Convergent Series

learning, using & teaching metal clay, and other aspects of life

Archive for the ‘Photographing Jewelry’ Category

An Important Question, prefaced by a couple laments….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/08/23

My question, dear readers, is at the very end of my two long laments in this post. If you want the short version, just scroll down to that….

1. RIP Picasa. That’s the saddest part of this post.

I loved Picasa! If you’re not familiar with Picasa, it was the photo-sharing service that I’ve been using for images on this blog since I started it. (The photo illustrating this section is the same one I used on my first post on this blog: an old image of the first metal clay piece I ever made!) Google has “retired” it.

Picasa had a desktop application; it was fine but I have other tools I often use for editing, file transfers, and such, so that’s not what I’m mourning.

Where I’m feeling the loss involves their web-based photo sharing! I’ve not tallied the exact number, but I have put thousands of photos there, organized into albums by topic or event. There was a total-memory limit, but I was conservative, posting copies of my images that were too small for most print situations but generous for general web-viewing, because making them accessible on the web was my goal. (In about eight years I had not yet used ten percent of the quota.)

What a really valued was their click-able options for including either a tiny (“thumbnail”) or small version of photos I wanted to share in this blog. Readers could get a view of what I was trying to illustrate while taking up only a small amount of bandwidth / data usage. If you wanted to see more, you could always click on any image to have a larger version open in a new tab or window. That whole operation was seamless, for me as the writer as well as for you as the reader.

Now, the good news is that most of the small views are still available in these posts, so readers looking at older posts (e.g., finding them in web searches, which I can see happens a lot) can still get the idea of what I’m talking about when I reference them. A few seem to be missing, from when I wasn’t thinking and clicked a different spot while connecting, but those will be easy to fix (ha: when I find the time!). The bad news is that all the click-to-enlarge photos are gone!

I have not lost my originals. I will admit, however, that those are not as well-organized as what I had on Picasa. I worked from various different locations, and backed up my originals from there as I went along, so they are scattered about in different places … which had not been a problem in the past, because if I wanted to find the big originals I could always go to Picasa and find the little clues I’d hidden there for myself as to where they were… Grrr!

I can still get to all of my public albums via Google Photos. I strongly dislike the design of that interface! I’m not going to go and re-do the links to display all the photos I’ve already posted, but I feel zero inclination to use that for any more of my images. Google claims it’s better for mobile applications, but I’m trying to share photos outside of just Google. For my own purposes, I find it awkward to use. And, yes, I an used to switching between lots of different applications, so it’s something more than that.

I have a few photos on Flickr. I really only used that when I wanted to participate in some Flickr-group thing (e.g., Vickie Hallmark’s Month of Earrings challenge back in 2010, which began here) that required you to link to Flickr files. But it took several more steps to be able to include one of those shots in my blog, so Picasa was my default for here. Flickr did improve the interface a bit over time, not as good as Picasa’s was but less clunky than it had been. My primary concern for shifting over there right now is that Flickr is part of Yahoo! and Yahoo! is having its own issues at the moment…

I have a bunch of photos on Facebook, but there is zero way to keep everything organized there. Yes, I can create some albums for posts on my own timeline. But, aside from the fact that some places I want to share them on Facebook won’t let me share them from those albums (no, they want me to upload a version of the file specifically for that situation…?), photos I put there are really only easily made public within Facebook. That’s too restrictive. For my primary stash, I want my public photos to be public, and I want my restricted-access photos to be available to people to whom I provide access myself, and both settings should be regardless of whether viewer is currently, or ever, logged in to Facebook or any other service!

I have an account on Instagram, but don’t see a way to organize things there. It’s just a chronological stream. Or am I missing some key feature: can I create albums there? If so, can I sort them various ways (e.g., by first / last date or title)?

I have a couple of YouTube channels. I’m working on some videos for those (that I’ll write posts about eventually). But that’s different from what I want to do with photos here. I have some GigaPan albums. But those are mostly for other kinds of projects I’m involved with entirely.

