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Three Photography Shows This Weekend


There are three excellent photography shows opening in central Indiana galleries this weekend, with receptions on Friday, July 3rd. Go out and celebrate the goodness!

Pictura Gallery
Pictura Gallery in Bloomington is opening their Landscape Invitational show, featuring some of my new favorite photographers. I'm there as well, but well, I'm not a new favorite of mine, er.. I suppose.

Jul 3 - Aug 4
Landscape Invitational, Pictura Gallery, Bloomington, IN
Opening Reception: Friday, July 3, 2009 5 - 8pm

Dean Johnson Gallery
I also have a piece in the Black and White show, opening at the Dean Johnson Gallery:

Jul 3 - 30
Black and White Show, Dean Johnson Gallery, Indianapolis, IN
Opening Reception: Friday, July 3, 2009 5 - 9pm

"Not everything is seen in black and white, but it is in this show. Check out some of the best photographers in Indianapolis as they focus on the purest form of their art, in our Black & White exhibit."

AV Framing Gallery
It would also be well worth your time to visit the AV Framing Gallery, with the debut of a new photography space by my good friends John and Joslyn Crowe.

Jul 3 - Aug 22
Life Has Moments: intimate and client work by John Crowe and Joslyn Virgin Crowe -- Crowe's Eye Photography.
AV Framing Gallery, Indianapolis, IN
Opening Reception: Friday July 3, 2009 5 - 9pm

Leave Everything To Save It

Root Swirl

I was overwhelmed, stressed out and losing motivation. But, there were things to get done. If I could just stay on task the world might not fall apart. I needed to prepare for an art show the coming weekend, there was still bookkeeping to do from the previous show and an approaching deadline for a freelance job. Not enough hours. The house was getting messier too. The lawn, overgrown. Piles of paper around my desk. I was running out of clean clothes. And, it was getting harder to like people, because all people do is generate more stuff to do.

Over breakfast, I mentioned my mood to a friend. Exasperated, I sighed, "Maybe I should take a walk in the woods." "Yes", David replied. He looked me deep in the eyes, the way you look at someone when you're giving serious advice. "You should do that."

Back at home, I recounted the breakfast conversation to my wife, Hannah. "Yeah, you should take that walk in the woods." I nodded in agreement and promptly went to my office. I answered a few emails and fired up the accounting software. Sure, it would be nice to take a walk, but I was already behind on my work. It would be irresponsible to fall behind any further.

A few hours later,  Hannah came by. "What are you still doing here?" I blathered some excuses. Feeling defeated, I hopped into the car and drove towards my favorite park. It was painful to leave.

I parked the car, all along feeling sorry for myself. I walked into the woods, down a ravine and found a log by the river. And there I sat, on the log. I became still and watched the water flow by. About an hour passed.

It was just what I needed. Was it the meditation, the change of environment, or the peaceful quality of the woods? I don't know. But I did know that things were going to be okay. Not only that, but I was grateful.

And then I picked up my camera and took a few pictures. I hadn't taken a picture in weeks. I came home, lightened. On my camera was Root Swirl, the picture above.

A Lot of What I've Done Doesn't Mean Anything

“A lot of what I’ve done in my business life, I don’t think it really means anything. There’s this whole — you’re seeing a lot of it now with all the politics and bailouts — way to make money in the world but not really do anything to contribute. I feel like what we do is important. But it’s not financially rewarding. Who cares? As long as you can make it on your own.”

Quote from tech entrepreneur turned organic farmer Tim Young. Via New York Times Magazine.

I'm Andy and I Have Nature Deficit Disorder

Edge of Woods

I live in the city and I love it. However, something about living this way is not quite right.

I grew up in the suburbs. The backyard of my family's house came up to a woods where we neighborhood kids spent a lot of time getting lost. We made hideouts, buried treasure and went on long explorations. If we explored really, really far we would get to the other side of the woods and arrive at a street corner with an ice cream shop. To my 9 year old eyes, those woods were practically endless.

