Friday, October 30, 2009

Website Ads

I hate Websites which have lots of ads. I hate them for two main reasons. One, the ads are distracting and only rarely for anything I'm remotely interested in, and even then, I won't click on them just so the Website gets a few thousandth of a cent. If I want to check out the product or company, I'll go to their Website. And in many cases, and maybe almost all, the ads don't fit the Website or Webpage.

And two, they're always the reason many Web pages are slow to load or won't load at all. It depends on how the Web designers built the ads into the presentation. Unfortunately this happen, really both reason, to one of my favorite Websites, Photo Net. The page will load, mostly, then stop, waiting for the ad server Websites to fetch the ad they want to display and then present.

Int the meantime, you wait for the Web page to finish loading, and you have to because some of the links are loaded after the ads. The worst time is when it's an ad on the top, so there is a blank window with the twilrling icon, "Loading" and status information, "Contacting..." After a few of these, I just kill the tab and do something else or go somewhere else.

The problem is these Websites use the ads to generate income. Granted it's not a lot, but enough they keep building them and sometimes more into the Web pages, which turn aggrevates the problems and frustration. It's not fun when you have you wait for ads you know you don't want or like simply to see what's there.

And even worse are the local on-line newspaper Websites. Geez, folks, enough already. The Web pages are already too full with links to news articles and stories which aren't yours but you're serving for free to generate traffic, but then you add all those stupid ads everywhere. Don't believe me? Check out the Seattle PI and Seattle Times Websites. It's why I don't go there.

It's why I don't put ads on my Website. I don't want the reader to be distracted, I don't want to have to find a way to fit the ads in the Web pages. And I don't want the ads for shit I don't or wouldn't recommend to anyone. If I want to do that, I'll write something with links to it and you can decide for yourself.

Anyway, it's just a rant or vent against Web ads. The whole issue and the money is really a sham or scam anyway because it's just money going in circles. You click on an ad, the Website gets credit and money from the ad company who gets money from the client, which gets money, hopefully, selling you something through their Website. You can skip the loop by just going to the Website.

And don't get me started on search engines crawling through Websites. They burden the users to the point they stop. The example above (Photo Net) grinds to a halt sometimes from Google crawling through the forums, images and material on the Website. The Website wants the search to get rankings on Google to promote itself to get more visitors to get more ads to get more money from ads.

You get the picture? So the easiest way to ruin a Website for your users and customers is with ads and search engines. It's not why you have a Website, it's about the content of your Website,, but that's often lost on the owners who see quanity of it all, visitors, ads, money, etc. The nature and business of the Internet.

So, while my Websites is search by Google for their search engine and analytics, that's all you'll see on mine. No ads, and the bullshit is miine.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A little knowledge

As they say, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." And in photography in the hands of some, it's worse than knowing nothing. Like everyone, as we're all human, I'm guilty sometimes, but I try to remember when expressing my opinion is it based on how much of my experience, knowledge and understanding that is relevant to the issue or subject. I've learned, and sometimes the hard way, to simply walk away from discussion in photography forums and about advice given on photography Websites.

There are a number of photographers on the Internet who love to amaze people with their technical knowledge of photography, especially cameras and taking photographs. There are far too many Websites offering and usually selling instructions, lessons, advice, etc., often gleaned from readily available information anyone can find with any good search tools. The problem is that much of their advice is incomplete, inaccurate or just simply incorrect.

It's not necessarily wrong, just not right. That's because almost every photographer speaks from their own experience and rarely is that broad enough to work for everyone, and it's always from the cameras they've owned and used, where so many other types, brands and models won't work the same. I'm no different, I've only learned to answer questions for the equipment I've used or am familar with.

The problem is that many photographers think their experience translates to universal advice. It doesn't. It doesn't mean all the advice is bad or wrong, just some, but it's hard to know which unless you have more or a different experience. A beginner would be hard pressed to discern where the advice is wrong, bad or doesn't work.

And prey tell, do I have an example? Like I wouldn't discuss this without one?

Well, it's the Website Digicamhelp. Even though there are 18 photographers listed on the Website, there doesn't seem to be much peer review or editing of the help Web pages, or at least the Web pages I read. But then, yes, I haven't read all of them, so even my opinion is biased from a some examples.

And my point? Sone of the advice can actually be more confusing if your camera operates differentlly. You have to ensure yours works the same or the advice will be wrong. And the techniques for taking good pihotos is also relative. They often advise to check on sone things first.

So are they useful? Well, it depends, but overall I'd say you could learn more and better from other sources, and really the old adage about just doing it. Photography is about practice. And it's about mistakes. In many ways you'll learn more from mistakes than from successes because with the former you learn to do better and the latter you wonder what you did right but don't really know.

