Photo Notes

October 20, 2017

Thoughts About A Penny

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Siskin @ 9:57 am

In these days, in which our symbols and our differences are taking up so much of our collective attention, I would like to say a few things about money.

First, money has a bad reputation; people say money that is the root of all evil. Frankly I haven’t seen any of that. In fact I think money is the most important invention our species has ever made. In addition I think money is much more likely to lead us to peace than to war. I also think that misunderstanding money causes pain. When we look at money as an end in itself, or as power, we misunderstand. Money is trade.

When a client pays me the effects of that transaction spread like ripples in a pond. I may purchase a product made in China, or pay for health care in Indiana. There is no such thing as a single exchange. Like ringing a bell the vibrations spread out into the world.

I didn’t start this essay to discuss economic interconnectedness, as important as I think that is. I wanted to say something about symbols. Symbols have had a large effect on our culture recently, especially the flag and statues of members of the Confederate States of America. While these are important symbols, I’d like to remind people about the symbols associated with money.

Abraham Lincoln is on the front of the penny. When I grew up Lincoln was called the Great Emancipator. The Civil War was about slavery, but it defined much more than that. The fact that the United Sates won that war proved that there would be a UNITED States of America, not just some loose association, with different rules and different standards everywhere across the continent. In many ways it made us one country. The power and wealth of our country flows from this fact. In addition this fact has made us a country of moral values: a country where the rights and opinions of all citizens are protected. Of course we are not perfect, but we are striving to become a more perfect union. So on the back of the penny it says UNITED STATES oF AMERICA.

On the front of the penny is the word LIBERTY. If Liberty was not a central value of the United States then we would long since have descended into the tyranny that afflicts so much of this planet. I would never suggest that we have secured a perfect personal liberty for ourselves, and our descendants, still we can speak, worship and associate freely. That is a lot.

On the back of the penny it says E.PLURIBUS.UNUM. I was taught that this means “From many one.” It is a traditional motto of the United States. One country that is the effort and result of many, many people. We are mostly descendants of immigrants who came here to secure liberty and a future for themselves and their children. We can only secure these things as a nation. No person is immune from harm individually; we make ourselves safe when we come together. This association places limits on liberty. Personally I agree with some limits and not others, but as a citizen I value the benefits of association. Without all of us, all of our experience and opinions, and values, we are less than we could be.

Above President Lincoln’s head are the words “IN GOD WE TRUST”. One of the greatest accomplishments of this country is the freedom to worship, or not worship as each person sees fit. The first part of the first amendment to the constitution protects this human right. This is not a universal human right, nor are the other rights protected by the first amendment universal. They are protected by our United States of American and the constitution, which defines our association. So this statement can remind us of our rights as citizens and the importance of placing our ultimate trust in something greater than our individual selves. This statement does not name a god, or any particular deity, it respects our personal right to believe or not. While some will disagree with me, I think it would be very difficult to write a more important reminder of our rights on a penny. Still, in this essay at least, there is room for the complete first amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

That is a great statement of some of our basic freedoms.

I hope that the next time you see a penny on the ground you’ll pick it up and dust it off. And maybe we can hope that all our leaders will be wise and generous and remember the importance of a single cent.

John Siskin

April 4, 2016

Rock House #1

Rock House #1

Rock House #1

I’ve recently posted a couple of shots of a waterfall in Box Canyon (Box Canyon #1 and Box Canyon #2). Literally on the other side of the left had rock is this house, or what remains of this house. I know depressingly little about it, other than it’s called the Rock House. Sort of the obvious name. At some time there was fire and the place wasn’t rebuilt. You can still see the blacked surfaces on some of the timbers. The place is built out of rough hewn timber and actual logs. Much of the cabin is the native rock, and, perhaps some of the rocks mortared into the walls are local. The place is absolutely fascinating.

I came upon the place hiking down the canyon. I had no idea it was there, and there is much less than a quarter mile from where I lived.

I have no idea who owned the land. I have no idea when the fire happened. I don’t know when the place was built. In some of the shots you can see flexible conduit for electricity, but I don’t know if the electricity was put in later. I also saw a water heater, but that isn’t in any of my shots. Anyway I leave for you the mystery of the rock house.

Shot with my Speed Graphic of course. There are shoots made with my 8X10 camera, as well as the 4X5, I might add those later. Regardless I’ll add more shots from the Rock House soon.

