Sunday, August 30, 2009

LA Fires

I'm originally from Los Angeles and most of the family's still down there. And once again it's wildfire season and it's time to roll the dice and see which relatives are being evacuated or close to it... and sure enough, I have relatives near the Station Fire. And one thing that's new this time is Facebook - the high school aged kids are of course all comparing notes and pictures and leaving comments on each others walls about the fire progression and if they're packed for evacuation or not. I can just see a bit of it of course since it's not like I'm friending random high school students but they've all cross-friended each other and it's just one mass ball of communication.

You would think a lot of it would be happening on Twitter but my understanding is it never really caught on with the younger crowd. Still, the old folks (anybody over 25) seem to be using #Station. Interesting stuff - little stuff like the newspaper delivery people delivered to the evacuated area. Now that's service.

Update: Seems like my relatives lucked out - things are mostly burnt out in their area but it's pushed north and east. Two firefighters dead, 85,000 acres and 18 homes burnt, Mt Wilson's not looking good. Mt. Wilson not only has all of the antennas for all TV and radio in LA but a very cool observatory that has both historic scopes and ongoing multimillion dollar science projects. I've been up there - I'm not sure how handy the photos are but I know I took at least some. I was reading about crews clearing brush from the area - I wonder why that wasn't done regularly. Fires happen in the LA mountains all the time and that area was probably very overgrown. You would think LA would have a goat rental place similar to what we have here. It's not like you can do the whole forest but you would think if they cleared out the low stuff some reasonable distance from the towers and observatory that would have been a big help...

Saturday, August 29, 2009


As I mentioned a week or so ago we went to a bunch of museums, but still had the Avedon exhibit at SFMOMA. Well, we managed it - managed to keep the baby from eating some art once again. I was really impressed - huge, massive prints and just stunning. With a lot of photography it really helps to see an actual print instead of the usual crappy web-sized or book reproductions. It's like the first time you see The Birth of Venus and realize that it's this huge painting and you've never really seen it before. Sure, you'll get the broad compositional stuff in a smaller version, but it's not really the same experience.

It's also fun to see people who have shot digital wonder how you can have a four foot tall print with perfect detail. None of this "Oh, with larger sizes the viewing distance increases so it's OK that you don't actually have full resolution." That's kind of true, but if you look at the way people look at photographs in a museum they pretty much get as close as they're allowed - often closer to the print than the height of the print. (Avedon shot with a large format camera, so you can do remarkable things with them.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lindsay pictures up

They're up!

Lindsay's one of those models where I shot her in her glasses a lot. It's usually a sign that I'm in more of a portrait mood and I think the glasses are really part of their look. Sometimes it's just a sign that their vision's really terrible and they're pulling them on and off all the time - I know I've had a few pictures, especially outdoors, where the model forgot to take them off and it took me a frame or two to notice and in editing I decided I liked the shot with glasses.

That's nude shoot #22 for the year. Somehow I ended up with a bunch of shoots scheduled for September although one of them already got cancelled - she apparently got a higher paying gig from somebody else and took it instead. At least I found out earlier rather than later...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lindsay Reminder

There's slow but steady growth in my Facebook fan numbers. Just a reminder: the link to the Lindsay shots are up there now at a hefty discount and sometime tomorrow I'll be switching to the non-discount template and posting the link everywhere else. Probably during the little one's morning nap, and she's not entirely cooperative about timing so I'll just leave the exact time vague.

Yes, you can just click through and see the link without officially becoming a fan - part of the point is that it's a public page - but then you won't automatically know about the next one, will you?

(if the little widget doesn't appear below the link's over in the sidebar)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Model Blogs

I've been bad about keeping the model/photographer blogs section updated in the sidebar, mostly because they keep vanishing. It's amazing how many people do a blog for one trip or whatever and then just delete the whole thing.

Anyway, I just added in the Brooke Lynne blog. She's a great model (if you haven't seen it, check out the work we did together) and in any case it's interesting stuff.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Little Updates

The next couple of weeks I'm going to be adjusting to a new schedule, and I think everything's going to work out nicely, but in the short term probably not so much.

In any case, expect Lindsay's set on Friday (the 28th), plus or minus a day. To see it first, fan me on my new Facebook page.

I have three shoots scheduled in September with experienced traveling models (meaning, they should show up, but you never know). I have a couple of local models of various levels of experience that I'm talking to about shooting but nothing really solid. But even with some failures there should be a pretty decent flow of new work. It's going to be a mix of studio and outdoors. And then I'm thinking in October it's going to make sense to do some night shoots primarily so I can do at least some light painting in-studio and for outdoors I need to track down some fire performers.

