Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tableau From Below

A rare day! For the first time in, well, forever, Reena had off the Saturday before Christmas. As a retail operative, that never happens. But as she is transitioning from one retail position (of 27 years!!!) to another good one, things are different. Since that transition pretty much fell on 12/21, we are assuming that is what the Mayan end of the world meant for Reena personally. We decided to run some errands - together - and spent a little time on State Street. Dashing out of the house with no breakfast meant a priority stop at a coffee shop for me to put a scone and a cuppa java in my belly. Leaving there we were headed to Fromagination (a super awesome cheese and other foodstuffs shop on the Capitol square). En route I spotted an arm sticking out from a second-floor tiny balcony.

Tableaux, From Below (DS3_6882)

Just as I unslung and got the camera into play, the subject leaned forward. I would have preferred just the arm, but a street photog shoots what is there. The subject was watching the birds while enjoying a cigarette and I liked the scene. Or, if you prefer as I do, a tableau from below.

Other than the bit of snow on the branches, the shot could be any time of year from October to March.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snowstorm "Draco" (When did they start naming snow storms?)

Madison got hit with the same storm that dumped snow from the Rockies east. We were right in the path of the most snow too. It has not stopped snowing yet, and the temps have been hovering above 32 degrees (F) all day, so the snow is deep, wet, and heavy. For reasons that are clear to no one, my wife's part time employer decided to open. So, after shoveling this morning, I drove her to work because the metro buses were not running (hello, clue?). Rather than go straight home, I went looking for scenic spots. Fortunately they were not difficult to find.

Tenney Park Bridge

At this point in the day there was only about six inches of snow on the ground. Driving was not too bad, though I did help dig/push six other drivers out of where they were stuck. Memo: You drivers with bad tires, automatic transmission, and the incorrect idea that spinning your tires is a good idea really should not have Good Samaritans push you out. You should really just stay inside when the weather is like this.

There were lots of pedestrians out, mostly walking dogs or headed somewhere. Not a lot of point in shoveling when there is going to be another 6-12 inches of snow to fall. Fortunately there were not many drivers.


While I was by the Yahara River at Williamson Street I was intrigued by the slushy ice that was floating downstream. It moved like fabric and was really quite beautiful. I have never seen anything quite like it. I'm not sure this photo really does it justice, but it is the one I got. It was still snowing hard, and blowing, so I was not prepared to stand around and set up and wait for the perfect shot.

Slushy Ice

Once I got home I had an invitation to walk six blocks over to a friend's house for "brunch". If you do not eat until 2:15 PM, it no longer qualifies as brunch. More like Second Lunch, except that I had nothing but a Power Bar in me, so my belly button was gnawing on my spine by the time we ate. I arrived home again just in time to have the road plow bury my driveway with a three foot high, three feet deep pile of heavy snow. The rest of the driveway and sidewalk needed it, so I shoveled the whole works. Now I intend to put my feet up and have a nice rye whiskey.

There are more photos from today HERE.


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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Leko Redux

Life has been fun and busy of late, with all sorts of interesting diversions and distractions thrown in my path. My last day job relocated out from under me, and I have been looking for the right job. I had a positive interview a couple of weeks ago and a follow up interview has been scheduled for this week. I look forward to confirming that it is a good fit. I have had several really fun and adventurous photo shoots (and I really need to get some samples out here) that have filled the coffers a bit and fed my soul. In early December the aerial dance troupe of which I am a member - Cycropia - had a corporate gig that was fruitful and exhausting. It was particularly challenging because as we assembled at the venue to start make-up, we learned that a dear friend (of 30 years for me) had died quite suddenly and unexpectedly. We were distraught, but had to suck it up and put on a happy face to perform. The show they say.

For one of the recent shoots, the client was performing for the first time in a burlesque show. The event was a women-only show, dancers for dancers, and the venue is lousy for good photos. So she hired me to get good performance shots. We set up the studio sparsely, blank wall and hardwood floor, and rigged the Leko spotlights rather than the strobes I mostly use. I have had the Lekos since late 2009, but seldom find an opportunity to use them (here is one such occasion) so I was delighted to do so. Those pics came out great, and if the client doesn't object might post one or two here. We'll see. In the meantime I was inspired to try some other things with them, so yesterday I took myself in to experiment. The results are not quite what was in my head and that is OK. It was an experiment.


