Sunday, June 16, 2019

Romancing the Sky

Blue sky with clouds over Cedar Park, Texas

Lately, it seems like I've been in a bit of a rut, at least photographically (if not in other ways.) It's almost as if my photographic Mojo has gone on a brief jaunt and I can't seem to find it ("Now paging Mr. Mojo...Come in, Mr. Mojo...Please report to the white courtesy camera nearest you...") Today, I was puttering about the house, not really doing much of anything. I probably should have gone over to the koi breeders but opted instead to stay home and chill. Being lazy on a Sunday, I suppose, I was overdue for a lazy Sunday of sorts. Chase had to go out and when I ventured into the yard that's when I saw the clouds in the afternoon sky.

Today, we had these really great clouds. They were the kind of clouds you dream about if, you know, you are the type of person who dreams about clouds. They were those giant puffy clouds, the ones where you can see lots of shapes in them. Little bunnies, and kittens, and Mickey Mouse, yeah man, it was all up there, right in those clouds. It was slightly breezy today, with giant puffy clouds blowing around out there. Who could resist that, right? I grabbed my camera and fired off a few shots. What can I say, I just cannot resist clouds.

There's something about white clouds against a blue sky that captivates me. I love the sky, I love looking up at the sky. It sparks my imagination. I know, it sounds a bit crazy and, why, maybe I am a bit crazy, but there really is something about the sky. Yes, I love the night sky (who doesn't?) but also the sky in the daytime does it for me too. The wind and the shapes in the clouds. It's all a bit dreamy and magical and frankly I enjoyed myself, I enjoying taking shots of the clouds. Maybe it makes me a dork. Maybe you think I'm weird. Maybe it's a bit strange or just boring, I don't know, but I love the sky, I love the clouds. They hold a certain fascination for me.

No, today I did not do much, and didn't do too much photographically, but I did romance the sky a bit. It's a magical place for me and I cherish it so I decided to post one from the camera rolls for today. I hope you find magic and romance and imagination wherever you might look, be it the sky or elsewhere. Enjoy your strange fascination while you can and wherever you may happen upon it, right? For we are all creatures of fascination and we should follow where these things lead us, should we not? Who knows? I just might bump into my Mojo again should I happen down that path. Here's hoping, right? Maybe, just maybe, my Mojo is hiding up in a cloud somewhere. (If you happen to see him, please let him know I am earthbound and send him my way, OK?)

Until next time...

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Opportunity Weekend - June 9, 2019

Interior architectural shot showing window light on a wall with a fireplace and chair in rural Texas, USA
Come in, sit down, have a chat beside the fire. Yes, I know it's already getting to be summertime out there, not an optimal time for a fire, but it is an optimal time for some opportunities. Here are this week's opportunities for you:
That's a bunch of opportunities for you to snuggle up with by your fire this week. 

Until next time...

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Opportunity Weekend - June 2, 2019

Love is the answer, indeed, although it does make me wonder what exactly the question might be, right? Speaking of love, I'd love to pass along some opportunities and, by golly, here they are:
There are some opportunities for you. I hope you're feeling the love.

Until next time...

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Opportunity Weekend - May 19, 2019

Grass detail. Very green close up shot of grass blades in the late afternoon light.
How does your garden grow? Mine is a lot of weeds these days. But, hey, they are *green* weeds and so that's all that counts, right? I'm going with green and sticking to that. In other news, here are some opportunities for you, bring your own weeds:
That's a bunch of opportunities for you to grow on about so hop to it.

Until next time...

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Alexa, Open Words on Photography Please

Two mannequins in the window, the Domain, Austin, Texas, USA
I wanted to play around with the voice-based technology and make an Alexa skill for a while now. It's just something I wanted to try out, sort of take it for a spin if you will. Recently, I happened upon something called "Blueprints" which is basically Amazon's way of simplifying Alexa skill making. You don't even need to know how to code, you simply use one of their boiler plates or "Blueprints" as they call it, to craft your skill from a template for one of the many common skills out there. Since I wanted to make a skill, I decided to give this a try. I used one of the "Blueprints" for inspirational quotes to make my very own Alexa skill, which is now available in the Alexa Skill store (for free) over at Amazon.

