Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Beautiful People

Sometimes accidents are happy. I took this picture at a fashion show in a nightclub. The flash didn't go off so the camera held the shutter open. (Av mode.)



Disturbingly attractive.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Honored to Be Mentioned, But A Seal? Seriously?

Remember that contest I told you I won a prize in back a ways? Well, they announced the winners Friday, so I can say it was for Hawai'i Magazine's Tenth Annual Photo Contest.

Click here for a link right to the contest entry on their site.

I won Second Place in the "Maui" category, which isn't bad out of 800 submissions. (Well, there were more than 800 total submissions. I have no idea how many were for Maui.)

The grand prize winner was a picture of a seal.

A seal.

Now, it's a really good picture. I'm not complaining that it's not "better" than mine. But a seal? For reals? For Hawai'i?

Oh, well. I guess people don't usually think "bamboo forest" when they think Hawai'i, either. Or "sledding." So I shouldn't complain, now should I?

Anyway, links to my stuff below.

Here's the picture that won second place:


Bamboo Grove Entrance, Pipiwai Trai, Kipahulu District, Haleakala National Forest, Maui, Hawai'i.


They also featured the sledding picture in the contest slideshow:


Children Sledding on Grass along the Kula Highway, Maui, Hawai'i.


M
More after the jump - click here!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Surfin' on Snow Days

It's an icy nightmare outside and my boss closed the office before I even left for work, so I'm home today. While I'll probably do some work later, at the moment I'm reading blogs and so forth. Here's a fascinating story about equipment failure.

A Photographer, The White House, and a Smashed SD Card: A Data Salvaging Saga.

Now, I had a buddy who could have fixed that, although it would have been touch and go. I point it out not only because it's a funny story, but because it illustrates a profound lesson: Never assume something is hopeless.

I've fixed cardreaders with my Swiss Army knife. (Computers, too.) Kevin German has a nifty story about some guy with a tinker's cart in Cambodia fixing his Canon 5D when the local Canon shop told him it couldn't be done here: My Cambodian Adventure. I've saved "dead" hard drives and cards, or at least zombified them long enough to recover crucial data. There's almost always a way.

On the lighter-but-not-really side, those of you in the journalism business may enjoy this bit of gallows humor:



M
More after the jump - click here!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My First Really Big Print.

So I decided to try making a Really Big Print today. (It's working already - the printer was sitting there silently laying a guilt trip on me.) I asked my wife if she thought my father-in-law would like a poster print of his race car for his garage, and she said yes. So I intrepidly set out to make one.

I was going to do this picture:



But my wife liked this one better:



since you can see him racing other cars, and you can see his face. Okay, good enough.

Since I had already spent considerable time retouching that image, I didn't have to do a lot with it. I cropped it to the right aspect ratio (16x20 is 4:5, whereas my camera shoots at 2:3.) 4:5 is the same aspect ratio as 8x10, so I printed an 8x10 test print and examined it to make sure I was satisfied with the contrast, exposure, etc.

Then I upsampled it with Photoshop's Bicubic Smoother algorithm so that it was a 360PPI file. (This increased it from roughly 18MB to roughly 120MB in size.) Finally, I applied a sharpening filter that was appropriate for its new PPI and a print file.

Then I printed it using the appropriate print settings: in my workflow, I use Photoshop's color profiling rather than the printer driver's. I had a custom profile from the people who make the paper, so I just had to select that along with "Photoshop manages colors" in the Photoshop print dialog, along with of course doing a "Page Setup" and setting the proper orientation and paper size. (17x22, the size of four sheets of standard letter paper put together.) Then in the OS print dialog, I made sure to select the right paper type, the right color management (i.e. none - color management OFF) and the right print settings.

After going to the Summary tab to review the settings, I just hit "Print." It took about two minutes to render the print file. and then the printer lit up and the file started to spool. I popped the top of the printer to look and make sure the image looked to be fairly centered on the paper and nothing weird was going on - after about an inch of print it looked good and I shut the top and waited for the print to come out.

After another two minutes printed area started to emerge (this printer is BIG and it takes a while for the printed area to be visible outside the enclosure.) Then it was just a matter of watching it come out.

Wow.

I can't show you - obviously it makes no sense to try to show the quality of huge printouts on a screen. But this looks fabulous. When you consider the lens I had (17-85mm IS, shot at 1/100s, f6.3 at 85mm) and what I was taking pictures of (race cars twenty feet away going forty miles an hour) it's ridiculously clear. You can read print on the car that is less than an inch high. You can see the tread cuts on the tires. You can clearly see, through his visor, that my father-in-law wears glasses. I was at max ISO (1600) and it's not even that noisy. (Some of that of course is post.)

So I'm pretty pleased with it. I went and bought a poster frame at Michael's (they were on sale pretty cheap) which I'll put it in tomorrow. I could probably put it in safely now, but I like to let prints outgas for a day or so before I put them behind glass or plastic. If I were going for maximum life/value, I'd mat it and put it in an actual frame, but this is just an acrylic frame. Since the print only cost me about eight bucks to make and it's going in a garage, it'll be fine. If I had paid forty or fifty bucks for it from a commercial printer, I probably couldn't be so blase about it. :)

M
More after the jump - click here!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'm Dumber than I Thought.

So since the bonus gods were kind to me, I bought myself a little present. (Most of it went into savings or bills. Really.) And I promptly got myself into one of my snits about it.

I don't make as many prints as I might. Mostly this is laziness but part of it was because my printer - my faithful Epson Stylus Photo 2200, which certainly owed me nothing - was getting a little temperamental and didn't like current MacOS very much. Endless driver problems. So I had been wanting a new one.

Lo and behold, Epson's website has refurbished Stylus Pro 3800's on sale for $995. (Normally $1295.) That's a lot of money, but on the other hand it costs less than half as much per print to operate. So if I got to making prints, it would save me money. Plus my wife is getting into photography and she can use it too. So I started thinking about it.

But wait! There's more!

December special, free shipping and $100 off instant rebate. Now the thing is $895, no tax, no shipping. And I can write it off. And I can print archival 17" wide prints. Oh, Hell. What's money for? Besides, more than half of that is ink. I think the actual printer cost me about $250. Unlike Canon and HP, Epson never ships printers with reduced-capacity starter cartriges. This thing came with over half a liter of ink all told. And I thought I might be able to get a little something for my old printer - they were still selling on eBay. (I ended up getting $100 cash for it, which means the net cash I had to come up with was only $795.)

So I bought one. Epson's shipping facility is in Indiana so even with the free ground shipping it only took three days to get here. After some lugwork getting it home (the box weighs about fifty pounds and is about 3' x 2') and setting it up, I was all set to test it. I put in some 4x6 paper for test prints... and it happened.

Paper didn't load properly. I fiddled and diddled and to make a long frustrating story short, couldn't get it to work right. Paper kept shifting.

So today I had to take a beef hindquarter to Oak Brook (long story) and after I dropped it off I went into Calumet Photo to look at their 3800 to see if mine was doing something wrong.

The nice man on the floor powered up their demo 3800 for me and fed a sheet of paper while I watched. It did the same thing.

After I stopped cursing and explained to him the problem, he asked me what size paper I'd been using.

"4x6 test sheets," I said.

"Everybody has problems with 4x6 sheets in this printer," he said. "They're very light and they tend to move a bit when the guides operate. The printer has to be able to handle big heavy 17" sheets and the tiny papers just get thrown around by the power of the mechanism."

So I ran through an 8.5x11 and did a targeted geometric figure to find the center.
Dead on. Perfect centering in both dimensions.

Okay, so I'm paranoid. I *did* run a few test sheets at 8.5x11 but they didn't look right last night (can you say confirmation bias?) Now they're fine.

This is the printer (courtesy of Calumet Photo:)



It's kinda big. But it should be fun. I also got some 17" x 22" (!) paper from Calumet's website when they were having a special sale the other day. The price I paid, it would actually be cheaper to print four pictures at once on them and cut them up than to use regular photo paper.

Another nice thing about it is that it has three stages of black and some fairly advanced black-and-white printing modes, which is something I'm looking forward to. It also holds both matte black ink and photo black ink at the same time (it has nine ink tanks.) That means that if I want to switch media I don't have to switch tanks, plus it saves a lot of time and ink because all it does is clear the line and then it's ready to print on the appropriate media. The other printer, which required a tank swap, used quite a bit of black ink to charge the line relative to the size of the tank, which meant that every three or four swaps cost me a $20 ink tank.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Make a Little Difference

The amazing photographer Kevin German, who currently lives in the Far East, is doing a project in a Vietnamese mental hospital and is soliciting donations to try to help out the people who run it a little bit.