Yes, for this blog, I could just insert photos directly via WordPress. I may be forced to do that here until I can find a new service that helps me keep my photos organized. For that matter, I have a whole domain, and could share photos from there! Except then I’d have to access them by file-name rather than by image-appearance, and my memory works far better and faster when it’s processing images.

I know that I have lots of options, mentioned here and otherwise. I’m not seeking a service that does everything. But I do need to find a good replacement for the sheer organizational assistance that I had with Picasa…..

2. WSCC’s woes.

Which brings me to my second lament: the building where I have my studio is having its own issues. The connection should become clear in a few moments.

My Studio Space, before I filled it up!I love the space I have at the Wilkins School Community Center. I looked for studio space for several years before I found that spot. I can’t imagine not having it, nor finding a place with the features I love about it anywhere else. (The photo illustrating this section shows what the space looked like the day I first saw it and decided to rent it!)

The site is a decommissioned school building, still owned by the borough but managed by a local community group that gets to use it in exchange for handling all the maintenance. And in a building that is 89 years old, that is piling up. I’m on the top floor, but in the middle, so I didn’t suffer much from the roof leaks that were fixed a few years ago. I was delighted to be among the first rooms to have its overhead lights replaced. Being on the top floor has sheltered me from various plumbing / drainage leak issues; there are no “private” rooms in the basement, in fact, so it’s just private parties renting the kitchen and auditorium who have suffered from those (and, of course, the center itself, when it loses room rental income while incurring plumbing costs…). And now, there is crumbling concrete and masonry on the outside that is going to involve some hefty repair costs. I’ll probably post info about calls for local support for that in the near future. For now, there’s one more item to address…

Regular readers may have noticed my comments in recent months about issues with internet access. I really have no clue what went wrong there. The Linux group who manages that for the center (in exchange for reduced rental rates for their meeting spaces… are you getting an idea of how the whole system operates?) said we needed some new equipment. Now, Amy and I, who have rooms on the top floor, are puzzled by this. If we’d brought in new, more modern devices, ones that didn’t work on the old set-up, that could have made some sense. But we’re still just trying to connect devices that we used to be able to connect, but now we can’t even find a signal… One can frequently be found downstairs, and at times there is a weak one in the upper hallway, but once you go into the upper rooms, the signal is gone. A parade of people have been in and out, working on some bit or another of the system, for months. They don’t tell us when they’re coming, report that they have fixed something and it’s now all working again, but when we get in to our rooms, no, we still don’t have a signal. If I sit with my laptop in the hallway I can work, but the laptop has its own problems, and the hallway is noisy and full of echoes and other distractions that I prefer to avoid. My favorite machine, a desktop device I have tucked away out of sight of casual passers-by along with my wireless printer, now sees nothing. And because net-access in select rooms is just one item in a huge list of maintenance issues, there are long gaps between attempts to get it working. The latest story is that someone else is coming out to see if they can resolve this (by switching to a different ISP) in early September. Here’s hoping!

Until those problems started, I’d had a pretty good system working in my studio. Those of you who use metal clays know that there are times when you are “waiting for something to happen.” For moist clay to dry. For dry clay to rehydrate. For a kiln to fire. Etc. Sometimes those steps can be rushed, but often the final outcome is better if one can wait patiently. I can fill in the gaps with other construction or finishing processes, of course, but I would also often fill in the gaps with tech-tasks: editing photos; uploading those; tending to blog, Facebook, etc. In the gaps, they didn’t seem like chores: they were efficient, effective uses of waiting-time. But if I have to take time to tend to them after I’ve left the studio and gone home, which is supposed to be my refuge and not my work-place, then much less of that gets accomplished. And it spirals down even further.

I haven’t been writing about all my recent explorations (e.g., with various forms of “flex” and/or “sterling” clays, more experiments with cutting and engraving with the Silhouettes, excursions into different forms of clay entirely, and more!), which means I’ve actually been thinking less about possible variations … because those come to me while writing … which means I haven’t been making quite as much as I could either.

