Category Archives: Cameras

Bob Shell: Music & Photography

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Music & Photography

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What do music and photography have in common? In western music we use the octave scale; C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, with the eighth note a higher harmonic of the first. In photography we use light, which we devide into a sort of octave also: R, O, Y, G, B, I, V, — . Aha, there’s one missing! Instead of an octave we have a septave, or do we? If we add ultraviolet, which the birds and the bees can see we have our octave. Most films can “see” at least some ultraviolet. Kodachrome, which we old fossils remember, was notoriously sensitive to UV. Unless you used a strong UV filter when shooting it you risked getting false colors from flowers and certain fabric dyes. Imagine shooting a fashion set of a man in a black tuxedo and having the tux show up as red-purple! It happened.

I believe that I misspoke a while back when talking about the light spectrum. I put the most energetic light waves at the wrong end of the spectrum. I should know better, having done research into UV for its germ killing ability. UV is, of course, the most energetic of our spectrum, having the shortest wavelength. Red is the least energetic, its wavelength stretched out. Below red is infrared, same as heat, and film companies used to make films with increased sensitivity to infrared light. You could actually use your electric iron as a “light source” for some infrared films. Kodak made black and white infrared film, as did Konica, but so far as I remember, only Kodak made color infrared film. I used to love to play with the Kodak Ektachrome Infrared film in spite of its difficulty of use. Lee Higgs used a lot of this film for his classic book Generation Fetish. When I was in Chicago once we had a very interesting discussion of the difficulties of working with the Kodak Ektachrome Infrared film, which had to be shipped in dry ice and kept frozen prior to use. But the spectacular false color images were worth the effort. There’s a cool example of Ektachrome Infrared on the cover of Frank Zappa’s album Hot Rats and another on the centerfold of the English version of the first Black Sabbath album.

But back to the music analogy. The great experimental musician Isaio Tomita went from observatory to observatory collecting the radio wave signals from stars. He converted them all to sound waves and stored them in his computer so he could play them on a standard musical keyboard. This must have taken ages! Once he had them all he recorded an album of classical music. He called his collection of star sounds The Cosmic Symphony Orchestra. I’m listening to it as I write this. It’s beautiful.

Many photographers are also musicians. Ansel Adams comes to mind immediately. He was a classical pianist as well as master photographer. Most photographers I’ve known always had music playing in their studios while they worked. I would listen to classical or jazz while working by myself. When working with models I generally let them pick the music, so long as it wasn’t rap or hip-hop, which both set my nerves on edge. Of course I also had a big selection of 60s and 70s rock. I asked one young model if she liked classical music. “Oh yeah,” she replied, “I love the classics like The Beatles and stuff.”. Generational miscommunication!

Marion, much to my surprise, was familiar with some classical music. Said she’d taken ballet classes and heard it there. She got to really like my favorite composer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, and would pick his first symphony (A Night in the Tropics) to listen to in the studio or when we were out driving around. Gottschalk is a much underappreciated American composer, a French-speaking resident of New Orleans around the time of the “Civil War.” Although rarely performed in his native land, his works are often performed by European orchestras. I’ve heard the first movement of the first symphony called “more Wagnerian than Wagner,” and don’t disagree. The second movement is probably the first orchestrated samba, full of uncommon percussion instruments. Gottschalk was the “rock star” of his day, staging giant outdoor concerts with as many as eight pianos playing simultaneously, multiple instruments being the only way to produce lots of volume before electrical amplification. My late friend Don Sutherland, who wrote for me at Shutterbug, turned me on to Gottschalk in the 80s, and I’m forever grateful.

But back to colors: We humans have tricolor vision, with cells in the retina of our eyes sensitive to red, green, and blue. Each cell is sensitive to one color only, and our brain processes the signals from these cells to show our world to us in full color. Most of us anyway. Some people have a defective gene that produces cells that respond identically to red and green and see the world differently from the rest of us trichromatic folks. I’ve read that a small number of people have four types of color sensitive cells and also see the world very differently, but I can’t imagine how they see things. We’re unusual among mammals in having full color vision. Most mammals don’t see colors like we do, and many are profoundly color blind. Try to teach your dog or cat to tell red from green and you will be very frustrated, although I’ve read that a minority of dogs can see full color. I don’t know about cats. Its not that cats can’t be trained, but they aren’t interested in the idea! They find the whole idea intensely boring.

Insect eyes, built on a totally different blueprint from ours, generally can see ultraviolet. Flowers use this to attract pollinators by being strongly reflective of ultraviolet. A flower looks very different to a bee, like a billboard saying “Eat at Joe’s.” Some birds, notably raptors, can see well into the UV range, which cuts through atmospheric haze to reveal their prey far below. Their eyes have far more light receptor cells than ours, giving them the sharpest eyesight of all living creatures. “Eyes like a hawk,” is a genuine compliment.