At least that's how I've learned. After some classes and the on-going learning from articles, books, etc. I usually learn best from just trying and playing. I know I'm not and won't be a professional in any sense, and much of my photography probably barely fits into the serious amateur ranks, but it doesn't mean I, like any photographer, hasn't and can't produce gems every now and then.

And those gems are from experience, knowledge and understanding of photography, my equipment and the subject. It's how I read the photography help Website, to ask myself is this information useful and helpful in the field. And when it's inaccurate, incomplete or just plain incorrect, then it's not, and should not be used unless you translate it to your photography equipment and interests.

And after criticizing these and pointing out this Website, are there examples?

For one, the advice on the shutter release button is in correct. Almost all newer film camera with autofocus use a two-step shutter release, but you can make them one-step buttons, and you can also use a digital camera as a one-step shutter release by simply moving some controls to other buttons, like the autofocus. And the statement about the sequence is erroneous as there is only one sequence, how the button works according to the settings.

The shutter lag Web page is confusing, describing differing focusing techniques. The key is to just use one of them. You can't use continuous focusing if you lock the focus. And the type of memory card isn't relevant to shutter lag, the camera writes to the card after the camera has completed the capture. A faster card won't improve shutter lag.

Anyway, there are more minor points, and yes, some might say that's nick-picking, and they would be right. But when a Website advertises and presents itself as a photography learning one, then it should present accurate, complete and correct information. Otherwise, it's a waste of time.

Any photographer would be better if they just follow some basic steps. For example, I like the advice to know your camera before you go out, meaning sit down with the manual and walk through all the features, functions and controls. Then simplify what you need to set in the field, and always check it for the situation and conditions. This is what Galen Rowell did and advise new photographers.

Other advice is also freely available on the Web or through books, and personally, you'll do better than sorting through and sorting out these Websites. But then, that's also just my advice and opinion.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Making Photo Cards II

Well, I wrote about making photo cards and this week I picked up the stamp for the cards with my photography name and Website address (URL), and so I'm packaging them into the clear sleeves and 10 into box sets with a letter of thanks and explanation. It's simple hand intensive and very tedious work, but watching movies helps, especially ones like Walli-E and the like.

I love animated movies like Cars, Ice Age (the series), Monster's Inc, and others. They always sound mindless but they're both children and adult's movies. And it fits pieces of my sense of humor, part Gary Larson, part Robin Williams and part Will Rogers. The reality and truth expressed with and through humor. As I tell folks, one of my favorite responses is by Foghorn Leghorn when things go wrong, "It's a joke, son!"

Not that it changes anything, it just gives it perspective. It wasn't said or meant to be serious, just tongue-in-cheek observations. Anyway, watching them lhelps offset the tedium packaging the cards. But it also allows me to focus on the cards for any bad ones, namely when the heat press dry mount tissue didn't stick and the print peels off the card. So far with just over a third of the nearly 300 packaged, I'm running about a 5% failure of the cards, which are either reheated or mounted again with new tissue.

Anyway, the thought is simply if you decide to produce your own cards, be prepared for the work. In the end though, my cards will be my work, warts and all. They're not bad, even quite good according to my customers, and always personal and handmade. That's what I like in the end. It's just me and my work there. This isn't new. Go to arts and crafts fairs and festivals and you'll see many booths of artist and the occasional photographer.

You can always tell the photographer who printed and produced their own cards and prints and the one who had a staff or a lab do the work. There's a small obvious difference. That's the neat thing about the work, choices, both for the photographer and the customer. And that's all I strive for with my photos and cards. And now it's back to work.

Monday, October 12, 2009

LWD - Moving

I have decided to move the essays on my experience with and thoughts about Dysthymia to its own blog, found here. I was listening to Amanda Marshall's debut CD with some great songs, one "Birmingham" has the line, "She's never been more alone. She's never been more free."

That's it in a nutshell. Putting the series of essays, see Web page, allows me to focus on that and not get lost in the jumble of my photo blog. It doesn't hurt to be there, it was just kinda' getting lost in the different topics there.

The line is appropriate and apropos since being alone is freedom, total freedom. The idea can be found in lines in songs, plays, books, etc. We never seem very far from it, and some of us just live there as a state of being and mind. We're comfortable there. And it's where we're our best to ourselves and to the world. We're just like that.

We're not anti-social. That's not it, and something I hate when the media makes it into a newsstory and almost always wrong, and people, but more so friends, bring it up as "advice" to help us. They always invite us to social events, nights at taverns, etc., and keep pushing we need it. We don't. As you're uncomfortable being alone, we uncomfortable being in crowds.

