name of something.

We all are patriots, let's not forget that fact. And being patriots, we're owed the truth and the right to say no unless we're convinced of the rightness of the act to go to war.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

NPR - When Dad was a racer

A few years ago my Mom sent me a package, which included this article fron a local newspaper in Norfolk, England in 1954. We lived in England 1952-55 when Dad was station at Sculthorpe Air Force Base with the 47th Bomber Wing. I don't know what he did, he rarely spoke of his time in the service.

But while we were there we lived in 400 year old stone house on an estate, simply addressed "Bardon" outside of Garvestone Norfolk, England. The house didn't have electricity but had a fireplace in every room. Dad blocked off the top two floors and we lived on the main floor and the bedrooms on the second floor. He wired the first floor with electricity for electric floor heaters. My sister has a burn on the back of one leg from backing into one of them.

We later moved from Bardon into base housing. All I remember is that I didn't like it coming from the freedom of living in the country to living on base in a bunch of row housing units with all the families, kids and school. But that was a long time ago when I was young. Anyway, back to the story.

Being this was the 1950's when sports cars were just beginning to reappears on the automotive scene. It was the time of the rebirth of British sports car. My Dad decided he wanted to have one, so he ordered a 1954 Austin Healey 100/4, and met Donald Healey when he picked it up at the factory. It has the raked windshield and leather straps for the hood. He wanted to rally and race the car. I don't remember Mom's reaction but as you can see in the photo, she was there.

And so in the interest to do that he joined the Sporting Car Club of Norfolk and raced at the Snetterton racing circuit, occasionally alongside some of the international drivers of the day. He also rallied the car in local rallies, either driving his car or navigating for friends (in the photo). I don't know how well or badly he did, but I doubt it really mattered as the fun of it.

In the research I've done on the Internet I haven't found much or found anyone with information going back to the mid-1950's and for finding more information about the club, Dad's car or Dad racing. This is all I have of those days and times, but it's enough to remind me that our parents were young once, something we should cherish as our own. I'm only saddened my Dad passed away in 1994 and never spoke of those days.

And all I remember of the Healy was when we brought it back to the States in 1955 and Dad drove the Healey while Mom drove the brand new 1955 Ford Victoria sedan. The three of us kids shared riding with Dad, and I always thought it was the coolest thing going. But then I was only 5 years old.

Below is his membership booklet sent with the badge, which was never mounted. And if you have to ask, A.C. was his initials for being named Alva Clyde. Don't ask, it's bad enough for the name, but having your Mom forever call you that instead of Ace, his nickname, all his life is even worse.

JMO - Let the Court Decide

Ok, I've been following the news on the Vice President's rant against Congress and the Office of Archive and Records over non-comliance with providing information and access to records of the VP's office. On one hand Dick Cheney said his office, staff included, wasn't subject to the Excutive Branch excutive orders on accounting for secrets documents because he is the President of the Senate, and on the other hand his office wasn't subject to Congressional requests because he was the Vice President and worked for the President, and had excutive privilege. Huh?

He wants it both ways, and then finally declared he really wasn't part of either and an independent part of government not governed by any laws or overseen by anyone else except the President himself. And now we've learned he has, in effect, violated many other Cabinet officers and Department heads by going around them, behind their back or ignoring them in his discussions with the President. This was noted in a recent radio show which described he wrote the letter on torture without any outside review except his staff. Huh?

So now when Congress sent some letters requesting documents, Cheney, wiith the President's backing, simply didn't reply and then the President sent a letter saying, in very legal term, "Fuck You" (ok, aplogies for the language, but if the VP can say that to a Senator, I can say it too). And now the White House is saying we don't want to go to court but we have the right to say no. Well it's time Congress said no and took the President to court, all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. This needs to be played out in the courts and let the public see the truth of the White House.

