Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My secret ambition

What I haven't told anyone, even M, is that I'm only going to grad school so I can become a Trainmaster. I don't know what a Trainmaster does, but it's a cool title, it comes with a reserved parking space, and apparently earns enough for a bitchin' bike.

Side note: just saying "la hoontah" makes me giggle.

Monday, June 29, 2009

New Zozer Art

New Zoe Art!

When Zoe pulled the above out of her cubby (covey, as she calls it) at school this morning, I told her I was going to bring it to work. She instructed me that I could take it to work today, but then I had to bring it home and hang it in the kitchen so Daddy could see it, too. Yes, ma'am.

I further avoided my econ mid-term last night by organizing my bill folder, the last six months' receipts, and all the rest of my paperwork.

I know to some of you this is akin to choosing between going to the dentist for a root canal and water torture, but for me...well...it wasn't a tough choice.

When most of my life is in an uproar (which it mostly seems to be these days, what with mid-terms, regular homework, lots going on at work, the King of Pop passing away unexpectedly...), it feels good to get at least one small part of it under control. I am master of the paperwork at my house! (At least for a week or so.)

The really sick thing is that I fully plan to celebrate graduating by cleaning out the storage room in our basement, which I cannot tackle until then as it's an absolutely mammoth task. My goal: eliminate everything that is not absolutely essential. Essential to what, you ask? Basic daily living, and our happiness. The above artwork: essential to happiness. Christmas decorations we inherited with our house that we've never used? Not essential! Oooo...the possibilities are endless - I just may rent a big ol' giant dumpster! How much fun would that be?!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Arches in Albuquerque

We took a break from the econ mid-term today and instead read five chapters (3 in law, 2 in econ). It's really, really sad when I consider reading five grad school textbook chapters a break.

However, something different was in order, as we busted our asses on that stupid test for two nights running and last night culminated in my literally crying myself to sleep over a problem that, for the life of me, I can't figure out how to do.

The light of day brought logic and reason (who cries over a stupid test?!), and the reality that 1.) doing poorly on one problem on one test will not be my absolute ruin and 2.) trying to reason out abstract managerial economics problems after a full day of work and several hours of the same is not likely to lead to much success, no matter how smart one is.

So tonight here I sit, some lovely jazz playing on the Mac, and some images from our vacation playing in Photoshop. Life is much better than it was a mere 24 hours ago.

Granted, the test still isn't finished, but I'm okay with that. We're still pretty far in front of the deadline and dammit, it can wait. Photography calls...and that's never made me cry.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Atticus and Spartacus

Tonight, about five minutes after we put Zozer to bed, we got the summons.

"Mommy Daddy!" and before any person, even the fastest human alive, can respond, "Mommy Daddy!"

So we go busting in there and she says, "Guess what? We had a birthday at school today!"

Because this is the sort of thing that's absolutely vital to an almost-4-year-old and must be shared as soon as it's remembered.

"Whose birthday was it?"
"Atticus's. And we got to eat a cookie cake."

Just saying that makes me laugh. Atticusses.

And I think it's way cool that she's got a little kid in her class named Atticus.

Fast forward to a few minutes ago, as M and I are taking a break from the econ mid-term and hanging out in the kitchen eating a little late-night snack. I pointed to Zoe's school calendar posted on a cabinet that shows Atticus does indeed have a birthday tomorrow.

I said, "You do know where the name Atticus comes from, right?"

M thinks for a minute. "Atticus and Spartacus?"*

After I get done convulsing with laughter, I say, "Uh no. Good shot though."

He responds, "It's from some bullshit book like To Kill a Mockingbird or something that I hated to read in school." He gets a point for naming the correct book, but a debit of 10 points for calling it bullshit. Ask him about his distance-learning literature class sometime and you'll get an earful about bullshit books. 'Course, I read those books along with him (just because) and I can testify that some of them actually were bullshit. Not TKAM, though. That's some good stuff, maynard.

*I dated a guy once who had two yellow labs, Angus and Fergus. Always thought those were two great names for pets. Now I think Atticus and Spartacus would be great, too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


It's a little disconcerting to be sitting here, minding my own business, writing my managerial economics paper (this week's topic: the HP-Compaq merger from about a bazillion years ago - what did proponents think, what did antagonists think, what's going on now, etc. - I know you're jealous you don't get to research this and write a 3-5 page paper on it) and start smelling smoke.

