Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Modern Narrative (Resistance)


Never in my wildest imaginings did I anticipate entering into an established sense of adulthood during a period so tumultuous as these times we live in today.

 

This is the Modern Narrative. That of myself, of an entire generation of young people. Having grown and matured in one of the most economically and intellectually fruitful periods of modern history, having attained a state of self-awareness not unilaterally shared amongst our peers and elders, we are trapped, consigned to a perpetual state of both inward and outward conflict as we protest the conservative inclinations and social regress both natural and typical of generational divides throughout history. Which is not a statement with intent to diminish the validity of that stalwart stand for social progress - Such endeavors have historically been, and will continue to be, critical to the betterment of our species.



It is an exhausting state of being, whether willing or unwilling. A configuration of daily existence I fear will prove untenable over a long enough timeline as we wither as people, submit to cynicism and lazy generalization as we tire. Yet we have no choice but to engage with it every day, exercising hyper-vigilance in defense of the social progress that has only ever made us the more free as a people. To engage with the (to us) antiquated human impulse to seek out an "Other", an artificial sub-being upon which we might elevate ourselves mere inches to complete foolish fantasies of being among giants.

I fear that all of us caught in the undertow of this age will pass far too early for wont of our collective stress. An entire generation, doomed to aneurysms as a consequence of the period to which they were born. Our lot in life was only ever doomed to perpetual decline... Yet we will still struggle against it, for hope those generations coming after may leapfrog us to an enviable state of Higher Being.



May our backs be a strong foundation upon which better people will stand.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Faux Album Covers



I never futzed about with the text tool in Snapseed before, never really considered it a value add in my mobile photography exploits before. While killing time between shoots this weekend, I ended up wandering around the Naval Yard neighborhood that has been an up and coming project of the north of of DC's southeast waterfront, snapping at random just to occupy time. None of these photos above are particularly compelling on their own, but exploring the application of text to make faux album covers, the took on a new sort of life that I'm quite the fan of. Seems like the kind of thing I'd like to continue exploring in the future, simply for sake of being tickled by the subtle application of design logic to still images. Takes me back to my early web design days.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Sticky Reminder for a Good Idea

I'm writing this out as a sort of personal reminder of an awesome idea that I really don't want to lose sight of in the next couple months.

Every year for the last 3 years I've worked the photo studio and/or video for the Fur the More convention in the DMV. It's always a blast, barring my bias as a lover of the furry fandom in general (as a friend this weekend phrased it, I "orbit" the furry-verse). The last couple years my setup for the photo suite has been super simple, a plain white backdrop with a pair of YN-560s fired into it (to clip it out to full white), and a combo of YN-560s fired either into umbrellas or softboxes to expose the subject. It works out great, and is arguably the "easy" way to do it, but I want to do something special this year because... well, reasons? I dunno, why the hell not?


I tend to run the photo suite like a party room, so the first little thing would be to pick up a nice speaker with built-in party light (I've seen a few). The lights in the suite would be dim to allow the patterns projected by the party light to catch attention (if a litany of chiptunes and speedcore don't achieve that alone). The point of the fun multicolored light show is to set the scene for what the shots from the studio would be like. A black 10' x 20' muslin would be sufficient for the backdrop, all I'd need is a one-stop focus of the subject. I'd keep the lens stopped down hard to f/8 or maybe even f/11, something to ensure the dimness of the backdrop in case the ambient light tries to illuminate it. I'd trigger the shutter on bulb with my phone so as to have control over the exposure time for the next step. Using a Pixel Stick (those nifty programmable light wands that first spiked in popularity a year or two back) run behind the subject and draw some fun color patterns, maybe even do a couple programmable pictures for funzies. Once done with the background light play, the last step would be to trigger a couple YN-560s acting as subject main and key lights, probably a naked flash firing down behind the subject for rim lighting and a softbox to the front and slightly to the side of the subject for contrasty main lighting. The end result should be a solid freeze frame of the subject with some wild light jazz going on in an otherwise black background.


I'm not sure how the concept would fare in actual practice, the party atmosphere of my studio suites historically has typically lead to a machine gun beat of poses and fun frames. But I want to try something more considered and deliberate this year, and definitely something that stands out from the typical marbled muslin backdrops I frequently see deployed for other furry convention photo studios. It's an expensive venture by comparison, and a bit more time consuming, but I think it would work out well. Assuming I'll have access to a printer this year, I'd love to print these frames out and offer them as gifts to those who donate to the charity fund. With such unique art pieces, it should be pretty awesome, and I'm hella excited to try it out!