I for one am on the side of Congress. We elected them, but only the President and not the White House staff. We have a right to make sure our rights are preserved and the President and Vice President are subject to the laws of this country and nation. As I recall Nixon lost his fight, so I think in the end Bush will also lose. He has some unique powers, but not more than any citizen when it comes to obeying Congress and the people.

So to Congress I say don't budge and stand your ground if it means the full legal path. It's time Congress got some backbone and represented the people and this country with our Constitution. And to Senator Leahy, go for it. I admire your restraint in public, and I hope you don't compromise. Let the people see democracy in action and preserve our values in the Constitution.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

JMO - Bring back our humanity

Like everyone since 9/11 I've listened over and over about the capture, detention and processing of "illegal enemy combatants", the term used by George Bush and the rest of the White House Administration about the prisoners at Gitmo and in the CIA-run secret prison sent there under the practice of extraordinary rendtion. And I've followed the trials of all the "terrorists" discovered and arrested by the FBI in the US. I personally think we're going down the slippery slope into a place we have long criticized other nations for their brutality.

I'm not saying all of those at Gitmo are just ordinary citizens, and given the opportunity, some might engage or support actions against the US military overseas, and at the extreme, may plan and be involved in actions against Americans here in the US. What I have a problem with is that fact the majority of them were not captured on the battlefield and many weren't even in Afghanistan at the time of their capture. In other words they were arrested for reasons no one really knows, and relying solely on the US military to prove their guilt is suspect at best.

Well, I got to thinking about this lately listening to the radio show today (6/26/07) To the Point about Dick Cheney and his work to eviscerate the CIA under the George Bush Presidency. While I'm no fan of the CIA, I'm less of fan of Dick Cheney and his efforts to consolidate power under his secret work in the disguise of fighting terrorism.

We have become the laughing stock of the world about civil liberties and human rights. No one believes anymore that we stand for democracy and freedom. They see all of Bush's talk as rhetoric. If he really believed what he says, he would move all the prisoners to the States and put them on trial in civilian courts. But he knows he can't because the cases would be thrown out or lost. So he has the Justice Department dancing around the legal hoops to keep them in Gitmo.

The reputation of the US as the leader in the world on the issues of democracy - well sometimes because we have a history of supporting military coups and dictators, like Saddham Hussein, and human rights - well sometimes because we have supported governments engaged in human rights abuses even providing training and intelligence. But never has our reputation been so low that even our friends criticize us.

I hope the next President changes this, but like many things of late by those in Washington DC, I'm not holding my breath. George can do a lot more damage in his remaining months and the next President may find they like the power George has stolen from the citizens. But we need a rebellion if they don't return us to civility and humanity.

Missing the Ordinary

You're likely asking, "What?" Or not. Anyway, after photographing the 2007 Seattle Pride Parade, namely the staging area and start of it, I like to see what other photographers have done. I realize that photojournalists have a responsbility to the media and the readers to capture what is the general perception of an event like this, which is the obvious people we think of when we're asked what's out and proud. And we think of the organizations that are a part of that or support that.

I for one, however, don't take many photos of the obvious. During a parade like the Pride Parade, I often turn my camera to the crowd or individuals that are less obvious. I like the ordinary or the normal scenes with a small thought about it, as seen in my photo galleries of the Pride Parade. We forget the people, lives and work of the many who go about their lives just being, like everyone including ourselves, just normal.

So I often wonder when I see photos of the obvious or exaggerated what would have happened if the photographers of the past and just skipped the scenes of the ordinary, the people, places and times that were a part of the day's existence. How much of the Depression-era photography would have been missed if the photographers had thought, "Naw, that's too ordinary." Like Dorthea Lange's photo of the migrant woman?

We are about being ordinary. And while the obvious and exaggerated sells papers, tv shows, and so on, it's the many lives of people that really matter. For they are the ones who really make history and make the world as we know and see it. It's those many that allow us to life with all the things we have available to us. And it's easy to forget them when we don't connect the dots of their lives into ours. Let's not forget that and them.

