New Toys

A package arrived from Amazon on Friday and my first real chance to open it was yesterday. It was the new camera that I treated myself to earlier in the week; another Sony Alpha, but this time a full frame Sony A7 III

At just over $2,000 it was a purchase that I went back and forth over a few times before finally convincing myself that I should treat myself. I didn’t really need it, but sometimes you have to give into the “wants”.

I have three other Sony Alphas and they are all great cameras but they use what is referred to as crop sensors. So, I wanted to explore the full sensor world, to see what kind of options it might open up to me.

For those of you who don’t know, a full sensor is larger than a crop sensor so it is touted as being able to produce better pictures in low light along with a few other benefits.

So, this morning (having charged it up yesterday), I took it off down to Tampa before dawn, so that I could see what it could do.

I wasn’t really trying to produce any beautiful pictures of downtown Tampa; the other Alphas had done that already for me these past few years. But I wanted to technically evaluate what it might do as compared to the crop sensor cameras, so I brought along one of the “old” ones in order to be able to correctly do a side by side.

The very first thing I did was set up the tripod on the UT side of the Hillsborough River and took one pic with the crop sensor camera and then one with the new.

My goal was to see what different width of view it would give me. And here is what it did. The cameras were both using a lens at around 25mm.

The view from the crop sensor camera is shown in black and white.

So, off the bat, I was clearly thrilled at getting such a wider view and I really look forward to exploring that a bit further over time.

But the thing that really got me, was how much clearer the image was from the new camera in such low light. I had left both cameras in full auto mode, so I wasn’t compensating for anything deliberately. And what thrilled me was that the clarity was mostly achieved through a faster shutter speed.

The new camera was working at four times the speed of the other and that is a startling difference. Shutter speed is king of focus vs blur in situations like this and so this set my mind racing on other things I will be trying over the coming weeks.

Anyway, I have placed a few images at the end of the blog and the two skyline shots are courtesy of the new Sony A7 III. Hope you enjoy!

As I drove home, I wondered why I had dilly dallied on the whole purchase at all, inasmuch as there were clearly going to be benefits, given the specs and the price differences. And one of the deciding factors was recalling a conversation with Brittany before she passed, where she encouraged me to with a “you deserve it, Neville”.

So, I will be naming the new camera “Brittany”.

But deserve or not, the truth is, that there are times in life when we buy ourselves new toys and there are times when we don’t.

I mean, clearly there are moments where money constraints make the decision for us. But other times it really just comes down to how we view ourselves and the importance of anything we are considering.

When we are kids and get our first job or begin to get our financial footing, we often spend on ourselves. A new car. A new TV. Something that excites us and gives us a congratulatory feel.

As we get older, we tend to have everything that we need and most of our wants are associated with those we love and care for. So if we do buy something, it is generally for someone else.

And I truly believe that is the general rule of thumb we should follow. If you are still continually treating yourself to new shit in your sixties, then you are either very selfish or have begun your second childhood a little early.

At that stage, our treating energies are more towards others and we bathe in the reflected joy that we see in their faces when we get them something they need. Most of us realize by that stage that the joy of giving is much brighter than the joy of receiving.

But there is an importance in occasionally still treating ourselves too. And here is why.

I was giving Lola her medicine yesterday and she is very disgruntled at being locked up in a bathroom, away from the other kitties. So this is a rough time for her.

After I had gotten her to swallow the latest syringe of antibiotic, I was rubbing her head and telling her I love her and I heard myself say “you poor baby” to her. Lola is a little over ten, I think and so few consider her a baby any more.

But then I realized we are all babies on the inside. A piece of us has never grown up and still craves the softness and tenderness that babies receive. Once we lose the baby gloss, people around us stop giving us the endless adulation that a baby gets and life loses a little something.

Of course, we pull on our big girl panties and don’t mope about it. We are all big girls now and everyone knows that big girls don’t cry.

But that doesn’t mean, we don’t feel the abandonment. The loss. The fading interest.

Babies, kittens, and puppies … they get all that shit and we watch from the sidelines, a part of us aching for the same love and care that is being lavished on them.

