Createspace and print editions.

Createspace. Amazon’s resource for creating, amongst other things, printed editions of books. Even as a fan of the Kindle for publishing I do have to admit to there being a certain thrill to holding a physical book in your hands. We all started reading with print so it speaks to something deep inside to have an actual book you have written in your grip.

So, is Createspace a good idea? Yes, for those of us self-publishing it is a great resource. Sure, most copies of our books out there will be digital but there are always a few people who stick with print and print only. Even though it may only get a few sales that is still new people reading what you’ve written, whioch can only be a good thing.

However, there is one issue – the useability of Createspace. There are a lot of steps in setting up your book, and I do mean a lot of steps. Even if you have already set up your book in Kindle Direct Publishing you cannot just port it across to Createspace. You may have already done all the formatting of the text but Createspace will ask for a PDF of the interior . . . and then it will mess with it a bit so you still have to go through and fix some problems. You may already have a cover but you will still need to upload it again, picking a template that includes the spine and back cover. Why it cannot drag across the interior text and front cover automatically by use of your book’s ASIN, I do not know. Oddly it will let you port everything across to KDP at the end of the process but you cannot do it the other way around.

After much effort, and occasional bad language, I know have all my books set up as print editions as well as digital. This is great but in a couple of days I have the joy of trying to convince Amazon that the print and Kindle editions need to be linked, based on my first experience of doing it this is unlikely to be a fun time!

Instant Photography

What is it about instant photography? Sure, there’s the instant gratification of having your image straightaway, but you get that with digital too. Is it the fact that it is a print rather than just an image on the screen, something physical and somehow more real? Maybe, all I really know for sure is that I love it.

 

Here are a few results from my recent instant photography fun. All are shot with either my Polaroid 340 Land Camera or my Fuji Instax 100, shooting Fuji FP100C and Instax Wide respectively. Any spots, scratches and the like on the images are the result of a tired, old scanner and not the cameras themselves.

 

The Polaroid 340 Land Camera is older than me, they only made them between 1969 and 1971 according to one website I have seen, but fully functional. Not sure I can say the same about me. It was a real bargain – my Mum found it in her loft and gave it to me for free. There’s one picture of me as a baby taken with a Polaroid in one of her family photo albums and I suspect this was the last image taken with it until I got hold of it. Amazingly, the original battery in it was still working!

 

The Instax 100 was, at the time of its release, described as one of the ugliest cameras ever made. Strangely Fujifilm seem to have been happy with this and have tried to make subsequent Instax Wide cameras even uglier! However, I don’t care how it looks – only about the pictures it takes, which are great!

 

I need to spend more time using these two cameras, I can’t help but smile every time I do. Now, if only I could find a place to get the film packs cheap . . .16907828622_38259e9ab1_o 16286706064_d6beb59441_o 16289073673_99cbbb7737_o 16701765307_15f5f89cbd_o 16907823812_d7daece368_o

Serials and collected editions.

Once a serial is finished how long should you wait before listing the collected version? Once the collected edition is up, how long should the serial episodes be up? Should they stay available forever, or be taken down?

 

Honestly, I don’t know. The collected edition of my serial, New Dawns, probably went up way too quickly, but then again it wasn’t like the serial episodes were selling in huge quantities. I’d had them all up together for a few months but decided the other day to take down the individual episodes. Is this the right decision? Who knows, I will have to wait and see.

 

The other question is what to do about The Carters? So far I have published Sovereign Nation and a shorter follow-up called Chasing The Future but I don’t see the third story coming out any time soon, that is if I ever get around to it at all. On it’s own Chasing the future is not attracting a lot of interest so do I just bundle it together with Sovereign Nation? If I do, should that be as a new collected edition or should I revise the text of Sovereign Nation and add it in? This is one I continue to ponder.

When reality interferes with your writing.

As I have said before, I have gone for a complete change in career and I am currently in the middle of a year-long course learning to be an Early Years Teacher. This includes a lot of work at university and a lot of time in a placement at a nursery, along with family and other commitments this means I am pretty much busy six and a half days week and getting up early every day. The long and short of it is, I am exhausted. A consequence of that is I am not writing anything.

