Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year!

Photo: © S. Banos

The third absolutely shittiest year of my life in three consecutive years! Is there a pattern in there somewhere, anywhere? And what are the chances of breaking out in 2018 when our glorious leader is a narcissistic moron deluxe on a scale that even his Propecia addled cerebrum cannot possibly twitter away???

Well, I ain't throwing in the towel just yet, least not while I can walk and talk, and my extended family continues struggling away on a 30X100mi island with little more than elbow grease and... paper towels. 

So here's to 2018, Leonard Cohen said the one thing he learned from Buddhism is not to whine so much. If we somehow manage to avoid a nuclear exchange between two equally repugnant Man-Babies trying to out manly the other so they can make their dead daddies & imaginary girlfriends swoon- let's make it a good one... for ourselves and one another!
Photo: © S. Banos

Thursday, December 28, 2017

"There's A Whole Fleet Of Them!"

“It accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen; I have no idea what I saw.”   -US Navy Fighter Pilot

This year on 60 Minutes, billionaire entrepreneur and head of Bigelow Aerospace, Robert Bigelow said that he was "absolutely convinced" that aliens and UFO's have visited the earth. Last week, something else of note occurred that for the most part... flew in under the radar- the DoD admitted to a program specifically documenting unidentified flying objects, which in and of itself is no big deal, but... they  even allowed a video, or two (of no doubt hundreds, if not thousands) to be publicly aired.

They did not deny, did not excuse, belittle or ridicule. And that alone is quite the... revolutionary! And the first step towards eventual... D-i-s-c-l-o-s-u-r-e!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

I, TONYA Rules!!!

You're representing our country, for fuck's sake. They need to see a wholesome American family.  -Skating judge
But I don't have a wholesome American family. -Tonya Harding

I, Tonya is one of the best movies of this, or any other year! I suppose for brevity's sake, one could call it a "black comedy," but it succeeds on so many levels (eg- docudrama, social satire and commentary, etc)- which is exactly what a really good black comedy can do, should do... and this most certainly does!

Several reviews have criticized it for not knowing what it wants to be or trying to do too much- and not anything, very well.  That would pretty much be my wrap of The Shape of Water, a sentimental ball of confusion that indecisively meanders between hardcore Disney and attempted adult situation fantasy. Any retelling of a tale so inherently insane with characters so fundamentally flawed can easily divert into parody or lecture, but Craig Gillespie hits the right tone for this multidimensional dive into American class structure, aspirations and insanity. And Margot Robbie, who looks a helluva lot more like Nancy Kerrigan than Tonya Harding, pulls off an amazing performance as the self professed red neck who would not be denied; but then, that's the other thing about this flick- each and every actor does such a bang up job, you actually anticipate and look forward to their reactions and appearances! Tonya's mother literally steals the first third of the movie with a tour de force portrayal between her nips and drags of booze and cigs.

The intrigue, betrayals, pathos and bathos galore is all quite Shakespearean to say the least. And Gillespie not only manages to make a most compelling commentary on the American class system, he also manages what I thought previously impossible- portray Tonya Harding as a genuinely sympathetic character! This is someone who was abused by her mother, brother, husband, and skating judges alike- and as she rightly points out, by a society (ie- us) that was more than eager to demonize her. And (ironically enough) you get to both marvel and laugh throughout the entire spectacle...

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Xmas!

The one SantaCon photo that I really wanted this year came out unfocused (Bad Fuji!). This one is... OK, even if it doesn't truly do justice to the Santa on the left. When I first encountered he she it, I must admit to doing a double take not quite realizing what had just quickly waltzed by- a rather clever mask that upon close inspection reveals two rather well obscured eyes peering out at you behind the mass of hair. But I digress- what I really enjoyed most was when that particular Santa's helper started handing out sweets to small children. Their looks ranged from outright confusion to abject terror- the perfect Holiday Cheer!!!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Wormwood- One Bad Trip

Being very much the Errol Morris fanboy, I was very much looking forward to Wormwood- his latest and longest (240 min. divided into 6 parts on Netflix) docu...drama... mentary... reenacment!? And it's on a subject near and dear to my heart- the mysterious 1953 death (ie- falling out a NYC hotel window) of a prominent US scientist who was unknowingly fed LSD as a part of the CIA mind control program called MK ULTRA

