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

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Sick Leave Soliloquy

Well, seeing as I can't do anything else, I might as well blog. It's odd, I really don't remember the last time I was sick. And I'm not very sick at the moment. Just fuzzy-headed enough that I don't need to be driving -- or out in the cold weather. Oh well. Your loss.

I started the day off sleeping in. Something I never do. Then I started in on the internet. (Something I always do.) I so wish I could leave Facebook. But it's almost like saying I wish I could leave reality. I had a good time taking my time on Twitter today. I think I'm missing out a little on the Twitter experience in that internet coverage is so spotty down here. But I learn so much more from my Twitter feed than I do from my Facebook page. Well, at least about the stuff I want to learn about. Remembering somebody's birthday is nice. Seeing vacation pictures is nice. But I could live without the cat videos and most of what normal people consider "fun" about Facebook. Of course, as soon as I find something interesting on Twitter I go share it on Facebook. Sigh.

One of the things that got me fired up today was reading an article from John Cassidy ‏at The New Yorker.

Should the Democrats Give Up on the South?

"In an anguished and pointed column on the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky, the liberal journalist, says the Party should “dump Dixie” and concentrate its electoral efforts on other parts of the country."

Fortunately, Mr. Cassidy didn't sip that Kool-Aid.
"For a number of reasons, I think that would be going much too far. If the Democratic Party wants to be a national party of government, it needs to retain and expand its presence in the South, rather than neglecting it."

I had read Tomasky's article. I'd basically blown it off. But, evidently, others had paid attention. I agree with John Cassidy. They shouldn't have taken Tomasky's article to heart.

(For those that have forgotten, I was drafted into the position of Chairman of the Democratic Party of Pike County, Georgia a couple of years ago. That's sort of like being Jim Bowie at the Alamo. You might get famous but you'll most likely lose.)

When Tomasky talks about writing off Democrats in the South, he's talking about abandoning me. Unsurprisingly, I'm not real keen on the idea. But more to the point, it's stupid. There are smart political operators out there that will tell you it's politically smart. They're being stupid too. There are people down here that are dying for a real Democratic party to show up. Despite what seems to be the common wisdom about the South -- that liberal Democrats will have to soften their message to play in the South -- there are plenty of Southerns that wish the real Democrats would actually show up down here.

For instance, take Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter. Both had name recognition from their daddies. I wasn't real keen on that but, okay, the smart political people said it would play. They both ran away from Obama. Again, the smart money said that was the smart play. How'd that work out? Now, look at it from my perspective -- a somewhat liberal white guy in a very red county. What am I left to deal with? The only Democrat I have to fight for me is a President the rest of you ran away from.

I'm not a smart man. But even I could see it was stupid to run away from our own President. Win, Lose or Draw. It was stupid.

Here's a thought. If you want me to hold onto the Alamo at least let me take a shot at Santa Anna. If I'm going to die defending this place at least make the fight about something more important than a man (or a woman.) How about an important idea? Or a set of ideas? Do you think everybody in the South is against a minimum wage? Do you think everyone working in the new car factories down here is anti-union? More importantly, do you think they'll stay that way after working in an anti-union factory for a few years? Do you think everybody down here is racist?

Or can you grasp the idea that a supposed racist from the South rammed the Civil Rights Act through Congress? Can you grasp the fact that the largest strike ever to occur in America was in the South? Have you forgotten that our greatest Civil Rights leader was a Southerner? Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Is that the South Mr. Tomasky wants to write off?

Let's get down to the nitty-gritty. Take a look a the trends and the numbers. Check out farming.

Agriculture is still Georgia's largest industry. Farms are less "family" all the time. They're getting bigger. Who might be working these bigger, not-so-family farms (some smart guy, somewhere, might ask)? That's right. Less rednecks and more Hispanics. The internet parlor trick I leaned today was tracking population by counties on Google. Rural county's populations have flatlined in Georgia. Some (like mine) are even shrinking slightly. Try to keep up. The reddest counties in Georgia aren't growing. The bluest ones are.

Fulton and DeKalb are the Democratic base of Atlanta. Bibb County is Macon, GA, one of the mid-size cities in Georgia. All the counties on the bottom are among the reddest in the State -- each voting 80+% Republican in the 2012 (Presidential) election. Everybody that lives in Georgia understands that Atlanta is slowly consuming the State but no Republican wants to see the obvious: The "red" part of the State is withering away. It's only the "blue" parts that are generating growth.

Only stupid people would seriously consider pulling the Democratic Party out of the South. I understand Mr. Tomasky's depression. I live it. I forgive him. And I thank Mr. Cassidy for writing a reality check.

(Helpful tip: Jameson's does NOT make the best hot toddy. And I'm out of B&B. Curses!)

With that subtle segue let me bring you up to date on my life. My term as Party Chairman is ending in a few days. In searching for a political message that will sell in a rural, 80+% Republican county, I came up with the idea of parks. (Thank you Robert Moses/Robert Caro.) Specifically, a photography park. I intend to concentrate on turning that idea into a reality starting January 1st. That does not bode well for my blogging here.

I'll make no promises or close any doors. This blog will remain up and available for the foreseeable future. But I will be moving on. For those that have followed me all these years, I hope you can see the path I have taken. I am so far from where I began, yet the power of ideas still guides me -- even to places unexplored. An insider's belief in the good of government, a 40-year-old book, and a job that nobody wants has led me a unique idea. An idea that I hope will employ some people in good jobs, show citizens how government can work towards the common good and make the world a slightly more beautiful place.

See you around.

Don Brown
December 9, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Barrel Racing in Concord

I need to figure out a better way of doing this. I need a non-business card. I don't want to print a card because I'm not selling anything. But I have so many people that want to see my pictures that I need a card with a web address. On the other hand, why should I send anybody to Flickr instead of my own web page? This free stuff is difficult. Oh well, Enjoy the pictures. It usually takes about 2-3 days to get them all up on my Flickr page.

From the barrel races at the Shadow Rock Arena near Concord, Georgia.

Don Brown
November 22, 2014