I’ll start off by saying I have had quite a strange relationship with running. I was born on the Oregon coast and grew up on a 30 acre farm. I ran everywhere. I don’t remember being sore while I ran. I remember loving the feeling of just simply running. If I was up the river, I was barefoot and running up and over the rocks. I played baseball and I stole many a base. Speed and my ability to run was something I was very proud of. My parents weren’t able to afford expensive shoes so I had basic shoes growing up.
In 2005, I was a passenger in a car accident and broke my left leg. Five months later I was at Marine Corps boot camp and that’s when my hatred for running began. I’d say it’s pretty much human nature to really dislike being forced to do something and being forced to do something that causes pain is especially annoying. While I would run my left foot would go numb after a mile or so and then I would get terrible shin splints and lower back pain. Not knowing much about the cause of my pain I bought a running shoe with the largest heel I could find thinking this would help. Of course, it didn’t. When I brought up the extreme amount of pain I would be in I was actually told “Running is supposed to hurt, just push through it”. Eventually I found the Nike Free and was surprised at how much they helped with my numbness and shin splints but my symptoms didn’t go away completely.
Somehow I stumbled upon Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and it was an eye opening read. It made me think about how when I was young I had basic shoes with no heel support and I could run with no pain. I started researching minimalist shoes and the premise behind the whole thing was so simple! Our feet aren’t made to sit in a shoe with a huge heel. When I ran I relied on the shoe to tell me what my foot was designed and was supposed to tell me. I was listening to the shoe, and my body hated me for it. In theory I was convinced. I read reviews, watched videos and finally decided on a pair of Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon LS. The first time I ran in them it was amazing. Breath of fresh air, a whole new world and any other way to describe something so eye opening.
If there is anything negative I can find about the FiveFingers it is that I can’t wear them for any official PT sessions in the Oregon National Guard because as the order goes they “detract from a professional military image”. I can’t ever see myself going back to the high heel “conventional” running shoe so I have a pair of New Balance MR00 Minimus Road shoes on the way that should fit the bill perfectly. Since wearing the FiveFingers on an almost daily basis my knee and lower back pain is much more manageable at the end of the day and I suddenly have a healthy hobby. I used to hate running.
I followed the advice of those online on forums and Vibram and took it slow at first. I concentrated on my form and in no time I was I was striking with my forefoot and not my heel. I felt like I was ready and this morning I went on a 4 mile run. The only thing that forced me to turn around was the combination of a February morning on the Oregon coast and a lack of a decent pair of running pants. On the run I felt great. No shin splints. No numbness. No back pain. Just running in the early morning as the sun came up with David Bowie in my ear from my iPod.
Running isn’t supposed to hurt.
The past few days I have seen more complaining by adults than ever before. If you were born in the United States, you have it good. If you can complain on social media, you have it good. There are way more people who have it worse, so be thankful for what you have. Can it be better? Yes, of course. It can always be better. The USA isn’t perfect. No country is, but we have it so much better than the rest of the world. People get so wrapped up in these complaints they lose sight of how great we have it.
I was raised middle class in a rural area. My parents had to struggle sometimes, but they had the opportunity to succeed because they had one real large advantage. That advantage being that they lived in the United States. The women in the USA have rights. They can go to school, vote, run companies, hold office in government and much more. In other countries young girls have to worry about acid attacks, rape and being killed just for wanting an education. It has been reported that approximately 61 million school age children are denied education.
Recently the world was introduced to Malala Yousafzai. All she wants is an education, and the opportunity to become a doctor. She was attempting to help other girls go to school and was shot by the Taliban. A little girl with dreams of an education and a career is enough of a threat to these cowards that they have to attempt to assassinate her. Fortunately, they failed. If you live in the USA imagine this happening to your Mother, or sister. We take these simple things for granted.
November 10th is Malala Day. Everyone should honor this very brave young girl. A girl who stood up for what she believed in when so many were afraid. She didn’t complain, she took it upon herself to do something about it. Thats what makes her the true definition of a hero to me.
Instead of dwelling on the bad, take time to think about the good. No problems were ever solved just by complaining. Complaining is easy. Doing something about your problems is much harder. I guess thats why complaining is so popular in the United States?
If you want to know more about Malala I urge you to watch this video the New York Times put together.
Profile of Malala Yousafzai Pakistani Girl Shot by the Taliban
It was in 2009 that Halloween totally changed its meaning for me. Before that it meant what it means for so many other people. The candy, pumpkin carving, scary movies and basically, a good time. I was deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan from October 2009 – April 2010. If you have read my blog before, you may or may not know that. I was enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and was a machine gunner with a security company.