So, yeah, I was real psyched to view Wormwood, particularly with a bit o' time on my hands now during the holidays. What I wasn't particularly prepared for was the endlessly repetitive and  prolonged snooze fest that was to ensue before my (soon to not be) waking eyes. Unfortunately, it's as if the usually innovative Mr. Morris (for inexplicable reasons unknown) studied and adapted every lame, 2nd rate pseudo-documentary technique from every sleazy TV "true crime investigation," complete with the ad infinitum slow-mo sequences that serve as filler for not having anything else of consequence to portray. Take out the endlessly repeated reenactments, and we have a regular 90 minute production which would have played out just fine as your usual quality Morris production! 

We do get a most telling revelation (ie- confirmation) towards the end of the movie- two actually, both of which one could have readily surmised... One, Frank Olson's fall from a hotel window was obviously not a suicide, the other- his extrajudicial execution (straight outta the CIA manual) was not about a crazed, drug addled scientist who had to be shut up... it was about silencing someone who had become vocal in his opposition to the US germ warfare program during The Korean War.

Throughout the movie Mr. Morris interviews Frank Olson's son, and his long history of trying to get to the bottom of his father's death- a life long quest that consumed every aspect of his life, including his career. Unfortunately, in the end we too feel as if we've spent way too much energy pursuing something we should have spent way less time on...

Sunday, December 17, 2017

20th Century REDUX!!!

Photo: © S. Banos
Back in the late sixties/early seventies, members of the ruling elite were concerned (ie- frightened to death) that the radicals protesting and rioting in the streets would take over our wondrous country. And that is exactly what happened, except it wasn't from the... Left, as everyone feared, and it wasn't quite as soon as everyone imagined...

We now find ourselves at the beginning of a century not entirely different from the last- except that this time, the Fascism looms much closer to home. I had thought hoped that even hard core, red neck America had finally, well, if not matured, than at least grown tired of its penchant for electing some down home good ol' boy that both mirrored and implemented the worst practices of ignorance imaginable- particularly since the last left in flames after initiating a totally unnecessary and unending war, and then sending our country down a whirlwind, financial wormhole that impacted them worst of all. We were finally done with... d-u-m-b. Right? Right?

Well, after an eight year respite of relative... sanity- Right Wing America came rip-roaring back to reclaim it's perceived right of White National dominance and sovereignty! And come back with a vengeance they did- this time there would be no niceties, no reason to disguise or sanitize bias, racism or bigotry. The Radicals were in charge, and were openly ecstatic to reign in total defiance of: logic, fact or science. Ethics and rule of law were now improvisational, at best. The road had been paved step by step: from Hollywood hold over, to Evangelical make over,  to outright Fascist take over...

Yeah, after this abomination- the person described on yonder poster sounds heaven sent. And if you think that empowering a crazy person is in and of itself insane... you'd be right!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Black and White... in Color

Photos: © S. Banos

Admittedly, I'm not much of a color photographer, that is, save for one or two exceptions (where color is crucial), I'm shooting what I've always shot- just with color thrown in (as do most people). Sure, there are some additional (or at least different) factors to be considered now (like making sure the colors don't collide or distract), but after 40 somewhat years of shooting exclusively in B&W, this whole dang color thang has been going down a whole lot smoother than imagined! And that's on two counts- I really haven't had to reinvent the wheel in how or what I shoot, and post is now reduced from days to an average of an hour at most. And the latter is why I'll continue to shoot color in the time remaining...

PS- I suppose the B&W photo above is the more aesthetic, but it's the color one below that makes me laugh...

Amazing what a bloody difference color makes!!!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Or Not...

Photo: © S. Banos

Was gonna mount the moral high horse again for yet another round of where we are today; but honestly, it hasn't changed- those who know, take action, and those that don't... ain't listening. 

Republicans have always propagated their racism in codified policy; Trump has further inflamed White fear and rationalization, and... legitimized racist discourse to the point of actual physical backlash (one had only to watch his rallies). He has sold this package of success and development as a twofer- financial progress and forward mobility comes hand in hand with equal measures of White Supremacy (ie- diversity can only lead to every current and future national malady imaginable). And many a White American will simply look the other way if their lot improves at the cost of others- "it's just the way things are..."

