Friday, July 17


Girl Scout, Mityana, Uganda 8/14
A white man
Pointed a
Long lens at

Which made the
Girl scout.... chary.

A friend asked me how to create original moody backgrounds for portraits. This was the product of a tutorial  exercise I did for her using a candid image of a lovely, but suspicious girl scout I met in Mityana, Uganda and captured through my Canon 7D through its EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens, hand held. The post was done as  usual in PS 4 with custom background and textures. I mention my skin color since we were the only folks sporting that hue for perhaps fifty miles around us. It is very possible that this girl may have seen no more than a handful of us in our white flesh, outside of Hollywood videos that were everywhere.

Friday, July 10


George Washington sculpture found at Valley Forge, Pa. 

I read today about an unintended consequence of a recent Supreme Court decision which extended constitutional protection to gay marriage. It seems that insurance companies are refusing liability coverage to churches. Some time ago, a  bakery refused to participate in a gay wedding and was sued for damages and pain and suffering. The court awarded the plaintiffs tens of thousands of dollars,  bankrupting the small company owned by Christians. There are apparently a couple of suits pending against churches which have denied facilities and services to other gay couples. Defense costs alone will cost the churches many thousands of dollars, even if they are successful. If on the other hand they lose, well, they are being sued for hundreds of thousands since the aggrieved parties are charging personal damages as a result of their psychological distress. Frightened by these liabilities, insurance companies are backing away from any participation in those situations. 

Other conundrums over rights are popping like kernels in hot oil. Cities which have extended rights to undocumented immigrants, look to have accepted a liability for the actions of those they seek to protect. That clash of rights is most dramatically represented by a tragedy in San Fransisco where a recently released alien with a considerable felony record killed  a young tourist. The woman's family will undoubtedly bring a large civil suit against the city. 

In many communities, police who are increasingly fearful of prosecution for making instantaneous decisions in life threatening situations, are increasingly avoiding those situations. And murder rates are exploding. So the rights of the police are clashing with those who expect a right of security in their streets and homes

Some states have quietly provided sexual reassignment surgery to children as young as fifteen, without informing their parents. The state's have extended rights to children that  conflict with traditional rights of parents. Meanwhile, there are women who are worried about finding themselves  in the confines of ladies  rooms confronting large male-born-persons who have declared a different gender.

In many places older couples will leave their homes this summer since they are unable to pay the increase in school taxes necessitated by an influx of largely undocumented immigrants who have been granted a right to tax supported education. Simultaneously the senior citizen's children have lost income as a result of off-shoring of jobs in many cases, or a decrease in working hours in other cases as a result of the Affordable Health Care Act's redefining part-time work as 29 as opposed to 39 hours a week, forcing employers to reassign a quarter of their work hours. 

Scarce collegiate seats are now assigned to reinforce the rights of subsidized reparations to a range of protected groups, displacing many in the non-protected population to access both by limiting the seats available to them while inflating the unsubsidized tuition costs they must bear. 

It has become policy to tax labor and subsidize machines. So mandated minimum wage increases, along with various leave, and compensation laws - which are a sales tax to employers on labor -  are increasingly leading to the automation of jobs, which of course impose a 100% tax upon those displaced, while holding down wages across the board.  

While work is taxed, unemployment is subsidized in extended welfare and social security disability rights. Of course those with productivity high enough to retain the higher paid minimum wage jobs are gainers. So those who claim a right to a living wage then, are clashing with those who claim a right to employment

Okay, I can go on and on... Rights are slamming against each other at the fastest pace in my long lifetime. Some will go away, because, rights are what we can defend. Or have defended... Usually by burley men with guns

And the largest percentages of native born Americans in the nation's history tell pollsters that they would abandon their citizenships if they could. With micro cultures clashing over claims to rights, this was a sedated 4th of July

Tuesday, July 7

Belfast Gunsmog

Belfast, Northern Ireland • Royal Avenue • April 2013
Royal Avenue • Belfast • Northern Ireland • April 2013
It's said that the Europa is the most bombed hotel in history. Belfast was  once Ireland's money machine. Which is why the Brits held onto it and its neighboring counties when the Irish Republic seceded in 1946.
Since the 1950s though– – like blooms in winter – shipbuilding, textiles, tobacco traders, and  the region's heavy manufacturing shriveled. Even without The Troubles world economics would have sucked them  away... Ahhh but The Troubles.
From the early 1800s through the Good Friday Agreement of  April 10, 1998, violence between the occupiers and the occupied gashed the Ulster counties leaving Royal Avenue blood-spocked and gnarled by bullets and bombs.
The Irish and British fight over this Northern hunk of the island terrified investors who fed the economics that vacuumed at the region's industries.
Peering up above Royal Avenue in center-city Belfast the sky was smokey with what? A memory of gun-smoke steeped smog... And squinting into the yellow haze I muttered, "_Gunsmog!_" the stuff stained the Northern Irish heavens.
Then I panned down to the rebuilt Greek columns on the Hotel Europa, and coughed.

