Monday, February 22, 2010

Tripping the Light Confusion...

 Saturday’s session with new model Megan K was the first time I’d been in studio in several months and I must admit; I was surprised at how rusty I was. Nonetheless, it was a good session and several good images will come from it. I’ve managed a cursory first edit, but with the work-week starting, the day job is rearing its ugly yet reasonably well-paying head. Please be patient for a few days.

In the post preceding this one, I mentioned that when working in studio I feel I have more control over the environment. Perhaps I jinxed myself by writing about it beforehand, but rusty or not, this shoot started with more confusion than anything else. It wasn’t an issue of the environment not being under control, but one of me not being in control of the environment. In reality, the difficulties were minor and easily resolved; for example, there was the overhead and somewhat hard to access monolight that wouldn’t power-up, which turned out to be unplugged. Most frustrating though, was in the first few images light was coming in from an unknown source and knocking down shadows on the model. It wasn’t an overpowering light; in fact, I would have been hard-pressed to create a more precise fill.

My assistant and I tried all sorts of remedies to no avail; among them turning off all lights in the building, even those in rooms isolated and away from the shooting space. I began to question the accuracy of my light meter and camera settings. Finally, my assistant realized a monolight head tucked away in a corner behind my shooting position had been left on, but with the modeling light turned off. It was close enough and in proper orientation to slave off of my main light, and fired each time I pressed the shutter.

Once these little things were behind us, we pressed ahead and did good work.


A Systems Crash Update…

Things seem to be going well. No new quirks have surfaced and I’m getting caught up. I’ve switched from IE to Mozilla’s FireFox, which I like tremendously, though it’s taking a bit of getting used to.

My office and ‘darkroom’ upgrade will happen this fall. Generally, my idea is to use an inexpensive laptop or ‘Netbook’ style system for the day job stuff and assemble the best, most powerful desktop system for my photographic work. I was hopeful to switch to a Mac; however, many of the day job clients require me to use proprietary software, which is of course, Windows based. For that reason, I’m afraid I’m stuck with Windows. The upside is Windows 7 seems to be a stable platform. Still, it’s a new platform. That’s the main reason I’m delaying until late fall to make a move.

My research for the upgrade will begin soon. I’ll write about it aplenty, I’m sure.


Here’s another from Michelle R’s shoot for The Bolton Street Sessions, silvery and soft.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More or Less...

Recovering from the crash has been more problematic than I’d bargained for. Fortunately, I’m back at 100%, more or less, and everything seems to be working. More or less.

Since the system was wiped and reloaded, I’m dealing with odd little quirks that I’d never experienced prior to the crash. For example, the speaker adjustment controls work, but I get no display of the volume slider; the Microsoft Word cut & paste commands don’t work consistently; and I lost every single address in my Outlook email address book.

Having said that, at least I’m able to do my job(s). Now the real fun begins. From three solid days of downtime, I know I’ll be in catch-up mode for a week or more. The office and photography system upgrade I’ve written about so much is indeed in my future and should happen this fall. Accordingly, I’ll try to limit my laments against technology, but I make no promises.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that my computer didn’t show me the “Blue-Screen-of-Death” as such, but gave me the “Blue-Screen-Finger” instead.


As you may guess, not much has been happening in terms of photography. I have a studio shoot scheduled for this coming Saturday with a lovely, brand new model and I’m looking forward to it immensely. It seems that most of my thinking about photography has invariably led to me thinking of the crash and my stored data, and I suppose that’s not a bad thing. But after dealing with all of last week’s events, getting back in studio with my cameras and a fresh new body with which to work is just the break I need.


Here’s something different with Anna, shot in the fall of ’08.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Back From the Brink

I've made it back, and amazingly, all seems to be intact. I owe a grateful 'thank you' to the geeks at Tweaks by Geeks for their efforts.

Here's the entry I wrote on the night of the crash.



Last Sunday's session with mom to be Corinne B. went well. In a few weeks, Temperance Imogen Olivia B. will join the rest of us on Planet Earth.


Fellow blogger and photographer Dave Rudin has been writing of his recent experiences with technology, most of them bad. I can relate; last summer, one of our television sets was taken out by lightning. Shortly afterward, my Windows XP system crashed, and crashed hard.

The television was toast. It would turn on, but not turn off unless the plug was pulled, but it continued to work for a day or two. Then, it began to smoke and buzz as soon as it was plugged in. In contrast, I was able to recover just about everything from the computer crash in mostly good working order, with the exception of two embedded applications: Adobe Bridge and Apple Quicktime. I also lost the drivers for the CD/DVD drive, but was able to download them and get the drive working again. My biggest loss, however, was Adobe Bridge.

