Many people say, “I was born decades too early, I should have been a...” While the past has a certain charm, I’ve always been born of the future. I always say, “I was born 300 years too early, I should have been on the bridge of the Enterprise.” While my life will never take me to distant star systems, encountering the Klingons, or engaging warp drive, at heart, I am explorer and September 5th, 1977 was a date important to humanities exploration of the Universe
Today, marks forty years since the launch of Voyager 1. Its story is one of exploration and science and to this very moment, it is still transmitting incredible data back to NASA. Not only it this an incredible feet, imagine a car or computer running for four decades with no maintenance, Voyager 1 is the only device made by humanity to have left our solar system and ventured into interstellar space.
Speeding away from us at 38,000mph (48,000kph) towards a star known as AC +79 3888, about 17.8 lightyears from us. Voyager will lose power long before it reaches that star but the little probe that could will hopefully remain intact.
Aboard Voyager 1 is the Golden Record. Scientist affixed this item to Voyager 1 in hope that one day it would be found by some space fairing life form who could decipher its message. Among the details engraved on the Golden Record is a diagram defining our sun’s location relative to fourteen known pulsars, a binary code to instruct the proper speed by which the record should rotate to play properly, other instruction to play the record, and details about the video portion.
One of my favorite features of the record is the inclusion of Uranium-238. With a half-life of 4.51 billion years, measuring the amount of the daughter element would allow an extraterrestrial to calculate the time Voyager 1 has been in space – a true universal clock.
Today (September 5, 2017), at a distance of about 140 AU, the power from three radioisotope thermoelectric generators dwindles at a rate of 4 watts per year according to NASA. In 2030, the power it generates will be too little and Voyager 1 will power down forever; an end to the lonely space probe. However, not too far behind is Voyager 1’s sister, Voyager 2, which will also enter interstellar space on its own mission to pass near Sirius.
Further, Pioneer 10 and 11 will also leave our system and a more recent probe, launched in 2006, New Horizons, too, but there is certain romanticism to Voyager 1. It was the first and perhaps the most important of all the space probes in an era when space exploration was at the pinnacle of American, and I argue human, interest and accomplishments.
Voyager 1 will perhaps wander our galaxy for eternity, a monument to human ingenuity and curiosity, a legacy adrift in the Universe.
The light of night, captured.
It is a challenge to head out at night when you've been relaxing on the sofa for an hour or two, after work, after dinner, watching a movie, sipping on tea. But night is a favorite time for me to photography.
Shooting August entirely in black and white, I'm very fond of dark, high contrast, dramatic imagery; the night so easily provides. August is the only other month to be shot entirely in Black and White. January too, was all black and white but there were no other guidelines to my month's theme.
The other challenges to night photography are simply technical. Aperture, ISO, and shutter speed are all very important. If one's shutter is too slow, any minor movement of the camera produces motion blur in the image. If the shutter is too fast, the image is too dark.
With apertures, the wider the more light but also the shallower the depth of field resulting in challenging focus scenarios. Stopping down (smaller apertures) increases depth of field but reduces light.
ISO, on the other hand, boosts the light available but invariably adds noise to one's image. Sometimes noise is acceptable giving a gritty, street photography look. Other times, it simply muddies the image.
All of these are a careful balancing act. They are part of a triad of water buckets. As one fills up, the other two empty. Finding the right mix of volumes is important to get just the image one is looking to achieve.
A tripod is always welcome. This will allow for one to decrease shutter speed and use low ISO while also stopping down the aperture. The result can be very clear and sharp black and white images. The caveat, but possibly the goal, is motion blur of moving object. A favorite from this month is from August 1st where I setup my Olympus E-M5 with a 45mm lens on my tripod. Opening my window, a waited for a train to pass buy and captured the movement.
At an f/8, ISO 200, -1 ev stop compensation, and a 1.6 second shutter, a very clear background of Chicago appears while the Brown Line train streaks through the frame.
A few other nights I used a long exposure but it does take a bit more effort. One must almost always use a tripod or other stabilization. However, occasionally, as with Run and Train, these were both handheld. Run, with an eerie, ghostly appeal, and Train, things moved quickly enough it didn't matter. But if you look closely, you can see that the subject blur is achieved but also background.
I did not find this to bean issue but I am one to usually express great concern with how important the background is while other photographers are concerned with blurring the background to the extent it is nearly completely unrecognizable.
Tripods are one of the most valuable pieces of equipment a photographer can have but they are usually big and carrying one around every day for thirty-one days was not something I could pull off. However, the crafty and resourceful photographer finds other ways to stabilize. In Flight Path, I was in a position to just set the camera down on a ledge. And by ledge, I mean, five stories in high with nothing but the air between the camera and certain doom.
Photographers and filmmakers take risks all the time to get their shots. And while I have no real fear of heights, I can safely say I did fear for my camera. I had a death grip on the camera strap that would have squeeze the juice out of an apple. But (!), my camera survived to shoot another day (night)!
I thoroughly enjoyed August for night photography. Perhaps September would have been easier as the days are shorter but I overcame the couch potato in me to head out at night an explore the dark. I'm certain more night photography is in store for the rest of the year as part of other themes but for now, I move onward; a merging of photography with filmmaking with a theme rooted in cinematography.
