Photo Notes

December 7, 2018

About Lenses #1

So this post is sort of a plan or, if you prefer, a work in progress. A couple of days ago I put a post on Facebook announcing a series about lenses; this is the beginning. The idea is to have place where there will be links to the other posts and to give a sort of outline for the project. I’ll update this post as the project takes shape.

The first thing you should know: if you’re looking for advice about what lens to buy for your dSLR you may just want to pass on this whole thing. There are a lot of places you can get that information. This series is about understanding lenses and lens design. It may help you choose a lens for a dSLR, but the intent is to help you choose lenses for large format film work. Regardless it will help you understand how lenses work, and that can’t be a bad thing.

I was shooting with my 11X14 camera yesterday. I made a dozen negatives and shot with four lenses: a casket lens-focal length about 230mm; a Schneider Dagor-14 inch focal length; a Goerz Artar-focal length 12 inches; and a Goerz Gotar-13 inch focal length. The thing is, the focal lengths are very similar on these lenses, so there must be other reasons for making choices about which lens to use. When shooting with a small camera one of the first reasons to make a choice about a lens is the distance you’ll be from the subject. If you are closer to a subject you build more shape into the image, while if you’re further from a subject the image will feel flatter. People discuss this as if the lens changes the perspective. But that’s not true-it’s how far the subject is from the camera. If you shoot a persons face from 10 feet away it will always look flatter than if you shoot the same face from a foot away, regardless of what lens you use or how you crop. Distance from the subject is important to my work, but many other things influence my lens choice. First I think about coverage: you need a lot of image to shoot an 11×14 inch camera. I have a lot of lenses that would just make a circle in the center of the ground glass, and I have a lot more that won’t be sharp over the entire frame. The sense of sharpness and how the un-sharp image feels is critical to conscious lens choice. It’s like a painter picking a brush; even a house painter uses different brushes for different tasks, even more so for a portrait painter.

There’s more to the character of a lens that just sharpness. Contrast is also very important. The human eye interprets contrast AS sharpness. As a result of this modern lenses are always designed to maximize contrast, and that is generally a good thing. Maximizing contrast was particularly important before Photoshop because it was very difficult to control contrast in color printing. One of the things that improved contrast, perhaps more than any other factor, was lens coating.

Shot with 28 cm and back elements of my C. Bethiot casket set. An un-coated lens.

So this is a quick discussion of some of the topics I’d like to explore.

History of lenses. Lens construction pre-dates photography by at least a couple of centuries and possibly millennia. Lenses added to human vision. The thing is that since the human eye sees only a small field at any moment you don’t need to make lenses that are accurate over a large field since a person can move the eye or lens to compensate. Making photographic lenses that would cover a large area, at one time, was an early challenge.

Soft focus lenses. There is a difference between spherical aberrations and chromatic aberration and just poor focusing. I’ll also spend some time on soft focus filters. Many lenses have been specially designed to make soft focus images.

Flowers Wrapped in Newspaper-Shot with a Bausch & Lomb Plasigmat. This is a double exposure at two different apertures, which allowed me to selectively choose what was soft and sharp.

Process lenses. These are specially designed to meet the challenges of making printing plates for off-set presses. They are highly corrected for color and field flatness. Using them offers some special opportunities and challenges. I have several of these lenses that I use with my 11×14 camera.

Shot with a Goerz 12 inch Red Dot Artar on my 11×14 camera. Processing effects do not reduce the great sharpness and contrast of this lens.

Lens aberrations. These include pin cushion distortion, barrel distortions and coma.
Classic designs. Of course there is the Tessar from Zeiss, and there are so many more: Dagors, Dogmars, Angulon, Biogon…
Casket lenses and convertibles. Large format lenses are basically fixed focal length lenses, but many large format lenses have been designed that offer multiple focal lengths. I wrote an article for View Camera some years ago about DIY casket sets. You can download it here: www.siskinphoto.com/magazine/zpdf/LensAssembly.pdf

Shot for an article in View Camera about DIY soft focus lenses. This uses Kodak Portra lenses (add on lenses) instead of a lens designed to be used alone.

This whole thing will go on, but if I don’t post something now I may never get started.

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


One more thing, there are almost 9000 people registered on this blog. Wow! Thanks everyone.

July 16, 2018

Large Format Photography Class

I am teaching Large Format Photography at the Art Institute of Indianapolis this quarter. I will be posting a lot of information from this class, and edited audio versions of the lectures here, on my blog. If you would like to help edit the lectures please let me know! This is my first attempt at a pod cast, and it has some glitches. The information is good, and the presenter is enthusiastic

Here is the link to the first podcast:

I mentioned the quiz that I gave my students in a Facebook post. I was very disappointed by the outcome of the quiz I presented. So the first thing I want to do is go over the questions and answers, and how to get the right answers.

