Wednesday, August 27, 2008


The first thing I had done on Saturday morning was to go to Zeeland for a Michigan Ropers Association Team Roping competition.  The of course, involves horses, cows and the ropers in an incredible ballet.  Everyone knows his/her place and role, including the cows.  Of course the cows get the short end of the stick and every once in a while complains about it.  

This is a timed competition over several heats where the shortest total time wins.   There is a supporting cast, with another person on a horse with a flag deciding when the second rope is attached.  There are also timers, and people handling the cows.  They do this at least twice a month over the summer and go inside when it starts getting too cold.  The logistics while well know are somewhat daunting.

This competition comes out of the old need to rope cows for branding.  While I'm not sure it is needed that much, at least in the midwest, I'm sure they need it somewhere.

I had went to one of these last year and got some great images.  I was planning on doing a photographic project on this subject during the summer, but things got in the way.  Hopefully next year.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

ByrneBoehm Show

The ByrneBoehm Gallery show opened Friday. There was an opening reception Saturday evening. I had two pieces accepted into the show, so of course I went. The work that I submitted were two platinum/palladium prints I had done in a class at GRCC earlier in the summer. Two other of my fellow students in that class also had work in the show.

There is a lot of good photography in the show. I got a chance to talk to the owner of the gallery, and he mentioned that he didn't think the judges would pick so many pieces. I got the feeling he only wanted enough work to cover a wall, rather than take over the whole gallery.

Of the work presented, a couple of pieces I recognized from the show at the regional art show earlier in the year. I actually hadn't thought about resubmitting the same work, being new at the whole show thing, I had submitted new work.

One of the artists was a grad student at the local arts college, Kendall, whose work I had seen earlier in the year. Of the remaining work, I wrote down the names of a couple artists just to see if I could follow them if they had a web site or blog. Of the five names I wrote down, one was a photography instructor at Grand Valley State University, one is a professional photographer working for the Grand Rapids Press, and two of the others are professionals who have worked at photography in bigger cities than Grand Rapids and do photography full time.

A lot of the work was edgier than I'm used to presenting. My photography tends to be more of the reportage type, where I capture what I see rather than try to set something up. While I doubt I can change too much the way I work, if I want to continue to try to compete in this type of show, I may need to.

It was a good time, I talked to a bunch of folks and learned a few things. The GVSU professor was doing pinhole photography using a home built 4x5 camera with color film. Since I like the way pinhole photography looks, I may have a new impetus to get going and build my own camera.

I had to leave before they unveiled the winner of the cash prize. I already knew it wasn't me.

More stuff to think about.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Presque Isle

The Lake Superior coastline at Presque Isle park in Marquette. I've gushed about Marquette earlier, it's scenes like these that I like this city.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ira Glass on Working Through the Suck

A video on how it takes a creative person years to perfect the craft and advice to keep going. Originally seen on 43 Folders.

Lower Au Train Falls

We found these falls while driving between Munising and Marquette. While not on the map we had, they were plainly marked on the road. They are downstream of a power company dam and appear to be on the companies property. There is a paved road to access them as well as parking areas. The last hill to these is blocked with a gate, so you have to walk down the hill and back up. If you can ignore the building next to these, they are quite picturesque.

This is a portion of the actual falls, we were there in the middle of the day, so the light was not what I desired. We we running a bit later then we wanted, so we didn't get to the upper falls.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Photo Blogging

I've been doing this since the beginning of the year and I've discovered I like it. While this site is free, it does have one annoyance, the photos display too small. Looking at it, I found out that the photos are kept in Googles Picasa webalbums. Looking at their preferences, I don't see any way to change the photo size.

Because of this, I've decided to evaluate other blogging platforms. I've tried Wordpress and quickly discounted it. I have decided to create a blog on though. I've uploaded the first photo, which is the Mackinac Bridge pic and I like the result.

Pluses to the site are the photo size and the fact it seems to be directed just at being a photo blog. Minuses are it appears you can't write long winded articles or post more than one photo a page.

I'm going to do parallel posts for a while, and decide in a month or so what I'm going to do. I may even do both, this page for the long winded posts and that site for just photos.


