Thursday, December 06, 2007


When can we start prosecuting news organizations for inciting murder? I mean, seriously. When Midwestern corn-fed fucktards go on killing sprees in malls, and leave suicide notes which explicitly say "Now I'll be famous", how about you news organizations *not* fulfill their murderous dying wishes, huh? I mean, goddamn. This isn't rocket science here.

Sure, you have to report the story. I understand that. And sure, you want everybody to know that you're the best news organization in the world, and that you know the shaggy-haired Midwestern corn-fed fucktard's name. And that you have the shaggy-haired Midwestern corn-fed fucktard's picture. But why not make him look like the asshat that he is, so the next shaggy-haired Midwestern corn-fed fucktard will think twice about "being famous" by killing a bunch of people on their way out. Is that so hard? Here, next time, try this:

"Police have identified the gunman as Munchie McButtbutt of Bellvue, Nebraska, who had a long history of inappropriate relations with male barnyard animals". Blahblahblah story continues...we're the best news organization on the planet, so buy advertising with us blahblahblah...

There, now everybody knows you have a photo of the fucktard. And you probably know his real name. And the upside to this is that Mr. McButtbutt doesn't get any free publicity, and looks like the asshat that he is for his 15 minutes of fame, so maybe...*just maybe* the next shaggy-haired Midwestern corn-fed fucktard who wants to "be famous" by killing off a bunch of shoppers will think twice about looking like a dumbass and will just off himself in his parent's basement without bothering anybody else.

Or maybe we just use the new and improved "LOLcat bulider" to LOLcat-ize the killers and make a mockery of them (and their bad grammar skillz):


Saturday, December 01, 2007

So there you have it...

View from the airport shuttle window.

Ben and I are officially "Experienced destination-wedding photographers". Future wedding dates are filling fast, so book early, book often.

My original write-up started getting a bit long(er)-winded, and the more I wrote, the less interested I became in my own yammerings. And if I was boring myself, I can only imagine the family-vacation-slideshow-like boredom I'd be inflicting upon my readers. So here's a slightly less wordy summary:

Our whirlwind adventure began early one Friday morning a couple of weeks back. We flew out of DC around 7am and touched down for a four-hour stay in Houston. After getting our grub on (if you will) and browsing the airport shop wares, we departed for sunny Cancun Mexico and hit the ground around 4pm local time.

View from the hotel room balcony.

We dropped our bags in the room and dashed out the door destined for the rehearsal and dinner, which began just after we arrived. That wrapped sometime around...uh...8? 9? (It's all kinda a blur at this point).

Saturday morning we were up and out bright and early. We were scheduled to start shooting the bride and bridesmaids getting ready at the on-site spa at 8am. Around 11 we broke away and took the wedding dress and shoes out to the beach for a photo shoot of their own. Shortly after, I split off to shoot the guys while Ben stuck with the girls.

Somewhere around noon:30 the groom, groomsmen, bridesmaids, Ben and I convened at the chapel-by-the-sea (or ocean, or gulf, or whatever the hell that body of water is down there). Before too long, the bride arrived by white horse-drawn carriage and the ceremony got underway. We did our thing and shot the event. I managed to scratch the hell outta my (best quality, longest, most expensive) lens. Being a true professional, I only mourn for a second before getting back to the task at hand.

Immediately following the ceremony, Ben directed the principal players in some formal poses. Somewhere around 4pm we were granted an all too brief break. We headed back to the hotel room where I promptly fell dead asleep. After my 20 minute power nap, we were back on duty. We wandered over to the ballroom, arriving shortly before the start of the 5pm reception.

The reception rocked all-out. Like a party put on by 75 just-out-of-college kids run amok at an open bar (which, now that I think about it, is exactly what it was). It was an absolute blast. Many drinks were drunk, dances were danced and "I love you man"'s were distributed (all by the wedding party and guests). Ben and I just took pictures. Things finally wound down somewhere near...10? 11? Honestly I don't remember exactly.

Sunday morning we had to sort out bit of a room snafu. A situation made more difficult by us staying in a room under the groom's name, but paid for by the groom's father's credit card. Both of whom were staying on the far side of the resort, a half-mile up the road. Trying to organize all parties to get things straight was a challenge. Thankfully, Ben did the hard work. I held up in the room and fended off the encroaching housekeeping staff with a plunger and an arsenal of tiny vodka bottle from the minibar. They had orders to evict us, but we were having none of that.*

Once the room situation was straightened out, we had about a half of a day to ourselves. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time for me to take a trip out to any of the semi-nearby Mayan ruins, so I ended up sitting on the beach, reading my book ("Elephants on Acid", a fascinating read, if you're interested), and having drinks brought to me by a resort employee.

