Monday, December 31, 2007

International Sales

That's Sammi, just to brighten things up a bit.

Somebody was asking if this is worthwhile - I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but every time I add it up around a quarter to a third of my sales are non-US. Canada, UK, France, Germany are probably the big ones but I've sold to pretty much everywhere in western Europe, a good number of eastern European countries. Only a little to Asia - Hong Kong, Japan. Only a little to South America. A surprising number to little random islands somewhere - if you're in a former New Zeland or French territory or something you're pretty much going to be buying art on the Internet along with everything else. Rarely to Mexico but occasionally.

Every country thinks their customs are the worst and are pretty forgiving of customs delays - even if you're using Priority Mail International (which I recommend, it's not too expensive and it gets to the UK in 3-5 business days usually) every now and again a package will vanish for 3 weeks and it always turns out it was in customs. There are a couple of countries that this happens more than others (France) and others where things vanish without a trace (Italy) and others where they'll seize goods for no obvious reason (Canada) or bounce them because of some tiny flaw in addressing (Canada) but it's really rare. I've shipped hundreds of packages outside the US at this point to around 25 countries and I've personally had a package totally vanish although judging from some of the forums I'm on it's pretty common for some kinds of items in some countries.

One issue is that everybody wants you to lie on customs forms to avoid customs duty, and if you ship a lot you really can't be claiming everything's a gift. One thing that's worth knowing is that documents aren't dutiable in most countries so if you can check that box in good faith, do.

But really it's not that big of a deal, and yes, the shipping's expensive but with the weak dollar a couple of prints including shipping probably doesn't hit the average European in the pocketbook too hard. And fundamentally this is a world where I woke up to a new years greeting sent at 1:00am in Singapore. Might as well get used to it.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Gear notes: Vagabond

That's Kamarose - her set's just about done, I'll get it finished within a week barring accident.

So my last little purchase of my 2007 gear binge was a Vagabond II unit. It's basically just a battery and an inverter in a nice case. The inverter puts out a very clean AC power that you can plug strobe lights into. Strobes are kind of picky about power - if you don't have the right kind of inverter you can damage them, especially over the long haul.

It's smaller than I was expecting - I didn't pay that much attention to the specs, but it's only about 10 inches tall and 6 inches deep. You can run quite a few lights off of them but I plan to use it mostly in scenarios where I'm doing something simple - a single light to illuminate a fire spinner, or it will make on-location portrait shoots much easier (maybe they don't have space for a full studio, but they have a lovely staircase to pose on) or if there's a power outage at home I can get through a full shoot with my normal lights as long as I'm not too wasteful with the power.

I plugged a light into it and it seems to work OK - with a single light it powers up pretty much the same speed as if it were plugged into the wall. You can strap the unit to your light stand to keep everything stable outside if there's a bit of wind. Just an all-around nicely thought out piece of gear.

Now, the one thing it won't be used for is a normal outdoor nude shoot. You really don't want to be staying in one place a long time or carrying tons of stuff around. Low profile's the key. Or when that isn't possible, go for speed. But with any luck it will give me more flexibility, and that's always nice.

Speaking of outdoor shoots, probably I'll be sticking to that until as late as Feb 1st unless there's some portrait work I can't reschedule - sometimes with maternity clients I have to be the flexible one! (You're due in how many days?). I have some nice shoots tentatively lined up already and I'm going to start looking a bit more seriously in a couple of days. I'll basically do as many shoots as I can find suitable models for - there's less setup and the editing usually goes fast. The hard part's finding models who are tough and beautiful enough to make the cut.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New model: Meg

Here's Meg. I actually left her test chart shot in the set, it was so cute. Somebody make my day and buy a copy. ;-)

The plan is still to have Kamarose's set up in about a week. I'm going to start looking around for models for outdoors shoots in the first three weeks of the new year so if the timing works out I may be able to keep up weekly updates for a while but no promises.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas II

You'll shoot your eye out!

That's Fierce.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I'm rather early for California but I'm not sure if I'll be online tomorrow.

That's Lily, by the way. I have the film developed and scanned for the Meg and Kamarose shoots but I haven't really looked at the digital shots yet. Most of the work in editing a set is choosing the keepers out of the ones that are OK. But it's nice to have the film out of the way - whenever I have undeveloped film laying around I'm sure something bad is going to happen to it.

Things are underwhelming on eBay this year - for everybody, not just me. Most of my "Christmas Rush" last year was actually after Christmas though, so I'm still hoping. Anyway, it's a good time to check it out.

Also, you can give the gift of beautiful naked women, it's legal and it's instant too...

(just scroll down, I have no idea why blogger thinks I need a big gap here)

Friday, December 21, 2007

New Model: Lily

Whew, finally uploaded the shots of Lily. Now I'm just two sets behind. Hopefully I'll have them done by the next two Fridays.

