The Roundabout – Vol. 4 – March 2015

Well hi there folks, I’m not really sure what to talk about this month.  It’s probably going to be brief.

It’s been an absolutely wild month in which I feel I’ve done nothing, and yet seem to have done a lot.
It’s been a month of change and bluster…fitting for March.  The winds of fortune swirling around, blowing this way and that, shifting everything.
++++++++++++The Studio+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
I’m in.
100% in my space.
And it’s a mess.  Dreadful, horrible, cluster of a mess that looks like a tornado hit it.
But I’m in.  No longer in storage.  And things just keep falling in my lap.  I’m going to be that eccentric guy in the Mill. I will have a fountain outside my door and a fake ficus I call Fakeus to keep the fountain company. There will also likely be a table beneath the fountain and some other fake greenery – because honestly real greenery isn’t going to grow in the dimly lit hallway outside my studio.  I’ll try real greenery inside. I like green things.
I also salvaged a sign that was going to be tossed. It’s a fantastic old marquee from the 70s that I don’t think has actually worked properly since I’ve been alive.  But I took it and applied a little lovin to the sign and now it properly welcomes people to the Pond.
Plus too many other things to really list off, but for which I’m grateful to the universe for sending my way.  I will try to do it all justice and put it to good use.
I’ve got about a month to see it all sorted properly.
Which brings me to an announcement.
********ANNOUNCEMENT TIME***********fanfare**********************doodododooo*****************
Mark it down my friends, May 1st, 2015, Halfacre Pond, located in the WRK GRP section of Taylors’ Mill in Taylors, SC will be having a grand opening as part of the grand re-opening of Taylors’ Mill.
You’re all invited to see the new space and to have fun.  I’m told it will be a veritable circus with live music, entertainment, food trucks, the works.
Hoooooo boy… I’ve got a lot of work to do.
Immediately following the epic success or catastrophic failure of the grand opening of Halfacre Pond, I’ll be going to see Avengers: Age of Ultron.
A few of my friends and I began planning that out today, a month in advance.
Yes, it’s that important.
Yes, you’re invited to that as well.  Midnight show at the Hollywood 20, Friday (yes Friday) May 1st.
Yes, I’m a geek. You knew that already.
Few things get me more pumped up than comic stories and characters brought to life and done well. They are our modern myths. Our heroes and legends. Our moral allegories of the present day. And of late, they finally get the treatment and respect they deserve.
The boom of the comic cinematic and television translations has made me giddy. It tickles the nerd neurons.
So much so that my friend Sean and I have started a podcast devoted entirely to comic material on the silver and small screen. It hasn’t been released yet, but we’ve got five episodes in the can so far and if you want to hear them, please do bug @seancampbell on the twitters to get them out there. :D
PS – We call it… something really awesome you’ll just have to wait for.
[[[[[[[[[[[[ In Production ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]
I haven’t released much this month.  I know. I’m terrible.  I haven’t done any photo shoots.  Not a single one this month.
All my time has been devoted to getting the studio up and running and also to several projects currently in production…including GBS, PS, and a film I’m currently working on – and should be working harder on – for the MyRodeReel contest, which I’m looking to shoot in April.  I’ve actually taken time off to do so.
But I need a little help.
Right now, I’m kinda short one location for the film and possibly a lead actor.
Anybody know of a theater I could use for a few hours?
Maybe an actor? Male? 20s-30s.  The guy I cast originally is moving away soon, so probably won’t be able to do it.
It’s juried show season again. Time to do some prints and have my work judged by other people.
So far this year I’ve entered Carolina’s Got Art and the 40th Annual Juried Show at the Anderson Arts Center.  Will find out next week if anything got in.  Wish me luck :D
If it does, I’ll do a mid-month blast with all the show opening dates.
Maybe it’s the hour, maybe it’s the mushy fingers I’m feeling as I type and gibberish comes out, but nothing really, really stands out among the hours and hours of things I’ve watched this month.
Nothing I haven’t already covered before. It’s all met expectations of being good, with few falling short.
Arrow, Flash, SHIELD all staying the course…nothing out of the ordinary or exceptional.
Animes are finishing this month. Aldenoah.Zero has perhaps been the best surprise out of Japan this last year. It’s an exceptional story that I think will have legs beyond the season. Sure, there have been some great shows the past year. Most of which I’ve forgotten the names of and didn’t leave much impact on me.  I think I’ll be rewatching A.Z in the future and will find it just as relevant and impactful then as it is now. Few series do that.
YuYu Hakusho… that’s one that does. It’s a treasure from the 90s I treated myself to this month, finally picking up the boxed sets. Also, Full Metal Panic!  I watched that whole series again for GBS and loved it just as much as the first time I watched it 13 years ago.
Movies and TV consumed: YuYu Hakusho, Aldenoah.Zero, Log Horizon, Durarara!!x2, Kaze no Stigma, Full Metal Panic!, The Devil is a Part Timer, Arrow, Flash, Agents of SHIELD, Powers, The Blacklist, Backstrom, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Unbreakable Kimmy Scmidt, iZombie, Wild Card, 2 Guns, Hector and the Search for Happiness, Rope, Birdman, Whiplash, The Theory of Everything
That reminds me. If I EVER hear drums featured heavily on a soundtrack again I’m walking out of the movie or turning it off.  Whiplash annoyed the crap out of me with it and so did Birdman. Yes, I know Whiplash is about a drummer. JK Simmons was fantastic in it. But it serves no point to play the same damn thing over and over again with minor variations.  I can’t tell the difference and found it actually distracted from the story rather than adding anything to it.  Then Birdman did it for no damn reason at all except to show the film kids the difference between diegetic and non-diegetic sound.  ENOUGH WITH THE DRUMS
Also, I met the new Reed Richards and the new Supergirl in the same movie.  One furthered my decision to not bother with Fantastic 4 and the other didn’t tick me off.
################ OUTSIDE ####################################################
It’s some place I’ve been going more, lately.
The fresh air, delicious sunshine, not freezing temperatures.  Quite refreshing.
I’ve been frustrated with a lot of things lately, yes even despite all the good things happening, minor things have been irking me.
Reading outside helps. I finished The Arrivals, finally, and have been delighting my eye holes with Patrick Rothfuss’ The Slow Regard of Silent Things which I have been intending to read since December.
It’s an odd little story that I’m falling in love with.  It’s more a novella than novel and comes with illustrations, something I wish more books would take note of. Art bolsters the story. I’ve always been a fan of creative deviations from normalcy.  I’m one myself. This book is definitely for me.
Later today I intend to pick up PV Brett’s The Skull Throne which pleasantly popped on my radar earlier this month.  I wasn’t expecting another volume in his series for another year.
But that seems to be the way of things. I’ve got new fare from Robin Hobb and Brandon Sanderson as well.
It’s time I took a break from TV and go read under a tree again.  I need to find a good one here.
In college, there was a delightful little park tucked away by my major building that had these remarkably large cherry trees, and every spring I would just go relax and read beneath them. One of my fondest memories.
Someplace quiet, with only the wind to keep me company as I leaf through the pages of other worlds.  Where can I find that?


