Monday, September 18, 2017


I really am a quite incapable mess of a person. To think, I should have spent so many years formulating the "Broken Man" as my outwardly facing persona, and it became (or perhaps always was) an inevitable truth of self.

Earlier this afternoon, amid long and excruciating lulls in day-job work, I peered in on the work of others. Artistic work, and idle pursuits as curated and portrayed via the medium of social media. It is an interesting thing that I should realize my role models, those I most aspire to emulate and demonstrate anywhere near comparable skill to, are those many years younger. Partially, this ties into a freer sense of expression, less rigid and confined by developed rules and learned habits. In some cases it does not. Some exercise their art within the confinements of the same rule sets I've adopted with time, however I find myself envious of both their comfort with those paradigms and, especially, the enthusiasm with which they approach the creative process despite those defining technical factors.

Enthusiasm, tied into a general drive as aspiration. "The Muse". It's a core element I lack, the last piece of this great puzzle so soggy, bloated and misshapen, it may never really fit into place for me. My ultimate failure, ultimate undoing.

This especially came to light this weekend. Saturday, I had a litany of mundane tasks, domestic items of self-care, and the struggle to achieve them was enormous despite no clear or concrete rationale as to why. As if I simply lacked the strength of spirit to accomplish basic tasks like "Get a haircut" and "Make an appointment to get new glasses". This sort of thing is most often attributed to laziness, and as it pertains to my own situation I am inclined to label it as such, but realistically I find it difficult to accept as a facet of simple laziness. I struggle to function in the most basic of ways, reliant upon peer pressure and guilt to inspire enough strength to muddle through to completion. Despite being well aware of long-term consequences, the value of simply getting it done now and not worrying about it in the future. I would excuse that wall as being a symptom of feeling impeded in some other area of Maslow's Heirarchy, but how can that ever make sense if my sense of impediment is of an upper tier whereas these are very low-order needs I'm struggling to satisfy?

There is plenty of meme material coursing the internet regarding those with debilitating anxiety issues. One more recently resonated with me, something general espousing the idea that, in the case of one with high-functioning anxiety, the energy invested in maintaining the facade of being "Okay" consequently withdraws from reserves otherwise available to actually feel "Okay". For a variety of reasons, justified or not... My facade is nigh flawless to the casual observer. Only in the last year have I opened myself to letting others beyond the veil, but time restricted to choice individuals permitting my guard to drop is hardly ample to strike a balance in this nightmare equation of energies. And, be it a habitual behavior learned in early life or a genuine inherent affection, I surround myself with other broken people, those I can approach (inwardly) as true peers, yet I most struggle with sympathizing outright and instead invest energy into a White Knight complex that more frequently fails for sake of exhaustion. I am not all-together myself, how could I possibly hope to be a solid foundation upon which others could dream to build a sound self-image?

It is painful to consider the achievements of which I'd be capable if simply I could unlearn this practiced face, this tax on my ability to comfortably exist. These younger for whom I hold such strong admiration seem to have this figured out well enough already. I wish I could learn it at all.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Proof I Still Exist


Real estate shoot for Conway, a group I recently made connections with over the Summer. Handled a few shoots for them thus far, primarily flips that have some order of roughness about them overcome by a coat of paint and smart staging, but also a couple extremely nice remodels and owner-assisted sales. Arguably some of the first work I've done with a legitimate realtor agency (as opposed to an investment group or rental firm). They like my work, and I like doing work for them.

Shoot wraps up after a bit over an hour, and Rob, who just completed his own property shoot, is hanging out at Order & Chaos Coffee in Federal Hill. It's a short 20 minute jaunt, takes me through the neighborhoods of personality surrounding suburbanites would (incorrectly) label "sketchy". I gun it through the I-95 tunnel because the obnoxious echo of my car's fart-can exhaust pleases me in the acoustic confines of the tunnel. I'm an idiot of simple pleasures. I think of the video on the Greek philosopher Diogenes I watched that morning.

