Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mamiya vs Holga

OK, same grill, same negative size, slightly different angle because the Holga was held to my eye and the Mamiya was used at waist level. But check them out - the Holga picture has the characteristic dreamy look and the Mamiya picture is obviously operating on a whole different level.

Which is better? Hey, it's art, it's a matter of choice. But I think it nicely illustrates the differences.

Post shoot and new camera notes

Today I had a shoot with Tina. You can see her kindly humoring me and holding my new camera. It's a bit of a cliche shot - model with camera, especially old camera - but I thought it would do nicely for the blog.

Another nice shoot - somewhat short and we didn't do anything too complicated since I got a tetnus shot yesterday and lifting a camera hurts which kind of put a damper on things. There's some good stuff in there though.

I took some shots of Tina with the new camera and with my Holga. Some negatives are going to the lab, some I'm developing, it's kind of convoluted but since I'm just getting back into doing my own development it's good to hedge my bets a bit and have something to compare to. Anyway, they may kind of dribble out over time as a result.

The camera is a Mamiya C330f. It's medium format - the negatives are about 6x6 cm, same as the Holga except they're sharp and incredibly detailed. I shot a test roll the other day, developed and scanned it at a medium resolution resulting in a 25 megapixel file and it's pretty neat zooming on in.

It's a TLR - twin lens reflex - camera, which is why there are two lenses. You look through one and it takes the picture through the other. It has some advantages and some disadvantages over an SLR (single lens reflex) like you would usually see today. I'll use it some with models, I'll make some platinum contact prints with the negatives (small but highly detailed), it's a great camera for street photography. Not so great for travel unless you're really dedicated - it's mostly steel and amazingly heavy which is why I have a modern OP/TECH strap on it. With a good strap like that it's actually pretty comfortable and easy to use if you're in no rush.

As you can see in the picture, you look down onto a focusing screen to focus, and she her her hands on the focusing knobs. It's all manual - no battery at all, actually.

I'll talk about it a bit more when I have some pictures to show!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

What I learned from watching the Oscars

It is an exceptionally bad idea to have cheek implants and a face lift.

Friday, February 23, 2007

New Pictures: Audrey

The set with Audrey is one of these old sets - summer 2004. This is the period with the remaining missing sets - I guess about half of them are up. Basically they all need to be gone through and edited from scratch because at the time I was editing mostly for the web and I don't have high resolution files, which meant if somebody ordered a picture I'd have make one. It's much more efficient to do them all at once - and also an opportunity to add and remove pictures - so at some point I took down a number of sets and have been adding them in as I have a chance.

I don't think I'll do any more in this batch - maybe one more at most.

New Pictures: Yuli

I just uploaded the pictures of Yuli from spring, 2004. The light was coming and going in a crazy way. Sometimes she was in shade and the entire background was in sun or vice versa. This is the last outdoor shoot I did before deciding that I wanted to learn to do studio stuff so I could have more control. I spent the summer of 2004 in the studio, and then of course about the time it started raining wanted to go outdoors again. (Sigh). Anyway, there are some fun shots in there despite everything.

In other news, I have the stuff to develop black and white film coming Monday, and a new camera coming Tuesday hopefully. It's a Mamiya TLR - if you were a wedding photographer or a journalist in the 60s or 70s there's a decent chance you had one of these. It actually shoots the same format as the Holga but it actually has nice optics and so forth. I don't expect it to be a major focus of my work, but they're fun and it's a change and they're actually pretty cheap on the used market.

In terms of shooting news, I have some interesting but somewhat tentative things scheduled for the next week, and of course the usual portrait work which is always fun. But nothing of general interest to report quite yet.

Oh, and some old blog items might have shown up in your feed, or you might have noticed a model or two get renamed on the main pages. It happens - if you can't find who you're looking for hopefully you can figure it out from the thumbnails.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

New Pictures: Katie

I just uploaded an interesting set with Katie. It's actually from 2003 and has been sitting in my "deep six" folder for a while - the stuff that even fell off the archive page. It's sort of my first nude shoot. I'd shot some friends topless or nude for various reasons but don't have model releases or anything like that. This was the first time I found somebody I didn't already know, got them to sign a release, all that good stuff. The first time's hard when you don't have a portfolio, but since I had done a lot of nature photography - that same spot's a great place for birding - I could at least show I knew which end of the camera to point at the model.

In revisiting this set I found that many of the images I liked were more "outtake" shots - shots that show her running to get the towel after a burst of shots, or reacting to the extreme cold. So when editing them I've made no attempt to try to cover up the fact that parts of her body were turning red or getting covered with mud and sand.

