Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

228 kids so far... you would think they'd be done at 9:00pm but it's Saturday. We're still getting some very little kids.

Generally very polite kids this year with good costumes. Not so many surly teens.

Post Shoot Notes

The last scheduled nude model shoot for a while went well - there's a couple of shots up on Facebook.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Good ol' Canon

If you've been thinking about buying a 7D you might want to check out this post by Fake Chuck Westfall. (Real Chuck works for Canon USA - I'm not sure of his formal title but he's kind of a technical PR guy - Fake Chuck is from an imagined perspective of what that poor man's inner thoughts must be like given the problems with some recent cameras.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Somebody was asking what kind of mailing tube I use. I use these. They're about twice as thick as a regular tube, and about twice as expensive. And heavy, which means more shipping. A 3x25 holds a 16x20 print without telescoping it, and you can put in larger items by just pulling the center segment out a bit. Delivered to my door with tax they're about $70 for 25. I hate spending $3/tube but when I used the free post office tubes I was getting damaged prints and that's no fun for anybody.

Probably the next set will be up this weekend sometime. I'll probably go out of order and do one of the urban nude ones next so I don't get two in a row later. I have a couple of sets where I've done the first pass to weed out the best 25% or whatever because I can do that while watching TV! So they're all kind of at the same place and I can go forward with any of them.

I did end up deciding to get an iMac to replace my dead PC. I won't get it until November, but I'll post then what I think of it. I'll probably set it up as a dual boot system at some point, mostly for games and one or two useful utilities I haven't replaced yet. But there's no rush since I have an old/crappy/slow PC laptop I can use those utilities on and I don't have time for games at the moment. Basically everything's just running so smoothly on my MacBook I'd rather have the pain of buying another computer earlier than I intended versus reformatting and reinstalling everything on the PC and then probably doing it all over again in a year.

It's funny, you think, gee, an iMac, is it really going to have the horsepower for Photoshop CS4 but the build options on the 27" are really pretty good. And no, I don't care about the glossy screen. If you can tell the screen's glossy there's too much ambient light to edit anyway. I'd rather see the reflection and be able to eliminate it than just have a fuzzy bright area on a matte screen which is all that happens.

And yeah, they're a little more expensive, but they include lots of stuff that's optional on the PCs and I always found the Macs lasted longer, especially with the laptops. They're really pretty rugged and the way I use laptops I found the PCs just physically started falling apart - the screws fall out and the plastic gets cracked and the monitor flops around. And meanwhile my wife's MacBooks just keep ticking along.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I got asked via twitter "I've gotta ask, are all of your models naturally stretchmark free? Or is it a combo of good lighting and mad Photoshop skills?"

I get asked some variation on that a lot (mostly by women!) so I thought I'd address it. First off, all women have stretchmarks. They may not be super obvious, especially with darker skin tones, but I've been editing pictures of women that I would have sworn didn't have any and sure enough if the light hits the right (wrong?) way there they are. If you don't believe your wife or girlfriend has any, mention it to her and she'll laugh and start pointing them out! Women are always hyper aware of perceived flaws in their own bodies. (And oddly enough the more beautiful the more likely they often are to really fixate on the remaining one or two issues or frankly just to make something up.)

There are actually quite a few skin issues that go away with different lighting. One thing that might not be obvious is that some lighting really brings out texture but you can't really see through the skin in the same way you can with regular room light. It just kind of skims off the surface. Portrait clients with pale skin often expect to have me Photoshop out some prominent veins and they just go away.

But yeah, I'll touch up anything I think is a distraction. This is art, not a documentary. And while some people enjoy highlighting some things I find distracting, we're just talking about me here. So if I don't like a large mole, it goes. Sometimes I'll remove a tattoo. It doesn't mean I don't like it on the actual person, but it can be distracting in a photograph, especially if it's half in shadow and you can't really tell what it is. Sometimes I'll remove the little scar where they used to have a belly button ring, depending on the person. And anybody can have a zit somewhere.