Drop a buck on the meter and walk to the coffee shop with camera bag in tow. Hold an annoying conversation with the barista as soon as I walk in the door. She's selling me on a text message based loyalty program of sorts. I go through the motions to convincingly satisfy her very practiced directions, well knowing that I don't visit the shop with nearly enough frequency to justify constant automated marketing notifications. All I want is a chai latte and to sit with Rob who I notice at the bench on the upper landing. Never been in this part of the shop before, figure I have the 7-14mm f/2.8 wide angle on my camera already from the real estate job and take a snap of the room, college students and all. Before we leave, I take another of the sitting area immediately through the front door. I like its design and style, glass panes permitting a clear view into the design firm in the same building. The openness of the firm's layout appeals to me, and without knowing what in the hell it is they even do, I want to work there.

The rest comes down to meeting a woman and her dog.


Rob and I play pool upwards of 3 hours straight. I eat half a plate of the most delicious cheese fries I've ever touched to my tongue. We both play like goddamn machines and it feels amazing. Even the relatively idle exercise of walking around the table is exhausting, but it's a great night.

I am not a photographer today. But I do process an old shot for Flickr because I can't sleep without feeling some semblance of creative productivity.

I sleep well.


A guy has been asking me a couple weeks now to photograph him in his fursuit and I finally commit to meeting up now that my schedule is open. Had a private real estate job on the books for the afternoon, but they dropped out last minute (they always drop out last minute).

Driving to his place is a trip down memory lane, cruising roads I used to street race in younger, more fatalist days. All the houses are huge, and his is no exception, which is a surprise when I find out how young he is himself. We spend a good hour talking, making introductions, and he is genuinely a cool and interesting person with depth of history we barely brush on. He's also quite professional in his approach, and knows exactly what he wants in his engagements.

I only have my bag with a couple flashes so I'm figuring out how to bounce light evenly. His room is big and has slanted ceiling that are just off-white, so it's the perfect environment for a simple setup. Only takes one test shot to figure out the scene. I'm doing my usual methodical thing, letting him decide on the general pose, refining it with verbal direction, then finding the best framing. It doesn't take us more than a half hour and we walk about with close to 40 frames, any of which are pretty damn good but I know which ones I'm picking out for deeper editing.

Processing the photos is fun, a blend of VSCO presets in Lightroom with judicious tweaking and Photoshop touch-up to make them clean. I want to do more shoots in the same vein. I wish every shoot ran so well. I wish every client was that chill.

I wish it didn't take this shoot to remind me that balloons are just generally fun to bounce about mindlessly. There's a childhood gem hidden in such idle play it's easy to forget about.


Work happens. My boyfriend wants to go out for a bite, and Rob picks us up at the apartment. I eat an enormous burrito bowl via tortilla chip and feel like a fat ass the rest of the day. We try to play pool, but it's League Night (it's always League Night) and after a couple games we're asked to move/leave so they can open every single table to the league players. I'm playing like crap as it is so I'm not too bothered by the ousting, but relieved as the league guys on our former table complain of the table's curves throwing off their shots. Maybe it wasn't a bad night in the early stages after all.

The sky is on some sort of glorious fire when we step outside, and we decide to find a spot to shoot the scene. But westward-facing vantage points are slim, and the sky won't last long. We try cruising to City Garage for a view by the Hanover Street Bridge but the lane signals close off our turn into the park. We end up by the Schuster Concrete building instead, but the light is gone, and I'm not particularly enthusiastic about hunting for interest in tired places. Rob is persistent though, and I let him co-opt my borderline sour head space for a bit.

I go to my default impulses and start hunting for symmetry. Color everywhere sucks, so black and white it is.

We get to the edge of the park by the water. The sun is not with us and we're shooting into the twilight so it sucks. Field lights behind us obscure the more interesting clouds of the scene, but it's dark and I'm using slow lenses without a tripod. Even 5-axis stabilization doesn't help my shaky hands. Every frame not shot into the setting light over the horizon is a blurry mess so I deal with handheld panoramas for later stitching.

