Watermarking my photos

I post photographs here on my blog and occasionally on knife related online forums. Not that my images are of the finest quality, or that I imagine that many others would want to steal them, but they are my pictures and I want to control access and usage of them as much as possible. And so, I often watermark them. Of course watermarking does not always entirely stop theft though it certainly discourages it.

Recently I received a negative comment about my photographs because of the watermarks. A recent example was that a poster said that it was a “shame” I had text on top of the two following images.

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This puzzles me. Why is it a “shame”? What pertinent information does the watermark block from view?  Or does it mean that others can’t easily steal my photographs thus avoiding the trouble of taking his or her own photos, or obtaining copies of my photos (although I don’t know why they would want them), through appropriate means?

To me it is an enigma, although I suspect that it has to do with people wanting to obtain things easily and for free.

Since I am unable to solve this puzzle I believe that the best course of action is to stop wasting time on it and just continue watermarking my photos. So that’s what I’ll do.

Bill North

Street photography 3

I have previously published two posts with “street photography” in the title so I am going to start numbering the street photography posts since I am apparently too lazy to think up catchy titles for each post.

My mobility is somewhat limited so I started taking this type of picture using longer focal length lenses than are traditionally used by “street” photographers. Now days I use a large DSLR and 70-200 mm lens almost exclusively for this type of photography. I like that I am able to isolate subjects with it and can get many candid pictures because I am not right in the subjects face where they become very aware of the camera. The down side to this lens is its physical size which of course calls attention to the photographer. People are more curious and guarded if they think that you might be a professional photographer than if you appear to be just another tourist with a point and shoot. Sometime in the future I believe that I will make the move to a smaller non SLR camera for this type of photography.

DSC_8949 copyblogWoman in the window. ISO-800, f/11, 1/250 sec.

DSC_6178black white copy blogWhite wig. ISO-640, f/8, 1/200 sec.

Jerry Fisk bowie with Mother of Pearl

Jerry Fisk is one of my favorite knife makers. He is not only an excellent craftsman but a pleasure to be acquainted with because of his insight and well developed sense of humor. He is an ABS Mastersmith and has been named a National Living Treasure, hence the “NLT” engraved just behind the guard.

Each year Jerry has what he calls “A Micro Show” at his shop in Arkansas. Jerry made and engraved the knife shown in today’s post for this year’s micro show. I like the style of the knife and am partial to pearl.

I’ll let Jerry describe it in his own words:

“This is my version of a simple California style bowie. A+ grade thick Mother of Pearl framed handle, deep relief engraving on the stainless mounts with a bit of gold work. Dog star pattern Damascus blade is 8 5/8 inch long.”

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In his description he uses the word “simple, I would disagree with that because to me there is way too much knifemaking sophistication displayed here to be called “simple”.

Jerry’s website is www.jerryfisk.com

Bill North

More street photography

Here are a couple more street photography type pictures. The tattooed girl had screaming red hair and yellow framed sunglasses and I loved the color so it was a struggle for me to convert the picture to black and white. But right or wrong I did. ISO-400, f.6.3, 1/250 sec.

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The man sitting on the curb was shot at ISO-400, f/6.3, and 1/320 sec.

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Knife related pictures from a few years ago

I have started organizing the knife related pictures that I have taken over the years. Here are a few:moran shop 2005 800wideA visitor in front of Bill Moran’s shop in 2004

moran 2005 blogBill Moran at the Blade Show in 2005

fisk 2004 blogThe man his own self Jerry Fisk doing an edge geometry demonstration at the Moran hammer-in in 2004

adam cuts 2005 800 blogAdam DesRosiers removing the tops of water bottles in the cutting competition at Blade in 2005.

reggie cuts apple 2005 copyReggie Barker cleanly halves an apple in 2005

Street photography

I have added a photography section to the Northedge and this is the first post in that section. I have started developing an interest in street photography and the pictures today are a couple that I took in the town where I live.

DSC_5536 copyblogMan sleeping on the steps of the Federal Courthouse. ISO-400, 1/400 sec., f/5.6.

DSC_3700 copyblogMan in hard rain. ISO-4000, 1/60th sec., f/6.3. It was in late afternoon and the weather made the scene pretty dark overall and hence the high ISO setting. It was that or not much picture at all because the shot was hand held.

A little Wade Coulter friction folder knife

DSC_6223-2 copyWade Coulter friction folder

This melding of knifemaking skills and folk art by Wade Coulter is only 5 ¾” overall when open. The antler handle is slotted for the blade which opens and closes smoothly. The pretty little Damascus blade is file worked on the spine and the spine is stamped “W C “.

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I’m not sure that this knife would be classified as a “goblin” folder but the butt of the handle is carved with a grotesque face.

DSC_6233 copyCarving on the butt of the Wade Coulter knife

My little knife came back home

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My little Bill Wiggins knife

My little knife came back home from its trip to the makers shop for refinishing.

Over a year ago Bill Wiggins, who is a friend of mine and a knifemaker gave me a small, fixed blade knife that he made. Since that time it has been used for many of the chores that I regularly use a knife for. These tasks include cutting food, opening and then cutting down shipping boxes for recycling, cutting cord, tape, rags, opening prepackaged items, cutting small sticks, etc. Its small size makes it ideal to carry in a pocket sheath instead of carrying a folder. The blade of the knife is made from 1084 steel and the handle slabs are English walnut. The overall length of the knife is just 7 1/16 inches and the blade at the ricasso is .094 thick.

