Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Most of the Blood is From Me, Not the Fish

Walleye!, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

We spent a few days at the cabin in Eagle River, Wisconsin. This is my dad holding the largest Walleye he has ever caught in his six decades of fishing. The fish is estimated to be eight years old and measured 25 inches. While taking the hook out my dad cut his finger pretty deep and left a bloody mess all over the cabin's deck and front door. My dad said the fish was greedy and ate one too many minnows -- that's why it was caught. However, he allowed that it is hard for a hungry Walleye to pass up a wounded shiner minnow. Either way, this jumbo Walleye will not be menacing the perch in our bay anymore.

Friday, December 26, 2008

How Dumb Could a Person Possibly Be?

Inglewood Sidewalk, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

The title of this post is a quote I lifted from my family's Christmas dinner which we ate on Christmas Eve. This morning, the day after Christmas, I woke up in the LAX Westin once again feeling hung over from my Christmas day travels. My Christmas started at 4:00 am with a -5 degree F car refuel in the dark frozen wastes of Fond du Lac Wisconsin and ended with me marveling at the palm trees that line the streets leading out of LAX airport. While we checked into the hotel Flavor Flav was standing next to us at the check in counter talking to the other desk clerk. Flavor looked a lot older than the guy having convulsions in the video for "911 is a Joke".

While laying in bed this morning recovering from exhaustion I turned on the TV. I love to watch the crazy local news in Los Angeles. Today, the all white news team was on location at area malls reporting on the day after Christmas deals that could be had because of the current economic crisis. Apparently if you have money this is a great time to buy designer shoes.

After a cup of coffee I decided it was time to go look for some photos to feed to this blog. I set out on a little hike around Inglewood. Inglewood doesn't look like the greatest place to find post holiday bargains on luxury items. Most every business was boarded up. Shortly after I took the photo at the top of this post a guy jay walked across six lanes of traffic and walked right behind me for a block and a half. I started to feel a little paranoid about carrying $4500 worth of camera equipment over my shoulder. Who'd rob me on a busy street in broad daylight?

I started back towards my hotel. On the way I ran into the usual panhandlers that hang out on the border zone between Inglewood and the airport hotels. It was easy to say no to the beggars today because I am completely broke. It's either you eat with my money or I eat with my money. Call me greedy, but that choice is easy for me to make.

When I finally got back to the Westin the driveway in front of the lobby was lined with expensive imported cars. At that point I felt like the sole member of the shrinking middle class.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ella Floating

Ella Floating, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

We survived Christmas! This is Ella enjoying the pool at the Fond du Lac Comfort Inn on Christmas Eve.

Monday, December 22, 2008

High Above Planet Hoth

Desert Snow, Utah, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

Remember the snow they got in Las Vegas last week? The snow in this photo came from the same weather system that caused the snow in Vegas. This photo was taken high above the Colorado Plateau in south central Utah. Because I am a child of the 1980s the first thing I think of when I look at this photo is the planet Hoth from "The Empire Strikes Back". If you're trying to spot the reckage of Luke Skywalker's snow speeder click here for a larger version.

I have more photos of desert snow from this same trip waiting for editing. Hopefully I have time to post them soon.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Magical Time of Year

Merry Christmas!, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

We took Ella to see this very realistic Santa in Forest Mall, Fond du Lac. She had a great time. I was bit bit disappointed with the mixed lighting. It's hard to color correct incandescent, mixed with fluorescent, mixed with flash.

Monday, December 15, 2008

You Face a Life of Increasing Disappointment

Travelodge, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

I can’t claim rights to the clever title of this post. It is a quote I lifted from Doug Menuez's article about transforming your photography career. I also can’t take credit for finding that article on my own. I got the link from Mark Tucker’s blog. However, I did take the above photo of the Travelodge located on South San Francisco Airport Boulevard. Don’t worry, this is not going to turn into another hotel review post.

When I took the Travelodge picture I knew I had a seed for a blog post. The photo is where I am in life right now. I stay at that Travelodge when I commute into SFO to start trips. On hotwire you can get a room there for $38, and they have airport shuttle service. The downside of staying at the Travelodge is that several San Francisco pimps are running a thriving business out of there. They stay out of your way, but the door slamming all night is a bit annoying.

