Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Art Inspired By Art

This past week I was asked to come up with a photograph inspired by another painting or photograph. My mind instantly went to one of my favorite images of all time, featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono taken by Annie Leibovitz.  I am currently reading her book, "at work" in where she describes how this photograph came about.  Sometimes, the best shots you take are the ones where you are not in complete control.  You will have to read the book to learn why.  Unfortunately, this was one of the last photographs of John Lennon before he was shot the next day.

I love it when my friends are up to participate in my crazy requests.  I asked Jamie and Traci if they wouldn't mind recreating this photograph, but with a modern spin.  I didn't expect them to jump on board right away but they both agreed and thought it would be fun.  It was.

I came over with a large ladder, sheet and my camera.  We moved all of the furniture out of the way to place the sheet on the ground and then they put their comforter over the sheet.  I have a sliver of the couch showing and instead of jeans thrown over, their dog Ollie decided that the blanket looked like a nice place to lay down so he curled up next to them.  In this photo on the right, you can see the ladder with my foot and ollie's tail on the bottom of the sheet to give you an idea of what the scene looked like.

This photograph at the top is my favorite of the bunch.  It shows the love between these two.  A big thank you to two of my dearest friends for playing along.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Humans on a Cafeteria Diet

In the 1970s, as the modern obesity epidemic was just getting started, investigators were searching for new animal models of diet-induced obesity.  They tried all sorts of things, from sugar to various types of fats, but none of them caused obesity as rapidly and reproducibly as desired*.  1976, Anthony Sclafani tried something new, and disarmingly simple, which he called the "supermarket diet": he gave his rats access to a variety of palatable human foods, in addition to standard rodent chow.  They immediately ignored the chow, instead gorging on the palatable food and rapidly becoming obese (1).  Later renamed the "cafeteria diet", it remains the most rapid and effective way of producing dietary obesity and metabolic syndrome in rodents using solid food (2).

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bringing The Past And Present Together In A Photograph

This week I am challenged to photograph my family in a unique way.  The timing of this project couldn't be more perfect.  As I blogged about it earlier, I am going through all of the boxes in my garage to either donate or sell.  This also means going through boxes and boxes of old photographs.  Many of these photos I haven't seen since I packed them away...whenever that was.

I read an entry on the Lenscratch blog about another site called, Dear Photograph.  This site posts photographs of photographs taken in the past into the present.  I loved the idea and decided to go through the box of photographs I collected to see if I had any from my childhood home taken outside.  I sorted through what I had and found a few taken in the front of the house and in the backyard.  I decided to take a trip to my childhood home to see if I could line up the photographs I had.

I haven't been to this house in over twenty years.  Even though it's only thirty minutes from where I live today, there hasn't been a reason to be in that area.  As I drove near, my instincts took over and directed me to my old home.  Needless to say, it was quite the experience.  Everything seemed so big as a child.  The neighborhood was the same but different at the same time.  I must have been driving about 10MPH in the neighborhood recalling experiences as a child as I approached the house.  I parked, gathered some photos and knocked on the door, not knowing what to expect.

A soft voice behind the door asked, "who is it? who's there?" What do you say to that?  I just said, "hi, I used to live here." She opened the door slowly to see who I was and what I wanted.  I extended the photos and said that I used to live there and wanted permission to take photographs around the house.  I don't think she really understood what I was trying to do but once she saw photos of her home and what it looked like in the 70's and early 80's she smiled and greeted me.  She wanted to see everything I had.  I showed her the photos, identifying myself, neighbors, my mom, grandparents and told her what it was like living there as a child.  She took me out to the backyard to show me what it looked like. I haven't seen that backyard since I was 14.  My father built a koi pond that is still there today.  She said that birds would eat all of the big fish so it's filled with smaller fish.  My dad also loved to take care of his bonsai and all of the plants on the property.  She said that she loves the flowers in the front and loves the koi pond.  She told me to tell him thank you.  He has since passed, but it was sweet to hear.

