Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

These two photos cover it pretty well I think.
The Honor and Dignity of a military funeral service, and the families left behind to remember.

Please forgive me, but I have something that I need to get off my chest.

Today (Sunday) I ran into Radio Shack to buy a 1/4" TRS plug.
Fixing band gear, as usual. $3.99 plus tax, versus $7.50 to replace the cable.
The young idiot behind the counter had already made me wait several minutes while he fapped in the back room, and used nervous and bad conversation to try and make up for it.
The stunner was when he asked if I was "...having a good time this Memorial Day...uhhh...tomorrow?"
He must have thought I was a typical jackoff like him who uses Memorial Day as an excuse to get loaded on Sunday because they have Monday off for recovery.

The best part was as I was walking from the counter to the door and he called after me "Hey man, have a Happy Memorial Day".


I didn't have the self-control to set him straight without getting myself into big trouble.
Kept on walking...

I didn't tell him that on Monday I will be thinking about my dear friend who's father's body was in the casket shown above, and the little girl in the other picture who might not even remember her father at all but still goes to Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery with flowers.

I didn't tell him about the Laotian villagers who stripped whatever they could find from the wreckage of my father's plane, including uniforms from the dead.
Or about how it took almost 30 years for one of them to hand my father's dog tag to someone and point out where to dig--making 6 families wait all that time not knowing what happened.
My mother died years before the mystery was solved, so she never knew the true fate of her husband beyond the fact that he never came back from the war.

I didn't tell him that there are thousands of men and women facing horrible and deadly situations every single day while he only thinks about eating crappy BBQ and getting wasted with his buddies on Sunday and sleeping late on Monday.

Happy Halloween?
Happy New Year?
You bet!
But Happy Memorial Day?

It'll be a good day, and I'll have as much fun as possible, but every quiet moment might bring a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat as I Remember.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

View's "Week In Review"

Lots of stuff going on but no time or ability to pursue my "art", such as it is.

Here are some snapshots of my busy life:
Got to play bass for half of a song with The Quickies on Saturday--Rikk is laughing because I'm cramming-in as many notes as possible in my allotted time, and some of them are pretty funny.
(One of SylCan2's best photos ever, to me).

The Sylvester Strange Experience played at VFW Post #76 on Sunday, and I took the opportunity to explore using high iso (1600) with my new fast prime lens and in-body stabilisation in order to impress Matthew.
As Sylvia said: "Would have been great without the gutter pipe".
But there were lessons learned for the future.

Tonight I started out just trying to get a mouse for my snake to eat. (And some shoes...)
Then I thought that it was about time to replace her shredded aspen bedding after cleaning up the poops.
And if I'm going to do all that, I might as well scrub the tank with diluted bleach, then run the hose on it.

Long story short, it's about damn time I got a nice commercial background product so my snake's tank isn't throwing light in all directions, looking all white-painted-walls-bland.
Atmosphere rocks.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Let's Try This Again?

The replacement mixing board arrived from Seattle this week.
(Mackie Onyx 24-4)
After the last one melted 5 minutes before showtime I took the precaution of setting the new one up in our kitchen and running it for 3 hours, then shutting it down for 30 minutes, then running it for another hour, etc until the beer was gone.
Used it tonight and there were zero issues and zero smoke.
Sounded different compared to all the Mackies I have used in the past, but that's to be expected and in no way was it's sound worse.
I just need to get used to the new mic preamps and EQs, then continue balancing the rest of our gear to it.

This picture of Bella has nothing whatsoever to do with the story.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Incidental Deer

I was in the back yard checking on my plants when I spotted some deer in the alley.
Grabbed my camera and went to the corner where I can stand on a railroad tie and poke my head over the fence.
The deer were spooked as I took a few pictures, but true to their nature curiosity made them come back.
I talked and sang to them, and made gentle noises until they came quite close.
I was only a head and camera from their viewpoint, so they felt relatively safe.

