Thursday, August 31, 2006

The saga ends

For the last week or two, I've been fighting with my truck, trying to get it to pass an emissions test so I could re-register it (due today, naturally). (I won't even get into how much of a scam the emissions testing process is for modern vehicles. Let's just say that they no longer sniff your exhaust and get an actual check of the output of your truck, they just read your computer and get a theoretical check of what the output of your truck *may be*. So when my truck was throwing error codes that probably had nothing to do with it's actual output, they failed me. But anyway...I said I wasn't going to get into it). Last night, with DT's help, I finally got the last bits fixed and got the error codes cleared. Today, I took it back and had it re-tested. It passed. *Whew*.

So I went to the DMV website to re-register and decided to treat myself to some license plate fun. I registered a fancy plate with a personalized message...

Basically it says "Dead F*ckin' Last singlespeed" baby! Which is where I typically finish every ride. No sense setting your sights too high. You might let yourself down.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

f/8 and BE THERE!

The f/8 part is easy. It's the BE THERE that stumps me most often.

Last night, 'round midnight, they blew up a section of the old Woodrow Wilson Bridge here in DC. I thought it might have had the potential to be a cool photo op. I debated heading down to shoot it, knowing there might not be a good vantage point for us non-credentialed-journalists to shoot from. So I bailed on the idea. I should have at least tried. I'm so lame.

So, instead of seeing photos of what I may have gotten, here's a shot that a credentialed photographer from the Washington Times got:

(Click the photo to go to the Wash Times story on the demolition.)

On the Wash Post's site there is a cool, short Shockwave movie of the demolition as it happens. The page with the link to the movie is here

From the looks of both the video and still photo, there must have been a press room set up in one of the apartments right next to the highway. I gotta get me some o' them credential things.

Be there. Be there. Be there. Be there. It sounds so easy.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Baby steps are better than no steps

A couple of weeks back, I mentioned that my buddy Michael from Speedgoat Cycles in PA wanted to use one of my photos of him from Lodi in an ad for their shop. Well, the ad is out in the latest issue of Dirt Rag (Issue 123).

As thanks for the photo, Michael was kind enough to send me a copy of the mag, a Speedgoat shirt, and a couple of pair of bike socks. Actual payment (of sorts) for a photo. That almost makes me a professional, doesn't it? Time to update that resume!

In other, similar "Holy crap that's my photo in print" news, local racer, rider and writer Joel Gwadz had his story published in the free Mid-Atlantic cycling mag "Spokes". The story was about the recent Wednesdays at Wakefield race series and was accompanied by a couple of my shots of the racers (like this one of the author). Visit a local bike shop and grab your today!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Photography stuff I learned yesterday

Yesterday Ben and I got on the subject of flash photography. (In my humble opinion, photography has about as much in common with flash-photography as snow skiing does with rodeo-clowning. Anyawy...). We started discussing high-speed synch flash work. I explained how I *thought* it worked, but had to admit...I had no proof to back up my idea. So I did some Googling[tm] and came up with the following web site. It seems to explain the reasons I wasn't happy with many of my Wednesdays @ Wakefield mountain bike race photos. For many of them, I was seeing blur in the riders, so I'd up the shutter speed (beyond the 1/250 synch speed). Instead of freezing the action more, it actually blurred it. I never really *got* why until now.

This site offered some nice insights that I thougth I'd pass along. The most important points of the site (for me, anyway) are:

"...there is a somewhat widespread misunderstanding that high speed sync would be useful for stopping motion in action photography. Since it's called "high speed sync", it seems reasonable on the surface to presume that it would be good for photographing objects moving at high speed. But this is not the case. "


"With ordinary flash, the first curtain of the shutter opens fully, and then the flash electronically turns on and off, faster than any mechanical shutter could possibly open and close. Finally, the second shutter covers up the film."


"The problem with "high speed sync" for action photos is that it works by making the flash slow down. Since the camera's shutter can't open fully in less time than its max normal sync speed, the film can't be exposed all at once at high shutter speeds. Exposure must be controlled by the shutter's slit traveling across the film, exposing different parts of the film successively. Instead of giving one almost-instantaneous burst of light, the flash gives a sequence of many pulses of light, approximating a continuous light source during the time the shutter is open."

So there you go. A 2 minute primer on high-speed synch flash photography. Hope you enjoyed it.

Monday, August 14, 2006

My first Flickr set

I've had this idea for a series of photos for a few months now. Something I hoped would be unique. (Ha! Note to self...there is no "unique" anymore. Everything cool has already been done at least once...probably more. And 640k of RAM is all anyone will ever need). Anyway, I just recently started taking the photos for this series, and I've posted the first few on my Flickr site.

The photos are of those temporary roadside memorials you sometimes find at accident sites. Where someone has been killed in an car (occasionally bicycle...coming soon) crash, and their family and friends erect a DIY monument to the person. I love the uniqueness of the monuments. The complexity and creativity of some. And the fleetingness; The fact that at any time, the highway administration can (and probably will) remove them. I thought it would be cool to start capturing them and putting them somewhere people could (hopefully) appreciate them after they've been removed.

