Saturday, September 23, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - September 22nd

A cowboy gazes into the distance in front of a window frame and some string lights at the L Jorraine Ghost Town outside of Austin, Texas.
If I could tattoo some opportunity on your arms I would, but, unfortunately it doesn't work that way. Here are some opportunities for you this week:
 I wish you the best of luck getting after it this weekend.

Until next time...

PS This one taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens. Love that golden light.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Kicking the Door Down

Two girls dressed in western clothing kick down a saloon style door at the Austin, Texas Ghost Town, JLorraine in Manor
This past week, there was a brouhaha over an announcement from Nikon. The announcement itself seemed harmless enough-Nikon announced a new D850 DSLR camera, which is, well frankly, what one might expect Nikon to announce. The problem with the announcement stems from the fact that Nikon picked 32 photographers from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East to promote this wonderful new camera. Nikon picked 32 photographers to share their stores and talk about their wonderful new product, which was all well and good, except for the fact that not one single photographer selected was a woman. Since the announcement, the Internet has sort of blown up about this, with the New York Times technology section doing an article about the lack of women in the promotion. Nikon itself tried to issue some kind of apology like statement but this didn't really fly as it wasn't quite an apology or at least not the kind of apology the Internet was looking for at the time and this really just further confused the issue. I believe things have settled down a bit although the question still lingers over the notion that 32 photographers could be selected and not one female represented in the bunch. I'm mean, technically speaking this is possible although statistically unlikely, right?

If you look at other statistics, they don't quite mirror what Nikon has done but they come relatively close. For the 2017 Canon Explorers of Light, there were 8 women and 32 men. The Nikon Ambassadors fared a bit better with 7 women and 17 men. The idea that female photographers are underrepresented is certainly there and, it would appear, there is some data to back this up, at least upon initial glance. What the statistics don't tell us, however, is how many women applied for these programs. Most of these type of programs are application based, in fact, if you follow this site you might have seen me post a call for entries back in June as part of my ongoing series "Opportunity Weekend" where I shared the news that Hasselblad was looking for applicants for their Master's Program. I think a better statistic might be how many women applied for this program and were accepted/rejected vs how many men did the same, but this is one of those things we may never get the chance to figure out as the application processes for these type of things are usually shrouded in secrecy or in the very least not made public.

Part of me really wants to call out Nikon for being unfair, but then I think about the application process and it really is difficult to tell just how many women applied or approached Nikon to be included in such an announcement. I feel strongly that women should be represented in the arts and in the photographic community in particular but then again I've seen what can happen with women who don't represent themselves. I know many women, far too many women, who don't send their work out enough, who don't have the drive, who don't have the stamina (I'm not talking physical stamina here either) to keep going, keep sending work out, keep pushing themselves to advance their careers. Perhaps, I am feeling the pangs of guilt over this for myself. I mean, do I really send my own work out enough? If you don't send your own work out, you can't rightfully expect the universe to just sort of randomly "discover" you, especially not in a field as competitive as photography-one in which there are many participants struggling and pushing themselves every chance they get. No, if you are even the least bit lazy or hesitant, quite frankly, you don't deserve success in this field, regardless of gender.

Part of me also likes to think along the lines of what I like to call "living well is the best revenge." By that, I mean if you can do the work, get the shows, get on the gallery walls, get into the magazines, you can prove any of the stereotypes wrong just by doing it. It's all too easy to make excuses, right? But spending the time and actually doing it, actually getting it done, proves that women can do it too. I've always been this way in the technology field. I've never stopped, not applied, not pushed, not done something because, well, somebody told me, "you're a girl." Why should my photography be any different? Yeah, I get it. I'm female. So what? Girls can take photos too. In many ways, the best way to rub somebody's nose in their prejudice is to just do the job and leave them scratching their head. I like to think I live my life that way, Nikon announcement or not. More akin to Nike than to Nikon perhaps but the "just do it!" is strong with me.

I also recognize that the art world is full of under representation in many ways. A lot of times women are out there making kick ass art and it gets written off as mere "doily art" while men are seen as "artistic visionaries." Things can be unfair like this, unfortunately, it's just a factor of who we are as people and the price of doing business. It takes time for society to change, to catch up with the accomplishments of women and so it follows that it might take some time for women to move out of the "doily art" and into the overpriced auction houses. Things are changing in a lot of ways. I mean, look at somebody like Cindy Sherman, she's kicking it at auction and is frequently one of the highest bid artists going, photographer or not. Photography itself is often under represented in the art world. Let's face it, photographers are treated like hobos running after the caboose of fine art in the gallery world. For a long time too, color photography was not accepted as "fine art" and nowadays it's often "digital art" that gets the snub from the high falutin noses in the gallery. Bottom line? If they want to snub you, if they really want to snub you, why it's all too easy to find something they don't like about you and milk it for a "I'm sooo sorry but you're just not good enough" raspberry. Yes, sometimes the best answer to that is to break down the door and work all that much harder to get past the inevitable snubs. It's just what we have to do because we are female, photographers, working in digital or for some other reason they see fit to banish us from the table of all things acceptable. Anybody can claim to be under represented if they try hard enough, frankly, I'd rather be known as somebody who worked hard and kicked that door clear off its ugly hinges (but maybe that's just me?)

So, was Nikon right in selecting an all male round-up of starts for their D850? Probably not. Will anything come of it? Probably not. I mean, they might have to suffer a few barbs from the Internet pirates but, let's face it, the bottom line for them is selling cameras and they are probably doing to do just a lot of that with their new D850. On the whole, I'd have to say the needle really didn't move all that much although they did get people talking a bit. The announcement got me thinking anyway. We certainly live in interesting times. (Wasn't that some kind of ancient Chinese curse? Oh the horror of it all.)

Until next time...

PS This one taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens. In the ghost town outside of Austin. Kicking doors down indeed, ladies.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - September 15th

Close up shot of a stem and leaf taken in Austin's Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin, Texas
Opportunity, like weeds, grows in one's garden. You just have to know how to cultivate it. And, of course, you have to get after it. So, without further ado, here are some opportunities for you this weekend:
If you find these opportunities helpful, please feel free to drop me a line and let me know. I've been doing the opportunity weekend posts for a while now and have not heard much feedback although my Internet sources tell me the posts are popular. (It helps if I hear from you.)

I hope you make the most of your opportunities this weekend and you have many opportunities growing in your garden this week.

Until next time...

PS This one taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens. Zilker Botanical Garden in the heat of the summertime.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Wild About Bags

An abstract natural image, featuring lots of blues and greens from the trees and sky
So, I have much news to report in the bags department. I was going to check in the other day to tell you all about my new camera bag, the ThinkTank Retrospective 30 but then something has come over me and I decided to opt instead for the Domke J-CHRON-RB. I actually purchased the ThinkTank bag first and I may keep it, just add the Domke to the mix. I know, it sounds crazy but I've been a bit nuts about bags. You see, I really didn't like the F-1X and I always seem to be short on bags so I might just sell that one at like a swap meet and wind up keeping the other two.