Then I noticed that a squirrel was also coming towards me along the top of the fence.
He kept getting closer and closer until I was able to compose this shot:
The idea of having deer in the background of a squirrel photo was too good to pass up, and I even opened-up the aperture to blur the deer some more. They soon became incidental, as if I hadn't realized they were there.

When the squirrel got within five feet of me I could see he was about to jump for a hackberry tree, but the autofocus didn't know what to do and I got a bad one. I'm posting it anyway because it's so much fun:
I used my new 50mm F1.8 lens all day, and I really like using it.
In fact, it hasn't come off the camera since I opened the box in the car to play with it on the way home from the Sony Style store.
It's just right for much of what I do.
Hope I don't forget how to use zoom lenses.

I did a quick photoshoot early today for a young man who's graduating from high school next month.
The mom was nice and he was a great kid.
The pictures turned out well and they are happy.
I'm happy because they paid in advance--a 20 pack of beer, and not the cheap crap I usually drink at home.
There are 18 left.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Mother's Day Lizard(s)

After having so much fun with the Easter Lizard I went looking for him on Mother's Day.

It made a nice test of the depth of focus with my new lens at F1.8.
Very shallow!

In this crop you can see that he is again flaring his dewlap.
Too bad someone got part of his tail.

It's not easy getting a shot of a prairie racerunner.
This one kept running away from me until it got on the other side of the fence.
Do small lizards even understand fences?
He seemed to know that I was no longer a danger.

Wished I had my 55-200mm lens right then, but I'm not taking my new 50mm off the camera until there is a compelling reason.
Still haven't used manual focus or stopped it down for more sharpness.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Work, Spend, Smile

My recent work schedule has been punishing my body, but good food and beer have fortified me and the money is a nice change.
Today I was making my shopping list to get prepared for a brutal weekend ahead, and suddenly remembered the lens I've been wanting ever since it came out almost a year ago.
Then I remembered a recent Sunday newspaper advert that showed a discount for the first time--didn't matter who's ad it was, since Sony only allows price reductions across the board.
This means that if it's on sale at BestBuy, that exact same price will be found at B&H in NYC, and even the Sony Style stores.
Sure enough, a quick peek at B&H's website showed a $25 savings but I didn't want to wait a week when I can just drive 8 miles to La Cantera and throw cash around.
So that's what I did, and it felt good.
The salesman was a little unsettled that someone can walk into his store knowing what he wants and not need any chit-chat before dropping pictures of dead presidents on the counter.
Sylvia was fascinated by their counterfeit bill checking device, which slowed me down but added a little fun for everyone.

This is my brand spanking new Sony 50mm F1.8 lens.

I like how fat and chunky it looks on my Alpha300 body.
Not as puny as I feared.
The F1.8 part of the designation means that it lets in more light than any other lens I've ever used.
When shooting my bands, this translates to over two stops of extra light, meaning that I can use shutter speeds that are 4 times as fast--and this is huge!.
With my other lenses, far too many photos were rejected because of motion-blur.

The 50mm tag means that on my camera it's magnification (focal length) is equal to a 75mm lens on a 35mm film (or full-frame digital) body.
This focal length and field-of-view is just about perfect for shooting bands in clubs, and is close enough to portrait perfection to suit me just fine.
(Good thing, because this is a "prime" lens which means there is no zooming).

It took a few months for enough people to buy these and start putting their opinions on the interwebs, and what I've seen has been very positive.
Glowing in fact.

The camera review websites that do hardcore testing suggest that the image quality is noticeably higher than similar lenses from Canon and Nikon, so that's nice.
Not too surprised, since theirs aren't nearly as new, design-wise.

The recessed front element makes it very resistant to flare from bright light sources, and my own limited testing confirms this. In fact, no lens hood is supplied and there isn't even a mount for one.
I can't wait to try this baby at night!
The zoom lenses I have are very disappointing in this regard and have definitely had an impact on my desire to take new photos under difficult conditions.