As you know I’m adding these images to my blog as part of my re-do of my fine art portfolio pages. I’m also doing it to make these images available. If you’d like an archival print of this shot, please order with the PayPal link. The image will be about 11X14 inches and mounted on 16X20 cotton rag board. I’ll even throw in shipping, if you are in the U.S.


One more thing I wanted to mention: I offer several workshops at my studio in Indianapolis. I hope you’ll check out the workshops at http://www.siskinphoto.com/workshop.php.

I hope you’ll also check out my books, use the links below:

January 14, 2016

Beyond 1 to 1 – Going Into Uncharted Territory

Filed under: Micro Photography,Uncategorized,Workshops — John Siskin @ 9:21 am

New date coming soon

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This workshop will give you the ability to photograph things smaller than a human hair. You’ll be able to photograph the scales on a butterfly’s wing or the tip of a pen.

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The workshop will explain how to use simple tools to shoot amazing pictures. And you’ll have a list of the tools to take you back into the very small whenever you want. The tools are much more inexpensive than you might think: a reverse adapter, which will make a 50mm lens into a powerful micro lens, is only $12! You can get a microscope that will enable you to make an image that is 40 times life size on your sensor (that would translate into an 8X10 print that’s 320 times life size) for just over $100. It’s amazing how a few pieces of inexpensive equipment will unlock an unseen world.

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This workshop is a guided tour into this world, but unlike a safari to Africa or voyage to Alaska, you can return to this world whenever you want. You’ll get a chance to experiment with tools you can throw into your camera bag and the tools you’d use at home. This isn’t the kind of gear that you need a lab to use, you can explore at a kitchen table! We’ll work with bellows and extension tubes. You’ll see how to shoot through microscope lenses and enlarging lenses, in fact you can make fabulous micro image with a simple 50mm lens. You’ll also get to shoot with the microscope, and learn how to shoot with your own scope!

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The workshop is limited to just 6 people. Each person will be able to use the equipment and make shots during the workshop. If you bring a flash card you’ll be able to keep your shots! You’ll also get an extensive list of tools you might want to get, including a list of gear you can get used. The idea is to unlock the door-to give you a ticket into the unseen worlds!

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Please visit my site to see my other workshops and to check out the Free On Line Classes!
You can buy one of my books by clicking on the titles below:


January 12, 2016

Micro Photography Workshop

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Siskin @ 5:40 pm
Ablative Absolute, yes that's the title

Ablative Absolute,
yes that’s the title

I do a lot of microphotography, images of things less than a quarter inch in size, some times small than a human hair. Much of the time I’m exploring the relationships between color and texture and line. I’m trying to explore the unseen, looking for the unexpected. That’s certainly the case in this shot. However one of the first things I get asked when someone sees these images is “What is it?” The idea is of course that a photograph must be a picture of something. I guess I could say that it’s a picture of light, but that usually doesn’t satisfy. So this is a picture of a plastic ice cube. I used to say a fake plastic ice cube, but of course it’s a perfectly real plastic ice cube, intended to be used as a prop. I’ve often made images of plastic ice cubes because, under the right circumstances, they’ll refract light in very interesting ways.

You can get a print of this image by using this PayPal link. Like all of the images I’ve been adding for the fine art pages it’s going to be $125 for a print that’s about 12 inches wide, mounted and matted onto 16X20 board. That includes shipping inside the U.S. I hope you’ll consider purchasing this shot.

 

MICRO PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

I think that very small subjects give photographers a unique place to look for images. Often people want to travel to take pictures, as if they can’t find anything interesting unless they go to Africa or Alaska. I’ll admit that travel can open your eyes, give you new ways of seeing, but when you come back everything looks mundane. I want to find inspiration in the everyday, even in a piece of plastic. I want to want to make new images everyday. I can take a voyage to the land of the tiny any time.

Many photographers think of macro lenses when they think of shooting small things. While macro lenses are good tools, they really don’t go small enough. You’re still just looking at a flower or a butterfly with a macro lens. You can go much closer and find that a butterfly’s wings are coated with ribbon like scales, or that a small piece of broken glass could be so interesting.

