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kyle cassidy

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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]


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
[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 featherlegged orb 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 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 [EDIT: She's not a branch tip spider, she's been ID'd by experts as a featherlegged orb weaver]. 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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Help a librarian make children happy [Feb. 10th, 2015|06:25 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Can you spare $10 so a child can take a doll home for a week?

This is Briony Zlomke Beckstrom, a youth services librarian from Wisconsin. She was one of the most inspirational people I met her at the American Library Association meeting in Chicago last week where I was working on the Alexandria is Still Burning documentary.

Briony started a program in her library to loan American Girl dolls to children who can't afford them, it's now one of the most popular programs they have. They have seven dolls and they're never back for more than an hour at a time before another child checks her out -- parents stake out the library waiting for them to be returned, people race across parking lots when they see someone carrying a package big enough to be one of the dolls coming back. Along with each doll comes a journal so that kids can write down the sorts of adventures that they had, sometimes they come back with new and different hairstyles, other libraries that have loaned out dolls have seen them come back with new, handmade clothes. Briony would like to add more dolls to the program, currently due to the heavy demand there aren't enough to justify letting them go out for inter-library loan (because, as Briony points out, every day they're in transit is a day that they're not with a child) -- and this is where you can help. Each doll costs $115 which is a lot for one person, but many hands make light the work.

Can you help out?

THIS is What a Librarian Looks Like

Briony and the dolls. Clickenzee to Donate!
Be sure to put "American Girl Project" in the message section.

As libraries are trying to find their place and people are wondering what libraries are doing, there are people like Briony who see things that need fixing and convince library directors and board members to go out on a limb to fix them. It's one of the things that makes me love, respect, and appreciate everything that librarians are doing. It's not just books, they're fighting for civilization.

You can Click here to donate. Be sure to put "American Girl Project" in the message section.

Can't contribute? Sharing is loving.

Listen to Briony explain the doll program:

(EDIT: I got an email from Briony late last night with a few corrections, while she started a doll program in Illinois, she was unable to get it to the point where they could loan out dolls, her current library, Franklin, is in Milwaukee and part of the Milwaukee County Consortium, the text now reflects these.)

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Othello [Jan. 29th, 2015|06:13 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

So ... how do you do a poster for Othello? There have been posters for Othello for four hundred years. After Curio Theatre asked me to work on this I looked at a lot of them. Most of the contemporary posters for the play feature some aspect of Othello strangling Desdemona (spoilers, it happens) -- lots of hands on throats. And the way I look at it, Othello can either be a play about Othello, or it can be a play about Iago, but it's never a play about Desdemona -- though she always gets a lot of face time on the posters. It worried me going in that I might fall into a visual rut, so I was actually a bit relieved when the scheduling wouldn't allow Desdemona to be there for the shoot (I had to do it late at night).

I wanted to focus on, two things, one the military aspect and two the part of the play that exists before everything blows up, the very beginning when two warriors return from battle and I imagined going in "what if I was some photographer sent out to do a hero magazine cover for two dudes who just beat the Turkish navy? I wouldn't know the backstory, I wouldn't know that Iago's got all this plotting going on that he's just been passed over for promotion, I'd just be like "stand here and look heroic" and then it's up to the actor (in this case the very capable Brian McCaann, to tell the subtitles of his character through his body language -- so you learn who Iago is through Brian's complex subtitles, and you learn who Othello is by Steve Wright's body language and how he decides what Othello would do and not through me going "alright, let's strangle someone".

Ships sinking, wind howling, plots thickening. Clickenzee to Embiggen!

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My Photo in Interview Magazine [Jan. 27th, 2015|04:23 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

So ... it looks like I have a photo in Interview Magazine this month. One of my portraits of director John Carpenter.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Kickstarter that let me get out there and take this photo. & Thanks to Sandy & John & Sean and Boogie for making it possible.

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Librarians! Tell me if I'm wrong! [Jan. 26th, 2015|08:06 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

So ... I'll be around for the Newbery Awards at ALA Midwinter in Chicago this weekend. I wanted to read at least one of the books that might win, hopefully two. Here's my shortlist. Any advice to help me narrow it down?

