Monday, June 30, 2008

Drywall, Mud, and Cockroaches, ha ha...

Wow...I think that I have come to the conclusion that I would make a TERRIBLE contractor. :) I don't have pictures to share with you this time, but I do have some stuff to share.

After being sick a couple weekends ago, it put us a couple of days behind. Fortunately, my friend Kevin (who is married to my friend, Cindy) is an all-around talented contractor-type. Cindy & I work together at the hospital, and Kevin works in the same department as my husband, Johnny. Prior to getting the drywall, Kevin had said he would be more than happy to come over and help with getting all of that up. We didn't think we'd need help, but then, I hadn't gotten sick. On Tuesday one of our plumbers at the hospital volunteered to come and help us with the drywall, and I told him it wouldn't be right to abuse him before we abused Kevin. So long story short, Kevin came over last Tuesday night and worked with Johnny and me to get the remaining drywall up. Betweeen Johnny and Kevin, they were slapping drywall up faster than I could get it screwed to the studs. It took us all of about two hours to knock it out.

So over the next several days we put a lot of mud in the joints and corners. Ok, so it's Monday night and we're not completely done, but we are close. I have done more sanding over the last 5 days than should be humanly possible. When I cough, I am sure that white, dusty clouds come out of my mouth, ha ha...

So the other night I found this dead cockroach in the plastic sheeting we'd had over the drywall. I thought that was funny. (Yes, I know...I was either overly-tired, have a warped sense of humor, or both.) Anyway, it struck me as funny that the one creature that is supposed to be able to survive a nuclear war could not survive a night in plastic sheeting. (I wonder if Terminex could use that knowledge?)

I have also learned that those women on the home improvement shows (you know, the she-contractors with the acrylic French manicured nails?) must not really do all that much. I started this project with just about a perfect "ten" (my own, not acryilic, thank goodness), and I'm down to a perfect "two." Now, I've had acrylic nails before, and I've broken one or two in my time, and THAT hurts...So I know that a) I won't ever be a she-contractor on a home improvement show, and b) it's probably wise to trim those nails down to less than 1/4" in length before starting any home improvement project that requires the use of one's hands, and c) do not have acrylics on your fingertips, huh?

Anyway, I've got to take my youngest son to Raleigh tomorrow night so that I can have him at the airport at oh-dark-thirty on Wednesday morning to fly out to his dad's so I'm going to lose a night. So I'm a little frustrated. I had hoped to have the first coat of paint on the walls before I left for Raleigh, but I'm just not really seeing that happen. :(

Ok, so I guess that's it for now. :)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Studio Build (Pix & Narrative)

Dang! Ok, I admit it. I'm mad and beat. My sinuses picked this weekend to go haywire on me, so I've been walking around here feeling just gross for two days. The decongestant I take drugs me out and I totally hate that.

So, alright. I'm going to put enough text in here to surround the pictures that I want to share with you...

Okay. The week after Memorial Day is when I had the contractors come and construct a building. I read up on lighting and space requirements many months ago and determined I needed a space that is 16'x24'. I saved every spare cent I had, including our tax refund and stimulous check, and with a "teensy" loan from my dad, I FINALLY had enough to build the building with money left over for little know...electricity, drywall, and insulation (which, if you read my last post, is a cute shade of pink but itches bad if and when you get it on your skin).

So over the Memorial Day weekend, we were busy pulling fence panels and gates down to make room for the studio. On the day after Memorial Day the guys got here and started building the structure. By the end of the first day, all four walls were up and the beams in the ceiling were a skeleton, but this thing was huge by my standards.

On Wednesday, the contractors came back, but had to quit shortly after eleven that morning, because it rained. And rained. And rained. It doesn't rain for weeks here, but when I'm having work done the sky absolutely has to open up. Go figure. My luck, right? So the guys come back on Thursday and knock out the rest of the roof.
By Saturday I'm stoked and can't wait to get started on painting the exterior. (After work both Thursday and Friday I put Kilz on the trim and the base to get it ready to paint by Saturday morning. Saturdays dawns bright, clear, and hot, but my step-daughter and I are out there with rollers going to town with the exterior grey we chose that matches the siding on the house. We are some painting fiends. We painted until about noon, at which point we felt like it was getting too hot so we thought that would be a good time for a pool break (which we took).

