Friday, February 12, 2016

Curing My Digital Impotence- Take II

Thought I was done with the very thought of digital for quite some time when I bought, and then rather quickly sold, my XT-1 last year. An ill fated love affair, I was done, cured, free of digital's ominous curse, and back in the analog arms of my one true love. And then something happened this winter that turned my head in an unforeseen direction...

The picture that started it all (over again)... Photo: Lisa Wood (aka- The Wife)

On my way to get a beer in the kitchen I noticed a small cute footprint on our living room table top. It was a very light and powdered print (probably made by the cat's litter residue), not easily seen. When I pointed it out to my wife she immediately reached for her iphone as I told her to wait until I turned the light on. As I took the two steps to do just that, she had already taken the picture, applied the proper "filter," and was posting it on Instagram.

Here I was, the alleged photographer of the household, and she had taken pretty much the exact picture I had imagined- while all I could do was think how long it would take me to: get the tripod, set up lights, look for close up filters... All to get as good a shot as the one above- now that set me to thinking...

What I really need is not the digital do everything (and more) equivalent of my current analog kit- I need a digital tool that will supply certain options... A camera that will allow me to: extend the winter light, get me the occasional square format photo, the occasional color photo, the occasional shot from the hip, etc. A tool (don't say iphone- just don't) that will help me do what I can't already do- at least not very easily. And on budget (of course), say... under $500!

Now I had several (used) options to consider: a Sony Nex 6, a Lumix GX1, a Nikon Coolpix A, a Ricoh GR (amongst others); all having their pluses and minuses. The Sony is fairly attractive, but the GX1 is a lovely little thing, and at $150 for a VG Cond body, ever the more attractive! You can get get inexpensive quality 28 and 40(e) lenses for it, and even an optional EVF- this started to look the winner. A refurbished Coolpix A (a formerly $1,000 camera) could be gotten for a cool $300, and then there was the GR, despite the cult raves- it doesn't even look the camera, not really. Time to think some more...

The Sony compact kit lens sucks incredibly bad at the wide end where I'd use it most, and their 28mm(e) pancake is no winner either. The price of the Coolpix A was tempting indeed- but no 4:3, 1:1 aspect ratio options! Did Nikon do that strictly out of spite? The GX1 seemed the hands down winner: good looking, interchangeable lenses, versatile- even an optional EVF! And that's when I really got to thinking...

This wasn't about a versatile digital replacement, already been down that road. And already learned that focusing and composing on an EVF is not my cup o' tea; could using an LCD be any worse? Maybe, probably- but this after all is going to be my emergency supplement camera, not my main squeeze. And that's when the Ricoh GR, the camera I had dismissed as some kind of cult freak toy really started to come unto its own as the best possible option. Here was a functional, bring anywhere tool that could fit my emergency needs as well as my pocket (literally and figuratively) quite nicely. When I saw a very minty version for $450, I bit.

Its actual usage remains to be seen, and I'm anxious to find out- but it's supernatural portability seems to guarantee it's longevity (even if the wife says I'll sell it within a month)...

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Under Construction

Photo: © S. Banos

I've been restoring my least damaged files at record pace in my spare time (and will continue long as I can). Along with some recent work and a few previously completed, I've completed over 60 hi res files; anxious to self publish and show something for the effort, I was wondering how the hell I would eventually edit an appropriate number into book form since there is no particular theme or set subject matter. The photography world in particular is prone to conniptions when things are not edited into a neatly packaged and uniform viewing platform, and understandably so- to a degree. I've never understood the photographic art world's  complete aversion to viewing images that are not specifically related, particularly since we do it every day without chronic after effect.

So I did a preliminary walk through, and it just so happened that approx 30 contained people, and an equal number didn't. Talk about self presenting solutions... how about a two volume set (never thought I'd utter those three words!), each approx 40 images- one featuring various humans; the other featuring only their signature, tell tale signs of chaos and achievement. Certainly not a tight enough edit for most photography connoisseurs; then again, I'm not operating under any delusions of curators beating a path to my door. This "legacy project" is one of several more to come in securing what I've continued to accrue- and what is left me.

