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This Girl Right Here

Leslie @ Lake Martin - Mamiya C330f | Fujichrome Velvia 50

Leslie @ Lake Martin – Mamiya C330f | Fujichrome Velvia 50

So yesterday marked the 9th year of us being “officially” together. We’ve been together-together forever. She’s a very good sport – letting me turn the camera on her for this one shot. Technically, the saturation of the Velvia film doesn’t seem to lend itself to portraiture. Skin tones are a little unreal looking. I was lucky that I had a subject that makes every picture beautiful.

Week(s) In Review: May 5 – 18, 2014

Portfolio Additions

  

May Eleven 1 | ISO 100, 1/2000, f/2.2, 85mm | Nikon D800, New Petzval Lomography x Zenit Art Lens | Cypress Point, Lake Martin, AL USA | May 10, 2014 10:57 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

May Eleven 2 | ISO 100, 1/2500, f/2.2, 85mm | Nikon D800, New Petzval Lomography x Zenit Art Lens | Cypress Point, Lake Martin, AL USA | May 10, 2014 10:57 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

In The Woods | ISO 1600, 1/160, f/4.0, 85mm | Nikon D800, New Petzval Lomography x Zenit Art Lens | Ruffner Mountain, Birmingham, AL USA | May 4, 2014 15:03 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Leslie, Illuminated | ISO 280, 1/160, f/4.0, 85mm | Nikon D800, New Petzval Lomography x Zenit Art Lens | Ruffner Mountain, Birmingham, AL USA | May 4, 2014 15:12 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

.     .     .

Still testing out the Petzval – highlights being shots taken at Birmingham’s Ruffner Mountain Park and featuring my favorite subject: my lovely and patient wife.  The two “May Eleven” photographs (which, you’ll notice, were actually taken on May 10… my bad) are not anything special.  I chose to upload them because I was kind of proud of my technique.  That’s no post-processing faded-out filter effect.  Taken on a misty Saturday morning, I enhanced the two images of Lake Martin with the fancy, complicated method of fogging up the lens by breathing on it before snapping the picture.  Wizardry!

Lots of contemplation and self-reflection over the past two weeks, which deserves a post of its own soon.  Otherwise there’s been a lot of office work during the week and a lot of sitting, unshaved and unbathed, lakeside in a bathrobe on the weekends.  I am okay with that trend continuing for a while.  

WIR: Alabama Sucks at Basketball

Portfolio Additions

     

Ghost Adventures | ISO 1600, 1/25, f/1.4, 85mm | Nikon D800, AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF | Roosevelt Hotel, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 6, 2014 22:39 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Los Angeles 1.5 | ISO 100, 1/160, f/1.4, 85mm | Nikon D800, AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF | Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 5, 2014 16:07 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Los Angeles 1.16 | ISO 180, 1/60, f/1.4, 85mm | Nikon D800, AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF | Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 5, 2014 16:58 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Up & Around | ISO 100, 1/60, f/2.2, 24mm | Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED | Griffith Park Observatory, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 4, 2014 16:53 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Los Angeles 1.7 | ISO 100, 1/200, f/1.4, 85mm | Nikon D800, AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF | Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 5, 2014 16:13 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Los Angeles 1.13 | ISO 100, 1/100, f/1.4, 85mm | Nikon D800, AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF | Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 5, 2014 16:37 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

.     .     .

Four additions to Elysian Fields this week.  The flowers in little vases attached to the memorial facades are an interesting touch I don’t see everywhere, and make for a good contrasting background.  And how could I not take a picture of a headstone that just read “Douglas”?  Morbid?  Yes.  Yes, and that’s why I did it.  You can either laugh in the face of death or tremble in fear of it.  I choose laughter.  (Warning: in the next couple of weeks there will be a very depressing photo from Westwood added to this collection.)

