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Thursday, March 03, 2005
1:03 PM      

Picture of Success

Better than Cinefoil, a couple of layers of gaffer tape did the trick. The tape covers the left side and the red AF-assist lens on the front. Gaffer tape is the best to use, because its adhesive is designed not to shed all over whatever you put the tape on. To my surprise (and the shock of my eyes) one layer wasn't opaque enough.

This way, I have access to the sync port, the battery compartment, and the controls without having to unwrap the unit.


Kim Zorn Caputo (1952-2004)

I picked up a copy of Blind Spot Magazine last night, and was shocked to read that Kim Zorn Caputo had died. I found out about Kim and Blind Spot just last year, through a series of lectures sponsored and organized by Blind Spot at The New School.

Kim was a striking and poetic personality. When she introduced photographers at the lectures, she shared her appreciation for the speakers in a lyrical way, and invited us all to listen. That's a special skill. The artists and work that she presented, coupled with her personal style, even made me wonder if there was room to work in her organization. As vibrant as she seemed, I had no idea that she was suffering from cancer.

Toward the end of the series, Kim stopped coming. We were simply told she wasn't able to be there, and I assumed that it was because business was keeping her busy. Though she was probably increasingly ill, she continued to write intros for the presenters, but the people reading those sheets of paper were able to muster only a fraction of the presence that Kim had.

It seems that Kim and her circle communicated regularly through poetry. Kim wrote a piece to her son for his 15th birthday in February, 2000, that was published in issue 15 of Blind Spot. On an early page of Blind Spot issue 26, is a poem in elegy by Joyce Carol Oates, written 12/23/04. A few pages later, a beautiful piece about Kim from her son Matt, written in January '05.

Seeking to find details, I googled again. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I found something that speaks of her attitude toward having terminal cancer:

Am I dying? No. I am living until I can't live anymore.

Again, she'd expressed herself through the pages of her beloved magazine. She was living out loud, even as her voice was fading.

This year, the New School is doing a photography lecture series with Aperture Foundation, instead of Blind Spot.

I hope the magazine continues to be vital in her absence. It would be a fitting expression of her verve and commitment; a lasting impression.

[ link | e-me ]

Wednesday, March 02, 2005
3:56 PM      


I was hoping that the folks at Nikon would have some secret remedy for me. After going in the wrong direction via e-mail, I picked up the phone and ended up talking to the guy I'd exchanged e-mails with.

I'm impressed. He'd actually done a little research to find out what PocketWizards are. We went through the configuration I wanted to set-up, and he ultimately confirmed that the way to go is using SU-4 mode. He also told me precisely where the SU-4 sensor is. A few experiments later, and could see just how I need to cover the unit to blindfold it without compromising the synch terminal or the controls.

Looks like I'll have to get on the phone to DirecTV, too. As good as e-mail can be, it's not always effective at getting ideas across. I can see why some people seem to avoid it altogether.


Black History
I didn't want to believe it when I saw it scrawled on a subway poster yesterday. The train was coming, so I scratched a fragmentary note into my journal to remind me: "Ota Benga - black man on disp. Bronx Zoo 1919 - true?"

I googled it, and found out that only the date was wrong. Benga was exhibited in the Bronx Zoo monkey house with a parrot and an orangutan in 1906.

...he was initially brought to Saint Louis in 1904 for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition after being sold as a slave by thugs on the payroll of the Belgian government, who'd butchered his wife and children in the Congo. Colonization of Africa and Asia by Western nations had awakened public interest in the new science of anthropology, and throngs of fairgoers could gawk at indigenous tribespeople from around the globe in replica villages, where they conducted native ceremonies, made crafts, and so on. (One star of the show was Geronimo, the legendary Apache chief, then in his 70s.) The typical fairgoer being but little removed from the swamps himself, Ota and several other Pygmies exhibited with him were subjected to ridicule and abuse – poking them with lighted cigars was reputedly a common experiment...
- From The Straight Dope

He killed himself in 1916, despondent over being unable to return to Africa and unable to escape the label of 'freak.' He shot himself through the heart in (of all places) Lynchburg, VA. I had always thought Lynchburg was named for Charles Lynch [see below] but it is actually named for John Lynch, a Quaker and ferry operator. Still, the macabre connection with the term 'lynching' is hard to miss; a lynching strangely akin to the one Clarence Thomas claimed to suffer during his confirmation process.