“If you have only had it about a year why did it need refinishing?” I hear you asking now. I suppose that you think that I must be pretty rough on my knives but that’s not so. What is so however is that I like to sharpen my knives, and sometimes I sharpen them whether they need it or not, and very infrequently I slip and scratch the knife were scratches don’t belong. And that’s what happened to the smooth, hand rubbed sides of my little knife. I asked Bill Wiggins if he would mind “slicking” my knife up a little, and he graciously agreed. What’s more like the gentleman that he is he didn’t rag on me for scratching the blade. Well actually while looking at the scratches he did say “Oh, that’s a bad one.” I did my best to look remorseful, and it must have worked because he left it at that.

Bill is the treasurer of the American Bladesmith Society and a Journeyman Smith in that organization. He is an avid outdoorsman and using knives as tools in the outdoors has helped form his opinions as to steel type, hardness, and blade geometry. One of the things about this knife that I like is the blade geometry; it’s thin at the edge helping it be a good cutter.

Many custom knives are for reasons unknown to me too thick behind the cutting edge, at least that’s my opinion. A knife designed for chopping needs to have a well-supported edge to stand up, a small knife that is used for cutting and that is not abused can, and should have in my opinion much thinner blade geometry. Look at well maintained kitchen knives, most of them are thin and they cut and slice things well. Trouble usually only comes when you use them as a screwdriver or pry bar. So far in my seventy one years I have not been forced to use my knife for prying or turning screws to the extent that the knife was damaged.

Anyway last night the little knife came back home from its trip to Bill Wiggins shop for refinishing and it looks all slicked up and spiffy. I’m glad it’s back.

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Bill Wiggins hand rubbing a blade

Bill Wiggins can be reached at wncbill@bellsouth.net

copyright Bill North 2013

The full time, custom knife maker’s balancing act.

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 Ivory handled knife by Tai Goo

In order to be successful, a full time custom knifemaker the maker must maintain a balance between art, craftsmanship, and business acumen. Those three things are like the three legs of a milking stool, if one leg is far out of proportion to the other legs the foundation becomes unsteady. In my experience those makers that seem to me to be accomplished in all three areas are far fewer in number than those that are not.

A knifemaker that naturally has an inclination or understanding of the art, craftsmanship, and business sides of the craft has a tremendous advantage over much of his competition. Many makers seem to be strong in one or two areas and weak in the others. I have known many skilled craftsmen that that were adroit at the craftsmanship aspect and/or the art aspect but sadly lacked at the business side of the endeavor. As a result they were unable to make a go of it, and having to seek some other source of income either left the craft entirely or nearly so.

My experience has been that the business side of knifemaking as a commercial undertaking is where most makers are weak. Makers that have someone to help them with that aspect are fortunate. Without good business practices, no matter how nice the knives, the venture probably does not have a bright future, at least as a full time occupation.

Once again the above is just my opinion based on my observances and experiences.

To see more knives by Tai Goo visit his website at http://www.taigoo.com

copyright Bill North 2013

The custom/handmade knifemakers pie

The big pie of custom/handmade knife makers can probably be said to divided into three segments or wedges of unequal size. There are probably sub groups or wedges as well but for today I will talk only about the three main groups or wedges of the pie.

Group 1: This is the smallest wedge of the pie and often although not always the best and most desired makers come from this group. These are full time makers that get up every day and work at the business of making knives and these makers deserve respect for their strong work ethic, and the skills that they have acquired and honed. It is their profession. Their knives are for sale. In my experience knives from the top level makers in this group sell well in the aftermarket, often at a profit. The best and most successful makers have a good grasp on the three legged stool of art, craftsmanship, and business concerns; they are able to keep the stool level.

Group 2: This is a large wedge of the pie. These makers are part time makers and often they have other jobs or additional sources of income. They don’t rely on knife sales to buy groceries and they make knives when they have the time or when the spirit moves them. Many of these makers are skilled and make very nice knives. Often their production, limited as it may or may not be is for sale. Some of them are able to sell almost everything they make and others not so much.

Group 3: This huge portion of the pie is made up of knife enthusiasts that want to a make a few knives for fun, for the experience, to learn more about knives, or to fit into a group of like-minded people. In my experience few makers in this group ever become highly skilled because they don’t for whatever reasons devote the time necessary to learn, to practice, and to actually complete projects. In my opinion it is unlikely although not impossible that a knife purchased from a maker in this group will appreciate much unless the maker moves up the ladder of wedges of the pie.

I know that sometimes makers in group 1 are concerned that their sales are damaged by makers in groups 2 and 3 pricing their work much lower than group 1 makers think is fair or correct. I doubt there is much validity in that thinking. A part time maker is unlikely to be able to do much damage to the sales of the best known full time makers providing that the full time makers are good business people. What will more likely than not damage sales are poor business practices and not moving forward with the business as it changes.

I don’t have any actual numerical data that supports the above. Like much I have written on this blog it’s just my opinion based on what I have observed. So if you disagree or think I’m full of it that’s fine; you can and should have your own ideas.

copyright Bill North 2013