We left the US on October 2nd and after a few stops arrived at Camp Leatherneck where under the cover of darkness we flew to Camp Dwyer. There is a transition period of the changeover of units and it took a week or so before anything significant could happen. My platoon was one of the first to go out on a mission and we did that mission for two weeks. I took it upon myself to write notes while I was deployed and put them together here when I got back. You can find that entry farther down my blog. I’ll quote part of that in a bit.
When we arrived back on Camp Dwyer the first Marine I ran into was Sgt Ruiz. He gave us all hugs, shook our hands, asked how the mission went and we BS’d about what we missed while gone. I remember asking him about the World Series and football. Here are a few quotes from the earlier mentioned notes –
“Well, yesterday was the first really bad day for us here. It was all a very surreal thing how it all played out. I woke up around 0800, went to the head and on the way back ran into a friend of mine. He was all geared up and he said the other section in his platoon got hit, so they were headed to the motor pool. About 20 minutes later we were told anyone with O positive blood needed to head up to give blood. After that rumors started flying and we weren’t sure what to think.We knew it was an IED hit, and the Marine was on foot when he was hit. Around noon we were told the news. Sgt Ruiz was on a sweep team, searching for IEDs when he stepped on an anti-personnel mine. Everyone did the best they could, but the damage was too extensive and he died. He left behind a wife and a 14 month old son. He was an IRR Marine, meaning he served his contract and when Bush did the “back draft” he was recalled back to duty. Sgt Ruiz was a great man, and very well respected. I really don’t think anyone could say anything bad about him. When we came back from our mission he was the first person I saw from Security Co. He greeted us with handshakes, saying how glad he was that we made it back, asking how it was, etc. I never saw the man not with a smile on his face. A memorial is planned for next saturday. Less than a month, and one Marine dead. Six months to go? We had the memorial for Sgt Ruiz and the whole thing was very surreal. They were recording it so that his son when he got old enough would be able to see it. It was also determined later that all the recalled Marines were not even supposed to be in Afghanistan. They were only supposed to take the empty spots from Marines who were deploying and stay stateside.”
Reading that isn’t easy for me. The death of Sgt Ruiz is the reason Halloween changed for me. I have a hard time celebrating such a silly holiday on the death of such a great man. I think about his family. How his son will never get to go trick or treating with his Dad. It sounds cliche, but if you were around him you couldn’t help but be affected by his great attitude. He was a shining example of what a Marine is. A great leader, mentor and all around stand up guy. He had already deployed to Afghanistan and could have opted out of the recall. He didn’t do that. He knew the dangers and went anyway. He was 26 years old, and any time someone dies that is younger than me I always wonder why.
I will remember that day for the rest of my life. I have never felt so sad, angry and scared at the same time. While we were getting briefed later that day one of my best friends turned to me and said, “Shit, man… we haven’t even been here a month.” It was an eye opening statement, and the deployment wasn’t near as exciting or fun as it had been. It was for real.
I’ve been told by people when I explain to them my reason for not wanting to party or whatever on Halloween to lighten up. I won’t lighten up. That train of thought is just about the stupidest thing I can think of. I will, however never forget the man. I will do my damnedest to tell other people about him.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Banksy –
“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”
Sgt Cesar B. Ruiz, I promise to not let your sacrifice be forgotten.
Most street photographers have probably heard some form of the title of this post while out and about with camera in hand. Recently I was on the receiving end of a verbal lashing that seemed to be scripted by the likes of Quentin Tarantino. I won’t tell this story in his style though. I will start at the beginning!
While visiting the Southern Oregon coast (the area I grew up in) word of a man with his dog pushing a huge world down the highway traveled fast. Sightings of him popped up on Facebook friends pages and in local newspapers. On Sunday, the 22nd my sister, her boyfriend and I were travelling north toward Bandon, Oregon on Highway 101. We had seen him on our trip down towards Port Orford and had planned to stop on the way back north.
About 6 miles from Bandon we saw him stopped, taking a water break. I introduced myself, and asked if I could ask him some questions and take a few pictures. He agreed, so I began to ask him the basics. Eric Bendl has walked all over the United States with his dog and the huge world. He does it because he lost his Mom to diabetes and it’s his way to raise awareness for the disease. This trip started in Seattle and will end in San Francisco. He is a very polite and humble man, with a great sense of humor. He told me a few of his stories from his recent trip through Coos Bay/North Bend and explained the story of the world and it’s construction. Canvas, a water bed mattress and a ton of paint.
