Monday, April 28, 2008

Trimmed a hedge today!

So every time I've lived in a house with a hedge, it was always the neighbor's hedge. In the current house he planted that hedge in the late 30s when my house was a vacant lot to keep the kids from crossing through his yard as they cut the corner. And although my place was built in the early 40s he kept the hedge, and when I moved in he let me know that although technically it was on my property, if I didn't mind too much he'd like to maintain it, since he had except for a little gap around when my house was built when the government asked him to walk across France (From Omaha Beach towards Berlin, specifically). Not a problem.

Well, the neighbor has finally died or been hauled away to a home or something, I'm not sure. I've seen the kids around (the "kids" are older than me) but they aren't super friendly and I didn't want to walk up and say, "So, your dad die, or what?". And he was pretty much my source of neighborhood gossip that I'd ask about anybody else, so I've sort of tried to ignore the whole thing until I run into somebody who might know what's up.

Except nobody ever told the kids that this hedge was *his* and they've apparently hired a service to maintain the yard but they didn't do the hedge. And technically I guess it belongs to me, and it was getting kind of shaggy, so I thought I'd better beat it back into shape.

Now, the neighbor did it by hand with clippers and that's just not going to happen. (He also edged his lawn with scissors, I kid you not). But I do own a hedge trimmer despite never having trimmed a hedge - I use it to keep some ivy in line. So I gave it a shot. How hard can it be, right?

It looks... ok. It looks.... ok from the street. Things are a bit... lopsided. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to keep its shape (which is overly complicated) but perhaps I'll learn fast.

But I tell you, it's a weird thing to have lived here for 12 years and one day to inherit a hedge.

Update: Ran into the nicest of the kids and got an update - sure enough, he passed away. I'm not sure how old he was, but he was married in 1938.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mmmmm.... Bacon......

Friday, April 25, 2008

New Pictures: Sarah Ellis

Whew! I'm slowly catching up on my backlog. I've just uploaded the new set with Sarah Ellis. I'm trying to stick to a schedule of uploading one a week so hopefully Lisa a week from today, and the set with Mouse in the city the week after that. Past that I have no immediate plans for shoots. I'm sure something will happen at some point but I'm trying to focus more energy on making prints and such so I can afford to be picky.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Post Shoot Notes: Tourist Mouse

I thought about calling this post "San Francisco Nudes". We got to play tourist today - we were together for about six hours hitting some well known places around town. San Francisco has a lot of iconic structures, vehicles (cable cars), streets, etc. so we just touched the surface but this is something I've been meaning to do since I started shooting nudes - take a lot of standard tourist shots with a nude gal in there somewhere. In fact at at least one location there were a bunch of tourists taking turns shooting themselves in front of the scene and we had to think quick about how to make it work without pissing too many people off.

I'll share more later, but this will do for the moment. As always, just me grabbing a few from the thumbnails, and you can see them larger if you click on them although Blogger sometimes gets a bit excessive compressing them.

From top to bottom, that's the Fishing Pier (Alcatraz in background) Fort Point (Golden Gate Bridge in background), in front of City Hall, and on the Golden Gate Bridge itself.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Bulb

I like shooting a lot at the Albany Bulb which is this little spit of land that goes out into the bay. I shoot some other places, and this summer I'm hoping to branch out a bit, but one of the fun things about the Bulb is it's always changing. There's lots of local artists who use it for various purposes, and it's not unusual to be walking along and suddenly there's something amazing that wasn't there before. Much of it doesn't show up in the pictures but sometimes I just can't resist making use of them.

Friday, April 18, 2008

New Model: Zinn

Whew! I finished editing Zinn Star's shots - it ended up being one of these highly productive shoots, so there's a ton of pictures. This includes both digital and film mixed together - I only split them out when I keep the square crop on a square film camera. This was with a 6x7cm negative, which turns out to be just about the same aspect ratio as 8x10 so I just crop to 8x10. (These shots are both from film as it happens)

I'm going to try to keep to this every-Friday schedule for a while, and I have taken enough shots to cover the next two Fridays with one more shoot scheduled. It's a good thing I have some extra shoots ready to be edited - I need to focus on things like platinum prints for a bit and I'll probably cut down on actual shooting for a bit other than portrait shoots and if a model too great to pass up appears.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Nothing major, but here's some little stuff I've been keeping an eye on.

First off, the post office is raising rates May 12th. They're relatively small changes - my most common package goes up 20 cents - and I just had a price increase so I'm not planning on making any kind of major changes. It's complex doing flat rate shipping because some packages are flat rate and some are by weight, and everything I send has some kind of packaging that can range from about fifty cents to $3 depending on what it is (the expensive ones involve shipping tubes). I do actually lose money on some combinations but you just kind of have to pick an average and go with it. It's possible once I start shipping that I'll find some nasty surprise for some particular situation but so far it looks like I can just eat the difference.

