Archive for the 'wetware' Category

While I’m working on my comeback post(s)

‍‍ד׳ ניסן ה׳ תשע״ד - Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Here’s what the last 7 months looks like, just from the hardware side.  No idea why I obsessively did this now (well I do, outgrowth of one long explanatory Facebook PM and one phonecall about a potential future project/endeavour) because I have had three places to be.  Hardware for site 2 is only partly deployed (but assembled and 90% configured) but will be done next week and site 3 hardware (other than the AP/routers which were done three years ago) is built but is being used for testing and will deployed sometime in the next few months.  Travel is difficult with Athena.

Making this rundown a page rather than a post as it’s in flux and it, like life, are always subject to and the subject of change.
Traditional photo equipment (think enlargers and development, not cameras and lenses) and fabrication/power tools which come after this is done have seen some work and a month or two of time, but are excluded for now.

Up all night – or – Revamping.

‍‍י״ג תמוז ה׳ תש״ע - Thursday, June 24th, 2010

June’s about done and the chaff accumulated through the spring is about gone.

More and more I find myself in the company of people who do photography for money; more and more I’m asked for my card. I’m a little sick of having to apologize for the pictures in the gallery – nearly all of the shots are from May and June 2005, many of which came from various lens tests (I think I got the 80-200/2.8, 105/2DC, and 300/4 in the prior month). Well, that’s nothing compared to my accumulation of hardware – and more importantly – photographs since purchasing a GF1 in February.

To wit, I’m going through about 10,000 images (I have been very sporadic in shooting over the past few years. Over 6,000 of those shots are from this past spring, and those are better and more varied than the first 4.000) selecting retouching candidates for portfolios of varying purposes. [Edit - finished the first cut!] While some of the shots that I put here years ago are in that set, I really believe that as a result of time away from photography, a revival of some of my technical skills from my teenage years (by working nearly exclusively in manual lenses), and new technology (the price point of the 5DII brought me somewhat to the Canon side and back to Barnack, but it is the GH1 that has given me more flexibility in shooting style and an excitement I haven’t felt since my first days with a roll of film, a Contax IIA, and the Sunny 16 rule). Quite simply, I get more hits than misses, because like back in the day, I care and have to take care of exposure and focus.

The shots that will make it into a portfolio will be heavily checked, and to whatever degree I feel it necessary, retouched (just like when I used a loupe and spotting inks, I go pixel by pixel when I’m serious), but most of these candidates are fine as is. It is from this larger pool that I will be populating the site by theme; I probably will have a best of best which will reflect what my imagery looks like, for better or worse, when I apply all my efforts in the critical skills – compostion, exposure, and post processing. I expect a bit of a reorganization to the photographs that are here (and I can add significantly to the UV/IR section thanks to the GH1) but nothing too drastic.

So, clearly, I may start taking jobs, and I’ve been asked to tutor a bit. Furthermore, I’ve turned down offers to show in the past, not out of fear of the public eye – I don’t give much of a damn about my general reception – but simply because photography is intensely personal to me, too easy an activity to be proud of, and I really don’t get any particular satisfaction over sharing it, just the process – occasionally the final image pleases. That last reluctance will have to change – only in the practical ramification – because that will open up some options that interest me. More interestingly, in the coming weeks, I’m working out a pedagogical method for teaching from scratch and have a very bright and willing test subject (whose outlying intelligence ironically may make him a poor test subject). Perhaps there is a basis for a book here.

I shudder at the prospect of being considered a “pro photographer” – professional and amateur are pecuniary matters, and most pros I’ve met are not photographers. Photographers are the ones for whom the image reigns supreme, that know one can only aspire to artistry after a mastery of artisanry. Photographers are never happy with the skills they have, for skills – like lenses – are brushes. Rather than seeking than the lens that draws that scene as best reflects an overall vision guided by an aesthetic sense, many photographers are enamoured by the “sharpest” or “fastest” lens. That last class is typically populated by amateurs; the professional’s equivalent sin is worrying about such matters only when their images are getting rejected by photo or art editors for softness.

Parallel to those two sins of gear, are sins of skill. Many buy equipment or enjoy hacking their own equivalents (which I love and believe is great part of old school photography often lacking today, but not) in place of skill development, and often to the exclusion of actually photographing. Others only develop new skills and looks – typically a poor emulation of others – to keep pace with the market. The basis of creating art – as distinct and elevated from a mere recording of events – is choice: the poet’s license, the editorial history which finds itself changed to fiction by the forces of whim and fancy, the willful act of imparting opinion on reality.

