Essays / tag / educational

Ted Forbes over at The Art Of Photography YouTube channel recently started a photo assignment project for his viewers. The idea is to create old school photographer notebooks, the sort we all used back in school to help get our thoughts and technique together. I still use such a concept to storyboard editorials, but that is more sketching. I also use Pinterest and Evernote in a similar fashion. I actually maintain a shooting log in Evernote, complete with final photos etc.

I decided to join in this project for a couple of reasons. The two most important were the fact I have been feeling a bit creatively restricted. Ever since I have gotten to a certain level on Instagram, I've been getting many requests to shoot from agencies and agency models. Almost all of these requests have been for lingerie or boudoir and some occasional fashion. The fashion I love. I am allowed to shoot editorial there. The lingerie and boudoir is a little different. Boudoir is very stylized and plays within a certain box, while lingerie can be editorial in nature, most of the models requesting it want something more Victoria Secret's than something more editorial.

Above is an example of what I've been shooting of late. In truth while I really like that shot, I was more excited to shoot a young woman named Caitin. Here is what we did.

I just love that shot. The other reason is I wanted to create content that went away from what I have been creating for this blog and my own YouTube Channel. There are a million channels that go over gear and technique and will walk you through Photoshop et al. Honestly I was feeling like an idiot doing that. There are folks that do it far better. After starting this is have decided to focus that part on what it is like for me to be a photographer. My process and what it means to me. So many thanks to Ted Forbes to starting this project and inspiring me to change what I do here. Hopefully all of you join me in this adventure. Now without further ado, the ten viewpoints....

Ten Viewpoints

The first assignment that Ted gave was to take one subject or idea and shoot it from ten different viewpoints. In truth I shot 13. No edits, no selection from a larger set, all thirteen images right here.

The above is the actual notebook I pasted my shots after printing them out. I know it looks a bit old school, but the charm of it is what makes me happy. Below are the actual shots with the notes I scribbled along the edges.....

•••

Shot on a Samsung Galaxy S5 with Camera FV5

I was a bit distracted when I started this. I couldn't decide what to shoot with. I spent so much time worrying about gear rather than what I am shooting.

The hard part was getting it to focus. Finally I just gave up. In the end I just went with it. In the end I really loved what I got. I ended up shooting 13 images. I wonder what Ted will assign next?

Why B&W? I think mostly because of the abstraction of B&W. It basically reduces things to just light and composition.

If I were honest, these shots may not be as creative as some of the other work others have done for this. I'm perhaps lacking the level of creativity and need to push there.

All italicized text is as exactly written in my notebook.

Twilight falls upon the City. New York becomes this wondrous place when Helios takes his chariot beneath the horizon and the stars like diamond dust fill the skies.

The people who live and work here bustle about, the City taking a deep relaxing breath as it heads from twilight to an obsidian night.

Like fireflies the leviathans along the great avenues begin to flicker and glow, their light filling the void with amber and blue.

The people look up into that brilliance amazed the garish beauty of it all, enthralled by the spell the City weaves in neon and sodium light.

 No matter where in the City, no matter the business the Night becomes a new and different form of life.

 The windows of the great stores on Madison giving a floor show for all who wish to see.

All the while people live their lives with their friends, 

And begin their journeys home 

The cars filling the streets looking to escape back to wherever they need to be 

Slowly the streets empty 

And the color finally washes out to a soft white 

A different magic begins to fill the Night now 

One in which retrospect of the day that has passed begins to fill our thoughts 

The urgency to find sanctuary heightens as we look for that safe haven until the Sun rises again 

We wonder if we shall be abandoned and forgotten in the fading glow 

Perhaps a late show to chase away the feeling of isolation 

As all the places begin to become lonely 

Empty 

We all escape 

Except me. I’m a ghost. I am alone.

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For many of us, the camera we use most is the one on our phone. Be we professional shooters to casual snap shooters, the phone is always with us. “The best camera is the one you have with you” is something Chase Jarvis once said, and by that axiom the camera on your phone is the best camera of all time. Sure from a technical standpoint it may not be as full featured as say a Pentax 645Z or as fast as say a Canon 1DX, but honestly those cameras are heavy, and don’t have Instagram built in. The smartphone, be in an iOS or Android device, has made us a connected world that information can be transmitted in real time. In photography this is even more evident with the work of photographers like Eric Kim and Takei out in Vancouver. Both use smartphones heavily for street photography, the instant nature of them being perfect for the documentary nature of this type of work, the deeper narrative reserved for the Ricoh GRs, Leicas and Fujis they also use. Of course we all want our images to look great when we release them to the online world. A cottage industry of image editors and manipulation apps exist on both iOS and Android. In this first of a series on these apps and integrated workflow we will look at VSCO.

