Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The simple is sometimes hard

This photo isn't really of much merit. It was a test. As I've set up my studio in my dining room, I realized I didn't really understand lighting and exposure very well, so I asked the really dumb question on forum, where the other photographers are great and terrific with their help, I got my answer.

And so I tested it with the penguin and the heart. The purpose? Ah, the simple idea we don't normally think when working with artificial light. I've been a natural light photographer, really hating using flash or artificial light, mostly because it's a deep subject to learn, let alone master. So I didn't try, until recently, when on bad weather days I wanted to do something beside wait for better weather.

And so I built a home studio. I use four Minolta 360PX flashes, two each in two small softboxes, and one Canon 580 EX II flash in one large softbox. These flashes have adjustable intensity setting and operate in full manual mode, controlled to trigger only with the camera through Pocket Wizards. All this works with any of the three camera systems I have, even the old Minolta manual focus system.

[Note.--I also learned that my large format lenses with their PC(X) sync connections with the Pocket Wizards, and even at shutter speeds faster than 35mm cameras, up to 1/500th of a second. It's in the shutter design and operation, the difference between curtain shutters in 35mm cameras and leaf shutters in large format lenses.]

But this setup requires manual flash metering, which I do with a Sekonic L-358 with it's Pocket Wizard transmitter to determine the exposure, which was my initial question and eventual test. I wanted to know the differences with varying the aperture and shutter speed. And the response is two-fold, if the light is 100% artificially controlled or not.

If you the source of the light for the image is 100% artificial, my flashes in this cases, at and slower than the full shutter opening of the shutter, the shutter speed is irrelevant. The aperture controls the exposure. And I tested this from 1/200th to 1 second in the full set of increments. All the images were the same with the same aperture. Adjusting the flash intensity or disance only requires adjusting the aperture.

If you add ambient light, the situation changes where you can control the exposure from the ambient light with the shutter speed, such as lightness to darkness of the background, softness to sharpness of the shadows, etc.. I haven't tested this yet as I'm still playing with the flash setup under full artificial light with a variety of subjects, not just the penguin. He's the volunteer, and he's all heart to be in the spotlight.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Realism revisited

The subject of realism in a photographer's work, their images, seems to vary with the photographer, but it always seems to come back to a general single philosophy. I've already written one post about my view that I keep hearing in workshops or reading in articles. And it's more and more beginning to bug the film out of my camera.

And? It's the idea that in wildlife photography and even some types of macro photography images should represent realism, meaning the images should present the subject in all facets as realistically as possible. I don't disagree with that, and it's somewhat followed in other types of photography such as street photography and photojournalism. And we know all the rules disappear in other types of photography, commericial, studio, portrait, fashion, architecture, etc.

So why is it that it's ok to throw the rules away for nature and landscape photography? I know why, because hyper-color or saturated images sell prints and display in magazines. But they're unreal. And the photographers who do focus their work on realism in nature and landscape images take the heat for those that overwork their images into surreal ones. And this is my rant against those who not only suggest it but almost demand it.

Why the revisit? Well, while waiting to go to a routine appointment I stop by a local chain bookstore that has a large magazine selection, inlcuding 2-3 dozen photo magazines. And while purusing one I came across an article about Moose Peterson, the outstanding wildlife photographer. And he reiterated his philosophy just as I wrote, realism with wildlife and surrealism in nature and landscape.

He even said he barely uses Photoshop with his wildlife images but he'll use every tool with nature and landscape images. And this just bothers me to no end. I put a fair amount of work trying to present my nature and landscape images as I saw them then and there. I focus on the capture of the best original photo and the minimalist editing for the image, mostly to fix my own errors than the scene or subject, such as dust, over/under exposure, etc.

The article went on to say he (Moose) wouldn't move a branch if it was a wildlife shot, it takes away from the reality he saw and wants to capture. But he said he wouldn't hesitate to do that and more if it was a nature or landscape image. What happened to realism? We want to see an animal different than a forest or mountain scene?

Not long ago a wildlife photographer caught a lot of criticism when he altered the stripes on a photos of zebras to cover a deformity, but we wouldn't criticize him if he altered the colors, leaves, bark, underbrush, etc. of a forest. Why is that? And they recommend shooting raw so you can take advantage of all the tools to alter images?

I once listened to a wildlife photographer who said the same, even suggested taking 2-4 shots of the same scene to composite them into one, even borrowing from other images to enchance elements missing or not correct in your nature or landscape image. So seeing his and Moose's nature and landscape images will you really believe their images are what he saw at the time? And something you could see if you were there?

And I've written that I shoot mostly jpeg for the very reason or realism, it teaches me to do your best in the field than relying on Photoshop to fix my own stupidity in the field. I don't rely on raw format to overcome my own shortcomings. It's a carry over from film, where you learned to think in the field. It challenges me to do my best then and there, pure and simple. And yes, I do shoot raw occasionally, but less than 5% of my photos.

