AATS24 8/8: Onward

Illustration detail from Forgotten Signs: "Year of the Journey"

Answering some questions about my experience in the Art at the Source 2024 exhibition and open studio events.

Would I Do It Again?

Yes, I’m already signed-up and now preparing for Art Trails 2024 in October. This was my plan all along, really: do both a spring and autumn event, the first one as a complete naif and the next one as a nearly-complete naif.

During Art at the Source, I learned… many things. About people, about my art, about expectations and gratitude.

The exhibition space for Art Trails will be different: in Petaluma, not Sebastopol, larger, more controllable, and not in a shared space. Some learnings from Art at the Source will apply, some won’t. Some of those learnings were expected, some were surprises:

13 min read

AATS24 7/8: The End of One Road…

After the Final Weekend, Before the Post-Mortem

The pace of the final days of preparation and weekends for Art at the Source 2024 kept me away from these entries, so now, in the final days before the artists and administrators gather for a final assessment for 2024, here are some reflections and ramblings on the experience at Studio 16B in Sebastopol.

It will come in two posts: this one that just covers the direct goings-on and tasks, and a second post to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how to apply it looking forward.

6 min read

AATS24 6/8: Elements: Opened

After the Opening Reception, But Still a Week and a Half Before Open Studio

The Art at the Source 2024 opening reception at Sebastopol Center for the Arts has already occured, and the show continues into June – you can see the work in the SebArts Gallery daily. But the studio visits at Studio 16B in Sebastopol don’t begin until the first of June.

Today, the last of the art materials needed for Art at the Source have arrived: an updated resupply of Graffiti Generations, a batch of letter-sized matte board from Archival Concepts, several boxes of Canson Baryta paper from B&H, and after a short drive, a stack of cut mats (two sizes) from Redimat. Yesterday, a package of clear bags from All tested, verified fits for all books, cards, and more than a few prints…

6 min read

AATS24 5/8: Orders and Deliveries

Above: Display test in the kitchen.

Three Weeks to Go in the Fuzzy Front End

Today is the official gallery reception at Sebastopol Center for the Arts.

This isn’t the first: last Saturday there was also a preview reception at Gallery One in Petaluma. Instead of a hard start, there’s a fuzzy front end to the schedule of Art at the Source, composed of mixed deadlines and promotion sub-events.

More on both receptions (and other events) below:

5 min read

AATS24 4/8: In the Wings

Five weeks to Go, or Today?

Back in Sonoma County, land of butter and eggs and Butter & Egg Day Parades.

Events stacking up: besides parades and chick contests (above), in the past week See See and I have shot several video interviews for other Art at the Source 2024 artists – this was a great opportunity, because their own open-studio schedules are identical with ours – we wouldn’t otherwise have had a chance to explore and discuss the work of artists Tom Ballard, Cheryl and Mikio of Nichibei Potters, of James Reynolds, Jeremy Calnan, or Jenny Helbraun Abramson – happily I also shot yet more video for my Sebastopol studio host Barbara Harris. The videos produced will be circulating during the show… still editing the 45GB of footage.

But that’s just part of it…

6 min read

AATS24 3/8: Sailing

Eight Weeks to Go, or Maybe Two

Cherry blossom season: this post is largely written on the 1PM ferry between Tsawassen below Vancouver to Swartz Bay above Victoria.

This is the week I’m away from my usual computers, studio, and so forth. The previous week, therefore, was a rush of activity, much of it expended on finalizing (some) book designs for Art at the Source 2024.

4 min read

AATS24 2/8: Sprung Backwards

Ten Weeks to Go

Already Spring?

Ten weeks now remain until the Sebastopol Center for the Arts-organized Art at the Source 2024. In the days since the last post, a number of tools have been added, books reviewed and designs thrown out, rooms and doors have been measured, gallery ID numbers distributed (16B!), data storage and analytics have been changed, ads were designed, print budgets budgeted, and a picture I’d loved but nearly forgotten has been recovered and is sure to make an appearance.

7 min read

AATS24 1/8: Sonoma Sources

It’s winter: time to work on the summer crops. I’m participating in this June’s Sonoma-wide Art at the Source 2024, and will be documenting the many changes required to my projects, printing process, book-making, billing, website, advertising, etc. that are needed for that event.

Depending on the results, consider it either a how-to or how-not-to series.

1 min read

Pictures Have No Meaning

(©1957 The Richard Avedon Foundation)

I have long admired this photo, made by Richard Avedon in 1957, and you should too.

Roland Barthes wrote in Camera Lucida that “great portrait photographers are great mythologists” and that’s certainly been true for most of the celebrated ones.

For all the deserved accolades, in this brief post I’d like to assert that this picture, and really nearly all pictures: photo, painting, AI or alabaster – are meaningless.

3 min read

Ghosts of Democracy, Hong Kong, 2021

An image from around the time it was becoming clear that training generative graphics on personal PCs was no longer a practical choice, and that there would be cloud, server-side foundation models from here on out.

(Addenda a little over a month later: starting to think the tide is turning back a little again…)

Digital Alternative

There’s a long history of lens-less photography. Sad how quickly the bristles come up when the word “computer” is applied… does it remind me of the nonsense of 20 years ago, when the old guard against digital cameras were frothing that (commercially manufactured) film had “soul,” unlike those evil digital Nikons and their fickle lenses that somehow worked on both kinds of sensing technology, Tri-X or CCD? Were these declarations being made on the internet, while sharing digital copies of these supposed intrinsically-soulful images? Well, of course.

This post isn’t an invitation for argument, simply an observation that a picture is a picture. It carries possible connotations about its origins, but as we should know by now the true provenance of any picture is never the brow of mighty Zeus. More on this topic to come.

Animated Speaker, Part One


It's a hard simple fact for travelers above the 40th parallel: in the depth of winter, the indoor temperature is sure to descend quickly if the furnace isn't running.

This sort of sentence has been historically difficult for even the best computerized language bots and GPT variations: both of the kind of bots that attempt to understand human language, and those other bots that try to emulate it. Computers struggle because this single sentence has a range of different embodiments that map physical attributes like vertical position to completely different physical or non-physical attributes like temperature. Why does a furnace “run,” and what defines the “hardness” of a fact? Are seasons shallow as well as deep?

How did our language get to be like this, and yet why is it so easy for humans like you or I to understand it?

10 min read

All Nature Shall Paint Herself

The announcement in America of the invention of photography, as reported in The New Yorker (later renamed the New York Tribune), 13 April 1839:

1 min read

Che Guevara

You don't have to go out looking for Dr Ernesto Guevara when in Cuba -- his picture will find you. Guerrillero Heroico Che has become, as it was described to me more than once, the logo of Cuba. I've read that it's the most famous photograph in the world.

4 min read


Trying to get my computer do my art history homework.

Nine Statements


Here are nine statements that I hope clarify to readers (and myself) what I'm on about here at PhotoRant.

It's also a useful prep for me as I try to write up more about the nature of my actual working methods. I don't expect them to apply for everyone, but here they are:

1 min read



"Color tends to corrupt photography and absolute color corrupts it absolutely. Consider the way color film usually renders blue sky, green foliage, lipstick red, and the kiddies' playsuit. These are four simple words which must be whispered: color photography is vulgar." — Walker Evans

Mono Books

I've received two handsome books of current black and white photography, just before the holidays.

1 min read

The Thing

"In photography, you always have both the medium and the depicted subject at the same time." -- Thomas Ruff

In Ruff's work, the image is a very particular thing. I especially like his over-enlarged internet Jpegs. His more recent work has wandered into CG and crypto-photograms, a process that creates an image of imagery, where the "true" object, placed on photo paper, is itself replaced by an ephemeral concept, a mental image of an optical image. So meta.

The crisis of "thingness" in photography is at once at the root of many of its greatest strengths and weaknesses, as pointed out by painter Gerhard Richter:

1 min read

Three Essentially Difficult Pieces

This post started as three different posts, each of which got bogged down in its own overwrought explication. I realized they all shared concerns about essentialism, of what makes a photo… a photo. I’ve decided to just stack them and cut straight down in straight lines across all three. Kick ‘em all.

3 min read



This morning I decided to go for a bike ride. Dragged out a map, looked at some of my favorite recent destinations for riding that were at about what I felt was an appropriate distance for the amount of time I had; then drew a circle roughly around my location to fit their range. I noticed that they all tended to cluster to the north and west, to Palo Alto, Los Altos, and the hills near them.

There’s an old photographer’s maxim: if the view is interesting in a particular direction, there’s a good chance that the view will be interesting in the opposite direction, too. This is one of those little guidelines that encourage the thing I most like about the process of photography, and that I like most about cycling: it demands that you pay attention.

So I chose a different route, and a path less traveled, which has made all the difference.

The photograph at right was made along a path that I hesitated before – gravel, long, no easy turning back. Little sign of popularity, not even a guarantee that I’d not get to the far side and reach some impasse that would send me back the way I’d come.

2 min read

Dog Apples

Paul Graham was kind enough not to name the unthinking reviewer who he says doesn’t “get” photography – which is odd, because you’d think he’d want to protect others from the potentially-insulting opinions he cites in this one-paragraph Jeff Wall book blurb by Carnelia Garcia in ArtInfo’s February ART+AUCTION (Garcia claims to be a museum “PR Associate” according to her LinkedIn profile – I won’t speculate further).

What Graham’s essay seems to miss is “how there remains a sizeable part of the art world that simply does not get” a lot of art – not just photography. ..

8 min read

A Kind of Radiance

More from The Cruel Radiance:

In 1986, the critic Andy Grundberg observed that postmodern photography "implies the exhaustion of the image universe: it suggests that a photographer can find more than enough images already existing in the world without the bother of making new ones."

Perhaps telling is that a list of Grundberg's articles for the New York Times is dominated less by art criticism and more by obituaries: Irving Penn, Julius Schulmann, Arnold Newman, Gordon Parks, Avedon, Ellen Auerbach, Carl Mydans, Eddie Adams.

Which brings us to his difficulties with the very much living Robert Bergman (PDF):

2 min read

The Subject

Last night I grabbed the growing stack of unopened issues of Aperture off the living room magazine rack and started in at them. On top was the current issue, which contained an except from Susie Linfield's The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence. I'll excerpt from their excerption:

This is a book of criticism, not theory [...] It is written, in large part, against the photography criticism of Susan Sontag. [...] who was responsible for establishing a tone of suspicion and distrust in photographic criticism, and for teaching us that to be smart about photographs means to disparage them.

Another, longer except can be found here.

3 min read

Parallel Developments

Color study shot for Rift: Planes of Telara

Earlier this week we were privileged to have painter & storyteller James Gurney visit the art department at Trion, both to have him speak with us and also for us to get a chance to show him our game. He’s best-know to the public for the Dinotopia books (favorites at our house for many years – See See & I were also lucky enough to see the Dinotopia show at the Norton Museum in Palm Beach a few months back), and known to a lot of artists for his blog and several art technique books, including the new Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter.

1 min read

No Clear-Cut Blacks and Whites

(Wayne Levin w/Akule)

For those who think that monochrome != contemporary, stop reading here.

After a long break we finally got a chance to head up for a lecture at PhotoAlliance during the weekend -- a special session featuring not one or two but four different photographer speakers, as part of the launch of the PhotoAlliance Our World Portfolio Review.

Of the four photographers showing work that night, all of them showed black and white imagery -- and all for different reasons:

2 min read

_MG_4504, US-101 North of Google


In the film Repo Man, Tracy Walter’s character opines: “The more you drive, the less intelligent you are,” a line I’ve glibly repeated ever since hearing it.

That line has always felt true, and the central kernel of it is this: intelligence doesn’t really enter into it. No matter how intelligent, no matter how fit, no matter how wealthy, no matter how experienced, no matter how good you could be, you simply won’t be. Michael Schumacher has essentially no advantage whatsoever in commuting when compared, say, to a semi-paralysed 87-year-old illiterate who forgot to bring her glasses. A $400K Mercedes has no operational advantage over a rattling secondhand Kia in over in 95% of real traffic. They will all arrive at the same time: late.

2 min read

New and Contemporary

There is little that can lead you to treasure good photography more than to look at a lot of bad photography, interspersed with an occasional gem. Which is exactly what I was doing a few weeks ago on (where else?) flickr, where I was editing group pools.

5 min read

The Critique

So many good books recently, and some good ones that I've never sung about here though I've had them for many months. There has been a special bounty of books that have no or very few photos, though they are indeed photography books. I'd like to mention four (well, four and a half) of them.

(And one video.)

The Sadness of Men

7 min read

Contact Photo, Pt 2


For my Contact Photo weekend, I’d expected the Sunday to be the shorter of the two – instead under the bright sun I was able to visit MOCCA, the remaining Queen Street galleries, the Gladstone, the Drake, drive across town to the Corkin, and still take a leisurely pace back to the airport.

Of the work I saw, there were only a few standouts, but they were well worth the trouble…

2 min read

Toronto Contact Photo 2008


Spent most of the day running back and forth through the rain to see as much of Contact Photo as the rain would allow, and last night chasing around the Lanch Event. Tomorrow I’ll hit the MOCCA portion before returning home. Fell asleep – coffee in hand – just as the early-evening weather outside my hotel room was surging past the drizzly form shown here into a real driving storm.

I also had the pleasure during the morning of driving across town to visit the Bob Carnie & Kevin Viner at Elevator Digital, where I got to see their big print line including their digital fiber-print mural-scale line, which they believe was the world’s first. These are large-format images, printed on black & white traditional darkroom paper – a good deal bgger than what the well-known Devere digital enlarger can produce.

I also got a glimpse at the results from the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF9100 60” printer, which delivered gorgeous B&W results straight our of the bx – that is, on the supplied Canon profiles without tweaking.

To my surprise, when I awoke two hours after dozing away, the view was dazzlingly different: the towers lit by an orange sunset and framed by a deep blue sky. Surprising what a couple of hours can do if you’ll just willing to stay put (sleeping helps).

What about the photographs? I’ll write more about them in the next entry.

Fortune & Farewell

In the morning I’m off to Japan. I stopped at Kinokuniya in San Jose today, to see if there were any interesting recent Japanese art books I could buy here and thus not have to carry around while I’m wandering – guided by my earlier acquisition of their entire collection of Rinko Kawauchi books.

To my delight, I found a brand-new copy of Farewell Photography, selling for un-marked-up retail. Yatta-w00t!

I’ll be back the first week of October, just in time to see Kawauchi in person at SFAI.

Correspondances Japonaises

Akasaka, 2006 (C) 2006-2007 K Bjorke

I’ve been squinting through the details of Things As They Are: Photojournalism in Context Since 1955, another of those books I’ve been procrastinating at cracking. While uncredited to him, in a way this book was one of the last to fall under the shadow of John Szarkowski, who challenged the editors: “I share your hope… that your exhibition and book will be more than one more fat compendium of the pictures that editors expect photographers to make.” I think they’ve had some really admirable success in this book.

1 min read

What I Learned on My Summer Vacation

(San Jose Station)

  • There is nothing to deter you from making lots of photographs with your full heavy kit bag like an intense peeling sunburn across your shoulders and back.
  • Spending time with your son being hurled down the “Pacific Spin” at the water park while being seriously sunburned across your shoulders and back is 100% worth the trouble.
  • I thought I knew a lot about the California landscape, having driven through it and flown over it at varying altitudes countless times. Then I took the train from San Jose to San Diego.
  • At night, it is better to fly.
  • In Los Angeles, yes there really are people dumb enough to drive their boyfriend’s new car in between the rail-crossing barriers, panic when they see the 9:20 commuter coming toward them, decide to drive away in the opposite direction on the railroad tracks at high speed while calling said boyfriend on the celphone – until the damage to the auto suspension halts the car between streets, paralyzing all north/south rail traffic for an hour or two until an offroad-capable truck can come to haul away the car and an inspector ensure that she didn’t do any serious damage, which the police and boyfriend search for her since she fled the scene, in a less-than-optimal neighborhood, on foot.
3 min read

The Price is Right

(7th Psychological Operations Group, US Naval Air Station Sunnyvale, Moffet Field)

In my blog draining from yesterday: Kristopher Stallworth of Bakersfield found a poster of Gursky’s “99 Cent Store” hanging in – where else? – a 99 Cent Store, and Conscientious has the shot.

When Gursky was here at SFMOMA a couple of years back, he commented that he had met the CEO of K-Mart, who also had a (probably “real” and pricey) print of “99 Cent Store” in his office. It was left ambiguous as to whether the exec felt that the photo criticized or glorified its subject… a little less ambiguous in Stallworth’s discovery?

2 min read


(San Diego)

I have been picking, one by one, through the many many MANY unread blog posts that have been steadily accruing in my bloglines feeds. The numbers have been intimidating. Alec Soth, 65 posts. Ed Kashi, 28 posts. Joerg Colberg, 158 posts…. even a long backlog of What the Duck. And that’s just the “Shoot Me” folder. It goes on and on. I haven’t even dared to get started on the flickr feeds.

These things creep up on me because I want to read in detail and my circumstances so rarely give me time and focus for anything more than a glance. And then the lists grow and keep growing while I’m trying to make time for it.

3 min read

Child Portraitists

Swan Trampouline Princess

This post has been lingering half-written for months, I was reminded of it this morning, as I came across this post from Suzanne Revy, and prodded with the notion that in fact this little rant has been curdling in my mind for my, much longer.

Suzanne is one of an undeclared informal group, the APUG B&W Child Portrait Society, a club that includes photographers like Cheryl Jacobs in the U.S., Nicole Boenig-McGrade in Australia, & Heli Huhtala in Finland.

In all these cases we see similar sorts of classic iconography being used to similar means: to reveal, or seem to reveal, a private world in which children are fully involved and which adults can only glimpse. Even then, the contents of that private world remains hidden – only its existence is shown, and the rest is hidden through deep shadows and restrictive or soft focus (or even, as in Cheryl’s current title-webpage image, both shadows and soft focus combined with a wire mesh screen between the child and the photographer).

3 min read

Is Photography Inherently Humanizing? 3/3

This post is part of a series which can be found through these links: Part I. Part II.

Yesterday morning, I found in the New York Times an editorial by Nick Kristof. The article, “Save the Darfur Puppy,” tries to grasp at some of the issues revealed by psychological research and “the implication of a series of studies by psychologists trying to understand why people — good, conscientious people — aren’t moved by genocide or famines.”

2 min read

Portrait Paradox

(C)2007 How to handle portrait-format images in an ongoing weblog? is the question that’s been dogging me since switching PhotoRant to its current, 807-pixels-across form (why 807 pixels? I genuinely don’t remember). As Michael pointed out in a recent 2point8 post, there’s an appeal to the idea of giving all photos “equal time” — that is, giving them all equal area on-screen (in his case, 375,000 pixels), distributed according to whatever aspect ratio they have.

The troubles are in the tall ones. The 16x9 pictures I make regularly are 897x454 when put into this format . If I turn it those same pixels on their sides, the 807 pixels is just, well, too tall. It doesn’t fit most web browsers, and scrolls off the top. Ungh. Making a photo 512 high (as this one is) fits most browsers, but leaves the picture only 40% as big as the horizontal version. And the horizontal one is minimized enough as it is (then again, the version here is still a tiny big bigger than a flicker standard or “medium” picture).

I’ve come pretty well to the conclusion that there is no good answer. I could reduce the size of the webpage header, but I can’t control how many extra bars of lins and navigation tools are in each user’s browser. I hate the idea of pictures appearing so tall that you can’t see them all at once.

The relentless landscape format of web presentation is one of those attributes that have probably had more influence than we realize, and will continue to do so. Compare it to books, whose pages are usually portrait format but that can be any aspect at all. Is it any surprise that the default formats for internet-based book printers like iPhoto and Lulu are landscape-format books?

Wakeup Call

American Legion (C) Estate of Garry Winogrand

I have to admit that I slept through a lot of my CalArts “History of Photography” class. I was waist-deep in my own second-semester projects and the class was in a comfortable, air-conditioned and darkened theatre with deep cushioned seats. Sometimes I’d wake up and my friends would have drawn on me, with the approval (if not participation?) of the teacher.

One time I woke up to see this photo, twelve feet tall.

At the time I’d never heard of Garry Winogrand. The photos came from a planet past my comprehension, though I could not look away. At that moment I got the impression that the desperation I saw in those photos was a desperation in Garry himself. It’s an impression I’ve never lost – the belief that it must have been painful to be Garry Winogrand, that there’s a sort of weary melacholy in him even when smiling.

I wish I could say that seeing this made me rush right outdoors with my Nikon, but I was too caught up in filmmaking and theatre at the time. The camera stayed mostly on the sideline. Later on, when my shooting rose from its own slumber, this image and a thousand more like it were waiting just below the surface of my consciousness.

The Nature of Colored Rectangles

Salt Lake City, February 2007 (C) K Bjorke

Shannon Ebner’s forum comments on Charlotte Cotton’s recent “Tip of the Tongue” article sent me to revisit Stephen Shore’s The Nature of Photographs. This is a slim — no, lean — book that should be available to anyone who wants to approach their picture-making and picture-appreciation in a thoughtful way. It is a remarkable book not only in its direct economy but also in that it so deliberately and successfully provokes you towards moments of personal insight and reflection as you are reading it.

1 min read

The Paradox of Western Landscape


Lenswork #69 arrived today, and as is so often the case, the cover was a photo of rocks — contrasty, windswept, Western rocks. Vasquez, Indian Head, Merrick Butte. The locations we’ve all had burned into our psyches as standard backdrops for John Ford and Tom Mix.

While these locations are dramatic in and of themselves, it’s hard not to compare each new photo of them with the work of Carleton Watkins et al – people who photographed these places (& on a grand scale) because the western landscape was unknown.

Today’s shooters photograph with the opposite intent: the same locations precisely because they’re well-known. When did this shift occur? The Kodak Brownie? Timothy O’Sullivan?

Slighting the Hand

Iz has been recently reading parts of Seth Godin’s Purple Cow, which reminded me of another later Godin book, All Marketers Are Liars. Godin includes along the way a chart kind of like the one above, which he asserts represents the “traditional” value curve associated with industrial products, with the value of Production at the top, adding more value than marketing or innovative ideas…

2 min read

Is Photography Inherently Humanizing? 2/3

Closed railway gate into North Korea, 2003

Part I is here.

Marc Hauser is was a professor at Harvard’s Deptartment of Cognitive Evolution (a fully different person from photographer Marc Hauser), and his recent book Moral Minds is chock full of “morality tests.” These tests take the form of little thought experiments, similar to those math “word problems” of trains leaving Chicago and Philadelpha at the same time at such-and-such a speed. Unlike the meeting of two fixed-speed trains, however, these problems don’t have fixed answers — rather, they are presented as a means for the person taking the test to shine some light into the internal nature of their own moral sense.

