Helltown

A few weeks ago, my friend Ian messaged me about planning a group expedition to Helltown, an actual ghost town not too far away from Kent. , Helltown (formally Boston, Ohio) supposedly a completely abandoned town, left to rot as the paranormal set in. I did some digging online and learned that the government had purchased the land through eminent domain to add to the area’s parks, but never bothered to do anything with it. Since then, rumors of everything from ghosts, to mutants, to Satanists have grown to surround the area. It had all mostly been debunked, but it still sounded like l could get some creepy photos out of it.
With all that in mind, Ian, Paisley, and I headed out to Helltown. I was assuming that the rumors would oversell this place, but I figured I’d at least get to see something resembling a ghost town, but even that was more than we saw. The “abandoned” homes were few and far between, surrounded by what looked like a healthy, small town. Even if the town was much more inhabited  than we expected, we still roamed around the area, looking into all of the various “paranormal hotspots” that were referenced online to see if we could find anything.

While we didn’t see anything haunted, I still held out hope that I would find something ghostly on the photos once I got home. Sadly, everything I edited in post was all free from the paranormal. I guess that means we’ll just have to keep looking.

The Amazing Brooke DiDonato

Pity PartyWith both my projects for the day falling through, I’ve decided to take the opportunity to use what little notoriety I have to promote a fellow artist. Not only a phenomenal photographer, Brooke DiDonato is also a close friend and inspiration to me. Even with a course load to rival mine as we went through school together, she was still able to take on the task of creating a new photo project every day for a full year. This 365 project was what inspired me to take on the Thing a Day. So, if you’ve ever enjoyed anything on this site here, this lady here deserves some of your thanks.

I can write about her work until the entirety of my keyboard is worn down to oblivion, but it still won’t do it any justice. Have a look at a few of my personal favorites as a teaser right here;

And then, since you’ll want to see more, just go check out her site at http://www.brookedidonato.com/personal and her Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/brooke_didonato/

I’ve been Seriously, if you live in the New York area, commission and hire her NOW before someone else snatches her up. Everyone else, buy the hell out of her work.  She’s just a brilliant photographer, and an awesome person. I really can’t promote her strongly enough.

Bowling for Columbine Review

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Every documentary we have seen thus far has essentially been the story of the subject challenging something. In The Cove it  was dolphin slaughter; Gas Hole, the oil industry; The Human Experience, perceptions of our fellow humans. Bowling for  Columbine is no different, with Michael Moore taking on what feels like the entirety of conservative America at times. Unfortunately, Moore seems not only to have bitten off more than he can chew, but ineffectually gnawing on it like a cranky schnauzer.

More than anything, Moore just comes off as bitter and immature. It’s very clear that he has an agenda, and he has no problem showing it. And, this does not necessarily have to be a bad thing, so long as the presentation and subject matter is handled with a feeling of maturity and respect.

Moore abandons all of that if favor of cheap gimmicks, jabs at interview subjects added when they are not around to defend themselves, and an overall attempt to vilify conservative culture in general. It is a recurring theme in his work for him to chase down those he wants to interview, shove a microphone in his/her face, and then act like a hurt, innocent victim when he is ignored.

All of Moore’s antics radically undercut his message, making me actually feel a tad ashamed when I agreed with any of his stances. Overall, what good ideas that the documentary does present are buried under the sheer breadth of what Moore tries to fight, and the petty behavior on screen. This should really only be watched to get a feel for how not to approach a documentary.

So Many Windsock Photos

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     I put this together as a gag gift for a professor of mine. See, over the last couple months, I worked with some of my professors on an aviation project called Lost in Oscar Hotel. One of my assignments was to just grab a photo of a windsock in some nasty weather; easy enough. Trouble was, it never matched up with my professor wanted. So I spent months going out to shoot windsock photos over the course of a few months. The center photo was the image that my professor finally decided would work for the book. I decided to put together a collage of all of the 150+ windsock photos that I had gone out to shoot for the assignment.

Jordan Gets In Touch With Her Inner Harley Girl

Returning again is the ever-awesome Jordan Castello! We were lucky enough to be given permission to shoot at a nearby Harley Davidson outlet. However; the catch was that we were only given an hour to work with  before the store opened, and we had to work fast. Every shot had to count, and I really had no time to explore many different set-ups, and could only grab a few exposures at a time. Overall, I feel pretty happy with the set, but there were a few issues that I saw in post that I wish I had time to fix physically, rather than in Photoshop later.