And while I know it's not a full use of my camera's features, it's not what I'm in photography for. I enjoy the process of seeing and capturing and I'm learning the production side, the photo to image process. And shooting jpeg in any of type of photography forces me to think all the time in my photography, the same as I did with film.

And I know many photographers do present their nature and landscape work for realism, or just only a shade away. This is especially true in large format which is still predominantly film where the knowledge is very important and critical, and most of those photographers produce images within the realm of realism whether it's fine art, studio, portrait, nature or landscape.

Anyway, that's my perspective on the issue. I'll still shoot for realism.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Having fun II

Ok, the weather is being winter, what else can anyone say about winter weather in the Pacific Northwest. And while it was snowing this morning, accumulating 1-3 inches, by early afternoon it was rain and the snow was melting fast. And by early evening it was rain and snow and the temperatures fell but the ground had warmed up. All the while the temperatures were bouncing between the low to mid 30's depending on where you lived.

So, I continued with my small studio work. I expanded the flash setup to be one flash in a large softbox and two each in two smaller softboxes. Huh, sounds backwards? To some it may and would be, but each flash has full range settings from 1/8 to full power in one-third or one-half stops. The one in the large softbox is newer and more powerful with a faster recycle time. The others are 10-12 years old so I can run them at 1/4 to 1/2 setting for faster recycling time.

And so I decided to see if I could create some Valetine ideas, or at least some quirky thoughts expressed in images using the manikin and the penguin. I have to learn to see differently, as I tend to follow the same poses and scenes, all the while learning to play with the light, exposure and all the rest. It's the old matter of spending 50% of the timt to get 90% of the way to something and realizing the last 10% will take the other 50%.

It's the old adage, the devil is in the details, which is not my strong suit. If I focus or work on something so long I get tired of seeing it. I simply want to quit, so I leave it to take breaks. I don't have the dedication to persist with one image to the point I get it as near to complete and perfect as I want, something I have to learn in increments. Which is raises the question.

When do you quit with one image, take the raw and work the rest in Photoshop or continue to get the best image in the camera to minimize the Photoshop work? I prefer the latter, which I think teaches the basics and real side of photography, learning to capture the image you want. To do that I shoot jpeg, lots and lots of jpegs, all with small differences in lighting, light position, scenery, subject position, and on and on. So the learning is experimentation and play.

This is where I think one improves their skills in seeing, simply having fun, keeping a smile, finding the humor, and letting the penguin wander around the stage getting his face in the shots.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Having fun

It's been either clear and cold or cloudy, windy and raining here. Hey, it's January, what's not to expect? Anyway, I still have my studio set up in my dining room and while I was out running errands I stopped by an art supply store and bought one of those wooden man figures artist use. For $10, what's not to like about having some fun?

And so it's been part of the day to have a little fun with the figure and with a small stuffed penguin I bought when I was a child in Germany around 1960. I nicknamed him Cocktail because he looked like he was going to a cocktail party instead of the normal tuxedo black and white penguins you normally see as stuffed animals or in photos. The toy has sat on my desk overlooking the bills and things to do holder for decades and now sits on my computer table just behind the keyboard.

And so I scrounge through the kitchen looking for interesting things to photograph, or I wander through the grocery store for interesting food stuff to buy and photograph. You never know what might strike the visual synpases to say, "Hmmm..., I wonder..." And so I spend the time just exploring. I have the two soft boxes and two halogen lights to work with the three types of cameras, 35mm film and digital and 4x5 film.

And Cocktail looks on with a sense of something, which I'll leave to the viewer.

My point to this? Not much. It's a visual thinking out loud exercise while learning to work with light, backgrounds, and composition. And it's a whole lot of fun.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

JMO - Dear George and Congress

Dear Mr. President and Congress,

I've been reading about and listening to the discussion about a tax rebate, and how each of you, and especially the Candidates, want to infuse some cash into the economy to spur growth and avoid a recession. And I've listened to the economist, who seem to have a almost totally different view of the situation than you folks. So my question is, why aren't you listening to the economist than your own polticial rhetoric?

Do you really know we're heading into a recession, or is this really a political ploy or toy to us voters? Ok, that's a rhetorical question. I know the answer. I want you to admit the answer. It is pure and simple political bullshit. But you're willing to increase the national debt for a short term gain of votes and approval. Gee, somehow your words don't make me feel warm and fuzzy.

So, if you want to give me money from the taxes I've already paid or from some future debt we'll have to pay, or the younger generation pay, so be it. And to answer your question, will I spend it to spur the economy? No. Pure and simple no. I will park it in the bank and save it. In part because I could use it better there than some thing I buy that is short-lived, like my future.

