Friday, August 31, 2007

Cool old Cameras

They used to make these cool folding medium format pocket cameras. Think Holga but good optics and slimmer and typically with a bellows. They look a bit like a tiny view camera. The problem is they're all really old (50+ years) and typically need a lot of work to actually run. The problem is that finding somebody who knows how to work on them isn't easy these days. So I've wanted one but never really looked into it seriously. Well, I just found this cool Vintage Folding Cameras website. He restores these cameras, and he restores them to use, not as collectors items, so you may end up with a camera with blue bellows and some newly made parts inside. But it should work OK.

Now, I can't vouch for him personally, but I heard good things so I thought I'd mention it. If I buy one I'll let everybody know how it went.

Even if you have zero interest in buying one, check out the camera page - they're very cool looking.

In regards to my (probably 35 year old) Mamiya RB67 I mentioned the other day - got a portrait lens in the mail today, very nice. I figured out why one part in the camera was sticking and causing various problems and unstuck it which made a big difference. Add a newer back that's not quite so worn and it should be a pleasant camera to use, although I still wish it was the newer model as the seller claimed.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Here's the film

And here she is on film. I tried some Ilford Delta instead of the usual Kodak Tri-X. One interesting thing about film cameras is that you can get a bit of a different look just by changing film or developer. I'm actually pretty happy with the classic Tri-X look but it's always nice to experiment.

If it's not clear - she's jumping in this shot. I don't usually shoot a lot of movement with film because I only have a few shots and stick to safer stuff, but what the heck.

Post Shoot Notes

I'll probably have a film shot to share later in the day or tomorrow, but I also did a lot of playing around with gels and thought I'd share a couple of those. Let's see if I can get Blogger to include two shots in one post...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mangy Lemon - new camera

Well, I bought a Mamiya RB67. 6x7cm negatives (50 megapixelish) Big massive heavy SLR - you really, really, want to keep it on a tripod. I'm not planning on using it outside of the studio but I did take a test roll out in the backyard, therefore the mangy lemon. I'm hoping to shoot something considerably more interesting with it tomorrow so it's nice to have some idea that it works - especially since some of the interlocks got a little confused in shipping and I had to fiddle with it a bit to even get the shutter to release. Frankly I think it needs a good clean/lube and the seller could have taken a rag and knocked some of the dirt off of it. Sigh. But the optics seem fine and the mechanical stuff does work even if it's not exactly crisp. I have a longer lens coming from KEH (who I should have bought everything from in the first place!) that should arrive in a couple more days.

The plan is just to stick the film shots in with the regular shots, since they'll be 8x10 aspect ratio. The square format Mamiya TLR 330 will get used for outdoor shoots and so forth, so I'll still need to keep that directory going. And of course I'll still use the Holga occasionally. But since most shots are in the studio, generally instead of having a model's shots scattered around they'll be in one place.

Update: Turns out the reason why some stuff didn't make sense versus what the manual was saying is because it's an older, less valuable model. We'll see if I can return it and get a newer one from someplace more reputable. If not, well, I bought it on eBay on my buying account which once again points out how you should buy and sell on different accounts. I'll probably end up leaving negative feedback unless they pull out a miracle at this point, and I don't have to worry about them retaliating.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Some gear for sale

Random update before I forget: I'm still deep in printmaking activities and probably will be for a month or so. I do have some cool shoots scheduled, though, so there will be new pictures now and again.

Anyway, I'm listing some gear on eBay that is either backup gear that I don't use or just stuff that got replaced with newer stuff. I'm doing a lot of upgrading this year so there will probably be more stuff later. Anyway, it's my old Canon 10D and my 28-135IS lens. I started them each out at a penny, so they'll go for whatever the market says they should go for. Should be interesting.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Spam spam spam

There's a kind of note I get occasionally from people offering various services. They're in a style that reads like they're from a helpful fan, not just a mass mailing. However, they're never very specific so I assume they're form letters. They take the form of "I love your work, blah blah blah (but never any specifics about even what genre it is let alone a particular model or picture) but boy do you need some help in this particular area. It totally sucks! But good news! I charge lots of money in just that area!"

Could be anything - business cards, logo design, website design, overall marketing, search engine optimization - the same pattern shows up periodically.

The thing that's odd is that some of them are really insulting - does this really work? I mean, it's one thing if you're a yard trimmer to leave your card only on the porches of the yards with crappy lawns to save money on cards, but it's another to include a note saying "Man, your yard really sucks." I mean, if I think it sucks and I've been thinking that I should do something about it just the card will do. If I don't think it sucks - even if you convince me it sucks I'm still not going to give the business to the rude guy. You can add all the nice compliments about my house's paint job you want, you're not touching my yard.

