Photo Notes

February 1, 2016

Vocative

Filed under: Fine Art,Fine Art Portfolio,Micro Photography,Micro Photography — John Siskin @ 4:18 pm
Vocative

Vocative

This is another image from my fine art micro portfolio. As with most of these images it’s named for a part of speech, rather than called light refracted through a plastic ice cube. I think that the title Vocative is much more, well, evocative.

I enjoy the process of looking through the microscope and other special micro equipment to find the beautiful and the unexpected. You can find worlds in a piece of glass or an insect wing.

This image was made with bellows and a 28mm Schneider Componon lens. I think the aperture on the lens was about f16, but of course the working aperture was much smaller. The digital camera makes it easier to work with microscope lenses and other special optics. A few companies, like Zeiss and Schneider have made special optics for the purpose of photographing microscopic images, but there are actually many choices. You can use the objective from a microscope, with out the rest of the scope, or you can use an enlarger lens. Some of the best lenses are older fixed focal length Nikon lenses, like the 35mm f2.8. Smaller focal lengths give greater magnification, so a wide-angle lens can be a great choice.

If you’d like to buy a print of Vocative use the PayPal link below. You’ll get a print mounted an matted to 16X20-ready to pop into a frame. Why not order one now?


I’m offering a class in working with micro equipment on February 28, just a few more days. You can sign up for just $175. Unlike so many photo safari trips you can go back to the land of the very small again and again. The equipment is not expensive, and this is an opportunity to have a guided tour. This workshop will give you the keys to unlock the doors. I hope you’ll join us! Use this link to find out more about this workshop and to sign up!

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

 

January 26, 2016

El Matador #4

Filed under: Fine Art,Fine Art Portfolio,Landscape Photography — John Siskin @ 11:11 am
El Matador #4

El Matador #4

Another shot of El Matador, this has been named #4 or long exposure for a while, so I’m going to continue referring to it as #4. This is a very long exposure, which is why the surf has the ghostly effect. I’ve always liked the shot, but I like a lot of the stuff I shot at this beach.

It’s another shot I made with the super-wide camera, you can see more about this shot by checking this other shot from El Matador:

I also wanted to tell you about Living in Los Angeles. Often people forget how great it is to live there. I got up early and drove to Mt. Pinos, a little more than an hour from where I was living. I spent the morning cross-country skiing. I left in the early afternoon and drove down to El Matador. Did some body surfing. I was actually in the water when a pod of dolphins went by. Try to do that anywhere but Los Angeles. No picture of the dolphins. Stayed at El Matador to watch the sunset. When I was growing up San Onofre was the family beach. I learned to surf there, then we spent summers at Manhattan beach. I choose El Matador as my beach, everybody should have a beach.

If you’d like to buy a print of El Matador #4 use the PayPal link below. You’ll get a print mounted an matted to 16X20-ready to pop into a frame. Why not order one now?


I’m going to give a Micro-Photography Workshop soon (http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3105) and another Lighting Workshop, probably in March. Please check them out. You can find out more about my workshops, and access some FREE Classes at my website.

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

January 21, 2016

Union Station, Los Angeles #2

Union Station #2

Union Station #2

Another shot of Union Station in Los Angeles. This is a beautiful place fallen on hard times. It’s still busy, but people in L.A. don’t use transit service like they do in New York, and trains just aren’t part of the mix in California. Still I’ve take trains out of here a couple of times, and it’s always interesting. It’s also a fabulous place to shoot, but don’t take my word for it-look for Union Station on television. It’s used for a lot of shoots. Consequently the management is difficult about using a camera, and won’t let use a tripod at all. I really like the way the super wide effect changes this building, and I also like the way the people appear in the shot. I particularly like the child on the left side of the frame.

Super-wide Camera

Super-wide Camera

This shot was made with the super-wide camera I build. I used the same one for shots at El Matador and other places. I’ve included a scan of the original negative so you can see the way the lens cuts the corners off on a 6X6cm piece of film. This was always an interesting camera to use. It wasn’t possible to really predict hos the camera would see, or even if the negative would be sharp. So it was always exciting to see the film. You can check out an article I did on making cameras at this link. I hope you’ll check it out.

 

original scan

original scan

 

Just so I’ve mentioned it my family’s company Angelus Furniture built the benches and some of the other furnishings in this room.

