Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Freckles

Chino Hills, Panasonic DMC LX3
Hope you’re staying cool.  I am not sure if I have already posted this image here.  Some time ago I took this picture while on one of my morning walks.  Lately, it has been too hot to be walking outdoors.  Thankfully, I don’t have to walk to work.  Although the car’s transmission acted up again despite spending a couple of K’s to fix it.  If I have walked to work, do you think I would stumble into this one again?  Anyway, its peculiarity is what I’m reminded of amidst the searing heat in the last few days.  Believe it or not, this is how the true colors look like.  No digital manipulation here except some contrast and brightness tweak.  I suppose it’s a result of global warming.  I blame Bush.  Hah!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dignity in Human frailty

Holga, Lomography Iso 100
How can one as an artist depict human frailty and at the same time show dignity?

Whenever I have a chance, I want to take pictures of people.  Not just casual pictures.  But pictures that tell stories.  And one of the things I've always been drawn to is when the picture depicts the essence of humanity.  The image above was shot while walking along the streets of Old Town Pasadena.  Now this place is filled with interesting people.  There are street musicians, hobos, parking attendants and so on.  I've always considered this a haven for street photo ops.

I do not know much about the man in the picture.  Yet I see pain and suffering as I look at his face.  He is troubled but it seems he has learned to live through many difficulties.  As his left hand dangles on his knee, I sense that he doesn't let his pain bother him.  He is almost immune to it.  You don't see it in the picture but he has a beat up electric guitar by his side.  I imagine him to be a blues player.  Perhaps he is living the blues... literally.

The picture was taken a couple of years ago but I've struggled about posting it for fear that people may accuse me of exploitation.  This is certainly far from my intent.  In my mind, this man is made in the image of his Creator.  He has inherent dignity, endowed and not a result of what he has done.  It doesn't matter what he does, or who he is.  I wanted to convey a balance image of this man consisting of both dignity and frailty.  It's not easy.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dear Irene

San Antonio, the island she loved
Dear Irene,

Hope you are doing well.  It must have been hard to get all kinds of flaks from the media.  They thought you are feisty and expected that you would bring terrible damages to the children of the East.  It's not your fault.  Media and self-proclaimed prophets are full of hot air.  They say things to sound lofty.  They predicted that you were going to bring a big one.  I think they were disappointed.  Yet I do thank your boss.  In his wisdom, he has spared numerous people.  I stopped asking why he does the things he does.  It is all beyond me.  I admit that sometimes I want to question him.  But I've learned that it is not cool to second guess him.  Anyway, I thought I would just post this silly banter.  Regards to all.

Sincerely yours,

Juznobsrvr

Artist in Vain

Pinhole Blender Mini 35mm
Non-engaging: “Artists are obviously gifted people.”

Politically Incorrect:  “God is the source of the artist’s gift.”

More Politically Incorrect:  “God gives gifts to artists for his own pleasure and good purpose.”

Today was another hot day.  I had difficulty concentrating on my work.  And I couldn't stand Rush Limbaugh whining on the radio.  I blame the heat. I decided to listen to Electric Light Orchestra instead.  Now that's a great British band.  Whatever happened to them?  I remember that one of the reasons some bands break up is one of the members turn to religion and decide he doesn't want to play secular music anymore.  Sometimes religious conversion can have a funny effect.

For some time now, I’ve always questioned with what it means to be a Christian artist.  What kind of art would be appropriate for somebody who has now been redeemed by the blood of Christ?  Most evangelicals will probably insist that Christian art is sacred and therefore devoid of any secular elements.  I remember one time when I used to do music gig at a local coffeehouse; I met another artist who also played there.  We talked about how we like the Eagles and other rock groups (don’t know why I remember talking about the Eagles and not the other ones) and how their songs influenced our own songwriting.  I asked him why he doesn’t play covers.  He told me that since he became a Christian he stopped playing “secular” music.   I thought that was strange at first but later found out that there are evangelicals who will not even listen to non-Christian music.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Art in Vain

"An artist is a man who tries to express the inexpressible. He struggles and suffers knowing that he can never realise his most perfect ideal.” - Alvin Langdon Coburn, 1916


