Bittersweet

I already started posting pics from Wales, but before delving into more of those rather bigger posts, I’ll share a few miscellaneous pictures with you.

I grew up watching British television, and though it wasn’t my goal while I was in Wales, I did get to catch a few episodes of Father Ted actually being broadcast on Channel 4 reruns (RIP Dermot Morgan, and now Frank Kelly).  On my walk around Cardiff I went past the Doctor Who Experience, but was unfortunately too late to take the tour.  I snapped a few pics of the exhibitions in the lobby, and of course you have to get one of the daleks!  John Hurt was one of my favorite actors and I was looking forward to see him star in Terry Gilliam’s newest film before he was diagnosed with cancer.  I always thought he’d make a good regular Doctor, but sadly that dream, like so many others, will never come about now.  Since coming back from Wales I’ve learned that the Doctor Who Experience will be closing at the end of the summer, so I’m really disappointed that I wasn’t able to get further than the lobby.

Scoring Session: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Aka “Too Many Hats!”  I wouldn’t consider these the absolute best pictures ever, but it’s hard to be the composer, conductor, and music producer, and also try to take a few pics on the side.  This is the recording session for a new ballet film based on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.  As a ballet, I had to compose the music and have it recorded by a certain date, without having seen any footage.  Now that it’s recorded, I’m hard at work mixing, mastering, and polishing, while my director Felicity works on the choreography.  While I’d like to say that I drew a great amount of inspiration from Wilde’s novel, reading it would have taken much time away from actually composing the music; I watched Albert Lewin’s 1945 film adaptation instead.

This marks the first time I have used the Canon 7 since Fall of last year, and I’m out of practice: there are one or two rather glaring focus errors, and while I think I would have been better suited with an SLR, I’d say that I really focused on the music first (pun intended), and only snapped a few here shots here and there when not actively recording.  The camera was lying around in a few different places and not all of the pictures were taken by me, as evidenced by the fact that I’m in some of them.  The main visual component was shot by the film director as a “making-of” documentary, so at some point there will be a video of the recording session floating around the internet.

The pictures are almost current, as the recording session took place just a week and a half ago, and a few days later I was on my way to the Durango Independent Film Festival.

Trump

Please don’t take this as an endorsement.  I’ve been waiting to post for a while, but thought it might be more relevant around election time.  Donald Trump held a rally at UCCS back in July.

We all found out about the rally two days before he was here; it happened to be my day off so I went down.  I can remember a lot of outrage almost at once, mostly individual outbursts on Facebook, but it does remind that while Americans talk a lot about valuing free speech, it’s usually only when it’s speech we agree with.  Word got out of a petition signed by 114 UCCS faculty (many of whom I know) which, as far as I can tell by reading the wording of the text, doesn’t condemn his appearance on campus as much as just declaring disapproval of Mr. Trump in general.  What that petition was supposed to accomplish besides putting on the record those professors who are likely voting for Hillary Clinton, I don’t really know.  Personally, I was excited that UCCS should gain the exposure brought by the rally and was happy to attend.

One could get a maximum of two tickets for the event, free on Mr. Trump’s website, and I saw a lot of suggestions on Facebook discussions that people sign up for tickets and then not show up.  Well, this didn’t accomplish anything at all because room was given on a first come, first serve basis; they didn’t even check tickets, but I did get junk mail from the Trump campaign for weeks after that.  I got on campus around 10:00 (Trump was scheduled to come on at 2:00), walked from a free parking spot, and got in line around 11, with the line already stretching East from the University Center, past Dwire Hall, down the hill and halfway around Centennial Hall.  It took 90min to get inside the building (great organization there) by which time I wished that I’d had some food on me–of course there would be no food served inside, but thank God there was water!

I learned later that only about 1500 people were allowed inside Gallogly Events Center (it’s where we have basketball games) and I must have been among the last few hundred let in.  Most of the bleachers were full already, I hung around on top for a minute before being told off by a security guard, and did manage to spot a friend of mine standing near the stage, so I went and hung out with him.  Trump was late by more than 45min, and I remarked at one point that it was no longer fashionable.

I’ve done my best to stay out of this most recent rat race, and hadn’t heard Mr. Trump speak before.  I have to say, he was quite entertaining, even if he didn’t have much to say.  I think he spent the first 20min or so cracking jokes about the DNC.  People would yell to him to talk about a particular issue, and he’d pause on that briefly before going off on some wild tangent.  He did have some strange fixation on our fire marshal doing his job, I hear he went back to that several times after I left.  I stuck around for about 45min (perhaps an hour), but my back was killing me and I was hungry.  I had heard that perhaps as many as 10,000 people had shown up looking to get in to the rally, and that the protesters had finally decided to roll out of bed and come down, so I went to take pictures outside.