If you want a print of Union Station, Los Angeles #2, use the link below. I’ll send you a print mounted and matted to 16X20 inches. No additional charge for shipping in the U.S.


I’m going to give a Micro-Photography Workshop soon (http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3105) and another Lighting Workshop, probably in March. Please check them out. You can find out more about my workshops, and access some FREE Classes at my website.

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

January 19, 2016

Ghost Dog #1

Filed under: Animals,Fine Art,Fine Art Portfolio,Portraits — John Siskin @ 2:22 pm
Ghost Dog #1

Ghost Dog #1

This image is from a recent shoot, about a month ago. I like to revisit my images a few weeks after I shoot them, it improves the way I edit the images. I really like the images from this shoot. The dog is huge, and still growing. He has a sort of Mohawk hair cut which gives him a sort of goofy look. The way he’s leaning into the frame builds on this feeling. This is one of the few images I’ve used without cropping, surprisingly one of the others is a dog as well.  This dog is a cross between a poodle and a St. Bernard. I’m sure he’ll be interesting and a challenge!

My own dog, a simple chocolate lab, is still unsure of how to behave in front of the camera, but we’re working on it.

Coco & Her Favorite Toy!

Coco & Her Favorite Toy!

I used my Nikon D800 and a Tokina 28-70 f2.8 lens for Ghost Dog #1. I was in the studio with my Norman 900 series strobes. I used the big soft box, a converted Broncolor Hazy Light, and a light panel. It’s important to give enough light, and to have some direction in the lighting, or the dog will appear shapeless.

Anyway if you want a print of Ghost Dog #1, use the link below. I’ll send you a print mounted and matted to 16X20 inches. No additional charge for shipping in the U.S.


I’m going to give a Micro-Photography Workshop soon (http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3105) and another Lighting Workshop, probably in March. Please check them out. You can find out more about my workshops, and access some FREE Classes at my website.

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

January 7, 2016

Planetarium

Planetarium

Planetarium

The last blog was about my Super-Wide Camera, which has 110º angle of view. Of course it’s possible to go even wider, and I built a camera to do that also. The thing is that when you go beyond super wide you get distortion. Just as it’s not really possible to make a flat map of the entire planet that makes all the continents and distances look right, it’s impossible to show everything in front of the lens without distortion. This camera/lens combination shows everything in front of the camera: 180º in all directions, but the images bows out in the center. This is called fisheye effect.

The shot was made at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, maybe you’ve seen it in an old James Dean movie? There is a pendulum in the center of this shot, but it’s hard to see because it’s moving. The pendulum demonstrates that the earth is moving, but I’m not sure how that works. I made the shot on 4X5 Ektachrome film, and the exposure is long enough for the pendulum to have moved from side to side. Didn’t use a tripod, but I did have the camera steadied against the rail. The transparency looks a little like a Christmas tree ornament. The actual image is about 80mm across on the film, pretty impressive.

Fisheye Camera

Fisheye Camera

I should say that I didn’t build these cameras because you couldn’t get super wide lenses or fisheye lenses for 35mm cameras. I did it because the resolution of film was so poor. If you made an 8X image of shot like this from 35mm film the image would already show grain and a loss of detail. Because this shot uses at least 10 times more film than there would be with a 35mm shot the grain and detail are much better! I’ve made prints 24 inches wide that looked fabulous. You can use the PayPal link below to get a print that’s about 13 inches wide, on a black background. I normally mount and mat on white board, if you’d like something else let me know when you order the print. I’ll be adding more links as this project goes forward.

The camera started life as a Speed Graphic, a classic press camera. The lens is from a Russian Kiev 60 camera that shot 6X6 cm images. The lens made full frame (edge to edge) square fisheye images on the original camera. I modified the lens by removing the built in lens hood. Then I customized the Speed Graphic to take the Kiev lenses. I also had to remove the base board (front) of the camera so it wouldn’t show up in the shot. The camera was a junker when I began, with a very rough appearance. I took the leather off the outside of the camera and refinished the mahogany surface. On the whole, I think it is the best looking camera I ever built. The camera focuses using the ground glass or the focus scale on the lens. Speed Graphics have a built in focal plane shutter so that’s what the camera uses. You can see my article about camera building here.

I’ve attached a couple of the other images I made with the camera below. I hope to add posts and PayPal links for these images soon.