That was my initial taste of wildness. Those years were followed by TV, Nintendo, classrooms without windows, cars, shopping malls, air conditioning and cubicles. The wildness went from the expected to the other. You may be familiar with "the other". It is that which is different from your daily experience. We tend to fear the other and make up excuses. Dangerous, unknown. You could get kidnapped, or eaten by a bear. The other is uncomfortable. Humidity and bugs. Excuses or not, I want it. For my sanity, I probably need it.

Henry David Thoreau wrote:
We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things by mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.

"In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World", is a photography book by Eliot Porter published in 1962.  The title was taken from a passage by Thoreau. The book is a masterpiece of color nature photography. It is a statement about the lure of wild places and a celebration of the beautiful in what we mistake as common. And here we are, decades after Thoreau and Porter. 

And here am I, living a life after wildness - after Porter's book and after a time when the wild was a regular part of society. At the same time, I am after wildness - after, as in "in pursuit or quest of". There is a struggle between my contemporary, city life and my need of the wild. This has been gnawing at me for the past few years and I suppose will be for some time. Looking at my recent photographic projects, the pursuit of the wild was there waiting for me to realize that I have been searching all along. 

This need for wildness in my life is now strong enough that it requires a name. At the same time, this blog needs more focus (photography pun, hah). Blog, I christen thee, "Searching After Wildness". May we all learn something worth living for.

Business Cards Are Lame

Business cards used to be convenient because they are sized to fit in a wallet. The problem is, everyone packs too many things into their wallets. When someone gives me a business card, it has to compete with stacks of receipts, grocery membership cards, lint and whatever else gets lost with all the little things in my pocket. When I get home, I empty my pockets and all that stuff ends up in a pile on top of my dresser. Eventually, I may go through them by stuffing them into an even bigger pile within a dresser drawer. The card is never seen again.

I haven't had a traditional business card for a few years now. In its place, I have a postcard sized hand out. The 4"x6" card has my contact information and a prominent image of my work. It's large enough to not get lost in a handbag and can be noticed if filed in a folder. The image is large enough to be a mini version of my artwork, but small enough that people would be curious about buying a larger piece. People stick them on their refrigerators and tack them to bulletin boards.

I keep the cards fresh by creating a new design each year. Here are the last few.



I sent the newest version to the printer this morning. I changed the design to encourage action and interaction. People that like what I do feed into what I do which flows back out again. I like that.



Contemporary Family Exhibit


A few months ago, I met with some photographer friends to plan an upcoming exhibit. We needed to choose a topic. I immediately thought of doing a series about the people I live with, because people look at me funny when I describe my house. The house serves as a home for more than just my immediate family. In it, lives: me, my wife, my baby daughter, three single women (one a single mom), the single-mom's 1 yr old daughter, two dogs and two cats. That's me and six females, or eight females if you count the pets. There are a lot of cars parked in front.

Bursting with eagerness, I proposed that the group show should feature the topic of the "Contemporary Family".

Well, then my daughter Ruby was born, and I ended up taking a bunch of pictures of her, rather than pictures of my housemates. And, that's my entry for the exhibit. Although, the piece does include some of my housemates, so you can imagine implied wacky community dynamics if you'd like.

All this to say, that the exhibit is this weekend on Friday and Saturday night. It will feature my contribution "Holding Ruby", as well as images from the other awesome INvision members. The exhibit coincides with the Wheeler Arts Community open house, which is a wonderful bonus reason to be there. Here's the info:

Contemporary Family - an INvision photography exhibit
and the Wheeler Arts Community Spring open house! 

Friday, May 1, 2009 6-10pm
Saturday, May 2, 2009 6-10pm

Wheeler Arts Community
1035 Sanders Street
Indianapolis, IN

See you there!

Me, child portraiture?

In a deviation from my usual subject matter and stylings, here's something that's neither landscape, nor color.


I've been asked recently if I do portraits of kids. I said, have you seen my website and the type of pictures I usually make? Yes, he responded, I have. But, he continued, I mentioned that you're a photographer to some friends of mine, and they wanted to know if you take kids portraits.

You see, my website is full of landscapes. Trees. And if I have people, the shots are more akin to street photography than portraiture. I was really puzzled.

