Tres Limbos – Tres

There’s no “undo” key combination in the darkroom

Previous installments are here (part one) and here (part two).

My wife still uses the 3 megapixel digital camera that I bought 14 years ago. The first two years that I owned it, I used it almost exclusively to make my living.

Of the three forms of modern replacement technology that I’ve struggled to get used to, digital photography has been the easiest to learn and accept and yet, film photography has been the hardest thing to let go.

A scant 6 years before I bought that first digital camera, I was shooting text book covers for Harcourt Brace and helping a friend and mentor create images for a food catalog (ah, the cheesecake shot) using large format — 4×5 or 8×10 — view cameras. We proofed every shot with black and white Polaroids and every afternoon someone had to run the boxes of Ektachrome to the lab before closing time. Then the transparencies were scanned and the images dropped into PageMaker and the catalog was laid out. Shazam! In less than 24 hours we were in the digital age. One day we were shooting photos on a camera that didn’t even have a working shutter — we just darkened the room, took the lens cap off, fired the flash (sometimes multiple times), put the lens cap back on. And the next day someone sat at a computer and created the layout.

One of the strangest things to think of now, about that whole process, is that we shot everything so that the image on the transparency was the size it needed to be in the finished catalog. That was a holdover from a previous era because we still weren’t too sure about those scanned images.

For me, that time was the beginning of the blending of the new and old image representation technology. The new innovations were always interesting to me and I never resisted a single one, wanting to try them all, compare them — especially the computer advances. I learned to use Photoshop long before I had ever even touched a digital camera. I knew that some kind of line had been crossed when I found myself involuntarily trying to hit “undo” after making mistakes in the darkroom.

It was easy to embrace new technology as it came along. For one thing, I had a genuine interest in many aspects of it. For another, being just barely forty, it was pretty clear that if I wanted to keep working at photography for very long, the time to “get with the program” was immediately. So I studied, tried, embraced, learned, adopted and switched every way I could.

After those two years of making my living with that 3 megapixel camera, I felt like I was pretty much with the program. Then it hit me. If I woke up one morning and all the modern photographic technology was gone, it simply wouldn’t matter to me. It would be so easy to let it go and I just wouldn’t care. I even considered myself a better photographer because of all the practice I was able to get with digital, but for some reason it just didn’t matter.

I don’t know what it means or even why I feel that way but I’m sure that if  I woke up tomorrow and all the digital technology was gone, I could still — even with the knowledge that it had existed — just pick up my beautiful, dented, 40+ year old Nikon F (doesn’t even have a light meter), plop some film in it and head out the door.

I really love digital photography and have a great time with my camera and computer. But I miss my darkroom, old cameras and black & white film the way one might miss a good old friend who has moved away. They’re still out there but just not part of your day to day existence any more. Every time I see those cameras I feel a pang of loss and frustration. Yes, I know it’s possible and people are still doing it — but for me, right now, there is just no way to work it into my schedule or budget.

That brings me to today, to this place and time and to this blog called “Learning to Paint.” I have a nice day job that I really enjoy and I don’t have to try to make my way with my camera any more. Heck, everybody’s a photographer now (at least they think they are), so what do they need me for. I no longer have to face the incredulous looks when I tell someone how much money I want to be paid for something “anybody can do.” I’ve had all the kinds of success that I ever thought I might have, not the least of which is people actually forking over their hard earned cash for copies of my photos just to hang on their wall.

There’s no intention to stop taking photos — at this point in my life it’s as easy and natural as taking a step or wiping my brow. I’m happy, though, to move on from just being a photographer. I am a writer and an artist and a photographer — and a gardner. That all suits me just fine as I head forward in life.

So that’s it. I’m no longer stuck in those three limbos of this modern world. It’s a new day and I am so glad that you have stopped by to read this and let me prattle on so. Now I’ll go back to listening to what you have to say which is much more important to me anyway.

Thanks to Bob for letting me shoot the cover of this food catalog. Not bad for a camera with no shutter and a homemade reflected light softbox that I made myself.

Thanks to Bob for letting me shoot the cover of this food catalog. Not bad for a camera with no shutter and a homemade reflected light softbox that I made myself.




