February 2008


Way back in time (like three months ago) I was complaining about what was a cliffhanger of a sort in my life – I’d been given a comic book with a vague statement on it being one of the best written comics, in the gifter’s opinion, and that opinion stumped me. It didn’t seem that great to me, but I’d lost touch with the giver, so I was left wondering, and it bugged me.

A month or so ago we got back in contact, and I was given a chance to ask my question. The answer was not precisely what I expected, and it lead to a recommendation of a book called “Understanding Comics.”

My library had a copy. I picked it up and began reading.

I’d been warned that I might find the beginning of the book, which went over the history of comics in quite a bit of detail, boring. Yet I didn’t. I was fascinated.

The entire book fascinated me. The connection to language, the way the brain works, the way the panels can be manipulated to create certain effects, the decisions the writers/artists are faced with, and various other aspects of comics…it was all in there, in the 224 or so pages of the book.

The book was itself a comic book, which makes sense – how better to explain aspects of comics than to write about them in comic format?

So. I’ve read only a very few comics in my life – Jar of Fools, Pride of Baghdad, one of the Sandman books, V for Vendetta, maybe one or two others, but I sort of doubt it. And “Understanding Comics”. It seems a bit backwards, perhaps, that I find myself fascinated by comics now, after reading about them, but in a way it is fitting, and it is a testament to Scott McCloud’s purpose in writing the book. He wanted to show that comics are more than a flashy picture book for kids, he wanted to show the worth, the potential, the artistry of comics. And at least for me, he did.

Now I’m left fascinated by comics and having no clue what to read. I don’t know what I’d like any better now than I did before. Or, rather, I have an idea of what I’d like now, but no clue how to find it. I’ll start by rereading the books I have – Jar of Fools, Pride of Baghdad, and V for Vendetta.

I started reading “On Directing Films” tonight, and I was not surprised at all to realize that some of the same concepts the author discusses are exactly what I just finished reading about in “Understanding Comics.” I’m hoping that they’ll both add to my understanding of how to put together collections of photographs. In the end, after all, images are images, regardless of their media!

portrait at the national gallery of art

I went on a “photo safari” this weekend, and we went around taking pictures in some of the metros. It was fun, the other people were nice, and the guy leading the safari was pretty good about talking to us about shutter speeds and iso and white balance for indoor lighting and mixed lighting. He’d also talked to the metro managers ahead of time and gotten permission for us, since they are going to look suspiciously at a group of people hanging around taking pictures of the trains!

taking pictures in metro station

At the time I didn’t feel like I learned that much from the guy leading the safari,  yet I know that the experience overall definitely helped me learn better how to use ISO in low light situations, and it also gave me quite a bit of practice in capturing movement, using shutter speed to blur movement.

train in metro

A coworker sent this to me last week, which I found amusing, so I thought I’d share!

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine prono uns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren’t invented in England .
We take English for granted, but if we explore its
paradoxes, we find that
quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,
and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing,
grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?
Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of
all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats v egetables, what does a
humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking
English should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people
recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the
same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a
language in which your house
can burn up as it burns down,
in which you fill in a form by filling it out,
and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

And, in closing, if Father is Pop,
how come Mother’s not Mop?

skaters' feet

This past week we had an assignment, the only specific assignment we were given, and it was portraits. I asked to make sure what he was looking for, and indeed he wanted more than candids, he wanted the interaction with a subject who knows they are getting their picture taken. It didn’t have to be people, though.

I have a lot of portraits of animals, and I get more every week when I’m at the sanctuary. I decided to push myself, to take portraits of a person for this assignment. The thought of regular portraits didn’t interest me, and are still perhaps a little intimidating to me. I have been thinking about this over the past couple weeks, and I’m wondering if my mild face blindness contributes to this. I just can’t picture how I’d arrange people to capture their personality. Maybe if I gave it a try I’d see how it would work, and I do have some plans to try to do more portraits, but for this past week at least I went a slightly different route – I asked my yoga teacher if she’d be interested in a photo shoot. She said it sounded like fun, and so we found a time we could fit it in, and had a 40 minute session.

I lucked out in many ways that the lighting at the studio, though not great, was still enough with just a little help from a lamp I brought with me. My yoga instructor had a great understanding of what would work well in photos, which might be somewhat instinctive, or perhaps she’s studied design in the past. All I know is that she made it easy – I had only to focus on the technical aspects, the rest was all Sarah!

Sarah concentrating

Sarah smiling

sarah, variation of crow

sarah, variation of side plank

I’d hoped to get some feedback – instructions or hints on how to do better. I was actually very happy with these, but certain I could improve. No one had anything to suggest – not my instructor, not the other students, not even when I said I’d been hoping to get some hints! The instructor said he couldn’t see anything he’d do differently – the lighting, the cropping, the poses themselves, or the colors (already at least half the list is Sarah!), he thought it was all good and worked really well.

