March 2008

She was found starved and abandoned, only a month old. Victimized by humans. Isn’t that always the way?

She was rescued, also by humans. Saved and brought somewhere she could live her life, safe, happy, free. And then through the negligence of a vet’s office, she died.

My heart breaks. She was special, to me, to many others. It isn’t fair, and while I know that there is little in life that is fair, I still want to scream at this world, and beat on it with my fists.

We can’t fix fast enough that which we are so industriously destroying. You’d think that a beautiful soul, saved from both death by slaughterhouse and death by starvation, would have had more than a few short weeks before she was taken by negligence.


One of the things we’ve learned a lot about in this Photoshop class is color correction. I shoot in raw, for many reasons. Partially because I figure even if I’m not that great at post processing now, how much effort can it take to get better than the camera’s mini computer? So if I take them in raw, all the data is saved for later.

If you’re a bit of an information junkie like me, here’s a great article on raw files, and the pros and cons of shooting in raw. There are a lot of misconceptions about post-processing, and I’ve heard some people claim that if you use Photoshop, you’re cheating. Hm. Well, two things to keep in mind, both quoted from the above linked article:

A raw file is essentially the data that the camera’s chip recorded along with some additional information tagged on. A JPG file is one that has had the camera apply linear conversion, matrix conversion, white balance, contrast, and saturation, and then has had some level of potentially destructive compression applied.

Raw files have not had while balance set. They are tagged with whatever the camera’s setting was, (either that which was manually set or via auto-white-balance), but the actual data has not been changed. This allows one to set any colour temperature and white balance one wishes after the fact with no image degradation. It should be understood that once the file has been converted from the linear space and has had a gamma curve applied (such as in a JPG) white balance can no longer be properly done.

I quoted that specific point about raw files because it is so relevant to what I’ve learned in the past couple classes in my Photoshop class. I knew to some degree, but I didn’t understand how to make good use of Photoshop to properly make use of the data that the camera recorded. The camera’s guess as to the white balance of the world around us is not all that bad when using auto, but we can usually do better. The biggest argument in my mind for not shooting jpg (aside from the obvious loss of pixel data) is that using the processing power of our computers and the judgement we can make, we’re bound to be able to do better than the camera’s small chip applying a generalized algorithm.

So 20,000 something pictures in, I’m finally learning how to do an accurate white balance on my own. I still have plenty of room for improvement, but I’m excited nonetheless. And I signed up for the next class. Hopefully no one who finds navigating file systems a challenge will sign up!

chickensat ES

I’m almost done with the first 7 session Photoshop class, and I’ll soon move on to the next one. The schedule kills me, but I’m learning a lot, so for now, I’ll deal.

I have become increasingly bothered by something, which is not unusual and likely more expected than not. Each class seems to lead to another that is useful to take. Two Photoshop classes actually seems fairly reasonable, given the complexity of the program. However, they are not cheap, and I wish there had been an accelerated class because I had way too much time where I was not learning anything as the much much slower people with much much lower computer skills struggled to keep up.

So that’s one thing, but he also offers a printing workshop. He warned us against trying to figure out how to use the printer profiles ourselves. Hmpf.

He also offers a Lightroom seminar, and highly recommends both the program and the class. What I wonder, however, is why something like Lightroom really needs a class. I never felt like I got a good answer on why I’d need Lightroom. He mentioned file organization and tagging, but you can do that in Bridge (which came with CS3), so I’m not sold.

And then tonight he showed us some prints of some of his pics. They were gorgeous, he’s a talented photographer, and many of them were taken in Kenya and Patagonia. Exotic. Different.

And here’s where I really started to be bothered. He leads photography trips. Seems like many if not most landscape photographers do, and I imagine it is the most consistent way for them to make money. Classes and trips. And fair enough, they have to be good and have years of experience under their belts for anyone to want to bother spending the money.

But there is something that bugs me about a canned photo shoot. Maybe this is just my own prejudice against tours, which I admit is a strong one. I love to travel, and I mostly travel alone. I suppose I’m also not as interested in the “purity” of the perfect landscapes. They are beautiful, but … I’m not sure I can even put it into words properly. As someone who leads a photo shoot, he sets up these tours and arranges with the drivers of the giant vehicles for certain concessions. He might get other perks, much like the guy did who I paid to go on a photo safari here in town did.

So I asked the teacher what we could do, as simple travelers not with a group, to get some of these concessions. His answer, chorused by the majority of the class, was that I simply needed to go on a photo tour.

Nope, not going to happen, not at this point in my life. What I like about traveling is finding my own way, making my own discoveries, having my own experiences. I like to travel alone, stay at youth hostels, meet the people from around the world who have ended up with me in that particular time and place. I like to mangle my wretched spanish (well, I would prefer to have actual conversations, but my spanish skills are not up to par) as I discuss Astor Piazzolla with Chileans (who have a garbled dialect for sure) in a little town in Argentina.

