Friday, July 29, 2011

Mutual of Omaha's: Wild Kingdom

IT's tense in the wilderness today as we witness the attempt by Nala, fierce huntress of the Natageti, to take down her prey, the elusive gray squirrel. I watch from the lawn chair while my assistant risks life and limb to get in close.


Nala has already made her first stealthy attack on the squirrel by the time we get the cameras rolling. A near miss has left the hunter frustrated, and separated by a gap too large to make another charge. Plus, the squirrel has used its natural climbing advantage to seek the high ground. At this point, the squirrel does not seem to concerned about the near miss.


Our hunter remains in stalking mode for some time, before finally settling down for a longer vigil.


Ever diligent, she knows that sooner or later she will get her squirrel.

Tune in next week as we present the bizarre mating rituals of the Tanzanian Sheep Monkeybat, on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom!

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

In the Footsteps of Robert

Every once in a while I take a photo that makes me a bit giddy. A friend needed some photos to assist with his application to an interesting new job. To that end, I was photographing him in various pedestrian activities. At the moment of this photo I was lounging in a beach chair and he was walking to the water for a dip. I asked him to pause for a moment, and shot this:

BW Profile

Not everything about it is perfect, of course. If I had had an assistant with a nice white reflector I could have had his eyes less shadowed. Nevertheless I knew that I had made a good capture the moment I tripped the shutter. I mused about this three years ago on this blog; that moment of knowing.

At the instant I took the photograph I flashed on a particular image by Robert Mapplethorpe and wondered how mine would stack up against it. You tell me.

"Self Portrat" by Robert Mapplethorpe

Mapplethorpe has been hugely influential on my work. As a teenager his photo essay of bodybuilder Lisa Lyon was indelibly stamped in my brain.

Hmmm, perhaps I should do a post of my images that are *clearly* influenced by his work. Interesting...

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Performing at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Sometimes I get to play in the coolest places! Yesterday I was able to indulge myself both as a photographer and a member of Cycropia Aerial Dance troupe. The troupe was hired to perform at a corporate party of a large insurance corporation, and it was quite clear they had an ample budget. The venue was none other than the Milwaukee Art Museum, located on the shore of Lake Michigan. While I did not have time to prowl the grounds, I was able to take a few good external pics.


The tent in the foreground was part of the venue for the event and is normally not there. There were at least four huge air conditioners running through 15" flexible hose to cool the tent in the 87 degree (F) heat.

Part of our performance was in the main hall where dinner was served. That meant that we got to play on some of the most expensive playground equipment ever!


The main portion of our performance was in the tent which was used for the initial meet-and-greet and while the guests were dining it was converted into a lounge. Amazing, really. To hang our aerial apparatus we had a 10-11 foot high freestanding superstructure. We hung two lyra (basically steel hula hoops) and a low single-point trapeze. Our first stint was to provide stately eye candy. The final part, after dinner, was to jump start the dance party.


We had a ball. It was an intense physical workout. I cannot speak for the others, but I am quite aware this morning that I used my body hard last night! We seemed to wow the crowd, and more than one person asked if we were Cirque du Soleil (which felt pretty good).

There are more great photos in a SLIDE SHOW for your viewing pleasure.

The next performance for Cycropia is the Orton Park Festival. Our show is an amazing outdoor performance with our various apparatus hung in the sprawling branches of a venerable oak tree. Seeing the troupe perform there in 2005 made my jaw drop, and I set my goal then and there that I was going to fly with them. I suggest you catch it if you can.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Promotional Offer

I am including a free promotional tee shirt with photo shoots (while supplies last). A portrait shoot from Nataraj at eyeDance will capture the real you, from mild to Wild! You can check out my work at eyeDance Photography. Get 'em while they're hot.

It is a great time to capture that nicely tanned bod...

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Vita brevis nudus pars.

Sometimes I am fortunate enough to have a client who is willing to have her photos shown to a wider audience. I always provide a mechanism for the client to protect her (or his) images. After all, some of them are teachers or in other sensitive careers where a revealing photograph could jeopardize them. In some cases I can show my work in my portfolio to a prospective client as long as no copies are made, and in other cases I am restricted to sharing only images with no identifying features such as a face or distinctive tattoo. I understand completely, and honor those requests. This beautiful woman was willing to allow her images to be shared.

This falls into a classification of photos I call "boudoir", or bedroom, photos which are most likely hung in a more private place in the home where not just everyone will see it. Many of my clients are women who choose just such portraits to celebrate their beauty - immortalizing it forever. Such women are not all model-beautiful (which I think is a ridiculous concept) and yet each and every one of them, having chosen to celebrate herself and her body, shines forth with a radiance that can only come from within. Age, scars, and gray hairs are honest indicators of life lived. Such women (and the occasional man) pay honor to the path that has brought them to this moment.

