Saturday, March 22, 2014


The Exit

Lately I've been throwing a lot of spare time into the "getting the house organized" that I listed as one of my 2014 goals.

Red Window

I got our storage room organized.  I ended up making so much extra space in there I was able to build a workbench in part of the area, still have storage room, and still have lots of open room for the exercise equipment use.  I followed this design.  I didn't do it perfect, but when you throw 2x4s and plywood together with drywall screws, I think perfection is unachievable anyway.  If you do that build, I recommend using liquid nails under the tops of the main bench, and large shelf before screwing it down.  Also be advised the cost is more than $50 now-a-days.  Especially if you add a light, a bench vice, and other things like that to it. This also aided in organization because now all my tools are in one spot, and I won't set projects up on the kitchen counter, or tables anymore.  I shouldn't really have done that anyway.


Next up is our upstairs room.  I'm rearranging things, putting a small stereo up there, and simply better using the space available.

I'm also dumping lots of stuff that has been around far longer than it has been useful to me.  One example, the computer I built in for college about 20 years ago, and the one I built 15 years ago.  My phone can emulate them.  My phone can emulate more powerful computers than both of those.  There was no reason to still them.  I DO still have my Amiga 500.  Yes, that can be emulated too, but ...

Desk Toy

I also found a chance to work on my photography.  Zack Arias is leading people through some "fundamental" assignments on his DEDPXL site.  I've written before that I think fundamentals are key, and revisiting them often is a good way to just get better.  The first assignment is lines.  If you hurry you can get in on the first one too.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Pinhole "Photography"

 3 hour exposure

The final goal I listed on 2014's goal list was to explore different avenues of photography by trying different equipment.

I have already talked a little bit about my foray into a high quality point and shoot a little bit.  I will write more about that later.

But, this post I wanted to write a bit about the other end of the scale.  I did, in fact, buy a pinhole camera.  I chose a 4x5 with a 75mm focal length from the Lensless Camera Company.  I bought it, a pair of 4x5 film holders, a box of direct Ilford Harmond positive photo paper (which I just saw maybe discontinued!), and a mess of chemicals from B&H.

So far I have made a total of 6 exposures, 7 if you count the paper I deliberately brought into a lit room to learn how the film holders worked.  Out of those 6, I'd say 2 were very successful, 1 was moderately successful, and 2 were either so severely underexposed or overexposed to be candidates to toss in the trash.  I'm keeping them, for now, so I can learn how the paper reacts to things like ironing!

14 minute exposure

And there-in lies one of two big mind shifts using this camera has rendered.  I have to learn the materials!  I really started studying photography in the digital world.  I shot film for years, but, in terms of really studying, and really shooting enough to improve in any noticeable way, it was digital capture.  My idea of the "craft" of photography was camera work like focus and exposure, artistic work like composition, design, color, contrast, etc,  the awareness of light and how to use various swatches of it in a picture, and the one I think is very elusive-- awareness of your subject and how you want to portray the subject in a picture.

However, working with this pinhole has made me realize a big part of the craft is simply "craft".  How to treat paper going into chemicals, having a roughly correct temperature of the chemicals, how to physically load film holders, how to dry prints, how to flatten dry prints, etc.  None of these I have managed to complete at a level I consider appropriate.  The other aspects of pictures are still there.  But, right now, messing with these the actual process is consuming a ton of my thinking, and it is very hands on.

14-15 minute exposure, during wind.

The other shift is in subjects I find myself selecting, and how I think about making the exposure.  Because of the exposure times, making pictures of people isn't practical.  I have a people picture I want to make, but will require insane subject participation, at least until I start using film instead paper in the capture step.  For now I'm selecting stuff that sits still.  When making a picture, I call it "collecting" the picture.  With other cameras I "take" them, or "shoot" them, or some other word like that.  I feel a pinhole camera "collects" one. For minutes, or hours, it sucks the picture in and holds it. 

Despite being wide angle, these pictures feel quiet to me.  I don't really know how to explain it.

If you are interested in a pinhole camera, there are plenty of ways to make them easily and cheaply. Buying a built camera isn't too expensive either.

I also just recently learned that using a pinhole camera isn't "photography".  The individual that invented the term, specifically stated that optics were used.  I think he's wrong, but he's long dead so we cannot have this discussion.

