The Healing Violin

Keep an open mind
And magic you will find
Music soothes the soul
Plant it, let it grow

In your comfy chair
Mind without a care
Play it once again
Your healing violin

Play it like a fiddle
Play it in the middle
Play it upside down
Lets hear how that sounds

Remember last May
Dulcimer that you played
You learned to make new sounds
You reached that higher ground

Last May I had my left knee replaced and it took 2 months before I got to the point where I felt I was healing fast.

I just had my right knee replaced and I’m already at least 2 – 3 weeks beyond where I was last time. I have been hiking a lot since September, I lost 20 pounds since mid October, and I have the benefit of experience.

Last May I tried the Godin Seagull Stick Dulcimer during recovery, and it has become a fun instrument I use occasionally. I’ve had an NS Designs 5 string violin which is the only instrument I’ve “neglected”. So I will play it during this recovery.

I think I’ve avoided playing it because I hate how you are supposed to play it. Then, my niece, who was my cello instructor reminded me that fiddle players hold it differently.

Tonight I held it like a baby cello with the chest rest piece on my thigh, and holy shit – I love it!

To sweeten the deal, I’m running into my little portable Yamaha amp and wow – it sounds great.

We might have a new winner here!

The Promise

I can’t remember if this was in Zug Switzerland or Munich, Germany. Die Spieldose means “The Music Box” in German, which I think is very cool
I made a promise to myself
Take my life down from its shelf
Start doing what I know is right
I got scared that cold and dark night

I promised in a cemetery
It was dark, dank and scary
Could I keep my new made plan?
Could I be a better man?

Now its been a season since
I never looked back or even winced
I guess it happened in its own time
I've gone from the dark to the sublime

Life isn't always what you do
Sometimes doing nothing is what's new
When you're ready you know it well
Its the difference between heaven and hell

After my first total knee replacement last May I promised myself that I would lose some serious weight before the second replacement – which happens tomorrow.

I’m ecstatic and so pumped to say I have hit my first weight loss gain of losing half of the 40 pounds I have to lose, and I did this since mid October. The ball was set in motion in September when we stayed at Mammoth in the Eastern Sierras and where I started hiking with walking sticks. I did one 5 mile hike, one 4 mile hike and some shorter ones. Ever since then I kept hiking even though its been quite painful. But the pain was worth losing the weight. One pound lost is between 4 – 7 pounds off your knees. I also have been doing a lot of serious weight lifting and some cycling. It takes serious focus, discipline and commitment.

I’ve tried before and once I hit a plateau I gave up. This time I’m using the Lose It app but trying “experiments”. These have uncovered where I needed to tweak my diet. It hasn’t been a crazy change, because we mostly eat a diet very close to the Mediterranean Diet. I even got past a plateau. Its bio chemistry, actually.

Fun story – I made the serious decision (promise to myself) to really get this done while shooting Halloween photographs in an old spooky Catholic cemetery in Martinez. Hence the lyrics to this song.

The music is a lap steel and cello and the go great together. So much so I didn’t ruin it by singing.

Photo Still Life Experiments

I’m experimenting with these cool thick plexiglass blocks, little drawing mannequins and other ephemera.

I did achieve getting what I wanted – a vintage color palette that then makes these new wooden figures look like they are antiques. This also then gives me a chance to try to create some Dada or Surrealist style images – a la Man Ray.

I have tons of ideas for special lighting too, but I always do some test shots because my ideas don’t always work. This one will for sure.

Paris Park – 1987

This is not Photoshopped. I did adjust the contrast a bit to get rid of some junk that was also illuminated along with the statue.

I just found out about Saul Leiter and his absolutely fantastic color street photography. His colors are very special and his compositions are similar to what I have always strived for – simple, powerful and uncluttered images. His compositions look like what you’d find in black and white, but the color palette added keeps that “classic” look. Ralph Gibson is a little bit like this too.

I think my style is actually much more graphic than Henri Cartier Bresson’s style. I never stood in one place waiting for something to happen. In fact, I was more like a prowler or walker who kept my eyes open for something – and the graphic part is some dramatic lighting.

I also didn’t worry about whether or not people were in the scene and liked nature photography just as much. I’ve always liked abstract images and reflections – people or no people.

There is something extra special though about people in a street photograph. I think its because by their clothes, style, walk, posture, facial expression, a story is told. I’m glad I did take pictures of people close up, and while I’ve always been shy, when I prowled a city street, I tried to either blend in with others or I tried to look like a tourist.

