Pictures of Cat

It used to bother me when I used to see someone’s Instagram feed entirely populated by pictures of that person’s cat. Or an Instagram feed that is supposedly “the cat’s account.” Well, it still bothers me, and that will never change.

But now that I am a cat owner, or at least a cat lessee, I can understand the temptation.

Cat
Cat

Cats, of course, are awake only about 7-10 minutes a day, so when they are awake, it is an event. So we document the event. The problem is, cats almost always have the same expressions which are:

  1. scared
  2. mildly awake
  3. half asleep
  4. asleep
  5. scared again
  6. blue steel

This does not run the gamut of emotions. Not like a dog, who can smile, flop a tongue out, look sad, etc. “Scared” is too difficult to capture, because lenses fast enough to gather in such information have not been made. “Asleep” is too easy. So when you see an Instagram feed full of Cat, you tend to see “Mildly Awake” and “Half Asleep” in a grand variety of locations.

Cat Again
Cat Again

This isn’t especially fair to Cat. The personality of Cat is not easily reproduced in still images. Cat runs around for no reason. Whenever Laura takes out a nail file, he goes nuts and bats at it. He hisses at his tail. He drinks out of the tub. Video works for these moments, but a picture doesn’t tell the full story.

So we resist. Not only because of that, but very often, he stops doing whatever he’s doing when a camera and/or iPhone is whisked out.

Cat, Once More
Cat, Once More

But Cat does allow us one small indulgence: very often in the middle of his 23-hour, 53-minute nap, he will stretch. He’s developed this stretch so that it looks interesting, and well-worth documenting.

Supercat
Cat’s Secret Identity Revealed

In fact, as it turns out, he is SuperCat. The World’s Laziest and Most Indifferent Superhero.

SuperCat, Again
SuperCat, Please Save Us Following Your Nap

So, Cat Lovers and those who have close to half a million pictures of your own cat lodged in your phone, you’re welcome. For all others, move along. Nothing to see here. Now back to our regularly-scheduled programming.

The Death of a Flower: The Iris

After the first few shots with the roses, I moved on to a flower that was growing in our garden. One of the irises in the side yard had been knocked down by a storm, so we cut it away and put it in a vase. My original thought was to get shots with a very dark background, so I was waiting to take shots at night. I also had very little lighting, as I was still using the dorky little floor lamp I bought at Target rather than anything official and proper.

Iris Day 1Iris Day 2The results varied, but I found if I used my remote shutter and kept the camera on a tripod, I could manipulate the light to suit my purpose.

Iris Day 5The above shot was on Day 5. This was probably my favorite of all the Iris shots I made using this method.

But then I decided that dangling a floor lamp with a bare 60-watt bulb wasn’t exactly the way to go about this. I also discovered that shooting in the dark could produce interesting results, but I couldn’t stop there.So I bought a couple of Elinchrom flash heads with softboxes to control the light better.

I also got the idea of escaping the living room to shoot in the strange recesses of our basement. We have a room at the front, underneath the porch, which looks like a good set for a horror movie. The iris was quite dead at this point, so it seemed like appropriate surroundings for a dead flower in a vase.

Iris, Day 12I kept the iris around far longer than I should have, until it got all wispy and fragile. I used it for test shots for a while before I got to my next subject, the hydrangeas. I continued to shoot in that odd basement room—and still do—with several other subjects, which I’ll share in the coming weeks. But here’s a test shot, taken about a month after I grabbed this one out of the garden, which may be the best shot I took that day.

Iris, Day 29

Another Time, Another Place

As I mentioned before, it’s been really difficult to get out there and get some sign pictures. Vacations always allow me some roaming time, but this year, with our schedule being crazy and Hurricane Matthew and the election and the sun was in my eyes and my dog ate it, well, almost zero planning time went in to this year’s trip. Which meant my annual research into signs we might see did not happen.

We booked it on down to Daytona, and the plan was to book it on back. We got up at 4am, so by the time it was light enough for a breakfast place to be open, we were already in South Carolina. I got off in Walterboro to get gas, and what did I see next door? The ever-present fireworks stand. Only this one was equipped with neon.

FireworksI should say, this side was equipped with neon. The other side, the side where the sun was shining, was not. The neon side, however, faces the highway, which makes the most sense.

Still, good fortune. It had been so long since I had grabbed a shot of a halfway-decent sign. It got my blood going.

We passed into North Carolina, then into Virginia. Since we left earlier than most years, the trip through the Shenandoah Valley was in total daylight. Normally, we’d lose the sun before Staunton (as it did when we made our crazy ride to Wright’s Dairy-Rite), but this time we got to see a lot more.

And something passed through my mind from research past…wasn’t there a drive-in theater around here?

