I don’t get to read much of The New York Times, but this article [pay walled] from last week caught my eye. Elizabeth Dias travels to Sioux Center, Iowa to discover why white evangelical Christians continue to support Donald Trump.
One of the points of the article is how the people interviewed often they mention that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.
It was not.
Our nation was founded on the principles of religious freedom where people could practice any religious they believed in. But the freedom of religion also means the freedom to choose no religion. The word “God” is not used in the constitution because while our founding fathers may well have had religious belief, they also had a keen awareness that the government should not be tied to religion so that from then and into the future the freedom of religious beliefs shall forever be guaranteed.
Before you bring up the whole, “In God we Trust” on our money, that phrase was added to the money during the Civil War and should not be used to justify that we are a Christian nation.
In the United States, you have the freedom to be a Christian. Or a Catholic. A Baptist. Or even a Muslim. If you’re not sure you believe in any of those, you’re free to be Agnostic. In fact, in our nation, you can even be an Atheist. The freedom everyone has makes us stronger as a nation.
But we get to the crux of the article and then there is this quote:
White Americans are hardly losing their freedoms, but let’s be clear, this quote clearly shows that the word “Freedom” is thrown around to cover up the true words people want to say…because it sounds more patriotic, more American.
Freedom is not a Ball Mason Jar filled with pickled onions where you need to take some of your onions to give to someone else. Freedom is an unlimited resource that all Americans should have, should protect and should respect of everyone they meet. That’s patriotic. That’s American.
But she continues:
People do not judge you because you are a hard working Caucasian-American. People judge you for how you treat other people. I agree, if a wife believes that her place is to support her husband, her belief should be supported. But if a wife believes that she wants to start her own business, or run for Mayor of her hometown or even be a US Congresswoman, then in no way should she be prohibited from trying doing so.
What’s right for you, does not make it right for everyone.
However, if we try to define what “Freedom” means given this perspective, we are lost because Freedom is not what is at danger for evangelical Christians.
Nobody is forcing them to stop getting married, nobody is stopping them from reproducing and having kids. Nobody is stepping in to close their churches. And nobody is stopping them from living their life as they choose.
Yet, freedom is presented in terms of racial equality and in terms of women’s rights.
For evangelical Christians, does Freedom equate to being part of the racial majority? While I’m quite confident that every evangelical Christians will profess that they are not racist, but one can only wonder about the concern about “Caucasian-Americans…becoming a minority. Rapidly.”
One can wonder if evangelical Christians are worried that once Caucasian-Americans become a minority, the majority race will treat them the same way Caucasian-Americans treat minorities today.
But here’s the thing, when you look at the rhetoric about losing their freedom, one can only come to one conclusion.
Freedom, as defined by evangelical Christians and the Trump Republican platform, is about their right to control others and dictate what they can and can’t do.
They are against LGBTQ. These people should not be allowed to marry.
They are against abortion. Nobody should be allowed to get an abortion.
They are against interracial marriages. You should only marry within your race.
Freedom, you see, is about their right to control and dictate the morals everyone should be required to live by.
You start allowing LGBTQ people to marry or allow abortions to happen, then you’re taking away freedom from evangelical Christians.
The Democratic Convention is done and Joe Biden is the official candidate for President. The journey to this point was a long, crowded primary season with an amazing twenty individuals vying for the Presidency.
Then, after a few states held their primaries, in steps Michael Bloomberg to the fray. He spent an ungodly amount of money in his bid to win the Democratic ticket in the hope to take on Trump in the general election. He reportedly spent $550 million dollars and ended up with just 44 delegates. It, at least, won him a short speech during the convention.
To my thinking, Bloomberg made one big mistake.
I have to wonder how Bloomberg felt about his chances of winning the ticket. It was believed that Joe Biden’s slow start was the tipping point for Bloomberg to enter the race. Was Bloomberg’s goal to win the nomination or, at a minimum, get Donald Trump out of the office. Like many people, I suspect he wanted the first, but would take the second.
And here’s the mistake he made. Bloomberg, a self professed person who was a Democrat, and Republic, and an Independent, should have run on the Republican ticket. Meaning, he should have run directly against Trump in the primaries.
Trump’s Republican party is so far right, Bloomberg could have easily positioned himself as a moderate Republican and might have been much more successful. Being well funded, his run on the Republican ticket would have required Trump to spend an inordinate amount of money to compete against him.
In the end, Bloomberg might not have won the Republican nomination, but he could have hurt Trump by depleting a large chunk out of his reelection funds. Trump did not get 100% of the delegates in the primaries. Bloomberg might very well have won a lot more delegates.
