Thursday, May 31, 2007

Developing BW Film


Somebody wanted to know what was involved with this and if you need a darkroom (no) and I thought I might as well make it a blog post.

There's a zillion guides out there in great detail - this is just to give the general idea for folks who are curious. There's also more than one way to do this, but this is what works for my situation.

Basic Prep

First I grab a developing tray and fill it with water. I try to get it around 68 degrees. I have a thermometer with a bold line at 68 degrees to see how far off you are. At this point it just needs to be in the ballpark (66-70, say). I get some pure water (RO/DI since I have it around, but distilled is fine) and mix up the developer from concentrate. The fixer I would typically already have mixed, but if not I mix that too and there's a rinse chemical as well.

I put containers with the mixed developer, fixer, and some more pure water in the water filled tray. At this point I add some hot or cold water as necessary to push it closer to 68 degrees. It's going to shift around a bit more as the chemicals come up to temperature, so again, no need to be super precise but it should be pretty close by now.

I hang a bit of string in the tub to dry the film on and put some clips on it.

Getting the film into a tank

The next bit is to get the film into a special developing tank which lets chemicals in and out but keeps out light. I use one made by Jobo. Mine will handle either two rolls of 35mm or 120 (medium format) at once. You put the reel and various tank bits into a changing bag - think of two black pillowcases, black, one inside the other. There are zippers to put stuff in, and tight little holes to put your hands through. It's a bit like the "boy in the bubble" but keeping out light, not germs.

You have to take the actual film away from any canister, paper backing, tape, etc. This can vary a bit by brand. Then you have to roll it onto the reel. There's a bunch of little tricks - it's kind of hard since you have no idea what you're doing except by feel. You need to sacrifice a roll the first time you do it and keep practicing in the light until you have it down, and then keep doing it in the bag until you're confident. Obviously if you can't get it on the reel there's not a lot you can do - unzip the bag and it's exposed.

Developing

So by now the temperature should be pretty stable. If it's not right on 68 degrees I'll fine tune it and go away and come back in a bit. But usually it's actually spot on now that I have a bit of experience. I'll double check the actual developer temperature since that's the most critical temperature. People argue about how close it really has to be but probably within a degree is fine. The good news is that once it's right it will stay pretty stable since room temperature isn't vastly different and there's a fair amount of water in the bath.

Then there's a rather tedious stage of adding chemicals in the right order, timing them, inverting the tank periodically to keep fresh chemical near the film, various rinse stages. The exact time varies depending on your film and developer, but it's something like 30 - 45 minutes for the whole process. For some of the rinsing you can wander around a bit - I actually wrote most of this while it was rinsing.

The Rest

I run my fingers down the film to get most of the water off, then hang it up. Takes about an hour and a half to dry. Then I get some scissors and cut off three shots at a time and scan them, and then put them in a plastic holder that goes into a three ring binder.

It takes me somewhat over an hour to do the two rolls (not counting the scanning) - just about as long as it takes to drive to the lab and back. Since I'd have to drive there again to pick them up, I might as well save gas and money and just do it myself. Other folks do it because they want some exotic developer or they just don't trust their local lab or may not even have one around that does black and white. The inital setup cost to buy everything is around $100 so it might take 15-20 rolls to break even in terms of cost, but then after that point I save about $6 per roll plus gas money.

Now, for color conceptually it's the same. The problems are all in the details - you have to be very precise about temperature and development times or you'll get junk. It's possible to do it at home but hardly anybody bothers.

Sigh

The black and white I'll hopefully develop tomorrow with anything I take during tomorrow's shoot.

Unless, of course, she forgets to show up. Apparently I was overconfident - just because she confirmed the day before the shoot doesn't mean she'll even remember there's a shoot the next day. I think this is the first time I've called somebody to make sure they weren't just lost or something and they didn't even know which shoot they'd flaked on.

Anyway, I'll definitely have time to get the pictures of Iona up by Friday (digital and B&W film but not color film which I'll probably drop off Friday and pick up next week.) The other good news is I have two other shoots scheduled shortly...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Post shoot notes: Iona

I spent a couple of nice hours shooting with Iona Lynn, who's one of the very few full time art models around.