The Roundabout – Vol. 5 – April 2015

Hello again my good friends, how have you been?

*listens patiently*
That’s excellent to hear! Now on to me. :) That’s why you’ve stopped at the Roundabout, after all.
You know how I said May 1st would see the big shindig to kick off the Mill’s grand reopening? Well, I was lied to.  It was intended to be the big kickoff, but now it’s been delayed once more… now the big party will be June 5th, so I hope you’ll drop by and have a good time then…
BUT for those of you who have already cleared your calendars to come see me in the new space, well come on out! I’ll still be there and so will several other friends of mine in the mill.  250 Mill Street, Taylors. We’re up on the 2nd floor in WRK GRP.
My studio space is ready and already in use! In fact, it was used just last night.  I’ll be sure to tidy up before you arrive though, but pardon the mess if I don’t ;P
(((((((((((((((GGGGHosts of the Mill))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))
I began this series last fall and was able to get 3 shoots in before the drama unfolded. It, like everything else, got put on hold while all that was sorted, but now it has resumed!
Last night I coaxed my friend Jenni out to play a 1920s era flapper and ghost about the mill.  (toward the end of the gallery)
This series is comprised of shots using long exposure and double exposure.  It’s rather mentally challenging and actually works more like a video production than a normal photo shoot.  Last night, I found myself actually blocking out the movement in the shot with Jenni, setting positions and marks, timing it out.  Directing Motion in a still. The exposure is taken for 15 seconds or more, depending on the location and available light, so all the action has to take place in that time.  Off camera flash is used to freeze each pose in the frame.  That’s how I achieve clarity and transparency in the image.
It certainly is an exercise in mental imagery. Visualization. Even more than shooting with light you can’t see…like infrared or even flash… you have to know how the light will read, how long to hold the position so the subject shows up enough but still maintain the transparency for the ghost effect.  I really enjoy the challenge of this series and there will be a few more added to it.  Huge thanks to Jenni for helping resurrect the ghosts, and to those still to come.
……..[ o*]……PHOTO BOOKS…………………….………………………………………………../
In fact, I will be having a photo book from this series made and it will be for sale at the June 5th grand opening. Not sure how much I will be charging until I actually lay it out and find out what it’ll cost to make, but I imagine it will be in the same as Abstracting Waters – around $60.  I’ll be ordering May 15th if you’re interested in a pre-order.

Speaking of, I still have a few copies of Abstracting Waters available if anyone is interested.