The think that really did it for me about the Domke is not only how well they are made (those things are built like a tank!) but also how many new features the newer "Next Generation" bags have. The good folks at Domke really have thought about everything. They added a zipper in the top so you can reach in and grab the camera bag. They added pockets that expand but can also snap closed and sit right next to the bag when you are not using them (making the bag both smaller and expandable.) They offer up both a grab strap and a shoulder strap plus the newer bags now have a luggage trolley strap, which is a big plus for me. They just have so many pockets and offer up so much, not to mention they look great and are rugged as all get up. So, ThinkTank, you almost got me but I'm sticking with my trusted Domke brand.

I really am very impressed with what they are doing with bags these days. There is a lot of new stuff to select from and a lot of new features. They are making bags more for women, messenger bags are all the rage, bags for the new mirrorless gear, bags that look more like business cases rather than dorky camera bags. Man, I have to admit, these days it would appear the sky is the limit in terms of bags. Phew! It can make shopping for a new one a bit daunting but it's also kind of fun and interesting to see what kinds of new features they incorporate.

I know it might sound silly but bags are a big part of what we do. You basically have to wear a bag all day long and it very much dictates what kind of kit you can carry. Bags do a lot for us, even if we sometimes neglect them or just go with what we have. It's really great to see new features and the like, as it can go a long way towards making our lives a bit easier. I wish you the best of luck should you be hunting for a new one. It's a challenge, I know, but can also be fun to step up to the chase.

Until next time...

PS This one taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens. In the park, with the zoom, making trees look a bit like waterfalls.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - September 8th

A white peacock against an entirely blue painted room. South Austin odd in Saint Cecilia.
Don't be a wallflower! Get to sending some work out there already.

Now, I know the hurricane and the craziness of everything that has been going on might have you down but, what better way to return to a sense of normalcy than to send some work along for review, right? For those who are able to get out there and get it out there, here are some opportunities for you:
Hopefully, there's something you might like in the bunch. As a reminder, you can search this site using the labels at the bottom. Selecting "Opportunity Weekend" will show you all of the recent opportunity weekend posts.

Best of luck with your work and stay safe in all of the storms and craziness out there!

Until next time...

PS This one taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens. Saint Cecilia, what can I say?

Bag Drama Continues

Street scene showing commedy and tragedy face masks in a shop window, Georgetown, Texas, on the town square.
It's a tragedy! It's a comedy! It's a drama! My "let's find a new camera bag" saga continued today as I saw fit to pop on over to my local camera bag emporium (aka "the place that legally empties my wallet on a regular basis. You know, the local one.") Yes, snowflakes, queen flake herself went bag shopping today! Now, this seems a bit strange even from the onset. I mean, shopping for a bag? So, I'm going to head on over to the store to buy a bag which the nice folks will then put in another bag which I will then take home and unwrap only to put more crap in it. Yes, that's indeed how it works so here goes.

I had taken a list with me. The list had some of the more common brands, along with the size and specs of the bags I am currently using. I poked around in the bag aisle (they have an entire aisle of this stuff. Believe me, it's an obsession of sorts. Well, I say that but there's not really a support group. Not yet anyway.) So on my list were the following: Kelly Moore Bags, Domke Ledger bag, Lowepro, Tamrac Stratus 21, Peak Design, ONA, Billingham, Jill-E, Think Tank Photo, and Sirui. The good camera store didn't have all of the bags on my hot list but they had some and I was able to rule out some of them right away.

The Tamrac Stratus looks like a nice bag but it lacks one of the features my current Domke bag has, namely, when you open the bag it tips over (Domke's never do that.) Now, it did have a ton of pockets and there was some innovation here but I just really did not like the look of it, not to mention the tip over bit, so this one is out. Likewise, the Peak Design is out for me. Everybody talks about how good this bag is but I just don't see it. The adjustable car seat belt like strap only works really if you are right handed, that is, if you wear the bag over your right shoulder. Since that's my bad arm, I'm not going with it. Again, some good innovation here but this bag just doesn't look like it will hold what I need, plus the left-handed thing so it's out. Onward!

They didn't have any Kelly Moore bags to speak of, but the online reviews all scream wonders about these not to mention they just look all that fabulous. So these are still on the list. Likewise, as a faithful Domke user, the Domke bag is still on the list. I could always opt for a J-1 or get one of the newer ones, if I can find one. They are pretty much out of stock or back ordered a lot of places, so hard to find. Not sure I want to battle Internet gremlins but I'll see what it comes down to should I opt for the Domke. One thing about the Domke though is, since I already have three of them, I can re-use some of the inserts and the like. This is a big plus as it saves money and cuts down on some waste. I really like the little grab handle the Domkes have. Turns out not a lot of other bags have these. With my bad back and shoulder, it makes it easier to be able to wear the bag as either a shoulder bag (on a short strap) or a cross body type of bag. I almost require this type of versatility nowadays so I hope I can find it in a replacement bag. Domke is still on the list for all this and more.

Lowepro bags just do not excite me. My camera store did not have many and most of what they did have was a backpack style, which I do not want. Too clumsy to work out of so I'll take a pass on those. Likewise, they did not have any Billingham bags. Now, I know these are nice bags but they are expensive and I'm not sure I'm willing to make such a commitment to a bag at this point so I may have to take a pass on these as well. The ONA bags look interesting, like they might have something in a couple of years but nothing was quite right for what I need right now, so these are probably out. They had a couple of other bags from companies I had not heard of, most of them were cheap and I didn't really like them.

The bags that really wowed me this time were all from Think Tank Photo. These bags were really impressive, even more so than their website would seem to indicate. They just had a lot of features, looked really nice, seemed sturdy, and seemed like they would hold up well, not to mention they were the right size and have tons of pockets. I was really surprised. I mean, I guess I should not be, since I had heard Think Tank was doing good things but I was really quite shocked.

At this point, I'd have to say I'm probably down to a selection between the Kelly Moore, another trusted Domke, or one of the Think Tank models. Haven't quite made up my mind just yet but I've narrowed down the field a bit. I'm zeroing in on a solution that'll work for me anyway.

I plan to keep you posted when (if?) I make a final decision. At this point, I believe I'm pretty much decided I want something new, just not sure what and am weighing the features.

