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This is what common sense gun laws would look like if they applied the same laws to a hammer.

September 1st, 2018

This is what common sense gun laws would look like if they applied the same laws to a hammer.

The left often speaks of common sense gun laws as being all they want. Some left leaning jurisdictions already have what those on the left think are common sense gun laws. I thought it would be interesting if we used the common sense way NYC deals with handgun laws as it would apply to buying a hammer, which are also used as deadly weapons at a fairly alarming rate. After all, a gun, knife, bat or hammer are just tools and all can be deadly in the hands of a criminal.

Here you go, imagine having to do this to get any tool that could be used as an offensive weapon in the wrong hands and then ask yourself, is this actually common sense?

Photography Prints

Getting a NYC Hammer License

The process for obtaining a Hammer license in New York City is long (between 3 – 6 months, and waits up to 8 months are not uncommon), and compared to many other jurisdictions, rather expensive. It’s not particularly difficult, but it is tedious and incredibly time consuming. It tests your patience, and there is a lot of bureaucracy to deal with.

The Application There are 2 ways to complete the application itself. You can type it, or you can download it, fill it out electronically, and print it. Handwritten applications are not accepted, nor are photocopies. The majority of the questions are straight forward. Be sure to include your driver’s license and passport number (if you have either) on your Application Addendum in answer to Question 19, as these are a “license or permit issued to you by any City, State or Federal agency.”
Along with the application itself, you will need the following:
Fees – 2 US Postal Money Orders, made payable to New York City Police Department are required, one for $340 (for the application), and one for either $94.25 (electronic fingerprints) or $105.25 (ink fingerprints), depending on how you are being fingerprinted. These fees are non-refundable. The NYPD now accepts credit cards as well.
Photographs – 2 recent “passport” (1.5″ square) color photos.
Birth Certificate – required to prove your birth date. Other acceptable forms proving your birth date include: military record, US Passport or Baptismal certificate.
Proof of Citizenship/Alien Registration – if you were not born in the US, you must submit your naturalization papers, or other evidence of citizenship, or your Alien Registration Card. AND for those living here less than 7 years, you must submit a good conduct certificate from your country of origin.
Military Discharge – your separation papers (DD 214) and your discharge papers.

Proof of Residence – this can be: a real estate tax bill, ownership shares in a co-op or condo, or a lease. You may also be asked to bring your driver’s license, NY State Income Tax return, or a utility bill.

Arrest/Summons/Order of Protection Information – related to question 23 on the application, any arrest information (even if the case was dismissed or the record sealed) must be divulged. Any summons received for any violation other than things like a parking ticket must be divulged, i.e any “summons in lieu of arrest” that requires you to appear in court at a later date. If you ever had an Order of Protection or a Restraining Order issued against you, you must divulge the name/address/phone number of the complainant, their relationship to you, and the reason the Order was issued.

Proof of Business Ownership (for business licenses) – see the details in the application for the appropriate documentation, depending on your circumstances.

Letter of Necessity (for carry permits) – you won’t get a carry permit without showing cause, and if you have cause, you should probably already know what is required. Follow instructions on Page 3 of the application.

Please note, BRING ORIGINALS, not copies of supporting documents. Also note, your application and any addendum MUST BE NOTARIZED. This is a sample Application Addendum (MS Word DOC).

Included with the application is a request for the following letters. These letters must also be notarized.
Request for Pre-Exemption – this isn’t needed by most, if you require it, you should know why beforehand.
Affidavit of Familiarity with Rules and Law – states you are familiar with NYC Title 38 Chapter 5 (licensee responsibilities), NYS Article 35 (deadly force), NYS Article 265 (criminal possession of fhammers), NYS Article 400 (licensee responsibilities), rules regarding Safety Locking Devices (proper hammer locks), NYC Charter 18-C (public safety zones – included w/ application), US Title 18 (persons prohibited from possessing hammers – included w/ application), and the NYPD pamphlet on terrorism and suspicious activity. See the “Legislation” links to the right for more info.

