Heisenberg may have slept here…

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“Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.” — Sir Arthur Eddington (English Astronomer)

I see by the timeline here, that it’s been longer than I had hoped between posts.  I blame myself.  So much spinning around in my fevered little brain, that I’ve been a bit distracted.

The above quote popped into my head the other day.  I wanted to blog something related, but I promptly forgot it, as I am wont to do when life gets in the way.  Back it popped today, so I wrote it down right quick…

Having said that, this may end up being some free form blather as I don’t really know why this tickled my writing reflex, but it has so here we go.

I guess I’ve been contemplating a lot lately on…life in general I guess for the purpose of brevity.  The corollary to the above quote is something I and many others have used…”That’s so weird I couldn’t possibly have made it up”, when something or other pegs the needle on their Wierd Sh**-O-Meter.

Maybe it’s just me being Mr. Cosmic, but I am finding profound thoughts lately in seemingly insignificant events.  Without getting all mysterious, let’s just say, I’ve been compelled lately to start writing what will no doubt be a difficult to write tome about some of the spiritual influences, events, and compelling forces in my life, approximately.  I generally don’t discuss my personal belief system with others, as it’s one of those ‘taboo’ subjects, along with politics.  If you’re inclined to rage and express anger toward people who don’t follow traditional Judeo-Christian philosophy…best close this down now.  Flames will be cheerfully not approved.

Having said that, far be it from me to tell someone else what or how they should believe, if anything.  I find that presumptuous, and frankly insulting.  The paths of our lives are as unique as the individual, and one persons experiences or hard won wisdom may only apply to them.

My own life experience has led me to a point in my life where I have begun to actually understand or intuit (as opposed to just ‘know intellectually’) that nothing happens randomly or by accident.  Now, I’m not talking about stubbing your toe and making a cosmic incident out of it (sorry, just simple cause and effect here.  Put on some dam shoes), but I mean actual events in your life.  New jobs, new relationships, and the like.  The big stuff.  These mean something.

There are those who would argue that they planned for that to happen because they sought out a new job, or a particular person to pursue.  Sure.  If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.  Far be it from me to be a fatalist either.  If our entire lives are pre-ordained from cradle to grave, then why bother getting out of bed in the morning, right?  Though I admit there are days when that has a certain appeal.

Most/many people live their lives like a cork on a lake, driven by currents and waves, and accepting what comes with little question and even less insight as to ‘why’.  When you set your feet on a path of understanding life, the universe and everything, strange things start happening.  It’s as if we accelerate karma to some degree.  Changes happen faster.  As our understanding of ‘whatever this is’ we are doing here, it starts happening faster.

There’s a lot more to this, trust me.  I’m just hitting the surface of the highlights.  I’m also not here to tell you how to do this.  How should I know that?  It’s your life,  you figure it out, I’m having quite enough problems with my own, thank you very much.  To put it the way Brian did in the movie “The Life of Brian”, “Don’t let anyone else tell you what to do.  You’ve got to figure it all out for yourself”.  Of course, the crowd that started following him was perfectly content to allow him to ‘lead’ them, despite his pleading with them.  It’s a very funny movie really, and despite how you may feel about it’s irreverence, it brings up a whole plethora of issues about religion, self governance, introspection, as well as how to be a member of a crack suicide squad.

When will this book be written you ask?  It’s an excellent question that I continue to ask myself.  I continue to be mentally and intellectually daunted by the project that came flying out of the ether to slap my brain like a wet fish.  But you readers of this blog will be the first to know.  Or maybe the second, depending on where you are in the pecking order of my friends.  Being surrounded by writers in my group of zanies, I fear they have corrupted me into this path.  There will be hell to pay upon you, unless this turns out to be easier than I think it will.  I hold little hope for that at the moment.

Now that I’ve spilled the beans, sort of, I feel a bit more like I’ve committed myself to this path.  The thing is, writing, although I love the idea of it, is almost physically painful to me…until I get started.  Then things sort of start to flow.  It’s the starting that is difficult.  Just like setting your feet on the path of self discovery I suppose.  It’s beset by a lot of psychic bruising until you get your sea legs under you.  Well, it’s still a difficult path even then, but you sort of get used to the abuse heaped up on you by the Universe I suppose.  It’s really for our own good you know.