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glass

It costs a lot of money to go on safari. It’s inexpensive to travel into the small worlds. It’s less expensive than buying a new macro lens or a dedicated flash. It can provide endless opportunities for a photographer. Of course it’s good to have a guide, so I’m offering a new Micro Photography Workshop:

Beyond 1 to 1
Going Into Uncharted Territory

This workshop will give you the ability to photograph things smaller than a human hair. You’ll be able to photograph the scales on a butterfly’s wing or the tip of a pen.

The workshop will explain how to use simple tools to shoot amazing pictures. And you’ll have a list of the tools to take you back into the very small whenever you want. The tools are much more inexpensive than you might think: a reverse adapter, which will make a 50mm lens into a powerful micro lens, is only $12! You can get a microscope that will enable you to make an image that is 40 times life size on your sensor (that would translate into an 8X10 print that’s 320 times life size) for just over $100. It’s amazing how a few pieces of inexpensive equipment will unlock an unseen world.

This workshop is a guided tour into this world, but unlike a safari to Africa or voyage to Alaska, you can return to this world whenever you want. You’ll get a chance to experiment with tools you can throw into your camera bag and the tools you’d use at home. This isn’t the kind of gear that you need a lab to use, you can explore at a kitchen table! We’ll work with bellows and extension tubes. You’ll see how to shoot through microscope lenses and enlarging lenses, in fact you can make fabulous micro image with a simple 50mm lens. You’ll also get to shoot with the microscope, and learn how to shoot with your own scope!

F2394881

The workshop is limited to just 6 people. Each person will be able to use the equipment and make shots during the workshop. If you bring a flash card you’ll be able to keep your shots! You’ll also get an extensive list of tools you might want to get, including a list of gear you can get used. The idea is to unlock the door-to give you a ticket into the unseen worlds!

The workshop will happen on February 28. It’s a one day workshop and the cost is only $175, but if you sign up in January the cost will be just $135! You can use the PayPal link below to sign up for the Workshop!



You can buy one of my books by clicking on the titles below:


September 10, 2015

Shooting the 11X14 inch Camera!!

Just a couple of details to mention, before we get to the good stuff. I’ve taken down my site at BetterPhoto: www.john-siskin.com. I think BetterPhoto and Jim Miotke are absolutely wonderful, but since I’m not teaching for them anymore I wanted to have the fine art part of my site hosted along with the rest of the site. It’s going to take a few days to complete the new pages I hope you’ll be patient. I hope you’ll check out the books, click on the cover pictures below, and don’t forget my workshop page (www.siskinphoto.com/workshop.php). I’m going to offer a lighting workshop in OCTOBER. More information soon.

I wrote about my 11X14 film camera some time ago, and included a couple of pics of the camera. You can see that earlier post here. There is something quite magical for me about working with a very large camera. I suppose it’s not that different from people who want longer lenses to shoot surfing or birds. I should say that an image made with a large camera is different from an enlargement. In an enlargement there is another optical system, that changes the information in the image in some way and there is less information in the image. If you do an enlargement that is just eight time the size of the negative you’ll usually see grain: the shadows of the silver crystals that record the image. A print that’s made by putting the image right on the printing paper has a sense of infinite detail. I hope you’ll find a way to see an original contact print of a big negative, preferably made by a great photographer.

The big camera in the studio. It took 2 people to put it on the tripod.

The big camera in the studio. It took 2 people to put it on the tripod.

I can do contact prints from my 8X10 camera, and it’s quite satisfying. Now that I have a darkroom I can process and print from this camera again. I can even take the camera out to shoot on locations. However, the 11X14 is a beast; and it creates challenges that are different from 8X10. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve worked out ways to work with the camera. I’m going to detail some of the things I’m doing, some of the compromises I’ve made to get successful tests.

11X14 test image

Successful test image of Wiggy, made with 11X14 camera.