We're at a local regional park near the bay - nice mix of marsh areas, pond areas, hills, the bay. Lots of birds, not a lot of people early on a Wednesday.

It's always nicest working outdoors if the model is experienced. Ideally you should be able to say OK, I think this is an interesting view, or an interesting object to interact with, and I'm going to be shooting you from this angle, and it's standing or sitting or whatever, and we'll want to spend a little or a lot of time on it (relatively) and then she quickly disrobes, you take a few shots, and she gets her clothes on. Shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes, really. While it's not exactly urban shooting there's no point in taking a long time when you can't be positive there's nobody around the corner. Or in a shot like this where she's very exposed to anybody on the trail going around the lake.

Then you go on to the next place, and repeat. There's no point in a zillion poses in one spot - they look too much the same even if the poses are very different. And anyway, that's how you end up with complaints and a nice chat with the park rangers. Just get it done and move on.

Now, later in the shoot we were in a more remote area and I felt comfortable enough to pull out the Mamiya TLR and shoot two film rolls - one color, one B&W. That basically tripled my time since I shot the same backgrounds with digital and each roll of film. But still, you try to be efficient about it and then go to the next place.

I should have the digital stuff up Friday. The film, hard to say. The black and white I'll hopefully develop tomorrow with anything I take during tomorrow's shoot. The color I can't do myself - I need to drop that off at the lab and come back later to pick it up.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sounds you don't want to hear

So the house next door is getting a new roof. They're pretty much stripping it down all the way, putting on new plywood, etc. So they've been out there for days, Mariachi music blaring, lots of noise. But the place really needed a new roof and I'm pretty sure it's rented so good to see the landlord putting some money into the place.

But then I hear a surprised shout, the sound of something sliding down and off the roof, and a huge crash. Then lots of cursing in Spanish. I have almost no Spanish, so while I know it's cursing I'm not sure if it's "I just fell off the roof, call 911" cursing or "I just dropped a bundle of shingles off the roof" cursing. I stuck my head out the window and most of the workers looked amused so I'm hoping it's that second one.

Sorry, no pictures for that one! But I have shoots scheduled the next couple of days, so hopefully more interesting pictures soon...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

American Cemetery, near Omaha Beach, 1999.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

San Francisco Carnaval 2007


San Francisco has Carnaval in late May simply because it's too darn cold to do it before Lent. It also has some advantages in that we can get some non-local groups to come from other places - gives them a chance to do their thing more than once a year. It ends up being a nice mix of versions from all around the world.

As you can see here, even the SF Fire Department gets into the spirit of things!

You can see some more shots I took of it over here.

Friday, May 25, 2007

New Model: Brigit


I've uploaded the new set with Brigit. She's one of these tremendous women who contact me out of the blue and ask if they can shoot with me.

The picture over there on the left is from that set - it's one of two I included from the view camera (4x5 Crown Graphic). With the 6x7cm roll back I'm not going to separate the shots out to another folder since they crop very nicely to the 8x10 ratio I use normally. The Mamiya shots are separated because their 6x6 ratio is fun and I want to have some square shots up and my template just isn't smart enough to figure that out on a per shot basis. The Holga shots are also 6x6cm but they're from a Holga and there's a little explanation (warning!) of that.

I probably won't use the roll back super often with models - the results are the same with the Mamiya and I'm a lot faster with it. It's more just a practice thing. Next shoot I'll probably take a couple of Polaroid Type 55 shots which produce a 4x5 inch positive and usable negative. The cost per shot with the Polaroid is more than the cost per roll with regular film so it's definitely nice to get a bit of practice in before doing that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Post shoot notes: Brigit

Well, I finally had a model shoot. I was hoping for some last week but had some rescheduled shoots and other craziness. I actually have a half dozen shoots of various kinds scheduled right now - we'll see how many of them happen. It's just a problem everybody has with models, nudes or not - even agency models don't always show up, the advantage is that the agency sends over a new one quick.

Anyway, we tried some new lighting and refined some old things. As always I just grabbed an image that looked interesting from the thumbnail - might or might not end up as a keeper. You might want to click on the image to get more detail - I played with water again. I took a roll with the view camera with a roll back as well - very slow process!

