Musings on Photography

Brain Quirks

Posted in equipment, whimsy by Paul Butzi on March 17, 2010


The area between buildings at my home is a large gravel courtyard. It’s big enough to turn a large panel van around in, which ought to give you some idea of the size.

This morning, Kodak and I were walking to the studio, across the gravel. The gravel was in my field of vision, but I wasn’t really attending to it.

And suddenly, for no reason I could imagine, my eyes were drawn to a small bit of grey in this vast expanse of grey gravel. It was about the same color and value as the gravel, but it had a ‘U’ shape. And, before my eyes had fully focused on it, my brain leapt to the conclusion that it was a small sliding outlet cover that I’d noticed was missing from an outlet strip in the studio way back in 2003. Even more amazing, when I examined the bit of grey plastic, that’s exactly what it was.

Somehow, my brain, processing the entire visual field which consisted of a building, plants, trees, dog, and everything, latched onto this one unusual shape in the vast expanse of gravel shaped gravel, forwarded this unusual shape to some other bit of processing, and announced “Hey, we’ve just found that little totally unimportant bit of plastic that you lost in August, 2003!”

I like my brain. It has some negative quirks, such as obsessing about things like clocks, and locks, and so on. And it has some amazing abilities, like visually picking one middle grey bit of plastic out of a sea of gravel and identifying it instantly as a bit of a device, said bit missing now this past 6+ years. It routinely coughs up various facts, memories, bits of prose or poetry, snatches of songs – often quite insistently and seemingly uncorrelated with current events.

You would think that having lived in my brain for 50+ years now, I’d have some inkling of how it actually works. You may now go off on the infinite regress of wondering if a brain can have enough power to understand itself. Good luck, and have fun.

Common Hours

Posted in whimsy by Paul Butzi on December 31, 2009


Two quotations floated out of my brain junk-drawer as I contemplated the coming new year.

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden, Conclusion


How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

-Annie Dillard

Trying to pin the Dillard quotation to a specific source I found

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time… Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

– Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

The balance between wanting to fill every second, and wanting a life with a broad enough margin that I can enjoy the quotidian – it’s not easy for me.

I am not a big believer in omens. Still, we can hope that starting off a new year with not just a full moon, but a full moon that is also a blue moon might be auspicious. And if starting with a blue moon is auspicious, how much more auspicious is starting with a full moon that’s also a blue moon on the same day we have a lunar eclipse?

I hope that in the new year we all advance confidently in the directions of our dreams, that throughout the coming year we spend our days as we would spend our lives, and that at the end of the year none of us open our safes to find ashes.

The World

Posted in whimsy by Paul Butzi on October 30, 2009


I think most folks have a drawer in the kitchen where you throw all the stuff that doesn’t belong in some specific place. You go to search for the scissors, and you’re stunned to find no scissors but instead nine loose AA batteries of unknown vintage, a 15″ length of nylon twine, two bullet levels neither of which you remember buying, a doorstop, the leftover screws from an IKEA bookcase, two nails, and a thirty year old packet of thumbtacks. Every time you open the drawer to look for something, there’s a different collection of stuff in there.

My mind apparently has a place like that drawer.

For reasons I don’t understand, occasionally this drawer in my mind pops open and something flies out. Imagine you’re in the kitchen scrambling an egg for breakfast, and suddenly your junk drawer flies open and a packet of blue tack hurtles across the room and lands on your foot – it’s rather like that. I’m sure a psychotherapist could have a field day interpreting this random stuff and telling me what my subconscious mind was trying to tell me.

Anyway, this morning I woke up to find the following had leapt out of my mind’s junk drawer and landed with a thump in my consciousness – it’s one of Wordsworth’s sonnets:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

I have no earthly idea when or where or why I managed to commit it to memory, but there it is.

New Words

Posted in Blogroll, whimsy by Paul Butzi on September 12, 2009


I like words. I’m fascinated by new words, especially new words that, by their nature, capture the essence of something.

Amy Sakurai pegs the ‘perfect’ meter with her new word, “Leicarati”, in this interesting post on her blog.

Ghost Light

Posted in Solo Photo Book Month, whimsy by Paul Butzi on June 10, 2009


I’m certain that your theatre images would capture me and make me forget time; the pictures I have seen here have that power. Like the one in this post makes me thinking what’s going on. What is it and who put it there, and so on. I love it!

The subject of the photo in that post (and the photo in this one) is a ‘ghost light’ – a light that’s left on stage when a theatre is “dark” (that is, not currently being used). There are a slew of explanations of why ghost lights are left on 24/7, ranging from pedestrian (having the stage lighted, even if just by the one light, prevents accidents if someone happens to blunder onstage in the dark) to superstitious (the light is there to keep ghosts from taking up residence, or ghosts from performing plays, or the characters from past performances from returning to life on the stage, etc.) Most ghost lights are like this one – spartan and functional. This one was set upstage center, but it’s probably more traditional to set them further downstage, especially for proscenium theaters where there’s a drop off the edge of the stage.

One of the things Bill and I found in our adventures photographing in empty theatres is that the presence of the ghost light has a big impact on the feel of the space. Only one of the theatres we’ve photographed didn’t have a ghost light set when we photographed it (the first one, it turns out). Our plans are to rephotograph that particular theatre, and I expect when we do that we’ll ask them to leave the ghost light onstage.

