About the photographs. . .

Unless I specify otherwise, I've taken all the pictures, written all the text and done all the repair work in each of the articles.

I give the photos a quick trip through Adobe Photoshop and/or ImageReady to squeeze them into JPEGs from 12K to 75K each. I'm trying to keep down the number of photos per page so you don't go crazy waiting for them to load. I use thumbnail photo links for the Museum section and for some articles which have a lot of photographs.

During the first year, starting in late February 1998, I placed almost 2,000 photographs on FRETS.COM. I took all those pictures with my Sony Handycam video camera, which I plugged directly into my Macintosh. There, I selected and captured single frames at 640x480 pixels. After reducing them to 360 pixels wide, sharpening and compressing them, I found they worked as Web illustrations. Cropping didn't work out at that resolution. You can easily spot the ones I did crop by their characteristic out of focus, over enlarged appearance. For the next year and a half, I used a Sony Mavica FD-91, which gave me much greater detail. Later I graduated to a Sony Mavica CD-1000 digital camera, and the 1600 x 1200 pixel images are larger and cleaner yet.

I chose the Sony Mavicas because of their SLR-like controls and the great zoom, but even more for one specific feature. I used to say, "As a photographer, I'm no great shakes," until I figured out that shakes were actually the problem! This Sony and its predecessor are (I think) the only consumer digital cameras ever produced with the same image stabilization common in video cameras. What that meant for me is that I could take hand held photos in most situations without blurring!

As of August, 2002, I've made the leap to a real "prosumer" Digital SLR camera. It's a Canon D-60, 6 megapixel camera capable of some really great photos. Most of the time I use a 28-135 zoom lens that has that same image stabilization built in. Because the image sensor is smaller than the plane of 35 millimeter film, there's a conversion factor so the effective focal length is closer to 45-200. I also use a 100 mm (effective 160 mm) macro lens for those super close ups. Next for me will be a 45 mm tilt/shift lens so I can shoot down the full length of fingerboards, and tricky things like that.

I shrink most of photos to around 450 pixels wide, except for the thumbnail article shots and the archival ones such as the Museum pictures, which I post with much less JPEG compression to keep the colors looking better. These are larger, and I try to keep them to 570 pixels wide because of varying monitor sizes. These pictures run anywhere from 75K to 225K, with most of them less than 125K. Download can be slow, so the CD-ROM comes in handy for viewing these pictures.

I'm taking the museum photos with a very modest little studio setup:

The background is a piece of "seamless" gray paper from the local photo store. I made up the lighting myself. I'm using those twisty fluorescent bulbs that replace regular 100 watt incandescents. I think each is rated at 26 watts, and supposedly gives the same illumination as a 100 watt incandescent. Standing on each side is a bank of ten of these, shrouded with aluminum foil lined cardboard. Overhead, there are twenty more. All the lights have diffuser sheets in front, as you can see. With this amount of firepower, I can hand-hold photos at 1/30th and about F 5.6 or so, with ISO set at 200. I'm getting some fine shots these days.

Click for more about my photo studio.

At the workbench, I hand-hold the camera, or I use this really great little support:

It's a Bogen Manfrotto Magic Arm, and it works perfectly for my process photos. I have no tripod to mess with, and it adjusts quickly. The central handwheel tightens the swivel joint in the center AND ball joints at both ends for infinite adjustments on the fly. I can stick the end of the arm into any number of 1/2" holes I have drilled at the edges of my bench.


Thanks for visiting FRETS.COM

Frank Ford, 5/5/03

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