Category Archives: Engineering

Bob Shell: Family of Photographers

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Photo: Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #29

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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FAMILY OF PHOTOGRAPHERS

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Maybe photography is in the genes. My father was an avid photographer, and my sister and I both got the bug. One of my great uncles, Hank Jewell, was pretty famous as a photographer in southwest Virginia in the late 1800s and early 20th century. One of his cameras is on display in the historical museum in Christiansburg, Virginia. He took the famous photograph of Robert E. Lee and his horse Traveler. The historical society has the “outtakes” from this session, all on glass plates about 4 x 5 inches. Unfortunately, when Hank died his family had no appreciation of the value of his work and hauled all his negatives to the dump. By the time historians heard, it was too late, since it had rained several times. Sad and stupid! Reminds me of how C. S. Lewis’s brother took all of C. S.’s papers out back of the house after his death and built a bonfire of them. Luckily, some people got there and put out the fire before all was consumed. Some Lewis stories now exist only in fragmentary form because of this act of amazing stupidity.

Paper, after all, is a fugitive medium for us to store our memories upon. For many years archeologists believed that the Phoenicians had no written language. Then it was discovered that they did, only they wrote on paper. Their climate didn’t preserve paper, unlike the arid climate in Egypt. No one knows what they wrote, but we’ve lost it all to a damp climate.

Personally, I’m one more of those who believe there was a highly advanced civilization on earth before the last ice age, which obliterated almost all traces. I think this is the real explanation for most of those mysteries discussed on TV shows like the mostly absurd “Ancient Aliens.” Ockham’s Razor says that the simplest explanation is usually the right one.

Anyway, as usual I’ve gone off on a tangent. I was talking about Uncle Hank’s photography. I never knew him, but my father knew him well. As did Doug Lester, one of the photographers who influenced me as I was learning. Doug and his wife Ruth owned Lester’s Foto Shop on Main Street in Christiansburg for many years. Doug knew more about photography than any two other photographers I knew then. I used to hang around the shop and talk photography with him between customers. He was a diehard Rolleiflex partisan; used them for his photography and sold them in his shop. He influenced me to trade in my Bronica S2a outfit for a Rolleiflex SL66, probably the finest camera I ever owned in terms of build quality. And the Zeiss lenses for the system were simply awesome. The major drawback of this camera (besides high price) was the big focal plane shutter, which could only synchronize with electronic flash at 1/30 second or slower. In the studio that was no problem, but it got in the way of outdoor fill flash. Rollei offered three lenses, 50, 80, and 150 with built-in leaf shutters with synchronized shutter speeds up to 1/500 second to get around this, but they were very expensive. Eventually I tracked down a used 150 that I could afford and used it for several years. But, by then Rollei had abandoned the SL66 system in favor of the SLX and its successors, offering the same great lenses in updated multicoated versions with electronic leaf shutters that synchronized with flash at all shutter speeds. I started with an SL6006 that I bought broken and rebuilt, and later moved to the SL6008i system. In addition to the Zeiss lenses, Rollei offered some Schneider-Kreutznach lenses, like the 80mm f/2 that I loved. Unfortunately, Rollei never caught up to the digital revolution and I think they’re gone now. I sold my Rollei equipment around 2005, when it still had substantial value, to raise money to put into lawyers’ pockets. I guess I’m lucky in a way since I sold my film cameras when they still had value, even if I was forced to sell to pay legal bills. By 2004 I was essentially a digital photographer, using Canon EOS 10D and Nikon D100 cameras. Why both incompatible systems? Simply that Canon and Nikon both sent me cameras and lenses for editorial evaluation, and I liked both of them. While I was with Shutterbug I never had to buy cameras. After Shutterbug terminated my contract “due to the accusations” I broke down and bought an EOS 10D. I still have it, although it’s in storage. Very fine camera; I shot all of the photos for several books with it. For most editorial work you simply don’t need massive megapixels. The 10D is a six megapixel camera, and that’s plenty for any magazine or book page (most of the photos for my Erotic Bondage book were made with the EOS 10D). For most of my work, today’s cameras with 24 or more megapixels would simply be memory hogs.

When I first got really serious about making a living from writing about photography, my old friend Lief Erickson said, “Well, buddy boy, you must realise that in this business you can either have fame OR fortune.”. Despite his nom de guerre, Lief was 100% English, which is why I wrote realise and not realize, and I’d first met him in the 70s when he was writing for a great old magazine called Camera 35. I’d written him a letter about one of his articles, and he had responded with a long and philosophical letter. We began a correspondence that lasted several years until I met him in NYC at one of the Photo + Expo trade shows at the Javits Center. We talked there and I invited him to start writing for me at Shutterbug. We developed a great working relationship. I’d call him with a ghost of an idea and he’d take it and run with it and invariably deliver a fine, polished article. Probably never what I would have done with that same ghost of an idea, but always excellent. I hardly ever had to edit his work, and when I did it was always for length, to make the article fit the available space. Writing for magazines is very different from writing. for books. because books usually don’t have strict space limits. When I told one of my writers that I needed 2,000 words, I expected exactly 2,000 words. When I had to shorten an article from Lief, or anyone else, it was because a last-minute ad sale had eaten into the allotted editorial space. That happens often in the magazine business.