The studio is not capable of rigging aerial apparatus, but I wanted to make it look like I was being supported by the silk (which in this case really was fine silk rather than an aerial silk which is sturdy tricot). The artifacts on the wall are dirt on the Leko lens. I can't decide if I REALLY need to disassemble and clean them, or if I like the vintage spotlight look. There is little doubt that I could create this same shot using a strobe, and probably in far less time than this took, but again, the learning was the point. There is something unique about having the spots in play. Plus when irised down to a narrow spot, they add great shadows.


The vignetting is from the lights themselves, boosted a bit in post camera processing. In the burlesque shoot the shadows of the client/performer were and integral part of the composition. I often shoot against black backdrops and do everything in my power to prevent or eliminate shadows so this was a new treat. In these two experimental photos I kept the shadows strong, but was not so concerned about them in the composition. In the second I planted myself just a few inches from the wall to get a strong outline, and it adds a strong visual element.

If you are interested in the technical details here they are. The Lekos are not particularly bright so the camera was set quite differently than I would with strobes and it contributes to the overall look and feel.

Camera: Nikon D300
Lens: Sigma 30mm prime (on this camera it is equivalent to 45mm)
ISO: 1000
Aperture: f/13
Shutter: 0.3 seconds
Light Source: Single Leko spotlight at about 20', camera-right about 6'
Post-Processing: Image free rotated (the top one), minor tweaks to levels and brightness (especially the top one), converted to B&W, adjustment layer added with moderate sepia toning.

And might I add that I am quite pleased that my body still looks like that at 50. *grin*

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Monday, November 12, 2012

A Girl and Her Glitter

Our cat Nala has proven that she can be trusted to be let out in our fenced in back yard and not leave it. The only time she has broken that deal is when there were holes in the fence large enough for her to walk right out (but behind plants and so not readily visible to unsuspecting humans). We are so accustomed to letting her in and out - she paws at the back door to be let in - that we sometimes have to announce out loud that "I just let the cat in/out" or we forget her state (cue Schrödinger reference). The last couple of days have been such. Yesterday Reena told me as I was arriving home and she was departing that Nala was out. OK. When it was time for me to leave later, I called for her. Normally she comes bounding right in unless she is in stalk-mode on a mouse. I walked the entire back yard, which in November has few concealing areas. No sign of her. I closed the back door and made a walk-through of the house. No sign of her. Too bad, so sad, kitty, because it was about to rain (hard) and if she was out she was going to get wet. When I arrived home again later, there she was, in the house after all. Same thing happened today, but this time I have been home the entire time. Where the heck is she?

I looked in all the usual inside places where she naps, and a few once upon a time places. Nope. Then I noticed that one of my bags of photo studio props was spilling out onto its temporary location on the guest bed. Then I remembered that a week earlier I had redirected Nala when she was trying to get into that very bag and kneading (and purring loudly) on the big piece of black tulle with purple glitter.


Sure enough, there she was. She had wormed her way into the plastic bag, dislodging the tulle, for her nap. My snapping a few pics made her ear flap but otherwise didn't disturb her. I have never had a female cat before, and her ongoing love affair with fabric and general girly-girl traits never fail to amuse me. Thanks for another hearty laugh, Nala!

Oh, and as an aside, here was the sun coming in my living room window at sunrise this morning. Golden hour indeed! This lasted for about three minutes.

Sunrise Light (DS3_5007)

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Friday Night Lights

A friend celebrated his birthday Friday night by playing a gig in the lounge at Bandung restaurant. It's not a great venue for music, and they don't have any lights or sound system. Apparently Jeff brought his own, and while it was not a big multi-angle setup it provided a sense of being in a club. Somehow, they also had a fog machine and lasers.


He was primarily accompanied by Anapaula, a delightful singer who immigrated from Brazil. For a couple of years my wife was in a Brazilian pagode band with these two. Also sitting in occasionally were Graham and Chris, and a fellow I met just that night named Ryan.



Everything added up to a pretty fun night, even though I had to leave early to catch up with some other performer friends who were out. It is a tough life to be a social animal!


Happy birthday Jeff!