I think that Coburn was right to some degree. Without stating the obvious, he implies that the artist will never be content with his art. What I disagree about Coburn's statement is that his reason for discontent is based on his assumption that man's intelligence will continue to expand in the light of more perfect knowledge of himself and the universe. I think that it is precisely this expansion of man's knowledge that he talks about that will drive man to despair and anxiety. As I look at myself and as soon as I'm past my physiology, and if I am truly honest with my assessment, the more I learn about my condition and the environment I am in, the more things don't make sense. The more I strive to achieve the perfect art form, the more I realize that such pursuit will likely result in vain.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ruination (iv)

La Brea Tar Pit, Canon EOS 60d, Carl Zeiss 100mm Makro
  “Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

[Le Petit Prince (1943), Antoine de Saint Exupéry]

I think there is a consensus among people on how aesthetics are applied. The concept of beauty is after all universal. Socrates taught the standard for beauty exists in the realm of ideas, which all of us mortals have access to. Hence, for the most part we could all agree what beauty is. I am quite sure that this image on the other hand evokes something else apart from beauty. Most people will find this image not only strange but repulsive. Was that too strong a language? Why would someone want to stare at dead leaves on top on a tar pit? I don’t know. I do find inner beauty in dead leaves on odious tar pit. I must be strange.

"What makes the desert beautiful," says the little prince, "is that somewhere it hides a well."

Featured Comments (Updated August 30, 2011):

This in particular, does not strike me as ugly. Call me an optimist, but I sensed something different. For instance, what if the leaves were laying on pure white snow? Would it then be prettier? Do we automatically associate substance with beauty? If the leaves were orchids, would we imagine they were laying on the black sands of Hawaii? I know I’m thinking a lot here, but it’s true, beauty is all perception.

Why can’t we see beauty in the life of the leaves and the experience the leaves had from sprouting, to their green rich tone to the autumn color they acquired until their demise….instead we see dead leaves. No longer beautiful? Seems strange when you put it that way, huh? Seems to me we have a choice, but we either don’t realize it or we choose to think like all the rest.

Thanks for this message. I will try to keep it in mind. Next time I see an elderly person, I’ll try to see the beauty in their life and character as opposed to what features they no longer possess.  - R

Interesting.  I find anything connected to nature beautiful, hence I do find beauty in your photograph.  I would not think it repulsive at all.  Tar also can come naturally from nature so it too is beautiful, very sensual liquid form…….  We are all too programmed for what is considered “beautiful”.   And everything of course is relative.  Too a skin cancer patient’s mother a small pill which might heal her scarred son/daughter could be the most beautiful thing in the world.  A tear, which is usually related to pain and sorrow, might be “beautiful” to a woman who sees it in the man who is so overwhelmed with love for her that is spills out uncontrollably.  And I love your quote from the Little Prince and it is so true.  And I do agree that the heart is what matters in all things.  If we spent more time on healing our hearts and eachothers hearts and concentrated less on “beauty” as our society/humanity label it, this world might be a lovely place to live.  Thanks for sharing, my friend. - P

Seeing a dead leaf on a tarpit is not beauty (as defined by the masses, including myself). Capturing this dead leaf and giving it life in your picture, that is art. - Marvin

I happen to find beauty in dead things – maybe I should re-word this – dead plants…there, that sounds better – so this really appeals to me.  When I looked at it I saw burnt ground and what was left of a tree – a branch with withered leaves that somehow didn’t burn up.  - SH

The tar pits might be odious, however the dead leaves have meaning. It too has experienced the seasons in life. At one time those leaves were beautiful and full of youth, providing to the exquisiteness of this earth. Now they have reached the end. I can’t help to stop and wonder… how amazing our God is to create a part of nature which to some, is insignificant but to other who see the delicacy that He has endow us with so that we are given the privilege to appreciate.

As always, appreciative for the beauty that you behold and the desire to share it with me.  - Lisa

This image tells a story about an unfortunate piece of arid land with not enough water for things to grow, dry and barren.  Looking out the window, one experiences the undeniable power of the seething eyes of the sun, ready to contribute further the desolate feeling of this forlorn, uninteresting desert.  And this suffocating heat causes these leaves to seek refuge, where there is none.  With the triple digits that we are experiencing nowadays, readily I empathize with what the leaves are going through.