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson
Curiosity by Gary L. Blackwood
The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson

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This is not a fitness blog, but I just ran my fastest 13 miles. [Jan. 26th, 2015|06:20 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

In which I knock TWENTY MINUTES off of last years race time, PR, and realized I could probably have done better.

So ... two years ago I was just starting out running. I'd made this deal with Peter Sagal that if I could run 3 miles by January of 2013, he'd run 3 miles with me when I came out to do his book jacket photo. So I worked out like crazy and got to the point where I could run three miles and Peter and I ran and then the next day I watched him run a 13 mile race along the lakefront in Chicago and it was nuts -- it was so cold sweat coming from people's necks froze onto their hair. That's how cold it was. I was like Sweet Barking Cheese! I WANT TO DO THIS NEXT YEAR.

Your sweat, it freezes on your hair. Clickenzee to Embiggen!

So I ran my posterior off the next year to get in half marathon shape and I went back to Chicago in the freezing cold ran the half marathon in two hours and nine minutes. (Peter ran it in an hour and thirty-two minutes). This year I went back to run it faster. In the intervening year I'd cut my half marathon time down first to 1:57, then to 1:55, and then most recently at the Philly half, to 1:52. My goal this time was to break 1:50 which I suspected I could do because I wasn't killing myself in the Philly half. The fastest I'd run any sustained distance was ten consecutive eight minute and twenty second miles (8:20) for the 2014 Broad Street run which was enough to get me in the top 20% of finishers times, but it's still not fast. My Philly half marathon pace was about 8:40 per mile. And when you're talking about more than ten miles, eeking out a couple of more seconds a mile is really hard. I trained on my own, and with the West Philly Runners, I did speed workouts but still went to Chicago feeling lost and unsure. Unless I'm 10 miles into a long run I'm positive that I can never run that far. I'm filled with self doubt at the beginning of every run, sure that I'll have to stop and take a taxi home. This is mostly always true, despite having run something like 40 half marathons.

When I got to Chicago it was freezing, really freezing, there was 300 feet of ice out along the lake and my fingers got so numb riding a rental-bike to pick up my race number that I couldn't squeeze the brakes, despite my gloves.

The lake, it is frozen. Clickenzee to Embiggen!

There are things you know to be true that can be hard to convince yourself of -- like that if you jump out of the airplane the parachute will stop you from dying. One of the hardest things for me at the beginning of a run on a cold day is believing how warm I'm going to be after the first mile. And it required great effort to toss my jacket at the start and run in just a long sleeve shirt with a West Philly Runners shirt over top of it, but sure enough, I was fine after the first mile and positively hot by mile five.

I started out in the 8-9 minute pace corral about three people behind a woman dressed as a giant strawberry and my first goal in any race is not to get beaten by someone dressed as fruit. We started off and I decided to try and keep up with three women who were running together who had obviously been practicing and were keeping a pace like a metronome and we fell into place about 20 feet behind the strawberry. I didn't check my watch until mile six and only then discovered that I was going way too fast (I broke my 10k personal record by two minutes and still wasn't at the half way point) -- they were running sub-8 minute miles, which I'd previously thought was my 5k pace. I let them go and decided to pick a new adversary lest I completely burn out and have to walk back, but I'd done the damage and a series of competitors I picked to keep up with slowly pulled away from me. By mile seven I was running pretty much alone between packs (and then got passed by a guy dressed as a duck).

I run. You may embiggen.

The only pacing calculation I'd made before the race was that if I was at 1:24 by mile 10 I could break 1:50 in the race and not have to die doing it. At mile 10 my watch said 1:22. At this point I was beat from having run so fast in the beginning and every step was a voice saying "you're not going to PR, you might as well walk a bit" and another one saying "if you push harder you can break 1:50". I was talking to Lindsay after about "what actually hurts when you say it hurts?" and really, while you're running like that nothing hurts it's just uncomfortable. Like you're sitting in an uncomfortable position and you want to do something else -- and running, and a lot of exercise, I think -- is just dealing with discomfort, saying "it's going to be over in 24 minutes, I can do this for 24 minutes" and actually believing it. So I pushed on. I'd have to do a 28 minute 5k, which is 4 minutes slower than the fastest one I've ever done and about two minutes faster than what's become a relatively easy one. So I ground it in, fairly convinced that I wasn't doing my best but also convinced I was exerting "minimum necessary effort".

