Friday, January 30, 2009

"...causing change to conform to one's will"

Winter Sunset

I was thrilled to get this winter sunset picture. First of all it meant that I was out of work in time to see the sunset. Secondly in indicated that, 6 weeks after the Winter Solstice, the days are noticably longer. Both of those are comfortable reasons. From a metaphorical perspective, it also notes the sunset of my career with Famous Footwear.

Aleister Crowley defined magick as "the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will." Lots of NeoPagans believe in magic, or magick, in various guises. It seems to me that too many of them make it something esoteric and arcane. Fuggedaboutit. We are talking about spiritual practices that came from the heathens - the folk - not highly trained practitioners. Accept Crowley's definition at face value, and it speaks to the commoner, the every day decision maker. To whit: I wanted change in my career, and have for 5 years or so, yet I still mostly liked my employer. Over those 5 years I made changes within the corporation to improve my lot and introduce new challenges. Most were successful, though the most recent (a bid for a manager slot) was not. My options here (with this company in this location) are pretty much all closed. I cannot get promoted or change roles without relocating to St. Louis, MO; a move I do not want to make. So, by taking this voluntary separation, I cause change to conform to my will. I get to move on, and I get the paid luxury of having quite a bit of time to decide what I want to do next. I often say I lead a charmed life. I think it is because, like Crowley, I see that I can choose (my will) wisely among options over time to create change that is positive for me. My fear about remaining with my current employer is that in a year or so my job would have been relocated to St. Louis anyway and I would not have received so generous a severance package. This change was coming no matter what I did, so I chose the option that seemed to provide the most: a sabatical, a safety net, and departure on good terms. Magick!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

When I Grow Up

There has been a lot of conversation at work about What Comes Next, both for those of us who have opted to leave and those who have opted to stay (a 50-50 split in my department, which I think was unexpected). I refer to my own plans by saying that I intend to loaf for a while then determine what I want to be when I grow up. A coworker just asked me if I could point her at one of those sites that does career assessment based on responses to questions, the sort of thing one does in high school when wondering what to study in college. I pointed her at While I was there, I figured what the heck and answered the questions. Here are the results:

Career Inventory Test Results

Extroversion |||||||||||||||||||||||| 76%
Emotional Stability |||||||||||||||||| 60%
Orderliness |||||||||||| 33%
Altruism ||||||||||||||| 46%
Inquisitiveness |||||||||||||||||| 56%

You are an Inventor, possible professions include - systems designer, venture capitalist, actor, journalist, investment broker, real estate agent, real estate developer, strategic planner, political manager, politician, special projects developer, literary agent, restaurant/bar owner, technical trainer, diversity manager, art director, personnel systems developer, computer analyst, logistics consultant, outplacement consultant, advertising creative director, radio/TV talk show host.
Take Free Career Test
personality tests by

I guess I have to be at least a little impressed with their results since it includes two of my last three roles at work: logistics consultant and computer analyst. My inclination to blog points at journalist. My hobby as an aerial dancer tilts towards actor. My (reasonably) successful portfolio management indicates investment broker is not unrealistic. Well, I guess I have my list of Where To Look as I let my brain wander the future. I might add Life Coach to that list...

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

nothing more complicated than Pooh Sticks

Being an optimist, I bounce pretty quickly after making a decision. It has been 24 hours since I committed to my decision to take a voluntary separation from my current employer. I have no termination date yet, but assume (yeah, I know) that it will be within 90 days. An outside date of April 30 seems likely. And by April 30 ...

Ready to Go!
Ready to Go!

... the roads will be clear and the weather generally warm enough to ride. And ride. And ride. Suddenly I foresee a series of 2-3 day rides to interesting places, camping and travelling on the cheap. Weekend? Whenever I want! This next photo was taken on March 29th:

MZ Adventure Touring Bike
Spring Ride

Soon enough practicality will win out and I will seek out another job. But in the short run, I think I will be able to fill my days with nothing more complicated than Pooh Sticks.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Folk Ball!

