Sunday, August 31, 2008

New Model: Sie ist Idaho

I just uploaded a new set. You should see this shot at full resolution - adorable but lightish freckles. The print's going to look awesome.

On other matters - the response to the twitter has been that nobody cares, so for now I'll just use it for major updates like a new set and see what happens. The link's over in the sidebar.

I checked the web page for jury duty status in my county and my courthouse is the only one that wants anybody for Tuesday. So much for the plan that I'd be safe the day after labor day. On the other hand the phone version says to call back Monday after 4:00pm so maybe they're just being conservative and they'll update the website. I actually know somebody who had that happen in the same county - they had a Monday date and it said one thing all weekend until Sunday evening when it changed.

I'll serve if called, of course, but the timing is awkward - I have a bunch of models who really want to work with me and I've been putting them off because I don't know when I can schedule anything. And I don't have a maternity shoot scheduled in the next little while but sometimes I get those at the last minute and if somebody gets put on bedrest or gives birth a little early and I lose out on a shoot I'm going to be unhappy and the new mom's going to be unhappy and it's just generally a bad situation.

But if there were no downsides to being self employed everybody would do it...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Frida Kahlo

Yesterday I made it to the Frida Kahlo exhibit at SFMOMA. Always interesting to see art in the original when you've seen reproductions - they're always so much different. They also have some nice photography exhibits right now - including an Ansel Adams I hadn't seen before that was taken at Mills College which is right down the street. I'm guessing he was there because Imogen Cunningham used to spend a lot of time there (her husband was a prof there and she had a relationship with the college where she did a lot of portrait work of visitors). I imagine him getting bored with actual people and wandering off and finding some leaves and ferns and things and photographing them. I found a shot online but it absolutely looks like crap compared to the original. (Like how I made that go full circle?)

Anyway, that completes the big three art exhibits I was meaning to go to this summer that I mentioned earlier.

PS I try to avoid politics here but I think under the circumstances it's safe to mention that I really like Sarah Palin - the circumstances being that all I know about her is that when Craig Ferguson was doing a running bit to become a citizen by doing it city by city and state by state not only was she one of the first politicians to get it and made him an honorary citizen of Alaska but she made a cool little video.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Idaho film

Here's a film shot from the shoot I'm working on editing right now.

My goal is to get her set up Monday - especially because Tuesday I have jury duty. Now, I'm hoping they won't actually need anybody the day after Labor Day but I'm trying to clear my plate of this kind of stuff as much as possible before then.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cyanotype over Platinum news

One thing I recently realized is that I'm at the point where I can make cyanotype over platinum prints, no problem, very regular, no kind of "well it's not what I intended but it looks cool." So I've added them as a shopping cart item for everything on the website - if anybody wants one, go nuts. Now, I'm guessing most people will have trouble visualizing what a particular image will look like with that process, and they'll stick to the pre-made ones on eBay, but I do get requests sometimes for a particular image using that process so this will make it easier for people to just order one instead of emailing back and forth.

In other news, I had a great pre-meet yesterday although it was a bit odd because there was fish stuff all over the studio - the odds and ends you stick in the cabinet under the tank, but since mine flooded out and I had to rip out its bottom to get everything dry it's a bit crazy right now. Still too early to tell if the floor's going to totally recover or not (there's one place with a bad buckle as the wood expanded from the moisture), and it's not like it's easy to replace a board when you have a 55 gallon fish tank sitting over part of the area (I think it's 6 or 7 pounds per gallon - it's not going anywhere). I'm still hoping to move to a larger place around the end of the year and it probably makes sense to paint and refinish the floors at that time so I may just kind of ignore it until then.