Please let me know what you think.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mackinac Bridge

Images from last week. The first one is the Mackinac Bridge at night. This was taken on the Upper Peninsula side of the straights. Definitely a Michigan photography cliche shot, there were 4-5 other folks with tripods and SLR style cameras, and also a bunch of folks wandering in and out of the park and trying to get a shot with point and shoots. But I like it.

I was talking to a gentleman and his wife who was near me. They were from Kansas and this was their first time to the area. They were heading home and going to Traverse City next.

One thing I do find is that people with cameras like to talk. You meet a lot of interesting folks.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I was there, just ask Photoshop

The above is the title of an article in todays New York Times. It describes how folks are more and more editing photographs to add or remove someone. I think some of the reasons given are valid and some not so much. But an interesting article nonetheless and a barometer on changing attitudes on photography.

I was there, just ask Photoshop


We stopped in Marquette for a day, the first time I've been in the city. Frankly, I was very impressed with this town. Downtown was vibrant, clean and busy. They've worked over the waterfront and put in parks, a boardwalk and bike paths. They appear to still value the history of the town. Of course this was August, I'm not sure I would feel the same way in January.

They do have a working lighthouse which you can tour. You have to sign up and be escorted, since the only access is through the Coast Guard base. The strange part is, there are no fences or guards, just a few no trespassing signs promising long prison stays. We were told the base only has 18 personnel, and I think there main job is to keep the light going. They have a couple small boats, but no helicopter or ship. It was kind of strange considering all the ship traffic going to the iron mine a couple miles down the coast.

I will have to go back and spend more time around this town. There were plenty of photographic possibilities I missed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Observations and a rant....

We've been on vacation this week and have been wandering the Upper Peninsula. We ended up driving to the Porcupine Mountains and back, and there was plenty of time to think.

There are way too many abandoned buildings along the way. I always wonder, especially when I see a house in the middle of nowhere, what it was like when they were built. What did the people dream about and what did they want for them and their children? It gets kind of depressing at times.

We ended up seeing three eagles along the way. One pair which we saw on two separate days, had a mature bird and an immature bird. This one we saw on the way home. All 3 birds were seen while we were driving and of course the lens I should have used was in the trunk. This is a crop out of a bigger photo.

Crows in the Upper Peninsula seem bigger than the ones in the lower half of the state. There are also a lot of them.

We don't camp on vacations, we stay in hotels. A seemingly ubiquitous component of the provided breakfast is waffle machines. There are batter dispensers with directions on usage posted on the side. There is the waffle iron that requires you to pour in the batter and turn it over to start the timer. If you don't turn the iron, the thing starts beeping. Not a soft unassuming beep, but a loud obnoxious beep. Why is it that people who don't read directions, stand there and stare at the iron when it beeps for minutes? Don't they realize that something is wrong? It is really annoying at 7 am when all you want is coffee and a chance to collect your thoughts.

I could easily spend a month or more just traveling along M28 down the center of the UP. There are so many photographic possibilities to be had that it was hard not to stop in every small town, tourist trap, waterfall and whatever.

We spent most of our vacation driving to, staring at, and sitting alongside water. Usually water that was flowing somehow, whether it was going over a waterfall, flowing along a river or lapping up to shore. What is there about flowing water that fascinates humankind so much?

I was really getting frustrated with the limited dynamic range of digital cameras. There were so many instances of being someplace, usually the woods, where I couldn't capture the delicate range of light in the shadowed parts along with the direct sunlight filtering through the leaves. At times I wished I had brought along my film camera and color film. I know I can spend time in Photoshop to get around those limitations, but I wish the camera companies would stop the megapixel race and work on other improvements.

Ok, there is more than a single rant, one more. On the way up, we stopped at a Burger King in L'Anse for a cup of coffee. They only charged me 40 cents for it and I just thought it was on sale. That was until I got out and looked at the receipt. The cashier had charged me the senior price. I should have gone back and hit her with my cane...

Just kidding.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Free Speech Zone?

Being a reasonably big city, Grand Rapids has its share of folks trying to get your attention and sometimes your money. Salesman, the homeless, street performers and street preachers.

There is one persistent street preacher that I've seen twice this year at big crowds. The first time was at the local Festival of the Arts. He was out with the same sign and a big crowd on a Friday evening. The crowd had to number at least a hundred. There were even 3 or 4 GR police to make sure things didn't get out of hand. I saw him several times that evening, usually in a heated discussion with someone, trying to sell them his brand of religion.