Question 1: You are shooting a waterfall. Your camera is on a tripod. The exposure is ISO 400 f8 and 1/125th of a second. You decide to use a 1/15 of a second to blur the water. You change your ISO to 100, what is your aperture?

The number of stops between 1/125 and 1/15 is 3. The change in the ISO, from 400 to 100 is 1 stop. So you need to change your aperture by 1 stop, that is from f8 to f11. The answer is f11.

Question 2. What stop is 3 stops less light that f5.6

1 stop less light is f8, 2 stops is f11 and three stops is f16. The answer is f16

Your exposure is 1/125th of a second and f4 and ISO 200. You want to use f8 and keep your shutter speed at 1/125 what would you change your ISO setting to?

The difference between f 4 and f8 is 2 stops. So you need to change your ISO by 2 stops. ISO 400 is one stop, 2 Stops is ISO 800. The answer is ISO 800

The standard shutter speeds are

1, ½, ¼, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1,250, 1/500, 1/1000.

Each change lets in less light

The standard apertures are

1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22

Each change lets in less light

The standard ISO numbers are

100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200

Each change INCREASES sensitivity

The difference between any two of these numbers, say f8 and f11 or 1/125 and 1/250 or ISO 100 and ISO 200 is one stop. That is the same amount of light. A one stop aperture change changes the exposure in the same way a one stop change in shutter speed or a one stop change in ISO would. You make decisions primarily based on how you want to affect depth of field or stop action.

There are intermediate numbers, like f1.8 or 1/100 or ISO 125. These are between the full stop numbers. They are generally a ½ or 1/3 stop change from a full aperture number or shutter speed. The eye can recognize a 1/3 stop change.

You should KNOW THESE NUMBERS.

This is a photomicrograph of an Autochrome. Autochromes were the first easy, well sort of easy, way to make color photographs. It shows how red green and blue particles of potato starch are used to record color with a monochrome emulsion. Some of you may be aware that this is how your digital camera records color. Red green and blue are recorded by specific pixels. Digital cameras use a Bayer Filter to record this information rather than the random potato starch grains of an Autochrome, but your digital camera uses a solution from 1907 to take color pictures!

These articles have some bearing on the subject of this and the next few posts.

Hand Assembling Lenses for the View Camera

Microphotography

Camera Building

And, just a reminder, here is the link to my DIY Page.

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

One more thing, there are almost 8500 people registered on this blog. Wow! Thanks everyone.

May 23, 2018

Selling Food Photography

Filed under: Commercial Photography,Marketing,Photographic Education — John Siskin @ 2:28 pm

There are a lot of times I wish I could write really dramatically. I would like to add a Hunter Thompson flair to this post, something that would make it actually readable. However…

I want to write a little about marketing and pricing and working here. I hope this will be of use to my students and to others. Whenever you are doing photography for money, and that is the very definition of professional photography, you need to think about the work the way your client thinks about the work. Maybe this is easy if you’re doing retail photography, shooting family portraits and so on, but it can be more difficult when you shoot for commercial clients.

I’d like to consider a couple of difficult clients and compare them to a current offer I’ve received. So let’s talk about Realtors. In general this is a group of people who believe that their sales skills have a large impact on their success. That could certainly be true. In addition they do not get any money until the sale is completed. This is important. Individually they see the money they spend marketing a property as coming directly from their own pocket. If they are selling, they believe that getting the owner to the right price will create a sale. In general they believe that price is the most important aspect of selling a property. This may be true. In addition they are never going to sell the same property again, or hardly ever. So a realtor is likely to want to reduce any investment made in selling a property. In addition realtors are very skilled negotiators. The result is a group of potential clients who will not put much value on your work and will be very likely to work with the lowest bidder for services. I did this sort of work for a couple of years and this was my experience. In addition, and this is important, because there is a big market, and because realtors require other services, such as printing and web posting, there are companies that offer a whole package, and they contract photographers, often all over the country. The result is that the photographer’s price is forced down and there is little regard for quality.

There are other groups that can be almost as difficult. I used to do a lot of work for art gallery owners. They had similar limited use for the images and they also considered themselves to be very skilled negotiators. I can tell you, if you want to work with these clients, Be Firm.

Now about food: food is one of the few areas where there are a great many new clients entering the market in the last twenty years or so. Back in the 1980s a restaurant had little or no use for pictures of food. There was no place to put them. A caterer or a hotel might have use for photos, and of course chain restaurants needed photos. The only good jobs in this area were magazines and cookbooks that wanted only first rate work. As a result the photographers who did this work were usually highly skilled professionals, and good food stylists were also in demand. Today even a food truck needs pictures! Any food shot, whether for a restaurant, a chef, a caterer or what ever else, might be used in social media, video, web sites, menus, mailers, email and even a cookbook! So it’s clear to me that food shots have a lot of potential value to a client. In addition food shots can be used over time to make many, many sales. If you’re shooting a pizza or a martini that shot could be used by a restaurant in dozens of ways for years. Your work has a grate deal of value to this group of clients. Quality is still a big issue, but now we have both digital cameras and Photoshop so many more photographers can achieve quality images. While a restaurant or a food truck may place some value on a half eaten burrito posted on Facebook, they will probably place a high value on a quality shot of the same burrito in a condition that looks actual appetizing.

