pjhstudios blog

A Haiku Garden – Published!


A Haiku Garden book cover


A Haiku Garden: Selections from the Everyday Photo Haiku Project is published on Amazon!

I created the book, which contains 104 of the most interesting photo haiku from the project. All photos and haiku done on an iPhone (4s then 6).

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Book review: The Passionate Photographer by Steve Simon


The Passionate Photographer by Steve Simon

Steve Simon’s book, The Passionate Photographer, covers photography as more than a hobby.  Broken into 10 chapters, he goes from identifying one’s desire to take photographs to using that desire to share a vision. In between, basic technical issues are discussed related to gear, f-stops, shutter speed and ISO as well as elementary composition techniques.

Throughout, he intersperses stories and quotes from other photographers, both historical and contemporary. While some photo books only use the authors images, Simon uses others’ images to illustrate points. Each chapter has an assignment for the reader to attempt and how to assess their ability.  Also, Simon uses personal stories to cap each chapter in a “lesson learned”.

For beginners, Chapter 2, about practice and persistence, and Chapter 3, about ways to keep seeing the world anew will offer the best value. Chapter 6, about how to see light, really shows how to “see” an image–light and contrast creating interesting shapes and forms that are engaging and pleasing to the eye. Chapter 9, details how to go about creating a photo project and executing it, may help all those with ideas of “this would be a cool thing to do…”

The Passionate Photographer is a well sourced and well written book.  Colorful, practical and engaging.

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Review: The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry


Todd Henry provides a framework to systemize creativity in The Accidental Creative: How to be brilliant at a moment’s notice. The first three chapters cover “the dynamics” of creative work–what it is, creative team work and things that can sabotage creativity.  These chapters set up the “creative rhythm”, being cognitively aware of the dynamics of creativity to do creative work.

In the rhythm, Henry discusses being able  to identify what’s important, maintaining healthy relationships, staying healthy to do creative work, one’s environment (or stimuli), how much time to do creative work.  The last two chapters tie his concepts together with examples of his own personal implementation.  The index in the back of the book is useful for further reading, as he cites books he referenced to formulate his ideas.  The book is pretty close to a how to book on being creative as you can get, however, you need ideas to work with, which he discusses and suggests to set aside time each day just to think up new ideas.  Accidental creative starts slow (for me at least) and contains concepts and tips found elsewhere.  I’d recommend this as a starter book and take concepts needed to get stuff done.

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Review: Old Masters and Young Geniuses by David W. Galenson


What happens when an economist becomes an art critic? That’s the premise David Galenson writes in Old Masters and Young Geniuses with as he examines numerous artists, primarily from mid 1800s impressionists through mid 1900s modernists. The thesis is that two life cycles of an artist: old masters and young geniuses. Old masters are those that reached their peak later in life, and Galenson believes, due largely to a life of artistic experimentation.  Young geniuses succeed due to conceptual innovation, simplifying previous complexities.  His two metrics to quantify and distinguish artists into either category are the price of an artist’s work from a certain point in their career, or the number of prints, or citations, of their work from a time in their life.

Galenson also applies his framework for analysis to the Renaissance painters of Michelangelo and Carravagio, 19th century and early 20th century American writers, directors, poets and sculptors. (Photographers are noticeably absent.) The book is dry and reads like a mixture of art criticism and art history.  The depth of research provides an overwhelming, yet comprehensive analysis of creating art, and the citations are provided at the end of the book.  My criticism of the book is probably one of scope.  The artist compared were clumped at particular time periods in history.  What would be interesting would be to see if more contemporary artists fit the same framework for analysis.

I’d recommend this book as a Kindle read.  I found myself wanting to mark and highlight the book and look up words or research an artist, particularly the poets.  The analysis of poets alone should make someone somewhat informed of Frost, Plath, Eliot and Pound.

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Review: Monster Island by Dan Wellington


★★★☆☆ Monster Island by David Wellington – This is well written for a zombie novel.  A zombie apocalypse ravaged the world, leaving 3rd world countries, like Somalia, one of the few safe places. Dekalb is a former UN weapons inspector, agreeing to lead a band of teen, female Somali soldiers in search of anti AIDS drugs that may exist in New York City.  Greg is a zombie, who has somehow maintained his ability to think, speak and act.  Dekalb meets Greg, and a rash act by one of the soldiers makes an enemy of the two.  The story progresses with Dekalb meeting a group of survivors and having to take on Greg, whom Dekalb finds that Greg is more capable than being able to think.