His dog, the aptly named “Nice” is one of the most well behaved animals I have come across. I began to shoot pictures of Eric, his dog and the world when a woman drove up in a minivan. I attempted to move out of her way but she stopped right in front of us. She got out of the car and asked what we were doing trespassing on her property. Initially I thought she was kidding. Boy, was I wrong. She then started to walk towards Eric and started screaming obscenities of all sorts. She threatened to call the Sheriff and get us thrown in jail, and then went back to the obscenities.
Let me take a moment to give a quick little background of myself if this is the first time you have read my blog. I am a former United States Marine and I spent my enlistment as a Military Policeman. That job gave me the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of types of people. I have a pretty solid grasp on local and state laws. I also know my rights as a photographer, and I always say I have a pretty good amount of common sense. I tried to explain to her that we were indeed on public property because we were standing on the shoulder of Highway 101, but we would move. This only infuriated her more and caused her to switch her tirade upon me.
At this point I shook Eric’s hand, wished him safe travels and thanked him for his time. He turned, and continued on down the road. She began to walk towards me and call me every name under the sun. I was using my Sony a77 and was holding it in my right hand. I then moved the camera to my chest with both hands. When she finally noticed the camera that’s when she used the quote in the subject line. I was raised to treat people how I wanted to be treated, and I find this to be a very good way to live. I also try to put myself in someones shoes and decide if the way they are reacting makes sense. I blame my parents for that. That being said, some people were not raised that way and this woman was a shining example of this. I can’t speak for what was going through her mind, but she was treating two total strangers in the most ugly way she could.
I switched the camera to burst mode, raised it to my eye and held down the shutter. The Sony a77 is capable of something very amazing. Twelve full resolution, 25″ x 16″, 24.3 megapixel raw shots in a second. Inside the camera a dizzying whir of technology occurs and the photographer is greeted with the very satisfying sound of the shutter going to work so fast it is amazing.
Yes, she told me not to take her picture. My usual reaction when someone says this to me is to comply with their wishes. I don’t have to, but I do usually. In this case, I felt that I needed to document her. To document her ugliness, and I don’t mean how she looks. It wouldn’t have mattered if she was a bikini model straight off the pages of the SI Swimsuit issue. There was no reason for her to treat us that way and I wasn’t going to give her a pass. After I took the photos I told her to have a wonderful day and we left. I will be mailing her a print of the photograph and will thank her for the experience.
I was amazed that I was able to meet two people that were on the complete opposite of what I would call the “Humanity Spectrum”. That woman is a perfect example of the completely wrong way to treat another human being. I could come up with reasons for why she would get to this mindset, but I think the story and image of her does a good enough job.
Eric Bendl is a fine example of a great person. He has experienced tragedy and is using it to fuel his passion for life. What he is doing is something that I consider very inspirational. The short meeting we had has caused me to think about the things in my life and how I would try and raise awareness for them. I have been in email contact with Eric and the advice he has given me and his experiences are helping to give new meaning to these ideas.
That is all it takes to take the inspiration you get and turn it into your passion.
Connect with people. Listen to their experiences. Treat them how you wish to be treated.
If you read my last post you know that I am planning a documentary about the Chernobyl disaster. The main purpose of this blog will be to explain in greater detail the gear I plan to use. You could consider it a “behind the scenes” type of thing. If the idea of this documentary is appealing you can find my IndieGoGo pitch here – Chernobyl – Living Excluded. Every single donation makes a difference and helps the voices of these people to be heard.
I plan on visiting the area later this year to document the aftermath in as much detail as possible. I will interview the people who have settled in the area, and get their side of the story. There is still a very real controversy about the human health effects and how many of the facts were covered up despite the fact that it happened so long ago.
As far as digital cameras go, my main camera will be a Sony a77 with a Tamron 18-200 f/3.5 – f/6.3 lens and battery grip. With this combination I get a good range in regards to focal length with decent speed, and won’t have to worry about recharging batteries as often. I plan on buying an external mic despite the fact that the built in mic is capable of very good audio quality. I will be using a Nikon D5000 as my backup camera. I have a fairly decent sized inventory of lenses for the Nikon F mount, but will most likely only bring a few. The Nikkor 40mm macro is one of my favorites so it will surely make the trip to Ukraine.
In regards to film cameras, but I will be bringing my Canon EOS 630 with a 50mm, 70-300mm and a 400mm lens. Everything will need to fit into my Lowepro 400AW camera bag. Since all my gear will be going through numerous x-ray machines I will be using nothing higher than 400 ISO film. All of my low light photography will be done using the digital cameras. I have remote releases for the D5000 and Sony a77 which will also help for time lapse photography.