Remember you're bankrupting this country with your enormous war and national debt. I'm like the real people of this country who has to pay our bills, not like you who can simply keep writing free checks like a rich kid in college with no thoughts of the future. All on the backs of the young. I'm sorry, you are the worst example of wise spending and investment.

And so you have my answer. I realize it's not what you want me to do with the money, but I'm not you, and happy not to be you. But I sure wish you'd start listening to the experts and real people instead of reacting in some stupid, kneejerk way. So, send me the check or refund me in my taxes, I don't care, I'll gladly deposit in the bank where it earns interest.


Monday, January 14, 2008


I've been working on studio shots in my small, makeshift studio, which means a temporary converted dining room. I love seeing the work of studio photographers, both portrait and still-life. I'm always amazed at their ability to get the light just right. I know they play with the light in many iterations, they take hundreds of shots, and review the result frequently, or at least they do now days with the ease of digital cameras.

But that wasn't always the case. I watched a documentary on the 1930's Hollywood portrait photographers who used 8x10 cameras. They would set up for days before the person, mostly movie stars or other celebrities would show up. Then they would play with the light for another day with the person, and then take 2-4 shots. They were done. Just two to four exposed sheets and off to the lab.

They not only knew their craft - the light, the person, and the exposure - they knew how to translate what they saw in the scene to what they wanted for an image and the print. It's the thing Ansel Adams wrote about in his books about the technique they used, to see the scene from the photograph to the print. It's what made them great.

And me, I'm barely seeing the scene. I would have been a terrible photographer then, or at least one who made numerous mistakes. My difficulty is seeing the end image. I'm a visual person but a here and now one, I have to see what it looks like to visualize anything I can capture. Producing the image has always been my problem, and that means I can't translate the scene to final image.

Reading a paper recently the author noted that most photographers are of two types, those who focus on the capture and leave the production to others, and those who can see both the capture and the final image, the end product as they say. And some photographers are great production specialists, and rarely step out of a lab or digital office. That's what's important, learn and do what you do best and if you want, give the rest a try.

I'm clearly a see it and capture it photographer, and I like to produce images I see, almost a straight translation from photo to image. So studio work challenges me to learn to see beyond, to extend my visualization through the capture to the production. I'll never be much more than ordinary, but it's the road we travel that matters, and it's a whole lot of fun learning and seeing.

And so you want to see what I have to produce this image? Or not. But if you do, I use sets of Minolta 360PX flashes in soft boxes linked with Pocket Wizards to any of the cameras, the two Canon digital and film bodies, the Minolta X-700's I used before (seen here), and my Horseman 4x5. Yup, if it's got the PC sync connector the PW's works. I also use a pair of Lowell Tota lights (seen on) to help prepare or for black and white images since the light source doesn't have to be color corrected.

It's not the best setup, but affordable and enough to learn and occasionally get lucky with some images. Something to do on rainy winter days when you wondering what to do. And all is gray and wet. So visualize.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A woman's smile

I'm not a good portrait photographer. I don't have the innate interpersonal rapport with people to make them conformtable enought to photograph. I'm uncomfortable around people, so photographing them makes me more uncomfortable. But I love portraits of people, but especially women when they smile.

I'm better photographing people at some distance, probably because it's my comfort distance and space, and maybe a fear of invading their privacy. And while I love viewing professional portraits, I love the informal or casual image more, such as this one by Doug Berryhill.

The simply joy of a woman's smile. And you can find many more photographs of them at's photographer's gallery. It seems there is almost a clear distinction with many where they do the studio portraits or the street portraits, rarely overlapping, and I wonder if it's a choice or talent, the ability to control or the talent to capture without it.

For example compare this one of a beautiful model and Gypsy. Totally different and both terrific to make you look for awhile wondering. And even in a studio setting, you can capture the essence of her smile or herself. As they say, a smile goes a long way, but a photograph can capture the whole and present the beauty of it.

In the end, I enjoy viewing photographs of women's faces, and especially with the whole facial expression of a woman's smile. You could ask for more in life, but this is hard to beat to lift the spirit and cheer the soul. And while I'll struggle trying to do this, I'll admire those who can and the women who smile at the world and life.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Mental Excercises

While I wrote about taking mental respites from photography, I also do mental exercises to get back into life and my photography. Not just pick up the camera when I go places and takes some photos, but putting myself back into focusing and challenging myself to do good photography. And when I get home, I download the images and let them sit for a day or so.

You see, I've learned never review your images immediately. I'm not a good judge of images so soon. I can notice some one I really like, but overall, I need some distance between the time I took them and the time I review them. This way I've cleared my mind of why I took them, and while I look at some with a "WTF" expression, I often find some that are far better than I first realized.

And so where does this lead? Well, take the example of my toaster. It's been on my list of things to photograph, mostly to document it and to see how I can do. Being an ordinary photographer who photographs what I see, it's hard for me to imagine seeing a photograph. Also, I either see the big picture or the small details. I miss the stuff in between.