The following day (Sunday) found me on a ladder putting semi-gloss on the trim of the building; door frames, roof trim, etc. Of course, it got hot early, so I packed it in for the day.

The following week brought up record high temps and a freelance assignment, so you know I didn't put a lot of time into the building. I skipped a weekend, and last weekend I finished the exterior paint and started working on the electrical. Please know...2x4 studs are not in the least easy to drill through, yet that is what I did for the better part of Saturday and some Sunday. Johnny and I ran wire the rest of the day Sunday.
On Monday we acquired two new windows (the octagons didn't work for us, due to the fact that they weren't exacty compatible with drywall and security) and a bunch of bats of insulation. (That stuff itches hardcore, in case you didn't read my previous post.) So Monday we installed windows, and started the insulation. Tuesday we framed the windows and continued the isulation. Wednesday we finished the insulation. Well, as much as we could, as Johnny still had a bit of electrical wiring to do. Tim (my 13 year old) helped me get the bats in between the studs and behind the wires we'd run the weekend prior. I'm sure the people at Builders Discount Center know us by name after having visited them repeatedly this week.

So last night, I got bored and started painting doors. I'd done the exterior of the back door and needed to do the interior side of the back and both sides of the front door. That was as good a time as any, I guess. Once I was finished, I thought I would paint a personal touch on the inside wall prior to the insulation going in. The darned building was built with love, so I wanted to document that somewhere in the building...So I figured it out and made it happen. :)

So this brings us to the present. Today. 0400 hours. 4:00 a.m. and waaaaaaay to early for my butt to be up and moving, but my nose was stuffy and I totally couldn't breath and it just wasn't meant for me to sleep until the alarm went off at seven, so I watched the news. Forecast called for rain. Darn it. We actually made it to Lowes and Builders Discount Center before ten this morning. We got some pipe for wiring at Lowes and all the drywall at BDC. We'd just gotten all 21 sheets of drywall and 5 gallons of mud (not to mention a handfull of corners, two boxes of drywall screws and two rolls of tape) into the truck when the sky opened up. Mind you, Builders Discount Center is about 2 miles from the house down US-70. Those folks were so nice! They hooked us up with plastic sheeting and a couple of bricks to keep the drywall out of the elements. By the time we got done covering everything, the downpour was all but a drizzle, so we made it home safe and sound. Come to find out it didn't rain a drop at our place.

So between Tim, Johnny and me, we got 21 sheets of 4x8 1/2" drywall into the studio before it never rained again until tonite. Of course I felt like crap and took some Sudafed, but it put me to sleep. We only got a bit of the drywall up, but I guess that beats nothing at all. So guess what I'm doing in the morning?

Needless to say, I'll put more pictures and updates as things happen in the studio. :)

Stay tuned!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Insulation 101

Today's blog post will be short. VERY short. Pertains to building the studio.

I learned three things about insulation today.
  1. If you shop around, you can find it a lot cheaper than they sell it at Lowes.
  2. It's a really pretty shade of pink.
  3. It makes you itch like nobody's business if you get it on you. (scratch, scratch, scratch!)

It's been a long day...8 hours at the day job, and 3 and a half in the studio. I knew I would get tired, but didn't realize I'd be THIS tired!

Pictures coming soon. Nighty-night!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Little History - Part II

Picking up where we left off…

I’d been shooting for quarterly reports and presentations, as I mentioned earlier. This was fun. I’d get a list of “targets” from the publisher and get to leave my desk to meander about the facility to find these folks and take their pictures. Anything that gets me away from the everyday ho-hum of my desk is a good thing. Anything that does that and involves a camera is a GREAT thing!

So in early spring of 2007, I was approached by the Hospital Police Chief and was asked if I could take some pictures of his staff over three shifts for use on a story board for Law Enforcement Appreciation Week. Who was I to say no?

I worked it out with my powers that be (again, thank you, Brenda!) to make some adjustments in my regular “banker’s hours” schedule to go shoot one night on second shift and another night on third shift.

This was one of the most cool day-job assignments I’d ever had! I got to go places I wouldn’t normally go; the morgue, the roof, inside the police office. The more pictures I took, the more I realized that this really needed to be something I needed to do part-time. Even the first shift shots I took were fun. I am partial to the one of Lt. Williams directing traffic one chilly spring day. I got to get on my belly in the dirt, prop on my elbows and shoot a really unique angle, and they loved it! Who am I kidding? I loved it, too. And for those of you who don’t know, cops are a unique & different breed, so that made the entire project even more intriguing!