I’ll admit, one of the main draws for me was the possibility of seeing some “excitement” break out among the protesters, but it didn’t happen.  Talking to a few of the photographers and newsmen outside, evidently there were many more protesters that left before I got out, but when I was there they were only 50-75 strong, talking loudly to about the same number of people on the other side of the campus road.  Nothing happened and with not a whole lot of people out there, I went to the on-campus pub and got some lunch, then played pool with a friend of mine.  Well, the day fizzled out so I then decided to go home.

I’ll admit, I feel a little bit like Les Blank on Burden of Dreams here, missing the best parts of an event by being in the wrong place and at the wrong time.  I missed more gigantic crowds outside, and also found out after the fact (from friends’ Facebook posts) that Mr. Trump walked the floor after his speech, so I missed out on getting up close and personal with my camera.  Oh well.  Here are a few links pertaining to the event:

http://www.kktv.com/content/news/Fire-marshal-responds-after-being-called-out-by-Trump-at-UCCS-rally-388720102.html

http://www.uccs.edu/trumpevent2016/index.html#july28

http://www.coloradoindependent.com/160419/donald-trump-colorado-springs-protest

http://www.csindy.com/IndyBlog/archives/2016/07/28/trump-event-at-uccs-stirs-controversy?showFullText=true

Final project: portrait outtakes – Intro to Photography

Fall 2013.  A continuation of this post.  Here are images that for one reason or another didn’t make the cut.  Some I printed along the way for critiques, some I didn’t look at until after I had scanned everything.

Minolta SRT-MCII Outtakes:

Canon AE-1 Outtakes:

Pentax Spotmatic SPII outtake:

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Final project: portraits – Intro to Photography

Fall 2013.  I had been taking portraits here and there throughout the semester, this time around I decided to pursue it in a more serious way.  I started looking at other photographers’ work more, looking at what it means to take a good portrait.  They say that all portraits are actually self-portraits of the photographer, to some degree.  Living in a small mountain town, I have some nice-looking backdrops pretty much wherever I go, and some pretty interesting-looking friends as well.  The first I found that was a keeper was actually taken Summer 2013 before the class even started, with the faulty Hi-matic 9 that I have since given away.  It featured a son of some friends of mine, one of my favorite photographic subjects:

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It’s really hard to just put these up without talking about them, so I’m going to group pictures a bit.

Woodland Park used to host several different series of local music, all non-profit (don’t know how many there are at the moment).  The one that I was affiliated with was called the Mountain Acoustic Music Association (MAMA), unfortunately due to lack of attendance and too large a venue, they had to shut down.  This was the last show they put on, bittersweet memories.

Being in a photo class, I decided I had an excuse to spend a few bucks on a portrait lens, and the local camera store just happened to have a few new Canon FD lenses in, which was nice because I really wanted to try out the AE-1 I’d been given and see how it compared to the Minolta.

It did alright, one thing I discovered was both light meters lied about their readings indoors: if I followed what they told me, I ended up overexposing by 1 stop with the Minolta, and underexposing 1 stop with the Canon.  I did like the winding action better with the Canon…  Up above are final presentations from two rolls of Tri-X and the only roll of Plus-X I ever bought.  Three out of four were with the 50mm 1.4 S.S.C. lens, so that $100 I spent on the 100mm 2.8 S.S.C. doesn’t seem quite worth it, and which lens did I return?  The fast-50.  The middle two came from a roll that I accidentally exposed by opening the back before I’d rewound the film.  Thankfully, it didn’t affect the early exposures!

In the Canon outtakes you’ll see a picture of two bearded individuals: that one was my original portrait, but the fact that I fudged the focus so badly (that Canon 50’s depth of field is narrow) nagged at me, and I redid it when I went over to my friend’s house to take more pictures of his beard.  I went back to the Minolta, because I still had a few more exposures in the Canon, and this particular roll I pushed 2 stops to get faster shutter speeds, the first time I’d ever pushed a roll of film before:

Once again, all on one roll.  Perhaps it was because I was just used to working with that camera?

The last thing I did was to make portraits of two newborn babies, as two sets of friends had just given birth (only hours apart).  I had just the week before (and only several days after buying that Canon 100mm lens) found a screw-mount portrait lens for the Spotmatic (and it didn’t cost $100 either) at a thrift store, a Chinon 135mm f/2.8.  I decided if there was ever a time to break out the Spotmatic, this was it.  Since both families wanted pictures in time to send out as Christmas cards, I decided using some chromogenic film was in order, and I bought a 36-exposure roll of Kodak BW400CN for that purpose, knowing I could get it developed and scanned in a day, then make my own prints at a more leisurely pace.

