Friday, July 31, 2009

Our lives in medical terms

Now that the term is over (law final finished Wednesday night - wahoo!), I get to move on to more fun, exciting things. Like wrapping up the paperwork for our new life insurance policy.

It seems that we're getting older now and the premiums on our current policy are tripling in response. So, we're switching companies to save some dough, and that means that the new company requires our health history.

The last time I did this, for the first policy, we were around 25 and, for all intents and purposes, had no health history. Unless you count some really bad hang-overs in our college days.

Now, though, things are different. I pulled out our "Medical Insurance" file, which was the first clue. The damn thing is about six inches thick and I needed a crowbar to get it out of the jam-packed file cabinet. Wow, okay.

Then I started going through all the paperwork. I felt like I was reading a med school textbook. Pars planitis, pericarditis, appendicitis, bone contusions, torn labrum. Damn. And that was just M. Ha, I thought. I'm way healthier than he is. Then I started mine. Infertility, pregnancy (which is sorta the cure for infertility, dontcha think?), colonscopy, LASIK, broken foot, ganglion cyst, mammogram. Holy mother of God. I feel old.

All in all, though, we're doing really well. The result of everything adds up to an overall bill of good health: full recoveries on all procedures and inflictions, and negative results on all diagnostic scans. How lucky are we?

I organized all our material into paperclipped stacks by medical event, and that's when I realized that the paperwork for M's orthoscopic surgery to repair his torn labrum was about an inch to an inch and a half thick, whereas my pregnancy/Zoe's birth paperwork was three sheets of paper. I offer that as proof that he's much more high maintenance than I, but I think his viewpoint will be slightly different.

In my anal retentive way, I've created a lovely chart in Word that outlines each event, lists the date, the doctor (with contact information), diagnosis, treatment, meds and results. I started a list for Zozer, too, but hers is pretty short. Hip dysplasia from her being breech, acid reflux, and pink eye.

So, my goal for this weekend is to wrap up the insurance forms and relax, secure in the knowledge that we three are as healthy as horses. Whatever that means. Are horses really healthier than other animals?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The term is almost over!

The software we use to run our business shows an inspirational quote every time you log in, which is kind of cool.

My quote this morning was, "Try measuring your worth by what you are, not what you have."

Good stuff there.

The only thing we have left for this term is the law final, which we plan to take tonight. Did a lot of pre-work on it, so it shouldn't chew up too much of the night, and then we are blissfully free for two weeks!

Lots to do in the two weeks, one of which is get the basement cleaned up for Zozer's birthday party next month. I'm waffling between digging into the storage space down there and really cleaning, or just cramming more crap in there, shutting the door and saying, "I'll get to it after graduation." It's bugging me, though, how jammed it is. However, I think it's a job that's larger than two weeks and will probably culminate with either a garage sale or a few trips to Goodwill, or possibly both, so I'm leaning towards temporary crammage. Then again, M and I are taking a week off work, too (he's got forced vacation in his employer's attempt to save some dough, and I'm joining him for the hell of it), so if I have a full week of no work/no homework, I might be able to bang it out. Plus, I have incentive to finish, what with the party and all.

Music of the Day: Starship (or Jefferson Starship...whatever). Currently rocking to Jane. What a great song!

In a good mood this morning. Sure we'll take care of that in a hurry, once more people start showing up to work.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunday snaps

Shot quite a bit Sunday, mostly of Zozer playing in the backyard. Not much good came of it...some days you just strike out. I got the above, which is the only decent one of the lot. And below, which I just think is cute because it shows her adorable little hands. I love Zozer's fingers and toes. Or fingers and piggies, as I'm sure she would correct me.

It's always a good day when you end up with a ton of sidewalk chalk on your hands.

We should be rounding up our classes for this term in the next couple days. I wish I had energy to finish them up early, but I just can't bring myself to "work ahead" any more. This was our most difficult term by far - we worked almost every single night. I think the more we worked, the later we stayed up, refusing to go to bed until we did something fun. Hence, not a lot of sleep this term. But pretty productive as far as photography and blogging goes, for me at least! I have so many ideas for photography projects for after I graduate. It's almost torture to have to wait until 2010 to get started on them. M, I'm sure, feels the same way about Christmas.

