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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Image of the Whenever

Image of the Year? Nah... too bold. Image of the month? Not bad, but the idea of only posting 12 random, cool images a year seems a little, well, under-achieving. Image of the week? Let's not get carried away here... 52 random, cool images a year sounds a lot less under-achieving, but I'm not sure I wanna be held accountable for something so low on the priority list. Image of the day? Whatever.

Let's just leave it at "whenever". That way you get bonus content, and I'm never late with a new image. Sounds like a win-win all the way around to me.

I was out walking the dog this evening, saw the wet sidewalk, and thought there had to be a good image there somewhere. So I laid down on the sidewalk to get this one. I think a couple of drivers in passing cars thought I was either dead or off my rocker. I can hear the comments now... 'Henry, there's somethin' wrong in the head with that boy. Did you see him? Layin' on the sidewalk like that... takin' a picture... of the sidewalk. He needs help, Henry. He needs help."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

For Your Listening Pleasure

How many times have you been reading the blog and thought, 'Ya know, the only thing missing that would really make this blog a little plot of cyber-Utopia is a bit of background music for my listening enjoyment?'

It's a rhetorical question - something you may not have asked for, but I answered anyway. [That's what we do here, listen for what you don't ask for and provide it regardless] That's one of the great things about having a blog - you can create your own democracy, tamper with the voting and make all executive decisions. In this particular case my democracy of 1 voted for some tunes.

I'm stoked about this latest edition to the blog. You can check out a selection of a few songs I've currently been listening to simply by going to the virtual jukebox in the right hand column and picking one out. Go on... it's harmless... and free!

Thanks to the folks at Project Playlist for creating this social music experiment from which people like myself can freely benefit and borrow.

Feel free to send me any recommendations for tunes you think I might want to check out.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Stoddart Family [slideshow!]

A couple weeks ago we went for some late afternoon bake time in the sun in McKinney to create some images for the Stoddart family. Julie had just turned 21 mom was hosting a big celebration for the weekend with a ton of extended family in town.

Here's the follow-up slide show mentioned in the earlier post.

E-mail is so 2003

My buddy, Schrode, just got a new iMac with a built in camera, so we used Video iChat and had an old-fashioned e-face to e-face conversation last night via the web. Amazing how far we've come in the last 10 years with technology.

I haven't figured out whether Schrode's doing the dance from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video or impersonating Sulley from Monster's Inc. in this picture. Either way, by the look on my face I was terrified, and - in the case of the former - a little concerned.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dog Days

It was inevitable. Summer has finally hit here in Texas which is to say outdoor photo sessions are on temporary hiatus until the temperature drops back into the bearable.

Unfortunately, the dog apparently hasn't noticed and still wants to go for walks on a regular basis. She lets me know seemingly without fail at the end of every episode of TiVo'd Dirty Jobs playing in the background that she's tired of watching me sit at this computer for hours on end. Kinda like a built in alarm clock. "Yo, gimme some attention! Get a life and take me for a walk, would ya?"

Here's a couple fun images from today's excursion through the park. (click on images for larger view)

An Ode To Parents

Thanks to Jen over at Sugar Photography for finding these instant classics. A must view for all the parent folk out there or anybody else just looking for a smile to put on their face.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hey, how come you don't write me anymore?

To all of you that have subscribed to the blog using the box in the column to the right and have been waiting anxiously for new content, pressing the refresh button every 5 minutes hoping to see a message indicating amazing new content and/or images, I apologize.

Not sure what happened between Monday and Tuesday but the back-end service that sends out e-mail notifications to subscribers every time I publish a new post decided it no longer wanted to keep y'all in the know. When I checked this morning, all e-mail subscriber addresses we're no longer in the database. Gone. AWOL. Vanished into thin [hot, humid, Texas] air. Jimmy Hoffa'd.

I'm working with the tech support guys to see what happened, but their response so far ("Yeah, uh... we're not sure what happened, but you probably won't get your subscriber data back.") is less than encouraging.

CALL TO ACTION: So sorry, but if you want to receive e-mail notices when I post new content, please [re]enter your address in the subscribe box, and hopefully you'll start getting shiny, new e-mails again.

The irony here is that those who have subscribed for e-mail notifications probably won't ever read this because they currently aren't getting any notices telling them to check out the new blog posts. Perfect.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

State of the Nation

I'm generally not the type of person to forward on chain mailings, particularly if I can't verify the source myself. In fact, more often than not, I hit the delete key at the first sniff of a chain letter. That being said, I think I've seen at least part of this before, and I'm completely not convinced Ben Stein read this on CBS Sunday Morning Commentntary as the e-mail I received states it was, but in this case I think who wrote it and in what medium it was presented is irrelevant. The message is solid either way. So with that disclaimer, here is a concise statement of someone's opinion - which I happen to be in agreement with - about why our country is where it is today:

"The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a crche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this happen?" (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.
She said, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"

In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.
Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "WE REAP WHAT WE SOW."