8 min read

Is Photography Inherently Humanizing? 1/3


One of the most difficult topics surrounding the practice of war photography (and other “socially concerned” photography, as exemplified by, say, Salgado’s gold miner photos) is that almost universally, the stated aim of photgraphers who pursue that vocation is that they desire an end to war — a specific war, or all wars. Yet as has been pointed out by a number of detractors, most prominently Susan Sontag, there’s little evidence to show that photography has done much of anything to stop wars.

Has it done anything? What imagery might have a chance to succeed at that lofty mission? Are these claims just the ad pitch for adrenalin junkies?

The 2007 World Press Photo awards have been in announced in the past couple of days, and it’s no surprise that the dominant award winners — especially in “singles” — are of combat and its aftermath. The World Press Photo of the Year itself is one: Spencer Platt’s celebrated shot of a group of well-heeled and comopolitan young Lebanese cruising through post-airstrike destruction in their red convertible, one of the passengers sourly fiddling with her celphone camera.

3 min read



A few days back I ran across a site linking to Botzilla: David Hobby’s Strobist. Quite a popular site and full of hints and methods for strobe use by David and a few cohorts.

As a shooter for the Baltimore Sun David gets lots of opportunities to work through classic location portraiture issues. In this way his job is a bit like that of Neil Turner, and some of the site reminds me of Neil’s dg28.

It ‘s one of those little paradoxes that the standard way to light still photography is to not light it at all (in fact many photographers get indignant about “respecting the original light” and so forth). This is quite opposite of motion-picture photography, where much might look “natural” but everything is deliberately lit and often the lighting is far, far, from anything that nature would have actually provided.

A byproduct of this disconnect is that a lot of the little stunts that Strobist and the like have devised (like a cardboard-and-gaffer-tape snoot, as in the snap here) are pretty similar to the things that gaffers and lighting cameramen in the movie world deal with daily.

For movies, every location shot has to be location-lit. And there’s usually a crew to do the work. I find it fascinating to read Strobist and a few other sites and see so many of the classic gaffer’s tricks and crafts re-worked so that one person can do them, quickly, and how thanks to the use of small strobes instead of 2000W Molepars, you don’t need to worry about having the fire department on standby.

Bonus Round


Last night as I was wandering back to the hotel and wandered through a few pachinko and pachislot halls, I was struck by the people who were watching, like the guys in this photo.

Inside the parlor I could understand — the players’ friends or whatever. But what about the folks gazing steadfastly from outside, through the windows?

1 min read

"One needn’t write essays about it."

As many people have discovered, Alec Soth now has a blog and is one of the many fine photographers now writing about their work (and a bunch of other stuff).

Alec hasn't just appeared in his own blog, of course. Here's a snip from the Walker Arts Center blog which I like a great deal:

This is totally corny, but the way I think about it is I really close my eyes and I try to imagine an exhibition of pictures and see what kind of pictures — what is it I really want to look at? — and then go try to make those pictures. You never make those pictures, because they just don't emerge that way, but it takes you on a path. Recently, I was in Georgia and it was the beginning of a commission. What did I want to photograph? Like, I'm interested in hermits. So I do a little Google search on 'hermits,' 'Georgia.' And I find this Greek orthodox monastery in rural Georgia, and I go there and have this amazing encounter with these people. Those pictures weren't in my head — Greek Orthodox monks — but something developed and it took me on this crazy path.

Double Teamed


I had hoped to write a review of William Eggleston in the Real World this past weekend, but the DVD proved to be deeply forgettable — so I forgot. I also watched, for about the eighth time, War Photographer. I keep playing the same silly game with it as I did in the first viewing — comparing when I would have hit the shutter to when Natchwey does. A silly game, but — one that reflects back on the purpose for his presence in the first place… which are the strongest pictures? (Maybe I should do this while viewing through my camera… I recall a thread a year or two back on ShortsShooter where someone was suggesting, as an exercise, going through POY and other news shots this way. His theory being — and for some it might work — that viewing in this way would give student photographers a better sense of the physical experience of the original photographer when they made the shot)

1 min read

The 2point8 Book Corner


A couple of weeks ago I was reading Michael David Murphy’s 2point8 and started clicking the “previous entry” lin ks— eventually, over the course of a few hours, I worked my way back through the entire history of the blog, mostly in a straight line backwards but with a few Memento-like sidebars of reversed reverse time. Regardless of direction the time was well-spent (later I tried the same thing with this blog, and frankly Botzilla doesn’t bear extended reading nearly as well, with its many random discursions and distracted tone. You do what you can).

5 min read



A few days before I failed to go to the show at the SF Legion of Honor, Garrison Kiellor ran the following poem on his daily radio show, which I only heard via podcast later. By further concidence the poet, Howard Nemerov, is the brother of photographer Diane Arbus and uncle of Amy.

~1 min read

What You Choose to See

I’ve been trying to come up with the best workflow to accomodate both B&W and color digital work.

I think I’ve managed somewhat to come to terms with a seeming paradox in working with B&W: when you’re snapping a pic, obviously the world in front of you — and visible through your viewfinder — is in color. When I work digitally, and of all color photos, I only occasionally feel the urge to remove the color. Yet when I shoot B&W film, I never feel as if the color is somehow “missing.”

My conclusion so far is that the paradox is illusory, a byproduct of the work process and the fact that neither the color photograph or the B&W photograph are the things being photographed. As the old Winogrand saw goes: they’re new facts. Once you see a color photograph, already made, it’s harder to think of it as anything else. Seeing the photograph is a new experience, one that is like seeing the things photographed while photographing, but… not the same. And that this surely has an influence on the way photographs are redacted from contact sheets and so forth. If they start B&W, they are B&W. Color, color.

3 min read


A couple of days back I was part of an informal web conversation about “Creative Commons” copyrights (spurred by a publisher who had grabbed CC-marked images off the web and republished them for a profit without clear notification to the owner). A predictable pro-CC argument came up: that somehow using a CC notice, rather than the traditionally-restrictive “All Rights Reserved,” would encourage the publication of images from artists who might otherwise never get a venue (The takeaway: one should be honored when their otherwise-unknown creations have been found worth stealing?).

1 min read

More Concrete

City Hall, Boston (C)2006

Ah, those scamps at foto8. No sooner have the pixels dried from this previous post than I receive the latest “Industry” issue of EI8HT, in full-color glory and sporting a Polish mine worker on the cover, shot by Vaclav Jirasek as part of a series that follows on the heels of an earlier one, which he made in the 90’s in black and white.

To turn the ironic screw just a wee bit further, the same issue of EI8HT contains more George Georgiou photos, this time also working in color, from the streets of Kiev. “In Transit” indeed.

Private Crossings


Just before Siggraph I ran across an imported, ad-free, all-black-and-white magazine that hadn’t been in my local store before: PRIVATE. Issue #33 bears what I consider to be an rather classic-looking (almost clichéd) image for its “East Europe” issue: a George Georgiou cover shot of Serbian workers in front of a heavy, rust-era-looking pipeline — a bit grainy, contrasty, and one assumes that other than a slight shift in the fashions of their coats, these fellows coud have been working on the same heavy-industry line in 1980 or 1950 or 1930.

On this surface we can see reflected a great difficulty in the “timeless” character of black and white — its very timelessness reveals its disconnection from immediate reality. For example, the image above could have been made twenty years ago, or yesterday — only subtle clues can let you determine which.

6 min read



When I was a teenager my mom bought me the standard-for-the-time poster of Farrah Fawcett, to pin up on the wall of my room. Maybe she just thought it was in fashion, or was worried I might not know what a girl was. Not for me to say. It seemed okay, but nothing about the Charlies Angels style really worked for me anyway.

4 min read

Memory Pool

W. Eugene Smith, Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath

Six rolls Tri-X, two rolls Acros, rolls Neopan 1600 in Fomadon F09 (Rodinal formula) 1+40, then two rolls of Neopan 1600 stand-developed in F09 1+80 for an hour.

Obviously this shot isn’t mine, but I’ve decided to start including some shots that I’ve felt strongly about, shots that I think have had a direct personal effect. Unlike Roland Barthes I don’t think first of family photos. Neither is it some list of “my favorites” or “greatest” shots. They’re just shots that changed the way I thought about pictures and picture-making.

1 min read

Flick flake

Over the past month or two I’ve pretty-well given up on trying to make any sense of my flickr contacts list. Too many people listing me, too many people whose photos I want to see.

I’d previously made some progress by using robots — fake user accounts — to sort things. In the end simplicity wins out, so now people and tags and topics all just get fed into my bloglines account same as everything else (or for the RSS-less, into

2 min read

Hack Job

For the past week or two I've been banging on the New Black and White Photo Pool.

The group photo pool was started back in August and I kept tabs on it for a while... removing pictures I felt didn't follow its (completely subjective) charter:

Black and White is the oldest form of picture-making. It has been said that these are the true tones of photography, from the white light of hope to the black of despair.

This group is about finding new blood in old pitch. Instead of Edward Weston, think Laurence Demaison; instead of Ansel Adams, think Arno Minkkinen; instead of Steichen, think: for yourself.

This is a public group and the group pool is actively moderated — part of the group's ambition is to showcase a concentration of great, memorable black and white images, so don't be surprised if casual black and white snaps — or even some pretty good shots — disappear from the pool spontaneously. High pool volume isn't required.

2 min read

As If I Were Surprised

From the Merc: Silicon Valley Hurting for Culture

“A majority of regional leaders believe Silicon Valley is losing ground in its ability to attract a creative workforce, in part because of an inadequate cultural environment, according to a new survey.”

What seems evident from my silicon valley cubicle is that there are biases within the question itself which point a finger directly at the reasons for this perceived lack. The purpose of the arts is not to enhance the creativity (read: economic value) of the general workforce.

~1 min read


Tonight, perhaps for the first night in a while, I managed to stay home mostly, save for a jot to the market. It let me knock-off the last bits of several library books that I'd been lingering on, but that are now due to return to their many homes across the state:

~1 min read


The last few days have been something of an information whirlwind. Tonight’s end was something of a respite, going to the PhotoAlliance session with photographer Alec Soth, whose quiet, vulnerable portraits are information-dense but still: quiet, to be absorbed at a human pace. I look forward to his next book, Niagra, on the subject of love at the Falls…

3 min read

Adams & Company

Friday saw the members’ reception for the new SFMOMA Photo Exhibit, Robert Adams: Turning Back. I missed my friend Graham but did run into a pair of double former colleagues, Matt Pharr & Craig Kolb; like myself veterans of both NVIDIA and Pixar (though I’m still at NVIDIA every day, thank you). As it happens, Craig’s wife Corey is one of the curators for photography, and besides having mysterious powers over the bartenders, she also introduced me directly to Sandra Philips, senior curator of photography, whom I’d seen at events but never met (Sandy had introduced Eikoh Hosoe last week, for example — a role she regularly assumes for PhotoAlliance, which I had thought was simply due not to her official station but to her obvious personal knowledge and appreciation of, and friendship to, Hosoe).

2 min read


Eikoh Hosoe with his collaborator and friend Tatsumi Hijikata (C) 2005 Kevin Bjorke

I really should have anticipated that after attending WebZine I’d be spending a good chunk of time picking-through all the many blogs and bloglike web resources that I’d see there. doi! In fact I’d already started before WebZine began, and the pace has increased significantly.

2 min read

Veni, Vidi, Valori

Randomly seen on my bookshelf this afternoon

The word of the day (well, Sunday) is “valorize,” rarely-seen in America these days and which I encountered twice in the same morning’s reading, in two different (non-American, ahem) texts on related issues, each written some forty years apart.

The older passage came from Pierre Bourdieu’s 1965 Un art moyen: essai sur les usages sociaux de la photographie whose title his American editors provocatively streamlined to Photography: A Middlebrow Art:

3 min read

Billy-Jacked: Mortensen’s Stand Method

Mortenson-style testing

A couple of years or so back I was browsing at a San Francisco bookstore and came across a book called “Projection Control” by William Mortensen, whom I’d only heard of as an antagonist to the old f/64 group of the 1930’s. His pictures seemed oddly contemporary, however – so I read further and found that he was an advocate of what we might think of as a ridiculous method: he developed his film not for minutes but for hours.

1 min read

More Portraits

Paper Cut

Here are a few more portrait gallery additions to the Gray Scale. And some of them aren’t entirely in B&W, given the realities of commercial publication (and the varying tastes of photographers — color isn’t bad, it’s just different). Mona Kuhn, for example, who says in an interview on Lens Culture that she prefers B&W for its “depth,” despite her current fame as a color portraitist.

Why so much emphasis on B&W portraiture? Mostly because I continue to believe that portraiture is one of B&W’s stronger genres, and that portraiture in general is one of the most-difficult forms of photography — despite its universal appeal, look how many sites and portfolios one can find without a single portrait. Instead we see rocks, we see skyscrapers, we see trees and flowers but portraiture… that’s hard. Even most of the portraits that one does find online tend to be driven more by fashionable stylings rather than portraiture’s implicit promise: that through this image you will touch. It will touch you, and perhaps you will even feel the opposite is true as well. Fashion is a mask — portraiture’s revelation tries to find the unmasked individual.

2 min read

Some B&W Portraitists


Today’s list: a quick alternative to just poking ‘“black and white” portraits’ into Google yourself.

Truth is, doing that will generate dozens of links to shooters of “classic” imagery — that is, just the sort of “timeless treasures” that people want for their weddings or to remember their children when they were still obedient enough to sit still in front of a roll-down backdrop for an hour.

Anyhow, here are a few alternatives that sprang readily to mind or crossed my browser after a half-hour of digging around. Some have been mentioned here before. Hardly an end-all list — rather, a few small hints that might indicate the shape of a much larger survey. Suggestions are always very welcome.

~1 min read

flickr, Blogs, and Cattle (Appended)

(C)2005 K Bjorke

While the flow of published entries on photorant has been slow for the past few weeks, there’s still been some writing going on — writing that has stayed in draft form until either the ideas shape up or I have the time to beat the shape into them. This is one of a couple of rambles that arc tangentially off group discussions from flickr.

You may consider it incoherent babble, that’s fine. Feel free to tell me so.

13 min read

I Bought a Book

I Bought a Book

Big deal? My space is packed with books. But in fact I rarely buy them, prefering to pull from the library and its well-connected LINK+ system. Usually the only books I purchase these days are books I can’t find there, usually because they’re esoteric, rare, or too-new to be found (or stolen, as has been the case with title’s like Mona Kuhn’s Photographs or most anything that’s highly-collectable or controversial, like first edition Steichens or most of Jock Sturges’s works).

An exception is this book, by linguist and cognitive psychologist George Lakoff — the book is in the library, it’s not new (this edition, 1990), and it was readily available at the local Borders: Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things — What Categories Reveal About the Mind. It was recommended to me by Roman Ormandy over at Caligari, whose software embodies some of the principles described in Lakoff’s book. After picking at the library’s copy, I was off to the bookstore for one of my own.

5 min read

Natural Colors Part 3 (and counting)

Two rolls of TXP 220, Xtol 1+1.

Joerg (via Mark) finds the great links again: Laurence Demaison’s B&W works are as unlike the typical wannabe-Weston or faux-HCB Leica-foto fare as you’re likely to find. And quite devoid of anything obvious that would tag them as made in 2005, 1955, 1895… I’d happily accept her work as an example of how new B&W need not be derivative or nostalgic or even self-consciously “new.” I am entirely delighted with it….

1 min read

Take Pictures


Two strong recommendations today for excellent but almost unknown photoblogs:

The first is a new blog attached to the established site of Clay Enos, who had previously been half of the StreetStudio team (the other half being fellow New York photographer Stephan Ghukfvin). Clay’s blog, begun late last year: Take Pictures.

~1 min read



Even if families are drowning in photos, perhaps it’s not such a bad thing, compared to the rest of the world. 3000 pictures of your three-year-old almost doesn’t compare when you realize that during that same year you’ve seen far, far more photos of Michael Jackson, Jennifer Aniston, and George Bush than you have of the people whose pictures you should value the most.

Artista Studio

(With apologies to W. Evans)

Joerg wonders if our lives are drowning in pictures — or in his specific words, “photographic white noise.” Specifically, are people overwhelmed by their own portraiture? A child born today can expect thousands of photos to be emailed and archived on CDs before their first month of age. Byt the time they are old enough to pay attention, will they even be aware of any in particular?

This problem is not a newly-minted one, particularly comparing photos to paintings (and before 1850, the percentage of people who had portraits of familty members was miniscule). Berger’s Ways of Seeing hints a bit at it, as do Barthes’ Camera Lucida and Sontag’s On Photography. After many weeks of searching, I’ve finally tracked down a copy of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s 1952 The Decisive Moment (why hasn’t this book ever been reprinted?), and HCB comments directly to this issue, not as a problem but merely a characterisitic of the medium:

3 min read

Natural Colors Part 2

Natural Colors Part 2

While I was typing Pt I (without even thinking that it would become Pt I), part of the paradox vexing me was there on the desk, staring intently from the cover of the January PDN in the form of Jude Law, shot in classicly-crisp B&W by David Bailey, with the tag: “The Legends Issue.” So here we have Jude Law, promoting Alfie and dressed-up in 60’s Saville Row. Knockout pic, but — part of The Problem of B&W Nostalgia, right?

4 min read

Natural Colors

Three rolls HP5+, Xtol 1+1

A few weeks back, on a recommendation from Moleskinerie (or was it 43 Folders?), I picked up a copy of Howard & Barton’s 1988 writing book, Thinking on Paper. At its core lay three fundamental propositions about writing. I think that the use of “writing” in these propositions is easily swapped-out with just about any expressive/reflective activity: writing, painting, singing, gardening. This is after all, so let’s try it:

4 min read


Palo Alto 2005 (C) K.Bjorke

Sometimes journal entries gestate for a bit, maybe they just ferment. Or rot. This one’s been in the mulch for three weeks, even as other entries came and went. Maybe it could be several different posts. This is what I have tonight, rambling and ranting.

6 min read



A new surprise among library books: Famous Photographers Course, in three oversized volumes.

Yes, it was published by “Famous Photographers School,” which apparently is now completely defunct after being absorbed a while back by Al Dorne’s Famous Artists School (which doesn’t offer anything about photography at this point, AFAIK). These books were published back in 1964.

What attracted me to them initial was the list of “faculty” instructors, including Bert Stern, Richard Avedon, Alfred Eisenstadt, Irving Penn, Philippe Halsman…

1 min read

Side Projects

Free view pair

After having an enjoyable swipe through a few best photo books of 2004 lists, I thought the task was worth expanding — so a new project is to work through the titles in Andrew Roth’s The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century and read each one I can find. A couple of them, I happily realized, I already owned (okay, not originals but I’m not after originals — the goal is reading, not collecting). After a couple of weeks of picking-around, the score so far:

3 min read

Narrative Baggage Check

(C)1978, 2005 K. Bjorke

Over at her always thoughtful site the space in between, Stacy Oborn threads together three writers and their relationship to photography in perfect images, written photographs and the absolute.

For all three writers — Hervé Guibert, Roland Barthes, and Marguerite Duras —the photographs they most admire are either imagined or images from their family or even both. In each case the photo, real or imagined, comes along carrying a lot of narrative baggage. It’s the narrative baggage, more than the image, that gives value and power to each photograph. And specifically, personal narrative. The authors will not see this photograph (“their” perfect photograph) as others will see it.

1 min read


110-format slides (C)2005 K Bjorke

We had the first session of Photography Made Difficult at Coffee Society tonight — it was a bit noisy and certainly crowded but quieter than the “Open Mic Night” over at Barefoot. The PMD group was small as expected: myself, Allan Chen, Pieris, and David Lee. Which was good — more than one or two additions and it would have been all the tougher to talk to everyone. And everyone brought prints!

2 min read

TV Time

Anyone know this movie title?

I was surprised/impressed by an unexpected dramatic use of photography in an old re-run — the second half of a two-part episode of the time-travel series Quantum Leap (The premise of the series is that the current-day hero Sam’s consciousness “leaps” into the bodies of various (usually non-famous) characters from late 20th century history. He is assisted by his colleague Al, who guides him with info gleaned from 21st-century sources). The episode is titled “The Leap Home Pt 2.” If you like this TV series and haven’t seen that episode re-run on SciFi yet, well:


3 min read

No Real Secret


Three rolls of Tri-X rated ISO 3200 in Xtol 1+1; two rolls of Portra 400UC.

I keep wanting to stop mentioning Henry Rankin Poore so here’s a last (?) chance to diss his opinions just a little more (not that he deserves it in general).

~1 min read


Hey, everyone loves to see cold people.

In high school I read that perceptually, the human eye sees at around 30fps. This has a big ramification not just on movies and TV (where 1/60th of a second is perceptually “smooth” because it’s within the Nyquist of the optic nerve’s sensory rate) but also photos and sculpture and painting and maybe even music because that 1/30-ish number represents what we humans perceive as “momentary.” It defines our distinction between moving and still, both in images and life (and everything in between, like video games).

A kid once asked: How long does it take to become a photographer? To which the smartass wise man replied: 1/125th of a second, kid.

1 min read


I-35W, Minneapolis, Dec 2004

I finally got around to setting up a news aggregator that I intend to actually maintain in just one place, on one machine (NetNewsWire, on my desk mac at home). Too many recent crashes and disparate bookmark lists on different computers under vaying OS’s.

I also did a keyword search on Photoblogs.Org looking around for… well, stuff, and came across what looks like a fairly-recent blog belonging to Gordon Stettinius, who for a while had been publishing a magazine called EyeCaramba. I’d recently been digging through Gordo’s website anyway, while looking for interesting work done in 6x6 format. Some of it was familiar – maybe because of a Minneapolis connection, or his collection on — even without this new blog his website would have rated a mention here some time soon.

1 min read

Xmas Gifts

Xmas Gifts

Four 220 rolls of TXP, two 120 rolls of Neopan 400, two 120 rolls of TX400 (sometimes you use what yuou can find, on the road…). All in Xtol 1+1.

As Courtney has wisely reminded me so often, the best gifts are the unexpected ones that you realize really ought to have been on your wish list (though the couple of gifts I received from my wish list are most treasured too). I’d place as a close second the gifts you give to yourself to share. Thus the best gifts of the season have been the trip to see our family in Minnesota, and as a happy side-effect, a chance to make pictures of my parents and brother’s family in their own homes (note to my sister, who lives nearby in Oakland: you’re next!).

1 min read


Henry Rankin Poore again: This page was in his last 1933 book, the long-out-of-print Art Principles in Practice — a sequel to the only book of the series still in print (the first one, oddly enough), Pictorial Composition and the Critical Judgement of Pictures, a book regularly assigned to painting and photography students across the lands. Pity this little taxonomic chart isn’t part of that still-popular paperback.

I call this the AMOT*SL chart.

