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The current photo book project I’m working on is a follow-up to the beefcakey Gentlemen of Steampunk:

Aether & Rhyme:

Being a Unique Collection of Morally-Improving Tales, Nursery Rhymes & Fragments from the Great Age of Steam

– with Photography by the Illustrious Mister Luxet Tenebrae, and Instructive Commentaries by Lord Professor Anton R.M. Feldspar

“Aether & Rhyme” is a collection of highly child-inappropriate neo-Victorian steampunkish kidlit. It’s a version of the classic Mother Goose oeuvre that’s simultaneously laden with a sort of faux arch-moralizing suitable to the mid-19th century and a dark and disturbing steam-tech aesthetic, nestled comfortably in the pretense of being a loving backward look at a the culture of a past epoch now subject to analysis and critique (included in amusingly critical academic footnotes by the ridiculously august L.P. Anthony R. M. Feldspar) and of course including the odd and poorly-preserved photographic work of Luxet Tenebrae.

Altogether there will be 18 stories and poems in the collection. Having created all the bits, I’m now in the process of integrating the photos with the stories and poems and assembling the thing.  But because neither self-control nor patience are among my many excellent virtues, I thought I’d offer up a little sneak-peek of a few short snippets from here and there, out of context and still in draft.

So, little ones, here are some stories for you tonight, to lull you gently into a disturbed and nightmarish steamy slumber…

FOREWORD

The title of this collection, as most readers will recognize, comes from the introductory poem in the famous collection of children’s stories and verse,  Old Shellduck’s Tales, which was to be found in any nursery worthy of the name back in the bygone days when the first Victoria was building the foundations of today’s Empire on the great spinning gears and oily pistons of the early Age of Steam:

Come my sweet child, it’s your bed-story time;

For tales of  magic, and aethers, and rhyme.

We’ll summon the plasms that brighten your dream

And drift you away on soft vapours of steam….

The tales and poems collected here—presented both in full and as fragments—are gathered from that original Shellduck’s. …

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD

…It wasn’t long after she’d entered the Deepdark Wood before a Wolf hopped out onto the path before her.

“Hello, little girl,” smiled the Wolf, hungrily. “And where are you going, all by yourself in the dangerous Deepdark Wood?”

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

“Why, I’m going to visit my Grandmother, who is feeling poorly, in her little cottage down the path,” replied Little Red Riding Hood politely. “However, Mister Wolf, my mother has told me quite particularly not to speak to Wolves here in the Deepdark Wood, for they are more than likely to want to eat me.”

The Wolf smiled broadly. “Why, my dear,” he said in a low and reassuring murmur, “I am no Wolf! I am but a poor fellow-traveler upon the path, and as human as you or your sweet grandmother!”

Little Red Riding Hood was very surprised to hear this.

“Why, sir, please pardon my mistake! For your wolfen fur confused me.”

“The wolfen fur,” smiled the Wolf,  stepping closer to the girl, “is but a coat that keeps me warm against the chill air of the Deep Dark Wood.” And then the Wolf very cleverly stepped out of his fur, as if it were, in fact, only a coat, which you and I know it was not.

(c) EButterfield Photography

… Now, when Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother made the little red cloak of the finest velvet, she included a clever pocket on the inside. And Little Red Riding Hood’s mother, when she gave the girl the basket, knowing as she did the various Dangers that lurked in the Deepdark Wood, had slipped into the cunning little pocket a Drogget’s Demi-Automanual Ventillator Vapour Rifle, equipped with a full clip of 50 milli-meter Percussive Bore Engined-Bullettes.  And Little Red Riding Hood, in addition being a promising seamstress, and whose skills on the pianoforte were quite advanced for her age, was a dab hand with midscale armaments….

(c) EButterfield Photography

 

THE TALE OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS

One fine day, once upon a time not so very long ago, three little City pigs—having grown tired of the constant tick-tick-tick of the bright brass gears that turned and hummed and clicked all day and night beneath the streets and in the walls; and the gloomy fog of steam and coal smoke that shadowed the city’s sky in twilight even at noon; and the strange-behaving rainbow pools of effluent aethers and plasms that splashed their pants and made them sneeze little feathers.