It is something we put away in a box and don’t get offended by and so we toughen up. Life toughens us up.

But the inner child feels the cold and the neglect, regardless.

So, that is why it is important to just occasionally listen to the little voice from within that goes “ooooh” when you see a shiny new camera.

Remember you aren’t really buying it for the adult that you are. You are just treating the little child in the corner of your mind to a little something that reminds them that they too are special. They too are loved.

… just a thought!


Yesterday morning was one of those moments where the immediate rush of things to do when you get out of bed and the imminent list of things yet to be done as soon as it is bright enough, is just overwhelming.

Lola is the latest casualty in our hospital ward, with a badly infected foot injury, and the medication process that the vets gave me is just stunning in it’s level of difficulty. There were four medicines and a foot-bathing solution to be given and in truth the main issues are with the antibiotic which she sprays out as soon as I get it in her mouth and the foot-bathing solution.

I mean, how on earth someone thinks it’s reasonable to prescribe a solution that I have to get her to stand in twice a day for ten minutes each? Are they nuts? Victoria came up with the best answer but even that is only giving me about two or three minutes of success each time. And between this and the antibiotic, Lola is seriously pissed at me.

So, by the time all ten others had been taken care of (around 5:30) I decided instead of breakfast and then Lola, I would escape to the lake to try to ease some of the pressure, even if just for a short while.

Even though I knew it was all going to be still waiting for me when I got back, just escaping for a little while was a heart-warming enough thought. So, I grabbed a cup of coffee, asked Kermie if he wanted to come with me (he didn’t say “no”) and drove on down to Lake Parker.

They were just opening the gate to the boating area as I drove by, so I figured that was a sign from the heavens and I u-turned and went back there.

The ranger that had opened the gate was gone when I returned and so I was completely alone (except for the frog) and in the dark. And that was exactly what I needed.

I set up down by the boat launch and got some nice long exposure shots that Miss Piggy will like and for a while, I completely chilled.

I have put some of them here at the end of the blog and the first four are a good example of the camera seeing something that my eyes couldn’t. I was staring into darkness with no view of the horizon, while the camera pulled up those wonderful tones over a 30 second exposure. How cool, huh?

Anyway, hope you enjoy!

Around 6:30 it was already getting too close to twilight to pull off a long exposure like that, so I packed up and went home, to once again resume duties and get on with my day.

But as I drove home, I began to think about the value of taking a brief escape like this and how it made things just a tiny bit less overwhelming and quite possibly doable.

And that is how the whole thought of escape from life began to materialize in my head, on a grander scale.

You see, stepping back from the coal-face of issues is well-understood to be the correct way to be able to objectively deal with things. But the stepping away also can allow us to rejuvenate ourselves to where we handle things just a little better and with less stress.

Hitting the pause button for a short while can help us catch our breath and have another run at whatever may be overwhelming to us at any moment in time.

It doesn’t necessarily guarantee us success, but it allows us to give it a shot without the handicap of feeling so bad about it. Because when we are overwhelmed, we tend to feel badly about any task that we have on our plate and this increases the likelihood that we will fail.

I think none of this is news to most of us. We have all done this many times before and likely will again in the future.

But where my mind took the thought yesterday was exploring the concept of escaping from life and the ways that some people manage to do this.

Catastrophic examples of this are the folks who put a gun to their head or those how lose their mind in a one-way visit to insanity. I obviously don’t recommend these as a viable journey.

But methods such as meditation are immensely valuable routes than can be taken with really powerful results. People who meditate reap benefits to their health and well-being on different planes. Some do so on a serious and consistent level, while others do small ad-hoc journeys that give them relief.

Whatever works for your lifestyle, these escapes can place us on a desert island in our mind, where outside influences disappear and somehow seem less threatening when we choose to reemerge from the mental solitude.

Surrounding our island with oceans of nothingness, gives us space to reassess where we are, who we are, and what is important without the interference of issues or people that must be dealt with.

And escape doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be alone on your island. You can bring a Kermie and a coffee too, if you wish. But whoever you bring needs to be not part of the problem from which the escape is taking place.