And everyone will most assuredly be welcome to view the results, I'm guessing sometime late next fall- barring any major lifestyle complications...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"Most Of The Global Economy Will Be Dedicated To Keeping The Water Away"

Most of the time when you tell people that climate change will raise the temperature worldwide a few degrees- they either glaze over or... laugh in your face. This brings it on home in no uncertain terms- unchecked global warming (which is what we continue to have despite and because of all the political hot air rhetoric) will be a world wide catastrophe in a hundred years (and even worse a hundred later), with many a major and world renown city abandoned and underwater...

I won't be here- will your children?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Publication Opportunity...

Andy Adams will be reviewing images for Der Greif Magazine- deadline 1/28, submitting is free! Details, here...

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Analog Seasonal Blues!!!

One of the things we’re sad about today is that Photographers don’t walk around with a camera all the time and photograph without a project.          -Richard Benson

Ain't that the truth...

Which brings me to the point, that every year at this time... I flat out freakin' panic! Like many a serious amateur, I'm fairly religious (yes, I'm usually packin', except at night, when I'm happy to say- fuck it!). Consummate weekend warrior, I also try to finagle whatever lunch and break period one can during the live long, work a day week. But November thru February are the pits. Go home from work in the dark, wake up "late" on weekends at 9, have a lazy breakfast on the computer, household chores for a few minutes, and its 2 'oclock- 2 hrs before it's dark, and considerably less should you happen to engage in an errand or two....

This is when I grow desperately jealous of my digital brethren, all they need do is raise their ISO setting- easy peasy! So my analog only will frays and goes fickle, my eyes start to stray and wander as to what it would be like to own a brand spanking new X70, or (considerably more feasible) how about a used GR?!? Just point them things anywhere, anytime- don't even have to look! Every winter solstice I persevere through this, and even after purchasing a top of the line XT1 last summer (and selling it within a month), I still wonder if I could better endure these dark seasonal passages if only I had a little digital something, something- anything to raise my hopes and ISO...

Honestly, not much going in the winter months unless you're into winter sports or snowy scenics. People don dark formless clothing, moving about from one indoor place to another; the photo ops they help create in the casual summer months are noticeably absent- how many all time, memorable photographs can you remember with knee high, pee stained snow banks in the background?

So why sweat it at all? Soon the light returns...

This baby still looks like what a digital 21st century camera (from the future) should look like!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Making America Great Again!

Are you serious?
Apologies for freedom, I can’t handle this.
When freedom rings, answer the call!
On your feet, stand up tall!
Freedom's on our shoulders, USA!
Enemies of freedom face the music, c'mon boys, take them down
President Donald Trump knows how to make America great
Deal from strength or get crushed every time

C'mon!!! Any song that begins with the word cowardice has to, has to be great! And let's not forget The Donald's impeccable war credentials- he got a medal for neatness in military school while racking up his five deferments.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

It's Personal...

I'm in absolute love with this camera. Previously, I kinda liked this camera. I like the camera above much more for it's dials and retro styling- it looks like a classic, cool, hands on camera (essentially, they're pretty much the same). The thing is, with either one, I imagine myself surreptitiously walking about effortlessly taking the most incredible street photographs with every step I take! There'd be nothing to stop me, I wouldn't know what to do with all the great photographs I'd take- if only I had one of those damn cameras!

There's only one small problem... the one called reality. Years ago when I lived in NYC, I tried to be that incredible, quintessential street photographer- and pretty much, flat out failed. That's not to say that I didn't succeed in getting the occasional  worthy shot, it's just that I eventually realized that it just wasn't really my thing and had little to do with the camera. And although I continue to photograph on the street to this very day, I don't (as would many a self professed hard core street aficionado) consider myself a true "street" photographer. I think I'm what is now referred to as a "flaneur,'" which sounds very much like some kind of lackadaisical French pervert in a flannel shirt.

