Monday, October 31, 2011

I got a treat!

Valerie McCullough Senior Portraits

Yesterday I got the opportunity to shoot my first-ever Senior portraits for a friend of mine at work.

One day a few months ago, Valerie - one of the girls who works in the mail room part time - sidled into my cube and said she really like the photos I take at work and wondered if I take Senior portraits.  I thought she was joking, so I said something about taking photos of geriatrics and laughed off the request.  She insisted that she was serious and I told her that I'd never shot any before, but that I'd be willing to try.

So over the past couple of months, she periodically stopped by my desk to remind me about her portraits.  I still wasn't sure if she was completely serious, so I kept putting it off "until it wasn't so hot outside."

But then about a month ago, she stopped by with an earnestness that told me that she was, indeed, serious.  So we set a date for the shoot and talked about what she had in mind and what she was into.  I really wanted her portraits to reflect her personality.

Turns out Valerie is a transplant from Oklahoma, and a self-described "country girl."  So I envisioned something with sweeping rural landscapes and tall waving grass.  One problem: Texas is in the middle of the worst drought in its history, so all the grass is dead, and it has been all summer.  Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was secretly panicking.  The Texas landscape is just downright ugly right now.  And then a couple of cool fronts came the second week of October, and with it some much needed rain.  And it turns out that the rain we got was just enough to make some grass grow in some places.

Saturday, my family and I headed out for a picnic/location scouting drive to see where the best grassy landscapes were.  Luckily, we found some great locations all in the same place.

The day of the shoot, I called my buddy Matt and asked if he'd like to go along and help me out with the shoot.  This being my first portrait shoot, I was a bit nervous that I'd screw things up and end up with no good shots.  I would have made myself look silly and have wasted poor Valerie's time.  Matt is an exceptional photographer in his own right, so I knew that with him there that if need be - that is, if I completely sucked up the joint - that he could just beat me over the head with a telephoto lens and finish the shoot himself.

The shoot started rather oddly with me trying to awkwardly explain what I wanted Valerie to do - "okay, stand on the back of my truck in front of this sign."  But thankfully, it got better very quickly.  I knew we were racing daylight.  Golden hour was just beginning, so we had about one hour in which to shoot as much as possible.  I had several locations in mind, so it was going to be tough.  But Valerie was a great sport.

I literally could not have completed this shoot without Matt's help.  Being a photographer himself (and having worked together several times before), we were completely in synch. He popped out a bounce card at exactly the moment I was opening my mouth to ask for one.  He knew exactly when the bounce wasn't doing the job anymore and that it was time to switch to flash.  And best of all, he knew exactly where to stand and where to direct the light without me having to explain it.  And then, toward the end of the shoot - after the sun had gone down and we were winding down and getting "a couple more just for fun," he suggested we shoot through the reflector, which created a huge beautiful, soft light.  And we shot for another 20 minutes in three more poses.

My thanks to Matt for all of his help and to Valerie for giving me the opportunity and for trusting me based just on what she's seen me shoot at work.

These are a few of my favorite shots:

See the entire Flickr set here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Back to the Future Alternate Ending

Click on the post title to see this video if you're seeing this on Facebook.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Obama Asks Designers to Work for Free

From Rolling Stone:

The Obama campaign has more than $60 million cash on hand. In an economy this bad, you'd think a presidential campaign that flush would be happy to pay good money for a talented designer to create a campaign poster.  
But the folks at Obama campaign have taken a page from the Arianna Huffington book of economic exploitation and called on "artists across the country" to create a poster ... for free.
And here's the kicker. It's a jobs poster.
Yes, the Obama campaign is soliciting unpaid labor to create a poster "illustrating why we support President Obama's plan to create jobs now, and why we'll re-elect him to continue fighting for jobs for the next four years."
If you win? You get: A framed copy of your own poster, signed by the president ("approximate retail value $195").
And if you don't win? Well, that's too bad. You've not only lost the contest, you've also surrendered your intellectual property. "All submissions will become the property of Obama for America," according to the fine print.