The view from my lounge chair. Not bad for a mid-November afternoon.

The beer selection at the resort left a lot to be desired. It's hard to utter a discouraging word about a place where you can walk up to any bar anywhere on site and walk away with alcohol free of charge. However, when I asked a bartender what kind of beers they had, I swear I heard him say "We have both kinds, senior, Dos Equis and Tecate". Aiiiieee! So...I was forced to drink margaritas. I know. I'm a trooper. Mmmm, salty good.

All weekend, members of the wedding party took to calling me "Big Ben". It started out as just "Ben", but as Ben was the One True Ben, having both of us being Ben quickly got confusing. Hence the "Big" was added especially for me. Apparently, I resemble their hometown hero, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger:

Hrm. There may be a slight resemblance there. On the plus side, I know what I'm going to be for Halloween next year. Now I just have to find some parties in Pittsburgh where I can drink free all night.

I did notice an odd rule at the resort. Apparently, they're not too keen on you riding your bike in the pool:

(Click the image for the full sized version).

Can't imagine why. I guess they don't want you to run over the volleyball players. I only wish I'd visited in the era that predated the sign. That must have been a sight. A bunch of pasty white tourists biking around the 5' deep waters.

Anyway. The weekend wrapped up with Ben and I catching a cab to the airport at 5am Monday morning. After a few more hours lost to a Texas layover we were back in our own timezone and officially done with our first destination wedding. Er. I guess I should say "done shooting our first destination wedding". Now I've got to find time to process the 1,400 photos I took.

*(Not really, but that sounds much more interesting than "I held up in the room and read my book, just in case housekeeping came to try and throw us out on our ear").

Friday, November 30, 2007

How's that for timing?

Yesterday, I mention all the gross stuff I used to (and still do, to a lesser extent) follow. That prompted me to spend some time on Wikipedia last night reading about the various flavors of Ebola. I even spent some time cleaning up the entry for local favorite Ebola Reston. Then today, the WHO announces a new subtype of the disease has emerged.

"New subtype of Ebola suspected in Uganda"

Good day to be a virologist. Bad day to be a Ugandan in the midst of an outbreak.

Thanks to Lori for the Ebola scoop.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

To watch, or not to watch. That is the question.

It's like a train wreck. You don't really want to watch, but somewhere, something inside you, on some primal...even guttural level...needs to.

A friend pointed out this BoingBoing post, which references a video called "Two Girls, One Cup". Actually, it doesn't reference it so much as it warns you -on the future wellbeing of your eternal soul- against watching it. With an anti-endorsement like that, how can anybody *not* watch it?

Now, I'm a relatively macabre guy. I'm OK with gross stuff. I was reading books on epidemiology and disease science (Ebola is still a favorite subject), forensic pathology and forensic anthropology well before it was vogue (and before there were 37 CSIs to choose from every night of the week). Back in the pre-internet days, I watched at least one of the "Faces of Death" video tapes (see, I told you it was "way back"). A bit more recently (tho still at the dawn of the modern internet), I spent my fair share of time on website and the alt.binaries.grotesque newsgroup looking at all kinds of horrific photos of all kinds of horrific events. I've seen herring inserted in places herring have no business being. So, by now, I'm not too freaked out by gross stuff. Jaded, if you will.


Some clever and creative soul has posted a ton of "Two girls, One Cup reaction videos" on YouTube. These are safe to watch (and quite funny), as they show first-time "Cup" viewers watching the video...they don't show the video itself. Occasionally the viewers do mention what they're seeing on the screen. And it ain't pretty.

Watching these other "Cup" virgins react gives me more than a little pause.

So now I'm seriously considering how to proceed. Should I stay a "Cup" virgin, and innocently watch the reaction videos on YouTube, laughing along oblivious to the horrors being shown? Or do I watch the video itself, so I can understand what these victims are going through, tho probably never again able to watch the reaction videos again without becoming sick. Decisions, decisions.

For those brave enough to even read a description of the "Cup" video (and be warned, I've heard the description is enough to give you nightmares), one can be found here.

If you're not as brave, for a laugh you can check the reaction videos #10 and #9. Both are quite funny (and mostly harmless).

At the moment, I'm leaning towards not watching the original. Maybe I'm going soft in my old age.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dumbest thing I did today?

*Not* biking to work.

Let's do the math, shall we?

10 mile commute divided by 1 hour drive time equals...hmmm....lemme see, about 10mph. Fuck. I can do better than that on two wheels.

I swear, I'll never drive to work on one of the day-before-a-holiday commutes again. Rain, snow, hellfire, fucking biblical floods and plagues of locusts. I'm biking it (or taking the damn day off).