There are ways in which restaurants and realtors are similar. One is that they often need help in many marketing areas rather than just photography. Also, most smaller food purveyors don’t have anyone with the skill and time to devote to marketing. As a result there are companies that are trying to offer a whole group of marketing services to these businesses including photography. I’ve recently been approached by a couple of these places. They want a photographer to go to a location, shoot the food and do some editing and file prep. Then they’ll use the photos to market the restaurant. This is a good idea. The market exists. There is one problem these companies don’t want to pay enough. It is unlikely that a single location can be shot and prepared with less than two hours, and more like three, of a photographer’s time. You have to schedule, load equipment, drive, unload equipment, shoot, load equipment, drive, prepare files and upload files at the very least. Surely any photographer competent to do this work ought to get more than $100 for doing this. Just saying…

Of course I’ve been through this sort of thing before. I’ve been told there will be enough volume to make it worth my time. I’ve been told it will provide me with contacts and a network. I’ve been told that it’s really easy and so on. Here’s what I want to say: IT’S WORTH MORE TO THE CLIENT. The client needs good work.

I’ve put a lot of my food photography into this post. Well, I’m not above doing my own marketing. I’ve also put in a couple of restaurant interior shots; your clients will need that as well.

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

One more thing, there are almost 8000 people registered on this blog. Wow! Thanks everyone.

March 15, 2018

A Do It Yourself LED light!

I’ve been watching the evolution of LED lighting for some time. As with any light source I’m interested in a couple of things, first how much actual light can I get? Second what does the spectrum look like? Third what is the color temperature of the light? Fourth what is quality of the light, and by this I mean how hard or soft is the light? Fifth what is the portability of the light? Finally, I’m interested in the price. In this post I’ll present a Do It Yourself light that presents a satisfactory solution to these problems.

How much light? I compared this light to a Lowell Omni light with the 420 watt EKB bulb. The DIY LED bulb had 1/3 of a stop less light that the Omni did if the Omni was set to throw a broad light. When the Omni was set to throw a spot then the Omni was 2-1/2 stops brighter. You should note that the LED light is a broad light, so the comparison to the Omni set for spot is not realistic.

I looked at the spectrum with my homemade spectrometer. The spectrum is continuous from red to blue. I can’t tell accurately if the cut off is different from a tungsten light source, but I don’t see a difference. The earlier LED light sources I tested did not have a continuous spectrum; so this is a real improvement.

 

I tested the light with a Konica Minolta Color Meter III F. This is a very accurate meter. The DIY LED had a color balance of 2930K. If you prefer the light needed an 82B filter AND a CC9 magenta filter to match 3200K. 3200K is, of course, the standard professional movie color temperature, which is the color temperature the Lowell Omni light is designed for. This means the DIY LED is a little warmer and a very little bit green. With a ¼ CTB filter over the unit the light had a temperature of 316, essentially even with the 3200K standard. There was still a small amount of green color that could be corrected with a CC10 G filter. This is a small correction, which could be ignored in many situations. I should point out that my various quartz lights show a color spread from about 2900K to 3300K, so there is normally variation in standard quartz lights. You can see the variation in these images.

The left test is a Quartz light with a DYS bulb, the center is the LED with a ¼ CTB filter and the right side is the uncorrected LED.

When corrected in Photoshop all the files look pretty much the same as you can see in the image below.

The DIY LED light acts like a small soft box. If you’re not worried about a specular highlight that might reflect the multi bulb set up, it’s really quite nice. Especially if you use it close to the subject. If the multi bulb design creates a problem in your image you can use it with a fabric cover. You can also use it with a light panel to make it even softer. You can see the difference between the LED light on the left and the Lowell Omni light on the right below. Both lights were set in the same position, about 5 feet from the wig head and about 45º to the left side of the camera. The version from the Lowell light has harder transitions and deeper shadows.

My design for the light is quite light weight, but a little bulky. The turkey roasting pan is easily pushed out of shape, which could be a problem. The good part is that the light will run for quite a while on a 12volt battery with a 120volt converter.

With out a filter the light will cost you about $45. NICE PRICE! Of course this doesn’t include a light stand. The filter is about $7 to $10 depending on which manufacturer makes it. Since the front of the lights are cool you won’t need to worry about burning or melting the filter.

