Saturday, February 14, 2009

Framing Prints and Battling Gnrrr

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

Yesterday’s job was matting and framing prints. Since I got only half the prints framed, it’s also today’s job. This brings up another one of those scientific mysteries that some smarty-pants needs to solve. I don’t think I should stick my neck out, having already come up with the theory that deadlines are surrounded by magnetic fields. I was personally dealing with a phenomenon that many of us have experienced. Just as you wrap up a task and are about to pat yourself on the back, you realize that completing that deadline left a vacuum and two brand new deadlines have magically appeared, rushing in to fill that space. Thus, instead of having one less deadline, you have two new deadlines.

Anyway, now I am wrestling with the gnrrr phenomenon—those dust specks and tiny pieces of lint that show up when you are framing a print. Why is it that no matter how much time you spend cleaning the glass for that frame and checking the matte, once you have the matte firmly in place and turn the frame over, specks of gnrrr will have appeared between the glass and the matte. Perhaps the most maddening aspect of this dastardly behavior is that the specks will be drawn to the matte more so than the print. Why? Simple. If the little devils appeared on the print, it’s conceivable that they might not be a problem. Perhaps the speck would disappear in the branches of a tree, or in the grass near the bottom of the print, or the folds of the person’s clothing, fur of an animal. Need I go on? The point is that there are likely to be dozens of places on that print where a fleck of gnrrr could lie unnoticed and remain benign. But, no. That speck will hightail it for the biggest, whitest area under that glass—right smack in the middle of a portion of the matte. Then it sits there and mocks you. “Peek-a-boo! Bet you didn’t see me!”

The most disturbing aspect of this behavior comes clear when you contemplate the ramifications of starting over to get rid of the gnrrr and the (horrors) dire risk at which you place yourself when you must begin over again. For example, the backing board that didn’t want to fit in the frame to begin with, now doesn’t want to budge. It must cajoled, threatened, and pried loose from its death grip. Furthermore, the edges of budget glass are sharp (anyone not on a budget can’t possibly relate to these questions and should retire immediately to drink a very expensive latte, or scotch, or whatever you squander money on these days and just let the rest of us whine in peace, while you browse expensive catalogs and order more toys.) Sharp glass is dangerous to work with and heaven forbid that you get blood all over everything. As if these issues weren’t enough to drive you mad, have you ever noticed how white mattes love leaping from your hand (while you are juggling frame, glass, and matte) to perform a double flip, then land on one corner. (While this is undeniably an amazing sight to behold, it holds the potential for sending you back to the beginning of the entire process. I had a personal experience with this yesterday and was incredibly lucky. The only injury to the fabulous flying matte was a small ding on the landing point that was deftly covered by the frame. This was most certainly not the intent of the matte. Of that I am sure. But, it was a lucky break for me.)

There is another rather striking fact about the behavior of gnrr, indeed all the elements of the framing process. The larger the print, the more glass with sharp edges, and the more certain one can be that there will be a gnrrr attacks. I have matted and framed 5x7 and 8x10, even 11x14 prints with relatively few incidents. Of course wrestling with frames sized for those prints is relatively easy. Currently, I am framing 13x19 prints and the attacks have increased exponentially.

At any rate, I will be back at it today—risking life, limb, and sanity as I go on gnrrr patrol. Maybe I’ll buy a lotto ticket after all and, if I win, I’ll have someone else do the matting and framing next time. In the meantime, pass the latte, please. I need it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Promotion on a Budget

Yesterday, I ended up, once again, in graphics mode. The note cards that I put together weeks ago had long ago arrived and had been duly celebrated as a new tool in the promotional kit. Then, the Husband’s new business cards and postcards were delivered a couple of days ago. However, while I was still exhaling with relief over the cards (the color and trim passed muster—no yellow-green skin, although the jpg above is a tad disturbing); the horse was still gray; and no pink tint to the farrier’s leather apron), we began re-examining another tool.

We had put together a discount certificate that we were sending to clients along with a thank you note. The certificate allows the client to pass a gift on to a friend. Of course, you may already be thinking, “Gift certificate? Isn’t that hopelessly outmoded? Shouldn’t you be talking about a gift card?” And, you would be sooooo right. Sigh. Sometimes old dogs must learn new tricks. Still, there was another complication: The Husband’s Farrier business doesn’t yet support a budget that would cover the printing costs for plastic gift cards—the skimpy promotional budget was already straining.

