Fireworks in My Head

I don’t like to write about this topic. Everyone has their own issues and they don’t need the added burden of mine. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) isn’t super rare, but we aren’t the type of people to stand out in the middle of the street and tell everyone about it.

My hope is that by writing honestly about it, that fewer people feel alone. The feeling of isolation is the worst part of the disease.

I was diagnosed with OCD when I was 18, but in hindsight there were signs of it very early in my life. I remember seeing a commercial on the Cartoon Network of Small Soldiers that deeply disturbed me. It is not unusual for a young child to be frightened by a movie, but it doesn’t go on for years.

That was my first brush with Intrusive Thoughts.

An “Intrusive Thought,” is an unwanted thought surrounding an action or image that the thinker finds horrifying. These thoughts can include suicide, murdering a family member, or something else that causes distress. The thinker doesn’t want to commit these acts, he is repulsed by them.

I would go through periods where the thoughts would be an issue, but not long enough for it to stop me from progressing through my life. When high school came around I also started to develop migraines, but we sorted it out through medication and chiropractic adjustments.

Things were looking up for me. I was dating a girl, I went to film school, and I worked freelance on a couple different films. However, the thoughts slowly crept in, taking more and more of time.

I’m aware that Intrusive Thoughts are irrational, unfounded, and outright ridiculous, but there is something enchanting about them. They seem more valid than your other, more measured thoughts.

I would liken them to fireworks. They shoot up in my mind’s eye and steal the show. Then it bursts with all the light, color, and spectacle, leaving me in the dark with the ash.

I finished film school without the girlfriend or the jobs. I feel like I’ve driven everyone way. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I know that I injure people either intentionally or unintentionally.

At some point, I just stopped trying. For two years I just stewed in my own little abyss.

Now, I’m trying again.

On Creativity

“The human mind is naturally creative, constantly looking to make associations and connections between things and ideas. It wants to explore, to discover new aspects of the world, and to invent. To express this creative force is our greatest desire, and the stifling of it the source of our misery. What kills the creative force is not age or a lack of talent, but our own spirit, our own attitude. We become too comfortable with the knowledge we have gained in our apprenticeships. We grow afraid of entertaining new ideas and the effort that this requires. to think more flexibly entails a risk-we could fail and be ridiculed. We prefer to live with familiar ideas and habits of thinking, but we pay a steep price for this: our minds go dead from the lack of challenge and novelty; we reach a limit in our field and lose control over our fate because we become replaceable.”

-Robert Greene,

Mastery

I have done a lot thinking lately on what I want to do in my life and the nature of myself as a person. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t view myself as a wholly negative enity and I could see things more clearly. I believe my greatest strengths as a person is my creativity.

I don’t think that creativity is some sort of superpower, I think it is more of a mindset. We tend to stifle our own creative ideas due to our own worries and thoughts. I find that I am most creative when I am in a more inituive, rather than intellectual headspace.

I set out today to take a macro photo of an Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly. It wasn’t going to be anything fancy, I simply wanted to capture the beauty of the subject.

creativity
Eastern Tailed Blue

When I was reviewing my shots in Lightroom I came across this photo:

creativity

It wasn’t what I would call good, but there was something about it that caught my eye. I fiddled with it for a few minutes and I got one my favorite photos that I have ever taken.

creativity
Eatern Tailed Blue

Normally, I would have ignored that photo and moved on, but something in my gut told me to mess with it. Everyone has moments like this, but not everyone acts on their intuition.

Next time try taking a risk on yourself and you might get something awesome!

If you like Wildlife Photography and Videos check out The Nerdy Naturalist! 

Adventures in Macro Photography

A few years ago, I became very interested in macro photography after watching the insect documentary, Microcosmos.  I couldn’t afford a fancy lens dedicated to macro photography, so I purchased the cheapest extension tubes I could for my Nikon.

I have played around with it sporadically, but more recently I have been practicing with in earnest.

macro photography

Macro photography is definitely one of the hardest disciplines to master. When you extension tubes, more light is needed to achieve the proper exposure. There are two major solutions that I have found to this problem, each with their own drawbacks.

macro photography

You can shoot with a long exposure and closed aperture to solve this problem. However, you will need a very stable tripod and an agreeable subject. Caterpillars, frogs, and other calm, mostly stationary subjects are ideal for this method.

macro photography You can also shoot hand held with a faster exposure and more open aperture, but that makes focusing it’s own problem because of the shallow depth. The freedom this affords is well worth the annoyance of the shallow depth.

macro photogrpahy

Although macro photography may be the most difficult discipline in photography, it is certainly the most rewarding.

