Photo Notes

March 30, 2021

Changes in Seeing

The made this image in the Gallisteo Basin, just a couple of miles from where I live. I expect to go back out there later this week. I’m not sure what gear I’ll bring with me. I’m challenging myself to work with different cameras and films to improve my ability to interpret what I see in different ways. Interpretation of a subject is part of making a photograph rather than just taking one.

New version
Gallisteo Basin 12-8-2020-2

I’m putting two versions of this on my blog. The original version I did just after making the photograph. I opened the shot again yesterday, a few months after I did the original version, and made a new version. Of course, I like the new version better, right now… It’s easier to see and re-interpret an image when you’ve put a little time between you and the original shot. There is always more to see.

Original version
Gallisteo Basin 12-8-2020-2

I am now offering prints of many of these images. The index codes for these images are: 46A 3-12-2021 #2. you can buy a print! Right now, all prints are set to fit on an 11×14 inch piece of paper. If the image is too thin it will have white paper on the sides. I am printing with an archival ink/paper combination. Prints are shipped by USPS priority mail to anywhere in the US that’s covered by Priority Mail service. The price is $75 for the first print and $60 for each additional print ordered at the same time. Please e-mail me at john@siskinphoto.com and include index code and your address. I will send you a PayPal request to arrange payment. I will be adding old and new images to this service. If you see an image on my site you would like to purchase please tell me where you found it and I’ll try to make it available to you. Thanks for your support!

And my books!
Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers

https://amzn.to/3tH5Dp9

Photographing Architecture: Lighting, Composition, Postproduction and Marketing Techniques

https://amzn.to/3c8nLlU

March 28, 2021

Testing a Graflex XLSW

Testing a Graflex XLSW 46A 3-12-2021 #2

This shot is made with a Graflex XLSW. I was testing it out here at the house. There are a couple of cameras built around the Schneider 47mm Super Angulon f8 lens. Brooks made two versions of the Veriwide, and Graflex made a special version of their medium format XL camera that was designed for this lens. I’ve posted a lot of shots I made with a camera I assembled out of parts of a Brooks Veriwide and a Graflex XLSW. This is actually a whole Graflex XLSW. I wanted to see if it’s significantly different from the camera I’ve been using. The test negatives from both cameras are very good. Not sure what I’m going to do with two such similar cameras, maybe get one of them ready to sell… I really like the lens and having a small, super wide camera that shoots 6X9cm film. If you’re interested in a Superwide roll film camera send me a message at john@siskinphoto.com. Thanks for your interest and support!

I am now offering prints of many of these images. The index code for this image is: 46A 3-12-2021 #2. you can buy a print! Right now, all prints are set to fit on an 11×14 inch piece of paper. If the image is too thin it will have white paper on the sides. I am printing with an archival ink/paper combination. Prints are shipped by USPS priority mail to anywhere in the US that’s covered by Priority Mail service. The price is $75 for the first print and $60 for each additional print ordered at the same time. Please e-mail me at john@siskinphoto.com and include index code and your address. I will send you a PayPal request to arrange payment. I will be adding old and new images to this service. If you see an image on my site you would like to purchase please tell me where you found it and I’ll try to make it available to you. Thanks for your support!

And my books!
Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers

https://amzn.to/3tH5Dp9

Photographing Architecture: Lighting, Composition, Postproduction and Marketing Techniques

https://amzn.to/3c8nLlU

March 26, 2021

Hair Goo with the Microscope

Filed under: Fine Art,Fine Art Portfolio,Micro Photography,Micro Photography — John Siskin @ 12:58 pm

Another image of hair care product from Jerome Russel. DSC2978

This is a picture of a hair care product from Jerome Russel. This product would put multicolored streamers into the hair. Jerome Russel was a client about 20 years ago, so I wouldn’t recommend putting this particular batch of stuff onto your hair, but it looks great through the microscope. I used two captures and focus stacking to make this shot. For more on using the microscope check out this post: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=4421  Thanks for your interest and support!

I am now offering prints of many of these images. If the caption has an index code like DSC1234 you can buy a print! Right now, all prints are set to fit on an 11×14 inch piece of paper. If the image is too thin it will have white paper on the sides. I am printing with an archival ink/paper combination. Prints are shipped by USPS priority mail to anywhere in the US that’s covered by Priority Mail service. The price is $75 for the first print and $60 for each additional print ordered at the same time. Please e-mail me at john@siskinphoto.com and include index code and your address. I will send you a PayPal request to arrange payment. I will be adding old and new images to this service. If you see an image on my site you would like to purchase please tell me where you found it and I’ll try to make it available to you. Thanks for your support!

And my books!
Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers

https://amzn.to/3tH5Dp9

Photographing Architecture: Lighting, Composition, Postproduction and Marketing Techniques

https://amzn.to/3c8nLlU

March 22, 2021

Photography Through The Microscope!

Beginning with this post I am going to make prints of some of the images on my blog available. More information is posted at the end of this blog. Thanks for your support

Watch face DSC-2184

In the book Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance the author (Robert M. Pirsig) quotes an instruction booklet, that said “assembly of Japanese bicycle require great peace of mind.” Macro and micro photography require that your peace of mind increase in direct proportion to the reduction in the size of the object you are photographing. It gets more difficult, and it requires more patience, as you get closer.

butterfly wing DSC-2184

Most people approach macro photography by purchasing some sort of macro lens which enables them to reproduce picture of an object at perhaps one quarter the size of the object in real life on the sensor of their camera, maybe even bigger.  So, one quarter reproduction means that if you had a 25 cent piece, a quarter in US language, you could take a picture four of them and stacked across the short distance of a full frame sensor sensor. And they would fit. The quarter is an inch wide and a full frame sensor is an inch wide (and an inch and a half long). If the quarter filled a full frame sensor it would be a 1:1 capture, or life size.

watch part  DSC2146

Macro photography is occasionally discussed in terms of where it begins and where it’s simply a close-up. I’m not sure that that’s terribly useful, but, when you are less than three feet from your subject with a more or less normal lens, you’re pretty close and it isn’t necessarily difficult to make that picture, depending upon the equipment you’re using. As you get within less than an inch of your subject it gets to be extremely difficult to shoot, and when you are within one or two millimeters of your subject, it becomes almost impossibly difficult to photograph. What I’m going to explain here is photography with the microscope, which is generally photography within less than an inch of the subject.

hair gel  _DSC2073

I will discuss other ways of doing close-up work in other postings. This posting is concerned with very, very close microscope work. This is not the usual way I approach this subject: in the past I’ve discussed macro photography and built up to micro and microscopic photography. That might make more sense. However, I’ve recently posted a lot of photographs made with the microscope, and so I hope that many people might be interested if I start there.

Leitz Microscope

The first thing about the microscope is to understand that the actual equipment that you need to do this kind of photography is easier to get, and less expensive, than you might think it would be. That’s important because one of the things I would hope that this discussion does is to encourage you to try this kind of micro photography or microscopy if you want to be more formal.

