The Death Wish – Conclusion

The Death Wish – Conclusion

After being so angry and distraught with the state of American culture as it relates to gun violence I’m at a bit of a crossroads. I myself am a gun owner. I’ve always enjoyed shooting and have been doing so for the past 35 years. I own several handguns and rifles. One of the rifles that I own is an AR-15 which is the same type of assault rifle used in the Sandy Hook shootings last week. The AR-15 type rifle is an amazing firearm. It is relatively light, very accurate and you can easily carry more ammunition than the older .30-06 or 7.62mm cartridges used in previous U.S. battle rifles. If I had the choice of only one gun to go into a fight with, it would be this type of weapon. It is my best and most favorite of all my guns.

THE AR-15 AND ALL OTHER ASSAULT RIFLES SHOULD BE BANNED.

I say this because I am making America a little bit less safe by having one. How do I know that I will never permanently or more likely temporarily lose my mind? How can I say with absolute certainty that my rifle will never be used to commit a murder? Three years ago my house was burglarized and two of my handguns were stolen. There is a possibility that they could have been used in the commision of a crime. Even though my guns are stored in a disassembled state or under lock and key that is not enough. If the gun exists there is a chance that it can be used improperly. I know that this is true, I’ve seen it happen. Even good people, normal people, kind people can temporarily go out of their minds with rage.

When I was a teenager I had an older friend. This man was loved by everyone in our family. He was kind, funny and warm. I have fond memories of the two of us driving all over town. Talking and laughing, just getting through the lazy days of summer. He met a girl, who was just beautiful, and I guess he fell for her pretty hard. After having been together for a while something went wrong in the relationship and she started seeing someone else. Eventually my friend found out that she was stepping out on him and he lost his mind. He shot and killed his girlfriend and her lover. Two days later after seeing us one last time the police caught up to him and he took his own life right there in the street. I’m here to tell you, that not everyone who commits murder is evil. I honestly doubt that Lanza was evil, it appears to me that the boy was deranged. The likes of Timothy McVeigh, Hitler and Bin Laden are Evil. But sometimes regular people just snap for some reason. Other times people are sick for some time and become increasingly unstable to the point that they do something like Lanza or Cho did. I honestly don’t know which column to put Klebold and Harris into. Laughner (who shot Gabby Giffords) was completely certifiable. The point is that you cannot predict future mental stability, your own or anyone else’s for that matter.

There is no way to make all of the guns in America disappear. But it is completely within our legal, constitutional and moral capacity to remove the types of guns that make it easier to kill so many people so quickly. We can ban these types of assault rifles. How many times in the past 10 years has someone had to defend their home during a sustained assault from multiple aggressors where an assault rifle was required? Can someone please point me to an example where someone defended themselves in a way that could only have been achieved with an assault rifle as opposed to a deer hunting rifle or a shotgun? Bolt action rifles, shotguns and revolvers all hold from 1 – 8 rounds of ammunition before requiring a reload. Now that I think about it I’m really curious to know what percentage of attacks continued after the victim fired his first shot in self-defense? Just about every time I’ve seen a news or youtube video where the victim shoots back the assailant usually winds up running away or dead. The one exception I can think of is where someone went into a police station and started shooting. That was undoubtedly an outlier since he attacked people he knew were armed. Sustained gun fights that don’t involve the police seem to be very rare. This seems to make sense because criminals are attacking people whom they believe are at a significant disadvantage.

I don’t believe for a second that a general solution to this problem is arming more people. The problem that I’m primarily focused on here is that of the intersection of mental instability and firearms. We cannot legislate away mental deficiencies. What we can do is remove the most devastatingly lethal weapons that can kill so many so quickly when these mental breakdowns occur. Pointing out the fact that people will still go on crazy rampages is not a valid argument against removing the deadliest of weapons. Would you rather deal with a rampaging maniac armed with an AR-15 and four 30 round magazines, or one that has a knife?

The semi-automatic firearm with large capacity magazines is not required for self-defense. They are OVERKILL and put us all at risk when they fall into the wrong hands.

