Friday, January 29, 2010

New Toy Camera Book News!

"The book team is pleased to present you with the dust jacket design for the new toy camera book. First please note the pink and green lines, these are part of the design software and will not be present on the final print. They denote the text area (pink boxes) and the spine (pink vertical lines in the center) and the flap folds (green vertical lines). Our designer and illustrator took their inspiration from 60's/70's vintage magazines such as 'Which?'. The team wanted to really make this book stand out and have a different feel than your typical photography book. So we decided to stay away from highlighting the images on the cover. Trust us when we say the images take front row in the innards, and you will also find some of the illustrations floating around as well. We really love the design and hope you do as well. Feel free to send us your comments and thoughts, you can e-mail me at or comment on the thread in the forum section of"

To see a larger image click here!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Skate or Die 2!

As promised here are some more images of the skaters at city Hall. All in all I was pretty happy to get 6 fairly interesting images out of 18 shots with the Holga. It is a bit difficult to adjust focus on the fly and by feel with this camera. Though I think the slight off focus doesn't hurt these images, and actually I am pretty happy with the focusing I did. I wish I had thought to shoot in the opposite direction straight into the sun as I am thinking I could have made some fun images with some sun flair. Plus putting the sun in the background would give me essentially a blank background which would have been a nice change of pace. That said the flag on city hall in the background just works if you ask me.

All images shot w/ Holga w/4x ND filter
Holgamods Holga with waist level veiwfinder
Ilford HP5

Monday, January 25, 2010

Skate or Die!

This past weekend while walking around town working on my new photo project I ran across some kids skating in the dry fountain in front of city hall. I had only taken 4 rolls of film with me and at this point I only had 18 shots left. So I made a mental note to start taking more film with me (I really should know better). I tend to prefer to take as little equipment as I need because I often find myself carrying around cameras and or film I never use. A few extra rolls of film is always a good idea though. So here are some of my images of the skater kids. These are all double exposures. I'll post the other images later this week.

Holga w/4x ND Filter
Holga Mods Waist Level Viewfinder
Ilford HP5

Holga w/4x ND Filter
Holga Mods Waist Level Viewfinder
Ilford HP5

Holga w/4x ND Filter
Holga Mods Waist Level Viewfinder
Ilford HP5

Friday, January 22, 2010

My digital work flow and a first look at Silver EFEX Pro

I often get asked exactly how much do I do to my photographs in Photoshop. The answers is basically it depends. When I am post processing my film scans I tend to limit myself to what you might call darkroom techniques; dodging and burning, curves, and levels. Basically contrast control. The wet darkroom pretty much limits you to these adjustment and since I started in a wet darkroom I most often fall back to those basic techniques. I have run across many photographers who either boast that all they do is print in the traditional wet darkroom or only use traditional techniques in Photoshop. If that floats your boat then fine, but personally I like to use what ever tools I can to make my images better. More importantly I contend that regardless of how the final print is made the art show stand on its own independent of the technique used to create it. Photography is a unique art form that seems to attract people who are more interested in the technique, and find value in it more than in the quality of the final product.

Truth be told I find myself ignoring my wet darkroom these days and using my digital one much more. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is convenience. I like many photographers have a day job so I don't always have the time to spend hours in my darkroom. The luxury to be able to start and stop working on an image and start up right where you left off makes it so much easier to work through my images. As you may know you can't quite do this in a traditional darkroom. Plus using a wet darkroom requires a certain amount of setup and and clean up time. Finally scanner software allows us to make great prints from previously unprintable negatives. Some may argue that this allows us to be more lazy as photographers. That may be true, but I look at it this way, anything that allows me to spend more time creating a good image and less time on the technical aspects of photography the better. I should note that I am an Engineer so while I do like the technical aspects of photography I am much more interested in creating art and having photography be my break from my day job.

So after getting my start with film cameras and a traditional darkroom I have, like many others, started moving over to the digital world. Well at least a little bit. The first steps I took was a scanner, printer, and Photoshop so I could start printing my images digitally using scans of my negatives. Then last year I got my first digital SLR. I made the plunge mostly because I teach an intro to photography class on the weekends at The Art League. I don't very often encounter students who are still using film equipment so I needed to be able to speak their language. One consequence of coming from a film background is that I find myself wishing I could add grain to my digital images. Though I also love the fine detailed editing I can do digitally. So here is an example of an image captured on my digital camera and a look into how I went about creating the final image. This isn't really meant to be an instruction manual, I am sure there are better ways to achieve what I did. I freely admit that I have allot to learn about Photoshop.

So first here is the basic image after some adjustments in the RAW editor. In a very real sense this is my digital negative (or positive if you will). The image is nice and neutral, which is always a great starting point. Much of the sky and dock are on the white side of the grey scale which will mean that any adjustment to a higher contrast will push them further to the white end. This will be my main issue to deal with. Obtaining the correct contrast for the couple and maintaining an interesting sky.

