Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Using the powers of Photoshop for good

Over the past two decades, digital editing programs have become an essential tool of every photographer. However, the debate goes on and on over the correct way to use Photoshop. Personally, I believe that in the world of journalism you should only be allowed to adjust levels, adjust contrast and crop -- that's it. Photoshop has saved many an underexposed or overexposed photo, but beyond those adjustments, which could be make when printing a photo with an enlarger, you can't trust the image.

Media outlets in Iran faced worldwide mockery a few years ago when they cloned an extra missile into photographs of missile tests that were distributed to newspapers. Today, China is in the hotseat for an incredibly fake photo of three government workers inspecting a road construction site.

However, outside the world of journalism, the lines of good Photoshop and bad Photoshop begin to blur. I'm not talking about digital art here, which is an entire genre unto itself. I'm talking about blatant misuse of Photoshop. I've had advertisers (*cough* realtors *cough*cough*) request to have their double chins removed or more hair added in photographs. The business model of the Glamour Shots franchise is entirely based upon adding so much blur and glow to portraits that the model's skin is no longer visible. If this is what the client wants, you're stuck. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet when it comes to things like taste or style when it comes down to getting paid for your work. However, if you're choosing to perpetrate this kind of work, you are using Photoshop for evil.

With the proper lighting and poses that are flattering to a person's body type, there is no reason you should have to airbrush all the skin off a model!

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for touching up a pimple or a whispy strand of hair, but if you're attempting advertising or fashion, people should look like people, not glowing aliens -- unless of course you're shooting glowing aliens.

However, when it comes to setting, that's where Photoshop is born to run. I clicked a few photos in Old Town Spring Sunday evening and here is my example of GOOD use of Photoshop.


L1022184 edited

Let's go through the changes between photos.

1) There had been no pre-planning to shoot posing with a train car, so the model threw on a vintage hat, but she was wearing a beachy dress. I cropped the skirt out of the photo and switched to black and white to make her clothing seem more in tune with the train theme.

2) As the caboose was a food stand, the entire side of the train was covered in menu items. I cloned away all the printing.

3) There was a chain on that side of the caboose to force patrons to form a line using the stairs on the other side. I cloned away the chain and padlocks.

4) I decided to create some contrast and mystery, I'd add some steam or fog. I did this by drawing a large white box over that side of the photo and then choosing the gaussian blur filter and maxing out the slider. I then drew a smaller grey box and did the same thing.

Obviously the scene is no longer true to life, but it looks lifelike. The only alteration I made to the model was to clone part of her wrist that had been blocked by the chain. To me, this is using Photoshop for good.

What's your opinion?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

We always make it back alive

It was another great weekend for sailing.

I finally sold the CruisAir Carry-On air conditioner, but along with it went the canvas bag that covered my hatch that I was using for the window unit, so the time came to get busy and build a wooden box for my window unit air conditioner. I got that finished Friday afternoon, but I have to fiberglass and paint it this week.

We'd originally hoped to anchor out for the Friday night fireworks display that Kemah does every weekend in June, but one thing led to another and we started chatting with friends at the pool. Suddenly it was dark and there was no chance to motor out and anchor in time for the display. Instead we watched the fireworks from the dock, but they were still very nice. I had meant to take the new Nikon D7000 for some HD video of the fireworks, but as I was busy all day building the new air-conditioner box, I forgot to bring a camera of any sort.

Saturday morning we fired up the diesel and it happily pushed us out to Galveston Bay. It was breezy and the goal of the morning was to just have some low-stress sailing practice, so I raised the main and Mary took the helm. The Starwind sails well at about 3 knots with just the main. It's not edge of your seat excitement, but it's good practice conditions. We'd been sailing for a couple hours and were nearing the offshore platforms over by Redfish Island when we started realizing how bad our sunburns were getting. At that point we turned around and started making our way back to Clear Lake.

To ease the heat, Mary jumped overboard and did some extremely slow tubing on a seat cushion while hanging from a rope ties to the transom.

Everything was good until we hit the channel and attempted to start the motor. It didn't want to start. We turned the boat around and I left Mary steering while I went below to troubleshoot. I couldn't find a thing wrong with the diesel. There were no leaking fluids. Nothing was loose. I couldn't see any real reason why it wouldn't start. I went back on deck and tried it again in neutral. This time it sputtered to life. After warming it up, I put it back into gear and we started moving forward but with a strange vibration that kept threatening to kill the motor again.