You can read about how little they run the hospital with, and make a donation, by reading this blog post:

400 Cookies.

Warning: Link contains amazing photography and very, very sad documentary work. If you just want to donate, you can click this link for his PayPal donation button:

Donate to Help Vietnamese Mental Patients.

Please help if you can, even a tiny bit of money makes a huge difference. (US$0.50 feeds a patient for a day.)

I sent him a little bit of my holiday bonus - probably not as much as I could, but more than some people who could spare more, so I guess I'm okay with that. "The poor you will always have with you."

M
More after the jump - click here!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Oh, If Only.

While this isn't my actual goal, I set my HA account to "First Class Roundtrip" just to look at it for a minute. I'm weird.



Beautiful, isn't it? *sigh*

Also, note my extremely low membership number. Impressive, yes?

M
More after the jump - click here!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Attn: Canon Users

Canon replaced its mid-position on-camera strobe, the 430EX, with the 430EX Mk II a few months ago. Adorama still has some of the original 430EX's left at a very attractive price. You can buy them direct there or through Buy.com. Link below:

This is the Buy.com link. You can also go straight to Adorama's link. I've bought from Adorama before, they're a reputable discount dealer.

430EX at Buy.com

Right now they're selling at $199.95. The 430EX MkII sells for around $280 to $300, and isn't any more powerful than the original 430EX. (The MkII is a little more weatherproof and has a metal foot: however, there's a reason that flashes usually have plastic feet.) It's a very good deal on Canon's lowest-priced bounce-capable flash.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ah, Multiculturalism.

This is so hysterical I almost fell out of my chair laughing. If I were to say these things about Saudis, I'd be pilloried - literally, if some people around here had their way.

But if they say it themselves, who can refute them?

"Sending Teens Abroad," from the Arab News.

Oh, that's a scream. Read it for yourself. I dare you.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Last WindyCon Comment

I forgot to mention it before, but as always when I see a collection of artworks, I saw another thing... thousands and thousands of dollars worth of actionable torts.

I've said it before, I'll say it again. 765 ILCS 1075, the Illinois Right of Publicity Act.

In the Art Show, there were literally dozens of artworks which showed specific recognizable individuals - mostly, of course, actors shown in their well-known acting roles. A picture of William Shatner dressed as Captain Kirk is, at one and the same time, a picture of a copyrighted fictional character and a picture of a real human being. Both of these grant to their owners certain rights under various legal theories. Not only is commercially selling actor-in-character fanart iffy for copyright purposes, but it's clearly a violation of Illinois law, and this show was in Illinois. Every single one of those fanart pieces, on the wall, was a statutory-minimum $1,000.00, plus fees and costs, tortious violation of the IROPA. Walter Koening, who happened to be attending, could have made a quick three grand plus fees and costs, by my count, by going down to the art show and noting a few names.

Now whether Mr. Koening wants to do that is up to him. Since he makes a nice bit of money attending Cons, he might very well feel that it wouldn't be worth the bad publicity, and that is his right. But the point is that he could, and not only is it unethical to make money off other people's property - including their likeness - without their consent, at least in Illinois, it's illegal. I don't understand why people will insist on doing it. Draw your own pictures, take your own photographs. Please.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I Have Declared Eternal Hostility...

I'm not much of a folksinging fan, but if Woody were still alive I'd go out and buy all his albums just for this.


"I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim or too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard travelling. I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work. And the songs that I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you. I could hire out to the other side, the big money side, and get several dollars every week just to quit singing my own kind of songs and to sing the kind that knock you down still farther and the ones that poke fun at you even more and the ones that make you think that you've not got any sense at all. But I decided a long time ago that I'd starve to death before I'd sing any such songs as that. The radio waves and your movies and your jukeboxes and your songbooks are already loaded down and running over with such no good songs as that anyhow."
-- Woody Guthrie.


M
More after the jump - click here!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Science Fictiony!

Since I'm on my sci-fi kick, here are some nifty pictures I took a while back in an improptu science-fiction setting. They're from my old studio, which had amazing skylights.

This one is called "Black Morning."



The band of light behind her is from the skylights. No studio lighting for this one other than the overhead fluorescents. I did buy color-balanced bulbs for them. That was nice because I could leave them on without worrying about introducing a color cast.

I call this one "Pure Energy."



That was blowout from studio strobes. You can see the skylights reflected in her goggles. And here's the whole package. I call this one "Malevolent."



That's all skylight again - I just backed her up a little from the position in the first picture until the sun was shining on her face.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Upsides of WindyCon

As I said, I did enjoy meeting many of the people I did - including an Internet friend and her family as well as author Michael Z. Williamson, his wife, and their children as well. Here are some links to cool people. Go see.

Here's my friend's blog:

http://brownkitty.livejournal.com/

Here's Mr. Williamson's website:

http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/index.php

It contains a bibliography and links to buy his books. I've only read the one (it's called Better to Ask Forgiveness...) but can report that it was well worth reading.

Here's his wife's photography website. She's a combat photographer who joined the Army when she was in her mid-thirties. This is no small feat. There's a story about it on his website which is worth reading if you'd like to know how one joins the Army these days.

http://www.combatcamerastudios.com/index.php

Here's his blog, which is pretty funny in a way that won't appeal to you much if you're what the nitwit media mistakenly refers to as a "liberal" these days. Fair warning.

http://mzmadmike.livejournal.com/

I was going to link to his daughter's website - she's an actress and child model - but instead I'll just say that you can find a link to her on his website if you're in need of an actress or child model. She's adorable and sharp as an obsidian chip.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shame on Me.

So last year I had some photos at WindyCon (the largest, if I understand it correctly, of the Chicago-area science-fiction conventions) I was trying to sell. It didn't go so well.

Well, this year, someone I knew was going to try to go, and I thought, "Perhaps I should try to go as an attendee, and see if that works any better."

Well, it didn't. Although I did meet some interesting people and geek out about photography for a while, it was if anything on average worse than the last time as far as enjoyment. I guess I'm just not very social, even in a crowd of anti-social sorts.

These two had very cool costumes, though:

Ironically, they weren't even registered for the Con and couldn't do any events, including the Masquerade Ball. They just wanted to walk around in their costumes somewhere where people wouldn't look at them funny.

Ironically, the hotel had also rented a ballroom on the same concourse with the con to a very, very upscale wedding. The looks of horror on the faces of the guests at the army of nerds surrounding them were very Amusing. Here's the photographer for the wedding party trying to get shots of the groom next to a lovely fountain wall in the hotel lobby without including any of the peons in the shot. He looks perplexed.



M
More after the jump - click here!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

In Honor Of the Fact

... that I finally read Atlas Shrugged last weekend, I present my first LOL.

funny pictures

Lame, I know, but what can you do?

M
More after the jump - click here!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hmmph.

So, as I said earlier, I'm the only person on Earth who has no luck with Apple's built in calibration utility. I got the new monitor to where I didn't hate it but it wasn't where I wanted it to be. So I decided to bite the bullet and buy a color calibrator. These are little doohickeys with color sensors that go up against your monitor, read target color blocks, and reprofile your system until red is red and blue is blue and so forth.

So I went to Calumet and asked the girl behind the counter about "basic color calibration tools." She clicked around on her computer and told me that they didn't really have anything in stock, then described some of my choices.

On my way out, I noticed a Spyder2Express - the very model I'd been thinking about getting - in the display case. I pointed this out to her, and she got it out. I examined it and decided to buy it. Why she didn't think of this, I'm sure I don't know. Perhaps her inventory was off (although she didn't even bother to walk down and look.) My theory is that she recognized me from the Chicago store (that part's not theory: I know she did) and thought that the S2E was simply beneath a photographer of my high ability.

(pause for laughter)

It sounds good, anyway. The thing is a snap to use, I'll tell you that. My homebrew calibration wasn't too far off, but this is still a lot better. Now if I could just get my printer to work, I'd be a happy camper.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Yet Another Post

Just feeling talkative.

Anyway, here is the latest inspiration: a fellow who uses the camera he owns as a reason models should come shoot with him. I've heard of people claiming that their cameras made them professionals (or that other people's cameras meant they weren't.) But this is a new one on me.

