Friday, November 19, 2010


It occurred to me yesterday that I hadn't posted anything on this blog in quite some time. Other than more family photos for a co-worker, I haven't had the gumption for photography.

Eventually I'm sure my cameras will guilt me into taking some pictures, but I don't know when.

More after the jump - click here!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

And Yet More Transitioning

I got an email from my studio partner yesterday...

...well, I should say, my former studio partner. She hasn't been able to keep up her apartment/studio since she broke up with her boyfriend, and she's moving next month ("next month" starts tomorrow, but I think she means she has to be moved by the end of August.) Her parents help her with her rent and she wanted to get a cheaper apartment, as well as a smaller one which she thinks will help her be less messy. So I went today and cleared out all of my stuff.

She's not in the best of health, so I had to carry it all up the stairs to the living room and form a staging area, then carry it around to my truck in the alley. There was a U-Haul on one side (July is the biggest moving month in Chicago) and then once I was loaded I discovered some dipstick had parked his car right in the only other way out of the alley. So I had to wait for him to come out and move it, and he gave me a look like, "What's your problem?" and only the fact that I was tired and hot and didn't feel like getting out saved him some pretty extensive bodily injury. I was about five minutes away from demonstrating that a V-8 Ford F-150 can move a Hyundai sedan even if it's in park and has the parking brake set. No, I wasn't. That would be illegal. I would never do that.

I got it all home, and brought a few things inside and the rest are in the garage waiting to be sorted. So far as I know all my lights work, and I found my tripods and my light stands and my background system and all the other expensive stuff. However, due to either a leak or just excessive condensation, several boxes and one plastic crate had been compromised by moisture*. I have enough crap I need to get rid of without hauling home moldy stuff which I'll probably never use again anyway, so I just left it in the basement. I told her father (her parents are helping her move) to just have the junk guys take it, since I'm sure they'll have to call someone to take the stuff of hers that got wet or that she just doesn't want.

Absent winning the lottery, that's probably pretty much the end of my studio photography career. It's kind of sad, but it's not like I don't have enough to do that I should be doing anyway.


*I kept a lot of my props and stuff in the basement, which it's pretty unusual for an apartment to have, but it did. They couldn't be kept in the main space because she and, until last year, her boyfriend lived in it. The beginning of the end, really, was when he put up a big ol' mirror on the wall facing the area where she and I liked to shoot. It was either cover it or deal with weird-ass reflections, and covering it meant you still couldn't shoot in the corner because there was a sheet hanging on the wall.
More after the jump - click here!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Transitioning Yet Again/Still

So, we're theoretically moving in two weeks or so. (I'll believe it, as I tell everyone who asks, when I'm standing in front of the place with my keys in my hand.) So haven't done diddly other than work and deal with that for a while. But I thought I'd pass along two little things which may Amuse you.

First, iTunes has the pilot of "Double Exposure," the show about Markus Klinko and Indrani, as a freebie. It's certainly worth watching if you are interested in photography or fashion, mostly to show you that it's not exactly rocket surgery. (Editor from Women's Health: "We want the shot to be about beauty, and fashion, and strong women." Well, gosh, lady, good thing you were here to provide direction. He might have done a shot themed on bumblebees eating cheese or something.) Markus and Indrani are possibly the least sympathetic stars of a reality show I've ever seen, although Markus was totally in the right about being peeved when Eve brought her own photographer to the shoot. Not only is that incredibly rude, he had an on-camera strobe and he could have been stepping on Markus' light. I've had that happen and it is not happy-making.

Second, also available as a freebie is the pilot of "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist." It's like America's Next Top Model or The Shot, only the subject is artists generally. There are two photographers, as well as sculptors, painters, etc, etc. Several of the artists are abstract artists and I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the dressing-down they got when they submitted totally abstract works for the first challenge, which was to do a portrait of one of their fellow competitors. I am a petty person. But anyway, also interesting if you're into art and things like that.

