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Tuesday, November 24, 2015


I remember showing up to a group ride and taking some pics with my Nikon before we headed out. My friend Abbey said, 'You're not going to lug that thing with you the whole ride are you?'

Uh, yeah. I lugged it there (I had ridden to work that morning and then ridden from work to the start of the group ride, from where I planned to ride home after). But more to the point, I have lugged my Nikon D7000 and its lenses and more recently speed lights, basically everywhere for three and a half years. I have made exceptions, I didn't lug it on RAGBRAI, nor a couple of Bike MSs, but generally there has to be a compelling reason for me not to have my dSLR with me at all times.

The LowePro bag I bought the glorious day I acquired my Nikon is getting long in the tooth. Okay, actually, it's totally whipped. The zippers don't reliably close, sometimes I have to go back and forth three or four times before they close. The buckle on the stabilizer strap went from damaged to non-functional on Saturday. My wife thinks all such things can be fixed, but I'm like, dude, by the time I pay a seamstress to re-sew in two zippers and then swap out a strap, I'll be on the other side of what a new camera bag would cost.

Plus the new bag might be waterproof. That's the only knock I have on the LowePro I've been carrying, it has a rain shield but if I have to ride to or from work in heavy precipitation, I end up having to dry-sack my camera (and my phone and etc.)

Corinna lent me a messenger bag while I figure this out, and I had thought a messenger bag might be the next option for me. But I hated it, the way it sat on me, the way the straps felt, the way it offered no protection to the camera if I fall (which unfortunately happens from time to time).

But as if to illustrate why I 'lug' this thing around with me everywhere, as I was coming up Wyandotte this morning, I spotted two fresh tags in an underpass where such things don't typically last long.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


This is probably my favorite alley cat race of the year. Well, maybe tied for first place with Pub N Pedal, but where Pub N Pedal is pure bacchanalia, Cranksgiving is a bacchanalia with a good cause hooked on to it. Normally at the after party I drink hearty but this year, uncharacteristically, I drove to the event. Which meant driving home.

I long ago gave up trying to ride to all the stores on the manifest. The way the rules work, to win fastest rider you have to bring back an item from the listed needs on the manifest (for the St. Peter's food bank), from each of the ten stores with receipts to prove you bought them on the ride. Not only am I not fast enough to compete for the title, but the times I tried to ride to all ten stores I got back to no beer and almost no chili.

So then there's the heaviest load category. The problem with that is I don't have a trailer, and to seriously contend for that one you better have a stout trailer and some decent brakes. Last year a woman came in with almost 500 pounds. It's been won with less than a hundred pounds, but not lately.

But then there's also team heaviest load. So my old friend Eric, a libertarian I've known since the early 90s, asked me to join his team, I was like, sure. You can have up to eight riders, but more than that, we both figured we could make multiple trips. I've inquired about this in the past and gotten the answer, 'Sure go for it.' But Sam, the organizer, this time he said no, we could create a new category for that, but he wouldn't give team heaviest load to a couple of guys who made three or four runs apiece, that would be cheating.

For my part, I think limits make some sense as far as keeping it a competition. Teams can't have more than eight members, so to me that should mean no more than eight runs can count. A two person team should be able to do four trips per rider and count the same as an eight person team making one trip each. Right? Me and Eric probably wouldn't have made four runs apiece, financially that wasn't plausible, but we definitely would have gone back down the hill and brought some more shit up for the food bank.

As it is, we recruited Loni and Micah at the start, a super cute couple who ride a tandem. Then at Aldi we recruited Brandon, who was riding this for the first time. He had a backpack and I think one bag on his bike, so he had a limited capacity for weight but we were desperate. We had to do this in one trip, Eric with a cargo bike (a Big Dummy) and me with a Long Haul Trucker with four panniers and a trailer Eric lent me.

At one point we figured fuck it, we'd make multiple trips and shame Sam into counting it, but the financial burden started to add up. I had budged $100 for this, Eric had a bit more than that. Even at Aldi, and even with buying stuff based on maximum weight per dollar, it adds up. We had about $250 worth of groceries between two bikes by the time we headed our way up the hill for what has to be the most intense one mile workout of my life.

My heart was pounding as I climbed that hill in my granny gear, 26 up front to 34 in the rear, two miles an hour and wobbly as hell. It was epic. And I kept hearing/feeling these sproings and I feared I was breaking spokes, or that the bolts holding my rack on were stripping out or something. We got in and Eric, Brandon and me had hauled 430 lbs. And I'm pretty sure more than 200 of that was in my four panniers, on my rack and in that trailer.

Our purchases were made on a weight basis for the most part, but there was some filling in. We got a case of spaghetti sauce, and decided it was a dick move to not buy any spaghetti to put it on. And spaghetti is pretty dense as dry goods go. Canola oil was like four cents an ounce and came in squared containers so there was very little air space, four cases of that. Then after all that was loaded, I decided there was still room in the trailer, but Eric was worried about the weight, so I went back in and got three cases of Ramen (almost $30 worth of Ramen at Aldi prices), and threw that in the trailer.

So we were the first team back, and by the time our recruits came in we had 499 pounds. Some years, that would do the trick. But last year, Joel Dyke's team, the Insignificant Others, they hauled more than a thousand pounds in. And this year, there were not one but two tribute teams, Team Big Grin and Team Joel Dyke, and Big Grin managed just shy of 1,500 pounds between eight riders. Honestly, I probably would have joined one of the tribute teams, I loved Joel, but I didn't hear about them before I committed to Team Hydra (not realizing I was only the second member of the team).