I'm thoroughly convinced that difficult times exist almost solely to show you how good the good times really are. After all, without difficulty, how would we ever really know what good is? How could we ever appreciate it? Two years of grad school are what I would consider difficult, if only because we were working and raising a child and doing all the other, normal parts of life like paying bills and attending to family obligations and weddings and funerals and dealing with car repairs and the like. We thought we had a full life before! Now that I have something to compare it to, my life was not full before. In fact, I'm embarrassed to admit just how much of it I wasted.

If nothing else, grad school has served as a wake-up call on how I really want to live my life. Now that's worth more than two years and forty grand, don't you think? Plus, there's all that extra knowledge-stuff, too. Knowledge is good.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Yet another Photowalk shot (blame the Mac)

Here's another image from the Photowalk. I'd love to put up a new Zozer shot from today, but my (old, decrepit) computer is deciding to take its sweet time emptying my card. I've started dropping hints to M about needing a new machine, as mine is now 7 or 8 years old and is tending to run like it's full of molasses more often than not. One gets tired of inserting one's card into the card reader, directing the computer where to put the files, and then making, eating, cleaning up dinner only to find the computer is a third of the way through the transfer. Of 100 images. Yes, I realize they are giganto mombo files from my kick-ass D300, but this is getting ridiculous.

Tonight, after we wrapped up studying for the law final, I turned to a little Photoshop therapy to finish my day. That's when I started mentally cursing myself for not starting the card dump before dinner. Because we're at 10:30 p.m. now and I don't relish the idea of staying up to all hours waiting for this damn thing to finish.

By this point, I'm defeating the purpose of having a digital darkroom to save time (traditional darkrooms take time to set up and break down because of all the chemicals). By the time this thing gets done I could have processed a roll of T-Max on my own and started printing. Grrrrr.

Let's check progress....ahhh, 111 of 157 images. Perfect. Should be wrapped up in time for me to leave for work tomorrow.

I am not a very patient girl. Maybe my masters graduation present to myself will be a new computer.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Coupla new images from the Photowalk

This is why I always have to go back to old work. Something doesn't strike me at first, and then later I kinda start to like it.

Down to the deadline...I have to turn in my two submissions to the Photowalk site by tomorrow. I struggle with decisions like this.


Have you ever been in one of those places where everyone pisses you off?

And then you begin to wonder, is it really them? Or is it me reacting to them with the wrong filter over my eyes?

Yesterday was a shit day at work. Lots of miscommunication, hurt feelings, and disrespect.

You know, because just doing actual work isn't hard enough.

And then I got home and, after Zozer went to bed, logged in to school to check the discussion boards. One girl in our class, who shall remain nameless for her own privacy and because all the nicknames I have given her are not suitable for my family-friendly blog, felt the need to take a simple discussion over law versus ethics into a personal rant about partial-birth abortion. And, I guess in a misguided effort to make her point, she wrote out the entire procedure in graphic detail.

I don't care what your stance is - it's a loaded subject and gets most peoples' knickers in a wad either way - something like that is simply inappropriate for an on-line classroom discussion board, especially when it's five hundred miles off-topic from the original post (we were debating the ethics of tax it devolved into partial-birth abortion is still beyond me).

So I typed in my response - one line stating simply that this post was not appropriate for this discussion board. Right before e-mailing our prof and stating that I refuse to even open her posts any more. She's toed the line several times before, but she pole-vaulted over it last night. He wrote back and said he understood. She responded to my post with an apology (so says M, since I refuse to open her posts any more).

This morning I arrived at work still fired up about the events of yesterday and decided the only way to resolve the issue was to vent my spleen with a pointed, well-written e-mail reply. Which I did. And while the response I received wasn't exactly what I was hoping for (who the hell knows exactly what I was hoping for, really), it at least did contain an apology.

So, essentially, I've "fixed" both the work and the school stuff. Apologies were supplied on both fronts from the offenders to the aggrieved.