I was actually a little physically sore after we wrapped, I was using my left hand to hold my flash off-camera to get the right angle, leaving my right to support the camera on its own. Eventually, I had to break down and use my tripod toward the end to prevent camera shake. Not to mention trying to maneuver my flash into position while it was attached to the my monopod.  I was really happy that I had thought to bring a stepladder along. The shop made for a cluttered background, and the ability to shoot from a high angle really helped clean up the composition.

I still had a blast with the shoot, and it was exciting to try to get everything done within the time limit.

Breaking Free of the Echo Chamber

It’s time for a social experiment. Let’s start with a few quick questions. First off, what are your political and religious views? What sort of lifestyle do you live? What are your hobbies and interests? How do you define yourself? It’s okay, you can be honest.

Now, go scroll through your friends on Facebook, forums you may follow, and any other social media you visit. Chances are, if I asked those people the same questions that I just asked you, the results will probably be pretty similar. That makes sense though. It’s only natural that the people whom you chose to associate with would share common tastes and beliefs.

That brings us to the final step. Take a close look at what media you’re consuming on a daily basis; specifically, news. Are you more interested in what’s going on in your area, so you keep a close eye on the local papers and network affiliates? Or, are you more concerned about the larger scale events, so you turn the national and international stage? Do you just really not care about mainstream news at all, and just reach for a sports, electronics, or gossip magazine to keep up to date on your niche interests? It probably wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine that your media consumption aligns with the answers from the sections one and two up there.

This habit to surround ourselves with ideals which mirror our own is known in the media as the echo chamber, and it’s more prevalent than ever with the advent of social media. Never before has one been able to be completely surrounded by information, and learn so little.

Think of it as mental exercise. Going through the same routine might be enough to get you by, and get easy over time, but it won’t really be improving. The best way to keep getting better is to change the routine, and increase the difficulty to push your limits. Likewise, the only way to challenge yourself mentally is to go outside of your comfort zone, and experience new ideas, even if you may disagree with them. The most important thing to remember is to keep an open mind.

So, today, just try to get out of your comfort zone and bring a little more balance to your media diet. Scroll over to the BBC and get a feel for what’s going on globally. Maybe you could grab a local periodical to read while you’re waiting for the bus. Switch over to CNN during commercials on your nightly reality TV. Scoop up a magazine that you normally wouldn’t from that stack in your doctor’s office. It may be a break from the routine, and I can’t promise you’ll enjoy yourself. However; it is a positive step toward becoming a more informed, well-rounded person.

Love

love

Last week, I showed off an early attempt at doing some graphic design, here. At the encouragement of my fiancé and a few friends, I kept experimenting with the concept. While the floral design is the same in both images, I decided to go with Arabic instead of Japanese this time around. Now, I don’t have a physical Arabic-English dictionary to cross reference, so I am just going to have to trust Google Translate on this one. I got multiple different possible translations, but ultimately went with this:

مودة

love, friendship, cordiality, intimacy, bonhomie, fellowship

 

I did run it past a friend who is studying the language though. She said that she didn’t recognize the dialect, but then I discovered that a piece of the pattern could be mistaken as an accent mark on the word. I took that out, and I think that should remove any confusion. However; if anyone out there speaks Arabic, and sees that this is wrong, please correct me.

Overall, I like the aesthetic of the design. The Arabic script flows with the floral imprint in a way that works for me. The green and white color pallet is a refreshing change from my usual designs that usually have a lot more black.

Smoking in the Cold

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I had hoped that the weather had improved enough to take on a shoot downtown. I was wrong.

Between the model, Jordan; my assistant, Lee; and myself, we barely lasted over an hour before all our appendages lost any semblance of feeling and we were forced to retreat. Jordan was a trooper though, being out in that cold, in that outfit. Models are some of the most hardcore people you will ever meet.

Overall, I’m not terribly happy with the shoot. The images aren’t necessarily bad overall, just, well, generic. While they were technically sound for the conditions, I am disappointed that I didn’t really push to anything truly creative and new. I had a few images in my head that I just couldn’t seem to pull off. I could blame it on the fact that it was cold and nasty, and I only had the one flash with just a short sync cord, but that’s really a cop-out, and no way to get better. All I can do is try to learn as much more as I can, and then try again.

Hourly Breakdown of Valentine’s Day

This may be my most elaborate undertaking for the site yet. After feeling I spent way too much damn time with my computer, I decided to spent the day with no laptop, and no social media. I then documented how I spend the day when cut off from my computer. I took notes and photos every hour to my phone to create a “Day in the Life” sort of thing. You know, just in case you were curious.