Many people have told me they don't like Bridge. Coming from a film background, I work in PhotoShop as I did in the darkroom, with one image at a time. For me, Bridge was the digital equivalent of a light table, where I sorted and culled my negatives. For three days following the crash, I was on the phone with Adobe and Microsoft tech support trying to sort out the problem. There was even a three way conference call between us, at one point. After a cumulative 14 hours on the phone, the final assessment by both techs was to either wipe the hard drive, do a System Restore, or replace the computer. After all, the launch of Windows 7 had just been announced. I didn't like the idea of completely wiping the drive and am planning to upgrade this year anyway, so I opted for the System Restore.

In the absence of Bridge I began using the Windows Picture Viewer to sort my images, but found it extremely limiting. I couldn't see RAW files at all, only JPEG's, and the abilities to label and tag images were non-existent Since my anticipated system upgrade isn't financially viable for the foreseeable future, I began searching for a basic third-party image browser that was "Bridge-like."

I liked what ACDsee and other similar programs offered, but in order to do what I wanted to do with them, particularly where RAW files were concerned, I'd have to purchase one of the "Pro" versions.The costs were more than I was willing to pay. Eventually, after multiple postings on several photography forums and boards, I settled on the 'FastStone Image Viewer' free shareware through C-Net.

Much to my surprise, I'm quite happy with it. It's not exactly 'Bridge Like' but it's close enough so that the learning curve hasn't been an issue. If you're looking for something similar; a basic yet reasonably efficient image browser, I highly recommend it. Did I mention it's free? (You can make a donation to the developers through C-Net if you wish.)



Over the last few days, and for a few to come, I'm dealing with shoot planning and all it entails; the coordination of studio schedules and/or locations, assistants, models, etc. As mentioned in the previous post, I'll have a couple of weeks break from being behind the camera, as the next session is set for February 20.


Here are another two of Michelle R. from The Bolton Street Sessions.


A Post Crash Note:

Adobe Bridge and Quicktime are working once again! Even so, if I was asked to recommend an after market image browser, I'd still go with the FastStone Image Viewer.

I have to say, in the interest of full disclosure, that opting for a System Restore after the first crash was a mistake. Wipe the drive; it's the only way to be sure.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Still Waiting...

Today should be the day I have the computer back, hopefully with a squeeky clean hard drive and fresh Windows XP up and running. I talked to the shop late yesterday afternoon and they were continuing to back-up data from the hard drive onto one of their servers, so all seemed to be going according to plan.

I'm hoping to pick it up before noon today, and then spend the afternoon reloading stuff. I'm optimistic, but openly confess to sitting here with my fingers crossed.

More to follow - please stay tuned!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Crash Update...

Well, some good news for a change.

The BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) I was experiencing is due to a broken chain of code in Windows. The tech explained that trying to repair the code is typically unsuccesful. His suggestion was to wipe the hard drive and reload. As I'm relying on his expertise, and understood very little of what he told me when he called to explain the problem, I'm inclined to agree.

He assured me that wiping the disc would solve the issue and that my data would be backed up and transferred, all done hopefully sometime today. Then, it's up to me to reload software/programs such as PhotoShop, Quickbooks, AVG, etc.

The last suggestion he made was for me to re-format my back-up drive, as I've likely been backing up corrupted data unknowingly, but I'm not too sure how comfortable I am in doing this. I'm especially uncomfortable continuing to use a drive that may have had corrupted data stored on it. For peace of mind's sake, a new external hard drive for system back-up may be in my future.

If all goes well, I'll have my pre-crash entry posted, along with more images from Bolton Street by tomorrow.

Stay tumed!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Crash and Burn...

I suppose the irony can't be ignored.

Last night, I worked some of the images from Michelle R's Bolton Street Sessions shoot, then drafted a blog entry, which I intended to get posted this morning after one more proof read and edit. The subject of the entry was the pains and agonies associated with modern technology. Fellow photographer Dave Rudin's blog, Figures of Grace, has been a tale of technological woe recently, and it was his own clashes with technology that started me thinking on this topic. Even more bizarre, at least from the perspective of timing, Dave began 'following' this blog yesterday. I'm happy to see him here as I've been a fan of his work for a long time.