I must have done a decent job because I was never confronted by anyone.

Leica No More

The 50th Anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. One of the most idiotic events I’ve attended in my life. So many people jammed onto the bridge that its arch dropped 7 feet and it flattened. Very dangerous!
I found a camera
That really rings my bell
Much more than my Leica
That I really had to sell

The best things in life
Aren't really free
But way overpriced
They just don't have to be

Too much is too much
Moderation is magic
Going way overboard
Is existentially tragic

We are all just turtles
Carrying our shell
Learning what's enough
Will make us mentally well

I checked back and found that in 1987 – when this was taken – at the 50th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge I was using a Pentax ME Super. I have to admit – I took many more great photos with it – but I did get sucked into a much more expensive Leica M6 – which – if I remember right – cost $4000 at the time – including a 50MM lens. It was so much faster and easier to change film in the Pentax – that I remember clearly.

I own one “serious” guitar – a Fender Thinline Telecaster, and it is mainly because the first guitar I owned was a black and white tele. Like with the less expensive Pentax being the better camera for me in the late 80’S – my $750 Godin Archtop guitar is my favorite guitar – I pick it up a lot more than the $2000 Telecaster Thinline. So I occasionally still fall for purchasing what is supposed to be “the best”. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have buyers remorse like I did with the Leica.

This song is meant to be a humorous commentary that oftentimes – more than not – things that are sold as the “epitome” of this that or the other thing are things to stay away from. Unfortunately – it does take some trial and error – but I must admit – some things like the Leica M6 were way, way, way overpriced. Sorry – I don’t feel it did anything to make me a better photographer. In fact, to be honest – the Pentax ME Super did – and it was a really small camera so it was fine for street photography.

Fuji is kicking Leica’s butt with a $1399 camera – the X100V. You can’t purchase it – but I can tell from the specs and so many rave reviews that its a Leica Killer. I even think its overpriced for what it is – but compared to any Leica camera – it gets the job done, is much cheaper and looks just like my M6. I’ll never understand why Leica only caters to the filthy rich (and poorer suckers like me who bought into their “premium” pitch) back in the late 80’s. I don’t mind expensive if the value warrants it.

Digital cameras become obsolete so fast these days – I might wait until all of the many hipsters who have purchased this Fuji have regrets because they listened to some Youtuber or Tik Tocker going on about how great this camera is. I guarantee you – sometime this year – or next – this camera will become cheaper – especially when the next shiny penny hits the market – or when the supply chain issues calm down. And there will be tons of hipsters selling them used when they realized street photography isn’t for them.

Fuji did what Leica, Lumix (Panasonic), Sony and others didn’t do. I’ve never owned a Fuji camera – but will seriously consider it this year.

The Cacaphony in Photography and Music

My secret birthday wish – the Fuji X100V

The more I write songs and practice playing guitar, bass, cello, mandolin, piano / organ, lap steel, violin and dulcimer, the more I get this feeling that music and photography  share some things and parallel other things.

This could be just me loving these two things so much that its wishful thinking. It also could be that because I get ideas lyrically from photography and sometimes get photo ideas from my lyrics that they sort of act as models for each other.

I’m totally smitten with this camera. Too bad you can’t buy one – until supply chain issues get resolved …. its the Leica M6 that I wish I had when I had a Leica M6. Hey – song idea!

It could also be that its a pattern thing – my photos always have structure to them and so does my music. There is a logic to these, especially since I write silly 3 minute pop songs. When I use Cubase to record each track looks like a sort of piano roll that shows the sound waveforms being digitally recorded in realtime. There are only so many patterns you can follow, unless you delve into Jazz or some avant garde music. That’s where my photography is similar. I have always chosen simple scenes, many times with just one person or thing. That is also why for the longest time I didn’t “get” some of the more modern photographers, who to me, seemed to have busy or cluttered compositions. They almost seemed random and not focused on any one subject.

I have written songs with too many parts where too many parts play at the same time and it sounds cluttered. If it works – its purely by accident, not design. That might be a method to some photographers vision.

I think I better understand that these photographers are looking at relationships or maybe some want to show chaos and clutter. I mean NYC streets are packed with people and cars and many other things. Some music has only a few simple parts, others more complex.

Traffic jams and crowded sidewalks are “cacaphonies”.