2 min read



The long flights to and from Europe last week gave me a chance to catch up again on some of my reading. Some, at least. One of my burdens, literally at times, is a fondness for reading and the ability to read very quickly — so I end up carrying multiple books in my briefcase alongside the big Dell computer. Cab drivers and bellmen are always surprised when they discover my briefcase’s weight (along with my suitcase, which is usually further loaded-up).

4 min read

Twitchy Eyeballs

It’s been many days again since I’ve written here (though I have written a few short entries for PhotoPermit.Org), a good chunk of them consumed by reading. I feel like I’ve had some growth and change in the way I approach picture books. And that’s separate from doing a perhaps nutty thing with photo books: trying to view them through a camera viewfinder, to get a better grasp on what might have been seen by the original shooter (something worth doing once, but if it’s persistent, call a doctor).

2 min read

Ape Hug

Death Cab

When I first started this journal, I did a fair amount of searching for blogs and photoblogs that were involved with wet-darkroom photography, using searches on google amd for matches to things like darkroom or film rangefinder. But while there were lots of matches for search terms, as often as not the first post on the found blog would said something like “I’ve sold off my film-based rangerfinders and darkroom equipment to pay for a D100 so I can post blog pictures every single day…”

So there were very few analog sites (and mostly of the nostalgic variety), though with some high-profile exceptions like Todd Gross’s Quarlo. In the past couple of years they’ve multiplied, though still not in great numbers. Here are a few found this week, owned by APUG members (what’s wrong with this picture?), a list based on this thread:

~1 min read


Los Angeles, August 2004 (C) K. Bjorke

On a busy day, it’s not uncommon for me to shoot two or three hundred photos. I used to gauge this as a “six roll day” and now think of it usually as a “half gig day” for the amount of space used by digi-cam JPEGs.

Unless I shoot RAW, or use the high-quality JPEG settings. A six-roll day of RAW files is a “gig and a half day,” though to tell the truth I’ve never had one — for all their dynamic-range merits, RAW files are significantly slower to use on my camera, so most of the time I stick to JPEGs. As a bonus, a half-gig’s worth of pics will all fit onto a single CD.

4 min read

The horse whip unfolds the human

epSite Beijing, sept 2004

A good way to rate locations is to gauge how likely it is that something randomly wonderful will occur on any given day. Downstairs from the Grand Hyatt in Beijing is a very westernized mall, the Oriental Plaza. While cutting through it for an air-conditioned shortcut, I found in a clutch a Sony store, and Apple store, and an Epson store, adjoining one of Epson’s epSite galleries (try using to translate from Simplified Chinese). I’d embarrassingly failed to find the epSite in Tokyo a few days before (though supposedly it was next door to my hotel), and hadn’t even tried to find the one in Shanghai — and now here was their newest, so handy I almost tripped over it.

Inside the gallery, almost empty save for the staff, was a collection of magnificent Jiang Jian prints.

3 min read

My China?

Tienanmen Square (C)2004 K. Bjorke

This morning, while randomly surfing I came across Vincent Laforet’s Website. Laforet is an excellent well-known shooter with the New York Times.

Looking into his “Projects” area, I saw “China - Past and Future Intertwined …shot in Beijing and Shanghai, China over a period of eight days.” Figured I should take a gander, having just returned from a similar trip (though not for the purpose of making photos, but to attend developer events and meetings — photography simply gives an excuse and structure to my compulsive flanerie, squeezed in for an hour or two in bits during the week).

What surprised me was just how much the photos Laforet had made, and my own photos, overlapped — at least in terms of very particular locations, situations, and in one or two cases, I think we may have even photographed the same people (in a country with a billion population).

2 min read

Distant Relations

Tokyo (C) 2004 K Bjorke

It’s only natural to make a lot of photos when travelling. This past trip has seen me chewing through two to four hundred shots a day. More on some days. Let’s see, that’s something like 3000 shots or around 85 rolls, about six or seven rolls per day. Surprising to me, it’s not a lot more than I might have shot without the digital camera (the Contax only got used for about four rolls, total — though it’s a joy to handle compared to the lunking Canon).

1 min read


3 July 2004 (C) 2004

It’s the 4th of July, time for fireworks and plenty of public parties, fairs, and parades. Just remember, don’t take photos at large public events, and whatever you do don’t go videotaping in random public places, lest you too might get three months of solitary confinement from agencies that know darned well you’ve done nothing wrong.

But don’t worry, our valiant public servants are there to protect us from those bad, bad evildoers — just hush up, slug back a Prozac or three and let them decide what you should see so you don’t go handing your children to Osama Bin Laden. After all, they’ve been there to help us even well before 9-11.

Now you may say, I’m just a big crab. Or a worthless commie Al-Quaeda-loving treasonous wrong-question-asking meanie. The US is still near the best part of the scale in the RSF’s Hall of Shame. Still, it’s more and more obvious that everyone’s camera kit needs a bust card just as surely as they need fresh batteries.

It’s Good to be Anti-Social

I'm hardly the first person to observe the irony that novellists, whose stock in trade are observations of human behavior and character, work almost always alone (not counting corporate potboiler writers and their assistants, whom I'm reluctant to label "novelists"). So too street photographers of the portraiture variety.

A couple of nights ago I watched (again) Bruce Gilden on Egg. When Gilden talks it's all about people — yet he moves through the street alone, violates people's spaces, then carries on with a smile and a complement. Is it anti-social? Is it deeply social? Is it pretended intimacy, siezed before the subject can grasp what's going on, and pinned to the wall by Gilden's flash unit?

3 min read

The Gray

The Kind of Blindness post has had me thinking further about color perception, cognition, etc etc — of the many interactions that drive the life of any sort of image (or performance): interactions between the world and the artist; between artist and their tools and medium; between the image as made and the artist; between the image and an external viewer; and sometimes even between that external viewer, as part of the world, back onto the artist (or their dealer). Wheels within wheels.

4 min read

Every Man for Himself: Werner Herzog


A few years back (okay, a bunch of years back), I was having a few beers with Werner Herzog & Al Milgrom.

That evening I’d attended a session of the University Film Society, at the Bell Museum on the University of Minnesota campus – an event managed by Al. Guest for the evening: Werner, I think to promote Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, though that night we watched Aguirre, the Wrath of God, part of a series.

Afterwards, we went for drinks. A hot topic of the day – the Jonestown People’s Temple mass suicide – came up in the conversation. The Jonestown Massacre. It was still very much in the press. What did Herzog think?

“I think that’s great, 900 fewer assholes in the world.”

2 min read

Kevin’s blog

(C) 2004 K Bjorke

Coupla days ago I was pointed at this old link on B&W World, in which Mason Resnick writes his recollections of a 1970’s class with Garry Winogrand. A key lesson: “He told us that the most successful art is almost on the verge of failure.” Not that anyone was asking me, but I couldn’t agree more.

Winogrand also told his class that “without technique you won’t get anything good,” but it’s sad when that fear of technical failure takes over — when people become obsessed with ensuring that every print have at least one point of full white and one of full black, or fretting over blocked-up highlights or maximum sharpness. Everyone obsessed with getting an A for craftsmanship, for managing-away all the elements of risk.

2 min read

Me and My Camera, 2004

Backlog Three rolls of Tri-X, Rodinal 1+25; three rolls of Tri-X, Rodinal 1+50; six rolls of TMax-100, Rodinal 1+50. You can rinse and rinse and rinse and still that pink stuff never seems to come completely out of TMX.

2 min read

Family, Immediate

Many, many snaps. Many CDs + duplicates.

I’ve been logging my film processing here in the blog for months, but none of the digital shooting, despite the increasingly-large bulk of the latter. This has been a family weekend, with relatives visiting for the graduation of my sister from Law School. 357 frames yesterday, 238 frames today. Of course most of them are simple family shots, but here and there I got a chance to make a few “for me” — that is, shots that had no specific family interest, just events and strangers that struck me as photo-worthy. And many photos of the family.

The bright sunlight compelled me to use strobe for fill quite a bit — Canon’s 550EX is really quite amazingly good at this, adding just a kiss of fill to bring the faces to the fore. We are so used to seeing photos like this in the media (especially in journalism), we rarely think twice about their lack of “naturalness” — perhaps because photos with bright, visible faces are graphically similar to how we perceive things psychologically — the faces are more luminous in our minds than in mundane reality.

Robert Adams, paraphrasing D.H. Lawrence, said that there is no sensual experience stronger than one in which we feel we are experiencing the truth. I often suspect the opposite is really the case — that our personal sensual experiences are satisfying because they are as True as we can possibly perceive them. Editing can destroy as well as enhance. In these hundreds of photos, cycling as a slideshow on my laptop, it seems so clear to me that the strongest ones are those where I just charged in and made the shot, without concern for formalities like graphic impact or interesting composition, nor worries about making sure everyone was looking forward or smiling. They are direct and impulsive, an impulse fueled by love of subject.

This morning before we went out for the day I found my dad at my desk, watching the cycling random slideshow of photos made just a handful of hours before. I saw him smile gently when a photo of my mom appeared. I’ll take that as one of my favorite reviews, ever.

Why I started this blog

(C) 2004 K. Bjorke

On the BotzBlog link page, in the blog roll, you’ll find the Three C’s: Conscientious, Consumptive, and Coincidences; run by Joerg Colberg, James Luckett, and the slightly reclusive Robert Mirani respectively. They are the leaders in a form (also followed by some sites like Luis Forrolas’s flux+mutability) that presents an alternative to sites about photo equipment — they are sites about Other People’s Pictures. All of these sites have great photos — I mean great — every single day. Because they’re OPP.

2 min read



The spring 2004 issue of Modern Painters is out, containing an interview with John Szarkowski, the man who was appointed by Steichen to run the photo program at MOMA and brought us the first large shows by Winogrand, Arbus, and Eggleston:

Q: Do you think photographs become more interesting with time?

A: Most become more interesting with time. Naïve photographs always become more interesting with time. By naïve I mean photographs that were not made with high artistic ambition. On the other hand, if you take the photographs that Steiglitz exhibited at the Albright Gallery in Buffalo in 1910, those pictures have become much less interesting — and they weren’t very interesting to begin with because all they had was artistic ambition. Whereas naïve photographs almost always have something of the world in them. Misdirected artistic ambition can turn into an effort to squeeze the world out so that there is nothing left but aesthetics, because everybody can then plainly see that it is art. It has to be art, because there is nothing else there! [My emphasis]

Szarkowski’s sentiment seems very close to a response to what I see far too often on photo websites: “this work elicits nothing in us but a dreary impression of quality.”

The Picture

Six rolls Tri-X, Rodinal 1+50 13 minutes.

A pair of children run headlong across my view, and their keeper shouts after them: “kids, you stop that! Can’t you see the man is taking The Picture?”

I glance at him and gently shake my head with a smile: no problem. Another tip of the head to let him know the rest of the family can proceed, they’ve done no harm, even as the klaxons are sounding furiously in my head: Kevin you idiot, you’ve been sucked into taking The Picture again. I look at the shot I was setting up: late cerulean sky, distant shops, their lights reflected on the lake, a row of matching beach chairs. Balanced, placid. In a few seconds a canopied ferry will appear below the bridge. A speaker hidden in a rock nearby plays an instrumental medley of songs from The Lion King. It’s all been laid out carefully for me, which is just the point. It’s ready-made. The lake itself was sculpted by a design team. It’s beautiful, but it’s not really my picture. It’s The(ir) Picture.

3 min read

Winner Take All

Three rolls Tri-X, Rodinal 1+50, 12:45.

Mason Resnick, who put together the now-fairly-dormant website Black and White World, is today busy as managing editor over at Popular Photography & Imaging Magazine. This month the magazine contains a feature on Street Photography. As a web-only extra feature, Mason sent out a short questionaire to the featured photographers — the answers amount to a set of short interviews with nine street snappers (Mason included himself in their number). Among the nine were two from the StreetPhoto mailing list — its founder John Brownlow (who also included a pitch for Bee in his answers) and John Beeching. All of the rest, save Resnick himself, were photographers whose work can be found on

One question in the interviews concerned sales. To no great surprise, there’s not much of a market for street and urban photography, even as the prices of prints by shooters like Diane Arbus and (not really a street shooter, but how would you describe him?) Andreas Gursky go through the ceiling. Everyone in Pop Photo’s list was subsidizing their “real” photography through other jobs, ranging from photojournalist to courier to screenwriter. The few people who were actually selling (a few) street photos seemed to be doing so entirely through’s visibility.

2 min read

Wake Up Call

(Demilitarized Zone, 2003)

Yesterday I intended to write about some vague notion connecting suburban anthropology and focal lengths. It’ll have to wait — a day of illness knocked me down and I barely left the house.

I did have the computer around though, and between working on some 3D models I got a chance to look at the April issue of The Digital Journalist, which contains a few items about the new New York Times contract for freelancers. As recounted in the American Socitety of Media Photographers analysis and the letter to NYT from freelancers who say they cannot sign the new contract, the basic consensus for most shooters is clear: the contract simply appropriates all value for NYT and leaves the photographers with all the expenses and legal liabilities. Great. Editorial Photographers, mentioned here only one entry ago, has also entered the fray, urging its members not to sign.

And staffers at companies like NYT, who make more than freelancers, have got to be watching their backs now too. The future for them looks grim. Read Greg Smith’s core article to work-out the numbers for yourself.

5 min read

The Devil You Know

Santa Clara, (C) 2004 K. Bjorke I’m hardly the only one struggling with the hidden expenses and travails of digital. Read this recent Digital Manifesto from Editorial Photographers. The very group whom camera companies love to promote as users of their top digital equipment are, in fact, getting powerfully squeezed as a result of that equipment. Or at least by people’s attitudes about it.

There are a number of factors in play here, regarding the relationship of fee structures and technology. There’s plenty of polarization in camps, plenty of confusion, and (as EP members have discovered) plenty of opportunity for abuse. Perhaps not surprisingly, these occurences are not new to other fields that have been diffused with digital technology.

As Paul Strassman has become famous in Information Technology circles for pointing out, digital technology alone does not make anyone more profitable or more productive. On balance, it may even be hard to economically justify the existence of the entire computer industry, in broad terms of enhancing the overall economy. His 1997 book, The Squandered Computer, brought many of these issues into sharp focus, though its message was (at the time) drowned-out by the dot-com boom (even as his message presaged the later dot-com crash).

Strassman (and other economists) asked: what’s the Return On Investment (ROI)? Where’s the beef? As Nobel winner Robert Solow observed: “We see computers everywhere but not in the productivity statistics.”

4 min read

Optimistic Requiem

Some time ago I’d mentioned David Pye’s The Nature and Art of Workmanship, a book recommended to me w.r.t. photography but which I felt has far-reaching consequences throughout all creative, information-intensive endeavors. It’s actually a follow-on to a 1964 book titled The Nature of Design (in fact in it he hints at the later book to come, writing in the final pages: “there is no space here to write what needs writing about workmanship…”).

Today we’ve been discussing upgrades and rewrites and redesigns, the advent of the next generation of graphics hardware, algortihms, and paradigms. Great, amazing stuff, to follow (and eventually bury) the great, amazing stuff that’s already been accomplished. We collect our facts, our task plans, our AI’s and PORs; scratch our heads wondering “how will we ever get this finished?” But really, is it ever finished? Has software ever been finished?

Pye writes, in the days before lasers, desktop computers, or anyone had bothered coining terms like “software engineering,” “use cases,” or “design patterns”:

1 min read


Witness The simplest and most common use of photography is, as Roland Barthes famously put it, a unary purpose — that is, a direct representation of a thing. The photo is (within a limited scope) interchangeable with that thing. We take the tiny snapshot from our wallet and say proudly: “There’s my son.”

That photography is not really as directly literal as it looks is something that is constantly at play in the world of art photography, and a hot potato among journalists and their editors; but we usually assume simple unary purpose and function for less rarified pursuits, such as the simple representation of domestic events. How untrue this can be was brought home in a personal way very recently.

3 min read

The Proof

London, 2003. Click image to see 100% crop Since I was asked, here is a sample of one of the proof sheets I’ve been making using XnView. The original is 3075×2175 pixels, for printing at 300dpi. This is enough to see detail on the page. For a 100% detail showing the level of detail that’s visible, just click-through on the image at right.

This week marks the last one of the SFMOMA show, Diane Arbus Revelations. We’ve been there twice now. I’m tempted to return.

Some of the surprising things in the exhibit (which may be in the expensive companion book) are a few of Arbus’s proof sheets. Some are about what you might expect: a suite of similar shots from which just one was selected. But for most of the others, what’s astonishing is their variety — proofs where each photo is markedly different, of a completely different person, sometimes in another location. The photos that were printed weren’t one from a set — they were just the one photo.

I know that Arbus was constantly dismissive of her ability to know what was in the photo until she saw it. But the proof sheets tell a different story. In, nail it, and go on to the next thing. Pretty impressive. Scary, even.

Camera technology and photo style

In reading Bill Jay’s and David Hurn’s On Being a Photographer, I was struck by Hurn’s comments about shooting many photos of a static subject, but fewer of a moving one, which was much harder to get balanced and well-formed for the camera.

Static subjects with lots of subtle variation — perfect for consumer digicams with their low cost-per-frame and inability to react quickly.

4 min read

Contax G, Reprahzent

London, 2003 (C) 2003-2004 K. Bjorke In the past couple of days I’ve run across notices for two established and Contax-related sites — based on photos, not gear.

An interview with Luc Delahaye talks about his experience shooting, among other things, his series “Wintereisse,” which was reputedly made with the G2. Delahaye also is no slouch when it comes to kicking over a few cans around the Magnum Agency crowd, with comments like “Cartier-Bresson… didn’t really need to put the film in the camera — the importance for him is the act of taking pictures … being in the right position and being fast.”

(Supposedly Josef Koudelka had a similar moment of Magnum-founder-busting, leaning into frame during a Cartier-Bresson TV interview to say “Henri, you are so full of it!”)

Or again from Delahaye: “[Salgado]… is a cliché-maker. He is producing what everyone has in mind.” Another good healthy Photo Rant.

Best of all, the photos are terrific.

On the other side of the planet is our own Contax homie Eddie Ng, whose website I’ve just found featured in the December issue of the UK <a href=”” target=linkframe”>Black and White Magazine.</a> I’ve known enough to mark his site (even without an RSS feed) on the PhotoRant blogroll for a long time.

A Corker

So if you live in NYC, as I used to, you know what WFMU is, and you probably know that they have an interview program called The SpeakEasy, and you might even know that the hostess Dorian has a habit of bringing photographers on the air to talk, without pictures, about pictures.

Recent guests have included Steve McCurry, Mary Ellen Mark, Jerff Meremelstein, Jonathan Torgnovik, Peter Howe, and Philip-Lorca di Corcia, so very recently distantly parodied on this very site.

Di Corcia’s interview is in the true photrant tradition — “Cindy Sherman… fruit flies have evolved more than her work” is just the tip of the iceberg. A worthy waste of an hour of your time.

The Certainty of Risk from Power Tools

Landscape with Power Tools, (C)2004 Kevin Bjorke I’ve enjoyed Michael Johnston’s Sunday Morning columns for the past couple of years — back in 2002 he published a short list of book titles that he considered crucial for “practicing photographers.” Some I had read, and others I logged-away in my PDA for future reference. I generally trust Michael’s opinions on photography as being reasoned and informed, even if they don’t always coincide with my own (He also was the one who, through this article, got me going on a chain of links to John Brownlow and the streetphoto list).

1 min read

Filing Systems

Filing Systems The “roll-lessness” of digital cameras is totally messing with my filing system, which up into the last couple of years had been roll-based. Each roll tagged by date. In general, this also corresponded loosely with subjects, locations, and projects.

Now, the camera software splits everything into days. On a busy day that can mean hundreds of photos in the same directory, where before I could be confident know it was unlikely that there’d be more than 40. Add CDs to the equation and it’s clear the old system will have to go. What I haven’t settled on is a replacement.



SC82 I was reading a recent ArtForum article about moblog photos, and the reviewer hit upon a key word: inessential. Photos that run counter to the notion of “a perfect flower,” they are just: “a flower.”

They don’t contend to any special uniqueness or meaningful significance. They’re just tonight’s dinner, or the cat. They’re even less momentous than old snapshots — at least old snapshots were made on someone’s birthday or on the family’s Grand Canyon roadtrip. Moblog photos tend to be somewhere even less worthy of inspection, between snapshots and the dull gray eye of a security camera. And there’s a lot of them.

1 min read


(C)2003 K Bjorke Finally replaced the battery for my G1 yesterday morning — once again able to run more than three or four shots before it poops out. Ran a couple of hundred frames through it since then.

Picking through the World Press Photo 2002 book, I realized: despite a ton of assurances that journalism has gone digital in a deep deep way, you might not know it looking at this “best-of-the-best” collection. What I was surprised at was the persistence, if not of film itself (hard to say for professional gear these days, really), but of Black and White Photography.

1 min read

Quotations from Today’s Emails

(C)2003 K Bjorke Such a literate bunch today – quite a lot fo quoting back and forth, incuding these.

Also, Street Photography Googlism is Link Number One

To get on with things:

To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.

Photography has not changed since its origin except in its technical aspects, which for me are not important.

5 min read

Pumpkin Time

(C)2003 K Bjorke Blog listing of the day has to go to Jörg at Conscientious. Conscientious, like PhotoRant, looks for good photography on the web; though unlike photorant, Jörg spends no time crabbing about how barren the desert is, and actually doesn’t seem to spend much time, if any, digging through photoblogs — only photography of established artists. Also unlike photorant, Conscientious is more than happy to post other people’s photos as he finds them — given that he can then choose freely this makes Conscientious a very pretty site. And since he blends his own photos into the mix, this gives them an added haute association, as if we had discovered them hanging at SFMOMA.

Speaking of photoblogs, is set to release the long-publicized new version of their site later today. I’ve been assured that the new software will restore one of my favborite features, which was to be able to search for similar sites, based on self-assigned keywords (now if only it could display a map of similarities, a la kartoo….).

…and speaking of SFMOMA, KQED Forum ran a program on Friday, hyping and discussing the new Diane Arbus: Revelations exhibit, which officially opened there on Saturday. Clicking on the Forum link above will let you listen to the entire program, with the curators of the show, a writer from Vanity Fair (apparently certifying Arbus’s status as a “legendary” photographer), and a number of call-ins, including the lady who wanted to know why SFMOMA wastes so much time on photography.

Expecting the Rapture

Salon day. Theme for the designated period: “transcendance.”

Before I picked a shot for submission (and frankly, nothing from recent shooting came readily to mind until the last hour or so), my mind catalogued the likely shots to be seen — religious iconography, motion-blur ghosting, the brilliant light of inspiration. Got it all in spades, once I had made my shot, sent it off, and then surveyed the field. Hosannah! The only thing I didn’t see, that I had expected, was a rogue Ansel Adams knockoff. Maybe next time.