Also, I’m working on a third photo book tentatively entitled Eye For Detail which will build upon a subject matter that’s always fascinated me: Old items. Weathered, decayed, survivors, small things of interest overlooked every day but that have great character. It may be available in time for June 5th, but I may hold off until July.  We’ll see how it comes together :)
I enjoy photo books.  I think they present collected works well.  I always end up with a sheer glut of images that are great but never see a printer, this is one way I deal with that. Plus there’s just something so powerful about holding a tangible artifact of your work, work that by its new nature is very ephemeral.
Art Show news. The Anderson Juried Show was great.  Lots of talented artists’ works on display. Didn’t take home any prizes this year, but it is the first time both pieces got into the main show.  Plus, there was actually buzz about my pieces.  I heard people speaking about the Econoline tailgate and even came across this lovely old lady describing my Glendale Shoals piece to a little crowd gathered around her.  I did something unlike myself and went up and introduced myself to her and the group.  Perhaps it will sell? Who knows.  It’s nice to be noticed though.
No love from Carolinas Got Art. Oh well.
Next show I’ll be entering for sure is the Spartanburg Library’s 3rd Annual Juried Show.  I may also try to shoot something for the Foundry Arts Centre’s Circus show…deadline for it is May 15th as well…so I need to figure out a circus themed shoot fast.
&&&&&&&& As I Write This &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&
I’m watching The Blacklist, one of the best shows on television, and am suddenly reminded of perhaps the BEST show to be released in the last decade, a real top tier production, of course I’m talking about Daredevil.
Now, I won’t gush too much, though I honestly could go for hours on the show, but suffice it to say that you should be watching Daredevil, even if you’ve already seen it, you should be watching it again. And again.
It is so well crafted that it is hard to find any fault with it – rare for me, even rarer for a friend of mine who found no nits to pick – other than there’s not more television like this.  The storytelling is phenomenal and the cinematography is absolutely brilliant. Another friend called it the Renaissance of Noir and he couldn’t be more spot on with that assessment.  The interplay of light and shadow and bold, brash colors defining the scenes is remarkable.
It is breathtaking and yet inspiring. Quite the dichotomy.
This brings me to an event we’ve been waiting on for years.  Phase 2 is complete, and I know some of you have already seen Avengers 2, and I’ll ask you to hold your spoilers – one of the only times I’ll ask for that – and I am SUPER PUMPED EXCITED to see it on the big screen.  If you care to join, local friends, Friday night at 12:15AM at H20. That’s when I’m going.
It will be hard to live up to the first, but honestly, I believe they did.  The first trailer was good enough for me to have faith.
Phase 3 is going to be the real test for the MCU though. They are expanding well beyond the core that the mainstream public has become familiar with into characters and territories and worlds and events deep in comic lore where only the geekiest nerds dare tread. Those who have navigated the turgid waters of Retcon and swallowed bitter pills larger than any Infinity stone know what lies ahead, the bounds to which disbelief’s suspension will be stretched, the turmoil and strife that comes with re-integrating a long lost friend into the world.  It’s going to be rough. It will test who of the main stream has enough gumption to stick with the MCU all the way through Phase 3.
For me, I’m excited to see what’s in store.  I’ll ride this high as long as the general public is funding the budget to make these dreams come to life.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Production Halted!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Temporarily!!!!!!!!
Well, my vacation came and went without a film being produced.  The logistics and talent just didn’t line up this time.  I haven’t abandoned it, but it is on hold for the moment while I get other projects up and running, establish myself more, and get a wider pool of cohorts to call from.  Tis the way of things.  Everything changes.
I received a rather odd message on facebook when I got up today.  Not odd in content, but just circumstance. A somewhat random acquaintance I met at a MTG tournament sent me this message. It read something to the extent of “If you ever delete people you don’t talk to from facebook, please don’t delete me, because I enjoy watching your photographic exploits.”
It was odd because this person has never liked, commented on, or even spoken about any of my photos before, and is not (currently) on this list. I believe him. And obviously it was in response to Ghosts, but I wish he’d spoken up sooner.
Which is why I’m glad all of you have.
There have been many negative things going on that have stretched me to my bounds, but I’ve been making it thanks to you guys.  Knowing people actually care about what I do with my photography and creativity helps tremendously. It is often a supremely solitary pursuit and while sometimes that is a perk to what I do, it’s also during those solitary times that doubt and misgivings eat away at my thoughts.  Knowing you guys are on the other end of the email helps keep it at bay.
So thank you, as always, for being there. For liking what I do. For supporting me. For speaking up and telling me.
That brings us to the end again my friends.  Until next month, be well and keep in touch.
James Pittman

