The Year in Photos 2020: How will we remember this pivotal year in human history? Many of us won’t want to, but in doing so we risk repeating what got us into this mess in the first place.
Sometime between May 13th and May 25th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- George Takei Accuser Scott Brunton Changed His Story of Drugs, Assault: “A fabricated coffee meeting. Key facts withheld or walked back. A ‘great party story’ about a sexual assault—which the accuser now says may not have actually happened. What happens when an activist’s legacy is tarnished by the story of an old friend who later says it could have all been a misunderstanding? And how do we process such an anomaly in an era of overdue social justice?l
- when i say ‘don’t make jokes about rednecks and hillbillies’, that doesn’t mean i think you’re being racist against white people: “i say that because you are perpetuating extremely toxic rhetoric about our region, you are promoting stigma, you are encouraging blatant classism, and you are furthering the idea that we somehow ‘deserve’ it because our elected officials vote republican. it’s not cute. stop acting like none of us have the right to call you out on your classist bullshit.“
- Dear NRA, It’s Time to Take Away Everyone’s Gun: “I’m finished trying to reason with you. So now I, a guy who was ambivalent about guns just a few years ago, want to take your guns away. All of them. I want to take them all and melt them down and shape them into a giant sphere and then push it at you so you have to run away from it like Indiana Jones for the rest of your lives. I want Ted Nugent to roam the halls of his gunless house, sighing wearily until he dies. I want to end this thing once and for all, so that all of you who have prioritized the sale of guns over the lives of children have to sit quietly and think about what you’ve done. God help me, I want to take all of your guns out of your hands, by myself, right now.”
- The respect of personhood vs the respect of authority: "In April 2015, Autistic Abby wrote on their Tumblr about how people mistakenly conflate two distinct definitions of 'respect' when relating to and communicating with others. This is an amazing & astute observation and applies readily to many aspects of our current political moment."
- How the 50-mm Camera Lens Became ‘Normal’: “The idea that a 50-mm best approximates human sight has more to do with the early history of lens production than any essential optical correspondence between the lens and the eye.”
I did some housekeeping on my Flickr account and severely culled my contacts–from somewhere over 250 to slightly under 90. Pretty much got rid of anyone I didn’t actually know (mostly kept people that I know in the real world, though a few more-than-passing-internet-acquaintances made it through as well). This does mean that I won’t be seeing some really good photos from some really good photographers that I don’t know, and may see more average-to-good photos from people I do know, but that seemed an acceptable tradeoff. I had a number of years of connecting to as many people as possible for the slightest of reasons…now I’m at a point where I’d like there to be some amount of more real connection. That doesn’t necessarily mean I have to have met them in meatspace, but I should have at least had enough contact that I have a vague idea of who the are. There were a lot of people on that list that I didn’t recognize at all, and those were quite easy to cull.
A little housekeeping every now and then is a good thing.
Once again, it’s about time for my annual mini-vacation at Norwescon. This is my second year as part of the ConCom (_Con_vention _Com_mittee — those of us who are crazy enough to volunteer to assist with planning and running the con), and I’ve really been enjoying it.
While for the first year, I had one official position as photographer and one unofficial position as “the guy who knows about Twitter,” this year I’ve had two official positions. I’m no longer simply “Photographer,” but “Lead Photographer,” complete with a staff of two
minions assistant photographers (so I don’t have to make another attempt at shooting an entire four-day convention on my own); I’m also the “Information Network Manager”…which is kind of a fancy way of saying “the guy who knows about Twitter” again, but also encompasses handling Facebook updates and occasional website posts.
While the photographer position will be a lot of fun at the con, it’s so focused on the four days of the con itself that most of the lead-up time has been wearing my “Information Network Manager” hat. I’ve really been having fun being the primary Social Media guy for the convention for the past year, and I’m hoping that I get to keep this position for the next year (or two, or three, or…etc.).
(A quick note: While the next few paragraphs concentrate primarily on Twitter, the same basic ideology works for Facebook as well, and I have our Twitter and Facebook accounts connected so that posts to one appear on the other.)