The biggest problem with the 11X14 camera is film. There are still quite a few sources for 8X10 film: a search at Freestyle Photo reveals fifteen separate results for actual camera film. You can get a sheet of film for less than $3. If you’ve been shooting digital the cost of shooting large film will come as a shock. If you search for 11X14 film you find one result: Ilford HP-5. This is a good film, but at about $9 for a single sheet, and that’s one picture, it’s expensive. One of the ways photographers afford to work with large cameras is to work with films that aren’t designed for cameras. One of the most popular is litho film. This is a graphic arts film. The good news is that it’s inexpensive. There is a lot of bad news: first it’s designed to make black and white images: no gray tones at all! I did some tests with litho films and I was unhappy with the results. You can process the film to get some gray tones, but it’s a real challenge to get a complete gray scale. The second problem is that the film is quite slow, insensitive to light, the ISO speed is about 3. I swear my skin sunburns with less light than it take to expose this film. An additional problem is that the film is designed to work under darkroom safelights, so it doesn’t respond to all colors of light. This is a good news bad news sort of problem: you can process the film by safelight so you adjust the development by inspection, but many colors of light just don’t show up on the film. I used a Macbeth color checker in my test shot and there were a lot of color patches with no density. Another inexpensive film choice is x-ray film. I haven’t tested this yet, but I’ve read about the challenges it presents.

This is an image made with litho film. I used my 4X5 camera to test. Not really successful.

This is an image made with litho film. I used my 4X5 camera to test. Not really successful.

At some point in this process it occurred to me that I own a flat bed scanner that will scan 12X17 inch images, much large than most scanners. I also realized that I had a great deal of 11X14 Ilford Multigrade glossy resin coated paper. I decided to try loading this paper into the film holder and shooting it in camera. In the beginning of photography Fox Talbot used paper negatives, so this was not a unique inspiration. The thing was that I realized that I could use the scanner to turn the images I made in the camera, which would be negatives, into positive images. The big advantage here is that I have all the tools of digital photography to interpret my images, but I’m not going to be making contact prints. Right now this seems a good trade. If I want to I can make a digital negative with my printer and make a sort of a contact print, and I can use a digital negative to make cyanotype or Vandyke prints. Of course I can also output a digital print, so I have a lot of printing options. I suppose some would say that I might just as well capture the image with my Nikon D800, but that would take away the pleasures and challenges of the big camera.

Negative image made on Ilford Multigrade paper

Negative image made on Ilford Multigrade paper

My tests revealed that the Multigrade had an ISO of about 100, which is so much nicer to work with than 3. In addition my tests revealed that Multigrade reacts to a much wider range of color than the litho film I tried. While the paper isn’t panchromatic it does react to most colors other than red. I think that’s because it’s a variable contrast paper. Of course the paper is designed to give a complete gray scale with normal processing. The Ilford paper can be processed under regular darkroom safelights, for instance the Kodak OC filters. I am lucky to have a Thomas sodium vapor safelight, which is a very bright safelight. I set it up in my studio, and it provided a good working environment for loading and processing the paper, even posing the subject. I should also mention that it is MUCH easier and quicker to process and dry this resin coated paper than to work with any film.

The image with the hat was made with Ilford Multigrade paper and the hatless image was made with my digital camera and converted to black and white. Note that most of the color samples show in the Multigrade image.

The image with the hat was made with Ilford Multigrade paper and the hatless image was made with my digital camera and converted to black and white. Note that most of the color samples show in the Multigrade image.

The paper is designed to change its contrast range depending on the color of light you use with your enlarger. There are filters for this purpose. Right now I’m working without a filter. This seems to provide a long contrast range. One advantage of scanning the negatives (ok, I know that these things are not transparent film negatives, but still they reverse black for white) is that I can control contrast in the computer. I can also flip the images left for right because, like any film image, the picture on the emulsion side of the base is reversed left for right.

Studio set-up

The set up in the studio, for the shot of Wiggy and myself. I used 4 power packs to make over 5500 watt-seconds of light.

My scanner (actually it’s a very large all-in-one) is a Brother MFC-J6910DW. I did my first tests with the software that come with the scanner. This provides little control over the scan. I also have VueScan for my film scanner and, happily enough, this will also control the Brother scanner. I can scan at 2400 dpi, which would enable me to make a print that is 110 inches on the long side at 300 dpi. The resin coated paper lays flat and the glossy surface scans very well, no surface detail.

Wigg & Me, selfie

The negative of Wiggy & me. Actually it’s quite amazing to be able to make a portrait with a camera this big and strobes.