What is VSCO?

VSCO is short for Visual Supply COmpany. What VSCO is best know for are plugins that work in Lightroom and Photoshop simulating various types of film emulsions from the days of yore, much like DXO Film Pack and many others. Last year they released a mobile version of there plugin system that like everything else has a Social Media element as well as the photo editor aspects.

When you open the app you are brought to the main screen which is the Library with menu bar open. Once you click on Library the screen clears the menu sidebar and comes to the main screen.

The main screen is very clean, with just a few icons that go to one of the various features. The video below will go over everything but here in the article we’ll focus on the icon in the lower left - the mixer.

In the mixer you can adjust quite a few variables. In the included video we go over each one. Here are some clearer images of each screen for reference.

Just follow the video below.


If I could change anything in this app it would be the ability to edit in landscape ala Snapseed, also in the crop section I would add classic photography aspect rations such as 6x17 and 6x12 as well as a free ratio option.

Any questions feel free to ask in the comments!

One thing that many people don't realize is that when you shoot Instant Film, the print isn't really the final product. Whether you shoot Impossible, Instax or Peel Apart, there is always more. In this first in a series on Instant Photography we'll go over how to recover a negative from Fuji FP-100C. The process is straightforward and requires only some warm water, a sheet of glass, a sponge and of course some bleach.

Start off by reserving the backing from your polaroid. It can be dry or you can clear it immediately after you process. I personally like to let them dry as while I'm shooting I don't want to slow down. First wet the surface of the glass. then wet the emulsion side (that is the side that was in contact with the print) after removing as much paper as possible. Make sure you have the water running. The temperature should be warm to touch but not very hot. At this point you can either use bleach based toilet bowl cleaning gel or bleach based cleaning spray (I personally prefer Fantastic 5 In 1 Bleach Cleaner). 

Depending on the type you use will affect the final negative. The spray cleaner will bleed over to the emulsion side creating odd and random color and density changes that I sort of like. If you want a more solid negative with little loss on the emulsion side use the gel cleaner. I usually leave the bleach on for about twenty seconds then rinse and scrub with the sponge to remove the black anti halation backing off the negative. Once it clears (which will be nearly instant) using just warm water rinse off the negative rubbing the emulsion side gently to remove any "gooey" residue.

I go over the entire process in the video below;


Here are the results!

Remember folks I do have a Polaroid Project I'm working on and would love your support. You can find out more at my GoFundMe page for this project. If you have any questions please feel free to comment below!

In this edition of “What’s In My Bag” I’ll go over one of my favorite toys, my “Frankencamera” setup for stills using a Pentax Q.

What’s Actually In The Bag

Let’s first start with the bag itself, my old Dome F-803 Messenger Bag. It’s an old bag, so old the strap has worn off so I went and purchased a military bag strap made of the same canvas at an Army/Navy surplus. As you can see besides the strap, this bag has lasted me about twenty years! The F-803 is usually a 6 pocket affair that comes with an insert to make the main compartment a three pocket setup. I’ve taken the insert and use it in my F-802 that you’ve seen in the previous edition of this series.

The rig itself is from an old Sunpak Slave flash as well as an IKan cold shoe. The video light is used as a focus assist light in this setup while the three F-18 flashes have diffusers made from tracing paper sandwiched between plastic from a clear plastic folder and held on by gaffer’s tape. To trigger all this I use a Pentax 2P Hot Shoe Adapter that has a pass through to allow the flash mounted on the hot shoe of the Q to fire as well as a PC Port with a splitter to connect the other two flashes via sync cables. Basically this whole rig cost at most $80 from parts that are readily available In another article I’ll go over shooting with this rig and how I post process everything.

Enjoy the tour!


This question comes in from Facebook user Scott W Leslie.; "I didn't know you could edit video in Photoshop." We'll Scott let me show you how that is done.

Yes you can edit video in Photoshop CC. Now I will state that the video editing tools aren't all that advanced, but still they are quite good and intuitive. What's more important here is the fact that Photoshop's tools are quite well suited to creating Cinemagraphs. For those wondering a Cinemagraph is a very short looping video, sort of a still image with motion. In this first of two articles I'll show you how to do the basic edits, import audio and color correct and grade your footage. In part two we'll create a Cinemagraph and discuss some of the additional tools you have in Photoshop CC to edit video. Now this tutorial will assume that you have a passing familiarity with Adobe Photoshop CC, especially the idea of using Layers and of course things like Curves and Levels etc al.