Now, maybe if he had that life-size Polaroid camera, I could see that. That thing is freaking cool. But this?

http://www.modelmayhem.com/118

Let me get this straight. He's having an old Leica rebuilt to have modern automatic stuff in it, and therefore models should pay him oodles of money to be shot with it.

This. Makes. No. Sense.

He's basically taking the two things that make modern and vintage Leicas unique and building something that has neither component. Old cameras are cool because they are more demanding of the photographer (call any Leica demanding and the ghost of Matthew Brady will appear and break an 18x24 sheet of glass over your head, but still) and require them to be utterly in command of their technical art. Modern Leicas are cool because they have all the Leica elan while having modern exposure control technology. Put it in an old Leica and you have... an old new camera.

I won't claim to know enough about Leicas to know that this isn't the Holy Grail of Leicadom, but still, in the end, it's a 35mm rangefinder camera, shooting what is likely excellent glass but 35mm format glass all the same. Would it kick ass for photojournalism/docmentary work? Almost certainly: We might very well have to import ass from underdeveloped third-world countries just to have sufficient ass for it to kick.

But for stuff that a model wants and can use and would pay for?

Dude, give me a Hassy every time. Or, even better, unless the model plans to take out her own billboards, spare the umpty thousand dollars on Franken-Leica OR Uber-Large-Formatotron and buy some good lighting and hire a makeup artist and a hair stylist and a wardrobe stylist. Then the model might get something for her money. But a 35mm rangefinder is a 35mm rangefinder and it don't make no difference what you've wrapped around it, you have a relatively small lens and a 36x24mm frame of film and you get what you get.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Breaking Technology News

I got a new monitor.

I had been thinking that I should get an LCD monitor for a long time since I use my computer a lot (duh) and the CRT I had used a lot of electricity and got really hot and I couldn't even clean it without taking it down because it fit so snugly in the monitor hutch on my desk.

I don't mean to complain, and I got a very good deal, but I hate getting new monitors. The colors look off, it doesn't seem as sharp somehow, etc, etc. Of COURSE it looks different. It's a totally different technology. And I need to tweak the calibration some more. (I must be the only person in the world for whom Apple's Calibrate Display control panel does not work very well.)

What's worse is I promised myself if I got a new monitor I would work on my portfolio submission, for which less than a month of submission time remains. I hate me.

M
More after the jump - click here!

There's Only One Thing Better Than Two Hours of Sleep.

And that's being awakened from two hours of sleep by an explosion.

Damn, if I'd known how much fun that was, I might have joined the Army.

Too late now. I'm a shell of a man and before they could make me Army Strong I suspect I'd just be Army Dead.

Incidentally, it was an electrical transformer. Fixed now. Ironic that I stayed up reading Atlas Shrugged, which has as its main theme a continuous degradation of society and infrastructure.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Today's Trite And Hackneyed But Nonetheless True Adage.

Inspired by the collapse of the market. (Which market? All of them.)

Life is an author who only knows two words: "What if?"

Evolution is an editor who also only knows two words: "Not now."

M
More after the jump - click here!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Kind Of Thing That Goes On.

As an IP attorney, I've seen cases of outright IP theft that were just as blatant as some punk shoving an old lady and running off with her purse. You'd think people would know better, you wonder, "How do they possibly expect to get away with that?" But they do and a lot of the time they do. For instance, here's a story of blatant theft from a photographer by another photographer who tricked him into giving up his RAW images. The only reason the thief got caught at all was that the original photographer tried to submit some of the images to a contest that the thief had already sent them in to!

http://kevingerman.blogspot.com/2008/11/stolen.html

Hopefully, the thief isn't sophisticated enough to have altered the EXIF data on the original images. If this is so, between the date/time stamps and the serial number (Digital SLR's record the camera's serial number into the EXIF data at exposure time) the original photographer should be able to prove that the images are his. He did strip the data from the images he posted, but that's much easier than editing a RAW file.

I hate to say it, but this is yet one more example of why you should never, EVER give up your RAW files to anybody for any reason. They're the negatives of the digital world, and once they're out, they're out.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Just So You Know.

I did go and vote today, despite the fact that my vote is mathematically meaningless.

In and out in twenty minutes - I live in a precinct that, for whatever reason *coughjobscough* historically has low turnout early in the morning. Since I don't go in to my office on Tuesdays, I just go early and I'm usually in and out pretty fast. There were other precincts voting in the same polling place that had a line which was an hour or more long at 7 AM.

Illinois is an all-or-nothing Electoral College state, and Obama and Jackson couldn't lose here if God Almighty opened up the skies and yelled down, "I will personally throw anybody who votes for a Democrat into the Lake of Fire ten seconds later, you got Me?" Similarly, machine politicians will win all the races I'm allowed to vote in. More than half of the races, the incumbent was running unopposed. I won't vote in a race with only one candidate, and I expected to get an undervote warning when they scanned my ballot, but there wasn't one. Apparently it's okay not to vote when it makes no difference.

I'm not saying I want all Democrats or lose or that I necessarily feel the elections are "rigged." I live in a place that is overwhelmingly Democrat. A vote for a non-Democratic candidate "doesn't count," because Democrats always win. Increasing turnout would just increase Democratic vote counts. That's life. I'm not mad about it, but I do find it irritating when zillions of holier-than-thou types say that voting is your duty, and if you don't vote you can't complain, and similar nonsense. My vote, in every possible sense, makes absolutely no difference. Why I should be castigated for recognizing reality, I'm sure I don't know.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why Not To Get Carried Away

Sometimes too much of a good thing is wonderful. However, often too much of a good thing is... not so good. This applies very frequently in photography. Case in point: shallow depth of field/large aperture.

The first time you get hold of a fast (i.e. can open up to a very large aperture/very small f-stop) lens and a camera that can do good depth-of-field control, it's like "Wheee!"

However...

You can get carried away. Case in point: I took my camera with a 50mm f1.4 lens on it to the lake yesterday. My plan was to take pictures of seed pods and so forth with a shallow DOF and make all artsy pictures.

I switched to Av mode and opened the lens up all the way, despite the fact that the voices were telling me, "Don't get so nuts with the aperture, doofus."

Well, they were right.



Now that's some pretty shallow DOF - that dark blur in the upper right is a relatively large island in a lake which is only about fifty feet behind this feathery seed pod. Got that part right. However, the DOF is so shallow that a significant portion of the front of the pod is also out of focus. That's not so good. My plane of focus slices right through the middle of the pod, which is exactly what I wanted, but it's overdone. I might have been better off focusing on the front of it, if I had really wanted this shallow a DOF. However, what I really should have done is stopped down another two-thirds or so, say to f2.0, so that while the plane of focus would still have been right in the center, the foreground part of the pod would have not been so blurry. IMO, the picture would look a lot better that way.

In case you were wondering, while it was cloudy, there was tons of light (I love the gorgeous backlighting from the reflection of light off the lake - no polarizer on this shot) and this image was exposed at 1/3200s. It was a little windy, but none of that is motion blur, either from subject motion or camera shake. It would take a hurricane to move a plant enough to get motion blur at 1/3200s! The band of light in the upper-center is the lake, and the band of light in the upper area is the sky. The image is canted slightly in relation to the horizon, which is a relatively thin dark band comprised of the far shore of the lake and some trees.

Here's kind of a cool example of an unexpected DOF effect:



This is a tree trunk wrapped in wire mesh (there are beavers in this park as well as a lot of rabbits and they do this to trees they don't want chewed on.) Notice that since the object is cylindrical there's sort of a diagonal line of focused area. Part of the time the bark is in focus, part of the time the mesh is in focus, and part of the time nothing is in focus depending on where you are in the image. What controls the focal sharpness is absolute distance from the camera: since the object is has a pronounced relative dimension (I was really close to the tree) the areas in focus vary horizontally and vertically.

Summary: don't get nuts, unless you need to get nuts. Back it off a notch and see how it looks.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Why I Hope I'm Wrong.

