Saturday, September 27

Uganda: A Hole In The Storm Of Heartbreak?

Ida Amin's demagoguery warped the sentiment of Ugandans into their will. Tyrant's snatch power by  turning hope against fact. It's their promises of romantic hope that pummels reality with ferocious storms. 

Pedaling exhaustingly above those clouds, do Ugandans wonder now, is the tempest impending or receding? Is this a hole or an end in their storm of heartbreak?

Uganda is as close to Eden as a place might get. High up above the equator, it's climate's fixed in the range we call delightful. Uganda's green, lush, and fertile: Croesus' rich in precious minerals. Everything will grow there but prosperity. It's people have created a place between promise and performance. Perhaps when nature yields without resistance, there are fewer muscles of will to separate reason from madness?

*GEEK STUFF* The image was captured high into Uganda's south-western mountains with my Canon 7D through its EFS 17-85mm (f4-5.6). PP in PS4. The wispy/cloudy texture screens and brushes are mine. I cross processed it in part with AlienSkin's Exposure 4 and my own palette imaginings. And the details were selectively enhanced with Topaz Adjust 5.

Friday, September 26

Uganda: To The High Plain

Uganda sits atop a plateau and it's nestled within a rim of mountain ranges that feed its giant lakes and create it's potential to feed all of Africa from rich, dark, deep, moist soil. Climb the western range toward the Congo and there's a high veld… a plain dappled with grasses and tree clusters. Fifty years ago it teemed with marquee animal life. Idi Amin slaughtered much of it. 

Since his exile in the late 70s the country's worked to bring them back in protected national parks. On our fifth day in-country we climbed through the clouds to the south-eastern Queen Elizabeth park, the nation's largest. 

And along the way children gestured at our white faces.

I captured these boys and truck with my Canon 7D through its Canon EFS 17-85mm (f4-5.6). PP in PS4 painting in localized glows and textures created with multiple layers of Alien Skin's Bokeh2, and then cross processed part of the image in Alien Skin's Exposure 4.I added the gritty grain to emphasize the glowing pieces of cloud.  I finished it with a hint of vignetting and then the borders, text, and signature. 

Don't the cloudy mists paint a mysterious patina over the mountain road? 

Thursday, September 25

Amsterdam Layover: The Canals of Summer

BTW:  Between Newark New Jersey and Entebbe, Uganda - we laid over - both ways in Amsterdam. Uh-huh, two afternoons and nights in Holland's capital. Can't wait to get back for longer. But, still it is astonishing how much we packed into those Amsterdam hours. And how much there is to pack in.

These three snapshots I grabbed with my iPhone. See, to all of my, er, critical friends… I can still take pictures that look like, well, pictures. Amsterdam, like a hot woman, really doesn't take a bad picture.

Did I go to the legendary Red Light District? Heh heh… wait and see, K?

Tuesday, September 23

Uganda: It's Wealth

Uganda has Africa's highest birth rate. The population about doubles each decade. That's a problem that also makes it the youngest nation on that continent, and perhaps the world. There is apparently a law in the country. I mean, there must be. There must be legislation forbidding ugly people from leaving their homes. Here's what I mean… (click on an image to expand it, K?)

Doesn't every girl want a big brother like this?
These are farmers and families of the Village of Mytiana, Uganda.

And here's their teacher.

Sunday, September 21

Uganda: The Butcher Shop

Mityana, Uganda, a couple of weeks ago on August 9, 2014… Here's a butcher shop at mid-day on Saturday. There's something compelling about the grit… the texture… the moody aura of wispy, shimmery, hues.

The men cut hunks to order… wrapped them in banana leaves… Notice, no scales! And their body language… They're friends laughing with buddies. Social shopping. Was this a painting? Did my brushes better shape and suck at this feeling? Hmmmm…
Click on this version.
Sometimes an image is floaty, misty… You know? Poetry's always ambiguous, right? It's the nature of a poem to poke tack-clear meaning into your feelings. So do paintings, particularly oils. But pull out a tool from your logical toolkit and you just can't crack into the things. 

