Friday, July 31, 2009

Tech-f--king-nology really pisses me off sometimes!

Put my new hard drive in, didn't even take all that long since I own this fantastic case that allows front panel access using rails to pull the disk out without opening the case.

But ... when powered up this drive reports 32MB ... that's a lot smaller than the 1TB I purchased. Turns out that this is a common problem and is caused by some form of really poorly explained corruption.

There is a wonderful free utility that will fix it in 10 seconds, but runs only on 32 bit Vista (what is it with developers who are too lazy to compile and test on 64 bit?).

So I've now wasted an hour fucking around with this piece of crap and will end up driving it in tomorrow and getting them to swap me a new one or whatever. Big f--king pain in the ass.

Sometimes I feel like taking a baseball bat to all this expensive sh-t ...

And that rant didn't even make me feel better ... wish I was a drinker ...

Update: Decided to install the 500GB drive that was slated for Jon's machine (warranty replacement from Seagate for my old main drive) ... and it comes up just fine. So I have decided to take the new 1TB drive back for a refund. Saves me some money, which compensates a bit for tonight's pain. I wanted a longer term solution, but WTF ...

Update in 2011: I've upgraded the drives yet again and in the end there is no substitute for a modern BIOS. I've happily run 1TB green drives and I've now added a 2TB green drive for my images drive. I may grab a 3TB green drive for my primary backup at some point. Meanwhile, the cost of these things keeps dropping and the continue to get faster ... 6GB/s is pretty smokin' ...

Crombie killed my hard drive!

Well, it's not actually dead ... it's full ... and it's not actually Crombie's fault ... it's mine for not monitoring the free space. Last time I looked, I had over 40GB left ... that used to last me two years ... now I shoot RAW at 12mp and 14 bit quite often. I also shoot a serious compact, the G10 with 15mp and I always shoot that in RAW also.

And since discovering that in fact it is kind of fun to have a life, I have rediscovered my love of photography. This is where Crombie McNeill comes in ... his excellent workshops / photoshoots with beautiful and brilliant models has caused me to fill a 16GB card once a month this summer ... and it happens again in a few weeks on the 23rd (the day after I take a friend to see Bruce Cockburn at folk fest.)

So, you see, Crombie is indirectly respnsible for me blowing through my remaining disk space in no time at all.

I went today to my favorite local shop (Over the Top Computing) and picked up a 1TB hard drive with 32GB buffer for a very low $105cad. Tonight I will solve my problem for years to come :-)

Nick's European Tour -- Leg 9 -- Paris

Nick called a short while ago from Paris. The trip was short, 4 hours, because he was traveling at 300km per hour. He says it's pretty weird looking out the window and seeing things move by faster than in a jet at take-off. He was unimpressed, though, that they charged him 41 Euro to book his seat, which is apparently the rule everywhere in France.

The food in Amsterdam was nondescript ... he mostly ate at McDonalds because he couldn't be bothered to pay extra. He loved the city because of its inherent weirdness ... the tourists flocked to his neighborhood like mad ... young couples, old couples ... everyone.

He is starting to flag, though ... feeling a bit worn out from traveling so constantly for 5 weeks. He is looking forward in a few weeks to returning to Leeds to be able to relax among friends. It did not help that he has to move twice in three days ... hostel A has a room for nights 1 and three and hostel B has a room for night 2. Hopefully he can cajole hostel A into giving him a room for night 2, but otherwise he changes location every day. That'll kinda suck.

He doesn't like paying for tourist stuff very much, but he will be making an exception for the Louvre (duh) ... and maybe a walking tour.

And he's off to Marseilles in a few days, then to Barcelona a few days after that ... then to Leeds. Wow ... the summer is racing by!

Planets -- 1.2 Million Downloads!

A friend of mine for 15 years, Dana has achieved some notoriety with his free iPhone application -- Planets. This is a really useful application that shows you the sky at your location and the current time. That means that you can use it to visually find any of the planets in the sky.

It also has planetary rise and set times keyed to the location and graphed. An excellent application for anyone, but especially useful for photographers.

He reported today that his application has hit 1.2 million downloads. Wow! Congrats, Dana.