She saw a photograph of my mother standing next to the olive tree in the front and kept looking at it saying how beautiful my mother is.  I asked her if I could take he photograph and she said yes.  As I snapped it, I noticed her standing in the same way as my mother stood, as well as wearing stripes and jeans (see above).  We chatted for a long time and she even moved her car out of the driveway so I could take photographs and she also let me walk in the backyard to take more pictures.  She even came out with a bag of apples for me to take home.  I am very fortunate to have had this experience.  I will remember it forever.

Letting go of my things gave me much more than I expected.  I am grateful for the fifteen years I had in this home and for the experience I had yesterday.  Even though my father and grandparents are not longer with me physically, I feel them coming back to life through these photographs.  Below are a few I found and recreated.

How did I do it?  There really isn't a trick but just try to line up the photograph with the scene.  It's not as easy as it looks, especially if you are the person holding it and shooting it.  They aren't all perfect, but as perfect as I could get it. These are all straight out of the camera taken with my iphone and point and click.  I would highly recommend this experience to everyone.

One thing I know for sure...life goes by too fast.  Not to get all preachy on you or anything, but try to enjoy all of the moments you have now with your loved ones.  Listen to what your parents and grandparents say, take photographs, appreciate what you have and don't obsess about the things you don't have.

Me and my grandmother, "Mama Lois" in the backyard


With all of the kids on the block on our first day of school


All of us on our way to school

Being silly in front of the camera
Leaving on our family road trip.  That's my mother, me, my brother, grandmother "Mama Lois", and grandfather "Big John."  My dad took the photo.  Yes, we all got in that car and drove from Los Angeles to Vancover, B.C.

The backyard, then and now

My brother and I
My close neighbors, Carrie, Sandy and Chris the first day of school.

Riding a pony on the front lawn.  A guy with a pony would walk around the neighborhood asking if you wanted to take a photograph on it.

Me with my really sweet haircut in my extra cool swim sweats

My mom, haming it up in her satin pants


Me holding our family cat, colors


First day of school (seems like the only time we took photographs in the front)

And finally, on my big wheel.  I loved this thing...jumped on it right when I got home from school every day.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Primal Docs

Chris Armstrong, creator of the website Celiac Handbook, has designed a new non-commercial website called Primal Docs to help people connect with ancestral health-oriented physicians.  It's currently fairly small, but as more physicians join, it will become more useful.  If you are a patient looking for such a physician in your area, or an ancestral health-oriented physician looking for more exposure, it's worth having a look at his site:

Primal Docs

Update 9/22: apparently there is already another website that serves a similar purpose and has many more physicians enrolled: Paleo Physicians Network.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One City Block Of Cigarette Butts

I was challenged this week to create a typology.

"Typology is the study of types, and a photographic typology is a suite of images or related forms, shot in a consistent, repetitive manner; to be fully understood, the images must be viewed as a complete series."

I've done this in the past, not really knowing what it was called or really... why I was doing it.  A few years ago, I documented all of the textures I encountered on the ground during my travels with "What lies beneth" and every day for a month in 2009, I visited the same house on the beach at different times of the day with my "Race Point" series of photographs.

This time, I took a walk around one city block in Long Beach and photographed cigarette butts laying on the ground.

At first, I just shot each one as I saw them on the street or sidewalk without thinking. After a while, I started to notice them taking on unique personalities.  It was as if each one had a history and character by the way it looked, where it landed and what was surrounding it.  Yes, I understand that it's trash.  However, if you look further, you might be able to see what I saw.  Don't get me wrong, I didn't go as far as giving each butt a name... but I could have.

This photograph is a result of the selected cigarettes I captured within one city block in Long Beach.  There were many more that didn't make the cut, but this gives you an example of what is on the ground, even if we don't notice it or are too familiar to notice or care.  Besides, we would rather focus on the good...like our new city bike lane!

