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kyle cassidy

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race recap [Aug. 31st, 2015|08:17 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Motley Crue: God Bless the Children of the Beast]

Running is sometimes fun.

Racing is never fun.

The goal of a race is to figure out exactly how much energy you have in your body and how much tolerance for discomfort makes up your mettle and have both of those expire one step after the finish line. And since there's always more in you than your brain wants you to give (your brain's job, after all, is to conserve your energy, so it wants you to stop wasting calories running while dinosaurs are not actively chasing your and eat cheese fries instead) it's a fight between your will and your being. You have to overcome the cheese fry craving not-wanting-to-run with that part of your brain that says "screw you, I'm in charge here". It's never fun, because it is exactly the opposite of what you want to do, and when you're racing -- by definition you're trying to be the fastest you can be. You can run on a saturday morning and enjoy the birds and the flowers and whatever, but when you're racing, you don't really notice any of that.

The catch is that without racing your running doesn't get better. The only way to run faster is to run faster -- each time you push the envelope, your capabilities are that much more.

I raced the Philly10k this weekend, which is a 6.2 mile race through South Philadelphia -- it's an odd distance but I hadn't raced all summer because it's too freaking hot to do anything and I wanted to support Philadelphia Runner, who came up with the idea. I'd run it last year and totally bombed -- clocking in at 52:51 and 527th place.

My Personal Record for that distance as 49:49 which I ran a little over a year ago. I wanted to beat that. So my goal was 49:48.



Mile 5 was pretty terrible.


Weather conditions were nice, for the time of year and right out of the gate I found someone running pretty much exactly the pace I wanted to do, vacillating back and forth between 7:50 - and 8:00 and I stuck one step behind her. It's easier when you have a pacer. We stayed pretty much shoulder to shoulder and everything faded away but the discomfort of running.

I always thought that if I ran fast it would be effortless -- I would be like a gazelle, I'd be this perfect, joyous form but that's not how it works. I've come to realize over the years that no matter how fast you are, it still hurts. For me it just felt awful mostly the entire time. Miles 1 and 2 were ok and then I just hated it.

One depressing thing is that I've gotten slower over the summer. Doing ~8:00 miles for six mile distances is something I'd done relatively effortlessly in April, but lately I'd been fighting to do a 24:30 5k. My training's been a bit lax. I've skipped a few long runs in the past few months and it's been showing.



Some of the West Philly Runners enjoying an 8:20am beer.
Like you do.


was waiting for me at mile 5 waving and cheering but I was a broken shell by then. I missed the marker that said "Mile 5" and misread my watch and thought I was much farther from the finish than I actually was. I thought I was still a mile out when I turned a corner and saw the finish line two blocks away. I had little left for a mile, but plenty for two blocks and sprinted my way to a finish in 49:51 -- two seconds slower than I wanted.

Here are my splits, you can see where I came unglued.

MILE PACE
1 7'53"/MI
2 7'57"/MI
3 7'50"/MI
4 8'04"/MI
5 8'13"/MI
6 8'24"/MI

Back in April for the Broad Street run my pace never dipped below 8:05 for ten miles. I took too many days off over the summer. Blah. One of the things you tell yourself when you're racing is that you won't remember how much it hurt the next day or a week or a year later, but that number will always be there on the Internet.

I wish I could have squeezed another two seconds out of it somewhere in the middle where I was flagging, I wish I'd realized sooner how close I was to the finish but in the end -- hey, I ran the race, I learned from my mistakes. I, hopefully got a little bit faster and pushed that envelope a little further.

Many of the other West Philly Runners jumped on the bicycles at the end and rode off to do another race that started at 9:30 in the morning (it was like 8:15 am when we finished -- and I accurately told Trillian when I'd pass her, to the very second) but all I wanted to do was come home and collapse.



I'll do better next time.



Hope your races, actual and metaphorical went well this weekend.


The day before I went on a fun run with comedian Kevin Hart and 4,999 other people. I ran a loping 27 minute 5k and had a great time.




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(no subject) [Aug. 23rd, 2015|05:01 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Amanda Palmer called a few weeks ago and asked if I wanted to be part of a project to help the New York Public Library. How could you not? Plus I'd been trying to figure out how to help librarians anyway. Amanda wanted to parody a Damien Hirsh sculpture as performance art and get people to donate children's books to the NYPL. This because she's about to have a baby and she'd recently read about the benefits that children experience when their parent's read to them. (She wrote about that here.) So why not collect a bunch of her fans who may or may not be old enough to have children but are old enough to buy books and have them come donate books to the library? It was funded through her Patreon page which is a way to crowd fund artists to do art projects they might not otherwise be able to do -- like a recurring monthly kickstarter.

Her performance art was going to be out in front of the library, my thought was to do a studio portrait inside first with lights and a backdrop and then go take a few outside.



Naked pregnant lady collecting books for kids and teaching a lesson about contemporary sculptors. Right here. At the New York Public Library.


I'd planned on shooting this whole thing with a Leica M9 to keep my kit small, with a 28, 35, 50, and 90mm lenses along with two studio flashes, four radio triggers and two light stands to keep the amount of stuff I had to carry small, because I was also packing a giant 10 foot by 20 foot muslin backdrop which weighed a lot. I packed the night before but when I got up the next morning, I added a Nikon d800 as a backup with a 28-70 f2.8 and a Fuji x20.

I took an Amtrak to NYC, sitting in front of a guy who was trying to pick up the woman in the seat next to him by telling her he "edited Lovecraft anthologies" (note: this probably would work on me). Not to be outdone she said "I know the drummer from The Band." He paused and said "What band?" "The Band," she said, like he was an idiot, "he dedicates songs to me when they play."

Luckily I'd packed a pair of noise isolating earphones and I cranked up "heavy rainstorm" on my white noise generator and read a book. By the time we got to NYC he's looked up "The Band" on wikipedia surreptitiously somewhere and was telling her that the drummer died years ago. I grabbed my bags and fled.

Longtime Dresden Dolls vibes man Ryan Anas met me out front and with great joy we carried all the gear to the NY Public Library.

I hadn't seen Amanda in a while. She flashed her gigantic belly at me ... it's really ... big.

I took a selfie with the PalmerGaiman, about to be the first of his generation and then Ryan, said "hi" to the people who are probably behind the @NYPL twitter feed, and while the hair and makeup team started, I went off to lunch in a gloriously empty pub where I had a terrible veggie burger and we went back and set up my studio. Michael Pope was there with his team, videotaping everything in time lapse and real time and occasionally Pope would run through blasting photos with his iPhone doing something that I didn't understand. The makeup team was laboring through anything (ahem) painting half of Amanda bronze and the other half see-thru.




This is designer Anya Klepikov, who's done some amazing NY theater sets
and was responsible for much of this happening.
Half painted! Clickenzee to EMBIGGEN!



Nicole Blackman arrived, who happens to be my favorite poet on Earth. She's friends with Amanda somehow. I was very influenced by her performance art piece "The Courtesan Tales" when working on Who Killed Amanda Palmer and I thanked her in my credits for the book. Three years later someone forwards me this Tweet from Nicole Blackman that says "Who the heck is Kyle Cassidy and why did he thank me in the credits for this book?" And now there she is, sitting in a nest of clothes, constructed mostly of feathers, writing something.

Nicole and Ryan helped me fine tune the lights and just as the makeup was finishing, Neil Gaiman came in with novelists Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman at the last minute, second-guessed my whole lighting setup and started rearranging it. I took a test shot and the display screen on my M9, instead of showing what I'd just photographed, showed only a series of vertical lines.

"Ok," Amanda said, "let's do this," and she stepped onto the set. I pulled the radio trigger off my Leica and put it on the Nikon and started shooting. This is the essence of being prepared. Have a plan, assume that plan will fail, have a backup plan. I bring a backup for everything. Lights, cables, cameras. It doesn't have to be identical, or even equal, but you need to know how you're going to get something done if the way you'd planned it isn't going to work out.




So this is it. You pack for hours, you travel for hours, you setup for
hours and you take photos for 4 minutes. Clickenzee to EMBIGGEN!



The Nikon worked fine, and we shot for about five minutes. At the very end John Cameron Mitchel, director (and star) of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus walked in, gasped at Amanda's belly and made a joyful scene.




Not sure what happened to turn my Leica into a necklace. It seemed to recover later.
I suspect it might have been related to the flash trigger. Not sure if that's my hope
or not. JCM & AFP. Clickenzee to EMBIGGEN!



My photos done, we went outside in a line where a crowd was already waiting, unsure of what was happening, books clutched in their hands, waiting for the magic. Amanda climbed up through the crowd onto the platform of bookshelves, raised her sword and a cheer went up.

She stayed there for about fifteen minutes (which is a long time to hold a sword up over your head) people came along in a line and deposited their book donations to the NY public library, then Neil helped Amanda down, kissed her on the makeup covered cheek and went back. The library hauled off their score in a gigantic cart. I stayed around and talked to people outside for a while, then went back, tore down my kit, headed off for a late night snack with some friends and headed home.

The next morning I got up and edited photos and read on the Internet all the outrage about pregnant breasts and children's books not going together. I'll leave you to Google "advantages of reading to your children".

Ok. I'll also leave you with this photo of a giant crate of books that now belong to the New York Public Library that you can borrow and read to your kid. Or someone else's.




Giant tub-of-books. Clickenzee to see if yours is one of the ones
on the top.




You can read Amanda's blog about the whole thing, see more photos and shiznit here.





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I'M A FATHER!!! [Aug. 17th, 2015|05:02 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Holst: The Planets ]

I've waited on the details of this because I was afraid it might be another disaster. About three weeks ago, Emily the Spider made another egg sack. She'd made two before, the first was destroyed by chalcid parasitic wasps that laid eggs inside her egg sack the the larval wasps ate her babies. The second egg sack she made I took down from her web and brought inside and kept in a jar, three weeks later chalcid parasitic wasps hatched from it. It was heartbreaking. When she laid eggs again last month I took that one too and last week, four babies hatched. If you're wonderng how many spiders pop out of an uloborid egg sack, the answer is "not a lot". They immediately spun webs on the sticks I'd put in there. I took the lid off and transported them onto the porch with some fruit to attract small prey for them. They are actually smaller than fruit flies. I hope this won't be a problem for them.

Here's how they look in their habitat right now.




Emily's babies! In their spidey playpen!
Clickenzee to see them larger!


[super closeup photo of one of the bubs behind this cut!!]



They are so small it's almost unimaginable.
Smaller than the head of a pin.
Parts of their bodies are clear. Little bubs!
Clickenzee to Embiggen!




I imagine these next few weeks are the most critical when they're so small and defenseless. A housefly getting in their jar and getting tangled in their web could be a catastrophe for them.

They are such frail things. How can they survive in this gigantic world?

I'll protect you as much as I can.


I'm off to go running and watch the sun come up. Tell me about something you saw today. Or give me your best names for spider babies.




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Who's the biggest jerk in Stars Hollow? [Jul. 31st, 2015|07:12 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Ok, time for important shiznit -- help me rank the best and worst Gilmore Girls characters. Who would you let move in to your spare bedroom and who should be cast adrift in the Indian Ocean? trillian_stars and I have been watching this show for a year now (we're somewhere in Season 5) and it occupies way too much of my spare brain cycles.

YOU CAN LOG IN WITH ALMOST ANY SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNT. You don't need an LJ. That's just so it's one person one vote.

Caveat: Sebastian Bach only appears in the "best" list because he is awesome.






Poll #2018404 You may vote for multiples, but please don't vote for everyone.