Please note that I am looking for other color temperature bulbs that would work with this design. At this time these are the best balanced bulbs I’ve found. They will work well with a DSLR set to Tungsten. And in many cases can be mixed with other tungsten light sources. I am doing other tests as well, so look for updates. The daylight balanced bulbs I’ve tried are not very close to daylight or strobe.

Here’s the parts list:

The bulbs are Feit 100 Watt Dimmable. I got them at Costco, which was about half the price of the bulbs at this Amazon link.

The 7-bulb holder is available at Amazon. Here’s the link:

The socket, which has an on/off switch, is on Amazon at this link:

I should point out that this socket fits onto a standard light stand. There are several versions of this device. All are a little flimsy. The one in the link has a bigger tightening knob. I think this is better than the one I actually bought, mine slips.

I bought the turkey roasting pan at the Dollar Store. You can get them at Amazon, but you have to get a bunch of them. The pan was just a dollar that the Dollar Store.

The only trick to assembling the thing is to get the roasting pan to sit at the base of the bulbs. I used a couple of feet of pvc pipe to push the pan against against the base of the bulbs. I attached the pvc parts with pvc glue. I’m sure other things would work as well. Keep in mind that the base of the bulbs does get pretty warm, so you probably don’t want to glue the roasting pan to the bulbs. Take a look at the picture to see how I assembled it.

This shot shows how deep the bulbs are set into the turkey roasting pan.

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

One more thing, there are now more than 7500 people registered on this blog. Wow! Thanks everyone.

August 22, 2017

Dedicated Strobe Test

Over the years I’ve written and taught many times about lighting gear. I believe that any photographer who is wholly dependent on finding good light, rather than being able to make and modify light, when making a picture is limited in ability. While I recognize that there are many photographic artists who work in this manner, it is just not acceptable for a commercial photographer to be limited in this way. I should point out that you still purchase my book on this strobe lighting, just click on the link below.

The tools of light are evolving, as are all the tools of photography. When I first started making pictures on camera electronic flash was pretty new. It was also not very good. Now there are many fine lighting tools that work with digital cameras. Of course this doesn’t solve the biggest problem of portable flash units: you can’t see the light you’re actually photographing. An on camera flash makes light at your camera, so, if you’re not careful, you’ll get the dear in the headlights effect and red eyes. Any lighting unit is only as good as the visualization or lighting control of the photographer. Automation doesn’t make good pictures, just properly exposed pictures. It takes a photographer to make good pictures.

Since I started teaching at the Art Institute of Indianapolis I’ve had to discuss lighting tools almost constantly. The tools I’ve used for decades aren’t practical or available for the students. It seems ridiculous to suggest that twenty something students buy strobes older than they are. So I’ve been evaluating many of the current products. I have just a couple of important parameters for evaluating a flash: light and price.

Flash Fill using the Godox TT685

It may seem obvious that I would evaluate a flash based on actual light output, but I’ve had a couple of conversations lately that make me think it’s not obvious.

Photographers have told me that, since their cameras make very fine images at very high ISO setting, they don’t need a lot of strobe power. I’ll admit that a high ISO is a wonderful thing and that it does change they way you can use lighting tools in many situations but it can’t solve every problem. And that is the issue: not light quantity but light problems. A little bit of light can improve the images you take at an event even if you’re shooting at ISO 1600, but that’s not the only problem you’d like to solve with a camera amounted flash. The biggest problem for a dedicated flash is flash fill in sunlight. I refer to this as the ribbon-cutting problem. Your job requires you to shoot a group of people outdoors in the middle of the day, say an opening of a new store. There is a group of people standing around. You can’t change the light on the group or change the angle, simply because they have to be shot in front of building, and right now. The folks look a little like raccoons because of the shadows created by their brows, chins and so on. There isn’t any way to solve this problem with a reflector, unless the reflector is the size of a truck. You can solve this problem with a flash. The technique is called flash fill. The idea is to use a strobe that will fill in your shadows. You need ¼ to ½ the amount of light from your strobe that you get from daylight to make the ribbon-cutting shot work. In other situations you may use much less or, perhaps, even more fill flash. The Daylight 16 Rule states that you set your shutter speed to match your ISO and shoot at f16 for a full daylight shot: ISO 100, 1/100 and f16. Since this is a group you’ll be about 10 feet from all of them. In order to make this work you’ll need an exposure f11 from your strobe, or if you can shoot at 1/200 then f8. This would put your flash power at ½ the daylight exposure, or 1 stop less than daylight. This level of light will do a good job of filling your shadows.

You may be thinking, but the new strobes allow me to sync at higher speeds, so I’ll just raise the sync speed and then I can use less strobe. Doesn’t work. As you use higher sync speed the strobe has to fire more times so you get less total light in the shot. The power drops off very fast, so the fastest speed you can use for the ribbon cutting shot is they original sync speed of your camera, probably around 1/200 for a modern digital camera. Raising the ISO just raises the shutter speed, so that doesn’t work either.

