Steady Progress Towards A New Beginning

The end of February has arrived and the worst of winter should be behind us. Yesterday I went to a chili cook-off at Gateway BMW Motorcycle and looked at all the shiny new motorcycles inside the showroom and parked outside on the lot. The sun even made an appearance as you can see by the hard shadow in this photograph. All of the chili entries were pretty good though the vote counting that went on behind closed doors may have been rigged. You have to keep a close eye on those motorcycle people.

My personal motorcycle thoughts and desires are frozen somewhere back in the nineteen-seventies and it’s the old style motorcycles that I love the most. I suppose fuel injection, reliable engines, smooth transmissions and powerful disk brakes are an improvement but I prefer the looks of a classic bike and would like nothing better than to ride around (at relatively slow speeds) on an old BMW R900 or even an older R750.

These days I don’t think I can even afford to dress up like a motorcyclist but I guess that is why people get loans and make payments on expensive things. I would rather dream than make payments so I guess I will have to settle for riding my bicycle instead.

I’m looking forward to Spring and the smell of gasoline and fresh cut lawns. It’s all about new growth and hope.

Well Worn

I was up in Chicago this week hoping to take some interesting street photos of fashionable type people downtown. The weather was not the best for photography or at least not photography of quickly moving crowds of people but I didn’t let that stop me. I took lots of blurry, out of focus photos in bad light with my lens wide open so that I had no depth of field to work with.

I didn’t care all that much because I was just happy to be outside walking around. I would have been much happier if the weather was warmer or even if the sun came out for more than two seconds.

I could have spent all day just taking photos of boots and never run out of different varieties. Winter has taken its toll on a lot of footwear in Chicago. Boots like the rubber Hunter knee-highs seem like a good choice as far as function goes but we can’t have everyone in town wearing the same old boots.

I also saw a lot of UGG boots but those seem much better suited to powder snow on a mountain than downtown slush being thrown around by traffic.

Hold on to those well worn boots for a few more weeks. As soon as the winter snow ends, the spring rains will begin.

Dreaming Of Spring

Imagine floating on your back surrounded by warmth and thinking about nothing in particular. At some point you may begin to daydream about the great food you ate last night, what you had to drink or how good the bed finally felt at the end of the long day – but not yet.

Right now you are not thinking at all, you are just floating in a pool of sparkling clean water as the gentle sun in the late afternoon warms both you and the water to the perfect temperature. You could almost fall asleep right now but suddenly the phone rings much too loudly next to your drooping head and you realize that you are not in a warm pool, the sun is not shining and you are not relaxed. You are  just tired of winter.

It’s not that winter has been all that bad, at least not half as bad as the television weathermen have predicted it to be, it’s just that it has already gone on way too long and the worst of it always seems to be on your days off so that you are stuck inside the house looking out at the dull gray sky with nothing interesting to do. This is a post about nothing other than my discontentment with the weather, which is probably about something else anyway (take your pick). I’m ready for spring to arrive and ready for a trip to somewhere much more exotic than here and I’ve only got a few more weeks to wait until my vacation is scheduled to begin. Pretty soon I will be trying to decide what to wear and what to take with me. I’m undecided about camera gear but I am currently leaning towards taking a very minimal kit so that I can travel fast and light. I was thinking about taking the Agfa Jsoly which gets 16 shots on a roll of 120 film. No batteries means no chargers or cords either. I have not replaced my point and shoot camera because the iPhone is so much fun that I can’t stop playing with it. Travel is one of the reasons I was attracted to the Iphone to begin with so now that I have one I want to take advantage of the expensive thing as much as possible.

The iPhone allows you to text (and flirt) in French, which may be one of its best selling points. I’m not thinking about that or anything else right now. I’m just dreaming about warm water and blue skies… at least until the phone rings again.

Late Night Olympics

I’m contemplating the spin

Of things from without and within

The world keeps moving at it’s normal speed

Though nearing the center it appears to increase

Everything seems like the same old spin

As though it’s been rehearsed

And repeated again

And now what should I do

Whatever you want he says on queue

I stay up late and try to decide

If the emotion is fake or from inside

We play games and stay up late

To contemplate the spin

Until the morning when it begins again

The world keeps moving at the same old speed

And will continue with or without me

Sometimes it feels like you just can’t win

So I just sit here and contemplate the spin

Through My Iphone Eyes

In and Out

For the past couple of weeks I have been feeling like road kill. If I had known that my cold would last so long I probably would have given up early on. I have managed to do very little except to eat, sleep and use a lot of tissues to blow my nose. It has not been pretty around here for a while. Personal projects have all gone by the wayside due to a lack of energy or enthusiasm.