And to those I will focus my camera. The ordinary people like myself. I just happen to be on one side of the camera.

Monday, June 25, 2007

NPR - Thanks to Lisa Stuebing

I wrote my story about photographing the 2007 Seattle Pride parade. While walking around the staging area before the people really began to assemble for the parade I took a photo of a woman walking past a bus stop (see sixth photo in above gallery). I didn't pay much attention and walked on, but shortly at the corner waiting for the crosswalk sign to change (Seattle is strict with these with real tickets) the woman walked across to the same corner. She had a yellow tag with her name on it and candidate for a Seattle School District post.

Well, she is Lisa Stuebing. She was gracious enough to allow me to photograph her before we walked a block to go our separate ways, her to the whatever she did in preparation for the parade and me to Tully's to get some coffee. Well, I can say I give her a lot of credit and courage for not only attending the parade, but being in it. How many candidates are accepting enough to be around the diversity of people at this event?

For me, I have to ask the rest of the candidates, what are you afraid of? Being human and accepting diversity? Or do some of them make you uncomfortable to enjoy a nice Sunday morning? No one is there to argue you have be one of them or be involved in their life. It's simply about understanding and tolerance, to show you care for everyone, not just those like you or those you like. It takes courage to step outside into the diversity of our nation. And that Lisa did with a big smile and spirit.

I wish her well in her life and endeavors to help others.

Seattle Pride 2007

This last Sunday June 24th, I spent the morning photographing the staging area and start of the Seattle Pride parade. I posted my gallery of images from this event. It wasn't my best work as I was partly under the weather, physically - it rained where I lived and with the predicted showers I almost decided to skip the event, and mentally - had problems remembering the settings on the camera. And I apologize for the images if they're off a little.

But to me, there's nothing like a good walk and nothing like being around a diversity of happy people. As I said in the notes to the 2006 Pride parade and this one, it's about people. Not just people who you think attends these events, but everyone, from the out and proud, to the families and tourists. It's just about enjoying the company of people who accept others. And it doesn't matter if some groups make you uncomfortable, there's far to many others to make it a cool event.

I didn't get to the other events, the Saturday parade in the Capitol Hill area and festival at Volunteer Park or the Seattle Center festival on Sunday. I'm not a crowd person in that sense. I like walking around with my camera photographing what I see. And I want to thanks the folks gracious enough for the moment of their time. I hope to see you again next year.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Traditionalist in digital

This almost sounds an oxymoron at worst and a contradiction at best, but really, it's very possible. Ok, well, sort of possible. Really? It's done by a lot of photographers who started with film and moved to digital camera systems, and continued their photographic style. Some of these continued the two mediums demonstrating the differences in their work. And some photographers who have never used film have begun to try to replicate film or add film to their work.

And then there are the film photographers who never left and stayed with film, never touching a digital camera, even to the extreme of still using darkroom printing techniques over digital printing. That's the nice thing about photography today, even as film and darkroom printing is fading because companies don't have the interest to continue to provide the products - they're still marketable and profitable, just not enough. But it still raises the question, in my mind anyway, can you be a traditionalist in digital?

First, I need to describe or define what I mean by traditionalist. A traditionalist, in my view, is a photographer who essentially continues the artistic expression of the past, namely the same look and feel in their style that has been the mark of photographers before digital cameras came along. And I would extend it to the time before even modern single lens reflex cameras with newer film became the mainstay in photography.

To me, a traditionalist is a photographer who simply continues to produce the same style and type of images they've always done, only different, and sometimes better, with the next technology of cameras, computers and printers. And for me, it's about doing the same photography I've been doing for decades, namely walking around photography and scenes of ordinary. Nothing artistic in many senses but simply what I see and like, and try to capture.