Friday, January 6, 2017

New Years Furry Ball

It's been an annual event for me this past few years, and always a great way to ring in the new year, especially in what are otherwise such tumultuous times. A little escapism to start off another spin about the big orange scare ball of our solar system.











Thanks for the memories, guys. It is my resolution this year to get back in touch with that sort of creative freedom and the liberty of naivety I so adore in all of you. This fandom is my roots, and I'd like to think I haven't lost my way in its own unique sort of Tao.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Anecdotal Thought


How odd is it, in this age of free video hosting on the likes of YouTube and Vimeo, with the prevalence of podcasts and parallax web articles, that anyone, anyone, would choose a forum so basic as a bare bones HTML blog as their preferred conduit through which to share experience, expand upon introspection... To tell a story?

I'm frequently wondering if my stubborn reluctance to embrace the gracious provisions of Web 2.0 isn't somehow biting me in the butt. And alas... here I am, pontificating on the matter in that same "basic bitch" blog. Silly, right?

An emboldened part of me detests the idea of any pursuit not immediately graced with direct financial boons. And Web 2.0 certainly demands an enormous sort of personal investment, and far from a surefire pocket of unrealized success, it is a gamble of a thing, dependent on the inconsistency of content consumers to realize any potential of "virility". Suffice to say it is... a bad investment.

And yet a relative unknown started a Facebook page doing candid portraits and aligning them with wordage which may or may not have been the stories of those persons photographed.

Another, significantly darker, element at play is a wonder if my concept of vanity could ever be quieted enough these days to indulge those stories people would prefer to hear... The stories of other people. I am quite the narcissistic fuck these days.

Case and point...


... I have no idea who this girl is. We spoke at length at Grand Central this past Friday. Spoke to the point of cordial comfort, to the point at which she felt absolutely comfortable with me photographing her, even with the awful light, even despite the fact she was drunk and incapable of keeping both eyes open at the same time (let alone either eye open at all). I recall that she unraveled herself upon my verbal invitation, unraveling myself (which should not be considered a fair trade, ever, when dealing with the proudly unraveled). And yet I can't remember a goddamn thing she told me. I was not nearly as drunk as this (otherwise elated) young woman. Somehow I suspect she came away from the conversation, in her inebriated state, with far more insight and context to share than I.

Todd, my boyfriend, mentioned to me the other day that I used to come home from working assignments with long, developed, stories on those for whom I'd just assisted with my particular skill set. The people mattered, and even if it drove him to a bored eye roll amid my ramblings, the humanist enthusiasm persisted as a positive influence. He mentioned this because I don't often speak in such fond, enthusiastic reminisce so much these days.

_________________________________________________

Frankly, I'm quite tired of my defining narrative arc being that of tragedy and conflict and struggle. More frankly, I'm not even certain that concept ever translated through my work as an artist, in my years of photographic work, certainly not in my intermediary lulls as an illustrator. I've spent a substantial span of my most formative living years attempting to spin a narrative onto which others could identify and latch onto, and yet here I am, at least 5 years into that narrative's commercial realization, and could not feel less confident about the actualizing potential of those efforts. Most frequently, I find myself pondering if I have not actually been forcing a design of self with such ferocity that I am now, perhaps, a terrible person for it. No time allocated for friendships, no time allocated for family, no time for loved ones, no time for construction of relationships, no time for maintenance of relationships (I italicize that final point because it is absolutely the most poignant to me as I rabidly consume people, consume relationships, like an extraction industry resource, strip mining every last benefit of friendship before ultimately growing tired and bored and moving onto the next pool of emotional wealth).

The cliche of my childhood, the archetypal "bad guy", was always that of the great Free Market Capitalist. Always posturing, always dominating. But in the end, whose end goals left him, logically, alone.


I am Ozymandias, King of Kings. Look on my works, ye mighty... and despair.