But, sadly, none of really makes me feel any better. I'm sad that any of it happened in the first place, I suppose, and am tired of being in defensive mode damn near all the time.

I just want to come to work and do my job, and log in and do my schoolwork, and that's that.

I'm considering running away. All I need is M, my kid, my camera and some clothes. And my computer. And maybe the cats. And the iPod. And comfortable shoes would be great. And a coat in case we wind up someplace cold. And certain friends without whom I cannot survive. And my favorite wool blanket. And my mat cutter. And mat board. And nail clippers because I can't stand typing now with nails of any length. Maybe some snacks.

F*** it. I'll just stay here.

*In the title, the t's are supposed to be a fence. Just in case you didn't pick that up. D-fence. You know, like the signs fans hold up in stadiums. Oh, forget it. It's just one of those days.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Curves and Lines

Yeah, yeah. I know it's been done before. Like a hundred million times. Which is why it's not one of my Photowalk contestants.

I still wanted to do it myself. Just for fun.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Last Sunday night

This one might have to be printed and framed for my desk at work. Zoe and the two main guys in her life: Daddy and Hoot. They are not necessarily listed in the order of her preference, depending on her mood. Hoot never makes her say "please" or stand in the corner, after all, and he's always willing to share all of his dessert with her.

We were sitting on the concrete ledge of a flowerbed at the Kirkwood Train Station Sunday night, waiting for a freight train to come through (Zozer loves to watch the trains go by), and I took the opportunity to make a few images. The one down there of Zoe crouched by the tracks making her own photograph is from that night.

Anyway, getting Zoe to smile without looking like she's either in pain or constipated can be a lesson in futility, as she's got this strange notion of what she's supposed to do with her face when she thinks she's supposed to be smiling. It's about as far away from her natural smile as she can get. I never tell her to smile. I want my photographs of her to be her, not a perma-grinned "just take the damn picture" her. However, she's around other children enough now to know that when a camera is raised, one is to stop, pose and smile. To get her to relax, I've taken to mentioning something that I know will make her laugh, or just trying to catch grab shots when she's already laughing.

The first couple shots in this particular sequence are of her doing the goofy-grimace thing. Then she spotted a train, or someone walking a dog, or a fire truck (which she calls ambulances) or an ambulance (which she calls fire trucks - sorry, Uncle Shawn, we're working with her!), or something equally amusing, and she just lit up. I've got M pretty well trained now, and he stays put and gazes steadily at the camera with his smile fixed while I snap away. He looks identical in the entire sequence. Zoe's expression runs the gamut, and the above shot is definitely the keeper.

Hoot, as usual, is the perfect subject. His smile is always quite lovely.

Photographic poetry

While browsing through my favorite photography website and its discussion boards, I happened upon a post by someone asking, "How did you get involved with photography?" Lots of responses...many people talked about their loved ones getting them involved, or having cameras from a very young age, or stumbling on it later in life. It was interesting to read, but my very favorite post came from a man named Luis, who talked about his father allowing him to use one of his old Leicas for the first time. I wanted to share what he wrote not just to share it, but to "capture" it myself so I can revisit it later without having to do crazy searches on the photography site. And maybe try to explain why I love photography so much.

When I was seven or eight years old, my father adjusted the neckstrap on his oldest Leica, set the exposure, and focus, showed me the vf and shutter release and I went along with him one afternoon. I don't even remember exactly what I shot, other than whenever he stopped to make an exposure, so did I. It was on a beach, along the shoreline... but I do remember how happy and honored I felt to be entrusted with one of his favorite things, and to get to photograph with him. It was a sunny day. I remember how heavy and shiny the Leica was, and feeling the mystery of a box that inhaled moments. The first and only soul the camera steals is the photographer's.

"...the mystery of a box that inhaled moments." Wow. That's poetry, right there.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I love the little bitty finger tips in the lower right of the cutout.

