Sunday, October 28, 2012

Film may finally be dead

I've been trying to keep it on life support, but it after today's experience, it may just be too expensive.

I threw a roll of Kodak 800 in the M3 last night to take some fun photos at the Halloween party. The surprise came when I attempted to drop it off at CVS this afternoon. The guy in the photo lab said, "Sorry, we don't develop film anymore." I drove down the road to Walgreens. Thankfully they do still develop film, but since CVS and Wal-Mart have scrapped their film business, Walgreens has doubled the price. It was almost $15 for one set of prints and a photo CD. When you add the cost of the film itself, it's almost $20 to shoot 24 exposures of color film.

Of course, then you post the photos you've taken, and everyone thinks you were just using Instagram on your phone.


But there's still something warm and magical in the texture and grain of film. I spent the afternoon finishing the roll, and I was shooting digital at the same time. I just couldn't duplicate shots like this with the digital camera.



The digital camera has its own advantages. It's sharper. It's more clinical. The color balance is more realistic. You can easily tell the difference.


Thankfully I can still develop black and white film at home, but I don't think it's worth investing in a C41 lab kit. I think I'll finish shooting the color film I've got and then kiss it goodbye.

So when was the last time you used film?

Fund raising and crisis management

It was a busy week in Houston. I was privileged to spend Tuesday evening at the KUHF 88.7 FM Houston Public Radio station located on the University of Houston campus helping with their fall fund drive. I spent two hours in the booth with Jack Williams, Laurie Johnson, Paul Pendergrast, Debra Fraser and Eric Ladau. It's always a pleasure chatting with all of them, and they were quite intrigued with my tales from Cryptopalooza.

Between 5 - 7 p.m. with Technip's match, callers donated a total of $51,552. Thank you for everyone who called in or logged on to support public radio.

KUHF Fall Fund Drive

As soon as I was finished at the radio it was off to a two-day leadership seminar on Lake Conroe. The guest speaker was retired Commander Kirk Lippold, who was the commanding officer of the USS Cole when it was attacked by Al-Qaeda terrorists during a refueling stop in the Yemeni port of Aden, killing 17 U.S. sailors, Oct. 12, 2000.

Lippold was a very inspiring speaker, and I honestly would not be surprised if the writers of NCIS had created Gibb's character somewhat based on this man.

Commander Kirk Lippold

Lippold's recipe for leadership contains integrity, vision, personal responsibility and accountability, trust, and investment in professional competence.

He suggests that crisis management is the ability to act in the now while still thinking ahead -- not only thinking what is next, but what is next after that.

For some further reading, Lippold suggested "Letter to Garcia," and for you convenience, I've already googled it and linked it here:

It was a good week, but I'm looking forward to being home until Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cryptopalooza 2012

People say I look like a celebrity ...

Cryptopalooza: Day 3

A few months ago, my "online" friend Craig Woolheater sent me an invite to something called Cryptopalooza in Jefferson, Texas. Craig is the founder of, and we'd been Myspace friends and then Facebook friends for several years, but I'd never met him in real life.

At the time, I didn't have much planned, so I jumped aboard this bigfoot festival with both feet, bought an all-access pass, and booked my hotel room at the Fairfield Inn. Little did I realize I would be traveling almost non-stop between then and the festival. I also did not realize the tiny town of Jefferson, Texas was almost five hours away from Houston. Nonetheless, I would not have missed the experience.

I arrived late Friday night just in time to get a little bit of barbecue and catch the last couple of songs of the Ghoultown concert at the Jefferson Visitors Center.

Cryptopalooza: Day 1

Both Lyle Blackburn, author of The Beast of Boggy Creek, and Ken Gerhard of Monster Quest were playing in the band. However, I would have no idea who they were until Saturday.

I picked up my VIP kit with my reserve seating sign, my badge, the schedule and my plush cryptid.

Cryptopalooza: Day 1

After the concert I walked down the cobblestone streets of historic Jefferson, Texas and ducked into Auntie Skinner's Riverboat Club and had a few beers with Team Tazer, a Bigfoot hunting club from the Houston area. There was a great band playing in there, but I would guess half of the adult population of Jefferson was in Auntie Skinner's, and they were all smoking. My sinuses were not having it, so I called it a night and drove back to Marshall, Texas to crash.

Breakfast was when things got exciting. Serena Altschul was attending the event for CBS Sunday Morning. I'd had a bit of a crush on her since she was doing MTV News back in the 90s, so I got to chat with her at breakfast. Of course, I couldn't resist snagging a photo with her later in the day. Yes, the speakers were great, but that was the highlight of my weekend. (Serena, if you're reading this, I'm totally into older women. Give me a call!)