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Queen of her Domain

What IS it with cats and baskets? Our cat Nala ignores all furniture, rarely sits on anything that isn't fabric and is largely uninterested in anything designed to be a cat toy. But if I leave the laundry basket unattended for more than a few minutes and BAM!, she is in it. Of course, it seems there is an added bonus if there are still freshly-laundered clothes in it.


In this case, I had just done a load of sheets and mattress pad and used the basket to carry the damp sheets outside to hang on the line (you know, that free clothes dryer that is banned in many neighborhoods) leaving the basket there for retrieving them later. When I let Nala out it never occurred to me that she would pay any attention to it. There are mice to hunt! She went right to it, jumped in, and sat there stately overseeing her domain for about 20 minutes.

No wonder 44.8 percent of the total traffic on the internet is dedicated to funny cat videos.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Grade of 'Meh+'

My day job is gone and I have not yet found the right next one. I am fortunate that I have the leisure to cherry pick what I am seeking rather than being forced to take any old job. One of the things that creates is a sense of space in time. I am not rushed each day, and I find I can allow myself to linger over things I might have glanced at during a more hectic period of my life. In a small way, I feel like it is a return to some undefined time period in which a gentleman of some leisure could invest himself in studying a painting, reading philosophy, or perhaps learning to play a new tune that has been in his head and needing to come out. I am enjoying the sensation.

Today I looked at advertisements. In particular I looked at product ads that were based on photography. I came away inspired to play, to grab a few things at hand and see what resulted. Product images are not my photographic raison d'être and so I had no high hopes that I would be the next wunderkind of the ad world. No, it was merely for fun and the experience of it.

FEW Gin (Faux Ad)

I used what was at hand. This bottle of FEW small batch gin seemed perfect, as it was purchased with the scant funds from a charity shoot (the agreed upon price for the shoot was about 7% of what I would otherwise have made at my lowest rate) where the fee for my services was "a bottle of gin." So armed with a prop that was already photographically sympathetic, I grabbed the next appropriate thing, a martini glass. The mums are pretty much the last thing blooming in my yard and had to stand in for the botanicals used in making gin.

Overall I give myself a grade of 'Meh+'. The background is simple, yet fun. The lighting could be a lot better but it is not terrible. I use some strange camera settings (remember that this was about play): F/22 with the shutter open for 2 seconds at ISO 100. During that extended period I manually popped a single Nikon SB-24 set at 1/16 power from camera left. I could have used a bit less power had the flash allowed it, or if my arms had been longer, could have moved it a few feet further away. I used Photoshop to crop it and warm it up a bit, and to add the text.

I will keep looking at ads, and seeing if I can learn new things. And as I type these last few words, I am sipping an icy cold martini. Ahh!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Reflection of Autumn's Fire

The leaves are mostly gone from the trees, the final push coming from a couple of hard frosts the past couple of nights. It has not been cold enough for long enough to put ice on my tiny pond, but small pots with water in them have frozen. Today is one of those windy days too, though I believe the wind map making the rounds on Facebook today did not indicate that our winds here in Wisconsin were a result of hurricane Sandy which just beat the snot out of NYC and New Jersey.

Samhain ("sow-in"), as the Pagans mark the holiday more commonly known as Halloween, is an observance of change, of the final harvest. In the Pagan calendar it marks the beginning of winter, a time generally of drawing in. It is believed that the veil between our world and the world of the departed, our friends and ancestors, is thinnest, and it is a time to reflect or commune with those who preceded us in death. The Wikipedia entry for Samhain has this to say:

Samhain is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature. Many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. In much of the Gaelic world, bonfires were lit and there were rituals involving them, as at Beltane. People and their livestock would often walk between two bonfires as a cleansing ritual, and the bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames.[2] Samhain (like Beltane) was seen as a time when the 'door' to the Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings, to come into our world. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them. It has thus been likened to a festival of the dead. People also took steps to protect themselves from harmful spirits, which is thought to have led to the custom of guising. Divination was also done at Samhain.

Memories of Autumn 2 (DS3_4077)

My image today is shaped by thoughts of Samhain. The loss of the color of nature as we slide into winter, which typically means snow here, feels like an end. Yet there are still the last remnants of color to be found in a few late trees, a few hardy flowers are still blooming. It is almost like a reflection of autumn that remains. Soon we will have the gray and brown of November, and then white/gray/brown from December through March. Today I still savor the reflection of autumn's fire.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Olbrich in October

Yesterday was a beautiful and chilly day. Our string of balmy autumn days has seemingly come to an end, and yesterday marked the start of mid-October temperatures. While sunny, it was only mid-forties (F) and windy. By late afternoon my long-sleeved shirt and wool sport coat were feeling a bit inadequate. During the best part of the day, early afternoon, I went for a walk with a friend at the local Olbrich Botanical Gardens.


