No One Bites Back as Hard

No one knows what it’s like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies

I saved the best for last which is quite fitting since this is the last post of the month and the last in the three part Wolf series. Continuing on with the shoot at Wildlife Prairie Park, this particular entry brings closure on the after treatment study.  If you recall, the first post in this series was the traditional color version with some amped up contrast (link here). The resulting benefit of that is the conversion to Black and White was pretty impressive (link here). In fact at the time it was a definite candidate for this season’s contests. There was still one more effect to experiment with….

I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That’s never free
No one knows what it’s like
To feel these feelings
Like I do
And I blame you

What do you think? Admittedly, I was very very pleased and ranking these series as my best yet. Granted the purists are going to have some hardship with the degree of post processing, but at this point I could care less. Whenever this particular argument comes up (purist vs processing) I always fall back to one simple question – “What is your impression of Ansel Adams’ work?”. I do not think there are many photographers out there that have a bad opinion of his work and some out there (as in Linda) consider the pinnacle of the business. Guess what folks, he did major manipulation in the darkroom – granted before the age of digital, but the concept of dodging and burning was in full use in his workflow. I am no where near the caliber of Ansel and the other greats in the photography world likely post processing their work (perhaps Mr. Lik falls into this category), but what is good enough for them is good enough for me. I tell no lies, I do use Lightroom and Photoshop… and why do I do that… because these are the results.

Hit the jump to read more about the treatment done on this set of pictures.

Continue reading No One Bites Back as Hard

One Fast Cuckoo

Another day, another post!  Guessing the doubters are starting to get a little concerned (hehehe).  I’m not out of the woods completely, but as each post rolls out through the publishing pipeline the stress ratchets down another notch.  The good news in all of this is I was able to get started on another vacation’s worth of shots from last year.  The great news is it looks like the topic hopper will be full for an extended period of time based on activities that has transpired as of late.  Of course, this does have the downside of erasing all the gains made on the already overflowing topic queue.  A very good problem to have when all your peeps have such high expectations.

Speaking of queues, next pop from the stack places us back in Henderson Nevada, home of the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve discussed a couple of posts back (link here).  If you recall, that post introduced a new bird to the blog.  Let’s continue that streak with still another new species.

Most people will recognize this bird thanks to the numerous references over the years.  If you are struggling, imagine it as a highly clever bird painted in blue and yellow.  No help?  How about Beep Beep?  If that didn’t trigger the name, then clearly you did not watch enough cartoons as a kid.  Just in case the suspense is too high, this is a Greater Roadrunner.  That day in Henderson officially marked the first time I’ve ever seen a live one of these and to say I was elated is an understatement.  After shooting the Green-Winged Teal, a blur of brown and white caught my eye dashing across the shoreline of an adjacent pond.  Intrigued,  I immediately headed over there and tried to get a decent shot.  Let it be known that the amazing speed of these birds is confirmed.  It could flat out move making focus tracking nearly impossible.  Left, right, under brush, out of brush, to the water, back to the shore – it never seemed to stop.  To get the shots here required some high shutter speeds combined with just a smidgen of luck.  Tracking brown colored birds against a brown backdrop makes for interesting times with the Beast, but when you get it… you generally get it.

Hit the jump to read more about this runner’s friend

Continue reading One Fast Cuckoo

Concert Recollection – Spring Fling Pipes Fest

Hopefully to no one’s surprised I’m back at it.  Tonight I am going with another recollection.  One of the reasons for that is it is still fresh in my head LITERALLY.  Specifically I am talking about a concert some friends and I attended a few weeks ago sponsored by 105X, the local hard rockish yet still playing Nickelback crap station.  They were holding their annual Spring Fling Concert which typically is a multi-band mashup.  They had a decent lineup this year consisting of two bands I really like (Papa Roach and Sick Puppies), a band I wanted to see (Stone Sour) and two bands that intrigued me enough to consider seeing (In This Moment and All That Remains).  Not a bad night of entertainment and more importantly, the price was right at $42.  Ironically, I’m at a point financially where I can afford concert prices but old enough to not appreciate being gouged by greedy promoters and bands – think Rolling Stones if you need an example.