Some of the things I'm looking for in a bag are:
  • Prefer outside pockets as I can stash my flash memory mountain there. A water bottle holder of sorts would be nice too.
  • Must have a grab handle that I can use as a high shoulder bag. Bad arm dictates this.
  • Would be nice if it had a pocket on the back (or front, or side, or?) so that I can slip it over the handle of carry on luggage. I believe they call this a "trolley strap" of sorts. This would allow me to roll it around atop my carry on luggage. Current Domke F-2 bag has a grab strab that almost does this but it's longer and can make carry on luggage tip over. Not optimal but works ok if nothing else is available.
  • Prefer some kind of outside pocket that's flat-ish so I can stash my tickets, boarding pass, and the like. 
  • Should be able to hold two DSLR camera bodies plus ~3 lenses. I don't use gripped bodies but I am full frame so they are kind of large. Would like lots of pockets for stuff like batteries, tripod kick plates (oh, curse them. Curse them, yes, but carry them too) business cards, and all that kind of crap.You know, like a pen and one of those air blower do-dahs nobody likes to admit they carry around with them in their bags and yet stuff them in there we do.
  • I work with a 13 inch MacBook Air. Some of the bags have room for a laptop or tablet. It might be a nice feature to be able to stuff my Airbook in there but I don't want a bag that droops down to my knees. 
  • Need bag to be lightweight. Currently shooters bag is 3.2 lbs. I don't want a 5+ lb beast for everyday usage. Now, if I just get a bag for the plane, extra weight might be ok.
  • Would be nice if it didn't look like crap warmed over. 
  • Must fit under airport seat. No wheels, I need a bag I can carry and pass off as my "one personal item."
  • Should be able to get in and out (easy access) to cameras and stuff inside. Not too many latches, locks, straps, etc. (My Domke F1-X has this problem. The straps are a bit funky and you really have to close it in order to pick it up. Man, I hate that.) This is why I do not want a backpack either-too hard to have to take it off, put it back on again, etc. I don't want a tango, I want a shooter's bag.
  • Would love a bag that can stand up on it's own or at least not have to lie down flat when I put it down say at a restaurant. (Don't want anybody stepping on it.) I tend to work sometimes with bag on the ground so this is important. This is why I generally do not favor the messenger style bags, although they are all the rage right now it would appear. 
I know I ask a lot of a camera bag but that's my current list. I might have to get all left brained and make a spreadsheet with my options so I can checkoff each of the features to figure out which bag is best for me. Oh the humanity!

Until next time...
(The Bag Lady)

PS This one taken with camera firmly out of bag. Canon 5DS on the square in Georgetown. Walkabout lens. Domke F-2 shooters bag somewhere very nearby. 

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

What's in the...Heck what IS the Bag?

Color infrared version of a tree against a bold sky.
So the time has come for me to do some shopping. By shopping, of course, I mean to check out some new camera and photo gear. I've been looking at getting a new camera bag and, boy, am I confused. For starters, they have a whole bunch of new camera bags. When I say, "new" here I mean they have, quite literally, redesigned the camera bag as we know it. These days a lot of folks are shooting mirrorless and lot of people want a stylish camera bag. This combination has forced a dramatic shift in all things camera bag. It's mind blowing! Camera bags don't even look like what they used to look like the last time I went in to buy one. I hardly recognize them, let alone know where to begin to purchase one. Seriously, I used to just check out the latest offering from the good folks at Domke and then maybe check out one or two additional bags just to make sure I wasn't missing anything good. Usually, I wasn't missing anything at all. Now, oh my now there is an entire plethora of camera bags that are just blowing my mind.

For starters, there have always been the very fine bags from Billingham Bags. These folks are from England and make a darn good camera bag if I might say so myself. The bags have always been expensive but it's the type of bag you would pass onto your children and possibly even your children's children. Since I don't have children and these bags were always a bit pricey I've typically passed but now I am thinking about it. It's another option anyway, so poking around at these.

There are now too an entire line of what I would have to call "woman's camera bags." What I mean by this are stylish bags clearly designed with the female photographer in mind. I think this movement started with the bags from Jill-E. I had almost purchased an entire Jill-E system back in the day (when these bags first came out) but I opted not to simply because the bag was a bit too heavy. I've got a bad back and want the absolute lightest bag you can carry. Because of this, often genuine leather bags are out for me. Although I think they look oh so stylish, it's hard on your shoulder carrying that weight around all day.

The advent of the tablet is impacting camera bags as well. Since a lot of folks have tablets and small laptops now, the messenger style bags appear to be all the rage. Another option for the female shooter appears to be a bag by the relatively new Kelly Moore Bags. Though a bit of a newcomer to the field, these bags are really nice looking and seem to provide everything a woman could want in a bag. Some of the bags even have things like credit card slots and the like so that the bag essentially doubles as a purse. (As an aside, one of the things I've always *hated* about being a photographer, come to think of it, it might be the *only* thing I've always hated about being a photographer is that I can almost never carry a purse. Carrying a camera necessitates I carry a camera bag and I refuse to carry two bags so this leaves me essentially purse-less. I've learned to deal with it but it can be heartbreaking walking through the mall watching friends check out the latest in purses. Something I will never get to do, alas, but there you have it. Yes, I know, cry me a river. Onward!)

To get myself out of the ladies department, I checked out what the good folks over at Tamrac have in terms of offerings. I have a Tamrac messenger bag that I use to hold my laptop sometimes. It's great. I'd have to say it was a great purchase. Just the right size and nice looking, plus plenty of padding but it's more a messenger style bag so not the best for all day walking about with camera gear. (Now, if I had to carry my laptop about, why, this type of bag would be all over it.) The good folks at Tamrac make something called the "Stratus 21." While this sounds a bit like some kind of demented Oldsmobile model from the early 1970's, it actually looks like a decent bag. It holds a lot of stuff and it's kind of the size and shape of what I might be looking for in a bag. Chalk this up to a possibility and let's move onto the next one, shall we?

One of the problems I have is that I'm left handed and I've got a very bad back. I currently shoot a Domke F-2 shooters bag with a short strap and a long strap. The short strap lets me wear the camera bag up high, almost in my armpit. Doesn't sound attractive, I know, but it helps with the old back. I sometimes stick my head in the long strap of the camera bag and wear the entire bag cross body style too, but it has to be across my left shoulder, since my right side is the bad side. This configuration pretty much rules out the Peak Design Everyday Messenger bag since it's pretty much setup for right handed shooters (and right handed shooters only.) It also might make the Tamrac bag a bit difficult for me, since it does not have a high strap for me to use (or the short strap depending upon how you call it.)

There is another new company called ONA that makes a sort of waxed canvas bag. Looks interesting but maybe a bit too "male" for me. At least most of the bags seem to have a sort of masculine look about them. Got some nice features though so I have not ruled them out, although they do have the genuine leather bags which have the weight issue, plus their bags are a bit more "messenger" style rather than shoulder bag style.

I always check out Lowepro and they have a bunch of bags that might fit the bill for me. They have something that's almost "purse like" but not quite feminine enough (if that even makes sense) called the ProTactic camera shoulder bag. It's like a little system that you can add onto, although I'm not quite sure I want to invest in a new bag and then have to invest in add on's and the like afterwards. That's a bit of a puzzle but still Lowepro makes a good bag so I will consider it as an option for me.

