Thursday, July 31, 2008

What's Your Purpose?

Joe Reifer has written some interesting stuff lately on his blog. He posed the question asking what our purpose is in our photography.

I've spent some time chewing on this and thinking about my photography. I left him a comment with my succinct purpose statement, one that I've just created. His requirements were to sum things up in two sentences at most.

I photograph because I want to do so on a very deep and personal level. I have an overwhelming desire to visually communicate and share my meaningful and emotional experiences in nature with other people.

What do you think? I like it. Perhaps tomorrow I won't feel the same way, but for now it really works for me.

So, if you're photographing (or doing some similar artistic or creative work), what's your purpose? Have you defined it yet?

BTW, Craig Tanner has made a new podcast. Check out Episode 24 - Finding the Heart of Your Work.

Craig's advice is that your purpose is always a "work in progress". He states that, "(your) purpose should resonate with a deeper part of yourself - you will get emotional and your work will touch powerful feelings and beliefs." He also describes how we can grow as artists by expanding our purpose to include new things. For example, we can include a community of people in our purpose, e.g. we can photograph with the purpose of providing a service.

This is fantastic advice, and one that I had already used inadvertently when I created my Visions of Big Bend photo project. One of the main drivers for the creation of that project is the existence of a wonderful online community of fans of Big Bend - Big Bend Chat. My expanded purpose (particularly relating to that project) is to "service" that community with my photos.

Stating a meaningful purpose is important. It gives your work some significance and helps keep your drive going. So, what's your purpose? :-)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Spectacular Hill Country Sunset

I experienced an amazing suset during my trip to the High Lonesome Ranch two months ago. The skies had been mostly overcast that day and also the day before. About 15 minutes before sunset, I noticed a clearing in the clouds just above the western horizon. The low and heavy cloud "blanket" looked fairly static, so I guesstimated that the setting sun would likely drop down into the clearing and light the place up.

Sure enough, it did.

I ran down to a normally dry creekbed that was flooded with recent rains to experience this event. Within moments, everthing was glowing in golden sunset light. It was amazing. Then, fat raindrops starting falling as if on cue. It had not rained the whole day, but just after the sunlight appeared, it happened.

sunset rainbow
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A very strong rainbow appeared due east. It was spectacular. It was one of those moments that take your breath away.

It's not often that I get to experience scenes like this. I was fortunate to catch a nice sunset and an order of magnitude more fortunate to see a rainbow at the same time.

The low cloud blanket lit up across the sky, from the west to the east, and the sunset colors were nicely reflected by the clouds behind the rainbow.

The rainbow stayed strong for as long as the sunlight was directly hitting the eastern clouds. Shortly after the sun dipped below the horizon, the rainbow faded. I turned to face west and was greeted by another nice light show.

light show
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The rest of my photos from this trip can be found HERE.

Wide Macro

Two months ago, I spent a weekend at the High Lonesome Ranch (a private ranch where I hunt) in the Texas Hill Country. The weather was nice, but it was mostly overcast. The ranch had received a lot of rain and the flowers were abundant.

Loads of flowers and gray skies are a good combination for macro photography. So, I tried something new this time: macro with a wide-angle lens. The shots you see here were taken with a 17-40mm Canon lens and a 12mm extension tube.

bug sex
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The above shot was at 34mm and with a Canon 40D. This shot, and all the others I took, were tricky becuase of the wind. I had to wait for a lull in the breeze so that the flower would stop wagging around. Of course it didn't help that these bugs were on the move.

flower medley
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This is another shot with the 40D but at 29mm. During the breeze "lulls", I would fire off as many shots as I could. I was using mirror lock-up with a 2-second timer, so there was about 3 or 4 seconds between shots.

bug on purple flower
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The above shot was at 40mm but with my Canon 5D.

I'm pretty happy with the results. I'm used to using my 70-200mm and extension tubes for macro work, so using the wide angle was a little different. In general, much more of the scene was visible (i.e. wider) so composing the shots was more like composing landscapes. And it didn't take much "tube-age", only 12mm, to focus closely. The downside is that the lens was generally very close to the subject, sometimes as close as an inch.

