Wednesday, April 30, 2008

JMO - I'm not to blame

I was reading about the President's recent, especially yesterday's, news conferences. And it occurred to me that not only does George just not get it, meaning understand anything beyond is very narrow view of the world from the White House, he's determined to blame anyone but himself for anything that has happened. He really is saying, "It's not my fault."

Here's a President to up to a few weeks ago didn't realize gas prices were over $3.50 per gallon and likely to go over $4.00 per gallon, up by $1.50 to $2.00 in just over a year. And his only solution? Let's drill in ANWR, which even when brought into production after the 5-10 years of drilling and infrastructure would only add a few percentage to the daily oil consumption, and then only last at best a few years.

All the while the Oil companies, who continue to annually report record corporate profits, would add more profits to their coffers while destroying ANWR for eternity. ANWR is our gift to our future and the future of the planet. It deserves expanding and an eternal prohibition on any energy or mineral exploration. Destroying it would only be the sign of our narrow mentality for short term gain.

Anyway, the President went only to rail against Congress and the American people. He wanted to bail out the subprime mortage companies and banks who invested in them, but leave the homeless homebuyer on the street. Why? He doesn't understand. He has a scrub brush ranch in Texas bought with corporate money he received to be their namesake in politics. George hasn't work a day in his life. He's been given everything by his father's friends.

And he blames the Iraq war on Al Qaeda even though they're only 5% of the fighting. He labels any insurgent, criminal, militia, etal as Al Qaeda, and he honestly expects us to believe him, as he has this secret knowledge we don't have. Doesn't he read the newspapers? I'm sorry, I forgot, he gets briefings by his senior staff and cabinet secretaries who spin things. And lets not forget Mr. Cheney who simply lies to him.

I've blasted Bush more times than I can remember anymore, but it's not hard when George simply denies reality for his own fantasy of reality, and now standing naked to the American people, because the media finally stopped repeating his version of the truth instead of reporting the actual truth and are asking questions which George can't answer or find reporters actually questioning his answer.

George has relied on humor and his personality to sell anything, and now he can't. After seven years the media finally woke up to reality and the truth, the reality as it is and the truth the American people have long known. He has destroyed America's international reputation as a nation, a country and a people. And for what?

No one seems to know what George is thinking, or that even thinks at all. Here's a President who says we don't torture while he approves torture. He says the Geneva Convention doesn't apply anymore but is still valid to all the other nations in the world and to the UN. And he expects our enemies not to do that same as they are labelled terrorists. So, who's the terrorist? Aren't we terrorizing the world with our military?

And so it's ironic., or more a tragic comedy to hear the President talk anymore, because no one believes him anymore. He is the Emperor who has no clothes anymore and his closet is empty. And he still has another seven-plus months to be President while the economy goes south as is his war, along with his approval rating at record low for any President.

But he still believes he's right. Oh, well. George, go back to your White House and pretend. Just remember to leave everything to the next President who will actually be one, actually help the American people and restore the integrity of America in the world. You can retire to your ranch and life your pretend life, except I hope some day you'll get a moment of realization of the damage you created.

I doubt you will, but then then God will.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

JMO - A stupid question

I was listening to the news story about the Isreali bombing of the Syrian nuclear reactor being jointly developed with the North Korea. The facility was totally destroyed, although there is new evidence it's being rebuilt. And my question? If, as the news story suggests, everyone in the intelligence community knows the whole story, meaning our government, the Isreali government, the Syrian government, and on and on where all of those people who are privy to the information, why hide it?

I don't get it? If everyone knows and everyone knows that everyone else knows, it's no longer a secret except to the public. So why keep it from the public? It makes no sense to me that governments do this on the notion of secrecy when it's not a secret to anyone in any government who needs to know. So what's secret?

It's seems contradictory to me that government leaders claim security and secrecy when it's not true except to us, the very public who does really need to know the truth, the whole truth and not the politically marketable truth. And it's been like that for decades. Really.

I remember when I was in the service. I worked in a top secret organization in the USAF monitoring the Test Ban Treaty. We were told all about the clearances we had and what we could and couldn't tell folks about what we did. As I worked in the organization I discovered all the data and information we collected from out entire global network of sites was shared not only with other government agencies, obviously, but with some universities and other governments, like the (then) Soviet counterparts, as they did their data and information with us.