Lief actually died on assignment for me. He had a heart attack on the New Jersey Turnpike on the way to a press conference I’d asked him to attend in my stead because I couldn’t come up to NYC right then. He’d had heart trouble for years, but I never thought I’d lose him like that. Lief was a mystic/philosopher as well as photographer, and I loved talking to him more than almost anyone else I’ve met in the business often about things having nothing to do with photography.

Anyway, fame or fortune? I ended up with fame, within the photo industry at least. I sure didn’t wind up with fortune. But it was nice within the insular photo industry to be well known. Sometimes I wanted to be anonymous at trade shows, so I’d order two name badges, one in my name and one in the name Fritz Klages. People would walk up, look at my face. then see the name badge and do a double take. “Bob Shell? For some reason people keep telling me we look alike!”

One time at Photo + I was walking around on the trade show floor when several young men approached me. One had a copy of my Mamiya book and asked me to autograph it for him. I did, and handed it back to him. He looked at what I’d written and said, “Wow, man, thanks! Wow, you’re famous, man! Wow!”. I guess my head swelled several sizes, and I probably couldn’t have gotten my hat on just then.

I considered the photo trade shows great fun, particularly the mother of all trade shows, photokina. (Yes, it’s spelled with a lower case “p.”. I don’t know why, but the people who run it insist that it be spelled that way.). This show is enormous, filling multiple buildings of the big Messe complex in Cologne, Germany. Everyone who is anyone in the world of photography comes. I always took advantage of the opportunity to meet people, and become friends with many. And there are some really fine people in the business; for example Lino Manfrotto, whose name you’ve probably seen on tripods and other photo accessories. Lino was a commercial photographer in Italy and was unhappy with the quality of the available light stands, so he designed and built his own

Other photographers saw them in his studio and wanted their own, so Lino started making and selling them. In a few years this business had grown far beyond his photography business, and he’d branched out into tripods and a line of studio accessories you will find today in most studios worldwide. Lino died not long ago, but his son Abramo keeps the family business going. Today the company also makes a line of display fixtures used by department stores. I will always cherish my memories of visiting Lino’s factory complex with him as tour guide and a trip to Venice with Abramo.

At photokina you also run into the real “characters” of the business. One of them is Ken (Sir Kenneth) Corfield, originator of the Periflex, a camera styled somewhat like an older, pre-M series Leica, but unique in that you focused through a small periscope atop the camera, which was retracted before taking the picture. Strange, but it worked. The Periflex was also almost unique in being manufactured in Ireland. Can you name the other camera made in Ireland, made by Timex?

Well, Ken Cornfield also fathered the Corfield 66, an inexpensive medium format SLR. Last time I saw Ken, he was laughing at the silly prices collectors were paying for those. Not that it was a bad camera, just an inexpensive one originally.

The photo magazine business today sure isn’t what it was. Most of the great old magazines are long gone; Modern Photography, PhotoGRAPHIC, Camera, Studio Photography, Camera 35, and many more whose names I’ve forgotten. And I just learned today that Shutterbug has been sold yet again, and the new owners let three of our best people go and have cut back to six issues a year! And to think we once published every two weeks! But these are signs of the times, I guess. As George Harrison sang, All Things Must Pass…

Maybe printed magazines have seen their day, and will go their way into history. But for me the day the last printed magazine rolls off the presses will be a sad day, indeed.

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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 herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-optics-photography/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, Cameras, Documentary, Environment, Erotica, Film, Friends of TWS, Glamour, History, Men, Models, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Science

Bob Shell: Car Reviews in a Photo Magazine?

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Cars. Rush Hour Boston, Mass. Photo: David Pang, Copyright 2018

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 Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #24

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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CAR REVIEWS IN A PHOTO MAGAZINE?

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At some point in the mid-90s, Don Cooke, our national sales manager at Shutterbug, had an idea to diversify our advertising base. Glenn Patch, Sbutterbug’s owner, had a policy that there would never be any tobacco ads in his magazines, so we turned away their money, but what about car ads? The car companies had crazy money to throw at magazines, too. Don had worked for car magazines in the past and knew everyone in that business. He thought a series of articles on cars for photographers would get the attention of the right people.