Image straight out of RAW editor

It is clear to me that I am going to have to work the contrast on the couple and dock area separate from the sky and water area. So the first thing I do is use a Levels adjustment layer and a Curves adjustment layer to adjust the contrast of the couple.

After Level and Curve Adjustment

As you can see by adjusting the contrast so that the details of the couple stand out I have washed out the dock and sky. So the next step is to bring back the sky and water. I use a layer mask. I make the couple and dock portion of the mask to be transparent allowing me to keep the adjustments I made. The rest of the image is now back to its original state. I could have gotten here using just a dodge and burn layer, but since I have more in mind I need to basically create a new starting point for contrast adjustments.

After Layer mask

Now I am going to add another Curve and Levels layer to once again bump the contrast. Focusing on getting the pop I want in the sky and water while keeping an eye on the dock and couple. I want to keep them in a range that I can dodge and burn back to what I want.

After second Curve and Levels Layers

Now all I need is to dodge and burn certain areas. Mainly I need to dodge the couple and wood pylons to bring back the detail. I will also dodge the highlights in the sky and water to create a bit more contrast. Finally I will burn in the dock to help accentuate the grain and texture there. Here is a look at the naked Dodge and Burn layer I created show you the areas I lightened or darkened.

Dodge and Burn Layer

Final Image after Dodge and Burn Layer

Now that looks pretty good right? I sure think so. That was until I got a new piece of software called Silver EFEX Pro. I bought this software because I had seen a friend use it and was intrigued by the grain engine. Basically it is the best grain filter I have ever seen. It has quite a few film profiles, now I can't tell you if it accurately recreates specific films, but I can say that I would bet many people would not be able to tell that a print wasn't created from a scan of a film negative. On top of that there are some basic filters that recreate some pretty cool printing techniques. The really cool part is you can fine tune these filters and just use them as a starting point. This tool is also great for converting digital images to B&W. Actually I edited this image before getting the software so it was already B&W. You should also be aware that this software is only intended to create B&W images (thus the name Silver EFEX). So here is the image after running it through the software adding the grain profile of my fav film Ilford HP5 and the High Structure contrast filter.

Adding HP5 grain and High Structure filter using Silver EFEX

Close up of final image before Silver EFEX

Close up after Silver EFEX

all images taken with Canon 20D

I'll let you be the judge on how good the grain is. I am a fan! This certainly won't make me drop my film cameras, I love them too much. As much as I complain about time spent developing film I really love everything about film. I am just happy to have an alternative for those times when I have to shoot digital or that time in the future when film may no longer be available. I don't actually think that will happen in my life time, but you never know.

Maine Ave. Fish Market

I thought since I just started this blog I'd once and a while dig back through my archives and bring out some photos from the past. Today I'll post some images from my first trip to the famous Maine Ave. Fish Market in Washington DC. I have lived in the area most of my life yet never been to this spot. It is within a 20 minute walk of the National Mall but most tourists (or me apparently) have no idea it exists. From all the talk I expected quite a large bustling market, but in reality it is rather small yet busy. After passing through some industrial looking office parks and a small neighborhood you'll find it tucked along the Potomac water front. You can smell it before you get there! I took alone a Diana and my Polaroid Big Swinger 3000 (is there a better name for a camera?) all the images below were taken with the Big Swinger using Fuji FP-3000B. Enjoy.

(All images) Maine Ave. Fish Market, Washington DC
Polaroid Big Swinger 3000
Fuji FP-3000B

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Soundry!

Well I got into another show! I am pretty happy so far this year I have entered 4 juried shows and been accepted to 3 of them. I will have a piece hanging in NYC, Raleigh NC, and Vienna VA over the next few months so if you are in any of those cities please do stop by and check the shows out. The opening for the show at the Soundry is January 30th, I will most likely attend so I hope to see you there. Here is a link to the Soundry:
The Soundry

If you can't make the show here is a link to the my photo called
"The 800 Block of S. Washington St."

And you can find links to the other two venues where my work will be displayed at the bottom of this post:
Other Venues

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Is it Holga or is it Hasselblad?

As mentioned in my last post, my sister was kind enough to be a model for me to test some film in my studio. Basically I have recently realized that I don't take my Holga into the studio and I have been thinking that I needed to, not only for portraits but for a future nude shoot. Well my favorite film is Ilford HP5 (ISO 400) and my studio lights are 500W tungsten bulbs. If you know anything about tungsten lights they are actually quite a bit less intense than flash lights. This means my shutter speeds are pretty slow. I am typically shooting f11 at 1/15 to 1/30th of a second. Plenty fast for portraits and nudes, but these speeds present a real problem for the Holga. I have the choice of 1/100th of a second or bulb on the Holga. So my choices are shoot a film fast enough to allow for a 1/100th shutter speed or a film slow enough to allow me to time exposures manually. To use bulb and manually time shutter speed I need a minimum speed of 1 second.

