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Archive for August, 2009

There I was, setting up to photograph hostas, when I saw him out of the corner of my eye. There he was, a humongous bee, just sitting on top of one of the blooms. I never saw a bee sit this still before. Hmmm I said. Let’s move in for a few shots. These hostas will still be here later, but the bee?

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I was shooting quickly using the meter built into my F3.
No way was I sticking my incident meter in front of that bee. I fired off a couple of shots. Then I zoomed in a bit closer.

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That’s when he looked me dead in the eye.
Yes I know insects can see without looking straight ahead. Who would have thought a bee would give me “the look?”

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He stared at me for a minute, then looked away. Guess he figured I wasn’t a threat after all. It was mutual — more or less. I hoped he stayed put and didn’t get pissed off at me. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure this guy was a drone.

Drones have much bigger eyes than worker bees and drones are stingless. Maybe he was tired from chasing the queen and stopped to rest? Who knows. I’m glad I spotted him and got some decent shots. Those eyes are incredible — Here’s looking at you sweetheart.

PS: I used Ilford PanF+. It’s a high resolution, smooth, low speed film that scans well. My workhorse B&W film is Ilford FP4+. It scans even better. I shoot it at ISO 250 and develop in Diafine. I have a couple dozen rolls of FP4+ in the back of my refrigerator. I want to try some B&W macros with it. Oh, and I got my color slides back Saturday. I have a few good ones that I’m saving for another time.

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Let’s play a game and change the name. Instead of saying I’m going to sit down to write, say I’m going to sit here for awhile and let my imagination run. I’m going to daydream or muse or whatever you want to call it. While I’m sitting here, I might pick up a pen or turn on my computer and simply capture my thoughts as they occur to me.

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We stiffen up when we think or say the word writing because writing has all these rules. Can’t make a mistake, must be grammatically correct and so on. Horse hockey. I’m not writing, I’m simply musing, remembering, drifting, and while I’m at it, capturing my fleeting thoughts. I’ll organize (or toss some) later.

Yes, that’s important. Capturing thoughts for later. I’m not writing now, I’ll do that formal stuff later. Right now, at this moment I’m just spilling my ideas without a care in the world.

Now that’s liberating. I might record something silly. So what? I might make a mistake or two. Really? How can you make mistakes when all you’re doing is capturing. It’s like filling up the bathtub. Turn on the water and let it flow.

Turn the tap on your thoughts and ideas and let them flow. Instead of scaring yourself with the task of writing an article, just start typing or writing longhand. You’re not writing an article, you’re simply thinking about a topic and capturing your thoughts as they occur to you.

Relax and allow your thoughts free rein. When you sit down to “write” you have a certain outcome in mind — an article, finish the next chapter in your book, a report, and so on. When you sit down next time, don’t write anything. Instead remember and capture your ideas without concerning yourself about outcomes.

The focus on outcome changes the way we think and act. I’m writing therefore I must do this and this and this and this or I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Can you see your stern English teacher looking over your shoulder? Just tell her to go away for awhile. Tell her that you’re not writing, you’re simply musing. Maybe she’ll leave you alone with your thoughts. Watch what happens next. You’ll be amazed.

PS I didn’t “write” this post, it evolved out of my musing. I switched my NEO on and began typing ideas that were drifting through my mind. I astonished myself. I uploaded the file to my editor on my main system. I dumped the first two paragraphs and tweaked a few things here and there. I had no intention of writing an article when I picked up up my NEO, it just happened.

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My younger brother Michael was a kid his entire life. Born on Valentines Day in 1951, he was still a kid when he passed away three years ago on August 24. Leukemia finally got him but he never lost his sense of humor.

Brother Michael -- 1951 - 2006

Brother Michael -- 1951 - 2006

This is one of my all time favorite photographs. I took it in 1970 when Michael was a handsome lad of 19. I love this photo because it captures the real Michael. He was a great drummer, an artist and a man (eternal boy?) who always had a collection of toys and gadgets.

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Michael had a fantastic n scale model train layout. His favorite locomotive was the PRR GG1. The model pictured above is one of his prized GG1s. It’s just shy of 6 inches long. This monster engine was nearly 80 feet long and weighed 477,000 pounds — and fast. I still remember the day I stood on the platform holding my aunt’s hand when a GG1 pulling a passenger train roared through the station on the express tracks. I was awestruck.