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

So they scavenged fallen bricks from Trottingbridge, and wood from the scaffolds around Old Saint Merks, and thatch from behind the gardener’s shed in Gallowspark in front of the Great Court-house. They even crept into unlocked kitchen doors and took a few nice pieces of furniture from a few nice homes—for everyone, they said, has more furniture than they really need.

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

They gathered all these up in a little cart, and headed out along the Rotinn Road past the wide ring of factaries and ‘works, over the Estuary, and beyond the tiny houses of the Outer Lecturbs where the Carders and Liners Enginers live; through the villages and cultivated lands of the great houses, past the farms with their steam-cows and pneumatic horses, and finally found themselves in the pleasant Countryside.

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

 Finally, long after the Rotinn Road had dwindled to little more than a path through the Deepdark Wood, they came to tiny sunlit clearing….

Just then the Wolf spied the tiny pipette that secretly connected the pigs’ house to a mainpipe of the Great Trigenerative Empowerment Combine, and a clever thought occurred to him. While the three pigs danced and sang in their parlor, enjoying the warmth of their steam-powered furnace and the unflickering golden light produced by their steam-powered generator, the Wolf crept himself around behind the cottage and followed the pipette back to the connecting spigot in the woods. With a chuckle—for the Wolf knew exactly what he was about—he quickly turned the valve as high, high, high as it would go.

  THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT’S FATHER

 “‘Now, my dears,” said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, “you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor…’” [from The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter]

Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail and Peter were just the tiniest of bunnies on that long-ago morning, when their Father, Mr. Rabbit, said to Mrs. Rabbit, “My dear, this morning I believe I will go out into the world and see what I can find to feed our little family.”

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

“I shall go down the lane and into the fields, for I may find there all manner of things to eat ready at hand upon the ground.” And so Mr. Rabbit, being just a little vain, put on his best waistcoat and cravat—for rabbits, you know, are always very careful about looking their best whenever they go out into the world—and he kissed Mrs. Rabbit sweetly on the cheek, and patted Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail and Peter on their four little bunny heads, and off he hopped— lippety–lippety, not very fast, and looking all around—out the door and down the lane.

Mr. Rabbit had not gone too far when he came across a pair of old forgotten brass goggles lying in the dust by the side of the road. “Why these,” he said to himself, “will look very fine upon my little pink nose, and perhaps will help me better see the seeds and vegetables that lie upon the ground in the fields.”…

THE FROG-PRINCE

…“Frog-prince, show yourself to me, and I shall release you gladly!” cried the Princess, who thought her days would be much brighter in the Prince’s kingdom.

From the rotting underbrush along the edge of the pond there emerged a truly hideous frog. The Princess could barely contain her disgust, but put out her hand for him to hop up on. She raised the ugly, foul-smelling, slime-covered creature to her lips, and gathering all her courage, kissed it tenderly upon its ghastly mouth.

Instantly there was before her a young man, in a prince’s raiment. He would normally have been considered a handsome young man indeed, except that his skin retained a distinctly greenish tinge, and his eyes bulged alarmingly from his head. Strangest of all, the pupils of his eyes seemed to be made of brassen clockworks, for they ticked and whirred and clicked as he looked around him….

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

 OLD MOTHER HUBBARD or THE AETHERICALLY-ANIMATED  CORPSE!

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard
To fetch Doctor Ventris an aether.
But when she got there she’d let in too much air
And the floor disappeared from beneath her. …

 (Thanks to my models, Natalie Campbell, Andrew Diego, Jeremiah Hein, Pynkee, Andre Chambers, Dove Meir, and Scott Russo. “Aethers & Rhyme” will be available on Amazon in Sept. 2014.)

There are, quantum physics tells us (or so I choose to understand what little I can decipher of quantum physics, given my fuzzy-headed liberal-artsishness) multiple universes nestled all over each other; multiple realities generated by choices taken and untaken, each as real and tangible to itself (and presumably to those inhabiting it) as this particular one that our combined and interacting series of choices and accidents and consequences has created for us.

