Love Bites

Love Bites

The orange and white cat jumps onto the washing machine that shakes in the spin cycle and sneaks onto the kitchen counter beside the sink. He rubs his chin against the clip-on light hanging from the cabinet before crouching low as if to pounce. His wide black eyes follow the purple sponge with curiosity. Soapy and wet as it is, the sponge smells like food. As the human sets it down, the cat sees his opportunity and pounces. Sinking his teeth into the water logged dish cleaner, he claims it as his own and flees the room with his human in pursuit.

In a few weeks, our unique kitten known as Dude will be turning a year old. Once upon a time he was too tiny to peek his head out of the bed him and his mother shared, but things quickly change. Since then he’s discovered that laying in the sink with the water running is enjoyable, that window blinds taste good, that noodles are so magical he’s willing to sniff out a packet of ramen from the pantry, and that the microwave is in some way connected to food. In the last year, he’s destroyed four computer mice, a keyboard, two pairs of headphones, two Nalgene bottles, a laptop fan, a lamp, and other assorted items such as dish towels. He hates being held, will meow when he’s bored, still tries to nurse, and uses backpacks as scratching posts. The above story is a common occurrence.

Of course, none of these photos reveal his dark side. Whether napping in the rays of sunlight that slip into the pantry or sharing the cat perch with Mama, he appears completely normal. After the last few sets of photos I’ve worked my way through, I wanted something natural and catching him while he’s mellow gave me just that. No posing, no setup, just window light, sunshine, and capturing him on his terms with whichever lens was on the camera at the time. Minimal processing was done in Lightroom and Photoshop to add sharpening, set the white point or convert to black and white.

Feel free to share stories of your own!

Radio Flyer


As it sat beside the koi pond, the little red wagon seemed both out of place and lonely. Two girls played in the distance, amused by the orange, red, and white fish in the depths of the still waters. A silent statue stood indifferent in the midst of the lagoon. The radio flyer turned its attention down the brick footpath ahead and an empty park bench stared back in a daze. In the distance, the afternoon sun was waning, darkening the blue sky and dancing through the trees. Splashes of light warmed its wood and metal parts but the touch of the sun wasn’t enough to drag it away. The wagon sighed.

The intent was to shoot the scene with bracketed exposure (-2, -1, 0, 1, 2) and consider HDR in post. I wanted to keep the sky from blowing out to white and capture the details in the shadows, however, my memory card had other plans and ate a couple of the images. I was left with -2, -1, & the +1 exposure of which I had no desire to run through Photomatix for tone mapping. The other two files were corrupt. I liked something about the scene and wanted to save the sky and draw the eye to the wagon, so I figured I’d give it a try and here’s where the walkthrough begins. Stick around to see the final product at the end of the post.

I opened my remaining photos as layers in Photoshop, which is as simple as a right click in Lightroom. After I aligned the layers with the Auto-Align Layers command under the Edit menu, I then dropped black masks onto the top two layers with the brightest exposure on the bottom. Using a white paintbrush, I painted on the mask to reveal the parts of the image that I wanted to blend together, essentially the entire top left corner as well as some selective darkening. The outline of the wagon is visible in the mask. Once I was set with the exposure blending, I merged up to create a new layer and ran ColorEfexPro to punch up the contrast and saturation and bring out the details. Here’s a before and after…

Still not satisfied with the relationship between the lights and the darks, mainly in the logo on the wagon, I duplicated the layer and dodged and burned. The logo started out muddy and slowly stood out as white. The pathway needed some lightening as well, while some of the flora received some darkening, however, I couldn’t darken the upper left corner and the trees far enough without destroying the pixels. At this point I duplicated the dodge and burn layer, applied a black mask, and changed the layer blend mode to multiply. Again, with a white paintbrush, I painted in the areas that I wanted revealed and was happy with the far darker trees and water. A touch of overall sharpening followed and I considered myself done.

As it stands, I’m still unsure of this image. I feel as though a shallow depth of field may have emphasized the lonely wagon just a little more, but it’s the details in the background that make the wagon feel so much out of place. I’m sure other stories exist to explain its presence by the pond as much as I’m sure other people must have walked past it without even noticing. Maybe it just spoke to me at the time. Thoughts?


Seven Days in the South


Darkness presses in, interrupted only by oncoming headlights and the green glow of the dashboard panel. Nineties alternative trickles from the speakers filling the air with the occasional melody that is far better than silence. The unfamiliar road ahead is nearly empty and the world in the rearview is black. His tired eyes begin to blur. Brake lights take on the appearance of demonic faces. His body begs for sleep. He grips the steering wheel tighter as he slips further and further into the recesses of his mind.

