Photography, USA

Don’t send you broken lenses to Precision Camera

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My favorite lens to shoot with, the Pentax 21mm prime, suddenly stopped working. The outer lens ring was completely knocked off the lens. I suppose I banged it into too many steering wheel and walls in its lifetime, and it just finally had enough. This lens is tough. It comes with a lens hood that is made of metal, and its profile on the camera is minimal. I like to shoot close, and this lens makes that possible. I’ve put it through its paces on the streets of Denver and in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

I’ve used it to capture tens of thousands of images and there isn’t any lens I like better. I found Precision Camera through Pentax. It seems that’s where Pentax sends their lenses off for repair, so I contacted them. I went through an online process with the company to start the repair order, and shipped the lens myself from UPS. The lens arrived in early May and I assumed work had begun. After several weeks of silence, I attempted to e-mail the company through their website. I received no response on three separate e-mails.

I then called their customer service department, and spoke with Charlene, who said that the problem was that I hadn’t authorized payment on the credit card for the $166.50 repair. I was under the impression that this was paid up front, when I entered my information online and received a confirmation. She was short, and I would bet she didn’t look at the order itself, just repeating the phrase “now that the payment is received you will get your lens in four to six business days.” Today the timeframe given was five to seven business days. I didn’t feel confident about the conversation or the information I was receiving, as the online order status had a big red stop sign on it and stated that they were waiting for backordered parts. I told the customer service representative and she stuck to her story about the payment problem and now everything is on schedule. I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t receive my lens within that time frame.

So I called again today, July 26, and spoke with Charlene again who says that the payment was approved, and the parts are on backorder until July 6th. After that date she says the lens will be returned as soon as possible. I asked her about the reason I was told on my last call that the lens would be delivered in four to six days, she said that was me that told you, and normally repairs take five to seven days barring any unforeseen circumstance. In this case I supposedly have parts on backorder that will arrive on July 6th. I asked how long ago the parts were ordered and she gave me two different dates in May, the eighth and then the 12th.

I will follow up on July 6, to determine if the part was received or not. My complaint about this experience is that the numbers keep changing, and I’ve been kept in the dark for long periods of time. I think your customer service department is suffering a deficiency in effective communication. The system you have in place isn’t working and the customers are receiving mixed information from your website and your live representatives. The information we do receive is often incorrect and is leaving your customers dissatisfied. We are vocal about this problem, and your company received poor reviews in many internet forums where fellow photographers warn against dealing with your company in any way.

I will join the ranks of your naysayers and advise any photographer I come across to steer clear of your company. The equipment we send you is expensive and waiting more than three months for a lens repair is just bad business. After being completely ignored on four separate occasions online, and getting mixed and inconsistent information on two phone calls, I am completely frustrated and unhappy with this experience.

Camera companies would do well to take their business elsewhere. I will contact Pentax about this experience, and while my one voice might not worry you, the voice of potentially tens of thousands of other photographers and customers of yours will eventually be heard and a good number of us are unhappy.

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Rallying for Legalization on 4/20

A green cloud descended on the park.
The crowd shuffled and smoked and meandered
and smoked and shuffled and smoked

Old heads and young blood
tough guys and hippies
girls of all shapes and sizes

guys too
dogs too
and every once in a while you might see a baby in a stroller

guys and dogs and babies of all shapes and sizes

a constant scent of weed in the air
every one here has cotton mouth

unmanned drones scan the crowd from above
security guards on tall scaffolding
armed to the teeth
helicopters frequently circle the park
fences circle the park
cops circle the park

deviance and good Samaritan-ism
face to face

the hall monitors vs the kids from detention
the free spirits vs the straight and narrows

Over the Public address system a man says: “You are standing on some of the freest soil in America right now”

He said it from behind a riot fence and a wall of bullet proof glass
with a fence holding all the freedom lovers in one area
subject to searches on the way in AND out

it feels like they are laughing at us
the hula-hoopers and the hare krishnas
the skaters and the punks
the gangsters and the just plain crazy
the self-medicated
the deviants
aren’t we all?

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Rallying for Legalization on 4/20

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Life, Uncategorized

If it wasn’t this, it would be something else.

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I’m out of town, away from my laptop and photo processing software, so this post is exclusively made up of iphoneography. I’m lying on a hard mattress in a stinky Motel 6 in Sun City, California. The room reeks of stale cigarettes as well as a paltry attempt at covering it up with what I can only guess is Febreeze.

My family and I flew to Palm Springs in order to purchase a 1985 VW Vanagon Westfalia Camper. The vehicle was to be our passport to a traveling lifestyle, one in which we would embark upon in a little over a years time. This was supposed to be the first step.

