Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Home Stretch

143 kids so far, but it's slowing down. Just thought I'd show off my handiwork here - sometimes I'll do the fancy tool/template thing but this year I just grabbed a pocket knife and went for it.

One little trick that's very helpful and I haven't seen many people mention is that you can cut the hole in the bottom instead of the top. Just throw it away and set the candle on the ground. you don't have to worry about fitting the lid back on, and it's easier to get the candle level and not falling over, and you don't burn your hand getting it in or lighting it - you just set the thing on top of the candle. I've been doing it this way for a couple of years now and it's nice.

New Model: Syrinx

I just uploaded the set with Syrinx. As I mentioned before, she's a couple of months pregnant and hopefully she'll come back for a followup shoot later.

Today's todo list looks a lot like:
  • Finish up Syrinx set
  • Make cyanotypes
  • Carve pumpkin
  • Move things like strobe lights that can be seen from the front door
  • Brace self for 200 kids if the weather holds, or 75 kids and a whole lot of extra candy if it rains.

Happy Halloween!

Update: 100 kids in, I can firmly say that the most popular costume is Spiderman - especially this one with built in fake muscles.

Sorry for the downtime

My host, Lunarpages, who I'm generally very happy with moved my server yesterday. Generally it went very smoothly, but one or two CPanel settings seem to have gotten screwed up, and there was a mime-type setting that made many/all of the pages on the site inaccessible. Luckily the .jpg files weren't affected, so the eBay hosting was OK. I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but as you might imagine the site gets a decent amount of traffic so I'm sure quite a few people ran into it.

That's Yuli, by the way, in my second shoot with an official model (as opposed to a friend posing). It was very cold out!

Update: Looks from the server logs like I got about 400 fewer visitors than I'd expect, whoops.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dell and Verified by Visa

Wow, what a crock. I went to order a Dell desktop - choosing Dell not because I'm particularly pleased with them but because they were the only ones I could find that would let me configure a machine a particular way - and it came out to be pretty expensive. I went to check out, and this weird popup comes up saying it's from "Verified by Visa" and asking you to sign up for a program that will be used from then on (with no info about what the ramifications are) that looks exactly like a phishing attempt frankly, especially since it has you entering the last four digits of your social security number. I have no idea where the actual form data goes back to, but it sure as hell isn't any of Dell's business what my social security number is. And frankly I'm not entirely sure it's legit, although there is such a program.

Part of the problem is that once you sign a card up from one of the companies that forces you to, it's enabled for many retailers and then you have to keep entering yet another password to do anything.

At this point I'll probably just build a system - not my idea of a fun afternoon but at this point it appears to be the only way to get what I want.

Update: Turns out not all issuing banks support this at all, and I tried another card and it worked. So as an example Dell doesn't trust you if you belong to Chase, but if you're with Bank of America they just process it.

Update2: Heh - Chase called a few minutes later, checking to see if they'd prevented fraud or if it was just some frustrated customer (in which case they wanted to be reassuring that their very phishy interface was legit). So I got to tell her I'd used another card which made her a bit grouchy. :-)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New Pictures: Tina

Whew, I'm catching up on editing my shoots. Here's the outdoor shoot with Tina.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My life is very strange sometimes

Often I'll get people writing in who want to model, but they don't have a portfolio or anything. So I'll have them send some snapshots. Usually we can get to a point where I at least have a real good idea of their body type, but not always and sometimes they can't/won't send more pictures. So I'll suggest that if they're willing to come out here I'm willing to check them out in person. Usually I never hear from them again or they get a picture somehow but sometimes they'll just come on by.

This happened today. And the way this works is that we'll just kind of bop over to the studio and I'll say "OK, get undressed so I can check you out." And they do, and I look at them, chat with them a bit, and then they get dressed and they leave. Sometimes they're great, sometimes not, sometimes your personalities click, sometimes not. You can tell a lot in 10 minutes - are they comfortable with the fact that they've just undressed in a stranger's place?