Expected images — to confirm and conform — are the bane of the single-shot salon, I suspect. It’s hard not to end up shooting along one or two predictable axes: either the picturesque or the ironic (and in the latter, I’d include the “surreal”). At this point in history, when even the smallest of children are bombarded with sophisticated imagery, it’s hard to imagine any great value in any single image. It takes a host of them if you really are hoping to make anything but a very well-worn point.

Slow News Day

Seoul (C)2003 K Bjorke A few days ago, documentary photographer Rob Appleby opined that for him, the photo essay was a dead form, that he’s busy looking into something a bit more meaningful, to Rob himself and hopefully to his audience, whoever they may ultimately be.

Personally, I think there’s rarely such a thing as a truly dead form, not in a general sense. Individual veins may tap out, but the mine stays open.

Schönberg commented, even as he developed his own tonal scale, that there were still many masterpieces yet to be written in the key of C major — what’s true for piano works is surely also true for image-making. A form may feel exhausted to individual practitioners, or perhaps has grown tired from extended rehashing of its own best successes — but there is always the potential for something new, fresh, and meaningful to be drawn from existing forms.

2 min read

Scotopic Photo Topic

Thought problem: Would color improve or degrade this photo? Why? Defend your assertion. (20 pts) (C)2003 Kevin Bjorke Debate about the application of color in photography will continue as long as there are photographs. Feature articles on the topic pop up with great regularity in the standard photo mags, and online articles and debates rage endlessly. My local bookstore carries at least two magazines, B&W and Black and White Photography, dedicated entirely to one camp (and yes, Benetton’s advertising rag Colors, too).

The language of these debates is often laughably inflammatory, raging from “anyone shooting B&W today is morally suspect” to “B/W is the true photographer’s medium.” It’s right up there with declarations like “film is dead” (and has been for many years, or so I’ve often been told in one well-meaning lecture after another since at least the early 90’s) or “digital is just craftsmanship, photography [with silver wet processes] is art.”

Can somebody open a window in here? Phew!

3 min read

The Right Way

(Somewhere near Bolinas with a $35 Canonet)

Mechanical rangefinders are small, lightweight, discreet, and tend to have good optics. That doesn’t stop some of us from using them on subjects that don’t benefit much from those attributes — say, a fog-shrouded forest road (though having no mirror slap can be helpful for a 1/4 second handheld exposure).

Add professional Leica durability to the equation and Jason P. Howe has definitely figured out the right way to use a rangefinder. In his case, to cover the apparently-endless military and paramilitary violence in Colombia.

It’s a situation made for this sort of work — no generators, no sat phones and laptops, just a guy with lightweight sturdy mechanical equipment, no batteries, but pockets full of black and white film that can withstand the hot and damp environment. Compare his setup to the giant rucksacks full of gear carried by the Humvee-embedded journalists during the Iraq invasion. The immediacy and grit of Howe’s photos make the crisp, colorful Iraqi shots, while illustrative of American military power, seem like so much sport shooting.

Howe deals with both sides of the conflict, the government AUC and the FARC (which while labelled as a terrorist organization by the Bush administration, still manages to have their own slick and public web site). Among all countries in the western hemisphere, only Cuba is more oppresive to journalists, according the Reporters Sans Frontièreshere’s a telling example.


Museum of Photographic Art Before I left San Diego I ventured over to the Museum of Photographic Art in Balboa Park, to view the prints from Eddie Adam’s exhibition and book Let Truth Speak to Power.

It’s hard not to bring some presumptions to a show with such a title, if only because of its similarity to Gene Smith’s dictum Let Truth Be the Prejudice. Is Adams, like Smith, convinced that he has the inside track on “truth?”

The show is a collection of portraits, large prints, the faces of people who have in some way fought against the predjudices, inequalities, and brutalities in their home countries. These huamn rights activists (err, in the language of the show, “Defenders” — always with a capital “D”) are scattered around the globe — some of them exiled from their original homes and now living in places like the U.S. or Switzerland, others hiding out in the jungle, some resting peacefully at home because their primary goals have begun to be addressed.

3 min read

It’s in There

San Jose, (C) 2003 Kevin Bjorke At long last, the library has re-opened in San Jose.

A good library is one of the most useful photographic tools. Here in Santa Clara we’ve been a bit starved. I had an excellent library just at the bottom of the hillside block from the house in Mill Valley — the state (formerly royal) library was a five-minute walk from my office in Honolulu. But here we just have a local suburban library packed into house trailers, while the city is building their own new building. It’s been a long dry spell.

Almost no individual can have a collection to match even a minor library. Robert Bergman’s A Kind of Rapture? Got it. Every issue of U.S. Camera from the 1950’s? All volumes of August Sander’s portrait books? Got those too. de Tolnay’s History and Technique of Old Master Drawings? Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook? Check and check.

2 min read

Computers, Cameras, Colors, & Caravaggism

Santa Clara, 2002 (C)2003 Kevin Bjorke Okay, so if I’m so hot on digital imaging, why do I still lunk-around a film-based camera? What? No color?

I get asked this regularly by people in the offline world. It’s usually a lead-in to a recommendation that I buy a digital camera, often tied to a specific recommendation to get one just like theirs, which they recently purchased and like a lot. They’re usually surprised when I say that I spent almost a year toting around a digital camera all day most every day, that I have a digital photo enthusiast site, and that after that experience I dug-out the old 1950’s style gear, expanded my 35mm equipment, and have been quite pleased with the results of that choice. I still use the digicam at times, but mostly it stays home. I waver at moments, but usually have no desire to grab at the latest generation of DSLRs.

How can this jibe with my day-to-day work, daily pushing the envelope of useful computer imaging tools for games and movies? How can I be supervising imagery on films like Final Fantasy and simultaneously be such a Luddite (partial quick answer: I’m not a Luddite)?

I ask myself this regularly, and have decided that it’s all about the “C” word.

4 min read

Professing the Faith

During my visit to San Diego I stayed at a seafront hotel and above my bed was a large frame holding four photographs, 11x14 color prints. The matte board was signed and numbered: Xxxx Xxxx, 1/250. The photographs were unremarkable — simple graphic triangles of spinakers, probably from a boat or ship in the local harbor. 1 of 250... I wondered how many of those 250 had been purchased by the hotel.

I got my answer the next morning, walking down the halllway and seeing several more similarly-unchallenging photos of ropes and anchors, with the same signature and bearing numbers like 34/250 and 387/500 — the same set of four sails from my hotel bedroom also adorned the lobby shoeshine stand. 177/250. So the hotel had likely purchased all of these prints.

2 min read


Center of Attention, Santa Clara (C)2003 Kevin Bjorke …and a little white.

I’ve read it a couple of times in the past, but today I re-read this interview with Ralph Gibson.

"But anyway, the big emphasis in digital photography is how many more million pixels this new model has than the competitor's model. It's about resolution, resolution, resolution, as though that were going to provide us with a picture that harbored more content, more emotional power. Well in fact. It's very good for a certain kind of graphic thing in color but I don't necessarily do that kind of photograph."

Sounds much like what I wrote about computers a couple of days ago — and Gibson is a big fan of digital, at least on the printing end of preduction. Surely his comments were a subconscious influence on my thinking.

At one time, I used a Canon 85mm lens for nearly everything. Now it (and my Zeiss 90mm) sit at the bottom of the bag, largely unused. Tried forcing myself to use the 90 today — if only, as Duchamp said, “to avoid conforming to my own taste.”

Lay of the Land

Photoblogs are all the rage and while journos are busy smugly comparing them to “Walker Evans and Nan Goldin rolled together on your computer screen,” the articles seem little more than catalogs, lists of someone’s favorites from an afternoon sweeping of the blogroll links on photojunkie or maybe a swipe through the top tops on

In the websphere outside the blogiverse (extending our methaphors as broadly as possible), the last few years have seen the blossoming of the PAW meme, or Picture A Week, started by Kyle Cassidy and spread outwards from the LUG to all corners of online photography.

Finally there’s no shortage of other personal photo collections and galleries that are neither plogs or PAWs but simply photos collected and shown on their makers’ various sites — some for commercial purposes, some simply to share snaps of Whiskers and Mittens with the granchildren. And most to inhabit the spaces between. You know the ones: “I’m not a professional photographer, but here are my shots of the Taj Mahal and a sunset over the Willamette Bridge…”

While a few attempts have been made to catalog all of these sites, let’s face it — it’s a fool’s errand, especially when there are so many, and so little information to go on about them. And the notion of any critical voice is entirely absent — thousands of sites, each going their own merry ways and so many of them aspiring to the most banal sorts of chocolate-box imagery.

For all these reasons and more, I’ve decided to start PhotoRant. PhotoRant will take names and taunt the guilty, with a liberal dose of praise for those who rise to deserve it. You have been warned.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Criminal

As long as we're on the subject of Merton, how about Strain Theory?

Sociologically, Strain Theory divvies-up the population along two primary axes. Merton theorized that most everyone has the same goals and desires, but unequal means to achieve them — and that these disparities lead to different strategies in lifestyle. The two axes are both related to individuality. One axis is the individual's acceptance of society's general suite of goals, the other axis is that person's access to the standard socially-prescribed means to achieve those goals. Division by these axes leads to five possible groupings:

2 min read


Santa Clara (C)2003 Kevin Bjorke A young photographer shows his work: pictures of gratings, crosswalks, curbs, textures, grids, faultless exercises in graphics that seem to repeat all of recent American photography. What can we say about it? Mention the quality of the prints? The precision of the framing? What can we do to not appear inattentive? Looking at the photographs twice, go through them again slowly while we feel the other’s presence near us, tense, pretending to be looking somewhere else? And then, why can’t we say that we have nothing to say, that this work elicits nothing in us but a dreary impression of quality? “You should photograph the people you love with the same precision as you photograph your gratings.” That’s what we should say.

– Hervé Guibert,
        Ghost Image, 1982

Gated Community

Golden Gate, May 2003 (C)2003 Kevin Bjorke Three rolls Delta 400, 11.5 mins @ 20C Xtol 1::1. Mixed at 24C, brought the temperature down by tossing some ice cubes in a baggie and floating it in the already-diluted Xtol.

Yesterday afternoon I spooled about 20 rolls of Delta from a 100’ bulkroll — as I was cranking along, I read the Ilford label for the box, which recommended Xtol 1::1 for Delta 400 at no speed slower than ISO 500… 13 mins @ 20C. Hmmm, wonder why they don’t like Xtol?

1 min read


Eeek, this journal got labelled “the thinking photographers’ weblog” by Outwardly Normal 2, an apellation that’s already meme’d its way to joe jenett’s dailywebthing.

Guess that means I’d better get on the stick and add those extra twenty or thirty new entries to the strobe information page, huh.

Or maybe update the search dada page, which is also fallling behind by several weeks. Looking at today’s logs (how I noticed the link above), I find this lovely gem: “instrucions how to make a homemade bomb.” I am so happy to know that search term gets you here. I’d better pencil-in some time for visits and interviews from the FBI later in the day.

As a much easier way to merit this title, I’ll just post a link to Bee. He has some new stuff that I recommend highly. See it now, before you end up having to pay $40 to see it a Barnes & Noble.

Speaking of Bee’s site, he was the one who got me to realize the only sensible way to design web pages with slideshows — click on the picture to get to the next picture. Web designers, please take note of this very simple notion. Forcing the reader to hunt around for a “next” link (often disguised cleverly as a doorknob or some tiny arrangement of » signs), a link that usually jumps around the screen from page to page, is an unnessesary RSI-inducing evil, and one that’s easily avoided.

Seven Days in Romania

Not by me, sadly.

Cosmin Bumbut and six photographer friends of the 7 days photoclub have been spending just such a week annually for almost five years, in the more-traditional and remote parts of their country. The 2003 version, set in the village of Harnicesti, is due soon. The variation in styles is particularly interesting — each photographer has a different take.

~1 min read


Ministry of Sound (C)2003 Kevin Bjorke Hoped to do some printing Thursday night for the second Contax G Print Exchange. I had planned to make silver prints for this but there’s been no time for the darkroom & a dozen prints are due in Scotland in two weeks. Back to the Epson.

I thought of using the photo at right — already posted in this journal once. A few days ago I posted it to Contax G and to my surprise it proved terrifically popular, rapidly attracting kudos and the highest site ratings I’d ever had there; before the jpeg was corrupted by a database glitch a couple of hours later. Only a handful of people ever saw more than a 150-pixel thumbnail. After two days of struggling and failing to be allowed to replace the file, I ended up deleting it.

An object lesson in impermanence, pride turned quickly to humiliation by a few errant lines of bad code.

1 min read

Signs of the Times

John Bolgiano, aka “coldmarble,” runs ColdMarble Musings,the only alternative-process (Cyanotype, Van Dyke process, etc) blog I’ve seen — so far. Looks like Courtney might give him some competition soon.

She checked-out Reed & Webb’s Alternative Photographic Processes from the library yesterday, prepping for an alt-process class, and noticed that it was completely untouched — never checked-out before, the book’s binding crackling as she turned each page.

We’ve noticed similar behavior on some other library photo books recently — she acquired a stack of beautiful Martin Parr books via loan from a library in San Diego, and their stamps showed they’d not been checked out for years. Tsk!

Link Chain

Las Vegas (C) 2003 Kevin Bjorke Thought I’d paste-together a list of URLs that have had important influences on my thinking over the past few months. YMMV.

Current backlog: one roll of TMax. Very little shooting this weekend, except for the garden shots that followed after the story below.

Family Values (Part 1, probably)

(Monterey, Calif, home of Ansel Adams)

The … industrialization of camera technology only carried out a promise inherent in photography from its very beginning: to democratize all experiences by translating them into images.
- Susan Sontag, On Photography

Such democratization’s most-obvious expression, its adherents might say, is the photoblog. There’s no obvious shortage of them — currently lists over 1100, with new ones being added four or five each day.

1 min read
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Santa Clara, CA

Print Run

Above: Third Near Bryant

(2024 update: no longer available)

These three aluminum prints are currently were available on-site from Oli Gallery in Guernville, along the Russian River in Sonoma County.

These are made as single editions – other images from the LiquiditySF project will be available later in 2024.

~1 min read

Summer Cruising

The past weekend I was very happy to have three new Liquidity SF prints hanging in Oli Gallery in Guerneville and the connected Equality Wines tasting room, after a related but wine-less run at the gallery’s Petaluma location.

This coming Sunday will also see prints at the Triton Museum down in Santa Clara.

Two weeks ago the American Grafitti 50th Anniversary-related “Auto-Mobility” show closed - it had one of my “Cruisers” prints at the PAC, as did the “Community” competition show at ImageFlow in Marin County, early in the year.

My favorite activity at openings, when possible: stand anonymously within earshot of your work, and listen to people explain it to one another – even if they hate it. Especially then!


The Washoe House up the road has been open since 1859, making it possibly America’s oldest continuously-operating tavern.

After the assassination of President Lincoln, angry militamen from Petaluma California rode out with the goals of invading the town of Santa Rosa and burning down the offices of an anti-Unionist newspaper. The opponents got as far as the Roblar crossroads, where “The Battle of Washoe House” ended in not in a fight but war-weary drinking.

Photographed on Juneteenth, 2023.

The Rope

Santa’s professionalism is underappreciated. He trains rigorously in the months leading up to December 24th, until every harrowing chimney dive can be executed with perfection. Here he takes few moments of respite before the elves haul him back up onto the training rig.

Also, #neurography

You Must Ask the Magic Box Exactly the Right Question

A rare production still from one of the earliest proto-Mayan sitcoms, possibly around 1700 BCE. Modern scholars disagree on interpretation of the title: the Huastecan word usually translated as “magic” may actually mean “cursed.”

Monument 9-0015

Monument to Victory over Extinct Land Animals, Zone 9-0015

Sadly, part of an ongoing series.

The Steam Engine

Synthetic engraving, 18” x 10” on 13”x19” paper.

From a developing series on the Enlightenment.

Octopus Skeletons

More CLIP-Guided VQGAN. I like that it can guess at how to draw things that might not exist in nature: in this case, a 19-century textbook illustration about drying octopus bones on the shore at Marseille.

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Still Dark

Friday the 13th. Usually for such occasions we go to a party at the Black Cat Bar, a Nob Hill remnant of the old San Francisco Press Club. For 2021, no party.

Two nights earlier, there was live jazz at the upper bar and as always a spectacular end-of-day foggy view from the dining room. But no other diners to share it.

Imagining Armageddons, 2015

From 2015, a merging of apocalyptic worldviews from Breughel and ISIS.

Since then: fire, drought, tyrants, protests, Panama papers, plagues of mice and microorganisms.

Made with homegrown neural net software, back in the days before Tensorflow or PyTorch.

Super Presto

I still have about 20 rolls of Neopan 1600 Super Presto – that is, two or three old handrolls and an unopened 30-meter spool, purchased in Japan back when such things existed.

Rodinal 1+50, 13 minutes. The chunkiness is still there, though for this roll I’ve learned to rate it at closer to ISO 200 than its long-gone 1600 box speed.

Looking West
Ferry Building

I don’t recall Fujifilm’s film base being as physically ornery as it is now. Curls and bows, resists flattening, sharp enough to cut the negative sleeves, flying and spinning out of the negative carrier. Comparing it to a roll of modern HP5, which lays flat and still as the grave.

The Outdoor Claustrophobic

Driving an hour east on Saturday morning. Our goal: a quick impromptu run to Nevada to accompany my son and partner on the first leg of their return drive to NYU, after a Covid-escape summer.

We hadn’t counted on the fresh air of still-dark Sonoma County giving way to seeing the Sierras obscured by heavy smoke from the North Complex Fire – a brown wall ahead of us.

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Revised Commute

March 12: I’ve been riding from my home office to… my home office, after completing my tasks each day. Both for enjoyment of the outdoor activity but also to give each workday some closure.

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Shelter Order, Day 17

Bicycling today, two weeks after the shelter-in-place order.

Trying not to see the usual things, and expecting such rides to be forbidden soon anyway. They are the things.

New Decade, Day 1

“The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words.” - Elliot Erwitt

Missing: 2018

More from the “missing Botzilla archives:” climbing out from under the glacier, 2018.


July 7: One of the last Silicon Valley rides before moving full-time to Sonoma County.

Understanding Winogrand, 2017

“Photography is about finding out what can happen in the frame. When you put four edges around some facts, you change those facts.” - Garry Winogrand

The Smoke

San Francisco’s “Orange Days” of 2018


“Many pictures turn out to be limp translations of the known world instead of vital objects which create an intrinsic world of their own. There is a vast difference between taking a picture and making a photograph.” - Robert Heinecken

April Art in Palo Alto

Hidden Layers Hidden Layers 3, 2016 (Update: this one sold)

I will have some pieces in the April exhibition at Palo Alto’s Pacific Art League. As usual the opening will be on the first Friday. As you might expect for anything containing my work, that’s April First.

Please feel free to come by during the opening reception that evening between 6 and 8PM, where you can critique in person over a glass of wine; or visit any time during the first three weeks of April. The gallery is at the corner of Forest and Ramona Streets, across from Palo Alto City Hall.

Job Site

"Color tends to corrupt photography and absolute color corrupts absolutely." -- Walker Evans


"Representation of the world like the world itself is the work of men, they describe it from their point of view which they confuse with absolute truth." - Simone de Beauvoir

Less Net

Key Largo, 2010

I hear that and perhaps even flickr may go away soon. The new joke around the valley is: “if the US really wanted to kill Wikileaks, they’d have Yahoo acquire it.”

In the mean time, you might like this.

Long Ride


Almost time to say goodbye to China, now that I’m back in Beijing. Also time to say goodbye to:

  • My Canon 50mm f/1.4, which spontaneously has decided it doesn’t want to focus on anything closer than 5 feet, even in manual (at least until I can send it off to Canon)
  • My Panasonic LX1, which was pick-pocketed in Xi’an (along with most of my pix of the Xi’an city walls and street musicians)
  • My HTC Excalibur smartphone, with all my notes and action items from the entire trip (pick-pocketed just tonight inside the Hyatt)
  • My faith in Cisco VPN (pretty-well worthless on this trip)

So that’s maybe $1000 in theft losses and a major dose of work frustration. Net balance for the trip then? Love it. Hassles and troubles like those just transform a vacation into an adventure, and the experiences I’ve had will last a lifetime, unlike any sort of electronic gizmo (and I have paper backups of my notes).

If I can just keep my laptop and 5D working for two more days….

(Follow-up: I remind myself, a bit, of my old second (third) cousin who raced motorcycles and cars and kept soldiering on through the many hospitalizations as just part of the passion….)

Which doesn’t begin to compare to what happened to Michael :(

Hot Pot


Chongqing: grand scale, tiny side streets, cultures in rapid transition, spicy goat tendon, “Happy Birthday” trucks, 33 million people and growing by over 1300 per day. What’s not to love?

Beijing 2007


Pretty busy, and generally some pretty poor net connections. Surprised I could manage to get this posted…. I’ll be back in mid-January.

Back to China

After my first visit to China I knew I would have to return. I love it.

And so I will be returning – touring from mid-December until mid-January, entering and exiting via Beijing & wandering the country by rail or whatever with planned stops in HK and Shenzen, Chongqing, Xian, and hopefully Jiangxi & Guangxi.

A challenge this time will be to maintain my “one bag that you can easily carry for long distances” rule, this time for a trip more than three times as long as the last one (but that length makes the rule all the more important!). Fortunately I can carry less than Louie Palu (I think I’ll skip the second hard drive and the Kevlar helmet), though a bit more than Tim Ferriss (mostly because I have a larger laptop and camera).

Free and Easy

Kyoto, (C) 2007 K Bjorke

They say you can’t create in a vacuum. It’s probably true. But as with most aphorisms, its opposite is as valid: you can’t create when pummeled with unending high-pressure noise.

With that in mind I’ve moved myself away from internet inputs in a formal way, announcing and enforcing strict limits on when I allow myself to worry about incoming emails, or blogs, or the hundreds of other information-rich but meaning-spare electronic minutae that had been dominating my time.

I still leave Outlook turned on all day. I still compose e-mails at any hour. But except during narrow windows of the morning and afternoon, I leave Outlook in the Task-list or Calendar views. As the Quebecers say, je me souviens.

Buddha Says


Sign at the temple of Nanzen-ji, Kyoto.

Long Wait

(C)2007 Kevin Bjorke

After more than 50 years, the first trains have finally rolled through this crossing between North and South Koreas.

Hi-Fi Lo-Fi

It’s common to tell digital photographers: “don’t trust the camera LCD as a preview.”

2 min read

May Days

(C)2006, 2007 K Bjorke

Only 2-1/2 weeks until 17 mai (or just four days until Norway Day in San Francisco, the blond alternative to a city awash in tequila for Cinco de Mayo).