I shot across the finish line at 1:49:46, making a new Personal Record but getting clobbered by the strawberry.

I ran, I died, I got a medal. I was revived. Clickenzee to Embiggen!

The strawberry and the duck. Both beat me.

The strawberry, it later turned out, was Joanne Singleton, who holds the Guinness Book of World Records' "Fastest Half Marathon Dressed as Fruit (female). You can see her accepting her world record here, so my humiliation was mitigated somewhat.

Joanne Singleton, the fastest fruit there is.

Ultimately though, unless you're one of about 40 people on earth, it's not about being the fastest -- it's sometimes about being faster than you were before, but truly, it's not about speed and it's not about beating anybody, it's about living longer and dying better. Funny that you have to cause yourself so much discomfort to avoid discomfort -- with "fitness" you're just concentrating your discomfort into two hour intervals instead of spreading it out over the last decades of your life. And hopefully, you pick something that's fun to do, or people who are fun to do it with, because that's what sticks with you, the people, the happiness, the being able to walk up stairs without getting winded -- not the last 26 minutes you'd rather be doing pretty much anything else.

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Sooooooooooooooooooo..... [Jan. 16th, 2015|07:17 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

It looks like the Roller Derby book is going to sell in the next couple days, just hammering out the details.

Which means "yaay," plus "I'll be traveling around in the next few months filling up the empty spaces. Rose City, Gotham, Detroit, Portland & Seattle -- I'm coming for you.

Cheer quietly & please wash everything in your gym bag.

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Leica Summilux vs Canon Serenar [Jan. 2nd, 2015|09:19 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

I've been using a 1950's era 50mm f1.8 Canon Serenar on my Leica since 1999 or so and lately I've been worried that I'm not getting as much out of my camera as I might be and was luckily able to test a mid 1990's pre-asph Leica Summilux side by side with the Serenar.

Side by side, clickenzee to Embiggen!

There's definitely a difference wide open in the bokeh -- the Summilux is a lot smoother. It's also half a stop brighter and the color is a bit different. And the Summilux focuses closer, which is a distinct advantage, though it's also significantly larger and heavier.

In the 100% crop it seems a bit sharper but at this aperture it could also be a focusing variation as well.

100% crop

My ultimate conclusion is that the Summilux, while nice, isn't $1,200 nicer than the Serenar.

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2 second exposure, starting in 2014, ending in 2015 [Jan. 1st, 2015|12:02 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

So ... every year since 1999 I've done a two second long self portrait starting in the last second of one year and ending in the first second of the next. Here's 2014 turning into 2015. Appropriately, like old folks, we'd fallen asleep around 9:00 and woke up about 10 minutes before midnight.

2014 Turns into 2015. Clickenzee to Embiggen!

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Missing all these things and all these people. Auld Lang Syne - Nicki Jaine [Dec. 31st, 2014|11:23 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |nostalgicnostalgic]

May your 2015 be filled with joy.

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Librarians! [Dec. 31st, 2014|09:29 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

The $35 Kickstarter backer reward for my Alexandria Still Burns Kickstarter was a set of "ten post cards of librarians". It was super hard picking ten out of nearly 350 images, but here are four of them. I'm thinking now that I may need to make more than for just the Kickstarter backers. If anybody has fulfillment ideas that don't involve me having a basement full of postcards that I need to constantly be sending out, I'm all ears.

Clickenzee to embiggen the awesome power of librarians.

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Celebrities with Leica's [Dec. 30th, 2014|01:24 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Thanks to John Lee for spotting this, there's a photo of me sandwitched in between David Bowie and Lindsay Lohan on La Vida Leica'a "Celebrities with Leica's" page. Dh00dz.

