Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ultimate Cage fighter lawyers have my book

This coming Tuesday, parties involved with the bankruptcy of Graphic Arts, the publisher of my Oregon Wine book, will be in court to duke out who owns what assets, including the book rights to my book. I'm picturing an Ultimate Fighting Cage with lawyers in suits punching and clawing each other. This is just round one. I hope the judge lets me take photos.

I own the copyright to the words and photos, but not the book. There are no more books in the warehouse and we can't reprint until the judge determines who owns what assets.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

For China the future is still ahead.

Harvest, Rongchen winery, Hebei Province, China.

Working as a team, these two women picked about 10 crates of Chardonnay grapes each during 4 hours of harvest that day. While they were some of the slowest pickers in the vineyard that day, I calculated that if they worked all day, everyday of the year, it would take them almost 10 years to earn enough money to buy the camera and lens I used to photograph them.

It made reflect. My financial future is already here. For these two women, and most Chinese, their financial future is still ahead.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What matters now?

Tonight I just came across Seth Godin's blog entry where he asked dozens of interesting people, "What matters now?" He then compiled the answers and published them in an e-book.

The e-book answers made me reflect about the importance of powerful questions as I'm crafting my next book, Lessons from the Vineyard-Insights on our Earth, Character and Spirit. The seed sprouted with the last question I asked 87 Oregon winemakers, owners and vineyard workers for my last book: "What have you learned from the vineyard?"

Inspired by how Jesus used parables about the vineyard for his lessons, I thought the vineyard could be a metaphor
for my new Lessons book. After all, isn't the vineyard an interaction between man, nature and God?

So then what does the vineyard teach us?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

China Wine: From Cow to Castle

Do you have the same a visual disconnect I have between the photos of farmers plowing in the vineyard with a cow and the huge castle-like chateaus the wineries build?
These farmers are working in a vineyard which provides fruit to Dynasty Winery near Tianjin.

Then check out the new Chateau Dynasty is building (below right). The panorama is Chateau Junding in Shandong Province. I didn't see any cows pulling equipment here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

China Wine-Striving for Big

What is it in the Chinese Wine psychology that attracts BIG?

This is Dynasty Winery's new facility near Tianjin, just next door to their current winery, tasting room and offices. (By the way, what architectural influences do you see here?)

Here are the figures and facts for Dynasty: Established in 1980, as a Sino-French Joint-Venture, the second ever Chinese-foreign joint venture in China, created between the Chinese government, the French brandy producer, Remy-Martin, and Hong Kong International Trade and Technology Investigation Organization–whatever that is.

So get these production numbers. In 1980–first year for Dynasty–they produced 100,000 bottles of wine. First year. Remember that many, if not most Oregon wine producers in my backyard, output maybe 60,000 bottles, after years of being in business. By 2002, Dynasty's total production of wines and brandies reached 35 million bottles. That's more than two times what the entire state of Oregon produces.

And that's only one winery in China. Big or what?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Maintenance man does plastic surgery while buffing table

It's late Sunday. The end is in sight of this 29-image apartment digital maintenance job for my Arizona client. The request on this photograph was to "buff out the ping pong table, reduce the glare on the wall behind the treadmill and minimize ceiling ventilation system." And correct for perspective.

Buffing the table scratches was easy using the buffing (Adobe calls it clone or healing) tool in Camera Raw Converter.

The bright sun spot on the wall behind the treadmill–which I personally liked–was much more difficult. Selecting the area and using curves didn't work very well.

Digital plastic surgery to the rescue. I selected a section of the wall to the right of the treadmill and pasted it on top of the bright spot. But the selection wasn't large enough, so I pasted the selection again slightly to the left, overlapping the first paste job. With a little change in opacity and some masking on the edges, it looked like a pro plastic surgeon job.

Arrg to that bright spot on the carpet. No problem. Plastic surgery to the rescue again. I found a piece about the same texture size towards the middle of the room and pasted it on top of the hot carpet, corrected color and luminosty and went for a glass of wine, leaving my Mac to save the Maintenance Man's surgery for posterity.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Light Pollution Floods Our Home

Our neighbor put a new light on his barn.

Normally our rural area is dark enough to see the Milky Way on a clear night. With the new barn light, the Milky disappeared. Even though the barn is almost 1/4 mile away, I took the above photograph just using his barn light flooding into our house. I can even read large print at night without any additional light.

While I'm grateful that I don't have to drag out my photo lights for photography in our house, I would still like to see the darkness of night.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Maintenance Man survives on Bread & Butter

Wednesday: I continue optimizing and digitally cleaning up apartments for my Arizona client. This is what pros call Bread & Butter work. I love Bread & Butter.

