Outlook

One afternoon YoungDoo’s sister and her family took us on a drive outside of Seoul for some time away from the city. One of the spots we visited was a cool little art gallery/cafe/shop/theater complex next to a huge lake, sorry I don’t remember the name. Before we left I knew I wanted to sneak over and take a few photos of the lake and mountains in the distance but upon walking up to the edge of an outlook the overgrowth of plantlike at the edge of the trail caught my eye.

This one wispy vine took off above everything else and I knew I had found a take on this landscape other than the landscape itself. I often find myself in this same position, gazing at the grass instead of the view. There is so much hidden in the foreground of our lives that is easy to miss or ignore. That is to say, don’t forget to check out the forest through the trees while you are out exploring.

Links to a wallpaper cut can be found below, HD version is in the usual members downloads spot. Enjoy!

Cafe Yaang

After visiting Korea again I realized it was the 6th time I have had the opportunity to spend time there. Unlike previous trips this time around felt like a “Greatest Hits” sort of visit where I did not have as much time to wander around lost so I found myself gravitating to my favorite old spots, hoping they were still there because so many shops and cafes have short life spans in the crowded marketplace.

Among shops I was surprised managed to hang on was this gem of a coffee shop called Cafe Yaang. Tucked away in a small 4-5 block area full of small independent shops, restaurants, bars and cafes. It was a pleasant surprise to see it held on while many others in the area vanished since my last visit.

Cafe Yaang is my favorite kind of little Cafe, full of modest charm and understated ambience making it a cozy place to relax in for a while. I did my best to capture the simple charm and calmness of the space with these couple of photos and thought they would make for equally cozy wallpapers. Links below, more to come but for now, enjoy!

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Summer

Summer is full of traditions passed down through generations of youth culture. When I think of this season what comes to mind as an adult is the heat and long days working outdoors but I remember back when the summer meant time in the woods, cold rivers and streams, camping, road trips, time to explore and enjoy the wistful landscape of time free from obligation.

In that spirit, YoungDoo and I found ourselves with a day off and decided to take advantage by taking Milla out swimming in a lake for the first time and, as I mentioned a post or two ago, I am doing all I can to keep an eye out for those delicate moments hiding in plain sight, ready to capture as a photograph. The image here are from just such a moment, the afternoon light sneaking into the lower level of a boathouse where you pay your dues to get into the lake area. It smelled of moisture, moss, and showers. A familiar cool, damp smell that’s hard to forget. A scene that captured a little forgotten corner of my youth that I thought some of you may appreciate as well. Enjoy!

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La Niña Junco

Ambient music has continued to be a stabilizing force within my day to day life. It breathes calm into moments of chaos and helps moments of joy feel transcendent. Among my favorite discoveries lately is the album La Niña Junco by Federico Durand released on the 12k Label.

The album has a purity to its concept that I greatly admire and appreciate. The whole of the release was created using one single synthesizer, and to great effect. It causes each song to pool into a collective whole as if each new exploration of the instrument is a single block building a home, a cozy, light filled home from open windows and warm summer breeze. While that may sound over the top, its my best attempt at describing how its left me feeling at times.

Hidden among the album is a song which has quickly become a quintessential piece of ambient music within my all time favorites called Navidad en el bosque. When I first heard it I must have left it on repeat for an hour, and continue to come back to it time and time again. It is both somber and hopeful, contemplative and full of subtle life with its waves of light hearted sound. Its the kind of music that makes the world around me feel empty without it playing within it.

While most 12k releases come out in physical form via CD, this one has a well suited vinyl edition that sounds beautiful. If you are curious about the toy bird in the photo above. It came in a pack of Japanese caramels and has lived around my turntable for a long while. When I started to share the process of playing vinyl records with my one year old daughter I placed the toy on the label so she could see that the disc was spinning around and around. Now, at 16 months old she loves to make attempts at helping me play records and because I included the bird as part of that initial learning experience, now she won’t let me play a record without the little wooden bird spinning round and round there on the record along with the music because, of course, thats just part of what makes it work. She sure loves music, which really brings me joy.

At any rate, if you are into ambient, contemplative music then be sure to have a listen to this fantastic release on 12k (which just happens to currently have a summer sale going on through the end of the month so its a perfect time to pick up a copy if you end up enjoying it as much as I have.)

As Green

I can’t remember the last time I crammed my camera into an odd place to capture a photograph and yesterday on a short trip to the mountains I stumbled into a perfect opportunity to do just that. We took Milla to see a small waterfall so she could mess about in the cool mountain water and I noticed this little overhang hiding a tiny cave of plant life and drippy beauty. Small water flow is a fast moving mess of splashing water but there was just enough space to shove a 5D back there and capture some secret cave goodness. It just took a little bit of manual focusing and a wet head to get close to lining up the shot how I was imagining. I think I ended up taking around 20 or so shots and found three that I thought were worth sharing with you guys.

