Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Night Videos

Happy Halloween weekend, everyone! And if you're in London, watch out for those werewolves!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... U2.

Now Playing: The Kinks Arthur, or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The ruins of St. Dominic Church

D'Hanis is a small town about an hour's drive west of San Antonio. Technically, it's "new" D'Hanis because the entire town was moved several miles west in 1914. There's not a lot to see in "new" D'Hanis, and even less of "old" D'Hanis... with one exception. St. Dominic Church was built in 1853 and later abandoned in 1914 after the town relocated. It has since fallen into ruin. And what elegant, lovely ruins they are.


There's a certain romance to ruins. Maybe they give a place a sense of history--the U.S. is a relatively young country, so we don't have anything comparable to the Roman Coliseum or Greek amphitheaters or Mayan temples. Filling that role for us are old Spanish missions and crumbling churches, which, once you get down to it, have a unique feral beauty all their own.


St. Dominic is certainly a fine example of a beautiful ruin. It's been a while since I photographed anything in infrared, but I knew I wanted to try here, since infrared light can bring out details hidden otherwise. Since my camera isn't converted, I had to set up the tripod, compose and focus the image then thread the visible light-blocking filter onto the end on the lens. This takes up a lot more time than you'd imagine. Once all of that is complete, I remotely trigger the camera for a pre-set exposure lasting anywhere from 5 to 20 seconds. Because of the blocking filter, exposures must be very long to ensure an image is formed. Compounding the challenge was the wind--it was gusty like you wouldn't believe. That shakes the camera, which blurs the long-exposure image. At the end of the day, I had far too many wasted shots. But I had a few keepers, too.


Unlike shooting with infrared film (which is challenging in its own right) most of the work on the image takes place after the fact with digital. Unprocessed infrared images are muddy, reddish things that are pretty ugly. I spent about an hour in Photoshop for each of the above, trying different things to bring out the most in each shot--experimenting is part of the fun! The top and bottom shots are different variations on a duotone process, while the middle image is a tritone process--which is a fancy way of saying multiple colors are used to create a warmer, richer black-and-white image than could be achieved using only black and white.

I'd forgotten how much I love infrared. I'm going to make it a point to make a few more photo excursions while the autumn light is still good.

Now Playing: Wynton & Ellis Marsalis Joe Cool's Blues

Monday, October 25, 2010

15 authors meme

I was tagged on this by Derek Johnson. I could've sworn I'd done it before, but can't find any evidence, so here goes. I have to point out that this was particularly challenging for me, because with a few exceptions, it is individual books that've had much stronger impact on me than any particular author.
Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors (poets included) who've influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag at least fifteen friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what authors my friends choose.

J.R.R. Tolkien: Whenever I talk about research, talk about worldbuilding, it all comes back to this man
Arthur C. Clarke: Hard SF? Oh, coooool
Herman Melville: When I read Moby Dick everyone warned me about the "long boring part about whales." Then the Pequod sank and I realized that there were no boring parts
Greg Bear: Blew my mind with what hard SF was capable of.
Charles de Lint: Character, place, place as character, magic as character, lyricism...
Ian Fleming: This is what the original Bond was like? But... it's different from the movies...
Patrick O'Brian: My Cibola airship stories were going nowhere until I read Master and Commander. Yeah, I steal from him endlessly
Bart Ehrman: His books on early Christianity are endlessly fascinating, illuminating and informative, clearly showing how Fundamentalism is wholly unworkable in a literal sense
Howard Waldrop: Meticulously brilliant short story constructions
Joe Lansdale: I'm not a horror fan, but I'll read anything Joe writes. I've never met a more instinctive storyteller
Eric van Lihn (Lester Del Rey): Author of the first SF YA novel I ever read. I'd been devoted to non-fiction up until then
Ursula LeGuin: Introduced me to the concept of sociological SF
Homer: The birth of my love of mythology. 'Nuff said.
Mike Grell: Blew me away with his Green Arrow and showed me comics could work and entertainment for adults without flying lasers and alien invaders
Lois McMaster Bujold: Introduced me to modern space opera, and showed me fun adventure didn't have to be dumb

Now Playing: Ray Charles Ultimate Hits Collection

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Night Videos

When U2's "Vertigo" hit the airwaves, reaching saturation point due to its heavy use in Apple's iPad marketing campaign, I went out immediately and bought the album, provocatively titled How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. That doesn't happen often, that a singly song moves me to invest in an entire disc, sound unheard. But "Vertigo" rocked so hard and the album's name was so cool that untold wonders must await on that beckoning CD. Alas, this impulse buy turned out as so many other musical fliers have for me in the past. "Vertigo" is far and away the standout piece, with the remainder of the tracks being merely okay. Another Joshua Tree it was not. Oh well, at least the video is nifty.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... John Fogerty