At the time I took these photographs, let's just say that I didn't necessarily blend in.  People wanted to know what I was doing, why I had a camera and what was I taking a photograph of?  Some guy came out of a coffee shop to have a smoke and came up to me.  He said, "hey... I like to take pictures of the ground too."  It just goes to show you that if you do what you love, you will be noticed by people who also love to do the same...even though it may not be exactly the same.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Answers To Ten Questions In Photographs

In a new class that I am taking, our assignment was to tell the class a little about ourselves by answering ten questions in photographs.  On this blog, I thought about giving you the literal answer at the end of the entry about how the photograph spoke to me, or what it says but I will leave that up to your imagination.  Here are my answers in photographs that I took:

Who are you?
What did you look like as a child?
What is your main character trait?

What inspires you the most?
What do you normally never take a picture of?
What do you love about photography?


If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?
What is the first thing you touch in the morning?

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
What is the meaning of life?
Here are other photographic answers to these questions from photographers... What do your answers look like?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Self Portrait Assignment

It's the project I dreaded...the self portrait.  I'm taking a class and needed to come up with a self portrait this week. As with most photographers, I would rather be the one taking the photograph and not being the subject.  However, I've seen some amazing examples of what some photographers are doing with self portraits.  One of my new favorites is Kelli Connell.  I also enjoy the self portraits from Jen Davis.

Seeing so many wonderful self portraits from so many talented photographers can both inspire and discourage you, depending on what your brain tells you.  For me, I absolutely LOVE looking at photographs from all photographers and the group of self portraits that Aline Smithson presented were no different.  Very inspiring! Self portraits can be discouraging since it's such a daunting task for some, me included.

I have many ideas in mind and I may or may not share them here.  I will however, share this one.  I took a break from my garage purge project to see if my idea of throwing my camera in the air would work.  I have several photos of me jumping up and down in front of the camera while it's on a timer to laugh at myself and to see what comes from it.  I thought, "why don't I stay still and have the camera jump around?"  Well, I don't think I said that out loud but I wanted to try the timer idea to see if something could become of it.  On my iphone, I have one application that automatically takes one photograph after a ten second countdown.  I stood on grass just in case I didn't catch my iphone and because I don't have a cover or any type of insurance for it. The click of the "shutter" seemed to be delayed a bit so I would focus on my feet while it counted down and try to throw the camera in the air to get it to snap the photo around the same distance between my waist and feet.

I took around thirty or more shots and twenty of them I kept because there was a hint of me in the photo (strand of hair here, a toe there, etc.). Also, most were blurry since the phone tends to flip around when you throw it in the air.  Once I had one in focus I stopped and put these two together.  I still plan to do more self portraits down the road.  For now, I will stay behind the lens.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Letting Go Of Emotional Items and Excess Stuff

I've haven't blogged about my life in a long time.  Sure, I post things here and there when I am excited about accomplishing something with my photography and want to share that with you but haven't really talked about other things I've been doing.

My Mother and Step Father are moving to Mexico.  I took this picture of my mom on the beach near where they are going to live.  Obviously, she's excited for the move. They've lived in a beautiful house in Sedona for ten years now and wanted to live near the water on a small budget.  They found a place right away that suited their needs so they are packing up and moving out.  I drove to Arizona to help my mother get ready for the move.  We didn't pack up what she would take with her.  Rather, we got rid of everything she has collected over the past several years.  We took trip after trip to the good will to donate a lot of the clothes she hasn't worn in the past six months.  Needless to say, the task was overwhelming.

When I returned home, I looked at my garage at all of the items I've kept in storage for so long.  Many boxes I haven't opened since I moved into this house.  I just moved them with me when I move to another place.  I knew that I needed to do something about those boxes and everything else I own.