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Review: A Visit From the Goon Squad


★★★★☆ A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan – Central to the story are time, music, Bennie Salazar and Sasha. Beyond them are pasts that they share between people they’ve known and places they’ve been.  Bennie is an aging record executive and Sasha is his assistant. The story travels back and forth in time, sometimes jumping past, present and future all within a paragraph describing out people try to escape their actions despite the passage of time. The format is unorthodox, and a long chapter, told in the guise of a PowerPoint deck, comes across as amusing at first, then sobering. Jennifer Egan figured out how to wring emotional catharsis out of a PowerPoint deck. In a sense, the past catches up with all the characters presented to tell a story of transformation.


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Recent non-fiction reads


HBR’s 10 Must Reads The Essentials – This complilation collects 10 articles that business leaders should readily consider–strategies for broad aspects of business.  Each article is summarized in a side bar with the key points. This is handy as the articles are 20-30 pages in length.  Drucker, Porter, Christensen are all present with topics covering leadership, innovation, strategy, analytics and more.  Standout articles: Michael Porter’s “What is Strategy?” and John P. Kotter’s “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail”.  If you have access to a good library, you should be able to find these articles, and with some effort, Google Scholar can dig them up.

Click by Ori and Rom Brafman – Ever wonder what causes people to click? Ori and Rom divulge five factors: vulnerability, proximity, resonance, similarity and shared adversity. Also, there are individuals who can adjust their temperament to their circumstance, which they call high self monitors. The book is a quick read, under 200 pages, and illustrates each point with well told stories.

Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman – Ever wonder what MBAs learn? Josh Kaufman distills key, critical and essential concepts and principles across all facets of business.  From the hard numbers of accounting, fuzziness of marketing and organizational development to fluidity of strategy, each concept is summarized and provided an example.  It’s not meant to be read straight through, it’s meant to be read as a reference, or perhaps a means to translate business lingo into something concrete and meaningful.

Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander – Across 12 points, uplifting and inspirational stories are used to tell the power of being inclusive, constructive, positive and seeking understanding.  Definitely worth a reread to focus on doing good things and keeping a good mindset.

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Recent fiction reads


And by recent I mean, in the last 6 months.

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher – Clay Jensen receives a box of cassette tapes, narrating why a dead classmate killed herself. Hannah Baker tells of teenage heart break and cruelty that pushed her over the edge. The novel shows how a little empathy and compassion can mend a troubled soul.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – Jacob’s grandfather always told stories, colorful stories of life during World War II. Dismissed as a way to deal with the horrors of war, his grandfather was never taken seriously until he is abruptly murdered. A note left for Jacob directs him to Wales, where his grandfather grew up. In trying to figure out the mystery of his grandfather, Jacob discovers his grandfather’s colorful stories were very real, and in the process discovers himself in World War II. Unique characters throughout with an interesting take on time travel and good and evil. The ending is a bit of a cliff hanger, alluding to a sequel and where the story will ultimately go.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – A magical, beautifully crafted novel where every word adds to the story. A mysterious circus that arrives without warning tells the story of a competition between two illusionists, their love and their passions. Strong and developed characters, Celia and Marco create feats of magic for the circus not knowing when the competition will end. *Highly recommended*

Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia – Monsters are real, and in this pulp, sci-fi, horror mashup, a team of monster hunters collect bounties for killing monsters.  Owen Pitt finds this out the hard way after being attacked by a werewolf , surviving and being recruited by Monster Hunters International. Owen learns everything in the horror movies is real, and learns of a much broader plot of the Cursed One, to take over the world in the name of the Old Ones.  It’s a mindless story full of action and gore with some developed characters.  If you like guns, knowledge of various arms is fairly extensive.

Monster Hunter Vendetta by Larry Correia – Owen Pitt lived to see another book.  A death cult led by the Shadow Man intends to take over the world.  Same stuff different book.

Brains by Robin Becker – What if a zombie retained its greatest personal ability. For Jack Barnes, it’s the ability to think.  In this zombiefied riff on Frankenstein, Barnes retains an acid wit and lucid tells of his life as a zombie.  A short, quick read, and at times overwritten.  Amusing if you’re into zombies.