Part of the garden is this lovely Thai pavilion, donated to Madison by a sister city in Thailand, and assembled without nails or screws by Thai workers who were flying in to Madison to do the work on 9/11. The striking sky in this picture is partly because it was an amazing October sky, and partly the influence of a polarizing filter.


The pavilion is not large, being about the size of a small cottage, and is decorated throughout with gold gilt and mirrored glass. It really is beautiful, and a local treasure.


I do not know what these floating bits of sculpture are all about. They are new since I was last at the gardens, and if there was an explanatory sign I failed to see it. They are tethered loosely in place so the wind can move them around somewhat but they will not run ashore.

In the area? I recommend you stop in (but maybe wait until next spring...).

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

If You Meet The Buddha On The Road...

We are in the midst of an extended autumn here in Wisconsin. We had some very cold nights - freeze warnings - earlier, yet today the temperature is 75 degrees (F). I am working comfortably in a short sleeve shirt with windows wide open. I suspect I will use a motorcycle to run my errands this afternoon. One of the benefits of these temps is that we still have flowers blooming. On Sunday I took a walk over to a friend's house a few blocks away, and found much to shoot along the way.

If you meet the Buddha on the road, stone him.

The Buddha head is one of many (many!) sculptures created over the past decades by the now-deceased Syd Boyum. Boyum lived at the other end of my street and was either eccentric or crazy depending on your point of view. By all accounts he was a nice neighbor as long as you did not mind his backyard being filled to crowded with dozens of sculptural objects. After he died, the city and privately-raised funds bought and installed about a dozen of them and installed them all around this neighborhood. Boyum's son inherited the house and all the sculptures and some of them remain, visible in brief or in part to passers-by.


Flowers were mostly what was catching my eye, and I loved the shocking contrast between the flowers and the leaves. My beloved said she almost did not believe the color of the flowers was real, but the leaves color was right...


I spent some time before making each photograph looking at all angles trying to see what most intrigued me. I seemed to be drawn to strong back-lighting that day which can make for nicely dramatic images. It can also leave the foreground dark and insufficiently visible. Such was the case with this beautiful rose. The first exposure was unsatisfactory, so I exploited a wonderful feature on my camera: Scalable flash. There is a menu that lets me control the output of the on-camera flash, from full down to 1/128th power. So I took a good guess and set it at 1/4 power and popped off the photograph I wanted. The use of the flash also darkens the background so there is little clutter, just that nice, light streak coming down on to the bloom.

I see the world differently when I have my camera in hand. That is often enough to turn a simple errand into a satisfying walk.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

More Dancers, More Musing

Here is another small batch of photos from the Madison Belly Dance Alliance performance this past weekend. I guess technically it is not a "show" but rather a hafla - a party - which in this case was twisted into a spoofla with comedic pieces being displayed. The haflas here have long since ceased being actual parties which were more about dancing for each other and have morphed into true performances. I am not saying that is a bad thing, just an acknowledgment of the straying from the term. In order for any performance art to flourish in a society that is drifting as conservative as ours is requires that money must flow. It doesn't have to be a lot of money, but no artist is making enough in their day job to fund a performance, and no grant money or patron system exists to pay for renting a space. As I said earlier, it all becomes a labor of love: Performers do what they do for free because they love it. They buy their own gear and costumes because they love it. They put up money to rent a space because they love to perform (and they cross their fingers). The audience comes and donates some money because they love what the performers are trying to do. In the "business" world things are somewhat easier. As long as their is a tangible good being consumed, even if it is junk, there is cash to be had. Not so for intangible trades like a performance. We as a society do not value the effort behind intangible experiences except in a few specific cases: Football, baseball, and basketball.

Perhaps dancers should have trading cards. Get little kids hooked on the glamour early. Each card would be coated in glitter or sequins (guaranteed to be found for years later!). Can't you just see it?