 

No Flash

Flash Fill using the Godox TT685

So it would be very useful if we knew what aperture we could use with a flash at 10 feet from the subject with ISO 100. Good news and bad news on this subject. The good news is that most dedicated flash units are evaluated using a metric called guide numbers. Guide numbers are often done in feet and in meters, for our purpose the guide number measured in feet is the most useful. The guide number in feet is the aperture the strobe would give you at 10 feet from the subject at multiplied by 10. So if your flash is 10 feet from the subject, and the exposure is f5.6, your guide number is 56. Of course this is measured without any other light source. If the f-stop at 10 feet is f8-1/3 then the guide number would be 90. This isn’t rocket science, and using this information we can see that we’d need at least a guide number of 80 and we’d like to have 110. Now the bad news: while the manufactures usually list guide numbers for flash units they lie about the numbers.

I don’t mean they lie just a little, they lie A LOT! I tested the Sunpak 120J II. The manufacturer’s listed guide number is 177. The actual guide number is 50. The difference is about 4 stops. That means the unit has about 1/8th the power that Sunpak says it does. If I took the unit to the ribbon cutting I would fail. While Sunpak lies a lot, most of the manufacturers are lying by 2 or more stops. One notable exception here, the NIKON SB910 has a guide number of 111 according to Nikon and my test says that’s true. I also tested the Youngnuo YN685, which had a real guide number of 70; the Bolt VS570, which had guide number of 90, and the Polaroid PL190, which had a guide number of 60. I also tested a couple of classic strobes, Norman 200B, guide number of 120: the original Quantum Turbo, guide number 90, and some other things.

The second consideration I mentioned above is price. There are quite a number of dedicated flash units priced between $100 and $200. I like this price point for a couple of reasons: first it’s doable for my students at the Art Institute. Second it allows you to buy several units for what one Nikon unit would cost: $597.00. While a little extra power is good, several units will allow more creative lighting and offer back up when something breaks.

So what did I find out? The best unit for price and power is the Godox TT685. It has a guide number of about 90. It costs $119 at B&H or Amazon.
I would like t than B&H. I’ve ordered half a dozen different flash units, tested them and returned them. They are just great about returns. I couldn’t have afforded to test so many units without the returns department at B&H. Thanks folks!

Using the Godox TT685

No Flash

I’ll be writing more about working with the Godox soon! By the way the shots are from the Indiana State Fair.

Oh, and one more thing, you can get my book on Photographing architecture at this link:

December 27, 2016

On Editing

Griffith Observatory

I have been a working professional photographer for several decades. I actually started taking pictures much earlier. In all that time I’ve never lost my love of actually making an exposure. There is a hopefulness about each exposure: maybe this one will be great or maybe this one will please the client. The actual moment of creation is special.

The thing is, taking a picture is a personal moment. Inevitably there is something left out of the frame. It might be the experience of getting to the shoot or something completely unrelated. If I had a great breakfast before the shoot that part of my experience will never be part of the picture. Perhaps this is obvious, put most people taking pictures seem to miss this fact. One of the signs that the experience is outside the frame of the picture is when the photographer needs to explain the shot. Since most people take pictures to make a sort of visual diary of there lives this is a natural part of picture taking. Most people take picture to capture a part of there experience: this is what my child looked like at three or this is where I stayed on my last vacation. I think that this has a lot to do with the popularity of selfies. Of course I occasionally take pictures to capture moments of my life, but such pictures are not my business.

I make a lot of photograph for clients and for art. When I make a photograph I am shooting to communicate with the viewer of the photograph rather than trying to save a personal experience. This means that I must understand the way a viewer will see my photograph. The viewer will never have the experience of pushing down the shutter button. He or she comes to the photograph with a whole different set of expectations and experience than I had when I made the image. First the viewer expects to be shown something interesting. When I make photographs I am always involved in a process of discovery. I am trying to find what is interesting, compelling or just effective in an image. The viewer expects to be shown what I found; they do not expect to make their own journey of discovery. While it might be interesting to create art that requires such a journey on the part of the viewer, effective photographs present the viewer with the discovered.

Editing is the process of choosing what to share with the viewer. What I choose to share depends on the viewer. If I am working for other creatives, for instance an ad agency or a graphic designer I might share everything. Such people expect to go on to do their own process of discovery in my images. However if the images are for other uses, whether for business or for art, I need to choose images that will communicate with the intended viewers. I need to see my images as other people will see them. It can be very difficult to see images in this way. I must pay attention to what is in the frame, and how others see that content, and just what a photograph can actually communicate. This is a difficult process. Many good photographers are unable to make the shift to editor. I’ve often been shown images that represent something very special to the photographer, but weren’t effective in communicating to any one else. I’ve done this myself: tried to explain what was great about an image I made, only to realize that my audience was only concerned with the actual image.

