Monday, December 20, 2010

Paris - City of Public Art

Paris - rue Denoyez

My wife and I visited Paris, France for over two weeks in the Fall, 2010. We wanted to see what it was like to visit this famous "city of lights" and do several things. First, we vowed to see none of the Paris icon tourist spots. What could we see in them that we haven't already seen in prior trips? Second, we wanted to live in an apartment and not out of a hotel. The idea was to begin to experience living in Paris as Parisians do. Third, we wanted to see if the city and it's citizens were as vibrant and alive as during those well documented times of the early 1920's.

Crossing the high tourist sites off our list of things to do freed us up to become flâneurs. We could walk or metro to places where normal life and living takes place. We could stop and talk with people when the urge hit. We were free to discover some incredible places not usually highlighted in guide books.

Paris - rue Denoyez

In this way we found Saint Germain l'Auxerrois, Saint Julian le Pavre, the Hotel Sully, several fine bistros (including Fois de l'isle), Gallery Verto-Dodat, and an ancient church around the corner from Sacre Cour. We wedged through the crowds around the pet shops that line the river Seine. I got to walk through the grève of September 23rd and see how the French unions are alive and active in trying to protect the working class from excessive corporate greed.

Living in an apartment was a wonderful way to participate in life and living in Paris. We prepared many of our meals in the apartment. Buying food in Paris was really no more expensive than buying food in the States, and it tasted much better too (the European food system isn't broken like it is in the USA). Being centrally located on l'isle St. Louis allowed us easy access to anything our hearts desired.

Paris - rue Denoyez

When it came time to see if the Parisian culture was still alive, vibrant, and informed, I could think of no better measure than to find and appreciate Paris streetart. While this may seem odd to some, streetart can be a barometer used to measure the level and volume of art a culture has under development. Streetart, by its nature, is transitory and ephemeral. None of it will ever hang in an "official" gallery. None of it will ever be appreciated by the monied conservative class.

Yet, the form, style, and content of streetart can inform even the casual observer about the level of artistic activity. For me, when art spills out into the streets and onto the buildings and vehicles, it tells me that people are demanding to be heard because they feel they have something important to say. Without access to more formal, traditional art outlets, streetart becomes one of the few public sharings of ones work available.

Paris - rue Denoyez

We visited rue Denoyez. The entire street has been given (or taken?) over to street artists. New works are constantly under development. New ideas are continually being expressed. New visions appear to be explored.

What impressed me most about Paris streetart is its level of sophistication. Artists seem well informed and aware of cultural pressures. They seem to be using these pressures to drive their work. While it may be difficult for me to see outright, I felt a vibrancy, an aliveness about some of the work.

Paris - rue Denoyez

Next time we visit Paris, I want to again seek out a bit of street art. There are more places than just Belleville to visit, too.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Proof...

A couple posting ago I went on a rant about how people in the photo-forums have nothing better to do than squawk about something they know little to nothing about. Mainly, that lenses have properties that influence image quality that are obvious (to them). I'm thinking of the flame wars about Nikon vs Canon sharpness. I'm thinking about the Leica crowd who fervently believe their images are better than anyone else's because Leica lenses are (somehow) better. I'm thinking of the heavy Sigma lens bashing that goes on. I'm thinking of the folks who pick over potentially unobservable details between one Canon zoom over another. I'm thinking of the folks who "test" lenses and then pontificate over their findings.

OK. So I too am pontificating. Here's my proof. So maybe I'm not exactly pontificating, rather just sharing potentially useful information.

I have once again proven to myself (if no one else) that lenses, by and large, are not the limiting factor in image resolution. From my observations, the sensor is the limiting factor.

Look at the test of four lenses and look for the smallest group of lines that can be resolved. Compare results within specific focal lengths. Look at the influence (or, really, non-influence) of aperture on resolution. Then think about what these observations mean.

If you're being truthful with yourself, you'll realize, as I have, that lens resolution is really sensor resolution in the case of modern AF optical systems. There is no way of getting more resolution into a file than this.