I wonder what it takes for a person to be courageous.
I originally wrote this is May, 2012, but seems just as relevant today and I’ve updated it a little bit.
If we think back to some events in history, what did it take individuals to do what they did and would I have the same fortitude to do that as well.
Could you rise up with fellow passengers and take on hijackers, knowing full well that your actions will bring the plane down?
What about stand in front of a tank in Tienanmen Square?
Could you charge off a landing craft onto the beaches at Normandy?
It’s easy to say, “Hell yeah! I’d take on those terrorists! God bless ‘Merica!” sitting on my couch watching the latest episode of Dancing with the Stars.
But if I’m honest, really honest with myself, I’d have to say, “I don’t know.” Do any of us know what we would do? I wonder, how many people, while they’re waiting for their flight glance around at other passengers and try to gage threats.
Humans like to prepare themselves. We play out scenarios in our mind working out our reaction. Then, if that happens, we know what to do. Rarely do situations play out was we thought they would, whether it’s as simple as a conversation with a partner or an attack.
Of course, there are levels of courage. It’s one thing to step forward and say your boss is breaking the law and something completely different to stand in front of a tank. One could be the end of your career at your company, the end of your life with the other.
I was thinking about this because the other day, I was watching a movie about a very courageous woman, Sophie Scholl.
Sophie was a leading member of the Nazi resistance group known as The White Rose. The group was made up of Munich university students and their philosophy professor. The movement was notably non-violent and philosophical, producing six fliers that were distributed around Munich and Bavaria.
Today, we take the right to peaceful assembly as a given right, although, as the recent Occupy Movement has shown us, authority has ways to discourage that right. The students in Berkeley who were pepper sprayed showed extreme courage to protect their rights and their message.
In her time, Sophie and the other members of The White Rose demonstrated extreme courage because the result of getting caught was almost certain death. There were many things you did not do, if you were in Germany during the Nazi regime, one of them being speaking out against Hitler.
Would you be willing to help distribute those fliers?
What most people want is a chance to live their life with the ability to grow better. But the reality is that we are cajoled into our pens by others, government or religion. And it takes an extraordinary group of individuals to stop, stand up and try to break out of those prisons.
To bring freedom and decency to their fellow citizens.
Most times, those folks will never survive the fights, but if they have lit the pilot light under enough people, their cause will carry through to the end.
In the end, Sophie and five other members of The White Rose were beheaded. But their message sustained. The sixth flier was smuggled out of Germany where the Allies edited it and dropped thousands of them over Germany.
It is unknown what Sophie’s last words actually were. Most believe they were:…your heads will fall as well. There is some debate whether Sophie said those words or her brother, Hans, said them.
It is known that with his head in the guillotine, Hans said: Es lebe die Freiheit!
Long live Freedom.
But even if we aren’t fermenting a revolution or standing up to the Gestapo, our own little battles require courage. A liberal raised in a conservative house. A gay person coming out. A single mother raising a child. We should support those finding their own voice at a challenging time and offer the strength they need to continue their fight.
Because, at times, we will all need a little courage.
I originally wrote this piece in mid-2017, I still think it’s relevant.
Introduced in 2013 with the click-bater comment, “Can’t innovate anymore, my ass,” the 2013 Mac Pro was previewed. It’s all black, aluminum cylinder design was stunning to look at, plus the power professional users would need for years to…well, okay, maybe not years to come.
The problem, it turns out is that the design makes it nearly impossible for Apple to give it regular upgrades, much less end users who can’t throw away computers every year to get upgrades. So, Apple is throwing in the towel and redesigning the Mac Pro from the ground up to be more upgradable. So instead of Apple having to stay ahead of the upgrade cycle, users can upgrade their machines more frequently. Apple just needs to provide a good enough machine for professionals to use who’ll upgrade them as they need it.
It’s interesting because the Mac Pro shares some characteristics with another failed Apple machine, the Mac Cube.
The Mac Pro had a central ventilation system that was designed to cool the machine by pulled hot air out of the top of the machine (remember, hot air rises), much the same way the Mac Cube did.
Unfortunately, the Mac Cube had it’s own set of problems and eventually was cancelled by Steve Jobs himself during a conference call with investors. But boy, was it stunning to look at in it’s day.
The Mac Pro was a gamble, sorry, was a scramble by the company to come up with something to appease the professional market while wanting to make the machine lust worthy. It worked on the second part, but not so much on the first part.
Apple made the right bet on the wrong horse.
The Mac Pro had a lot going for it. An innovative design that would look great on your desktop.
Except professionals mostly don’t work in environments were they care about showcasing their computer on their desktop. At best, it’s probably hidden behind massive displays or under the desk in the corner.
