19 November 2009

Cool things you can do with color

Originally uploaded by jakerome
I came across this palette on Flickr done by jakerome. It is made up of a 16x16 gride of square photographs each emphasizing a single color. Put together, they produce a quilt effect. Very cool!

31 October 2009

Long time no post

It's been a busy summer and early fall, and I haven't had time to post anything in a while. So here are a few of my best shots to catch you up with what I've been doing photographically (and otherwise) for the past three months. I'm now storing photos on Flickr, so clicking on these images will take you there and you can browse at some of my other work.

After being inspired by some of the reading I was doing for the Food Course, I bought a share in a CSA farm called Urban Grains, which grows organic wheat; well, UG partners with Cedar Isle Farm which actually grows the wheat. The shareholders took a field trip in July out to the farm in Agassiz, BC, to see the wheat fields and meet the farmer. The setting was stunningly beautiful, in the Fraser Valley with the Cheam Range of the Canadian Cascades off in the distance.


In late July and early August I went to Santa Fe for the Glen Workshop, put on by Image and CIVA. I also did some touring around that part of New Mexico, visited several cousins, and saw a lot of great Spanish Colonial art and stunning landscapes. No wonder Georgia O'Keeffe and others have been so inspired there.

New Mexico

In August I went back East for my family's annual vacation at our summer cottage in Vermont. The highlight of the week was of course getting to see my nephew Isaac again. He seems to get cuter every day, if there were any possibility of ever being more cute than he already is. Sorry no public photos of him. Friends can see them on my Facebook page.

In August, and late September to early October, I had visits from two dear old friends, spent time with them at Galiano Island, and did some fun things in Vancouver. Here's a B.C. Ferry, all repainted in preparation for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, going through Active Pass as seen from Sturdies Bay on Galiano Island. Man, if only I had the new "content-aware fill" feature that Adobe Labs has been working on for some future version of Photoshop! I'd get rid of that light post in front of the ferry. Too time-consuming otherwise. But take a look at a cool demo here.

B.C. Ferry repainted for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics

I'm taking a portraiture photography class at Focal Point, the photography school which is a block from my house. (I'm so lucky!) Our teacher is Alex Waterhouse-Hayward, a well-known Vancouver-based commercial and fine art photographer who has photographed famous people including Bob Hope, Douglas Coupland, and Annie Liebovitz. He's also an avid gardener, so he likes to have us use plants as props in some of our photos, and he is teaching us to recreate certain historical styles in portraiture. He also sometimes is wacky and suggests amusing poses with props. Here are a couple of my best shots from a studio session.

This first one is heavily color adjusted in Photoshop.

Katie Johnson with Hydrangea aspera var. villosa

Jesus and Mary Magdalene

We've had the most glorious October for fall colors this year. I went out shooting some of the leaves in my neighborhood a couple of weeks ago, and this is my favorite one. It looks like they're floating on water, but they are on the hood of my neighbor's car, with reflections of the trees overhead.


Finally, I got to attend the U2 360 Tour concert in Vancouver the other night. It was a great experience. Took my trusty G9 along with me and didn't see any signs or hear any announcements about no photography allowed, so I went for it. The stage was set with this giant space ship on it. Apparently it takes so long to set up (8 days) that they had three identical sets so they could be working ahead setting up the stages for the next two concerts while performing one. This tour cost them about $750K per day! Hmmm, you wonder how many poor children in Africa Bono could have fed or given AIDS medications to if they'd kept the budget to...oh, maybe $300K per day? Still, I know he inspires many and is very generous, so I don't complain too much. It certainly was quite a spectacle.

U2 360 Tour @ BC Place, Vancouver

U2 360 Tour @ BC Place, Vancouver

05 July 2009

SoFoBoMo Book

OK, I’ve decided on a solution so that I can post my book. I added a page of text explaining the situation and posted the PDF as is. Hopefully I won’t get sued (apparently it’s not very likely: see “Can a Recipe Be Stolen?”), and maybe I’ll even inspire some purchases of the cookbooks that some of the recipes are drawn from.

Here is the link to the completed book on the SoFoBoMo page:

26 June 2009

SoFoBoMo - Finished!

I finished in perfect time! I started shooting on May 24, finished the PDF on June 23 and had 22 copies of it printed and spiral bound to give to the people involved, and got most of them distributed that same day. I had participated in a two week course on the theology of food, titled "Food: Creation, Community, and Communion." That was going to be the title of my SoFoBoMo book. I took photos throughout the entire course, of us working in the garden, cooking, and of course the food itself. I've put a selection of the best of those in my Food Course Flickr group.

