Watching Past The Day [Updated]

Magnetic North
Magnetic North

2011 fades away, and what a year it was. I’m going to be breaking this into multiple posts. A couple that are my year mostly in numbers, like books, movies, travel, etc. The other mostly made up of intangibles, life, love, lessons, and the like. This will be one of the former. I tend to document and record lots of data as kind of a side function of my everyday goings on. It’s not that I’m particularly stat focused or live life by numbers, but I like to keep track of where I go, how I got there, how much I did. It’s pretty easy to do now-a-days, especially since a lot of record keeping is automated. All you have to do is know where to look for the data. For example, I can look at my Verizon Wireless account and see that I spent 3289 minutes [52.4 hours / 2.18 days] talking on my phone this year. That doesn’t include Google Voice, GMail, or Skype calls, so the total is probably a bit higher. A more impressive number is texts. 20,608 from my phone and another 15,223 from Google Voice, for a total of 35,831 text messages. So, all the info is out there, it just needs to be added up.

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Paris: Bastille Day

Paris: Bastille Day - Parade
Paris: Bastille Day - Parade

Just a gallery post about photographing the Bastille Day Military Parade on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris and Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe (The White Picnic) at The Palace of Versailles.

The Parade shots aren’t really the parade so much as they are leading up to the parade. We were there really early and decided to not get caught up in the massive crowd that was forming. We got our shots and decided to head to Versailles instead, as to not be late for The White Picnic. Those shots are coming soon.

Equipment Notes:

  • Camera: Canon EOS 60D
  • Lens: Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM
  • Lens: Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157627207448310″]

Paris: Comic Con 2011

Paris: Comic Con / Japan Expo 2011
Paris: Comic Con / Japan Expo 2011

So, I went to the 2011 Paris Comic Con/Japan Expo.  It’s essentially the same as San Diego Comic Con, only 90% of the attendees speak French, there is a strange obsession with One Piece, and everyone is hopped up on Coke Zero.

Also like SDCC, it’s pretty much impossible to find and actual comic books. Tons and tons of manga in the Japan Expo side, but nearly all the floor space of the “comic” area was dominated by video games. The only place I found real, actual, comic books was in Artists Alley, which was more like “Artists Island”, a tiny flotilla made up of folding tables floating off to one side of the floor.

In any case, I’ll let the photos tell the tale. You can view them all here, or directly on my Flickr page via this link.

Equipment Notes:

  • Camera: Canon EOS 60D
  • Lens: Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM
  • Lens: Canon EF 35mm f/2
  • Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
  • Lens: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Lens: Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
  • Lens: Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM
  • Flash: Canon Speedlite 320EX
  • Flash: Canon Speedlite 580EX II

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157627094950394″]

Midnight Club

24 Heures du Mans
24 Heures du Mans

24 Heures du Mans, the world oldest endurance car race. Yesterday (Sat. June, 11th 2011) I decided on a whim to attend. I don’t even know what sparked it, maybe something in my RSS feed, but I figured that not only would I head out to Le Mans, but I’d do a full overnight in the spirit of the race. I checked train schedules, grabbed my camera, a change of clothes, some extra gear, and headed out to Gare Montparnasse to catch a train.

That was around 10:30AM on Saturday morning, the race start day, and I was hoping to catch the 2:30PM SCNF, which would put me Le Mans right around 5:00PM. The race starts at 4:00PM, so there was no way I’d be able to catch that, but I would still have plenty of daylight to shoot in. If I was really bored, I could still catch the last train back to Paris at 9:40PMish and skip the whole overnight thing. I got to Montparnasse around 1:30AM, which I thought would have been plenty of time to pick up tickets and get on board. Lies.

So, the automatic ticket machines at pretty much every train station here only accept “Chip & PIN” EMV IC credit cards, which are standard around Europe. Without one, you have to talk to an actual person to get a ticket, which means waiting in a line, which means OLD PEOPLE. The line I had the misfortune of getting in was headlined by two elderly couples who must have been asking every question humanly possible of the two sales women. Even after they were done, the people in front of me did the same. I watched 2:30 come and go. I don’t even speak much French, but it only took me like 3 minutes to get my tickets on the next train, the 3:30PM, which put me in Le Mans around 6:00PM. “No worries.” I thought, (since it says light here until almost 10:00PM). All too easy. I boarded the 3:30PM train and was reading the new Wired when an announcement was made. Again, I may not speak much French, but I can decipher when there is a problem. The train was having issues, so they moved us all to another track for a new train. The part I didn’t catch was that the new train was actually the 4:30PM to Le Mans, which got in around 7:30PM. Well, looks like I wasn’t going to be catching that 9:40PM train home. It would be close to 8:00PM by the time I even got to the track. I had booked myself on the Sunday morning 8:50AM TVG (high speed) back to Paris as a backup. Turned out to be a good idea.

