Archives for posts with tag: Gimli

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It was Teddy Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901–1909), who coined the expression, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” At the time, he attributed its origins to a “West African proverb,” which may or may not have been a fiction designed to give his wisdom a little ancient enhancement. The phrase itself refers to a political policy of avoiding bluster and confrontation, but being known to have the foreign or domestic policy power to thoroughly enforce one’s softly-spoken point of view. It’s sort of the opposite of the full-throated sabre-rattling sort of foreign policy that defined the 43d President’s term. (I’d be historically remiss if I didn’t mention that in 2012, when speaking about President Obama’s foreign policy, Vice President Joe Biden referred to Roosevelt’s aphorism when he said “I promise you, the President has a big stick.” This statement, of course, resulted in significant viral giggling, as so many of the Vice President’s utterings do.)

However, for my purposes I prefer to take Roosevelt’s quote literally, especially now that I have become the possessor of a life-changing piece of equipment: A monopod. (Like so much in my life, photographic and otherwise, I have my partner of more than a decade to thank for this new delight. I was possibly more excited about the monopod than I was about the D7000, which cost roughly twenty times more than the collapsible stick.)

The monopod in question is manufactured by the Italian company Manfrotto. It’s a 290 Series (MM294A4) that, when extended, is 59.4 inches tall and held firm and stable by three sturdy clips. Collapsed, it’s 19.3 inches. It weighs 1.2 pounds, and attaches tightly to the standard threaded socket in the base of most came

Manfrotto 290 monopod

Let me be utterly clear: While I may be wildly ancient and decrepit, my hands are nonetheless quite steady. I’ve taken many hand-held photos of which I’m particularly proud. You can peruse some examples of those [shameless plug alert!] on my website, EButterfield Photography.

However, the monopod is a wonderful thing. It attaches firmly to the bottom of my Nikon D7000 (see my previous blog entry, “Fancy Ass”) and in its collapsed form doesn’t particularly get in the way of my handheld shots. But extended, it offers a whole new dimension of stability.

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Look at this photo, for instance (click to embiggen, to better observe):

Gimli the cat, hand-held and monopod photos compared

My ever-patient cat, Gimli, cooperatively posed for both a hand-held and a monopodded portrait, which are combined here into a single image for comparison purposes through the wonders of Photoshop. The light conditions in my living room yesterday were not particularly good (muted sunlight and overhead incandescents), and other than resize and slide the photos together, these are pretty much how they came out of the camera.

I took the photos in ambient light, with no flash, using an AF-S Nikkor 18.0-105.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, with the aperture at f/5.3 and a shutter speed of 1/6 second. The image on the left is hand-held; the image on the right is using a monopod. For the excruciatingly long exposure, the monopod’s stability clearly had a beneficial effect: Gimli’s fur is sharper, and his eye is crystal clear. While the hand-held image might be acceptable, the one using a monopod is pretty crisp right out of the gate.

I suppose this comes as no surprise to veteran photographers (I have distinctly heard a collective and dismissive “duh” from my vast readership), but it’s an epiphany for me. Oh sure, I’ve used tripods before for portraits, but I’ve always been a little put off by their clumsiness and lack of mobility. Still, I’m sure I’ll continue to use them. The monopod, though, offers pretty much the best of both worlds: it provides the stability of a tripod, while still letting me sprint around my subject like a little gnat (much to the delight of my subjects, who have in some cases taken to swatting me away). It’s become an essential part of my standard equipment, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

So next time I’m out in the forest or the desert, I’ll be following Teddy’s advice to the letter: I will speak softly (as I always do in nature, unlike the screaming children and cell-phone shrieking adults I encounter on the public paths…but more kvetching about that another time, perhaps). I will also, like Presidents Roosevelt and Obama, be equipped with a nice big stick.

El Dorado Nature Center, Long Beach CA

It recently occurred to me in a rare moment of clarity that I haven’t posted on this blog for a while. I know that both my readers were despondent about this, and after initially assuring themselves that I was enjoying a fabulous eco-tour of some exotic location, undoubtedly fell into the inescapable conclusion that I’d been abducted by bug-eyed and throbbing-brained alien invaders with a proclivity for probing; or been dragged off by gaily-clad gypsies and forced to participate in traditional woodland dances and fits of fortune-telling; or perhaps I had fallen into a deep, deep hole. Rest easy, gentle readers, for none of these terrible things befell me. Nope, I’m just Lazy. And don’t think for a moment that I haven’t been thinking about you all this time, and scolding myself for being a Bad Blogger.