So I got this photo and I had a day to think about what to write about it. With three cups of coffee in me I took a jog around our hotel in Inglewood, CA. As a white guy from the Midwest I was feeling like a tough guy jogging through Inglewood. This is the same Inglewood that Snoop Dog and Dr Dre rapped about back when I was in high school. Full of caffeine, and endorphins I tried to think up a good blog post. The two ideas that I couldn’t shake out of my head were the Myth of the Phoenix and the last chapter of “The Odyssey” when Ulysses returns home. The Phoenix rose from the ashes. Wasn’t that like me? I sold everything I owned on Craig’s list last month, can’t afford lunch, and don’t have a pair of jeans without a hole. That’s like ashes, right? And like Ulysses I just returned home after 15 years of battling demons and storms(sort of like working at PSA Airlines). And, didn’t I just read two days ago that society is based more upon common myths than religion or media. That’s some smart stuff. It would really impress my 8 regular blog readers. And of course they will never realize that I lifted the stuff about Ulysses from a short story I read in the New Yorker a few months back.

My head was buzzing with the ideas that founded our western culture and I was on the home stretch of my jog -- starting a little sprint to the finish. Coming the other direction on the sidewalk was another runner. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head, jeans, and an old pair of basketball shoes. As he ran he was punching the air like boxer in training. Maybe he was a boxer -- a west coast Rocky Balboa. Or maybe he was just another Inglewood crackhead getting deep into his fix. As we passed each other he smiled at me and said, ”Get your money. Yeah boy, get your money!”. I think the crackhead has it all figured out.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Coming Home

This is a photo of the Galloway House in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The home was built by a lumber baron in the 1800's and now it is a museum. I grew up in Fond du Lac, and the Galloway House is located about three blocks from the house I lived in from age 13 to 19. In grade school my cub scout den toured the Galloway House. The only thing I remembered from the tour was the dog that the Galloway family had stuffed and kept in their living room. While living in Fond du Lac I must have driven past the historic house 1000 times. I never gave the house much thought beyond some mild teenage scorn towards things I considered nerdy.

Fast forward 15 years and I (and my family) have made a triumphant return to living in my mother's basement three blocks from the Galloway House. Since moving back a month ago I have become a little bit fascinated by the giant Victorian house that sits at the top of our neighborhood.

First of all the house looks amazing. Driving past for the first time in a year I noticed the big oaks framing the yard and all the details in the architecture of the house. My photographer's brain started racing with a bunch of ideas.

Secondly, I like to ponder what it must have been like to live in Fond du Lac in the 1800's when things were still wild. Imagine standing up on that widow's walk 130 years ago.

When I got into photography six years ago my main reason for shooting was to show my family back in Wisconsin all the exciting things I was seeing in my modern airline pilot lifestyle. After some limited success shooting I started to develop some crude ideas for a personal style -- a kind of dimwitted artistic vision. Photography quickly became a serious hobby, some would say obsession. I remember wanting to build a gallery over at filled with bright colors and contrasty light. That was the extent of the emotion I was looking for. My photography could have been best described as "Heavy Metal Nature Photography". Over the course of a year or two I learned how to play photographic power chords.

The next step in my photographic growth came when I joined Istock gave me a chance to sell my photos and learn how to create an image that someone else values or could put to use commercially. The unexpected consequence of joining istock was an enormous attention to detail and technical quality of my photos. The photo inspection process is brutal at istock. The slightest technical flaw and your photo is rejected. This caused me to reevaluate everything about my shooting and post processing in Photoshop. Over time I developed a complete vision of the technical process of taking a photo. Every technical aspect of my shooting was obsessed over -- from equipment, to the nature of light, to each little Photoshop tweak. It was no longer enough for me to shoot and process with blind gut feeling. I wanted to know the algebra behind each choice. Switching back to the musical metaphor; I was learning scales, minor chords, dynamics, and timbre.

And next came a period of disillusionment. One day I was looking at my gallery filled with colorful, bright, contrasty images and realized I was shooting nothing more than visiual cliches and I wasn't a genius. About that same time I started to notice that while I was successful at istock some other people were much more successful. What was I doing all this work for if I was only going to be average?

