Friday, June 22, 2007

Book plug

I get a lot of folks asking about the print quality of the books - not so much customers as other photographers who are checking out the many options to get books made. I use Lulu which is a print on demand company. The quality's quite good for a small publisher (but not up to Taschen standards) - I know people who have switched to them after trying other folks. I usually recommend that people just buy a book there and see what they think before checking things out. Of course, some of those people would get whacked upside the head if they bought a book of nudes.

I can definitely recommend FOCUS: Through the lens of a soldier. It's by Walter Gaya who served in Iraq - I'm not sure if the photography was part of his job, or just something he was doing (he was also a sniper). An eye wound pretty much ended both tasks. I believe some of the shots are from later when he went back as a civilian. I'm a little vague because there's no actual bio in the book; I just happen to know a bit (but only a bit) about him. It's not necessary to enjoy the photos, though - they're just amazing.

Scary Crash Test

Here's the article for the details and more video (including scary side inpact) but this should give you the idea. It's a Chinese car that's entering the European market, and the Germans ran a crash test. Now, we're used to seeing the car crumple at the ends - that's OK - but watch where the driver is. 40mph...

Yikes! You might also want to look for the link to an earlier SUV test - those are pretty awful too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Alternative Process Print News

The pictured print is a gold toned ziatype, aren't you glad you asked.

I've had this item on my todo list that I've been avoiding for some time - to rephotograph all of the alternative process prints I have on eBay. There's really no excuse for it - I've been busy and let the alt process end of things lapse a bit. They're not easy to photograph and I learned a ton but was vaguely hoping the older ones would sell and I wouldn't have to go back and show just how good they are. Well, some of them did, some of them didn't... and not surprisingly the ones left are the ones where the photos weren't that great.

Anyway, they're all updated. Some of them look a ton better - much closer to the actual prints.

I've actually been cranking out a ton of prints for other things but nothing much new on spec for eBay (they've all been by request or for another photographer or whatever). However I'm thinking that it would be nice around August/September to print a bunch of new ones for eBay but I need to clear out some of the old ones first. Luckily this should be easier with the new photos, but it's a terrible time of the year for online sales. So as an experiment I changed the space prints in the store to be $20 each - this is a steal for even a small platinum print (5x7 image, 8x10 paper), but I'd just as soon clear them out and get them to a good home. Hey, if you like 'em you'll get something else with a little luck.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Just one of those posts where I update what's going on in general.

I'm going to be disappearing a bit for a good chunk of July. I'll post some dates later, but it's definitely going to put some delays in print orders and so forth. I'll probably be listing eBay items for another week or so and then stop for a couple of weeks. It kind of sucks to have to turn that stuff on and off but July's always the slowest month of the year for print sales (it's best in the winter - people are online more, in a good mood, perhaps a bit spendy. There's a post-Christmas rush where they've spent a lot on others and want something for themselves.)

Young people: if you're cancelling something (like say a model shoot just hypothetically) the one part excuse is better than the two part excuse. "My grandmother died and I just got a tattoo and it needs to heal" isn't as effective as either part alone. This has been a public service message.

It's looking a bit thin for model shoots before my little hiatus - had some cancellations and other craziness. But often these things pop up with just a couple of days notice - if somebody's ready to shoot, they're ready to shoot. It feels good to have a couple of weeks of shoots in the day planner, but the longer they're planned the less likely they are to actually happen. As always there's a variety of feeds (see the sidebar on the right) or you can just check in periodically. The email option is very cool if you're not a feed person.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Light Meters

Somebody wanted to know if I recommend using a flash meter with digital. For those who don't know - a light meter is a little box that measures either the amount of light falling on it (usually on a little dome) or in some field of view. A flash meter is one that has the capability of either looking for a flash or even triggering it in the first place.

Most folks with modern cameras don't need an external light meter because they have a fancy one built into the camera that looks at the scene and figures out what to do. But if you're using a flash system that's totally outside of the camera, the camera has no direct way of telling you anything about the light. But with digital it's no big deal - you take a picture, look at it, and adjust accordingly. But yet you always see studio photographers using a meter - why is that?

I have a pretty basic model - the Sekonic L-308s. Works great. It's very small so I can use it in the field with my old cameras that don't have a built in meter (although as a practical matter you can usually guess if you know the sunny f/16 rule). I find with the portrait or other realistic setups like the picture here it's a real timesaver. It's just a lot faster and more accurate to read the number off the meter and adjust accordingly than to take a picture and squint at the histogram on the camera. For more dramatic lighting I don't use it at all. I don't want the light to be "accurate", I want it to do a certain thing even if the model's skin is more or less reflective. So it's really easier just to look at the histogram.

If I were using it just in the studio, using portrait lighting more, and had a bigger budget I'd go up a model to the L-358 but it's really not critical - even the cheapest of the Sekonic meters is really a pretty good meter. Frankly I think most of the "features" of the models above that are just marketing, but I'm sure there's some product photographer or other photographer with special needs who thinks they're critical.

Anyway, they're nice and if I had purchased one when I first started I bet it would have saved me a lot of time. There are a few old shoots that looked OK on the back of the camera (before I learned you have to use the histogram - the picture isn't that accurate) that are salvagable in Photoshop but it would have been a lot easiser if they were just right in the first place.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mexican Coke at Costco

When I was growing up in Los Angeles there was a fairly geeky set of folks who really liked Coca Cola made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup or whatever it is they've started using in the US. Mexico was only a two hour drive so it wasn't unusual for folks to bring back some Mexican cokes and maybe some firecrackers or whatever.