The slow ride home was filled with anxiety that the motor might be gone at any second and that something that was breaking was possibly getting worse and worse with every moment the motor was running. I found I couldn't run the motor up at 3600 RPM without the temperature starting to creep up, but it held steady at 175 degrees if I kept it around 3000 RPM.

We made it home, but the strange vibration stayed with us all the way home. I did another check of the mounts and transmission when we got back but I still came up with nothing. My next guess was that perhaps we had something on the prop or had lost a chunk of the prop, but as I was sunburned and exhausted, I didn't take a dive under the boat to check it out yet.

I do hope that someday I will have enough confidence in this boat that every launch doesn't call to question whether or not we'll make it back.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Caffeinated photos

The Canon CanoScan 9000F arrived in the mail this week promising an optical 9600 x 9600 dpi film scans. You can actually only choose 4800 dpi -- but that's WAY better than the 600 dpi my 3-in-1 was delivering. Now that I can finally digitize my Instant Coffee negatives, here's a few prints.








Thursday, June 23, 2011

Scenes of Illinois

In honor of pulling the 50th tick off of Dixie Belle last night despite having been home for almost two weeks, I thought I'd post a few photos from Illinois. I have to say, there's a certain charm to living on a farm and hiking through the woods.




Luna Moth








Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to scan film negatives or slides without a film scanner

In today's world of digital media, developing film at home comes with one giant question -- how do I get it into the computer?

Obviously, if you're also creating prints in the darkroom, this isn't a complicated project. Any flatbed scanner can import a nice 8x10 print for display on the web. However, I don't have a good dark room or an enlarger, so I thought, why not just scan the negatives. Once they're digitized I can either print them with my photo printer or upload them to the web.

I was in a hurry to display the results of my instant coffee experiment, so the first way I digitized my negatives was to tilt my softbox toward the ceiling, lay the negatives across them, and then take macro photos of them. That resulted in something that looked similar to an iPhone Instagram or Hipstamatic photo.


It's got a "look," but the texture of the softbox fabric shows through the negative and a photo taken with $1000 of camera equipment is reduced to looking like it was made with a crappy camera phone.

I decided that scanning was a must.

If you've never attempted it, laying a 35mm negative on a flatbed and just hitting scan doesn't work. I read in various places across the internet that the negatives need to be off the glass and to have a backlight. All I had was a cheap Canon Pixma MP495 3-in-1 Printer/Scanner/Copier and both of those things proved problematic.

First off, raising the negatives didn't work. I tried using a metal bracket and clothespins clipped onto the film, but the cheap flatbed scanner on my 3-in-1 only focuses on the glass. Creating a film holder to raise the negatives just made them blurry. That was out.

Then, adding any backlight at all overpowered the scanner creating a huge white area. I kept moving the light further and further away or to the side, which was still producing terrible results. Then I thought, instead of moving the light, why not diffuse it with some of the printer paper sticking out of the back of this machine? I started with a couple sheets but found I had to use quite a stack before my scans started coming out with the correct exposure.

Super ghetto 35mm negative scanning

With around 25 sheets of paper and a light sitting on top of my film, I finally had recognizable images appearing on my computer screen. Then came the next issue -- resolution. I had never worried about my scanner resolution before because I had only used it to scan forms or make an occasional copy of a receipt or document.

The Canon Pixma MP495 literature touts 1200 x 2400 dpi. (That's pretty dismal considering the current CanoScan 9000F photo scanner has an optical resolution of 9600 x 9600 dpi.) The MP495 scanner will not scan at a setting higher than 600 dpi. Generally, 300 dpi is print resolution. Therefore, if I got a good scan of a 35mm negative at 600 dpi, I would only be able to print it at roughly twice the size of the negative -- you can forget going 4x6 or 8x10!

At the full 600 dpi resolution, here's the best scan I could get.

Scanner Fail

(Ignore the water spots on the negatives. That's my fault for washing them with tap water instead of distilled water. I've since re-washed them and resolved that problem.)