Anyway, that's what I've done with the series of essays. This is the second series moved, the series of essays on Taosim was also moved to it's own blog over the weekend. This will be the last one moved from my photo blog as all of those relate to each other, my life, my experience and my photography. The "just my opinion" on issues will stay but really isn't related, there's too many to move.

Anyway, I'll keep the links to the old ones here, but they're duplicated on the new blog, so they're all in one place for everyone, and more so really me.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wrong Roads

I read the article in the Sunday Washington Post about Charisse Carney-Nunes who the extreme right wing conservatives attacked her for something she didn't do, and went down the road of misinformation, lies and hate to where they pulled a proverbial Thelma and Louise, except they didn't die because they simply lied again to cover their mistakes and stupidity.

They did exactly what they used to describe this woman, "In a free and republican government, you cannot restrain the voice of the multitude. Every man will speak as he thinks," wrote George Washington, "or more properly, without thinking." Yes, they didn't think before they opened their mouth, their fingers and everything else to show the world just how stupid someone can be when then don't do their homework.

They went down the road of incivilty and didn't even bother to do the basics they teach journalists, like, "Check the facts." Instead they took something about someone else and attributed it to her and then unloaded on her, an innocent woman just going through life like you and I. But what's worse is that they critized the action not of her doing which they themselves value, the right to free speech under the Constitution.

And that what's becoming scary today. The extreme right wing conservatives are hijacking the Constitution for their own agenda, protecting themselves and criticizing, and worse condemning, those who disagree with them. They argue it's their right and then argue we can't disagree, let alone express our view, our right. And then label anyone who doesn't believe their agenda as the extreme opposite, without really listening and understanding.

This isn't new. It's been around since the founding of this country, even our leaders then charged opponents with words and deeds of unspeakable civility, all wrong of course, and past the line of lies and slander. But now with the extensive communications we have today, one word can spread quickly to many people. The ripple effect multiplied orders of magnitude, the chain letter gone awry.

And oh so wrong. The only truth were the names on words. Everything else were lies compounded upon lies, done at the speed of the Internet. This time is hurt someone, which was their intention, except it was the wrong person. The very values they promote to respect and follow were set aside in the name of hate, misplaced, but still hate. And the very value they show with others like them wasn't shown to someone else.

There's words for that, but none fit the Bible or any religious values. The one about caring for others and respects their rights which you value and follow. They accused and then condemend without checking the facts. But we know that's not new with them and new with this situation. They love running down wrong roads with incorrect or inaccurate information, and anyone in the way or in their sights are simply public road kill.

That, however, is not America or being an American, something sadly they don't see. They are their own worst enemy, using fear and hate. But what's worse and sadder, is that it's their own fear and hate reflected back at them. It's not ours nor our response, just pity.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

TAO - New series

I've updated my Tao blog and am adding a series on my understanding and interpretation of Tao Te Ching. I've also added an introduction on my view and Mt. Rainier. I will occasionally reread and rewrite the essays as I read and learn the Tao Te Ching.

In addition I have moved this entire series of essays on Taoisms to a new blog, which is at, and as always, you're welcome to send me comments, suggestions. questions, etc.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Crying Foul

When I read about the Republicans complaining about the amendment to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Hate Crime Act to the Department of Defense appropriation bill, saying it wasn't fair or right, I couldn't help from laugh. Laugh so much I almost couldn't stop. It's hypocracy at its finest, the Republicans. They've added so many irrelevant amendments which would not pass on their own to bills certain to pass, it became hard not to know what they were voting on.

This last spring after the Supreme Court overturned some gun laws, especially in Washington D.C., they added a rider (amemdment) to the Credit Disclosure Act to allow guns in National Parks and Wildlife Refuges in compliance with local and state laws. The amendment wouldn't pass by itself. The public doesn't want guns in NP's beyond the then current rules (unloaded and secured in vehicles) which dates from President Reagan, so they snuck it into this bill.

They knew the Democrats would pass this bill because they wanted and it was a good bill. No one cried foul then and few representatives and senators have cried foul over all the years of amendments and riders attached to bills. But now the Republicans are crying foul, and loudly too. Like American civilization is at stake.

Unfortunately the amendment isn't perfect, but there are thousands of hate crimes committed every year, and that's only those reported and recorded. But it's a start to protecting people specifically targeted by individuals and groups for being themselves. Critics say it's special protections, but they fail to say they need the protections because they are targets and their status is a motive in the crime.

