Improv Dictionary

My daughter and I invented a little game this afternoon that gave us some good laughs for a solid half hour. We call it “Improv Dictionary”, and we basically take turns with one person making up a word and the other making up its definition. She’s six years old now, but I immediately started thinking about playing this as she get older and more capable with her writing or computer skills. We could actually start cataloging the words we make up into a document or little notepad so we can remember what we’ve done before – a real sort of silly dictionary of our own.

Small Town Parades, Free Time, and Self-Doubt

That’s a horse of a mottled color!

Writing this now makes me laugh a little, a post ostensibly about a 4th of July parade, in mid-November. This is a travelog of sorts, sharing part of my family trip to the Milwaukee region back in June and July of this year.

It’s not talent that keeps this band afloat…

It’s not that I haven’t had a chance to develop and process my film until recently—a problem all-too-typical with my photography these days—rather I’ve been sitting on these pictures for a few months just trying to figure out what to do with them. And that is related to my infrequent, scattershot shooting habits. It’s bad enough that I don’t get out much to take pictures, but I find myself feeling out of practice.

My family and I were visiting my wife’s sister in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin – a suburb in Milwaukee County. Our visit overlapped Independence Day in the US, so we decided to join her family at the local parade. Sure, it was a bit jingoistic and a little heavy-handed, but there was something about the parade I really enjoyed. This could have been a Secretary’s Day parade and I think I would have liked it just as much. There were all the local political big fish in vintage cars, freshly-polished emergency services vehicles (that MFD amphibious truck!!!), tacky floats, and marching bands. And the streets were lined with scores of people on a beautiful upper Midwestern morning making pleasant chit-chat while the kids ran into the street to collect candy thrown by passing floats. I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I’d actually attended a parade, and now I’m sure I’ve been missing out a little.

In case Lake Michigan catches on fire?

But every time I reviewed my photos from the morning, wondering what to post next, I just gave up. I didn’t really like any of them in particular. They’re all shot from nearly the same vantage point. A few of them have weird, distracting things inconveniently located in the frame. Or, ugh, the kinda bland look of Cinestill 50D.

Well something changed over the past few months. Part of it is that I got over the need to have some portfolio-worthy set of photos to show. And part of it is that I just wanted to share the visual evidence of what was a pretty great morning. It transitioned to some chill cookout time back at my sister-in-law’s house followed by some lovely fireworks in the evening. A good day over all.

I still have a few photos to share from back in July, and I’m getting ready to ship off some more rolls for processing in the near future. So part of this is also that I needed to clear my head of this little mental weight so I could get on with sharing the really fun stuff from the drive home, and whatever else is yet to come. My photography doesn’t have to be an exhibition; sometimes it can just be the supporting cast in a story about a little piece of my lived experience.

It’s all over when the patriotic street sweeper cruises by.

[USA] by Anamanaguchi

Album cover for the album USA by Anamanaguchi

A friend of mine recently linked to the new album from Anamanaguchi, [USA]. It’s been a while since I loved an album so much from start to finish, but this was one of them. It has that tasty blend of pop, rock, and chiptunes I associate with the band, but something about the melodies and synth sounds feels akin to Mew’s No More Stories…

Put on headphones, give it a listen, and maybe your Monday will be a little brighter.

In Pursuit of Accessibility

I’m presently on my way to Logan, UT to attend WebAIM’s accessibility training. I’m not a web developer or designer, and I have lots of issues to fix on my own website. But I do help make websites for my career, so I’m excited to get an in-depth look at how to make the web better for folks of all abilities.

I’ve performed audits using automated tools and consulting some WCAG documentation, but my hope is this training will help me to develop a holistic practice of producing accessible sites, from sales and requirements through delivery.

Time Away, Time Together

A roof with a view

Earlier this month my wife and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. On the anniversary date itself we had a babysitter watch the kids, ate a modest dinner, played fancy indoor miniature golf, and finished up with a few of Richmond’s best cocktails. It was nice, but it was really only a precursor to the proper celebration.

We’ve had kids around for just over 6 years now, and in that time we’ve only been away overnight without them once. When our daughter was almost 2 and we didn’t yet know we were expecting her brother, we left her with some close friends while we travelled to a wedding for a weekend. That was over 4 years ago so, while we love traveling with our children, we both needed a bit of time as husband and wife instead of mom and dad.

So this past weekend we took the kids to my aunt and uncle’s home in New Jersey where they had a total blast while Valerie and I had time for us in NYC. The thrill of leaving Toms River without the kids in the car, knowing that we had a weekend ahead without complaints and demands, without having to accommodate any tastes but our own, without having to worry about the crankiness that comes from a tired 3-year-old…well I hadn’t been so excited in ages. Traveling with my wife is one of my great joys, and Valerie and I haven’t taken a trip the way we like since 2012.

We stayed in Little Italy, right across the street from Ferrara. Our room was magnificent. The hotel had a rooftop accessible to all guests with couches and a killer view (see above). The weather was better than we could have hoped. We had fun checking out new and familiar stuff over the course of a couple of days. We saw The Vessel at Hudson Yards (but didn’t go up since we didn’t have tickets). We watched Colin Huggins play his grand piano in Washington Square Park.

And something else…you see, when you grow up close to New York City, you visit the place a million times. I saw plenty of big sights in my youth (Bronx Zoo, Ellis Island, the dinosaur bones in the Museum of Natural History). I couldn’t tell you how many more times I’ve been to Manhattan since my teen and adult years, and I had plenty more memorable experiences in turn. But New York is a city that’s so rich in history, culture, architecture, and just…everything, so there’s always something you haven’t done before, even if it’s a broadly popular tourist attraction.

Valerie and I had planned to grab some slices from Prince Street Pizza, but we were already looking at a late lunch after schlepping everything into the city, so the line was a bit longer than we could take (I’ve been before and the line is worth it—if you’re not already starving). So back-up plan? We walked back a couple of blocks to, of all places, Lombardi’s Pizza! That early 20th century, coal-fired-oven, pizza legend. It’s hard to be a pizza mega-fan on the east coast without having at least heard of Lombardi’s. I’d always figured it was an overrated tourist spot, but my hunger made me willing to try it for the first time, and it was really good! It seemed rather like a distinctly American take on the pizza margherita, at once an ancestor to both the modern New York pie and the crispy tavern pizzas I enjoy over in Jersey.

And then there was the ding-dang Brooklyn Bridge. On Sunday Valerie wanted to at least walk partially across, but we ended up walking all the way to Brooklyn. I resisted because I was already wiped out, but I’m so glad we did it. The views were spectacular, the bridge is of course beautiful, and the experience of strolling with a flowing mass of people across the East River was something I’ll always remember. I can’t wait to see the film shots I took from the trek.

We got up early Monday morning to head back to Toms River and collect our children. The time apart was just what we needed, and it was great to get all the hugs and snuggles. I’m still kinda tired after the drive back, but the emotional and mental reset of the weekend still leaves me feeling refreshed.

This is what happens when you meet a stranger in the park

 Ty in repose. Digital.
Ty in repose. Digital.

Taking pictures of strangers is a pretty stressful hurdle for a lot of photographers to clear. What if they say no? What if they get mad? What if they think you’re a creep?

Well it’s certainly a lot easier when a stranger asks you to take his photo. I was walking through Smale Riverfront Park in Cincinnati on Saturday when Ty asked me to take his picture. “Sure!” I said. I don’t know why he asked, but I was happy to oblige. It kinda reminds me of a high school senior portrait, but he was already sitting like this, so it’s real and in-the-moment. I dig.