Especially when the other guy says I have a great yard, but oh the paint job...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New Nikons Out

Since I mentioned the new Canons - if anybody has been waiting for some new Nikons, they just announced a couple of new ones. It's nice to see they came out with a full frame sensor finally - Canon could use some competition in that area, keeps 'em honest. Hopefully these announcements will force them to keep the cost of the 5D replacement reasonable since that will probably be my next digital.

Not a ton of news otherwise - I've been focusing on fine tuning some platinum print issues and building up stock to sell. It's pretty much a constant process of trying things and seeing what works. Things are steadily building up on eBay - I can see the traffic numbers going up but they're still much lower than in the winter. There's always a balance between listing more items usually means more traffic which usually means more sales, but if you go nuts it's expensive and you get diminishing returns pretty fast. So you kind of have to ease into it as traffic picks up to the site overall. Probably after labor day I'll start listing more than a couple of items per day - right now people are traveling and so forth and not spending so much time on the Internet.

I should have some cool shoots around the end of the month but probably nothing until then - waiting for college students to get their class schedules and so forth.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

There goes another seal

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;

And, apparently, National Geographic publishes this book...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

New Canons

I think the official specs are coming out tomorrow (Monday) but at this point there are so many leaks - including Amazon putting up full specs - that I think we have a pretty good idea what's going on. They're updating the 30D to the 40D and the 1Ds Mark II to the Mark III. Lots of megapixels, better autofocus, everything's faster, anti-dust, big screens. The prices are about what you would expect - $1300 for the 40D, $8000 for the Mark III.

The 40D isn't cool enough for me to bother, the Mark III is too cool to afford.

The next digital camera I'd be interested in is actually the 5D upgrade - this is the model in between. It's basically the semi-pro body (which I prefer, the pro bodies are huge) with a pro level sensor. Probably we'll see the 5D Mark II late this year or yearly next but it's hard to say for sure with Canon. But it's likely to be a full-frame sensor with 16ish megapixels and great image quality. It will cost more than I want to spend, but should be at least plausible.

But before then I'll probably get a Mamiya RB - 6x7 cm negatives, absurdly heavy, the back rotates so you don't have to rotate the camera. It will become the studio film camera and the TLR becomes the outdoors film camera. You can pick up one used with a decent lens for $500ish. These things were thousands of dollars not that long ago, and prices are actually drifting back up (because anybody who was going to go digital already has, but there's still something of a demand since it's just a workhorse camera).

Friday, August 17, 2007

More Sarah Ellis Pictures!

Whew! I've just uploaded the second half of the Sarah Ellis pictures.

Monday, August 13, 2007

eBay Notes

So I've been listing on eBay again for two weeks now, and there's a couple of interesting observations.

One's that the alternative process prints have been selling OK, especially if you include some off-eBay deals (more on that later). But the cyanotypes are almost all leaving the country - France, Canada, Barbados. That's actually been the trend and I don't know why - I have some theories but I don't really know.

The shocker part of this is that under the new system Priority Mail International is $20 for a 15 ounce package. The envelopes didn't go up that much - I've sent several of those since the increase - and I didn't realize the lighter packages were so bad. I actually only charge $15 on the website, and it will probably work out OK because anything so big I can't ship it in an envelope tends to be pretty expensive but I really have to watch it on eBay since I'm usually not making so much, especially when you consider fees. So for anybody selling International - you can't just kind of take the average increase, there are categories that went up by huge percentages.

And don't forget - it's not just postage, it's packing supplies. A 16x20 pretty much needs to go in a tube, and quality tubes are another couple of bucks.

The other thing is that as usual I get a ton of website business I can directly attribute to people buying on eBay - they get one and like it and check out the website for more. eBay has all kinds of weird rules about what you can and can't list so the selection over there is relatively conservative. But it's especially apparent because with listing all of the cyanotypes I'm getting a lot of "I love the cyanotypes but can you print this other picture in a cyanotype". I always encourage photographers to try eBay, but for best effect it helps if you a) try to show some flexibility when people ask for stuff and b) have direct sales off of your website so you can get some real benefit from eBay as a marketing tool.

My other bit of advice for sellers is do not under any circumstances buy on your selling account. You want to keep your 100% feedback, and if you buy something from somebody that doesn't come through you want to be able to give them negative feedback without worrying about BS retaliation. eBay lets you have one account per email address, so when you start selling rename your buying account to something sensible and start selling on it so you'll be using an account with some feedback already. But then create a fresh account next time you buy - there's no real harm in being 0 feedback if you're a buyer, and it lets you do what you want without worrying about your selling account.