So why do folks go on and on about which lens is better than another? They say "resolution" in many cases, but what people may really be referring to are other dimensions. Perhaps build quality? Perhaps how a lens "feels" in the hand? Or, what I really suspect is true in a large number of cases, is how people can impress complete strangers with their ability to spend large sums of money.

If you want to make wonderful images, buy a lens. Just about any lens. If you want to impress folks, I'm sure you can find a way to spend a lot of money to achieve you goals.

The following are 100% center crops from a 5D MkII Canon full frame DSLR. +1 EV CR2 originals were then converted using #3 Sharpness in DPP. The image style was set to "Standard". No other manipulations were made to the output.

Click on this image, mouse over the image, click again and you can observe the file at full resolution.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I love this time of year.

Everything seems to quiet down from the mad rush of Spring and the constant humming of Summer. Peace settles on nearly everything.

Maple leaves are one of my favorite expressions of Autumn. Their vibrant colors attract my eye.

The sensation of light emitting from fallen leaves is powerful. Walking through piles of them, kicking up a whiff or two.

Autumn Leaves


It is with very great pleasure that I am able to announce that my work will be published by Silvershotz Magazine, an international publication devoted to photography. A few of my Noir Victorian Gothic images will be published in an 8 page spread in the January 2011 issue.

Need I say? I'm very excited. It's thrilling. It's wonderful. It's way too much goodness. Like a dream realized. Like a life lived fully.

My many thanks extended to the Silvershotz editor, Clive, for selecting my work.

If you are not familiar with Silvershotz, you really should check it out. They are everything in quality and content that I wish the now moribund Aperture Magazine had become.

Age of Tribes

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Going cheap... but who would know?

The online discussion boards and forums sometimes make me laugh.

The first fit of laughter was started from a comment by the editor of He was talking about a future 5D MkIII at 28+ mpixel requiring new sharper lenses to take full advantage of the sensor resolution. If I weren't laughing so hard...

The problem with the editor's utterances is in the math. Or lack of understanding thereof.

Let's look at the physical dimension of the Canon 7D/60D/T2i 18 mpixel sensor. Divide the number of information nodes in an image file from these cameras by the size of the sensor in mm's for whichever file dimension you choose. Now look at the answer. It should be 236. Divide this number by two to calculate the number of line pairs per mm and read/note/remember the answer. It will 116 line pairs per mm.

Run a similar calculation on the current 5D MkII using it's sensor size in mm's divided into the file output node number in the same dimension as the sensor size you just used. Divide by two. The answer? It should be 79 line pairs per mm.

After extensive testing against a USAF Resolution Test Chart, I have confirmed that every single lens I own (including Sigma, Canon L, Canon non-L, Nikon, Pentax, and Zeiss) out-resolves my 7D's sensor from wide open. You read that correctly. Read 'um and weep if you need to.

Now think about this a moment. OK. Times up. If lenses were the limiting factor to image resolution, wouldn't it make sense that the Canon 18mpixel crop sensor cameras would require a sharper lens than the full frame 5D MkII? Seriously. Think about it until you see this is true.

So how on earth will new lenses be required due to some mysteriously wonderful resolution of a 28mpixel 5D MkIII? If my lenses are good enough for the 7D/60D/T2i, they will remain overkill for any new full frame sensor'd camera anyone on earth makes until the sensor size (use your math skills to confirm this again, please) cross beyond 60mpixels.

Not unrelatedly, Sigma lenses are derided in the online forums. If it's not image quality its AF noise. If it's not AF noise, it's about AF accuracy... well... OK... there may be something to this last item.

I recently picked up a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 lens for a whopping $200. Canon's own 28-70 f/2.8 L still fetch north of $700. So I thought I'd try something cheap. I could use the optical speed in darkly lit video situations like bellydance gigs for Nagasita, but I don't want to break the bank over a lens that I would seldom use.

Mounting the Sigma to a 5D MkII, I noticed the focus was consistently on the nearest item, regardless of where the AF nodes lit up in the viewfinder. I was irked. This seemed to confirm the blabbering masses nattering nuttiness of whackdom.