I’ve found myself quite interested over the past couple years with the growing utilization of social media by companies and organizations as a way to create more personalized interactions with their customers and fans. I’ve had some good personal experiences with this kind of thing, when I’ve tossed out random comments on Twitter that have then been noticed and responded to by the companies in question, and I’ve really come to value the perceived personal touch that results. When companies take the time to actually interact with their followers, instead of seeing Twitter solely as another one-way broadcast medium, it makes a huge difference in how the company is perceived by the customer. It only takes a few moments, and suddenly the “little guy” doesn’t feel so little anymore — rather, there’s a real person somewhere behind the corporate logo that’s actually making a connection.
I’ve done my best over the past year or so to ensure that Norwescon’s social media presence is an interactive one. I watch Twitter and the web at large closely for any mention of Norwescon, using saved Twitter and Google keyword searches, and whenever appropriate, I try to answer any questions or concerns that I find. If I can’t provide an answer myself, I pass the question or comment on to the appropriate department. I’ll reply to people on Twitter, even if they’re just mentioning Norwescon in passing (as long as it’s appropriate to do so, of course) — not only does this let them know that they can contact the con directly, but it also helps to let more people know that Norwescon has a Twitter account. Over the past month, I’ve been watching for artists, authors, and pros announcing their schedules on Twitter and retweeting those announcements.
Basically, I’ve been running the Norwescon Twitter account like I prefer other official Twitter accounts to be run — and hopefully, I’ve been doing a decent job of it. Anecdotal evidence seems to say that I am, but it’s always hard to be sure when looking out from the inside.
I’ve also been enjoying prepping the photography side of things. Having a couple minions is going to be incredibly helpful this year (and thank you very much to Philip and Graves for volunteering to be part of the photography department!). Having three roving cameras will allow for better coverage of the convention while also allowing each of us to get some much-needed downtime and off-duty time where we can just do our own thing for a while. I think I’ve pretty much prepped most of what needs to be prepped, with only a few outlying pieces that need some last-minute followup before next weekend.
One personal triumph was creating public photography guidelines. This is one area that has often been a mild frustration for me, as an aspiring amateur photographer — when going to an event, what’s allowed? Are there any restrictions on my camera equipment, or various particular events? I didn’t want that to be an issue, and while perhaps I could have gotten this posted earlier, at least I got it up, and it will serve as a good template for years to come as well.
So that’s been a lot of my non-school-related work over the past few months. I’ve been enjoying it, so far the feedback I’ve been getting has been very complimentary, and I’m really looking forward to running around with my “nerd friends” (as Prairie likes to call them) next weekend. I should be arriving at the hotel by noon-ish on Thursday, am rooming with a couple friends again, and will be there until early afternoon on Sunday, when I’ll be leaving early enough to make sure I’m back home to Prairie in time for Easter dinner. Should be a good weekend, and hopefully I’ll see a few of you there!
A fun new piece of photo editing/post-processing software was just released yesterday evening. One of the features that’s become very popular in many of the iPhone photo apps like Camera+ or Instamatic is the easy ability to apply post-processing filters and special effects. Often designed to mimic the analog effects of toy plastic cameras, old film, faded prints, and other imperfections, these filters have become a popular way to add an artistic touch to digital photos.
However, such effects haven’t been that easy to mimic in desktop apps — not impossible, but not one-click simple, and that’s where Flare comes in.
Flare makes adding these kinds of retro effects to any photo incredibly simple: just drag a photo into the window, choose a filter to apply, and export the finished photo to email, a new file, or Flickr. Flare comes with 24 filter presets, and has a small selection (which will apparently be expanded over time) of extra presets that can be downloaded and added to the lineup.
Not content with that, though, each preset is completely editable. The presets are created by mixing together and adjusting combinations of color, texture, border, and effect, and each preset can be adjusted to tweak the final output, or new combinations can be built from scratch. Once the final look is chosen, the settings can be saved as new presets for use on other photos later on. Presets can even be exported from Flare and shared with others (here’s a sample of that effect).
This is a 1.0 release, and while I’ve been enjoying playing with Flare and haven’t run across any bugs, there are some things that I’d love to see in future releases.