Let's start off with the main Photoshop window. If you notice there is a Timeline window at the bottom of the screen. It works much like the Layer Tab and can be minimized when not in use. To access the Timeline Window select it from the Window Menu as shown below. The Timeline Window will also automatically appear when you import a video.

Once you import the video you'll note the first difference between using Photoshop and say DaVinci Resolve or another editor. Photoshop places all media on the timeline, there is no separate media pool. While this allows for greater speed since the application isn't importing data, it does make editing and assembly of the footage somewhat harder as you cannot scrub through and set in and out points for the footage so you can place it on the timeline. One other thing you'll notice is that Photoshop will do is that it creates a new Layer Group for your footage. 

This is actually a very powerful tool as it allows you to do local adjustments and effects to that specific group while allowing for global adjustments using other layers based on their order in the Layer Window. Basically the Timeline Window is an adapted Layer Window giving you the basic tools such as transitions, cutting etc. The actual positions of the tracks is controlled by the Layer Window. Now please note that when you add additional footage you can add it to the current Video Group (or Layer) or create another layer for use. It's important to note that when creating new adjustment layer to edit and color correct globally you must create it outside of all the other groups you are going to correct. Local corrections are done within the Video Group Layer. 

As you can see above this allows for a lot of control over the footage and images. You can easily do things like Picture In Picture as well as a slew of other effects quickly and precisely using Photoshop CC. The biggest issue is of course the lack of a media drawer that will let you more readily set things on the timeline making the editing of larger projects (say anything longer than about ten minutes) a tedious chore. That said however, it is quite the powerful editor and quite quick and easy to use especially if you have little familiarity with video editing. This is why Photoshop CC is so well suited for the creation of Cinemagraphs which we will discuss in the next part. In the meantime watch the video below for a full walk through of the items we've discussed above as well as how to export and save your finished videos.


Finally if you have a question that you'd like answered about anything photographic please feel free to comment below or contact me via email or Twitter.

I was recently asked by a friend via Facebook about image management and work flow. The question was involved enough that I felt like writing an article about it. If you have a question you think would make a great article feel free to ask me via Facebook or Twitter. So here is the three part question from Chuck Cage via Facebook.

 1) What's the best system to store them? Date? Date then "session?" 

 The best system is the one that make the most sense to you. For me I break down the file system like this;

  Year > Month > Date > File Type 

 I use a Client ID when renaming the files after transferring the card I shoot on to my storage drive. That looks like this; 

 Date_ClientID_Sequential Number.File Extension 

 An example of said file numbering is 10062015_Vogue_0785.TIF

2) I have a full Adobe subscription. What's the best of their software to help me sort/maintain archive/find things? 

 Oh man, is this one a bit of a thorny issue. Personally my image management is tied very much to my work flow. For me Bridge and Photoshop work fine along with an application like Evernote as I keep a shooting log there. Using the date in the shooting log I can quickly find what I am looking for on my storage drives. That said, my system is pretty archaic and has quite a few drawbacks, most of all keyword search.

Now if I were more of a photo journalist, where such searches are more useful Adobe Lightroom is a better system. Lightroom can let you use a file system much like I do, but also allows you to work in "collections" which have a plethora of benefits, some of which I will discuss on my article on Medium Format Work flow. Collections are much like Albums in iPhoto, but with far more power. You can also using keywords sort your images into Collections which makes the tracking down of images far easier.

Finally Collections can be cloud synced to a mobile device like an iPad or in my case the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 10.1 2014 that I am writing on. Using Lightroom Mobile you can even do post production on the images and have those changes update back to your desktop. If you have a way to transfer images from your camera to your mobile device you can also add images via Lightroom Mobile to your system, though do this over WiFi as if you shoot in DNG like me your data rates will choke on a single shoot.

3) My workflow is generally simple: d/l card to folder, use bridge to browse/flag interesting stuff, select from sorted, open in PS, process, throw away PS. How dumb is this? 

 Well outside of deleting files I didn't use on first go, this isn't dissimilar to what everyone does. To be honest from what you are stating Lightroom would be a better choice unless you really need to do some heavy post work. Lightroom allows some post work to be done and even supports layers and via several third parties allows the application of specialized filters. My work flow for instance is not that different than yours. I transfer the card (if shooting on cards), rename, add keywords and other EXIF data, select and tag, batch convert to 16 Bit Tiff and then start post work in Photoshop. After that I will convert the final images to JPEG for Web or transfer in most case.

Well folks that covers it for today. If you want your question answered here in this section please feel free to ask via Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #qftg.