Huh, I think, that's weird. "I smell smoke." It finally registers in my brain that I should probably check it out, and so I look around. My laptop appears to be fine (contrary to popular belief, the keyboard does not smoke even when I'm typing at my fastest, which is the fastest around, pardner). The Mac is humming away behind me. There's no other technology of mention here in the darkroom. Well, there are the printers. And a bunch of old cameras. But nothing else actually turned on and running.

Then I remember that a few moments prior, when I was writing up something about Carly Fiorina (the girl freakin' rocks, okay?), I heard a bzt sound and the fly that had been vaguely annoying me was suddenly silent. Uhhhhh...

We have a torchiere lamp in here that's about as old, if not older, than the HP-Compaq merger. It's one of those ultra-dangerous torchiere lamps that made headlines years ago for catching drapes, furniture, wallpaper, small pets...pretty much anything flammable that happened to be within a five foot radius, on fire. They were popular at the time, so the torchiere lamp companies had to make these special grates available that sit over the ultra-hot bulb and keep things from dropping onto the lamp and catching fire. Most people chucked the lamps, but not my M. Ever frugal ("It's still a perfectly fine lamp! And it's bright!" We know how he's attracted to bright objects), he affixed the grate thingy and we've used the lamp to no ill-effect since then. The bulb is a bitch to replace, though, as it's one of those where you can't touch it with human skin or you'll ruin the bulb and break out in hives or something. That alone is reason enough for me to chuck the damn thing as I hate anything that's remotely inconvenient, but M changes the bulbs and so I keep it.

Anyway, at this point, having smelled smoke and heard the bzt and the silence of the fly (which is nothing like the silence of the lambs), I put it all together in my feeble, economics-riddled brain, and look up.

There's smoke literally pouring out the top of the torchiere. Well, that doesn't look good. There are no curtains near the lamp, the cats are both accounted for, and the smoke doesn't look all that ominous, so I send an instant message to M. "Come up here NOW." I can't yell, you see, as my darkroom is right next to Sleeping Zozer's room. He types back, "Why?" Which I don't get as I've now climbed up on my chair and am trying to see what the hell is causing all the smoke. I can't see a damn thing, though, because the bulb is as bright as the sun, so I climb back down to turn the lamp off. That's when I see M's "Why?" and type back, "Hurry." Turn off the lamp, climb back up on my chair, and see roasted fly. Blech.

With that, I hear M's footsteps pounding the stairs, the door open, and then, as he gets a whiff of the smoke, a Scooby-Doo type scramble down the hall to get to me. It was cute, really. He rounds the corner, wide-eyed. "I smell smoke!"

Yeah, um, it's a fly. I roasted a fly.

I was admonished for not yelling and getting his attention that way, but I counter with the fact that there was no actual fire, but rather a nice charbroiled insect with some poofy white smoke. Turns out the grate-thingy on top of the torchiere won't keep out suicidal flies. They really should warn you about that.

So I'm sitting here typing in semi-darkness now, waiting for the lamp to cool so I can dump out the fly and turn it back on.

It's really quite sad that I suspect this will be my excitement for the night. Sigh.

La Junta Station

The train station in La Junta, Colorado, doesn't offer much. Bathrooms, a couple vending machines. Not that it needs much, since Amtrak's Southwest Chief stops there for about 10 minutes each time it passes through. It was interesting visually, though. If you happen to like old, decrepit buildings like I do.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The incompetence of Ty

There's a company that makes small, bean-filled animals. Perhaps you've heard of it: Ty. Several years ago, long before Ty made it big in the crazy world of People Will Collect Anything, M and I purchased two such little creatures on a whim. We were in college, and most likely inebriated at the time. I chose Chocolate Moose (naturally), and he chose Hoot The Owl (for reasons I still can't figure out). Fast forward through the whole dating-engaged-married thing to the day we had a child, and lo, that child grew up and developed an attachment for Hoot (for reasons I still can't figure out)(like father like daughter I guess).

And, since we were such smart parents, we planned to purchase extra Hoots and rotate them through the line-up, so there would always be back-up Hoots in case one went missing or flew the coop or whathaveyou. Thanks to doting grandparents and a godmother, though, we didn't have to purchase any more Hootage beyond the original, but were supplied with three more. Awesome. We congratulated ourselves on our smartness more than once, and took compliments from other parents who had to deal with the nightmare of their child losing their most beloved belonging.