Madison's annual Folk Ball was this past weekend. It is a mid-winter treat for dancers and musicians, who turn out by the hundreds for the event. There is a light schedule Friday night and Sunday, but the meat of it is on Saturday. The day is filled with workshops on such things as folk dances from places like Albania, Macedonia, Greece, or the Balkans, and music from those same regions and others too. Participants offer donations for the workshop, savor the experience, then gather again that night for the Folk Ball. Held in Great Hall of the Memorial Union, a line-up of bands plays appropriate music, and the dancers get to try out all they learned earlier. There is something magical about witnessing 300 people performing a Transylvanian line dance, snaking and hopping their way through the jam-packed hall, blissed out or brow furrowed in concentration. What a treat!

Orchestra Sloboda Gets 'Em Dancing
Orchestra Sloboda Gets 'Em Dancing

There are more photos, so follow the link to the rest of the post...

Michael K
Michael K Grooving on the Dance

Rich, Michael, and Chris
Rich, Michael, and Chris Lead the Dance

Kia from RPO on Accordian

Boa Bill
Bill from RPO in Boa

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I slit the laces!

Today I told my employer that I chose the voluntary separation option. The next step is for them to determine my termination date. The announcement indicated that "most" would be let go in 90 days or less. If that is true for me, then my last day working would be towards the end of April. What a nice Beltane gift that would be!

A new chapter is beginning. I have ideas about what may come next, but I will not cling too hard to any specific plan. First will be a leisurely winding down period to get this job out of my head so fresh ideas can percolate. I will have plenty of time to decide what I want to do next.

So back to the photos, eh?

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Or do I slit the laces?

It is Sunday night, and I need to make a decision and live with the consequences. My employer has put into play a series of cost-containment policy changes: less pay, no more bonuses (ever), smaller staff (read: more work for those who remain), and austerity measures on general money spending. In some cases, a leaner organization emerges from such policies and the resulting financial success pays huge dividends to those who stick it out. On the other hand, they are offering a generous severance package to those who opt to leave voluntarily. Leave, and become unemployed in the worst financial crisis of the last seven decades (so far).

Which to choose?

Red Lace
Red Lace

Like this corset the choices are not always obvious. Do I stay in the restricted environment - contained and supported, perhaps even comfortable? Or do I slit the laces, exhale and be unrestrained - and unsupported? Both options have pros and cons, and there are a pair of us affected by the decision.

Stay tuned...

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Still More of Model M - NSFW

I wanted to share another select group of images from the shoot with Model M. Taken as a group, I am really happy with my work with M. There are certainly things I would try to do differently if / when I do this sort of session again. My eye danced, and in so doing I learned - after the fact - to look for smaller details. That is what this whole process was supposed to be about for me: Learning a new skill and changing how I function as a photographer. For M, and my other models, they get a tangible take away in the form of these images to use or not as they see fit. I hope that they also get an intangible benefit of a positive experience being photographed.


There are more images - Not Safe For Work - after the jump so please follow the link to the rest of the post.

This next photograph is one of my favorites of the series. For me it really explores the short depth of field and softer lighting that I wanted to explore. I am disappointed at the strong shadow of her hand on her torso. The hand is lit in a way that I like, but I failed to observe the effect of the shadow. Another bit of experience!

Prayer Beads

I bought 7 yards of luscious silk to use as a drape. Loosely folded, all 7 yards fit into a bag that would conveniently carry a paperback novel. While I enjoy this image, I will try different things with the silk. Again with the short depth of field to throw the body into a bit more mystery. I am not certain how the angle from which the photograph is taken reads to the viewer. Would you share your thoughts?

Gossamer Silk

This more classic pose was towards the end of the session. We were comfortable working together, and M was appreciating the silk to ward off the chill of my inadequately heated studio. (The new space heater works much better!)

Reclining Nude

I love the bold color of this next photograph in a series of black-and-cream images. This was another experiment with angle, seeing what I can and cannot do in my limited space. I was on a stool with my head banging into the ceiling. A wide angle lens would solve that problem but likely introduce others in such cramped quarters. M is sprawled into most of the available space.