The biggest event of the week was when Jimmy the maintenance man came and fixed a leaky water line in the bathroom. It felt good to be able to at least watch someone accomplish something useful.

I have been playing with my iphone to pass the time and I thought that maybe I would put together a list of my favorite photography applications for the iphone. These are in no particular order since that would require way too much thought and I’m not up to that right now.

1- Polarize – This thing is way too cool and it’s free so there is no reason not to add it to your iPhone. I like being able to add captions at the bottom of the frame.

2 – PhotoShop Mobile – Can’t live without it. It does a whole lot of stuff and it is also free.

3 – Gorillacam – This adds multi shot bursts, a grid overlay, a timer, digital zoom and a couple of other very useful features. Yes, it’s free!

4 – Format126 – Various filters to give you a vintage look including square format, polaColor, MonoPlus and LOFI to name a few.

5 – LEGO Photo – This one is just fun to play with and has a neat interface. It’s free so there is no reason not to indulge your inner child.

6 – Flickr – This is a cool tool for uploading your iPhone photos to flickr, browsing your contacts photos and checking for recent activity on your photo stream. It’s a free and easy way to get those photos posted.

7 – Camera Plus – It has a digital zoom and a faux flash to lighten up those dark images. It’s pretty straightforward and it’s also free.

8 – My PhotoBooth – Create photo strips just like an old time photo booth except you don’t need any quarters because it is free.

9 – Nikon Learn & Explore – This has something for photographers of all skill levels and the best part is that they are giving it away for free. Actually the best part is the content and it gets updated on a regular basis. Fundamentals, Image Editing and Shooting Techniques are all covered.

10 – Tilt-Shift Generator – I thought I would throw in one inexpensive application that is extremely useful for manipulating images right on the iPhone. It’s not free but it is definitely a great value for the small asking price.

Right now I have over forty photo applications on my iPhone and all but a few are free. The iPhone is a wonderful tool for jumpstarting your creative instincts and there are plenty of applications to assist you in creating your own artistic vision. You can easily combine the effects from various applications and preserve your original image if you want to start over and go in a different direction.

Unconventional Portrait Night

Tonight was Unconventional Portrait Night over here in our neighborhood. UPN involves things like paint, feathers, lights, imagination and whatever else might be handy. There are no specific rules, just a bunch of friends and family who take turns being models and or stylists by decorating each other in unconventional ways while I try my best to direct the action and get a couple of photograph of the results.

The models and stylists always start taking iPhone photos about halfway into the makeup and then uploading the results to various web sites before we can even start working on photographs with proper lighting. I think this means they are all having a thoroughly good time. It’s interesting to watch as the ideas unfold into photographs.

We only managed to make about half of the photos I wanted to tonight so I’m hoping we can pick up where we left off sometime tomorrow afternoon.

The project I have in mind is to take photos on film using the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash camera. Tonight we used flashbulbs to light our photos on 120 format film and I’ll be very happy if those turn out well. The Brownie is very old and seems to have a mind of its own at times. My Brownie  has been modified by flipping its lens, so we will have to wait to see exactly what is recorded. This randomness is one of the things that makes using an old box camera so interesting.

I also set up a soft box and a a second strobe with a diffuser directly behind the model to act as a bare bulb flash to light the background and provide some rim light or wrap around the edges of the model. There is not sense in putting all your photographic eggs in one basket and of course the more cameras the merrier.

I like the look of this photograph taken with the Nikon D300 using the Yongnuo RF-602 remote triggers. Who knew that anyone here knew how to tie a head wrap like this. I was happy with the flowers in the hair look we started out with but this turned out even better. Everyone had something to contribute to the effort and I only had to use my photographer’s veto power once or twice to keep things going in more or less the right direction. Yeah, like they listen to me…

Some people like photos with borders on them that they can hold them their hands instead of looking at them on a screen. Is the medium as important as the image? I’m all for the artifact but getting there is half the fun. Photography is not reality but a combination of what is and what we imagine. This was taken with a single flash, camera left with a homemade  diffuser to scatter the light in all directions. The white tile doesn’t hurt either.

Tarred and feathered but still having the last laugh.

There has to be a certain level of trust in all of this. Everyone should be happy with the outcome when it’s all done.