the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

363/365: Tower City

363/365: Tower City

I drove downtown to meet up with Mike Crute to work on our CodeMash tutorial. I parked below Tower City, which afforded me several photographic opportunities, but I ended up liking this the most.

At this point, shooting something every day has become such a part of my life that I'm not really sure what I'll do when I've completed the 365. It's really hard to believe that it's coming up so quickly...

Two more days to go!

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244/365: Fly-By

244/365: Fly-By

One of my coworkers took a few of us out on his boat for the afternoon. He launches out of the Whiskey Island Marina just outside of downtown Cleveland, so we had an ideal vantage for watching the Blue Angels practice for the Cleveland Air Show. Afterward, we went out onto the lake proper to make a trip around the Cleveland Crib before getting a closer look at the airstrip and then returning to port.

I wasn't sure what results to expect out of my 18-200mm zoom, but I was thrilled to discover images like this one in my results. And it's clear to me now that I wouldn't have been able to get it all without having the extremes range that the 18-200 provides in a single lens.

Some other highlights include:

Heck, the whole set is actually pretty decent.


On a meta milestone front, this photo puts me officially at the two-thirds point! I still have some catch-up to do, but I've stayed true to the "shoot every day" rule and am excited to have made so much progress.

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237/365: Interlocking

237/365: Interlocking

We left the house about half an hour too late to make it to the gathering on the bottom deck of Cleveland's Detroit-Superior Bridge, so instead we had a nice impromptu photowalk across the bridge and back below it. We arrived just as the sun was making its final descent to the horizon, so I ended up with gorgeous light that looks really great on our city.

I particularly enjoy how this reminds me of classic "impossible objects" style optical illusions.

Some other highlights that made picking a photo really difficult include:

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236/365: Shattered

236/365: Shattered

Up close with urban blight at the shattered glass door to what was once Terry's Garage on West 117th and is now just the empty corpse of a building, missing walls, gutted, and already in ruins...

This is one of those rare 365 subjects that I knew I wanted to shoot well in advance; ever since I noticed the smashed door on my drive to work I've been scheming about getting over there in late afternoon light.

In fact, this actually got me motivated enough to start a list of ideas for shots or subjects that I might like to photograph. I've already got three or four other things in reserve and will look forward to being able to exploit them on low-inspiration days. And keeping track of them in the Notes app means that they're magically synced to all my devices and thus always ready wherever I am. So that should be useful.

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141/365: Ukulele Hero

Ukulele Hero

This guy was definitely one of the highlights of our marathon-cheering experience today--he'd been out since 7 AM, strumming his ukulele, and serenading passing runners with tunes like "Surfer Girl" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".

Yes, he was wearing pants, despite their unfortunate omission from this shot.

The other big surprise of the race was this guy, who schooled us all on what true multitasking looks like by juggling while running a freakin' marathon. I mean, jeez, way to make everybody else look bad!

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May Photowalk: Ohio City

West Side Market
West Side Market
Originally uploaded by mikepirnat

For the past couple of months, friends in the office have been asking about being part of one of the photowalks that Chris and I have been doing. This month I had the presence of mind to actually involve some of them when planning the walk, and the result was an extended trek around Ohio City with Mike Griffith, Cory Sitko, Ben Smith, and David Snyder.

Maybe it was the beautiful weather, maybe it was the bounty of interesting subjects, maybe it was the new camera I was toting (upgrading from the 350D to the 60D, as well as a new walkabout lens with image stabilization), but I ended up being really happy with a lot more shots than usual--I ended up posting about twice as many shots as I have in previous walks. Of course, it could also be that we stayed out longer and moved slower; Chris and I usually set a hard two-hour limit that we went way, way past on this walk. Still, I'm really happy with a lot of what I shot.

Particular highlights include a very scary trash can, a dreamy Virgin Mary, a father-son moment, a comment on mortality, an attempt at irony, a game of chess, a ridiculously tall bicycle, a tiger in the back of a Mini, a family out for a stroll, the happiest art ever, and the first shot that's ever made me uncomfortable--I mean, seriously, look at his eyes!

I feel a little bad for being in "cheater modes" for most of the day, but on the other hand I kind of wanted to see what the 60D could do on its own. Also it was really warm and I was being lazy. I'll probably be spending a lot more time in the manual side of the dial next month. The new gear was definitely a win, though--particularly the image stabilized lens, which allows me a lot more freedom as I generally shoot without a tripod. I was also smart enough to make sure I had a polarizing filter on, which seemed to help out a lot--the difference in the light (not to mention the temperature!) between 10 AM in January and 10 AM in May is really quite striking!

I've already got a date on the calendar for a June walk; now all we need is a destination.

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April Photo Walk: Downtown Cleveland

Hard Area
Hard Area
Originally uploaded by mikepirnat

After a barrage of scheduling derailments in February and March, Chris and I finally made our calendars mesh long enough to go shooting again. Thus it was that we found ourselves in downtown Cleveland on the Tenth of April, greeted by the first really fantastic weather of spring. (One thing about living in Cleveland is that it will teach you to appreciate good weather!)

We started at Tower City and meandered down Euclid, to Playhouse Square, then back along Prospect to Public Square--about three miles in all.

Photography lessons learned:

  1. I don't care if the shadows from the buildings make the light weird; if the sky is blue, put the damn polarizing filter on! Otherwise that lovely spring sky gets blown out and looks gloomy and overcast.

