Week 11 of 52

This week was spent largely on the search for a light meter. I know that sounds a bit silly, but the problem is that the particular combination of features (and price) I’m after, is almost perfectly embodied in the Sekonic L-358, however this has been discontinued, and replaced with a new model, which has more features, but bundles them with a mediocre laggy resistive touchscreen.

See, here’s the thing – a touchscreen which doesn’t have zero lag as its primary goal, is a failure. You can’t make an on-screen slider control useful to the user, if the slider doesn’t track where the user’s finger is touching. That Sekonic doesn’t appreciate this, bodes ill for the company, since all anyone is going to think while using the meter is “this is SO much worse than my smartphone”. This is especially true given that numerous startups are creating lightmeter accessories for smartphones.

In an effort to get the older meter, I’ve been scouring eBay, I’ve even phoned a shop in Hong Kong. The problem is that all these shops list them as for sale or in stock, but don’t actually have them on the shelves, instead they operate on the “get an order, make an order” method. The problems are compounded by the fact that there are two versions of this meter, one for the American and one for the European (and Australian) markets. There’s numerous American versions for sale on eBay, very few of the Euro model. There are a couple of unopened new ones from Japan selling for over twice what they should cost new. It’s getting to the stage where I’m looking at buying the next model up in the range, just to get the features I want from the 358.

UPDATE: I’ve looked around some more at meters, and it turns out Gossen, a German brand who’ve been around for ever, make a meter that is able to command my lights directly. It’s a fair bit more expensive than I’d planned on buying at just under $600, but being able to command the lights directly means I can stand up next to whatever I’m metering when I’m by myself in the studio, and get the lighting correct, without having to prop the meter up, and walk back to the camera or lights to fire it off, then head back to the meter to get the reading etc.

Anyway, better news – after a 15 minute phone call to the IRS, I have my EIN, and can begin the 2 week wait for it to filter through the system so I can sign up my paid books account for the iBooks store.

Second-last week of photography saw us dabble in product and food…

Week 12 of 52

Well, a bit of a big week. I went and bought my new Gossen Digisky meter. It’s a nifty bit of kit, and seems to work ok. Unfortunately the build quality is that of a cheap 2005 era cellphone. It’s made of lightweight plastic, which feels cheap and weak. I’ll do a full review later, but to sum up – it’s exactly the sort of device a company who will eventually be driven out of business by apps and accessories on smartphones would build.

Something really cool that happened this week, the arrival of my coffee-table book. This is one I created in Apple’s Aperture software, and catalogues all the images from my 2010 Nervous Spaces exhibition.

This week also saw my last photography class. The focus was that each of us would suggest a shoot we wanted to create, and the group would set it up. Since we had a section of venetian blind window lattice in the studio, I decided to try a Film Noir lighting effect with the light through the blind, creating alternating light & dark stripes on the model. The shots worked out pretty well, the only processing here is conversion to black & white, and a blackpoint adjustment.

Next week should see the studio setup consult session, and with that, primary photography of The Metaning.

Week 13 of 52

After almost a year of planning, 7 grand in equipment and training, and almost 3 months into my ArtStart grant, here is the culmination – the first completed typical photo from my studio setup.

The chain of tools for this is pretty epic – the Nikon D800 camera is tethered via USB to the computer, which is able to activate the shutter and capture images directly to Aperture. The camera has an Elinchrom Skyport plugged in which fires off the RX4 monobloc flashes. The other bit of kit that kindof closes the loop on setting and measuring the lighting is a Gossen Digisky lightmeter. This little marvel not only measures the light put out by the RX4s, but uniquely, it can speak the Elinchrom Skyport protocol. So, when making a meter reading you can dial up or down on the power from the lights using the meter, without having to round the back of the lights to adjust them, and importantly without having to go over to the skyport on the camera, where I could potentially bump it.

Other things that happened this week, I had an in-studio consult with my lighting teacher, to get all the lights configured, did some web consulting with an old high school buddy about his new business venture, and spent the rest of the time putting my  SketchUp skills to good use, continuing with Surfing The Deathine.

Week 14 of 52

This is the week I cracked the EPUB puzzle. Monday evening saw the first development version of The Metaning up and running on iOS devices. Tuesday saw another leap, as I converted the project to EPUB3 iBooks format, which means I was able to ditch the skeuomorphic paper stack and spine dip look, and just get the flat page spreads.

I feel really hyped about this, as it’s a major road block surmounted in getting not only The Metaning, but also Surfing The Deathline out in a saleable digital form. These were significant parts of my ArtStart plan.

Saturday & Sunday nights saw photography runthroughs of The Metaning, at both f5.6 and f8. While 5.6 is allegedly the sharpest aperture for my lens, f8 looks sharper to my eye. Unfortunately, I’m running into a problem with the ink lines picking up a reflection from the lights, so I’ve got to do some more experimenting with positioning to see if I can get around it.

In other news, I found out I’ve been accepted to the University of Western Sydney Sculpture Award and Exhibition for 2014, crossing off another ArtStart goal to apply for and be accepted into exhibitions. It’s a nice morale pick-me-up after missing out on Hidden at Rookwood, Willoughby, Woollarha and the John Fries exhibitions. I’m going to be reworking some themes and materials I’ve used before, and hopefully will be able to create something that’s small enough to be practical (and able to be disassembled), yet large enough to sit in an enclosed yet outdoor context.