Cryptomundo: Day 2

Ken Gerhard kicked off the day talking about Monsters of Texas. He claims that the Chupacabra is currently the "sexiest" cryptid in the media.

Cryptopalooza: Day 2

Meanwhile, the CBS crew was filming everything. Unless there's a terrorist attack, the spot should air this coming Sunday morning.

Cryptopalooza: Day 2

Saturday's schedule included Ken Gerhard, big cat expert Chester Moore, author and cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, screenwriter and author of The Bigfoot Filmography Dave Coleman,  Jerry Hestand of the Texas Bigfoot Research Conversancy, and Lyle Blackburn, author of The Beast of Boggy Creek. All of the speakers did a great job, although Hestand got some people in the crowd a bit riled up when he debated the need to "take a specimen," or shoot bigfoot, to prove the species exists.

Having left his regular glasses at home, nobody saw Dave Coleman's eyes the entire weekend as he was sporting his prescription sunglasses. However, even without being able to get his computer to work with the projector, he was STILL able to keep the crowd enthralled while discussing the history of bigfoot in movies, television and advertising.

Cryptopalooza: Day 2

Throughout the day I had chatted with Eduardo Sanchez, director of The Blair Witch Project, and Mark Ordesky, executive producer for Lord of the Rings. However, when chatting with them, I had no idea who they were. I thought they were just other attendees until they took the stage to unveil their new film, Exists.

Cryptopalooza: Day 2

That was the cool part of Cryptopalooza, there was no wall between the presenters and those in attendance. All of them were very approachable and more than happy to talk to you -- especially about the movie The Legend of Boggy Creek.

I'd never even seen The Legend of Boggy Creek until the screening Saturday night, but it apparently has influenced an entire generation of people, and Sanchez said he wanted to return respect and fear to bigfoot by making his version more like the Fouke Monster and less like Harry and the Hendersons. Exists, a found-footage flick in the style of The Blair Witch Project, does indeed look scary.

Lyle Blackburn ended the night with a Q&A session about the historical accuracy of The Legend of Boggy Creek. He would also be the tour guide through Fouke, Arkansas on Sunday.

Late Saturday night we boarded the Bigfoot Train, which was actually the haunted train, which was actually just the Jefferson tour train covered in fake spiderwebs with inflatable ghosts strewn through the forest. That might have been the only letdown of the weekend -- not too exciting.

I kept planning to blog the weekend as I went, but each day ended late and each morning started early. Sunday I had breakfast with Loren Coleman, Craig Woolheater, and Sharon Lee. Then it was off to Jefferson to meet up with the group for the drive to Fouke.

For the record, I did sight a bigfoot along the road in Louisiana on our way to Arkansas.

Cryptopalooza: Day 3

I think it was for sale if anybody wants to go back and attempt to capture it.

The Monster Mart in Fouke was quite entertaining.

Cryptopalooza: Day 3

Everyone got a chance to pose with their head through the Fouke Monster cutout, and we all took turns posing in front of the mural on the building. I think Loren Coleman and Lyle Blackburn might have been enjoying it a little too much.

Cryptopalooza: Day 3

The owner of the Monster Mart came out to greet everyone and showed off his track cast and scrap book full of Fouke Monster sightings.

Cryptopalooza: Day 3

Cryptopalooza: Day 3

Now there's one thing to know about the Monster Mart. There's a sales clerk there with the sweetest voice you've ever heard mixed with the thickest Arkansas accent I've ever come across. Everything she said was music. I asked her if I could call her every night and just have her read the news to me, but she politely declined.

From the Monster Mart Lyle Blackburn began the guided tour, and it was off to the Sulphur River bottoms.

Cryptopalooza: Day 3

Next stop was the alleged location of a sighting that had happened just a week previous.

Cryptopalooza: Day 3

Then there was a stop at the infamous Boggy Creek itself.

Cryptopalooza: Day 3

Then a stop at the site of the Ford home where a Fouke Monster attack allegedly occurred. The neighbor stopped to ask what the hell a line of 15 cars were doing staring at that pasture.

Cryptopalooza: Day 3

I think most of the locals were wondering what the hell we were doing, but not Smokey Crabtree. He was expecting us.

Cryptopalooza: Day 3

I bought Smokey's book called, "Smokey and Fouke Monster" and a jar of his wife's plum preserves. (He actually has three books now although his "museum" only touts two.) He is not a man who is shy about self promotion. He proclaimed that his books were worth at least $100 in skills they would teach you. That included the recipe for how to catch a prize-winning gar, and how to noodle for catfish. I have not yet started reading this book, but it may deserve a blog post in itself.