But this new digital wonder changes everything! It doesn't matter that I actually held the GR in my hands last year and realized that with my close up vision now comprised by age, that tiny screen was rendered pretty much useless w/o also donning my reading glasses (in addition to being useless in the sun). With this gorgeously compact and totally inspirational X70, it just wouldn't matter that I would either have to compose completely on the fly, through a guesstimate OVF add on, or take five times longer figuring out a way to flip the screen in some magical direction for a shot which had long ago passed... I would just be that much better is all.

Truthfully, either one of those cameras would probably get me the occasional, serendipitous photo here or there from the hip. Would either be worth the money I don't have- most likely not. But a guy can always dream...

PS- What I really would have bought is an X100 with a 28mm(e) and a 21mm(e) converter. That's-no-lie.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Revenant

Vivid dreamscapes, nature in its raw, natural elements... cold, wet, breathtaking in its beauty and uncompromising in its ferocity. Since the world of movies first burst forth with those audience galvanizing scenes of a moving train and a pointed gun, cinema has never ceased trying to put you in the very scene it has sought to create. The Revenant does just that- the water, wind and snow beneath your feet, against your skin and throughout your senses. 

Wide angle lenses can often look gimmicky on the big screen, here in the great wide open Alejandro G. Iñárritu has used them flawlessly, a major reason why we are seamlessly enmeshed into the environment of his making. We see arrows initiate flight, frenetically approach and whiz harmlessly by our heads, or stop full upon their deadly mark. We hear, feel and for all purposes smell the very breath of those that approach us, friend and foe alike. 3D can't touch this, virtual reality can't come close.

This is experiential movie making at its most vivid and dramatic, where even the dream sequences that occasionally manifest are just further extensions of the present reality. And DiCaprio lives up to the spectacle. There's no way a human body could actually survive the abuse his endures, but you're willing to forgive and forget... because the movie is that damn good. 

Easily one of my All Time Top Twenty, possibly even in the Exalted Top Ten... Must see on the BIG screen!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Great Advice; Greater Action

Good advice any day, any year- too bad we're still in such dire need of it.

(available on Netflix streaming)

Gideon's Army is what can happen when people get that chance of a lifetime and fight to try and salvage others in similar circumstances. Call them heroes, call them saints- they're people who actually care and won't turn their backs, or shrug their shoulders, or just keep going on with their own world of problems... like most of us.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016 and Beyond...

Photo: © S. Banos

No idea what 2016 will bring, no clue. Well, for the most part... what I do know sucks and sucks bad, like global climate change. As I write this the North pole is actually above freezing- in the middle of winter!!! And the fact that we still don't have any effective response or solution (besides partying in Paris) is certainly far from promising. In fifty years when a whole lot more Earth is underwater, and even more people need room to live- it's gonna make the Syrian refugee crisis look like a New Year's Rockin' Eve. Of course, I will have put down my film camera for quite some time by then...

The wife and I voluntarily celebrated a giftless Christmas this year, highly recommended for couples who already have everything and live in a rent stabilized 1BR in one of the most expensive cities in the country/world. We can attest to no lingering after effects. Actually, there is one thing I'm looking forward to this year, and that's self publishing what will more or less amount to a Greatest Hits Compilation (Part1)- this after all being The Golden Age of Photo Books. Or... not.

Of course, if you want to truly get noticed amidst today's plethora of (self) publishing wonders, one has to present not only a competent series of photographs, but a comprehensive "art" piece complete with all the doilies, nick knacks and other visual/sensory ephemera that make for the complete artistic experience. Actually, ain't got nothin' agin 'im, just that finances dictate this'll probably be your standard Blurb production- although will definitely have another look/see at what's out there. Regardless, I'm very much looking forward to putting it together. I already have a total of some fifty plus hi res scans (restorations and otherwise), and looking forward to making another 25 or so before getting a group of 40-50 in a final edit, hopefully some time next fall...

