Filters 101

3/31/2010 0 Comments A+ a-

A filters function is to absorb certain light and allow other light to pass through either partially or completely. They are generally made of glass, plastic, or sheets of gelatin. Different filters allow the photographer to express individual creativity and aid in correcting any undesirable components. Each filter alters light in different ways; they can be used alone or in combination with one another to achieve seemingly infinite results.

The most basic filters provide little more than protection for your lens. Lenses can be a costly investment, and a good protective filter will easily shield a lens from devastating damage. Replacing a filter is a lot easier to endure than replacing a lens.

  • MC protective filters are clear filters designed to protect the lens without affecting the light that passes through it. Use of these filters with show no effect on the final image. These filters are usually left on the end of the lens and won’t affect the performance of other filters used in combination with it.
  • UV filters are also a first choice for protecting a lens. These filters absorb UV light that often appears as a bluish tone in photographs. Common practice is to keep these filters on the lens at all times as the effect is minimal and often desired. UV filters are increasingly effective at higher altitudes, over long distances, and above water. In hazier conditions, stronger UV Haze filters will have a more dramatic effect, sometimes resulting in a yellow tone. Although it is not possible to filter out dust and fog, UV Haze filters will filter out the UV light reflecting off of them.
  • Sky filters are chromatic (colored) filters, usually a light shade of pink or magenta. They also help reduce the effect caused by UV light, and add warmth to the photograph. When photographing people, Sky filters can be used to help prevent the light reflecting off of nearby objects from disturbing skin tones.
  • Neutral Density filters are designed to reduce brightness without sacrificing color. These filters are useful when shooting in bright conditions where fast shutter speeds still result in over exposure. Longer exposure times allow for creative effects, such as softening moving water, and give a lot of freedom to the photographer for experimentation. Reducing the brightness of light also allows for wider aperture settings, which will reduce the depth of field.
  • Polarizer filters are generally used to reduce and eliminate reflections on non-metal surfaces. Depending on the angle, reflections on water and glass can be eliminated, allowing you to focus on subjects within. Polarized filters can also be used to darken the sky, and increase contrast and saturation. A common practice is to point at the sun with your hand in the form of a pistol. The part of the sky that your thumb is pointing at is where the darkening effect with be more intense. Circular polarized filters allow you to rotate the filter, changing the intensity of the filter’s effect.
Above: No Filter, SOOC
Above: With Polarizer Filter
Left: No Filter, Right: Polarizer Filter

~Andy McCarrick

Focal Length Designs

3/29/2010 4 Comments A+ a-

We recently stumbled upon the work of Isaac Watson, and his line Focal Length Designs. His cuff bracelets are made from recycled camera lens parts, so this was naturally intriguing. Isaac was kind enough to answer some questions for us.

KEH: What's your profession?

IW: I wouldn't call myself a designer, or an entrepreneur, or a marketer. Just a creative, I guess. It's been a topic of hot, self-reflective debate lately. Some years ago I started a degree in graphic design, taking a few photography courses along the way, but burnt myself out physically, emotionally and financially after several years. I decided to take a break from school and regroup.

KEH: How did you come up with the idea to make the bracelets?

IW: In early 2008 I stumbled across a website featuring an artist that made jewelry from old camera parts. Encouraged to try making my own version of what I saw, I armed myself with a concept and some rudimentary tools and set to work.

I spent a sweltering May afternoon in a borrowed workshop grinding, filing and sanding away at a little piece of metal from a broken SLR camera lens I had found at a thrift shop. Two hours later I emerged from the shop with grime-covered hands and several minor lacerations, but I also had a couple shiny new bracelets. They were comparatively crude—scratched from a few too many slips of the metal file and dinged by a few too many mis-strikes of the hammer—but I had accomplished my goal, and I had a ball of a time in the process!

A single experiment in mimicry opened the door to a passion I never knew I had. I couldn't wait to take another stab at them!

