Monday, July 27, 2009

Atwood Neighborhood Festival

I was finally home for the annual Atwood Neighborhood Festival. It seems like every year I am gone on this weekend. I nearly forgot about it this year and only remembered when my memory was jogged by an old high-school classmate (last seen about 25 years ago, but recently reconnected on Facebook). I missed a lot of it, but caught about 45 minutes of Magic 7 rocking the crowd.

Buddo from Magic 7
Buddo of Magic 7

Buddo from Magic 7

They had a decent crowd. All in all a pretty nice little festival.

Atwood Neighborhood Festival

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lekolites, freekolites

This week I acquired a pair of vintage 4.5" Lekolites. These stage spotlights are adjustable from 25-50 degrees, can iris, have shutters, take GOBOs and gels. The non-standard electrical terminator needed to be swapped for a standard 3-pin connector, but that only took a few minutes to do.


The light bulbs are still functional and the lights seem to work just fine. I wonder if they might be useful in a studio? I guess I'll see soon enough!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Figure Study

I have been wanting to try a figure study for some time. With the arrival of the new softbox and boom stand, I was able to take my first stab at it. As is my tendency, I shoot myself first until I get past the ignoramus stage and on to beginner stage. Then I feel comfortable bringing in a model and working through a set without wasting the model's time.

Figure Study

There are more, so follow the link to see the rest:

Not much need for commentary on my part. I was simply using the single softbox on my strobe to light me from directly above. The camera is about four feet away looking down at perhaps a 60 degree angle. Originally shot in color, I desaturated to B&W, mostly to minimize the effect of tanning.

Figure Study

Figure Study

Figure Study

Figure Study

I learned a bit about lighting directly from above. It is something I have never done. I did not do much in the way of editing for these images; some cropping, a bit of brightness on a couple, and removing moles and scars that detracted the viewers eye from the form and the light. As usual, it is a bit of a chore to shoot myself, and so I generally quit before I feel like I did everything I wanted to try. Well, I will set about getting a model in place to try some more. Stay tuned!

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Phoenix Session

I was at a gathering of my tribe recently, and since I am so photo-centric at this time, I made several offers to do impromptu photo sessions with a handful of people. They got photos to use as they wished, and I got the fun of exploring new subjects in new locations. Everybody wins.

The Phoenix Session

A funny conversation led up to this particular session. This beautiful young woman wondered aloud to me that she was bemused by the positive attention she was getting at the gathering. Not men specifically, but from pretty much everyone. She ventured that there was nothing special about her.

The Phoenix Session

My first response was to ask her if she owned a mirror.

The Phoenix Session

But as I pondered the question - because it was sincere, not a coquettish play for compliments - I realized that in addition to being attractive at a physical level, she was also bright and vivacious, and instinctually friendly. I observed her willingness to participate in activities and tasks of service to the tribe, again always with a smile that was quick to appear. So to go with her looks she had a sunny charisma too.

The Phoenix Session

I think I captured some of that in these photographs. She is no model, and was initially uncomfortable in front of the camera. We were in generally public space, and passers-by were free to stop and observe. One fellow who knew her lingered and chatted with her for a good 10 minutes. How fortuitous, as that went a long way in relaxing her.

The Phoenix Session

By the time we were heading to the creek to cool off (it was Hot and Humid), she was unselfconscious and happy to be doing what we were doing. At the creek, there were dozens of people around, and we got in a great conversation with a couple who were sitting on lounge chairs in the creek keeping cool.

The Phoenix Session

I hope these photos (she is in possession of the whole set - maybe 150 photos) give her a bit of clarity about why she receives favorable attention. In addition she gets to share them with her husband, who was not at the gathering, and hopefully he enjoys them too. And why not?

The Phoenix Session

I should note that there are artifacts in these photos that are part of the moment and the gathering. Thus I made no effort to hide the wrist band, or use Photoshop to remove the remains of the henna tattoo on her arm. These are a reflection of her in that space at that time. As such they become a reminder, an anchor, to where she was then.

My thanks to Phoenix for her time and willingness to let me try to reflect back to her what I was seeing.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

the moment between perception and intuition

It occurs to me as I sit here tonight - a bit tipsy with a martini in me - that I have reached a pretty good place. Physically I am in as good a shape as seems reasonable at 46-and-eleven-months. I am lean and strong, toned by hours of dance and related physical activity. Perhaps I could lose another 5, or maybe even 10, pounds of belly pudge (caused no doubt, by late night martinis and popcorn) but it would not significantly change my state. Career wise I am still in a bit of limbo, and yet things are definitely on the move. I have found a space for rent that seems suitable for use as a photography studio (though not perfect), and a partner who wants to share that space and the work flow of making it viable. Reena and I are coming up on 22 years of marriage with barely a hiccup. Financially, we're in a really good place though it now seems likely we will never be any American's definition of wealthy. Damn, it is all good.