Been very much looking for a photo book to get for some time, so glad to report that I finally found and am ordering Gus Powell's The Lonely Ones. I particularly like the small size and that the photos embiggen when you fold out the pages- a thoughtful extra step that not only supplies additional acreage for one's viewing pleasure, but also purposely forces one to slow down and... actually look at the photograph itself (the latter becoming a lost art in itself)! Meanwhile....

Happy New Year!

PS- And one more thing... to the 50+ organizations sending me emails asking, demanding and pleading for $$$- wish it so folks, but you're asking the wrong guy, (ie- barking up the wrong tree). Capisce? I give a few bucks to MSF and Amnesty Int- case closed. Rule #1- Don't expect money from people who make considerably less than you...

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Remembering The Fall Of Rome (And It's Batshit Crazy Leaders)

As a kid I always wondered how mighty, kick ass Rome pretty much allowed itself to fall apart and rot from within as the barbarians trolled the gates. Of course, once you start reading just how insane its Caesars really were, you soon start asking yourself- just how was it that Rome managed to survive as long as it did?

Of course, our modern, interconnected world experiences everything at a considerably accelerated rate. And I have been amazed at what this country has been able to endure just in my lifetime, including a President who (while definitely not insane), at least kinda knew he was dumber than a rock in some round about, dry drunk kinda way- and didn't give a damn how many people lost their lives in his little macho military fantasies. Now we got someone running who not only doesn't have the slightest clue, but who actually thinks himself more intelligent than all human life combined. And even scarier, if such a scenario is even plausible (and it is)- there are people who actually think believe he is, while others simply revel in the fact that he'll forever be the ever lovin' dick that he truly is... (just like them- except w/o his $).

Civilizations in the final stages of decay are dominated by elites out of touch with reality.
          -Christopher Hedges

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Good Riddance 2015...

Photo: © S. Banos

Probably worst year of my life. The year I discovered, much to my dismay, that my photographic 'legacy' had been substantially compromised. Fortunately, many if not most of those images can be digitally restored, thanks to the 'magic' that is Photoshop (and the long man hours required of each that very much ain't). Have already successfully completed some twenty-five 65MB restorations- otherwise, I may very well have taken that proverbial long walk off a short pier. Just another 300+ to go...

And if I didn't have the handful of images as proof, I'd probably overlook the fact that I actually purchased a Fujifilm XT-1, my very first foray into the digital imaging world; one undeniably gorgeous, little camera, and most capable performer (as was the amazing 14mm Fujinon). I anticipated we would bond immediately. Alas! The finder is amazing in low light, great in open shade, but in direct sunlight/contrasty lighting- adequate, at best (and it's supposedly the preeminent EVF out there)! Still, if I shot color like most everyone, I would have kept it all the same for its stunning results. But being the B&W kinda guy that I've become, still didn't like the results it delivered in... direct sunlight; and it's the latter that most profoundly reveals just how different an animal B&W digital truly is. It can recover incredible shadow detail, but there's something in the highlight gradations that just... fall... short. Don't bother me with the physics, and the curves, and the charts- already have something (called film) that delivers the look and feel I want. And I already got more than enough work to do (see: Para.1), than struggle to make due with something that only approximates what I call home. Maybe I'll give the digital realm another go round 2020 (or not)... till then, my F3, FM3A and Tri-X will suffice.

What can't be undone or ameliorated however, is my father's diagnosed dementia. That assault and robbery is not only non negotiable, but ongoing. Another sad and sorry aphorism: a train wreck in slow motion. And neither faith nor technology will halt that inevitable descent. As recently as the previous year when he could still reason and function logically at 90, he said without fear or anxiety that he had led a full life and was ready to go- lingering is what he dreaded most.

What possible life lesson is to be learned when one can no longer remember, let alone understand? What life debt are you possibly balancing when you can no longer even conceive the equation?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Because We're Stupid

Not stupid because we didn't understand exactly how the banks were conducting business, it was made purposely too complex for us to understand. No one can be faulted for that. Stupid because once they were finally exposed, finally exposed bare and naked and clean for all to see just how longingly and lovingly they were fucking us up the ass each and every day, we chose to... 