And they forget to say our democracy is about the rights of the majority for the protections of the minority. We built this country protecting everyone, and if that doesn't happen, then we have to add laws to ensure equal protection and rights. That's what the Civil Rights Act and other similar Acts provide, based on race, sex, ethnicity, religion and other catagories of individuals. Adding homosexuals and transgender people is just another who deserves the protections.

So the Republicans should get off the religious soapbox and join the real world of people. Or are they afraid to be human and normal like the rest of us?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

As Time Goes By

This photo was taken October 1922, the Luzon building at the corner of 9th Street and Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma. Below is an image I took about a decade ago. In late September the building was razed (history and news) for development. This despite efforts to save the building for renovation and despite being on the historic building registry.

Time changes everything, but there are times you wonder if change is really worth it, and maybe pieces of history are worth saving, if only for just being there, and still being useful. Like buildings.

It's not about the money

While the members of Congress and the White House argue the healthcare reform bill, they're forgetting one thing, and that is, "It's not about the money." The Republicans and blue dog Democrats don't care about the average American and don't care if the bill hurts those with existing health insurance. They're only concerned about the deficit.

Except that's a shame and a scam. We'll spend over $1 Trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by 2010, and more in the coming years. We've spent over $1 Trillion on the financial corporate bailout and nearly another $1 Trillion on the various aspects of the Stimulus packages. You lost the government nearly $2.4 Trillion in the Bush tax cuts. All passed by Congress. George Bush raised the deficit more than any president with the largest government funding bills, nearly doubling in his eight years.

And Congress didn't bat an eye passing those bills. And now they're whining about something which effects every American every day? That's the stuff you find in pastures just after the herd came back to the barn. But they don't care, because they have affordable healthcare and they're rich. Not one of them is understands what it's like today to live on the wages and salaries 80+% of American live on, and especially the ~20% near or below the poverty line.

They need for forget the costs and focus on the real issues of healthcare reform, making adequate or better health insurance available and affordable for every American, and not hurt anyone else's health insurance plans. I know in the 500+ amendmentsa are many which require Americans to face higher insurance costs, less coverage, denial risks and so on down the line.

Those amendments are aimed at helping Americans, but hurting them while we and the government make the health and drug industry richer. It's not our money they're worried about. It's the corporations' money who have donated to every one of them and lobbied them behind closed door more than we have let alone could. They, as one former industry executive said recently, own Congress to ensure they (Congress) won't hurt their bottom line and really improve it.

We elected the members of Congress but money is getting the votes. And Congress is putting their votes where they money comes from. There are exceptions, but few and not in positions to change anything in our favor. But in the end all we get are words of what this may do, but in reality will do, which is hurt the vast majority of Americans. The ole less for more routine while the corporations get more for less.

And right now if I had to vote, I'd vote to kill everything associated with healthcare reform. Yes, our healthcare system isn't good, but I certainly don't want to make it worse and revisit this issue in 3-5 years when it's proven to make healthcare and health insurance more expensive with more people underinsured and worse uninsured. Maybe what Congress needs is a distraction, or better, another vacation. They always seem to do their best when they're not in session.

Anyway, that's my view, full of punditry and some inaccurate information, but hey, I'm no worse than they are at lying, except their lies effects everyone, mine only me.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Making Photo Cards

Last February I wrote about the photo cards I make for friends, family and interested folks, the latter for them to use as gifts, thank you cards, announcements, etc. Well, then I realized I owed about a dozen people 10-card box sets, some more than one box.

So I started the process, which is, producing the images, making (4x6) prints, making cards, labelling cards, packaging the cards, and then mailing them. Well last winter after making the ~540 prints and two boxes of cards I gave up. It took weeks to produce 6 prints of about 90 images. And the prints sat, through the spring and then the summer.

And now in the fall and Christmas on the horizon, I decided to finish the project. I realize I could find easy ways to make the cards, mostly paying an on-line company to download images and print the cards. That's the route most photographers take, and some use the photo cards where the print simply slides in or sticks with sticky corners. I don't do that.

I use dry mount tissue and mount each card on blank cards with a heat press. Then put each card in a clear sleeve and then 10 cards in to the box set. It's an intensive process, more less custom making each card from print to card and then into boxes. From beginning to end I estimate the whole process takes about 8-10 minutes per print and card. I've reduced the time by doing some steps in bulk (prints, cutting 4x6 dry mount tissue, etc.), but overall it's still the personal time.

My point? I don't know, but I guess it's about the personal touch. I've always preferred people being people, thinking and doing. Years ago I would do a lot of tasks on the computer manually when the IT folks would say, "We could develop a program or computer tool for that.", and I'd say, "Yes, but by the time you got it done I'd be done, so what's the difference?"