I thought about the problem and wondered how Sigma could make such a mess of the AF system. Couldn't they reverse engineer the Canon AF system any better than this?

Then I had an idea to see if selecting one AF point in the 5D MkII made any difference in how the Sigma focused. I had read somewhere that someone had tried this with limited success. I tried it anyway.

Guess what? the AF is spot on every single time I hit the shutter release. Independent of which AF point I select, as long as that AF point is placed over the desired focus location the image is sharp exactly there every single time.

This little discovery leads me to think that Sigma's engineering problem may be related to their electronics. Perhaps Sigma really did not correctly reverse engineer Canon's AF system. Maybe they got stuck confirming a single AF node? I can't believe that, but...

OK. Believe it or not, I can live with this defect. For many stills photo situations I select the AF point myself anyway.

Now I have a very cheap, and even though I haven't covered it here, the lens is VERY sharp from wide open!!! (something again about out-resolving the sensor), usable optic. Did I mention the Sigma was cheap? Need I mention the optic is sharp? It's cheap too.

Need I mention that viewers of my images cannot tell the difference between images made with this cheap usable merely competent optic and my $1200 L-glass?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stars shining brighter than ever...

I don't usually follow celebrity or well known photographers. For me it feels like their work is so well known that it would be difficult for them to say anything new or significant. I'm looking for new themes, new ideas, new mem-types.

Really now. I do know better than that. Still, it rests in the back of my mind this way.

Fred Miranda's website had this video. I found it charming, inspiring, and it asked me to reconsider how I view other's work.

It was good for me to see that not all famous photographers come across as laser eye'd type-A personality over-achievers.

Friday, September 10, 2010

More Obscure Ideas...

Madonna Engine

Once I started down this path, I could see the ideas and realizations unfolding in front of me. There's no slowing me down at times like this.

The original idea came from looking at other people's work on Flickr. Over the past couple years I could see where the ideas and presentations were becoming ever more sophisticated.

Aeronaught Etherius

In similar time, I read a few books by Neil Gaiman and Neil Stephenson. Some of the visuals scenes and descriptions of people in certain settings started me to thinking. Once the thoughts took hold I knew I needed to try my hand at photo-manipulation.

The visual genres that have appealed to me for some time now has been around Steampunk and Noir Victorian Gothic. All I need to do as I read various authors is to close my eyes and "see". After that, it's a simple matter of composing a series of images and working them to completion.

Can you tell how much I'm enjoying this new expression of my art?

Rising Motion - Age of Mutations

Friday, August 20, 2010

Obsure ideas...

Age of Mutations and Adaptations

Much of my work is guided by the books I read. Recently I stumbled upon Neil Stephenson's "Diamond Age". It's a pretty quirky book, and it has a few ideas that I find compelling. It's like reading Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman, but with a very nerdy twist.

The idea of a Matter Compiler gives me a lot of ideas. A MC is a device that takes atoms and builds them into things people need, use, or want. When you're done, you just put the things into a decompiler and the item is returned to it's constituent atomic bits.

The "Diamond Age" is a fairly dark text. Since I'm exploring ideas along the lines of dark Victorian and Gothic, I thought I'd try my hand at this concept to see what came up.

The images posted here are just a start. With a photoshoot coming this weekend, I hope to add substantially to my base materials that will allow me to explore these ideas more fully.

Matter Compiler - fabricating Madonna

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Working with textures...

Back in the day, William Mortensen sold texture layers to photographic artists. They came (at least) in 8x10 inch sizes. A person selected the texture they wanted to print with and would head into the darkroom. Setting the enlargement size to 8x10 inches, focusing the negative, placing a red filter between the negative and the paper (so as to not expose the paper while setting the rest of this up and help control the exposure), putting the photographic paper into the easel, then laying the selected texture over the top of the paper would, many times, lead to magic.

Using similar principals, artists in the age of digital "lightrooms" can create some rather interesting images.