Leitz Microscope set-up

Before I write about the individual components of the camera/microscope combination, I’d like to give an overview of the set-up, from top to bottom. At the top is a digital SLR, the currently available cameras would be good for this. Next is a T-mount (more below) which connects the camera lens mount to a microscope adapter. This adapter is basically a hollow tube that fits between the camera and the eyepiece tube. The eyepiece is in the eyepiece tube, and it’s the first part for the optical system. The eyepiece tube is connected to the microscope head, where the lens or lenses are mounted. That lens is called the objective lens and it is the second part of the optical system. Below the objective lens is the stage, which is where you’ll place your subject. Under the stage there will often be an iris/condenser device, which can be used to change the quality of the light coming through the subject. Probably most scopes have a mirror below the condenser, but a few will have a light source. I think a mirror is more useful. At the bottom is the base, which is usually heavy to keep the whole thing stable.C14 The condenser, it helps to focus the light onto the subject

The large wheel is course focus and the small one is fine focus. They are often set up this way on modern scopes

The condenser, it helps to focus the light onto the subject.

A decent student grade microscope can be had for around a hundred and fifty dollars. This will do the job. Of course, you can spend much more on a microscope, but since you are not trying to accurately reproduce pictures of cell division or tiny crystalline structures (at least I’m hoping you’re not) a student grade microscope is a good choice. A student grade scope has course focusing and fine focusing, two separate knobs. It takes standard interchangeable eyepieces and interchangeable objective lenses with a standard thread. I’ll put a link to a student scope, and the rest of the stuff, at the end of the post.

Objective lenses on Lens turret

Eyepiece

In order to understand the reproduction ratio of a microscope for viewing it’s pretty simple. The eyepiece and the objective lens have numbers for their power, say 10x or 4x. Multiply the two numbers and you have the power of the system. So, if you have a 4X objective and 10X eyepiece, you would be viewing at 40 times life size, which is a nice range to work in. I’m not actually sure that this is exactly the power on your camera sensor, but whatever it is you’re damn close. When you make a print of the capture or reproduce it on your computer screen it gets larger still. So, you are frequently looking at things that may be a hundred, two hundred maybe even three hundred times life size on your computer screen, which is pretty impressive.

Microscope Adapter and T-mount

The adapters that you need to do this, in addition to the scope, are first a microscope adapter. This fits around the eyepiece tube on a standard microscope. Is available for less than $40. Surplus shed would be a good place to start looking for them. In addition, you will need a T-mount adapter. T-mount was an early interchangeable lens mount that is still used today. A T-mount lens could fit onto cameras with several different lens mounts, if you used the right adapter. And it remained unchanged and in use pretty much to this day. There are mounts for most current cameras, even mirrorless. T-mount is also used for telescopes and some other optical systems. You can also get old mirror lenses that use t-mount adapters. They can be a lot of fun. T-mounts are available from Surplus Shed and B&H Photo and any of a variety of suppliers.

The camera on top of the scope

Microscope and T-mount attached. They are screwed together

The microscope adapter is two pieces. It’s easier to mount the small piece on the scope and mount the larger piece onto the camera and then put them together on top of the scope.

You should start with the microscope arranged vertically. Most of the student grade microscopes, in fact, I think all of them, will tilt backwards to make it easier to sit and view your subject. Unfortunately, if you mount your camera on the microscope in this way, it will probably fall off the microscope and that would be a bad thing. So, you’ll set up the microscope vertically. Important safety tip. It is also very important to set the camera to use the self-timer. If you trigger the camera directly with the shutter release you will shake the camera and get fuzzy pictures. You could also use a remote release, but the self-timer works very well for microscope work.

Microscope lenses- Shown are a 4X Plan, a 25mm Zeiss Luminar and a Spencer 10X. This is the group I’ll usually put onto the scope.

I would always start with a 4X objective lens. I say this because one of the problems that you’ll get into, as I mentioned earlier, is the closer you get to your subject the more difficult it is to manage taking a picture of the subject. With a 4X objective lens, the lens will end up being between a quarter and three-quarters of an inch from your subject. That gives you just enough room to light the subject from above. It also gives you room to put a filter on the lens; it gives you room to do a whole lot of things. A 10X lens will be less than 3 millimeters from your subject, which makes it impossible, or close to impossible, to light your subject from above. You’ll only be able to work with transparent subjects with the 10X or more powerful lens. It’s more difficult to manage the focusing or positioning with the 10X lens. When a professional microscopist uses a 100X lens she/he will usually add oil to the top of the subject and then put the lens into the oil. There’s less reflectivity if you do this. You would only be able to photograph transparent subjects with light transmitted from below the stage. I have not tried to do this, and, unless I find some transparent subject that seems absolutely compelling to me, I am unlikely to try it in the future.

Eyepieces, Shown are a Leitz 6x and 10X and a Wollensak 15X and 20X

One of the things that may not come with a student-grade microscope is multiple eyepieces. And this is one of the things that you might very much want for photo microscopy such as I do. Since it’s so difficult to use more powerful objective lenses, you may find yourself wanting to change the eyepiece to change the power of the scope. Eye pieces come in a variety of strengths. I own a 4X eyepiece, a 10x eyepiece, a 15x eyepiece and a 20x eyepiece, which gives me some variety of reproduction powers. Surplus shed carries a number of different eyepieces and they would be a good place to start looking for eyepieces. A student grade microscope usually comes with a 10X eyepiece and that is a good place to start. Neither standard eyepieces or objective lenses are terribly expensive, compared to camera lenses. There are some special purpose objective lenses if you’d like an upgrade. If you find a PLAN objective lens it will be sharper than the lenses that come with most scopes. The biggest difference might be that an inexpensive objective lens will be more likely to be fuzzy at the sides of your image.

Geared stage

Most student microscopes have clips which will hold down a regular microscope slide. Then you position the slide, or other subject by moving it with your fingers under the scope. This is the biggest problem with inexpensive microscopes. Better scopes have a geared stage to move the subject around under the scope. If you really enjoy photo microscopy you might want to get a scope which has gears to control the position of the subject.

