Jan 28, 2013

The 501st Legion: A Look Back At 2012

This is a fun video put together by Randy Herman, leader of the Florida Garrison of The 501st Legion, looking back on 2012. We had a lot of fun, built friendships that will last a lifetime, changed lives and put smiles onto people's faces.

Man, can you think of anything cooler or more rewarding than that?? I certainly can't! 

Interestingly enough, I am on the first slide of the video, prepping for the Pinellas Park Christmas Parade. Several of my photos were used in this presentation.

[Click on the logo to take you to the video. Prepare to grin.]

Jan 23, 2013

Conversation Killers

There's a guy I work with who is an over-talker.

When I start to say something, he'll cut right in, and I don't get to finish my sentence. When I'm talking to someone else and he's in the circle, he'll do the same thing. If I try to finish my thought he keeps talking, blaring away like a verbal bulldozer, oblivious to the fact that he's dominating the conversation.

So I just stop talking.

Which is why I identify with this video.

How To Create A Graphic Novel

Below is a 18 minute tutorial I created that covers the steps needed to creating your own graphic novel, everything from creating compelling characters, creating a plot and generating interest in your characters from your readers. There's a soundtrack and funky video clips to make it more fun to watch (hopefully). 

If you've been toying with the idea of creating a graphic novel, be it a two-pager or one more ambitious, this tutorial should get you started on the right track. Enjoy!

Taking The Basement Train

This man loves Canadian VIA trains. A lot. I mean, a real lot. So much so, that he built an exact replica of a train in his basement, complete with salvaged seats, trash containers, indicator lights and carpeting. 

This is a pretty amazing video. Check it out!

Disney Day

Enjoy this mini production shot at Walt Disney World, complete with soundtrack, with my clunky eight year old camera. When I am able to upgrade my equipment I will be shooting and producing more videos. 

An entire day at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom distilled into three minutes. Enjoy!

Jan 21, 2013

Blogger/Journalist Attacked by Security Guards

As longtime readers of my blog know, photographer's rights are one of the things I am most passionate about, and few people have done more to defend the legal rights of photographers than Carlos Miller, who runs the excellent blog Photography Is Not A Crime

The day before this post, Miller was beaten and attacked by private security guards while waiting for a train with his friend to take him home, and it was all captured on video. The incident begun with a security guard telling Miller he could not film the tracks of the Metro station while he was waiting for a train, a complete lie. Not only is the station a public place, owned by the city, why would it be illegal to film railroad tracks???

Below is video of the incident, and if it had not been filmed, it would have been Miller's word against 50 State security, against whom Miller already has a pending lawsuit for past altercations, stemming from his defense of his legal right to film in the station.

The video is not long; jump to the :50 mark to watch the interaction with security guards who can only be described as thugs. If ever there were grounds for a lawsuit and criminal charges, this video is it. See Carlos Miller's full post about this incident HERE.

This, my friends, is why it is so important to not only know your rights, but be willing to stand up for them, and to record interactions with authority. I support the ACLU, who work tirelessly to defend the rights of artists, teachers and photographers, and I urge you to do the same.

The National Press Photographers Association is another group that defends photographers by  sending letters to police departments that have abused photographers to remind them (believe it or not) what the law is.


  • The ACLU - Defending our rights and civil liberties, which are under more assault than ever before

Jan 20, 2013

The Magic of Polaroid Instant Cameras

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This post is about the Polaroid SX-70 Land camera, and the cameras which preceded it, a revolutionary product that once was confined to the history books, but has undergone somewhat of a revival.

With digital cameras on our cell phones these days, and the ability to record and capture just about any event anywhere instantly, it's easy to forget how special the SX-70 was. It was an extremely popular camera despite being expensive, and it retains a cult following today.

Polaroid, a company founded by Edwin Land in 1937, became famous for its line of instant cameras. Rather than having to drop film off at a lab and wait for it to be processed, one could see the pictures right away. The first Polaroid Land camera, the Model 95, hit the market in 1948. By today's standards they were big and bulky, but they were enormously popular.

