Tag Archives: photography

Monday Gratitude: Meaningful Work

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I got 2 phones.

I wanted pictures of a fluffy elephant toy and I didn’t want to pay for it, so I went to Toys R Us and photographed a fluffy elephant there. The Canon Rebel was in my bag but just as I found the store it occurred to me that it would be equally effective, for my purpose, and much less conspicuous to use a camera phone instead of a massive DSLR.

The black phone on the left is one of the crappiest phones you can buy. The keyboard sucks, the GPS sucks, the voice recognition sucks, and also the rear-facing camera is broken, so it only takes selfies. The white phone on the right is superior in every way, but it has a cracked screen and that bothers me more than all the  other things, I guess. But I carry it sometimes for various purposes. No one noticed me taking 30 photos of 1 plushie from 30 different angles, and now I can do some more work on my big project.

After a crash photography shoot and some bare bones work in the library, I went to Ms. Kitty’s house, and she told me about “2 Phones” for Kevin Gates. In this masterpiece of self-aware modern music, the upcoming entrepreneur must carry 2 phones, one with which to communicate with his lover, and the other to conduct his business. I told her that I used one for Pokemon and the other to play words with friends. And then later, while I watching the video, Miss Kitty came in and told me about the Pokemon Go remix. Which makes sense.

Anyway, whenever I think of all the things I haven’t got…it’s important to remember how much I have. I’ve got 2 phones. But what I’m most grateful for is the work I did with that phone. It really is a true privilege to get paid to create things.

Winter Wonderland

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These colors exist in nature.

This is my first experiment with filters; I didn’t actually do the work in Photoshop, but in the Photos app that comes with this Mac OS. There’s something very magical to me about this image, although I think I could improve it by giving the sky a blue cast. In reality, it was a gray, cloudy day when I took the original photo, and no amount of tinkering changed that. Maybe I should have cropped it?

The Chicago Botanic Garden has long been one of my top places in the world. I grew up just a few miles down the road and my parents always had a membership, so I spent a lot of time there as a child. This is the Japanese Garden, Sansho-En. I consider it unique among gardens in that it is equally beautiful and interesting regardless of the season. Even in the dead of winter, even under many inches of snow, it still retains a quality of life that always inspired me, even in the deepest throes of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

One of the main reasons I moved to Arizona was that autumn and winter in the midwest were draining my life force, physically and emotionally. The changing of the leaves, the fading of the green, filled me with great sadness. But at Sansho-En, these things did not happen. It is always colorful. It never looks dead.

Prepare to Enter…the Scary Door

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Really, it’s more magical than scary. But it’s mostly a door. 

This should have been a post about how my novel was now available in paperback, but apparently it won’t be available in paperback until tomorrow, and I have no links. But I do have a picture of this magical door. The Man took me to see an old barn for my birthday, and while it doesn’t sound very enchanting when you put it that way, it was quite the charming barn, particularly in the right light. Plus we were in northeastern Kansas, so the options for excitement were limited to begin with.

This barn has a name: the John Dickenson Barn. Apparently, it has achieved a measure of fame among old-barn-enthusiasts. It was built between 1852 and 1861; that is to say, it took 9 years to build. It’s in fairly good repair–the owners have put a lot of work into it since the 1980s–and has hosted many weddings in the last 12 years. This is my favorite shot, but there was one more that was almost as good, which shows a wide section of the loft, where various items–animal skulls, wagon wheels, tacks, and tools–are displayed.

As we drove, south to north, across the country, The Man and I noted a large number of crumbling and abandoned buildings, and discussed a photodocumentary project where we just stopped at every single one we saw.

Doing my best here to keep my promises to myself, re: art. But it’s tough. Generally speaking, I have been a pretty angry person my entire life, which is something I spend a lot of time working on. I’m not really angry now, though. I’m mostly terrified and despondent. Any words of encouragement are welcome. I actually had an idea for a comic–a funny one–tonight, which is the first time that’s happened in weeks. Maybe I’ll even remember it for later.

Sunset over Seed Sorghum

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I risked frostbite to bring you this image. 

We saw this huge pile of seed sorghum–milo, if you like to be specific–by the side of the road in Kansas, just in the last hour of sunlight, glowing like (The Man and I agreed) the sand dunes at Death Valley and the hills of the Painted Desert combined. I took about 100 pictures, most of which were pretty breathtaking, and settled on this one with the grain auger visible (top right) to represent the set. The different strata are caused by the different weights of the parts of the grain, the chaff and such. Every section shifted into its own spectacular pattern, so choosing a favorite wasn’t easy.

