Tree Shopping

Last year, we didn’t get to Gwinn’s until darkness covered the tree lot. We picked a Christmas tree that felt right. And it was so cold.

This year was different. The temperatures were in the 40s, thanks to a very mild autumn, so we let the kids run through the rows of evergreens, tiring themselves in the cool air. We played tag, and chased each other in the trees.

Then we got the tree home – a short-needle variety, very soft – and did the real work: putting up the ornaments and lights. The kids were so tired from running at the tree farm that they were ready for bed early. That was fine with us.

As we plugged in the lights, we felt official. Ready for the holidays. All that’s missing in are the cookies.

Home Sick

Sick Day

Sick day at home with the kids. The boy got pink eye two days ago, and the baby woke up with it this morning.

Lots of hand-washing these past few days.

It’s not all bad. We watched the snow fall – only the second snowy day here in Michigan so far, which is weird this late into the year. The kids are still in pajamas, the Christmas music is going, and we’re all quiet and restful.

Working from home while a baby toddles around the house is a challenge, especially with icky hands. But I wouldn’t trade days at home with the kids for anything.

Color Masterpieces

Ernst Haas gets a nice feature in The Guardian, “The painter in a hurry,” following the re-release of Color Correction.

“I never really wanted to be a photographer,” he said. “It slowly grew out of the compromise of a boy who desired to combine two goals – explorer or painter. I wanted to travel, see and experience. What better profession could there be than the one of a photographer, almost a painter in a hurry, overwhelmed by too many constantly changing impressions?”

See and experience. Those are the real goals.

(via Kage Collective)

Photos To Remember

Photos To Remember

In the process of my big DAM switchover, I’m going through a ton of photos from past years – locked inside iPhoto, or tucked away inside random Finder folders. There are a lot of memories in these old photos.

Talking with fellow photographers, it’s often memory that comes up the most for “reasons why” people make photos. Photos are the physical or digital means to preserve moments. Often, they’re all the evidence we have of certain times or events taking place.

This is what attracted me to photography, as far back as a teenager. I would take disposable cameras with us on family trips, and I have albums full of photos from high school, college, and beyond.

Looking at those images in iPhoto, some as recent as 2011, was a good reminder of this important purpose. Five years ago doesn’t seem all that long ago, in my brain. But as I look back from the images of when I bought my first house (2011), or remodeled my office (2012), it feels like a lifetime ago. Photos help me remember, and show how much time has passed.

“Look at how skinny I was in 2010,” I tell myself. Or, “Boy, what a great Vegas trip we had in the summer of 2011.”

This is all happening by accident. My digital photo management is making me look through these old images, and as I do it it’s reminding me to remember.

Work With Your Hands

Northampton, Massachusetts

In middle school, my shop teacher was a grizzled old guy. Suspenders, beard, calloused hands – a stereotype if there ever was one. He told us to “make sure you keep things steady” while his hands shook. Neat guy.

One day he told us a story about taking a factory job as a younger man. Our teacher, the new employee, had to work 30 days in the plant without taking a day off. If he worked those 30 consecutive days, he got hired on as a full-time employee. If he missed even one day, he would be let go.

Well, he missed a day because he was violently ill. And of course he got let go from his new job. His lesson, if I remember it right, was that the real world was a tough place, and you had to work hard and pay your dues to make it.

I probably knew it earlier than seventh grade, but after hearing my shop teacher’s story, I figured out that maybe I didn’t want a blue collar job. I wanted to make things, yes, always. But not work in manufacturing – as my father had. It’s not that blue collar work was “below me.” I wasn’t “too good” for a factory job. It’s just that shop class never clicked, and hearing my teacher’s story made me worry about the prospects of working at a place like that. My future was going to be spent doing creative things with my mind.

Luckily, today we can “work with our hands” in other ways: digital projects, hobbies, crafting, writing, etc. It doesn’t have to be a full time job. The stakes are much lower.

At my previous job, there were a few college professors that spent their entire days in the abstract, teaching and reading and lecturing. When they got back home, they got their hands busy doing things like woodworking and car repair. I understood that need. It’s why I enjoy fixing things around the house when I can.

As humans, our best tools are our hands, and maybe tinkering tickles some ancient need we have as toolmakers.

It’s one of the reasons why I love making and pouring over physical things like photo books. Holding something physical, making artistic decisions about materials – I create things with my mind, and then get to hold them in my hands.

 

‘Color Correction’ by Ernst Haas

Early color photograph holds a special place in my heart. The pioneers, like William Eggleston and Joel Meyerowitz, showed that color photography could be used for more than advertising and editorial work, especially when taken out on the street.

But even before those two guys, and their comrades like Stephen Shore and Alex Webb, photographers in the 1950s were blazing a vibrant trail.

Ernst Haas was one of these trailblazers, exploring streets and urban scenes in the ’50s, and making his living as a Magnum photographer. A reissued book of Haas’s photography, Color Correction, is out from Steidl, and it’s a great overview of Haas’s personal work.

Haas sits in the same photography family as early color photographers like Saul Leiter. You get the sense that color, light, and abstraction were all tools Haas (and Leiter) used to express his personal vision.

It’s Haas’s use of light and shadow that really gets me excited. That low-key work, combined with the vibrant colors, is what attracted me to Haas in the first place.

Color Correction is an affordable look into that midcentury color photography that’s timeless and continually satisfying.

Shopping Season

Shopping Season

This time each year, all the major camera and lens companies put their products on sale, along with the rest of our consumerist-crazy world. You can get some seriously great deals from Thanksgiving to the new year.

Rebates, bundles, sales – if you’ve waited all year, and you’ve been a good boy or girl, now is the time to grab your gear.

Six years ago, it’s exactly what I did. I bought an older-model Canon Rebel T1i with a lens bundle, and it changed my life. Here I am today, a hobbyist photographer, because I jumped on a great deal during the holidays.

Here’s a tip to help you feel better about your purchases: If you shop through Amazon, use their AmazonSmile program to help your shopping dollars give back to a charity or cause you care about (my dollars support our local nature center). Or shop through the affiliate links of an artist you enjoy.

Give back to others, and those in need. And then be good to yourself, if you really mean it.

The Facebook Experiment

The Facebook Experiment

More than two months ago, I became a passive Facebook user. That means checking it only once a week or so, mostly for new messages, and tending to housekeeping. Did I get tagged in any photos? Do I have a blog post or photo to share? Who sent me a friend request? Etc.

Since then, I’ve noticed a funny thing: Facebook is really trying to get me back there every day. So much so that I get random email messages with subject lines like “So-and-so updated his/her status.”

No kidding? Someone I know updated their status? I should check that out!

Or not.

There must be some line of code at FB HQ that says “IF $days without login THEN notify Dave.” So I set up my own mailbox rule to trash those messages as they come in. I don’t see them anymore.

It’s easy to not miss Facebook. All those status updates, all those photos, all that fake outrage and fake news – when you don’t see it, you don’t miss it. And by skipping out on even being on the site, you miss out on not being advertising bait. Just think: no more of those creepy ads showing you something you just looked at on Amazon.

Most of all, it’s quiet outside of Facebook. There’s peace and calm. No drama. I find it addicting – and I’ve taken to cleaning up my Twitter timeline, too, so if I get tired of hearing about something or someone (rhymes with “Dump”), I mute it.

Peace. Quiet. I’m not ready to delete my Facebook profile just yet, but if I can get peace and quiet by avoiding the site, I’ll take it.