Clickenzee to see me embiggened with Ziggy Stardust

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I can make a dual range summicron out of anything! [Dec. 25th, 2014|09:49 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |andrea schrode: helgen]

TL;DR / not a photographer; don't care:

I've discovered that if you shove a penny in between a 50mm Leica Screw Mount lens and the adapter, you can focus to about .63 meters, instead of the 1.00 meters that it was designed for.

The elegant explanation
When I went to high school there was this guy who wanted to be an engineer who was fascinated with muscle cars and he bought ... an AMC Gremlin -- I don't know if you know what an AMC Gremlin was, but it was EXACTLY the polar opposite of a muscle car. And when one of our classmates chided him about his purchase of this really ugly, really low-power car, he said "I can make a GTO out of anything."

For those of you who weren't around in the 1980's, GTO stood for "Gran Turismo Omologato" which was a class of super-powered racing cars. And true to form, he was out in his driveway every day after high school boring out the engine and adding hood-scoops and superchargers and whatever else until he had the most powerful, fastest car of anybody in the entire high school and he'd tear around the parking lot laughing out the window at the kids with the primer grey Chevy Nova's challenging them to a drag race.

This has almost NOTHING to do with what I'm talking about.

You can actually close focus any Leica screw mount lens to about .65 meters
with no real hassle. Clickenzee to emiggen!

Eeking out that last bit is very expensive
When the first Leica cameras came out, their close focusing distance was one meter. Which isn't very close. And to me, that close focusing distance is one of the big, and very important, things that separates a Leica from an SLR -- SLR lenses focus a lot closer (usually about .45 meters)

Leica countered this with the Dual Range Summicron, which is (like many Leica things) a bafflingly complex lens system with lots of extra whatnots goggles. It allowed you to focus a 50mm lens to something like .45 meters.

This is important because depth of field is determined by not just aperture, but distance to the subject, so, if you're looking for a very shallow depth of field (something often prized in photography), you want a wide aperture, and you want to be close to your subject. (There's a whole discussion on this if you don't understand it. But the take-away is that lenses that can focus closer are more useful.)

Years ago I bought a really cheap 50mm lens in "Leica screw mount" -- it was made by Canon back in the 1950's and it focused to 1 meter and it was way less expensive than a modern Leica lens. Very recently I'd been thinking that I should upgrade that to a newer lens because the new ones focus to .65 meters. I kept looking at new lenses and found myself thinking that the only reason I wanted to change anything was because I wanted to focus closer to get tighter headshots and a shallower Depth of Field.

I knew the camera was capable of focusing closer, and when a screw fell out inside my lens earlier this year, I learned that lenses were prevented from actually focusing closer by a screw stopping them. If the lens was farther from the camera, I wondered, wouldn't it focus closer? -- this isn't new thinking, it's the rational behind closeup tubes. But, as far as I knew, nobody made closeup tubes for focusing a Leica Screw Mount lens just a little closer -- typically they're used in macro-photography.

What if I just separated the lens from the body a little bit? Within the tolerances of the screw-mount adapter and the lens itself? As long as the Focus Coupler could still touch the lens, with a 50mm, you should still be able to focus it to these closer distances.

I yearned to try it with something easily available. I started to unscrew the lens from the adapter to see how far I could get it out before the rangefinder coupler wouldn't touch the lens anymore, and then I started trying to jam common objects into the space created: paper clips, credit cards, etc. Imagine my surprise when an ordinary penny seemed to get pretty close to the closest possible distance that still coupled the rangefinder.

Unscrew the lens, shove a penny in the gap, screw it back.

From the side, it looks like this -- the tiniest extension tube you can carry in your pocket:

There you go.

It's not as close as a Dual Range Summicron, but it's not as expensive and it works with any 50mm Leica Screw Mount Lens -- so you can buy one of those Voigtlander Noctilux's and close focus it ... for a penny.

Think this is cool? Think it's blasphemy? Feel free to fight it out in the comments. Or share it, repost it, reference it, pass it along. This is free. Have a question? Ask it.

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This is not a fitness blog. [Dec. 24th, 2014|10:56 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |placebo covering david bowie]

What an awesome Christmas present! Our racing a SEPTA bus stunt was listed in Philadelphia Magazine's list of "14 Reasons It Was Awesome Being Healthy and Fit in Philly in 2014".