Hopefully the final set will be up in a couple of days. As always if you want to find out about updates, you can subscribe via the feed.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Monterey Bay Aquarium Otters


There's a new freshwater otter exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I wasn't able to make it down for the member days, and wanted to go check it out before the summer tourist season started and realized I'm pretty much out of time. Anyway, I ran down there today and checked it out.

It's amazing, of course. Multiple species, each in their own habitat, and you can see them much better than at most places they have otters. They also have some very cool freshwater tanks. I just grabbed the camera, a 50mm f/1.8 lens and some extra batteries. The otters are challenging to shoot - they move amazingly fast, and there's not a ton of light. At ISO 800 and at f/1.8 there were a lot of shots lost to motion blur. Next time I'll bump up the ISO and accept more noise in the hope of getting more action shots - most of what worked this time was in some kind of pause in the action. Still, I'm not sure how much it will help - they're really zipping around quite fast.

I put some shots up over here if anybody's curious. Some of the fish shots came out well, and by now the jellies are old friends so I pretty much know how to shoot those.

One thing that's still a bit odd is that the Katrina victim penguins have gone home so the penguin area's looking a bit underpopulated. They'd taken in some penguins from an aquarium in New Orleans until they could put things back together, including three rockhoppers which definitely added some character. They've been gone for a while but it still feels a bit weird to have them gone.

How do you ship penguins? FedEx.

In other news, I have some great model shoots scheduled for the next couple of weeks. As always, these things get rescheduled, people flake, etc. so no details until the shoots happen but there's hopefully some exciting stuff coming up.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

FAQ: How to take fireworks pictures

I got a lot of people asking me about this after I posted these fireworks pictures so I thought I'd do a little writeup, much like I did for the underwater photography one earlier. It's not meant to be exhaustive, it's just how I do it.

First off, imagine a single airburst. You have the bright leading edge, which is just a point, and then the trails off behind them. Well, that trail is some combination of persistence of vision and a faint glow. The camera won't pick it up. So if you just take a normal kind of fraction of a second shot, you'll just get a ball made up of the bright bits but they usually don't look that impressive. To really capture a burst, you need a long exposure.

So what you do is get a tripod, mount the camera, and make your best guess as to where the fireworks will be and get everything set up. Here's a shot I took just as it was getting dark - usually the best time before it gets pitch black. If you look at the next few shots you can see me zooming in a bit and adjusting because I guessed a bit wrong as to where the fireworks would appear. Still, it's faster if you're at least in the ballpark to start.

Turn off any kind of autofocus and manually focus at infinity (it's usually labeled). You really don't want your poor camera to be constantly trying to focus on the fireworks and getting confused while you're shooting. I don't want to launch a big discussion of how depth of field works, but if you're talking about professional fireworks "infinity" will be in focus, and if not, you're way, way too close!

Turn off the flash, it's not going to do a thing.

Put the camera in manual exposure mode. The aperture is really what controls the exposure. You need to tune it for how bright the explosions are. At a distance I ended up with f/7.1. Up close anywhere from f/8 to f/16 will be typical. Just pick something like f/8 to start and keep an eye on it the first few shots and adjust as needed (obviously digital's a big help here).

The white balance can be at either daylight or tungsten (probably a little light bulb icon). I think the color's more accurate with tungsten but it's really up to you.

So that leaves the time of the exposure. What you want to do if you can is set the camera to bulb mode, where it keeps the shutter open as long as you press down the button. Then you can just press the button, let a burst or two complete, then let ago. Everything in that time will be on the frame. If you get two bursts up high and as you are letting those finish two more are starting down low, all four bursts will be in the frame even though to your eye they happened at different times. It's a bit of a black art knowing how long to hold things open, but experiment. One issue is that if you have something that makes a shape, like a heart, you probably want a really short exposure so you can see the shape. The exposures for me might range from a fraction of a second to maybe 7 seconds.

If there is no bulb mode pick something in the 1-5 second range and just accept that your keeper rate will be lower. If you don't have a release it's not that big of a deal, it's just harder to watch the show if you actually have to be touching the camera.