The Death Wish – Continued

The Death Wish – Continued

Realistically there is no way for us to make all of the guns go away. Even if I could snap my fingers and make it so, that would be frowned upon pretty heavily by those of us that actually need firearms for things like hunting. So many people seem to give up and say that the problem is too tough, it is unsolvable. We can’t get rid of the supposedly 300 million guns here in America. That sure sounds like a defeatist attitude to me. The problem is hard so I’m gonna stick my head in the sand and pretend that nothing is wrong? This is a fight to protect ourselves, our families our children, our society.

We cannot make this problem go away overnight. But we can start making changes today in order to make America safer for tomorrow. We just need to put a little brain power into it, maybe be a bit less paranoid, less selfish and begin taking the small steps forward toward making our country a safer place to be. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda killed around 3000 of us 11 years ago. We murdered something like 3 times as many of ourselves that same year. Here are a few of my ideas on what can be done to reduce the number of firearms and their little death wish projectiles.

  1. When you think about it guns don’t kill people, bullets do. I don’t know how many people were pistol whipped to death last year but I’m guessing that the number was pretty small. I propose making bullets very difficult to come by. Outlawing all bullets probably would violate the 2nd Amendment. So can we tax them, or tax the components required to make a bullet? How about putting a $100 tax on the brass casing required for every bullet? 10 bullets would cost over $1000. In order to make this reasonable for hunters we could maybe limit these taxes to the types of bullets used in semi-auto type rifles and handguns.
  2. Declare it illegal to have bullets of any type on school property. While we’re at it make it so that they are illegal in places where people gather, movie theaters (Aurora), hospitals (Alabama), shopping malls (Oregon), Universities (Virgina) etc. In order to enforce this we should be able to require by law that bullets are made with an easy to detect substance (maybe some kind of uncommon low grade radioactive material). Allowing us to install bullet detectors in our protected spaces. Alarms would go off when people crossed the boundary with the contrabanded munitions. Schools could immediately go on lockdown and the police could be notified to roll out immediately. There would be mandatory jail time for violating these laws.
  3. The constitution says we have a right to bear arms. Changing the constitution is really really hard to do. Many of those who are pro gun are also of the same ilk that go on about being literal constitutionalists. Ok fine, lets get literal here. The second amendment says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. It doesn’t say anything about how many arms one needs to bear and it doesn’t say what type of arms shall not be infringed. Why can’t we limit the number of guns a person can own to 1. Somehow it is constitutional to declare fully automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades as being illegal. Why can’t the same ban be put in place for assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns? While I’m being literal why don’t we make it so that the only legal guns, are the ones that were legal at the time that the constitution was written. Flintlocks and black powder only! Revolutionary Americans fought off the British with flintlocks. Lewis & Clark walked all the way to the Pacific Ocean and back with flintlocks and they had to go through territory much more dangerous than we deal with in todays world.

If there are fewer guns there are going to be fewer murders. The measures I’ve outlined above don’t make any attempt at taking guns that people already own. Passing legislation requiring people to relinquish the guns that they already have would be very difficult and enforcing it would probably result in even more violence. I haven’t come up with a reasonable way of removing guns that already exist. Maybe the best we can hope for is a campaign shaming/guilting people into giving up their guns. Regardless, reducing the growth rate of these death wish enablers would be a positive in my opinion.

How about some sort of public service campaign similar to what we’ve seen with anti-smoking, anti-drug, anti-drunk driving ads over the past several decades. If we can raise the collective consciousness and make everyone aware of the dangers that so many firearms present, people would eventually get the picture. The anti-smoking campaigns were very successful. Smoking was so much more common when I was a kid than it is now.

Yesterday I had to have a discussion with my kids about what to do should they ever find themselves in a situation like we saw at Sandy Hook Elementary. It is absurd that I felt it necessary to tell my kids, “that no matter what, you can’t just lay on the floor and let some man shoot you to death. If there is a shooter in the room and there is nowhere to run, that you must fight”! Yesterday I showed my 13 year old and my 15 year old how to mortally wound someone with a pencil. I explained that they must remain un-panicked and aware of their surroundings. I taught them how to form a barricade at a classroom door with all tables and desks in the room. As I was explaining these things I was thinking in the back of my head, what has this world come to?