Wrong about the subconscious racist sentiments of a lot of people, that is. This is why:

I see the following scenario as completely feasible although I assign it a low probability of occurance:

1) Pre-election Obama poll numbers swollen by voters refusing to admit subconscious racist sentiments;

2) Enough voters vote against the way they claim to be planning to vote to throw battleground states to McCain;

3) Obama wins popular vote but McCain wins Electoral College;

4) Claims of "stolen election" cause widespread conspiracy allegations;

5) Mass hysteria causes civil disorder, widespread lack of faith in Federal Government;

6) Subconscious racist feelings of voters in #2 "proven" by civil disorder, etc;

7) Markets collapse under weight of uncertainty, US economy stops working, millions jobless and widespread shortages caused by disorder and disruption of transport systems;

8) Authorities come under pressure from Bush/nascent McCain administration to repress disorder;

9) Civil War II erupts.

Now THAT'S a cynical projection. Like I said, I hope I'm wrong.

Incidentally, Scott Adams also predicts some sort of zombie problem.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Still Here, Just Quiet.

Haven't done a lot of photography lately, just haven't had the spirit. Ironically, PhotoShelter's been gone almost two weeks now and I got an email from somebody wanting to license two of my pictures that not only did she first see on PhotoShelter, but that I took at Shoot the Day. Ah, life. They're for a textbook which is a biography of a poet, can't say who, which is kinda hard to assign a value to. I took my best shot, we'll see if her editor approves the license fee. In other news...

I did sort out the first pass on the images I want to submit to the B&W photo contest, which was a big step. Now I have to bring it down to eight to twelve images, and then fine-tune them.

In other other news, we replaced our living-room couch with a treadmill, which also seems very ironic in the proper context. We pulled the couch out and I took it to Goodwill, then we brought the treadmill (which I brought home in my truck last week) in and set it up. Good. Lord. That sucker was heavy. In the box, it was probably close to 250# and unwieldy as Hell. It's all set up now, though. Fortunately I have a furniture dolly. Well, actually it's a mechanic's rollaway (those things mechanics lie on to roll under cars) but it was purposefully built to be heavy enough to hold machinery and furniture. It's pretty nifty, really.

Who knew treadmills were so fancy now? This one has both an iPod dock (with speakers, it also charges the iPod) and a flash memory slot for something called "iFit workout cards," which you can buy in various configurations with custom progressive workouts on them. These include audio narration by a human trainer! I think I'll mostly just walk. On the other hand, it has a little fan, which is genius. Exercise is much more livable with a little air moving over you.

This is the one we got:

Nordic Track C2155

It was on closeout, it's been replaced by some slightly fancier doodad. It was 40% off, which was nice too. It's not as good for running as for walking, but my wife has iffy knees and I run only when chased, so walking will be fine.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Fun-Filled Morning

I went in to get my teeth cleaned and to have a little spot where food was catching patched up.

Of course, it's never that easy.

Three hours later, I'd had a root canal and two crowns. The emergency root canal was necessary because the tooth was badly infected, even though I was experiencing no symptoms whatsoever. (Other than a general malaise, but I just figured that was because I'm me.) Anyway, at least I can add a tally to another life list of mine, "Times doctors have said to me, 'I don't understand how you're even conscious, let alone not screaming in agony.'" I think this makes three.

I have to go back in five weeks and get the permanent crowns put on. Oh, and get my teeth cleaned. We kinda never got around to that.

On the plus side, my dentist got a totally cool digital dental photography setup with a twin macro lite. It's nifty. And he's a really, really excellent dentist.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

M. Moldbug Does It Again.

Best. Quote. About banking. Ever.

From
The Misesian explanation of the bank crisis
:

A banking system is like a nuclear reactor: a complicated piece of engineering. If it's engineered right, it works 100% of the time. If it's engineered wrong, it works 99.99% of the time, and the other 0.01% it coats the entire tri-state area in radioactive strontium.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

So the Editor of a Magazine Just Called.

Unfortunately, he doesn't want to hire me to shoot a massive spread for a $20K day rate. Nor have I just won a digital Hasselblad. However...

I did just win second prize in my category in an international photo competition.

Not allowed to say what magazine until it's published, but it's a Real Magazine. (I have a subscription to it, and you can buy it in any bookstore. Paid circulation is over 200K.) The editor made a point to say how this particular photograph was one of his personal favorites. I mean, sure, he could have said that about all of them, but I'm willing to bet it was very, very different from most of the entries in my category, so even if it wasn't the jury's overall pick, I can see where it might really appeal to someone. :)

The prize isn't huge, but it's more than a "photo credit." Every little bit helps: since I write off my camera gear, I need some income to show for it!

This isn't the first contest I've had success in, but it's the largest by a country mile. Now maybe I'll have enough gumption to put together a portfolio for that B&W contest I wanted to enter.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

They Said It...

Dr. Ian Malcom: "Boy, do I hate being right all the time."

(In response to being told, "It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you're the smartest person in the room.")

Jane Craig: "No. It's awful."

Finch: ... I felt like I could see everything that happened, and everything that is going to happen. It was like a perfect pattern, laid out in front of me. And I realised we're all part of it, and all trapped by it.
Dominic: So do you know what's gonna happen?
Finch: No, it was a feeling. But I can guess.

I have spent the last several years telling anyone who would listen without walking away that our economic model was unsustainable. If a trend can't go on forever, it won't. Well, no trend can go on forever, except maybe dE = TdS - pdV, but the trends we were on were a lot less sustainable than that.

Now I am reminded of another story within a story I once read, that of an eminent toxicologist who one day accidentally ingested a small amount of a slow-acting but incredibly toxic substance. He looked up the substance in his own classic toxicology book, and saw that he'd had a lethal dose. He looked it up in his chief rival's equally eminent book, and found that by his calculations the dose would almost certainly not kill him. So there he sat, hoping he'd been wrong.

I know this isn't very photo-oriented, but I needed to get it out a little bit. My optimistic hope is that we'll use this as the mother of all resets, and go on our way sadder but wiser. My not so optimistic fear is that a lot of "post-apocalyptic fiction" is about to start looking more like documentary work.

Oh, well. All one can do is all one can do. We went to the store today and stocked up, and I bought a load of firewood a few days ago. I keep a big can of gas in the garage - enough to get around on for a while if there is a disruption like they're having in the Southeast right now. Temporary dislocations cannot overly dismay us, and with any luck at all any dislocations will be temporary. I commend the same course of action to anyone who reads this. No harm being prepared - having what you don't need is usually preferable to the reverse.

In fact, it's somewhat reassuring, really it is. I feel much better now. Plus, we discovered a delightful little Polish butcher shop not far from our house. The meat is comparably priced to that at big-box grocery stores, but the quality and selection, not to mention the service, are far superior. We got a big brown grocery bag of all kinds of really delicious looking stuff, including stuffed chicken breasts and a Polish meatloaf, for sixty dollars. No way would you get out of Jewel or Dominick's with that much stuff for that price!

And by a funny chance both Ziploc and Reynolds just introduced do-it-yourself vacuum seal freezer bags. Ziploc's pump is a hand syringe and Reynolds' is a battery-powered pump. We got the Ziploc sort on the grounds that battery-powered doodads are inherently less reliable, plus the Ziploc pump comes completely apart for cleaning. But I'm sure either would work fine.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Always Remember

Everything is connected to everything else: the world is a seamless web. As Sam put it:

A body might stump his toe, and take pison, and fall down the well, and break his neck, and bust his brains out, and some-body come along and ask what killed him, and some numskull up and say, 'Why, he stumped his TOE.'

--Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

M
More after the jump - click here!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another Riveting Update

For those of you keeping score at home:

I now have eight external hard drives in my home office.

I'm going to give my parents my PC, since I don't use it any more, and it had a big hard drive in it that I wanted to keep. So I took it out and put it in an external enclosure.

I think I'm insane.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Brief Thoughts and Updates

1) Jill Greenberg is a very clever idiot.

2) The economy is in terrible, desperate trouble.

3) My photo mojo is not workin'.

1) From my comment on Rachel Hulin's blog:

(See http://www.rachelhulin.com/blog/ for the backstory.)

While I dread a McCain presidency even more than I dread an Obama presidency (and I dread a potential Palin presidency far more than either) that was a low-down, dirty trick to do to a subject she was being PAID to shoot by a client, who she then publicly called irresponsible and implied weren't very smart. Not to mention that now the client has to deal with the consequences of sending McCain to Greenberg and having her pull this crap.

Yes, let's all insult our clients, belittle and trick our subjects, and leave the steaming heap behind for other people to have to deal with. THAT'S a good way to encourage people to pay professional photographers rather than just send a point-and-shoot camera along with the interview journalist.