There are other details. One of my favorite areas to explore is the lenses for this large camera. The camera is too heavy and unwieldy to take out of the studio and this affects the choice of lens. The normal lens for this camera would be about 16 inches (400mm) long. It’s unlikely that I would use a wide-angle lens for a distance shot in the studio, but I would use a wide angle to shoot closer to a subject. My tests were done with a 24 inch (600mm) f11 Artar that I got for the camera. This lens is rather long for the studio. Because the distance between this lens and the back of the camera is quite long it’s a little difficult to control the camera. Since I did the tests I’ve mounted my 270mm (10 inch) G-Claron W.A. f6.3 on a lens board for the camera. I think this will be a useful lens for the camera, especially for small subjects. I’ve also ordered a board for my 14 inch Dagor. I have very high hopes for this lens. I’ll also set up my 48cm (480 mm, 19 inch) f5.5 Dogmar for this camera. I should note that I love Goerz lens design, but because the lenses were made at different times and places they are sometimes described in inches and sometimes in centimeters or millimeters, which is why I’ve used different both English and metric measures. The only one of these lenses that has a shutter is the Dagor, but that’s not a big deal. Since you can keep the safelight on in the studio you don’t have to fumble in the dark.

Right now I only have one holder and this holder only works on one side. Since I can shoot load and process immediately, under safelight, this isn’t as big a problem as it might be out of the studio. Additional 11X14 holders are amazingly expensive: used ones are usually more than $200 each! I am working on a design using framing parts to build a holder for the studio. This design wouldn’t have a dark slide, so it would only be practical in the studio. Updates on this as they become available.

As you can see I’ve done tests with Wiggy and a color checker. Wiggy’s wearing a serape in the 11X14 tests. The serape is mostly green. I also did a selfie with me and wiggy. An 11X14 selfie is a heck of a thing. If I used a selfie stick it would have to be a telephone pole. As it is, my Majestic tripod is a little overloaded by this camera.

Positive of Wiggy & me

The last test with Wiggy and me. Would you like to come in for some shots?

Now that I’ve done the tests it’s time to shoot some actual pictures. I’m going to do still life shots of course, but I’d also like to do some work with people. Since the paper has an ISO of 100 I can actually shoot portraits and figure studies. Any volunteers?

Thanks, John

December 7, 2014

Do It Yourself!

Filed under: Basic Photo Technique,Do It Yourself,Uncategorized — John Siskin @ 4:07 pm

My books and my classes give me a reason to keep doing this blog. If you’re in Indiana I hope you’ll consider taking my Portfolio Workshop. You can see a little more information about this workshop if you check out this blog post. Thanks so much for your attention.

As the faithful readers of this blog will know I updated my website a while back. I wanted the site to appeal to commercial photography buyers. So, for instance the site is designed to work on a desktop computer rather than a phone. It’s been working out for me, perhaps because of the changes, or maybe because I’m using Adwords from Google. Regardless I’ve been getting a few jobs from new clients, which is great. I’ve added a couple of recent pics to this blog entry.

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One of the things I didn’t put back on the website is the Do It Yourself page. Frankly I really don’t want to encourage my clients to do it themselves. So I thought I would put links to some of the stuff that was on the page here. Don’t hurt your hands clapping. These aren’t all my designs, but they are things I use. My favorite project is the Chain-Pod. It’s easy to build and really useful. It helps to steady your camera when you don’t have a tripod or a monopod. And it fits in a pocket. Check it out!

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You don’t have to actually build anything to use the Booty Light. It’s just a cover for your flash, but it really works!

fdc1S

If you came to my studio you’d see a lot of Light Panels. I use them a lot in the studio, more than softboxes. They are really great tools for modifying light. You can change the size and character of a light much more than you can with a softbox or an umbrella. There are a lot of plans for light panels. I like this plan because they have feet.

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Here’s a plan for a Monopod. It’s probably not as good as one you can buy, but I think it cost less than $5, so it’s not a big investment.

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I like using this Computer Table on location. It’s simple to build and it’s very helpful if you’re tethering your camera to a computer.

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I like this Modified Umbrella for quickly lighting a room. It’s designed after a table lamp and it works very well.

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There are a few other projects at this link, including several cameras I’ve built. I’m not sure these really come under the heading of Do It yourself, as you might not even need these cameras, but I really like them. This article has a lot of information about the cameras & lenses I’ve built.

I’ve been mentioning my classes at BetterPhoto since I began doing this blog. I’m sorry to say that BetterPhoto has discontinued their interactive classes. I’ve really enjoyed working with BetterPhoto, so I’m sorry to see this happen. I may have a version of my classes at my website soon. Please look for it.