I had seen it from the road a few times. It was on Route 11, parallel to I-81, on a flat stretch. On the way down, since it was daylight, we could see it, but only after the exit. Normally on the way back, it was too late to take a picture. But now…

I knew what it looked like. I knew what the terrain looked like. I just didn’t know the exact location. And then, the road started to even out a bit, the landscape began to flatten out, and US 11 was visible to the west. We watched and waited, and then, there it was. I got off the highway. Stephens City, VA.

Family Drive-In, Stephens City, VA

The Family Drive-In, much to my surprise, was still in operation. Not only that, but they were showing movies that night, and people were filing in. I would have loved to have stayed for the Monster-Rama, but unfortunately time and Cat waited for no man.

But as long as we were on US 11…

I decided to stay on the old highway to see what I could see. After all, some of the best signs are found on the US roads, so I figured my chances were pretty good to stumble upon something. We rolled through Stephens City, and on the edge of town, our stumbling paid off.

Redwood Budget Motel, Stephens City, VAThe motel itself was closed. I pulled the car over and got out. A man was walking along the road. He looked at me with my camera and he asked, “Are you an engineer?”

I smiled. “Photographer.”

He motioned his head at the sign. “Can you make that thing look any better?”

I said I would do my best.

Soon we were in West Virginia and sun went down. It was a good day, one that I didn’t expect. And it never would have happened if we had left at the same old time and did the same old thing.

Cleaning the Ocean

Every year, we trek down to Daytona Beach, usually in October or November. It’s the time we use to get rid of all the stuff we’ve been carrying with us throughout the year. We were set to go down the last week of October, when all of a sudden The Weather Channel erupted with talk of Hurricane Matthew. It’s always difficult to tell with The Weather Channel, since they throw around words like “massive”, “deadly”, and “run for your lives” with alarming frequency.

Daytona Beach Pier

The storm passed by a few weeks before our vacation, producing more damage than has been done in years. TWC was probably disappointed that the whole state didn’t fall into the ocean, but we can’t have everything.

The place we normally stay in had a little water damage, so we stayed in another condo in the same building. One of our favorite restaurants, Our Deck Down Under, lost about half of its pier and a ton of roof shingles, but it was open. Tia Cori’s, a must-visit while in Daytona, looked like nothing had ever happened. First world problems, we said. Oh dear, our view of the ocean will be sullied by a bit of construction.

Our Deck Down Under

The first night, we slept in fits and starts, struggling with stressful dreams, while outside, the ocean drifted softly into shore, depositing remnants of the long-past storm in the sand.

Our usual pattern is to take the proverbial long walk on the beach in the morning. Every year we talk over our current state of life and every year we come up with new, creative ideas to overcome our current state of life. For some reason, I would never take my camera. Each time we would take a walk, we would see something and say, “Well, we should have brought the camera.” And yet I never did. Maybe I was worried I’d drop it in the ocean, or sand would get in it, or an osprey would swoop down and steal it from around my neck, whatever excuse was in vogue.

Forget all that this year, I thought. I’m taking it along.

The ocean didn’t disappoint. The first few days, the sea’s offerings came in two separate packages; in the form of tumbleweed-like collections of reeds, and in strange, red roots.

Sea HairballRed RootThe next few days, man-made objects made their way on to the beach, as if the ocean were tossing out its junk. One morning, we found close to fifteen beached flip-flops.

Flip FlopAnd then, when it seemed like the ocean had no more garbage to toss, we found this:

Drown Your TelevisionMost likely this television was on a ship, because it was encased in a metal box. How it got in the ocean is anybody’s guess, but needless to say, the ocean didn’t need it.

It is a great reminder of how little we really need. We’re fooled by the speed of life into thinking we’re accomplishing things, or we’re fooled by our own successes into thinking that we’ve achieved something, when in reality you miss so much if you don’t take the time. We walked and we talked and we got rid of our own junk on the shore, and wondered to ourselves how we could make these sorts of moments happen every day.

 

The Death of a Flower

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook or who have been following me on Instagram have seen my latest group of pictures, under the banner of “The Death of a Flower.” This started almost out of necessity, because a) I’ve photographed pretty much every old sign within a 50-mile radius and b) I travel so much for work I don’t really have time to go outside the 50-mile radius to find others.

It started back in May. The roses I bought Laura for our anniversary sat on the highest shelf of our kitchen, out of the reach of Cat, who has a tendency to eat plants, particularly the ones that are most harmful to him. The roses were out of sight and out of mind, and before we knew it, they were very, very dead. Laura went to put them in the garbage, and I looked at the one on top and said, “No. Look at that. Isn’t that interesting? I should take a picture of that.”

So we did some primitive lighting work, which consisted of one cheapo floor lamp from Target. Laura held that and I held the flower with one hand and took the shots with the other.

Rose

The results were good, but I would have liked to have seen pictures of what we looked like trying to take these.

Back of the rose

Over the summer, I invested in some actual lighting, in the form of a couple of Elinchrom flash heads, and the results have been fantastic. I’ll be posting quite a few more in the weeks to come.