Week 15 of 52

After problems with the previous attempts to photograph The Metaning, namely, reflections off the black ink, this time around there was success. The difference was in altering the position of the lights, to about 160-170 degrees apart. Here’s a couple of actual size crops from the shots. There hasn’t been any processing of these, although the colour has shifted a bit in the sRGB jpeg process. The cropped bits of the pages here are about 8-10 cm wide, so you can see a fairly high degree of detail has been captured. That’s the important thing with this exercise – to archive the artefact itself, not just the drawn image.

The other interesting achievement this week has been to work out the system for creating speech bubbles for the full size original pages of The Metaning. After a number of experiments, the final formula was to use two sheets of tracing paper. After printing the speech bubble text on ordinary paper, I then trace the new letters and border in ink on the tracing paper. Once that’s dried, it’s laminated to a second layer of tracing paper with spray adhesive, and pressed flat. After everything’s cured, the bubble is cut out, and then glued onto the page with rubber cement.

The advantage of rubber cement is that it’s acid free, forms a flexible bond and is removable. I’d more or less forgotten about this stuff, it used to be used in graphic design in the days of manual paste-up and hot wax, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and desktop publishing was a newfangled marvel of modern technology.

Week 16 of 52

This week was filled with rewrites on The Metaning. The updated script is a considerable improvement over the original, which suffered from an excess of anger, and an under-cooked explanation of the basic premise it was created to argue. Now, there are considerably longer passages of text, and the anger has softened.

I bought an interesting bit of gear this week, a small magnesium 3-way tripod head from Manfrotto.

Friday night I went to the Sydney Roller Derby League bout and shot a bunch of long exposure action  pieces. Here’s the selects from the 500+ images taken.

Week 17 of 52

This week has been spent on getting the text for The Metaning written out. I went and bought a bunch of tracing paper from a drafting supplies place, and  printed out page after page of consolidated speech bubbles (the A3 printer has SO been worth its weight and space). Taping these down on board, and the tracing paper on top, I’m able to ink the letters and speech bubbles. The polarising filter I ordered for my camera arrived, so I’ll be able to start experimenting with lighting positions again, to try to eliminate the reflection off the ink. I’ll also scan the speech bubbles, so worst case scenario, I can add them digitally if they can’t be photographed. That’s a tad meta in itself, scanning the hand drawn speech bubbled so they can look like they were photographed on the work.

I also output some final versions of my photography exercises from the various photography classes I’ve done at ACP. These are entries for the term 3 exhibition, so fingers crossed, they’ll be accepted.

More big news on the ArtStart checklist – my iBooks store account has become active, which means I can now begin uploading and selling ePubs / iBooks documents.

Week 18 of 52

This week has been devoted to yet more text updating. All of the lettered text boxes had to be laminated with spray adhesive to a second sheet of tracing paper, and then carefully cut out with scissors.

I started running tests with the polarising filter, and it works pretty well. I decided to close the loop on techniques for photographing art and get a a pair of polarising gels for the lights. With these I can start trying cross-polarised lighting, which should remove the glare from the ink lines, and flat areas of black on the work. That’ll be the next stage of testing.

The other nifty thing, is I registered the “metaning.net” domain, and with a “the” subdomain, the.metaning.net will be available as a publicity site for The Metaning.

Week 19 of 52

Monday started with the first texts of the Cross-Polarisation setup. To say it was a success is an understatement. The technique is an absolute triumph. The linked image has a comparison of the same lighting positions using just the polarising filter on the camera, vs the camera filter & polarising gels in front of the lights. As can be seen, all the ink lines are jet black, and all the surface sheen is gone from the areas of flat black. Especially apparent is the difference in the Magnart on the left vs the right.

Tuesday saw the start of the start of the rubber cement tests for speech bubbles, and sadly, I’m not sure it’s going to work out. There’s quite a lot of over-gooing around the edges of the speech bubbles, and erasing it isn’t working as well as I’d hoped. I may have to switch to spray adhesive, which is also acid free, but possibly more brittle when dry.

On Friday I went to Sculpture By The Sea, which as always, has a wonderful mix of works. There’s the formalist steel pieces, the “big” things, site specific works, more or less every genre of sculpture. I’m continuing my thoughts about how to best set up my work for next year’s exhibition.

Saturday was spent at the grand final of Sydney Roller Derby League. Here’s a selection of pics from the first ,grand final bout:

And some from the bout to decide third place.

Week 20 of 52

This week has been about fine-tuning the positioning of the studio camera setup for photographing The Metaning, as well as processing photos from last week’s derby bout – all 700 plus of them. The other big time suck was on setting up and integrating a new piece of kit – a new iPad Air. Something that’s really impressive about it is the ability to display photographs on a large and high quality screen – which means if I want to show stuff to galleries, I don’t have to get them to use a computer etc. The touchscreen keyboard is pretty amazing – I find I can type just as fast, if not faster on it than I can on a regular one.

Some other good news, one of my works is going to be printed for the Australian Centre of Photography term 3 student exhibition. Opening night is Thursday.