Archive for the ‘photo’ Category

Quick Pix

10 March 2011




Dear J-

Just wanted to see how well this camera works and share some of today’s rambles.

First up is a view from the bridge of USS Massachusetts. Next a profile view of the same. Finally a view of the hotel room in downtown Providence. Yeah. I’m happy with today but looking forward to being back home tomorrow.



Photo Note

5 February 2011

Dear J-

I find myself looking around, these weekends lately, at other people’s cameras and wondering what they’re running with. By now it’s no secret that most of those black plastic lumps dangle off the end of Canon or Nikon straps and depending on where you go (Zoo, Sea World) there’s a gray barreled or red or gold-striped lens hanging off it too. Then I remind myself that it’s not the equipment, it’s in the vision, and not to wrench my arm out of its socket trying to pat myself on the back here but the exercise of taking around a camera with a prime lens has helped immensely — I’ve got a rough idea of what the picture should be before the camera comes to my eye, and the final act of pushing the release is just a formality at that point, confirming lighting and focus point.

I’m not sure if it’s been obvious but I’ve been trying to put up at least one picture — good bad or indifferent — per day so far this year. Call it a New Years resolution if you want, but it’s another try at bringing a camera everywhere which has helped me already. As far as going too far afield for photographic inspiration, it’s proving that there’s nothing not worth taking a picture. The world keeps opening up in unexpected inspiration lately.



4 January 2011

Pummelvision will grab your photos (facebook, flickr — they’re pretty agnostic) and put them into a Clockwork Orange-esque stream of consciousness slideshow.  Here’s 2000 photos from my flickr account:  roughly 14 months into 5 minutes:

If I want another one for 2011 strictly with 2011 photos, that works out to an average of 160 photos per month — that’s do-able I think.

Burning Can

7 September 2010

Dear J-

One of the best things about having multiple cameras is finding pictures that you’ve squirreled away and forgotten about; with storage so cheap (as Kirk Tuck points out, flash memory is now roughly the cost of film if you decide to treat it as a write-once medium) I’ve developed the annoying habit of hanging on to just about every frame I’ve ever shot sine picking up a camera of my own nearly twenty years ago. Will I ever revisit those days? Likely not, but there must be a film scanner out there that’s got my name and a few spare hours on it somewhere.

I know that there’s still film loaded on some of the old Nikons in the closet; I sometimes debate whether it would be better to fire those off and finish off the rolls or easier to just wind the film back in the can so I can do the instant time travel and see what my life was like in pictures ten years ago.

Right now there’s a can burning a hole in my pocket; I finally managed to crack open one of the disposable cameras we lugged around California (and which is now seeing sterling duty as a figgy toy) and I’m perhaps too excited to see what lies within. Digital has really spoiled us for one hour photo shops; soon is always slower than now, after all.


Bankruptcy Plan

21 July 2010

Dear J-

So let’s pick out the perfect thing tonight — for me I’ll take the easy road out and say the perfect camera.  The perfect camera doesn’t exist.  It’s the next size up, for stability and low-light capability, or it’s the next size down, because you want to be able to take it anywhere.  It’s the one you left at home.  It’s the one whose battery just ran out.  It’s the one you’d use if you just knew how to make it work right, and it’s the one you’re so familiar with you forget about the right settings.  It’s the one with the feature you need, but didn’t get (video, macro, fast sequence shots, what-have-you) in the interests of time or money.

You can spend your time chasing what you haven’t got, of course.  And camera companies are always happy to part you with your money when you decide that what you have isn’t what you need:  it’s a business model that works for them.  It’s not planned obsolescence, it’s general philosophy:  Canon seem interested in rolling out the latest bells and whistles which makes Nikon fans defensive of that company’s conservative approach to change, but Nikonians gloat just as much when Canon’s initiatives fall flat and early adopters are revealed as late beta testers.  Meanwhile Pentax, Minolta, and Olympus guys are like Rodney Dangerfield:  no respect.

figgy keeps me sane, of course.  In the past month or so she’s somehow become a little girl who talks much more sense than nonsense, stringing together whole sentences and requests, not always politely, but clearly understandable.  I imagine her asking why — as she does ask why a lot (“Why aren’t you wearing any PANTS, daddy?”) — why I would need camera X, for instance.  It helps counteract the deafening voices on forums and review sites insisting that you need this feature or that capability; verbalize it and try to make it make sense (“Well, because when you peep through this little eyepiece, the picture is bigger”) to a three-year-old.  Whole companies could collapse overnight.


