Monday, May 31, 2010

Road Trip & Reading

As much as I hate breaking a Commandment, particularly one that involves a Holy day of rest, Bethany and I had to do a little work today. Since yesterday was booked and our client only has every other weekend available, we had to make the best of it and take some engagement photos.

Boy, were those photos worth the two and a half hour drive to Dorcas, West Virginia (which is exactly as small as it sounds). The scenery was incredible, our subjects were photogenic and willing to go out on a limb (almost literally) to post for a good photograph.

The last two weekends have been great for shooting. I believe some of my experience is finally starting to pay off. Shooting in manual has been much easier and much smoother this year, which is odd considering I haven't really touched a camera until last weekend.

Most importantly, though, I'm finally beginning to feel more comfortable with posing people and having a little better luck finding those "real" moments in between the poses. Those moments make for absolute perfect photographs if you're watching for them.

Honestly, that was a big part of my gripe with wedding photography. Yes, it's stressful and there's only one shot to get it right. But once upon a time, I was a reporter and I lived for that. No, I've realized that a big part of my gripe is how polished and fake wedding photos so often look. Couples see the "show pieces" that photographers show them and they want photos just like that, yet they don't understand the time and effort it takes to create those shots. It's easy for weddings to become too formulaic and all the same. My goal now is to ignore all that and start looking for those real moments that get looked over too often.

I'd post some photos here to show you what I'm talking about, but our clients haven't seen them yet and I'm not the kind of photographer that debuts a couple's photos by uploading them to the World Wide Web.

It will be a busy week, even though Monday is a holiday. We have to big shoots to process, one of which must be done by the end of the week. I have a ton of fresh writing to do for the new novel since I'm meeting with Heather at the end of the week to discuss illustrations.

And somehow in the midst of all this, I have to find a copy of Patrick O'Brian's The Reverse of the Medal. I finally worked my way  up to The Far Side Of The World and polished it off just a few minutes ago. That ended my initial exploration into O'Brian, since I bought that title along with Master and Commander without realizing that I was buying books one and ten of a twenty-one book series. I just wanted to read them before I watched the movie that, for some inexplicable reason, took parts of books one and ten and made one movie out of them both.

A reviewer wrote that O'Brian was " easy taste to acquire and a hard one to shake..." or some such. I have to agree with him. I'm already dreading reaching the final book and I have eleven left to go.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

I Don't Have A Short Attention Span...Honest

I really don't get distracted easily. Unless there's something shiny around. Or interesting to look at. Or anything other than what I'm supposed to be paying attention to.

But I don't get distracted easily. Really.

I may have mentioned that this is going to be a busy weekend. We just finished the first of two shoots this weekend, a bridal shoot, and tomorrow we'll be on the road for two and a half hours to travel to a farm in northern West Virginia for an engagement shoot.

Today's bridal shoot took place in and around some nifty little gardens. Gardens, of course, have flowers. My favorite portrait lens is my macro lens, which lets me zoom way in on tiny things. Flowers are a favorite subject. So my bridal shoot had a few little side shots that really paid off for me. This is my favorite from the shoot and one I think that I'll stick in a contest.

I had a rare opportunity last weekend during the triathlon to photograph a hawk in flight, which you'll see below. This time, at least, I was waiting on the runners to return from the first leg of the race, so I wasn't really goofing off when I should've been doing something else.

Cayenne Is Hot...Who Knew?

Last night Bethany and I had a hankering for something different. So we broke into our collection of recipe books and dug up Garlic Sauce with Pasta & Shrimp. Naturally, this required a trip to Kroger.

So we jumped into the car, racing to beat the storm that was threatening to explode at any minute. We picked up the requisite shrimp and fresh parsley and cayenne pepper, which is not something we really keep in the house. Now, a little bottle of this stuff was nearly four dollars. A tremendous bottle of this stuff was $5.39. Figuring we'd need more eventually, we purchased the big bottle.

We made it home about ten minutes before the rain set in, though the thunder and lightning were putting on quite a show, and set to work whipping up dinner.

I should mention here that I've never cooked with cayenne before. I had no idea how hot this stuff is. I should also mention that, unless I'm baking, I tend to guesstimate my ingredients instead of measure. So a bit more than than the 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne (that was called for) made it in to the sauce.

Wow. That stuff is hot. The sauce had a great flavor. But wow. I think I'll measure the cayenne from now on.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Shooting The Moon

It's been quite a while since I've posted any kind of photo, so I thought I'd post one today that hearkens back to one of the reasons I took up photography.