Brilliant, Jill, brilliant.


Also that crap she pulled with the Photoshopping and the monkey poo? Juvenile. Totally juvenile. No wonder she empathizes with little children who've lost their candy so much. She basically views the whole world as one big exercise in stealing her candy and her life is a tantrum in response.

2) We're already at 5x the amount of losses from the sub-prime, excuse me housing, excuse me general risk-management EPIC FAIL, crisis that was first projected less than a year ago and there's no bottom in sight. From five major investment banks we're down to two. The Big Three automakers are going broke at a rate that surpasses human comprehension. The USG has done NOTHING to mend its financial idiocy and whoever wins in November we will spend more, not less, next year than we did the year before and we will take in less, not more, in taxes than we did the year before, guaranteed. There's an old saying that if you keep doing what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got. What we've always done is spend more than we have, and what we've always got is more debt.

There's another saying, however, that receives much less press, and that is that if a trend is unsustainable, it will not be sustained. Accruing more debt is an unsustainable trend. The USG is going to collectively wake up some morning in the same place that Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns and Countrywide did, and at that point it has two options, no more and no less. Bankruptcy, or monetization of debt. That second one is a fancy way to say, "Print the money to pay the bills." This leads to a phenomenon called hyperinflation. If you want to know what that looks like, hop on a plane to Zimbabwe, or read a book about the Weimar Republic or the economics of the Confederacy. This is not a new story and it always, always, always ends the same way.

If you want to learn a little about how this all works, and don't like math, try PJ O'Rourke's book on economics and business, Eat The Rich. Trust me, any book which discusses cow howitzers and Courtney Love on permanent tour in Japan is worth reading. Your local library will have it, as PJ is quite popular, and it's probably also available in audio form. Read it, seriously.

3) Between the PhotoShelter Collection going teats-up and the fact that I just can't seem to get any joy out of it, I don't remember the last time I took pictures for fun. I take 'em at family things and so forth and they're good, it's not like I don't have the chops, or at least as many chops as I ever had, but I don't seem to be getting anywhere.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Well, Poop.

PhotoShelter Announces closing of the PhotoShelter Collection.

And after I went to all the trouble to rearrange my blog to use the PhotoShelter Widget, and everything. Damn.

Oh, well. I sold a picture to Richard Leakey. That was pretty cool. I feel sorrier for the staff - having participated, more than once, in the closing of a business, I know how much it well and truly sucks. The Archive portion of PhotoShelter will continue in business and is doing well, but they just couldn't make the stock side work.

Things fall apart: the center cannot hold. First the Patry blog, now this. Bah. Bah, I say.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

BTW, Here's Why Bristol Palin is Relevant

Because her pregnancy proves that Sarah Palin is either a bad parent, or stupid, and either way, that's a very relevant thing to consider when asked to vote for the potential vice-president of a candidate who's in his seventies and has a history of cardiac incidents and cancer as well as other serious health risks.

Here's the logic underlying my conclusion:

Sarah Palin has stated unconditionally that abstinence-only programs are the only acceptable sex-education for American children in public school, despite the clear statistical evidence that they don't work and safer-sex education programs do. The only two reasons one could advocate such a proven failure are that one is stupid, or that one believes that sex-education is the responsibility of the parents.

Sarah Palin went to college, has been the governor of a state, and has many other accomplishments (did you know she's a pilot?) I don't think she's stupid. So let's give her the benefit of the doubt and say she honestly believes sex-education is the responsibility of the parents.

Well, Palin, as I said, isn't stupid. She's had several kids. She knows what causes them. But apparently she utterly failed in her duty to her daughter Bristol, who got so little sex-education that she finds herself pregnant at 17. Either Bristol's too dumb to be allowed to run around where there are boys - in which case Palin failed her by deciding to pursue her political career instead of caring for her and, by the way, Palin's own four-month-old child who has Down's Syndrome - or Palin couldn't be bothered to teach her daughter not to let boys put their thingies in hers. Either way, especially for a true-blue social and religious conservative, EPIC FAIL.

And still, confronted with seventeen-and-knocked-up PROOF that such policies DO NOT WORK, Palin is presumably still all about family responsibility and abstinence-only educational policies. Unless she admits either her failure or her idiocy, she's not only either a failure or an idiot, she's also a hypocrite. And ALL of those are very relevant to somebody who is asking to be put a faltering heartbeat away from the Presidency. Bristol's not running for Vice-President, and she should be strictly left alone by the media and the public. What's important is not the choices Bristol Palin made, but what Bristol Palin's choices tell us about Sarah Palin.

And as many others have pointed out, Palin sees no contradiction between pointing out how proud she is of Bristol's "choice" and the fact that if Palin were Queen, Bristol and the millions like her every year would not HAVE that choice. It's one thing for Bristol, whose parents are kind, supporting, and financially secure, to go into such a situation, and quite another for a poor girl from the projects with no support network and no resources to face it. But Palin wants to treat them just alike.

The whole thing irritates me so that if it were not for the fact that states are all-or-nothing and there is no way on Eris's sweet Earth that Obama will not win Illinois, I might reconsider my policy of not voting for anything but rejection of tax referenda.

M

PS: Several researchers have pointed out that it is almost statistically certain that Palin and her husband were having unprotected premarital sex based on the date of her marriage and the birth of her first son, but while I find that very Amusing it only shows that Palin herself was not properly educated and made foolish choices when young, which should NOT be held against her in any way.
More after the jump - click here!

Against the Assault of Laughter...

nothing can stand.

So we went to my parents' house for the holiday weekend. On the way home we stopped at McDonald's...

... and ahead of me was this raggedy-looking fellow who, upon receiving his order, immediately said, "I wanted this to go." It was like three Happy Meals (which come in bags no matter what) and a Big Mac deal, which was on the tray loose. Okay, fine. The counter person had the sandwich and fries in a bag in the blink of an eye. But then...

"Since my order's jacked up, I want to be compensated. I want a free cheeseburger or something."

The girl taking orders said, "Are you kidding me?" I don't blame her - she didn't say it in an obnoxious way, but the guy's demeanor was so manic that she very probably thought it was a joke.

He replied, "No, unfortunately I am not. I want two free pies. Give 'em to me now or your manager will do it." He repeated this four or five times in slightly different ways, getting more and more upset by the second.

The guy next to me and I were literally laughing out loud at this guy and making no attempt to hide it. I have not been so well-entertained by incidental street theater in I don't know how long.

Eventually the manager came out and, upon hearing the situation, said calmly, "Sir, the mistake was an accident and took ten seconds to fix. I apologize for the small delay but I am not giving you anything for free. If your order is complete, please move so we can serve other customers."

Rag-boy flounced off in a huff, obliterating any shreds of dignity he may have retained. I mean, really, he said, "Fine, I'm never coming back here again!" How cliché is that? I swear to Bog, his affect during the entire affair was that of a spoiled six-year-old girl.

My order came up just after and the manager counted off the items: he said, "Three-piece Chicken Selects" when I had ordered a five-piece. I immediately said, "That's wrong! I ordered a five-piece! I want the whole thing for free! And I want the keys to your car! Right now!"

He looked in the bag and said, "I was wrong. It is a five-piece. And I don't own a car. Sorry."

I snapped my fingers and stage-yelled, "Darn!" I then laughed and thanked him. He thought it was funny and hopefully it broke up the tension a bit.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Perpetual Motion Machines

Or, as most people refer to them, "Toddlers." A co-worker of mine asked me to shoot pictures of her daughter, who'll be a year old next month, for the birthday announcements. I took her birth announcement pictures, and apparently she was pretty happy with those and asked me to do it again. "Why not?" I thought.

Well, this year we took the pictures at Grandma's house. (Grandma has a really nice back yard.) I wanted to start early, both because the light is better before the sun is too high, and because I don't like being hot. :) After bravely navigating the path to Grandma's (my co-worker's directions had a MAJOR error that I only avoided because I knew roughly where Grandma's house was already) I waited the half-hour that I knew I would wait* and they arrived...

Surprise #1. Another couple, with a baby about the age of my co-worker's. Huh? When did I agree to shoot two families?

Surprise #2. They brought their dog. Their very large, extraordinarily slobbery dog. This dog nailed my lens with goo from ten feet away. Impressive.

Anyway, into it we went. One of the great "secrets" to child photography is to get down to their level. Pictures of the kid looking up at you - and I'm over six feet tall - are not very interesting. However, the getting up and down is wearying when you also weigh over two hundred pounds. And up and down for two kids. Whee!

