Category Archives: Cameras

Portrait of the Day: Gina

Portrait of Gina by Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

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To see more pictures from Tony Ward’s erotica collection go herehttp://tonywarderotica.com/category/membership-account/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Diary, Documentary, Environment, Erotica, Glamour, lifestyle, Models, Nudes, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Student Life, Travel, Women

Bob Shell: Starting a Studio

Photo: Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Starting a Studio

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Several friends have asked me for equipment recommendations for setting up a studio. If I were to set up a studio for still photography today (and I hope to soon do so), I’d invest in a set of Paul C. Buff’s Einstein flash units. I’ve used Paul’s flash equipment with complete satisfaction since he first started building it in Nashville, Tennessee. At the time of my conviction I was using several of Paul’s Alien Bees flash units, and some of his older units that are no longer made. Today I’d buy as many of his Einstein units as my budget would bear. They have every feature I could ask for, and can be used anywhere. On my European trips I used to take a Buff unit that Paul loaned me made for European voltage and a medium umbrella, since European hotel rooms tend to be small, and I used hotel rooms as impromptu studios when traveling.

Other flash systems I have tested that work well are Multiblitz, Hensel, Profoto, and Visatek by Bron. I’m sure there are others. Stick with well known brands, because others tend to go out of business, leaving you stranded if you need parts or accessories. I have one of those orphans, a Venca power pack and three heads. If it ever needs parts I’m stuck.

I’ve not used them, but I’ve been reading about the new LED flash units in Photo District News. Their advantage is zero recycle time. Their disadvantage is lower light output, but with today’s digital cameras that’s less of an issue since images shot at higher ISO settings are perfectly usable. The days of the xenon-filled flash tube may be numbered. But I wouldn’t call traditional flash down for the count just yet.

Regardless of light source, I prefer softboxes to umbrellas when there’s room. Speaking of softboxes, I have used a number of different brands and types, but generally feel the bigger the better for my fill light, since I like to mimic natural diffuse daylight. For years I used Photoflex softboxes, but have not seen mention of them for years and don’t know if they’re still in nusiness. For quality of construction and neutrality of color, I don’t think you can beat Chimera. Gary Register’s Plume Wafer boxes are also excellent, and thinner (but pricier) than others. I also like Photek. While film was generally somewhat forgiving of color cast and mismatches between softboxes, I’ve found that digital really shows these differences, so it’s probably not good to mix brands.

Light stands: The old standard Matthews C Stand is hard to beat. I’ve kept several in my studios for years. Otherwise, the Manfrotto stuff is tried and true. I prefer stands with wheels to make moving lights easier. I avoided cheap knockoff stands. I remember once watching in horror as the upper tube section on a cheap stand I was testing twisted and buckled, sending one of my flash units crashing to the floor. Thankfully the flash’s landing was cushioned by the attached softbox and it survived. The same caution also applies to background support systems. To handle rolls of seamless paper I’ve used the Manfrotto system since the 70s. You can mount the support brackets on light stands, but for a more permanent setup I mounted the supports high up on a wall in my studio and used the plastic chains to wind the paper up and down. That way I could keep three rolls on hand at all times for quick changes. A bunch of Manfrotto Super Clamps and their attachments belong in any serious studio. They are indispensable for hooking things to light stands, pipes, 2 X 4 studs, and numerous other things.

You’ll also want several rolls of real gaffer’s tape. Don’t try to make do with cheap duct tape, which will let you down and leave a mess behind when you strip it off. The real stuff can be peeled off and leaves no residue behind, and will support a surprising amount of weight.

Whenever I needed a dead black background I used a velvety cloth backdrop from Photek. It works much better than any black paper, and can be washed if it gets dirty.

One invaluable piece of studio gear is the plastic “milk crate” sold in many stores. Mine came from CVS. They’re great for storing things, and strong enough to be stacked up to support things. To make a raised platform in my studio I used eight of them stacked two to a corner to support a 4 X 8 foot Radva foam plastic insulating panel. This was strong enough to support several people. Just don’t let any of the models wear spike heels — they’ll punch right through the foam.

