Brenternet (The World as seen by Brent Moore)

Trying to appeal to the highest common denominator. I can't give you 110% effort, but I will give you 107.4% effort. If you're a spammer and leave me a comment, I will make fun of you. I use twice as many semicolons compared to most other bloggers

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Location: Smyrna, Tennessee, United States

As the title implies, I am Brent K. Moore. I married MariLynn Simons on Sept. 25, 1999. we attend Stewart's Creek Church of Christ. We have five pets, a dachshund, Slinkie, a malamute, Juno, and three rabbits, Ebunny and Ifurry, and now Houdini.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Brent's 10 years of taking pictures retrospective.

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On September 18, 2003 at 10:15 AM, I took this picture:

There's nothing particularly special about this photo, but it's more about what this photo represents. My wife saw a cool spider out in the yard and wanted me to try and get a picture of it.

I've always liked pictures, although for the longest time it never occurred to me that I should be the one taking them.

Perhaps my first real hobby was collecting baseball cards. With a baseball card, you have a photo of a baseball player and it's a keepsake that you can hold on to. I never went looking for the expensive cards, but always for the players that were on my team. Occasionally, I'd find a card of a player I didn't root for, but the picture was particularly interesting. If it didn't cost more than a quarter, I'd buy it because it was a small work of art.

Even before I bought cards, my grandmother helped me out. My favorite team was several states away and didn't get much coverage in the local papers. My grandmother who lived in the town where they played would finish reading the newspaper and cut out all the articles about the team, then every couple of weeks would mail them to me. After I'd read the articles about games that were a couple of weeks old, I'd cut out the pictures and keep them.

Another hobby I developed was collecting post cards. Anytime I went out of town, and I went looking for souvenirs, I'd go strait to the post card aisle. I didn't want to go back to the hotel and mail these to my friends. I wanted to keep them. They represented the places I had been and the things I had seen. I didn't want just one post card. I wanted every different post card the store had for sale. Luckily, post cards usually don't cost much and it's easier when I don't want to buy anything else.

On the internet, the right click button was my friend. Whether it was photos on the internet of my favorite players or old photos of Nashville, if it was something I liked, I'd right click and save.

I wanted a camera, but I was a cheapskate. Although I was a terrible at saving up money, I didn't in principle mind paying a couple hundred dollars for a device that would capture images, but there was the film. It's not like film was expensive, but you had to pay for a handful of photos. Then, you had to pay again to get it developed. If you messed up a shot, you still had to pay for it. And, perish the thought that you might open the camera before the roll is finished and have sunlight ruin the whole batch! Even still, for special occasions, such as a vacation, I'd go to the store and get one of those 27 exposure disposable cameras.

Before the Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati

Then Digital Cameras slowly became mainstream. What's not to like? You don't have a per roll charge and the only limitations are based on your memory card (get more than 1) and batteries (get rechargeable). [Let me stop for a moment and say I respect the people who used film and still sometimes use film today. It forced the photographer to stop and take a moment to think about what they were doing. Today, you can mess up things as much as you want because there's photoshop to fix it. There are some things you can do with film and in a darkroom that while they can be replicated digitally, it's just not the same. It's becoming a lost art. I also understand the value of listening to vinyl over downloading an MP3.]

In September of 2003, my 4th wedding anniversary was coming up. This time we were taking a nice trip, going to Hilton Head Island. A 27 exposure disposable wasn't going to work. I took the plunge and found a camera at a closeout price.

Camera #1: Fuji FinePix A101

(My Wife at Hilton Head Island)

I don't know what kind of Smartphone you have, but it's better than this. It ought to be, this was over 10 years ago. It was 1.3 megapixel and had an optical viewfinder which is really something you'll thankfully never see anymore. I didn't know what I was doing back then, so I just took pictures of stuff I liked.

Lula Falls on Lookout Mountain Collapsed Church Building, Cincinnati Tree Kangaroo. Pittsburgh Zoo.