So there.

Now where'd I put my beer?

(CC licensed photo above snagged from drb62's photo stream).

Friday, November 16, 2007

...please stand by...

Sorry for the long delay in posts. It has been a busy couple of weeks/weekends. I promise I have a few in-progress posts that will be done shortly. There's the post-Bliss ride post, the post-Mexico trip post, a post about the best thing to happen to the web *evar*, a couple of posts about local weddings Ben and I have shot, and a post about a product I purchased as a goof, but now find myself really digging.


(Above CC licensed photo by Flickr user jaybowalkin).

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Inventing new uses for words

Pronunciation: \ˈbev-rij, ˈbe-və-\
Function: verb?

On the way in to the office this morning, I had WTOP on the radio. They were speaking with a DC cop about Georgetown's Halloween festivities scheduled for this evening. The cop said that the city would have 300 officers around Georgetown to "assist the public", "ensure nobody stumbled into the streets" and "make sure nobody gets 'over-beveraged'".

"Over-beveraged" might be my new favorite term.

"No, officer, I'm not shitfaced. I'm just a bit over-beveraged! If you allow me a few minutes to find a restroom and a Starbucks, I'll de-beverage, re-beverage with some coffee, and go on about my night. Thanks!".

Friday, October 26, 2007

Really, now? You don't say.

Pa. Coroner Says Homicide in Beating

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - The death of a college student found severely beaten on a street in Pennsylvania Dutch country has been ruled a homicide..."

I'll sleep better at night safe in the knowledge that suicide by self-beating isn't on the rise in Pennsylvania. At least...not yet...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What are you doing to me, C3-C4? I thought we were friends?!

Monday I had the distinct displeasure of having my XXL-sized body squeezed into the drinking-straw-sized device they call an MRI machine. Being mildly claustrophobic, it was not an enjoyable 20 minute ordeal. Luckily, they only inserted me from head to waist. Had I had to endure a full-body encapsulation, I'd have needed tranqs.

I just heard from the doc with the results. Word on the street is that I have a "small herniation" of the C3-C4 disk. Actually, he said I have *two* herniations. One at C3-C4 and one somewhere lower (he wasn't specific), but he thinks C3-C4 is the one causing me discomfort.

I asked him what the next step was. He said for more severe herniations, we start talking about surgery at this point. However, with the size of mine, and the fact that my symptoms seem to be subsiding (slowly), we were best off taking a wait-and-see approach. Apparently, herniations never "fix" themselves. The symptoms may go away fully, but once you're herniated, you're herniated till you opt for surgery to smush the disk back where it belongs.

I asked what I should and shouldn't be doing physically at this point. He said tackle football was out (I can manage that...I've avoided it for 20 years now), and he said that "getting in a car accident would be really bad now". Check. I'll put that on my "stuff not to do" list, too. When I specifically asked about mountain biking, he said that I should be able to start again. But that I should "avoid head-on collisions". Thanks doc. Master of the obvious. That's why you get paid the big bucks.

So (thankfully), it's time to get back on the bike. I'm gonna take things gingerly at first, I think. The Bliss is just a few weeks away. Gotta determine if I'll be riding it, or driving around the park strategically placing myself (and my camera) at peak action-shot locations.

While I had the doc on the phone, I took the opportunity to explain that I was going to have to start traveling (flying) more for (wedding photography) work. I asked if he could prescribe me some Xanax to keep me sane at 30k feet. Thankfully, he obliged. Ye ole medicine cabinet is getting crowded these days!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

*ouch* vagina hurts.

Lately, I've taken to buying bridal magazines. Mainly the localized versions of national rags: most recently, The Knot and I Do For Brides ("For Brides" and bigass hairy dudes with expensive camera gear, apparently. Guess that last bit wouldn't fit on the magazine header).

I'm avoiding the big-name fashion mags (Glamor Wedding, Vogue Wedding, Ranger Rick Wedding, etc) mainly because I don't give a shit what $4M will buy you in a "Hollywood Fairytale Wedding"™. I want to stay in touch with what's new/hit/hot/happening/popular (and most importantly, perhaps: selling) in local weddings. As some of you know, a friend, Ben and I have started working towards breaking into the wedding photography biz. The way I see it, these magazines are business-research tools, not just some creepy old guy buying girly magazines.