Ayperi Trading Card

It is a nice fantasy, and just not likely to become reality any time soon. We value activities in which one "wins" and it is as simple as that. "Us and Them" could be as valuable a learning style as "Us versus Them" (and we would have fewer wars).

Anyway, this is a post about belly dancers and a fun show. It just never ceases to amaze me where my mind goes when I start to write one of these posts. When I sat down to do this I was thinking that I would simply pop up a few more photos and dash off a bit of text. Voila! Then I remembered that to cross-post to Facebook, their "linter" tool fails to find the correct post if there is insufficient text before any photos. I pondered simply cutting and pasting the whole "Ipso lorem..." filler text, but then let stream of consciousness have its way with me. [Shut up Nataraj, just post some pretty pics!]


Amazing makeup! This dancer did a super fun piece about the Evil Queen talking to her mirror and discovering the existence of one Snow White. As we were talking about it afterwards, our friend commented that "perhaps she has always owned the role of the Evil Queen, since childhood." We laughed and pondered the possibility and parental realization that their daughter did not identify with Snow White, but was drawn instead to the Evil Queen. We imagined that it started with the gothtuming (Goth+Costuming). She nailed this dance for sure!


There is also a tradition of male belly dance that most people are not aware of. Misha has been dancing for years and is quite good. I have not seen any of his solo work recently and in this group piece there was not a lot of room to shine, though he and sometimes dance partner Ayperi did stand out. It is clear that each of them has spent time learning how to engage the audience and emote from stage.

As I close this post, ponder that our society promotes and subsidizes many things (using tax dollars to repair and plow streets, for cars) that lead to other costs (need for parking structures and parking fees) while ignoring or disenfranchising other things (mass transit). So too do we promote professional sports (Us versus Them) by publicly funding stadiums while we overlook and even ridicule non-competitive arts programs (Us and Them). What would the world be like if we chose differently?

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

MBDA Spoofla!

Last night the Madison Belly Dance Alliance held a hafla - a belly dance party - but with a twist: The dances were spoofs, send ups of "real" dances. With the proximity to Hallowe'en, a certain element of zombie was to be expected. And zombies there were! A veritable hoard of undead dancers shimmying and losing pieces. Not every dance featured zombies. There was a pleasing variety of choices including Cleopatra (with a zombied Marc Antony), the evil queen from Snow White, and an interpretive dance from Ursula K. LeGuin's "Earthsea". I love Madison!

I had a fixed focal length lens on my camera (Nikon's sweet little 50 mm) and was confined to a single location. It is a low budget show on a low stage in a UU church with no specific lighting. To keep my shutter speed up, even at f/2.8 or 2.5, I had to use ISO 1000 or even 1250 which starts to introduce a bunch of noise. Caveats aside, I did manage to get some fun photos.


Knowing I would have noise, especially when I cropped in close, I gave up on trying to eliminate it and chose to embrace it. As is my habit with performance photos, I often alter the color palate to suit what pleases me, from over-saturated to B&W and all points in between.


I do not worry overly much about the details of technical precision when I shoot for fun. What I worry about is whether or not the photo is FUN or not. Did it capture some essence of the character? When I look at this next photograph, the first thing I think is, "I want to be whoever she is looking at!" That's when I know I captured a good image.


All in all a fun night with fun people. Madison really does have an amazing pool of talented people who want to share what they do, and often that sharing is inexpensive and a labor of love. The love shows, and that makes for a grand time. I have a couple more from the night that I want to share, but that will wait for a later post.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Finally! A Fall Color Walk

The recent plunge of temperatures here (to the upper 20's, F) prompted my beloved and I to take a fall color walk before it was too late. A couple of days ago I penned this haiku: Cold snap yesterday, Today the leaves are falling. The robins take wing. It was a clarion call to Get Out There and see the world before it becomes draped first in gray and then in white for the next five months. So after dropping off at the airport an aerial dance instructor who had been flown in to teach Cycropia (the aerial dance troupe of which I am part), we ventured to the University of Wisconsin's research forest area, the Arboretum.


While it is certainly true that we missed peak color, and many trees were already bare of leaves, there was much to relish. We took a side trail to "Teal Pond", a spot we had never visited. The above photo is from there. Just a moment earlier, before we ventured to Teal Pond, we also noted this shelter (for skiers?) which we had never encountered before. Since it is clearly not a new structure, it was just on a path we had never taken.


