Saturday, December 30, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - December 30, 2017

Funky bird's eye view of a bed in a hotel room, Guilin, China
It's the last opportunity weekend of 2017. Happy New Year! Are you sleeping in for the New Year or are you up and about and ready to send some work off in the new year? Time to rise and shine and, well, shine with some opportunities for you:
That's a bunch of calls which should help get your new year started off right. Good luck and get after here. Here's hoping your 2018 brings you lots of new opportunities.

Until next time...

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Notes from the Road - Guilin, China: The Tea Ceremony

Details of a tea ceremony in Guilin China. This image shows the tea preparations.
We left off last time with me telling you a bit about Kevin and how I had attended a tea ceremony. The full tasting ceremony takes five hours and is quite complicated. The people serving the tea have to take a special bath and put their hair up a certain way. It was explained to us how this is done and then they told us we would be getting a shorter ceremony. We were happy about that, although I can only imagine how much fun the longer one would be.

For our tasting, we had three different teas to try. One was a mountain yellow tea. It was very light, even our host called it a sort of "ladies tea" due to it being very light. I liked it but did get a sense it was quite light. The next tea was osmanthus tea which is made by mixing in the local osmanthus flowers (these are the flowers local to Guilin.) We were told the first tea had monk fruit in it and the second tea was sort of like the monk fruit tea only with the osmanthus flowers mixed in. The last tea we tried was a brick tea. These type of teas are stronger, very strong in fact, and good for losing weight. I found it to be very good, I rather liked the brick tea but then I am a tea drinker and not shy of a stronger tea. Kevin said they drink the brick tea in Mongolia, in parts north, and in places like Tibet. It's colder in these locations and they cannot get fresh teas there year round. Also, it's hardy for them to drink. You can re-use the tea bricks, something like four or five times. To use a tea brick, we were told, cut it and break off a piece of the brick. One portion is about the size of your thumb's fingernail.

It was explained to us how you should always "wash" tea with warm water. You dip the tea in water and pour the water off, then allow the tea to steep. It's better that way. In the picture above, the small pots are placed inside the larger pots as they "wash" the tea in this way. It brings out the flavor of the tea.

Tea has more caffeine than coffee but, with tea, we do not eat the leaves of the plant so our bodies do not absorb the caffeine. With coffee, you eat the plant so you're basically eating the caffeine, which is why it "works" on us as a stimulant. Even though tea technically has more caffeine, drinking a cup of tea is about equivalent to taking a short nap. It's refreshing if you do it correctly. Tourist tea or "teabag" tea is typically made from older leaves. In China, they do not use many tea bag teas and it's considered not as desirable. I have always preferred loose tea but I am such a tea drinker that I will grudgingly admit a tea bag is better than no tea at all. We were also told that a "lazy teacup" is like a strainer for loose tea-it's kind of an all in one type deal for the office or for when you are being "lazy" and don't want to mess with an entire pot. This is how I typically enjoy my tea. Even if you use a "lazy teacup" you should still rinse you tea. (It will still taste better.)

Next up, were we told how to hold the teacup for tasting. A woman holds the teacup with one hand, using her first and third (thumb and middle) fingers, with her smallest finger on the bottom of the cup. Using the other hand, she extends her index finger to meet the finger from her other hand on the bottom of the cup. She also puts together her first and third fingers to meet the other hand.

Regardless of gender, the tasting cup must be finished in three sips, no more no less. You do not say "thank you" when being served tea, rather you tap the table with your fingers straight and extended. They told us you tap one finger if you are single and two fingers if married. The entire ceremony is a wonderful tradition and I'm so happy to have experienced it. It's one of those bucket list items for me. I'll now forever be able to see "I once picked tea in China and got to attend a tea tasting ceremony." I mean, really, how can you beat that, right? Especially for somebody like me who is really quite a tea drinker, it was a wonderful experience. The tea place we visited was wonderful and highly recommended. It's called the Guilin Tea Research Institute. You can read more about them on their link: They also ship tea directly to the United States (and around the world) and they take PayPal so it's pretty easy if you want to order yourself some tea from Guilin.

The bus out to the tea place was kind of fun itself. The neighborhood was more suburban, where real people live and a lot less touristy than parts of the downtown Guilin areas (there are very touristy areas in Guilin.) It was really great to see that as well. I saw a Honda car like mine and somebody out walking a dog. Little things like this that make for a wonderful exchange. Of course, the folks at the tea institute were very well versed in all things tea.

Until next time...

PS This image taken inside the tea ceremony. You can see the bowls they use for rinsing and then later serving the tea.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - December 23rd, 2017

I hope Santa brings you lots of art related gifts this year. Trying to do my own little part, I'm going to share with you some gifts of opportunity this holiday season:
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and that Santa brings you lots of fantastic new opportunities in the new year.