Wat Thai Temple, Los Angeles

Wat Thai Temple, Los Angeles

 

Castaic Power Plant-Pulling Rotor, California

Castaic Power Plant-Pulling Rotor, California

I hope you’ll order a print of this image. As usual the price, $125, includes mounting and matting. The image will be about 1X13 inches. Please let me know about the mat at john@siskinphoto.com. Also contact me if you’d like the print shipped outside the United States. You can also get the image, and many others, in my book B-Four.


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


December 30, 2015

Los Angeles Downtown #1

Los Angeles, Downtown #1

Los Angeles, Downtown #1

I’ve been stumbling through my archives as I prepare these posts and begin to put together the fine art pages for my website. Some of the images create an effect I like to call involuntary time travel; the pictures really take me back. I was surprised when I saw this image in my files. I though the original transparency was encapsulated in my portfolio. I used to get presentation pages made from my best shots that permanently held the transparencies. I thought the original was in one of these pages. The things looked great, if you happened to have a light box. It was a very effective way to present my portfolio, at the time anyway. For more information about portfolios you might want to check out my Portfolio Workshop. Anyway I found the original in my files, so this is a new scan. I really should consider more creative titles.

Encapsulated Portfolio Image, Mickey for Disney. Dick Duerrstein Art Director

Encapsulated Portfolio Image, Mickey for Disney. Richard Duerrstein Art Director

I remember taking this image. I think I was with Richard Risemberg, in fact I think he pointed out this composition. I learned a lot from Richard: he helped develop my fascination with lenses. The shot was taken on my Omega View Camera, really a cheap Toyo. I know that because the image is cut off on the top because of the considerable camera movement used to keep the subject straight. I guess this image was made with my Fujinon 210, f5.6 lens. This was one of the first really modern view camera lenses I had. It’s also possible I shot it with a 210 Komura, f6.3 I got from Bernie Sayers. This was a four element lens and really the first good view camera lens I had. I think I gave that lens to Jeri Grover when I got the Fujinon. I told you this shot triggered a trip down memory lane. I guess the shot was made in the mid-eighties. I can’t tell you much about the technical details, but I do know it was made on Fuji Film.

My Toyo 4X5 Camera-about the same size as my original Omega. 121mm Super Angulon Lens.

My Toyo 4X5 Camera-about the same size as my original Omega. 121mm Super Angulon Lens.

On one level this shot is sort of a basic straight view of a building detail, but what makes it special is the play of light and reflection in the buildings. Sometimes you get to make a special image just because you’re present and awake to the moment. Richard helped me learn that lesson here. I often talk about making images rather than just taking them, but sometimes you have the tools and subject at the same time, that’s good. In this case the camera was a 4X5 Toyo monorail camera, really a big camera. I haven’t used this camera for field work in many years; it was just too bulky. I’m glad I had it on this day because I couldn’t have made the same image with a Speed Graphic, they don’t have enough camera movements.

If you’d like to get a fine art print of Los Angeles, Downtown #1 you can click on the PayPal link below.  The image will be   almost 13 inches wide. It’s mounted and matted to 16X20 inches. The price, just $125, includes shipping in the United States. If you’d like to have me ship somewhere else, or order another size please contact me at john@siskinphoto.com.


You can buy one of my books at these links

December 29, 2015

Pacific Center #1, Los Angeles

Pacific Center #1, Los Angeles

Pacific Center #1, Los Angeles

Often the approach to an architectural image is to maintain a neutral perspective. So when you shoot the front of a building you try to keep the parallel lines in the subject parallel. When the lines come together, as they do in this shot, the effect is called key stoning. The thing is that often buildings are designed to impress, even intimidate, people. The neutral perspective tends to weaken or remove that effect. In this case I used my 65mm f8 Super Angulon, so that I could shoot close to the building. I did this for a couple of reasons, first I wanted to capture the imposing design of the entrance, and second I didn’t want to stand in the middle of the street. I used my Speed Graphic as the camera. Many people don’t know that the Speed will accommodate extreme wide angle lenses.

I’m not sure exactly when I shot this, but at least 20 years ago. Time flies when you’re making pictures. It’s always been a favorite of mine, in fact there’s a big print hanging in my office. One of the reasons I like this image so much is that I learned a lot printing it.