In the last article we discussed the various capabilities in using old lenses on modern digital cameras, MILC to be exact. In this article we'll go through the complete process of developing RAW files with an eye on how to correct or enhance the unique look of these optics using the Pentax Q and Kern Paillard lenses from the late 50's.

What you see above is my Pentax Q with a C-Mount adapter to use the Kern Palliard (KP) SWITAR 25/1.5 lens. C-Mount lenses cover a 16mm film frame and currently are available in two types - motion picture and CCTV. Now while the modern CCTV lenses are multicoated affairs, they are optically inferior to their motion picture brethren. The KP's (the one on the camera is from 1956) are considered to be the Leica of 16mm motion picture lenses, with incredible optical quality. The downside of using vintage motion picture lenses is they are made of either single or uncoated optics that can cause a bit of chromatic aberration that can be difficult to correct for. In this case we have a single coat optic.

Since this article is about dealing with these sort of optics let's just dive right in. Above is a shot of Cory Nova from the Q shot using the KP. As you can see the contrast is a bit low and the color a tad cool. What really stands out though is while technically sharp the lens due to being single coated has a certain softness. The first thing we must address is the color and contrast.

First off we address the color by shifting it just a tad warmer. We also drag down the highlights and bump the shadows up ever so slightly. Oddly we decrease clarity and do nothing in the contrast. The clarity drop is to give the skin a smoother look. Increasing contrast is not done as that would tend to contract the histogram, giving less leeway when doing post production in Photoshop. Please note this is the ACR control panel, not Lightroom. We'll delve far more into that application when I publish my 645Z articles. So if I didn't add contrast how did the contrast increase ever so slightly?

In the latest versions of ACR and Lightroom there is an FX tab that has a wonderful feature when dealing with the "haze" that single coat optics have on digital sensors - DeHaze. This is a bit different and not as destructive as just cranking up the contrast slider. The idea here is not to use too much. A small amount goes a long way. One thing you'll note is that I did not address the "sharpness" of the image yet. I don't in the ACR, but do in Photoshop. At this point I export out a 16 bit TIFF and move to the next step.

One reason I use Photoshop over Lightroom is the extensive retouching one does in much of the work I do. It is by adapting the technique I use for retouching images I can increase the "sharpness" of the final image. Above you see the final exported image. The next step is prepping this image for retouching by making two duplicate layers. 

The first layer is what we call a "low frequency" layer. It is created by duplicating the original image onto a new layer then applying a slight gaussian blur. This is the layer we use to correct color and such. 

The next layer is the "high frequency" layer. This again is a duplicate layer, this time applied to the low frequency layer and creates a grayscale image that contains all the detail information for retouching. At this point I do all my retouching work. Once done I duplicate the high frequency layer leaving the blending option at "Linear Light".

Much like the ""high frequency" layer this adds detail. I drop the opacity to around 50% so as not to over sharpen the image. From this point I flatten the image and carry out my final post process procedures. Now while this may seem a bit long and involved it really isn't. About the best way to perhaps save time in this process is to create a custom lens profile for the ACR module. Now since this is just a small MILC and not a Medium Format legacy camera like say a Mamiya RZ or Hasselblad 500CM using a Phase One back, I really see no reason to go through all that. In the future however I will do an article on this in case any of you do want to do this. I'll leave you off with the final image to enjoy and hope you all join me here for my next article.

Feel free to ask any questions below.

The photos you see below were all shot digitally on cameras that do not have the mounts natively of the lenses used to shoot them. You see the lenses used to shoot these images are between 50 and 60 years old. How could I shoot these old lenses on a modern digital system? I used a pair of Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera (MILC).

Over the last few years these types of cameras have become more prevalent in the consumer sector and with the introduction by Sony of a "full frame" MILC, now begins to enter the professional market. The question many of you of course who aren't acolytes of the modern camera world will have is what exactly is a MILF anyways? Granted the vast majority of you will be a bit more advanced and will know what they are, so for those of you please indulge me while I educated the less initiated among our readers.

Basically cameras use one of three systems to create a way to preview an image prior to shooting. The most common on cameras where you can change the lens involves a mirror in the path of the light between the lens and the focal plane which bounces the light into a prism and mirror system so you can see what the lens is pointed at. This is known as a Single Lens Reflex camera. When you see the contraction DSLR you are basically discussing a camera with this type of viewing system for composing and focusing the camera. 