At the top of my list is image importing: At the moment, the only way to bring an image in to Flare is either a standard “open file” dialog or by drag-and-drop. While this is great for initial simplicity, I tend not to have image files lying around in directories. Rather, they’re all stored in iPhoto or Aperture libraries. While dragging from another program is easy enough, that requires me to have both applications open and taking up screen space. Integrating the standard Mac OS iPhoto/Aperture image browser would make selecting photos to work with much easier.
Thanks to @talosman for pointing out that Mac OS X already has image library support built directly into the “open file” dialog. Just select “Media” from the left hand sidebar, and your iPhoto and Aperture libraries pop right up. Slick! Funny how features like this can easily go overlooked, I’d never stumbled across that before.
I’d also love it if Flare could be more tightly integrated into Aperture. Right now, Flare doesn’t work as an external editor for Aperture (when saving a file after making adjustments, Flare writes to a new file rather than to the file that Aperture created, so the changes don’t get pushed back to Aperture) — and even if it did, I prefer having Aperture tied to the more full-featured Photoshop as an external editor. As Flare is essentially a one-trick pony (admittedly, a very well-trained pony), I’d love to see it available as an Aperture plugin. Happily, there are hints that this is something that may be coming in the future.
All in all, I’m really impressed with Flare, and had a lot of fun playing with it and exploring different filters and combinations of effects. Flare is $20, and is on sale for half off ($10) for its first week (until March 18th) if bought through the Mac App Store. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Friday night, I went out to the final Den of Sin Friday fetish night at Club Vogue at Neighbours Underground. I’d been looking forward to this for a couple reasons: one, because it had been a while since I’d been out to the club, let alone on an “event” night; two, this would be my first time out with my new D7000.
Long story short: I love this camera! I’m still getting used to the differences between it and my old D70s, so I’m not entirely comfortable and will definitely be fiddling around and tweaking settings until I get it down, but I’m already incredibly impressed with how well it performs, especially in extreme low-light settings.
Here are a few shots from Friday night, the rest are Facebook or Flickr (which includes a few shots too risqué for Facebook, if you’re logged in with a Flickr account). Everything was shot without flash — I had my flash with me, but never got around to putting it on the camera. I haven’t been able to go completely flash-free at the club in years…no matter how I pushed my D70s, it just couldn’t quite handle the low light of a goth club. The D7000, though, doesn’t even pause. This is fun.
Dad asked me (through Mom, via Facebook chat) about my current wish list. I hadn’t been paying much attention to wanting “stuff” lately. Prairie and I do most of our book shopping through second-hand outlets, and my (mostly complete) camera upgrade has done a masterful job of taking care of the majority of my technolust — a good thing, too, as that counts as my Christmas, birthday, and graduation presents combined!
But, as I’d hate to let my parents down, I took a little time to go through my Amazon wishlists to see what was sitting in there. After a bit of editing (removed some, added one or two items), here’s what I’ve ended up with, in rough order from most realistic (less expensive) to least realistic (but hey, that’s the “wish” part of wish lists…and who knows, maybe someone else will go for a major combination über-gift, you never know).
Wishlist #1: Print Media
Books and a few graphic novels. As usual for me, tilts heavily towards science fiction, though I do deviate from time to time.
Wishlist #2: Movies and Music
While I’m collecting far less physical media, there’s still a fair amount of good audio and video that’s not available digitally just yet.
Wishlist #3: Electronic Gadgets and Gizmos
Only two things on this list. The first is the Vestax Spin DJ Controller. While it’s been years since I’ve done much of anything related to DJing, it’s still a bug in my system, and I occasionally get the urge to dink around. Unfortunately, as I sold off my equipment a few years back, its not an itch that’s terribly easy to scratch. This would basically be an expensive toy…but a fun toy to be able to play with from time to time.
The second is the iPad 2. I’ve been lusting after an iPad since they were first released, and the recent upgrade just made them look even sweeter. I’m not terribly concerned about the capacity, wouldn’t mind the 3G option (though you definitely pay a premium for that), but given the choice, black is definitely the way to go. The white one just looks like a toy to me.
Wishlist #3: Photography Bits
And here’s where things are definitely slipping into the realm of “not very likely, but it’s fun to dream.” One accessory for the D7000, and eight lenses that I’d love to add to my stable.