We really liked this one, it checked all the boxes. It has a straight body, no rust, all of the camping equipment is there. We liked the color and we were told by the owners mechanic that it was a “solid rig.”

The timing was right, the savings were sufficient to make the purchase so we thought we would put our faith in the seemingly trouble free history of the vehicle.

I was skeptical at first because we found it on Craigslist and the guy we bought it from lived in the desert. Part of the deal was that he would need a ride home if we decided to purchase. I was very paranoid at the thought of driving a stranger to a remote desert area after giving him over $8,000 in cash. I even posted a notice to all my Facebook friends advising them of our situation. Just to be safe.

I didn’t want to give him a ride at all. It seemed more than shady to me. My ideal transaction would have taken place in an all neutral location. As it turned out his need for a ride home was our saving grace, because we did purchase the vehicle after a quick verification that everything seemed to be as advertised.

He wrote up a bill of sale and we gave him the cash. The drive to his house was supposed to be the last interaction we would have with him. We were to drive from Palm Springs to Lancaster, CA, about an hours drive.

On the way to his house, the vehicle dumped virtually all of its fuel all over the highway. It happened in the worst possible spot: a sharp curve going up a steep grade. As you can imagine, the previous owner was mortified. What was surprising was his kindness and willingness to help.

The vehicle was already signed over to us, the cash and title were exchanged. He didn’t HAVE to do anything. Instead, he insisted the vehicle be towed to his mechanic who had just recently replaced all the fuel lines less than a month ago. It put a crimp in our plans but we were willing to wait an extra day to see if it was an easy fix.

As it turned out, it was, by 1:30 pm the next day we were at the mechanic picking up our new van, our bellies filled with the free lunch the previous owner bought for us while we waited.

We started it up, drove it about a mild down the road and filled it with gas. We decided we would take the opportunity to bring our daughter to see the Pacific Ocean for her first time.

We drive it back down the hill and just as we are about to leave town the engine just completely overheats. We are talking weird smells, tons of smoke, and bubbling coolant. We didn’t get more than 20 miles away before this happened. So Maizy called the guy and once again he was completely apologetic and offering to help in any way he could.

He called us a tow truck, offered to tear up the bill of sale and gave us our money back. All things that he did not have to do. We are defeated, deflated, exhausted and heart broken but otherwise unscathed.

I feel horrible for the previous owner. We contemplated what we should do for the 2 1/2 hours we were stranded on I-10 mile marker 62. I struggled with the notion that maybe I was somehow responsible for all these issues that came up so suddenly (according to the previous owner the van “ran like a top” for the last three and a half years).

I suppose that’s how these type of problems manifest themselves, in a sudden and violent manner. While this could be seen as a very unlucky trip, I think if it as just the opposite. We were extremely lucky on multiple occasions during this adventure.

We didn’t get killed on the worst part of a highway you could breakdown on, we never drove it enough to be accused of any negligence or wrongdoing on our part, and the owner of the van was a good and decent man.

I’d like to remain friends with him. Like Maizy he is a cancer survivor. He works in the film business as a freelancer, something that I admire about him very much. On the outside he took the whole thing in stride, as did we, but I think on the inside all three of the adults in this situation are pretty depressed about all of it. We had the keys to our dream car, he had $8500 in cash in his pocket, but the van just didn’t cooperate.

My prediction is the head gasket is blown. I only say that after hours of scouring the internet and reading a large number of similar stories of people running into the same issues as we did.

Our part in this story is mostly over. We dodged a bullet, but the other guy ended up with the proverbial nuclear explosion. A vehicle that may be completely dead all of a sudden after three years of loyal service. It is a good possibility he will have to replace the engine.

On the outside looking in, I think it might look like a case of “nice guys finish last,” big I have my fingers crossed for him that the problem isn’t a serious as I fear.

After all we have been through together these last few days, the man deserves a break.

So far our family trip to California to purchase the VW of our dreams has been a whirlwind tour of Palm Springs retro hotels,Best Westerns, Motel 6s, two run ins with the California Highway Patrol (one in which a state trooper pushed our vehicle up a mountain with his own cruiser in order to remove us from harms way) swimming pools and movie stars.

Now if we could just find that Texas tea.

I felt compelled to share this experience for x couple reasons. One is to keep the blog going, I don’t like missing a day. The other is to further illustrate that the capacity for human kindness is just as great as our capacity for evil.

In these days of the psychopathic internet troll becoming prevalent in our society (see any internet articles comment feed) it is refreshing to run into a person that still seems to hold onto the notion of having good morals and doing the right thing.