In one of those realities, the 19th Century never ended. Charles Babbage’s theoretical difference engine, funded in 1823, launched the digital age 150 years earlier than in our timeline. The power of steam was harnessed and perfected in unique and imaginative ways, resulting in a cacophonous proliferation of gears and pipes and flywheels powering everything from toasters and teapots to dirigibles and high-speed locomotives. With an inexhaustible supply of fuel, the Victorian Age ushered in a high-tech utopia of gleaming brass and steaming iron rather than today’s cold wasteland of silicon and plastics. Driven by a meritocratic devotion to the triplet goddesses Curiosity, Progress, and Science, unique new understandings evolved that discovered the realities underlying alchemy and magick, that, tamed and flavored by the Victorians’ cool-headed intellectualism, became just more aspects of Science herself.

My vision of that alternative world is Steampunk.

There is a sizeable popular culture built around various aspects, permutations, interpretations, and definitions of “steampunk,” including a diverse array of conventions and convention-attenders, costume-makers and -wearers , musicians, jewelry-crafters, accessory-makers, vehicle-designers, cosplayers, artists, and photographers. Diverse, yes, but almost all of them include some elements of Victoriana, gears, clockwork, a bit of leather, and a fair dollop of darkness. (For a flavor both of Steampunk and its diversity, visit the Facebook page of Steampunk Tendencies; the Steampunk Emporium; or the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrances.)

Personally, I’m having way too much fun with my new obsession, most recently evidenced by a series of photoshoots with models willing to play dress-up and adopt the characters of Victorian professors, scientists, and adventurers sporting some lovely clothing items I purchased along with an assortment of props, accessories, and gadgets I’ve created myself with a little spray paint, gears, and superglue. And as much as I enjoy these shoots for themselves, the real appeal for me is in manipulating the photographs in Photoshop to look like they’re Steampunk themselves: old, faded, and battered relics of a fabulous bygone, steam-driven Empire…

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Model: Jeremiah Hein

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Model: Jeremiah Hein

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Model: Aaron Avila

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Model: Jeremiah Hein

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Model: Ivan Bohman

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Model: Jeremiah Hein

In these “antiqued” photos, the process in Photoshop was relatively simple, if many-stepped and a bit time-consuming. Basically, I initially reduce the original image’s vibrancy, creating a faded, hand-tinted look. I then proceed to use soft overlay to combine the original image with images, colors, and textures of wrinkled paper, parchment, rusty metal, and peeled paint, making adjustments to the different layers to reduce or enhance vibrancy, opacity, and contrast to achieve the effect of an old daguerreotype that’s been left in a desk drawer for a century, or a rare color photo that’s faded with age, or a valuable antique image thoughtlessly mistreated and used as scrap paper by misguided previous owners. Sometimes I overlay bits of handwriting, ink splashes, or other signs of exposure to the years. I really kinda like the results.

Not all of my Steampunk work is manipulated in post-production to that extent, of course. The clothes and props are really quite lovely, and sometimes a color photo shows that best:

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Model: Jeremiah Hein

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Model: Andre Chambers
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Model: Ivan Bohman

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Model: Jeremiah Hein

So this is fun, and pretty, and affords me quite the creative outlet for my overactive, fevered imagination (and what some might refer to as a pathetic case of arrested development and a failure to act my age). It’s also multidisciplinary, since I frequently write captions for these photos in the style of passages from 19th-century publications, utterly taken out of context. In the case of photo above, for instance, this caption from The Quarterly Sociological Review:

Today’s modern Gentleman, whether of the landed, learned, mercantile, or military classes–and whether or not associated in any case with one of the several esoteric neo-scientific academies which open their doors to virtually any class — or even, these days, any gender!–is always equipped with the three essentials: a Mechanickal Walking Stick that features a variety of miniaturized personal and professional conveniences that we have come to expect (here a Phletzer-Spetzingham  “Artemisian” with complete C.I.L. equippage for accurate communications, inspections, and locationary activities); a set of bespoke Aetheric or Select-Dimension Goggles that provide both enhanced observational technology as well as vital protection from the elements (and stray elementals); and of course a Weapon for the protection of himself and others. In this case, our Gentleman is equipped with a new model of Ransom & Mellidew’s Mark III Multicannon: a prodigious, effective, and highly persuasive piece of impressive Personal Armament. 

