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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Empty Chairs

I will always remember April 19, 1995.  On that day at 9:02 a.m., an explosion a bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  Until the attacks of September 11, 2001, this bombing remained the most destructive terrorist attack on U.S. soil.  I remember it for two reasons.  

The first, most immediately recognizable moment for me was the heightened level of security at the federal building in Fayetteville.  As part of my law clerk responsibilities, I often had to take documents to the federal building.  The afternoon of April 19th, you could not get within 2 blocks of the federal building in Fayetteville.  Secondly, a guy I knew from my hometown was in the Murrah building at the time and was killed in the explosion. 

This second reason is what made me get out of bed this past Sunday morning and drive to downtown Oklahoma City to visit the memorial.  We were in OKC for a dance competition in which my daughter and her dance company competed.  Those of you who have kids who are doing or have done this understand that 1) the venues are conveniently located near NOTHING; and 2) the event timings leave little room for free time.  I knew we would probably not be loading up to drive downtown to spend any significant time at the memorial and museum, but I was not going to leave town without going to this piece of hallowed ground and visiting The Field of Empty Chairs.

I got there about 7:30--about an hour later than planned.  But, I still had the place to myself.  Wearing dark glasses and a black skull cap, carrying a large camera bag and a tripod, it did not take long for a security guard to appear and make sure I was on the up-and-up.  We chatted.  He told me it was ok to walk among the chairs.  He showed me where the names of the bombing victims were engraved on the chairs.  He showed me the chair of Baylee Almon, the infant in the famous firefighter photograph (I'm not going to give it to you--go look for it).    I didn't have nearly enough time to do much of anything other than take in the site and take a few photographs.

The children's chairs are smaller than those of the adults.  If you have children, you instinctively get how poignant this is. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sunset on Summer

This photograph seems fitting for the end of summer.  Most of us who have kids are already back in school, and some of us are already looking forward to fall break.

This photograph was taken at The Dock in Lake Providence, Louisiana.  We stopped there for dinner on the way to Florida this summer.  Random mom and her young son.  The surprising thing about this photograph is that it was taken with my iPhone 4S.  I recently downloaded the Camera+ app, and used the Clarify tool to really make this image pop.  The only thing done outside of the iPhone was to pull it into Photoshop and straighten the horizon.  That's it.  Camera+ reports the EXIF as being ISO 64, 4.3mm, 1/356 at f/2.4  Weird numbers, but I was shocked at how good this turned out.The iPhone 4S camera is pretty good for a phone, and Camera+ seems to be a great little app--for $.99, you can't go wrong!

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Resurrection of Sorts

I've had two photography posts since the beginning of 2011.  Aside from that, I've pretty much been AWOL. I just haven't been inspired to get behind the lens.  About a month ago in Florida, I was asked by friends to take some obligatory ocean side portraits.  Veritable CF.  Foggy lenses.  Dirty lenses.  Fading light.  Rechargeable batteries that had forgotten how to hold a charge.  Panic.  Total fumble.

That whole fiasco experience kinda pissed me off.  A few years ago, I was working hard to develop my skills and a knowledge base.  You probably remember the little sign in the dentist's office when you were a kid:  "Ignore your teeth and they will go away."  Same thing with photography.  If you don't practice, the little nuances (hell, the big nuances, too) of running that little box-sized supercomputer will overcome you.  What to do?  Go shoot.  Anywhere.  Anything.  Push the button.

So I decided to challenge myself and do something I've always thought about doing--a one lens challenge.  Actually, to make the challenge more exacting, it needs to be limited to one focal length. Manual mode only.  So on the way to the Bentonville Farmers Market last Saturday morning, I grabbed my camera and stuck on my 50mm 1.8.  Sharp lens.  Fixed focal length.  Foot zoom.  With wife, daughter and dog in tow, shooting was not exactly convenient (and crepes--can't forget those).  But I got a great shot of my daughter with a dragonfly balloon, and got a few shots of 3 of the 4 members of a little high school group called Farmer & The Markets (they kinda reminded me of a Walk Off The Earth video).  I got a down the line shot with a shutter speed fast enough to freeze faces but slow enough that hands conveyed a send of motion.  It's one thing to know your camera and what all the buttons and dials do, but you should challenge yourself to tell a story, convey some motion, or have some direction and so I was pleased to pull off that shot (it took a few times to get the shutter speed right).  But I also got one of those all-purpose stock shots, imploring you to support your local musicians, and I like it because it conveys a sense of waiting and wanting.  Of course, as I sit here writing this, it occurs to me that had I shifted about 2 feet to the right, I could have included the open guitar case where people were tossing tip money for the guys.  That really would have been the prop to finish the shot.  Just because you have a bunch of nice pots doesn't mean you can cook. They'll be back and I'll try again.