And the whole event brought in over 5,000 pounds by the time I left. And me and Eric were scheming ways to do it better, bigger next year. If we can get eight riders together who haul 200 lbs apiece like we did, we should be able to set a new record. Or if we can get Sam to make the eight member limit on a team translate to eight runs, and plan a little tithing funds, we might be able to do the damage with a smaller team. Damage being food and necessaries delivered to a food bank.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Lovely Alexia

So I'm still learning my way around the world of speed lights. For the uninitiated, these are the external, hot-shoe mounted (or remotely fired) flashes you probably associate with wedding photographers and such. They have their downside, especially for street photography, a big honkin' flash on top of an SLR just screams 'photographer' to anyone who's camera-shy and camera-aware.

On the other hand, they really allow you to take charge of the light rather than just playing the hand you're dealt. For years, I shot with nothing but available light and I got some great images that way, but there were those other times where I was just hoping it would work this time but of course it didn't. And I guess I could practice on still life subjects, but so far that hasn't interested me. So that leaves me trying to find willing subjects for portrait sessions. Fortunately for photographers who are shooting for fun, there are models who will pose for fun.

It's called TFP, stands for 'trade for prints' a nod to the days when you'd typically provide prints from the negatives by way of compensation. These days it's generally a digital file handed off. I print my pictures some, but much more the appear on this blog, on Facebook, and lately Instagram.

I met Alexia at the Sirens shoot last summer. She's very easy to work with, has a good vocabulary of poses, and obviously she's gorgeous. And, as it happens, she was available when I was, so I trekked up to Liberty with my lights & camera Sunday afternoon. Partly I was wanting to get some more experience with the SB-800s, partly I was wanting to apply stuff I'd already learned. And partly I had been riding my bike to work marveling at the fall colors, the leaf litter on the ground, and thinking, this is a limited time offer.

The weather was spectacular, and the William Jewell campus was picturesque. We started shooting a little after 3:00, finished up around 6:00 when it was getting dark and cooling off.

I still feel like I need to get better about picking my moment, looking through the viewfinder and not pulling the trigger until things are perfect. But I'm definitely getting better on that front. These are the low hanging fruit, there are a few other shots that I think can be winners if I do some work on them. But as a percentage of 197 shots, this is a lot better haul than what I got out of over 2400 frames at the Sirens shoot last summer.

And sometimes there's happy accidents. For all the shots where I didn't quite get her in focus or caught her in transition between facial expressions, there's this gorgeous high-key shot. I've seen this effect before, I've just never achieved it. Two speed lights off camera, sun behind her, fiddling with the exposure compensation.

Prospero's P3 Event

Corinna had an event at Prosperos to train other poets to do Poetry for Personal Power events. It's part of the grant she got most recently, it's also part of her plan to find other people to carry on the work she's less able to do these days.

There's real peaks and valleys when it comes to her brain injury stuff. I sometimes find myself anxious as I approach home because I don't know which version I'm going to find when I get there. The one who has been suffering all day, experiencing multiple setbacks, or the one who's gotten tons of stuff done and is in a great mood. Or the one who has been suffering all day and shampooed the carpet anyway, even though it took her eight sessions to get the whole job done because she kept having to lay down in the dark.

In fact, the original date for this was two weeks before, but she couldn't do it. She was going gangbusters for this, though. I don't know how much of that was her having a good day and how much of it was the adrenaline of getting the thing going, something she's passionate about.

I had fun taking pictures, though I couldn't use my speed lights because she's too light sensitive. I tried telling her to close her eyes when I was about to shoot, she says even through her eyelids it's too much so I left those in the bag at Prospero's. I did do a little shopping, I need to replace my copy of God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, it fell apart and I lost 60 pages (discovered that fact while trying to re-read it again, I love that book), but they were pretty picked over on Vonnegut. Scored a couple of Roger Zelazny novels I either haven't read or haven't read in twenty years, a P.J. O'Rourke collection I haven't read, a couple other things that looked interesting.

The library is great and all if you're looking for current best sellers, especially if you're unlikely to re-read them. And I know Amazon is easy, and you can get literally everything there, but I still love walking into a musty, brick and mortar book store and looking around.

Tweed Ride 2015

I thought I was going to be late for the Tweed Ride. Facebook said 10:00, and I was having real trouble getting up after doing First Friday.

I got there thinking I'd just go to the museum where it ends, ride the route backward until I met up with folks, then ride back up. But when I got there nobody had left yet.

10:00 was when registration started, the ride didn't roll until 11:00.

If you're not familiar, a Tweed Ride is a throwback to the days when bicycles were status symbols as well as transportation. You know that scene in Wizard of Oz, the 'Christian Woman' scene where Mrs. Gulch is demanding to take Toto to be destroyed on her bicycle. She's rich enough to afford a bike. Today, a lot of people who see me commuting to work by bike assume I can't afford a car, when Wizard of Oz was written, there were no cars, a bike or a horse or a horse drawn carriage were for people who could afford to expand beyond walking distance.

So back in the day, folks would dress up in their Sunday Best and pedal about checking each other out, and that's what the annual Tweed Ride is about. Some people bring antique bikes, we had a couple of penny-farthings as well as an antique Pedersen, some run what they brung. Some folks have nice wool/tweed/lace finery, some folks show up on their sticker-colored 2013 Surly wearing a Hawaiian shirt.

As usual Good Time Charlie performed at the after party/picnic.

I always think I'm going to find some thrift store dandy clothes to wear for this ride, and every year I forget until past the last minute.

One woman who showed up with one of the best costumes (don't take my word for it, the crowd voted for her, too), I kept trying to get shots of her. Her outfit was awesome, corset, lacy dress, and she had great long, voluminous hair and gorgeous angular features to her face. Plus, she drank tea, which is as good as it gets on a tweed ride. I got a couple of good shots despite her tendency to suddenly move or talk or hide when she saw the camera coming.