Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Well, I just got back from looking at the quilt exhibit at the local art museum (hey, today's the last day). The wild life of the artist!

It's been a big year - lots of craziness in my personal life, most of it not of general interest (unless somebody wants to hear more whining about my broken ribs or heart from the first half of the year).

I started the blog 1/27/2006, had some great shoots and learned a lot in the process, learned to make alt process prints, did my first maternity shoot which turned into a nice little maternity portrait sideline, did quite a few more portraits than ever before, learned to shave with a straight razor, brought out Simplicity, made continual progress reorganizing the website and making it easier to buy things directly, switched to a way better hosting company, shipped to some new countries (I'm at 23 I think), and got in some nice travel where I could.

All in all not such a bad year - ended nicer than it started, that's for sure!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Re-edit saga continues

Basically what I'm doing at this point is just looking at items that had originally been tagged as a keeper - which is somewhat more pictures than the pictures that actually made it onto the website. As a result the following sets have been edited to 8x10 and have a slightly different final set of shots since I'm making slightly different decisions the second time around.

(links removed - these have all since been retired)

Obviously it's going really fast, since I do very little post production on my images. Much of it's pretty mechanical - frankly I got a lot of DVDs for Christmas and it makes me feel productive while I watch this stuff.

The next job is to do the first three sets with Kat. These will be kind of weird to go through, partially because I later edited many of those images into black and white to sell, but didn't update the set on the website. So some of the images look funny to me - "Hey, that's not supposed to be in color!" It will be interesting to see if what I end up with has much to do with what's up there now.

Friday, December 29, 2006

More editing craziness

Well, I did the first set with Sarah T. This one also has some never before seen shots.

I'm also generally making some decisions about shoots up to a certain date in early '05 which is the point where everything became standardized on the current aspect ratio. Basically I'm looking at them and if I can seriously think of looking at the old files they're staying, and if not they're going to a deep six page. The part of editing that takes the time is deciding what to keep and what to throw out, and I've identified a few more sets where I don't have any urge to look at all the original files but it would be nice to have them in the right aspect ratio, all ready to go when they get ordered. It will save time in the long run.

I'll probably only mention it here if there are actual new shots - I'm hoping some of the ones where I'm not going to go through all of the files will go quickly.

In the short term the archive page will continue to look a bit ragged - I won't reformat it into a nice grid until I'm done moving sets around between various pages.

Anybody need a light?

I've historically used Alien Bees flash units, which are kind of the junior cousin to the White Lightning line. White Lightnings are very high quality - the bees have plastic cases and are less tank-like but are basically the same otherwise. They have a goofy name and originally came only in goofy colors to keep wedding photographers and other stodgy folks from buying them - I think the margins on the White Lightning line are higher and they didn't want to undercut their own business too much. If you poke around on the net you can find lots of reviews.

Anyway, I recently bought some new gear, and in the process I have a black AB400 which is kind of nice to have but not critical. It's actually my first real studio light, around 3 years old, and it's been used for most shoots for at least a few shots. I couldn't hazard a guess on how many flash cycles it's had - tens of thousands certaintly but the bulbs are rated for 250,000 I believe. There's nothing wrong with it, it's just that I don't really need as many lights as I have now, and I'm gradually replacing my bees with White Lightning units, so if I can get a good price I wouldn't mind letting it go.

New they run for $225 plus shipping ($10ish). On eBay they typically run 80% - 90% of that. It's probably a bit of a long shot, but if there's a San Francisco Bay Area photographer who could use one of these I'd be willing to take $190 if we can get together and do a transfer. That would save you on shipping and save me the trouble of figuring out how to ship it which I'd really like to avoid. I'll even throw in the case - a $13 value, whoo hoo.

If it doesn't sell I'll just wait until I buy another WL unit - probably this spring - it will be quite redundant at that point and I'll post something here about being willing to ship it, and if it doesn't sell in a week or so I'll stick it on eBay.

Anyway, if anybody wants it, give me a shout.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Re-edit: Persis II

OK, I did the second set as well.