The Roundabout – Vol. 3 – Feb 2015

Time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin…into the future…

Okay, I’ll spare you my dreadful rendition of that song, but for the February Roundabout on this last day of the shortest month of the year, I want to talk about time.
++++++++Studio Time++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
After much wait time, uncertainty, and many moments of doubt, I’m pleased to announce I signed the year-long lease on my studio last week!
That’s right, the JPG and Halfacre Pond have a physical home again, now in Taylors’ Mill.
About damn time!
You’ll probably find me there after midnight and during most of what down time I have.
For the next year.
I’ve decided that I’m going to give it a year to become self sufficient… if it doesn’t, then I’ll probably pack it in and it’ll be time to move on.
For now though, it’s time to move in! (Pics coming next month)
^^^^^^^^^^^^Down Time>>>>>>>>>>>>vvvvvvvvvvvv<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
Yes, I actually have that, from time to time.
I think.
I’ve kinda co-opted my down time for feed time for halfacre pond. On my down time, I enjoy watching movies & television shows (which I now review), watching anime (which I do a web series about with a friend), reading, and lambasting myself for not writing even though I desperately want to but the fictional words just don’t flow any more…dried up with the passage of time.
One story involves a future time traveler, another of timeless creatures eons old, and still another of a time yet to come in which we burn water from the skies and humanity finds a use for the appendix.
I suppose I must find solace in the fact that I’m exercising my words again with non fiction and thoughts like those found here in the Roundabout and those various and sundry reviews and other essays and articles on
***********Production & Consumption *********************************************************************
Those thoughts, varied and sundry as they are, coalesced into an article reminiscing about my time playing Magic: the Gathering and a potentially new article series I’m calling Double Feature in which I contemplate movie pairings – unusual pairs, thematic pairs, movies that compliment each other to provide an experience greater than the sum of the individual films.
The first up was Gone Girl and John Wick.  Not quite sure how that’d work? Check it out.
The other major avenue of production this month came from a little show I’ve started called The Good, the Bad, and the Screwy in which I get my friend Max to watch a new anime each week in an effort to guide him to the good stuff and past the dangerous cliffs of the bad. It’s been fun. Hoping to keep it going for a while, but time has gone against us. Production has been fraught with delays due to the snow and other factors. We’re working it out and are playing catch up the next couple of weeks.
To make these things, consumption of copious amounts of media is required.
I’ve almost finished The Arrivals, that novel I mentioned last issue, about a band of killers and sinners and misfits pulled from across time from as far back as the Victorian period and the Wild West to modern day into an alien place called The Wasteland. It’s good so far, though a relaxed read that doesn’t keep you frantically turning pages – which is actually good this month since I haven’t had much reading time.
A couple of movies worth a few moments of time.
The Conversation, a film by Francis Ford Coppola starring Gene Hackman, circa 1974. Hackman plays a security and surveillance expert who, while already highly paranoid, believes he’s come across a murder plot while on an investigation, slowly piecing together bits of a conversation he’s assigned to record. Truly a classic, building suspense through repetition and pacing and subtle bits of maneuvering on the part of the story to really bring about something from nothing. Keep an eye out for a pre-Star Wars Harrison Ford.  If Hackman’s character seems familiar, well he should, he’s played the same guy twice – unofficially. Tony Scott’s Enemy of the State is an unofficial sequel of sorts. It’s worth your time and available on Netflix.
Predestination is all about time. Mobiusine is the best word I can make up to describe it. It’s one long conversation, essentially, between Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook (who, I might add, delivers an excellent performance in this) in a bar and across time. Please don’t hurt your brain watching this one…paradoxes do tend to bring on migraines….but the film is quite good. It’s based on a story by Robert Heinlein, you’ve been warned. Available from redbox.
Also viewed: Stonehearst Asylum, The Station Agent, Not Another Happy Ending, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Gone Girl, John Wick, Two Guns, Fury, Unicorn City
Television has been particularly good of late. Arrow has proven again what happens when you have faith in a series and give it time to mature. Three years ago there were no comic book shows on television. Now they’re everywhere and they are delightful. They show that the stories can be well developed and characters can grow and show remarkable aspects of themselves if given a chance.
The Flash has a particular timeless quality to it that I’m greatly enjoying, even as they rush toward Paradox. A huge Bravo to the writing team for their brilliantly elegant translation of heady time travel theory into layman’s terms using classic cinema: Terminator and Back to the Future. Clever.
As seen not on TV (who watches TV on the telly anymore? Ain’t no one got time for that!) – Arrow, the Flash, Gotham, Agent Carter, The Blacklist, Constantine, Backstrom, M*A*S*H, Full Metal Panic!, Space Dandy, Durarara!!X2, Log Horizon, Aldenoah.Zero2, Cross Ange, Psychic Detective Yakumo, Prince of Tennis.
&&&&&&&&&&&&Wheel of Time&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&
I would be tragically remiss if I did not mention in a missive focused on time the fact that we received this month the Wheel of Time pilot no one wanted starring Billy Zane in perhaps the most literal translation from page to screen I’ve ever seen.
My friend Brandon put it best: “My mind boggles that this exists, that the Jordan estate disavowed it, that it’s so awful, and that they managed to be 95% word-for-word accurate and STILL manage to completely and irreversibly deviate from the book.”
To quote the series:
“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.”
Please, please, please let this myth be long forgotten before a true, approved adaptation appears.
——————-Playing with Time———————————————————————————————–
And now for what you’ve all been patiently waiting for, my trip to Glendale Shoals.
This is the only photo expedition I had time for this month, what with the doom falling from the skies and all, and it’s the perfect exploration of the use of time in photography.
Timing is everything in photography: the wait for the perfect moment, the time it takes for the light to be right, the requisite time one must spend with a location before it gives up its secrets, even the events leading up to and after the shoot bear on the final images.
That day had a most peculiar flow to it.
It was a Tuesday, I didn’t have to work, so I slept in a bit. Got up and watched Gotham, ate, and decided I was going to shoot that day.  It had been far too long and I wanted to experiment with falling water and long exposure.
Now, I knew where I wanted to go, but I could never remember what this place I had seen with the old rail bridge and mill dam and rushing water was called. So I asked a friend who had been there, Mike, and he told me and I figured out how to get there. Well, I also needed to pick up a print of Sheep, the Woman, and the Blackbird another friend named Mike did on a sheet of acrylic – turned out fantastic, btw, drop by the studio to see it before it gets shipped off to the West Coast – so I planned my route and would get to the Shoals about 4~4:30 to catch the last chunk of light for the day.
Or so I thought.
I lingered. At home having conversations. Looking up info on this place. Taking it easy. Headed out, chatted with Mike at the shop, made some plans for the following Friday.  Alright, a little behind schedule, but sun wasn’t setting until just before 6.
Get to Pine Street. Shut down. There’s been a wreck across 3 lanes. Judging by the yet to be totally atrocious backup, it’s just happened maybe 20-30 minutes before.
The amount I delayed lingering in conversations.
Well, I find all that out later, but right then, I was more annoyed at the delay and the rapidly dwindling shoot window.
I ended up taking a most circuitous route to the Shoals, which put me there quarter after 5.
I shoot a lot on the bridge, try to work the sun in, but it’s kinda bland and…well…as powerful as the sun is, when you’ve seen it incorporated into so many shots, it just doesn’t strike you much any more. The sunset wasn’t particularly spectacular either.  Those get old in photos too. Never really in person, but in photos.
The best shots that day come before and after the sun set. Before, it illuminated the ramshackle buildings tumbling down upon themselves in a golden light of yesteryear, highlighting the crackling age upon the face of the bridge.
People always seem to like the buttery smooth flow of tumbling water. It’s a tricksy subject to capture. These sorts of shots are done using long exposure to get motion blur on the water.
The problem then becomes the light. Where usually photographers beg and scream for more luscious, delicious light, we begin crying for shade. We throw neutral density filters on the lens, stop it down all the way to f/22, do everything we can to cut away the excess light bombarding the sensor for all that extra time.
Remember, typically the shutter is only open for 1/200th of a second, less than the blink of an eye, but when you try to catch a smooth waterfall, you’re talking 8/10ths of a second or a whole second or even 5 to 10 whole seconds the shutter is open allowing light to flood the sensor. It’s an eternity in modern photography.
What is one to do?
Well, I waited.  I waited until after the sun vacated the sky, leaving only the delicate afterglow of twilight.
Less light? It seems counter intuitive at first, but when you think about it, it’s exactly what you want for the shots.
This serene shot is the result of light distilled for 8/10ths of a second, combining the smooth falls with the glassy reflection. It’s also the first print I’m having made in 2015. I ordered it as the largest print I’ve ever had made – 30″x45″ – as a canvas gallery wrap. Drop by the new place and check it out later next week :)
Less light allows you to spend more time setting up your shot, standing out in the middle of the shoals looking back into delicate falls with a gleaming red bridge and a previously harsh sky which if it’s still too much, can simply be blocked out by your hat. That’s how I got this shot. With an overall exposure of 15 seconds, I had time to work out a double exposure of sorts, covering the top half of the lens with my hat for the first 10 seconds while the falls and foreground river were exposed the whole time. It’s crazy, but it works when you have time.
Time was fleeting though. I could barely see the shoals beneath my feet as I counted the seconds off in my head. Expanded shots in condensing time, what a concept.
The longer I lingered, the longer the exposure, the fewer shots I got in the dwindling light. The asset quickly turned toward the edge of danger, and I hopped back to shore to revisit the tumbledown houses and try to catch a ghost. No luck, but I might have caught the Flash streaking by.
At that point I was tired, my fingers were frozen, and my back was starting to ache from the cold. It slowed me down enough to watch a mother pull up to the bridge and get out with her kid to look at the full moon rising beside the old mill.
It had entirely escaped my notice, the little bit of it peeking over the horizon at that point. I was so concerned with packing up and getting warm that I failed to notice my surroundings. Again, delay caught my attention and something magnificent was seen.
The graffiti on the bridge reads Short Work. Which, it was, honestly. I was out there maybe an hour, but many more hours went into it, though it felt like much less.
=========The Passing of Time=============================================
My watch died today.
So did Mr. Spock.
Actor, director, and fellow photographer – Leonard Nimoy was an incredible spirit and light in the world. Few have the privilege to impact the culture of everything the way he has, and fewer still have born the weight of such things with as much dignity and careful consideration. I really cannot describe the absence his passing creates, but to say that the echoes of his works and words will resonate forward through time in the generations of minds he influenced.
The watch can be fixed, replaced.
Mr. Nimoy cannot.
I want to share with you an interview he gave a little over a year ago, made all the more poignant with his passing. Please pay special attention to his thoughts on the creative’s life.
%%%%%%%%%%%Regarding Time%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
Time seems to expand and contract with notice.
A co-worker today said that this year is already 1/6th finished.
That astounds me. We just started this year.
But, we just started last year. And the year before that.
Don’t kill it, pass it, waste it. Don’t think it is in infinite supply, because it’s not. Time is the only thing we have to spend in this life. That really has value.
Cherish it.
Do something meaningful with it. Do nothing with it, so long as the nothing is in pursuit of something – be it sanity, clarity, or that which only has meaning to you.
Spend it carefully and with purpose.
We don’t know how much we are given until it’s gone, and as it does, time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping…