So we've been rotating the Hoots in and out, and they've gotten equal wearage. Until a few months ago when we tried to insert the newest of the Hoots (Hoot 4 of 4) into the mix and got called out on it by a very observant 3-year-old. "Thin Hootie," as he was deemed by M, went into permanent retirement that night, as he falls far short of the Hoot bean quota and is simply too different to try to pass off as The Original Hoot. Hoot 3 of 4 came right back that evening, after we sent Daddy away with Thin Hootie to, ahem, "pump him back up."

The last few days, M and I have been discussing that we really need to relieve Hoot 3 of 4, as his tour of duty was up long ago but was extended due to the mitigating circumstances surrounding Hoot 4 of 4 (since renamed Thin Hootie).

Are you following along here? Good.

Tonight, M signalled to me while we played in the library that this would be a good time for Mommy to sneak out with Hoot 3 of 4 and replace him. Cool. Done. I accepted my mission with grace and alacrity, and before you could coo, "Hooohoooo hooooooo," I was back with Hoot 2 of 4. (Hoot 1 of 4, or Original Hoot, still deserves a vacation. That little owl went through hell before his reinforcements arrived.)

As we put Zozer to bed tonight, and kissed all our animals per our daily routine, we noticed Zoe eyeing him carefully. She'd cuddle him, then pull away and study him, then cuddle some more. M and I shot each other covert glances, trying not to laugh. She didn't say a word, though, and we tucked her in and left.

"Mommy Daddy!" 10 minutes later the call issued forth. "Mommy Daddy!" I went in.

"Mommy. Hootie is FULL."


There is a barely noticeable difference in the amount of beanage in these two Hoots, but apparently it's a world of difference to Zozer.

So we had a discussion about how Hootie's belly is flat whenever she looks at him now, whereas it used to be, well, dented.

"Hmmmm. Maybe Hootie had a BIG dinner and he has a full tummy." She liked that. Thought it was really funny. We poked at his belly for a bit and laughed, and I shook him so she could hear his "beans and rice" (that's what she says is actually in Hootie...maybe he's a Mexican owl?).

And the whole time I'm wondering, silently in my head of course, how hard is it to freakin' calibrate your damn Beanie Baby bean-filling machines so that the same approximate amount of beans goes in each damn owl. I mean, really. This is not rocket science people.

So, tonight, I curse the people at the Ty Beanie Baby company for not caring that parents out here in the real world are struggling with owl change-ups at regular intervals, and that we're possibly stunting the emotional development of our child by making up things like, "Maybe he ate too much at dinner." (Hey, I'm doing the best I can here. Let's see if you can come up with something better.) I'm taking business law, you know. They should watch out. I just might bring a suit against the company to pay for the future therapy bills for my child. There's got to be a statute about proper bean allotment or something.

Just to keep everyone on the same page, here are the standings:
Hoot 1 of 4, now named Original Hoot, still on extended leave.
Hoot 2 of 4, now named Full Hoot, currently in rotation.
Hoot 3 of 4, now named Most Like Original Hoot and just starting his vacation.
Hoot 4 of 4, or Thin Hootie, permanently retired.

Seriously, no one told me about this shit when I signed up to be a parent.

You may call me "Esquire"

Today we received some grades in both of our classes. Managerial Econ was okay - I'd have preferred my marks to be higher, but I recognize that he's a tough prof (which is a nice way of saying, "Thanks for being totally subjective in your grading, asshole") and I'm reasonably happy with what I received. I'm still riding on an A, so I'll take it.

My law marks, though...yeah! I kicked ass on the Week 2 cases. 4.0 out of 4.0. And that's not even the best part. Each week after grading, the prof sends out a rubric for that week, or sample case analyses he thinks serves as good examples to the rest of the class. He has said that he uses a mix of current and past student submissions. This week, all three of my cases made it to the rubric...first example given for each case. Wahoooo!

This is both good and bad. Good in that it's affirming to know I grasp the material and can communicate it effectively. Bad in that it's tripping that internal trigger that thinks law school would be pretty cool. Although that part of me is being beaten with a blunt object by the other part of me that's so sick of doing homework every night I could vomit.

It's the internal struggle that's the hardest, ain't it?

Friday, June 19, 2009


We have so many responsibilities in our classes this term that I'm feeling rather lost. For instance, this week, in Business Law alone, we had to read five chapters and write up five case briefings (one for each chapter, natch). Plus the two discussion board posts, and commenting on others' posts. Managerial Economics was two chapters, five case assignments, and the 3-5 page weekly paper. Don't forget to tack on the damn discussion board requirement for that class, too. Bastards.