Trump will never be another Hitler (ie- he will never kill six million of any one people), but each rose to power by: channeling ignorance, utilizing propaganda, and legitimizing the racist mindset (and the threat of violence). The parallels of any fascist regime are readily recognizable, and their ultimate consequences... equally predictable.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Treat Yourself!!!

Photo: Anders Petersen
Yeah, I know, I know... I just wrote how I was cool with not getting any more photobooks, at least for the foreseeable future. Well, life is like that, and... the holidays are coming up. This book, at this price,* can not (I repeat- cannot) be passed by- this is an absolute bargain for absolute gold! The only problem with this particular book is that it has too many pictures, and let me tell ya- lots and lots of 'em are really, really good!!!

It's a freakin' Bible it is- chock full of many memorable (and well reproduced) images. Do Not attempt to take them all in on one sitting; this homage to photo great Anders Petersen takes days, weeks- and will have you coming back for years... These are not just the kind of photos that you sit down and enjoy- they're also the kind you contemplate and... learn from!

*(the trick is to click on "New & Used-" I'm getting mine new for... $50)
PS- Please note- they are out of the New $45 editions... 

Monday, December 4, 2017


Maaaybe...  Photo: © S. Banos

I love my photography books- I really do! But lately, I've been buying considerably less of them- like not at all. Oh, many still excite me upon first viewing, but then, the thrill dissipates, much quicker than expected- and I start to wonder... why? Are today's photo books pure fluff, just meant to hold interest a few more seconds beyond your average daily Instagram feed? Are the photo themselves without any deeper, lasting meaning- socially, aesthetically or otherwise? Am I just jaded- has it all been said and done?

There was a time at the end of the last century when I couldn't find enough good photo books; even before the digital revolution, they were quite numerous- but the quality ones, of any depth or meaning (along with, or solely due to aesthetic excellence) were rare indeed. I have a 20 image rule- if I like (really like) at least twenty of the photographs found within a book's pages, I usually bite and pull the trigger. 

The past several years have seen more photo books than ever, a plethora emerging on a near daily basis, which means a lot more junk- as well as a lot more finds, if one makes the effort. Trouble is and this is highly personal- I've now experienced most of the flavors.

Starting in the mid seventies, color made a significant change in the medium of photography, we had a whole new newly accepted way of seeing and interpreting reality- a major sea change deluxe! The Digital Revolution has certainly brought about changes in almost every aspect of how we experience the medium of photography itself, but... has it brought about a major change in the actual art of photography- as did color?

We see more work (although we trust it less), and we see it faster and easier, in smoother, cleaner pixels, rather than organic lumps of grain. We have managed to alter every which way we have come to view, understand and proliferate photography, and yet- it it still hasn't translated into an actual sea change of how we actually see and interpret the world around us (not counting technical considerations, eg- increased ease of photographing in available light). And all the little non photographic gimmicks and nuances now included in many a photo book (good and interesting, and pricey, as they may be) are often still not enough to entice me into a lasting relationship. We are certainly testing this new digital technology to see what it can deliver in every which way possible, but when (and I do think it is but a question of when) will we finally incorporate it into a significantly novel photographic vision? Instead, we seem stuck in a metamorphosis, if not a metastasis, of everything and anything at once- from maximum megapixels to back to the future analog. Strange days...

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Ever Overdo Something?

Photo: © S. Banos

Sometimes (sometimes) when confronted with certain situations, we kinda tend to overreact and overdo things- either out of: anger, inexperience or maybe (just maybe)... to make a certain point.* Now, I don't know which of the above may have possibly been at play here (nor is it a particularly good photo for that matter)- but I think the case could be made that it was probably just a tad... overdone. 

*all of which I stand guilty of at various times of my existence.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Picnic At The Border

Recently I posted about JR and his delightful movie collaboration. But this is about the best Thanksgiving project I've come upon (even if it really doesn't have anything to do with the holiday)!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

No Regrets?

Photo: © S. Banos

 Paul Watson- A person without regrets is a person who has not lived a life of diversity of interests and cause.