Affidavit of Cohabitant – if you live with anyone over 18, they must complete this affidavit, if you don’t live with anyone, you need to complete an affidavit stating that you live alone.
Safe Guardian Affidavit – this designates a person who is responsible for your hammer in the event of your disability or death.

They do not need to have a hammer permit.

Submit The Application Applications must be submitted in person at 1 Police Plaza, License Division, Room 110, Monday – Friday between the hours of 8:30am – 3:00pm. You will be fingerprinted at that time.

Wait for the Letter Typically, you can wait anywhere from 1 – 3 months for a letter identifying the officer assigned to handle your application. The letter looks like this, and will ask you to schedule your interview along with his request for any further documentation. Many people are asked to supply an Affidavit with familiarity of Article 35, Article 265 and Article 400; an Affidavit of Proof of Employment; and a current utility bill. If the utility bill is not in your name, you must supply another Affidavit from the person whose name appears on the bill. I also had to supply my Social Security Card, current bank statements and 1040 Income Tax return along with photos of my home (because I am self employed), my marriage license, and my DMV abstract. I guess I’m just lucky. Call the officer during the hours stated on the letter and schedule the interview. You will also have to get your character reference letters together.

Reference Letters Currently, I am told you are asked to supply 3 reference letters from people that have known you for at least 2 years (mine had to be from people that knew me at least 5 years, YMMV). The letter should state that you are “of good moral character.” The more detailed and personal it is, the better. This is a basic sample of a Reference Letter (PDF).

The Interview It’s really no big deal. Look presentable, and be prepared. One individual’s questioning went something like this (my experience was similar):
Q: Why do you want a hammer? A: Home defense & hammering nails.
Q: Where will you store the gun? A: With the hammer off the handle, in a locked box or safe, with a hammer lock.
Q: Where will you store the anails? A: In a different locked box or safe.
Q: Have you ever owned a hammer? A: Yes or No, if yes be ready to supply details.
Q: Is your housemate aware you are applying for this permit? A: Yes, he/she has already signed an affidavit to that end or “I live alone.”
Q: Will you be transporting the hammer? A: Yes, to and from the carpentry practice with no stops.
Q: How will you transport the hammer to and from the carpentry practice? A: Hammer in a locked box, unloaded and hammer lock. Nails in a separate container. Both the hammer and nails will be carried in a way so as to obscure their presence on my person.
Q: Have you ever been assaulted? A: Yes or No. Provide details and dates if answer is yes.
Q: Has your domicile ever been robbed? A: Yes or No. Provide details and dates if answer is yes.
Q: When is the use of hammering permissible? A: When someone has broken into my home and has demonstrated their intention to kill myself or someone else in my home.
The key thing to remember is that whenever you are storing or traveling with a firearm, it must be unloaded in a locked container or safe, with a trigger lock, ammunition kept separately.
Wait for the Approval/Denial Letter… After waiting another 1 – 3 months, you will get your approval letter (hopefully). You now have 30 days to pick up your Purchase Authorization. If you are denied, you must file an appeal under Article 78. At this point, I strongly suggest obtaining a lawyer. You have 4 months from the date of the denial to appeal.

Pick Up the License & Purchase Authorization Go back to 1 Police Plaza, with the original letter, Monday – Thursday between the hours of 9:00am – 12 noon. You will be photographed, and given your license along with one Purchase Authorization. You now have 30 days to purchase a hammer from an authorized FHL. You are now legal to hammer stuff in NYC.