Kermie gave me promise of finding the rainbow connection, many years ago and so he actually helps me focus on what I am trying to escape to.

Perhaps for others of you, it might be a pet on your lap to where your escape happens to the soothing sound of a purr or soft furry breathing.

I don’t believe that meditation has to take us to a place of empty minded nothingness. I believe it just needs to take us somewhere where we find peace.

So, whether your meditation ends up being a scheduled event or an occasional response to tough times, take it. Give that moment to yourself and escape the feeling of loss and being overwhelmed.

We generally don’t give ourselves many gifts, but this is one that you will be glad you did.

… just a thought.

Ulterior Motives

I had begun to mess a little with drops of glass on water the previous day and though I wasn’t happy with what I had achieved (this one was the best of them, for example) it gave me some further ideas to try.

So, safe in the knowledge that last night would deliver a clear-sky sunset, I took myself off to the far shore on Lake Parker to experiment a little further.

To all casual observers they would have thought I was going to photograph the sunset but in reality I wanted to explore how light from behind would interact with drops of water on a glass sheet and how focus would affect the resulting images.

I took with me a glass picture frame, water bottle, some clips, and a baking brush and I have included a setup picture in the little collection at the end of the blog.

I was fundamentally pleased with the end shots but there were limitations that I couldn’t get over that stopped me getting some of the shots that I wanted.

For example, I could only rest the glass frame on the ground, which really limited the scope of different heights and positions that I would have liked to have tried, Also, being on my own, I was limited to the drops that stayed on the glass and would have much preferred running drops that were being applied by a second person. And the broken wrist didn’t help much either, as it limited my ability to move myself around as much as I would have.

But still, some of the images came out well and I hope you enjoy. I even added a couple of normal sunset shots for you OCD purists, for whom the drops are an obstacle to your enjoyment lol

As I walked back to the car, a guy who was fishing nearby commented on the lovely sunset and as I drove home, I mused over how appearances can be deceiving sometimes and specifically how we can deliberately mislead others while having an ulterior motive.

Mine last night was completely innocent and irrelevant to the observer. No one was interested that it was actually water drops that I was shooting.

But what about those moments when we set out to mislead for deliberate and nefarious reasons.

The biggest and most current instance in the spotlight at the moment is the Dotard and the RNC claiming that the election was stolen and inciting huge distrust in the whole democracy we live in. Their objectives have actually nothing to do with the fact that they lost the election and everything to do with the money they are raising on the back of the claims. Hundreds of millions are being raised and the simple minded folk that are contributing, have no idea what their money is being used for.

But the use of trickery to cover up ulterior motives extends way beyond politics and affects almost all walks of our lives.

Forthrighteousness was once seen as an admirable quality in a person but now, the value of a poker face is extolled to much higher value.

Honesty and sincerity were seen as a guiding principle by which most people did things. But over time, the ability to feign interest or fake an activity has been seen to propel people to the top of society.

From the moment a mommy tastes a spoon of baby food and declares it to be so yummy, toddlers the world over have been introduced to the whole notion of deception for an ulterior motive. Mommy’s interest is clearing in delivering food that she knows to be good for her baby, rather than something laden with sugar that would taste better. So, the ulterior motive isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

And when the teenage boy tells his new girlfriend that he would love to see the latest chic-flick paying at the movie theater, or read her some of his favorite poetry, the motive still hasn’t taken on an evil undertone, but clearly his intent is getting into her pants.

By the time we hit later years, we learn many ways to disguise our intent. From being the last one to leave the office to commenting on how wonderful the boss’s outfit is, we establish a game plan in which honestly has little or no role in it.

In the outer world, the damage done by ulterior motives is normally only surface deep, or at the very least not long lasting. Politicians get seen for the liars they are and employees get seen as the brown-nosers they are, and yes, Debbie eventually realizes that Johnny only wanted to get into her pants when he charmed her with his verses of Yeats.

But, where it completely falls apart is in our inner world.

This is the world where we live with our partner and our loved ones.

