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Blu-ray Camcorder Purchased

December 9th, 2008 4 comments

After all of my painstaking research I went and bought the new kid on the block, the new Hitachi Blu-ray DZ-BD7H high definition video camera. Hitachi does have a commitment to the environment in Japan, but is not as dedicated to recycling globally as Sony. They do have The Hitachi-zaidan Foundation, founded to advance environmental causes and they make environmentally friendly rapid transit and other industrial machines. They also support global initiatives and education. If their environmental record had been poor, I would not have bought the camera.

See my previous research on environmental initiatives by electronics companies.

I have not received any funding and I have been spending so much time on this and other music projects that I have not been making as much money as I should. So I tried to be frugal and bought this camcorder “open box” at Future Shop. It was missing some parts, the proprietary USB cable and the charging and A/C cables and transformer. This has made it difficult to use because I can’t download any video from the 30 gigabyte HD without the cable. The customer support at Hitachi, particularly Tina and Lorne have been very helpful in giving me part numbers and assisting with my problems. I have now ordered the parts and when they arrive there will be a lot more video on this site.

The camera captures video in High definition Blu-ray that can be burnt on to special disks (over $20 each) or downloaded to a computer. It also acts as a still camera saving on to a compact SD card flash memory. High definition and Blu-ray are new territory for me and I am sure I will have some difficulty as I don’t have a player or DVD in my computer that is compatible. It seems I always have to get more stuff, no matter how much I already have!

It will be fun to work with the video and to be able to document my progress on this and other projects. Now I need a wide angle lens, lights, tripod and protective case — at least I can start with the camera and get some video on the site.

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Categories: Video and Photography

Bringing the World Together

November 16th, 2008 No comments

I attended a workshop on grant writing yesterday and I realized I have to be able to convey the idea behind my whole project more clearly. So I am going to post some other projects that I have been paying attention to that have had some impact on the world.

Where the Hell is Matt?”

When my daughter told me about Matt, I didn’t get it. She invited me to come down to the beach and dance with this young man who was traveling all over the world dancing with people. No, he is not a great dancer. I didn’t get it — I didn’t go. That’s my daughter in the red skirt, front left, on the beach in Vancouver.

Where the Hell is Matt 2008

Matt brought the world together with his little dance. There is such joy in the act of Matt doing his dance from the heart that it refreshes my belief in humanity. I believe that behind the power struggles and the greed — we are all one people. When I saw the video — I got the message.

Playing for Change

Here is another group that is doing video of pop songs, like “Stand By Me” (Ben E. King) and “One Love” (Bob Marley) performed by musicians all over the world playing together through the wonders of technology. They all appear in their own country playing their instrument on the same song playing with the musicians that have already been recorded.

They have a great site and the passion to show that music can cross borders that have been created by the power structure to connect us.

Live More Lightly

The completed Live More Lightly song 6 minute video will show me singing, joined by one person, then by another, then by all the workshop participants that want to be in the video. As each workshop will be different, it probably won’t be as smooth in transition as the Playing for Change videos, but if I get some funding I can make better video. The first one will be a do-it -yourself demo, but I hope to have it ready for the start of the tour in 2009.

The documentary movie will be about the journey across the continent in 2009 to bring the diverse age groups, cultures, ethnic backgrounds and others (basically everybody I can get) together to Live More Lightly on the land one small action at a time. I want to show lots of great environmental footage of natural scenes so everyone will know why we should save the planet. I anticipate that 90 minutes of singing, workshop events, beautiful scenery and on-bike motorcycle riding should be about right.

The motorcycle tour is a small portion of this project, but it has been taking a lot to coordinate. I could just go in my van to do the workshops, but the motorcycle is much more environmentally friendly.

I also hope to be able to be the first person to stream live video from a moving motorcycle to a satellite without a truck. The Grand Prix racers have on-bike cameras that stream to a nearby truck that carries a satellite dish, like the one pictured below. This huge dish with signal amplification allows them to send a broadcast quality signal to the satellite. From the satellite the signal can be received at the television station for editing or routed into the broadcast signal as live coverage. A higher quality signal (broadcast television) takes more power, so a larger amplifier and more microwaves, than a low quality signal (webcam).