The difference now is that I have two mediums, film and digital, and three technologies, a series of Minolta's manual focus cameras from the SRT-series to the X-700 series, a Horseman 4x5 with several lenses, and a Canon EOS 5D digital and a EOS 1N film system. Sometimes it makes the decision of what to take a little difficult, but it's nice having the choices. Mostly, though it's either the Horseman or Canon system depending on what results I want for the situation, place(s), or events.

And my point on this rambling thought? Not much really except I get upset at the anti-film folks or the critical because it's not digital folks, and all the rest who espouse the virtues of digital technology as "the" photography. Sorry, digital is relatively new. Film and its predecessor have been around for a century-plus. And while digitial has a lot of advantages and capabilities, it's not a replacement for film, but a compliment to film.

And this is my point, digital has some really neat features, some of its own and some that can replicate film in some ways. Photographers who haven't shot film forget there are a variety of films, both black and white and color transparency and negative, from neutral to super saturated. Digital has a lot of capabilites to do similar things, black and white with built-in filters, and color with different picture styles and white/color balances.

And? Ok, not a very clear statement about being a traditionalist in digital. My point is simply about the diversity of digital, and someone like me can continue my photograhy interest, namely capture what I see, and use what gets me there, and explore new technology to add interests and express my photography in new ways. It's about keeping the old while adding the new.

And I can do that with my Canon system while learning 4x5 system. And I can still use my old manual focus system when those times inspire. Tradition and the new. Not a bad choice to have these days.

Friday, June 15, 2007

NPR - I am first a Geographer

I got to thinking about who I am, something we all do occasionally in our life. We all like labels, mostly to others to explain who we are, or want people to perceive us, and what we do in our life. It's about our being and doing. And we like to explain it to ourself, to assure we know ourself and ensure we're ok with ourself and our life. Or at least I do and notice many people do. And the reason for this thought.

Well, I am, first and foremost, a geographer. I'm not necessarily one of those professional geographers, who you know as professors at universities or some "expert" on world events. And while I have BA and MS degrees in geogaphy, and have used it throughout my career in the US Geological Survery, I never understood how many people don't realize the importance of knowing geography, when it often very simple to use in many task in work and life.

To me, however, geography is how I think, and how I see the world. I'm one of those people who's mind works spatially and in mental maps. I got this revalation when reading Edward Hall's book "The Dance of Life" years ago. Everyone's mind works in a fundamental way, it's basic operating mode, such as words, music, math, tastes, physical movement, interpersonal communications, intrapersonal communications, artistically, spatially, and so on. It's why our education system fails, because it fails to teach to other modes but only those who work in words or those who can translate words to their modes.

I see the world spatially. I translate everything to visual images or maps. I translate maps to visual images, directions to pictures, and places to mental images. Once I go somewhere I remember the trip by the images of the places, roads, etc., that are visual clues to going there again or remembering the route. I rarely remember an address but I'll remember the place. I can't tell you how to get somewhere but I can describe the route you take.

After being a geographer first, I'm a hydrologist second. It's what I did for 28 years with the USGS, but studying, researching and understanding rivers are a part of my psyche. I like rivers. While there were days of doing field work where I was tired of either the cold and rain of the Northwest or the heat of Southwest deserts, at the end of the day I enjoyed just being in the world next to a river. I also enjoy fly-fishing, just to be there. I rarely catch fish, but it's not about really catching fish that matters, it's about being there.

Two events in my life emphasized my innate sense of connections to rivers. The first was a trip and the second a book. In December 1975 Linda and I took a trip from Sacramento, California to Bellingham, Washington to attend graduate school at Western Washington University. It was a period of extensive severe flooding throughout western Washington and the Skagit River was well above flood stage. I was awed by the power of the river and the stupidity of people living in a floodplain.

This later became my original thesis topic, but failed three-fourth of the way through it as I learned about the Skagit River valley people. The second was Alan Watt's book "Tao: The Watercourse Way" which describes Taoism with a river. The image has stayed with me and something I realize if I ever can understand the image in the smallest way I can begin to understand being a Taoist. It's the adage, if you can understand it you can't describe it, and if you can describe it then you don't understand it.