Santa Clara Winter Light


In January and February of each year the light here in the Valley breaks in a consistent and spectacularly unique way. In the morning, on somewhat overcast days, the morning warm breaks-open a slot in the cloud cover to the East, above Mount Hamilton near San Jose. The light pours through the narrow opening at a shallow angle, aboveSan Jose to strike us here, in Santa Clara.

In the evenings, the cloud cover cracks against the Santa Cruz mountains to the west, above Saratoga and Cupertino, and the light, again, beams through the slot to strike right here.

Low, direct sunlight, shining on an otherwise overcast day. You couldn’t buy this kind of light, and it’s here every year.

Boku no Manchukuo

(C)2006 K Bjorke

On my way to the Narita airport I stopped in Otemachi to have lunch with Dirk Rösler and Peter Blakely. As I emerged from the Ginza-line Exit 3, I was greeted not by by two hungry photographers but by a handful of amplified Chinese protesters, who were just getting warmed up.

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Perfect Foods in Japan


Ah, the perfect food for the harried sarariman….

Only been here a few hours, took an hour or two walk too clear my head and move my legs after the two two-hour tran rides and the 10+ hour flight. Took a couple dozen bad pictures but maybe a couple good ones, had a curry, drank-in the neighborhood. Always the same, always new. It’s like running into an old girlfriend and finding out she’s even more appealing than you remembered. Dang.




As mentioned a few days ago this has been a 3D animation sort of week. I’m taking a break tonight but expect there to be more over the weekend. I’m working in multiple packages: XSI, Max, and Maya — animating and setting up shader networks in XSI, modeling and animating in Maya, consolidating and scene-building in Max. A bit like working out tunes on piano (or trumpet) so you can record them on guitar. The hardest part is dealing with it at a finger level: holding down Alt in XSI instead of hitting “s” and that sort of thing. Videogames have stabilized on some key combos, like the first-person-shooter combo of ‘asdw’ — but not these apps. Not yet.

In-n-Out, US 101

2006 K. Bjorke

Yesterday was the last of it: oil leak, timing belt, and today the clutch. All fixed. The car hasn’t run so smoothly nor moved so surely for a long while.

I was stuck at home, but the restriction gave me focus while I wrote code.

To celebrate my new clutch: a double-double, protein-style.

Big Negativity


Part of my weekend was spent scanning the 645 negatives shown here (and the rest of the 220 roll — these are frames 17-20) — somehow they’d fallen through the cracks in my workflow. I found the processed roll sitting in a box atop my monitor, where it had probably been resting since March. Oops.

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…at least that’s what the kids would have you believe. This one’s digital of course and made quickly based on looking at a scan of a real (modern) dag (by Mike Robinson), trying to suss-out some appropriate curves and such entirely by eye. Not perfect, but learn by doing.


17.mai (C)2006 K Bjorke

I realized as I was heading into Oslo that my meeting might be bumped by a local holiday — my dad would probably scold me for being a bad Norwegian, the 17th of May is the holiday, it’s christmas and thanksgiving and the fourth of july. The whole city was shut down, busses not running, taxis allowed to charge exorbitant fees legally (otherwise the drivers would stay home for the holiday), and as far as I could tell everyone in southern Norway below the age of 20 or above the age of 40 (and most of those in between too) crammed into a dozen blocks or so of central Oslo.

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Flying Light

Oct05h-10.jpg Another cycle of airplanes, heading on a circuit ‘round Scandinavia for most of the week. I’m letting Reb take the Canon for her own trip to New Jersey, and I’ll be carrying just the LX1 and the Bronica.

I’ve hardly touched the Bronica for the last couple of months — mostly just too busy! Hardly any processing or scanning has gone on since January, shame on me (even as I’ve been shooting film, buying developer and bulk rolls, etc).

Funny, I’ve never posted many impressions about the Bronica — George Masters has, but he missed one crucial flaw: the meter is not TTL and it’s entirely possible to shoot a whole roll of 220 film without ever realizing that the lens cap is still on. Not that I would know anything about that…..

Still, a lovely camera. I just got back the color negs from February’s dogsledding extravaganzo, and hope to have a few up on the web some time soon.


Gratitude Phil Perkis writes of photography:

To experience the meaning of what is. To stay with it for even a few seconds is no small task. The sound of voice without language, a musical line, a ceramic vessel, a non-objective painting. The presence of it, the weight of it, the miracle of its existence, of my existence. The mystery of the fact itself.

And Merlin found this comment from Thich Nhat Hanh:

When you drive around the city and come to a red light or a stop sign, you can just sit back and make use of these twenty or thirty seconds to relax — to breathe in, breathe out, and enjoy arriving in the present moment. There are many things like that we can do. Years ago I was in Montreal on the way to a retreat, and I noticed that the license plates said Je me souviens — "I remember." I did not know what they wanted to remember, but to me it means that I remember to breathe and to smile.

It often seems to me that photography is a daily form of gratitude.

Thank you.

More New

(iNew Year’s Slideshow)

Do you know why digital wins over film when shooting color? Because there are no decent C-41 labs within a thirty-minute drive of here. Which means at best I have to drive 30 minutes to Keeble’s, 30 minutes back, then repeat the process to pick up the negs hours later. Or at worst bring it to anywhere local and then spend a good deal more than those two wasted hours trying to spot-out all the crap and scratches they leave on my negatives (or even crease marks, as I recently experienced when a roll marked “process only” was dutifully folded-up into a wad and stamped flat in an envelope by one local lab guy).

These last few frames from Saturday night were completely mis-treated by a guy who was standing there listening while I discussed with his manager how I wanted the negs handled. In fact I asked him some extra questions about handling rollfilm negatives. When I returned and found the negs mis-cut and with bits of dirt scratching against them inside the “clean” enveleope? He shrugged and walked off…


$4.79 please.

Margo Davis Workshop

John Erhart

This past weekend was the Margo Davis “Photographing People” workshop, offered through UC Santa Cruz and given nearby in Palo Alto. This was actually the first sort of photo class I’ve taken since my brief distribution semester back at CalArts…

Margo is a well-known B&W portraitist and creator of the recent book and gallery show Under One Sky. The course brought in students of varying interests, levels of experience, and backgrounds; and she was great at being inclusive and attentive to all.

Margo is small and very kinetic — watching her work with another student as a subject, and then in her suggestions to my own shooting, I came to appreciate how that same (inate?) kinesthetic and spatial sense could be (and was) reflected in her way of posing subjects, moving the camera, etc.

I was happy with the experience because I learned a lot of things that I wasn’t really expecting to learn from really everyone there, including the formal characteristics of what Margo describes as “edge of the forest” lighting, which is what I used for the portrait at right, of activist and co-student John Erhart.

I’ll try to post some other photos from the workshop to flickr in coming days, under the shared tag margo_davis.

No Excuse


I keep telling myself that my perpetual smirk came from a diving accident about five years ago. Today I found this old cardkey for the DP Cray lab. Another theory shot to hell!

“Senior Technical Director” w00t!

Carrying Your Own Box

Carrying Your Own Box

Three rolls of Neopan 400 120, three rolls of Acros 120, two rolls of HP5+ 120, two rolls of Ektachrome E100S 120, the B&W in Xtol 1+1, Rodinal 1+50, and in one case, Rodinal 1+100…

You do what you set out to do. Even if you fail, it’s normal to frame the failure in terms of the original goal. Goals can be useful and powerful motivators, but they can also restrict. A common tragedy, told many times, is of a protagonist who pursues a goal only to find, as he approaches it, that it wasn’t what he thought — everything looked perfect, from far away.

2 min read


MJ BDay (C) 2005

Three 35mm rolls of Neopan 1600, three rolls of HP5+, all in Xtol 1+1.

As the saying goes, you’re never quite so fully aware as in the first second after the hammer comes down on your thumb.

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(C)2005 K Bjorke

Two rolls HP5, one roll Acros.

This week’s reschedule of Photography Made Difficult was smaller — just David Lee, Rebecca, and myself, alongside the larger regular group of folks from South Bay Bloggers (including Courtney and, later in the evening, myself). A couple of members have said Wednesdays are bad so I’ve shifted the schedule to Fridays starting in April.

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One roll TX400-120, Rodinal 1::50 13 mins.

On Friday afternoon I received my newest toy, a Rolleinar 3, a big $6 ebay purchase and much cleaner than my Rolleinar 2. How could I resist? So I sat Courtney down in the late Saturday light, scattered by tree branches and the wavy clear plastic above the back door deck.

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(C)2005 K. Bjorke

Larger formats supposedly make you more patient but so far it’s not working.

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Too Hyper

(C)2005 K Bjorke

“Too hyper to be useful.” That’s me!

Non-sequitur of the day…

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The Fine Print

(C) 2005

It’s always in the details. This weekend finds me printing and reprinting comparison pix, looking at differences between methods: between digital and medium format film cameras, and between different ways to print their results.

Since the beginning of the year I’ve found myself increasingly dissatisfied with prints smaller than 8×10”, printing 11×14 and preferably larger. The Epson will deliver a predictable solid 12x18 from 35mm format digi, or 12x12 from a MF negative. And even that seems small a lot of the time…

3 min read

Winter Harvest

Winter Harvest

Somewhat as a by-product of my filing system and just due to the nature of the season, I spend a good deal of January picking through all the files on my various computers, burning many CDs, collating pages of negative sleeves, and reviewing proof sheets by the dozen.

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Supply Chain

Shanghai, 2004 (C)2004 K Bjorke

It seems like Ilford is back from the edge of the dissolution abyss, at least for now. Despite all the anxiety over the “death of film,” it seems to me that it won’t be film that will dry up. It’ll be other parts of the expendables supply chain that will first disappear and make life difficult.

In my own experience, the most problematic supply item has been acquiring decent negative sleeves. And right this moment, I’m completely tapped out.

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Another Slippery Slope

Mpls, 2004

Six rolls of 35mm Tri-X, Xtol 1+1.

I have to admit that I’d been stalling on processing these rolls, dreading them just a little bit. I’ve grown spoiled by the ease and clarity of digital, and by the tonalities of larger negatives. But I went ahead and ran them and started to slide them into the scanner.

What had I been I thinking? The negs are exactly what I could have hoped for — well-toned, sharp, snappy, clean. Chalk my anxiety up to an infinite fickleness and an easily-suggestible nature.

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Soul of ‘78

Los Angeles, 1978 (C) 1978-2005 K. Bjorke

Thanks mom!

Over the past few days a number of boxes have arrived in the mail, the result of my mother cleaning her basement. In them, various treasures, like an original unopened Batman: The Dark Knight poster, a manual on BASIC for the IBM 360, and hundreds of photographs that I’d left behind when attending CalArts. I’ve only opened the first box, and hardly begun to even sort them, much less print or scan.

White Xmas

(C)2004 K Bjorke

This morning saw a sudden change for Minneapolis, from bitter-cold and brown to nearly-temperate and blanketed in snow. Who’s to argue with that?

Tone by the Ton

(C) 2004

In preparation for the holidays I’ve been printing. It started with a few small prints, then I selected some wintery shots for printing at 12”x18”, to be on the walls during the holidays and an upcoming holiday party. Then opened the cabinet to find some old prints, and.. at least five shopping trips for frames later, I’m still left with far more prints than frames, and even then more frames than wall space on which to hang them.

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Ad Libris, X-tol

Seoul, 2004. (C) 2004 K. Bjorke

Stopped by the city library to quickly look for a book (Wright Morris’s Time Pieces, for the sake of a single reference for an article on PhotoPermit), stepped into the “Friends of the Library” store and walked out with a spotlessly mint copy of the Lustrum/Ralph Gibson SX-70 Art, hard to find and currently listing used on Amazon at $75. Heh. My expense: one crumpled U.S. dollar.

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Tokyo Motion Blur

Shinjuku, 4 Sep 2004 (C) 2004 K. Bjorke

Four airports in the past five days — a busy trip. Currently Sunday morning (I think) in Tokyo.

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Self-Portrait (C) 2004 K.Bjorke

Three rolls TMax 100, Rodinal 1+50 8 mins; three rolls Tri-X @ ISO 250, Rodinal 1+25 11 mins…

Sooner or later I will figure out how to make a photo that looks like over-exposed and over-developed Tri-X in Rodinal. And then hopefully I’ll be able to shoot it with something as lightweight as the old Canon G-III (f/11 @ 1/500… you won’t find a better camera or lens, and certainly not one within an order of magnitude of the price. And even then, it’s grained-out Tri-X fer Pete’s sake — you HEGR-heads really think you’re going to tell the difference between 130lpmm and 135lpmm on Tri-X?). Until then I guess I’m stuck keeping the film cameras around, eh?

My trick in printing this on the computer has been to use Vuescan with auto-levels set to their far extremes, store a 16-bit file, and then do the final contrast-range adjustments in Photoshop before downgrading to 8-bit. I’ve just had to accept that I can’t get my head around Vuewscan’s whitepoint/blackpoint adjustments enough to get predictable quick results. I’d rather burn the disk space for 18MB-per-frame scans and then do the work with a tool I feel I can control.


San Francisco, 2004

I’ve been using strobe more and more. Outdoors in daylight especially.

Looking at Briank Finke’s website (thanks Jörg) reminds me that with enough strobe anything can look fantastical. The same saturated color can be seen from Martin Parr, for example.

Not just in color, either – strobe is clear in Diane Arbus, Bruce Gilden, and Jeff Mermelstein…. strobe is like no other light. You can make it look “natural,” sure. Should you?

A collision of “what I saw” and “what I made” is at the heart of its charm, no doubt.

A Kind of Blindness

Current listening: “Nightingale” by Yoshikazu Mera, whose voice anime fans would recognize from his melancholic rendition of the title theme from Miyazaki’s Mononoke Hime. The album is subtitled “Japanese Art Songs,” and is something of a rarity here: just voice and piano accompaniment in a Swedish recording of contemporary Japanese kunstlieder. It is at once close to the heart of conservative music and yet bold and expressive in its realization. For all the admiration I have for brilliant arrangements on a large and complex scale, whether it be a Kid Koala scratch track or Beethoven’s magnificent Ninth, there’s still nothing more expressive than the direct voice. Simple clarity. Eminem exagerrates (duh): “nobody listens to techno” but we know what he means.

I’ve been shuffling lots of digital pictures around lately, moving them from my space-strapped laptop to CDs as backups and also to one of the desktop machines. As long as I was rebuilding picture folders, last night I had Photoshop bulk-duplicate several of them in monochrome and ran the results as a slideshow for a while. The result surprised me.

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Thunder Mountain

(C)2004 K. Bjorke

Before this past trip I hadn’t been to Disney World since… well, I’m guessing 1975 or so. When I was a kid we went as a family at New Year’s, with K.C. and the Sunshine Band playing a show in Tomorrowland. The Magic Kingdom, as recall, was still unfinished, and the Big Feature of the place was Space Mountain — a ride you couldn’t get at Disneyland (even then, the traffic was backed up for over a mile before 9AM at the gate!).

The place has grown… a bit. Over 24,000 hotels rooms, and it’s not uncommon to have close to 120,000 visitors in a day — most of them travelling by foot. Even the cruise ship Disney Wonder carried over 2700 people, plus over 900 crew (the guests cleverly scheduled in groups so that you never get the impression that the ship is crowded, with almost no congestion save when boarding or debarking, or when a Disney character is in the atrium).

Rather than carry the Contax and the Canon, I alternated days. Magic Kindom Contax, MGM Studios Canon, etc. Still haven’t decided if one or the other was better overall, though the Contax was far lighter than the Canon plus batteries. I also felt more compelled to be sure I got the shot, rather than just blasting and chimping.

Fixer Fingers

(C) 2004 Three rolls of Tri-X, X-tol 1+1 for 9 minutes.

Amazingly, I still have a film backlog from November — the three rolls now hanging are from a trip to Speaker’s Corner and a following visit to Copenhagen. Glancing at the negs it seems clear to me that I still have quite a ways to go with the DSLR before I’m as comfortable using it as I’ve grown to be with the Contax.

I’ve decided my next system expansion will be to hybridize slightly — to take the advice of Sean Reid and, for about the price of the Canon 28mm ƒ/1.8, get the Contax 28mm ƒ/2.8 and an EOS adapter (Better sell the rest of that older Canon gear, huh).

There’s just comething about the Zeiss lenses, whether its the design or the coating I’m unsure, but it’s there — I could see it just glancing at the first roll of negs when I bought my Contax. They were visibly different from Canon negs, even before they were printed. Sharp? Snappy? Sure. But it’s more than the photodo measurements, even as high as those are. Even Canon’s own lens designers have said it: “Sometimes what the eye perceives is slightly different from what is expected, even if all the measurements meet the proper values. We’ve experienced the fact that the perceptions of an expert surpass the precision of measuring instruments.”

The Foreigner

(C)2003 Kevin Bjorke The foreigner only sees what he already knows.

  — Marc Riboud

I will be gone for a few days — while the technology would let me post entries while away, it seems like a waste of perfectly good travel time.

If you are in southern France toward the end of next week, swing on by Virtual Storytelling 2003.

Stinky Fingers, 2003

Harajuku (C)2003 K Bjorke Six rolls of Delta 400 @ ISO 800, Xtol 1+1 15:30. Three rolls of TMax 100, Xtol 1+1 9:30. One roll Fortepan 400, Rodinal 1+25 7:30. One roll Acros, Rodinal 1+25 7 minutes. Everything at 20°C, everything spot on. Rodinal and Acros — snappy! Funny that I couldn’t find a recommended time until I checked with…

After running a bit of Rodinal a few days ago, I’m all enamoured with it again, after a long hiatus. The Acros was particularly impressive for the short range and high contrast that the combination delivers, but the TriX had a look that’s also hard for any other combo to beat — even with digital hackery.

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Tokyo (C) 2003 K. Bjorke Three rolls TMax 100, Xtol 1+1, 9:30 @ 20°C.

This one was shot early on the 10th of September, as we struggled to get ourselves functional before heading to Narita for our long return from Tokyo. About a week later I processed the roll, and the very next night, I ran across a similar shot by Japanese Photoblogger Samourai. Given the time of the post he may have shot his at the very same time, over in Nagoya (I have one even more like his, but I like this one better).

I suppose I could write-up a little diatribe about how everything that can be shot has been shot, and yet how nothing is ever really the same as any other shot, both before and after the moments of exposure. Yeah. I think I’ll just leave it as a little shout-out across the Pacific, yo.

Leaks of Varying Types

(C)2003 K Bjorke Three rolls of Delta 400, 15:30 in Xtol 1+1 for ISO 800. One roll of new Tri-X TX400 in Rodinal 1+25, 7 mins. All @ 20C.

You’ve got dust leaks on the CCD, you’ve got wet leaks on the darkroom floor. My friend Joel was knocked flat on his back one morning when ammonia leaked through an aluminum pipe in our movie-film-processor, creating a dizzying gas leak.

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The Lesson

(C)2003 Kevin Bjorke When we were in Japan we switched hotels, from a western-styled business hotel to a Japanese-styled urban ryokan. After settling-in I thought to run out around the corner to the local Family Mart for a soda. For the first time in days I left my camera behind with Courtney – I’d only be gone for five minutes, right?

No sooner do I turn that corner outdoors, than a lone guy comes running down the street toward me — black suit, tie, and a horse’s head. He’s shouting and waving at people in an upper-story window across the street as he runs by. Me: no camera.

Today, I think to leave the Contax at home… I’ve got my little Canonet in the desk at work anyway, right? At lunchtime, I jot down to the cafeteria — at the door there’s a guy in a giant furry Shark suit (from the local hockey team). Me: no camera.

I feel an ominous trend developing.

Tonjoubi Omedetou

Takeshita-dori, 2003 (C) 2003 Kevin Bjorke Three rolls of Delta 400, 15:30 Xtol 1+1 for ISO 800. Two rolls of E-6 back from Calypso, one the new Velvia 100F (bought to try as an alternative to Ektachrome 100G). The slides look luscious but as in the past my scanner has a hard time getting detail from the shadows… though it’s in there!

The APUG turned one year old on the seventh of September — this past Sunday. To commemorate, members were to each shoot something that day and post to a shared community gallery, a little “Day in the Life” approach. While I haven’t processed or scanned everything I shot that day, I sent along the frame at right, from the first Sept 7th roll to be finished.

For the analog purist police, here’s the shot data: Shot at close range on TMax 100, Contax G2, 28mm, AE f/5.6 at around 1 in the afternoon Tokyo time.

The Grind

6 AM. (C)2003 Kevin Bjorke Three rolls of Delta 400, 15:30 in Xtol 1+1 — ISO 800 to bring-up some underexposed frames on one roll. The rest can deal with it.

My 90mm Sonnar seems to have developed “the grind.” It focuses smoothly when the Contax is held normally, but vibrates noisily when the camera is held vertically (or upside down) when focusing at near distances. Hard to tell if it just needs to distribute the lubricants or if there’s something more seriously awry. sigh just a week before leaving town. Then again I use the 90mm rarely.

The Canon is a different story — I still enjoy using that old FD 85mm, the oldest SLR lens I own. As much as I would like to consolidate entirely on rangefinders, the SLRs still have a few spots where they excel, albeit noisily. One of them is closeup, wide-open. The 50mm is also excellent for this sort of shooting.

In the morning, the world is a blur. I’ve worn glasses since the age of eight and to me, soft-focus wide-open closeup work is how morning looks. Until the glasses go on, the world within two feet is clear and the rest… a study in smooth bokeh.


Edgeware Road, London (C)2003 Kevin Bjorke Almost Monday and time for another Streetphoto Salon. This week I actually had a photo at the ready, shot just a day or two before the announced theme: Reflection.

I must admit to feeling a bit awkward, having approached the theme in what looks like a straightforward, literal manner. Still this one does contain a bit of the layering of images and images of images that I seem to like these days, not far from the “palindrome of indirectness” I made for John B’s Shell Game.

Honestly, the photo isn’t entirely made of reflections. It’s a multiple exposure of different reflections. No intrusive Photoshopping — it’s all there on the negative — but not as it appears at first glance.

And no, it’s not the photo on the right. Surprising myself, it’s yet another color shot. You’d think this ambiguity schtick would always lends itself to black and white….

Tip of the week: Yevgeny Mokhorev


Three rolls Delta 400, 11.5mins Xtol 1::1 @ 20C

Got my new bulkroll of TMax (and a new pack of PrintFile pages) and found that I still had a good 30 feet of it in the loader all along. Doi! Spooled-off six rolls to potentially use in San Francisco today.

Paul Graham says Hackers and Painters just want to be loved.

Outta here.

Dwindling Source of Excuses

Monterey (C) 2003 Kevin Bjorke So Courtney brought my last two C-41 rolls from the To-Do box to Long’s this afternoon and now I have a shot-but-unprocessed backlog of zero, not counting the couple of rolls that are currently loaded in cameras (including an Ektachrome 100VS 6x6 roll from January, sigh). If I want more pictures, I’d best go out and make some.