When I edit my first step is to get rid of all the images that are so technically flawed that nothing can be done with them. While I don’t actually destroy any digital files or negatives, I don’t keep such images in the folder I’m editing. If I’m working with digital files my next step is to do basic corrections for color and exposure on any images that will benefit. Usually I can do this in batches, so it doesn’t take very long. If I’m working with another creative, or a client that wants to see everything, I may present all these images. I only present images at this stage if the client wants to be part of the editing process. The client often has special information they want to display or special insights into how they present their images. I never know everything a client knows; they always have special expertise. It’s important to use that information. So it can be very important to engage the client in the editing process. If I’m working for a client that wants to see only choice images I need to start to see like the client, and I have to start making more difficult picks.

On another pass through the images I’ll pick out any image that is particularly effective. At this point I am always looking for what is good about an image. I’m still trying to be inclusive. So I might keep an image that has a particularly effective portion, even if part of the image is flawed. If I have several images that are redundant this is the point where I’ll let some of them go. I’ll also pick out images that are grouped for special handling, say a group of shots that were made for HDR or focus staking. No part of photography is divorced from the technology of image making, but this process of examining images is effective if I’m using a loupe and grease pencil on a proof sheet or Lightroom. In fact I usually use Adobe Bridge and Adobe Raw to handle digital images.

At this point I begin to edit the actual image rather than the editing the shoot. This is a very important transition. Of course I’m going to continue to throw out images, for technical and esthetic reasons, but the next step is to begin edition the individual images. At this point it’s even more important to look at the images as a viewer would. Remember that the viewer won’t recreate the moment of capturing the image. Just like a client you have special information, but it may not be possible to express that experience in your photograph. So it’s time to get rid of the stuff that doesn’t work in an image. This means crop your image. There was an idea among photographers that you should crop the image in camera; that the actual image captured in the camera was almost sacred. One of the reasons for this was that we shot a lot slides, which were used for projection. You couldn’t edit these images, without a great deal of special handling: what you shot was what you showed. With current digital cameras there is no technical reason to shoot this way. In fact there are good reasons to shoot a little extra around your image, for instance you may need to do perspective control or compensate for lens distortion. It is also possible that an image may work best in another shape. There is nothing special about the 2:3 ratio of most digital sensors, square images or different rectangles may work better. It’s even possible that a circle or oval might be the best choice for the image. It’s important to be guided by the image rather than by a frame size or print size. If I end up with a special size image I can always mat the image for a standard frame.

Cropping is so important. It tells the viewer what to look at and keeps the viewer’s eye engaged with the photograph. I have seen so many images that would benefit from a little judicious cropping. There are probably a number of technical things I’ll do to an image when I first open it in Adobe Raw, but nothing is more important to the finished image than cropping. I may crop as a multi-step process, doing a rough crop in Adobe Raw and doing my final cropping in Photoshop. Of course this two-step process is particularly important if I’m going to be doing a perspective crop.

I think that Photoshop has had a more significant and lasting affect on image making than digital cameras have. The previous technology: either wet darkroom or offset printing, didn’t allow for much image manipulation, at least not without extreme costs. Photoshop allows us to get into the image and perfect it. As photographers we should use these tools to create a better visual experience for the viewer. There are so many ways to do this that are beyond the scope of this essay. However it’s important to be open to utilizing this tool kit. Whether you choose to do become a Photoshop expert or to send out your retouching you need to have an idea of the possible. There are limits for photojournalistic images, but those limits don’t apply to personal work, however it’s still important to keeps the viewer’s experience in your mind. Keeping a sense of the real is important to engaging a viewer.

If you’re still reading this you may want to share it. That’s ok with me, but please attribute it to me, for good or ill. If you have another opinion I’d like to hear it. You can e-mail me at john@siskinphoto.com.

My home page is at

http://www.siskinphoto.com/index.php

If you’re interested in more information from me you can find my workshops at:

http://www.siskinphoto.com/workshop.php

There are a couple of free classes that I used to offer through BetterPhoto, on the page as well.

You can read my magazine articles at:

http://www.siskinphoto.com/magazinearticles.php

There are a couple of dozen of them at that link, all free.

You can also find my books at Amazon, of course you’ll have to pay for them:

Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers

Photographing Architecture

My blog is at

http://siskinphoto.com/blog/

and I’ve posted this essay at the blog.