Lowell Pro light with Barn Doors

Lowel Pro light

The next thing you will need is a light source. Most student-grade microscopes and in fact most fancy microscopes only have a mirror below the lens. Most scopes also have a condenser between the mirror and the stage which changes the spread of the light that you’re using. I find that the condenser is not terribly useful to the way I approach microscopy, but you may find it helpful. Some student grade microscopes will not have a condenser. The actual light source that you use can be something as simple as a desk lamp or even the room light. And that will work very acceptably for an awful lot of work that you might do with the microscope. Look for a lamp that has a continuous spectrum or perhaps an LED light source. Stay away from fluorescent light sources because the spectrum can make it very difficult to get a true color reproduction or can change the color reproductions in unexpected ways. I find that I rarely look for accurate color in micro photography, especially because the images aren’t things we can usually see with the unaided eye. Often, I will use the 3200º Kelvin quartz light and either not compensate for the warm color shift of compensate in Adobe RAW when I open the image. A small light source gives you more control than a broad light source. At this point I am using a Lowel PRO quartz light, which provides much more light than any desk lamp. I like this a lot, but it’s not available new, there are generally several of them on eBay pretty inexpensively. Lowel still makes several more powerful quartz lights, like the Lowel Omni or Tota quartz light but these might be too hot for microscope work (they do get extremely hot).  A bright light source is especially important when I start to filter or modify the light because I will still have enough light to actually see the subject. Even without a filter it’s dark through a microscope; more so when the light has to go through the camera and into the viewfinder, after it leaves the microscope eyepiece. The next problem is to position the light source. The Lowel PRO quartz light can be attached to a regular light stand mount or it can be attached to a tripod mount. This enables you to use a ball head or another tripod head to position your lamp in relationship to your subject. This light also has barn doors which give you more control over the light. You can also move the microscope mirror which will help position the light; that is if you are lighting your subject from bellow. If you’re using a 4x objective lens you can also light a subject from above, which makes positioning the Lowel PRO light with a tripod head even more helpful. You can also use a strobe to light, even a dedicated camera flash. This can increase sharpness, because camera shake can be a problem, BUT, it’s very difficult to be sure what your subject will look like when you take the picture. Also, you’ll still need a bright light to focus.

The 4X lens focused on a feather. You have a good amount of room between the lens and the subject.

If you are using the 4X objective lens you will find that most of the focusing can be achieved with the course focus wheel on your scope. The fine focus wheel is useful when you try to use that 10X lens. You will also find that the objective lens will stay at about the same distance from you subjects, so if you get a sense of that distance you can set the scope at about the right distance before you look through the camera. Your actual focus is achieved by looking through the camera viewfinder. Since your microscope is set up vertically, it may help to place the scope on a low table or get something to help you stand above the scope. As you might imagine depth of field, holding things at different distances form the lens in acceptable focus, doesn’t really exist with microscopes. With few exceptions, notably Zeiss Luminar lenses, microscope lenses do not have diaphragms, so there is no way to adjust depth of field, that is if you had any… What you can do is use Photoshop to do focus stacking. In order to do this, you need to take a several pictures at different focus points. Photoshop will enable you to combine these images into a single image with better focus. This can be a very helpful technique. While it is outside the scope of this particular post you will find that there are plenty of tutorials on line. Or, you could wait for me to do a post about modifying micro images in Photoshop. If you do take images for photo stacking, you’ll want to take them at the same exposure.

Image without focus stacking

Image with focus stacking DSC2130

When I first worked with high magnification optical systems exposure was very difficult to calculate. I had to compensate for long bellows extension on the view camera as well as reciprocity failure form the long exposure times. It is still astonishing to me how much easier it is to get a great exposure with a digital camera. If you set your camera on aperture preferred, you’ll get a good exposure. You may want to add exposure compensation correction, if you want a darker or lighter exposure. You might want to see what an image looks like at different settings, just to get a better feel for how you can interpret your subject. Of course, you can also do a lot of interpretation after you capture the image in photoshop. These changes in exposure calculation are perhaps the biggest improvement in micro photography that I’ve seen in 40 years. The massive improvement in the amount of information that a sensor records, compared to 35mm film, is also very significant. I used to do micro photography with large format cameras and transparency film, which was really quite difficult.

Sodium Thiosulfate

As you look at the pictures of the set-up and the various tools I use, you might want to begin thinking about subjects. I’ve recently done some nice work with old watches and some shiny goo meant for hair. Jerome Russel used to be a client and they made some very shiny hair care products with glitter and other reflective materials. I’ve included shots of both here.

Watch Parts

Old Watch Parts DSC2210

Old Watch Parts DSC2207

Jerome Russel Hair stuff:

Hair goo-focus stacking DSC2069

Hair goo-focus stacking DSC2061

Hair goo-file heavily modified in Photoshop DSC2058

Of course, a lot of things have interesting colors. Below are a couple of shots of dried Selenium toner, which is used in the wet darkroom to add color to B&W prints.

Selenium Toner DSC1999

Selenium Toner-file heavily modified in Photoshop DSC2000

Let’s not forget living things. These are a couple of pictures of butterfly wings. Bet you didn’t visualize them looking like this.

Butterfly wing DSC2050

Butterfly wing DSC2046

I mentioned filters above. There’s a lot of science behind this trick, but I’m going to cut direct to the chase. Put certain transparent materials, things like plastics and sodium thiosulfate (B&W fixer from the wet darkroom) between two polarizing filters. As you rotate one of the filters colors will start to appear. FUN! But, as I mentioned above, you need a lot of light. These shots are of a plastic prop ice cube. You can get interesting results, but you’ll need to experiment. Frankly all of photo microscopy requires an experimental attitude.

Plastic Prop Ice Cube-Dual Polarization

Sodium thiosulfate, fixer in the B&W darkroom-Dual Polarization DSC2025

As I mentioned at the top of this post, I am now offering prints of many of these images. If the caption has an index code like DSC1234 you can buy a print! Right now, all prints are set to fit on an 11×14 inch piece of paper. If the image is too thin it will have white paper on the sides. I am printing with an archival ink/paper combination. Prints are shipped by USPS priority mail to anywhere in the US that’s covered by Priority Mail service. The price is $75 for the first print and $60 for each additional print ordered at the same time. Please e-mail me at john@siskinphoto.com and include index code and your address. I will send you a PayPal request to arrange payment. I will be adding old and new images to this service. If you see an image on my site you would like to purchase please tell me where you found it and I’ll try to make it available to you. Thanks for your support!

A few links to the items mentioned in the post:

Student scope:

https://www.surplusshed.com/pages/item/T1480D.html

Microscope adapter:

https://www.surplusshed.com/pages/item/M1573D.html

Sony T-mount:

https://amzn.to/3s7xGOa

Nikon T-mount:

https://amzn.to/312M2DC

Canon T-mount

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/261256-REG/Celestron_93419_T_Mount_SLR_Camera_Adapter.html

And my books!
Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers

https://amzn.to/3tH5Dp9

Photographing Architecture: Lighting, Composition, Postproduction and Marketing Techniques

https://amzn.to/3c8nLlU

December 3, 2020

Courting Chaos

Curt #5
Published in Black and White Magazine

This post is about my Courting Chaos images, a group of images I made over more than two years, while I was working and teaching in Indianapolis. Black & White Magazine is going to publish one of these images in a few weeks! The work evolved over more than a dozen shoots with an 11×14 camera. The first show of this work was on November 2nd 2018 at Indiana Landmarks (1201 Central Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46202). Before I get any further, I should thank David Kidwell for assisting all through this project and Julie Powers for make-up and models. This work wouldn’t have happened without them.

Andrea #5

These images are figure studies handled with a very unusual and chaotic photographic process described below. Many of them are nudes and several of them are disturbing. I’m writing about the process in this post and also some thoughts about the results. I’ve enjoyed the entire project as a voyage of constant discovery. I really had no idea how the project would evolve when it began. My response to the images continues to change. I hope the images invite the viewer to create a narrative from them. My narrative involves ideas about escape. I hope you’ll find them interesting. My perception of the project continues to evolve.