Thankfully, it looks like things are beginning to get interesting. Ben and I (mostly Ben) have apparently managed to book our first destination wedding (woot!). We've been booked to go to Cancun, Mexico in a few weeks. We don't have the tickets in hand yet, but we met with the bride and groom. And they seemed to like our work enough to sign a contract. I'm cautiously optimistic, but trying very hard not to get ahead of myself. Once the tickets are in-hand, I'll probably move to full-on giddy. It's supposed to be a three day affair; leaving town Friday, returning Sunday. We're hoping that this will lead to future destination weddings. Ya see, destination weddings tend to be a catch-22: Nobody will hire you to do destination weddings, until you've done destination weddings. But you can't do a destination wedding until somebody hires you to do one, which nobody will do if you haven't done one before. See what I mean? Hopefully this will be our foot in the door of the destination wedding world. And an added bonus is that the couple getting married is young (~23ish) and are the first of their group of friends to get hitched. If we do this, and do it well, we may have the beginnings of a wedding empire on our hands.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Dear Doctor's Office,

If you have 99 employees who speak English as a second language, and one who speaks it natively, pretty please, let the native speaker do the calling to update patients on their conditions. Case in point:

Scene opens: Casa du Rant, afternoon.

[Ring ring, ring ring]

Me: Hello?

Very heavily accented nurse: "Mister [first name]? Mister [last name]? Mister [first namd last name]?"

Me: "Uh, yeah, I'm [first name last name]."

Nurse: "I'm [unintelligible] nurse from doctor [Smith's] office. Doctor read your X-rays and they are remarkable."

Me: "Remarkable?! Really? How so? Remarkable good? Remarkable bad? What do you mean by "remarkable"??"

Nurse: "Yes, remarkable. They look...normal".

Me: "They look *normal*? So they are UN-remarkable. Is that what you mean?"

Nurse: "Yes, everything look fine. Unremarkable"

Me: "So everything looks OK? The x-rays look normal?"

Nurse: "Yes. Normal,"

Me (thinking): Jesus fucking Christ, lady. You might want to be careful where you insert and omit random "Un"s. Innocuous enough for me, but I'd hate to be the guy waiting to hear how my cancer treatments are going and get the "your cancer treatment is remarkable" line. Especially if it ain't.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


So I guess the doc saw something he didn't like in my neck/back x-rays last week. I got home from work yesterday to find a prescription for an MRI in my mailbox. At least I think that's what it is. I can't say for sure, having never seen one before. The bad news: Doc didn't even wait to see if the Prednisone and Vicodin cocktail he prescribed me had any effect. The good news: at least he didn't send the paramedics to round me up.

It would have been nice of him to call and mention that something was up, and that an MRI was in my (immediate) future, instead of blindsiding me. I've got a call into his office for an explanation. Hopefully more news today. Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I can't be the only one...

...who rocks out while doing domestic chores. Can I? I mean, I do this shit all the time. Like tonight..

After returning home from a work happy hour (which might explain the rest of this post), I'm doing the 3-week-old dishes which have lived in the sink since my wife headed back to SF to finish up her work training, when I happen across some old Queensryche (Take Hold of the Flame) on the cable TV "Arena Rock" music stations.

After that ends, it move into some old KISS.

Beyond that is some lame ass something, so I hit the remote and change to the "Heavy Metal" station where I find Rammstein doing "Du Hast", which I never particularly liked, but sounds quite good in my current state.

The last time I cleaned the bathrooms ("inside", for my long-time readers), I did so with Tool cranking full-blast on my MP3 player.

I can't be the only one.

(BTW: If you think this post is random, just wait till later when the Vicodin kick in ;)

(PS...Baby, if you're reading this, the part about the three-week-old dishes is what's called taking "creative license". They didn't exist. They were like 1 day old. Promise.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wedding 2.0

Ben and I had the opportunity to shoot our second RasmussenPhoto team-effort wedding two Fridays back. A few months ago, a friend from work asked us if we'd be interested in shooting his wedding. Still in portfolio-building mode, we jumped at the opportunity.

The ceremony and reception were held at a hotel?...conference center? I dunno. Whatever it was, it was 12 stories up, overlooking the USMC Iwo Jima memorial and Washington DC. A fantastic location with a rooftop deck.

The day started out with us shooting the prep at the hotel. After that, we moved to the ceremony/reception place and shot the meeting of the bride and groom (they decided to see each other just before the ceremony. It was a very private moment and very cool to be there to capture it so the families could share the moment later.

After the meeting, Ben handled most of the formal, posed shots. I don't remember where I was, but I'm certain I was doing something uber-important. Probably saving small children from certain death in traffic or something. Anyway, next came the ceremony itself. We were positioned facing out the floor-to-ceiling windows, overlooking DC. It made for some challenging lighting (severe backlight), but I think I managed to push the flash up enough to compensate.

Almost immediately after the ceremony came the reception. Same fantastic location, less ambient light! I had rented an extra-bright lens (f/1.2) so I was able to get some decent shots despite the dim conditions.