If you want a fog machine and have a nearby source of dry ice, Wayne Collins showed me a trick years ago to make lots of fog. Just buy a cheap shop vac. Put a few inches of water in it, throw in the dry ice, put the lid on, hook the hose to the outlet, and turn it on. Fog will pour out and you or an assistant can control where it goes. (If you want to get fancy, add an AC motor speed control, sold in hardware stores). This works better than expensive commercial fog machines because those use mineral oil based “fog juice,” and the mineral oil will condense on your cameras and lenses, and on everything else in your studio, as I learned the hard way. Unfortunately, dry ice is not readily available everywhere, and can’t be bought in advance and stored for any length of time. There are dry ice making machines, but they’re very expensive.

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To fire the flash units you can use the old-fashioned long PC cord, but I’ve never liked tripping on cords or getting tangled up in them. For years I used the infrared systems from Wein products, made by my old friend Stan Weinberg. But, sadly, Stan has shut down the business. I also used radio slave systems when infrared didn’t work, because it won’t work around corners. A number of companies make radio systems for firing flash units, and all of the ones I’ve tested worked well.

Where do you buy all this stuff? My sources for all my studio needs were Adorama and B&H. For the more unusual items I went to The Set Shop in NYC.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-americas-puritanism/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, Engineering, Environment, Friends of TWS, Glamour, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Science, Student Life

Bob Shell: The Loss of a Fine Photographer

In Memorium: David Bogen Brooks

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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THE LOSS OF A FINE PHOTOGRAPHER

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When we get older there comes a time when we have to update your address book regularly because friends have died. I’m seventy-rwo now, and I’m having to do this more often than I like.

The world of photography lost a shining star recently, and I’d like to tell you about him..

My first interaction with David Bogen Brooks was in the early 1970s, when he rejected an article I’d sent to Petersen’s PhotoGraphic, one of the best of the photography magazines of the day. I was running a photo shop in Salem, Virginia, called Camera, Inc., in those days, and decided I wanted to write for photo magazines.

I’d written an article on closeup photography with bellows illustrated with some of my photographs, and hopefully mailed it off to PhotoGraphic. A month or so later it came back, but not with a form letter saying it was rejected. Instead there was a personal letter from Brooks, complementing me on my photographs, but saying the article just wasn’t right for them at that time, and encouraging me to try again with other articles in the future. For some reason I never did, though.

Run the clock forward to the 1980s and I’d succeeded in getting my foot in the door at Shutterbug, and was their Technical Editor, but acting more like the Editor, since the rest of the staff, although very good at their jobs, were not photographers, so they relied on me to select and assign articles. I bumped into David at one of the photographic trade shows, maybe the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) show in Las Vegas or Photo+ in New York. He was between jobs at the time and looking for work. That was an opportunity not to be missed, so I brought him aboard to write for us, and over the years of working together, we became close friends. If I assigned David a product review, I could rely on getting not only a good article, but excellent photos to illustrate it. David had gone to college studying design in California after serving in the Air Force. Even though he was Canadian, he was able to join the U. S. Air Force and later become a U.S. citizen. After college he got a job working for Elektra Records and went on tour doing photography of The Doors and other Elektra artists. He told me once that he didn’t like working with Jim Morrison and considered him a dangerous sociopath.

David had what I call the “photographer’s eye.”. He could find the right angle and cropping to turn an ordinary scene into an extraordinary image. He worked with 35 mm cameras up to large format, mastering all, becoming an early adopter and expert on digital imaging.

Once, in the early 1990s, David and I met up with photographer Wayne Collins in Las Vegas for a photo shoot with model Roxanne, a featured Playboy model, and took her to the Valley of Fire State Park. We spent a day photographing lovely Roxanne nude among the orange-red rocks, which cast a warm glow on the skin of our model.. No question, David’s photos from that day were the best. Not only was he a master of composition, he had a manner that put models at ease and got the most out of them.