My thoughts on school safety.

  1. All classroom doors should open inwards toward the classroom. This would allow for more effective barricades.
  2. All classroom doors should have deadbolt locks on them, operated by keys. There should be only one master key held with in a safe. It should be required by law that the teacher and assistant in each room carries the key to the inner deadbolt on their person throughout the day. The outer deadbolt should only be opened by the key in the safe. A shooter wouldn’t be able to take the key from one teacher and use it to open a door to any other locked classroom since the teachers keys would only operate the deadbolt from the inside.
  3. All windows in classrooms would need the safety wire and have blinds or curtains on the inside.
  4. Teachers should be trained in how to hide, barricade and protect their students.

It’s late and time for bed again. I will finish up with my conclusion tomorrow.

Changing Up -> The Death Wish

I haven’t done anything with this blog I setup for a few years now. This is a pretty big change going from a photography blog to posts discussing political issues. Last night I wrote a pretty long essay on Facebook and I guess people without Facebook access can’t easily get to it. So I’ll be posting the essay and its follow-ups here also. Here are my thoughts on guns and modern society:

The Death Wish

There is so much wrong with the state of American society today. Fiscal turmoil is threatening us all. The broken political system is paralyzed and barely able to act on any issue of significant importance. Beating the other team is so much more important than coming up with a way for us all to succeed together. And now the gun problem is brought front and center. Made impossible t

o ignore (for the moment at least) by the age of most of its helpless and innocent victims. We cannot allow this to continue to happen. Ever since Klebold and Harris attacked their school there has been a somewhat constant underpinning fear and knowledge that this type of tragedy would happen again.

The problem is guns.

Yes I know most of America probably doesn’t agree with me here. But there it is, the plain truth laid bare. So many people don’t want to put in the effort to think this through, however it’s almost 3:30 AM, I can’t sleep, so I’m gonna do my thinking out loud here.

Ok, the problem isn’t guns by themselves. I think we can all agree that a gun doesn’t move, aim or go off by itself. People kill people, yes there is a true statement. But when people commit murder most of the time they do so with a gun. I’m going to break this up into 3 primary kinds of homicide. There are crimes of passion, truly premeditated murder (for some type of gain whether money, anger or revenge) and suicide. But then there is this other weird classification that we’re all reeling from now. That of a deranged person, going out of their mind and deciding to kill everyone around them for some often inexplicable reason. I would put the likes of McVeigh into the premeditated murder column, but the Kleibolds, Harris’, Chos and now Lanzas belong in the latter. How do we stop someone that has a time bomb ticking in their heads? The simple fact of the matter is that we can’t. If you really want to take the life of another, you can find a way. The question I’m asking is why can’t we make finding that way much much harder?

The prevalence of guns in America makes the ability to carry out homicidal thoughts much too easy. Some of you are no doubt saying, well the killers could have used a knife or a club. Yes they could have, but the fact remains that they didn’t. Why? Because knives, clubs, poisons, fists, swords etc are much harder to use. They require physical strength, martial know how, and extremely close proximity. When was the last time you heard of someone hacking 28 people to death with any of those weapons?

The problem with easy access to guns is that killing someone with a gun is only just a few small steps away from having the ability to simply wish someone dead. Just think about this hypothetical for a moment. What if some researcher discovered a way to make it possible to kill other people simply by thinking that you wished them dead? Would it make sense to have that technology freely available to everyone? Think hard before you answer. I would expect by a large margin most people would think the advent of such a technology unwise. Our brains move fast and think unreasonable thoughts sometimes. I have to admit that there have been a couple of times in my life where I wished someone else dead. I consider myself to a be a pretty well regulated individual and could never envision actually killing someone simply because I was angry. If such a technology existed it would wreak havoc on humanity because of the fact that our emotions run strong and wild.