I came up with something called "Words on Photography," which is basically a photographic quote machine. If you have been following Carol's Little World, you know that I once ran a "quote of the day" on photography a while back. Basically, I copied those into one big Alexa skill and then fed it into the "Blueprints" machine to see if she would choke on it or just really what she might spit out having been fed that much about photography in one big bite. She did a fairly good job of it, mangling some of the names (Joyce Tenneson, anyone? And, of course, she still pronounces my name the Italian way) but spitting out the quotes in a pretty consistent manner.

You can checkout the skill yourself here:

If you have an Alexa device, once you enable the skill, you should be able to say simply, "Alexa, open words on photography" and she'll spit a wonderful quote on photography at you. Now, it's still a bit of a work in progress (I've got no quotes in there from Minor White, for example, and he's like the Kevin Bacon of photographers: nobody is ever more than six degrees away, right?) I want to add a few things to it, so I might republish, but I plan on keeping it free and available to anybody who wants to hear some great quotes on photography (and life itself, but mostly photography.) I have been using myself, enjoying the randomness and feeling inspired by the photographic greats. Photographers really do make for some interesting conversationalists (and, no, I'm not just saying that because I am one, let's go with, "so I've been told," and leave it at that, OK?)

I hope you like my little Alexa skill too and, should you be so-inclined, please hit me up with any additions you would like to see or just any suggestions to make it better. I believe you can also rate the skill in the Alexa skill store if you are inclined to do that as well.

Until next time...

PS This one from a new project I'm tentatively calling "Domain." You know how I love mannequins and these were just so bright and special, why, I could not resist. Taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens in Austin, Texas, a recent shot fresh off the flash pile. Yeah, I've been out shooting again. You know I can't stop, right?

Opportunity Weekend - May 11, 2019

Windows on a brown building in The Domain, Austin, Texas, USA
Opportunities can really open some doors to showing off your work, though I would not recommend opening up these particular doors, as they are more than a few stories off the ground and, well, somebody might get hurt. Some better doors of opportunity for you this week:
That's a lot of doors to chase after so I recommend you start a knocking.

Until next time...

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Just a Little Mystery

Mysterious figure standing at a gate in Guilin, China. Nighttime image with colored lights.
There's something about a little mystery in photography that appeals to me. I admit it, I love a good whodunnit. I love images that make you ask more questions than they answer. Images that make you think, make you wonder, make you lost...there's just something so appealing about them to me. I love the idea that you can get lost in an image, that it takes you away, to that faraway place, to a place from which you almost don't want to return.

OK, yes, I admit, there's also something fabulous about the right in your face style of photography too. Photography is a lot about realism, I get that. I totally get that. We're "real" kind of people in a "real" kind of world. And, yes, magical sunsets or lights or sweeping landscapes that you can almost reach out and touch do seem kind of fabulous too, don't they? Heck, I've been there, I've seen that, I know the drill. I want some of that as well, but there's just something about a little mystery. I just love it when a little something-something is left off the table. When not everything is spelled out so clearly in black and white. When the photographer makes you think. You like to think, don't you? Heck, I think everybody likes to think. We're thinking beasts as a lot, I swear we really are.

I think sometimes we get lost in mysterious images because they draw us in. It's not so black and white, it's not so in your face. Instead, it quietly pulls you in, like it ropes you, draws you into its world for a spell. There's just something about that whole idea that I really like. It's captivating.

It's hard to make mysterious images. Often, they don't jump out at us. We have to work at them, sometimes a lot, but I think they are worth it. They are so worth it in the end. There's just something I love about a little mystery, a little question mark, a little bit left off the table for you to figure out all by your lonesome. That little nudge that makes you think, makes you scratch your head, makes you wonder in amazement. A nagging question, perhaps, or maybe a mysterious figure that you just can't place. Sure, it might make the hair on the back of your neck stand up a little bit but, hey, that's an emotion too, isn't it? Let's face it, well all like emotion as photographers, don't we? Even if they boil down to *that* kind of an emotion, it's still better than not feeling anything at all, right?