The second time was this past week at the blues concert put on by a local radio station. He was there and once again had attracted a crowd. It was a much smaller crowd, but he was trying to convince them with the same zeal he showed earlier. I passed the crowd several times that evening and it never was very big, especially considering the thousands that were listening to the concert just yards away.

It looks like the radio station finally figured he was a big enough nuisance and tried to kick him out. Several security guards with the radio stations logo on them appeared and asked him to leave. He didn't want to go and they finally called the police, who "convinced" him to leave.

I would consider the area he was in, Rosa Parks circle near the new art museum to be the closest thing the city has to a public commons. The fact that someone can rent it and effectively change it to a private area bothers me.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Grain Elevators

I live just south of the second biggest city in Michigan. The nice thing about living here, is the city is big enough to have a reasonably robust arts and cultural scene, but by driving for about 20 minutes in any direction you are in the country.

A friend of mine is doing a project on grain elevators and he invited me along the last time he went out. These range from pretty good sized to small mom and pop operations. The smaller operations, which tend to be older can have some great textures and history, while the bigger ones can provide modern abstracts.

Another plus is that no matter the size, they tend to be located in smaller towns. All of which have a different character than the big city. Some tend to be sleepy while others are more bustling. It makes for a good trip and usually some good photos.

Monday, August 4, 2008

These folks are smoking crack....

An art project that I don't understand. A blind camera, effectively a small computer with a button and a wifi connection. When you press the button, the computer would search the internet, ie: flickr, and show you the first photo it found that was uploaded. This is supposed to connect you emotionally. It actually does not capture any photo of your own, you are just supposed to remember the moment and rely on someone else to provide a photo, which may or may not match your mood.

What a scam.

The website.

I found a pointer to this on Aaron Boots website. Someone you need to keep an eye on.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ada Bike Criterium

Mike got in touch yesterday and wanted to go shoot the grain elevator in Lowell for a project he's doing. We met and ended up taking the back way into town. Part way there we came across a bike race in Ada. Of course we had to stop.

It was a great day for the bikers, relatively comfortable for August in Michigan. The sky was beautiful, with a few clouds. Since the course was heavily lined with trees, it was hard getting a good exposure that worked in the sunny areas and the shadows.

I tried shooting at a low aperture for a shallow depth of field for most of the time. I'm not sure I like the way they turned out for the most part.

I'm also not sure what a "Bike Criterium" is. I guess I'll have to look it up...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Photo Books

I really believe that you become a better photographer by looking at other peoples photos, especially photos by photographers considered great. Being a big book lover, I use this as a justification to buy books on photography. I have to admit, I don't like it all, but it usually is interesting.

A couple web sites with photography book reviews.

5B4 is one site I've read on and off for a while. It tends to be a little academic, and wordy but interesting.

Buffet is a site I've just discovered. I'll have to keep an eye on it and see what I think of it long term.

While I haven't bought any of the books from the SoFoMoBo project from this year, the books provided by the 59 people who participated are usually available to brows online. That is another way to look at photography. Though to be fair I tend to like looking at a print more than I like looking at photography on the screen.

While I've bought books based on reviews from 5B4, or The Online Photographer, I have to admit most of the books I pick up are either from a bookstore after I look at it or at a talk I've attended where I can get the book autographed.

Sitting and Thinking on a Saturday Morning

It's been a somewhat quiet week photographically for me. That doesn't mean I haven't taken photos, it means I haven't got a lot I liked. I guess I'm in a rut.

Out of the photos I've taken, I like the two above. The dog photo was taken in downtown Grand Rapids at a blues concert put on by a local radio station. I was struck by the little dog tied up to a row of bikes. I wondered how he got there, and if the motorcycle had a dog carrier on it. The clown photo was taken at a local city festival, I was waiting for the start of the 5k race, and this guy walked by me going to work. I wish I would have seen him earlier so I could have got him walking towards me. It would have been a little more poignant if he would have had a bottle in a paper bag, but that hopefully wouldn't happen on a Saturday morning.

Someone this summer described my work as contemplative. I'm not sure all of it is, but these two seem to fit that label. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, maybe it's just my mood.