(Now actor headshots are different - I do those sometimes and you need to take a really light hand with them. If somebody shows up for an audition looking different from the shot that's bad.)

I don't do anything major like warp the image to thin people up, or move their eyes around or enlarge them or whatever. I don't think there's anything horrible about that, but it's not what I do. Likewise some people run all manner of filters on skin that remove all detail. And my preference is to keep that texture there.

What else... sometimes you'll get a model with tan lines and usually it's good to at least kind of feather the edges in a bit so it's not so dramatic (unless you're going for that 80s Playboy bikini line look).

The other thing I should perhaps mention is that a lot of lighting setups are quite slimming. The shadowy ones your brain kind of guesses and fills in what's missing and often it guesses wrong. And with the high key ones sometimes it's actually blown out a bit - sometimes the models waistline looks different than in real life because there's so much light going around that you can't distinguish the edge of her body from the background. I also get models and portrait clients that will talk about the ribs sticking out on some other model and how she's really thin, and I pose and light them the same way and there they are. Most people just don't realize how much under-the-skin detail, be it muscle or bones, you can bring out in pretty much anybody if you're so inclined.

So the bottom line is that yes, some of the women I work with are just crazy-beautiful, but they're still people. Imagine that.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Another interesting article

There's an interesting counterpoint to the prior article I linked to about photographic nude modeling - this one's about being a drawing model. It suffers from a bad case of "I have no idea how to end this piece" but it's interesting despite the author's best efforts.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Well, I'd already been making noises about stopping shooting for a while, and today's trainwreck of a shoot that didn't happen really sealed that deal. I have a nude shoot scheduled a week from today, and some other shoots that are portrait work or not nude shoots or are in some stages of planning that I'll honor but basically I'm not going to book model shoots with anybody I'm not already talking to until at least the first of the year. Portrait shoots are always welcome, of course. And yes, if somebody really unique contacts me I'll talk to them, but I'm going to stop all my usual looking for models stuff.

I do have a fair amount of material that's already been shot but not edited that I can stretch that out through the rest of the year. I'd set a goal for a number of nude shoots for the year, and that's in the range so it's not a big deal. And I definitely need to do some work on the website. Sometimes it's good to take a step back from creating work and market/sell the work that's already there.

I also really want to take a step back and think about my photographic goals for 2010. What do I want to focus on? Do I want to stop working with the usual traveling art model crowd and focus on shooting really unique people even if it means only doing a third as many shoots? Is there a particular kind of really unique person? Or do I want to focus more on some area where I'm better off with an experienced model so I can focus on other things (urban nudes and light painting would be typical of this). And frankly I find it easier to think big picture when I'm not actively shooting. Just one of those things.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Now it's Apple's turn

As of now the store's still down, but the main Apple page has a whole slew of new products. I've been waiting for this - as I mentioned before, my PC desktop failed (well, XP failed, the hardware seems fine). I've been getting along pretty well with just my MacBook, and I was planning on transitioning to all-Mac eventually, but this really sped things up. I've got current, licensed versions of Lightroom, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver on it. I'm using an old crappy PC laptop for one program that generates my HTML but I'm working on getting a Lightroom HTML engine set up to do the same thing.

So the decision is to either install everything from scratch on the PC with Windows 7, or just to say screw it, spend the money, get the 27" iMac (which looks like a really nice machine for me). I'll probably set up one of the Macs as a dual-boot just to help smooth that transition a bit more, so in terms of effort it's a no-brainer - to go Mac would be pretty easy at this point. It's just a question of if I really want to spend that much money on computer gear in 2009 (which was supposed to be kind of a low-cost year since I've invested quite a bit in gear the last couple of years).

Well, I guess I'll have to see what the final prices are for the different configurations when the store comes up....

Monday, October 19, 2009


The new Canon 1D Mark IV is now official. Vincent Laforet has video already.

PS Yikes - it's on Amazon already.