The rest of my photos from this trip can be found HERE.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Floor, New Beer (Beer Review 7)

Last weekend we installed laminate flooring in Henry's new "big-boy" bedroom. We wanted to help keep his allergies down and also make the floor more "playable". Try rolling your toy cars on carpet! :-)

carpet goes bye-bye

I'll get to the beer in just a sec, but I just had to show you this. Yep, that's the pile of dirt and crap that was living under the carpet in this relatively small and little-used bedroom of ours. Dirt, dust, dust mites, skin flakes, cat hair, pet dander, toe cheese... yep, it's all in there. Yuck.

big pile of dirt

The place where we bought the laminate flooring was located close to downtown Houston. So on our way there, we made the pilgrimage to the Specs warehouse on Smith Street. Let's just say that when my stomach and taste buds die and go to heaven, it will be the Specs warehouse :-)

I got two beers that I've never tried. Tanya bought them for me as sort of payment for installing the floor. (She's 6-months pregnant, so she's very limited in the work she can do; she also got some funny looks at Specs, but I won't go into that.) I also picked up some very nice coffee beans, dark chocolate, and the best pastrami sandwich I've ever had.

beer & LEGO break

Allagash triple reserve Belgian style ale (Portland, Maine). Tanya picked this out for me. Perhaps my deer-in-headlights look suggested I needed help as I stared at the massive beer selection in Specs. It is massive. Did I mention their selection is quite large? :-)

The Allagash was excellent! It had a classic heavy liquid-bread type taste, characterisitc of quality triples. It was fresh tasting too. I think it was just as good as the Maredsous 10 or the St. Bernardus triple. I wouldn't hesitate getting it again.

laying boards

The work spanned most of my long 3-day weekend. Laying this stuff was fairly easy. I didn't have any serious problems, except for once mistaking my finger for the hammer-block thingy and smashing it pretty good with a sound blow. You know it's bad when you don't feel anything outright except numbness. Thankfully Henry wasn't with me, or he would have learned a few new words.

beer break 2

St. Feuillien triple Belgian ale (from Belgium!). This was my pick. It was damn good. It carries all the full flavor of a triple but it has a subtlety... an extra smoothness. When I read the back of the label, I found the term "mellow" used to describe it. That's exactly it - mellow. It's slightly different from what I'm used to with these heavy Belgian ales (doubles, triples, etc.), but it's very, very good. And it's a bit sweeter than the others too. The mellowness and little extra sweetness make it all too easy to drink :-)

I'd say that my two new beers this past weekend were both top-notch. I'd place them up there on that imaginary top shelf of best beers.

done deal

If you look closely at the above photo, you'll notice something on the window sill :-) That was the last of my Sunshine wheat beer (New Belgium Brewing Co.). I had a couple left over from the 4th of July weekend. It's still damn good. Best wheat beer EVER!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Harness the Wind

I don't usually push stuff like this on to people, but check this out. Will it make a difference? I think so.

My job depends on oil and gas, but I still cringe at what using oil and gas is doing to our planet. We've got to do something. Now.

It's expensive. It takes time. But we (and that's the whole, damn planet) can harness these alternate energies to produce electricity. There's no shortage of wind, sunlight, tides, waves, and ocean currents. There's also heat deep within the Earth. There are so many natural sources just waiting for us to use them on a mass scale and reduce (and eventually eliminate) our need for oil and gas.

Remember, this is the only habitable planet we have. Let's stop trashing it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Beer Review 6

Happy Fourth of July! Okay, I'm three days late. But the weekend was long and very tasty.

our sugar fix

We had BBQ (slow oven-cooked brisket, smoked venison sausage, venison summer sausage) complete with corn*, potato salad, and cake. My wife will kill me for posting a photo of her cake, but despite its slight unkempt appearance, it was very good. I thought it looked quite nice, more like a work of art than a machine-produced Walmart special.

* I'd much rather eat it than put it in my gas tank, if you know what I mean :-)


Sunshine Wheat beer (New Belgium Brewing Co.) BEST. WHEAT. BEER. EVER.

I started my long holiday (4th of July) weekend by picking up a 6-pack of this on my way home from work Thursday. It's the best damn wheat beer I've had yet. What more can I say? Buy some. You won't be disappointed. It tastes fresh and the flavors are bright.

This may sound weird, but it's like taking in a mouthfull of ripe, fresh fruit. No, the beer does not taste fruity nor is it sweet like fruit. But the taste gives me the sensation of freshness and crisp, bright tastes that such fruit would.

Fullers 1845

Fuller's 1845 Ale (imported from the UK) I have my father-in-law to thank for this beer. He left it at my house on Sunday, so knowing that he lives 350 miles away and won't be back soon, I drank it :-) Why let it skunkify, right?

This is a good British ale. I enjoyed it. Memories of Bass ale floated back to me while drinking it. It's smooth and has hints of typical Belgian ales, but has a hoppy aftertaste. It's slightly sweet and started tasting pretty good as it warmed up a little (starting at a typical refridgerator temp.).