Current supplies: five rolls of TMax 100, 13 rolls of Delta 400, two rolls of Kodak Gold 100 neg and a test roll of the new Ektachrome 100 G. About a half-dozen 120 E100VS rolls, two long-cut (old bottom-loading Leica-style) TMax 100 rolls, and of course the digital… with about 200 exposures of ancient digibacklog from Helsinki needing to be spooled-off to CD (never to be seen again?).

1 min read

That Last 10%

Picking through Dave Beckerman’s Journals on his printing process. Yeah, a lot of steps, many things to go wrong.

The darkroom here is partly re-assembled. I put the Durst back together, but the head wouldn’t light. Not sure if it’s the bulb, the wiring, a fuse in the power supply, or what. I only got to use this enlarger a very few times at the old house — it’s nicer than I remembered (if it will work).

The water situation in the new space is poor. That’s still the biggest limitation, one I’ve previously been able to bypass by just running negs in the kitchen and scanning them at my desk.

Overheard a conversation last week, two illustrators discussing one illustrator’s desire to take a photo class. The other thinks it’s a waste: “not that photography isn’t an art and all, but I don’t see how it has any effect on being able to make pictures.”

Back to the Delta

Santa Clara, CA

Xtol 1::1, 11.5 mins @ 20C. About 18C, make that 12.5 mins. Three rolls @ ISO 400.

After a four-month fling with Neopan 400 Presto (aka Neopan Professional), as of this batch I’m back to Ilford Delta. The Fuji is great stuff, easily pushed, crisp, contrasty. I picked some up in a corner store in Tokyo, having run out of Ilford. I was delighted with the results, but Delta has a smooth tone and latitude that I’ve grown used to. And I can actually find it bulkrolled in the store.

I ran the Fuji through a battery of tests — to ISO 200, pushed to 800, 1600, 3200. Xtol, Rodinal. For web purposes, running it at 800 was perfectly fine — for reasonably-sized printing. Good for an overcast winter. The last dozen rolls were all shot that way.

In going back to Delta I’ve realized that I hadn’t done any methodical examination on it since first shooting the old version, almost a decade ago. So it’s overdue! Hopefully over the next few days I can run a few rolls for the sake of the same tests — do some more-formal comparisons on Tmax 100 too (Acros is really great but hard to find around here and never in bulk). Rich has said he’d like to go out shooting in Marin sometime soon… hmm

Two rolls of unprocessed Neopan still sitting in the “need to process” box. One marked “Jan03K.” Tsk.

Back to Top ↑


M on L: As Simple as Possible

…and no simpler.

This post is a brief – and simple – description of how I set up my L-Mount Lumix S5ii camera for use with my existing M kit.

There’s very little practical information on the about using M-mount on L, even today, eight years after L-mount was introduced. There are advertisements, sure. But quick practical guides? So maybe this is helpful info for someone.

There are many tricks and video methods in the 800+ page S5ii user manual, but nearly all are unneeded here. Just a couple of steps:

3 min read

DIY Guides: Film, Sensor, and Print Aspect Ratios

I made a small tool to generate this little pair of charts comparing print and aspect ratios because I simply couldn’t find one laid out this way: all centered to show the letterboxing for one axis or the other. The charts I could find invariably radiated out from the corner, which is less useful (to me) when preparing prints from existing images where the aspects don’t match.

While these charts include only the frame shapes I typically use, it’s easy to regenerate any variant you like – other sizes such as 16:9 or A4 paper are already defined in the tool: this Colab notebook. Alter as you see fit, run the notebook, and a new chart will appear in roughly a second or two.

Flying: Film Scans w/Leica Monochrom

In the spirit of the previous post about impatient film photography, I tried using a “proper” digital camera and macro lens to scan these negatives, rather than a phone. Shot them right through the PrintFile page, still in their sleeves – on very close inspection you can see occasional tiny bubbles and reflections from the transparent sheet.

Even with that interference, the results lets the snappiness of the original lens shine through: the Zeiss 50mm Planar ZM, a close cousin to the Zeiss 45mm Planar that I’ve been so happy with on the Contax G.

The setup:

1 min read

Tri-X, My New Favorite Color Film

The shot above was made with a B&W-only camera. The lower version: a one-click reimagining via Adobe’s latest “Neural Colorize” filter.

It’s impressive how the software can add color to the file. Yet:

What does color really add to the photo?

1 min read

Precisely Imprecise: Leica Monochrom

For the previous post, I had to dig out some of my old files from a brief 2014 affair with the original Leica Monochrom.

This one was shot on the streets of Miami. The artist here told me he was from elsewhere but I can’t recall his name or those details any more. Or maybe I’m just being misguided by the tee-shirt.

Photos can trick memory as much as assist it.

Contrast Curves for Leica Monochrom

Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) has supported Leica Monchrom files for most of the past decade, yet the support seems to have been pretty modest – a linear mapping of the grayscale-source DNG values. Setting your preferences for “Camera Matching” has essentially no effect - the contrast adjustments in the Monochrom are ignored.

The pic above shows three versions. On the left, what ACR will deliver directly from the sensor: a full range but with flat tones. The center is what the EVF showed, and is the in-camera JPG. The right image is something getting closer to my final edit, based on a higher-contrast version like that at the center: closer to the EVF view than what was delivered by ACR.

I couldn’t find any publicly-available curves or presets for Monochrom DNGs to match the contrast ranges you might see in the EVF or JPGs. So: I made some. You can find the link below:

1 min read

Ongoing Directions: Yashica 124G

Neopan, YashicaMat 124G

This $150 Yashica has been with me since high school – hokey meter, questionable low speeds, flare and all. I’ve scrounged-up most of the original accesories, one at a time. I even have the user manual, which contains banal sample holiday snapshots, maybe made at Marine World. Only years later did I recognize the byline on those photos: Weegee. Wait, Weegee?

Truthfully, away from strong light directly into the lens and above ƒ/5.6, it’s hard to imagine wanting to replace this camera with anything fancier. Just be careful about the direction: don’t point it into the sun. Or a flash bulb, Weeg.

Apparently all of these more-recent celebrity portraits were also made with the same model Yashica.

Film Photography for the Impatient

I’m not going to pay $2000 for a drying cabinet but $23 for a 9x12” USB-powered LED light panel seems okay. I’ve gotten into the habit of connecting it to a spare phone battery: I can then use it as handheld light source to preview wet negatives fresh out of the wash. Snap a view from my phone and flip it in Snapseed and boom, super-trashy, super-quick, scans.

Normally these would be for my personal quick-check, or on occasion a text message. This morning’s a bit different if only due to my excitement: there’s a little carnival set up in the fairgrounds parking lot, the first open public gathering I’ve seen in our town since March of last year.

Can’t wait to post a couple of snaps:

1 min read

The Leak


Light leak. You can barely see it here, up the middle of the frame. Of all the rolls I’ve run through my old CL thus far, only this one roll shows a leak. Later or earlier: nada.

On this roll, the leak’s spaced between multiple frames: three apart, then six, then eight… and each time, from early frames to later, it moves to a different location, each becoming smaller for the higher-numbered photos.

My guess: a pinhole-sized burst of light got into the film takeup chamber, late in the roll. Maybe from the frame counter. The dot of light scattered down an angle into concentric, more-tightly-wound, parts of the film.

And maybe this was just for a brief moment – most frames, no problem. Later rolls: great. Either way, annoying. A cost for using this little 50-year-old box.

Fuji/Chrome 2020: Storage

It’s been almost three years since the previous post on using a Chromebook with Fujifilm cameras. How are things today, in 2020, after several newly-released cameras, OS editions, and improved Chromebooks? What about… iPad? Have other camera brands started to catch up?

In this other posts I’ll be looking at the current options and will describe how I’m integrating ChromeOS into my photography (and general) workflows.

This small series was triggered by the recent addition of the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook to my working kit. Like Samsung’s other premiere Chromebooks, it arrives with a touchscreen, pressure-sensitive integrated pen, micro-SD reader (now supporting the high-speed UHS protocol), and support for Android apps. On the Galaxy, you get a solid aluminum frame that’s lighter than the Macbook Air, a 4K OLED display, and at last Samsung has shipped a top-tier Intel-powered (i5-10210U) Chromebook with offical support for Linux.

Basically: the machine I’ve been waiting for since 2017. Did I mention it’s orange?

In this 2020 post, we’ll look at moving photos from camera or SD cards to Chromebook, or to somewhere nearby.

12 min read

SkinToner: Fast Easy Skin Tones in Photoshop

SkinToner Sample

I’ve seen a few video tutorials about getting good skintones in Photoshop. Some were illuminating, some even inspiring — but all were more involved than they needed to be: using numeric templates or eyedropper-tool tricks in concert with the info panel and a calculator, etc.

Time for an easy select-click-done tool: SkinToner

Monk Skintone Scale

May 2022 Update: The new publication of the Monk Skin Tone (MST) Scale is a big step forward in rendering great skin tones for everyone. The illustration of the scale above, along with HSL hue values, show that unlike the common Photoshop folklore, skin hues are _not_ always uniform in hue, not even linearly changing from light to dark.

Tones can become further complicated when multiple people appear in the frame. The SkinToner tool offered here is thus crude in two respects: it only offers a single adjustment per image, and it may apply that (potentially close but imperfect) adjustment to all faces in the frame. The good news is: SkinToner creates adjustable layers so if you chose to ask or alter them, it's still easy and fast.

4 min read

The New Fuji/Chrome: Fujifilm-X and Chromebook

Many Possibilities

(Updated November 2018)

Can a Chromebook be your photo-production machine?

While the first Chromebooks could basically just run a browser, current Chromebooks can also run Android apps, placing Chromebooks somewhere between a “regular” laptop and a phone or tablet in functionality — opening up the possibilities of using a light, inexpensive device in place of (or alongside) a larger, pricey one.

Of course a new under-$400 Chromebook is no match for a full-powered $2000+ laptop as a photo workflow machine… right?

13 min read

Meike 50mm ƒ/2 for Fujifilm X: Light, Inexpensive, Useful


Macau, November 2016

In November I purchased a Meike 50mm ƒ/2 lens for Fujifilm X mount, as a travel and X-Pro-OVF-friendly alternative to my 56mm ƒ/1.2, which is great but not really pocketable (and it obscures a lot of the X-Pro2 optical finder). I had hoped for an early release of the upcoming Fuji XF 50mm ƒ/2 WR, but it was delayed. And delayed. And even now, in 2017, it is still not officially released. Since the release date of Fuji's lens is reportedly tomorrow, and since I've never actually seen a review of the Meike lens, it seems about time to write a few notes:

4 min read

Seven C’s: Fuji Custom Settings

Adding the Fujifilm X-Pro2 to my kit has had me reviewing jpg-output custom image settings again. It's a regular topic of conversation on internet forums and reviews and blogs -- how to set up the custom functions in the X100T, on the X-T1, or, now, the X-Pro2?

There are something like a million possible permutations of settings for each of the custom collections: how to pick, and how to keep track of the selections (What did I have on C3 again?)? My choice has been to break things down along just two axes: picture type and color/monochrome. I then to set all cameras to use the same custom-settings layout so I only have to learn one setup:

2 min read

Home-Hacking the Fujifilm X-Pro-2


Why don’t more industrial designers design for fingertips? They seem to understand grip, but sensation… less.

Over the past couple of years I’ve taken to hacking the mechanical controls of my cameras (and a few other items) with Sugru, a quick-curing material that’s a bit like a cross between modeling clay and rubber. The idea is simple: provide tactile landmarks for my fingers, so that I can use the camera’s controls without needing to look at them – either because it’s raised to my eye, or even if the camera is out of sight in my bag or jacket pocket, preparing for the next shot.

1 min read



Who needs Photoshop when you have Theano?

X100s: Usage & Non-Review

Market and Powell

Fuji’s X100s is about to bow out as the X100T is introduced. Time for my non-review of the S, then! Just as well, since most online reviews (of most equipment – not just cameras) tend to get written by someone with general skill but a few hours or at most a couple of weeks actually using the thing. They might be "putting it through its paces" in a tinkertoy sort of way, but not chasing pictures with it in a sustained way, in all weather, different circumstances, lighting, time, and weight constraints. There are a few exceptions, of which I’d probably single out Kevin Mullins’s The Owl (and his book, which taught me not to use the Fuji like a Canon or Panaleica) for usability tips, and Zack Arias’s excited gush over the original X100 after using it for a good while.

There are plenty of people who will tell you all the things they enjoy about this camera. This leaves me more room to kvetch! Don’t worry, it’s kvetching that comes from love…

8 min read

Lumix LX7 (with a little LX5)

As has been a habit, I'm coming to write up a usage report for a camera only by the time its replacement has been announced: the LX7 is about to make way for LX100 (or for the Leica marque, D-Lux Typ 109), which I'm sure will be a fine camera too. I'll stick to my 7 until circumstances warrant a switch -- which is how I felt about the LX5 for nearly a year after the LX7 first appeared. What finally changed my mind?

3 min read

Drive-Bys: Camera Phone

Alexandria, Birthplace of America

When I purchased a new phone, I copied the pictures that had been accumulating in my old phone* into my computer. I’ve really just this week gotten to looking at them at any length.

Many were purely utilitarian images-as-notes: where did I park the car, various serial numbers, dinner plates, labels on grocery items. A few were shot out the driver’s side window.

The new phone seems to be filling with pictures of the dog, which feels a bit strange considering how slowly phone cameras operate.

~1 min read

Sisters: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3


I've been shooting for some time now with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 (aka Leica D-Lux 4, more or less). I've come to think that it's overall the best small camera I've ever used.

As a companion to my previous LX1 and LX2 notes, here's a personalized LX3 overview.

5 min read

Sepia Blues

Sepia Image + 3 component channels

Almost two years ago I wrote an entry about in-camera sepia, wondering if in fact a sepia transformation could provide a photo with more tonalities than a tyical 8-bit black and white.

2 min read


I used to carry a set of pocket-sized and mid-sized gadgets. Then technology reduced them to one gadget. But now in their places are a bunch of new pocket sized gadgets that I keep on carrying. Without North Face and Columbia making trousers with ample extra pockets, where would I be?

1 min read

Rethinking Gorman

It's been a couple of years now since I wrote this entry on digital Black and White conversions. I'm still using a variation of the Caponigro conversion described there. What prompted me here was a combination of events, including reconciling the many scripts and actions I had on several different Photoshop-equipped computers, each of which had diverged from ts brethren; meeting Bob Carnie at Elevator Digital in Toronto, thanks to Dinesh; this APUG thread, which also included more info from Bob; and the latest edition of Digital Photo Pro magazine, which has run B&W articles as its cover story quite a lot over the last year or two, and this one was no exception. What surprised me was that DPP were freshly touting the old Gorman/Holbert method (aka the Gorman Method).

7 min read

Panasonic Lumix LX2

Same wall, different sensor

After returning from China I gave myself a few weeks to see if Panasonic would announce a new LX3 at February’s camera-business trade show. No dice, so I promptly ordered a new LX2 to replace the stolen LX1. Here are a few notes, comparing the two.

2 min read


(C)2007 Kevin Bjorke Both of my primary digital cameras now have the ability to save a full-sized JPEG image along with the corresponding RAW file. So I’ve taken to setting them both up the same way: with the JPEG stored as B&W, high contrast, and the color balance set to “AUTO” or “Daylight.”

This buys me a couple of things besides the obvious one: B&W photos that are B&W out of the box. It gives me the option of later tweaking the B&W conversion from the RAW files, but also — and I’ve found this to be genuinely useful — a strong, contrasty image on the preview screen that reads well in bright or dark conditions — even if I’m shooting in color.

The punchy B&W preview is useful as a strong litmus test about the immediate readability of an image. Not that all pictures need a crisp graphic style, but when they do, the B&W preview shows it.

When I worked a lot on TV commercials we would keep a bad B&W TV set around for previewing. There was a $3000 13-inch color studio monitor next to it. The B&W set was placed there by our postproduction color timing expert, who always wanted to preview everything on it to be sure the results of his work were truly readable.

4 min read

Sharp Distinctions


I’m something of a believer in half-baked photo tests. If test results aren’t obvious except in highly-exacting circumstances, for equipment that’s unlikely to be used in exacting circumstances, then: who needs them?

If results can be shown in ad hoc, half-baked test situations, then they’re more worth examining. So here’s a quick little comparison. I’m not looking at bokeh, or chromatic aberrations, or anything else. Just focus near the center.

2 min read

B&W Conversions


While my iTunes subscribes to it, I have to say that I’m not a huge fan of NAPP’s “Photoshop TV” video podcast. I subscribe in the hope that some of the tips on the show will be useful. At the same time I dread having to wade through the hosts’ gossipy and self-congratulatory prattle. It’s better to watch on iTunes than the iPod, mostly because it’s easier to fast-forward and skip those sections on the PC.

Another gripe: often the latest episode sometimes takes an hour to download on a broadband connection. Ugh.

This week, though, my pains were rewarded by a segment shot at the recent Photoshop World conference, featuring John Paul Caponigro and his recommendations and method for converting color images to black and white. His method was different from what I have been using and I like it a lot. If you’re used to working in Photoshop adjustment layers, the pic above tells almost the whole story… with more details below.

4 min read

ChartThrob: A Tool for Printing Digital Negatives

The ChartThrob Chart

Updated May 2022

In 2006, at a Pacific At League meeting, I met platinum printer Thomas Howard, and saw how he was using charts to hand-profile his process to make large-format digital negatives for any alternative-process contact prints.

I figured this expensive (sometimes >$20/print in materials) and labor-intensive process could be automated, so: I automated it.The result is a tool called ChartThrob, which runs right inside Adobe Photoshop. It’s available for public, free-for-everyone abuse.

12 min read

Are Sepia Images Better?


As I may have mentioned before, one feature of the LX1 that I like is the ability to simultaneously store both a RAW file and a full-sized JPEG image, complete with whatever imaging mode is currently active: particularly grayscale and/or sepia toning.

1 min read



More on the LX1:

I'm finding that the UnRAW files — that is, the JPGs stored with the RAW files — are often what I end up using instead of the RAW image. The RAW gets pumped through ACR, which wants to interpret and optimise (or encourage me to do so). The JPG is more often than not what I was shooting in the first place. Funny, but I'm starting to see the RAW as mainly a backup in case I screwed up (or the contrast range was way out of line).

I've come across a few more scattered LX1 links.

Hacking the Lumix LX1


After some time using it daily, I can recognize my own way of working with the LX1, so it seems time to share some rambling notes. Operationally, electrically, and optically the camera is identical to the Leica D-Lux2 — these notes apply equally well to both cameras.

Let me start why saying why I bought the LX1. I knew that it would be slower to use than a DSLR, but I wanted a high-quality compact. A friend at work was raving about his DLux2, and I checked out the Panasonic alternative but wasn’t feeling a need to buy anything at the time. A couple of weeks later, I saw a very cool camera at Fry’s and realized that this was the same camera I’d been web-browsing. Besides the pleasant feel of the camera in my hand, it had an actually-wide wide-angle (28mm equivalent) and native 16::9 aspect ratio.

9 min read

Lumix LX1


This past week I received a Panasonic LX1, my first non-Canon digital (other than a phone camera). Tiny, 8MP, Leica lens (essentially, it’s identical to the Leica D-Lux2) — and 16::9 aspect ratio, which was the Big Deal for me. So far: though the pace is definitely slower (and the ISO’s lower) than using a DSLR, as a pocketable high-quality camera: fantastico. Loving it.

Aww Gee’s

Aww Gee's

One glance at Craig’s List and 20 minutes later I was in possesion of another G, from a fellow just a few blocks away and dirt-cheap. So now I’ve got a Canon G5 to replace the long-suffering, taped-together, and now deceased G1, and as a quiet digital companion to my Contax G2.

~1 min read

Cantax Part 2

Cantax Part 2

A few months ago I wrapped up my Digital Rebel/300D “Cantax” in black gaffer tape. At first it was just a few pieces of tape on the large curved surfaces, then more, then pretty much everywhere that I could fit it that wouldn’t cause operational trouble. Why so much tape? Is it useful, or just some dopey affectation (declared another shooter: “it’s so, like, ghetto”)?

1 min read

Fastest Thumb in the West: The Story of the Contax Kid

Contax G2 the RIGHT way


After having to answer this over and over again, and by request, I’m making a permanent entry here on the subject of fast accurate focusing with the Contax G2. The next time a purist Leica collector starts up about “slow AF” (this from a guy with no AF), I’ll at least be able to lean back and type this URL to them with a smooth, authoritative air.

So here goes:

8 min read

Rambling Under the Radar

Contax G2, 45mm Planar, Kodak 400UC, Vuescan, Minolta Scan Dual II, XnView, Photoshop 7, Honcad P3, Windows XP (C) 2005 K Bjorke

Over on Coincidences, Robert has occasionally sung the praises of ContaxG.Com. It’s one of a few sites centered around equipment that actually seems to function well not as a site of LUG-like arguments over esoteric attachments and SKU numbers, but as a site about pictures, which just happen to have been made with a particular kind of camera.

3 min read


Tokyo, (C) 2004 K. Bjorke

So it’s gone, bubbled-wrapped and brown papered, stamped and mailed on its way back to Canon. As ever with mechanical widgets, it’s the cheapest parts that break — 2-cent battery clips and a 5-cent button cap. Just the same it’s under warranty, and off it goes. No DSLR. So at least for a while it’s no CF cards, no chargers, no PCMCIA slots, no USB or burning CDs or connector cables — at least not when it comes to making pictures. I put them all away in a big bag at the back of the cabinet.

The Contax 35mm as ever is solid and quick and surprisingly light after carrying around the 300D for a while (probably 1/3 the weight of the Canon w/lens). What have I been doing with this bulky digicam? Heck, I can carry the G and all three lenses, ten rolls of film, toss-in the RTS for good measure and the bag still feels shockingly light. What was I thinking, dragging around that digital brick?

2 min read

The Monster

…has arrived, the big “popeye” Sigma 12-24mm zoom. It’s a full-frame 35mm lens, though on my digi its range is 19-38mm. Ran a bunch of shots through it right away, anxious about reports that some copies were soft in the corners. Not this one! It performed well for every aperture, with a minimum of barrel distortion too.

At last, a proper wide angle view for the DSLR. I am so digging it. But the size — yeow!

1 min read

Out with the Old, in with the… Old

So I’ve almost finished selling my Canon SLR gear, to pay for my… Canon SLR gear. That is, the old-school manual-focus SLR gear to pay for… well, old-school manual-focus SLR gear, in the guise of old-style AE/MM Zeiss Contax lenses mounted on a digital Canon EOS. Monday I was lucky enough to snag a new 28 ƒ/2.8 for less than the price of a nice used one, by following up on someone else’s Ebay transaction gone wrong. Hurrah.

2 min read

The Cantax

The Cantax Today’s (linkless) photo is for Eddie, who tragically turned down a 300D because he didn’t like the color and it didn’t look “Reuters” enough.