I was really planning to work on some more images and post more tonight, but my eyes are going crossed after working for over two hours on my final research paper for econ. I'm pretty sure eyeballs are not meant to stare at computer screens for 12+ hours a day, which could explain the pounding headache and fuzzy vision. Just a guess.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Zoe Shoots

Brings tears to my eyes...seeing my girl shootin' like that...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Worldwide Photowalk - In Color

When I was in Schiller's a couple weeks ago picking up a print, I saw a flyer tacked to the wall. It was for something called the Worldwide Photowalk. I googled it later to see what it was about. Turns out it's a chance for anyone who likes to make photographs to all get together on the same day, at different locations around the world, and just shoot for a couple hours. Team leaders had registered for many cities and all you had to do was sign up (50 photographers to a group - it's not like we want to look like we're taking over the city). The team leaders chose a time and a meeting place, and photographers show up and go off to shoot. You can work alone or with friends or with strangers (aka new friends). How cool would it be to dedicate a couple hours to making photographs knowing that all over the world, other photographers are doing the same thing? Turns out that I wasn't the only one who thought it was cool, as over 30,000 of us registered globally.

My team leader chose 8:30 this morning at Kiener Plaza downtown. I picked up my buddy Ryan and off we went. By 8:40, we were wandering around shooting, and on the lookout for zombies (one of the safety warnings given by our leader). No zombies, but lots and lots of images. I have to pick two to submit to the Photowalk site. There's a competition, but I don't care so much about that as just being one of the photographers who participated.

I'm still debating which two to submit, so maybe ya'all can help me out. If you see anything that strikes your fancy, please let me know. It's hard to objectively edit your own work, so I really would appreciate some feedback. (And no, Mother, I can't submit pictures of Zoe. She was not part of the Worldwide Photowalk and no one would find her nearly as adorable as you and the other grandparents anyway.)

I suppose I'll start with my color images here, and put the black and whites up under a separate post. Just because I think the color shots have a completely different feel than the black and whites.

Can I just say that a day where a.) my husband finally returns from out of town after his flight gets canceled, b.) I get to shoot for hours in the morning, c.) I make more great images in the afternoon of my favorite subject (the daughter), d.) I get a chocolate milk shake after dinner, and e.) I don't touch a single textbook or log into any on-line learning site is absolutely fantastic?

A girl could really get used to a life like this.

(Special thanks to Grandma and Grandpa for the last-minute babysitting that allowed me to go on my Photowalk. M and I both appreciate it!)

Worldwide Photowalk - In B/W

Here are the black and whites...

Shootin' almost all day

I participated in the Second Annual Worldwide Photowalk today, but the images I made after returning home are by far my favorite.

More on the Photowalk later, after I've had a chance to sort through and process the images I like best. Suffice it to say that it was really, really cool.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

'Cause sometimes a girl just likes patterns

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In Pace Requiescat, Bill Jay

Tonight, after returning home from work and changing clothes, Zozer and I headed outside to enjoy the fine weather. She pedaled her trike out of the garage while I moseyed down the driveway to the mailbox. M's at the All-Star game, and I was looking forward to a Girls' Night and then some relaxation.

The mailbox contained the familiar craft cardboard envelope bearing the Lenswork masthead. Perfect timing! I was ready for a night off, and here was a brand new issue of my favorite publication (it's so much my favorite that it's the only one that has escaped my steady elimination of anything that doesn't directly contribute to my enjoyment of life - I only wish I could cancel my bills with the ease that I've stopped all superfluous magazine subscriptions).

As I walked back up the driveway with Zozer rolling along, I zipped off the end of the envelope and pulled out the issue...and nearly stopped breathing.

The cover shows a side profile of a grizzled older man wearing sunglasses and a dark straw hat. This is not in and of itself strange: there's always a photograph on the cover, and then words along the bottom that explain whose portfolios are included in this issue, and always, in the lower right, "Endnotes by Bill Jay." Bill's Endnotes quickly became something I looked forward to with every issue. Despite the fact that they were always at the end of the magazine I, like many readers, flipped back there first to read his words before devouring the rest. His ascerbic wit and cut-to-the-bone analysis of the world of fine art photography is spot-on, and funny as hell. Over the years I've come to really respect and admire this man. Last year I purchased a signed copy of his book, Men Like Me, which is a stunning compilation of images depicting the homeless men who wandered his California town. It's a persistent favorite in my growing photography book collection. Despite the one-sided communication (I read his words and bookmarked his site and admire his photographs of old men, whereas he knows nothing of my mere existence), I, like so many adoring pop star fans, have come to think of Bill almost like a friend. His humor resonates with me. He's a guy I'd like to have a beer with.