Sari Twist

I hope you enjoyed this batch. I will likely post one more in this series in the coming days. Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Topsy-turvy world

Freestanding Icicle
Freestanding Icicle

Ever have one of those days where everything seems upside down, inside out, or sideways? Today was that day for me. At about 3:30 I found out that the company I work for is hitting the wall 'o crisis related to the financial mess that the greedheads at the top of our corporations caused. So...there will be layoffs, low or no raises, no bonuses ever again for people at my level, unpaid days off, less-than-full-time work, and more. There is also an option to take a voluntary separation with a severance package. Since I have worked there for 19 years, the package is fairly generous for me.

So I have some thinking to do.

They have given me all the time they think I need to turn my world upside down. I have to have made my choice from among the bad options by Tuesday. How convenient.

Stay tuned...

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

DIY Cardboard Snoot

I had an opportunity to really exploit my DIY cardboard snoot for my flash over the weekend. I have used it a couple of times, mostly in the fairly controlled studio. I had it in my bag when I went to the Majestic theater to watch (and shoot) Pagee Go Go do their upbeat samba music. While the stage is pretty nice with lots of lighting, the band was poorly lit. There was a lot of light on them from behind but not enough on their front. I'm not sure if it was because they were close to the front of the stage, or what, but it was ineffective for photography.

After taking a few shots using my 18-200 optically stabilized Sigma lens, I realized that I was having to be at ISO 800 with a minimum f-stop of 4.5 and a more likely 5.6. That was not going to get me good images without a flash. I have shot them on stage with the flash before, and with good results, but I wanted something different. I thought I would try the snoot and see how it performed in the real world. The answer is that it did pretty well.

In this shot of Reena, I was still at ISO 800 and f/4.5 at 1/20th of a second shutter speeds, but I was not underexposed too much. (OK, let me say right now that a Nikon D3 would solve all my problems!) Still, I love how the flash spot lights her and makes her *pop* out of the gloomy background.

Reena on Stage - Cardboard snoot
Reena on Stage

There is more, so follow the link for the rest of the post.

This shot was one of several of Barry taken in rapid succession. I liked the action in the shot, and the indication of how much the musicians keep an eye one each other for cues. I was fairly close on this shot using a focal length of 29 MM (just a bit wide angle). The tight flash is maybe a bit high for maximum effectiveness.


This one of Kristin gives you a pretty good idea of how far the flash will throw light even with the snoot in place. Note also that it is a pretty tight spot of light even at this distance. I estimate I was at least 20 feet away and perhaps 25.


This next one could have been better without the snoot. I was close enough that the flash would have illuminated all of him rather than just his head.


So, my DIY snoot made of scavenged cardboard and tape really did the trick. It has earned a permanent place in my kit.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009


Finally the extremely cold weather we have been having (daytime highs of -4 F) has passed and today is a balmy 24 degrees F. As I was returning home from a few errands I spotted a para-skier on Lake Monona. I took a few pics, but he was moving away from me so I did not get any great shots. I noted that I was just a short distance from the Olbrich sledding hill, so I headed over that-a-way. To my delight there were people out sledding.

Mom Looks On

In this sequence, the mom looks on while dad and child prepare for the first run of the day on an inner-tube-like sled. It is all great fun until about halfway down the hill.

White Out!
White Out!

Dad's big ol' sneaker dug into the hill sending a shower of snow up over both of them.

The Fun Is Over

At first I did not understand why the little guy was sobbing at the end of the run. After all, it was just a little snow. However, take a look at that last picture, enlarged: View On Black OK, that is a fair amount of snow plastered into the little guy's eye! I agree that might hurt a little, and be more than a little surprising. I wonder if he got over it, or if he had enough sledding for this year? I gave dad my card, so maybe I will find out.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Prepping for Carnival

It's only about six weeks until Carnival - or Mardi Gras to you Francophiles - and Madison's samba band Pagee Go Go is working diligently to be ready to knock your socks off. Prior to their Carnival gig at the High Noon Saloon on Feb. 27th, they can be spotted THIS WEEKEND at the Majestic on Saturday night. Their rambunctious pagode music is fun and highly danceable. Local samba dancer Cody of Masamba Dance will be giving lessons. No excuses now!

