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A Visit, A Party, and Video Training

July 2 - 11?
Written July 6+
Dear Diary and Friends and Family,

This is another just-keeping-track diary.  You know, keeping track of our lives for our own memories, no wonderful events that would stay in our heads without a created record.  Or, maybe, these are the wonderful, ordinary events that would hang in our memories with or without help.
Ordinary event #1 was a quick road trip that Marianne took without me.  Her goal was visits with a few friends, old and new, always worthwhile.  She left Fresno early Sunday, giving her own car the miles it normally does not experience.  We both have 2015 cars, but "hers" has less than half the miles "our" car has.
The first stop was in Santa Cruz, to visit her long-standing friend Rita.  If I recollect right, they have been friends for almost fifty years. Marianne's report back from the quick stop reminded us that we do not get together with Rita and Peter nearly often enough, but we should.  Just nice people.  (We need to start during the summer since, on this day for example, Santa Cruz was almost 40F cooler than Fresno, my kind of air conditioning.)

After lunch, Marianne headed down to Monterey to step-mom Klare's.  As reported to me, after required hugs and kisses, Marianne, Klare, and Jack hit a local cafe for a light dinner.  I need to get the name, since the report was positive, not unusual for Monterey-local places.  After early dinner came (relatively) early bedtime.  Marianne checked in with me at about 8:30, admitting that she had already turned in. Monday would be a long drive.

That long drive was from Monterey, south of the San Francisco Bay Area, to San Rafael, on the north side of the Bay.  Navigation was tricky, because there are two or three different paths through the often-congested urban sprawl.  Marianne was still learning how to use her Audi's GPS, and had forgotten to look at that old-fashioned aid, a paper map, so we had one phone session where I looked at the map while she and Klare took notes. 
It must have worked ok, because they made it on time to Nelcy's front door.  She and Klare had met in their German school over seventy years ago, even a generation longer than Rita and Marianne's friendship.  Having had a wandering life myself, without decades-long connections, I envy them all. 
I had asked Marianne to take pictures during her trip, because that's what we do nowadays.  Nelcy's home was filled with both purchased and her own created work, so photos were fun.  (Only a fraction are presented here.)
African and Asian works came from a life of travel.  I was particularly taken by this silver headpiece, but each of the masks and headpieces were unique and interesting.

d180702_30_arteggs.jpgPerhaps the most impressive interior art was created by Nelcy herself, from a wide variety of materials.  The wall of paper mache eggs was dramatic.  There were also large hangings made from foil reclaimed from wine bottles!  Wonderful imagination!
Outside were even more art pieces, mostly Nelcy's own work, if I heard right.  The three busts shown here were mounted, with hands and feet, on reclaimed power poles.  More imagination and skill. 
Since I wasn't there, I can not report on the substance of the visit, beyond the house and garden visuals.  When the visit was over, both Klare and Nelcy thanked Marianne profusely for the effort made to enable the small reunion.  It seems all three enjoyed the visit, even the driver.d180702_60_myjob.jpg

Back home in Fresno, I prepared a surprise for the driver, an air conditioner for her "art hut".  Neighbors had been urging me to make the space more comfortable in our Fresno summer, and I was happy to take their suggestion.  It was the least I could do for a trip where I did not have to drive!

Our week's second major event was a Fourth of July BBQ.  In years past (2010, 2011) , Marianne and I had hosted Independence Day gatherings at our Pommersfelden house and barn, so it felt right to continue the tradition in the home country.
d180704_02_ready.jpgWe set out tables enough for the neighborhood, installed a "mister" to moderate Fresno afternoon temperatures, added the new red flower Klare had sent us, and generally enjoyed making the back yard inviting, as we had done with the old barn and field.

About a dozen neighbors came over, a good crowd considering the tendency of folks to leave Fresno on summer holidays in favor of cooler mountains, lakes, or shorelines.
d180704_20_balls.jpgThe bocce court had been cleaned and we had a few takers.  Hazel won, I think.  Her story, anyway.  I suppose we should make more use of the court, because we do enjoy it whenever we get out there, but it seems we never take the time.  Even in retirement, we seem to be too busy!

As for fireworks, we made do with listening to hours of bangs and pops other people made.  Most neighbors are not happy with the noise, more for the sake of pets than for themselves.  I agree.  Besides, California has far too much combustible ground to be throwing around burning material!