A herring is fishing in the toxic waste water, and we watch it for a bit. I shoot some video of it out of curiosity. Still frames at 150mm and f/5.6 are all garbage, and the light sucks anyway. A lot sucks, but I'm not as sore about it as I sound now. Some nights just don't work out, and that's okay. There are other days.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Woman and Her Dog

I want to write about these two characters I ran into today during a short walk about Federal Hill this afternoon. Unfortunately, I'm a bit fatigued after the more socially challenging (but fun) excursions of the day, but before I lose sight of their stories I will force the prose from the tired wrinkles of my brain space.

On the hunt for lunch, Rob and I meandered through the older neighborhoods of Federal Hill, bypassing the less walk-able highways to peruse the small time local diners. As I'm often apt to do, a gaggle of pigeons, some of the most bizarre bright red hues as opposed to the traditional turquoise and green sheen, commandeered my focus (alas, no long telephoto with which to capture them). Across the block, diagonally from us, a woman called out to us, "They come closer if you feed them". I smiled, responded something along the lines of "Dang, wish I had something for them", and after some slow walking (so as not to disturb the wandering flock), made my way to the opposite corner.

Two women were there, looking to be older, one possibly in her 50's or 60's, the other, comfortably perched in a classic folding lawn chair, appearing quite older. Oddly, the first lines of conversation dealt with age, with the younger of the two women asking me to guess the age of the other. Attempting to bow out of answering with "Eighteen with umpteen years experience", so came forth with the answer, "Ninety two! And you'd never know it with how active she is!".

Some idle banter ensued, topics of why we were carrying cameras and then about real estate and renovation work happening to the older homes in Federal Hill, but I was largely distracted by the pooch I somehow failed to initially notice, nearly blending in against the concrete and brick wall of the building on the corner. A very old dog, grey hair and very slow to move. Blue, I was told, was the pups name, and I spent some time doing as one does with such a calm and affectionate animal, showering her head with pets and scratches. The "Guard Dog of the block". Apparently now alone in that role - Not long ago, Blue had a partner in the "business" who, being of similar aged, passed away. So, now, Blue and the older woman sit and watch the block together. No leash or collar, certainly no energy to wander much beyond the stoop of the corner house. Just this old woman and her dog.

The younger of the two eventually left, other business to attend to, and as she did the pigeons made their way over to our side of the street. Hanging out, more or less. One of these pigeons quite complacently sat beside this woman in her chair, not alarmed in the least by the introduction of my proximity or Rob's. Certainly not alarmed by Blue. The old woman said, "I feel so bad when I see the birds out here all by themselves, so I like to come out and keep them company". I told her briefly about my habits of "greeting" my "Morning Bird Friends", the litany of pigeons who've taken up residence in my apartment complex, taking my time to say "Hello" (silly as that may be) and photograph them if I can. This triggered another musing about her own "Bird Friends", specifically one she sees every Sunday morning. "I'm not really a religious person at all, but I go to mass, and every time I do there's a pigeon I see perched in the rafters of the church, and he doesn't move all mass, but leaves as soon as it's over, and I don't see him again until the next Sunday".

Alas, our appetites getting the better of us, we bid her and Blue adieu and made our way to good, glorious food.

I found the idle interaction impact-full. The calmness of all parties, the woman, Blue, and the pigeons. And the narratives behind her interaction and observation of her Bird Friends especially. It may be selfishly motivated appreciation, I don't often encounter others who ascribe such depth of personality to animals with whom they can only ever, at best, communicate through body language (if even mutually understood). A cynic or realist would likely contest any sort of interaction as light High-Fantasy. However, I fail to see the harm in the indulgence of crafted narratives only ever acted upon in the form of continued observation. It's no different than traditional people-watching, and such anthropomorphism of our most vulnerable of animal friends, I think, does well to exercise engines of empathy we may collectively lack in the saturation of our social culture.

Might I implore everyone to, please, be sure to greet your Bird Friends. Every morning.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Dead But Still a Darling

Nik Software may be dead, but it's still such a joy to use, especially to someone like myself who did not toy with it until Google released it as freeware.

