Friday, November 28, 2008

New Model: Emily

I just uploaded the set with Emily.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Christmas Shopping?

Two reminders...

One's that while prints aren't always the best gifts, books are, and Jan 1st I'm retiring the two oldest ones.

The second is that if you're like me and you blow through as much as your Christmas shopping as possible on Amazon and you would like to support the site, do me a favor and go to the Support the Site link at the bottom of every page and click through to Amazon from there. I'll get a small kickback from anything you buy and it doesn't cost you anything. They actually "pay" me in store credit but I get a lot of photography related books and gear there so you're supporting the site in a pretty literal way.

Emily pictures tomorrow...

Happy Thanksgiving!

And if you're in a place that doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving you should all get together and create an equivalent. Feel free to base it on the Canadian version if you don't think the whole Indian/Pilgrim motif would work where you are.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lighting guide?

So I'm curious about something and I thought I might as well do a poll. People keep asking me how some particular lighting setup works, and I try to describe it a bit. (Often they never write back to thank me, by the way - if you ask somebody for some information for free, and they provide it, do thank them or you may find they just stop bothering).

As a result I've had it in the back of my mind for a while that it might be useful to have a little guide - maybe a 25-30 page book that would have maybe a dozen setups. Each pair of pages would be something like a picture using that light on one side, and the other side half would be a lighting diagram and the other half text about the lighting. It wouldn't be a general purpose lighting book (there are plenty of those already) but I'd try to fit in a lot of more general concepts in the text.

Cost would be something like $10 as a download, and maybe $20ish in book form (I'd do it through Lulu so it's just a question of playing with their cost calculator to get the price). I'd probably do it as a winter project and be selling it early in 2009.

Is anybody interested in actually paying money for this, or are people only interested in free advice? I'm breaking this out into photographer/non-photographer because I have some indication that non-photographers are curious about how this stuff works. I'll leave this up maybe a week or so and if there's interest perhaps I'll ask some followup questions about the details.

Update: Poll's closed. Results were interesting - as a percentage, wild support. But the total number of people responding was very, very low compared to the blog traffic. In particular "I'm not a photographer and I'm not interested" had zero votes and I'd expect that to be the largest group. I can only assume non-interested non-photographers just didn't bother to vote at all.

I think really it will come down to how busy I am around Christmas - if it seems like something I can knock out fairly quickly I might go for it, since it sounds like I might get a little cash up front and going forward if people ask me basic lighting questions I can just refer them to the guide. If it's a cheap but useful download I won't feel too bad doing that. But it sounds like it's not worth a major effort - just make it basic but useful.

Dies Irae

I don't play a ton of computer games anymore, but I like the Call of Duty series, and I went ahead and picked up the latest "World At War" version. It's gotten somewhat mixed reviews but I was impressed that they put in some Pacific Theater stuff, so what the heck.

So I'm playing along, and it's at the point in WW II where it's towards the end of the war and the Soviets are pretty much rolling along slaughtering Nazis with overwhelming force. And off in the distance this music starts playing. It starts out pretty soft - in a distant room - and I had my speakers down pretty low so I didn't pay it much attention. But as it got louder, I realize it's Mozart's Requiem. And in particular Dies Irae. For those who aren't familiar with it - it's about Judgement Day. The text translates roughly as "Day of Wrath, Day of Terror, man, you're screwed, oh so screwed, really really screwed". (I'm sure Google will supply a better translation on request).

Which, really, is just plain disturbing. I wonder how many people in their target audience know what it is? Then again, even if you don't know the words the meaning's pretty clear. Take a listen...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lensbaby Nudes

I've been meaning to play with my Lensbaby in the studio some more, but with a lot of recent shoots I've been just a bit tight on time and it hasn't really been a priority. But I took quite a few shots with Emily - the set on Friday should have quite a few Lensbaby nudes.

Click on this one to see the effect a little better.

If you don't want to wait, the last time I took more than a couple was with Mouse (I think).

If anybody's curious, the one I have is the one they're calling the "Muse" now - I'd get the "Composer" at this point which seems to provide the best balance between control and spontaneity. It's at f/8 - note that I'm using the 5D here and the effect is much, much stronger with a full frame sensor. With a crop sensor you would pretty much just get the sweet spot, so I'd open up quite a lot to get the same effect.

I really need to remember to bring it the next time I do an outdoor nude shoot - the effect on the background can be very interesting.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Post Shoot Notes: Emily

So this week's model is Emily. Her set will be up Friday. She's a fun gal - very enjoyable to shoot.