Nikon D90

Chase Jarvis always does a great job making videos (and has a cool blog), and Nikon was intelligent enough to send him a big pile of D90s. The movie mode's pretty exciting - hopefully Canon will get their act together at some point and add what seems to me like a fairly obvious feature - once they implemented "Live View" in SLRs there really isn't any excuse to not have at least some kind of basic ability to dump it to the card.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Model: Merilyn

I've just uploaded the Merilyn pictures.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Canon 50D is announced

For those interested, the 50D's been announced. Seems nice enough, and implies that Canon could easily have a full frame, 20ish megapixel camera with one DIGIC 4 processor at around 5 frames per second as the 5D Mark II or whatever they're going to call it (possibly a 3D/7D split) and with two DIGIC 4 processors their choice of faster or bigger or some of each for the 1D series. I believe the pixel density on the 15D works out to 38MP full frame so they can pretty much go nuts if the quality's there.

But personally I'm more interested in the fact that my fish tank apparently has been leaking very slowly - enough to buckle a floorboard or two. I've got everything drying and I'm basically just hoping that everything will settle back down once it dries out. Grr....


OK, I make no guarantees how much I'll use this, but I've created a twitter account. I'll post shoot updates to it, not sure other than that. If you don't know what this is, it's basically a form of mini-blog. I guess my interest level will pretty much be driven by the number of followers, so we'll just have to see how that goes. I've added a link to that and my myspace page over in the sidebar of the blog so you can always get back to it later if you're so inclined.

PS Merilyn pictures tomorrow, I'm just tweaking a couple last little things.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Merilyn shot

I'm still working on the Merilyn set - I've noticed in my 404 log that folks are hoping I've somehow finished and they're lurking in a directory with an obvious name. In the past this might have worked occasionally if I put up a test set so I could check it on another machine but since I don't want other folks seeing test shots other than what I post to the blog I've had to stop. It's extra work and just slows me down - ironic, huh?

Anyway, I might be able to get them done by Monday. We'll see. Basically the workflow for digital is...

  1. Go through the RAW files, picking images I like
  2. Keep going through the RAW files, eliminating ones I didn't like as much until I'm not making much progress.
  3. Take the RAW files, and pop them into the RAW converter. This lets me adjust the color, exposure, all that stuff. The color's done via shooting a test chart with the same light and using that as a reference. The exposure should be very close already but sometimes a little tweak is in order.
  4. The RAW converter does a lot of math and extracts out a bunch of 75MB TIFF files, one per image.
  5. Sometimes I'll take another pass through them at this point, weeding, Passes through take much longer at this point since the files are so large, so if I was waiting to see the crops I'll just go right to step 6.
  6. Crop each image. I'll also tweak the levels (more exposure stuff) at this time but it should be rare because I've already done it in RAW conversion. I'll also convert to black and white at this time if it's right for that image.
  7. This is the kind of no excuses weeding stage - the images look identical to the final images except there might be a couple of little things to Photoshop out (a stray light stand leg in a corner, an unfortunate mole, some dirt on the paper). So here's where I really get it down to the final set of images.
  8. Go through and remove those little things in Photoshop that need to be removed. This can be slow even with minor changes so it really helps if I've done #7 properly and don't spend a lot of time fussing with images I'm going to throw out.
  9. One last pass, just in case I thought something was fixable but it wasn't, or maybe I missed something.
  10. Generate the HTML, thumbnails, images for the website. I'll usually sanity check the set on my laptop - sometimes I'll spot something I missed.
  11. Tweak the index page and so forth to point to the new set.
  12. Upload the set and the other pages that got changed (if you're on the pictures only feed that's live at this point).
  13. Email the model that her pictures are up.
  14. Blog it.
I just finished step #6.

For film it's not much different except I obviously have to develop and scan the film (which I do myself) and then they're just digital files that get inserted into the workflow at step 5ish. There's also some extra touch up to remove dust but that's at step 8.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Macro shots

I just put up some Macro shots in my little non-nude section in the bottom of the main index. I've always done a little macro photography but they tend to be scattered all through other stuff and rather than go through the last few years of material like I did for landscapes, etc. I decided to just start a new section with the idea that now that I have a place to show off this work that I'll do more of it and it will get updated relatively quickly.

One thing I like about macro photography is that if you have the right gear you can pretty much just walk around quickly and find some cool stuff and see what works and doesn't. So if you're feeling a bit frustrated with whatever you're working with it makes a nice quick change of pace. You can also do highly technical, deliberate shots (especially when you're talking about a gnat's eye type macro photography) but even that's pretty straightforward in the sense that you can do it without going someplace exotic or bringing in a model or whatever. Basically for me it's always helped keep photography fresh - it's such a different way of viewing the world.