Be cool - aU

Monday, August 22, 2011

Eastside Veiled


How are you doing
I wish you can come soon
I am lonely here
I miss you so much

The easiest job to do is murder... especially the ones that no one will know.  If there is no body, cops wouldn't even know if the person got killed.  Sometimes the client wants me to display the body... why they would want that is none of my business.  I suppose they are trying to teach a guy a lesson and want to send out a message.  Quite frankly, I don't care.  I hate it as it always get messy.  But it's a job.  Somebody has to do it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Hills are Alive (r)

Diamond Bar, California, canon 60d, 50mm Carl Zeiss, rework of previous post
I get to experience some wonderful views here on the top floor. Particularly where I sit, the window close by provides a nice display of this hill. The hill forms a nice shape that on a cumulous day, the shape is further enhanced by cloud formation. Aside from the clouds, what I like about this image is what is not there: there seems to be something behind the hill. It makes me curious. The hill offers two paths to go upward. Which path do I choose? The one on the left offers a straight and narrow way. Yet it is very open. The one on the right seems to provide more protection (from what I don’t know). It is wider and looks more challenging. Then the paths converge just before one gets to the top. Since the two paths do not go all the way up, at this point the hill challenges the viewer where to go. Do I go left or right or straight? I think too much.

Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Red Marked Draft

Rose from my backyard, Canon 60d, 50mm Carl Zeiss, tripod
Tested the Canon flash 580 ex-ii some months ago so I can't really remember how I set this up.  I know I placed a black card board behind the rose.  I think I used a diffuser over the rose and pointed the flash on top to get those shadows.  The text was an afterthought.  It was from a different image of a post-it note that my engineer placed on his folder.  If you looked closely, the post-it was addressed to me with words "marked draft".  The post-it image was originally yellow and I converted it to BW and further converted to negative.  (I forgot how to do negative conversion so I'll have to try that again.) Anyway, I also erased some parts of the text to give it a "chalk on blackboard" look.

This piece is actually a rework of previous post.  (I couldn't find it so I must have deleted that one -- very likely because I wasn't satisfied with the photo.)  On this version, I've emphasized the shadows using the curve layer in PS - a trick I've recently learned from Craig Tanner.  (I highly recommend the website The Mindful Eye, where he provides tutorials.)  The technique that has been very useful.

Hope you enjoy this one.  Please leave a comment as to let me know your thoughts.  Take care.

K notes... foggy and layered

k notes, Canon 5d, Pinhole Body Cap, hand-held

I'm writing this when everybody here is fast asleep.  It's early morning - probably past 4 o'clock.  I think this is what happens when one gets old. 

The image above is how I usually see things when I don't get enough sleep.  Foggy and layered.  It's made from a using a digital camera with the body cap as a pinhole.  There is no lens - just a hole - a pinhole.  Heh.  I can't remember the camera settings but it must have been at high iso and long exposure.  I do recall hand holding the camera when I made this shot.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The new prophets speak... but the song remains the same

LACMA, California, Canon 60d, 100mm Carl Zeiss
I really don’t know what this is but the forms intrigued me.  Is this art?  It must be.  It is displayed in LACMA.  I often wonder who decides which art are worth displaying in museums.  What are the criteria?  I suspect that part has to do with the cult of personality.  Just because it’s a Picasso or a Mondrian, then it must be good.  But I wonder what the artists thought about their work.  I sense that maybe it doesn’t matter.  Sometimes, I suspect it is all driven by money.  My friend once told me that one way to find out why things happen is to follow the money.  I am not that smart to comprehend all these things. 

Experts are often heard to say that it’s art because they said so.  How does one become an expert?  Schooling?  Training.  Or does one get special revelation from the gods of confusion?  The experts are the elites in our world.  They seem to know all the answers.  I think elites believe themselves to have special insights to certain things that mere mortals are not able to comprehend.  Lofty things like arts, economics and science.   Nobody else understand things better than them.  Unwittingly, they proclaim themselves as the new prophets.  Somehow, this is akin to a new form of Gnostics, who hold the power to interpret strange things. 