SoFoBoMo declared the cause of world-wide crisis

Posted in Solo Photo Book Month, whimsy by Paul Butzi on April 1, 2009


Dateline: April 1, 2025 Geneva, Switzerland

The world’s economy braced for another 90 day SoFoBoMo shutdown today as photographers worldwide started their traditional one month preparation prior to the two month “fuzzy month window” for SoFoBoMo 2025. In further news, the Worldwide Summit on the Issues Surrounding Anthropogenic Global Photography issued its strongest statement so far against Solo Photo Book Month, the global photography phenomenon which has not only taken the world by storm but has caused environmental, political, and economic upheavals that threaten the fabric of human civilization.

Worldwide, energy providers are frantically finalizing their plans to support the global electric grid by more fully exploiting geothermal and solar power, and plans are already in place to tap the zero point energy of the universe to meet the projected demand in 2028. Concerns about the stability of the worldwide power grid escalated after last year’s near total collapse as photographers worldwide fired up computers and charged camera batteries the day before SoFoBoMo started. Experts are now suggesting the climate change precipitated by the massive power demand that occurs during SoFoBoMo will soon become permanent, and the risk of another ice age, a major concern in the recent decade, is now generally considered negligible.

Worldwide, SoFoBoMo has toppled several governments since its inception in 2008. In 2018, the government of one super-power attempted to ban participation by residents, but the ensuing protest strikes drove the government to retract the ban in less than 60 hours. In response, many oppressive governments have relaxed restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of press, unwilling to take on the powerful worldwide SoFoBoMo juggernaut. August 2019 ushered in a new era of peace in the Middle East, as all parties to the centuries old conflicts there called a three month truce so that hostilities did not interfere with the two month ‘fuzzy month’ window or the usual one month preparation time. These three month ‘fuzzy peace’ periods have done much to cool hostilities and introduce political stability in the region.

For the past six years, more than 76% of the GDP of the world’s most developed countries has been dedicated entirely to producing photo equipment and software suitable for use in SoFoBoMo, making it the engine of the most dramatic period of economic growth in human history.

Each year, however, economies worldwide are thrown into turmoil as participants scale back their work hours to free up time for their solo photo book effort. Starting from a humble beginning of 170 participants in 2008, the number of participants has roughly trebled each year. There were roughly 1.2 million participants in 2016, and in 2023 the size tipped the scales over 2.4 billion. Organizers are predicting that this year, about 99.8% of the world’s population aged four years or older will participate, with roughly 8,000,000,000 participants.

Adding to the confusion, researchers at SETI, the organization that’s been patiently waiting for signs of life outside our solar system, claim that they have received the first communication from a non-human civilization; after struggling for 9 months to decode it, SETI researchers have now concluded that the message consists of 14 billion registrations to participate in SoFoBoMo 2025.


Posted in the art world, whimsy by Paul Butzi on February 12, 2009


A strange thing happened to me today. I saw a big thundercloud move down over Half Dome, and it was so big and clear and brilliant that it made me see many things that were drifting around inside me.

-Ansel Adams

Happy New Year

Posted in whimsy by Paul Butzi on January 1, 2009


Happy new year to everyone.

Once again, among my New Year’s resolutions are:

1. Get out a camera (any camera) and make a photograph (any photograph) every day.

2. Spend less time reading stuff on the internet and more time actually doing stuff (and maybe then writing about it on the internet).

Through these simple steps I hope to live a more ordered, better regulated life. With a dog/camera walk schedule for half an hour from now, I’m thinking I’m making good progress on that front. Hurray for me!


Posted in local color, Photo Garden, whimsy by Paul Butzi on December 24, 2008




5D-081224-6930.jpg 5D-081224-6922.jpg

We’re buttoned up snug and warm. It’s snowing like mad, so although the forecast is for rain, I’m thinking we’re just getting more snow. I’ll head out in about six hours, to try to rendezvous with the UPS man and collect the metric boatload of packages he has that are destined for us. I’ve been driving the car down the driveway and back every once in a while, just to keep the snow from getting so deep the driveway becomes impassable (there’s no way we’re going to shovel 1000 feet of driveway!) At the rate it’s snowing the main road might be quite the challenge. The rendezvous point is about 2.5 miles away. Hmm. I wish I had a dogsled.

The snow has been mixing things up photographically. The familiar backdrop of the forest has been replaced with this white/gray field. A lot of the stuff I’ve been photographing has been buried under the snow. My photo garden has been transformed!

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas.

Still Here

Posted in local color, whimsy by Paul Butzi on December 21, 2008


Nothing photographic to report. We’re still here, safe and snug. Power went out last night at about 1am, I got up and reported the outage to the power company, and then went back to bed – the generator auto-started (yay!) and so we all slept warm and snug. The power came back on at some point, I’m not sure when. It looks like we’ve got about five inches more snow on top of what we had left over from before.

We never got the high winds, thank goodness. As soon as I finish this here cuppa, I’ll venture outside (accompanied by the Trusty Canine Companion) and see what the road is like. Must go out today, I think, unless Greg’s flight is canceled.

More news later.


Greg arrived at the airport to find that United had no record of the reservation Expedia assured us they’d made. We’ve spent countless hours on the phone trying to get Greg onto a homeward bound plane.

If you work for Expedia, and you’re wondering why you’ve suddenly broken out over every square inch of your body into painful boils that erupt even more incredibly painful suppurating sores, the answer to your question is that my prayers are being answered.

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