So the content that is up there right now is literally a single walk through my backyard and garage and back in. So there's the tip of my Christmas tree (live, obviously), two shots of a rotting orange, one of a dahlia, two of the brush I use to clean my grill, and one of the tip of my broom. There were also some California Poppy shots but I wasn't happy with those so I'll try again next time (it was windy and they are so light the images weren't really sharp enough - next time I'll do it without wind or bring one indoors or something). I also played around with water dripping and I wasn't totally pleased with those but made some notes and next time I have the urge to do that I'll refer to my notes and hopefully get better results. Maybe next time I'll find a spider or something - who knows? That for me is part of the fun - just go see what's out there at that small scale and see what it looks like.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Misty May Nude

I made the mistake of looking at my web stats, and I'm getting hits from people searching for Misty May Nude. Why? Because I mentioned my penguin humidifier, Misty May, and of course the word nude appears scattered around the website.

(If anybody doesn't know, Misty May is on the US Women's Beach Volleyball team - excellent player, and she's welcome in my studio anytime, but somehow I think the penguin's more likely.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New alt proces prints available

So the results of my week of making alternative process prints have all been photographed and I put them up into my eBay store.

If you want one, feel free to just contact me directly and under any item on the website you can just use the shopping cart system and I can make a cyanotype or platinum of any image. If you want a cyanotype over platinum contact me and we'll talk about the details.

In a couple of weeks I'm going to make platinum prints of 5-10 non-nude shots (landscapes, etc) which will take a couple of days. I'm also getting some new bulbs for my UV exposure unit so it will take a little while to recalibrate exposures and so forth, and I have some new paper I want to try.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

eBay changes

Sigh. You just get used to one change, and they announce more. Their feedback calculation change literally happened yesterday (they backed off as neutrals retroactively being counted as negatives) and a lot of sellers still haven't figured out they changed search to not show all of your items unless you are careful to use different titles. As an example I have a competitor that's spending about $30/week and only one of his items is showing up.

So now they have...
  • They're eliminating checks and money orders! This is definitely going to drive some good customers off of eBay - hopefully they'll just contact me directly and we'll work something out, but still. They'll just let people take PayPal and if they have their own merchant account they can do credit cards.
  • They're doing some weird stuff with shipping charge limits that won't affect me, and offering some kickbacks if you offer free shipping. This actually might be worth it for some of the higher priced items but it doesn't take affect until October 1st so I'm not going to worry about it for a while.
  • They're adding a 30 day fixed price listing, costs 35 cents. It's kind of like a store item (5 cents) except it shows up in searches. It will probably be a nice way to get more exposure for some kinds of items, although it's not as good a deal as you might think in the sense that usually they're going to be way in the back of the search standings unless they're fiddling with that again. So mostly they'll kind of be buried. And they'll nail you on the fees when it sells (much like a store item). But this is part of eBay's move to be less of an auction place and more of a general merchant clearinghouse - which I think is a stupid move since Amazon does it much better. I'll probably do this for the more expensive items since it's flat rate and will make more sense for those items although the fee for selling a cyanotype over platinum this way is $30ish and at that point it might make more sense to do a featured auction. I'll have to run the numbers and really figure it all out.
I think I have a month or so to figure out the new strategy, and it will all get hashed out in the powerseller forum in lots of detail, but it once again shows if you want to sell on eBay more than casually you have to really keep an eye on this stuff.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Post Shoot Notes: Sie ist Idaho

As usual, just two shots that looked nice from the thumbnails.

I've wanted to work with her for a long time - we actually set this up six months ago when she first planned on passing through the area.

I'm officially a couple of shoots behind in editing now, and I have a couple of rolls of film to develop as well, and another set of platinum prints I want to make so I'm not sure exactly what is going to happen in what order but I'll muddle through it all eventually.