The Roundabout – Vol2 – Jan 2015

Greetings and/or salutations, whichever you prefer, but don’t be greedy.

How’s everyone? Have you been well? I hope so.

The new year is off to an interesting start…mostly thanks to you guys. The response to the first volume of this newsletter was amazing to me. Thank you.

Story time!


I’ve found a new show to love. Backstrom.

Stars Rainn Wilson and Dennis Haysbert. It’s new and unusual, based of a book series I now intend to track down, and just plain good. I say it’s new, but it’s really not. It’s a classic story, oddball detective who is smarter than everyone else, massive jerk. Done in a coarse, unapologetic way that’s different from what’s being offered up now. I like it. Check it out. It will probably die soon because it’s on Fox and on Thursday nights against some stiff competition.

Gotham, Arrow, and the Flash came back with a vengeance this January, picking up right where they left off for winter break. Each has a different flavor of the comic book story, and each is pleasant.

Flash had the most perfect comic book style super hero fight in Revenge of the Rogues, while Arrow delivers chills and suspense as Starling City falls apart in the turmoil of Oliver’s absence.

Gotham continues to do two things perfectly – establish Jim Gordon as the hot scalpel working to cut corruption from the city and show the wounds of Gotham as they fester into the city that creates the Batman.

Premiering in January, we also finally got to see Agent Carter, which just received the high blessing of the Stan Lee cameo in this week’s episode. I want to like the show…I really, really do, but they’ve got to give me something to work with here. I loved the Marvel one-shot Agent Carter, the 12 minutes of sheer gumption and badassery that set Carter up to be the premier field agent and founder of SHIELD. However, the series seems to have undone all the strides made in those 12 minutes and taken a step back, which I’m not happy about. It feels like the show is about to work its way back up to the point we reached in the one-shot, so I’m hopeful moving forward. I’d probably like it more if I hadn’t seen the one-shot. I’m probably too biased and expect too much from it.

More episodes from these series: Constantine, Galavant, FaceOff on SyFy, Prince of Tennis, Date A Live, Black Lagoon, Captain Earth, The Assets, Leverage, True Detective, Luther, Log Horizon, Durarara!! x2, Aldenoah.Zero2, & Cross Ange.


January has mostly been filled with television and anime (more on that in a moment) but I have been able to watch a few films.

I got a freebie from Redbox and used it to rent The Maze Runner. Overall, I did like it and think the story is great – will also be tracking down these books – but I was mostly disappointed in that I felt it didn’t live up to its potential. It was good, but I believe it could have been so much better.

Mostly though, I was distracted by the comparisons and connections I kept making to dungeons in Legend of Zelda. To me, that’s a definite sign it could have done a stronger job keeping me engaged.

