Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Who's Your Lobby(ist)?

Now, before we get started, let me make two things perfectly clear:

I like ranchers just fine. I live in the country, wear a cowboy hat and drive a pickup truck.

I love beef. It's what's for dinner. Every night if I get a say.

Having said that, you should have a listen to this podcast on Southeast AgNet. It's a pain to get to (for me) so I'm not going to bother trying to quote it (I listen to these things on my phone). But if you listen, you'll hear the beef industry lobbyist whine about the weight limitations the Department of Transportation has placed on cattle trucks and the rest requirement it has placed on drivers of said trucks. They won an exemption last year from the rest requirement for drivers and they need ranchers to call their Congressmen and win them another exemption from the rules this year.

Those poor cows (headed for slaughter) might get hot sitting in the sunshine while their driver is forced (forced mind you) to take a silly nap for 30 minutes before he can continue driving an 80,000+ (+++???) pound truck down the highway that you and I share. We want our cows to be healthy don't-cha-know. Damn gov'ment don't know nothin'.

You can trust me, it was as silly as I'm trying to make it sound. But when you're a cattleman trying to make a living and the guy in your earphone sounds like he's on your side, I bet you're a little more sympathetic to the argument. You might even call your Congressman.

Make no mistake about it, cattle country is Republican country. So it's sort of ironic to hear that they want to bust up the interstates with even heavier trucks. In that Republicans don't believe in infrastructure spending. Especially the kind that's called stimulus. It is not at all ironic to hear them rail against a government-required rest period for a worker. But you have to ask yourself, how did anyone ever get a government-required rest period put into regulations?

Sleepy Truckers Linked to Many Deaths

(Totally unplanned. That article was written by our old friend Matthew Wald who covered aviation for the NYTimes when I was working.)

I tell non-union people this all the time -- every Big Business out there has lawyers and lobbyists fighting for them. Who is fighting for you? You can't afford either one. But you and hundreds of your buddies joined together can. Do you understand why Big Business doesn't want you to do that?

And I give ordinary citizens the same message: Who is your lobbyist? It's supposed to be your Congressman. Here's a question: How much do you pay your lobbyist? How much do you reckon the beef industry pays theirs? Any questions?

Oh well, here comes the sun so I have to run. Give yourself a gold star if at any point in time you were reading this and wondering just how far you'd have to haul a bunch of cows so that you would need a nap. I have cows all around me. You probably do too. At least within a couple of hours of you. How we are raising cows might be the root problem. Just a thought.

Don Brown
March 18, 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

Lies Are Easier To Tell

For God's sake, read this testimony given to the United States Senate Committee on the Budget by Professor Mark Blyth. You remember Professor Blyth. I told you about him almost two years ago. Try to grasp what he is saying. I know it isn't that easy. But I also know that if I can understand it, you can too.

But most importantly, anytime you hear anybody say:

"It is irresponsible and immoral to kick the can down the road.
We cannot saddle our grandchildren with a crushing burden of debt.
We need a budget that is painful to all (today) in order to protect future generations.
Future generations are going to have an inferior standard of living because of our fiscally irresponsible behavior."

You can send this this link: Statement of Mark Blyth, Eastman Professor of Political Economy, The Watson Institute for International Studies and Brown University, as a response.

Lies are easier to tell than the truth. The truth is usually more complicated and harder to hear than a lie. But it's worth telling.

"Third, unlike households, the United States issues its own cash, owes itself money, borrows other people’s savings with its own paper, and brings new people into the household so that it can tax them across the next several generations. National governments can do all that, families and firms cannot and US states cannot. And no one can do that better than the United States national government since its debt is backed up by the world’s most dynamic economy, 14 aircraft carriers, and positive intergenerational capacity to tax. Let me unpack this."

If your brain just isn't wired for the economic stuff, then try the story Professor Blyth tells on the personal level.

"I was born in 1967 in a working class family on the East Coast of Scotland. My mother died when I was three weeks old and I was given up to my paternal grandmother for my care. Our income was her state retirement pension (an entitlement). I went to school (paid by taxes) and ate free meals at school (an entitlement). I went to university for free (an entitlement) and now I am a professor at an Ivy League school. As such, I will pay more in taxes over my lifetime to the US government at a much higher rate, and for longer, than I would have ever done if these entitlements had not been there. They made me what I am today and I am a fiscal net positive long asset.