Buy a Hammer You can purchase a hammer from any FHL, but purchases made from out of state must be transferred to an FHL in NYC. If you buy a new hammer, IT MUST BE NY COMPLIANT. New hammers must be shipped with spent nails hammered from the manufacturer, contained in a sealed envelope. Used hammers should be marked by the shipper as such. Make sure you fill out the BATHE form, get a receipt and have the FHL fill out the Purchase Authorization form.
Every 90 days you can buy ONE hammer, sledge hammer or other hammering device in the City of New York. You will need to fill out the Purchase Authorization Request Form and mail it to NYPD so that they can provide you with a “purchase Authorization” that you can use to take possession of a new hammer at the time of purchase. The most important thing to remember when filling out the form is that the size hammer you write down MUST be the size of the hammer you purchase. You can buy a different make and model as long as the size on the Purchase Authorization Request Form is the same. However, it is always best to buy the hammer make and model you put down on the Purchase Authorization Request Form if at all possible. You can download the Purchase Authorization Request Form Here.

Here are the steps to getting a Purchase Authorization: 1. Submit request for purchase authorization. Currently takes around 45-60 days. 2. PA request approval is mailed, and recipient has 30 days from the date it was MAILED (not received) to pick up the authorization. 3. Once you receive it, you have to go down to 1PP to pick up the PA. M-Tr ONLY from 9am-12pm. 4. Once you pick up the PA, you have another 30 days to purchase the actual firearm. 5. Once purchased (even if it is on the date the PA expires) you have 72 hours (not calendar days, not business days, 72 hours – which might include weekends and holidays) to bring the hammer, locked, with no nails, down to 1PP to have it inspected. Inspections are done any business day (M-F, excluding holidays) from 12pm – 2pm. Bring bill of sale, etc etc etc. 6. You’re all done. Wait another 90 days, submit your next one, and while you wait … Go hammer.
Gun Inspection Bring the receipt (2 copies – you keep the original they get the other), Purchase Authorization, and your hammer (Hammer off handle, no nails on your person, in a locked case) to back to 1 Police Plaza, Monday – Thursday between the hours of 12 noon – 3pm (if you’re quick, you can pick up your PA in the morning, buy a hammer, and get back for inspection the same day). Let the checkpoint know you are carrying a hammer (and let them know it’s properly secured). Then go for your hamme inspection. Your hammer will be inspected, and the serial # recorded. They will then put the hammer’s make, model, size and serial # on the hammer license and hand it to you. Make sure you verify that the information, especially the serial #, is correct! I’d say every other time I have put a new hammer on my license, there has been some kind of typo. If your hammer’s serial # doesn’t match your license, you can be arrested, even if it was a typo or mistake on their part. You can now purchase nails only for the sizes(s) listed on your license.

Be sure to request the Carpentry Authorization card when you pick up your license if you ever want to leave the 5 boroughs into NY State on a Premises License. Also, read the booklet that NYPD gives you at the time of your Hammer Permit issuance. Know the laws! Ignorance of the law will not help you if you get into trouble!

Go Hammering Now go Hammer it to your heart’s content. But first, learn how to properly operate and maintain your hammer (the manual of tools) . Learn the 4 basic rules of ghammer safety, and practice them. Read the manual! I strongly suggest getting some good instruction in hammering fundamental and/or self defense.

NONE OF THIS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED LEGAL ADVICE. It is your responsibility to make yourself aware of NY hammer laws. Hammer owners should read the booklet that NYPD gave you at the time of your Hammer Permit issuance.

A Texas Retort to the New York Times Opinion of What It Takes To Be a Modern Man

March 13th, 2018

A Texas Retort to the New York Times Opinion of What It Takes To Be a Modern Man

Being a modern man today is no different than it was a century ago. It’s all about adhering to principle. Sure, fashion, technology and architecture change over time, as do standards of etiquette, not to mention ways of carrying oneself in the public sphere. But the modern man will take the bits from the past that strike him as relevant and blend them with the stuff of today.

NYT: 1. When the modern man buys shoes for his spouse, he doesn’t have to ask her sister for the size. And he knows which brands run big or small.