A couple nights ago the Moon was nearly full. I walked outside to get something out of my Jeep and was moved to take a picture. Mother Nature, however, had other ideas and the Moon was buried in clouds before I could bring my camera around. 

Last night the Moon was completely full and there wasn't a cloud anywhere close to it, though over to the east there were some pretty cool clouds being lit up at intervals by lightning. Anyway, I broke out my old, manual focus and f/stop Opteka super telephoto lens, mounted that baby to the tripod and started shooting. The result is what you see above.

As I was typing this, I found my 2x extender to mount to that lens. Maybe tonight, if the storms hold off, I'll attach it and see what happens. I'm thinking that it makes it slightly harder to focus (this lens was made before the invention of auto focus) but it will give me a focal length of 2600mm, which is akin to having the camera mounted to a small telescope. I'll be interested in seeing what results I can come up with.

Of course, I'll post 'em here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ah, To Be Young Again

I almost felt young again today.

Bryan and I have been working out pretty hard these past three months or so. It's been good and healthy for both of us. Well, today we decided to skip out on the weights. We did this because Bryan needs to focus on cardio to pass his PT test for the National Guard next week. We also did this because two guys beat us down to the weight room this morning. These guys crank up insanely awful heavy death metal music and then go scream and yell and try to look impressive lifting weight that we thought was light way back in high school.

We went to the YMCA instead and found we had the basketball court to ourselves. Feeling ambitious, we decided to play a little full court, one-on-one basketball. It's been years since I've played full court anything and it felt great. I was handling the ball extremely well and was feeling where to go and how to move on the court so well I probably could have played with my eyes closed. I won the first game easily, 20 to 4. The old instincts were there, a little dusty but still ready to roll and tempered with a little common sense gained through too many pointless injuries. It was beautiful.

And the second game went down hill quickly as we both started feeling injuries, asthma and general out of shapeness. But we played on anyway, as much for the fun of playing the game as for the work out we were getting.

Then the little kids came in and took the half the gym for their playtime. The oldest kid out there couldn't have been more than 3 or 4 and it just became too funny to watch and listen to them play for us to do anything serious after that, so we hit the sauna and the showers.

And to completely change the subject, Devan and I are launching a new project, this one a novel geared specifically toward young adults. The Sixth Sword will hit the shelves when he gets back from Iraq since we're pretty well near the point that I need him on the same side of the world to put all the final details down on paper. So we're starting something new.

It's been great fun so far and I haven't really started writing it yet. Devan's done a great deal of rough writing and laying it out and the story has great potential. And since we're not attempting to write at a higher level, it's a lot of fun to play and work with. I'll keep you updated as progress continues.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Typing Without Really Saying Anything

I love a good rainy weekend.

The rain started to set in here Friday evening and by Saturday afternoon was steady enough to nap by. The best part was it held off long enough for me to photograph the local triathlon. Saturday had to be one of my best shooting days ever. I had two stages to shoot, the run and kayak stage. The run stage went off without a hitch and with just a little practice I settled into a groove. The kayak stage went a little better this year than last since this year I was able to use a path down the side of the hill and down over some rocks to get a better angle on the river and the kayakers. I didn't have to rush any of my shots and everything went about as smoothly as it could.

Bethany and I spent the rest of the afternoon running around Roanoke. We didn't really accomplish anything, except for having a good dinner and spending a good hour in Books-A-Million just wandering around. Having a Kindle has completely changed the way that I'm going to shop for books. There are a few books out there that I actually want to own a hard copy of. But for the most part, I'm really starting to see where the Kindle comes in as a money and space saver. The books are usually cheaper and much easier to store. I took down a couple of names of books in the store that I figured I'd download later. I think I'll just start shopping at a library from now on and take my Kindle with me to download as I go.

One thing the Kindle doesn't have is comic books. I'm talking about newspaper strips like Garfield and Dilbert. I'll continue to buy those collections as they come out. In fact, I think I'm going to spend most of the summer chasing down all the Garfield collections that I can. There are 50 books out there and I don't have enough of them.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Philosophic Meanders

Death is such an unexpected and unwanted thing. Even when you can see it coming, death always arrives too soon.

Bethany's grandpa passed away Thursday evening after a long battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease. Though it was apparent the end to his suffering was drawing near, he passed suddenly, unexpectedly and with some measure of peace and dignity.

Bethany and I both come from families of deep Christian faith. My family tends more toward the old school than her's, but the core beliefs are the same. The Bible tells us to weep at a birth and to rejoice at a funeral. Jesus' life was an example of love and belief and his death was the promise that we would all be together again when this world is no longer because we are more than just these shells of flesh and bone.