Closed satellite dish on top of truck

Due to microwave radiation from this type of dish, it is against Canadian law to mount it lower than 4ft off the ground. This dish, when fully extended is well above the heads of any concert goers and is considered safe. I don’t even like to carry my cell phone in my pocket, but for the sale of art, I plan to innundate myself with microwaves from a portable modem. Basic outline of streaming requirements here.

Many motorcyclists have mounted cameras on their bike and there are a lot of videos on the internet of intense riding. Depending on your area of interest there are many to choose from. One other Vancouver rider, Jeff has captured a lot of scenic footage from his Harley on VRide TV. I love the smoothness of his ride as it makes for great video as I already described here. I am on a more limited budget with my old Yamaha FJ1200, but I hope to be able to get some great nature footage for the documetary. Still working on the streaming aspect. I will keep you posted.

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November in the Rain

November 12th, 2008 No comments

Vancouver has settled into the “rainy with cloudy periods” weather pattern that will sustain until the spring. On November 13th my motorcycle insurance expires and the Big Bike goes into the carport for a long nap. Meanwhile, I have engine bars and a carry rack coming from Renntec Motorcycle Accessories and I am still trying to figure out the luggage system. My goal is to have a working system in place by spring so I can start to test it all out with local trips before leaving town.

I am trying to wait until the last possible minute to buy a video camera to mount on the bike. Technology is advancing so that anything I buy now will be outdated by spring. I will have to take the plunge at some point, just so I can practice with the machine before actually mounting it on the Yamaha FJ1200. I am sure there will also be mounting and vibration problems, but I hope to get everything worked out before next summer.

Cell phone companies are now interested in assisting me with streaming video off the bike, for a fee of course. The streaming would be limited to areas with cell phone coverage, so the mountains and more remote areas would be off the grid. I would still like to stream to a satellite, but the concept will take more development.

With the dark days and fewer distractions, I am sure the book will advance exponentially and I will keep you all posted on the progress of the project.

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Ubuntu Hardy + Free Firewire Drivers + Jackd

September 21st, 2008 1 comment

Since I came back from Seattle the Saffire audio device has been firmly installed at Waterlou Studios where it works very well with the G4 OSX 10.3.9 and G5 quad-core OSX 10.4. It has been challenging to get all the applications working on this newly installed platform and I have not had much time to putter away on my home system. Paul, our friend Barry and I also spent time going to a demo of the WAVES Logic plug-ins with Eddie Kramer as the keynote speaker, which was fun. I couldn’t resist making a few comments to the Apple reps about the new Logic Studio. It is an inspiring tool for Paul and I to have in our musical hands, but I still want to pursue my own mobile recording set-up.

Supported by ffado

Remember the WordPress motto when reading this: “Code is poetry.”

The last steps I took on activating the music recording capabilities of my ASUS notebook included installing the ffado drivers and (with help from Robin B. in Seattle) making sure the “raw1394” kernel module is loaded on boot. This can be checked in terminal (sudo modprobe raw1394) and I did find that the Ubuntu Studio control that I installed was not a reliable indicator that the raw kernel module was in fact loaded. Even after checking the box in the GUI loaded from System>Administration>Ubuntu Studio, I still was asked for my password to activate the raw kernel in terminal.

There is a post on the ffado site that describes how to check if jackd is reading the ffado driver from terminal here. Unfortunately, I get the reading:

[email protected]:~$ jackd -R -d firewire -v4
jackd: unknown driver ‘firewire’

I think my problem might be with jackd rather than with the ffado driver itself. I was following the install instructions on the ffado trac site — Pieter writes encouragingly at the top “It’s very easy”, but forgets to add “…if you are a Linux programmer”. I have the latest RT (realtime) kernel installed and all of the dependencies except the python-qt.