I did take some tours in Argentina, and one of them was worth it to deal with transportation issues, only because I didn’t feel like dealing with having a car for a day and finding my way around. I had a chance to practice my Spanish and get a thousand year history of Israel from one of the women I met at the youth hostel who came along on that tour with me.

I don’t even know what I’m saying at this point. I like traveling solo and I like meeting people. I like the hassle and headache of planning it myself, I like that when I find something that is special to me, it is that much more special because I’m the one who found it. I’m sure I miss out on other things, but I also know I don’t pay as much attention when things are being spoon fed. And how will I ever learn how to scope locations if I rely on others to bring me to the sweet spot and all but point my camera for me?


martin on the bariloche trek

You know when you avoid specific situations, expecting something uncomfortable? And then when you finally just kick your own ass into gear and push forward anyway, you end up with unexpected results, rewards? That’s what happened to me tonight.

I guess things are never quite what we think they are, never quite what we expect. Maybe if we just got out of our own way, we’d make our lives easier!

skull in grass
photohunt graphic

This week’s theme is metal, which there is quite a bit of in our world!  Go check out the rest of the photohunters too…


I’m sure everyone read about the pharmaceuticals found in rivers (where we get our water) making male fish produce eggs, and other interesting things like that. I recently read information specific to my area:

The Post sent a reporter, and he came back with a list of scary-sounding chemicals that all could be the sort of “endocrine disruptors” causing the hormonal changes seen in these Potomac fish. Here’s some of the potentially dangerous chemicals scientists have found in the Potomac:

* Atrazine, an herbicide commonly used on farm fields.
* Chlorpyrifos, an insecticide.
* Endosulfan, an insecticide.
* Metolachlor, an herbicide.
* Tonalide and galaxolide, two chemicals used to add fragrances to perfumes and soaps.

All of the chemicals scientists have identified above are suspected as being capable of interfering with hormones. And for some reason, the Post has buried this information at the bottom of its story:

The repercussions for human health are also unclear. At the Washington Aqueduct, the agency that turns river water into tap water for the District, Arlington County, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County, the treatment process is not designed to remove the chemicals.

So to recap, the water we drink from the tap comes from the Potomac River. It’s processed, but it’s not processed to remove these chemicals that are probably causing male fish to start growing eggs. And you can bet your Brita filter doesn’t help on this, either.

In my laundry list of reasons to avoid pharms as much as possible, environmental impact is part of that, which has surprised many people. So learning that we’re slurping down a medly of drugs in our water doesn’t surprise me, not really. It is interesting in that train-wreck sort of way to learn exactly what is out there wreaking havoc.

And so I found it ironic today when I asked the vet how to dispose of the leftover medicine I’ll likely have after Tempest finishes a round of antibiotics from a tooth removal.

“Oh, just throw it in the trash,” they said with a smile.

punting on the river

This is a topic I could honestly go on about for hours. I’m not sure exactly when it started, but it definitely got a kick in the butt when I went vegan 4.5 years ago. I was vegetarian for about 8 years before that, but it really was veganism that made me a lot pickier about who I’d give my money to and what I’d spend it on.

It started with examining the labels of everything for animal ingredients, and then as I ran out of household cleaners or whatever, I’d research to find something that wasn’t tested on animals. This led to a greater awareness of labor issues and environmental issues, and where I stand now is that all of this is connected. You can’t be concerned about the treatment of workers if you are not concerned about the toxicity of the goods. You can’t be concerned about the animals if you are not concerned about protecting the environment they live in. And hey, we live in it too. How can we be concerned about the future at all if we’re not concerned about the environment?

So, yes, I think a lot about what I buy. I have watched The Story of Stuff many times, and end up feeling very strongly that we need to consume less, and so I search out thrift stores and people remaking things into other things.

I have ideals, on top of my ethics, I suppose. They can’t always be reached, but I do think it is important to always try. I write companies and complain when I am annoyed with them for not paying attention to the things that I feel are important, and I also write when I am pleased that they do pay attention to the things that are important.

I’ve watched Manufactured Landscapes, which puts a whole new picture and perspective on what I already vaguely knew was happening in the world. A picture is worth a thousand words, but I think that the pictures in Manufactured Landscapes might be worth a billion words. Maybe even 7 billion.

All of this is actually a lead in to introducing a new blog that Sorrow and Miss HarleyQuinn have started. I hope they keep going – I know what a lot of work it is to research these things and to keep on top of the changes that companies make, usually without letting their loyal customers know.

One way to vote for change, after all, is with our pockets. Especially in this capital driven world, sometimes the only voice that companies listen to is of the bottom-line. Every vote against that bottom-line counts, that’s what I believe. And it is one way we can “be the change we want to see.” It isn’t activism, not quite, but it is at least conscious consumption. They say ignorance is bliss, but having come from ignorance to a place that sometimes feels like too much knowledge, I would still say that I much prefer to not be ignorant of what, exactly, I’m supporting with my change.

tempest toy

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