Keep Moving Forward… 08.09.10


Stone Lion project

Rummaging through some old documents and found the image shown below. It is a photo of a poster arrangement I had on my office wall while working in Changsha, Hunan Province, China in early 2001.

I was working on an Exhibition Idea that counterpointed various different Stone Lion pairs, a) for comparison of changes in Sculpture Style, and b) as a kind of “lonely Hearts” Project where each lion would have a caption from a well known Asian Dating Site and the viewer had to then match up the right pairs, as an interactive activity. This mockup used standard, snapshot sized images.

Unfortunately, the Exhibition never saw the light of day, (…although, some of the pictures did make into an unrelated group exhibition;) due to funding constraints and some somewhat local indifference, to the ubiquitous subject matter – another one of those project still to be completed, “some day.” (…or God-forbid, stolen.)


A Pride of Stone Lions from Changsha, Hunan Province, China

A Pride of Stone Lions from Changsha, Hunan Province, China

For today, that’s what’s in my

Line of Sight.

Do I need, in my kit, a Nifty Fifty?

I never understood the hype around the “Nifty Fifty.” On a full frame (35mm) camera it used to be one of the ‘must have’ prime lenses in your kit. This was back in the day when Zoom Lenses just could not match the image quality of a Prime.

Other ‘must have,’ Prime lenses were 28mm wide angle, 85mm or 135mm medium telephoto, and 200mm or 300mm telephoto. Either end of this spectrum were considered specialized use lenses.

Be that as it may, the 50mm Lens was the all rounder, for street, portrait and social/family shooting, shooting still lifes, etc. Its angle of view is ingrained in our photographic psyche.

However, in this day and age, for the vast majority of shooters (non-professional) the image quality of Zoom lenses is very good. Its when you start getting into situations where you need fast glass for low light applications, or exceptional image quality that the argument for Prime Lenses still renders valid.

To add to this debate, not all comparisons are equal when you change to a different film format. As such “every photographer” doesn’t need a 50mm lens in their kit because it depends on what format the shoot with. Here are the equivalent lenses giving approx. the same field of view based on film-format/sensor-size:.
Medium-format? 85mm;
35mm-format? 50mm;
APS-C format? 35mm.

So when we rave about the “Nifty Fifty,” its bang for its buck and why every photographer needs on in their kit, I have to ask, “Why?”

In portraiture, the 50mm lens has long been abandoned as a recommended goto lens, heck even the 85mm lens has been pushed aside somewhat, due to the compression that longer lenses offer. In this day and age, a 50mm lens is too wide and unflattering to the Sitter. Even though the depth of field and bokeh might be stellar. Even in Photography, there are fashion trends and fads.

As an APS-C format shooter, a 50mm fast prime lens gives me the equivalent of an 85mm lens. I already have a fast, 35mm Prime (Canon) [btw if you haven’t yet got one in your kit, get this] which is the 35mm-format equivalent of a 50mm lens. So, why would I need a fast 85mm prime lens in my kit? What would I use it for? For candid street portraits I prefer a long-ish telephoto.

For studio work with product and still life, fast is not necessary, nor in many cases is shallow depth of field. In the past it only came in handy, for me, with a small portrait studio, and hinged on how far you could move your subject away from the background and still backup to be able to provide a flattering focus on my sitter.

To me, using a fixed prime in a photo studio was a bit like doing math. Length vs width of studio stage, distance from background to subject, distance of subject to camera, working space behind camera, light intensity on subject, on background, blowback etc. Once you have that all dialed in, a few pieces of labeled tape on the floor and a static camera with fixed prime lens and dedicated studio stand can be moved in and out as need be, but: what a waste, locking up money in essentially a single use system. I don’t know anyone who shoots that way anymore.

The small home-base portrait studio, with equipment setup in place in a dedicated room with nothing to move is a lifestyle statement, I know, I used to have my own in a 5x7m ground floor room in Hanoi, but the demands of responding to change on a daily basis for flexibility and versatility means that the, “look at all my fancy gear” in-home studio statement, is nothing more than a self-flagellating, experiment in social preening.