...Legend credits Charles Lynch of Virginia as the term's source, based on his suppression of loyalists during the American Revolution through extralegal beatings and killings. The term became common currency during the 19th century to describe the killing by a mob of an accused individual, regardless of race. Though some newspapers condemned the practice, others saw it as a reflection of the popular will and a necessary means of maintaining order in frontier America...
- Book review of The Many Faces of Judge Lynch

More links:


Well, it wasn't like the finale of 'Cheers,'
or better still, the finale of 'MASH,' but it was nice to stumble onto the final episode of 'NYPD Blue' last night. I hadn't watched in several years. Dennis Franz is the only cast member to span the entire 12-year run, and his character was as strong as ever in this last episode.

The pre-show was very enjoyable – in many ways more interesting than the episode itself. It gave me an even greater appreciation for what it took to make the show, and what an interesting guy David Milch is. If I had HBO, I'd be checking out 'Deadwood.' It also reminded me of the episodes I had seen, and the ones I wish I'd seen.

As I watched the final episode, I was keenly aware that a lot of things had to be tied together by the end of the hour. I'm glad they didn't make it too tidy, but the device of having the characters come to the door one by one to say 'goodnight' got to be a little much. Still, I'd be interested to see some of the classic episodes on DVD some time.

I've missed a lot of 'ER' this season. I'm starting to wonder about that show's finale now.


Battling Babes?
... Well, maybe not 'babes' in the classic sense... The cover of the Village Voice this week features a story about how Hillary Clinton is shifting to the right, and how she might be positioning herself for a presidential run. Meanwhile, there's speculation that the GOP might consider fielding a woman of their own. The Post ran this headline yesterday: 'Condi tops Prez and Hill in New Poll.'

Hillary vs Condozilla? Could it be?

[ link | e-me ]

Tuesday, March 01, 2005
9:28 AM      


Thanks 4 Ur Support

:: PART ONE: Nikon

Any use, dissemination, distribution, posting on Internet bulletin boards, disclosure or copying of this e-mail or any information contained herein by or to anyone other than the intended recipient(s) is strictly prohibited. If you have received this E-mail in error, please notify the sender by reply e-mail and destroy all copies of this E-mail without reading or saving in any manner.

Posting the message I got back from Nikon about using my SB-800 with a PocketWizard might have allowed you, dear reader, to glean something I hadn't... As far as I'm concerned, I asked a specific set of questions that related to the operation of the SB-800, and the support guy wrote back to say that they don't support PocketWizards, and to repeat what I already know: that SU-4 mode means any other flash can trigger my unit. The response was totally useless.

I suppose posting the disclaimer above is also a violation of their prohibition, but so be it.

Here's my original question:

I'm using a pair of SB-800's wirelessly with my D-100. I connect a pocket wizard receiver to the port on the side of the SB-800, and set both units to SU-4 mode. The SU-4 mode keeps the 'main' unit that is connected to the pocket wizard from going into standby, and also makes the unit issue a beep when it is recharged. Unfortunately, that also means that other strobes, not just my pocket wizard, can cause my strobes to trigger. Remote mode seems to require the CLS system. I can't get the pocket wizard to trigger the SB-800 at all when it is in Remote mode.

Is there a way that I can make the 'main' unit stay awake and issue a beep when it recharges, but only triggers via the pocket wizard?
Thanks very much.

One more try. I took 'PocketWizard' out of the subject line, changing it to 'Re: SB-800 with D-100, using synch terminal.' Here's my reply to their reply:

Thanks for getting back to me on this.
Let's try this another way. Forget that I mentioned the PocketWizard.

>> If I want to trigger the SB-800 flash unit, I can connect a cord to the synch port on the side. That port will cause the flash to fire if it is in SU-4 mode, or in manual mode.

>> In manual mode, the SB-800 will go into standby after a specified delay, unless I set the delay to " --- "

>> SU-4 mode is the only mode that gives a tone when the unit is ready to fire again. For instance, I can't set the SB-800 to beep when it's used as my on-camera flash.

>> There is no option where I can set the SB-800 to trigger only from the shoe or the synch terminals.

Thanks again for your assistance.

- Lou

If I am correct with all of the above, the only way to set this up and avoid triggering with other flash units, is to cover up the sensors with something like Cinefoil or opaque plastic.