It's how each of us mentally work and think. I write the same way, great at abstracts and specific detail stuff, but problems with the intermediate stuff. And I'm a bad organizer. My thesis Chairman was great at these and taught me to do these with my thesis. But I haven't figured it out with my photography, so I try to find simple things to challenge myself to learn. And badly most of the time.

So, the toaster is the test. But after the first images I decided I need to relearn lighting, or better learn lighting, techniques. So, that's what I'm doing while I work on setting the makeshift studio, formerly the dining room, for some photo experiments. And that's one way I get mentally back into photography, exploring an idea, which leads to another, and some work. And that leads to more photography.

It's the spiral effect. Either you're spiraling up or down, and if down, first you have to stop to level off into a neutral mode before you can even start the upward spiral from where you're at in your downward spiral. For me, though, sometimes I have to spiral down in a free fall so far until I find the bottom to stop the momentum of going down. The bottom stops anything and everything.

And when I get there, I can reestablish my view of the world and myself. And surprisingly, going up is simply a step forward. It's the idea it's easier to see where you're at and turn around when you're standing still than running forward. And I can simply go forward in a new direction. I don't look back, only ahead. And the light in the world and my photography.

And on the list after the toaster are other projects, to get the cameras out into the world doing what I love to do, photography the ordinary in the way I see it. Nothing fancy or even all that great, just mine. And that's all life can ask of anyone, do what you can where you are with what you have.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Mental Respites

You know the old saying, "Something is better than nothing."? And you know that some people like to insert the word "always" after "is" to enforce the idea that nothing is never good for you? Well, I like to insert the word "sometimes" at the beginning of the sentence to mean that often nothing is good for you.

Why? Because sometimes nothing or doing nothing clears the mind of the past with all the stress and tension you created. It frees the mind to be open to the whole array of ideas. And sometimes it's just a good thing to let your mind be still and open, or in some cases, empty of the present. We do this in our sleep and naps, let the mind self-medicate.

And that's what I do occasionally with my photography. I hate myself about not doing photography after awhile, but sometimes I have to let it go, do something else, and know eventually it sneaks back into my psyche to continue with it. Every good professional or commercial photographer would rail against this philosophy, but then they have the consistent passion and drive to do it. I don't.

And I know I have tried, and all I get is angry with myself, my work and the world about why I continue. It's part of the can't explain part of ourselves we don't understand enough and can't fix enough to get over. I only get through. And pick up the camera again to continue. Sometimes I have to keep saying, "It's about just doing and forget the results. Think about what you're doing, focus, and just take a lot of photos. Something will happen and spark, or respark, the passion."

And I know in time it does. After nearly 40 years of doing this, you'd think I'd find a way to resolve it. But maybe it's just one of those things about ourselves we can't. We're simply blind to our own being. And try as we can and do, we can't find a way to see what's happening, let alone get over it. This always seems to fly in the face of what people seem to advocate, "Just get over it."

Or as the Nike ad says, "Just do it." And we can look at all the successes who have, and forget the orders of magnitude who tried and didn't. It's in our national psyche, but it's not reality. Reality is that 99+% of those who try only get part way there. And photography isn't much different. It's about the many who are ordinary, the some who are good and the few who are great. And the reality is striving while keeping that in mind.

It doesn't mean we should quit. It's about the journey, and as long as we travel the road and try our best when we can, the rest is what is, and nothing more. And if we, like me, take respites occasionally, so be it. It keeps me sane and from wanting to leave the road altogether.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

NPR - Reluctant Reader

I hate reading. Ok, that said, I've read a lot, otherwise I wouldn't be sitting here with an understanding of our world and writing about it. I wouldn't have earned a Master Degree in Geography without the research and writing the thesis, ok, on a very boring topic (great bedtime reading and easier than a sleeping pill). But that's just the half of it.

My Mom was a prolific reader, but almost all of it dime novels. She did read enough at work to become a senior adjuster with a major insurance company, which including reading a lot about the law and other really more boring stuff those companies and the legal system requires. I've always respected her for that, but she always resorted to dime novels.

My Dad only read at work. We never saw him read at home. I don't know why, but I suspect he really didn't like reading, and only did enough to get by in life. He rose to be a Lieutant Colonel in the US Air Force, so he wasn't stupid. He liked talking with people and doing things, albeit he couldn't make anything, a talent he handed down to my brother and I.

My siblings, my older brother Greg and older sister Kris, were similar to Dad. We read enough to get by, and if anyone read more, it was Kris. Greg was similar to Dad, he read enough to get by in life, and having a BA in Accounting, being a CPA and eventually a CEO, he had to read a lot of related stuff. But he didn't read outside of work.