Guns are closer to this phenomenon than you realize. They make the act of homicide too easy. You can be angry, or suffer from some real or imagined threat and escalate the situation beyond reason and then if you have a gun nearby its just a matter of raising the weapon and squeezing the trigger. Especially when the person you wish dead is completely unarmed and unable to escape. Guns allow sick, damaged, angry and evil people to kill too easily. Modern technology has taken this to such an extreme it is mind boggling. It is said that Lanza fired over 100 bullets. Assuming 30 round magazines that is 3 reloads. Any idea how long it takes to squeeze off 100 rounds in an AR-15 type weapon? Including the magazine changes a determined shooter could do so in around a minute. 100 outgoing death wishes, in about a minute.

Are guns really making things safer? Ask yourself, how many times have you heard a story in the past year where someone actually used a gun to defend themselves? Now compare that to the number of murders you’ve heard about. There are something like 9000 homicides by firearm per year in America. The most common case I can think of where guns are successfully used in self defense are when small shops/stores are robbed and the owner fights back. These guys are out there alone and exposed with dollar sign targets on their backs. It probably makes sense for them to be armed. How many of those success stories did you hear of?

Technology is great, it makes so many things in our lives so much easier. Guns make the taking of someone else’s life (or even your own) far too much easier also. More guns aren’t the solution. More prepacked, preloaded little brass colored death wishes waiting for the next Zimmerman or other stand your ground nut job to instigate an altercation won’t make things better.

The human psyche is complex, sometimes irrational and occasionally flawed. It can’t always be trusted with the power of the death wish.

It’s after 4 AM now and I’m supposed to wake up in less than 2 hours, ugh. I’ll continue with ideas on how to address these problems later today.

Problems and Things to Watch Out For

ealy_ZionVacation2009_Final_SEPhotographing kids is a lot of work. The youngest I shot for this project was 1 and the oldest about 22 years old. But get this, even the 20 & 22 year olds were some of the most difficult to shoot. But for entirely different reasons than the 1 year old. With the toddler the biggest issue was just keeping up with him. He is one of these kids that moves very fast, and is interested in everything. So even though I had the mighty 24-70 f/2.8 Nikkor and the D700 I was still having trouble keeping the focus on him. Surprisingly it seemed that it was more difficult shooting the teenagers and young adults.

The biggest problem with the older kids was a combination of simple teen apathy and some lack of confidence/self-image issues. I found it most frustrating to spend time photographing someone, then asking which of their photos they like the best only to hear, “none of them”, or worse “I don’t care”. When this type of thing happened it was always towards the beginning of the shoot. Luckily things got better as time progressed. Though with the oldest two kids I had to actually re-shoot them before they actually got more into the project, put some effort into making pleasing photos, and then finally began to appreciate that some of the images I took of them were actually pretty nice. So, what did I take from all of this? For starters, just be prepared for indifference or even worse when dealing with some kids. But remain positive and try to figure out what is necessary for them to take an interest in the shoot. Because if they aren’t into it, making good photos is just a hard thing to do. During that first night with my most difficult subjects there was just nothing I could do to get them liven up and buy into this project. I was able to coax one good picture from one of them that night, but he hated it (his mother and I overruled him on that one and that photo made it into the final product).

Another thing that I learned from this is that you can’t depend on people to show up to a photo shoot properly dressed, groomed and coiffed. So I after that first shoot I made a point of telling parents what type of clothes I was expecting, suggesting that the parent be involved in prepping hair, and generally just forcing a pleasant presentation of their child. This all kinda feeds into the idea that you want the subject to have total buy-in for the photo shoot. So when working with kids it is probably worthwhile to talk with them before the shoot trying to get them to understand that good photos just don’t magically appear. This is especially true in a portrait setting. I guess people kind of expect that since sometimes good photos happen just naturally while out and about when people are interacting with one another with a photographer snapping here and there capturing candid moments, that the same thing will happen in a portrait setting. Well there will be no candid moments in when sitting in front of a backdrop surrounded by lights stands, and all by oneself. At least there won’t be unless you can get the subject to become totally relaxed and forget about the camera (which is pretty difficult when the photographer is standing there saying move half a step to the left, tilt you head back, smile a bit less, and look just over my left shoulder).