The first shot is me still playing with bare bulb stuff - here an attempt to see how it looks with a sitting model. Kind of fun with the paper sort of appearing out of nowhere - I'll have to play with that some more. In the second shot she's transitioning out of a bridge pose, but you see the laugh - I have tons of shots of Emily laughing, many of them adorable. It will be tough deciding which ones to keep!

As a side note, this was model shoot #31 for the year. Historically I've run about 30-35 annually. I keep feeling like I'm getting pickier and pickier about shoots but as an example the last craigslist ad I ran probably 25 models responded so even if I work with very few of them it pretty much adds up fast. I think moving to doing pre-shoot meetings for non-established models has helped quite a bit as well - I only had one shoot in 2008 that I was really unhappy with, and that was before the change. It's also cut down on no-show models although that's never going to drop to zero - luckily requiring a 10:00 phone call to confirm a 1:00 shoot means that it's been a long, long time since I've had to set up and tear down a studio without actually doing a shoot. It's a shame I have to have these mechanisms in place, but they do work pretty well.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Pictures: Finch

One day earlier than promised, even.

So there's something I need to explain - there's actually two versions of this set. One less retouched, and one more retouched. I suspect that most people are going to like the more retouched one more in this case, but we'll see.

Other news... I took a couple more large format shots and developed them. The whole film loading/unloading/developing thing's going pretty smoothly but it's clear that my ancient free holders have some issues so I'm going to go ahead and get some new (or possibly just less used) ones. So I'll hold off on any more large format stuff until I get that resolved, but I think I can go to taking and developing four shots at a time next time. (It's partially a confidence thing - if I really screw something up I don't want to waste a lot of film. It also has to do with physically spacing them in the developing tank and how nicely I can do that.) I also realized that Freestyle has Arista film in 4x5. It's kind of a student film - really cheap but decent quality. I like it because it develops nicely in Rodinal. Anyway, I'll pick some of that up so it will be more like 50 cents per shot versus the dollar per shot film I'm using now.

Other than that, lots of stuff going on but nothing I want to announce quite yet...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More Finch

Just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


8GB Sandisk Extreme III cards are down to $49 each (it might say more below, but if you click on it you'll get a better price for some reason, or at least right now that's the case.) I remember summer of 2005 when I was in the Galapagos Islands 4GB cards were $400 each, so $800 for 8GB. So you get a faster card for 1/16 the price in three years time. Amazing.

(I know people who won't buy cards that big because they're afraid they'll lose too much if one fails - hint: you don't have to fill them up all the way before swapping cards, and that way you have the extra space if you really need it.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Post Shoot Notes: Finch

I shot Finch twice, both times in early 2006. The first set was in very early 2006 and only a couple of days after I received some heartbreaking news. It was kind of an odd shoot as you might imagine. The second set was about a month later and for various reasons I didn't get a chance to shoot her again.

There's quite a few models I worked with in 2005-2006 that I'd love to shoot again with everything I've learned since them. But many have moved, or don't model anymore, or don't look the same. I've been hoping to work with Finch again for a long time and we were finally able to make it happen. She's always been very popular - it will be interesting to see what folks think of our latest work. Come back Friday to see it...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New postal rates

January 18th the USPS rates go up for packages. Rates for letters go up in May 2009 if I understand this correctly. It's not much different from now for the flat rate envelopes so by the time you're done adding in other mailing expenses (packing material, the label, etc. etc.) it's still a bit north of $6 but not high enough to make it worth rounding to $7. It's usually the international prices that I really have to keep an eye on - those look like they're going up a bit more so I may have to adjust for that a bit. It's always kind of complicated - as an example the tubs for 16x20s are a couple of bucks each and you have to factor that in somewhere.

As it happens I was going to do my next print price increase a couple of weeks after that so most likely I'll hold off to do any shipping adjustments at the same time. I'll still have free shipping at some cutoff based on the amount I'm saving on eBay fees to encourage folks to buy direct so for folks who buy in larger batches it's really of no consequence.

In other news - I mentioned large format the other day. I was able to load up a film holder with a shot, go across the street, take a picture of the house, get it into a tank, develop it... and everything came out OK. The next step is to do some more test shots to test the three holders I have and see if they're all OK. They were free and they're obviously kind of old so I don't want to do anything critical with them just yet. It's also clearly going to be a bit tricky to load the tank up with six shots at a time (the most it can handle) so I'll probably do two shots next time, then four, then six... kind of work up to it. It's kind of a backburner project so it might take a while but just getting a good 4x5 inch negative out is pretty fun.

The picture of Laura Lee is just to perk things up a bit.