Finally, there's the worst issue I always seem to have: I just can't make up my mind. This is, perhaps, my biggest issue when buying new camera gear. I just can't decide what to do and I seem to get stuck in a sort of "analysis paralysis" mode. I need an everyday shooting bag. The one I have now seems to work (that would be the Domke F2.) Do I really need another bag? For traveling on the planes and such, I think it might be nice to have a bag that could maybe hold a small laptop or tablet but then I don't want an everyday shooter bag that drags down to my knees. My knees really don't need a camera bag, trust on that one. So do I solve this dilemma with two bags, perhaps? Maybe an airplane/travel bag coupled with an everyday shooter bag?

I've recently purchased a rolling carry on suitable for holding my laptop and maybe a day or two change of clothing. I can usually use this type of bag plus an over the shoulder camera bag for the planes. When I went to Dakota, and on the basically smaller commuter jets, they restrict you to one carry on. In that situation, it sure would be handy to have something like the Kelly Moore bag resembling a doctor's bag. It could hold my laptop and all camera gear and fit under the seat (well, I might have to stuff it under the seat but still, fit it will!) In this case, I could leave the small rolling carry on at home and just bring the shoulder camera (travel) bag plus check my big suitcase.

Alternatively, since I have this nice, new four wheeled rolling ultralight carry on, I could put my laptop in that along with maybe a lens or two plus a bunch of chargers, batteries and the like and just put two or more camera bodies in the shoulder bag. The problem with this configuration is that the shoulder bag can get quite heavy loaded down like this, with the two cameras in it. I had been working like this in the past, using a Domke F-1X bag but I really don't like that bag (I want to sell it actually) since I think it's the only Domke bag that flops over when you open it. (For those who don't know, one of the big features of the Domke F-2 bag is that you can wear it on your shoulder, walk around all day and, when it's time to open it up, just open up a flap. The entire bag will not tip over if you open up the top flap. This is very handy if you do not want to put the bag down on, say, the sidewalk. It really works, not to mention Domke bags are build strong as hell. I usually refer to mine as a "Donkey" because I think it literally has hauled more crap up larger hills than some donkeys I've met.)

I'm currently leaning towards taking a shooters bag/day pack (my Domke F-2) along with a travel bag (for the plane) plus the rolling 4 wheel ultralight bag holding the laptop but, man, this could change at any time now. This entire situation is giving me a headache. I just don't know what to do. I'm so used to all of the pockets on the old Domke F-2 and it really holds stuff nicely but it's just not quite enough to haul everything only the plane plus it doesn't do well under the heavy weight of over packing it with the multiple camera systems. Not to mention it will probably make the smaller ultra light four wheeled rolling carry on tip over, as this bag is not so heave and probably can't hold a heavier loaded down canvas style bag atop it.

Argh! What to do, what to do? I'm open to suggestions if you've got a bag you swear by (alternatively one you swear at as well.) Please drop me a line or, at the very least, buy me a drink the next time you see me, as my head will still be aching from all of this madness.

Until next time...

PS This an infrared shot from the archives.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Katy Lied

Alternative view of a city scene in Firastefani on the island of Santorini, Greece
In case you did not hear the news, this week marks the passing of Walter Becker. Now, for those of you who don't know, Becker was one of the co-founders of the sometimes popular but almost always respected rock group Steely Dan. An interesting thing about Steely Dan, actually Becker and Fagen really, is that they are possibly the closest thing found in the post 60's/Gen X time frame that matches the beat generation. Their lyrics were often obscure, sometimes hard to decipher, but rife with situation and presence. The characters were larger than life, if not a bit tragic. Not tragic in the classical sense of the word, more like people on the edge really. The stories were filled with characters who were losers, social misfits, lovers trapped in oddball relationships, and often dealing with a dark reality. Steely Dan is almost a study in edge cases or people lost in their own obsessions. The over thinkers of the world? Yeah, you can find them trapped in many a Steely Dan song.

Becker and Fagen were not your typical rock stars either. They were sort of the college educated "it wants to be jazz" type of songwriters who would more easily be classified as hipsters today, rather than your typical late 60's rockers like, for example, Keith Richards or Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones. Becker and Fagen were college educated, a fact they could not escape, and the type who could more easily pass as dorks or geeks, rather than the rebellious rocker types. They were unconventional in the least but in a way this helped solidify their music. In an odd way, being educated, knowing the jazz age, and being one of the original hipster duos gave them an oddball sort of "street cred." They had to be good, right? Anybody else in their shoes would wind up coming off like a dork, but they saw your "dork" and raised you a "hip" on the flop. They were sort of like what you might get if you were to cross somebody like a Bill Gates with, say, a Nat King Cole. A little bit of jazz but still somehow not able to look all that good in a suit jacket no matter how much you tip the tailor.

Now, you might be wondering what all of this, what any of this really has to do with photography. Another interesting thing about Steely Dan is that they spent a lot of time at Bard College and wandering the streets of places like Brooklyn. They highlighted the town I was raised in, Scarsdale, in one of their songs (Hey Nineteen mentions "[moving] down to Scarsdale" along with the popular reference to "Cuervo Gold.") They were, quite literally, from my old stomping grounds. Maybe because of this I have always felt a weird kinship with Becker and Fagen. There's just something about them, I didn't just listen to their music, no, in some ways, I wanted to be like them. They are sort of the off-the-cuff jazz influenced, turtleneck wearing, almost dorky artist types I could picture myself being if, you know, I could turn myself into an artist type. I guess it's safe to say I aspire to be like that somebody. Yes, I know it's kind of sad now that this someday has sort of passed us by with Becker's passing, but the acute influence is still there and stronger than ever. If I could turn myself into the photographic equivalent of Steely Dan, why,  I think it's safe to say I'd do that in a heartbeat.

I know there have been photo projects on Tom Waits. He's deserving of such respect as he too is a type of larger than life character, invoking the surreal and oddball characters that we've grown to love from his songs over the years. He's more of the all night diner type but still the notion that a musician, one single musician, can inspire an entire body of work for a photographer is not really a novel idea. It does make me wonder, however, what a photographic body of Steely Dan work might look like. And that, that sense of wonder, brings me to crafting images in my head. I mean, can you just imagine what Peg might look like as a single frame of film? What about Kid Charlemagne? Or the protagonist from Rikki Don't Loose That Number? My mind boggles over this but, in some ways, I also don't want to touch it for it's so golden I wouldn't know where to begin. It makes me think, heck, why isn't this a movement already and where the heck is Gregory Crewdson or David Lynch? Do I really need to do this all by my lonesome? (Hmmm. I wonder if Kickstarter would fund the likes of this project? At least half of me doesn't even want to ask that question. This one cuts close and runs a bit deep but there it is.)

Oh, and in case it's not clear from my ramblings, it really goes without saying but, rest in peace, Mr. Becker. You, sir, will be missed.

Until next time...