After being a geographer and a hydrologist, I'm a photographer. This is a outgrowth and expression of my visual mind. Photography is the outward expression of my mind through my eyes with film or digital images. I realize I'll never be a professional photographer, the drive and motivation aren't there to pursue it to the fullest extent required by professionals, but I am serious to produce the best images I can, or try to at least - attempts and failures included. I know this for several reasons.

First, much of the technical side of photography doesn't interest me, the depth of knowledge and experience for fine art photography. This requires extensive time that I want to devote to other interests. Second, it requires patience and perservance, and for the same reasons I don't have the interest to stay focused through the many problems for small, incremental improvements I don't often see or understand. Third, it requires focus on a theme or project. This I'm working on, and may be the avenue to overcome my problems to be a better photographer.

I've explained my history in photography and my view of being an ordinary photographer, which is mostly being a serious casual photographer, meaning I focus my photography on the field side, something I've done since I started in 1969, and now in my new life, aka retirement, I'm working on the serious side of photography with the production side.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

NPR - Fathers

I can only speak for my father, who passed away November 1994 three days after his 75th birthday. I had long left the home - in fact he told me to leave when I was 19 years old and was suspended from the College of Engineering at the University of Denver and the Army was sending me letters about my eligibility for the upcoming draft lottery for 1969 - and didn't attend his birthday party because I was living a three hour plane flight away from the only home he and Mom bought in 1964 when he retired from the US Air Force. He had three goals late in his life, pay off the mortage to the house, celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary, and see the dawn of his 75th birthday.

After making the last goal of his life he went to bed that night and didn't get up again. He died quietly in his sleep three days later, his heart just quit, even after having a quintuple heart bypass at 73 which the doctors didn't recommend but couldn't refuse for whatever reasons they had at the time. I last saw him a year after the surgery and a year before he passed away, and to this day I never understood why he had the surgery. He had long given up on life when Greg, my older brother and his oldest son, died suddenly three years earlier at the age of 47.

My Dad rarely spoke to his two sons, especially me as the youngest and the last of their three children, just a year younger than my sister. You see we both had similar history's in our youth with our fathers. And in the directions in life we take, he left home at 19 to join the Army in September 1940. He went on to the US Air Force when it was established and a career where we followed as the family of an officer. Anyone who was raised a service brat knows the tune and tone of being in one of these familes.

And my point? Well, my father had an interesting life. He saw a lot of the world in the service, but sadly he never shared it with us kids. And even in retirement he rarely talked to us let alone spend time with us. He spent time with his friends from his time in the service, his later career in public service, and friends he met after retiring. And he rarely spoke to his grandkids, all of whom would have loved to know him and hear about his life. It's a sadness of some people who don't see and realize that not sharing your life with others but especially the family, everyone loses.

Even my Mom discovered another side of his life after his death. While cleaning out his desk, she opened a locked drawer to find it full of letters, cards, and a lot of loans to friends over the years. She guessed Dad never asked to be repaid and probably never did see the money again. She just sat there wondering how this man could have neglected her and their children without a word, the man she thought she knew. She loved him, and was realistic about him over the years of their marriage, but this hurt.

And all the while Dad could have had a better life by being a Dad to us kids, he never did. It took me many years to see the reality of him and his life, and then to see him not as my Dad but as a man, who lived with his demons. While he was my father, he was never my dad. We both lost, he for not knowing his sons, and me for not knowing a father and a dad. And it's why I wrote this, for in his absence in life and death, he still is there with me.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Photography projects

A few years ago I picked up a copy of the new (at that time) National Geographic Photography Field Guide by Peter Burian and Robert Caputo. In the book there are chapters focused on some of their photographers and on the different aspects of photography field work. One of the chapter was about Sam Abell, who wrote an essay about his life with National Geographic and his tips to photographers.

