And now we wait.

Recently, I submitted a few dozen single-panel cartoons for publication.  Almost every one had to go through a revision process, where I increased the size of the type and reformat to a square.  My target is the Sunday comics and/or some general-interest magazines.  This is a big deal to me, as I haven’t ever done a mass submission before.  The upshot of this is I have sort of channeled my thinking into revising cartoons.  And because my thinking is temporarly side-tracked to this, I’m going to show a few “toons” and be done with this time’s posting.

1st agtOne of my first efforts (First Artistic Rejection) is a scene that all writers, photographers, artist and cartoonists go through to get a pay check.  I formed a mental picture of what it was like a few hundred years ago.  Especially when I read that the Tiki Idols on Easter Island were designed to discourage or scare away strangers.

Bein' a BitchA former neighbor of ours had a tiny female dog, who had small dog syndrome.  Thats where the dog would stand between her owner’s feet and bark, growl, say nasty things in Canine.  She was like that, as long as she was protected.  When she wasn’t she’d disappear.  My neighbor would say to her, “I understand… you’re just bein’  a bitch.”

Which inspired the panel with three dogs.

My wife once complained about “Having a bad hair day.”  Which I immediately replaced her hair with Jack Rabbits, known as hares.  And one of my favorite old movies is “Bad Day at Black Rock.”

That became an obvious melding in my mind.  So “Bad Hare Day at Black Rock.” was envisioned and created. I’ve recently begun all-new artwork for this one.Bad Hare Day

Finally, (for this post,) a few years back, I took some rather dreamy high-key portraits of a horse ranch owner with one of her prized Paso Fino stallions, a gaited horse. Gaited means they can prance on command.  This guy was a many-ribbioned national champion… rather like me… (Note tongue implanted firmly in my cheek)Beauty-in-White

The image was accepted rather well in a national photo contest, but I thought it needed something for interests sake.  The added punch line came to me in a flash…

So that’s it for this time.

 Jul 7, 14.  Well, the wait is over.  Good news is that the editors didn’t take more than four weeks to get back to me.  Bad news is the response was a form reject letter.  However, after I went over the submission again, I found several errors in the material submitted.  My fault for not blowing up the screen and doint an intensive re-read.  (My macular degeneration gets in the way of a clear read at normal font size)

Competitive Photography, Part 2

WPPI-RibbonsLast time, we began with these questions: “WTH is “Competition Photography?” Does it pay? is it worth it? What is required? Where do you begin?”  We went over rewards for winning, and what was required.  Now let’s talk about what it can do for you… if you have an eye.  BTW, your scores will tell you if you have an eye or not.

In my experience, my wife and I went to our first national convention in Las Vegas.  At the time, we lived in Northern California, and were both free to leave on Friday for a stop halfway to Vegas.  We checked into the hotel and convention Saturday AM.  We didn’t know anyone there.  Complete strangers.  But I had read that a competition was going to be held during the weekend, and it was open to conventioneers.

When we entered the room, it was darkened enough to allow the twin lights on the Print entry to be the brightest in the room.  The audience of about two dozen people was respectfully quiet, while the judging panel discussed the print in front of them.  Even with my untrained eye, I could see the print maker had broken a couple of cardinal rules.  He/she had put his subject in the dead center of the frame.  And there was a white something or other (That I can’t remember) in the upper border, which according to one judge, “Led the viewer’s eye out of the image.”  The print scored a 78, which I found out later was a very common score that could be interpreted as “Keep at it, kid, You’re on the right track, but learn the basic elements of print presentation.”

Aubrey's Dream

This print was down-scored below 80 because of the perspective distortion of the image in the center bottom. Never mind that the panel had never seen anything like this in the competition.

The room was big enough to hold about a hundred people.  In front of the audience, was a long table with the five judges seated with their backs to the audience. To the left was a smaller table, making the group an “L” shape.  A scoring reader and a secretary.  In front of the judges sat a sturdy four by four table with a large three-sided “lazy susan” painted 18% grey, displayed the 16 x 20 entries.  A handler manually moved the lazy susan to reveal the new print.  He also announced the title of the image. Behind the merry-go-round were two large tables with stacks of mounted prints and each table had an attendant.  One table had the un-viewed prints, and the other was the receiving table.  The print handler at that table wrote the score on the backside of the entry and placed it on one of two stacks:  To be displayed during the convention, and the others directly to the shipping department to be shipped home. The judging moves smoothly and quickly, unless a potential high-scoring print comes around.  Or a controversial one pops up.  Then the fight is on.

A discussion ensues because there are conservative photogs on the board, and there are more liberal judges as well.  I’m not speaking in a political sense, but an artistic one.  Conservative is old-school, the old masters, etc.  Libs are more flamboyant, more impactful and definitely pushing the envelope.  I have won blue ribbons with prints leaning towards both sides.

The head judge will moderate the discussion, and will take a pro or con position.  One occasion he/she can get rather exercised about his/her views. He can (as can any judge) even recall a print he/she didn’t believe got the right score.  An unwritten rule is that a given print should never be “down-scored”.  Well, that unwritten rule was broken the first time one of my prints was recalled.

Early in my career I entered a nice portrait of a teenager and was given an 80.  Three prints later, a judge recalled it, and after discussion it was re-scored a 79, so that “other photogs at the convention wouldn’t think this was the way to go.” It was another of my first prints that I had bordered in white.) It didn’t matter that the image, sans border, was a good solid image.  The border made the print bad.  Of course, this took the offending print off the to-be-displayed stack.  I was disappointed, but I learned.  We watched the judging carefully and Kathy took notes, as we did every time we attended  a convention. Note: Take a pair of fairly weak binoculars (ala “Opera glasses”) to see the prints in the judging better.

