Saturday, December 21, 2013

Workshop Update for 2014

Due to several factors in my personal and work life, I'm moving the 2014 Big Bend workshop to October. The revised details are:

Dates: Oct. 21 - 25, 2014
Tuition: $550
Students: 10
Location: based in the Big Bend area of remote west Texas

I will also alter the structure of the workshop slightly from previous years. The changes will be:

- Our time in the classroom will be cut down. We will meet an hour a day, or two hours every other day, or however it works out at the time. But we will not spend the majority of the mid-day hours in the classroom as in prior workshops.

- I will shoot in the field along side you. However, I will make myself available to you at all times. If you need me, I will help you.

I'm making changes based on feedback on previous workshops. We do a significant amount of driving and moving around because the Big Bend area is a huge place. Trying to cram in a lot of classroom time is difficult, and the end result is folks being a lot more tired than necessary. Plus workshop participants need more time to get supplies, eat, and rest. Just getting food in the area can take a long time. (it's all on "desert time"... very similar to "island time", if you're familiar with that concept :-)

Our shooting locations are also large in area and we are usually the only people there. Workshop participants tend to spread out quite a bit, and having me float around to each person during a shoot is not easy. I will position myself as best possible (middle of the group) and be available, but if no one needs me (which happens 50% of the time) then I will shoot for myself.

These changes are based on past workshops and also a recent private guided shoot that I gave in Big Bend. The guided shoot was like a workshop, but we only had about 2 hours of classroom time (total) and I shot for myself in the field. The end result was quite good. Folks enjoyed it very much and came away with amazing photos.

So, I'm going to transition my workshops to be somewhere in between a classic workshop (as I've conducted in the past) and a guided shoot (where you simply have a leader take you around to various places to shoot).

I will send announcements out to those who have expressed interest. If you want to be placed on my announcement list, please contact me.

Once I finalize the details with the motel, then I will take on students and require a deposit of $200. Please stay tuned for that announcement.

This workshop will focus on night photography of the stars and land-based objects as well as classic daylight landscape photography. We will shoot within and just outside of Big Bend National Park.

The schedule for this workshop is around a new moon. The skies will be very dark and moonless after sunset allowing us to see and photograph the Milky Way.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Electronics Hell

Does it ever seem that when one thing goes wrong in your life, it is quickly accompanied by several others? I feel like I'm in electronics hell right now. So many things have gone wrong in the past week or so.

Let's start with my 2-month old Android smartphone, a HTC One. It suddenly started to flake out. Apps started crashing. It wouldn't stay connected to the Internet. Being connected to the data service or WiFi made no difference. I searched all over the 'net for solutions. I tried everything I could think of. Nothing would work. My last resort was a factory reset, and I've just done it. What a pain in the ass! But now it works!

There's a circuit in my house that's not properly grounded. This is a 120VAC system. There's a bit of stray current (1 - 3VAC) coming through the ground. I spent the better part of last weekend trying to troubleshoot it. No luck. I have absolutely no idea what's wrong. The only sure way of finding out is to rip into the walls to track all of the wiring. So, no solution at this point.

Last night several of our smoke alarms decided to start chirping. I installed 10 new wirelessly-linked alarms about 15 months ago. I guess the QA on the batteries is consistent. They are all failing about the same time! (this isn't necessarily a big problem - just an annoyance to compound my already annoyed state over stuff that operates on electricity)

My 8-9 year old stereo receiver crapped out. Something on the main board is shorting out. I cleaned it, inspected it, and I think one of the caps has gone out. There's a bit of white residue around it. Ppppfffftttt....

One of the transformers inside a 12V halogen light fixture in our kitchen went out. Replacement value: about $45.

My battle with extending the WiFi in my house is still on going. I gave up on a WiFi extender after DAYS of trying to get one to work. My latest effort was to add a whole new WiFi router. Nope. Not working. I either need to give up, or spend more hours (or days) trying to fiddle with it. (I'm very much a DIY kinda guy, but in this case, I'm actually considering hiring someone to come make this work)

And finally, 'cause this is a photography blog, my trusty Sony RX100 is goofing up. The large dial around the lens barrel started to malfunction. Strangely enough, I'm not even upset about this. I've carried the little camera with me nearly constantly over the last 13 months. I've dropped it numerous times, knocked it around quite a bit, and subjected it to all sorts of environments. I'm actually amazed that it still functions (well, except for that dial). I really don't mind. To me, it's just the cost of using the camera in the manner that I do.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Book Cover

A photo of mine is appearing on the cover of a new book about people from the Big Bend area. The book is a compilation of short bios done over the years by Carlton Leatherwood.

Anna Oakly at Mercury Graphics in Terlingua, TX designed the cover and used (with permission) a photo of Blair Pittman that I'd taken some years ago.

You can find this book on Amazon or at Front Street Books in Alpine, TX. And yes, my website address is incorrect on the credits page inside the book. However, it is stated correctly on the back cover.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Photography has definitely taken a back seat lately. But I've also focused on other things that are creative.... well, at least somewhat.

I like to make stuff. It's usually not fancy, and it's almost always a home repair project or a quick DIY job.

I recently got a cheap cross slide vise for use on my drill press.

The vise needed a lot of fixing up despite being new. It was cheaply made, but with the right lube, cleaning, and adjusting, it actually works pretty well. I even added roller bearings on the crank stops so they would turn smoothly and easily.

Cooking is something else I enjoy, but I don't do it very often. I don't do fancy or gourmet necessarily. I just spend a lot of time chopping, cutting, and preparing. And it's usually stuff packed with flavor, spice, and stuff that's generally bad for you in large quantities. This was for Thanksgiving sides - stuffed mushrooms and bacon wrapped stuffed jalepenos.

Beer is still a great source of enjoyment. And I'm still trying new brews when I can.

A recent new one was Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. It's unlike anything I've had before. It's expensive but a nice treat. At 18% alcohol it's not a beer to drink in large quantities. It's sweet and smooth and does not have a crisp hoppy taste. It's just mellow liquid gold that smoothes out any hops that went into it.

And finally, the biggest time consuming activity in the past several weeks has been a total change in lifestyle. I turned 39 last month, and I've vowed to not reach 40 in the current shape that I'm in.

I've been exercising A LOT both biking and running. I've gotten on Weight Watchers, and I'm learning to eat right.

I've set two goals for a 365 day period:
1) Do Weight Watchers every day
2) Travel 1800 miles on foot or bike (combined)

I really don't have any goals for my weight. I know I will lose weight, but I'm more concerned about eating right and getting healthy.

So it's a big change. I can still eat and drink what I want, but I have to learn to do it in moderation. It's occupying a lot more of my non-work time than I thought. However, it is important and I must make time to exercise.