But who cares about how computers look? Consumers!
The Mac Pro should have been the new generation of the Mac Mini. Those are the machines that sit on desktops. They are also used as media machines sitting in the living room.
Certainly not the same size, but if the Mac Pro was half the size, it would have been an amazing replacement for the Mac Mini. You didn’t need all of the ports that the Pro had and certainly not all of the horsepower built into it.
It was certainly doable. Look at this photo of the inside of the Macbook introduced last year.
That’s the whole computer, smaller then an iPhone Plus.
The problem is, you can’t innovate on your least expensive computer. I would have hoped a year or so of production would have allowed Apple to then introduced a smaller, consumer friendly version of the Mac Pro. Hell, an even smaller version of it for the Apple TV would have been nice.
That computer, I think would have lived on and been extremely popular.
Unfortunately, the Mac Pro now gets relegated to the status of the Mac Cube and the Twentieth Anniversary Mac. Innovative products that failed in the marketplace.
Big bets sometimes have big failures. It doesn’t mean you stop trying to make these leaps in design because they eventually may eventually become something more successful in the right market. The Twentieth Anniversary Mac would inspire the iMac in some ways. The Mac Cube certainly inspired the Mac Pro.
Maybe we’ll see a system that the Mac Pro inspires become a home run. We’ll have to wait and see.
“‘This is Rome.’ Our city is a cesspool of humanity, a place of deceit, plots and vice of every imaginable kind. Anywhere you turn you will see arrogance, stubbornness, malevolence, pride and hatred. Amid such a swirl of evil, it takes a remarkable man with sound judgement and great skill to avoid stumbling, gossip and betrayal.“
— Quintus Tullius Cicero, A Short Guide to Electioneering
Some people are scared of enhancing their photos. They needn’t be.
Several years ago, I was approached by a co-worker asking for some help because he had decided to try and start selling his Photography. He had created a simple site and asked if I’d give it a look and what my thoughts were on it. I agreed to look at it.
When I visited the website, there was a nice grid of his photography shot mostly in Italy, as I recall. But the entire site had a tone of grey across all of the photos, as if this was a Claritin commercial. You know the one, where they pull back the haze to be “Claritin clear” and everything is nicely colored.
When I met with the fellow again, he was focused on getting me to rebuild his website, I was focused on the photography so I asked him, “Do you color correct your photos after you shoot them?”
“Oh no,” he said, “I’m a purist and take the photos as they come off the camera.” I tried encouraging him to do some editing of the photos, but he would have none of that. I quickly realized this was as fruitless as trying to explain Darwin’s Evolution theories to Ted Cruz.
“Yeah, I can’t help you.” I said. I have no idea if he’s sold a photo since then.
While digital cameras have gotten really good at taking photos, there’s artistry that’s required at every step of the process from taking the photo, processing the photo, all the way to displaying the photo.
Photography, BD (Before Digital)
Modern photography begins in the early 1800s. In the mid-1800s, James Clerk Maxwell developed the first way to take the first permanent color photographs by taking three different images through three different filters. Can you guess them? Red, Green, Blue.
You can be forgiven if you think that before digital was essentially dropping you photos off at the Kodak booth in the K-Mart parking lot and getting back a pack of photos that looked exactly like what you shot. I know there are photographers who still have the smell of fixer forever encoded in memory are shaking their heads.
When I was in college, I took a black and white photography course. In this course, we shot photos, developed the negatives and printed the images. My co-worker felt the art was in the first part. I failed to impress upon him that it was required in all the parts.
If you have never personally developed and printed film, try and find a local community college that still offers the course (yes, yes, I know, try to find a 35mm camera and film these days!).
Just the process of getting the film out of the container and onto the spiral for development (which, by the way, is done in absolute darkness) will give you lessons in patience beyond anything you’ve so far experienced. Imagine the moment you discover that the one great shot you took just got ruined because the film jumped the spiral and stuck to another photo during the processing part.
Ilford has several articles about processing film, here’s a beginners guide.
After you have the negative, you now get to decide how to print the image. When you expose your photograph you’re making many artistic choices, how long do I expose this, the longer you do the darker it becomes. Do I burn or block specific areas. Do I do multiple exposures on it?
Finally, there’s the sense of timing in the fixer and water tanks. This is the part you usually see in the movies with the actor in a darkroom. He’s standing there in a red-lit room (this is the only part of the process you can have a specific light on) with three tanks of liquid and the photographic print submerged in one. He glides it out of the tank and holds it up, the cop (usually female) gasps! “My God! Bob killed her!” Probably won’t ever happen to you like that, at least it never did in my college classes.