Monday, July 6

A Snapshot

Are all images fictional? Okay, maybe not snapshots. Perhaps they are the only virginal captures of reality? Or at least past reality? Maybe the phone-grab clicked off with as little pre-processing thought aren't the imagining of an artist? After all, all art is fiction, right? 

Wikipedia defines fiction: "Fiction is content, primarily a narrative, that is made from imagination, in addition to, or rather than, from history or fact." defines it: "The act of feigning, inventing, or imagining." says that fiction is:  "Something invented by the imagination or feigned."

Say you move around a subject to avoid some background annoyance, a telephone pole, annoying single, wires... Or you move to include Uncle Joe, intriguing signage, or maybe the Acropolis behind Mom. It's called point of view, right? POV. Have you feigned, invented, or imagined some "improvement" which is to say imposing your ideas or feelings on reality. Now, how about DOF... depth of field. You crank open a lens to compress away a background into a bokeh-glimmering setting. Then what about cranking out the zoom to crop away things inconsistent with your idea or feeling of the moment? Screw on a polarizing filter to create a dynamic range invisible to the human eye? Then twist down the camera speed to capture a blur in say a waterfall that's not captured by the human retina? 

Now, what about lighting? If you stab through the gloom with a flash, or by goosing the ISO to peer into gloom where a person cannot possibly see. Now NONE OF THESSE TECHNIQUES involve post processing. I can add to the list, can't you? I mean just the choice of lens, camera body, or tripod support imposes the artist's imagination upon the image. 

And what about pre-processing? Makeup (which are pigments of the imagination)?  Costume? Set design? Or travel to a specific location at a specific time of day/season, etc.? Forget the post processing upon Caitlyn Jenner's iconic Vanity Fair cover, howzabout any of Annie Leibovitz's "portraits"? Again, ignoring the post processing on her work, her budgets for; set, wardrobe, hair, cosmetology, and cast (human and animal) are all focused upon pre-processing... processing before the various things I discussed up above that happen consequent with the shutter getting snapped. 

Now, let me get to the image up there... That 1950 Pontiac parked menacingly in the night in front of ... In front of... What? What's it mean? A snapshot it ain't, right? Or well, is it? How does it differ from the snapshot that's preprocessed, processed consequent to the shutter click, and then post processed through some software either in the camera, or by a software that 'enhances' the dynamic range or cropping at the click of a button? 

Up there I've posted a concept that's layered together from pieces of my imagination. Which leads me to wonder ... And you thought I"d never get to the point right?... Are all images inherently manipulative? Look, it is not the degree of manipulation which makes an image fiction. Just as you can't be a little bit pregnant, you can't be a little bit fictional. 

So, welcome to the most honestly named photo blog on the internet :-) Right?

Saturday, June 20

Swan... Um... Egret Lake

Okay, I stalked her. Poked my 300mm lens through the leaves to her secret spot across the lagoon. She preened and primped... Maybe unaware of me... Maybe figuring the water was wide enough to keep a lurking human an easy take-off away.

They call ponds and lakes, lagoons in Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head island where South Carolina - almost Georgia - summer wetted down the air. If you're outdoors, southern seacoast's grow humidity thicker than the syrup folks pour over breakfast grits. And the heat keeps the air hotter than the bikinis make their beaches.

It's where lots of gin mixes with even more tonic as afternoons commit muscles to low gear. It's when the smarter birds find secret spot to digest their morning breakfasts and recharge for a twilight wade back into the lagoons, oh... and into wherever people were stupid enough to stock coy ponds.

So that gal up there wasn't about to let me get her to do anything unladylike. Which is why I'd mistaken her glowing-white body for a swan and figured that I'd be able to create a post called, "Swan Lake". Wrong... It's actually "Egret Lagoon" where the big birds prowl among alligators for fun and profit.

And so, realizing the story wasn't about swans I figured I'd find me an egret at work in the marshes to work into a painting that captured an impression of both the bird, its hunting, and the POP! of southern American summer color.

A day or so after I invaded the privacy of that beauty up above... I found this guy working his way slow as suitor on a first date toward his prize. And once again my Canon 7D's EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens did its job. Which is a capture that I couldn't have made years ago without a tripod. But the combination of image stabilizers and the camera's processors let me grab tight hold of the moment. Which, thanks to a lot of PhotoShop processing combined with the melding of a number of layers of AlienSkin's SnapArt filtering and texturing, I was able to make my concept visual.

