In Case You Missed It: Guy on a Buffalo

Buffalo Rider movie poster
Note the awesomeness written on this poster: “Before the Indian would starve or the buffalo disappear, he thundered across the plains… 2,000 pounds of stampeding revenge!”

The Guy on a Buffalo series on YouTube is a viral masterpiece that took what was the cinematic equivalent of driftwood and carved it into four hilarious pieces of handicraft.

The original source for these musical shorts is the 1978 “classic” film Buffalo Rider. A movie that would certainly have been lost in the dusty celluloid vaults of cinema history, had an Austin, Texas, band called The Possum Posse not re-invigorated it with their own music and lyrics.

Placing these shorts into the YouTube jungle was, perhaps, one of the finest marketing maneuvers ever executed. No Manhattan firm could have dreamed up a campaign with more  return on investment (5.5 million views and counting for what one can only assume was a small cash outlay). The result is sure to inspire you to take up a rifle and find a baby buffalo to raise until it’s old enough to carry you on its back on a mission of revenge and survival.

And what of the Possum Posse’s “normal” musical stylings? I’m no country music critic (or fan, for that matter), but lyrics like “The only time you call me back is when you pocket dial,” and songs like “What’s Going On With Grandpa,” about a country grandpa coming out of the closet with his “new best friend,” have already started to win me over. Now stop pretending to work and watch these videos:

Pro-Spective: Who is the D800 for? Part 2

D700/800 split

[To get the big picture, check out the other two posts in this Pro-spective series. Part 1 with Sam Bié and Part 3 with Corey Rich]

In the first post in the Pro-Spective series on the New Nikon D800, I talked to French action-sports photographer Sam Bié. He was decidedly not interested in getting the D800, as he felt it didn’t offer him anything he needed. At this time, video is a not a priority for him. In addition, he feels his D700/D300 combo is working just fine. Tim Kemple, however, had a completely different take on the matter.

Tim Kemple giving a thumbs upTim Kemple

Tim Kemple is a Salt Lake City-based photographer/videographer, and a really good rock climber, to boot. He’s the man behind many memorable print ads for The North Face, Gregory, and EMS. He’s been published in Outside Magazine, Climbing Magazine, Snowboard Canada Magazine, and many others. And he’s a co-founder of the Camp 4 Collective, one of the outdoor industry’s leading video production companies. Tim received some extra press as of late with this sweet music video he shot entirely with iPhones. From my encounters with Tim, he’s a perfectionist and a consummate professional. He also has a lot of very nice equipment, so to him the D800 is a no-brainer. He’ll probably buy a D4, too, just for the heck of it. He is one good example of who the D800 is for. His answers, particularly to the last question, below, also made me rethink some of my personal hesitations.

Continue reading Pro-Spective: Who is the D800 for? Part 2

In Case You Missed It: JP Auclair Street Skiing

The first installment in our In Case You Missed It series is an amazing “street skiing” segment from the movie All.I.Can, by Sherpas Cinema. After talking to some seasoned filmmakers from Big UP Productions and Sender Films, I found I’m not alone in calling this one of the finest pieces of “extreme sports” videography evar.

One fun game is playing “spot the skier” in the opening shots of the film that appear to be just scenery. Enjoy!

Pro-spective: Who is the Nikon D800 for? Part 1

D700/800 split

[To get the big picture, check out the other two posts in this Pro-spective series. Part 2 with Tim Kemple and Part 3 with Corey Rich]

In a previous post, I mentioned the lukewarm response to the new D800 some Nikon fans have been expressing since its February sixth announcement. (I’d link to evidence of this, but it’s scattered across the Twitterverse, the comments pages of camera blogs, and photodork forums. If you look for it, you’ll find it.) In many cases, these responses are just the typical web junk, where bored or angry people can’t resist the urge to gripe about everything that catches their attention via the unedited broadcast medium known as the Internet. In other cases, there’s a fundamental misunderstanding about what the D800 is and who it’s for (“You mean this might be better than my Coolpix? Oh noes! Why didn’t the guy in Best Buy tell me to wait?!” or “$3,000?! Who would pay that much for a stupid camera?! My iPhone takes pictures just as good and I can make calls with it, too!”).

