Category - photography

Portals of Stone: The 2014 Calendar Version

And now, a bit of shameless self promotion:

28_back_coverYou do know that there’s a new year starting in a few weeks, right?

But… how will you know for sure unless you have a colorful calendar on your wall that reminds you of the fact every 30 days or so?

Oh, sure, that digital thing in your pocket will keep you up to date well enough.  But where’s the fun in that.  It’s so… one dimensional!

Consider, on the other hand, the three-dimensional, time-warping qualities of these images:

First, they will help you identify the present date.  Sure, any calendar can do that, but these calendars also…

…Transport your imagination into a time in the not so distant past (i.e. centuries, not millennia) when great edifices were carved from stone, by hand, and constructed over several decades.  Many of which lie in ruin today…

…and through which you are transported into the cosmos and offered a glimpse of the vastness of space and time – in the form of starlight that left its source millions of years ago…as captured by a giant camera/telescope suspended in orbit around the earth.

The images are “Portals of Stone” – rendered in ink, on card stock… a new “portal” every month through the new year.

Just follow the link to see more at…

PORTALSOFSTONE.COM

or follow this easy PayPal button to order yours today:



A Year of Living

Last Friday – my 63rd birthday – I re-posted (with some minor edits) the short essay I wrote on the occasion of my 62nd birthday.  It was about turning 62 – the age at which my brother had died in 2011 – and the quest to outlive him numerically by turning 63.

That post ends with:

There is much more to that challenge than simply lasting the year.

I’ve got some living to do.

Seeing that line again for the first time in a year caught me up short.  It made me wonder: Had I lived up to my own challenge over the past 12 months?

Or had I just gone on with my desultory day to day existence, squeezing nothing more out of my continued presence here on earth than the consumption of natural resources and the production of bodily wastes?

And then I remembered this photo:

Melrose Abbey - Scotland

That’s me, seated on a bench before the south elevation of Melrose Abbey in the borders region of Scotland.

For so many reasons, that photo answers the question.

I may not have lived entirely up to whatever potential I have had languishing here for the past several years (like, since Book Two went off the rails), but I think I can say that I certainly made some effort, and have some results to show for it.

I mean, I’m pretty pleased with the whole “Portals of Stone” collection that came out of that trip to England and Scotland last spring.  I had my first “art show” this fall, and now the whole collection is hanging in an actual art gallery in East Nashville.  And I got a check in the mail for one of the pieces last week.  Eat your heart out, Van Gogh…

Probably more important than any of that is just the fact that I made the effort.  That I saw an opportunity and I grabbed it, and the result was as satisfying and meaningful a two-weeks as I can recall in my life.

I still can’t quite put my finger on what draws me to these medieval ruins, although I can say that the unexpected result – the Portals of Stone – that came out of that trip is maybe the most creative expression I’ve had since… well, maybe since I finished/published Book One – and that’s going back to 2002.  Certainly the most creative visual expression in like… ever.  I mean, hey, I was 62 years old and for the first time in my life I came up with something that somebody else – actually a couple of somebody elses who have authority in such things  – considered “art.”

So, yeah. That happened.

And now the same gauntlet is thrown for Year 64.

Cue the Beatles:


Beatles – When I’m Sixty-Four by hushhush112

How Many Barcamps Have You Been To?

bcnlogoAs anybody who follows my Facebook/Instagram feed knows all to well, I had the privilege last week of being the “In-Kind Sponsor” for Barcamp Nashville 2013.  All I had to do was photograph the entire day long event. Which, frankly, was a blast.

As I mentioned in a post (before I carpet-bombed my own feeds with photos…) Barcamp has always been something of a landmark event in my personal reckoning, after I attended the first one in 2007 – an event that marked the beginning of my emergence from years of seclusion and book authoring.

Probably because I mark my own involvement with Barcamp from the very first one in 2007, I got the idea early that morning to start asking the people who were working on and attending this year’s event “How Many Barcamps have you been to…?”

The answers appear in the slide show below.  Hover your cursor over the top of the frame to see the suspects’ names.

Is This a Dumb Idea for a Camera…

nikonDf

…or the dumbest idea for a camera, ever?