I assembled an n scale layout in one of our spare rooms that combines Michael’s legacy with my own train collection. Michael would have loved it. One of our passenger trains (9 of Michael’s passenger cars and and my A-B diesel set) is 68 inches long. That’s about 900 feet! We have a freight train that’s even longer.

Michael told me he wished he had chosen a larger scale because n scale gets smaller as your eyes get older. I agree. I was modeling in On30 (1/4 in narrow gauge) and still have a small layout that I play with on occasion.

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The locomotive in the photo above is a tiny porter steam engine. It’s one of my favorites. In 1/4 inch scale, it’s a mere four inches long. The full size locomotive is only about 16 feet long. It would fit into my family room. It only weighed 7 tons.

Michael and I would have fun with both scales. I think of him whenever I play with my trains and when I hear a good drummer. Life is eternal and Michael and I will meet up again some day. There’s plenty of time. Meanwhile I remember.

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466px-Yin_yang.svgWriting is difficult? Writing is easy? Yes it is.

“Easy gives rise to difficult … resonance harmonizes sound, after follows before.” — Lau Tzu

When the vessel is empty, fill it to overflowing. When the vessel is overflowing, distill the essence. — McD

Western thought is either/or, an artificial duality that, when focused on one aspect of some thing, excludes the other. When we write, Western thinking pits the right brain against the left in a war of control. Imagine right-brain and left-brain at opposite ends of a stick. Pick up that stick from either end and you hold both left and right in your hands. You can’t have one without the other.

The Tao embraces the interplay and dynamic unification of opposites. In the words of Carl Jung, “Our Western mind…has never yet devised a concept, not even a name for the union of opposites through the middle path, that most fundamental item of inward experience which could respectably be set against the Chinese concept of Tao.”

The Tao of writing then is the ebb and flow of right and left brain,
the interplay of intuition and rational thinking. Right brain feels and inspires but doesn’t know how to manipulate words, left brain calculates and arranges but is devoid of emotion.

The Tao of writing is a dance of partners, each taking the lead in turn, but always moving as one. Right brain (our dragon) pours forth inspiration and ideas whole while left brain (our inner critic) cooperates and guides our hand to fill the empty vessel. Later, our inner critic takes the lead to distill and arrange our ideas while our dragon helps us preserve the essence and the feeling of our words.

Writing is difficult. Writing is easy. Writing is both; and neither. Writing is a whirling dance and quiet contemplation. Writing is and — not or.

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The E-Book market is growing — fast. Nikkei Electronics Asia’s August 2009 Cover Story paints a rosy growth picture. The article focuses on electronics and dedicated readers. They report that a recent survey predicts that shipments of dedicated e-readers in the U.S. will hit 28.6 million units by 2013. Only one million shipped in 2008. That’s a huge increase. Yes, but…

Photo by "Alton"

Photo by "Alton"

The real explosion will come when content is compatible, runs on many different platforms (not just dedicated readers) and delivery is easy. One argument you hear often is that people prefer the feel of “real” books and don’t like reading from a small screen. Ya think?? A connected generation growing up with blackberries, smart-phones, laptops and the Internet would beg to differ.

People want simple, convenient and stuff that just works. You don’t need a large screen for recreational reading. People carry their Blackberries or smart phones everywhere they go. Get to a meeting early and have a few minutes to kill? Whip out your iPhone and pick up where you left off in the latest novel you’re reading. Stuck in the airport? Pull out your Blackberry, connect to B&N and you can be reading a novel in minutes.

The ecosystem of content delivery (and compatibility) is evolving quickly.
Sony announced their support for the ePub format. All of the Barnes and Noble E-Books will be in ePub format. ePub is a new standard for “reflowable digital books” developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum. Reflowable means that the text adapts to the screen of the device. It’s a fancy way to say the text will wrap at the edges of the screen.

Back in the stone age of handhelds, I read many books on my palm pilot’s tiny 160 x 160 screen and enjoyed every minute. I even snuck in some reading when I was supposed to be working. The screens on today’s handhelds are far superior and highly readable.

