Cheap and Easy Photography Studio

And I really mean cheap and easy.  OK, not free.   I did have to buy some plastic place mats on Amazon. But I got 12 for $18.00 which leaves plenty left over to use as place mats and as traveling work surfaces for polymer.  That, packing tape and white card  stock which I had (you could use printer paper too) and I was all set.

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I have one of those cloth photo tents like this one  and they are great for taking pictures of vases and bigger items.    But it’s big and unwieldy in my studio and I actually had to watch a video on how to fold it and get it back into its storage bag.    I wanted a smaller photo cube for jewelry and similarly sized items.   I could have bought something, but could not find the size I wanted.  It seems like these things come in two sizes:  tiny and enormous.

That meant making one.  I didn’t want to have to buy special paper.  I didn’t want to have to find the right size box and saw the sides out of it.  When I was finished taking pictures,  I wanted to stow the box in a drawer or on a bookshelf.  So here’s what I came up with:

2Placemat photo setupHere’s the photo setup.  I cut the place mats to size with scissors and used packing tape to make this triptych-like screen.  4open

Here’s the set up with white paper behind the triptych under it.  You can use paper and the other mats to make any kind of configuration you like.  Just tape them together.  You can put the lights anywhere to get the effect you want.  The light I am using here is nothing fancy.  It’s an LED desk lamp I bought at Five Below and it uses three AA batteries which means you can move it anywhere and not be fighting with wires.  You can get something similar on Amazon here.  Don’t pay more than $5.00 per lamp.  They’re great for traveling to which is why I originally bought them.   And don’t think you need to buy  lights if you already have something you can use.

 

So, how do the pictures look?  Let’s see.

Shooting Earrings

Here’s a setup to shoot a pair of bronze clay earrings suspended on a piece of floral wire.

The image on the left is unlit.  I used the lamp on the image on the right.  I didn’t use any photo editing software.

Here are the same images Gimped.  Click on the images a couple of times to view them full size.  Gimp is a free open-source image editor that I have used for years.  It can do anything you want.  Did I mention that it’s free?

3Folded up

This is the photo studio folded up and ready to be put away.  It hardly takes up any room at all.  If you need something bigger,  just tape on another mat or two.  If you want something smaller, cut one down.

Here’s another idea.  The plastic drawers in this storage unit are also made of translucent plastic.  Before I started using the place mats,  I got some pretty good shots using empty drawers. Plastic drawers

1Tassel on box

Here’s a tassel I laid on one of the empty drawers.  You don’t have use a place mat on the drawer like I did; simply turn it over if the underside is free from markings.  You can try putting your small, battery-operated lamps inside or outside the drawer.  Experiment.

 

2Tassel on Box closeup

Here’s a shot of the tassel with some light from the battery-operated lamp.  Not too bad.  One of the great things about these photo setups is that they are small and cheap enough to take outside into the natural light where you should be able to get some pretty good results.  Experiment!  And don’t forget to have fun.

 

 

 

Home Organizing Tips and My Old Camera

I spent today cleaning out old paperwork and files that were taking up precious space in my small home.   I work fast.  I am not one to get sentimental about old tax returns or even the copy of my marriage license that I found buried in a file.  And I didn’t find any pictures to take me back to my (not so) wild youth.  No cat pictures either (except a blurry Polaroid of my Bridge Kitty Pooky sitting by our old rowing machine.  I don’t know why I kept it.)

I have learned some things about home organization in the past few weeks.  Tools, boxes and bags that are supposed to help you stay organized are no good if they have nooks and crannies where things can hide.  That’s why I spent three years wondering where my miter  vise and  the wedge to my ring clamp were hiding.   They were under my nose the whole time, secreted in one of these.  And some things are so big (I tossed this behemoth after I had emptied it) that it’s easer to store  the things they contain in a drawer and have done with it.  Enough of that.

My cleaning out trip down memory lane didn’t stall due to sentimentality  until I stumbled on my first digital camera hidden on a shelf behind some books.  (Fortunately  for me, I was almost finished purging, so the discovery didn’t derail  my good intentions.)

My first digital camera  was a  Fuji Fine Pix 2800   It only had 2 megapixels but it also had 6X optical zoom which was unheard of for a budget camera in those days (2002). And it took beautiful pictures although the files were small and not really suitable for print media.