Dance partner Megan and I were talking as we returned home from our 5-day contact improv dance jam that we really, really, wanted to offer conditioning training to our fellow dancers. It takes work to have the core strength, flexibility, and intuition to do some of the moves that both of us take for granted. How to foster the desire to move that way? This has uncorked a serious desire on her part to teach, and rekindled a similar desire in me. Years ago as I was moving past my black belt in TKD and wondering what came next, I outlined a core of training that I thought would make a good fighter. Later, as my training morphed into highly interactive dance, I realized the concepts transfered pretty well. The gist of my thinking is summed up as "Guiding chaos". One can never truly control a chaotic situation, be it a fight or a contact improv dance. At best, one can ride the chaos in a way that guides it. At Earthdance a few weeks ago, Megan and I taught a workshop at sort of a general level. We explored a concept that was born out of the 36 or so hours of focus we had as we drove cross-country and settled in to an extended dance retreat. The concept was to explore the moment between perception and intuition. That moment is the Now. Prior to that moment is perception, an understanding of where you just were, and immediately after that moment is intuition, the hunch of where you are going. I liken the thought process needed to understand the concept as hitting PAUSE on a tape, being able to rewind for a bit to review what just happened, and then after returning to the moment of pausing, intuiting the likely next sequence of events. While not necessarily using that metaphor, the concept is something I do almost constantly.

While that concept of perception-->now-->intuition is particularly relevant to martial artists and improvisational dancers, I suspect it is also applicable to other life situations. In my unfolding path as a professional photographer, I constantly see that triptych of time. I see the recent steps that brought me to the current moment, and I see the possibilities my path has aimed me at. There are options for the future of course, because my momentum (in life or dance) is somewhat controllable if I am aware and prepared.

And there it is, the point of this post: In life as well as in dance or martial arts, I have to train in a focused and deliberate way if I want to achieve certain goals. There is no guarantee of success, of course. But being aware, awake, and prepared is certainly the bulk of the successful recipe. My progress through fighting arts and dance has honed my ability to guide the chaos of life.

My sincere thanks to all my teachers. Namasté.

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New Softbox Test Shot

I ordered a softbox and it arrived today. It is 24" x 36" - large enough to be useful for portrait work and too small for large objects. I thought I would give it a few test shots and see if I could get it to work for me. My previous work has been done through white umbrellas which sort of has the same effect but has the disadvantage of allowing light elsewhere.

New Softbox

While it is an OK sort of photograph overall, the light is not too bad. The light is at perhaps 30 degrees right of the camera. I shot a few at angles more like 45 and 70 degrees as well, but will just toss those and treat them as experience gained. I am thinking I would be more satisfied with this shot if I had raised the light a bit to compensate for my tan face and pasty body. Well, since I am experimenting on myself and I cannot see the shot before I take it (and pretty quickly feel silly doing self-pics) I will not worry too much about it.

I learned some things, and that was the point. An interesting side note is the lesson one learns about their posture when the intention was to "stand up straight with arms to the side." A bit of quirky posture going on there!

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Future Home of eyeDance?

For the past week and a bit more I have been looking for space to lease as a studio for my photography business. I may have found the right spot.


While not perfect - no attractive exposed brick walls or beams, and no 15-foot ceilings for example - it does have a lot going for it. It is in a good downtown location, just on the east side, and so conveniently located to my goal of getting attorneys and such folk in for head shots and simultaneously drawing in more eclectic East Siders for portrait and glamour shots. It's big enough at over 600 sq. ft. and the rent is pretty darned reasonable.


I have proposed using this as a co-op studio concept, so some other parties came along to help evaluate it. No final decisions have been made, but thus far the signs are all "Go". There are a bunch of details to sort out first, like insurance, but that conversation is started. Watch this space!

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Un arc de lumière

Walking home from La Fête de Marquette festival last night, I paused to take a couple of night shots of a new bridge over the Yahara River. Pretty at night, no?

Bridge Over Yahara River
View LARGE On Black

Here is a broader view that helps put it in context. There are pedestrian underpasses on either side. I like that there are ducks paddling around making it all so real.

Bridge Over Yahara River
View LARGE On Black

Some technical details about the shots: ISO 800, f/6.5 (first) or 5.0 (second), 1/5th second exposure, hand-held. The first was at 155 mm while the second was 52 mm. The Sigma 18-200 lens does have optical stabilization, and you better believe I used it.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

La Fête de Marquette - Day 2

This weekend is yet another in the stream of fabulous outdoor summer festivals hosted by the city. La Fête de Marquette celebrates the early French traders and trappers who moved through the area, especially Pére Marquette. The music lineup therefore is French influenced acts from around the world: France, French colonies, Quebec, and Cajun. I missed day one, but caught all of day two.