Oh, and a note for the locals - the Women Impressionists exhibit at the Legion of Honor is excellent (I love Mary Cassatt). I made it to the Chihuly exhibit at the de Young earlier, so that just leaves the Frida Kahlo at SFMOMA and I'll be through the summer exhibits. Whew! (And if you're looking for good art in the area, the other museum to see is the Asian Art Museum which is always reliable.)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Website Improvements

So I mentioned some of this the other day, but it's all uploaded and live now.

  1. Tightened things up a bit - less white space - will help folks with smaller screens.
  2. You can click on the image to go to the next image. This is nice because the image is such a bigger target than the "next" text. On the last one depending on your browser it will take you to the index or just keep you where you are.
  3. Preloading of the next image (requires Javascript). This makes the load time feel much faster going to the next image unless you're going very fast compared to your connection. If you're actually looking at the images it should feel instant.
  4. You can use the left and right arrow keys to go to the next and previous image (requires Javascript). I thought about using the up arrow to go back to the index, but then you couldn't use them to scroll the page up and down. Note that if you start in the middle 'next' is much faster than 'previous' because of the way the preload works, unless the images are already in your cache. If you've been walking through them (so they're alrady in your cache) and want to go back a couple it's very zippy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Landscapes and such

Well, if you go to the main picture index and scroll way, way, down to the end you can see some new entries. Some of them are still stubs with just a couple of shots, and some could use some trimming down. I'll be adding and deleting items as I go through some more old trips, but it's good to at least have the structure and some pictures in place. I'll probably add a macro section at some point, too, and anything else that's required.

Basically the idea is to make it easy for me to make some of this stuff available for those interested. I've found in general with web stuff it's best to get something online and then improve it instead of really trying to do everything all at once and then never finishing it. And now that I have some work up, any new work I do can be easily compared to what's there and substitutions or additions made as necessary.

I also thought at least some people might appreciate me getting at least some shots online before the prices increase on the 15th (tomorrow!). Speaking of which, I'm making some improvements to the template as long as I have to regenerate everything. Some pages have changes already as I do tests. It's little stuff - tightening things up a bit which helps folks with smaller screens, and you can click on the image to go to the next one instead of clicking on the "next" text, and if you have javascript turned on it will preload the next image which makes a big difference to how the page refresh looks when you hit next - makes it feel much faster. I'll finalize those changes today and they'll go up in a more general way tomorrow.

At some point I'll sit down and make a half dozen or so platinum prints of non-nude stuff - I've sold platinum prints and cyanotypes of Yosemite before, and it's something I should be doing more of, and this should give me a less open ended set of pictures to choose from versus just hunting through five years of stuff at random. I might do it as early as next week - I want to get my cyanotype over platinums I'm working on right now done first.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Misty May

I bought a new humidifier - some of the alt process techniques are humidity sensitive - and basically either you can get big industrial ones or smaller ones designed for sick kids which tend to be on the cute side. I don't need a huge one so mine looks like a penguin that spews fog from its beak. So I nicknamed it Misty May.

So the plan for this week is to make some cyanotype over platinum prints, photograph the various handmade prints I made last week so I can sell them online, write a little commentary for my vacation shots on my hobby site, go through old work and create some non-nude sets here (landscapes, flowers, critters) which hopefully will go pretty fast now that I've got my vacation stuff online... what else... edit Merilyn's set although I may not do that until next week. On the 15th I have to tweak my templates for the new pricing and regenerate the website and upload it, and then update the prices on all of the eBay items - hopefully I can get Turbo Lister to do that. It mostly works well for multi-editing prices but it can be a bit flaky.

I'm also spending some time in the evenings practicing drawing with my new tablet while skimming through the Olympics from the day before. Plus the usual background noise stuff - list photos on eBay, order prints, package up prints, go to the post office, etc. etc. etc.

I don't know how interesting any of that's going to be on a day to day basis, but if any of it ends up being blog-worthy I'll post about it in more detail.

