Saturday, December 31, 2016

No Resolutions

I don't make New Year's Resolutions; I stopped years ago. They seem so arbitrary and irrelevant and too easy to break. Instead, I make goals for the year. Some could argue that's just semantics, but it feels like a big difference to me.

For 2016 I made three goals.
One goal I met.
The second goal I think I met.
The third goal - I wasn't even close.

2016 Goal #1: Walk 1000 miles

I met this goal. As of today, I walked 1091.46 miles this year. For someone with my physical challenges, that feels really good. To be honest, I wasn't sure I could walk that far. But it was a good place to start. Since I met the goal, it needs to increase.

2016 Goal #2: Exercise 260+ days

I think I met this. I've discovered that it's more difficult to track than I thought. Most days I went to the rec center and exercised (walked the track) and those days are pretty easy to count. But some days my exercise was mowing the lawn, or raking leaves, or shoveling snow. For most people that might not seem like much exercise, but for me - on some days - that was as much as I could do. So I think I met it, but I'm not sure. I don't think I need this as a goal. If I'm meeting the walking goal of 100 miles per month, I'll be exercising often (nearly every day). So I don't think I need to track the number of exercising days.

2016 Goal #3: Read 52 Books/Journals

I know I didn't meet this goal. I spent too much time watching TV, or surfing online, instead of reading. Even so, a book a week is a bit ambitious. So for next year I'll be keeping the goal and changing the target. I think a book or professional journal every two weeks is realistic and challenging. And completing the goal will certainly help me professionally.

So there are two goals for 2017. They are not resolutions. They will be the result of daily choices, making healthy decisions every day.

2017 Goal #1: Walk 1200 miles
2017 Goal #2: Read 26 Book/Journals

This year, according to fitbit, in addition to the 1091 miles:
I took 2.3 million steps, and climbed 2329 floors!

Monday, October 10, 2016

I don't understand politics

Political conversations are boring.
Not that political conversations aren't about important issues. The conversations are boring because no progress is ever made.

Side Note: I might use hyperbole and exaggeration throughout this post. I realize when I say things like "always" and "never" that's rarely actually true. But it helps me express my thoughts. If you want to argue my exaggerations - go right ahead and try. But I rarely accept invitations to arguments.

When people say they want to have a political conversation, what they really mean is, "I want to share my political opinion about a certain issue or candidate. I don't care about your opinion because you're wrong, unless you agree with me completely. In that case, I agree with you completely. If you start talking about your opinion that is different than my opinion, I won't listen to anything you have to say. Instead I will ridicule you and call you names."

Why would I want to participate in that? I wouldn't - ever.

I see futile forms of discourse.

1. My candidate is better than your candidate.

By itself, this is a fine position, an expected statement of opinion. I would expect supporters of one candidate to consider their candidate the best. However, this sentiment is rarely ever stated as an opinion. The "conversation" usually goes something like this:
"My candidate is good because ... blah blah blah.
Your candidate is bad because ... yada yada yada."

The opposing supporter then counters with:
"No, my candidate is good because ... yada yada yada and your candidate is bad because blah blah blah."

"No, you're wrong. My candidate is better than yours. Your candidate is guilty of x, y and z."
"Well you're an idiot because my candidate is better than your candidate because your candidate is guilty of x, y and z."

"I'm rubber, you're glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you."
"I know you are but what am I?"
"I know you are but what am I? Infinity."

It's fine to believe your candidate is better than the other one. But your belief isn't fact - it's still an opinion. And if your opinion is valuable, why isn't someone else's opinion also valuable? Too many people seem to believe that only their opinion is valid.

If your opinion is based on a lie, it's not an opinion; it's a lie.

Trump supporters would say that anyone who supports Clinton is basing their opinion on a lie, making that opinion invalid.
Clinton supporters would say that anyone who supports Trump is basing their opinion on a lie, making that opinion invalid.

Which brings me to the second typical attempt at political discussion.

2. Each side only sees the good in their candidate and only sees the bad in the other candidate.

Anything Trump does wrong, or has ever done wrong is excused by Trump supporters. They will dismiss the wrong-doing as being not that bad, or an attempt by Clinton supporters to smear Trump, or blame it on liberal media.