All of those steps require a fifth sense of timing. Much like a painter determines how much of each color to mix together to make the perfect shade, a photographer uses time: How long to expose the initial photo, how long to keep in the developer, how long to expose the print, how long to keep in the fixer.
Photography AD (After Digital)
Digital cameras have been a revolution in photography. They have made it easy to quickly shoot of hundreds, even thousands, of photographs. Which is not necessarily a good thing. I still remember, during the age of flip phones, watching people walk by a monument, flip out their phone, hold it above their head a snap a shot. It’s a memento, not a shot they’d ever try to sell.
Lately, when I’ve done casual travel with my wife (before the Coronavirus), I’ve only taken my iPhone and not my Canon 6D and lenses. Modern smart phones take really good photos, if all you’re going to do is post them on a social network or just keep them as part of your personal travelogue. But I’ll be honest, on every trip I’ve taken without my camera, there is at least a couple of times when I wish I had my camera. And on trips that I’ve had my camera, there have been many times I wonder why I brought it along.
If you strive for a higher level of photography, you’ll be inundated with all kinds of advice on how to shot a photo: Use aperture priority mode, no, use shutter priority, just shoot in Program, real photographers only shoot in Manual mode.
Generally speaking, I shoot in Program mode unless I’m looking to take a specific kind of shot (ie HDR, short depth of field, etc). I will say, though, that I’d lean towards shooting in Aperture mode over all the others because that’s the one thing you can’t change in processing (well, you can fake it, but…).
The second point of consideration is what kind of file do you want to camera to save after it processes the image, JPEG or RAW?
The correct answer is RAW, if your camera supports it. Okay, yes, JPEG can be used, I talk about this issue below. But really, RAW is the way to go.
When you take a photo, the camera will process the image based on the logic from the manufacturer and save the file, this is particularly important to understand if you’re shooting JPEG images.
The way the camera processes an image may be perfectly fine. But averages are bland. You know this. I know this. This is why Instagram filters are such a big hit, nobody likes the plain image that comes from the camera. This is where you need to be an artist and use software to enhance the photo to create one that’s uniquely yours.
For Example: La Tour Eiffel
On a trip in Paris, I took this shot:
I think it’s a good shot, but it’s not great.
Generally, the first thing I always do to my shots is add in a little bit of contrast. It’s just a style that I prefer. And you can see by punching up the saturation and vibrancy, you can really bring out the sky and give the tower its more natural rust color.
Here’s the result:
Not your flavor of macaron? It’s okay not to like the resulting photo. That’s why millions of people can take photos of the exact same thing and produce something unique to them. Remember, artistry is in the processing as well.
This is about taking an average photo and through processing making it pop more. You want to create images that grabs people from the corner of their eyes and makes them look at it and see your subject in a new, distinct way.
Some Humble Suggestions
If you’re camera (and computer) supports it, shot in RAW format. This gives you the best flexibility to make adjustments to the photo, even being able to adjust the exposure multiple steps. The negative, however, is the file size. Whereas a JPEG image will be 4–6MB, a RAW image can be upwards and above 25MB.
On my Canon 6D, I shoot with a 64GB card and that allows me to shot roughly 1700 shots in Raw.
My last sentence probably made real professional photographers shudder at the thought of using a 64GB card. The larger the card, the more photos that can be lost if the card goes bad. I’ve been lucky to not have a card go bad on me or lose one. But also, when I’m traveling, I usually return to my room mid-day for a little bit of R&R.
During that time, I’m off loading my photos into my computer. Because I like to post an image or two on my site each day during travels, I’ll quickly pick one out and do some enhancements during this time. I also have an external hard drive to which I can back-up my photo library if needed.
I admit, I don’t really due this because I’ve got somewhere in the range of 10TB of hard drives that have my photos and backups. But, if you’re not going to get massive amounts of storage, purge your library.
Chances are there are shots that just don’t work like the ones that are beyond out of focus or the ones you accidently shot of the sidewalk as you walked. Some professionals will even suggest purging in camera as you shoot because if it doesn’t look good on that small screen, it most definitely will not look good on the computer screen. However, don’t ever judge image quality by the camera screen. Out of focus photos, will look good on the camera because as an image is shrunk to a smaller screen, it starts looking more in focus. You don’t want to delete a good photo for what you think is a better photo, only to find out it’s a worse photo.
Copy the Professionals
See someone out there that looks like they really know what they’re doing? Take notes. What angle of they shooting? What lens does it look like they’re using? After they move on, can you replicate the shot they were trying to get?
