Bike Commuting Update

Out with the old, in with the new.

I just switched from 700×32 tires on the right, to 700×25 tires on the left! Shake and bake!
I know that millions of you out there are wondering how my bike commuting days are going. Well, I have to admit, it is pretty exciting. Using a bike instead of a car, who would have thunk it. It’s not like the rest of the world does it or anything.
I’ve been enjoying my little commute, even though I’m not commuting. You see I work at home, so I have nowhere to commute to. BUT, I do use the bike for errands. Food, bank, beach, training, lab, clients, etc, I can do all from the bike.

My typical rear rack setup. Exciting right?

Sure, I get to the clients and I’m a total sweaty mess, but who cares, it adds excitement to our lives of routine. A lot of folks ask me about the reception to riding in these parts. Frankly, it’s fine. Most people are TOTALLY indifferent to someone on a bike, and those few who blow by you inches from your handlebar, or get close and blast their horn, they have always sucked and have always been lonely, scared, insignificant creatures anyway, and chances are they will never change.

Another photo here for no particular reason.

Last night a friend was able to debut his documentary film titled, “Riding Bikes with the Dutch,” at the Art Theater in Long Beach. A great, fun film which ultimately contrasts Amsterdam with Long Beach, “The most bike friendly city in America.”
I’m not sure why bikes have been so slow to catch on here, well, I take that back. I know why. But, I’m surprised we still haven’t put our egos and status aside and embraced our future. I think when gas hits $5 per gallon, and it will, I think the bike will suddenly become more appealing.
Forty percent of all trips taken in the United States are less than 2 MILES. Just think about that.

But, it has to begin with city planning. Without city planning we are DOOMED. Drive to Phoenix lately? From LA? NINETY miles from Phoenix someone is building track housing developments. People, people, people, this has to be stopped. Not only are they building out there, but there is NO public transport to the city. How in 2010 is that possible? Plus, these places are cracker jack construction which means repairs in ten years, required heating in winter, air conditioning in summer. People, how on Earth does this make sense? And yet…it continues at a record pace.

This country is fantastic, but we sure do settle for less much of the time. We squander our potential, and instead of being a leader in the world we are a distant, reluctant, often times belligerent follower. We have the means to LEAD the world in this area, and yet we lead in sprawl and energy consumption.

The bike for me, don’t get me wrong, was not a revolutionary tactic. I ride because I like to ride. It made sense to me. The VAST majority of my trips are within 10 miles of my house, so naturally, I can take a bike and be fine. I also think the bike gives me time to think. No cell phone, and I even quit listening to music. One, it is safer, but two my mind is more clear, uncluttered. The bike is the ultimate pace. I could never run ten miles a day, and don’t really need my car. A bike is that pace that forces you to be a part of the world, but also allows you to cover a fair amount of ground.

There are a hundred and one reasons NOT to bike around here, but most are lame and old and tired. Check out my friend’s movie. If the those pesky Dutch can do it then so can we.

After All These Years

I just realized something. Well, I think I already knew it, but I think I just realized it again, and for all I know I’ve written this post before.

I hear a lot of commotion about the “future of photography,” but I’m pretty darn sure NOBODY really knows what the future will be. Looking back at the last twenty years, I heard this proclamation many times, “The future of photography is…(insert outlandish tale here.) Much of what was predicted was done for marketing purposes more than anything else, but in the end, photography has survived in it’s multiple shapes, forms and formats, just as it always has. The marketing folks sells their elixir and move to figure out what elixir to sell next, and the really serious photographers look up from their desk, purvey the landscape and get back to work.

Today I’m being told, once again, what my future is. Today I’m being told my future is primarily electronic and will need continual upgrades.

But after much pondering and consideration, I think I know why.

It was not that long ago that the Vietnam War raged and television “came of age,” surpassing the still image, the written word, as the primary means of communication. Suddenly the battlefield, as well as every other human endeavor came flowing into the household. People around the world suddenly found themselves spending copious amounts of time in front of the glowing box.

