Leica M Accessories

8/30/2011 0 Comments A+ a-

It's a Benser Baseplate Adapter (above). It goes on the bottom of a Leica M camera (M1, M2, M3, M4, M6) instead of the regular baseplate and is for attaching 2 extra lenses to the base to carry with you. Designed by Walter Benser, made in Germany, and marketed in the early 1960s. EX, $56, find it on keh.com

It's an OROLF lens turret with handle. Mounts to a Leica M2 or M3 camera and holds three screw-mount lenses for a faster lens exchange. Has its own baseplate which fits onto the bottom of the camera. Produced for one year in 1960, with production numbers at 250 or less. EX+, $2,029, find it on keh.com

Questions For King

8/29/2011 0 Comments A+ a-

A few months ago we posted an interview with the founder and CEO of KEH Camera, King Grant Jr. (see it here) and we presented the opportunity for our readers to ask King their own questions. Today, King is answering a few of those submitted questions for you.

1. What is the most rare or interesting item that you have bought or sold in all your years at KEH?

Each month, and sometimes each week, I see something I've never seen before. From a money stand point, it would be a Nikon I. I traveled each week buying cameras for over 7 years. Several years ago while in a large city, I had visited all of the regular places and had three hours to spare. I got the yellow pages out and called a small store I had not yet visited. I asked if they had any used cameras for sale. They said they had a rare Nikon I with the instruction book. I called a source that confirmed a selling price of $35,000. To negotiate my deal, they said that the instruction book might be worth $3,000! By the time I got to the store, they raised their price by $1,000, as there were actually two instruction books. We sold the camera and the extra book.

2. Do “sell it yourself” sites such as eBay and Craigslist pose challenges to KEH? How do you differentiate yourself from sites such as these?

These "sell it yourself" sites have helped the market and KEH. They are not for everyone. To sell one item may not be difficult, but to sell an outfit can be more trouble. Not every buyer wants the same lenses. There is no consistent grading scale, and warranty is also another issue. Sometimes sellers or buyers do not want people coming to their house or meeting in a parking lot. We see more people opting to sell and buy from us than ever before. Also, we have a much wider selection to offer that's not available anywhere else, all on one site.

3. What was the biggest challenge in the initial start-up phase of the company? Did your family and friends support you?

The biggest challenge was finding and keeping good people. People told me that it was great that I was "doing my hobby". They also said "where will you find enough cameras to grow or even maintain a business?". I found that it was only profitable to listen to wise counsel. When I needed a name for the business, my children were embarrassed that the name I choose was their first initials. But they have supported me ever since the doors opened and I am thankful for that and them too.

How To: Light This Image

8/26/2011 1 Comments A+ a-

Gear used: Nikon D3, Nikon 24-70 F2.8 lens, background and stand, tripod, 2- 4x8 sheets of black foamcore, 3 Dynalites, 1 Octabank, 2 Strip boxes.

Settings used: Manual exposure, 1/200 sec., F13, ISO 200, 28mm, custom white balance.

A Stripbox (below) is narrow softbox. This modifier allows the light to be even more directional than a normal softbox. It is also a good tool for creating what is called a rim light. The rim light creates a bright outline around the edge of the subject, to help visually separate the object from the background.

An Octabank or Octabox (below) is an eight sided softbox which produces beautiful, soft, even light. Octabanks are typically in the 3 to 7ft range. They are great for portraits and can also produce a round catchlight in eyes.

In this photo, an Octabank and two stripboxes were used as my main lighting modifiers. The Octabank is the "key light", or main light, and the two stripboxes create the "rim light". The object here is to make sure that the rim lights are brighter than the key light. Another very important step is to make sure the rim lights don't bleed into areas where you don't want them. This is controlled by "flagging" the light. In this setup, two 4x8 black foamcore boards were used to keep each rim light projecting where I wanted them, which was only on the edge of the subject.
The 5ft Octabank is on a stand about 5ft off the ground. It is angled downward onto the subject. The angle is slight which helps to minimize shadows on the forehead and under the nose. In this scenario, the Octabank gently lights the subject overall but not so much that it kills the rim lights. The rim lights are able to show, and the Octabank brings out the detail in the front of the subject.

This particular style of lighting is popular for sports, but it can be used for any type of portrait. I used this lighting setup symmetrically, meaning both rim lights were at the same power, and at the same distance away from the subject in order to make them even. You can experiment with the placement of your rim lights as well as the lighting ratios to get different effects.