I must say, it felt good to play around with a somewhat abstract subject again for the first time in a long time, if only for a few minutes. Some days I wonder what more I can offer the world with another photograph of light shining through a window but moments like these where I discover some unconsidered little corner of the world I quickly remember how much there is still to discover and share. Infinity proper.

I have a couple more to share from our little trip but I will save those for next time. Until then, enjoy!

Step One

Time is an idea I can’t stop considering lately. It’s a delicate pattern carved in stone and as heavy and permanent as it feels to lift I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that I have grown weaker to it’s weight. Ive come to realize that there is no such thing as free time, or a day off anymore. “My” time is no longer mine. My life no longer feels quite as unique and philosophical, only steadfast in its attempt to teach me a lesson, that somehow my narrow and flighty addiction to capturing light and living in the moment is but the smallest nearly forgotten footnote in the broader perspective that life seems to want me to consider now.

All this is to say that fatherhood has certainly cast a new light onto my back, more constant than the sun and infinitely brighter. I am learning that time is attention, time is focus, time is fully understanding the importance of every available second spent alive. More valuable and precious than I ever thought possible.

This has made it harder to appreciate light, art, music, emotion. A deeper connection with the world around me has been frayed and heavily damaged as of late. In regards to my deeper understanding of life through artistic expression, many things seemed to work against me over the course of this past year. One camera died, another stolen, work and life at home so heavy that a practical life was the only side of reality I could see. Trails of light in the dust, intricate shadows, lonely corners of the world needing my attention, they all hid out of sight for long periods at a time but I refused to turn a blind eye to this hole that opened up in my creative self. The blackness was far too alarming and dense, I realized that if I didn’t start seeking out light again I may loose it for good.

So I turned to music first; sound, melody, rhythm, it gives me pace, subtle yet steady, I let it fill the spaces between work and home. Through creating music and pushing time around to get out behind a couple of turntables and help people dance with that therapeutic thump, clap, thump, clap, music became my creative pulse this past year when light hid so far away.

Now, recently I was blessed with the opportunity to have a new camera in my life. YoungDoo and I bought a used 5D Mk III from a photographer friend locally and while we are sharing it between her freelance photography work and my hope to use it as a tool to awaken artistically again behind a lens, it has certainly, without a doubt, been a blessing for both of us to have around.

It may not be the latest, smallest, most clever camera available today but it sure has sparked my imagination again and made me want to continue to seek out lonely or beautiful moments hidden around me and I can feel it start to come back. These inspiring, quiet milliseconds are doing their damnedest to get my attention and remind me that even among a life that has been feeling particularly heavy and opaque, that light, even when faint, can inspire hope and remind me that time can in fact still slow down enough to let me appreciate it and at times try and capture it and share these nearly overlooked moments with others.

And in that spirit, I’m sharing a new desktop and a toast to to the light, may it shine just a little bit brighter when I have a camera by my side.

One Inch

“…and when they carry me, they carry me one inch above ground.”

This was a lyric used as one of the themes for a project called Our Window which was something YoungDoo and I did together back around 2010 or so. I was feeling a bit nostalgic this morning and found myself looking through these photos we took together while apart. For those of you who don’t know, part of how we got to know each other while living on opposite sides of the world was through a diptych project where we used themes to inspire us to take photos then combined them and presented them together as a means to see how each other would interpret each theme. It was a fulfilling project that we both miss some days.

The photo above was taken as part of it, and has been sitting in my “may make a good desktop one day” folder for a long time now. I remember having time to get creative with photos back then. I came up with this odd idea of floating a pinecone above the ground to match our chosen theme and considered using fishing line but realized the songs protagonist was being carried by birds, not floating so I used a red thread instead, a detail I ended up really liking.

The song is a sweet one by a musician that releases music under the name Ben and Bruno and writing this today reminded me that its been a while since checking out what he’s been up to lately. The album the song was from is called 100 Grim Reapers and its actually available as a free download now on his bandcamp page here. I was lucky enough to pick up a vinyl copy back when it was released, its an old favorite for sure.

As always, links for desktops below, HD version will be up in the members space. Enjoy!

Still Life

For over ten years now I have been sharing photos, stories, and thoughts on life and technology but there’s one small part of who I am creatively that has not managed to show up among these pages, at least not very much, and that is music of my own creation. Photography and stories come easy, they are universal, focused, easy to accept for a wide audience, but music… music is an entirely different animal. Sharing original music feels so much more venerable to me somehow. A lot of what I have shared here over the years has been to fight a fear of judgement and underlying anxiety about my creative work and this long standing hesitation is no different.