At the time, I’d never used Photoshop for correction, and the scans I got back were actually pretty low-contrast.  I have to say, now that I know what I’m doing I quite like the look of BW400CN.  Unfortunately, it’s no longer made.  The Chinon turned out to be a worthy lens, but I sort of retired it after I found the 135mm Super-Takumar.

I spent more time talking to my subjects than I did taking pictures, and usually I’d be taking 5-7 shots in a row; it seems that burning a couple shots up front helped my subjects relax, helped me get more natural looks.  My little bit of street photography experience helped me out as well, as some of those portraits were completely candid.

I have lots of pictures that I didn’t end up using, and they can be found here.

From Sound Recording class

Fall 2013.  This was actually the first recording session I photographed.  We had split the class into two groups, and since I had already recorded some guys with my group, I showed up the second day with my camera, hoping to get a few good shots for my final project in the Intro class shooting portraits.  Nothing really worked for my assignment itself, but I still liked a few of the pictures I took.

This was the first time I brought out the Canon AE-1 that my friend had given me, and put the 50mm 1.4 SSC through its paces.  I won’t say that I disliked the lens too much, and maybe I’m not attuned to the Canon look, but for the most part, I didn’t think that lens had it.  What it did have, was some pitting (or at least flaws in the coating) in the rear element, and I ended up returning it, as I didn’t think it was quite worth the price I paid.

Editorial: Kodak Tri-X, making a living as an artist

http://www.intelligentlifemagazine.com/content/features/bryan-appleyard/tri-x-factor

Good old 5063.  I don’t know what else I can say about it that hasn’t been said before by someone better, but I’ll say this: it’s the best goddamn black & white film ever made.  And yes, it was used by absolutely everyone for decades; so many important and iconic events were taken on Tri-X that I think it’s earned its place as a cultural icon, a true American classic.  It’s still the best-selling black & white film today, so I’m not worried about ever going away, especially not when probably 90% of school darkrooms require it for beginners.

As far as the article goes, I remember reading it back when it first came out nearly two years ago, and it does play a bit sensationalist today, and there are some inaccuracies in there, such as the nature of Kodak Alaris, the maximum resolution of 35mm film, probably more that I can’t remember right now. Thankfully, we’re way past the stage of worrying about Kodak going bottom up, and have been since before this article came out.  It does amaze me that photographers on that level don’t know how long properly-stored film can last.

While trying to maintain a balanced dialog (of which the article does a pretty good job), the real question being asked here is in this paragraph: “…If it can be done digitally right up to the standards required by Salgado, is there any point to Tri-X? Is there any point to film?”  The question that gets asked by so many people.  Digital might be good enough for Sebastao Salgado, but it’s not good enough for Don McCullin or Anton Corbijn, nor is it good enough for plenty of others.  And also, whatever logistical problems Salgado faced shipping large amounts of film overseas, it hasn’t seemed to daunt Don McCullin. If you care about something, you make it happen.  And remember something else: if you keep buying it, they’ll keep making it.

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http://www.psmag.com/books-and-culture/it-aint-easy

I’m taking a music business course right now, so this topic is one that I’ve been thinking about a lot, but it seems to me that an artist and a businessman are two very different disciplines, nearly exclusively so.  Satchmo at the Waldorf is currently running here on UCCS campus, so having recently seen that, I’d say it’s a very relevant topic for me.  I can’t say that I’ve had much success on either side, so far and it can all be a bit daunting.  I made all of $0.01 in royalties from music last year, which is a step in the right direction I suppose, but a very tiny step.  I’ll spare you a long rambling post about the millennial generation’s entitlement mentality, and apathy toward value and ownership (for now), but the sad fact is that it seems to just get harder to make money on art.  That said, even Louis Armstrong wasn’t immune from getting fucked over, so do things ever really change?

Part of learning to be an artist/entrepreneur (something at which Armstrong never succeeded) is being able to adopt a very positive mentality about yourself, your work, your chances, etc, something that Hank Willis Thomas alludes to but perhaps can’t quite articulate.  Personally, I find it extremely difficult to remain positive about my future or myself in general, something that I’m sure holds me back to some degree; you’re much more likely to fail when you are already convinced you will. I used to be taken aback at the thought that most of my fellow students in the music program at Ohio State were studying music composition with the intention to become music composition professors.  What’s the point to a cycle like that?  These days, it seems like not a horrible fallback plan, but the business-minded side of me (a very small side admittedly) remembers how Hernando Cortes handled fallback plans…he sunk them.

So that’s a small part of my thoughts on making it as an artist.  Also, I’m sure marrying rich couldn’t hurt…