The WORST PEOPLE IN STARS HOLLOW

Lorelai Gilmore
13(6.1%)
Rory Gilmore
11(5.2%)
Luke Danes
8(3.8%)
Emily Gilmore
19(9.0%)
Richard Gilmore
6(2.8%)
Paris Geller
10(4.7%)
Dean Forester
17(8.0%)
Jess Mariano
14(6.6%)
Kirk Gleason
9(4.2%)
Michel Gerard
5(2.4%)
Jason Stiles
7(3.3%)
Logan Huntzberger
19(9.0%)
Mrs Kim
16(7.5%)
Taylor Doose
33(15.6%)
Taylor's Beard
16(7.5%)
Sookie St. James
1(0.5%)
Lane Kim
1(0.5%)
Dave Rygalski
3(1.4%)
Brian Fuller
4(1.9%)

Who are the BEST people in Stars Hollow?

Lorelai Gilmore
13(7.2%)
Rory Gilmore
12(6.7%)
Luke Danes
21(11.7%)
Emily Gilmore
7(3.9%)
Richard Gilmore
11(6.1%)
Paris Geller
6(3.3%)
Dean Forester
5(2.8%)
Jess Mariano
6(3.3%)
Kirk Gleason
4(2.2%)
Michel Gerard
6(3.3%)
Jason Stiles
1(0.6%)
Logan Huntzberger
1(0.6%)
Mrs Kim
1(0.6%)
Taylor Doose
0(0.0%)
Taylor's Beard
2(1.1%)
Sookie St. James
31(17.2%)
Lane Kim
25(13.9%)
Dave Rygalski
7(3.9%)
Brian Fuller
3(1.7%)
Sebastian Bach
18(10.0%)






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Dream [Jul. 30th, 2015|08:41 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Who's Making Noise Tonight? In my head]

Had a cool dream I was in a recording studio with every heavy metal star on earth. They were recording a song with Ozzy called "Who's Making Noise Tonight?" (that was the chorus, at the end Ozzy sings "I YAM!") Unfortunately though I spent most of my time in the dream talking to Kip Winger, but I did get to watch some pretty crazy guitar solos and some rawkus partying.





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The Drowning Girl may be an actual movie now.... [Jul. 29th, 2015|08:26 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |a whisper in the noise]

Back in 2011 I read the manuscript for Caitlin R. Kiernan's (aka greygirlbeast) "The Drowning Girl A Memoir" and I wanted to make a movie out of it, but I knew I couldn't, because I didn't have six million dollars. But Caitlin and I did a Kickstarter and raised enough money for me to do a series of still photos from the movie that never existed. It included original artwork from Michael Zulli and Zulli even shaved his beard and appeared as a character in the story. I kid you not.

We hired a perfect cast and a crew and went to the actual locations from the book and shot photos. you can see them all here.






We also shot a trailer, a teaser trailer, and a making of video. The best place to find those is Director of Photography Brian Siano's page about them here. <--- YOU SHOULD WATCH THESE.

Well, now four years later, both The Drowning Girl and Caitlin's previous book, The Red Tree have been optioned for movies.

So you may see this thing after all. Congrats to Caitlin, Zulli, Brian, and everybody who worked on this.




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Emily the Spider Update [Jul. 28th, 2015|05:48 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Ani Difranco]

There's some news on the Emily front.

Lately she's been building a new web every day or so but not taking down the old one, she'll just move a foot to the west and make a new web that attaches to about 3/4ths of the old web. Right now she's got four webs together. I don't think she's hunting on all four of them, but she is hunting on the most recent two together.




No idea what she's doing, but it involves moving a lot.



I've been spending a lot of time just watching her in her web. She's catching more food than I'd thought before, though she certainly goes through spells -- maybe it's related to temperature and when trash day is. She's amazing to watch when she catches something. In the photo below she's wrapping up a small fly. Emily is hanging from her web by her two front legs, holding the fly in the middle four, and with the back two pulling silk from her spinnerettes while she twirls the fly like it's a Rubic's Cube.

I've seen her now catch three flies within a few minutes of one another -- catching and wrapping one while eating another, stashing it in her web and then catching and wrapping a third. I wonder how much more difficult it is to wrap up a fly when you've got one in your mouth. She seems pretty good at it.

This is a nice photo, by the way -- if you're like "eh, not sure if I'm going to bother clicking on stuff today."

[emily wrapping up a fly behind this cut]



George has completely vanished -- haven't seen him in weeks.

In other news, my dad's growing crab grass in a flower pot. One of his neighbors pulled it up and threw it on the sidewalk and my dad figured it deserved to live so he planted it. Every couple of days he sends me a photo saying "My crab grass is doing great!" and I tell him how my flies my spider ate. This is how the Cassidy men roll.

We're exciting like this.




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Peter Sagal and the running and the rain [Jul. 27th, 2015|07:49 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Ratt: Round and Round]

So, years and years ago now, Peter Sagal convinced me to take up running. (If you're new to this blog, here's a good place to pick up that story.) A few months ago he emailed to say he was going to be in Philly at the helm of his NPR fart-joke juggernaught Wait ... Wait ... Don't Tell Me! the funniest most inexplicably punctuated news quiz in history. So I started planning some possible runs around the Mann Music Center (where Wait Wait was going to be). Some of Philly's best views are up in that direction.

This all got clobbered a few days before the event when WHYY, the Philadelphia NPR affiliate decided to host a run with Peter (This turned out to be fine since it was hot and miserable out that day and all my plans involved running six miles from the hotel to the Mann Music Center). So instead a couple of the West Philly Runners & I ran down to center city in the pouring (and refreshing) rain, picked up Peter at his hotel and ran to WHYYFM.




With my friends Rebecca & Arwin from the West Philly Runners.
Clickenzee to Embiggen!



They were supposed to run across the Ben Franklin Bridge and back, which I was pretty excited about, having never run across the bridge, but somehow it was decided that the bridge might be too slippery and WHYY staffers would slide off into the Delaware. So the route was changed to a four mile loop along the waterfront, which was fine with me.




Some peeps from WHYY, throwing down the West Philly Runners gang sign.
We better not run into any Fishtown Beer Runners or there's going to be hill sprints.
You may Clickenzee to Embiggen!



Then we ran back to the hotel and I had a break of dawn breakfast with the Wait Wait crew including Ian Chillag the man behind Sandwich Monday.

Later that night trillian_stars and I went off to the Mann. I'd never been backstage at the Mann before, though it's actually really close by. Trillian and I found ourselves sitting at table with WHYYFM's "Fresh Air" host Terry Gross and Legendary Anchorman Bill Kurtis. Trillian and Bill are both from the midwest and started talking about farms and that was pretty much that, but every time Terry Gross opened her mouth, Terry Gross' voice came out, which was weird. No matter what you think someone on the radio looks like, they don't look like that. This lead to some on-stage banter later between Terry who said people always tell her "you sound taller on the radio" and Peter who said someone once told him "you don't sound bald on the radio". It must be an odd world to have people wig out a little whenever you ask for something at the hardware store. We were also very happy to discover that our awesome friend Amy Dickinson was on the panel that night. She could walk into the Met and class the place up.



Backstage. Pointless to embiggen, all back stages look the same.


Anyway Robert Plant had just played the Mann and he either went home sweaty or used one of these showers back stage. It's infuriating not knowing which one.



One of these showers was Robert Plant's. I stood in both of them to be sure.


Anyway, eventually we wandered out into the seating area to watch the show. If you've never been to the Mann, it's an outdoor theater about half of which is under a giant awning (there are two floors of seating) and then a lawn that just goes off for a long way off. It looked like an ominous night for the people on the lawn, as clouds rolled in and eventually the heavens opened up. Like seriously the biggest rainstorm you've ever seen. This failed to wash everybody away as many stalwarts remained with ponchos and blankets and seemed to be giddly enjoying themselves in the deluge. The thunder and howling wind got so bad that when the show was over they actually had to go back and retape some of the segments.

Terry Gross was the guest. You can listen to the show (and see what Terry Gross looks like here).


From our seats half way back in the Mann. It went faaar out into the lawn.
No point in embiggening. It's just to show you how small everybody is.


After the show we went out for a nightcap and to celebrate producer Eva Wolchover's last night on the crew. I'd been meaning to give Peter a copy of The Bed Song Book, this giant 16x20 inch book I did with Neil and Amanda but I'd been very reticent to carry it to the post office because the thing weighs 30 pounds so I realized I could just hand it off to him and make it his problem and there began one of the coolest parts of a pretty cool day -- Peter went page by page through the book, showing it to the Wait Wait cast & crew and giving a running narration of why and how it was a great thing.

Made it home to bed at about three in the morning, a little damp, a little sore, a lot tired, but very content.




Peter showing The Bed Song Book to Legendary Anchorman Bill Kurtis and Amy Dickinson
and the Wait Wait crew. This one you can Clickenzee to Embiggen!






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These People Shot a Freaking Rocket to Pluto [Jul. 19th, 2015|06:53 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Queen: We are the Champions]

Scientists, engineers, rock stars.




Click here to see the photo essay on Slate.com



Friday evening I got a text from Kate McKinnon asking if I'd be interested in coming to Maryland and photographing the scientists behind the New Horizons Pluto expedition, essentially, immediately. At the time I was out at dinner with trillian_stars. "Do you want to go?" Trillian asked. "No," I said, "I'm really tired. But I know I'll want to have gone when I get back." I've learned that over the years. It's not how you feel about it at the time, it's how you think you'll feel about it next week.

We raced home and I threw a bunch of stuff in camera bag and jumped on a train. On the train I called Jordan Teicher from SLATE and asked if they'd be interested in running it if I could get a series of portraits. He said they's push everything out of the way for it, and then there was no turning back.





Camera Geekery: Leica M9, 50mm Canon Serenar, 28mm Voigtlander f2, 35mm Voigtlander f1.7, Panasonic GX7 (backup), Pocket Wizards, Lastolite triple-fold umbrella flash, batteries, two lights stands, Kindle, Paper notebook, Monteverde Intima fountain pen, card reader, collapsable backdrop. Kitten optional. I used everything but the two extra Leica lenses. You may clickenzee to embiggen.



I took an Amtrak to Washington DC and met up with Kate and some of the scientists for dinner and was able to get in a quick set of portraits after -- this made me feel much less apprehensive -- I'm always a wreck until things get underway and with five portraits taken care of ... things had started so I felt I could relax. (I was also pleased to discover that a table full of proverbial rocket scientists has the exact same level of difficulty splitting a check that the rest of the Earth has.)

I went to bed late and got up early. Everybody else got up early too. For the scientists at the Applied Physics Laboratory the day starts with an early morning briefing where each of the five teams discuss what they've learned the night before. After the meeting, they go off to work on all the things they have to do and in between, Kate would catch people and bring them over to the small studio the Laboratory was kind enough to let me set up near the lobby. Everybody, in fact, was super nice.




Behind the scenes, photographing Dr. Hal Weaver.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!



Kate did interviews, I grabbed portraits while people scurried from one place to another. I had usually between a minute and two minutes with everybody. Kate did quick interviews. It's a very simple setup with a single shoot-thru umbrella and a Leica M9 rangefinder camera.

Later in the day there was a recap for the public about the most recent findings (if you've been watching on TV or the Internet, this is likely what you've seen.) Kate and I sat down in the front row in the press section and I started working on processing the morning's images. About 15 minutes after it started, Brian May (aka Dr. Brian May, astrophysicist, AKA Brian May guitar player from Queen) and Casey Michael Lewis from the Applied Physics Lab sat down next to us. That's just how things happen.



Plutopalooza with Brian May & Kate McKinnon.
Photo by Casey Lewis



The Applied Physics Lab let me set up another studio in a classroom and Kate went out and found all the key scientists and brought them in.