Leaves did not provide the only color. Not only did I see a small array of late blooming wildflowers, I saw for the first time autumn-blooming crocus. I just might need to find and plant some of those bulbs in my yard! My above haiku indicates the robins are taking wing they really are not, yet. What they are doing is eating berries. They were busy in and under all the fruit trees. This berry is one I have never seen before, and the range of colors in the bush were pretty amazing.


I am thrilled that I got my autumn walk in today. Who knows? I might even get in a fall motorcycle ride and find another sweet spot. Stay tuned... In the meantime, here are the rest of today's photos, and others from past trips to the arboretum. The first twenty are from today.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Tale of the S

There is a metal worker in town who has forged his way into our aerial dance community. Will Turnbull of 11th Hour Heroics / Paradigm Forge built a lyra (basically a steel hoop for aerial dance) for one of the students of Cycropia Aerial Dance, the troupe of which I am part. Once a bunch of us saw it, we were intrigued. He made a pitch to build more, and half a dozen people took him up on it. Not wanting to be with the "in" crowd, I talked with Will instead about building me an "S" as a replacement for an earlier attempt that was a structural failure.


He came and took a look at the existing one, and we continued the conversation via email (and ultimately Pay Pal because I was away when he needed a deposit) and we settled on size and amount of arc. You can see that this is not going to be small! Each curve of the S will be 48 inches in diameter, and the pipe will comprise 220 degrees of arc (a full circle being 360) or just under 2/3 of a full circle. Welded together in the middle, the two arcs will stand 96 inches tall, eight feet. That is about the same as the earlier version, though that one had top and bottom curves of differing size.


The shot above shows the substance of the pipe. I think the steel pipe is 1-3/4 inch OD, and it proved to be much harder to bend than anticipated. When I visited the studio Will told me that the first arc had taken forty passes through his bending machine, which is manually cranked. Worse, the shearing bolts he uses to make sure a cheap piece fails before he breaks the machine have been breaking with a frustrating frequency, and has delayed the process. I am not concerned about the timing. He will finish it soon enough.


Will is a character, and a pleasure to work with. While this particular piece is pretty industrial, he is a fine sculptural artist. While you are waiting to see images of the completed S, and better yet, see it with dancers on it in the air, check out his page (linked above).

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Who Needs Flying Dreams?

I know that I said I seldom use Photoshop, and my very next post is quite manipulated! Life is once again in a state of flux. My job ends tomorrow, and I do not yet have another lined up. On Friday I segue right in to a five day dance retreat which will provide a much needed escape from my brain and a deep decent into my body and intuitive/fluid/unscripted self. After the last eight or nine months, it will be delicious. This upheaval has made me think about life in new ways.

Flying dreams?  Nah, flying life!

As I was flying to Boston last week to re-create the work lab that I had just disassembled here in Madison (dismantling my own job), I bumped into a former coworker. He's the sort whose primary talent is asking insightful questions. We got to talking about my job search and I mentioned that I was looking for direct hire, or contract to hire, rather than an endless string of hired-gun contract work. After a bit of verbal dicing, he said, "What makes you believe that a so-called permanent job will be any more secure than contract work?" And there it is: My old-school view about work is outdated, and invalid. No employer is going to show me any loyalty. I am a consumable resource. The old ways are gone.

And so I re-evaluate my goals and desires, stretch out my arms and L E A P into flight, aiming for the stars. The next big adventure starts now.

Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hoop Dancer

While I do not do a lot of work in black and white, every once in a while a photograph seems to beg for a more timeless look. This shot of a hoop dancer, again from the Willy Street Fair, was one such. The day was bright and it was nearly noon, so everything was pretty harsh and generally washed out with blown highlights. So I opted to accentuate that and worked to take it to sort of an infra-red feel.

Hoopin at Willy St 2012 BW

Other than the conversion from color to black and white, I used Photoshop - a tool I use sparingly - to to add some more blur to the background to make her pop a little more and to reduce some bruises. She is taking aerial dance classes with the troupe I am part of, and she has been working with me on poles (ours are steel, and mounted from the ceiling rather than the floor) which are pretty unforgiving and we all sport a collection of alarming bruises on our legs and thighs, and the inside of the upper arms. In context, they are a badge of honor. In a photo like this, they are a distraction.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

More Willy Street Fair

Last weekend was the insanely fun Willy Street Fair. It is the end cap of four music festivals on the East Side of Madison (what's wrong with the West Side? They've never *heard* of these festivals, much less organized one of their own. Weird.) and it is an open door for geeks and freaks of all sorts, including and especially kids. The parade is a thing of beauty because despite its total lack of organization (only the start time and route are controlled) the costumes and creativity on display are awesome. I posted some pics of the fair in general earlier. Today will be some scenes from the fair itself.