Removing the signs under the light took more than an hour because of the uneven light. If the light were even, it would have been a 2 minute job.

So how many other changes do you see between the before (above) and after (below) photos? (I just realized I left all of the color corrections in the before photo.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday: Apartment Maintence and prunning

So today it's more cleaning, digital pruning of dead tree branches and combining two exposures to make the "View Shot" (above) at some Lake Oswego apartments. And people constantly tell me that a photographer's life is exciting.

OK. Can you see the difference in the before (top below) and after (below below) photos? Be sure to check out the bird feeder the client wanted removed. And there's more that a sharp-eyed gardener could easily tell.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday: spent the day cleaning Apartments

Today I spent the day cleaning up apartments.

That's digitally cleaning them for clients. Some manage complexes that are not necessarily the most glamorous on the block. But my clients need attractive bait to reel in customers. So I clean up apartments for the fishermen (and women). Actually, I really enjoy the challenge.

You can see the kind of cleaning I do from these before (top) and after (bottom) photographs. This one was simple and took only a few moments. Please be kind. Tell me that you could never tell the cleaning just from the after photo.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Publisher Goes Bankrupt

After 30-some years as one of the most respected Table Top Photographic Book publishers, Graphic Arts Publishing went belly up. Mike Campbell, the main marketing/sales guy, lamented it was a combination of the state of book publishing and the economy. Michael Powell, owner of Powell's Books, blames the demise on declining book sales, the difficult economy and fewer independent bookstores, which was "the bread and butter for them."

So what does this storm in the publishing world mean for my latest little book?
I can't see the whole picture yet for the waves.

The immediate consequences:
• I'm having troubles ordering the book. One Ingram (the giant distributor which bought part of Graphic Arts) representative told me, "all of the books in the warehouse were spoken for." Sounds as if there are no more books.
• I have to fill out a one-page Ingram form, which they are suppose to have emailed, so that I can even be on the list to order books. Then I get a 30-40% discount instead of the contracted 50%. Irrelevant if there are no books.
• Don't know the status of a second printing.

When I decided to go with Graphic Arts for Oregon The Taste of Wine, I knew they were on shaky soil. But Ingram–they must represent some 100 publishers–had just bought part of the company. I thought no problem.

Lesson learned:
• In the next book contract I need more than the standard "Failure to Perform" clause. I need to address belly upping. I think it's a trend for book publishing.
• My next books will have a strong web component. I love picture books. Stay tuned, two are grinding in the mill.

I would appreciate suggestions,
philosophical or practical.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Check out this vineyard in a hole

Tom Shreve came up after I did a presentation at the Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge to tell me about an unusual vineyard he had seen on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands in the Arecife area. Check out his photos.

Here's what Tom said about the vineyard: "
The photos were taken in November of 2005 and one out a bus window.

"You can see that there are the round pits and also some with shallower pits and a horseshoe shaped wall. The walls help catch moisture as I recall.

"The pits are large so they have to climb down to harvest. They told us they get a lot of grapes from each pit, I recall it as being in the hundreds of pounds."

Anyone else experienced unusual vineyards?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Does China have Wineries or What

"I didn't know that the Chinese had wineries," is the usual response I get when I tell friends that I'm doing a book on Chinese Vineyards & Wineries.

Well, they do. In fact, the Chinese have more vineyard acreage than the United States and South Africa combined. And the Chinese produce more wine than Germany.

Check out some of the wineries I've visited.

Yes, the Chinese do wineries, big wineries.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why I photograph

I've been rereading Galen Rowell's book Inner Game of Outdoor Photography.

His first words: "If photography was limited to what Daguerre described when he introduced it to the world in 1839–'a process that gives Nature the ability to reproduce herself that enables anyone to take the most detailed views in a few minutes'–this book would never have been written. A technical instruction manual for your camera would be all you'd need to replicate the world before your eyes. But photographic images don't do that. They are visual illusions that trick our senses into believing that the images represent the way the eye would see a real scene."

Visual illusions for the eye.

That's been my guide post in creating photography, including commercial, stock and fine art images. Mixed in there somewhere is a requirement to make beautiful images.

Last night at a Bible study group, one person–a left-brained accountant–mentioned that in her recent graduate class each person was given a chunk of clay. From that lump they were to create an image of their spiritual life at that moment. The assignment shook her orderly line-up-the-columns being to the core.

That assignment also shook me, supposedly a creative type.

