Batman’s Lobster is Alive!?

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Wha…!? It’s still alive!? I nuked it for like 3 minutes!??

I got this idea from the fact that the little Lego lobster from the new Batman Movie CMF Series has cute little eyes.  How could he eat something so cute?  I took this shot inside.  I don’t often take pictures inside because the lighting is so much more difficult than natural outside lighting.  I find I have to turn off all the lights to get rid of all the unwanted reflection on the plastic.  I especially dislike it if it puts a glare on details like the face and eyes.

I wanted this shot to look like early morning in the batcave.  So I used a large chunk of selenite I had mined from a glitter pit in Saint George, UT.  I though it made for a good natural rocky wall that let the light filter in from the window.  The floor is a sample piece of Tritan from the Eastman Chemical Company.  I got this sample a while back when I was choosing a material for my Tritan Wowflute pocket ocarina.  The clarity it offers is fantastic and it made for a good translucent blue floor for batman to stand on.

I used a piece of wadded up paper (spit wad), and rolled it to fit into the lobsters bottom connector piece.  This way I could prop up the lobster to see more of the excellent detail while it still facing the camera.

The idea was this lobster is still alive and kicking!?  Alfred should’ve cooked it longer…  I had a similar experience as a kid but instead of sea crustaceans it was ants.  I am not sure what I was thinking but there was a phase in my early childhood where I experimented at the demise of small insects.  My dogs bowl of dogfood was out in the garage and had been discovered by a lone ant.  This slowly turned into a steady stream of ants which then covered the entire contents of the bowl.  My dog was disgusted for obvious reasons and I decided the easiest way to get rid of the ants would be to microwave them.

This was a disaster.

The ants didn’t seem to affected adversly from the microwaves.  Either they were too small or just have some kind of super power like ant-man to avoid radiation or something?  Well, the microwave was crawing with ants everywhere.  The microwaves had cooked the dry dogfood and made it hot which made the ants want to climb off.  It was a mess  to clean up but I learned that nuking something alive may not actually make it not alive.

Hence, batman discovers that simply nuking a lobster for three minutes in the microwave doesn’t always work…


Lenny Rides in the Crisp morning Light

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Up bright and early before the sun hits the valley – that’s how Lenny rolls.

Early mornings are a great time to do toy photography.  I find that my mind is wide awake and ready for the day.

I took this shot while traveling down to my newly opened stone quarry.  I was traveling down the black ridge on Interstate 15 from Cedar City to St. George and the morning light was barely lighting the sky.  I decided to take an early exit near Pinto, UT and head towards the Pine Valley Mountain Range.  The  snow capped mountains lit up pink in the sunrise and the valley below was still in the shade of the black ridge.  I hurried up a dirt road and parked.  The light was changing every minute and I was striving to get a few shots all along those changes.

The hood of the truck turned out to be a nice clean setup for a shot and the reflection of blue hid the fact that this old chevy had a dark green faded and rubbing off paint job.  The bright mountain range behind Lenny’s head was a great contrast which brought your eyes to his.  I made a rather steep angle with my camera because I wanted it to look like Lenny  was on the verge of a very steep ridge.  I liked the blues that the early morning shadows gave so I decided not to bother with the exposure at all.

Icy Sauna for Wampa

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Such a relaxing icy sauna for wampa… Even wampa deserves a day off.

I took my boys to school this morning and it was frigid!  And I mean frigid… It was 6 degrees F.  Bitterly cold.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  I don’t know why I thought it would be a good time to stop and take pictures.  I liked the thick frost that had formed on everything during the night and the snow piling on the long june grass made for some excellent little pockets of glowing caves.

I guess that is what made me get out.  Within seconds my fingers were no longer there.  They had become numb, and still I strived for a shot.  The snow turned out to be very hard to work with because it was not packed down at all.  It was so cold that the snow flakes had come to rest in a stillness that left tons of air between each flake.  I could literally blow the snow with one little puff through 8 inches and clear it to the ground below.  This was not ideal for my wampa figure.  I set him down ready to position him and he disappeared instantaneously.  I hadn’t been smart enough to bring gloves so reaching through the puffy snow seemed to cut my hands with coldness.  I could actually feel the sharp edges of the flakes as I brushed them aside.