And just for fun here’s a link to my do it yourself page

http://www.siskinphoto.com/cameraeqp.php

 

 

 

January 8, 2016

New Workshop-Micro Photography

Filed under: Micro Photography,Photographic Education,Workshops — John Siskin @ 12:21 pm

When was the last time you were inspired?
When was the last time you saw something Truly New? Or looked at something and saw it as new?
One of the challenges for a photographer is finding new subjects and new ways of seeing. Of course it’s possible to build a career shooting subjects you have an affinity for, but isn’t important to walk into unknown territory?

06 05
My upcoming Micro Workshop will open doors to terra incognita, the unknown and the unexplored.
There are many ways to explore the merely small, those things you see when you look closely. But this workshop will enable you to see the worlds on the back of a fly and the oceans in a piece of opal, the miraculous rainbows in a piece of plastic. This is your opportunity to photograph an unseen world. This world isn’t too far away, and the tools that take you there are within your grasp. You need only have a good camera and a few adapters to begin. If you choose to go further good microscopes are cheaper than a new lens or speed light.

12 09

I want to act as your tour guide on this journey. I’m asking you come on a safari to the land of the infinitesimal. Unlike most journeys this one will give you the opportunity to return. You’ll be able to go back to this territory because this workshop will give you the keys; you can unlock the door again whenever you choose. This workshop will give you the ability to explore within the heated comfort of your own home. You’ll get extensive information on tools and where to find them.

03 01

Right now I’m looking for a few bold photographers that want to go on this journey. I haven’t set a specific itinerary or a price. We could go for a one day tour or even a two day trip that would include a microscope that you’ll take home. I’d like to know what you want to take home from this trip.

12 07

Please get in touch with me so that this trip can happen, and so you can join us! Right now the tour is scheduled to start on May 15. You can reach me for more information at john@siskinphoto.com.

02 08 11 10
You can buy one of my books by clicking on the titles below:


January 6, 2016

Carousel #1

Filed under: Do It Yourself,Other,Photographic Education — John Siskin @ 2:36 pm
Carousel

Carousel #1

First off I’d like to thank everyone who’s registered at this blog, NOW AT 4000 REGISTER USERS! Wow!

This is one of my all time favorite photographs. I like it so much I’ve posted the shot on the blog before.
http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=39
http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=85
http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=249

I don’t know that I’m adding anything new here, but I am adding a PayPal link so you can buy this image, and it’s also in my book B-Four.

I like this image because I think it captures the excitement of a boy ridding a carousel. It has a real sense of movement, and the horse almost looks alive! Of course it means more to me because of the experience of making the image. I’ve often talked to people about how making an image affects my perception of the image. So in order to make this image I had to make a unique camera.

Super Wide Camera

Super Wide Camera

This camera started as a tool to shoot Polaroid materials with 35mm lenses. Before digital the only way to preview your lighting and exposure was to shoot Polaroid instant shots before you committed the image to film. This was pretty easy with a large format camera because you could exchange the film back for a Polaroid back, but it was a real problem for 35mm cameras. It was possible to get a Polaroid back that was built to fit on a 35mm camera, but since you couldn’t exchange the back in the middle of a roll of film you needed an extra camera body. A dedicated camera with the custom Polaroid back was a pretty big expense. I designed this camera to use a Polaroid back built for my large format camera and to shoot Nikon lenses. That the thing worked at all was pretty amazing, but it turned out to be pretty useful. As you can probably tell I’m not the world’s best craftsman.

When I finished the camera I realized I could attach a film back as well as the Polaroid back. With most lenses the really wouldn’t mean much, but Nikon builds a few lenses that provide a unique point of view with this camera. These lenses capture a much larger angle of view than a 35mm camera can shoot. They are designed this way so that they can be used to shoot architecture and maintain perspective. This camera is able to capture more of the image from these lenses, which gives you a well corrected extreme wide-angle view. With this camera the lens has about a 110º angle of view, similar to a 17mm lens on a full frame digital camera.

The shutter on the camera is a pneumatic Packard shutter, activated by a bulb you hold in your hand. The shutter speed is about 1/30 of a second, really pretty slow. So in order for the horse to stay sharp I had to move the camera with the horse as I activated the shutter. This is actually a pretty neat trick; it’s called panning. Panning works pretty well with a 35mm camera, but frankly I didn’t expect it to work here because the camera is so awkward. I was amazed and pleased that the pan worked.

Scan of the negative

Scan of the negative

One or two of the earlier posts was about editing, which is so important to any photographer. I’m including an un-retouched scan of the negative (does un-retouched mean touched, probably not). I’ve used a lot of the image in the final presentation. I hope you’ll like it and want to buy a print. The link below will let you order a print of Carousel #1 mounted and matted. The image will be about 13 inches wide, and about the same height. I hope you’ll consider ordering one, the price is just $125, which includes shipping in the United States. If you’d like me to send a print somewhere else let me know at john@siskinphoto.com, I’m sure we can work something out.