New model: Lt. Smash

Nude shoot #27 for the year - Lt. Smash. I haven't decided yet which set to edit next (there's one that's shorter that I might skip to the front) but I've posted some behind the scenes shots from the next one chronologically on my Facebook page.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Back from Yosemite

I often visit Yosemite around this time of year. It's pretty, with fall color from about mid-October to early November (the maples, dogwoods, and oaks all go at different times so it's kind of spread out). But one thing you don't get is much from the waterfalls. Even mighty Yosemite Falls is just kind of... moist.

Well, remember that storm Tuesday? The one that killed my poor lemon tree (which I cut up today)? Most rain in October since 1962? Well, it kept going east and hit Yosemite. By Thursday everything was totally blue skies (as seen here) and the falls were going like crazy. Not as much as at peak snowmelt (Mayish) but very nice. Even by Saturday when we left they'd slowed quite a bit but were still impressive. There was a crazy-long line of cars waiting to get into the park as we left - going up early was definitely the right call.

It will be a while before I get a chance to really go through them. The first priority is to finish up the set I'm working on for this website (should be a day or two with any luck) and then I'm due for a baby picture update for the relatives (they get very cranky if it goes too long and they know I took her to Yosemite) and then I'll figure out priorities from there.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Loma Prieta

October 17, 1989 there was a Richter magnitude 7.0 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault. I was a college student in Claremont, CA (Southern California) but happened to be up here for fall break. I was washing some clam shells for a schoolteacher when the quake started, about a half mile from where I live today. I'd felt a number of quakes, and the initial shock at our distance was moderate (probably just the faster moving but less intense p waves) so I kept washing. No big deal right. Probably just a minor event on the local Hayward quake.

Then the s waves hit and I realized this wasn't that at all and sprinted into the dining room and dove under the heavy table, ripping my knees up pretty thoroughly. Everybody else was already under there, wondering where the heck I was.

Power went out and stayed that way for quite a while. We had a bit of news from the radio and a bit from talking to people on the phone who were further away, but the initial news reports were pathetic. They said the whole bay bridge had collapsed (not true, one segment did go down though and people relied on ferries and the subway for a while.) and that bodies were in the water (not true, although somebody did die there).

We had a lasagna in the oven that wasn't quite done and finished it up on the propane grill in the back yard.

Remarkably few people died - mostly in the cypress structure, which pancaked. When I was at the airport in the morning, waiting to see if the runway was OK so I could fly home for classes we ended up chatting with somebody who had been through there just moments before. They eventually declared enough of the runway OK to fly out (about 1/3 of the runway was badly damaged at OAK) and we were off.

Two years after I was again in the bay area for fall break and the Oakland firestorm happened. I was really starting to wonder about the bay area by then...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When life gives you lemons... make firewood?

So according to the nearby high school's online weather station we've had 2.36 inches in today's storm, which is actually a little less than a local museum is reading so it's probably accurate enough. Very windy - we just lost our 20 foot tall, very old lemon tree. It had some issues (planting a full sized lemon tree in a little strip next to a house isn't the best idea) but it's a shame - for Eureka lemons they were really good and were lovely rubbed on chicken.

I'll turn it into firewood in a few days when things have calmed down. I was going to plant a Meyer lemon tree anyway (they're yummy) - perhaps I'll just reuse the spot which should be OK if I go with more of a dwarf or semi-dwarf stock. It needs something, anyway - the back of the house is really plain...

Update: The final total for yesterday? 3.86 inches in nearby Oakland.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fat Albert

That's Alcatraz and in the foreground is a Hornblower tour boat. Yesterday's Blue Angels show was cut very short as thick nasty clouds started to blow in through the golden gate (I know the sky is blue in this shot, but it's a different direction and before things got bad) but at least I had a nice walk out to the waterfront and got to see Fat Albert which is always nice. It was also fun to watch some sea lions and pelicans competing for fish. I also saw parts of the rest of the airshow as I was walking over, but I was running really late so I didn't get a chance to photograph any of it.

