Category Archives: UPenn Photography

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, Cameras, Documentary, Environment, Film, Friends of TWS, History, Philadelphia, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Student Life, Travel

Lilibeth Montero: Platonic Soulmate

 

Photography and Text by Lilibeth Montero, Copyright 2018

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Platonic Soulmate

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As I finish my first year at Penn, I have begun to reflect on the events that occurred this year. I have come to the realization that I wouldn’t have been able to survive college without my best friend Abril. This year has been filled with obstacles, and through every single one Abril has helped me.

The first semester at Penn, I was in a bad place. I wasn’t doing well in my classes and I found it difficult to relate to others. Therefore I kept to myself and started to isolate myself from others. There were countless instances I pushed her away, but she stayed. I never thought it was possible to find someone that is so much like oneself. Abril and I share shared experiences we are both daughters of Mexican immigrants, low income first generation students and nursing majors. Therefore, we understand one another and support each other. Something that is incredibly valuable in an environment like Penn.

How do I explain my relationship with Abril?

Abril is my platonic soulmate. Yes I have had best friends before, but never has a friendship developed as smoothly and effortlessly as my friendship with Abril. First of all, I cherish moments with her and long to be at her side. We both support one another, and value the phrase “we succeed together”.

Through my photography, I want to capture my friendship with Abril. I want the audience to see the huge amount of love I have for her. I want the audience to see a trusting and powerful friendship between two women that support one another, and help each other succeed. Essentially,  I want the audience to feel as if Abril is their friend too because I feel everyone needs a friend like “Abril”.

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About The Author: Lilibeth Montero is a freshman enrolled in the School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2021. To access additional articles by Lilibeth Montero, click herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/lilibeth-montero-national-dominican-student-conference/

 

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

Frank “Fangyi” Fan: The Art of Styling

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Photography and Artist Statement by Frank “Fangyi” Fan, Copyright 2018

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The Art of Styling

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I have always been a person who cares too little about my outfit. I follow the principle of dressing up neatly, but I don’t have much interest in being fashionable or stylistic in my clothings. Why do I stay simple? Probably because I am just lazy. It is only after I met Rongrong that I realized styling could be a form of Art. Rongrong has already made this art part of her life, and her passion in styling sort of inspires me to seek the beauty behind everything in my life. Therefore, I used this individual assignment to showcase her artistic work in styling.

The 24 pictures are separated into 2 parts. The first part, which consists of 16 pictures taken at the studio, exhibits some of Rongrong’s boldest stylings including kimono with fishnet stockings, baggy jumpsuit, and sleeveless top with cargo pants. I must admit that Rongrong has been the most versatile person in styling as she stays comfortable and confident no matter what clothes she puts on. The second part has 8 pictures taken outside the studio, around the world. Rongrong brought her art of styling to every corner she traveled to, from Milan to Rio, New York to Philadelphia. I had the honor to capture her styling artwork throughout this assignment. For me, the enjoyment not only comes from her exquisite styling, but also comes from the lesson she taught me: to seize the beauty around us.

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Portrait of Frank "Fangyi" Fan by Rongrong Liu, Copyright 2018

Portrait of Frank “Fangyi” Fan by Rongrong Liu, Copyright 2018

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About The Author: Fangyi “Frank” Fan is a Senior enrolled in the School of Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2018. To access additional articles by Fangyi “Frank” Fan, click here:http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/fangyi-frank-fan-colors-of-bottles/

 

Also posted in Accessories, Advertising, Art, Current Events, Documentary, Fashion, Glamour, Models, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Student Life, UPenn, Women

Rongrong Liu: Me

 

Photography and Artist Statement by Rongrong Liu, Copyright 2018

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ME

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I woke up in the morning, looking into the mirror. That was a face I am so familiar with for 22 years, but how well do I actually know it? For most of the time, our face faces others. I didn’t realize how much I have changed when comparing the photos taken this year with the ones taken in my freshman year. I am just too used to it to recognize any everyday change. Then how about me, as a person? How much have I deviated from the me two years ago?

My photography experience started from my interest in fashion. I wanted to use this individual project to push me back to where I started, and use myself as the subject to let me re-examine and look into myself. I enjoy the paradoxical freedom and constraint of self-studio. During the photoshoots, there was no one else there, so I was completely free. I can control the camera. I can control the setting. I can control my facial expressions and my styling. However, the vacant viewpoint controlled me. I was not instructed, therefore I didn’t know how the photos would turn out to be. This makes self-studio harder than the regular photoshoot, but I enjoyed the unplanned surprises it brought and revealed the true me in front of the camera.

I didn’t plan for a specific theme in fashion to shoot, instead, I put together everything I love. There are some standard aesthetic stylings and self portraits – it is a regular me. There are some beauty photos, the starry night and the sakura (cherry blossom makeup), the ideas of which have jammed in my mind for a long time, but I wasn’t bold enough to wear those makeups outside. And there are ironic high-street fake design collaborations – it is a me to explore. The co-branding collaboration in high-street fashion becomes a way for brands to earn incredible profits through successful marketing. The supreme shirt is 50 dollars originally, but after its collaboration with Louis Vuitton, the t-shirt was sold at 395 dollars and more. What about this Colgate and Louis Vuitton collaboration, whose brand logo is so similar to Supreme? I guess via some systematic brand marketing, it could achieve the same. Other than that, there are some other collaborations like Joshua Sanders’ symbolic smiley face versus Acne Studios’ emoji, and the most recent rainbow burberry pattern in trend versus bandage. All these ideas popped up in my mind and I used the camera to record them visually. It is like my brainstorming diary.

This individual project on myself is not completed yet and it won’t be completed because I will continue doing it on my way to further self-exploration.

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Portrait of Rongrong Liu by  Lilibeth Montero, Copyright 2018

Portrait of Rongrong Liu by Lilibeth Montero, Copyright 2018

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

 

Also posted in Accessories, Advertising, Art, Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Erotica, Fashion, Friends of TWS, Glamour, Models, Popular Culture, Portraiture, UPenn, Women