Now I can't show you the most fascinating part of the visit to Smokey's Two-Books Bookstore because cameras weren't allowed in the garage where he keeps the mystery skeleton. The mystery skeleton is over 8 feet long and is missing a head, but it has a very long torso and what seem to be kind of short arms and legs with very large feet and hands. It also smells terrible. One of the visitors had to make a dash out of the hot garage after getting a nose full of it, and he didn't come back.

I've heard it proposed that the skeleton is actually that of a tiger, but nobody knows why a headless tiger skeleton would be lying in the woods in Fouke, Arkansas. Even if it's not a bigfoot, it's still a mystery.

Since I can't show you the skeleton, here is Smokey's taxidermied beaver instead.

Cryptopalooza: Day 3

And that was it. We all drove back to Jefferson with more questions than answers. It was like every episode of the X-files rolled into one. Why did the Fouke Monster tracks found in the 1960s have only three toes when all other bigfoot castings in the area had five toes. What really attacked that guy at the Ford home? Why have no bigfoot bones or bodies been found?

I'm not a bigfoot believer, but if there was a thick enough forest for a large ape population to live without detection, it could definitely be in Fouke, Arkansas. It's enough of a mystery to make me want to canoe the river next spring.

The event will be on CBS Sunday Morning, Sunday, Oct. 28. Tune in.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chicago, camera lust and bigfoot

I spent the latter part of last week in Chicago for the Ragan Media Social Media Summit.

This is the first training seminar I've attended in probably ten years. I've just always been too busy at work for that type of thing, and I've always considered myself a bit of an expert who probably couldn't learn anything anyway. I was wrong.

I got into social media early because I knew that if we didn't occupy and control the social media space, someone else would. So yes, I occupy the social media space, but that's all I do. We treat it as a free video host or another platform for disseminating press releases and driving readers back to our website and media center.

What I haven't done is actually create a strategy for engaging readers and growing the brand through social media. I also haven't done any investigation into ROI. If I'm ever going to run my own business, I need to spend some time studying the financial returns these tool can bring to business and how to track it.

The summit not only opened my eyes to the full potential interaction we could be having with the public, it also scared me as to how much energy it will take to manage it if we reach that goal. Right now I don't have to monitor Twitter to respond to anybody. Some of these social media managers have to deal with flame wars at 2 a.m.

I was lazy and only took one photo during the entire seminar when Chris Boyer, who was presenting about ROI, ended his presentation with a Charleston style song on the ukulele about ROI. Hey, it made it memorable ...

Ukelele jam

I had planned to wander Chicago a bit and take some photos, but my back has been doing crazy things I have never previously experienced. I don't know if I really wrenched it sailing a couple weeks ago or if it's something else (old age), but just when I think it's better, the spasms come back, and it just hurts to move.

While stuck in the hotel spasming, I shot this long exposure of the view from my room.

View from the hotel

The next day I did get to walk around a bit and took a few of the area near the college.

Trump Tower

Gleacher Center



So I took like six photos total, and the entire time I'm thinking, geez, this 28mm just isn't wide enough on the Leica M8 with the APS-H crop factor. Yes, taking just a half dozen photos sent me back into camera lust mode wishing I could upgrade to a full frame system. I caught myself staring at Leica M9-Ps on eBay.

Do you know what my ROI on cameras has been this year? Around $36. That just barely paid for my Flickr Pro account. It didn't touch the $100 I invested into a Zenfolio account. It definitely doesn't cover the two $85 lens cleanings I've had this year. I need a new $6000 camera like I need a hole in the head -- but I really want one.

Common sense has prevailed ... for now. I'm going to make myself sell the M8 and possibly the M3 first if I do decide to upgrade to an M9 or the new M. I'd like to get back to a world where a 50mm is a 50mm. And yes, I could just shoot film, but I never shoot exactly 24 photos. I'll shoot three here, four there, 12 there. It takes weeks to finish a roll, but I might need them that day. It's a conundrum.

Then there's the question, do I get an M9 and a Sony NEX-6 for video or do I just wait for the M and have photo and video in one camera?

Enough boring camera talk.

This weekend I'll be at Cryptopalooza in Jefferson, Texas. This looks like it will be the biggest bigfooter conference in the nation. When it's right at my back door, how could I resist attending? Expect lots of photos and video.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Chasing sunsets and frolicking with dolphins

On some rare occasions, everything just comes together.


Saturday was really the culmination of three years of hard work that brought the Seahorse back from the dead and created an amazing day.

Now back in August when I was suffering from heat stroke inside the cabin even with the air-conditioner window unit strapped into the hatch and blowing full blast, I couldn't find anyone else foolish enough to sail in the heat with me, so I decided to swap the transmission shifter around, tune up the engine and add another vent to the cabin. Time well spent because the motor ran like a champ. However, I had left the boat a total mess.