Up next: September – Cinematic
The Thirty-one Nights of August
One of my favorite photo editing applications for iOS and a solid photo sharing, social networking service, VSCO, has recognized my work over the past few months. I can attribute this to a consistent flow of photography as part of A Year in Photographs.
I'm always honored when people who I have never met share and favorite my work and excited when companies who no doubt see millions of images choose my work to be showcased.
Thanks, VSCO, for all the recognition and hope to connect with you further as the years go on.
This post is dedicated to those who lost their lives in Hiroshima (August 6th, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9th, 1945); the only instances nuclear weapons have been used against humans.
May we all learn from our history and not let their deaths be in vain.
I work in film and TV because I like to tell stories. In fact, before all forms of written communication, the human race used storytelling to convey our history, how to find game for food, and build the moral and ethical future of our species.
The power of storytelling come from one's ability to related an idea, even foreign, to someone else. It is why we laugh at a comedy, jump at a horror film, and cry when a story touches our deepest emotions.
My passion for filmmaking is not just for the beauty of great cinematography or impactful characters but together, with the audience, share in a journey. Many stories have been told and while it is said there are only twelve storylines, human ingenuity brings us together time and time again through new ways of these stories.
With the tumult of our current global affairs, Donald Trump beats his chest with "fire and fury" and "locked and loaded" as tension builds with North Korea. This cavalier attitude toward military conflict is not the answer. It is the wrong play.
To be fair, I am not currently in fear of a nuclear conflict with North Korea. Frankly, should anything escalate to military conflict, the United States and its allies could easily wipe North Korea off the face of the Earth. But even the notion of a nuclear weapon being used today (or ever) is one that strikes both fear and sadness in me. Fear because these weapons don't kill a few hundred or thousand but millions. Fear because nuclear weapons impact not only ground zero but the lives or everyone and everything on the planet. And sadness, sadness because our world is so precious but we so carelessly destroy it and ourselves.
I have always had a fascination with the Cold War. It is truly a magnificent story worthy of Shakespearean recognition. However, in my time exploring the Cold War, the understanding of nuclear reality sunk deep in my mind. Even a "limited" nuclear skirmish could devastate the planet. And while the story of the Cold War is long since over, the number of times that we humans came within moments of nuclear annihilation was too frequent and far too close.
Few who I have spoken with know of these incidents. As we hear in History class about the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962, nearly at the same moment was the U-2 Spy Plane Incident when a U.S. pilot's confusion during the Northern Lights set in and passed over Soviet Airspace. Maultsby, the pilot, successfully navigated his plane, having run out of fuel, back out of Soviet Airspace minutes before two Soviet fighters would have downed his plane, starting what could have been a significant escalation during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Further is the Able Archer Incident when the Soviet Union mistook Nato war-games for actual preparation for war. Or the 1979 NORAD computer malfunction which erroneously indicated that the Russians had launched an attack on the United States.
In 1983, it is by sheer bravery and integrity that one Russian Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov ignored procedure when Russian tactical systems misinterpreted clouds over the United States for a launch of nuclear weapons. It is only by his grace that you and I are hear to have this pleasant exchange. The human race was literally moments away from extinction and turning our precious planet into a radioactive cinder.
How quickly one can see a minor incident escalating into international conflict, or dare I say nuclear war; World War III. It would be the conflict to end all conflicts.
The dinosaurs never had knowledge that their world was to come to an end, that it was the terminating point of their reign on Earth. But we humans are incredible creatures. We have landed men on the moon, vaccinated many diseases out of existence, put robots on Mars, been the first to break the sound barrier, master the atom, and propel the Voyager 1 probe outside of our Solar system. But how insanely sad would it be for our own hand to be the termination of our species. With overpopulation, limited resources concerning water, food and land, and climate change being denied by so many, must we also face nuclear annihilation?
There is a general order in evolutionary theory: a species can survive one catastrophe but when facing two, it likely spells doom. Should we find ourselves facing radiation, climate change, food chain collapse, and perhaps other obstacles, all of which we have the ability and resources to avoid, how might our species that brought art, philosophy, medicine, and science to the Earth fair? How would you feel if our last and final testament of humans was not curing cancer, eliminating poverty, or exploring space but finding ourselves extinct because of our own petty differences; arguing over lands, water, and archaic tribal god-figures? When, one day, an extraterrestrial stumbles upon Earth only to find that we, ourselves, came to extinction because of our own stupidity? And that aliens says, "However incredibly stupid were these humans? They destroyed themselves? Saving themselves was as plain as the nose on their faces."
Cinematic history is filled with philosophy. Films exploring the past, present, future, civil rights, inequities, and human strife. While such pioneers as Gene Roddenberry's [creator of Star Trek] share a bright future of humanity where we have put aside our differences and strive to better ourselves, sometimes we must look at the terror of what we are or could become; search ourselves and look in the mirror asking, "what should we be?" In that light, I encourage you, actually, I plead with you to view at least one of these films below about the horrors of nuclear weapons.
I have only been able to find some as "bootlegs" on Youtube; such important films forgotten with age. They are of limited quality but they share some thoughts you've may not considered.
I know some of my friends and colleagues support Donald Trump no matter what his transgressions may be, but I implore you to watch these films with an open mind and contemplate their stories.
As a favorite female character in a film once said, "Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too."
Earth — Shot on iPhone, courtesy of Apple