KEH: What has the response been like?

IW: I find that I usually get one of three responses from people when they see my work.
  •  Response 1: "Oh, how clever!" This usually comes from the people who don't really get it. Suburban craft show moms and such.
  •  Response 2: "Oh, sweet! Those are bad-ass!" This is my favorite response (naturally). I get this from designers, fashionistas, the hip photographers.
  • Response 3: "OMG how could you?!" This always makes me laugh. It's usually the old school photographers that still have their AE-1 or K1000 in their closets and would never dream of getting rid of it. They're the ones that took the longest to convert to digital (not that there's anything wrong with that) and think I'm destroying their history. I can usually calm them down by assuring them that the lenses were broken to begin with or that they were obsolete parts. But really I understand that the shock stems from emotional connection to the "death of analog".
KEH: Have you thought about making other items based on the same idea, or using other camera equipment parts?

IW: In dismantling at least 30 lenses since I started, I've amassed quite the collection of optics, brackets, screws, springs, rings, aperture flaps, and all kinds of other parts. Part of my goal over the winter has been to expand my work beyond cuff bracelets. I'm currently brainstorming and collaborating with my good friend and mentor, Betsy Cross of Betsy & Iya. She's a wicked talented jewelry designer and we'll be launching our collaboration at the Crafty Wonderland Super-Colossal Spring Sale, May 1-2 at the Oregon Convention Center.

KEH: How long does your process take to make these?

IW: If I spent a good solid day in my workshop, I could emerge with ten bracelets. But that's assuming the lenses are already in pieces and I've got a good solid flow to my work. I also put a lot of time into photographing, naming and writing a "story" for each one. They are one-of-a-kind pieces, and I like giving them some kind of personality or history. I enjoy being able to connect to my customers that way, and it's a great outlet for my writing hobby.

KEH: Whats your process? What do you do with the other lens parts that aren't used for the bracelets?

IW: I'd like to say that it's as easy as slice, bend, and file, but there is so much more art that goes into it. Each piece has its own style that takes form as I work with it, and I've developed my own special techniques to add complexity to their minimalistic nature. My techniques have developed along with the bracelets, too, considering I have no formal training in jewelry-making or metal-smithing. I still do a lot of work by hand, even though I got a fancy Dremel tool for Christmas. Files and sandpaper are my friends! All the leftovers go into tubs and boxes and baggies and await brilliant ideas and collaboration as mentioned previously!

KEH: Can you size them to fit specific size wrists?

IW: Sizing depends greatly on the original diameter of the cuff and the thickness of the aluminum. Some of the metal is more flexible or more brittle than others. Most of my bracelets can be fine-tuned, but the big adjustments have to happen in the shop if the metal will accommodate it. I love doing custom work, too! Finding a raw piece and making it specifically with someone's wrist in mind is exciting, especially when I get to see their face at the unveiling! If anyone's interested in custom work, I'm happy to get in touch and discuss details!

KEH: Anything else you'd like to tell us?

IW: While I play around with my old AE-1 when I have the time and money for developing film, I don't consider myself a photographer. Most of the good photos I take are pure chance—my skills are not that greatly developed. So I would call myself more of a photographile instead.

Up until this year I had been selling my work solely through my Etsy storefront. In February, a new retail shop opened up inside an art gallery here in Portland, called Small Victories Shop. Erin, the shop owner and curator, focuses on artful and functional handmade goods for the home and body. She approached me about adding my bracelets to her collection, and is now the first brick-and-mortar shop to carry them! It's a fabulous little space and if anyone is in the Portland area, they should drop by and check it out.

I'm also the Co-Chair of a pilot project called I Heart Art: Portland. It's an art advocacy group that represents a new relationship between and PNCA. We're starting some really great programming here in Portland.

Below are a few bracelets from the line:

"Subtle Scratch"
"Large Threads 1"
"Micro-Bandonomics 1"
"Slice n Dice 1"
"Come to Grips 1"
"75mm Brilliance Plus 1"

For more on Focal Length Designs, visit the shop on Etsy.

