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)

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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.

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

 

Conversations with my cat…

First of all, we have to believe that Misty Blue, heretofor known as “Cat”, had to be born on the University of California at Berkeley campus.  That’s where the center of the social protests began in the late fifties, early sixties. She is an expert protester and her favorite form is the passive lay-in. Or is it lie-in?  Whatever…

She will intentionally lay down in the middle of human traffic, inside the mansion and refuse to get out of the way. She actually tripped my wife, late in her MS battle.  I do not kick animals.  I have however, been known to ease my foot under her body and propel her to the side with enough effort to lift and replace her about three feet away.  Most of the time, she just looks around, blinks a few times, yawns,  and (imagine “Thought Balloons” appearing over her head), “WTF just happened?” then she’ll probably put her head on the floor and go back to what she does best.  Close her eyes and conserve calories.

Wait. Did U say Food?I can’t count the times I’ve asked her to do the dishes.  She refuses.  Just lays there and stares at me aloofly.  Or I can talk to her about what needs to be done around the mansion.  She’ doesn’t seem to care.  She won’t volunteer to do anything.  She’ll lift her head, yawn, and go back to calorie-caching.  When she steps out of the cat box, I have asked her to do a simple little thing for me, like shake her feet and wipe them off on the towel provided just for that purpose. She’ll TB me, “What’s the point?  They’ll just get KL on them next time.”  Have you ever stepped barefoot on a couple of grains of kitty litter (KL) on a hard floor?

For something smaller than a sixteenth of an inch across, those little suckers sure hurt the bottom of shower-tenderized feet. And to top that off, she’ll leave the bathroom (where else would you put the cat’s potty?) and jump right onto the bed.  So we have grains of KL infused in the cover.  I have drawn the line on her attempts to get on the sheets.  One time she TBed me, “What?  You expect me to sleep on a blanket with KL in it?”

Cat likes to go outside and explore, of course.  She’s a big cat, probably the biggest in the enclosed complex. She eats like a bird … (no no, she doesn’t eat a bird, she eats like a bird… and not a vulture, either).  Shes 19 pounds, and gets a third of a cup of dry food in the AM, maybe a tablespoon more in the afternoon when I have my snack, and a single pouch of Whiskas cat food in the evening, right at happy hour. When we got her she weighed 20 pounds.  So she’s lost a whole pound in a fifteen-month period.

When K was alive, we grounded Cat for a few months because she was spending more and more time out.  When she didn’t come home until after dark, she was locked in.  Being inside for several months during the winter didn’t make any difference, weight-wise.  So I don’t think she was cadging meals off a neighbor.  But who knows? Again, she is mum on the issue.

We have a friend who has a cat just as big.  She says the breed, an English Shorthair, is a big breed.  Supposedly predominantly black and white with an identifying white tail-tip.  She has a white tail tip.  She’s black and white.  She has a little dark rust color in her black section, especially on the top of her head.  Doesn’t matter that she TBs, “But I’ve got big bones.”  In her case, the calorie conservation has worked conspicuously well.

One of the good things about having a Bobcat-sized feline is that people with small apartment dogs, lthose annoying iittle tiny yappers, go to the other side of the street when she’s out.  Specially if I’m wearing my “My cat eats small dogs” t-shirt.  Makes cat proud when I wear it.

How do I know?  She lays down in the middle of the mansion and smirks when she sleepsconserves calories.

Welcome to my virtual world, bizzare section

In the virtual world, any thing is possible.  The laws of physics are suspended.  So are the the laws of beliveability.  In my virtual world, not to be confused with yours, things may pop into my head, from suggestion i may get subliminally from routine sources. Like the news.  Something someone in your family might have said.  Having a double entendre suddenly dawn on you. I cite the following toon, Wild Horse Round-up. Image

Who, actually is this aimed at?  The BLM in Nevada?  They have a round-up every year.  It’s quite controversial with conservationists and organizations like PETA.  The Horsey Set? Cowboys? Cowgirls?  Chevrolet?  Or could this toon really be a “really rotten” play on words?  What do you think?

Weather has been in the headline news for many months.  Twisters, huge rainfall weather patterns, etc. Attractive women in V studios, with huge flat-screens behind them, doing a show and tell with various weather maps and imagery.  Being weather people, we’ll often find them standing ankle or knee deep in flood waters. Freezing their butts off. A pair of behind-the-scene people are probably with them, but since they’re not onscreen, they’re probably under a shelter of some kind..  Doesn’t anyone realize there are critters under that water?  Fish from flooded rivers and streams, snakes like water moccasins and copperheads even rattlers are out swimming, exploring the surface, maybe looking for something dry to crawl out on.  Like umbrella-toting weather-girls. Snap turtles might be looking hungrily at the human tiny feet wearing worthless boots that look good in the fashion world, but nothing more than a meat-wrapper to a 50 pound self-propelled amputater [word?].  Alligators, cruising just under the surface, looking for tasty weather girls..  But I digress.

ImageI made a screen capture  of the storm system on the East Coast.  Then I took another look at a cartoon scene I created in my own little world, for a construction toon (Which will show up eventually in this blog).  And it dawned on me that the screen save would make a great sky itself.  From there the definitive punch line was obvious…

What about storm chasers?  Those seemingly stupid people who run towards storms, hoping for a tornado to photograph? A nasty, destructive tornado?  Awhile ago, a dramatic shot of a black twister could bring the image-maker big bucks, and now that the top SLR (single lens reflex )digital cameras also make videos with huge resolution, storm photographers can make super videos.  I content they’re completely nuts to even go out in that weather, especially in a tiny moving steel box that Mother Nature seems not to recognize as a safe, but movable, haven. Nowadays there are so many quality camera rigs out there, not to mention the very acceptable videos from smart phones, so the market is saturated.  Some TV outlets won’t even consider buying footage from the public, unless it is spectacular, andImage then what they pay won’t begin to cover your expenses.  Storm chasing is not a great way to make a living.  Howsomeever,  the whole practice evoked this cartoon.