You stay classy, Obama.

Surely, no self-respecting AIGA member would dare get anywhere near this, right?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What I Want For Christmas in 2013

From /Film:

If you thought Back to the Future Nikes were cool, you’re about to see some serious shit. At the International DeLorean Owners Event in Houston, Texas last week, DeLorean Motor Company announced a partnership with electric car company called Epic EV. The intent is to mass-produce a fully electric DeLorean called the DMCEV by 2013.

The companies haven’t released any specs yet, but if it’s anything like Epic EV’s Torq Roadster, it’ll get a 200 hp+, 44V/156V electric motor, powered by a 24-30 KWh lithium ion phosphate battery. Sure, it’s bit low on jiggawatts right now, but the companies have two years to get that sorted out. 

Horrible Photoshop job on the image above, but the thought of a BRAND NEW DeLorean is awesome!

Start saving, people.  I need you to buy me one of these.

So, You Think You're a Designer?

Prove it.

Play this kerning game that asks you to correctly kern 10 words and compares your solutions to those of professional designers.

I scored a 96 out of 100 my first time out.

The Graveyard

We love Halloween! The kids and I have been working for the past several days to build headstones for a graveyard Halloween decoration for our front yard.

We started with some old foamcore conference posters that were going to be thrown away at work. Kayci and I drew the outlines of grave markers on the posters and I cut them out.

Then Kayci spray painted the cut posters gray and both she and I decorated them with marker. Noble got in on the act, too. He spray painted a gold glitter skull that we found in the dollar spot at Target and drew on the backs of the grave markers.

Then - under the cover of dusk - Kayci and I carefully built our graveyard on the hill in our front yard.  I dug up the ground in front of each grave, as if it were freshly opened (either by grave robbers or by the dead rising from their tombs - take your pick!). And the final piece was the skull - I partially buried it in front of one of the graves, and it looks pretty amazing.

But then the cool front blew in. I awoke this morning and looked out the window to see all but one of the graves laying down. So I went out and picked up the gravestones and will put them back in place when the wind dies down a bit. But luckily I got out last night and snapped some photos of the Stone Street graveyard before the wind kicked up.

Monday, October 17, 2011

An Artist a Day: 10

Today is grunge band day.  I've been listening today to Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and Nirvana.  I completely forgot to wear Doc Martins and plaid today, but I have enjoyed listening to some music that I haven't heard in quite a while - particularly Pearl Jam's Ten and Vs. albums.

Ten came out in 1991, but got really popular in the spring and summer before my senior year in high school.  It still reminds me of senior car washes and hanging out with friends that summer.  Vs. came out during my freshman year in college and for some reason reminds me of listening to it at night in my dorm room.  "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" was my favorite song from that album, but I recall not really caring for the album much overall at the time.  I remember being really, really disappointed that it sounded so different than Ten.  And it also killed my buying of any future Pearl Jam albums.  Besides, by the time Vitology came out in the winter of 1994 grunge was all but dead anyway, at least as far as I was concerned.

By 1994 I was still into rock (after a fling with techno over the summer) , but a much more mellow kind such as Tom Petty's Wildflowers, Crowded House's Together Alone, Counting Crows' August and Everything After and Nirvana's Unplugged in New York.  I had those albums on heavy rotation that winter, along with quite a bit of Rush.  But following Kurt Kobain's suicide, Unplugged in New York captivated me.  I wasn't a Cobain fan or anything - I was just searching for meaning in the world that he had chosen to abandon.

Stone Temple Pilots burst on the scene in the summer of 1993 and I remember hearing my across-the-hall neighbor blasting "Plush" throughout the halls of the dorm the first week I arrived at college.  I went right out and bought Core and started blasting it myself.  The Purple album was kind of the soundtrack of the spring of '94 for me.  It still brings back memories of watching the Rockets win a world championship, a DeMolay trip to Kansas City where we won a championship of our own and a road trip to Colorado with my then girlfriend and her family.

