Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

128 kids this year - about average. It varies quite a bit depending on the weather, day of the week, etc. Anywhere from 100 - 250 is possible but around 125 is pretty typical. Makes it difficult to buy candy, though, you have to assume it will be a busy year just in case, and getting rid of the extra candy is an annual event. Luckily I have a professor pal - stick candy in the computer lab, whoosh, it's gone!

Not sure what I'm going to do with the extra pumpkin seeds. I saved the pumpkin seeds from two big pumpkins because the last couple of years I gave the extras to a dear friend who is no longer with us. Just habit, I guess.

Had a discussion with some local photographers about recent models who flaked and everybody's having problems. Part of the problem is that the ones who are basically doing it because they're bored come out of the woodwork certain times of year (semester, really) and they're the ones that are the most likely to flake. Anyway, I'm going to keep mum on any scheduled shoots for a while!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Whew!

Good thing I was able to make a coating rod this weekend - they're backordered for weeks! The idea is that you get a glass rod (or better yet thin tubing which has much better quality control - rod is usually melted eventually so it's not like it has to be very straight) break it to size and heat it enough to bend two handles. If I may indulge in a little ASCII art it should look like \__/

You hold the edge bits and the center/bottom part touches the paper.

I made a Ziatype test chart - looks good wet but these things always change a bit when they dry. I think I have the exposure OK but this process can be a little variable in terms of humidity and so forth so I'll definitely be keeping an eye on every print until I've proven some kind of consistency. It looks great though - it's my first true black and white process although you can warm it up a bit by adjusting the platinum/palladium ratio or by adding some toner. I'll do some analysis on the chart once it's dry and then it will be time to print negatives, let those dry for a day, and then start making some pictures. I'm hoping to have some samples and a description up on the site in a week or so (nothing moves too fast with this stuff).

It's basically a constant process of tweaking your process both in terms of negatives and making the actual print, for each process, for each paper you use. There's a balance between spending all your time making test charts and never making any prints or only making prints and not ever improving or improving only by trial and error. But I'm really pleased with how the whole learning process has been going.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Yet Another Friday

Running: Ran 10 miles this week, yay! Goal for next week is the same - basically once it starts raining the real trick will be to not stop for the winter so I'm not going to try increasing the distance any. Faster might be good though for when it gets cold!

My hosting company, Lunarpages, just upped their disk and bandwidth again. I have one of their business accounts largely because I run four domains on it. I know a choir and a chemistry conference each have basic accounts and that's more than enough for their purposes. I've been happy with them - getting all my domains transferred from different places was kind of a pain and they handled it very well.

I said I'd report back on my test of another photo lab, Mpix, - really the only thing that came of it was that the color prints on the usual Kodak Professional Endura were great but no better than my lab and their black and white prints on more expensive Ilford black and white paper stunk pretty much across the board. Very disappointing. But again, on the Kodak they did a good job and their interface is pretty easy to use. They're what I'd call more of a semi-pro lab, they also have a more professional division that's a seperate company. But they beat the snot out of the consumer places (snapfish or whatever).

They do have a few oddball products like playing cards that I may try out. Every place I've seen that does them before there's a 100 deck minimum. This is much more expensive but it might be fun to get a couple of decks and see if there's a market or not before committing to filling the house with decks of cards!

I managed to knock the glass rod I use to coat alternative process prints off of a counter and of course it shattered. I have backups of many photographic things, but not that, oops. So I ordered two more nice ones and am going to try to fabricate a basic one this weekend (the most simple but still good kind is just glass tubing with a couple of bends to make handles). But I might be stuck with brush coating for a bit. For some things, probably good to get the practice in. But unfortunately I just received my Ziatype kit - which is a platinum/palladium method and there's no way I'm brush coating with that until I get better with it. Especially since the initial prints will be test charts that need a very even coat for me to make a calibration curve off of them.

Speaking of which, I've been making test charts for my existing processes and doing some fancier calibration. Initial results are very good - I was getting better results with some images than others which was leading to a lot of waste and hand tweaking things. This should hopefully be more of a works-the-first-time-on-every-image kind of deal if I can really get it nailed. I'm getting inquries from other photographers about making prints for them and it only really works if I streamline the process a bit.