That’s why I found myself early one cool desert morning in a parking garage at McLaren Airport in Las Vegas picking up the keys to a sparkling new black Land Rover Discovery. Don had arranged this through the president of Land Rover U.S.A., who was an old friend. I was to take the car out into the desert for a week and put it through it’s paces as a field outfit for a nature photographer. I’d brought a bunch of outdoor gear with me on the overnight “redeye” flight from Charlotte, and I loaded it all into the Rover’s cavernous back.

In the 70s and 80s my “go anywhere” vehicles had been Toyota FJ-40 Land Cruisers, first a 1966 that I bought from Arthur Godfrey (now there’s a story for another time) and later a 1972 that I bought new for $ 3,400. That sounds cheap today, but in 1972 that was a relatively expensive vehicle. The FJ-40 series were built to withstand rough use and to last, but in common with other Japanese vehicles of the day, the steel used to make the body panels was prone to rust. Both of mine suffered from body rust. I see that restored FJ-40s are commanding high prices today.

I backed the Rover carefully out of its parking place and headed out for Highway 15 northeast and let the big V8 open up (I love to drive fast!) My destination, The Valley of Fire State Park. I’d conducted photo workshops there for years, ever since Wayne Collins and David Brooks had hipped me to the location back in the early 80s. The Valley of Fire is one of the prettiest places on the planet, and in all my world travels I’ve never found a better place for photography. The red rocks and clear desert air cast a warm glow on anything and anyone you photograph there. Of course, if you’re doing commercial photography there you need to jump through some hoops, get a photo permit, and pay into workman’s comp for any assistants and models you use. I was keeping it simple this time, no assistants, no models, just me and the car, and a basic photo permit. I did have to get special permission to go off road, and the rangers gave me a limited selection of places where I could do that, and a couple of brooms to hide my tire tracks going off and back onto the road.

You may not know it, but unless you’re that rare person who never watches TV, you’ve seen The Valley of Fire. It’s a favorite location for commercials for cars, and many other products, and as a standin for other planets in SiFi programs.. At the time of writing there’s a commercial for “tactical” sunglasses airing on ESPN that was shot there. Being located not far northeast of Las Vegas, it’s convenient to Los Angeles and the photo and movie businesses. If you saw the movie Star Trek: Generations you’ve seen the Valley. The climactic scenes of the two Captains fighting Malcolm McDowell was filmed on the red rocks there. It was near those rocks that I chose to position the Rover, on top of a big rock.

I’d decided to shoot medium format in case we wanted to use one of the pictures on the cover, so I’d brought my Mamiya 645 Pro and 50, 80, and 150 Mamiya lenses, and several “bricks” of Fujichrome Provia in a Styrofoam cooler. Of course I’d brought a sturdy tripod (I don’t recall which one, probably a Manfrotto) and my Sekonic light meter for both spot and incident readings. I didn’t anticipate needing any wider or longer lenses, but had a 30 fisheye, 40 and 300 in the bag just in case, and I turned out to shoot most of the photos with the 150, a few with the 80. The light was perfect, a high overcast sky serving as a giant softbox. We did use one photo on the cover, and some detail shots with the article. We got a lot of reader feedback, most of it positive, with a few, “Whaddaya think you are, a car magazine??” letters. Unfortunately, the hoped for advertising never materialized, and we never ran any more car tests. But a while later my friend Scott, who worked for Nikon, stopped by my house in his brand new — Land Rover Discovery! He said he’d bought it on the strength of my review. So Land Rover sold at least one car from our experiment. Too bad the advertising didn’t follow, I was looking forward to test driving other cars in a variety of locations.

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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 herehttp://tonyward.com/2018/09/bob-shell-the-weinstein-matter/

 

Also posted in Accessories, Advertising, Blog, Cameras, Friends of TWS, History, Photography, Popular Culture, Travel

Beach Report: Last Days of Summer

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Margate City, New Jersey

 

 

Photography and Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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BEACH REPORT: LAST DAYS OF SUMMER

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Like most folks that visit the Jersey Shore during the summer months, I usually visit Margate City or other shore points between  the Memorial and Labor Day weekends, when thousands of people from Philadelphia and the surrounding area flock to various New Jersey shore points to enjoy the sun and the surf.  In recent years, there has been much concern about the New Jersey shoreline as it has taken a beating over the years because of the increase in violent tropical storms that continue to erode the beaches all along the New Jersey coastline.  The Army Corps of Engineers were brought in to fix the beach erosion crisis that emerged after hurricane Katrina, but a small pocket of resistance to the corps efforts surfaced in the borough of Margate City, New Jersey.  A group of wealthy property owners with multi million dollar investments on or close to the beach in Margate organized a legal effort to fight against an order by then Governor Chris Christie, to allow the corps to make improvements to the coastline by creating sand dunes to sure up eroded sections of the beach.  After hearing the pros and cons surrounding the eventual decision that the dunes be installed, neighbors continued to be concerned about the aesthetic and practical changes to their beloved summer destinations.  