Last night we were both so burned out from typing that we took a night off and read ahead in our textbooks. If you can call that a night off. Tonight we launched into the Business Law briefings.

I just hit the point where I couldn't remember what I had completed in Managerial Economics for the week and started panicking that we hadn't started the case assignments yet. I had to check while simultaneously wondering if we had a paper bag in the house into which I could breathe to stave off the pending hyperventilation. The assignments are there. Safely tucked away in the Week 3 folder. Whew.

But it was an indication to me that we're just so completely buried this term. We're working our asses off to get ahead, and we're barely staying caught up. I feel like I'm running as fast as I can and am going nowhere.

On a funny note, M and I have been instant messaging throughout the course of the evening. He's working downstairs in the study lair and I'm up in the darkroom. He thinks I type too loud. I think his ears are too sensitive. We agree to disagree and have retreated to our separate corners to type in solitude.

So anyway, we've been sending IMs because we're too lazy to get off our butts and walk up/downstairs and say, "What do you think about that case? Pretty jacked up, huh?" We're both running on empty right now, it being after 11 on Friday night and we've been pounding away since 7:35 with no breaks. We're keeping pretty good pace with each other, although I creep ahead because we're writing (and everyone knows who the writer is in this house, versus who is the human calculator). We got to this case:

Anthony promised to pay McCarthy $10,000 if McCarthy would expose Washington as a Communist to the general public. Washington is not a Communist, but McCarthy convinces the media to publish reports that he is. McCarthy now seeks payment of the promised $10,000 from Anthony, and Anthony refuses to pay. McCarthy is suing Anthony on the grounds of breach of contract. Will he prevail?

This was M's take, via IM (slightly modified for my younger readers)(not that I have any)(that I know of):

m (10:29:37 PM): f*** anthony

m (10:29:41 PM): f*** mccarthy

m (10:29:47 PM): f*** washington

m (10:29:50 PM): who gives a crap

a (10:29:53 PM): you are KILLING me

a (10:30:00 PM): i'm totally laughing

a (10:30:11 PM): f*** washington sent me over the edge - WTF - he's innocent!!!

a (10:30:13 PM): poor washington

m (10:30:34 PM): nope

m (10:30:45 PM): my analysis said to STRING HIM UP TOO

I'm saving this for his supreme court justice confirmation hearings. Sotomayor has nuthin' on him.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Sold my first Yosemite print today, to the colleague mentioned in a prior post. She purchased a 20x24 black and white print of El Cap and a waterfall for her dad for Father's Day. She said he really appreciates fine art photography, and is thrilled to get him an "original" print by a local artist. I'm thrilled that one of my prints will be hanging in someone's house who doesn't even know me. My customer said she had trouble choosing just one photograph, and will be purchasing more for Christmas, his birthday, etc. She's also got one picked out for herself. Yay!

I took the file on a jump drive to Schiller's when they first opened this morning. Had to return a half hour later because somehow the file was corrupted during transfer and had a line running horizontally through the image. That will never do. Second file was fine, and the printer at Schiller's pulled an absolutely gorgeous print. When I removed it from the tube for inspection before paying this afternoon, I drew a little crowd around the counter. Lots of compliments, which made me very happy and somewhat embarrassed. I'm still not used to handling compliments for my work.

I could get used to it, though.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The engineer's approach to photography

Well, for better or worse, my "worth" as a photographer, or at least the worth of my prints, has been resolved.

It's interesting to consider how both M and I approached this little project, and how close we actually were in the end.

I took a look at production costs, thought about what I want to net off each print versus what I thought I could reasonably ask for it, and basically priced it according to what my gut said.

M took a look at production costs, and then went much, much further. He created an Excel spreadsheet (of course!) that outlined production cost, size, cost per inch (or some sort of measurement), gross margin, and some other columns that I can't remember. I think he used gut feeling (much like me) to create the price of the lowest size, which in this case is 11x14. Then, though, he did something I had never thought of doing, and which totally shocked and amazed me.

He went to Kim Weston's site (all by himself, googler that he is), and surveyed Kim's prices. Now, we all know I can't ask what Kim asks, but that's not what he was after. He looked at the rate at which Kim's prices go up by size. Sheer genius. He then applied that rate to the inital price on the 11x14, ratcheting up systematically through 16x20, 20x24, and 24x36. M's prices wound up to be slightly higher than mine, but they made sense and at least had a systematic formula attached. And they're still achievable, I think.