Another good find at the box, Begin Again starring Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley. Nicely done film that got little in the way of attention. Don’t let the presence of Adam Levine and Ceelo dissuade you from checking it out. Very musical in nature and an interesting concept for a story. Great acting and characters.

Don’t bother with A Walk Among the Tombstones.

Also watched: Automata & Chinatown


Five Ghosts. Picked up this graphic novel and was highly satisfied. Good story, fast paced, doesn’t waste time, and builds intrigue quickly. Loved the art. Reminds me of Indiana Jones.

Finished up all the available Alex Verus novels by Benedict Jacka. Remarkably good. I want more. Give me more. Now please.

Looking to start The Arrivals by Melissa Marr next. Update: So far, first chapter, I’m hooked. Very nice. I like books that begin with page 1.

Don’t really feel like literary analysis at this point though, so moving on.


I’ve been entirely fascinated by Man at Arms the last few days and have watched almost all the videos on their channel.

It’s really simple. Skilled blacksmiths create real versions of movie, TV, and anime weapons. My favorites so far are the scissor blade from Kill La Kill made from real scissors and Elucidator from Sword Art Online. Gorgeous weapons. I like sharp things.

That’s pretty much everything I’ve stuffed in my eye-holes the last month

————-Things Made——————————-Video—————————————–

Speaking of making things. I’ve taken all that visual story-stuffage and churned part of it into something that I call The Good, the Bad, and the Screwy.

First to be unveiled of my many forthcoming video projects, GBS focuses on anime. My friend Max and I watch series both great and terrible as we explore this unusual genre. Pardon the awkward host, I’m certainly not a natural on camera, but that’s why I do it…to overcome my fears and be able to express myself better in person. It’s painful, but I’m making progress. The unfortunate side effect of me being in front of the camera means I’m not behind the cameras…so the show’s just going to be your standard three cameras on sticks. Not very visually interesting…but I can’t do everything. It’ll get better when I’m in my studio and can focus more on content rather than just making it work.

Also, principle photography began Wednesday for the documentary I’m DP-ing for my friend Sean. I’m staying entirely behind the cameras for this one, so it’ll look beautiful. A Ninja on a chicken foot is a beautiful thing.

We’re taking a look at the Vape boom…how it’s risen in popularity so quickly over the last few years, the controversy surrounding it – both legal and health related – and the sub culture that’s sprung up around it. Did you know that they actually hold competitions to see who can create the largest vape clouds? They’re called Cloud Chasers.

We need some help though, to make this documentary a reality. Do you have a strong opinion for or against vaping and would you be willing to share it on camera? Do you know anyone who does? Do you know anyone in a position of knowledge or authority who would be willing to be interviewed for this? Doctors, lawyers, civic leaders, business owners? Do you know anyone who has used it to quit smoking? Do you know of anyone who never smoked before who picked up vaping?

We’re trying to finish shooting this before the first of March for submission into a film festival.

Aside from those two projects, I have a few more things in development…just waiting


Still waiting.

Months tick by and we’re still waiting.

Great progress has been made…but…



&&&&& FWD PHOTO &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Quick update. 5 are in the wild, 1 awaiting delivery, 1 waiting for me to pick it up and mail it off.

I’ve been informed that one has already found its way to a new home…so it’s working…at least sort of. The new people still need to check it in. But it’s working. People are getting the idea and getting on board with it.


It would seem I set off a small firestorm with my post about “the Skeptic” (as Tim likes to refer to this individual) earlier this month.

It really wasn’t my intent to throw them under the bus, but I do thank you all for honking…your support means the world to me. As does the fact that you value my skill.

All this fuss and fallout from a joke about a selfie stick.

This individual did speak in ignorance in an off handed remark that really didn’t mean much, except it just irked me. As I believe every other creative was irked. Anyone in a non-traditional field knows this story.

The most important thing I want to come from the situation is to understand that anyone in a creative pursuit has a time ratio of anywhere from 3:1 to 5:1 or more. Three+ hours of behind the scenes work for any one hour with the client. The client is only present for the one hour and believes that’s what they’re being charged for, but that’s not the case. There’s travel, editing, presentation, office work, writing newsletters, and many other things that go into making a creative presence felt, into telling the story.

It’s a hard thing to put in terms people outside these fields will understand, and that’s what I originally wanted the post to do. Educate people.

The Skeptic knows I do good work, like all of you know as well, they just were misinformed of how the world works. Now they know…
%%% [ o ] %%%% SELFIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

I’ve only taken one photo this month, and it was a selfie. What do you think?



Yes. I finally broke down and made a self portrait. I also decided I like the color better since it’s warmer and more lively, despite the purple catch lights in my eyes. I know the popular choice was the B&W, and I was leaning that way, but I’m going with my gut.

I had less than 20 exposures left on the card when I made this. I used all of them, though I used the third from final shot…which I actually didn’t like originally. Take a good look, it’ll be another decade before I do it again most likely. By then those grey streaks will probably be much more prominent.

It’ll do though. I needed something professional looking to convey myself as a professional in my profiles. When you’re asking for help, for connections, and for project funds, supporters want to see a face, not a hat.


################ Finally ###############################

The Hat.

It’s my logo, it’s my mark, it’s the thing that has made people remember me.

Everyone recognizes the Hat. Wherever I go, people comment on it, compliment it, and tell me I look like ____________ (fill in the blank with anyone from Indiana Jones to the Undertaker). Even now, five years later, the first remark most go for is “I like your hat.”

The Hat is magical. I take it off, and vanish. I wear it, people smile.