When a friend of mine went to India to establish a site we were installing with the help and approval of the Indian government, he discovered in conversations that the Indian governement had made a similar arrangement with the Soviet government. When he went to run the intial calibration tests, he noticed the equipment was also recording the signal from the Soviet site, which it turned out to be 50 miles down the road.

Well, after some discussion with the chiefs (generals), he got the approval to get an interpreter to meet with the Soviets to exchange technical information and to install a communication system where we could ensure the one site didn't interfer with the other site. In short, we combined our expertise to form a collaboration for the Indian government. While they were initially upset with this, they eventually came around to understand and eventually expelled the Soviets and later us, but not without leaving the sites intact.

So, why do the people in charge think it's all that important to keep secrets secret that everyone knows who's supposedly not supposed to know, like the alleged enemies of the US? If all of them know, who cares who else knows? And why isn't it just made public and be done, so everyone knows?

Yes, I know some things need to be kept secret, but really? Like torture? If all our enemies know our torture techniques, despite what the politicians say they don't or shouldn't, why keep it secret? Do they, the politicians, really believe it's really so secret? And surveillence techniques? Everyone can use their imagination, but really the former Soviets and other national technical experts have not only known the techniques but shared them with other nations, groups and even terrorists.

And we shouldn't forget our government doesn't develop or make the equipment, it's all made by companies under contract to the government. But they also use it to market to other buyers around the world along with much of it being stolen by employees, ex-employees, spies, etc. It makes no sense to hide when you're not really hiding. So why are we pretending everyone is hiding?

I'm open to understanding. I just don't get it. Or maybe it's a really stupid question. Or a really obvious one?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Update on digital photography

Ok, like the large format camera blog, I haven't posted anything since last July, and it's the same reason, excuse or explanation, take you pick, life and events got the better of my attention. And while I have been using my camera system routinely, I haven't posted much beyond the work I've done, like the Thanksgiving Day and St. Patrick's Day parades (image from latter here) and studio work. Outside of that I don't have much to say.

I did buy a Canon 580 EX II flash and extra battery pack for the studio work. This allows me to have three separate light sources, two softboxes with twin Minolta 360 PX flashes and one softbox with the 580 EX II. I also wanted the Canon flash for working in less than stellar light conditions in the field, such as trails, forests, overcast days, etc. It will be in the backpack when I resume hiking-photography when the weather warms up and the snow on the trails melt.

Outside of that, it's a life goes on answer. I'm not following any of the news on new cameras especially the long expected 5D Mk II. The 5D does everything I want in one camera with the EOS-1n for film work. I don't need to be one always clammering for the latest or best camera. After all I still keep my 14 Minolta manual focus cameras and 30+ lenses working, some always with film and a camera bag ready to go. I'm not going to abandon them for digital just yet.

Update on LF Photography

Like back in July of last year I noticed I haven't posted an update or anything new, so it raises the question, "So, what have you been doing with your large format camera of late?" Suffice it to say, not much. I got carried away by life and events which kept me from picking up the camera until this last winter when I started my (winter) studio work. I worked mostly with my digital camera (image above) and when I got what I liked with the lighting I took some 4x5 film of the same thing and some other setups. The sheets sit in a box to go to the lab when I get more sheets. Being an hour drive, I like to have enough to make it worthwhile for the trip, to the lab and other places.

In other news I learned the Layton L-45A camera, although more than 2 years behind schedule, will be produced, or at least the first 10 or so over this summer, so I can expect to get mine on or around Labor Day. Afer all the delays, last year I had thought about looking at alternatives, and there are some in the same and higher price range, but I decided to be patient. I'm sure Mr. Layton will have a good story the time and work to get his camera out, but I know it will be well received as the prototype was in June 2005.

Well, that's it for now. I've been waiting for our really long, cold, rainy/snowy winter to change into spring, and it hasn't except for the occasional teaser day. I'm hoping for better weather from here on out to get out with the camera more, and posting some more results.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

JMO - NPCA Report

The National Parks Conservation Association has issued a report, America's Heritage Land for Sale, (PDF), describing the current status of the possible loss of land within or adjacent to National Parks which should be incorporated into the National Park(s). This is not a thing that would be nice, it is a thing that embodies America, it's past, present and future.

