Monthly Archive: February 2015

DR eBook Process – Part 1

After almost a year and half of taking a trip to the Dominican Republic, I have decided to share what I think is a very powerful story from that trip.

It should not take me long to finish, and when I do, I will make the eBook available on this website. After much thought, I have decided to make it available for free. As much as I wouldn’t mind making a little cash to offsite some of the costs of writing and sharing, I felt that I didn’t want a cost barrier to being able to read this story. It is a bit short for an eBook, and a bit long for just a post.

Rather than just finish the book, post it and say “here it is” I figured it would be fun to write about the process for creating the book. Sometimes I think the process can be more interesting to people than just the finished product. Besides, there are a lot of folks who like pens, notebooks, and software, so I will take it through all those steps.

With that in mind, let’s get on with the first part of the process. By the way, I have created a new category on this website called “DR eBook” so that you can click on that category and see all the posts associated with the process without having to search for them among other entries.

Heading down there, I did not know specifically that there was going to be a “story” to capture. Because I wanted to retain as much information on the trip as possible, I bought a specific journal for this. My son had been eyeing The Hobbit Moleskine journal at the bookstore, so I bought us each one of those.

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At the end of each day, I took a few minutes to write about the events of the day. Believe it or not, it was tough to squeeze this time in. We kept hopping pretty much the whole trip, and when it was time for bed, I just wanted to crash.

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It would be great to say that I used some great pen to take these notes, but I did not. It was just a super cheap, black Papermate ball point pen. I like the process as much as anything else, so why didn’t I take a nicer writing instrument? Mostly because I did not know what to expect. This was going to be get dirty and work trip. I didn’t take a cell phone or electronics. The only thing I took that plugged in was the charger for my point and shoot camera battery, and I was not sure if I would even have a place to plug that in. I don’t have nice pens other than fountain pens and I didn’t want to have to worry about flying with one of those either.

The next part of the process is not something I normally do. Within a couple of days of returning home, I put my handwritten entries into the journaling software that I use. I mostly did this because I knew I wanted to expand on some of the entries and that I would also probably want these somewhere down the road.

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I did not attempt to create any story, or do anything special with these at this point. As you can see from the photos, I just put the entries in day by day as they had occurred in my paper journal.

In case you are interested, the journal software that I use, and have been using for years is MacJournal. In the spirit of full disclosure, if you follow that link it I could receive money for it. I am an affiliate with the App Store, but links like these will be far and few between for me because I really only use a handful of apps. Also, I would only provide a link to things that I genuinely use. I also know that Day One is a hugely popular and similar app. Back when I started with MacJournal, I had to make a choice between the two and obviously went with MacJournal. I still wouldn’t mind trying Day One, but I have everything in MacJournal working the way that I want, that I don’t see the need to go looking at something else for the moment. As an added bonus, I write all my content in MacJournal, and send it directly to my website, but that is a topic for another time.

That is it for the “documenting” portion. My next post will be about how I came up with the parts of the story and the structure.

Thank you for reading.

Brian

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Fountain Pen Freak Out!!

I just had a very unusual experience that I had to share.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the doctor for the yearly physical, blood work, all that fun stuff. Today, I went back to go over the results. The doctor prescribed a couple of mediations, and I went down the hall to the pharmacy to get them filled.

It turned out that the medications were pretty much over the counter vitamins, and insurance doesn’t cover those sorts of things. So, the pharmacist is about to tell me what to look for at the drug store. I pull my Lamy 2000 out of my pocket to write down what he is about to tell me, I pull the cap off and he pulls the pen out of my hand!!! He was attempting to be nice and write it down for me, but I had that heart fell out of my chest type of feeling. Nobody else has ever used my pen before. As he went to write, it was upside down. I told him that it was a fountain pen, and he looked at it and said “Oh….” and handed it back.

If anyone would else uses a fountain pen, I know you would appreciate my story. If you are not into fountain pens, and are an outdoors person, it is the equivalent feeling of having your axe all tuned to a high polish, and then having an inexperienced person pick it up to use it without asking.

Luckily, it worked out okay for me. But, what would you have done? Would you have freaked out? Would have yelled at him? Would you cringe too?

Just curious.