So when I pulled out this issue of Lenswork and read, "Bill Jay 1940-2009" my heart quivered.

Took me a minute to fully grasp it. I saw, "The Best of Endnotes" and, in the upper right corner, "A Special Tribute Issue." I tried to stay the panic by telling myself that perhaps Brooks (the editor of Lenswork, and another one-sided communicatory "friend") had simply decided it was time to compile all of Bill's witticisms into one issue. Maybe he just retired. Because no way could he be dead. I haven't bought him a beer yet.

I flipped through the book until I found the words that actually said it. He passed away. Shit. I'll admit tears sprung to my eyes, although I quickly wiped them away in an effort to avoid a preschooler inquisition. How do I explain Mommy's grief for an older gentleman she's never met?

I didn't cry when Michael Jackson died. Or Farrah Fawcett. Or Ed McMahon or Karl Malden. Although saddened by the loss of these artists, their work simply does not resonate with me as much as the work of someone who is, to the majority of you reading this anyway, unknown. So I guess you could say I shed a few tears for a curmudgeon whom I consider an old "friend," and for the loss in the world of photography. Lenswork, a fine publication in its own right and a consistent highlight in my day, just will not be the same without Bill's words.

Rest in peace, Mr. Jay. Thank you for your contribution to my wonderful life.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Zozer and her Daddy at the Park

Gas man has been here and is much for my "morning off." Sigh.

But before I get dressed (in work clothes...I was dressed when the gas man was here...khaki shorts and my A2 Canoe Liveries shirt...I'm not one for letting servicemen into the house while wearing my pajamas) and head into work, I thought I'd share one more pic from yesterday.

I even picked this rock special for them, as the background was nice and not distracting. Still couldn't manage to crop out a telephone pole/wires, or an obnoxious bright blue swingset, and there was no getting around the bits of black plastic poking up in the pea gravel...have I told you lately how much I love Photoshop?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Weekend snaps

Got in a trip to the park before it rained today. Being able to shoot is always the mark of a good weekend.
This is my favorite from the day.

But this one runs a close second.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I'm TWITCH fine TWITCH why do you ask? TWITCH

For a couple days now, my left eyelid has been twitching. I'm sure you all have experienced this at one time or another. It's not painful or anything, but it's annoying as hell.

I'll just be sitting here, working away, and it'll start jumping around like crazy. Vision gets a little distorted, eyeball feels like it's sticking out all the way to Jersey...

Deep breaths, and sometimes pushing on it, helps, but it keeps coming back.

This morning, wondering if there's something I could do to get rid of ol' twitchyeye, I googled it. (I love google. Google is almost my best friend in the whole entire world.)

Turns out that a twitchy eyelid is caused by stress, fatigue and caffeine.

Huh. Yeah. Never would have guessed that was going on in my life right now.

Since I'm using the caffeine to help fight the stress and fatigue, which doesn't look like it's going away until approximately December 18, I guess I'll just be twitchy until then.

I hate it when my inner turmoil manifests itself in outward, physical expressions. I'd prefer everyone not really know that I'm stressed, tired and over-caffeinated. But, there it is, and I thought I'd just blog about so when you see me you don't have to wonder why my eye is doing the cha-cha and I don't feel the need to explain it.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

An Independence Day nugget (late)

Outside of Zoe's classroom, a piece of construction paper is tacked to the wall with the question, "How old is the United States of America?"

All the children in her classroom gave their answers, which are then written below the question.