Friday, November 14, 2008

New Model: Susie

As promised, the new set with Susie is up.

If you didn't catch me mentioning it the other day - for at least the next little while the pattern is going to be that Monday I'll have the post shoot notes for a shoot, and the shoot will go up on Friday. And Monday I have a great surprise - somebody I shot almost three years ago is back in town and she dropped by the studio...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Photographer Plug: Eric Daoust

I've been meaning to mention Eric for a while, hoping he would get his prints up for sale first, but I'm tired of waiting. ;-) He's a photographer up in Montreal and a talented guy. You can check out his website but you also should more importantly check out his deviantart account where he posts his most recent stuff and is very generous with his time to people asking questions. He does great work and somehow keeps finding these amazing Quebec models. I'm a fan, so perhaps you will be too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Silver Fiber prints up for auction

I really don't want to be carrying an inventory of these (things are complicated enough as it is without adding another type of print into the mix) so I've moved my two silver fiber prints I have on hand into auction on eBay. It takes two weeks to get these back from the custom lab, and I'm about to bump up prices on these, so if you want to check one out cheap and fast now's your chance. They're lovely prints - it took the lab a couple of tries to get them how I like them but they look great, they're more archival than regular photographs, and in terms of collectability I would expect the high end prints to outperform the regular lab prints. Yes, they're a little more expensive in relative terms, but my art's very affordable so in a larger context they're quite inexpensive.

Which reminds me... it does look like I'll be moving soon, and doing some remodeling before that. I'm not sure yet of all of the details but as an example I'm not sure how easy it's going to be for me to make things like platinum prints on demand. I may have to temporarily remove that as an option, and just make some I like when I get a chance. I may just bump up the prices to the next notch a bit earlier than planned to account for the hassle factor. I'm not sure yet if it will even be an issue at all though.

There also may be a lull in shooting at some point as the studio moves location... but maybe not, because I can always shoot outdoors and the studio's not too hard to move all at once once I put in a suitable floor and more power. It should be an improvement over what I'm doing now which is setting up and tearing down everything for every shoot - instead I'll be able to just have a permanent shooting space. It should make shorter shoots, like portrait shoots, easier.

This isn't going to happen immediately, it's just a bit of a heads up. And I'll try to give some kind of warning before any kind of major change, but if you've been thinking about getting a platinum print or cyanotype you might want to do that sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

What I said yesterday, except the first and last lines.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Happy Birthday!

233 years old and still going strong.

I think being in the business I'm in that I'm maybe a little more aware of how our freedoms compare to other countries. Not in kind of a hypothetical way, but in a very kind of day to day basis.

I ship maybe a third of my prints out of the country. Some places they're totally illegal and I can't ship model pictures there. They don't care that they're art - it's not a factor at all. Many of them don't even care about the triggers that we use as to if it's nudity - are there nipples showing? Butt crack? Genitals? Those aren't the questions there - the questions are more along the lines of "Is there skin showing?".

But it's more than the obvious. Many countries that have something they call freedom of speech don't have some kind of blunt legal protection like "Congress shall make no law [...] abridging the freedom of speech". Or if they do it doesn't necessarily extend to the border. So there are countries - quite civilized, nice countries - where it's legal to produce nude art, but if a customs official decides they don't want it in the country, it's totally legal for them to confiscate it or send it back. And their supreme courts have upheld this. So every time I send a print to certain countries there's a bit of a random aspect - if my package gets opened, will some bored clerk let it through?

There's lots of folks to credit for the freedoms and protection from those who would do us harm in the night that we take for granted nearly every day, and I don't want to take away from any of those folks. But at the same time, it's their birthday, so specifically... thank you to the US Marine Corps.

Behind the Scenes: Susie

Before I get started with this - it's become clear that I'm going to end up with at least a small shoot backlog and edit later and I think it just gets confusing on the blog when I have a bunch of shoots "coming soon". So I'm going to postdate my "Post Shoot Notes" (blogger lets you do that) for the next free Monday, with the idea that the edited set will be uploaded Friday. I may skip some weeks depending on how many sets I have available, but basically that's going to be the pattern until the end of the year - you can check in Monday, and if there's a new post shoot notes you can expect her set up Friday. If not and you don't like my ramblings, you can skip that week (you'll also find feed icons and a twitter link over in the sidebar if you use those).

Anyway, this will serve as this Monday's entry, so expect Susie's pictures on Friday.