And when you gaze long into an abyss…

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you. –Friedrich Nietzsche

I was motivated to write this post because of something a friend of mine posted on the hell that Zuckerberg created.  That’s a subject for a post in itself, but I digress…

Said friend was ‘unfriended’ by a friend of his over political differences.  My friend made a comment that he was getting tired of his negativity anyway, but was trying to ‘understand’ his motivations.  While I generally support the idea, as it does tend to help us get along better, usually, it also led me to ponder the Nietzshe quote as above.

It seems to me, that the political process in our country has gotten out of control.  This isn’t meant to generate any “Ya think?” comments, rather I am leading up to something.  This isn’t meant to be a political rant, per se, rather an observation of the process and its effects.

Politics, in my recollection used to be more civil, at least the discussions between normal people.  Between politicians, it’s as nasty as it’s always been.  There were times, back in the day, that fist fights erupted on the floor of the House/Senate.  It hasn’t improved all that much, it’s just a lot more verbally nasty now.

Sadly, we as a people have gotten caught up in this as if we really have a personal stake in the outcome.  The reality is, not much will change.  Enter (anti)social media, and the concept of safety and anonymity behind a keyboard.  Keyboard warriors, or as I call it, “Facebook behavior” has allowed the self isolated disseminators of chaos (DOC’s) that are usually shunned by local communities to have a much wider audience.  To the dismay of us all.  Yet, I believe that no matter how much we try to ignore them (the Ignore/Block button IS your friend, not said DOC’s, even if he has “Friended”  you), their words and actions do have a cumulative effect.  They post something offensive, we try to reason with them, correct their behavior, it turns into a s***t storm, and everyone looks bad.  We’ve allowed the abyss to stare back into our very consciousness and express itself through us (I can’t come to bed honey, someone is WRONG on the internet!).  That one never gets old. 🙂

I certainly don’t put myself above this, as I’ve allowed myself to get caught up in it also.  To my great regret.  I do try, very very hard, to not engage.  I am not afraid of the Hide/Block button, and I use it liberally rather than get sucked into the maelstrom.  No good will come of it otherwise.

But to come to the point of this, I think it’s important to remember who we are, rather than which candidate we think is prettier.  I’ve worked hard at surrounding myself with good people, supportive friends and acquaintances.  I’ve had to cull some of my social networking lists when such behavior appears, but I do so without rancor.  I just don’t have time for it, and I don’t wish to hear the abyss screaming obscenities in my ear, telling me how wrong I am, what kind of smartphone I should own to avoid being an asshole…etc.  I prefer the still small quiet within.

I just want to do the things that make me happy, and live my life in the best way I can.  I share those things here, hoping that they will bring some measure of happiness to you as well.

Rise above, and stay in the light my friends

The power of persistence

Well, this blog is about photography isn’t it?  Also about life, the universe, everything, 42…

I wanted to post this image as a reminder that persistence pays off.  I’ve grown rather fond of the many hawks and raptors that we have in Colorado.  I love shooting them, even though they can be fiendishly difficult to capture. (Dam you kestrels!)  I haven’t been out to where they live much lately, and they’ve grown wary of my presence…again.  Nothing like hauling out a camera with a huge lens attached only to see them fly away.  Of course, their eyesight is amazing, and I can only imagine what that lens must do to them when they see it.  I managed to get pretty close to this young redtailed hawk before he got nervous enough to fly away.  But apparently not nervous enough to fly right past me.  Fortunately, I’ve gotten used to this lens and am learning to pan effectively with it, and I finally have the settings on the camera dialed in that I was able to pan, autofocus and grab a few nicely focused images of this one in flight.  It’s a big beast of metal and glass, and yet strangely manageable.  With practice.

I didn’t want to keep pursuing him as he was hunting for dinner, and I didn’t want him to have to abandon the prime hunting site that he had staked out.  It’s a field full of prairie dogs, that I fondly call the hawk buffet.  Must be pretty easy pickings for them because I see them along this area frequently.  All those fat little snacks on four legs for them out there.  Yummm…..  At any rate, I was pretty happy with the few good shots I got that didn’t include power poles and power lines in the image, so I called it a day.  Mission accomplished.

Photography is like that sometimes.  We don’t always get the shot we want, or have set out to grab.  Remember to look behind  you.  Sometimes there is something there that we didn’t expect that might be way better that what we set out to find.  In this case, I got what I was after.  However, we should stay flexible, because there is always something else out there to capture in that frozen moment of time that becomes a photograph.  That’s one of the many reasons I love photography.  I count myself lucky to live in the photographers paradise called Colorado.