I’ve always wanted a nice Hat. My grandfather wore them with style, and so of course I wanted one of my own. But it had to be right. I’m very particular when it comes to some things. Hats just weren’t in style as they used to be, drastically limiting the selection, and the ones that were made me want to vomit. They were just plain ugly. I needed to find something classic, with a proper brim, that wasn’t a cowboy hat, or something that looked like a goose’s beak.

I looked for quite a while. The fact that I have a large melon didn’t aid my quest, but one day I just got lucky.

Rather anti-climactic, but I found it at the mall in Dillard’s department store. A humble, unassuming black wool fedora, size 2x, on sale $51. It fit. It looked good. And it was practical.

It rained that day. Poured like the Dickens. I put my Hat on and walked out of the mall and haven’t looked back.

I’ve worn it almost every day since. It flew with me to Australia soon after I found it, and I wore it everywhere. It’s been to the UK where it met its nemesis…the bloody Scottish wind. I stepped off the train in Edinburgh and nearly immediately the wind grabbed my Hat lustily and ripped it off my head. I learned then why Deerstalkers were invented and used despite the silliness of their look. The wind in Scotland means business. It’s going to rip away any hat not tied to your head. Yes, I do have a Deerstalker from Tweed. It and my Hat are friends. I also have cashmere wool gloves from my time in the Hebrides. They are the gloves I wear when I need to shoot outside in winter. There’s even a hole in the right index finger for shooting. Warmest, softest, fuzziest, nicest gloves I’ve ever had. Worth every pence of the 15 pounds I spent on them.

The only other place my Hat was not worn, but rather safely tucked away in my vest, was during my trek into the fog of the Golden Gate Bridge to capture Vanish. A wicked wind it was to rival even that of the Scottish Banshee…and a damn forlorn place that bridge is. On a bright clear day, I’m sure it’s a lovely trip, but when the bridge is hidden in gloom, with the wind trying to rip your soul away over the un-fenced edge of the bridge…it is oppressive to say the least, eerily inviting for the wayward…and I did not want it to claim my Hat.

I do own another Hat. Acquired from the North Beach (original) location of Goorin Bros. in San Francisco, this is my Fancy Hat. I’ve only worn it on a few special occasions, and it is not so well traveled. I just can’t seem to wear a hat other than my Hat.

I do highly recommend Goorin Bros. if you are in need of a Hat though, they make damn fine Hats.

I have my Hat. Found it about a year after I got my first camera. Things were coming together. It’s protected me everywhere I’ve gone.

The rest is just another story to tell.

Here on the Roundabout.

If you would like to receive the Roundabout in your inbox every month, click here to sign up!

James PittmanJPG
instagram/ the_jpg

How To Be Happier With Your Photos

How to be happier with your photos.

Tough subject.

There are many articles and posts and videos and tutorials about photographic techniques and how to improve and expand your skill set, but there are few that deal with the photographer’s mindset.

Clarity of thought and vision is the path that leads to creating better photos. It’s easy to get lost in the technique and rely on set patterns and caught up in gear and sometimes  you get just a little too comfortable.

When something works, we stick with it, blindly shooting away as we trust our standard settings to get an acceptable image. I’m guilty of this. There have been many shoots where I get things dialed in ‘just so’ to get a usable image and just blank. I press the button, the shutter clicks, the flash fires, things happen, an image is recorded. I’m barely registering the image though and am left wondering later during editing why I have so many of the same boring shot.

Conversely, sometimes the technique and the gear gets in the way. When the set up just isn’t working. For some reason your flash isn’t firing. The light balance is just all wrong and no matter what you do to fix it, things get so far slanted from normal that you feel lost in the woods, staring at the readouts of the back of your camera and the ugly image plaguing you, that you lose all connection with the subject and end up firing away at nothing because you’re so caught up in what’s wrong you can’t see what’s right.

Yes. That was a run on sentence. The reeling you feel in that situation is twice as fast and four times as breathless – seriously, sometimes I forget to breathe.

Neither of these situations is conducive to clarity or creativity.

How do you improve?

Step 1: Slow down and think.

Stop fiddling with settings and take a look around. Put the box down for a moment and really look. Notice shapes and lines and form in the subject of your intended photo. Sit with it a while and quietly observe. As one great article on fstoppers puts it, Linger.

You’re going to have to ignore the itch, the one that tells you you’re wasting precious light when you’re NOT firing away on a shoot.

I know it feels counter-intuitive to take a better picture by not taking pictures, but do it, it works.

Step 2: Breathe.

Sometimes you do forget to breathe. Steady, measured breaths are a good calming technique and helps you slow down and think. Breathing also is important for continued living and all, but more importantly, it helps you focus. Always shoot on an exhale.  You are more steady then and it will help you get the eyes in focus.


It’s something I’ve noticed. I like to shoot hand held and I like to shoot with a shallow depth of field. No matter how good your eyes are, or your auto-focus is, you’re likely focusing on  your subject’s nose or forehead. If you focus on the inhale and release on the exhale, you’re going to sway just enough to compensate for the slight recess of the eyes. I noticed when I held my breath to take a shot, it was just out of tack sharp, but when I exhaled, I hit it.

So breathe, you stay conscious and tend to improve sharpness.

Step 3: Stop relying on gear.

The camera does not take the picture, you do. I hate it when people say “that’s a nice camera, it must take really great pictures,” or “I’ve got the latest greatest SuperSLR3500S, it’s mirrorless and takes the best pictures ever!”

-_-‘  Ignorant people irk me.

Point is, before the picture is ever put to the pixels, the image must be made in your brain. You don’t need a camera to make images. To see the world. To know what’s a great image and great composition.

You only need a camera to express to others what you see.