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Insert Your End of the Year Drama in Here Please

It's almost the end of the year. Are you feeling the drama yet? This time of year is a time that lends itself to thinking about work we've done, work we wanted to do, shots we've taken, maybe some we've missed. For some reason, photographers are a very introspective bunch and we tend to use the end of the year to really take stock of where we are, who we are, how our voices and visions are aligning, and where we want to go next. Like most photographers, I'm not immune to these annual pangs of retrospection. I anticipate a host of end of the year posts, a recap and highlight reel if you will of where I've been, where I want to go, and the like.

For me, this year took some really unexpected turns (who ever thought I would drop twenty pounds and wind up in China? Show of hands, please...yeah, I thought not. Honestly, last January that was the farthest thing from my mind.) One thing I guess you could say I have learned the hard way is that, well, I've grown to expect the unexpected. Photography is a wonderful gift. I've often said it pays me in ways I sometimes even fail to grasp. It has allowed me to travel to remote continents, places I'd never even dreamed I would go, meet wonderful people, share interesting journeys, and bring home captured memories. That's a lot to pack into a carry-on bag, really it is.

Sometimes, I hesitate participating in these typical end of the year round ups because I know, deep in my heart you could say I've grown to expect, I really don't know what tomorrow has in store. In many ways, I've learned to trust the process and have grown to expect, actually embrace, the unexpected. It's the fun in life, right? Photography is a wild ride and I'm hanging onto it for all it's worth. So, bottom line, yes, I'll probably do my own little, "Best of 2017" yada yada and, yes, I'll probably even get corralled into doing at least one, "next year I see myself..." but, honestly, I've no earthly clue what next year has in store for me. I have some ideas, some directions I think I might like to go but I've learned there are many twists and turns down this journey and, at this point anyway, I accept the path. It's my unique journey and I would not have it any other way.

I do hope 2018 finds you in good spirits, good health, and in a good photographic place. I hope you enjoy your own personal journey as much as I try to enjoy mine. I do expect to continue with my usual series here, including my popular Opportunity Weekend as well as any Notes from the Road should I happen to travel (well, you know I do happen to travel.)

Until next time...

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - December 16th, 2017

Are the holidays driving you crazy? Here are some opportunities for you to focus on in-between holiday shopping and eating too much:
These are a bunch to get you started and hopefully spreading some holiday cheer in the form of your artwork. Good luck!

Until next time...

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Notes From the Road - Night Shoot around Guilin and Kevin the Expert

Kevin, a guide from Guilin's tea fields shows us how to pick tea by hand
Today, we went to an abandoned recreation area near town that had an old pagoda, an old red drum, and more. Lots of abandoned and decay type shots, you know how I love those so. It was great fun, as I had a local guide who was very interested in photography and so I had a "partner in crime" of sorts. Lots of fun shooting with somebody and playing around in the decaying architecture. Then we went to the river to see the twin pagodas at night. It was a lovely night and I got to do some night photography out by the river, which I love to do. I'm always a creature of the night, as I love to sneak in a little bit of night photography where ever I go.

Today (Wednesday) we ate at a vegetarian Buddhist cafe. It was wonderful. I love vegetarian food and the food here was quite good. They had like a big buffet and so you could just eat and eat and eat, which I did. Got to try lots of yummy things, such a treat. First we hiked downtown and went to a temple built into a hillside and a market. I will try to go back there at some point. Great shooting opportunities, as I have come to call this the "hidden" area of Guilin. It's more off the beaten (tourist/well worn) path but oh so great for photographing and, frankly, just visiting. I have an extra day here so I will walk there probably on Thursday before I go back home. Great little spot, I could shoot there all day.

In more mundane news, I got on the VPN today and am charging Fitbit so I can keep track of my steps. Walking a lot on this trip, it feels good, although I also do get sore. Much better to walk a lot and eat healthy though. I wish I could do this every day instead of sitting at a desk but that's life sometimes. We have to take the fun stuff when we can get it, right?

Went to tea tasting today. It was wonderful. Our guide, Kevin (pictured here,) was fantastic. I said I was from Austin and he said, "Oh, the state capital!"

Somebody else replied, "No, that's Houston, isn't it?" Kevin was correct, of course, as Austin is the state capital for Texas.

Then, somebody else said they were from Philly and Kevin said, "Oh, that used to be the capital of the US. That's the first capital of the US!"