What image was cool?  What image was really striking and might set a trend?  Who were the winning photogs? What were they doing? That first convention, we met some of the big wheels in the competition.  They were all encouraging and of course, they all fell in love with Kathy.  That was one of her attributes.  Everybody loved Kathy immediately.

So I had an advantage and we were soon befriended by the competition groups, and from there learned what worked and what didn’t.  Competition was simply a way to get graded for your year.  99 percent of all comp prints were taken at a professional shoot, like a family portrait session, or a wedding, or some other event.  Unless you get a first, second or third, you get nothing from competition prints.

When you are covering a wedding event, etc, you shoot every image with competition in mind.  Very soon, if you paid attention at the judging, you’re shooting images far superior to your local competition , and you can begin charging something extra for your individual talent.  At my personal pinnacle, I got five thousand each for a couple of day-long family portrait sessions, and another family session that added up to 5K when the prints were purchased.

The Competition

“The Competition” This was scored a perfect 100, but didn’t even get a third place ribbon

On the other hand, I believe I’m unique in actually having a 100 print that didn’t even win third place!  It was late in the day, the judges were tired, and the head judge (I’m sure) recognized the makers of four top of the line prints.  I know he recognized mine.  He lobbied for perfect 100s on each of them.  Just to get him to cease nagging, they went along.  Presto!  Four 100 images in one division.  Even though I had the first 100, my image wasn’t weird enough to out-shout the others, so I was tail-end charlie.

Nowadays every print goes through a computer.  Print mores and maker’s abilities are what wins. Bring on the unusual!  In my not-so-humble opinion, if you can’t work your own images in Photoshop, you’re not a complete photographer.

Lover's Moon ptg 2This brings us to “Mods”.  Total modifications of images.  Two Spinnakers, V3Modifying a photo, rather then just finalizing the exposure values, i.e. focus and color balancing, removing offending picture elements via Photoshop, etc.  That stuff is required for any competition image.  There have been many magazine articles on techniques about how to do it, so I won’t go into them here.  (Old issues of Rangefinder Magazine have several of my own articles concerning that very subject.)

This nice image of a friend’s sailboat motoring into a sunset became the image on the right, Lover’s Moon. Lover’s moon had a nice history in competitions, whereas the image on the left, Going Home, wouldn’t have scored over a 73 or so.  Lover’s moon scored in the high 90s, and won a blue ribbon in digital imagery.

Duel CanvasTwo Spinnakers V2These two classic sailboats made a nice photograph, but it didn’t impress any photo editors.  After I spent a day separating the two boats from the background, and another day creating the image on the left, “Duel in the Sun” became a purple ribbon winner in digital, a magazine cover, featured in several interior layouts, and has sold internationally.

Another mod is combining two separate images to create a plausible image of an implausible situation.  People from the SFO Bay area will recognize the bridge [below] as the Richmond – San Rafael Bridge in the North Bay.  I spent nearly twenty hours separating a 108 megapixel  image, sometimes zoomed all the way in to one-eighth inch pixels to get a precise bridge layer.Shortcut-Color Every wire and cable, strut and buttress are detailed, way beyond that which would be sufficient for a 16 x 20 print.  I believe that creating art isn’t a speed contest. Besides, I really enjoy the process.

We had just completed a shoot in the Grand Tetons National Park, and had a good picture of Jenny Lake.  When I overlaid the bridge, just for fun, I realized that both images were shot from the identical point of view.  I did some pretty radical image alterations on the Jenny Lake shot and when all was complete, “Shortcut” was created.  The name shortcut comes from the fact that there are no interstates in this area to get east and west.  I figured they needed one… And going over the lake and through the distant valley was just the right locale.

Trawlers in TahoeIn the same vein, I lifted trawlers from East Georgia and overlaid them on a image if Lake Tahoe.  I took the foreground over with the boats.  Some of the old-timers in the Tahoe basin opined that they remembered back in the day…

Details matter.  Take your time making competition images.  Enjoy the process.  And one final point: If you are going to go to the trouble and expense to create competition images, for heaven’s sake attend the judging!  You’ll never learn more stuff, faster.

Competitive Photography, Part 1

WTH is “Competition Photography?” Does it pay? is it worth it? What is required? Where do you begin?

Two Spinnakers

Two Spinnakers (V1) won first place in a local city-wide competition. It was later used on a C of C hand-out folder, and as the passbook watermark image of a local bank.

Good questions, all.  “What is required? ” is a good place to begin.  First of all, and the singular most important is an “eye”.  An eye is difficult to define. You can be pretty assured that you may have an eye if people who see the image tell you they really like the image.  When you take a photo of something other than your wife and kids, people other than your wife or kids, including your mother rell you, “These are great.” A master photographer tells you that you have an eye, after he sees your portfolio. When you give a slide show, for example, people in the audience don’t fall asleep. If you belong to an organization, like a yacht club, a golf club, tennis, etc., they come to you when they need a program for next month’s meeting which is four days from now.  In other words, you’re considered, by people who know, a better than average photographer.

Secondly, contrary to what I’ve posted before, you need equipment of the quality necessary to be ensured that “equipment failure” can never be your excuse for a crummy picture.  You must get the mindset for the same.  Never blame the tools. It’ll become a point of pride for you.

Spirit of the Ballet

This was in my “Every collection needs a red print” phase. Got an 86 or so.

Competition photographers (CPs) use the term, “Making an image”, rather than “taking a picture.” In competition, we are referred to as “The Maker”.  As in a critique/comment from the judging panel, “The maker of this image should have been aware of_______.” You fill in the blank.