I, on the other hand, hated reading in school but read occasionally for myself. I'm a learn by doing person. I like doing something, learning as I go, and then read when I have a question or a problem. Then I stop, read and roll on. I've learned almost everything I do that way, and partly why I make a lot of mistakes, but it's who I am, and try as I must, I don't read beyond what I need to know or learn.

But I will read when the passion strikes. I've read the complete works of Sherlock Holmes, Henry David Thoreau, and other writers. I sit down and read, and read, until I've read everything they've written. And I read what I can find on a subject because it interests me. I have a small library on large format photography which I read every book before buying a camera and lenses.

For my Master Degree thesis, I read tons of materials. You have to, but my best talent was research. I'm able to sit down in libraries and scours shelves of references and bibliographies for material, find that material and read it. For my first, failed, thesis I had found, sometimes bought, every book and article published up to that time. I have a file cabinet full of copies of these materials I included in the bibliography.

And for my photography and Website, I've struck a balance. I buy reference books, read enough to start and then do things to read when I'm stuck. It's why my Website isn't fancy, yet, because I don't want to learn javascript or fancier Web design. I know I will, when the passion strikes. Or not, if it doesn't. I learn what I can do simply and easily. It works for me.

I also read 3-5 newspapers 3-5 times per week. But read is a dubious word. I sit down with a sandwich and chips and start with page one. It would be better if I said I peruse the newspapers, looking for interesting news or stuff, and then read it. And then continue. I often just read the first few paragraphs of articles to get the idea and to see if it's interesting. Since you can't learn everything about an issue from an article, I don't see the reason to try and understand all of it, only the highlights.

Is this so bad? Not really. I listened to an interview with Nancy Pearl, Chief Librarian for the City of Seattle, who said she only finishes one in twelve books she starts. She said the other eleven don't interest her enough to read past the first chapter if that. So, it's ok not to read every book you pick up, and not to finish every book you start reading. It's about being in our world of words, where knowledge and understanding lives alongside life. So read what works for you.

JMO - Why ENDA may not work

I was reading that Senator Kennedy plans to re-introduce the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the 2008 session of Congress, but without the inclusion of protection for transgender or transsexual people, normal referred to as "gender identity", different from cross-dressers, transvestites, drag queens and female illusionists/impersonators. If you don't know the difference, look it up, and while many in the transcommunity indentify as both sides, most don't.

But that's not my point. I want to say that while I applaud the efforts to include protections for people for their sexual orientation, which by the way also includes heterosexuals - we all have some type of sexual identity or orietation, but has been recognized as homosexuals or bisexuals, I deplore those same people for excluding transpeople simply because it's politically expedient being an election year.

And Congress knows President Bush will veto any new ENDA, even for LGB people, so why go ahead with something so divisive in the LGBT community unless they want to mainstream homosexuals and discriminate against transpeople. They know the transcommunity can not now or will not for years get their protection in ENDA on their own, even with a Democratic Congress and President. That's the reality of world today, it doesn't sell to the public.

But that's not my point. I believe ENDA with LGB inclusion won't work because it ignores the reality of the workplace. It's not all that hard to fire someone for being gay or lesbian and disguise it as job performance, management reorganization, and other reasons which are not only legal but supported by senior management. And if the employee wants to sue, so be it, because they also know that takes years and money, something many employees don't have.

I remember a case of a woman who hassled another woman for years, especially after my friend, the latter woman, won a promotion over the other woman (both applied). The woman who lost waged a two-year campaign to undermine my friend's work and her job performance. Everyone filed complaints against the woman who was hassling our friend, but she had connections to a their boss (she taught him when he started for the organization).

Finally my friend filed a grievance with her (their) boss, not realizing the depth of the friendship between the woman who was hassling her and their boss. He rejected it and blamed each as spate between women. She then filed the grievance with our boss, who agreed with her senior manager. She then decided to get a lawyer and file a complaint (there is a difference in the rules between a grievance and a complaint) with the regional Human Resources office.

After an investigation they concluded the woman who was hassling my friend was 99% to blame and my friend 1% for some minor comments she made. Our boss decided to disregard the report and forced both women into arbitration. My friend rejected this, partly on the advice of her lawyer, friends (like me), and the regional HR employee representative. But our boss said it was arbitration or resignation.

If you don't know, the reason you don't use arbitration is that the arbitrator automatically assume both parties are equally to blame for the problem and reasons the issue can't be resolved. This was wrong and the regional HR office said as much, but they couldn't override our boss' decision to force it. So my friend refused and filed a lawsuit based on the investigation. This forced another investigation.

The second more thorough investigation found the woman who hassled my friend 99% to blame, but added that their boss was at fault for not resolving the matter quickly and fairly, meaning supporting his friend (other woman) against the evidence. They also found our boss at fault for trying to cover up the whole problem and not forcing appropriate discipline for the hassling woman.