Ulterior motives have no play in this environment and if they leak in, then irreparable damage can be done. Honesty is a cornerstone upon which love and relationships are built. Doing or saying anything for a motive other than an honestly declared purpose will undo trust and reduce relationships to rubble.

Being able to state your purpose and honestly show your feelings is a main ingredient in pulling off a long term relationship.

“Well actually, I’ve always hated your mother, thought you were too fat in that suit, felt that 10 seconds was too short for foreplay”. These are not good facts to release at a later stage in any relationship.

We may indeed have not wanted to rock the boat, but that motive is never acceptable as an answer when we are finally confronted with such issues.

And, I think the point I am trying to get to here is that few people can operate separate principles in their outer world and their inner world. Eventually behaviors leak from one to the other.

And if that behavior involves bringing hidden motives that you have been successful with in your business or social life, into your private life … well then, you are heading down a one way street to Palookaville.

I’ve always wanted to use that phrase. For a moment, I felt like Jimmy Cagney, there.

I try to be as forthright as I can and I know it loses me certain things and certain people, along the way. But better to lose them up front and be honest with your self, than later be found out to have been a fake and still lose them anyway!

… just a thought.

Lines and Curves

So, it turns out that I did fracture my wrist last week. It wasn’t getting better since the fall and the pain was becoming too much to take, so I took myself off and got an x-ray yesterday evening. An “impaction fracture” is what they came up with and so I am typing this (slowly) with a splint on my left arm/wrist.

As if life wasn’t challenging enough lol

Anyway, before I took myself off for the x-ray yesterday evening, I lay down on the sofa as the pain was becoming a bit of a nuisance.

I almost never lie down. Unless I am heading to sleep in bed, that is. So, reclined there for a moment in a lying pose, I was given a different perspective on a room I have been in a million times over the past 17 years.

And what caught my attention immediately was the reflection of light coming through the patio doors on the manikins in place nearby.

“Manikins in the living room?” I hear you ask. It’s a long story but a dear friend gave several to me a couple of weeks ago and I haven’t yet sorted out their proper accommodations in the studio as of yet, so they have been keeping me company in the living room.

There are several of them, so it reminds me of that scene from the Steve Martin movie, The Lonely Guy where he has all these cardboard cutouts in his apartment to make it feel like he has real friends.

Is this what I have become lol?

Anyway, I digress … it was the reflections that made me stop for a moment and i looked at how the straight lines of the vertical blinds took on new life as they reflected in the curves of the manikins.

I took a few pics and have them at the end of this blog. Forgive me if you don’t see what I see, but sometimes simple things like this really grab me and give me pause for wonder and awe.

I get lost occasionally in this trance.

So, afterwards as I drove down to the medical place to get the x-ray, I thought a little about how the whole world, everything we see, is made up of lines and curves.

The lines themselves are very definite and create a definition that is very clear and absolute. While the curves create varied and sometimes chaotic shapes.

Our brains decipher all this and we see buildings, trees, people. But at the end of the day, everything is just a series of lines and curves.

Some of us are happiest in a world of lines. A world where everything is straightforward and clearly defined. It is a world with a clear direction and a definite path that is visible ahead.

Others enjoy the curves and they roll with the twists and turns that each curve gives along the way.

And sometimes we switch from line to curve as the moment fits and back again when things become too complex or chaotic.

In moments of chaos, we look for a simple clear line to help us exit so that we can find some peace or normality. And in times of boredom, we wander off the path a little to see where a new curve might take us.

Both are important and our lives have to have a balanced mix of lines and curves.

We need to have a solid base of lines that define the direction we are taking our lives in. These lines should be clear and well-defined with goals and hopes attached to them so that we can measure ourselves along the way to make sure we are on track.

But we also have to be able to follow a curve every now and then and explore some of the world that was not in our original plans. Curves provide a variety that some call the spice of life. They also help us redefine our path sometimes as we encounter a new direction that add something new into our life’s journey.

Just as the strong, simple, lines of the vertical blinds found new purpose in defining the curves on the manikins.

So, I guess what I am trying to say is this. Follow your lines as they will take you to your destiny, but occasionally step off onto a curve, just to make sure it is the right destiny for you.