But I shifted my project goal as the course progressed: I decided to create a cookbook with all the recipes of the dishes we ate -- the food was amazing! I began collecting the recipes (sometimes by photographing the page in the cookbook they came from, other times typing them in directly from a friend's description, or copying from emaikl). Fortunately, I had taken enough photos of food to illustrate the cookbook with a photo for nearly every dish (ended up using a total of 42 of them -- not always my very best shots overall, but the best of the food ones I did).

Unfortunately, I can't post it on the web, because it ended up being a cookbook (with photographs of nearly all the dishes), and some of the recipes came from copyrighted sources, and I didn't track down sources in all cases. Even when I did, I'm not sure what the legality is of republishing a recipe from a published cookbook without permission. So, while I have the personal satisfaction of having finished, I don't get credit on the SoFoBoMo website for being among those who did. Oh well, at least I learned I can finish such a project, and will be better equipped to do it next year.

Here's the front cover, at least;

07 June 2009

Food: Creation, Community, and Communion

I'm back from Galiano Island now and am still not quite sure what hit me. It was an amazing experience, hard to put in words. It was pretty exhausting -- hardly a moment to sit and think. Our routine (weekdays) was usually: breakfast at 8, morning prayers around 8:45, class from 9-12, lunch around 12:30 or so, about an hour of free time (which was all the free time we had and we had to use it to do our daily assignments), a couple of hours of work projects (either work in the garden, kitchen cleanup and meal prep, or working with our teams to research and plan the meal we were going to present), dinner, evening prayers, and occasionally a class-related movie in the evening (e.g., "The Future of Food"). Any gaps between those items were filled with walking back and forth between the Wilkinsons' house, where classes and meals were held, and the cottages most of us were staying in; showers after working in the garden and getting all sweaty; and quick checks of email.

I took 2074 photos in all over the two weeks. I'm now into Phase Two of SoFoBoMo, which is selecting which ones to keep for the book. I also want to share a larger subset of them with all the people I took the course with, so I've begun a first pass, which I'm about halfway through. The ones that haven't been weeded out so far are up on my Flickr page. A very interesting phenomenon, by the way: I was somewhat apologetic about posting a couple of potentially disturbing photos showing blood and guts from slaughtering a lamb, but those have been the most popular ones for people to go and visit -- three times as many visits on those as the average for all the other photos in the set. Go figure. I guess people are into blood and gore.

I haven't done much editing yet, other than fixing the exposure and shadows/highlights on a few of them. I'm finding I like the exposure editing features of ACDSee Pro quite well and am so far doing all the work in that, rather than Photoshop. However I know I do prefer Photoshop for detail touch-up work. It seems to preserve the pixel resolution in the vicinity of the editing better than ACDSee does. Before I went out to the island, I did a very thorough clean of my camera, including cleaning the sensor, but I still wasn't able to get rid of a few visible dust specks. So I'm anticipating I'll have to do some spot removal. I guess I will have to have my camera professionally cleaned.

11 May 2009

Eating Mercifully

The Humane Society of the US has created this short film (26 minutes) about the importance of stewardship of animals as part of God's creation. Apparently they are realizing the value of enlisting the help of people of faith in this important work, and people of faith are waking up to their responsibility to care for their fellow creatures. This is good news!

Thanks to Matt Humphrey, one of the TAs for the Food Course I'll be taking later this month, for the pointer to this video. I'll repeat his caution:

WARNING: There are some disturbing images here of the treatment of animals. I think it is essential that we become people of truth-telling, which means to face the facts rather than hide behind slogans like "that can't be true - farmers wouldn't do that." This is a call to action and faithfulness which demands thoughtful reflection and creative action.

Watch and pray.

I should point out that at about 13:49 in the video, Rev. Dr. Laura Hobgood-Oster relates a story about Jesus stopping a man from beating his mule. This is extra-biblical (it's from the Coptic Gospel found in the Nag Hammadi library). It's a nice story and quite in keeping with what Jesus might well have done, and surely many of the stories written down about him by others besides the Gospel writers really did happen. But it's non-canonical. However there are in the Bible passages that clearly talk about taking good care of animals, e.g. Proverbs 12:10 ("The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel."), Deuteronomy 22:4 ("If you see someone’s donkey or ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it. Help the owner get it to its feet."), Deuteronomy 25:4 ("Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain."), and of course the extending of the Sabbath command to animals in Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15.