Birds-4302

This was a 90 print, I believe

Why the maker? Because a CP does not just develop and print out an image. Not if he wants to score. Simple image capture isn’t ever enough.  We show and compete with prints, usually sixteen by twenties. (A competition with closed panel or jury you can usually get away with an eight by ten.)  In the case of film, we need a darkroom, where we can apply our magic to a print, to make it perfect.  Somethimes that doesn’t mean to just make the image technically perfect, it means to apply your artistic sense or your eye to what makes the print look good.  Ansel Adams is a prime example of the artistry of the darkroom. His prints were a thing of beauty, but he didn’t just click a shutter to get them.  He spent days and weeks, if not months, getting the “perfect” image in the darkroom.  Once he had that, reproduction of the finished image was pretty routine.

The images we present in the nationals are our annual final exams; They’re going to give us a definitive score that compares us to our fellow competitors. The top photographers are the ones who adopt this attitude.  We strive to beat the guy who pulled one over on the judges, or the gal you just can’t seem to out-score. This is what polishes us as the cream of the crop. This is why some studios and photographers can charge more than others.  Bottom line is always dollars.

Aubrey's Dream

Even though this was brand new technology, this print didn’t score an 80.

In today’s world, we use digital.  I was among the first wave of pros who “went digital” to the scorn of film users.  Now, probably 95 percent of all CPs use digital.  Photoshop is so much easier on the nose, the wife, and the cat, then a smelly darkroom. I went digital as soon as I saw my first live demo of Photoshop (PS 3.0).  I knew this was the wave of the future.  So when I made my decisions on purchases at my first national convention for pro photogs, I made them with the idea of digital all the way.  I went the Photoshop, Apple computer and Canon camera route. With my wife’s permission and assistance, we basically stocked our studio.

That first convention, we attended the print competition, which was open to the conventioneers.  Kat (my wife) and I sat through some sixteen hours that weekend, observing and learning from the panel’s commentary.  Five top-pro judges, each with a number pad, hooked to a computer to average out the scores.  A score of 80 is passing.  It denotes a step above the average commercial photographer’s abilities. A commercial photographer is one who takes pictures for money.  Normally found in a smaller town, mom and pop photo studio.

A score in the mid eighties to low mid nineties was a good, solid score. With an eighty score, the print will be displayed at the convention and be included in the yearbook. In the mid to high nineties, the images better be exemplary. The best.  And of course a one hundred print meant that the five experts could find no fault whatsoever with the print.  To get a one hundred, four judges have to agree and score it 100.  One judge can give you a 99 and it’ll still round up to 100. Plenty of arguments one way or the other have been had over a potential 100 print.  A judge has the ability to lobby for a print, and even to recall the print for rescoring. If the one judge does not agree, and he/she gives you a 98,  the print is a 99, which still ain’t too shabby. Of course, the prints are anonymous and the judges are not allowed to see the back side of the image, where all the maker’s info is.

Also of course, even when the intention is to be completely fair, a successful CP will develop a style, sometimes recognizable to the panel.  And successful CPs will have detractors and cheerleaders on a given panel, which makes the scoring even more animated. And when you consider it, it’ll make a 100 print more validated.

Mirage c balls

Scored in the low eighties. My thoughts? WTF, they’ve never seen anything like it. And I get an 82? It was used later as the print for the WPPI convention’s advertising. Go figure.

By the time I “retired” from competition, I had three one-hundred prints, and three ninety-nines. Four purple ribbons, (kind of like “Best in Show”),  over twenty-five blues, seventeen or so reds, a few whites, and a ton of “attaboy”(80) prints.  Notice that my ribbons are weighted towards first place blue ribbons. I also won a Kodak award, a Fuji film award, four PPA “Loan Collection” prints, and made the highest level of excellence in the shortest time, on a international basis. I was in the money for five years straight. Pro competitions pay bucks to the winners.  Not a ton, but enough to have a good night in Vegas, where the biggest pro photographers convention is held annually.  Purple ribbons were usually good for a camera rig, and other prizes.

My first “mentor” was a commercial photographer.  He was a decent photographer, took all our family portraits, and my wedding shots. He supplemented his studio income with gore pictures … of auto accidents, for insurance companies. I rode with him one night.  He had a police radio in his car and house, and responded to car crashes with all the vigor of the Highway Patrol.  Scared the stuffing outta me, a fifteen year old.

This was before the onset of seat belt laws, before metal-to-metal clasps on a lap belt, no shoulder strap, period.  So there was a lot of blood and guts, quite literally. All on-scene photography was left to Leonard.  He shot with an old 4 x 5 Speed Graflex,  would take the Tri-X  black & white film to his darkroom and have them souped, printed and dried before the start of business the next day.  Delivered the prints to the insurance company that AM.  I guess he was sort of the first paparazzi.

GBH-Sir Charles

This was my first red ribbon and print over 90. It was later used for a national magazine cover.

When we went to our second convention, I entered my first professional print competition with three prints. All three qualified, scored over 80.  But they were made from scans of my film days, because there I didn’t fee my digital camera work was top quality.  But I was already fairly accomplished in Photoshop.  I photoshopped nearly all my prints through out my CP career.

Both Kat and I were nervously awaiting the group, “Digital Groups, non-wedding.”  As there were two people silhoutted on the boat, it qualified.  The way the rules were written in those days, inanimate objects could not really be the subject of the print. Because this was a WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographer’s International) convention there had to be people or at least some critters in the shot.

So a lot of my good imagery was ineligible for judging. The same time there was a decided prejudice against digital photography.  We were put in a “division” of digital imagery, and couldn’t compete in the major classes. Never mind that our imagery was already more innovative and spectacular than the film buffs were showing. I later discovered that many of the old pros never bothered to inform the competition that their work was photoshopped.  Sometimes a pro would send his prints out for photoshopping. If I had done the same, kept mum, I think I could have pulled some major loot out of the convention. As it was, digital was a step-child.  A red-headed one.