Given the opportunity, would I still set up such a studio? Sure! As a personal, Photography equipment collection and Museum, functional and working, but quaint and wastefully irrelevant, except to possibly a few fellow enthusiasts. Or a minimalist, with lots of storage and a clean, versatile studio stage that can be rapidly tasked to different uses and looks. I can’t can’t decide, not right now anyway.

So, do I need, in my kit, a Nifty Fifty lens? Perhaps we should be saying, “every photographer ought to have a format equivalent 50mm lens in their kit,” but I don’t that such argument is valid any more.

Versatility, flexibility, and rapid responsiveness is the order of, this day and age, which means high quality, well made, zoom lenses are in. Primes still have their place, but they are not a must have item in every photographers kit?

For today, that’s what’s in my
Line of Sight.

Pinhole Photography 2015

Last Sunday was Worldwide Pinhole photography Day, so I decided to make a pinhole camera and play around with some exhausted Ilford Ilfospeed x.44M B&W Photographic paper as source material for some paper negatives. The camera I build out of a Chinese Tea Tin lined with black gaffer tape and trilled a hole in it for the pinhole using a set of ultra fine drill bits for the Dremel. Camera Specs: 0.4/75mm f/187.5. Single shot, Paper Negative: 55 x 127mm (diagonal 138.4mm) mounted in a curved plane. Angle of view is 85.4°

Here’s some Pinhole math:
1. 75mm / 0.4mm = 187.5 i.e. f/187.5
2. 187.5 / 16 = 11.71875 i.e. 11.7 x exposure at f/16
3. Reciprocity Failure (per Beal, p164): <1 sec none; 1-15 s = x 1.5; 15-30 s = x 3; 30-60 s = x 4; 1 m-30 m = x 6 4: The Ilford Ilfospeed x.44M series of papers seem to be nominally rated at around ISO 400. The Sunny 16 Exposure is apparently 1/4 sec. Now, we know that at f/16 for ISO 400 that gives us a target Speed of 1/400th sec. normally if we keep the speed, then we drop down in the following series: f/16 - Bright Sun, Hard Shadows f/11 - Clear Sky, soft shadows f/8 - Partly Cloudy, Open Shade f/5.6 - Overcast f/4 - Dark Clouds, Rain f/2.8 - Dawn/Dusk f/1.2 - Street Lights, Well lit night. However, if we keep f/16, as the 'exposure' setting, then we need to change the Shutter Speed. This becomes, (based on the Minolta SRT101) 1/500 - Bright Sun, Hard Shadows 1/250 - Clear Sky, soft shadows 1/125 - Partly Cloudy, Open Shade 1/60 - Overcast 1/30 - Dark Clouds, Rain 1/15 - Dawn/Dusk 1/8 - Street Lights, Well lit night. Given these speed ranges we can then translate to Pinhole Exposure Times, thus. 1/4 - Bright Sun, Hard Shadows that is 1/500 x 125. 1/2 - Clear Sky, soft shadows 1 - Partly Cloudy, Open Shade 2 - Overcast 4 - Dark Clouds, Rain 8 - Dawn/Dusk 16 - Street Lights, Well lit night. Next, we need to consider Reciprocity Failure for long exposures. From point 3 above the table now looks like this: 1/4 - Bright Sun, Hard Shadows 1/2 - Clear Sky, soft shadows 1.5 - Partly Cloudy, Open Shade 3 - Overcast 6 - Dark Clouds, Rain 12 - Dawn/Dusk 48 - Street Lights, Well lit night. and now we have a working guideline for exposing our paper negatives. Because this particular film stock is very old, it may be fogged, it may be discolored, and it may be less sensitive to light, so times will need to be adjusted accordingly. Interestingly though, these are relatively quick speeds. Using a tape shutter means that there is very real risk of camera shake when applying and removing the shutter, and the higher speeds can't be obtained with a tape shutter, at least not with the gaffer tape that I'm using. To give an example, if you take a normal sports stop watch and hit the stop/start button with your same finger as quickly as you can, you might be able to clock in at around 0.7 of a sec. Many clock in at double that. If you apply the same logic to opening and closing your middle finger and thumb, wide, on the same hand, as fast as you can, you might just be able to clock in at 1/4 of a second. Now do that with your pinhole camera without shaking it... So, images? Yes, I have one. It's my first successful image from this camera after much trial and error. The negative was processed in 1.5% Rodinol Developer solution, stopped with running water, then (not really) fixed in concentrated salt solution before being dried and scanned on an HP Scanjet 3110 flat bed scanner. The negative was inverted to a positive in Photoshop and then trimmed, dodged and burned using Lightroom. The original is still a paper negative which I might try contact printing into a paper positive at some later date when I have some propper fixer to use for finishing off the prints. 2015 Pinhole on Paper

