Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Winter Storms, Mat Cutters, and Other Updates

We've had some incredible snowfalls here in Michigan these first couple months of 2005. A week ago (the day before my last post) I witnessed something amazing. I was at my desk working on some photos when I heard a rumble. I thought to myself "that doesn't sound like a plane" so I ran to the window and opened it up. I thought I heard thunder rumbling off, but I figured "thunder and snow...can't be". About 30 minutes later, sitting in my living room I saw the greatest flash of light followed by a roar of thunder. Well, it seems I witnessed what is known as Thunder Snow. The was a first-in-my-lifetime experience (and everyone I asked said the same thing). It only made me wish I has been lucky enough to capture some sort of picture of the lightning in a snow storm. I did some looking around and it seems to be a rare enough event, as I couldn't find a single photograph of it anywhere. If you know of any lucky photos of such an event, I'd love to see them.

A few days later we had another snowfall. I didn't have a whole lot of time to photograph, but I figured I'd break out my extension tubes and give them a try during my lunch hour. I shot the following:

The above photo was shot with the kit lens at 52mm using one of the ProOptics extension tubes (I think I had the 13mm tube on at that point) and my Sigma 500 flash set in manual mode...I think I had it at 1/8 power. I must say I am quite pleased with the Sigma flash and ProOptics tubes (for the little bit of work I've done with them). I've yet to try the tubes on my 70-300mm APO Super Macro II lens to see just how close they let me get. We just got another snow storm today and are expecting even more snow all week. What a winter. In the next few days I'd like to make a better attempt to get out and shoot a few more snow pics, possibly some snow macros like the one above (ones which show off the texture of the snowflakes).

Last update, I said I would be committing myself to having a business plan finished by Monday (yesterday). Well....I'm happy to say I got it done. After looking around and doing some research on business plans, I must say I was quite overwhelmed by the amount of data that goes into one of those things. The samples I saw were often in the range of 30-50 pages and included all sorts of data that wasn't necessarily applicable to the sort of conditions I would be operating under. So I really started picking the plans apart and figuring out the relevant sections. I then outlined what points I wanted to cover in each section. Finally I started typing up the plan, starting with an outline and filling in the blanks (and rearranging in the process). I ended up with slightly over 5 pages of details. In all, I think it was a very valuable process. As I began I really found myself saying "what's the point of me even filling in this item" over and over again. But once it started coming together and I had all of these minute details together in one place, I started to realize how this document could end up being valuable to me.

Finally, my other news from last week was that I purchased a mat cutter. I did a lot of looking, and the Logan 450 seemed to be very highly recommended, so I went and picked one up. I found a good sale and walked out the door with one for $102 brand new. I also picked up 2 different sheets of mat board. I cut a few mats and realized "hey, this is quite easy". I was so pleased with how well it worked that I decided I was definitely going to cut all of my mats this way. I went up to the store a couple more times and bought a bunch more mats. I also tried my hand at cutting out a 7 picture, dual layered collage mat. I didn't do too bad for my first time around, but it was a bit slow going and I was just a little sloppy with the cuts. Hopefully both of those will improve my next couple of times around.

In spite of how well the Logan 450 worked, there were a few downsides. First was the difficulty in squaring up 40" mat board. You have this 40" long side, but the perpendicular bar you are squaring it against is only a couple inches long. It was hard to get very accurate there. I found I was just better off marking the mat board and eyeballing it to line up in the cutting grove. I also found that the 4 or 5 inch max border size you can cut (if you want to use the parallel bar) was a bit small for doing collages. I had to forgo the bar and (once again) eyeball the line into position.

Both of these problems would be solved with a better model (like the 750), which has a long squaring bar as well as an optional extension board for cutting larger borders. Unfortunately that model would have ended up costing me twice as much, plus another $100 or so for the extension board. Instead, I'm looking into ways that I can rig up the 450 on my own to provide both of those features for a cost of only about $20-$30. I'll post back once I figure out exactly how I want to do it.

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