Zoe's answer: One.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


The Blackberry has been dying a slow, painful death. It started having symptoms with handling data, crashing every time I connected to the Internet. I dropped the data package, and the phone retaliated by crashing during phone calls. Static, humming, then nothing. A battery re-boot wouldn't even restore it; the only thing that would revive it was plugging it back into the wall charger. Which is a pain in the ass when you're in your car where there's no wall, no outlet, and no charger. Kinda defeats the purpose of having a mobile phone. Since it began to do this with every call, I took it to AT&T yesterday and confirmed that it was, indeed, terminal. Poor thing - it never even had a chance. Two years of faithful service ended in an ignonimous death.

I wished it a fond farewell, and powered down for the last time. Then I took a deep breath and told the sales associate, "I want just a phone."

"Justaphone?" Like it's all one word.

"Yeah, just a phone."

"Wow, that's a big change, going from a Blackberry to justaphone."

"I know. That's what I want."

We wandered over and looked at the justaphones. I settled on the least expensive which, bonus, comes in green. And they had a green one left. Sold!

"Wait!" I said. "Does it have an alarm clock on it? Because I use my cell now as my alarm clock and got rid of the clunky plastic-with-glowing-red-LED-numbers monstrosity on my nightstand." Yes, it has an alarm clock. Whew!

There is something refreshing about having justaphone. It's the feeling of not being tied to technology. It's the ability to really prioritize what is important in my life. E-mail and Facebook are not, in the grand scheme of things, important. Who I am with right now is what is important. Being cut off for 10 days on vacation brought this front and center for me. Standing in Yosemite Valley without a cell phone made me realize that a.) I won't die without 24/7 access to e-mail and b.) there are more important things in life than technology. Mother Nature will do that to ya.

I think people are, by and large, replacing face-to-face interaction with technology. I don't like sharing a meal with someone and their Blackberry. I don't like sharing a meeting with someone and their iPhone. If you want to spend time with me, dammit, spend time with me. Not me and the 562 friends you have on Facebook.
Technology, for all its assets, has introduced acceptable ways to be rude into our daily lives. It started with call waiting, which I thought was relatively innocuous until M pointed out to me that the message you're sending when you click over to take that other call is really, "Hey, you are less important to me than this person clicking in, so why don'tcha sit there and wait until we get done talking." That's not cool at all. I swore off call waiting forever with that one, unless it's a possible emergency (like Zoe's school clicking through in the middle of the day) or I need to get the call for business (and those I take only during regular business hours - my time is my time now, thankyouverymuch).

I have an awesome friend, Ping, who has never once pulled out a cell phone during our lunches. I'm embarrassed to admit that I did pull out my Crackberry a few times, but looking back, she's never done that to me. When we have lunch together, which is about once a month or so, it's just about us. It's only now that I've cut the cord, rid myself of the technology leash, that I realize truly what a gift that is. (Thank you, Ping!)

So here's my formal apology to anyone who has ever felt second-fiddle to my PDA. Trust me, it will never, ever happen again. But let me know if you want to see my cute new green justaphone! It even has an alarm clock!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

More Doors

Well, I have Blue Chairs from eons ago...
and now I have Blue Doors.

Grand Junction Door

Man, what is with me and doors lately?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Miner's Bean Kettle

I don't remember really reading what was painted on the front of the little shack when I photographed it. M had pulled off because I saw green doors in an old stone building and I wanted to shoot it. We were driving from Yosemite to San Jose to return the rental car and hop a train to Emeryville, and thankfully had built in some "hey, pull over, there's an image there" time. I made several exposures of the doors, and then spotted the shack. Popped off a few shots of it, too, while balancing on the edge of the road trying to avoid other rental cars zooming by.

Only tonight, when working closer with the image, that I was able to zoom in enough to read "Miner's Bean Kettle." Doesn't that just raise so very many questions? It's this...the unknown history...that I find intriguing.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Before and After

Some people probably wonder how I can spend so much time playing around in Photoshop. It's pretty easy to lose myself for hours on end, especially when I don't have the specter of grad school peeking over my shoulder, whispering, "You should be working on your mid-term, asshole." I'm very much looking forward to regaining my usual Photoshop hours, in case you didn't know.