8:00am-9:00am
Since it’s not uncommon for us to pass out in the living room and not even make it to bed, I woke up on the love seat. My fiancé, Karen,  was wishing me a happy Valentine’s Day. She walked me into the kitchen where she showed me a three plates of chocolate covered strawberries and bananas! She really is the best.
Just after Karen left for work, I noticed my cat, Max,  spazzing out at the window, and was alerted to a flock of deer passing by just outside. I shot what I could with my telephoto lens, but they didn’t stick around too long. After that, I was going to go work out, but then Max commandeered my lap.

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9:00am-10:00am
Breakfast, shower, general day prep.

10:00am-11:00am
Read Secret Six with Max. She loves graphic novels.

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11:00am-12:00pm
Baked Spanish cheese cake from an old recipie for Karen.

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12:00pm-1:00pm
Of course, no cheesecake would be complete without a proper topping. And, just so you know, making strawberry sauce with nothing but a fork is a total pain. I must have spent 20 minutes attacking those berries to get the right consistency.

I meant to head out after that for more errands, but ran into technical difficulties. Long story short, I had to clear a bunch of room on my phone to keep shooting pictures throughout the day, which meant first uploading them to a cloud service. However; the thing won’t work unless the phone is in use. Sounds like a totally valid excuse to watch some old school Pokemon episodes on my new app, right?

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1:00pm-2:00pm
Time to actually go out and run some errands! First stop is my grandparents’ place to return the giant pile of dishes that carried many meal’s worth of leftovers back to the apartment. My grandmother, being the super awesome lady that she is, slipped me some cash, but then was aghast at the dismal state of my wallet. Not that surprising, given that I’ve been using that wallet  since about the 7th grade. My grandfather happened to have a few wallets that he had no use for laying around that he let me choose a new one from.

Then, it was a quick stop to my mom’s to get my mail. I got a Thank You note from Mrs. DeMattia for my help with the Robert Wood presentation! It was a really sweet gesture, and something she didn’t have to do. I got my diploma in the mail too. I’d show it, but I lost that frame with “I.O.U. 1 diploma” bit in it that I got a graduation, so I deemed it best to keep it in the mailer until I remember where I stashed it.

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2:00pm-3:00pm
Out shopping for Valentine’s gifts and groceries. I know money is tight, but I can’t resist getting Karen some of the fancy chocolate she likes, a baguette, and some Camembert cheese.

3:00pm-4:00pm
Only on the way home do I realize that all my gifts are food, and worry that I may have overbought. Also took the time to organize the new wallet.  The left photo is my old wallet. What you cannot see is that years of keeping it in my back pocket has worn the texture away to the point it is nearly frictionless.  On the right is the stuff that I cleaned out of it.

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4:00pm-5:00pm
Took Karen out to dinner at our favorite restaurant,  The French Coffee shop. To pass the time before our food arrived, we nibbled on Valentine’s chocolate and counted all the Eiffel Towers in the shop. There are 16. That is the definitive number!

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5:00pm-6:00pm
Karen loved the cheesecake with strawberry sauce! Afterwards though, we both went into miniature food comas, and passed out.

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6:00pm-7:00pm
Still passed out in cuddle position from food coma.

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7:00pm-8:00pm
Wake up from French food comas. We couldn’t be bothered to do much other than talk about how the various geeky bits I have decorating the room. Like, Transformers used to pretty much be elaborate bricks with little arms coming out,  and that the only reason we got a Catman action figure is because he’s pretty much just Batman painted orange. That’s one of the amazing things about Karen; even if she’s not into some of my more geeky hobbies, she still makes an effort to at least understand.

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8:00pm-9:00pm
Just decided to watch more cartoons. I proved that I am totally better at “Who’s That Pokemon?!”

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10:00pm-11:00pm
Dragged ourselves out of bed for a friend’s birthday at a local bar. Try as I might, I couldn’t get any bar photos on my phone that didn’t look like something akin to a napkin smudge at a low class buffet.  The juke box was bereft of Great Big Sea and Reel Big Fish, and I felt my inner hipster is showing. It was made up for by a large selection of classic rock.

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11:00pm-12:00am
Left the party and headed over to hang out with our neighbors for tea. They have a gorgeous cat, but he’s kind of a complete turd. His favorite hobby is to beg for attention, then turn into a trap of claws and teeth after being pet for about 10 seconds. Then he attacks your coat for no discernible reason.

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12:00am –

Listening to my Ska mix while putting together the whole thing on my laptop after roughly 27 hours away from the thing. The break was nice, but down time was not nearly the level I was hoping. I’d just chalk it up to being a busy day, but then I realize, this is how most of my days go, Well, minus the cake. It’s funny, even after more than a full day of being away from all the internet junk I do, I didn’t really miss it. The only reason I was tempted to get my computer out was to play around some more with some of the art ideas I had.

I definitely had a lot of fun with this format, and hope to try it again.