Thanks to my friends in the West Philly Runners who have made this journey for me fun through all the sweat, agony, and broken legs. (Well, only one broken leg.)

I totally beat a SEPTA bus all the way across town.

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BladeStars [Dec. 21st, 2014|05:21 pm]
kyle cassidy
[Current Location |the antipodes]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Trillian singing the Wonder Woman song]

There has been a lot of speculation as to whether or not trillian_stars is a replicant. There are many clues though Ridley Scott remains mute on the subject.

What are your thoughts?

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

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On the Verge [Dec. 19th, 2014|06:18 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |the silence of a snowfall]

Shooting the poster for Hedgerow Theatre's upcoming production of On The Verge which, though I haven't seen the whole thing, seems prepared to be a wonderful production.

The play is written by Eric Overmyer, who may be most famous as a writer for HOMOCIDE: Life on the Street. It's about three 19th century women explorers, traveling through the mythical unexplored land of "Terra Incognita" who, during the course of their adventures realize that they are traveling through time as well as space. I've heard trillian_stars' practicing lines, so I know how about a third of the play goes down and it seems to be firing on all the cylinders that I love. There's a pre-steampunkish element to is and, THEY MEET BIGFOOT.

Let me say that again on it's own line:


trillian_stars would never decapitate the peaceful Yeti,
but if she found his head abandoned in the forest, she would totally bring
it back for scientific study.

Bigfoot in the person of Brock Vickers, who played Willoughby in Hedgerow's production of Sense and Sensibility which I photographed here and you can see the cool pix. Brock plays all the men and all the beasts. (Did you miss our Jane Austen Dressmaking and Dueling Party? which looked like this.)

The women try and have tea with bigfoot. WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT I WILL DO WHEN I MEET THE GREAT SKUNK APE.

Doing production photos before the show is always a bit difficult because the costumes are never complete and the set is never complete and I rarely want to do a photo that uses the play set and lights "as is" anyway because then it's just copy work, you're using someone else's set, and someone else's lights, and lighting for a play is different than lighting for a photograph because you don't have the same spacial restrictions that a theater does. So I always want to do something that captures the mood of the play rather than exactly what it's going to look like on stage -- it's a lot more challenging and rewarding for me and I'm lucky to have theaters who let me work this way.

Behind the Scenes (L-R: Brock Vickers, Penny Reed,
trillian_stars Mary Ruth Stine

I was lucky here also in that On the Verge takes place outdoors so we could go outside. I wanted someplace green and I wanted water and I think we found a pretty good location with giant bamboo. I shot with two lights, a key light behind a shoot-through umbrella providing the key and one bare flash head behind them for a little rim, fill added by the giant mass of burning hydrogen at the center of the solar system. Then we moved on to Bigfoot.

Behind the Scenes (L-R: Brock Vickers, Penny Reed,
trillian_stars Mary Ruth Stine

We didn't have the actual Bigfoot costume that will be used in the play, which they're custom making, but there was a borrowed one -- these are the deals you sometimes have to make with yourself in order to get things out in a timely manner.

The women's default response to trouble is often "let's have tea" (because they are civilized) -- they attempt to have tea with the Yeti but actually scare him off in the process (oops, spoiler).

The final result I wanted to have a sort of 1940's adventure-book look to it. A while ago we found this atrocious collection of books called The Rover Boys -- where a family of entitled brats have adventures and I wanted it to look something like the over-the-top illustrations in that.

Here's the final(ish) poster which is gigantic so you can click on it and enjoy it in all its splendor. Hope to see you in Rose Valley, just west of Philadelphia for this great production. Let us know when you're coming and maybe we can meet up.

On the Verge -- Clickenzee to Embiggen!

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Cooking with Roswell [Dec. 14th, 2014|03:11 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |rob halford: get into the spirit]

Sitting around the house today working on Librarian stuff and, out of ideas, I asked Twitter what they suggested we make for lunch. L.A. Smith-Buxton suggested "chickpea mock tuna salad" -- which seemed to be just the thing.