Today, we spend more time in front of the glowing box than every before. We have hundreds if not thousands of channels, options, flowing every second of every day. In my mind Hollywood has become the single most influential societal force in America today, perhaps the world. I think there are more Hollywood driven news stories than any other topic. Any celebrity focused project is a near slam dunk. If I was a serious writer I would research this and give you the actual facts, but that might take real effort.

Hollywood and television dominate the headlines, the magazine world, the social media world and most dinner party conversations.

It typically goes like this.

“Hey, did you see the latest episode of (enter show here)?”


“Well do you remember when (enter character name here) crashed his car?”


“You know it was right after (enter character name here) got back from her leg amputation.”


“I’ve never seen the show.”

Mega-pause and confused look.

“Your kidding right?”


This has happened to me countless times.

But here is my little secret. I don’t have cable television. Yes, I’m that guy.

So when I hear that my future is motion, sound, multimedia, tablets, pods, moving photography, magazines that vibrate in my hand, 3D sleeping helmets, plug-in brain modifiers for series subscriptions, food in pill form, etc, I have to laugh and say, “Sorry peeps, that ain’t my future.” It isn’t even my present. And it was never my past.

I was lucky, my parents were not TV people either, and we lived far out in the sticks, where the rabbit ears picked up little more than horrifying local access people talking about and showing their scars from recent surgery, or the local news channel that would go to commercial and forget the camera was on, allowing us to enjoy the anchor picking his nose or yelling at his assistant.

I did have a BRIEF moment of wanting to be Sonny Crockett, but come on, Miami Vice was clearly the pinnacle of television accomplishment. I also remember, as a kid, watching Wild Kingdom each week, right after bath time as mom would plop us down with popcorn and orange juice. I was fascinated by the guy with the wooden pointer, pointing at exotic lands, as Jim, his muscle, got his ass handed to him by some African beast.

Look, you put me in front of a television and my mind just stops. It’s like a drug, even for me, the guy weaned of this potentially evil device at a young age. Turn on the TV and gone is my journal. My book is tossed aside, my phone turned off, and suddenly I’m watching Breakin 2: Electric Bugaloo at 4am.

I can’t help myself and I’m not alone.

This machine, in many ways, has taken over our lives and our culture, so I know why the modern technology snake oil salesmen are telling us all that THIS is our future.

Look. I like still imagery. I’m glad TV is here, and it is a unique thing, but I simply don’t, and probably never will, relate to it like I relate to the still image.

I don’t want my magazine to move around or have sound and motion. Just like my books. I don’t want that. What I love about a book is I can feel it, and it is static and QUIET, same with my magazines.

When I go to a gallery, I’m not typically looking for video installations, or the movie that accompanies the work. I’m looking at the quiet, still pieces, hanging formidably from the white walls.

If a piece is really good, and I mean really good, something that only comes along once in a while, the piece doesn’t need ANYTHING else. Most of what we see in the still photography world isn’t great, so perhaps adding sound and motion are crutches used to salvage average work. Look around, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

When a still image is great, and again I mean great, when you look at it you can smell it, hear it, as well as see it. All of these senses are triggered by the magic image, but more importantly by your MIND. Your senses are engaged because your mind is activated.

I think the multimedia push, in some ways, is a tad lazy, not just in the way most pieces are edited or run too long, but in the sense you might not really be that engaged by the imagery because you are simultaneously being bombarded by sound and motion in addition to the photograph. . Your brain is multitasking, and is trying to deal with at least three things at once. I my mind, that equates directly to one third of the attention going to the image.

A still image requires something on the part of the viewer. A still image is confrontational and solitary. You either engage or you don’t. But I think we have all had that moment when you looked across a space and first set eyes upon an image that nearly stopped your heart. THAT is what I love about still photography.

Let’s go back to Vietnam. When I think of this war, what comes to mind? In my case, still images, not television.

So where are we?

