Friday, February 27, 2009

Who knows what is coming next?

Parting Shot
And now for something completely different

As of today, I am unemployed. It is not as bad as it sounds since I have taken a voluntary separation from my employer and the deal came with a generous severance package. After 19 years it is time to move on, let the analytical side of my brain have a rest, and stretch the right side of my brain for a while. In my nearly two decades of service there I have been a Senior Programmer, Business Analyst, Logistics Liaison to IT, Production Planner (a serious misstep in my career path!), and most recently Transportation Analyst. All in all it has been a good run.

And now it is time to let my creative side come out to play more completely. In the 30 days since I made my decision to separate I have had a number of opportunities come knocking, some of which even include some pay. Individually none of them makes any sort of difference in my income. Collectively they begin to point at new directions. Success, as they say, begets success. Each opportunity to put my name out there as an artist of some variety is another chance for someone to notice and say, Hey, I wanna pay that guy for what he is doing.

Who knows what is coming next? I do not, and that is a great feeling.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pushing the Image

I have been spending some time lately taking second looks at some of my photographs. One was a picture of a group of people that had an ambiguous subject, and the most obvious thing about it was that I caught one person in a sidelong glance that looked aggressive. It was not an accurate capture of the scene and I was about to hit delete when I decided to mess around with it. The end result, cropped and stripped to its essence, is a powerful portrait.

Don't Mess With Me

With that revelation I decided to revisit a handful of other photos for the sake of taking my crude editing tools (only iPhoto, no Photoshop) and myself to interesting edges.

Here is a stark image of a pair of dancers. The image is cropped, dodged, and pushed to the stops on a few controls.


Here is the original:


I prefer the reworked image. It has a whole lot of punch. This next one was taken on my camera by ace photographer Mick McKiernan. The way I had the camera set resulted in an image that was a tad overexposed. I decided to blow the exposure out to the stops and see what happened.

Out of the Mist

And here is an original from the same series taken a second after the one above.
Gargoyle Twins

One more. This shot of Reena of Pagee Go Go on stage at the Majestic was a pretty good band photo using my homemade cardboard snoot to focus the flash. This version is cropped, dodged, and manipulated within an inch of its life. Reena liked the lack of distinction between her glittery dress and the lights in the background. She merges into the night sky-like background. The lady is made of stars...

The Lady Wears Stars

Here was a nearly identical shot taken a moment later:
Reena on Stage

I hope you enjoyed this exploration. For a long time I have resisted the urge to manipulate my photos with software, prefering to be a better photographer than computer jockey. To some extent that feeling still holds, and I am not planning to run out and buy Photoshop anytime soon. Yet I do understand that there is little difference - really - between manipulating a photo with Photoshop and the old skool techniques in the darkroom like dodging and burning, and specific choice of paper. The computer simply makes all that faster and easier.

And the real point is, can I make a photograph tell a more compelling story? You tell me.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Contact Improv Duet

Here is a video of me and Mars Miquelon performing contact improv dance at Mazopalooza, a 4-day contact event in Mazomanie, WI. The performance is all improv, and Mars first heard the music the afternoon of the performance. It is a nice example of the sort of body-to-body communication contact improv fosters.

Comments welcome!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Let There Be Light!

I recently shot a popular local band in my home studio. While the end result was both useful and pleasing to them, I was frustrated by my lack of ability to get enough light on them to freeze their squirrelly movement. [Refer to my previous post for some possible insight on that.] At that point I had a collection of clip lamps with various bulbs, both tungsten and compact fluorescant. I had also just added a 250 watt studio modelling lamp with a stand and umbrellas (for bounce or soft box effect). That was sufficient for Model M (NSFW) and Mercureality. However, it was not up to the task of 8 squirmy subjects.

I believe I have solved my light problem.

Scotty, I need more power!
Flashpoint 620 Strobe

This Flashpoint 300 watt-second strobe throws serious light in my small studio. I suspect (hope) that I will often dial it down from full power for my needs. But when I need to STOP! the action using fast shutter speeds, I know I can make it work.

Now if only I were not rehearsing dance performances 5 times a week and had some time...

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another nOOb Error

Flashpoint 620
Flashpoint 620

Yesterday I received the new strobe I ordered from Adorama. It is a Flashpoint 620, giving me a maximum 300 watt-second flash, with variable power in stops from full down to 1/8. It also has a 2-stage modeling lamp letting me have either 75 or 150 watts for seeing where the light will fall. The strobe will trigger either via a 15' wire or from the infrared signature of my on-camera flash. Slick, no?

Well I unpacked and set it up last night, eager to test it out. I aimed it at my tripod head, set it to 1/2 power, set my camera to ISO 200, f/5.6, and shutter at 1/150 of a second, and white balance to flash. I take the picture and observe that the flash did indeed fire. My picture is ... black. Lens cap on? Nope. WTF? I crank the shutter speed down to 1/80 and shoot again. Black. I set the flash to full power, guestimate its distance from the subject to be 18", then set the ISO to 400 at f/2.8 (well below the capability of the 18-200 mm Sigma I want to use in the studio). I take another exposure. I see the tripod, but it is a bit underexposed. Time to stare at the settings.