Ming Thein  offers some insights on the just announced Nkon Df – a camera that seems to blend all the disadvantages of digital photography with all the disadvantages of film photography.

I think Ming is mincing his words here.

To be honest, I really don’t quite know what to make of this camera… I’m confused. On one hand, there are very sensible engineering choices – the sensor, for instance; but on the other hand, marketing said that you have to have AF and a full digital set of controls and a retro look, so we land up having too many buttons and knobs and a bit of an F3-collided-with-a-D600 appearance to it.

I’m not mincing mine: I think this is the dumbest thing in camera design/engineering Nikon could possibly have offered.

Starting with the same dysfunctional AF array that soured me on the D600 right out of the box.

Ming talks a lot about the viewfinder.  He’s talking about an optical viewfinder.  But based on my experience with the Olympus EM-1 so far, I think the whole idea of the optical viewfinder is obsolete.  I spent a lot of time while shooting the Barcamp on Saturday experimenting with flash settings – flash on, flash off, flash exposure plus/minus – and never had to take the camera away from my eye to make those adjustments because all the info is right in the viewfinder.  I don’t think there is any optical viewfinder that puts that much info in front of your eye.

But better than that, each time I made an exposure, it would appear before my eye in the viewfinder.  I could tell without ever looking at the back of the camera that I’d gotten the shot and move on to the next one.   You can’t do that with an optical viewfinder, either.

It seems to me that some evil twin of Marshal McLuhan is now running Nikon.  McLuhan wrote about seeing the future through a rear-view mirror – using new technology to do the work of the old.  He wasn’t suggesting that that is necessarily a good thing – but this camera is a classic example of doing just that.  It’s taking digital technology and trying to replicate the film camera experience.  Jeezus, if you want a “film experience,” just get an F3 or an F100 off eBay.

And the price… almost $2,800??  That’s the same as a D800… which is possibly the finest DSLR on the market.

I’m with Ming.  Totally confused.

Barcamp = MOMOP (#bcn13)

bcn13_theme_banner

Tomorrow’s Seventh Annual BarCamp Nashville is going to be one of those “coming around full circle” events for me.

The very first Barcamp in August 2007 was something of a “coming out” event for me.  After selling songs.com –  my early-stage, “Internet one-point-oh” business – to Gaylord Entertainment in the fall of 1999 (and spending a year watching them run it into the ground), I sorta went into seclusion for several years, during which I wrote two biographies of obscure 20th Century Scientists.

Then in the summer of 2007, I started reading about this event that was going to gather all the disparate elements of Nashville’s emerging digital arts and business communities for an “unconference” that covered a vast array of topics – the only unifying factor being some interface with “new media” and their underlying technologies.

Here, see for yourself:

I have not made it to every Barcamp since, though I have made it to several and made lasting friendships at each one.

This year, for the first time, I’ll be making an actual contribution other than my usual wandering around between sessions and heckling the presenters.  I have signed on as an “in-kind” sponsor which means that in exchange for hanging the “Cohesion Arts” logo in strategic places around the (undisclosed) location (a designation that puts me in some most-esteemed company), , I’ll be providing still photography coverage for the event.

More than just taking photos, though, I hope to engage everybody in attendance who has a cell phone / camera (who am I kidding, that’s everybody...) in the day’s photo coverage.  There will be a video screen in the front of the venue offering a continuous Instagram feed that will include not just my photos, but any photo that bears the hashtag ” #bcn13 .”

Barcamp is a hard event to describe to somebody who is not familiar with the concept.  Yes, it’s an assembly of the region’s digerati, but there is no single theme for the day.  It’s really just an excuse to get a lot of similarly minded people in a room and start bouncing ideas around.

For me, Barcamp has always been first and foremost about the people I get to meet.  It’s a welcome departure from the virtual, online experience that tends to dominate our lives these days.  Which brings me to the acronym in the title of this post, which came to mind while trying to describe BarCamp to a friend today:

You’ve heard of “mooc“s, right? That’s a “massively open online course,” those classes that universities offer for free to thousands of students around the world over the Internets.

And then there is the concept of “meatspace” –  what was once – before we all started living our lives through screens and keyboards – known as “the real world.”

So BarCamp is a

Massively Open Meatspace Opportunity

or

MOMOP

At least, that’s what I’M calling it.

