Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I went out yesterday afternoon to take some pictures of blooming crocus after they had survived the snowstorm. It was a nice sunny afternoon, and a bit too early - light wise - to get good photos, but what the heck, there I was.

Crocus Bloom

Since it was so nice out, I had the cat out with me on his leash. You know how cats are. When you want them to pay attention to you, they cannot be bothered to notice you exist. But if you fix your attention on something other than them and just try to do whatever it was you hoped to accomplish, there is no getting rid of them.

Gotta be where you are

Darned fuzzballs. It is a good thing they are cute.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Field Testing the Studio Gear

I made or acquired gear over the past weeks that theoretically allow me to take my studio photography capabilities out into the field. I was really anticipating studio shots of performers at tech rehearsals or just prior to show time, but my first test proved to be much more difficult. I took photos for the upcoming spring show by Cycropia Area Dance. The goal was to get the performers, in costume and perhaps simple makeup, to use as promotional images. As is frequently the case, theory was a bit different than reality!

Field Testing Portable Studio
Low Flying Nataraj

The first challenge was that I am in one of the pieces we needed shot. So, I set up the backdrop - which is desperately needed because the gym we are using has harsh lights, garish walls strewn with posters, notices, basketball hoops, scoreboards, etc. - and lights, then got in the shot and remotely triggered the camera. In some cases, a helper did the actual remote shutter release, and in others I just relied on the 10-second timer.

Field Testing Portable Studio
Harness Flyers

The next significant challenge was that the 10x24 foot muslin backdrop that seems HUGE in my studio was inadequate to the task in a large space when trying to mask the walls, floor, and sides of a performer on an apparatus. Group shots were tough when performers were both on the ground and on an apparatus. What ended up working better was tighter shots, though that provides less information about what is actually going on.

Field Testing Portable Studio
Poster Girl!

The end result is a reasonable batch of photos, but less than I hoped to deliver to Cycropia for promotional images. I have things to ponder.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Heroes

In case I ever forget why I plant crocus bulbs in my yard, days like today come along and remind me.

This is why I plant crocus

Last night we had around 6 inches of sloppy spring snow. Roads were awful, and cars needed scraping before one could drive. It was a cold slap in the face of spring. And then this morning after the snow tapered off, the sun came out and the temperature climbed back into the mid-30's (F). By mid-afternoon, there were the crocuses, shoving their blooms back through the snow.

My heroes.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Epitome of Stupidity

OK, I snapped this photo a few days ago because it represented an entire meme of stupidity.

The Epitome of Stupidity
The Epitome of Stupidity

As you can see, this dough-headed bicyclist is riding the wrong way up a one way street. At this moment there is not a lot of traffic but this is a reasonably busy street, and the building on the right is the cop shop. So I have a specific question, and a related one.

What the hell is wrong with dumb shits like this that ride the wrong way on one way streets? I guess I have reached the point where I do not care if I smack them with my car, except that it will scuff the paint. I see this more and more, on streets where it is incredibly stupid to ride thus. Bear in mind, this city has scores of miles of bicycle paths and reserved lanes for bikes. (Note: After I took his picture, he went up onto the sidewalk, so he is sentient.)

The related question is:

What the hell is wrong with the dumb shits that insist on walking down the middle of the street, eschewing the perfectly serviceable sidewalk located about 12 feet away to either side? Their sullen shamble is almost a plea to "Hit Me!" ins some misbegotten plan to collect insurance money. Perhaps my through-street East Side location attracts more than its share of these street idiots, but I see it elsewhere as well.

OK, that's my curmudgeon rant for the month. Back to fun topics!

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

I fought the lawn...

...and the lawn won.

I fought the yard

I never saw it coming. I was gathering brush, mostly old flower stalks, from one of the gardens. I pulled what looked like another flimsy stalk, and instead it *snapped* and I knew it had shoved a splinter in even before I looked. Even so, I was surprised to se the size of this sucker and I could tell it was in deep. Rats!

Into the bathroom where I grabbed the tweezers and muttered to myself - This had better come out on the first try. I gave a sharp tug, and the tweezers slipped off the splinter. Nice: All the pain and no result. A more suitable tool was needed, a boy tool. Needle nosed vice grips ought to do the trick. Sat back down, locked them on, took a deep breath and yanked. Yes, I was right on almost all my suppositions. It hurt coming out. It was deep. The part that was under the skin measures 11/16". Basically it occupied one-half the length of the top joint of my thumb. Only part I was wrong about was that it hardly bled.

Next on my agenda is a trapeze class. That ought to feel just great.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Model N in the Studio

A couple of weeks ago a friend who really knows how to accessorize gave Reena and me a luxurious black feather boa. It has been sitting out, and we have been delighting in the heft and richness of it. I just knew that I was going to drape a model in it in the studio soon. Today I got to thinking just how inky black that sucker was, and I might want to experiment a little before I have to fuss around with it on a model. So...

New Black Boa

Oh there are more! Just follow the link...