Cassie #14

There are a lot of places I could begin to explain this work, because this project integrates traditional photographic techniques that I learned in high school with digital image manipulation techniques I’ve learned as recently as a few months ago. The project integrates inspiration from my first trip to Europe in 1971 and my visual inspiration continues to evolve to today. The greatest challenge, for me, is coming to accept chaos to be a co-creator in my photography. As a commercial photographer, for more than four decades, I’ve been fighting chaos. A commercial photographer generally wants to control and direct images to produce effective visual communication. In this project I’ve used special processes to push the images into shapes I couldn’t predict or control. The results have been the most surprising images of my career.

Gordon #1

I saw a series of sculptures by Michelangelo called the Prisoners when I was in Europe in 1971. I was about fifteen at the time. At first these images appear unfinished, especially in comparison with the David sculpture which was in the same museum. When I continued to stare at the pieces they seemed to be struggling to escape from the marble. The effect was quite surprising to me at the time: the seemingly unfinished sculpture conveyed movement while David sculpture remained a single moment of time. It’s now almost fifty years later and I still remember the effect and the details of these sculptures.

Bree #11

I remember seeing an Edward Weston photograph of a pepper just a few years after I saw the Prisoners. This image also had a lasting effect on my development as a visual artist. The design of the image was beautiful, but the medium: a silver gelatin photograph was also gorgeous. Of course, I had seen photographs before, but this was a contact print from a large format negative. Weston’s excellent craft created particularly beautiful prints. Over the years, in my classes and in working with photography, I’ve often met people that assume photographs are somehow independent of the medium in which they’re presented. For example, a person might think that they’ve seen “Moonrise Over Hernandez” by Ansel Adams because they’ve seen it on-line or in a magazine or a book, but a fine photographic print, made by Ansel himself, has a different effect than an image from an offset press or a computer display. In order to appreciate any creative work, it helps to see the work as the artist intended. Of course, there are many posters of paintings by Van Gogh or Monet and so many others, but is seeing these posters equivalent to seeing the original painting? It was the effect of the actual Weston print that allowed me to see beauty of the medium. I hope to share the actual prints of Courting Chaos again soon.

Wayne #2
Framed silver gelatin print for the show

Of course, there are so many images that affected my way of seeing, and these images in particular, but the work of Man Ray is most important for this project. Man Ray worked in a variety of media: doing sculpture, painting and photography. My perception of his work changed when I saw original pieces at the Getty in Los Angeles. One aspect of his images was important to this project: he was solarizing his negatives in a way I had never seen before. The way that Man Ray integrated innovative technique with creative images is spell binding.

Pernicamera

On another level this project began when I purchased an 11X14 inch camera. While it’s not necessarily difficult to think about scaling up a camera “it’s just the same thing only bigger” the reality is pretty impressive. A full frame dSLR uses a sensor that is 1X1.5 inches, regardless of how high the sensor resolution; it’s a small area. The camera for this project has a capture area of 11X14 inches. In addition, while the sensor may have high resolution, film resolution is on the molecular level. The total amount of information you can capture is mind blowing. The costs of the thing are pretty impressive as well; a single sheet of 11X14 inch film costs eight dollars. Adams used 4X5 inch camera much of the time; Edward Weston used an 8X10; Brett Weston did use an 11X14 camera occasionally. The problems of using a camera this size are not just expense and weight, it also needs a lot of light. So, when I got the camera, I wasn’t sure that I would use it much, maybe just a couple of times to prove I could master the thing. Then, after a lot of thinking, I came up with a way of using the camera to make images that I couldn’t create with any other camera. I decided to explore solarizing (re-exposing) the negatives.

Bonnie Hunt, Hand
Print Solarization

This is similar to what Man Ray did, during the processing of his film he re-exposed the negative to light. This creates a reversal effect. This was a pretty common process when I was in high school, but we solarized prints rather than negatives. When you solarize a print the white area of the print black or gray, which can look pretty compelling. It’s impossible to entirely predict what will happen, and even if you do the same thing twice, the results will be different. The thing about Man Ray’s solarization process is that he turned the black areas of the image white AND he could make multiple prints that were the same. This was because he solarized the negative rather than the print. This creates another big problem: you have to process modern film in total darkness (yes, even black and white film) so you can’t see what you’re doing. When Man Ray did this people used orthochromatic films; films that couldn’t record red light, so he could see what he was doing. I realized that I could shoot 11×14 photographic paper, which can be used under safelight. Since I have an 11×14-inch scanner I could take these negatives, which were on paper, and scan them. This enables me to interpret the images in Adobe Photoshop. The large area of the negative is an advantage with this process because you can choose to re-expose and re-develop specific parts of the image. As I mentioned, what actually happens to the image when you re-expose and re-develop is chaotic, almost totally unpredictable. Thus, I am courting chaos in making these images.

Mindy K #7
Original Negative Scan

A great advantage of shooting the photographic paper, rather than film, is that the processing is quick and easy. You can develop the RC paper in about a minute. Even with re-exposure it was only about 5 minutes from exposing with the camera to seeing the negative in white light. Almost as quick as Polaroid! In addition, since the large scanner was in the studio I could scan and reverse the images in short order, so the subject was able to leave with digital prints! This project benefited immensely from the immediacy of this medium. For many of the models, this was their first experience in seeing photos develop.

Cassie #1

This project is also the result of the work of David Kidwell, assistant extraordinaire, and Julie Powers, makeup artist for angels and devils. Julie did a couple of really remarkable things for this project: first she designed the make-up for all the models. This is tougher than it might appear because the Multigrade paper doesn’t react to color in an even way: reds and yellows are very dark while blues are brighter that you would suppose. Julie also arranged for all the models, THANKS! David managed set up and kept me on my feet all through the shoots. Now that I’m in my sixties I couldn’t have done it without him! Each of the models was special. It can be difficult to come to terms with normal pictures of yourself, it’s more of a challenge when you’re teaming up when chaos. You know that all of the images will present you in unpredictable ways. My thanks and gratitude to all!

Rachel #10

In another way this project began at University High School in Los Angeles, specifically in bungalow L79. At sort of the end of the campus was the photography classroom. I first learned about photography in that classroom. The instructor was Arnold Rubinoff. Arnold was teaching things that really weren’t common in high school photography, back then. I remember learning to make color prints from him. One of the things we learned was how to do solarization. He also introduced us to Cyanotype prints. Half of the show was printed as cyanotype images. You can see those prints at this link: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3630.