I don’t know.  I think at the end of the day, one will have to walk away and either agree or disagree whether such things are worthy of being called art.  As I told my wife while commenting on one famous artwork, "I think our dog can do better than that." Heh.

Featured Comment by Moses:  Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:1-5)

Romance of the Film

Until the film gets processed, it is only in my head that I can imagine the images captured with a film camera.  That restless anticipation... Really, what I want to get into is to go back to film - particularly that Black and White film noir.  But I get into a snag trying to create a blurb for these images.  By the time I finished writing, my feelings have changed.

A side note:  As some of you may have noticed, I have been trying to give my blog a fresh look.  In going through the motion, I stumbled into an old post on my interview with an art student.  I thought it was such a good read that I included the link here:


Here's an excerpt:

  • well the project i'm doing at the moment is about imperfections, ill write the briefs out for you so you can maybe get a rough idea; 'the photograph as an object: an investigation of imperfection and obsolescence in relation to the photographic print.' so basically.... i only work with film i hate digital photography, and i began to ask myself why, an i looked through photo's i've used and taken before and i realised i only choose those that have gone a little bit wrong, or the lighting is bad, or different as the case may be.. or there's a water mark on the photo or a smudge, or a fingerprint from the film (t hats the best) i just really appreciate the little mistakes, it makes every piece so different.... and when i look at your work, some of it, where you've fiddled with the films or whatever just comes out so wonderful... if i had more money id seriously invest in some good cameras but right now i've got my lomo fisheye.. a bunch of out of date lomo disposables.. 2 box brownies and some slide films...
Holga Girl, Nikon FE, 50mm f1.8


Monday, August 15, 2011

Juzno of the Day

I just launched Juzno of the Day, a photo blog to serve those who cannot put up with my inscrutable blurbs.  The blog will strictly contain only images, which I hope to post one a day.  Hope you enjoy.  cheers.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Meditating on the Austere





You are too much:
I thought I was underweight the last time I look.  Pass the steak please.

What beautiful result:
Thanks!!!

All of that Photoshop stuff is way over my head:
Mine too.  I tell people that I do Photoshop but that’s really the original un-processed.  (No, I’m kidding.)

Do you spend lots of time doing your tweaking??
No, I don’t tweet.

Have you ever thought about teaching a class??
No, but I taught about it.

Looking at this picture makes me feel tranquil.
Hmm… if it’s making you sleepy then it must be boring.

Probably someone will catch me if I just stare at it…
I hope so… in case you fall asleep and fell off your chair.

And maybe do a little meditation but I guess that is out of the question…

Try humming Ommmm

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rocks San Antonio (iii)


Who needs High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging when one can do it all in one shot? 

Or

Who needs HDR?  Maybe all of us who aspire to shoot like Ansel Adams.

San Antonio, Antique, Philippines, Panasonic DMC-LX3, f8, iso 80

I’ve never been successful in shooting HDR.  Mainly because it requires shooting a bunch of images with different exposure values (EVs).   Also, the subject has to be very still so each image will align with one another. This means using a tripod, which I don’t usually carry.   If I’m shooting waterscape I might as well forget it because of the constant water movement.  Similarly, landscape with trees and bushes can be problematic even though they may appear to have no movements.  The trees and bushes will still sway with the wind although not very noticeable.  It’s hard enough for me to shoot straight.

Lately, while browsing the net, I’ve discovered a layer technique in Photoshop.  Basically, you add an adjustment curve layer.  Tweak it so you get the desired result.  Convert the layer to Fill.  And paint over the areas which you want to tweak.  This way one can selectively tweak areas in the image.  What I found out on my own (I’ve not read this anywhere) was that one could add several layers and tweak each one for highlights, shadows and blacks.  I’ve done it on this image and was able to reproduced that phony HDR look.   Maybe this technique is one of the best kept secrets of digital photographers.  If it is, it is no longer a secret.


Nota bena:  The image was shot at Antique, Philippines using my Panasonic DMC-LX3, which is a poor man’s Leica C- LUX3 . My Panasonic point and shoot costs about a third of the Leica.  It’s gone through many abuses.  It’s fallen in a river.  I’ve dropped it on concrete.  I’ve banged it and the darn thing still works.  I almost wanted it to fail so I can have a reasonable justification  to my wife to replace it.  Heh.