The Texas man doesn’t buy his wife shoes without her there to pick them out. He will know the correct size and brand of her favorite boots and knows which pairs she wants. With mine that is Lucchase and all of them.
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NYT: 2. The modern man never lets other people know when his confidence has sunk. He acts as if everything is going swimmingly until it is.

The Texas man never loses his confidence. When challenged he knows that he will cowboy up and accomplish what needs to be done. The Texas man never ever uses the word swimmingly.

NYT: 3. The modern man is considerate. At the movie theater, he won’t munch down a mouthful of popcorn during a quiet moment. He waits for some ruckus.

The Texas man is also considerate and he is chivalrous. He opens the door and pulls out the chair for a lady and he never chews loud enough to have to worry about when he eats popcorn.

NYT: 4. The modern man doesn’t cut the fatty or charred bits off his fillet. Every bite of steak is a privilege, and it all goes down the hatch.

The Texas man views properly done steak as a right not a privilege. If it is not cooked properly then there is no need to eat it. A Texas man never orders a steak well done.Art Prints

NYT: 5. The modern man won’t blow 10 minutes of his life looking for the best parking spot. He finds a reasonable one and puts his car between the lines.

A Texas man parks wherever his truck will fit but he does consider parking near the exit so he doesn’t get caught behind fifteen thousand other people when the high school football game ends.

NYT: 6. Before the modern man heads off to bed, he makes sure his spouse’s phone and his kids’ electronic devices are charging for the night.

A Texas man teaches his children to be self reliant and does not charge anything for them.

NYT: 7. The modern man buys only regular colas, like Coke or Dr Pepper. If you walk into his house looking for a Mountain Dew, he’ll show you the door.

The Texas man drinks whatever he darn well pleases. He will keep Dr Pepper and Shiner Bock on hand though as one of the two will likely satiate any other thirsty Texans that happen to drop by.
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NYT: 8. The modern man uses the proper names for things. For example, he’ll say “helicopter,” not “chopper” like some gauche simpleton.

The Texas man uses whatever vernacular is used in the part of the Republic he is from or is in at the time. He does not use the term gauche simpleton though he has been know to use the term %$#@ Yankee.

NYT: 9. Having a daughter makes the modern man more of a complete person. He learns new stuff every day.

The Texas man appreciates and loves his kids but has no need for any other human to complete him. A good dog is a different story though.

NYT: 10. The modern man makes sure the dishes on the rack have dried completely before putting them away.

The Texas man will do the dishes when he does the cooking. If he cooks it is either slow smoked or grilled meat. Smoked meat is served on butcher paper and cleanup means throwing it away. Grilled meat if not served on paper plate will be placed in the dishwasher after the dogs have
prewashed" them.

NYT: 11. The modern man has never “pinned” a tweet, and he never will.

Most Texas men have no idea what either of these are so I guess we have that in common with the New York modern man.

NYT: 12. The modern man checks the status of his Irish Spring bar before jumping in for a wash. Too small, it gets swapped out.

The Texas man will use whatever bar of soap his wife bought or whatever brand they had in the last motel he stayed in comped him.

NYT: 13. The modern man listens to Wu-Tang at least once a week.

The Texas man has to Google who Wu Tang is but knows without even having to hear to one of their songs to know he will never listen to Wu Tang.

NYT: 14. The modern man still jots down his grocery list on a piece of scratch paper. The market is no place for his face to be buried in the phone.

The Texas man needs no list at all and is in and out of the grocery store in no more than ten minutes.

NYT: 15. The modern man has hardwood flooring. His children can detect his mood from the stamp of his Kenneth Cole oxfords.

The Texas man appreciates the sound of Tony Lamas or Luccheses make on a hardwood floor but knows there are other acceptable floorings. He has no idea who Kenneth Cole is and most certainly wouldn’t wear another man’s shoes. His kids certainly do not need to hear his footsteps to judge his mood.