It also means I haven’t been able to spend gap-time there exploring alternative photo-sharing sites. Which leads to….

3. An Important Question: What’s a good photo-sharing service, and why?

The net-access issues I will leave to the community center’s governing board, but I sure could use some help identifying a good photo-sharing service. When I do manage to get online, I can do searches and read reviews but (a) I find a lot that are out of date, which I’m sure of because Picasa is listed as being among the best yet that’s what I’m being forced to replace, and (b) I’d also appreciate being able to see (and discuss) what folks who are at least somewhat “like me” are using!

  • I’m not trying to post photos to sell so, while I can add a bit to my jewelry sale prices to compensate for additional overhead, I can’t offset much price for the service that way.
  • I need space for a lot of photos, but few of them need to be super-high resolution: my aim is easy ‘net-access, not best-print quality.
  • I want an _easy_ interface for getting a link I can stick in a blog post, a Facebook post, etc.
  • I want an _easy_ way to reference photos of different sizes (e.g., tiny for a blog sidebar, small for a post, medium when I want to show off some special feature).
  • I want settings that allow me to switch between:
    • full-public access (my primary use, where people like my blog readers can see my images without having to be logged in to some service),
    • various forms of limited access (I don’t put anything online that I’d be concerned if it went public, but I may for example want to limit access for certain images that are part of a collaboration), or
    • private, just for me ( I often use the latter while building a story, and then open up access when I have a collection ready).
I sure hope I will get some good recommendations, in comments here or via email. Thanks for ANY help you can offer at this time!

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Posted in Misc. Musings, Photographing Jewelry, Studio | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

My computer’s been quiet, though I’ve still been making stuff….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/05/08

Long story not worth going into, but one of many reasons I’ve been relatively quiet online (here and elsewhere) has to do with having lost a whole bunch of photos of recent pieces. Some were great, others were mere experiments, but it’s still a loss.

The photo with this post is not a great one either: it’s just me trying to pick up where I left off on the photos, where I was playing with ways to get photos of a group of pieces (rather than my usual close-up of each individual piece without using any props).

I do know how to fix the background on this; at the time I took it, my focus was on trying to use a glass without any additional fuss in taking care with a background. I still think glass is a good idea, but its just yet another approach that’s best for only a small number of pieces, not the bigger group I was going for here.

Still, I just happen to like all the pieces in this particular set, so I figured I could post it and try to make that clear that focus. They are all made with various beads from my stash, and all feature some sort of hand-made end-caps. The caps are from yet another project that I’ll write more about once it’s farther along. For now, though, I’ll point out that some caps are silver while others are bronze, they vary in thickness intentionally (though I do prefer thinner ones myself), and some were cut with little generic pastry cutters while others were custom-sized to a particular bead and cut using an electronic cutting tool (where those are doing double-duty as part of yet another project…). For these, all the earwires are commercial products.

I have another, much bigger collection of recent pieces on hand-made earwires that I also want to capture in a picture. Regarding the earwires, for silver I tend to make them from spooled Argentium silver wire while, for use with base metals, I tend more towards niobium headpins. I do use other sorts of wire too, but those are my personal favorites. I appreciate the versatility provided by the spooled silver wire: I can ball up the ends if I want, can adjust the length as needed, and hardened Argentium will yield a stronger piece than will fine silver wire … without the need I’d have with traditional Sterling silver to use pickle (acid!) if I heat them up as I make them. But finishing the ends of the niobium is trickier than it is for the silver (even simple smoothing is harder, and achieving a ball-end look is far more effort than I can justify in terms of both cost and time…). For now at least, I’m happy-enough to hand-form those wires from headpins.

If you know of any good online photos of earring collections — six pairs or more all in a single photo — I’d sure appreciate it if you’d leave a link in in the comments for this post! I’m unlikely to copy the approach of any such images directly, but I sure could use some more inspiration on different ways to approach this photo-task. Thanks!

Posted in Photographing Jewelry | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Maybe I should try a white lab coat?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/07/01

I was just wondering if being dressed in white might help me in my ongoing struggle to get decent photos of small shiny objects without unwanted colored reflections in them….