 

July 6, 2014

Changing Your Way of Seeing

My books and my classes give me a reason to keep doing this blog. If you’re in Indiana I hope you’ll consider taking my Portfolio Workshop. You can see a little more information about this workshop if you check out this blog post . I’ve listed my BetterPhoto classes at the end of this post. Thanks so much for your attention.

Frame 16

I see as a photographer, constantly breaking the world into still images. I think that most people who spend a big chunk of life doing photography see a little differently from people who aren’t involved in static art forms. I’ll look at something and think: “I’d shoot that, maybe a little warmer and with more contrast” or maybe: “That was a really great instant” and: “Look at that design.” I think this is part of being a good photographer. I once heard a guy say that he always adjusted a TV to look like Kodachrome, since that was the way he saw the world. Of course this illustrates one of the problems with this way of seeing: you start to see everything the same way. I’ve been known to walk by an interesting subject while thinking that’s not the kind of shot I do. I often make my shots warmer, even my black and white shots, but I can’t remember the last time I made a shot cooler.

Frame 22

So I’m always looking for ways to break out of my way of seeing. I know that many people want to have a style, but not me. I’m a photographer, not a painter, so I can be prolific and do work that’s new. I want to push myself to see in different ways. One of the ways I do this is to work with different tools: cameras, lenses and software. I just got a Horizon Perfekt, which is really helping me to see differently. This camera shoots a 120º image, horizontally anyway. It’s really different from other wide-angle images because the lens actually moves during the shot.Frame 12

 

I shot with a Koni-Omega camera last week. It’s a medium format film camera. This is a manual camera with range finder. Shooting it reminded me of the acronym FAST: Focus, Aperture, Shutter and Think. I think that my digital camera has allowed me to get a little sloppy with technique. Of course shooting with a new camera is not the only way to open yourself to new ways of seeing, but it can be fun as well as enlightening.

Frame 15

I got an 11X14 camera recently, but I haven’t shot with it yet. I still have to build a lens board and order some film, but it should be a quite an experience. Whenever you work with a very large camera the difficulties increase and so does the expense. But if 11X14 is anything like 8X10 getting a good result will be really fun. Sometimes just getting a good exposure can make you feel great. There’s another practice tool I want to work with. I have an old Spiratone 400 mm f6.3 lens. I’ve really only used it a couple of times because I’m more interested in wide-angle lenses. But in an effort to expand my vision I’m going to put in on the digital camera and start shooting. Who knows how that will affect my seeing? By the way I’ve included a couple of panoramas from the Horizon camera and one more from the Koni-Omega. Also I recently updated my website so you can get an idea of how I’m seeing now. Please check it out at www.siskinphoto.com

Of course there are other ways of expanding your seeing, like taking a BetterPhoto course. Here are the three I teach, perhaps you’d like to take another one or share them with a friend.
An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Getting Started in Commercial Photography
One other note about BetterPhoto: I’ve been in the habit of sending out a private note to all my former students at BetterPhoto (Almost a thousand people!) each month. There’s some sort of hang up in the e-mail system for thst so, for a while anyway, I won’t be sending that note. I hope no one is too disappointed.
Thanks,  John

 

September 3, 2013

The Studio is Open!

I’m going to keep thins simple in this entry: just a bunch of pictures of the new studio. It’s possible to shoot here, but not everything is put in the right place yet. The shooting space is about 42X24 feet, pretty damn large. The background holders are up. I’m going to put some more holders on the sides so that I can pull down white or black to add or subtract bounce fill. I need a little help to finish, some things are to big to lift. If you’re local maybe you could help me out, or help with a shoot. I’m trying to set up a shot of a Mini-Cooper, maybe for this weekend. You can also arrange to drop by and have a look. Thanks for your attention! I’ll just remind you about the BetterPhoto classes: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio and Getting Started in Commercial Photography and the books:

 

The shooting wall. You can see the background holders above the wall.

Another view of the shooting wall.

The back of the studio. You can see the cargo door.

This is the outside. It's a separate building. There is parking, particularly on evenings and weekends.

My office. I'm very happy about the way it turned out.