I worked with what I had and added snow to the cave to compact it.  I had to add like four times the snow to compact it enough to hold my Wampa.  It worked though and the lighting had the glow I was looking for.  I wanted a warmth to the shot even though Hoth is far from warm.  I wanted the wampa to seem comfortable as he relaxed in a cave of fresh deep snow.  I think I succeeded here but I still think something is missing from this shot and I am not sure what it is?

Plant Now. Harvest Later.

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Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later. – Og Mandino

Sometimes I feel like I am always panting seeds and never harvesting them.  I am an entrepreneur and it seems that all my little projects and endeavors always tend to take more time and pay much less than I anticipated.

I started out with my invention of a small pocket flute called the Wowflute.  It is based on the Native American Flute (pentatonic scale), but weighs in at only 1/2 ounce.  This makes it the perfect portable instrument – it’s smaller than a harmonica and has enough range to play lots of songs.  Sounds like a great idea right?  Well, it is.  I have made and sold over 40,000 of my handmade Wowflutes; but I feel I am the bottleneck.  Maybe I sell them too cheaply at only $10, or maybe I just haven’t figured out how to replace myself in the process. It  just seems like they take more effort to make than what I am compensated for them.

I started a UFO Fest with my brother Nathan Cowlishaw.  This is a huge undertaking.  We started a non-profit called Anomaly Conservatory to basically be the organization behind the festival and this was also a huge task.  Right now we are working on the second annual Festival to be held June 17, 2017 in Cedar City, UT.  The problem with a festival (especially an open to the public festival) is figuring out how to monetize it in such a way to benefit everyone and make it possible to keep doing what we are doing.

Last year I also started a mining company Earthtone Trading with my brother and some friends of mine.  This is probably my most lucrative endeavor but we are just in the process of planting seeds.  It will bear fruit in the future for us and all involved, especially artists / scultpors that have an amazing talent to work it into masterpieces.

Then there is this Toy Photography hobby of mine.  Some folks think I am wasting my time when I take pictures of toys.  Some folks think I am wasting all my time taking and posting the pictures, but the truth in the matter is my Toy Photography is only a small part of what I do.  I do not usually take very much time in creating and capturing my toy shots.  it is within my everyday activities.  I just take the time and bring along my equipment and toys so Ican take a shot with a bit of downtime.

I took this shot of the scarecrow last fall near my home.  We have a meadow that has an old sheep corral in it which is the site for family photography.  There seems to always be someone out there getting family portraits in any kind of weather.  It is a beautiful spot, as you can tell from this shot.

All of these different projects and businesses I am working on just do not seem to bring in what I need to provide for my seven body family.  I know it will in the future and I know that harvest time is coming soon – but sometimes it is difficult to see the growth occurring before the sprout comes up.

Treacherous Surface Exploration

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We are anthill men on an anthill world. ~ Ray Bradbury
Some areas of the surface are a bit too treacherous to explore with the exosuit…

I find myself revisiting places I went to often as a kid to capture my toy photography.  It is a very nostalgic experience.  This shot, along with many others I have captured was taken at what I call the Cinder Pit.  This cinder pit is located near my grandfathers ranch in Summit, UT.  Summit is a small town if you can call it that.  Passing it on the freeway, you blink and it’s gone.

The cinder pit is located on an old cinder cone hill.  It has been developed by the Utah department of transportation (UDOT), but is open to the public.  They use the dark grey cinders to spread on the icy roads in the winter.  When mixed with salt this makes for excellent gripping power in the snow.

They mine the cinder out of the mountain side and they pile it in small fifty foot tall hills.  These hills become weathered in rain and create small 5-6 foot cliffs on the slope.  The cinder is very soft in these piles to a depth of almost three feet at times.

When I was a kid we would climb up the backside of the hills and run and jump off the top ledge.  It was a thrilling, intense activity of freefalling upwards of fifteen feet into the soft powdered hillside.  Think of it like jumping into the ball pit at McDonalds (although I haven’t seen those in forever).  Because the cliff is on a slope, when you jump off it you fall much farther.  Also because of the slope, when you land it is a gradual landing and doesn’t hurt at all, usually.

