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Family fun in California.

Last weekend I went to California for the wedding of my dear old friend Sean to a woman I had never met but who seems quite lovely. The wedding was beautiful. It took place outside at a bed & breakfast in Fort Bragg, CA, a little town along the coast about 3 hours north of San Francisco. They had llamas and dancing and vegetarian food and lights and the whole thing was really nice.

I didn’t take a single fucking photo of that bullshit.

Instead, I took a bunch of photos of my brother’s young family at their house in San Rafael (which any person from the Bay Area will know is pronounced “san ra-fell”). Take a look!

[flickrset id=”72157627794973319″ thumbnail=”square” photos=”” overlay=”true” size=”large”]

I think the photos are nice. Nothing crazy special about them. I am totally in love with my niece Sienna though. My favorite moments of the trip where when she’d come in and wake me up on the sofa. “Hi, uncle Joe.” “Hi, SJ.” “Did you see my doll?” “I do now, SJ.”

Here’s a good example.

And then I got this e-mail from Leah.

Subject: Sienna misses joe.

When I just put sienna down she asked me to tuck her in like a baby burrito and call her SJ.’ Then she said ‘why did uncle joe have to go back to new York?’

Reference: the first night there I read her a bedtime story and then tucked her in and told her I was wrapping her up like a baby burrito. God damn, don’t you just want to smother her?

Barcelona, un viaje por una boda, 2011

This is the first set of photos I’ve posted to The Black Laser since July of last year. Holy crap! Where has all the time gone?

To be honest, I’ve not felt very photographically motivated for some time and I even considered not bringing my camera with me on the trip to Spain. But, I am glad I did. Nothing like yanking you from your typical surroundings to get the old creative juices flowing. Also, jamon.

I’ve posted the whole gallery here instead of giving you a separate link because my other Flickr plug-in seems to be broken and I am not sure why. That’s pretty annoying, but this new way will work just the same.

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Thoughts: don’t have too many. There are some nice photos here, and some really nice photos here. I am quite pleased with the edited set, down from nearly 600 photos. My photos look as much like my photos as they ever have and it’s clear that I am not seeing things all that differently than the last time I was motivated to take my camera out. I did try and focus on making sure I didn’t have too many redundant photos in the set, something that has been a weakness of mine in the past.

As a document of my trip through Spain goes, the photos are nice and that’s all I could hope for.

Nina & Robin, New York & Vermont 7/23/2010

Last week, a couple of old friends of mine came to visit me here in New York for a week and a bit. Here’s an incomplete list of the things we did while they were here.

  • Went to see Landmine Marathon and Salome.
  • Shopped at the farmers’ market.
  • Made dinner and drank wine.
  • Saw Heartless Bastards at Bowery Ballroom.
  • Imitated my sister Tullia.
  • Danced to the DJ stylings of The Roots’ ?uestlove at Brooklyn Bowl.
  • Looked at art in the Guggenheim.
  • Wandered through a healthy portion of Central Park.
  • Ate at one of my favorite diners by Columbus Circle.
  • Danced until delirious to 60s Soul Music.
  • Watched an entire season of The Simpsons.
  • Roasted a chicken.
  • Drove to Vermont.
  • Swam.
  • Fished.
  • Sent a bunch of logs to hell.
  • Ate the biggest marshmallows I’ve ever seen.
  • Drove back from Vermont.
  • Ate ate DuMont, which I love to no end.
  • Wandered through lower Manhattan until the girls’ feet hurt.
  • Bought delightful mugs at Fishs Eddy.
  • Watched the sun set over the East River and drank wine.
  • Sprinkled the week with bacon, egg, and cheeses.
  • Had an awesome time.

Really, it was the best trip ever. This summer has been so rad so far I might explode.

We were pretty busy and I didn’t really take as many photos as I’d have liked, but therein is the trade off. Do I spend time taking photos a few feet back from the action, or do I neglect the photos in order to be part of the game. In this case, the latter won out, so you only get 67 photos of the time they were here. Not too bad, but not a whole lot, either.

Here’s a link to the gallery.

Here is a quick selection of some of my favorites.

My prime-lens-only tear continues. After the disappointment I experienced with my old 50 f/1.8 in Telluride, I went out and had an impulsive moment and purchased the 50 f/1.4. Pocketbook lighter, I have to say I am not upset with the purchase. It brings that focal length up to par with my 28 and 85 in terms of handling, making it a much more useful and friendly place to work. Not only that, but if you manage to nail the focus at f/1.4, it looks great. The 50 accounts for 53 of the 67 photos in the set. To me it is obvious which ones are not the 50, but see if you can tell.

Anyway, I love the compositional restriction afforded by the prime lenses. No, that’s not exactly right. I love that there is no noodling about with zoom to make me miss a moment. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: primes rule. There is a time and place for zoom lenses certainly, like when your movement will be restricted or when you’re shooting a party and you need to be able to cover all sorts of focal lengths quickly. But for the type of photography I do mostly, primes are really nice. First, they’re faster than their zoom equivalents. Second, they’re less expensive. Third, they’re lighter. What’s not to like about that? So you can’t zoom between 28 and 135 mm. So what? Any zoom with that great of a range that is affordable is a piece of junk. Limits encourage creativity.

Truthfully, I’m not sure I’d think this way if I hadn’t spent so much time shooting with zoom lenses, first the Tamrom 28-75, and then the Canon 24-105. The Tamron is long gone, and the Canon gathers dust in the drawer. Who needs it?

