Ullswater evening

Richard and I went strolling along the shores of Ullwater last saturday night, after our first (fruitless) day exhibiting at the Cumbria Photography Show at the Rheged Centre. The weather was beautiful, which was no doubt partly to blame for the poor attendance at the show. Who wants to be indoors in such weather when you have scenery like this to enjoy?

Anyway, these are all hand-held using the Olympus OMD-EM10 and taken at the northern end of the lake, near Pooley Bridge.

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Taking card payments – my iZettle first experience

I’ve got an iZettle machine.

I thought it was about time Richard and I could take card payments as well as cash when we show our photographs at markets and exhibitions. I’d always assumed this would be difficult and expensive, way too much for an impoverished struggling artist, but I bought some artisan-baked bread recently from a hipster with a stall at the train station and I didn’t have any money. He said he took cards. He had this little blue gadget that plugged into his phone. That’s clever. It’s an iZettle reader, he told me when I quizzed him.

I then heard about a PayPal equivalent, which I looked into, but I didn’t like the sound of PayPal. They’re big and scary and lock you in. I found some comparison reviews and iZettle got the vote. I signed up and ordered the iZettle Reader Lite. This is about £30, or completely free if you register as a business instead of an individual. This is an option you get during sign-up. It doesn’t explain what the difference is. I can’t imagine why an individual would want a card payment solution unless they were running a business. Anyway, I signed up as a business (“Sole Trader”) so the reader comes free.

The registration process is quick and easy. I even thought I’d made a mistake and emailed them for help and got a fairly quick reply from a real person, so that’s good. The account model is simple and not scary like PayPal’s. They take the payment, then pay the money to your bank account after a couple of days. You just give them your bank details. I like the straightforwardness of it.

I also had to buy a new smartphone. My old phone wasn’t at all smart and Joy’s old smartphone wasn’t recent enough to work (you need an iPhone or an Android phone with at least Android 4.something). They have a list of compatible models on their site. I took a risk and bought a model that wasn’t listed as compatible but they have so many Samsung models tested I thought a brand new Samsung Galaxy A3 would be good enough. That cost me £150, not cheap. The Lite card reader connects via a headphone socket, while the more expensive iZettle readers use Bluetooth.

The new phone arrived next day, the card reader the day after. The reader is small and neat and surprisingly weighty, though not inconveniently. It’s also refreshingly simple. It has a a numeric keypad and slots for card reading or swiping and that’s it. No on/off switch, no screen. I like it. It’s simplicity is reassuring.

I plug it in to charge and immediately connect it to the phone, on which I had downloaded the iZettle app. The app had worked first try and was very simple. It didn’t need any configuring or any kind of fiddling with, it just worked. As soon as you plug the reader in to the headphone socket the app can see it.

The first question was how to test it? The help documentation doesn’t say anything about this. I could have tried paying myself from my own debit card but didn’t. So the first real test was at the market the next day.

Finally, we make a sale and the customer wants to pay by card. Turn the phone on, run the app, plug in the reader. Enter the sale amount and press the “pay by card” button on the app. Hand the reader to the customer, she puts her card in and enters her pin. After a short wait, no more than usual, the payment is confirmed. All perfectly easy and fuss free. It also lets the customer put in an email address and they’ll get a receipt emailed to them. Note, when you look at this on your account later you can’t see the customer’s full email address, which I think is a good thing privacy-wise for the customer. You don’t really have any business knowing this, it isn’t an excuse to harvest email addresses for your own spamming purposes.

A few days later and the payment is in my bank, minus the 2.75% charge that iZettle take.

You get a nice view of your account on their web site, showing useful information about the transactions (including geo-tracking them).

All in all, simple, fuss-free, worked perfectly. Whether it will increase sales is hard to say but we’re planning to do some shows where there isn’t a handy cash machine round the corner, so an absolute necessity for those, I think.

Getting ready – Cumbria Photography Show

I’ll be at the Cumbria Photography Show this weekend, with a specially selected set of pictures focussing on mountains but especially Cumbrian mountains.

I’ve done some printing and mounting of shots I haven’t shown before. Getting stock ready for exhibition is, without doubt, the hardest and most tedious part of the job. I’ve spent about six hours in preparation today and what I’ve done is:

  • Added hanging wire to four frames
  • Mounted and wrapped four medium-size prints
  • Printed three small prints

…and that’s it. In six hours. I’m sure some people must be more productive than that. There is better mounting equipment I could buy that would make things faster but I have to sell a lot more before I can invest any more. Here are some pictures of the process.

I start with full size sheets of mount or backing board. These are too big for my small mounting machine so at this size I have to do the first cuts by hand with a ruler that isn’t big enough for the job. Note the piece of gear every printmaker needs – a very large sheet of cardboard as a sacrificial piece underneath. Also note the table isn’t big enough for the full cut either. See why I’d like to invest in more equipment?

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Cutting a full size sheet of backing board

With the backing board and the window mount cut (using the mounting machine) you place the print and attach to the back with T hinges.

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Attach print with T-hinges

Then add double sided tape which will hold the window mount to the backing board. Some (most) people use a single piece of tape to hinge these two together, making it easier to access the print. I like my method as it makes for a much sturdier product that will stand a lot of handling.

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Add double sided tape to three sides

Here are some special custom-made mounting tools. A nice heavy paperweight and a Tokina 70-200mm lens, in Pentax A-mount, wrapped in a sock as a second paperweight.

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Special tools

I sign the print in the margin and add the title, using a pencil (an “H” pencil) for this kind of matte paper. I also put a white label on the back with extra information. People looking through prints in the print browsers usually turn them over to see what’s on the back, so this label gives them something to read.

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Prints are signed and titled

Finally, the prints mounted and wrapped in cellophane ready to sell.

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Wrapped and ready to sell

I’m really looking forward to the show. I don’t think I’ll sell much. The audience will be mostly photographers and photographers aren’t likely to buy other people’s photographs, but I think there’ll be some really interesting people to talk to.

Blade Runner

I’ve just been watching Ridley Scott’s film of Blade Runner. The photography and production design are incredible. Sometimes when you take a photograph you’re just capturing what’s there. I think in Blade Runner they truly create something. The combination of photography, lighting, set and special effects (before this became trivial with CGI) makes unique images. There was a particular shot that caught my imagination of a tiny origami creation seen very close up, almost filling the frame. I thought what a wonderful shot it was and how they’d made such a great photograph of such a quotidian object, mostly using camera angles and lighting.

So, I wondered what would happen if I let myself run wild with Lightroom on a picture I had previously left fallow. The raw image is below:

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The raw file straight out of the camera.

Here is a (not “the”) processed version. I say “a” because I didn’t spend too long on the processing, deliberately. I let myself loose and just tried some effects almost-but-not-quite at random.

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Mostly, this is just using graduated and radial filters to dodge and burn, add some saturation to the flower, and split toning to change the shadow colours (and you really need to see it on a properly calibrated monitor for this, on my laptop screen the colours unfortunately look far too cold). I wanted to go much further than I normally would and see what would happen. I like the result. It isn’t at all realistic in that the light wasn’t anything like that in real life, but it has artistic truth (god, that sounds pretentious!)

I’m not sure I want to be so extreme on most of my landscape shots but there are plenty of shots I take where fuller use of what’s available to me in post-processing could give interesting results.