I guess all art is related because all art is based on composition, patterns, objects and relationships. Digital art – using digital recording software and firmware capitalize on wave forms – and sound and light transmit in waves and have frequencies. So, there is time, space, patterns and how they affect the viewer or listener. From a tech perspective there is a very direct match.

Photography can be fine art, most photographs taken are not. I don’t even know if my photos qualify to be fine art and I don’t really know who gets to decide. Pop music is much easier to define.

I’ll stop now because I’m no philosopher, but in the end, if you are lucky to even attract attention to your music or photography, its what people think of it. I suppose if you have at least one other person who likes it, then that’s important, but in my older years this is how I entertain myself. And I’m having the best “art time” of my life right here and right now.

Eyesore Acres Assemblage Fence

Captive audience

As promised, here are the photos of what I call “Phase 1” of the yard art fence. My goal is to divert attention away from the awful eyesore some pompous trust fund baby had built and which already looks like a shack in disrepair. I honestly grew up near trailer homes that looked much nicer.

We might plant a little bit – so between the art and the plants its all filled in and then is an “artificial fence” – and doesn’t look like a “spite fence” even though it really is.

It was a lot of fun – and I got it done before my surgery and also a set of new rain storms that will drench us.

OK – back to Amsterdam tomorrow – and I also need to start digitizing another European city from 1989 – maybe London or Paris – maybe someplace else. I’ll go through my negatives today.

SF Chinatown “Canner” – 1989

I remember clearly that when I was 28 or 29 taking these pictures that I had learned not to skew my bias toward younger or hipster type people – even though the 80’s for me were my days of going to night clubs and art galleries and cafes – where all the cool kids hung out.

I had been studying the “masters” – Bresson, Atget, Man Ray, Doisneau, etc, and saw that they made images that were all about what they saw and where they were at the time.

One photographer whom I have known about – but was not into at the time was Joel Meyerowicz – and other “modern” street photographers. However, I have been watching the many Youtube talks and instructional videos that he has made – and I now have a great respect and interest in him. In the database world – when I design a relational database – there are “entities” (people, places or things) and then relationships between these entities. Joel says that he concentrates on the relationships between people and things – not the people or things themselves. I know that I first concentrate on the people, place or thing, and if a relationship pops out of it – its by accident – not design.

So, all of this is cool – once I get my new knee and go back to the city or town streets – where the people are – I’ll consider the relationship part as well.

San Francisco Golden Gate Statue – 1989

This one is treated

I guess the “decisive moment” is where you find it – where you are and what frame of mind you are in (bad pun intended). Looking back on these “best of” photos of mine – when I was very much into “fine art” photography – I can now say without reservation that fine art photography is indeed fine art. I guess its also like music – some lament that “kids these days” use computer based tools to make music and they don’t play an instrument in the traditional sense. I say that art is art if someone thinks its art. I also think if someone enjoys music – if its say “electronica” vs. old school instruments, its all in the eye of the beholder.

This one is untreated

I have a friend who makes excellent music. When I had him check out my music he then felt compelled to admit that he made his all with a computer keyboard and felt guilty because he didn’t play a “real” instrument. His music is great – and I told him “poppycock” – its either something people like or not – regardless of the tools you use. And musical instruments (for me anyway) are just like tools in my toolbox downstairs – the final work is all that matters.

San Francisco Harp Player- 1989

I’m starting to scan negatives and slides in other cities – looking for street photography that I did way back in the late 80’s. This was one of the “obvious” photo’s that I did print. Besides seeing a street “busker” playing a harp – which is unusual – even in San Francisco, the dress of both the player and the family all engaged in discussion – except the youngest – is all interesting. In fact, I’m really glad all but the youngest were facing the camera – this way, no one became self conscious. The smile on the player is quite nice as well. Between the players dress and the parents hats – and mothers plaid skirt- there is a sort of “Victorian” feel to this. I would almost guess this family is visiting from the U.K. but I have no idea.

I do remember it was near Union Square and between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The way this family is dressed I would guess they were visitors – perhaps even from Europe – but it does bring back memories when people dressed up when they went to a big city. I remember this growing up near New York City. I think this is fairly rare these days. Anyway – a pretty classic and obvious composition – but I guess I had real guts with my Leica M6. I do know that I tried to look like a tourist, and San Francisco is a very interesting city to photograph in. I loved living there for 10 years – between 1984 – 1994.