 A MILC eschews the mirror in the light path either using direct viewing or some other system to compose and focus the image. In most modern digital MILC that would be either the rear camera screen (giving us a digital version of direct viewing such as one would have on a large format camera) or on cameras sold more to the enthusiast market an Electronic View Finder (EVF). I could discuss Rangefinders but that would needlessly confuse the situation, so let's just work with the above. 

 The benefit of using a MILC is that they tend to be much smaller that cameras with the same sensor size since there is no need to create space for a mirror and it's flipping and instant return mechanisms. Smaller cameras usually means smaller lenses and less weight to carry around all day when you are out shooting. There are of course drawbacks, but technology is quickly eliminating many of the issues. One of the benefits of all this is that the registration distance (the distance between the back of the lens to the focal plane is reduced. This has become a major selling point of these systems, many competing to get thinner and thinner. 

 Now why is this benefit? With such short registration distances this allows for a unique situation, if one can via adapter extend that distance and allow the mounting of other lenses, one could conceivably mount practically any lens one wanted at any time. Capitalism being what it is a small cottage industry around just that very idea has evolved in the last few years. Almost any MILC can currently be adapted for almost any lens mount out there. Now personally I don't understand why anyone would want to mount say a Canon or Nikon lens to an MILC outside of being a bit of a gear freak, but for those of us who have lenses for systems long abandoned prior to the digital revolution this becomes a very attractive option. I personally own two MILC systems specifically for this purpose. One is a Sony NEX-6 which I use with Olympus Pen F lenses from the 60's. The other is a Pentax Q which I use with Kern Palliard C-Mount lenses from the 50's and Pentax Auto 110 lenses from the 70's. 

 The above image demonstrates what I love about these old lenses. The draw of these lenses is due to the very different formulation as well as the fact that these lenses were hand built and hand polished. They had a very different character than modern lenses, a bit softer but still "sharp". Of course using these older lenses does incur some penalty on digital sensors. The biggest issue is that to modern eyes these lenses tend to have low contrast. 

The major reason why is that lenses back in the 60's and 50's either had no coatings (the case with a certain Kern Palliard you'll see in part two) or are just single coated, like each of the Pen FT lenses I use with the Sony NEX-6. Of course more recent lenses, those built mostly in the 80's onwards tend to have a good look on a digital camera, but these older lenses do need some work.

 Both of the shots above for instance were shot using a Olympus 38/1.8 for the PenFT. Being single coats the contrast was quite low compared to a modern lens. Another issue is that older lenses tend to be a bit warmer in color rendition than modern lenses, requiring a bit of work to adjust color unless you are willing to create a lens profile for it. 

Of course if you are using a 500 series 'blad with a Phase One back, this is something you've probably done, but if you are using some funky lenses on a consumer digital, you've probably haven't, and if you are into Lomography may not want to. Now granted the focal length's I am using on these systems are fairly easy to match with modern lenses for each system, but with that said, there is a certain charm and of using these older vintage lenses. The feel of a smooth focus ring, the satisfying click of the aperture ring, and most importantly, that unique look lenses of those eras give an image. In part two we'll look at some images from the Pentax Q and go over ACR processes to keep in mind when working with these vintage lenses.

I love George Hurrell. Now a few of you may be asking "Who is George Hurrell?" Without going to far into a history of 20th Century Photography, George was the man who MGM back in the Golden Age of Cinema would have photograph it's stars. Folks like Veronica Lake, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Clarke Gable and Marlene Dietrich among many others were subjects of his 8x10 camera. Many times these shots were done on the very sound stages in between setups that were being filmed, George having mere minutes to setup the shot. So great was his skill that even at the end of his career, entertainment's latest and brightest would make the pilgrimage to his lens. Madonna and Brooke Shields among some of his final subjects.

What made George so great? It was the fact that he was the master of using a single light. Now there are many of his shots when he had the chance to shoot in his own studio that used more than one light, but his most iconic shots of the great stars of the silver screen are one simple light, usually shot "broad" in Rembrandt position with the light to camera right. No diffusion, just a hard light usually some motion picture light swung into position for the 20 minutes or so he was given to shoot his subject on set.

Above is the diagram for the typical setup George used. Since he was on an 8x10 his portrait lens was a 300mm/5.6 lens wide open. That is basically for you 35mm folks a 50/1.0 or so for FOV and DOF. For me it's basically my 75/2.8 wide open using my Pentax 645Z. Mastering a single light is honestly one of the hardest things for a photographer in my humble opinion. A single light takes discipline and skill. No reflector no diffusion, nothing but the purity of light that a single light can afford. It's my favorite way to light a portrait, especially a glamorous one. Here is a shot I recently did of Adriana Vago using what I call "Hurrell Lighting"....