It's been a busy past month. With some foundation-building contracts dying in the business, I've found time to invest my energies in event organizing. And, without the relative, persistent burnout of constant photo work sapping my more experimental creative energies, I've found time to invest in attending conventions apt to bring along photogenic people, and the drive to exercise latent business-minded muscles in running photography "work" for a much more fun-loving clientele.

I bring up the Nik Collection on account of my current state of enthusiasm for use of the Color and Analog Efex packages, specifically, in editing some stragglers in a collection of photos from aforementioned conventions and the events I'm running. With some (actually, quite a lot of) help from friend and business partner Rob, I've been able to experiment heavily with reflectors and high speed sync flash (which has me yearning for a leaf shutter more and more every day). The look of the image files alone are incredible, a cry from my usual available light work. Tossing in color and light bleed through Nik's aging collection of algorithms, however, ads the extra spice I'm looking for every time.

Admittedly, I've always been a sucker for faux film looks, however resistant I am to the alluring pull of modern methods such as VSCO packs. I enjoy the added elements in subtle doses available through the Nik Collection, though. In particular, light bleed effects function well for augmenting extant bloom lighting, or at the very least throw in the character inherent in color bias in an interactive fashion. The same applies to vignetting, which doesn't simply darken areas, but reads some measure of luminance and saturation data and applies itself dynamically. How nobody else has incorporated such intelligent manipulation with otherwise basic features is beyond me - I'm absolutely addicted at this point.

I find myself going back and wanting to retouch photos of yesteryear, see what sort of character I may have envisioned in the images originally but was unable to produce. Paired with fondly revisiting Photoshop-based methods of skin softening, especially. Lightroom had me quite lazy for the longest time, but today I am driven to attentively massage files I'd otherwise slapped with a preset and called them "finished".

Most poignant is the photo below. A moody, scenic portrait of Kevin on a trip to Boston this past January. I was unable to come to a processing style that satisfied my vision of what the image should evoke tonally. Some time in the Nik Suite after initial Lightroom processing and I'm actually quite thrilled with the result.

I feel back in touch with my art. Not simply photography-as-art, but in general. I'm even drawing again, vectoring sketches into quality pieces. It's a great feeling. And for a change, I'm not afraid of it leaving this time.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Long Exposure Love and Random Updates

After far too long, I finally replaced that little 10-stop ND filter that was stolen with the bulk of my PRO gear last year during the gallery showing. Should've replaced it much sooner, I forget so easily how much I love long exposures.

Ended up grabbing the Olympus branded grip/plate for the PEN-F as well. The tripod thread is in such an atrocious spot on that camera it never made sense to use it on a tripod. With the grip equipped with an arca-swiss rail, it goes great with my MeFoto Globetrotter (expected the combination to to look poorly weighted and generally off, but to my surprise the pair work well together).

A couple weeks back I ran into the nightmare scenario of a camera experiencing shutter death during a paid shoot. I was lucky, having gotten all the necessary images and the shutter crapping out on the very last shot. So, after a good 3 years in service, my E-M1 is dead, now but a decorative mantelpiece on my desk shelf. Made a good run well over 100K frames (a whopping 20K of which were apparently shot in the last 3 months alone, or so my backup drive tells me). I have a second E-M1 body in use as its current replacement, but this is the sort of event to push me more quickly than usual into the Mk. II variation of the same model. It's a justifiable upgrade regardless, 4 years is more than enough time to see real progress made in higher end camera models. The battery synergy being lost may be my only regret.

Still trying to figure out what to do with broader sharing of content these days. The catalog nesting on my phone of Snapseed edits is quite huge, but they typically don't see the light of day outside Twitter. Then again, I'm not necessarily sure it's something I care enough about barring those idle nights when I have nothing to do but think about these things. Been enjoying myself far too much lately with distractions such as billiards and, soon, biking. The Summer months bring a different flavor to one's sense of adventure and accomplishment. Definitely need to get that content off my phone, though... single point of failure and all.

