Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Update on LF Photography

Canon 5D image

I wrote about the opening of the new Jackson Visitors Center at Paradise, Mt. Rainier National Park (NP) see blog entry. Well, it was a day of using the 4x5 camera along with testing the 17-40mm f4 lens I bought recently for my Canon 5D. I'll comment on the lens in another entry, but this one is for the day with the 4x5 camera.

Since I only got the camera around New Years 2007, I'm effectively still learning it (and ok, I don't use it as often as I should, but that's life, it keeps jumping ahead of plans to grab my attention to do something else). I have learned that from my longtime, and part-time, experience in 35 mm film photography, I didn't have to learn the basic of photography, just the application of it to 4x5 work and the camera.

And that's always more than enough for me. Anyway, what did I try and what did I learn that day at Paradise?

Well, for one, it was cold, damn cold. At least my hands told me. I have Raynaud's Syndrome where my hands become cold and stiff within minutes of exposure to cold (<40+ degrees) temperatures and turn white not long after that. Because you use fingers to manipulate the camera, I use a fingerless glove and put my hands in my pockets when just standing and/or thinking.

I've always had cold hands, exacerbated by cold weather, but it wasn't a problem until about 1990 when during a winter field trip in the Olympics (for work) where there was a foot and more of snow and subfreezing temperatures. Not long into the first day my hands literally stiffened to where the fingers wouldn't move from the position they were during the streamgaging. It's been a problem ever since, something the doctor said I likely had the predisposition and this event initiated the onset of it.

Ok, onward. I set up in the position above, but using a 120mm lens, similar to the above image, except the snow hadn't fully melted. I really wanted Mt. Rainier to appear in the background, but alas, the clouds continually drifted around from the north and in front of the view. After about an hour waiting with everything set up, I took some exposures (sheets) and packed up the stuff.

And just as you would think, the clouds parted to see the whole mountain. Anyway, from there I went up one of the trails originating at the new visitors center. I saw this scene.

Canon 5D image

I wanted to learn simultaneous swing and tilt, where the focus plane went right up the hillside. Easier said than done. Swing was so much the problem, but tilt. It only takes a few degrees of tilt to work, but the Horseman HD is a top-tilt front movement, so you have to keep readjusting the focus after moving the tilt.

It's easier to focus for the foreground and completely lose the distance focus, and that's what took the time. but eventually I think it all worked. Anyway, the slide (sheet) turned out really nice as did the visitors center slide. Unfortunately it was so cold and I was a little frustrated I didn't write anything down.

Some days and work are like that, but the results turned out pretty good. I'm smilin'.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What I don't miss

Occasionally I write about what I don't miss, about photography, life, work, etc. And occasioinally since I retired in December 2005 I meet with the field office folks I used to work with and wanted at some time in my career to be their Field Office Chief (FOC) if not the Data Chief. But work didn't work out, as said in a movie I watched some time ago, "A long story about a quick decision."

Actually I had planned my retirement more than a year before during a retirement work shop all federal employees are offered to assess their ability to retire within the finances they want or have. It showed that I had the financial option to retire any time between December 2005 and December 2008. It was my choice, but I learned in the fall of 2005, not mine, but also management's choice.

While staying longer would have been better financially - ok, minus the recent economic and Wall Street meltdown, I thought about the decision when I stopped by work this week to visit with former co-workers. I miss the field office folks, they're all great and terrific people, doing an outstanding job invisible to the public. All people see is the end result, the surface water data for Washington.

And why I liked both the work and the people. Every one of us have those things in the world we innately know is cool. Something so fun and worthwhile we don't think about it, we just do it. And that is what basic data is all about to me, and to anyone in basic data in the USGS. It's doesn't mean it's all nice and good, or all easy and likeable. It isn't, but it still is about the work love of it and the public service.

So what don't I miss? The politics of the job and the office. The local office isn't always the happiest place to work, not that different than any company, organization, agency, whatever, just the typical office politics and people. And the usual career minded, career ladder climbing, and whatever else you call them, people. We all know them, even if they don't know who they are, let alone even see they are.

