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Showing posts with the label photography

Where the West Hasn't Vanished

Why didn't I read Mark Twain's "Roughing It" a long time ago? It is an enjoyable book, especially for a traveler in the American West.

Of course a modern reader will become envious of Twain. He crossed the West in an Overland Stagecoach when America was mostly empty. Those days are long gone...

...But not completely.  Today I crossed one of the few empty places that still exist in the McMansioned West. How marvelous!

Surprisingly there was a Verizon signal. I pretty much carry in my head a map of Verizon-spewing cell towers. There must be a new one out here. I still can't believe it.

Upon reaching the metropolis of Datil, NM, I made the classic mistake of asking a local where the new cell tower was. A question like that always draws a blank look from my victim. You'd think they would want to know.

Few things benefit an independent lifestyle like curiosity in knowing 'how things work' in the things that your life depends on. Cell towers aren't the only…

Wow Dude, This Was, Like, So Cool!

There was a time not so many generations ago when Americans actually made things for a living. Today we just shop for a living, either online or driving around in heavy traffic to stores. As hard as it is to believe, some people actually enjoy shopping.

For my part, I haven't had a wonderful experience shopping more than a couple times in my lifetime. I had one today.

It seemed like a good idea to put a metal dog tag on my new camera, since it is the most expensive camera I have ever owned. The machines that make these metal dog tags keep getting better. I made mine at Petsmart.

Yes, it had a digital menu. Normally this would put me in an incendiary mood, but this menu was intelligently designed.

You just slide the tag into the machine in an unambiguous way, and watch the laser-scribing through a glass window. Fascinating and beautiful! It could even scribe on both sides of the tag, so there was enough room to say, "Text" and then my phone number. I asked the store employee …

Our Digital Menu-driven World

It has been quite an eye-opener to shop for cameras. It seems that if you hate on-screen menus as much as me, and you desire a rotary "mode dial" that allows you to select things like Aperture-priority shooting, you will soon be in the $400 price range.

I'll bet the mode dial itself only raises the manufacturing cost by a dollar or two. But the business model says,"Soak the bastard" if he thinks of himself as photographer enough to want manual control over the camera.

Sometimes the website won't even let you know whether there is a mode dial or not. It will make you dig through all their verbiage.

This has been educational. It reminded me of the frustration I usually feel when drowning in the digital menus of just about any gadget these days. Remember the first time I walked into a McDonald's that used an ordering-kiosk? I started mouthing off, right in the store.

But if you really want a scary thought, just imagine the "information console" in th…

Failing to Find a Camera with Aperture Control

Supposedly there are people in this modern world of ours who are "addicted" to internet shopping. I just don't understand...

I thought addictions were moral failings because they held you enslaved to short term pleasures, with the consequences of long term pain.

But internet shopping is not pleasurable, in the short term. Or any term.

How could Amazon bury you under so much useless information, while not putting the user's manual at the top of the screen, in a nice box that you could just click? Do they really think you want to read through all that florid (sales) prose, or read 647 reviews by people who have owned the camera for 3 days?

But, you say, I should be watching reviews on You Tube, instead of reading reviews. Gimme a break! Show me a You Tube reviewer whose idea of useful information consists of something more than, "Ya know, like, wow dude, this is another really coooool feature of this camera..." in every other sentence.

The camera manufacturers th…

What to Do When You Murder Another Camera?

Recently my camera 'paid the ultimate sacrifice, in the line of duty,' during a mountain bike crash. That is not good news, but there is an opportunity in it. It is a chance to think about whether I should even bring a camera. What exactly am I trying to accomplish? What is the benefit of photography?

And if I do decide to get another camera, should it be one that is strong in macro photography (that is, close-ups). I find macro photography more interesting than bar-coded  landscape postcards.

Appreciating the visual arts has been a tough slog for me, but it can be made to work. I have slowly learned to appreciate good cinematography, that is, the telling of a story with moving pictures. Cinematography is what makes a movie different than a photographic record of two people standing in a room talking at each other.

I've also learned to appreciate still photographs (or even cartoons) as visual metaphors. It has become a habit to google "photos of X", and then choose …

The Historian, the Photographer, and the Babushka

I've read quite a bit of Russian history the last couple years. In part, it is a rebellion against the 'Boris & Natasha' silliness in the news -- not that an attempted soft coup d'etat is silly. And there were other reasons.

By now it is reasonable to ask whether all this history-reading is time well spent. Although the odds were against it, Google helped me find some Russian photographs to complement my reading.

Take a look at this photograph from Beyond Sochi: Photos Of Russia By Russians

Would you agree that this is not a trivial postcard of the type you have seen on the internet a million times?

Doesn't it make you feel like you are right there, in the babushka's shoes?

Now think of Tolstoy's essay, "What is Art?", wherein he argues against the common notion that Art is about beauty, and instead, claims that art is the transference of feelings to the observer, by means of pictures, sounds, and words.

The photograph is an excellent example of Art…

Clicking the Camera Versus Taking a Photograph

This is the wrong time of year to talk about this photograph, but I can't help it. It should be presented at the end of May or whenever tedious speeches are given all over the country at graduation ceremonies. You know how it goes. The speaker drops into a stentorian tone of voice, "...and furthermore, students and parents, let me remind you of one more thing: that this is a Beginning, not an Ending." Or something like that.

The idea is basically correct. We shouldn't be throwing tomatoes at the pompous speaker just because the phrasing is so hackneyed. 

Take this as an opportunity. Many of the most important truths in life lose their force with repetition. Rather than switching our attention to trivial novelties, the timeless and classic Ideas need to "reincarnated" in particular situations, with characters that we actually care about, so that the Truth matters once again. That should be the mission of novelists, screenwriters, painters, and photographers.


Metaphorical Caption Contest

After an evening rain I awoke to fog and low clouds playing games with the mesas of central Utah. Actually it seemed more like a rapid military invasion and conquest.

I was quite sincere in my Photographic Manifesto that there is a worthwhile purpose to cluttering the internet with one more photograph. That purpose is the visual representation of an important idea, rather than trivial prettiness and entertainment. Visual representations of ideas have advantages over the tedious word-wrangling of authors.

The trick is to photograph things that suggest -- that lure -- the viewer into finishing the connection between different objects in the photograph. But it must not be too difficult to make the connection, or the viewer won't even try. They will just say, "This photograph really ain't that purdy." And then turn away from it.

It would please me to see readers offer metaphorical captions to the photograph above. For my part, it reminds me of the essay by William Graham Su…