Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Power of Music

Every once in a while, I find myself caught completely off guard by a song I hear. I won't even have to hear the song for a flood of memories to rush in and get me reminiscing of a time and place that happened half a life-time ago. Mostly, I think about the people that were in my life... and on occasion one song reminds me of one person along with all of the decisions that were made that helped shape that relationship.

Now, don't get me wrong: A lot of people get this feeling of nostalgia that comes along with hearing an old tune on the radio, but I find myself literally caught off guard, including a rush of emotions that leaves me feeling vulnerable. It's a rather strange feeling.

Even more strange is the thought that hearing a song that was written well-after a time in my past can remind me of a person, and then the song that I associate with that person plays in my head at the same time the newer song is playing... I guess it isn't true what they say: Men DO have a multi-track mind.

Although the person that I'm reminded of will never read this post, I feel compelled to tell a story with as much ambiguity as possible... I know that sucks for the reader, but since there are only 3 people that follow this blog... I think I'm in the clear. ;-)

I'll start off with the song that was written well after the memories I have: The Dillinger Escape Plan's Parasitic Twins. The words have made me think about the same person EVERY TIME I've heard them. What's most astounding about this song is the words just.... remind of things that I should have said, but didn't say... because I didn't know I had a time limit to say them. It's like it's a dying man's lament in regards to the proverbial "shoulda, coulda, woulda." The video I'm attaching isn't a video of the band... but it's portrayed exactly the way that my memory fits the song:

Obviously, the old lady is the "girl" that I'm finding myself thinking about.... She made things for me; Not in the literal sense, but the proverbial. I adored her... Actually loved her... Deeply... and I never told her the depth of my feelings because there was never an appropriate time to do it. As a result, we never dated. What's super strange is I find myself to actually be in this video twice: In one instance, I'm the extraordinarily-tall gentlemen that's dancing and carrying on with the old lady. And in the other, I'm the "bell hop" that's simply watching, even guiding myself in the dream/fantasy that has been created. I can't really interact with myself. One skewed (yet incredibly accurate) detail is that the old lady in the video is how I see the person in my life now... It's like she has aged after the time the memory was created.... but I didn't. That's why this video is so fitting to the song in my head. I didn't age in my memory... but I can't allow her to not age due to the passage of time. She's still beautiful, but the passage of time for her is indicative of not being able to go back and "fix" my mistakes.


Mistakes is what brings me to the original memory that was created: Cake's Never There. It's the song that was present when I was deeply lamenting over what had happened. The live version is actually better since it's incredibly imperfect... but you can hear John McCrea's voice just so "angry" about what happened. That live voice can't hide what he was able to during the recording of the album... It's true: I was literally angry, and hurt, when my moment had passed and I had done nothing:

Anyway, the passage of time can allow some wounds to heal, but when you hear an old (or newer) song that causes those feelings to rush back and try to tear you apart again. It's agonizing. Don't get me wrong: I love my life now and how it is, but when those feelings from the past rush back in it's incredibly painful despite what the current situation in life is.

Drop a comment if you know what I'm talking about... Or don't.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lightroom 5, Adjustment Brush Chaos

Last week I upgraded from Lightroom2 to Lightroom5. It's a rather large revision integer increase... but from what I've heard about the adjustment brushes being enhanced it seemed like the time to do it.

Given: My setup is not a traditional photographer's setup being that my extensive background in IT prevents me from having a "normal" setup. I simply know better than to just "let it be."

With that said, here is a list of geeky stats that mortals can feel free to skip without retribution:
AMD AthlonII X3 455 - (3.3GHz TripleCore)
GSkill 2x4GB DDR3 1600
Seagate 250GB (7200.10) for the filesystem
WD 2x500GB (620AS) (RAID1) for the DNGs, JPGs, and LR Catalog Backups
IBM LTO2 Drive for Long Term Archiving
Ubuntu 13.04 x64 HOST
Windows 7 SP1 x64 Guest (with 2cores, 4GB RAM, and 40GB HD reserved)

As most geeks can see, my system is fairly modest as far as components go. In LR2 (XP Guest) I noticed when using SyncAll and Exporting that it would take quite a while to get those functions done. I believe that this is purely due to a lack of available clock cycles and RAM. Upgrading hardware has been on my To Do list for two years, but I'm content just grabbing a bite to eat while I export photos.