In this case I took a liking to her so I rolled down some paper and took a couple of snapshots with a single light so she wouldn't have to do this again - I emailed her a couple of shots that are not necessarily my best work ever but enough to get the idea for the next photographer who wants to know. And they're at least more flattering than the usual point and shoot stuff I get all the time. Hopefully she'll do some great shoots and these will soon be retired but at least it's enough to get started.

Anyway, if you're thinking about modeling and need something to start, if you just get some background that's not too icky, and some light from a window or something else that's not straight on (that's usually more flattering) and snap a shot from the front and the back either full length or 3/4 length like these, and also a close up of your face that's a huge help. If you're not interested in nude modeling wear a bikini or lingerie or something similar.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

San Diego

If anybody's curious, when I left the massive fires hitting Southern California either hadn't started yet, or weren't big enough that there was any sign of smoke or anything. I didn't hear anything until I was back for a day or so at least. I have family down there but I believe nobody's been directly affected - Mom's been evacuated before but so far so good this time. Last I heard she was close enough to one of the fires that they were taking donations of water and sunscreen and snacks for the firefighters, but far enough away that there's no talk of evacuation.

My sympathies to all who aren't so lucky, especially the troops down there who frankly have plenty on their plate already.

Why the picture? OK, this is a bit convoluted. I always associate flamingos with San Diego because they're the first thing you see when you enter the zoo (and there's also some at Sea World). But I actually took this shot in the Galapagos Islands - they're wild flamingos. I used this one because I had it handy, basically.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Post Shoot Notes: Syrinx

A funny thing happened after we scheduled this shoot - she found out she was pregnant! She's just starting to show, and hopefully I'll drag her back in a few months.

(If anybody's wondering, we just did a few shots with the mini-bonnet, I've just always liked them.)

I'm going to go on something of an informal shooting hiatus for a bit - I have to edit a couple of shoots and I have printmaking to do. But I'll do a shoot if something too good to pass up presents itself, and in any case I'll have at least two sets of new pictures up once they're edited.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Better hope that whale had enough sleep, because if he yawns...

I realized I had a bunch of hotel and air credits that were about to expire and ended up bopping down to San Diego for a couple of days. When I was growing up in LA I had grandparents in San Diego so I pretty much did what I did back then.

Note that I just brought my little point and shoot. You can get action pictures if you can anticipate the action - let it focus where the picture's going to be, wait for the thing to happen, press the button the rest of the way.

Anyway, we went to the Zoo, which is still awesome. Lots of very natural environments for the critters. In some ways I'm not that big on zoos (a lot of them try to keep animals they have no business keeping) but the San Diego Zoo pioneered this kind of animals-first approach.

Went to Sea World. It's changed quite a bit - used to be a sleepy little place and now they actually have rides and production values and things. I was a little skeptical that it would be worth the admission which was about twice as high as I expected but it was lots of fun.

We had a partial day before flying back to do some odds and ends. We poked around old town a bit and had lunch, then went to the Maritime Museum and the USS Midway. I remembered as a kid we'd see the Star of India (old sailing ship) and eat at the seafood place next door (Anthony's). The Star of India is now part of a collection of ships belonging to the Maritime Museum - $12 gets you on four of them, including a cold war era Russian sub. The Midway is very cool. We didn't have time to totally go through all of it, but it was still worth it. Quite similar to the USS Hornet back home - the Midway was built just a couple of years later so it's a bit bigger and more powerful but they're both so big it's not like you can really wrap your head around it anyway. Both have amazing service records over many years and if you think I'm going to compare the two you're crazy.

