Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hail

OK, its not the car-destroying stuff they get in Texas but still pretty impressive. I'll have some better pictures when I get home (I'm in Santa Fe) but this cell phone picture will have to do for the moment. There was tons of it this size - I just grabbed a handful and picked out a couple thinking it would be easier to see individual pieces that way.

Peoples flowers were absolutely shredded but I didn't see any cracked windshields or other serious property damage.

Monday, July 27, 2009

New Model: Katherine

Whew, I got the pictures of Katherine up before I headed out of town for a couple of days. (Speaking of which, feel free to order but I may not respond until Monday).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lazy

Making the models light themselves again... (that's a battery powered strobe with a grid attached to the front with Velcro.) That's Katherine - I'm hoping to have her set done in the next couple of days but no promises.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Triple Kelp

Brings to mind a product name - "Triple Flake Medicated Powder".

I've had a bunch of great shoots in a row but we return once again to the kelpy model stories.

1. Call 10 minutes before the shoot saying she'll be late. And it sounds like it will be at least an hour, maybe more, and I can't do it that late (I was fitting her in an already crowded schedule). Shame too - I'd set up the studio, cut up some gels - I have a couple of ideas of things I'd like to do with gels. Fresh roll of background paper too.

2. So I sat down and started reviewing my upcoming shoots to see where I could move the things I was going to try with model #1 and I realized that given the model's detailed itinerary (traveling model) she was going to be in Los Angeles on our shoot date, not San Francisco (about 400 miles away). I checked in and sure enough we won't be able to shoot - somehow she got her dates mixed up initially and then after that apparently thought I must be in Los Angeles since that's when I was scheduled. At least I caught it now instead of then.

3. I have a photographer (yes, a photographer kelp story) who has owed me a print for over a month. Keeps saying she'll send it, has it in hand, will head to the post office right now. Nothing. And then you wonder why people are reluctant to buy things direct from artists over the Internet. Given how much I rely on repeat customers and referrals I just can't imagine screwing somebody over like that but it seems to happen all too often.

On the plus side I've had enough great shoots that I have plenty of material to edit, and I had a great pre-meet with a model who I'll hopefully be shooting fairly soon. She's your classic first timer - 18, never really thought of herself as a model but ran into the site somehow and likes my work and wants to get involved.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Print options?

As regulars know I like to experiment and see if different kinds of prints sell, but I don't like listing every possibility just because it gets hard to choose and there's no reason you should have to become an expert on a zillion choices to buy a print.

So one possibility is to make metallic prints a regular thing, or list them on eBay. Metallic prints are on this paper Kodak makes that's a bit hard to describe (which is no fun if you're selling online). But it really does look metallic - it's kind of reflective, almost like a super glossy paper but where glossy paper just reflects back glare this really has a nice effect. It looks really good for black and whites, and in an image with strong color like a blue sky or flowers they just pop. It looks OK for more subtle color images but isn't anything special. The problem is that the lab has a minimum order and if I let people buy them of any image I'll have to buy some random extra prints and then store them and sell them on eBay. (That's one of the nice things about eBay - it lets me do something useful with prints I bought to fill out an order). Point being I haven't included those as a regular shopping cart option because 1. It's a bit of a hassle, 2. I have to explain (poorly) what it is, and 3. it probably doesn't work with every color image. The cost of this would be the same as a regular lab print.

Another involves gallery wraps. This is something that used to be a really high end option and it's become a lot more mainstream. Basically the image is printed on some suitable (often canvas but it's possible to do it with a regular photograph) and then pulled around a frame. They're pricier up front but you don't have to pay to get them framed so if you intend to hang it right away it kind of works out. There's also a very cool looking variation called a float wrap which is the same idea but the way the mounting work it hangs out in space a bit. Very cool. (Update: except for the fact that they didn't seem to consider how they attach to the wall. I can think of two ways to make it work with additional hardware but can't expect a customer to be happy receiving one of these. Double update: I asked their customer service and they intended a third way that's guaranteed not to hold during an earthquake or anybody lightly brushing against it.) Obviously you have to think a bit about the edges - is there enough blank space or something relatively unimportant to end up on the edge. So again, it might not make a great storefront option for every image, but it's a cool custom order option. The cost might be something like three times what it would cost for a regular print, but again you wouldn't have to get it framed.

The third involves small prints. Usually people want small prints as a money saving thing (they're hoping they'll be cheaper) but given the time involved to order a print, sign it, package it, run to the post office, etc. etc. and the fixed costs like shipping and packaging it's not like you would save enough on a 5x7 to make it worthwhile. But I'll do them as a custom order sometimes for people who are interested because they have a wall with other 5x7s and they want them framed the same way or whatever.