The walkway between the smooth mahoganies of the Roosevelt Hotel lobby and rich red leathers of the 25 Degrees bar is wonderfully bright and red and decorated with mirrors and polished brass.  I think this portrait turned out great – the look on Leslie’s face is just the right mixtue of candid and posed, and the large aperture throws that magnificent background perfectly out of focus.  Look at those buttery light points.  It is titled “Ghost Adventures” because Leslie was regaling me with stories of the Old Hollywood ghosts that supposedly haunt the Roosevelt (Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Errol Flynn, little girls in blue dresses, so on and so forth… so yeah, we were ghost hunting).

The staircase at the Observatory I chose just because I thought it was a good architectural, geometric shot.

.     .     .

In other news: Alabama sucks at basketball and it is time to end this Anthony Grant experment.  It is painfully obvious that the second coming of Billy Donovan he is not.  We aren’t delusional about our chances on a national scale, mind you (this isn’t football or anything), but historically, next to Kentucky, we are something like the second most successful program in the SEC.  C.M. Newton, Wimp Sanderson and even Mark Gottfried had us in the NCAA tournament more often than not, and we consistenly competed for regular season conference and tourney championships.  Hell, under Gottfried we were ranked number one in the nation for a few weeks.  As a kid, I remember the Plaid Palace!  As a student, Mark’s Madness!  Come on… let’s end this embarrassing bullshit and get a real coach, before we have to start giving away tickets to get anyone to come to Coleman Coliseum for a game.

At work, I finally got all my paperwork in order and am now, officially, a Certified Internal Auditor.  {Zoidberg voice} What an hooonor!  So I get to put “CIA” after my name now, which looks a lot cooler than it is.

Week In Review: Jan 27-Feb 2, 2014

Portfolio Additions

      

Los Angeles 1.3 (Lemmon) | ISO 100, 1/100, f/1.4, 85mm | Nikon D800, AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF | Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 5, 2014 15:54 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Los Angeles 1.9 | ISO 110, 1/60, f/1.4, 85mm | Nikon D800, AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF | Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 5, 2014 16:28 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Leslie in Beverly Hills | ISO 180, 1/60, f/1.4, 24mm | Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED | Roni’s Diner, Beverly Hills, CA USA | Jan 4, 2014 11:51 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

To Telescope | ISO 100, 1/60, f/2.5, 24mm | Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED | Griffith Park Observatory, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 4, 2014 17:01 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Los Angeles 1.4 | ISO 100, 1/60, f/2.8, 85mm | Nikon D800, AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF | Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 5, 2014 16:00 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Griffith Park | ISO 100, 1/160, f/6.3, 24mm | Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED | Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 4, 2014 16:46 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Los Angeles 1.11 (Monroe) | ISO 100, 1/100, f/1.4, 85mm | Nikon D800, AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF | Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 5, 2014 16:31 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

.     .     .

Continuing to post the photographs from our January trip to Los Angeles.  Four more pieces were added to the Elysian Fields series, as described here.  These include photos from the graves of Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon.  I love Jack Lemmon’s tombstone:

Two of the images are from Griffith Park.  The telescope sign picture captures the colorful sunset truthfully.  The photo of the park valley and the city beyond was adjusted using the same techniques I use to process the Elysian Fields images – just for fun.  I liked the effect on this one so much that I kept it.  Experimentation yields worthwhile results sometimes.  The Leslie portrait was taken in Roni’s Diner on Santa Monica Boulevard.  Great little spot for breakfast and brunch, and the coffee is not too shabby either.

The other news of the week was, obviously, the collapse of the Deep South due to a couple of inches of snowfall.  I posted my feelings about the matter, along with my personal driving experience, earlier in the week.  It’s worth noting that this weekend we’ve got highs in the upper 60’s, clear skies, and generally beautiful weather.  Bizarre, but I’ll take it.

