Photography classes

[Here is the outline of a proposal submitted to the artisans group last night. I have not heard any official response, but individual comments have been favorable.]
The idea: Understanding that utilization of the studio is sparse, if the group approves, I would like to do a series of every-Monday-afternoon classes primarily relating to photography. The classes would run from 1 to 4 pm. Where appropriate classes would include ‘field trips’ around Montague as part of the class.
The logistics: There would be no prerequisites and each class would stand alone, so anyone could take any particular class that attracted their fancy, and it could draw folks who are here for only a week or two and are looking for activities. I envision it as a very personal small-group class where each person can have some individual attention. The format would be similar to what I have done for the Library Photography Club, drawing on the preparations for Seniors College classes and Community School. I would rather not require advance registration (unless an astounding number of folks show up…I am a firm believer in not solving a possible problem before it actually becomes a problem). My current thinking would be to charge $10 for a 3-hour class so it would be ‘profitable’ with as few as 2 or 3. I assume at least 10% would go to the collective kitty.
Equipment needs: I would want a sandwich board set up outside the building all week to attract passers-by to the coming class with more details on a sheet in the window. I would need the loan of the conference-room computer projector (but not a computer) and two folding tables and some chairs. I would prefer to run classes in the ‘kitchen’ of the studio which would be shielded from afternoon sun for better viewing of images. I have a screen which I can mount for the duration. A key would be handy if we were to go out for an hour in the middle some weeks. I would supply tea and snacks for a mid-point break out of the registration cost.
Topics: I can easily come up with different topics for successive weeks since I have PowerPoint presentations already prepared on many photography topics. Here is a list of possible topics:
  1. photo composition
  2. taking vacation/travel pictures
  3. close-up photography with YOUR camera
  4. photographing people…portraits, children
  5. learning features of yourdigital camera
  6. introduction to Photoshop and picture enhancement
  7. optimizing and repairing old photos
  8. mat cutting and framing
  9. introduction to self-publishing
If this is approved I would like to get advertising in place by next Monday, July 2nd, for weekly classes beginning as early as July 9th.

The outboard is back!

My friend Graham finished what was to have been a quick glance at my outboard motor. It is an old 9.9 HP 2-stroke with an extra long shaft (25″). My concern was the play in the gear train from the motor to the propeller.

“No problem, completely normal”

But then I had the bright idea he might fix my rusting-out remote throttle cable (based on a bicycle shifter!) and perhaps add a remote shifter and shutoff so I could come into port without having to have one arm down in the smoky engine well.

Its always gratifying and dangerous to turn Graham loose! The remotes got built…using marine, lubricant-enclosed cables… and he went on to investigate what had trapped water and pushed out the lower wall of the drive, as well as the source of exhaust building up in the engine well.

Turns out there are 3 exhaust outlets on this motor: one through the prop, one just above the prop under water, and one up near the top, above the water. When the outboard is truly out-board this third port is no big deal, but when it is fully enclosed it makes the engine well an enclosed trap for exhaust…no wonder I had to devise an external air input to the motor.

Then, attacking the lower unit, he discovered there is a compartment that takes on sea water through a small port which was TOTALLY full of barnacles, mussles, and crud. It had trapped water over the winter, accounting for the burst housing, and had built up to where shifting was difficult. Being Graham, with his skills he repaired the broken housing, taking 4 hours to complete the aluminum welding back to the point where there was sound metal…something about hairline cracks indicating deterioration.

“Good as new”

So now it is back and I can use it with peace of mind.

Enjoying the process

— In, Dean Herring wrote:

Thanks Jackie—yep spending 200-400 hours with a boat…building her is better than actually sailing for me. I’ve come to grips with that now and started to enjoy the process—it’s actually a chess game to build and epoxy everything in the right sequence … Dean

Reading Dean’s comment it struck me that I am not rushing to get my boat in the water either…it has been ‘finished’ for several decades but every Fall I start a list of improvements which usually cannot be completed until it gets warm enough in the Spring (actually here it is almost Summer before that happens) for paint and epoxy to set/dry. I find I have been revelling in carefully and slowly doing the following modifications:

  1. Mounting the new speed and depth transducers including a wood block to allow ropes to slide past the latter where it pokes about 1″ below the hull near the front (where it can give a slight advance warning as you approach a shallow spot)
  2. Cutting and fastening wood strips to hold the new solar panels on top of the cabin
  3. Cutting and fastening reinforcements for the bow-roller assembly I built several years ago which split when the boat anchors slipped and it weathered a hurricane sidewise (that also led to slide pins to hold the side hatch covers down)
  4. Cutting and fastening a 4″ x 10″ tapered block which will take the new remote shifter/throttle controls being built for my outboard
  5. Painting everything: white decks, green sides and red bottom paint
  6. Replacing the corroding lifeline wires
  7. Replacing the wind gauge and sensors with a cheap wireless speed unit and a Davis wind vane
  8. Hopefully replacing the backstay with two cables so there is redundancy on all 4 sides of the mast.