In conclusion, there's good news and there's bad news. If you have a flatbed scanner with no film-scanning attachments, yes, you can still scan your negatives by placing them under a stack of printer paper and setting a light on top. Just add or remove paper from the stack until you get the proper exposure when you scan. However, your results will be limited by the resolution of your scanner.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Schmap guide to Austin

I got a note a couple weeks ago asking if one of my photos could be used for a new Internet guide to Austin. Yesterday, I got an email thanking me and letting me know the guide was out. They've featured one of my Halloween photos on the Maggie Mae's page.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Developing film with instant coffee, washing soda and vitamin C

I had my doubts about this process. Yes, I'd seen other people do it on other blogs but you know how things go -- it never quite works the same at home.

First things first, I gave away all my darkroom equipment years ago, so I spent some time trying to think what improvised devices I had around the house that might be lightproof. I debated an old coffee can with aluminum foil inside the plastic lid or a stainless steel drink shaker. However, both of those solutions gave no provision to the spooling of the film to keep it from touching itself or the walls of the container. It would have also taken some clever engineering to come up with a way to pour chemicals in and out without light leaks. Therefore, I decided it was easiest to pick up a second hand development tank. I posted an ad looking for a free one on craigslist but only found incredibly wishful people wanting to sell me their entire darkroom labs for several hundred dollars. I decided to check eBay and for $15 (shipping included) I ended up with a 500ml stainless steel Omega developing tank with two film spools.

Next I started collecting my developer ingredients: instant coffee, washing soda, and vitamin C.

I read that you could use white vinegar as a stop bath, but I decided several thorough rinses would be good enough.

I had read on some forum that seawater could be used as a fixer. Pursuing this research, I found out this was not true. The only known chemicals that can rinse the silver from the negatives and do proper fixing are sodium thiosulfate or ammonium thiosulfate. There are some pool chemicals used to dechlorinate water that use sodium thiosulfate, but I figured buying pool chemicals was no better than buying actual fixer.

Having to buy fixer kind of ruins the MacGuyver hipster cred of this entire process, but oh well.

Here's all my supplies.

Prepping my Caffenol-C experiment

Total cost for this experiment (not counting film) is as follows:
Fixer $13
Developing tank & reels $15 (eBay)
Instant Coffee $6
Vitamin C pills $7
Washing Soda $2.50

(It's probably worth noting that the combined cost of the coffee vitamin C and washing soda was $15.50 and a bottle of Kodak T-MAX developer is only $11.50. Unfortunately, there's no big cost savings to this method.)

I was using Kodak T-MAX 100 film in my Leica M3, so I used Reinhold's Caffenol-C recipe but reformulated to make exactly 500ml.

500ml water
50ml washing soda
8g vitamin C (They were 1,000mg tablets, so I used 8 tablets.)
80ml instant coffee

The vitamin C was in pill form, so I put them in an envelope and gently crushed them into powder with a hammer before starting.

I used a graduated measuring pitcher and a blender bottle with graduated markings on the side for my measurements.

Step 1) Put the water in the bottle. (I added a couple ice cubes to bring the temperature down to 68 degrees fahrenheit. They were gone by the time I finished mixing, but it kept the developer cool.)
Step 2) Add the washing soda and mix.
Step 3) Add the vitamin C and mix.
Step 4) Add the coffee and mix.
(The upside to using a blender bottle is that it mixes things VERY well. The downside is that the wire whisk aerates the liquid and causes a foamy head on top. Foam will not do a good job developing negatives.)
Step 5) Wait 5 minutes for foam to settle.

Caffenol-C Mixing

At 68 degrees f, I developed the film for 15 minutes. I poured the developer into the tank and agitated it for the first 30 seconds. Then I agitated it again 3 times at the top of each minute.

After 15 minutes, I poured out the coffee and filled and rinsed the tank several times with tap water.

Caffenol-C waiting

I didn't have a large container for the fixer, so I re-calculated the formulation to make 500ml of that in the blender bottle as well. Here's the recipe:

250ml water
125ml Solution A
14ml Solution B
Then add water until you have 500ml.

The instructions said to allow it fix for 3-5 minutes, so I went with 4 minutes. I poured in the fixer and agitated it for the first 30 seconds, then I gave it a couple tips at the top of each minute.

I poured out the fixer (which can be re-used for multiple rolls of film) and then rinsed the cannister again.