When I was on the road for the past three years, I didn't miss anything I left behind at my house.  In fact, living with just the items I had in my car was enough for me.  Now that I am home, the excess "stuff" that I have saved over the years has been weighing me down.  Way back when, I thought that when you are successful in life, you had to accumulate things.  In the late 90's and early 2000's, I lost my dad, my dad's parents and my mother's mother.  My grandparents lived in Georgia and once they both died, my brother and I rented a uhaul and gathered all the things we knew they loved the most and took them back to California.  I have kept all of those things since.  It was finally time to take a good hard look at what I am holding on to, why I am holding on to it and if I really needed it.

I can't blame all of the stuff on my grandparents.  I've collected my fair share of things over the years.  I suppose if I put my items it in a box and hid the box away in the rafters somewhere, it would disappear.  If only that were the case.

The past few weeks and months I have dedicated time to my garage to either throw away, donate or sell what I own.  It hasn't been easy.  In fact, it's quite an overwhelming and sometimes emotional task.  I started with the large items and am working my way down.

The hardest part is letting go of something that a lost loved one owned and cherished.  I had to think about the reasons I kept it.  If it's in the garage, I am not using it, therefore I don't need it.  Even though they loved that item and it reminds me of them, it won't bring them back if I hold on to it and if I let it go, I still have my memories of them forever in my mind.  I reminded myself of this over and over.

Beyond the emotional items, there are the things I held on to because I thought, "one day I will use it."  First of all... if I forgot it even existed, I can't find it to use it so when am I actually going to use something I don't remember having?  Then there are the collection of things.  I saved just about every wine cork I had from about every bottle of wine I drank and I saved many bottle caps from the beers I (and friends) drank.  Hundreds and hundreds saved.  For what?  A reminder of how many bottles of wine I drank?  To include them in an art project I will whip up? Most likely I won't whip up that project and I haven't had a drink in 891 days so what's the point? They are gone now.  I also came across two binders full of rejection letters I saved when I was trying to get a job out of college.  I have hundreds of these letters all sorted by region and type of job I applied for.  That's an uplifter.  The list of random items goes on...

I am hoping to have only the basic things I use each week remaining.  Quite frankly it was overwhelming to start and take down all of the boxes in the rafters and open one by one.  The photographs take the longest.  Sometimes, I will only get through two boxes in a day.  I have made a lot of progress and will continue to do so in the weeks to come.  Hopefully, I will still be alive to enjoy my life once I am finished.

I mentioned my project of getting rid of things on facebook and a friend introduced me to a website where these guys are living the minimalist lifestyle and loving it. A lot of their posts made a lot of sense to me.  Especially letting go of Sentimental items.

I would challenge you to do the same.  Not only am I freeing up space in my home, I am finally able to let go of my loved ones by letting go of their things.

Fat Tissue Insulin Sensitivity and Obesity

In this post, I'll discuss a few more facts pertaining to the idea that elevated insulin promotes the accumulation of fat mass.  

Insulin Action on Fat Cells Over the Course of Fat Gain

The idea that insulin acts on fat cells to promote obesity requires that insulin suppress fat release in people with more fat (or people who are gaining fat) to a greater extent than in lean people.  As I have written before, this is not the case, and in fact the reverse is true.  The fat tissue of obese people fails to normally suppress fatty acid release in response to an increase in insulin caused by a meal or an insulin injection, indicating that insulin's ability to suppress fat release is impaired in obesity (1, 2, 3).  The reason for that is simple: the fat tissue of obese people is insulin resistant.

There has been some question around the blogosphere about when insulin resistance in fat tissue occurs.  Is it only observed in obese people, or does it occur to a lesser extent in people who carry less excess fat mass and are perhaps on a trajectory of fat gain?  To answer this question, let's turn the clocks back to 1968, a year before Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. 

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Airstream Life Magazine Fall 2011

I had so much fun last June in Jackson Center, Ohio for the second annual "Alumapalooza" event!  Held on the grounds of the Airstream Factory, hundreds of dedicated Airstream owners gather to meet, learn, and mostly have a good time together with their common love of Airstreams.