PS In keeping with the oddball juxtaposition of the night, this shot was taken in the town of Firostefani on the island of Santorini where, presumably, there was not much Cuervo Gold to be drunk but maybe somebody named Katy did once lose a number or two. Canon 5DS walkabout lens you fill in the suburban angst.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - September 1st

A woman stands in red dress and lipstick shocked expression outside of a bank in Texas ghost town
I call this image, "Red Lipstick Robs Banks, Doesn't it?" Odd title, but that's what I wanted to go with for a title so there you have it. In other, um, news, it's opportunity weekend and there are some shocking opportunities awaiting you this weekend:
Hopefully you won't find it too shocking should you happen to heed the call.

Until next time...

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Oh Texas, Our Texas

In case you have not heard the news, Texas is hurting. A major hurricane slammed into our coastline and created a massive flood down in Houston. Points along the shore have been devastated. It appears worse than a war zone in parts of our beloved Texas. Right now, we are safe and dry but praying for those along the shore, for those in Houston, and for any of our fellow Texans ravaged by this catastrophe. The Lone Star State always shines on but, right now anyway, our star is a bit battered.

My immediate family is all fine. We are all well and good. The Austin area is about 250 miles from the shore and we didn't really get the brunt or the full force of storms that ravaged our coast. Sure, it's going to impact us in some ways, but these are little things. For example, I've heard the Austin area, or at least parts of it, are running low on supplies of gasoline. Also, our bread supply was wiped out in the storm center so we might have to go a few days without restocking. It's a small thing, not really even worth mentioning but it's there. Perhaps the biggest thing is that we feel for the folks on the coast. Many people, so many people, have lost everything. The storm came on a bit suddenly too. At first it was a tropical storm, and it remained that for days, so most did not heed any warnings to leave. Then it spun up and gathered force, eventually landing as a category 4 storm. Then the floods started. The storm system stalled over the gulf coast, dumping huge amounts of rain across the southernmost part of a state, with some places seeing upwards of 50 inches of rainfall in one weekend. Our news, both local and national, is filled with images from the gulf and we all have heavy hearts thinking of our fellow Texans stranded and hurt along our shore. These are not cheerful times in River City, I can tell you that much. We are grieving. There is a shroud of sadness sweeping over the city as folks try to deal with the loss and try to help out as best we can.

In many ways, I'm lucky to be a part of a larger art community in Texas. We have an abundance of artists here and it really is a tight knit community. Everybody knows everybody and the artists are all close in many ways. Early on, just as the storm was coming ashore, I had heard from the good folks over at the Rockport Center for the Arts. They had to pack up and run from the storm very quickly. The eye of the storm actually landed in Rockport and the art center was not spared the damages a storm like this can bring. It's facing massive damages, was flooded, and now sits in much need of repair. Luckily, the word is out too that there were no deaths among the art center staff, a small blessing indeed.

The Houston Center for Photography has setup a lifeline for any photographers in Houston who need immediate help. If you are impacted, they are encouraging you to contact them at

These are just some of the early status updates I've been able to process. As the flood waters recede and the city digs out, I'm sure there will be more, so many more. For now, it's an understatement to say that my heart, thoughts, and prayers are with the folks on the shore.

One additional point of note. In order to maintain a sense of normalcy, I'm going to try to keep up with my routine posts, including my Opportunity Weekend. I anticipate some additional calls for entry going out for shows that will help the art community of Houston and the coast. I plan to try to highlight these as best I can. It's my little part of doing something, anything really to help. If you have an opportunity you'd like to spread the word about, please let me know and I will do my best to highlight it.

Until next time...

PS This shot taken with the Canon 5DS and the 24-105 walkabout lens. In front of our Texas flag, Texas strong and proud. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - August 27th - Hurricane Version

Cloudy sky from Hurricane Harvey over Cedar Park, Texas
Now, I know what you're thinking. "Man, she's late this week!" Why, yes, yes indeed I am. You see we had this little bit of a thing called a hurricane where I live and it's been a trying few days. Now, I'm one of the lucky ones, you see, I haven't been too impacted by the big storm, just a lot of rain, a bunch of power outages, and some gusty winds, but it's been a bit scary and I've been glued to the TV watching it all play out. Thankfully, we've been spared the brunt of it, but Houston is getting hit hard and I've been a bit tied up.

Hurricane or not, it's always a good time to send work out, right? So here are some opportunities for you:
 In case you're wondering, yes, those are in fact hurricane clouds, visible from my back porch. Stay safe while sending that work out, folks, stay safe out there, ok?

Until next time...

PS This one taken with the long lens and the Canon 5DS. Crazy hurricane light indeed.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse 2017

Height of eclipse shadow detail showcasing crescent shapes. Taken in Cedar Park, Texas during total eclipse of the sun.Start of eclipse image showcasing shadow details, before crescent shapes arrived.

Today brought us a total eclipse of the sun. Hard to believe but, for a brief time today, the moon was in-between the sun and the earth. For photographers, this is an all important event, one which was celebrated many ways. Many, so very many, photographers wanted to get up close and look at the sky as the eclipse was happening. I can understand that point of view. I mean, it doesn't happen very often and it's a rare glimpse into our celestial bodies, right? For me, it was all about the shadows and light. I love what an eclipse does to shadows and light. It softens the shadows and makes the leaves create little crescent shaped shadows on the ground. I find that fascinating really. Just the shadows and the light. It could captivate me all day long really.

In case you're wondering, the image on the left is one taken at the starting point of the eclipse. You can see the shadows are darker, the color balance is different, there is more contrast. The image on the right has the crescent shadows. It's softer. The light is softer. The light was literally eclipsed by the moon when I took that shot.

Today is also a day we all came together to celebrate science. The earth, the universe, the stars, all of these things are bigger than we are. Perhaps today we were reminded of this fact. We are but small specks of dust in this great big universe. The eclipse brought us all together, today, on this great big blue ball of a planet we call home, to drive that point home for us. We are small.

As part of the eclipse studies today NASA had shot up some balloons. The idea being today is one of the few days they can approximate Mars, since they can launch a balloon up high and get it as close to the sun as possible, well as possible from our little blue planet Earth. I was watching a bit of NASA TV today and they talked about this, about how they launched a bunch of balloons up into the air and they are now collecting data. They launched some harmless bacteria up there as well as a few other things. One of the things on the list? Beer. Yes, you read that right. Beer. Today, if nothing else, we made great strides in understanding if beer will survive on Mars. Hey, that's a good thing, let me tell you, a very good thing indeed.

Have an eclipse, I mean a beer, to celebrate!

Until next time...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ghost Town with Models

Model shot at the J Lorraine Ghost Town in Manor, Texas outside of Austin
Went out to the J Lorraine Ghost Town in Manor, Texas today for a photo shoot. The shoot had a bunch of models and was sponsored by a lighting company so there were some strobes for us to play with along with posing the models. I love the ghost town, it's a great place to shoot. Lots of interesting little buildings, cubby holes for posing people, interesting texture, and just a lot of fun stuff to play with. It's a ways out of town, it's actually in a city called Manor which is to the north and east of Austin proper.