Nagasita - Art Nouveau Goddess

As many of my readers know, I use a Photoshop-like tool called the Gimp. It is the Open Source communities answer to Adobe's for sale products. The power of the tool allows me to create layers and masks, tints and crops, and all the color management/manipulation capabilities that I could ever desire. In fact, the tool is so powerful that I seldom use more than a fraction of it's overall capability. Much of the time I'm anxious when I launch the Gimp, particularly when I'm just doodling and have no strong idea of where I'd like to go. Stumbling around reaching for an idea while using this tool has many times lead me to disaster.

While some of the textures and tint layer are not obvious, I tend to use them to help create dimension in my work. Somewhere in my processed images will be metal, concrete, clouds, tiles, ceramics, or aged polishes. To support this work, I have created a library of tints and colors that I use in many different layers to achieve the kinds of blended effects that I'm after.

It's not hard to see what influences me. Old photos. Old photographic processes. Movie set lighting. Traditional poses. Jules Verne-like ideas. Increasingly, the more fantastic the idea, the more excited I am to try and express that idea. In fact, I'm thinking of a theme of Death in a Jar, a steam-era Mad Scientist of Biologist's Laboratory. Hmmmm... I wonder if I can pull it off...?

Nagasita - Art Nouveau postcard

Monday, July 19, 2010

Flickr Explore...

One of the more interesting features of Flickr is it's Explore function. This presents a collection of images rated by some mysterious algorithm that selects for something called "interestingness".

Having one's images "Explored" has become something of a contest between Flickr image contributors. There are even web pages devoted to describing how to make the "Explore" pages.

I have had many of my own photos "Explored". But it had been awhile since something of mine was picked up by the wee-minions of Flickr. So it was a bit of a surprise to see that one of my images made it up to #199 on July 19, 2010.

Nagasita - Art Nouveau

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010


Every now and then I drop the heavy textured Noir Victorian Gothic image look and return to straight old fashioned image making.

My wife's roses (Jude the Obscure) are incredible this year. After sitting in a vase in our dining room, I saw them begin to droop. Before we recycled them I wanted to see if there was an interesting composition or two that could be made with them.

What I ended up with are incredibly large image files. They retain the kind of resolution only large format film photographers seem to be able to achieve. Printing these to extremely large print sizes shows bugs and pollen and other minutiae.

What camera was the rose image made with? Was it film? Was it digital? Or did I use a camera at all? Are these "real"? Or are these "Memorex" (as the commercial used to go)?


Sunday, June 27, 2010


David Burns Smith has published me. Again. It's quite a fine honor. David does a great job keeping up with artists around the US.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oh what fun!

I used to think that I needed to be creative entirely on my own for anything I did to be "valid". Once I started looking at the word "valid" and began asking what that could possibly mean, I saw that it is nothing more than a cultural perception perpetrated by folks who stand to make something off it.

Irish - Noir Victorian Gothic

Once I realized the word "valid" held little to no sway over me, I began to experience life, art, and image making differently.

What I presently see is that a collaboration can help bring together and create a sum much greater than it's individual parts.

My wife acts as my assistant and a valuable extra set of "eyes" and ideas. My subjects bring not only themselves and wardrobe, but a lifestyle and way of looking at the world that I dont' always have for myself.

Irish - sample image

When taken in total, my ideas blended through the aid and help of my wife, and amended and expanded through my subjects leads places I could never have otherwise envisioned.

One such case was when Irish Heather Collins asked if we could do a Pin-Up photo-shoot for a calendar she will be in next year, 2011.

I think the results speak for themselves.

Irish - image candidate

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


In 1984 I picked up a Guide Blue 1929 while visiting Paris for my first time. In 2006 my wife's Uncle's steam engine maintenance and mathematical calculations guide came into my hands.

As I worked some of my recent images on the various themes of steam, Noir Victorian Gothic, and tribal punk, the thought occurred to me that I could use text as a texture. Relevant to the period I was trying to depict. Subtle enough to not overpower the primary subject. Mixed with other textures to give the image a well "worked" surface.

Age of Steam - At Ready

Since I have plenty of material to work with already, I was able to avoid organizing another model shoot. While working with other artists is fun, I knew I needed to try my hand at the processing stage of image creation.