C’mon man, your Contax G2 is silver too (and the Leica as well? Tsk!) You know darned well that the camera body is just a little dark box at the back of the lens, with an extra little hole for peeping through.

It’s also for Michael Johnson, who has rollover pains with regards to cameras that aren’t made of metal. (You should subscribe to his newsletter anyway — here’s hoping he can manage to keep printing it!)

Now to doctor-up a logo…

The Cantax

(Sorry for the obvious pixel noise in this quick snap — shot with my old Canon G1…. which has been recently borrowed often by my daughter. A mere 8MB card? Not a problem when you’re enthusiastic as she is….)

Hacking the EOS

Santa Clara, 2004 - low-light, manual guesstimation focus in a crowd As I mentioned before, I like the feel of an 85mm ƒ/1.8 on my 35mm SLRs. On the Canon D300, the 50mm ƒ/1.8, with the 1.6× multiplier in effect, is almost the same lens — an equivalent to an 80mm for the 35mm camera.

Sale! Sale! Sale! An awkward feature of that particular Canon EOS lens is its complete lack of distance scales. The 50mm ƒ/1.4 has them, but at a much, much higher cost. So I just wrote some on the side of my lens.

First I marked one of the knurled edges on the focus ring with an office white-out marker (model paint might have been better, but I didn’t feel like digging that stuff out of the garage). Then I cut a scrap of cloth first-aid tape (which I also use for framing and matting) to the right length, with a notch for the MF/AF switch. Finally, I did some quick measurements in my kitchen, focused to the appropriate spots, and made marks on the tape with a ball-point pen for infinity, 10, 5, 2.5, and 1.5 feet. Close enough for wandering around shooting from the hip.

Total upgrade time: less than ten minutes. I’ll happily sell this lens for $200, now that it has the cool ƒ/1.4 feature. That’s cheap compared to Canon’s price!

One thing that’s missing is depth-of-field indicators. By my estimation, ƒ/22 markers would be quite close together — about three notches, or a little bit less on each side than the distance between the infinity and 10-foot marks.

(PS: This later entry gives more detail on DoF for digital cameras. I realized I was slightly wrong — the markers would need to be closer-together)


Cupertino, 2003 (C) 2003 Kevin Bjorke Old saw: When critics gather, they discuss art. When painters gather, they discuss turpentine.

Technical discussions are the inevitable evil of photography. Partly because they function easily as words — one can talk at length about pixels, Permawash, bromoil, MTFs, market share. Simple, quantifiable, explicit. It’s very difficult to talk about the balance of a photo, or why you prefer the print that’s a half-stop brighter, or the slight variation in poignance that differentiates two portraits in an otherwise largely-identical series. These are attributes of what Nabokov defined as “sensual thinking” — art.

That disclaimer made, here are some thoughts about exposure:

3 min read


Tri-X, Rodinal 1+25, (C) 2003 K Bjorke Three rolls Neopan Super Presto 1600, Xtol 1+1, 7:30. This photo from the same roll of Rodinal’d Tri-X as the previous shot; made perhaps 20 minutes after that portrait.

A few years ago most of the Japanese anime production business leapt into the digital age. Gone were the inks, gone were the cel painters. Had the quality and cost ratios finally reached the magic level where producers were ready to embrace the future?

1 min read


Santa Clara. 2003. 85mm, Tri-X, Rodinal. (C) 2003 K Bjorke Three rolls of TMax 100 and another roll of Tri-X, Rodinal 1+25. TMax from around 6 minutes, the Tri-X for seven. Out of Rodinal, and out of fast film. Out of negative sleeve pages. Will have to sit tight until the next B&H box appears.

I observed here a while back that when I first started using my Canons, I used to use my 85mm almost exclusively. In recent years, I’ve switched to the wide end and use the 90mm Zeiss very little, stressing the 28mm and 45mm. I’ve been trying to understand/deconstruct what in my own tastes had changed.

Today I shot the latest in a few rolls I’ve been making completely using the 85mm. The experience was magical.

With the rangefinder, the 90mm feels like a real tele, and it’s difficult to use at wide apertures or close (or both). The depth of field can be less than a centimeter, and without much preview.

With the SLR, the 85mm is made for close, tight work. It handles like the 45mm on the Contax. The comfort zone is a quarter-step back but the result still feels intimate without being pushy. Combined with the crispness of Tri-X in Rodinal, it’s a thing of beauty.

Numbers Game

Three rolls TMX, 9.5 mins Xtol 1+1 @ 20C. That leaves 42 rolls of black & white unprocessed, and a color lab backlog of an additional 18 rolls — I’m guessing almost 2000 frames shot over the past couple of weeks.

Big bursts like this seem to make a compelling argument for digital. As I type this I can look over C’s shoulder and see her downloading color frame after color frame from her Elph. Fast and (once the gear is paid for) free.

2 min read


85% Three rolls of TMax 100, Xtol 1+1, 9:30. Unprocessed backlog is down to a roll of Ektachrome (off to the lab) and a single 120-sized roll of Delta.

Whacked monitors are a curse. Worse yet is trying to match them. My Eizo’s and Sony are all set to the same gamma, the same white point, but the Sony consistently displays more detail in the shadow values. The Eizos are black or nearly so for the bottom 10%, and the Sony handles the range nicely.

1 min read

We Are All Dust… Some More Than Others

Tween, (C)2003 Kevin Bjorke Six rolls TMax 100, 9.5 mins Xtol 1+1 @ 20C.

I’ve decided to start filtering all the water, not just for chemicals but for final washing as well. Today I replaced the whole lot of chemistry, and drip-dripped multiple gallons of water through coffee filters held in my fingers. Hopefully this high-tech approach will help eliminate some of the last, nagging dust problems.

Spent the past four days on vacation in a group of nine, in L.A., usually too busy to take wandering photos. Still, I came back with eleven rolls and a few dozen digital shots (sad to say, the digitals were as ever a disappointment… even though I was quite enthused as I was making them). Just a couple of those rolls in today’s batches, but after a quick viewing I’m feeling positive about the negatives, still drying in the shower.

Disneyland and Universal Studios… if the TV has taken the place of the family shrine, then these sites are the religious pilgrimages of our day, the lands of the gods where we can pose with Mickey and SpiderMan, the untouchable and fictional made (at least momentarily) flesh.

Of course, when the real gods appeared at Disneyland for the premiere party of Pirates of the Caribbean, the faithful were shuttled to one side, allowed to cheer the gods’ entrances at a distance, then expelled quickly from the park. It is not for mortals to see Darryl Hannah riding Indiana Jones, save through the channelling mediator of a TV camera.

Eliminate the Negative

Two rolls Kodak 100 dropped at the lab. Start to cut one up for scanning when I realize that I’m in the shot… hey, this is Kodak 200! Courtney….! Ah, she’s got the right one.

I’ve had no luck finding good C-41 lab services here in the Santa Clara area. In Hawaii, the Kailua Long’s Drugs would run C-41 process-only for 99 cents. I knew the lady at the counter and talked to her a bit about her beloved shiny new Noritsu print machine. The negs I got from Long’s were as good as the ones I could get from the $7 pro lab downtown in Honolulu. I could even leave her my 6x7 negative-sleeve pages and she’d use them in place of the drugstore 4x sleeves they normally used.

1 min read


G1 Stillife (C)2003 Kevin Bjorke Three rolls TMax100, 9.5 mins @ 20C. They all look a wee bit thin, though the occasional dMax peeps through. Left in the fixer far too long (like by a factor of 3)? Hmmm.

I’ve realized that over the past two years, I have purchased, in order: a Canon G1, a Contax G2, and a Canon G-III. Ironically, each camera is older than the previous. I guess the next cameras in this pattern would be a 4x5 and a 6x7, if I can find any that start with the letter “G” (thank goodness for Fuji Medium-format cameras, heh). Or does my highschool-vintage 124G already count?

1 min read

The Best Picture Frame

…is one that helps make the picture.

For some time I’ve been scanning rolls (or downloading digicam sessions) and then, before doing any further editing or selections, playing the fresh photos as a random slideshow in GraphicConverter on the Mac. Not only can I watch them over and over at a large size, but the randomizing can reveal new connections and collisions on each cycle. I often leave it running for hours.

I’ve recently switched to a different slideshow program — Mac OS X itself. The “Pictures Folder” Screen Effects (screensaver) module not only cycles through folders of fresh-scanned pictures randomly, but it zooms, pans, and glides across them in a host of ways, revelaing even more possibilities as they lap-dissolve back and forth. The one fault: it won’t display empty areas, so the Apple screen aspect ratio, 4::3, is used. It doesn’t show 35mm images full-frame — only as cropped, panning slices.

Still, it’s a terrific picture frame. Tonight I’ve set it on a folder full of old contact sheets — hundreds of photos, old shots seen again for the first time. It is captivating, nostalgic, hallucinatory.

A Matter of Proportion

Printing to the edge of the paper from a 35mm full frame, you lose either paper or picture

How has Kodak managed to sell 8x10” paper, 5x7” paper, and 11x14” paper, for year upon year upon year, and none of them have the same aspect ratio? 8x10 at least matches the aspect ratio of a 4x5 camera, but none of them match the aspect ratio of 35mm, 6x7, 6x6, 6x9…. then digicams come along and almost all of them are the aspect ratio of a video camera, 4::3, and digital printers come along and expect everyone to switch from 8x10” to 8.5x11”, or 13x17”, with each printer having a slightly-different printable area within those fields. Only the humble 4x6” quickie print actually gets the aspect-ratio game under control.

It ticks me off.

Pretty much, you’re guaranteed not to be able to use some significant portion of the expensive paper you’ve purchased, or some significant portion of your (probably more-important) photograph is going to get cropped. Paper waste: borders to adjust, or chunks trimmed-off, or both.

2 min read

MF’ing Wine and Cheese

Okay, so Saturday night.

We were at a little end-of-an-era party for Gretchen Pirillo and (less-directly) Chris Pirillo, and run into Robert Scoble who is headed off to work for the Octopus that is called Microsoft. Convinced me more than ever that I really ought to have a good Tablet PC. With lots of, err, stuff. He does Tablet stuff right now, just around the corner from NVIDIA at NEC for a few more days. But fat chance getting a Real Deal! :)

I also fiddled around a bit (towards the end of things) with Chris’s Canon G3 in a much handier way than you can at Best Buy or Gasser’s. Yeah, the G3’s way faster than my G1, but I already knew that. Courtney’s Digital Ixus is faster than my G1. What I really liked was that the focus lock button was in a reasonable place, right under your thumb like it is on the Contax G2 or an EOS camera. It has a light, natural feel.

But then… aggggh! Canon’s designers turned off the MF lock if the LCD panel is closed. This is just like the G1 and it ticks me off so much! It means you can’t use the optical finder and focus lock together, unless you have the LCD spun-round and turned on. And if the LCD is turned on, then the shutter gets an additional lag for screen updating. Plus you get nose oil all over your LCD. Grrrr.

Please someone, tell me there’s a custom function to turn that behavior off…

The G3 is definitely better than the G1, and its movie mode, size, and weight still make it an attractive alternative to a heavier SLR digicam like the 10D. I might trade up to one yet. But Canon still knows how to get me riled-up.

Little Disasters

Suspected WMD site, Palo Alto. (C)2003 Kevin Bjorke Two rolls TMax 100, one roll Fuji Neopan 400, Xtol 1::1 9.5mins @ 20C

So the backlog is dropping — tonight’s trio leaves only a couple of C-41 rolls in the “pending” box, and both of those were shot by Rebecca — not me. I think.

I fished out three white-labelled DX-coded-for-ISO-100 rolls from the box, grabbed the changing bag and tall tank, threaded them up. Pulled out the snips of leader and…. they didn’t match. Two were the expected pinkish TMax 100 color, but one of the snipped leaders was gray. Huh? I turned on the PDA, checked the GoPix log. Roll “G100,” Apr03b, TMax 100, Stevens Creek landscape photos. Hmmm.

2 min read

TMax I hardly knew ye

(C)2003 Kevin Bjorke Okay, forget anything bad I ever said about TMax 100 (except maybe the drying part, and the mysterious pink stuff). These last rolls (coupla nights back) have made me a believer again. Crisp, broad latitude, good stuff. The last batch had a number of frames from something I’m calling the “infinity project” though it may be a while before any of it starts to see the light of day here or elsewhere. Looking at them gives me more ideas to improve it, and reassures me on the validity of some of the ideas.

No surprise, no Salon win for me. Maybe in a couple of weeks I can come up with something funny for the next topic, “Traces” selected by Michal Daniel.


San Francisco (C) 2003 Kevin Bjorke One roll Acros, two rolls Tmax 100, Xtol 1::1 9.5mins. I forgot about the mystery red stain from the TMax (anti-halation layer?). One Neopan400 rated 800, Xtol 1::1 11.5 mins.

Acros has a unique snap, described well by one early reviewer as “metallic.” I’ve never run any charts on it, but suspect it’s just that it blocks-up in the highlights, similar to slide film. Anyone know?

I can say this much — dries faster than Kodak, probably due to the plastic film base. This is ready to scan and sleeve after 4-5 hours, while the Tmax is still a wee bit sticky and still hanging.

More Delta

Golden Gate Park (C) 2003 Kevin Bjorke Feeling better about the Delta switchback — as contrasty as the Fuji maybe, but then again that just seems to be due to the Ilford’s better latitude. Scanning/printing to adjust makes all the difference.

Took me until tonight to even begin to look in detail at the first of the rolls from a couple of nights back. Previously I just grabbed a frame from the end of the roll and rushed it through. Been really slammed on schedule at work, and the process of reviewing scans has been slow. The slogging part, ironically, is the computer — takes time, even on a fast computer, to pick through photos in detail, and the little 200-px sized thumbnails are no replacement for a clean, hi-res viewing.

On the way back from errands Courtney & I stopped at Kamera Korner in SJ and bought some Dektol. Looks like the darkroom is poised to rise again, after a long hiatus…

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A repost: the 2003 photo above, "Explaining US Foreign Policy, London," is currently part of the 15th-Anniversary Members' Show show at the Petaluma Arts Center. It was used here on Botzilla previously, in the post reprinted below.

I'll be giving a brief talk about it and some related photos at the Arts Center on December 16th, 1PM.

From November, 2003

The very day I left London last week for parts more Nordic, George W. Bush was arriving. A good or bad thing, depending on your perspective. Personally, I’d have liked to witness the public fracas, but was glad to be away from it as well. The paranoia was evident everywhere — just taking a quick snapshot of the American flag decorations along the Mall a few blocks away from Buckingham Palace was enough to attract a pair of quick-stepping constables (who had been sitting in a nearby parked van, watching the street), wanting to know what I was up to.

2 min read

None of These Mean: "Bikes Out of My Way!"

The state publishes a PDF containing the 2012 California Dept of Transportation Bicycle-Related Roadway Standards. It contained, across several pages, all of the current standards for bicycle-related signage (and much more). I’ve collected the signs together here for easier web reference (fabric patterns, anyone?).

Note that the vague legacy “Share the Road” sign seems to be fading out, to be replaced by the much clearer “MAY USE FULL LANE.” About time!

A Fundamental Problem

At this point everyone in America and certainly most people in English-speaking countries are aware of last fall's election success of Proposition 8, by which a majority of California voters banned non-pairing non-heterosexual marriage in the state. At its core it opens the curtain not only on the single issue trumpeted on the TV networks (gay marriage), but several: with the toughest, most difficult being those relating to what constitutes a "right" and what status "rights" have against that other favorite human institution: God.

4 min read

Kinda Busy

See See Lo with Stearman, somewhere over Sonoma at a 60 degree angle, 2008

Okay, I suck. Not a single post since my return from China. Of course, I have tons of excuses, including the fact that I was back in the office for less than one hour before hustling off to the airport for yet another business trip; or that GDC came in the middle of this period; or that I was sick in bed for weeks; or that it’s beta time and much software needs writing; or that I keep catching myself putting my web energy into (giant sucking sound….) Facebook; or that a large slice of the remaining time has been happily spent on family and wonderfulness. All true.

Short, Attentive Spans

When we lived in Hawaii I enjoyed what seemed like a relatively short commute: only twenty minutes from Leeward to Windward sides of Oahu, traffic permitting. I could have the sunrise over the sea going in and up the Pali, and the sunset over the sea driving back away from the harbor.

In the morning I would usually time my drive to coincide with the local broadcast of the local news in Hawaiian, tacked-onto the end of All Things Considered and just before a program I had not heard since our move: Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. The presence of some single poem each morning was a regular reminder that life and spirit could contain more than just another predictable workday.

2 min read

Always Home

Always Home

It’s just economics of scale, we like to tell ourselves. On my last rushed morning in Boston I set off to seek out a few extra gifts for my return to the bay, something unique and memorable. Instead as I orbitted in increasing circles through downtown it was clear that I was less in Massachussetts and more in the United State of Generica, with every storefront filled with familiar brands and stocked with goods in no way different from those in Santana Row or The Great Mall. In the end I settled for some team shirts, sold every fifty feet throughout the mall under the Prudential tower and all supplied by… a centralized web site in Washington State.

Okay, the big guys succeed on costs and inevitably the little guys end up either losing on price or having to carve out a space based on tradition, design, or quality… right?

Then I got home and found this Metro story waiting un-read on my kitchen table: how Stanford Coffee Roasters, a small, popular, successful and long-established business in Stanford’s tony mall, was pushed out not, apparently, for any economic reasons, but because the mall owners prefered homogeneity.

“I was told that they preferred to rent to a Triple A tenant,” she recalls. “I said, What is a Triple A tenant? They told me it was a business that would have a national chain and national marketing.”

In other words, the mall managers prefered Starbucks over the successful Stanford (in Stanford) not for the rent values but simply because they felt that national chains were inherently superior to anything that might have a local flavor (literally or figuratively) — so superior that it was worth crowbarring-out a local landmark for the sake of enforcing dullness.

Note to self: never shop at Stanford Mall again.

When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other. — Eric Hoffer

Crunch Mope

This is one of those never-quite-finished entries that’s been long-lingering due to lack of time and attention — in this case it’s been months (there are some that are older… what can I say?) — the original save date was early 2005, and it’s lingered in “draft mode” ever since.

I was digging around on one afternoon and saw that after a lot of web traffic and game-industry furor back in November 2004, ea_spouse was still drawing hits from across the spectrum.

Now, I know a lot of folks at EA, I deal with them and know that a lot of them are happy, that they keep moving on from one project to the next, from group to group, production to production, and they’re doing fine. If the general picture were really as bleak as ea_spouse paints, then I doubt very much that anyone would work there for more than a few months. And that’s not the case — plenty of people at EA have been there, happy, for years.

Just the same, there can be problems in the industry. I regularly see people griping on message boards, usually about pay, hours, and credits. I read the recent article on IGDA purporting to be lessons for EA managers (and game managers in general), & I felt that the authors had gotten a few things wrong.

I don’t think this is really an EA issue at its core — maybe “ea_spouse” hails from there, but EA is just a big, easy target for journalists. Rather, it’s an industry-wide issue. There are many other companies, better and worse alike…

8 min read

You Are What They Ate

Measured in “blog years” perhaps I haven’t posted for a while, but it’s good to keep it in perspective. Consider the timeline above, for instance, which describes part of our relationship to foods.

Each horizontal pixel in the timeline represents 162.5 years, and I’ve only run it back as far as the advent of modern humans — people who are physically the same as you or I. The timeline could have gone further — for example, to the beginnings of fire and cooking, which vary in estimation from 500,000 to 1.7 million years ago — anywhere from five to fifteen times as long as the current chart (or 2125 years per pixel, which would place the advent of agriculture a mere four pixels from the end of the timeline).

3 min read

Three Lines

Three Lines Another ten-day delay. Like everything, I can find a reason.

In a recent post-new-year’s post on 43F, Merlin linked to Thoreau’s Walden, which to my (not great) surprise exists in its entirety on Wikisource. The section Merlin was quoting from is the introductory chapter, “Economy,” which in turn contains the famous line: Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.

Like most Americans, I was given this to read and ignore when I was 14 years old. Y had been mentioning Thoreau too, just a few days ago. So the coincidence prompted me to re-read it, and I was struck by both the sentences before and after the famous line above:

1 min read

Paxil & Pandas

I got the new National Geographic yesterday and the lead article was simply banner-titled: “Love.” The text was about the neurochemistry of attraction and attachment, with connecting photos by Jodi Cobb. I have to admit that I was a bit puzzled on (a) what made this a NatGeo story (yeah, yeah, an easy one: to sell magazines. But why NatGeo instead of Cosmo then? Where’s the market differentation?), and (b) why they sent Cobb out on this one, since the resultant photos of affection are, well, charming but hard to point as particularly specific to the topics in the article, and why would you need to fly around the world to get them? Anyway, to the Real Meat of this entry:

3 min read

Pole Dancing with Pinter

One of my favorite work-related blogs is Garr Reynolds’s Presentation Zen. In a recent entry, Garr writes about the recent Nobel Prize award lecture given by Harold Pinter.

The transcript of Pinter’s lecture uses the context of his plays as a bridge from literary theatre to the principles of political theatre and then into a biting and at times terrifying polemic against modern US and British foreign policies.

At one point he nominates himself as a speechwriter for President Bush, and while reading one can almost hear Bush’s voice in Pinter’s parody:

12 min read

TV versus Medicare

A bit ago (actually before the recent elections) I got a call in the evening that I mistakenly thought was from one of Isaac’s guitar buddies — so I ignored the caller ID and picked up. Oops. Instead, it was from a political survey group. They wanted to ask my opinions about digital TV, which was just geeky enough to keep me on the phone.

1 min read

Hacked-Up Life

(Empty Desk = Empty Mind)

I had meant to spend a couple of brief minutes this morning writing about how incredibly busy I have been in recent days, how fragmented it often seems as I leap between multiple tasks roles/mental frameworks/whatever hat-related-metaphors. Funny thing is that I was too busy to get to it. Well, not that funny.

The five computers (sharing four monitors) on my desk (plus the hidden sixth one, used to snap the pic) are only the start — the snap doesn’t show the other three computers on my workdesk at home (augmented by the traveling Dell as #4) or the Tivo or the kids or the actual physical 43 folders sitting next to the kitchen phone or the developer events or the time spent trying to prove to myself that I am actually a social person or the workouts or the latest stack of books that’s been growing and spreading in the space around my bed (still no time for Happiness BTW).

2 min read

Yosemite Villas, Shanghai

Shanghai (C)2004 K. Bjorke

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to an area of turbulence” announced the hostess, just a few seconds after the Air China 777 had lurched and shuddered, prompting gasps and exclamations from around the plane. Enroute from Shanghai to Beijing, sitting next to a 40-something woman in ocelot-patterned tights, her eyes closed as she was lost in the synthpop from her MP3 player, the hostess’s sentiment seemed perfectly apt.