They're all amazing people, and that's -- I mean, that's nonsense talk to say "amazing" it's like calling a mountain "big" -- it's just the only thing I can think of because my brain overloaded thinking about the scope of what they'd done. These people, starting 15 years ago with an idea, built a space probe, built a rocket, figured out where a planet nobody had ever seen a full orbit of was going to be in a decade, shot this thing into space and it hit it's target and -- it sent back data to Earth, from three billion miles away. I don't know what to call it -- I'm just dumbstruck. But in any event, they're all amazing, but my brain melted when I met Yanping Guo, the "trajectory designer", which is a really elegant phrase for the most elegant job I've ever heard of. She's the one who figured out where to shoot the rocket to hit Pluto ten years later, and not in a straight line.

You can see the trajectory of New Horizons here in this animation -- it uses the gravity of Jupiter to help give it more speed and fling it into space.



While she was talking about what she did my jaw just kept dropping further down. One of the things she had to factor in was the time dilation caused by fact that New Horizons was traveling 36,000 miles an hour, so time actually goes slower on the spaceship. At the end of it all, after nine years and three billion miles and one whip around Jupiter (which added 9,000 mph to it's speed) New Horizons arrived 70 seconds faster than Yanping predicted, but not through any fault of her own, but because Pluto was bigger than they expected it to be. You turn on the TV and someone says "blah blah, scientists shot a rocket to Pluto" and you're like "oh, that's nice, pretty photos, ice, cool ..." but it doesn't sink in ... scientists (and engineers) shot a freaking ROCKET TO PLUTO.




The scenes, you are behind them! My Leica was a point of continual interest among the scientists and engineers. One asked if I built it. The optics team discussed, at great length, how modern lenses are built to disperse less light in the rear optics of because of the digital sensors. On the left Dr. Henry Thoop plays with my camera (and is carrying some big glass of his own.) Center Dr. Brian May discuss Dr. Alex Parker's animations., and on the right, Dr. Alex Parker himself. You may clickenzee to embiggen!

You may also see some of Dr. Alex Parker's celebrated animations here.




My photography deals a lot with contexts, seeing people in or out of their contexts and for me, seeing these people not in mission control doing what they do, but seeing them in the really neutral environment of a studio with a simple backdrop and one light made me realize that there are very concrete individual components to "scientists (and engineers) shot a rocket to Pluto" -- individual people solving individual parts of a problem that's too big for any of them to solve alone.

There are all sorts of accomplishments -- from "I got out of bed this morning" to "I worked my way through college" but when confronted with "I shot a piano sized computer three billion miles and hit a really small moving target" just pushed the needle into "there be dragons" -- I had no words. I still have no words and I've been thinking about it for two days now.

Anyway, I posted a selfie with Yanping and people agreed.

I've met a lot of interesting people, but not many who impressed me as much as she did.




Me and Yanping Guo. Within an hour of me posting it to Twitter
it had been retweeted hundreds of times.
You may click here to make this larger!



A Tumblr post of it is at the moment rapidly approaching 150,000 notes.

Brian May also came down and was perfectly charming. He's been really interested in three dimensional photography and has a huge collection of Victorian sterioscopic images and so we did his portrait in 3d. I've no idea if Brian May is interested at all in talking about whether or not he'll ever get around to remixing Under Pressure the way he thought it should have been done, but I know he'll talk endlessly about 3d victorian photography and how mind bendingly spectacular astronomy and space exploration are. Guitar-shirt and all, he was geektastically indistinguishable from all the rest of the scientists and engineers down there.

***EDIT***




After I posted my original 3d photo of Brian May he fixed it up in
Photoshop and as his version is much better than mine, I reproduce that one here.

Scientists make the rockin' world go round.



Kate and I met up with shadowcaptain and we went off to a restaurant where I worked on picking photos and Kate typed up interview transcripts, then I got on a train and kept working on photos. Got home at midnight and fell asleep so fast I don't even remember making it to the bed (though I do remember checking on Emily the Spider who was enjoying a fly). This afternoon I talked to Slate, sent them the photos and text and did an interview. Now I'm off to bed again.

It's been a crazy, wonderful weekend.

I'm so glad to have been able to spend a small amount of time with some of the most brilliant people on Earth and use whatever skills I have to amplify their voice. These people are doing the most important thing that humans can do, they're trying to answer the biggest questions -- what is everything and how does it work? And they're doing it to make us all better, and it's long, hard work and the answers don't come easily. I don't know how to properly say "thank you."

This is all I can do.

You can see all of the scientists & engineers I photographed here.



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Some thoughts on web construction. [Jul. 16th, 2015|07:45 am]
kyle cassidy
[Current Location |the web]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |the police: murder by numbers]

trillian_stars has been getting up at 5 am to go to kickboxing, so I've been getting up at 5 am to go running and, lately, when I get back it's been just in time to watch Emily build her web, which seems to happen around 6 am. It's very peaceful to stand there, listening to the birds chirp, drinking a cup of tea and watch this little creature do this amazing thing.

Web building is a lot slower than I'd thought. Each strand it painstakingly placed, slowly ... she uses three or four of her legs to hold on to her web, the front two often waving in search of the next radial, and with her back two feet she pulls silk from her spinnerettes and carefully places it. She uses her own body to measure distances. (Scientist Bill Eberhard discovered that spiders brains can be larger than their head, sometimes even filling up parts of their legs to provide them with everything they need to perform these complex tasks.)

Once the web is done, she sometimes signs it with some stabilimenta, then she sits down in the center and waits.

She's a sentry out there protecting our picnics from flies.

[photo of Emily sitting in her newly constructed web behind this cut]






Emily, protecting the humans. You may clickenzee to embiggen!








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Were it not for Emily, we'd be hip deep in flies [Jul. 15th, 2015|05:20 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Damon Buxton]

Emily's been doing some interesting things over the past week. She's been moving, every day or two, about a foot to the south. She doesn't take down her old web, she builds a new one right next to the old one, and attached to it. Right now she's got four orbs together (Like OOOo), and she's hunting in at least two of them. No idea why she's doing this.

She's been catching and eating flies like gangbusters. Often I'll go out back to check on her and find her wrapping one fly while still eating another one. It's amazing how much her size changes after she's eaten, her opisthosoma can double in size from one day to the next if she's been particularly lucky. I've no idea how many flies she's actually eating since it doesn't take her long to dispatch with them -- it could be one a day, or it could be ten. But she's guarding my door, which is nice of her.

Here she is hanging on to her web by two legs, (like she's doing a spidey pullup,) twirling a fly in four, and guiding silk from her spinnerettes with the back two. The whole thing is happening very fast, she's twirling that fly like it's a Rubik's cube and she knows the solution. Hackled orb weavers like Emily use about 450 feet of silk to wrap and crush their prey.

[photo behind this cut in the event youd rather not see cute spiders.]






Emily wrapping a fly. You may clickenzee to embiggen!




trillian_stars is out at 5 am kickboxing. How's your day?




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Emily three webs [Jul. 13th, 2015|08:02 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |emigrate: babe]

So, interesting things happening with Emily's web. That tangle of silk wrapped around an egg sac? She moved it. The whole thing. The moved it about a foot North. No idea why.

She also has done some very interesting web construction. Over the last four days she's built two additional webs both connected to her original one. So she has three orb webs that she's currently the owner of. One more and she can put a hotel there.




This is the spider equivalent to having a car on blocks in your front yard for two years.
Clickenzee to untangle the mystery.



Spider Expert Catherine Scott turned me on to this textbook written by a guy with one of the best names on Earth, Rainer Foelix called The Biology of Spiders, so I've been reading that in addition to Spider Silk: Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging, and Mating by Leslie Brunetta & Catherine L. Craig (in odd weird fact, Leslie Brunetta tweeted at me after a photo of Emily got picked up by the Spider Community and sent around -- she may even be reading this). Her book is fantastic, it's funny and all about the very complex biology that allows spiders to do this crazy thing -- spinning silk with their bodies and forming it into complex designs all with a brain smaller than a pinhead.

Anyway, reading about Uloborus and webs ... maybe this offers some insight into her recent construction kick.

"If the web is only slightly damaged, as, for instance, after catching small prey, the spider may or may not mend the hole. In general, repair does not consist of reconstructing the original design but of patching the holes to make the web stable again. The cribellate orb weaver, Uloborus, however, often performs elaborate reparis, sometimes repalcing the entire half of a web in an orderly fashion." Rainer F Foelix, Biology of Spiders



[pix of Emily & her web behind this cut.]



Clickenzee to Embiggen!










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Emily's little feet. [Jul. 8th, 2015|06:51 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Nice portrait of emily and a quote from a book about spiderwebs I'm reading

[behind this cut]





Clickenzee to embiggen!







Clickenzee to embiggen!





Share the photos if you'd like to.





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Emily's babies are all dead. [Jul. 7th, 2015|07:18 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |sadsad]

There was some activity in Emily's egg sac the other day and I discovered Pteromalidae Parasitic Chalcid Wasps emerging from it. They lay their eggs in spider egg sacs, the larvae eat the baby spiders and then hatch from the egg sac and fly away to do more evil. If you look closely, you can also see what look like some sort of worms burrowing in or out -- not sure what they are, if they're related or not. And also, a mystery.

You'll notice in the upper right, that thing that looks like an alien skin? That's a spider moult. I don't think it was one of Emily's babies though, I think it was another spider that just happened to moult near the egg sac.

Happy to hear input from spider experts.

It's worse than a sad day at Fortress Hennepin. I was looking forward to Emily's babies. She was unaware the entire time, just sitting there in her web. No idea where George is. I've gotten used to him vanishing though.




Wasps ate Emily's babies.







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Oddities of Emily's Web [Jul. 4th, 2015|09:02 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Andy Guthrie: You be King.]

So ... not a whole lot of action lately. Emily's just been hanging out in her web, sometimes she faces one direction, other times she faces another. I haven't seen her catch anything in a while and she doesn't seem to want any help. She IS gaining weight & girth, which makes me wonder if she's thinking about laying more eggs. Who knows. This might be the best photo I've taken of Emily just chilling. This is what she looks like. You can see her web which is vaguely orb like, and you can see her stabilimentia. Her abdomen seems to be getting larger again.

[photo of emily behind this cut]



Emily in her web, clickenzee to embiggen!




I wish I knew more about spiders. About Uloboridae, or cribellate orb weavers specifically. Why isn't there a book? Then maybe I'd have some idea what the heck is going on. All I know is that I've gotten involved in the life of this little thing and I don't know what's going on in her life and that I'll be ... inexplicably sad when there's no life to be a part of anymore.

Sometimes Emily makes a ... relatively nice web, it's never immaculate, and then other times she's like a drunken frat boy with a can of silly string. Case in point -- this ... which has been in her web for a few days now.

WHAT THE HECK IS THIS?




I've no idea what she's thinking when she leaves this.
You may clickenzee to figure it out yourself.



No idea what purpose it serves, what it's supposed to do ... although, only while looking at the photo I noticed that there's an egg sac buried in there, so maybe she's doing this to protect the eggs? But it's not on all of her egg sacs, so ... why this one? Was she like "oh heck! Can't stop the spinerrettes!" -- No idea.

So many questions, Emily. I wish I knew what you were up to.




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George is back [Jul. 3rd, 2015|11:45 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |buffie st. marie]

No fanfaire, George just showed up again. No idea where he's been.

He's back to splitting babysitting, or eggsitting duties with Emily.

The other night George caught a beetle I can't ID -- any thoughts? You have no idea just how varied the insect kingdom is until you start paying attention to a spiders web and realize that you've never seen ANYTHING that she catches before.

He's about 1/3 the size of Emily and you will notice that his pedipalps are larger.

Yesterday while cleaning the house a fly was killed (by me), it was a gigantic thing and I thought "why not recycle it?" so I tossed it into Emily's web and she Freaked Out, screaming "Godzilla attack!" she ran off to a corner of the roof. Later she came back and cut the fly out of her web and threw it on the ground like a petulant child. I've decided not to try and be helpful anymore.



[photos of George the spider and his dinner behind this cut]





George finds a beetle. You may clickenzee to embiggen!