I held my breath as I popped open the lid, but I was relieved to find pictures printed on my negatives.

Caffenol-C success

I haven't invested in a negative scanner yet, so I attempted to scan the negatives on my flatbed scanner by holding a light above them, but I couldn't get a usable scan. Plus, my scanner maxes out at 600dpi, so the print would only be twice the size of the 35mm negative.

Having failed at scanning, I decided to lay the negatives across my softbox and use the macro lens I built for my X1 to snap a photo. That worked better than scanning but I still didn't get the negative as flat as it should be and the texture of the softbox showed through the negatives.

Caffenol-C Sam Houston Negative

Once I finally had a somewhat usable digital file, I pulled it into Photoshop, inverted the color and cropped it to size.

Caffenol-C Sam Houston

I'm sure old Sam Houston will look much better once he's scanned properly, but even at this poor resolution, I think there's plenty of proof that instant coffee is a great developer. I'm going to buy more T-MAX 100 and get back to shooting.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Illinois is not a quiet place

Perhaps it was the timing of my visit, but there was no peace and quiet in rural Illinois.

The 13-year cicadas had emerged. The periodical insects created a deafening drone during the day.

Then, if the cicadas didn't wake you up, the homemade sparkler bombs definitely would. The sparkler bombs were created by taking wooden sparklers, snapping the sticks off, then wrapping them in nylon tape. They were guaranteed to remove unwanted stumps and despite being quite a ways off when filming this, the blast pressure was enough to blow my hair back and have me stumbling backwards when it went off.

This is what happens when you can buy liquor and fireworks at the grocery store any day of the week.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I'm back

I've returned from the heartland where I slept in a room with a snake and found that people enjoy drinking at the VFW and getting ticks.

I was a little disappointed that I only heard two John Mellencamp songs on the radio the entire time I was there, but what can you do?

Stay tuned for a more detailed blog about Illinois this evening. I also shot a roll of Tmax100, so I'll be picking up some washing soda and vitamin C on my way home to find out just how well coffee crystals really do develop film this week.

I also have to contact Google to see why linking an article on Reddit got my adsense account shut down.

I enjoyed the trip, but it's good to be back.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Got this from Google last night.


After reviewing our records, we've determined that your AdSense account
poses a risk of generating invalid activity. Because we have a
responsibility to protect our AdWords advertisers from inflated costs due
to invalid activity, we've found it necessary to disable your AdSense
account. Your outstanding balance and Google's share of the revenue will
both be fully refunded back to the affected advertisers.

Please understand that we need to take such steps to maintain the
effectiveness of Google's advertising system, particularly the
advertiser-publisher relationship. We understand the inconvenience that
this may cause you, and we thank you in advance for your understanding and

If you have any questions or concerns about the actions we've taken, how
you can appeal this decision, or invalid activity in general, you can find
more information by visiting


The Google AdSense Team

After three years, my page had generated total revenue of around $50, but you don't get paid until it breaks $100. $40 of that $50 was generated this month and page views have average over 100 hits a day. I thought there was a CHANCE I might get a check by the end of the summer if readership stayed up, but now I'm kicked out of AdSense altogether. Google may not be as benevolent as they would have us believe.

I'm going to appeal when I get back from Illinois.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

We'll pay you in $2 bills!

If you live in Houston, you would have to be living under a rock to have avoided the C&D Scrap Metal commercials. Their tagline of, "We'll pay you in $2 bills!" is almost as iconic as Mattress Mac's, "saves you money!"

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, they even have ALL of their radio commercials and TV clips on their website:

They invaded our office today with both their monster truck and their economy car. (I wonder if the little one offsets the carbon footprint of the big one?)

We pay you in $2 bills!

They were participating in our annual environmental fair. I don't know how much people actually learned about recycling but everyone sure wanted a picture taken with them.

We'll pay you in $2 bills!

I only regret not asking them if they actually had any $2 bills on them.

Houston wildlife

I should have picked up my camera the second I rolled out of bed this morning.

I opened the back door to let the dog out, and there was the fattest toad I've seen in a long time sitting in the dog's water bowl having a jaccuzi moment. Missed that shot.

I was in the shower and this one ant suddenly appeared on top of the shampoo bottle and was reaching up, looking for a higher place to climb. Missed that shot.