Here are some of the pictures I found on the huge  Smart Media  cards used with the camera:

 

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GlassBeads

 

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ClaspMakingBeadSwapBarcelona Cat

I took some new pictures of a project I am working out to see if  the camera still functioned:

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I would keep the camera for web-based photography, but I  like the flexibility that larger files give.  So, I will erase all the media cards, find a spare card reader (the big media cards won’t fit into a standard computer slot) and donate the camera to a thrift shop.

 

Bye old friend!

Beyond The Words: Robin Hiteshew’s Portraits of Irish Writers

 

It was 1989 and my friend Robin Hiteshew asked if I wanted to attend a poetry reading by Seamus Heaney at Swarthmore College.  I was familiar enough Heaney’s work to jump at the chance.  Later I got to meet him, but was too shy to do anything but mumble and shake his hand.

 

 

Thirty years later, at the opening of his show, “Portraits of Irish Writers” Robin compared  a photo portrait of Heaney he took during that visit to Swarthmore with one he took almost a decade later in Cambridge where Heaney was teaching at Harvard.  In the first photo,  a slightly disheveled Heaney struck a casual pose under a tree on the Swarthmore campus.  In the second picture, Heaney was wearing a tailored jacket  “Look,” said Robin pointing to the first picture, “his trousers are rolled.  That’s before he won the Nobel prize and the game got more serious.”

Robin Hiteshew has been photographing Irish writers (and musicians) for more than forty years and it has been a labor of love.  His portraits are personal and revealing in a way that is truly beyond the words.   And he has a story to go with each one.

Robin’s new show, “Beyond the Words: Portraits of Irish Writers” will run until June 26 at the McNichol Gallery which is located in the Thomas A. Bruder, Jr. Life Center at  Neumann University. Admission is free.  For directions, press here.

 

Jeweler’s Row

Jeweler’s Row is a Philadelphia treasure the future of which is being threatened by potential unbridled development.   Jeweler’s Row, located on the 700 block of Sansom Street, was not always the seat of the Philadelphia jewelry industry, having been home to the printing and engraving trades before morphing into a jewelry district around the  1880’s.   Many jewelry store proprietors from the Delaware valley and South Jersey made weekly trips to Jeweler’s Row to drop off and collect repair jobs, replenish their stock and to meet with their fellow jewelers to talk business.

A developer sold a brace of buildings to Toll Brothers Builders in 2017 and Toll Brothers got permission to tear down the buildings to erect a high-rise apartment building.  There was plenty of opposition from the neighborhood and community groups but in the end it didn’t matter.

Last week, I got to tour 708 Sansom Street which is one of the buildings slated to be demolished.  It is a cavernous four-story building with tin ceilings and ornate hardware.  As I walked from floor to floor, I could see that the tenants, the majority of whom were manufacturing jewelers,  were in the process of moving their equipment out of the building and finding new space for their businesses and studios.

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I imagine that 708 Sansom Street supported many families over the years and that its tenants were a close-knit bunch.  Now it is like a ghost town.

89101114Most of the former tenants have found new space but it has not been easy.  Many of them have had to relocate away from Sansom Street.  715

While it’s true that the only constant in life is change, and that the face of the jewelry business is changing, there is still room for places like Jeweler’s Row.  These business districts and manufacturing centers still serve a purpose.  But then again, you never really miss something until it’s gone.

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Spring Finally!

It happened while I was at Clayathon.  Dark chilly days and then POW!  I was sneezing and blowing my nose.  The allergy fairy took hold of me and fairly rattled my teeth, even though I usually don’t suffer from Hay Fever, the pollen levels were off the charts!

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Spring has come to Philadelphia and to my neighbor Bob’s sidewalk garden

 

Flowers are popping out all over my part of Philadelphia.  The tree  blossoms are only blooming for a few days before they fall from the tree limbs and collect on the sidewalk.  until then, every walk is glorious Spring.

December January in Philadelphia

The Some pictures I took in December and January during Philadelphia walkabouts.