Her kid is just adorable, and was very cooperative for a one-year-old. I can't complain, really. The dog was not. There were just too many people running around and he couldn't stay put. Oh, well. You do the best you can with what you have where you are.

Used quite a bit of fill-flash until the batteries in my strobe died (some knucklehead forgot to swap in fresh batteries.) It helps a lot, especially in direct sun. The yard had lots of shade and lots of sun and the kid was constantly running between, which made the exposure work fun. I did go two-gun and wear a camera with a zoom lens and one with a fast prime.

My favorite pictures, by far, were from the prime. I shot in AV (Aperture Priority) mode with the lens opened way up. I got quite a few pictures that were a little fuzzy (although I have auto-focus on a priority button and switched to Servo mode, so not as many as you might think.) But the ones that were good were great. Soft, buttery backgrounds with lovely circular highlights. And with a lens opened to f2.2 or so, even in deep shadow and at ISO100, I got shutter speeds low enough to freeze the kids and the dog. In direct sunlight I was almost maxing out the shutter! (Fastest shot I saw was 1/4000.)

Here's grandma's backyard with the prime opened way up. (f1.8 for lighting test, lens's max aperture is f1.4.)



Darn, I just love a fast lens. I only shot a few lighting tests without anybody in them and my co-worker hasn't given me permission to post any pics with people, so that's all I got for now. I'm out.

M

*My co-worker is hardworking, intelligent, and talented, but amongst her many gifts, "punctuality" does not lie. Her husband, so far as I can tell, is even worse.
More after the jump - click here!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

This is Just Fascinating

This Frequent Flyer miles thing is a whole new subculture to wonder at, now I come to learn about it. It started with "Buy X tickets, get a free flight," but quickly - literally within a few months - became, "Fly X miles, get a free flight." Ironically, Southwest, the only really profitable airline right now, got off that boat and now offers - you guessed it - "Buy X tickets, get a free flight." (Or an upgrade.)

More stuff...

Here's an article on why FFP can be viewed as a meme, or mind virus. Note at least one error - the article says that AA wishes FFM "would just go away," but that's not true. Airlines make huge profits from their FFM programs. They just don't like it when people actually, you know, use miles.

http://www.memecentral.com/mu/mu0028.htm

Here's the Wiki on FFP, including some history:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frequent_flyer_miles

Here's a humongous forum devoted to FFP and related topics:

http://www.flyertalk.com


M
More after the jump - click here!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Gaming the System

We went to Hawai'i last year for a week - we won a trip at my company's holiday party. (Always fold your entry in a wacky way, that's the key.) We'd really, really like to go back, but tickets aren't cheap and aren't getting cheaper. Hotels aren't cheap either, but if you can get there, that's way more than half the battle.

So of course my devious little brain has been trying to figure out how to get somebody ELSE to pay for it.

My wife loves contests and has been entering all the ones she could find - we both entered the Hawai'i Magazine photography contest last month, so that's worth a shot. But there is a slower but more certain way to get other people to buy you airplane tickets: Frequent Flyer Miles programs.

Originally, you got frequent flyer miles by, well, by flying frequently. But no more! Of course, you can still do it that way (and that's the best way) but you can also earn them by doing various things or even win them in contests and promotions. I signed up for a Hawai'ian Airlines Frequent Flyer account and commenced to gamin'. So far:

1) Play games on Microsoft's promotional site for its new search service and trade prize tickets for miles: up to 2500 miles/redemption. It takes about four days to earn enough tickets for the maximum award. If Microsoft leaves this site up - which they won't - you could theoretically earn a one-way ticket from the mainland to Hawai'i every twenty-four days! If you want to play, it's at http://club.live.com. There are multiple programs eligible for miles awards.

UPDATE: Apparently this has been going on for quite some time and while Microsoft encourages you to redeem your points frequently, people are reporting having collected over 20,000 FFM this way. That's a domestic ticket to anywhere! The math:

Largest award you can redeem tickets for: 2500M/4300T
Max T/Day: 1000T
Cost T/M: 1.72T/M
Days to earn 20KM: 34.4
Days to earn SuperSaver Fare on HA: 30.1 (Obviously my estimate above was a little optimistic.)

But still, if you were nuts about it - and ask anybody, I go nuts about stuff - you could earn six roundtrips a year doing this.

2) Subscribe to "Hawai'i Magazine." 250 miles for a discounted rate on a magazine my wife buys anyway. :)

3) Open an account with Sharebuilder. 2500 miles after first securities purchase. If you do this right you can set up, make one purchase, and then cash out after you get your miles.

4) You can get a wide variety of credit cards that award miles for each dollar spent. However, these aren't necessarily the biggest bang for your buck - if your credit is good, you're better off getting a rebate card that pays cash back directly and using the cash for your tickets! The nice thing, though, is you can often heterodyne purchases on miles cards with purchases from "partners" who also give miles for dollars spent, and get several miles per dollar spent. That can add up fast.

5) You can wait for the Pudding Angel to reach down from heaven and give you millions of miles. I'd be all over this one but the Pudding Angel is notoriously hard to get hold of.

Interestingly, you can buy miles direct from most programs. For instance, Hawai'ian sells them for $15/500 miles plus a $4/purchase fee. That works out to just under a thousand dollars a ticket, and tickets go for about $400ea. Not really very economical. However, if you're 500 miles short and want to book a trip, as a convenience fee it's quite livable.

Here's a picture taken just outside the Kahului airport on Maui. This is the freaking AIRPORT. It's not fair, I tell you.

M

More after the jump - click here!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lightroom Update

I am still a little nervous about Lightroom 2: Adobe seems to have caught Microsoft Disease. ("Ship it: people will buy it even if it's buggy and we'll gradually get it to where it's livable sooner or later.") However, they have finally posted a script that fixes the keyword bug, which was totally unacceptable. And as I said earlier, some of the features are nifty. But wait..

A photographer/programmer has created a LR plugin that allows direct export to the PSC or the PSA from Lightroom. O frabjous day! This takes a very annoying step right out of my workflow. It seems to work fine both with LR 1.4.1 and LR 2.0. Here it is

http://pka.xs4all.nl/index.php/lang-en/lightroomexportpluginphotoshelter

M
More after the jump - click here!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

You are A-Number-ONE!

And on a non-photography-related note, I sadly report the death of Isaac Hayes:

Soul icon Isaac Hayes dies in Memphis at 65

Mr. Hayes was of course best known as an important soul-music writer and perfomer, and more recently as the voice of "Chef" on "South Park," but to me he will always be the Duke of New York, ruler of John Carpenter's twisted Hell on Earth, the Manhattan Island Maximum Security Penitentiary.

Escape from New York is a dystopian classic and in my opinion a future we avoided only by sheer chance and which we may yet visit. Hayes' portrayal of the brutal but brilliant Duke was masterful. He will be missed, but alas, the rules are simple. Once you go in, you don't come out.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Darn, this DAM is a lot of work.

So my file drawer of model releases was getting kind of full.

You see, up until now I've had the following record-keeping technique for my releases. I've put in an envelope:

1) The original model release.
2) A disc (CD or DVD) with the orignal RAW files.
3) A copy of the model's ID, if I had one.

And put it in a file drawer. Well, it was pretty full, and I really didn't have room for more, and I had a bunch of releases that needed filing.

So I went to the store and bought a binder and a box of sheet protectors, and spent the last three hours opening the envelopes, stacking the discs, and putting the releases into the archival sheet protectors. Now instead of a file drawer, I have a stack of discs in my big disc rack, and a binder (that's not even full.)

What motivated me to do this was that I've spent the last few weeks organizing my digital assets (image files) so I could go through them and mine for stock images. When I submit the images, I also need to be able to submit the release to the agency. All this rooting through envelopes, taking out releases, and then putting them back after scanning was getting very old. Now I can just flip through the book (it's in chronological order,) take the release out, and put it back in the book without having to push and pull envelopes out of a drawer.

This binder will henceforth be known as the BRB, or Big Red Binder, because it's big and red. "R" could also stand for "release," but I think "Red" is funnier.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Diverse, or Just Weird?

I know I've posted several times about my Search for Style. ("STYYYYYYYYLE!") One style I know is not really me is photojournalism. It's way too much work. :) However, I'm certainly adding a lot of photojournalistic, or at least editorial, images to my stock portfolio here recently.