05 May 2009

The Oblation of Onions

I've got my computer back up and running for the most part. Still some software yet to reinstall and some settings that aren't quite the way I had them before the crash. But at least it looks like I'll be able to go ahead with SoFoBoMo. I've been getting warmed up with some more food photos lately.

Onions are pretty amazing, you know. I've recently finished reading Robert Farrar Capon's The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection, which is a wonderful combination of cookbook and theological essay. In Chapter 2, "The First Session," he guides the reader through a truly spiritual encounter with an onion. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book. I'd been exposed to the onion exercise in a class at Regent once before (The Christian Imagination, taught by -- surprise, surprise -- Loren Wilkinsons). But it was fun to savor the chapter from which the onion experience came.

Some choice excerpts: "Once you are seated, the first order of business is to address yourself to the onion at hand....You will note, to begin with, that the onion is a thing, a being, just as you are. Savor that for a moment." Later: "But look what your onion has done for you: It has given you back the possibility of heaven as a place without encumbering you with the irrelevancy of location."

Still farther on, one of the best sections, worth quoting at length:

"Note once again what you have discovered: an onion is not a sphere in repose. It is a linear thing, a bloom of vectors thrusting upward from base to tip. Stand your onion, therefore, root end down upon the board and see it as the paradigm of life that it is--as one member of the vast living, gravity-defying troop that, across the face of the earth, moves light- and airward as long as the world lasts.

"Only now have you the perspective needed to enter the onion itself. Begin with the outermost layer of paper, or onion-skin. Be careful. In the ordinary processes of cooking, the outer skin of a sound onion is removed by peeling away the immediately underlying layers of flesh with it. It is a legitimate short cut; the working cook cannot afford the time it takes to loosen only the paper. Here, however, it is not time that matters, but the onion. Work gently then, lifting the skin with the point of your knife so as not to cut or puncture the flesh beneath."

Later on: "Perhaps now you have seen at least dimly that the uniquenesses of creation are the result of continuous creative support, of effective regard by no mean lover. He likes onions, therefore they are. The fit, the colors, the smell, the tensions, the tastes, the textures, the lines, the shapes are a response, not to some forgotten decree that there may as well be onions as turnips, but to His present delight--His intimate and immediate joy in all you have seen....With Peter, the onion says, Lord, it is good for us to be here. Yes, says God. Tov. Very good."

Later he touches on his idea which he elsewhere calls oblation: "Man's real work is to look at the things of the world and to love them for what they are. That is, after all, what God does, and man was not made in God's image for nothing. The fruits of his attention can be seen in all the arts, crafts, and sciences....But if man's attention is repaid so handsomely, his inattention costs him dearly. Every time he diagrams something instead of looking at it, every time he regards not what a thing is but what it can be made to mean to him...[r]eality slips away from him; and he is left with nothing but the oldest monstrosity in the world: an idol. Things must be met for themselves. To take them only for their meaning is to convert them into gods--to make them too important, and therefore to make them unimportant altogether. Idolatry has two faults. It is not only a slur on the true God; it is also an insult to true things."

I think a photographer's calling is very connected with this idea of attentiveness to things, of oblation (offering them up to God and to others by really seeing them and loving them).

Ron Reed, in his blog Oblations, quotes the core exposition of this idea of oblation from Capon's chapter "The Oblation of Things" in his book An Offering of Uncles. My church, Point Grey Inter-Mennonite Fellowship, is going to have Ron as a guest speaker on Sunday, Sept 6, to give a version of his talk "Oblation: The Artist's Holy Calling." Lucky us!

11 April 2009

SoFoBoMo at risk

Woe is me. My computer crashed and the hard disk is toast. I stupidly had it configured as RAID 0, not RAID 1 (I hadn't really understood all that stuff) so I don't have a duplicate drive to jump back in and keep going as if nothing had happened, as I thought I would. My latest full external backup of the drive was over four months ago (again, stupid; I should be doing them nightly). I've got the disk down at a data recovery specialist place and they will be able to retrieve it all, but it doesn't sound like they will return me a bootable drive exactly identical to the one that died. I think they're just going to get my files back for me and put them on an external drive. I will have to start fresh with a new install of the OS and reinstall all my software, etc. Very time consuming. Bleeacchh! This is a major setback and might put my entry into SoFoBoMo at risk.