Cassie 1 #5
Framed cyanotype print for the show

There are a number of important technical insights that led to this project. One of the first problems that had to be solved was the cost of film; if film is too expensive it keeps the photographer from taking risks. One other advantage of the paper is that it has good light sensitivity: Ilford Multigrade is about ISO 100. Another important moment was when I realized that I had an oversized scanner. My original thought was to remove the emulsion from the paper and put it onto a clear base, which would have been very difficult. Scanning the images was easy and quick. I was then able to make new negatives on clear film using a digital printer. These prints, both silver and cyanotype, are much more beautiful than the digital prints. For this show I used multiple coats of cyanotype chemistry on blotter paper. The images have a very dark maximum tone as a result. Because the prints are hand coated each cyanotype print is different, even if made form the same negative. Cyanotype prints do change over time, which is part of the charm. For the silver gelatin prints (check here to see: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3571) I used Ilford Multigrade Warm Tone Fiber base paper. Fiber base papers use a barium clay coating called baryta that produces the white tones. In addition, when you air dry a glossy fiber-based paper the surface looks fabulous. I also toned all the silver gelatin prints with selenium, which makes a more agreeable print color as well as adding to the stability of the final print.

Tyler #12
Framed silver gelatin print for the show

Actually shooting with the camera is pretty tricky. Some things are like working with any large format camera, for instance the image is upside down and backwards on the ground glass. Over the years I’ve become used to that. One problem that particularly affects the 11X14 is bellows extension. The closer your lens is to the subject the further it is from the film. I know this seems exactly backwards, but trust me it’s the way it works. What might not be obvious is that as the lens gets further from the film, there is less light on the film. If you are shooting a head and shoulders portrait with a 35mm camera you don’t have any bellows extension; if you’re shooting with 4X5 film you might lose half stop to bellows extension; with the 11X14 camera you’ve lost about 2 stops of light to bellows extension. This means it’s dark on the ground glass when you’re focusing and composing AND you need a lot of light to make the exposure. Most of the time I was using between 5000 and 7000 watt-seconds of strobe power to make the exposure. My lens was generally set between f11 and f16. While this seems like it would give you plenty of depth of field on a digital camera, on the 11X14 it gives you only a matter of millimeters of focus depth. So, focus is critical, which makes it very important for the model to stay in place! Another aspect of bellows extension is the way it affects your lens choice. The normal lens, if there is one, for an 11X14 camera is about 450mm, or 18 inches. If you were shooting like you do with a full frame digital camera, you’d need about 1000mm (39 inches) of bellows to bring the lens into focus. That makes the camera really difficult to keep stable and to adjust. The answer is to shoot with shorter lenses, which bring the camera closer to the subject. My favorite lenses for this project were a 12 inch red dot Artar from Goerz (f9) and a 14 inch gold dot Dagor (f8) made by Kern for Schneider. I use the 12 inch Artar for head and shoulders and the 14 inch Dagor for full body shots. I used a few other lenses on occasion including a 48cm Goerz Dogmar (f5.5) and a 270mm Wide Angle G-Claron from Schneider (f6.3), but they just didn’t keep the subject/camera distance in a good range.

Mindy #7
The negative for this image is above

The camera itself has some basic challenges. The fact that it’s a working 11X14 camera must be in its favor but it’s built out of parts from other cameras. It’s built on top of a drawer, like something out of a card catalog. This allows it considerable expansion, but it also means the camera isn’t portable. It weighs a lot, so the tripod needs to be a beast. The focus skips out of alignment, which is annoying. The bellows sag. There is a plaque on the camera proclaiming it as the Pernicamera Model Number 0001, built in 1995 to 1997. I’d like to meet the person who built it. I don’t use a shutter with the camera at all. I keep the lens open, but all the illumination, once the paper is loaded, is from safelights. I trigger the strobes with a radio slave to make the exposure. This makes it easier to do multiple exposures and to move the subject between the exposures.

Leslie #6

I hope you’ll enjoy looking at more of the images from the first show.

Part 1, Silver Gelatin Show Prints:

Courting Chaos-The show, Part 1-Silver Gelatin Prints

Part 2, Cyanotype Show Prints:

Courting Chaos-The show, Part 2-Cyanotype Prints

Part 3, Color Glossy Show Prints:

Courting Chaos-The show, Part 3-Kodak Color Glossy prints

If you examine more of this blog you’ll see information about many other aspects of photography. If you’d like to look at some of my articles about photography, from View Camera, Photo Techniques and shutterbug, please look at this link: http://www.siskinphoto.com/magazinearticles.php

You can see my main site at: http://www.siskinphoto.com/

If you have any questions regarding these images or my photography please contact me at john@siskinphoto.com.

I generally post current work on Facebook. Perhaps you’d like to look me up there at https://www.facebook.com/john.siskin

I’ve written a couple of books. They’re available at Amazon. Here’s my author page there: https://www.amazon.com/John-Siskin/e/B004N73O36/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1

Wayne #13

Wayne #13

November 15, 2018

Courting Chaos-The show, Part 3-Kodak Color Glossy prints

This post includes the two Kodak color glossy prints from my current show at Indiana Landmarks. The color begins in the original process, but it is modified and enhanced in these images. The show is going to be on display until the end of November, so you still have a chance to see the real photographs. I say real photographs because looking at an online version of an image adds a sameness to all images. On your phone or monitor images always about the same size and the color is always affected by your monitor. These two images are BIG, 30 inches wide and about 40 inches tall. If you care about photography its a really good idea to see actual photographs, not just digital versions. I used 3 types of prints in the show: silver gelatin prints, cyanotypes and a couple of Kodak color glossy prints. As I mentioned in the last post you can visit this previous post for more information about print types: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=2243. The other images, the silver gelatin and the color glossy images are posted as parts 2 and 3 of the show. The Silver Gelatin prints are at: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3571. The cyanotype images are at: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3630


The show has 41 images up on the walls; these are the two Kodak Color Glossy images. These are machine made images. I could print a hundred of them, all exactly the same, by pushing a button. The images are for sale. The images are about 30×40 inches and mounted on Gator board. The price is $350. The price includes shipping in the U.S. For this and all the other images please contact me directly at john@siskinphoto.com to arrange the purchase. Please contact me for more information about any of these images. These images are copyright by me and are NOT INTENDED to be shared. You are welcome to post the link to this blog, but do not re-post my images. Thanks for your respect.

Kodak Color Glossy Images

Curt #2

Leslie #6

Courting Chaos-The show, Part 2-Cyanotype Prints

This post includes all the cyanotype images from my current show at Indiana Landmarks. The show is going to be on display until the end of November, so you still have a chance to see the real photographs. I say real photographs because looking at an online version of an image adds a sameness to all images. On your phone or monitor images always about the same size and the color is always affected by your monitor. If you care about photography its a really good idea to see actual photographs, not just digital versions. I used 3 types of prints in the show: silver gelatin prints, cyanotypes and a couple of Kodak color glossy prints. As I mentioned in the last post you can visit this previous post for more information about print types: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=2243. The other images, the silver gelatin and the color glossy images are posted as parts 2 and 3 of the show. Kodak Color Glossy images are at http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3633. The Silver Gelatin prints are at: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3571

The show has fourty-one images up on the walls, these are the twenty cyanotype images. Each time you make a cyanotype image it is different, even if made from the same negative. The images are for sale. The cyanotypes are matted to 16X20 inches and are priced at $500. The price includes shipping in the U.S. For this and all the other images please contact me directly at john@siskinphoto.com to arrange the purchase. Please contact me for more information about any of these images. These images are copyright by me and are NOT INTENDED to be shared. You are welcome to post the link to this blog, but do not re-post my images. Thanks for your respect.