Somebody else said, "No, that's Washington DC," but, once again, Kevin was right. If you recall your history, Philly was in fact the first capital of the US, it was later moved to DC. Morale of this story is, if you want to know anything about US history, why, I'd ask Kevin, our Chinese tour guide from the tea place. He seems quite up on it and, sadly, we're not so much. I also learned a lot of tea facts from Kevin which I can share with you now. They knead tea almost like pizza dough. It grows on bushes (in case you did not know that, the shrubbery behind Kevin in the picture above is actually a tea bush) with little white and yellow flowers inside the bush. You actually have to move the leaves of the bush aside to see the flowers. At the place we visited, which is a state run facility, they have over 250 tea bush varieties and this can make over 1000's of teas.

The shoots of the bushes are white. If you make tea from the shoots only this becomes white tea or silver leaf tea. It is very expensive or the best type of tea really you can buy. If you make a shoot and one leaf into tea, it's green tea because the leaf will turn the tea green. If you make two leaves or more, it becomes black tea. Basically, the more leaves you add, the darker the tea gets. The shoot is the most pure part of the plant so it's why the white tea is the most sought after of the tea varieties. Oolong tea is semi-fermented. All black tea is fermented for a longer time. Oolong tea is fermented for a shorter time so this is why they call it semi-fermented.

I got to pick a tea leaf! Kevin gave us a hat and five minutes to pick a bush and find one stem and one leaf, basically to pick the makings of some green tea. I did it! Of course, it took me so long, when I presented my findings to Kevin, he said, "You have good quality but not quantity!" It takes about 96,000 leaves to make tea so I have only 95,999 more to go, right? Euf. On the plus side, I wore a hat and had my photo taken with it on so that may surface someday soon. It was an iPhone photo, how did we ever live without those cameras, I'll never know. The tea exploration was quite fun, I really enjoyed it. I would love to go back and just spend some time in that field as well as the gift shop which was fantastic as well. I bought some tea back for the office and for myself as I am such a tea drinker at home. I love the stuff.

Another note about the tea place is that it's all organic. They put up yellow paper, almost like fly paper, to catch bugs. Old leaves they let drop to become fertilizer. They use lights at night to attract bugs also. They smoke (fire) the weeds away. It's all very old school and also organic and healthy at the same time. No pesky chemicals and some really great tea to enjoy. We also went to a tasting ceremony which I'll talk about in a later post. More on this later but, for now, enjoy Kevin, my new friend and expert on both US capitals and, well, all things tea related. Hi there, Kevin! (*Waves*)

Until next time...

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Notes From the Road - China Trip Continued - The Wishing Tree

Wishes written down on leafs blowing in the breeze on a wishing tree, outside Buddhist templte in Seven Star Park, Guilin, China.
More notes from the road tonight...

Tomorrow we go to the big park near the hotel, but first we have Chinese lessons in the morning at the school then we meet our pengyou ("friend" or local guide) and off to explore the park in the afternoon. Tonight, we had a welcome dinner at a place called McFound. We had great eggplant, rice, potatoes, veggies, and the like. The food is really quite good and I found it to be both very healthy (energizing) and quite tasty. All of the places we wound up eating on the trip offered us very good food. At McFound, we also had smoked barley tea which had a slight coffee-like flavor or so we were told. I'm not sure about the coffee taste but I did quite like the tea. The food really was excellent. They served us here, like most of the meals, on a big lazy Susan type of setup and we all eat family style. I managed the chopsticks quite well even eating something the locals dubbed a "Chinese burrito" with them. I'm not the best at chopsticks but getting better each time I use them. I love the fact that I can learn how to do this at my ripe old age. It's evidence that you're never too old to learn new tricks. Over the course of the trip I did not really miss a knife and fork all that much, rather I found the chopsticks to be a nice way of eating. I may invest in a pair for my house now that I have returned home as I actually liked eating with them and they really are not that difficult to use.

I had forgot to post last time about the movie on the plane. The movie was an interesting movie called "The Purpose of Dog." It was a pretty good movie but it made me think about Chase and dogs in general. Sad! I wanted to cry. I would watch the movie again but I have found that when traveling I really do wind up missing my dog the most. Poor little Chase. I know he's ok with my family but he also misses me when I am away.

On October 23rd, Monday of my journey, we went for the Mandarin lessons at the school, CLI. The teacher we had was really very good. I got the impression that you could really learn to speak Mandarin with some time, practice, and patience. I never thought of myself as being very good with languages but I did manage to pick up a couple of words over the course of our studies. Mandarin had four tones to the vowels and there is something called Pinyin which is a way of writing Chinese in what basically amounts to Latin style (English really) characters. Pinyin relies upon the accents but it is something westerners can sort of read so it helps when learning Mandarin. I got the impression that I might be able to learn some Mandarin with the help of the Pinyin but I would face a most difficult time trying to master the characters that make up the Mandarin alphabet. Learning that I reckon would take some time and might just prove impossible for somebody like me, so the Pinyin is very handy.