Yes, there's something about a little mystery in life that I really like. I chose this image tonight deliberately, since it's a bit of a mystery and I was going over some of my work from China. I thought it fit nicely and still can't quite remember what I did to make it happen. Yes, I guess it's that kind of image but, like, that's OK. I like a little mystery, even if I'm the one who can't remember it all. It's all well and good.

This is me, standing by some ancient forgotten gate in China somewhere. Lost. Just how I like it. And now, I guess, I hope you like it too. 

Until next time...

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Opportunity Weekend - April 21, 2019

Bats flying across the night sky, Round Rock, Texas
I'm batty over bats, I admit it. Still, it's Easter Sunday and also time for some great opportunities for you so, without further ado, here goes:
That's a bunch of opportunities for you to go batty over, so please go out and get some.

Until next time...

A Pile of Rocks

Bats swirl from under a lamppost in Round Rock, Texas
Earlier this week fire ravaged the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Now, I have never photographed Notre Dame, I've not been to Paris or even France for that matter, and I was saddened to hear of the tragic loss. Sadly, Notre Dame has now become a place I will never get to photograph, since the fire caused so much damage. We all have photographic buckets lists and sometimes we get lucky and get to check items off but, alas, sometimes things just don't work out according to plan. I've learned to cope with this over the years, though it does weight heavily on my soul at times.

This week, I did get to photograph something special, although it was not Notre Dame, it was kind of magical in its own right. Interestingly enough, it started out rather ordinary, in fact, I almost didn't make it to the photo shoot at all. A photo group in town had slated a meetup in nearby Round Rock at, of all places, an auto parts store. This auto parts store used to be a little antique shop called "Cabbages and Kings" (in a nod to O. Henry who is actually associated with this area.) The antique store sounds like it might be interesting and, frankly, it might have been in its time as well, but the evening belonged instead to a local bat colony. You see, as it turns out, the former antique shop turned auto parts store is right across the street from one of the largest colonies of bats in the area. I was given good directions and a time for meeting but, as it turned out, I got a little bit lost along the way and got there a few minutes late. I also got stuck waiting on a passing train which, interestingly enough, is also a good photo opportunity from the same location.

The meeting time was just about sunset. After I had gotten lost and all but given up on finding the spot, I drove along the highway along a route I thought would take me back home. As luck would have it, I wound up driving right past the little auto parts store and managed to get there just in time. It was not quite sunset and the bats had not come out yet, so I parked, got out my trusty tripod, and joined up with the crew. I wasn't expecting much, as this was more of a social thing for me, but I wanted to check out the nearby bat bridge and also maybe get some early evening/dusk type of shots if I could manage it.

Turns out we had a fantastic evening. I saw a beautiful glistening moon above a pink tinged sky. The sunset was great, the night was pleasant, the colors in the evening sky very lovely. I met some old friends, made a few new ones, watched a train go by, and learned all about bats. All in all, it was a wonderful evening. Honestly, such a lovely night, in hindsight I would not have traded it for a shiny cathedral or a jaunt to some faraway spot.

Some of my favorite quotes are actually about cathedrals. "A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral," Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

"What are you doing?" a man asked of three laborers beside a building under construction. The first man replied, "stone-cutting," The second smiled, "puttin' in time until a better job comes along." The third man waited a moment and then said simply, "I'm building a cathedral!"

You would think that, given my fondness for quotes such as these, by now I would have learned that a cathedral is more than a pile of rocks.

We all build cathedrals in our minds. We can all find beauty in everyday things. We can all appreciate the ordinary. We can learn to craft great images where we stand, honestly, we all have that capability, we just need to foster a creative spirit and encourage ourselves to approach the world with a childlike sense of wonder. Cathedrals are little more than piles of stone. Their greatness lies in our hearts and vision. Sadly, Notre Dame has burnt down and I will never get to photograph it. I can't let this stop me, as I have a lot to photograph in my own little world. Cathedral of the mind, for sure..."Shoes-and ships-and sealing wax-of cabbages and kings." It's all right there before the shutter if you just stop long enough to pay attention I suppose.

Until next time...