Below are a few of the shots I've processed. I'm not crazy about the way you link to photos in flickr. Click on the images to see the full-sized versions. They look significantly better than these shrunken ones.

Pill diet

I wrote most of this in a comment yesterday, but I figured I'd post it here as an update...

So I just got back from the docs [noon, yesterday]. His diagnosis was right in line with mine (hey! he must read Wikipedia too!). Probably not a fully-herniated disk, but an irritated/swollen/protruding one that's pissing-off a nearby nerve. I got some Hydrocodone+Acetaminophen (AKA Vicodin. Yay narcotics!) and some steroid anti-inflammatory stuff. Supposed to use both for the next 9 days and see where things stand. The doc took a bunch of x-rays, too. He should have the results from them by the end of the week and get back to me if he sees anything scary. If he does, then we'll alter plans at that point.

The Hydrocodone is magically-good. Pop two of those babies and the back and arm pain are quashed for hours (while the warm-tingly-I-really-shouldn't-be-driving-like-this feeling takes over my body). It's a nice change over the last ~10 days. I was finally able to get a good, uninterrupted sleep last night, laying (lying? I never could conjugate that verb) in whatever position I wanted. For the entire week+ prior, I could only lay in one position, on my left side, arms crossed in front of me. If I'd try to roll over in my sleep in the middle of the night, I was jolted awake by the pain. No more with Mr Hydrocodone. Thank you modern medicine!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Pills for Breakfast*

So I've devoured 40 Allieve pills in the last ~36 hours. And that's in addition to all the Tylenol, Advil, Dones and Mydol. (Hey, I was desperate at this point. Seriously, I'd have licked a toad if somebody would have told me it had pain killing properties).

Last Sunday morning (8 days past), I managed to turn/twist/stretch and felt something in my upper back go *crunch*. Its been constant pain ever since. From my research on Wikipedia and the rest of the internets (why do we even have doctors anymore? Oh yeah...meds), I'm thinking I caught a Cervical disc herniation. This is pressing on a nerve, which is quite pissed off about the whole situation. My symptoms (constant upper back pain, constant left-arm pain (tricep/underside), on-and-off numbness in the pinky-side of the left hand, constant weakness in the left hand) seem to line up with a herniation in the C7 - T1 region of the spine.

So I broke down and called the ol' doc. Just to get a second opinion (and hopefully some high-octane pills that will stop the pain. The dozens of over-the-counter ones I've taken over the last week have done little to dull the constant throb.

The good news is that these things tend to clear up on their own. The bad news is that (according to one web site), the clearing up could take from 6 to 12 weeks. Too effing long. I haven't had a decent nights sleep in a week. I'm up every 2-3 hours groping in the dark for my magic pills. I can't imagine what kinda condition I'll be after five more weeks of this. Aside from that, the calendar is packed with upcoming "to do" things. Wedding shoots. Soccer game shoots. Bootlegger's Bliss mountain bike ride/beer tasting/photo op. Bad Religion show. Of all the weeks for the back to ask for some time off, this was the least opportune. Jerk.

*Title lifted from the FAITH NO MORE song from the album We Care a Lot © 1985.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Canon 85mm f/1.2 DOF chart

In case you were looking for it, here's a Depth of Field chart (in both feet and meters) which I compiled for the Canon 85mm f/1.2 lens @ f/1.2. Click on the image to see the full sized version, which you can actually read.

Take it and use it how you will. I hearby release it under a Creative Commons "Do whatever the hell you want with it, man. I don't care" license. (Forgive me. I don't know the actual license name.)

It's based on Canon's DOF chart (which I've found in meters only) found here, and this online meters-to-feet conversion utility. All I really did was save you some cutting and pasting. Consider it my gift to you, semi-anonymous future internet visitor.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Bwahahahah! I love the sensationalist graphic that accompanies this story about a rabid kitten in DC:


I can hear the network hacks brainstorming now "So, how can we make a kitten scary?"...

F*cking media.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fly me to the moon...

(Above CC licensed photo linked from misterbisson's flickr stream)

My buddy Joe recently blogged about this interesting little bit of information:

NASA posted a hiring notice for new astronauts Tuesday, seeking for the first time in almost 30 years men and women to fly aboard spacecraft other than the shuttle.

So I'm thinkin' I gotta apply, right? I mean, sure, I'm not remotely qualified. Not in my wildest LSD-induced dreams (not that I do, or have ever done that kinda stuff, cuz that would disqualify me too, I imagine). But how many people can say that they even *applied* to be an astronaut? It's got to be good for at least 2 or 3 minutes of cocktail-party conversation.

