A moment of clarity during Mahler's 9th symphony

I had an incredible (and unusual) experience tonight at Davies Symphony Hall, where I went to see the San Francisco Symphony play Mahler's Symphony No. 9 (one of my favorite pieces of orchestral music). I've seen it performed live a few times; each time, it's moved me to tears. Mahler's 9th symphony ends in *adagio*—in the softest of fragmented whimpers—and as the last few notes whispered into existence, I suddenly had a moment of incredible clarity. All of my senses converged into absolute sharpness; I could see, vividly, every detail of the orchestra—the position of every stand, chair, instrument, player—and hear every tiny little creak of audience members trying not to move in their seats. Every bit of my brain was oscillating in perfect harmony, and I finally truly understood the meaning of the word, *clarity*.

It only lasted a few seconds, but was a moment I will remember for a lifetime. Thank you, MTT and the members of the San Francisco Symphony, for the wonderful performance.

As a side note, I now wonder if some people are able to achieve this sort of clarity during their normal, day-to-day lives. I can only imagine...

"This is my husband..."


MY WIFE at holiday party
Pam and I went to her company's holiday party tonight, and for the first time in my life, I was introduced as someone's husband. It felt perfectly natural (awww -- feel the love...).

Photographers: when do you give away work for free?


a humorous copyright violation

As a [photographer](/photo), I am constantly asked for free images. Every day, I respond to upwards of 5 requests for free imagery from a diverse array of entities including individuals, non-profits / conservation organizations, companies, buildings, and other organizations. Some photographers get angry when they are asked for free work, but I do not. If the request is ridiculous, I find great humor in the situation, but if it is a serious request by someone who has really thought things out, I will reply honestly.

The most recent request was to "borrow" images for some sort of company event, and compensation was to have my name visible next to the prints. Dave, a good friend (and [successful artist](http://davidpatchen.com) himself), wrote commentary about the situation after I mentioned it.

> *If they pick up/drop off, you're visibly credited w/your contact info and there's a lot of traffic it could be good exposure.*

In theory, I agree with his statement, but I've had enormous prints mounted in the lobbies of some of the biggest buildings in San Francisco for months, and do you know how many leads they generated? Zero. Even with my name, a biography, and postcards placed somewhere near the prints, they generated no leads.

Unlike some of my old(er)-school friends, I do understand the value of giving away images without monetary compensation -- but there must always be some sort of return on investment. The better articulated the ROI, the higher chance I will participate. Some requests are so poorly articulated that they become celebrated [for humor](/journal/2010/02/11/how-not-to-ask-for-a-free-image-for-turtle-conservation/), which I suppose is some sort of ROI in itself.

Below are some of situations in which / organizations to which I have given away or lent images for "free":

1. Portfolio or article about me in a web or print magazine. Every photographer loves these, and will probably give you images and an interview for free. Some magazines have given me an honorarium -- reduced article pay -- which I always greatly appreciate.

2. Credited web image with live link, from high-profile website. Exposure is good, but Google search ranking is better and is the best non-monetary compensation I can think of. I've been giving away images like this since I started shooting. I only do this if I like the asking organization. Old-schoolers typically don't understand this.

3. Conservation organization I support (must make an effort to explain the effectiveness and the terms of how my images would be used). It helps if the non-profit is amenable to issuing a donation receipt for the value of the images.

3. Events in which people are there to experience art: galleries, shows, etc. As an artist, I want to support artistic efforts, in general, and to have my work to be seen in the proper environment. There is typically further incentive to do this because many art venues survive by selling art (see #4). Having prints up on the wall of a conference room or a venue where people are meeting for business might seem like fun, but is definitely a situation in which money would have to be exchanged.[^1]

4. Events in which somebody is actively selling my work.

5. Events in which I am a participating member.

I have two standard responses I send to organizations that request free images. One targets non-profits, and the other, commercial entities. Here is one of them:

> Thank you for your interest in my images.

> As you can imagine, it takes tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and travel to capture images like the one(s) you are interested in publishing. I spend a lot of time doing pro-bono work and giving images away to non-profit organizations, but it is impossible to both give away images all the time and stay in business.

> In order to provide images to a commercial entity without payment, I would require significant value in exchanged services. In some cases, I am willing to provide images in exchange for publicity or prestige, but most often, something more concrete is required.

> At this time, I am unable to provide images without payment according to your terms, but if you decide that you have a budget for the use of my images, please let me know.

I highly encourage photographers to try to enumerate the situations in which they might give away work. It will help you to stay rational about such requests instead of just getting mad. If someone asks for an image for "free," there might be a significant non-monetary return on investment (which would eventually lead to more income) by seeing the conversation to the end.

