Fireworks

I sit in the back of my parents '97 avalon reading the Kite Runner. I am in the parking lot for Horseshoe Bend, a spectacular slice of canyon South of Page AZ.

A truck pulls into the lot after dark and waits. About 15 minutes later a second car pulls up next to the truck. It drives without caution, confident and excited. A man gets out carrying a powerful flashlight. He seems to carry on a conversation with the truck. He points the flashlight into the hill that borders the lot, illuminating low brush. Rotating in a slow circle, he seems to scan the area with the flashlight, looking for something he doesn't see, at least not tonight.

The beam of the flashlight hits my car, roughly seventy-five meters away. It continues on for a second, then double-takes back to my car. The beam illuminates the avalon's interior for a beat, my face likely obscured by foggy windows. The light moves on, deeming my presence unobtrusive to whatever might unfold next. The light completes its circle and soon a much warmer pin of light appears next to the car. The pin jumps and lands on the ground before exploding, a small multicolored release of bright sparks.

It's strange to watch fireworks through fogged glass and a groggy mental state from the other side of a parking lot. The small points of light are like stars, far enough away to be beyond one's natural circle of confusion but bright enough to emit a mysterious glimmer that sparkles and shines. Through the car's glass windows I hear no voice of the man with the light or the man in the truck, only a repeated lighting and exploding of fireworks. I can register neither excitement or enjoyment in the silhouettes. The emotion of the moment is removed, leaving only a strange, detached action, as if if the man's duty is simply to release the fireworks into the void.

Between pyrotechnics the flashlight sweeps the horizon as if it fascinates the man just to see the beam in all its glory. I imagine the man has received the flashlight recently as a gift. The novelty remains and can you believe how bright this thing is? The flashlight has a Fresnel element, I can see the beam widen and tighten as the man adjusts his preferred angle of view.

Spinning Saturns, Roman Candles, Bottle Rockets, all quietly fading into the night from the lone figure. after a while the fireworks stop. The playing with the flashlight continues. Again and again the light sails across the banks of sand and brush. I watch the light reveal low sage and scrubby tumbleweed on the hill. After a while the man tires of the flashlight as well. It no longer spills into the land surrounding the lot, instead illuminating a small patch of gravel beneath the man's feet. After a few minutes the light goes off and a car door slams shut. The cars turn around, this time it's the headlights which reveal the dirt and brush. The small car leads, it's engine excitedly zooming towards some new change of fate, the truck politely follows.

Photographs from the Sawtooths

While in Idaho I did an overnight with my brother in the Sawtooth Range up to Toxaway Lake. These are simple photographs taken with a junk lens (hence the vignetting) to share a bit of a nice backpacking experience.

I don't know if I've ever taken a zoom and no primes to photograph a trip before so this was a bit of an experiment. The lens was a Tamron 28-200 3.8-5.6 from the late 90's, it's a two touch superzoom with manual aperture control, kinda fun! $30 on ebay, I've used it for a few video projects. In 16:9 the vignetting isn't as apparent.

A Short Story in the Eastern Fjords

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A few weeks earlier I had ridden through the eastern fjords of Iceland in the early hours with three Americans. That morning the low sunlight had a serene pink glow about it, peeking out above soft clouds to light the tips of the mountains. I remembered crossing a huge pass, cliff faces dripped in rosy sunlight. The pass gave way to a perfect coastal town, nestled between fjord and sea. I was tired then, drifting in and out of consciousness to peek up at the magentas, fair, ghostly reds, pinks.

I wanted to see that view again, to experience it just as I had before. I now found myself back in Egilsstaðir, a small central town in eastern Iceland from which several roads snake out to the north, south, and eastern coast . I decided to walk the coastal route, I believed the road's pass was the same as the pass from the ride. In no particular hurry I set off from the town. I enjoyed pleasant weather on the way up, a layer of fog closed the view below me.

Step-by step I looked ahead for that grand cliff face, wondering when I would finally be able to see what had roused me from my sleep while riding with the Americans. I looked and looked, right up until I reached the crest of the road. With the road beginning to decline I realized I had already passed the mountain I had seen before. It was a pretty mountain, no doubt, but nowhere near as powerful a view as I remembered it. In my lucid state the grandeur of the pass had faded. The dreamlike, otherworldly nature of the views I saw in the car relied on my semi-conscious state.

I camped in the pass for two days, using the time to finish Peter Matthiessen's "The Snow Leopard." I urinated too close to my tent site and a distinct smell hung around while I read. A year later I would repeat this mistake while camping for a few weeks in Aragon.