You might say, well my photo still doesn’t look anywhere near Ansel Adams.  Yea, but did he ever had his camera soaked in a river?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Does anyone think this is art? (I'm just asking...)

Norton Simon, Panasonic DMC-LX3, f2, 1/40, iso 800
When does art becomes art? I ask because the response to this leads me to my next question. Is a picture of art considered art at face value? In other words, if I survey a sculpture and find an angle that would show a magical side of the artwork that very few people or no one else has seen except me, and I paint an image of it, does that make the painting art? If instead of painting, I use my Holga camera so I can get that dreamy look, is that still considered art? If instead of the Holga, I used my iPhone, would it still be art?

I suspect that discussions on art are looked upon as lofty and perceived to have no real practical use in everyday living. But before we get into its raison d'ĂȘtrethat, first we must define what art is. Does art exists for its own sake? Does it need a reason to exists?

I’m just asking…

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Thomas Chang with Nature (3 of 3)

Third of the series with the talented Thomas Chang.  Thomas has produced a short slide showing the Wildlife of San Gabriel Valley.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.



Here's what he says about his work:
Many of my photos were taken from the Santa Fe Dam nature area where I volunteer as a docent.  This is a rare habitat for native plants, birds, and animals; a true sanctuary in the midst of a vast urban environment.  The Nature Center opens Tuesday thru Sunday from 10 to 1:00pm.  I lead the nature hike first Saturday of the month at 10am.  We also have a bird walk on the third Saturday of the month at 8:00am.  You can find out more about the Nature Center at http://www.sgmrc.org/
Thanks for sharing with us your talent and the beauty of San Gabriel Valley's wildlife, Thomas.

All images taken at San Gabriel Valley, California.

See all posts.
. . .

Monday, August 08, 2011

Up on the Roof

Nipa, Culasi,Philippines, Panasonic DMC-LX3
This is what the natives in Culasi see before they go to bed and when they wake up.  This is a picture of a ceiling of a nipa hut or bahay kubo.  It's made from bamboo and nipa leaves tied together to form a roof.  It provides cooling during hot spell, and some water when it rains.  The latter feature is not always welcomed by those living under this roof.  It's not very sturdy and usually last for only a few years.  The materials are indigenous so it can easily be replaced.

My my my Mamiya

Diamond Bar, California, 60 Freeway, Mamiya-Six, f22, 1/500, Fujifilm Neopan 400, expired 6/11

This is the first time I have written about the Mamiya-Six.  This will probably be the last.

This is not the same Mamiya 6 that is popular among film enthusiasts.  This is a Classic Mamiya-Six folder camera.  It looks better and definitely retro vintage certifiable.  Because it's a folding camera, one can pocket it in a large coat.  A nice feature if you travel a lot.  It uses 120 film roll so the resolution beats my Canon 5d and 60d.  In a good working condition, this camera can take fabulous images. 

A segue:  Back in the 70's, the only camera I could afford was a Diana. Anyone using a Mamiya was considered pro.  (It's like playing a Gibson Les Paul instead of that copycat mongrel.)  I've never used it back then so I always dreamed of owning one.  Thirty odd  some years later, I got my hand on a Mamiya.  I was stoked.

My Mamiya-Six is temperamental.  The pictures on my first roll were all blurry.  That indicated to me that the rangefinder didn't work.   So on my next roll, I decided I was going to focus to infinity for all my shots.  The result is the image above.  Nice one, huh?  Doesn't that look like Northern Europe like Scotland or somewhere?  Fooled you... that was shot on top of the roof of my office building (Diamond Bar, California).  Pretty retro and creamy shadows and highlights.  And this was using an expired film.

But... The problem was this was the only shot that came out in that roll.  I think the shutter probably didn't work on the rest of the shots.  My wife assured me that it was worth it.  I'm not sure if I want to shoot with this camera again.  It's great when it works.  But I'm not sure when it will.  This is why I think that this will be the last time I will write about this camera.

. . .