While he focused his advice on photojournalists in this article and in other articles, he has advised part-time photographers to not only learn the aspects of the photography they have a passion for, but focus their work on a few, meaning 3 or less, lifetime projects. Projects that consume your photography interests to learn the subject and express it with your photography. It doesn't have to be something near or frequent, but it helps; it can be elsewhere from near home, but you have the passion to be there over the years to see and photograph it in all its aspects.

Well, since I started in 1969, I've had tons of opportunities to create and work on some personal photography projects, but until about ten years ago I haven't done much in that effort. But all of that was before I really thought about it, and reading Sam's article, it made me rethink my photography work to have some projects. My first I decided was Mt. Rainier National Park. And while I won't be on par with some of the best, like Pat O'Hara and others, I will enjoy the effort and results.

My other projects don't necessarily fit the model of a project, but I enjoy them. One is learning large format photography, and simply going out to locations on the list of places to photography, to learn the work and capture the image. I don't know where this will go, but it's fun just seeing and doing. And I'm producing some good photographs.

My second new one is working on street, people and event photography. I mostly use my new Canon EOS-5D digital system with 5 lenses and a recently added Canon EOS-1N film camera for the same lenses. I've been doing street and event photography for a few years now, but working in digital changes the workflow.

My last isn't so much a project. It's simply getting my computer system for my photography work and work toward starting my photography as a small personal business. This will take a few years, partly because it does take time, but mostly because I'm slower at it than most people and take my time. I don't have a business plan yet, and barely producing some marketable images.

Part of reason I'm slower than most is because I suffer from lifelong Dysthymia. There's a long story behind this (genetic lifelong) of Dysthymia and my life with it, but over the years it overwhelms me to stop my photography work and sometimes much of my life.

It's my reality, and I've discovered, exercising, writing and photography are far better than any drug or therapy could ever do to help me survive and sometimes prosper with it.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

JMO - Being average

Ok, we're all not average, or so we like to think. We excel in some areas, do poorly in many, and are close to average for many things too. But it's not about being average, it's about being defined as average. Not those statistics about your ability, talent, experience, pay, job, etc., but about the your consumption. Huh?

Ok, I'll explain. I was watching a NASCAR race recently and they started talking about the number of sets of tires each race team in allowed for this one race. I realized each team used more sets of tires in one race than I use in my lifetime of cars. And there are 43 teams for 37 races in just one NASCAR series, meaning add the Craftsman truck and Busch series, and the numbers really begin to add up. Then there's the ARCA-ReMax series, and all the regional and local race events. That's a lot of tires used by just a few thousand race teams.

Well, that got me to thinking all the statistics the studies and experts cite about our average consumption. Well, that means all those tires are added into the total we all use. Ok, that's small compared to the rest of the population. But not really. I've only owned one car at a time most of the time, and only when I was married did we have two cars for brief periods. That means all those families with two, three or more cars far and away offset my efforts to save.

And add all the commerical trucks and their tires, after all the biggest consumer of tires are the trucking companies, you get a lot of tires being used every year. And all those are compiled into the total numbers for the statistics which reduces everything to an average. This means it doesn't matter what you do, everyone else is effecting what the average is and what you are doing to the environment as the average.

Ok, and what do I drive and how do I drive that I can say I save? Well, my latest, and hopefully last, vehicle is a 1991 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro, meaning it's a 4-wheel drive VW van. Cool, huh? Well, ok to some it is. It's fairly big and boxy, but it carries a lot (7 people with stuff, 1-ton of cargo, big stuff like couches, beds, etc.), has a folding back seat into a 6x8 foot bed (way cool for naps), and drives like a bus (you sit over the front tires). I only drive about 10-12,000 miles per year, so even with my mileage (18-20 mpg) I don't use a lot of fuel or tires.