So Roswell & went off into uncharted territory & mashed up a couple of cans of chickpeas, added vegan "mayo", chopped onions, celery & sweet gherkin pickles along with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and nutritional yeast.

After eating it, I'd recommend throwing some shredded carrots or beets in there too.

Clickenzee to Embiggen the Roswell!

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This is not a fitness blog, but it's a Philadelphia Half Marathon 2014 Race Recap [Nov. 26th, 2014|05:46 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Black Sabbath: Country Girl]

I realize writing about races is self indulgent, but since this blog is my diary that other people sometimes read, I'm not too concerned. tl;dr: there's a photo of Roswell at the end.

I ran the Philadelphia Half Marathon last year with a time of 1:57:48, finishing 3398th out of 12,478 finishers. It's remained my fastest Half Marathon (just a scant six or so months before, I'd finished my first half in 2:37:17 -- so there's a definite trend of improvement). I tried to beat it at Odyssey this year but came in at 1:58:10 after beating myself near to death on the final hill. I'd complained about this to Peter Sagal, whose become my running mentor who said something like "well, if you want to get faster, you need to do speed workout" -- previously I'd been improving by just running more, running longer, which builds up cardio and endurance, but the best way to get faster is to run faster. In speed workout you run shorter distances AS FAST AS YOU CAN.

So, I signed up for Monday Night Speed Workouts with the West Philly Runners and we met up every Monday and ran fast and it totally, absolutely sucks. While running is Not Generally Fun, speed workout is awful, but I saw some incredible improvements and the Monday Night Speed people would occasionally call me up and shout "METAL RAID!" into the phone, meaning that we were all signing up for some small 5k somewhere and trying to win by running our guts out (there is sometimes puking involved). And while I was never the fastest person overall, I was occasionally one of the fastest people in my age group and suddenly, I wasn't finishing I was ... winning. Small victories, but improvement nonetheless.

The first 5k I ran was two years ago this December. trillian_stars wanted to go Xmas caroling after and I was so wrecked by running that I couldn't walk with everybody, I was, seriously and truly literally, a block behind everybody, hobbling like an old man, squeaking in pain like an over-boiling tea kettle every time I bent a leg. My first 5k was finished in nearly 60 minutes -- which is now a bit baffling to me since it seems I could walk quicker, but the pain was real. I ran my fastest 5k this summer on a West Philly Runners Metal Raid in Delaware in 23:22. It was awful the entire time and I almost barfed at the end, but I'd cut my time by two thirds, plus I'd dropped like 40 pounds. Imagine running a race carrying four gallons of milk. So there's that.

In any event, I trained to try and beat my PR (Personal Record) but missed a bunch of runs in mid-summer because it was hot and awful and in the past few weeks I'd had some not-quite-injuries but things-that-could-become-injuries-if-not-taken-care-of -- an IT band that sometimes got irritated, and a knee that sometimes exhibited signs of Runners Knee -- all of which are problems caused by some muscles being bigger than other muscles, so I went on doing one legged squats and things like that and skipping some of my training schedule.

Then it turned out that the Philly Half fell right in the middle of an incredibly busy weekend that I'll write about at another time, so my plans were to feel it out and decide somewhere along the race if I was going to run hard or run fun.

On the one hand, I didn't want to have wasted all those times at speed workout, but more importantly, I didn't want to turn into one of those guys who goes into a roid-rage and has a miserable day if they miss their goal time by 30 seconds.

I optimistically signed up for the Black Corral, which is the second fastest group of ordinary people, and projected my time at one hour, fifty minutes.

It's ON Philadelphia! Clickenzee to Embiggen

I got up at 4:00 am for a 7:00 race start. Had breakfast, cleaned the house while watching Rocky, got dressed, made an inspirational playlist that would have the Rocky Theme start right as the finish line should be approaching and then, also optimistically, nothing after that song. If I didn't finish within 1:52 I'd be listening to shameful silence as I crossed the finish line. The race expo on Friday was unremarkable, in that it was pretty much exactly like every other race expo I'd ever been to -- all the same clothes being sold at the same fake discount ("Everything on this rack, 20% off marked prices! Always! Every expo you go to!") and also like every other expo, you had to run the vendor gauntlet to pick up your bib -- which of course makes sense -- race people need money from sponsors who will pay to have you walk past their stuff. The race t-shirt was nice, if a little wordy. But people seemed excited and happy and I was excited an happy to be at a point where I knew how all this worked now. I met Robert Barone, one of the official race photographers who chatted me up about my Leica and we exchanged photo-geek-talk and business cards.