A couple of things we learned to say, or tried to say: chi fan means to have a meal. Ba ba means father, ma ma means mother. Hen hao means very good. Shi (pronounced like "sha") means yes or it can double as the very to be. Bu shi (pronounced like "bushy") means No. Wo e le means I'm hungry. You can make something into a question by adding the word "ma" at the end. The word wo means I or me.

Enough of my poor man's Mandarin back to notes on photography. On Monday we also went to the Seven Star Park. This park reminded me a bit like Austin's own Zilker Park only perhaps a bit bigger. Inside the park, there is a zoo, a big lake where President Clinton once gave a talk on the environment, and an amusement park of sorts. There is also a Buddhist temple which was an event unto itself and worthy of quite an extended visit. The temple had golden Buddhas and the building itself was sort of built against the mountain. It was really very beautiful. It was actually a series of buildings with one building housing colored (hand painted) giant figures and the main temple had a series of giant golden men as well as a central alter with a giant gold Buddha. There was a courtyard surrounded by a series of buildings each offering some interesting shots. In the courtyard, there was a "wishing tree" where people write wishes on slips of paper made to look like leaves. It's considered a form of meditation to hear leaves rustle in the wind and these "wish" leaves fluttered in the breeze as I sat there and enjoyed the beautiful courtyard. The image above is some of the wishes blowing in the breeze from the wishing tree. It was quite a lovely sight to experience. The entire temple area was quite beautiful and I wound up making a video so I could try to capture it better. At some point, I will try to post to my YouTube channel to share the video so you can see it too.

In more mundane news, I switched hotel rooms, so I am no longer on the fifth floor but now in room 205. It's smaller but less steps, near the bottom. At dinner time, we had something called "squirrel fish" which was not actually squirrel but called that on account of the way the tail of the fish sort of flops over as they cook and prepare it. It was very sweet tasting and I really liked it. Also, we had potato, cabbage, plus some tofu and rice. We had something called corn juice which was served warm and it's sweet, almost like a smoothie of sorts. It was tasty.

Seven Star Park also had Minions and several Disney like statues. There is a practice in China of painting artwork on trees. I found it quite interesting and took some shots of tree art, which I might share later on.

I'll leave you with more Chinese from my lesson the next morning. We learned some numbers, how to count basically, so we could shop and buy food type items as well. This was quite helpful. Then we also learned some photography type terms so we could survive. Zhao Pian means photo. Wo ke yi pai ni ma? Means May I take your picture? They warned us to be careful saying this because, in Mandarin, the very to take can also mean to hit somebody. Wo Xi Huan Pai Zhao Pian means I like to take photo. Zhao Xiang Ji is a camera. Ji is a machine. Ni Hui Shuo Ying Wen Ma? Means can you speak English? The word Cha means tea.

Next up I'll share some experiences from the tourist area, which we visited at night, as well as the Buddhist cafe where we ate lunch.

Until next time...

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - December 9th

Two shoppers browse in a Chinese apothecary market inside the hidden area of Guilin, China
More MARKET-ing opportunities for you this weekend. So sorry, I still cannot resist the puns. I don't know what these folks are buying but here are some opportunities you might be able to sink your teeth into:
 Lots of topics to explore in these calls and lots of marketing opportunities for you. Get after it, as they say. Good luck! 

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Notes From the Road - From China Continued - Shanghai Airport and Guilin Arrival

A Chinese apothecary supply store in a hidden area of Guilin, China. Unknown items for sale displayed here.
Been back a while now but thought I would continue sharing my "Notes from the Road" so here goes....Part 1 is here if you missed in, onto the next part now.

When I last shared notes from the road, I was still talking about the flight over there. On the long haul flight, I sat next to a two year old. Now, when I say that, you're probably thinking, "Oh, poor you! You lost the airline seat lottery or at least somehow deeply angered the great Gods of roaming gnomes!" But, in this case, you'd be wrong. She was quite fun to be with, this little girl was. She only cried or made a fuss one time and that was when she bumped her head (in all fairness, I would have cried too had I bumped my head.) What a charming little lady, I still can't believe it.

I had my first dumpling on the plane. They served us two meals, as they frequently do on those long haul flights. The first was some kind of fish, I think tilapia with potatoes. Nothing to write home about but not bad either. The second meal was fried rice and a chicken dumpling. Oh, now that was fabulous! Probably one of the better meals I've had on a plane in a lone time. It had fresh fruit and ginger cake. Really very good.