 

How do I break out of this? Honestly, I don’t know. At the moment I haven’t really got the energy to think through new story ideas and I definitely don’t seem to have the time to write them. So, what do I do? The answer is simple, I just need to find time. Even if I can’t spend hours at the keyboard every day maybe I can find time to write a hundred words a day or even fifty. Once I get going I know I will get excited about what I am doing and want to come back to it more and more but the difficult bit is starting from the blank page.

 

Maybe doing some promotions on my existing books will help to get me going? Maybe just putting together print editions of my Kindle only books? Either could be worth a try.

Homemade Lenses!

As an obsessive amateur photographer I have a lot of old and broken camera equipment sitting around and doing nothing. I’ve already started using my old SLR lenses on my Samsung NX100 and I started to wonder if there was a way I could make use of the broken equipment, after all I do not have the expertise to repair it properly so why not make use of it.

So I purchased a couple of NX lens mounts from eBay, two for less than a fiver including postage so still on a budget here, and started looking at what I had sitting around. I setled on trying to find a way to use a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm on which the aperture ring had stopped working and the lens from an old Beirette that was bought for me as a gift but on which the film advance mechanism had given up the ghost.

Dismantling the Tessar was pretty straightforward, a few screws undone and the whole thing fell to pieces. Fortunately all the lens elements were held together in a single rigid unit – this also held the aperture itself which could be adjusted by a sliding switch on the side (the internal mechanism that moved it had broken). Getting the lens assembly off the Beirette took a bit more effort and meant the built in shutter wouldn’t fire but I didn’t need that anyway, as long as the lens elements and aperture were ok I was happy.

Firstly the Beirette’s lens, a 45mm Meritar. Using the simple method of holding it in front of the camera while no lens was mounted, I used the image on the screen to guesstimate the size of mount needed. Some superglue, a small M42 macro ring, the lens assemble and the NX mount soon resulted in a new NX mount lens (and some time spent unglueing my fingers).

With the Tessar I decided to try and be a bit more ambitious, I would manufacture my own tilt-shift type of lens – more lensbaby in style that the ludicrously expensive professional products. I’ve seen a few of these online and people generally use flexible rubber hosing to form the lens barrel but I thought that would be too easy and I would try and be clever (always a mistake). One trip to the pound shop later and I had some wire and some black rubberised sticky tape. The plan was to make some wire rings and tape them all together spaced out just right to give me a flexible tube that would hold it’s shape well. Unfortunately the plan was put into practice by me, so I ended up with a slightly wonky, unstable tube that looks awful. I decided to use it anyway, at least I could find out if the idea worked and then I could go get some proper tubing and redo it properly later.

This is what the two lenses looked like:

Meritar_0 Tessar_0

And here are a couple of test shots, taken in Avery Hill Park in Eltham, from a not very sunny day:

 

Meritar

Meritar_2 Meritar_1

 

Tessar

Tessar_1 Tessar_2

 

Check Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/archerctb/) for more examples.

 

Ok, the Meritar doesn’t quite focus to infinity – my guesstimation of the mount was not quite right but it will be fine for close up work and most things except landscapes or very large objects. The Tessa worked remarkably well, definitely worth me putting it into a better tube sometime. Now I need to see what else I can modify like this – new lenses for pennies? That can only be a good addition to my budget photography plan!

 

New use for old glass

You are on a budget so, much though you might love to, you can’t buy all the new lenses you’d like. Sure the new 24mm Sigma lens looks cool but you have enough bank loans already and one for a camera lens might just break you – what do you do? Simple, use old lenses.

Chances are that if you are an obsessive budget photographer you probably already have an old film SLR or rangefinder and a collection of lenses. If not, go out and get one, they can be had very cheap. My own film SLR a is a Zenit 122 with an M42 mount, you can pick up M42 mount cameras for next to nothing and there are hundreds of lenses out there. I’ve got a Hanimex MC Auto 28mm, a Helios 44-4 58mm and a Jupiter 37A 135mm – all very cheap.