So what happened? Senior (headquarters) management, not wanting this to go to court or become public, offered my friend a buyout to resign and a promise if she re-entered government service, she would given a good recommendation. She wanted to leave for school anyway and didn't want to stay in such a workplace environment - she could only transfter out of state if she stayed.

The woman who hassled her stayed with the organization, got the job she wanted, and to no one's surprise failed miserably with many complaints against her authoritarian management. She was eventually transferred back to her old job and told she'll be there until she retires. All because she got a new boss with whom didn't have a history and political connections. And my friend got her education and is currently working for government again.

The whole story, and there are more, showed me about crossing management and employees with connections. A few years later I had a similar experience where I was threatened by my boss if I went outside the office over a violation of regulations. I did report the problem and his threat, and it pretty much set in place a series of confrontations with management over years and buried my career in the organization.

I don't regret my decisions, I wasn't interested in political correctness. I was angry with the insolence of management toward employees, and always spoke for them at management staff meetings. Eventually, I got some bosses who began to see the truth and light, as they say, and learned to listen, but it was too late for my career. And partly why I took an early retirement.

And my point is that ENDA is some respects is window dressing. I still support an all-inclusive ENDA, because without the law discrimination against transpeople would and could be blatant and obvious, leaving the employee no way to get retribution or compensation. It's about protecting everyone from management's abuses.

If you think I'm being dismissive about it, I can tell you from my years in management, it happens for similar reasons other than sexual identity or orientation. I have supported employees with grievances against managers who clearly violated the regulations, and even the law, and were not only defended but supported by management, and in every case the employee lost.

In the end, it's about being right for all, not just being right for politicial expediency. That's discrimination, something they condemn and then condone.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Shooting Raw

Is shooting raw format making photographers stupid? Ok, an obviously dumb question. Every photograher understands, or should, and if they don't they should learn, why shooting raw has a lot of advantages over jpeg, which I discussed a little about in an earlier post. I haven't moved from that position very much since then and still shoot jpeg most (80-90%) of the time for convenience.

Ok, to begin with, digital cameras always capture images in a raw format, istoring the original intensity data of each pixel in the sensor. The camera uses your settings, such as ISO, picture style, white/color balance, exposure settings, exposure control, filter effects, etc. to display the image in the camera and initial post-processing and to convert the raw to jpeg.

With raw format, the only controls the photographer has are the exposure, ISO and EV (exposure value) control. You can overcome the ISO in any post-processing, but you can't overcome a wrong exposure setting or EV control resulting in the image extremely over or under exposed. This is due to the sensors and the dynamic range of cameras.

While some photographers argue digital cameras have a 7-9 zone range, the practical range is on par with film about 5-6 zones excepting some black and white film which has a 7-9 zone range. It's how that range is captured that makes this important. In digital cameras, the zones aren't equal linear zones, but non-linear, meaning each zone is progressively less and less of the image to where they begin to indistinguishable on the end of the range, near black and near white zones.

This is where the practical range of about 5-6 zones become evident in scenes, but the advantage for shooting raw is that you can sometimes extract more from the outer zones with post-processing, recovering some of the dynamic range. But then you have the limitation of the exposure being the controlling parts of the capture where the zones simply aren't distingushable. Sometimes the range of film can be recovered in development - the traditional expose for the shadow and develop for the highlights, but in digital it's usually lost.

And my point to this rambling? Well, while I agree shooting raw has a lot of potential for photographers, and he recommended method for signficant post-processing image production and it's a powerful mechanism for overcoming a lot of mistakes in the exposure, such as white/color balance, picture style, filters, light sources, etc., especially under different light conditions. But it can also become a fallback for a photographer, and this is my point.

Shooting raw can make photographers photographically dumb - not knowing, or stupd - not thinking, and image processing smart. It can overcome a lot of mistakes film photographers wouldn't make or know how to correct in the field. Shooting raw can make photographers iilliterate, if not incompetent, photographers and only technical image processers. All a photographer has to do is shoot raw, set the camera to optimum ISO, automatic white/color balance and automatic exposure, and know you can fix anything in Photoshop.

Ok, this has been a point of arugment for decades, long before automatic exposure settings on cameras, to the introduction of cameras with light meters before than and external light meters before that. It's all relative to as they say, and here it's relative to what's important to capturing and producing an image, and where you put your expertise. Before digital processing, some people learned to become darkroom specialist and some photographers focused on capturing photos.

So it's not new, but now the level of expertise has fallen into the hands of everyone, even those who have little if any knowledge of photography and exposure, but simply set everything to automatic, then point and shoot and fix everything Photoshop. Is that photography?

Not to me, but I do shoot raw when I want to play with some images, and even then I shoot raw+jpeg. I've always been a photographer who likes to test my knowledge, undestanding and experience, how limited it is, to see how well or bad I did. It's like shooting film, even when you bracket, because you make decisions and trust yourself. Shooting raw doesn't do that, it's not cheating but certainly not teaching you anything about photography.