Me and Rich Harrington in the Black Corral. Clickenzee to Embiggen

I rode my bike to the starting line and walked up to my optimistic corral and ran into Rich Harrington, president of the Philadelphia Sketch Club. Rich is one of those guy's who's been running since high school and who always says "ah, I'm getting so slow, you're going to beat me" and somehow I always see him blasting past halfway through as he puts the hammer down. He always waves and never seems like he's working hard. So, I was very excited to be in the same corral as him. "You'll probably beat me this time," he said, "I haven't been training" and he headed off to run with some people from the Moore College of Art and Design. (He ended up finishing 11 minutes faster than me.)

The race started, I saw Robert Barone crouched on the ground at the start, snapping photos, I shouted his name but it was a jumble of feet. I also saw Joe Kaczmarek, a Philadelphia news reporter on a riser right past the start. I waved and shouted, he snapped a photo. Eventually I'll know every photographer working the race and I'll have the best photos.

The most challenging bit was the Godzilla attack. Clickenzee to Embiggen

The race wound through the city and I found myself often trapped behind people running slower than I'd like -- I decided to use this as my pacing method. Everybody in the black corral was fast, I could keep myself from burning out by not racing around people and only waiting until an actual hole showed up to move ahead. I changed my watch from "pace" to "time elapsed" so I wouldn't worry about how fast (or slow) I was running. I figured that if I was around an hour and twenty minutes at mile ten I'd be ok for my goal time. One thing I did do was not brake on the downhills -- I figured why spend energy holding myself back? The sun was rising as we hit the river and Godzilla was splashing around the Delaware, seemingly uninterested in the bridge, but he'd eaten a couple small boats and was eyeing a barge full of shipping containers. A couple of tanks on the shore were firing artillery at him but he seemed not to notice or care. We turned right on, I think, Front street, and came to the first set of port-a-potties I remember seeing. As we passed, a woman in black tights running in front of me changed her mind quickly, abruptly turned up onto the sidewalk, eyed the line of people, and darted behind the row of toilets. This is why I got up three hours before the race.

Front street was lovely, the sunrise was lovely. At some point a guy in a hoodie was standing on a corner shouting "WELCOME TO SOUTH PHILLY!" -- I did feel welcome. The race looped around and ran up South Street. Last year I was struggling hard by this point and didn't remember South Street at all, in fact, I pretty much blacked out until we got back to 34th. But this time I enjoyed the run up South which was lined with people cheering and ringing cow-bells.

The rest of the race was uneventful -- I felt good (as opposed to feeling like I was going to die, which is the usual if I'm running hard) -- I knew I was running strong but not hard. As I passed mile ten, the West Philly Runners were all on the corner with a cheering squad -- they hi-fived me as I went past, re-energized by their support I checked my watch and saw that I could make it and put a little extra in, (mile 11 was my fastest at 8:11).

As the art museum appeared, the Rocky theme came on the headphones, I crossed the finish line just after it ended.

Finishing time: 1:52:14. Clickenzee to Embiggen

I knocked four minutes off of my PR, missed my goal time by 2:14 but I didn't go blind at the end like I did last year and while I felt I ran aggressively, I didn't run hard it was a relatively easy race this time around.

Me and Kiprono Kurgat who won the half. He'd been there for nearly an hour when I rolled in. Clickenzee to Embiggen

I spotted Kiprono Kurgat from Chapel Hill who'd finished in just over an hour. Which is freaking nuts. Someone wrapped a space blanket around me which was nice. Then someone else said "congratulations Kyle," and put a medal over my head. It was done. Around me were a sea of people in Black Corral bibs -- I'd kept up with the fast people, finishing just barely in the top 20% of people overall.