Ten Years

2 July 2010

Dear J-

Today is it — our ten-year anniversary. My parents called over the weekend to see what we had planned* (last year was my brother’s tenth, and they took a trip to New York City); we are taking a break next week and heading up to the Bay Area for a cousin’s wedding (who knew that with thirteen on my mom’s side and six on my dad’s side, I’d ever run out of unmarried first cousins?) and after that, over to Disneyland, but that’s pretty much it as far as big plans for the summer go. Ten years is a substantial amount of time when you’re ten years old. At thirty-five, though, it feels like a blink. Ten years, huh? How did that happen again?

I think it’s my nature to compare myself against other folks when it comes to numbers, whether grades or years or speed or income. I can’t help it; for an engineer, quantities are sufficient** but for me I need those qualitative comparisons to really drive the message home. At their ten years — I just remember this, as I was four — my parents took a long road trip from Spokane to Yellowstone as part of a small caravan*** — four adults, four kids, two cars. So I’m down on kids and road trips in comparison; I’m up in geographically close family so we could, theoretically, take a trip, just the two of us. And yet three — nearly four — is the inescapable number that swims up in my mind. We are three.

There’s all kinds of numbers to throw around today, but four seems more important than ten or fifteen**** or 2000. Ten is a number — a significant one, to be sure, but counting it is like scratching years of captivity into a cell wall, and that’s not what this is, not at all. I said earlier in the week that I thought my insomnia had been cured by no longer being in school and its attendant stress, but that’s not it; I sleep well at night because I married my best friend and it’s been ten (fifteen) of the best years so far.

But wait — there’s more! Ten years is a down payment on fifty-plus, I say. I can’t imagine life any other way now and I’m so glad she said yes (and no), so glad to share this journey with her — there’s no couch-jumping over here mostly because I don’t have sufficient influence with Oprah — so yeah. I look forward to every morning, and we’ve had 3653 excellent ones so far, haven’t we? Yet it’s the smaller number of four that I keep looking forward to, and the adventures that two small minds can will dream. Ten years? I can’t wait to see what’s next.


* As it turns out we never make plans beyond maybe a nice dinner. I remember we’d picked July 2nd because it fell over the long holiday weekend and figured that folks who’d come over might want to sightsee in Sacramento. theVet’s boss has a long-standing annual family reunion over July 4th and so she has to pick up more hours precisely at that time of year every year after the first anniversary we had together.

** It’s times like these I wish I was a mathematician, to whom numbers have a soul; think of Newton, Leibnitz, Descartes, Polya, Fourier who all lined them up on a page and made them march up and down in living rhythm. For an engineer, numbers are tools and answers but not intrinsically meaningful.

*** The caravan of two consisted of my parents’ 1969 Mercury Cougar, especially outfitted with a sheet of plywood across the back seat to allow for we two kids to sleep, and my dad’s uncle’s Oldsmobile wagon. I forget the exact name of that wagon other than that it was definitely a GM B-Body, relatively new (1978ish), metallic avocado green, and kitted out with all the luxury features including power windows. Sure, you scoff at that now but power windows and locks weren’t standard equipment until well into the 90s. As part of the lessons learned from the trip my parents went out and bought a wagon — Oldsmobile, naturally — and a CB radio to keep in touch the next year when they took a trip to Vancouver BC with their friends who were driving an Olds 88 (my dad and his friend actually went to the dealership and signed the paperwork nearly simultaneously; their license plates were sequential, SMU 695 and 696).

**** Fifteen is how many years we’ve been dating; we had what we like to refer to as the World’s Longest Engagement, which saw both my brother and theVet’s sister meet and marry their spouses between when we got engaged — 1998 — and when we got married in 2000.

Magic Trio

23 May 2010

Dear J-

As Schoolhouse Rock teaches us, three is a magic number; for every fairytale with three siblings, we’ve been unconsciously trained to believe that it’s the third brother that will be responsible for overcoming the obstacles and monsters; we know that it’s the third sister who’s modest yet beautiful. Three knocks on the door, three times round the bush, three years spent in labor. At three years old figgy continues to amaze and frighten; this afternoon she decided that the perfect fashion accessory was the new helmet we got this morning, so she spent the night charming the various clerks and waitstaff we encountered.