The process involved taking a picture, then pulling the film firmly out of the camera between rollers, which would spread the developing chemicals over the photograph. The photo was covered by a protective layer that contained the chemicals; one had to wait 60 seconds before peeling away the layer to see the photograph. 

This clip from The Perry Como Show, with actor Don Ameche, demonstrates the Polaroid Model 95:

Polaroid followed up the Model 95 Land camera with the Swinger, an extremely popular camera produced between 1965 and 1970. 

The Swinger was one of the most popular models ever made, due to its low price and stylish design. The catchy ad campaign revolving around its name didn't hurt, either.

This is a commercial for the Polaroid Swinger:

One of the disadvantages of the Model 95 and the Swinger was not only the necessity of having to manually pull the film out of the camera, but also getting film chemicals on the hands of the user. 

The SX-70 Land camera, however, ejected the pictures automatically, and there was no top layer to peel off after waiting sixty seconds. After pushing the button, the picture would roll out of the front of the camera, and one could watch as the photo developed. Multiple pictures could be taken, impossible with previous Polaroid cameras.

Edwin Land introduced the SX-70 at an annual meeting, and the cameras hit the market in 1972.

The $180.00 price tag ($898.00 today) hampered demand somewhat, and the film packs, at $6.90 ($34.45 in today's dollars) were expensive, but the camera was extremely popular, even being used by astronauts aboard the space station Skylab. It was a high end consumer electronic device, with brushed aluminum trim and leather accents. Edwin Land followed up the SX-70 with other improvements, coming out with the OneStep, which was the market's first autofocus SLR camera.

This is a ten minute promotional training film produced by Polaroid about the SX-70 Land camera:

Below is actor Christopher Plummer in a Polaroid SX-70 commercial:

In the late 70s and early 80s, actors James Garner and Mariette Hartley starred in a series of very popular and well-received commercials for Polaroid cameras. Their on-screen chemistry brought a lot of attention (and sales) to Polaroid's One-Step cameras.

Kodak and Polaroid fought each other in court over patents involved with instant photography, and with Polaroid the victor, Kodak left the instant camera business in 1986. In 2001, however, Polaroid declared bankruptcy.

Because of the following Polaroid has with its instant cameras, an endeavor called The Impossible Project was launched to provide film to owners of Polaroid instant cameras. So, the legacy of the instant Polaroid cameras lives on.


Jan 13, 2013

Live-Action Toy Story Remake

Before Disney has it removed from YouTube, I urge you to watch this absolutely brilliant remake of Pixar's classic Toy Story, using stop motion, strings to animate the toys, and real people. This is obviously a labor of love; the people behind this production have recreated the entire movie, shot for shot, and the result is a blast to watch.

Jan 7, 2013

How To Draw Videos

Mark Crilley has a terrific series of videos that instruct viewers how to draw various objects, people, body parts and poses. Below is a fine tutorial about drawing poses. To see the full list of his drawing tutorials, click HERE.

Jan 4, 2013

Robert McCloskey - Portrait Of An Artist

This post is about the American illustrator and children's book author Robert McCloskey, whose all-American illustrations had a wholesome, whimsical quality that is timeless and deserves to be remembered.

McCloskey was born in September, 1914, and passed away in June of 2003, having left behind a rich legacy of art and  books.

McCloskey illustrated children's books, and published eight of his own (a complete bibliography is HERE). Some of the books for which he is best known include:
McCloskey also illustrated children's books written by others, such as:
Unfortunately, there is not a collected treasury of McCloseky's illustrations from his books, which is a shame, because his work has a timeless, whimsical, all-American theme.

There is a collection of his stories with accompanying artwork, called Make Way For McCloskey, but judging from the comments on Amazon, the illustrations have been too reduced in size to fully appreciate. 

McClosey's daughter Jane McCloskey published a book called Robert McCloskey: A Private Life in Words and Pictures containing illustrations and color works McCloskey created of his family life. You can check it out HERE.