Ok, I'm being a curmudgeon about it. But not really, as I make the point shooting raw has a lot of advantages for the photographer. My point is that while that, it's also a way of being a bad photographer but a good image producer. It's not what I was taught or why I do photogaphy. It's why I'm a photographer, to capture what I see as realistically as I can, and not trust some post-processing to overcome my own stupidity.

JMO - Religion in Politics

Reading all news stories about the presidential primaries, I would like to ask the candidates to park the religion and ask the public and reporters to stop asking about it. We've all seen what a born-again Christian can do to the role and work of the President with George Bush and the damage done in the name of his faith, and I for one, have had enough. But now I read about Romney's mormonism and Huckabee's faith, and I would like them to simply stop. Stop making it an issue.

I'm not arguing against religion or against a President who has a personal faith. I'm arguing it's not a part of a President's role and job representing this country and the people. I listened to Huckabee's statement about wanting to be the President "of" the people, but reading about his values and views, I wonder if he can be or just wants to be the President of the people who agree with him or have his faith.

Can he really be the President of all the people, as he says he wants to do, to unite us when we've heard the same promises in 2000 from then candidate Bush only to find they were false promises - and from a man of faith too? Can Huckabee after saying HIV patients should be isolated, saying homosexuality is immoral, and so on, simply reiterating what he believes his faith tells him than being a human being and telling his faith to take a back seat.

Can Romney really divorce his decisions and actions, if he were elected, from his mormon faith and the Mormon Church? He says he could, but somehow I don't see it as he would simply limit his options and choices to those that fit into his faith and church than look at the whole diversity the people and our country. Does the Mormon Church really think he'll abandon them so simply disguise or reframe it like George Bush has done about his faith throughout his terms?

Can the Democrats really stop stumbling over themselves trying to out-faith the other one so we think they're a good person? A good person doesn't need a religion or faith to be good, it's about what Martin Luther King said, the character of our being. It's about knowing what's good without resorting to some artifice or book of a religion as a guide. That's an excuse not to think and be a good person.

Can we get the candidates to simply say, "I have a personal faith. It helps guide me in some situations, but it's not the main reason or the values I will exercise as President. I will be a President of all the people and find the best for everyone. I will not abide by the values or views of any single faith or religion or be bound by any single church. I will seek the counsel of those from all sides, facets, and aspects on an issue, even those I may not agree with because of my faith. I will accept it as the whole of the human condition and people of this country. That is the role and job of being President."

So, do you think any one will?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

JMO - Dear Candidates

Dear Presidential candidates.

So I don't have to listen to the diluge of political rhetoric and stump speeches written to sell yourself to voters - I'm already tired of the campaign and there still another ten months to go - I'll give you my views on the issues. And if you are so generous and like some, or even many, then I'll listen to you sometime in the fall of 2008 if you win your party's nomination. Otherwise, I'll save my ears and you can save your breath. Fair?

So here goes. My views on the issues, in no particular order, just as I think of them.

One, Iraq. I've already written why we should end this war. It's about the soldiers and troops. Nothing more and nothing less. We've exhausted our soldiers in an endless unwinnable war of attritution. If we don't leave in 2-3 years, we'll be there another 2-3 decades. Americans want a plan to resolve Iraq and come home. It's their country and nation, not our territory for oil or global power.

Anything less and you don't get my vote. It's very simple. I'm a veteran and know it's time to bring them home.

Two, Social Security. Leave it alone except to tinker with the income for contributing. It's solvent for 30 years and longer is if you add people and raise the contribution. Do NOT reduce benefits in any form or manner. I will fight you tooth and nail as a citizen and voter of this. Ok?

Three, EPA. Please return this agency to the real purpose and mission, protecting the American environment and people, and not corporations. Stop polluters. Clean up waste site. Enforce current laws with (more) staff and lawsuits. If we don't, we lose.

Four, education. Kill the No Child Left Behind Act and restore local education quality with tearchers, resources, schools, and whatever else it takes. It's about America's future, our children. How hard is that to know and believe in?

Five, people. Support equal rights and protections for all Americans. No discrimination allowed. I don't care about their sexual orientation, gender identity, human expression, or whatever. We're all Americans. That means in marriage, hate crimes, workplace, and so on. It's about all of us.

Six, civil rights. Undo the Patriot Acts and restore civil rights and liberties to Americans. We're not the enemy! Make the FBI and other law enforcement agencies use the tools they had. They failed in 9/11 because of human communication, not techology or laws. They didn't need the Patriot Act then and we don't need it now.

This means prohibiting warrentless searches and wiretaps on American citizens wherever they are without a court order, even it's a FISA court. No massive indiscriminate Internet traffic surveillence programs on American citizens. Give us our privacy in our daily lives.