New Black Boa

It really is a light-absorbing thing! I am going to have to poke around on Flickr to see if others have been more successful at lighting black boas.

New Black Boa

Again, I suspect it would be easier to figure out if I were on the other side of the camera.

New Black Boa
Here's Looking At You, Kid

Well, now it is time for a real model to help me out. Who to call...who to call?

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Muslin, New Frame

A few days ago I broke down and bought a muslin to use as a backdrop in the studio instead of just plain white or black. It's 10' x 24', so plent long enough to go all the way under a model if I want full-body shots. OK, so that is all well and good, but I had to buy or build something to hold it up. More to the point, I wanted something that could be portable, something I could haul - easily - to locations for shoots. Today I hit Menard's home supply store and bought 20' of 1-inch inside diameter PVC pipe, a bunch of "T" connectors, some spring clamps, and 12' of stainless steel closet pole. I proceeded to mark and measure, then cut and assemble. When I was done, I had a simple framework that leans against a wall - the height is variable depending on the sections used - and has a sturdy center pole that I can fasten the muslin to. I assembled it all, and of course had to take a few test shots.

Assuming All Is Well

Hmmm, not quite right. Did that side flash fire?

Confirming All Is Not Well

Hmmm, obviously not. Mess around for a minute or two then try again.

All Is Well

Ah, there we go. Everything worked like it was supposed to, if not technically perfectly. The camera-left flash is too hot and needs some sort of softener/diffuser. Easily accomplished, and what these sort of experiments are supposed to help me learn. And I am well aware that I have not ironed the muslin and it looks like it came right out of the package. It did!

Since I have taken some nudes, and intend to do more of that, I figured I had better work on my lighting for flesh. Of course, I was home alone. That being said, DO NOT FOLLOW THE LINK IF YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE NAKED NATARAJ. If you do, well then follow the link below!


Well, I evened out my light a little bit, in part by moving it to fire more vertically, and in part by compensating for the overblown highlights on the computer. The light overall is aimed a little low leaving my head too dark. Perhaps I could put a mirror opposite me so I see this stuff without having to run around to the back of the camera? Regardless, it was a good test, and the new DIY equipment worked like it was supposed to. Now for a remote location shoot!

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Spring Has Sprung!

At long last - it seems to me - I have something blooming in my yard! I was dismayed to find a neighbor whose crocus had bloomed before mine. Mine are always first. Today as I was dashing out to the car, a flash of color caught my eye:

Siberian Iris

I cannot remember a time when the Siberian Iris bloomed before the crocus! How unusual. The first crocus produced a bloom overnight. Yesterday there was not yet a hint of color (I checked three times). At noon today, there is a bloom about to open.


I might find it all the way open later this afternoon...

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Giraffe Study

I found myself in the vicinity of the zoo again, and thought I would pop in and see some things I did not see the last trip. Usually I am a fan of big, scary animals like lions and tigers and bears (oh my!). This time I was drawn to the giraffes of all things. I never really looked at them before. It seems they felt the same about me.

You Lookin' at ME?

These two were pretty affectionate, and the one really wanted the apple that the other had.

View Large!

These do not need any help from me. Just enjoy them!


View Large!



No Tough Spots To Reach With A Neck Like This!

Thank you for stopping by.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

eyeDance Studio, circa now

My in-home space is starting to feel like a genuine studio. I tried a lot of DIY things with mixed success. My black background is just fabric from Joann Fabrics (though it has cooliola metalic dots on the reverse, used here to good effect) as are most of my other backdrops. As I improved what I was doing, I had several paying gigs, and have used those funds to - of course - buy better equipment.

Studio Shapes Up
eyeDance Studio

First on the list was a powerful new flash with a good built-in modeling lamp too. Today I broke down and bought a 10'x24' background in a medium gray. I hope I can also affect its overall tone using a spot light and some theatrical gels given to me by a dear friend. My first experiments were a bust, but that's OK. I do not mind failing. I tend to think of it like Edison did. It simply means I have not bungled on to the right way to do it yet.

I am lining up more shoots over the next couple of weeks, so I hope to continue my education process with a few successes.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Someone Else's Crocus

Usually I have the fastest-popping crocus in the neighborhood. Not this year. Someone else's crocus beat mine to the punch.

Someone Else's Crocus
Someone Else's Crocus

Here are mine. They're coming along, but they are a solid week away from blooming. I can hardly fault them. My neighbor has a 10-foot wide driveway, and he has nowhere to put the snow except on the 4-foot bit of my yard that is next to the driveway. Sure enough,right on top of the crocus.

My Crocus
My Crocus

A few feet away, I have daffodils coming along nicely too. I figure they will be in bloom in about a month.

My Daffodils

And while I was out, I could not resist grabbing a shot of Syd's hippo.


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Monday, March 9, 2009

On Safari

Reena and I enjoyed our Monday off together by taking a little safari. We saw all sorts of marvelous creatures.

Why hello!
Why hello!

First we ran into a pair of river otters. They were having a great time playing in their pond and frolicking around the rocks and downed branches near their waterfall.