Brian

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De Atramentis Dark Blue Document Ink Review

First, I must apologize for the crappy pictures. The inspiration hit me to write this post, but I did not have a camera with me. So, I simply did some snaps with my phone.

I promise to do better with the photos in the future.

When it comes to an item like this (an ink), I don’t really believe in a good review or a bad review. So many things are personal preference, can fit one situation, and not another, that I just want to know the facts. Sometimes, very specific facts can be very hard to find, but when you have them, you can weigh everything out, and see if something is going to work for you, or not.

That is my intention here. To simply lay out all my observations about this ink, and let you decide if you want to try it or not.

After writing with a pen and paper for a very long time, I abandoned it to pursue digital methods. Software, apps, scanning, etc. I have come full circle and back to the good old pen and notebooks. With that, came changes in my needs. Previously, I was writing just for the fun of it. I had time to grab my notebook, be patient, and make exceptions for things like ink dry time. If you read my last post, you know that I doing much more with it now. Using paper as a capture method, as an organizational tool, and a creative tool. Because of that, I needed to be able to pull out a notebook in haste, make a note, and put it away. I didn’t want to have to wait to close my notebook, or fuss with blotting paper, etc. I figured the more work it was, the less likely I was to do it, and I couldn’t have that.

Some of you are probably thinking, “Why not just use a ball point pen?” Well, as an fountain pen addict will tell you, once you get addicted to using a fountain pen, there is no going back. I just can’t do it.

I had been previously been using Noodler’s Bulletproof black ink. It may be unfounded, but in my pursuit for meeting every criteria, I want my ink to be waterproof. I figure if I am putting all this effort into creating a notebook, creating a journal, creating a log, that I want it to be able withstand just about any condition I throw at it, including water. I say unfounded, because if my bag gets too wet, I am probably going to be more concerned about my laptop than my notebook 🙂 So, more than likely, it won’t happen. Still, I generally have to purse these types of things until I find something I want, or exhaust the possibilities before settling.

I found that the Noodler’s ink on the better journal papers (Moleskine, Ciak, Leuchtturm) was just too long. I think Rhodia makes an even finer notebook, and dry times are even longer there! I am not talking seconds, more like minutes. I would leave a book opened for what seemed like forever, and the ink would still blot on the opposite page. So, I had to search for something faster, and permanent. Not an easy combination to find.

In the meantime, I bought an ink which is my current favorite. I don’t want to get into that now, and I will do a separate review on that one later.

I found some good reviews about De Atramentis Document Ink, and I had to order some.

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This is just an observation, but worth noting because it is the first time I have come across this. Every ink I have used thus far looks like a deeply colored water. Like it has some transparency to it. This ink reminded me of thin paint. It was opaque, and you could not see through it at all. Not a good thing, or a bad thing, just an observation. You can see in the following photos, but the ink also works like that. There isn’t any variation or shading (I hope I am using that term correctly). It is just even and consistent. You may like that, and you may not, but that is how it works.

My first test were with a Rhodia No. 19 Premium Notepad with ivory 90g Clairfontaine paper.

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First thing I had to check was drying time. At 5 seconds, there was a very slight smear. So slight, you might not even be able to see it in my crappy phone picture. So, I did it again at 7 seconds, and I would say that it is safely dry at 7 seconds. For this paper, that is very fast! I couldn’t wait to see what it did on other papers.

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More than satisfied with that, I just had to try some random writing.

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This is where I start to have my first inkling that there might be a problem. I am using a fine nib pen, and this ink is writing much wider than I am used to. I was using this pen all day with another ink, so the change is quite obvious to me. I am not writing it off just yet, so let’s see how it goes.

I pull out my Large Moleskine Journal, which is my current Bullet Journal. I did not take a picture, but again, lines are much wider than I am used to. I keep telling myself “I can live with this” and “I want to like this ink.” So, I keep going.

I did my same “drying time” test with this journal, and found almost the same results. 5 seconds….not quite. 7 seconds…..just fine. I am more than happy with that performance.

After writing in this journal, I turn the page and it shows a lot more ghosting. The picture below shows the ghosting of my current favorite ink, and one line written with the De Atramentis Ink.