First about two dozen pictures I took at a sprint-car race (See: Sprint Car Racing.) Then this week, about a dozen images of the aftermath of the Iowa River Floods. (See: Iowa River Floods of 2008.) Now, I'm an opportunistic so-and-so. I see something I can take pictures of, especially but not limited to pictures I might could sell, and I'm on it. If I were a commercial photographer and this were my portfolio, it wouldn't look good. Typically you have a portfolio for your main area of photography: if you have multiple areas, you have multiple portfolios. But, since buyers are probably not going to look at my PSC user portfolio that often, rather finding the images through keyword searches, I guess it's not that big a deal.

M
More after the jump - click here!

Clients. Lie To You, They Will.

Today, not only did a photographer ask me for advice when a potential client wanted a photo to use in their corporate logo in exchange for a credit (What are they going to do, put his URL in their logo?) John Harrington posted this little story on his Pro Photo Business blog...

Photo Business News & Forum: Conde Nast, Encyclopedia Britannica - Selling "Their" Images

(Summary: Magazine demands full re-use and relicense rights, for no extra fees, from assignment photographers. Despite assurance to the contrary, magazine goes on to relicense the images without sharing any revenues with the photographers. Several other large publishers are revealed to be doing the same.)

I know it will come as a HUGE shock to you, but people will lie, cheat, and steal. They will also, and hopefully much more commonly, just say one thing and change their minds later. Or perhaps the person who did the deal with you gets fired, and a new person takes over, and says, "Hey! We're sitting on a gold mine with all these rights. Let's do some business!"

On that last point, I have had people I was negotiating very large deals with actually say things like, "Oh, you know we'd never [do something I was trying to prohibit in the contract.]" And you know what? I believed 'em. I'd been doing business with some of them for years and they were honorable people. But you know what else? They could get hit by a bus tomorrow and somebody less honorable, or just with different ideas about what was acceptable behavior and what wasn't, could take over management of those rights. I get paid to anticipate my client's future problems, not just shake hands with my friends. I'd be remiss in my duty as an advocate to sign over rights without appropriate compensation, "understanding" or no "understanding."

While I rarely came right out and said, "What if you get hit by a bus tomorrow," I was very straightforward with them. I would reply, "I know that, and I appreciate the relationship we have. But I have to think about what happens to these rights five and ten and twenty years from now. Can you promise me you won't retire or get promoted or that for any other reason somebody with a different mindset might eventually have control over these rights and decide to go in a different direction?" That almost always allowed the conversation to progress without casting any aspersions on the current relationship, and when it didn't, well, sometimes deals aren't worth the risk. I know it's hard to turn away money, but sometimes that's what you do. More often than not when you make it clear you'll walk away, unless they were totally fishing they'll come around anyway!

This is what lawyers are for, people. This is the value we add. We stop people screwing you over. Or, more charitably, we make sure our clients fully understand the implications of the agreements they make and help them ensure that the agreements reflect a full and fair understanding of the transaction the parties have agreed to. Pay us now or pay us later... or don't pay us at all and watch people with their own lawyers and/or a lack of scruples profit from your hard work.

M
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Monday, August 4, 2008

This is Eerie.

You do not know how many times I have had this dream:

Flying

(Thanks to Rachel Hulin over at Shoot! The Blog for the tip.)

No, seriously. You don't. The pictures (click on the sample to see more) were taken, without any kind of trick photographry or post-processing, by French photographer Denis Darzacq.

When I have this dream, the situation usually that I have to go somewhere or do something that you can't get to by walking, and my dream-self concentrates, like he's remembering something he hasn't had to do for a long time, and starts taking steps into the air. Eventually this progresses to "flying" in much the same posture that Superman flies, although it's very, very hard to do: he can't do it for long, and if anything distracts him, he starts to fall. I usually wake up before he gets where he's going.

Incidentally, dreams like this are the only dreams I have had since I was a child in which I do not know that I am dreaming. When I wake up, remembrances of these dreams are indistinguishable from ordinary memories. More than once the day after one of them I've tried to walk on the air for a split-second before realizing that what I was trying to do was impossible. Maybe someday I'll pull an Arthur Dent and forget to remember that it won't work.

M
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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Lightroom 2: Hmm.

For starters, I still don't think most people should upgrade to Lightroom 2. Just too many bugs popping up and/or waiting to be discovered. Give 'em another month or two to go to a .1 version, or at least to fix that GODAWFUL keyword bug. But if you're technically minded (I can tell you how to fix the keyword bug if you are technical) and adventurous, it does have some mindblowingly nifty new features...

For starters, there's the Graduated Filter tool, which is very awesome for landscape shots with hot skies - it's just like applying a gradient-masked adjustment in Photoshop, only WAY easier and faster. And the new camera-specific color profiles are a treat. Several tests have shown that the camera-specific profile for my camera starts out WAY closer to my preferred colors than the old ACR color profiles. You still will often have to do some twiddling - Nature, after all, often doesn't properly saturate the blues or whatever - but as far as getting good color balance, it's a huge improvement. I like the new catalog organization (everything's sorted by volume by default.) And it does seem to handle my very large image catalog (68K images) quite a bit more smoothly. I think it's going to be a great program.

M
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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Here We Are in August

It's been a real "mad dogs and Englishmen" kind of climate around here lately. Too. Hot. Otherwise, I'm keeping busy for the most part but not doing a lot of photography-related stuff.

I'm trying to pick some pictures from Hawai'i to enter a contest, I'm being a general PITA on the PhotoShelter forums, and I'm gradually withdrawing in disgust from almost every other human-related activity. Sometimes I get a little peevish.

M
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Warning Regarding Lightroom 2

DO NOT, under any circumstances, upgrade to Lightroom 2. This thing is not ready for prime time.


Just as one example, there is a major bug which prevents your keywords from being property exported in the new version. There is no fix as of now. The only way to get around it is to manually change a setting for each and every keyword you've ever used.

More as events warrant.

UPDATE: Adobe is aware of the problem and is working on a fix. But given the number of people who have already reported the issue, I hope I'm not being uncharitable in saying this doesn't strike me as reassuring evidence of extensive and exhaustive beta testing, despite how long the Public Beta has been going on.

UPDATE 2: There is an "unofficial" fix which requires a fairly high level of geek-fu. (If you don't know what a "SQL query" is, don't even think about it.) I did it and it worked. Adobe should have a "real" fix soon.

M
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Possibly The Greatest Venn Diagram In The History Of The World

Bobby Henderson, famed Pastafarian, created this amazing diagram to explain the motivation for his latest photography project:


(Image ©Bobby Henderson: Used for illustration only.)

Yes, it's Fine Art Taco Photography.

The exhibit has accrued much acclaim. For example:

"You are the Orson Welles of the taco photography world and this is your Citizen Kane."

All kidding aside, the photographs are actually quite nice, if you're into that sort of thing. Have a look.

Fine Art Taco Photography

Or click here to go to the main FATP gallery.

M
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ain't No Fighting It

I grew up in a small town in Iowa called "Wapello." (Named after Chief Wapello of the Sac and Fox tribes.) It is on the Iowa River, which you may have seen in news reports last month (June 2008) as it destroyed large areas of several cities, including Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa, and Oakville, a small town ten miles from Wapello which was totally wiped out. More than a month later, the town of Oakville is still under de-facto martial law. How do I know this?

I went home this weekend to visit my grandparents (one of them had been in a fall.) While I was there, I drove along the road from Wapello to Oakville to see the aftermath of the floods. It was horrific. The Iowa is normally a small, sleepy tributary of the Mississippi. (There's a reason you've never heard of it.) Most years, if my father takes us for a ride in his motorboat, he has to be very careful not to run aground in the shallower parts of the river channel. But this year it broke all flood records and laid waste to hundreds of square miles. Some are calling it "Iowa's Katrina." Have a look:



The water got under the road, washed it out, and tossed the concrete road sections like a child's railroad track. They are broken with almost geometric precision along the expansion joints which are typically placed in thin-bed concrete roads in the country.

Fortunately, Wapello is on higher ground, and because the levee broke in Oakville, the pressure was relieved before Wapello (which is much larger than Oakville) could be flooded. While it's cold comfort to the good citizens of Oakville, I'm sure, that failure probably saved hundreds of homes by destroying dozens elsewhere. I did drive to Oakville, but there was a woman sitting at the only road into town with a large sign that said, "ALL VISITORS MUST CHECK IN." I didn't feel like checking in, so I turned around and went back. My mother told me later that you had to have a permit to enter the town because there were problems with scavengers stealing things.