No photos to share today, as I haven't been taking any, since I don't have anywhere to put them to process them and don't want to get too far ahead of myself until the computer is back up and running.

29 March 2009

More SoFoBoMo Thoughts

I did some thinking about PDF file creation and hosting, as I was coming up with an answer to Billie Mercer's question on the SoFoBoMo Flickr forum.

Here's what I wrote:

If you have CS3, perhaps you have Adobe Acrobat (the full version, not just Acrobat Reader). It comes with Creative Suite. Anyway, if you've got Acrobat, you can combine the separate PDF pages generated by Photoshop CS3 into one multi-page PDF file by starting Acrobat, clicking on "Create PDF" and selecting "From Multiple Files..." then browse to the folder where your files are located.

If you don't have (and don't feel like buying) Acrobat, another easy way to make a PDF file is to create the book in Word first. You can lay out pictures and text there however you like. Then using any of several "print-to-PDF" utilities (such as the free PDFCreator) which you would have installed first, just print from Word as if you're printing to a printer, but select the PDF output instead of your printer.

Now about hosting: Anita has her own website and she has uploaded the PDF file directly to the root folder on her website. That costs money and is non-trivial. However, there are other options that are nearly as good.

1) Try http://freepdfhosting.com (it's free, but you have to register, and you have to make a donation in order to store a PDF file larger than 2 MB which a book of high quality photos probably will be). Pretty straightforward to create an account and upload files. I haven't tried it myself, but I've Googled to find other books hosted on it. The URL will look something like this http://freepdfhosting.com/uploads/413a3e072b.pdf (you can check out that book to see an example of how your book will look).

2) Try the free webspace available through SkyDrive on Microsoft Live Spaces (http://spaces.live.com). Uploading files is pretty straightforward (once you've created your account, navigate in the browser to your public folder and click "Upload Files" then Browse on your hard disk for them), but viewing them isn't quite as smooth as if you had your own webspace. It doesn't show up embedded in the same browser window, but asks whether you want to download the file. And the URLs aren't very nice. But you can store up to 25 GB for free.

3) Try creating a free website on Google Sites (http://sites.google.com). Pretty straightforward to sign up for an account and create a new site. You need to upload your PDF file as an "attachment" to some page in your site (e.g., your home page), but then you can point people to the URL of the file directly. File size limit: 10 MB per attachment.

4) Try uploading the PDF file directly to Google Docs (http://docs.google.com). Like Google Sites, you have to have (or create) a Google account to do this. But once you've got one and are logged in, just click Upload, Browse your computer to find the file, and click "Upload File." Again, the URLs aren't very nice, and there's a bunch of Google Docs framework stuff at the top and right of the window. File size limit: 10 MB per PDF.

None of those solutions is IDEAL, but they're all pretty simple and have varying advantages/disadvantages.

I have realized that I can't just do a Blurb book, because I do want to have a PDF result to post online, and Blurb doesn't give you one. So I'm back to the drawing board planning to either use InDesign (which I'd need to spend some more time learning) or Word. I don't want to have to do the layout twice (both for PDF and for the printed Blurb book), so I'm going to try to do what someone else suggested and just export the individual PDF pages (complete with text and photos) as JPGs and plop them in to Blurb pages one at a time with full bleed. I'd like to try that once before the real thing comes along. I still think I'm going to go with Issuu for the hosting, as I really like its polished looke and page-turning interface.

Another thing I've decided to do, at the recommendation of an artist friend, is to prepare for the actual shooting I'm planning to do over the two weeks of the Food Course by photographing my meals from now until then. I think that not only will that discipline prepare me for the SoFoBoMo task, but it will also prepare me for the contemplative aspects of the Food Course. It will make me more mindful of what and how I'm eating, and it will help me to slow down as I approach my meals. Perhaps I'll be more grateful for them, too.

OK, here goes the first meal. Took 23 shots and kept 6 of them, to tell the story of my dinner.

Hmmm, a full fridge, but nothing interesting to eat...

Besides, I haven't done dishes in weeks and there's gross stuff growing in my big cooking pot...

I guess it's one of those frozen dinner days...

Zap it...

Nice and hot...


Back from Boston

I had a wonderful visit with my nephew Isaac over the past week. There's nothing like spending time with a baby to bring you back in touch with what is fundamental about being human. All other things fade in importance when you're looking into his eyes and babbling back and forth with him. I could sit with him on my lap for hours mesmerized by his little movements, his attentive looks, and his adorable smiles and coos. It was very hard to tear myself away to go to the airport. Here are a few choice photos.