In person, I think it’s somewhat more obvious that the design on this intentionally-simple ring involves a butterfly on some flowers, with ferns around the ring-band. The LOS patina came out nicely, with a sort of blue-tint to the butterfly and a sort of rosy-color deep into the roses. I know that the butterfly would stand out more from the flowers if I’d used textures with more contrast, but I’m happy with subtle difference–the camouflage–that I achieved this way. Yet at some point I just stopped counting the number of shots I have taken trying to get one that looks even remotely like what I see. (O the joys of digital cameras with their instantaneous results!) I hope you can see my intended design because mostly what I see here are various reflections on the silver….

Oh well, the important thing is that students in my next ring class, who will be there in person (at Zelda’s Bead Kit Company later this month), can see the points I’ll be making with this and the other dozen-ish rings I’ll be taking to illustrate various aspects of ring-making.

I’ll have two rings (this and one other) that I’ll use specifically to illustrate post-fire sizing. I don’t use the “ring pellets” that seem popular among many metal clay artisans. I understand what they do, but I cannot fathom why they seem so popular. I’m happy to have a ring come out a tiny bit small–in fact, I construct mine so that they come out of the kiln a very controlled amount too small! And I don’t care at all if they do not emerge from the kiln in a perfectly round shape–though mine rarely change shape during firing. Even if I wanted a ring to end up round and it came out of the kiln a slightly different shape, it’s easy enough to get a properly fired-to-metal ring into round, and to strengthen it in the process of getting it to the desired shape.

Once my ring has been fully-fired and, unlike the one shown here, usually before I apply any patina (but my snapshots of the other new, and as-yet-untreated ring, have even more distracting reflections), that’s when I do all the sizing, shaping, and work-hardening of the finished metal to achieve just the fit I want and to give my creation as much strength as possible. In most cases, my ring will end up a bit bigger than it started (meaning it will then fit just right) and a bit oblong or oval (so it will stay put when worn, much better than a round one does), both of which are results that I want. Even if I were to use the pellets, I’d still do all that … so I just don’t bother with them.

Yes, it did take me a slight leap of faith, back in the beginning, to believe that metal clay really turned into a true metal that you could metal-smith. And, yes, I’ve seen people with under-fired pieces that were still too brittle to treat that way. But a pellet isn’t going to solve any of that…. If you’re making rings, especially silver ones, I encourage you to make one a few sizes too small, and fire it for a full two hours, so you can try some gentle yet firm hammering on the edges of the band and around the band itself to see what happens in terms of both size and strength. Bypass rings, in fact, are particularly good for this exploration (better than ones like the construction shown here) because the bypass rings really let you feel how much stiffer / stronger they get as you work them. They are also a bit more forgiving as you aim for a certain size!

If you try this, please do let me know what you find, knowing that another reason I was thinking about the white lab coat is because I look at learning about the metal clay process, and the best ways to work with both the clay products and the final all-metal results, as a series of ongoing experiments.

Posted in Photographing Jewelry, Teaching Metal Clay | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

2 half-days, 6 people, 52 pieces …

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/06/26

… and I forgot to take photos!

On Thursday, it was great to have several folks came over just to use my studio as a workspace. Then, on Friday, I taught a small semi-private introductory workshop.

And everyone was very productive, as you may be able to guess from the subject-line of this post.

The thing is, I had my camera with me, but everyone (including me, myself) kept me so busy that I only thought to take one quick snapshot, after everyone was pretty much done on Thursday, then not even that on Friday, neither the people nor their any of their many, lovely, silver pieces (lentil beads, domed pendants, foldover pendants, earring components, charms, and more!). But, since I had my camera with me, I stuck it in a little black case I have for it, and put that into my pocket as I headed off to the Summer Music Festival sponsored by community radio station WYEP in a local park that is tucked into a curious little space (called Schenley Plaza) between Carnegie Mellon University, the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, the Carnegie Library, and the University of Pittsburgh. (The city actually tore out a parking lot a few years ago to install a public park area!)

