Faster Than the Speed of Nanites

The following is an edited version of an email I sent a friend who sent me an picture of a commuter train platform brimming with people engrossed in various electronic gadgets; no one seemingly aware of anyone else.

When I rode the TTC (Toronto Transit System) to work 30 years ago, the majority of travelers were reading newspapers or books rather than engaging in conversation; perhaps the issues are deeper and older than Apple and gadgets. While some of my traveling companions then seemed to be wrapped up in work-related activity, many were reading for pleasure. Now some are playing games while others are clearly engaged in work, even if not ‘on the clock’. Common wisdom says there are more involved in the latter than in my day; I don’t know for sure.

Perhaps playing the most basic, mindless of games or reading 100 word blurbs (labeled ‘articles’) is hardly comparable to doing advanced level crossword puzzles or reading thoughtful articles in actual journals. We have a society flooded with sound-bites, a 24 hour news cycle, advertising based on a 15 second attention span- information overload. Too much information to remember it all, much less ‘process it’ (we used to call that doing analysis or thinking; processing used to be a manufacturing term…. )

For that matter, do we really need to be spending all our time awake “improving ourselves” and fighting to be able to enjoy life only on weekends or after we retire? Now that’s often after the age of 70 if we make it that far. The pressure to be a ‘team player’ and the endemic of sleep deprivation is a real issue as well. But we must keep our focus.

On the one hand I agree that some people seem addicted to their “toys”. On the other hand some people are addicted to Rx drugs or sex or otherwise ensnared in self-destructive behaviours. Addiction is a real problem that is too often ignored; but it can’t be an easy excuse. And an addict is not helped by blaming the addiction. Nor blaming their supposed ‘lack of moral fibre; addiction is a medical/ biochemical condition that needs be treated.

Perhaps the problem, or one major foundation, is that schools are afraid to teach Responsibility or How To Think. Some parents say that schools should not “teach morals” while others demand schools teach only their preferred moral system; no wonder public schools feel they can’t win. Add in teaching to standardized tests, budget cuts, parents demanding athletic programmes over ‘the arts’ in hopes of their child earning a scholarship to over-priced schools, ‘creationism’ as a pseudo-science and people being famous for being famous rather than for actual talent, hard work and dedication…

In which case the solution is not to just condemn or merely treat the symptom(s). Curing the disease would mean confronting Corporatism and Consumerism… admittedly a big challenge.

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How to Make a Fashion Book With Blurb lets you make books about anything that interests you. I’ve used them to fill orders for my book December Rose as well as some other titles. Their selection of papers and covers is exceptional; high-quality books made to order.

Whether you’re interested in fashion, family or photographing your life, you most likely have a Blurb book in you just waiting to get out. Although the price of good-quality digital cameras are low enough for almost anyone to purchase, their automatic settings can be helped with attention to the following details:

1. It’s all about lighting: photography literally means writing with light.
To make your subject pop, choose natural light or studio light with a soft box (you can even make one from a lamp and last season’s white t-shirt). If you’re using a flash, you’ll probably want to bounce it or stick a diffusion filter on it. Anything that avoids the dreaded ‘red eye’ (or other colour in certain pets) and the flatness that comes from a bare flash striking your subject head on.

2. Make a shot list
It’s easy to overlook a shot you want, or run out of time, without your list. This is a critical step if you are photographing models. Even if your model is just your best friend who owes you a favor, they’ll appreciate it if you know exactly what you want to shoot. Think about the poses you want to capture, the outfits you want them to wear, and the details that you want to highlight in every shot.

3. White balance (WB)
Accurate color and skin tones come from making sure the WB function on your camera is set to your lighting situation; our eyes and brain adjust what we think we see while a camera just records what is actually in front of us. For example, sunlight is very yellow compared to light filtered through the leaves of trees or bounced off a building.

4. Choose the right lens/zoom setting
If you’re using a wide angle, you’re going to lose your beautiful lines (and your model may never forgive you). On a ‘full frame’ camera the lens or zoom setting used for people portraits should be at least 70mm- cameras with a slightly smaller digital sensor may work with a 50mm lens. Unless you know what sort of distortion a shorter lens will give and specifically want that effect. If you are using a zoom lens try to avoid using the extremes on either end; the middle of the range will give you better results.

5. Keep it interesting
Whether a fashion shoot, pets or family- play music or chat with your subjects to keep things moving. Don’t be afraid to try new angles. Attitude, attitude, attitude.

6. Dress it up
Make your book as fashionable as the images featured inside. Choose a simple design that doesn’t upstage the subject, but still looks chic. Pick a size and paper type that showcases the work brilliantly. Remember the focus should be on your images, not the crazy quilt background on the page. If you are giving a special gift or preparing a portfolio, invest in the quality papers and added features that Blurb has available.

Start your Blurb book now and Save 25% on print book orders of $75 or more at Blurb through March 26**.

Bonus Advice
If you are taking photographs of dogs or cats, also check out my Photo Tips for Rescues.

** Offer valid until March 26, 2014 (11:59 p.m. local time). A 25% discount is applied to your product total with a minimum purchase of USD $75, CAD $75, AUD $75, EUR €60 or GBP £50. Maximum discount is USD $150, CAD $150, AUD $150, EUR €100, or GBP £100 off product total. This offer is good for one-time use, for new accounts, and cannot be combined with volume discounts, other promotional codes, gift cards, or used for adjustments on previous orders. See the Blurb web-site for more information.

++ This post contains ‘affiliate links’- I will earn a small fee should you make a purchase at Blurb after clicking on one.

@@ You may use Blurb’s web-based design program to create your book at no additional charge. You may also use your own software, or hire me (or another designer) to design & lay out your book for an additional fee.

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Easter 2014 – Make Mine Chocolate

Three years ago I wrote an essay for a college English class that required researching an issue and then drafting a letter to a local newspaper or an official who could address the subject. I decided to investigate the issue of people giving kids live rabbits as a pet at Easter. You can read it as a pdf file here.

Although the total number of live rabbits given as Easter gifts is much less than the number of puppies or kittens given as pets, those bunns have a greater chance of being thrown out or ignored (left in an outdoor hutch or a garage corner). And a domesticated rabbit has virtually no chance of survival in the wild; they will not form a colony as many feral cats do, and are likely to be killed by a dog or large birds. As a loving parent (grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc) it is our duty not to give a child a gift without knowing and understanding what is involved. My research suggests that rabbits are much more complex creatures than the images found in popular culture; they require and deserve a home that will appreciate them and meet their needs. They are social animals that will pair-bond if given the chance; two bunns are much better than one.

Please consider giving someone a stuffed toy, a chocolate rabbit, or some other gift. If you are still interested in giving a live rabbit, please talk to your local House Rabbit Society.

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