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I did some tests on cheap paper. Just some envelopes I had lying around. This is where it becomes obvious to me how much this ink flows. The paper just sucks the ink out of the pen and makes for some very, very wide lines. Although the pen is laying down some wet, thick lines, it is dry before you can even get a finger to it to touch it. So that is very impressive!

This is where I start thinking I am going to have a problem with this ink. Still, I want to stick it out and give it a fair shot.

Next, I did some water tests. It holds up to its reputation for water resistance. You can wash it and wash it, and you do not see any trace of anything happening with the ink. You can rub and rub the paper until the paper fibers start falling apart and wearing away. At that point, you are destroying the paper and it really has nothing to do with the ink any more. I was very impressed, and it made me want to keep pushing on.

Later the same night that I received the ink, I had a Men’s Bible Study that I go to. We have handouts of printed material, with room to take notes, printed of course on cheap copy paper.

Sure, it writes wider than I would like, but I am determined to make this work and like it!

I had to write larger, and could not fit in as many notes as I would normally like.

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Okay….so that was the first page of our study. I got to turn the page, in which there were more questions printed on the back. The ink was so legible on the back side that I almost couldn’t read the printer printed text.

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Opps!

This ink just lays down wet! Real wet!

I am not the type to carry around one pen for this pad, or another for this kind of paper, etc. Yup, this stuff just wasn’t going to work for me.

When I got home, I flushed my pen and re-filled it with my current favorite ink again. You can see the line width difference for comparison.

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All of that is not to say that I am completely done with this ink. I will set it aside, and perhaps use it in the future.

I am not a pen collector. I don’t have tons of pens sitting around, not getting used, or selecting the right pen for the right use. I think this ink may work in a pen with an EF (extra fine) nib. The line weight would certainly be more to my liking, and perhaps laying down less ink would minimize some of the ghosting issues. I don’t have such a pen, so that is a test for another time. Until then, I will put this ink away until maybe that pen comes along.

I could see buying an EF nib pen just to be able to use this ink. I do like it that much. But, I just can not justify it at the moment, so we will see.

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Film Roll App

Back in the day when I shot film, before digital cameras, in order to know what was going on after you developed your film, got your prints, had your slides developed, etc, you needed to know the details about the shot. It was the only way to know what was working, what was not working, and figure out problems and help you get better.

My first reaction was to get out an old trusty notebook again. But, immediately after that though, I figured “maybe there is an app for that.” Sure enough there is. For free, I found the app Film Roll in the App Store for free.

It looked pretty bare bones, but it worked great. You can input your camera, your lens, and other details. When you load a new roll of film in, you click the “add” button, and start a new roll. When you make an exposure, you simply lick the “add” button again, and add a shot. Since your information is already in there, you can just go through a simple pick menu to select camera, lens, f stop, shutter speed, compensation, notes, etc. Works pretty well.

I haven’t fully figured out my workflow from the standpoint of storing negatives, and linking them back to files on my computer, and all that jazz. But, I knew for this to be useful, I would have to get this info off my phone, and on to my computer.

Film Roll will export your data in a XML format, but the usefulness unfortunately stops there. The XML file is a bit ugly and not very useable as is. Here is an example.

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While all the data is there, I figured I would want something a little more useful than that. Opening in Excel or Numbers doesn’t do much to help you. If the file had been a CSV, that would have made life easy! 🙂 This looked like a good project for a quick Python program.

There is a Python module called Beautiful Soup that was made for handling HTML and XML. In about 2 minutes, and 5 lines of code, I had this XML file spit out into a plain old text file without the tags.

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For now (until I really figure out what I want to do) I will stop there. I am simply placing this text file in the directory with the original unaltered scans. Python can easily handle and manipulate this data, and export it Excel and even format in Excel once it is there. If I come up with something I really like, I might take this 5 lines of code and turn it into something more sophisticated.

If you already use this App, and know what you would like the output to be formatted like, let me know and I could code it up. Or, if you came up with something that you like, please let me know as well.

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First Roll

I am excited and not excited to share a couple pictures off the first roll of film from the Hasselblad. Excited because everything seems to be in working order. I had complete trust in the guy I bought the camera from, and it had been resorted to factory specs, cleaned, lubed and adjusted and was ready to go. Still, I didn’t want to invest a bunch of time taking pictures to find out the dark slide was leaking light or the magazine wasn’t winding properly, or anything like that.