I have family who live outside Oakville, but they are not in the riverbottom and had no trouble. My parents, who live outside Wapello, couldn't drive into town for weeks as the road crosses the Iowa River bottom, and at its lowest point the water was over five feet deep. While the absolute number of people affected is small, the scale of this is hard to imagine. I guess the occasional severe thunderstorm isn't so bad when you think about living in flood plains or Hurricane Alley.

My grandfather told me about a fellow that my grandparents have coffee with most mornings (they still do that in Iowa.) The day before the levee broke, he came to breakfast and derisively snorted, "I went and looked at the water. The Corps of Engineers is way off - it won't get to within four feet of where they say it will."

The next day his house was gone. Not flooded, gone. The levee broke, the water picked up his house and floated it away. I'm guessing he didn't bother to get anything out since he was so sure the water wouldn't reach him. Let that be a lesson to you: there ain't no fighting a flood, there ain't no second-guessing it. If it looks like the water is coming, you have one choice: get out of the way or suffer the consequences. You can always come back and laugh at yourself if it doesn't happen.

Oakville - where I attended first and second grade, in an old schoolhouse Wapello used for a few years when their districts were consolidated - may never recover. Every building in the town limits was heavily damaged or destroyed. The entire infrastructure (roads, power, sewer, water, gas) will have to be completely rebuilt - and now that it's known the whole town is on a flood plain, there'll be no insurance available and very little government money for anything but buyouts. Only perhaps a dozen people in the town had flood insurance - not only is it very expensive (and Oakville is not a rich place) but except for those living right on the river, nobody ever thought that the whole place could literally be submerged for days. A little water in the basement, sure, but six feet of water on Main Street? Unimaginable - until now.

On a photography note, this is one of the reasons why backups, and by that I mean either portable or off-site backups, are required. Every time I leave the house for more than a day, I take a portable hard drive which has all my backlog on it. I also have a hard drive which lives at my office more than fifty miles away with a recent backup on it as well. That's not just my "art" pictures, it's all the family pictures (including our wedding photos which have been digitized,) our financial records, my wife's genealogy research, you name it. It would be awful to lose our house, but at least we wouldn't have to worry about reconstructing our records from nothing.

M
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Light Is Not Your Friend, Neither Your Enemy: It Is What It Is

As every book on photography points out, "photography" means "writing with light." Light has qualities, many qualities, and for the beginning photographer some of those qualities are less obvious than others. There's intensity, of course. That one's easy. It's too dark. It's too bright. Adjust exposure, or adjust light source. There's direction. That one's mostly easy - which way are the shadows pointed? Which side of the thing is lit up and which side isn't? Again, pretty easy to fix. But then there are the subtler ones - which produce anything but subtle results sometimes.

For instance, there's hardness. Hardness refers to a quality of light which is controlled by its relative size in the "arc" of the picture. The smaller the arc, the harder the light. Direct sunlight at noon on a clear day is very hard, because the sun is very small in the sky. Light from a softbox (and that's why they're called that) close to the subject is very soft, because it's huge relative to the arc of the picture.

Hardness controls the texture of the image in some ways. It isn't always apparent that this is significant in the ways that it is. For instance, consider this image:



The model's skin is very textured (and not necessarily in a good way.) That's because the sole source of light is a direct sunbeam - because she's in deep shadow, there's not even any ambient light from reflection off nearby objects or the ground, as there often is even in most "direct" sunlight pictures. It took a while to get her skin even this good: every little blemish and fold was sharply outlined by shadows. Even if you fix the blemish, you still have to fix the shadows, and it's tricky to find a good source for replacing the area.

Then consider this image:



Same model, same approximate location (less than a hundred yards away,) same time of day (less than ten minutes later.) Totally different. Why? Soft light. She's in open shade, in a courtyard with light-reflecting walls in all directions. The light "source" is huge: light is coming from everywhere. I hardly had to do any work on her skin, and that was just to remove actual visible blemishes.

It's not just a matter of how much light you have: what kind of light, its hardness, directionality, and color, are almost as important. I say "almost" only because if you don't have enough light, you don't get a picture. After that hill is climbed, the other qualities of the light are just as important as the quantity.

M
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Chicago Shoot! The Day

Well, nobody fell off the roof or got run over or anything, so it was a qualified success. We'll see how happy people are with their pictures. There sure was a lot of running around, I'll say that much.

We were at one studio all morning, then some of us went to another studio, and a makeup artist met us there, and then I took one of the models home, because she lived two blocks from the first studio, and hadn't got a car anyway.

While I hope some of the pictures turn out I think the high point of my day was either showing up at my studio and introducing everyone to my fabulous studio partner, who doesn't believe in clothes, or taking one of the models in full makeup to the drugstore on an emergency supply run. She stopped a lot of traffic. :) Here she is:



M
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Thursday, July 17, 2008

One of My Occasional Advice Postings for Beginning Photographers

I post these from time to time so you don't do the things I done. Specifically, don't do this...

When I started taking pictures I was pretty haphazard about organizing them. Before long, I started at least being consistent, and saving model shoots in folders named like this:

Model_Name_Date

Well, I decided to start mining my back sessions for stock, and step one was putting them ALL in LightRoom so I could easily access and sort them. That took hours and hours. (Generating the previews on 60K images is a long slow grind.)

Then, once it was too late, it occurred to me that it's not a very useful thing to sort on Model_Name_Date, especially when your dates are in American format (MMDDYY.) The only thing you can sort on is the model's first name, and even then the shoots won't be in temporal order!

Yes, I am so smart that when I'm dumb, it's a lulu. I gotta fix this...

So now I am going through my LR catalog and changing each folder to:

YYYY-MM-DD_Name_Model

Folders which are specific projects and not just model shoots are getting this naming convention:

CC-YYYY-MM-DD_Project_Name

Where "CC" is one of five "types" of projects (Family, Other Personal, Spec, Paid Clients, Miscellaneous) each of which has a two-digit code. That allows me to add 95 more codes if I want.

I'm not saying it's perfect but it will be *consistent* and allow chronological and type sorting. If you don't like it, use your own system. But use one!

Addition:

The preceding is the naming convention for my folders (or directories, if you prefer.) So a shoot might be something like 2005-07-08-Lady_Atropos.

The naming convention for retouched images *in* a given shoot is:

FILENUM_Title_MODS.ext

For instance, a picture called "In Shadows" which corresponds to the RAW file _MG_3456.CR2 would be:

3456_in_shadows.psd

I usually save my mods (crops, b&w conversions) all in one PSD file, but in separate JPEG's, which go in subdirectories called "Retouched" and "JPEGs" respectively. So if the above image had one crop and one b&w conversion, it would look like this on disk:

2005-07-08-Lady_Atropos/
_MG_3456.CR2

2005-07-08-Lady_Atropos/Retouched/
3456_in_shadows.psd

2005-07-08-Lady_Atropos/Retouched/JPEGs/
3456_in_shadows.jpg (This is the original image.)

3456_in_shadows_1.jpg (This is the crop.)

3456_in_shadows_1_bw.jpg (This is the cropped b&w conversion.)

3456_in_shadows_bw.jpg (This is the b&w conversion.)
Then when I do my galleries for models or whatever, I just point the generator at /Retouched/JPEGs/ for that session, and it automatically generates a gallery with one of each variant of every retouched picture. I can then have models send me filenames copied from the galleries, and if I ever want to review the original image from any variant, the file number takes me right back to the RAW file.


M
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It's Off To Work I Go

Well, actually, I'm not at my "day job" today. I telecommute sometimes. But photographically, now that I've got most of my images in my Lightroom database, I'm "mining" the older stuff for stock. Like I said in my previous post, I'm seeing a lot of images that I haven't thought about for a while.

Here's kind of a cool picture I took by the light of a neon sign at a dry-cleaner's about 8 O'Clock at night.



The nice thing about these pictures is that while I wasn't thinking "stock" when I took them, I did get full releases from all the models. If anybody does want to use them, I don't have to chase down models I haven't spoken to in years to get publicity rights.

Anyway, I'm through the first year (I got a late start that year, so it's more like four months.) Only four more years to go!

M
More after the jump - click here!