Cyanotype Images

Wayne #12

Wayne #2

Rubella #5

Rubella #1

Rachel #7

Mindy #7

Jennifer #5

Jennifer #4

Dana #11

Dana #5

Curt #11

Curt #5

Cassie 2 #2

Cassie 1 #5

Cassie 1 #3

Andrea #2

Andrea #1

Alex #5

Alex #1

Courting Chaos-The show, Part 1-Silver Gelatin Prints

This post includes all twenty silver gelatin images from my current show at Indiana Landmarks. The show is going to be on display until the end of November, so you still have a chance to see the real photographs. I say real photographs because looking at an online version of images adds a sameness to all images. On line images are always about the same size and the color is always affected by your monitor. If you care about photography its a really good idea to see actual photographs, not just digital versions. I used 3 types of prints in the show: silver gelatin prints, cyanotypes and a couple of Kodak color glossy prints. As I mentioned in the last post you can visit this previous post for more information about print types: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=2243. The other images, the cyanotypes and the color glossy images are posted as parts 2 and 3 of the show. The Cyanotypes are at: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3630 and the Kodak color glossy images are at: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3633

The show has 41 images up on the walls, these are the 20 traditional silver gelatin prints also called fiber base prints. The images are for sale. The silver gelatin prints, the first group below, are $550. They are matted to 20X24 inches. The price includes shipping in the U.S. For this and all the other images please contact me directly at john@siskinphoto.com to arrange the purchase. These are all hand made prints, done by me in my darkroom. Please contact me for more information about any of these images. These images are copyright by me and are NOT INTENDED to be shared. You are welcome to post the link to this blog, but do not re-post my images. Thanks for your respect.

Silver Gelatin Images

Bree #12

Cassie 2 #14

Leslie #14

Rachel #11

Andrea #5

Wayne #2 V3

Wayne #1

Tyler #12

Rubella #14

Rubella #4

Mindy #7

Wayne #13

Leslie #6

Jennifer #1

Shelby #2

Cassie 2 #7

Bunny #9

Rachel #10

Bree #4

Andrea #9

September 26, 2018

Courting Chaos

Curt #2

I’ve been working on a project involving my 11X14 camera for about two years now. I’ve done more than a dozen shoots with the camera. The first show of this work will take place on November 2nd at Indiana Landmarks (1201 Central Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46202). Images will be available for sale at the show. I may make prints available on line as well. I’ve included small digital versions of the images with this blog. Theses versions of the images are only a shadow of the final prints, so please come to the show if you can.

Wayne #2

These images are figure studies handled with a very unusual and chaotic process described below. Many of them are nudes and several of them are disturbing. I’m writing a lot about the process in this post but I should also share some thoughts about the results. I’ve found the entire project to be a voyage of discovery. I really did not know how the project would evolve when it began. My response to the images continues to change as I prepare them for the show. I am very happy with the way the finished prints look. They have a strong impact. There are a lot of parts of the images, wings horns and make up designs that have symbolic impact. The images seem to invite the viewer to create a narrative from them. My narrative involves ideas about escape. I hope you’ll find them interesting. I’m sure the project will continue to evolve.

I’d like to share some thoughts about the inspiration, the process and the results in this blog. There are a lot of places I could begin this story because this project integrates photographic techniques I learned in high school with image manipulation techniques I’ve learned as recently as a few months ago. The project integrates inspiration from my first trip to Europe in 1971 and continues with images I saw this year. Finally this project requires me to come to terms with allowing chaos to be a co-creator in my photography; as a commercial photographer for more than four decades I’ve been fighting chaos. A commercial photographer wants to control and direct images to produce effective visual communication. In this project I’ve used special processes to push the images into shapes I couldn’t predict or control. The results have been the most surprising images of my career.

Mindy #14

I saw a series of sculptures by Michelangelo called the Prisoners when I was in Europe in 1971. I was about fifteen at the time. At first these images appear unfinished, especially in comparison with the David sculpture, but when I continued to stare at the pieces they seemed to be struggling to escape from the marble. The effect was quite surprising to me at the time: the seemingly unfinished sculpture conveyed movement while other sculpture remained static. It’s now almost fifty years later and I still remember the effect and the details of these sculptures.

I remember seeing an Edward Weston photograph of a pepper just a few years after I saw the Prisoners. This image also had a lasting effect on my development as a visual artist. The design of the image was beautiful, but the medium: a silver gelatin photograph was also gorgeous. Of course I had seen photographs before, but this was a contact print from a large format negative. Over the years, in my classes and in working with photography, I’ve often met people that think photographs are somehow independent of the medium in which they’re presented. So a person might think that they’ve seen “Moonrise Over Hernandez” by Ansel Adams because they’ve seen it on line or in a magazine or a book, but a fine photographic print by Ansel has a different effect than an image from an offset press or a computer display. In order to appreciate a creative work it helps to see the work as the artist intended. Of course there are many posters of paintings by Van Gogh or Monet and so many others, but is seeing theses posters equivalent to seeing the original painting? It was the effect of the actual Weston print that allowed me to see beauty of the medium.

Cassie2 #14

Of course there are so many images that affected my way of seeing, and these images, but the work of Man Ray is really part of this process. Man Ray worked in a variety of media: doing sculpture, painting and photography. My perception of his work changed when I saw original pieces at the Getty in Los Angeles. Many of the reproductions of his work are just poor quality, which affected my understanding of his art. When I saw original pieces I was able to understand the technical mastery inherent in the work. This was important to this project because I realized that he was solarizing his negatives in a way I had never seen before, more about this later. The way that Man Ray integrated creative and innovative technique with creative images is spell binding.

On another level this project began when I purchased an 11X14 inch camera. While it’s not necessarily difficult to think about scaling up a camera “it’s just the same thing only bigger” the reality is pretty impressive. A full frame dSLR uses a sensor that is 1X1.5 inches, regardless of how high the sensor resolution; it’s a small area. The camera for this project has a capture area of 11X14 inches. In addition, while the sensor may have high resolution, film resolution is on the molecular level. The total amount of information you can capture is mind blowing. The costs of the thing are pretty impressive as well; a single sheet of 11X14 inch film costs eight dollars. Adams used 4X5 inch camera much of the time; Edward Weston used an 8X10; Brett Weston did use an 11X14 camera occasionally. The problems of using a camera this size are not just expense and weight, it also needs a lot of light. So when I got the camera I wasn’t sure that I would use it much, maybe just a couple of times to prove I could master the thing. Then, after a lot of thinking, I came up with a way of using the camera to make images that I couldn’t create with any other camera. I decided to explore solarizing (re-exposing) the negatives. I am aware that some people refer to the solarization process as the Sabatier effect, but I prefer to use the term solarization.