Patrick and I have often argued (in a friendly way) over differing beliefs, particularly the basis of faith. My understanding of faith is the simple belief in things unseen and unproven. If you ask me to prove to you the existence of God I'll point to a bird and defy you to tell me that it's here because of the random chance that gave birth to natural selection. You can't prove me wrong and I can't prove myself right, though I believe that I am.

That's faith.

Yet, if we're patient, sometimes we're handed proof of our faith. If we'll only listen and look at what's going around us and consider all those things we've been taught, we'll find proof of our faith. I certainly have.

I firmly believe we all have a soul. I firmly believe that accepting Jesus Christ as a savior is the path to Heaven and a peaceful afterlife. And I firmly believe that I witnessed proof of that in Henry's death. When I saw him this evening, laid out in his casket at the funeral home, it was the first time I'd ever seen someone who just wasn't there.

Everything that made Henry who he was had left that body. The permanent, impish half smile that he always wore was gone. The light that danced with easy friendship was gone from his eyes. Henry just wasn't there. And it was then that I remembered the pastor's prayer from the previous night, how he was thankful for the sacrifice of Christ that would allow us to find eternal peace and happiness after this life and I realized that moments like these are what bring us closer to God and that this was just more proof of beliefs I've held since I was old enough to think for myself.

This is far from the first time I've seen God keep His word to His children, only the most recent. I have faith that it won't be the last.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Big Whiskey

At the recommendation of my cousin (and I dearly hate to admit she was right so she should be ecstatic that I'm publishing it on the world wide web. Consider it a belated birthday present cuz) I've looked into the musical stylings of Dave Matthews.


For sheer musicianship alone the man should win a Grammy each year. I dare you to find another artist out there with that kind of talent and song writing ability. I'm a huge fan of Edwin McCain but even I'll admit the dude would be hard pressed to beat Dave Matthews.

I have three albums now, two of which are acoustic duet concerts with Tim Reynolds, who may be one of the best guitarists out there. Tonight I picked up Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King with my birthday money from Grandma and Grandpa. I have enough left over from that, coupled with what I have left over from my family, to get Common Margins: Improvisations for Piano & Guitar by Tim Reynolds. The potential of that album is amazing.

So between the Edwin concert a couple weeks ago, hearing Bethany's chorale concert Sunday and my newfound enjoyment of Dave Matthews, I'm more determined than ever to make something of myself as a musician. Granted, I'm not looking to make it big. I'm looking to learn the guitar and make it an extension of my writing and creativity. There is a vast untapped world of potential out there in music. I'm determined to make a dent in it.

Maybe Bethany will give me voice lessons...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Life Gets In The Way

Sometimes life just gets in the way.

I have big plans. Admittedly, they rarely work. I seem to do better at life when I'm just flying by the seat of my pants from one moment to the next. Unfortunately, the world doesn't work that way all the time. Be nice if it did.

I had hopes of getting back to the regularly scheduled blog, but last week just completely blew that idea. My birthday was Tuesday and of course that would have taken up all day on a good day. But instead of spending the day in total celebration of the National Day of Josh, I spent a good chunk of it chasing down a radiator for Bethany's car.

Only to have that radiator to arrive Wednesday for us to discover, a half an hour before the store closes, that the radiator doesn't fit the car. In fact, just to make it more interesting, they no longer make the original radiator that came out of that car. Instead, for some unknown reason, they make a different style of radiator with different mounts for the fan shroud, which means you either have to modify the shroud to fit or spend $150 for a piece of plastic.

You can guess what we did.

Friday was ridiculously busy, as I spent the morning helping out at Magic in the Mountains, the afternoon running errands and cleaning and the evening installing the radiator. At 10:30, Phil and I ran out of light and four letter words, so we called it off until Saturday afternoon, when we finally finished the job. After that I spent the rest of the day with Patrick and Amber. Sunday morning I traveled to West Virginia to visit Mom and stopped at Lewisburg on the way home to attend Bethany's chorale concert and dinner before making it home about 7 p.m. last night.

So this week I've decided to have goals instead of plans. Two of those goals revolve around my guitar. I have the goal of learning to play Dave Matthews' You and Me Together and writing my own song (or at least making a good deal of progress on it). There are pictures to be taken and other chores to be done among all of this, so we'll see how it goes.

And did I mention I now own a Kindle? My in-laws all pitched in and purchased me one for my birthday. Now, I'm a person that appreciates the heft of a good book and the individuality of having an actual printed novel in my hands. But I'm also a person that really likes shiny gadgets with buttons and the Kindle is pretty sweet. It's going to change how I read and buy books from now on.

So...back to the week. Hope to see you here tomorrow.