M's work on this is so cool to me. First, that he thought to do that. Second, that he did it. And third, that in some small way, the pricing of my work is tied to that of a real Photographer.

I was incredibly impressed and admit that I fell even more in love with him when he told me that he had visited Kim's site to find guidance on pricing my work.

Until he said, with a gleam in his eye and a grin on his mouth, "And I saw nekkid women!!!"

Sigh. Some things never change.

He doesn't charge much for being my business manager, though, so I'll keep him around.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Water Day

All weekend, Zozer looked forward to Monday, because Monday was supposed to be Water Day at school.

Our instructions were simple: bring our children to school in their swimsuits and water shoes (which in our case means Crocs). Directly after breakfast they'd all go out and play in the fountain.

Zoe talked about Water Day from Friday afternoon through the weekend, and this morning was so excited to put on her swimsuit. Our hearts sank as soon as we looked out the window. Clouds. M checked the weather on-line. Storms all day.

Took her to school in her suit anyway, so she'd at least have that fun. (Remember when just wearing your swimsuit was a high point of the day?!)

I'm hearing thunder outside now, so I'm sure she's already been changed into her regular school clothes. I did want to share how absolutely incredibly adorable she looked in her suit, though. So here she is, with Hoot (of course).

Hoot has taken to mirroring Zoe lately. If she has a boo-boo, he has a boo-boo. If she has a tummy ache, he has a tummy ache. He likes the same food as her and likes to play the same games. So today, on the way to school, I asked if Hoot was also wearing his swimsuit for Water Day. "No, Mommy. Hoot is an owl. Owls don't wear swimsuits. He doesn't have a real swimsuit and he doesn't have a pretend swimsuit." Again, the "dumbass" was implied.

How am I supposed to know the intricacies of owlage? I guess I'll just have to keep asking.

(Editor's note: she actually said he doesn't have a "re-pretend" swimsuit. Somehow, a long time ago when she first started talking, she got it in her head that pretend is actually pronounced re-pretend. So that's what she says.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Do these doors lead to a world with no homework?

Tonight's homework ended with me standing in the kitchen at 10 p.m., crying to M, "I don't want to do this any more. When I grow up, I just want to be a photographer."

An hour in the darkroom and I feel much better (no more tears), although I still say when I grow up I want to be a photographer.

Today's image was made on our drive from Yosemite back to San Jose. Some podunk town not too far outside the park. Great old building with interesting green doors. I like it, and not just because I don't have to apply an indifference curve that explains consumer purchasing behavior to it. (Have I mentioned that managerial economics sucks? I mean really, really, really sucks. 'Specially when your prof is a complete toad and arbitrarily marks you down 10 points for a bullshit reason that makes no sense because what I submitted is what he said I was lacking. You bet your bippy he got an e-mail argument from yours truly. I think he must be smoking pot. Just speculation on my part. Not that I'm driving the bitter bus or anything.)

Local Scenery

The color photographs are for the grandparents.

These black and whites are for me.

As I was making this series of images, where she's sitting in her lawn chair snuggling with Hoot, I captured a variety of expressions. Some are silly, some she's got a slight smile. These two are my favorite, and especially this last one. When I first started shooting, Hoot was in his normal position of face-to-face (beak-to-cheek?!) with Zoe. After the first few frames, without changing expression or position and looking me dead in the lens, she slowly turned Hoot to face the camera.

Owls need face time too, I suppose.


I went to the "cell phone store" (as Zoe calls it) today (well, yesterday, actually, since right now it's very early Sunday morning) and adjusted my plan.

I'm breaking my BlackBerry addiction.

I stripped off the data package, which means no more e-mail or internet on the phone. I also lowered my voice plan and blocked text messages because just when I think I've got everyone covered with not texting me someone else pops up and sends me a message that I then have to pay for, having never opted to have texting in my plan anyway.

Why did I do this? Several reasons.
  1. Got tired of mainly using the data plan for work, which meant an unreimbursed business expense coupled with the intrusion of business into my personal life. So. Not. Cool.
  2. Figured out having e-mail and internet on my phone was more of a want, rather than a need. Can't rationalize spending that money every month any more.
  3. Realized that I was obsessed with checking the phone every time I saw the little blinking red light that indicates a new e-mail message has been received.
Ever since the trip West I've been itching to simplify. Throw out things I don't absolutely need or love. Surround myself only with those objects that directly serve to improve my life and the lives of M and Zozer. The data plan not only does not fulfill that objective, but it actually detracts from it. Ugh. Goodbye, data plan.