Life can be like that too (Ha, told you this blog was about life).  Sometimes things don’t always work out the way we want, but it almost always works out the way it’s supposed to.  Like photography, we have to be open to other options, other opportunities that we had not previously considered.  Yea, I know, it sounds like the old saying about one door closing but another window opening.  Sometimes we do have to crawl in through the window, but when we do, we find a treasure of opportunities that we didn’t consider previously  (Wait, did I just use the ‘window of opportunity’ as a metaphor without thinking of it?  I think I did…).

Well.  42 it is.  Keep  your head on a swivel.  Life is just like that sometimes.  I’ve been feeling like a window is about to open in my life.  I have no idea what it is, or where it will be, but I’m trying like hell not to miss it.

22 million btu’s and a dog

Every year Colorado Springs hosts a balloon festival over Labor Day weekend.  You’d think as a photographer I would be there every year.  Events have conspired to keep me from being there, including events completely under my control.  My friend Brian and I actually were in town at the same time, and oddly enough, he’s another photographer who hasn’t been able to photograph this event.  We finally made it.  There is a ‘balloon glow’ that occurs on Saturday and Sunday nights, where the pilots set up their big gas bags (no small feat) and light the burners, causing their balloon’s to sit upright, and in the darkness illuminate them brilliantly from within.  Quite a spectacular sight, and something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time.  We learned a few things, this being our first time.  Images like this are somewhat cliche, but neither of us had anything that we could call OUR cliche images, but now we do.  One of the pilots, a friendly gent, invited Brian and I into his balloon just before firing up the burners, which he explained give off about 22 million btu’s of heat.  It feels a bit like standing next to 5 really large bonfires.  Or as Brian said, about the temperature of one of his dogs on the bed at night.  As far as we know, we are the only ones that had been invited to shoot inside any flying balloon (there was a non flyer set up for that purpose there) as walking on the fabric eventually breaks it down and it can  no longer fly.  This particular pilot is a representative of one of the balloon manufacturers.  We were honored.  His balloon is pictured above.

As you can see, the balloon glow is self descriptive and a favorite of the crowd.  We managed to get a lot of pretty good images of this one, although as I said, we learned a lot and next year, if we are in town, will be better photographically for us.  At least we hope.  No tripods were abused in the making of these images by the way.  Just good  timing with the burners and a steady hand, along with cameras that perform well at high ISO settings.

Apparently the balloon company rep has a substantial budget for propane, as he was allowing people to pose in his basket for photos (yes, that’s real wicker too) while he would light up his burner.  Again, dog temperature, even though it was aimed straight up into the air.  He was gracious enough to pose for me as well, so I told him I would post this portrait of him.  Quite a character and quite a spokesman and diplomat for the sport of hot air ballooning.

Hope your Labor Day weekend was fun and safe.

Conspiracy theorists unite

No, I don’t think the horses are out to get me, although these three did appear to be up to something.

I have to say, I’m sick.  Sick to death of this election year already.  My personal policy is not to post political stuff.  It’s divisive, no one will admit they are biased (yes, we are, all of us!) and it just causes so much vitriol amongst humans who during a particularly hard time in our history, need to be getting along better instead of fighting over which candidate is the prettiest.

So I had to get out of the house yesterday.  Well, I try to do this anyway when I am home just to try to grab a few photos.  The last few days I’ve been trying to get some nice sunsets, but…meh.  So in the spirit of “meh”…I decided it was time for my usual approach.  Just go out and ‘see’.  This place I go out to hardly ever disappoints me, and even though I am limited to staying on the road, the surrounding countryside is rich with subjects.  I got introduced to these guys last time I was out there, and they didn’t disappoint this time either.  Not sure what it is about this particular group of horses, but they are full of personality, especially the one on the right.  They are very curious, as are most horses.  But they really appear to love to perform in front of the camera.  Because I was actually ready with my camera this time, I got this shot that lasted… oh about 1/800th of a second.  As soon as I hit the shutter, they all sort of turned to look at each other, and began their little performance.

Needless to say, I felt much better for having gone out and done something constructive/creative/whatever.  Honestly, I don’t know what’s going to become of us, our country, our way of life.  I also don’t feel like I have much control over it.  But I can still go out and make photographs that make me happy, if no one else.