Re-edit: Persis

I went ahead and re-edited the first Persis set. This situation's a little different than before. I didn't want to mess with certain images that sell well but at the same time this set was originally edited when I was sticking to the 4x6 ratio the camera sensor uses rather than the 8x10 I settled on as being nice for this kind of work. Some of the shots had been updated over time, some hadn't. So I thought I'd just go through and standardize it. I also skimmed the original shots and included a few that haven't been seen before - maybe I just missed it, maybe I saw a crop I hadn't seen before, the reasons vary.

I might do one or two more older sets like that - this time of year it's good to get a lot of that kind of infrastructure stuff done.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


I spent Christmas in Yosemite (around here, if you want a white Christmas you need to go find it) and was walking back from Yosemite Falls when I noticed two park ranger cars with their lights on, letting out the occasional WHOOP from their siren.

Well, that can't be good.

Then they got a bit closer, and I was able to see that they were escorting a VIP. Santa, in fact, riding a cherry red tractor. Not entirely sure where they were headed or why, but definitely not something you see every day.

Anyway, I'm home. Caught up on my shipments - it's a busy time of year for me. I don't have much of a pre-Christmas runup but once people are done shopping for others they do tend to still be in a spendy mood and I benefit from that.

I won't have any new model shots for at least a week, but will probably re-edit another shoot or two from my older material as time allows. I'll post something as soon as I upload anything. Otherwise things will probably be pretty quiet.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

New Model: Michelle

I finally got the time to finish editing the new set with Michelle. You'll love it; she's lovely.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


It's probably going up again in May, 2007. Your regular first class stamp will be 42 cents. One bit of good news is that they're probably going to come out with a stamp that's valid for one ounce of first class mail forever so you won't have to keep doing 1 cent stamp updates every time they raise rates (about once a year now).

Priority mail is going up by 60 cents for my most common situation. Global Priority Mail flat rate envelopes are going up by $1.50.

Obviously at some point I'll have to fiddle with my shipping rates to reflect that. It's a bit overdue - I actually lose money on shipping in some scenarios right now depending on exactly what you buy. The worst case right now is certain international things need to go in a box and I need something of an odd size and I haven't been able to find them cheaper than a couple of dollars each even buying 25 at a time.

Monday, December 18, 2006


A friend made the argument that prehaps people who enjoy the site might like to support it in order to keep it free.

"They'll buy stuff", I said. I don't exactly hide the fact that I sell prints and books and such.

The arguments were made that...
1. Perhaps while somebody might not like to pay $25 plus shipping for a print that kicking in $5 now and again would be reasonable.
2. They can't buy a print or their wife will kick their ass.

I didn't have the heart to tell him that around 25% of my sales are to women but I take the point. So I've done two things. One is that I added a little donation button way down on the right hand column of the blog where nobody will ever see it (I'll see if I can't find someplace better to put it during my website redesign). And the second is to put a button here in this post.

I promise that any proceeds will go towards something that directly benefits my visitors - bandwidth or model fees or whatever. As usual payment is via PayPal. You don't have to have an account - you can just enter your credit card. I don't get your credit card info.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

New Model: Nicole

I just uploaded a set with the lovely Nicole. If you haven't seen them already you might want to check out the set with Mavis I uploaded a couple of weeks ago.

I've been doing just a bit of editing of old sets - nothing I plan on doing on an ongoing basis, but there's a couple of more I might do. Anyway, they're Loo, Tawny, and Bella. Not up to the current standard, but at least I fixed some inconsistent color balance issues I was having with my lights at the time that newer software makes easier to tweak on an individual basis. This is basically in the category of if I can fix up some old stuff while watching TV I'll do it, but not if it really cuts into my day. I'd rather be working on new stuff.

I had a great shoot yesterday with Michelle and will try to get them edited and up sooner rather than later but no promises! That's my last shoot for a bit but I have one potentially great shoot scheduled for very early in the new year so it won't be such a long wait for new stuff if that works out.