So, that is the good news. That bad news is, that like I said, I didn’t want to invest that much time in taking photos, only to find out something was wrong. I made focusing errors, the light on my portraits is just kind of “blah”, etc.

The portraits more or less went like this….”Its cold out, I want to test out this camera and lens, this is the least ugly spot in the back yard, so let’s snap a picture real quick.” I knew the lighting was good, I knew my focusing could have been more precise (and I was right….I was a little off), but I still have a successful first roll!

I will quit the talking and just show you.

Camera: Hasselblad 503cx
Film: Kodak Tmax 400
Lens, aperture and shutter speed: See specific photo

My daughter. 80mm CF T* lens. F/2.8 @ 1/500

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My oldest son. Planar 150mm CF T*. F/4 @ 1/250.

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The lanterns on the back porch caught my eye, so I figured I would burn up a photo on them to get a roll done. 80mm CF T*. F/2.8 @ 1/60.

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I had these developed and scanned at North Coast Photo. I am not sure how I feel about the scans. I got their enhanced scans, but I think I will try someone else for the next ones, just for comparison. Either way, I have the ultimate original (the film), but there really isn’t anything here interesting enough to justify a “real” scan or print.

I have some Portra loaded at the moment. Hopefully I can spend a little more time on the next photos. I would prefer to be outside, but it is SO cold!!!

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Influence for Moving to Film

I am slowly getting to learn some new things with my film camera. It is a fun learning experience. If I were in the midst of taking photos for money, it would be a bit daunting. But, since I am going taking photos for myself again (instead of for money), I am more than comfortable with the learning process taking some time.

I didn’t just wake up one day and say “Hey, a film camera is the way to go.” So, I thought I would share a little bit of my thought process that got me there.

First off, when I owned my own studio, and really started to make money, it was right on the edge of choosing medium format film, versus going digitial. Everyone was going digital, and that was the way I went. But, I also had some very convicting argument for shooting film from the owner of a very large studio. He was shooting a Mamiya (I don’t even remember the model), sending his film to the lab, having scans sent back to him and working from those. Keep in mind that this was a professional lab doing scans, not the camera shop around the corner (which in my experience produces rather poor scans).

His argument was one of workflow. In portrait work, work needs to be done before final photos. Whether it is skin softening, stray hair removal, or blemish correction. His argument is that “If I am not shooting, I am not making money.” With digital, you would have to copy files, convert raw files, do your touch ups, and crops to produce your final photo. He personally did not want to sit in front of the tube, and wanted to continue shooting. So, he sent his film out, and his scans came back color corrected, cropped and ready for proofs. Now, not everyone blemish corrects proofs, only orders. Everyone is different. But, when he got an order, the lab still had his scans, could do the corrections, and deliver his final prints. It is just a matter of who is doing the work. Do you want to sit in front of the tube and make corrections? Pay your own employees to do it? Or pay someone else to do it while you continue taking more photos?

I think that is a business decision that everyone would have to make for themselves. I am not saying I agree or disagree, but the idea is intriguing, and it certainly made me think. At my point in business, I didn’t have the volume to justify paying someone else. Meaning, I had more time than money to throw at other people. I chose to do the work myself. I am glad, because I learned a lot, but I have to admit I always had a longing for film.

If I had to chose a film camera at that point, I would have bought the same Mamiya, just simply based on cost. A part of me still always longed after the Hasselblad. Maybe it is logical, maybe it is not, but I just drooled over them when I saw them. At that time, they were so ridiculously expensive, it was not even close to an option. And honestly, it would have probably frustrated me with level at I was at at the time.

Now, I am just doing photography for whatever reason I want. Nobody is paying me, so nobody can tell me what to do 🙂 Just for me.

I was at a friends house, who is a sculptor, and also a film fan. He had a cabinet full of film cameras including a Hasselblad 500 C/M. I asked to handle it, and he mentioned that with everyone digital, they are extremely affordable these days. That lead me through a lot of internet research. In that research, I can across these things that I think someone else might find interesting.

This film was produced my Indie Film Lab. By embedding it, I do not claim to take any credit. I just find that content is more likely to be viewed if it is embedded, and not linked. Visit Indie Film Lab for more info.