But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the horses aren’t out to get you. 😉  I’ll leave you with that thought, as well as one last image.

One small step

Everyone and their brother will be blogging on this story, but so will I, because this one will be mine.

This is one of my favorite photos of the days of Apollo, which I was privileged to witness first hand, as many of us did, in the comfort of our living rooms, on television.  Neil was known as a ‘cool customer’.  The archetypal test pilot, unflappable and ready for anything.  He is clearly just a bit emotional here, his wet eyes showing in the photo after his historic first moon walk with fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin  (I admit it, mine are a bit too as I write this).  I’ll probably never forget those fuzzy TV images that people around the globe were riveted to on that day.  Not to mention those words.  Who can possibly forget those words?

All the NASA astronauts are quick to give credit to the thousands and thousands of people who work to get them up in space.  Speaks loudly to their character of course.  Getting a spacecraft up there is a massive effort in teamwork which draws from a wealth of intellectual resources unparalleled in our history.  Putting a human up there just adds to the drama of the whole effort.  If anyone of you has ever been to Cape Canaveral or the Houston Space Center, and seen the actual hardware that these guys flew to the moon in, you would also have to acknowledge the brass b***s of these guys.  That vehicle that Mr. Armstrong is sitting in wearing that prize winning smile has an outer skin that could be punctured with a finger.  Yes, a finger.  Or a screwdriver, or a micrometeorite.  That same type of space vehicle became a lifeboat for Jim Lovell, Bill Anders, and Jack Swigert when their slightly more substantial CSM had a major explosion.  We’re talking 1960’s engineering here.  To the moon.  And back.  9 times.

Why we stopped doing this is beyond me.  The obvious answer is politics of course.  Much of the technology that we enjoy and debate about is spillover from those days of lunar exploration.  Without getting political about it, I am appalled at the gutting of our space program.  It’s been pointed out that it cost something like $6B to land Curiosity on Mars, and the Olympics cost $16B to produce.  While I think both are worthy endeavors, you can’t help but notice the bang for the buck we get in space, not to mention the increase in our knowledge of the universe and our place in it.  Can we really put a price on that?

Even though Neil would not want me or anyone else to keep making such a fuss over him (he was not comfortable with all the attention on him), I have to say thanks Neil, and Buzz, and all the rest of you astronauts, and the technicians and engineers and medical folks, the flight controllers…everyone who raised our sight that day, and many other days, above the petty, the mundane and the ordinary that we all seem to get caught up in.  Thanks for reminding us that we humans aren’t so bad after all, and though we are capable of horrors, we are also capable of greatness.

UPDATE:  Thanks to +Johnathan Chung via +Samantha Cristiforetti on Google+, this is a link to a very rare series of interviews from Australian TV with Neil Armstrong.  Enjoy!

http://thebottomline.cpaaustralia.com.au/

The definition of insanity…

Well, I did it.  I moved my old blog over here to WordPress, and glad I did.  I felt it was time for a change and a different approach to blogging, for me at least.  In other words, time to stop doing the same thing over and over.  Who knows what will come of it, but I have some projects in the works, and some of the blogs may or may not be related to them.  But as the tag line says, I may post about things I even understand.  No matter what happens, I plan to do something here weekly, even if it’s just to say hi.

I have just imported all my posts from Blogger over here, in case you are afraid you missed anything.  My apologies for the mixed up fonts, I can only hope that time will sort this out as I’ve selected fonts in this template.

Watching the wheels go round and round.

I like this photo…not just because I took it, but because I actually had my camera with me when I saw ‘the moment’.  The dog by the way, was incredibly well behaved.  Just sat there with his human and watched the world (and other dogs) go by without moving.  In a day and age when we all have a camera with us (if we own a smartphone, or even a semi-smart phone) it’s of course, much easier to capture moments like this.  I do try to keep a DLSR with me when I go out, or my mirrorless camera if I don’t want to carry that heavy thing around.   But like the man said, the best camera to use is the one you have with you.

Extra points if you get the reference made in the title. 🙂

Are you pondering what I’m pondering?

So it seems that Google has handed off all the Blogger stuff to an Indian domain.  Thinking of moving over to WordPress.  Really don’t care to have a .in address, nothing against the folks from India.  I work with a lot of them and they are fine people.