We are just here, today, in 2010, and we have much on our plates. I’m not sure how much I’ll contemplate the future anymore because to do my best work, I really need to concentrate on the now.

Will I watch TV this year, you bet your ass, starting with tonight’s BCS game. But when it ends, I’ll turn it off and go back to my life, and my pursuit of making still images.

My Comment that Bounced

I love reading blogs. I love commenting on blogs, but due to my being tied up with making magical photograph after magical photograph, I don’t get a lot of time to make comments. So when I do get time, I find it exciting. I wrote this comment earlier today, on another blog, but after I hit submit, the post got rejected for some reason. Well, it wasn’t rejected exactly, the internal machinery wasn’t working, so it never even got sent up the chain of command. But, because I’m so skilled at navigating the digital world, wink, wink, I always save my comments before hitting send. So I figured, at the very least, I could post it here. And, most importantly, I have the time. The blog asked questions about this year, next year and about the “death of film.”

My big news for the year is that it appears that this was the year of “survival is the new success.”

My phone frequently rings in with tales of sorrow from all parts of the world, but at the core of this, I feel, is still a positive spark burning, but burning as a warning for all of us. The question is will we see the warning? Will we take notice? Or will pace once again derail us from seeing the larger picture, no pun intended.

At the heart of all issues photographic is the photographer. We are the solution, and we are the problem.

For 2010 to pull us from the depths of where our industry finds itself, all we need to do is stop, look, listen and slow down.

Unique content is the key, and we’ve gotten away from it. We have filled the world with millions of generic content style images and then wondered why the impact of photography has fallen off the cliff. We wonder why magazines fail. We wonder why no one seems to be interested in great imagery. We wonder why the photographers being regaled are more about technology than they are about imagery. We wonder why adding sound and motion has become so important. We wonder why we think this is going to “save us.”

Unique content.

Speed kills, as they say, and in my mind, it’s been killing our business for at least twelve years. Something happened to all of us the minute we could immediately see our images and the minute we gave ourselves the allusion we were in control of everything. Something happened to us when we began to think we could make perfect things, pictures, people, moments, etc. Something happened when we decided the machines could “make” us photographers.

These things have led us here, and now we need to find the trail out. The road ahead is perilous, and it’s going to take some feeling around the dark to find the trail head. Nothing will be easy. The highway is there, brightly lit, beckoning for us to get in line, but we know where that road leads, it’s what got us to where we are today.

As for the year of the “death of film.” I’ve been hearing that for almost fifteen years, and it makes me laugh every time. The best work being made these days, in my mind, is mostly produced by photographers still using film. In fact, looking back at the books I bought from this past year, and the shows I attended, shows that were good, interesting, and filled with unique content…..all film users. I also acquired several prints, all but one of which were made on film and printed in the traditional darkroom.

So, here’s to a 2010 of kids continuing to buy vinyl, turntables and 1980’s headphones. Here’s to the bicycle. Here’s to face to face instead of the chat room. Here’s to handmade. Here’s to time. Here’s to pen and paper. Here’s to doing things right before you’re on deadline. Here’s to substance over style. Here’s to the unknown photographer. Here’s to not conforming. Here’s to photo editors who actually know something about photography. Here’s to those moments of clarity where we do our best, most creative work. Here’s to photographers learning to think on their own again, and here’s to film surviving yet another year in the death pool. Here’s to design making a comeback. Here’s to the photography book. Here’s to the photography show. Here’s to those that question the higher ups. Here’s to the photographic audience, sorry we forgot about you there for a decade. Here’s to wading through the noise that surrounds the “professional” photography world. Here’s to photographers learning about light instead of keyboard shortcuts. Here’s to personal work. Here’s to creative control. Here’s to saying “No.” Here’s to asking yourself the question, “What is it I truly want to do, and what is it I’m trying to say?” And here’s to finding the answer.

And most importantly, here’s to photography. It’s larger and more powerful than any of us and will survive long after the last pixel or grain of silver has faded to dust.

Costa Mesa, CA
December 2009