Friday, May 30, 2008

Project Software

I've been using a couple of new software programs to help manage my projects - both my photography projects as well as my personal projects. The two programs are well integrated into Apple's OSX Leopard operating system and allow integration between a number of programs including the Address Book, iCal, iPhoto, iTunes and other Apple System Applications.

The first program is a simplified data based named Bento. It's published by the same company that makes the well known Mac database Filemaker Pro, an Apple subsidiary company. I've used Filemaker Pro for many years, though to make it work well I've had to purchase or find shareware templates that came close to my needs and then modify them to work for me. Filemaker Pro is the program I use to manage my photography business assets (track equipment, calculate depreciation, record new purchases, etc.). Bento is more user friendly and the interface is designed to not intimidate the casual database user. The program integrates well will Apples Address Book and as you can see from the example above, I'm using it to track the models who have worked with me or who will potentially work with me in the future. While I could do this directly in the address book, Bento gives me a more robust interface and allows me to customize the look of the data, add more media fields as establish a table of links that I can use to manage other related files in the data base. In the example above, I have a link to file where I track a specific photography project. If I use this particular (fictional in this case) model for more than one project, and I have a link on her record page to each of the project tracking sheets that I'm using. These sheets are files from another program that I'll be telling you about in a moment, but first I'd like to tell you a little more about Bento.

First of all, what do I like about Bento:

1. It's simple and intuitive to use. It can create an elegant looking data base using a number of themes and allows you to easily design a custom form.
2. It allows multiple forms for a record and gives you a Table View, an Overview and a Detail View as defaults. Of course, can delete or add views as you desire.
3. The integration with the Address Book and iCal is quite good.
4. The provided templates and themes are useful. The templates provide good starting points for a number of databases you can manage.

What I don't like:

1. Everything (all data) is kept in one data set. Over time this seems like it would create a bloated data base that would slow down and increase the chances of a crash.
2. Once you modify a project file (library) to your liking, you can't save it as a template and use it as a starting point for another library that would use similar fields.
3. You're restricted to using the themes provided and as far as I can tell, you only have limited ability to modify the colors/graphics within the themes.

Bento will probably improve quite a bit as it evolves as this is only the first release. It's not everything I would like it to be, but it's a nice start.

Numbers is the other program that I've been using quite a bit recently. It's part of Apple's iWork suite of programs, Keynote and Pages are the other programs in the suite. Numbers is essentially an intuitive and simple to use spreadsheet program. It's quite versatile, easy to manage, and fun to use. As you can see from the image to the right, I'm using it to track expenditure, contacts, and tasks for my summer photo projects.

It, too, integrates well with Apple's Address Book and iCal programs. For example, I can drag and drop contact data from my Address Book into the table for Model Contact data and the fields will be automatically populated with the information. There is less integration with iCal, or perhaps I just haven't figured it out quite yet.

What I like about numbers:

1. Simple, elegantly intuitive and easy to use. You can easily manage, create and maintain data.
2. You can save any file as a template and be able to use the same form for any number of projects. That's a big advantage over Bento.
3. Good integration with other Apple applications. You can browse media files right within the application itself or you can insert files directly with drag and drop from the Finder application.

What I don't like:

Well, I wish I could open an Address Book Record or create and iCal Event (with reminder) directly within a worksheet. This would be great for tracking key tasks and contacts within the project file. Maybe it can be done and I just haven't figured it out yet, but if so, it's not as intuitive a function as the rest of the program.

Numbers is obviously a more mature program than Bento, but I like the way I'm able to use them together to created a unified system for managing my projects. Now, if I could only find a way to export my Filemaker Pro Database over without having major reformat issues.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Project Planning

I've been diligently working on acquiring the materials for my summer fairy projects. Right now, I have the materials for Woodland Fairy, Spring Fairy, Summer Fairy, Water Fairy and Winter Fairy. I have most of the materials for Fire Fairy, and I have the concepts in place for Field, Flower, and Dosmestic Fairy.

Most of the models have been found, and I'm working on locations this week. With any luck and with cooperative weather, I'll begin shooting around mid-June. Whether I'll be able to complete shooting all the planned images before the weather goes sour for the winter remains to be seen, but I'll give it my best shot.

On a personal note, I've been having quite a bit of insomnia lately. I'm not sure what's up with that as I don't feel bad, but it's very difficult to go to sleep at night, and I've been waking well in advance of the alarm. That's made me very slow today and multiple meetings throughout the day didn't help. I do have several e-mails I need to answer this evening, but I'm not sure I'm going to last long enough to pen a decent response. I do enjoy writing to people, but I also want to write a coherent letter when I write, so I may need to pass tonight.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Photography and Correspondence

I've recently begun corresponding with penpals again. Except for Barb, a teacher in Southern California, with whom I've been corresponding for many years, I haven't really been writing much. Lately I had been missing the fun of getting to know more about different people from around the world. I've always enjoyed corresponding with different people; learning about their lives, their interests and their cultures. In recent years, though, it seems that I just haven't had, or haven't taken the time, to write to people. Oh, I've attempted it a few times, but after a few bad experiences it just didn't seem like it was worth the effort. Also, when you place a penpal ad, you subject yourself to so much spam mail and so many African Scammers, Russian Love Brides, and other intrepid opportunists that it makes filtering through the e-mails quite difficult. Of course, as a man (and an older man), I certainly have it a lot easier than any women that might post an ad.