Regular Folk continue reading here:
My initial review of it is that it's faster in some ways and slower in others. The interface loads faster than LR2. Exporting photos and Adjustment brushes execute about the same. What is slower is the backup of the catalog. I don't segregate my catalogs like other folks I know so everything is in one giant file going back to 2011 so this isn't a big factor for those folks.

I've tried the new sharpening algorithms and I was able to take a photo with unacceptable sharpness to acceptable. That's something that LR2 wouldn't have been able to handle: Out of Focus edges stayed out of focus and unrecoverable. So this bit is fairly impressive. Don't think that the new sharpening will save your ass when you blow it though since this isn't magic. Those of you with Canon 85/1.2 will still have blurry eyes of you're not paying attention. My tests at 35/2.4 (which is fairly forgiving) still had issues when it came to being loose with focus points and technique.

The Noise Reduction is definitely better than LR2, but again, it's not magic. My test shots at ISO800 were passable, but still not anything good enough for me to share online. More Light is Better. Good Technique when shooting saves more time with better results than the "fix it in post" mentality.

One issue that miffed me was the adjustment brush wouldn't appear in the Develop module unless I hovered over the Size and Feathering sliders.

Mouse hovering over image field (no, really... totally invisible):

Mouse hovering over Size slider:

I could still use the brushes, but obviously accuracy was in the crapper since I couldn't actually see where the brush IS...only where it HAD BEEN. This is obviously troublesome for workflow. I found an article HERE that talked about this issue, but I thought I'd walk through it briefly while I was talking about it. All that I needed to do was decrease the amount of acceleration that was being used for the video card. (Sidenote: Yes, this affected Windows7 when natively installed as well as virtual machines.)

Firstly, use the Control Panel to bring up the Display Settings, then select Advanced Settings:

 Then select the Troubleshoot Tab, then click on Change Settings:

From here, back off the Hardware Acceleration slider from Full to the Next-Best setting and click OK:

Once your back into the Adjustment Brush Tool in the Develop Module, the brush is actually visible:

Anyway, I'm looking forward to using LR5 in the coming months and I'm hoping that there aren't any additional weird stuff with the interface but we'll see. I don't upgrade software very often so I'll be sure to relate if this integer increase was actually worth it in the long run.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I'd love to say that I've been completely inactive for the past 6 months because I'm working on some super-secret project.... but I can't.

I'd love to pretend that I'm the too-big-for-my-britches fancy-schmancy photographer that declares each project or job they've completed was a total success on facebook and other social media... but I can't.

I'd love to post 4 beautifully lit shots with a background story with this post... but I can't.

I haven't even been shooting much on my phone let alone anything proper.

I can't lie to myself and I can't lie to you: I haven't been shooting because I've been depressed... and I've been depressed because I haven't been shooting. I'm exceedingly aware of this detrimental reciprocity but I can't seem to pull out of it. It's certainly not due to a lack of trying; Plans and Shoots keep falling apart. Scheduling issues and not feeling well have been contributing to the issue as well. Grandparents have died, loved-ones are getting cancer, memories of disappointing old teachers...

So what's happening with me?
Did I define my niche' so well that the right client is as rare as triple rainbows?
Did I price myself so that I no longer lose money on each job only to discover that now no one can afford me?
Do I really suck at photography as much as the voice in my head says I do?
Did I decide to make work that's so random that it's not meant for general consumption?

It's quite the conundrum: On one hand, I'd love to be so busy with work that everyone books me for everything like I'm a brand-new photographer doing family sessions for $25 including a DVD of 1000 images... BUT... on the other hand I want my work to be paced properly and high-quality like the client just paid me $1000 for a single print on their wall. Does the price I place myself at matter as much as the work I make? Not at all, but watching social media lately it looks like everyone is suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder.

I'm beginning to see why photographers just shoot for themselves and declare to the world that they're Fine Art Photographers instead of trying to wrangle in clients that don't really "fit" their niche'... That sounds lovely right now: Paying subjects to sit down and be patient with me while I extract photos from idea precipitate, then sell huge, limited-edition prints of the work at the Artist's Market or consignment walls at the local pub to the correct client. Complete control over my process would be amazing.... Complete control over my life would be amazing.... but that's not what I have. That's not what any of us have. I have to make my time away from my family count for something and that means getting compensated in a way that's easy to calculate in US Dollars.