After the long flight it was onto Shanghai Airport. This was quite an adventure. I had to switch terminals. I had no idea Shanghai Airport is one of the larger airports in the world or some such thing. It had been described to me (by the Internets...never trust the Internets) as being "small for a city of such size." Don't believe the hype. Phew! What an airport. It's big. It's divided into two terminals: Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Logically named, yes, but logic does not get you too far in terms of airport terminals these days. One terminal is reserved for mostly international flights, while the other is mostly local transport. The international airport was bustling with shops, restaurants, lots of people mulling about, and all sorts of activity. Luckily, I had six hours of layover. I had to go through customs and inspections, baggage claim, switch terminals, and meet up with my contact. Phew! I needed about two days for all of that. The customs line took about an hour. It was slow moving with a lot of pokes and prods here and there. Then, I had to do baggage claim which was fun and go off to security but first find the other terminal. Turns out they have a shuttle bus going between terminals so I had to juggle all luggage onto and off of the shuttle bus, not to mention find it first. I mentioned I had six hours, right? Yeah, there goes one right there. Eventually, I found my way to the local terminal where it was a bit strange to be the only non-Asian person for what felt like miles. Welcome to Shanghai! It's China now and I loved it. Actually, it reminded me a bit how the world is a small place. We are all interconnected people and people are people where ever you go. Bustling airports tend to resemble each other the world over but it still felt a bit like magic being lost in this new one, completely on the other side of the world.

I planted myself next to a potted plant and waited for my contact Beth to arrive. I had no idea what she looked like so I just walked up to any non-Asian female and asked, "Beth?" I stopped three people in as many hours before they announced the plane loading. I was getting a little worried when I saw a lady walk up. I shouted, "Beth?" and she replied, "Carol!" She was very happy to see me and I was super happy she had made the flight. She told me about her ordeal, of sorts. Luckily, she had met a German tour guide who helped her navigate customs and she made the flight as it was boarding. Thank goodness nobody got left behind in Shanghai and we were on our way to Guilin now.

The plane was very modern and nice, the flight short, and we touched down (hard I might add-turns out the pilots in China like harder landings than the rest of the world) in Guilin at 11:55 pm, just before midnight. We met our guide at the airport who took us to a waiting car which would transport us to the hotel. It's about an hour from the airport to hotel, really that much time between the airport and anywhere else in the city, but a little bit less at midnight without traffic so we clocked in at 1 am. The hotel is lovely, more to come on this later.

While in line in customs, I heard somebody behind me talking English. Turned out to be a couple from Toronto. She was on a cruise with about 100 more Canadians and I had somehow gotten in the middle of this group of travelers as we passed into customs, waiting in line to process. She was very rude and loud and all I could think was, "Phew! At least she's Canadian." She kept insisting the "airport people" speak English. I told her that it was China and she should learn Chinese if she wanted to converse. She kept insisting, "But it's an airport. They should all learn 50 words in English!" Yes, lady, it's an airport, but it's a Chinese airport. What do you expect? Do you even speak one word of Chinese or make an attempt? Have a phrase book? Try to learn or even slow down while you're speaking? At one point, she used the dreaded, "these people" expression. Really? "These people!" I really hate that expression and personally try to ban it while traveling. Yes, I know we're all tired, it's late, you're hungry and have been stuffed on a plane for what seems like an eternity but, come on, "these people." Don't blame the people who work in the airport. They are doing a job and trying to help you. For the most part, the world over, I have found that people who work in airports are trying to help. "These people" are just like you, lady. Enough on my soapbox, let's just say I'm glad that I did not get strip searched because I was standing next to her as I passed through customs.

While in line in customs, I also heard a familiar language. Sounded a bit like Spanish but not quite so I asked, "Italiano?" The man, just having heard my accent and recognizing it, he responded, "No, we speak Portuguese." He was very nice and went on to tell me they were visiting from Brazil and that Portuguese is a beautiful language. A nice "ambassador" for Brazil right there. It amazes me how some can be so pleasant and some so harsh although this is a first for me. Nasty Canadians? I've not heard that before but there you have it.

The hotel is on a side street which is nice, kind of off the beaten path. It's more quiet although I should point out they like to light off firecrackers at all hours of the day and night. It's loud but part of the story. While I could have done without the firecrackers at 3am I can't claim to want to banish them completely either. VPN access is spotty and I wind up spending most of my time away from the computer so no worries there. I have to, at some point, upload some pictures, right?

These are my notes from my arrival and landing in Shanghai and my very first night in Guilin. I'll continue with my notes from the road, Guilin version at some point in the near future.

Until next time...