I've been progressing slowly with some large format stuff, but I just haven't had the time to really focus on it. I did order a big scanner that can handle up to 8x10 negatives so I feel kind of comitted - those suckers aren't cheap.

I want to do more kite aerial photography but it's been smoggy/smoky so that got pushed back a bit.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Facebook Page

It turns out it's making more sense to have both my regular Facebook account and a Facebook page. They're pretty similar but the benefits to my mind are that it's public, and people can check it out before fanning it (not that there's much there now), I can feel free to post baby and domestic stuff to the personal account and nude women to the public page, and people don't have to be mutual friends to be a fan - which means more privacy for the customer, since I don't get access to all of your stuff.

Makes sense, huh?

It's basically just a stub as I write this, but if you want to sign up for it now's a good time, since I'm likely to post the link to Lindsay's shoot there first and at a good discount. Plus as I write this I'm the only fan which is just embarrassing so you'll make me happy!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Twitter Change

I updated my username to be my actual name -

If you're a follower it should just figure it out, but if there are any broken links somewhere my apologies.

Speaking of broken links, I just fiddled with the templates for the image pages so if I broke something feel free to comment. It's nothing major - I just made some little changes based on feedback. As a side effect the "Buy the Whole Set" option now appears for every set (or should). It's still an experiment and subject to removal. If nothing else it looks pretty clunky at the bottom of the page like and if I decide to keep it I'll have to fiddle with it.

It turns out there's over 6,000 pictures on the website, by the way. I've been pretty aggressive about retiring older material or it would be more like 10,000. I think the next step is to stop doing whole-set purging and take a pass through all the sets and just be really picky in letting images stay. That's one of these jobs that will get done gradually as I have a few minutes here and there but if there's something you've been meaning to get, get it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Art Art Art

In May and June I commented on my progress making my way through the various big summer exhibits at various local museums. Partially because of a last minute shoot cancellation I ended up with a hole in my schedule and I went to see Lords of the Samurai and Tut. Both are very cool. We happen to be members at both the Asian Art Museum and the de Young because they both have really cheap memberships for educators. So the Samurai were free but Tut was just slightly discounted.

Both were very cool. You want to go to the Samurai exhibit early in the morning to avoid crowds. Tut I don't think there's much you can do - we got there close to opening and was able to get a timed entry ticket for the current time but they seem to be letting people in based on fire codes/safety and not based on actually being able to see everything. And given their layout where there wasn't a clear order to see things within a room and everybody kept blocking each other trying to get to different things it was basically gridlock. Cool exhibit but I think they might actually get people through faster if they slowed things down a bit further at entry just a little bit so people wouldn't be in each others way quite so much.

As always, if you have a baby a sling is pretty much a must for this kind of thing. Even if they were allowed in (and I'm not sure that they were) there's no way to navigate a crowd like that with a stroller and carrying a wiggly baby for that long gets old fast. We saw one lucky guy whose baby was actually asleep in the sling but ours likes to look around and check people out. They also have some cool photography right now (they usually do) but it's not in the usual place - ask a guard or docent or somebody because they didn't bother to print new map-brochures.

I should also hit SFMOMA again to check out the Richard Avedon exhibit but I have until the end of November.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I don't know why, but for some reason 11x14 sales have been much stronger than 8x10 sales the last couple of months. I have some theories but no real proof as to why. But since I'm seeing if things have perked up at all on eBay (short answer: not yet) I'm trying to try some different things - revisit various assumptions. One of them's that the 8x10s are the bread and butter... but yet I'm selling more $100 11x14s from the store part than the $40 8x10s in the auction part. Huh. Anyway, I put four recent shots up in 11x14 including that shot of Brooke (one of my favorite recent shots). We'll see if it works or not.

Anyway, hopefully they'll show up in this search (which brings you to all the 11x14s for sale - if you scroll down a bit you'll get to the auction ones that have both bid and buy it now prices).

Monday, August 17, 2009

First and last

I just started looking at Lindsay's shoot. Most of today so far was spent installing baseboard (We never quite finished the various fix-up projects in the new place. Or unpacking for that matter. Sigh.) Here's the first and last frame - usual color chart stuff and we finished up with some sitting poses.

Oddly enough the color chart's just a bit warm in this shot - one thing about the chart is you can use it to get very accurate color, but you can also use it as a kind of baseline - if a model has super pale skin you might want to warm things up a bit, but do it in a consistent fashion. It really helps if you have a chart for each kind of lighting and then you can just add some consistent amount of warmth across the board. I have no idea if these will be final settings - it's the kind of decision I'll make for real when I get further along, but as long as I was extracting one out for the blog I decided to go a bit warmer.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Buy the Whole Set!