A calming of the heart

I slept 12 hours last night and woke up to a calm day overlooking a mangrove forest in Papua New Guinea. I walked outside and took a seat on the elevated patio with a cup of instant coffee and a book (well, a Kindle), and immediately felt a slowing of the heart rate and a deep, relaxed and complete breathing that was surprisingly -- and depressingly -- novel. It occurs to me that a good life goal is to put myself in a situation in which I am able to feel like this regularly. The last few months have been such a whirlwind of activity that I forgot what it means to relax.

The heart

I had pretty much forgotten what it was like to miss someone so much. It's nice to have that part of me back again. (more, if you login here and look into the past)

Shark conservationists and racism

When is everyone from the white/western anti-shark-finning crowd going to realize that their efforts are going to amount to exactly NOTHING if they continue to be racist? Obviously, it's just the bad apples that are like this -- you know, the sheltered urban folk who have never actually been out to see what they are fighting against. Do a bunch of fundraisers, and you're going to save the world.

When someone talks about "the Japanese" or "the Chinese," I've already tuned out before they finish the sentence. No amount of educating the western world is going to change what is going on out there (concerning shark-finning, I mean)[^1], and alienating the target audience by being dimwitted and racist is common.

[^1]: Obviously, voting with your wallet works. But in this case, their wallets are getting bitter, and ours, smaller.

Another late night

On far too many nights, the last thing that goes through my head as it sinks into my pillow is, "You're STUPID. It's SO LATE." Believe me -- I'd much rather be on a more normal schedule for someone so far past college age. I *feel* better when I go to sleep early and get up with the sun in the morning (although I suppose it doesn't matter as much in this cave I live in now). Still, late evenings do present the ideal working environment. North America is sound asleep, and Asia and Australia have finished their work days, leaving me only European correspondence to contend with. I receive nearly no email between midnight and my bedtime, which is normally between 3-3:30am. No email. No IM conversations. No phone calls. No distractions.

Tonight, I'm listening Renée Fleming and doing pre-press work in CMYK land. *Du bist die Ruh'* just came on, and it's five and a half minutes of pure inspiration. Tomorrow when I wake up to 50 morning emails, I know that I will regret yet another late night. But for now, it's just fine.

An unfortunate preoccupation with the sun

Since I moved into my new cave, I've been obsessed with light and the position of the sun. For a period of a week, I spent an hour a day browsing light therapy and 5500°K lighting products. I even bought some, and have asked a designer to look into huge light panels for the wall (preferably LED to avoid any further baking from heat given off by generating light). It's a good thing I'm located right in the middle of everything here in San Francisco. I'm driven out of the house by hunger nearly every day, and luckily, summer days are long,and it's almost always still light when I venture out. I'm glad that I'm getting a good dose of natural light every day, even if I am not getting much of it when I sit here in front of my computer.

Plus, I'm isolated here, and it's really the only time I get to see people. I guess people watching is better than nothing.

My personalized Google homepage has adapted to my new obsession, and the entire right-hand column is now full of statistics on celestial bodies and time. Since I can't tell where the sun is from inside here, I guess I'll have to rely on the interwebs.

So... yeah, I love my new place. But it has its drawbacks.

Pingtung Grandma, a long time ago


my grandmother, more than 70 years ago
My father just sent over a photo of my grandmother from when she was in her teens or early twenties, back when Taiwan was still occupied by Japan. Because my Dad is young among his siblings, I never knew Grandma as anything other than an old woman. We also didn't share a common language, as she didn't speak Mandarin -- and I barely do.

I have regrets that I didn't attend her funeral last week in Taiwan. I'm not sure that it was the right decision to lead the Bahamas expedition instead.

Never believe anything you read

I was in the Bahamas last week, and want to comment on a few articles that popped up over the past few days about a tiger shark eating a dead body in Bahamian waters. Check out these three news articles, below: 1. Shark Consumes Drowning Victim (The Bahama Journal)

Mr. Archer explained what happened when the search team tried to retrieve the bodies from the water on Sunday.

"We were able to bring back the three out of the four bodies. The shark literally took the body right out of the C.I.D. diver’s hand. They had to leave the water and come out and sit on the boat for a while to wait for it to leave," he said.

This is totally bogus, but it does sound pretty cool to have a shark take a body away from a rescue diver. I don't know who the C.I.D. are, but they weren't the ones that recovered the bodies, and the shark didn't take the body "right out of the C.I.D. diver's hand."

"As for the boat itself it is just an empty fiber glass hull right now and it is still out on the scene. They tried to turn it over but because of the damage of the boat, they were unsuccessful, so they will have to go back out with more material and heavy equipment," said Mr. Archer, adding that BASRA had completed its role in this investigation.