PS This image taken in the apothecary aka "medicine market" in a quiet little hidden area of Guilin. It was most charming down this way and I really enjoyed strolling through this part of the city.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - December 2nd

Time for some MARKET-ing. Sorry, I could not resist the bad visual pun there. Puns aside, it's time for some opportunities for you.
 That's a lot to fit into one shopping bag. Good luck!

Until next time...

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - November 18th

A beautifully colored door detail showing red and green paint and rusted locks from a door in Guilin, China.
Will this weekend unlock some opportunities for you? I am going to do my part to try to help you out here by passing along some opportunities for you. Here they are:
I hope this unlocks a bunch of opportunities for you. Best of luck and get after it as they say.

Until next time...

Sunday, November 12, 2017

It's Video Time

Been working on some of my images for an upcoming share and I decided to make a little video. Now, it's not really a video, it's more like stills setup in iMovie with some music set to the background but it kind of looks like a video. You know what they say, right, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and it quacks...yeah, so that. It's an almost video video from Guilin. I hope you like it.

Most of the laundry is now done, and I still owe you some notes from the road and, of course, my top 10 list. This one promises to be a crazy one so let's hope I get off my duff and get 'er done, as they say 'round these parts. Until then you will just have to settle for a little non-movie movie from China. (What? Were you hoping for some popcorn? Get your own, man, get your own.)

Until next time...

PS This little movie made in iMovie out of images shot on a Canon 5DS. Set to music that's royalty free and available on iTunes and Vimeo. Enjoy!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - November 10th

Beautiful reflection of colorful red stools next to a pond in Guilin China
Pull up a stool and reflect on some happy opportunities for you this weekend. Here we go:
 There are a bunch more out there but these should get you started. Good luck! 

Until next time...


Thursday, November 09, 2017

Pagoda and a Little Luck

A beautiful reflection of an old pagoda off the beaten path in Guilin, China.
In case it's not clear from my prior ramblings, I'm back from my trip. Notes from the Road and also Opportunity Weekend will hopefully now continue as they were. I just wanted to pop in and talk a little about my experience in China and my return.

China is a beautiful country and this was an amazing opportunity. I love the fact that I was able to go there for a visit and take some photos. I honestly don't know what to make of it. In many ways, I feel like this was a beginning of an exploration for me of sorts. It's as if I really want to go back again, and maybe spend a month there or more. Perhaps I left with just a taste of what I want to do. That's OK though, as I really enjoyed my stay there and started thinking about what I really want to do photographically. The food was wonderful, the scenery fantastic, the group was great, we all had a great time. I just wish I could go back again or maybe if I could have stayed longer, that's all. It's hard to get a feel for a place that's so far away in such a short time but I tried. China really is on the other side of the world and it felt that way in many ways.

Perhaps the most positive aspect of my trip was that I really felt like I got away. I had been in a sort of a rut before I left and, let's face it, I really needed a vacation. This was all of that and more. I got to do some exploring, I got to do some magical discoveries, I got to see things I thought only existed in books. I got to see a little bit what life is like on the other side of the world. That was a great opportunity and I'm so thankful I got to go and got to see and share what I did. In some ways, it left me feeling I want more but it was a wonderful experience.

In Austin now, the cold has moved in and winter is all but upon us. It's also time for the annual madness that is the East Austin Studio Tour (EAST.) Now, I'm not participating in EAST this year but I am always somewhat impacted by the chaos, the shows, the energy of it all. The season has definitely changed, I can feel this in the air. It's good to be back home again, to feel more refreshed, to witness the new season dawning upon us, and to start the process of processing the images from the trip. It's going to take a while I'm sure but that's where I'm at right now.

At least part of my head will always be on a quiet hill, in the back alleys and unknown little pockets of Guilin. It's a magical place and I'm so happy I got to take a peek inside this other world, even if it was only for a little bit. More to come on this, I'm sure, but this is me checking in, back from the other side of the world this time.

Until next time...

PS This one taken in a hidden area in Guilin, China, with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Notes From the Road

Made it back down from the mountain village, where the air was cool and crisp. Lots of good shooting, not much time to process or post. Thought I would leave you with a pagoda for your thoughts. More when I am back States-side. Until then, here is the sun and moon pagoda, as seen at night.

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Notes From the Road

No picture today, as I am on the road and can't upload right now. I did want to post some notes from the road, so here goes.

Travel to and first day notes 

The flights...the flights...what can I say about the flights? It's hard sitting your butt down in one place for twelve hours at one time, really it is. On the whole, the experience was not so bad. The flight to Seattle was cramped, as I expected it to be, with Seattle and Austin both being high tech hubs. It was packed in there pretty good and we had a smaller older plane. Bah. I hate that. Everybody should get a new plane. Like Oprah. "New plane for you! New plane for you! Everybody gets a new plane!" 