These images edge closer to expressing ideas of Steampunk, Oilpunk. There is still more to be gained. But for that, I think I need to head back into the studio and re-work my lighting. In fact, I have studied the light of Eugenio Recuenco, and am developing a few ideas. I hope they work out as I intend.

Age of Steam - Contemplating the Struggle

Friday, May 14, 2010


David Burns Smith, from The Studio Chronicle, interviewed me this week. Here is the result.

Seraphic Society - Viola Rose (Butoh)

Monday, May 03, 2010


If you've never seen a Roman Catholic Mass card, you might not know what I'm about to refer to.

Every now and then I stumble across my up-bringing.

Take, for instance, the photo in this post. As I worked it the images that appeared to me became more and more iconic in nature. Finally, it hit me. My sub-conscious was driving toward a prayer card look.

Brilliant! At least I knew where the inspiration was coming from. Then I could, with a little more awareness, create what it was I felt.

How fitting it was to create Saint Mermaid. Classic. Simple. Religious.

Mermaid - Saint

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Opportunities abound...

Riches pour in from all sides.

Collaborating with local artists is, for me, very energizing. Recently I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with Stephanie Lopes, Gemma Adams, Keph, Shelley Frederick, and Viola Rose. Some of the work we have done together is quite pleasing. The results are better than I could have imagined. Each collaboration brought new ideas as well as increasing visual challenges.

How to convey the sense of beauty and grace when working with aerialists and handstand artists? How to participate in the act of Butoh when called upon to do so? How to extend the visual themes and ideas that I find so compelling?

Out of the blue, a kind email was received from Irish Heather Collins. She asked if I would be interested in working a theme of Mermaid? Never one to turn down a request of this magnitude, I replied "yes".

We set a time and place. My trusty assistant, my wife, joined me in the studio. Irish painted and groomed herself in the manner of a Mermaid from the very great deep.

As we worked through the shoot, various ideas were raised and worked. We reached a point where the sea chest needed to be opened and it's contents revealed. All the while, tulle was attempting to make it's way out of the chest and into the open world.

It felt like a key point in the shoot when my wife suggested that the tulle needed to be set free. She asked "... why not have our Mermaid marry the Sea?" All at once something struck and held firm. An idea was born.

This is one of the most satisfying images I have made this year. Actually, since this was a collaboration, this is one of the most satisfying images I have had the opportunity to help create with help from other fine artists and assistants.

Mermaid - Marrying the Sea

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

... or maybe not...

I have to smile.

Again, I have changed direction.

Night Flight - Stephanie Lopes

This time it seems I need to explore simplicity against a white background. As with my other recent work, I try to let the subject and composition inspire the Muse. There just seemed no way around keeping these images clean and simple. The Muse allowed for nothing less and nothing more.

Working with Night Flight's Stephanie Lopes in her dance studio, my wife and I arrived one fine Saturday afternoon to set up the backdrop and lights. Stephanie worked to apply her makeup and adjusted her attire. After she'd warmed up, it was up onto the cloud swing and away we went.

Night Flight - Stephanie Lopes

I really enjoy working with creative people. They inspire me. They give me hope. They help make life engaging and interesting. Invariably, they have political and cultural views similar to mine.

Night Flight - Stephanie Lopes

Friday, April 09, 2010

... running into the unknown... [3]

One of my creative modes seems to be drawing me into areas that may be difficult for viewers of my work to "connect" with, get, understand, and even enjoy. Yet I can't stop myself.

Seraphic Society - Viola Rose (Butoh in fractured dimensions)

The idea that there are as many views of reality as there are viewers drove a concept of varying areas of an image. Each modified area represents a different aspect of reality.

My first implementations of this concept are rather graphic. Straight lines. Modified tones and textures. Varying colors.

Seraphic Society - Shelley Frederick (Butoh)

Yet I can see the first images based on this concept are likely to be considered immature. That is, they don't quite say what I want them to say. Not yet, at least. Hence immaturity.

I used to be bothered by immature work. Not any more. Or not as much any longer. The roughness of immaturity has worn off enough that I can now post to view and consider works in transition. I find I can use this time to evaluate and ponder where to take a concept, which direction feels right.