George finds a beetle. You may clickenzee to embiggen!












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Tall Ships and History [Jun. 29th, 2015|06:55 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

So the Tall Ships came to Philadelphia last week. One of them was a French ship named L'Hermione which is a recreation of one of the ships that belonged to the Marquis de Lafayette, who, if you remember your American History, arrived in the colonies in 1777 and proceeded to save our bacon from the English with all his tactics and genius. He was 19 years old at the time and wildly popular with ... everybody. L'Hermione (the recreation of it) took 17 years to build, with the express purpose of sailing from France to America to deliver us Lafayette -- or at least someone playing Lafayette.

trillian_stars who is in on the ground floor of these things, told me that her friend, John Lopes, who plays General Washington was taking Layafette out for dinner after the arrived in Philly and they did their thing on the tall ships. SWEET BARKING CHEESE! HOW DO WE INVITE OURSELVES TO THIS?!? I wanted to know. I seriously wanted to be a fly on the wall of conversations between learned scholars who spent their lives figuring out what Washington and Layafette would have said to one another.

And, since Washington and Elizabeth Powel were BFF's (According to historian Richard Beeman: "there was certainly no one in Philadelphia… whose company Washington enjoyed more" than Elizabeth Powel") and I knew Eliza Powel (or at least the woman who plays her on TV) I thought it would be nice to get them all over to the Powel house (which still exists as a museum) and photograph something that might have happened right around this time in 1777 and then, you know, casually suggest that since we had such a good time taking photos that I should get to go along for dinner..... Which left convincing the Powel House that they should let us in for 20 minutes after hours and that I'd be really fast and that I wouldn't break anything and that I'd send them copies of the photos after. (One of the big lessons I learned from Mary Ellen Mark is that photography isn't about f-stops and shutter speeds, it's about being able to talk to people. It doesn't matter how great a camera you have if you can't talk a historical landmark into staying open late so you can bring some people in costume in to use their museum as a set.) The Powel house was super nice about it and they sent someone to let us in and we did some quick photos. The best part was that they all talked like they would have talked had they been in that situation, so the Marquis told a very funny story about Marie Antoinette and how she stopped a ball to point and laugh at him because he couldn't dance very well and everybody laughed and I, for a brief moment found myself peering through a hole in time to something that might have happened in that very spot.

(Photo Geekery: I shot this with a Leica M9 and a 35mm f1.7 lens using all available light, plus the skills that I picked up from Mary Ellen.)

Then we all went out to National Mechanics and met some of the crew of L'Hermione who didn't speak English (but Layafette did of course) and had a splendid time.

That was our Friday. How was yours?




Layafette plots with General Washingon. Mrs. Powel enters the room.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!







Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, Marquis de Lafayette,
The 19 year old Major General with no troops or battle experience, won over not just
General Washington, but Hamilton, Jefferson, and all of Philadelphia society.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!






Layafette, Elizabeth Powel and General Washington.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!






The Powel's ballroom, which celebrated all of Philadelphia society, exists as it did in 1777.
Something very much like this probably actually happened.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!






Spying on the Chew family who lived next door.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!






Behind the scenes photo by Mickey Herr from Philadelphia Landmarks
who was kind enough to let us into the museum.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!







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Spider happenings [Jun. 26th, 2015|06:09 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |sad for george]

George is gone. I haven't seen him in days. He's gone missing before but returned -- and by "missing" -- he might have moved a foot into the rafters and then back, but no. Emily's in the web by herself now. All the spider experts have told me that females don't eat the males so I've no idea what happened to him. No real idea what eats spiders either. There are plenty of possibilities -- someone walked past while he was dangling on a thread and they carted him off on their clothes -- he fell off the web and is now making new webs somewhere by my feet -- he wandered out ... But anyway -- Emily is a single mother.

I find myself oddly saddened by this. I was a little attached to this spider I'd anthropomorphized into some unlucky guy who couldn't catch a fly, who built his webs in crappy places where no bugs went who was just waiting his opportunity to be a dad.

Emily, on the other hand, is still performing like gangbusters. The other night I was standing on a chair watching her when some insect flew into her web. She was already eating something in a silk feedbag she was holding in her mouth but that didn't stop her from pouncing on this thing and wrapping it up.

She's very elegant, and yet mechanical and also precise. All of her eyes are on the top of her head and she's doing all this wrapping by feel.

[nice photo behind this cut.]



Clickenzee to figure out what this is that Emily's eating.



I read online on io9 that hackled orb-weavers will wrap their prey in more than 450 feet of silk.





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This is Not a Fitness Blog: You Win Some, You Lose Some [Jun. 25th, 2015|07:03 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

I've run the Oddyssey Half Marathon twice before. (2013 race recap here. The next year I finished 40 minutes faster in one hour fifty-seven minutes.) It's a great race, if your understanding of "great" means "it has lots of hills and it's in the middle of the summer where you will bake like a pie". But it is fun and pretty and people often wear costumes doing it. This year I decided a while back that I wasn't going to kill myself running it because it's in the middle of the freaking summer and that's awful. Lately trillian_stars has been watching this TV show called "Outlander" where everybody wears knitted things and makes outlandish decisions and the "hero" is a dude in a kilt named Jamie Frasier. I told Trillian that if she came out and watched the race, I'd shave my beard, dress up as Jamie Frasier and run the whole thing in a kilt and long sleeved shirt. (You may think this erases any benefit you might get from running the race "slow" and you would be right.) Oddyssey isn't Oddyseey unless you're suffering -- which is why it's in the middle of the summer. The only goals I had really were to finish respectably under two hours and I wanted to sprint up the giant hill at the end. It had totally wrecked me the first two times and I wanted to have enough steam left to charge up the hill yodeling a battle-cry.

To make things more ridiculous I signed Trillian and myself up for a 5k race the day before.

Things were going well until two days before the race when I injured myself in a completely inheroic way. I was loading the dishwasher when I felt this searing pain across my tramp-stamp area, like my spine had become disconnected from my pelvis. Like, serious, incredible, stabbing pain. I couldn't stand up. All I could do was lay on the floor for a while feeling very old and doomed. I was seriously worried that I'd completely screwed my race. I managed to get up after a while and found that it only hurt when I bent. Left, right, forward, backward, searing pain. But standing up and laying down, I was mostly fine. I couldn't sit in a chair, but I could lay in bed.

I went to bed early and nothing had changed by Saturday morning. I decided to try and run the 5k slowly to see if it would be possible to still do the half marathon. I was mostly fine walking, so who knows.

Saturday's race was hot and miserable but they'd turned all the fire hydrants on, so every half mile or so, there was glorious rain. Trillian ran it with me in the event that I collapsed and died she could point and laugh.




Hot, wet, slow 5k



I did the 5k in 35 minutes mostly pain freeish. That's about 11 minutes slower than my normal 5k and like 15 minutes slower than my best. I figured I coud do Oddyssey. Or, at the very least, I'd just stop at one of the aid stations and the medics would have something to do.




My favorite costume. You may clickenzee to embiggen!



It was brutally hot and the start was moved from 7:00 to 7:30 because some technical problems kept a few hundred runners from getting to the start on time. Every minute the sun got higher, it got worse. Finally the race started. I ran slow, then I ran slower and around mile 10 I pretty much gave up and ran even slower. If I ran bolt upright I was ok, but anytime my form started to collapse and I leaned forward or slumped, the dagger shot up my back. I finished in two hours and five minutes, which is six minutes slower than I'd hoped to do, but still 30 minutes faster than my first half marathon.




Jamie Frasier is Finished! Clickenzee to Embiggen!



I got home by 10 am. Took a glorious hot bath and I've been standing up ever since.

Back hasn't gotten better. I have a doctors appointment (July 10th). My insurance company's healthcare plan is to cleverly schedule appointments so far in the future that their patients are dead or healed by they time it comes around and nothing needs to be done.

How's your week been?

(Also, if you're one of the millions of people dealing with chronic pain, I'd love to hear your story.)




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In which Runner's World steals my free photo [Jun. 23rd, 2015|08:14 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |oh the humanity!]

***EDIT*** Eight minutes after I posted this to Twitter and after a quick firestorm of retweets, Runner's World added my credit & apologized for the oversight. The benefits of having a big voice on the Internet. ***EDIT***


I noticed last night that Runner's World was using one of my photos (I noticed this because I subscribe to their magazine and I follow them on twitter.) The photo they're using is one I put in the Creative Commons, so it's great they're using it. But clicking on the article, I see they didn't bother to credit me. Seriously, like the meme says YOU HAD ONE JOB.

How hard is it to type "Thanks to Kyle for letting us use this free photo". (Hint: not hard, I just did it.) The big problem is that if people, like Runner's World, DON'T do this, then nobody is incentivized to let people use their photos for free and the people who suffer are the bloggers & schools & libraries that rely on the creative commons. Just BE NICE people and the wheel keeps turning. That's all that's required.





Clickenzee to Embiggen!






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It's not all spiders [Jun. 20th, 2015|09:14 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Today I photographed an event at one of the West Philadelphia libraries and I heard songwriter & record producer Keith Pelzer say the wisest thing I've heard in a long time ... which was "Do not confuse success with significance."

That's the warning label I want to see on every issue of People magazine.




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Stabilimenta: Emily the Spider Artist [Jun. 18th, 2015|10:23 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

A few interesting things happened since Emily picked up shop, moved over by George and laid her eggs.

One is that her web spinning has changed. She moved from the top of the screen where she'd been making webs about six inches across that looked like a tangle of hair you'd find in the drain. But now she's moved over by a wall and begun spinning proper orbs. Her most recent web is three feet across and looks like birds have been flying through it all day. There are several large holes where, I'm guessing, large insects have collided with it and either escaped or been eaten.

I'd thought she was rebuilding her web every day, but I'm not sure. Her current one has sustained a lot of damage and I think it may be several days old. I've started mapping the holes so I can better tell what's been rebuilt and what's brand new. Her web is very difficult to see during the day. It's easier at night with a flashlight to see the individual strands of silk that make it up.

But on to the topic at hand....

One really interesting thing is that she's started creating "stabilimenta" or web decorations. The word comes from the original belief that the designs were meant to make the web stronger. Scientists don't think that's what they're for anymore, but nobody is really sure why some spiders draw designs on their webs, though there are some theories.

E.B. White apparently spent a lot of time reading about this and bugging araneologists about it while researching Charlotte's Web and by the number of spider experts who quote him in the introductions to their books, he got a lot of things right.

So that those of you afraid to click on the lj-cut for fear of seeing a spider, (no matter how cute) I've made an edited version that I'll put here in front of the cut so you can see how cool what she's doing is.



Some of Emily's web art. Spider replaced with non-threatening artwork for the spiderphobic. Uncensored photos behind the cut.


Any thoughts on why she's drawing things?

[photos of Emily and her web art behind this cut]




Emily's artwork! Clickenzee to Embiggen!






Emily celebrating her art opening with a tasty fly. Clickenzee to Embiggen!







Emily's art. Clickenzee to Embiggen!






Some spiders have up to six different types of silk to choose from and choose the silk used for their artwork very carefully. I believe Emily, being a hackled-web spider has only one variety of silk, cribellate, which is not sticky.

Entemologists please chime in.




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Behind the Scenes Spider Photography Primer [Jun. 17th, 2015|06:34 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |emigrate: baby]

Since a lot of people asked, here's the behind the scenes on how I'm photographing Emily and George.

Initially I was using a Nikon d800 and a 100mm 1:1 macro because that gave me a 36 megapixel image and the 1:1 macro means objects are the same size in real life as they are on the film (aka "sensor) so I'd get the absolute best opportunity for enlargements. The problem with this though was that looking through the eye-level finder it was extremely difficult to focus. Especially if I was holding a light in the other hand. Mounting the light on a stand frees up a hand, but then moving the light even a small amount becomes a chore.