[email protected]:~$ sudo apt-get install scons libiec61883-0 libiec61883-dev libavc1394-0 libavc1394-dev libxml++2.6c2a libxml++2.6-dev liblo0 liblo0-dev docbook-utils libexpat-dev libdbus-1-dev pyqt-tools python-dbus python-qt
Reading package lists… Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information… Done
scons is already the newest version.
libiec61883-0 is already the newest version.
libiec61883-dev is already the newest version.
libavc1394-0 is already the newest version.
libavc1394-dev is already the newest version.
libxml++2.6c2a is already the newest version.
libxml++2.6-dev is already the newest version.
liblo0 is already the newest version.
liblo0-dev is already the newest version.
docbook-utils is already the newest version.
Note, selecting libexpat1-dev instead of libexpat-dev
libexpat1-dev is already the newest version.
libdbus-1-dev is already the newest version.
pyqt-tools is already the newest version.
python-dbus is already the newest version.
E: Couldn’t find package python-qt

Robin fixed this later and I have no idea what he did. I had already checked that I had python-qt3 installed and somehow he made Ubuntu see it. Next I downloaded the ffado sources and placed them in the directory and tried to compile using Scons. I had never tried to compile anything before so I did not realize that scons had to be run from inside the folder of the program that you wish to compile.

[email protected]:~$ scons DEBUG=yes

scons: *** No SConstruct file found.
File “/usr/lib/scons/SCons/Script/Main.py”, line 825, in _main
[email protected]:~$ scons install

Scons cannot find the SConstruct file unless it is run in the directory folder that the text file lives in. I figured this out and I was pleased to see a string of code scroll down the terminal screen.  I was less happy when the install terminated with the error message:

xdg-icon-resource install –size 64 –context apps support/xdg/hi64-apps-ffado.png
scons: *** DirNodeInfo instance has no attribute ‘csig’
scons: building terminated because of errors.

I tried to continue and received some help from the guide posted here. I decided not to try to hack the code in the SConstruct file as they suggest and looked for another method. There is now some new information posted by Pieter here, but at that time, after a bit of searching, I gave up and decided to continue with the install instructions. Later Robin came to my rescue and said something that contained the words “usr home folder”. I did not understand what he said and he types quickly into the terminal, but the result was positive and the driver is installed.

[email protected]:/usr/share/applications$ cd /usr/local
[email protected]:/usr/local$ ls
bin  etc  games  include  lib  man  sbin  share  src
[email protected]:/usr/local$ cd bin
[email protected]:/usr/local/bin$ ls
ffado-bridgeco-downloader  ffado-fireworks-downloader
ffado-dbus-server          ffadomixer
[email protected]:/usr/local/bin$ ffado
ffado-bridgeco-downloader   ffado-fireworks-downloader
ffado-dbus-server           ffadomixer
[email protected]:/usr/local/bin$ ffadomixer

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Another frustrating bit of business with the command:

$ sudo apt-get install subversion libtool automake

I could not get it to run, but I installed jack from the trunk in a separate folder and I think that is the source of my present problems. Jack installed very well, but now I think I am running two versions of Jacd and that is confusing to my OS. I do not have Robin B. to help me now, so I just tried running the above cmnd again. Surprised and pleased, I watched the install proceed:

[email protected]:~$ sudo apt-get install subversion libtool automake
[sudo] password for victoria:
Reading package lists… Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information… Done
subversion is already the newest version.
libtool is already the newest version.
The following NEW packages will be installed:
automake
0 upgraded, 1 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 519kB of archives.
After this operation, 1712kB of additional disk space will be used.
Get:1 http://ca.archive.ubuntu.com hardy/main automake 1:1.10.1-2 [519kB]
Fetched 519kB in 2s (182kB/s)
Selecting previously deselected package automake.
(Reading database … 245531 files and directories currently installed.)
Unpacking automake (from …/automake_1%3a1.10.1-2_all.deb) …
Setting up automake (1:1.10.1-2) …

Now I have the automake application installed jackd may work better or I might have to remove it from the system and reinstall. I plan to use this post to ask for help with my lack of success, but I feel I am making some progress because my terminal reads:

[email protected]:~$ cd libffado
[email protected]:~/libffado$ tests/test-ffado Discover
verbose level = 0
Using ffado library version: libffado 2.0.900-1319

06565751473: Debug (devicemanager.cpp)[ 555] discover: Discovery finished…
06565751641: Debug (devicemanager.cpp)[1045] showDeviceInfo: ===== Device Manager =====
06565751717: Debug (Element.cpp)[ 109] show: Element DeviceManager
06565751769: Debug (devicemanager.cpp)[1053] showDeviceInfo: — IEEE1394 Service  0 —
Iso handler info:
Dumping IsoHandlerManager Stream handler information…
State: 2
no message buffer overruns

————————————————————-

Thanks Robin B. for your hospitality and your help! Here are some flowers for you.