So, just to see *how* unqualified I really am (before submitting my un-qualified resume), I'm looking over the job qualifications required and my aspirations of spaceflight are stopped dead in their long-strided tracks by this:

* Standing height between 62 and 75 inches

Goddamn our miniature astronaut force!! What the hell is America going for? Dwarves in space? If there's a war for the moon, we sure as hell don't need a bunch of little people up there battling it out with bigass Ruskies (or MoonTerrorists). We need some big, hearty flyboys, damnit! So, NASA, I call on you to abandon the mini-nauts program and open the astronaut force up to us "big-n-tall" types. At least raise that upper limit to 78".

Ah well. More institutionalized height discrimination. What can you do?

My favorite part of the job overview for astronaut...and I quote:

*Frequent travel may be required


Yesterday I had shoved down my throat (figuratively), another shining example of why we, as a society, are doomed:

After reading this article (via BoingBoing) on how plastic grocery bags are procreating at a rate which will allow them to be the dominant life-force on the planet in about 3 weeks, I've developed a solid aversion to them. If given the choice between paper and plastic, my response used to be "eh, whatever". Now, it's a hearty "paper, you planet-killing bastard". For years, I've hauled bags stuffed full of bags back to local grocery stores to be recycled. Recently, I was pretty happy to learn that Whole Foods is phasing out plastic bags entirely. You get paper, or their reusable cloth sacks. Being the Earth friendly hippies the wife and I are, we bought two or three.

So yesterday I go to [national drug store chain] and pick up a few things. They, being not-so-progressive as Whole Foods have phased out paper bags eons back, so I'm left with little choice. I get plastic. I then wander to the far end of the mini-mall and pop into Michael's-We-Shit-On-Your-Planet-Craft-Store. I pick up a single, small picture frame. When I get to the checkout, the girl stuffs it into its very own Michael's plastic bag. I say "You know what...I don't even need a bag, I'll just stick in in my bag from [national drug store chain]", which I do. So friendly I-Hate-The-Earth checkout girl grabs the abandoned brand-new plastic bag and shoves it into the trash can next to her. If I'd have just accepted it, at least it would have ended up in plastic-bag-recycling-heaven, and not landfill-hell.

Some people just *don't* get it.

(Creative Commons licensed photo above taken from Pete Arkestra's Flickr stream).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wedding v2

So Saturday was my most recent attempt at wedding photography. Ben had lined up a shoot in MD with a bride and groom who's original photographer had bailed on them. I told him I was happy to come along to help out and build my skill set (not to mention portfolio).

The day was busy. We met at the bride's mother's house at noon. Ben soon went off to the church to shoot the bride/groom/groomsmen prepping. The bride was supposed to be arriving there well before the 3pm ceremony. I stayed at the house shooting the 8+ bridesmaids and junior bridesmaids and mothers and grandmothers and aunts and cousins (*big* family).

At 2:45, the limo arrives. The girls pack in and head for the church while I follow along behind. We get there a hair before 3pm and proceed to cool our heels until the bride finally arrived at 4:30pm.

Once the wedding finally begins, Ben and I cover different angles. He's down in front, I'm alternately off in the wings and up in the balcony with my longer lenses. It's taken me a while to like the shots I got, but I'm coming around.

The reception followed at a neighborhood community center. Lotsa guests, darker complected bride and groom, white wedding dress, gymnasium lighting requiring high ISO settings and less than picturesque backgrounds made for some challenging shooting. In a lot of my images, skintones look nearly blue. It's taking some post-processing time to get things looking right.

By the time the final frame of the bride and her girls was shot... was after 9pm and Ben and I had been shooting for 9 hours. We had expected to be done by 6. Ah well. Here's hoping future weddings run a bit more on schedule.

I have a ton of shots to process for delivery. I may post a few more if I manage to find some that I really like.

Monday, September 17, 2007

More beer.

Dear future me,

A bit more about beers the past-you like:

Flying Dog Tire Bite Ale is pisswater. It's like Budweiser with an extra hop. And not even a tasty hop. Avoid this one. You can't stand it. Trust me on this.

Longhammer IPA is a good one. You tried that a while back and liked it. Stone IPA is great. And HopDevil is damn fine too.

I offer you this, future Gary, an attempt to keep a best-to-worst running list (not that it will help you when you're sitting at a bar getting shitfaced):

Bear Republic Racer 5
Stone IPA
Redhook Long Hammer IPA
Vicory Hop Devil
Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA
Heavy Seas
Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale
New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale
Monkey piss
Tirebite Ale

There's a bunch more to add (not that I drink a lot or anything). This is all I can come up with at the moment. Cheers.