So I tried switching to the Lumix GX7, which is a 16 megapixel micro four thirds camera, and the Leica 45mm f2.8 macro lens, which is also 1:1. The Leica lens has auto-focus which I thought might help, I quickly discovered that the lens just hunts, zooming back and forth before finally settling on some bit of wall two feet away. Even less useful. However, setting the focus manually and using the articulated rear screen to focus by moving the camera forward and backward worked. This is the setup I eventually stayed with.




It doesn't matter what flash you're using as long as you can get it
off the axis of your camera (with a wire, or wirelessly) and that
you can adjust the power of it. Getting an expensive flash won't add
anything to this setup.



One thing about macro photography is that at wide apertures your depth of field is microscopic, which means you may have one eyeball in focus but not two. In order to increase the depth of field (the depth of space that's in focus from the plane of the film) you need to lower your aperture (the control that lets more or less light into the camera) and in order to do that, you need more light. And the easiest way to get more light is to bring your own. So I'm using a flash tethered to the camera's hot-shoe with a cable. You could also use a wireless system if you'd like.




Photographing spiders with a Panasonic Lumix G7 and an off camera flash.
Clickenzee to Embiggen!



I'm also using a second piece of equipment; a flash diffuser. The sharpness of shadows are controlled by two things 1) the size of the illumination source and it's distance from the camera. The larger and closer the source of illumination the softer the shadows will be (on a sunny day, your shadow is razor sharp, when the source of illumination is the sun, which you could cover with your thumb, and on an overcast day you can't even see your shadow because the source of illumination is the clouds which stretch as far as you can see).

You can get all sorts of flash diffusers, from umbrellas to softboxes to beauty dishes, and you can spend a ton of money on them. I'm using a reusable grocery bag from Instacart, I just hold it over the flash and it more or less keeps its shape. The source of illumination is this ball of cloth now and not the very thin bulb of the flash.





Clickenzee to Embiggen the Spideybox!



Example photos and more tutorial [behind this cut because there are spider photos]

Here's a shot with the flash diffuser, I think the soft light makes the spiders look more friendly. There's an even illumination over everything. The softbox cuts down on the flash power, meaning that you have to open up your aperture a bit, so the depth of field is usually shallower than with a direct flash (though you can increase the power of the flash as well). I tend to usually go with wider apertures when I'm using the softbox because the out of focus areas I think also help make everything look friendlier.

Key thing: If the eyes aren't in focus, your photo is going to have less impact (unless your photo is highlighting something else, like spinnerettes) so pay attention to the eyes.




With the spidey softbox, clickenzee to embiggen!




The background in the place Emily & George have set up their web isn't very interesting, it's particle board, blah. It would be nice if it was some green field, but that would up emily's chance of being eaten by a bird and who want's that? One thing you can do do de-emphasize a background is only light your subject. Here I'm doing it with a direct flash




Without spidey softbox, clickenzee to embiggen!



The direct flash hits the spider and the web more than it does the background, giving greater contrast, so use this if you're highlighting webs. It also gives a greater sense of drama. Shadows are also useful for helping to see thing, sometimes sharp shadows across an object give you a much better idea of the texture of that object than a softly lit photo would.



And that's that. Feel free to post your questions or your own bug photos in the comments.





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Big Spider News! [Jun. 15th, 2015|07:02 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |hennepin chirping]

So!

A few days ago several things happened. One, Emily vanished and two, George caught something big in his web.

I was very concerned about Emily, she hadn't been spinning webs for a while, opting instead to just hang on one small patch without moving. I got a flashlight and Roswell and I went over every square inch of the porch (Roswell assisted chiefly by chasing down and eating a large moth that looked like a piece of bark). I was worried that Emily had gone outside where it would be very difficult for me to find her and where it would also be a lot easier for something to eat her.

After an hour and a half I gave up and, with great sadness, went and took some photos of whatever it was George had in his web. It was leaf shaped and thick in the center, sort of like an irregular flying saucer.

Emily and George with their eggs, behind this cutCollapse )


While I was doing this, I saw little feet moving behind whatever it was -- Emily was on top! cocooning it in silk! Wot Wot? I ran inside and googled "feather legged orb weaver egg sac". Boom, a photo popped up of exactly the thing I was looking at. I went back and examined very closely the things that I had thought were her eggs, they were small, onion shaped, and under extreme magnification I could see there was a tiny hole in each of them -- whatever was in them had already hatched. Like the Nazi's at Tannis, I'd been digging in the wrong place.

Over the course of the next day or so she made three egg sacks, all leaf shaped and fat in the middle, hanging around the web in a circle. Sometimes I'd come out to find her sitting on one, and other times I'd come out and find George sitting on one. I'm not sure if they were actually doing anything intentions by sitting on them (i.e. guarding them) or if it's just a nice spot in the web to sit in.

I also can't tell if they have two webs near one another, or one web they're sharing, but she moved several feet to be closer to him.

I still haven't been able to find a good book about Uloborus spiders, so I'm mostly in the dark as to what's going on. Will her eggs hatch soon? Or will they over-winter? Are there things that eat Uloborus eggs that I should be watching out for? What will the little spiderlings eat? How many babies will she have? Will I need to buy glasses for a two hundred kids with eight eyes each?

Who knows.





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Learn About Spider Body Parts with Emily the Spider! [Jun. 12th, 2015|02:33 am]
kyle cassidy
[music |100 period drama movie trailers ]

What's the difference between an opisthosoma and a cephalothorax? What things do you and spiders share in common?! Emily explains what some of her body parts are and what they do in a photo

behind this cut!Collapse )





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Big Spider News! (Not a Big Spider, but Big News About a Small Spider) [Jun. 11th, 2015|05:13 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |emigrate: babe]

Early morning, sitting on the porch with the spiders.

I sent some photos of Emily and George to Dr. Jerome Rovner from the American Arachnological Association and he wrote back that I had mis-identified her as a branch-tip spider.

Emily is a hackled orbweaver, specifically Uloborus glomosus the featherlegged orbweaver. Which sounds like the name of a sword from Tolkien:

Elrond looked up, his brow furrowed "This blade the runes name Uloborus glomosus the featherlegged orbweaver. Keep it well."

"I shall wear this with honor!" replied Thorin.



I have learned some really interesting things -- specifically that Uloborus is the only family of non-venomous spiders -- Emily and George have no venom glands -- they kill their prey rather by constriction, wrapping it up tightly in silk. And also that the cribellate spiders, of which Emily is one, are what is know as "hackled web spiders" -- their silk is not sticky, may be the reason why her web is a total mess and not some fancy geometric pattern -- it's more of a net than a tar pit. When something flies into it, it gets tangled, not stuck, and she has to leap on it and wrap it up before it escapes (this crazy procedure I was lucky enough to see a few days ago.) There's also some amazing science-stuff that I've read about the hackled web silk that I'll post later.

Also, another entemologist known as Dr. Bug wrote to tell me that as Uloborids provide parental care, including the male, and the big news is that George and Emily will move into a web together once the spiderlings appear and raise them together!

I'm not sure why the thought of a two parent household fills me with joy -- probably mostly because I like the idea that George isn't a deadbeat, even if he's useless at catching flies. I also like the thought that tiny little babies aren't left alone in the world to be eaten, but that their parents look out for them.

(Also, since people seemed concerned in the comments, Dr. Bug said that apart from Black Widows, female spiders do not eat their mates, and among Black Widows, it rarely happens outside of a laboratory.)


click here to see Emily stop a fly from getting into our house.Collapse )






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Geek Knits: Behind the Scenes [Jun. 8th, 2015|11:52 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

One of the most difficult things about working on Top Sekrit Projekts is that while you're working on them, you can't really tell anybody about them and you do your thing, and you make the thing that's exciting and interesting and that you're bursting with pride over and then you have to sit on it for a year.

I'm glad Geek Knits is out and I can finally start telling people about it.

When Joan and I decided to do this book together (or when she decided I could work on it with her), Neil was one of the first people we thought of to be in it and he said "of course" without pause, because he's that kind of guy.

Joan had come up with two things for him to model, a deerstalker Sherlock Holmes hat and a black scarf.




From Geek Knits. Clickenzee to Embiggen!



(Get a copy of Geek Knits here.)


It worked out that Amanda wanted to do a whole bunch of publicity photos at once that she could use for the next tour so trillian_stars and I went up for the weekend, right around Christmas of 2013. It seems so long ago now, and it was. Neil and Amanda were living in Boston at the time and it conveniently snowed, creating a winter wonderland perfect for hats and scarves.

We did the Geek Knits photos right at sundown. Photo geekery: I shot with a Nikon d800 and a 50mm f1.8 lens with an sb800 flash off camera (which I used for some and not for others).




Clickenzee to embiggen the outtake!



It was a lovely leisurely weekend. We built a snowman, we sat around and read books, Neil read us stories.




Clickenzee to embiggen the AFP!



We talked about where our lives were going, we went jogging. Amanda and I have managed to keep a close friendship for fifteen years based on stolen moments back stage, social media, and the occasional times that our schedules allow things like this; and they're luxurious, rarefied days.




Clicenzee to embiggen the everything!



Amanda had somehow wrangled the use of a restaurant, the whole thing, for some period of time and we did a whole lot of publicity photos that are just now starting to bubble to the surface.

(as far as I know, this one hasn't shown up anywhere yet)




Clickenzee to embiggen!



They were moving out of the house that week and a lot of their stuff was in boxes and they were a bit sad, but a bit excited about what was happening next. Trillian and I packed up our scarf and our hat and the memory of three days off where we actually accomplished a lot of work and we got on a plane and came home. A year and a half went by, and Geek Knits came out on June 1, and shot to #1 on the knitting charts (look ma, I've got a best selling knitting book!)

I'm proud of Joan, I'm happy to have been able to work on this book, I'm excited to see what people will do with it, and I'm also really excited because now I can finally talk about all these photo shoots.






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Emily the Spider update [Jun. 7th, 2015|05:36 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |emigrate: babe]

Today was an interesting day in spider news. Emily's web is gone. Zup. Vanished. Emily's still in the same spot but both her original and her replacement webs are now gone. Does she still eat? Is she waiting for something to come by so she can grab it? I've no idea.

I did manage to set up a tripod and get closer to her than I ever did before (part of this is on account of my next door neighbors throwing out a milk crate that I can now stand on and get closer to her).

And upon examining the super-close close-ups I discovered that the tips of her legs are rainbow colored. Cute, adorbs, dainty little rainbow feet.

Not sure what she's going to do next -- if she got rid of her web herself or if something else tore down, or ate it. I'll let you know what happens.

I shot this one with a micro four-thirds Panasonic Lumix GX1 and a Leica 45mm f2.8 macro lens.

super closeup of Emily, her rainbow colored feet and her little eyes behind this cutCollapse )








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Emily's Fascinating World [Jun. 6th, 2015|10:55 am]
kyle cassidy
[Tags|]
[Current Location |the antipodes]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Emigrate: Let Me Break]

I got home from #DrinkBeerSaveCats, the City Kitties fundraiser late last night and decided to check on Emily just before I went to bed.

The instant I turned my flashlight on Emily shot across her web with a jangled gait and pounced on a fly which had smacked into it at that very second. She moved fast and with great determination and mechanical precision. In a fraction of a second she was on the fly, had bitten it and was looping ribbon after ribbon of silk over it, twirling it around as she did, like someone solving a Rubik's Cube. It took me maybe 45 seconds to get my camera up and focused and by that time she was nearly done wrapping it.

One amazing thing is that she had something in her pedipalps already, the last bits of something she'd been "sucking on like a frappacino" to quote someone in the LJ comments. She stashed the new fly in a far corner of the web and went back to the spot that she's been sitting in.