They didn't have an answer except if I had to repeat it, which I did sometimes. And I'd say, "Yeah, but it keeps me in touch of what and why the data or information is important, and I get to look at every bit of the data, words and final product. This worked with the Annual Data Reports when I was senior editor. They liked the hands-on approach, until I got a new boss.

The new boss like the computer approach, and while the system for producing the data and report pages was very much automated by then, I still read every page and tweaked things to make the details right. When I was replaced as editor, that went by the wayside in favor of speed. And as we all know, when you increase speed, quality almost always suffers. And it did and still does (according to friends still there, and has worsened).

So, when I left to start my own photography business and work on the photography projects, I went back to the methods I like, taking the time and doing things manually. Yes, I'm a curmudgeon, but at least I know my work is my work. And while I'm just an ordinary photographer and the cards don't have the "professional" look you find in card stores, I like the images, I produced and printed them, and I made the cards.

And that's what you get, me and my work. Not fancy but good, and always handmade from scratch as the saying may go, from the click of the shutter to the card in the clear sleeve.

Dear Mr Obama

Dear President,

I've been reading about the healthcare reform debate and your work to get a bill passed and enacted on healthcare reform. That's a laudable and needed goal with healthcare and health insurance. I hope, however, before you gloss over the details and accept what Congress gives you as a bill, you read the details. It's fine to argue for something, but be careful when it ends up hurting those you most need, like federal employees.

I wrote a response to two proposals by members of the Senate Finance Committee to gut the Federal Employees Health Benefit (FEHB) program, in favor of moving it into the commercial market or adding low income individuals and families into the program. I hope you push to remove these amendments.

There are about 8 million active and retired employees in the FEHB and it has been an excellent program for over several decades. It's a good model for other programs, but it is not a program to expand beyond its present membership eligibility, meaning federal employees and congressional officials and staff. Please ensure this happens, because the last thing you want to do is piss off all ~4 million employee who work for you by increasing their health insurance premiums by 100% or more with less coverage and the possibilty of losing it at the whim of health insurance companies.

This is very important to those employees and it's very important to me. I worked 32 years for the federal government. I earned that insurance, paid for it, and I deserve to keep it without any changes for political purposes or as political fodder over the public option you want. I don't want to see a promise denied by politicians for their personal interests.

And it seems to me the last thing you want to do is face the 2012 election knowing you ruined the health insurance program of all current and retired federal employees. That's a huge voting block, and you hit them in our proverbial wallet, and we won't be happy at all. You have the responsibility to the employees to protect their benefits, and not sacrifice them for political gain with others.

So, I urge you to "ask" Senators Grassley and Wyden or the Chairperson of the Senate Finance committee to remove those proposed amendments from any healthcare reform bill you want to sign. Or as the saying goes, face the music later. If employees can't get health insurance under the changes, because it's unadfordable, pre-existing conditions, dangerous work enviroments, etc. are you willing to explain why and what you'll do to help?

Or will you just sing and dance a tune to hide the fact you didn't help when you had the chance?

Update on Digital Photography

It's been a year and a half since I updated this blog with an update. And in truth there isn't much to say. You use the camera, process and produce the images and then go out and do more to get more images. It's fairly straight-forward. But, as with almost everything else, the trick is in the doing. And the first step in the mental process, which is simple, Go, Look, See and Capture, has been the issue.

And that was due to some on-going health issues which are waning. Not gone or resolved, but enough to get out more often. My primary focus is still learning and working in large format photography, but the digital equipment always goes along, partly because I have equivalent 35mm lens for the LF lenses (focal length conversion and image comparison - it's a 3.6x factor), and I stlll use the digital gear for walk around and event photography.

What else has changed? Well, I bought a 85mm f2 lens for the times I really don't need the 85mm f1.2 lens. I really like the f1.2 lens but it's large and heavy, and after awhile of shooting events, it's tiring. The f2 lens is used for hiking, landscape and other photography. It's also an excellent lens and would recommend it first if you want that focal length.

I also bought a 17-40mm f4 zoom. This is my first zoom lens in more than a decade when I had a Minolta MD 35-70mm f4 zoom which I gave away. The choice was between the 16-35mm f2.8 zoom and the 17-40mm f4 zoom. I wanted the 40mm focal length (not a fan of 50-55mm lenses, prefering 40-45mm normal perspective lenses), so I bought the latter. It's a very light lens and produces good results (for me).