For a larger sampling of this sort of work, please visit the boudoir page of my business site. This is a style of portrait I love to take. It is such a revealing process for the client and I delight in the sheer joy that results from taking the plunge to do this. Not one has regretted her decision to have intimate portraits done, and many have gone further to recommend me and eyeDance Studio to friends. I also have work not displayed elsewhere at DeviantArt and I highly recommend you take a look there. A (free) membership is required to see my restricted images, and I encourage you to take the few minutes to become a member. There is a lot of good art - much more than just photographs - to be found.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rested and Red

I spent a few days this past week on a retreat with other members of a dance troupe I belong to. It is mostly vacation time; we do not really discuss the business of the troupe or upcoming performances. Sure, those things come up, but generally the goal is to hang out and get to know each other. Of thirteen members, four of us are new, added just a bit over a year ago, and two others were added just three years ago. In a company where longevity and an almost tribal sense of community was commonplace, this represents a very rapid shift and we really needed the time to bond.

The retreat was at a nearby rustic location - a cabin on a big river. We had the run of the place for a week, and members were free to come and go as needed. Some had jobs that they needed to go to on specific days, or classes they needed to teach, or family obligations to attend. In general, we had a pretty good bunch most of time and it was easy to relax and get to know each other better.

It helps that the site was phenomenally beautiful, as was the weather (despite it being in the mid-90's (F) and humid for several days.

Wisconsin River, near Sauk City (DS3_2188)


Among other things that happened during the week to deepen our camaraderie was an opportunity to use henna on our hair. Last year I plopped down in the chair and had red henna applied and the results were, well, vibrantly red. The color lasted all year and as a result I had several inches of dark blond (salted with gray now) that needed to be addressed.


With a bunch of help from the good folks at Community Pharmacy who sell henna in bulk, we crafted a plan to even out my hair. The results are pretty good: My hair is again pretty uniformly red, and in a color possibly found in nature. Thanks RB, for the quality application!

I feel pretty rested and ready to hit rehearsals again, starting tonight. Our next aerial dance show is August 25-26 at the Orton Park Festival here in Madison, WI. If you are in the area, do not miss it!

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Another Day Longer, Another Day Stronger

On Tuesday we had Day 149 of peaceful protest against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his thuggish cronies. This particular rally was against recently, and contentiously-elected supreme court justice David Prosser who has been in the news recently, again, this time for allegedly putting a choke hold on a fellow justice. I know, classy, right?

Day 149 (DS3_2090)

The rallies are certainly one way that democracy manifests itself, especially when a significant part of the electorate feels like the administration is exhibiting overreach or bad policy. To answer Walker's supporters, no, democracy does not end at the ballot box. When MillerCoors (a wholly owned subsidiary of South African Brewing corporation) sends in a team to write legislation that is favorable to them and quashes craft brewers you call it "lobbying". When a thousand, or fifty thousand Wisconsin citizens demonstrate their disapproval of legislation that eviscerates school budgets and middle class jobs, you call it "whining".

This Is What Democracy Looks Like! (DS3_2106)

But as it turns out, on Tuesday we also had elections in seven key districts around the state. Here in Madison, the 48th Assembly district held a special election to fill the seat vacated by Joe Parisi. As you can see on the ballot above, there was a field of six Democrats competing for the seat, and not a single Republican. I assure you, no Republican would have won that seat. (Chris Taylor did.) Elsewhere in the state there were six elections where Republicans who sided with Gov. Walker on the legislation that sparked all the protests (adequately covered in previous posts) have been targeted for recall. In a bit of ugly politics, the Republicans fielded "fake" Democrats to muddy the election (boo! hiss!) but truth wins out, and in all six districts the real Democrat candidates won the day. Final elections will be held in a month, and if the Democrat candidates carry the elections the balance of power shifts. Currently the Republicans control all three branches of the state government which has allowed them unfettered power. A tilt in the Senate will at least slow them down. It will also send a strong message that no, Governor, We The People do not appreciate the direction you took and we will now peacefully fix what we broke. The governor himself is likely to be the target of a recall election as soon as he is eligible (early November).

As local pol Mark Pocan said, so far they have not done anything we cannot undo. Right on. This is what democracy looks like.

Here is a SLIDE SHOW with photos going back 149 days to the start of the protests. The most recent images are up front.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Le Fete de Marquette

I finally made it last night to the second of Madison's great music festivals, la Fete de Marquette. This festival, near Bastille Day, is a Francophile musical celebration. The first band I heard was Maraca, from Cuba/Paris. In short order they drove me crazy. The music was a lot like Soukous or kwassa kwassa, and the repetitiveness of it grates on me after about 20 minutes (or half their stage time). No worries, it drove me to wander and take photographs.

Saturday at Le Fete de Marquette (DS3_2032)

It is a large, free festival and there is a lot to see if people-watching is your idea of entertainment. For a brief while it seemed like it was going to rain and spoil the evening, but as the sun set it became obvious that it was going to clear up. It also made for a dynamite sunset!


As the last light was in the sky, I went back over to the 1930's vintage Ferris Wheel and took a few more shots. This one has a little bit of flash added to pop the color a bit.