Week In Review: Jan 20-26, 2014

Portfolio Additions

 
 

Tallapoosa County 1.1 | ISO 100, 1/160, f/6.3, 24mm | Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED | Cemetery on AL 63, Tallapoosa Co., AL USA | Dec 27, 2013 14:45 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Tallapoosa County 1.2 | ISO 100, 1/160, f/6.3, 24mm | Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED | Cemetery on AL 63, Tallapoosa Co., AL USA | Dec 27, 2013 14:45 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Los Angeles 1.1 | ISO 100, 1/250, f/1.4, 85mm | Nikon D800, AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF | Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 5, 2014 15:44 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Los Angeles 1.2 | ISO 100, 1/320, f/1.4, 85mm | Nikon D800, AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF | Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 5, 2014 15:46 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Leslie in West Hollywood | ISO 1600, 1/40, f/1.4, 24mm | Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED | Roscoe’s Chicken n’ Waffles, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 4, 2014 20:25 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

.     .     .

One of my goals this year is to produce four photography series – projects with a central theme/look instead of just a random hodgepodge of images; ones that include or imply a narrative I find important, powerful or thought-provoking.  The four cemetery photos above are part of the first of these projects: a series I’ve given the working title Elysian Fields after the ancient Greek mythological afterworld, Elysium, reserved for gods and heros.  The Elysium concept was adopted by subsequent cultures, including the Romans who were apparently the first civilization to practice decorating their cemeteries as we do today:

Since the soul of the deceased was thought to need provisions for various wants in post mortem existence, the ground about the tomb was often laid out as a garden, where the spirit might wander and enjoy itself in its own bit of the Elysian Fields. This custom, of course, survives to-day in the decoration of tombs with flowers, although now we think of the flowers merely as decorations fitting to our sense of piety and our memory of the dead.

~ John L. Heller, from “Burial Customs of the Romans”

Of course, there is also the juxtaposition of this ancient ‘garden preparation’ ritual with the plastic flowers and trite, boilerplate phraseology that dominates today’s burial plots.  My happenstance photographs from graveyards always turned out well – but now this will be a deliberate act of searching out and finding interesting, beautiful, haunting, provocative images from the cemeteries I find on weekend sojourns and over the course of the year’s travels.  Apologies in advance, coworkers.  “Well, it’s time to knock off for the evening.  What do you want to do?”  “Oh, I think I’ll go wander around in a graveyard for a bit.”  Plus – anyone who knows me knows I have… problems, let’s say, facing the idea of death.  Some might call them panic attacks.  Whatever.  This little adventure will either help me deal with that or end up with me curled up in a ball somewhere refusing to go outside.

I also edited and posted a new portrait of Leslie – this time a wide-angle shot from the interior of the fantastically unhealthy-wonderful Roscoe’s House of Chicken n’ Waffles in West Hollywood.  This one’s all about the color for me, though the b/w conversions I attempted turned out very well.  The bokeh is terrific and buttery smooth, and the red cast over everything make it really stand out among my more middling Leslie-headshot pics.  And those glasses!  Librarian fetish: engaged.

In Other News

I took about two weeks of PTO around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays + the trip to California for Leslie to see her alma mater’s football team compete for the national title.  When I returned to work I had a backlog of control tests, follow-ups and other accumulated year-end duties that I had to contend with along with my new projects.  This week I’m finally caught up, signed off and done with everything – current and otherwise.  It feels great… to the point that I’m actually looking forward to going in on Monday with a refreshingly clean slate.  On Tuesday I commandeered a large, unused whiteboard too, so that I can keep a visual representation right in front of me of the projects and tasks at hand.  Better than the scattering of post-it notes I was using up to that pont.  Organization, baby.  I feed off of it.