Anyway, working on great images is fun, but working on a challenge can be even more so. It's always wonderful when I can scroll through my thumbnails and choose at a glance, "That one...that one...that one." Those were my first vacation images posted here. The gimme shots from Yosemite, where it almost felt like cheating because I was simply photographing - documenting, some might say - the work of an Artist far more talented than I. (That's a nod to the Big Guy upstairs. Just in case it counts, as Uncle Jim says.)

But what is far more satisfying to me is combing through all the shots carefully, one by one, searching for clues to a great image embedded in what looks like a pretty crappy grab shot. After all, something there caught my eye to begin with or I wouldn't have bothered to shoot it. It's that search for the qualities within, the latent image you might say, that I can spend hours on.

It's escapism draped in the respectable cloak of fine art.

When I find something I think might have a kernal of beauty or interest, I get lost in the image itself, and I don't think about work or school or being a mommy or any of my other myriad obligations. I just wander through the image at will. I suppose my efforts might be considered by an onlooker as a complete waste of time if I don't come out with a decent image. I don't think any pursuit of art, no matter the result, is a waste of time. The unsalvagables simply go into the wastebasket at the bottom right corner of my screen and I still go to bed happy to have at least worked on/immersed myself in photography. Sometimes I come out with a great image, and that tacks pride onto the satisfaction. Sometimes I come out with just an okay image, and that's cool, too. All that counts is that I did something.

So I was doing that tonight, futzing around with my images, and then it occurred to me that it might be fun to share my "before and after" here. This is a giant risk for me personally, as I normally don't show anything but finished work. After all, who wants to see the crap I started with? Might ding up my reputation as a fair to middling photographer. Guess I just wanted to share my fun with you is all.

Here's my first image. Total grab shot taken through the train window as we rolled by. It kills me to shoot a $1000+ lens through dirty safety glass, but what the hell, it's digital. It's not like I was burning through rolls of film I'd have to pay to process. The original shot is some random building with doors and windows that I found interesting. I have a thing for doors and windows. Given that we were rolling and I spotted this last second, it's completely jacked up in the frame, but, you know, therein lies the beauty of Photoshop.

Yeah, pretty crappy. Looks kinda blown out. The sky wasn't interesting anyway, and the safety glass on the train rendered it still more lifeless. Too much road down front. Perspective is just slightly off. Distracting elements on the right. All the tones seem to fade into each other. Bo-ring.

Then I started playing. First cropped down to the building itself. Perspective is just off enough to be annoying and enhanced with that close of a frame. No. Cropped back out to include some sky, some road. Distracting elements on right too pesky. No. Converted to black and white. Still boring. No. Back to color, played with levels. Goofy. No.

Then I went back to the original image and just sat here, staring at it for awhile. There's something here...I can feel it. Do I need both doors? Odd numbers are always more visually appealing than evens. Okay, so, which door? Well, that one's got an interesting looking gate or grate or something next to it, which, if taken in to consideration with the door (one element) and the windows (combined, one element), gives me three main elements. Plus, I find its proportion to the door attractive.

Okay, crop way down. Well, I've now cropped in so much that I'm left with a fairly fuzzy image that lacks punch. Desaturate to get to black and white. Better, but still rather drab. I mess with levels a bit, which helps bring out some definition in the bricks. Still needs something. I go into unsharp mask and my usual selection of 40-50% is okay, but it's still not enough. I crank it up...100...200...300%. 300 was too far, but it showed me that I was heading in the right direction. The mask introduced an effect that's much like the beautiful grain in the black and white T-Max film I used to shoot in high school.

And there it is. The image that I like. Pulled from the complete piece of shit above. Is it worthy of hanging in a gallery and commanding high dollar? Nope. Will anyone else like it as much as I do? Probably not. But that's not the point. The point is that I made something out of nothing. And isn't that what we're all trying to do, anyway?

Old Pass Gallery

Buildings are interesting to me, because of their inherent human qualities. Structures, after all, would not exist without human creativity, design, and construction. They wouldn't change over the years and take on new meanings and uses. Buildings stir the imagination.