NYT: 16. The modern man lies on the side of the bed closer to the door. If an intruder gets in, he will try to fight him off, so that his wife has a chance to get away.

The Texas man lets his wife sleep on whatever side of the bed she likes. IF an intruder ignores the signs, gets past the dogs and to the bedroom door a Texas man will not TRY and fight anyone off. He WILL neutralize the threat with the appropriate amount of force trying not to wake his wife up in the process. He knows if he wife does wake up he should stay clear of her line of fire as she knows how to shoot her 357 magnum as well as he can shoot his 45.

NYT: 17. Does the modern man have a melon baller? What do you think? How else would the cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew he serves be so uniformly shaped?

The Texas man doesn’t know what a melon baller is and for that matter isn’t sure what Honeydew is either. Balls are for cowboys, roughnecks and bulls not for fruit.

NYT: 18. The modern man has thought seriously about buying a shoehorn.

The Texas man has never had to contemplate buying a shoehorn but has bought enough boot jacks to have one at any location he might need one.

NYT: 19. The modern man buys fresh flowers more to surprise his wife than to say he is sorry.

The Texas man takes his wife on a week long trip to see the bluebonnets as store bought bouquets do not compare.

NYT: 20. On occasion, the modern man is the little spoon. Some nights, when he is feeling down or vulnerable, he needs an emotional and physical shield.

No, just NO. The Texas man may at times actually feel down and vulnerable but it is nothing a Shiner Bock and back rub from his wife won’t fix.

NYT: 21. The modern man doesn’t scold his daughter when she sneezes while eating an apple doughnut, even if the pieces fly everywhere.

A Texas man couldn’t care less about the pieces as the dogs will clean them up. He would laugh with his daughter about the sneeze but might have a talk to her about why she was eating an apple donut in the first place and donut is how it is spelled on every donut place in Texas.

NYT: 22. The modern man still ambles half-naked down his driveway each morning to scoop up a crisp newspaper.

The Texas man does not amble nor does he ever leave the house half-dressed. For many Texas men the distance between the front porch and the road is longer than a city block in New York City and he is more likely to take an ATV than to walk.

NYT: 23. The modern man has all of Michael Mann’s films on Blu-ray (or whatever the highest quality thing is at the time).

A Texas man doesn’t mind Michael Mann but is far more likely to have Clint Eastwood movies around and only uses the term “films” to describe something he doesn’t care to see. He will play them on whatever type player he has until that one wears out.

NYT: 24. The modern man doesn’t get hung up on his phone’s battery percentage. If it needs to run flat, so be it.

A Texas man stays prepared and will keep his phone battery as charged as it needs to be to take care of his business concerns.

NYT: 25. The modern man has no use for a gun. He doesn’t own one, and he never will.

The Texas man owns as many guns as he has uses for a gun. He will have at least one for general purposes and then one for each specific need he has. He will likely have at least one lever action. Mine is 45-70 government for wild boar, buffalo and the occasional rouge elephant. He will have other guns and calibers for each purpose he needs one for. He pities the “Modern” New York man that has to rely on others for their own protection and safety. He might even have one with a suppressor. (See number 16.)
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NYT: 26. The modern man cries. He cries often.

While the Texas man can cry when he needs to it isn’t often as luckily it isn’t often that one’s wife, dog or mama passes.

NYT: 27. People aren’t sure if the modern man is a good dancer or not. That is, until the D.J. plays his jam and he goes out there and puts on a clinic.

The Texas man never uses the term my jam unless he has made some from wild plums. Every Texas woman has a pretty good idea of which Texas men can dance just from the way they carry themselves when they walk into the honkytonk. It is confirmed as soon as a George Strait or Dwight Yokam song comes on.

While the New York Times didn't mention this a Texas man doesn't have a jacked up truck unless he needs a jacked up truck to get off the main road for business or leisure. He does not drive one just because it looks cool.