I remember watching late night talk shows when I was considerably younger and hearing more than one celebrity superstar claim that they wouldn't change a single thing that occurred in their lives. "Not one thing?" the interviewer would ask, "No, not one," would come the reply- confident, secure, self satisfied.

Really!? You've lived a good portion of your life, and no matter how damn lucky and talented you are- there's not one single thing that you wish you'd have done differently? One thing you said that you wish you could take back? One time you should have spoken up and instead... said nothing? There's not one thing you ever did that you're sorry about? One time you regret not doing anything at all? REALLY!?!?

So, you're like this perfect person, the ultimate human being!? Never made a mistake, never made a wrong move, never hurt anyone unnecessarily... I've never, ever met anyone like that! Because the only other explanation is that you're a selfish, callous, uncaring excuse of a human being who couldn't give a rat's ass about anyone other than themselves- and there's lots of those...

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Go Never FS- Salvaon Mounin

Huh!?!? Previously, I had spoken about bonding with my XT-1; two other curious things occurred this past Sept. One was rather frightening- said camera fell right outta my ever lovin' camera bag (my fault entirely for not securing it properly) upon exiting our rental to witness the Grand Canyon. I didn't see it happen- I heard it! And I was more than a tad hesitant to actually look down and view the remains. A significant part of me just wanted to keep on walking... But walk back I did, and I was considerably taken aback to find that other than a bent up lens shade on the 18mm (28mm~e) and a barely perceptible scratch to the screen shield- the XT-1 was... completely intact! Immediately, I checked to see if the damn thing actually worked, and... all systems- go! I set about bending the lens shade back into shape (have always put a shade and filter on all my lenses for protection), and the universe was whole again as my adrenaline gradually began to diminish. Oh, and the fact that I also chose to adorn my XT-1 with a Lensmate thumbgrip also helped, I got mine "used" on eBay at half price for $30. Yes, they are ridiculously over priced, but also ridiculously ergonomic (and in this case, protective)!

The one major failure disappointment I encountered with the XT-1 was the Panoramic Mode- and I must admit I'm at least partially to blame on that account since I didn't properly read up on how to adjust the damn thing. I rejoiced in true manic fashion with my beginner's luck which just nailed the composition on first try- Absolutely Perfect!!! Until I realized... no, not really, not quite. Instead of proclaiming "God Never Fails- Salvation Mountain" (Leonard Knight's iconic creation), I got: Go Never FS- Salvaon Mounin. 

Go Never FS- SALVAON MOUNIN (It also has 4 feet- not 3);  FOTO FAIL: © S. Banos
Yup- it screwed up where it counted most. Couldn't have done it to the left, or the right where it would have been barely noticeable- had to do it right smack in the middle of the goddang sign! Turned the car around ignoring my now protesting wife, and proceeded to make another dozen attempts- none of which came anywhere close to what I wanted or achieved the first time! Of course, the smart, logical thing (that I had actually planned on doing) was to just take a series of normal (vertical) exposures and seam them together in PS. But my single minded determination to now will it to work took over in the 106 degree heat that was relentlessly baking my already admittedly miniscule brain, rational I was most decidedly not!

So, chalk one up to: God (Supposedly) Never Fails (Stan Most Definitely Does).

Monday, November 13, 2017

When Words Fail...

If you find John Oliver both funny (as do I) and educational (as do I), then you won't have any problem sitting through the entirety of this short 20 minute video and, well... enjoying! But, even should you find him (for whatever reason) seriously less than amusing, just speed up to the three minute mark for the transcript reading of a recent Presidential speech- which is one of the most gut wrenchingly phenomenal examples of illiterate hilarity ever produced in (the nearest approximation of) the English language and one of the most frighteningly terrifying warnings of the danger Americans have voluntarily imposed upon themselves. You won't soon forget it- nor the iPhone translation that immediately follows...