The parade is lead by this car. Not typically with a lovely woman draped across the hood. The car has been modified to blow bubbles. A lot of bubbles. See those two tubas? They percolate bubbles. The owner and general-good-guy Jim Wildeman (aka The Bubble Guy) and the car creep ahead of the parade and blows bubbles. This photo was taken later in the day when slinky Luv asked for permission to drape herself across the car for some pics. Jim laughed and obliged. While fun in color, I like the result in black and white.


Music is a huge part of the fair. There are at least five stages set up along the four block route for a twenty or so acts to perform. I did not save a program, and I am uncertain of which band this horn player is from, but as is generally the case the music was fun and free (the fair is largely funded by grants and proceeds from the beer sales (this IS Wisconsin, after all).


While many simply take in the sights and sounds, those who actively participate: Costumed, performing, or dancing in its infinite variety are my tribe, the people with whom I identify. There is a burgeoning hoop-dancing scene in Madison. Trust me when I say hoop dancing - this is no mere hula-hooping that kids are doing. This is dance plain and simple, and you can clearly see the hours and hours invested in it. I love it and watch it with glee.


This demonstration of capoeira was fun to watch. A Brazilian martial art, capoeira is disguised as dance because the slaves who developed it were not allowed to train as, you know, fighters. These players - they never refer to it as fighting or sparring, but rather as "play" - were doing a nice slow demonstration. I have seen two experienced players going at it and at full speed it is pretty jaw dropping to watch.

Thus concludes my travelog of the Willy Street Fair. I may have the odd additional pic to pop up simply because I have so many, but life moves on and I can never look too far into the past. I'm more of a future guy!

Thanks for dropping by.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

And What To Me Wondering Eyes Should Appear?

Costumed beauties on stilts entertain the crowd at the World Music Festival in Madison, WI. The festival is a celebration of music from around the world, provided free to the public through grants and beer sales (it *is* Wisconsin, after all) to promote broader understanding of other cultures. These three are part of Cycropia Aerial Dance, a Madison-based collectively run dance troupe.


The music dovetails into the Willy Street Fair and lasts all weekend. Good times, and a closing bookend to summer.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Gratuitous Cat Photo

Does there really need to be a reason to post a photo of a glamor puss like Nala? I think not.


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Lemons --> Lemonade

My last post was melancholy, the result of dismantling my job and preparing to ship it elsewhere. I am not, by nature, one who dwells on the negative side of events. There is always a silver lining, a soft landing, disaster averted. Yes I am losing my job, and no I don't have a new one lined up yet, but I am working on it, and I interview well, so it's just a matter of time. Meanwhile, there is much "trash" becoming available as equipment and furniture is determined to have no material value: Not worth shipping, and no obvious salvage value. Cue the junk-picking opportunities!

I passed up on the dozens of dead-or-dying servers that hit the e-waste bins. I didn't need one of the fifty or so wifi repeaters. But cubicle panels? Heck yeah! We were eager to replace the pipe-and-drape (and slightly transparent) dressing room we had created during the first days the photo studio was open. It was inexpensive, and worked to a point, but when the vanity lights were on, it was not the model of discretion for the model!


I was able to salvage enough 6-foot panels to make a pretty decent 8x8 replacement for the pipe-and-drape setup. Much nicer!


Part of the secret to happiness is finding ways to take the lemons life hands us and turn them into lemonade. This surely doesn't replace a job, but it is a nice little something to take the sting out of it.