Welcome to my (other) world.

[Thanks to my models for their patience and creativity: Jeremiah Hein, Ivan Bohman, Aaron Avila, and Andre Chambers)

I’m currently winding up a week-long business trip to New Brunswick, NJ, and I didn’t bring my camera this time. Thing is, I learned some time ago that this particular series of meetings involves being locked away in hotel ballrooms, which are generally not photogenic, and since New Jersey in November is not a welcoming climate for this thin-blooded, hothouse flower of a Southern Californian, there’s little allure to wandering the undoubtedly charming streets outside. Other business trips, however, have offered more photogenic opportunities both inside and out. I take my job very seriously, of course, but in any business trip there can usually be a little time to venture outside a bit to see what’s up within a block or two of the hotel. So today, some examples, in no particular order, of some of the photos I’ve taken wherever my work-related travels have taken me…

Glazed clay Buddhas lining a wall of the White Dagoba, Beihai Park, Beijing

Glazed clay Buddhas lining a wall of the White Dagoba, Beihai Park, Beijing (meeting of conference organizers)

Interior of Aldred Building, Montreal

Interior of the Aldred Building, at 509 Place d’Armes, Montreal (board meeting series)

Elevator bank and walkways of the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta, Georgia.

Elevator bank and walkways of the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta, Georgia (board meeting series).

Chihuly, "Ikebana Boat" at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art

Chihuly, “Ikebana Boat” at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (conference)

Plaza surrounding the Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, Indianapolis, Indiana

Plaza surrounding the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Indianapolis, Indiana (conference)

Farmer selling dates by the side of a country road north of Beijing, China trip II

Farmer selling dates by the side of a country road north of Beijing, China trip II (conference)

Public Garden, Boston, Massachusetts.

Public Garden, Boston, Massachusetts (board meeting series) Setting up for a wedding photograph at Kushida Shrine in Fukuoka, Japan

Setting up for a wedding photograph at Kushida Shrine in Fukuoka, Japan (conference)

I am such a geek. I am, totally: I own my geekery, I wallow in it, I embrace by geekitude with all the enthusiasm I can muster from <mumblemumble> years of Trek (TOS, NextGen, DS9 and yes VOY flavors, and if you know what those are then welcome to the club) and Star Wars (original trilogy only, please); the Alien Quadrilogy, Trek reboots, and Galactica (reboot); Doctor Who (ditto rebooted), Torchwood, Futurama, Cowboy Bebop, and Invader Zim. Kim Stanley Robinson and William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and  Iain M. Banks, Ray Bradbury and Frank Herbert, Harlan Ellison and Douglas Adams, China Mieville and Ken MacLeod: just go read ’em. Really. Amazing stuff.

So there, I’m out: Geek. Totally. Deal with it.

So the subculture of periodic sci-fi/fantasy cons, renaissance faires, and anywhere else where people throw off their social constraints to dress up and celebrate a shared geekology are appealing to me. Not as a participant is the often wildly creative cosplay, though, as much as a photographic observer. Some of my fellow geeks lavish astonishing amounts of time and energy and dollars on fabulously detailed, intricately accurate costumery, and the sci-fi drag is often a wonder to behold. My creative energies don’t lie in that direction (and spandex is not everyone’s friend, as I have discovered to my personal chagrin), but Cons offer me the opportunity to release my inner geek and also my outer photographer. And some of the results are pretty fair as portraits, as well as displaying the quality of costumery on display at the events. So let’s go there.

Chimney Sweep

Chimney Sweep at BentCon 2013 in Burbank, CA

Medieval Steampunk

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Steampunk at ComiCon 2010 in San Diego

China Mieville

Not dressed up in costume, but author China Mieville at ComicCon 2010 in San Diego

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Robin posing at BentCon 2013 in Burbank, Ca

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Above and below (right), more photos of the chimney sweep urchins at BentCon 2013 in Burbank, CA

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Another take on Robin at BentCon 2013 in Burbank, CA

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Oh and one brief moment of blatant self-promotion: I’ve redesigned my EButterfield Photography website. Click on the link to go check it out (and see more photos, of course!)