Reading about the national averages about cars sounds depressing. But it's the reality of our existence in this country and our society as a whole, and then reduced to averages. This applies to fuel consumption too. One of those race teams use more fuel in one race weekend I use in one year, and everything adds up from there. Gee, being average really sucks sometimes. You tried hard to save and be good to the environment, and everyone else just blows your efforts out the door.

But then I also own a HDTV and the other trappings of our society. It's hard to get through life without being up to date. I had to replace my old (1982) TV when it quit after the roof leaked on it. And everything else in your life is similar, everything you consume adds to the total and adds to the "average" consumer. In the end we're all lumped together in our consumption and all are average.

Unless we each of us change to better or less consumption, the average doesn't move, as for every one of us there are others doing the opposite. And as the whole, the average only stays the same at best, and increases at worst as more of us consume more and more. But that's another subject for discussion.

Saturday, June 2, 2007


This is an often discussed topic and the subject of many essays on composition. While many argue about rules, especially the thirds, many equally argue there are no rules, but simply your eye and vision. Because despite all the rules or theories on composition including symmetry, it's about both balance with some images and imbalance with other images. It's about what you see and where your eyes start and flow in the image. And symmetry then changes its definition to the mind's eye than the image.

In reviewing some recent shots from a few rolls of Scala I noticed sometimes a few to sometimes most of my images on a roll aren't balanced or have symmetry, but they still have flow. For the longest time I didn't know why when a good friend, long experienced in journalism and Web design, explained it about what you see as the viewer. He taught me about how we see, and I've been using that to compose many of my shots, sometimes good and sometimes bad, but still what I saw at the moment.

And that's what symmetry is really about, not photographic symmetry, but visual symmetry. And it's what I'm learning, what your eye first sees and where it flows, whether it's a Web page, art work, or a photograph. I'm learning to use it for my compostion when there's time to do that, which I can with my large format photography, but not always possible with some forms of 35mm photography, like the image above, just taking photos while walking around.

While you can take your time and compose your images with some photography, such as architectural, landscape, nature, portrait, studio, etc., and use your talent, skills, knowledge and experience to frame the image for the subject and the light, with some photography you have to work hard to compose the image, such as sports, wildlife, events, etc., you are limited by the time, places and action. And some photography, such as street photography, composing is happenstance where you have to take what's given to you at the time and place.

My point? When you shoot, see both as a photographer and a viewer of life. Throw the rules away. Don't forget your technical knowledge. We wouldn't want a buch of well composed badly exposed or out of focus images. And as a postscript, the image above was not cropped. It's the whole black and white slide.

NPR - Purpose and Value

I was recently talking with a friend who stills works for the agency I retired from in December 2005. He was working on a presentation for a conference on watershed and river management for recreationists - the providers, users, agencies, etal. The USGS is the leading agency for the collection, production and dissemenation of streamflow data, most gages have satellite telemetry for near-realtime data to the public, so our presence is good public relations.

When I left the agency I left my boss a number of proposals, some with funding sources, to provide the realtime data to wireless communications devices, develop subscriber services for data, and new Web page designs. Needless to say, none have been done while small businesses have done the work on several of these already. The technology was there, the interest and market was there, the in-house resources (people, time, money, etc.) was there, but not the management willpower.

That was one reason I left, lack of insight and creativity in management, except for their personal careers, bureaucrats to their finest. Anyway, my friend went off to the conference, but he got me to thinking about a working life and a personal life. The differences, if there are any. Well, for most American, there is a difference. Their work and their personal life. Two distinct lives. And for some, the two are the same, more or less integrated into the whole life.

I was one who put my life into work, or at least the last half of my career when I became a supervisor and section chief. I managed an off-hours team for the satellite data collection system. While I wasn't on duty (on call team member first contact), I was the secondary and supervisory contact, especially during critical times, like floods. After some years I was asked to step down in a reorganization. It was one of those reorganizations bosses use to cover political choices.