April 14, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Siskin @ 2:54 pm

I hope you’ll check out my books: Photographing Architecture and Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting. I hope you’ll get copies, if you haven’t already. Of course you know that one reason for this blog is introduce the books and get you to consider one of my classes at BetterPhoto.com: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio, Getting Started in Commercial Photography

I’m stating a portfolio building class this Tuesday, here in Indianapolis. It will meet at the Central Library at 6:30 pm April 16. As this class goes on it will meet in the studio I’m going to open. I really hope you’ll be interested in this class. I think it is a very good thing to get feedback on your images and to build a group of images that work together. This is going to be a small class, about 10 people, so you’ll want to sign up now. You can contact me by e-mail: john@siskinphoto.com or you can sign-up with PayPal. I’ll be bringing a few shots that will be part of my show at Indiana Landmarks in June. I’ve attached a few of those shots to this blog post. I really think it’s important to hear what others have to say about your images and to learn to talk about photographs.


It looks like I’m going to open a studio here in Indianapolis. I hope to actually write a book about the experience, and you’ll be able to see what’s going on here in the blog. Right now I’m looking for the right location. I have a couple of appointments to go searching next week.


When you want to start a studio the first thing to decide is what you’re going to do in the space. If you’re going to shoot portraits and book weddings you’ll need a studio on the boulevard, whatever the local boulevard is, and you’ll need a window full of portraits on canvas. Of course I have more commercial goals than that, so I want a studio with a cargo door in an industrial park. I expect to need at least 600 sq. ft. of shooting space, and maybe an office and a lock-up area. I don’t expect to ever get a walk-in customer. I would like to be near printers and machinists, as well as graphic artists. I may work with a partner, so I might need another office. A partner drops your costs by 50% which means a great deal. I don’t think I’ll shoot cars, but I want to be able to shoot a motorcycle. I want to keep a low profile. I want to be able to load items into the studio easily. I want people to feel secure when they came to the studio for classes or for jobs.


When I started my studio in Los Angeles, I was in my early twenties, and didn’t have any money. So the choices I made were more about cost than anything else. This was the only choice, but it was a choice that created trouble for the quarter century I had that studio. The location had some problems, but it did have fabulous parking. I can’t really explain how important parking is for an LA studio. Many of the things I built into that studio could have been better. Things like the seamless holders and the rail system I built to hold lights near the ceiling, but the bottom line is that they worked. I wrote this article (www.siskinphoto.com/magazine/zpdf/buildastudio.pdf) a few years ago about building a studio. I expect to do things a little differently now. I will do more articles, and maybe a book, about this new studio.


And don’t forget the books!

Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers
Photographing Architecture

B  Four


Thanks, John

 

July 9, 2012

About Perspective


I hope you’ll check out my books: Photographing Architecture and Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting. I hope you’ll get copies if you haven’t already. Of course you know that one reason for this blog is to sell the book and get you to consider one of my classes at BetterPhoto.com:
An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Getting Started in Commercial Photography
If you’re in the Indianapolis area there are other opportunities as well. I’ll be giving a lighting presentation at the Indy MU Photo Club on July 12.  I’ll be teaching a class in commercial photography next spring at Ivy Tech.

A short lens for portraits

A longer lens for portraits

I mentioned in my entry that a photograph is a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional reality. Since it is a representation you can change the way people perceive the subject. If you step away from the subject and use a telephoto lens then the subject will appear flatter, and if you get closer and use a wide-angle lens the subject will seem exaggerated. So the photographer’s position is critical to the way the subject looks. I see too many images where the photographer got lazy and just used a zoom lens, rather than considering the way the subject will be seen. Can you see the difference in the two shots of Jennifer? One is taken with a short lens and the other with a telephoto lens. I think the shot with the telephoto lens looks better. I would normally use a long lens for a portrait. These shots are from my book Photographing Architecture.


When I shoot a building my goal is to make the subject look more impressive. I start by using a wide-angle lens. I also look for a position that adds shape to the subject. One way to do this is to get close to the subject, and shoot just part of the subject. Another way to do this is to get above the subject. I did these images for a new client CRG Residential here in Indianapolis. You can see that I climbed the hill behind the building for one shot. I was also on a scissor light for a front shot. Lifts are incredibly helpful when shooting building. In this case I got stuck with one of the people from the company at the top of the lift for about twenty minutes. Photography can be so exciting

From the lift.

A straight look at the building

From behind on the hill

Close shot

Close Shot

Close shot

 

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