Do this. Walk around without a camera, shut one eye, look at something, and make a picture in your brain.  Do it everywhere you go. Train your eye and your brain to think in terms of those moments where you would take a shot so that when you do have a camera in your hand, the expression of your vision becomes second nature.

Enjoy living in the moment first, work on capturing the moment for others second.

Step 4: Get out.

This should be the most obvious part.

Get out. Get out. Get out.

Quit sitting around like a bump on a log and get to exploring. In fact, you don’t even have to get out, but for the love of all that’s good, get off yer ass and explore the dust bunnies living under your couch.

I’m absolutely shocked at the number of people who bemoan their lack of decent work when they never seek out new photo opportunities.

I’ve been stuck, and am still stuck in some senses, for material or places to shoot or people to work with, but things aren’t just going to fall in your lap.

One day, I was feeling particularly insipid in terms of my creativity and what I was photographing, so I went for a drive. I drove and drove and drove. Then I drove some more. Nothing came to me. I drove for a hundred miles up and down highways and back roads, and round about the one hundred and first mile, I glanced out the side window of my car and saw horses along a ridge in a pasture, with the light just right. I pulled right off the side of the road and snapped a few frames. Here are two.

Serenity Ridge

Serenity Ridge

Hundred Mile Horses

Hundred Mile Horses


Step 5: Get over it.

I think I suck. You probably think you suck. Get over it. I have.

It’s true. Most of the images photographers make are not good. It’s a leaden weight around our necks, the tens of thousands of shutter depressions that resulted in sub par images, that drags our confidence down. We only release what’s good or great and hope to goodness the rest stay buried.

It makes accepting praise difficult, actually. Really difficult. Someone says, “I’ve never seen you take a bad picture,” and my neck bursts into flames, and I feel a fraud. I know they’re trying to be complimentary, but all I think is “Yeah, because I WON’T show you the bad ones…they far outnumber the good.”

What I am good at is editing and filtering. I’ve made somewhere in the neighborhood of 80,000 photos in the last five years. I’ve seen every single one, you haven’t.

You just have to accept that bad pictures will be made, it’s part of the process, you aren’t a failure, your camera hasn’t betrayed you, it just happens. Just don’t show the bad ones.

Step 6: The hardest part.

Don’t compare yourself to others. No good comes from it.

You have to realize that you were not in that place at that time under those circumstances with that person’s particular skill set, history, and technique.  So you are never going to make that shot.

All you can do is make your shots. Learn what you like, why you like it, improve your skills, improve your situation, so that you can be in an improved position, to take a better shot. One that’s your’s.

The only person you should compete with is yourself. Progress, not perfection. Am I a better photographer than I was yesterday?

If so, you’ll be happier with your photos.


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)
If you would like to receive the Roundabout in your inbox every month, click here to sign up!
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.

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.

The Stone Bill

I am going to throw this out there I love beer, all different kinds of beer. In the past few weeks Governor Nikki Haley signed a new bill in effort to get new breweries to move to South Carolina. It originally began as a way to get Stone Brewing Company to move to South Carolina.

The bill allows breweries to sell food and retail at their business and brew pubs to distribute their beer. Although the down side is brew pubs have to turn in their liquor licenses, which I believe is a somewhat fair trade off.

What this means to the everyday beer drinker

The “Stone bill” will allow more breweries to come in with fewer restrictions on selling their own beer. I am looking forward to seeing how many different beers come to South Carolina. I am hoping for more local breweries to open in the Upstate – I am sick of the overdone IPA.

So for the inner hipster in all of us, this has been a monumental step forward to better beer .

My beer list

I am a huge fan of brown ales:
Lonerider- Sweet Jose
BBC Nutbrown

For the summer I go for wheat beers:
Leinenkugel Summer shandy

Winter beer:
Blue moon-Winter moon

When I go to Hooters:
Coors light- large quantity

Reading Rainbow Hits Big

I am a child of the 80s and I grew up taking LeVar Burton’s word for it. Some of the books were terrible, some were delightful, I never saw a LOT of the books, but that’s mostly because I watched well past the age the featured books were geared for.

Doesn’t matter.

The show was great.  Beyond great.

Yes, it kindled a love of reading, but even more it kindled a thirst for knowledge.

Each program took me somewhere new, introduced new ideas, and explained a lot of things about how the world worked. And it made me want to know more. I took the knowledge garnered during the show and I looked for more to add to it, to build upon it a greater understanding of how to do things.

That’s a hard feat to accomplish. To keep a child’s attention engaged for 30 minutes, delight them, educate them, and leave them wanting more? Best showmanship ever.

And the plug was pulled in 2009.  It ran from the year I was born – 1983 – until 5 years ago. Impressive, but the format and delivery mechanisms were just too outdated.

Still, the world needs butterflies in the sky…now more than ever.

How do I know? Because the world spoke out.

LeVar Burton took Reading Rainbow to the people, creating a kickstarter asking for 1 million dollars to improve the minds of EVERY child EVERYwhere.

It was done in 11 hours. The project is fully funded, already up to 1.5 million at the time of this writing, and it still has 34 days to go.

That tells me people are desperate for quality educational entertainment options for their children.  I’ve seen some of the programming available now and shudder.

That tells me this man has not only earned my trust, but the trust of my entire generation, and in his work we find hope for the next generation. What more noble cause is there, what better use of our resources, than the betterment of our entire culture?

I’d much rather youths today take LeVar’s word for it much as I did.

Let them be inspired. Let them fly twice as high.

Take a look.

It’s in a book…or tablet…or website…

A Reading Rainbow.

Yes, Mr. Burton, with much respect, we’ll make sure there’s a next time.