 Why am I listing all this? both to show that a year when “there isn’t much to do” is not really that, and to show to myself that I am really enjoying this, taken one step at a time. I just ralized I am enjoying the process and will feel empty when it is done. I must have done 15 small batches of epoxy along the way, taken several days at painting, and always planning…planning…planning. You’re right: BUILDING…IS BETTER THAN ACTUALLY SAILING.


Minimum prices

[The discussion that follows is in relation to a co/op gallery that has quite strict policies and might be a model for a similar organization forming in Montague.]
The basic mechanisms (of the example co/op) seem OK. I do find the minimum-pricing LAWS to be stifling since they take no notice of the economy (or lack thereof) arising out of wise production decisions or efficiencies of production. Case in point:
I produce 5 x 7 matted photos with a production cost of $0.10 for the print (4 x 6 reprints from photo shops), $0.14 for the matting (34 mats from a 32 x 40 sheet obtained in batches of 10 from source in the USA for about $4.50 each), no cost for the backing (produced from waste cardboard cut from cereal boxes, etc. or worst case $0.03 for 1/2 of a sheet of card stock @ 250 sheets for $12), and the clear envelope at $.05 (as best I can recall). The double-sided tape costs about $0.05 ($4 for a 36 yard roll and a 5 x 7 uses less than 15” giving about 86 prints per roll). Now, of course there is labor involved, although I’m sure I can produce them in a large batch with less than 2 minutes time giving $0.50 in labor (at $15/hour), but the point is there is about $0.37 of material cost in each matted print. With those costs I can afford to wholesale them to gift shops for $3.00 (to sell for $6.00) and still have a significant margin. Yet the co/op rules require a MINIMUM price of $12.00.
In the same way my 8 x 10 matted photos cost ($.40 + $.28 + $.12 + $.10 + $.06) about $0.96 in materials and I’ve set the price at $11, yet the policies, if implemented, would demand I raise the price to at least $15.
I notice that the price minimums do not reflect framing method for paintings; they take no account of frame quality nor differentiate for canvasses that are displayed without framing. Painting on Masonite board, or clever cost savings by waiting for sales, carries no weight in allowed prices. And, of course, there is no way to set minimum prices for other art forms…by the pound for sculpture or by the square foot for quilts?
OF COURSE pre-made high-quality frames with linen interiors are very expensive and OF COURSE artists with recognized names can command higher prices, but I question the justification for setting minimum price limits. My low-cost prints have not been leaping off the shelves, but I don’t believe their presence undermines the sales of other matted reprints of paintings; they are different things.
Presumably if someone is undercutting everyone else the collective group can rise up and boot them out after the 6-month probation!

Outboard motor woes and EBay

The boat is still in the yard…awaiting completion of painting projects as well as the departure of a family of young starlings that began life in my radar reflector at the top of my (horizontal) mast…I definitely have to cover the access hole in the ‘bottom’ before next year. Also, planting the garden has had an urgency with the very short season we have here.

Along the way I dropped off my outboard motor, an elderly 9.9 horsepower 2-stroke with an extra long shaft, on the doorstep of my machinist friend, Graham Jones in Brooklyn. He rebuilt part of the boat trailer last year and I wanted to have him tell me if the rotational play in the propeller was a sign of lower-unit gear wear (it wasn’t). While the motor was there I had the ‘brilliant’ idea to have him link in a remote throttle and gear shift. I don’t know the outcome of all this yet, but I fear for the declining health of the elderly motor. The lower housing split out one winter…best guess is that water got trapped down there by blocked intake screens and the winter freeze expanded it to break out the aluminum housing. It didn’t affect the oil reservoir and I filled the crack with thickened Epoxy, which seemed to fix it…and it has worked fine for two seasons.

My big fear is loss of reliability…true, the motor has always started by the third pull and has never given the slightest evidence of coming trouble, but in the background of my mind still hovers the fear of complete and sudden failure, leaving me to run the boat entirely by sail. Admittedly sail-alone is a very seamanly thing to do, but experience has shown me situations where the wind and tide are against you and there is little room to tack…moments to swallow pride and turn on the ‘iron sail’ as I think it is called. Efforts to come aside the wharf or pick up a mooring by sail alone have not been pretty to see, especially single-handed.

So just for information purposes I began a search on EBay for a replacement motor. New ones (extra long shaft, 4-stroke, 9.9) cost upwards of $2500, so I looked to see if old ones like mine show up for sale. I found a few currently bid at a few hundred dollars, but I have developed this doubt about prices on EBay–any time I have found an attractive price for something I want and placed a bid, the price seems to have kept on mysteriously and immediately jumping up. Either there is a concealed reserve bid mechanism or someone else has an automatic price raising tool until the price gets to a limit they have set; after all, why bid higher than necessary to get the object? All I know is the price keeps on being just above my bid  to the point where I don’t want to pay the price of finding out how high it would go; at the end the bid stops a price that is higher than retail list price. Every time a price looks too good to be true, it is. All that is to say there is an illusion of low-priced used motors out there, but I cannot attest to the reality.