Sensor Check

3/25/2010 0 Comments A+ a-

Sometimes you may see obvious spots on your images that are a dead giveaway that you have a dirty sensor. But, if you tend to shoot with a wider aperture, you may not have noticed it so much. Here's a quick and easy way to check and see if your digital camera sensor is dirty and needs a cleaning.
Above, some light spots of dust on a sensor. This was shot at using an aperture of F1.8.
Above, lots of dark spots of dust on a sensor, shot at an aperture of F22.

To check you sensor like image 2, put your camera on AV/aperture priority mode and stop down your aperture as small as it will go. Then, point your camera at a clean, blank, white wall (or sheet of paper) and take an image. If you have any visible spots on your image, that are in the same spots on both test shots, then you probably have a dirty sensor. If your camera has a sensor cleaning function, then run the in-camera cleaning. If not, or if the cleaning does not remove the spots, you may need an at-home cleaning kit, or to have a professional clean it.

Some other instances when you might see spots, but it might not be actual dust: damage to your lens itself, or a damaged sensor itself. The best thing to do would be to check with a repair shop if you're having issues. The KEH Repair Center offers professional sensor cleanings, lens cleanings, preventive maintenance care and much more!

Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes it is impossible to remove every single speck of dust. So, if it's full of spots like the circled image above, have it cleaned. If there's one tiny, faint spot, it probably isn't worth the cleaning and may not even be able to be removed. This is why preventing the dust in the first place is extra important.

Create a Filter

3/23/2010 3 Comments A+ a-

With all of the digital manipulation & filters being used lately, we wanted to do some experimenting with real, tangible filters. But, not the same old ones that we're used to using for corrections. So, a few of us at KEH Camera went on an assignment to play with creating our own filters for fun effects out of everyday household items.

To do these, we took two basic filters and sandwiched our chosen medium in the middle. Then the filter sandwich was attached onto the lens like normal. The first shots are: camera, lens, filter, and the second shots are: camera, extender, lens, filter.

Below images © Christina Hodgen
Hand Sanitizer
Hand Sanitizer
Soap and Water
Salt Water

Below images © Jenn Alexander Fletcher
Baby Powder
Eye Shadow
Heart Confetti
Glitter Nail Polish
Glitter Nail Polish

Kodak No.1A Gift

3/19/2010 0 Comments A+ a-

A special version of the No. 1A Kodak Junior. Produced between 1930-1931.
Folding camera covered in brown leather with art-deco design. Enameled metal inlay on shutter faceplate, front door, and on top of matching cedar-wood box.
Folding camera body with bellows.
Film type: 116 rollfilm. Picture size: 2 1/4 X 4 1/4". Manufactured in the US. Lens: Achromatic. Shutter: Kodo. Edition of: 10,000.

This camera originally came with brown bellows and in this one the original bellows have been replaced with black ones. We currently have one of these collectibles in stock in BGN for $189.00. Purchase online HERE or call our sales department at (770) 333-4200 for assistance.

Troubleshooting Light Leaks

3/16/2010 0 Comments A+ a-

There are a few different issues that can cause light leaks. If you're unfamiliar with what a light leak is, it is basically a space on the camera that allows light to "leak" into the inside and therefor over exposing the film. It will sometimes cause a white or red area on the film/print that shouldn't be there. If the leak is bad enough, it can fog your entire image.

One of the main causes of light leaks is bad light seals. In most 35mm and medium format camera, the seals are made up of a foam padding. The foam deteriorates over time. Foam is typically found around the entire back door of the camera, above the mirror, and around the focusing screen and prism (in cameras with detachable prism housings). In some cases, the foam may have been replaced by a rope type seal, which holds up better over time.