I walked out to the car and this beautiful red-breasted robin was hopping around the yard. I almost felt like I was in a Disney movie. Missed that shot.

I was driving to work and the truck in front of me hit a bird. Feathers flew everywhere. It was so surreal. Missed that shot.

Maybe I should just get a web cam attached to my forehead.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The death rattle of the periodical?

This offer came in the mail last week, and it got me thinking.

The slow death of print media

I devoured magazines as a child. There was Highlights, Cricket, National Geographic, National Geographic World, and Boys Life to name a few. By high school my taste had shifted to Mustangs Monthly, Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords, Motor Trend, Car & Driver, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Guitar Player, Guitar World, Acoustic Guitar, Rolling Stone, etc.

I read a TON of magazines -- and I never got rid of any of them. (That was a bad habit picked up from my father who still had every issue of Byte magazine ever published in his garage when my parents moved in 2005.)

During and after college, I was somewhat transient, moving at least once a year to various dormitories, apartments, rental houses, etc. Storage became a premium -- as did my hard earned cash.

The magazine subscriptions ended, and the only magazines that remained in my closet were the various guitar magazines that had tablature in them.

Having graduated college with a journalism degree in 2000 and already having learned that I couldn't stand the incredibly large egos of incredibly fat disc jockeys, my next choice was to land a job with some glossy magazine where I could spend my days writing about sleek cars or hanging out with the coolest guitarists around, I applied to magazine after magazine. Unfortunately (or fortunately considering the current market) none of them were looking to hire some out of state guy with no experience. Thus rejected, off I went into newspapers, and the rest is history.

Early in the decade, print was already having a problem. Ethical lines started being crossed as advertisers demanded coverage of their interests. Rolling Stone actually published an article about Ford threatening to withdraw all advertising if their bands and special concert series weren't highlighted in the articles. Many smaller publications had no choice but to cave. Some just decided that was the way to go. I know my house is inundated with free monthly periodicals chock full of stories about veterinarians, dentists and plastic surgeons -- all of which are touted to be the best in the business. (It's interesting how doctors, especially cosmetic surgeons, have remained a core advertiser even in a down economy. It seems like they have the perfect mix of money and ego to fall victim to any publication willing to publish their photo.)

It was about two years ago when all the free magazine subscriptions started showing up. I went from not having any subscriptions for about five years to suddenly receiving Car & Driver, eWeek, Texas Monthly and Popular Mechanics for free. Those that weren't free cost next to nothing. I got a three-year subscription to Sailing World for $16, and I just received an offer to get National Geographic for only $12. I found out that I could care less about eWeek because it's far too focused on Information Technology for large businesses and Sailing World talks too much about racing. However, the magazines just keep coming and coming and coming.

The effectiveness of advertising is based on how many consumers it will reach. If you're running a magazine and circulation drops, your ads are suddenly worthless. Therefore, publications are now eating the cost of printing and distribution to maintain circulation. The profit margin has grown even thinner -- if there is even a profit.

Six months ago I started seeing complaints on that certain sailing magazines had notified subscribers that they would be going online only -- infuriating the subscribers who had prepaid at the much higher print rate. However, online periodicals don't seem to be doing any better than their physical forerunners. The Daily lost $10 million in the first quarter of 2011.

In a world where everything has become instantaneously tweeted and facebooked, the morning headlines are old news. We may not just be looking at the death of print, we may be looking at the death of the periodical altogether.

To me, two questions remain:
How do we add enough value to the content that people will wait to read a publication?
How do we add enough value to the content that people will save the publication and refer back to it -- whether online or in print?

Maybe every magazine just needs some guitar tablature in the back.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Everything's bigger in Texas -- especially our car dealership flags

The car dealership across the street from my office just put up a couple of GINORMOUS flags. You can see them over the freeway. They're seriously about the size of a tractor trailer.

I pieced together this GIF from about 8 shots I took of one from our parking lot across the street using Adobe Photoshop CS5 to properly align the shots and then Adobe Fireworks to output the layers as an animation.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

If God had meant for man to fly ...

He wouldn't have made flight time so freaking expensive!

Mary took me flying for the first time today. I've been up in some rather small planes in Canada and Finland as well as a very small helicopter with no doors over Port Aransas. However, the closest I'd ever come to touching the controls was Microsoft Flight Simulator circa 1993.