My cousin and I and a friend decided to go and try this cinder pit jumping as adults.  I was equipped with my GoPro, and I think that’s where we went wrong.  I think GoPro’s have a tendency to capture injuries because some people like to show off when they are being filmed.  Well, this particular day we went was a very nice and sunny day but the issue was that it had rained a few days earlier and the cinders had soaked up that water.  The cinders were only soft to a depth of about 6-8 inches – then they were rock hard and wet.  We were unaware of this until my cousin (he’s a big guy), leaped off the top and landed with a painful bounce.  He shattered his tailbone on contact.  It was horrible, and I caught it all on the gopro in slowmotion.  I would put the footage up – but I don’t think he would appreciate it.

I think this cinder pit is a perfect location for an other worldly landscape and I have used it several times in many different shots.  I utilized Mextures and Enlight to give it a martian surface feel.


Ancient Fairytales

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 Ancient fairy tales are always scary and dark… like batman!

I really thought this figure was hilarious when I saw it was to be included in the Batman Movie CMF series.  I like how they made the face with a begrudging mouth that make it look like batman is hating every part of the suit.  It’s like he lost a bet or something.

I took this shot in the evening when I arrived back from working up stone for our mining company.  The snow had not yet warmed enough to be sticky so it was rather tricky to place the figure.  I wanted him to appear lightweight because hey – it’s a fairy batman.

I’ve learned a lot over the years about the true nature of fairy tales.  They were generally told to scare children into being good and obeying their parents.  Being a father of five I am guilty of this tactic at times.

I think there is a better way.

I have pondered this a lot as of late because it seems my children are all turned up to “blasting” like the toy I put puts it when you turn the volume up all the way.  We can be sitting down for a meal, right next to each other, and they shout what they want.  We thought maybe they all had wax buildup in their ears and one did – but even after getting that out they were still loud.

Our kiddos range from young not even two all the way up to seven.  Yeah, we had our five kiddos really fast.  I think this is more of the reason why they are loud.  For one, small children don’t really care about being quiet.  They just care if their needs are being met.  

I think the issue is they feel as if they are competing to get a word in edgewise and therefore they try to talk over everyone.  But then again they talk loud even when everyone else is quiet…

Anyway, I have been thinking about the true nature of fairy tales and how they were created to put fear into children.  I think I like the fact that Walt Disney took the liberty to change them into more of a friendly story towards children.  Children need more care and understanding in their lives – they need to feel loved.  Fear is the opposite of what they need and can lead to harbored feelings of distrust.  

I still think fear is a good tool at times – like a healthy fear of getting hit by a car to keep them from running into the street.  But I also think teaching a child on their level using terms they can understand would be much more beneficial to everyone.

Big Willie Style

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Big Willie Style! Lenny sort of cheats by using his tail…

I absolutely love the bokeh results I get with the Minolta Rokkor 55mm!  It is a bit soft wide open at f1.7 but its worth the shallow depth of field.  This particular shot was taken in the morning on my way to our rock quarry near St. George, UT.  I pulled off the highway and up a dirt road and stopped near a boulder that had a bush in the background.  The morning glow came in through the bush sticks and created this fantastic bokeh.  I hadn’t set up Lenny doing a wheelie until now because it is quite tricky to get him to balance just right upright.  The angle of the slope on the rock made this shot possible.  Lenny’s foot is actually propping him up on the rock side and then his tail helped stabilize him.  It was still a balancing act.   Luckily there usually is no wind in the early morning calm.

I like getting up before the sun.  I don’t always do it but when I do I feel like I get so much more done in the day.   I beleive it was Benjamin Franklin that stated that “an ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure”.   I have heard it changed to “an ounce of morning, is worth a pound of afternoon” and I tend to agree with this statement.  I feel when I am up early I am alert and ready to get things done.  By late afternoon I feel sluggish and ready to relax and wind down for the evening.

Riding the Grooves

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Riding the grooves of an old pioneer house!

Sometimes I feel like Lenny here in this shot.  You get in the groove and get set in your ways and it’s difficult to change.  These grooves are a bit like ruts in life.  When I was a kid, twelve years old or so, I got to practice driving my dads truck on dirt roads west and south of town.  One such road had clearly been traversed by a large truck during muddy weather and had carved deep ruts through the road.  My father helped me navigate them but on one occasion I dropped down into them.  The ruts proved to steer me.  It overpowered my ability to grab the wheel and make my own steering decisions.   It took quite a bit of effort to climb up the side of the rut and out.

Sometimes I feel in my work that I get into ruts.  Ruts that either others have created or versions I have created through habit.  It is easy to feel like you are working when you are in a rut, but really you are just going with the flow.  Some ruts are too deep to get out of and are difficult to change.