One option is to pursue papyrus further since that has to be brush coated anyway. My first full sized cyanotype on papyrus is very cool. I've made a vandyke half sheet test on papyrus - won't really know how that worked for a day or two as it slowly dries but I think it has potential too.

Anyway, one way or another over the next couple of months the printmaking should continue to progress, focusing on these rather unusual techniques, making unique images.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Some site updates

I updated the alternative photography section with some new pictures. I'm hoping to add some sections for some other materials and processes soon when I get something to show, so to kind of split up the work I made sure everything else was in order first.

I'm doing one of my periodic inventory checks - refilling the eBay store with dozens of pictures and I also removed a few (and found one duplicate, oops!). I'd let the store get to about 100 pictures down from peak which was too far. I added around 50 which is a good level, I think.

Next I'm going to do a mini A-Z with my listings - going through each model listing pictures in rougly alphabetical order and at the same time if I don't really have enough to list putting some of their pictures in my "pictures to order" folder that I use to fill out the minimum order when I order prints for customers. The good news is that you'll see more variety for a bit, although that also means I probably won't get back to the favorites for a while.

The other housekeeping thing I need to do is something I haven't done in a while which is basically to go through each model's page on the website and trim it down a bit. Basically as time goes on and I get some distance from the shoot I'm always a harsher critic and there's always a couple of pictures I wouldn't include today. This means over the next week or so you may see a gradual slimming down of the website - whole sets won't disappear or anything, just a bit of tightening up of the sets.

Monday, October 23, 2006

New Model: Psyche

I just uploaded my set with Psyche. This is her first time modeling and I think she did very well!

Oh, also I printed a test strip of cyanotype on papyrus - looks very cool! I took a snapshot of it, as always the original looks much better, but this gives you the idea.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Update

I'm going to get back into the swing of having small updates come on Friday.

Running first off - next week's goal is 10 miles. Mostly I'm trying to get back into the habit at this point.

Shoot news - I had a very nice shoot today with a first timer. This is one of these gals who basically is doing it for the free pictures so I'm lucky to be the photographer she chose. I think the shoot went well - hopefully I'll get the shots up in a few days but this weekend I have some commitments including a fundraiser for Toys for Tots (nothing photo related!) and Monday is a maternity shoot and those get processed first of course. I have a series of nice model shoots scheduled out into November, but I don't want to share too much about those until they've happened just in case.

Speaking of which, if you haven't seen Abby's shoot yet, do, it was nice!

I ordered around 20 8x10s from a different company than I usually use, including some I'd just ordered of Abby from the usual folks so I can do a direct comparison. It's always good to keep an eye on these things - I've been hearing good things about another lab so why not try them out? If there's some interesting difference I'll post the results. They have some different paper options so if nothing else I might keep them as an option for some kinds of things.

I tried the new extra-expensive paper (Bergger COT-320) for the alt process stuff and it works great. Coats very easily, has a nice bit of texture to it. If I can get a good supply I'll switch to it despite the price - I've heard it's often in short supply and I'm not going to rely on it until I've stocked up... and my usual shop is backordered, hmm.

I have exposures nailed for Cyanotype, Vandyke and Platinum toned Vandyke with the new UV system and the new paper, whew!

Next steps are to try brush coating a couple more times and get that nailed... and then print on some papyrus I just got in. It's lovely - smoother than I expected - should make some great prints but it's expensive so I don't want to try it until I can brush coat with some degree of confidence.

So that's the news. Back to editing today's set...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Local politics

So like the good kid I am I was checking out the voter information for the upcoming election and noticed something scary. Lou Filipovich is on the ballot for state senate.

I have to explain Lou, he's kind of a local character. He runs for things as kind of a hobby, I guess. He's usually on the ballot for two or three things in any given election. This last primary among other things he ran for Alameda County Board of Supervisors (3.4% of the vote) and Mayor of San Leandro (5.8% of the vote).

The seat was open because the prior person got term limited out. Democrats had a major three way battle - big bucks were spent - and Ellen Corbett won. She was well regarded as the mayor of San Leandro, where Lou lives. Apparently Lou noticed that the Republicans weren't even bothering this year (not unusual in certain local races), declared himself to be a Republican (he isn't) and won the nomination without any real effort. So he actually won one of his three races.