I should also note - it doesn't seem to be as bad as last year, but the post office is slowing down. My lab's working extra hours so their turnaround time has been excellent. So if you make an order it will probably be a bit slower than normal to get there but nothing too bad.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

This and that

I had a nice shoot yesterday - I 'll get those edited when I can. Still two shoots scheduled this week and possibly a maternity shoot Monday and then I'm done shooting for the holidays although I'll still be editing pictures and so forth.

I listed two new tea toned cyanotypes for sale one of Sarah and one of Clarissa. These were via an extra lengthy pain in the butt process (technical term) so don't expect to see many of this tone. Most of the tea toned cyanotypes I listed have sold so I'll see if I can make some more but probably more of the purple/black tones which uses straight tannic acid and works a lot faster.

In some ways it's not a lot of work, but you do have to kind of be around the house and willing to check it out every now and again. It's basically like cooking a pot roast.

I listed a traditional platinum print of Elanora. I'll post some thoughts about the two processes once I've made some more prints, but I'm still mostly fiddling with test charts and things so I won't have any prints for sale for a bit. Once I do they'll probably mostly be the 5x7 image, 8x10 paper ones to start until I get it down. There's a lot of fiddling with platinum/palladium ratios and such and there's no point in burning through any more platinum than necessary while figuring this out. (The basic rules are that to get a really dark black you need some platinum, but just platinum has a lot of grain. If you want smooth detail you need a lot of palladium. Something like 25% platinum seems to fit my taste.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Last night I was at a performance of Bach's Christmas Oratorio. I hadn't seen Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra for some time largely because I have enough friends in good amature choirs that I more or less have obligations to see that I get quite a lot of this sort of thing as it is. In fact the main reason I'd heard PBO in the past is because they used to hire these choirs. But they're an excellent group and have a professional chorus as well these days (turns out I and the gal I was with knew three people in the chorus) and are generally nifty.

The point of this isn't to give them a plug - don't think they really need one - it's to tell the following story.

It was raining really hard. Not quite Biblical, not even really newsworthy since it's been dryish lately and as far as I know things weren't soaked enough to have landslides or anything. But clearly in the "I'd rather not be on the freeway" category. The performance was in this lovely large church in Lafayette of all places... whose roof leaks. In particular it apparently started leaking right over the organ and string section before they let us in, and there was some concern that if the rain perked up again it might start leaking again and if so they would stop the concert as long as necessary.

Now, one of the things about PBO is it's all period instruments and they list all of that in the program. For the horns that might mean made by so-and-so in 1983 in the style of so-and-so 1720. But for the string instruments for the most part they're actual period instruments from the 1700s.

The show must go on and all that, but I imagine it's generally considered irresponsible to let the roof drip onto your 250 year old wood instrument.

Luckily the rain stopped and we got through the next three hours of Bach without incident (although somebody in the row in front of me did fall asleep - it's a lovely piece but there's a lot of it.)

But this got me thinking about the time scale involved and how long my photos will last. I should probably write up a little table sometime about the various methods of making pictures and how long they should last. One very interesting site is Wilhelm Research where they test this stuff. In particular the inkjet data is interesting - if you have the very best printers, ink, and paper they're decent and improving all the time. But you do something like use 3rd party ink and the numbers get very bad - and I think most photographers aren't trying to cheat anybody, they're just not that technical and they're trying to save a buck.

Anyway, it's nice thinking that just like those instruments, 250 years from now somebody might be rescuing one of my platinum prints from a leaky roof.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Deposit Update

I know at least a few regular readers of this are photographers looking to see how things are working out with different approaches, and I thought I'd post a little update on deposits for portrait work. It's worked out great - nobody's given me any guff about it. Everybody who has left a deposit has shown up, as scheduled, on time. A couple of flakes who seemed interested were flushed out earlier rather than later because they just never sent anything - these are the same people who would schedule something and then just not show up or cancel at the last minute.

It's conceivable some people are put off by it and I just never hear from them, but business is steadily increasing even though I don't advertise it so it can't be too bad.