Photographers often talk about the zone system. This is a way of discussing the relationship between exposure, negative processing and final negative density. The system was first described by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer. One of the most important aspects of the system, and one that is often forgotten, is the way processing affects the contrast of the negative, and thus the final print. I mention this because one of the things I learned from this image is that even if you have a good negative, one that accurately reflects the tonal values of the subject, you may not be able to make a good print with normal printing processes. Black and white photographic paper comes in various contrast levels, from soft paper that has low contrast to hard paper that is very contrasty. The idea is that if you make a good negative you’ll be able to print it on a middle contrast paper. I learned that this isn’t always true when I tried to print this negative. While a print on middle grade paper showed all the tones of the negative, it was flat and not really effective. When I printed the image on a higher contrast paper the middle tones of the print looked much better, but much of the shadows and highlights were to far gone to see. In order to make a good print I needed to use high contrast paper and do considerable dodging and burning to maintain the highlights and shadows. Even when photographers shot film there was a lot of work done after you tripped the shutter.

Many of my images were first scanned quite a few years ago, so when I wanted to add this image to the fine art section of my site and blog, I went back to the original negative. Once again I had to do a lot of work to get the original scan to agree with the way I wanted to see the final print. I used several layers to change the contrast and exposure values in different areas of the image. I’ve learned a lot about working with an image in Photoshop over the years. For this image I choose a different color pallet from the one I normally use for black and white images. I usually add a little red to the shadows and some yellow to the mid tones. This creates a similar effect to the warm tone photo papers I used to use. In this case I added some red to the shadows, but I added a very small amount of blue top the mid tones. This creates an effect like a cold toned paper toned with selenium, which was the way I handled the original printed version of this image.

If you’d like to get a fine art print of this image you can click on the PayPal link below. As I’ve mentioned I hope to add alternative presentations of my images as I continue to review my fine art images. The current prints are almost 13 inches wide. They’ll be mounted and matted to 16X20 inches. The price, just $125, includes shipping in the United States. If you’d like to have me ship somewhere else, or order another size please contact me at john@siskinphoto.com.


You can buy one of my books at these links

December 28, 2015

Indianapolis Central Library #1

Indianapolis Central Library #1

Indianapolis Central Library #1

This shot was made at the Indianapolis Central Library. This was the second shoot I did at the library; the first shoot was for my book Photographing Architecture. The library has a classic look in front with a new glass and steel portion in the back, really an interesting location. I was attracted by the classic look of this shot, from the entrance to the reading room. It’s easy to see a shot like this, but it’s harder to capture the image. I did the shot with my Toyo 810M, which shoots 8X10 inch film. I did the shot in 2013, really quite recently. The image was part of a show I did at Indiana Landmarks called Buildings: Birth, Decay, Renewal. You can see some video from the show here. I thought this location was particularly suited to the title, because of the blend of new and old architectural styles. Since I did the shot on a half sheet of 8X10 film the image will print to a very large size. There is a print in my office that is 4 feet high.

According to my notes I made this shot with a 270mm f6.3 Schneider W.A. G-Claron. The exposure was at f32 for 8 seconds. I’m glad no one walked through the shot! This lens was originally on a stat camera. I’ve used it in various configuration, on my 4X5 camera, 8X10 and it’s currently mounted on a board for the 11X14 camera. One of the great things about large format photography is that a lens can be used in so many different ways. This is an extremely sharp and contrasty lens that has very wide coverage. I used my Reis tripod, a constant companion with the 8X10 camera, especially on location. The Reis is a wood tripod, or as I like to call it carbon fiber version 1.0.

I offered this shot in the show (mentioned that above) as a 4-foot print and as a VanDyke print. VanDyke prints are an old process that uses iron to achieve sensitivity, but the final image is actually silver. I’ll be adding more about the older processes as I begin to offer them through these posts and on my site. Currently you can get a fine digital print of this image for only $125. The image will be 14 inches tall and mounted and matted on 16X20 board. The price includes shipping in the United States. This is much less than any price I’ve had on this image in the past.


You can buy one of my books at these links

December 22, 2015

Suffix

Filed under: Fine Art,Fine Art Portfolio,Micro Photography — John Siskin @ 4:03 pm

Suffix

I like to explore color and shape. The micro-environment enables me to do this without being involved is shooting things. This image is about color, shape and texture; it doesn’t matter what the subject is! The image has an otherworldly quality, which is what I was looking for. This belongs to a group of images I call Parts of Speech, and all have names drawn from Latin grammar.