More after the jump - click here!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The World Is a Strange Place, Part 1,349

The otherwise unameliorated suckiness of today was slightly mitigated when the kid talked me into going to Barnes and Noble. Why, I don't know, because she didn't want to buy anything. I suspect it was a trick to get me to take her to Burger King. Well, I wasn't going to drive that far just for Burger King, so I told her we'd go to Half Price Books and get Burger King from the one in their parking lot.

Now here's the mitigating part...

What I really wanted was an out-of-print CD which is VERY hard to get, or even the original LP of the album (which was released in, IIRC, 1972. It's not much younger than I am, at any rate.) We have a USB record digitizer so I'd settle for that.

Well, they didn't have it, but my usual quick shufty through the photography section produced a book which for some reason sounded vaguely familiar.

"Wait," I thought, "Isn't this the book that one of my favorite models talked me into giving some publishing rights to her pictures? It was going to be published in England, I never saw it nor heard if it actually went to press."

Check the book - published in England. Publisher sounds right. Check the index. There's the model's name. Turn to her section...

... there are the photos. Credits, weblink, the whole shebang.

Well, how about that? I'm in a real book. In a real bookstore. Okay, yeah, it's a publisher's remainder. But still, that means it GOT published. There were two copies on the shelf and they both looked brand new, so it pretty much has to be a publisher's remainder and not a used book.

Sucker wasn't cheap - marked GBP18.99, USD37.95. It's an oversized art photography book, perfect binding, spot-glossy cover. The quality of the printing is really quite good. Pity it didn't do better. I bought 'em both - I'll give one to the model if I can find her again.


More after the jump - click here!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Up to Nothing Much

Still trying to buy a new house (and sell the old one.) Still not doin' a lot of photography.

All I can do is keep on keepin' on. Back later.

More after the jump - click here!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Burst Mode On

Quiet again, I know. Life keeps getting in the way. I went through a little spasm of photographin' there for a minute, then we decided to try to buy a new house. For various reasons I won't get into this is kind of hard on me. I doubt I'll have time or energy for photography until at least a few months after this is done (which with any luck will be sometime in July.)

But I did manage to take a few pictures.

This is an aspiring model named Brittany. (Not Britney. Brittany is a fine old name. Britney is... not.) Yet again, high-ISO fast-lens madness.

The backlighting is a streetlight: it was absolutely pitch-black outside other than streetlights. Here's a picture I took of her where I literally could not see her through the viewfinder.

Here's me gettin' all Ryan McGinley, except that it was kind of cold to ask her to run around naked. But it's Cute Young Person In Hip Yet Unstaged Circumstance With Direct Flash Lighting, so that should at least get a C for effort.

More after the jump - click here!

Friday, March 5, 2010

On Inspiration, Theft, and the Doctrine of Unclean Hands

As you may know, I am not a fan of "mashup" art. Incorporating pre-existing things into imagery in an ironic, amusing, or artistic way, sure. One of my favorite artsy photos is a fun picture I took of a model staring into a dry-cleaner's window at night, with the neon sign and the tattered flyers posted all over it framing her and providing interesting visual and textual elements.

But mere collages, y'ask me, are not particularly creative. They can be artistically arranged and esthetically pleasing, but they are not new works. At best, they are highly derivative works. At worst (and at usual) they are mere rearrangements.

And so we come to the case of one Mr. Thomas Allen.

Mr. Allen, whose work is visible at Thomas Allen Online has as one of his major photographic interests clever little pastiches he makes by cutting up the covers of pulp novels and arranging and lighting the bits.

Mr. Allen feels that he has been wronged (actually using the phrase "copyright infringement" at one point) by an ad agency which more or less admits that it used his technique as inspiration for some dummy ads they made to enter a contest. See more information at: Thomas Allen Online: Theft.

Now, there are two problems with this. First, Mr. Allen hasn't, so far as I can tell, posted any examples of a blatant copy of any of his images. You cannot copyright style. (You might patent a method, but to my knowledge Mr. Allen has not done so.) Absent a direct copy, or a copy which rises to the level of derivative work, there is no copyright infringement here. His use of the term indicates he does not understand what it means. That's not a failing on his part in and of itself: lots of people, even lots of lawyers, don't understand what copyright infringement requires. But if you do not know what something is you should not accuse people of doing it. I hope the logic of that is evident to all.