You know the feeling when you can't quite get comfortable? Yeah, it felt like that. But it's a short four hour flight compared to the long hauls so not too bad. Once in Seattle, I had to change terminals two times. This is not hard. The airport is relatively easy to navigate. I made my way to terminal S which is the terminal that has customs and is used for international flights. It's like little China in there. They ran the announcements in Chinese and English. Starting to feel a bit closer now to my destination. Then it was time to board the big bird. Luckily, I had a Dreamliner which offers up a comfortable flight. I had an aisle seat so I could stick my legs out. 

More to come as I can....

Until next time...

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Odds, Ends, and Opportunities

A couple of odds and ends for today. For starters, I found out I was nominated for a 2017 Black and White Spider Award. You can see the gallery of entries here: I really love the Spider awards because the work is usually top quality. This really is the best of black and white photography so I would encourage you to have a look and even spend some quality time with this site. It's wonderful.

Next up, a couple of opportunities for you:
I think that should be a good enough hint as to where I'm at over the next couple of weeks. Safe travels and good light!

Until next time...

PS This one taken with the 5DS and the 100mm macro lens. The place I'm going is actually pictured on that 20 Yuan bank note. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - October 13th

Happy Friday the 13th! Are you ready for some superstitious opportunities? Here goes:
 While it's not 13 entries it should be enough to get you started on this wonderful Friday the 13th. Good luck!

Until next time...

Friday, October 06, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - October 6th

A girl peeks out a window frame in the J Lorraine Ghost Town of Manor, Texas
Let's take a peek at some opportunities for you this weekend, shall we? Here are some things you might want to check out:
Best of luck getting your work out there and getting after it.

Until next time...

PS This one taken at the Austin area ghost town, Canon 5DS with the walkabout lens. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Opportunity Weekend - September 30th

A corner shop with pastel colored trim has purple and green chairs out front, including a holiday wreath, in Salado, Texas
Yes, yes, I know I'm late. I was supposed to do Opportunity Weekend yesterday but I'm here with you in spirit today so that you can still maybe get after it this weekend (well, maybe a little bit.) I've been stuck in bed with the flu you see so I'm a bit slower catching up with everything this weekend. Apologies for this as I hope to be getting back to my regular old self as soon as possible. I feel quite like those folks who never take down their holiday decor or who just go through life a bit more slowly than the rest of us. Man, have I been dragging. But, it's all good, all good. I guess the old bones needed a bit of a rest. So, while I'm getting after getting back into good health, I offer up some opportunities for you to get after it:
 Several all media shows for the painters in the bunch this week. Best of luck with your entries.

Until next time...

PS This image from Salado, Texas taken over the holiday season, Canon 5DS and walkabout lens.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Mountain of Flash Memory, Oh How It Grows

Interior view of an historic schoolhouse in Stonewall, Texas as part of the Gillespie County Historic School house tour.
So, the mountain of flash memory is starting to pile up. This time around, I was having a bit of a dilemma in calculating just how much flash memory I am going to need. I know it's quite a lot. Heck, *you* know it's quite a lot but how exactly to calculate just how much is a lot, right? I mean, is it bigger than a breadbox or are we talking an entire Volkswagen here? What to do, what to do? I hatched a plan, actually, I've been using this technique for a while and I thought I would share. Please forgive if this is obvious but it might not be to some folks so I thought I would share just in case.

For starters, I calculate how much my camera can fit on a flash memory card. Each camera will be different so, if you are following along in an attempt to do this for yourself, you will need to figure out how many frames your particular camera can fit onto, say, a 32GB card. For me, the specs are as follows: I can get approximately 439 frames on a 32GB card and approximately 870 frames on a 64 GB card (the reason it is not exactly doubled has to do with the space reserved for the index that gets written to the card. You don't need to know that, just dig up the number of frames you particular camera can fit onto a few popular sized cards and you will be all set. It's an approximation anyway, right, as you really can't tell how much you are going to shot until, well, until you actually shoot. If you can't find this information on the Internet, you can always put one card in and see how many images your camera tells you that you have left. Whatever works, right?)

The next estimation is a bit trickier. You have to figure the number of days you will be shooting (in my case, that's 15) and the number of hours you will be shooting per day. Now, I shoot a lot of night work and I prefer to over compensate for flash memory so I generally estimate I will be shooting 12 hours a day, this time for 15 days of shooting in total. Once you have this number, this is the really tricky calculation. You have to guess how many frames an hour you would be shooting. Usually, I go with 100 because that's kind of a brisk pace, although your results may vary. Generally speaking though, you can guesstimate how many frames an hour you shoot more easily than you can how many frames a day so I like to break it down this way. For my particular shooting, I have come up with the following estimates: 15 days of shooting (this is 1 higher than actual shooting, by the way) 12 hours a day, 100 frames an hour.