But there is a third, and I think larger, class of user who actually has a valid complaint, or at least question, about the D800: Why did it go the direction it did, if it’s ostensibly to replace the D700? The D700 was an affordable, full-frame rig that enthusiasts and pros alike could use to shoot action and low-light scenes. Photo journalists and sports photogs on a budget were stoked. The D800, as most interested people have already read a hundred times elsewhere, generates immense 36mp images at a rate of about four per second, fast considering the 70m raw file size, but still slow compared to the D700’s 8fps with battery grip or the D4’s 9fps without. The D800 seems to target a different market: studio, landscape, and even wedding shooters. A big segment of D700 lovers doesn’t seem to have a viable upgrade option for less than six thousand dollars.

Continue reading Pro-spective: Who is the Nikon D800 for? Part 1

Zen Story: The Blockhead Lord

Zen Temple

Today’s Zen story is about power, wisdom, ego, honesty, and manipulation. It can be read, along with 100 other great Zen stories at

The Blockhead Lord*

Two Zen teachers, Daigu and Gudo, were invited to visit a lord. Upon arriving, Gudo said to the lord: “You are wise by nature and have an inborn ability to learn Zen.”

“Nonsense,” said Daigu. “Why do you flatter this blockhead? He may be a lord, but he doesn’t know anything of Zen.”

So, instead of building a temple for Gudo, the lord built it for Daigu and studied Zen with him.

Gudo’s tactic of flattery did not go over well. Daigu spoke bluntly, without much tact, and the lord saw this as a sign of Daigu’s superior grasp of Zen. Ironically, the fact that the lord chose to build a temple for Daigu may well have proved Gudo right. Who was the more perceptive of the two? Who the more honest? Perhaps Daigu’s remark was only a more complex form of manipulation. One can never be so sure….

The Blockhead Lord

(*If you like this story, consider buying the excellent book Zen Flesh Zen Bones)

Nikon announces the D800

After many months of the usual bullshit Internet speculation-fests, Nikon finally let the D800 out of the bag. As Nikon Rumors has been predicting for a long time, it’s 36 megapixels (“At its core is superior image quality equal to that achieved with medium-format digital cameras,” reads the press release). It has high-def “broadcast quality” video and more bells and whistles than the Doo Dah parade. All told, it’s a hell of a nice camera for a fairly reasonable price ($2900, only $200 more than the D700 was when it was released in 2008). But will the D700 crowd welcome it with open arms?
The Nikon D800

I used to own a D700, but liquified it so I could afford the D800, even though I didn’t know yet what the D800 would be. What it turned out to be is a bit of a new direction. The massive image size and slower frame rate (four frames per second in FX mode) means it’s better suited to subjects that don’t move around much (nature, landscape, studio). It’s not ideal for me, as I plan to shoot rock climbing with it, among other sporty things. Then again, when you really think about it, how fast are those climbers going, anyway? Not that fast… Unless they’re falling. I have noticed some grumbling in the forums that this camera just won’t do what the D700 as far as fast shooting in low light, which is great for shooting action and photo journalism. But on the other hand, it does a lot that the D700 couldn’t do at all.

Continue reading Nikon announces the D800

Your head must feel very heavy

Zen Teacher: “There is a big stone. Do you consider it to be inside or outside your mind?”

Monk: “From the Buddhist viewpoint everything is an objectification of mind, so I would say that the stone is inside my mind.”

Zen Teacher: “Your head must feel very heavy if you are carrying around a stone like that in your mind.”

(Full story here.)

The title of this blog was taken from a Zen story published in the book Zen Flesh Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings, compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki. Like most of the stories in the book, this one is less than a page from title to closing punctuation. Even so, the story can be condensed into the paraphrase, above, without losing too much meaning.

The Monk’s response is blandly intellectual. Meanwhile, the Zen teacher’s reply is, in the great tradition of Zen teaching, glib to the point of absurdity. The Zen teacher would have known the student’s mind would flow in the direction it did, and his snarky reply was intended to shock the student into awareness. The student’s words were merely symbols in an if/then equation. If everything is and objectification of mind, then that stone is in my mind. But the there’s more to existence than cold ratiocination, and the teacher uses words to point the student (and the reader, of course) towards a deeper understanding. Words won’t get you to enlightenment, but they can illuminate the path.

As a guy with a particularly ponderous stone in my head, I hope to use words as a lantern to brighten my own path and maybe yours, too, dear reader. Just a moment ago, I wrote a long list of topics you should expect to see on this blog, but I deleted it, fearing I’d only disappoint those who’d hold me to it, not to mention limit myself before I’ve even started. Like my life (and, hopefully, yours), this blog is an experiment, ever evolving. Perhaps at some point I’ll be able to say precisely what it is about and who it is for. But for now, the limits are set only by the boundaries of my own interests, which are diverse. Until the next post.

The Blockhead Lord