I look forward to world pinhole day this year.  It falls on April 27.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


My Great Grandfather Harry Trout

Those of you that are around my age are probably the last generation that will experience the thrill of going through our parents old albums and shoe boxes that are randomly stuffed with decades of snapshots.  Many of these are of us, when we are small.  I can remember many many of those pictures.  I even duplicated a few with my kids.

My Great Grandfather Harry Trout (Again)

But my generation has created most of our kid's pictures in the digital realm.  This has both advantages and disadvantages.  Our pictures will never fade.  They will never get bent.  The negatives won't get lost.  But, poor backup strategies, dying machines, pictures never taken off of phones, passwords, and other issues could prevent our kid's from really seeing these at all.  We do print some things out, but they are usually the "best", and are rarely the everyday randomness.

 My Great-Great-Great Grandfather Etzler

This isn't that big of a problem though.  When you think about it, us, our parents, and our grandparents ( maybe ), are the only 3 generations in history that have had that chance.  Go back further and you are lucky to even have any photographs at all, and slightly further still and the art wasn't even invented.

My Great-Great-Great Grandmother Etzler

The photos in this post are pictures my family has from generations past.  I had a chance to photograph them and put them into the digital realm.  I don't know the processes involved for all of them.  Some are clearly pure photographs.  Others seem to have some photographic properties, and also clear brush and ink work done on details.  But, I think they started as photos.

My Great-Great-Great Grandmother Mary Catherine Crum

I have captioned them with identities as well as I know.  Others in my family can probably fill in details on some first names, and how narrow down the dates.  Some are clearly older than 100 years.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It's suppose to be fun

This is a strange post.  I both worked on it in mind, and decided it should never be written simultaneously.  Then over-ruled the decision.

One of the truisms in photography is the camera doesn't matter.  It is the case.  However, it also isn't.  Ever tried to make a photograph without some kind of camera?  Doesn't work very well does it?

I, personally, have never been too attached to any of my cameras.

But, that may have changed.  A few years ago when Fuji announced the X100 I was intrigued.  I nearly pre-ordered it after see the announcement.  It seemed perfect.  Small.  Manual control.  RAW files. Retro design. I found the rangefinder-like design interesting. The only mark against it at that time was a painful price, but painful prices can be rationalized away. Money can be saved up.  I waited to see reviews.  Early reviews stated the camera was quirky, locked up, and did numerous other unfortunate things.  And those were things listed in the POSITIVE reviews.  I didn't buy it.  Maybe if it was cheaper I would have anyway? Maybe I should have despite the price and issues? [Note: Fuji addressed many of these early issues in firmware -- but I had already decided to pass. ]

But.  This year Fuji released the update for the X100, the X100s.  It has none of the issues. I bought one.

It changed photography some for me.  It reintroduced me to the fun of it.  It fits in my pocket.  It changed the size of the bag I carry.  I feel it is invisible with it.  I have had a "real" camera with me almost every day for a few years.  But, for some reason this one comes out more.  Its not the newness either.  It is less of a "production" to get it out of the bag.  And people around you ignore it.  An SLR gets "looks", most of which aren't of the happy variety.  SLRs also have a way of attracting "that guy" who wanders over your way who wants to discuss his cameras while that little ray of sunlight that caught your attention in the first place gets covered up by a cloud.

It hasn't been completely roses.  It is taking me a while to get used to using it.  For example, the hotshoe needs to be turned on.  That caught me out, but instead of fiddling around with figuring it out, made the pictures I wanted to with another camera :)  So, my first "serious" attempt at using was a punt.

But-- I'm making pictures I wouldn't normally make.

I'm also doing things I wouldn't normally.  I'm using the jpegs directly out of the camera for many purposes, primarily the black and white modes.  I'm making "snapshots".  I put a "protective" filter and lens hood on the lens and ditched ( read "placed carefully in a cabinet" ) the lens cap.  I read the camera manual ( who does that, really? ).  I've tried even the "sillier" features of the camera like automatic panorama mode, just to see what it did.  I'm getting used to seeing the world in "mildly wide angle" slices, despite my natural inclination to see it in "mildly telephoto" ones. I stuck an IR filter on it, and that works!  There is a small bit of  circular flare that I need to figure out, but it works!