Today was hot, hot, hot, in fact it was one of the hottest days of the year. Luckily, the folks organizing the shoot decided it would be a good idea to start shooting at first light so we met up at 7 am to start shooting. When I say it was hot, it was already almost 80 degrees at that hour. Still, the light was pretty good, and so we managed to work some with the natural light until the sun came up too much and blasted out the sky. Then, we switched to the strobes to play a bit with those. It was a fun shoot. I hope they do something like this again in the autumn or at a time when it's not so hot.

Since I've been awake since the crack of dawn and it was so hot out, I am not going to post process too many shots from today. I plucked a couple off the rolls and posted this here just so you can see what kind of environs we were playing around in today. More for next time, right?

I hope you get to shooting even if it's hot where you are today. It's always good to get in some time behind the camera. Makes me feel like all is right in the world again, and I honestly hope it does the same for you.

Until next time...

PS This is Libby in the ghost town shot with the Canon 5DS and walkabout lens. The models were really fantastic today too.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - August 18th bikes along the town square in Georgetown, Texas
Don't ever say I didn't give you anything for the chase. Here's to chasing after some opportunities, either by bike or on foot. Good luck!

This week's opportunities include:
Have a wonderful, photographic weekend.

Until next time...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Eclipse Surfacing

Surface detail of an iceburg in rural Iceland.
In case you had not heard the news, there's going to be a total eclipse of the sun. At first, I was not enamored with this event. I mean, yes sure, it's a total eclipse of the sun and, frankly, they don't come around too often, but honestly these things don't grab me too much as a photographer. Initially, there's just not a heck of a lot I felt like doing with the subject. Now, as it's getting closer, I'm starting to realize this total eclipse is shaping up to be more than just an eclipse. More than just an opportunity to view the bright light of the sun in the middle of the day. No, it's shaping up to be a moment. You know what I'm talking about here. An event that's bigger than any one of us. That kind of a moment.

I'm too young to remember, but I do recall hearing about the Kennedy assassination. That was one of those moments too. Everybody who lived through it recalls where they were, what they were doing at exactly the instant it happened. It was a moment in history. A placeholder, a mile marker if you will excuse the mixed metaphor, along the times of our lives. There have been other moments such as these in my lifetime too. One of my earliest memories, in fact probably my earliest memory, is of the men landing on the moon. I remember it well, even though I was a very young child. Now, my memories are not vivid, they pop in and out. It's just at the end of my ability to remember anything at all in fact, but I do recall the men landing on the moon. What a strange trip, what a strange time. Men on the moon, who could have imagined it, right?

Now, I don't think this solar eclipse will be quite as memorable as either of these events. No, Kennedy and the moon landing were pretty stand out as far as memories go, but I do think this solar eclipse is going to bring us together in ways other events have not. There's sort of a groundswell of feelings, emotions, right now and I do think this will collectively bring us together, if only for a moment, to stop and look up at the sky. I've lamented here how it's a bit melancholy that nobody looks at the night sky or the moon anymore. The space program is not enough to distract us from our cell phones. Sad truth there, but that's where we are as a people these days. I honestly think the solar eclipse will bring us together, silly little glasses and Quaker Oats boxes in tow, to stare up at the sky and ponder something bigger than all of us. Science, the sun, the universe, it's all up there, and it'll all be up there for us to come together and marvel over come Monday, bring your own silly little eyeglasses and such.

You can tell it's shaping up to be a game changer in a couple of ways. For starters, when I think of the total eclipse, a couple of songs come to mind. There's that old 80's song, "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Bonnie Tyler just announced she's going to perform the song during this year's total eclipse of the sun. Anything that has theme music, why, that's a tell tale sign right there that it's bigger than you and I. When I think of music for the eclipse, maybe I'm revealing my age here, but I can't help but think about Carly Simon's "You're So Vain." I'm sure I'm not going to be the only one to gavotte over those lyrics. "Then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun." I'm sure Mick Jagger is going to fly someplace to catch a glimpse. If there were any justice in the universe, why, he's run into Justin Bieber during the trip, right?

If all of this music were not enough, everyplace is selling out of glasses left and right, not to mention I've seen countless blog posts, readings, ramblings, and the like telling us how to view the eclipse, telling us how to live stream the eclipse, telling us how to photograph the eclipse, and so on. It's as if the entire world has just stopped, just long enough, to grab a peek at the sun. Frankly, I must confess, the bug has bitten me too. I want to grab some glasses, maybe take a peek outside, just for a couple of minutes to, you know, forget about life for a while.

A few years ago we had another visible eclipse that I can remember. It was not a total solar eclipse but it was noteworthy. I can recall reading that it was going to happen about four pm in the daytime. I had been busy at work and forgotten about it but, about the slated time, I looked up and was shocked by the lights in the sky. The light had gone all "twinkly" and I could not figure out why. Then, it dawned on me (in this case, probably quite literally) that it was the eclipse. Yes, my photographer friends, it's true, the light does get really freaky during an eclipse. We should all enjoy it as photographers if for nothing else than that reason alone. Freaky, I tell you. Freakier than Missy Elliott at a furry convention. We're talking freaky here, ok? I can't wait to see what it's going to look like this time around and that right there is probably enough of a reason to get me excited about it, right?

Gavotte on, my friends, the eclipse is upon us.

Until next time...

PS This one from the glacial lagoon up in Iceland. Ah, fond memories of traveling someplace cool.

PPS If you want some of your own freaky little glasses, B&H photo has them but you must hurry. Time is growing short and light is about to freak. Chop chop!

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Days of Wine and...Crap, We Really Had Rotten Film Back Then

There's a propensity we humans have to remember things fondly. When we look back, and we do look back quite a bit, we tend to remember things much more fondly than when we were actually living them in the moment. This holds true for a lot of things, photography does not escape the truism anymore than say knitting I would imagine, but I talk about photography a lot so I guess it's something I just tend to notice more with regards to that field. At least I noticed it the other day, when I was asked a specific question. The question was innocent enough, "Which of the images from Robert Frank's The Americans is your favorite?" It's an easy enough question to answer as well. While Frank shot over 28,000 shots for The Americans, only 83 were included in the final work. Picking one out of 83 should not be that big of a deal, but the question itself got me to thinking. And, by now anyway, you should know that when I think why it often ends up here in the form of a midnight ramble (of sorts.)

The Americans was, in many ways, the quintessential American photo book. It still holds up today as the benchmark in many ways for what makes a good photo book. When you place it in historical context, it was a giant standard barer for all photo books to come afterwards. Shot as a Guggenheim open grant over the course of two years worth of road trips across America, the book featured a forward by then noted beat writer Jack Kerouac. Just think about that for a second. I mean, who takes two years to amass 28000 shots from which to cull 83 images to make a book? Who gets Jack Kerouac to write the introduction for that book? Crap, who even gets a Guggenheim grant these days? See where I'm going with this? It was epic no matter how you slice it. It's an epic photo book that still holds up today as not only epic but perhaps the most epic of all epic photo books. It's the YEOWZA! of photo books.