Look at the "before" picture - that's the one with the lights in the frame. This is something you would usually avoid but I just wanted to try this setup with some striplights (which are basically elongated softboxes). It's not too awful here because the grids keep the light more or less straight ahead, and the lights aren't pointing directly at the camera. The one on the left is basically at a 45 degree angle behind her, and the one on the right is pointing right across the frame. In the center of the lit area the backlight's twice as bright as the one on the side.

But what you see here is "model drift". The light's really set up for a fairly small area right in the middle. She's supposed to be making fairly compact poses (staying in the circle of light). But maybe I haven't made it clear or whatever, and she does some cool big pose where she's moved her body to the right (too close to the one light, which is why it's so bright) and extending her leg way out. Well, I can adjust the lights to let her do these kinds of poses, but in the meantime it looks cool, so normally in this situation I would try to salvage something just in case. In this case I decided to zoom out and hit the button even though the lights would be in the frame.

The second shot is simply cropped to 8x10 aspect ratio (which drops out the light on the right) and then with this kind of background you can just grab a big ol' black brush and erase the evidence. Even a purist shouldn't flinch too much at this use of Photoshop because with an enlarger you can always lighten or darken different areas and blacking out one part of the image is easy enough.

And hey, the result's pretty nice.

Would I recommend being that sloppy on a regular basis? No, of course not. But I thought folks might like seeing what a lighting setup looks like and how luck works sometimes.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Old pictures

There's a longer version of this story but I don't think it's interesting so I'll keep it to the main point... somebody sent me a picture asking to model for me... and I just coincidentally was looking at some old mail and it turns out that they'd sent the same picture in October, 2003. I wonder how old the picture actually is. I don't think it was current even then.

(I'm getting happier and happier about the fact that I'm increasingly meeting models before committing to a shoot).

Friday, November 07, 2008

New Pictures: Maria

I just uploaded the new set with Maria. This set was partially an exercise in using some different lighting modifiers, and partially we just wanted to do some fun dress-up stuff. I ended up putting the whole thing in the nudes section because she's not very dressed up, but it's still kind of a nice change of pace. The nudes in particular probably look similar to ones I've done in the past with Maria - sometimes when I use different modifiers the difference is subtle - it might just be a bit "stronger" or a bit more "feminine" in the final print, and sometimes it's useful to go through these exercises with an experienced model I'm comfortable with so I can see exactly what the difference is and it just gives me more tools for later.

This particular image is kind of funny - I'm not sure I'll keep it forever but I wanted to share it. You may need to click on it to see what's going on. See the blown out area around her knees? That's where the light is - the light's actually pointing away from the camera, but with a bare bulb so light's going all kinds of directions, shooting between her legs, and then going through the various lens elements and you end up with that kind of effect. Kind of fun.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


I just want to make a quick exception to my no politics rule - Lou Filipovich lost. For state assembly (he realized the Republicans don't run anybody for that seat and so he's been winning in the primary elections), and also failed to get on the school board, and he also lost running for the Oro Loma Sanitary District Board.

That's pretty typical for Lou, for any election - run for about three seats, lose them all.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Miette film is up

The film shots of Miette are up, mixed in with the digital ones.

Some scheduling notes

So I'll probably get the pictures of Maria (pictured here) up around Thursday/Friday. Hopefully later today I should have some film pictures of Miette processed and added to her set - I'll make a post on that when it happens.

My shoot plans for the end of the year are still coming together but there's a couple of things tentatively scheduled that should be a lot of fun. We'll see exactly how it plays out.

I also ordered the stuff to develop large format black and white negatives. This is rather impractical for a variety of reasons, but it's something I've been meaning to dabble in (I have an old 4x5 press camera) and they've been discontinuing various related products and I've come to the conclusion that if I'm going to do it, now's the time. I'm not sure how much model photography I'll do with it ("I have to hold this pose while you do what?") but it's fun to take it to the local college and shoot some cool buildings and chat with folks who have probably never even seen a large format camera before. That kind of thing really helps keep photography fresh for me. I think the discipline of shooting a camera where every frame is very slow and expensive is also worthwhile - shooting medium format made me a better digital photographer, oddly enough.

Then again maybe I'll chuck the thing out the window and it will give me great appreciation for more modern methods and that's OK too!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Post Shoot Notes: Susie

I actually took this yesterday, but this gives me an excuse to post a picture of a flag on election day, especially since it's too wet to actually fly one.

If anybody's wondering, she got it while she was in the Army.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Bad sign

Person A: I can meet on that day late morning or early afternoon.
Person B: I can do late morning. How about 1:00?
Person A (to self): 1:00 is late morning?

PS She slept in and missed our meeting anyway.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


I ran into this on Amazon and had to share. Some of the reviews are hilarious.

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