The thing is, I'm not sure that people in the rest of the district really know about Lou. He might even have some name recognition - how many times do you have to see "Lou Filipovich" on the ballot before you just assume he's a legitimate candidate? And after the dirty campaign, maybe some people think poorly of Ellen Corbett. I mean, she got less than 40% of the vote in the primary.

Lou could win. How... um... interesting...

Sigh II

Today's model is 20 minutes late. She was supposed to be 18, tall, blond, girl next door cheerleader type. Long toned legs, that sort of thing. It's conceivable she'll show up eventually - which is a shame because I'm about to bail and go run errands rather than sit here - but I can't call her because she's a model that slipped through without giving me her cell #. This has always been a bad idea - I've had models who were lost and couldn't find my studio and I called them at 10 minutes after and got them sorted out. They, of course, hadn't brought my number with them.

So as of now it's a requirement - no phone #, no shoot. It won't stop the total flakes - they'll just not answer when I call - but at least I can make sure it's not some scenario like the above and I can get on with my day.

Incidentally, this is exactly why I usually avoid working with 18 year olds. Your average 20-22 year old is much more reliable, is usually way more comfortable with being nude, and just generally much more confident and that usually comes through in the pictures. Interestingly enough most of my top selling models are around 22-26 - the few 18 year olds I've worked with are pretty but their sets never sell very well. Not exactly the conventional wisdom...

Update: Never did hear from her.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

New Model: Abby

Here's new model Abby. Mostly when I say "New Model" in the titles I mean new to me, but I think this was her second shoot.

One thing I should explain - the glowy purple underwear pictures - I have a future project involving some UV light and I just wanted to get some exposure data and Abby just happened to have an article of clothing that glowed under UV light so she was kind enough to humor me and let me shoot her that way. I thought they looked kind of cool and kept a couple.

Sigh

Models never fail to amaze me. You'll get a letter from somebody who's polite, articulate, and seemingly motivated and they basically insist on getting coffee to discuss a shoot before doing the shoot. And then you show up, settle in, and they don't show up. No call, no explanation, nothing.

I actually do better than most photographers seem to - I think partially because I have a system where I confirm everything two days before and it weeds out a lot of folks. As an example I just heard from my Thursday shoot saying she couldn't make it because of work stuff... which is understandable, but note that she didn't write me on her own - it wasn't until I wrote her and asked that she bothered to tell me.

For portrait and maternity shoots I require a deposit which helps tremendously. It's really tempting to do something similar with the models but I'm not sure how it would fly. I know some photographers do it.

The good news is I had a nice shoot Monday with a nice gal who was on time and everything. I'm hoping to get those pictures up soon. I still have shoots scheduled for Wednesday and Friday - I'll report back on how those went!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Brush Coating

I have some assorted alternative process updates. Since as the year goes on the sun is becoming harder to use in any kind of a consistent fashion I'm using the UV unit more and more, and decided to make a few changes. Basically I'm using some foam board to close off the "fourth wall" (more UV light on the paper, less in my eyeballs) but that gave me some heat concerns, so I punched a hole in one wall and wired up a 155V AC fan which sucks out tons of air and keeps it very cool. Cyanotype exposure times dropped from 9 to 7 minutes - I think partially because the bulbs have higher output if they're cooler.

I'm learning to brush coat instead of rod coat. Basically it just has to do with how you get the chemicals on the paper - rod coating you use a road, and brush coating... wait for it... you use a brush. Rod coating probably gives the most consistent results but only if you have smooth paper. I eventually want to be able to print on highly textured papers - or even papyrus - and the brush handles that better. It also means you can coat non-rectangular areas and some people like the brushed look if you don't mask off the edges. Here is an example - there's a few problems with the image, it's not ready for prime time (or for sale) but you get the idea.

Anyway, hopefully you'll see some brush coated images coming out shortly for sale, and some of those on interesting papers. I do have some papyrus on order so I'll probably try that soon although it's kind of expensive.