There's a special case though which is ACEOs. These are little "art cards" - same size as a baseball card. They're fun to collect. I have some ACEO watercolors. They don't take up much space and you can use regular baseball card holders to protect them. I'll make them of alternative process prints sometimes. I'm sort of tempted to offer ACEOs as a regular print option but the logistics are tricky. I'd have to charge shipping, and you order those as a wallet sized print so you get eight at a time. It might make sense to maybe make a set of 12 different ACEOs and make a little edition of eight and see if they sell. Cost? I guess it would depend on interest...

Another variation on this theme is to offer 4x5s. 4x5s are tricky because to get the best price and meet the minimum order you have to order a ton of them. But they actually look pretty cool (I have thank you cards which are 4x6 prints with a 4x5 image and the last inch used for text.). I'd probably do something like offer them unsigned, or maybe sign one of them, but you would get a whole set at a time. That would actually be pretty cool - get a nice stack of 4x5s with a whole set. I'm not sure about cost but it might be a dollar or two per 4x5.

Anyway, I'm always mulling over this kind of stuff. If anybody wants something, send me an email and I'll quote you a price.

Monday, July 20, 2009

This 'n' that

You might want to click on that to see it larger...

I'm editing shoots as I can while I look after the baby. It's slow going but it's the kind of job you can do in bits and pieces depending on her mood. I have three shoots to edit and at least three scheduled although some of them are scheduled pretty far out. So I should be OK for material for a while.

In other news...

I saw the new Harry Potter film. Thank God for grandparents/babysitters. Liked it, but it could have used a bit more Luna. She's the only comic relief and I like the actress as well as the character - she does a really nice job with the part. There was one moment early on where the special effects sucked which is kind of weird. With their budget everything should have been to the modern standard which is that you don't even notice most of it. It's just that the world works that way...

Still loving the new MacBook (the 15"). I guess some people have had some problems with the 7200 rpm drives but I've been fine so far (knock on aluminum). I'm definitely going to either have to make sure I can do everything I need to do with Mac software or start looking into the various solutions to run Windows so I can replace my desktop machine in a year or two. (Hopefully two!)

I've had people asking if I was going to get a 5D Mark II since when it first came out I was thinking about it and I blogged about it a little. And the answer for now is no, I don't think it makes sense. There are some cool things about it, but it was clearly a rush job (not upgrading the autofocus from the 3 year old 5D is a hint, the fact that Canon added features to the video capabilities after ship via a firmware upgrade is another. Canon almost never adds features in firmware, unlike Nikon.) And especially with print sales and portrait work down due to the economy it's not really the time to be making large capital investments. I'd hate to be that guy bragging about his new $2700 camera one month and moaning that he can't afford models the next. If God Forbid I have a camera fail I'll revisit the issue (which is what happened with the laptop - my cheap ass Dell finally had one too many problems to deal with) but the hope is definitely to either make it to the next model (anything full-frame in that body size - I don't like the big clunky 1D bodies) or until the price drops a bit. I have a 5D and 40D that are from early 2008 I believe so they're not super old or anything.

I'm going to APIS for those of you who know what that means.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In the field

I spent a little time out in the woods with a new model. She'd never posed nude, let alone outdoors so we spent a little time in the studio and went over poses and then went for a short hike in a nearby park. This is one example - I purposefully put her in some weird lighting scenarios and then added the flash to fix things, and also did some with the flash power up really high so they look more in-studio.

This is one of those first ones. It's not obvious unless you know what to look for, but the background area (blue sky, some green in the background) is well lit, and the foreground is actually a quite dark, shaded area... except for the splotches of light you see against the trees and the ground. You can get some idea of just how shaded it is by the shadow she casts on the tree behind her. That kind of dappled lighting is bad enough and you add in the background and it's an exposure nightmare. There are a variety of tricks to get around this (HDR, cranking up the "fill light" slider in Photoshop and hoping there's enough actual data down in the weeds to look OK) but just adding some light in the first place looks pretty good as long as it's balanced properly and it provides some nice highlights on the model's skin. Given that all of the areas with decent light also had amazingly healthy poison oak plants maybe working in the shade isn't so bad!

It went well. Setup/teardown is slower than I'd like - I'm going to have to think a bit about how to deal with uneven terrain a bit better. But I can put a one light setup in my hydration pack and just take it on regular outdoor shoots and if I need some extra light it's there and if not, eh, it's not that heavy.