The lineup was as follows:
5:00- 11:00 --- Le Nuit des Étoiles
5:30- 6:45 - Claude Méthé et Dentdelion (Quebec)
7:30- 8:45 - Boukman Eksperyans (Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
9:30- 11:00 - Tab Benoit (Louisiana)

The last two were particularly great, with Boukman Eksperyans beating out premier axeman Tab Benoit in my estimation. I posted a sizable set of photos at my Flickr site, and provided a slide show here. Enjoy!

UPDATED: I added images to the set from Saturday and Sunday morning as well. They are in reverse sequence, so if you already looked through the set, you won't have to wade through all the pictures you have already seen (unless you want to, of course). The rest of the lineup was as follows:

Saturday - July 11th
Noon-11:00 --- Le Jour du Monde
12:30- 1:30 --- Tent -Robin Pluer with Mrs. Fun
2:15-3:15 Tent - Robin Pluer with Mrs. Fun
3:15- 4:30- Stage-Chic Gamine (Winnipeg)
5:15- 6:30 Stage -Watcha Clan (Marseilles/Algeria)
7:15 - 8:45 Stage - Balla Tounkara et Groupe Spirit (Mali/NYC)
9:30- 11:00 Stage - Lura (Cape Verde)

Sunday - July 12th
Noon - 9pm- Le Jour de Louisiane
9:00- Noon-MMM "Acoustic Café" Breakfast w/ Chic Gamine and Claude Méthé et Dentdelion
Noon -1pm -John Chimes (Madison)
1:30 -2:30-Mama Digdowns Brass Band (Madison)
3:00- 4:15 - Feufollet (Lafayette)
4:45- 6:00 -Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole (Lafayette)
7:00- 8:30-The Radiators (New Orleans)

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Release energy wisely

The July 4th Jam at Earthdance is a pretty amazing experience. Put simply, there are two dance studios and approximately 100 people. If you want to dance, the odds are pretty good that there is someone willing to move with you any time, day or night. Contact improv can be a pretty athletic dance style that consumes significant energy. It can also be quiet and meditative, more like a mobile massage than a feat of kinetic energy. Yet, being in motion, ebbing and flowing, for 12 or 14 hours a day for 5 days is pretty significant. Sooner or later, you need a rest! This is a contact improv dancer recharging her batteries:

Potential Energy

Marathon dancing:
Release energy wisely -
It is not a sprint!

Contemplative Moment

The guiding principle at this jam was self-care. If you are not sufficiently rested, hydrated, relaxed, and present, the experience can become less pleasant. You are less able to connect with others or be attentive to their needs and desires. By taking care of yourself, you are more able to give and support and savor.

Here is a look at the main dance space, a round yurt-like structure with a beautiful floor.
Umbrella Studio

Ceiling in the Umbrella Studio

Beautiful environment housing beautiful spirits begets beautiful experiences. Considering all my significant life experience, I have found nothing that compares to a 5-day jam at Earthdance. This is my fourth, and it will not be my last

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Monday, July 6, 2009

This Divine Moment In Time

A tentative touch to say,
Hello, may I share this dance?
Your body moves away
leaving behind the bit
that's touching me.
A coy response that intrigues
and invites me to follow
where you will lead in
this dance with no steps.
And so I connect with you.
Our dance weaves and winds;
Who is following whom is
never entirely clear,
nor is it important
in any meaningful way.
You take my weight away
and enable me to soar.
Just as swiftly you collapse
and draw me down as we
lead each other astray.
Our communion is a paean
of mirth, reverence, love,
inertia and gravity,
to each other and this
divine moment in time.

I just spent five days at a contact improv dance jam at Earthdance, a retreat center in western Massachusetts. My bestest dance partner Megan and I drove out, 24 hours each way. The event is a combination of a jam - unstructured dancing - and some classes and structured dancing. There are approximately 100 people at the event, so there are a large number of possible experiences to have.

The sense of community is astonishing at Earthdance. Everyone feels a strong sense of connection; people CARE about you there, even if they have just met you. It is a rarified community experience sorely lacking in many people's lives. Some find it at a church. Some find it in a softball league. For me, it is about dance.

Five days of living in community is like a drink of pure, cold water to a parched soul. If you ache, someone is there to comfort you. If you are grieving, warm arms hold you while you cry. If you are filled with the promise of a new start, faces alight at your potential joy. If you need to be held, you will be nurtured and cradled. If you have strength or compassion to spare, there is frequently a need. Sometimes it is simply your turn to just dance and connect with another at a deep, deep level.

Tasty food is lovingly prepared and gleefully served. Everyone cleans up. Music happens. Art happens. Love unfolds. There is magic at the core of Earthdance. Magic is the act of causing change to conform to one's will.

Is your life like this? Could it be if you fostered it?

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