© John Prince

Back to School Cameras

8/25/2011 3 Comments A+ a-

Our picks for great "back to school" cameras or great starter cameras, all fall into the 35mm film camera category. These are basic and classic, and great systems to learn photography on. Why start on one of these as opposed to digital? The reason is, shooting digital allows people to too easily rely on automatic functions such as focus, metering, aperture, and shutter speed controls. By shooting on a manual system, it can build up your photographic knowledge and skills by starting at the beginning and allowing you to slow down and understand how and why the different controls are working. Not only is this important if you want to do anything within photography professionally, but it will also help to take your photography much further in general by providing you with the knowledge to apply to any other format you choose to shoot in, including medium format and digital.

All of these cameras have manual control settings such as manual shutter speeds, apertures, ISOs, metering, and even focusing. They also all include a hot shoe on top of the prism for an optional flash attachment. Along with having full control over your settings with these cameras, they are simple, sturdy, and super affordable.

 Pentax K1000 (shown with 50mm f1.4 lens)

 Canon A-1 (shown with 50mm f1.4 FD lens)

 Canon AE-1 (shown with 50mm f1.4 FD lens)

 Minolta X700 (shown with 50mm f1.4 MD lens)

 Nikon FE (shown with 50mm f1.8 lens)

Nikon FG (shown with 28mm f2.8 lens)

We have a variety of camera models and lenses available, as well as a variety of in-stock grades (or conditions), prices, and accessories. You can choose a body with or without a lens, and some come with a power winder or motor drive. Even better, we have plenty of the cameras mentioned above for under $100! Find all of our 35mm camera systems here

Interested in learning more about these types of cameras? Check out our articles on: An Introduction to 35mm Film Cameras, and Film Hunting- Where to Buy and Develop Film.

Gyro-Stabilizer Ken-Lab KS-6

8/23/2011 0 Comments A+ a-

The Gyro-Stabilizer Ken-Lab KS-6 helps keep troublesome vibrations from destroying image quality by dampening bumps, bounces, and camera shake. It's even more effective than a modern image-stabilized lens because it stabilizes the whole camera. It allows for steady sequences and smooth panning for medium format cameras or long lenses, without the loss of hand-held freedom of motion. The KS-6 is easily attached to camcorders, videotape television cameras, or any camera with a standard tripod mount.

It's a great accessory for shooting in the air, in a speeding car, or even sailing across the water. Specifications- Size: 3.4" diameter x 5.8" long. Weight: 3.25 lbs (52 oz.). Power: 115 volts, 400 Hz, 26 watts starting with 11 watts running after 4 minutes. 3 hours running on a fully charged KP-6 Power pack. Panning Rate: 20 degrees per second

Comes with KI-12-6 inverter, battery, charger, and misc. case- 
EX+ condition, $1,950. Find it here.

The Second Second Shooter

8/22/2011 3 Comments A+ a-

Today's post is a little different. It's from guest contributor Katrina Rice, who works with movie props for a living and assists photographers for weddings. But here's the thing... she's not a shooting assistant, not a photographer at all. She created an invaluable position for the photographers she works with and tells her story, offers tips, and offers a sneak peak into her "wedding kit". 

The Second Second Shooter: Why a Good Wedding Photographer Brings an Assistant Who Isn’t a Photographer

When I first started assisting wedding photographers, we didn’t really know what to call what I was doing so we called my position “the photo stylist”. Photographer Patrick Williams and I came up with the idea to help out his team on wedding day with all the things that inevitably come up. This included, but was not limited to, popped buttons, stained wedding dresses, falling hairstyles, droopy boutonni√®res, holding the train, holding the bouquet, arranging the somethings (old, new, borrowed, blue) to be photographed, getting Kleenex, lint rolling the groom, remembering to get that picture of Aunt Stella from Chicago, finding the tossing bouquet, telling everyone which leg the garter is worn on (left, but it doesn’t actually matter, they just like to be told), bustling the dress, communicating with the DJ for the photographer, lighting the cake for the photographer, running the formal session which has a very long list and a very small window of time…the list goes on.

What started out as a trial position ended up becoming a really great selling point, and I moved with the work to my current home with Melissa Prosser Photography. I stay busy with my regular job working on movie sets as an assistant prop master, but when I am not filming, I do weddings. When Melissa shot a wedding in the Dominican Republic recently and was only able to travel with one other member of her team, she brought me. I found myself wading out into the ocean with a towel during the Trash the Dress for the bride, setting up a still life shot on the beach of the welcome gifts that each guest received, and locating a missing groomsman who was asleep in his room. There is always something to be done and it’s always something different. Each wedding has it’s own minor fires that need putting out and each family is so very grateful that someone like myself was there to do it, because everyone else was busy too.