 

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South Broad Street Townhouse
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Philip’s Restaurant, South Broad Street How many funeral lunches have I attended there?
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Near Broad and Ellsworth
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Near Broad and Ellsworth. Was this a club of some kind?
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Cigar factory converted to condos,  12 and Washington Streets
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Apartment House Steps.  Lombard Street
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Someone took a wrong turn here, 8th and Christian Streets
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Roots mural on South Street East of Broad. Hidden behind a chain link fence.  For a better view, press here.
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Avenue of the Arts, Broad ad Washington Streets
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St. Rita’s Church, South Broad Street. The huge structure dwarfs the buildings near it.
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Beautiful South Broad Street Townhouse.
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I took the next 4 pictures in the vestibule of a South Broad Street townhouse. The house has not been altered inside too much except for the obligatory paneled bar in the basement.

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The floor tiles resemble many of those in Philadelphia City Hall which were made at the Moravian Tile Works and date from the 1890’s

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More Townhouses on South Broad Street, very well preserved and the fronts colorfully painted.
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FMC Tower from the South Street Bridge
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The Liberty Bell one frozen night in December
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From the Rube Goldberg exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Philadelphia. Looks like his prediction came true. Down to the cat.
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I waited until the restroom was empty before taking this picture in the Jewish Museum. Why? I hate answering stupid questions.
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Ghost Bike Memorial, 11th and Spruce Streets. Emily Fredricks was killed on her bike when a trash truck crossed the bike lane without looking. I hope there will be less of a need for these memorials in the future.
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Looking North from Clymer Street roof deck.
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Christmas Day view from the South Street Bridge.
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South Philadelphia yarn bomb.
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Violin Maker 17th and Pine Street

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Haunting in South Philly

This week, I started watching the new Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. I read the book when I was barely into my teens  and it made quite an impression on me.  Later on, I saw a film adaptation, The Haunting, which is one of the scariest movies I have ever seen.  Black and white and not a bit of gore or violence in it.  I wasn’t as fond of the remake which seemed  formulaic, and more funny than scary.

South Philadelphia has some haunted history too, although you won’t find a lot of information on tourist sites.  Serial killer H.H. Holmes met his demise at Moyamensing Prison which is now the site of the Acme Market at 10th and Reed Streets.   I don’t know whether he wanders the store after it closes for the night, nor do I want to know.

On the brighter side, South Philadelphians take any occasion as an excuse to decorate their front windows and Halloween is no exception.  From pumpkin painting festivals to pots of chrysanthemums sprouting up in curbside planters, South Philly is ablaze with the colors of  Autumn this time of year- just in time for Halloween.  Here are some pictures.

 

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This Week

A bunch of pictures from this week

Wind Challenge Matthew
Matthew Borgen

Caught the  Wind Challenge Exhibition at Fleisher Art Memorial

Took pictures of the many mushrooms that have popped up in my neighborhood after last week’s rain.

Flowers are beautiful even when they’re dying

Helped kids paint pumpkins at Palumbo Recreation Center

Some Pottery in Progress

Saw some new (to me) Murals

And met some incredible artists and makers at Philadelphia Open Studio Tours at the Bok Building.  This deserves its own post.  Stay tuned,

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Last week, a reader warned about the application of a  toxic herbicide called glyphosate to wheat crops rendering all but organically grown wheat safe to eat.  I decided to read up on glyphosate.  The Food Babe blog  pointed out the dangers posed by this chemical, citing a report by a group called Food Democracy Now.  (Read the report here.) But the Snopes.Com site argues that the report’s information is false.  I am not a chemist and cannot do my own tests.  I will say that the discussion of the scientific methodology used in the report seems vague, (compare the testing done to determine the link between smoking and lung cancer), but I do not know whether this comes from an intent to deceive,  poor writing, or an editorial decision that the reader would not understand a more thorough discussion of the testing procedures used.    I have not come to a conclusion.  I am presenting this information so readers can draw their own conclusions.    

Boris
Boris does not care about any of this apparently, 

Has Spring Finally Sprung?

It certainly looked like it in my neighborhood.  I took these pictures today on the walk home from the pottery studio.

 

And here’s one of the cacti from Bob’s garden.    I know it looks like a bunch of deflated balloons now, but its cactus pads will be stiff as soldiers come summer.

cactus

 

I have been busy making mugs and  I’ll post a few pictures in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, here are some of my favorite pieces from the Fleisher Student Show.

Pictures of the Week

It’s always fun to post from your cell phone, but a handy option to have. I am under the radar this week but thought I would share some pictures from last week’s Flea Market at the Kimmel Center.