A little while back I was thinking out loud (on the blog anyway) about different print options. The only one that got me any real comment was the ability to buy a set of pictures in some fashion. So let's play an experiment. I've just finished uploading new HTML for the best of page and the most recent 15 or so shoots. If you scroll on down to the bottom of the page, past the pictures, you'll see a new section - Buy The Whole Set. (If you don't see it, try hitting reload). Be sure to click through the read me link - part of why these are so cheap is they're unsigned.

No guarantees on how long this will be available, or for how long, or for how long at this low price. If you wake up tomorrow and it's crazy popular and prices have doubled so I can keep my sanity I don't want to hear about it - you were warned. If a little time goes by and it hasn't been very popular and I think it's cluttering up the index pages too much and I stop offering it I don't want to hear about it - you were warned.

But in theory this could be a nice option for folks who care less about the collectability aspect and don't care about the signature - they just want some nice pictures. And from my perspective it's not that much work because I can fire off an order to the lab and have them ship the prints directly to the buyer (that's part of why they're totally unsigned). I'm a little nervous about the pricing - if a lot of international buyers buy the 4x5 sets my margins are pretty slim after shipping and I'll definitely have to bump those up a bit sooner rather than later. But we'll just have to see what happens. You can kind of ponder this stuff all you want but until you throw something out there with a fixed price and a shopping cart button you really have no idea what's going to happen...

Update: 24 hour warning - I'm bumping the price of the 4x5 sets from $99.95 to $149.95. It's all ready to go, and I'll hit the upload button roughly 24 hours from now (i.e. late evening Monday, California time.)

New Model: Phoebe

I've uploaded Phoebe's set. I actually had it done yesterday and then the little one got fussy so I just uploaded a link to twitter and didn't get around to really hooking it into the website until just now. This was mostly a test shoot but she's darn cute and we got some nice shots out of it if I do say so myself.

In other news...

...I've been shooting and developing film again. Nothing I really care to share yet (and I'll have to get a 4x5 capable scanner before sharing some of it) but it's rolling along nicely.

...I have a couple of studio shoots scheduled over the next six weeks but I'm mostly going to be focusing on getting a couple of nice urban shoots done. I have location scouting to do but hopefully it will all work out. But I think for as long as a couple of months there will probably be fewer shoots but different kind of stuff than I've been doing.

...There's apparently a really good chance of a BART (subway) strike starting this weekend. I'll be honest - I haven't paid that much attention to the details since I've been busy with the baby and keeping this business going but everybody who's mentioned it has basically had the reaction of "Everybody else has pay cuts and they're complaining their raise wasn't big enough?" I'm not sure if they're greedy bastards or they just have really bad PR but if they think killing commute options and screwing up traffic will give them converts they're wrong - if you're going to do that you need to lay the groundwork first and let people know your story or you just get a backlash. As of now at the sfgate article the top comments are all anti-strike and have massive votes to that effect (1000 to 59! 797 to 50 on the one that starts "Fire them"). Again, I haven't followed it enough to have a strong opinion on if they have legitimate grievances or not, but man, as a strategy move it's just mind bogglingly bizarre. Not only are they unlikely to win this one, but being perceived (rightly or wrongly) as the ones who were greedy at the same time teachers are being laid off isn't going to help them next time when things have recovered...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The kelp keeps piling up

(Usual disclaimer: Actual art models tend to be cool, interesting people. Wannabe "models" who find me on the Internet are sometimes pretty bizarre. Those are the ones the kelp stories usually come from. I put up with them because it's a way to shoot with the rare women who become real art models before everybody else gets a chance to shoot with them. I've had models I've work with say they find the kelp stories hilarious but I'd hate for somebody else to get the wrong idea.)

People are so weird. I have this conversation, oh, maybe twice a year. It's unusual but not a shock when it comes up at this point. It goes like this.

Model: OHAI! I'd like to pose naked for your Internet site! I have experience and am very attractive so you should pay me a lot of money!
Photographer: Great! I'd like to see some of your nude work so I can see what you look like!
Model: Oh, noes! You must be one of those dreaded Internet Picture Collectors! You may not see pictures of me naked before the shoot! Oh, and by the way, I want you to commit to (insert outrageous rate here)!

Always makes my head spin. I think often it's a cover for something else (she doesn't want you to find out about her botched boob job until it's too late) but taking this on face value... if she works with me the pictures are going on the Internet. You know, on this website. The one they somehow found and contacted me through. Thousands of people will see the pictures. It's a popular site. Global and everything. Anyway, I already have thousands of pictures of naked women. You know, because I take them regularly.