What's needed is a grand collection of McCloskey's work that gives his fantastic illustrations the audience and presentation they deserve, such as this fantastic piece from the book Centerburg Tales (click on it for a larger view):

The Art Of the Hands

McCloskey's work is simple yet precise; the bodies are all expertly rendered, and he is very good at drawing hands, something I still struggle with, and will be working to improve by studying how artists like McCloskey draw them. Take a look at these examples:

Copying hands drawn by others is a very good way to practice your technique, and practice is the only way you are going to get better at drawing hands. 

Notice how each finger is its own cylindrical shape, and each knuckle is it's own cylindrical shape as well. 

When drawing fingers, think of each finger as it's own shape, and can bend only one way as it gestures or grips an object.

These diagrams from Andrew Loomis's excellent book Drawing The Head And Hands might help convey this point (click for larger view):

If you think of each knuckle as its own shape, on a hinge, as depicted above, then you might find the process easier. 

Note also that the underside of each knuckle has a slight curve to it, and that as fingers are grouped together, the top fingers conceal part of the fingers beneath.

Below is a great video that illustrates a good technique for drawing hands, put up on YouTube by Mark Crilley:

Another factor that makes McClosey's illustrations so engaging is his skill at rendering expressions. He just makes it look so easy, and these expressions really bring the characters to life, making them "real". You really get a sense of what each character is thinking through these expressions. Observe...

Singing with passion...

Enthusiastically explaining...

Sly and mischievous, with eyes half closed...

Scolding and disapproving...

...dramatic and well rehearsed speech.... 
one doubtful, one astonished...

...thoughtful consideration, mulling it over...
...whistling innocently...

... concentration and determination...

The best way to capture facial expressions is to observe them yourself, and notice what the face does when a person is doing or saying certain things. The muscles in the face are in perpetual motion, and are constantly changing, usually without our noticing it, but these changes are noticed by others.

In fact, these facial cues are one of the key signals that people use when interacting with each other. 

Even without a face McCloskey can convey emotion. Here, from the wonderful story book The Man Who Lost His Head, the main charactor is obviously pondering his dilemma over his lost appendange.

Here's a handy chart of facial expressions created by DeviantArt member majnouna. To see the super-sized view, right-click on the image and choose "open in new tab", then click on the magnifying glass to expand it.

McCloskey uses charcoal to shade his illustrations; his shading is done sparingly, just enough to give his illustrations the right depth and texture. Shading, remember, is the technique that indicates where the light is coming from, and from what kind of surfaces the light is reflecting (or not reflecting).

In this piece, note that the man's coat is lightly shaded to give it a coarse texture, using crosshatching. There is a reflective strip on his boots, indicating the leather that is reflecting the light. There is also shade under each bar stool, and under the counter.

Also note the big coffee urns in the background; there is shading on the backs of them, as the urns curve away from the light.

Below is another great example of shading; the light, obviously, is emanating from the jukebox.

Movies Based on McCloskey's Books
Unsurprisingly, some of McCloskey's books were adapted for television and/or the movies. Here they are, with links to enable you to watch them:
  • Lentil - This production from 1963 looks home made using a consumer film camera, probably 8 or 16 millimeter. While low production, it is worth a look.
  • The Doughnuts - Part one (parts two and three are available as well) of a 1963 production. A product of its time, there is 50's-era music in the background, and the lunchroom set looks hastily built. The acting is hammy, and has an off-Broadway theater production quality.
  • The Case of The Cosmic Comic - A 1976 production based on a chapter in the book Homer Price, where Homer and his friends meet the comic book superhero  Super Duper at the local movie theater. There's a school educational-film quality to it, with dated background music

Finally, here are some scans of McCloskey's illustrations. I hope someday a fitting treasury of his work is published. It is long overdue.


Jan 1, 2013

New Year's Eve Sparklers

The First Post of 2013

A great way to end one year and ring in another, with 501st Legion friends and of course, sparklers. Pinellas Park sounded like a war zone at midnight, with all the fireworks going off. This is the first post of 2013!