It may be that authorship is dead and intent irrelevant in the final product. That has nothing to do with the process of creation. That is a matter of the artist’s choice, at first, the choice to create, then all the other wonderful mundanities that posses during the process – a color here, a line there, whether it needs something or if sardines are too much, and life. Lack of skill is a lack of choice. It is a valid choice to constrain oneself in creation. However, you can’t choose to work in black and white if that’s all you can do. You can’t shoot IR if you don’t take the time to understand and continue to study your medium. The Luddite literally sees less than the Photographer – a problem when drawing with light. For those mired in gnosticism, understand it thus: the intuitive only plays on the table that the understanding sets. Worse are those who think in terms of a (false) an exclusive dichotomy – that a wealth of technical skill and understanding is proportionally related to a lack of aesthetics – are in every sense of the word, half-wits.

“Pros” satisfied with sales are lazy and may never even think of the half-wit’s objection, but function similarly: smug in his “professional” technique (though not understanding it) and sales, he comes to the store to buy a Sto-Fen to soften his wedding shots (turns out he owns a Lumiquest box that he never used). Don’t get me started on the K1000 type (now Nikon D40-D70, sigh) tabula rasa girls who avoid influences and formal training. I guess they made their own cameras and independently invented the English language too, being the pure instantiation of the Platonic ideal of the uninfluenced and free actor. It took me a while to get the “artists borrow, masters steal,” but I only had that particular immaturity very briefly, still too long.

So, I’ll never be a “pro.” It’s not a matter of money. It’s a matter of an adjective becoming an noun in a very telling fashion.

“Artist” is a bit much to hope for and a fair bit of pretentiousness given the ease of photography.

I don’t chafe at photographer though. Maybe I’ll get to be one of those someday.


‍‍כ״א חשון ה׳ תש״ע - Saturday, November 7th, 2009

There are distinct smells to seasons, and in New York, this is not limited to the floral dawn of spring.  Here, at least, the smells are decisive heralds, for once they come, they and their season do not leave until complete.

Winter’s is perhaps my favorite of these, and as of yesterday afternoon, it seems Fall has drawn to an early close.  You can never be sure what precisely produces it – it is the amalgam of all things grey: woolen clothing, the smoke of roasted nuts, the exhaust of overtaxed cars. Appropriately, it arrived a few hours after the victory parade for the Fall Classic.

Given these circumstances, and that relocating to the South is at its most uncertain today, necessity mothered me with:

Winter Tea

3.5 oz Rye
2 oz Simple Syrup
1 oz Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Grenadine
Lemon Bitters

Bring Rye, Simple Syrup, and Grenadine to a boil, pour into mug, add vermouth cold, add bitters.

The drink can obviously be overly sugary, so add water and time to the boil according to taste.  In the alternative, a weaker but still enjoyable concoction can be had by mixing this with hot tea. I used green tea (shamefully from a bag) in a 3:2 tea to “Tea” ratio.  The trick is to boil the alcohol while waiting for the tea to steep.  Pour the hot alcohol, then the cold alcohol, then the tea.

Be careful with high proof drinks and fire.

15 minutos de fama : the odd consequences and burdens of educated speech.

‍‍י״ב תמוז ה׳ תשס״ט - Saturday, July 4th, 2009

It is a curious effect of copy and paste, of quote and translation.  Today, one can easily find fifteen minutes of fame, in the most literal of senses.  This is not news.

The oddity is that you can find that you were famous months after the fact.

Back in February, when Facebook was considering some controversial TOS changes, I was (apparently) early in joining one of the the Facebook protest groups.  Now admittedly, I did care about the TOS issue: I posted items and used my status message to try and raise awareness.  I made one or two wall posts in said protest group.  Mostly, I wanted to clarify that the TOS wasn’t seizing copyright ownership, but the distribution license had onerous consequences.  I then said that in response, I deleted my uploaded photographs, save a profile picture or two.

Now, mind you, I have no precise idea what I said : after Facebook abandoned the proposed terms, I quit the group.  With many such Facebook groups having been formed, and hundreds of thousands of users joining them, and in turn, generating thousands of posts and threads, my original is sufficiently misplaced.