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in. My Best Regards.

Honestly and respectfully,
Ben Stein"

Monday, August 13, 2007

HDR Test Image

One last Philadelphia image. This is from the top of the stairs in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This was actually an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image which basically means I sat the camera on a step to keep it still, took about 8 different photographs of the same scene at different exposure levels, and then blended all of them in Photoshop to get a wide range of details in both the shadow and highlight areas that is otherwise not possible in today's digital cameras... at least not in one shot out of the camera. Click on the image to get a closer look.

In Search of Nspiration

I'm starting an on-going collection of images of the letter N. Dunno why... just decided on a whim while in Philly last week while I was walking around the city that it would be a fun project that could result in a cool wall of N's at home. I may very well decide next week it's the dumbest idea I've had in a while, but for now it's all the rage.

Man, check out the look on my face... so intense. This N stuff must be serious business. Too funny.

Philly Friends

It was great to see Brett and Theresa in Philadelphia this past weekend. I grew up with Brett back in Ohio, and it's always fun to hang out and catch up with one of the hometown crew. Funny how it's just like we're back in HS when we get together... except, of course, we now have more bills, bigger TVs and actual responsibilities, but otherwise it's pretty much the same. Same jokes that are so unfunny they're funny. Same ragging on each other. Same tendency to throw caution to the wind (Hey, Brett, this will be a cool shot. When you see a break in the cars in the middle of this street in downtown Philly, run out there and sit in the median in the middle of the road while I photograph the buildings blurred out behind you).

Brett and Theresa are expecting their first little one, Miles, just about any day now. I was carrying a camera. Theresa was carrying a baby. So of course we took a few photographs during a brief, impromptu session in the city before they dropped me off at the airport on Saturday.

I'll be expecting a call any minute now telling me Miles has made his debut.

Yo, Rock...

Well, I did it. I told myself I wouldn't do it, but I couldn't help it. I raised my arms and jumped up and down and played the music in my head...

Dun Dun D-D-Dun D-D-Dun D-D-Dun...

In the presence of the world-famous Rocky statue at the base of the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art that said Rocky ascended in his training run before his bout with Apollo, I was rendered defenseless in my battle to refrain from doing Mr. Balboa's victory dance.

Speaking of world famous, it's amazing how well-known this American icon is. A woman came up to me and we were discussing the statue and she mentioned the three kids on the right in this photograph (click on image for larger view) just arrived in the US last week from Ghana to stay with her and they all knew about Rocky and wanted to come see the statue and run the stairs. Pretty amazing stuff.

Why I Need a More Friendly Camera...

... when I travel.

Cut to scene: Matt visiting his friends Brett & Theresa in Philadelphia. Matt & Brett hop out of the car to jump in line at Pat's King of Steaks for some famous Philly cheese steak action on the city's south side. Matt hasn't seen his high school buddy in a while and decides he wants a simple photo to commemorate his visit and their stop at this city landmark. Matt and Brett strike up friendly conversation with husband and wife couple behind them in line, and Matt asks them to snap a quick picture of him and Brett. Matt sees look of anxiety and intimidation on man's face when he hands him big, heavy camera with lots of buttons. Matt reassures the man everything's all set to go and all the man has to do is focus the little rectangle in the window on either Matt or Brett's face and then press the big silver button. Man smiles nervously. Matt and Brett put on their cheesy grins and hold it. And hold it. And hold it. Lip quivering, but still holding. Shutter finally clicks.

And the result (click image for larger view)...

Thursday, August 9, 2007

... and more Philly

I'm looking forward to a free day tomorrow to go on a photo safari here in Philadelphia. Let me rewind... I'm looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow morning, and then going on a photo safari.

Man, I need to get out and exercise more. I've just been walking within a couple blocks of the hotel each night the last several days, and my body's already having an allergic reaction to all the physical activity. Sad, really. I'm not ready to sign up for living downtown in a major metropolitan city, but I'm certain I'd be in a lot better shape from all the walking.

Anyway, it's supposed to rain most of the day tomorrow, but hopefully not too heavy... at the very least I need to do my best impression of Rocky on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Uh-huh... humming the theme already, aren't you?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

More Philly Images

It's been crazy busy here in Philly, so I only went out exploring for a little bit this evening, but here are a few images (click on images for larger previews). I'm beat and heading to bed. Hope everyone is having a blessed week.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Philly Phun

I'm hanging out in Philadelphia this week, and you can't help but feel the tradition and historical significance all around you when you're here.