The highlight of that day was watching my 5'4" female traveling companion take out a wanna-be camera thief. Well, "take out" is probably a bit of an embellishment, but she was the only one who thought quickly enough to grab the guy after he grabbed some lady's camera and started sprinting away. He lost a lot of time, and I was just a bit down the path and just realizing something was up (duh) but now had time to jump in. Luckily he thought fast, made like it was a joke and gave the camera back. Good thing too - I would have only needed to delay him for a couple of more seconds before the lady's 6'6" husband caught up and pounded him into the dirt.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New Model: Laura Lee

As you can see, Laura Lee is looking much happier today. That's right - I finished editing her set.

It's also the anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake. I didn't live here at the time, but I was visiting during fall break (I was in college). Made quite the impression - I'd been through some largish earthquakes in Southern California but this one was in a very different category.

Bookcases and china cabinet bolted to the wall? Water heater strapped in two places? Couple of days of food and water? No? Well, get to it!

My plan: pictures of Tina not until next week, one new shoot's scheduled next week, and then I'll probably focus on the cyanotype over platinum stuff for a couple of weeks before booking anything more unless somebody too good to pass up comes along. Once we get to the holidays some people become impossible to schedule with, but a lot of students become available during winter break so I'll do shoots as people become available.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Poor Laura Lee!

As you can see here Laura Lee's very sad about how long it's taking to get her pictures edited. I'm really just now taking a serious look at them - I had a portrait shoot yesterday that took up a lot of time. The portrait work's almost always interesting but it definitely takes away from the shooting models aspect of things so I try to have some kind of balance.

Still playing with gels. I'm not sure how obvious it is that each time I've done a gel'd background lately I've done it via a totally different technique because they always end up looking at least somewhat similar, but it's been a useful exercise. Some of what I'm looking at are things like how much light spills back onto the model (so do they end up with bluish legs or whatever).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Post Shoot Notes: Tina

I spent an hour this morning wandering around a little lake with Tina. You've seen her before - we did a studio shoot. It was great to see her again - she's doing really well and was all smiles.

I'm now officially behind in my editing since I have Laura Lee's shoot to do before I look at these (as usual, just grabbed one when I was looking at the thumbnails to make sure things copied OK).

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Agfa Isolette Nude

I've mentioned before that I bought a 1950s Agfa Isolette that was refurbished by Jurgen Kreckel. It's working fine. I haven't really used it in the studio much, because I have too many cameras really designed for that (where it excels is portability and coolness). And I wasn't going to take any film of Laura Lee because we'd negotiated a bit of a short shoot (so she could fit in another that evening). But we ended up getting a lot done so I shot a roll of 12.

Neat to see that a camera that old can be made to work again with a little love (and a new bellows!).

Friday, October 12, 2007

New Model: Emily

OK, the set with Emily is done. Be sure to check out the expressions in the jumping pictures at the end - she really had a ball with that part.


The picture's of Persis. Just decided when there's not a natural picture to go with whatever I'm saying I'll include something from an older set.

Anyway, I'm having a weird day. It was raining and I didn't want to clean the gutters in the rain, so I made cyanotypes. It turns out that after being pressed the platinum layer hadn't shrunk after all and I actually overcorrected with the cyanotype layer. Anyway, the print has a small registration problem but it's very pretty and it pretty much looks exactly like the Photoshop duotone it was supposed to look like. So the basic idea is validated, at least for a contrasty sort of image. I'll get a picture and more detail up when it's dry and I have time to photograph it (a day or two).

By then it had stopped raining, so I cleaned the gutters after all. I have a really small single story house (1100 square feet) and a gas powered pressure washer with a U attachment, so basically it involves kind of walking along under the gutters with this attachment in the gutters, with vast amounts of gunk and grime and water spraying in all directions, mostly landing on my head. Once you accept you're going to get filthy it's no big deal but you want to be wearing safety glasses and earplugs. Once that's done I use a low pressure attachment and just kind of hose the gunk and grime off the house, repeat in the back, and that's that for the year. Takes only about an hour.

