My Career as a Model

 

Some people become models because they are beautiful, others because they have character. Some people are hand models or leg models because they are well endowed in that area. Some people become models because they achieve a unique notoriety that sets them apart from the rest of us. I became a model because I was either the only one in the studio or the last one on location without something to do.

During my internship in LA I had four instances where the end result was actually published.

The first one was as a hand and body model. Notice my well defined muscular body and my long delicately refined fingers.

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My next assignment was on location. Kind of a character thing. I wasn’t just playing a beautiful prop, there was emotion in this one. Kind of a harsh gritty moment that had just a touch of a wicked tension that made the piece come alive.

 

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I’m the one against the wall guarding the door with the machine gun.

 Note the steely determined and slightly mad glint in my eye.

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I was so amazing in my still work that my next two assignments were in video. I don’t have copies of either one, but I’ll try to describe them well enough to give you some impression of those two powerful moments on film.

The first was in a corporate promotion piece for a steel foundry in East LA. My boss decided to open the video with a metal dye being struck by a hammer, then pulled away to show the company’s logo.  I played the hands.  I was able to show my amazing range. My hands were broad and hard, the veins pulsing with raw energy, my muscles hard. It was breath taking.  At least I always imagined it was – I never saw the final piece.

I’ve never seen the last one either, but I’ve imagined it many times.  We shot the stills for an ad shoot for an Argentinean candy company staring Mr. T – complete with gold necklaces and attitude.  After the stills were done they shot the commercial. The opening shot was a pan across the stage to Mr. T. After a couple of takes they felt something was missing – they needed a special sort of pizzazz.  As they sought a solution, they noticed me just off camera watching and the solution was obvious. I stood stage right. The camera started stage left. As the camera panned right I walked left across that stage and for just the briefest of moments the power of my presence lit the camera and provided that missing magic.

Then I retired. 

It was a glorious career.

Lightroom – the new Darkroom

Right now I feel a tad overwhelmed. Overwhelmed, and psyched.

I finally found ‘the book’. I’ve owned Photoshop since version 3. I can open files, crop, mess around with brightness and contrast and change the image size with the best of them. I’ve bought books on techniques and tried to follow the step by steps. Sometimes it worked – but it never stuck. Photoshop, the monolith -so much that I just didn’t know where to start, where to go. So I’d wander around, move a slider here , click a button there and quit.

I bought Lightroom 1 about a year and a half ago. I loved the Library function. I organized my digital library and added keywords to all of my images.  I bought another book, wandered over to the Develop module, played around a bit, grew frustrated and left.  A month or so ago I upgraded to Lightroom 2 and liked it – it didn’t crash as often.  I bought a new book, ‘Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Photoshop Workflow Bible’by Mark Fitzgerld last Saturday. And started reading, and reading and reading more.  And the pieces came together. Technique is secondary – it focuses on the purpose and the process. It defines the of the tools, the purpose of Lightroom and Photoshop and Bridge and ACR and how they fit together. The flow, from import to end image and I finally feel like I know where I’m going.

What great tools! I am a solid B&W darkroom tech. And I knew how to shoot to get the color shots I wanted with minimal manipulation. And I found a great color lab to figure out any manipulation I needed. Then the digital world interfered with my pleasant little world. Not because it was hard, but because it was so much bigger. There is so much more you can do with it – it is just WOW.

Now I’m playing and liking it. I’ve only gone through the Lightroom part so far. The part that more or less mimics what I used to do in the darkroom. I’m starting to get what I want. Now I need to burn it in until it is works as easy as taking a breath – kind of like printing in the darkroom. I don’t have to think about it. I just do and it happens the way I want.

I went back to the first pictures I took with my digital. Pictures that were kind of blah. I looked at them, followed the Lightroom process and did what I used to do in the darkroom, when I could make a picture look the way I wanted.

This is what it looked like right out of the camera:

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This is what it looked like after 10 minutes in Lightroom:

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It’s not going to win any prizes, but I like the change. A little Histogram adjustment. A little sharpening. A little vignetting and a tiny amount of burning. Never touched Photoshop (until I had to resize it – didn’t work the way I thought it would in Lightroom).

I’ll share more of the how when I’m a little more solid on the technique and have something a little more impressive to show off.

A taste of the beginning

I spent most of yesterday going through my files and boxes of pictures – a walk through my own personal photographic memory lane. I found a few old negatives. Just a few. I have a little book of negatives somewhere that I started saving after I ‘caught the bug’.  Didn’t find those.  I did find two that were interesting – and pretty bad when it comes right down to it.

I got my first camera for Christmas when I was 8 years old. A Kodak Instamatic.

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My first photo memory – I took a couple of pictures and wondered how it all worked. So I popped the back open to see what was going on in there. I was disappointed. Just this grey film stuff – no picture or anything. I think I only ruined at most 3 of the shots. The film for the Instamatic came in a cartridge so only a single frame of film was exposed at a time. 

I left the almost 40 years of accumulated dust on the camera for effect.

The first image I found doesn’t have any artistic merit – just a picture of my brother and sisters watching TV in the basement. Cement walls, old worn out couch. My brother’s knees sticking out of his jeans. I remember I used to hate jeans that didn’t have the knees ripped out.

