2016 Music Recommendations

VOLA – Inmazes

VOLA kind of came out of nowhere for me.

Well, they came from somewhere: Spotify’s Progressive Metal list. As soon as I heard “Starburn,” I knew they were my kind of band. Dynamic, heavy, beautiful, different – VOLA’s Inmazes combines djent, prog, and electronics in novel ways. All of Inmazes is a treat. Standouts include the title track, “Starburn,” and “Your Mind Is a Helpless Dreamer.”

My album of the year. So good.

Big Big Train – Folklore

Another in the new-prog discoveries, Big Big Train makes pastoral progressive rock that’s a lot of fun. “Wassail” was my favorite from this album – and thanks to that song, I’m making an traditional wassail cider for the holidays.

Frost* – Falling Satellites

Boy, what a discovery “Milliontown” was for me. Twenty six minutes of pure prog glory. Frost* made a poppier effort with Falling Satellites: less prog epics but more prog experiments (ProgStep? It’s in there!). It’s been in near constant rotation since the fall.

The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it

An outlier for music this year, and even though I greatly prefer their first album, the 1975 snuck up on me. They’re the rare modern band that breaks through the noise and make themselves known (it helps that I follow a bunch of my former college students on Twitter). I like it when you sleep… is quiet a bit too often for my liking, but the upbeat tracks are a lot of fun in that grimy, party-hardy English way.

Haken – Affinity

More on the prog metal side of things, Haken’s Affinity is a nice callback to the mid ’80s in that rose-colored glasses kind of way that made Stranger Things such a fun series. I mean, just listen to that synth and guitar line in “1985.”

My favorite is “Earthrise” – a gung-ho prog romp if there ever was one. You can’t beat that opening piano riff.

The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem

Want to see me have a meltdown on Twitter? Just go back to earlier this year during The Hip’s final show. Man Machine Poem is a weird, beautiful, potential goodbye from Canada’s hometown band. “Machine” says “so long” in such a haunting way (“I dream like a bird”), it’s all you can do not to break down at the end. Or pump your first in celebration.

“I tried nothing, and I’m out of ideas,” Gord sings. I doubt that – but it’s a fine idea to finish things up.

Honorable mentions:

Tycho, Epoch : Big surprise album from one of my fav electronic bands.

The Pineapple Thief, Your Wilderness: More good stuff from a great band. Missing Porcupine Tree? These guys will help fill the void with PT’s Gavin Harrison on drums.

Photos Per Year

Photos Per Year

What’s your PPY rate?

What’s amazing to me, looking at the past few years’ worth of photographs, is how (a) I take more photos and (b) it seems to be affected by what takes place in each of those years.

Did I take a wedding job? Did I take more iPhone photos? Did we take a big summer family trip? Heck, I have photos from 2015 that I haven’t even processed yet. They’re just sitting there, waiting for some Lightroom attention.

This year, I’ll hit 11,000 photos no problem. A new kiddo will do that.

Our Photos Per Year tell us a lot about the activities and output of each year. We take breaks. Life happens. We shoot more months than others.

More importantly, do we have an emotional attachment to that Photos Per Year rate? Do we feel bad we didn’t take as many photos this year as last? Why is that? Will taking more photos next year help us feel better?

Christmas Cookies

Every year for Christmas my wife makes these great molasses cookies – a ton of them, with homemade frosting.

We take a day and decorate them in our favorite themes and characters, and then we share with friends and family over the holidays. It’s a great little family tradition.

I’ve missed working on video stuff so much since leaving Albion that I grabbed my Canon 6D, a 50mm lens, and took some video and photos. It was fun to edit footage and make a little film again. The process is one of those flow state situations, and I do miss it.

In photography, think about photo projects or series as opposed to single images. So many of us simply capture little snippets of video of family, friends, and outings. With all the (free!) tools at our disposal, it’d be fun to see more people put in the effort to making video stories, not just clips.

A Small Fraction


Buy Books, Not Gear

Eric Kim, in a classic:

I would argue that buying even 5 great street photography books will do more for your photography than any lens out there would. And assuming that each photo-book was $50, that would cost $250. That is a small fraction of any lens that you could purchase out there.

Good reminder this weekend, when you have some time for reading. And for the holiday season, when those Amazon gift cards come rolling in.

Holiday Habits

Holiday Habits

I have two habits around the holidays.

One: I take the last day I’m at work and clean my office. Dust, vacuum,  straighten up – I’m going to be gone for a few days, so it’s good to get it tidy. This is a great thing to do right before a vacation, too. That way, when you get back, everything’s in ship shape.

Two: I take a break from social media. This year, it will be an even bigger break than I’ve been playing with the past few months.

The holidays, and this first part of winter, are a quiet time. I like quiet music, quiet weather (snow!), quiet nights at home watching movies and basking in the warm glow of Christmas lights. Peace and quiet.

Twitter and Instagram and everything else are noise, so they’re not allowed. Not for a week or two. Instead, I spend time with family and make things and share in the season with friends and family.

This is a good practice during vacations, too. Save all your photo sharing until you’re back home, and have had time to process your time away.

Soon, I bet you’ll look forward to these habits. Time away does us all some good.

Ben Sasso’s Creative Manifesto

Super enthusiastic photographer Ben Sasso has a list of things to kick-start your creativity, including this “Know Your Craft” gem:

Study the greats that came before you. Don’t just look at the greats, actually study them. What makes their work stand out among the rest? How do they use light in interesting ways? How do you feel when you look at their images and what’s making you feel that way? Know their work so you can know more about your own.

Sasso’s advice echoes a lot of the Creativity Racket™ out there (experiment, be yourself, be original, etc.), but it’s a nice reminder that we all have quibbles and quirks, and that’s okay.

His “it’s okay to take a second for yourself during a shoot” note is especially apt for those of us that get wound up or nervous during shoots.

More Canon 5D Love

Hidden Corners - Ann Arbor, MI

From Tom W:

You Don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great image. If your main hope is for fantastic image quality outdoors and if your willing to settle for lower dynamic range or high ISO performance there are a number of fantastic choices for photographers looking to start out in the world of full frame cameras.

A modern classic indeed. Everything old is new again.

(Via Robert-Paul Jansen.)