Sunday, November 22, 2015

CreativeSpaces :: repurposing an old Enlarger as a Copy Stand

The repurpose enlarger as copy standMy studio clean up has bought a focus on sorting out the mess, and throwing out a lot of it. However it also got me interested in how to organize my diverse works, store them and most importantly start keep a catalogue of my works. In the process after a little web searching I came across the CALL (Creating a Living Legacy) project,  Which does lay down the important steps in what they term Career Documentation, involving creating a viable archive including photographing your work. Its a good read and guide.

Whilst small flat works (watercolour sketches etc, photographic prints, many of them old family photos) could be scanned on one of my two multi-function printers I have. I also have an old and  “cheap” slide & negative scanner that is so old It not longer has a driver and can only work with an old XP laptop (I have keep for compatibility with some old devices like this). Larger art works (and I have some BIG ones) had to be photographed. Which is easy enough. However I also do a lot of more sculptural small things as well. I figured an old fashion copy stand was what I needed. The pieces come togetherEven if someone still made copy stands I doubt I could justify the expense to photograph a few items.

Clearing out some of my father’s untouched storage I came across our first enlarger (in a poor state). It was missing the globe housing and lens. I soon realized it could be easily converted to a perfect copy stand.  I just had to unbolt the enlarger bellows unit, to give me a perfect mounting position, roughly over the centre of the base). I also found an old bracket for an old and broken off-camera flash bracket and figured it would be perfect to connect the camera. A little experimentation and I found I needed Assembled stand (without Camera)a small piece if rubber (cut from an old kids play mat) as a way to really tightened the connection. With its slot mounted vertically I had considerably flexibility when I attached the camera by the base screw tripod connector (no elaborate quick release mechanism here).

Using the stand is simple. Place the piece on the base, rack the camera up or down till the piece largely fill the viewfinder and focus. A macro lens if you have one is great also. I haven’t built any special lights for the stand (yet) and have used it both outdoors in the shade and indoors in my studio away from direct sunlight without needing extra lighting. The Mouth : Small Experimental Clay PieceRather than trigger the camera manually I do have a remote shutter release but have found the 2 second self-timer just as good. Set up like this I have found making copies is even faster than scanning. Position the object (after a bit of practise there is no need even to check the viewfinder if the items being photographed are roughly the same size). Next half press the shutter (to focus), when the whirring stops (if it starts at all) fully press the shutter and stand back. Beep beep click, its done. Position the next object. Its just as fast when taking photos of old prints.

With an extended table and the the camera cranked as high as I safely can get it, and un-zoomed to 28 (the widest I dare to avoid undue distortion) I can easily photograph to 40 by 25cm (approx. 18”” by 10””), not quite A3. With the stand turned around so the camera overhangs the back of the base and the stand protruding off the edge of a table (securely weighed down on the based) I can photograph items on the floor up to 90 by 59cm which is roughly A1. With this configuration it is hard to focus through the viewfinder but that’s when I find connecting the camera to my computer comes into its own (my Canon T3i tethered to lightroom is perfect).You have a very remote control and can zoom in to get the focus perfect.

I’m proud of my repurposing, Further I can now strongly recommend a copy stand over a scanner for any artist as a way to record their art.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The New Google+ but no Photos or Hangouts

imageThe new Google+ has arrived, its faster (much faster) and bolder (a red header line with a more responsive style design) but really more of the same. EXCEPT there is no direct menu link into google photos and hangouts,These are are presumably becoming very separate applications, so that ok. Also missing from the menu are circles and pages, which I don’t understand. The Truth is I removed Google+ off my phone a while ago and I have been visiting google+ less and less much from the computer. I don’t see anything to encourage me back. However if you want to give the new google+ a go check out the “How to Use [the New] google+: Tutorial” blog post by Traffic Generation Cafe

Thanks to +Ananda Sim for the heads up on the How too…

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Digital Archives :: An Unfortunate Truth