A bouquet of flowers for Robin

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WordPress Upgrade to 2.6.1

September 16th, 2008 1 comment

Using Fantastico in Bluehost I was able to smoothly upgrade my WordPress install this morning. Although WordPress urges me to upgrade to 2.6.2, Fantastico sees 2.6.1 as the latest version, so I cannot upgrade further at present. I also activated the podpress plug-in and some other multi-media tools. I look forward to exploring streaming content on my blog, both audio and video.

When I first installed WordPress, I had never administrated content management software before. The default is to install to the root folder, so that is where I put the program. Now, I am thinking about expanding the Live More Lightly Site to include a regular web site in addition to the blog, I find the root install is a problem. I have since installed and administer WordPress on other websites and it is just as easy to install to a new folder and link to the blog from the site menu. I would advise anyone installing WordPress to build a home page and put a link to the blog on that page. This will allow for easy site expansion as more links can be added to the home page and the blog will remain in the second-level folder where it was installed.

To avoid having to reinstall and reconfigure my site, I am constructing a Site Map page that will help to direct readers to the content they want to view and to the static pages that give information about the project. Many people find the three column layout confusing as there is so much information and different filtering options. The Site Map should help to demystify blog navigation and I welcome feedback when I get it published.

News Flash: The Live More Lightly Guestbook Page is now functional using the DMS Guestbook plug-in. Try it out, then I will know it works for sure.

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SLR Camera – Image Capture

September 14th, 2008 No comments

Now I have had the opportunity to look through two examples of excellent camera technology, I find myself increasingly attracted to continuing the experience. The first time I held such a camera was at the Madu Sari gamelan performance, “New Javanese Shadows“when a friend of mine asked me to hold his camera. My first impression can only be described by referring to a Hindu myth often told about the young Krishna. For those not familiar with Hindu mythology, the incarnations of the god Vishnu are many, but this story is about his time as the human Krishna.

On one occasion, when Krishna was still a child, he revealed his true god-self to his mother by asking her to look in his mouth. When she complied, she was astonished to see the entire universe inside the mouth of her child. When I looked into that camera, I saw a glimpse of the infinite — I was astonished. The photographer who owned the magic box enthusiastically started informing me of the technical details in a language full of numbers that I did not understand. This machine may be described by numbers, as the universe can be modeled mathematically, but the impact of the revelation I had experienced created a bookmark in my mind that I return to in wonder.

My next reaction was more practical, as the Virgo reasserted her presence. If everyone had a camera like that, my opportunities for employment as a graphic artist would be seriously reduced. There was no noise in the image, it was balanced and in sharp focus. If the capture mechanism was as pristine as the view, the images would reflect a hyper-realism that would need few adjustments. My daughter later comforted me by pointing out that many of these cameras are owned by individuals who can cause them to malfunction and that composition skills are still required. Even the best images can benefit from layout, design and story, so my production skills will still be needed.

The term “multi-media artist” has often been applied to my skill sets in production. I know that if I am not being paid, I do music, music technology and saving the world. Some practical part of me knows that my time will not allow any more addictions. I am already being drawn away from my “Live More Lightly Project” too much by other musical entanglements. I have to complete a book prototype this month. Move on. Read more…

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Electronics Product Stewardship Canada

September 1st, 2008 No comments

The lure of High Definition is keeping me interested in purchasing a camcorder that I can mount on the motorcycle or remove for shooting the places I visit and the people I meet. Lifecycle sustainability is an important factor in my choice and it seems that the major companies are becoming aware of this. I searched for an environmental report comparing major electronics companies that manufacture camcorders I am interested in purchasing, especially Sony, Canon, JVC and Panasonic. I found some interesting information but no side-by-side comparison.

In Canada we are lucky to have non-profit societies that are working hard on the problem of electronics disposal. Electronics Product Stewardship Canada is developing an “industry led solution” to see electronic waste properly managed. Of the four companies I am interested in, only JVC is not a member of this coalition. The organization is nationwide and has influenced policy in British Columbia so that electronics can be recycled here. Unfortunately, there is a large list of items that are not accepted, so I have to keep storing my broken VCRs until the program expands.