What did you think of this post? Do have any tips for macro photography? Let me know in the comments.

If you liked these photos, follow me on Instagram for more!

Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent, is the first feature film to be entirely painted. While this achievement is momentous enough to receive attention, the underlying story of the film and its production is even more magnificent!

Loving Vincent Review

The film started out as a simple idea in the mind of co-director Dorota Kobiela. She had been reading the letters of Vincent van Gogh and fell in love with them. She decided that she should make a short film about the famous artist, hand painting each frame herself.

After receiving a grant for the short,  Kobiela started working for BreakThru Studios as an animator and a concept artist. There she met the other co-director of the film, Hugh Welchman who thought her short might have more potential as a feature film. 

The film is an interesting combination of CGI and oil-paintings that bring the world of Van Gogh’s paintings to life.

Loving Vincent Review

To achieve this stunning look, the filmmakers separated the animation process from the painting process. They would shoot reference footage of the actors against a green screen, then the artists would paint the actors and the background into the scene frame by frame.

The distortion of Van Gogh’s original paintings proved to become an issue for film translation. A post production team was on set throughout principal photography to ensure that the footage shot would actually be usable.

Aside from the spectacle of the visuals, the story of Loving Vincent, is what distinguishes the film from other biopics like it. The film follows the aftermath a year after Vincent van Gogh’s suicide. We only get glimpses at the artists through the eyes of other people, but doesn’t make him any less sympathetic or what he did any less sad.

Loving Vincent Review

We see how it affected the residents of the artist’s final destination and the people who were closest to him. Whoever they were, his death affected them greatly.

The most valuable thing about Loving Vincent, is not the dazzling visuals; it is the added dimension we receive the a great man like Vincent van Gogh. Throughout the film, the viewer witnesses pivotal moments in the artist’s life that shaped him and perhaps destroyed him.

What did you think of the film? Do you have any suggestions for what film I should watch next?

Let me know in the comments!

Why Make Films?

Film is a popular industry. People pay billions of dollars every year to essentially sit in front of a large piece of fabric and watch images flicker by quickly. Why is that?

In this rational, scientific age Film seems the be the only form of magic left in the world. It entrances, inspires, and even bewilders us. The Federal government even archives these mystical images for future generations to behold.

Why people watch films varies from person to person. Some people enjoy a spectacle, some want to learn something, and others simply want to past the time.

Stranger still, some people dedicate their entire lives to creating images for other people to watch. Do they do it for the money? Why else would they do it?

The art of Filmmaking has seduced geniuses, idiots, saints, and the some of the most evil people in history to its siren song. This is why.

Creating New A World

“If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.”

-Stanley Kubrick

Fictional world-building has existed long before the invention of the camera, but it has never been so real and awe-inspiring.

Why Film?

A film can transport you across time and space in a way that no other medium of art can. You experience the world of the film as you experience the majority of the real world; through dynamic sight and sound.

Simple lighting tricks or a different lens can make you totally engrossed into the world of the film/

Even lines drawn by a pen, are perceived as living creatures through the power of Film. Nothing is impossible when it comes to Filmmaking.

Strong Reactions

“Where film is infinitely superior to any other medium is emotion and story and character. ”

-Peter Jackson

I love music, literature, theater, and various visual arts, but nothing has a stronger effect on me than Film.

Images that cause you to feel real emotion and sounds to reinforce that emotion. Unlike literature or theater, you see,  hear, and feel the story unfold in the way that will have the most impact on you.
Why Film?

Film is all about the audience’s reaction. It is specially crafted to get the desired response. It requires a sort of empathy with the moviegoer that the other arts don’t require.

To be the person that makes the audience laugh, think, or be emotional is a very gratifying position to hold.

Uncovering the Truth

“Photography is truth. The cinema is truth twenty-four times per second.”

-Jean-Luc Godard

I originally wanted to be an ornithologist. I spend hundreds of hours birding and volunteering for bird banding projects. When I made the decision to become a filmmaker instead, I didn’t want to give all that up.

I made my first documentary short about bird banding on Jekyll Island. In my  mind, it was the perfect way the combine both of interests with the added benefit of exposing more people to the awesome work they do.

Why Film?