So basically the workflow is the first few bursts you adjust the framing as best you can, and double check the exposure and if that's not right you adjust the aperture a couple of times. Then once it's pretty good just leave it be, don't look through the camera again, enjoy the show and keep pressing and releasing that release button as seems sensible. And again - enjoy the show - it's easy to forget to actually see the fireworks while shooting them!

More memory card madness

Even though prices on memory cards have collapsed in the last couple of months, SanDisk is offering rebates. At Costco you can get the 4GB card for $50 after rebate and the 8GB card for $83. You can find similar deals elsewhere although not everybody seems to have the rebate forms. For context in March I paid $75 and $120 for those two cards, and was thrilled because the month before they'd been twice that.

I shoot in RAW mode which creates large files, but even so that's 400+ and 800+ pictures each. I do have an 8GB card but have never filled it. I don't use it in the studio - too many eggs in one basket and really there's no point - but it's nice for events like shooting a parade or a fireworks display where you want to shoot away like a crazy person without worrying about timing a card swap and if somehow the file system got corrupted and you couldn't save anything, well, probably not that big of a deal.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

KFOG KaBoom 2007


Here's some pictures I took of the fireworks of the KFOG KaBoom! 2007, a fireworks show put on by a local radio station, KFOG. They're totally unedited - one way to tell is that after the first few shots when I have the composition pretty reasonable the buildings never move. If I cropped down for the lower altitude shots the buildings would change!

These were taken across the bay near the USS Hornet.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Books back in stock

I've been having trouble keeping Shadows, the new book, in stock but I just got a new pile of them. While I was at it I got a couple of copies of the old books since those sold out in just a day or two the last time I listed them. If you're in the US you can order Shadows from me, any of them from the printer, or check out the fancy eBay widget below...


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Very old pictures: Yuli

When things are a bit slow I tend to dig through my archives of shoots that aren't on the website and see if anything is salvageable. This is all old stuff that got dumped when I decided nothing should be on the website unless the whole set was in some sensible aspect ratio (usually 8x10) so that folks could buy prints with a shopping cart without some kind of "well, it will look sort of like this, unless I have to chop the edges off, in which case it might look stupid". The priority's generally on the new material but there is definitely stuff in there worth saving so I try to get to it when I can.

Today I took a crack at my very first studio shoot. The model was Yuli, who was already on the website in an early outdoor shoot. Unfortunately much of it was shot in .jpg and not RAW mode which means I can do less after-the-fact correction than I could otherwise. Ah, well, live and learn.

New Model: Kelly

I decided in the end to put up a few shots from the mini-shoot with Kelly I mentioned the other day. Check 'em out.

Photographer plug

Go check out these - photographer Jeff Davidson just started listing shots on eBay. He's a good guy and a hell of a photographer. His speciality is towards tattooed women and does a tremendous job of showing them off. Go show him some love. If nothing else go check out the candy corn shot - it's really fun. You can see a bigger version over here.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Love Google News - James Lileks

If you search for James Lileks (a columnist in Minneapolis) and beloved writer of various books and a great blog and the reason why half the photographers I do are doing Art Frahm homages... where did that sentence go... anyway, search for him on Google News and here are the top things that come up

Lileks Says He's Losing His Minneapolis 'Star Tribune' Column
World's stupidest newspaper decision
Lileks could use a hand
Death wish at the Star-Tribune

The headlines tell the story!

I dunno, when Dave Berry is writing a completly non-funny, non-ironic, pissed off mention about your business decision, maybe you should think about what you're doing a bit.

I used to subscribe to two papers, incidentally. Then I dropped one, then the other. Apparently this is becoming more common. The news was all AP articles I'd read the night before on the web, and they removed a lot of local columnists, and at that point there really wasn't any reason to subscribe anymore.

Update: Wow, Hugh Hewitt (a national talk show host) has listed all manner of contact information for their management. Is it a bad sign when national talk show hosts keep listing the phone number to cancel your subscription? (Warning: Hugh's very conservative politically and the Strib, um, isn't so he tends to frame things a certain way)

More feed fun

If you have a store on eBay there's the option of generating a feed, but they didn't used to really publicize it. At some point a little icon for it showed up at the bottom of people's store. I thought it would be fun to use feedburner to wrap that one too. Check it out - like the others, you can subscribe in email and you should be able to get a nice list of what's been listed in the last day, or you can just use any other kind of feed handler.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Tornado

Much like the eBay widgets a couple of days ago I'm mostly seeing if I know how to embed these things properly, but check it out, it's pretty amazing.