Friday, November 10, 2017

Faces Places

I was wary this film was going to be a sentimental paean to an aging French celebrity- fortunately, it was anything but! Faces/Places is a collaboration between artist/actor/film-maker Agnes Varda and photographer/environmental artist JR, a collaboration between two artists and two people on opposite ends of the age spectrum engaging in a shared artistic road trip. Each has different ways of seeing, interpreting and executing; each has separate goals

They embark on their mutual journey towards self exploration and discovery in the French countryside on a truck disguised as a giant camera, and manage to produce ginormous, mural sized prints with which they manage to decorate various failing or mundane vistas, incl: abandoned buildings, railroad cars, water tanks, etc. Along the way they not only manage to discuss and confront each other on various philosophies and approaches to art and life as a whole- they also engage the everyday people they encounter and make them active, fellow collaborators in the art they produce and impart...

PS- I was struck by one worker in particular who was interviewed about the art being produced- as he returned to his job, back to camera, he reflects aloud, "It's surprising, and art is meant to surprise us." Sadly, I don't think your average, working class, American male would have had the same positive reaction... or insight- the kind that could help ward off the disaffected disinterest that can instead extend to guns and violence.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


This is pretty damn scary... And if you examine (as I am wont to do on occasion) what your average Joe's are thinking and saying across the nation at any given time- you wonder how so many people can get things so very, VERY Wrong!!! They are spontaneously telling you (and with complete and utter conviction) "facts" that are neither verified, nor... true! 

The Shooter was a born and bred Muslim, The Shooter was a recent convert, the shooter was Antifah (evidence: he wore all black- RIP Johnny Cash)!!! All the above, particularly the latter two, were being proclaimed as Fact- while I was still trying to get the most basic of information concerning our most recent mass gun slaughter. The second non-truth was also prevalent immediately after the Vegas shooting. 

The Right's social networks and "news" sources now come with prefabricated disinformation ready to go at a second's notice whenever something major either feeds into their belief system- or contradicts it! And once they launch- there is no way of recalling those missiles of disinformation. They will then repeat those exaggerations, "alternative facts,' half truths and outright lies as THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH- if not the outright word of god. And yes, god help you should you try to say anything otherwise... You will not permeate that invulnerable wall, their dedication to deflecting anything that makes them appear as fallible human beings is absolute and complete. This impregnable echo chamber is how you can actually get so many people to believe complete and utter lunacy like: Hillary Clinton and her Pizza Parlor/Child Sex Ring- and believe it to the point where someone actually went to... shoot up the place they believed fit this completely malicious concoction!!! And if that doesn't sound crazy enough... people still held a protest to denounce this fabricated travesty despite Alex Jones' apology for spreading such a fictitious abomination.  

Yes!!! These people are so far removed, that they still actively chose to believe A Complete Lie, even though the person who concocted The Lie, admitted it was A Lie, and apologized for The Lie- simply because it fits their particular belief system... Is it any wonder they believe The Civil War had nothing to do with slavery?

Monday, November 6, 2017

And The Winner Of This Week's Mass Shooting...

And so it goes... until next week, and the week after that... But we can't "politicize it" unlike our POTUS does if the terrorist is Muslim. This terrorist is White- so he is branded ANTIFA, although it is an outright lie conveniently concocted for the gullible haters among us! And he can't really be a terrorist, because only Muslims (with a few Blacks thrown in for good measure) are terrorists, though I'm guessing the people in that Texas church and community were plenty damn terrorized...

But it's too soon to talk about gun control- we all know that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." And don't forget the B Side- "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun." Why would they lie???

So why try to save innocent lives, why get all worked up and bothered, or even go through the motions? When we know damn well- it can't possibly be done... I mean, if we actually knew a way, if such a thing actually existed, if we had within our grasp, the power to stop the deaths of more and more innocents each and every year, each and every week- we, the greatest moral arbiters in the history of Western Civilization would have already done so...................................

Sunday, November 5, 2017


Yes, of course it could be faked. Anything can on video these days. That doesn't necessarily mean that it was, however- and there is also a rather long history to this activity (yes, neither does that necessarily make it true). But until proven either way...
(make sure volume is on)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Why Can't Every Morning...

OK, OK... It's my first video ever, taken directly upon awakening (morning voice et al)- so cut me some slack (and yeah, I wanted it vertical). And it certainly doesn't come anywhere near giving you a true representation of the magic and grandeur,* but hopefully (hopefully), ya get just a tiny taste of what it's like to wake up to one of the most awesome of natural wonders on planet earth...
*actually, sunsets are better (3rd photo from bottom)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Rose By Any Other Name...