For making time lapse movies I will use the Nikon D5000 as the primary camera. It has a built in intervalometer which makes everything very easy. For my tripod I have a Vanguard Alta-Pro with a SB100 ball head, it’s a great head but I will probably be upgrading to a ball and pan head. I will also be using a Goal Zero solar power kit as a backup power source.
For a photographers point of view experience I will be using a ContourHD helmet cam mounted to my cameras while I shoot. I found the ContourHD camera to be a very tough piece of kit. I had it mounted to my helmet on every mission while I was in Afghanistan and had no problems with it whatsoever. Everything will be backed up on multiple external hard drives, because you never know!
This may seem like a lot of gear, but I am going to be documenting everything possible in the form of video and still photography and will have minimal time to do so. It will be quite the challenge, but something I know that I can accomplish.
Subscribe for updates, and comment if you have any suggestions for gear that you would take on this great adventure!
My latest project is something I have been working towards for a long time. I just may have not known it until recently.
For this to all make sense I will have to start at the beginning. When I was in 7th grade my science teacher told us the story of Chernobyl. At the time, I hadn’t even heard of it. His story of the bravery of the over 500,000 people involved who risked their lives stuck with me. They were firefighters, power plant workers, military members and locals who were called upon at a moments notice. Through their selfless acts they were able to prevent what could have been an even worse explosion after the initial disaster.
The fact that these people were forced from their homes was a terrifying idea to me. I grew up on a farm on the Oregon coast, and I loved my home. When I put myself in their shoes it’s something that I knew would be very hard for me to deal with. Since then I have had a mild obsession in regards to the people of the area more than anything.
Pripyat was a town founded in 1970 and had a population of roughly 50,000 people and is about 62 miles away from the capital city of Kiev. It’s main goal was to provide a home for employees of the power plant. There were malls, schools, movie theaters. This was a very active city, and in two days it was totally evacuated. The city of Chernobyl had the same fate, but completely different beginnings. Chernobyl has been around since 1193, and eventually became annexed by the Russian Empire in 1793. It has a very colorful history from that point on. It was the center of many religious groups and movements as well as being very important during World War One and Two.
Before the Chernobyl disaster the population of the surrounding area was approximately 120,000 with 14,000 living in Chernobyl city. Approximately 92,000 people were evacuated and after the disaster about 30 miles from Chernobyl the city of Slavutych was founded. The main purpose of this city is to house the power plant employees and their families and has a population of around 25,000. After the evacuation an exclusion zone of a radius of 30 km was created, since then the area has grown to 2,600 km.
During the evacuation thousands of residents refused to leave, and many moved back illegally after being evacuated. The authorities now provide some support to the re-settlers, but they are living “off the grid”. Since 2009 the population of elderly has dropped to 400, there are an unknown amount of squatters in the area as well.
These re-settlers are the most interesting part of the story to me. Their day to day life is a struggle, and it’s that way because of something that was totally out of their hands. The reason for the meltdown was human error. Despite all of this the main reason the western world knows about Chernobyl is because recently it has been featured in video games and movies. Some people don’t even know it is a real place! I intend to change this.
I was lucky enough to get an invitation to visit the area later this year. My goal is to document daily life through video interviews and photography. I am working towards this goal by using Indiegogo to help get people interested in my project. I feel these are stories the world needs to know.
I will be updating my blog much more often now that I have a real serious project underway, so subscribe and comment!
You can see my IndieGoGo pitch here – Chernobyl – Living Excluded
This “How To” will be aimed towards the dSLR photographer, but some of these tips may apply to higher quality point and shoot cameras. Smartphones have come a long way in terms of quality, and what the photo apps can do. Especially those equipped with a super fast shutter. If you have a decent camera on your smartphone you could use it to get some “Behind the Scenes” shots and share them on StreamZoo, Instagram or Twitter.
Probably the most important thing you’ll need would be a tripod. You can find them for as little as $20 for a basic model, but if you want to spend a little more money I would suggest looking into Vanguard or Manfrotto. If you don’t have a tripod you can always find a stable platform that might work in a pinch, a fence, chair, etc. You need a stable platform to get sharp photos unless you want to make more abstract photos showing motion.
The first step is to scout out your location hours before the show starts. Look for interesting features, i.e. – bodies of water, large fields, etc. Find a spot that works for you and what sort of image you want to compose.