Documentaries have been some of the most visceral films I have ever seen. They expose the secret world (good and bad) that we live in and let us know what is happening.

Film has the power to expose great causes and information to millions of people. Simply by recording and editing images, you can change the world.

Thanks for stopping by! Why do you think Film is important? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to follow this blog for weekly updates!

Why I Love The Greasy Strangler- A Video Essay

In this episode of Pulling Focus with Ethan Hatchett, I discuss The Greasy Strangler.

The film is a personal of favorite of mine for various reasons explored in the video. It has influenced a lot of my more bizarre work and I generally hold the film in high esteem for existing at at all.

I hope you all enjoy the video and give The Greasy Stranger a chance!

Sustaining Creativity

I have learned not to wait for inspiration to come to me, but to get up and chase after it! Here are some tips on sustaining your spark of creativity.

Explore Other Mediums of Art

Exploring different mediums of art  help me stay fresh with ideas. I believe that it helps with the creative process to look at something that is unrelated from the work I am doing, but is still artsy. I often get hyper focused on whatever project I am working and it is nice to take a break in an inspiring way.

Rest from Work by Vincent van Gogh

I often look at paintings for inspiration when I am stuck on Film problems. Paintings have some of the most exquisite compositions and use of color in any medium of art.

The best way to keep other mediums in my world has been through social media. If we are constantly going to be checking our phones, we might as well make it useful.

The History of Painting‘s Twitter account is my personal favorite for inspirational art, but there are many others like it for poetry, music, and film.

Express Excess Emotions and Thoughts

I have started journaling before writing anything that is seen by the public. I have found that clears my mind of excess chatter and helps me focus on writing concisely and on topic.

When I don’t express the extraneous thoughts and emotions from my day they show up in all sorts of weird ways in my project and take up editing time.

This principle can be applicable for all manner artists without the use of a journal, such as banging on a drum, doodling, or screaming at your cat.

Make Something Silly

Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. When you spend your time looking through a camera, sometimes you end up with head in your rear end.

chicken man
Unrelated photo of man-child.

When I make something silly, I am able to cast off the shackles of perfectionism and pretension to actually make something. I often feel trapped by my own perception of my work and when I make something unapologetic-ally ridiculous, I feel as though I truly regain objectivity.

Take Care of Yourself

The most important  lesson I have learned is that to be creative you have to be functional as well. My personal vice is staying up late and sleeping in. I’m not as sharp when I haven’t slept and especially when I haven’t slept the correct hours.

Don’t stay up all night being angry at your clock.

To focus on your creative task, it is best to be free from distractions such as hunger, indigestion, or exhaustion. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but avoid it when you can.

Those are the tips I have for sustaining creativity, please let me know what you think!

5 Unique 2017 Films

Great films come out every year, but truly unique films are hard to find. Luckily, 2017 was full of films with distinct voices.  Here are five films from last year that I thought were truly special.

  1. A Ghost Story (Directed by David Lowery)

A Ghost Story is the kind of film that sticks with you for the rest of your life. This film is a testament to what a talented filmmaker can do with a small budget and a great idea.

The film’s premise is simple; Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara are a couple and one day Affleck dies unexpectedly. Affleck becomes a ghost and “haunts” their house. It is a very cliched premise, but David Lowery does something amazing (and unexpected with it) with it.

The look of the film is one of the most unique aspects. They shot with Panavision Super and Ultra Speeds for a shallower depth of field and more a natural look.

The aspect ratio is also a unique contributor to the film’s look. The film is 4:3  instead of 16:9 because, as Lowery explained, “I liked the concept of trapping this character in a box, in a very formal fashion. I’ve always been a fan of that aspect ratio. It’s 1.33:1, the classic Academy ratio.”

2. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos)

Yorgos Lanthimos has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers with films like Alps, Dogtooth, and The Lobster. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is my favorite work by Lanthimos so far and makes me excited to see what he has next for us.

The story is based around Steven (Colin Farrell), a cardiologist , who takes Martin (Barry Keoghan), under his wing after his father dies. Things turn dark when Steven’s family suddenly starts becoming ill.

It is hard to articulate exactly what makes the film unique. Everything from the choice of camera placement to the timing of words spoken in any given scene is different from many films that came out in 2017. It exudes style. Lanthimos has developed a very clear and effective voice that is unique in the world of film.