I spent the time after one asked, "So, how's your work going?", doing the show and tell, "This what I'm doing." And that's the point. I'm working on the Mt. Rainier photo guide, the 1896 Expedition, the 1915 USGS map, and the photos of Mt. Rainier (1894-98).

And that's on top of my photography work - especially learning large format photography, my computer and Website work, and the rest of life that happens as we live and breath. Seeing the folks at work makes me miss the work and people, but also makes me not miss it for what I've done since and have yet to do in my life.

We all make decisions, everything is a trade-off of what we have, could do and would miss if we did do. And that is what I don't miss, which is what I have missed. I like what I've done, and live with the (slight) loss of money if I hadn't retired. So far, it still is the best and right decision. Not without costs and at a price. That's the reality of the world.

I wouldn't change it, and that's the key. Mistakes and flaws and all. It's been and still is a wonderful time to be. Nothing more, just being, and being alive. And thank you friends for reminding me of both sides and where I stand.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chasing software

I'm working on about two dozen 35mm slides dating back to last year (timeliness is something I'm not always good at) and some 4x5 slides going back to last winter's studio work. For the slides I use a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000ED scanner which I like and an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner. Far better than me, which is the point here.

Sometimes I run into a slide that just doesn't scan right. And after spending hours going through all the interations of the software tools, the digital version just doesn't match the slide. It's why I spend as much, sometimes too much, time in the field getting the capture right. I try to make it what I saw and wanted to capture. It's the original and always worth the effort.

And while the many photographers can and do argue that you can almost fix anything in Photoshop, the saying, "Shoot raw and fix it in the computer.", I will always argue the opposite, "Make the original the best, and you minimize the computer work." Because in the end, all the computer knowledge and experience of photo editing can't overcome the lack of knowledge and experience of actually being a photographer and doing your best while you were standing there.

It's that simple. But it's also the opposite. I'm not the most literate, let alone competent, person with the photo editing tools. I started learning after getting my computer in 2006, and I'm still learning. But it got me to thinking. Why we chase software, always thinking it's the answer to our problem(s) or question(s)?

And while I've usually been a critic of this, I find myself on the same road, wondering if some new software would help or be better than what I had. My computer already has more software packages than I'll ever use let alone learn to be productive. That's because of the way they package it, where you gain by buying suites than individual, except the suite has more packages than you need or want.

This is the Adobe approach. It's cool if you use them, but questionable if you don't, except there's always that hope or plan you will. And be intergrated, well, so much the enticement to think about it and how you can do more and better things. Or so we think, which is where I am. Do I buy another software package for the scanner, the same one I have for another scanner?

The slide doesn't change, and I know I either haven't found the combination of tools and settings to get what I want or it's just not possible. If the former, I'm just not doing enough, and if the latter, there isn't anything I can do beyond what I've done. And that's the dilemma. And how much is hope and ideas worth.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Observational Photographer

I've always, like we all do, searching for the word(s) that describes me. It's the old question after we meet someone for the first time, "So, what do you do?" And we try to answer with short, cryptic words which summarizes our work to date. Like it really means anything?

For instance, I've always considered myself a geographer by education and a hydrologist by work, but it's really more than that. I'm innately a geographer. I'm a visual person, but more so, I see almost everything in terms of images and places. I see everywhere I go, not just seeing but remembering. I don't navigate by directions unless it's a place I've never been. I always navigate by scenes and places.

Geography is interwoven into my being, it's really that simple. And I'm a hydrologist by my career, but it's also more than that. I love rivers. Yes, I like being there and trying to understand them. But it's the flow of water that takes a whole new meaning to me. As a Taoist. It's a metaphysical thing. Rivers are just cool for themselves, and in and of themselves, and everything about them.

The whole dynamics of a river, the water, the landscape, the river course, the energy, and on and on. It's a Taoist experience. And that's interwoven in my mind.

But then I've always called myself a nature/landscape and street photographer, but that really not it. It was a handy description to use with people because they have an idea what and who that is. But then I found a term which fits the best. You know when something, like a word or a decision fits best when it both feels and thinks right?

And that is something Kent Budge uses. I'm an observational photographer. I take pictures of what I see. I try to capture and present that, what I saw. Nothing more and nothing less. Just what my photo-mind saw at that instant and decided to capture in the camera.