Lover's Moon ptg 2When my image, Lover’s Moon,  rotated around, a hush fell over the audience.  That scared the spit out of us.  I was sure, as was Kat, that I had totally blown it, showed up  with a print that would score in the fifties.  When you score below a sixty, they move your stuff out of your hotel room and deposit it, your print, and yourself in a pile in the middle of Las Vegas Blvd, AKA the Strip.

Discussions immediately ensued.  Digital detractors said I did not follow the protocol for the presentation.  It was not a glossy, it was a deep matte. The subjects were bullseyed (everything dead center, a compositional no-no). I had bordered it with a half-inch white border. Kat and I were floored when one or two of the judges familiar with digital began arguing for a ninety-plus print, while the others were pointing out the screw-ups.  The panel settled for a mid ninety, which won the blue ribbon.  It missed getting a purple best in group because of the white border.

A blue, a red and three  hundred bucks. I did well.

TBC … Next part, we’ll talk about image mods and what you can get out of becoming a CP

Musings of an oil slick

Crude_oilHUMOR is where you find it.  I found some gems in a dirty, smelly ‘ol oil field.  For those of you who may be anti-oil in favor of green energy, just for a few minutes suspend your prejudges and appreciate the humor…

A lot of what this post talks about is “inside baseball”.  Therefore I will attempt to explain what I know about these various scenarios. And I will admit that I haven’t set foot on an oilfield in decades.

I created my oilfield from scratch, and detailed it as closely as possible. I had to make many of the mechanisms from what the 3D program called Bryce refers to as “primitives”.  These are cubes, spheres, cones, pyramids, cylinders, flat squares and circles.  With these elements, one can create almost anything in 3D.

Unfortunately, Bryce is slowly phasing itself out, leastwise as far as Mac Computers are concerned. The three newest Mac OS 10 (7, 8, & 9) operating systems will not support Bryce.  For me, losing a major part of my art-producing tools was a deal-breaker, until I resurrected my old 2009 mini-mac. Eiffel 7-a The old guy uses OS 10.411, which does support Bryce quite well.  So If you have a newer Mac and you want to delve into Bryce, you’ll need to install OS 10.6 or go on eBay and find a mac that uses an OS older than 10.7.

Vehicles of all stripes are available on the web as freebies.  You just gotta know where to find them.  Planes, trains and automobiles can all be had for the asking.  Some of these vehicles are quite detailed, some are too simplified to use as anything more than  the distant cars in a parking lot.

The biggest restriction is size.  The way I make my dioramas takes space.  I like things scaled to a pre-sized set of locked blocks. The other way to create a diorama is to size things so they look different distances from the camera.  It’s the lazy way to do things. But if you do so, forget going anyplace else in the scene for different POVs. And that is the secret to my madness.

Bryce will allow a “camera” to move to any point of view any place in the scene. For example, a helicopter’s POV… from inside a car, a truck cab …  On the upper walkway on a drilling rig… I can go anywhere in my diorama and things will still be scaled. I keep these files of course, so if a thought strikes me that I need an oilfield, I’ve got one fully prepared. I have a seaside town, a working horse ranch, a mountain stream, a couple of military bases and a mountain cabin in winter.

My old Mini Mac confuser gives up around 400MB file size. A closely detailed PBone in her teetheterbuilt can take 20MB by itself, mainly because there is a separate object for every lug-nut.  So if you want to show a traffic jam, you’re gonna use a lot of megs.Thats where the elemental freebie cars come in handy. Some car “model” I have are a single element, with as much “weight” as one of those lug-nuts.

You would figure a fairly detailed Burke Class Destroyer would take a ton more of  weight-space than the truck.  Not so.  For example, no matter how big it is on screen, a tiny sphere uses the same amount of RAM as one sized big enough to encompass the entire oil field.  Ergo, a detailed ship my have less parts than a detailed truck, because the truck model has a detailed undercarriage, whereas the destroyer has only deck detail and a three-segment hull.  It’s a crazy world inside Bryce. But I like it there.  Everything always seems to go my way.

RBP-Toons-Energy-132Let’s get back to the oil fields.  There are plenty of opportunities for  my kind of humor.  For example the term “Whipstock” is used when a drill rig isn’t after oil directly beneath it. (For many possible reasons, like lack of ownership of the property over the oil pool, or rocky terrain, etc.)  The driller goes after oil that may be displaced sideways several thousand yards.  This is accomplished with engineers and slide rules, geologists and rock hammers, nerds and computers, someone named Merlin and a fair amount of magic.

Next, let your imagination run wild. Pipeline V5

In my world, all you gotta do is figure out how to create a trench filled with water, go on the web and find a VLCC (Very Large Crude Carrier) to pick up the product five hundred miles inland.

Ignore the mountain range in the background.  Ignore the lack of a turning basin for the ship  Appreciate the young female petroleum engineer.  She saved the company thirty-nine bucks.

Texas Mosquito V1Texas. We know two things about Texas.  One, they have lots of oil.  Two, they brag that everything in Texas is bigger , including their critters and bugs.  We’ve all heard the term, “Texas-sized Mosquito”.

One of the things you may notice about my cartoons… I like to put women in situations where you wouldn’t normally find them.  Driving big rigs, and forklifts.  Working as roughnecks. Even working as oilfield supervisors.

Logging v2A common entity found in oil fields are the mud loggers, or “loggers”  These loggers have nothing to do with lumber.  They are the places where magic occurs.  They drop things on strings down the hole. Loggers, (people who keep logs on what’s going on in the well),  employ “sniffers,” devices that smell and analyze the mud returning from the well. (A special mud is used as a lubricant inside the hole) They also send a probe down into the well to find out where the various levels of sand and rocks are.  And finally, when its time, they can send down a string of shaped charges to  blast holes in the concrete that has been pumped into the area where the goodies are, to prevent the well from collapsing inward.