In my virtual world I can do anything, build anything… With the use of Bryce 3D (available on daz3d.com) The programs come with “Primatives, which are simple cubes, circles, rounds, flat shapes and lights. With these you can construct just about anything, from a simple boat dock to a skyscraper.

Or, I can buy or download freebies of digital models of various things like autos, planes and water-craft.  I can pose digital models of people in any stage of undress or dress.  If I want my model to be wearing something different, I can go to the web and purchase clothing and accessories for a whole lot less than what the real world charges.  When I am done, I transfer the posed beings into Bryce, where I put them into a scene I have made.  From that point I can move my point of view (POV) any place one can imagine.  I have done some testing and  research into making one of my books into a graphic novel.  Daz Studio and Bryce 3D  and Photoshop would be central to  the effort.  Imagine.

I can set up a couple in conversation in a restaurant, say, and render still images from the usual three-camera positions first used by Desi Arnez in the “I Love Lucy” TV series. I can put a camera into one or the other’s eye, and see a true POV.  Or a straight down-looking over head camera.  From a bowl of soup. The biggest time consumer in that scenario is posing and positioning my virtual people.  Evidently, coming up with bizzare ideas doesn’t seem to be one of my problems

Unfortunately, Bryce 3D is a program that is slowly obsoleting itself. There have been no new versions or updates for several years.  It does not work on the later Mac OS Programs. Nothing past OS 10.6.8(?)  It probably won’t be long before the new Windows OS will no longer handle it.  That (And Adobe’s GoLive) are the two reasons that I have kept and maintain my old mini mac, which uses MAC OS 10.411.  I have a large, but relatively inexpensive,  HP monitor that supports two inputs from two different computers.  All I have to do is hit a video input switch, unplug and replug into the “new” computer, the USB connector with both my mouse and keyboard attached, (both wireless) and I’m right back in biz.

Whoops, my groceries are being delivered.

Seeya Later,

 

A Photo Lesson in Seeing

TV Comm 02One of those TV commercials for a medicine aimed at senior citizens filmed on a coastal setting, shows a woman with a pretty expensive camera squatting close to an old fence, shooting what is apparently a close-up of a plant or whatever.  But she is seemingly oblivious to the obvious.  She is squatting in the middle of the real picture…

Allow me to elucidate. In the image below, (fig 1 & 1a) we see a fence-line repleat with interesting shadow detail.  In the advertisement video, our actor, who is playing a photographer, is shooting from a low point of view (POV) at something off to image right.  We assume a plant or something.  (See fig 2). IMHO, she is in the middle of the actual what-should-be-captured segment of the video.

Sand Fence #2So the point I’m trying to make is that you must look at your surroundings, try to see the big picture when you’re shooting images.  The commercial has her handling what appears to be a substantial investment in equipment.  Makes another point.  Good equipment can’t take good pictures by itself.  Good equipment will not make an amateur into a pro, although there are a lot of people who think expensive equipment and toys will automatically make them a pro..  They are not professionals.  We call them commercial photographers. Someone who takes pictures for money.

Unlike a Professional Photographer, who uses the best equipment he or she can to make and sell fine art.  This includes either a darkroom, and/or a good computer with a good imagery program, like Photoshop .  The key word in this paragraph is “sell”.

Now before you old-times tell me that Ansel Adams used a Kodak Brownie, remember a few things.  One.  When the Brownie came out, is was a very nice medium format camera, with good glass.  Two.  If I was still in the biz, and wanted to use a wet darkroom (film) I might use somethink like that for a travel camera… go out and shoot some test imagery to set up for a large format rig later. Three: Almost every image of his that is considered art was shot with nothing smaller than a Hasselblad, (Medium Format) and most of the imagery was created with a view camera, (Large Format)

An aside here.  I am the guy who wasn’t Ansel Adam’s assistant.  I can’t tell you how many wannabee pros that I’ve met, claim they were AA’s assistant.  Probably the closest anyone got from this group was taking a three day seminar in Yosemite from the Master.  While we’re on the subject, Ansel was a top photographer, but his famous master artistry came about in his darkroom.

I almost fell victim to the same thing.  I was “on assignment” at tiny Piney Lake in Colorado.Piney Lake I was shooting a great image of rental canoes, (see Fig 3) busily getting variations on the theme, because I knew that what I was looking at through the lens was a killer image.  This one was gonna kick some serious ass!

Shooting medium format at the time, a full 6×7 image in Fujichrome 64.  I shot a full two rolls of 220 size, knowing that in this case, on this shot, film cost and lab costs were of no, repeat no, significance.  In the middle of my snapping revery, my wife tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Look behind you.”

I looked and saw another magnificent image of a silhouetted treeline with a firey red fog settling over in for the evening.  All I had to do was turn the camera 180 degrees, and a bit of tilt, change the EV, and I got some great images there, too.  For a few minutes because of the rapidity of the light change, I was going back and forth between images, gettin’ em both.

You should be using a tripod. You have a moveable head on that tripod. It can swivel a full 360 degrees.  You should use your own head swivel the same…

ReflectionsRed clouds