The film is tense, funny, and horrifying at times, but it never strays from its eerie tone. Barry Keoghan has an amazing performance, shifting from vulnerable youth to intimidating certainty. It possess the odd delivery of dialogue that is present in Lanthimos’ films, which may annoy some viewers, but I believe it sets the tone very well.

3. The Florida Project (Directed by Sean Baker)

The Florida Project is more understated than the other films on this lost, but it is just as special.

The story follows and group of children who live at a motel in Orlando, FL. There is love, laughs, tragedy, and an ending that annoyed everyone.

As an indie guy myself, Sean Baker is an inspiration. The Florida Project is one of the best and most talked about films of 2017 and it was shot on an iPhone with a cast of mostly unknown actors.

Baker’s voice is unique because of his style and subject matter. A good summation of his films can be summed up in this quote:”When I see a billboard that literally just has five names and they’re all A-listers, I’m just like, What is that bringing to the world that’s new?”

The best word I can use to describe the film simply be raw. It is 115 minutes of raw emotion from such simple images such as children playing in a parking lot.

4. Good Time (Directed by Josh and Benny Sadfie)

Good Time is a film that not talked about enough. The Sadfie brothers are another unique voice in film and this gem should not be overlooked.

Following the trend of simple stories, Good Time is about two brothers (Robert Pattinson and Benny Sadfie) who try to rob and bank and fail. One goes to jail while the other tries to free him.

The film is super fast paced and flies by super quickly. The viewer is quickly invested in the story by the amazing performances and cinematography. Despite the simplicity of the story, you never see what comes next because you simply don’t have time to!

Good Time excels at making you feel as though you were in the situation. You feel just as tense as Robert Pattinson and understand him completely. The relationship between to the two brothers is bittersweet and carries the film well.

5. Ingrid Goes West (Directed by Matt Spicer)

With its eerily realistic premise, Ingrid Goes West is one the better dark comedies made in the last decade.

The story follows Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), as she moves to Los Angeles to stalk an Instagram user (Elizabeth Olsen) whom she idolizes.

Aubrey Plaza is my favorite part of the film. She really surprised me with her performance. Instead of the deadpan character she normally portrays, she actually pulled off a deeper character who was sympathetic and vulnerable while still being dark and quirky.

I admire that Ingrid Goes West is a fully fleshed out film instead of the gimmicky teen comedy I feared it would be. I like how it doesn’t judge its characters for their quirks and just tells the story. It could have easily turned into schlock, but I appreciate the more nuanced version that we got.

What did you think of my list? Are there any films that you thought were especially unique from last year?

Let me know in the comments!

Cultivating a Relationship with the Natural World

The biggest mistake in the plight for the preservation of the natural world was to create an ideology around it. The well-being of our planet is not a political issue; it is a human one.

I have long theorized that people don’t care about the natural world because they don’t have a relationship with it.  Planting native species at your home is a great step that you can take to develop one. By simply planting species native to your area, you invite all sorts of wildlife to visit.

Green Anole
Carolina Anole (Anolis carolinensis)
eastern tent caterpillar
Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum)

Baby birds

Volunteering with citizen science projects is a great way to help in a meaningful way and learn from seasoned professionals. A lot of conservation work is done entirely by volunteers so they need your help!

Indigo Bunting
Bird Banding

On Spring and the Seasons

Although Spring officially occurred for us on March 20th, the effects of Spring are just now being felt here in Georgia. Spring and Summer are kind of melded into one season here and that “season” is my favorite time of year.

It is as if the whole world took a hot bath, so that everything would arise fresh and new. Birds are migrating, butterflies are drinking, and lizards are basking in sunlight everywhere. We do not have a particularly harsh Winter, but I do miss having some of the wildlife that leaves each fall. When I see the first Eastern Tiger Swallowtail hover over the front yard, it is like an old friend coming to visit for awhile.

Even Natasha likes to watch the insects fly by.

I like using the Four Seasons as a metaphor for life. Traditionally it used to as a metaphor for aging, but I believe it can be used in a different way. Life is rather cyclical like the Seasons and we all have different internal “weather” from day to day.

Spring could be starting a new a job or going to a new school, Summer could be the period where you try to obtain your goal, Autumn is a change in plans, and Winter could be a rut of some sort.

I think this metaphor works because successes and setbacks are temporary in life, much like the weather. If it is a sunny Spring day, appreciate it; it will not last forever. If it is a cold winter night and you can’t sleep, endure it; it will not last forever.