Why now? The trip served to clarify that I won't actually expire if I'm not completely and totally connected via e-mail every second of every day. It felt nice to be technology-free in that regard during our 10 days. I guess you could say stripping off the data plan is my way of extending that feeling.

So, I'm approximately fifty smackers a month richer, and I've severed the electronic leash.

I'm a little nervous, kinda relieved, and pretty excited.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rainbow over runoff

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Determining my worth

A colleague came into my office yesterday at just the right moment, when someone was asking about the photographs I made on vacation. She asked to see some, and went overboard about them. Her father appreciates fine art photography, and she decided she'd like to give him an "original print from a real artist" for Father's Day.

Very, very cool.

Except then she asked for pricing.


How does one go about determining the worth of one's art? Especially since I'm a little p photographer and not a big p Photographer. I mean, it's not like there's high demand for my work. And, since I'm learning the laws of supply and demand in school I realize that low demand typically equals low prices.

But how low, exactly? What's an 8x10 of mine worth? An 11x14, a 16x20? Cost for production is negligable, so let's take that out of consideration from the get-go. Basically, I'm trying to place a price tag on my artistic talent (which I feel is cheating anyway, given my subject matter of Yosemite...I mean, really, how can anyone make a bad image given that raw material with which to work?!).

So, I'm in a quandry and up against a deadline to boot, since Father's Day is just around the corner and she needs the print in time to have it matted and framed. Or I could do the matting, if it's small enough. My mat cutter allows me to do up to about 11x14 comfortably. I love to cut mats, and am extremely picky about it (overcuts are the work of the devil!).

I guess the first step is to have her look over a proof sheet (which took me an hour to create, damn Photoshop Elements) and determine what size she wants. I have a feeling, though, that she's going to ask for pricing for the various sizes and make her decision off that.

Guess I'll try to do some research and find out what the going rate is for the work of unknown photographers. I keep trying to convince M to be my business manager so I don't have to deal with stuff like this, but he doesn't show much interest. Guess that's what I get for trying to convert an engineer into an art dealer.

Once you've seen one, you've seen 'em fall

Okay, so I admit I made a lot of waterfall photographs while we were in Yosemite. Sue me. It's waterfall season and they are magnificent.

Sooner or later I'll get through all my vacation shots and will have culled out the ones I really like, and then you'll be done seeing waterfalls and granite monoliths and, as Stef and I like to call it, "nature shit." But right now it's the most exciting thing I've shot in years so ya'all are just gonna have to deal with it.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

"Duh, Daddy!"

Zoe was complaining the other day that her Crocs were hurting. She's had them for awhile, so I was sure her feet were outgrowing them. M, wise father that he is, decided to dig into the matter instead of just throwing money at it like his wife does.

He knelt at Zoe's Croc-encased feet and inspected. She has these little smiley face things that poke through the holes as decorations, and he suspected that perhaps all we needed to do was move them to different holes. He started pressing on her shoes, near her toes, trying to gauge where, exactly, her feet were. She looked at him like he had three heads while he was doing this.

He said, as he pushed down on the top of the Croc in tactile search of her big toe, "Zoe, is this your toe?"

"No, Daddy," and she pulled her foot away, sat down on the rug (in the way that all little kids do - they just buckle their knees and fall to the ground), and pulled her Croc off. She then pointed to her toe and said, "That's my toe!" The "dumbass" on the end was totally implied.

We absolutely shook with laughter.

I wonder why they call it Mirror Lake

Stef, in response to my pumping her for information before our trip, said that the Mirror Lake trail was pretty easy and enjoyable, although there wasn't much to see upon arrival.

From this statement, we must come to one of the following conclusions:
  1. She went during the wrong season.
  2. She went during the wrong time of day (i.e. she went at night)
  3. She was smoking some sort of recreational drug.

I think it's number 1, but let's go with number 3 just for fun.

Monday, June 08, 2009

A day of birth: GPL

We've attended too many funerals lately, so it is with great, joyful pleasure that I congratulate Tiffany and Doug on the arrival of their first baby, Gavin Phillip. Hang on, guys, you're in for one helluva ride and more fun than you could ever imagine. And, here's a little message for wee Gavin (who isn't so wee, actually, tipping the scales at 8 lb 15 oz): your parents are totally kick-ass but new at all this, so go easy on 'em and sleep a lot.