Speaking of the tablet, just for the heck of it I blew up somebody's face and did one of those nice retouch jobs where you remove all the flaws but leave the texture - it takes way longer than just running a filter but looks ten times better - and it was so much faster and better than using a mouse. Not that I spend a whole lot of time doing that kind of work, but it's nice to have the option and I'm all for anything that speeds up any computer work - I'd rather be hiking.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pricing Reminder

I notice it's dropped off the first page, and there's just a couple of days left, so just a reminder that there's going to be a price adjustment on the 15th. I've noticed orders picking up the last week or so - not sure if that's just a seasonality thing or if it's folks buying cheap while they can, but in either case I think it's good to provide fair warning.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Post Shoot Notes: Merilyn

Well, I had a good day so far today. As you can see I had a shoot. I also had two pre-meets with potential models and both went nicely. One in particular should be a lot of fun.

I also got a graphics tablet today - partially it's supposed to speed up retouching - not that I do a lot, but it would be nice to have the option. But also I'd like to get back into drawing a bit and it should be interesting to try it this way.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

New Pictures: Mouse

This was kind of a fun, experimental shoot. It's not totally obvious from the set since of course a lot of the experimental stuff didn't work, but it was educational either way.

More on pre-meets

To follow up on this - I'm more and more thinking just to switch modes and require some kind of meeting with non-established models unless there's a Darn Good Reason. There's two recent things that reinforced this.

1. I had a meeting with a model who was very, very unsure of herself, to the extent that she didn't want to move more than a couple of feet from the door. We had most of our conversation across the room. Lovely woman but not exactly the strong, confident type I'm looking for. But much better to find out before committing to a shoot. (She was also 20 minutes late which is pretty much a deal breaker to me anyway - I've noticed that the gals who are that late tend to have other issues - it's part of the whole package.)

2. I broke another rule (sigh) and met a model for an outdoor shoot without meeting her first. That's a long standing one - it's awful going to some remote location and the model isn't there and she keeps calling to say yes she's late but she's a minute away (which she keeps up for 20 minutes). And then it just got weird - suffice to say the shoot never happened. I only broke the rule because it wasn't very far, and it was just a brief test of using a strobe outdoor at night, and it was a clothed shoot so less chance of her getting cold feet. Plus I had her call at the point where I would have to start getting gear together, and she did that much on time. But really, by the time you load up even minimal gear and triple check that you have everything and drive and then sit there and then drive back it's two hours of my life that I won't get back. And she was so kelpy that it would have been immediately obvious if I'd met her in person.

Again, if somebody's established enough that I can check references that's another matter. But as a matter of routine I'm going for the meetings with the new folks.

The good news is that the printmaking went really well last week (I'm going to try to make some more cyanotype over platinum prints shortly) and I'm just about done editing the set with Mouse, and I have I think two model meets and three shoots scheduled in August so hopefully something will come of that.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Behind the scenes

You might need to click the image to really see much, but here's my shooting space. It's just some paper that hangs down from a rod and goes across the floor. Generally one positions the model so that you can't see off the edge, or you use some kind of lighting where it doesn't really matter what's back there (some black backgrounds go off the edge - if no light hits the background, it's black!)

I shoot in my living room - it's a small house but a prior owner extended the living room out a bit so it actually makes a nice shooting space. Usually while it's not perfect it's no real problem to do what I want to do.

But here for some reason Mouse started doing these really "big" poses and I had to move her closer to the background. But you can see my couch off to the left and a window, and to the right there's some bookcases.

Friday, August 08, 2008


Happy 8/8/08 by the way.

So I've been going through my shoot with Mouse and there's all kinds of experimental lighting and she was basically very patient but some of the facial expressions are just classic.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Lava Beds National Monument

The last of the vacation shots - Lava Beds National Monument - on the hobby site.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Crater Lake

For those who are interested - I'm still chugging along with the vacation pictures and the Crater Lake shots are up now on my hobby site. I just have Lava Beds to do and then I'll move some of the best shots over here for sale and then start going through some earlier trips.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Prints prints prints

I'm pretty much making platinum prints and not a whole lot else this week. I can only make a small number per day so if I want to try making a bunch it just sucks up a ton of time but it worked pretty well offering more choices pre-made in cyanotype so we'll see what happens if I double or triple the number of platinum prints on eBay. You can order a handmade print of any image on the site but most people have trouble imagining what it will look like until they actually see a picture of that exact image. So I'm taking a gamble and going nuts with paper and expensive metals and time and just going for it.