Seraphic Society - Viola Rose (Butoh)

Friday, March 26, 2010

... running into the unknown... [2]

As my wife and I watched "Oregon Art Beat" last night something caught my eye. The things that seem to be attracting me these days have a strong graphic quality to them. It feels like a more complete blurring of the line between photography and graphic arts, in more traditional terms.

Coming into work this morning I completed processing an image of Shelley Frederick and thought I'd try to implement the kind of image that caught my eye last night. It feels like yet another direction to launch off into.

Very exciting times. Particularly after a friend reminded me yesterday that just a few months back I was complaining that my muse had wandered off.

Seraphic Society - Shelley Frederick (Butoh - fractured by dimensions)

Friday, March 19, 2010

... running into the unknown...

I notice that as I work on photographic images how my awareness changes. It's almost as if my mind has taken leave and I'm left to respond to the work as it evolves. There seems to be no clear indication that a work is "completed" either. If I didn't force myself to pause and look back at a body of work or to see how an image has evolved, I might continue without end.

Alternative History - Hunter

This is how my recent work has come into being. I start with a broad idea and then let each of the images take me where they will.

A couple groups contacted me about working with them to collaborate on small image collections. They got what they needed for various promotionals and such. I received the opportunity to expand my portfolio of ideas, expressions, and finished works.

When I started processing the image from the "Night Flight" shoot with Gemma Adams and Stephanie Lopes, I felt that the results would be heavily textured. I could almost "see" how the finished images would be. That is, they would continue a theme I first developed with the Tribal Fusion, Steampunk works.

However, the image refused to follow my formula for processing. Something didn't feel right. The images looked pressed to fit into an expression that was inappropriate for the subject. So I took a step back and cleared out my mind (allowed it to take it's leave?). Then I started anew and tried to listen to what the subject had to say.

It didn't take long to realize that my subject was sleek and athletic. It demanded a cleaner, crisper line than my heavily textured work did. I couldn't hide the beauty, rather I needed to reveal it.

Night Flight - Gemma Adams, Stephanie Lopes

Stephanie Lopes shared that she felt the images evolved into a fairy tale-like expression. I can see what she's saying. I'm thrilled with the results and hope they are too.

A month later I had the opportunity to work with a Butoh group called the Seraphic Society. They presented an entirely different set of challenges.

Here was a group that reveled in the extreme. Here was a group who could move in a very different manner from the beautiful Night Flight troupe. Here was a group who wanted to experiment.

To add to expectations, they had also seen my work and liked what I had done in the past.

Yet, when it came time to process their images, I found I was stuck. Every time I tried to use the heavy textures from the Alternative History sets, my images didn't work. So taking a recent lesson and applying it to the Seraphic Society, I took a step back and cleared my mind yet again.

Seraphic Society - Viola Rose (Butoh)

What revealed itself at first was a very elegant, subtle, gorgeous light. The subject could still express something not commonly seen in culture and society. Yet it demanded an image expression that was very classic and pure.

After talking with Shelley Frederick and realizing they wouldn't mind my trying to go dark and scary, I tried a more subtle set of textures. Et voila! Another expression of the subject was quickly revealed.

Seraphic Society - Shelley Frederick (Butoh) diptych

Folks over on Facebook have been very responsive to both sets of images from the Seraphic Society shoot. For that matter, they were also very responsive to the fairy-tale like results from the Night Flight shoot too.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Someone commented on one of my photos on Flickr from Fluidr. I am happy to see alternative interfaces like this being developed to access Flickr. These are turning into great tools for exploring the very best Flickr has to offer. I'm continually impressed with the level of talent found on Flickr. Very inspiring.

Friday, February 05, 2010


My work made the front cover of the Oregon Coutry Fair's Fair Family News. Fun stuff! THANK YOU OCF!!!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


The photos of Rachel Brice are mine. Kind thanks to Marthyna for contacting me and selecting these two images from my collection. If you are in the Quebec area in March, consider attending their Tribal and Fusion bellydance event.