More and more big names are jumping on the e-book train. Google, Samsung, major publishers and rumors of Apple joining the fray abound. What’s needed is a critical mass and I think that will come the adoption of the ePub standard. Proprietary formats (like the Kindle) are doomed.

When people can use the devices they already have and when most E-Books use ePub, a completely free and open standard, the stage will be set for a seamless ecosystem of content delivery for E-Books. The market will decide, not the proprietary dinosaur formats. Self-publishing will target The Long Tail and give people what they want. ePub and the ecosystem it will spawn will be the final nail in the coffin of traditional publishing.

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I always called these flowers glads. I looked up the spelling and discovered that the proper name for glads is gladiolus, a diminutive from the Latin gladius which means sword. Gladiator comes from the same Latin root. I love learning new things.

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The stamens in this photo have always fascinated me. They don’t look real. Instead they remind me of cardboard. Amazing what you see when you take the time to get close, when you pay attention.

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The mood of this shot of the unfolding blooms is much different — the promise of what’s to come. I think of velvet when I look at this photo. Maybe because of the dark background?

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I love to play so I created another version of the unfolding blooms  reminiscent of a pencil or ink sketch.

I shot an entire roll of Fuji Astia slide film (great film) on Friday afternoon. Big red hibiscus (and buds), hostas (I think I caught a large bee in one or two shots) and butterflies. The film goes into the mail this week to a lab thousands of miles away so I won’t see the results until early September.

I have to chuckle when one of my granddaughters wants to see the picture
I just took. I have to explain that I use film and she’ll have to wait until the film is processed.

I use my Nikon F3 for all my macro work. I loaded it with a roll of high resolution B&W film Sunday morning. I want to play with monochrome macro (and landscape) photography while I wait for my color slides. I do all my own black and white processing so the wait is minimal. Took the camera with me on my bike ride Sunday morning. I used my 24mm lens with a yellow filter and took three photos. Fingers crossed.

Like a dummy, I never recorded the B&W scanning workflow I perfected a few years ago. After two rolls, I figured it out again. This time I wrote it down. Can’t wait to share but I must shoot the pics first. Three down and 33 to go on the roll. Stay tuned. Meanwhile enjoy the color of the glads.

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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The squirrel is alert, frozen and waiting. He (or she) is single minded and focused on the moment. Is this Zen? Maybe, but I came across this photo while browsing my collection and decided to “sneak” it in because I like it.

Yard scene IVSo what is the Zen of good enough and what does it have to do with creativity? Creativity is internal. The latest and greatest computer loaded with an all the bells and whistles word processor might make your writing easier (or it might get in your way instead). Tools are ancillary to the creative process. The most important tool is your vision. The technical tools you have are good enough as long as they support your vision.

A $3,000 digital camera (body only) might be capable of producing amazing photographs but only when filtered through the eye of the photographer. The photographer’s eye (and vision) are the real producers of great pictures, not the camera.

A writer’s creativity, not the tools they use, produces great writing.

Good enough can mean using the right tools at the right time. I started this article with the squirrel photo in mind. Instead of firing up my word processor, I sat here with a pad and my fountain pen scribbling ideas as they occurred to me. When the Aha moment hit me, I opened PyRoom, the minimalist text editor, and started writing. PyRoom is not only good enough, it’s better because it allows me to write without distractions.

Good enough can mean using the tools you have instead of stuff you covet but don’t have for one reason or another. I do all of my film scanning on my old windows computer because my scanner and photo editing tools are windows only. The film scanner manufacturer went out of the photography business a few years ago and the scanner is obsolete, but it’s good enough.

Believe it or not, I use an old CRT monitor I bought in 1995 for my photo editing after I scan. The screen is a bit small, but it still works. And the whole setup is good enough because it gives me all that matters — quality scans and good digital images from my film.

The Zen of good enough puts creativity first. Good enough doesn’t mean second best, it means using the best tool for the job. Many times that means using the simple solution, one that’s good enough. If you wait for the perfect tool, you end up frozen and waiting like the squirrel in the photo. Why wait when what you have is probably good enough.

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