I’ve been trying to do more of my errands by bicycling, and one of my biggest holdups has been a lack of cargo room: it’s hard to lug home 80 pounds of cat litter in a backpack. So, a few months ago I started shopping on Craigslist for a bike trailer, only to find out that a good friend had one in her garage that I could have for free.
That’s a Schwinn (Pacific Cycle) Spirit Bicycle Trailer, rated to hold up to two 50-lb kids (aka: 100 pounds of cargo!). I immediately fell in love with it, and even used it to lug home 80 pounds of cat litter from the pet store:
An unexpected bonus of the trailer is that whenever I have it attached to my bike, cars give me more maneuvering room. I bike on city streets in Orange County, CA, and am used to having only a few inches of space between my side mirror and the cars zipping past me. But when I’m using the trailer, most cars will actually change lanes before even attempting to pass me (or at least give me four or five feet of clearance), and I’ve had multiple people literally stop to let me go in front of them. Amazing.
But using the trailer for cargo has proved to be less than ideal, as the bottom of the trailer is just made of soft fabric: the kids’ weight is designed to be supported entirely by the harness (which is hung from a horizontal metal rod). So, unless I had cargo that was perfectly sized to fit into that harness (like the bags of cat litter), I was limited to low weight.
So, I wanted to modify the trailer to add a solid base to convert it to a cargo trailer, and while I found lotsofDIY tutorials, they all involved removing the fabric. However, I wanted to keep the fabric on my trailer to protect my cargo from weather and prevent it from blowing around. Additionally, my guess is that the extra space I’m getting when I use the trailer is due to both the visual bulk of the trailer (it’s actually the same width as my handlebars, but makes my bike look much wider) and also because people think there are cute wittle children in the trailer and thus are panicked about the possibility of hitting them1.
So, what I ended up doing is removing the harness and adding a wooden shelf that fit inside the existing fabric, so my trailer now looks like this:
Read on for full instructions on how I built this!
Emperor’s River focuses on telling the story of the people and places behind the recent massive expansion of China’s economy. He traveled the entire length of the Grand Canal, getting images of places that most western photographers ignore. There’s no Great Wall, few bright city lights, and no gorgeous mountain landscapes. But there are construction workers toiling, families working barges that follow the same routes people have have traveled for centuries, old buildings being torn down to be replaced with high-rises, and all the contrasts that come with quick industrialization.
I’ll be honest: during the talk I found the photographs to be good, but not addictive (except for the one at the top of this post, which grabbed me instantly). The images were being projected onto a large screen, but said projector wasn’t particularly detail-capable. The same goes for his website’s page on Emperor’s River – the pictures look good, but you might wonder “why should I go to a gallery for these, if I can just see them on the web?”
The reason you should go is that Mr. Rittermann’s speciality is to capture scenes that have many individual stories in them, and then to create giant prints that call out to the viewer to go over them inch by inch, revealing a bit more with every inch traveled. He does this by photographing each scene as a panorama, stitching together the individual images1 to create a cohesive whole that is insanely high resolution, and so can be printed gigantic.
When I say gigantic, I mean it: some of the prints in the gallery are ten feet wide, and most are at least five or six feet wide. And these aren’t intended to be viewed from five or six feet away (as many large photographic prints are); there’s almost no noise visible in any of the prints, and they call out to you to stand with your nose touching the glass, peering into the scene absorbing all the minute details.
This construction site image is probably the best example:
On the web, you’re probably looking at that and going “Okay, it’s a construction site. Um, yay?” It’s well composed and gorgeously stitched, but at this resolution it’s basically just a construction site. That’s essentially what I thought when I saw the image in the talk.
But when I saw the image in person, printed at more than six feet wide, I was able to see all the little details in precise, sharp focus. I could examine the stacking of individual bricks in each of the dozens of piles of them, I could look at how people were living in the lower floors of the mostly-completed buildings, I could look at the workers wandering the construction site, I could see the methodology of the construction in the background buildings, and as I spent more time I kept seeing more and more. And the same thing happened with all the other prints (another excellent example is the second image I included, “Overview, Night Fish Market”; it’s just amazing in person).
This isn’t your typical splashy modern photography. The images aren’t over saturated (so refreshing!), and they don’t necessarily have a single element that pulls your eye in and makes you click “like” right away. But each image has dozens of different scenes in it, and dozens of different stories to tell. These are images that need to be seen large, and when you do see them I guarantee that you’ll stand in front of each one for a good long time absorbing all the detail.
If you have the time, head over to the gallery and take a look (it’s free!). There are a few dozen prints of his up, and they’re all gorgeous. Just be sure to get your nose right up to the glass, and look at them in depth. You’ll be glad you did.
Orange Coast College’s Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion: Mr. Rittermann’s show runs from April 7 through April 28, 2012. The gallery is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11-7pm, and Saturday from 11-4pm; it is entirely free. The gallery is located next to the Starbucks on OCC’s campus; the base address for the campus is 2701 Fairview Rd. in Costa Mesa, CA. The college has a map and directions page to get you to the campus, and the gallery’s website has a map locating the gallery on OCC’s rather large (and confusing) campus; I’d suggest printing the map if you’re unfamiliar with the campus. Parking is free on Saturdays in any campus lot, but during the week all spaces on campus require a permit except for those with coin-operated meters.