I got to Le Mans around 7:45PM, caught the tram to the track, bought my ticket, and was inside with eyes on around 8:00PM. The grounds as MASSIVE, already nearly surrounded by tent cities and motor homes, all divided up by country, flying flags. It was like walking through a mini-Europe made out of tents.

You can actually hear the cars from the train station, long before you can ever see them. I came into the track from the North, so I decided to just follow some of the paths around the track and see what I could see and start snapping photos. Since I still had daylight, I started with my EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, which has been getting a lot of use lately. Like CVI Belgium though, it left me wishing I had a faster, longer, telephoto, but it was getting the job done. The only other lenses I had on me were my EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM and my EF 35mm f/2 (I own mostly primes). I walked nearly the entire length of the observable track, in a couple huge loops. Like I mentioned, the grounds are massive. I’ve never shot auto racing, so it took a little while to get acclimated to how fast they actually move. In a lot of places, I had to shoot through a fence, so auto-focus was kind of a no-go. What I’d usually do it manually focus on the section of track I wanted the photo from, then train on the cars coming towards me, training on them, and pivoting with them as they passed through my focus zone. I knew I would only be able to keep that up with the daylight, since the 18-135 is way too slow to attempt that technique at night.

There were, of course, a billion other photographers there, sporting everything from basic 50mm’s to totally crazy, cannon size, 600mm’s. I would have been happy pushing out to 200mm. I see a 70-200mm L in my future. By the time I had looped the entire grounds, the sun was gone. I stuck with the 18-135 for a while longer, just seeing what I could see. Messing with settings, shooting mostly on manual. I hate high ISO shooting, so the IS really helped.

I was expecting to be exhausted by 2-3AM, but I was actually going pretty strong. I decided to swap out the 18-135 for the 35 and start shooting people and the grounds instead of the race. By this point, so many people we so insanely intoxicated that the place was turning into a circus. Lots of the retail and show booths were closing, but the beer stands are open all night. Some notable exceptions to this were the PS3 booth, which was running a full 24 hour Gran Turismo 5 race in honor of Le Mans and the Guinness tent, which had converted itself into a beer fueled rave.

Around 5:00AM, as the sun was starting to rise and the grounds became an interesting mix of people the people who had slept through the night starting to come back to life and the people who drank all night stumbling around like zombies or being passed out in random areas. A fight broke out in the Guinness tent (what a shock) and some people were pretty messed up. Tons of security and paramedics showed up right as I passed by. I was asked to put my camera away, so I ducked into a little food hut and switched back to the 18-135 from the 35 so I could shoot from a distance.

I had my fill, put my camera away and slowly made my way back to the tram station around 6:30AM, which had me back at Gare Le Mans by 6:45. 2 hours before my train. At least it was warm in the train station. I napped a bit until my train, which was late (shocker), then some more on the train. The TVG is France’s high speed rail line and makes the Le Mans – Paris route in 54 minutes. A far cry from the 3.5 hours of the SCNF train I took there.

Add stuff about phone
Add stuff about flash

Notes:
24 Heures du Mans (24 hours of Le Mans) – Wikipedia
24 Heures du Mans – Official Site

Equipment Notes:

  • Camera: Canon EOS 60D
  • Lens: Canon EF 35mm f/2
  • Lens: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Lens: Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
  • Lens: Canon EF 70-200mm /4 L IS USM
  • Flash: Canon Speedlite 320EX

Gallery: Coming Soon

Rangefinder…

Bievres: 48th Foire Internationale de la Photo
Bievres: 48th Foire Internationale de la Photo

This will be a post about my time spent in Bièvres, France attending the 48th Foire Internationale de la Photo. There’s actually not a lot to tell. It was a vintage camera dream-world, as you can probably tell from the photos. Train ride there and back was quiet, everyone was friendly. I didn’t end up buying anything. Camera equipment is crazy expensive in France, even used.

Equipment Notes:

  • Camera: Canon EOS 60D
  • Lens: Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM
  • Lens: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Flash: Canon Speedlite 320EX

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157626764744109″]

Trains…

Trains. I’m currently writing this on one. The 7:00 PM Acela Express from NYC to Boston. Leaving New York by R.E.M. just came on my iPod. Thanks, Fate. I’m wondering how much longer I can do this. How much longer I can keep up the pace I’m at. I’m getting ahead of myself though.