Mary's flying turned out to be pretty solid. Her biggest challenge is that the airplane seats aren't made for short people. She took us up and landed us with no worries.


Then it was my turn.


I thought I was doing pretty well until I heard her voice crackle over the radio from the back seat asking if we could cut the flight short because my flying was terrifying her.

Ok, Ok. I'll admit I had a little trouble keeping us level resulting in a lot of rocking back and forth, but I didn't think I was doing THAT bad.

I'm sure it gets easier with practice, but flying was work. I spent the entire time nervously monitoring the altimeter and the artificial horizon making constant adjustments. My fantasies of jetting up to Kansas to see my parents quickly evaporated because flying that far would be incredibly exhausting.

Another downside to flying was that it was 105 degrees in Houston today, and the enclosed cockpit was approximately the same temperature as a sauna.

I think for now, I'll stick to sailing.

Leica M3: Round 2

I got the opportunity to spend some more time shooting with the Leica M3 this week. This time I had Kodak UltraMax 800 loaded, and in accordance with advice I recieved on the Leica User Forum, I tried to err on the side of overexposure. However, once the sun went down I found I pretty much shot everything at f1.4, 1/25s.

You can see the vignetting of the Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4 when it's shot wide open. I don't find it unpleasant. It gives the shots sort of a signature, classic look.

Both of the Houston skyline panoramas were created from three shots. I used the Adobe Photoshop Photomerge tool to stitch them together and then the Content Aware Fill tool to fill in some of the empty space to create a larger crop area.

These photos would probably be a bit contrastier with an M9, but for 1/7 the price of just the body, these aren't too bad.






Saturday, June 04, 2011

Helper Dog

My girlfriend adopted a ridiculous little maltese a few weeks ago. He attempts the help with everything.

He helps with sewing.

The dog is so helpful

He helps with packing.

Travel Dog

He's (unfortunately) even started helping with my computer work.

Printer Dog

Fighting back against the clutter

After realizing how much junk I have sitting all over my house, I made sure I did something productive with it today. I spent a couple hours in the garage working through projects. I haven't revived the British Seagull yet, but the Carry-On 5000 Cruisair Air-Conditioner is once again fully operations.



The unit was making an extremely loud screeching noise when it was retired, which made me think the bearings in the motor were siezing. In actuality, the bracket that holds the fan shroud had broken and the fan was just rubbing. All it took was a couple washer on the screws to hold them into the brackets, and voila!

Although it's ugly, these units cost almost $900 new. The question now is whether it goes back to the boat or on to Craiglist.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Am I too obsessed with junk?

There's a fine line between a collector and a hoarder. I have a really hard time throwing anything away. There's always that chance I MIGHT need it.

Sometimes this works out. For instance, I accidentally bought a can of instant coffee instead of normal coffee, and it tasted terrible. Yet, I saved it ... just in case. I have no idea what that "just in case" was. I guess, maybe if the power went out, and we really wanted coffee so badly that we'd settle for horrible instant coffee. HOWEVER, it turns out that instant coffee is the main ingredient in Caffenol film developer, so now I can develop black and white film in it instead of drinking it, and I would have just wasted $5 if I'd had to re-buy more terrible instant coffee to do photography experiments.

However, I also still have boxes and boxes full of old toys, broken electronics, broken boat parts, etc. If I ever get around to fixing that Cruise-Air boat air conditioner in my garage, I can probably sell it for $200, but it's been sitting since last summer. We also just acquired a large inflatable dinghy that doesn't hold air.

At what point do you know when you've moved beyond frugrality and ingenuity into the realm of Sanford & Son?

Thursdays are garbage day in my neighborhood, so when I finished jogging Wednesday night, everyone had set their trash out on the curb.

That's when I saw it. A shoe. No, a chair. A shoe-chair!

It was a chair shaped like a high heel. Neither do I have a fetish for lady's shoes, nor do I need another chair in my house, but I thought to myself, that would be the perfect prop for a fashion shoot!

Of course, I'd never take something out of the trash. At least that's what I told myself for ten minutes as I stood in the front yard and stared and that enormous shoe while Dixie sniffed around.

Then suddenly, I was carrying an enormous shoe across the street.