Where I write

KarlsAttic_001Sunday night it was raining and I got to do one of my favorite things — sit in my attic room and listen to the rain fall just above my head. It’s the place to sit and write, paint, spend quality time with my cats or just think. It’s winter now and sometimes I nap there with visions of seed catalogs dancing in my head (you should see that — well, then again, maybe not).

Being up in my attic when it’s raining might be the most perfect circumstance I’ve ever encountered. Sitting at my desk in front of a louvered dormer window listening to rain fall creates a state of almost perfect bliss for me.

Our house was built in 1923 and the original owner was an architect who worked for Sinclair Oil (the Sinclair Building is one of my favorites downtown — classic Deco, with stylized metal eagles) and designed over 2500 gas stations in the southwest US from the 20s through the 50s. Gas stations could look a lot more interesting back then. There’s one only a few blocks from here, though of course now it has been unceremoniously demoted to a Dominoes Pizza and painted all one color. It’s not even a nice color. Still it retains its understated style.

This man painted and at some point finished out the attic to use as his studio. My guess has always been that it happened in the 40s though it could have been earlier. There’s wood paneling all around. It has two dormers on opposite sides (north and south facing) and a cute exhaust fan that lives behind a hidden door in the paneling. So the ventilation is decent. Later someone even vented it to the a/c. There are also several closets with doors seamlessly placed in the paneling and built-in shelves in one area. I did my best while designing and building two bookcases to create something modern yet in keeping with the spirit of the room.

Having coffee at my little table up here in the morning and listening to the rain hit the roof above is the best way to start my day. So I guess it’s just too bad we’re in the middle of this seemingly endless drought, huh? But, even I if lived somewhere it rained all the time and rain was nothing special, I would still love it. It’s wonderful up here rain or shine.


This just in…

gardening blog to return to roots.

Over the last six weeks I’ve been taking Blogging 101 and Blogging 201 and as I’ve worked through my assignments, I’ve learned a little more about myself and what I like to write about. Let me tell you, it can zing and zip all over the map. As a consequence of my recent endeavors, it seems to me that the subject matter of this blog has drifted a little far afield.

In Blogging 201 we worked on establishing our brand, creating a hub and giving things a recognizable image across different blogs and media types. What I have decided to do is to create a whole new hub and let this blog be one of the spokes. I want to move all the subject matter that doesn’t fit the original idea (subject to my usual broad interpretation of subject matter) onto the new hub blog. I worry that this could, at least in the short term, amount to self inflicted blogicide. As my dear old friend Lee Jones used to say while giving me that askance knowing glance across his face out of his one good eye, “Boy, you’ve gone all the way crazy.”

So here is my plan for the new blog setup. There will be a hub which will include posts on general subject matter, blog event posts and occasional fiction pieces. I will still have my photo blog which will be entirely devoted to photography (with comments) without regard to subject matter — I hope to have an opportunity to post and comment on other photographers photos as well (no hints or anything). Then there will be this blog which will be devoted to gardening, art and nature and the ways they intersect and sometimes get all stirred up together in a big pot in my backyard. This was my original intention with this space and I hope you’ll find that it cleans up quite nicely after a little shipping of things off to other locations.

There is also my long term Neighborhood Photography project which has previously manifested itself in a number of collaborative exhibits at area venues. My goal is to move this online and with the help of interested photographers (of all skill levels) expand the neighborhood as wide as we possibly can. I’ve decided that due to the scope of my goals and intentions for the this site, it will better as a completely separate “brand” with it’s own community identity, galleries and a forum. I’m even considering a fresh start from scratch and taking the classes again just to get that endeavor underway.

Just so that you don’t think this sounds too ambitious, let me tell how I see it (rationalize it?). This blog (Learning to Paint) is where I talk about and chronicle things that are very important to me and part of my daily life. The hub is where I can put up anything that I want to write about that doesn’t fit here (there’s always something). The photo blog is a place where I upload and yak about pictures of any subject. Having things compartmentalized should help the individual areas make more sense.

Well, the migration (explosion) starts tomorrow. I hope that I don’t lose any of you cherished readers in the process. This blog will still be in the same place with the same name, anyway.

“One more thing — if anyone is the least bit inclined — please feel free to follow me on Twitter!” he implored. A big Valentine’s Day loving shout of thanks to the THREE of you have already taken the plunge!