Hot, huh? 

Monday, June 15

Don't Tease 'Em!

Along Hilton Head bike trails...

Saturday, June 13

Summer's Started

Down in Hilton Head, SC last week. Summer comes to Dixie with an early muscle, especially in the Low Country... along the the Atlantic Coast. Hilton Head Island's shaped like a running shoe and we stay very near it's flat instep. Once a bog, it's flat and canal-irrigated to draw the brackish water back to the sea. If the ground's not everywhere as damp as once-upon-a-time the air's still wetter than a stoop-laborer's back And twice as thick. Mid-day's are for beaches, pools, and air-conditioned spots cluttered with books and adult beverages.

Bike Shed

Out back we store ... Well, have you noticed that the word "shed" is double entendre? As a noun, it's a place where we keep stuff. As a verb it's the act of discarding. A bike shed sort of promises both of those things. And this flat island teases you into believing that you'll shed the vacation belt-lime baggage if you''ll peddle your bike from the shed. Getit? In a way, nothing says island summer like this lazy morning image of those backsides poking out and teasing me to wrap my fat legs around their fat saddles. And yeah, why not, huh?

Jungle Glade

To circle the jungle between me and the sea. And the way it dares me to leave the bike and wander trails that wind somewhere. Which I almost did except a snake rolled and wriggled out of those leaves there to the lower right and coiled blink-fast onto the trail and then off into that underbrush. So much for the dare... Back to the biking... When, just to my right,  I heard water plop down from the bike-path's bank and jerking around I saw...

Primordial Lurk

this thing and peddled like hell away, parked, and tip-toed back, my Canon 7D with it's 70-300mm lens cranked all the way out. Through which... I watched it, it watched me, I focused, shot, and backed way up. After gasping a bunch, I went back and kept shooting while it lay there watching, only its eyes flicked, the rest of that body flat... still... cocked... and stinking up the thick swampy air. You know the word, fetid? Yeah, now imagine this thing's breath and you've got a match.

Night Watch

Oh yeah... Wildlife thinking reminds me that I probably forgot to post this wild herd I captured in Uganda's Queen Elizabeth Park. Okay, that was last summer and there are crocs, not gators in Africa so the segue's kind of hard to explain. Hmmmm... But these pix are all summery, right? RIGHT! So it's a theme :-)

Monday, June 8

Life Winds

He leaned
Againt the
Morning breeze of

Commuting with day-break-chilled shoulders near work 5 miles west of  Mityana, Uganda. Captured through my Canon's EFS 17-85mm (f4-5.6) glass. Processed in my imagination with PS4. It rained early that August morning and this road was puddled and its vegetation bowed. Most roads in Uganda are surfaced with a thick red clay and well maintained to rid them of pot holes. They're probably easier on the feet, ankles, and knees of walkers than cement or macadam. Good thing, walking's normal for thousands we saw. 
It's side-effect is the shaping of trim, strong people trudging into life's wind. 

Monday, June 1

Three River In The Night

Way above the Three Rivers of Pittsburg there's elegant dining behind a crystal wall... It's been there since the 1930s and 40s when Sinatra fronted the Dorsey Band up in the night-time sky with Steel City glimmering out to the horizon.

So okay so far... but.. Well. That's when Fred and Ginger were whirling through platinum and night dust... And Those evenings glimmered like diamonds on a princess's tiara. 

Hell, we can do color now with the ease of decorking champaign. So why remove it? And yet... sometimes a color-ectomy glides into a space where my emotions are so much differently receptive. Why izzat? Thoughts? Feelings? 

BTW... See that point down there? That's the hotel where Rita and I held our wedding reception 47 years ago tonight. Seems like yesterday. 

Monday, May 18

Skeptical Lady

Yep, she's skeptical, but not cynical.

There's a difference you know. The Skeptic is looking for sufficient proof, the cynic can never find enough proof. I'm a skeptic... Like her.

She's from Mityana, Uganda. So are her friends. I hope she liked me as much as I enjoyed meeting her. Either way, it was an important moment for me.

I like my Canon 7d with that EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens clicked on. With the image stabilizer it's easily hand-held and sharper than the razor I used this morning. I've always admired platinum prints. They have a glowing presence that captures imagination like epoxy. Look at the tonal range platinum creates. Haunting, huh? 

I processed this to print LARGE! It's about three feet on the horizontal edge. And so crisp you can see me in those catchlights in her eyes. Click on this image and let me know what you think... Or feel. 