So I decided to use 3 different films and use both my Holga and Hasselblad. The Hasselblad would provide a control set of images since I obviously have many more options than I do with the Holga. I shot a few rolls of HP5 in the Hassi just to give me a good chance of getting something my sister would like so the time wasn't a waste for her. I also picked Ilford Delta 3200 and Ilford Pan F Plus (ISO 50), I shot two rolls of film for each type, one in the Hassi and one in the Holga.

For those of you that care my studio lighting consists of two soft boxes with 500W tungsten bulbs. Frankly there are very few lighting conditions you can't recreate with two soft boxes and a variety of different strength bulbs. Though I find two equal strength bulbs just about perfect for portraits and nudes. One soft box was pointed at the white cloth background and one at 45 degrees coming in from the right side of the images. Honestly sometimes I think photographers get carried away with their lighting steups. I have a book that shows a shot done with something like 20 lights. Honestly after 3 or four can anyone really tell? I think it is part of the same mentality that thinks having the best camera ever made means something. The most lights and electricity used to make an image wins!

Anyway here are the results:

Lets start with the Ilford Delta 3200. I shot the film at ISO 1600. The scene was metered to f11 at 1/160th. This means I am probably going to be a bit over exposed with the Holga (shot on the sunny symbol and N), but not enough to really make a big difference. I shot the Hassi at f5.6 and 1/500th.
Hasselblad 500C
Ilford Delta 3200 @ 1
F5.6, 1/500

Ilford Delta 3200 @ 1600
sunny, N

Now for the Ilford Pan F Plus. I shot the Hassi at f4 and 1/8. The Holga I put a 2 stop ND filter which allowed me to shoot at sunny and 1 second using a manual release cable (purchased from Freestylephoto).
Hasselblad 500C
Ilford Pan F+

f4, 1/8

Holga w/ 2 stop ND filter
Ilford Pan F+
sunny, 1 sec

So pretty good results all in all. As expected the higher speed film is more grainy and the slow speed film much less so. You also get a pretty good look at just good/bad the Holga lens is. At first glance to the untrained eye you may say that all of these images were created with the same camera. But closer inspection you can see the Holgas softer focus, and focus fall off from the center to the edges. Still the Holga when used properly gives some pretty amazing results. I sometimes get a bit tired of people who pick up their Holga's and really never learn to use them. These people often gush over other photographers results and wonder how they did it, or worse figure it was all done in photoshop. Honestly all it takes is a notebook and ruler and a few rolls of film. When using a holga the key is figuring focal distances. You don't have to extremely accurate since the Holga has a slightly wide angle lens. Once you have figured where to focus all you really need after that is an understanding of exposure and how to work within the limitations of the Holga to get your image. I make it sound simple and it is, but it does take practice. I also think do a few test rolls where you have outlined a series of shots to get you the answers you need is the best way to go. Randomly shooting what ever catches your eye can get you there if you take detailed notes, but it will take much longer.

Finally here is a final image from the Hassi using HP5.

Hasselbald 500C
Ilford HP5
f11, 1/15

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I will scratch you!

So here is the first image from a recent shoot with one of my sisters. She was kind enough to suffer through a few hours to help me test out some new films. Now this image was created with my fav go to film Ilford HP5, but when testing out new stuff you need a control right?! Anyway enjoy, I am sure my sister is going to kill me for posting this image :)

"I will scratch you!"
Hasselblad 500C
Ilford HP5

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hot Dog Man!

After a long diatribe about my thoughts on juried group shows I thought I would keep it short and sweet. Check it, hot dog man!

"I am, I am Hot Dog Man!"
Holgamods waist level viewfinder Holga w/4x ND filter
Kodak 400NC

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Juried Group Shows

First off I happy to announce that I have had two piece of my work accepted to two juried shows so far this year. The first show is in Raleigh, NC and the second is the annual Krappy Kamera show in NYC. KK is basically the big juried show for toy camera photographers and this is the second time I have had a piece accepted. Actually this only the second time I have entered work into the show. About 4 years ago I started entering my work to various juried shows and to Light Leaks magazine. Most photographers start submitting to these shows at some point. I stopped after the first year cost me more money than I had expected. I got caught up how cool it was to have my work accepted and entered more shows than I could afford. I actually find this whole thing a bit strange and for someone seeking validation of their skill or talent these shows can be costly not only from a financial stand point, but also from a confidence stand point. So here are my thoughts on what these shows are and are not. I would love to hear from all of you about your views and why you do or do not enter these types of shows.