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A Taste Of Colorado

the effects of age
the art of self expression
the bold attitude

Uncategorized

A Taste Of Colorado

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Colorado Landscapes

14,000 feet
above the Earth’s sea level
oxygen deprived

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Colorado Landscapes

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Denver Street Art

The Battle of Hoth
All-Terrain Armored Transport
Rebel Base Destroyed

“Echo station 3-T-8, we have spotted Imperial walkers.” – Star Wars: Episode V -The Empire Strikes Back

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Denver Street Art

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walking through the mall
stealing people’s expressions
unbeknownst to them

Street Photography: The Slacker’s Approach

In almost everything I do in life, I do it in a haphazard way. Let’s just roll the dice and see how it all shakes out. That’s pretty much my basic approach to everything in life. So writing a “How-To” article on anything is pretty far from my area of expertise. There is one thing I do on a regular basis though, and that is to shoot street photography. Today I took my daughter to Cherry Creek Shopping Center and took advantage of the opportunity to get some candid shots in the mall. I was going to make my headline “Shooting People in the Mall” but it just seemed like an invitation for trouble.

When Barbara Diamonstein interviewed Garry Winogrand  she mentioned that his name had been synonymous with the term “street photography” for quite a long time. This was his reaction:

“Well, I’m not going to get into that. I think that those kind of distinctions and lists of titles like “street photographer” are so stupid. I’m a photographer, a still photographer. That’s it.” – Garry Winogrand

This is one of my favorite quotes from Winogrand, a man who represents what street photography actually is rejecting the entire term. I love it. I’ve been studying photography for a few years now and I’ve found that my favorite kind of photography is what everyone is calling street photography. In my own independent study of this genre, I have found that the actual definition of what street photography is to be a topic of much heated debate.

I’m not here to define what street photography is or isn’t. I’m here to document my attempt at producing photography that tells a story from my own personal perspective. That is all I want to do. I want to record as many moments in time as I possibly can. I want to do this because I feel I have lost so many memories to the passage of time already, and on my last dying day I want to sift through all my pictures one last time until I can’t take another breath or hold my eyes open for another second. I take pictures so that I can cherish life and the experience that I had in it.

I want to share what I capture with as many people as possible. I want them to see what I experienced and how it made me feel. That probably comes off as egotistical, but it is the truth. I’ve struggled with sharing my work in the past because I was reading all these advice columns about things like what is “played out” in street photography, and what comes across as cliché, and all these other judgmental critiques on what we should be putting out there if we want to call ourselves street photographers. I think I finally have had enough of the Kool-Aid; I’m not drinking it anymore.

I am going to share whatever the hell I want, because this is my life, my camera, my memory cards, my experience, and my creative drive. I’m tired of trying to emulate what other people are doing within the genre. I want to be a photojournalist. I am intrigued by people and the way they interact and behave. So I take pictures of them. It’s good practice. It’s fun. I enjoy testing my courage to see how close I can get. I fail more often than not. I come away frustrated more often than not, but every once in a while I get a shot that makes me react emotionally, I become overwhelmed, and I relive that moment. That is what I love about photography. That is why I’m taking these pictures.

We all have heard it said over and over, everyone and their mother’s mother have a digital camera now. The iPhone’s camera is an 8 mega-pixel wonder that floods the magic internet cloud with an eternal stream of photos of food, pets, vacations, bathroom-selfies, shoes, clothes, babies, cars and sunsets. I don’t mind it so much, but some people absolutely loathe it. Similar to the way people are always hating on hipsters, photographers have little cliques as well. The HDR haters, the “if you post one more picture of your taquito’s online, I swear I’m un-friending you” type of people, the photographers who always seem to be the first to complain about whatever the new hot trend is. It is a visual cornucopia of the human experience, we are all photographers now. I’m just embracing that notion. I don’t care if there are a lot of photographers in the world; does that mean I should just give up being one of them, because to become one is SO CLICHÉ? I finally stopped caring about what other people might think and just decided to put myself out there.

So now instead of worrying about what some stranger half way across the world says about street photography, I just go out and take pictures and share what I like. I try and look for interesting subjects doing interesting things. I probably should slow down when I’m out shooting, but I’m usually on a time constraint, and I also have found that keeping on the move keeps me clear of most trouble. Nothing gets the man’s attention like a guy with a camera lurking in one area for extended periods of time. I try to stay slightly on edge when I’m out in the streets for the purpose of photographing people. I started out in the beginning by just walking around and putting the camera to my eye and taking pictures of people in a blatantly obvious way. That’s fine if you are at a festival, or a concert, or some other major gathering like the Denver Zombie Crawl. In close quarters when hardly anyone else is around, suddenly bringing the camera to your eye and taking a picture of someone feels extremely awkward to me. I will say I have done that, but very rarely do I have the courage in the moment to just go for it.