 

 

Sometimes a dark and disturbing idea for a photo gets lodged in my skull and won’t go away. Fortunately for me, there are some highly professional and amenable models in the world with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working. So when I got a dark and antiquated steampunk idea, coupled with a slightly nightmare-y mask thing, I was lucky to have model Jeremiah Hein around. Here are a couple photos from that shoot. (Both images were taken with my Nikon D7000 in a studio setting.)

The first is steampunk-inspired, and includes a conglomeration of props, jewelry, and costume pieces I’ve collected over some time. There’s also an antique drill (outfitted here with a medical syringe, of course) and some of my own clothing (tweed and wool seemed called for, under the creepy Victorian circumstances). In Photoshop, I processed the photo to look faded and used a warming filter to for an antique sepia tone. I applied a “soft light” overlay of an existing image of a rusty wall to provide the look of an image exposed to a century of damage, and added an image of nineteenth-century script pulled from the Web to complete the look.

antiqued steampunk image

The second includes a mask that Jeremiah brought to the shoot himself, and which worked far better than what I’d planned, so we used it. (One thing I love about working with professional and semi-professional models, by the way, is the unique ideas and perspectives they bring to the shoot.) Here, I wanted an image of the model covering his eyes, holding a mask that was actually looking at the viewer. In this image, I took a separate photo of Jeremiah making “big eyes” and then carefully Photoshopped them into the mask’s eyeholes. (I could have used a photo of Jeremiah wearing the mask, and then cut-and-pasted it into this image, but doing the eyes separately allowed me to make them more visible, without–I think–losing verisimilitude.)

Model holding a mask

 

My plan for this series in LensCaps at the start was twofold: First, to force myself to blog more regularly (I have found that like flossing and New Years’ Resolutions, it is extremely unlikely that I will commit to blog regularly after the initially burst of enthusiasm unless there’s some outside force compelling me: a pricey personal trainer makes me a much more constant gym membership user, and a public statement that I’m embarking on a numbered series of posts makes me feel guilty if I miss a day or two); and B, to feature older photographs that haven’t been featured lately (selected at random via an unscientific method of using the mouse wheel and random clicks in an index).

So what happens right after RPOTD #3? I go on a business trip to Oklahoma City, and posting to the blog becomes difficult, and it falls off the earth. Literally threes of devoted readers are if not mildly disappointed, at least somewhat aware of the break.

And then what do I do? I come back, and immediately violate the Highly Scientific Random Photo Algorithm. Today’s photos are from my recent trip, and I just thought it was cool that a couple of them were inadvertently sort of thematically linked, which is serendipitous, which is kinda like random, so I guess we’re OK.

This is the Devon Energy Center, at 52 stories the tallest building in Oklahoma City and tied for being the 39th tallest in the US. Architects were Pickard Chilton Architects Inc. The building itself is nice (if a little ridiculously out of scale with the rest of Oklahoma City (see the aerial view), but I really loved the morning sun peeking from behind it.

Devon Energy Building

The aforementioned aerial view:

Aerial view of Oklahoma City

The other “sunshine” photo is also an aerial, taken as I flew over California on my way back home (thank you, United, for the upgrade!), I was baffled by these three shiny objects on the ground below, and had to do a little webbly investigation to determine what it was that I’d been looking at. It is, in fact, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS), near Nipton, southwest of Las Vegas. It’s the largest solar plant in the world, generating 377 megawatts by using mirrors to focus the sunlight on solar receivers on top of the central power towers (can we tell I think this is really cool?). The three plants together generate enough power to serve 140,000 homes during peak hours, and reduce CO2 emissions by over 400,000 tons annually. (Source: BrightSource)

Aerial view of Ivanpah Solar array

More non-random randomness. Well, to be specific: the selection of the initial photo is totally random; it just seems that sometimes a couple of photos around it, or that I know are related to it, come to mind and I just can’t help myself with making little photographic statements, because the synergies just amuse me. This little exercise is quickly evolving into something not entirely random, but that’s just me being a control freak. Anyway, let’s look at three kinds of China: ancient, recently modern, and contemporarily futuristic, all of which seem to live together happily in the People’s Republic in a big ol’ chunky melting pot of old and new.