So when people say “we cannot saddle our grandchildren with a crushing burden of debt,” or that “we need a budget that is painful to all (today) in order to protect future generations,” they are really saying “lets shrink the economy today so that the parents of today earn less money and pay more for services. That will make sure that their grandchildren grow up poorer, with a smaller economy, and a worse education.” Quite how that is supposed to keep America great going forward is a mystery to me (unless it’s the magic of tax cuts themselves, but they keep failing to show up too)."

Read. Share. Engage. Send it to your Congressional Representatives.

Don Brown
March 13, 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Searching for Sponsors

This is a picture of me this morning, after completing my usual 3-mile walk. As you can see, it's raining. What you can't see is that it's 32.1ºF. I actually have a plan -- I have a photo in mind that will require hiking in the rain -- in case you think I'm nuts for walking in the close-to-freezing rain. Of course, I'd be walking in it anyway -- even without a plan -- so maybe I am nuts.

Anyway, for anyone that still checks on this blog, I'm alive and well and still enjoying retirement. Most of my "work" time is spent on the Photography Park project. The rest of the time I'm "working" on doing exactly what I want to do. At the risk of repeating myself, I highly recommend retirement. Make sure yours is a good one.

My colleague on the Photography Park project wanted me to give him some ideas about possible sponsors. We all know how I avoid commercialism so this is a struggle for me. But, I recognize that a project of this magnitude will take money. A lot of money. And it will have to come from somewhere. We could do the Rockefeller/Acadia thing -- any billionaire could take care of the project alone. A single corporate sponsor could do it too. I hear Apple is doing really well these days. But I figure it will be a combination of efforts like most projects. A little money here, a little money there. So, let's jump in.

In order to commit outdoor photography, you have to get outdoors. And you have to stay outdoors. Usually at sunrise and sunset. Let's see what we have so far. I drove my 2000 Chevy Silverado to the lake this morning. It could have been a 2015 Toyota or Land Rover. My truck has a Leer camper shell on it. You wouldn't believe how much junk (props, tools, rafts) I haul around in the bed. Don't tell anybody but I have a pair of Leatherman pruners I carry around on occasion to cut off a small limb that might be ruining my picture. Okay, I've got a vehicle, camper top and pruners. (Admit it, you didn't think about pruner manufacturers as a sponsor for outdoor photography.)

I arrived at my usual photography location this morning at my usual time -- one hour before sunrise. Cue the flashlight sponsors. I have this cool piece of swag from Browning I got when I bought the Leer camper top (Browning Edition) for the truck. It's a rechargable flashlight with a car charger. It still works after 15 years. That's what I call a nice piece of swag. (By the way, I still use the fleece vest Browning gave away with the camper top too.) But back to the flashlights. My favorite one is a giveaway my wife bought for her charity organization. It's one of those little keychain LED flashlights. In that she had a lot of them, I keep one in the pocket of every outdoor jacket I own. Another piece of swag might be the best flashlight yet. It's a ink pen with a small LED flashlight built into the end. It's perfect for shining on the camera in the dark when I'm trying to find a seldom-used button. It's bright enough to see by but doesn't blast away your night vision. Hmmm, three freebies. Not many sponsors there. But I do have an Energizer headlamp in the truck. I just haven't gotten around to testing it yet.

I think I mentioned it was cold this morning. There has to be a wealth of sponsors there. I was wearing FoxRiver sock liners with Wigwam Ultimax socks. Today's thermals were from Duofold. I have more long underwear than is seemly for a Southerner. I've got silkies from GearGuide, Capilene from Patagonia and even a pair of expedition-weight thermals from somebody-or-other. (REI?) What can I say? I like winter in the South. My daily working uniform always includes Propper BDU pants (military-type cargo pants) and a t-shirt; short sleeve in the summer and long sleeve in winter. Yes, I am aware of the dangers of cotton in the cold. I'm not headed for the backcountry, I live in the South and I need a shirt pocket for glasses and a flashlight pen. (Hmmm, eye glasses sponsor for photography. I almost missed that one.) Believe it or not, on most days, I wear an old zip-up hoodie from Old Navy. I don't know how I wound up with an Old Navy anything but I've had it long enough that all the edges are frayed. It has to get seriously cold (teens) before I'll consider wearing a true winter coat. Because when it comes to staying warm, really, it's all about that base (layer). (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Staying dry is another thing. That's an L.L. Bean rain outfit I was wearing this morning. I keep it in my camera bag (I use LowePro bags) for the obvious reason but also because it blocks the wind and provides warmth. It's become one of my favorite pieces of gear (despite the problematic zippers.) Today's hiking boots are from Irish Setter. So far I've worn out a pair of L. L. Bean's, Wolverine's and Merrill's. I have a pair of Danner's already for the summer. I'm hoping they will be "the one". I don't really like trying new stuff but I wear out a pair of boots every 6 months walking on asphalt and there seems to be some law that says you can't make an affordable, size-14 (sometimes 15) walking boot.