All of that aside, back to the original question. Which image is my favorite? From the 83, if I had to pick one, single one out from all of this YEOWZA!-ness, which would it be? What strikes me as interesting is not that there's 83 to pick from, not the entire YEOWZA!-ness of the work itself (although I do find that mind boggling in and of itself) no, what struck me as peculiar is that, in this day and age, I'd have to wonder if The Americans would ever even been made. Would it have even come to pass?

Fast forward to 2017. Today, right now in fact, if I were to log onto Flickr, or 500px, or Nat Geo's Your Shot, or Instagram or one of the many, many (so very many!) other photography hovels out there, what would I find and how would it stack up to what we found in The Americans? The images today are technically brilliant. The advances in technology have made it so that we can now churn out technically brilliant images day after day, night after night. The cameras are even getting smaller. I'd be willing to venture a guess that somebody could take on a project much like the work in The Americans using only a cell phone camera. And it would be epic. That's epic as in EPIC. It would technically blow away some of the images from the late 1950's and, heck, it wouldn't even look back to notice the dust. Seriously. If you don't believe me, don't take my word for it, go look at Flickr's Explore or some of the Popular images on 500px or dip into one of the other hovels to see what people are doing nowadays.

Photography has come a long way. We're more capable now of making brilliant, technically precise images than ever before. We have editing that photographers like Frank couldn't even dream about back then. Heck, we don't even have film all that much anymore. Frank had to deal with crappy, rotten film that expired and couldn't stand the mid-day heat. Processing labs, clunky cameras, horrible equipment, and lots of nuisances along the way, yet he still managed to crank out The Americans. To me, this is akin to how our space program made it to the moon using only slide rules. Now we have lots and lots of calculators, phones that can do advanced mathematics, all kinds of personal computers, yet we can hardly get off the back porch. It's both an advanced and very primitive way of living, isn't it? We've come so far yet we can't seem to get it in gear. Pretty soon, if not already, photographers are going to be getting replaced by robots. And, by golly, what are they going to do? These photographic robots, what are they going to do? Shoot lots and lots of images that look just like The Americans only with lazier, tired people as subjects, people who don't even know what the moon looks like anymore? (Can somebody please save me from that before it happens even though we all know it's only a matter of time and it's coming?)

Today's technology has given us a lot. The "good" old days weren't always so nice. We really did have some rotten film back then (some good film too but, you know, rotten stuff was out there in the wilds too.) It all just leaves me wondering though, just a little bit, I mean, what are we going to do with all of this? We have thousands of perfect images sitting on Flickr and 500px and all of those other places yet it also seems like we hardly enjoy the art of photography anymore. It begs the question, if The Americans were made today, would anyone even bother to notice? The America...oh look! Justin Bieber got a new haircut. Is that our new YEOWZA! and does it amount to little more than a digitized variant of a squirrel for a dog?

So, I guess my answer to the question is going to be a cop out as well. As for which image from The Americans, which of the 83 is my favorite, I'd have to say the next one that looks a little bit like a barn from Walker Evans or a train car from Robert Frank circa 1958. You can pick it out if you digitally squat over on Flickr and mine the hashtag #Americana (or some such thing.) Because, why the next one, yeah that next one, that's going to be my new favorite. Turn the crank and make another, why don't you? We really had some rotten film back in those days but does that even matter anymore when we've all got this shiny new filter we can play with on Instagram?

Frankly, I'm surprised there isn't a Robert Frank filter somewhere, out in the wilds. Then again, maybe there is and I was just too busy being too old school to notice such a beast? Either way, I'm going to sit this one out. The Americans was an epic book but I don't think we deserve it anymore, let alone a favorite. If you want me to pick a favorite, why, it'd be the next cheap knockoff churning out of the perfection mill. The last one before the robots grab the handle and pull, yup, that'd be the one.

Until next time...

Friday, August 11, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - August 11th

A blue gradient sky with  heart shaped cloud loom over Austin, Texas
When you are reaching for new opportunities, they sky is the limit, right? So, here's some sky for you and here's some, "Get after it!" from me. Opportunities for this week include:
 I've been opting to add a few more calls each week but repeating a few that have not yet expired.

Good luck!
--Until next time...

Monday, August 07, 2017

A New Business Model Rustling In

Swirls of green bamboo create the appearance of rustling through a forest in Austin's Zilker Park
There's a rustling about. I can hear it as I walk through the kingdom of one eyed men. Photographers, it would appear, are getting unsettled. At some point in our lives, the notion that one can and will make a living doing this pops into one's head and this, why this my friends, can be the cause of a lot of strife. Recently, there's been a new "business" model in town. There's a new website I recently read about called Unsplash. In case you're curious, I read about Unsplash here, in DP Review online, in actually an opinion piece written by the site's creator, Mikael Cho. The nature of the website is simple. Content, aka images, are provided free of charge on the website. Yes, you read that correctly. The way the site works is you upload your images and make them available free of charge, free for anyone to use, without any compensation whatsoever. Now, while it can be difficult to envision how a photographer might make a living doing this, the idea behind the site is that exposure is good for photographers and that images are better shared rather than not. An image you might otherwise have kept hidden or tucked away on an obscure hard drive can now be made available for promotional purposes.

I have mixed feelings about this. While it's true there are a lot of people who have make careers out of, for example, the creative commons style licensing, there's also sage advice surrounding why one would not want to work for exposure and exposure alone. Let's face it. You can't pay your bills with exposure. Giving things away might seem cool at first but, how does this really translate into monetary gain for the photographer? Also, I question the validity of the website itself. At one point, it might get sold and, upon sale the images contained would all become up for grabs. It seems like a recipe for disaster in a lot of ways. Then again, it might just be crazy enough to work.

Love it or hate it, it is generating a lot of traffic. I'm sure the site's founder will make a pretty penny no matter how things fall out. Am I kicking the door down to sign up and give my work away for free? Well, maybe not but I too might check out the site. There is something to be said for old images, tossing them away, seeing what sticks. A bit like donating old clothing to Goodwill, of sorts. Somebody might as well use them, right? And, let's face it, more exposure could not hurt, right?

The site itself, along with the opinion piece in question also raises a lot of questions about the future of photography, how we'll make money, how the business end of things is changing, and changing a lot. The average stock sales total a whopping $511 a year. That's certainly not enough to live off of, right? It can be hard to make a living at this and the recent influx of new technology, great cameras, and the like have a downside. Sure, it's great to have access to new technology, but it also opens up the world of photography to a lot more people. We look at and experience more images now than ever before but, as a society, as a culture, as a human race, we're also making images more than ever before too. Everybody everywhere, it would appear, has a camera and is a photographer. Between that and the Internet taking over while morphing itself every two years or so, why, it puts some established photographers in a pickle.