Nikon MB-D11 Battery Pack: This is a combination battery pack and portrait grip for the D7000. In addition to allowing the D7000 to hold two batteries at a time, drastically increasing the time before a recharge is necessary, this also makes it more comfortable to hold the camera rotated 90° for portrait-orientation shots.
Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye: Not really an everyday walkaround use-all-the-time lens, this is more of a special-purpose lens for dramatic effect shots. Manual focus only, but fisheye lenses tend to have a very deep depth of field, so that’s not a major concern, and omitting a focusing motor keeps the lens lighter and a little less expensive.
Sigma 30mm f/1.4: A highly reviewed fast lens (good for low-light shooting) that, on an APS-C DSLR like my current D70s or the D7000, is very close to the old standard 50mm f/1.4 “normal” lens that many old film cameras came with.
Nikkor 70-300 f/4.5-5.6G: This is kind of a whim. While most of my shooting is more suited for primes (indoors, close to the subjects, often in lower light), there are times when having a decent zoom lens would come in handy. I have an acceptable midrange zoom (the Quantaray 55-200 f/4-5.6), but this lens has higher quality optics, a longer reach, and vibration reduction. Not at the top of my lust list, but wouldn’t mind having it available.
Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D: Not quite as wide of an aperture as the 30mm f/1.4 listed above, but a little bit wider. Again, not at the top of my lust list, as I already have a 24mm f/2.8, and this is only a little bit wider than that, but when shooting indoors, sometimes you can’t back up enough to get what you want in the frame, and even a little bit wider can come in handy.
Tamron 70-200 f/2.8: A lower-priced, worthy competitor to Nikon’s 70-200 f/2.8 fast zoom. The combination of a decent zoom range with the low f/2.8 aperture makes for a very capable distance portrait lens that’s able to use low depth of field to isolate subjects from a distance.
Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Micro: While this is a nice length for a portrait lens, and I’ve seen it used as such, it’s real strength is in its macro capabilities. Perhaps more of a play lens than an everyday lens.
Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8: The higher-quality, and much higher-priced, version of the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 listed earlier.
I’m home! Home, and recovering from another fun Norwescon. In something of a break from previous Norwescon wrapup posts, this one is going to be picture free. However, this is by no means due to a shortage of photos…in fact, just the opposite! As this was my first year volunteering as official staff photographer, I have, if anything, an overabundance of photos to process (the final count: 4,474). I will be working my way through them over the next few weeks, but as I’m also a student in my last few quarters before graduation, photo processing will have to take a back seat to homework. Still, I’ll be posting them to the official Norwescon Flickr account as I can. In the meantime, other congoers are already adding photos to the Norwescon 33 group.
Overall, the con was, as always, a lot of fun. In addition to this being my first year volunteering, this was also my first year getting a hotel room and staying on-site for the entire weekend. As Prairie isn’t into this kind of über-geeking, she went down to visit with her family for Easter, and I shared the room (and split the costs) with Laurie (Rowan Silverwing) and Brad.
Thursday morning, Prairie went off to work, and I finalized all my prepping and packing for the weekend. Said prepping and packing consisted of two bags and one box: one backpack of clothing, toiletries, and general hotel room stuff; one backpack of photo gear, which had my small day-use camera bag attached to it; and my iMac, nice and snug in its original packaging from Apple. I’d debated that last item, but given the number of photos I was expecting to shoot, and that I was planning on at least a minimum amount of posting from the con, it seemed the best approach.
Round about 11 AM, Tim showed up to pick up my old G5, load me and my gear into his car, and drive me up to the hotel. I got there a little after noon, checked in, and headed up to find my room, conveniently running into Laurie and Brad on the way (who were kind enough to help me schlep my gear through the halls).
The room ended up being the one downside to the con. Not that there was anything wrong with the room itself — it was simply that as I wasn’t sure I’d be staying at the hotel until fairly late in the year, and ended up reserving my room not long before the con’s reserved block entirely sold out, I ended up with a room in the party wing. Five doors down from Dethcon, and across the hall from Shockwave. While the hotel rooms are soundproofed enough that only a bare minimum of sound from the parties themselves carried through the walls, the people carrying on in the halls were plenty loud enough to make sleeping difficult. Still, now I know, and next year, our room will definitely be in some other wing of the hotel!