Almost all my street photographs are taken at eye level, looking in whatever direction I point the camera. The same is true of my nature and landscape photography, most are at eye level. I don't usually try to squat down or stretch up for a shot. I just see, capture and move on. Only occasionally will I spend more time looking for different angles or views, but almost always still photograph at eye level.

So, that's the best word I've found to date, I'm an observational photographer.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I like Google. Well, most of the time. But I do have my reservations about them. No so much the company and what they're accomplishing, but their services and customer support, if you can call the latter support, which is one point of my essay here. So, what's my beef with Google?

First, why do they advertise some services but forget to tell you in the fine print that some of the services aren't available yet, and they won't say when they will be available. I'm trying to use their document server and wanted to post some PDF files for everyone to see. They're part of my Mt. Rainier NP photography guide, namely about the first USGS topographic map of the NP produced in 1915.

I found in the USGS archives, or better yet, they found and digitized copies of reports of the original surveys to and in the NP, the primary traverse lines and the triangulation to develop the topography in the map. I'm working on translating the informaiton into maps (and yes, Google maps), but I wanted to make the files pubic (and they are public domain and not currently available elsewhere).

Then I discovered Google's document server doesn't yet serve PDF files. The software simply won't accomodate it. And to discover this I had to explore the support groups and Google's many help pages where they finally state "This feature isn't currently available for PDF's."). Gee, thanks. And now I wait.

Second, their customer support, or the lack of it. Have you noticed there is no on-line e-mall addresses or telephone numbers to ask Google anything? Even when you have legitimate problems or questions about their Website, there is no one to contact. Literally no one.

Why? They're too busy? They don't care? They don't want to spend the little money from their profits to be customer friendly?

I scratch my head wondering. I can understand they would be inundated with e-mails and phone calls, and where do you optimize the pros and cons? That's a tough question, but I do know one thing. Something is better than nothing. At least with this issue.

But then they do something, some employees read and respond to the user support groups and forums. But it's still inadequate to me. I had to scrounge through many posts to find my answer and then look through the help to find the same answer. But why? When an e-mail response would have simply told me it's not ready yet.

Third, which really isn't a gripe but a comment. Their use of third party maps. I like their map server, obviously since I use it a lot for the photo guide. It's just the third parties aren't always the swiftest at updating or enhancing them, especially outside of populated areas. I would think Google could use some diplomacy to help?

Anyway, that's it. After griping about their Picasa image server and new document server, I'm done. I still like them, but maybe they could think a little more about customer support?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

NPR - Right and best

Sometimes the right choice isn't the best choice. Like Duh? Well, I was driving back from Paradise in Mt. Rainier NP after the opening of the new Jackson Visitors Center, which is really cool, and got to thinking, which is the only other thing I do while driving, no coffee, no meals, no cellphone and often no radio, just wondering and pondering mentally out loud.

And it struck me about a direction I'm going in life, that it's the right choice but not the best choice. This is because there is no best choice, just the optimum I can life with without many regrets. They're all fraught with problems and frustrations. But I now the direction I'm going is right for me, but it's not the best for my me for my health and fitness, and for my depression.

And that's the way life is, nothing comes free, although it may appear to be free or you think it's free to you, you and someone else always, if only eventually, pays a price, usually not good either. Everything comes with pros and cons, and with gains and losses, but it's not always that balance that matters, sometimes you have to balance your body, your mind and your life.

It's not unlike trying not just to balance a camera tripod. When I photograph with my 4x5 camera, the first thing I do is not just balance it but level it. Then you mount the head and then the camera, at which point, with the camera adjustments all set to neutral, you level it too, thereby knowing that all your adjustments are from a level view.

And it's that view that matters as each leg has facets and aspect you must adjust as you go. The life is the faith and believe you have in the direction of your choice relative to the reality of your life and future. The body is your health and fitness. The mind is your sanity and depression. Or mine anyway.

Rather than think about the alternatives, which we're so often likely to do - to decide a choice or direction isn't working or worth the continued effort and go through a change of heart and mind in another direction, maybe the best course is to simply rethink the factors of the choice and the issues in the direction. Huh?