The other little thing I have to keep an eye on is that the lab decided to change papers. They're going from Kodak Professional Supra Endura to Kodak Supra Endura VC which is the latest-greatest professional paper. It has a laundry list of improvements - I'm not sure how much any of it really means to me except I need to keep an extra eye on the prints for a bit just to make sure they didn't make a mistake. The lab's apparently been using it for at least some orders for three weeks so they have a good handle on it, but they're still human.

I should be uploading Zinn's pictures tomorrow - just have to do a couple of little things.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Post Shoot Notes: Lisa

I shot with Lisa about two years ago. There's one shot in particular people might remember, with toe socks.

Well, she's modeling again and we ran into each other online and she's looking fantastic so of course I drug her back into the studio. It will be a while before I get to edit her shots since I'm a bit backed up, but sometimes when something unexpected happens it's best to move quickly!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Maria Holga

Since I keep the Holga shots on their own, check the current Holga folder and scroll to the end.

If you wondered what keeps the paper up, here you can see the top of the paper as it hits the ceiling, and there's another shot where you can see the pole on the right. Basically there's just two poles with a crossbar, and the paper's on a tube on the crossbar. Simple. I normally wouldn't include a shot that shots that sort of thing, but it seems silly to worry about it with a Holga shot.

As always, I enjoy shooting with one now and again for a change of pace, but if you don't understand the appeal, that's OK - people usually either love or hate the Holga shots and there's no convincing them otherwise.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Black and White

Somebody was asking me about how I decide what should be black and white and what should be color.

Well, the film I shoot is mostly black and white for reasons that have to do with the tonal range and me liking how it looks and that's all I can develop at home anyway.

With digital the file in RAW format contains the color information even if I choose to preview it in black and white on the camera. Some lighting I feel only really looks good in black and white, so I'll set it in advance in that case. Otherwise it's a post processing decision.

Sometimes I want a really high contrast and usually that only looks good in black and white although there are exceptions. Sometimes with an outdoor shoot the colors aren't very attractive - there might be an unreal-looking green slime on the rocks or something. Once there was some paint on a tree that vanished in black and white.

Often it's a judgment call that can go either way - after all, I often make a black and white platinum print from an image I usually present in color.

These two shots were taken in the same lighting, with no major tweaks to make it black and white. Why did I go with black and white after I went to the trouble of coloring the background? Because after I took the test shot I turned on another background light with a green gel. Which I'd attached using a new method. Which had the effect of spilling some green light back at the model. I thought I'd positioned her such that it was OK, but it wasn't. And there's nothing like having splotches of green on your model to make her look, um, sickly frankly. But in black and white nobody will even know... unless you have a blog!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

More Zinn

Just because.

In other news, we're having a heat wave. I'm not sure of the temperature today, but tomorrow the highs are mid 80s and the day after mid 60s. That kind of shift isn't that unusual this time of year but it can be kind of irritating.

The plan is still to have the Zinn shots uploaded on Friday, the main variable at this point having to do with developing and scanning film (which is kind of no fun on a hot day frankly).

Friday, April 11, 2008

New Model: Maria

I'm delighted to say I got the Maria pictures edited and uploaded. I still have to develop the film, but it was taken with a Holga so it will go into another set anyway. I'll probably do that around Monday or Tuesday, and then on to the other two sets I've taken but still have to edit.

The cold's mostly better - thanks for the sympathy.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


That's Calico.

I'm sick as a dog, have been since yesterday. Other than running to the post office today I've basically been napping and doing some little tasks. As an example I got in some new 1TB hard drives - you can get name-brand but low-feature (like USB only) 1TB drives for pretty cheap now and I like to buy drives in pairs and copy pictures to both of them and then physically remove one drive to another location. Since I move pictures off of my working RAID drive only occasionally when they pile up it's not that important if the drives are particularly fast or not - this is more long term storage than a backup in the conventional sense. Anyway, moving around hundreds of gigs of data takes a while so it's a good sick day activity. You nod off for a "second" and wham, the copy's done.

I also uploaded the version of the website with the new pricing - thanks to those who went on a last minute splurge with the old pricing. Mostly Europeans - I think in the US everybody's trying to get their taxes done. I had a really good late March from people getting refunds, then it dries up in mid-late April, then hopefully I'll get a boost on the US side when the tax rebates show up. It's possible I missed something but hopefully it's all current.

This is going to be a trend, by the way - I should have done this some time ago, and basically I'm behind where I should be on pricing. So I'll probably do one more round let's say September and then again in January.

I got pretty far editing the set with Maria but I'm not sure if I'll hit my original plan, which was basically to finish editing a set every Friday for the next three weeks. But it should be in a couple of days anyway, possibly with the digital ones first and the Holga shots following because I'm not going to develop film until I'm a little better - the thought of fixer smell isn't so wonderful.

OK, back to bed!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Post Shoot Notes: Sarah Ellis

I'm now done with my little three shoot marathon - shooting three business days in a row. This morning I shot with Sarah Ellis who I've shot before but only in the studio. We got a little bit unlucky with overcast skies even though we were there at 6:30am for sunrise (sigh) but despite cold and wind it all worked out OK.