--Edit to add---

I've discovered the secret of Tire Bite Ale. If you drink it straight from the bottle, it's not as bad. Don't pour it into a glass. You have to hide both it's pale-yellow, pee-like color, and it's unfavorable Budweiser-like aroma and it becomes bearable. I wouldn't suggest you run out and buy more. But if you find yourself stuck in a bar offering only Bud Lite and Tier Bite. Go for the Flying Dog.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wedding, Meeting, Meeting, Wedding, Wedding, Wedding

A couple of weeks back, a former coworker who left the 9-5 world to join her husband as a full-time wedding photographer contacted me. She wanted to know if I'd be available to assist her shooting a wedding that she had scheduled. I jumped at the chance.

The ceremony and reception were held at an estate in MD. A few rough-shots are below. (For the record, they are ultra compressed, ham-handedly resized, and didn't have much post processing work done to them. Essentially, these were meant for small web-display only. The final, full-sized versions are better.).

For months now, Ben and I have talked about getting into the wedding photography business. It's interesting, fast-paced work. There is tons of room for creativity. And, if you're good, it's lucrative.

Things really started to come to life when a coworker-friend of ours asked us to shoot his late-September wedding. We agreed. Since that initial booking, Ben's been much more active in moving things forward. He's started a company (linked above), at first focusing on portraits, but now moving into weddings. Recently, he's taken to combing Craigslist posts on wedding photography, and posting a few of his own ads. I told him I'd be happy to be an assistant, or "second shooter" for any weddings he schedules. I feel like I need to get some more real-world practice before I jump in, ready to solo.

Last night, we had our first client meeting. A bride and groom who's wedding we're shooting in October. Tonight, we have our second client meeting. (Told you things were moving now). A bride and groom who's wedding we're shooting on Saturday (*gulp*). Apparently, this couple had a photographer who bailed on them last-minute.

On top of all that, my former-coworker-friend just contacted me again to see if I'd be able to assist her with another wedding she's shooting this Saturday. Unfortunately I had to turn her down, as I'm already booked (with Ben) shooting the "our first photographer bailed" couple.

Moving along indeed.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Maternal Instict

I swear to god, this is the first line of an email sent to me by my mother today:

"Just thought I'd touch base to see if you are still surviving/thriving alone. While I was cleaning my toilet bowls (inside) I thought of you..."

The sentence continues, but where it goes doesn't make it any better.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Blackwater 2k7

I made a trip out to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge again this weekend. The first summer-time trip ever, I think. I left the house at 4:30am Saturday and got to the refuge by sunrise ~6:30). I shot during the nice morning light, went and checked into a campground a few miles from the refuge during the harsh mid-day light and took a nap, then went back to the refuge for the evening hours and shot until sunset (roughly 7:30pm). Sunday, I was back at the refuge by about 7am and shot until a bit after 9am, when I headed for home. The shooting was decent; I saw a couple of red-tail fox, a couple of the endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrels, three Osprey (which I'd never seen before), and ~5 bald eagles, and a number of decent sized snakes, specific flavor unknown. Additionally, there were countless egrets, herons and small shore-birds about as well. Two of the snakes were in the water, and if I remember correctly, MD only has two species of water snakes: the copperhead and the cottonmouth. And these weren't copper in color.

For the trip, I rented a Canon 100-400mm lens. I've pretty much decided that I will never buy one of these lenses. The 100-400mm is a nice enough if your subject is close. If it's even a little bit distant, the image quality goes to crap. Fast. An example (click the images for the full-sized shots): Here's a shot of a heron, pretty close to me...maybe 15 meters away:

Nice enough, right? Now here's a bald eagle farther off. Probably 50-75 meters or so:

Looks like crap, right? This is the longest lens I've ever mounted to my camera, so I don't have much experience with this kinda thing, but I have to imagine that 500mm and 600mm (and 1,200mm, for god's sake) lenses exist to take photos of things far away. If distant things always looked like, I doubt Canon would have much business in the long-lens department.

So, as an alternative (not that anybody cares), I'll be looking at the 400mm f/5.6 prime, the next time I have $1,300 burning a hole in my pocket. Word on the mailing lists is that this lens significantly out performs the 100-400mm lens at the 400mm end. When I have the 100-400mm on the camera, at least 95% of my shots are at the 400mm end. So I won't miss much giving up that 100-399mm range. And the improvement in color/contrast and sharpness I gain will be well worth the trade.

Here are a few other keeper shots from the weekend. I may also have one or two more to post later. For the record, I'm not sure I'm digging this Flickr thing. I like the way my old Pbase site works in conjunction with my blog better, I think.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Achtung! Halt! Papers Please.

Well covered in many other more widely-read forums is this guys account of being arrested after failing to show his store receipt (and driver's license) upon exiting a Circuit City store in Ohio.