Well, it's not about changing the choice or direction but about where and who you are in the direction and change the route in the direction. Kinda' like getting off the freeway to take a highway through the area at a slower pace, giving you time to rethink things than go so fast, so blindly, you're geting lost in the speed.

This is often necessary when you look ahead, not just to the destination, accomplishing your goal and plan, but beyond that, life beyond finishing, to answer the question, "So, what happens after...?"

And that changes everything. When you think through the choice and direction, you don't have to change the choice or direction, just the journey to get through your life.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

eBlogger and Picasa

This weekend I decided to use Google's Picasa image server, copying, or so I was lead to believe by Google's Web pages, all the images from my three eBlogger blogs to Picasa, and then editing the Picasa galleries for copyrighted ones (not mine), duplicates and obvious useless ones, only meant for the individual blog post. But then I discovered Google links their eBlogger and Picasa image servers, so removing one from either removes it from both.

This is really dumb and stupid.

I mean really. What programmer decided this? Why couldn't they make the server independent for links to images, so they don't interfer with the display and presentation of the other?

And so, to readers, I won't apologize for Google, only myself for not testing it first. And so you will also find many posts with busted image links. I will review and update those where images are helpful to the dialog, and add a note where it's not efficient or productive for me to readd the images.

The last is because adding images to eBlogger posts is cumbersome if you want them in the body and especially presented as an in-line gallery. And typical with Google, there no one so complain to as they don't have links to support staff via e-mail, phone numbers or something, which is also the same, really dumb and stupid.

That's my gripe for today, and will be until I have to undo what Google's stupid programmers did to my images.

Update.-- I did finally find where the notice about removing images from Picasa attached to blog entries will remove them from the blog entries. It's how Google stores images for blogs, with Picasa albums instead of with eBlogger.

While I still thinks it's dumb and stupid, and the answer is never import your images into Picasa, even though they are actually there, just not linked to Picasa albums, I can't argue this now except to say there should be a warning popup saying,

"Deleting this image will remove it from any blog entries. Are you sure?"

Then you would instantly know. And then add a checkbox for "Never show this again with this login." so the user knows and won't forget each session. So, Google, there's my suggestion.

JMO - Hate speech

Listening to the speeches of John McCain and especially Sarah Palin, and reading some of the comments on both sides, it's clear to me, hate speech is still hate speech no matter how much the speaker says isn't it. You can't put a disguise on it. You can't wrap it around human or family values. And you can't cover it with a flag and call it patriotism. It's still hate speech.

It's about it all, the tune, the tone, the tenor, and the words, and more importantly, the intent. It's thought and written, and then spoken to create hate, to incite hatred, and to instill whatever -ism that fits, racism, sexism, and so on. It's said to make people hate, to hate your opponent. Nothing more and nothing worse. It's simply hate.

Hate from the minds and mouths of people who should know and do better, but knowingly won't because they're blind to their own ideals and ideas. But the reality is that they're not really blind or dumb about their words, they know it's hate and they know it's hate speech. They simply don't care because their hearts and values aren't about being good and kind, but hateful.

If you want people to believe in your credibility and integrity, hate speech only subtracts from it to the point you have neither, but simply seen for your hate speech. And then only the people who are equally or more hateful as you will agree, the rest of us will have long walked away and stop listening. Hate speech only goes so far and not very far at that.

And in today's political campaigns hate speech has become sophisticated and disguised as political rhetoric and defended by the speaker as, "just citing his or her record." Except you're not. You're turning around and misinterpreting it to be hate speech. You're creating hate where none existed and it's not their hate you're talking about but your own. Your words of hate for others. Your hatred of us.

And that's not what this country and nation is about. The freedom of speech guarrantees you the right to hate speech, but it doesn't guarrantee you the right to lie. When you use hate speech, it's not their or our hate you're talking about, but yourself and your hate. And next time you want to talk about hate, talk to a mirror.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

JMO - We're all patriots

Something to always remember. It's not about the flag, that's just the symbol. It's about the rights, protections and freedoms we all share and will protect with our life in the service of our country and nation if necessary. So, let's drop the, "I'm more patriotic than you." mentality because we're all are patriots.