I'll try to do some editing of my photo backlog as well but it's hard to really concentrate on anything when you're jumping up every five minutes to rock a tray or whatever so I end up listening to podcasts and such.

I did have some shoots scheduled this week - one we had to reschedule and the other shoot turned out to be a no-go (it's a good thing - I'll probably roll some of it into a kelp post eventually). I'm hoping to do a quick clothed outdoor night shoot Friday. Should be fun and educational. I also have a gal dropping by tomorrow who's a potential model - from the one snapshot I have she looks really great but it's not really enough to commit to a shoot. I suggest they either send more pictures or just meet me and occasionally somebody would rather just meet - I'd say I end up shooting with about half of them.

I actually should do more pre-meets, at least with models who aren't really established and don't really have a portfolio. I hate taking the time and models often don't have time either but I've been burnt on some models who looked good on paper but didn't really pan out which has made me very paranoid in general. So maybe I'll try that for the rest of the year - no shoots without pre-meets for non-established models.

I have two shoots scheduled later in August that have tremendous potential but as always these things tend not to be too predictable and I don't want to get too excited yet. Ones with a great traveling art model and one's somebody I've worked with before and like.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Disney Wedding

I had fun this weekend - went to a wedding at a Disneyland hotel and got to go to the park a bit although it was kind of a crazy driving weekend and there wasn't a whole lot of extra time. I used to work at the park so it's always weird to go back and see what's changed.

Disney does an interesting wedding - at the hotel they have a rose court garden with a gazebo that's fairly private and you can have a hose pulled carriage with footmen and trumpeters and all that bring in the bride (who was wearing a kind of princess dress with a bustle). The footmen can bring in the ring and all that. If you don't already have a church or whatever and want to make an event out of it, it seems like a fun option although you run the risk of making too light of what is fundamentally a serious undertaking. This one was well done though, and it had the Best Wedding Favor ever - Mickey Mouse hats with our names stitched into them.

My understanding is that it's possible to have a wedding in the park itself but it's a rent-the-park kind of thing - much like a corporate event. If you have to ask you can't afford it...

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Watch eBay self destruct

So since eBay implemented a change to lower listing fees but raise fees if the item sells that's led to a large increase in junk listings. Some people list crazy number of listings, often of absolutely identical items. They're just trying to get more exposure.

So eBay announced today that starting in the next week only one "identical" item per seller will be allowed. Oh, you can pay the money to list them, they just won't show up in search.

How do they determine if they're identical? By the title. So if you have 20 items with a title of "Fine art nude photograph" or "Abstract painting, see picture for details" only the first one will show up. It's actually a bit more subtle than that - if items have different numbers of bids it treats them as different, but if nobody can see them how will get get bids?

On the eBay forums lots of people in various art categories are furious and the eBay reps are mysteriously ignoring their questions because they have no answers.

They could fix this by changing the algorithm so that different picture = different item but they haven't included other obvious options like the item specifics so I think there's little chance of this, especially since you could probably just duplicate your image and use that to game the system.


Friday, August 01, 2008

New Pricing

As I've mentioned before, I didn't update my pricing for way too long and in 2008 I'm trying to at least partially fix that. Here's your fair warning of the next increase - I've settled on the date being August 15th. (No particular time - basically whenever I finish uploading the files). eBay auction prices typically start around 20% less. In particular 8x10s will be starting at $29.95 at auction which isn't much different from now.

Lab prints:
8x10 $39.95
11x14 $74.95
16x20 $149.95

Handmade prints:
Cyanotype $124.95
Platinum $199.95
Cyanotype over platinum $349.95

Remember - this is good news if you already own prints, and you have a couple of weeks to load up. Think of it as receiving stock quotes two weeks in advance.

My tentative plan is to have another general increase in early 2009 and then this should settle down to more like an annual thing.
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