Anything Clinton does wrong, or has ever done wrong is excused by Clinton supporters for the same reasons. Each group has blinders on for their own candidates flaws, and a spotlight for the other candidates flaws.

Take an act of questionable morality - any act will do. People will attack the other candidate for that act, while excusing the identical act in their own candidate. "If my candidate lies, it's not really that bad. If the other candidate lies they should be thrown in prison." And I don't think people even recognize the double standard.

3. Very few people are actually voting FOR a candidate.

So much of the rhetoric I hear is based on how bad the other candidate is which is why you have to vote for my candidate.

I'm not sure I've heard anyone say, "I'm voting for Trump because he's an wonderful man and will make a great president." Instead, Trump supporters just say they're voting for Trump because they refuse to allow Clinton in the office.

I'm not sure I've heard anyone say, "I'm voting for Clinton because she's a wonderful woman and will make a great president." Instead, Clinton supporters just say they're voting for Clinton because they refuse to allow Trump in the office.

How sad that so many people are casting negative votes.

4. There is so much exaggeration, on both sides.

Regardless of which candidate they support, people insist that if the other candidate is elected, it will be the end of the world!

If Trump is elected, he'll do some stupid things, he'll embarrass himself and the country, and in four years the US will still be fine. The country and the world will go on.

If Clinton is elected, she'll do some stupid things, she'll embarrass herself, she'll make mistakes, and in four years the US will still be fine. The country and the world will go on.

We'll be fine, no matter who is elected. In four years we'll either elect the incumbent, or we'll elect a new president - and the country will go on. We'll each go about our daily activities. We'll have good days and bad days. Parts of our lives will improve, and other parts will be worse.

And the President of the United States will have no responsibility nor credit for how I'm doing in four years.

If you really want to have a conversation with someone, about any topic, be willing to set aside your own viewpoint. Make your priority understanding the other person's perspective. Listen to them, really listen. Once you understand them, and they agree that you understand their opinion only then is the time to move the focus to your side.
"Would you like to hear my thoughts?"
If they say, "Yes," then share.
If they say, "No, then move on.

Kelby Worldwide 2016, Night Walk

After starting the day with a photo walk, I figured I might as well end the day with another. Our leader for the night walk would be Paul Pulley, who has been leading photo walks in Boise longer than there has been a Kelby Worldwide Photowalk! We started at Chicago Connection for some dinner, then began our wander through downtown Boise.

The night group ended up being about 20 people. Here's Paul giving us some instruction for the evening.

I'm not sure where the rest of the group actually went because I broke off from the group in the first few minutes. Not that I don't like groups - I just like architecture, at night, and the group was heading away from this first building. I assume this is the old Ada County Courthouse. I like the symmetry of the location.

The State Capitol is always beautiful to me. I've shot it so many times from so many different angles, and yet it seems there's always a new perspective to find.

Once again, my eye was drawn to the symmetry of the scene. And processing the image in monochrome takes away the distracting color elements allowing the lines and shapes to be the stars.

This image is created completely in camera. This is NOT a photoshop technique. I have some filters I bought several years ago and I've rarely used them. I figured a night shoot in Boise, with all the city lights, would be an ideal opportunity to try some new toys.

I'm amazed at the number of different colors. When I think of the capitol building, in my mind it's one color. But it's a bouquet of light.

The Hoff Building is one of my favorite photographic targets.

No evening in Boise would be complete without some long exposure and some street photography. So I figured I'd combine both into one image.

Thank you Paul for another fun adventure.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Kelby Worldwide 2016, Early Morning Walk Part 2

For the second part of my morning, I wandered downtown, alone. Jim had other places to be - I think photographing his soccer-playing grandkids. That's a pretty good reason to leave.

This is my favorite building in Boise. I'm sure it has a name, but I don't know what it is. I just know I like the lines, the angles, the glass and reflections, the pattern and repetition, the symmetry and the regularly occurring asymmetry. Put all that against a backdrop of early morning clouds and it's the perfect scene for me.