Telluride Bluegrass and Country Music Festival 6/17/2010

JJ and I drove into Colorado on a semi-whim to attend this year’s Bluegrass and Country Music Festival. We arrived on the 17th (my birthday) and drove on out of there Monday the 21st. We logged 2400 miles of driving over the course of 4 days, all of which I did. It was absolutely epic.

The festival itself was totally amazing. Of course, I took photos the whole time. I only hit about 330, which is low for me, but I was doing a lot of partying and hanging out and whatever that got in the way of my efficient photo taking. Oh well. I had a blast.

On the way back, we had to take a detour around the Grand Canyon because of a fire raging outside Flagstaff. We’d seen the beginning of the fire on our way through the first time, but it has gotten so out of hand that they closed off 13 miles of highway just a few days later. Smartly, we stopped and got out to sight-see at the Grand Canyon and we lucky enough to experience it completely filled with smoke from the nearby fire at sunset. Pretty god damned awesome.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Check out the whole gallery here:

As far as thoughts on technique, I decided to shoot with only primes. Seeing these dudes walking around with their huge zooms and crap gave me a delightfully smug shudder of pleasure knowing that I was probably taking nicer looking photos than they were. But I might just be an arrogant prick. Whatevs.

My beloved 85 f/1.8 performed as amazingly as ever. The 28 f/1.8, though harder to use, worked nicely as well. But the poor 50 f/1.8 really had trouble nailing focus. Enough so that it ruined a bunch of photos that would otherwise have been just fine. Looking through the first two days of pictures today, I regretted sticking with the 50 both days because of the sheer number of just-out-of-focus photos. It made me angry. I will be purchasing the 50 f/1.4 as soon as I can not for it’s slightly faster aperture, but for its improved autofocus. I refuse to let a shoddy, cheap shit lens, ruin another photo. If my photos are going to be ruined, I want the fault to be my own.

Either way, I think there are some good photos in the set. Enjoy.

Wandering around – 3/20/2010

After seeing my apartment last weekend, Mike and I wandered and met up with some friends so a rooftop barbeque and beers. It was the spiritual start of the summer.

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Nothing too special about this set. Just some photos of friends on an entirely mellow day.

Photos of my new apartment.

Because I am SO excited, Michael and I went over to my new place on Saturday to measure and decide where I want to put the furniture I need to purchase. Fun! I also took the opportunity to take photos of the place so I could share with all my loyal readers out there in Interwebsland.

Pretty neat, eh? I think so.

An Analysis of 2009 – The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories.

Now that February is clipping along rapidly, my application to Hunter is finished and submitted, and I have had a moment to think about the results of last year’s theme, the time has arrived to discuss 2009 – The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories. I know that you were all super excited for yet another text-heavy Black Laser posting in which I muse about things that matter to me but probably don’t matter to you. Isn’t the internet wonderful?

In case you missed it, here is my original statement of intent for 2009.

2009 was wildly successful for my photo work. Not only did I hit 5017 out of 5000 photos, but I really do think that my photos got noticeably better over the course of the year. I’ve throw together a gallery of some of my favorites from the last year. There’s no rhyme or reason for the selections; I just went through 2009 and picked a bunch I liked. They are arranged in chronological order, oldest first.

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I took a lot of good photos and a handful of great ones. I feel much more confident with my tools than I did before. I learned and experimented and limited myself. Tremendous success. We’ll see how many photos I take this year. I’ve hardly touched my camera since the year began because I was working so hard on my graduate school application, but that will soon change. Making photos is fun and rewarding, even if I don’t make a damned dollar doing it.

Here are all the galleries I’ve posted on this site. Anything tagged “Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories” is, obviously, part of this theme.

The results of my writing last year are much less clear. In one quantitative manner, it was only a partial success with only 38 of 50 short stories being written. Even once I lowered my goals in terms of word count, I was unable to get as much done as I had strived for. There is no excuse really. I missed the mark and that’s it. It’s disappointing too, because once I really got down to it, I was able to crank out piece after piece. Between the middle of November and the end of the year I wrote 36 of my 38 short stories. If you do the math, that works out to an average of 6 stories a week for 6 weeks. Not bad at all.

And that’s the rub. More importantly than whether or not I met the quota I set for myself in December of 2008, in terms of my skills as a writer, I think that 2009 was a complete success. Writing as often and as much as I did undoubtedly helped my writing. “Duh,” you say, but it’s true. I believe that whipping through those short stories made me a stronger writer. It’s one thing to know that practice makes you better at things, but it’s entirely different to have experienced it. I am sure that the writing I did last year contributed directly to the quality of my creative submission to Hunter this year, which is quite clearly superior to the work I submitted last year. And that is awesome.

I’m still not that great with writing about myself, though.

Check out all posts with the tag “Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories” to see the work I did.

This year I’ve already written 1 of my assigned 12 Finished Short Stories. I’ve not yet done any real work on the music videos, but it is only February and there is time. I hope to continue the roll I started in November when I decided that all the worrying I was doing about the quality of my work was preventing me from doing any at all (stupid). I’ve got more writing to do and photos to make. It feels great to make something out of nothing, and I hope all you lovely readers of my tiny speck on the face of the Interwebs will continue to read and look. And if you don’t, at the very least, I enjoy it all and that’s really what matters.

Karaoke – 12/11/2009

It has been a little while since I last posted photos, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been taking them.

On one of the first really cold nights of the season, we all decided to going sing karaoke. It was totally epic. I’ll give you a million brownie points if you can guess who in the group was singing musical theatre. Hint: it wasn’t the photographer.

Here is a link to the whole gallery.

Here are a few of my favorite photos.

Don’t you want to come sing karaoke with me now?