Time to stare at the settings I seldom mess with. Except that one time a couple of weeks ago. (Weeks!)

It seems while I was in full-blown experiment mode a while back I set the Flash Compensation to -3.0 and the Exposure Compensation to -5.0. Then I got interrupted and forgot about it.

Sort of makes me wonder just what sort of shots I could have gotten of those belly dancers if my camera had been set properly, and not seriously underexposed?


Well, my status as a nOOb is still valid. But I will not make that mistake again, and there was no real harm done. It's not like I earn my living this way. I can afford a mistake now and again. It just goes to show you that having good gear does not make you a good photographer (but it helps).

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Congrats, Mona and Randy!

A few weeks ago local dance instructor Mona N'wal got hitched to a great guy. They tied the knot in the Caribbean on the white sand beach with an ocean behind them that just happened to match the dress Mona wore. Since Mona has a lot of friends, fans, and students in town they threw a reception party at the Mediterranean Hookah Lounge, the venue where Mona and a number of her belly dance students have been performing for the past couple of years. As part of the celebration, a batch of dancers - including Mona - performed. It was a really fun way to have a reception party.

Here is Mona herself:


I had to leave before all the dancers had their turn, but I did get photos of a few of them. The rest are after the jump, so follow the link below to read the rest of the post.

In and effort to disturb the dancers less, I did not use any flash. The light in the restaurant was a lousy mix of indirect sunlight, and dim tungsten and fluorescent lights so shooting was all done at ISO 800 at f/1.4, with shutter speeds around 1/50th or slower. Color correction was needed on each photo. Not my best camera work, but the images are fun so I went with them anyway.



Tashar with Fire Fingers




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Saturday, February 14, 2009

No stopping spring now

I was able to spend a little time today outside in between running a couple of errands. I stopped at the bit of the Arboretum that runs along Monroe Street. I parked in the little lot near the old council ring. (I really miss having fires and drum circles there. Fie on Madison!) We have had a couple of nice days earlier this week with temperatures in the 50's (F). I have already noticed daffodils, crocus, and day lilies sprouting in my yard. I wanted to see if the spring at the Arboretum had any fresh watercress in it yet. I suspected I was too early.



There was actually a fair bit of it already. Not copious amounts mind you, but certainly a delightful burst of spring to put a little bounce in my step.

Fresh Watercress

All around the stream there was still snow on the ground, the grasses were brown and the trees bare.

Waiting For Spring
View Large

But the world knows: There is no stopping spring now.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Motorcycle Expo

The lovely Reena and I went to Chicago over the weekend to attend the annual Motorcycle Expo. Held at the Rosemont Expo Center, it is a 3-day event showcasing most brands (Triumph does not come) and hundreds of aftermarket companies. It is a great experience (if you do not mind crowds) of total immersion into motorcycles and motorcycle related products. Former Madisonian and friend Devon flew up from Birmingham, AL, to hang out and do the expo with us.

My only big purchase was to order a custom-made seat from Rick Mayer Cycle. Since I have an unusual bike I wanted to talk to them and get any questions out of the way face to face rather than by phone or email. Unfortunately they were not offering any special price for show orders. Devon, whose opinion I trust on motorcycle topics more than almost anyone, has one of these seats on both his Triumph Tiger and his wife's Kawasaki Versys. He loves his and so does his butt. I hope to be able to add 100+ miles to what I can cover on the MZ in a day before my butt screams in pain.

On to the show pictures!

Roland Sands Design I

There are MANY more pictures after the jump, so follow the link to see the rest.

Roland Sands Design II

Custom Victory

Reena Finds One She Likes
Reena Finds One She Likes - Victory Vegas Low

Victory Core
Victory's Radical Core Concept Bike

Victory Core
Front View of the Core

Kawasaki KLR 650 Custom
Customized, a lot, by Twisted Throttle. I love it!

Front End of Buell 1125 CR

Custom Suzuki Gladius
Slightly 'motarded with a lot of plastic and miscellany removed. Nice Excel wheels!!

American Made 300 cc
Made in the states by Johnny Pag. Quite possibly the correct direction for motorcycles: Smaller and more efficient.

Front End of Piaggio MP3

Kawaasaki Versys
The Versys is I bike I can see myself owning one day.

Moto Guzzi V7 Classic

Honda-powered Cafe Racer

Another Roland Sands Design
Best viewed LARGE!

And it really wouldn't be a motorcycle show without a few photos of babes on bikes now would it?

Babe on Bike I

Babe On Bike !!!

Thanks for stopping by. Ride safe!

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

17 Days

I have 17 days to wrap it all up.

Wrap It Up!

