Photo365 2011

On January 1 2011, I made a commitment to take at least one photograph every day of that year. Now, 365 days later, I can proudly say that I’ve actually accomplished a New Year’s resolution for once. And despite my trepidation at the start of the year, it wasn’t a chore at all,  never grew tiresome. In fact, the process became an obsession. As the year progressed, I found my habits changing. Rather than photographs “leaping out at me,” realized I was learning to scan the environment subconsciously, always on the lookout for “that moment.” And I developed a Pavlovian response to that little time window after getting the kid into bed – time to study the day’s images, delete the duds, and upload the pick.

Yeah, there were days when the busy-ness or the same-ness of everyday life made it hard, and yes, some shots are weaker than others. But seldom felt like I had to cop out and just shoot for the sake of the project – there’s always something out there waiting to be found. Other days, had the opposite problem, where selecting just one out of many possibles was the real challenge. Definitely feel like the first 100 images are so are weaker than the later ones – felt my eye improving as the year progressed.

Only regret is that I was using Instragram heavily in the first few months, and Instagram leaves you with low-rez originals (or at least it used to). Over time realized  I was almost always better off shooting with the phone’s native camera app, and filtering/processing later with Analog, FX Studio, or Photoshop if I thought the image needed a little goose.

Check out the Flickr set to see the images with captions, or click the grid below for the slideshow (go full-screen!).

Many thanks to Richard Koci-Hernandez for the inspiration – I wouldn’t have gone for it if not for him and his bottomless inspiration. Enjoyed the process so much that I’m planning to do it again in 2012.

Hallejuah

Stopped to watch a bearded guy playing a fantastic acoustic cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallejuah” (via Jeff Buckley). Really getting swept up in it, when a Muslim dude came by, realized it was prayer time, got down on his knees and started praying to the East, praising Allah. Thing was, he was just a few feet in front of a BART ticket machine, so it kind of looked like he was praying to a mechano. All very surreal and beautiful.

Craigwork

Birdhouse Hosting is super-proud to announce the launch of craigwork.com, exhibiting the work of Bay Area artist/sculptor/spacemaker Craig Hansen. Craig does absolutely mind-blowing work with cardboard, pencil, fabric, Kapla blocks, and other materials. Think you’ve made cool cardboard rockets with your kid? Check this one. His pencil drawings of objects found near a river are absolutely jaw-dropping (yes, they really are pencil drawings). If you’ve taken your kids to the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, you’ve probably experienced some of the educational space designs he helped imagine and construct.

 

Hansen was one of the lead designers for the “Forces That Shape the Bay” exhibit at Lawrence Hall of Science. If you’ve got kids and live in the Bay Area, you’ve almost certainly experienced the earthquake fault  simulator and river-blocking paddle system on display there.

Craig has also built some of the  tallest unglued Kapla Block constructions you’ve probably ever seen (the construction/demolition video is great).

I’ve worked closely with Craig over the past few months working out the web presentation for his work. The design is an example of “design by subtraction” – we started with an artist’s theme for WordPress and slowly removed elements we didn’t need until only the bare minimum remained. We hit a lot of roadblocks along the way, but I’m really proud of how the site turned out.

Geek note: WordPress doesn’t allow for icons representing categories and subcats, but I did find the excellent Category Icons plugin to get the job done. Unfortunately, a bug in the plugin causes the numeral “1” to be spit out after each icon. I tried many times, but could not get a response out of the developer, even after offering to pay for support. Didn’t have time to rewrite the plugin myself. In the end, I papered over the problem with a bit of jQuery that searches for the numeral “1” in a div and renders it white. Against a white background, the bug appears to vanish.

jQuery("div:contains('1')").css( "color","white" );

Feels a bit dirty, but also devilishly satisfying.

Visit to The Crucible

Awesome day – I was invited to join a group of journalists as they explored and covered Oakland’s metal and glass foundry / learning center The Crucible. Incredible place – blacksmithing, glass blowing, grinding, enamel work, all forms of welding and cutting, wood shop, Arduino and electronics…. would love to attend, but classes are really expensive. They do have scholarships for the kids classes though!

Embedded gallery below, or check out the Flickr set

As we were wrapping up, one of the old-timers came out of a room with this amazing quadrocopter, which he flew all over the place:

4 Way Synchronized Skydive Dancing

Four guys in a wind flight simulator in Prague, who’ve invented a new form of synchronized skydive dancing. I’ve had a great time doing indoor skydiving in the past, but never seen anything like this absolutely elegant Buzzby Berkeley minus gravity joint.

Anti-Gravity Research Water Bottle Rocket

On recommendation of a co-worker, recently ordered the Skylab Water Rocket kit from Anti-Gravity Research. Got around to assembling it on a beautiful June day, accompanied by Miles and one of his friends. Downloadable instructions were super detailed with great pictures. Hardest part, of course, was finding a 2-liter pop bottle (who goes through that much soda, anyway?) I took a nip, and the rest went down the drain. The rest of the build was straightforward – snip off the retainer ring near the neck, attach the bumper with rubber bands (included), assemble the fins, and attach the guide tube (which slides over a stick to ensure a true vertical launch).

The included fins were really my only complaint about the kit – they’re finicky to put together, and they pop off on impact with every flight. Covered in soapy water, they get slippery, which makes putting them back together even more of a noodle. Have written the company asking why they don’t do a one-piece fin assembly.

Put about 1/2″ of “fuel” (water with 10% dishwashing soap for an extra fizzy vapor trail) into the bottle, attach the high-thrust bottle cap adapter, slip on the fin assembly, and insert the air pressure nozzle. For safety, the kit comes with a 20-foot connector hose, which runs to an ordinary bicycle pump. Start jacking! Immediately, the soapy water creates a foam visible inside the bottle. A few strokes later, the bottle is bulging with pressurized foam.

Anti Gravity Research water rocket from Scot Hacker on Vimeo.

Pardon the bouncing camera as I was pumping with one hand and shooting with the other. Feel the expectation in the air? Love the kids’ commentary.

It’s impossible to know exactly when it’s going to go off – basically whenever the pressure-fit nozzle can no longer withstand the pressure of the foam. But when it does, holy mother of pearl! If I had to guess, I’d say the rocket flew between 100 and 125 straight into the air, majestic!

The 8-year-olds I was with weren’t able to pump hard enough to get it going so that remained a grown up job, but they were fully involved in the rest of the process, and love love loved it.

Recommended.

Update: I corresponded with Ken at Anti-Gravity, who saw this post and responded:

You estimated that the rocket had flown 100 to 125 feet up. If you pump quickly, the rocket will usually keep hanging on until about 60 or 70 pumps, and if the rocket has enough water in it (at these higher pressures it can carry up much more water without tipping over) the rocket can reach 400 feet altitude or more. In our development tests, using a high-strength bottle, the SkyLab has reached an altitude of 570 feet.

Yow!