Now Playing: Various Celtic Moods

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Night Videos

You just can't go wrong with John Fogerty. "The Old Man Down the Road" was the first song that introduced me to him, believe it or not. Oh, I'd been vaguely aware of CCR classics such as "Proud Mary" and others, but never connected the dots that they were produced by the same band, or specifically, the same singer/songwriter. Fogerty's return to rock and the subsequent controversy over "Zanz Kan't Danz" brought me up to speed in a hurry (I was big into Rolling Stone in those days). The video's quite memorable in its own way, with a quirky sense of humor and suitably atmospheric for Fogerty's "swamp rock" motif. Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Steve Winwood

Now Playing: U2 How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday Night Videos

There was a big Steve Winwood revival toward the latter half of my high school years, solo success for the former Traffic singer which would spill over into my college days. I remember being floored by the complete attention paid to the stylish production seen in the video for "Roll With It." I don't know who the director was, but this type of sepia, art-deco Hollywood lighting video production was briefly in vogue on MTV in those days. It was apparent from the camera angles and stylistic quirks shared by the various videos that they all shared the same director, or at least the same production company. I can't recall those other videos for the life of me, but I do remember that even though the others were well-done, the Winwood video stood head and shoulders above the rest in what it set out to do and what it accomplished. Just watch it--this isn't a mere video, it's a full-blown movie, lush and lavish with myriad plot thread running through it that never quite get resolved. I'm still awed by it 20 years later. Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Bob Seger.

Now Playing: Sheena Easton The Worlds of Sheena Easton

Thursday, October 07, 2010

In case of emergency, break glass

There was an old David Letterman bit, years ago when he was still with NBC I think, in which a scheduled guest didn't make it to the show. They hit an alarm, rushed down the hall and shattered the glass door of a large, red box to wheel out Tony Randall to fill in. In case of emergency, break glass. I kinda feel like Tony Randall today.

The Wife teaches a community ed DSLR photography class that's been quite well-received in recent years. Normally, since I'm something of a stereotypical hardware geek when it comes to talking about equipment, she has me come in the second-to-last class and give a big presentation on lenses: The different varieties, accessories, what works and what doesn't, signs of quality, that sort of thing. By that time they've gotten a good foundation in composition, exposure and all the other techniques that go into making a good image, so educating them about hardware is appropriate to help them elevate their game.

Except that The Wife has developed a sore throat and lost her voice. It's so faint that I couldn't hear her to carry on a conversation during dinner last night. Obviously, there's no way she could teach a class tonight under those circumstances, so I'm being called off the bench to pinch-hit. I'm not sure how the class will respond to a whole lot of technical information thrown at them in only the second class, but I suppose we'll find out.

Now Playing: Rush Chronicles

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The balloon is back

Back around 2008, right as I was getting into photography, I spotted a hot-air balloon above San Marcos during my morning commute to work:

The balloon was back this morning. Sadly, I was without my camera. I keep telling myself that I need to carry it with me every day, but I always forget. The early-morning sun was illuminating it quite nicely. These kinds of scenes are what start my days off on a nice note.

Now Playing: Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band Nine Tonight

Monday, October 04, 2010

Yeah, why don't you chat about THAT!

I almost died today, or rather, almost got killed. It's not the first time, unfortunately, and I doubt it'll be the last. I'm driving home from work on I-35, and from an on-ramp comes barreling down upon me a big white Ford F-150 pickup. Now realize that I'm in the middle of three southbound lanes. This driver is talking on his cell phone. He never once looks to his left, all the while cutting across two lanes of traffic. I lay on my horn, slam on my brakes and swerve into the leftmost lane to keep from getting splattered all over the highway. Even then he misses me by maybe six inches. And no, he never looked my direction or acknowledged me or my riding the horn. In fact, he never put down his cell.

Now, a normal person would cuss a blue streak at this point. Which I did. But I also noticed a logo on the driver's side door. So shaking off the jitters of shock, I floored it and pulled along side him. Bingo. "Alamo Claims Service" with an 800 number to go along with it. I punched the number into my phone, exited the highway and called. I blistered the receptionist who answered the phone but good, and then did the same to the admin to whom my call was transferred. I gave time, description, location and license plate number to them. They promised they'd deal with the driver and assured me they don't tolerate that kind of behavior. Will they do something? I don't know, but I'd assume they'd take my complaint seriously because of the line of business they're in.

Insurance claims adjusters tend to take a dim view of reckless driving, don't they?

Now Playing:

Friday, October 01, 2010

Friday Night Videos

There was a period in the 80s where I was a huge Bob Seger fan. I came very close to seeing him in concert around '87 or so, but my ride backed out at the last minute. I'm not quite so into his music these days, but I still like his work a great deal. There's excellent craftsmanship in his songs, and the lyrical structures are brilliant. "Turn the Page" is a textbook example of a lyrically illustrative song that is brilliant at setting a mood. Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Ray Davies.

Now Playing: Blue Oyster Cult Workshop of the Telescopes