To check and make sure your foam is still good, it's simply a matter of stickiness and/or brittleness. First, check to see if the foam padding is still there. Then answer these questions: Is there little black specks falling out from the inside of the camera? Does the foam look moldy? Is there a sticky black substance around the edge of the door? If you answered yes to any of those, then your foam is bad. Having the foam replaced is a fairly inexpensive job, and can be done at most camera repair shops.
The red lines indicate where light can seep in through. Around the perimeter of the camera back, there should be a solid strip of foam. The shutter blades in the middle may also cause exposure issues if they are broken.
Foam padding at the hinge of the back door to a 35mm. This foam is bad, as it has some mold on the surface, is flaking away, one strip is missing, and is starting to stick.
Foam pad in lens mount above mirror

In medium format backs, there is also a type of light seal that may cause fogging of your film. These seals are not easily seen and not as easily fixed. Other things that can cause light leaks include casting cracks in the camera body, and holes in large format bellows. Casting cracks are thin cracks in the body of a camera. These happen most often around screws that have been tightened too much, if there is impact damage, and near delicate, small parts. Bellow holes can be seen if taken into a completely dark room with a flash light. Insert a flash light gently into the bellows and go slowly along all edges. If you see even the tiniest spot of light, it will effect your image. Neither casting cracks or bellow holes are easy to fix and usually must be fully replaced. In some cases, the bellows may be patched.

The only case in which a light leak is usually wanted, is when shooting with a Holga.

It's a good idea to check these things on a fairly regular basis, and super important to check if you've had the equipment sitting around for while, especially if it's been stored in a garage or attic. The temperatures and weather conditions cause the equipment components to break down must faster than if it were properly stored.

Ring Flash and Macro Lights

3/12/2010 0 Comments A+ a-

A ring light is a flash that encircles a lens and produces a 360 degree output of light onto a subject. A large ring light produces uniform light that is shadowless. When the subject is close to a backdrop or wall, it also will produce an even, all over shadow around the subject as if lightly outlining it. Ring lights are often used in fashion and beauty photography.

Below: Digi-Slave Ring Light
A macro flash is similar but on a smaller scale and is used for shooting smaller images, close up. Both types of flashes are also often used in medical and forensic photography. Ring lights can come in both florescent and LED bulb lights.

Below: Canon Macro Light
Large ring flashes aren't cheap, but there's tutorials for making your own homemade version out of multiple light bulbs, and attachments to re-create the effect with your regular off camera flash. While macro flashes are made to be used for macro work, they can still be used for portraits as well. The flash output won't be as strong, so you won't be able to capture quite the same effect as a large ring light in a fashion shoot, but there is other ways to utilize the macro flash for shooting people.

Another effect of using a ring light is the circular catchlights that are seen in a persons eyes. These catchlights are basically a reflection off of the eyeball of the light source that causes specular highlights. The highlights illuminate and make the eye stand out. See the small white rings in the eyes above?
Notice the even light on the subjects face above, with no harsh shadows. Notice the faint, even shadowed outline around the subject. Both of these are typical results from using a ring flash. The blue highlighted vignetting is caused from attaching a macro flash onto a wide angle zoom lens, and zooming all the way out. While this effect is not "supposed" to be captured, there are many fun things you can do with a ring light/macro flash such as this to add another dimension to a photograph.  The best advice is to experiment and then experiment some more!

Handmade For a Photographer

3/10/2010 3 Comments A+ a-

Photography related items, check. Handmade, check. Awesome, check.  Check out these great finds spotted on Etsy:

"I Shoot People" Cork Necklace, by Uncorked
"Keep Calm and Snap On" Print, by Keep Calm Shop

"Tie Tack- Camera", by Dabble Designs
"Travel the World Cuff Links", by Plasticouture

"Little DSLR Camera Teething Toy", by Little Sapling Toys
"Little Photographer Camera Onesie", by Nacho Mamas Threads

Gold Leica R3

3/08/2010 3 Comments A+ a-

It's March, and Saint Patrick's Day is right around the corner. Luckily we just received this pot of gold!
The Leica R3 Gold with 50 1.4 lens. These were produced in 1979 to commemorate the 100th birthday of Oskar Barnack, the inventor of the Leica camera. Body is covered in black lizard skin and 24 carat gold plated with matching gold plated lens. Edition of 1,000 produced. On top of the prism housing is Barnacks signnature with the dates 1879-1979.

