The Roundabout – Vol1 – Dec 2014

Welcome, welcome, welcome to this first edition of the Roundabout. I hope you find it entertaining and enlightening. Thank you for joining.

++++++++++++++++The Studio+++++++++


Here’s how it is. I’ve been without one for going on six months now. Due to continuing unforeseen circumstances, I am still without a studio, a base from which to work, and place to call my own.


The Mill space where I would love to have my studio is still in limbo. Though progress is being made, it’s still a wisp of dream, and many things may still happen to burst that particular bubble. I maintain hope though.


Many have tried to help with this situation, and for that I am entirely grateful, but it wasn’t quite working and ended up causing more stress and confusion than necessary, therefore, I decided to just step back and take a breath.


A nice deep breath.


A breath in which to think upon things, consider the future, and make a few course corrections where necessary.

===== [FWD]Photo==========================

I had this idea.  What if I gave people art?  But they had to eventually give it away? Could we make art go viral in the real world, be seen and talked about passionately in person? Images flicking by on the screen, tallies of likes and shares and comments and retweets and hearts and whatever other tokens of digital admiration you care to count, they’re all well and good, but what about the sheer impact a piece of art has?  Nothing compares to standing before the physical actualization of an image.


A real, tangible, solid piece you can look at at a size larger than the screen on your phone.  Something you live with and that lives with you – and in the case of something like Eyes of the Universe, stares back at you.


How far would it spread?


I wanted to know.


I’ve been toying with this idea for a year now.  Thinking about how to set it up and to keep track of everything and all the cool little things I could do with the project…and there it remained, lost in my thoughts. Afraid to begin. Not sure how I was going to make it happen.


Until I realized that I had 10 high quality pieces of art, mostly metal prints capable of enduring the rigors of a journey, locked away in a damn mill sitting in a sad semicircle facing a doorway no one ever entered, longing to be seen.


I decided then to pull the trigger.  To punt them out of the nest and see if they flew. Thus began [FWD]Photo, Forward Photo, in earnest.


As of today, 6 of the 10 have landed in new homes, with the remaining four soon to follow.  Phase two will see even more flying abroad, whenever I get them made.


You can follow the progress over at or by searching #fwdphoto or #getlovegive over on the twitters, fb, and instagram.  If you encounter one of mine in the wild…enjoy it and snap a picture of yourself with it and share it with the world.


So far it’s been well received and people are getting into the idea.  One recipient has a grand scheme to get one on a certain film director’s yacht…while another is planning a medieval style gladiatorial tournament to determine who will receive the piece after him.


I’m perfectly okay with either.


<^>^<^>^<^>^<^>^<^>[ O ]>^<^>*click*^<^>^<^>^<

A breath.


Pause for the length of one and consider your surroundings.


What’s happening? Is there anything interesting at hand?


What can you make with it?  Look closer.  Closer.


I’ve given up people photography for the moment to do just this.  To take a closer look at…well…everything.  The detail; the texture; the transmogrification that happens when I blast light in it, around it, and through it. To ignore the whole in favor of the parts.


Journey to the Small World  Where sparks fly and flowers cry, longing to touch.


Sparks-12Rountree Flowers-15



Solar Wind
but actually fits in an aluminum cooking pan.


That’s where my lens has turned the past two months.


With winter upon us and days short of light and a studio in limbo, I turned inward to examine the small and wonder “what if…” much as I did last year with Abstracting Waters.


I’ve made that into a book, by the way, Abstracting Waters.  Ordered six copies of it on the hopes of selling them at First Friday in my bright shiny new studio…three months ago now, before the Mill drama. Still have three, if anyone’s interested.


It’s funny what you can make with a 75cent light table, bamboo cutting board, water, food coloring, a pan, flowers, fruit, a blown lamp, some butterknives, and an empty lighter.


Pictures don’t just sit still. They move, too. While I have had to put a few of my own personal projects on hold due to the studio, life in general, and a nagging lack of that ‘it’ factor that can make or break a film or web series, I haven’t been sitting idle.


In the last three months, I’ve made a short documentary featuring my good friend Neil Lee Griffin for a competition, a promotional video for Let’em Live Upstate’s pet adoption events, and my first music video with Neil for the NPR Tiny Desk Concert series contest.


And also edited several videos for cosplayer Abby DarkStar. In fact, just about everything on her channel since the spring.  We’re working on some new, interesting features for next year.