Next: More things to watch out for

Experimentation & Prep Work

ealy_ZionVacation2009__DSC2963-EditAfter acquiring all of my new gear and reading up on portrait lighting I started experimenting on my wife and kids. At first everyone was pretty excited about modeling in front of the camera with all of the new equipment. But that only lasted for about 45 minutes. Then it became more of a chore to sit there in front of the camera while Daddy was continually fiddling with lights, exposure, and positioning of the flashes. The things I was looking into were generally what was the exposure range I’d need for my light setup, and to see the look of the shadowed areas on my subjects faces. Honestly there were somethings that I just never really figured out, even during the whole 6 month time frame of this project.

But here are a few things that I discovered:

  • My f-stops ranged from f/1.8 to f/8 but most of the time they were limited to the range f/3.2 – f/5.6.
  • The shutter speeds ranged from 1/50 to 1/200th seconds.
  • Most images were shot on my 24-70mm f/2.8, with several on my 85mm f/1.8 and a few with my 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor lenses.
  • Most images were shot at 320 ISO, with a few at 200 ISO (base ISO on the D700).
  • The number of flashes used was from 1 to 5. I had 3 SB-800s one SB-600 and also used the built in flash on my D700.
  • For this project I used 2 cameras, my own D700 and also my father’s D3x.
  • Cheap backdrops are quite a pain in the butt, mostly because they’re thin and see through, and hold on to their wrinkles.
  • Shoot through umbrellas are really great.
  • Nikon CLS is your friend.

Before I started with this project I had only used off camera flash a handful of times. And when I had done so the results were less than stellar because A. I didn’t put much thought into it, and B. I didn’t have proper flash stands. The combination of the stands and shoot through umbrellas really made the light much more pleasing as it illuminated the subject, not so harsh with such deep shadows as you normally get with a bare flashgun.

I also did a bit of experimentation with light modifiers. One thing that I had wanted to try was using a cookie to cast an interesting shadow on my backdrops. A cookie is something that goes between the light source and what is being illuminated. For instance if you were to place some window blinds between your light and its subject then you would get horizontal shadows cast upon it. I never really had much success with cookies in this project (we didn’t have much stuff around the house that lent itself to that type of usage, or I wasn’t being quite imaginative enough). One trick that I did have some success with was in making various snoots to keep the light confined to a controlled shape.

My need for a snoot first arose when I was trying to light one of my backdrops with the desire to keep the illumination such that it would only be slightly larger than the person I was photographing. I was actually quick on my feet during this process because the need came up in the middle of a shoot, and I didn’t already have something planned out for this. Thinking of what was in the house it occurred to me that we have plenty of little plastic tubs that food ships in (like tupperware containers that hold 2 cups of liquid). So I grabbed one of these from the cupboard and just put it over the flash that was pointing at the backdrop. In this first usage the flash was about 2 feet from the backdrop and the circle of light it cast was a fairly well defined circle. I used this quick and dirty snoot for a number of shots, but eventually moved up to a more sophisticated (cereal boxes, straws, white glue and gaffers tape) later in the project.

Next time: Problems and things to watch out for.

Flash Photography – gear acquisition

ealy_HobsonCalendarShoot__DSC3263Before this project I never really spent much time learning about flash photography techniques. With this project I had envisioned that every image would employ multiple flashguns. At first I wasn’t quite sure what type of lighting setup I would need, or could afford. One of my photographer friends had been using a constant lighting setup made up of rather inexpensive flourescent energy saver coil bulbs, in a dish. After talking with him I was made aware of the rather sever shortcomings of that type of setup. I began digging around on the internet for more information about lighting. I made a post on the dpreview lighting forum asking for advice about how to proceed. And along with the usual chaff and negativity stemming from the internet, I found a couple of jewels.