In any case, I've had a couple of very interesting responses and fun e-mail exchanges so far. With any luck, my new friends will find me intriguing enough to continue write to me and I'll be able to make a couple of new friends.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Senior Portraits

A couple of weekends ago, I had the delightful opportunity to shoot some senior portraits for a young friend of mine. I have no idea why she chose me as her photographer, but I certainly tried to give her some great images for her final year of high school. She had to travel up to Portland from Florence to do the shoot, but fortunately, her step-dad was already attending a conference in the area, so her mom was able to drive her up the night before and we had almost a full day in which to shoot.

The shoot was quite enjoyable. She seems to be a natural at modeling and she obviously was having fun throughout the shoot, even though the weather was not very cooperative and she did get quite cool during certain portions of the shoots.

I was able to take her to several locations that I've used for my photography in the past; the PCC Rock Creek Campus, which has lots of interesting statues and structures that make great backdrops and props; an old railroad trestle with huge wooden beams; and Cathedral Park, underneath the St. John's Bridge. All the locations provided us with wonderful backdrops and she was able to have several outfit changes at each setting.

Here are some other images from our shoot:

This was taken under the St. John's Bridge

This was her "princess" shot for her mom.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Repairs, Models and Hot Tubs

After several months and several hundred dollars, the hot tub is now repaired, filled, and full of clean, hot water. The acrylic shell developed a small fatigue crack along the left edge of the captain's seat where the steps entered the tub. This occurred last June, and I repaired the tub myself with marine sealant as I wasn't so much worried about the cosmetics of the repair, and I figured that if it was good enough for the hull of a boat below the waterline, it would probably be fine for the static forces on a hot tub.

Unfortunately, I didn't take into account the possibility that someone might slip and fall into the captain's seat and cause a catastrophic failure of the repair. Which is exactly what happened. And since this happened in late November, I just drained the tub, covered, and let it sit through the winter rains.

With the recent good weather, though, it was time to get the tub back in service, so I got the Miracle Surface repair folks to come out and repair the acrylic surface in the tub.

They did a very nice job and managed to get the color and texture very close to the original. It's not perfect, but it's a much better match than the marine patch that I used. It also appears to be much stronger. The patch required 7-14 days of cure time, so I took that time to research how to best reinforce the patch from the underside. The surface patch made the tub water tight, but I needed to add structural strength underneath to keep the tub from cracking again.

From my research, I determined two things: 1) Hot tub shells don't normally crack to the point where they leak and 2) Most people don't want to fix them. I learned an additional bit of information as well - I had to use a fiberglass repair kit such as those used on cars and boat hulls. This meant using a resin and hardener and fiberglass matting or cloth in order to get the structural strength required. The fun part was that I would be working inside the hot tub shell and applying the patch to a horizontal overhead surface.

The interior repair actually wasn't so bad. I should have used fiberglass cloth instead of fiberglass mat, and I should have mixed my resin and hardener is smaller batches (the first large batch hardened before I could apply all of it), but all in all the repair went quickly and time will tell if the structural reinforcement will prevent a recurrence of the crack.

Once the structural repairs were complete it was a simple matter to fill the tanks, turn on the system, ensure the recirculation pump hadn't been damaged by the loss of water during the previous failure, and leak check the repairs. Once the water had been in the tub for 24 hours with no leakage, I added the chemicals and made the tub available for use.

As you can see from the photos, I like to use the tub for various photo projects. It makes a natural setting for swimsuit and figure shots, and provides privacy for the shoot. With any luck, I 'll get to use the tub for both sore muscles and photography during the rest of the spring, summer and early fall.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

New Models, Projects, and Frustration

I'm a member of several photography sites and forums. I have a portfolio on One Model Place, another portfolio on Model Mayhem, a Flikr account, as well as an account on I'm pretty well established as a photographer on several forums and in some print media as well. So, you would think that I would have too much trouble finding new models to work with as I develop new projects. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.

I recently put out a casting call for a series of projects that I plan to work on over the summer months. The casting call was for ethnic models, specifically black, asian and latino models, but of the 14 response I've gotten to the casting calls, only three models have actually taken the time to meet with me. Of those, one is actually moving away from Oregon in the next couple of weeks, so I'll be unable to use her in my projects anyway. The other two are in Salem, which is much more difficult, logistically, for the shoots, but because both models have acted professionally and have significant interest in shooting with me, I'm planning to use them for the project.

What I don't understand is why some models will respond to a casting all, indicate interest, and then refuse to meet with me to discuss the projects to determine if they would be a good fit for what I have in mind. I made it very clear in the casting call that I would work within the limits the models set for the images I wanted to shoot, but it seems every time I call or write the models that indicated interest, I get no response from the majority of those who replied.

It's really a shame because I would like to find two or three models I could use on a regular basis to explore different aspects of photography (Muses so to say). Sierra is probably the closest model to that right now. At least she's dependable. I think these other two models will work out quite well too, but I really do need another model with an African background to add to my portfolio as well. So, if you're a black female model in the Portland, Oregon area and you'd like to work with me, drop me a line please. :)