Monthly Archives: July 2009

Tech Triumphalism Never Sleeps

Extracting assumptions and trivia from this video…

1/ Assumes that the mere weight of data is somehow better or more valid than previous technologies or cultures
2/ That an issue of the NYT has more data/info than an 18th century person would encounter in a lifetime assumes that…

  • the info was only written, in a time when most working technologies and cultures were non-literate.
  • ignores the fact that an 18th C. individual was probably better equipped to feed/clothe him/herself than the 21st C urban techno-servant. For instance, when was the last time anyone in any office you worked in made a pair of pants, skinned a rabbit, tended a bean-patch?
  • that all info/data in that lucky issue of the NYT is of equal weight and value to all. In freight terms, what is the difference between a pound of lead and a pound of feathers? None. Mass is a different story.

3/ Broadband penetration: Geography & infrastructure is key. #1 Bernuda = tiny. #19 Japan = highly developed archipelago

4/ Number of text messages? How many actually say something? LOL/STFU. Highlights the metrics of availability and theoretical cost of use.

5/ Water, water, water. The invisible missing element.

6/ All these networks, infrastructures, systems are kept alive by electricity. When the lights go out, party’s over.

For starters.


The “Plan B” Photo Shoot Weekend

Saturday, June 28 2009, 1945hr

I was on location at the finish line of the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. The winner was due in about an hour.

I was setting up my lights—A Norman 2000 power pack, 2 lamp heads, one with softbox, the other with translucent umbrella. I was taking preliminary flash readings when I heard a loud cracking sound from the powerpack, followed by a slow puff of smoke. I toggled the switches, hoping that I had been hallucinating. The test switch was inoperative. I had a dead power-pack.

I could’ve been totally screwed. However—I’d packed my Lighting Plan B: 2 Vivitar 283s, 2 285s, a radio slave, and some Wein Peanuts. Incidentally, the case was a dumpster salvage from Art Center, thanks to my friend Lars who is the Shop Supervisor at the Lida St campus.

case and strobes

Salvaged heaven—two date-expired camera cases, 283s, 285s, in a vintage Mole-Richardson carrying case. I’ve since reorganized all strobes, cables, chargers, battery-packs into a split-level Black & Decker wheelie tool-locker.

I quickly took new readings. The winner arrives. I make my shots, and await the next runners.

Over the next 12 hours I photograph another 40 runners. Not every finisher makes it to the studio—they’re wasted, distracted, otherwise not interested. No matter, its not a mandatory.


site shoot plan

site shoot plan

  1. 283 firing into silver umbrella at purple setting
  2. 285 set to 1/4 power, firing thru translucent umbrella
  3. 283 set to 1/4 power, stofen’d, set to 1/4 power
  4. Film: Kodak TriX ASA 320, 1989 vintage, shooting at 1/250 f 4
  5. Camera, with 4i Radio Slave

So far, so good. Until about 0945 on Sunday. The 80mm lens on the Hassy decided it’s had enough. The Plan B Camera is pulled from the green room—the Yashicamat 124.

Plan B camera and strobist flash units, inside vintage case.

I shot the remaining roll of Kodak 160 in it, then switch off to Kodak ASA 400 TCN. Keep shooting.

Now comes the fun part: had I learned anything in the last 6 months, and more importantly, did I remember when I needed it?

I’d heard about using small strobes for big jobs. To tell the truth, I didn’t quite believe it. Looking back I needed to have big lights dump light to overcome a tendency to underexpose.

Realizing I needed more information, I’d started to read the back in December ’08, as these guys are all about creative solutions with small strobes.

Over the years I’d collected a stable of Vivitar 283s and 285s. No, I couldn’t afford Nikon Speedlights, and yes, I’m a primitivist. These Vivitars are the AK-47s of flash—sturdy warhorses that dump an unholy amount of light. Even dialed down to 1/4 power, they make a lot of magic, and go all night.

When I got the film back, I saw that overall reduced light at night gave me rich shadow and modeling. As the sun came up behind the light-proofed backdrop, the same settings opened up deep shadows in the faces, and left enough modelling so there was dimensionality. By 11:00, the official end of the race, the sun was nearly overhead to give that special “hair-light” effect.

With less than 30min before the official close of the race, the sun is high in the sky, and strobes open up the shadow areas.

image taken around 1030am.

A major added benefit of smaller strobes: a lot less weight in travel, quicker setups and knockdowns, and the versatility of photo-guerilla shooting. I’m a way happier camper now.

Oh yeah: all the pix right here.