I won't be able to make it to today's show - and anyway the weather's very cold and crappy - hopefully they'll make it back here next year.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Interesting Article

There's an article in the Telegraph about posing nude, and using it as a form of therapy. Interesting stuff. I've seen some of the same reactions with folks who have posed for me, especially the portrait work. People really see themselves differently - always more positively - after going through the experience. People do it for a variety of reasons and sometimes it is fairly overtly therapeutic - they just got out of a bad, controlling relationship and they want to do something a bit wild but they also don't want the pictures on the Internet so they do it as a portrait shoot instead of a model shoot. Or they know they have body image issues and are hoping if they see themselves from the outside with decent lighting that they'll see themselves differently (they do).

Other folks just want to document a time in their life. That's common with maternity shoots, although often they've always wanted to model nude and the maternity part is just an excuse or just what got them motivated enough to do it now. I think that's also pretty common with another scenario - people getting them done as a wedding gift for their fiancee which is a pretty common situation. (Or sometimes it's a birthday or anniversary but wedding gift is the most common.) It's something they've always wanted to do, and that's as good a reason as any. Another twist is the tourism angle - they're maybe from some small town and it's not something they could do at home, but in San Francisco they figure it won't be a big deal to find somebody and they start Googling and find me.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Physics Nobels

They gave them to the experimental end of things this time. It's the usual split prize Charles K. Kao won for various fiber optics advances and Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith won for inventing the CCD.

The CCD has many uses but in particular that's what all of the digital camera sensors were for a long time, although the technology has moved on somewhat.

So basically without those guys I couldn't have taken this picture, or having taken it moved it along the Internet backbones. Either way, you wouldn't be seeing it.

(That's Lotta's fountain, donated by Lotta Crabtree in 1875. It's one of surprisingly few pre-earthquake structures that survived and was a meeting place after the quake. The survivors used to meet there once a year. Unfortunately the last one died this year. I've always loved that fountain - luckily they restored it a few years back and it's stunning.)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

New Model: Sarah Ann

Here's Sarah Ann, nude shoot #26 for the year.

I've actually taken #27 - #30 at this point (two urban night shoots, an outdoor shoot, and a studio shoot) and have two studio shoots scheduled around the end of the month so that puts me in a good range for the end of the year (I run 30-35 model shoots a year, plus portrait work, etc.) I'll be focusing less on regular shoots and more on web infrastructure, getting everything 100% up and running on the Mac, large format photography, etc. Maybe I'll do some light painting and some fire performer work. But not just doing shoots for the sake of doing shoots unless somebody really stunning is available.

To make everything work out so there's no big gap around the holidays I'm thinking I'll edit a set and get it on the site roughly every 10-14 days. But some are shorter and I might do a few earlier rather than later, especially if I do end up shooting a little more than expected.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Wandering around the city

I went for a stroll in the city last night checking light levels in different areas and playing around. This pile is the Vaillancourt Fountain. I think this is the sculpture the Army Corp of Engineers tried to remove after the last big earthquake thinking it was debris. (Not unreasonably - the nearby Embarcadero Freeway was hammered and eventually totally removed. Nobody misses it - it only existed to hook up to something that never happened and really screwed up what is now a very nice waterfront area.) It's actually pretty cool when it's running as a fountain but I don't think I've ever seen it actually turned on - just in old pictures (As far as I can tell it's been off since 2001 when the costs to run it hit $250,000 per year). They nearly demolished it in 2004 but it was somehow saved. I think without the context of the freeway it's kind of pointless but at the same time maybe it's a reminder not to build damn ugly useless expensive city projects...

Anyway, I think it's pretty cool that with a modern camera you can do this kind of thing as a handheld shot. It's 1/50th f/1.8, ISO 1600. No IS - it's just Canon's cheap but optically quite nice 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Anyway, shooting's going fine. I have one more outdoor shoot and then a couple of weeks with no nudes unless two portrait folks pay their deposits (hint, hint) and then two studio shoots are scheduled towards the end of the month. I'm increasingly thinking I might just do 1-2 really specific shoots the rest of the year although there's always the possibility somebody stunning will appear.

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