First, the Great Wall. specifically the “Wild Wall” (Simatai-Jinshanling) section in the Shuiguan Mountains, about an hour outside Beijing. (Photo taken September 2012 with a Nikon D90)

Great Wall of China

Next on our itinerary, a vendor selling figs on the side of a road out in the countryside somewhere in the general vicinity of Beijing. The figs were excellent, but there’s a lot of serious history in that face and uniform. (Photo taken September 2012 with a Nikon D90)

Fig seller wearing People's Army uniform

And finally, because the whole point of this Random POTD thing is brevity in the name of maintaining consistency, the fabulous “Bird’s Nest”, formally known as the Beijing National Stadium, Olympic Green (Aolinpike Gongyuan), Beijing. Architects: Herzog & de Meuron,Stefan Marbach, Ai Weiwei, and Li Xinggang (2008). Day view from from Main Lake. (Photo taken September 2012 with a Nikon D90)

Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing

 

Here we go again, although I suppose it’s not quite actually “random” if I’ve applied a theme. Anyway, this time, let’s look up.

First, the rotunda of the Indiana State House in Indianapolis. Built in 1888 and designed by architect Edwin May, (Photo taken with a Nikon D7000 with a Nikon DX 18-105 lens, September 2013)

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Below, the rotunda of the Elks National Veterans Memorial in Chicago, taken in 2006 with a Nikon E880, back in the very early days of me taking pictures of things.  Egerton Swartwout, architect (1926).

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Finally, the next photo is of the central rotunda of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.,  Hornblower & Marshall, architects (1910). Taken in May 2009 with a Nikon D80. And below that, the rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, DC. (Charles Bullfinch, Architect, 1824), featuring “The Apotheosis of George Washington” fresco by Constantino Brumidi (1865). Photo taken with a Nikon D80 in May, 2009.

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For a wider selection of randomness, visit my online gallery: EButterfield Photography.

I find, much to my regret and humiliation, that I am fairly consistent in my failure to post regularly. I tell myself this is because I’m selective and perfectionistic, and only post when I have something unique and generally interesting to say. I tell myself that, but the truth is I am both lazy and highly distractable. So I’m going to try an experiment that will compel me to post regularly. I will randomly (really, randomly) select one or two orposibly three photos every day from my whole history of photographing stuff (a number of years that I would prefer not to disclose, in the interest of maintaining the bloggerly illusion that I am both young and sprightly) and say just a few pertinent (or impertinent, as the case may be) things about them: where they were taken, what the circumstances were, what–if anything–about them might be interesting to others.

We’ll see how this works. Here we go…

"Eat Cake" in pink script on the side of a white stucco building with an intense blue sky

I’m starting with a bit of a cheat, since this is a pretty recent photo. It was taken at the Sweet & Saucy Shop, a bakery in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach, I was here for a cake-tasting as part of the traditional process involved in selecting a wedding cake. There is, by the way, nothing at all wrong with a cake-tasting: Regardless of anyone’s personal feelings about my right to be legally married (thank you, United States Supreme Court), I think we can all agree that cake is nice (and the cake at Sweet & Saucy is particularly creative and excellent). Anyway, when we arrived the sun on the white stucco was spectacular, and the sentiment of the sign was too good to pass up. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my Nikon with me, so I took this using my phone. The result is still good, even if the photography snob in me discounts it as not a real photograph. (Photo taken with a Samsung Galaxy Siii 12 megapixel smartphone)

Macro photo of a grasshopper near North Pond in Lincoln Park, Chicago

Now this one was also taken fairly recently. It’s obviously a grasshopper, photographed in a pretty outstanding macro. It helped that the grasshopper was on a fence near Lincoln Park’s North Pond in Chicago, and the weather in early October was coolish–which makes for slightly sluggish and therefore more photogenic grasshoppers. Anyway, I’m very proud of the detail in this.  (Photo taken with a Nikon D7000 with a Nikon DX 18-105 lens)