M. Zuiko 25mm f/1.2


Back in the good ol' Nikon days (before the spoiling of creative thought through awareness of technical process), I had a lens which, once mounted to the plastic wonder that was the D40x, never really came off again during the remaining 3 years of its service. The Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX, a gem of an optic for $200. Feels like I've found the M. Zuiko equivalent in the 25mm f/1.2 from Olympus, though at a $1200 price tag it's blatantly in a different class. However, time and experience has cemented the limitations of cheaper high speed prime lens optics (a la M. Zuiko 25mm f/1.8), and while I would readily swap out the cheaper M. Zuiko with the likes of the 17mm f/1.8 and 45mm f/1.8 for variety, I'm fairly certain an act of congress would be required to see me switch out this new breed of Olympus PRO prime for another optic. To a degree, it has me rethinking the entirety of my assemblage of kit.

What to say about this new lens... well, on the whole, it's assisted in a return to the point of working with prime lenses, or at least their function as I divined from a dedicated workflow with them interrupted only in the last 2 years with Olympus' M. Zuiko PRO line of zooms (optics which proved to be more uprooting of the creative process than I ever expected). Prime lenses have always played to the strengths of limitation, forcing the unconventional approach in the creation of a strong image in the absence of technical flexibility (ie. no zoom). For years I embodied the prime lens ethos, camera bag packed with naught but the 12mm f/2.0, 17mm f/1.8, and 45mm f/1.8, a wonderful trio mated to the EP3 of the time. But with the introduction of the PRO line, decently fast and markedly sharper f/2.8 zooms, especially in focal lengths fitting the work I was doing, I struggled to maintain that ethos, its appeal having waned in the face of superior optics with the technical flexibility to facilitate a simpler workflow for business shoots. The sacrifice part and parcel with this transition was diminished drive toward creative thinking, the lack of challenge otherwise presented by the limited scope of function with prime lenses.

Enter this new breed of prime optic, with fidelity on par with (if not superior to) those PRO zooms... quantifiable metrics of the image are no longer sacrificed in the indulgence of a prime-based workflow, and unlike the Lumix 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron, this 25mm draws me into things to photograph them intimately as opposed to stepping back to make sense of a scene in context (or get focus when the subject is in arm's reach).


This new 25mm f/1.2 will focus close. Perhaps not macro close, but certainly close enough to permit elimination of the periphery as a visual consideration. Paired with the desperately thin depth of field, I feel more capable of isolating subjects with this lens. A caveat of the Micro Four Thirds system is its greater depth of field equivalency for sake of its much smaller format, and resultantly even out of focus backgrounds, no matter the working distance, can often be too structurally defined so as to be distracting. The focus falloff simply isn't "fast" enough, even at f/1.8. While this technical limitation is certainly still a factor at play with the 25mm f/1.2, it strikes me as that much less of a problem, as if the threshold necessary for longer focus falloff to no longer introduce issue hides in this sweet spot of f/1.2 (mind you, that is entirely subjective analysis, and not quantifiable in the least... it is my perception).

Perhaps appropriately in line with the aesthetics afforded by the season and commonly chosen decor, an element of the image I've often ignored has become a focus in the last week, namely the manipulation of bokeh.



This lens wants to be shot wide open. Much like the Nocticron, it sees no perceptual (technical) benefit to being stopped down, however, unlike the Nocticron, the "mood" of the image does not change as the f-stop creeps up. Thus, with the Nocticron, aperture can be used as a dictator of mood (the contrast profile changes dramatically), whereas the M. Zuiko knows its rendition well and does not waver. Sunlight be damned, it knows where its value resides and pleads for use of ND filters or polarizers or a 1/32,000" electronic shutter before the consideration of stopping down enters the arena (and even then, it may make more sense to play high key and overexpose).


I'm unsure if Olympus plans to release future PRO primes. Similarly, I'm unsure if I want to run the risk of polluting my ecosystem with new optics anymore, not without very legitimate use cases in mind. It has taken a concert of influences over this past year to so much as hint to returning to a creative zen, ranging from new tools, to modified workflows, to abandoned workflows, to indulging other mediums, to relearning that it's actually, truly, okay to not be relentlessly creating something. At the moment, in this current environment, my head space is sustainable. I look forward to the next icy morning to photograph dead branches. I look forward to the next rain to photograph oily puddles.

It's nice to look forward, for once.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Craftsmanship


There is nothing better than taking steps outside your own head space and discovering subtleties of a world going on otherwise unbeknownst to you.