Seven, torture in Gitmo. What don't you understand about the Geneva Convention we signed? That's all you need to know. Follow it. Shut down Gitmo and give the land back to Cuba. If you have a terrorist, try federal court with real, honest evidence, not false evidence obtained by inhumane torture. Be a world standard for the rights and treatment of prisoners.

This is about America and our global reputation. Restore our global leadership, integrity and ethics.

Eight, immigrants. It's simple, legal is legal and illegal is illegal. What don't you get about that? Solve the problem of the latter without amnesty programs or putting them at the head of the line from their country. This country had and still has a front door into legal immigration. Demand everyone go through it.

And by the way, pay all the states the money you owe them for the cost of the problems they've encountered taking care of the illegal immigrants the federal government is supposed to do or pay for. Write the damn checks.

Nine, abortion. It's simple to me, as I've explained. It the right of a woman and mother to the full range of choices about herself and the life of her fetus/baby. It's her right and our government's to ensure access. It's also a decision made solely by the mother and her doctor. No one else!

Ten, government. Restore the prestige of government workers. I spent 4 years i the Air Force and 27-plus years in the Department of Interior. Government workers are the best. Support them.

Eleven, federal lands. What don't you understand about land in the public interest? It's our land, the people's, so manage it accordingly, not for private profit.

Twelve, China. Can we find an answer to them taking jobs, products, and seemingly everything else we have to not just save but restore American jobs. If all of many of our products come from China, where's the global advantage for us except shipping money and jobs there?

I would like to hear some longterm ideas to deal with them on a global scale for jobs, their environmental problems, their lack of human rights there and countries they trade with (we do too), their government owned corporations disguised as capitalism, and on and on. I want a policy that helps America and Americans.

Thirteen, taxes. What are you allowing corporations to get away with almost no taxes on incomes? Most of government is paid by the lower and middle classes. Can't we get some fairness here?

Fourteen, American workers. It's about fair wages which can suport a family. It's not about cheap illegal immigrant wages taking good jobs. It's about affordable health care. It's about affordable housing. It's about living. You would know that if you weren't so damned rich above it all with all your money and financial supporters. Get real!

Ok, that's it for now. I add or modify my issues as time goes by. If I have to listen to you, you can listen to me. If not, and you only want my vote, then there is a plethora of street slang I could recite along with a lot of text message acronyms. Get the picture? Pay attention to the people, as people, not votes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

STL - Toaster

It's just a toaster, you say. Ok, it's just a toaster. But it's also a 1930's toaster that has never failed in 70 years. It came out of my mother's parents home when they lived in Boise Idaho. My maternal grandfather came to the US from Germany, where his name was Muller, around the beginning of World War I. He wanted to join the US Army and go back to fight the Kaiser. He did and after the war joined the US postal service, eventually becoming the Postmaster General for Boise, Idaho.

When he was there he met a beautiful young socialite from Soda Springs, Idaho. My maternal grandmother who's family name is Shufeldt. Her family moved from Ohio around the time of the Civil War after immigrating to the US in the 1830's. They married and bought a brick home in one of the then better neighborhoods in Boise. My Dad, a young Army officer stationed at Mountain Home Air Base, met their daughter, my Mom, who also was a young socialite.

And the rest of the story is obvious. When they closed my grandparents home so my grandmother could move in with us, most of her household goods were either sold or stored. Somehow this toaster made it through the hussle and bussle of belongings gone everywhere. It sat in a box until I married and we needed a toaster. And so we got this one, and I've never had another one.

I like this toaster for its simplicity. It toasts one slice of bread at a time, sorry no bagels, but it will do frozen waffles, and it has only one control, lighter-to-darker, but once set, I've never changed in decades. If it doesn't toast the first time, you simply push it down a second time and watch. And listen to the tick of the timer.

How hard is that? With all the fancy multi-slice toasters and toaster-ovens in the world today, this toaster does one thing very well, toast bread. It has a bottom panel you unscrew to get the crumbs out. And it still has the original cloth cord and plug. Not bad for a seventy year old toaster. And I'll keep it shiny for a long time too, occasionally spotted with butter and fingerprints.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

Photo public domain by NPS

Nothing like a good photo of a beautiful place to start the year to clear the mind of the matters of the past year and see the new year in a refreashed way so everything is a possibility. At least for a moment, if not a day or even longer? We can always hope, and if we plan right and work hard, we just might get there, and at least we'll get somewhere along the road. And we should never forget it's not the destination that matters, but the journey itself and the people we share our life with along the way.

And so I wish you a happy and properous year to come for you and your family and friends.

You can get the image of this scene at Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park from the NPS Webcam, where you can also get the recent weather, including the snow depth (in the photo at 9+ feet, normal for New Year's Day 2008.