I guess by now you've noticed the fingerless wool gloves. When all else fails, wool works. I've been researching this problem for the last few weeks: When you're walking in the cold rain, there doesn't seem to be a good solution for gloves. I normally wear a pair of LowePro photographer's gloves but they're knit gloves (with little nubs for gripping) and they aren't water (or wind) proof. If you stick your hands in the pockets of the rain suit, water drips down your sleeves into the pockets and the next thing you know, you're getting wet. (Yes, that cotton t-shirt does act like a wick and draws water into places you'd rather not get wet.)

I decided to put wool to the test today and just let it get wet. In the picture you'll see I'm carrying a stick (no sponsors for a dog-deterrent-dirt-scratching-exercise stick) I like to swing around to keep my arms moving while I walk. Keep in mind, I've had these wool gloves for ages. The gloves are soaked. They're so soaked I could literally wring water out of them. My fingertips aren't protected in any way and I'm swinging this stick around for an hour or two in the 32º weather. I was never uncomfortable. I was shocked at how warm my hands stayed. Here's why I was shocked.

As soon as I was finished walking, I decided to make this picture. That involves getting a wet, metal tripod set up with an umbrella attached and putting a metal camera on top of it, fiddling around with the switches and taking the picture(s). Everything is fine still. But while the camera is out, I figured I'd try to get a decent picture or two. In 10 minutes, my fingers that operate the camera are numb. That's what I am used to. Evidently, bare metal has the ability to suck the warmth out of your fingers beyond that of wood, water and cold air. Which makes me very, very interested in this product:

SealSkinz Ultra Grip Gloves

As you can see (if you click on the link), these gloves are made in the United Kingdom (where they know a few things about being cold and wet). If they really have cracked the code and have made a waterproof, windproof, stretch-knit glove that's thin enough to operate a camera with them on, I'll buy a pair. Even if they are 50 bucks (or so). And I bet a bunch of other photographers would too. Until then, I'll keep carrying around a couple of packs of HotHands.

Well, that should cover enough sponsor opportunities for today. We'll probably save the actual camera gear advice for the Photography Park's web site. (Coming Soon!) I suspect I'll still blog here from time. I might even tell you about the bluetooth headset I'm listening to while I took this picture, the iPhone I'm using, the ap I use for podcasts and even the playlist I was listening to this morning. (One of which was MarketPlace with this union story.) Y'all be careful out there.

Don Brown
February 24, 2015

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Photography Park Project Begun

Just as an update, I have begun my photography park project. The web site will be up shortly. I was in downtown Atlanta twice last week, learning about non-profit organizations, how to find grants and write proposals. The Twitter account is up. As is the Flickr account. I'm still trying to puzzle out how I'm going to arrange all the pieces and whether or not I have to come up with yet another email address. Or two. I've got ThePhotographyPark at gmail and at yahoo but I hope to have a single address at our own domain name so don't worry about updating your address book just yet.

If any of you care to "follow" us on Flickr or Twitter, your support would be most welcome. But more than anything, just mention the idea to your photographer friends at the next cocktail party. I'm sure this is going to be a years-long project so we have time for word-of-mouth to work its magic.

I still hesitate to close the door on this blog. Perhaps I should. But for now I won't. I had a friend, just last night, trying to lure me back into the mix by telling me what the Operational Error rate was these days. I admit, I was sorely tempted, but I've resisted and here I am writing about a photography park. And I was out this morning, taking ugly pictures to make my point.