That said, a couple of months ago I decided to shake off that anxiety and share some music I have been working on over the course of the past year. After choosing which music fit best together as an album, working on finishing up a few of the songs, and doing a bit of at-home mastering, I am happy to present “Still Life,” a full length album of my own music. It has heavily ambient leanings and was largely inspired by a desire to collect memories through sound and music.

For those of you interested, I thought I would take a few minutes and let you know a little bit about my history with music making in general, the story behind this collection of music, and the details of its release. Not interested? Thats cool, you can jump over to the release page on Bandcamp here, but if you would like to know more, lets press on.

Electronic-centric music and I go a long way back, to the late 90’s/ Early 00’s when I started to discover how weird and wonderful it could be through the likes of Aphex Twin, Autechre, Nobukazu Takeura, Clark, Four Tet, Squarepusher, and countless others who were paving the way for a new generation of exciting new sounds and boundless creativity. I started making music with a friend of mind under the name A Drop In Silence and we had a nice run making the craziest music our young minds could come up with but life caught up with us and my music making slowed more or less to a halt over time.

About a year and a half ago I found an opportunity to pick up a Teenage Engineering OP-1, a magic little box of synthesis, sampling, and multi track recording, and it inspired me to start setting aside time to create music again. Using the OP-1 along with other portable hardware including the Roland JP-80 (which I forgot to put in my liner notes, oops), Organelle, Volca Sampler, nearly all of the Pocket Operators, a piano, and a cool verb+delay guitar pedal called the Avalanche Run, I started to put together songs from time to time, and by that I mean, whenever I could manage to actually find more than a few short minutes to create something concrete. This simplified the recording process greatly; many of the tracks are first takes and all were recorded on the fly one layer at a time.

Music making has become a meditative processes for me, all of this music was made in reaction to the circumstances at the time each piece was recorded and to accent the theme of this music being about memory and meditation I stated to listen through old field recordings that I made while traveling in Japan and India, and also incorporated sounds from the environments in which I created these songs such as the top of a mountain, inside a diner or coffee shop, or at the shore of a lake or ocean. These recordings ended up feeling as much a part of the music as the melodies and sounds so I left a number of them to have breathing room of their own throughout the album.

Which brings us to the release. I have chosen to distribute this through Bandcamp because I don’t have the time or money to deal with getting it distributed to a wider set of platforms. Bandcamp releases are a big part of what inspired me to put together an album of music and release it to begin with. It is, hands down, the best platform available today for independent musicians and labels. You can stream the whole thing there on the product page before and after purchasing it so I figured there is no need to mess around with the cumbersome mess of Soundcloud or Youtube for previews.

The base price of a digital copy is just $5 and the digital version contains additional “bonus” tracks which are edits to three of the songs on the album that I had made while working on putting the album together and thought they were worth sharing.

Last but not least, I have a physical copy of the album for sale as well that I am pretty excited about! A physical release was something really important to me to offer and because I only wanted to make a small batch of the physical version I knew the perfect format would be cassette tape, oh yes, you read that right. I fully realize that my audience here on fiftyfootshadows contains a large amount of tech elites that will instantly loose track of their eyeballs as they roll out of the back of their heads in bewilderment but hear me out.

The physical release could have just as easily been a rock with my logo stamped on it, it could have been a collectable little sculpture, a USB stick in a funny shape with the music on it, anything, but I chose a cassette tape as the collectable object to sell as a means to commemorate the release which just so happens to also contain a great sounding copy of the album in an analog format. The tapes were professionally duplicated with Type II Chrome High Bias tape and they sound great, truly! It’s a rich, uncompressed copy of the music with a low noise floor and a nicely balanced tone and dynamic range. Scoff all you want, I was pleasantly surprised at just how great the album sounds on the format.

I chose to skip the fragile plastic shell cases and old school J Cards of yesteryear and put together the packaging myself. The cover is a die cut chipboard sleeve made by a great printer in Oregon called stumptown printers. I used a custom stamp as minimal cover art and rounded out the packaging with a photograph, liner notes, and a sticker.  Each copy was assembled and numbered by hand.

The photograph contained in the package is also on the digital cover art seen at the top of the post here. It was an image captured on film while traveling in India. It jumped out to me as a perfect image to represent the album as a whole because of the weight it holds in my memory. I shot it just after waking up on the top bunk of a sleeper class car on a train. The memory of traveling by train in India is distant but has stayed with me though the years as a visceral experience. The dust of a desert blowing through open doors and windows, chai tea breaks at stations, seemingly endless amounts people pooling through the cabins; at times, a peacefulness formed amid the chaos that I often miss. A lot of the music on this album contains memories like this one hiding in the sound and mood of each track.

So thats that! I would greatly appreciate your support in spreading the word of its release if you enjoy it or if you know someone into this kind of music, I don’t often ask but in this case it would be great if you could give me a leg up. I realize its not going to suit everyones taste but I certainly have enjoyed working on it and I am excited to release it into the world.