One person pointed out that I already had the beginnings of a decent lighting setup due to the fact that I own two Nikon CLS flash units (SB800 & SB600).  The other was that someone pointed me to a really cool blog, called Strobist. At the Strobist blog I found a ton of information, tutorials, discussions, advertisements and such. It turns out that for the type of work I was doing, the Nikon CLS system preforms really well when indoors in a room that isn’t too large. So I borrowed two more SB800s from my friends, and bought a pretty cool lighting setup from Midwest Photo Exchange. The kit I bought had two flash light stands, two adjustable heads, two shoot through umbrellas, gaffers tape, ties, and flash filters. Since this project was all in black and white I didn’t need the filters, but they may be useful in the future. I also found a really cheap set of stands and two el-cheapo muslin backdrops on ebay. These were no thicker than a sheet, but are 10×12 feet, and actually can make for interesting backdrops if you make sure they have some illumination. The last piece of gear was a book “Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers” from Amazon.

So all in all I spent about $400 on gear for this project (not including speedlights and cameras).

Next up, experimentation and learning.

Back at it again

ealy_HobsonCalendarShoot_FinalNathan-2Well a bit over a year ago I kinda began a gradual slowdown of my photography. Life, work, and cycling all combined to leave me little time and energy to devote to my photography. But at the beginning of the year (2009) I decided that I would embark upon my biggest project. I envisioned that it would take at least 6 months to complete. In this new project I’m branching into an area of photography that I’ve never really made a concerted effort into before. Unfortunately I can’t go into too much detail about it right now. However the project is only about 2 weeks away from completion, so afterward I expect that I will go into greater depths discussing what I’ve learned and accomplished.

In the past year I’ve upgraded my camera to a Nikon D700 and got 2 new absolutely fantastic lenses. The first is the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 wide angle zoom. This lens is a pretty amazing piece of work, and really delivers when it comes to image quality. It is quite sharp, and the corners look pretty great on my full frame camera. The other is the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 zoom lens. I’m also more than pleased with the image quality from this lens (when I’ve nailed the focus). I’m often quite surprised at the level of detail I’m seeing while editing my images in Photoshop that are taken with this lens. It is a bit of a bummer that the 24-70 doesn’t have VR, but I’ve been managing pretty well without it.

I took a mountain biking trip to the Grand Canyon this summer, and it was the best cycling experience that I’ve had so far. It was very difficult from a physical perspective because we were on the North Rim between 7000-9000 ft altitude. There was no way to prepare my lungs for that kind of thin air. So we were pretty exhausted at the end of every day. I did manage to make some pretty nice images while I was there. But so far haven’t really taken the time to put them together in any type of useful web presentation.

Next up I’ll talk more about some of the new techniques I’ve employed for my big project.

In a bit of a funk

Since coming back from our vacation last month life has kept me pretty busy. Work is just as hectic as ever, and there are always many things to occupy my time on the weekends. The kids have music and Soccer, and I’m actually doing a pretty good job of getting back into shape. In additon to my weekend bicycle rides I’m now waking up at 5:00am twice a week to ride my bike to work and back. So that leaves even less time and energy to devote to photography and this blog in the evenings. I suppose that as a result of the overload from vacation and work and life I just haven’t felt very creative lately. I haven’t shot much, and I’ve only printed things that I had to, so there just hasn’t been much to say.

I’ve been participating in a print exchange group with several other people for the past few months. This group only trades digitally printed blackand white images. Its pretty fun and quite interesting to see not only what other people are photographing, but also all the different ways that we are capturing, processing and printing our images. I’ve been using the Epson 1400 printer along with the Piezography Special Edition K6 inks for the exchanges for 3 months now. The prints that this system makes really are beautifully warm. I’ve grown to like them quite a lot. But the Epson 1400 printer itself has been a royal pain to use. I’m currently on my second one, and a replacement for that one is supposed to be on its way from Epson. The paper feed mechanism in this printer is just rubbish. I really wish that I had waited for Jon Cone to develop the special edition ink set for another printer. He has recently announced a special edition K7 inkset for the Epson 1900, and I expect that printer will perform much better than the 1400. Unfortunately I already have a sum of a few hundred dollars invested in the 1400 and moving to the 1900 won’t be cheap. So I’m left hoping that I’ll get lucky with this next replacement from Epson and my problems will be solved. If so I’ll be sure to post it here.