The first band of the night was All That Remains.  There are no pictures to show you being that my arrival came in the middle of their set and the remaining of their two songs was spent trying to figure out who they were and being very unimpressed.  This could have been due to some distractions having to kick some people out of our seats.  The others were still on their way but since I was already dealing with my seat went ahead and told the squaters in those seats to find another place.  They responded with annoyed faces but honestly was beyond caring – we purposely chose seats so we did not have to deal with the general admission crowd… definitely getting old(er).  There was one noted band observation – they had a female bassist.

Once they were done, the roadies took to the stage and started building an elaborate set.  Out came a bag of skulls, a pikes full of skulls, a platform, a large fan, some dumb looking trellises that looked like wedding props and a few more knickknacks scattered about.  Eventually they uncovered the drum which had a barely readable In This Moment logo.  Ah, time for the screacher!  Based on a few samplings it was apparent they had a front woman that could belt it out.  Turns out she was pretty pleasing to the eyes no small part due to the fact she came out in a one piece number giving proper attention to her assets.  Of course, for some strange reason, she chose to stand in the middle of a dry ice jet stream which made it difficult to see her most of the time.  No stranger to a stripper pole, she gyrated her way through her incredibly long FOUR or FIVE song set accented by her walking off stage after each song and attempting to add some form of dramatic flair to her re-entrance.  Summary – she can indeed belt out some notes and at least one of her songs was halfway decent, but her constant gesturing to have the fog blower fiddled with degraded the overall impression – you are trying to watch the “artist” perform yet constantly having to be distracted by a roadie continually coming on stage to jerk around with the fan to fine tune a gimmick that wasn’t adding any real value.

With those two bands out of the way it was time to get into the part I really paid the money for.  Sick Puppies came out and to my surprise it was only a three person band.  Drummer, guitarist singer and surprise surprise another female bassist.  3 for 3 with women as an integral part of the band (translated.. not simply eye candy as witnessed in the past Crue concerts).  The puppies did not let me down.  They played with a lot of energy, interacted with the crowd and most importantly played all the songs I came to hear.  Kudos to the female bassist pounding away on the strings.  They bring a LOT of bass to their songs which is why she surprised me at first, but looked like she had an interesting claw like style which delivered a lot of power.  Additionally, there is new found appreciation for their singer’s ability to hold his old against the power voices in the industry.  If you have not heard of this band before I highly recommend checking out Long Time Coming – could be my all time favorite bass beat.

Hit the jump to read about the rest of the bands that night.

Continue reading Concert Recollection – Spring Fling Pipes Fest

Hitting Jackpot in Henderson

Having finally made my way through the Indy Zoo photo shoot, I can finally switch my attention to another photo trip that has been lingering out there way too long. Last November Linda and I headed out to our home away from home in the plains of Nevada. As in the previous time we hauled out our camera equipment with the primary intent of heading out into Red Rock. Turns out one of employees that works for Linda had lived out there. When she heard I was into bird photography she highly recommended we popped over to Henderson and make a visit to their Bird Viewing Preserve. Without hesitation this spot was added to the agenda figuring we could drop by on a late morning before packing up and moving out to the Red Rock staging area (translated.. one of our casino “finds” from a previous trip). The day we went was somewhat of an emotional roller coaster. There was high anticipation on the ride out, but as we neared the location (per the GPS) that started to taper quickly. Spoiled from the preserves around us in Illinois, I expected a mini forest – on hind sight there was no basis for that assumption seeing as how we were in a … DESERT. The GPS kept telling us we were headed in the right direction, but all that really stood out was industrial type buildings and a water treatment plant. You would think there would be a large lake or something if they had any hopes of pulling in waterfowl. Linda eventually found a small sign pointing to a road that wrapped back behind the industrial complexes. This brought us to a small building with exactly one other car in the parking lot. The coaster had just bottomed out.