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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://tonywarderotica.com/4830-2/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Current Events, Friends of TWS, Music, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture

Portrait of the Day: Alexandra

Tony_Ward_Studio_glamour_portrait_ParisAlexandra

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

 

 

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

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Diary, Documentary, Environment, Erotica, Fashion, Film, Friends of TWS, Glamour, History, Models, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Women

Bob Shell: The Digital Era

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Photo: Anthony Colagreco, Copyright 2019

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Photography by Anthony Colagreco, Copyright 2019

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The Digital Era

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Many of you reading this came of age in the digital photography era. Most likely you’ve never used, maybe never even seen, a film camera. My girlfriend Marion was like that. The first time I handed her a film camera she took a shot and then looked at the back of the camera to see the picture – which, of course, was not there! People who grew up with digital photography can’t imagine having to wait to see the pictures. When I first got started, unless you had a darkroom and developed and printed your own, you had to wait days to see your photos. When I had my first camera shop in the early 1970s we had our photofinishing done by a big commercial company called Colorcraft. Their courier picked up film from us every day and delivered the finished photos. As I recall, it took three or four days to get your pictures back. A bit later in the 70s came the innovation of next day delivery. People were amazed to get their pictures that fast. Next came the minilabs that pharmacies, grocery stores, and discount stores installed. Suddenly you could get your pictures back the same day! Some places even offered one hour service. The race was on to be the fastest, but quality was often lost in the rush. People got back poorly exposed or otherwise flawed pictures, and assumed it was their fault, never knowing they could have gotten good pictures from a better lab.

Today those big photofinishing companies are long gone, as are most of the smaller labs. The last lab in my area, run by an old friend of mine, closed at the end of 2018. People who still shoot film pretty much have to develop and print their own unless they live near one of the few labs still in business.

Kodak Alaris has just reintroduced Ektachrome 100 Professional in 35mm rolls and Super-8 cartridges. They must think there’s a market for it, but that leaves open the question of where to get it processed. (kodakalaris.com)

The Lomography people have recently introduced black and white Potsdam 100 and Berlin 400 films. These come in 35mm and 120 roll film sizes, and are “cut from old stocks of a cinematic emulsion, produced by a legendary German company.”. Available online from Lomography (www.lomography.com)

I don’t know much about the current Lomography company. I know they got their start selling a compact camera made by LOMO, Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Works, in St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad in Soviet days) and turned that little camera into a cult object. They’ve expanded to selling a wide variety of photographic products. I’d guess that the “legendary German company” they refer to is Agfa. Apparently Agfa had large stocks of film on hand when they went out of the film business. Rollei was selling rebranded Agfa black and white film under their name for some time. In cold storage black and white film will still be good for many years. In a bit of sales hype, they say, “Steeped in a rich past and prestige, this mighty monochrome is not just a tribute to history — rather a part of it.”

I used to collect Soviet era cameras and lenses from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. While the little LOMO point and shoot, the LC-1 was nothing special, LOMO also made the only Russian-built professional camera, the Almas (Diamond in Russian). During the Cold War days, Soviet photographers were cut off from the Japanese professional cameras the rest of the world used. LOMO was tasked with the job of producing a camera for Soviet professional photographers. Superficially, the Almas looks like a Nikon F2, but on closer inspection is revealed as a unique camera. The removeable prism housing is styled like Nikon’s, as are the interchangeable focusing screens. The camera body looks like a Minolta and has a shutter that looks like a Copal, but is a unique LOMO design. To carry on the hybridization, the lens mount is Pentax K mount. The camera is very robustly built and most samples I’ve seen show considerable use. There is a connection on the bottom for a motor drive, but as far as I have been able to determine, that motor drive was never produced. The 50mm lens on my sample is excellent. It’s too bad that this noble experiment vanished when the Soviet Union collapsed and photographers in former Soviet republics gained access to cameras from the outside world. My Almas has no light meter, but there was a meter prism available in small quantities that is rare today. My Almas is the star of my collection of Soviet cameras.

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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-musical-instruments/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, Documentary, Engineering, Film, History, Light Table, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Science

Bob Shell: A Stitch in Relative Time

Bob_Shell_nude_at_creek_

Photo: Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

 

Photography and Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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A Stitch in Relative Time

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What really is photography? I think it is an outgrowth of our inability to revisit moments in time. The old tentmaker wrote:

The moving finger writes, and having writ,

moves on, Nor all thy piety nor wit

can lure it back to cancel half a line,

Nor all thy tears wash out one word of it.