Mud Loggers v1I learned a lot by going with my father to his various wildcat wells. He and several investors would stake a guy who was known as “Dry Hole Holmes”. Why these scions of medicine and industry … all of who had too much money and zero experience in wild-catting … didn’t get a clue from his moniker, rational people will never know.

I really appreciate experiences in my youth that makes it easy to have my own working oil field. (Something that never happened in real life) in my own little world, you can find it a few kilometers east of my navy resupply base.

 

A wee bit o crass commercialism – Sailing style…

ACSweatshirtAs you have probably guessed, I write books, create art, and take pictures.  The reason?  Besides the obvious reason… that I like to… I want to make a little extra money.  Cash, Moola, sheckels, dinero, pesos dollars bucks simoleons, filthy lucre.  Get my drift?

I have many online stores, mostly at Zazzle.com, a couple of book stores on Amazon.com.  As I recently wrote to a friend, “I am writing a blog to promote my website I have my website to promote my store(s) I use my stores to promote my work.”

I have several Zazzle stores.  A couple for the horsey set. One for blue collar workers. Another for sailors and sailing enthusiasts. One for the energy industry. One for medics.  One for senior citizens. Two book stores. A “General” store that has some stuff from all the other stores.  When you reach the website, to go Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 8.16.39 AMto the stores, AKA Pahl Mall, click on Pahl Mall, and you’ll get the store page. We show the sailing store page here. I could go over all of of the stores, but I think I’d rather talk about one at a time.

FYI, I have led a very eclectic life.  This was probably because I stupidly thought that I didn’t need to go to college, I would go to work for the family biz.  Make lotsa money manufacturing high voltage electrical pole-top switches.  Utilities buy them. The smallest switch we made was good for seven and a half thousand volts.  That’s big enough to power up your average pro football stadium.  In that environment, I was a foundry boss, then a galvanizing plant boss, then a production manager, and finally up the executive ladder.  While I was doing that, I became familiar with oil drilling because of my father, who sunk a lot of dry holes in California. It was too bad that we couldn’t dig those 10000 foot holes up and chop em into three foot segments and sell them for fence post holes. The same for gold mines. And cattle ranching. I became a corporate pilot, flying a twin engined Beechcraft. I’ve been a sailing enthusiast since I was ten years old.  I was rowing a boat solo when I was five. I know boating.  I left the family biz when I was thirty-nine, at the beginning of a mid-life crisis.  Owned and operated two retail stores, a bar/nightclub, a photography studio, yatta, yatta. Morphed into a pretty successful horse photographer. Learned about horses. They’re big critters who see ghosts. This is the reason I have so many online stores.

Scrubbing BottomsSo, in this episode, I’m gonna just feature a single store.  Sailing stuff.  There is a lot of humor in sailing.  You just gotta dig a little to find it.  One of the prime details about sailboat racing is the necessity of having a clean boat bottom.  Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 9.38.46 AMA lot of the time, various crew members will jump in the water, grab a sponge or brush and attempt to get any algae off the bottom, because it drags the boat’s speed way down.  This leads to a variety of shirts and cups.

NOTE: Many of these images are screen captured from our stores on Zazzle.

We also have crew tees with the crew-member’s job titles on the front.  Like the one below: Do you know what a sewerman is?  No, it has nothing to do with the poopdeck.  The sewerguy  is stationed under the foredeck.  He hands new foresails up through a hatch and gathers in the old ones.  He/she inspects, folds, repacks and stores the old sails immediately, so they’re ready to go.Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 9.44.37 AM

We also have a few political points to make that are pertinent to sailing: The San Joaquin Delta is being drained by the EPA so they can maintain water flow to Southern California, who never had use of the delta water naturally.  The delta empties out into the San Francisco bay. None of the rivers have ever flowed over the Tehachapi Range, between Bakersfield and L.A. The excuse for doing this is to keep the delta smelt, an overgrown mosquito fish from going the way of the Dodo bird.Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 9.36.14 AM

And there’s always the obvious taxation issue.  Remember when someone in D.C. though it would be a good idea to assess an “excise” tax on boats and planes?  It killed several yacht manufacturers, putting a whole lot of people out of jobs.  We took this idea a little further and this shirt was the result.Taxation

In my books, my protagonist, Tracy Jo Cunningham, is an avid sailor on the San Francisco Bay.  She is also a salty, sexy young Private Investigator.  It goes without saying she has a checkered past.

In the early part of the series, she sails a Jensen-built Cal 2-30, The perfect boat for San Fran Bay.  Coincidentally, it is the same boat we sailed on the Delta and Bay.  Good sail plan and a heavy keel, built hellferstout. Under a good stiff breeze, 2-30s will almost plane. There are excellent sailing scenes in several of the books.  Tracy gives no quarter, and takes no crap from male competitors.  She only displays first place trophies, because in her words, “Displaying seconds and thirds is only admitting that someone beat you.”  Of course, as the author, I highly recommend these novels to all sailors who like a good read.  Available in electronic form and paperbacks.

If you click on any product image, it’ll take you directly to the sales page for that group.