I have some grand plans myself. Once I’m fully able to set up a studio, I have several web series I will be producing – chat show, podcast style, documentaries, and a few fictional ones.  That’s one of my major goals for next year.


To help in this endeavour, I finally pulled the trigger on a three camera set-up.  Many of you may have heard me extol the virtues of the Canon EOS M, a longer discussion of which can be found here, but suffice it to say I consider them the best lens accessory ever made. I grabbed one a while back to test out and enjoyed it. Recently, I saw a deal I couldn’t pass up and grabbed 2 more for 150 each. I call them the 3 Ninjas (because I’m a 80s-90s kid) and so far they work fantastically.  They had their first trial during Neil’s music video and they performed admirably.


By the by, is the under construction hub for all my future doings.  Videos, blogs, shows, etc will pop up there first.  Maybe. That’s the plan at least.


We are what we eat…mentally, not just physically.


READ THIS BOOK: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North.
This is the first read I’ve had in a while that I’d consider absolutely exceptional.  It’s a clever take on a stale subject – time travel. It’s not a science fiction novel in the contemporary sense – more a beautiful thought experiment on what would happen if we could live our lives over with complete knowledge of everything we’d done – good and bad, right and wrong – all the lives before. Mix that with the thoughtful examination of a complex friendship that lasts for centuries and strains the meaning of the word. Balanced against the end of the world, which comes sooner than it ought to each life. Written with such style and grace that the tale flows effortlessly from the page.


It happened to catch my eye in the store.  I wish books like this one came along much more often.


I’ve also quickly consumed most of the Alex Verus novels by Benedict Jacka. I literally bought the entire series to date in the bookstore due to the blurb on the cover and the fact that the first line was a passably constructed sentence that started on page 1.  I like books that start on page 1. The cover blurb in question is from Jim Butcher…my favorite author…  Haven’t been disappointed yet.


It’s an urban fantasy series much in the vein of Butcher’s Dresden Files, Greene’s Tales from the Nightside, and Thurman’s Cal Leandros novels.
In theaters…One Last Time.


The cinematic journey of over a decade is done. The Battle of the Five Armies is perhaps the most visually stunning, beautiful film I have ever seen. The craft involved in creating the look of the movie is superb. Simply gorgeous. The film delivered on the epic scope promised and was a nice capstone to a roundabout journey. I saw it in the theater with a friend, neither of us wanting the credits to end.


The Imitation Game. I loved it and wish it had gotten a much wider release.  I believe it is an important film to see that was hampered by a limited release. It tells the tale of Alan Turing and how he broke Enigma, in the process inventing the computer and laying the base thinking for what would become the field of artificial intelligence. Stellar performances delivered by Cumberbatch, Knightly, Strong, and Goode. Summed up best by the seminal line of the movie:

“Sometimes, it’s the people no one imagines anything of, who do things no one can imagine.”

Also watched:


Currently in the middle of rewatching Luther and Cowboy Bebop.  Previously in December: Turner & Hooch, From Russia With Love, Frequencies, In Your Eyes, Guardians of the Galaxy, Maleficent, Deadman Wonderland, Broadchurch, Black Mirror, Ascension, Batman, Young Justice, Log Horizon, SAOII, TerraFormars, Akame ga Kill, Goldfinger, The November Man, The Equalizer, Knights of Badassdom, and Unicorn City. And probably a few I’ve forgotten.


Most available on netflix, hulu, or via redbox.


Why a newsletter? It’s so old fashioned. Well, because it works. Because the current, trendy avenues used to reach people have become so clogged and congested with click bait that real engagement is lost. Because 140 characters is not enough for a notion, much less a fully thought out idea. Because to get this newsletter, you have to want to be here, to be part of the conversation, to participate.


I can’t take complete credit for the idea.  Like all good art, it’s borrowed from a couple of other sources. The format and concept come from Warren Ellis’ Orbital Operations – a simple, functional, text based presentation of Ellis’ thoughts distributed monthly.  The need to do it comes from Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking (highly recommended) in which she stresses among other things the need for a genuine community comprised of people who want to be there and who give a damn. I’m trying to build that.


If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. Seriously though, thank you.  Thank you for being interested in the doings of one guy with big dreams and a few cameras. Thank you for speaking up and making an effort.


The end is the beginning. We’ve come full circle.