:: PART TWO: DirecTV

From me, 02/25/2005 10:10 PM

I'm interested in upgrading to a TiVo unit. I think the unit will replace my current RCA receiver, and that it costs $99 for the unit, plus an extra $4.50/mo for service. I only need the dual dish if I want to record two shows at once, or watch one show while another is recording, right? Finally, how long will it take for delivery once I order? Thanks very much!

DirecTV reply, 02/27/2005 09:02 AM

Dear Louis,

Thank you for writing. We're excited to hear that you're interested in upgrading your current DIRECTV System to a DIRECTV DVR with TiVo. For answers to all of your DVR questions, to find what great upgrade offer we have for you and to buy one today, visit our DVR web site at If you choose to upgrade your system, you can still use your existing receiver on another TV in your house (additional receiver fee of $4.99/month may apply).

Thank you again for writing and I hope you enjoy your new DVR!

:: Conclusion:

Not that long ago, there were a spate of books about how the customer comes first. The gist was that the companies that gave the best service to their customers, the ones that were willing to go the extra mile, were going to be the winners in corporate competition. The proposition of providing good customer support is an expensive one. Seems that in our new era of cost-cutting, assisting the customer isn't the priority it used to be.

In the case of Nikon, I already own the stuff, so their pitiful support incident won't cost them much – I'll still buy and use their products.

In the case of DirecTV, I'd consider getting a TiVo somewhere else. I don't think anyone else sells them that cheaply, though, and the integration is good... I wonder... what if I switched over to digital cable? How much would that whole deal cost?


A glimpse out the front window
this morning. I set a small aperture to get some depth of field, and used my SB-800 with the PocketWizard off-camera (set low and bouncing off the ceiling) to create sufficient fill flash to keep the foreground from silhouetting and to avoid glare on the window glass. (Actually, that little halo above the wing on the right side of the bird statue is from the flash. If this were a critical publication, I'd have either re-shot, or finessed it in Photoshop.)

ISO: 800; 62mm; 1/60s @ f13

I suspected I could have gotten a similar result with the SB-800 on-camera set to TTL/BL mode, with the head rotated toward the ceiling, but the result wasn't as good. The first shot had a ton of glare. I rotated the head back for the second shot, and that was better, but it was clear that the fill light was coming from much higher in the image.

An alternate approach to dealing with the foreground/background contrast problem is to set the camera on a tripod and take two exposures: one optimized for outside the window, the other for inside. Then, you sandwich and mask the two images together in Photoshop. With that approach, the light on the interior can look even more natural.

In the specific case of this photo, though, I think the bird would have needed some illumination anyway. A soft reflector might have also done the trick. So, there you have it: one picture, many approaches.

[ link | e-me ]

Monday, February 28, 2005
4:57 PM      

The Oscars
were fun to watch last night, but I think the program lacked a lot of the charm and mystique of the old days. That was particularly evident, just watching the clips of Johnny Carson as MC.

The tribute to Carson only seemed to underscore how much Chris Rock was out of his element, though he did get some good ones in. I wonder if he knows that Gap and Banana Republic are the same company. That metaphorical dig was his most sophisticated routine of the evening, and I'd bet his overall performance still went over better than David Letterman's one and only appearance.

About half an hour before the show started, I finally put pen to paper and made my predictions. I ended up getting 16 of the 24 right.


  • Leading Actor: Jamie Foxx - 'Ray'
  • Leading Actress: Hilary Swank - 'Million Dollar Baby'
  • Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett - 'The Aviator'
  • Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman - 'Million Dollar Baby'
  • Directing: 'Million Dollar Baby'
  • Best Picture: 'Million Dollar Baby'
  • Foreign Language Film: 'The Sea Inside'
  • Documentary Feature: 'Born Into Brothels'
  • Animated Feature: 'The Incredibles'
  • Screenplay - Adapted: 'Sideways'
  • Screenplay - Original: 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'
  • Cinematography: 'The Aviator'
  • Visual Effects: 'Spider-Man 2'
  • Sound Editing: 'The Incredibles'
  • Original Score: 'Finding Neverland'
  • Makeup: 'Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events'

Wrong (my pick/actual winner):

  • Art Direction: 'The Aviator'/'Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events'
  • Costume Design: 'Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events'/'The Aviator'
  • Documentary Short: 'Autism is a World'/'Mighty Times: The Children's March'
  • Film Editing: 'Finding Neverland'/'The Aviator'
  • Original Song: 'Learn to be Lonely' - 'The Phantom of the Opera'/'Al Otro Lado Del Rio' - 'The Motorcycle Diaries'
  • Short Film - Animated: 'Gopher Broke'/'Ryan'
  • Short Film - Live Action: 'Little Terrorist'/'Wasp'
  • Sound Mixing: 'The Aviator'/'Ray'

If I had entered one of those Oscar pools, I don't know that I would have prevailed. I've been to Oscar parties where folks got nearly perfect scores.