The report only focuses on ten examples, one of which is land adjacent to Mt. Rainier NP along the Carbon River in the northwest corner of the Park. The inclusion of this land protects the upper Carbon River corridor into the National Park, preserve the forest and riverine environment and wildlife, and help ensure the fisheries and water quality of the Carbon River.

The report makes it clear this is only the start of a longer plan to acquire as much as possible of the enclaved land in National Parks and all appropriate lands adjacent to the Parks which helps preserve America's heritage for future generations. And sadly in these time of fiscal restraint by the Bush administration with federal agency budgets and unrestrained spending, adding to the national debt, for war, this isn't about land versus national security, it's about who we are as a nation and the value we have for our land.

We need these new and additional lands for the protection and preservation of our National Parks. Most American believe it, NPCA Press Release, and American's should let their elected representatives and especially the President know our views. This isn't something we want to look back on and think of what we could or should have done then, when we had the chance. We have the chance now.

So let's exercise our freedom of speech and raise our voice for America.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The right to photograph

On a photography forum, someone posted a link to a story (here) about a photographer asked to delete the images he took of the entrance used by the President for the Opening Day games at the new Washington Nationals baseball stadium. I wrote about my own incidental exchanges while photographing on the Washington State ferries.

Outside of those incidents the only other negative exchanges I have had have been with people who didn't like the picture taken. The only exception to that was a City of Tacoma worker (here) who didn't want his photo taken and didn't want to listen, let alone understand, about being a public worker in a public space.

Anyway, my point? Well, it seems ever so slowly we're losing our freedoms, and law enforcement officers, from local to the FBI, Secret Service, etal. are taking a lot of presumptions about their right to control what photographers can do where and when. A few years ago a photographer working in downtown San Francisco was taking photos of a hotel when Secret Service officers arrested him and confiscating his camera equipment.

It turned out, unbeknownst to him and anyone else, Vice President Cheney was entering the hotel from another street totally out of sight of the photographer, and none of his images had anything remotely capturing the incident. But they wanted to be "sure." Or was it on order from the VP to protect his activies regardless of the law?

It seems routine now the law enforcement officers are overly zealous withh photographers only to later release them without charging them, but more often than not deleting the images or worse damaging their equipment, like this photographer who lost all his equipment that day when they denied the arrest and confiscation of his equipment.

While they are or trying to restrict our freedoms and those of photographers, they're making several really stupid, and I do mean stupid, mistakes.

First it's not illegal to photograph. You can get a summary of a photographer's rights. It means that unless explicity identified in state, local or federal laws, ordinances or regulations, it's perfectly legal to photography anyone or anything anywhere at any time in or from a public space or in a private space with permission of the owners.

And it's not about safety and security. How many times have you seen videos and images of the movement of high government officials, even the President, taken by media videographers and photojournalists? And often they'll let people photograph them with less than professional-grade cameras, but then restrict photographers with better cameras?

Second, they're not being consistent with the types of photographers (tourist versus "professional"). This is being done because it's easy to identify and isolate photographers using fairly standard or traditional, often described and serious or professional, film or digital cameras. They have rarely prevented or stopped people with camera phones or point&shoot cameras. Only with larger, obvious cameras.

Third, and mostly importantly, they forget when something does happen, the first thing they want are images. This seems to escape their logic or reason. Whenever something happens, an event, crime, whatever, the first thing everyone, especially government and law enforcement officials want are photographs or images. So, why on one hand restrict photography while on the other hand then wonder why there aren't any later?

What don't they understand is that the freedom to photograph empowers both the people and the law, and especially law enforcement agencies. The more photos and images that exist, the more people know and the more they have. But I also know it's about power and control over people. I remember going to a John Kerry rally in 2004 and while they would let people take in small cameras they didn't want "professional" cameras.

The freedom to photograph empowers and helps everyone. What's not to understand?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

JMO - The US economy

I love listening to Terry Gross and her radio show Fresh Air, and today's (4/3/08) with Michael Greenberger show is more than worth the time, to get an excellent basic education on the US economy and financial markets. I won't pass judgements on the issues about it, because I don't know very much about it - runs in the family, even my brother once a Treasureer, CFO and later CEO of a major company, couldn't make money on the markets, just our own work.