Another time we turned a hotel room at the Rio into an impromptu studio. David was also a master of lighting (and wrote a book about it), and we both brought studio flash for the session. I have some large prints he gave me from that session that are among my most prized possessions.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonyward.com/bob-shell-learning-photography/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

Also posted in Affiliates, Announcements, Art, Blog, Current Events, History, Men, News, Photography, Popular Culture

Bob Shell: Learning Photography

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 1977

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Learning Photography

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Many aspiring photographers want to learn more about the art and craft of photography. There are lots of ways to do this, ranging from reading books, watching videos, taking classes, attending lectures, and attending photography workshops.

If you’re the type who learns by reading, there are many excellent books available that will teach you all the basics. When I was getting started I bought every photography how-to book I could afford and devoured them. I think I learned something from every one of them. For those just getting started in digital photography I’ll recommend the book I wrote with Steven Greenberg; The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Digital Photography Like a Pro (4th edition). It’s a little bit dated by now, but is still one of the best books for beginners. My favorite photography book of all time is Nude Photography The French Way by Laurent Biancani. It’s probably out of print, but I’m sure Amazon can find copies. It’s great, not so much for photographing nudes, but because it contains the best primar I’ve ever seen on photographic lighting. I learned a hell of a lot about lighting from that book. There was also a very good book on lighting by my friend David B. Brooks. Beyond those basics, there are many good books. The photographic lighting series of books from Rotovision are all good. They use a simple formula, a photo on one page and a lighting diagram and brief text on the facing page. The National Geographic photo guides are excellent, well written and illustrated with great photos.

It used to be that you could learn a lot about photography by reading the many photography magazines, but these days they’re pretty much extinct. The only two I read anymore are Rangefinder (rangefinderonline.com) and Photo District News (pdnonline.com). Rangefinder is directed primarily at portrait and wedding photographers (I used to write for them) and PDN is directed at high-end commercial shooters and photojournalists. My other favorite photo magazines are Vogue, National Geographic, and Rolling Stone, for the exclence of their photography.

I used to have instructional videos sent to me for review all the time when I was at Shutterbug. They ranged from exceptionally good to garbage. There was one set from a really well known portrait photographer on lighting that was completely wrong! Light is basic to photography (the word photography means writing with light), and behaves very predictably. Some of the best produced videos are those from my friend Ken Marcus. I really enjoyed watching them. Ken is a master of using multiple lights for glamour and nudes. I haven’t seen them, but I’m told there are some good instructional videos on Youtube.

If you’re the type who learns best in a classroom setting, then check out adult education photography classes. Local community colleges often conduct photography classes that don’t cost very much to take. Here in my area I used to teach an adult ed photography class through Virginia Tech and the local YMCA. We met once a week in the evenings for a couple of hours for classroom lectures, at my studio for demos, and also did some “field trips.”. Everyone who took those classes seemed to enjoy and learn from them. They didn’t cost much, and the money went to support programs at the Y.

Another possible source of learning is photography schools. The Washington School of Photography in DC offered some excellent programs. I conducted lecture/demonstrations for tbem. These were done in hotel ballrooms, and consisted of a lecture portion illustrated with medium format slides projected on a big screen, followed by a live lighting and posing demo with nude models. These were fun to conduct and I think the audience learned. My sponsor for those was Mamiya America Corp. who provided the special projectors for my 6 X 6 and 6 X 7 slides. Medium format slides are eye-popping on a big cinema screen.

Once a year in October the Photo Plus Expo is held in NYC. It can be a great learning experience, with lectures, photo shoots, portfolio reviews, and a big trade show where you can see and touch all the latest new gear. Info at photoplusexpo.com . They’re affiliated with WPPI, Wedding and Portrait Photographers International, but you don’t have to be a member to attend. I’ve given lectures there.

Of course, the best way to learn is by doing. That’s where the hands-on workshops come in. What exactly are these workshops? It depends; depends on who is conducting them. Some have a lot of classroom instruction as well as actual photography on location. The best of these that I’m aware of were those conducted by the Disney Institute at Walt Disney World in Orlando. I don’t know if they still have their photography workshops. You’ll have to check on their website. When I was there the program was a mix of traditional classroom and photo shoots at Epcot, Animal Kingdom and a Disney wildlife preserve. The photo sessions at the theme parks were conducted in the mornings before the parks opened. Walking around Epcot taking pictures with no one around except a few maintenance workers was a once in a lifetime experience. I got some great photos and I’m sure the students did as well. That year Pete Turner was one of the lecturers. If you do a Google search on photography workshops, you’re sure to find a bunch in various places on a variety of topics.