Of the movies I got right, I didn't see Lemony Snicket's, Finding Neverland, or The Sea Inside. We had an interest in The Sea Inside, but never made it to the show. Handicapping the ones I got wrong was harder this year, because I didn't find any pundit's forecasts for those categories. I usually factor those comments into my picks. The Aviator took two of the categories I got wrong, and I'd picked it for two of those categories – just the wrong two. I tossed one to Lemony Snicket's, but again, it was the wrong one. Regarding the shorts - well, each was a one in five crap-shot that didn't pan out. The sound on Ray was fabulous, but even sitting through both films, it would be tough for me to come away with a comparative gauge of the sound mixing in those two movies. It takes a very critical ear... maybe if I'd heard bits of both with the picture turned off (my eyes closed?)...

Well, we're well into the first quarter of the new movie year. Let's see what filmic wonders this year brings.


Back in April of 2002, Denise, C, and I spent '8 days in paradise with never a bad meal,' as I described it in this blog. We became fast friends with our hosts, Captain Jack Feireisen and Chef Rona Ramkhelawan. At the end of the trip, we knew we had experienced something special, something beyond the monetary/services transaction of your basic commercial charter; we had forged new and lasting friendships. For a week, these new friends had assisted us all in a great escape.

Denise and I planned unsuccessfully to get back down to the VI to see our friends again, but still managed to hear from Jack and Rona now and then by phone and e-mail. As the weather has turned nasty, thoughts of warmer climes connect once again with images of the beautiful waters under the Dreamwalker, and the charm and wit of Jack and Rona. Ah, to be with them again!

But yesterday, the bad news arrived. C found out that Jack Died in a hospital in Trinidad. Complications from a cancer treatment. We won't get to share another smile or spirited conversation about politics or aquatic fauna with Jack. No more amazing meals on board Dreamwalker.

The saddest part, though, was not knowing. Not being able to at least call and wish him well. That may not have had any impact on his prognosis, but it would have been nice to let him know once more, that he touched the lives of many people in a very special way. I'm sure that many of those people still don't know. I hope that he wasn't alone in that hospital during his last days. His spirit was too wonderful for that.

In a brochure about his charter business, Jack wrote 'A Dreamwalker is one who, through dreams, escapes from the chores and worries of everyday life and enters into a realm of joy, beauty, adventure and romance.' My bet is he thought he was merely explaining how his boat got its name, but I think he was describing the ideals he lived his life by. He was unique. He was his own person.

Now, it seems he's finally embarked on his ultimate dreamwalk. Sleep well, my friend.


I picked up my second SB-800, a PocketWizard set, and a Sekonic L-358 meter with the radio module this weekend. A second Manfrotto light stand with a mini boom arm and a convertible umbrella made my lightweight and very portable lighting system complete. Metering and shooting wireless is very cool. If you've had to shoot with synch cords for very long at all, you've experienced a flaky one, and you've probably had to fuss with snaking synch cords around stands, power supplies, and so forth, or maybe you've had to deal with a cord that was just a couple of feet too short... PocketWizards do away with all of that. No muss, no fuss. We're talking power!

In researching this set-up specifically with the SB-800, I came across a message thread where someone was complaining that the PocketWizard would fail to trigger the flash more or less every other time. I was concerned about that situation when I tested the system out at the store, and I think I know the cause:

If you don't put the flash in SU-4 Remote mode, it will eventually go into standby. Hit the PocketWizard at that point, and the first pulse only wakes the flash up. Standard Remote mode won't work at all.

There is a potential problem with using SU-4 mode, though. In that mode, the flash will fire any time it 'sees' another strobe firing. In private sessions, that's not going to happen, but if I'm trying to shoot wireless in a club with other flash photographers around, it could get very messy. The low-tech solution is to wrap the body of the flash in something opaque like Cinefoil. That will cover the sensors, effectively blindfolding the unit. The nuisance is that it also covers the display and controls. I've dropped a line to Nikon. We'll see what they have to say on the matter.

[ link | e-me ]
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