And now, I’m gonna include a segment of one of my books, Rehab is Murder. Strictly for sailors…

“EASE that freakln’ pole!” I bellowed at the top of my lungs, my voice barely carrying over the clanks and clatters of a sailing yacht that was running with a bone in her teeth.
“I gotta come up! Let that sonofabitch breathe!”
I looked back, fighting my yellow foul-weather gear hood, and turned my boat towards the San Francisco waterfront, just enough to force my competition to go with me. Instantly, I felt the wham as the spinnaker pole jerked its new slack from my big crewman, easing it forward in the twenty knot apparent winds.
At this angle, twenty knots of apparent winds were close to thirty knots of actual wind speed over the water’s surface. It was an un-typical spring day in the San Francisco bay. If this was summertime, the day would have been normal. There was heavy, fast-moving, gray fog overhead. The cold salt water was in a steep, ugly green chop, and the bone chilling, wet winds were howling in the taut rigging.
The tops of the waves sprayed off to form spume and mist that created rainbows when the sun peeked through the low cloud cover. The spinnaker took a new, more proper shape, and the knotmeter inched a few tenths faster.
“Sheet!” I yelled loudly, “Dammit, watch the friggin’ sheet!”
I wasn’t swearing with a Mexican accent, I was shouting for the crew to stay with me. The Sweet Tart heeled sharply. I braced my left foot against the side of the cockpit, and turned the wheel to adjust for weather helm, the tendency of the boat to veer upwind in a gust. I looked at the boom, which was bending under the incredible load.
If something wasn’t done, and right now, it would break. “Vang! Dad! Uncleat that rope in front of you and ease it off! Dammit, move! We’re going to have aluminum spaghetti around our freakin’ ears if you don’t get your ass moving!”
Poor Dad. First time he comes for a social visit and he’s subjected to me in my element, which is sailing, more particularly racing, and even more particularly racing Leland S. (Stands for second place) Brooks, my Business Partner.
“Goddammit, watch it! Jenn! Help him! He’s going to lose his freakin’ fingers!!”
Jennifer jumped in and snubbed the line, then took it from Dad’s hands before they were pulled into a sharp-edged jam cleat. She managed to do what I wanted without further cussing on my part.
“That’s better. Come on, you beautiful bitch,” I urged more speed out of my boat, “Go! Go baby, Gogogogo!’
I looked behind me and relaxed just a bit as the bow of a gorgeous midnight blue classic C & C 43 directly on my stern began to fall back. My move had held him off. But it was too damn close. He was hard on my stern, doing everything he could to snare my air and pass my pride and joy, the Sweet Tart.
This was an impromptu practice race between me and my partner Lee Brooks. His boat was so much bigger and faster that we had developed a head start handicap for these affairs, so that the real one-on-one would be at the finish line. Now his faster steed was coming down on me hard. Also not to mention, this race was the battle of the sexes.
Mano et Fe-mano
“Watch it! He’s goin’ up!” Jennifer, a regular member of my crew yelled. I snapped my head around and saw Lee taking a broad reach to my weather side. It was decision time. I could turn and stay with him, but with the new angles, he would throw a wind shadow. I could duck him, but that would involve a Spinnaker jibe, and that isn’t a thing of joy in these winds. I could ignore him and sail my own course. The turning mark wasn’t that far away. He would be coming back down on me on a minute or less.
Then I saw it. An airborne flock of sea-gulls was being tumbled wildly by something over the waterfront, not half of a quarter mile away. No wind marks showed on the water, but gulls don’t normally do snap-rolls and lazy-eights. Not unless Jonathan Livingston Seagull lives.
I knew what was coming.
“Douse it!” I yelled at my crew. “Now!”
Dante Spanos, the huge man on the foredeck, knew better than to discuss the matter.
Sweet little Tracy tended to get violent after a race if my orders weren’t followed immediately. Within seconds, the One-Twenty Genoa was heading up the mast and the spinnaker was coming in under the mainsail.
“What the hell are you doing?” Dante yelled while ensnaring the spinnaker and throwing it down the front hatch. “We have a good five hundred yards to the buoy!”
“Trust me!” I didn’t even face him as I watched the sails being squared away. “Let’s jibe this sombitch! Lemme know when’ . . . .”
“Go for it!”
“Okay. Go! Headache!”
I put the tiller over hard and unconsciously ducked my head as the boom swept over with a wicked clank. I didn’t need to duck, as the boom was a good three feet over my head. Now I was sailing by the lee, something that is considered suicide in these winds. Sailing by the lee produces uncontrolled jibes, aka goosewing jibes.
An uncontrolled jibe could rip everything off the deck, including people. A goosewing jibe is where the bottom of the main comes across, but the top doesn’t. The Vang is designed to prevent this from happening. But nothing is taken for granted on the San Francisco Waterfront in a blow. If the goosewing isn’t resolved quickly, the sail can tear itself in half. Then I (being the smallest one in the crew) have to go up the mast with a sharp knife, and slice up a two thousand dollar sail to get it off. Can you just imagine the sheer embarrassment of slinking to my berth with that mess in the sky?
Our boat took an angle back towards the mark, to the south and downwind of Alcatraz, while Lee and his crew gave me a derisive hoot for chickening out early. Dante and Jennifer began shouting at me, telling me that I was crazy, and that the whole standing rigging was going to be around our ears in seconds.
Only Dad kept quiet. Fortunately he didn’t know what was coming. I just smiled at them, mentally crossing my fingers that I had made the right decision. I looked over and grinned at my competition, and gingerly eased away from where their mast would be in a few more seconds.
The explosive gust hit Lee’s larger boat like a hard stiff-arm from an invisible running back, a hundred feet tall. His red, white and blue tri-radial spinnaker snapped violently, new air filling it from the wrong side, and the boat skewed sideways, completely out of control.
The new air direction was the direction we had just set up for.
Lee’s ponderous headsail sank and filled with water. In seconds his classic C & C 43 was broaching under a fifty knot gust, his boat’s half-exposed keel trying to compensate for many tons of sea water in his heavy foresail. Sweet Tart snap-rolled wildly one time, then settled into a hull-speed broad reach for the mark. I rounded the mark, and was beating back up the waterfront when I sailed close to Lee’s stricken vessel.
My regular crew properly saluted the sopping wet men with a peculiar pose, sometimes known on land as “Mooning”. I heard Lee cussing his crew, who were just now getting back under way with the white top five feet of a shredded spinnaker still flying from the masthead. It looked like a flag of surrender.