This is one of the film shots. I have some nearly identical film/digital shots I left in the set if anybody wants to compare. If you can't figure out which are which, the URLs all end with IMG_XXXX for digital and lilyXX for film. The film source file is of course much higher resolution - I pulled something like a 25 megapixel file for all of these.

I tried this Arista.EDU film for this set. It's very cheap, made in the Czech Republic. It's imported by Freestyle and I have a friend who swears by it developed in Rodinal. This was developed in a conventional developer to get a kind of baseline - I'll use it outdoors the next time I get a chance and develop in Rodinal and see what I think. But so far it's a plausibly good film, and at $2/roll it's hard to complain. The other films I use are typically more like $3.50ish. They market it as basically a cheap/decent film for use in schools - likewise I'll probably use it for more experiemental stuff where I'm not that confident. But who knows, maybe I'll fall in love with it developed in Rodinal like others have.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Feeling Old

That's Lily again, who has nothing to do with this set except that I'm scanning the film from our shoot and it was handy.

I was talking to a friend about the whole "legal age" issue - what you can and can't shoot if they're below 18 and I was talking about taking a picture of the model's ID and that it's nice with California licenses because they say "Under 18 until year XXXX" and "Under 21 until year XXXX" on them. But in my case basically I just like to double check the birthday and it had better be more than this date in 1989.

And then I realized... Jan 1st it's going to be 1990. That's right, some kids born in the 90s are going to be legal in a couple of weeks. And they're going to have the same relationship with the 80s as I had with the 60s (I was born Feb 7, 1970).

Feeling old...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Post Shoot Notes: Kamarose

Yes, I'm still enjoying the gels way too much.

So that's the last studio shoot of the year - I'm going to pack it all away this evening. I'm hoping to fit in an outdoor shoot or two before the end of the year, but if not 31 model shoots is a decent count for 2007 and I'm already three shoots behind in editing so obviously that will be my focus for a bit.

Monday, December 17, 2007

42nd Street Moon

I never know how much local stuff to include, but SF is such a major tourist town, who knows, maybe somebody will find this interesting.

If you're here, or will be here, and want to see a play you might want to check out 42nd Street Moon. These guys resurrect old musicals - something that might have been a big hit in its time but somehow got lost in the shuffle. It's not the kind of thing where you think "This became obscure for a reason" - they're always really amazing. They do a semi-staged deal to keep costs down - so minimal costumes, minimal set, the "orchestra" is a piano, but the actors are always reliable. Just as an example I recently saw "Oh, Lady! Lady!" which I'd never heard of. But it's a Jerome Kern / P. G. Wodehouse (yes, the Jeeves guy) play and was a big hit. The songs are so good that one song that got cut, "Bill", got saved and used in Showboat and was a big hit in of itself. Laughed the whole time. (Meghann May, if you're Googling yourself and find this - you were wonderful).

And as I said, it's cheap. $38 each and they have cheaper preview days and such. Check out what's coming up - next play's not until Spring, unfortunately, and don't expect to recognize the names - that's the point, you won't recognize them. Just pick something that looks good and it probably will be.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Post Shoot Notes: Meg

Meg. Really, you can never have enough pictures of models holding test charts.

This means I'm two model shoots behind in editing, including film for each one, but I'm still hoping basically to have an edited shoot up every Friday for the next 2-3 weeks at least.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Testing... one two three...

Oh, man, you still haven't finished shopping? Want to give a print and don't want to guess (or know!) which they'd like best. Oh, if only there were a way to buy a...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Post Shoot Notes: Lily

This may end up as black and white or something, but you get the idea.

Shoots scheduled Sat (portrait) - Sun, Tues (model) so I won't really get a chance to look at these shots until mid-week. I'll shoot for having them edited and online by the 21st.

Update: What the heck, added a test chart shot of Lily too. Let's make it a tradition.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Strange Email

That's Sammi, just because she brightens up any blog post.

I get a lot of kind of random email - not just the stuff you would expect (models, customers, people asking for tips) but a lot of fairly dodgy offers. And I don't mean the ads for breast enlargement pills (which I'm pretty sure I don't need) that everybody gets, some of it's either clearly written to me specifically or it's at least targeted to "owner of website with naked women". I just ran into an old one from 2006 in my email by accident (the sender was alphabetically one down from what I wanted).

As far as I can tell they're offering to outsource the taking of the pictures (the fun part!) to Russia, where there are lots of hot women who work cheap. But there's something about the wording I really like.

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. We have the most beautiful girls who wait for work for you. The professional recruit of the most beautiful Russian girls in adult the industry are we.

To owners web sites (soft/hard erotica) it-is offered manufacture for you an exclusive qualitative erotic material-video/foto of session , how many you pay for them?
To owners web sites web cam on it line-is offered services on the recruit of beautiful girls in territory of Russia on your site - address to us, results of our daily work on the recruit of girls for you, you will look on-line.
If you the serious company adult the industries-for you foto/video of session c departure your studio. I shall be glad to help you.