… just a thought.

Time to Focus

This morning’s trip to the lake was the culmination of several days efforts in different camera techniques. I had tried a few things separately over the past week and by the time I had fed the kitties and helped give Beauty her eye meds, I had a solid plan of exactly what I wanted to shoot.

So, I drove to the lake armed with camera and tripod and a bag of accessories that included a couple of glasses, some bottled water, DVDs, and some LED lights that Morgan had made for my light painting experiments.

I needed the darkest place available to me and in particular I needed some kind of elevation that I could rest the glasses on and set the tripod up at the same height.

I also needed solitude and while the boat ramp and pier matches the first two parameters, it isn’t normally accessible before 6 and boaters tend to arrive soon after.

I got there at 5:45 and to my delight it was just opened, so I rushed into place and set up camera and props almost immediately.

Time was going to be the deciding factor on how successful I would be as each shots takes about 90 seconds to pull off and the race is against not just imminent boater arrivals, but also against a brightening sky. Also invariably the first few shots are going to be really only test shots, as I end up tweaking my set up to get that “perfect” framing, etc.

On my drive there, I had gone through in my head several times, the setups that I would aim for, so there wasn’t really any time lost trying to imagine how to arrange the glasses. The driving thought in my concept was that it was new years day and these could be left-overs from the celebration hours before. So, one glass needed to be standing while the other looked to have fallen over and spilled its contents.

I chose water as the “contents” because any other liquid would have altered the light coming through from the background. I wanted to have the same colors and tone coming through the glass, as would be seen either side of it.

Any observer would have been impressed with how matter-of-fact I ran through each shot. From shot to shot there was only a subtle change, done mostly with which lights was being used, adding some water to increase the spill, and moving the glasses to provide a slightly different setup.

I was really thrilled that no one showed up for about an hour after me and by then it was starting to get too bright anyway for a 30 second exposure. All told, I think I got a little over 40 shots taken and I have posted the ones I am most proud of at the end of this blog. Hope you enjoy!

By the time I was in the car, pulling out of the parking area, more boaters were arriving and I was really chuffed that I had gotten in and out before them and by all accounts achieved the shots that were originally just concepts in my head.

And I realized how the knowledge that time was very limited for my little project, served to make me more focused and organized to where I was able to achieve what I wanted.

This thought morphed into how we allow undefined time to conversely affect our approach to life and achieve so much less than we otherwise might.

We often think of our life here on earth as being without limits. Yes, we all know we will die, but we don’t know when and we assume it won’t be tomorrow.

So, we go through our today without a sense of urgency and drive. Putting things off until tomorrow or the day after.

Invariably we will almost all die without having done everything we want to do. There may indeed be a few who can close their eyes at death with a feeling of having done everything and being ready to go.

The rest of us will be “oh shit, I never climbed Everest, or told Martha about the trees that need trimming in the back yard, and I was really hoping to see Bobby’s new home in Wisconsin this fall.”

Whatever we don’t get around to, will fall by the wayside and never be done.

Now, the truth is that there is a lot to be done that is seriously irrelevant and we should all feel comfortable leaving irrelevant things undone. If you can’t do that, you have a problem and need more help than this blog is going to give.

But, things that are relevant need to be addressed with a sense of urgency and importance so that we make sure they are done. Top of the list is making sure that your loved ones know you love them and that you get to do with them and for them, everything that you can.

I can’t imagine any of us will wince as we finally close our eyes for not being able to have one more day at the office. But oh, to have just one more day with your loved ones. How precious that would be.

So, this being New Year’s Day, this is the perfect time to reevaluate how we spend our time here and plan for the year in a manner that relevant stuff in our lives is being handled with importance.

We should front-load our year with the important stuff and if there is time at the end for giving the tool-shed a second coat of paint, then great.

Each of us will define the phrase “important stuff” differently perhaps and that is fine. Not all of us have eleven cats and a new batch of kittens that claim a place on our pecking order of things in life.

But whatever is on your list, you should know it and then sort your list so that your priorities are matched by your actions.

… just a thought!