I now have three sets to edit and another shoot coming up soon (studio only). So I'll probably focus on that for a bit and then try using these little flashes in a more urban environment. That will involve some scouting and planning but I have a couple of models who have said they're interested in a quick nude night shoot in say, downtown Berkeley...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Gels!



The next step in my little laundry list of things I think the little battery powered lights might be useful for outdoors is adding a bit of accent color, especially at night. The way you do this is to put some colored plastic over the flash. I have quite a few colors but just cut up some red and blue to size and tried different combinations. Here it is as an accent color, and in the other shot I'm actually using both at once as the main lights. You might want to click on that second one to see it larger - Blogger does a horrible job of resizing pictures with strong colors like that.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Model: Keira Grant


I just uploaded nude shoot #18 for the year - Keira Grant. This one's a mix of regular studio lights and the little battery operated flashes (off camera on light stands, etc). I repeated that pattern last shoot. If all goes as scheduled I'll have another mixed studio shoot tomorrow, and then the shoot after that I will hopefully be doing some outdoor nude work with the little flashes - just simple stuff to start, but I do like to build systematically, and eventually I'd like to do some flash-lit urban nudes in the evening...

Cheap Potter

You can get all five Harry Potter movies for cheap today, same price for Blu-Ray or DVD. Such a deal. I'm not sure when I'm going to get to see the new one - I've managed to go to the occasional movie this summer (Up, Star Trek) but coordinating things with a three month old is a bit trickier.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy 14th of July!

I was at a French bakery in Healdsburg today (a small town in Sonoma county) and hadn't really considered that it's Bastille Day. Whenever I'm in the area I get lunch there and pick up some goodies for home. I had no idea there would be decorations, an extra-French menu, and can-can dancers. Alas, I couldn't stay for the stationary bike race (in honor of the Tour de France). Maybe next year.

They also had Clo the cow. I'm not even going to TRY to explain Clo other to mention it's a local brand of milk who advertises mostly via billboards with terrible puns. Wonderful milk, by the way.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Post Shoot Notes: Katherine


I did a rare weekend shoot today. In a fit of laziness I'm not even scanning the thumbnails for nice ones - the first one's literally the first frame of the shoot, and the second one's just one we liked as we were shooting and I jotted down the number.

These are both with the regular studio lights. I also spent a good amount of time with the little battery powered units I've been playing with and they continue to impress, although I had a couple of things that didn't immediately work and I had to play with them a bit.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Water

Just having some fun. I get this urge to shoot water droplets around once a year. It's easier for me now than it was - I have a picnic table in the back yard that the prior residents left behind and I have some fancy new gear... like, um, a big black tub to mix concrete in... pretty exotic, huh?

Oh - the background's exotic. Well, OK, it's a beach towel. Oh - but I bought it in Hawaii. Well, OK, at Costco...

(The towel's behind the tub, draped over a cardboard box. The flash is pointing at the towel to bounce colorful light back towards the camera. The drips are from a bag with a hole in it held over the tub with a boom.)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

That's a new one

I've included a picture of Keira just to brighten up the place - she has nothing to do with this post.

Anyway, the story: I had a traveling model cancel her whole trip because she's afraid of flying and she couldn't quite make herself do it. There was plenty of warning, so no harm done and I wish her well, but that's definitely one I hadn't heard before.

On the plus side I had a nice pre-meet just after Keira's shoot (Hey, Keira did end up in the post after all!) and hopefully I'll get her scheduled soon, and while I was purging out some old sets I was looking at some work from, oh, 9 months ago or thereabouts and thought to myself why hadn't I worked with this particular model again? No good reason - so I wrote to her and hopefully we'll shoot in August.

So basically the moral is you lose some, you win some. I also still have two other shoots scheduled in about a week so I should be in pretty good shape for the next little while, and then in the fall I can revisit some things that will be easier when it gets dark earlier (fire performers, light painting, etc).

Monday, July 06, 2009

Post Shoot Notes/Behind the Scenes: Keira Grant



I had a nice shoot today with Keira Grant. We did roughly 2/3 with the regular studio lights, and 1/3 continuing my practice with little battery powered flashes. For those who read my earlier notes on these lights - I did end up getting a second little softbox and a second grid and just did some two light setups with those.

I remembered to take a couple of shots where you can see the background which people might find interesting. The first shot is straight out of the camera, just extracted and resized. I didn't even crop it. The second shot has three changes. I went to a wide angle, I changed the time on the camera from 1/200 of a second to 1/40 of a second to let the ambient light in the room fill things in a bit, and in Photoshop I ended up tweaking things even a bit further to open up the shadows so you can see the room a bit - it was still kind of dark.