This boils my blood (and scares the holy shit outta me). I had a similar, much less severe run in with a store goon years back when I waltzed out of a local electronics store without producing a receipt. I despise being asked to account for my personal property when leaving a store. I'm not a criminal, don't treat me like one. If you saw me steal something, bust me. If not, fuck off. Leave me alone.

So I donated a few bucks to the guy's legal fund. And I'm writing Circuit City a letter (on actual paper) and mailing it (with an actual stamp), telling them that unless they resolve this, publicly, and in the above referenced guy's favor, the money I was planning on spending there this year (after getting my new high-paying job) for the new ~50" HighDef TV and DSLR camera system will be spent at a competing store. (I never said I wasn't a liar).

Don't fuck with my rights. Or anyone else's for that matter.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Dear future-me,

If you ever search back through this blog to try and remember which beers you prefer, you'll probably find this post. When that day arrives, allow me to first say "Greetings from the middle of 2007! I hope the future is treating you well".

Now that the niceties are out of the way, here's the info you came looking for:

If the choice every comes down to Bear Republic's "Racer 5" vs. "Red Rocket Ale", you like "Racer 5" better. You don't dislike Red Rocket at all. In fact, it's quite tasty. You just prefer Racer 5.

Lots of love from a bygone era,

Sunday, August 26, 2007


So I blew off going to shoot the fourth, and final for 2007, Cranky Monkey race today. I've been running full-speed for a couple of weeks now and just needed a day to decompress. The idea of being up and out of the house by 7am just didn't sound like fun. And if it's not fun, it's work.

I just got back from a quick, busy trip out to San Francisco.

The wife is out there for a couple of months for job training. Her new employer was nice enough to fly me out for a (much overdo) visit.

I got out there Friday. On Saturday, the wife and I headed north, through Napa wine country and stopped in Calistoga, a cool little town with a post-WWII feel. It also has a bit of a tourist-trap vibe thrown in for good measure. We stopped off at the Calistoga Inn for a drink, where I had a tasty brewed-on-site Calistoga Amber Ale. We then went on to another place for dinner where I got to try a Lagunitas IPA. Tasty. Hoppy. I'll definitely keep my eye out for this again, tho I don't recall ever seeing it here on the east coast. Maybe I just never noticed it. Oh yeah. And I had a mud bath, too. Man, I'm still picking bits of mud outta nooks and crannies. Much like I see skydiving or alligator wrestling, that's one of them once-in-a-lifetime kinda events. Been there, done it. Cross it off the list and move on.

Sunday, we headed south down Highway 1.

A beautiful drive down the coast with stops in Santa Cruz and Carmel (the town formerly under the rule of Mayor Eastwood). Santa Cruz had a cool college-town feel. I could definitely see myself living here (all the hippies not withstanding). At least for a while. Besides...with a town named after a mountain bike company, there have got to be some good trails around there, too. Right?

Monday the wife had to put in a half-day's work, so we stuck around the apartment. She working, I reading the infinitely fascinating "Under the Banner of Heaven" (highly recommended, btw). After the relaxed morning, we decided to wander down and book one of the bay boat tours. Yeah, touristy. But eff it. I'm a tourist.

We left the marina, tooled around under the Golden Gate Bridge, came back around Alcatraz, somewhat close to Angle Island then back to port. The kite surfers took advantage of the high winds and boat wake to give us some acrobatic entertainment. Unfortunately they were too far off for my short camera lens to be of much use.

Tuesday the wife had to go into the office, so I had the day to explore solo. I rented a beater Fuji mountain bike and headed off around the Embarcadero towards the Golden Gate. I crossed the bridge and headed off into the Marin countryside, following the cartoon-quality-map intended for fat tourists on rented hybrids (or in my case, fat tourists on rented mountain bikes), in search of a brown and twisty dotted line bearing the vague description: "MTB Trail".

I make a switchback climb up a gravel road and survey the lay of the land, which looked pretty much like this, except more 3D in real life:

From the top of the hill, I can see the fire-road-width trails a bit further down the road. It takes a bit of searching to find the actual trail-head. Unfortunately, by the time I hit dirt, I'm already a significant number of miles into my ride (for my outta-shape ass). I'm pretty beat, and time is running out (gotta get back into the city to meet the wife when she gets off of work. The perils of a single set of apartment keys). I roam around the dirt for a mile or two (all a gradual climb, damnit). I reach a point, this point as a matter of fact:

and simply turn around. The nice thing about the mile-plus gradual climb is that it becomes a mile-plus moderately-high-speed descent on the return trip.

I make my way back to SF proper the same way I came out to the 'burbs. Google-mapping the whole ride after the fact, it looks like I managed to do about 24 miles of riding.