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Simplification is Wonderful

Two days, two critical web-related changes. Back in Summer 2010 I began work on my dedicated music website. As I relearned bits and pieces of web design and applied new techniques I had picked up from around the web, the site came together ever so slowly. By time I launched the site in October 2010, I was quite proud of my work, and still am. However, I quickly discovered that my infrastructure was in no way designed with future changes in mind. Even subtle tweaks ended up taking me hours to perfect, and as we move increasingly toward a mobile-focused Internet, I was going to have to make some very significant changes to adapt my design to mobile platforms.

My savior? WordPress. I had been using WordPress for several years for my photography blog and had grown rather fond of it, so I decided to give it a go. The beauty of this new infrastructure is that I don’t have to do any of the backend work. While I was at it, I figured why not knock my newest personal webpage project out of the way too? Thus, today my blog became my personal website. I feel a sense of reduced stress already. All hail simplicity!

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Oops

Note to self: Unless faced with a certain lawsuit, do not under any circumstances change your URLs or site names. You will still be updating things two weeks later.

I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me about two years to notice that my software was exporting all of my images at 72ppi, which is standard resolution for screen display. However, the standard for printing is 300ppi. Oops! Since I’m out trying to sell prints, I opted to replace all of my posted images with proper resolution versions.

I had thought this would be a relatively painless process, since my photo host has a handy “replace” feature. For one reason or another, though, my originals were not being replaced when I tried to use the bulk replace tool. There was no way I was going to replace over 1000 photos one at a time, so I chose to simply upload new images, copy the captions and keywords from the old images to the new, and then remove the old images. After making my processor cry re-exporting all of my images over about a week or so, I began the process of re-uploading. As for copying the captions and keywords, never have I been so tired of: …[Cmd]+[A]…[Cmd]+[C]……[Cmd]+[V]… …[Cmd]+[A]…[Cmd]+[C]……[Cmd]+[V]… …[Cmd]+[A]…[Cmd]+[C]……[Cmd]+[V]… ad infinitum.

The only real downsides to this decision are that any photo comments were removed with the images and any prior URLs will no longer work. The URLs are primarily an annoyance for me, since I’ve had to go back through and update my image links in places like blog posts here. As for the lost comments, this will be a good excuse for you to get writing! 🙂

Please let me know if you run into any photos that are missing captions or keywords. With over 1000 images, I would be very, very surprised if I didn’t miss a few.

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Changes, Changes Everywhere…

…and not a drop to – wait, that sounded better in my head. Recently, my web presence has expanded beyond photography to also now include my music. At the time of each site’s launch, I chose titles and URLs specific to the individual site, such as nowlanjourneys.com and nowlanmusic.com. However, I soon found out that this decision made marketing and spreading the word about both of these sites surprisingly difficult and inefficient. So, I started working on a solution. Little did I know how big of a pain such a change could be.

First, I needed a central hub where I could easily direct visitors to my different sites. Naturally, http://christophernowlan.com/ was a perfect location for this hub. I tried out an about.me page and I liked that simple format, but the ads and prominent about.me branding really killed the professional feel of the page. The only problem standing in my way now was that I didn’t want to spend an additional $5.00 a month to host a single page.

christophernowlan.com

christophernowlan.com



UPDATE: And just like that, this page is gone. As you can see, I came up with an even better idea for christophernowlan.com.

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Roaming Alongside the Eno River

After a long, somewhat involuntary hibernation through winter, our weather has finally stabilized near perfection. Frankly, I’ve grown tired of being cooped up behind my computer and don’t want to let our short, “pre-heat” period go to waste. Back in January I bought a neutral density filter, which allows me to use longer exposures in daylight. Specifically, I wanted to be able recreate the soft, moving appearance of so many photographers’ water photos. It’s been nearly three months and I hadn’t even used my new filter beyond simple test images. So I sought out a location where I would be guaranteed some potential water images, landing me at Eno River State Park just outside Durham, NC.

Water

While the Eno River did indeed present some potential, I was rather disappointed with the rest of the park. It’s hard to judge a scenic area when all the trees are still missing their leaves, but nonetheless this park was primarily just winding trails through woods with little else to attract the eye. At least I got to experiment with and learn a little bit about using filters!

Water

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Breaking in the New Toy

My apologies for not updating lately; I can only blame laziness.  For the past two months I’ve been breaking in my new camera and I’ve learned quite a bit along the way.

The first weekend after her arrival my family and I took a brief trip to Myrtle Beach, SC.  Even from these first few days I was already impressed with my investment.

Jellyfish

Sunset

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, I Have a New Toy!

As luck would have it, I happened upon an alternate source that had the camera I wanted in stock for the same price.  Needless to say, I lept on the opportunity.

Meet the Sony α55:


This compact little beauty takes a unique approach to the traditional SLR (Single Lens Reflex) design by replacing the “Reflex” (the moving parts) with a fixed translucent mirror, thus creating an SLT.  No moving parts allows for a smaller body and quieter operation.  This unique design also means that the camera can maintain a constant autofocus, even at 10 fps.

Some highlights:

  • 16.2 megapixels
  • Full HD 1080/60i video capture
  • Built-in GPS (automatic geotagging)
  • Fully articulated 3″ 921K dot LCD

To start me off on this advanced road, I wanted a lens that would cover all of my immediate needs.  In the end, I landed on an 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 zoom lens.  To my amusement today, the lens almost dwarfs the small camera body.  Over time, I’ll add to my lens collection.  Topping my list will be a macro lens and a wide-angle lens.