Another bit of photography related news is that I’m once again participating in an Aline Smithson workshop at Julia Dean’s. These classes are always fun and eye opening. Its a great way to meet other photographers who are in a place similar to my own (but everyone else seems to be a little further ahead in getting their stuff shown). Aline is always sending us information on photo competitions, new shows, portfolio review opportunities etc. I’d really like to get that portfolio I mentioned at the beginnig of this blog printed so I could actually have something to bring to a review, but that just hasn’t been happening for me lately. 

Back from a wonderful vacation!

Well I’ve been on a pretty cool european vacation for the past few weeks. I’ve been back in the states for a week now, but it has been difficult to make the time to update this blog due to jet lag and all the things that life requires when gone from home for 3 weeks. I had hoped that I would have better internet access while I was away but that didn’t really happen. So I’ve got a lot of catching up to do here on DevliN Details.

I guess the first order of business is to give a quick rundown of where I’ve been. We started out by flying from L.A. to Milan Italy, and then taking a train to visit old friends in Padua. Our time there was just wonderful, friends were great, food was great, wine was great, and I even did a decent job of picking up on Italian. Next was on to Venice to visit with one of my old college friends and her 3 children. I hadn’t seen here in over 10 years so that was very nice and venice was just as beautiful as you might expect. There was lots of time spent seeing the sights and travelling around on water buses. St. Mark’s Square and the palace of the Doge’s was a site to behold. Next was another train ride to Rome where we caught up with my sisters and their families for 3 days of heat, walking and lots of Roman touristy kinda places to see. We managed to hit all the big ones, but it was all kind of a rush because we had our days crammed with places to go see, shop and eat at. The most impressive thing wasn’t the colloseum, it was indeed the Cistine chapel. It is truly as great as its cracked up to be. After Italy we went on a 10 day eastern Mediterranian cruise, hitting up Dubrovnik, Katakolon, Corfu, Santorini, Valetta and Messina. After all of that we decided to wind things down by flying to Berlin to stay with my brother in-law for 3 nights.

Needless to say we were all thoroughly exhausted by the time we got home. Each day consisted of miles of walking, way too much shopping, and pretty stiff heat (until Berlin). I shot roughly 1700 images (though there was a lot of bracketing going on due to only being out in the middle of the day), I’ve only begun to look at a few of them so far. It will be a pretty big effort for me to get them slimmed down to something manageable for a person to view on the web. Unfortunately I didn’t really get to do much shooting for fine artwork due to the limitations of time from the cruise, and also unfortunately to being sick for about a week on the boat. I totally missed going ashore at Katakolon due to feeling poorly. My time in Santorini was also hampered by my sick stomach.

Photography wise it was difficult shooting only in the middle of the day. The sun was high and bright, the skies were usually cloudless and missing that lovely dark blue we get later in the day. One thing that I did feel good about was the performance of my Nikon D300. The camera really is quite awsome, I was most impressed with the layout of the controls on the body and how I was able to manipulate so many of them without even having to remove my eye from the viewfinder. Turning on and off bracketing, continuous shooting modes, AF sensor selection, ISO, exposure compensation all worked really well. And I was making changes to those settings all the time. I also was really impressed with my first extensive uses of the 17-55 and 14-24 lenses. I rarely ever shot with anything else on this trip.

However using such wide angle lenses presents a higher degree of difficulty in coming up with interesting compositions. I made some progress in this regard, but there are still lots of photos where I just wasn’t able to pull it all together into something more interesting than a snapshot. I also did some experimentation with bracketing and using my SB-800 for fill flash. After reviewing the first few days of shooting on my laptop, it was really apparent to me that I was going to have a tough time making nice pictures with all the  blown highlights and blocked shadows because a camera just doesn’t have any where near the dynamic range of the human eye. Taking 3 photos with bracketing +0 EV, -1EV and +1EV makes for a lot of work later on in post processing. On top of that I wasn’t able to bring a tripod due to weight issues so I’ll have to line up many of the images in PS and try to figure out a way to get the highs lows and mids in the range that I want. I expect that I’ll spend a lot of time learning even more about masking in the next few weeks. As such I put in an order for Katrin Eismann’s Photoshop Masking and Compositing so I can really do my best to merge the 3 exposures into something I find pleasing.