This is an image of light displayed by a plastic ice cube captured with some specialized equipment. I used to say fake plastic ice cube, but it’s real enough; they’re made as props. Anyway certain materials can be made to diffract light in interesting ways, and this is much more interesting if you can get really close to the subject. In this case I used a Toyo view camera with about two feet of bellows. I used a Zeiss 63mm Luminar as the lens. The lumiars are a special series of lenses Zeiss made for extreme micro work. This was pretty difficult to do with any film camera, but especially difficult with a view camera that didn’t have any meter. The area I photographed is much smaller than the image on the film, and of course much, much smaller than it is here. The image will print to at least 20X30, which would be more than 100 time life size.

It’s much better to do micro-photography with a digital camera than with a film camera. First the resolution of a digital camera is better than film would have. For technical reasons digital capture is better than even large film, say 8X10 inches. In addition it’s easier to control exposure, because the meter is in the camera and because you get instant feedback. I’ve mentioned various resources for micro photography in recent posts: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=2988, http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=2978 and http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=2954. I hope you’ll take a look if you haven’t already.

I’m thinking about offering a workshop about shooting micro images. This would enable us to go far beyond what a standard macro lens can do. Most macro lenses go far enough to make the image the same size on the sensor it is in life. There is an interesting, and very affordable, toolkit that will enable you to go so much further. It’s quite possible to shoot 80 times life size onto the senor, and then multiply that by the size of the print! I hope to have detail of this workshop in the next two weeks. Please let me know what you’d like to see in this sort of workshop; anything from a one day demonstration to a couple of days with a microscope included! I’d like to do this during winter, when it’s good to have indoor subjects to explore. Keep an eye on my workshop page for updates.

As I’ve mentioned this blog is part of a series of entries about my fine art images. I’m doing this series as part of an update for the fine art pages on my website. I hope this series will make my images more accessible, both on line and as prints. 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 16 inches wide mounted on 16X20 board. The price includes shipping in the United States, for other countries please ask first.


You can buy one of my books at these links

December 21, 2015

El Matador State Beach #2

Filed under: Do It Yourself,Film Technique,Fine Art,Landscape Photography — John Siskin @ 5:45 pm
El Matador State Beach, California #2

El Matador State Beach, California #2

I like the texture and presence of the rocks in this shot as well as the action of the water. The shutter speed, about 1/30th of a second showed the water coming over the rock in an interesting way. The rest of the water shows a feeling of movement, which is good for surf. The camera is positioned quite close the rocks in the foreground which gives the image a more exaggerated point of view. I can do this because of the very wide coverage of this lens. I’m still playing with ways of presenting this image on line since horizontal panoramic formats seem to suffer on this blog format. I really liked shooting at El Matador State Beach because of the rocks and caves. I’ve added another image from El Matador here.

Part of being a creative professional is staying creative. I suppose that’s obvious when you say it, but it’s a challenge to do. I see through the eyes I’ve always used, and I need to continue to see fresh and new. Of course craft will make a beautiful image, and craft is essential for my professional work, but there is more to being creative than achieving great craft. One way I change my seeing is to change my tools. If I choose to shoot with my usual kit I go down roads I’ve seen before, but new tools create new paths. Often this is because of what a tool CAN’T do. So if I have a huge camera I’m forced to look for static subjects. You can’t shoot children playing with an 8X10 camera. Over the years I’ve built cameras that allow me to walk down different paths. I’ve been especially interested in shooting extreme wide angle views. Of course I could always do this with 35mm film cameras, but the combination of wide angle vies with the lower resolution of 35mm film was not satisfying. I’ve found that using extreme wide angle lenses with my digital camera is much better. I’ve also used other tools to achieve this point of view; one of the most successful is my super wide camera. This camera uses a special Nikon lens, with very wide coverage, and medium format film (6cm wide). I’ve written about this camera before: www.siskinphoto.com/camera3a.html. I’ve included a picture of the camera below.

Superwide Camera

Superwide Camera

As I’ve mentioned this blog is part of a series of entries about my fine art images. I’m doing this series as part of an update for the fine art pages on my website. I hope this series will make my images more accessible, both on line and as prints. 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 16 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:

 

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