New Pictures: Sammi

Here's the second shoot with Sammi.

It's looking like I'll have done roughly 30 shoots this year (that's model shoots, not portrait work). That's down from 35 last year, but my plan was to just not do some of the more marginal shoots that presented themselves.

In 2008 I'd like to do more outdoor work. I always say that, but I think only four of those were outdoors which is a shame because while I think my best work is in-studio the outdoor stuff helps keep it all fresh.

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Goodies

I had a White Lightning X1600 and another folding octabox (I really like those) and grids for that and my first folding octabox as well as some other little stuff arrive today, after the shoot with Sammi. So I put everything together to make sure it's OK and the modeling light was dead. For those who don't know, strobes often have the actual flash tube and then also basically just a lightbulb that's on all the time that just gives you some idea of what the flash will look like. In a unit like this it's a 250W bulb but the power's adjustable. I swapped with another unit and sure enough it was just the bulb. Which really can happen to anybody, I don't especially blame the company for a bad bulb as long as it was packed well which this was.

I called them, got a person in about two seconds. She transferred me to a techie type, who answered on the first ring. Told her the problem, she looked me up (based on last name, didn't have to read an order #), said she's sending out a bulb tomorrow, I don't need to send the old one back, it will be here Tuesday next week is that OK or was I counting on it sooner. Well, I actually have a spare so that's fine, I can hopefully run without a spare for a week!

While I had her on the line I asked about a design change to their reflectors that two of my lights have and two don't. It gives a more even light. Now, for most of what I do it doesn't matter (I rarely use a bare reflector), but still, might as well have all four lights be the same with the current goodies. She knew exactly what the deal was without having to ask anybody else. And sure enough if you bought them within a year of the upgrade they're happy to send you one per light at a massive discount. So I decided I might as well take advantage of this. So she added that together with the bulb.

So point being that while I had some concerns about a weird interaction with the company a while back, I'm willing to write that off as a fluke. Anybody who doesn't put me on hold, knows their stuff, and ships me a replacement part without wanting the old one back is OK in my book. And the fact that they keep tweaking their products and provide an upgrade pathway for existing customers is just gravy.

That's Sammi, without her glasses.

Post Shoot Notes: Sammi

I did a short shoot today with Sammi. I've shot with her before. It was a nice surprise - I was supposed to shoot with another model today but she started demanding crazy amounts of money at the last minute even though everything was already negotiated a month ago. And then Sammi contacted me this weekend and was up for a quick shoot this morning. Isn't karma fun?

These are literally the first two frames. The thing she's holding in the first shot is a color chart. It's really useful to have as a reference, especially if you're revisiting a shoot much later and you don't remember how to correct for whatever particular setups you were using back then.

Sammi took off the glasses for most of the shoot, but does she have a sexy librarian thing going on, or what?

I have shoots scheduled Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Some are tentative or portrait work so you won't see that many sets, and I'll probably be editing them into the new year, but there should definitely be some nice stuff showing up here over the next three or so weeks.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

You're not helping!

You know, when some loser kills a bunch of people because he wants to be famous, running his picture at the top of every news website really doesn't help. It especially doesn't help the next guy who is inspired by this.

PS CNN seems to think the guy used a wildly different gun than every other news agency. Very odd. You would think they'd try to get this kind of basic factual stuff right if we're supposed to believe the trickier bits.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

New Model: Azana

Well, that was a pretty straightforward set to go through - not a whole lot of shots, and some of them of course didn't really look like anything. I think there's some nice stuff in there, but I'd love to do it again with a real strobe instead of an on camera flash - lots of power and I could have set it off to one side to do angled light, and could also have just done some regular modeling shots while we were there. I'll have to think very seriously about getting a battery/inverter unit. The pictured shot is just with the light from the flames - sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. One of the difficulties is that the flames start out really big and then get smaller. Changing light sources are just so much fun for a photographer.

Azana was very brave to swing a staff with flaming ends around her, in public, next to the bay wind, on a day when it was raining on and off, where we had raccoons run by several times (really!). It's not everybody who will risk frostbite, burns and rabies all at the same time!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Post Shoot Notes: Azana

I've been meaning to do this for a while. The technical issues of a shot like this are a bit nightmarish - you have the lights from the bridge, the fire, and a flash all in different competition among other things.

We went out tonight and did a relatively short test shoot - got some technical data, some shots to look at. Most of the nudes are zoomed way out since she could get the fire way up there and I wasn't sure how far, but I probably overdid it a bit (these are both somewhat cropped). I should also have switched lenses or gotten closer for one set to do some more closeup type shots to get some variety in there. But that was kind of the point - instead of doing some big elaborate thing or every possible shot, just get out there, see what works, and now I'm in a position to go back with a bit more experience.

Since it's a short shoot I'll hopefully have the full set up relatively soon, but I really don't know how many keepers are in there. As usual I haven't actually looked at all of them yet - I just grabbed two that looked nice from the thumbnails.
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