Welcome to the Roundabout.  (previously known as the monthly goings on update thing-a-ma-jig)
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James PittmanJPG

The Curious Case of the Canon EOS M

3 Ninjas-1The Canon EOS M.  The manufacturer’s first foray into a mirrorless world dominated by Fuji is largely considered an abysmal failure commercially.  BUT. This little gem went UP in value after it was discontinued.


After its maker gave up on it, retailers started slashing prices heftily, almost giving them away. Then something odd happened…a camera that was yesterday $600 was now only $300, then $250, and finally dropping as low as $150 for the body only some places. People started to take note, and find a use for them.

Here’s the thing. In my opinion, the EOS M is a terrible camera. The original auto-focus is atrocious – this has been fixed with version 2.2 of the firmware. Much snappier now. Secondly, it’s probably the most poorly designed body ever conceived. There’s simply NO WAY to hold the tiny thing.  If I try to hold it like a normal camera, the palm of my hand presses all the buttons on the back. It’s no wonder this thing flopped.

Which is a damn shame because while it’s perhaps the worst camera in the world, the EOS M is the best damn lens accessory I’ve ever seen.

3 Ninjas-2Here’s the beauty of the M. Inside the infuriatingly unfriendly body is an 18mp sensor with a DIGIC 5 processor – same sensor as the 60D with the processor being one generation better. The body is only 9 ounces.  It has a brilliant 3″ touchscreen on the back that can control everything. The video it shoots is absolutely gorgeous.

So what you do is this…you get the adapter ring to put EF/EF-S lenses on the M. Then you mount the M to a tripod or some other video rig.  Problem solved, advantage gained. Lightweight, agile, and cheap.

The most horrible part of the M as a camera – the too small to hold size – becomes an asset when you aren’t actually holding it.  When you’re using the M as a video back mounted in a rig, everything changes.  The large touch screen on the back makes a great monitor and allows for one to easily adjust settings and literally touch exactly where you want the camera to focus – though be sure to turn AF SERVO off, it’s incredibly annoying.

At $150 for the body, $60 for the Vello adapter, with the image quality of its big brothers, the M became the best choice for a video back in the DSLR filmmaking market.  I originally bought it to use as a second camera.  A back to put on the luscious glass sitting in my bag while the primary camera was recording. Something to make use of good lenses and get another angle in the process. Something that didn’t add much weight when slipped in an already full camera bag.

Instead, now it’s become my main video set up, and I own three Ms to cover my filmmaking needs.

It’s all about proper technique and using a little thought to overcome the problems of the M to bring out its true strength. Beautiful video from a lightweight, agile, mobile body.

That being said, there are a couple more things to watch out for.

1) Dust. Dust is ever the enemy of camera gear, the M is especially susceptible to dust as there is no mirror to protect the sensor when changing lenses. Be careful and carry a blower. Check your footage regularly.

2) Battery life. It’s horrible. I get maybe 90min-120min of runtime out of one charge. That crisp LCD screen is on all the time, sucking down juice.  Have some spare batteries.

3) White Balance & ISO. Unfortunately the M lacks fine white balance controls out of the box, you can’t dial in the color temp, only set to the defaults. It also lacks fine ISO adjustments, only your standard stops.  To get more control, you have to use Magic Lantern.

All in all, the EOS M is a handy little back when used properly. The value of it comes from its being undervalued though. It’s a strange creature. Now that people have taken notice of it, you can hardly find them.  If you see one for under $300, grab it.  That’s the top end of what it’s worth though.  More than that and you’re better off sacrificing the slight weight increase for the finer control of a used DSLR.

Here are some samples of the results.

Cutting the Stitches: The Scarecrow Speaks

Let’em Live Upstate

Silent Soul – Neil Lee Griffin


It’s not about the size of your camera, it’s about how you use it.

How To Know A Character You Love Will Die

Step 1. Let George R.R. Martin anywhere near them.

Need I elaborate?

Honorably mention goes to Joss Whedon with his signature move – “the Heartbreaker.”

 CharacterDeaths_Wash CharacterDeaths_Coulson

 Step 2. Have them point a gun at a double agent and NOT shoot them.

While you didn’t even have enough time to even warm to Agent Koenig on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you knew he was done for the moment he pulled a gun on Ward and didn’t take that traitorous bastard out. More’s the pity

Whenever a character knows too much, stumbles upon some secret that must not be known, or has an epiphany of epic proportions… he must be silenced. Characters cannot know critical plot points only viewers are privy to. The Fourth Wall must be maintained!