Maredsous & Duvel

Maredsous 8 Dubbel (Belgian Abbey Ale) Ah, an old favorite. I have my brother-in-law to thank for this one. We hit Spec's again on Saturday (we ran out of beer :-) and had to buy some more). I've reviewed this already, but I'll say it again. It's the best of its kind - the "liquid bread" kinda heavy Belgian abby ale. It's a double so, it's not quite as heavy and sweet as a triple (e.g. the Maredsous 10).

Duvel (Belgian Golden Ale) Thought I'd give this one a try again. I first had Duvel several years ago and didn't like it. I guess my tastes have changed, or I've learned how to drink beer correctly. It's a great beer, it really is. It's into the "liquid bread" category, but it's much lighter than the heavy doubles and triples. It's lighter but at the same time has a very full and wonderful taste.

The bottle states to "pour unhurriedly". I think that's wrong, as I had to start pouring the instant the cap came off. I guess the carbonation level was a bit high, and when exposed to the hot and soggy Houston air, this beer jumped right out the bottle and onto my counter :-) After the initial excitement, I did have to pour rather slowly to keep the head to a decent thickness. The first glass I poured ended up being about 80% foamy head :-)

(So, what do I mean about drinking beer correctly? It's a no-brainer that things taste better when you're hungry. Same goes for beer. I find that the best time to drink beer (especially strong-tasting beer like this) is late afternoon several hours after lunch. Also, don't "color" your mouth with anything sweet or sour beforehand. If you have to eat a snack (and that's me), go for something starchy and a little salty. Salted, roasted nuts is a good one. Cheese works pretty good too. If you want to really enjoy beer after dinner, don't eat too much. Instead of "saving room for dessert", "save room for BEER" :-) Also, just a few of these beers per day is enough. After you drink 3 or 4 of them, you're done. They are strong tasting and potent, and your taste gets a little dulled after a while.)

Young's Choc. Stout

Young's Luxury Double Chocolate Stout (ale with natural chocolate flavor added) Thanks to Randell for this one. I'm not a fan of flavored beer(1). I'm not terribly partial to stouts either. But this beer was pretty good. Maybe it's because I really like chocolate :-)

This stuff is smooooth. The chocolate flavor comes across strong but well done. It tastes full and balanced. Up front, it's chocolatey and not too sweet. On the back end, it's slightly hoppy and a little bit sweet. The flavoring is "integrated" well just like the cherry in Samual Adams' cherry-wheat (another good beer that I've reviewed before).

(1) I know, flavored beer is a harsh term usually reserved for gimmicky crap beer that's marketed to women(2) and people who don't like beer. It brings up thoughts of raspberry or other fruit flavored syrup thrown into a mix of filtered water and beer-like flavor.

(2) Not saying that women don't like beer, but marketed to women is a term frequently used to describe the lighter, kinder, foo-foo sort of food/merchandise. Now my wife really is going to hit me when I get home for being sexist(3).

(3) I'm not sexist, really. Maybe I'll just stop talking.... now.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Awesome Skies

Our weather pattern lately has produced some amazing skies. We've had isolated thunderstorms almost everyday, usually in the late afternoon.

Two weeks ago, I observed an amazing thunderhead to the southeast of our neighborhood as I took a late evening hour-long walk. The western sky was mostly clear, so the massive thunderhead cloud was brilliantly illuminated. The giant formation seemed to boil with activity and even showed off a patch of impressive mammatus clouds (what we often call hail clouds, or specifically, hail-producing clouds; not sure if that's true, but hail often forms in conditions like this). As the sun set, the entire cloud structure glowed yellow, orange, and then pink.

Sorry, no photos of it :-( I didn't have my camera with me. By the time I got home, the whole light show was done. Plus the view from my backyard is very limited with all the tall pine trees around us.

The next night, an almost equally impressive thunderstorm formed in almost the same location at the same time :-) Weird.. but this has been a regular pattern lately. I did manage to take some photos, but a lot of low-level gray clouds moved in and obscured my view of the thunderhead.

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(yes, that's a plane)

The sunrises and sunsets have been pretty impressive too. This morning was the best one I've seen in weeks. I managed to get a few shots with my little pocket camera (Fuji F30) on my way to work.

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I wished that I could have been in a more scenic location to get these photos. There are several bayous around and I could have made use of water as a foreground. Oh well... Gotta earn a living. No one's paying me to take these photos.

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