After a plague of head colds swept through our house over the last two weeks, we’ll be starting this new week illness-free.  All this makes next week as good a time as any to start getting a fitness and diet program running consistently… something I’ve let little everyday stresses keep me from setting up.  After the Iron Bowl debacle, I sort of let myself go.  Time to work off those holiday pounds and prepare for warmer 2014 months – which may include a trip to Mexico to celebrate my best friend getting hitched.  Looking good naked (or semi-naked I suppose, prudes) has always been a decent motivator for me.  The stumbling block is finding time.  I work 8am-6pm Monday through Thursday, with a half-day on Friday.  Friday will be a good day for hitting the gym, but ideally I would find another two days in there to get cardio work in.

Been trying to find a use for the generous monetary Christmas gifts I received from family.  A nice situation to be in, to be sure, but I’m having a hard time identifying things that I actually need.  I finally ordered a Fitbit Force wristband to track some of my health goals, but I’m still on the lookout for additional purchases.  Shut up and take my money!!!

And that’s what’s going on.  Ta-ta for now.

Portfolio Additions: Jan 14-18, 2014

  

Getting The Shot | ISO 100, 1/60 sec & f/1.4, 24mm | Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED | Griffith Park Observatory, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 4, 2014 5:15pm | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Tobogg’n (Color) | ISO 1600, 1/40 sec & f/1.4, 24mm | Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED | Cypress Point, Lake Martin, AL USA | Dec 28, 2013 10:55pm | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Rose Bowl | ISO 100, 1/320 sec & f/9.0, 300mm | Nikon D800, Sigma APO 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro | Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena, CA USA | Jan 6, 2014 2:02pm | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

.     .     .

Here is a new feature for 2014: instead of posting every single photograph that I upload to my portfolio in a separate post, I’m going to start posting a summary at the week’s end with some additional commentary on the week’s photos.  This will hopefully 1) add some context to the pictures and 2) make room for some non-photographic topics here without losing them in the deluge of images.  As with everything else, we’ll see how it goes.  

The photo in the middle is basically me testing out the new 24mm lens, but it’s a cute picture – very expressive and nonstandard (especially for Leslie, sans fixed hair and makeup).  Even though the background sort of melts away behind her (the new glass passes the shallow focus test), the colors are still a little distracting.  I added a black & white version yesterday that I think I like better.  Again, trying to get away from skin-smoothing techniques and other falsehoods and focus on real beauty and real humanity.  If I haven’t said it before: thanks, Leslie, for being my guinea pig and subject of most of my little artistic experiments.  

Leslie also appears in Getting The Shot – that’s her taking a phone picture of the Hollywood sign from Griffith Observatory.  So many of these situations are unplanned.  We did not intend to be up there as the sun was setting, but there we were.  I got another pic that was from behind her instead of to the side, where you could see some of the landscape’s colors in her iPhone display.  It was a cool picture too, but this one felt more ethereal to me.  

And the Rose Bowl: the reason for the trip in the first place.  First off, they wouldn’t let me inside the stadium with my camera – the Sigma zoom apparently fell into the media/press category.  So there are no photos this time from inside the stadium itself.  The camera was checked at the gate and picked up without incident after the game, and I really didn’t miss out on too much.  How many different ways are there to capture such an iconic, American landmark anyway that haven’t been done to death?  So this is my sole Rose Bowl pic of the trip.  Rose + Bowl.  A word on the Sigma – this is a damn good 3rd party lens that is fairly inexpensive.  It works perfectly for what it is, and I’ve been reading camera tech news and reviews that suggest that Sigma is continuing to produce quality glass that rivals the camera manufacturer competition (Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc.) and dominates the 3rd party market.  Well done, three cheers and all that.  

Appendix A:  Similar to the Tobogg’n photo, I retouched and converted last week’s Goodnight Hollywood Boulevard to black & white as well.  I think it works better this way.  The shot was in a dark room and was not as tack sharp as I normally would like.  The b/w treatment masks some of the more blatant technical errors and makes for a more pleasing and moody photograph.  Hate to part ways with that rich red leather, though.  Cool spot.  25 Degrees in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Blvd.  Open all night.  Amazing shakes and hamburgers.  And, of course, people watching.