1 Mr. Rittermann freely admits that he combines these individual images for artistic effect – choosing each image of the panorama to tell the story, not necessarily choosing images that are taken at the exact same moment. So this isn’t single-frame, capture-a-moment-in-time photography; it’s different, in a good way. And Mr. Rittermann is a master of panora stitching: horizontal lines, diagonal lines, rippling water, moving people, and parallax-inducing situations are everywhere (literally every single print is a stitched-together panorama), yet I didn’t see a single blending flaw other than a few ghost people and duplicate people in the prints. And at 10-feet wide, blending flaws would be obvious (at least if I did the blending).
But, in looking at the traffic coming to my blog, a lot of folks are searching for information on camping at Crystal Cove State Park. So, as a final Crystal Cove wrap-up post I’ll share some pictures of the trail and our campsite.
While I loved my short trip to Crystal Cove’s inland campground, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind:
There is no water available in the park except at the parking lot. So, you’ll need to carry in enough water to last for your entire trip.
The campgrounds are a couple of miles away from the parking lot, and there’s a few hundred feet elevation gain, so you’ll need to be backpacking and give yourself enough time to get there before sunset.
The park is centrally located in Orange County, and may get crowded during peak periods. While we were the only people at the entire campground when we went, friends have reported finding the Lower Moro campground entirely full, and having to hike on to the campgrounds further inland. You’ll also be sharing the trail with day hikers and mountain bikers, so don’t expect a lonely wilderness hike.
You’ll start out your trip at the new Crystal Cove State Park day use area, which comes complete with lots of parking, bathrooms, water fountains, a path to the ocean, and numerous picnic tables.
The trail leaves from the end of the parking lot, and after climbing all the way to the top of the coastal hills, you can look back on Crystal Cove State Park:
A few days ago our friendly neighborhood UPS driver delivered my new Canon efs 60mm macro lens. Excitement ensued!
My primary lens to date has been a Canon efs 15-85mm. It’s an excellent all-around lens, and it even holdsitsown as a macro lens. But I’m already in love with the 60mm. It’s a true 1:1 macro lens that’s small and light, meaning I can carry it around easily (335g compared to the 625g Canon 100mm L). One complaint some people have is that the working distance at 1:1 magnification is only a few inches from the front of the lens, but since I do primarily plant and lichen work I don’t mind. The Digital Picture has a good review of the lens here.
Of course I just had to try out the new lens as soon as I got it. Looking around the house for items to photograph revealed one very cute and furry critter sitting next to the window.
The light was fairly diffuse room lighting, but the lens was capably able to handle it opened up nice and wide.
And, of course, it was fun to play with selective focus.
After my fifteen minute, hand-held shoot with only sunny-window-enhanced room lighting, I’m very impressed. The lens is light, quick to focus, and sharp. I can’t wait to use it more.
Gourmet food trucks are all the rage right now in Southern California. Luckily for me, there’s a gathering of them every Thursday from 11-2pm at the Orange County Fairgrounds, which is just a short walk from my office at OCC. And there are other meetups nearby as well: SoCo Collection has food trucks Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday at lunch and Fridays for dinner.
Many trucks focus on meat, meat, and more meat, possibly with fries on the side. While this is delicious and all, there’s a decided lack of non-potato vegetables and non-meaty entrees. Don’t get me wrong; Louks has their delicious felafel gyro, Chomp Chomp has a great tofu burger, Flying Pig has their crunchy tofu bun, Crepes Bonaparte has a variety of non-meat fillings, Spud Runners has excellent grilled cheese sandwiches, and Chunk ‘n Chip’s ice cream sandwiches are to die for, but my favorite truck has to be Seabirds.
At Seabirds, their specialty is fresh and flavorful vegan burritos, tacos, burgers, soups and more. But don’t let the vegan designation scare you away: their food is delicious.
They do wonderful things with jackfruit; the taco above is probably my favorite menu item. Another fan favorite is their beer-battered avocado tacos:
[Updated June 8, 2011; see comments at the bottom]
I recently switched my website hosting to Photoshelter, a hosting company targeted at photographers. Photoshelter supports direct image sales on their hosted sites though a number of print vendors, and I’m now using BWC Photo Imaging to supply my prints. This means that when someone wants a print of mine (editor’s note: shouldn’t that be a very big “if”, not “when”?) they can peruse the options online, order what they want directly from my website, pay via PayPal or credit card, and have the print shipped directly to them from the printer1.
To test out the service I ordered a wide variety of prints, ranging in size from 4×6″ through 12×18″, along with a photo mug. Ordering was easy (click “buy” on the image’s page, choose size, choose cropping, lather, rinse, repeat), though there was an unspecified problem with my order after I placed it that held it up for a few days. I never found out what the problem was, but Photoshelter’s support looked into it quickly, and a week and a half after I placed the order it arrived on my doorstep.
Everything came in a large outer box, and while the padding in the box was reused paper envelopes, they were surdy enough to keep everything in place. The two inner boxes were shrinkwrapped together, helping hold them in place.