My one regret interestingly enough is that I didn't require a deposit for a portrait shoot scheduled for Monday because it was set up just two days ago and there didn't seem to be time to send a check. I should have had her use PayPal (I can process Visa and Mastercard through PayPal even if they don't have an account). Well, apparently she got cold feet because she cancelled today and didn't suggest another time.

This is an extra shame because I have model shoots scheduled for each day Tuesday-Friday and the portrait work would have just covered the model fees for the models I'm paying (some are trades).

Anyway, the plan went from 5 shoots to 4. One's still somewhat tentative - I'll post the final count in a week.

Oh, and while I'm at it I'll mention that I tea toned two cyanotypes. I'll post a link when they're up for sale. I took a different approach to see if I could get very tea colored ones (the purple/black ones tone relatively fast). One was in various fluids for seven hours - ammonia to bleach it followed by instant iced tea to color it. I couldn't have done this with any paper I've seen previously but the COT320 was fine. Amazing paper. Anyway, they look very cool but it's not the sort of thing you can exactly mass produce, considering you have to start with a cyanotype which isn't exactly a quick process.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Shopping Cart Upgrades

I've regenerated the HTML pages for the various galleries with the exception of a couple of really old shoots. You can now order 8x10s, 16x20s, cyanotypes, and two sizes of ziatypes via the shopping cart. In addition I've provided a way to pay for international shipping - you need to add an international shipping upgrade to your cart (link provided on every page). It's a bit clunky, but it works and as far as I can tell there's no other way to do it with this system.

Give me a shout if you have any problems! I checked everything as best I could but it seems unlikely that there wasn't some little mistake somewhere.

I'm also going to start some structural changes to the various index pages since things are becoming unwieldy again. I think as a temporary measure a good chunk of the archive page will be deep sixed in one fashion or another. I think there's also a couple more shoots from early '05 that I'll be re-editing since I was having some color balance issues in that period.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Small Ziatype News

I ended up putting six of the eight smaller (8x10 paper, 5x7 image) ziatypes I made in my eBay store. I'll list the other two for auction tomorrow.

My traditional platinum kit is supposed to arrive in a couple of days so I'll probably knock off making any other kind of handmade print while I work on those. From a photographer's perspective there are pros and cons to either technique - the main difference being Ziatype's a print out process (the image forms during exposure) and traditional platinum's a develop out process (the image forms during development). But there are actually a couple of variations of each type, and in fact there's debate about how much you really have to change before calling it a whole new process.

It's tempting to just call them all "platinum/palladium" prints and be done with it, since in the end that's all that matters - some ratio of metallic platinum and palladium is deposited on the paper - actually "in" the paper is more accurate because it binds up with the individual cotton fibers which is why it's so archival. It's not like a silver gelatin print where the silver is "floating" on top of the paper in a gelatin layer that can come off.

Anyway, I'm really happy with the Ziatype "flavor" of platinum print but it makes sense to try a couple of different kinds and decide. I know photographers who love either process for different reasons so I'm leaving myself open to the possibility that I'll love the other process even more.

Space Prints Update

Well, the space prints I listed under another ID not only didn't sell but their traffic numbers were shockingly low. So in a slight change of plan rather than list them at auction again I put them in my regular eBay Store - if you want to check out a handmade platinum/palladium print for cheap it's a great chance to do that.

I'm hoping to do some shoots in the next week but we'll see how that goes - wannabe models who get cold feet are a problem for any photographer, and obviously it's a little worse if you do nudes.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Price Increase

I'm increasing prices for the portrait side of the business, Honest Portraits. Shoots booked after Feb 1st, 2007 will be $250 for the sitting fee (includes one 8x10) and regular print pricing for additional prints. That's $50 more than now.

I'm doing it with "booked date" instead of the shoot date because maternity shoots are often scheduled way out and it's not fair to penalize somebody on their due date!

Basically the issue is that while I really enjoy portrait shoots they are very time consuming. Frankly I should have raised it earlier but most folks buy enough prints that I haven't worried about the base rate too much. But, really, it's past time and in fact assuming the initial increase doesn't totally tank the interest level I'll probably raise it again later in 2007.
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