But, his question does make sense. Of all the pictures taken in the world, I wonder how many of them are of kids. You know, the pictures taken to share with friends and family. It's got to be a large percentage. Fifty percent? More? What's the first thing that comes to mind when I say "photographer"? Is it weddings and kids?

I wonder if this is similar to the reaction I get when I mention to people that I worked in the software business. It wouldn't take long for them to ask if I'd help them fix their computer.

So, I've been contemplating, perhaps just a little, what goes into a portrait. Well, for my child, at least.

Big Sky

Petrified Rubble

One on my recent projects, "Big Sky" is now on the gallery section of the website. View it here.
There are places where the trees are sparce, the cities become scattered and the sky revealed. The heavens, vaster than my imagination can hold, rests on broad shoulders of earth and stone. I am no longer at the center.

Most of these images are from the two month Camper Van Chuck road trip. There was a certain kind of pleasure in making images of broad landscapes, which I otherwise generally avoid. I avoid them because I want my images to have a bit of intimacy, a perspective that delves deeper than a flitting glimpse of a wide vista.

But, how could I ignore those luscious far reaching skies?  So, I go where the spirit leads. Or the gut as it may be, although I don't think indigestion played a part.

You can see several of these images this Friday as part of the Open Studio walks. Come by and have a chat:

April 3rd, 2009, 7 - 10pm
First Friday Open Studio 
Studio #302
Murphy Art Center
1043 Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46203

Art Fair Applications and The Unknown Distance

Cascades Stump and Tree

In March, I await the news that will determine my year.

To understand March, we need to go back to January. At the beginning of each year, I spend a couple of weeks swimming in applications and planning my schedule through October. Most art fair applications are due by February.  There's a bit a pressure in having to plan the whole year all at once. If I miss something in those couple of weeks, I've missed it for the year. There's a show that I've missed two years in a row because the deadline has already passed by the time I start planning.

Each application consists of  3 or 4 images of an artist's work and an image of their display. Along with that goes an application fee, ranging from $20 to $40. I applied to about forty shows this year, so the fees add up. The applications then get reviewed by a jury that decides who gets to exhibit and who doesn't.  Some of the fairs will have a thousand applicants competing for one hundred spaces. Actually, not even one hundred spaces, because some of the artists from the previous year get invited back. If you're one of the lucky ones that make it past the jury, there's a booth fee that ranges from $200 to as high as $2000.

After the applications have been sent,  it's up to fate or something. You hope the jurors aren't too bleary eyed after viewing 600 applications before yours.  The responses start coming back in March. In March, I check my email a little more often than usual. I look for the mailman, flipping through envelopes for the latest acceptance or rejection letters. Who knows how each day will be, a celebration or a sigh? Most day's there's no response, just bills and junk mail.

After all that anticipation, here still hasn't been any selling of art. If you're accepted, you get the chance to sell art. That is, once you've created your latest series of work, edited down the images, printed, matted and framed, promoted the show, packed up the van and made it to the show site to setup and welcome the customers.

The process, when successful, is a series of victories of unknown merit. There is no top. With each step you may not even be getting anywhere more beneficial. And the higher you get, the more chances you have to fall. And yet each year I feel that my work is getting better and that I am getting farther. Or is it all just a delusion? I suppose the only sanity is to enjoy the journey.

A Short Break For A New Beginning

Ruby's First Bath

On February 7th, 2009, I became a father. Welcome to the world, little Ruby. Oh, man is she a cutie. As you may guess, the past few weeks have been a doting mix of wonder, random sleep, foggy work and diapers. 

I'm gradually getting back into the routine of things. Life is sweet.

What We Don't Know


I lost the ability to take pictures. Sure, I could still operate a camera, but something was off. I would be looking through the viewfinder, but there was no connection to the subject. I didn't feel in tune with what I was photographing. Puzzled, I put the camera down and rubbed my head, nursing a dull headache. That headache was now on day three. Or, was it four or five? Maybe I was feeling stressed. That would explain the headaches and a lack of connectivity.

Two days later, I picked up the camera again. The headache was still there. I pointed the camera at the bulletin board in my office and tried to compose and focus. Something wasn't right. No matter how I tried to focus the lens, the subject still felt disconnected. It just wouldn't come into focus. Those words rolled around in my mind: wouldn't come into focus. Into focus.....