I have a couple more early outdoor sets that I might edit - possibly very soon if it goes well. There's also some early studio work. Studio work is harder - since I was pretty experienced shooting birds under those exact conditions my early outdoor work is at least not too embarrassing. My early studio work, well, that's not always the case!

Pricing Comments

I was reading a discussion on print pricing and thought people might be interested in my perspective and what the plan is.

There's a few factors from my perspective. The major ones are:
  1. What are my costs?
  2. How much work is it to produce? (especially if somebody buys a bunch)
From the customer's perspective they're more like:
  1. How nice does it look?
  2. Will it last?
  3. Is it collectible?
You can split hairs on some of this. As an example, a lot of people like the brushwork on the margins of a cyanotype, and the fact it's blue, as something of a conversation starter. I'm just going to lump that into "How nice does it look".

Basically those are the two halves of the supply and demand equation - if I can produce prints cheaply and easily I can sell them cheap. But then if I get in a ton of orders it becomes too much work and my prices increase until I'm sending out as many as I'm willing to send out. Over the last two years my lab prints have gone from $10 to $25 as a result.

So here's my thoughts for each kind of print.

Lab prints - These are very easy to produce, because the lab does all the work. I send them a file which is already prepared, they send me a print. If somebody orders a ton of pictures, it's OK, it just takes a bit longer to upload.

Inkjet prints - These are pretty easy to produce. I pull up a file, make some rather arcane settings that all have to be just so to get the best results, put a single sheet of paper in the special printer slot for that, and come back in 5 minutes. They then go into a drying rack for 24 hours before I can send them off. If somebody orders a few at a time it's not that big of a deal. If somebody put in a really huge order, at some point my drying rack fills up and I have prints all over the house! I also only keep so many supplies (ink, paper) on hand. They're actually more expensive to produce than a lab print since I'm using top notch ink and paper but don't have a high volume printer which keeps the per-print ink costs high.

So right there you can see why the inkjet prints cost a bit more. My costs are a bit higher, they're a bit more work, and in particular if somebody is buying a bunch of prints and they don't really care which they get, they're steered to the lab prints so it doesn't cause me any problems. But if somebody likes the inkjet look (which is a bit different) they can still get one at a reasonable price.

Alternative process prints - cyanotype, platinum, etc. - These take literally hours of work each. They're actually very inexpensive currently, because I want to be making as many as possible and perfecting my skills. Really my goal is just to pay for materials at this point - and I've done that - I have a nice stash of paper, chemicals, books, brushes, glassware, the UV unit, all paid for with basically sweat equity. If somebody were to buy a bunch off of eBay it wouldn't be any big deal, although it might take a while to replenish them. If somebody direct orders a bunch I'll get swamped very quickly and I'll start raising prices to avoid getting even more swamped. The plan is definitely to crank up the prices on the platinum prints over the next year in any case and start having it reflect my labor in a more real way, instead of just writing it off as "tuition" as I learn the ins and outs of the process.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Cancellations

I mentioned in my last post that I had some great shoots scheduled, but I wasn't going to count my chickens until they'd hatched. This week is turning into a great example of that. I scheduled a shoot Tuesday night (a very rare thing I was doing as a favor to the model) and Wednesday early afternoon. It would have worked out nicely - I could have left everything set up between the two shoots.

Unfortunately they both cancelled. And in both cases they could have told me some time ago, but basically didn't remember about the shoot until my two days before reminder note.

Because I had the two of those set up I scheduled some other shoots the week after or out into March. People don't realize this, but there's a rough guideline that photographers spend 4-5 hours editing for every hour shooting. If a shoot's 3 hours, that's 12-15 additional hours, plus setup and teardown. So each shoot's a couple of days solid of work. With my portrait and other commitments I try to average around one model shoot per week since that's all I have time for.

I'm actually approached by many more potential models than that - I say no to the vast majority of them. So when somebody cancels it's very frustrating on several levels - I've lost the time I've put into scheduling things and weeding through the others, it's a missed opportunity for some other gal, it makes it very difficult for me to work efficiently by planning what I'll be working on when.

And the thing is, they never really know. They don't know how many people I said no to, because I said yes to them. They have no idea what a time commitment I'd made to them or how it affects my schedule.

The good news is that I have enough anti-flake procedures in place that I rarely get the total disaster - set up studio, waiting at home for somebody to show up. And with portrait clients there's a deposit which has helped tremendously. And it's not like I typically have some studio booked or makeup artist booked or some elaborate set built so my situation isn't nearly as bad as it is for some photographers.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

New Pictures: Elanora

I ended up splitting this into two sets. Elanora III and Elanora IV. Elanora's an amazing model, and we've worked together before, and portrait work has really gotten me efficient at setting up a bunch of lighting configurations so we just plain got a lot done in about two and a half hours (including the Holga shots already posted).