Those Who Decide (not my immediate supervisor, of course) have set the date for my separation. My last day as an employee is February 27th. It is a few weeks earlier than I guessed, but I am not surprised or particularly concerned. It is vaguely unsettling to know that I will be unemployed, but I know that my cushion is far, far softer than many who are losing their jobs. I am walking away - assuming that I will find something new and exciting to do for my remaining work years.

Today in my inbox I found these timely words from artist Anne Truitt:

"Artists' essential effort is to catapult themselves wholly, without holding back one bit, into a course of action, without having any idea where they will end up. They are like riders who gallop into the night, eagerly leaning on their horse's neck, peering into a blinding rain. And they have to do it over and over again."

I have some experience with catapults, both practical and theoretical. Once released, the projectile is going somewhere fast, but aiming them can be tricky. My practical experience indicates a truly remarkable streak of beginners luck. Let us hope that the streak continues to this second shot.

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It is about #@$%^&* time!

President Barack Obama on Wednesday imposed $500,000 caps on senior executive pay for the most distressed financial institutions receiving federal bailout money, saying Americans are upset with "executives being rewarded for failure." [snip] "This is America. We don't disparage wealth. We don't begrudge anybody for achieving success," Obama said. "But what gets people upset — and rightfully so — are executives being rewarded for failure. Especially when those rewards are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers." [snip] Obama said that massive severance packages for executives who leave failing firms are also going to be eliminated. "We're taking the air out of golden parachutes," he said.


There really is not much I can say to this except, GObama! I am no Huey Long, and I am not interested in Communism or Socialism, but I also fully, passionately, believe that our current version of Capitalism is rigged for those at the top and until We The People put a stop to it, the looting and pillaging will continue at our expense. To the greedy bastards at the top, I say, if you want to have your hand in my pocket then you damn well better expect me to have a say in what goes on.

I could not be happier with Obama than I am right now. He da Man!

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

dynamic polygamy

I ran across a response in an interview today that gave voice to something I have been pointing out for a decade or more. In short, our marriage/divorce/marriage pattern (perhaps repeated another time or more) has created a situation where many people's lives are inextricably linked with a former husband or wife, at least until common children are adults. There is a clear relationship there even if it is not always amicable. So, is that significantly different than polygamy?

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon. This is an excert from her interview of Dalton Conley, chair of the sociology department at New York University.

+ + + + +
Speaking of divorce, you suggest that what the rest of us call serial monogamy, we should call "dynamic polygamy." What do you mean by that?

There is a widely observed phenomenon that highly unequal societies tend to be more polygamous than egalitarian societies. It's a fun metaphor to import here. Now we are living with a lot of remarriages and blended families, which is a form of polygamy. You can have ongoing obligations to the children you had by your first partner living in the hut across town, through child support and alimony, and the same obligations to your current family. So in terms of kinship ties, and the economic relations inherent in those kinship ties, we're no different than a kind of "pre-modern" polygamous society.
+ + + + +

The main difference as I see it, is that while we have these extended multiple relationships, we do so with no love and often with hostility. With very few exceptions, the divorce process creates animosity and the ongoing relationship is unfriendly. Where the exceptions to that occur, we often view the situation as strange. I have an acquaintance whose current wife often pals around with his ex-wife. He views it as a distinct advantage because the co-parenting process is much easier. Another acquaintance has an as-few-words-as-possible relationship with his ex, not soley by his choice. Which of those is more likely to foster well-adjusted children who become adults capable of having sustainable relationships? (Please note the word likely. There is no sure-fire method to raise children.)

Why does our society think polygamy (in this I mean either partner having more than one partner, so perhaps polyamory is a better term) is some horrible thing; the bane of Western Civilization? We already have it, just typically without the love.

I would love to have you comment here. If you receive this post via email, please consider visiting the eyeDance site and posting comments rather than replying via email.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009


Sunday. Sunny. 37 degrees (F). You know what that means!

First Ride of the Year - photo by Reena

Oh man, was this ride a long time coming. Madison has had snow and ice since late November. The roads have literally been ice packed until just recently. Yesterday temperatures soared to 35 and real melting happened. When I poked my nose outside this morning it was too, er, warm to pass up.

Our bestest riding buddy ever has long since moved away and now lives in Birmingham, AL. Several times recently he has called and said it was warm and he was going for a ride and he was thinking of me. Today is my turn. As I pulled the bike out of the garage - caught off guard by the sudden arrival of winter, this bike was still ready to ride - I looked at the ice at the end of the driveway, the mountains of snow along the road and in my yard and thought of a New Years Day ride Devon and I took many years ago (15?, 18?). He rode behind me because his bike was sensibly stored for winter. We rode 3 miles or so to the capitol building where an annual NYD ride begins. It was COLD that day but the main roads were snow free. We had a cuppa coffee, I paid for the ride and got the souvenir coffee cup (which I used this morning!) and we rode back home. It is a frequent memory of a good time with a good friend.

We are going to meet him in Chicago to hit the motorcycle expo and spend a couple of days laughing, wallowing in all things motorcycle related, and enjoying each other's company. Today's ride is just the opening line of a new story for us to share.

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