Was looking forward to having my photo displayed on the online Unnatural photo exhibit this Halloween- even if it's a non-juried show. So the exhibit came and went Tuesday... with my shot conspicuously (to me, that is) absent! The following day, I inquired as to why it failed to appear- and apparently, it had been misplaced...

An honest mistake- and I am not in any way implying otherwise; the good people at Lenscratch do a pretty remarkable job exhibiting quality work each and every day. It's just that I've been faithfully chronicling my long and continuing run of rejections, both here and my previous blog, and while this episode technically doesn't really qualify, it certainly deserves asterisk status. I mean, when you're the only one not included- it certainly feels rejection. And though they meant well, putting it up after the fact- it's kinda like taking your kid Trick or Treating on All Hallows Eve... Day.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy All Hallows Eve

If, per chance, you thought the last post eerie- then listen to the following and go one-step-further...  
Some are better than others- but some are really, really quite... good! Recommended: A Friend in the Forest, Lost, The Summoning, Lost in Time...

Monday, October 30, 2017

But That Just Doesn't Make Sense...

It's not everyday that "serious media" on any level presents or discusses anything concerning the paranormal- in any manner, other than to ridicule or debunk. So it was refreshing when To The Best Of Our Knowledge ran an entire show on several topics concerning just that! It wasn't pro, it wasn't anti, it just presented various scenarios, along with as much documented facts and history whenever possible- and basically said, doesn't this deserve to be looked at more seriously? Yes, yes, it does...

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Not Bad!

Photo: © S. Banos

A bit back I mentioned I had taken one shot on vacation that I just didn't have the skills for in post. Well, it finally dawned on me (how quickly we forget 40+ years- should have seen it straight off) what was really needed... a B&W conversion! But did I have the chops to do a decent, convincing B&W version of a Fujifilm XT-1 file... on my lowly Elements 9? Well, it took a bit of doing and I'm sure someone with real skills on more advanced sofware could produce a slightly more au naturale version- that said, I'm kinda... pleased (and it even looks fairly film like)!  

Addendum: No, I'm most definitely not considering a new career as an interpretive landscape photographer! My main consideration in this photo was redirecting the viewer's eye from the dark tonal values on the lower right  back to the top of the image above the sign. The only way to do that was to bring out as much detail from the RAW file as possible to make that area compete- and I was damn lucky there was enough info there to make that happen! I'm sure some may think I took a tad too much liberty, but the alternative would have been an unevenly lit and featureless sky that would have sunk the image altogether. 

(PS- Please note: the TIFF version looks considerably better- Blogger flattens tonal values considerably.)

RAF File Copy: © S. Banos

Friday, October 20, 2017

Critiquing My Critique

"In any case, what can I tell you about your photographs that you don't already know?
-Anonymous Lens Culture Reviewer 

He or she should have left it that while they were ahead- but I guess one is obliged to prove one's... expertise. And granted- the guy did put in the time to write a few paragraphs. Appreciated, but...

I've never requested their advertised "portfolio review" before when I entered a Lens Culture competition, this time I requested one since I'll never enter another there, and might as well get whatever minimum I could get for all the money invested over time...

It started with a few informal niceties- they had lived in San Francisco for a time, my photos were humorous, etc. Then... why the half color/half B&W submission, and the more infamous- why the wide angle all the time? So, let's cut to the chase...

"I love the two wankers framing the action number eight but here is where I start to have a problem. It seems like a long time ago you decided that you are going to live or die by this wide-angle lens. It's fairly wide and even though you're admirably close to your subjects you still include a lot of information side to side. Sometimes too much. I find the two guys on the left in this image to be a distraction." 

Photo: © S. Banos

The main consideration in that photograph was- what the hell do I do about that unsightly pile of luggage on the lower left? It was massively in the way of anything I tried to do, and I didn't have the option of just moving other peoples' property as I damn well pleased. It had to be incorporated into the composition in the least obtrusive manner possible- and quite honestly, I didn't think it possible to uhhh... pull off.