So, unless you want me to put the rubber pants on the chimp, that’s what I’m pondering.  I really need to get serious with this blog anyway.  Life has been really busy, but I must get busy blogging again.

Work flow


We hear this term a lot, but what does it mean? It most often refers to the way one processes their images after they come out of their camera. This is most usually applicable if you are shooting in your cameras native RAW mode (NEF for Nikon, Canon has it’s own version) which in every case was developed and expanded from the TIF model.

I often hear photographers crowing about an image being “straight out of the camera” (SOOC). Well, how wonderful for you. Yes occasionally it all comes together and we get it right. But perfect? I don’t care how good your camera is, if you’re shooting in RAW, jpg, what have you, every image can stand some buffing up, even if it’s only a little bit. So, that’s SOOC huh? So, what’s that thing here in the shadows? Wow, that area sure is bright, and that sky sure seems a bit washed out. Get my drift?

I can empathize with a beginner, because I once was one, and still consider myself a student of this thing called photography. It actually took me several years to get my workflow down to something I called acceptable. After some trial and error with several pieces of software, I think I’ve hit on the combination that works for me. Or have I?

I started re-thinking my work flow after reading a tip from Moose Peterson, who I hold in very high regard photographically speaking. Plus he seems like a pretty good guy too. It was a setting tweak in the Nikon menus that frankly, I’d never considered because I had stopped using Nikon’s Capture NX2 program, for the most part. I hadn’t abandoned it completely, but it was starting to gather some dust on my hard drive, so to speak. I’ll also be frank enough to say that the program is starting to become a bit dated, in light of some other software that’s available. I also use the Nik Software Complete plug in package for Photoshop/Lightroom. I guess I felt like I was missing something because I began exploring some other options. None of them were filling the bill for me.

It dawned on me, that the settings I was using, were part of the proprietary file settings in the NEF file, that are basically unavailable to Photoshop, Lightroom, and any of the others. So this little tweak wasn’t actually showing up in my workflow and wasn’t a factor in what I was seeing in Lightroom as I downloaded my cards. Clearly, I needed to get back to Capture NX2 in some fashion. I started comparing images in Capture and Lightroom side by side. Yep, Capture was showing the tweaks I had made in the camera. Simple matter of a couple other settings and export as a TIF, then continue with my regular workflow. The image above was created in Gloucester, UK, at Gloucester cathedral. It was also managed in my previous workflow. Yep, it’s a perfectly acceptable black and white image. In fact, it’s one of my favorites. You may not agree, but I only have to please me in this case, not a client so you are welcome to your opinion :-).

Since I had been thinking of adapting my workflow, I decided to do so using this image as a comparison. So starting from the NEF file, I ran it through Capture before Photoshop/Nik. I’m much happier with the second image overall. There’s a bit more richness of detail as well as tonality to it. This second image is here:

I mentioned that Capture NX2 is slightly dated. Well, it was introduced about 4 years ago as a significant upgrade to NX, which itself was a huge leap forward from the original Capture program provided by Nikon with some of their cameras. That program was nearly useless, in my opinion. Enter Nik Software. They did a major overhaul of Capture, it was renamed Capture NX, which introduced the concept of ‘control points’, allowing the photographer more selective control over processing. Nik has since developed their plug ins to a very high state of usefulness, providing a very powerful and easy to use interface. No, they don’t pay me to tout their products. I just love them that much. So much, that I found myself drifting away from Capture NX2. I’ve rediscovered the power and ease of use this program offers to Nikon shooters in processing NEF’s, before adding all the wonderful finishing tools also offered by Nik. Sorry to say, that users of other camera platforms will not benefit from the more powerful aspects of Capture NX2. Those can be made available to them in their other offerings however.

Capture NX2 was designed as a RAW processing tool only. Rumor on the street has it that Capture NX2 is being redesigned with some/most/all of Nik’s other plug in capability, which would make it a formidable competitor to, dare I say it…Photoshop? Details are of course, sparse. It may not even be true. I have talked with people about this possibility and speculated on this very thing happening down the road, so I can only hope it’s true. Keep an eye on nikonrumors.com for further developments.

In the meantime, try to stay flexible. This was the original point of this post. Just because something works for you, doesn’t mean something else won’t work better. It was somewhat satisfying on my part, to rediscover an important place in my workflow of something I had once considered very important but had lost sight of. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some demo products on my hard drive that I must delete.