This camera won't be in stock long, so act fast to own this little beauty!

Click HERE to shop KEH Camera's selection of Leica R cameras and accessories.

Digital Pinhole Follow Up

3/04/2010 0 Comments A+ a-

After reading the post on digital pinhole posted a few weeks back, one of our technicians here at KEH Camera thought that in addition to diffraction itself being the factor in the softness of the digital pinhole images, that there was much more to it. He decided to delve into deeper research to support his theories. For the technical people out there, this post is for you. Kris has shared his findings and sources as to why this happens.

In addition to light diffraction, a couple of other factors contribute to digital pinhole images being fuzzy and out of focus ( for essentially, they are out of focus.) These factors are focal plane & depth of focus.

Pinhole photography differs from traditional photography in that it is lensless. The photography concepts that we are taught, and so familiar with in traditional photography are completely absent and do not apply to pinhole photography. Namely, focusing mechanism and focal plane.
As you may know, we need a focusing mechanism and a flat plane (along with a proper shutter speed and a stable platform for supporting the camera) to obtain a sharp image. A pinhole camera has no focusing mechanism and, since it is lens-less, depth of field does not exist.

The focal plane in a film camera is different from that of a digital SLR sensor. Film is one flat plane once it is properly loaded inside a camera. A digital SLR's sensor, although it appears flat, is made up of several different layers of light gathering and protective materials. The nature of a pinhole's poor image resolution is also amplified by the sensor's micro-mirrors and photo-sites.

A simulation of a Circle of Confusion resting on/at a film plane, by Kris Phimsoutham
A simulation of a Circle of Confusion resting on/at a sensor, by Kris Phimsoutham
 The CCD and/or CMOS sensors have several layers of protective and light-gathering materials built on top of the actual material that does the capturing of an image. When a circle of confusion reaches the camera's sensor, the focal plane is resting several layers above the image capturing layer. Since it is a pinhole-fitted camera, the circle of confusion cannot be focused to fall on the plane of the image capturing layer. The sensor is simply capturing what it sees resting on the top layers, which captures and appears as fuzzy and unsharp.

To further explain these concepts, the following section is being used with permission by the author of

Circle of Confusion

"Another implication of the circle of confusion is the concept of depth of focus (also called the "focus spread"). It differs from depth of field in that it describes the distance over which light is focused at the camera's sensor, as opposed to how much of the subject is in focus. This is important because it sets tolerances on how flat/level the camera's film or digital sensor have to be in order to capture proper focus in all regions of the image."

Depth of Focus & Aperture Visualization

"The above diagram depicts depth of focus versus camera aperture. The purple lines represent the extreme angles at which light could potentially enter the aperture. The purple shaded in portion represents all other possible angles. The diagram can also be used to illustrate depth of field, but in that case it's the lens elements that move instead of the sensor.

The key concept is this: when an object is in focus, light rays originating from that point converge at a point on the camera's sensor. If the light rays hit the sensor at slightly different locations (arriving at a disc instead of a point), then this object will be rendered as out of focus -- and increasingly so depending on how far apart the light rays are."

Digital SLR sensors were invented to capture images through optical lenses. Until sensors can be made to act like film, conventional pinhole photography, as it is, isn't viable without post-capture processing. This doesn't mean it is impossible to create beautiful, artistic and expressive images from your digital pinhole camera. Artists such as Sam Wang, Nancy Spencer, Eric Renner and numerous others have been exploring and defining digital pinhole imagery with great success and profound impact.

~Kris Phimsoutham + Noted Sources