You can get "Planets" from the Apple app store:

Make a Difference!

On the Art of Manliness web site, I found an article by Antonio regarding things a man can do to make a difference. The whole concept boils down to this wonderful and poignant story that he shared ...

A man walking on the beach saw a child reaching down to pick up small objects and then throwing them into the ocean. He called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?” The child looked up and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” To this, the child replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the man commented, “But do you not realize that there are thousands of starfish? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the child bent down, picked up a starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”

Adapted – Loren Eiseley “The Star Thrower”

Crombie McNeill Workshop with Barrett Palmer Models Mk II - Part 4 - Charlotte Gets a Turn

I went back to see what could be done with the two series I shot of Charlotte and found a couple of images that actually look quite nice. I will be much more careful next time to check the position of hands etc.

For the first one, leaning against the fence, I thought a more dramatic water color effect would work well. The fence then becomes an interesting feature rather than a fairly crappy background.

The second shot comes from the series I shot when I realized how nice the light was in the barn, where it feathered out to really soft light as you moved inward. This pose in comfortable, and I emphasize her soft skin and bright eyes and lips here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Real Men Play Golf

My next door neighbor has a friend named Bob Bangerter who is a professional photographer in Hawaii. His company is called Photo Images Maui and he shoots a lot of scenic and areal images, architecture and golf. He sent me a link to his web site and on that site I found this wonderful shot of a real man showing true athleticism and dedication.

And yes, I'm being a bit tongue in cheek, but one must always remember what a truly great golfer John Daly has been over the years. For a big man he is very flexible (he still gets the club parallel on the back swing) and his power is unmistakable.

So check out his site ... some of the images are simply breath-taking. Who would not want to live in such incredible beauty?

Large Horses

This image is another National Geographic pic of the day. It's stunningly beautiful, not necessarily because of the pose, the subject or any other physical content ... it's the light. Soft, yet sculpts the subjects perfectly. This kind of light gives you a visceral reaction.

Crombie McNeill Workshop with Barrett Palmer Models Mk II - Part 3

I thought I'd whip off a few more from the earlier part of the day, which was underrepresented in parts 1 and 2. This post is about 2/3 Blythe and Nils and 1/3 Warren and Betsy.

Again, I remain very pleased with the results, the expressions are marvelous. I loved the light, except when colors were off. In this post I use black and white a bit more often than before, and they look really nice for the most part.

Here's a lovely shot of Blythe at the beginning of the day.

Then we went over to the house with the porch and shot at the back by the door with the ugly lock. At one point, we stopped reflecting light onto the models and started blowing wind onto them. I believe that this was Jamie's idea (he's pretty darned creative) and he did the fanning for me.

I really like how this series of wind-swept portraits came out. Think poignant ending to a movie about the trials of western life ... thing bow of the Titanic ... these poses fit. Kudos once again to Nils and Blythe ... nailed a lot of great poses.

One more from this series was really slick, but I believe was fatally poisoned by the gold reflector. However, all is never lost. This one made a great black and white image.

Now, around to the front of the house and I captured a few head shots of Nils. I quite like this one.

We tried and tried to get this shot with Nils and Blythe on opposite sides of the post. In the end, I thought this one was worthy of seeing the light of day, but again it required black and white to work. In this specific case I did it in gray quad tone.

I was feeling a little guilty about not using enough images from that series with Warren and Betsy after the porch thing. I decided to find a nice portrait of Warren for a sophisticated black and white treatment. His smile wins the day in this shot.

And one more of those excellent images of Betsy whispering in Warren's ear ...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tiny Horses

I went out with a good friend for dinner the day after my birthday on Monday evening. She treated me to a wonderful Indian meal at Haveli on the Market and we grabbed the end of the patio to ourselves to make room for the lovely spread they gave us. Channa (Chick Peas in a hot Masala curry) and Daal (black Lentils in a milder curry), papadums, mushroom basmati, and a wonderful Garlic Naan bread. A Cabernet for her and a Merlot for me and it was quite wonderful.