Aerial view of a rock quarry in upstate New York

Finally, just the opposite of a macro: This aerial photo was taken from a United jet somewhere over upstate New York, en route to Boston last July. I travel a fair amount for business, and always get a window seat for just this purpose, as I believe I’ve written about before. The detail here is good, and I like (or rather, don’t like) the juxtaposition of the huge scar in the earth surrounded by dense forest. (Photo taken with a Nikon D90 and a Sigma 70-300 lens)

So there we have it. Next time I do this, I may just do a very short post with one photo, or a long and rambling post with one photo, or more pictures and fewer words, or the other way around. Sometimes I’ll stick to a specific topic,when I have something to say about it. Otherwise I’ll just put up a photo and say a little something about it. I’ll try to keep me guessing, and see where that leads me, in terms of being a better and more committed blogger.

For a wider selection of randomness, visit my online gallery: EButterfield Photography.

So over the past several months I’ve been doing some photo work with professional models. For someone whose previous work primarily focused (heh) on birds and cats and rusting objects, this was new and interesting territory.

Oh, I’ve done photoshoots of people before, of course. I’ve had friends pose for me so I could play around with lighting and style and explore the human aspect of photography. But a few months ago I joined a website called ModelMayem, which connects professional and semiprofessional models with photographers and other professionals. Through that site, I’ve met some remarkable people, who also happen to be both amazingly good-looking and talented at their craft as well.

Ivan Bohman

Ivan Bohman

And modeling is, in fact, a craft that must be carefully honed. Any ol’ body can stand around in front of a camera and smile and have their picture taken: what I’ve learned is that modeling is about more than that. A professional model knows their body, knows how to move, and knows how to work with a photographer to achieve both professionals’ visions.  It’s not a naturally-occurring skill, but one that comes with experience and careful self-awareness. (I am also keenly aware of my body and its motion in space, which is why I stand on the viewfinder side of the camera, thank you.)

Andre Chambers

Andre Chambers

Photos taken with nonprofessionals can be and often are exactly what’s called for. When I’ve worked with models, though, the experience is more efficient, easier, and (this is true) more creative.  So here are some things I’ve learned in my admittedly brief history working with models:  three basic rules to live by.

1. Relax. My best experiences with models are when everyone’s comfortable and relaxed. This is particularly important if at some point one of the parties will be wearing less clothing than the other. I’ve met models for coffee before a shoot, just to chat and get to know each other better away from the backdrops and umbrella lights. Even if I don’t meet them beforehand, I make sure to welcome them as a guest, not a client or coworker.

Javoroce

Javoroce

2. Be clear about what you want to have happen. I learned very quickly that it’s much easier for a shoot to work well if I’ve written down generally what I want the model to do, and shared that information with the model. That list has become more specific the more I work with models.  Being inspired by the moment is very nice, and sometimes happens, but it’s both more professional of the photographer and more respectful of the model to have a plan. So have a plan. It doesn’t have to be shot-by-shot or pose-by-pose, but should at least give everyone a roadmap of what you’re looking for. The more the model knows about the point of the shoot, the more likely he’s going to not only be able to deliver, but be able to contribute to the creative process as well. Working with professionals has proved to be a symbiotic creative process. Because the model has experience with a number of other photographers, they know some stuff. If they’re relaxed and if they know about what you’re after, they often have really interesting ideas to share. Listen to them. (Of course, this assumes that the model is working for you; if a model has engaged you to do photos for their portfolio, or headshots, or whatever, then they’re the boss and you absolutely need to listen to them.)

Aaron

Aaron

3. Be respectful. Models are not, contrary to popular opinion, emotionless hunks of meat on which a photographer gets to hang bits of cloth or twist around into interesting positions. Not all models are willing to work nude, for instance, and the photographer should not pressure them to change their minds. It’s perfectly acceptable to push an artist’s limits, of course, but no so far that they are seriously uncomfortable. This rule goes hand-in-hand with Number 2: if you’re clear about what you’re looking to do up front, the model has the opportunity to decline the job or suggest acceptable alternatives without anyone wasting time. The same rule goes for models, too, of course. A model should remember that they’re working with a human being, and that the person behind the camera may in fact have something to offer other than the ability to push a button.