You can just see the flash units up high on the top edge of the frame. On the right it's on the tall silver light stand (I just used my regular stands for this). The shorter black stand behind it isn't turned on. And on the left side you can see another tall black stand with the second light. It's kind of half cut off but if you look for the legs it's just like the one on the right, except black. (Three of my four c-stands are black - I bought a silver one at some point because they were out of black. Black's a bit nicer because they don't reflect light.)

In the first shot the background's totally black because no light's hitting it. So it really doesn't matter what crap's back there. This is part of the appeal - with this little battery system I have a very lightweight, compact system that I can take anywhere, and I could reproduce this kind of shot in any room with a nice looking floor - pretty much any home with hardwood floors in the living room you would maybe just have to move a coffee table or something and I could do at least a little bit of studio-style work. Fun, and useful for portrait work.

I'll probably do two more shoots where I take the same basic approach - spend 1/3 of a studio shoot using them like regular studio lights so I can learn their quirks in a controlled environment - and then I'll start bringing one on outdoor shoots and see what I can do outdoors with another light in addition to the sun...

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

Not much more than half my readers are in the US, but if the rest of you want to go BBQ some meat and blow some shit up as well feel free to join the party. Even the North Koreans appear to be celebrating. Just don't get carried away, 'k?

It'll be interesting to see what it sounds like this year. I'm further from the Oakland border and all of the wildly illegal explosives, rockets going into the air, etc. etc. always came from the direction of Oakland. Not to mention people firing guns into the air which is a level of stupid I have trouble comprehending (there's a bunch of good ranges in the area - if you want to shoot some guns on the 4th safely it's really not a problem). So hopefully we won't have quite the same war zone effect.

(re: the ready availability of illegal stuff - I should perhaps explain that in CA while the firework laws vary by city there's a state wide ban on things that blow up or go into the air. Some of this has to do with some bad fires back in the day, some is just nanny stateism. But Reno's something like a two hour drive, and pretty much everything's legal in Nevada, and you can rent a U-Haul easily enough... and since the "safe and sane" stuff's illegal in a lot of cities if you're going to break the law you might as well get something dangerous and stupid, right? The more they restrict the basic stuff, the more you see the big stuff... Oh, and there's a wonderful year round fireworks shop at exit 231, Battle Mountain on the 80 which is pretty much the road you'll be on if you're heading east from here. So the chance of your average Californian having the remains of a brick of firecrackers in the back of the closet somewhere is actually pretty high.)


Friday, July 03, 2009

Hard Drives

I keep getting asked what kind of hard drives I use. The thing is, all the brand-name drives are quite good but not perfect. You can find people with failures from any of them. I just ordered my ninth 1TB external drive (I also have three internal 500GB internals, two on a RAID, one's periodically sync'd) and a little portable drive I use just after shoots to get an initial copy. They're mostly Western Digital, and I haven't had any failures with that brand, but I know other people who have. Personally I make three copies of everything, scatter them around the bay area, and I have a fourth copy of all of my RAW files for recent shoots (maybe a year back) on the small drive.

Anyway, I'm buying these right now: Western Digital Elements 1 TB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive WDE1UBK10000N (Black)

And the little portable drive is: Western Digital My Passport Essential 500 GB USB 2.0 Portable Hard Drive WDME5000TN (Midnight Black) - interestingly about the same price, just holds half as much and is itsy bitsy.

Note that for my purposes they don't have to be fast, just cheap and reasonably reliable so a USB-only drive is fine. For editing I'd get something fancier, but that's what the internal RAID is for.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

This 'n' that

I have four nude studio shoots scheduled in the next couple of weeks, all with experienced art models. Some were set up ages ago and I just sent notes to reconfirm with most of them just to check in - it's that point in the summer to start making a shoot wish-list and see if I can make them happen. Oddly enough I think I have a better idea of what I want to do when it starts getting dark earlier but I also don't want to look back and realize I didn't do enough outdoor work or whatever.

In the meantime I've been working on other things - the baby takes up a lot of time (duh) and I've been trying to catch up on some stuff around the house, although I've also been in a purging mood and I've been doing some work on the site - going through older sets and tightening them up a bit, and I'll probably be removing another few sets from the archive section shortly. A lot of it's 3-4 years old at this point.

If the weather cooperates I'll do some more KAP work but but the weather's been kind of wacky. We had a few very still, very hot days where everybody just gets cranky because nobody here has any real tolerance for heat. That seems to have passed but the weather seems a bit unsettled and if I'm going to be flying cameras around with fairly minimal experience I want to feel like I know what's going on...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

New Pictures: Maria


And to wrap my little series up, here's the full set with Maria. (Nude shoot 17 for the year).


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