Looking back, I should have picked the 16-35mm lens for several reasons, but mostly because the focusing screen I use with the 5D is for f2.8 and faster lenses, and has problems with slower lenses getting the exposure right. I switched back to the normal focusing screen and the problem disappeared, but all my other lenses work with the other focusing screen which I prefer. So the lens was relegated to the EOS-1N and then to the lens shelf.

I still use the lens with the 1N but the lens doesn't go out much. This is partially because when I used zooms in the past I found myself using them at standard focal length where fixed focal length lenses are faster and better. If someone is interested in the lens, feel free to make me an offer. I'd like to try the 16-35mm zoom or some wide angle fixed focal length lenses.

So that's it for the time in between then (last post) and now. I've used the camera gear in local trips and events but that's about it and will be except for getting back into shooting winter events and getting back to hiking (also quit that too - damn illnesses). I still love the5D and the 1N (the 1V would be the better choice of the 1N but both are excellent cameras) and the camera bag is always ready to go.

I'll keep ypu posted on future events.

Update on LF Photography

It's been just over a year since I updated the blog about my learning and working in large format photography. And to tell the truth, there hasn't been much to say in terms of accomplishments. It's not for the lack of trying, but everything else with life and work and some on-going health issues which more or less parked the camera bag and tripod. But the interest and motivation is back, albeit around everything else.

So what has happened since then? Well for one the Layton L-45A camera hasn't been produced, yet. It's on the horizon and accoring to Mr. Layton, things are closer to completion. I still have a deposit on the camera and still have 3 lenses exclusively for it and 1 shared with the Horseman HD I'm curently using. I like Horseman, but it does have limitation for lenses due to the small lensboard and lens opening to the bellows.

But I have added a Schneider 90mm f8 Super Angulon lens for the set, currently with the Schneider 120mm f5.6 Super Symmar HM, a 150mm f5.6 Symmar-S and a 210mm f5.6 Symmar-S. This pretty much covers the range I want. I would like to add a 300mm lens but all the later series ones use Copal 3 shutters and have large rear lens groups which won't fit the Horseman.

That aside, the lenses are any good unless they're used, which the goal and plan for this fall, winter and spring, to schedule at least a day a week going somewhere to photograph. I've found quite a few places that look interesting, so with the health issue waning, there's hope and opportunity. Or at least that's the plan, and as usual I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Health Insurance

This would normally put tagged as Just My Opinion (JMO) but this is personal. It's about the heatlhcare reform work by Congress, but it's about my health insurance, the Federal Employees Health Benenfit (FEHB) plan and program. It's similar to a health insurance exchange but overseen by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and only for active and retired federal employees and Congressional representatives (both houses) and their staff.

It's great health insurance with over two dozen companies offering over 50 different plans, from individuals to large families. The OPM sends the requirements, minimum coverage, options and the expected price range, and companies submit bids. If they pass criteria, they're included in the program. They can't change the plan or the rates during the year. They can't deny anyone who wants their plan no matter their health or pre-existing conditions.

That's the deal. If a company wants in, they agree to the terms. It's a great model for a public option. But it's not the public option. It's been with the federal employees for decades now and it works very well. There are 8+ million enrolled in the program, half active and half retired employees. The companies have long praised the plan as affordable, fair and even profitable.

But it's not the choice to change it, so those in Congress who want to change it, I say,

Congress, leave it alone!

It's my health insurance plan you're screwing with. I earned it. I deserve. I don't want it changed beyond how it works. I don't want it expanded to include more potential customers. I don't want it converted or moved to a wider health insurance exchange.

So, why the worry? Well, this was sent to retired federal employees.

"During the week of September 21, the Senate Committee on Finance began considering over 500 amendments to their health care reform bill, including two which threaten the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).

First, Ranking Committee member, Charles Grassley, R-IA, proposed that federal workers and Members of Congress be required to join state-based health exchanges to purchase health insurance instead of FEHBP. The amendment approved by the committee was changed to make enrollment in the exchanges optional – rather than mandatory – for federal employees and legislators.

However, Senator Grassley’s staff has said they still plan to push the stronger language. The Grassley amendment would effectively end FEHBP and require federal workers to join the health exchanges. You worked too hard for your FEHBP health benefits and we cannot allow them to be taken away.

Second, Senator Ron Wyden, D-OR, may offer an amendment which would open the FEHBP to certain low-income non-federal civilians. While NARFE supports access to comprehensive health care for all Americans, we insist that any proposal to open the FEHBP to the public must include separate risk pools, which the Wyden amendment does not contain. For that reason, NARFE opposes the amendment. Risk pools are used to calculate health plan premiums based on the cost of providing coverage to enrollees. Without the opportunity to study non-federal enrollees in a separate FEHBP risk pool, the introduction of any new community into the FEHBP could result in unanticipated premium increases.