Now y’all get those cell phones out and start tagging your photos w/ ” #bcn13 “

And if you see a guy with a rumpled photographers vest and a couple of cameras round his neck, stop and say hello, and I’ll make sure we get an “official” photo into the stream…

P.S. A special shout out to Kerry Woo for suggesting I volunteer for this assignment.  I’m glad they accepted the offer, and I hope I can live up the exceptional standard that Kerry has brought these events in the past.

Rosslyn at Dawn

I’ve been in Scotland for a week.  I haven’t spent nearly as much time sorting and editing as I have shooting, but some of what I’ve got to show for my presence you can see here.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Rosslyn Chapel at Dawn

Rosslyn Chapel at Dawn

Photographers live for about four hours every day: the two hours on either side of sunrise and sunset.  That’s the best natural light of the day.  The rest of the day is for location scouting (or so I’ve been told).

Somebody asked me once, “which do you prefer, sunrise or sunset?”  To which I replied, “well, I’m usually awake by sunset…”

And that has been the case so far on this expedition.  Despite my best intentions, I’ve slept through every sunrise.  That might have something to do with fact that the sun sets at this latitude at about 9:30 PM, and the twilight lingers until nearly 11.  And  I’ve been out every evening photographing something at sunset, though the actual sun has been mostly obscured by clouds.

After that, you get back to your room, download the memory card, sort the photos and edit a few, and by the time you start nodding out it’s 1:30 AM.  Not exactly conducive to starting again at 3:30 (since the sunrises at about 4:30…).

Tweed River Valley btw Melrose and Rosslyn

Tweed River Valley btw Melrose and Rosslyn

Yesterday I made the short – and lovely – drive from Melrose to Rosslyn, which is my whole reason for being here in the first place.  And last night I went out again at sunset and looked for something to shoot at the end of the first completely sunny day I’ve had all week.  After that, same drill… fell asleep at the keyboard about 1AM…

But this morning something very different happened: I woke up and saw the moon setting in a perfectly clear sky outside my window.  I looked at the time on my iPhone: 4:24.  Like an idiot I tried to go back to sleep.

But whatever higher power brought me here intervened.

Despite my best efforts to go back to sleep, that was not gonna happen.

In the absence of sleep I opened Google Earth on my iPad (there was just enough signal to get a view) and entered the coordinates for Rosslyn Chapel, which is about 2-1/2 miles from the b&b where I’m staying.  From the map I could see there is a road that goes past the chapel to the edge of a field on the eastern side.  From paintings and photos I’ve seen from that angle, I knew there was some kind of meadow on that side of the chapel.

I threw on some clothes and was there by 5:30, just as the sun was peaking over the hills.

Medieval churches, chapels, and abbeys were typically laid out so that the altar – and the grand windows above it – face east, so that the rising sun can remind worshipers of the Resurrection (note to fundamentalist Christians: you do know that Muslims face east for their prayers, too, right?).

The  combination clear sky and the rising sun meant that the best natural light I’ve seen all week was shining down on the nearly 600-year-old of east facade of the Rosslyn Chapel just as I was getting my tripod set up.

Left to my own devices, I might have slept right through it.  But I swear, some power better than myself hauled me out of bed, threw clothes on me, and steered my rent-a-car through the pre-dawn light to get these photos.

Now, behold the majesty of 15th Century architecture:

Rosslyn Chapel at Dawn

Rosslyn Chapel at Dawn

 

I’ve had good moments and bad moments on this trip.  The good ones are usually after I’ve been shooting for several hours, and I’ve taken the time to marvel at the fact that I am even here, doing this extraordinary thing.  The bad ones are after I’ve sat at the computer with the results from the day and thought “oh crap, I missed that… shoulda framed that differently… oh, look at THAT… that I didn’t quite get in the frame…”  etc. etc.  All common photographers’ laments.

But today, I can take some solace in the knowledge that however else the rest of the day goes, I got this part right:

Detail of the East Facade of the Rosslyn Chapel

Detail of the East Facade of the Rosslyn Chapel

 

But only because that Higher Power would not leave me to my own devices and let me sleep through the dawn.

I wish I could remember now who was it who said, “you do the work… and the inspiration takes care of itself…”