Yes, Auntie Aim had to be the first person to use expletives around the baby. I figure it'll be a few years before he can read, though, so I'm safe for awhile.

We send our love to all three of you!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Wish I was here

This isn't one of my "art" photographs. Just a visual sigh and a wish that I were still there. Or anywhere with no responsibilities except to empty my camera's compact flash cards each night and recharge the batts. The only thing in the whole world that would have made it better would have been to have the other photographer in my house there with me. Hopefully I'll get to take her some day.

M says we're done with "photography vacations" for awhile. We'll see about that. The next thing on my Bucket List is to visit the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. Turns out we can catch a train that way, so it shouldn't be too much of a hard sell for M. Let's just say the things on my Bucket List are a little more attainable than the things on his. For instance, one of his is to ride the space shuttle/go to the moon/visit Mars. Um. Okay. I'll get right on planning that. Wonder if I can apply my Amtrak Rewards rail miles...

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Point Lobos and more ruminations

I know I'm putting stuff up here in drips and drabs, but that's pretty much how I'm getting to it! Our first week of class is over, and we can tell already that we're in for even more work than we've been used to. For the first time since we started our program a year and a half ago, we've not been able to take even one day off from studying. Both classes, while good, require so much time and effort that we actually stayed up until almost 2 a.m. last night just to get stuff done for the week, and that's with working for hours every other night. Today we read a chapter in Managerial Econ and four chapters in Business Law (I now understand torts, thankyouverymuch), and then decided that we needed to do something fun. M's been working on Christmas (of course!) and I've been working on my images.

Here's another landscape from Point Lobos. I like the layers in the scene, and the variety of textures and patterns.

When we were breakfasting with Ted and Frances Orland in California*, Ted told me that he was having his photography students make books of their work on Blurb. I'd heard of Blurb but hadn't really checked it out. It looks pretty cool, and now I'm thinking I just might make myself a book or two - maybe one of my Point Lobos work and another on Yosemite. Not that anyone would buy it except for me, but it'd be cool to have some projects "published." Actually, just the idea of putting images together like that has given me a completely different way of looking at my work, which is probably Ted's whole intention with his students anyway. When you start to look at your body of images and try to cull a cohesive set from it, you see things differently. Notice patterns you hadn't before, and, I'll admit, perhaps images I'd have judged weaker as stand-alones become stronger as part of a group. At the same time, favorites would have to be edited out because as strong as they are individually, they either don't contribute to the body or detract too much by their uniqueness.

I love when I learn new things like that.

*Did you see how I did that? Yep, that's right, I'm a name dropper. I'm still in awe of the fact that I even e-mail Ted Orland, much less had breakfast with the man and his lovely wife. According to Ted, I'm six or seven degrees removed from Abraham Lincoln because he's only like five or six - I can't remember his specific path that gets him (and me) to Abe, but it's pretty damn cool. Abraham Lincoln, how's that for name dropping?!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

For Scotty

Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite National Park

I dedicate today's image to the memory of Scott Z., cousin of my FIL, who passed away this week after battling pancreatic cancer for three years. While I didn't know Scotty well, I know many members of his gigantically large family of which I'm proud to be a member. From what I hear, he was a great man - which doesn't surprise me because that family is chock full of 'em. So this photograph is for Scotty, and everyone who knew and loved him.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Detail from Weston Beach

It's definitely not your "white sand where you bask in the sun and drink Coronas" sort of beach, but I like it better. Much more interesting this way. Beautiful diversity and a variety of things to look at. I froze my butt off, considering I was on a beach, but I didn't mind a bit. Maybe part of the attraction was that I was there early in the morning, by myself. Well not altogether alone; I had some scraggly crows and a few raucus sea gulls to keep me company, along with the music of pounding surf and shutter clicks. Heaven. Would do it again in a heartbeat.

The trip that raised more questions

My little foray into the world of West Coast photography last week has raised some interesting questions. Well, they’re interesting for me…probably not for many of you.

I paid my dues at Yosemite, which in photography terms means I shot Anselesque images and attempted to find his tripod holes. My images from Yosemite, while beautiful and things that I’m pleased to show, aren’t anything new or spectacular or exciting. They’re not original, in other words. They're the same images you can purchase for a quarter on a postcard in any of the numerous Yosemite gift shops, and many of those are much better than mine. I stood in the same spot as a bunch of different other photographers – many who have come before me, many who were there the same day, and many who will come after – and I shot the same subject matter. Sure, maybe I used a polarizer where my fellow photographers that day didn’t, or I composed my image just slightly differently, or I waited til the clouds were just so, but it’s all pretty much the same. Awe-inspiring landscapes with white, puffy clouds and giant, granite monoliths.