He spotted me!

Once they spotted us everything got exciting. They immediately bolted for the water.

and SPLASH!(*)

There is more, so follow the link to the rest of our safari photos!

Next we saw penguins! We were - f a r - from home...


Our next stop was a bit east where we saw a fine couple hanging out basking on a rock.

If it runs, it's mine dear.

Last but not least we encountered a few more critters who split their time between land and sea.


This guy was playing ever so gently with a tiny stick!

I love my stick!
He loves his stick!

Playing with a stick
Playing with a stick

Sea Lion Cruising for Fish

So our little safari to the Henry Vilas Zoo was a great success. There were a lot of people there - OK, dozens - enjoying the relative warmth of mid-40's (F) and a break in the rain. We were a little late getting there as I had to do some hunter-gatherer action at Woodman's before we could go. We did not get to go into most of the indoor exhibits which was fine because the whole point was to be outside for an hour or two.

(*) Did you catch my fake?

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Winter Attacks, My Stomach Wins

Winter Attacks Spring
Winter Attacks Spring

Yesterday we had one of those late winter slushfalls that annoys everyone. First it was a chilly 34 degrees (F) - which is different than a balmy 34 degrees - and raining. Then the temp drops another degree or two and the rain turns to heavy, wet snow that accumulates in a hurry. You can actually hear it hit the ground!


The threat behind this inconvenient weather is that if the temp drops quickly to the upper 20's, the roads ice up and cars pile up. The story here is that a friend had spent the past 48 hours marinating and prepping a delicious supper of pork tenderloin, roasted root vegetables, and peach pie. He was planning to feed 10 or so friends at a weekly role-playing game session. The location of said game is 20 miles out of town, and with the roads being probably treacherous, the game was canceled. So there is all this yummy food with no one to eat it.

Pork Loin
Pork Tenderloin - Half of the Roast

Well, being the sorts of people who are always willing to help out a friend in need, Reena and I quickly agreed to go over and help this friend eat the yummy food over which he had labored so long. What are friends for, after all? We had a really nice dinner, a great visit, and loafed away the evening watching Iron Man on his new, big flat screen TV pumped through a decent amp and speakers. Take that, winter!

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

"By the pricking of my thumb..."

"...something wicked this way comes."

Something Wicked This Way Comes
Red-Fronted Conure

There is an exhibit at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art titled Something Wicked This Way Comes. The exhibition features 96 paintings, prints, photographs, mixed-media works, and sculptures by 65 artists, and was organized by the museum’s curator of collections, Rick Axsom.

From the website:
"Initially focusing on stark representations of evil, Axsom gradually expanded the scope of the exhibition to include artists whose expressions ranged from horrific to satirical to whimsical–with many works simply providing the pleasures of a good scare. With this encompassing scope, Something Wicked This Way Comes affords an opportunity to reflect upon the ways that evil has been understood and represented over time. To early Christian traditions, for example, evil reflected a fall from Grace, fostered by the temptations of the Devil and anger toward God. In the secular traditions of the West, dating to ancient Greece, philosophers have taken another perspective: they situate evil in the malevolent actions of individuals and societies gone wrong. Expanding on this latter point of view, the modern age shifts the location of evil to political history, the acts of the individual, and the inner torments of the mind."
"On a more fantastical end of the spectrum is Robert Lostutter’s bird-masked man in The Birds of Heaven 14, Red-Fronted Conure, a lithograph from 1974. Adopting the Surrealist strategy of juxtaposing different realities to prompt nightmarish meanings, Lostutter creates a mutant being half man, half parrot fiercely capable of malice. The Surrealists, strongly influenced by the theories of Freud, found in dreams and the subconscious a source for the more sinister, irrational side of human identity."

On Friday, March 6th, between 5:30-6:30 PM, there are 10 groups or individuals portraying either specific images from the show, or augmenting the general theme of the show. This performance, titled "The Witching Hour", was coordinated by Kia Karlen. Musical performers include Fayrfax Ensemble, Anna Purnell, Yid Viscious Klezmer Ensemble, Geoff Brady (on the Theremin!), DB Peterson, and Gregory Taylor. Also featured are Theater and Movement performances by Sandra Bonnici, Jennifer Neuls, Angela Richardson, and Yours Truly.

If you get a chance, stop in and see wickedness in its various guises.

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Monday, March 2, 2009


Carnival - Masamba Dance
Cody of Masamba Dance

Nothing says Carnival like a woman wearing lots of feathers and beads and not much else. Friday and Saturday nights at the High Noon Saloon, Madison's temperature was turned up to "sizzling" by the dazzling array of performers.

Carnival - Masamba Dance
Laura of Masamba Dance

In addition to the beauty of Masamba Dance, revelers were treated to the awesome sounds of Pagee Go Go, the Handphibians, and Samba Da. Capacity crowds both nights at the High Noon Saloon - though Saturday felt a LOT more crowded - meant high-energy fun. The music was awesome, the crowd ready to party, and Lent was nowhere to be seen.

There are many, many more photos HERE.

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