Step 3. Have them reveal they know a hero’s secret identity, reconcile with that character and mend their broken relationship.

This one actually caught me by surprise. Good job Arrow. You created an incredible moment of tension, beautiful story symmetry, and sheer drama when [SPOILERS in white text] Slade killed Moira Queen. Perhaps one of the most meaningful, wrenching deaths on the small screen.


Be wary any time things seem to be going too well for a character or two characters experience a moment of resolution. After resolution is achieved, the character is expendable. Expendable characters tend to be given new meaning, greater purpose, and less screen time. One way or another.


Pardon the late posting of this…was originally scheduled to go up back in May.

Ruined Childhoods

Its one of the most popular phrases used on the internet right now “————– is ruining my childhood.” (There are other versions of the phrase that I won’t dignify them by quoting them since they are only used by the worst the internet has to offer.)   But are Hollywood, producers like Michael Bay and remakes of our childhood favorites really ruining our childhoods?  I’m going to argue that they aren’t.

Recently the world has seen a resurgence of things from the 80’s and early 90’s.  So for people like me who are around 30 now, these properties are what we grew up on.  Michael Bay already has 4 “Transformers” movies made and released, also a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie.  There have been rumors for years about a “Voltron” (Lion Force) movie.  We also know that the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” are getting a movie reboot.  Everytime one of the projects gets announced the internet rises up and starts screaming about how Hollywood (and Bay in particular) are “ruining their childhoods.”

The simple fact is, NO THEY ARE NOT.  Is Hollywood exploiting your childhood, YES, ruining it, NO.  Nothing anyone does now that you have reached adulthood can go back in time and ruin your childhood.   Nothing Hollywood does can take away the good memories you have of watching the shows, playing with the toys, and pretending to be the characters with your friends.

Really think about it, does the new “TMNT” movie really change the good memories of that Halloween you dressed up as your favorite Turtle? Will the “Power Rangers” movie really change the memories of getting that new action figure or toy for your birthday?

While I don’t believe that what anyone does can “ruin your childhood” there are a couple of things Hollywood is doing.

First, what they are actually doing is exploiting your childhood.  Why are all of the things we liked as children coming back around now?  Because we are now in the prime demographic, we are the ones with purchasing power.  People our age want these things to be good so we could share them their children, or because we want to relive the pleasant memories attached to these properties from our childhood.

When the first Bay “Transformers” was released, who do you think made up the audience for the midnight release?  Children? Our Parents?  Of course not, it was a large group of people in their late-20’s & early-30’s that grew up with “Generation 1 Transformers” and wanted to Optimus Prime on the big screen again.

(Side note: if I have to see Prime die in a movie again I’ll probably need therapy.)

In a way this exploitation is also a compliment.  I don’t really remember things our parents grew up with making a return when I was growing up.  Of course they tried to adapt “The Flintstones” into a movie, and there was “The Brady Bunch Movie” but really the things our parents grew up with just live on in TV syndication.  While the things we grew up with keep trying to come back around.

While I don’t think Hollywood is ruining our childhoods, they are committing the biggest sin an adaptation can commit, it makes us wonder if the original was really that good to begin with.   Hollywood can call it a “reboot” a “reimagining” or anything else but basically what they are doing is making an adaptation from the original material, much like taking a book or stage production and turning it into a movie.

The challenges the projects face are similar to what I said the new “Star Wars” movies face. (Don’t feed the Hype Monster) We have great memories of these properties and we get excited to see a new version of them, but when they don’t meet expectations or they end up as bad movies it does seem to hurt just a little more.

There is a way we as fans can stop this from happening, instead of getting on the internet and bitching about the movie, STOP GOWING.  If you complain online but still go and help raise the box office numbers you are not making a difference.

The truth is Hollywood doesn’t care what you say in an internet chat room. However if these movies stop climbing to number 1 at the box office, only then will you have their attention.

Hollywood can’t “ruin your childhood” but they can and will exploit it.  Luckily we can fight back against them. This summer my friends and I boycotted both “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” in protest of these bad movies.  If more of you had followed our lead these movies wouldn’t have won their opening weekends and maybe Hollywood would already be paying attention to our anger.