Am I happy I did it? Absolutely. Do I feel it advanced my own work in some way? Sure. But is it completely, totally, undeniably fulfilling in the sense that I feel like I own that work? Nope.

And therein lies one of my questions. I struggle with the idea of showing my “true” work to anyone except those closest to me. I’ve been working on a personal project for a couple years now and about three people even know about it – and only two of them have actually seen any images from it. Yet I have no problem posting my Yosemite photographs. Maybe because they’re easier to part with since they don’t really say much about me. The me me. The “this is the weird, quirky stuff that really interests me” me.

So, at what point do I come forward with my really personal work? At what point do I say, “Dammit, I don’t really care what ya’all think of me…this is what floats my boat/trips my trigger/insert your own metaphor here?”

Which brings me to another question. How do I go about finding myself a mentor – someone who will look at my “me” work and give a good, honest critiques (and - I’ll admit I need it - some encouragement)? And, does the mentor have to be a photographer in the same vein? Meaning, if I choose to shoot 3-toed platypi (platypuses?), do I need to find another 3-toed platypus shooter to review my platyportraits? Or will any photographer do?

And, once I sort this issue out, how do I find that person? Fellow platyportraitist or not? I’ll admit, it’s a lot easier in this day and age to find a mentor since one can use technology to communicate and isn’t required to meet to review prints (although there is something to be said for face-to-face contact). At the Ansel event last week, I heard several wonderful photographers talk about attending Ansel’s workshops and getting feedback from him and from each other. I wish I had that, and feel more than ever now that I (and my work) exist in some sort of little photographic vacuum.

I tried attending St. Louis Camera Club meetings for awhile a few years ago. I was the youngest person there by about a hundred years, which didn’t bother me except for the fact that there’s only so many flower and birdie photographs one can look at. I entered a few of the weekly competitions and made it decently far in a couple, only to be bounced out for yet another bird portrait. No offense to the birders, but after a few hours they all start to look alike. It’s the avian equivalent of shooting Half Dome from a multitude of angles and showing them each week for a year.

So if any of you have any ideas on how to find a mentor so I can get some help in growing myself and my work, I’d much appreciate it (ahem, Ted, ahem). And for those of you who ooh and aah over my images just because you love me, keep it up. I really do appreciate that!

Monday, June 01, 2009

New beginnings


Well, more than kinda, really.
M and I are back to work today (he went back to only 447 e-mails - bonus!), and we hit the books last night since we started new classes this past weekend. Four chapters in Business Law and three in Managerial Economics. Lots and lots of reading and writing this term, but little to no math so I'm happy.

Today, though, was a big day for Zozer. As of Friday, she is no longer in the Elephant Room at her preschool and is now in the Bunny Room. They did all sorts of transition stuff last week, and when we arrived this morning her cubby (or her "covey" as she calls it) and her mailbox were all set up with her name and her picture. She knew she was going to the Bunny Room, and she knew that lots of her friends are going with her (Jed, Caitlyn, Drew, Tony, among others). M and I both went this morning to meet her new teachers and introduce ourselves, get the lay of the land, etc. Everything was fine until we went to leave.

Tears. Lots and lots of tears. She turned on the faucets, and I eventually had to peel her off me, hand her to her new teacher and leave. Listening to the cries as I walked down the hall, heart shattering in a million little pieces and my own eyes welling up.


And, the teachers in her new classroom don't believe in that new-fangled technology of web sites and digital cameras, so I can't even do my usual 2 p.m. check-in to see what she's been up to and that she's still in one piece.

I know that she was probably fine before we even made it back to the cars, but that doesn't make it any easier.

Other than that, I'm still on my vacation high, and keep shaking my head when thinking back on all the really cool stuff we got to do/see, and the wonderful people we got to meet. I must say, on the whole, we photographers are pretty neat folks.

I have so many images from our trip that I don't even know when I'll get a chance to work on them and post them here. Hopefully I'll be able to squeeze some in here and there between homework.

I tried to do some editing on the train back home, but we had some pretty rough track and it was too hard to do anything detailed. And too frustrating to do even basic stuff (levels, cropping) after a few minutes. I got a couple images done, though, so here's one. What's not to love about Yosemite?!