Over the next while, I'm going to try to tell you feelings about Uganda. We visited there between August 7-14th. People come back from Africa with photo cards crammed full of stereotypes. You know, the dancing, barefooted, scar-faced warriors in bones, furs, and piercings. Or bare-breasted, neon-skirted women, snowcapped mountains, smirking terrorists, fat-bellied, fly-eyed, starving infants… Odd foliage, rainbow birds, screeching monkeys, you know, those exotic muscles packaged inside of tough hides and pelts. Man-eaters. And yeah, those are African things. But...

Those aren't what I found either in Ugandan cities, or deep in the equatorial countryside… WHERE THERE IS NO JUNGLE! Jungles are all gone in most of this country. Nope. This butcher shop's what's there. These guys are probably cutting up goat or cows, not some sort of lion, hippo, snake, or monkey. They mostly eat what we eat coated with local spices surrounded by native veggies. 

And they dress like these men. They mostly speak the same English like once-British colonialists do all over the world, including here in the states. Lots, perhaps a majority, of adults carry cell phones, many smart phones. They watch American movies, TV, listen to American music, and read sensational tabloids. 

Me? I came back with pieces of feelings… This butcher shop… It's one. Maybe it ought to be a painting like this second image? Dunno. You think? Maybe Africa is better communicated with poems and brushes. I'm going to see as this series rolls out. 

Saturday, June 14


Don't hold
His look.

We were both walking in Musser Park this morning at half past nine. My Lancaster city home's just off of the park. He was about 7m (22') away on this VERY bright morning. Which brings me to a thought. Unless we get up near dawn, or wait until just before sunset contrast is not our friend. Oh sure, we can wait for clouds or hope for overcast… But most of the time, particularly when traveling, we've got to take the light we get.

Before digital, I'd coped for decades with narrow range film which meant exposing for highlights or shadows knowing that one or the other would be detail-empty. Oh sure there were lots of soft films, and I found myself developing them for even more contrast. Add in polycontrast papers… which were a big compromise with respect to quality, and then lots of burning and dodging and.. well… I still lived with compromise. Maybe that's a metaphor for life?

But look at this image. I was able to build it from a wide-range raw capture that gave me almost two stops of latitude on either side… Or five stops of detail to dig into. The blown highlights and dark shadows were my choice, not the film's.

Last evening I visited our camera shop, Coe Camera, here in the city. They've got a great used equipment department with cabinets filled with classic 35s like  Nikons, Leicas, and Canons. I hefted a terrific 4X5 Linhoff in a carry carry-all filled with a ton of stuff. Everything they take in looks as new and shiny as I remember it wooing me in the shops I used to visit to dream.

 Funny, I fondled a bunch of the things, hefted the (non-auto focusing) lenses and felt not a drop of nostalgic pang. I can remember lugging a Speed Graphic with its film packs and flash to cover sports and even now, the memories aren't good. 400 ASA Tri-X, even pushed to 1,200 still demanded a big flash gun for basketball and night football and hockey and accident coverage and.. and…

My shoulders hurt just thinking about it. And all of the hours that followed in the wet darkroom. Still, the Coe folks say there's a good market for the old cameras among kids who are nostalgic for film. It's easy to be nostalgic for something you've never experienced I imagine.

Out in front of the steps leading into our historic home there's a boot scraper. You know why that was built right into our brick sidewalk maybe a hundred and fifty years back? I'm not nostalgic for the hot summer days when on returning home… you needed that thing.

Nope, not nostalgic for film and its cameras and I'm totally happy about how we can crack into what a searing sun will do to contrast today. Hmmmm…. wonder where this is all going, eh?

Lancaster, PA… USA

Here's The Geek Stuff: Canon 7D w/Canon EF70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM, 1/1000-f/11, Bokeh as captured through my lens cranked out to 300mm.  ISO800: Square cropped & processed in PS4 where I reset the dynamic range of a 9:30 AM capture under direct spring sun.

Converted color palette and grain structure with *Alien Skin Exposure 6* to Polaroid Time-Zero Film for its edgy hard contrast punch - inserted Holga light leak to "explain" main light.