With a series of bands playing, an array of vendors, and lots of general socializing, etc., I just didn’t think to take photos there either. But I did manage to lose the camera! Somehow it fell out of my pocket. I didn’t even realize that until well after the first big rainstorm of the evening. (The band playing a few minutes before that started had commented on everyone just sitting around in lawn chairs or on blankets as storm clouds gathered; but they seemed stunned as the downpour began and most people just stayed right where they were, popping open the umbrellas they had brought!) Anyway, on top of that, I only noticed that the camera had gone missing after sunset, after most of the park had gotten pretty dark.

We spanned out in different directions and, amazingly, my friend Lyn (thank you!!!) still managed to find that little black case with the camera inside, spotting it (in the near-dark) somehow underneath a folding chair (and thus relatively dry) about 20 people away from where we had camped out. (It must have fallen out of my pocket when I got up to wander over for some browsing in the crafts market along the east side of the venue: that’s the only time I headed off in that direction, and I was not sure of the exact path I had taken to get there.) Miraculous as that was, the camera did not acquire any additional photos while lying there in the dark. So I still have only words (and a few numbers) to use to illustrate all those events. But they were lots of fun!

Posted in Events, Photographing Jewelry, Studio, Teaching Metal Clay | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Speaking of Ann, who torch-fires domes.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/05/19

[The photos with this post were taken before I did any finishing at all of the first piece, and after just a quick, preliminary tumble of the second. I did do some more polishing, and the pieces now look a lot better than shown here. But read to the end of this entry, and you’ll see the main reason why I’m including the photos of these pieces at this stage of finishing….]

Ann (mentioned in my last post) bought some 4mm fine silver bezel cups. I’m not sure why she got them that size but, once they arrived, she realized how small they were. What would she do with them? Well, I had some small blue spinels (both faceted and cabochon), so I traded her a few of those cabs for a few of her bezel cups.

Several days later, at the end of a pack of clay, I figured I had just enough clay left to make this piece (i.e., if I didn’t use any extra clay pushing it into a texture stamp). So I made this piece, fired it, cooled it, added the bezel cup, and refired the whole thing. Though the stone should have survived the firing, I figured it’d be easy enough to set it afterwards.

Then, I decided to open another pack silver clay and make several more lentil beads. Here’s an example:

But, here’s the dilemma. Once I polish any of these further, they’re more difficult to photograph without having my reflection take away even more from the polished area. So I’m displaying the un- or semi-polished images for now.

(That is, in the lower pair, the camera is actually visible in the photo to the right; it is, luckily, sort of hidden in the texture of the one to the left. I did try shooting through a shield that would hide my outline somewhat: but I could not find an angle at which to shoot the first piece, above, that would both show it off well and "hide" the lens in the stone… One photographer I talked with suggested trying to put it in a bowl of water and shoot through that, but I haven’t yet had time for such experiments.)

Posted in General Techniques, Photographing Jewelry | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

“Lentil Beads” Are Fun

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/01/03

Thinking back on what I wrote in my first post, the thing that has stopped me from doing this earlier has been the photography part.

Now, I do know a lot of the basics of photography (for that matter, I have even taught it), but small little jewelry pieces are a bit of a challenge, and jewelry that is made of shiny metal and often set with sparkly stones can be even trickier to shoot well. And I have just been very hesitant to illustrate my blog with photos that didn’t reasonably represent the pieces I was discussing.

I haven’t yet gotten the photography part to the level I want. But I do still like making “lentil” shape beads like that first one. The snapshots with this post are of a more recent lentil bead.

Lentil (side with opening)

That side has an opening, with a view to some embellishments nested inside.

Lentil (side with CZ)

This other side features a cubic zirconia (CZ) and more of a patina (a coloring of the surface, in the valleys of the texture; patinas added to high points simply wear off, while those in the valleys will darken over time).

I plan to redo the bail (the wire at the top, from which it will hang).

Posted in Photographing Jewelry | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
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