I used to conduct two-day glamour and nude workshops several times a year. Some were held in my large studio in Radford. Others in my nearby forest land. And still others at St. Petersburg Beach in Florida, the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, on St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, in London, and other locations here and abroad. I’ve had as many as 60 students attend these from as far away as Hong Kong and Japan, with a ratio of one model for every five photographers, so everyone got plenty of opportunity to work with each model.

I also conducted one and two day one-on-one workshops in my studio. These were one student, one or more models depending on the student’s desires and budget, and me. These were intense photo shoots, real learning experiences in lighting and posing plus the technical aspects of studio shoots. I charged for my time plus the model’s fee and two hour film processing. After digital came along, most of my students were shooting digital, so no film processing fees. They just had to remember to bring enough storage cards, since we tended to work fast and shoot a lot of photos. I had several repeat customers who came over and over for these.

I conducted my first photo workshops in the 80s, initially with Tampa Bay photographer Wayne Collins to get my feet wet and learn the ropes, and before I had my big studio I rented a ballroom in town so I could have multiple sets active at the same time. Those were a lot of work because I had to haul all of my equipment and props there from storage and back again afterwards. I was really happy when I found the big studio space, since I could leave everything there and ready to go. I usually had a couple assistants for the group workshops, one of them, Herb, a very big man, former football player, who acted as my “enforcer” when very occasionally one of the workshop participants got out of line with a model, either verbally or with straying hands. Believe me, no one did it twice! Herb wouldn’t have hurt a fly, but his 400 pound size was intimidation enough. Thankfully he wasn’t needed often, and he was a photographer as well, so he got to take pictures for himself.

Before each workshop I sent each person who had signed up a sheet with the workshop rules. These were pretty simple: don’t touch the models, no alcohol during the workshop, no off color jokes, know how to operate your camera beforehand. I wanted to keep the tone professional and respectful. While most workshop students were men, I did get some female participants. I never had any serious problems at a workshop, although one model did get sick one time and spent a good part of a day in the dressing room throwing up in a bucket! For my outdoor workshops I had a portable dressing room I designed that Lastolite made for me. We were going to sell them, but the price turned out to be too high when you could just buy a cheap tent and accomplish the same thing. I kept the two prototypes for use at my workshops. Even when a woman is modeling nude, she needs privacy to get ready. I always provided a catered lunch at my workshops, and the lunch break was time to ask questions and discuss photography. I wanted everyone to have a good time, learn things, and come away with some great photos. I never had a dissatisfied attendee.

One special treat that set my workshops apart from others was a prize giveaway at the end. My photo industry sponsors contributed items to be given away, ranging from camera bags, tripods, flash units, lenses, to gift certificates. Each workshop attendee wrote their name on an envelope and put a tip for the models in it. The envelopes were put into a box and as each prize was shown one of the models pulled out an envelope and that attendee got the prize. The money was divided evenly among the models. Everyone loved this, and everyone got a nice prize worth much more than the money they’d tipped. Sponsors were glad to do it for the good will it generated. I had many different sponsors over the years, including Canon, Mamiya, Vivitar, Adorama, Beseler (camera bags), Fuji, Tiffen, Kodak, Photoflex, Plume, Chimera, Paul C. Buff, Sekonic, 3M, and others. Canon used to bring loaner cameras and most of their lenses for attendees to try out. Tiffen sent a bunch of filters in 72mm size with stepping rings to fit them to most lenses. Kodak, 3M and Fuji sent free film. Adorama sent a variety of photo gadgets.

I wanted my workshops to be fun, as well as learning experiences.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, Documentary, Environment, Film, Friends of TWS, History, Philadelphia, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Student Life, Travel, UPenn Photography

Portrait of the Day: Carmen

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

 

 

Editor’s Note: To see more pictures of Carmen as well as other pictures and films from Tony Ward’s erotica collection, click herehttp://tonywarderotica.com/category/membership-account/

 

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