Prepping for Carnival - gold
Prepping for Carnival 1

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that my lovely partner Reena is in the band. Often lurking in back holding down the bottom end on the tan tan, it seems she is prepping for a bit more drama in her costume this time around.

Prepping for Carnival - black
Prepping for Carnival 2

This is a test run of her makeup and headpiece. The only way to see for certain what the final result is will be to come see - and hear - Pagee Go Go on Saturday.

UPDATE: Oops, I lied. She will not be wearing the makeup this weekend. Go see them at the Majestic anyway, then go to Carnival at the High Noon Saloon for all the feathers and frippery!

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How Tight Do You Want It?

While I was taking the shots of Mercureality in the studio, there were numerous costume changes. Since most of the clothing was vinyl and/or slinky we chose to use the living room as her changing room to give her flailing space while I mostly remained in the basement. On some occasions however, I had to suffer for my art and render assistance in fitment.

Lacing Mercureality
Lacing Mercureality

My sweetie snapped this one while I laced Mercureality into her lavender ball gown. Lending some humor to the event is the fleece jacket she is wearing, backwards, to ward off the winter-in-Wisconsin chill during this process.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Mazopalooza 2009

Ahhh! I am back from a 4-day contact improv dance event and feel fantastic. The event was Mazopalooza - two days of performance intensives, a Friday night performance for the public, and two days of jamming (open dance). It was a lush experience filled with enough movement opportunities to sate even the most hard core dancers, great teaching, a performance with music and lighting to satisfy the divas (like me), and roughly 20 hours of open dancing so that we could graze our way through as many of the 50-60 attendees as we desired.

The event is annual, and put on by the Mazomanie Movement Arts Center. Dancers come from an array of cities included in a regional organization called GLACIER, the Midwest's home for contact improv. Each year guest intructors are brought in to broaden the scope of our dancing, freshening our community. This year we were fortunate to have Gretchen Spiro and Steve Homsher from Tumblebones Contact Improv Collective in Boulder, CO. Their instruction was effective, and their presence was warm and welcomed.

On Stage at Mazopalooza '08

Strangely for me, I took no photos during the event. I had felt overwhelmed when I arrived and during our opening check-in I stated one of my goals for the event to be "to get out of my head and into my body." It seems that part of that meant leaving the camera alone and leaving myself in dancer mode. The photos here are from similar events.

I had many, many dances over four days. Some were slow and gentle as can be, and some fast and athletic (with bruises to show for it!), but all were satisfying because all of them were experienced in the moment. Contact improv is a unique dance form, typically done without music and drawing on the inclinations of the dancers feelings and desires. It is sort of the dance equivilent of Sami yoiking. A dance this morning with Dancer X may be slow and sensual if we are both so inclined, while a second dance later in the day may be percussive and edgy. The dances are pure improvisation - there are no steps, few rules, and energe on the fly. The dance unfolds in the fullness of time. It is not unlike martial arts sparring (except that generally no one gets hurt).

and she offers him a ride

I have written about contact improv here before, but it bears repeating. CI is egalitarian: There are no moves that only men do or only women do. Each dancer uses techniques that are avalable to her at that time. Small, frail, injured dancers may not offer a big lift to another dancer, and the same might be said of large, hale, injured dancers. Experience is a bigger factor in use of a move than is gender or size. Small dancers can be true powerhouses while larger dancers may not be able to fake technique using pure strength, or may not really be all that strong. All of which is perfectly ok, just a reminder that experience is key. Mazopalooza is one of the places where one can get instruction that can hasten that sort of experience.