Well, I get to the side yard (it's a corner house) and somebody's swiped my hose! That sort of thing makes me wonder - was it kids, or a renter who really wanted a hose but couldn't afford one ($20, 4 year old hose), or some crazed crack ho who somehow thought she could sell a used garden hose for enough money to get somewhere? How very odd.

Anyway, I figure out a way to make it work, finish the job, and just as I am closing the garage door, wham, a cloudburst starts. Finished just in time.

(Emily later today hopefully)

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Still working on the Emily set (pictured here). Hopefully will be done by tomorrow though... depending on how well cleaning the gutters goes. Isn't real life fun?

I've laid down some platinum layers for the cyanotype over platinum project and learned that you really have to soak the sheets separately to get the best results - which means one hour each, oh boy. I'm also seeing about a millimeter shrinkage after the platinum layer in the 8x10 images. I may not have time to do cyanotype until next week, we'll see.

The next couple of weeks are likely to be pretty crazy (portrait work, model shoots) so I'm probably going to fall a bit behind in the editing for a bit. So don't be shocked if the "post shoot notes" get a bit ahead of the actual picture sets.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Post shoot notes: Laura Lee

Laura Lee arrived from New York today - lovely gal, and charming in kind of a New York way. Then again, I always did like the ones who are trouble.

Nice Doggie

I'm not entirely sure why I like this shot, but I do. (Click on it to see it bigger).

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Blue Angels Pictures

If anybody's interested, I have some pictures of the Blue Angels and of the other airshow stuff at Fleet Week on my travel/hobby site.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Post Shoot Notes: Emily

The remarkably kelp-free Emily.

This is actually the very last frame of the shoot.


I asked a professor friend why so many younger folks have an amazing inability to, as an example, show up on time for paid model shoots, and if they plan on showing up an hour and a half late they don't call as soon as possible to let you know and so forth.

She said "It's because their brains are full of kelp."

So now we all know.

(Seriously, the models I work with are almost always wondeful, interesting, professional people. It's the occasional wanna-be model who thinks she can do anything she wants because she's hot that makes this whole thing way more difficult than it has to be. The good news is they always vanish amazingly quickly, often without actually doing a single shoot. The bad news is that there's always a new crop of them, and unless you shoot infrequently enough to stick to the experienced regulars you pretty much have to take a chance on a newbie sometimes.)

PS Ironically, after posting this I had an unexpected very nice shoot with somebody. I actually have something like six shoots scheduled over the next couple of weeks, so things will be coming at a fast pace with any luck. Assuming there's not too much kelp!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Fleet Week

The star of the show, Fat Albert. (Click on the picture to see it a bit bigger).

Yep, the Blue Angels are in town. I'll probably put some pictures up on another site and just put a link here within the next day or two.

I sometimes like this kind of cluttered shots of airplanes - the random ground stuff like the people pointing at the plane, and the heat shimmer against the hill is interesting. But it's probably just me!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Cyanotype over Platinum Report 7: Round 2

Here's the shots for round 2. The torso shot of Mihoko is more dramatic and the one of Aster I just used a little blue in the shadows to give it a hint of color. If those come out basically like the images I should be in good shape.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Cyanotype over Platinum report 6: Final lighthouse print

Here's the final print. You'll see it's quite close to the one right out of Photoshop now that I'm using the right color. If you click on it to see it a big bigger the background's a bit uneven looking - that's mostly the scanner picking up the texture of the paper. The actual print's closer to the preview. Definitely close enough to give me hope that I can make more duotones in Photoshop and actually make prints that have the same look.

Later today I'll post the two pictures I'm going to try to create - in a week or so I'll have them made and we can compare back. I think folks will have a better idea of why I'm going to so much trouble at that point - I've done some testing and you can get some very cool results with just blue and black together.

There will be some fine tuning, but assuming that works I'll make up, oh, ten or so total and see how people like them.

Cyanotype over Platinum report 5: Cyanotype

This isn't it - the prints are still drying. I'll explain in a moment.