Big Eli Ferris Wheel at Twilight (DS3_2061)

The two prior nights had both been late - well after midnight - so I faded fast and departed before the final act finished playing. It was a fun night and I was glad to be there and see a lot of friends. And strangely enough, I did not even have a beer (but I did have ice cream).

Ahh, summer!

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Walk To The Library

I took a stroll over to the library today. For a lark I took my D40 with the Sigma 30 MM prime on it. It has been a while since I shot with the D40 and it was time for a refresher (since it is my backup body).

With a new-again camera in my hands, I tried to look at the very familiar route with new eyes. I took photos I would otherwise have ignored and had fun doing it. And, for a lark, I thought I would try presenting the images differently here.

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Part of the fun of the Sigma 30 is that it has a max aperture of f/1.4 so I can do some crazy short depth of field things. In fact, I shot both of the above images at f/1.4 and realized that the DOF was too short and the background went too far out of focus. The two above were taken at f/3.2 (trailer) and f/2.8 (cart and fence). The self pic below is f/4 and the Harley is at f/1.6. In all cases the shutter speeds were very high, around 1/2000th, at ISO 200.

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That is sort of the opposite of what I have been doing lately. For the past few weeks I have been playing around with tiny apertures (f/29 and up), super low ISO (100) and loooong shutter speeds (like 1 second or more). Often I have been piling on a neutral density (ND4) and circular polarizing filter to further restrict the light. It is all good, informative tomfoolery that teaches me my trade.

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I frequent the library because I can draw from 51 libraries in South-Central Wisconsin. The odds of finding what I am looking for are pretty high. Today's trip was because a requested item - "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" by Gil Scott Heron - was in. While I was there I picked up a couple of DVDs to watch and looked at some books. Who in their right mind would NOT use the library?

These and a few other photos from my walk are available as a SLIDE SHOW in large format. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Somebody Knows How To Beat The Heat

It is plain to me that my cat Nala knows how to beat the heat!


She looks pretty smug, does she not? She has proven herself to us - she will not leave the fenced in back yard - so she is outside for the better part of each day. In the heat of the day she is under cover, enjoying the cool dirt and shade.


Since the next thing I am going to do in the yard is mow the grass, a hot and sweaty task, I think she just might be smarter than me!

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Today in the Garden

No words really, just a few shots of the beauty going on in my yard today.


Stella D'Oro Lily

Bee on the Milkweed

And a little edible rainbow!


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The Strangest Vehicle Ever

Sometimes I just never know what I will see near my house.


I was riding in a friend's car to go to a rummage sale when we spotted this.


The strangest vehicle ever: The Wienermobile!


First created in 1936, the Wienermobiles are rolling advertisements for Oscar Mayer hot dogs. There are currently five of them, and as Oscar Mayer used to be headquartered here, and there is still a large presence of the company (now a Kraft subsidiary) Wienermobiles are spotted here often enough to be well known. Numerous motorists stopped and gawked though, so it still clearly has a high novelty value.

The drivers are known as "hotdoggers". Perhaps a telling tidbit: U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) was employed as a hotdogger.

The license plate on this vehicle, IWSHIWR is a reference to the Oscar Mayer hot dog jingle.

"Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener.
That is what I'd truly like to be.
'Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener,
Everyone would be in love with me!"

Now you know.

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Love Affair

I'm in an ongoing love affair. I admit it. It has been going on for almost eight years now. I sneak off with her at every opportunity and ride her like, well, like a motorcycle!


Even when I am not riding it (I do not really think of it with a gender...) or looking at it, I am thinking about riding or looking at it. In short, it is the most fun motorcycle I have ever owned (and last time I counted I have owned 14). The bike is an MZ Baghira. MZ is a storied brand that no longer does business in America because the current owners are/were insane. I believe that the brand is now totally defunct.


This bike was designed as an off/on-road motorcycle similar in concept to BMW's F650. In Europe (where this bike was built) there has been a fad to take off-road motorcycles and put street wheels and street tires on them, a sub-class referred to alternately as supermotard or street moto (the link cracked me up, and I was keenly disappointed that my Baghira was not in the list!). I used mine that way, as a hooligan bike for a while but discovered that the large single-cylinder engine worked pretty well for distance too. Over time I made changes to it to improve overall ride-ability until it became clear that I had crafted a pretty darned good "urban bagger" (a motorcycle with dedicated hard luggage bags). I had a seat built to enhance comfort, swapped hand grips, added some specifically designed edging on the vestigial fairing to break up the wind (which works amazingly well), and of course, added Givi hard luggage. I also had engine work done that boosted horsepower 20 percent and torque almost as much. Now I have a bike that is superbly practical for a wide variety of uses and is a blast to ride. The potholes and generally crappy street conditions do not phase this bike one bit as the off-road suspension just absorbs it all. The only down side is a tiny 13 liter gas tank that only lets me get around 115 miles before switching to reserve and needing to hunt for a gas station. I have done long trips on it, the longest of which was 3,400+ miles around all five Great Lakes.

I am pretty sure I will own this bike until it is used up. Waa-hoo!

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