James

James

There’s a fourth thing, but that would interfere with my nice tidy threesome, so I’ll handle it separately, even though it’s the most important:

The Release

Any model/photographer relationship absolutely positively must include a written, signed release. I say this not just because I went to law school and thing I’m all smart and lawyerly and stuff, but because it just makes sense in a potentially complicated legal relationship: the model is the owner of his or her image, and the photographer is the owner of his or her photographic work. So a photo done with a professional (or nonprofessional, it doesn’t matter) model potentially has two equal owners: the maker of the picture, and the person whose image is captured. That’s never a good thing, and has the potential for disaster and calamity written all over it. To avoid future distress and misunderstanding, then, this little legalistic nicety must be observed. It’s often just the slightest bit awkward (i.e., you’ve established a relaxed relationship with your model, and welcomed them as a guest in your studio, when suddenly everything comes to a screeching halt when you whip out the release—kind of like following up a romantic marriage proposal by presenting the prenup with the ring, I guess). But don’t be fooled: the photographer/model relationship has a business component, and businesses work because of legal relationships.

The release simply states who has which rights to what, regarding the photos. A release can be pretty one-sided (“the photographer owns everything” or “the model owns everything”) or a mutual exchange of rights (“the photographer owns the nude photos for portfolio purposes but can’t sell or distribute them”). A release gives the model the opportunity to clarify the terms of the engagement, and can of course be negotiated. Below is a simple release, admittedly very one-sided, that I use. But first, this:

PLEASE NOTE THAT I AM NOT PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE, OR MAKING ANY REPRESENTATIONS THAT THIS RELEASE IS APPROPRIATE OR LAWFUL IN ANY JURISDICTION. YOU MAY USE THIS FORM AT YOUR OWN RISK, AND YOU HOLD ME HARMLESS FROM ANY LIABILITY FOR, OR DAMAGES ARISING FROM, THE CONSEQUENCES OF ITS USE.

Yeah, I kinda have to say that, in order to (a) protect myself and (b) to ensure that you have absolutely no confidence in me or anything I say whatsoever—usually a safe bet anyway. So here’s the form I use:

Model Release

In consideration of my engagement as a model, upon the terms herewith stated, I hereby give to ______________________, his heirs, legal representatives and assigns, those for whom the photographer is acting, and those acting with his authority and permission:

a)  the unrestricted right and permission to copyright and use, re-use, publish, and republish photographic portraits or pictures of me or in which I may be included intact or in part, composite or distorted in character or form, without restriction as to changes or transformations in conjunction with my own or a fictitious name, or reproduction hereof in color or otherwise, made through any and all media now or hereafter known for illustration, art, promotion, advertising, trade, or any other purpose whatsoever.

b)  I also permit the use of any printed material in connection therewith.

c)  I hereby relinquish any right that I may have to examine or approve the completed product or products or the advertising copy or printed matter that may be used in conjunction therewith or the use to which it may be applied.

d)  I hereby release, discharge and agree to save harmless _________________, his heirs, legal representatives or assigns, and all persons functioning under his permission or authority, or those for whom he is functioning, from any liability by virtue of any blurring, distortion, alteration, optical illusion, or use in composite form whether intentional or otherwise, that may occur or be produced in the taking of said picture or in any subsequent processing thereof, as well as any publication thereof, including without limitation any claims for libel or invasion of privacy.

e)  I hereby affirm that I am over the age of majority and have the right to contract in my own name. I have read the above authorization, release and agreement, prior to its execution; I fully understand the contents thereof. This agreement shall be binding upon me and my heirs, legal representatives and assigns.

Signed:________________________________

Dated: _________________________________

Shane Hammontree

Shane Hammontree

Note that the Model Release is not the same as a contract for the shoot. Payment for the model (or the photographer), waiver of fees, form of compensation (hourly, time-for-photos, a nice blueberry pie) and expectations regarding the model’s access to the photos (digital or print, quantity, media) should all be discussed and agreed upon prior to when the model arrives.

Shane Hammontree

Shane Hammontree

So anyway, that’s my current wisdom on the subject. I’m sure I’ll learn more as I do more work with models, and being not especially shy about such things, I’m sure I’ll share that wisdom as it occurs.

James

James

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