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Work, Work, Not

It has been FOREVER since I posted, for which I most humbly apologize. Life has been ... interesting ... in that way that does not always equate to fun and exciting. In addition to rehearsing four aerial dance pieces (2+ hours per week, each) I have been employed at a day job since January that proved to be difficult and demanding. I have been doing quality assurance for a local tech company. It is a job for which I am plenty smart, though not especially trained. To complicate matters, this software is complex, and a bit Frankenstein's monster in construction due to mergers and acquisitions. And there is no documentation. And there was only one other QA guy and he was buried and stressed, and did not particularly care to share information. And the software needed to be functional with perhaps twenty source and archive servers. Here is what my portion of the server lab looked like:

DS3_6081 DS3_6080 DS3_6081

Until this last week. You see, in early July we were almost all fired. The company decided to close this MAdison office and only a handful of the forty-five employees were given an option to relocate or work from home. Alas, I was not one of them. The past weeks have been spent decommissioning the building and making plans to move or discard equipment. Over the last week I had the non-pleasure of dismantling and shipping my job and all its related equipment to another state.


You might understand how disheartening that is. Going to work every day and watching - and participating in - tearing apart your workplace is quite challenging. To make matters worse, I will get the pleasure of traveling to set up the lab in its new location and train my replacement. Joy. Rapture. Not.

In the meantime I am actively seeking employment and revitalizing my photo studio efforts. As the woman says, I will survive.

Who knows, I might even have time for more blogging!

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Let There Be Leko Light!

I finally got a chance to try out the Leko spotlight that we have had in the studio for nearly a year. Actually we have two, but since I still have not built stands for them, they have just been kicking around. This time I REALLY wanted to use it to get that accurate spotlight look, so I bolted the darned thing to our ladder and made do.

Wendy Whiplash!  Photo by Nataraj Hauser of eyeDance Photography (DS3_9378)

Fun! The black background begs for some kind of hair light to make her stand out a bit more, but as I said, I was going for the spotlit starlet look, and that is what I got. Our studio is a bit small for spotlights, but these Leko's have adjustable barn doors built in so I can iris down the light as needed, plus they are adjustable for width of the beam itself. I will definitely make use of them again. I might not even clean the lenses so I keep the light a bit gritty.

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wrong In All The Right Ways

Every once in a while, things go wrong in all the right ways. Yesterday I had a client in the studio to do some pin-up / burlesque promotional shots. It was going to be fun. She is smart, sassy, and photogenic. The studio is a coöperative with three shooters sharing space, rent, and equipment, It let all three of us enter into studio shooting without brutal overhead start up costs. We all had some equipment, and once pooled together it becomes a fine array of tools. While the arrangement works 99% of the time, there are always those moments where things do not go right.

When I arrived at the studio to set up my environment, there was a light missing. No real worries, there were still enough for what I wanted to do, but it was one of the known lights. I subbed in one of the new shooter's lights and set it up how I thought I wanted it. When the client - Madison's own Wendy Whiplash - arrived I had her strike a pose while I verified the lights. It was not right. But it worked out any way, just not at all what was intended. Sometimes a good, fun shot can come out of small mishaps.

Wendy Whiplash!  Photo by Nataraj Hauser of eyeDance Photography.(DS3_9189_2)

This was the first photo of the day, and I thought it was going to be a tosser. Once I tweaked the levels a bit, and played with saturation, I decided I liked it quite a lot. It might not be what the client is looking for, but it is one I am happy to share as a happy accident.

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

One Barrel

Life continues to be crazy busy. Much of it is good, but it still doesn't leave much spare time. The Madison office of my employer is closing, so I am now job hunting again. They gave us several months warning, so there is no emergency, but it still adds a complexity I did not need right now. One small perk of the whole situation is that the boss decided that everyone should get the heck out of the office early on Friday, so I did.

It turns out that a brand new "nano brewery" (smaller than a micro brewery) was opening as a brewpub, in my neighborhood, and at 4 PM. How convenient! I showed up about five minutes to four and found myself the eighth person in a line that grew almost instantly to about seventy-five. When the doors opened we all filed in nicely and grabbed a spot. Within a few minutes of he doors opening, the place was jammed. This was a truly Wisconsin moment.


The place is called One Barrel, because as a nano brewery they are brewing only one barrel at a time. I think they need to brew their butts off to keep up! They are supplementing their beers with other local brewery's offerings. I only stayed for one - their summer kölsch style - and then I turned my stool over to another thirsty patron and went to meet friends elsewhere, and then on to a rehearsal.


I am really glad that circumstances played out in a way that let me experience the giddy grand opening of One Barrel. It seems like they have a good thing going and I wish them great success.


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