While chatting (for hours), we suddenly noticed this hysterical buckboard the size of a toy box with two tiny horses (ponies I presume, although I am much more used to seeing the bulky Shetland variety) pulling it with a couple of youngsters riding along. It was surreal. The iPhone is always handy and managed to score this shot just after they went by ...

Nick's European Tour -- Call from Amsterdam

He called again today and we chatted for a short while. His hostel is in the middle of the red light district, so that's where he's been "walking" ... he says a guy followed him for 15 minutes yesterday and finally asked if he wanted some weed. He finds it all a little seedy since everyone is trying to sell you drugs there. But he likes it.

The canals are much bigger than those in Venice, and he likes seeing windmills and other classic Dutch scenery. Food consists mainly of fast food nowadays, as he is conserving cash. He leaves in a couple of days for Paris. Then I think it's Barcelona for a week and back to Leeds to hang out before the big music festival.

Nick's European Tour -- Leg 8 -- Amsterdam

Nick called today, but I had the headphones on while working. Bummer. Anyway, he likely called from Amsterdam. I hope so, anyway. Judging by the distance on the map, this was a long ride.

Crombie McNeill Workshop with Barrett Palmer Models Mk II - Part 2

Well, it turns out that it was not such a chore to process a great whack of images as it was the last time. This time, I have a lot more interaction images, so I did not have to do nearly as much beauty processing. I also chose to try all sorts of new and different renderings.

To the models: I apologize in advance if I butchered you. To Warren: Can you spot where I "augmented" you :-) ?

Off we go ... I'll go back to chronological order, since I've done a representative sample of images from every one. Doing more at this point would become a tad repetitive. Of course, I have numerous variations on most of these, so I could pound out three or four more of any one series, but I'll leave that to another time.

I started the day working with Charlotte. Kyle and I walked over to one of the equipment sheds / barns with her and worked outside first, then inside. The light outside was ok because it was very cloudy. Unfortunately, I was not quite awake and did not notice Charlotte having taken an awkward pose with her hand against her head at right angles. That wiped the entire series against the fence. (I am not willing any more to process any images that could not grace the pages of a magazine in my opinion. Which says nothing about their actual quality ... you could easily find multiple individuals on several photography forums who would happily testify in court as to my inability to distinguish shit from shinola :-)

All was not lost though, as always I shot some head shots and Charlotte is always stunning in that mode.

After a while, I wandered over to the house with the porch and started shooting Nils. People were again playing with the gold reflector that works so well with Betsy, and I have to say that it does not work well with any other person. At all.

I found a pose I liked but could not tame the golden insanity, so I went to black and white and decided to give Topaz Adjust a crack at it. Not too bad at all in my opinion. Looks like one of those uber-manly men in sport magazines ... or maybe Guns & Ammo :-)

Blythe took the stage (porch) then and we tried some poses against the post. Again, I suspect that there was some reflector action going on because I just could not get a decent reading on the skin. My plugin (SkinTune) was going nuts. So instead I went with a high contrast look that ended up pretty decent I think.

We did some work with Nils and Blythe and then brought Warren into the mix. Here, we had the idea to have Warren and Blythe as a couple and Nils looking on with some form of jealousy, anger, any negative emotion.

I like that. Blythe stands there demure while Warren is enjoying her company and Nils just looks pissed. Exactly what I hoped for.

When that session was done, I asked Warren to pop over to the hay stacks and see what we could get. I didn;t really like any of those, but then Warren and Betsy rattled off a great series of images. Young farmer and sophisticated girl interacting while he works. Something like that.

I especially liked this with the relaxed couple-hood.

Followed by one where they look exude confidence and indifference. I love that kind of GFY message.

Here we see a bit of chemistry ...

Kyle, Nils, Betsy and I ended up behind the porch house shooting in the shade at this point. Nils sat down against the wall at our request and that didn't really work at all, except we got this extremely cute image of Betsy looking guilty of something, perhaps getting him utterly stoned as the look on his face might suggest :-)

But then we got them standing together and wow ... serious chemistry. There is a theme here ... Nils leads the parade for chemistry. Serious testosterone or something :-)

Looks like they were interrupted.

I'd call that rather protective.