Now, I don't pretend to have any easy answers but the questions themselves, they are a bit interesting to me. It seems like we are always in the wait and see mode yet, somehow, I also always feel like I'm just ten feet shy of getting that big break and making it. Fun times, I swear, fun times. Well, fun times and a bunch of stuff to think about if you're so-inclined.

Until next time...

PS This one taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens. Zilker Botanical Garden, rustling about indeed.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Forsaken at SE Center for Photography and Minted Prints Available

Soft detailed close up shot of an blue green agave plant from Texas
I have a couple of show news type items to tell you about. For starters, the "Forsaken" show at the SE Center of Photography has opened. You can browse the work at the following link:

The show will run until 8/27. The Center is located at 1239 Pendleton St, Greenville, SC, 29611 in case anybody reading this is in the area and wants to pop in to check it out. 

Next up, I have included a new print in my store. As a reminder, you can get limited edition prints of selected pieces on the website. Here's a link to my storefront:

Until next time...

Friday, August 04, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - August 4th

A delicate compositional detail of grass growing with some flora included, from Zilker Park in Austin Texas
It's that time again. Time for opportunity weekend. Here are some opportunities for you:
 Best of luck with the many opportunities that are out there for you.

Until next time...

PS This one from Zilker Park, taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens. Oh, how I love me some Zilker Park, even in this dreaded heat.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - July 28th

Fine art brightly colored abstract image including circles and stripes
It's the last weekend in July. Phew! Time sure flies when you are having fun. You are having fun, aren't you? Time for some great opportunities for you. Here are this week's opportunities:
Lots of opportunities for you photographers out there. Get after it, as they say. Get after it already!
G'luck getting after it.

Until next time...

PS This is one the abstracts I was working with from the "object of my obsession" photo shoot earlier. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Small Town in Each of Us

I firmly believe there is a small town in each of us. That deep, somewhere down deep, there is a yearning to be recognized, not as some kind of freak celebrity type, but just as a guy (or gal) who walks down the street and catches a hat tip from a stranger. That we can hold the door and smile as we walk into the bank or the post office and that there is a local diner somewhere with an otherwise ornery waitress who knows our name and how we take our morning coffee. You know the kind of place I'm talking about here. The kind of place where we fit in. The kind of place where everybody knows us, maybe not directly, but they know our family and they know our lives. Where we are a local, love us or hate us.

I think a big part of what I do photographically is try to find that same small town. I explore small cities (and big cities alike, if I'm being honest) looking for the charm, that grace, that can only be found within the confines of the tiny village. Sometimes I find it in the neighborhoods of the larger cities, but I'm always hunting, always digging, for that connection. That little familiar place where everybody knows everybody and the morning paper doesn't really reveal any shocking news, at least nothing we didn't hear from the town gossip just yesterday afternoon. Yes, I firmly believe there is a small town in each of us.

Maybe it's because I grew up, was raised actually, in a small town just outside of a big city, a really big city, one of the largest in fact. There was always some kind of incongruity there. The small town, where everybody knew my name, felt barren and bleak at times. Like any small town, when I was sowing my wild oats, I wanted to get out, get as far away as I possibly could if, for no other reason, than to prove I actually had it in me to escape. The big city was just that, really big. It had it's neighborhoods and I was once a part of that, but it always felt distant. I was a little bit like a boat approaching a shore, that city was just over the next horizon, so close and yet so out of reach in so many ways. Still, the city had a drumbeat all its own. Big as it was, it too was chopped up into bits and pieces, a tapestry of neighborhoods woven together like some kind of urban quilt. The city was always there, yes, but everybody had a bit of small town in them too when you boiled things down to Johnny in that neighborhood or Jane over here in this one. It's just how things were. The city was so big, it was actually just a fusion of multiple, so very many, small towns.

I still think there is a small town in each of us. We each, each and every one of us, can be defined in some ways by our own personal geographic bubbles. Maybe it's the voyeur in me, but I like exploring those small towns, finding them, revealing them, stretching their limits at times, or perhaps just celebrating them in my own little way. It's kind of a part of what I do, maybe it contributes a bit towards explaining why I like to photograph architecture so much. I'm always looking out for that small town. You may laugh or disregard this, but I know it's out there and I'm determined to find it and show it to you the best way that I know how.

Is there a small town in you?

Until next time...

PS This one taken in a small town on the island of Santorini, near the city of Fira. Pink and white buildings at dusk, with a couple of blue domes thrown in for good measure.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Beat the Heat

Interior view of stairs and railing taken inside a ferry boat.
It's been mercilessly hot here in River City, so much so that I've decided to present a few tips for shooting in the hot weather. These are some suggestions I have for you to beat the heat as a photographer.

For starters, hydration is often key to feeling not as hot. As photographers, it's important that we do not forget sunscreen and drink plenty of water. Comfort is key and, while it's almost impossible remaining comfortable when the temps climb up above the 100 degree mark, you want to make sure you take steps to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Lots and lots of water, sunscreen, and a hat but be careful to make sure your hat does not cut off or vignette your camera view. Don't get your hat in front of your lens and you'll be fine.

Shade is your friend as a photographer in the heat. Even if you are standing in full sun and shooting into the shade, make sure you spend some time ducking into the shade for some cover from time to time, just to keep yourself from overheating.

Timing is everything in photography and here too it can help you. Here in Texas, the hottest part of the day hits us about 4 or 5 o'clock. This is also not the greatest time for good light conditions. If you can, to beat the heat, I recommend shooting in the golden light as much as possible. Think early morning and just before sunset. These times not only give you great light but they can offer up a break from the heat. As the sun gets low in the sky it makes for better photography and a cooler photographer so make the most of it. The key is find out when the hottest part of the day is and try to avoid working during those hours, instead concentrating on times where it's a bit cooler.

Don't rule out night shooting. Summertime is a great time to get outdoors at night, after that brutal sun has set in the sky. Don't be afraid to try your hand at some long exposure shots after dark or even to mull around some city scenes to shoot things like shops after dark. This is a great time to do it.

Finally, think about lighter gear. Summertime can be a great time to get out the iPhone and work some mobile photography. Packing a lighter camera can help you feel a lot less of the heat stress, since you won't have that big gear to lug around. It can also free you up to shoot things like food, indoor shots, and the like, which always work when it's hot outside. Think about places where people go to cool off, such as watering holes, swimming pools, the beach, or an indoor paradise like the mall or the movies. If you've always wanted to shoot some of these places, why now is a great time. Work with what you've got and make the most of it, for winter will be here soon enough.

I hope these tips come in handy for these dog days of summer, and I hope you keep shooting, even in this blasted heat.

Until next time...

PS This one taken on the ferry up in Washington State. Another way to get out of the heat is to plant yourself on a boat, even a ferry like this one will do.