We saw BASRA going out to attempt to right the boat and tow it in. A few hours later, we saw them headed back into port -- without the boat. The boat had earlier been anchored in very-shallow water by the Gulf Stream Eagle in an area where boats are unlikely to be cruising (where it was found), but as we headed back to Florida at dusk, we nearly ran into the hull -- floating around in the Gulf Stream! The top of the boat had been ripped off of the upside-down hull and was tied next to it. An orange life jacket was tied to the railing, but there was nothing else -- not even a strobe. It did not show up on radar, and we were lucky that there was still some light. If we had hit that thing while traveling at night, it would have been OVER. Our boat would have gone down, and all of us who bunked in the bow probably would have been pulped. I can't believe BASRA's "completing its role in the investigation" actually means that they left a terrible navigation hazard floating around in an area where boats cruise at night.

2. Captain recounts gruesome discovery (Palm Beach Post)

When Riviera Beach-based Gulfstream Eagle Captain Mark Rose arrived at the scene, he and his crew found two men and one woman floating near a capsized boat. One had been ravaged by a shark. They later found a fourth body floating nearby.

This blurb totally neglects to mention the fact that the people on the surface were decomposing bodies, and not survivors. Let's scare as many people as possible, though!

The loss of life was a tragedy, but sharks eat dead stuff. It doesn't matter what kind of meat it is.

This is less important a fact, but there were actually two floating bodies when the Gulf Stream Eagle arrived. Also, the Gulf Stream Eagle were the ones who recovered two additional bodies from inside the capsized boat.

3. Riviera Beach dive boat finds bodies in overturned vessel in Bahamas (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Actually, this one seemed to be the closest, as told from the point of view of the Gulf Stream Eagle.

All of the articles seemed to have picked up the "two 12-foot tiger sharks" part, but this was probably something that was related via interview. People always say sharks are bigger than they really were, and it was true in this case as well.

Every time I know the inside story, I trust the media less.

My grandmother passed away

My grandmother passed away peacefully at 3:03 pm, May 12th, in Ping-Tung Hospital, Taiwan. An aunt and my mother were with her. She was 94 (1915-2008).

The funeral is scheduled on May 24th in Ping-Tung, and I'm not sure if I will be able to attend. I'm supposed to lead another shark expedition between May 20-27, and have mixed thoughts about whether I want to go. After talking to Dad, Wendy decided to go. We weren't particularly close to that side of the family when we were growing up, but I do think it would be nice if the entire family were together in Taiwan to see her put to rest.

I have to decide tomorrow. Logistics would be very difficult, and I hate to back out of something that I am scheduled to lead.

My uncle...

My uncle passed away this morning. I am amazed by the speed at which his body failed him. The past week has been dominated by an extreme sense of helplessness and sadness. Friday

Uncle diagnosed with leukemia. Doctors think it is AML (acute myeloid leukemia). Scheduled for Monday hospital visit for bone marrow test. Treatment schedule is planned.

Monday morning

My uncle is rushed to the emergency room before his appointment.

Tuesday morning

Message from my cousin:

The bone marrow results came back; he has AML - M4, which is actually different than M3, or APL, as originally assumed. Also, things aren't looking so great in Dad's brain. He has six chloromas, or what the neurologist says are basically white blood cell "tumor" blockages in his brain. As a result, he has difficulty completing tasks (especially those that involve the left side of his body) and understanding us sometimes. It is yet to be determined if they will get better.

On the bright side, when he recognizes us, he is happy to see us. He still jokes ....

Wednesday

Message from my mom:

JH's situation is worse than yesterday. He does not respond when talking to him and can not squeeze fingers to respond. The nurse told me it is the specific genetic marker which causes this critical situation.

Thursday morning (today)

My uncle passes away.

I am having a hard time understanding how this could have happened so quickly. A (much older) friend told me today that his sister had passed away at the table during lunch a few months ago with no warning whatsoever. I'm not sure if he was trying to make me feel better, or just share a similar story... or perhaps express that this sort of thing happens, and you have to deal with it.

My uncle was still relatively young. He was the youngest of my mother's siblings, and I always imagined him as being like a bull -- muscle-bound, healthy, strong.

When I got the call from my sister, I was standing on a cliff overlooking a big NW swell in Waimea Bay. We were just starting our shooting session for the morning, and I was surrounded by people. In between chatting with friends and new acquaintances, I had moments of extreme sadness. The overwhelming feeling of helplessness I referred to above was further enhanced by what I was seeing below: the unstoppable power of the ocean dotted by tiny humans trying to harness its energy.

More fragility: I am staying with a friend here who suffers from extreme sleep apnea. When he is awake, he is strong, sarcastic, a little bit unstable, and extremely funny. But at the moment, he is napping on a futon in the same room as me, and he stops breathing after every 3rd or 4th breath. I can see his body twitch and spasm as it tries to force him to breathe, and just when I think he may never take another breath, he takes in a few large breaths of air with loud, prolonged snorts.

I continue to be bipolar today, with ups and downs varying by the minute.