Anyway, the big purge is almost done - two papyrus prints to go, and then that's it for everything that was listed (except a couple of tea toned cyanotypes that I'm leaving alone). Next step is to start listing some of my newer prints - first at auction, and anything that doesn't sell goes into the store. I'll keep doing that until I'm done with the prints I have on hand, then we'll see where we're at.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Interesting Folks

One of the cool things about doing what I do for a living is that you meet a lot of interesting people. The portrait clients are almost always very cool, the models tend to be interesting in one way or another. And probably not all in the way you would guess - different people get into modeling for different reasons. Often they just want the experience and never intend to do it again - although many of them enjoy it enough that they keep doing it. Some customers I've talked to and they're almost always great (OK, you get the occasional deadbeat who doesn't pay on eBay but they're in the minority).

But man, occasionally you get somebody that just makes your head spin. The model who you meet with to discuss potential shoots who won't shake your hand and won't make eye contact. The model who misses an appointment, and then contacts you under another email address pretending to be somebody else so she can have a second chance. The person who says they want to try modeling, calls to confirm before driving to your place, and just never shows up. Did they get cold feet? Have some terrible accident? Who knows.

I just had one shoot that never happened because she wanted a one hour block of time to show up. So instead of 1:00, anywhere between 1-2. And she had some semi logical reasons why she might not quite be able to make 1:00. OK, so let's just plan on meeting at 2:00. No problem. No, she wanted a one hour block anyway. I mean, what kind of job is it OK if you show up within an hour or so of when you're supposed to be there? I wonder if she installs TV cable for a living.

But mostly very cool folks. Most folks would be shocked at how many scientists are on the website, but also folks like a professional pastry chef, a documentary filmmaker, stewardess (or whatever we're calling them this week), a number of folks with professional or semi-professional stage experience, and the occasional porn star looking for a change of pace.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sarah Ellis pictures up!

Whew! I've uploaded part one of the Sarah Ellis pictures.

Lots of work figuring out which pictures to keep - Sarah is one of those folks where it's hard to take a bad picture of her. I managed it, of course, but the challenge is always weeding out the "pretty good" ones.

Speaking of which, I finished taking a pass through the various sets already up on the site and probably a typical set was slimmed down by 5% to 10% but a few sets got hit harder or not at all. It's a good exercise - I found some old gems that I'd forgotten about, and identified some shots that maybe could use some more updated post processing or whatever.

The rest of the shoot will be up a week from today - it was a super long shoot so I decided to break it up into two pieces.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sarah Ellis Slides

Hmm, well, it's clear my scanner doesn't do as good a job with color transparences as it does black and white negatives. Or at least with the strips - I've scanned a bunch of 35mm slides and it does great. Go figure. I had to beat it into submission a bit and eventually got some decent results but they don't look nearly as good as the slides look just holding them up to the light.

Still, I put up four color shots - scroll to the end.

Elise Holga slides

Well, they're back, and they came out. I've uploaded Holga pictures of Elise. This was a bit of a gamble - Holgas claim to have f/8 and f/11 settings, but a) the switch doesn't do anything, and b) it's more like f/13, f/13.3, somewhere in there. Normally not that big of a deal - I usually call it f/11 and frankly with black and white film if you're even in the ballpark that's great. But slide film is very picky about exposure so I metered everything at f/13. Now, the thing about slide film is since it's a positive image you get the strip back from the lab (it's all in one uncut strip) and hold it up and you know instantly if you got it right or not. And they were just spot on - very cool. So now I know my Holga really is about f/13.

Still a total piece of crap, of course, and some of the colors are a bit odd, but if you're nutty enough to shoot color slide film in the studio with one, the thing has enough problems without adding bad exposure to the list. Especially at about $10 for 12 shots (yes, two rolls of slide film with development cost as much as the camera). I find them charming, but if you hate Holga shots you're in business - there will be Sarah Ellis slides later today and they were taken with the TLR and are, you know, actually sharp and stuff. I'm fighting a bit with the scanner to get some good results, but I'll get there sooner or later.

After the lab I went to an art supply place where an old lady had just fallen. Nothing serious but of course somebody called 911 and a fire truck and paramedics where there in short order. By the time they made sure she was basically OK three of us were waiting in the parking lot for them to move their vehicles so we could go. Kudos to the Berkeley Fire Department - they weren't done, but they sent somebody out to move the trucks so we could be on our way. I thought it was a nice bit of professionalism - their stuff's more important, but there's no point in being a jerk about it either.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Loose Ends

I'm still working on the Sarah Ellis set obviously - ETA is still Friday for the first batch of digital, but some color slides Tuesday.