So. It is positive and negative. I am still sure these could be improved, yet it was a big compliment for me to step out on a limb (for me) and do well enough that no one had anything that they could say to do better.

And I had one last portrait, which had nothing to do with yoga!

heidi close up

One of my fellow students said that this looked professional, which I thought was pretty cool. Though I know that there’s not a ton of sanctuary cow pictures out there, so it isn’t like I’m being compared to the vast majority of photographers when she makes that statement! Still, it was nice.

And it validated my choice of bringing this picture to class, instead of one that wasn’t quite such a close crop. I know it is at least partially personal taste, and others might prefer to see her whole face and horns and the rest.

These aren’t the greatest, and I certainly found the limits of my tripod (or the limits of my skill in using it!), but this is a series of pictures taken of the lunar eclipse last night between about 10:10pm EST and 11:45pm EST. I was not home until 9:45, so I didn’t get any pictures from the first hour, though I think the sky was clear enough that I otherwise could have.

These were with my 20D and my 70-200mm lens.

10:10pm EST:

lunar eclipse 2210 eastern standard time

10:42pm EST:

lunar eclipse 2242 eastern standard time

11:15pm EST:

lunar eclipse 2315 eastern standard time

11:40pm EST:

lunar eclipse 2340 eastern standard time

Someone hit my blog a day or two ago searching “i want to make vegan friends in the dc a”, and assuming the “a” was “area” before it was cut off, well…I hope you search again, whoever you were! *waves*

My advice for where to meet vegan friends:

  • vegan meetup
  • Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary – either helping out on the weekends or at one of their three events they have every year. There is also a benefit walk/run on May 18th in Wheaton, MD.
  • Java Green, especially the third saturday of every month, since it is Compassion Over Killing (COK) benefit day
  • Helping COK out with various leafletting and tabling activities
  • Vegetable Garden on the first Thursday of every month, which is another COK benefit day
  • VSDC (vegetarian society of DC) has events often, which are sometimes/usually announced on the vegan meetup site also. For instance, this Sunday more than 50 of us are going to a mystery dinner theater (that is, it is a mystery theater where dinner is served) and vegan food is being catered in for us. They also have a book club, singles club, various other things.
  • sometimes in the vegan cookbook section of bookstores, and probably at Olsson’s Books at Dupont for a book signing on Feb 26 with Martha Grimes (PCRM’s Neal Barnard will be there also)
  • Asylum on Sundays (vegan brunch!)
  • Stickyfingers Bakery pretty much always

That’s where I tend to meet people, anyway! I’m sure there are other places that are good for meeting vegans in the area, and there are certainly other groups (not just COK) that have activism events where you can meet yet more people. A lot of them are more specific – closer to Baltimore or out in Fairfax – and I certainly don’t know them all. PCRM is here, and they have events sometimes – not guaranteed to all be vegans, but quite a few of them will be. Also, at least one person involved with CatsRule!, a feral cat group in Fairfax, is vegan, and I think at least one more person that I know of. Another couple people are involved with some of the different animal shelters in the area.

You’ll want to check out VegDC for a nice list of vegan and vegan friendly restaurants in the area (plus co-ops and grocery stores) as well.

Good luck, and maybe I’ll see you around!

Oh, if you haven’t gotten out to meet anyone by the time August rolls around (and even if you have), head to the AR conference in Alexandria!

heidi at poplar spring

Most likely those who would be most interested already know about this, but tomorrow (wednesday) night a total lunar eclipse is going to occur. Apparently there were two last year, but the next won’t be until 2010, so tomorrow is the last chance for a couple years to see something like this!

Of course here we will probably be too overcast and bad-weathery to see it!

It will begin at 8:43pm EST, mid-eclipse will hit at 10:26pm EST, and it will end at 12:06am EST. I have no idea how they know the times so exactly, but there you go. So says NASA, who am I to question!

A total eclipse of the Moon occurs during the night of Wednesday, February 20/21, 2008. The entire event is visible from South America and most of North America (on Feb. 20) as well as Western Europe, Africa, and western Asia (on Feb. 21). During a total lunar eclipse, the Moon’s disk can take on a dramatically colorful appearance from bright orange to blood red to dark brown and (rarely) very dark gray.

Apparently with good binocs you can see some crater detail on the moon, and if you’ve a camera and a tripod and a 400mm lens you have a chance at some pretty good shots.

I don’t have a lens that long, but I’ve got a camera and a tripod, at least! And probably clouds and rain too!

tempest and her toes

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