Reality TV and the lessons it has for selling art

August 13th, 2013

Reality TV and the lessons it has for selling art

Anyone that has turned on the telly in the last few years knows that the channels are inundated with reality TV shows. Most probably realize that these shows are not in fact reality for the vast majority of people. The shows that do well are relatable but go beyond our personal realities and that is what seems to make them popular.

The Real Housewives series has very little to do with 99.9% of real housewives yet my wife is drawn to the show like a moth to a flame. Duck Dynasty is one of the highest rated shows because we can relate to the characters but it is certainly not reality for most country boys. Honey Boo Boo? Well, I have no idea but it is certainly not reality for most of us.

What these shows do is provide entertainment that is relatable but beyond our personal reality. Reality doesn't sell that well in Hollywood. Most people have more than enough reality sitting right there in their living room and in their weekly routines; they watch TV or go to the movies to escape and go beyond reality.

I think the same concept applies to art as well. People want things beyond their personal reality. While they need to relate to the art, it needs to be something they don't see every day and certainly something they don't think they can create themselves. That doesn't mean the work has to be fantasy but it does need to go beyond normal. Anyone with a cat can take a shot on their cell phone of their pet; what are you offering in your cat image that they cannot do themselves or that they do not see every day?

I will use my own work for some examples of how I go beyond reality but how you do it is really up to you. If you are a painter, hey, most of your work is something the average buyer cannot do but for us togs, how do we create a new reality for our viewers.

The way I do it most often is simply presenting a familiar scene in an unfamiliar way. For me this usually involves weather or lighting.

These two images of DC both show very common everyday sites for anyone that lives in or visits DC. But both go beyond the reality of how the scenes appear if you have been there yourself. I have been to the Tidal Basin hundreds of times but this is the only time I have ever seen light and clouds like this. Capturing the Capitol with the exact lighting I wanted took a lot of trips at 0400 but it creates a scene most people do not get to see.
Art PrintsSell Art Online

These scenes are within a stones throw of Annapolis Maryland. Sandy Point is visited by thousands of visitors on any given sunny summer day but the scene below is not one many people that are familiar with the area ever witness. The boat is an abandoned rowboat at a popular boat ramp but add the ice and the clouds and the lighting and the scene become surreal.
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Tens of thousands of people visit North Carolina beaches every week if not every day. How many of them actually see scenes like the ones below. The seagull was originally a flock of seagulls sleeping along the shore in the dark. All flew away except the one. It was more than an hour before sunrise and the light on the horizon was really just a glow. This scene is not reality and not even how it appeared to my eyes when I shot it but it sells well. The pier is exactly how it appeared at sunrise but even then, very few people get up to watch a sunrise and at sunset, the scene would be covered with people and besides, the set happens away from the ocean. Again, not reality to most.
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Finally I give you the tree. Hey, single trees are easy to find but capturing one in the lighting below? It is not reality for most people and for me, it was reality for a brief moment in time, then gone.
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Now, how you go beyond reality is really up to you. Some do it with amaing textures and layers turning the everyday into the surreal. Some travel and shoot things most people never get to see. There are infinitely many ways to do it, you have to find yours.

On the Way to the Office

March 2nd, 2012

On the Way to the Office

Last summer I was walking along the River Walk in beautiful downtown Wilmington North Carolina. Looking across the Cape Fear River I saw the wreckage of an old wooden tugboat. Right then and there I knew I had to have a close up shot of that boat.

While I would love to have shot it that that very day there was a problem. The tugboat sits on the edge of the Cape Fear River in the middle of a large river swamp. Being a good southern boy and avid outdoorsman I know that these southern river swamps are just filled with big nasties.. I am talking about alligators big enough to scare the shark from Jaws. I am talking about cottonmouth snakes that could eat a pit bull. There are mosquitos and biting flies that can carry off small children if you arent watching them closely. For all I know a family of sasquatches and that polar bear looking thing from Lost also live in this swamp. So, I marked the spot in my mind under the Must shoot later file.