Everything about her fascinates me -- why does she sit in that spot? Why did she abandon her previous web and move five inches to the left? How does she know what she's caught in her web isn't dangerous? Would she ever run away rather than toward? What's going to happen when her babies are born? Does she check on them? Will they find her?

I've noticed there are a number of very, very small insects stuck in her web that she seems to ignore, but they're probably baby spider size. Will she share her food with her babies?

I need to find a book about branch-tip spiders.


George's life, possibly due to his ineptitude at finding a high traffic area for his web, remains uneventful.


photo of Emily and her fly behind this cutCollapse )





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How big is Emily? [Jun. 2nd, 2015|08:06 pm]
kyle cassidy
[Current Location |the antipodes]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |alice cooper: welcome to my nightmare]

So, a lot of people trying to help figure out what Emily caught last night wrote to ask how big she is, and I realized I've never really said. She's tiny. Here she is next to a pencil eraser.

Emily"s behind this cut!Collapse )


Emily had gone a couple of days without eating (or moving) and I was getting worried, but she got that large moth last night and when I checked on her again this evening, she'd not only finished the moth, completely, she'd caught a leaf hopper of some sort and was actively cocooning it. I got possibly the worst photo I'm capable of taking of her spinnerets. You'd think I'd have this all figured out by now. Alas.

Anyway, I did get a good photo of her with the leaf hopper which you can see behind THIS cut so I don"t get spider hate-mailCollapse )
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What is Emily the spider having for dinner? [Jun. 2nd, 2015|01:02 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

In Emily news, over the past few days she's moved out of her web (which has always been a disaster) and has taken up a position about four inches away from it. I'm not sure if she's still going over to the web to get food or if she's trying something else. After a week or so of averaging a fly a day, she hadn't eaten in three or four days.

Tonight she caught a GIANT insect. I thought at first that it was a moth, but the more I look at it, the more it appears to have translucent wings. It has a giant eye it seems -- though that could possibly be a carapace. NOT SURE. Anyway, George, who I haven't been observing for very long, caught some sort of fly and his abdomen seems to have gotten significantly larger after eating it. I'd initially thought that another female had chased him out of his web, but then comparing the overall size of him and Emily, she's twice as large, I realized that it's probably just George, getting healthy.

Any thoughts on what Emily's eating?

photos behind this cutCollapse )







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Spider News: Introducing George! [May. 30th, 2015|12:18 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |audio of mary ellen mark talking about photography]

Sooooo ... I was reading about Branch Tip Spiders in the field guide to spiders and insects and there wasn't really much (and I couldn't find a whole lot on the Interwebs either) but there was one thing I found that said something like "interestingly, both the male and the female Branch Tip Spiders will remain close to the eggs after they have been laid to protect the young" (AND, also that the spiderlings will often hang out in mom's web all summer and then over-winter together) ... anyway, I thought it was nice that they shared the child rearing responsiblities so Roswell and I went out on the porch at 5 am with a flashlight and searched it inch by inch, and low and behold, just about two feet from Emily's egg sacks, we found George.

He's about 1/2 her size or smaller, with a much less pronounced body, but he's there, looking out for things that would bother the bubs.

Photos of George behind this cut!Collapse )





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Emily the Spider [May. 28th, 2015|07:11 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |walter sickert and the army of broken toys: soldiers home]

Last year we had a cabinet spider and her adorable children. Posting photos of them caused a mass-unfriending the likes of which the world has never before scene. This year, we were super excited when Emily the Branch Tip spider set up house on our back porch. She spins a web that looks like a fraternity built it and then had a party in it, it's a giant mess, occasionally there's just a big glob of aimless silk, but it works for her. She averages one fly a day and I started taking photos of her every day.

Emily is a tiny thing, smaller than a pencil eraser and I find it amazing that she's alive and performing her miraculous work, spinning webs and catching flies that are the same size as her. And on the other hand I'm glad that I'm not four millimeters tall because the world is a terrible, terrible place if you're small. There are venomous monsters that will bite you, wrap you in silk and suck your insides out.

But I'm a giant.

To avoid the spider fiasco of last year, I've put this first photo of Emily and a captured fly behind this cutCollapse )




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Mary Ellen Mark: March 20, 1940 - May 25, 2015 [May. 27th, 2015|07:07 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |sad but grateful]


Mary Ellen Mark
March 20, 1940 - May 25, 2015



Click to see this larger.




Mary Ellen Mark was the first person who told me that my photographs were terrible. That was in 1999. I’d been thinking for years that they were pretty good and I’d gotten a whole bunch of gallery shows, but Mary Ellen tore them down and she was absolutely right. I’ve learned over the years that criticism comes in two forms, praise and growth, and there’s a time for each. Mary Ellen was the first person whose criticism made me seriously grow as an artist. I’d learned things that needed to be torn down and built up again. It's certainly true that I wouldn't be where I am today without her influence.

I learned a lot from her, but primarily, I think, five things:

1) “No” means that you haven’t asked the right person. I was her assistant in 1999 while she was teaching a documentary photography class and then again in 2000 or 2001 (I forget). Students would go out and shoot during the day, they'd drop off their film then we’d meet in the morning and go over everybody’s photos. At the end of the first day she sent me out to a local 1 hour lab to tell them we’d be dropping off a hundred or more rolls of film at 5:00 and we needed them at 8:00 in the morning. The manager told me they closed at 8:00pm and they’d be able to do a few by closing and the rest sometime during the following day. I called Mary Ellen at her hotel and told her and she said “no, that’s not how it’s going to happen. Find the district manager and tell them we need this film processed printed and returned by 8:00 am every day.” And that was it, she hung up. So I found the district manager and the store stayed open until midnight every night to process our film, I'd stay there waiting for it to be done and each morning there was a review of the previous days photographs. It make me realize that everything is negotiable.

2) Photography isn’t about f-stops and lenses, it’s about being able to talk to people. Whether that’s saying “I’d like to make a photograph of you” or “I’d like to get up on the roof of your building”, the technical aspect of photography is only part of it, and it’s the easy part and many times the least important part. It's really easy to accumulate a lot of gear instead of working to be a better artist. She sent the students out to street corners and told them to get someone to invite them into their house to photograph them. The students made friends, they built relationships, they got in people's lives and they produced amazing work. That was a huge eye opener for me.

3) A photograph has to be able to stand on its own without text. You can add text to a photo, but the photo itself has to be good enough that you’d hang it on the wall if the caption was missing because some day it may exist as an artifact without its context and when it's hanging on a wall someone needs to be captivated by it in passing, without knowing any of the back story. All of her photographs work like that. You don’t need to know that someone’s a movie star or someone’s a prostitute or someone else just won a mustache contest, they’re all beautiful images first. She did enduring and beautiful portraits of celebrities and the same for people who weren't. In the years before reality television she taught us that everybody has a compelling story and everybody deserves the chance to have their story told.

4) Leave decisions to the viewer, don’t editorialize in camera. People shouldn’t be able to tell whether or not you like the person you’re photographing, they should think only that your pictures are good. She made me realize that people aren't cartoons. That nobody wakes up in the morning thinking "Today I'm going to wreck the world" -- everybody wakes up thinking that they're doing good.

5) Things are easier when you have a guide. I learned to look for someone on the inside to make introductions for you. Finding the right person at the start is important and can save you a lot of time. But Mary Ellen didn't always do this herself, she had an amazing ability to just walk into a place and be accepted. She has an amazing photo of a party at spring break which I asked her about once. She said she was walking along the beach and heard a party happening in an apartment, so she just walked in and photographed the party -- AND she got everybody there to sign a model release. I was always interested in her Behind the Scenes because how she got the photos was often as unbelievable as the photos themselves.

As a photographer Mary Ellen was tenacious, as a person she was kind, and as a mentor she was honest. She and her husband, filmmaker Martin Bell were always generous to me, recommending me to magazines, plugging my books, inviting me to parties and introducing me to people. (She would often introduce me by saying: "This is the weirdest photographer you'll ever meet. He's good, but he's weird. Aren't you?") In my office now there's a giant box with a copy of the Bed Song Book in it addressed to them. It's been sitting here for months. I kept thinking "ah, it's too heavy to carry to the post office today." I'm sad she didn't get to see it, I'm sad I thought she'd be around forever and that I acted like there'd always be tomorrow. She did get to see my librarian portraits and I'm glad for that. I want to live up to her expectations.

She loved animals. She once rescued a dog that someone was going to shoot and gave it to a movie star. That dog had no idea how lucky he was, but I know how lucky I was; she changed my life just as much.






She hated digital cameras and she hated selfies. I once asked if I could take a portrait of her and she said "Only if you use film." She thought that a Hasselblad and an off-camera flash was a perfectly reasonable rig for street photography. She cared about the people she photographed, maybe that's the most important thing she taught me.





Photo by Bernard Delgado taken properly, with a Leica.





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2015 Broad Street Run Recap [May. 22nd, 2015|06:21 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]




This is not a foot blog
.


When I was in college there was this guy who lived across the quad from me that everybody called Dave the Deadhead -- he liked the Grateful Dead. A lot. He was an unusual character who'd occasionally do things like bring every piece of furniture out of his apartment and set it up in the middle of the lawn -- carpets, lamps, sofas, the TV and sit there playing the guitar and baking like a pie in the sun -- he was that sort of eccentric.

He once told me that he'd taken LSD at a Grateful Dead concert and freaked out because there were too many people around him. Someone tried to calm him down by having him sit down on the ground and when he did he said "That's when I noticed -- THERE WERE TWICE AS MANY LEGS!"

Occasionally, when I'm in a crowd I'll think back to that story. I'd never thought before about looking at a crowd from it's shoes, but it's evident when you're at a giant race and you stop looking at people as faces and start looking at them as shoes, it's evident that there's something different about this crowd.




At the start
.


This was my third time running Broad Street, Philadelphia's signature 10 mile run and this time was different.

In 2013 I struggled to finish in 1:52:42 and I passed out after I crossed the finish line, and then again about 40 minutes later, that's how much it took out of me.

The second year I knocked almost half an hour off my time and didn't faint, that's what a year of running did in the interim. This time I had loftier goals I was in the purple corral this year, right up in front with the fast kids.




Panorama from the purple corral.
You may clickenzee to embiggen.


There are 40,000 people who run Broad Street and starting them off properly so they don't run one another down is a science. Runners are "seeded" by their projected finish times. In theory, nobody passes anybody in the race, your bib number is your projected finishing position. The people in the slowest corrals might not start until half an hour before the fastest runners have taken off, (and it's possible that some people might not start until after the winner has actually crossed the finish line ten miles away.) That's theory though, it doesn't always work like that. Some people get lost and wander into a faster corral, others have no idea how long it will take them to finish and just guess, and still others pick faster corrals because they don't like waiting around. Depending on where you start out, your first three miles might be little but shouting "excuse me!" as you squeeze through optimistically seeded runners. It's a big complaint. But all that only really matters if you're trying to get, or beat, a specific time. If you're just out there to have fun, what's time matter? You're there.

I've found that the better I get at running, the more important it is for me to do it well, but at the same time, I don't want to get so serious that I stop having fun.

One of my friends missed his Boston Marathon finishing time by eight seconds and told me it was the most staggering defeat of his running career, that the failure consumed him for a year, maybe even more.

I get annoyed when people put themselves in the wrong corral and start walking in the first three miles, but I don't want to get to the point where I'm crushed by not making a time. This is exactly why I will never be a really good runner. (This was underscored for me at last year's Philadelphia Half Marathon where two guys in front of me were saying that they didn't stop to urinate, they just ... went. I realized then that I lacked sufficient dedication to be really fast.)

All that said, the race started, I started about five minutes behind the first group of runners. Speakers blared the Rocky theme, we went off -- I saw the mayor hi-5ing people and I locked myself in to a 7:55 pace, slightly aggressive. My goal was to do 8:00's, but I was ready to try 7:35 if my body was willing, but I'd promised myself that I'd hold back this time. My mantra was "you cannot bank time" -- usually I go out too fast and burn out somewhere about 3/4 of the way in.