If they look approachable, ask them some questions. I have no problem if someone asks me what subject or equipment I’m shooting. I’ve shot a Canon Rebel for years and when the 6D, which is a full frame camera was announced, I ordered it and got it when it was released. So, of course, I’ve had several people ask me about it when I was out shooting. Most competent photographers are willing to share their knowledge and experience with others. Some aren’t. But most are.
I once saw fantastic HDR shots at Epcot. Well, I said, lets see what I could do. I’m too modest to say that my shots are anywhere near the level of perfection his may have been at, but for my friends, they’re “Wow” shots. HDR photos, by the way, take the same photo done at different exposures and combine them to create an image that nicely combines dark and light areas.
Get More Robust Software
If you have a Mac, you have Photos and it’s a great application for managing and doing some tweaks to your photos. But if you’re going to start shooting RAW, you’ll want to upgrade to something more like Adobe Lightroom. These are designed to work with raw images and have many more nuanced adjustments you can make to your images. I don’t think you need a level of application like Photoshop early on, unless you’re planning on taking different photos and compositing them together. I use Photoshop but I rarely use it for photo enhancements.
If you do regular days where you go somewhere and shot photos, try challenging yourself. There was a stretch of time when I only shot with a 50mm lens. Or maybe you only shoot at a wide open (or closed) aperture. Or only shoot buildings, or trees, or whatever. When you limit yourself, you end up freeing your creativity to explore.
Tilt, Zoom, Pan The Camera
I have this bad habit of not being able to take a straight and level shot. I have no idea why. In fact, I’m convinced that the sensor of my camera is mounted slightly ajar. You can fix it in software, but only if you have enough room around your subject to allow some cropping of the photo.
But also remember that tilting the camera brings another element into the photo. Take a look at the Eiffel Tower above, my camera is panned up and tilted a few degrees for that shot. Sure, I could have shot it straight and I have many, many shots that way. This is another artistic choice you can make.
Don’t be afraid to use your zoom, particularly if you have zoom lenses (on camera phones the amount of zoom reduces the quality of the photo). Take a look at this photo, was I on the White House Grounds? No, just had a good zoom lens that I was able to take through the fencing. Unfortunately, these days you can’t even get close to the fencing to take these kinds of shots.
Also, don’t be afraid to shoot from the side. Everyone else was trying to get a shot straight on. Me, I’m way off to the side for this shot.
Be Open to Critique
Seek out and accept honest critiques of your work.
When someone asks your opinion, more then likely what they are looking for is, “Wow, that’s great. Spectacular! Stunningly good.”
I want people to challenge themselves and take everything to the next level. Maybe my advice works, maybe it doesn’t. Don’t get defensive or you’ll turn off people. Take in every bit of critique you receive. Try to understand their reasoning for it. Some of it makes perfect sense. Some not so much for the vision you had. I can listen to honest critique of my work and consider it and justify why it wouldn’t work for what I was trying to achieve. But, that advice may be perfect for the next thing I do.
If what you’re really looking for is ego boost, ask your mom for her opinion of your work. If you’re looking for ways to improve your work, then ask someone who’ll give you honest feedback and suggestions on ways to improve what you’ve done.
Your photos aren’t perfect. Mine, most certainly, aren’t perfect. Every bit of advice and critique you receive can help make your work better, but can also make it worse. Your job is to take the good, leave the bad and continue to improve.
Stop. Look. Walk Around. Inhale. Then, Shoot, Shoot, Shoot.
After getting back from my recent trip, I’ve looked at photos and asked myself, “Why did I take that shot?” Amateur photographers never really see the subject they’re shooting. They’re too busy taking photographs to really experience a subject.
I’ll bet everyone has taken a photograph of something and when they’re looking at the photo back home notice a large predominant detail and said to themselves, “I don’t remember seeing that.” I certainly have because I didn’t look at the subject before shooting it.
Next time you go out to take photos, find a subject you want to shoot. Then stop! Put the camera down and look at the subject. Inhale the vision in front of you. Notice the intricate details of it, sometimes a detail photo is better then a expansive wide shot.
The Eiffel Tower, for example. Notice the intricate design work. The bolts. The names imprinted around the first level of it.
Walk around the subject to see it from different angles. My favorite shot of the Venus de Milo at the Louvre is not the standard front shot. I love the shot from behind with everyone crowded around.
Find the shot the subject is begging you to take. Many times, you’ll know you’ve found it because once you take the shot, several other people will hurry over to see what you were just shooting.
One Final Bit of Advice
If you’re traveling, make experiencing the location the priority and the photography second. If you haven’t experienced a place, you’ll never find the right photography to tell the story of your trip.