It was about this time that Johnny told me that if I was really going to be serious about this I had better start getting some of the equipment I needed. I made a list: lighting, backdrop stands, backdrops, more lenses (I am so partial to my 50mm prime!) and I turned into a total eBay junkie during this time. If you don’t think my feedback score shot up! J

I ordered backdrops first, and thought I would try the economical route: A backdrop clamped over a shower curtain rod in my dining room doorway, some environmentally friendly fluorescent bulbs and clamp lights from Lowe’s, a tripod, and my kids and their friends as guinea pigs. Some of these portraits came out alright. I figured if the folks at WalMart could do it, so could I. (Little did I know then that the right equipment makes ALL the difference in the world.) But from this humble set up came some really neat portraits.

Finally I decided to get the stands and the lighting equipment, etc. I even went out and bought a book on lighting technique. It didn’t help much. But the backdrop stand and light stands/umbrellas looked REALLY cool, even if I was producing incredible shadows in some of the portraits I shot. Now, I like shadows, but I don’t think the average consumer does. Even that horrible discount 11x14 on my wall doesn’t have shadows…it makes our youngest boy look like his head is the size of a basketball, but it doesn’t have shadows.

Coming soon in A Little History – Part III: Home Study and Going Into Business For Real, This Time!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Oh, Did I Mention I'm Freelancing, Too?

So, wow! Isn't it funny how some things just fall into your lap?

I was sitting out by the pool the day before Memorial Day knowing I was supposed to have gone into work for a few minutes to do payroll, but we'd had a fairly dramatic weekend at our house and I was beat, so I put off going in until the actual holiday, itself. My boss called me, and the first thing that crossed my mind was that I was going to be SO busted for not going into the office when I'd said I would. (We work pretty much banker's hours and are off on major holidays and weekends, and my thought process was that Sunday or didn't matter as long as the payroll got done before Tuesday at 2 pm.)

Anyhow, she was calling to double check my web site address because she goes to church with another photographer that was looking for some freelance help. I gave her all the information she asked for, and was tickled that she did this for me (and I was a little relieved I didn't get popped for not going in that morning, too). Brenda's cool; not just as a boss, but as a friend and fellow small business owner. She is a heck of a seamstress and sews things that I only dream about! (Inserting shameless plug here: If you are in the greater Goldsboro area and need a tailor or seamstress, let me know and I'll put her in touch with you!) So, of course I told her, yes, I'm interested, yes, I freelance, yes, I can do sports and other events (did my daughter's cheer portraits for her last summer, since the regular session was a mob scene, and I figured I could do as well, in the shade, without the wait).

So a few weeks went by and I hadn't heard anything further from or about this gentleman. This last Wednesday I was sitting at work, getting ready to hit the road for the day, and Brenda calls me to give me this gentleman's phone number, as he'd been trying to reach me. Before I could call him, the phone rings again, and it's him. Wants to know if I could do a 60 minute shoot for a Parks & Rec sponsored event the following evening. It started after I got off work, so I accepted the assignment, talked to Johnny, and we made plans to go out there and shoot this thing. It involved kids, so I was fairly stoked. Kids make awesome subjects, and this was a candid assignment, and those are even more fun!

By Thursday afternoon the air is thick with smoke from a wildfire burning well east of here, but the wind had shifted, and had blown all this haze into our area. Needless to say, it was a difficult shoot. The light kept changing (thicker smoke makes for darker shots), folks didn't want their pictures taken, kids were cranky, and somehow the event I went to shoot started an hour or so earlier than scheduled. Awards presentation? Done and overwith long before we ever got on the scene. Picnic? 3/4 of the way through when I started shooting. Shots requested? 90-100. Shots taken? 51. Shots that were usable? 35.

I was mortified! I got to the location early, and I STILL missed the main event. The smoke got so thick several times that it made my eyes burn and water, so focusing was crazy. I would line up a perfect shot, and my subjects would realize they were in my viewfinder and would turn away just as I was ready to press the shutter button. Johnny was with me and told me to shoot fast, since people were hauling boogie to their cars to leave. We pretty much assumed that the games were cancelled due to the smoke and they kicked off the awards presentation and picnic early.