Anyway, with everything dropped off, I went down to registration just in time for their servers to crap out. Thankfully, from what I understand, this was the only time they had a major glitch at registration during the weekend. An hour or so later, I had my registration, and about half an hour after that (after a minor amount of confusion) I had my “official photographer all-access” badge, and was ready to go!
My t-shirt of the day — Princess Leia as the iconic Rosie the Riveter “We Can Do It!” image, with “Join the Rebel Alliance Today!” text at the bottom — got a lot of grins, compliments, and “where did you get that” questions (to which there was often disappointment when I had to tell them that it was a one-day sale only item).
The rest of the day — much like the rest of the weekend — was divided between wandering around the halls, getting shots of congoers and volunteers alike, and attending the various panels and events that I’d worked out ahead of time as being the most necessary to photograph. I began with the Thrill the World dance class, with zombies-to-be learning the steps of the “Thriller” dance; moved on to the Guest of Honor banquet, where I got my first shots of most of the Guests of Honor (Cory Doctorow, at this point, was still held up at customs); the Opening Ceremonies were next, by which point Cory had arrived; a quick stop by the Zombie 101 room for zombie training, makeup, and planning their attack on the con; finally, the Zombie Walk and the Thursday night dance.
Eventually, I made it back to my room, dumped my photos, and crashed.
Friday morning I established my morning routine: up between 8 and 8:30 AM, shower, breakfast in the Hospitality suite at 9 AM, then back up to the room to make a quick scan of the prior day’s photos to choose five “highlights” to post (straight out of the camera, as-is and uncorrected) to Norwescon’s Facebook page. Once all that was done, off I went!
Friday’s run covered the premiere of “Courage,” a Firefly fan series; an interview with Science Guest of Honor Dr. Kramer; the Gothic Tea Party, hosted by Jillian Venters, the Lady of the Manners; the first autograph session; the Single Pattern Contest, for which I took “beauty shots” of the entries, ran back up to the room to process them, then provided .jpg files on a thumb drive so the contest head could put them in a PowerPoint slideshow for presentation the next day; the Philip K. Dick Awards, which four of the seven nominated authors were able to attend; the Fannish Fetish Fashion Show, where I met a couple other local photographers (one of whom has been kind enough to show me some of his shots from the FFFS, and he did a wonderful job); upstairs to Maxi’s for their evening party sponsored by Weird Tales; and finally, the Friday night Stardance. Somewhere in the middle of all that I found some downtime for an hour’s nap.
Friday’s shirt was my “I’m Just Here to Get Laid” t-shirt, which got the usual number of laughs, grins, thumbs-ups, and inquiries as to how successful I’d been. No offers, though, so at least I didn’t have to turn anyone down (as much as Prairie is amused by the shirt, she’d probably frown at it being anything more than a fun joke).
Saturday morning was essentially a repeat of Friday, aside from heading over to Denny’s for a more substantial breakfast.
Saturday’s events covered the Star Trek: Phoenix fan film premiere, which packed one of the largest rooms in the con; both autograph sessions; an interview with Vernor Vinge conducted by another notable science fiction author, Greg Bear; the Masquerade costume photo area, which accounted for the majority of my shots on Saturday, racking up 1,625 at this event alone; upstairs to Maxi’s, sponsored this night by Star Trek: Phoenix; and again, finally, the Saturday night dance. One again, somewhere in the middle I managed to squeeze in time for an hour’s nap.
Saturday’s shirt was one I just had made a couple months ago, and which had its major public debut this weekend: “This man isn’t wearing any pants!” This comes from something shouted at me a few years ago while I was wandering around the Fremont Solstice Parade wearing my kilt (when it was “That man…” rather than “This man….”), and has been making me laugh ever since. It’s a fun bit of silliness to wear when I’m wearing my kilt (It might even more fun to wear at some point when I am wearing pants). Many laughs on this one as I wandered around.
Sunday morning, again, was a repeat of Friday’s, complete with breakfast at Hospitality. Added to the routine, however, was packing everything up and schlepping it down to the cloak room so that we could be all checked out of our room by noon.