I certainly like the symmetry of the building, but I also like the randomness of nature's design. I like the added element of the trees at the base of the image - tall, medium and short. And they seem to be in progressive stages of autumn. The left tree is mostly still green, while the right tree is mostly red/orange. And the middle tree is a nice mix of both. I thought about removing the box at the very bottom, thought for a long time, but decided I like it. It's completely out of place in the frame, which sometimes means it belongs.

I used to work at the Statehouse Inn, which is now Hotel 43. I was the airport shuttle driver and set up meeting/banquet rooms when I wasn't driving. These windows are above the entrance to the hotel. The interior lights are so artistic and organic. And the reflection of the sunrise clouds in the upper windows just adds to the artistry.

I hadn't planned it, but this photo walk became about symmetry. I started seeing it everywhere. And while symmetry is so pleasing to my eye, it becomes a stronger characteristic when there is a small element of asymmetry included, like a sign or a tree.

This last image is intended to look horizontal, like you should be walking on it toward the clouds. Of course in reality it's a vertical space. It's fun to find new perspectives.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Kelby Worldwide 2016, Early Morning Walk Part 1

This year I participated in two photowalks for the Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk 2016. The first was an early morning walk in downtown Boise led by Kathy Hopkins. We met near Julia Davis Park, then wandered around for a while.

While I always know I'll find something, and sometimes I have a preconceived vision of what I'd like to shoot, sometimes I have no idea what there will be to photograph. This was one of those days.

Although we started with the group, Jim Peterson and I decided to make our own path and headed into town. While waiting for him to change a lens, I found this glass brick wall. As you may know, I like details and this seemed like an interesting, abstract-ish detail - just the kind of thing I like.

I've driven past the Ada County Courthouse more times than I can count, and I've always thought about photographing it because it's a beautiful building. But I've never stopped or made a trip to do just that. So this morning, realizing how close we were, I suggested we start there. I'm so glad we did. I love architecture.

The sky was so full of texture and wonder as the sun started to rise. I think it makes the perfect contrast for the hard lines of the building.

Having never stopped here before, I didn't realize there was a waterfall in front of the courthouse. It offered the perfect subject for long exposure.

The newly fallen autumn leaves created a wonderful swirl to balance the hard edges of the fountain steps.

I like architecture because it can become abstracted so easily. The lines and patterns are uniform and stationary, and yet quite energetic.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Spirit of Boise Balloon Festival

My friend and fellow photographer, David, invited me to shoot the balloon festival Thursday morning. I haven't been in a couple of years, so I was ready to go back. As it turns out, we didn't have much time to shoot much of anything, but the day turned out to be a great success and a fun adventure.

David has volunteered as ground crew for one of the balloon pilots for several years now. While we were standing around waiting for something photograph-worthy, the volunteer coordinator found David and let him know there was a pilot without a crew. She asked if we were interested in helping out, and of course we said yes. I've never crewed for a balloon before. Why wouldn't I now? I can shoot the balloons another time.

We were introduced to Gary Michalek, a pilot out of Lafayette, California. Gary took us on and gave me some necessary training. I assumed he would just tell me what to do, and since I'm good at following directions, I would do it. Instead, while he was telling me what to do he was also educating me. He spent a lot of time teaching me about the parts and functions of the various equipment. It's more stuff than I can remember now, and it's also more than I had planned on receiving for the day. Had David and I just photographed the event, I never would have learned all this new stuff.

Once Gary was airborne, we became the chase crew, following him around Boise trying to predict where he would land. We ended up landing on a small neighborhood street - and I do mean small. Gary set the balloon down between two rows of two-story houses and trees and cars. It was impressive.

Thank you David for the invitation and thank you Gary for allowing me to be your crew for a day.

Gary launched right next to, and at the same time, as one of his pilot friends.

Apparently Gary is a great pilot - he was able to fly right over the train depot for a photo op.

Because the winds were low, he was able to fly the balloon low. Here he is looking for a spot to land.

But landing in this area was NOT an option.