Even if these amendments are not approved by the Finance Committee, we are concerned that they could be added to the legislation at another point in the process. For that reason, I ask you to urge your two Senators to oppose any amendment to health care reform legislation that would force federal workers and annuitants into the exchange system and/or would open FEHBP to non-federal civilians without a separate risk pool."

The purpose of this threat by Senator Grassley and Wyden is simple. They're playing chicken with President Obama and the other Democrats in Congress about the public option. And the government employees will pay the price of who wins. That's something I don't like and won't stand for because they're playing chicken with me too and the other 8 million of us.

So, to Senator Wyden and Grassley, don't play chicken with government employees and retirees. We're not your political fodder, and we can and will fight back, now and in 2010. I don't want my health insurance premiums to double or worse to cover your political ass and mouth (often mistaken by you which is speaking).

Forty years later

I bought my first camera in September 1969. A Minolta SRT-101 with a 58mm f1.2 lens, which I still have and use occasionally. I later added a 200mm and an early 1960's 21mm f4 which and with the camera and "normal" lens was my camera gear for the first two decades of my photography. I have never been a prolific photographer, but, as someone noted about themselve in an essay, I'm an observational photographer, except I added ordinary and occasional to the description.

And that pretty much defines my photography, an occasional ordinary observational photographer. Over the forty years I've maybe been a photographer a total of about 7-8 years time. I focus on it for periods and then, mostly because of other interests, needs, and events in life, I put it away. And there have been longer periods where I rarely used the gear because it was too much work and I hated where I lived (Phoenix, Arizona).

But after returning to the northwest (work transfer) I took up photography in earnest after several summers of hiking Mt. Rainier NP and wanted to learn and take better photos. It was then I began working on the Minolta manual focus equpment I now have, minus the stuff I gave away to schools. Sadly with the advent of digital equipment, it's relegated to storage and occasional use in favor of the Canon digital and film equipment.

Since then I greatly expanded the Minolta (manual focus) gear into a collection of every camera model they made, all used occasionally to keep them in working condition, and just over two dozen esoteric and collector lenses along with some personal favorites, and yes, the original 58mm f1.2 lens. It's of little value anymore beyond the collector's market but it's always a reminder of how good Minolta was and how fun the camera and lenses are to use.

It was that time of extensive hiking in Mt. Rainier NP I realized my camera system could not do justice to capture the beauty of the mountain and the place. Again, digital technology has since put that idea to rest, but it didn't deter me from researching and beginning to learn large format photography, namely 4x5. I didn't begin this work until I retired, and have really enjoyed the time and work.

It was also that time, after doing some research, realized there wasn't a photography guide to Mt. Rainier NP. The last one (then) was done in the early 1950's, by way of discovering it in a conversation with a local professional and finding a copy in the library (now gone). In the intervening years (then to my retirement in 2005) three photo guides exclusively for the NP (not part or chaptes of books) have been released.

That's now two which are more pamphlets than anything using commonly available information repackaged. None of the photo guides have offered more than cursory information and often long out of date. Most photographers who were planning work in the NP, from a few days to weeks, were stuck trying to consolidate the array of information from books, magazines, Websites, Internet forums, etc.

That was when I decided to focus my retirement on the Mt. Rainier NP photography guide, and you can always see where the Mt. Rainier photo guide is at which has taken on a life of its own and long periods away from photography. The plans for it will take years, not just researching and keeping it updated but working on the book-format publication.

And add the history projects, and it's easy to see my retirement years are well spoken for until I just can't physically do it anymore. It's a retirement I thoroughly enjoy around everything else, to wake up and know my (home) office is just there whenever I want. And everything is there and more to do anything I want. It's just the matter of learning and working.

But I've also passed 60 years of age when and where the body isn't as agile or capable, so the photography takes more work and time. This is true when I've also noticed my Dysthymia having its effect with age. So it's also a battle within myself to keep focused on life and what I enjoy carrying the constand reminder of depression.

So where am I at 40 years later? Pretty much the same, an occasional observational photographer, but smarter and wiser, and with better equipment to produce better images in film or digital format. And I'm continuing to learn, not just what I was supposed to know already, but large format photography and all it's needs, and the computer side to produce photo cards and medium prints (11x14 or thereabouts).

So what advice can I give young photographers? Well, for one, do everything you want when you're young. The only regrets are the places not visited and the photos not taken. That is our own reality that we can't go everywhere and do everything, but don't make that a heavy weight in your old age. Go, enjoy and photograph. And leave the rest to time.

