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


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

Sunday, December 11, 2016


Back in 2014, Towson-local band All Time Low's guitarist, Jack Barakat, jumped into co-ownership of the previously titled Vale Tudo (known as Cheerleaders before that), to redraw the aesthetic of the bar to focus strictly on varieties of rock & roll (as opposed to the "iPod on shuffle" variety making the venue's appeal very hit or miss).

Kevin, Rob, and I stopped in this past Wednesday night after dinner, figuring we'd grab a round of drinks and enjoy the entertainment of the night. Silly us, it was a Wednesday night... nobody goes to a club on a Wednesday night. But, being stubborn people, we went in anyway and wound up having a neat conversation with the bartender/manager that night, going over the details of the venue's ownership and occasional nightmares of its maintenance (case and point, the projectors splashing the cool effects on the canvas wall panels burn out at least twice a year, and require rental of a skyjack that barely fits through the door to replace the bulbs).

Once upon a time, a monthly tradition was for different artists being showcased on the projector panels in special events. I'm rather disappointed I missed my chance with this venue. It would have been pretty fantastic as a time lapse showcase. Perhaps in its next iteration... The half-life of club venues rarely extends beyond the first 2 or 3 years without a shuffle in ownership and/or aesthetic. It's the nature of the business.

It is Cold Outside

I've aimed to write a review of the Olympus M. Zuiko 8mm f/1.8 PRO fisheye lens, but haven't actually taken anything remarkable with it as of yet, nor attacked images with labored processing in Lightroom (plenty with Snapseed on the phone, however). It's a great optic, but the weather hasn't been the most optimal for creatively considered stress testing (and somehow I don't suspect I'll get the kind of use I see it really shining in until the Milky Way returns to the sky on this hemisphere in the Summer).

Otherwise I've just been thinking about my focus, my end goals, which is to say I don't really have any but am trying to align to something. In a curious interaction, my high school statistics teacher messaged me to suggest that I focus more on people, specifically the people of Baltimore. In his words, my work has a "melancholy" which reflects the "tone of an aging Baltimore", and while the architecture and landmarks I photograph may look pleasant, they're ultimately page-turners, but the faces of people in and around those regions would reflect a missing human element. I'm rather inclined to agree with him, considering the strong interest in portrait work and incorporating people in my photos back in 2012 and 2013. That's definitely a theme that dropped off. Not for lack of interest or even lack of taking photos of people, but definitely lack of mental bandwidth to process them and develop a solid, themed series. I will never not blame the business for being the catalyst of massive creative burnout.

I recall the path forward so many years ago being a stubborn doubling down, even when I thought my time had been stretched to the limit. I've since stretched further, always expecting new limits to be normalized and stretched again. That remains my expectation. Always somewhere in life where some time can give, even if only for a little while. The greatest balancing act.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


There's something about party lights and fog that is endlessly appealing.

Just a few snaps from an idle night some weeks back, listening to remarkable music on remarkably clear high end speakers, playing with technique.