15 March 2009

SoFoBoMo 2009

The challenge is on again this year, to complete a photography book, from start to finish, in one month. It's called SoFoBoMo (for Solo Photography Book Month) because it's loosely modeled after NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and NaSoAlMo (National Solo Album Month). Last year 170 photographers signed up, and 60 of them completed their books. That shows it is challenging, but not impossible.

This year I will be taking part in a two-week intensive course on the theology of food, called "Food: Creation, Community, and Communion," on Galiano Island, from May 25 to June 5. My intention is to photograph every aspect of this course, the participants, learning, gardening, slaughtering a lamb, cooking, partaking in meals, celebrating communion, etc. This book will be a documentation of the course. I plan to complete it by June 25, 2009. I am even hoping to get credit for doing this as my optional extra project.

Today's photo is of one of the sheep from Hunterston Farm on Galiano Island, with her triplet lambs. Who knows? Maybe one of these lambs will be the one we slaughter for the Food Course. I shudder to think of it. Reminds of me of the time when my mother went to visit her cousins as a kid and she naively asked "where's Blackie?" (their pet lamb). Her cousin blithely replied, "Oh, he's in the freezer." I guess, though, when you live on a farm, that's part of life. I don't know how they choose one to slaughter for this course. It seems such an ominous thing to do, but of course humanely slaughtering an animal on one's own farm for the purpose of food is far better than what they do in commercial slaughterhouses. I'm sure I will be learning more about all of this in this course.

16 February 2009

Getting feedback

I'm thrilled to report that my bleeding heart photo (see Feb 13 post) was selected by one of the admins of the "A" Class group on Flickr, and I was invited to post it on their best Valentine's Day photos thread. What a way to get more traffic and comments! Much as I like to think I do my photography just for the joy of it and to be a blessing to others, I have to admit to some baser motives: the kudos I get are part of what keeps me going.

It's been a while since I've done a mystery photo, so here's one.

13 February 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

This is a repost, but it's seasonally appropriate, and I don't have anything new right now. As you can probably tell, my project of taking 100 photos a day got derailed. I'll try to get back to taking some new photos for the blog soon, but I had a few deadlines to meet on other stuff.

14 January 2009

One Hundred Photos a Day

I'm starting a new challenge that an artist friend/mentor has given me to get in practice for SoFoBoMo 2009 (Solo Photography Book Month) in May/June: take 100 photos a day for 30 days, cull them down to the best three each day, and then pick the 35 best ones of the 90 I end up with at the end of the month. I'm to attempt to shoot photos in a theme, and look for ways to connect the best photos of each day using that theme; a new theme might emerge as I look over my photos for the first few days, which is OK; but then I should direct my shooting for the subsequent days to fill out that theme.

This is a good challenge for me, as I never shoot this way. I'm finding it really hard to even shoot 100 photos a day. I can do that with no problem when I'm travelling somewhere outside my home turf, but it's harder with the familiar. The first day I took 20. The second day I did better and took 73. The third day I did none. And today (well...it's yesterday by now, it's nearly 2:30am), I have taken only 60 and am about ready to call it a night and go to bed.

Here are a few of the photos from the past three sessions:

This one I took when I thought I was working on a theme called "thresholds":

I was thinking this next one could be part of a series called Departure.

This one doesn't fit into any particular theme, but I like how it came out. It took the most set-up and post-processing of all the photos so far.

This one I've titled "Constellations" -- see the constellation reflected in the Christmas ball, as well as the constellation of lights on the tree? Kind of a Little Dipper / Big Dipper pairing. Not set up. It just turned out that way (after some cropping), and I didn't even notice the resemblance to the dippers until now.

So, you see, I'm not very good at finding a theme to tie all my photos together, or sticking to a theme I've pre-selected. This project is going to be very hard!

04 January 2009

From the archives

I haven't gotten out to do much shooting in the snow apart from that one day. I've actually not even gotten outside much. I still haven't dug my car out in two weeks. Church was cancelled a second week in a row this morning, due to the snow and ice on the roads. So I've been spending lots of time inside, and one of my projects has been scanning old photos and slides.

Here's one from my archives. Taken in 2004, it's of the piano at Regent College. Taken on my old Yashica 230-AF, on Fujichrome Sensia slide film.


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