Trains are funny. Even though the ride is longer, which gives me more time to think, I generally find myself more pensive and introspective on planes. I don’t know about today though. I’m pretty worn down at the moment, physically and emotionally. My personal wellspring has proven bottomless though, so I’m pressing on through the tempest my life seems to have been surrounded by recently. Even though I am notoriously in strict control of my own life, lately I feel like I’ve been losing my grip on so many of the things around me. Maybe that’s the point though. This post isn’t about trains or planes, it’s about a little sailboat.
Manipulated Portrait: Bread and Butterflies: V2I’ve spent most of my life wandering, nomadic in a sense, and more than just in terms of location. Well, maybe ambivalent is a better word. The analogy I always use is that I tend to just set sail and see which way the wind will take me. I’ve always had goals and dreams, but never any I’ve felt like I had to make an overwhelming effort to steer towards. I knew they were out there. I’d get around to them eventually. Things will turn out the way they turn out, I’ll just be along for the ride, with maybe a nudge or two in a particular direction. I’ve been content to let things happen. I know myself well enough that I can adapt and handle nearly any situation that comes along, so why try to force anything too much? Better to cruise on through and collect the experience, or so I thought.

And then, one day, suddenly, it’s like someone takes the blinders off. Like a new star appears in the sky to chart by and it’s pointing you in a direction, a destination, you never even knew was there before. You find out that the way you were living was only because you had no idea about what was actually possible. A goal appears on the horizon and suddenly it’s all you can do to get there. All at once my little sailboat can’t move fast enough. Now that I’m setting my own direction, making the choice, the decision, to reach that goal I have to pour my efforts in. I can’t lose sight of it. I have to get there. I can’t be content wandering anymore. I cannot tolerate anything that slows my forward movement (and suddenly there seem to be so many more). The waypoints I used to bounce between are nothing more than useless distractions. They are relics, now, of a past life I want to leave behind.
Sofie IVFor the first time in my life I feel like I really have a drive. A purpose.

If you’ve ever read anything on this site over the past 13 years or so, you’ll know that in all my travels, all my adventures, all my wanderings and roaming, I’ve never been able to find someplace to really call home. Never been able to find the purpose I was so desperately seeking. My friend Jess once famously said “Maybe your purpose is to never have a purpose. To always just be searching for it.” At the time it was like a revelation. It slowly got scarier over time. What if that was true? Will I really spend my life searching for the one thing I will never have? I had begun to accept it as truth. It, in a way, justified and fueled my ambivalence and wandering. Why devote myself to anything long-term? Sure, I throw myself into my work and maintain exacting standards, but as a freelancer I was always just moving from one job to the next. Give 110%, move on. Give 110%, move on. The work was a goal in and of itself; I wasn’t planning for anything beyond the next gig. The huge wealth of experience I collected was just a nice side-effect.
A Sign.It all seems so childish now. I mean, it’s not like I knew that there was something else, but in hindsight…

The clarity is stunning, actually. Knowing what I need to do, what I want to do. Exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. All my experience suddenly has a use now beyond just its own self-perpetuation. Reaching the goal is now my focus, my drive, my purpose. Suddenly managing all the solid, practical, things in my life (something I’m actually very good at) and leaving the rest behind is the plan. I have to keep my little sailboat in good shape and moving steady. I have to pick up the wind when it’s strong in the direction I know I need to go in now and row hard when it’s not. I have to let go of all the little insignificant things, and some of the big insignificant things, that do not contribute to my direction towards that goal, that beautiful light on the horizon. This brings us back to the statement at the start of this post. I’m pushing my little sailboat onward through the storm I’ve found myself in. It’s proven to be very difficult and incredibly dangerous, but if I don’t push through I know I will surely be lost at sea forever. As long as I can see my guiding light through the maelstrom though, I know the direction I have to move in. I won’t stop. I can’t. My goal is worth anything that gets put in my path, the worst the tempest can throw at me.
Push.This is how a life changes. This is how all the endurance you’ve built up is tested. This is how your patience is applied. This is how all your experience, techniques, tools, skills, talents, cunning, and intelligence is put to use. This isn’t shrugging and seeing where you end up, it’s controlling your own direction. This is what happens when you find one thing you know will change you for the better in ways you can barely imagine. This is what happens when it already has. This is what happens when what you want and what you need become the same thing.

This is me, for the first time, having a plan for what I’m doing with my life. This is me having purpose.