Wednesday, June 4

"POW!" Time for a 4th of July card

It's that time of year… The world seems to know… Tra… La…. 

Sunday, June 1

Full Scale Model

Early morning bike ride deep in Dixie.

It was damned hot last week with the kind of humidity that paints your body.

Monday, May 19

Aliens Land

They came from their strange craft… The most alien intelligence with which we shall ever live… 

Heh heh… Now this is a Technicolor morning in Lancaster County, eh? Caught it and them through my tiny G10 on a bike stop feet away from that last post below. Hardly any post processing in PS4. Some AlienSkin Technicolor tonal intensity. Love the texture and sharp… sharp… sharp depth of field huh? Plus, lookit the dynamic range there. There's shadow and highlight detail throughout. That little camera's a classic masterpiece. Imagine Canon's now up to a G16… this thing's ancient. But it fits in a little pack on my bike, films in RAW and jpg. This image was just a jpg capture! Yet lookit it!
I can't even imagine what the new versions of this baby do. You know what? If you're looking for small carry everywhere camera with all the override features of your top SLR… Go and buy a good used G10. I'm telling' ya… the thing ROCKS!

Okay… couldn't resist puttering around with the image. Liked the old, faded feel that this vehicle seems to emanate. Fun huh? 

Thursday, May 15

A Sunday Bike Ride

About ten miles outside of Lancaster City into the southern end of Lancaster County we can really see the legendary rolling hills of central Pennsylvania. Spring's come, the seeds are in, but the trees haven't fully budded. Soon all of this will be corn, much to fill that finger pointing into the sky. Life's good, huh?

Oh… I did adjust the dynamic color range here to emulate my very favorite slide film… Agfachrome 100. It was my trusty light little  Canon G10 that caught this feeling. It's all pretty magical, eh?

How magical? Here's the original sort of. In fact this image resulted from stitching together five panels in PS4, then cropping it down to this square.

The challenge this time was to create an out-of-the-camera reality in the final version at the top of this posting. I wanted to avoid any sense of "manipulation" or "augmentation". One of the real challenges was the lack of balance from that horizontal horizon. there is too much weight on the left side of the original. I needed more mass on the right. That led to two pieces of process. First a weighting of the tonal and palette range to augment the appearance of more heft on the right bottom. The secondly to grow the hill there on the south eastern quadrant. 

but the weight was designed to compliment a setting for the main feature, the silo… To draw the eye, and feeling toward that finger without battling it. Of course I eventually added vignette to once again spotlight  the silo. 

Great fun and I'm thinking if the trick's not revealed like I now have, that it sells belief. Right?

Sunday, May 4

Young Man's Fancy

Spring's popped
In Lancaster.
It's when young
Men turn
Their thoughts
To climbing
Way high and
Looking down…

Why izzat?

Canon 7D, Canon EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens cranked all the way out and opened all the way up. PP in PS4, Topaz Adjust, and AlienSkin Oil Paint. In the middle between those two tools, there were many layers of adjustment and sniggering around with the dynamic range. 

The boys climbed a large wall around Musser Park's entrance in the very heart of the city of Lancaster's historic district, maybe fifty yards from my front door. Not shabby, eh? 

Friday, May 2

Along the Liffey

The British murdered a million Irish
Another million were forced to immigrate
When the potato blight killed
The food that absentee English landlords
Allowed their tenants to eat.

Meantime Aristocrats exported 
More than enough food 
Causing the19th century genocide.
And igniting the next century

Of troubles. 

It was not a religious war
It was a reclamation. 

And now on Court House Quay
Along Dublin's River Liffey
This guy, cast in metal,
Stands enfolding his
Earthly belongings.

It's to cry...

Dublin, Ireland. Across the river is The Immaculate Heart of Mary on City Quay in the midst of the city's Docklands. Canon 7D, Post processed in PS4 with Topaz Adjust & Alen Skin's SnapArt oil paint. Custom brushes and textures.  Cross processed with beta version of  customized Alien Skin Exposure 6.

Friday, March 28

Oh My Dears! So Motel-Room-Decor..

Show-opening. Gallery-party. A corner-coven of sniggering women.