Second, minimize your equipment. It won't appreciate in value and will be obsolete in just a few years. Classic camera equipment is rare anymore. Leave it to museums and collectors. Buy the best gear you can afford and use it. Only keep what you personally value from your life. The rest just becomes expensive doorstops or paperweights.

And lastly, don't stop learning photography. Real photography as it was learned and practiced for decades. You don't need it with today's camera systems and computer systems, but be an honest photographer and capture the best images while you're standing behind the camera. Don't be one known simply for what you do sitting in front of a computer.

In the end photography is still photography, from the time it was invented and has continued through its development. Be a part of that trend. Know your craft and become a journeyman/woman photographer known for the images you capture. Find your heroes, like Alexandra Boulat, Galen Rowell and Sam Abell among others for me, and do your best to achieve something similar.

We can't all be great photographers. It takes talent, experience, knowledge and understanding. It's take work, lots of hard work. Your camera equipment are just the tools to express that talent and work. Show the world who you are and what you can do. And then enjoy life.

Friday, October 2, 2009

JMO - Fall Break

I've ranted and vented enough for awhile, and obviously it hasn't changed anything or anyone, except of course, myself, feeling better. But that even sometimes wears one out, so I'm going to take a break from writing about my opinion on the issues. I have other things to do for awhile, and while I won't stop reading newspapers, and maybe even posting an essay, I won't take aim at the idiots in Congress, Washington D.C. (as in the ad, "I'm in the other Washington. The state. You know Oregon, Idaho, Pacific Ocean.") and elsewhere.

Anyway, you can still read the other posts on other topics of life and the world, or what I know, see, understand and experience. You might find other news and opinion posts on my news and opinion blog. And as always, it's just my opinion. After all, it's my life as yours is yours. Just one in a 3+ billion people world. So with that, I'll park the soapbox here and focus on the real issues in my life. You're free to stop and chat or walk on by. Starbucks is just down the block at the corner.

simplifying perfection

I was reading a column by technology journalist for a major ( Washington DC) newspaper who listed the "important" photo editors asking for readers' selection of which one they used. The list was the common consumer Microsoft and PC based editors, but no Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, Apple's Aperture, or the many free to expensive really good photo/image editors commonly used by many photographers. And yes, I posted a comment to that effect.

The column was about Google's Picassa upgrade, and so I went to the Web page for it, since it's available for Mac's (and yes, I'll mention again I don't have anything Microsoft on my Mac, why mess up the best computer with junk - kidding). It was interesting. The software does a lot with your images such as shows, organize, albums etc. but only a few things for the actual image.

It's not really a photo or image editor at all, but a simple click here for this change and you'll get perfect images. So, we're reduced to one click perfection now? I'm not arguing against simplicity with some work with images, even Photoshop and the other similar one have those, but the ones the column listed are for snapshots than real photos or images.

Snobbish aren't I? Well, not really. I'm an ordinary photographer, like that's not obvious from those in my galleries. But I'm also for some intelligence with the photographer, kinda like you have to with large format photography. If perfection were just one to a few clicks, what's left and what's next?

Gee, put it all in the camera and get perfect images straight from the camera, no need for an editor. Wait, they're doing that now with some camera which fixes motion, focusing, faces, red eye, etc., all in the camera. And yes, I have two of the top end cameras along with a small collection of manual focus Minolta cameras, but I've never used automatic or program modes.

I prefer some thinking when doing my photography, like keeping my mind plugged in on the work. Now you can almost just point and shoot the camera and get "professional" quality images, like the ads try to tell you. Well, not quite, but it seems we're going in that direction, taking people out of the process.

And this is all recent, but what concerns is the generations not really learning, or really wanting to learn, photography along with taking pictures. That's not new, film point and shoot and disposable cameras have been around a few decades, and Kodak sold simple box cameras back to the early 1900's.

But now it's become that state of normal photography, everything digital and everything one click from perfection. Just click here. Knowledge, experience, understanding doesn't matter, just click and it's done. But then I remember when I got my first camera, a Minolta SRT-101 (58mm f1.2 lens) and it was simple. I also took and produced a lot of good slides with that simplicity.

But I still had to learn the rest of photography. And now you don't even need to do that. But it's why I also shoot large format, to go back even before my time and spend the time really learning and thinking. And yes, mistakes and all in the film. It's all there, the good, the bad and the (really) ugly, mostly called being really stupid.

Right or wrong, it's what I did, and not what some computer did for me. Just me. And I'm only human, a long way from perfection and certainly not one click from anything, except the shutter release hoping I got it right.