One last time in case you missed the link, here is is on Bandcamp, if anyone has trouble with the service let me know, I don’t mind considering selling it directly here on the site digitally as well.

Bonus, desktops of the images below are available via the links also below.

Cassette Tapes

*Several months ago I started to write about my newfound affection for cassette tapes but never made time to finish writing it so I decided to pick this back up to finish it and share it with you guys because its all still quite true and since writing this I have fallen even further down the resurgence of cassette tape releases. So lets dig in.

I recently found myself realizing how many cassette tape releases I had collected from small, independent musicians and labels so I took to the net to find an affordable portable tape player so I could put them to better use. I never once thought about it being an outdated format during my dig, I only felt sad that the only new players left on the market are more or less junk which left me searching the depths of eBay for those willing to sell nice old players at a fair price.

My research lead me down a rabbit hole full of old Sony Walkman players among which I was left digging around a specific line of cassette tape Walkmen that I assume were manufactured somewhere toward the end of the tech’s lifespan as a popular medium. I discovered a number of thin, pocketable players constructed from metal rather than plastic and knew I was on the right track. These were actually some really great devices, even by todays standards. Many of the nicer later models were not all that much bigger than the plastic cases that house most cassette tapes. After settling on one that appeared to be in good shape I went digging around the fringes of Amazon for a couple of batteries and a charger to make it work and haven’t looked back since.

After a week or two of carrying it with me from day to day and doing my best not to get pigeonholed as a hipster with vintage tech in one pocket, iPhone 6 in the other, I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed having it around. It lead me to a few interesting observations on the state of physical media today and the illusion of its demise.

I see cassette tapes as an intentional format (in a similar way that vinyl or polaroid film is). It represents a physical connection between music and the listener and causes the listener to be intentional in his or her decision to listen to an album. There are no features to get in the way, just start, stop, and fast forward which could be seen as primitive compared to digital music access but it has the benefit of forcing you to simply leave the music playing and enjoy it beginning to end. Physical media is true fan service.

Looking at it from another angle, cassettes offer me something that vinyl does not, a portable, personal experience to add to the already intentional act of picking a tape or two to take along for the day. While some question the fidelity of cassettes and joke of their irrelevance in todays world, I would greatly prefer listening to a tape over a badly encoded MP3. In fact, later tape technologies were actually pretty well refined and balanced in the full frequency spectrum and had even all but eliminated the tell tale hisssss of older ferric tapes.

There are many of you rolling your eyes right about now and thats fine, I get it, it sounds frivolous at best, surely I have lost my mind. But keep in mind, I’m a romantic. I love the feeling of deliberate fandom in buying a physical copy of an album from a band or artist that I really love and want to support and in some circles there are some amazing artists who have been releasing exclusively on tapes and for good reasons.

The most obvious is the fact that even quality tapes are vastly more affordable to make than pressing records and a lot more fun than selling boring old CDs which may as well be a digital download as far as I’m concerned. Tapes have a long, tried and true presence in the music industry as a method of releasing music independently and have recently been discovered once again as a perfect middle ground for fans of musicians that want to buy a physical copy of their favorite new album but can’t afford to shell out $20 for a vinyl copy.

So, how about you, what do you think about analog formats? I still hold close the belief that if you really love an artists music that you will do more than toss pennies into their hats with streaming services and buy their music outright so why not do so in a collectible and satisfying analog format?

To whom it may concern,

IMAGES FOUND WITHIN FIFTYFOOTSHADOWS.NET ARE ©JOHN CAREY AND MAY NOT BE USED FOR ANY COMMERCIAL USE WITHOUT PERMISSION. 

DO:

• Enjoy the images! It’s a labor of love, thanks for your support!
• Share fiftyfootshadows.net with friends.
• Send me a quick mail if you are interested in using an image for commercial or personal use other than wallpaper.

DON’T:

• Post desktops elsewhere online.
• Share links directly to images.
• Pass them around in mass.
• Make prints.
• Use images for web banners or graphics. (send a quick email to ask, I’m pretty easy going about this with permission.)
• Use them in commercial work.

If you help me out with these I will be able to keep doing what I love to do. Thanks again, really, for your support and understanding. -J

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All of the images contained within this website, fiftyfootshadows.net, are property of, John Carey unless otherwise posted. The images are distributed as freeware but they are available for personal use only on your personal computer, tablet, or smartphone as your wallpaper image. Any use of these images for any purpose other than this is a violation of these terms and anyone found using said images will be asked to either compensate the creator for doing so or be asked to stop using them immediately.

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Use your best judgement and we will get along just fine.

Thank you for your understanding and support!

John Carey (curator, owner)

fiftyfootshadows.net

fiftyfootshadows@gmail.com