Some of the media formats I have used.The biggest issue in setting up a long term digital archive is related to what physical storage media you plan to use. The digital world is littered with various storage media that have very short operation lives and/or have fallen from common usage. I have used Punch paper tape, Punch Card, Reel to Reel Magnetic tape, Various Tape Cartridges, 8”Floppy Disk (yes they were once that big but they could hold around 1.3mb), 5¼” Floppy Disk (only 360kb), 3 ½” Rigid disk (720kb but later 1.4mb), Zip Disks (a glorious 100mb), CDs (compact disks with a capacity of around 700MB) on to DVD (which generally hold 4.7gb) and Blu-ray (which can hold up to 25gb). Unfortunately the unspoken secret here is as the capacity and specifically the information density has increased the shelf life tends to decrease. The punch paper tape for the late 60s is good to go (if only I had a reader) if it hasn’t been torn, so are the punch cards from the early 70s, but everything else has probably reached its best by date and there is a reasonable chance you will experience corruption or errors reading older media already. Even CD and DVDs, once thought invincible start to have troubles after only a few years, even less if they are not handled carefully. What about solid state memory (like SD memory cards, USB keys or the newer SSD drives), unfortunately they have limited life spans as well (more to do with the number of reads and writes) in normal usage they may outlast the next form of storage HDD. The conventional hard drives (whether built into your computer or as an external USB style) also have some telling untold secrets (see backblaze study, which suggests seagate drives are more likely to fail than western digital, but I have had the opposite experience I have 4 dead western digital my book USB drives but 3 healthy expansion seagate drives, one of which considerably older). The caveat here is they will probably last a day or two longer than the guarantee. So what about cloud storage that’s forever isn’t it? Well if you look in the terms of Service (TOS) or most cloud service providers there is generally no mention of loss or damage of stored data (I guess they assume you must already have a copy as well, ie from their point of view the data is backed up by you). Only Amazon seems to have addressed this, and I hope companies like google could be relied upon. However they are companies that are unlikely to last forever. So cloud backup is where we are at now, not cloud archiving yet. So where does that leave us. We will need to plan to regularly move any digital archive onto new media as technology change and popular taste determines. Clearly an Archive of Digital Photos must not be hardware/media specific.

I trust all this scares you into making a backup of your digital photos right now. Stop reading and go and do it!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

CreativeSpaces :: Sketching Gear in my Camera Bag

Yes I always do carry a small sketch book in my camera bag. Why?

There is always a sketchbook in the back of my camera bag.They are not full of finished art works, mainly there are squiggles that are really little more than doodles. There are also notes on the lighting, time and conditions. Maybe I have sketched the horizon and marked where the sun/moon rise or set. Perhaps I have scouted around for an interesting foreground silhouette. Occasionally there will be records of some key colour aspects of what was happening. Most are just me trying out some composition decisions, often this is just getting a feel for shapes and tones (not exactly notan but similar).

I prefer to have the mini A7 visual diaries. Every now and then you might find the local art supplier has a selection of sample pads made up at A7 size, at a very attractive price. There will be watercolour and various drawing surfaces and perhaps fewer pages than the normal pads but they will be attractively priced. They are idea for the camera bag. I also include and old/used (ie short pencil), perhaps a pen and I have been experimenting with woodless pencils, they can be sharpened or broken off and used as a crayon, They are also very black.

Sometime ago, I had seen a video by Matt Kloskowski talking about the 50/50-rule. Which basically suggested spending 50% of the time to capture what you want but then spend as much time again doing something, original, creative or experimental. This was a nice coincidence because I had years previously made some notes or more key words on different things to try out, scrawled on the back page of an early little sketchbook. Here is my list of alternative ways begin to see a photo.
  • sketching is about seeingWhat is the first thing you see? Do you return to looking at it or something else?
  • What should be left out?
  • Which details are help tell the story?
  • Is the Light? Hard, Soft, Low Key High Key, Direction
  • Is there a way to balance the mass/tone. Avoid symmetry
  • What is the important Colour? Emotion? Atmosphere?
The best reason of all to have a sketch book in your camera bag is it forces you to look and find an image (not just focus on perfecting a crop in your viewfinder). An Artist has to see their subject and figure out where to put it on a blank page. You don’t have to spend long just a few squiggles will give you an idea of what to capture. This really seeing is likely to modify how you position the camera and take a photo, much better than just lifting the camera to your face and finding an image in the view finder.