I experienced this at a place I worked at in the past doing 3D modeling and design.  They had a system that worked but seemed very repetitive.  I was given the task to do this repetitive work and it was rather boring.  In fact, I nearly fell asleep while doing it.  I strove to find new ways to think outside the box and implement new strategies to get the process more automated.  In the end though, everyone just kept doing it the way that seemed easier because they knew it.

I also worked for a mining company as the General Manager.  My goal was to create systems that made it easy to follow the stone from the mining process to the logistics and processing of the stone.  There were five owners, one of which had much more control and say in the company than the others.  This owner did not want to change and adapt to new technologies and therefore undermined my ability to manage the company.

I now own my own mining company and I have found that my systems work very well.  I do not yet have the assets or cashflow that the other mining company had so many of my new systems are not yet perfected but I know they will work.  Even after implementation, I am open to new ideas and technologies. I do not want to be stuck in ruts – especially my own.

Lenny doesn’t stay in ruts long – he’s always changing and looking for new adventures.

Glowing Mossy Path

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The glowing moss lit the way; Jim wasn’t sure what adventures were ahead, but it was definitely the path for him, the path less traveled…

What is an adventure?

I’ve been thinking a bit on this today.  What really constitutes an adventure?  Is it danger? Is it a change of plans?  Is it just something unexpected? defines adventure as

1) An exciting or very unusual experience

2) A bold, usually risky undertaking

I agree with these definitions and I think they go hand in hand.  Unusual experiences usually come after taking some kind of risk.  The excitement of adventure leads Jim into an unknown area to explore the wilderness around him.  The moss is unusually soft on his feet as he hikes and he has come across this new experience through taking paths that are not worn.

I find that my own life has been somewhat like Jim’s adventures.  I don’t want to follow the predefined path that most people take.  I wasn’t always this way.  When I was growing up I attended public school like all my friends, I got a job in high school, like most my friends, and I had a truck, like most of my friends.  I followed a set answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  I always answered “An Engineer”, although I never really knew what engineers did or why it would be so cool to be one.

After High School I served a full-time Mormon mission to New York City.  Coming from a small southern Utah town to the largest and most diverse city in the world was very eye opening.  But I still had this idea in my mind that I will go home after my mission, got to college, become an engineer, and live happily ever after with a family and lots of money.

I don’t know when I woke up.

I can’t really put a finger on it.  I think it was all the business books I read in my free time and all the self-help books about improving ones thoughts and actions.  It was a gradual understanding that I was following a direct path into the rat race.  The race to get lots of money.  The race to keep up or surpass the Jones’.  I went through college and got a degree before I woke up.  I followed the whole resume building plan to spruce up my hire-ability.   I worked hard to become this idea I had in my mind of an engineer designing things and having a blast.  But it was not a real thing.   Engineering turned out to be rather boring for me.  It was all about making my boss wealthy and the company wealthy.  It was all about money.  Engineering was all geared towards finding the cheapest option that would work and not fail and lead to other liabilities.  It was about following rules and set guidelines that were already established at the companies I worked for.  I found that as an engineer I was given all the projects and work that the owner himself did not want to do.

I guess it’s like that in most professions.  You have to follow this set standard.  I also found how our money system revolves around this system of the rat race.  Marketing and buying and selling and getting more and more stuff.  Get a promotion at work?  Get a new car!  Match and exceed your income! Get paid a lot?  Buy a house!

These things are not necessarily bad, but the why is missing.

I have since left the rat race and have focused on building my own character through taking on risk and adventure.  It is still hard work, do not get me wrong.  All those folks that paint getting out on your own and starting a business or entrepreneurship as easy are feeding a lie that is so easily accepted through the rose colored glasses of seeing the finished result without the effort.

I like Jim’s adventures because they are a true adventure away from all the troubles of society.  They are adventures in self reflection and pondering, where one can appreciate all the things God does without us.  The beauty of nature and light.  The beauty of colors and growth.  The beauty of the mountains and the valleys.  The beauty of forests and deserts.  I sometimes envy Jim as he can drop everything and go.  I also at times feel sad for Jim because he does not seem to have anywhere to be.

All in all, Jim has a great time out in the hills and I also get to get out in nature to recharge my batteries for the adventure that is life!