One other exciting event for the day - I got to photograph my first hummingbird. Ruby throated hummingbirds can be difficult to capture, but I'm pretty happy with how these images turned out.

I even got a closeup of his wing. That's not something very many photographers can do. ;)

If you want to see a few more images, you can find them here:

Monday, July 18, 2016

Palouse 2016 Part 12: The Best of the Trip

Whew! We made it to the last part of this series. If  you've read all 12 parts, I admire your persistence. Thank you for taking the time to read about my adventure and enjoy my photography (at least I hope you enjoyed it).

For this final part I've saved the Top 9 Images. These are the locations, settings, and images that I think best represent the Palouse and my vision for the area. I think in these images I was able to maximize the opportunity. Of the 4000 or so images I took on the trip, I came away with nine that I think are really successful. I would even call these great images. And to create nine great images in one trip is a good thing.

This line between fields, as seen from Steptoe Butte, is so beautiful. For me it's a natural abstract. Of course I know these are fields of grain, but the contrasting colors, the winding s-curve, the horizontal lines at the top of the image and the curved texture at the bottom, all come together to create a puzzle-like symphony of color. I must have taken 100 different compositions of this small section, looking for the right combination of shape, color and texture. This one really succeeds for me.

I took dozens of compositions of this scene also. Most included much more grain. But this one, with only a few stalks separated from the field, succeeds where the others were a little too busy. This image matches my minimalistic tendencies.

Although I like the other images of this tree, I think this one captures it in just the right composition and proportions. The tree and grain are balanced. I love the curve of the horizon starting with the peak of Steptoe Butte, curving down the base of the tree and rising up again to meet the sky. The sky is the perfect shade of sunset blue and the golden pink clouds are just the right amount of fluffy.

For me, this may be the best image of the trip. Yes those clouds are real. I added some contrast to bring out the texture, but I didn't add anything that wasn't already there. This looks to me like it could be a scene out of the midwest as the storm rolls in over the farmhouse, ready to carry a young girl away to land with a yellow brick road.

If you haven't yet noticed, I really like details. While walking back to the car I noticed this one golden head of grain. I don't know why this one turned a different color, but I'm sure glad it did. 

These ribbons of new growth and fallow field compose the perfect agricultural abstract. It all looks like velvet to me. The warm golden browns and soft cool greens work so well together. I want a blanket just like this.

These next three images epitomize the Palouse for me. I wish I had words to describe these. They're visual poems and I'm not poet enough to do them justice. Notice in this first image the extra highlight in the upper left corner. I almost darkened that down to match the rest of the top, but I think it really adds something special to the scene. It adds some extra depth and I think it breaks some photographic "rules" in the best possible way.

Palouse 2016, Part 11

After my Palouse adventure, I went further north to Badger Lake, where my aunt, uncle, and cousins live, own and manage a manufactured housing development on the lake. It's a beautiful setting. But I digress ...

On the way north I stopped in the town of Steptoe, just west of Steptoe Butte. (I wonder which was named first?) This beautiful church is located among the trees of the town. Full disclosure: this image has quite a bit of Photoshop work to clone out all the distracting buildings among the trees.

And just down the road a ways, down yonder as the crow flies, over that there next hill ... I found this checkerboard-roofed shed. 

One more example of monochrome vs. color. I think each image has it's strength. In the color version, the yellow of the field really complements the red of the barn. But in the monochrome version, the textures really stand out.

I'm not sure I've ever taken a long-road-fading-into-the-distance photo. I guess I can check that off my photographic bucket list. I almost didn't stop here, but I'm glad I did. The height of the hill I was on and gentle hills created a wonderful opportunity.

I wasn't close, but this stallion made sure I knew who was in charge. He kept his eye on me the whole time I was there.

Although I didn't move for nearly 20 minutes, at some point the whole herd of maybe 20 horses just decided it was time to run. It seemed like they all ran at the exact same time.

I'm not a birder, or a wildlife photographer, which just means I don't go out to find opportunities like this. But these osprey were great models. And they've also bought into "reduce, reuse, recycle." They've used anything available to build their house.

Next chapter: The best of the trip.