As always, we would very much appreciate it if you would follow and like the blog and daily entries.

“The photos still suck!”

Have you ever wondered why you can’t seem to get a good photo of a certain place, or setting, or scenery?  No matter what you do, it just ain’t there.  Something intangible is “disqualifying” a given photo for your portfolio.  But in another locale, everything you take is a keeper? CO Canyon w h2o Have you ever considered that you have. horrors,  an inner, unspoken prejudice?  Perhaps about color?

Gotcha! I’m not talking about any form of racial prejudice, I’m talking about your personal internal color pallet.  We all have one.  Or perhaps your like or dislike of outdoor areas.  For example which do you like more?  Florida and California or Arizona and Nevada?  Urban or Rural?  Believe it or not, a lot of those choice may actually involve colors, not just climate.  To make this shot of red rocks and canyons, I added in a big ol lake.  This shot and treatment will never be in my official portfolio.

Greater Nevada is primarily desert.  The overall colorization is tones of brown, and crisp blue skies.  Geological history is evident wherever you look.  Driving through Nevada, it is easy to see eons of erosion, rock slides, flooding and drying, that kind of stuff.  I really like the Nevada topography, desert lakes, the mountains and upheavals of time, that kind of stuff.  Browns, some greys and blue skies.  Of course.

Take Arizona… please!  Sedona is a world-famous area known for its red rocks and formations, natural bridges and arches, yatta yatta.  The colors are predominantly reds.  Not luscious, deep crimson reds, but kind of a dirty, rusty red.  And oranges.  And browns.  And blue skies.  I’ve been to Sedona and environs a couple of times.  Never gotten a good shot of all that famous scenery.  I have lugged around 25 to 40 pounds of medium format equipment, looking for that all-elusive keeper.  Never got one.  I got a few decent shots of the grand canyon, but nothing to write home  about.  Why?GCNP

It’s like I told K one day.  “I don’t see in reds and browns.  I see in greens and blues.”  You throw in most any shade of reds into a landscape, and I’m not seeing beauty.  I have no idea why.  We spent a day in CO TreesColorado National Park.  I shot four rolls of 220 film, at 6×7. Used a tripod.  Expensive lenses.  Really expensive camera.  Pricey filters.  I didn’t even get one good shot.  Not even of a flower.  However, there is one caveat of tmy “no red” rule:  Sunsets.  I can shoot a pretty mean sunset … especially if its over blue water… with a bright fire-engine red boat…

PCHDRLakes and mountain rivers are a favorite source of my imagery.  I grew up in two places, the high sierras in the non-school months, and Stockton, California the rest of the time.  We had a small mountain lake at Pinecrest, where I spent my entire summer swimming, fishing and sailing.  Beautiful photography area.

The San Joaquin River Delta was where I spent my warm school months.  My grandfather had a house on the river.  He had a boathouse with a beautiful black 35 foot Chris Craft cruiser.  Two SpinnakersMore times than not, I was the driver of that big boat.  He wanted to sit back with his big black stogie and a whiskey on the rocks.  Also in that boat house was a great little outboard powered aluminum skiff that I spent zillions of hours on, exploring back waters of the delta.  As much as I love the delta, there ain’t much scenic photography there.  Most all the levees are lined with official US Army Engineer Rip-Rap.

I now live in Vegas, who’s liquid claim to fame is Lake Mead.  The only problem with photography on or about Lake Mead is twofold: No vegetation to speak of, so no greenery.  And thanks to a Southern California federal judge, there is a twenty or thirty foot thick waterline of bleached land, created by draining water from the original high water limits and sending it on to provide water for thousands of square miles of lawn in LA. Meanwhile, except for some parks watered by non-potable water,  Las Vegas has no lawns.  Perhaps boat photography would be okay out in the lake, but I don’t have a boat.

When we rolled our big ol RV back to Florida, after a great photo shoot in the Grand Tetons, I was in my element.  I’ve always loved boating in any form, green is my favorite color, and so on.  Florida’s skies are dramatic with white billowing thunder-heads in the afternoons, and crisp blue colors in the mornings.  There ain’t no such thing as dry trees or shrubs.  The browns of the ground are a deep dark chocolate.  Wildlife is abundant around the water.  A virtual plethora of water birds, gators, otters, snakes, etc.

CD 0204 3369For me South Florida is a target-rich zone.  I personally believe that Miami is the most photogenic city in the US, and I’m originally from San Francisco.  I’ll give San Fran the number two rating because of the scenics created by the bay and the San Andreas Fault-driven topography.  Miami gets number one because of the colors.  I really like the Cuban influence.  In fact Cubanos are some of my favorite people, but that’s another blog.

For boat photography, its a clear toss-up between Florida and Northern Vanguards-3379California.  Put me in either place, and I’m a happy outdoor photographer.  And yet, I still live in Las Vegas,  but that’s yet another blog. (Got a lot of those lined up, don’t I?)

The Endless Wait copyWhat about working in black and white? Black and White definitely has its place.  In my humble opinion, straight black and white photography of scenics is a bit self-defeating. Don’t get me wrong, I really like black and white.  I think outdoors, it’s great for shooting features, especially with the judicious use of filters.