What I did was to do two copies of the image I've been working on - adding a 10 minute cyanotype layer to one and a 5 minute cyanotype layer to the other. The 10 definitely has too much blues in the whites versus the original I had in report 2. But I was thinking maybe a 7 minute exposure would be pretty close, but the color was much brighter than the somewhat arbitrary blue I'd picked to start.

Well, I fired up the original duotone in Photoshop and tried some other blues to get the color to match. And the Pantone Process Blue C was pretty much spot on, including the fact that it now looked like there was rather too much blues in the whites. The important thing here isn't that it looks good, the important thing is that it matches the print, so that's a great thing to learn.

So the bad news is that one print has too much blue and the other not enough, but the good news is that I now have a much more accurate proofing tool than I'd hoped (as long as I use the right blue) and I can print with my regular exposure and as long as I play with the ratios before printing the negative that should be reflected in the final print. Plus, I didn't have any kind of coating weirdness with the cyanotype layer and the registration was OK as best I can tell.

So what you see here is the output from Photoshop using the correct blue but no other changes, and when I scan the print tomorrow we can see how it compares.

So next steps are to pick two images and try again in 8x10 (these are 5x7s to save money while experimenting). I have one in mind already that's a black background and torso and basically the background will be black but the torso will be a blue/silver in some ratio (probably mostly blue). The other I'll pick something with less dramatic lighting and see what I can do with it.

Mihoko pictures are up

I just uploaded the pictures of Mihoko.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mihoko Rodinal

I just shot one roll of Delta 400 and developed it with Rodinal. I was going to do 1:200 dilution at 100 minutes and no agitation but realized I wasn't really set up to measure that out properly so I just did 1:50 again, 1 inversion per minute past the first 30 seconds. 20 minutes developing time. Came out nice although the grain's pretty intense in some images. I'll have a few of them in her set which should be finished up tomorrow.

I still think Tri-X is my favorite go-to film though, either with Rodinal or a more standard developer. I did some street photography around the Union Square area yesterday and hopefully will have some of that to share in a day or two if it's any good. I used the TLR - the good news is nobody realized I was taking their picture, the bad news is that I don't really have a feel for what area will be in the field of view, and there's not necessarily time to be looking. Ideally it's just at waist level and as you go by something there's just a little tiny shutter click, and then you advance the frame once you're past them.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Cyanotype over Platinum Report 4: Platinum

I took two of the pre-shrunk papers from before and coated them with no problems. I'm actually using the ziatype chemistry so they're quite neutral in color. (for an explanation of these processes, see the alt process page). The paper didn't act any differently because of the pre-soak - just took the usual amount of fluid, it exposed normally, all quite anti-climatic in its own way. I'm more concerned about the cyanotype end of things for various reasons, but we'll get to that when the time comes.

So next steps are to let them dry overnight, and then press them yet another night so they'll be nice and flat. Wednesday I won't have time to make prints in the morning (getting early lunch with a friend) but I'll scan them and see if the cyanotype negative registers. If not that means they shrunk some more and I'll measure the difference and print a new negative to match. If they're not the same I'll split the difference for this experiment. If that's the case I'll also try either a longer pre-soak or two pre-soaks or something to try to bring them more in line.

Then that means that Thursday hopefully I'll add some cyanotype layers - probably one sheet at normal exposure and one sheet at half exposure. There's a good chance that the cyanotype will overwhelm the platinum somewhat and the half exposure will give better balance. If that one's looking best at an initial glance I'll probably go ahead and print a test chart on the third soaked paper so that I can take the different exposure into account for future negatives.

Whew! Anyway, I'll post an update Wednesday with a scan of the platinum layer and if the paper shrunk any more or not.

Update: Here's a scan of the platinum. No shrinkage as far as I can tell (note this is only a 5x7 image which helps). I'll go ahead and put on a cyanotype layer tomorrow with the negative I printed last week.
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