I recently picked up The Fool of he World and His Flying Ship, which is a Caldecott winner, but unlike most of the others we have on the shelf, it’s a pretty substantial story as well, where the third ne’er-do-well son succeeds without his parents’ blessings because, in part, he takes direction well and is a pleasant traveling companion, not ascribing motives but assuming best intentions instead. The example motivates me to take things less seriously at night; there is no serious plot to keep my stenorious tones from rolling out over her room. We’ll get there eventually, and the time isn’t wasted, after all.

So three is a magic number; three is a beautiful time to be around and it gives me three thousand opportunities to be a better person every day. Three hundred smiles, thirty moments of tearing my hair out in blind frustration, thirty more chances to defuse my temper with some disarming offhand comment. Three wishes before the genie goes into the bottle for the night: that tomorrow is better than today, that today the lessons stick around tomorrow, and that three (more) amazing moments go on record again.


Small Scale

8 May 2010

Dear J-

There’s an old Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown gets a phone call and, when prompted, tells the caller that he’s watching the bottom half of a movie — Snoopy is hanging out on top asleep with his muzzle overlapping the top half of the screen. This was back in the day when the typical TV came in a floor console and was the sort of furniture you planned a room around, so that’s how things have changed since then (growing up I still remember our console TV and how it became a flower stand in it’s next incarnation).

Likewise we gave her the birthday presents a few days late; she was, as we predicted, thrilled with the toy stroller and baby we got for her. She loves playing at being grown up even at three — the kitchen has gotten regular play, and she has made much exclamation over how poopy her dolls get (often using language that I unfortunately recognize as originating from us). So on the surface it’s all about imitating us.

On the other hand there’s little attention paid to the actual responsibility behind the actions — she’s got feeding the new doll down pat, but doesn’t know why. It’s watching the lower half, or going through the motions without understanding. There’s a charming disconnect between the actions and intent; it is with rueful ears and eyes that I watch my skills played out on a small scale day by day.


Three Thoughts

2 May 2010

Dear J-

I think it might be time to introduce her to Sound of Music; partly because she’s probably ready, and partly because I’m starting to understand the lyrics to some of the songs in Chitty, and they’re starting to make me … er, suspiciously sentimental. That’s enough for musicals for now except to note that we broke open Hello Dolly (“It Only Takes a Moment” is pretty impressive) in order to watch the sequences that were featured in WALL-E. Maybe we do watch too much on the weekends. The ambition on Sundays has a short half-life.

I’m wondering if the BP platform explosion doesn’t have a more simple explanation. Unknown. Mysterious. I don’t think so. If a machine — oil extraction platform — fails, there are three likely explanations: incorrect design, incorrect operation, or incorrect maintenance. And especially if that machine has operated correctly in the past, that eliminates the design; Chernobyl lost its core because they wanted to conduct an unanalyzed test. We all have a tendency to compensate for slight changes (when was the last time you thought about your shocks? Be honest) and deferred maintenance (I’m way past due on my oil change), and I’m thinking there are a few maintenance and operation managers at BP that won’t be for much longer.

I’m not sure I’ve ever met a perfect remote control, but the one that comes with TiVo boxes I suspect is at least as responsible for reeling in customers as the software itself. When I think back to the wretched remotes that I’ve used before — all buttons the same shape and size, or slick surfaces with no feedback (this is the primary complaint I have with touch interfaces like the Kameleon — if it’s something I have to use blind, it better be distinctive without forcing me to memorize finger positions like frets) — the TiVo remote is a paragon of useability, distinctive buttons available without fumbling or repeated repositioning.


Fast Times

1 May 2010

Dear J-

At times I veer wildly into excess; after watching The King & I, for instance, I went and got a giant box set of the Rodgers and Hammerstein oevure, none of which I’ve watched since (Oklahoma! is waiting for me, as is Flower Drum Song). And as figgy sings little snatches of songs from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (“Toot Sweets” always gets an echo), I’m eyeing the Sherman Brothers next. As it turns out, they’re also responsible for Mary Poppins and, more significantly for me, Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

B&B is one of those movies I used to watch all the time as a kid, but somehow none of it sank in; because we used to tune into the Disney presentation Sunday nights on ABC, which they saved for their B-list (Earth Star Voyager, anyone?), We tended to watch the same films over and over. I remember the climax with empty suits of armor marching through the fields, but how or why they got there, I’m not sure. And yet that’s the way that most movies were for me those days: scenes like hurried phrases, like chorus lines without context.

It’s hard to know what’s going to sink in over the next few years; I am amazed by what she parrots back at times (we picked up a book in the store — Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? — because she recited the whole story to us; I suspect that she had been exposed to it at school). We’re privileged enough to watch it happen, though, and it’s been a blast so far.