Camera #2 Canon Powershot S1 IS

It didn't take too long for me to realize that the first camera had limitations. While I still didn't know what I was doing, I figured an upgrade to a smarter camera would allow me to do so much more. This is a "prosumer" camera with a lot of features and setting, with a 3.2 Megapixel sensor and a 10X optical zoom. Over time, I tried to learn what things like ISO and Aperture meant, while realizing I had a lot to learn about composition. I was able to take pictures like this:

See 7 States from Rock City The Seattle Wheel Cumberland falls Red-faced Muscovy Duck Scenic Motel sign - Pigeon Forge, TN Nashville skyline at dusk

In many ways, I have been self-taught by doing what I enjoy - looking at other people's good photos and trying to learn what they did to make it successful. During these years, I joined Flickr which was a great place for such learning. I created a long-gone website with the goal of taking pictures all over Nashville. I had my first published photo and later sold my first photo (incredibly, to Time Magazine). It wasn't so much that my photos were that great but they were standard shots that fit someone's need. I took this photo which caught the attention of someone important at the state fair, which led to my first, and most significant gig.

Camera #3: Canon Powershot S5 IS

I used the S1 for three years. Over that time, it was great when it worked, but it started to develop problems (inherent to many manufacturer's 1st generation of superzooms). Once it became unreliable, I needed an upgrade. Since I liked all the features of the S1, and didn't want to learn a new system, I stuck with the same Canon product line and went with the S5. It had some upgrades like more megapixels and a 12X zoom, plus all the nice features of the previous one. As I continued to learn my craft, I developed a better understanding of lighting, composure, plus camera add-ons like filters and hoods. Over time, I learned how to push the S5 to its limits. I was able to take pictures like this:

Christ Church Cathedral Pipe Organ - Nashville Nashville Fireworks on the 4th #1 100 Things to see at the fair #8: Ferris Wheel 100 Things to see at the fair #100: Randall's Racing Pigs Bowling Green Fountain Square Fountain 1 Chattanooga Choo Choo sign

During these years, I learned I had a niche. I realized I wanted to be known for having the best photos of all the important locations in every county in and around the midstate. I had Realtors and Lawyers from small towns ask to buy the use of my photos on their website because I had the best photos of what little they could find. I decided to establish a brand and create a website of the same name, SeeMidTN. I wanted to reach two kinds of people: 1) those who want to buy a stock photo from their town 2) those who wanted to see photos from where they grew up. Like it's predecessor, I had the S5 for three years and I think some people are surprised I did so well even though I had been using a point-and-shoot (albeit a good one).

Camera #4: Canon EOS 20D

Although I pushed the point-and-shoot to its limits, there are still limits. I had been wanting one for years, but it was time for me to finally get a dSLR. A brand new dSLR was close to being out of my price range. I made the decision that I'd rather have a used high-end SLR than a new entry level dSLR. (Still an entry level SLR should be better than the best point-and-shoot.) Since I was testing the waters, I got a used Midgrade SLR that was 6 years old. I had to relearn everything, in a sense. I bought a couple of discount lenses that were lousy and had to be replaced, plus several other accessories. Many of the settings that were automatic on the S5 had to be set manually on the 20D. If you set them wrong, you could ruin a photo. (I almost ruined a whole day's worth of photos while on vacation.) However, if you set it right, you had the potential to take better photos than anything the S5 could have done. Still, it took the creative vision and knowledge for them to turn out right. Once I learned what I was doing, I was able to take photos like this:

Air Show: Thunderbirds in Precision Flight Murfreesboro 2011 Flags of Remembrance Christ Episcopal Church - Pulaski, VA Sam Davis Statue at Giles County Courthouse

Camera #5: Canon EOS 50D

I used the 20D for a year. It was great but it was old enough that I was ready for something better. I still went with a used camera, but with one that had just been replaced by a newer model so the used price had really fallen. With this camera, I was better equipped for difficult situations, which meant I could get the photo that many people couldn't, plus it opened my level of creativity that much more. It's the camera I have been using for nearly the last couple of years. I could still stand to upgrade my lenses, but I am happy where I am at. I can now take photos like this:

Great Horned Owl Music City Youth Orchestra #1 Rock City's Fairyland Caverns: Little Miss Muffet Toco Toucan - Nashville Zoo Kentucky Theater Marquee - Downtown Lexington Tarantula: Greenbottle Blue - Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens

I'm still learning how to take better photos, but the learning should never really stop, should it? The page views have been growing exponentially every year, and the photo usage requests keep coming in faster than they did in the past. Still, I am far from making enough money to quit my day job, but anytime I can supplement my income (and avoid the temptation to invest that income in more expensive equipment) it's a good thing. I have started to sell things, such as posters and post cards, greeting cards and t-shirts. It hasn't gotten very far, but if it does, I might even start buying advertising. A lot of photographers won't let you right click on their photo to save it. While I'd never question a pro who feels that way, I'd like to think there's someone out there who collects my photos, like I used to do.