When I went closer, it just got bigger and more obtrusive in the foreground, closer still to totally eliminate- and the whole composition and depth of field dissipated. So I kept working it, different angles, different distances and finally (finally!) worked it out the very second she placed her hand on his stomach.

Without the pile, I would've been able to go closer and quite likely exclude those guys. But dealing with reality as is- those two guys on the left are not only crucial to balancing the composition, they also lend a nice sense of irony. Here's some ol' geezer jerking off right next to them, and they're talking away about.... well, whatever it is one talks about with an ol' geezer jerking away right next to ya! That's what wide angle's allow you to do: present various subtexts within the larger context to complement/contrast, isolate/compare- all serving to advance a more nuanced story. 

Is that to say that I'm all that and have nothing to learn after 40+ years- 'course not, I'm still striving to learn every time I attempt a photograph. One can criticize me all you want for entering a 50% B&W, 50% color submission, point taken- it's something I wouldn't recommend myself! Ultimately, it was a moot point of consideration. But do not (Do Not!) lecture me on hypotheticals- when you've so blatantly failed to recognize the major challenge presented by an image as is...

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Faustian Bargain?

Photo: © S. Banos

September's long gone, and I'm sure gonna miss it! That was the month I started to bond with my XT-1, first during vacation, and especially during the Folsom St. Fair. Thought I only got two or three keepers during the course of the latter, and ended going home with a dozen- either tying or breaking my all time record! 

It's funny making this transition from: analogue to digital, strictly B&W to color. And I truly wish I had something deep and meaningful to say about it. You know, something insightful about the change in aesthetics, the difference in approach, the contrast of mediums. And maybe, at some point... I will. Right now, just having fun doing it, rejoicing at the relative ease of post- and now that I'm somewhat use to it,* pretty much amazed at how little difference it feels over all. Perhaps, because I was doing a hybrid thang all along with one foot in both worlds (scanning B&W negs for inkjets)- perhaps, because I'm still (for the most part) taking the same kinds of pictures!. Actually, I've never cared what format or photographic medium anyone's ever used- long as the picture looked good. Loved Eggleston back in the day in '76- and still do.

Yes, a part of me still very much feels like I: betrayed my roots, drank the kool-aid, let down the cause! After all, B&W is responsible for all of my... uhmm... prior succ history.  And seriously, love it to shit- but with only so many years left and more than enough negs to still scan...

Now, if my previous 40+ years of doing this is any indication, things will slow down till next Spring and it's back to the little GR for a little picture here, there, anywhere. Like I said- enough work to do... And as for the next year, after the biannual leather fairs- it's on to book #4- Nekid City.

*shout-outs to Dave and Eric who helped ease me thru the initial panic!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

...And God Bless- Trumpy Bear!!!

God Bless America, and God bless... Trumpy Bear! No, it's not an SNL parody, this is uhhh... "real." And whatever you may think, ya gotta admit- if ya don't have health insurance, that American Flag Blanket is gonna come in mighty handy to snuggle in!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

My Curious Conversation with The Head Astronomer of SETI

Was listening to my local NPR station, getting ready for work and hear that later that afternoon the head astronomer of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) would be discussing the possibility of alien visitation on earth. That certainly perked up my ears between brush strokes; particularly so because I was quite sure that said person was a known skeptic/debunker of UFO's. So although interested in what he had to present, I readied myself for: a) the usual hack job, or (more unlikely)... b) an apparent change of mind?

Well, it didn't take very long for ol' Seth Shostak to show his true colors. Did he interview any commercial or military pilots or officers? Serious journalists? Did he speak with any astrophysicists like a Jacques Vallee- who thinks that something's going on (even if he doesn't know exactly what)? Seth did say that he knows him- but no, 'course not. 

He "interviewed" a couple of UFO conference attendees, far from the brightest bulbs in the bunch and... there ya go- 100% proof positive, it's all in certain (dumb and/or crazy) people's heads. Case closed! You could practically hear him sniggering as he flipped the toggle switch to Mute. And if ya still had any doubt, he then interviewed someone associated with The Skeptical Enquirer who analyzes UFO footage. This openly giggling "expert" said he first looks for any signs of Photoshop or any other tampering in the videos he examines. He never stated how many films or videos do not appear manipulated, are not obvious forgeries, or could just not be explained. And ol' Seth? Well, he never asked. Very... scientific!