One of my early mentors took me along (I was about ten… hmm… now that I recollect, I was there to operate the boat.) on a shoot of my brother’s sailboat while on Strawberry Lake (where Pinecrest is located).  He used colored filters, which fascinated me because I didn’t understand why one would use color glass in a black and white photo.  But when I saw the finished results of using a #3 Red filter, a bright white sail against a deep grey sky, I was hooked for life. I wish I had a copy of that great shot to show you, but I don’t.  And that mentor has long since passed.

Ahh, boats, mountain lakes and cameras.  I was in boyhood heaven. (Yeah, another blog…)CD 0540 3508

So you can see, just by my reminiscences, how I got to be prejudiced towards the colors of the summer mountains and oceans.  I can easily imagine that Native American boys in the southwest feel the same way about the colors of Arizona and New Mexico. Or people who grow up in Alaska.  Add in eight months of grey skies and white topography. Another set of colors that are not my cuppa tea.

I can shoot a pretty mean sunset … especially if its over blue water…

Anchor Bay Sunset

 

Ahh the joys of living alone…

When my wife passed away, I was devastated. I knew it was coming, of course, and had known for years that the outcome was inevitable. I had even considered what it would be like to live alone, after living as a twosome or more for fifty years. I miss her tremendously, but over the ensuing months, my cat and I are getting more and more adapted to living the bachelor life. I’ve even tried a couple of “Let’s meet over burgers and get to know each other.” with single people of the female persuasion. In my age bracket, it seems that anyone I didn’t know in my younger days is really old. I am not old. I am seasoned, and I’m not gonna waste any more time, gasoline or money on these “dates”.

Living alone has it’s advantages. Cat and I have little victories here and there. We invent ways to do things more efficiently. Take coffee for example. I am too darn lazy to get up and create a pot of coffee every day. Fortunately, I like refrigerated coffee as well as hot coffee. I don’t like to drink an entire pot every day. My nerves are jangled enough. I like hazelnut creamer, and enough creamer to properly flavor an entire pot can get into some heavy calories. And unlike Cat, (See previous blog)  I do not wish to conserve calories.  I want to get rid of them.  OrI have to burn them off, and that takes the “E” word.  Something I like to avoid.

ImageHere’s what I do: When it’s time, I make a full pot of coffee, some 64 ounces. Then I pour it into a cup that I have already added 5.5 ounces of coffee creamer. I put the whole pot in the cup. Now you’re probably saying something like “BS. How can you put so much fluid into one cup?

Easy. Have you been inside a gas station store? Of course you have. Ever notice the non-disposable hot and cold cups that are stacked by the soda and coffee area? The station I go to has containers up to 64 ounces for sale.

So if you make a full pot of coffee, and you use the drip method like I do, the coffee grounds themselves soak up enough water to allow the coffee and creamer to fit. On day one I have a steaming gigantic mug of coffee. I know from previous weigh-in that this thing weighs about 2150 grams, filled and capped. I drink out of it like anyone would. Sipping, enjoying, while creating these little essays. Around eleven o’clock, I’ve had enough coffee and move on to something else. I’m “coffeed out” for the day. I weigh the mug on a digital scale I have next to the fridge, then put the mug into the fridge. Why do I weigh the coffee? Because I’m counting calories.

ImageThe next day, I’ll go to the fridge and get the mug of now refer-cold coffee. I can sip and enjoy that until I’ve had my fill. Weigh the mug again, and put it into the refer. Repeat daily until empty. In the vertical pic above, did you notice the dry-erase board? In the upper left corner, one can see where I save my various weights.

An aside… As many of you know, I have dry macular degeneration, pretty heavy in one eye (my right) and light to moderate in the other. Four days after a laser eye surgery bout on both eyes to correct fogging capsules, (the part of eye anatomy that holds the cataract-replacement lens) in my good eye, a tiny blind spot appeared in the dead-center of my left eye. To me it appears to be just about the size of a letter in a word. So to read I have to flick my eyes just slightly from side to side to see the word. My other alternative is to zoom my screen image in so I can see bigger print.

Zoomed inBecause my vision no longer allows me to enjoy my TV from across the room, I sometimes go into my palatial bedroom to watch the evening and prime-time programs. My set-up is a simple slave operation, where the TV only shows what the main living room is showing. So I have the entire night pre-rogrammed. My bedroom TV situation some would call a bit strange. Quite possibly, lazy. I call it having the ultimate comfort while enjoying TV. The necessary parts to this scenario are a “hospital table”, a 24 inch flat-screen TV, a pair of vice grips, Something like a four inch segment of a two by four and counter-weighting material. I have a nice 20 lb sandbag on order.

20140510_095229I hate watching TV between my feet. Because of a slight permanent physical problem, sitting up in bed is uncomfortable. Ergo, I have my set on the side of my bed. To watch, I place the TV over the edge of the portable table, resting on one side on the mattress. The vice grips serve as kind of a fulcrum, or maybe an axle. The sand bag weighing down on the vice grips is a safety measure to keep it from flopping over on me or Cat. So when I get into bed, I can prop myself very comfortably on my side, and the TV is oriented to the plane of my vision. But not exactly, My head actually reposes at an angle, around fifteen degrees from horizontal. So I use the two by four block to prop the set on one corner. Tilted TVThe table and sandbag hold it safely in place. I used semi strong reading glasses to get the image crisp, I can plug in a set of over- the-ear phones for great sound, and I’m a happy camper. Living alone, I can even leave the set-up in place, if I want.

Onto another item:  If you enjoy reading this rather eclectic blog,  I need you to follow it, or at least sign up for emails.  Right now, I have to put filthy lucre into “boosting” it on Facebook.  And if you appreciate my style of writing, please visit http://www.amansart.com/TCPI/TCPI-index.html .  You might even consider purchasing one of my fiction novels, available in e-book form or paperback.