7:55 felt comfortable and I felt amazing -- because just two years before I'd run it in 11 minute miles and passed out after I crossed the finish line and here I was, speeding along and feeling like this was a reasonable pace.

A mile in former Philadelphia Mayor and former Pennsylvania governor (they're the same person) Ed Rendell, hi-5ed me at a water station.

One of the really great things about Broad Street is that there are people cheering the entire ten miles, which really gives you a boost.

trillian_stars surprised me at mile six, just at city hall waving and jumping in the air -- she had a rehseal that day for Don Quixote and I didn't think she was going to be able to see the race, but it got pushed back. Running is a pretty solitary sport and I don't imagine that it's really fun to watch -- you stand somewhere and watch ten thousand people huff and puff past, it must look pretty monotonous so when someone does come out just to watch you, it makes them a pretty special person.

At mile 7 I saw Eric Smith from Geekadelphia who was dressed up like ... gah, the techno band with the helmets ... it's not Aphex Twin ... someone will know in the comments.

Mile 7 was also where it stopped being fun, where 8 minute miles seemed too fast to keep up and I was ready for it to be over. I'd told myself that at mile 7 I was going to speed up and run the last three miles really hard -- this is called "negative splitting" -- when your last miles are faster than your first. It's considered the proper way to race. But at mile 7 I started making deals with myself "it's okay to slow down, you're not going to win."

One thing that running a lot does for you is make you more able to deal with pain. You can suck it up better and afterwards it does seem like the really painful parts evaporate more quickly from your memory.

At this point anyway, the finish was only 5k away and after you've been running for a while, you can put up with anything for 5k. And so you grind on, boats into the night and all that and eventually it's over.




Finished! Clickenzee to see the sweat up close!


I met up with the West Philly Runners and we ate our banannas and our potato chips and whatever else was in the bag of food they give you at the end and I was happy for the journey, moreso than the result, I was happy for the experiences I'd had with these people, the kindnesses they'd shared with me and the comrade.




I owe it all to these guys. Well, most of it anyway.
You may clickenzee to embiggen the West Philly Runners



I hosted the party this year, the house and the back yard filled up with people, we cooked, we talked, we clanked around in our medals.




The medal, she opens the beers!
You may clickenzee to embiggen!


I was going to say a lot more, but theres so much else I haven't done and this is overdue. So I'll just say: I wish sports weren't controlled by jocks. I wish that I'd found some activity I liked doing a long time ago. I think the best solution to a bad habit is a good obsession ... that if losing weight is your goal, you're more likely to fail, because there's nothing to reward you after you've hit your number. Find something that you like doing that fitness is a byproduct of, it makes the rewards both real and sustainable. And also, as always, don't let someone tell you the way you are is wrong. You don't need a six pack or a 28 inch waist, you need to be happy.





Now is the time on Sproketz where we count our toenails



My Broad Street Run total times and paces (miles per minute) for the past three years:

2013: 1:52:42 11:01
2014: 1:24:29 8:26
2015: 1:20:58 8:05

There's nowhere to go next year but 7-something and that's ... scary.

Be well.




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dreams [May. 14th, 2015|08:22 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Ratt: Round and Round]

Just found this in my journal from November 26, 2013:


"4:14 AM, Dream I just woke up from: An 80's hair Heavy metal band hired me to take their photo. Hung out with them a while and eventually posed four of them up-front one of them having his make up put on with his eyes closed in the background and their drummer loading their gear into the van, with a lot of amps on a hand truck. I had fake amps made so he could carry more on the hand truck."




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Somewhere on the set of Vikings [May. 10th, 2015|12:10 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |vikings theme]

Several years ago, somewhere on the set of Vikings:

Actor: "Should we have accents? What's a viking accent?"
Dialogue coach: "Ah, yeah, good question -- how about everybody just talk weird, we'll see if that works."





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Cleaning up [Apr. 28th, 2015|10:16 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

I was cleaning up the living room tonight and realized I hadn't taken the telescope outside in a long time, mostly because I keep forgetting to get a wedge for it so I can mount it properly but the moon and Jupiter were right overhead and so I dragged it out into the back yard and I'm glad I did. Jupiter's Galilean moons looked spectacular and I could make out the banding on Jupiter clearly.

There are twelve Hasselblad cameras on the surface of the moon, someone needs to keep an eye on them.

I took a couple of half assed photos with the GX7 which mostly also only made me realize that I need to get a proper camera setup for the telescope too.

Procrastination done, I went back inside and ... typed this instead of finishing cleaning.




Jupiter and four moons, clickenzee to embiggen!






There's a moon in the sky, clickenzee to embiggen!







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In which I won an award (and another one (and part of another one)) [Apr. 28th, 2015|06:04 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

I got a surprise from the Philadelphia Weekly yesterday -- the 2015 Society of Professional Journalists awards had been announced and I'd been awarded first place in Sports Photography for a non-daily for my cover last year about the Broad Street Run, and on top of that, I shared a third place award with editor Stephen Segal for Tabloid Page Design for the cover of director, writer & musician Melvin Van Peebles (although I had nothing to do with the page design apart from taking the photo). In all, the Philly Weekly won 11 awards including a first place for Stephen in the category of Headline Writing for the article about the 6,500 year old mummy lost in an archeology museum for 83 years which I photographed.

This is all particularly poignant as I'm preparing to run Broad Street again this year. It's been a good twelve months.




Cover art. Clickenzee to embiggen!



You can read the behind the scenes from the photo shoot here

The actual awards ceremony is May 30th in Gettysburg PA. I'll get to wear my tuxedo again. I can't really express how nice it is to be recognized by my colleagues and how grateful I am to the Philly Weekly for a) submitting my work and b) not telling me that they did so I wouldn't be worrying about it.





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Noises Off [Apr. 27th, 2015|06:19 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Last Thursday was packed with activity which included going running with Christopher McDougall, the guy who wrote Born to Run and then watching some of the Penn Relays with the West Philly Runners and then in the middle of the freaking night, going over to Curio Theatre to photograph the poster for their new production of Noises Off, a farce in which many people run around in their underwear.

I got there at the end of a long rehearsal day when, I think, everybody was ready to go home (as was I) but the actors were all excited to see me and I felt a terrific invigoration. I'd worked with almost all of the cast before on various other projects and it felt more like coming home than going to work.

The big problem with a shot like this is always getting the whole cast on stage at once in places where they've all got reasons to be, and doing it all in 20 minutes.

I used a Leica M9 and a Voigtlander 28mm F2 lens and an off camera strobe through a 32 inch shoot through umbrella. If I'd had my druthers I would have used the 63 inch umbrella but I was carrying everything myself and it had been a long day.




Noises Off! Clickenzee to Embiggen!



Noises off opens May 8th in Philadelphia.






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Easy Eights [Apr. 19th, 2015|03:02 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

So, when Peter Sagal wrote "Time of the Ancient Mariner" in Runner's World in 2012, he talked about the difficulties of getting older and running and how, inevitably, you slow down ... unless ... you're willing to put in a monumental effort. That article talks about his monumental effort to set one final speed goal -- to fight back time -- just this once. It's a great article and I read it with interest. But in his marathon recap he talks about running "easy eights" for a while, meaning running eight minutes per mile (which I think is somewhere around 7.5 mph) and at the time I thought "Easy eights? Holy smokes, I'm trying to do easy tens." And Somehow that became a goal, to be able to run eight minute miles without effort.

In last year's Broad Street Run, I ran 8:22's and it felt awful the whole time, like I was pushing it and might puke. I later ran a half marathon in 8:20's and I'm hoping to run this year's Broad Street 10 miler in 8:00's -- or close to it.

This Sunday I did the 10km (6 mile) Donor Dash with a goal of running it in flat eights, no faster, no slower. Some running club buddies suggested that I was going out too fast and burning up and suggested I pick a race, pick a pace, and try and hit it like a machines.

And I did.





Donor Dash six miler in 7:58's and I felt great at the end.

So ... if the stars align, I think it's possible that I'll be able to do Broad Street in, perhaps not easy eights, but not exhausting eights. Peter also said something like "the goal shouldn't be to see how well you can do if you nearly kill yourself, it should be to see how well you can do without it being incredibly difficult" (I'm mangling his words, but something like that.)

I'd like to be faster, and I'd like to not look like a fish heaved up on the deck of a boat after I cross the finish line.

I fainted after my first Broad Street, twice.





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Elizabeth Powel has Entered the Building [Mar. 30th, 2015|09:18 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |proud. ]

So ... the cat's out of the bag and the secret's sprung and all of that so I can talk about this -- last week trillian_stars did the first two performances of her one woman interpretive show about Eliza Willing Powel, intellectual, socialite, and mother of the American Revolution. She was married to Samuel Powel, the last mayor of Philadelphia before the war and the first after it, and she was a close personal confidant of General, then President, George Washington and a number of the delegates to the Continental Congress.

Trillian's performance, titled "a moral dilemma" is based around a letter that Eliza sent to Washington which eventually convinced him to eschew retirement and accept a second term as President -- a move that perhaps saved the fledgling country from being a flash in the pan.

I nervously sneaked this panorama from somewhere in the middle of the audience.





Clickenzee to see ever larger and fuzzier!




and after the show, with Philadelphia's Theateratti




Clickenzee to Embiggen!



I quickly abandoned the after-show hobknobbing to savage the unguarded catering table downstairs, someone had to do it.






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It's all about the dress [Mar. 25th, 2015|06:21 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]





Elizabeth Willing Powel was a Philadelphia socialite, intellectual and moralist. Wife of the mayor of Philadelphia, she hosted out of state delegates in her home during the first Continental Congress and became a close confidant of George Washington. She is credited, among other things, with convincing Washington to accept a second term as president after he had decided to retire.






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I can't wait to do that again never. [Mar. 22nd, 2015|02:43 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Clan of Xymox: Farewell]

This is not a fitness blog, but I just ran 13 miles straight up hill.

My friend Paul found a half marathon in Delaware this weekend and I was thinking of going, until I noticed on the Interwebs that the Wissahickon Wanderers were having a FREE half marathon, WITH TIMING in the Wissahickon park. I've only gone trail running once, for three miles up on Belmont plateau and it was pretty nice so I figured "free seven miles from home tops $80 forty miles from home" and signed up for it.




Mid-race panorama. Clickenzee to see large & lovely.



I went with Jay Hiatt from the West Philly Runners, we'd scored two of the sixty advertised spots. It snowed like crazy the day before (ironically the first day of spring) and everything was beautiful, the trees were wonderously snow covered, the sun was coming up. It was lurvely. It looked like Narnia.



At the start. Photo by the Wissahickon Wanderers


The Wanderers were providing way more support than I'd expected, and way more than many races I've actually paid for; they had three water stops plus race photos, plus a really well marked trail, plus timing, plus post race food, seriously? For free? It was an auspicious beginning.




Into the woods. Clickenzee to embiggen



The race went off on a stretch of flat road for about 100 yards and then ducked up the side of a mountain (people who live on the side of K2 might call it a hill) and it was snow-covered and wonderful and difficult and I was breathing hard and at some point I figured we were probably at about the six mile mark since I felt about halfway to no energy left. I looked at my watch and it said we'd covered 1.87 miles. This is where I lost faith in everything. Sure it was beautiful, and sure I was keeping up with a lot of the runners, but THERE WERE STILL MORE THAN 11 MILES TO GO. I figured I'd really need to change my tactics, though I didn't have any tactics other than "gut it out". I followed the shoes in front of me.

