Monday, January 30, 2012

Whine, Bitch and Moan

I do believe that I have the plague.

Is it that we quickly forget
how bad our last bout of the flu/cold felt,
convincing us that we have never,
in our entire life felt so crappy?

I'm now on day five and every day seems to get worse.

And what is it with all this water
that keeps falling from my nose?

Isn't an achy body,
sore throat,
throbbing headaches
and sinuses that feel 7 times their regular size

I don't really intend to go on,
I just needed to vent a bit.

And show you what I'm seeing these days.

That's my bed.
Note that there is one
completely empty box of Kleenex,
sitting next to box number two,
which at this rate,
will be empty by tonight . . .

Here's hoping none of you get whatever this is.

I'm including my regular sign off,
even though for right now,
life is not so good.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Visions of Light

I love photography, and I love movies

I find I can watch a film time and again, each time discovering something fresh and each time, enjoying it for a different reason.

But it's only lately that I've realized that a big part of what I love about movies is the photography.

It struck me the other day that they were originally called moving pictures. Movies because they are pictures that move. Elemental I know, but still a connection I hadn't really made .

Photography is so integral to film that I think we often take it for granted. But nothing is so basic to the craft of movie making as photography.

With all of this on my mind, I recently viewed an exceptional documentary called Visions of Light. Compiled by the American Film Institute, it features interviews and commentary by noted DPs (Directors of Photography).

It's an enlightening piece of film.

They talk about photography and the history and art of movie making, starting back in the day when movies were made by one single person holding a camera. How in the early days, all cameras were hand held, allowing photographers to capture images that hold up one over hundred years later. Look at some of the scenes in the early silents and you'll see what I mean.

Then, with the advent of sound, movies became immobile, which changed the look of so many movies, but photographers continued to innovate.

I was particularly taken with the talk of "seeing" in black and white as opposed to color. Long time readers may remember I went through a serious black and white phase while we were staying at Ghost Ranch, and I often find myself leaning in that direction.

We got Visions of Light from our local library and I can recommend this documentary 100%. If you love movies or photography, or if you just want an afternoons entertainment, check it out.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

California State Parks

Like many long time Californians, I'm pretty depressed about the current camping fees. Where we used to go to local parks at the drop of a hat, now, not so much.

Even the day passes are $10, just to go in and hang for a couple of hours, outrageous!

So you can imagine how happy I was to discover the Limited Use Golden Bear Pass. For $10 a year (January to January), folks 62 or older can purchase this pass which entitles them day entrance into most state parks for about nine months out of the year (it excludes from the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day). It's good for the cardholder and their spouse or partner, as well as anyone in the car with them (up to 9 people).

Is that cool or what? It's certainly brought us back to the state parks. Not necessarily for camping, which is still very expensive and reserved for special occasions, but at least we can go and visit for a couple of hours at a time.

I wanted to share this with all of you who might benefit from these passes.

On to other things, I cannot believe that I am sick again! Last time it was flu, but this time it's a head cold. I have to say, I think head colds are the most miserable ailments. sore throat, runny nose, achy body.

BLECCHHHH, it sucks.

The worst part is that MacWorld has been the last three days. I managed to score free tickets (usually $45 per person), but just couldn't muster the energy to drive to San Francisco and then walk all over Moscone Center. It's the one trade show I usually look forward to, but I guess it just wasn't meant to be.

Since I've been sick,
I thought I'd include
a picture from my archives.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Just a Few Shots

The other day I went to pull down one of our shades, and the string broke.

Oh no!

I've read many times what a huge pain it is to restring the blinds in a motorhome, but what were we to do?

I went online, found instructions, then decided the best place to start was with a restringing kit. They have them at Camping World, but gosh, they want $11.00 to ship this tiny package of hardware and strings! Since there's a Camping World about a scenic hours drive away, we decided a little car trip was in order, so off we went.

Not too much to say about these.

All were taken from a moving car.

I was kind of excited to get this shot.
We were driving one way,
he was flying the other . . .

I snapped this in the window of a school.
I thought about stopping,
as I really liked the reflections
in the windows,
but we kept going.

The sun was setting.

And soon it was dark.
I wish I had gotten the moon a bit sharper.

That's it for today.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Silly . . .

I looked down at my breakfast
and for some reason,
I thought that the toast looked really lovely.

So I took a picture.

I took this with my iPhone.
In downloading it to the computer
I found one more from the other day.

For some reason, I liked this shot.

I'm very easily amused.

I must be really bored. . .

Friday, January 20, 2012

It's Raining

There's been no rain for quite some time, so of course, the day we have to go out, it starts pouring.

We had an appointment to give blood, so there wasn't much choice, we bundled up and out we went.

While I was waiting, I decided that it was about time I got the camera out and shoot a few pictures, weather be damned.

Like always,
these look better if you click on them
and look at them at full size.