Shoe Chair

However, I stopped feeling too terribly bad about the incident when my neighbor Gerald told me he had seen it and wanted to grab it, but his wife wouldn't let him. I told him it was all his after the photo session -- not that I actually have one lined up any time soon. But it's great to have a shoe chair. Just in case.

Another Houston Press mention

My photo of Ben fishing at Redfish Island popped up in the Houston Press Art Blog this week.

Sometimes you just come across something soooo strange ...

Did you know there is an Internet meme that involves pasting Academy Award winning actor Tom Hank's face onto animals?

Now you do.

Check out the entire site here:

Thursday, June 02, 2011

B&H Featured Photo

This is kind of neat. One of my Leica X1 portraits was featured on the B&H Photo Video blog last week.

Animated GIFs making a comeback?

Are they? It seems like they're the new retro cool. Plus, now that file compression technology has advanced ten years since the first time we saw dancing babies, they no longer require ridiculously large file sizes.

Of course, only places like Tumblr where the hipster cool kids hang out still support them. I don't think you're ever going to see animated profile photos on Facebook like you used to on Myspace.

The GIF above was created in Adobe Fireworks from a series of photographs I took while sailing Memorial Day weekend. However, if you visit tumblr, they have a whole newsfeed dedicated to nothing but these motion monstrosities.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Developing film with instant coffee

I came across this on the Leica Forum today. Apparently you can develop low speed black and white film with instant coffee crystals.

However, with this method, you still need fixer. I'm reading online that you can actually use saltwater for fixing.

Coffee, saltwater and a negative scanner -- that would solve my development costs and make me the MacGuyver of the local photography community.

Here's another blog that promotes using a mixture of coffee and vitamin C for quicker and developing with more contrast. And yes, he uses an iodized salt solution to fix the film.

The only downside is that I gave away all my film tumblers, trays and my enlarger years ago. I'll have to start checking garage sales and craigslist.

Bad vibrations

I did mention that we went sailing over the weekend, but I rambled on about photography, and I didn't get to tell the REAL story.

I had one worry when we got to the boat and that was whether or not the temperature gauge would work now that I had replaced the temperature sender. I didn't want to have to buy another gauge. Little did I know, that would be the least of our problems.

Boats don't run like cars. Cars can go thousands of miles without even a tune-up. Boats can't seem to make it more than a weekend. And it's not just my boat. I can't think of any boat outing I've had that didn't begin with the boat not starting or doing something strange the entire time we were on the water. On one hand, at least in a sailboat you can still get back to shore. Then again, it's much less stressful being stranded in a ski boat on Lake Conroe where there's no chance of drifting into shipping lanes or out to sea.

When we started the boat, there was a horrendous whining noise. I immediately shut it down and descended the companionway to investigate. It was not hard to see that the alternator was crookedly hanging from the tensioning bracket, no longer bolted to the engine.

This is actually the second time in a year that the alternator has sheared off the mounting bolt. I think it's a combination of the ridiculous vibrations of the two-cylinder diesel and the fact that the bolt hole in the alternator is slightly larger than the bolt hole in the block. I either need to drill out the hole in the block or find a spacer.

Since the alternator was flapping around willy nilly, the alternator belt sawed halfway through a heater hose. I had more heater hose in the boat, but Ben had to make a run to the hardware store for a bolt. We had it ready to run again 45 minutes later, but as I moved the throttle, I heard the jingly sound of falling hardware.

The bracket holding the teleflex throttle cable was no longer there. The nuts holding it together had vibrated off and disappeared.

It was now my turn to run to West Marine where 40 cents got me two new nylock nuts, which hopefully won't fall victim to the intense vibrations anytime soon.

Once the throttle cable was bolted back into place, all systems were go, but we were leaving two hours behind schedule.

Two hours. That seems to be the required repair time before all boat trips.

I'm very aware of the underlying issue with my boat -- it's the vibrations. I checked all the motor mounts after it had shaken itself loose a couple months ago, and everything is still tight. Other than avoiding running at low RPMs, I'm not sure what to do to stop the vibrations.

But on the upside, the temperature gauge is now working again. That only leaves the fuel gauge to fix. (In regard to gauges that need to be repaired ... there are many other things that also need to be fixed, but c'est la vie. That's the way it goes with boats.)