Anyway, this would make a terrible "only" camera for me because of the fixed lens.  But, as a daily carry kind of thing it is perfect.  The more I use it, the more comfortable I am with the fixed lens. All the pictures in this post were made with it ( told you they weren't my normal "thing" ), as well as all the ones here.  I realize none of these are super amazing, I'm still getting used to things. 

But, they were FUN to make, and that is the point of this post.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Goals

Normally, I'd be putting together my favorites of the year post.  I still may do so, but I'm not in a rush.  Many of my favorites I probably won't post-- some are from very early in the year, some are very recent.  Most are portraits.

I, instead, decided to look at my goals post from last year and finish updating it, and think about things for this year.

First the look back.  The items I didn't accomplish I do not feel any loss about.  One, I realized, isn't that important to me.  The other two, I'd like to do, but they are nearly purely recreational.  I can invent reasons about how they help me and aren't just leisure, but all those reasons sound pretentious.

The rest I accomplished.  Some, barely good enough to qualify as success, and others I think I went above and beyond.

And again, 2014 PERSONAL goals that only involve me.  Of course there are others for family and jobs-- but I don't feel like making those public.  In no particular order:
  • Keep reading.  I don't put a number next this on purpose, but it seems I'm hitting about 20 books a years.  I read a bit more than that number may indicate, but a lot of that is magazines, newspapers, etc.  I like where I am with books, though.  That number allows me to read fiction, non-fiction, old classics, and new novels.  I'm hoping the next Song of Ice and Fire novel comes out in 2014.  It is what we've been hinted at to expect, but of course, words are wind.
  • Really get the house organized.  We got started a bit on that this year, and we have been doing very small things here and there for the last 5 years.  But, this year we will be systematic and start from the basement up to our top floor.  I have already begun the basement, and I'm surprised we actually moved some of that stuff here to begin with.  Anyone want a 25 year old word processor?  I'll throw in the disk of the papers written with it too.
  •  Do some exercise on a regular basis.  I'm pretty good about doing this on an irregular basis, but I think a routine would be more beneficial.  This is somewhat tied into getting the house organized.  The equipment is in the basement storage area, and when I go down there to use it I spend just as much time being irritated at the clutter as I do using the equipment.
  • Better picturing.  Like last year.
  • Better guitar playing.  Like last year.
  • Bible.  Like last year.
  • And, finally, the strange one.  I want to really look at what photography gear I use, and try out other stuff.  Mostly for fun.  It seems many people go through their "gear" phase early-- I'm purposely causing one now, sort of.  I already know different cameras won't make me better, so I won't be falling down that rabbit hole.  Currently, I primarily use a pair of DSLRs.  I don't for see that changing.  But, there may be some lenses I no longer use enough to justify keeping (see the part about organizing above).  I want to play around with some other cameras and formats.  I thought about renting a medium format digital camera this year, but the cost of doing so is way too high to just play around.
    • I want to try large format, and have been looking at pinhole cameras as a first step.  If that works out, and I don't find myself lazily ignoring the processing side I may evaluate a real 4x5 camera.  I probably won't know until the end of this year if I will do that.  I still am unsure if I will get a pinhole camera to even begin this process.  Film is such a pain.  There are many good reasons NOT to pursue this (expense, time, smelly chemicals... to name a few), but I haven't been able to completely forget it after 3-4 years of ignoring this idea.
    • I also have been interested in the opposite scale too, smaller high quality (digital) cameras.  I recently picked one up, and have been going through the process of learning it.  I will have more on that later. 
Last year's goals seemed to work out.  Hopefully this year's set will be fun and successful too. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

(Almost) Our Christmas Card 2013

I'm gettin' nuttin' for Christmas
Cause I ain't been nuttin' but bad.

So, what did we learn this year?  Don't put me in charge of the Christmas card.

"The kids can't hand that out at school!"


Back to the drawing board. 

But enough of that.  I can still send this out online.

Merry Christmas!  Happy Holidays! 

I hope that next year is better than this one was, no matter how this year went.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Tobias as Ironman

It has been a little over a year since Tobias and I made a character picture.  Since the superhero fun night we've been wanting to get this done.  He went as Ironman, so we had a new suit.

Carly and Kathryn went to see the new Hunger Games movie, so Tobias and I were left figuring out what to do.  This had been on the list.  All we had to do was rebuild the "studio".  Well, we also had to make our own bucket of popcorn.

Hopefully it won't be so long before we do this again.