Oddly enough, it was hotter hear today than back in Dallas, which was fantastic since the classroom I was in here in Philly had no air conditioning. Good times.

Heat stroke aside, I'm really looking forward to the rest of the week and getting out and seeing and photographing the city. The last time I was here I was only about 9 years old, which is to say the historical sites and stories were lost on me. [insert scene of me standing in front of the Liberty Bell with a t-shirt on that read "Kid for rent - $.01". I don't remember exactly what I was thinking, but I'm pretty sure it went something something like, 'Okay, big cracked bell. Next."]

In addition to the history here, one of the other things I really like about Philadelphia is the blue collar attitude and atmosphere in many of the neighborhoods. You can just tell that people work hard for what they've got and there's a palpable sense of pride about their communities and city. Very cool.

Click on the images to see larger previews. I'll post more images later.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Apparently men don't need hairapy

I get an e-mail notice every time there's new post on Photojojo, and I thought you guys could have fun with this one. Considering this makeover utility is targeted towards women and only female hairstyles and accessories are available to choose from, I think I came out all right, although it kinda looks like I went from a masculine Madonna to a Swedish tennis player.

Go on... give it a try.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Attention All Babysitters!

In case this photography thing doesn't work out, I can now add babysitter to the resumé list. This weekend Jerry and Tina were celebrating their 10th anniversary, so my friend ('aunt') Kandis was watching Trinity for the weekend so mom and dad could get some much-deserved baby-free time. I must confess I didn't do much babysitting... I stopped over Saturday night, saw the baby, played with the baby, enforced no rules with the baby, encouraged new (a.k.a. bad) habits with the baby, and photographed the baby... so mainly I'm just taking all the glory while Kandis did all the work. Kind of a babysitter by proxy kind a thing. We had a ton of fun, though, and Trinity was just as entertaining as she was entertained.

This is my favorite kind of photography to do... no primping, no posing, no "hold that look"... just photographing life as it happens and people as they are. 30 years from now mom and dad will look back at these images and see Trinity for who she is at this moment in time... a sweet, messy, wild, playful, innocent, mischievous, quirky, inquisitive, imperfect, precious 2 year old little girl. I really want my images to say something about a person; I want my images to be a reflection of their subject's personality. I think these are right on the money for Trinity, and she truly is - as the slideshow music says - a "Little Bright Star".

I would be remiss not to mention faithful Ally. At over 8 years old, She's gladly taken a back seat to little Trinity for the last two years. Such a sweet and trusty companion. And as dog's go, she's a photographer's dream - she just sat there and looked right into the light and didn't move. Then again, she had a long day with lots of excitement, so she was a bit worn out.

Enjoy the slideshow.

Happy Anniversary, Jerry and Tina!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Testing... Testing... Is this thing on?...

Okay, so I got a new lens filter this week that I'm seriously excited about. I went out to do some test shooting with it this morning and thought I'd share an image that was not taken with it [grin]. I'll share a couple that were taken with it later. This was actually an image I shot just on the side of the highway (thank you to all the people that honked as you drove by at 90mph... my heart has finally started ticking again) using my newly repaired lens that just arrived from the good folks at Nikon.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

[extra]ordinary things

For the last several weeks I've been teaching a photography class to a couple friends on Tuesdays (more on that in a future post), and tonight we took a break from the classroom (I think heads were about to explode from f-stops, shutter speeds, and exposure compensation talk) and went on a little field trip.

We piled in the car and went down to a rather nondescript football field and playground area at the school down the street to do an exercise on 'seeing'. There are amazing things all around us that we overlook every day because they are so common with seemingly little visual interest, so the objective was to try and look at these things from a different perspective - to 'see' them for what they could be. It was actually a lot of fun and I hope to keep doing it on a regular basis to expand the creativity and train myself and others to look at things from a new view point.

This was one of my favorite images from tonight - a simple bench on the sideline of the football field where players sit. In general, probably not considered a very exciting subject, but from a different view point and with a little punch of color, I think this image has a very interesting feel to it.

So, as we finish out the rest of the week, I encourage and even challenge each of us to turn off the auto-pilot switch, open our eyes, and take a minute to see the [extra]ordinary things all around us. Enjoy the view.

Celebration Overload!

A few weeks ago Dolly called me and told me she had a big weekend coming up and wanted to commemorate it with a little photography. "Big weekend" was bit of an understatement... Dolly was hosting 20+ family members for the weekend to celebrate the first of her three daughters turning the big 2-1. 20+ family members... I can only imagine the chaos, but National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is the first thing that comes to mind.

So we decided on a date and time when mom, dad, grandpa and the three girls could slip away from the festivities to create a few images in McKinney. Stay tuned for a future slideshow.

Happy birthday, Julie!