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Fast forward to this January and I open that file. Winter is a relatively safe time to explore swamps. Well, the temperature range between 35 and 45 is If it gets much colder than 30 then you risk hypothermia because I promise you are going to be wet. If it starts to get above 50 and is sunny then some of those big nasties might just come up out of their hole and do some sun bathing. But the temperature this morning is a perfect 39 degrees

Sell Art Online

I spent some time trying to find an easy trail to the boat but had no luck so I went with my cant miss route to get to the boat. That plan was to simply follow the edge of the Cape Fear River until I was next to the shipwreck. For this trip I was dressed in multiple layers, had my camera gear in my backpack and had my trusty oak walking/fighting/snake stick. Oh, since I want to be in place an hour before sunrise, I am starting this hike two hours before sunrise which was 5:00 AM or so.

The hike started about as expected. There was a mix of mud and sand and rocks and everything else you might expect along a southern river. The further I got the more unusual the terrain became. There are actually 35 abandoned ships along the edge of the river here. It takes a while to make your way around what used to be docks and wharfs and to navigate around the hulls all now mostly buried in the muck. At one point I wandered across a large marine diesel engine. It was the only part of a vessel that had weathered the decades of storms and the wrath of nature.

Art Prints

An hour into this trek I was getting close. I could feel it. That is when I came to the river of mud separating me from my objective. I sunk to well above my knee when I tested its depth. It would be physically impossible to walk across without getting stuck. At this point I was faced with somewhat of a conundrum. I could give up and turn around. I could follow this river upstream to see if there was a crossing but that would add at least an hour. Or there was the option I chose; you can indeed cross mud flats like this but you have to spread your weight out so that you remain on the surface. That means the military low crawl. I am not talking hands and knees here because that wont work. I am talking about literally crawling on your belly and moving like a snake across the mud. It works!

I am finally across the mud flats and there she is; the Isco. There is enough solid land around the old girl that I can now move relatively well. I still have to be careful or I will find myself and my Canon in the salty mud and muck but it is far easier than the hour plus I have spent getting to this spot.

Below are a few of the results of this mission.

Oh, BTW, when you start at the shoreline and it is daylight it is really not that hard to find a slightly easier and dryer way to egress the target back to the original ingress point.

JC

*You can read more about the history of the Isca here:


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Planning for that once in a lifetime shot again and again

June 15th, 2011

Planning for that once in a lifetime shot again and again

As the term once in a lifetime implies almost anyone can get a once in a lifetime shot once. The question is how to get one again and again and again.

There is a lot more to producing a stunning landscape image than having your camera and being in the right place at the right time then pressing a button. That said being in the right place at the right time is a critical aspect of the big picture. (Big picture, get it?) The question is how to be in the right place at the right time?

I suppose you could bring your camera with you everywhere you go and when you observe a scene develop just stop what you are doing and shoot away. To an extent I do just that but the reality is that bringing a large expensive camera body, a couple lenses and a tripod with you everywhere is just not practical. Every so often I have my equipment with me and stumble upon the perfect lighting along with a perfect subject to shoot. The blind squirrel analogy comes to mind here. I was driving down an urban parkway in the rain when the clouds broke open and Mother Nature blessed me with an hour and a half of some of the most amazing lighting I have ever seen and I had a decent camera with me and the time to use it. This image is one of hundreds I shot in that 90 minutes. Sometimes it works out that way but the reality is bringing your kit with you when you are out running errands is just not always practical and leaving thousands of dollars worth of equipment in your car all the time is almost asking for it to be stolen.
Photography Prints

If we cant reliably count on stumbling upon these scenes that means we have to do some planning. Broadly speaking there are two types of plans I make. There are places and scenes I am familiar with and then there are places I have never been before. In todays post we will explore the planning involved to get The Shot in an area you are familiar with.