Tres Limbos – Uno

Still searching for paths through a digital world

I begin with an expression of deep affection and enjoyment of the all the wonderful computer technology that now fills so much of our lives. I follow that by saying that if it all went away, I’m not sure I would mind a bit. As I move forward in my life and continue to enjoy things I’ve always enjoyed, there are still dilemmas facing me in regard to how to participate in these things. Three activities stand out as the most difficult — readin’, writin’ and shootin’ (photos, that is).
Starting with reading, there were times when I told myself it would always be books first. I thought I would never be able to read on screens.

Continue reading

Waiting for the ground to dry

…so I can pull some weeds.

Here I am sitting outside and typing. I always wanted to learn to type. Somewhere along the way I learned how to do it. There may have been some view of radical persons typing on a city street or something crazy, but forty years ago no one was envisioning exactly this.

Continue reading

Time for a production upgrade

Until recently my blog life has been lived in an erratic manner. I just finished Blogging 101 and although the next session has already begun and registration (completely free) has closed this time, you can still look over the topics from previous classes to help you decide if you want to participate next time. The class helped my blog develop some momentum and I highly recommend it.

This blog was started almost two years to the day before the class began which gives the analysis of my progress a nice consistency. During the first year I published 6 posts, the second year, 7 (Always able to look on the bright side, I’m at least glad the number went up!)  Continue reading

Too good not to try again

It was just a whim. It was early Saturday morning and I was trying to get to the community garden on time — sounds like a silly idea now, probably don’t need to be too precise, not like anyone was waiting for me (although I’m sure the weeds were busy growing). I stopped off to buy a few pepper plants and I was about a half cup low on coffee, so not up to my usual questionable level of mental capacity. I’m someone who can never pass a seed rack so I stopped at one for a quick peruse. There they were, a nice big pack of heirloom variety seed corn and it just seemed like a fun thing to try. I had no serious expectations about production but thought that even if the plants got to a decent size it would be fun to show the local kids.

I planted six kernels, three each on opposite ends of my plot and they all came up. These plants produced eight ears of the sweetest, juiciest, most delicious corn that I had eaten in years. It was so good that I could have just pulled it off the stalks and eaten it uncooked right on the spot. Of course, it probably wouldn’t have turned out as well if it was all part of some big master gardening plan…but being the stubborn gardener I am, it’s not going to stop me from giving it another try this year.

So this year I’m renting an extra 4’x8′ plot just for planting corn. Last time I planted in early March and harvested in mid June and plan to stick with the same schedule this year. As usual, I’ll try not to get over confident — but I’m hopeful. Stay tuned.

My few stalks of corn did surprisingly well in the community garden last year.

My few stalks of corn did surprisingly well in the community garden last year.

Time to plan(t)

Not one to rely on long term weather predictions from even the most reliable sources, I nonetheless have a strong feeling that this winter is not going to be too harsh at my locale. There’s something about the trend in temperatures that makes my middle age backyard farmer’s bones feel there won’t be any very late freezes this year. Of course, this could just be a way to make sure everyone keeps following my blog so that, in six weeks time,  you can all smugly comment on what an idiot I am.

Whenever we have an early spring, I like to take advantage of it by planting tomatoes as soon as possible. The best tomato crops that I’ve ever had here in our sunny dry clime are the ones that have been started no later than the middle of March. If I don’t have an opportunity to plant them early, I usually skip them all together. Also, I always plant a mid-size variety that will grow and ripen sooner. We don’t eat many cherry or grape tomatoes so roma tomatoes are usually the smallest ones that I grow. These are just my personal preferences and a plan that I have developed over the years based on how I like to garden and where I live.

I have a place in one of my 4’x4′ raised beds that gets a great dose of morning sunlight and then is protected from the long, hot, scorching, drying, burning afternoon sun that we always seem to have in such wonderful abundance around here. This has been working very well and the spot also offers protection on the north side in case of any late blasts of cold air when the plants are young and vulnerable. If anything too cold is expected, it’s easy to just cover them up for protection. In case anyone is wondering if this is some error talking about burning and freezing in the same paragraph, the standard response is, “welcome to Texas!”

The sun is coming up now as I write this and the clear blue sky out my attic window is giving me hope for a good crop this year. That’s a good thing because even looking at a picture of home grown tomatoes makes me not want to eat a store bought one!


Picked in late May from plants planted at the beginning of March