Saturday, May 05, 2007

So old...

The new Beloit list isn't out yet, but I was just checking and re-read last years. It's intended for professors - provides some context to the entering class (The new one will be 2011!). It contains things like "The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union." and "Beach volleyball has always been a recognized sport." They have it back quite a few years - the 2007 list contains things like "Datsuns have never been made", "The Army has always driven Humvees".

I always read it, partially because it's interesting and partially because a lot of the models are college aged or recent graduates and if you spend a lot of time talking to 18-22 year olds it's nice to understand their perspective a bit if you're going to be chatting with them for a couple of hours and making them feel comfortable.

My shooting schedule actually relates to the college year - right now finals are coming up and a lot of folks are busy. But some models are already scheduling for when they come home for break, and fresh graduates who don't have jobs yet often do a little modeling - they have the time and if they can bring in little money that's just gravy. Obviously many of my models are older or not in college but it's definitely noticeable.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Post shoot notes: Kelly

Sometimes I'll meet with a potential model and talk before a shoot - this is especially likely if they only have some cell phone pictures but look like they have potential. If we hit it off I might take a few snapshots in exchange for a release - worst case they get something better than what they had and I might get something usable. Anyway, meet Kelly. I might or might not put up a couple more shots, or we might do a full shoot later.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

More on Feeds

OK, everything seems to be working OK with the new setup so I thought I’d explain it a bit. There are two feeds associated with San Francisco Nudes.

One’s for the main site, and I’ve updated it for a couple of years but never really drawn attention to it. If you look at the homepage there’s a discrete little icon at the bottom of the page.

If you click on it you go to the feed. Until recently this was a raw XML file – geeky types would know they could take the URL, put it in a reader, and get updated automatically when it was updated. These days the feed is processed by feedburner and there’s some cool links to add the feed automatically to common readers – if you don’t see yours, you can still use the URL. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, notice one option is “subscribe by email”.

If you look at the feed for the main site, feedburner formats it nicely in browsers so you can see what the updates look like. You can see it’s basically just a one liner and a link to each set of pictures when I upload something.

The second is for the blog. Same deal, except that same little icon is over in the right hand sidebar and I’ve surfaced some common options like Yahoo and Google for your convenience.

I also added some “autodiscover” hints to the page. If you’re using a smart browser like firefox you’ll see that same little icon to the right of the URL. If you click it, it will make a live bookmark where instead of going to the site you can just look at the bookmark and see if it’s updated. Pretty cool. Other browsers that support feeds will do something similar.

If you’re running other browsers, or toolbars like the Google Toolbar you might see some kind of subscribe button on those pages with the same kind of icon (getting the pattern?). If you hit it, you’ll get some kind of similar result.

You’ll see sites using this same icon everywhere these days – they’re really quite useful.

Anyway, if you are interested in the pre/post shoot notes and my general ramblings, go for the blog feed. If you really just want the pictures, go for the pictures only feed.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

More Myspace Madness

MILLERSVILLE, Pa. - A 27-year-old Millersville University graduate filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the college for denying her an education degree and teaching certificate after a controversial Internet photograph surfaced last year shortly before graduation.

The picture shows Stacy Snyder of Strasburg wearing a pirate hat while drinking from a plastic "Mr. Goodbar" cup. The photograph taken during a 2005 Halloween party was posted on Snyder's MySpace Web page with the caption "Drunken Pirate."

Read the rest here

eBay Widgets

This is new - eBay has these little widgets designed to be dropped into blogs. I'm just trying 'em out. You can do one item, multiple items, or a search.

One thing that's annoying is with the search you can't search on a seller, but my titles are repitive enough I think I can make that work.

One interesting note is that after eBay items expire in 120 days they revert to a search, so I think they'll all end up looking the same if they're neglected.












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