The second and far greater problem is that Mr. Allen's hands are not clean: his moral outrage is fatally tainted by the fact that he himself is merely repurposing the work of other creative minds. Somebody sat and painted that picture, putting far more work into it (not relevant for legal purposes but, I think, morally relevant) than mere scissorwork and lighting. Somebody owns the copyright to it. Mr. Allen, absent any demonstration to the contrary, is using it without permission, without color of right. Nothing has been done to Mr. Allen that he has not already done to someone else, only more so. In the law we have a principle called the Doctrine of Unclean Hands: it states that he who comes to court seeking equitable treatment must himself have acted equitably. In other words, his own hands must be clean.

Mr. Allen's hands are as stained as those of his alleged offenders, and therefore a moral person must simply say, "Live by the mash-up, die by the knock-off," and walk away with a weary smile at the foolishness of the world.

It is interesting to note that Mr. Allen's blog requires comment approval: he approved my comment asking to see some of his copyright licenses, but then removed it a few hours later (presumably when he figured out I was making fun of him.) Mr. Allen, should you happen to read this, you are welcome to comment here and so long as your post is not mere invective, rest assured it will remain.

More after the jump - click here!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

High ISO Madness

Have a look at this photograph I shot Sunday night.

Oh, wait. That's pretty boring, isn't it? That's because that's the photograph as it would have been shot on 100 speed film. (I'm not sure what Blogger did, but the picture is actually a little brighter on my blog than it is in my image editor.)

Let's try that again.

Maybe you'll like this one better?

Actually, that is sort of cool, but it's not really much of a photograph of the subject. (The subject, by the way, is an aspiring model who wanted some interesting pictures for a portfolio page.) That's what the image would have looked like shot on 800 speed film, which is about the fastest you can buy unless you're really hooked up.

But wait!

I actually shot this at ISO12,800 on a Rebel T1i. What did that look like?

That is with no exposure adjustment in post.

Holy Toledo.

Handheld, no flash, ambient lighting - and it was so dark that even with my human eyes, which are far more sensitive than any camera, I could barely see the model. (My eyes don't have such a good focal range but I have excellent night vision.) And this is the cheap model, with a slow lens - aperture was f5.6, the maximum aperture of the lens at this focal length. The newer high-end dSLR cameras will go up to four times faster than this. And even sticking with the T1i, I have a lens that has a maximum aperture two stops larger.

The US Army has as one of its mottoes, "We own the night." Digital photographers are about to start trespassing on the Army's territory. When I think of the amazing photographs I could have taken with this technology in my former studio, or at Goth clubs and fashion shows, it just about makes me want to cry.

True, this is a little noisy, but I could have gone down a stop on sensitivity and that would have gotten rid of a lot of it. With a faster lens I could have gotten two stops down in sensitivity, gotten the same exposure, and the noise would have been scarcely noticeable especially with a little post.

More after the jump - click here!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Word of Advice for those of you with Canon Equipment

First of all, a very Happy New Year to anyone who reads this. (No comments for a long time - it may just be me and myself.) I regret to say that my family situation did resolve itself over the holidays, and not in a happy way. But it is good that it is finished and life, as always, goes on.

Anyway, here's the advice, if it helps. Canon's newer DLSR's allow separate setting of second curtain sync for onboard flash and external flash. However, you have to have a new enough flash to allow this to work. Otherwise the flash's setting overrides the camera's. (Or the camera may not allow you to set external flash curtain sync at all.)

Here's the kicker.

Although it's not readily apparent from the manual, if your flash can be a master flash (has a setting for "Off/Master/Slave," typically on the 500 series of Canon flashes) you cannot set second curtain sync on the flash if you are in anything except "Off" mode.

This is actually quite logical in that with multiple flash units it would be problematic to ensure that you got the result you wanted, but it's not obvious. At least, it wasn't to me. I haven't checked to see if this is true for slave-only flashes (mainly the 400 series) but it very well may be.

Edit: It is in fact true, at least on the 430EX.

More after the jump - click here!