Strange stuff. Especially when they act like they're being all clever and street smart and like they just caught you being naughty and asking for something inappropriate. Which it would be... if they weren't applying for a job as a nude model.

(Regular readers know that I also often do pre-meets with models - usually I'll offer a choice of sending shots or doing a pre-meet, whichever the model finds more convenient... but only if I'm already pretty sure everything's OK. If there are any red flags at all I'll require more info before taking the time to meet somebody, usually in the form of pictures.)

PS - this is a scheduled post that I wrote a while back and scheduled out a few days just in case the model who "inspired" this post came through and I wanted to work with her. Nope, she threatened me including that she would everybody that I asked her for such shots (the implication being that then they'd know I'm evil). The funny bit? All that info's on the modeling page she contacted me through. So she's threatening to tell people the information on the page she clearly didn't read... you just can't make this stuff up!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Post Shoot Notes: Lindsay

As usual, just grabbed a couple of shots from the thumbnails as things were copying.

I have one set to edit before Lindsay's, but it's mostly done. It was a short shoot so it's going fast. Actually Lindsay's shoot was a bit short as well. It was later than I'd usually start, and it's really hot and smoggy and we were both a bit tired. And sometimes it's better to just keep moving through my to do list for the shoot at a good clip rather than shooting extra shots of each setup "just in case". As you can see from the one shot I'm still playing with gels - partially I just had some new colors, and also a new way of attaching them, and I really liked how some of the shots with Brooke looked so I'll keep playing with those for a bit longer I suspect. This shoot was a bit more light-hearted so I went with a great pink and a nice blue (not shown here).

Saturday, August 08, 2009

More on that hail

I mentioned we got some pretty big hail in Santa Fe. I finally got around to pulling the pictures off my point and shoot and here's a couple. In the one that's mostly green you don't see a whole lot of hail - that's because I'm right under a tree and all of that greenery got ripped out of the tree by the hail itself. So some of the hail is actually under the greenery or bounced off the tree or whatever. It was really quite pretty, and it smelled great. I don't know what kind of trees those are, but the leaves are kind of minty...

Friday, August 07, 2009

New Model: Brooke Lynne

I just uploaded the new set with the lovely Brooke Lynne. Luckily my little one took an extra long morning nap otherwise it wouldn't have gotten done today.

Other news... I have a couple of great models scheduled over the next two months. I have one set ready to edit, too, so hopefully the updates will be fairly regular if a bit slower than they were for a while. This was still nude shoot #20 for the year posted to the website so I'm right on track for this year.

I bought a Holga that I'm going to use as a pinhole camera, Lord help me. A pinhole camera is just what it sounds like - it uses a hole instead of optics and basically you get a really slow camera but with massive depth of field. People often set them on the ground because objects very close to the camera will be in focus as well as the background. A Holga actually makes a pretty decent body to do that with - last time I did it was in a Quaker Oats box so this is a step up!

I need to get out of the house to shoot a test roll. Luckily we usually take a late morning walk - I wonder how her stroller will work as a tripod? (Actually, what I need is a Gorillapod - that would be cool on the stroller both for the Holga and for a point and shoot. You could set it just above wheel level and take movies as you zip around... Hmmm....) So I'll develop a roll from that and a roll from a model shoot that I never developed (oops) and make sure there are no surprises with my water or chemistry or whatever and then I'll be jumping back on the large format path. I'm going to need a new scanner unfortunately (mine only does medium format) so everybody go buy some art. ;-) Oh, how convenient, there's a new set up...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Next Up: Brooke Lynne

You might want to click on that picture to see it a bit bigger.

I'm working on Brooke Lynne's set right now. She's the gal in the gels post from right after I did the shoot. I'm hoping to have it done sooner rather than later but we'll see.

This kind of lighting's fun with the right model. It can be really unflattering but with enough creativity it works really well. Basically it's just a light sitting on the floor, balanced carefully on its back, pointing straight up. It's basically like pointing a flashlight up at your face while telling a ghost story...

Anyway, I like this pose she came up with - it's kind of the mirror of Zinn's...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

eBay notes

Well, it's that time again - time to start seriously listing on eBay again. I've been doing kind of a halfassed on again off again thing the last couple of months - it has its advantages and disadvantages and given season issues and my personal time issues I've been listing just enough to drive a little extra traffic without paying a ton in listing fees. But it's August and historically that's not too bad of a month (July sales are usually awful even in a good year), and it's time to really get rolling again. Not just listing but some boring inventory stuff - part of the point of eBay is to do something with any extra prints I have because of my lab's minimum order size. So I have a couple of three ring binders full of prints but basically if you don't maintain your store as things sell you end up with a store full of stuff that didn't sell.