Of course the first use you should put all of this kit to is film photography! So go ahead, I’ll wait . . . still shooting? Ok, come back when you are done . . . good to go? Great.

Now for the other use you can put the lenses to, making your digital photography more interesting. Now, I have a Nikon D70 SLR but the focus screen is terrible for manual focusing – seriously, it is light years behind the Zenit for this. Instead I have a Samsung NX100 (bought cheap on eBay as it had no lens with it) that has a focus peeping (zoom) feature that makes manual focus a hundred times easier. It is possible to get better focusing screens fitted to modern DSLRs but for the price you can probably get different camera that will do better. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my D70 but it is only going to be used with autofocus lenses from now on.

But how can you use an ancient M42 mount lens on a fancy-shmancy digital camera-thingy? I hear you ask. Well by using an adapter of course! Some lovely people make adapters that allow the mounting of old lenses on new cameras, isn’t that nice of them? Of course they do charge for them, but as I got mine for £4, including postage, they don’t charge much.

Old film lenses are meant for what is now called ‘full frame’ when talking about sensor sizes so (depending on your sensor) you may have to do some recalculating to work out what the crop factor does to the focal length. To be honest, this doesn’t really matter all that much. Look at the image on the screen and you will soon get used to what each lens gives you.

If you are obsessive about your images being pin-sharp at all times then old lenses may disappoint you unless you use the smallest apertures at all times. Then again if you are obsessive about pin-sharp images you should probably save all you can and go for the newest and most expensive lenses. However, old lenses have a remarkable thing many modern lenses lack – character. If you use the same colour setting on your camera each lens will render the colours differently, there will be differences in the levels of contrast when shooting black and white. Also, as your old lenses are far more likely to be prime lenses than zooms the chances are they will have much wider apertures than your modern lenses. My two Nikon zooms have minimum apertures between 3.5 and 5.6 depending on the focal length (I also have the 50mm 1.8 but it is the only modern prime I own), my M42 lenses go from 2 to 3.5 as a minimum. Even at 3.5 there is a world of difference in terms of depth of field and bokeh.

Sometimes I am looking for a pin sharp image so I use my D70 and modern glass, it does the job great. Sometimes I am looking for something different though, and that is what old glass offers – some of the quirkiness of film photography with the convenience of digital.

http://www.flickr.com/archerctb

Starting something new

I’ll admit it, things are tough at the moment. I’m studying full-time on a course where we (the students) are not getting as much support as we might hope for, my funding has been cut and the workload is huge. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing and it means my motivation levels are pretty low. The last thing I wrote (not counting essays and the like) was the Christmas episode of New Dawns and that was finished in November!

So, how do I get back into the swing of things? Notes. Lots and lots of notes. I am forever writing notes about story ideas. This is how I start my stories, sometimes with a note as short as a word or two and sometimes with a note several hundred words long. Then I pick one (or two) and add more and more detail to the notes until I reach a point where I just have to start writing it.

Now, it is true, the finished story often bares only a passinbg resemblance to the original notes but they give me a starting point – a feel for the story’s shape if nothing else. All I need to do now is pick a couple of my notes and start expanding on them – another story for the Carters? New Dawns, Season Two? A detective novel? Sci-fi? Who knows?

We come to praise the Lomo LCA, not to bury him . . .

Yes, the title of this post is a little silly but I like it so there.

How is it that I like the Lomo LCA so much? I often find a lot of the whole lomography craze to be about people taking bad photographs and passing them off as art. I cannot afford most of what the Lomography Society sell (although I do covet a lot of it). But I love my LCA.

Bought for a low, low price on eBay because of a shutter issue, fixed with new batteries and a bit of poking around with a biro – somehow it works for me. As a small electronic item made in the Soviet Union in the 1980’s it probably shouldn’t even be working anymore but it does – and it often gets great images. I know the lens is supposed to be soft but I have never really noticed that, most of my images seem to come out of it pretty well. The ones that don’t are much more likely to be down to user error than the camera.

It is a 35mm point and shoot camera for those unitiated into it’s marvels, there are some manual settings for the aperture but the meter works so well I rarely bother with them. You can manually adjust the focus distance too, though I am not great at judging the distances based on the results when I try this. It fits well in your hand and is simple to use, at least for those of us who grew up using a film camera.