With subdued enthusiasm we got all the gear ready and headed into the building where we were greeted by a gentleman who instructed us to sign in. Additionally we were required to sign a special form indicating we understood the rules and wouldn’t harm anything. Hmmmm – that at seemed a little odd. That form was basically good for one year before you had to fill it out again. This slight annoyance was forgotten soon enough when we discovered that the Preserve was FREE. In this day and age that is becoming rare. With the paperwork out of the way, we headed out back to see what this was all about. Remember that coaster comment? well it took a massive ride up a few minutes later. There were approximately 140 acres (according to their website) dedicated to the facility with a series of ponds carved around a nice walking path. Oh, and they did have some trees. I was floored, not sure my shutter finger ever left the camera for more than 10 minutes as we moved from pond to pond. That place was packed with birds I’ve never seen before and according to someone we met there, a current stopping point for some rare migrating birds. A personal jackpot in the land of excess. As with the Indy posts, these will take some time to get through, but as before I’ll sprinkle in some other topics to keep the non-bird enthusiasts entertained.

Starting out this series is another new entry to the Blog:

That would be the Geen-Winged Teal. From the maps I have (Audubon) it looks like their permanent residence extends down into Nevada, however, preferring the Canada regions during the summer breeding and the bottom half of the states during the Winter months. It does show that it migrates through Illinois but do not think I’ve encountered one to date.

Hit the jump to read more about this sharply colored bird

Continue reading Hitting Jackpot in Henderson

Operation M O Y

No time to lose, some time freed up so back on the posts.  Tonight’s topic brings yet another project.  Unlike most of my projects, this one had a short execution time.  Not by choice mind you, this was a direct result of losing track of the time.  You would think with the relatively low amount of sleep these days I would be on top of things a little better but alas, not the case.  To give myself a little credit I had been thinking about it for a couple of months trying to figure out the right medium to use for the build.  Options included wood, plexiglass, patio bricks, drywall (trust me, I have PLENTY of that laying around these days), but all of those had an extended prep time.  Time that was not in the budget.  Then the shower moment hit me – matting would be perfect and provide an additional compositional element to the project.   With that big decision over, all I needed to do was get the shampoo out of the hair and get to work… well later that day after work while Linda was at the dog club.  That was actually another factor in the delay – she needed to be gone for awhile and I needed access to her boys.

The best part of this is I already had the materials.  With all the photography projects over the years we have a good stock of mattes.  A quick rifle through the pile found the perfect sheet.  Linda was suppose to be gone for about 1.5 hrs which forced some design decisions on its own.  I needed some letters I could freehand cut on the board.  10 minutes on Paint Shop Pro found a smooth cornered font that would do the trick.  A few prints and the patterns were ready.  For ease I just cut the letters out and traced them on the the back of the matte.  With my favorite knife in hand I spent the next 20 minutes slicing through the matte.

There was also a need to have the letters stand on their own.  A lunch brainstorming session came to the conclusion that electrical wiring would do the trick.. and yes, there just happens to be plenty of that laying around the house as well.  The window of opportunity was slipping away, so a quick cut of the wire and some duct tape would have to do.

Hit the jump to see where this is all going

Continue reading Operation M O Y

More Power

Apparently the loyal readers are getting restless based on the emails hitting the inbox as of late.  For those that were concerned I have not fallen off the face of the earth and for those expressing a complete loss in faith I’ll miss my quota this month … you may be right, but what is life without a few challenges every once in awhile.  We have a few photo shoots coming up in the not to distant future which translates to devoting more time to getting in flight projects to a point where they can be put on hold.  This is hard enough, but May brings with it a start of a new season.  This month involves donning the orange and hitting the racing circuit!  As in previous years, the first race of the season was the Caterpillar Power Race.  This relatively flat 5K allows me to ease into the season and make sure the off season training regiment properly prepared me.   This year brought with it a little more optimism and conversely a concern standard with the previous 5 or so years.  First of all I opted to keep the road endurance higher than usual, committing to at least one long run a week outside through the winter months.. BUURRRRRR.  The second change was a little more dramatic… here goes.. Hi, my name is Brian and I partook in Performance Enhancement procedures.  Whew, what  a load off.  On the road work side of things, I can attest to how much of a pain that was especially in the sub 20 weather (sub teen windchill) runs but the treadmill just doesn’t prepare you for the stress of the pavement.  Pretty comforting I am already at 1/2 marathon endurance levels this early in the season.  With regards to the enhancing component… well, before you call the governing committees, these were all legit and didn’t involve any forms of illegal substances or transfusions. Truth is I grew tired of always running in beyond normal levels of pain and literally damaging myself during every race.  Runners can be stubborn and hard headed but I could argue that is probably a pro when it comes to running.  It does take some commitment to the discomfort of training and the annoyance of nutrition regiments.  But there is a time when  you have to let your guard down and admit something is wrong.  For me, that moment was during a conversation with my chiro attempting to once again calm down an aggravated left hamstring.  Ever since experiencing a nasty injury in the middle of a Bix and “stubbornly” refusing to fail the race and pounding through it, I’ve been fighting continual tears in that region and worrying about it during every race.  Enough was enough and decided it was time for full on gait analysis.