Here's a photo I just took using the new lens:

Another nice feature is that the minimum focus distance is around a foot, versus 2-4 feet for my other two lenses.
At comparable magnification it seems to even beat my F828 in this important spec, which makes my life much easier when doing product photography.

I'll be trying the new lens at ReTox Friday night
No doubts at all that it'll do a great job.

BTW--The SPURS Mr. Potato Head was priced around $20 at the ATT Center, but Sylvia got 2 for much less than that from WOOT!.
They arrived on our porch today, and I sure was surprised!
Hers is going to work, but I'll be leaving mine sealed in the package just like all of my HotWheels//Johnny Lightning//Muscle Machines die-cast cars.
Now that some of my collection is over ten years old, it doesn't seem so silly to have bought several hundred toy cars anymore.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

What A Difference!

You might remember last August when the San Antonio Museum of Art showed one of my photos:

I get to see the 11x14" print (+ frame) the museum made every single day, and it still gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to remember the honor and excitement.
So, I still love the print.

The photo itself, not so much anymore.

This past weekend I was working practically on top of the old dam's location.
It was the first time I've been there at night since the end of 2009, and what a difference a few months make!
Or maybe I should say what a difference the city's anti-algae crews make.

Here's how it looks now:

My original picture was made right after the new section of the Riverwalk opened, and because it wasn't a natural ecosystem things hadn't stabilized.
A hot-hot-hot summer with no rain and plenty of sunlight combined with a lack of wildlife that eat algae to create the perfect conditions for extreme green muck.

It was quickly obvious that something had to be done, and if I recall correctly the city parks dept outfitted/bought some barges that are equipped to fight the algae while the biosystem settles into harmony.
I must say it appears to be working well.
I also must say that the white lights submerged in blue water looks a hell of a lot better than the murky green.
The duck is a nice touch, too.

I would have tried to approximate the original photo better, but didn't have my tripod. But the color difference just kills me.
Oh well...

Here's a look just upstream:

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Show MUST Go On

These photos were intended for a MUCH different blog post than what's about to follow...

As you may or may not know, I'm a sound engineer for a local rock band.
I also play bass and write songs and do lights and take pictures and play webmaster and drive the truck and load the trailer and fix the gear and...pretty much everything.

Anyway, for over two years I have been with the band BLISS and on Wednesday my boss finally bought a new mixing board.
It's the one I really wanted, a newer version of the board that revolutionized the industry 15 years ago.
I took these pics right after he dropped it off at our house.

Muy complicado, but nothing I can't handle.
The main thing is that all the broken stuff and limited resouces of our old board are fixed, and I can finally make this band sound the way that they deserve.

We loaded into the club and I set to work with my cordless drill, pulling now-redundant equipments out of their racks and stashing my own custom cables.
Simplifying, thank God.
I had devised many creative solutions for the old board's problems.

As we went through sound-check my workload was a bit heavy because none of the knobs or switches are anywhere near the right place, since everything is set to *zero* from the factory, but the sound was so awesome that I was getting very excited.

5 minutes before showtime I saw some strange patterns of flashing LEDs, and then my boss (who paid for the new board) got a puff of smoke in his face from the ventilated rear!

We're both heartsick and furious, but there's no time to waste.
I got the shitty old mixer set up, then went nuts finding and connecting all of the custom cables that made our old board get the job done.

We started our show 15 minutes late.
The new burnt mixer goes back to the store tomorrow, and they better have a "loaner" to cover the multi-band Cinco De Mayo show, or I'm in for a huge ration of grief from the other bands who might want guitars in monitor 2 and the drummer's vocal in monitor 4.

The last time I experienced this level of catastrophic gear failure was probably 2002, and yet the show went on @ Iguana Bay.
Before that, I think it was the time that lightning struck the Baylor basketball facility and a bunch of my gear got fried.
Finished that show with only a short interruption, too.

I remember re-patching everything while several hundred college kids did The Macarena, so tonight was a definite improvement!