Conveniently, the family and I will be heading to the beach this weekend so you’ll hopefully see my first shots with my new toy sometime next week.

, , Slowing Down at Last

Sorry about the dearth of updates lately, but October has been in a word, booked.  Most of October has had me engaged at Carolina Ballet for a vocal part in The Masque of the Red Death.  Between 10/14 and 10/31, I have performed a total of 11 times.  My commitment will finally end with a run-out performance to Winston-Salem, NC tomorrow night.  So, now you know what I’ve been doing with my time instead of wandering around taking pictures.

Speaking of photography, I have decided to leave a gaping hole in my wallet this year and make the move up to a DSLR.  Well actually, to be technically correct, I’m moving up to a DSLT.  As it stands now, I have yet to see a penny in returns from my photographic ventures.  I’m hoping that with this long-awaited jump I can finally start marketing myself in a way that will hopefully bring in even a little revenue.  Sadly my newest tech child is backordered and isn’t scheduled to arrive before December, but rest assured you’ll know when she arrives.

“The Sign of the Mushroom”

In honor of the 65th anniversary of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, below is an excerpt from Robert Leckie’s memoir, Helmet for My Pillow:

I lay in the hospital ward and the Sign of the Mushroom rose over the world.

I lay in a hospital for the tenth time since I had chosen to enter the Marines. My comrades and I had suffered in our persons as the world had suffered in her peoples since the Nazi swastika had clasped the Japanese rising sun in spidery embrace—the whole world, racked for six years like a giant organism; and now the Sign of the Mushroom was rising over it.

The ward in Newton D. Baker Army Hospital in Martinsburg, West Virginia, was quiet—shocked, still. The impersonal radio voice said, “America has just dropped the first atomic bomb in history on the major Japanese city of Hiroshima. The city has been destroyed.”

Monster cloud rising over Hiroshima, over the world—monstrous, mushrooming thing, sign of our age, symbol of our sin: growth; bigness, speed: grow, grow, grow—grow in a cancer, enlarge a factory, swell a city, balloon our bellies, speed life, fly to the moon, burst a bomb, shatter a people—explode the world.

So it rose and I shrank in my cot, I who had cringed before the body-squeezing blast of a five-hundred-pound bomb, hearing now this strange cold incomprehensible jargon of the megaton. Someone had sinned against life, and I felt it in my very person.

But then I, too, sinned. Suddenly, secretly, covertly—I rejoiced. For as I lay in that hospital, I had faced the bleak prospect of returning to the Pacific and the war and the law of averages. But now, I knew, the Japanese would have to lay down their arms. The war was over. I had survived. Like a man wielding a submachine gun to defend himself against an unarmed body, I had survived. So I rejoiced.

A few days later, the war did end, and there was a victory celebration in Martinsburg. The townspeople walked and rode around the square twice and then everyone went home. A slender Chinese gentleman, noticing my green uniform among the khaki, my ribbons and my shoulder patch, perhaps concluding from these that I had fought the Japanese, came up to me out of the crowd as I stood before the beer hall, and said, “Thank you.” Then he walked away. That was victory, that was jubilation—under the Sign of the Mushroom. I returned to the hospital, stark sober. In a few weeks, I was a civilian.

…[Sacrifice] is enough for all, for it is sacrifice—the suffering of those who lived, the immolation of those who died—that must now be placed in the scales of God’s justice that began to tip so awkwardly against us when the mushroom rose over the world. It is to sacrifice that men go to war. They do not go to kill, they go to be killed, to risk their flesh, to insert their precious persons in the path of destruction.

…That is why women weep when their men go off to war. They do not weep for their victims, they weep for them as Victim. That is why, with the immemorial insight of mankind, there are gay songs and colorful bands to send them off—to fortify their failing hearts, not to quicken their lust for blood. That is why there are no glorious living, but only glorious dead. Heroes turn traitor, warriors age and grow soft—but a victim is changeless, sacrifice is eternal.

And now to that Victim whose Sign rose above the world two thousand years ago, to be menaced now by that other sign now rising, I say a prayer of contrition. I, whom you have seen as irreverent and irreligious, now pray in the name of Chuckler and Hoosier and Runner, in the name of Smoothface, Gentleman, Amish and Oakstump, Ivy-League and Big-Picture, in the name of all those who suffered in the jungles and on the beaches, from Anzio to Normandy—and in the name of the immolated: of Texan, Rutherford, Chicken, Loudmouth, of the Artist and White-Man, Souvenirs and Racehorse, Dreadnought and Commando—of all these and others, dear Father, forgive us for that awful cloud.”

— Robert Leckie, “Epilogue,” Helmet for My Pillow


8/6/2015: Edited and republished for the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima’s destruction.

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Into the Woods

[info]Updated 5 March 2014 – This post originally included numerous images, but most have been removed through cleanup efforts of my portfolio. Some of the writing has also been updated.[/info]

As each summer draws to a close, my family typically takes off on a final, short weekend trip. One of my favorite places to visit is Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, deep in the woods of eastern West Virginia. On realizing it had been five years since my last visit, I suggested this remote location as our destination. This would be simple enough, except that the nearest town with any decent lodging to speak of is 60-80 miles away and all three of the Railroad’s routes depart around noon.

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A New Experience

A little over a year ago, my high school choir called me back while I was in town to strengthen their bass section for an audition recording of the Star-Spangled Banner to send to the Atlanta Braves.  After a couple of passes, we arrived at an acceptable recording and the audition was submitted.  Then around the start of this year, the news was sent my way that the choir had been invited to sing on April 16, 2010.  Read more