Shelby #9

This is similar to what Man Ray did, during the processing of his film he re-exposed the negative to light. This creates a reversal effect. This was a pretty common process when I was in high school, but we solarized prints rather than negatives. When you solarize a print the white area of the print black or gray, which can look pretty compelling. It’s impossible to entirely predict what will happen, and even if you do the same thing twice, the results will be different. The thing about Man Ray’s solarization process is that he turned the black areas of the image white AND he could make multiple prints that were the same. This was because he solarized the negative rather than the print. This creates another big problem-you have to process modern film in total darkness (yes, even black and white film) so you can’t see what you’re doing. When Man Ray did this people used orthochromatic films; films that couldn’t see red light, so he could see what he was doing. I realized that I could shoot 11×14 photographic paper, which can be used under safelight. Since I have an 11×14 inch scanner I could take these negatives, which were on paper, and scan them. This enables me to interpret the images in Adobe Photoshop. The reason that the large area negative is an advantage with this process is that you can choose what part of the image you want to re-expose and you can also choose what part of the image to re-develop. Most of the time I used a Mini-Maglite to re-expose the negative and various paint brushes to re-develop. Of course what actually happens to the image when you re-expose and re-develop is chaotic, almost totally unpredictable. Thus I am courting chaos in making these images.

I did a couple of blog posts when I started this project: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3401 and http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3207 and http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=2871 . These posts detail some of the development this process. One of the first things I discovered was that the material I was using to shoot, Ilford Multigrade RC Glossy, was much more light sensitive than I would have thought. It has an ISO of about 100 when used with strobes. I was able to set up a sodium vapor safelight, which made it possible to move around the studio quite easily when shooting. One of the greatest advantages of shooting the paper is that the processing is quick and easy. You can develop the RC paper in about a minute. Even with re-exposure it was only about 5 minutes from exposing with the camera to seeing the negative in white light. Almost as quick as Polaroid! In addition, since the large scanner was in the studio I could scan and reverse the images in short order, so the subject was able to leave with prints! The entire process was very fun and interactive.

Leslie #6

Part of that interactivity was the team that made these images. Of course that includes the models, but it also includes David Kidwell, assistant extraordinaire, and Julie Powers, makeup artist for angels and devils. Julie did a couple of really remarkable things for this project: first she designed the make-up for all the models. This is tougher than it might appear because the Multigrade paper doesn’t react to color in an even way: reds and yellows are very dark while blues are brighter that you would suppose. Julie also arranged for all the models, THANKS! David managed set up and kept me on my feet all through the shoots. Now that I’m in my sixties I couldn’t have done it without him! Each of the models was special. It can be difficult to come to terms with normal pictures of yourself, it’s more of a challenge when you’re teaming up when chaos. You know that all of the images will present you in unpredictable ways. My thanks and gratitude to all!

In another way this project began at University High School in Los Angeles, specifically in bungalow L79. At sort of the end of the campus was the photography classroom. I first learned about photography in that classroom. The instructor was Arnold Rubinoff. Arnold was teaching things that really weren’t common in high school photography. I remember learning to make color prints from him. One of the things we learned was how to do solarization. I remember that a couple of the students were particularly enthusiastic about the process. There is often a line that defines the transition from a normal tone to a solarized tone, referred to as a Mackie line, and these two students created an image that was nothing but a Mackie line. They used a process that involved a wash, squeegee and a controlled re-exposure under an enlarger, then putting the image back into the developer. I based my process on what I remembered from that time. I remove the print from the first developer after most or all image development has taken place. I rinse the image and squeegee the water off the print. Then I use a Mini-Maglite with a #5 Ilford Multigrade filter to re-exposure the print. I usually do this from a distance with my fingers occluding some of the light. This gives me more time and more control over the second exposure. The filter also changes the contrast of the second exposure. Then I use a variety of brushes to add developer. I usually use a more concentrated developer with the brushes.

Andrea #5

There are a number of important insights that led to this process. Of course one of the first problems that had to be solved was the cost of film. Other people have reached this point and turned to litho film. This is a graphic arts film that is designed to hold only black and white tones, no gray tones at all! It can be processed to hold grays, but there are issues. Particularly the stuff is really insensitive to light. The ISO is around 4. As I mentioned above the Ilford Multigrade is about ISO 100, which is almost 5 stops more sensitive to light. This is the difference between shooting at f11 and f2. Since most lenses that cover 11X14 are f8 or slower you can imagine that the speed of the material is critical. Another important moment was when I realized that I had an oversized scanner. My original thought was to remove the emulsion from the paper and put it onto a clear base, which would have been very difficult. Scanning the images was easy and quick.

One of the ideas I had after I got my first large digital printer was that I could make negatives on tracing paper and make traditional darkroom prints. I did make this work, but didn’t follow it up. The images were fuzzy flat and hard to print. I returned to the idea for this project. While I was exploring the negatives, digital prints from my Canon printer were great, but they don’t have the same impact as a handmade print. I used the printer to make negatives on a clear film from Fixxons. I was then able to use these negatives to make cyanotype prints and silver gelatin prints. I mentioned cyanotypes in the blog post I referred to earlier and in this blog post: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=2243, which is from my last show. This post also describes silver gelatin prints. For this show I used multiple coats of cyanotype chemistry on blotter paper. The images have a very dark maximum tone as a result. Because the prints are hand coated each cyanotype print is different, even if made form the same negative. Cyanotype prints do change over time, which is part of the charm. For the silver gelatin prints I used Ilford Multigrade Warm Tone Fiber base paper. Fiber base papers use a barium clay coating called baryta that produces the white tones. I like this much better than resin-coated papers (RC) that use a titanium dioxide to make the whites. In addition when you air dry a glossy fiber based paper the surface looks fabulous. I also toned all the silver gelatin prints with selenium, which makes a more agreeable print color as well as adding to the stability of the final print. There will also be a couple of large color prints as well. While the actual process is done with black and white material, false color does come in during scanning. I’ve manipulated the images to enhance this effect. Since original negatives are so large the prints can be very large as well, which makes for a very powerful print. One more thing about prints, I believe that the price of a print should reflect, at least in part, the amount of actual hand work done by the artist rather than the size of the image.