“I’m in no hurry, and in fact, haven’t been in days. There’s no reason to be, not one single urgent anything. I have no schedule, no place to be other than exactly where I am, and the only thing that might make me move is the nightly chill that creeps in as the sun slips down behind the Sierras. Nothing is wasted, not my time, not my energy.”

What’s now five years ago seems like yesterday, however, his life is not the same as it was when he wrote those words. After publishing a monthly essay for nearly two years, the pressure that he placed upon himself to do so forced him to quit writing completely. In doing so, he lost some part of himself. He bites his tongue to distract his mind, but the effect is short lived. He can’t escape himself and gives in to the flood.

The internal monologue begins. “I’ve come to a point where I’m out of touch with myself. I feel like everything I do is a waste of time and that I have no energy to spare. It’s no secret that I cycle in and out of depression but at the same time I’m not sure what it really means to be happy. Have I ever been and when? Family events and social gatherings just serve as a mirror for me to see what I’m not, reminding me of the past just as much as they show me my failings. It’s too easy to slip back into old patterns based on what they expect out of me. I always assumed that people changed drastically as they grew up, but the truth is simply that we are who we are. I’ll never be anything different because I can only be who I am. I’m still the quiet kid plagued with self-doubt and countless insecurities, and to myself, I’m a failure because that’s not who I want to be. I need to be better. I need to be more.”

He desperately attempts to focus on the road and struggles to hold back tears. Losing at least one battle, he shifts in his seat and tries to breathe. “What’s the point of my life?” As he stares into the dark of the night as if he’s on some lost highway, he knows the answer but it doesn’t help…

About These Photos

The above photos were taken over the course of a week in early November in Northern Alabama and around Tampa Bay, Florida. In a quick trip, I stayed in Horse Pens 40 near Steele, AL, went north to the Huntsville Botanical Gardens, then drove south to Tampa & St Petersburg, where I dropped in on the Tampa Zoo and a park in St Petes. I was traveling light with two lenses, an 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 and a 50mm f/1.8. Every image was processed through Lightroom then Photoshop for varying usage of Color Efex Pro 4 and sharpening. A number of the photos are HDR and were processed with Photomatix before Photoshop.

For more writings, check out Get Out! The Complete Writings

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The Last Calendar Ever?


If we follow the whole 2012 prediction about the end of the world, then this will be the last calendar you’ll ever need. It even includes the End of the World as a holiday, but just to be safe, the calendar continues for the rest of the year. Of course, since the world won’t be ending, next years calendar might need to be a little more planned out, but it’s not next year yet, so a 2012 calendar is fine for right now.

In an attempt to be different, I’ve included the Native American names for the full moons and scattered in random holidays such as a couple relating to squirrels or socks. A minimum of twelve photographs comprise this 12 month calendar, the grids are simple, and even though it’s a bit last minute, it’s also more interesting to look at than most of the calendars I’ve seen.

Click Here to See the 2012 Calendar

Invasion of the Pumpkins


The grins of the pumpkins sagged as if they were feeling sick. Without affecting the color of their eyes, the hue of their mouths shifted towards illness. Pumpkin eyes narrowed. Projectile pumpkin vomit spewed from their mouths. Seeds and orange vine-fruit intestines splashed across the floor of the crypt. Beneath the puke, the gourds growled and for a split second there was a faint smell of pizza…

Walking through the 2011 Pumpkinfest in Keene, NH reminds me of a story I wrote in 2007 in which rabid gourds terrorize a small town while jack o lanterns take over and finally stampede down the street. Of course, in the story, gourds were characterized by sharp teeth, incessant barking, and a desire to bite, but the number of carved pumpkins there in real life made everything else seem possible. A random pumpkin stampede would have been incredible, although from what I read, the town was left in enough of a mess after kids were smashing the pumpkins and police were busy arresting people for public drunkenness.

Between the thousands of carved pumpkins, the festival-goers decked out in costume, and the town itself, there was plenty to keep me occupied behind the lens. While I only took roughly 500 photos, that’s a small number for the nearly 9 hours we were there. For the daylight hours, I shot with an 18-200 f/3.5-5.6, then switched over to the 50mm f1.8 when the sun went down and jacked up the ISO which also increased the noise.

In editing, I tried to keep things diverse and showcase both night and day as well as the varying styles. Some of the pumpkins bordered on creepy while others were more lighthearted, so some received more post-processing than others. Each had a touch of ColorEfexPro applied after being fed through Lightroom, and although they are a bit late to make it to the blog seeing as how it’s now after Christmas, at least they’re done.

As for the story mentioned at the top, it was aptly named Gourds