1.) Allow them to be rescued with our money,

2.) Demand no accountability whatsoever,

3.) Blame exactly who they told us to blame ("poor people, teachers and immigrants"), and-

4.) Smile as we continue to let them fuck us each and every day, to this very day!

The beauty and genius that was Jon Stewart and The Daily Show was that they broke down complex (and often boring) social, political and economic issues into logical, easy to understand bits and pieces that were... goddamn funny to boot. The Big Short does much the same, and does so brilliantly, covering the financial meltdown that happened under our watch (Anthony Bourdain explains CDOs, Salena Gomez breaks down synthetic CDOs)- and that continues unpunished and unrepentant, however disguised, as you read this.

But, hey, it's Christmas- grab the eggnog and a warm blanket; you can kick the dog when you're hungover after New Year's. 

PS- Oh... And when someone with a big, self satisfied smirk demands you explain just how the government could ever possibly keep a secret as overwhelmingly HUGE as UFO's under lock and key for soooo damn long- kindly just remind them that... it's all so easy, when we're the ones who do it for them; aliens are small potatoes indeed, compared to knowingly letting them rob us blind each and every day of our hard earned $$$...

Just try not to roll your eyes when you tell them.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Still Waiting...

I started the year more than a little anxious to buy two upcoming photo books... and here we are at year's end- and they have yet to materialize in the public domain! I'm referring to Joakim Eskildsen's American Realities and Ryann Ford's The Last Stop

Something to look forward to in 2016, beyond the the coming year's now requisite mass slaughters...

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Season's Greeetings!

Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore's (R) interpretation of Matthew 5:5.

Currently clocking in at about 40% of capacity from my most recent loss to the flu (think Rousey/Holms, the extended version), I was aching to return to normal society- but alas, that feeling for human vitality and normalcy were cut short with last week's insanity. A sickening, deadening insanity that has metastasized into what now flauntingly mocks normalcy. Ignorance, fear and neglect begetting a violence so mindless that it in turn erodes the sanity and response of those of good will still remaining. So we never address the root cause(s), never attempt to dialogue, never ever dare to even consider a reset.

It's so easy to point at those 'dumb' kids shooting hell outta each other in every inner city in this country. They never learn, it's just their lot- just don't dare make same said and simple observation when it comes to the world at large... the one adults roam and rule.

So we will continue to threaten and arm ourselves for: prevention, protection, retaliation. Our planet is dying all around us, but not to worry: kick back with your Big Gulp, Supersize that Happy Meal, and make sure ya got enough hollow points to outlast your fries- You're Good To Go!!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

-Out Sick-

Photo: © S. Banos

Third freakin' winter in a row I've gotten the flu, and as in each year prior, it's royally kicking my ass asunder! I've never bothered getting the flu vaccine since it's always concocted for the previous year's version- it just doesn't make sense! 

Then again- can't do any worse than I'm doing now... back to bed.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Lies, Lies, Lies... Very popular these days. On the news, the internets, the mouths of the pettiest of Presidential candidates. As true now as it was then- make them big enough, repeat them often enough... and people will fall in line to follow.

Not as loud, or convenient or as popular, there are always the facts. And for that, we can always give thanks, thanks for that increasingly rare opportunity to glimpse through the window of sanity...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

As I Pressed The Shutter...

Photo: © S. Banos

I remember thinking- would I be comfortable having a beer with a guy who has giant tattoos of a penis, spermatozoa and varied amounts of weights and ornaments about his genitalia? Not your average thought, agreed. Nevertheless, the one that sprung to mind. And must say, the guy definitely seemed a nice enough bloke. What would we talk about: sports, the demise of the gold standard, the coming El Nino?

It's all very much part of the annual experience called The Folsom St. Fair in San Francisco. You're walking about everyday streets that are cordoned off into a temporary and separate reality, one to which you never quite adjust while there, and for some time thereafter...