As part of the “Live More Lightly Project” I hope to raise awareness of these programs so that more people will utilize them and keep dangerous materials out of landfill sites. There is a fee to re-cycle electronics but there are depots throughout the province and a handy map to locate a depot near you. Other provinces have similar programs and I encourage you to use them.

Re-use of working electronics is always preferred to disposal and organizations such as Free Geek will accept equipment that is not state-of-the-art, refurbish it and donate it to a needy charity or sell it in their computer thrift store.

Some companies are putting more effort into product stewardship and environmental programs and this will influence my purchasing decision. See a short description of each company’s efforts below. Read more…

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Watch the Watcher

August 20th, 2008 No comments

I have been fascinated by the idea that I am being watched by surveillance cameras since they started to become more common in the 1980s. In 1989 I wrote a play that explored a vision of the future. It was rejected for a Canada Council Grant because it was too much like the novel 1984 by George Orwell. The play contained an act that featured a lonely young man and opened with him watching television alone because his roommate had gone on a date. Read the play excerpt here.

Many of the technologies I envisioned in the play have become ubiquitous in our lives. I wrote about ATM machines, the internet and e-books, but the focus was surveillance and government control. Now I read articles that confirm my fears that every moment we are in a public place, we are on camera (example). Is this something to fear or does it contribute to public security? The example article quotes Norman Siegel, who recommends that everyone carry their own camera with them so they can record their version of any event they witness. This is good advice, but sometimes events happen so fast or unexpectedly that the video camera is still in the case when the action occurs.

The idea of mounting a video camera on my motorcycle did not arise from the idea of documenting civil rights violations, or even motor vehicle traffic law breakers, although that’s not a bad idea . . . my idea came from wanting to share the experience of riding a motorcycle. When I am riding, I am part of the environment in a way that never occurs when I am sealed in the box of a car or van. With only two small patches of rubber on the road — it’s as close as I can get to flying.

Even though I know each time I go to the bank, shop, drive or even walk down the street, I may be on  video and might be on the internet. I know that there is not enough manpower to monitor every video stream; so there must be years of video stored on hard drives that has never been viewed. There are very intelligent software filters and programs that match facial features or license plates to database records, used by large organizations and governments, so humans only become involved if there is an alert. Video is often used after the fact to try to identify perpetrators or get-away vehicles. I try to be nondescript in public and pass under the radar by looking completely non-threatening. Invisible = average height, middle-aged woman.

As part of my camera research I have been looking at the possibility of using a surveillance camera for the always-on option on my bike. The cameras are small, high-quality, durable and stream directly through an ethernet cable to a computer or the internet. There is a lot of money spent on the development of these cameras and so they come in many shapes and sizes. Some manufacturers even make ones with a built-in windshield wiper, de-mister and/or heater! Some are really high quality and I will do another post on camera choices soon.  I already plan to bring a computer and I wanted to stream on to the internet, so this could give the process a jump start. This system example I got from Gary looks like it is used by plumbers to examine pipe insides. The notebook runs on Vista, but I will try to make it work in Linux too.

Notebook Inspection Cam

Carrying my notebook with me everywhere I go would be a good thing as I really do use it, when I bring it along. I need bags on my bike so I can carry it securely and not have to strip everything off every time I stop. I am working on it.

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Another connection with surveillance technology is my interest in highway-cams. On my tour, I plan to identify hiway cams and video them as they are capturing me. I talk about the artistic influences that inspired me to do this here. The ideal outcome will be if I can have a collaborator saving the highway-cam stream on their computer so that I can use the video record in a documentary.

 _______________________

There are also threats to privacy in the proliferation of spyware. A description of what these programs can do is found here on a site that sells software designed to assist network administrators to monitor computer use. Downloaded spyware can track every keystroke you make, where you go on the internet, what pages are viewed, for how long and what you are clicking on. Then, the program will send all of this information back to over your internet connection to the company or individual who invaded your computer. Computers running Windows are most vulnerable to this type of background program and regular use of Spybot and Ad-Aware are recommended to all of my Windows computer clients. Just to demonstrate how devious these programs can be, a recent invasion of spyware was caused by a company masquerading as Ad-Aware. Please ignore all other sites and download only from Lavasoft.