Then last weekend, after three weeks of traveling, I finally made it to the boat only to be stuck in a massive thunderstorm all weekend. What do you do when you're trapped inside a boat in the rain? Well, you might as well clean, and clean I did.

What do you do when you're stuck inside a clean boat in the rain? Obviously you work on your novel, and you take pictures with your dog.


Midnight guitar break

Writing out the storm

So when I invited a friend to go sailing this past weekend, the boat was not only tuned up but also clean. Take a clean boat that's running well out in beautiful weather, and well, it's just magic.

There was a huge regatta going on towards the south, so instead of making the usual run to Redfish Island I headed to the north end of the bay to avoid all the traffic.

Once I made it out of the channel, I kicked on the autopilot and raised the sails. Everything went right. My guest marveled at my ability to single hand the boat. I kind of marveled at it myself remembering what a nerve-wracking experience it had once been to attempt this.

We cruised across the bay in the light breeze and warm sun. We anchored near the point just off Pine Gully Park and had sandwiches while we watched the other boats go by. The afternoon was filled with sunbathing and swimming.

I raised the anchor and hoisted the main for a leisurely trip back that would coincide with the sunset, and I joked that I was sorry that being in Texas I couldn't deliver crystal clear water or friendly dolphins.

Not ten minutes later, the friendly dolphins showed up.

I'd seen a few dolphins in the past off in the distance or riding the bow waves of the big ships in the ship channel, but they'd never visited my boat before. The bigger ones kept their distance, but the baby was very friendly and kept buzzing the side of the boat and chirped at us a few times. I wish I had thought to kick on the autopilot, so I could have left the helm and made a better video, but in the excitement of the moment, I didn't even think about it.

We motored back through the channel and straight into the sunset getting home at dusk.

The only tragedy of the day was that I blew out a flipflop.

Blew out a flipflop

But if comes down to losing a flipflop versus losing a motor, I'll happily give up the sandal. I even happened to have a spare pair in the truck.

The real problem now is that I can never ever take that girl sailing again because it's never going to live up to that day with perfect weather when nothing broke, there were no emergencies, and a baby dolphin talked to us.

But even if there never is another day like that, the three years of work I've put into the Seahorse to experience that Saturday have been completely worth it.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Remembering summer

Time flies when you're having fun. I was away from the marina for a month, and I went from being too hot to move in August to suddenly finding myself shivering this weekend as a cold front dropped us into the 50s Saturday night.

I had taken the Rolleicord out on the boat in either early August or late July and had never finished the roll, so last week I finally snapped that last shot and then developed the roll in Caffenol-C Sunday night.

With the instant gratification of digital I had forgotten what a time capsule a forgotten roll of film could be. Here's a couple shots I had time to scan this morning.

Music on the water

Music on the water

Never drink those skinny Corona cans with a kuzi. The condensation builds up in the kuzi and then pours all over you when you take a sip.

The Rolleicord is still impressing me, but I'm not sure what I did to the right edge of the negatives. Almost all of them have weird black dots.

Last year I got to keep sailing until Thanksgiving, but this weekend the water was already so low that I was plowing mud from the channel in the lake all the way to my slip. I'm not sure I'll be able to get out much longer. If that's the case, I definitely need a deeper marina.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

I'm not always on a boat ...

My apologies for being absent from the blog for the past couple weeks, but despite what it may seem, I'm not always just hanging out on the boat and blogging.

A few weeks back I decided to dust off the six string and start getting a bit more serious with the music. No, I'm not back to playing shows, but I've committed to actually do some practicing and learn a new song each week. I've also been stopping by some open mics in the area.


My friend TJ was hosting open mic at Doghouse Pub in Spring, so I had to stop by and participate.


Then it was off to France for work.

Back in Paris

After a week in Paris (working EXTRA hard) I got to take an extra day to visit Versaille.

Some cheeseball at Versaille

And what trip to Paris would be complete without some kind of photo or video of the Eiffel Tower? Here you go.

I didn't say it was GOOD video. I just said it was a video.

After Paris it was two days at home before it was off to Tulsa, Oklahoma for my cousin's wedding. My brother, his girlfriend and I roadtripped it through Indian Territory.


Then we got our kicks.


And let me tell you, this wedding was something else. The reception was at the Philbrook Museum of Art, and I felt like I was in The Great Gatsby.

Doing my best impression of The Great Gatsby

But there was no rest after the wedding. Then it was off to College Station to film some model tests for work at the Offshore Technology Research Center.

This was the first video project where I've only used the Nikon D7000. I've still got a few focus issues to work out, but I'm pretty impressed with the video quality.

This week it's off to Chicago for a social media seminar. I'm going to learn to Facebook more effectively. That's right, my facebook is going to be in your face ... or something like that.

I did finally get to go sailing this weekend, but that's for another blog.