I continue to distract myself by doing work that never ends.

State of things

Between contractor hell, planning a move (its timeliness contingent on hell freezing over), sudden trips (leaving tomorrow for Hawaii for a few days to shoot waves), botched vendor dealings (the lens I need for the aforementioned trip didn't arrive on time, and neither did the other stuff), future expedition planning, photo contest organization (DEEP Indo deadline is in 3 days), general Wetpixel support, and recent family trauma (uncle diagnosed with leukemia), I am poised to be pushed over the edge by whatever comes next. News of family sickness is hard to take. Cyn came over today, and is dealing with something similar. Neither of us seem to be directly affected (yet) by what is going on in our respective families, but the pain comes in waves. Speaking with my mother, for example, nearly made me cry. I could hear the pain in her voice, and I couldn't stop thinking that she was going to have to be the one to tell her parents that her youngest brother has leukemia (the speed at which one becomes nearly debilitated is something I almost cannot believe). It is like a shadow over everything I've been doing for the past day. The only thing in the list above that really matters is my uncle's condition, yet I spend my time ticking through the TODO list that never seems to end.

Going to Hawaii to get away for a few days will probably be good for my sanity.

You are probably thinking, "But you just came back from a vacation!"

Oh yeah. This sort of work is supposed to be fun...

The perfect gift

You know what I hear a lot around birthday/holiday time? "What do you get for the guy who has everything?"

I'll tell you what I want: a call every once in awhile, and maybe a hug.

That would do just fine.

Pingtung with Grandma


photo of my grandparents when they were young(er)
We spent a day in Pingtung to visit my 93-year old grandmother on my Dad's side. Each year, we are amazed at how sharp her mind still is; normally, she sits in her chair downstairs and talks and talks about all sorts of things the entire time we are there. This time, however, things were different.


Dad, Grandma, and Wendy

We arrived to find my grandmother not in her normal chair. After a few minutes, my aunt took us upstairs, where we found her to be no longer mobile. My father helped to get her into a chair next to the bed.

"My eyes don't see," she said, repeatedly, in Taiwanese.

We were all very tense and worried, but after a little while, my grandmother started to talk again. She wasn't quite as talkative as she was in the past, we were relieved nonetheless.

About an hour of our time was spent going through Grandma's old clothing looking for a piece of jewelry she kept insisting she wanted to give to me (for my future wife, no doubt). Eventually, we found it, and she unceremoniously presented to me without saying a word. It's a jade pendant on a platinum chain -- something obviously very valuable and important to her.

I have only seen my grandmother on this side a handful of times. An extreme language barrier makes conversation nearly impossible, and it was 15 years before I saw her for the first time.

The entire exchange had a feeling of finality about it, which made me very sad.

Weekend update on social networking

I attended two 1st year Korean "Tol" baby birthday parties over the weekend, which were both a lot of fun. I'll post photos, soon. Parties and gatherings are great, but they are tough to schedule at the moment because I'm swamped trying to both catch up with life stuff and get the 2nd issue of Wetpixel Quarterly out the door. It's 3:30am, and I just finished what I had to do today. Earlier today, I was thinking a bit about the social-networking applications that I use (Twitter and Facebook, mostly). At Ella's pseudo-Tol, I was explaining how I use Twitter (someone asked me! it's not normal party talk...), and one of the most important points I detailed was that I only allow those who are compatible with me into networks that have the potential for evil. Most social networking sites have the potential to be extremely annoying, and additional spam/complication is not something I need in my life. Alex King has given this some thought as well, and luckily, we are compatible. :)

I also brought this up when teaching Kim to twitter last week. Specifically, I told her that I didn't want to know if someone was eating a bagel, but I might want to know something more substantial, funny, or bitchy. She proceeded to bagel-tweet me a few times during the course of the evening, which was ironically the perfect use of twitter because it made me laugh every time.

Last week, I was bullied into adding the Super Wall application to my Facebook profile because I was sick of not being compatible with 3 million of its users. Today, I received 9 identical Super Wall posts from someone I have only met once. I promptly deleted the messages, wrote to him notifying him that he was doing bad things, and de-friended him. He wrote back and said that he didn't know anything about spamming everyone, so I forgave him. But it means that Super Wall allows people to do very bad things. He has 102 friends, and if he sent 9 posts to each of them, over 900 spam messages were unleashed unknowingly! I blocked the application.

I've started actively blocking all of the stupid ninja, zombie, mega-poke, sheep-throwing, frog-licking applications as I encounter them. Hopefully, by preemptively blocking things, I can continue to have a good experience using the social-networking sites that I frequent.

Oh, and if I remove you as a friend somewhere, it's not because we can't be friends. It's just that we just aren't compatible within the context of that particular community. And I won't be offended if you remove me.

I guess preemptive breakup messages can be useful. :)