I can only offer the following series of excuses:

1. I spent several weeks in breathless anticipation of the London Olympics, and then sat glued to NBC’s selective coverage, utterly enthralled by all the leaping, bounding, diving, and whatnot; and/or

2. I spent several weeks in breathless anticipation of the Mars Science Laboratory (“Curiosity”) landing on Mars, and became so obsessed that I forgot to eat, and then sat riveted to NASA-TV’s livefeed from Mission Control, becoming alternatively misty-eyed and hysterical as Curiosity survived the Seven Minutes of Terror; and/or

3. I spent a great deal of time in airports, on airplanes, and in hotel conference rooms being all Serious and Business-y; and/or

3. I spent several weeks mesmerized by the civil, adult, substantive and insightful policy debates engaged in by the various candidates for US President, and had to take many days just to parse the intricacies of the detailed and thoughtful plans they’ve laid out for the nation’s future.

(OK, that last one’s just silly.)

Whatever the reason for my Bad Bloggerishness (Bad Bloggeritude? Bad Bloggery?) there has nonetheless been time to do some photography, which is what I write about here. And since I continue to bask in my delusional, narcissitic, and potentially psychotic fantasy that anyone in the world cares about what I’ve been doing, I shall then proceed as per usual to revel in the minutiae of the minorest of my daily activities.

Southern California Blues. The biggest benefit of having to travel quite a bit for work, aside from the whole meeting-new-people and broadening-one’s-horizons thing, is the opportunity for more (I think) interesting aerial photography. I try to make it a point to sit by a window (this is a wise move for three reasons: 1) for photographic purposes; 2) because no one climbs over you to get to the lavatory;  and 3) because the bulkhead is nice to lean against, and adds an inch or two more personal space—you’re welcome for that little Travel Tip.) Anyway here’s the coastline of Southern California shortly after takeoff from John Wayne International Airport in Santa Ana:

Southern California coastline

Tentpole. I like architecture, and this photo from Denver International Airport is a good demonstration of why: Not only is it functional (the pylon is holding up the tent-like roof of the terminal) but it’s attractive. And what’s more, given the right angle of approach, it becomes a nice display of abstract geometry, divorced from its actual purpose. As a photographer, that’s one of my favorite things to do: get so close up to something (in the case of macros), or so far away (in the case of aerial views of the desert Southwest) or so particularly angled (like here) that the thing being photographed loses its “thingness” and becomes something new: a collection of lines and angles and colors, for instance. But enough about that. Here’s a picture from DIA:

Support pylon at Denver International Airport

Please Come to Boston. I took a little business trip to Boston, and snuck out on a rainy morning to see what was up in the Public Garden. This swan boat seemed a lovely thing, and the water droplets are, to me, quite nice.

 Swan Boat iin Boston's Public Garden

OK, possibly Shocking Displays of Skin below (probably safe for work, unless you work in a church).

You’ve been Warned.

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Tough Guy. I continue my efforts to pursue portrait photography using the nice little home studio equipment I acquired not all that long ago. James wanted a series of photos taken that looked “model-y” and showed off his physical assets, so that was a fun project for a summer afternoon. (More of these here)

Shirtless male model with sunglasses

Daddy Bear. One thing seems to lead to another in this interwoven, interconnected, interdependent world we wander through, and shortly after James I found myself photographing Andre for what were to be some more…personal photos. This is one of the tamer ones. Interestingly (although not surprisingly to anyone who’s been to an International Mister Leather event and heard the big scary-looking S&M guys chatting about recipes and window treatments) Andre is not nearly as intimidating as he looks: he’s actually quite sweet and funny (I think this actually captures that a little bit), and the shoot was a lot of fun. (More of these here)

Male model in leather vest and codpiece

So that was what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months. I shall endeavor to be a more courteous and consistent correspondent in the future. With upcoming business trips to Beijing, Florida, New Jersey, and Belgium, plus whatever photogenic models wander my way, there will no doubt be much more to write about. And anyway there’s always Gimli The Cat:

Cat staring, reflected in tabletop

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