I copied all of my shots from March, 2003 until mid July 2007 onto my new terabyte drive. That took quite a while as you might imagine. It's really nice having everything in one place. Well, sort of everything - I've done two shoots since then which don't fit, but my stack of external drives is much smaller, and I'm repurposing two of them to be my new drive pair (one's a backup of the other) which should buy me about 9 months to get some hefty storage for the future.

One immediate side effect of this is that it's easier to do my periodic pass through all the pictures on the site, weeding as I go. I've started this, and just finished the C's. It will be a slow ongoing process - as I'm waiting for something to dry or whatever I'll do one or two more sets. But just generally things will get just a bit tightened up from where they are now.

I tried platinum printing on Kozo paper today - just made a test chart, but it's cool handmade Japanese paper. Very thin and scary to work with but it's actually pretty tough - after spending lots of time soaking in various fluids it held up just fine. Maybe in a week or so I'll print an image on my other test page and decide if I should get some more. I don't see it replacing my usual COT320 but it's fun to try different papers and I got a cool paper sample pack for free, so what the heck.

I also made platinum prints on COT320 of a couple of shots of Sarah from the film shots I put up already. They're really lovely if I do say so myself. I'm done moving items from the eBay store into auction. Everything that doesn't sell will be filed so I can add in my latest goodies, so it will be a couple of weeks before the latest prints see the light of day. It will probably basically be the reverse of the current process - once a week I'll list a couple at auction, and the ones that don't sell immediately go into the store. I've used this strategy before and it works OK - the more popular items sell right off, and the ones that require a certain kind of buyer wait at lower cost until they visit. I'm going to try to keep a queue of unlisted items going so that it can be a pretty regular thing without interruption.

I just put in an order for more copies of Shadows. I'm down to just a couple and it takes a while to get new ones so if somebody out there is getting one for a birthday or something else where time is a factor, pick it up now.

So that's the news!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sarah Ellis on Film

Well, if you go into the current square crop set and scroll to the end I have some shots of Sarah Ellis up now. My best guess is that I'll have color rolls from a couple of models on Tuesday and digital shots of Sarah up the next two Fridays.

If you haven't seen them already, check out Elise.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Elise pictures up!

I've uploaded the full Elise set, check it out.

Now I get to start looking at the Sarah Ellis shots in detail - that will probably get broken up into two sets because it was a very long shoot and very productive as well and that will keep things more manageable. But with a little luck I'll have a set to upload the next two Fridays, with some film odds and ends in-between. (I have the color Holga roll with Elise and I think one color and one B&W TLR roll with Sarah Ellis).

I have a bunch of shoots scheduled or tentatively scheduled for the second half of the month. In some cases students need to get their class schedules before we can firm it up. It's kind of cool when you get to a point where multiple incoming college students contact you about modeling before they're even here!

On eBay I've started listing auctions again. I'm still basically doing what I think of as infrastructure work - removing some older items from the store, I put 60 8x10s into the store and "topped off" the 16x20s (I list 5 B&W 5 color). Since I'm down to just a few metallic prints I ended a couple of those and moved the rest to auction - if they sell, great, if not the store will end up less cluttered. This is just generally part of my movement to simplify and streamline everything.

Speaking of which, I'm about due to go through all my shots, move some sets to the archive page and generally tighten up the sets. If I have time after editing the Sarah Ellis sets and before the next shoot I'll get started on that. It takes longer and longer each time because I have so many shots on the website now but it's worthwhile to do a couple of times a year.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sarah Ellis Again

I just thought I'd upload something a bit more conventional as well!

Post Shoot notes: Sarah Ellis

You're going to want to click on the image - for some reason Blogger's doing a really bad job resizing it.

Sarah Ellis, straight out of the camera, just cropped and resized it. No fancy Photoshop work, not even levels. (The colors are because there were gels - colored plastic - over the light).

Sarah's somebody I'd come to recognize in other folk's work but she's not from here so I hadn't worked with her before. But one nice thing about being in a tourist area is that when a model is visiting for work or tourism often I can set something up with them.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Elise on Film

I put up a few black and white shots of Elise at the end of my current square crop page - I only took one roll of 12, so you're seeing a good percentage of it.

Since it's the same light and a similar pose as my post shoot note it's a nice chance to compare the film and digital looks. Note that I pull about a 25 megapixel file off of the film and there's actually more information there - that's just as much as I want to deal with. That's part of why I like to take a few medium format shots, but also there are just so many cool old medium format cameras that work different ways it's a nice change of pace.
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