There's my medal!!! Clickenzee to Embiggen

At the end of the race you walk down a long chute where people give you all sorts of food, pretzels, bananas, oranges, water. You probably have to walk a third of a mile before you can get out of the fenced in area and back on the street. I ate half a pretzel, a banana, and an orange.

Race is over, now what? Clickenzee to Embiggen

Dressing had been a bit of a coin toss -- the temperatures were supposed to range between 28 and 50. I opted for a short sleeve over a long sleeve with a Nike Element jacket. The Element is relatively warm, has a hood, and a gaiter which you can put over your face if it gets bitterly cold. This turned out to be the right setup. I took the jacket off around mile 4 and tied it around my waist. After that point 'proper running attire' would have been shorts and a long sleeve shirt but when you stop running, it gets cold again, so I sucked it up with the extra layer. The space blanket helped, but eventually I put my jacket back on and felt properly warm. On the whole, I survived the temperature changes pretty well.

Watching from the bridge. Clickenzee to Embiggen

I felt pretty good. Walking back down to the skate park I picked up my bike and watched the race from the top of the overpass for a while, clapping and cheering and watching the stream of ants. Heading home I passed through a trickle of people still coming up on mile seven. One of the great things about this sport is that out of 30,000 people who sign up for it, only about ten have a snowballs chance in hell of actually winning the race. Everybody else is there to win their own race. No matter how good or how bad you are at this sport, there will always be someone who finishes before you, and someone who finishes after you. It's not something you win, and it's not something that you lose. Your race is with you and with whatever you bring with you. Like Luke in the tree on Degobah. I brought my 40 pounds, my sedentary lifestyle, my 1:57 from last year and that's what I beat crossing the finish line. Everybody else brought their own things and won or lost against them.

Me, Roswell and MAH MEDAL. Clickenzee to Embiggen!

I weighed myself and discovered that I'd lost five pounds during the race. I'd hit about every other water stop and let thirst dictate how much I drank. Did Gatorade once around mile 8 rather than eat a gel, just because it was there and someone was offering it. At home I took a shower and ate about ten pounds of food, looked at my medal in the mirror and went right back to the Extraordinary Busy Weekend That I Will Write About Later.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend.

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My Philcon 2014 Schedule [Nov. 19th, 2014|07:04 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Hey folks! I'm Guest of Freaking Honor at the 2014 Philadelphia Science Fiction Convention this weekend (November 21-23rd).

Here's my schedule. I'd especially like it if women cosplayers would show up to "Cosplay Photography: Doing it Right" so that we can get your perspective. The panel is photographer heavy. I'd like to hear people's experiences. Also, it would be nice if people came to my Guest of Honor talk on Saturday.

Sat 11:00 AM in Plaza VI (Six) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Kyle Cassidy (mod)]

A quick, hour-long workshop with Philcon's Special Guest,
photographer Kyle Cassidy. You may want to bring a camera

Sat 1:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Tony Finan (mod), Kyle Cassidy, Raven Stormbringer, Kyle
Williamson, Pam Smith]

So, you're at a con, you see a great costume, and you'd like to get
a picture of it... how do you do that without infringing on the
costumer's personal space or time? We'll talk about what both
photographers and costumers can do

Sat 2:00 PM in Grand Ballroom A (1 hour)

[Panelists: Kyle Cassidy (mod)]

Sat 3:00 PM in Autograph Table (1 hour)

[Panelists: Kyle Cassidy (mod)]

Sun 12:00 PM in Grand Ballroom A (1 hour)

[Panelists: Kyle Cassidy (mod)]

Photographer Kyle Cassidy has worked with a number of popular and
respected writers and artists, such as Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer,
Elizabeth Bear, Emma Bull & Caitlin R. Kiernan. He will speak about
how to work with other talented artists to create new and great

Sun 2:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three (1 hour)

[Panelists: Rob Balder (mod), Kyle Cassidy, Neil Clarke, Gail Z.
Martin, Gary McGath]

How successful is it? What is the impact of crowd-funding on
publishing in general

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