None of this would be of any interest to me – or to any right thinking individual – but for the curious addendum.  A couple of weeks ago, I googled variants of my name to see where this site was showing up.  Lo and behold, by page three, nearly all the links were in Spanish.  This was of particular curiosity to me, as my Spanish aptitude never progressed beyond some Fs and Ds in high school classes.  (Immersion methods do not work well with me, unfortunately, it took me years to figure this out and learn what does.  Another story for another time.)  Apparently, some tech writer for the EFE news service needed a quote for his piece on the TOS changes – and the user response – and quoted me.  In turn, this article was reposted and quoted by aggregators and blogs across the Latinternet.  This happens, nothing special.  However, since the original quoting was translated into a language I don’t speak or read, I had no idea until May, despite the EFE being the fourth largest news agency in the world.

Now, I cannot be certain why the original author quoted me (and I should point out, that while I don’t recall the precise wording, the translation entirely correlates with  my recollection of what I wrote) but I suspect it is because:

  • I wrote with a reserved, educated tone.
  • I separated my understanding of the situation from my response.
  • I sounded like I knew what I was talking about.
  • I am from New York.

To invoke a bit of Cialdini, the first two strike me as social liking through identification.  The first point results in a tone similar to modern journalism, and not only garners the sympathy of a writer accustomed to the style, but in using a similar style, it fits smoothly into a newspaper piece.  Similarly, the second is akin to an editorial response or, more liberally, the conclusions of a reporter.

Coupled with the a writing style, (I’m glad the reporter kept the “permissive and perpetual” bit in Spanish – I liked it enough to remember) simply sounding like I had read the new TOS and was capable of calmly correcting others probably secured me a air of authority.  Finally simply being from New York (my primary Facebook network), which the reporter did specify in the quote attribution, is both identifiable and desirable from a global perspective.  This is certainly liking and authority at play – a well spoken, informed, urbane “expert” from an international city says… – but also maintains a smooth flow for the reader who already has some idea where New York is, as opposed to stopping to wonder what or where Buffalo is.

Still, this story is just a an anecdote, a curiosity of a google search, and the subsequent analysis somewhat facile and obvious.  The lesson is not:  if you choose to write with a certain style, you will “speak” louder than others in a written medium.  Make sure that you want those words repeated: if you write well-formed drivel or masterful and erroneous prose, you may find the echo much louder than expected and the ringing criticism deafening.

This is the burden of educated speech, whether educated in fact or in tone: if you write with care, have a care with what you write.

Very strong and very cold.

‍‍כ״ה אדר ב' ה׳ תשס״ט - Friday, March 20th, 2009

Is the right way to drink gin. To wit,  an (obvious) martini variant I made up the other week:

The Brandon

2 oz Gin
1 oz Cranberry Schnapps
4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters

Pour the schnapps into a chilled cocktail glass, coat the insides
Pour out the cocktail glass into the mixing glass.
Add Gin, Bitters, stir, double strain.
Garnish with a large orange slice or cherry.

Nothing brilliant here – other than the taste – it just restores the bitters from the classic Martini recipe, replaces sweet vermouth with cranberry schnapps, and uses the Peychaud’s to add contrast in the finish. Some things to note – since quality kosher vermouth is hard to find (Stock, Cinzano, and Martini & Rossi only have hechshers in Israel, the US Kedem vermouth it not good enough to burn, let alone drink) – this allows a nice kosher alternative to the traditional Sweet Martini.

Since neither Peychaud nor Regan carry hechshers, they do need to be substituted.  I added the (considerable amount of) Peychaud’s to give the drink an anise flavor, so perhaps a teaspoon or less of such that flavor in a  red or clear liqour might stand in – arak or ouzo should work; Sambuca is probably too sweet.  As for the Regan’s,  one or two dashes of Angostura mixed with orange oil or zest could stand in.  If you grate rather than twisting the oil from the zest, double strain with a mesh strainer.  Hell, do that anyway.  Ice fragments ruin this drink.

Don’t use more than 3 oz Gin or the drink will lose its particular charm.  If the cocktail is poured to the lip of the glass, the in and out (coating) is pointless.

Finally, since it seems I’m posting odd news stories today:
Man shoots and wounds his daughter after she pours out his gin

I shot a man in Reno, cause he spilled my rye.

Your last hope

‍‍כ״ו תמוז ה׳ תשס״ח - Monday, July 28th, 2008

Missed Last HOPE? Wanted to hear the OpenSSL lecture but couldn’t get into Turing?

The ridiculously overpriced DVDs ($20 per talk, $100 for ten) of the lectures are being ripped and tracked here.

Note that the video quality issues (poor color and contrast) are DVD issues, not a consequence of the ripping.