Booking more shoots than usual this year outside my big contracts. Rather happy about that, independent clients are people who specifically choose me for my style of communication and (of course) work. Certainly affords me more freedom to produce a stronger product than the bounds of corporate style guides. Not that I don't appreciate the contract work, but it's nice to have the freedom to try new things (such as underexposing for the view out a window and blasting flash at full power to light the room - HDR the old fashioned way).

Generally clueless as to what I'm trying to accomplish these days, but enjoying the cadence of things right now (after a couple months of consistently low head spaces). I'd like to do more "candid" restaurant and brewery work, I think.

I like marketing things. Hell, I like marketing in general. Been doing quite a bit of that recently as well, hosting furry nights at the new Baltimore Eagle. They afford me an enormous amount of latitude in crafting advertising material to promote the monthly event, and they've led to their own string of uniquely fun images.

It's been neat running series of little photo projects to produce new ads. The caveat is the material isn't necessarily strong on its own what with attention paid to necessary copy space for text - Very empty images, really. But, as I said, fun to work toward as an end product, and the photography is just one part of the whole. That may very well be the driver I need to keep motivated in general... the conjuring of contrived but finite end products. Beats trying to piece together random, disjointed work into anything closely resembling a solid body of work. That's probably something they teach art students in college, I skipped that step.

I really need to get back into the mountains soon.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Private Struggles

This was written earlier today in an unstable state of mind. I'm reticent to share it, the subject being what what I imagine to be both a common woe and possibly even too typical to merit such complaining. But I felt the need to complain, and therefore apologize for such failure to appreciate the privilege of my lot.

I am finally succumbing to complete madness after nearly a decade of policy-enforced social isolation by which my final, desperate, avenue of escape and/or mental outlet is the angry mashing of keys in my office chair, a hopeless channel by which to scream into the proverbial void in the least constructive of fashions, hoping to high hell that my better self does not squelch this ranting and raving but rather permits this exasperated outcry.

I confess and accept all responsibility for my plight, having traded in a thirsty adaptation to risk for a safer harbor whose consequence is the voluntary sacrifice of all voice, influence, and reason. I am well compensated to the end that I commit to no less than five whole business days weekly to insurmountable boredom, left to marinate in the stink of my own head space as it is permitted nothing but a steady stream of news cycles so emotionally exhausting every sweet scent of inspiration is scrubbed clean off my body, a thin layer of silk skin coarsely brought down to the grissly rough texture emblematic of modern black and white portrait cliche.

This is the state of mind I am driven to on a near daily basis, although in reciting the monologue privately in my head I feel better having finally allowed myself to complain.

Bill Burr made a fantastic rant on the topic of my woes, recently brought to attention through an acquaintance similarly reminiscing:

"Realize that sleeping on a futon when you're 30 is not the worst thing. You know what's worse? Sleeping in a king bed next to a wife you're not really in love with, but for some reason you married, and you got a couple kids, and you got a job your hate. You'll be laying there fantasizing about sleeping on a futon. There's no risk when you go after a dream. There's a tremendous amount of risk to playing it safe."

His stand-up monologue does not resonate with me in the direct sense. My life has by and large been middle-of-the-road, safety plays in conjunction with riskier maneuvers. But there is one literal parallel, or at least one that has morphed into a state of being miserably untenable miserable on account of boredom and an aggressive choking of outlets. Once upon a time, let's say in more progressive days, I was empowered to execute my personal business, cultivate and manage my ambitions given the assumption those pursuits had no impact otherwise. Today, under the pressure of a new culture, I am not empowered, and my personal ambitions, my goals, my dreams, are an object of scorn in the face of what are deemed "Greater Goals". My growth and direction of development have been violently shifted to focus on these Greater Goals, however only when most convenient, thus frequently all momentum and investment in my own achievement is suddenly halted until it is once again relevant to the realization of these Greater Goals. Self actualization, even as pursued on my own time, is hamstrung, defeated by the perfectly random incursion of momentum shifts and false promises to achieve an unknowable, tiny piece of the greater puzzle behind these Greater Goals.