I'm not sure I'd want to bring firecrackers across the border these days (I like to imagine the security's better... at least at the turnstiles) and anyway Nevada's closer to me these days and they're legal there. And you can often get Mexican cokes at taquerias. They never have any explanation, the cans are normal US cans and the bottles typically have Spanish writing and taste different.

But yesterday they had cases of them at Costco. At Costco! With a little sign saying "With cane sugar". If they're that mainstream you would think that Coke would just bite the bullet and come out with a cane sugar variety in the US and be done with it.

Anyway, $18 for 24 glass bottles. Pretty good price actually. Not sure if it's across the whole chain or just a California thing or what but keep an eye out if you're a Costco member!

Monday, June 11, 2007

What kind of film?

Somebody wanted to know what kind of film I'm using. It's Tri-X for the black and white. Not for any really deep reason - it's kind of the standard Kodak black and white film from back in the day, I've used it before and they still make it so it seemed like an obvious choice. It's ISO 400, which is a pretty good general purpose speed. It is known for being pretty tolerant of exposure and developing mistakes - since I started buying film again to use in a Holga and hadn't developed by hand in ages that seemed good. I'm sure there are more fashionable choices but it works for me. I know some folks recommend trying a bunch of different films to get just the look you like... but I like the Tri-X enough and shoot little enough film I just don't see any reason not to stick with it. But maybe I'll try something else if there's a really good sale!

For color I got a 5 pack of "Fuji Provia 400F Professional". Frankly I just looked for something from Fuji (since that's what I was happiest with when I shot color film regularly) in 400 ISO (just to keep it the same as my black and white - lazy!) daylight balanced (so I can use it outdoors or in studio, but under household bulbs or night conditions the color might be off), E-6 process (slide film - easier to look at and know what you have, easier to scan). It was probably on sale, too. My initial reaction seems positive enough - it's a pretty mature product, you don't really expect any surprises. With processing it's around $10/roll and I get 10-12 shots per roll depending on the camera so it's basically a buck a shot - about three times more expensive than black and white. I'm not going to be shooting giant piles of the stuff unless there's a good reason, but it's fun for a change of pace.

Friday, June 08, 2007

New Model: Candy

I just uploaded the set with Candy. It's mostly digital with a little 35mm film mixed in. I've come to the conclusion that it's definitely nice having a little film in the mix - it really does have a different feel about it - but I'm really happier with the medium format.

Anyway, check out the set, I'm really pleased with it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


First off, D-Day was today (in 1944 obviously). I posted a shot on Memorial Day from Omaha Beach so I'll just give a quick reminder of the Canadians on Juno Beach. Omaha Beach was such a bloodbath (2400 dead in one day) the other segments of the invasions tend to get a bit overshadowed but they were no fun at all. Here's the Wikipedia entry on Juno Beach if anybody's curious as to the details. They have info on the other beaches as well.

Secondly, I missed an anniversary last month - not one of any great importance, but I quit my day job two years ago, yay!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Post shoot notes: Candy

Just had a great shoot - lovely model, showed up 15 minutes before the shoot was supposed to start, lots of great poses, very pleasant to chat with. We got a ton done in a relatively short period of time.

In addition to the digital shots I took two rolls of 35mm film which is the first time I've shot 35mm film since March, 2003. Very strange after medium format - 36 shots per roll, whoo hoo! My feeling right now is that if I'm going to shoot film I might as well shoot medium format or large format but there was a sale on 35mm film and I can develop it easily enough, so why not try it? Definitely was weird since the film SLR and digital SLR are close enough to feel very similar, but yet you look at the back and there's nothing there! Funny how you get these habits, but with a TLR or view camera it's different enough that I have different habits.

I have some printmaking stuff to do later in the week and picture editing goes well with that - there's lots of 10-20 minute chunks of time where I can do something else. So the goal will be for another Friday set. The film ones will be cropped to the same aspect ratio so they'll all go in together.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


I'm at a point with my data storage scheme where I'm running into scaling problems. The short form is that it involves a stack of 300GB or so USB/Firewire drives here, and another stack offsite. I actually have about a terabyte of pictures, so two terabytes of drives. I'd like to switch to more of a cabinet type device but to really do it right I'd need to spend more than I really want to at this time. 500GB drives have gotten cheap enough that I'll probably just get a pair of those and extend the stack up one more level, and that will last me until prices fall on the larger sized drives. It would be really lovely to have a four drive cabinet with four terabyte drives (in a RAID setup you would get about 3 terabytes of actual storage) but the terabyte drives are about twice as much per gig as the half terabyte drives right now.

What's scary is that this represents a little over four years of pictures - 20 years from now this is going to be very interesting especially since the files are only getting larger. Hopefully tons of reliable storage will be cheap enough that there will be a constant process of copying everything to the latest greatest. You definitely don't want to be in a position later where some important files are on drives using some format that your modern computer can't actually read.

Film folks don't have this problem. On the other hand they don't have "offsite backups" either - can you imagine one fire wiping out a lifetime of negatives?

Friday, June 01, 2007

New Model: Iona

Well, as promised the new set with Iona is up as well as a couple of black and white film shots. As noted earlier that second folder will probably get some color film shots when I get around to getting that roll developed and scanned.
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