On the rare occasions where I split a physical shoot into two sets I try to theme them - delicate and dramatic, color and black and white. Here there wasn't an obvious split that kept the sizes reasonable so I just split them in two.

I have some great models scheduled over the next couple of weeks - really a nice mix. I'll tell everybody about them after each shoot, because as always you never quite know what's going to happen until they show up.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

New Pictures: Holga!

I just uploaded some Holga pictures. The first few are from a test roll I took just to make sure I knew how to load and unload the film (120 film is very different than 35mm film) before Elanora came over. The rest are from two rolls taken during the shoot with Elanora. 120 film gives 12 exposures at 6x6cm.

I think they're fun, and it gives me some practice with a modern film workflow - scanning negatives and so forth - without spending a lot of money. I'll shoot a couple of rolls with my 35mm camera as well but I'm less interested in the smaller formats.

I modified my usual template to put a little explanation about Holgas and to slim down the purchasing options. My tentative plan is to create little Holga sections now and again. We'll see how it goes.

I haven't decided yet if I'm going to start developing my own film or not. There's some up front cost but break-even is around 15-20 rolls. You have more control, and I save two trips to the lab (two hours) which will offset the labor but at least initially there's probably more chance of actually destroying a roll.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Post shoot notes: Elanora

That's right, Elanora. Regulars will know that back in the day I shot with her not once, not twice, but three times. But she hasn't been modeling much or at all recently... until the other day she sent me a note saying she's starting back up modeling some more. As always with these notes I just skimmed through the images to make sure they copied OK - this one is about midway through and this one is shot 9999 - just before I rolled the counter on the camera.

One thing I had to do was basically make a laundry list of every kind of lighting I've started doing since she was last here - nice way of measuring progress, I suppose. We got through a lot of it in about 2.5 hours which is about as long a shoot as makes sense with this stuff (usually by then we're both tired - it's harder work than you would guess).

I took two rolls with the Holga - those might actually go up on the site first since that's just 24 shots. I'm hoping to get them developed tomorrow and scanned later in the week (whenever my scanner arrives). If they're even vaguely recognizeable I'll post at least one or two. I suspect that it might be a couple of shoots before I get anything really good though - I'm not so sure I have exposures and things set up that well. And I'm just praying the flash sync is accurate. One funny thing is that I kept orienting the camera in the portrait position - on its side - but the camera uses square film so that's just silly. Old habits die hard. I also took a roll outdoors so even if the studio stuff was a failure I might have some shots of lemons. Hey, it's better than nothing.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Free Print Offer

I'd like to get some of these inkjet prints into the hands of some of my regulars and it seems like the easiest way to do it is just give some away. So here's the deal - any orders placed on this website before 5:00pm PST February 28, 2007 of $99 or over are eligible.

I'll include an inkjet print from my Epson R2400, K3 inks, on some kind of fine art paper. I'm being a bit vague here because in addition to the Epson paper I'm using currently I have some other papers, including Hahnemühle papers, that I'm evaluating and you might get one of those. It will be something nice though - the point is to encourage people to buy them obviously.

The image will be of my choice but if you want to request a particular model I'll attempt to honor that.

Fine Print: One per household, let's not get greedy. I retain the right to end or modify this offer at will without notice. eBay orders are not eligible.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Which prints are which?

I've started a little print comparison page. I've been getting questions lately so I thought I'd try to sum it up. Right now it's a bit rough - I'll be refining it over the next few days and once it's pretty good I'll put a link to it on every ordering page.

PayPal promotion and other news

There's a $15 rebate promotion that PayPal is running. It has a lot of fine print but I believe purchases from my site qualify - I have the right kind of merchant account. How the customer is supposed to know this I have no idea. Anyway, if you're buying a picture before March 31st you might as well hit the link first and register, it can't hurt. (If you're concerned it's not a legit link - you can just go to PayPal and the same link is on their front page).

I have some great model shoots scheduled - I've been contacted recently both by some great newcomers and some old favorites who haven't modeled for a while. I hate to get too excited about any one shoot before it happens, but with a little luck there should be some nice stuff coming along shortly.

I had a big traffic spike the other day that's still going on. Usually that means that somebody with a lot of traffic linked to me - might be a blog, might be a forum. Often it's "junk traffic" meaning whatever demographic it is probably isn't going to be buying prints. Luckily I have enough bandwidth through my excellent hosting company that isn't a big concern. At the old company it would cause problems and actually they shut down my account because a big porn site linked to my page.


Anyway, it's actually coming from a couple of different forums, so "Welcome, visitors from a couple of random forums!"