Next comes the fun part. Multiple theses numbers together to come up with your total frame count. In my case, it would be 15x12x100 which works out to be 18,000. So, based on my back of napkin calculations, I'll be shooting roughly 18,000 frames and I should plan for that. Often, quite often in fact, I estimate this number on the high side and on the low side. So, let's say I might estimate 15 days of shooting, 18 hours a day, 100 frames an hour. That works out to be about 27,000. Likewise, I estimate a low estimate and, for this time, I've come up with about 10,000 frames. Then, I round off profusely. For this time, I've estimated my total frames to be between 10,000 and 30,000. (Yes, I know that's a lot of shooting. We'll see if I actually shoot that much but I have to plan on the high side, always on the high side, so I don't run out of flash memory.)

Given that I can fit 439 frames on a 32 GB card and 870 frames on a 64GB card, that leaves me needing roughly 18,000 frames at 439 images per 32 GB card or 18,000/439 which works out to be about 41 memory cards. My estimates work out to anywhere between 22 and 68 and so I'll probably aim for that nice 41 card middle ground, maybe a little bit over that for my target.

A couple of other points:
  • I know, I just know some Dobie Do Right is going to come along and take this apart by saying, "you know you can reuse flash memory, right?" Yes, Dobie, I do know that. The problem is, when you are traveling, you often don't have time to upload. If I'm shooting literally morning, noon, and night, when might I actually have time to upload anything I'm shooting? I have to plan to not be able to reuse these cards since I can't plan on having time to upload. I'm not going to risk running out. I have to shoot, shoot, shoot and upload later.
  • Part two of the Dobie Do Right conversation is now going to be, "You know you can buy larger cards right? So you don't have to take as many and it'll hold more?" Yes, Dobie, I know cards come in varying sizes. The problem is, if you have a card go bad, you risk losing all of the images on it. I don't want to risk losing that many images if I can help it so I like to break down my shooting across multiple cards. This also helps in the rare occasion that I get a break from shooting and might be able to upload something. I don't want to spend 400 hours uploading one card. Smaller/multiple cards is a better solution. It also allows me to leave cards back at hotel room for example, and just take the days shooting in case say my bag falls into a waterfall. Lots of reasons to not just stuff everything onto one giant card, but they all fall into your basic "one egg/one basket" philosophy here.
  • For those who think this is way too much flash memory, it probably is. I'm not sure I can keep up this kind of shooting pace but, like I said, I want to have more, way more, and be able to have leftover cards vs running out of cards and having to scramble to get more. I can use the flash memory when I get home but it's hard to come by on the road so I opt to travel with more and bring home any unused. Works out better this way. 
  • For those who think this is expensive, you don't want to spend a lot of money on a trip and be afraid to shoot for fear of running out of memory cards. I like to shoot. This is what I do, and shoot I will. Flash memory is still cheap in a lot of ways. It's a lot lighter than film and less fragile not to mention the development process is a lot easier. I love the fact that I can shoot more and not have to worry about running out. It's only memory cards after all, shoot away!
  • For those who ask, "don't you delete images you don't like to make room for more/new ones?" No, I never delete from my cards. Often, I don't post process images but I always opt to leave images on the cards, upload them, and evaluate them on my computer before tossing them. It's my workflow, just how I work. Sometimes, I can't make up my mind about an image until after a long time has passed. I like to go back and revisit images from time to time as well. The image you see here was actually shot last summer and only processed now. That's how I work. Had I deleted this, why, I would not have it now. I make a rule to almost never delete on card, to just keep shooting, and see what the camera gives me.
  • For those who ask why I would want to do this, well it's beats staying at home, doesn't it? Once again, this what I do, this is who I am. I shoot a lot, I love to shoot, I'm a photographer. Did you expect me to knit a blanket instead? If I did that, would you expect me to only buy one ball of yarn? Nope. Not going to happen. Mountain of flash memory for me it is.
Apologies if I am being snarky or if any of my math is wrong. I'm a bit under the weather today and not had much to eat so I might be a bit off on some things. Must double check all of this tomorrow. For right now anyway, the memory cards have started to show up. I've ordered a bunch. I think I'm up to the 19 card mark with more on the way. Forty one cards is not a heck of a lot when it comes down to it. Forty one cards, a raincoat, a giant passport stamp and a tasty dumpling. And you think I'm crazy for not wanting to pass that up? Man, I wish I could be out the door tomorrow.

Until next time...

PS This one from the historic Gillespie County Schoolhouse tour. Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens on a hot summer day.

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.