As a beginning photographer we all have the dream of our work hanging in a gallery and these shows provide this opportunity with out all the work of having a solo show. You don’t need a large portfolio or body of work, you don’t need to sell yourself to a gallery owner and convince them to give you a show or wall space. All you need is the money for the entry fee and if you get a piece accepted the money to frame and ship your piece to the gallery (if it is not local).

These shows provide money to small galleries supporting photography. Lets face it galleries do this to help keep their galleries going. Entry fees are non refundable and having a show like this can easily bring in a few hundred entries at $25-50 per entry. Regardless of how you feel about paying these fees, I see it as money well spent if it helps keep open a few venues that support the art that I love.

There is also the benefit of having your work seen by an audience that normally may not have a chance to see it. This is especially true if you submit to galleries outside your locality.

I see too many photographers either take it hard when their work isn’t accepted or feel like they have arrived when their work is accepted. There are many problems with this, but the main one is that in this setting work selected has almost nothing to do with skill or talent. A good gallery owner will most likely be selecting work they feel might sell. This show, especially if it toy camera specific, is a great advertising opportunity for them to potentially attract new customers. Add to this that there is no feed back in this process and you really have no basis to judge your worth as a photographer based on being accepted or rejected. I have been in shows were very few entrants we selected and shows where everyone got at least one piece in. I have yet to sell a print via one of these venues nor I have I ever had anyone contact me and tell me they saw my work because of one of these shows.

These shows are not exactly cheap. In general you have to pay an entry fee, they typically range from $10-$50. This buys you the right to enter your images. If you get selected you then have to pay for the print, frame, and shipping (to and from). Depending on the size of the framed print you could easily be looking at $50 for the frame and $50 for shipping. If you happen to sell a piece the gallery always gets a cut, typically between 20 and 40%. Say your piece is priced at around $200 if you do the math you’d be lucky to recover the price of the frame when all is said and done.

So given all of this why do I submit. I do not see these shows as a potential money maker for me, quite the opposite actually it is a bit of a drain on my wallet. I also think that the vast majority of people who go to see these shows are fellow photographers. And as you have figured out we don’t typically buy allot of art. So really I see this as fun and being part of a community. I get to praise friends when they get selected and if a show is local see some of their work in person. I do always hope that maybe this time I will sell a piece, but I don’t count on it. I see these shows also as a bit of a resume builder. To the outsider having a list of juried shows on your resume looks awesome, to a fellow photographer we all know what these shows say or don’t say about our art. I can tell you that it helped me get a weekend gig teaching photography at a local arts school where the person hiring me was not a photographer. I also do not really see these shows as good advertisement either. I see it allot like having this blog or being part of the forum, preaching to the choir. All of the people on these forums are already part of the photography community and most likely have already seen my work and being photographers yourself are likely to never buy my work just like I am unlikely to buy yours. Lets face it we can always put our own work on the walls much more cheaply and as photographers I am sure most of you think like I do when I see an awesome image, “I could do that” so if I really liked what you did I could probably recreate the image myself and hang it on the wall.

In the end I tell my students to not take these shows too seriously. Have fun with them and do not take acceptance or rejection for any type of commentary on their skills. In the end the only person who needs to be happy with your work is you. Now if you plan on making your living as a photographer you will actually need to convince people to pay for your services, but again these shows do not really provide any feedback on your work so it would be a bit silly to take anything away from them. So if you can have fun and not take rejection harshly I encourage everyone to submit to these shows. It can be fun and help you become part of the photography community.

Here are links to the galleries where my work will be shown, if you happen to go to either of these shows please take pictures and send them to me and let me know what you think of my work :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Toy Camera Book!

Back in April of 2009 I made the mistake of suggestion on that it was time to start making a second toy camera book. Then I got the brilliant idea to go ahead and lead that project. Since April a small group of volunteers has worked on outlining the project and pushing it forward. We decided on a format that was a bit broader than the first book created by a small group of toy camera enthusiast’s years before. That first book was very simple in its format, one image per page and a foreword. Our book we decided was going to have a series of themed galleries and a few spot light interviews with selected photographers. To date we have completed "calls for entries" for 5 themes; People/portraits, Scapes, Your Home Town, Still Life, and Motion. We have completed 2 interviews and have 3 more in works. Our last call for entries for the theme Flora/Fauna ends near the end of February (so get your entries in!).

We have a website with details on the current call as well as images of submitted work for the completed themes. Check it out for details about the project and how to submit your work.

Our goal is to complete this book by June of this year. It will be published using the online publisher Blurb and will be sold at cost , this was never about making a profit, it is all about putting a book together that highlights some of the excellent photographers using toy cameras today. I hope everyone ends up being happy with the results :)

For those of you that follow this Blog please help us get the word out and put links to this on your blogs and encourage all of your friends to do so as well.