On a final note, while I was gone on vacation an old photo of mine kept gaining greater interest over at Jpeg magazine. The image at the top of this post was shot in Puerto Vallarta in 2004 and has been up at jpgmag.com for at least 18 months or so. I guess it has slowly gained popularity because every once in a while I’d get an email from them about how it was favorited by one of their users. Now it is officially a “Hot Photo”. I haven’t posted any images at Jpeg ever since that first day, I guess I should do a better job of trying to get my images out there for others to see. Its funny, I’ve always liked that photo and can see the interest in it because of the colors, but it never was one that I considered to be one of my best, or all that unique. Of couse most of those remain in boxes, or on my walls, or hidden on some hard drive where no one else can see them.

There just isn’t enough time to make everything happen!

More on Piezography

Well I’ve had this new printing system for a while now and have learned quite a few things about it. And for that matter I suppose at least a couple of new things about me too. As I originally expected nothing is ever as easy as it seems at first blush. There are certainly aspects of printing with this new printer that drive me crazy. I’ve been using higher end Epson printers for over 5 years now and going back to something that is built to a $300.00 price point brings along with it a few frustrations. The biggest two have to be the fact that the ink cartridges are so small, and that the printer doesn’t have and adjustable paper thickness settings and that can result in frequent print head strikes against the paper.  Due to the small size (11 ml I think) of the cartridges, I’ve been having to refill one or two carts every day or so. This is really annoying to me. I’ve been printing with the Epson 3800 for over a year now and have become used to the large 80ml ink carts, that usually only require replacing 1 every month or so. If I wind up dedicating this printer to B/W printing with the Piezography inks then I will have to plunk down the money for the continuous ink system (CIS) just so I’m not spending a little bit of time refilling cartridges every day. Right now it seems like that is a distinct possibility for me since I can get my hands on an old Epson 2200 printer that my wife and kids can use for making color prints. I checked online at my favorite Epson supply store (atlex.com) and the 2200 carts sell for only about $8.90 each while the Epson color carts for the 1400 are about $16.00!

Once I got a few things explained to me multiple times by Jon Cone I was able to make some pretty nice prints with this new system. However, frequently when I first pull a print off of the printer I’m a little bit disappointed in the look, sometimes its too flat, or too red/brown, or just not right in some way. But then, I wait a few hours and the inks begin to stabilize and work more in concert with one another and the paper, then the prints begin to grow on me. And usually by the next day I’m thinking, man this image looks pretty darned good now. I didn’t really get around to printing the same file with the new inks and comparing them to a print made with my 3800 and the ABW mode until tonight.  I took the image that will be the third in the triptych that I’ve mentioned before and printed it with both systems on the Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308 paper. By printing the same file (which was optimized for Piezography) I could immediatly see that the ABW print was simply outclassed. The ABW print was much darker in the lower tones, and looses some detail due to blocking. Additionally, the mid and upper tones of the ABW print just lacked the spark that I see in the Piezography print. This may be the result of the subtle split tone that you get out of the Piezography print.

At some point in the next few days I’ll have to tweak that file for ABW printing and redo this comparison to make it a little more fair. I suspect that the Piezography print had a real advantage here in that I was able to use the provided ICC profiles for softproofing, and all of my fine tuning edits were made with that in mind. This is one area where printing with Piezography really does have a leg up on the ABW system. The only way to get softproofs with ABW is through the somewhat laborious QTR Create ICC program. I had tried it before a year or two ago and wasn’t that thrilled with the results. The ICC profiles that Cone provides are actually pretty darned accurate….zzzzzz I’m dozing at the keyboard again.