In this show, however, Terry Gross and Michael Greenberger does an outstanding job explaining things behind the headlines and why our national ecomony isn't built on what built this country, our national heritiage of being a producer economy, but on money, and especially making money for the sake of making money. And all of it unregulated. And how widespread and deep it is into our economy that the future is what the financial market made, one giant bet, or hedge, against itself.

The show makes you feel small as an individual with your savings and checking account and retirement fund, if you're lucky to have one. Small to the point of being insignificant in the whole financial market scheme and world, and a only a lot of us make us a pawn. The best I can do is listen and hope the whole system doesn't crash, but also hope we, taxpayers, are left holding the debt while the financial companies, and especially individuals, walk away with millions in profits or compensation packages.

I still haven't grasped the concept that the CEO of Bears-Stearns walked away with over $200 Million in a compensation package for driving a company into near bankruptcy. But then the retiring CEO of Exxon-Mobil walked away with a $400 Million compensation and benefits package. And the list goes on about these guy robbing the company for themselves and leaving us to bailout the failing company.

I hope Congress gets the message about the public outrage and need for real regulation, but more importantly somehow we, as a nation and people, need to wake up to the realization our ecomony isn't going the right direction. It's not about money, it's about being a producing nation and economy in the global market. And thanks to Teri and Michael, they help educate and inform us. At least I feel smarter.

I don't feel any better, nor warm and fuzzy, but at least I understand how complex and convulted it is, and answers, from anyone, especially the candidates, won't be, or shouldn't, simple campaign rhetoric.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Monitor Calibration

Having learned recently the importance of calibrating a computer monitor, I can't say enough to do it if you haven't done it at all and then do it routinely. After calibrating mine, with a Syper 2 Suite I discovered I have to go back about 6 months or more worth of images and correct many that are now darker than I had produced them on my Apple Cinema monitor (23").

And the changes? This image,

becomes this image.

To bad Bob Uecker was never a photographer. He'd call the old version, "Juuuust a little bit dark." So, don't be a minor league photographer, calibrate your monitor. And if your monitor can't be calibrated, get a better computer.

Raw revisted, again

Somehow I keep coming back to the argument about shooting raw, often exclusively, and this is another one of those, "Huh?, moments when I read posts from photographers who shoot raw, such as one with a highend digital SLR (DSLR) who wrote, "I shoot exclusively raw format in program mode and automatic white balance. I convert the images to jpeg, and can't understand why they're not coming out right."

What is wrong with this situation? Where does one start? If they went through the process of buying an highend DSLR, with all its bells and whistles, and shoot everything in program mode, what don't they know or want to learn about both photography and their camera? Why are they shooting exclusively raw format, and not maybe raw+jpeg? Why are they shooting raw in the first place if all they're doing are making basic adjustments all much of which can be done in the camera?

I could go on, as I've already written about in two previous posts, last year and this year, but I doubt I will let it go. It's just so much a, "Huh?" moment reading people with basic questions that don't make sense. If it weren't for program modes and automatic color/white balance, they would have to actually learn photography.

And if it weren't for raw format, they would have to get the metering mode, exposure, color/white setting, etc. correct within a narrow range or get some really bad images. The camera companies and photo/image editing software companies, have made photography almost mindless. All you have to do is use automatic settings, shoot raw, and then anything and everything can be fixed in Photoshop.

I'm not going to make any claims that I'm a better than ordinary photographer, and I know that my choices often lead to a lot of mistakes, but I do know when I get it right, the photo is what I wanted to capture and the image what I wanted to produce with the least amount of computer work - meaning the scene, photo and image are the same as I wanted, I feel satisfied I've done my best. And I can translate that to experience to know more and do better later.

And I'll still shoot jpeg for 90% of my work, and raw+jpeg for the rest. I rarely use the raw format image, mostly to play with the image for comparison with the jpeg version. It's just how I think and work. It's not any better or worse than anyone elses', just mine. But I'll always just shrug when I read from someone who with one of the best cameras on the market use it as a point and shoot (P&S) camera and wonder what they're doing wrong. The obvious answer is go buy a P&S camera.

Anyway, it's just a rant or vent about the obvious. To me anyway.