The first water station was at mile 3.5, I was doing ok hydration wise and a lot of the other runners had gone off into the distance. I could hear one pair of feet crunching the snow a few yards behind me, but nothing more than that. We went a mile more or so, always, it seemed, up hill. Sometimes over logs, or along paths strewn with hidden rocks the size of softballs. My ankles twisted left, they twisted right. I tried to keep track of what hurt the most. It's my left ankle, my left ankle hurt the -- ow! -- my right knee, it's my right knee that hurts the mo -- aak! ouch! right ankle what the heck did I step on? My right ankle is killing me!" Then, in the midst of this, across the path in front of me about 15 feet crept a fox, across the path, up the side of a hill. It turned and looked at me. I'd never seen a fox before. It wasn't red -- it was the exact color of a squirrel. I watched the fox. It watched us run past. We went on.




Me coming up a giant ass hill. Clickenzee to embiggen. Photo by the Wissahickon Wanderers



Fighting my way up rocky trails I looked at my watch which told me I was doing 20 minute miles. I can walk faster than 20 minute miles. Ugh. Would this never end?

Though the path was well marked, I made a wrong turn at a covered bridge and the feet behind me passed me, I doubled back, we went up another hill. The feet in front of me got further in front of me and I lost them altogether. From then on it as just me and the snow. Every once in a while a pound of it would slide from the branches of a tree far above and slap down on the trail, or my head, or down the back of my shirt. I kept my eyes to the footprints in front of me.




Bloody footprint. Clickenzee to emblooden



Somewhere around mile seven I noticed bloody footprints in the snow. I thought at first that it was an animal, but when I paused to look I noticed there were shoe prints around them. Someone was bleeding into their shoe enough that blood, mixed with melted snow, was squishing out every time their left foot came down. Whoever it was, they were in worse shape than me, but they were also ahead of me.

I'd been almost completely demoralized between miles 2 and 7 but at mile 8 my mental situation started to improve. Eight miles was only two miles away from ten. And ten miles was only a 5k away from being done. I concentrated on two miles. Two miles I could do. Mile ten came. Now only three miles. Three miles I could do. Three miles is nothing.




Fording a stream. Clicenzee to emwetten



Mile eleven ended in a stream about twenty feet wide where snowmelt was burbling happily. I hopped from rock to rock. Surely, it must be down hill from here. It wasn't. But it was only two miles. I plodded on. Then the trail turned down, but down's not actually any better than up, because down you have to keep from slipping and falling, when the trail turns down it just hurts other parts of you. But at mile 12.5 I could see the finish line -- down the trail, across a bridge, through a muddy parking lot and past a set of road cones. Half a mile. Everything hurt, but there were some families on the bridge and more getting out of their cars and I wanted to at least put on a good show for them. When the ground leveled I gave it everything I had left for the final 200 yards.

It was over with little ceremony, but there were mini-donuts and Cliff Bars and banannas. I was pretty hungry. I should eat a banana I thought, and reached for one. I was confused because I couldn't pick it up -- why couldn't I pick up the banana? Slowly I realized that the hand I was trying to pick it up with had an already-peeled half-eaten banana in it already I was eating a banana, that's why I couldn't pick up another one. After that the goal was not to pass out and fall in a puddle. I ate the banana. And a mini donut. And a Cliff Bar. And someone, who I think might have been Laura Kepich handed me a Builder Bar with 20 grams of protein. I ate that too.




I can't wait to do that again never. Clickenzee to embiggen.



Jay had been finished for 40 minutes by the time I got there. We headed back. trillian_stars and I went out to brunch with whafford. I shuffled like an old man -- my ankles hurt, my knees hurt, everything hurt more than everything else. We came home and watched Raiders of the Lost Ark. I lay on the sofa, unable to move.

I'd run 13 miles plus a half mile up hill and it felt like I was dying while I was doing it but I'd been to Narnia, and I'd seen a fox and it was all over now, and mostly all I can remember is the fox.





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Good News Everybody! [Mar. 19th, 2015|10:25 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |AC/DC: you shook me all night long]

I got an unexpected phone call tonight telling me that I'd won second place in the Keystone State Professional Journalism Awards for Best Feature Photo for my February 2014 Philadelphia Weekly cover of filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles in an article written by Michael Gonzalez. (I wrote about photographing Melvin in this blog post here.) Last year I won first place for my cover portrait of taxidermist Beth Beverly, which was even more surprising.




Clickenzee to Increase Badasssssery!



I'm super excited & very grateful to Michael Gonzalez who wrote the article and Sheena Lester & Stephen Segal from the Weekly who trusted me to go up there, and to Melvin who was really one of the coolest people I've photographed. Sometimes you do a photo shoot and it's over and you go your own ways. But Melvin was different -- we got along great and he and the band ended up crashing at my house while they were on tour and -- what can I say -- I've always loved this cover & I'm glad other people did too. Thanks extra much to Stephen for submitting it.

Behind the scenes making of video.




Excited to be in such great company -- the Philadelphia Weekly cleaned up at the Keystone Press awards:


Philly Weekly columnist and blogger Josh Kruger is the winner of the Edith Hughes Emerging Journalist Award, honoring the most impressive work of young early-career journalists.

South Philly Review managing editor Joseph Myers won first places for Sports Event Coverage ("Sixth Sense") and Sports Beat Reporting and honorable mention for Sports/Outdoor Column.

Former Philly Weekly staff writer Randy LoBasso won first place for Sports Story ("When the Phillies Suck, the Working Man Suffers") and second place for Series ("Taxis in Philly").

Midweek Wire editor Jack Firneno won first place for Personality Profile ("What They Don't Talk About").

Philly Weekly editor Stephen Segal won first place for Headline Writing.

South Philly Review staff writer Bill Chenevert won second place for News Beat Reporting and honorable mention for Business/Consumer Story ("Making the Market Last").

Contributing Philly Weekly photographer Kyle Cassidy won second place for Feature Photo ("Melvin Van Peebles is Still a Badass")

Contributing Philly Weekly writers Nina and Joel Hoffmann won second place for News Feature ("Factchecking Rape").

Northeast Times sports editor Ed Morrone won honorable mention for Sports Story ("It Must Be a Sign").

Contributing Philly Weekly writer Jennifer Clare Burke won honorable mention for Feature Story ("Mother Love").

Contributing Philly Weekly writer Chris Wilder won honorable mention for Personality Profile ("Father of the Pack").







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Mo'ne Davis on the cover of the Philadelphia Weekly [Mar. 18th, 2015|07:11 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

The first day I was supposed to photograph 13 year old baseball legend Mo'ne Davis for the spring guide issue of the Philadelphia Weekly, mother nature dumped seven inches of snow on the city. We took a chance and hoped it would look more ... springey ... the next weekend when it was, of course, pouring rain, but we'd played out all our deadline cards. (Skip to the article by clicking here.)

So with writer Sheena Lester, assistant Justin DeLoach and Kathryn, the makeup artist, it was off into the rain to try and make the best of things. I shot with a Leica M9 and a 50mm Canon Serenar using an off camera flash and a shoot thru umbrella.

Fresh off of the cover of Sports Illustrated and pitching a shutout in the Little League world series, Mo'ne's got a book out called Remember My Name and her upcoming signing is leading off the Philly Weekly's spring guide of things to do.




Setting up a shot in an alley. Sheena holding umbrellas over Mo'ne & her brother Maurice.



I usually try and keep my subjects as comfortable as possible for as long as possible, and also I don't want the rain to wreck the styling, so everything was set up under umbrellas then they were removed for two or three seconds for a shot and put back.




Click to see larger



I'd always do a set smiling and serious. Mo'ne preferred her serious face and I did too. Look at Sports Illustrated portraits of Clayton Kershaw, he's looking fierce, but one thing about being a photographer out on assignment, you learn to bring in a variety of things because you never know what they're going to need with the text. So you shoot some tight, some wide, some serious, some not serious.




Click to see larger



They'd asked if it was possible to get something iconically Philly in the background that was a) in center city and b) not the LOVE sculpture. We tried some around city hall but everything looked like a grim version of Blade Runner.




Click to see larger



Dilworth Plaza just got a giant new refit that involved adding a skating rink and a bunch of chairs. I'm not sure why they did it, looking at it for the first time, I really preferred the multi-level open space that was there before, but it's done. We tried out the chairs.




Click to see larger



Sometimes if you can't get past, you try going through. Bring the umbrella into the shot and let everybody know that it's pouring rain.




Job well done.



We shot for about 45 minutes, I was pretty sure that we had at least three things that could go on the cover. Mo'ne signed some baseballs for everybody and we were all off in our separate directions to do the things that we do in other places where they needed doing.





Click to read the article at the Philadelphia Weekly!!!








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... [Mar. 17th, 2015|09:55 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]










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Cat fud. [Mar. 15th, 2015|05:00 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |molly robison]

Me: [Opens bag of pretzel stix.]
Roswell: I heard you open a bag of cat treats.
Me: No, these are pretzel stix. Cats don't like them.
Roswell: I see you are holding a bag of cat treats.
Me: These are pretzel stix. You don't want any.
Roswell: I see you are holding a bag of cat treats.
Me: [Holds bag of pretzel stix for her to examine.]
Roswell: [Shoves her head in, emerges with giant mouthful of pretzel stix and runs off into the living room.]





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It's the end of the world as we know it. [Feb. 24th, 2015|08:22 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |eye rolling]
[music |REM: It's the end of the world as we know it]

I'm not sure which is more of a blight upon humanity, that Leica is now selling pre-brassed cameras so that any couch-potato can look like a badass photojournalist or that the great Pacific garbage gyre is killing all sea life between California and Japan.





Click to see the brassing, handcrafted by German engineers with a sixteen grit diamond emory board kit even closer.







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Othello redux [Feb. 20th, 2015|12:28 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Megadeth, Tout Le Monde, avec Cristina Scabia]

So, tonight I'm at Curio Theater in the weird, crazy and magic time after the actors call and before the doors open for the final preview of William Shakespeare's Othello. (Article about the production w/ one of my photos here.)

There are a whole bunch of things that are wonderful about this -- one of them is that I love to be behind the scenes, back stage -- I love the special place where you can see how the magic is made -- the things that most other people don't get to see -- to see the swords up close, to see the set closer than other people get to see it -- to be able to pass that weird boundary where you see how things are made -- the safety pins, the makeup -- that stuff. Another magical thing about it is walking in the door and the actors seeing me and waving and acting excited that I'm there. I love feeling like I'm an important, if small, part of the thing that makes things wonderful.

I arrived during Fight Call, which is the time before the play where the actors go over ever single combat scene, one right after another, it's the action movie version of the play -- they do this to make sure that nobody's forgotten how to stab or get stabbed or shot or whatever -- it's for the actors safety and it's wonderful to watch.




Clickenzee to Embiggen! Spoiler: People die.



There are lots and lots of different types of theater photography and I think I probably do mine differently than almost everybody else. I'm not very interested in photographing a rehearsal while it's happening.

In photography we most tell one sixtieth of a second of truth and I'm hoping to be able to capture the personality of the characters in a single frame -- so that you can look at it and, hopefully, see them as they really are -- that fraction of a second when the front falls away and you work with the actor to find that edge between front and back, between the character on the page and the character off the page and hopefully you hit it and if your actors are good, you really hit it and they can compress the whole of their performance into 1/60th of a second and if you hit the shutter at the right moment, you get it.




Clickenzee to Embiggen!




After I'm done photographing there's one fight call left and we haven't done any production photos. I figure I'll just photograph the last fight call since no matter how good your photos are, newspapers always call back to ask if you have a production photo. It's Desdemona and Othello which I'd shied away from photographing before. As Isa and Steve act it out just two feet in front of me I slowly take photos and realize why it's on all the posters for the play. It's such a decisive moment and if your actors are good you forget that you know them and that you're in a theater -- you're surrounded by something transformative and you can't look away.

Othello opens tomorrow in West Philadelphia.




Clickenzee to Embiggen!






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