Today, I decided to use a shutter release cable in my pocket while the camera hung around my neck. I wanted to freeze motion, but the lighting in the mall is a little dark, so I set the camera ISO to 6400 in order to get a faster shutter speed, and shot in Shutter Priority (Tv) with the speed set to 2000. In shutter priority mode the camera can be set to the desired shutter speed while the camera automatically adjusts the aperture for correct exposure. My images turn out noisier this way, but I can freeze the motion, and in this type of lighting it was the best I could do without flash, which I’m not willing to turn on in the mall. I’m trying to blend in as much as possible; I don’t want to be running around blinding people. I imagine that is probably a great way to get kicked out.

I also had my 3-year-old daughter with me, which actually made things a lot easier as far as people feeling at ease around me with a camera around my neck. When I’m alone I get dirty looks and security guards approaching me, but with Penny, everyone smiles and waves hello or wants to stop and talk. I just snap away at the remote in my pocket while I talk to them all the while thinking in my head that this is the same person who would be sneering at me if my little girl wasn’t with me.

This is my ongoing experiment; I’m trying different things to see how they work. Today I used a 21mm wide-angle prime lens. It is my favorite lens, although it may be a little wide for shooting from the hip as I think that in a lot of my images the subjects seem just a little too far away. I don’t feel like I need to be in a rush though, and I want to try and master this 21mm for a while longer. I’ll also shoot with my 35mm prime from time to time, but I haven’t been able to get comfortable with the 50mm for street photography just yet. Maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance, but it just didn’t feel right to me the last time I tried it. It was a struggle for me, and I wasn’t getting any enjoyment out of it.

I was tasked with writing a trade column for a magazine writing class I am taking, which is why I am talking about camera settings and ISO and the like. I don’t have any advice to give as I am still learning and striving to improve my photography every day. If you were asking me for advice I would  say this: Do what you love. Don’t do it for the critics or anyone else but yourself. I think if you stick with that mindset you will probably find that it will actually help to improve your photography. Probably. I can’t guarantee anything. It seems to me though that anything that comes from the heart is usually better than anything else. Also, use a prime lens rather than a zoom lens, the images come out sharper and it makes you move around to focus, rather than just zooming in. It also makes for more candid looking images in my opinion. Use your common sense; get closer and your images will be better. I am still a work in progress. I always feel like I need to add that disclaimer in case somebody thought I was just self-proclaiming myself to be an amazing street photographer. I’m not an expert, I’m an enthusiast. I know what I’m trying to do and what works for me.

In my first attempts at street photography, I often sought out the approval of different social groups around the Internet by sharing my images with them. I found the critique to be helpful at times, but I also ran into a lot of negative and down-right nasty criticism as well. I started to feel like every shot I took had to be something spectacular. I wanted to try and win over the tough critics, thinking that if someone who hates so many people’s street photography could just give me a positive comment on one of my images then I’ll know that I am on the right track. It didn’t turn out like that. In my experience finding any constructive type critiques of any persons work submitted to the particular site was like searching for a needle in the haystack. It was just an Internet troll Civil War, full of hatred and negativity. Trolls on trolls on trolls on trolls.  A bunch of people trying to out macho each other behind their Internet personas.

The best advice that I have gotten so far in photography was when one of my teachers told me to “just shoot through it” when I was complaining about feeling uninspired. That’s what I do. I take pictures everywhere I go. I have a massive collection of images and I can’t find it in my heart to delete a single one of them. I love the genre of street photography and I practice it every day. I am simply documenting the human condition the way that I see it. I don’t claim to be great at it, but I am making an effort, and I love sharing it with whoever cares to look.

I like street photography because it’s an adrenaline rush, I love walking amongst the crowds, framing images in my viewfinder. I love finding new things in familiar places, which seems to happen a lot more than I could have ever anticipated. Street photography isn’t centered around being technically perfect, but rather about being in the moment and capturing something in its natural state. It isn’t staged or pre-planned; it’s just a frozen moment in time framed by the photographer to convey whatever it is that’s in their mind. It isn’t pure truth; it is the photographer’s version of the moment. We keep what we want you to see in the frame, we exclude what we don’t want you to see. This is a choice. In my experience, it is a sub-conscious choice, but I imagine that others might be much more analytical and patient than me, and probably plan their images much more carefully.

With everything creative in this world, the struggle is to find your own voice within your genre. This is easier said than done. You might think of a great idea for a project, only to find out it’s been done 17 million times already. There isn’t much to do that hasn’t been done, there is much to say that hasn’t been said. We seem to just regurgitate the same ideas over and over. Sometimes I think we just need to tune out the noise from the outside world, look within ourselves, and just be brave enough to put our work out there. What do I have to lose? No one is paying me for this, and the only person who can fire me is I. What could go wrong?

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Denver Street Photography

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