Basically, a lot of the guys say the same thing. Just different people with similar experiences. The points that I generally take away are:

1) It forces you to slow down. Think more about what you are doing and being more selective.

2) Keeps you in the moment. Stops you from chimping. Keeps you interacting with your subject. I compare this to a bunch of adults hanging out together, and all of them on their smartphones. Instead of interacting with each other, they are all checking what everyone else is up to on Facebook. Film is like taking away the smartphone from people.

Another article that I found interesting was over at Visual Science Lab. I don’t always agree with everything I will provide a link for. I am just saying that I thought there were some interesting points in that article.

That is all for now. Since this switchback to film is going to be a learning process for me, I hope to take you along for the ride. The good, the bad, the ridiculous. The things that work well, and the things that fail miserably. Hopefully it will inspire or encourage some else along the way. If not, maybe you will at least get a laugh at the fumbles 🙂

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Links

If you are interesting in know what I like to read about, and the things I think about, I added some links in the right sidebar.

This is the stuff that I can’t get enough of. If the links have a blog, I check in regularly. If they have a book, or multiple books, more than likely I have read them or about to buy their book. If they have a podcast (in the case of the Pen Addict) I listen to it regularly.

This is the stuff that is really important to me. Casually viewed stuff did not make it there.

I am sure the list would grow. These are just the ones I could think of off the top of my head. As I do my checking in during my regular course of reading, I will add more.

If you are interested, check them out.

Brian

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Cursive Logic Kickstarter – I’m in!!!

I recently found out about the Cursive Logic Kickstarter. As one of my favorite writing styles, I was interested in learning more.

Our school system is still teaching cursive. My oldest in now in middle school. He learned cursive in elementary but now with classes on specific subjects I am not aware of anywhere that he has to use it. I don’t see it in any of his school work.

I asked my next youngest if she is learning cursive. She said “Yes.” I asked if she uses it and she “no, because it is hard.” That is enough for me 🙂

Luckily, I had enough time to still get in on this and I paid for a Partner level backer. If it is something that you are interested in, there are still a couple of days left, and the project became funded in the last day or so.

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Is This What it is All About?

This week, my kids have a week off from school for their “mid-winter break.” Other than being sick of the long winter, I am not sure of the purpose of this break. I know it is something that we never used to get as kids. Regardless of “why” the kids don’t have school this week, it still leaves my wife and I with the decision of what to do during this week. Our options include:

1) I just continue to work as normal, and let the kids drive my wife nuts 🙂 It is not like it is when they are off in the summer where they can go to the beach, the zoo, historic villages, or just have them play outside. Our high temperature lately has been in the single digits and lows below zero. Even the diehards are not outside at the moment and even running errands is not fun. Doesn’t seem like the best option.

2) Go someplace warm! We would all love to do this. Unfortunately the cost of flying the whole family somewhere is insanely expensive and driving to warm weather would take at least two days. Four days of driving in a week long vacation just doesn’t seem fun. Especially with a bunch of kids asking “Are we there yet.” 🙂

3) Somewhere indoors, that is not too far, and will keep the kids entertained. So, as usual this time of year, we took the kids to an indoor waterpark for a couple of days.

If you have even made it is far, you are probably wondering why I am even writing about this. At the beginning of every vacation like this, I am overwhelmed by a very odd feeling that I wonder if other people have as well. It is basically “Is this what it is all about?” Yes, a deep question about life.

I mean, during an average work week, what I have the least of, is time. Work, Dinner, dishes, kid’s events and not to mention the dreaded homework. I haven’t even mentioned the things that I would like to do. Yet, at the first moment of getting some free time (vacation) we pay a lot of money, drive a fair distance, just to be entertained and to focus on not having to do anything. I have always been amazed at the extent that people go to do “nothing” or at least in my mind, do stuff that is not all that meaningful.

That is always my initial feeling, which is why I am writing about it. But, it usually does not take that long for me to change my tune. Why? Because we (the family) are spending time together. I get the chance to interact with everyone and yet each person individually. I get to have “moments” with each family member that quickly reminds me that, yeah…..this IS worth it.

While at first glance it may seem odd floating on a tube in a man-made channel of chlorine water as a way to spend free time, I wouldn’t give up the family moments we get to have for anything.

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