For today, that’s what’s in my
Line of Sight.

The physical print process

And so, experimenting with photo transfer printing using laser printer photo images onto white plastic, transparent perspex and a contact adhesive silver mirror surface.
Technical difficulties to overcome:
applying the paper image smoothly to the substrate;
removing air bubbles;
not tearing the wet paper before it’s had a chance to dry;
proofing the laser printer in black and white to establish the available, printable, tonal range for processed images;
establishing the impact that substrate nature and colour has on final image appearance, sharpness, “glow” and tonal quality.
Things to do….

Currently at the drying phase.on the left, an old flexible silver mirror, made from silver contact adhesive foil and 3mm plastic sheeting – image is a black and white print; in the middle is are my tools: foto potch, roller, brush and ruler, the potch is water soluble but dries fast so the brush needs special care and rinsing after use; in the middle also is the transparent perspex with a b&w image on it (I don’t know yet if the image should be on the front or the back, lets see what it adds to the pic; lastly on the left is a white plastic sheet with a high key colour image. Next step after drying is to wash the paper off. According to instructions, ten minutes drying time should be enough, but others have recommended, particularly for this type of substrate, a longer drying time. So we’ll see later today after a bit of time behind the window and in the direct sun.


Now the clean up, washing the paper off of the substrate and leaving the image (or most of it) still in place…


Finished. My very first 3 pieces of contact printed laser printer image transfer. In some ways I’M happy with the result. Its causing me to ask question about what went wrong and how I can do it better next time, what were the strengths and weaknesses of each type of material, and how should I change my image processing to optimize the printed results? The mirrored image (feet) has a lovely glow to it, that is missing from standard b&w prints these days. I love the transparence aspect of the perspex, I guess that’s why acrylic block is so popular. I also like the white plastic, but oh so soft and easy to damage.


The prints on the wall. It’s a start.

For today, that’s what’s in my,
Line of Sight.

Motion in Photography has been around for quite some time

If you’ve never seen these before, then it is definitely worth taking the time.

It is interesting to note, that today, more than ever, there is a push for still photographers to also be motion photographers, whether that is via video for weddings or 3D representations of product. Motion is undoubtably rapidly developing photographic commodity, as well as an important bread & butter skill.

With this in mind, consider your personal internal dialogue as you take the time to view these videos made around the 1920’s…

For today, that’s what’s in my
Line of Sight.

Develop your own style.


Core take home message from today,

let emotion into your photography as that is what will give you your signature style.
i.e. your photography reflects the emotions YOU bring to the shoot.
If you are emotionless, your photography will also be emotionless.

This is the first time I’ve heard someone relate something tangible, understandable and identifiable to , “Develop your own style.”

For today, that’s what’s in my
Line of Sight.

Panoramas from the Baltic

These images were made with an iPhone 5 and post-processed in Adobe Lightroom. They were taken on a recent trip aboard the “Hendrika Bartelds” as part of the ELSA Project. They are panoramic landscapes and I hope you enjoy them.