All joy is lost. I cannot take this predictably repeatable transgression anymore. And yet I do. Because in the greater scope, it is the safety play, and I realize I am in such fragile mental tatters that I am no longer capable of handling the rewarding thrills of risk. This is the trap. And I am now broken.

I should be thrilled at the pending milestone of my photography business. Such a profit marker met in only 5 years is a success story not often realized. But I can't be bothered to care. I see my business' income trends dwindling, and I rationalize that it is the early indicator of a dying business model first and foremost. The idea that it is atrophying because competing Greater Goals are, whether actively or passively, derailing its success, cannot be parsed as realistic or rational. That would suggest actively denying the Greater Goals of that safe harbor to recover the atrophied dream, a risk, and I do not have the stamina for risks anymore. It is a doomed dream. It is broken. It will die.

I should be comfortable, and I should feel safe, financially secured and able to invest in my own happiness. But the obligations of the Greater Goals beckon erratically and without warning, therefore I remain in place. I cannot travel but an hour away from my home without weeks of parsed and vetted warning, lest my absence introduce an unacceptable single point of failure to those Greater Goals. I wish to drive West and think nothing of the consequences of such a random journey. I wish to travel North with my boyfriend and breathe crisp air amid the loud crashing of foreign waters. But I remain in place. I cannot leave. I must be complacent, and I must stay.

I should be happy to be compensated so handsomely for challenge-less effort. Is it not the theoretical goal of all men to reap rewards for doing nothing? The trade requested is that of time. Time dedicated, time committed. I am not permitted any creative use of this time. It must be spent behind thick walls and absolutely committed to the endlessly incremental steps toward those Greater Goals, be those incremental steps hours, days, even weeks apart. Those incremental opportunities come suddenly and without warning, and all time not spent making progress toward those Greater Goals must be spent sitting and waiting...

... Thus here I am, typing an uncontrollable thought train into Notepad (of all the basic things), hoping to smuggle out the day's metastasized sense of doom. The last avenue for desperate outcry. The last method of expressive, creative outlet available as I sit and wait for another incremental opportunity toward those Greater Goals.

And I genuinely cannot read another Donald Trump news article today or I may drive, defeated, into the 173 Northeast Regional.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Time Lapses of 2016

It's been far too long since I've assembled one of these. Showcasing a few choice time lapse pieces shot in the last year, mixed to some great chillhop by Drake Stafford. It's compilation like these, relaxed music videos of sorts, that make even the most assorted assemblage of time lapses really shine.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Philly and The Human Muse

Among the variety of things I've been up to over the last couple months, I made a trip up to Philadelphia to spend time with an old friend who moved to Colorado some years back. Otter, I'll call him. We did quite a bit of urban exploration in my more active years, and since he moved out west I've missed him dearly. Having just two days to wander the streets aimlessly and without care was a wonderful treat.

Much as we were always apt to do, once my car was parked we quite literally just wandered, not knowing what we'd walk into. By virtue of where our walk started, we passed through Dilworth Park, enamored by the commotion and ever entertaining spray of the plaza's fountain setup. It was cloudy, so a great day for strong, contrast heavy black and white images.

Approaching the new Comcast high rise, a monster of a tower still under construction, we came across a pair of skateboarders grinding rather brazenly in an alley along a rail that led right into the street.

Naturally, it did not take us long to wander into the ghosts of days past, rail yards and destitute infrastructure.

We stopped in the Amtrak station for a quick drink and to go over mobile photo editing paradigms. Something that seems to be in common among all my photography enthusiast friends is the migration to mobile workflows. Quite simply, for those of us with any history in the trade, we're tired of desktop processing, ultimate image quality be damned. When exercised as an experiential pursuit, a hobby to be lost in, we'd rather craft art in the moment than see our work succumb to the inevitable hard disk graveyard.

We ended up playing poker and pool and the startup office of a friend of his, eating into the night with scotch and general merriment.

And after an artfully crafted coffee after some enormously invigorating sleep, we parted ways once again.

Till next time, dear Otter. I miss you already.