If you've made it this far through the post maybe you feel the same way about something in your own life. Most people keep these negative thoughts in their own head but I've been doing that for months and it hasn't been helping. I'd rather be complete honest about myself than pretend that I'm something that I'm not. "You shouldn't say that stuff because it's bad for your business!" Sure... Maybe... But if I'm lying to everyone about how awesome my life is isn't that just as bad?

Its time for a change. I'm off to schedule something awesome in hopes that it pans out.
What are you going to change in your own situation?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Selfie Challenge!!!! #3

Imagine that Voice-Over-Guy that does work for the Movies...

The Self Portrait Challenge.... One Man.... One Woman... taking photos of themselves....

Okay... that's enough of that.

Last Week, Carolina posted a lovely mirror shot, per my request. You can see the results of that photo here: Self Portrait Challenge, Round 2

Her Challenge in response to mine? "A photo booth type series with a different emotion in each photo."

Brutal. Showing emotions is really hard for me... Being happy is great and all, but showing other emotions honestly, and in public, can be really hard. It reminded me of the Japanese and how they have one "mask" that they put on at work and something else when they're being truthful... It's called Honne and Tatemae. You can read about it here:

Anyway, with that in mind, and the fake emotions we put on, here is this week's submission:

Nerd Alert: Shot with my Android using Vignette with the "Holga" filter. Arranged in GIMP 2.6

Carolina, This week your challenge is to use off camera flash... but not just FOR your photo.... I want the Off Camera Flash to be IN the photo. ;-) (I'm sure you have a flash laying around somewhere....)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Self Portrait Challenge #2

Hello All 4 of you!

If there's one thing that I love (I mean, one thing of many) it's receiving a challenge from someone... If there's something that I love more, it's challenging someone else!

Continuing from last week, +Carolina Yocom and I have been challenging each other once a week to a themed self portrait. I asked her to make her shot with light bouncing at least once. She did exceedingly well and made the shot much more subtle than I anticipated.

Read her post HERE.

This week, her challenge to me was a self portrait "with very shallow depth of field, focus being somewhere other than them thar eyeballs."

I'm hoping I took things in a direction she didn't expect:


Nerd Alert: Pentax K10, Kiron 35-135/3.5 Macro, AlienBee 400 @1/8th. 1/125, f/3.5, ISO100 (I think)

My dear Carolina, this next week's challenge to you is this: Self Portrait using a mirror. Have fun!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Self Portraits (are awkward)

Self Portraits always make me nervous... not that I'm not comfortable in front of the camera... not because I don't like the way I look... but because I don't know what expression to make. I believe that in this regard, women must have it easier: Short of doing "the duck face" ladies score an easy win when it comes to selfies. (btw, whomever invented the duck face should be promptly beaten with a stick.) A fantastic example of successful selfies is anything that +Carolina Yocom makes. For me, I feel that I end up being way too serious or completely loony with my intangibly dim-witted smile. Alas... I usually go for "serious."

Today, I was playing with lighting setups a bit and I, of course, was standing by and ready to be my own subject. I always try new lighting setups in the privacy of my own company (I tend to avoid complete humiliation that way) and today I decided to find a use for that blue gel that comes in our strobist kits. You know which blue.... the one that makes even the most boring science lab so interesting you want to jump into the photo and help the chemist mix something in that beaker... But I've been watching more and more film noir lately... I have that "look" in my head. Granted: If I were to completely dump digital and go for this look I'd probably be shunned by the entire photography community again... (what do you mean 'you don't use photoshop but you shoot digital?') Hmm... Maybe that's my next ticket... Ahem.

Anyway I have two treatments of the same photo today and I can't decide which one is "better" so I'm putting it to ya'll.



PS- Yes I love HopeCon, Bettie Page, and this IS my favorite shirt. So... there.

PPS- I treated these in the same way that I do most of my work... My blacks are common, whites are rare, and "black and white conversion" doesn't mean "desaturation."