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Life-Cycle Responsibility

August 9th, 2008 No comments

Time is slipping away so fast with so many details to take care of to realize the Live More Lightly Project. One of the reasons this project is so complex is that I have taken life-cycle responsibility for the product that I am producing. The product in this case is a multi-media book, but the principals apply to anything produced. In this post, I will refer to the concept of the universal product as a “widget”. The recent rush to re-cycle widgets properly is to be applauded, but the idea of considering the environmental impact of every aspect of producing and maintaining the product is often overlooked.

My particular widget, the “Live More Lightly Songbook and Workshop Guide” will be printed using the most environmentally friendly processes available. The included disk will have to be made from virgin plastic, so the choice will be based on price, although I plan to choose a company that uses environmentally sound practices when they can. This is the point where many producers believe they have done enough, but I continue to examine my practices: can I live more lightly?

euphorogenic-jun15-sm.png

I am writing the book using a computer that I built from mostly re-cycled parts and the notebook I bought to take on the tour was manufactured by AsusTek, a leader in re-use and re-cycling of its products. I am using Ubuntu Linux on both computers (the notebook came with Vista, so it is dual-boot) because I believe that open source software is more efficient and uses less resources. This is a statement I can’t provide academic proof for, but I know it saves my resources. With Windows and Mac computers I have to spend time working to be able to afford the product, then after spending considerable sums of money, I usually have to spend hours troubleshooting. With Linux, if you can get it to work — it is yours. I want to have good karma on this project and use legitimate software only. The software I am using in Ubuntu would take me months of work to afford because I do not want to be a software pirate.

Read more…

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Vancouver Folk Music Festival and the Canon A80

August 2nd, 2008 No comments

It has been raining in Vancouver now for a couple of days and I have been riding, because I put my van in the shop just as the clouds were gathering. As the rain pours down in a foreshadowing of the winter that will arrive all too soon, I think back to the clear skies and endless sun we enjoyed July 19 + 20th for the 31st annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival.

Despite my frustration with how slow everything is progressing with my project, I still dropped everything to go to the Folk Music Festival with my daughter and her friends. It is really hard for me to concentrate on spreadsheets when I know there is some fine music out on Jericho Beach.

This is also a story about cameras because I was left with my venerable aged Canon A80 to take to the Folk Fest and to the Javanese Shadow play. This is because I invested in the Canon S series as a suitable camera for my daughter and it is really too fragile. I ended up with her old S2 after the power supply blew out and I bought her an S3. I had my Canon A80 and had just bought some lenses for it when I got the S2 repaired and have been using it instead of the older A80. Alas, the S3 blew out it’s power supply and I returned the S2 to my daughter while it was in the shop. So, I was left with the A80, but I had lenses to try out.

My daughter was armed with the newly repaired Canon S3 and her friends are also photographers with very impressive looking cameras, the usual digital SLRs and even a medium format antique. There were a lot of really expensive cameras at the Festival and good photographers as can be viewed on flikr.

Medium format camera Digital SLR

My daughter looked at me quizzically as I started screwing plastic bits on to my camera. It’s not like my old Pentax K1000, bayonet mount, this is a procedure where parts have to be manipulated. “What’s that?”, she asked. Quick witted as ever, I looked at the part in my hand and carefully read the neat white letters printed on the side, “It’s a wide-angle lens, dear, I’m trying it out.” She replied definitively that I should take crowd shots.

Daughter photo

There was great music at the festival and it was an opportunity to spend time with my daughter and her friends. I had never spent so much time with non-musicians at a festival. Some of them went shopping, so I joined them, as I had never considered shopping at a festival. The wares were very unique, like the small fairy wings some of the girls were wearing. A lot of time was spent talking and enjoying the sun and fine food. Relaxing, socializing and hearing the music like a lounge band at a fine restaurant, this was a very enjoyable and perfectly valid festival experience … but, I was panicking inside because I was missing everything! I had to go and listen to some music without having to talk to anyone. We coordinated cell phones, so we could meet up again, and I went off by myself.

Read more…

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