What You Might Build

Turn off those notifications, turn your phone over, turn on your favorite music, stare at your blank slate and consider what you might build.

The Builder’s High – Rands in Repose

This is increasingly why I’m spending less and less time on certain social media sites. Why consume others’ experiences when you can be busy making your own?

I like to make things. I like to be busy, and creative, and knee-deep in a photo or writing project.

Snowed In

Snowed In: Mail Stop

We here in Michigan were walloped this weekend – bitter cold, freezing winds, and tons of snowfall.

So what better to do than head out and grab some photos?

Snowed In: Low

Below-zero temperatures and a hazy cloud cover made for some lovely light, especially around sunset. During the day, I had to head out and shovel my driveway, and grabbed some images while knee-deep in snow.

Snowed In: Shiver

To cool off (ha!), I took a walk down the road to see what the rest of the neighborhood looked like. Luckily most of my neighborhood roads were plowed, but some areas were still untouched.

Snowed In: Red

I didn’t get very far down the road before the conditions turned me back home. But weather like this doesn’t happen like it used to, even here in Michigan.

So why not capture the day?

Snowed In: Lights

Sweet Home Chicago

Chicago: Ivy

I often tell people that I get to Chicago at least once a year.

This year? It’s more like five or six.

Chicago: Union Station Stairs

A fun trip. Another fun trip. A business trip. A work trip. A conference. It seems I’m heading to the Windy City, on average, every other month.

And boy, I don’t mind. Every time I head to Chicago, whether for personal trips or business, it feels like a getaway.

Chicago: At Work

I’ve said it before: I feel like I know Chicago better than I do my nearby metro area. That goes mainly for the downtown areas, because once I get out of the main hub of Chicago I’m not so confident – whereas in Detroit, I know the surrounding areas fairly well.

But since taking up photography as a hobby, Chicago has been one of my favorite subjects. The people, the architecture, the city life – it’s a smorgasbord of photo opps.

Chicago: Waiting Line

For a work trip back in October, I hit the streets to specifically grab more street photos than anything else.

Chicago: Under El

Chicago: Framed Spire

Chicago: Back Alley Infrastructure

Chicago: Justin

(Most photos taken with Canon EOS M and EF-M 22mm f/2, edited in Lightroom with VSCO Film 03)

Happy New Year

A New Year’s message, as I do every year, from Dr. Carl Sagan:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Have a safe and happy new year, all.

How I Use Flickr

Colin+Maria Wedding: Rehearsal Dinner

I’ve been a proud member of Flickr since 2006.

Back then, it was merely a repository of my photos: goofy self portraits, vacation pics, even stuff with my friends. This was before I got “serious” with photography. It was my digital photo album.

Now, it’s a carefully-crafted showcase for my artsy side. No more mass uploading dozens of photos at once, no more being careless with my tagging system.

I’ve grown and developed (ha!) as Flickr has.



Most days I post three or four photos that I’ve worked on, and I carefully cultivate my tags. I tend to upload from Aperture, because I like its uploading interface better (even if it does have an issue with multi-word keywords/tags) than Lightroom’s.

Once in a while I’ll post an entire set all at once, just to get it out of the way. A lot of those photos will never be seen because of Flickr’s you-only-see-five-photos-at-once-on-the-following-page rule. But some of my sets would take forever to upload at five photos a day.

I keep a folder in Aperture of stuff to upload, and every day I grab a random five images and post those to Flickr. When I add new photos to my Aperture library, I’ll grab a few and queue them for uploading, too.

On and on it goes.

Sparton Plant: Faucet


Tags. Sets. Galleries. Tons of ways to organize images on Flickr. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. I feel like I don’t have my own digital asset management house in order at home, and that often translates into sloppy organization on the Flickr end of things.

But thankfully Flickr makes it easy to correct all that. In the Organize tab, I often grab a batch of images and add more metadata to them.

For Sets, too often I feel like I could have a million variations based on location, color, style, subject, etc. Some photographers do a great job, but I tend to stick to a smaller number of sets until I find an image that doesn’t fit into a category.

Is it a vacation spot? Is it a specific project? Does it fit into a set that already exists? Do I want this group of photos to stand out on their own?

I know myself well enough to know that my lazy organization habits will opt for tucking photos into a group that already exists, so I try to make them as broad as ever. Sometimes, I’ll go back through and add photos to new sets I’ve developed, like my new season-based sets.

As far as Galleries, I’ve only made one highlighting the most gorgeous piece of Apple hardware ever.


Flickr acts as the hub for all my photo sharing.

Every photo I post here to the blog is actually a link back to the Flickr image. That way I don’t have to worry about uploading images, or people grabbing them willy-nilly. Photos live in one place. Period.

And every Friday I do a #FlickrFriday post on Twitter with a link back to (you guessed it) an image on my Flickr account.

The one exception is Facebook. There, I do upload specific albums of family and friends photos that might not be appropriate for Flickr. But often there’s some cross-posting to both, especially in the case of vacation photos.

Also, Flickr’s Group system is a great way to share like-minded photos. I don’t always remember to do so, but there are a few active groups I dip in and out of, adding my images to the mix.

Fuji X100: See-Through


To be honest, I still use Flickr as a backup mechanism.

I’m grandfathered in under the old membership rules and am exempt from the terabyte limit (although I only use, according to Flickr, “0.025 TB of unlimited”). It’s nice not to worry about archive space like I am at home – I can upload to my heart’s content.

It’s peace of mind knowing that most of my best photos are archived up there at Yahoo! HQ. I’m not super clear on if Flickr compresses the photos after you upload them (like Facebook shamefully does), but something is better than nothing.

South Haven: Long Grass


You know what’s super helpful? EXIF data.

I’m appreciative of the photographers who include it in their photos, because it’s a great educational tool. Not to copy, but to simply learn.

I’m also a big believer in absorbing good photography so you know what to look for in your own images. “If you can see it, you can do it,” my college professor said. Meaning: if you can see the logic and skill applied in making good art, you can apply similar strategies.

So, like 500px, Flickr is a great learning space – for what’s new, for techniques, for upcoming styles, and sometimes for what not to do. Especially for when you find good photographers to follow on Flickr. With “Following,” you always have a good stream of quality stuff coming through.

Some photographers I follow:

Zachary Snellenberger
Ken Fager
Jorge Quinteros
TGKW (sometimes NSFW)
Ben Minor
Grant Hutchinson
Anastasia Volkova

So I’ll stick with Flickr for the foreseeable future, past the changes and updates and whatnot, until something happens that’s unforgivable. I get a lot of use out of it. I enjoy using it. The $25/year for a Pro membership has always been worth it.

Spock’s Beard

Sure, prog rock was kind of dorky back in the early 2000s (or 1970s, or…). But no one had more fun on stage than Spock’s Beard back in the day.

Skip to 0:55:00 for the best version of “Waste Away” I’ve seen. So fun.

I saw them live, opening up for Dream Theater, at the Phoenix Plaza in Pontiac, MI, the summer of 2000. And from there, I went on to buy V and it changed my life.

Play With Images

To this day I still get excited when I feed a card into the computer and begin to play with the images; it’s like painting or sculpting, getting my hands dirty. It’s a step of the process I thoroughly enjoy, however time consuming it may be.

Film, Kage stuff… It’s Friday. — laROQUE

Indeed. I like playing around with a few images, just to get the look and style down, and then going to town on the rest.

What else I’ve found helpful: not touching the photos for a while – like a month or longer. It makes editing/culling easier, because there’s no longer an emotional attachment.