As usual I just grab a couple example shots based on the thumbnails while things are copying to make sure they're OK - here we have one with Sarah in front of some lovely flowers, and the other one's kind of a behind the scenes shot. I believe this is when I'd finished with my film camera, and had to head back to grab the digital and Sarah huddled under a beach towel to try to keep at least a little wind off of her.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Post Shoot Notes: Zinn Star

I just finished with Zinn Star in the studio - as usual, I just grabbed two images that looked nice from the thumbnails.

She's an awesome model - one of the few professional art models, she's basically on a tour from place to place working with photographers all over the country. One of the nice things about being in the San Francisco Bay Area is not only do we have a lot of models, a lot of folks who are willing to give it a shot, but also we're basically on the circuit for models who are maybe in a smaller market and want to work with a bigger pool of folks.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Light Meters

I use a light meter for some stuff. It's just what it sounds like - it tells you how much light is available. In particular this is a flash meter which is smart enough to look for a flash of light and measure it. Normally you point the little white dome at the light and trigger the flash and it tells you the camera settings. If that doesn't match the settings you actually want to use on the camera you adjust the light and keep triggering it until you're happy.

A lot of digital shooters either just eyeball it on the back of their camera (bad idea, the LCD brightness is pretty random) or use the histogram (a little chart of light to dark) which is fine for some things and not so fine for others. But even if it's the kind of lighting setup where you can use the histogram it's often faster to use the meter, and in fact you can get, say, a four light setup all ready to go before the model even shows up, so you're not paying her to stand there while you're adjusting lights.

People get very, very intense about this on photographer forums - some people think you're a moron if you ever skip using a meter, and others think they're obsolete and a waste of money. My feeling is that it's a useful tool that saves me time both while I'm shooting and avoiding having to fix bad exposures later in post processing. Generally I'd rather get it right in camera not as a matter of religion but because it's faster and easier in the long run.

This meter's pretty basic - it's the cheapest one Sekonic makes - but it works, and it's small which is useful if you want to use it outdoors (say, with an old camera that doesn't have a built in meter or not a very good one).

There's really no reason to ever take a picture of the meter, but people seem to find any kind of behind the scenes stuff interesting, so what the heck. I also wouldn't usually set one on top of a model - often you have them hold it, but if you have a model already laying down like this it might make sense as long as she's willing to humor you a bit (do ask first!).

Friday, April 04, 2008

Post Shoot Notes: Maria

I just finished a shoot with Maria - here's the usual test chart shot (just because, even though it's not really evenly lit) and departing slightly from my normal strategy of just grabbing an image from the thumbnails, the other image is one I noticed was nice during the shoot. I don't look at every image, but I'll double check one or two here and there and this one looked nice on the back of the camera.

I also shot a roll of film, but it's with the Holga so some people will be happier than others about that.

I have two more shoots scheduled in the near future - both with huge potential - so there should be a number of images showing up here soon. Don't forget that print prices are going up April 10th which is less than a week away now, so if you want to save a little money order sooner rather than later.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Sara Mann - The End of You

So there's this singer/songwriter I've loved forever - Sara Mann. I first heard her as a backup singer, and I was in the front row and basically couldn't keep my eyes off her the whole time - beautiful, charming, and when she sung a duet, man she can sing. Luckily at this point they mentioned her name, and I've been keeping track of her ever since.

So years go by, occasionally a new track would dribble out, she'd play gigs in Los Angeles fairly often but I don't make it down that way very often, she had some small TV roles, but basically it wasn't that easy to get her stuff.

Well, that's changed - she has a new CD out, which you can get at CD Baby or iTunes. If you don't know CD Baby - they have all kinds of interesting stuff and you can listen to about a minute and a half of the start of every song on the album which is nicer than iTunes for previewing a new artist.

Anyway, check her out on either site, if it sounds like your kind of thing, buy a copy, I'm sure every bit helps, and it's only $10 on iTunes, it's not like you're taking some mammoth risk.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Little Updates

This seems like a good day to send in my taxes - if I mess something up, I can just shout "April Fools!"

Anyway, I've been busy, mostly with behind the scenes stuff like I scheduled eBay auctions out a couple of weeks and doing some inventory adjustments and so forth, and I was down the coast shooting seals one day and then down to Monterey. None of it makes a good story unfortunately so I won't elaborate past that.

I had intended to have done a shoot or two by now but it hasn't really worked out. It's one of those things - the last batch I had six shoots in two weeks and it all happened like clockwork, but I've had a couple of shoots in a row go sour due to the model getting cold feet or just being unorganized. Some of it seems to have a spring break thing - they scheduled shoots on break and then by the time they got to me decided the partying was more fun than work. None of them got within a day or two of the shoot before one of us cancelled so it's not like they wasted much of my time, it's just that the shooting calendar keeps drifiting back.

The good news is that I have a couple of professional models scheduled next week and they're almost always very straightforward shoots. Still, we'll see, anything can happen in this business.

Oh, and if you haven't seen it yet, this is cute...
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