Sunday, September 22, 2013

Why My Ten Year Old Digital Camera is BETTER Than My New iPhone

So why does my iPhone suck? This is a brand new iPhone... oh wait. It's an iPhone 4. So, part of it is that the iPhone 4 isn't that new to the rest of the world. Sure is new to me though. The iPhone4 is only a 5MP camera.  But wait, the first photo here was shot with my 10yr old Olympus C-5050Z camera... which was a 5MP camera. Pre-DSLR days. The only reason I never sold this camera is that for macro work, it is still top notch. It has great glass! And best of all, the way it renders flesh tones is second to none. Even my Nikons aren't able to render colors as faithfully as this ancient Olympus. As for my iPhone, it isn't even a contender (as we'll see.)

Here's the first image I shot immediately after the one above. This one was shot with the iPhone 4. Hmmm. Selective focus wasn't cooperating. Or maybe it was just being more selective. 

So here are some "serious" side by side comparisons. Mind you, the iPhone is BRAND SPANKING NEW, high tech, straight out of the box, no tinkering, no special filters. The Olympus is ancient, seriously broken in, and downright archaic in the digital camera world.

So would I ever choose to shoot with my iPhone as my camera of choice? Sure, you betcha. In good light, with still, non-moving subjects, IN GOOD non-contrasty light, where high quality image fidelity isn't that important... absolutely. I tend to think of the iphone as a great way to sketch out an idea. Quick and dirty. Then I can review the image, figure out what I like, what didn't work and then go back in and redo it with my camera of choice.

These are some thoughts in closing:

"The best camera is the one you have with you"... and sometimes takes really shitty photos.

Know why your iphone takes bad photos? Because it is a phone. Yup. Your old cordless phone took terrible photos too. They are still developing.

"Newer tech always beats old tech",... unless that old tech was good.

Now, if you're still reading this, and I doubt anyone is at this point, there was a wonderful write up in another blog comparing all the different iPhone and iPad cameras. Yep, someone did their homework. If you want side by side, apples to Apples comparison, don't look at me... look at this other blog. And enjoy!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Craftsmanship That Goes Into the Schooner, "The When and If"

When I first began photographing the restoration of "the When and If" last October, I had so many assumptions about what craftsmanship meant in terms of boat building. Nearly a year later, I am continually amazed by what it takes to restore a schooner of this caliber. When I was observing back in October of 2012, as they removed the plugs that covered the bronze screws that held the planking on, I assumed that an impact drive or cordless drill would be the preferred weapon of choice. As I came to understand the nature of restoration and also the issues surrounding boat building, I came to realize the value of hand tools and creative problem solving. 

I had no idea that a manganese bronze screw was so fragile that in most of these hardwoods, the head will just shear off if too much torque is applied. These woods are tough! Removing a screw that has lost its head is no small matter. Watching the gentlemen working on this boat using bit braces to drive these expensive screws is a lesson in patience. So many ways to mess up, and that is just driving a screw!

There are precious few straight lines on a boat. Out of the water, nothing is ever truly level. All of the compound curves, the math to make these angles and curves fit together... the sheer volume of wood that it takes to get one board to fit where the old one had rotted away... is mind boggling! 

On my last visit to Cayuga Wooden Boatworks in the town of Cayuga, I made an off-hand joke about how many stores had run out of clamps to sell since this project began. I kid you not, there are piles and piles of clamps of all sizes, shapes and styles. So many are in use at any given moment! Things are constantly being fitted, removed, more material planed away, then refitted, cleaned, glued, and finally screwed back into place.

If you note the blue painter's tape on the board above. It is there to make it easier to clean up the adhesive being used to join both boards. In most construction, that little squeeze out of glue is no big deal. On this schooner, it is critical that every little bit be impeccable. That glue line will be cleaned up, scraped down to bare wood, completely, before the next board is laid in place next to it. That is serious craftsmanship!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Looking at the Bottom of "The When and If"

One of the things I struggle with, as I am taking photographs of this restoration, is: how to convey scale? This is a big schooner. Over 60 feet long. The scale in the photographs is hard to reconcile... until you start to see people for scale. In this series of images, there are no people, so the scale is mainly determined by texture. Considering that this boat has spent the better part of 75 years in the water, one of the things that happens as it starts to dry out is that the wood begins to shrink. Seeing some of those cracks opening up is wild! Once repairs are finished and the hull is painted, as soon as it is back in the water it will swell up nice and tight.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Incredible Work Being Done on the When and If

It has been over a month since I was last up to photograph the When and If at Cayuga Wooden Boatworks. The deck is nearly complete. The work in the transom was waiting for a few key pieces to be placed... which just happened to be going on while I was there. Seeing the final fitting, gluing and clamping of many weeks of work was intimidating. So much of this was handwork at this point. Lots of small measurements, chalk marks, rubbings and feeling for irregularities with bare hands. Amazing craftsmanship!

What this image struggles to convey is that in addition to some very complicated compound curves, this board is curved in three dimensions and is also keyed to fit into vertical uprights that radiate... so that they are not parallel to each other in the same plane. Thinking around a curve is tough, but compound curves like this give my geometrically challenged brain a headache.

This was a brief introduction to how measurements were transferred from the template to the finished board. These templates littered the deck this month. Every single board was cut to fit is a very specific way. The joints were fitted so impeccably... just awe inspiring. After all that work, most of the aft section in the transom, below decks will be hidden from view. From what I understand, much of it will be used for storage of flotation devices. All of that beautiful wood has been painted grey, effectively hidden until the next major restoration fifty years from now.

Monday, September 2, 2013

New Woodfired Pottery from Julie Crosby

I have a soft spot in my heart for woodfired pots. Part of it is the incredible amount of work that goes into firing the wares. Part of it is the color and texture than only fire can impart. I think part of it might also be the perseverance that is required, given the huge toll that woodfiring exacts as a tax with each and every firing.  A woodfiring potter's kiln is as much a tool as their wet clay tools and their wheel. These pots from Julie's latest firing speak volumes of how far she has come with her kiln over the past few years. It also makes me excited to see what the next firing holds!