I got home and found 16 images that would have been fantastic were completely out of focus. I went from mortified to devastated. Here I was trying to make a good impression on this man, and I a) miss the big event; b) have to deal with the first known "dense smoke advisory" in our area ever, and c) only manage to get a third of the requested number of shots. These things just do not happen to me!!!

I burned the 35 good images to a cd and met the gentleman after working the day job this afternoon. He liked them. He really liked them. You could have knocked me over with a feather, as I was sure this was not my best work, but we talked about things like other events, weddings, etc. I left feeling happy, and VERY relieved.

So if you see a crazy blonde that doesn't look like she belongs in the crowd with a camera peeking around trees? Hey, it might just be me. :) Come over and say hi!

A Little History - Part I

Welcome to my blog. This is the first time I've done this on a blog site, so bear with me. I'm sure this will get easier as it goes.

I started Wall 2 Wall Photography in March, 2007. I went to the county courthouse and got a "DBA" last September, went to City Hall and applied for (and found out that I didn't need) a business license that same day, changed web hosts last spring, built a new site, and contructed a studio a few weeks ago (which is still in the works; I have four walls, a floor, a roof and a couple of doors.

Business started slow. I mean, REALLY slow. I don't have a degree in marketing, or business, or...well, I don't hold a degree, period, so this is all very new to me. It's been fun thus far, and gets more fun as days go by.

This all initially started when I was a little kid and somebody (I think it was my parents) gave me a 110 camera for my birthday when I turned 9 or 10. I went nuts. I've got pictures in albums from back in the 70's! I took a film photo class for one semester in high school using a borrowed 35mm camera. I think it was a Yashica.

Anyway, fast forward to the mid-80's. I was living outside of Lubbock, Texas, in a small town called Shallowater. My spouse at that time (I've been married 3 times, kicked 2 to the curb and kept 1, but we may get into that on another post) was stationed out at Reese Air Force Base. I used to stand out in the back yard and shoot pictures of sunsets, thunderstorms, and flowers. I loved it! It killed time, and it was neat to see how the pictures came out.

As the years went by I took a lot of pictures of the kids growing up; birthdays, Christmases, special occasions, etc.
Fast forward to early 2004. I'd been married to my husband, Johnny (the other Wall in Wall 2 Wall Photography) for a few months, and we were sitting in the hot tub one nite talking about what we would do if we could do ANYTHING in the world we wanted. I told him that I would take pictures. Of course, I couldn't make a living doing it, but I would have if I could have. He asked me why couldn't I? I rattled off a number of reasons; my camera is 1.3 megapixels and has no manual settings, I hadn't shot manual in years, I wasn't good enough, I needed my full-time job income to pay the bills, the list went on and on.

Nonetheless, this conversation motivated me to pull out the 1.3 megapixel digital and start exploring things like the macro settings and white balance options. I shot EVERYTHING in the back yard over the next few months. Flowers, bugs, Johnny and his daughter forehead to forehead (which, by the way, is framed and hanging in our living room and is one of his favorites!), our dog, leaves, blades of grass, dirt, glasses of wine, you name it. The photo at the left is a tree frog that I shot through our storm door with that little 1.3 megapixel Sony. By July of 04, this had blown into a pretty good sized hobby, and we purchased a Fuji S5000 with all kinds of neat settings PLUS full manual. I went NUTS.

I left the backyard, and hit the open road, looking for anything and everything I thought might look good in a frame. This went on for a few more years. I created a pretty impressive collection of landscapes and floral macros. Everything was fair game. :) We went to farms, to the beach, to my mother-in-law's garden, my mom's place in Raleigh, car shows, festivals, football games, etc., etc., etc. I had collected enough images that I was able to donate about thirty matted prints to a benefit art auction we held for the American Cancer Society. Between three photographers we were able to donate over $1300.00! :)
About 18 months ago I purchased my first DSLR (a Canon - my weapon of choice!), and decided that yes, maybe it's time to do this. About that time I also started shooting pictures for work as a staff photographer for the newsletter, and I also grabbed the majority of shots used in our quarterly reports and presentations. I got a LOT of free lunches from that gig.

Next time: A Little History - Part II: More staff photography, a couple of nights with the cops, and a peek into portraiture.