Rain drops were the order of the day.

I'm fascinated with infrared photography,
even though I don't really understand it.
I have a few programs that try to simulate it.
Here's a shot processed to replicate the effect.

And here's another attempt at Bokeh.
I'm trying to learn
to use the aperture setting on my camera.

The blood drive was held at a local church,
so I grabbed this shot of one of the arches.
I love the simplicity and shapes in this shot.

Other than these few shots,
the only news
is that we're still working in the house.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Work Work Work

Been busy in the house, so there isn't really a lot to write about.

One thing though, I found our first "real" digital camera. Now we did have one of the first Apple QuickTake Cameras (which I also found). I used it but never really got into the whole digital photography thing, it just didn't really click with me.

Then, my friend got a Sony Mavica that took pictures directly to a floppy disc. We borrowed it several times and that was my real start. By the time we had decided to take the plunge, a Sony Mavica 1000 was available, and that was what we went with. Similar to earlier Mavicas, this one took it's pictures to a small CD. For the time, it was very slick, with a full 10x optical zoom and tons of bells and whistles.

Today I found that same camera, tucked in the back of a closet. Wow, that thing is HUGE! It was still in its' case, with all the accessories and the original receipt. That puppy was $1,300 back in 2000!

But we loved it and took a ton of pictures with it. When we got married, we took the Sony along on our honeymoon (our first trip through the southwest). Of course, this meant we also had to take something to read those CDs, so we hauled our Bondi Blue iMac along with us. Click the computer link and you'll see what we were hauling in those days! But we thought it was wonderful.

Not too long ago, I looked at some of those pictures, and my God, they are really terrible. The quality is somewhat lacking, but mainly, it's the photographer. I guess I would just point and shoot at anything, clueless about composition or anything else.

At least it serves as a reminder that I've gotten a little better in the last dozen or so years.

One other totally unrelated note . . .

The other night, we again watched the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Am I the only one who thinks that if this were released today, Eli Wallach would be a shoe in for an Oscar nomination? A damned near perfect film, with an outstanding performance by a gifted actor.

That's it for today.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Under the weather . . .

I've been a bit under the weather, and would like to thank all of you for the emails.

I think the worst is over, so hopefully I'll be back soon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Blah Blah Blah

Another post full of unconnected ramblings, I guess I need to do this every once in a while.

You know, my entire life, I've been a reader and a pretty good speller. I can spell Albuquerque (duh!) and Mississippi and lots of other words that a lot of folks have trouble with.

So I was kind of surprised when I was trying to look up the film Christmas in Conneticut and couldn't find it . Then I noticed a correction and suddenly realized it is spelled Connecticut.

We're never too old to learn.

I'm continuing to love my iPad, and I'll repeat something I've said before . . .

You really have no idea how much you'll be using an iPad until you actually get one. Hard to believe, I know, but it's true.

The longer I use it, the more things I find to like about it. I've written before about the many photo apps, several of which I use every day. I've also moved most of my reading over to the iPad, I use it for newspapers, books and magazines.

And there's always something new.

I've found several interactive books that I've really enjoyed. I've always been a reader, and I find this new technology a welcome addition to my library.

The idea that books can not only be the written word, but also contain pictures must have been a new concept at one time. Audiobooks were another innovation, yet both these are now considered mainstream.

And I believe the next great leap is to truly interactive books. They will contain not only audio and pictures, but also moving images, movies, music, links to extra online media and who knows what else? I think in a generation, these will also be accepted as completely normal.

Now I'm not saying all literature will be like this, but it will be one more choice available to fiction lovers.

With this in mind, I'd like to point you to a website put together by the fine folks at Moonbot Studios. Based in Louisiana, they've created something unlike anything I've ever seen before. It's called the Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Part children's book, certainly part adult book, a trace of Buster Keaton, a nod to silent film and just a hint of Hurricane Katrina, it's quite unlike anything I've ever seen. It's not an actual physical book but an eBook (which is available as an app on the iPad).

Take a look at the website and, even if you don't have an iPad, you'll be able to see what I'm talking about.

If you do have an iPad, I can completely recommend the Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Even at $5, it's a great deal.

One final thought, have you seen the film My Favorite Year? From 1982, most people have probably already viewed it, but I wanted to mention it anyway.

Perfectly cast with Peter O'Toole, Mark Linn-Baker, Joseph Bologna and Lainie Kazan, it hits so many notes, all perfectly.

Laugh out loud funny, boatloads of charm and an underlying warmth, if you've never seen it, please do so. You wont be disappointed.

Done rambling, at least for a while.

Monday, January 9, 2012

the Monarchs

Here in Santa Cruz, we have a Monarch Butterfly grove. For some reason, that fact had completely slipped our mind and we've almost missed them this year. They usually arrive some time in October and leave around the first of February.

Realizing that the time has almost passed, we thought we'd better hustle and go see how many were still around.