1 min read

Pixels in Flight

(C)2004 KB

On the heels of Siggraph, we’re doing the Asia Leg of the 2004 NVIDIA Developer Tour starting next week in Seoul. We’ll then be moving on to Tokyo, Shanghai, and Beijing. A bit like Siggraph, I’ll be giving lectures about high-end shading and showing off ideas in FX Composer.

What’s pretty cool about getting this technology out to the world is that we can really get a sense of exponential growth — things literally seem to be changing at a progressively-faster rate. Only a few months ago it was hard to get anyone to think about using the best shading methods, now we’re not only getting lots of response but the requests and new products seem to be popping up in all sorts of unexpected directions.

I’m especially pleased at how many developers have been adopting to using GPU power for image processing — not just obvious users like film compositors and such, but games, sci-viz users, and even operating systems. It’s a great time to be a rapidly-moving pixel.

I’m also excited to visit at least a small slice of China — it was only a handful of years ago that the standard garb of the street was a Mao suit. Now it’s the “Wild, Wild, East” and it genuinely seems a lot farther from the US than Japan or Korea — even as the people there rocket themselves toward what they perceive as a western style of affluence but with their own sense of self and place. I’m really eager to see what is going on there and what the local developers are trying to accomplish with some rapidly-moving pixels of their own.

My good days…

11 June 2004 (C) 2004

This past Friday was a good example of the sort of day I enjoy most at NVIDIA — spending it both creating fun cool stuff with the latest hardware and more importantly getting a chance to talk to artists and programmers on lots of different cool projects, finding out what they’re doing, getting excited by their ideas, and hopefully playing a helpful role with ideas of my own. It’s one of those jobs where the most productive days are also the most exhilarating and thought provoking; Friday was just such a day.

It started in the morning as my Friday alarm clock reminded me of my to-do list for the week — with everything major completed and some extra besides. I’d had some simple ideas on Thursday night for Microsoft HLSL FX shaders, had roughed them out in a few minutes. On Friday morning I started thinking about applications for these ideas, and within a few minutes had started roughing-out some GeForce 6800 code prototypes in FX Composer. I had it well on the way to a fun demo by lunchtime.

2 min read


A few weeks back I alluded in passing to my general contempt for the “stand-up” — a modern practice of TV “news reporting” where instead of actually showing you something revealing about a news story, the camera instead simply rests on the “on-air talent” while they stand in front of someplace where actual news and possibly reporting once took place (or maybe just nearby). This month’s digitaljournalist has a story about one news shooter’s experience doing stand-ups here in San Francisco. One local channel (probably others), our NBC affiliate, prides itself on LIVE stand-ups — each evening’s 11 PM newscast is overloaded with reporters standing around in the cold night air, usually in front of a court building or other news-intensive locale that’s been closed for five or six hours already.

It’s hard to imagine the stand-up in any media other than television. Even the old movie newsreels didn’t have it. The appearance and nightly re-appearance of the reporter-as-demi-celebrity is purely a television invention and (as of 2004) it doesn’t work anywhere else. No one writes a newspaper headline in first person. We don’t open and close magazine stories with photos of the reporters and photographers. We don’t care what they wear.

3 min read

Continuous Growth

Happy Birthday! Another Spring (C) 2004 K. Bjorke I just realized, looking at my calendar, that sometime during the month of March, Botzilla has reached its tenth anniversary!

Sometime in March of 1994, after a decade of junkie-like email usage (ihnp4, baby!), I went onto the infant web with my own site via, listed on the “NCSA Cool Site of the Day” first as “National Pixel Products,” and then (as the site grew past software marketing and photo galleries to include tools and pages on my friend Jim’s program The Palace), as “Botzilla” and “The House o’ Props n Bots.”

I can still remember getting that first copy of NCSA Mosaic for my SGI workstation and being told that I could use it to access interesting data “from more than a hundred different sites!”

So belated cheers, o-tanjobi omedeto gozaimasu, and here’s hoping that by the time another ten years have passed we aren’t stuck with another Bush in the White House, heh.


Copenhagen On my last afternoon in Toulouse, I had lunch with Ken Perlin of NYU, Naoko Tosa of MIT, and Ryohei Nakatsu of Kwansei Gakuin University. On the way over to the restaurant, I was churning mentally — I found myself quite unable to think of even a single word in Japanese.

I’d been speaking French for the previous several days, for the first time in years — after the first anxious moments (afraid I’d forgotten everything), I discovered that le français had merely lain dormant, and I had little trouble re-grasping it. But to my dismay, it had completely displaced le japonaise. Apparently my brain can only handle one non-English language at a time, and Japanese had been swapped-out to make way for French. It was infuriating — try as I might, my mind was just blank, blank, blank. It was only when I heard someone else speaking Japanese that the logjam burst, and the nihongo started bubbling up as the furansugo drained away.

2 min read

Magic Number

(Back Home at Dawn)

I think that I shall never see
A number lovelier than three.

Some examples:

We Try Harder: Part Three

One of the — ahem — features of longer air travel is that you get to see a lot of movies on the inflight screens that you otherwise might have successfully avoided. One of these movies, in the past couple of weeks, was Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

6 min read

World Wide Dubya

(Explaining US Foreign Policy, London)

The very day I left London last week for parts more Nordic, George W. Bush was arriving. A good or bad thing, depending on your perspective. Personally, I’d have liked to witness the public fracas, but was glad to be away from it as well. The paranoia was evident everywhere — just taking a quick snapshot of the American flag decorations along the Mall a few blocks away from Buckingham Palace was enough to attract a pair of quick-stepping constables (who had been sitting in a nearby parked van, watching the street), wanting to know what I was up to.

No surprise that Dubya didn’t spend time for any further European touring — it seems unlikely that he’d be welcome anywhere (if you consider the public reception he got in the U.K. to be “welcoming”). At each of my European stops last week, I was told the same thing by the locals, repeatedly and unprompted: we like America, we like Americans, you are very nice, but that idiot George Bush is the biggest menace to the world we’ve ever seen….

2 min read

Blinded Eye

Missile Salesman, Seoul (C) 2003 K. Bjorke Tomorrow, “officially,” is the day of election-like activities in Chechnya.

I’m surprised — alarmed, really — at how many Americans are blissfully unaware of the situation in Chechnya. We think the war ended half a decade ago (if they were even aware of that), and are unaware of the second war. We remember the Moscow Theatre Massacre, but are completely unaware of the human rights situation in Chechnya. We are unaware of how many Russian soldiers die there every week, in greater numbers and with far less conviction than the U.S. victims in Iraq. We’re unaware of how the fighting has spread to Ingushetia, where now the number of Chechen refugees is as great as the original population of the republic, and how the separatists have fanned-out to neighboring states like Azerbaijan (recent new site of U.S. air bases), Iraq, and Afghanistan.

It’s easy to wring one’s hands over the evils of the world, or to earnestly hope that Somebody will do Something. But even this doesn’t seem to happen — these events go on daily as non-stories, not just under-reported but unreported.

People in Spain and Germany march in the street against the US coalition in Baghdad. It’s certainly their prerogative — it’s great fun to wear a grotesque Bush mask and complain about the oil business. But why do these people say nothing about Grozny? Who has decided that these people, Chechens and Russians alike, are worth so little?

No tips for cabbies

Just a couple of rolls yesterday — broke out the mini tripod and forced myself to go through a roll of TMX, indoors, on a rainy day. Mostly two-second exposures. I'm just about out of the faster films, but have hardly shot any of the sackfull of TMX that I'd anticipated using most-often.

1 min read

Blind Eye

"Please Sir come down from there! No picture! No picture!"

Well what the heck did these guys think would happen? Next time they should consider these things first: If you park a motorized howitzer in the middle of the sidewalk in a busy city during morning rush hour, leave it unattended with the hatches open, and place a short run of portable steps next to it, what do you think will happen? People will walk up those steps and get a look-see.

Their surprise and paranoia was inexplicable. We are going to park a 20-ton K1A1 main battle tank in the middle of your street. Please do not look very closely.

1 min read

The Steel Door

We walk to the end of the rough stone passageway, stepping over the vents and careful not to slip on the wet floor. At the end of the passageway is a steel door, a meter square, elevated from the floor. The welding marks give a hint that the metal is heavy, thick. Nearby a video camera on a pole watches the door, 24 hours a day, well-lit, and the monitor at the other end of the video cable is monitored by a live person continuously. Through a crack near the floor we can see that the other side of the wall is also lit — I'm assured that behind the steel door are complex explosive traps, and more unblinkingly diligent video cameras. Two coils of barbed wire prevent me from walking the last six or seven steps to touch the door. We're about 73 meters under the ground, and 100 meters from North Korea.

3 min read

Cut & Paste

Why this is major news is beyond me, but CNN is reporting via Reuters that the old TV series V is in for a remake. Ungh. One supposes they will say that Osama is a lizard now, or some similarly-pandering “deep” metaphor. Big deal?

What’s annoying to me is that a search of the web still doesn’t show just how much of the original pilot mini was straight-lifted from Bertolt Brecht’s little-seen play The Private Life of the Master Race (aka Fear and Misery of the Third Reich)

A few years back I was rabidly attacked by a certain Warner Bros’ producer for saying this in an online forum, an ongoing barrage of threatening emails until I finally had to contact Brecht’s estate. How dare I impugn the literary majesty of the author of V, who had already said that he was inspired by Sinclair Lewis, not some foreign-refugee upstart?

Still today, one is hard-pressed to find the names “Kenneth Johnson” and “Brecht” on the same web search, save on’s German site (where the audience is far more likely to have ever heard of Furcht und Elend im Dritten Reich). But not here in the good ol’ US of A, no sir. We only credit lifts from Amurrican writers ‘round here.


As usual I’m late to the party when it comes to seeing the Big Release films. No, I’m not about to talk about The Matrix but the latest XMen movie, X2, which we watched yesterday. Since the movie has been out for weeks I’ll be quite happy to issue a single

Spoiler Alert

and get on with things.

7 min read

2 l337 4 u

Courtney posted a link to the geek test. So I took it. Scored a 55-ish value, which I guess is “Extreme Geek.” Okay, I can live with that, but as I was going through the many, many checkboxes, I came to a realization or two about the general state of geekdom.

It’s hard to really know how the test is scored, but clearly it’s anime-deficient — no Belldandy in the “I Want…” list? What were they thinking? Seems hard to believe considering the source of such prime geek canon as Otaku No Video.

1 min read

More Linkages

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, I keep a little robot that tracks down links, picture theft, usage of pictures, pages, and also the search terms that people use on search engines like Google and Kartoo to find pages here on Botzilla.

In the past few days I’ve seen a sudden surge in one search term, that had never been present before: “Saddam Art.” This one, along with variations like “Saddam Art Collection” and “Hussein Artworks” and “painting of Saddam Hussein.” have shot to the #1 spot in the past week.

I actually don’t have much in the way of Saddam art, though I’ve wanted some since well before Iraq invaded Kuwait. In the late 80’s there was to have been a show of, as I recall, impressionist masterworks to be held at a new state-run museum in Baghdad — the first show of its kind anywhere in the arab region. Scholars were greatly excited and paintings were being loaned from numerous high-profile institutions. Then, near the last minute, the show was canned, and replaced with a show of paintings by sundry Iraqis of the Beloved Leader, Saddam Hussein. Almost immediately the show was declared to be permanent, and the museum to be dedicated to this one exhibition. I really wanted that exhibition catalog!

Guess Saddam couldn’t stand being one-upped by L. Ron Hubbard.

In the last few days, as the Washington Post reports, Iraqi artists are starting to deal with an Iraq free from government minders. No telling what has happened to Salaam Abid, one of Hussein’s favorite full-time portraitists.

Art Endures

Watching the “Raw Video” clips over at and as usual they rock. Being able to just watch the lightly-edited raw footage, without voiceover or some dopey camerahog doing a standup in front of a safe gate or highway berm, is a monumentally great and apparently not-well-known resource.

Today the feeds were full of Iraqi looting, of course. And a quick snip of the departing Iraqi delegate to the UN: “I love New York.” One long clip covered a tour one of Qusay Hussein’s so-far largely-unlooted palaces, along with the associated undestroyed yacht.

The palaces are fascinating in their bizarre mixtures of art, high, low, and indifferent. When the first footage of a Saddam residence showed up on Tuesday, CNN repeated showed a tall multiple-picture frame, the sides adorned with sprocket holes, to make some allusion to motion picture stills — the sort of thing you would find at any of the cheapest gift shops on Hollywood Boulevard. It was filled not with family snaps but official portraits.

Qusay’s yacht was decorated with Babylonian motifs, mixed with a large dose of Louis XIV gold trim. The house? Huge Boris Vallejo fantasy paintings, or perhaps simply commisioned knockoffs of Boris Vallejo paintings (the fortune you could get for those at Comicon, heh).

If the Iraqi government hasn’t already done so, someone should really create a catalog of Hussein art — not the art owned by him, per se, but the art of him. I wonder if any of it dared have a voice of its own, or if it all was safely kitsch, like that of the great dictatorships of the 30’s and 40’s so admired by Saddam.

Old Ho’s Last Laugh

Back in the 1960’s, there was an episode when Lyndon Johnson suggested offering North Vietnam a large dose of western-style incentive, as a deal to secure the peace. Cash and know-how to build hydroelectic power reservoirs in Vietnam, thinking it would transform the region into Tennessee-on-the-Mekong.

“Ol’ Ho just can’t turn that down!” Johnson is reported to have gleefully proclaimed, before the plan was rejected by the Vietnamese.

I have thought often of this story whenever I hear current politicians talking about Iraqis’ supposed willingness to turn themselves into happily westernized “free” consumers as a result of the coming (now current, and stalled) invasion.

2 min read
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Five or six years ago, I found a simple way to squash social-media addiction, one that I haven’t seen in any of the many 240+ page self-help books offering a path to escape from the modern internet Attention Machine.

My method didn’t require erasing, cancelling, or closing my various accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or the rest. The de-FOMO method is quite simple:

Make it a chore, and schedule it.

4 min read

Circular Reasons

It’s Pi Day. Or: π day. Or in cursive, ϖ day, but that’s also the lemniscate constant which is squircular (no, really), so we don’t want that. Not today.

First, the biggest thing that bothers me about Pi Day is that it’s annual, meaning: the earth has to travel (2π) ‘round to get to the next π day, and that is just twice too much wrong.

Like the word inflammable, the public demands that things be this way.

You might find it irrational, but there are similar possible holidays:

1 min read

Negative Half-Life

Rocks, Stars, Money

In 1907 Ernest Rutherford realized that certain materials in certain rocks were slowly decaying into other materials. Specifically, the newly-discovered radium degenerated into the stable isotope lead-206. He realized that this decay’s speed was exponential: faster at first and slower as it progressed, leaving less and less radium. In his equations he labeled the time it would take for half of a radium sample to decay into lead as its half-life.

From this realization he and others could compare the amounts of a specific isotope of decaying radium or (even better) uranium to the amount of stable lead in a mineral sample, and use this proportion to estimate the rock’s age. By the end of the 1920’s they’d managed to show reliably that the age of the earth was at least 3.4 billion years old.

The idea works great for rocks. Also, for software & development.

10 min read

The Browser and the Pope

The excitement of 2021 about “the metaverse” hinges on hardware, but probably not in the way you think.

The metaverse’s enabling device is not a perfect future headset or muscular neuron sensing or brain-machine interface. No memex is required. Instead, as an explanation I’d like to offer some very noisy graphs and a map of 1648 Europe to spell out what’s really going on.

Noise obscures the signal
The Signal: It's in There

There’s no such thing as psychohistory, but there are some useful models. Sometimes models overlap: the above graph overlaps the story of the 30 Years’ War…

9 min read

Differentiable Scratches

A challenge for “neural pictures” is the amount of memory required for rendering even a small photo-like picture. Applying the largest GPUs and TPUs available at Google still may only produce a 2K image.

An alternative approach is to use vector graphics, that is, images not defined as easily-managed rows of pixels but as abstract lines and curves and fillable regions, as in software like Adobe Illustrator, inkScape, or formats like path-based SVGs. A sharp-edged circle renders as a sharp-edged circle regardless of the final print or JPG size.

Which is what I’ve been doing, and what this post is about.

3 min read

Curves and Beer: The Hough Transform

Lines from Pixels

Part of a brief series that started here.

The world is full of patterns: art, physics, weather, music. In some camps, it’s been proposed that human ability to grasp at patterns is the core of conscious experience. We understand our surroundings, and one another, as a complex carpet of overlapping and expected patterns. The patterns might be hard to fathom at first, then… like the sudden twist in a mystery story, Aha! the experience of understanding. It all makes sense now.

With that possibility for epiphany in mind, here’s a paradoxical pattern to consider: when is a point a line, and when is line a point, especially when that line is.. a curve? And how, may I ask, does this relate to beer?

May we present: The Hough Transform…

9 min read

K Pix: Inks/Pixels

Reduced colors

Part of a brief series that started here.

How can we use k-Means to understand and/or manipulate photographic images? As a first example, here’s a classic from the poster-printing world: choosing a very small number of inks to represent a full-tone photo.

In our example, we grab random photos from the web – some work great as posters, some… not so much. But the code will do its best given the narrow constraints: all it knows is grayscale values, and we’ve reduce our calculation to just one dimension: the values along the grayscale histogram from each picture.

4 min read

Special K Critters

Live demo: Click on it to Pause/Resume

Part of a brief series that started here.

A follow-on to the last post on k-Means — this time, we use different criteria to determine “closeness” and to adjust where we move things around.

1 min read


Live demo: Click to Pause/Resume

This is the first post in a brief series on algorithms (simple methods) that I like and that I think more people should know about: either because of their simplicity, their novelty, their usefulness, or all three. Each comes with a live demo. To begin, let’s introduce: k-Means Clustering .

2 min read


(JMW Turner, Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps. Feel free to knock this out in ZBrush some time – yet without those figures at the base, it would be so much smearing)

As “ Senior Technical Artist” on Rift, my tasks often involved the creation of specialized tool software; helping non-technical people within the art dept (usually) solve specific problems; interfacing between the art, management, and engineering groups… But the part of my job that’s been most-visible to game players is shading.

3 min read

Rift’s End: The Beginning

Four years ago I departed a good job at NVIDIA to join a start-up games company called Trion World Network -- Trion’s plan was to revolutionize online gaming in the US, and their stated goals were ones that I also shared: to create a new, innovative, more-immersive and immediate online-gaming experience.

I really believe that graphics matter. That great art is more than just simulating realism, and that it goes right to your emotions without waiting for rational analysis. That it’s those emotions that bring you back again and again to entertaining experiences, more than DPS and EXP and leveling-up to get the next BFG. Those are just background. Beautiful, vivid imagery -- even a beautiful image of an ugly subject -- goes right to the heart of an audience’s mind.

3 min read

JavaScript: The Bad Parts

Web Geek Warning

Last night I headed over to the Paypal/EBay offices to see a presentation by Douglas Crockford, titled Programming Styles and Your Brain

I'll admit that I was a little bit skeptical about coming away with much useful information (a general rule: be cautious around tech companies that have had near-zero evolution since, oh, 1995), but in fact the debugging bits were pretty illuminating. Here are some sketchy notes:

3 min read



Speaking of painting and computers, I’ve been working off and on on “JokerPaint,” a little let’s-beat-images-senseless sort of toy made using Processing and with a lot of the heavy pixel lifting being done via chains of filters that I’ve made using the GLSL framework in Andrés Colubri’s GLGraphics library. I expect that at some point I’ll post it to OpenProcessing.

The image above was generated from the photo in this recent post. Unlike most paint-like image processes, JokerPaint’s imaging is continuous and real-time – never static. It’s constantly revising and touching-up and I just picked a frame at random for this still picture.



What a difference a day makes as I start assembling all the real components and trying to sort them out – even doubling the size of the chassis the whole thing seems… smaller. And it’s definitely slower. And I still haven’t added the USB router or the second power supply for the linux portion. Or the lasers.

~1 min read

Nub is in the Details

This is a little game development (or general graphics) tip that I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of nights, with additional applications for photographic and other images.

It’s really a simple observation, followed by some implementation tricks. The dumb observation is that people like noisy pictures. This has been well known, of course, in famous older papers like Rob Cook’s 1985/86 paper Stochastic Sampling in Computer Graphics (PDF). And for many years photographers have been keen on using grain as a means to elicit a sense of sharpness that may be actually greater than what’s really in the picture. This isn’t really news, but in playing with noise I’ve found a really simple trick or two that have pretty broad uses.

First, we’re going to make a texture.

5 min read

Stereo at GDC

Stereo at GDC

GDC 2005 was in San Francisco this year, and it was the first GDC where we were able to get a good showing, out on the Expo floor, of the NVIDIA Stereo Driver. This came with the advent of two great display partners: the dep3d rear-projection display that you can see clearly here, and (where the knot of people behind the Dep3D are looking) a Planar SD1300 stereo display.

1 min read

GPU Gems 2

GPU Gems 2

It’s here! Today I had a copy of GPU Gems 2 in my hand, newly back from the printer. Like new cars, freshly-printed books have that Special Sellable Smell all their own. Sweet. You’ll find a teensy print of this photo inside the front section, as I’ve reprised my section-editor role from the previous edition — though this time I’ve stepped back to let other people write more of the book content proper.

1 min read

Filing Systems: The Virus

So during the South Bay Bloggers’ Meetup on Tuesday Night, I discovered a new sport: Google Voyeur.

Simplicity itself: take a typical digital-camera photo ID, like ih, Title: 143_4354

Now, just poke that number into Google. Chances are, it’ll come up with other people’s digital photos. Their personal photos, dutifully crawled and catalogued by Google’s robot.


After a year of sitting on it, Warners has finally released Final Flight of the Osiris, the final production of the Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within studio, Square USA. Though it gets this release in theatres, latched-onto Dreamcatcher as a standalone short, it will also appear as part of the upcoming AniMatrix DVD.

What a difference a year makes! After Final Flight I shifted my attention from production on a massive scale to doing it all on your PC (and every scale in between). I've been hammering furiously at the latest release of the CgFX plugins for Maya and 3ds Max. I hate to sound like an ad but for me, this stuff is hecka great — lets you work-out ideas about light, shading, and texture really quickly and fluidly. I'm really keen to get one of the upcoming GeForce FX Go laptops — studio!

(Now if I can just find a way to wedge 150 artists into that same suitcase....)

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flickr, Blogs, and Cattle (Appended)

(C)2005 K Bjorke

While the flow of published entries on photorant has been slow for the past few weeks, there’s still been some writing going on — writing that has stayed in draft form until either the ideas shape up or I have the time to beat the shape into them. This is one of a couple of rambles that arc tangentially off group discussions from flickr.

You may consider it incoherent babble, that’s fine. Feel free to tell me so.

13 min read
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