Things in life are going well and I feel blessed (but nobody has it perfect). I belong to a great church family. I have a great wife. I have a primary job that I enjoy, usually. My hobby has really grown, from something I'd do while on a vacation, to something I'll do every sunny weekend, plus tinker with on the computer on a near daily basis. The things I do for fun and to unwind have significantly changed since that sunny day in 2003. Plus, this hobby doesn't add to the stack of boxes of baseball cards I have in the other room.

All in a decade.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

YOLO: The Taco Bell Breakfast Experience

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It was about a couple of weeks ago when I first heard that Taco Bell was test-marketing a breakfast menu. One of the cities where they're giving it a go is Chattanooga. I had forgotten about that when recently I got up really early to make a day trip to the Dynamo of Dixie when I came across this billboard on I-24.

Luckily, I was familiar enough with Chattanooga well enough to remember there's one right off the interstate. They left no doubt as to whether this was one that offered Firstmeal.

Here's the signs in the window:

I almost never get breakfast fast food. While I eat fast food (especially Taco Bell) more than I should, there's not many fast food breakfasts I care for. My goal today was to see what it was like. Specifically, I wanted to sample three different entree items. While the Cinnabon Delights look really good, I knew I wouldn't be able to eat them after getting another three items.

Keep in mind I'm not a food critic, nor am I really trying to review these items. I'm just attempting to give you my initial reaction and impression after my visit.

Item #1: Bacon & Egg Burrito.

It's Taco Bell. It would have been a safe assumption that this was going to be on the menu.

Wasn't bad, but I didn't care for it. Seems just like the McDonalds Breakfast Burrito, but I don't care for that either.

Item #2: The Waffle Taco

This seems to be their signature item, from a marketing standpoint. It may not be the best item, but it's the tacobelliest item. Combine three different breakfast items, a waffle, sausage, and egg, and fold it into a taco shape so that it retains an element of a faux Mexican fast food place.

I first learned of the Waffle Taco from someone posting it on Facebook, and I decided to repost it to my facebook wall. I was curious what find of feedback it would receive. All but one of the responses were negative (somewhere between "yuck" and "I would never eat that") and the other one response was subtle so I don't know if he said he'd try it or if he too were bashing it.

Well, I tried it. I can say I wasn't impressed. In retrospect, I should have used the provided flimsy spork and eaten all the egg first, then the sausage, then the waffle. Putting all three ingredients in your mouth at the same time creates a cacophony of discordant flavors.

Again, I'll leave the caveat that I don't really like sausage. Even if this had been the best thing ever, I probably wouldn't order another one. Still, this is Taco Bell where they pretend to serve food from Mexico. They could have at least replaced regular sausage with chorizo. Of course, they should also have made the "taco shell" out of crispy bacon instead of a waffle. It might have cost $5 but the cool kids would be calling the Bacon Taco the best thing ever.

Item #3: A.M. Crunchwrap with Bacon

While the Waffle Taco is "something different" in a bad way, the A.M. Crunchwrap has the potential to be "something different" in a good way. The regular daytime crunchwrap is a little of everything all folded into one flat convenient package. The breakfast version starts with a hasbrown covered with eggs, cheese and bacon (or sausage if you're in to that kind of thing) folded into a convenient edible carrying case.

And, we have a winner. Here, everything works together well. What I wasn't expecting was they added some kind of spicy (maybe chipotle) sauce to it that made it even better. I've had this sauce before on something, but I can't remember what Taco Bell item it was.

In the perhaps unlikely event that U ever try Taco Bell breakfast again (which would be more likely if they go nationwide) there's one item I will certainly get - The A.M. Crunchwrap.

Also, I'd like for them to make a Denver Omelet burrito.

So, in conclusion,