Anyway, I worked into doing more on the new Internet and Website starting in 1995 when our data first appeared on the Web. I took our Website from a few thousand hits a month to over a million, when I was asked to focus fulltime on our annual data report work, which I started a few years earlier when we lost our contractor for the production of this report, and on daabase management work. It was also a reason I left as I saw all my personal interests at and for work being redirected and my work be directed into areas I didn't like.

And so thinking about what my friend described, life is about purpose and value. Since I retired I've spent nearly half the time trying to get my personal photography business off the ground and my photography going in the direction I find my purpose and value in my life. There are times it's a "Why?" moment, but then I have to remind myself it's a lifetime and a life's work so relax and enjoy it. And I'm doing ok on the time side of things. At least I keep telling myself that.

The difference I realized recently from other people who do this, develop a personal photography business from scratch, assuming some reasonable amount of basic photography experience, is that in my case being an amateur photographer since 1969, I'm not out to make it profitable, let alone a commercial success. I'm simply out to do good work and enjoy the rest of my life.

I am working on some photography, writing and Web projects, and I hope they'll be of interest to others as I find them interesting to work on. But, as I thought about my friend, it lacks purpose and value. I haven't found the why yet to my photography and business, outside of just being personal. And that's the real question, as the saying goes, "It's not us who asks God the meaning of life, but it is us who is asked the meaning of our life."

Friday, June 1, 2007

Some Photographers

Ok, I'm going to rant or vent a little. It's about photographers who would rather spend their time in front of a computer than in the field with a camera. Photographers who would rather capture a fair image and spend their time "fixing" it in Photoshop instead of working to get the best original image when they were there with their camera. Photographers who think the only answer to image problem is Photoshop and not them.

I realize and remember this is an exageration, but sometimes it becomes something some photographers focus on, in the forums where they ask the question, "How can I fix my image in Photoshop?" Why isn't the question, "So, looking at my photographs, how can I do better next time?" That's what I was taught and still do when looking at my images, and my first thought after sorting the good from the bad, what did I do wrong with the bad ones. I go back to my field work, to focus on what I can do better when I'm behind the camera.

It's partly why I'm learning large format photography, where the camera is completely manual, and I have to plug my brain in and keep it plugged in throughout the process, even remembering to put the film cover back in the film holder before removing it from the camera. Large format photography is a mental process from the moment you want to look for an image, to seeing one, and then capturing one. And when you get the film back, all your ability is sitting in front of you, good, bad or indifferent. It's all you did, and it's about if it did what you saw or wanted.

I also realize that almost all photographers use Photoshop - ok, there still are some traditional darkroom photographers out there, but I'm not one of those anymore - and almost all produce their images and prints from Photoshop, especially fine art photography now. I'm not against using it to work on your images. My rant is about those who take poor to fair images and then work their hearts out to make them better. It loses something to me as a photographer where you don't focus on your ability to capture the best image when you're there.

This goes in part back to my beginnings in photography, where I bought a Minolta SRT-101 with a 58mm f1.2 lens. And I spent the next few years just shooting and learning. Once I learned the basics about photography and learned I can trust the camera's light meter (their center-weighted average light meter is actually very good for many scenes and easily adjustable for the rest - something to say about simple technology) I focused on the images. In constrast I'm still learning the light meter systems in by Canon 5D and 1N, which has 5 different metering modes.

And while working in large format, there is a time where you have to set the exposure. And this means you have to understand the light, the scene, and what you want. In black and white, it's about finding where you want zone IV for the dynamic range. This means, metering the zones. For this I use a 1-degree spot meter but also my Canon 5D with it's different meterings. In color you have to find the optimium exposure and leave the rest as it is within the dynamic range of the film. And this makes for lots of information to learn how to boil it down to the aperture and shutter speed, and if you want to bracket.

And all this means what? Getting back to the topic, it's about standing behind the camera, and not relying on a computer photo editor to save your images. It can, and it can also help you produce some amazing photographic images and art, but its purpose isn't about thinking for you when you were using the camera.