After questioning a number of fellow runners and talking to my local running store, I decided on Accelerated Performance.  Wanting to make sure this was the right fit, I opted for their free fitness assessment.  This is a 20 minute test of your physical capabilities – balance, stretching, strength etc.  Piece of cake, I consider myself fit and work pretty hard to keep myself in that condition.  Wrong!  it didn’t take long and they had pinpointed deficiencies on my left side…I purposely didn’t say anything about my problems there not wanting to bias the test.  By the end of that assessment I was committed to enrolling.  Next up was a follow up session where they dived deeper into each of the areas they tested previously as well as doing a detailed assessment on the rest of the joint and muscle groups.  Definite issue with the left side and easily recognized the issue with the hamstring.  For one thing there was 3.5 inches of scar tissue embedded right in the middle of it.  Add to that flexibility restrictions and you have the recipe for problems.  From there I was scheduled twice a week for deep therapy message to break up the tissue followed immediately by isolated strength training.  I won’t go into it, but for those who have not have the pleasure of deep therapy message let me sum it up in a sentence.  The entire time I repeatedly tell my inner self not to cry.  I’ve learned to snowboard, broken ribs during martial arts, hell even had my arm ripped out of my socket during a black belt test, but nothing … and I mean nothing compares to the pain I’ve had to endure during this process.  Good news is that scar tissue is practically gone now.  While all this was going on I was also doing gait analysis.  They utilize the Dartfish process involving videotaping you from all angles on a treadmill and then creating an interactive DVD highlighting problem areas.  To my relief, there were plenty of problems.  Sparing you the details, here are the highlight:

  • Not enough forward lean
  • Arms too high
  • Arms swinging too much forward and not enough backwards
  • Arms crossing body
  • Cadence too slow

I was basically braking on every stride with a full on heel strike sending massive jolts into the hamstring and back.  Not good.  For the last four months I’ve been breaking my form down and adopting the new style.  This is not an easy project and immediately highlighted the muscles that were not pulling their fair share of the load (like the ankles).  My weeks have been spent on the road changing behavior, on the table getting brutalized  and in the gym strengthening up.  All of this in an attempt to get better.. and better I did.  On all out days I was able to bring my pace from 8 to 6.30’s however holding that was difficult over 2 or 3 miles.  The cadence (180/min) means your legs are working very hard.  The best news of all is my hamstrings felt great after every run.

Last Saturday it was time to put this all to the test.  The gun went off and I ticked off the internal checklist and got to work.  One mile done .. feeling good.   Two miles done feeling okay.  Third mile and getting winded and the high humidity wasn’t helping.  The clock stopped at 23:06.  A personal best but 6 seconds over my ultimate goal.  No need to feel disappointed, I had just ran the first race faster than ever without injuring myself!  The retooling was complete – a new foundation to build upon.

There was another reason to be happy that day.  Turns out my time was good enough to take second in my age group (by the way, first in my group had a 19 so something to shoot for next year).  This is the first time I’ve ever won anything in a race.  Now, some of the runners had opted out of this race for another being held the next day, but I was there and ran to the best of my abilities and therefore not going to let that put an asterisk on the record books.  A little bummed they gave money prizes instead of trophies (as you get older your perspective changes hehehe).  My loving wife actually made me a little trophy to commemorate the accomplishment.  That little trophy now stands tall next to my other medals.  Yes, I needed a performance enhancement but I wish I’d done it years ago!

See ya’ on the road my friends!