(Doesn't have quite the same ring to it as an Instalanch, does it?)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

New print options

Well, I went ahead and added in some new options to the shopping cart system. I mentioned 11x14 already - I also added Vandyke prints and ink jet prints (more on that in a moment).

It also got rather unwieldy so I put in some headers and so forth - check it out.

The ink jet print thing is an experiment. Frankly I'm not that big on ink jet prints unless you have a very nice printer, top of the line inks and paper, and you've checked with Wilhelm Imaging Research to make sure that combination is archival. I strongly recommend against buying an inkjet print from somebody where you don't know what they used to make it - lifetimes might last from a month to a century - seriously, there's that much variation.

I have an Epson R2400 and a supply of Epson's Velvet Fine Art Paper which has some nice texture. It's a matte paper, not a true white so the prints come out a bit warm. I use the Epson inks - the R2400 uses high end K3 pigment inks, same as the really super high end printers. I will say that people say it's a bit delicate - if you scuff the surface it's going to get ugly. It's not as robust as, say, a platinum print. I've priced them at $35 which is a really good price. If they become popular I'll crank it up to $50. The ink and paper are expensive and they're a bit of a pain - they have to dry 24 hours before they're even stacked. Wilhelm rates this combination at 115 years for black and white and 61 for color (framed under glass) which are some of the best numbers they have (Epson probably has some absurd claim - the Wilhelm numbers are pretty good though). They give Fuji Crystal Archive a 40 year rating, as an example.

If people seem to like it, I'll add some more paper options and such. The Epson Premium Glossy numbers are even better and I don't really have any glossy options so that's the next obvious choice.

This and That

I've been making traditional platinum prints with negatives from the new printer and they look great. I'll try to get some of those up for sale soon. They don't look substantially different than a ziatype when they're done but the way they're made is different in places. Once I photograph them I'll try to get a couple on the alternative process page. (Update: I've done that - you can also see a ziatype with some gold here - the blue tones don't show up that great in the photo though).

I've ordered a Holga and some film. For those who don't know a Holga is a $20 medium format camera. The negatives are square and roughly two inches on a side. The quality is everything you would expect from a $20 camera. Let's just say they have lots of character. It's mostly for fun but if I get some interesting results I'll do things like take a negative strip and make a contact print in platinum. Should look pretty cool - you'll get a row of say three pictures 2 inches on a side. People also scan the negatives and make larger platinum prints from them - maybe 7x7 as an example. The idea is just to take one roll per shoot as a little side project.

Longer term I keep flirting with the idea of getting a 4x5 camera and this is partially my way of getting used to film again, deciding if I want to develop it myself or not (it's been years since I've done it), deciding if I want to invest in a good film scanner, etc. If it drives me nuts, well, at least I'll know now!

Update: I forgot to mention that I added 11x14 prints to the shopping cart system, so you can order those directly instead of emailing me. The price is the same - $50 plus shipping.

Also I added four cyanotypes and a bunch of platinum prints to my eBay store.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

New model: Stacy

I just uploaded the set with Stacy. It's a nice shoot - lots of personality. You can see I'm still working on some of the same stuff as the last couple of shoots lighting-wise.

I feel like I should explain the last shot - she was getting dressed and got to this point and I thought it was a cute look and she was kind enough to run back into the studio for one last shot. I've always liked nude or partial nude portraits - nothing fancy, just trying to get a bit of the subjects personality in there.

Camera Review

I get asked occasionally for advice about what point and shoot camera to get. And the answer is basically - how the heck should I know? Canon makes a nice camera, and they have excellent underwater cases for each model, and on the high end they have some models with image stabalization where they've always been a leader. But specific models? Who knows, they change every six months, just pick the nicest one in your price range.

Well, I had to buy one of these recently, so I actually have a recommendation. I bought a 710 IS. Why?

  • Underwater Case
  • Image Stabalization
  • Huge screen on the back
  • Underwater color balance
  • Reasonable size
  • Takes AAs (use high capacity rechargeables for good life)
That's really about it - it's to be my new snorkeling camera. Also it's nice to have a smallish camera when traveling if I don't want to lug around my real camera all day. As an example if you're going in and out of museums all day you'll just have to check it all the time, but you still want something decent while wandering around. Unfortunately my last one was stolen.

I'm not going to get a chance to take it underwater for a bit, but I took it on a couple of day trip to Monterey and it's a great camera. Focuses very quickly, the exposure algorithms don't get fooled easily, the quality is great, the image stabalization actually works. Just an all around great camera.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Harry Potter

Amazon has the new Harry Potter book available for pre-order. Now that they have a system where if you pre-order something they give you the lowest price it hits before it is released you might as well get that order in and be done with it.

I also note that Amazon actually has copies of The Sensualist in stock now.
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