Monday, October 26, 2009

Picassa vs. ACD See vs. Adobe Bridge vs. ???

No pictures today. I'm struggling with what image cataloging tool to use. I've been around computers for a long time, so managing files and folders isn't difficult. When I got my first digital camera several years ago it came with a stripped down version of ACD See. I really liked what it provided. It was easy to use and didn't have a lot of extra stuff I would never use. I've changed computers about three times since then. I always installed that version when I upgraded my computer. Recently, I got a new laptop and wanted to install the catalog viewer. I couldn't find the disk. I know I have it somewhere, packed in a blue storage tub somewhere (that's a different story).

I went on-line to see if I could download that version of ACD See. No dice. There was a trial version that had a lot more features. I installed it and immediately got the nag message that I had 29 days left. After the month the trial expired, but then I got a free chance for an extra 30 days. That just prolonged the inevitable. I'd have to shell out $40-$70 to buy a real version. Didn't really feel that I needed to do that. I own the software and the version is just fine, but I have to find the original CD.

I'd heard about the free version of Picassa. I was surprised, but I guess that I shouldn't have been, that it is another Google offering. I did download and install the free service. After a brief learning curve, I feel it give me most of what ACD See did. However, I still wonder what Google is collecting about me and my pictures. There are some quirks, and interfaces to editors such as PhotoShop aren't easy to configure - at least I couldn't figure it out. But it works and at the right price.

But I've been thinking about finally updating my very outdated version of PhotoShop. I use and like PhotoShop 7. That must be ten years old. I've been watching some online PhotoShop tutorials and CS4 looks like it gives enough reasons to upgrade. Now I have another beef - Adobe just this year instituted a policy of only allowing people to upgrade for three versions. That means that 7 to CS3 was OK, but 7 to CS4 is no longer allowed. Now I have to pay a lot more. It may be worth it, but that brings up another question. Should I get one of the "editions" which include a lot of things, or just get PhotoShop itself? There is a several hundred dollar difference. The editions come with Adobe Bridge which is an image catalog/management tool which has lots of features. I probably wouldn't use most of the other tools in the edition. But Bridge does look interesting. Does it give me more than either ACD See or Picassa in terms of image management that I'd find useful for what I do?

Are there other packages that I should consider? Comments?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Now What?

I guess I've been lucky in that I've never really seen much devitrification in my glass work. I think this piece has it - in spades. That is the problem, but first the background. I took Marty Kremer's workshop at Corning this summer. That was a great time and I learned a great deal. We did a lot of strip cutting to use in our work during the week. One of the other participants had some leftovers and gave me a dozen or so strips that were made with stringer and confetti. They were quite nice, but I never really knew what I was going to make with them.

I'd been playing with them in various configurations since early August. I was never quite happy. I had them laying around on the workbench and was complaining to my wife that I knew there was a great piece in the strips, but I was having a hard time finding it. As I laid several of the strips side by side, she remarked that it reminded her of the Native American fabric weavings. I knew what to do.

Rather than stack the strips vertically, laying them horizontally was the key. I put a strip of black iridized glass face down, then a strip of a color - in this case white, black, yellow, and orange were used, a strip of clear, and finally the magic stringer/confetti strip on top. This made 4 layers or about a half an inch thick blank. I was using a 12" diameter ring mold. This is where problem #1 starts. The first picture shows the set up in the kiln.

I have a small kiln at home. It is about 13.5" across, and its a weird 7 sided shape. I thought the
round kiln shelves were 13" in diameter. I set the ring down on the kiln shelf and it fit perfectly. However "perfect" in this case meant dropping down around the sides of the shelf and not sitting on it. Crap... I had a piece of fiber or vermiculite board that I'd intended as a kiln shelf but never used. This was gifted from a friend and I wasn't sure of the composition but decided to chop down the corners into a roughly septagonal shape (7 sides-ish). So far, so good. Note that the ring just fits on the shelf - the picture could lead you to believe that the piece is hanging off the left edge.

I laid up the strip construction staring across the diameter of the piece. This turned out to be a good idea. Soon I realized that I actually didn't have enough of the stringer/confetti strips to do the entire piece. In comes problem #2. I was about 4 long strips short. I decided to fill in with a solid color and used a turquoise color that matched some of the stringer color. Nice southwest feel. Finally I had the piece constructed and felt good about the blank.

Into the kiln and all went well. The next morning I opened the kiln and saw a couple of issues. First, the turquoise areas were distracting. The lines between the strips in the pattern area disappeared, but they were there in the turquoise. I
knew better. I could have used flat sheets in this area. But that wasn't the worst problem. The surface seemed to be covered with scum. I've never seen anything like it. I was stumped. I guess it is devitrification. But why. My current thinking is that there is something from the new kiln shelf/board that came out when it was fired. I later found out that the board was "new" and had never been fired. Are there some kind of binders that gassed off? Who knows.

The back is quite interesting - in fact, it may be more interesting than the front. These strips all came from the same sheet of Bullseye. I really haven't done much with iridized glass so wasn't expecting the "coats of many colors" look.

Anyway, my dilemma now is what to do with it. Getting rid of devit will require sandblasting and then fire-polishing - which I can do. Are there other things that could/should be considered. Should I cut off the turquoise and create an interesting shape when it is slumped? Or just turn it over and use the iridized surface?

Now what?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Photographing Clear Glass is . . . Hard!

I love the way that clear glass catches the light and plays all sorts tricks with it. Depending on the direction of the light, its color, strength, and the environment the object is in - the piece will look different and unique with each combination. However what you see is not what you get. This piece is just one example. This is a blown vessel that has a leaf motif cut around the "equator" and a highly polished lip/rim.

Now this isn't the best photograph in the world, but it does show some of the problems I've encountered on the way trying to photograph these things. I don't have a "pro" level photo setup with a frosted table, darkened studio, and lights. I do have a photo tent and some decent lights though. This set up is good enough for most of the work I want to photograph. I do have a really high-quality 35mm camera and lenses, but I don't use it much anymore - its just too hard and time consuming, especially if I want to end up with digital images.

So I set about to photograph this piece digitally. This isn't even the hardest clear piece I have to shoot. Note that I have a Nikon Coolpix which doesn't have a couple of manual controls that I would like, but it does every thing else quite well. I take most of the reference pictures of my glass work with it. So it should have been a no-brainer for this piece. But it wasn't.

First, on the plain background I normally use, the camera wouldn't focus. It kept focusing on the background and then the foreground...and on and on. So I got an old table cloth with some texture, and at least the camera could find a focus. I finally fooled the camera into getting a mostly focused shot at this point, but not perfect. And then the color is really off - the table cloth goes from tan to a cool blue - when it should be white.

I like this piece, but I just couldn't get a good enough picture to make it worth the effort in Photoshop to clean up the light reflections, the poor color casts, etc.

Photographing glass can be...hard, really hard.