After finishing Matthiessen I continued along the road into stormy weather and fog. A long, rainy day of walking on asphalt left me dog tired. Walking alongside speeding cars does little to raise morale, an already diminished goal can become pointlessly bleak. The fog subsided and the day became dreary. As I reached the small town of Reyðarfjörður, I saw nothing of interest.  I sat for a few minutes at a picnic table looking through the gloom then hitched back the way I came, returning to Egilsstaðir in around 15 minutes. At least I killed some time.

Photographs from Wyoming

I want to share a few photographs from passing through Wyoming. I stayed on the eastern side of the state with the bulk of my time in its famous national parks.

Photographs from Antelope Island

I want to share some record of my visit to Antelope Island. First, the bison the island is known for:

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Late in the day I took a walk up to the ridge-line to see the sunset. 

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Sunset in one direction, moonrise in the other.

After the sun set, an antelope wandered nearby, looking for food.

A Collection of Drawings from the Summer

This post is simply a way to keep charcoal and pencil drawings from the summer all in one place. Have a look at what I've been making!

Building a Shoulder Rig

Over the last few weeks I've been working on a prototype for an Ergocine-type shoulder rig for my a7s. Here's where I am with it at the moment:

It was a long process in researching the best mounting options, cheapest rails and clamps, and figuring out a good form for the wooden counterweight. I'm still not quite there yet. I will continue to fine-tune the shape of the wood until it is comfortable and practical. I plan on creating a space for an external battery within the wood form. Here's a photo from one of the intermediate steps:

I've used the mount on a few jobs so far and It has served me well. It even provoked conversation from subjects about the nature of the rig, allowing them to feel more comfortable and natural in front of the camera. Once I finalize the form of the rig I'll create a new one with nicer wood. Since I'm already taking more than a few notes from Ergocine, I'll probably end up using some sort of walnut.

Photographs from Camp Khakipants

Tuesday saw the actualization of an incredible event. I wanted to share a few photos from the show with all of you. Most don't actually show the performers, just friends having a good time in a great spot:

A Short Story on the Outskirts of London

I was staring at a pair of dogs behind the fence of a used car lot across the street. The criss-crossing highways moaned above my head and the exhaust fumes left me dizzy. I sat on the street corner at the exit to Road One, the highway to bring me straight north to Scotland. I had walked my way out of London's city center all the way to the edge of this turnoff, I didn't know what else to do. The sun had long passed below the horizon. Britain was playing in the World Cup while I walked, I could hear families cheering from passing houses. I had met a girl in London, my mind was still wrapped around her. I had walked quietly, feeling the air.

My first night walking endlessly around London I damaged my feet. I tried sleeping that morning in Hyde park but the runners and horse riders kept me awake and somewhat embarrassed. After three days of rest in a cheap hostel they were good to go again. The footwear I brought with me was too constricting, didn't fit. I bought a 2£ pair of flip flops downtown so that I could air my feet out. I walked to the outskirts of London in those flipflops. 

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I sat on the curb of the exit for a while. Sodium vapor lamps dimly lit my corner.  It had been three says since I thumbed my last ride into the Keflavik airport. To begin hitching after a pause, long or short, always feel strange. To stick that thumb up and look into each approaching car is an extroverted sort of activity. In that moment I sometimes feel the need to separate myself from my body, to look down on myself as a puppet, so I can lift up that arm and begin. I sat on that curb waiting for the courage to raise my arm. 

Before the thumb even revealed itself from my pocket, a taxi driver stopped in front of me and offered a ride out of town.

Taking this ride was the least safe thing I've done while hitching. It's generally a bad idea to accept an unsolicited invitation to get in a car, especially at night. Even so, I got in. It was a real London taxi, smooth, curved black exterior, roomy backseat. The driver and I had pleasant conversation as we headed toward his small town through the night. I broke two widely held rules of hitchhiking and nothing bad happened. Not to say it won't happen. I got in the car believing that, with few exceptions, stranger-to-stranger relationships that begin with openness, positivity, and confidence on both sides lead to more positivity, openness, and confidence. I was rewarded with beautiful humanity, always a humbling experience.

A Short But Interesting Look at Urgent Message: A Vignette

I wanted to share some examples of small VFX touches used in Urgent Message: A Vignette. First, the video itself:

The wide shot of the room needed to feel flat in order to feel similar to the storybook styles of Wes Anderson. I corrected the perspective of the different elements in the room to give the "straight-on" feeling of perspective after shooting the scene slightly to the left of center to frame the shot correctly.

The "out-the-window" shot was filmed from a different room in the house and originally had a complete view of the exterior before the zoom. To help tie the shot in with the rest of the sequence, I took the wall frame from the wide shot of the room and placed it into the window shot. 

Those were the only shots in the spot that needed any VFX love! This was a fun little video to make, hope people enjoy it.