Artisans on Main Street

I have put in my first day ‘demonstrating’ at the Artisans Gallery in Montague (on Main Street, of course…next to the Post Office). The effort is to have an artistic presence in Montague and the planning has been going on for many months. There are three venues all within a block: the gallery which has mostly paintings and photography; the Boutique, which I believe will have mostly jewelry (but I’m not sure since it hasn’t opened yet); and the Studio, which is to demonstrate the ‘messier’ forms of art such as sculpture, jewelry making, and woodwork.

Be that as it may, I signed up a good number of weeks ago to be in the Gallery on Monday and Thursday mornings to help out providing manpower to sell stuff and keep an eye on things during open hours…at least that was what I thought I would be doing. Closer to time I find out that the ‘artisans’ are not burdened with something that mundane but are to spend their time being creative in an artistic sense. What on earth could I do that would allow observation by visitors? Wood Islands Prints entails lots of computer work: book design and layout for the publishing side and photo manipulation for the matted print and postcard side. A small computer screen is not particularly accessible to casual passers by.

Then it struck me…I could cut mats and assemble more matted prints. Since the matted prints–especially the large ones–long ago proved they don’t sell well in gift shops, I have let the stock dwindle. If they can actually sell well when surrounded by paintings that are asking up to 200 times the cost of one of my prints, I certainly want to be there with enough stock!

So I sat for almost 6 hours (I agreed to put my time in one full block to fill in where more needed) cutting mats and pairing them up with the prints I mentioned in an earlier blog. Between wandering around and chatting with the several visitors–Tom Rath stopped by to check on his new KittenCat book and Gary Gray, the keeper of the Library Writers Guild books, stopped by–I didn’t apply myself to the task full time. Still I did complete about 16 8x10s and engaged some of the folks in deciding which mat colour went best with specific pictures.

Next time I will come better prepared with snacks and drink. If the production catches up I can always set a table with my back to the room and with my computer oriented so fokks can see it more readily and do photo manipulation. As my wife can attest, talking is something I do quite readily, so I can expound on photo or publishing techniques. The one need I have identified is for a ‘tent sign’ identifying what I am doing and inviting questions. While I sincerely enjoy answering questions, I must seem intimidating (or else no one is interested)…the sarcastic side of me compares the sign as the labels they put in front of the cages at the zoo identifying the type of animal behind the bars…‘here you see the gray-bearded mat cutter…you can identify it by the tools it uses and the presence of the thick coloured cardboard material lying around.’

Windows 7 !@#$%^&*()

I needed to scan in some pictures for a lady doing a magazine article…and then do a bit of enhancing and retouching since they are historic B&W photos or limited quality. I decided it is finally time to connect my HP 2100C scanner to the new computer. Guess what? Windows 7 does not support it (or vice versa).

A search of the internet reveals that no one has found a new driver. My scanner works fine in Windows XP and I previously upgraded to Windows 7 Professional ($100) which allowed the free download of an emulator called a virtual XP machine. The process was not easy. Once in the virtual machine, I had to manually attach the scanner with a click to the USB menu item. Presto, the driver comes up (not sure if it is a feature of XP or if the driver came across when I set up the XP machine from the old computer). Now I am on familiar ground with the same screen I remember including the preview and the choice of color, B&W, grayscale, and custom. I can squeeze out 600 dpi, so the scan will hold just about everything to be found in the original.

The final problem is finding the resulting file! It got saved in the virtual area, I think. I then discovered I can pre-select the destination and choose a recognizable place on the C: drive. Then the scans go to a known place, making it easy to find them and open them in Photoshop. From there I can improve contrast and do some unsharp mask edge improvement. Finally, if the application justifies the effort, the clone stamp can be used to take out the dust specks and any tears or folds which have become dramatically more obvious with the contrast inprovement.

Would it be worthwhile to buy a new scanner to get compatibility? Not at this point, given the relatively few scans I usually do.

How to do a children’s book?

I am preparing for laying out a children’s book with full-page illustrations. My investigation of Framemaker does not seem to offer much guidance. I have a feeling the best route to take is to use Photoshop with the text tool and layer the text right over the illustration and then paste the entire picture on the page. It rules out any later editing, but the book text could first be prepared in WORD with all of its editing features and then have the individual text pages copied into the text tool in Photoshop. While it seems the file might be quite large, since the printer, Lightning Source, requires all art to be 300 dpi, there is nothing lost haveing the text as part of the picture. Then the Framemaker or Acrobat software has no actual text to process at all…just page after page of pictures.

Prints here

The enlargements for making 8 x 10 matted prints arrived yesterday, the 14th, via Canada Post (which is fine…it was just that they said courier). I can hardly wait to get started.