NOTE: I know I mention it a lot, but for these pictures in particular, they really look much better if you open them full size in a new window.

The grove is located at Natural Bridges State Park.
They've kindly built a boardwalk
that meanders through the eucalyptus trees
back to where most of the butterflies hang out.

There's also a freshwater lagoon.

The water is covered
with a green algae like substance.
It's not smelly or scummy,
and it's a pale shade of green.

The ducks like nothing better
than to glide along
with their beaks in the water,
scooping up the "goop"

We went all the way to the end of the boardwalk
and didn't see more than a dozen butterflies.
Oh no, had we waited too long?
Then we looked up . . .

These pictures are pretty dark,
it was pretty late in the day,
and the grove is heavily wooded.

And since the butterflies
were about forty feet up in the air,
it's a good thing
the new camera has a 35x zoom!

I never did get the shot I really wanted,
but at least I caught a few of these beauties.

There were also calla lilies.

This is my favorite shot of the day.
I tried it with both the camera and my iPhone.
For this shot, the iPhone did a better job.
I was mesmerized by the grain in this board.

After a walk down to the beach,
I took this shot of my sweet man.

We may try to go see these beauties again before they leave for the year. If we do, we'll go on a warm day and try to get there a little earlier in the day.

We also have plans to go and see the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo soon. If we take a day off every now and then, we've found it's better to go and do something really fun.

It keeps us motivated
and reminds us of what we're working for.

Friday, January 6, 2012

From Inside the Coal Mine

Just one shot, because I've been working in the house all day!

So here's the deal, can anyone identify these guys?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Shooting in the Dark

In thinking about light, I decided to try shooting dark.

Most of my Christmas shots were taken with the Canon SX40, so tonight I decided I'd see what I could get with my iPhone.

The iPhone's sensor (equivalent to the film) is small. Smaller sensors mean a lot more noise (pixelization), and generally, this is also true with the iPhone. That said, I've found the new iPhone 4s handles noise better than I had expected.

In this shot,
I played around with shutter speed,
moving the camera as the shutter was open.
It's my "arty" shot.

And I like the color.

I was pretty impressed with this shot,
hand held, using an app called ProCamera.
I like the sharp contrast
between light and dark.

Taken while we were stopped
at an intersection.
Not bad for no flash.
The texture and the pattern
appealed to me.

Finally, this shot, taken from inside the car.
Again, I like that the iPhone
was able to capture both the light and the dark.
And pretty much everything in between.

That's it for today.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What the Camera Sees

I'm constantly amazed at digital photography.

Since I never did serious film photography, I'm not sure how film and digital relate, but the way it was told to me is that film photography is a chemical process.

It's all about how the light strikes the film, with each roll having a a particular chemical makeup. Even more chemicals are involved in the darkroom. It means that if you want to have complete control over your photos, you need to know what you're doing. You can still shoot good photos and have them professionally developed; however at that point you give up a lot of your creative choices.

Digital photography doesn't deal in chemicals, it deals in information. It's all 1s and 0s, like any computer program. And like so many computer programs, a lot of the information appears to be hidden, unless you know how to find it.

That's where photo manipulation in the computer comes into play.

Ideally, for the most information, you would shoot in a format known as Camera RAW. This pretty much bypasses most of your slick digital camera pre-sets (things like white balance, saturation, etc.). The drawback is that most RAW files are huge, so they slow your camera way down. Still, if you want to be able to extract the most information from your digital photograph, ideally it should be shot in RAW.

My Canon 7d shoots very quickly in RAW, but my iPhone 4s and my Canon SX40 shoot only in jpeg.

Jpegs don't have as much hidden information as photos shot in RAW, but there's still a lot more than you see when you download your picture to the computer.

So where is all this going? I want to encourage all you casual photographers to take a shot at playing with your pictures

Here's a shot I took of the small shelf in our bathroom. These are some of my very favorite things, and I take lots of pictures of them, always trying for the perfect shot.

This wasn't it.

Still, I wanted to see what I could do with it.

A bit of sharpening,
and a change in lighting for a hint more drama.
The difference can really be seen
if you click for a larger image.

And pardon the dust.

Later, around sunset,
I looked outside
and saw pink skies and a rising moon.

Now this bore absolutely no resemblance
to what my eyes were seeing.
I knew the camera had done better than this,
it just needed a bit of help.

A change in exposure brought this.
Not great but better.

Next I started really playing.
A bit more saturation,
a bit less contrast.

More saturation,
some softening.
It's moving into unreal territory,
but sometimes I like it there.

And finally,
completely unreal,
a soft dark dreamy quality.

Now take another look
at the original iPhone jpeg.

The camera saw all of these variations
from this one single washed out photo.

Pretty cool, huh?

So if you've never played with your digital photographs,
I encourage you to do so.

the camera always sees more
than it shows you at first glance.