There was also a lovely field just to the south, all full of rolled hay bales. It was cold as a narwhal’s nose but at least it hadn’t snowed in that part of the world, as it had in Denver the day before, rendering all my pictures washed out and gray skied. It’s a long story, why I didn’t update Friday, but this is Friday’s update.

 

The Very Large Array

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Is there anybody out there? Any pulsars? Can I get a show of hands? So to speak.

Today we returned to a place I’d been through once before but hadn’t had a chance to stop and really get a decent look at: The Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array. This telescope comprises 27 massive (82 feet across) radio dishes that can be moved around the desert on train tracks into different configurations in order to gather an accurate picture of what space sounds like. A computer capable of 16 QUADRILLION operations per second sews all the data together to create images of various sectors of the universe.

This dish was fairly close to the road; the dishes are so big you can see them probably 30 minutes before you reach them. For scale, those concrete blocks on which the entire apparatus rests are about as tall as I am.  The dishes are 94 feet high. For $6 ($5 with the military or AA discount) you can take a guided walking tour of the facility and get even closer to a dish along with some other interesting astronomy related objects.

We also saw a herd of antelope grazing near the telescopes, which was a treat for me, as I’ve never seen them in the wild. Should have stopped to take pictures, since they were right by the road. On our way out they were too far away for a good shot.

Nope Nope Nope Nope

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I mean, right in the face. You know what I mean?

We’re having this little altercation with the city concerning the state of our yard even though we’re working on those stupid weeds. All. The. Time. So anyway I decided to tackle some amaranth and some kind of little tree growing in a very narrow space between the house and the neighbor’s wall, maybe 3 feet wide. And this lady is just hanging out with her massive abdomen right in my face, 4 feet off the ground in the middle of her 3 foot wide web.

After recovering my composure and documenting the event with my macro lens (and then gently relocating the dear thing in her massive home with the farthest end of my loppers and then hacking away at the weeds for 15 minutes) I determined that I had likely encountered a female banded garden spider. With a surprisingly large abdomen and distinctive stripes, it’s seems like an easy identification. They’re also prominent in the autumn. According to the internet, they probably won’t bite you unless you really tick them off, and that their bite is only mildly annoying if they do.

Higher res image hosted at imgur. 

What is this, a doorway for ants?

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Yes, that is exactly what it is: a doorway for ants.

There were a couple interesting shots on my last roll, including a couple decent but not mind blowing bee pictures, some vast sweeping vistas, majestic trees, weirdly blue skies beside ominous silver clouds, lines of distant storms on the horizon, things of that nature. But this seems to be the most striking image. It’s a yucca flower, into which the ants have cut their own ant-size door for nefarious ant purposes. Took a couple good shots of ants on other blossoms slipping in and out between the edges of the petals, but this bud must have been especially tasty, because the ants just couldn’t bother with all that mucking about between layers. They just went straight for the core, like a mad scientist with a mole machine. Ants are pretty interesting.

I messed around with the contrast and such in Photoshop just to really bring out as many details as possible. I’ve taken a lot of pictures of yucca flowers, which grow in great, beautiful clusters, but they don’t seem to really stand out in pictures. I guess that’s true of most white flowers. Maybe if you put them against a black background.

Also found a couple recently deceased figeater beetles. These are large bugs with splendid iridescent green shells. I wanted to say “carapaces,” but Google told me that carapaces aren’t associated with beetles, and only refer to the top part of the shell, whereas the figeaters are more resplendent on their undersides, for some reason. Will try to figure out how best to capture their visual essence.

Had two positive, encouraging, useful interactions with great writers today. That’s always nice. They both have suggestions for things I must do to be more successful, on top of the list of things the Rabbit has already told me I have to do to be more successful. The Fox cancelled our Tuesday writing meetup due to an in-law situation which required his emotional support, but Misses Kitty came over instead and persuaded me to make her brownies. I tried to invent a new sugar-free, gluten-free brownie recipe and instead invented a new sugar-free, gluten free chocolate cake recipe. It’s pretty good. You’d never guess it was sugar-free or gluten free.

It’s not even midnight. I promised to create a logo for someone, which will benefit me in the long run, so even if it’s not necessary an integral part of the list of thing I must do to be more successful, it’s still a thing I should day. And I guess every time you succeed at something, you are more successful.

ETA: Redditor blacksheep998 seems to think that this door is too big for ants and that it is actually a bumblebee door.