Driving home, the account's story was like cold water on my sleeping face. It awakened some
hibernating part of my being. Like a windy storm, it shook the very guideposts I use every day to create my visual-illusions-for-the-eye photographs.

But what was this upsetting storm?

"Why create
illusions/images just for the eye?" I thought out loud. Perhaps I'm not spending enough time creating visual illusions for my inner life, my own spiritual life. What would that look like? What a refreshing path. But where are the guide posts?

The only time I really tried that path was with the Africa Undiscovered Myths Project– a look at the spiritual lives of remote African tribes. What about my own inner life?

Dugh! I need to be working on my own Inner Game of Vineyard Photography. Is there a book there?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Does size matter in CF and SD cards

Charlie Borland was desperate. He e-blasted all of his photo friends for help. During an important assignment, he dropped a filled CF card on to the ground. In that common-finger-fumbling-careless nano second, the card became unreadable.

What to do? Charlie eventually paid a recovery company big bucks to pry open the card to recover the data.

Not to sound pompous, but card fallibility motivates me to use minimum sized cards. I use 2 and 4 GB cards for 12 megapixel cameras (D3 and D300s) and 4 GB cards for 24 megapixel (D3X) equipment.

My thinking: if for some reason one of the cards becomes unreadable, 2GB of information (for a 12megapixel camera) causes me to cuss less than say losing 16GB of files. Plus, the cataloguing system I use works perfectly with the number of images I can pile onto a 2GB card (with a 12 megapixel camera).

Ah, but can't the additional times you mechanically replace filled smaller cards with a new one cause wear and tear or even bend a pin. Yes. But the Nikon cameras I use (D3, D3X, D300s) have two slots (which i can configure in a number of ways). In the very unlikely event that one slot becomes unusable, there is the other. Thank you Nikon.

So for me, size matters. Smaller is beautiful.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What motivates this Chinese woman

So what motivates Chinese?

That's the coffee-conversation topic I had with an American-in-China friend. He has worked and traveled in the Land of the Awakening Dragon for quite some time (I forgot exactly, maybe 12 years.) I mentioned the Vineyard Worker who was so friendly and helpful at the Disneyland of Chinese Wineries. That's the lady mentioned in two earlier blogs.

"Be careful of her motivation," he warned.

He went on to explain that the Chinese have a motive for everything that they do. Who knows what it is for my kind Vineyard Worker. She might be looking for some reward in the future from a foreigner.

Being a newbie to the Chinese culture–two trips totaling 6 weeks on the ground–I don't claim to know what motivates a person in China.

But my friend's perspective made me think about what motivates anyone to act in a friendly or kind way? Me, it makes me feel better. I then thought about all of the warm experiences I've had not only in the USA, but traveling around the world: all the people in our church who brought meals when my wife Eddi was sick for years, Mrs. Langly in England, the Tuscany farmer's wife who let my wife and I stay in her best room and the list is long.

Somehow, I just assumed that the Chinese were like the rest of us, motivated by a wide array of reasons.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Equipment Thoughts

For China, I packed three cameras, each with a different intended purpose: Nikon D300S, Canon PowerShotG10 and Nikon D3.

Nikon D300s–kindly loaned by Pro Photo Supply, Portland, OR–provided HD video and back up the D3. How did it do?

Video: While it took me a bit to figure out how to shoot HD video–probably would have helped to read the manual–it was fun. Surprisingly, because of its inconspicuous size, I ended up using it quite a bit for candid photography both on city streets and in the vineyards. Fun and easy for a D3 user to figure out the cockpit controls.

memory cards: I"m not sure why, but Nikon decided to make two different slots for memory cards, one for CF (compact flash) the other for SD. Two slots are a good idea for overflow of data from first card. But two different types of cards a bit confusing for me. I like the two slots just in case one becomes unusable–like bent pin.

One night at the "Disneyland" Chateau of Chinese Wineries we had a BBQ dinner outside while being filmed by a TV crew. This photo of the event is taken with the D300 S with ISO 200 (Sorry, I'm still stuck in the Paleolithic days of keeping the ISO low) with a 6 second exposure.

Cannon G10 humbled me. I use the camera to take quick 14.7-megapixel snaps, especially when I want others to snap me. Unfortunately, about a week and half into the trip, the Live-View function went dead. “Darn cheap Cannon,” I thought. “My Nikons didn’t go down.” So I used the inconvenient viewfinder to frame the photos for the last week.