Thus, my all too brief period of basking in the successful execution of another assignment (design a more upscale business card to follow the first one) came to a halt, and I embarked on the Gift-Card-on-a-budget project. What I eventually put together (a business card printed on a home printer, then laminated) certainly doesn’t measure up to the sophistication of that gift card you get from Barnes and Noble or Starbucks, but they are a distinct improvement over what we were using. Most importantly, we moved from the past (the certificate) to the present—or closer anyway, and the card does have a plastic feel. Should that be considered good? Yechh. I never liked the touch of plastic. Oh, well. Old dog, etc.

Fortunately, no one expects someone in the farrier business (unless that farrier is also in the retail business, marketing specialized products) to have high-concept and slick promotional tools. While there have been some remarkable advances in the farrier’s craft over recent decades, it is, after all, a business that hinges primarily on some fairly old-fashioned skills. The basic requirements for a good farrier include a strong back (as well as arms and legs) along with the willingness to pursue an in-depth study of equine hoof, bone, and muscle structure. Just as important is a great deal of horse-sense, as well as a tolerance for cantankerous animals who just naturally don’t want to have one foot hoisted up in the air, so some guy can trim and rasp much less pound nails into that horn. Horses have a strong preference for keeping all four feet on the ground, and some aren’t bashful about expressing that preference.

Fortunately, we don’t really need a Nike-level promotional campaign to keep The Husband in competition— just some clean and clear ways to stay in touch with current clients, while adding a few new ones as we go along. So far, progress on all fronts is slower than we would prefer, but certain.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rainbows and Fruit Trees

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

There’s more to the story of last week’s trip to Bakersfield. On the way home—as we left the downpour behind us, we were treated to the most spectacular rainbow either of us had ever seen. This one was significantly bigger than any I had seen including the amazing ones we witnessed in Hawaii many years ago. Furthermore, the colors were particularly intense. It was an unforgettable sight and I don’t expect to see one that rivals it for years to come. I wish that I could have been in a spot and had a sufficiently wide angle lens to show its full glory. The shot above is a reminder for me.

The rainbow and the amazing light that accompanied it, did ultimately tempt The Husband to exit off the freeway for a brief detour. We both needed to escape the traffic and stop, so we could put our full attention on the vision. One thing led to another and, after soaking up the rainbow for a time, we crossed under the freeway on the road to the south side of the 58. The sights there, bathed in that luminous light, provided still more treats.

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Drive-By Photography on the 58

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

Last Friday, The Husband had to drive to Bakersfield to pick up an attachment for the tractor and I decided to tag along. Because he needed the trailer to pick up the beast he was buying, I knew that it wouldn’t be all fun and games. Hauling the trailer meant that pulling off the road wouldn’t be easy and I knew that The Husband wouldn’t be keen on taking any detours that might take us to a spot where it would be near impossible to back up and turn around. This would be strictly business.

Still, I thought it would be a good opportunity to spend some time catching up with him, and I always enjoy the drive on Highway 58 from Tehachapi to Bakersfield. I even enjoy seeing Bakersfield, occasionally. It’s not inspiring, but it’s vastly different from my surroundings and it’s the biggest city near us. I thought that I could use the change in scenery. That’s one of the true joys of my new life style. For decades, the idea of simply playing hooky just for the heck of it, was a subject calling for serious soul searching. Now, I can be irresponsible on a whim and without feeling guilty.

Since we have been surrounded by rain storms for the past several days, we weren’t surprised by the rain we drove through. But before the clouds opened, I had fun practicing my drive-by photography shooting scenes along the way. I can’t resist that type of shooting even though the return is quite small.

As I was firing away, I thought a bit about why that type of shooting appeals to me. I think the main draw is that I like the challenge of framing on the fly. The other reason that I don’t attempt to resist is that every so often I get a shot that I like, and those always seem like freebies. After all, I was shooting with nothing more in mind than sharpening my seeing skills, not really expecting keepers. Anything I like, then, is a pleasant surprise. Yes, it’s almost always true that even what qualifies as a drive-by keeper would have been better, if I had more time to do the job correctly. But, those shots are usually taken in spots where it would be impossible to pull over, unless we were willing to set off a multi-car pileup. Whlie they aren’t the shots that I would put in a portfolio representing my work, I always learn from them. Sometimes I enjoy them enough to process them and look at them more than once or twice.

Heck, I even shot through the windshield while it was raining. As long as the shutter button fires, I can't resist shooting. I have no will power when it comes to photography.