Planning for places you are familiar with is easier for obvious reasons. When I go out for a shoot I am either looking for something that will compliment a perfect sky or a sky that will highlight a specific subject. I live in Northern Virginia and work in DC. There are scores of monuments and historical sites to shoot which is good but it is hard to get a shot that is unique and hasnt been seen before. If you are shooting strictly for yourself then shooting something the same way it has been shot thousands of times before is fine. If you are interested in possibly selling your work then you need to offer a unique and striking presentation that the buyer cant find by walking into any mall or gift shop in the local area. For instance I wanted an image of the US Capitol Building. If you run a Google search for a US Capitol Building image you get about 820,000 results. How do you come up with something unique? Getting a shot with something other than blue skies and puffy clouds for a background is one way and that is where the planning comes in. Because I live in the area I can scout where the more dramatic shots can be taken. I have the knowledge of where the sunrise will happen in relation to the prospective shooting sites. I know where I can park at different times and on different days. I know how long it will take me to get to my spot after I park. I know that during the summer sunrise happens as early as 5:40 AM and in the winter it is sometimes after 8:00. Because I work in a secure location with secure parking I am comfortable leaving my gear in my car when I am at work. Knowing all that I formulate a plan. Nine months out of the year sunrise happens during the heart of the rush hour. That means that driving through downtown on my way to work will add an hour to my commute and even if I see a dramatic sky developing I wont be able to find parking anywhere near the Capitol. Around the summer solstice sunrise happens while most people are still asleep or just getting up here. Since I have some control over the time I arrive at work I leave my house an hour before sunrise during the early summer. At that time of the morning traffic is light and I can be in downtown DC in 15 minutes. As I approach downtown I look at the sky and make a guestimation as to whether it will be a dramatic sunrise or not. If it is overcast or clear skies I just keep driving to work. If however there are scattered clouds I exit and head towards the Capitol. It is easy to find parking in downtown DC at 5:00 AM. (That is about the only time its easy.) I park my truck and hike on over to one of my pre-picked spots depending on where the clouds are in relation to the sunrise and the Dome. Then 9/10 times it is less than spectacular and I walk back to my truck and drive to work. Because I am local I just keep doing this until it happens. Oh you will know when it happens. The lighting is perfect. The sky is perfect. You are in position and you are ready and it all comes together. That is what makes the 30 times I got up at o-dark thirty and just kept driving and the 9 times I stopped for nothing worth it all.
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I also have a plan in place just in case I sense a dramatic sunset or storm coming on but have nothing in particular to shoot. In my opinion what you really need to shoot a dramatic sky is an unobstructed view towards the horizon. Large fields, high rooftops and relatively large bodies of water come to mind but really anywhere with an unobstructed view will work. If you happen to live five minutes from a beach with an impressive lighthouse your options are many. But if you are like me and live inland it will take a little preplanning to be ready when it happens. Within five miles of my house I found a Pohick Bay. It isnt a tourist destination and isnt developed. What it offers is scenic nature shots and about 220 degrees of water views. There are approximately five miles of water views from a 110 degree azimuth to around a 330 degree azimuth. Since the skys drama is not always over the point of the actual sunset this pre-planned area gives me access to long views in myriad directions to capture whatever drama the sky can present. In this image I saw the drama in the sky developing about dinner time and got that look in my eye. My wife has long since accepted that I miss my share fair of dinners so off I went to Pohick. To get this shot I waded chest high into the bay so that I could get the autumn foliage as well as the sunset and reflections but that is more of a composition discussion. While you may not live near Pohick Bay I am willing to bet that 90% of you have someplace nearby that you can shoot the drama in the sky when you see it developing if you have planned for it in advance.
Photography Prints

In my next post I will discuss the planning I do for a site I have never been to nor seen before. While being in the right place at the right is an important part of getting that shot of a lifetime there is a lot more planning than luck involved if you plan to do it more than once.

JC