Ah. I twiddled the diopter adjustment on the viewfinder, and guess what? I could see again. But, I never needed the diopter adjustment before. I ran into the restroom, and swapped my left contact lens with my right. And, the world become clear. For the past week, I had been wearing my contact lenses in the wrong eyes! That also explains the headaches. I felt like a doofus. But I didn't mind one bit. With one minute of effort, I overcame both the headaches and my distance from the camera.

Interesting though, that it took a whole week to notice. Even though I couldn't achieve a focused image in the camera's viewfinder, I still didn't guess that my eyes were off. I just assumed I had some kind of mental block. How subjective it must be to see something. How much needs to come together for me to take a specific picture? How much is going on physically and mentally that I'm not aware of? How much of these out-of-awareness criteria is holding me back from becoming a better photographer? How much of it enables me to be the photographer I already am?

Proofing Prints and HP Z3100 Support

Last week, I made a 22"x33" print of one my recent canyon images. When I was reviewing the print, I noticed some over saturated reds along the horizon, and a spot from sensor dust. I can't help to feel but a little bit defeated when I need to redo a large print. I suppose I could have caught the dust spot and reds while I was proofing the image on my monitor, but some things you don't see until you see. I've spent the past couple of weeks looking at a 10"x15" print of the same image, and never noticed those two issues until I made the bigger print. Especially the dust spot. After you notice a dust spot in an image, it just glares at you.

I made adjustments on the image yesterday and send it off to my printer, a 24" HP Z3100. The print gets about a third of the way through, and stops. Ugh, I'll have to redo the print again. The printer's display informs me that one of the ink cartridges, the Gloss Enhancer, is faulty. Not empty, but faulty. The cartridge is still under warranty, so I call HP support.

HP's automated answering system asks me what product I'm using and puts me on hold for awhile. I get transferred to a real person, and she promptly asks me, "What product are you calling about?" Why is it that every answering system for any company I call asks for up front information and when you finally talk to a real person, the first thing they ask is what you've already told the robo voice? Every time.

Anyways, I provide my information: Name, address, phone, email, printer serial number, printer model number. This takes a few minutes and then I'm put on hold. I'm transferred to the DesignJet printers division. I give all my information again, another five minutes. It takes five minutes because I have to repeat and spell out each word multiple times.  And then, I finally get to explain why I called.  "I've got a faulty gloss enhancer ink cartridge", I say. "It's under warrenty, can you send me a new one?" "Sure", she says, and asks for more info. She asks for the letter on the cartridge. It's an E, which stands for Gloss Enhancer. "Are you sure", she asks? She asks me two more times to tell her the letter on the cartridge. "E", I say. "It's the Gloss Enhancer." Hmm, she ponders. She's stumped. I'm bewildered. I'm talking to the tech support within the DesignJet printer division of HP, and they don't recognize the name of the ink cartridge that goes into their product. She says she needs to find some more information and puts me on hold for a couple of minutes. I'm listen to the pleasant hold music. She returns to the phone and says, "Ahh, you need the Gloss Enhancer cartridge." Yes, I say. "I need the Gloss Enhancer cartridge." 

She says they'll ship it to me, but she doesn't know when it will ship. She'll send me an email. That was some twenty hours ago, and I haven't received the email. I have two exhibits coming up and need the printer working - working soon would be good. So, I went to an online merchant and placed an order.

Ah well. At least I didn't have to fight to convince them that the faulty cartridge fell under warranty.

Update: I just got a FedEx package. It's the Gloss Enhancer ink cartridge, overnighted from HP. Nice. No email notice though.


A few people have mentioned to me that they tried to post comments on the blog, but had trouble registering user accounts. So, I've enabled public comments. Let's all play together!

Take Off Your Shoes

I grew up in an Asian household. When you enter an Asian home, you take off your shoes. I took this as a bit of a hassle and included it among the strange Asian habits of not wanting to use things. I have relatives that live with plastic coverings over their coffee tables, couches and carpets. Taking off your shoes seems like an obvious extension. I didn't have to take off my shoes at my friend's houses. Why did my parents have to be so finicky? What's with this no shoes in the house policy? Is it just neurosis?