I should also mention my book again B-Four. I put this book together with many of my favorite images. I’ve added links to the book from other images that are included. You can see all the images if you go to the link.

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


December 15, 2015

Gyroscope #1

Filed under: Digital Photography,Photographic Education — John Siskin @ 1:28 pm

 

Gyroscope #1

Gyroscope #1

The images I’ve posted to this blog recently have all been shot on film. As I post more images for the fine art pages of my blog I’ll be posting more digital images. I wanted to start with this image because it’s one of the first digital fine art images I made. My first digital camera was a Leaf DCB II, which fit onto the back of Mamiya RZ camera. This was a real early digital capture device, sort of a bad marriage of a film camera and a digital camera. The Leaf back was actually only capable of recording a black and white shot. In order to make a color shot the camera shot three images through a red, green and blue filter. The software added the images together to make the color file. This was a HUGE PAIN IN THE BUTT. The position of files needed to be adjusted on each shot. Since the camera took three images it took quite a while to make each shot. You couldn’t take a shot of anything that moved. The camera needed to be tethered to a desktop computer, so it was a real problem to take on location. I was the second owner of the back, and it still cost $6000-six thousand dollars. The image was only three megapixels.

Gyroscope #11

Gyroscope #11

If the subject moved during the shot, or if the lights moved, the image changed. I’d all ready worked with images built of three exposures. I did this on location with waterfalls to add rainbows to the water. I’ve added a shot of Buckhorn Falls to this blog to show how this effect works. In the shot at the top of the blog (Gyroscope #1) I kept the light in the same shot but the outer frame of the gyroscope moved. In Gyroscope #11 I moved the light around between the three exposures. You can see how the light position changed the color of the clear glass I put the gyroscope on.

Buckhorn Falls #2 Shot on 4X5 Ektachrome

Buckhorn Falls #2 Shot on 4X5 Ektachrome

If you’d like to buy either of the Gyroscope images You can use the link below. I’ll mount and mat the images on 11X14 inch board, and the actual image will be just 10 inches tall. That’s as big as the files really want to print. Since these images are smaller you can get these images for only $80 by using the link below. Please tell me which image you want by e-mail (john@siskinphoto.com). I’ll make a special deal if you want both images. I’ll be putting up Buckhorn Falls #2 as a separate post soon, with it’s own sales link.


You can buy one of my books at these links

I’m going to be using my blog to add information about images to the fine art pages of my site. This part of the site isn’t functioning yet, but it will be. These posts will enable me to put up information about the shot and to add details about buying prints. I think it’s very useful to talk about the details of creating specific images. I hope to hear from you about this-use my e-mail to let me know: john@siskinphoto.com. Of course I hope you’ll also want to buy some prints. I’ll be offering more types of prints in the future.

December 7, 2015

What?

Filed under: Looking at Photographs,Photographic Education,Portraits — John Siskin @ 3:48 pm
What?

What?

This is the most successful image I’ve ever made. It’s been published several times, including in the New Yorker Magazine. I’ve sold more prints of this shot than any other. And I almost missed it. Of course we often miss shots because we recognize a moment too late, or because something goes wrong, but this shot had a different problem. I made this shot, and made a proof sheet, and put it in a file without noticing how effective this single frame was. I don’t know why I missed it, maybe I just didn’t have time to print, but it ended up in the files. Fortunately I like to go through the old files, because I sometimes find good things. Sometimes you just need fresh eyes to see how effective an image is. Anyway I did notice the image, and it’s been an important part of my portfolio ever since.

Photographing animals in the studio is similar to making studio photographs of children: you need to be ready before the subject steps onto the set. You’ll probably only get the right look one time, so you don’t want to waste that on a set-up shot. In this case the dog came into the shoot after I finished shooting his owner, so everything was ready. I shot the image on Kodak TMAX film with a Mamiya C-330. I used the 250mm lens for the shot. It’s just about the only time I ever used this lens. I liked the Mamiya C-330 cameras because I could afford to have just about everything in the system. I did a lot of good commercial and personal work with these cameras. I still have one C-330 body and the 180 Super lens, a great combination.

If you’d like to buy a digital print of this image, mounted and matted on archival cotton rag board, please use the PayPal link below. The image will be about 13 inches wide mounted on 16X20 board. The price includes shipping in the United States, for other countries please ask first.

This image, and many others, is also available in my book B-Four. You can look at the book at this link, and order it as well. I hope you’ll take a look at the book.

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

I’m going to be using my blog to add information about images to the fine art pages of my site. This part of the site isn’t functioning yet, but it will be. These posts will enable me to put up information about the shot and to add details about buying prints. I think it’s very useful to talk about the details of creating specific images. I hope to hear from you about this-use my e-mail to let me know: john@siskinphoto.com. Of course I hope you’ll also want to buy some prints. I’ll be offering more types of prints in the future.

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