My personal opinion is that the Army Corps of Engineers performed an incredible job by transforming and protecting the shoreline from the eventuality of even greater threats from future tropical storms and or hurricanes.  There are thousands of beautiful newly planted dune brush growing steadily along the shoreline as far as the eye can see.  Long blue mats run from the beach at entry points in Margate City near landmark Lucy the elephant where the dunes transformed the landscape.  From that point forward beach goers are required to walk on the newly installed  sand as they look for a place to to set up  beach chairs and surf boards in preparation for a care free and relaxing summer afternoon.  The great thing about the Jersey Shore during the period after Labor Day is  hardly anyone is there.  You almost feel as though you have the beach all to yourself. I imagine the dunes plantings will grow considerably taller and more lush by the Spring of next year.

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Tony Ward Self-Portrait. September 6, 2018

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About The Author: Tony Ward is a master photographer, author, blogger, publisher and Adjunct Professor of Photography at the University of Pennsylvania. To access additional articles by Tony Ward, Click herehttp://tonyward.com/2018/04/diary-a-fashion-shoot-at-the-jersey-shore/

 

Also posted in Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Travel, Women

Mu Qiao: The Shape of Water

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Photography and Artist Statement by Mu Qiao, Copyright 2018

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The Shape of Water

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“Water is the source of life”. Water, the basic element of life not only bred and maintained life, but also became the basic environmental factor of human society. The physical and chemical properties of water make it possible to exist in nature in three forms: solid, liquid and gas, and participate in the ecological cycle of nature. Therefore, water is omnipresent. It is as large as a vast ocean, as small as raindrops on glass, and even as invisible in the body of animals and plants. In addition, with the process of industrialization and the continuous development of modern urban civilization, water has more mixed forms, such as drinks and wine, and participates in urban landscapes such as rivers and fountains. Since then, water is not only an element of life, but also a carrier of life.

This portfolio focuses on the impact of water as a natural, environmental, cultural and life factor on human life. And the relationship or interaction between human activities in water bodies. Photographs of natural factors include rain, snow, and other weather scenes in Philadelphia’s city streets. The photos of environmental factors include the landscape of the coastal or riverside cities. Cultural factors include human recreation or fishing in the water. Photos of wine and drinking places are examples of water as a factor of life. The natural landscape is presented with a wider viewing angle, black and white colors and horizontal composition. Objects and activities are expressed in smaller perspectives and prominent colors. I hope that through this series, readers will be aware of the importance of water in our lives, discover the details and beauty of water which we usually neglected.

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About The Author: Mu Qiao is a Graduate student enrolled in the School of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania. To access additional articles by Mu Qiao, click herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/mu-qiao-the-game-of-sunshine/

 

Also posted in Blog, Contemporary Architecture, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Science, Student Life, UPenn, UPenn Photography

Wenjia Guo: View on the Roof

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Photography and Artist Statement by Wenjia Guo, Copyright 2018

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View on the Roof

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As an architecture student, I always treat design as a process of choice. Choose to show the real structure or hide with decorative materials. Choose to display the mechanical equipment or dress up with modernist elements. It is the same with the photographic medium, photographers choose the light, the subject, the environment as well as the attitude. So, this time, I used my pictures to discuss something that architects tried to hide from the public, the roof view. Nowadays, architects value roofs as the fifth façade. They came up with the concept of a green roof tried to turn the roof into a positive element in life and the environment.  However, during  development over time, architects used the parapet wall to prevent people from easily seeing the roof from the ground. I found several roofs to photograph and recorded these views. From an aerial view to observe these buildings, I found them familiar and strange. The equipment on the roof is still in the quiet of day there to complete their functions, do not look forward to my visit, but once I pay more attention, the snow in spring, the narrow skylight, the huge heating all tells their own story. Architecture design for me is a way of expressing my thoughts to the world and  to photograph structures like this provides me with an opportunity to read to the world.

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Portrait of Wenjia Guo by Mu Qiao, Copyright 2018

Portrait of Wenjia Guo by Mu Qiao, Copyright 2018

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About The Author: Wenjia Guo is a Graduate student in the School of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania. To access additional articles by Wenjia Guo, click herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/wenjia-guo-travel-friends/

 

Also posted in Architecture, Blog, Cameras, Contemporary Architecture, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Photography, Popular Culture, Science, Student Life, Travel, UPenn, UPenn: Photography Students, Women