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Notice the multi-colored floor scheme. My uncle owned a furniture store.  He gave us a bunch of carpet samples and we duct taped them to the floor. That was our carpet. We didn’t think of ourselves as poor – we were a middle class family. A very different middle class than today.

The other picture provides an early hint of my obsession/fascination with textures and old items with character.  The image is pretty bad, but it kind of feeds the theme.

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No special talent visible from these images. Just your basic kid with a camera. Most of the other negs weren’t even printable. But it was a beginning.

A few years later I was a boy scout working on my photography merit badge. To this day I vividly remember watching that image appear in the developer. It tickled my fancy for something magic. A magic I could do. It sparked the possibility of a future creating, not just working.  Something that I could do with my ‘limited’ creative abilities. Abilities which I doubted before I ever gave them a chance to develop.  But my self doubt was as effective as a true lack of abilities. But this photography thing, I could do that.

In 8th and 9th grade we had a school program. Half a day every Friday for 9 weeks we had courses in ‘fun’ things. Skiing, ice fishing, among other things – and photography. I found my dad’s old 35mm camera and started learning.

Right about that time 3 of us got together and started a camera club. I think we had one meeting. One of the guys gave a lesson on composition using the rule-of-thirds. It just clicked – seemed so simple.

I bought my first camera – a Nikon FM. I remember deciding between that and an Olympus OM. I picked the Nikon because I liked the view finder meter lights. I still have that camera. I still love that camera. I eventually got another FM, but that first one was always my favorite. I still love its feel in my hand.

My Sophomore year I was appointed the FFA Reporter. I spent the summer riding around taking pictures of all the FFA ‘projects’, cows, pigs, sheep, grain fields. The next two years I spent on the school annual staff, my second year as head photographer. I went to more dances with that camera than I did with girls.  I shot basketball, football, year book ads and thousands of candid shots.

Then off to college to learn the art and business of being a photographer.

My design courses were exhilarating, fun, disturbing. While I was learning the how, I was struggling with the why. I grew up in a working class family. My father worked every day, hard. Farming, driving truck, fixing cars, digging holes. Always something practical, something physically constructive. I worked my way through high school as a stock boy and farm hand. Always something that ‘meant’ something. Now I was looking at a life-time focusing on creativity, on an activity that I didn’t understand. What value did it have? I was really struggling with that. We were a family that did things – not a family that appreciated things. It seemed pointless.

A friend loaned me a book, ‘The Shape of Content’ by Ben Shahn. My first taste of philosophy and exposure to the value of art and design in our lives. I can’t remember any specifics, but I remember that after reading it I had a feeling for what I was trying to achieve. And it’s value.

In future posts I’ll hit a few more highlights of my trek. It won’t be comprehensive or even in order. But it will help define how I got to where I am now. So I can start again. I’ll also start dropping in technical bits that I’m re-learning, learning and polishing.

6 More Pots – actually bowls

When I wrote last week I was just getting into the ‘zone’. I felt the way I used to in college, looking for images, exploring, considering. I had a bear of a time sleeping last week. Just couldn’t get my brain to stop spinning. Been a long time since I had that problem.

Then the computer parts got here. We decided to get rid of the cable, but to do that we have to replace the DVR. We can live without the (mostly useless) 300 channels, but we can’t do without the DVR.  We watch less TV and we do it on our own terms, on our own schedule. We’re not willing to be  slaves again to the network schedule. Our other alternative is to quit TV altogether and being the TV addict I am, that’s not going to happen. So we decided to set up a Media Center computer. Hence the computer parts.

I upgraded the kids computer, put the antenna back up and got everything working. Finally finished yesterday. So far so good. The kids like it because they can play their computer games on the 42 inch screen, so they’re not complaining about losing cable. I loaded all the family pictures on the Media Center PC and they watched those for awhile. They love seeing pictures of themselves. So I think it’s going to work. Fast action is a little jumpy – think  I need a better video card. But overall, it’s working nicely.

But I lost my momentum, broke the zone. I did play with the site a little – changed the theme, played with some image sizes. That’s part of this experience – learning the tool.  I also managed a little Photoshop time. Played with Layer Masks. I’ve read about them, figured I should learn about them but never took the time. I’m starting to understand them. Just need to play some more then I’ll write something up.

Also talked to a friend who wants me to give her some basic photo lessons. Composition, stuff like that. I’m going to pull it together as a lesson and post it. Maybe start building a course outline.

I’m back.

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Yesterday, after I got the Media Center up I sat down and threw 6 more bowls. Ran out of my normal clay and pulled out the brown stone ware clay I bought last fall. Really like it. It isn’t as stiff as the other clay and formed up much easier. I liked the feel of it too. It is grainer than the other stuff, more texture. It feels good in the fingers. So, without much effort at all, I pulled up 6 bowls, one just a tad to thin and on the verge of collapsing. The rest went pretty well. Except no two could be considered similar. Someday I might actually pull that off.

Today I finished them. The white bowls went well. I’ve finally figured out if I finish them before they are too hard I don’t break them as often.  Doesn’t need as much force, stays on the wheel better. I threw one of them a little sca-wampus and the top was uneven. I managed to level it off and finish it – a little proud of that. My little spirit level made all of the difference.  But I was tired, rushed it a bit and by the end I was frustrated. Not feeling like I was doing a good job.  Yesterday felt good because it just flowed. Today it didn’t come as easily and I got frustrated.