We move through time headlong, like a boat with no rudder, and must follow the current wherever it takes us. When we die, all the moments of our lives are gone, “like tears in rain.”

That, at least, is the viewpoint of most people, who never realize that they are projecting a Newtonian viewpoint onto external reality. But since 1905 and Einsteinian Relativity we should have realized that we actually exist in a Relativistic reality. Time, that we seek to capture slices of, is not something that flows. It is the fourth dimension of reality that Newton simply took for granted as being the same everywhere. But Einstein showed us that time is not absolute, that it varies depending on the position and motion of the observer. Most of us haven’t integrated Einsteinian Relativity into our daily worldview, we’re stuck back centuries ago with old Isaac Newton.

“Physics itself recognizes no special moment called ‘now’ — the moment that acts as the focus of ‘becoming’ and divides the ‘past’ from the ‘future.’. In four dimensional space-time nothing changes, there is no flow of time, everything simply is…It is only in consciousness that we come across a particular time known as ‘now’ …It is only in the context of mental time that it makes sense to say that all of physical space-time is. One might even go so far as to say that it is unfortunate that such dissimilar entities as physical time and mental time should carry the same name.”. — Russell Stannard, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Open University.

“Particles themselves do not even move, being represented by ‘static’ curves drawn in space-time. Thus, what we perceive as moving 3D objects are really successive cross sections of immobile 4D objects past which our field of observation is sweeping.” — Roger Penrose

So if the time we perceive and the motion we perceive are illusions, what is the point of photography? I’ve been wrestling with that question. Will we one day be able to get outside time and revisit “moments from the past”? I’d be very surprised if we don’t.

Years ago, in the early 1960s, my father came home from his job as a TV news reporter one day very excited. He showed us a press release from the U.S. Navy in which it stated that the Navy had developed a “time camera,” which could take photographs of a scene as it was hours before. The example they used was to photograph an empty parking lot and get images of all the cars that were parked there earlier in the day. We were all wowed by this announcement, and I remember anxiously awaiting more news about this “time camera,” but none was ever forthcoming. Nor was there ever an official denial — nothing. If it was a hoax, I’d have expected some official denial. Periodically over the years I’ve tried to find any information about that camera, but have never found a thing. I’ve always suspected that the information was released to the press by mistake, and quickly withdrawn behind a veil labeled “Top Secret.” Just imagine what a powerful historical research tool that would be!

In a very real sense we always photograph the past. Say you are photographing someone twelve feet away. Light falls on that person and some is reflected to your camera, but it takes time for that light to come from your subject and reach your film or digital sensor. Light travels at a rate of one foot per nanosecond, so if your subject is twelve feet away, you are photographing them not in the present instant when you trip your shutter, but twelve nanoseconds in the past. Your subject is always younger in your photographs! Your camera is always a time machine. However, until that light strikes your film or sensor the image is in the future relative to you.

Now twelve nanoseconds is pretty small potatoes, but what about when you hook your camera to a telescope and point it at the moon, which is one light second away, or at the sun which is eight light seconds away, or even at Alpha Centauri which is 4.3 light years away. You’d be photographing respectively 1 second, 8 seconds, or 4.3 years into the past. From the perspective of someone on the moon, the sun, and Alpha Centauri, you are 1 second, 8 seconds and 4.3 years in their future. So you see their past, but their “present” overlaps with your past so from their perspective they see your past. Clear? Relativity can be confusing!

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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-why-radford/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Photography, Popular Culture, Science, Women

Rongrong Liu: Light

 

Video and Text by Rongrong Liu, Copyright 2019

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LIGHT

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This video art project is all about light. I started thinking of using light as my main subject when I saw the disco ball installation recently at the Institute of Contemporary Art. What’s most interesting about it is that what I am able to see with my eyes is different from what the camera lens can see, which is iridescent.

There isn’t a strict plan for this piece. Starting from the first clip, each clip is what I associated in my mind with the previous one. The blurry night traffic scene ⇒ the micro bokeh light ⇒ disco ball ⇒ glass light ⇒ underwater light ⇒ projector light ⇒ smoke. After this clip are my interactions with the light, playing with the shadow and the time lapse of traffic. Light is everywhere, and it is different depending on the way we look at it (from a macroscopic or a microscopic view), how close we are, how focused we are, etc..

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Portrait of Rongrong Liu by Alexis Masino. Copyright 2019

Portrait of Rongrong Liu by Alexis Masino. Copyright 2019

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About The Author: Rongrong Liu is a Senior enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2019. To access additional articles by Rongrong Liu, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/rongrong-liu-me/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Fashion, Friends of TWS, Light Table, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Science, Student Life, UPenn, Women