I'm searching for a way to make people understand that pictures like this are never taken by serious photographers (both amateur and professional). It's a perfectly beautiful moment, but with the utility wires and street lights, most photographers (including me) would never pull the camera out of the bag. There's only so much you can fix with Photoshop. I want a place where you can capture these moments. The fact that it would generate a lot of economic activity (I believe) just makes it easier for me to sell the idea. (If you want to get an idea about the economic side, take a look the the "favorites" I'm collecting on Flickr. Add up the cost of the photography equipment you see in each picture and see if you think this is a demographic worth pursuing.)

Y'all be careful out there.

Don Brown
January 17, 2015

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Waiting for Patty -- The Process

For my long-time readers, this will be something new. But I have a different idea and a lot of pictures for which I have no other use. There's a lot of thinking that goes into some kinds of picture taking. As a matter of fact, it's more picture making. So, if you're not interested in the process behind making a picture, it's time to change the channel.

To be honest, I started taking pictures of The Chair because I was bored. I'd taken a picture of a really nice sunrise to post to my photography friends on Facebook -- with my phone -- and it included my camera sitting on my tripod. I noticed that the tripod/camera silhouette made the picture a lot more interesting. That got me thinking (hat tip to Galen Rowell and his "mature subject" explanation) about what object I could use in my photographs to add interest. I thought an artist's easel would be a good idea. Perhaps it might be a little too literal -- sort of like screaming "See! It's art! Photography can be art!". But I'm a literal kind of guy and I didn't have a problem with that. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I couldn't find a used easel. But I did find a used chair. Cheap. I named the first picture "I Grew Weary of the Wait". Coincidently, I had listened to a podcast about how much of our lives are spent waiting (like waiting for a pretty sunrise) and then it became kind of a thing. All "The Chair" pictures had to have a "waiting" title.

I Grew Weary of the Wait

Are you following along? Do you see how one thing just leads to another? I'd already been floating things in the lake so it wasn't a real leap of inspiration to float the chair. I decided to build a prettier raft but that was about it.

And then I started noticing how people reacted to the various images. Most of the images were just rehashing the same pictures I'd taken before "The Chair". But then I got a crazy idea and posted this one:

Waiting on Direction

That one got a lot of reaction. And it surprised me. Think about it. There's nothing there. No horizon. No color (I love color). It's a chair, lost in the fog. And that's when it hit me. It's not just about what I put in a picture, it's what the viewer puts into it.

They probably teach this in Art 101 but I've never delved into the art world before. I just like photographing pretty things, not making art. And all this led me to thinking about how I react to other's art. And that led me to Patty. Nobody's art on Flickr makes me "feel" like Patty's. The odd thing is, I don't know what it makes me feel. Again, it's probably just that lack of art school thing but there it is. And now it intrigues me. So, of course, I started to dissect it. I'm not sure that's the smart thing to do but I've been not smart before.

To make this long story shorter, let me use some pictures.

The first thing that ought to hit you about that picture is that it's square. As are most of Patty's. I'd been looking at her work for over a year and I had been so wrapped up in the "feel" of it that I'd never even noticed that all her pictures are square(ish). It's amazing what you learn when you try to duplicate something.

I also noticed she used a lot of leading lines so I tried that.

Close but no cigar. I love the dark and moody skies in much of her work, so I tried that.

I liked it (even if I did use fill flash) but it still didn't capture the "magic". So, this morning, when the swans flew through the frame, I decided enough was enough.

If I can't capture the magic with a square format, moody skies, a red wig and flying swans, Patty has something that I don't have and I'll just have to learn to live with it. No, I can't explain why I didn't go with the flying swans. You just have to trust your instincts and hope for some magic.

Don Brown
December 20, 2014

Funny How the Internet Works

I'm switching gears these days in a lot of areas so I'm changing a lot of internet accounts around. So, just in case you see some stuff that no longer makes sense, you'll know why. For instance, if you scroll down on this blog's homepage, you know see a tweet I made from another account (and posted here) that has someone else's name on it. He's the guy that took over for me as the Party Chairman. I've also noticed that a few pictures on this site are now missing. That's probably because I've been changing permissions on some old accounts. Whatever.

I have some new accounts I've created from my photography park project and I'll be deleting some old accounts. Expect more oddness as I discover how the internet works. The hard way.

Don Brown
December 20, 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Double Bubble

What??? You mean you haven't been keeping up with my Flickr page? The link is sitting right over there on the right side of the page.

Unlike here, I post something over there almost every day. But I don't mind if you come here first.

Knock Me Over With a Bubble

Don Brown
December 14, 2014