I wrote a little about my experience HERE and put together a slide show of some of the photographs I took while I was there.  You can see that slideshow by clicking HERE.

I am thrilled that eight portraits I took (including the cover) are featured in the Fall, 2011 edition of Airstream Life Magazine.  Sign ups are already happening on their official Alumapalooza website, so I would get your reservation in early for 2012.  I hope to see you there next year!





Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hyperinsulinemia: Cause or Effect of Obesity?

Is Elevated Insulin the Cause or Effect of Obesity?

The carbohydrate hypothesis, in its most popular current incarnation, states that elevated insulin acts on fat cells to cause fat storage, leading to obesity.  This is due to its ability to increase the activity of lipoprotein lipase and decrease the activity of hormone-sensitive lipase, thus creating a net flux of fat into fat cells.  I'm still not sure why this would be the case, considering that fat tissue becomes more insulin resistant as body fat accumulates, therefore insulin action on it is not necessarily increased.  Total fat release from fat tissue increases with total fat mass (1), demonstrating that insulin is not able to do its job of suppressing fat release as effectively in people who carry excess fat.  But let's put that problem aside for the moment and keep trucking.

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"Brothers" Selected For Photographer's Forum "Best of 2011" Hardcover Book

I am thrilled that my photograph, "Brothers" was selected by the folks at Photographer's Forum to be included in their hardcover "Best of 2011" book (out in December).  I took this photograph while I was visiting the Vintage Trailer show during Palm Spring's Modernism week back in February.  I wrote about my experience during the week HERE.

When I am at an event, I usually stand around and observe all of the people around me as there were many characters at this particular show. These two boys stuck out in my mind right away and I immediately approached their parents and asked if I could take their photograph. The parents were visiting the show and said, "sure!" (For the curious photographer, the parents also signed a release) The boys were very animated by running around and making faces.  I was trying to tell them to hold still and they weren't listening until their father yelled something at them in French.  At that moment, my "stop smiling and hold hands" was understood and for one brief moment, they did what their father told them to do in French and I snapped this photograph. Once second later, it was back to playing and making faces.

I usually take portraits of people doing what they are doing at the time of doing it.  I would like to say that I came across these boys holding hands with this look on their face but with just a little direction (and a father yelling in French), they ended up looking how I envisioned them.  I am not in any way diminishing how cute they both are making faces and running around (I know all of you parents out there enjoy looking at how precious and unique your children are), it was a brief moment that I am thankful of capturing.  Children with serious faces are more interesting to me.





Sunday, September 4, 2011

Catered Paleo Dinner with Yours Truly

Gil Butler, organizer of the Western Washington Paleo Enthusiasts group, has organized a catered "paleo" dinner on Sunday, October 9th.  He will be screening the first episode of "Primal Chef", Featuring Robb Wolf and others.  He invited me to give a short (20 minute) presentation, which I accepted.  There are still roughly 30 spots remaining [update 9/21-- the event is full].

The event will be in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle and the price is $15.76 per person.  I will not be paid for this talk, it's just an opportunity to share ideas and meet people. 

Click here to register.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Review: The End of Overeating

The End of Overeating was written based on the personal journey of Dr. David A. Kessler (MD) to understand the obesity epidemic, and treat his own obesity in the process.  Dr. Kessler was the FDA commissioner under presidents George HW Bush and Bill Clinton.  He is known for his efforts to regulate cigarettes, and his involvement in modernizing Nutrition Facts labels on packaged food.  He was also the dean of Yale medical school for six years-- a very accomplished person. 

Dr. Kessler's book focuses on 1) the ability of food with a high palatability/reward value to cause overeating and obesity, 2) the systematic efforts of the food industry to maximize food palatability/reward to increase sales in a competitive market, and 3) what to do about it.  He has not only done a lot of reading on the subject, but has also participated directly in food reward research himself, so he has real credibility.  The End of Overeating is not the usual diet book. 
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