I started to look in a new direction. I started reading photography blogs. And I started this blog as a kind of outlet and method to sort things out creatively.

That brings us up to today and the point of this long rambling post. Photography made me interested in something I wouldn't have otherwise cared about, in this case the Galloway House. I stood in knee deep snow for a half hour with a -15 degree wind chill for this photo, and I was happy the whole time. I now realize my home town is full of amazing old oak trees and the sky in Wisconsin is always interesting. I used to hate this place. Now, I can't wait to get out and photograph everything before it's gone. Imagine if you could have set up your tripod and Canon 5D high up on that widows walk in 1880. Those pictures would be something to see even if they were cliche.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Here I sit in the LAX Westin again. I have some free time this morning, some interesting photos to post, and the cheesy internet connection at this hotel won't let me upload photos. After years of travel I have come to the conclusion that the fancier the hotel the worse their internet service. The Westin seems to believe that it is normal to charge for internet service. Who does this anymore? I stayed at a dodgy Travellodge two nights ago. I was kept awake there half the night from all the hookers and pimps slamming doors, but I at least had free, blazing fast wireless. The Westin makes you hook up to an ancient wired network and they charge $10. What kind of customer service is that? At least as airline crew they wave the charge for me, but if I was a business traveler I'd be fuming. The hotel business center charges by the minute for computer use. Want to check your email? That will be $20. I'd rather stay at a Holiday Inn Select, spend half the money, have free internet, and get a free stale bagel breakfast in the morning. But, I shouldn't complain. Someone else is paying for this hotel and they do have a nice pool.

Sorry for the rant that was probably better suited for a review. I'm just frustrated.

It is hard keeping a blog. When I started out I had great intentions to post almost everyday. Unfortunately it is not all that easy. A month ago we made a transcontinental move and that sucked dry any free time I had for blogging. Then, a week after moving my computer got a nasty virus and completely died. Now, today with a spare working computer in front of me I can't get a photo uploaded. Hopefully things will settle down over the next week and I can get a posting rhythm going.

I have a new respect for the bloggers out there that can post new well written and well thought out posts on a regular basis. To my eight regular readers; I ask you to check out some of the links in my blog list. The blogs listed there have some great content, and somehow their owners find time and resources to make great, regular posts.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


HaHa, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

Ella figured out how to turn on our car alarm today. It was pure joy to her. I don't know what the neighbors thought. This is a picture of her at the front door playing with the car keys.

Alpha Male

Alpha Male, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

It was zero degrees outside this morning when I took this picture. Our dogs didn't seem to mind the cold. The cold weather makes them play harder. This photo might remind you of a pack of wolves fighting over a carcass, but really our boys were just fooling around. Jack is the black dog. He weighs about 45 pounds. Gatsby, the other dog, is a brute. He weighs 90 pounds. To make up for his size disadvantage Jack has to show lots of teeth and make a lot of noise. Jack is still the boss between the two dogs even though Gatsby could bite him into two pieces if he wanted to. After their walk both dogs curled up together in front of the fireplace.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Snowy Morning in A Swamp

It's been snowy up here in Wisconsin. A few days ago I took a walk with my dad in the swamp behind his house in Manitowoc. I brought my camera along, but only brought my Canon 135mm f/2.0 L lens. I thought I was only going to try for pictures of our dogs. That was a mistake. The tangled trees were coated in fresh snow and the long lens was too narrow to get a landscape shot. Making the best of the situation I took a few shots of my dad from a distance. I managed to get some of the snow covered trees into the scene. For this shot I made sure my dad was standing in sunlight. Most of the forest behind is in shadow.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Most Difficult Photo Possible?

Jack Loves the Snow, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

Is there anything harder to photograph than a black dog running through snow with bright sun? For this shot I set my exposure to manual bracketed until I found an exposure that worked for shooting this direction. I then called Jack and I got one high speed pass. This was the best shot from the burst. I'm determined to get the perfect "Jack in the Snow" photo before winter is over.

We moved to Wisconsin from California a couple weeks ago and our dogs love it. I was afraid they would miss hiking around east bay, I think they like Wisconsin better. They like the snow for sure.