Speaking of expensive paper, I also got in 25 sheets of a really top of the line paper. It looks identical to the already expensive 100% cotton rag platinotype paper I'm using now but I've had some reject images due to paper issues and it should be a bit more consistent especially with platinum images. (Any kind of metal contamination in the paper will cause "black plague" with platinum - it's icky, trust me.)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

2007 Calendar

Well, I decided to go ahead and make a calendar. It's very nice - large, high quality, nice paper, all that good stuff. Which of course means it's expensive to produce and I'm going to make very little money per copy. This means I'm not going to keep it in stock here, especially since I have zero idea how it will sell (and therefore how many to buy). You can get it from my print-on-demand company, Lulu.com. They're the same company I use to print my books. You're welcome to order books through them - but if you want a signed copy go through my books page.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Grab Bag!

First off, thanks again for everybody who ordered while I was on vacation. I sent out seven packages today to four countries and have ordered the prints for the orders I couldn't supply out of my inventory (including ones going to a fifth country). They'll go out in another big batch around the end of the week.

But the whole inventory issue brings up another point, which is that I often carry a little more inventory than really makes sense and it's not always easy to do anything about that. If you list some pictures at discount people assume there's something wrong with them, and some I can't list on eBay because they're too explicit (they keep changing the rules and even topless only pictures can be a problem if somebody decides they're "too sexy").

So I'm trying something different, which is a grab bag auction. Basically it's a fixed lot of 10 prints and only one is displayed. I say in the auction I'll try to work with model preferences, but I'll also say if somebody reading the blog wins it you can also say if you have a preference for more explicit or more implied nudity. (I didn't want to imply in the auction that I was selling something you can't list on eBay).

I have no idea if this is going to work or not. Somebody may very well get a real deal on some cool shots. Obviously I'll only try this again if the final price is pretty good. But one of the nice things about eBay is that you can try things easily - see what works, see what doesn't. If it doesn't work I'm just out a couple of bucks. If it works it gives me another tool to work with.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Book warning

I've been doing a little inventory and I'm getting low on copies of my first book San Francisco Nudes (scroll to the boottom of that page to see it) and I'm basically going to clear them out and not order any more (although they'll still be available as a print-on-demand item from Lulu). Basically I'll give it a few days in case anybody wants to order a copy direct otherwise I'll put them up for auction on eBay. Point being if you want a signed copy, now's the time!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Back to normal

I'm back in California, eBay items start ending tomorrow, and I have a zillion prints to order and another zillion plus a book or two to mail out Tuesday. (Monday's a postal holiday for those who don't know.)

It's very odd catching up on the news after a break. North Korea announced they had a successful nuke test and nobody can confirm it? Hello? I used to work in a seismology lab when I was getting my BS in physics and I was going through old results for various reasons and I was always running into nuke tests. The tests were in Nevada, and our instruments were in Southern California and they pegged the scale. They showed up as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake. I got fooled by a few of them, thinking they were real events, until I realized they always happened at the same time of day. It's possible to do a frequency analysis and figure out what the event was but as a practical matter if it came from Nevada and was around that size and the right time of day there wasn't any real point in investigating it further. But I know more professional setups will automatically filter out man-made events like explosions.

Anyway, point being, it's not exactly subtle when you set off a nuke, even a small one. And since that's a geologically active area, Japan has a massive network of instrumentation watching for quakes along with software that automatically figures out the energy involved and if it was man-made or not. It's all automatic.

Well, either way, it's good to be back!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Boobies

If you like breasts, as I have some reason to believe at least one or two of my readers do, you should check this out.

Monday, October 02, 2006

More little updates

I have 25 8x10s scheduled to start on eBay between now and Sunday the 8th. They're all new shots that haven't been listed before. If you use their turbolister program it's actually pretty easy to list things in bulk like that and schedule them. Unfortunately they all uploaded with the wrong gallery pictures somehow and I had to revise them all manually. Sigh...

Anyway, starting on the 10th I'll pick things up manually, list some vandyke prints I've made recently, etc. etc. I also have quite a few packages to ship out including to Germany and Ireland once the post office reopens on the 10th. Then my next shoot/editing cycle starts, so somewhere around mid-late October there will be new pictures.
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