We've all dealt with computer headaches, and I experienced a severe crash last year. Sometime last night, it happened again. I woke this morning to a computer in blue-screen-shock and it has, thus far, resisted all attempts at restoration. I've spirited my wife's laptop to a local Starbucks, where I now sit nursing a tall, sugar laden coffee. It's been a stressful morning. I suppose I should be grateful I swore off all drink some 15 years ago.

I've written before about my previous crash from which I emerged mostly whole, with almost no gaps in data and only two software apps not functioning. In another touch of irony, a good deal of the post drafted last night dealt with me finidng a suitable replacement for Adobe Bridge, one of the applications lost in the first crash. For some reason, this crash has me worried; I don't know why, but it seems much worse this time.

I'll find out just how bad it is later today. While I'm sure it's a wierd coincidence, one of the cooling fans has started to make a dreadful sound. The computer actually sounds like it's experiencing pain. Ill take the groaning machine to 'Tweaks by Geeks', (I love that name!), a shop of honest to goodness geeks that have worked miracles in the past. Stay tuned.

Needless to say, there are no pictures with today's entry.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Bolton Street Sessions

The Bolton Street Sessions, as I’ve started to call them, are moving along well. I hope to do at least two or three more shoots in the place before it’s possibly rented. I think I’m safe as it rents primarily to college students, so with it being mid-quarter, I’m not too worried. However, due to scheduling conflicts, I’m not going to have access there until the end of February, so for the next one or two Savannah sessions, I’ll be shooting elsewhere.

Of course, studio work remains a viable option. I work with new models frequently, and often, these are people modeling for the very first time. I’m starting to think the studio works best in these situations. Working on location, I have less control over the environment, the small surprises experienced during the last Bolton Street Session serving as a gentle reminder. I have two, possibly three brand new models I’m planning to shoot during the coming three weeks and new models seem to feel better and more at ease in the studio environment, or at least that’s my impression. So, it’s back to the studio for a bit.


On something of a non-photography note, my wife and I had dinner Friday night with friends at ‘Squat N’ Gobble’, a small roadside eatery in Bluffton, South Carolina, just a few miles north from Savannah. Jay Leno gave it the “Absolute Worst Name for a Restaurant” award; but forget the name. The food was quite good. There’s something magical about Eggs Benedict – good Eggs Benedict at that - and pan fried potatoes for dinner.

Lisa and I are now in Atlanta; having arrived yesterday afternoon. During the trip up, we stopped at my hometown of Griffin, Georgia and had a wonderful lunch with lifelong friends Karen and Kevin H., in town over the weekend to celebrate Kevin’s parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. Karen and Kevin live in the wine country of California, where Kevin’s hobby and passion is making wine. He’s pretty good at it too, and his wines have won numerous awards over the years. To Lisa’s great delight, he presented us with a bottle of one of his lovely reds. Karen also showed me a handful of photographs from our high-school years. They were great fun to see; and looking at them, I couldn’t help but feel that we were quite an impressive bunch some 30 years ago. Ah, for the days of youth!

I’m shooting a maternity session later this morning with a model I’ve worked with in years past, and after the shoot today, it’s a late lunch with long time friends Alecs and Tim K. Monday, it’s the road trip home to Savannah. Good friends all, people we love dearly; it was and will be wonderful to see them all.


Here are two of Michelle R. from The Bolton Street Sessions.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Another From Bolton Street on the Books

Spectral Dancer

The day was chilly and rainy; a moody Savannah Saturday, over cast and gray. Days such as these seem to the rule for working at the old house on Bolton Street. The temperature wasn’t nearly as cold as it had been during the first session there three weeks ago; a good thing of course, but doubly so as this time power to the house had been shut off. Still, even though it was a good twenty degrees warmer inside than it had been when I shot there earlier, it was a cold space in which to work.

In spite of the conditions, good work was done. My assistant Ellisia was over her flu and back to her old self, and with Michelle R. modeling, the shoot went beautifully. We were able to utilize more of the rooms in the place and I feel we created some stellar works as we took advantage of light throughout the house instead of restricting ourselves to one barely heated room.

In addition to the power being turned off, we faced other unforeseen challenges; these included the discovery of another door in the house that would not open without great difficulty once closed, (the door to the room we worked in during the first session had the same problem), and the unexpected appearance of an elderly man on the front porch. It turned out he was there to look at one of the upper floor apartments, and the leasing agent had not informed Ellisia. Fortunately, these slow downs occurred at the start of the session and we were able to continue without further interruption.