I'm not a 100% fan of Flickr yet. I don't really like the interface (tho, the changes they've made recently are an improvement). However, this series lends itself to the tagging/grouping/pooling/Flickr way of doing things more than it did the pbase way of doing things. Additionally, there was already a flickr group set up for photos of temporary monuments, so I figured I could add mine to that and perhaps get seen by more folks.

Capturing the images is often an adventure in itself. Last weekend, the girl and I took a roadtrip up to western MD. Lots of unfamiliar highway randomly dotted with unexpected monuments. Often you'd find yourself barreling along at 70mph, only to see a makeshift memorial along the roadside (invariably, in a place where there was no shoulder to pull off). You'd have to beeline for the shoulder as quickly (and safely...usually) as possible, pull the car as far off the highway as you could, then hike back along the highway 1/4 mile to the monument site.

I made a point of dropping a waypoint in my GPS at most memorial sites, so in the description of each photo on Flickr, you'll be able to see the coordinates of where the shot was taken (accurate to within a couple of hundred yards, cuz the GPS was in the car, not necessarily with me on the hike back to the monument itself). Copy and paste these numbers into the all-powerful Google Maps and you'll be able to see where each monument is. I figure that should keep you entertained for a few minutes.

I have a few more waypoints of monuments I wasn't able to stop and shoot. Hopefully one day soon I'll get back out to them and photograph them...before they're gone.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Doing my (small) part

So I just made my first real edit to a Wikipedia article. But of course I forgot to log in, so I don't actually get credit for it on my little "my contributions" page on the site. So you poor suckers have to hear about it here.

The article is about John Wilkes Booth. Having grown up in Clinton, MD (formerly Surrattsville, MD), and having graduated (just barely) from Surrattsville HS (which sits about 1/10 mile from the historic Surratt house/tavern), I think it's an appropos article to chime in on.

I read this morning that Booth's childhood home had been purchased by the county in which it stands in order to keep it as a(n?) historic site. So I added this bit of info to his page.

The part about the house previously read:

"The house still stands today and is no longer open for visitation after being sold as a private home."

to which I added:

"However, it was recently purchased by Harford County, MD and is expected to become a memorial to the Booth family and their influence on Shakespearean acting in 18th century America."

A much-improved bit of knowledge-spreadin' compared to my last Wikipedia contribution.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Another from the "People who just don't get the irony" department

On the way to work today (in my very red state), I saw a car with a "Dissent is disloyal" bumper sticker.

If "dissent" is disloyal, then I guess they'd really have a problem with a group of people rising up against their leader.

And imprisoning him.

And putting him on trial for all of the crimes he's committed.


Wonder if they've ever heard of a little place called Iraq?

Maybe "disloyal" is relative to which side of the fence you're standing on.

Friday, August 04, 2006


...I am an idiot.

I saw the following headline on

and my first thought...I swear to god...was "Fuck, that's a long way to walk".

Just for a second.

Ok, on a positive note...

At least I'm not *this* big of an idiot...

Again from

A quick poll produced the following reactions from the public:

"Who exactly gives a fuck?" said 99.986% of the people in America.



Seriously, CNN. Stop wasting the electrons of my LCD display printing that useless shit on the screen please.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

W@W #4 photos

My Wednesdays at Wakefield race #4 photos are up. Not my favorite set. I still have a lot to learn. I got a ton of images perfectly focused on the foliage 5' behind the riders. I think it was because I was trying to trust my camera's focus system to track the rider automatically. Never again.

Anyway, the photos are here. Tell your mother, tell your father, send a telegram. (5 bonus points to the first person to ID the song and artist of the preceeding lyric). If you want a full-sized image, let me know and I'll see what I can do. A lot of the images are OK web-sized, but may look nasty full sized.

A huge thanks to the racers who thanked me for taking photos. I found it pretty funny that they'd thank me for something I really enjoy doing. But it was nice to hear. Also another huge thanks to the folks who stopped to talk and thank me at length before and after their races. Definitely an ego booster.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Half Credit

In trying to get my mountain bike race photos into the hands of as many racers as possible, I spoke with Potomac Velo people (who organize the Wednesdas @ Wakefield race series). They asked that I send them links to my shots, and they'd post them on the official web site. Well, I did...and they did. Sorta...

Unfortunately, the way they have it worded on their home page, it looks like Pete is a fantastically prolific photographer:

"See photos from races 1 & 2. Thanks to Pete Toscano.
More photos are available: June 22; July 19; July 26"

I've written them asking that they add my name. Hopefully they will.

I'll be back out there tonight to catch the final W@W for '06.


Man! Talk about service! Between the time I started this blog post this morning, and a few minutes ago when I actually hit "publish", the kind folks at PVC updated the web site to include the credit. Yay PVC! Thanks guys!

"See photos from races 1 & 2. Thanks to Pete Toscano.
More photos are available courtesy of Gary Ryan: June 22; July 19; July 26"