My shirt for the day was my Cylon toaster shirt. Again, it got some grins, but it’s been around longer (and is a little more obscure), so not as much of a reaction. That was what I’d expected, though.
Sunday’s mad dash for photos covered the Easter Egg Hunt for the youngest set (four and younger); the Fannish Flea Market, a new event for Norwescon and one that appeared to be going over incredibly well; the Art and Charity Auction; getting shots of congoers leaving the movie preview session wearing t-shirts supplied by the movie studios; the filk music jam; a few shots at the Fandance Film Festival, which included the hilarious final results of the “Let’s Make A Movie!” event that had been going on throughout the con; the Onions and Roses panel, where I was pleased to hear the Twitter and Facebook updates that I assist with get a few nice comments; and finally, the Closing Ceremonies bringing the con to a happy and successful end.
I wandered over to the cloak room, picked up my stuff, had the hotel staff call a cab for me, and made it home by 7pm that night, happy and absolutely exhausted.
I’m thrilled that we were able to successfully expand our social media presence this year. Last year I’d created a Norwescon Twitter account just for fun, as a bit of unrecognized fan-run promotion. It picked up a few followers and seemed to go well, and so over the course of planning for Norwescon 33, the con’s Publications department had asked (and I’d happily agreed) to take over the administration of the account.
Once I was on-board as photographer, though — also a part of the Publications department — as we got closer to the con, and we started discussing ways to use the Twitter account during the con, I volunteered to once again take the reins for the account (in part because our webmaster, normally in charge of the Twitter account, was unable to attend the con due to scheduling conflicts with his day job). We got it tied together with the Facebook page, pre-wrote and -scheduled a number of updates to go out over the course of the con, covering event announcements, program changes, and other miscellanea, and did our best to check it in person every so often to answer any requests that had come our way. This ended up working really well, and I heard a number of appreciative comments over the course of the con. I’m quite proud of that.
As far as my first year as con photographer went, overall, I’m quite happy with how it all worked out. The big thing I’m going to be considering over the next year as we wind down from Norwescon 33 and prepare for Norwescon 34 is just how exhausting it was for me to try to cover the entire con on my own. I think I did a pretty decent job, but there were a few things I wanted to hit that I wasn’t able to get to (the Match Game, for instance, along with many of the more popular panels). I’m going to be putting some serious thought (and discussion with the Publications head, once my ideas are a little more solidified than they are at the moment) into seeing if I can take on one, perhaps two “assistant” photographers to assist with getting full coverage of the con next year.
I also heard from a few of the other photographers that the Saturday night Masquerade photo area continues to be a source of frustration for many, something that I’ve thought myself in past years, and that was only partially mitigated by my status as “official” photographer this year. This is an area that I’m going to be brainstorming on over the next few months to see if I can come up with any workable ideas and suggestions for alleviating the issues that seem to be occurring each year.
My single biggest regret, though, is one that in many ways has nothing to do with the con itself. It’s simply that, as I’m a student (and, by the time Norwescon 34 rolls around, will be graduated and (knock on wood) gainfully employed), now that I’m back in the “mundane” world, I’ve got to concentrate on silly little things like homework, and I can’t devote the next week to getting all these thousands of photographs sorted, processed, edited, and uploaded! I’m thrilled to see the man photographs already appearing in the Norwescon 33 Flickr group, as well as the catch-all Norwescon Flickr group, so those people who are looking for photos will be able to find them…I just wish I had the time to get the “official” shots up on the Norwescon account sooner! Still, real life has its responsibilities, and I’m pretty sure that everyone knows that I’ll get them up as soon as I can, and there’s certainly nobody (other than myself) rushing me.
And…I think that’s it! Another fun year, and my first year volunteering, and I had a lot of fun doing it. Here’s to Norwescon 34!
Those of you who follow my postings on Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr will already have seen these, but, on the off chance that there are still some who only find me through my blog (or my LiveJournal mirror of this blog)….
Last Saturday, American Gothique magazine hosted a fashion show at The Vogue, with Amazing Race contestants Kynt and Vyxsin as featured models. I was able to join the crowd of photographers crouched at the foot of the catwalk, and here are a few shots from the show. As is usually the case, there are many more shots posted on Flickr!