Lenses – What kind of lens you use is up to you, but I would stay away from prime lenses and use something with a wide range of zoom. This will give you variations in your shots and more room to work with. The hardest part of getting the fireworks nice and sharp is focusing. A 18-55 kit lens would actually work rather well, but this is all up to you. Last year I got very good results with a 55-200mm lens.
Settings – Manual. Manual focus. Bulb mode if you have a remote shutter. A remote paired with the LCD on your camera set to live view is a good way to keep you from getting tunnel vision from constantly looking through the viewfinder. Start out using the viewfinder to find your focus point and switch to live view once you’ve got it. To successfully photograph fireworks it takes a lot of trial and error and anticipating the location and timing of the explosions. You want to control what your camera is doing. Your ISO depends on you, if you know how high you can set it without getting too much noise then you will be able to have quicker shutter speeds. Start at a higher (numerically) f/stop and work from there. Most lenses are the sharpest at f/8 so this is something to keep in mind. If you have figured out a focus point that works you can move to a faster f/stop to help freeze the action with a faster shutter speed.
Everything Else – Use the largest capacity card you have and don’t worry about filling it up. It’s trial and error, so keep working at it until you find settings that work for you. The most important thing?
I’ve touched on this subject before but I want to talk more about it. I would say this is a subject that is one of, if not the most controversial subjects in photography.
As with anything there are different groups of people and they all have different preferences. There are the film only purists, who would never even consider using digital cameras. The real hardcore members of this group still use 19th century techniques and equipment. There are those who have never used a film camera and wouldn’t be able to load film if their life depended on it. Then, there are those that use both digital and film.
I fall into that last group. I actually own more film cameras than digital. With digital you can fit hundreds, if not thousands of photos on one little memory card. I love the digital experience for the ability to know exactly what my photo looks like right after I take it and then adjust the settings if they aren’t perfect. However, there is something called “chimping”. Anyone with an LCD screen on the back of their camera has done it. They fire off the shot, and then immediately check to see what the photo looks like. If you get in the habit of doing this, you could miss your shot. You won’t do that with a film camera. Digital is great for the ease of sharing your work online, and that is probably the main reason it is so damn popular.
The biggest misconception is that film is expensive. You can find a lot of very decent, high quality film cameras in great shape for less than $100. 35mm film can still be purchased at most large retail stores, at any decent photography store or online. Getting it developed is still just as easy as it’s always been, you just have to be patient. It may take a week to get your black and white roll back, but it’s worth the wait.
If you want to improve your ability as a photographer, get a film camera. With film you can’t just snap off hundreds of shots and hope you get it right. You have to think. Shutter speed? Aperture? Film speed? Composition? Besides all that, there is something to be said about the connection you’ll have to a film camera. Especially an older camera that is made primarily of metal and glass. The sound of the shutter on some cameras is legendary. They are very tough, sturdy pieces of gear. You can’t say that for the average digital camera, that’s for sure.
I won’t touch on those who use a smartphone as their only camera for this entry. They are takings “pics”, not photographs.
Note – All photographs in the gallery above were shot with my Nikon F100 and Nikon F.
Canon vs Nikon. Leica vs the world. Olympus vs Pentax, etc. There will always be brand loyalty in photography, but for me it makes no sense. Photographers are probably the most judgmental group of people I have come across. You can’t get away from it. If you think only one brand of camera is capable of taking good photos, you are my target audience. Hello, my close minded friends!
I can understand liking a particular lens or camera body for a specific reason. I have a Tokina 80-200mm FD macro and I love it. It has a smooth and predictable zoom, the aperture ring is in the right spot, but it has a amazing amount of lens creep. It’s not perfect. I love my Nikon D5000 because I have over 50,000 shutter clicks on it and it hasn’t ever given me any problems. It doesn’t take great video. It’s not perfect. I still love it. Not because it’s a Nikon, but because of what it has given me as a camera. A camera is a tool, and limiting yourself to only shooting with one brand is limiting your creativity. I own Canon, Nikon, Sony and Argus and I just started collecting. Each brand has it’s strengths and weaknesses. My Nikon F can shoot at 1/6400th of a second and my Canon TL can shoot at 1/500th of a second. This doesn’t make Nikon as a brand better. It’s just different.
Is that why people get wrapped up in labeling themselves as a fan of one particular brand? The differences? Canon lenses go on one way, Nikon the other. Big deal. A fan boy (or girl) will look down their nose at you if you have a brand of camera they don’t like. There is another approach. Instead of this attitude which brings nothing but negativity, photographers could support each other just for the simple fact of having the same interests. I know it’s a wild and crazy idea.
Next up? The Film vs Digital debate.