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Review: Creative Black & White Photography by Harold Davis


[easyazon-image-link asin=”0470597755″ alt=”Creative Black and White: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41%2BUp%2BR-BSL._SL160_.jpg” align=”left” width=”128″ height=”160″] [easyazon-link asin=”0470597755″]Creative Black and White: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques[/easyazon-link] by Harold Davis is an excellent starting point for beginning photographers or a good reference for advanced photographers looking to learn new techniques.

Most valuable to beginners is the first section, The Monochromatic Vision. Davis clearly and concisely discusses basic photographic concepts to make a good picture. These concepts extend well beyond black and white pictures. He gives examples and considerations to take into account for each concept. Also, photographs are provided to illustrate the concept with a detailed caption of how the photo applies and technical information about it, as well.

The second section, Black and White in the Digital Era, introduces the tools and basic processing techniques for black and white photos. The tools are Adobe-centric, detailing Adobe Camera Raw conversion, Lightroom and Photoshop. These processing techniques can be found in other tools, only implemented differently. Davis emphasizes the power of RAW files and how best to work with them to get black and white images that have contrast, tones and impact.

The third section, Creative Black and White Opportunities, builds on the previous section to provide steps for effects and tricks like sepia coloring, duotones, soft focus and more. This is where Davis really shows the art in the process of processing an image. There are numerous ways to go, and it depends on the photo to create the desired effect.

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Recent comics reads


[easyazon-link asin=”1401229697″]Daytripper[/easyazon-link] – Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon: A lush, moving and beautifully illustrated graphic novel tells the story of obituary writer Brás de Oliva Domingos and his life. Themes of love, redemption, friendship, fatherhood, work and the purpose of life intertwine with each chapter. At first, Daytripper’s gimmick seems abrupt, but as it progresses, the narrative builds as time jumps back and forth within Domingo’s life. The supporting cast of characters serve their purpose with purpose as part of the story. Ba has written a meaningful story and Moon colorfully illustrates each page with artwork that feels alive.

[easyazon-link asin=”1607061597″]Chew Volume 1: Taster’s Choice[/easyazon-link] – John Layman and Rob Guillory: Tony Chu is a cibopath, able to discern an entire history of an object by eating it. He’s also a cop, who after a botched arrest, is hired by the Food and Drug Administration, where in the world of Chew, is the most powerful government agency in the U.S., due to an ongoing bird flu pandemic. He is teamed with a fellow cibopath, Savoy to solve a case of a missing FDA inspector. Chew is a bizarre concept, surreal at best, playful but serious in the story its telling. This is not for the squeamish. Guillory’s artwork is colorful and lively and brings an animated feel to Layman’s story. Definitely work checking into other trade paperbacks.

[easyazon-link asin=”1401229654″]iZombie Vol. 1: Dead to the World[/easyazon-link] – Chris Roberson and Mike Allred: Gwen is a zombie, but not a conventional zombie. She needs to eat a brain once a month to stay functional or else she starts to go crazy. Her two friends are Stacy a ghost who died in the 60s and a wereterrier (like a werewolf but not quite as vicious) named Spot. Add a mysterious man with connections to the past, a covert monster hunting group, and various factions of undead, you’ve got the concept. The characters are simple, the conflict pretty generic and the artwork, while well drawn, doesn’t add life to the story. In this first trade, the story doesn’t get interesting until the last chapter.

[easyazon-link asin=”1607060906″]Dead@17: Ultimate Edition[/easyazon-link] – Josh Howard: This collects the first four trade paperbacks of the Dead at 17 series, which features Nara Kilday fighting the undead and evil spirits. The art is light, animated and clean, and gets better as the series progresses. The story rarely veers from the pattern of conspiracy of the undead controlling some power that needs to be stopped. There are some unique twists, and depending on your patience, decent subplots. At times, the narrative feels rushed and overly wordy at times. Surprisingly, there are strong Christian undertones of life and redemption.

[easyazon-link asin=”1401213170″]Scalped Vol. 1: Indian Country[/easyazon-link] – Jason Aaron and R.M. Guerra: A gritty, modern noir set on an indian reservation in the Dakotas. Dash Bad Horse ran away from the reservation at 15 to make a life for himself, and now enforces law for Lincoln Red Crow on the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation. The characters and interactions are complex and violent. Definitely worth following and reading additional trade paperbacks.

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