50mm, 1/320 at f/2.8, ISO 100.  Conversion to B/W in Lightroom.

My Lightroom skills these days are about as poor as my camera skills.  I'm fairly pleased with the overall conversion, but need to get some of the blacks out of the music stand. 

I've seen some versions of this challenge talk about shooting an entire week or month with one lens.  Even as simple as it is, the 50 1.8 can be a little hard to get your head around when shooting on the fly, so while I don't know if an entire month is realistic, it's a good way to learn about perspective and composition.

Go support your local farmers markets and musicians.  Take your camera.

Friday, February 24, 2012


I found myself in an uncertain situation last night. When I got home from work, I went to the mailbox and got the mail, which included a Priority Mail package for me. I opened the envelope to discover three New Customer packets from Verizon Wireless. As I looked through one of the packets, I found a “Customer Receipt” that indicated that I had opened 3 cell phone lines with Verizon on February 20th. This not being the case, I immediately called Verizon and alerted their fraud department. In the process of doing this, I learned that the account had been opened with my social security number. I called the police (an officer later came to the house to interview me). I instituted fraud alerts with the credit reporting agencies. I tried to get my once-annually free credit report, only to learn that someone had already either got it or tried to get it the same day as the Verizon accounts were set up. This last little piece of information was perhaps a little more frightening than anything else.

So don’t think it can’t happen to you. Despite best practices, it most certainly can happen to you.

That feeling of vulnerability that comes with not knowing when the next shoe is going to fall is scary. But I’m over being frightened. Now I’m pissed. I don’t know who you are, but I am a patient man. I don’t know who you are, but I have a slow burn. I don’t know who you are, but I am Maximum Decimus Meridius. I don’t know who you are.

Not yet.

Friday, September 9, 2011


This weekend at Wine Club, we will be presenting 6 wines from 4 of our favorite wineries from our May trip to Napa Valley. I got a little bored the other night and broke out some flashes, a shoot-through umbrella, a grid and some props to get this shot of the top of the capsule of a bottle of Flora Springs Sauvignon Blanc Soliloquy Vineyard Oakville 2009. We love Flora Springs. You should, too. Check them out here. Get some wine. Share the love.

Two speedlights at camera left. One high and shooting down through a shoot-through umbrella at 1/2 power. Second light is Justin clamped to a chair at 45 degrees, with a Honl grid, aimed pretty much at the capsule (which is the foil covering over the top of the wine bottle). White blanket background. I ran out of batteries or I would have splashed the background.

ISO 100
1/60 at f/11
Nikkor 70-300VR at 300, hand held.

Incidentally, the other wines are the 2009 Buehler Vineyards Chardonnay Russian River Valley, the 2009 Buehler Vinearyds Zinfandel, the 2007 Trespass Vineyard Cabernet Franc, the 1999 Flora Springs Trilogy, and the 2005 Taylor Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hello, blog. Long time, no see.

So it's been about 16 months since I've posted anything on here. Coming soon (relatively) will be a little recap of our recent trip to Napa Valley. Until then, here's a shot from high on a hill above Buehler Vinevards. I took four or five shots from the passenger seat of John Buehler's truck, and after about 30 seconds, he remarked, "What the hell are you doing, making a photograph or a painting?"

I think I've forgotten how to operate a camera. I'll blame it on the wine.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gratuitous Waterfall Shot

Ok, last post was about finding something unique in landscape shooting. But what would a trip to a waterfall be without actually taking a shot of the waterfall? Here's a shot from Ann Falls back in January, taken while standing in the creek below the falls. Shot RAW, exposure adjustments and black and white conversion in Lightroom.


ISO 100
Nikon 18-135 at 28 mm
f/16 for 4 seconds