After a while, we went to play at the teeter totters and Betsy kindly volunteered to be suspended in the air with a very short dress on. I stepped on the other end for 10 or 15 minutes while Alyssa and Kyle shot away (I think maybe Daphne was there too, but my brain hurts trying to remember everyone I shot with.)

Then it was my turn and I was chagrined to note that it took two others to hold her up ... hmmm ...

Betsy got pretty playful up there and I snagged this great image of perfectly balanced hands and hair ... wow. She looks like she is falling rapidly ... great stuff.

After the teeter-totters, we walked about 3 feet to catch James and Kassie, two more new models, working the swings. I did not get anything from that session (came very close though) but I did get a nice image from the gas pumps. Unfortunately, this was another one hammered by gold. So I gave this one the wild and woolly black and white treatment too ... and I really like this one.

After the pumps, we tried the old Model A and Model T (I'm going out on a limb here) cars at the garage. They looked great, but the sun was blasting all over them, giving us fits. I eventually captured a nice image of Kassie sitting on a running board. But, of course, I favor head shots ... and this allowed me to do a beauty treatment on her, which I think went nicely.

After that we kind of gave up and wandered off with Warren and Sam. In the fire hall, there's an amazingly lovely old red firetruck. I desperately wanted an image with Sam in front of that grill, but the light really stunk. We blasted some gold on her, but those images don't really really float my boat. I asked her to crouch in front of the grill and captured a few with tough lighting. I decided to try a beauty / soft processing for one of them and it came out alright. I went with deep red for the lips and that might not work ... perhaps someone can let me know.

We gave up on that building and moved next door to the little church. Lovely building, but the windows have this kinky middle frosted pane with a bunch of bright orange pains around them. So the light coming in is simply strange ... again.

But I dropped my exposures to take the back of the church out of play and filled in with a wee bit of flash and got a couple of stunning images of Sam. These really float my boat, although nothing will be able to touch that image I posted yesterday. I still shiver when I think about that one.

Talk about sweet light for black and white .... and here's another, this time with soft processing added.

I then asked Warren to get in the pew behind her and look at her all creepy ... just to see how it worked. I think it's OK as an experiment.

And that wrapped up the day at Cumberland ... we had to leave at 5 on the dot, and apparently we are not welcome back :-) ... the admins were not aware that we were there to take pictures and I believe that they got a tad upset. Oh well ...

Crombie and Paul set up a nice secondary shoot at the beach with five of the models. That was awesome ... we had Betsy, Sam, Nils, Warren and Bryanna. Unfortunately, I have nothing from Bryanna that worked ... she was staring into the sun and her eyes are squinting in all my shots. Which means I struck out completely ... I so apologize.

So ... on to the beach.

Look ... it's Daniel Craig!

Yeah ... maybe that's a bit much ... I added some muscle there ... not that he needs any

Next was Sam, who looked great in sunglasses and then went half blind when they asked her to take of the glasses and face into the sun. I got this shot before that happened. I really like it ... sophisticated lady.

I went with really dark lips again to complement the glasses. And I *really* like how that looks.

Betsy was posing by this time, and it took me a moment to realize that she was trying to keep her jacket from flying open, considering that she had unbuttoned it completely. Marc was working pretty hard to conjure up a huge gust of wind, but alas ... this shot has exactly the kind of expression that Betsy is so great at. Well, she's actually an expression machine. It's kind of amazing to see in action.

Here's another, and the light looked suspiciously augmented again, forcing the black and white treatment. But I quite like it here.

OK ... here it is. This is undoubtedly the nicest image I ever shot and processed. So I repeat it here ...

We adjourned for about half an hour here so the models could do Tequila shots and then get really playful ... (that was a joke in case any of the parents are reading this.)

Sam and Nils went from steamy to silly in two minutes. Impressive :-)

This one complements yesterday's group jumping shot, but this one has the original color in the water.

Anyone who has seen the Mighty Mouse cartoons will recognize this pose ... it's uncanny :-)



And we cap off this part (and the day) with a sweet moment between Sam and Warren.

