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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Puerto Rico- Back To... NORMAL!!!

Hey, looka me- I did this as a kid when I was bored outta my mind!   Photo: Reuters

Yes, Sir! Outta sight, outta mind aannndd... back on shit list #1! Well, Puerto Rico did get a trophy(!) and some paper towels for its troubles- what more can anyone possibly ask for? Well, yeah- water, food and maybe some of that electricity stuff. But seriously, I have yet to see a POTUS with more empathy and compassion than good ol' 45 pulling up to the table for a few quick, short jumpers with the paper goods. Don't think I'll ever again be treated in my lifetime to such a humbling world class demonstration of how to ever so subtly remind a bunch of Brown people that they are truly beneath any measure of human dignity or consideration, let alone equality...

Then, as if he's left any doubt whatsoever as to what a detached, unfeeling and totally inconsiderate excuse of a human being he truly is, he allows The Jones Act waiver to expire so that everything shipped there... costs double again, and departs a land where thousands have been left homeless and without water or power with this heart felt message of hope and inspiration...

"Have A GOOD TIME!  -Potus 45

Sunday, October 8, 2017


Is it safe to talk about gun control... now? I mean we couldn't talk about it on the very day of our most recent masturbatory gun massacre- just like uhhh... we couldn't and didn't talk about terrorism on 9/11.

So what have we learned? Well, we all know that Mr. Paddock could've killed just as many people with a rock, or a club, or his bare hands for Chjrissakes! After all, "Guns don't kill people; people kill people!" And if it wasn't for some good guy civilian with a gun ending this bad guy with a gun in Vegas... Wait, wha...? Yeah, two, count 'em- 2 NRA mantras up in (gun) smoke in one incident. 

Most of his fellow guns nuts would have had nothing but praise and admiration had they met Mr. Paddock and his compensatory collection the day before. The only question is- which well armed, macho-maniac will be the next to snap? Can't wait- can you? 

As to what to do with those two rooms at The Mandalay Bay- donate 'em to the NRA! Tourists can then marvel at the vast arsenal of weaponry that their organization has fought to make available to any mass murdering maniac throughout the US of A... and then peer at the concert grounds below, imagining what they would look like on the other end of the scope as they lay bleeding out in wondrous celebration of their 2nd Amendment Right!

Thursday, October 5, 2017


Aqua Man; Ricoh GR ISO 400- 1/100 f7.1; Photo: © S. Banos

There'll probably be a time comin' when I start jonesin' for some good ol' monochrome film and thumb lever action- it's a beautiful thang. But right now, still having too much fun with this new age pixel dust... Sometimes, I'm literally, flat out gobsmacked by the results inherent in a package basically the size of a cigarette pack! Interesting times we live in. 

And then I start dreaming- what will the imaging devices of say... 2080 be capable of achieving? I'm almost tempted to reincarnate just to find out- just not on this planet.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Guns Don't Kill People- Republicans Do

First off, I have no problem with American citizens owning a firearm for hunting or home security- provided they have passed a thorough background check, been trained in usage and acquired a necessary license. Republicans however have repeatedly thwarted and blocked any attempt at enacting even the most rudimentary of sane gun regulation. And that is why I (logically) hold Republicans responsible for massacres like the one in Las Vegas, as well as countless other anonymous daily shooting deaths. Mental problems? Not a problem! Violent criminal record? Piece o' cake- all the guns you want! And you can have all the ammunition you want for your military grade weaponry. They won't even consider banning those with possible terrorist links for Chrissakes!!! That is well beyond irresponsible- it's thoroughly insane and the direct cause of needless deaths, with needless more yet to come...

Stan, now is not the time to talk politics! No, it's not- neither is tomorrow, or the day after, nor the week or month following...
It never is!


Trump Don't Give A Damn About the Poor, PR & People of Color

Now that there's a general I'd follow... 

"For me, Harvey was monumental in Texas because of the amount of flood damage,” Buchanan added. “But the impact here is completely different. It’s like an atomic bomb went off."

“Not giving the mission to the military” was the first mistake, HonorĂ© said in his interview with CBS. “Look, we got Army units that go do port openings. Not called. We got special forces that could’ve been in every town. Not employed."

“And the president has shown again, you don’t give a damn about poor people,” HonorĂ© told CNN. “You don’t give a damn about people of color and the SOB that rides around in Air Force One is denying services needed by the people of Puerto Rico." 


Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Revolution Will Be Typewritten...

Thoughtful, well produced doc on... typewriters. Manual, portable, electric and pre-20th century! But this flick is so much more than just that. It's about the creative process in general, and how our analog yesteryear counterpoints our digital revolution. 

Writers and enthusiasts alike wax poetic on the tactile sensation (of machine and paper), the mechanical precision and eye pleasing curves- and of course, the process itself! These machines served us long and well- and a handful of devotees are still gleefully loyal. Anyone see any comparisons? 

PS- A couple of scenes in which people are awkwardly poking about while blinded with virtual reality headsets and other digital paraphernalia are both pathetically sad, and hilarious...