Somehow this simpole camera is my camera of choice, I almost always have it on me and love using it. Sure, I have better quality film and digital cameras – but this is the one I always come back to. Why? I don’t know, it just has some sort of magic.

http://www.flickr.com/archerctb

A short update on numbers.

Ok, time for a quick update on where I am at with download totals. Overall 5,143! Much higher than I was expecting. That breaks down to:

Second Time Lucky? 1,607
Sovereign Nation 1,639
Chasing The Future 325
New Dawns, Season One, Collected Edition 738
New Chances (New Dawbs, Season One, Episode One) 767
New Dawns, Season One, other episodes 67

The vast majority of these are free downloads although there have been a few sales – downloads are overwhelmingly in the USA: 4,808 of the 5,143. I’m starting to get some ‘borrows’ too, I should probably start tracking them too.

Real budget photography – why ‘under $500’ isn’t the same as ‘budget’.

In the leadup to Christmas and over the course of the New Year sales there have been a lot of articles about buying ‘budget’ photography equipment. I consider myself to be a budget photographer but most of this ‘budget’ equipment is waaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of my price range. Under $500 is not ‘budget’, under $50 maybe but not under $500. So, I think it is time to promote and talk about REAL budget photography. I am going to try, there will be more posts about this but here’s the start.

First of all this is going to mostly mean used equipment and not very new used equipment at that. It is also going to mean any good, new equipment is probably a gift. At the moment I am a student (ok, as I am nearing forty I should probably say ‘mature student’) so I have got no money but even before that I did not have huge sums of money to spend on my hobby. And, yes, it is a hobby. I have no desire to be a professional wedding photographer – based on the sheer volume of articles about how to become a professional wedding photographer this must put me in a very tiny minority!

So, what equipment do I have? Less than I used to for a start. Being unemployed for almost a year and then becoming a student means you have to get money where you can. Anyway, here is some idea of what I have at the moment.

Zenit 122 – A film SLR from the old Soviet union, with an M42 lens mount, made while I was still at school. Bought from eBay for under £20 including delivery. I’ve got a 28mm Hanimex lens, a 58mm Helios and a 135mm Jupiter 37A to go with it, none of which cost over £20.

Nikon D70 – A digital SLR (about 6MP) bought from eBay for about £30 including postage. These were introduced in 2004 and were replaced by the D70S in 2006 so it isn’t exactly cutting edge. I have a Nikkor 50mm 1.8 (cheap due to a broken filter ring), a Nikkor 35-70mm that came with it and a Sigma 70-300mm that is my most expensive piece of camera equipment as I bought it new for about $150 while on holiday in Florida. I’ve also got a cheap Holga lens that fits it that I haven’t really managed to get to grips with.

Lomo LCA – A film point and shoot that I love, probably my favourite camera. Another eBay purchase for around £20 becuase it was listed as the shutter being stuck. Once I replaced the batteries and freed the shutter by poking it with a biro while travelling on the bus (true) it worked and has been reliable ever since.

Samsung NX100 – Around £30 on eBay because it had no lens with it. A digital mirrorless camera (about 14MP) and my newest. With the addition if a £4 adapter it now works with my M42 lenses!

Polaroid Land Camera – Takes Fuji peel-apart film. Free! Found in my mum’s attic having been unused since the mid-70s, worked fine straight away – even the battery still had power.

Fujifilm Instax 200 – £10 in a charity shop in full working order, what a bargain! Yes, it is one of the ugliest cameras ever made but it is fun.

Lomo Konstruktor – This year’s Christmas present, a film SLR you put together from a kit. Built only last week so untested yet.

Coronet box camera – Takes 120 film, fun to play with and less than £10 on eBay (and most of that was postage).

Digital is nice and cheap as you just download the images but film can be cheap in black and white too, if you develop it yourself in caffenol. So, all of this equipment has been bought over the course of a couple of years keeping the budget fairly low. If you want to get an idea of the results check out http://www.flickr.com/archerctb