An awesome day. Lots of nice images and some really fun ones too. Thanks again go to Crombie McNeill for setting this up (with the able assistance of Paul Johanssen of course) and of course thanks to Barrett Palmer Models for supplying such great talent and finally, thanks to the talent. You guys were amazing. Really.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention again how much fun it is to shoot with the RA fellows and the other photographers who attended. A large group this time (16 I think) and several were new to photography. What a great introduction to light, faces, posing, backgrounds, and so on ...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Accuracy ... A Lost Art?

Found this cute cartoon on Janice Halligan's blog Probative. It kind of defines the the issue with too-frequent status updates ...

Crombie McNeill Workshop with Barrett Palmer Models Mk II - Part 1

I'm going to have to post these images in small groups this time. Waiting until they are all done can't happen because I have far too many keepers this time. I don't really know how many of these will make the final cut, but I think the number will be fairly high.

We had some returning models and some new models. Charlotte, Betsy and Blythe were back, while we added Sam (Samantha), Nils, Warren, Kassie, Bryanna and James. I will amend this later if I forgot anyone.

I have three images to post right now ... the first image I processed is one of Nils and Blythe, shot at the back of a small house with a rear door in view. Nice texture in the wood and nice light -- this side of the house was in shadow at the time.

This was Nils' first booking, and I have to say that he was really good for someone so inexperienced. Very enthusiastic, willing to give us any look we asked for, and able to stay focused on his role through many shots, while the girl changed expressions. This made for a lot of really good images in each series. The above is but one ... I will be posting many of Nils.

Blythe, on the other hand, is extremely experienced and is able to change looks very quickly, generally giving excellent poses one after another. I asked her a few times to get the hand up on her hip for a nice elbow bend and wrist-break, but otherwise she was quite amazing. You'll see plenty of her as well.

The next image is one of Sam, another new model. I have to say that I was blown away by her eyes. Her overall look screams movie star, and that worked out really well with Nils. His ability to look enamored, even lusty (I'm guessing it was not faked :-) works perfectly with close couple shots like this.

This is a contender for my favorite of the shoot. In fact, I jumped way ahead to process this one when I saw it. It was shot at Petrie Island, half an hour after we left the Cumberland Heritage Museum. They were sitting in the water and her left arm was around his neck (that pose was my call.)

This shot screams movie all the way. I get that visceral reaction every single time I look at it. Edit: I tweaked her eyes and skin a bit more and removed a freckle from Nils' upper lip. Small, but important changes.

The final shot is a fun shot where we got Warren (a third new model whom we dubbed Daniel Craig because of his amazing build), Betsy, Sam and Nils to jump out of the water holding hands. This one turned out well enough ... The models were game for a lot of interesting stuff ... and this after they called a bacteria warning over the loudspeakers :-)

This shoot was better than I could have imagined. That 70-300VR lens performed magnificently, and the models looked and performed amazing. Wow ...

Nikon 70-300VR -- Sharp!!!

Well, I obsessed a bit over whether this lens could handle the second Crombie McNeill workshop, testing it twice to see if it was decently sharp on top of a test last year. In all three tests, the lens came out as the winner against very good competition. It equaled or beat several primes at their equivalent focal lengths, so I was confident that I did not need to carry and swap a bunch of primes.

The lens was a joy in practical use. I spent most of the day with the cam on the tripod, held by its L-bracket, swapping from landscape to portrait and back, but otherwise able to zoom in and out at will. And that gave me a lot of excellent range that would otherwise have been impossible to use.

Crombie had warned us that this flexibility was very important in this type of shoot, and I must say that he was dead right.

So how did it ultimately perform?

Well, the lens is so revealing that I have to smooth out patches of skin because of flakes. Individual eyelashes are so perfectly rendered that I get a visceral reaction when I zoom in on the girl's eyes.

Here is one of Sam's eyes in my favorite image so far for this shoot (she and Nils are in an embrace and they look simply stunning together.) This is how sharp the vast majority of my images came out, and the reason why my first culling was only able to drop to 400 images.

I frankly think that this lens pretty much embarrassed its big brother, the 70-200VR, which costs 4 times as much and weighs in about twice as heavy or more. I just can't say enough about this lens!