My favorite role in the performance on Friday night was a duet with Mars, the motive force behind Mazopalooza. We learned we were dancing together at 10 AM. We had our first conversation on the subject at about 3 PM, where we tossed around some key concepts for what we would do: Big, and Edgy. We had a conversation at 5 PM and agreed on a piece of music I had on my iPod that seemed to fit the bill. We had exactly one run through at 5:45 PM. At 8 PM the curtain went up and we were third on the bill. From the moment we took our places, seated at the edge of the stage looking out at the audience and the music started, we had the audience in hand. The music was the Buzzcocks' "Ever Fallen In Love With Someone You Shouldn't Have Fallen In Love With" performed as samba by Nouvelle Vague. Our choices during the dance included yearning looks, clashes and retreats (sneaking to be together?) and coming to the very edge of the stage and looking out or down to evoke the risk of our theme. It is perhaps the best performance I have ever given, and Mars and I were both thrilled with our effort. It was taped, so if the video becomes available I will link to it here.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More of Model M - NSFW

I promised more images from the photo shoot with Model M. We have spent a fair amount of time achieving consensus about which ones she was comfortable with me using. Fortunately there were quite a few to choose from, and there were a bunch that I am pleased to illuminate here.

Meditative Hands

I was incorrect in my previous statement that M had posed nude for a photographer before. She had posed for a photographer a number of times and feels quite photogenic. She had not, however, posed nude. With that in mind, I am especially honored that she chose to work with me. I would hope to maintain that trusting and respectful relationship. It was a very positive experience to work with her, and the follow up discussions have also been rewarding to me as a fledgling in a new art form.

In Close

There are a few more photos - more revealing and not safe for work - after the jump, so follow the link below.

Draped Figure

I like the above photo, the strength of her back blending so nicely with soft curves. The slightly crossed feet adds a note of playful surprise. My eye wishes I had evened the silk on the right a bit, though I also wonder if I had had everything just right, would my eye spend as much time on it? The image below is quite appealing. I wonder if I will redo it in black and white since it is most of the way there already.

Supine Drape

It seems I am teasing you with this set by still not revealing her face. It was not my intent when I started this post, but now it is. You will need to stop back again. I leave you with one last image, one I did choose to do in black and white. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Silken Leg

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mercureality in the Studio

A friend is downsizing some of her club wear and asked if I would take photos for her to use to resell them. Now, taking photos of clothes, even fun clothes, does not sound like much fun. However, what she really meant was that she was going to wear them while I took the photos. Oh, now that is a different story! Of course, this is yet another learning opportunity for me. Just how does one light vinyl so that you see how shiny it is without having undue glare? The things I am suffering through to improve my art...

Mercureality in the Studio
Does this photo even need a caption? I think not.

UPDATE: Reena prefers THIS IMAGE to the one above. What do you think?

Mercureality in the Studio
Hit her with a spotlight, please!

And really, doesn't everyone need a lavender vinyl ball gown? It really is an amazing dress, with lacing up the back.

Mercureality in the Studio

All the clothes in these shots are being posted for sale by Mercureality. If you are interested, and are size TEENY, drop me a note and I will put you in touch with her.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

Ahhh! Much better.

Until you live in a place where it really becomes winter, where it snows for four months of every year, with below freezing temperatures for much of that time, I do not think you can full appreciate just how deprived those of us who do live in such a place become. For months we see white, gray, and brown and not much else by way of color in the world around us.

Unrelenting chill
Oh, how I appreciate
the smell of wet dirt!

Spent Bloom on Snow
Spent Bloom on Snow

It is amazing just how delightful a trip to a greenhouse can be during winter. To walk down a long aisle of magnificently cyclamen, reveling in their cyclonic blooms, summons all the hope of spring.

Drops on Cyclamen
Water Drops on Cyclamen

The humid air is awash with the smell of dirt and green growing things, scents forgotten since early November. The intensity of the colors dazzle the eyes - Where to look next?!


And for those few brief minutes it does not really matter where you look. The simplest flower does the trick of rejuvination on one's spirit.

Blue Primrose

Ahhh! Much better.

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