One waggles her fingers at the walls and smirks, "This art? Oh My-Dears! It's all so, so… motel room, n'est pas?"

•••  •••  •••

Look… Here's how swanky art transforms a tacky motel room into a classy palace… um… right? See how the work's chosen to be precisely the correct size and hue? How it matches the designer bed spreads?

Sense how proudly important motel executives display their latest acquistion to a distinguished art authority… explaining how they've selected the work to balance the haute-style of the room's decor... it's spacious and high-fashion furnishings… while achieving the very latest in all-the-rage chic? 

Pictures bought by the palette, square foot, and square meaning. But… but… it sells. There are lots of motel room walls that create the biggest part of today's market for… for… Well, what?

Here's the challenge… To break into this lucrative high-demand space, how to give your images both mood-ectomies, and thought-ectomies? How to sink into a subliminal compliment to bedcovers and wall paint? 

You'd think that'd be easy, huh? But no. Too many artists still insist upon pursuing meaning, personality, idiosyncrasy, even… feeling.

The secret to the craft of motel room success is this… Make your work pretty and cheap. Hell, combine the two… make your work pretty cheap. You cannot be too pretty or too cheap. Follow that advice and you too will find important hotel executives bringing your work to the attention of people who'd otherwise not notice it. But remember, it will sell to those key purchasing agents who buy soap, towels, toothpaste and pillows precisely because no one will notice it!

Here, just copy unsigned work like this, and you can't miss…

Okay, guess you get the point. I hate it when my work ends up like this. Uh-huh, they are very high craft. But they look like wallpaper designs. Everything I tried failed to bring out the theme of isolation or alienation I'd hope this project would invoke. Each enhancement made them prettier and less a story or even a feeling. Leaving me with… "Oh My-Dears! It's all so, so… motel room, n'est pas?"

I should have just trashed 'em, but it's hard to toss a lot of hours of work. Sooooo… this is what blogs are for, huh? Whining? Dead-ends are… are… Sigh…. On the bright side, I can crank this stuff out like sausage and what it won't bring in mark-up, well supermarkets make it on volume, why not me?

Sunday, March 16

The Poster Post

Hmmm…. Got to wondering if I could get the attention of a gallery. Which means getting something that would get the attention of a gallery. SOMETHING? SOMETHINGS? Wuddizit that grabs attention? Hmmmm…. I've had shows. They're a LOT of work. Last time I printed and framed over a hundred images. A friend generously had three different  books of my images printed. He actually layer them out… they looked terrific. Hundreds of people showed up. It filled six rooms on two floors. Very cool, yet… 

As you can see on the right there, I've cadged some awards and had a bunch of images published. The result? VERY GOOD QUESTION. See, this isn't my day job. It's where I go to escape day jobs, markets, clients, life, and other people's tensions. Which means, well, it means I'm kind of uninterested in the hard work it takes to become a successful artist. 

It's been a handful of years since my last show and I've grown, created a ton of additional work while wandering into new wonderings. In the past I've asked if you can be a poet, a clarinetist, a composer, or a novelist… if you never have an audience. Hell I don't even market this blog-site the way I did some years back. In fact, it's self indulgence, huh? Once it attracted a few hundred visitors a week. Then I let it whither, went away for months. Last time I looked there were maybe a couple dozen folks who wandered in.

To keep these things going you need to generate a lot of smart copy, and then grow and nurture links,  visit everyone else - become a community guy. Fact is I do visit dozens of sites a week hunting new ideas and… wonderings. But to actively interact grabs hunks of time and that cranks up the opportunity cost thing. I'd rather grow the images that all of the influences trigger.. 

Still, it'd be cool to have a gallery or museum hang some of my newer stuff for a while and get some flesh and blood people to react face-to-face. Nice, but improbable. Marketing's work. It's what I did for years for some very big companies. Images are an escape from that. So...

1. Here's a Lancaster City poster

2. Here's a people poster

3. Here's another people poster

4. Here's an urban poster

Maybe I should get a half thousand of these printed up - mail them to galleries/museums and nail 'em to telephone poles? Maybe I should pour some Irish over ice, push back my leather chair… and watch TV?