Anyway, I've done all that - removed some old stuff, added some new stuff, and did the same thing with my whole inventory. I started listing auction items and I'll do that daily (probably scheduling a week at a time given that just now time efficiency is probably more important than the 10 cent scheduling fee).

Personally I think it makes more sense for most customers to buy direct - you can get whatever you want, any size, no need to deal with auctions. But some people like it, especially for a first transaction (I have excellent feedback which is reassuring), and it really is a great first point of contact to get new customers. Anyway, if that's your preference, check it out.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

APIS/Santa Fe

Every other year there's a couple of day alternative process conference in Santa Fe and I was able to cobble enough travel related points to do it pretty cheaply so I went. It's the first time I've traveled by myself in a long time, and the wife had to lean heavily on the in-laws to keep everything going on this end but we made it work. Luckily the baby is extremely cute so people don't seem to mind looking after her too much. :-)

It's a good time for me to think about different directions I could go, readjust priorities, etc. Santa Fe's also a major art center (hundreds of galleries) and it's a great time to catch up on trends, etc. I think the single largest factor was reaffirming that I want to get serious about large format for a bit. I have everything I need for the next couple of steps, but I'd eventually like to be able to do wet plate collodion and not just film and I'll have to think about how much I want to invest in all of this. Wet plate in particular isn't something to do lightly - some people produce some really crappy results and use process artifacts to try to introduce interest to their crappy photography but the process is capable of technically wonderful prints... but only with a lot of practice. For a sense of what these look like check out Luther Gerlach's ambrotype gallery. I got to see him make a few including the darkroom bits - very cool!

Another highlight is that some folks are trying to figure out how to handcoat silver gelatin prints. And yes, if silver gelatin (i.e. a regular black and white darkroom print) was presented at APIS that means you're an alternative process. Sigh. Anyway, see The Light Farm for instructions. If you're a darkroom printer and are whining that they discontinued your paper or that you can get the wonderful papers of old (environmental concerns re massive use of cadmium killed some papers) take charge and learn to make it yourself. The results are stunning. Right now the focus is on contact paper but dry plates and some film have been made too. I'm tempted - I think it might be a serious contender for a big 2010 project - but I need to think about the details... keep in mind that these processes never really went through a handmade stage - they were industrial from the beginning - and the conventional wisdom is that nobody will ever pull this off. Guess what, conventional wisdom's wrong yet again.

What else was cool... seeing Luther Gerlach's 22x30 inch wet plate collodion camera, seeing carbon prints being made (lovely prints but I think I'm going to let them get the bugs worked out first), some great information about daguerreotypes (more on their structure and preserving them versus making them), and just generally being reminded that yes, other people do make this stuff.

Folks came from Finland and Brazil so I can't complain too much about the logistics of getting there but it was a bit rushed and I didn't do a whole lot that wasn't art related. I fit in a bit of tourism but it was pretty much all hitting galleries and museums. I haven't looked at the pictures yet - I'll probably post more hail pictures but that's about it. If you want a bit of tourism info for the area I think all of my notes from last time on my much neglected travel/hobby site are still accurate except I think it's more like 250 galleries, and I'm not sure that Andrew Smith still has both locations.

Monday, August 03, 2009

August Price Increases

I'm home safe from Santa Fe - I'll try to write up a few thoughts on that tomorrow.

As regulars know I've been adjusting prices twice a year - February and August - to catch up after a long period of no increases. At this point I'm leaving the lab and fiber prints alone but I'm increasing prices on the alternative process prints. And specifically just on the made-to-order ones on this website using the shopping cart option. Basically with my wife back at work and a three month old to look after if I'm going to be figuring out what to do with the baby and blocking out a day to do printmaking that's just another level of complexity that I have to factor into the price.

On the flip side I'm going to leave prices alone for prints I already have in stock, and hopefully I'll get a chance to replenish those now and again. Right now those are listed only in my eBay store, but I've decided to figure out some way to also list them here. More on that when I have a solution in place.

Anyway, here's the current pricing as of now:

Lab prints (unchanged):
8x10 $49.95
11x14 $99.95
16x20 $149.95

Silver fiber prints (unchanged):
8x10 $149.95
11x14 $299.95
16x20 $449.95

Handmade prints:
cyanotype $199.95
platinum $299.95
cyanotype over platinum $499.95
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