Rubella #14

Actually shooting with the camera is pretty tricky. Some things are like working with any large format camera, for instance the image is upside down and backwards on the ground glass. Over the years I’ve become used to that. One problem that particularly affects the 11X14 is bellows extension. The closer your lens is to the subject the further it is from the film. I know this seems exactly backwards, but trust me it’s the way it works. What might not be obvious is that as the lens gets further from the film, there is less light on the film. If you are shooting a head and shoulders portrait with a 35mm camera you don’t have any bellows extension; if you’re shooting with 4X5 film you might have a half stop of bellow extension; with the 11X14 camera you’ve lost about 2 stops of light to bellows extension. This means it’s dark on the ground glass when you’re focusing and composing AND you need a lot of light to make the exposure. Most of the time I was using between 5000 and 7000 watt-seconds of strobe power to make the exposure. My lens was generally set between f11 and f16. While this seems like it would give you plenty of depth of field on a digital camera, on the 11X14 it gives you only a matter of millimeters of focus depth. So focus is critical, which makes it very important for the model to stay in place! Another aspect of bellows extension is the way it affects your lens choice. The normal lens, if there is one, for an 11X14 camera is about 450mm, or 18 inches. If you were shooting that same head and shoulders shot, which is close to life size on an 11X14 camera, you’d need about 1000mm (39 inches) of bellows to bring the lens into focus. That makes the camera really difficult to keep stable and to adjust. So you generally end up shooting with shorter lenses which wouldn’t cover the film at infinity, but they do just fine close to the subject. My favorite lenses for this project were a 12 inch red dot Artar from Goerz (f9) and a 14 inch gold dot Dagor (f8) made by Kern for Schneider. Both are classic formulas. The Dagor was originally introduced in the 1890s, and the Artar in the early years of the twentieth century. Both of these are later lenses that benefit from modern coatings. I use the 12 inch Artar for head and shoulders and the 14 inch Dagor for full body shots. I used a few other lenses on occasion including a 48cm Goerz Dogmar (f5.5) and a 270mm Wide Angle G-Claron from Schneider (f6.3), but they just didn’t keep the subject/camera distance in a good range. When I first got the camera I also got a 24 inch Gorez Artar (f11) but it required too much bellows to be useful in the studio.

The camera itself has some basic challenges. Of course the fact that it’s a working 11X14 camera must be in its favor but… It’s built out of parts from other cameras. It’s built on top of a drawer, like something out of a card catalog. This allows it considerable expansion, but it also means the camera can’t fold into any portable configuration. It weighs a lot, so the tripod needs to be a beast. I’ve used several tripods with it, and now I’m using an 8-foot camera stand. The focus skips out of alignment, which is annoying. The bellows sag. There is a plaque on the camera proclaiming it as the Pernicamera Model Number 0001, built in 1995 to 1997. I’d like to meet the person who built it. I don’t use a shutter with the camera at all. I keep the lens open, but all the illumination, once the paper is loaded, is from safelights. I trigger the strobes with a radio slave to make the exposure. This makes it easier to do multiple exposures and to move the subject between the exposures.

Dana #5

I hope to see you on November 2nd. If you’d like more information about a specific image please let me know.

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.

March 23, 2017

New Work With The 11X14 Camera!

Bree 12a v-8 The numbers are only a working title.

Bree 12a v-8
The numbers are only a working title.

I think this is the sixth time I’ve taken the 11X14 camera out for a spin. I’m extremely gratified with the results of this shoot. I worked with a model named Bree Widener and a make up artist Julie Powers; both are excellent. Of course I also worked with my current assistant David Kidwell. Really I don’t think I could manage the camera without his help. As you may imagine the camera is a beast. I’ve written before about the process. You can review the early blog posts if you’d like, at these links: blog-3207 and blog-2871

Bree 7 v-2 There is less process manipulation in this image.

Bree 7 v-2
There is less process manipulation in this image.

I think the business of coming to grips with the ultra large format camera and working out an accessible process is quite interesting. A lot of skull sweat has gone into figuring out this method of shooting the big camera. I’m using 11X14 Ilford Multigrade RC paper in the camera. This gives me an 11X14 negative, but it’s on paper rather than film. This works out well because I have an oversized scanner that enables me to scan the paper negatives. This means that the basic process is analog-digital rather than the strictly analog process you would get with a film negative and direct printing to silver gelatin printing.

Bree 9 v-5 The color is added in post processing. The analog/digital process allows for considerable creative input.

Bree 9 v-5
The color is added in post processing. The analog/digital process allows for considerable creative input.

The process allows me to introduce chaos into the images in ways that I can only do with a wet darkroom process. In fact this method is probably better for creating these chaotic images than working with film or any other method. There are of course many ways of working, both with digital capture and with film, where the goal is to gain control over image making. I would be shocked and dismayed if an architectural or product image I made suddenly displayed totally random results, but that doesn’t mean that I don‘t want chaotic results in some circumstances. Many people are shooting film just to court random results, and they sometimes achieve results so random that it’s hard to see any original intent in the final image. I just can’t go that far, though some of my results have been totally out of control. The primary way that I crate chaos in these images is to re-expose the paper to light as I process it and to process the paper in unusual ways.

Bree 1 v-2 The first test image of the day! Off to a good start.

Bree 1 v-2
The first test image of the day! Off to a good start.

Part of what makes this whole process exciting is that I develop and solarize, the negative while the shoot goes on. The whole studio is lit by a sodium vapor safelight, so we can load, handle and develop the paper while the shoot continues. The people involved in the shoot, make up, talent and assistants are always amazed to see the image develop right in front of them. Often I can finish scanning the first good negative from the shoot and make a print before the shooting day is finished. Of course it takes a while to dry and scan each image, so finishing the post processing may take weeks after the shoot ends.

Bree 5 v-2 This image shows the brush work that is done during processing.

Bree 5 v-2
This image shows the brush work that is done during processing.

Since this is an analog digital process all the control and interpretation that Photoshop offers is available after the scans are made. I do a lot with layers and curves to manage the contrast. In addition there are usually defects, dust and other problems, that have to be fixed. Unless you’ve done print spotting, you have no idea how much easier it is to spot an image in Photoshop than it is on a print. I usually add a slight warm tint to my images, just as I would have done by printing on a warm paper, like Agfa Portriga Rapid, in a darkroom. I may also add false color to the image, if the spirit moves me.

Bree 4 v-2

Bree 4 v-2

I tested another piece of the process with these images. I made a new negative on a transparent film with my digital printer. I had always hoped to be able to take these images back into a wet darkroom and make various kinds of prints: silver gelatin and alternative process. I was able to make a couple of Cyanotypes from the new digital negatives. They really look great! My test prints are 8X10 but of course I could make a really enormous negative make enormous prints with it.

Bree 12a-cyanotype Of course the scan of the Cyanotype isn't like seeing the original.

Bree 12a-cyanotype
Of course the scan of the Cyanotype isn’t like seeing the original.

Since the original negatives are 11×14 inches and the scans are 1200dpi the final files are just huge. I could make a print that is about 5 feet tall at 300 dpi without any problems. Psd files are about 600mgs. which can make them a little difficult to deal with in Photoshop.

Bree 5-cyanotype

Bree 5-cyanotype

I’m not offering prints of these images at this time. If you’ve been watching this blog you know that prints of a lot of my images are available through the blog. I really hope you’ll buy some. These images will be available, but I hope to create a show with them first. I will do a few more people shoots before I start working on that. I’m looking for models, of course for figure studies, but I’d also like to work with people with facial tattoos and who knows what else?

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

One more thing, there are now almost 6000 people registered on this blog. Wow! Thanks everyone.

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