It wasn't just shoes, I didn't like taking off my coat either. I like coats. As the weather cooled in the fall, I'd look forward to rediscovering the winter coats that had spent their summer exile in the attic. Perhaps it was a metaphor for wanting to shield myself from the world, like the teens that walk around school wearing trench-coats all the time. I think I just liked the feeling of being wrapped up warm and cozy. I had a habit of keeping my coat on after entering a home. The hosts would encourage me with a smile and a wink, "Why don't you take your coat off? Stay a while." I didn't feel like I was on my way somewhere, I just like my coat, OK? Leave me alone.

Maybe I didn't really want to stay somewhere. That could be why I love backpacking - it's a kind of way of leaving. Interesting then, that when backpacking, one of the great simple pleasures is stopping for a break. For short breaks, you rest just long enough to take off your heavy pack. However, if you're fortunate to stay longer, you can unbind your feet. Taking off your boots is an experience worthy of being a holy ritual. It's like the first bite of food after a fast. There are stages of relief and sighs of pleasure. Ahhh, as you set down the pack. Oh, yes... as you loosen the laces and feel the extra room to move your toes. The boots come off. And then comes the ultimate freedom. You peel off the tight, woolen, hiking socks and your feet leave the confines of moist constriction to meet the open air. And then, you breathe. With toes wiggling in the breeze, you linger and take in the glory of the surrounding nature. To experience this pleasure, you need to be committed to stop for awhile. After you shed the pack, shoes and socks, you won't be in any hurry to put them back on. Sometimes, it's nicer to stop when it's not as easy to leave.

In many natural scenic places, the park service has seen fit to build nice paved roads right up to a dramatic viewpoints and landmarks. In Yosemite National Park, Hannah and I took a walk from the valley to Glacier Point, a location that provides a breathtaking view of the area. We hiked a trail up switchbacks that wind through intimate glimpses and spectacular vistas. After a few hours, we near the top. We're short of breath and eager for the serenity of the Glacier Point view and arrive at... a parking lot. There are families spilling out of their cars, grumpy kids, people carrying dogs and wearing high healed shoes. Most of the visitors stay for five minutes, force their bored children to pose for a picture, and then hop back into their vehicles for the drive back down to the valley. That is the nature of nice roads and nearby parking lots. You aren't ever far enough from your car to let it go. Why consider staying when it's so easy to leave? It's time to check this site off the list and move on to the next destination.

During our two month road trip, we had days that were mostly driving. All day, incredible landscapes would slide by like a picture show through the windows and I would sit there with a slow, gnawing frustration. I suppose just seeing such beauty is privilege enough, but I want more. I want to feel the rock and soil under my feet. To smell the pines and sages. I want to brush up against willows and hear the twinkling leaves of cottonwood trees. Just to see and pass by is not enough. Get me out of that metal prison with windows posing as televisions. I want to know the place with all of my senses and them some. To know what things are named and how they interact and the stories they've lived. To linger. Remaining in the car feels distant from the moment where I'm sitting on the rock near my backpack and without my shoes.

In Hebrew scriptures, there is a story where Moses is taking a walk and notices a bush on fire. He nears the bush to get a closer look and is greeted by God. God says, "Moses, take off your sandals. You are standing in a holy place".

The road trip took us from Indiana to California and back. In California, we met up with my sister, Tai-sing. Upon entering her home, she asked if I would take off my shoes. Delighted, I obliged.

From Arid Arizona To Icy Indiana

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving in California with my sister. After that, we drove south along the coast of Highway 1 and then back to the desert for a whirlwind tour: Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon, Cococino National Forest, Petrified Forest, Canyon de Chelly and Frijoles Canyon.


From there we rumbled eastward towards home, driving through below zero weather and ice storms.

We got back home about an hour ago. Hmm... Interesting to come back to all your stuff after being away for two months. Throughout the trip, I've been taking pictures with a few different projects in mind. I'll have lots of editing to do. I'm particularly looking forward to making some prints.