Saturday, May 16

3 Farmers' Daughters

Girl Scouts of Uganda. In the village of Mityana. Beautiful farmers' daughters gather with their families at twilight. In the middle of rich farmland, the town's in the south central part of the country about 50 miles west of Kampala.

Almost all of Uganda's elevated well above sea level, So even though the town's about 25 miles north of the equator it's almost 4,000 feet high so it's 3,500 folks may need blankets and coats at night and tee shirts during the day. The village is a central place, equidistant from its circle of farms and their families. I've written before... Ugandans are physically fit and attractive people. The kids are charming and anxious to be photographed. 

Once again I framed these girls through my 7D's EFS 70-300mm late on an August Saturday. Have you ever used Polaroid large-format film? Its colors actually felt thick. Amazingly, AlienSkin's Exposure 7 can mimic my memories. It's as if Eposure's's poured a syrup of glowing colors, like molasses, over a waffle.

Thursday, May 7

God Is Love Realty and Take Away

Mityana Road, Kampala, Uganda Wakiso, Central Region

This is a cool compound along the Mityana Road, Kampala, in Uganda's Wakiso, Central Region. That's a carpet of yellow cobbed-corn there on the center right. The produce store on the left's selling fresh veggies. Behind it is a take-out restaurant. And off to the right a tavern. See the silver cistern water tank there on the left side roof. Clean fresh water's a challenge throughout the country but there's wonderful rainfall in this lush green country, so a water-catcher like that's a gem.

I lack sufficient knowledge about the country to know why rain catching cisterns aren't more common throughout the Uganda. Instead, struggling against dangerously polluted bogs, ditches, streams and rivers, tens of thousands of people walk miles each day to fill then carry large yellow plastic water tanks to and from municipal wells. And yet it rains almost every day, and much more often during the semi annual rainy seasons characterized by sustained deluges. 

Isn't the color of the real estate building striking? Bold, primary painted commercial buildings pop up  about each tenth of a mile or even more often along the highway. Many are painted by national companies to serve as sort of billboards, their colors... red, yellow, blue...and etc. are synonymous with the company logos. They add powerful energy to trips. 

When I grabbed the original of this image, it was like an artist's sketch. I knew I wanted to develop it much like a painter. Which I've done now, months later, here in my studio. So much of Uganda feels the way scenes must have felt to the impressionists of the early 20th century. 

Impressionism is an interesting word eh? What artist is not fueled by impressions? What else is there?

Geek Stuff: Captured the base with my Canon EOS 7D through its EFM 17-16mm zoom glass. Then brought my concept to life in PS4 coupled with AleinSkin's Exposure 7 to ignite the dynamic range and finally used the powerful overlay tools in AlienSkin's SnapArt's oil brushes.

Wednesday, May 6

Amsterdam Ways...

Amsterdam, Holland (or is that The Netherlands?)

This port city easily dates back to Rome and before but its street are littered with people pumping pedals on bikes without gears, or walking around these tiny byways. Amsterdam is young. 
Oh... I grabbed this with my Canon 7D through its 17-185mm glass focused out to 50mm. Then I determinedly teased out the ghosts with AlienSkin's super powerful Exposure 7's stand-alone system, not this time in Photoshop. Increasingly, Exposure7's becoming my goto process allowing me to express so many individual feelings. And to find Amsterdam's spirits in hues that exist only in my imagination. 

It's the power that Exposure 7 puts into the artist's hands rather than its presets. Plus it gives me a options that, while possible in Photoshop, it's eat creative time like a black hole. In this case, I'd purposely (pre-processing) grabbed the image through a distorted plastic glass, and used the distortion to isolate the center. Then I created different layers of fabrication including the shift in the dynamic range in Exposure. 

I am able now to execute a process that finds my imagination's image. This is a powerful application with a major learning curve. 

Friday, May 1

Baltimore • 4/27/15

Baltimore, its feelings snapped open like a box of nails. One night last week it insurrected. Is that a verb? To insurrect?

For a decade I commuted there where a very large number of people watch TV nightly to see places they can never go. Economists call that the demonstration effect. It's a force that might in an instant twist everything we know into an unrecognizable shape.

There's a micro-thin line between riot and insurrection.

For 60 years our War On Poverty has strictly applied the stick of zero tolerance against lawlessness while the carrot of aspirational jobs and career ladders has gone flaccid at best. Baltimore's a symptom of that squeeze without escape. It is more insurrection against the policy than a riot of opportunity.

This is a montage of AP photojournalists'  images. I'm not reselling them, just emoting through them utilizing PS4, Topaz Adjust, and AlienSkin's Exposure 7.