  2. Photoshop has had epic powers of lens correction since CS2 that make it super-easy to adjust for barrel distortion. I've started playing with it quite a lot in this set, though I deliberately left alone it in some shots for effect.

  3. The best photo walks end with beer.

There are a lot of other photos that I'm quite satisfied with, so it's worth perusing the whole set. Hopefully a walk in May is easier to schedule, as the world should be exploding with greenery and life in a few short weeks.

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Tremont Photo Walk

Winter Blues
Winter Blues
Originally uploaded by mikepirnat

After years of dithering and making excuses, I found the perfect way to motivate myself to get out and do a photowalk--find a friend with his first DSLR and bully him into going out shooting to play with his new toy!

And that's exactly what I had the pleasure of doing a couple weekends ago. My coworker (and dare I say... buddy?) Chris Miller had just splurged on a nice new Nikon, and even better was able to overcome the "I don't know, where do you want to go" ennui that has kept me a "cats, kid, and vacations" photographer for the past few years. Thus it was that, in spite of it being January in Cleveland and absolutely fucking cold outside, we met up at Civilization in Tremont and then set out for a couple of hours' stroll in the bitter, awful beauty of an icy Saturday morning.

I could ramble for a bit about where we walked and what we saw, but frankly the photos speak for themselves, and I'm really pleased to see some good results from Chris as well, particularly this one. I have some problems editing a collection to publish, but having a one-in-four ratio of images I like enough to show the world still feels pretty good to me; in the past it was closer to one-in-ten or three-in-twenty.

What is noteworthy, at least in what passes for my life, is that:

  1. I got a nice walk (a little over two miles);
  2. I learned (and remembered) a few things about Cleveland history;
  3. I found out that I can go shoot in much colder weather than I thought practical;
  4. I got out of the house and did something social and creative with a fully-functional adult that didn't involve being at a bar.

It's this last item that is especially important to me; I usually don't have any plans on the weekend because the combination of workday exhaustion and trying to spend appropriate time with my family leaves me little leeway to indulge in my own mental and social well-being. While work is often awesome and exciting and fun, it's still work, and I very easily fall into the trap of letting it dominate my waking hours; I don't want it to be the only thing that defines my identity. And likewise I love and my family, but having a chance to do something just for myself--especially while the sun's still up!--makes me appreciate them even more. I tend to neglect and deprioritize my personal creativity, and I've realized lately that I'm tired of doing that to myself.

Chris and I both agreed that we'd like to make these outings a regular occurrence; we'll aim for once a month for starters as that seems like it strikes a good balance with everything else on our schedules, and we'll try to hit new and interesting places each outing to avoid getting into a rut (though obviously it might be fun to revisit some locations in different seasons).

Is it February yet?

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PyCon 2010 in Cleveland? Yes Please!

There's a lot of excitement on the ClePy mailing list about trying to bring PyCon to Cleveland in 2010. David Stanek is leading the charge, getting folks talking, and planning, and motivated.

Clevelanders who want to help out bringing Python's premier conference to our fair city should head on over to the bid page on the Python wiki and lend their names and support.

Non-Clevelanders, have no fear! Cleveland's really quite misunderstood and under-appreciated. We've got a great restaurant scene (we're home to the newest Iron Chef!), tons of attractions (like the Science Center and Rock Hall), world-class museums and other cultural institutions (maybe a few of you have heard of the Cleveland Orchestra, which is rated among the top 3-5 worldwide), the nation's second largest performing arts center, beautiful parks and lake views, and more--all within walking distance of either the likely conference site or available with a quick jaunt on the rapid transit system. Plus the river hasn't caught on fire for decades, but you can savor the legacy with really good local beer. ;-)

In short, there's plenty to love about bringing PyCon to Cleveland. Let's do it!

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Being Uncle Mike

My recent vacation photos hiatus is in part due to spending last weekend being all responsible and grown-up and stuff--Laura, one of my nieces, came to visit us for the weekend. Note the use of the word "my," a big step for me, as for most of the past seven years, the girls have been "Liz's nieces." Maybe they're just growing up to the point at which I can relate to them, but they're really, finally feeling like family.

So! Laura braved the increased airport security, water bottle fascism and all, and arrived last Friday. Liz picked her up, and after getting settled in at the house, took us all out to lunch at Phnom Penh; to my amazement, Laura loved her loath chha! That evening we hit our local Winking Lizard and then went out to Will Farrell NASCAR movie (hilarious, recommended), got ice cream on the way home, and stayed up far too late playing Munchkin. Saturday we caught up on "Monk" and "Psych", then went out to friends' for their Wild Game BBQ, where there was much delicious food, frosty beverage, and wacky croquet fun, then zipped down to Blossom to chill out under the stars and experience the Cleveland Orchestra playing the scores to Bugs Bunny cartoons (and incidentally seeing a lot of folks that we don't always bump into). Sunday we had brunch downtown, spent a few hours at the science center (note to self: don't try the "virtual hang-glider" right after eating...), tried to get Laura hooked on "Firefly", and played a lot more Munchkin and Apples to Apples.

Laura was up and out the door early on Monday to get to her flight on time; by all accounts she made it back home safely. I'm still trying to wrap my head around her pronouncement that I'm "an awesome uncle," but for the most part I guess that's pretty cool. The entire experience has left me a lot more optimistic about the idea of being a parent, a mental paradigm shift that is simultaneously comforting and scary as hell.

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