These bands alone represent both very exciting "top of the world" times in high school (each band's first albums) and very confusing, dark times in college (each band's second album).  The music is still haunting after all these years, but I can finally enjoy listening without the angst and gut-wrenching baggage that they carried for me at the time.  This is some of the music that helped define who I would become as a man, and for that I love every gritty guitar-crunching note.

Playlist: 74 songs; 5.3 hours

The Lock

This is a true story.

On the campus of Sam Houston State University, outside the Lee Drain Building (between AB4 and the ROTC/former Dance building) there is a bike rack with a lock on it with no bike attached.

Now, that lock has been there for a long time - since I was a student at Sam Houston State.  While walking around the campus with Kristi and the kids this weekend, I saw this lock and couldn't believe that it's still there.  It's been almost 15 years, after all, and it hasn't moved.  A building has been torn down and another built right next to it.  And countless bikes have been locked up to the rack right next to it.  I wonder how many people have ever even noticed this lock sitting there, protecting nothing but the pole it's attached to?

I know it's been there since 1997 because it's my lock.

One day I borrowed Kristi's bike to ride to class on, and I locked up her bike in this very spot.  Or at least I thought I had.  It turns out that I had apparently only looped the lock around the bike rack pole and not around the bike frame.  And when I returned for the bike later that day, it was gone.

I'm not quite sure why I left the lock there, but I never went back for it.  And it stayed right there.  I always assumed that the university would just cut it off the pole, but I guess that never reached the top of the priority list.

And there it sits today.  I probably still have the key in storage somewhere, but I'm just going to leave it.  I'm curious how long it will remain there.  Will it still be there when my kids are students there?  Or grandkids?  I picked up the lock, and it's still very firmly locked.  Despite the rust, I'm almost positive that the key would unlock it.  but where's the fun - and the mystery - in that?  For all I know there's an urban legend on campus surrounding this fixture on the SHSU campus.  Or would anyone even notice if one day the lock was just gone?

It's just another part of my legacy, I guess.

I Got My Hands All Over Siri

From TechCrunch:

But wait. Voice technology has been around for a long time. Or, as one TechCrunch commentersuccinctly put it on Erick’s video demo post of Siri: “4 year old software, 8 year old technology.” ...
So if the stuff Siri is doing is old, and if others did do it FIRST, then why is everyone so damn excited about the feature?
There are a few reasons. But the simplest answer is one that has played out time and time again over the past several years: Apple did it right.

I got a chance to play with a Siri-enabled iPhone 4S over the weekend and, quite frankly, I was amazed. The speech recognition is simply amazing and the answers it gave were exactly what you wanted to know.  It's not perfect, of course.  There were times when Siri was stumped or had to invoke a Google search, but those were times when I was trying to stump Siri.  Siri didn't know when Jesus Christ is returning, for instance.

I was skeptical when I watched the keynote and saw Scott Forstall talking to Siri.  I wondered why, especially given the flop that was the voice-enabled iPod Shuffle, Apple keeps insisting on wanting us to talk to our devices.  But I was impressed with what I saw (I was NOT impressed by the shuffle, BTW...)

And in a touch of brilliance, Apple made the default action for bringing your iPhone to your ear (when you're not on a call, that is) a gesture that automatically engages Siri.  That's brilliant because you don't want to be the guy walking around with his phone out in front of him talking to it.  It simply looks like you're on the phone talking.

Siri is simply a killer app and completely amazing.

What You Can Get Me for Christmas

From Gizmodo:

Profiles in History is auctioning off over a 100 Back to the Future props but the one that's got me—and about the entire rest of the world—shaking in my boots is the DeLorean used in BTTF III. It's one of only seven DeLoreans used throughout the entire series.
I'd like mine in silver stainless, please.

Steve Jobs in Heaven

SHSU Walkaround Portfolio

As we were walking around the Sam Houston State campus for Homecoming this past weekend, we started noticing things that I had designed for the school. Most of them were Sammy Bearkat art, but others were logos, as well. So I started snapping photos of the things that I saw. This is my legacy, and I'm proud of it.