And there's the rub! Genuine, bonafide S-C-I-E-N-T-I-S-T-S will demand, over and over again (like Seth made sure he did me throughout our email correspondence) to personally hand over proof positive of alien visitation! And yet, and yet... their over the top arrogance allows them to never even consider that they apply the same degree of scientific finesse and scrutiny to their own argument! They will repeatedly imply how we could possibly expect that they should ever lower themselves to consider our findings, but will then insist we simply take their word on faith- instead of... actually destroying our findings with the scientific evidence and expertise they profess to wield. 

I advised Seth I have no proof positive of direct alien visitation, but that there was considerable evidence of many an unexplained occurrence by: multiple trained witnesses concurrent with anomalous radar signatures, radiation readings, molecular changes in soil and plants, etc, etc. Seth was not swayed...

He rightly brought up that eye witnesses are not always reliable. Very true- and I didn't argue. But is each one wrong, every time? When multiple witnesses see the very same thing from multiple, independent vantage points- is it always mass hallucination or "swamp gas?" Radar is accurate and reliable enough for astronauts, and commercial and military pilots. Lives depend on its very accuracy and consistency on a daily basis! But when they demonstrate anomalous signatures- are they always temperature inversions, user error or mechanical malfunction? Always? Particularly when in conjunction with eyewitness and other radar sightings both on the ground and in the cockpits of jet interceptors that have been scrambled to chase said anomalies- on successive nights, as with the Belgium UFO sightings? What about Japan Airlines Fl#1628? Two of the more well documented cases. Could Seth absolutely prove: temperature inversions, user error or mechanical malfunction? 'Course not- just take it on faith, like most skeptics do even in the most well documented of cases. No need for scientific inquiry or certainty... They're scientists for Chrissakes!

Granted, 95% of all possible UFO "anomalies" are, in fact, rationally explainable! It's the other 5% that (should) set the scientific imagination afire, and ignite the inquiry that should no doubt follow. Fortunately, some scientists like: Dr. Jacques Valle (who began his life long inquiry when he regularly witnessed impossible aeronautical anomalies on radar- and was advised to ignore them), the late Dr. Allen Hyneck (hired to debunk UFO's by the USAF for Project Bluebook, who consequently quit in disgust upon realization that, no- every case could not be conveniently excused away), or a Stanton Friedman do take their science seriously. They rightly admit there are some things that modern science cannot explain- and that it is the obligation of science to make every effort to explore, investigate and explain... instead of rushing to excuse away each and every unknown as: Venus, the moon, birds, planes, blimps, drones, stars and yes, temperature inversions and "swamp gas" (the latter, a Dr. Allen Hyneck concoction he would later live to repeatedly regret). One endless loop of square pegs and round holes pounded relentlessly. 

I casually mentioned how it was a given that any attempt to secure funding for the scientific investigation of UFO's or alien visitation was the automatic kiss of death for any scientific career. That is a simple fact; the simple fact as to why the only (known) organization currently investigating UFO's is MUFON, whose investigatory researchers consist of serious, dedicated amateurs volunteering mostly on a P/T basis. Amazingly... unbelievably, Seth replied that my assertion of career suicide when it came to scientists and UFO's was laughable at best. So I played along... Really? Could he please supply the list of scientists and publicly/privately funded organizations and institutions currently studying and investigating any alien/UFO related field? I uhhh... couldn't wait!

His "list" consisted of one anonymous scientist who worked for the British Royal Society doing... god only knows what (he never mentioned)! Not one, single American scientist or entity- not a one. Not one study, grant, research program- Nada! That was his damning, overwhelming evidence that thoroughly ran my reality proven assertion straight to hell. And whenever I insinuated the level of arrogance and dismissal he so casually employed whenever it suited him, well then- it was I who was insulting him! And I never bothered asking if he ever had to emphasize to his potential funders that his SETI investigation had Nothing (absolutely nothing) to do with investigating the possibility of alien life on earth- his organization has nothing to with us crazies; his aliens are safely sequestered in a galaxy far, far away... 

End of Part 1