Since June, Michelle R. and I have worked together on a fairly regular basis; so often that after the first three or so sessions, I began forgetting to take a model release for her to sign. This session was no different. When I told her that I’d forgotten the model release yet again, she laughed, and as always happens, I promised to have it for her at the image review. It’s happened so frequently now that neither of us seriously worries about it, my forgetfulness having become something of an inside joke. On the other hand, I do I wonder that if I were to remember it, if I would jinx the good work we usually do.

I had also asked Ellisia to bring her camera and do some ‘behind the scenes’ work during the session. These images will be mostly for my website, but I’ll post a few here once she surrenders them. Also, be on the lookout, hopefully soon, for the addition of natural light galleries at my website, as well an addition of images to some of the other galleries.

As to the question of color or black and white? No decison really, save that color is always as an option.


Finding Models, Part Tres

(In an earlier post, I discussed the processes and resources I typically use for finding models. You can read it here .)

For the past seven years I’ve maintained a presence on several of the model/photographer portfolio websites such as One Model Place, NetModel, MuseCube, and Model Mayhem. Of these, I’ve stayed longest with Model Mayhem, known throughout the internet modeling community as “MM”, joining in December, 2005. Interestingly enough, I still find most of my models through word of mouth, references from other models and artists with whom I’ve worked, or my own local casting calls.

These thoughts resurfaced after a brief comment exchange over the weekend with prolific blogger Stephen H. when he posted a description of his encounter with an inexperienced MM model. I was somewhat surprised by the negativity of my comments towards MM, and this stuck with me. So I’ve decided to revisit the subject of finding models and work via the internet.

It must be understood, and perhaps even goes without saying, what dealing with the internet in this capacity means. Entire subcultures have risen up around websites like MM, complete with a unique language, cliques, and flourishing cults of personality. I’m surprised at how much they remind me of my time as a cog in the corporate machine, a whole other chapter of my professional life. Equally important to understand is these sites are available to anyone that wants to ‘be’ a model or ‘be’ a photographer. There appears to be little control exercised over who can and can’t join despite what the various site rules may say.

The one thing these websites seem to lack is consistent professionalism. MM labels itself as a place “Where Professional Models Meet Model Photographers”; other sites have similar tag lines. Yet site forums, which are said to be moderated, are filled with topics such as “Should I get a boob job? Yes or No?” or “I’ll pick your hot or not images.” While they may be genuinely serious in their purpose, threads such as these do little to promote a professional image of the site or its members.

Of course, many intelligent and well reasoned threads can be found in MM forums. “How can I achieve this type of lighting in studio?” or “Any tips for query letters to gallery directors?” are a few I recall. Threads such as these can have long and interesting, even useful lives. But all too frequently, they turn into virtual shouting matches and rapidly degenerate into little more than witless insults passing between forum ‘regulars.’ Worse, they’re often ignored.

Then there are the new models, (I’m sure this applies to photographers as well), that hold amazingly unrealistic expectations for the work they’ll be hired to do, or the rates that they’ll be paid. A ‘model’ that had only four images in her portfolio, one of which appeared to be a high-school senior portrait, and the rest, self-shot cell phone images, once contacted me with an offer to model, and quoted a rate of $150/hr for nude figure modeling with a two hour minimum required.

I had to smile. I routinely work from a pool of local, very talented, and very experienced art models. These are models that understand what it means when I say “let’s work from contrapposto.” These are models that have been doing the work for five or more years, often multiple times per week, and not only for photographers, but painters, sculptors, and designers. Their rates average half of the rate quoted by the MM ‘model’, and occasionally less. Of course, I politely declined that model's offer.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. I've tried to understand, honestly, I really have.

To say my time spent on MM and other similar sites has been a lost cause would be an understatement. Still, and I suppose it’s because I know so many people that use MM and similar sites with success, I feel compelled to explain my intent in writing this.

My intent is not to bash or unjustly criticize MM or any of the other photographer/artist/model websites out there. Not by any stretch. What I want to do is relate the sum of my experiences and frustrations while being a part of these website communities as a working professional, and MM happens to be where I’ve spent the most time. Granted, participation declined as frustration rose. That said, I fully acknowledge these sites have been wonderful resources for many photographers, models, and other artists, and will undoubtedly continue to do so. I’m glad they’re working for someone. I can only say they didn’t work for me.

In spite of all this, my MM profile will stay put for the time being; after all, it costs nothing other than the time I choose to put into it. But my days of reaching out to the model/photographer web populace are finished. You’ll find me there only if you look.


With today’s post is another image from the first Bolton Street session. A bit ghostly; but somewhat fitting for the weather and mood.