And that was it.  Nice gathering.  Worth remembering.  And recording.

I did not foresee much else for this diary, but I do not want to leave the impression that retirement is just lounging around waiting for visits and parties.  We need to keep learning too.

I have taken a zillion photos over sixty years and, through trial and error, I think I can do pretty well.  However, in today's  YouTube world, maybe still photos are not enough.  Maybe.  Consequently I have set about learning how to do videos. 

Since I don't have years for trial and error, I have joined the Community Media Access Collaborative (CMAC).  The organization is funded by a fee on cable television suppliers and is chartered to sponsor programming for local communities.  Part of how they do this is by providing training and equipment to anyone who shows up expressing an interest and defining a "project".    I have the interest and, despite the fact that I am struggling to come up with a project, I have started training workshops.

My first workshop was a three-hour course on "pre-production", basically, how to plan a video project. This was a reminder of why video intimidates me as we learned about the roles of producer, director, writer, camera operator, production assistants, talent, scripts, etc., etc.  Photography can be a largely solo creation, but good video (or movies) require a village - and planning appropriate to a village.  Each CMAC project requires the elements of planning that one might use for a Hollywood blockbuster, just on a more limited scale.  I left the evening course overwhelmed at having my own project, but still interested in learning enough to contribute to other amateur projects.
The next training was a two-evening workshop titled "Field Production" and would qualify me to check out and use CMAC cameras and equipment.  Our instructor Lisa introduced us to the SONY X70 cameras CMAC uses, small, but reportedly with professional-level features.  All I know is that the camera had all kinds of buttons!

Just to make things more intimidating, Lisa said we would need to be able to shoot everything in manual mode, because there was no other way to learn what was happening.  We learned to manually set file format, recoding format, shutter speed, iris, gain, white balance, focus, and other things that have since slipped my mind. most of these technical details have parallels in the land of still photography, so that helped me some.  Still, learning to manually set a dozen controls on a new camera for a different purpose isn't easy.
Sound is a part of "filming" that has no photography equivalent and the X70 features two channels sound, each with its own buttons and dials for  volume, "attenuation",  microphone type, and low-pass filter (whatever that is!)  I listened to the instruction and fiddled a bit with the buttons and knobs, but I think I will start with silent movies, just easier.
When I walked out after the first evening, my head was spinning.  At least the summer sunset reminded me I could always just stick with photos. and enjoy whatever comes my way.

Day 2 of Field Production was all hands on.  Lisa handed one kit, camera and tripod, to each pair of students and gave us a list of 15 shots we needed to take.   My partner Paulina and I spent the next hour learning by doing.  It wasn't easy.  (It was such a struggle that I forgot to take photos of the effort for THIS diary!)  We moved to four separate locations, inside and outside the CMAC building.  We leveled and white-balance adjusted and focussed the X70 for every location. I'm not sure we really remembered what we should do with gain, etc.  Clearly, to do real shoots will take hours and hours more practice!

d180710_10_setlights.jpgd180710_12_fancylights.jpgAfter our 15 shots, and evaluation of one team's effort (not our team's, fortunately) we finished the evening with a lighted studio shoot.  For me, the best part of THIS exercise was using some very sophisticated lights: battery-powered LED panels with variable light levels and variable color.  Apparently such capability used to cost thousands of dollars, but now Amazon sells a three-light kit for two or three hundred.  (My next gadget?)
d180710_14_alan.jpgMy role for the shoot was lighting, but other students took on the jobs of camera operator, audio operator, production assistants, etc.  We tried having the group perform director duties, but it didn't take long for Lisa to take over, proving that there does need to be a hierarchy in any shoot!  In the end, we managed to set lights to her liking, aim the camera as she wanted, and tape a three-minute interview of Alan, our student-as-talent.  It was all fun, but a clear illustration that a three-minute shoot can easily take a dozen people an hour to carry off.

I had a third class this week, "iOS Production".  This promised to be "field production light", using Apple iPhones and iPads instead of the SONY X70s, but we went beyond that to include putting together shoots into complete videos with iMovie. Even in this simpler form of production (versus the SONY X70 and REAL post-processing), video seems complicated compared to photography.  I still don't know if it will become "my thing".

John and Marianne

ps:  Fresno weather has turned to real summer.
Definitely time for a trip out of town.


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