Here comes the humble pie part. On the flight home I complained to the Chinese lady sitting next to me that the G10 was broken. No Live View. She points to a button on the camera back labeled “DISP.” It turns the Live View feature on and off. (“DISP." must be short for disappear.) I hope she didn’t see my face turn red. XieXie (Thank you in Chinese.) It seems she had a similar experience with her small Cannon camera. I didn’t bother to tell her I was a professional photographer.

Nikon D3 is my dependable workhorse. In the last year or so, that battle ax has been to Africa, China–two times, Chile and hundreds of commercial situations. I’ve printed 30X40 prints from it’s files-resed up a bit.

Driving an indicator of Chinese politics

While in China, it dawned on me that the way people drive is an indicator of the county's politics.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Warm Reunion in "Disneyland" Vineyard

I met this vineyard-worker lady on my first visit to Chateau Changyu AFIP (which I call the "Disneyland" of Wineries). At that time she went out of her way to be kind. First, she offered me her coat because she thought I was cold wearing shorts. (Chinese just don't wear shorts, well, perhaps one in a million. So do the math on how many shorts you see in China.) Then, when one of my tripod legs slipped into a small divot, she found a rock to make the ground level. Finally, when I pointed to a pipe coming out of the ground while saying "water" in Chinese, she runs over to her water bottle to offer me a drink. I felt adopted.

On this second visit there was a crew filming in the vineyard and my kind lady was one of the "background extras". We instantly recognized each other and I greeted her as warmly as my 20-Chinese-word vocabulary allowed. Language, however, was not a limitation. She excitedly explained to the other vineyard-worker lady "extras" how she and I first met. With lots of hand gestures above the knees showing the length of my shorts the picture was clear. The film crew was a bit upset. All of our commotion stopped the filming process as the "background extras" were not in position faking like they were working (in their clean white uniforms). Looks as if human kindness is more powerful than the Chinese version of Hollywood (would that be Chinawood).

This video clip is taken with the new Nikon D300S, kindly provided by Pro Photo Supply in Portland, Oregon. Thank you Jon. I hope to write a from-the-field mini review of the camera in a new blog hopefully later today. The gentleman in the pink shirt with the camera is one of the French film "stars". Oh yes, sorry about the hand-held shakiness and file size. This is my first attempt at video on the web.

Size Matters In China

The new Crown Plaza hotel in the center–right now the tallest building in town–next to the Convention Center in Yantai.

Maybe it's because China is geographically so large, or maybe it's because there are 1.3 billion people, but size matters here.

For example, driving just outside Yantai to Changyu Castel winery, the landscape is dead flat. Suddenly surrounded by dwarf fruit trees, there is a shiny new 30-story building or even a group of 30-story buildings. They are totally unoccupied. So was the developer anticipating growth 20 kilometers out of town, or did he simply want to build something big?

Chateau Huadong-Parry winery with the city of Qingdao in the distance. Is this not big enough?

The General Manager of Huadong winery near the beautiful coastal town of Qingdao has a beautiful Chateau nestled in the mountains. But she is building a new and bigger one not far away in Penglai.
Why? "Because in China, big is important. If it's not big, it's not important," she replies.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Almost didn't make it to the main event

Like a good photographer, I'm at the top of a old rusty lighthouse taking panoramas of Yantai city just minutes before the golden-light sunset. My phone chimes. It's Michael, my Changyu Winery host wondering where I am. I'm suppose to be at the reception 15 minutes ago. Opps.

Let me explain the situation. Here in Yantai, China, I am a guest of Changyu, the largest winery in China. During this 3rd-annual Yantai Wine Festival, Changyu Winery has a full program for its guests, of which I'm one tiny potato. Michael is my main gracious and patient Changyu contact. The Program calls for me to be at the Reception now.

So Michael asks again where I am. Insert bad word here. While talking with him on the fifth floor, I get on the lighthouse elevator heading down. Naturally, in the metal elevator I lose telephone reception. Inching down in the rickety capsule, I'm wondering what kind of bad thoughts about this errant photographer Michael is having. At the bottom of the lighthouse, I regain telephone reception. "I'll be there in 5 minutes," I yell, waving off the guard who wants five Yuan for the elevator ride. I run to the hotel pick-up location, after I paid the guard his five Yuan.
Michael, Thank you. I'm so glad I went to the reception. Look what I would have missed.

This last photo recreates what I saw during my ride back to the hotel. But the blurry vision is China's fault. The Chinese way of drinking wine is gambei. The Western world calls it chugging or bottoms up. In China, gambei actually means "to make dry", as in your wine glass. During the reception/dinner we dried lots of wine glasses.
But please note that I am photographing from the navigator's position and not driving.