Something that always impresses the client and something I don’t leave home without is my trusty wedding kit. It’s a variation of the pre-fab wedding day kits you’ll see sold in gift shops to mothers and bridesmaids, but it has much, much more to offer. I started to compile it with different items that the various departments on a movie set use: hair, makeup, wardrobe, props. Each time something comes up that I don’t have, which is rare now, I add to it. The kit has saved many a dress and calmed many a maid when I am able to say “I’ve got that!” and everyone goes, “whew!”.

A few key components of the kit are the fancy hanger, which is nothing more than the classic tufted lingerie hanger, which the wedding dress should arrive on but doesn’t, so I always switch out the clear plastic alterations hanger for mine. The photographer then gets a nice picture of a beautiful dress on a lovely hanger that doesn’t look like it just came from the cleaners. Another staple is the mighty Shout Wipe. I cannot sing their praises enough. What does that have to do with a photographer, you ask? It doesn’t, except that no one else has them, and when the bride walks through something (wet mulch, for example) to pose for an outdoor shot, she gets a little weary when she looks down to see red stains on her white dress. “We can fix it,” we say, and we always do. Recently, a bridesmaid cut the dickens out of her ankle while shaving, and her champagne colored shoe was covered in blood. The Shout Wipes and I went to town and got the shoe good as new by ceremony time. The bridal party was amazed. The Mother of the Bride was impressed. This is how the client knows they made the right choice.

Another part of my day with the wedding photographer often involves running the formal shoot. This is a hectic time where two people have just gotten married, the children are about to lose it, the elders are tired and their feet hurt, and everyone wants to run off to the reception. The list, if provided, is sometimes long, but essential. You cannot find out three weeks later that you did not get that shot of Aunt Cassie and the Bride and Groom. People will be upset. The photographer is busy worrying about lighting and focus and all of the other elements that make a great picture, so I have the list and I wrangle the heck out of the bridal party and family. I place the people in the shot. I get the next group on deck. I get the kids and elders out FIRST and I do not let the maids and men leave for cocktails. “Next up, if you are related to the groom, and your last name is Baker, you are needed!” It makes everything run efficiently and it REALLY helps out the boss. People get out fast and they like it. I check things off as I go so nothing gets missed. You wouldn’t believe how, in the heat of battle, you will forget what group you just shot.

I also run around when we do the bride and groom alone, making suggestions, holding the flowers, fluffing the train, holding the light stick, absolutely whatever needs to be done. Often times there is a need to communicate with the venue to get something accomplished. The photographer will want a sunset shot of our couple, for example. “Go find Gretchen with the hotel and ask for a golf cart right before sunset so we can get down to the golf course and get that shot they want,” he or she will say. And I will. “Oh, and find out when sunset is.” And I do.

On a movie set, there is a first AD, (assistant director) who runs the show. Then there is the second AD, who backs them up. The second AD has such a big job, there is also a position called “the second second,” because no single person can do the job alone. The ADs are a team who are highly coordinated in their efforts to shoot a movie. They go above and beyond their job description and handle anything and everything that comes their way. They hit the ground running. They work ridiculous hours. They make it happen. In many ways, shooting a wedding is a lot like shooting a movie. I do both, and I enjoy both. If you are a wedding photographer, I highly recommend that you consider adding a second second to your team. This person never has a camera. They are not a photographer. They are there to back you up. Trust me, you and your clients will notice the difference.

Bio: Katrina Rice was born and raised in Alaska. She currently lives in Atlanta, GA and works in the film industry as an Assistant Prop Master. When she is not on movie sets, she assists wedding photographers.

How To: Light Graffiti

8/19/2011 3 Comments A+ a-

Spray painting with light is an alternative and creative approach to lighting an image. It is achieved with a camera, a tripod, a relatively long shutter speed, and a moveable light source. Any subject can be spray painted with light, but still-life works the best. You may also want to consider what type of subject matter makes sense to apply this technique to. For example, tennis shoes (as shown) may be a better fit over business attire.

There must be little to no movement from your subject due to the longer shutter speeds required for the effect. The technique and the immediacy of digital photography is a match made in heaven as it is experimental in terms of exposure times. You can quickly preview your capture and tweak for the desired effect. Light Graffiti as I like to call it, creates depth, a glowing light/shadow effect, and adds a sense a movement in an otherwise static image.

So how does this differ from traditional light painting? By changing the subject matter in the image and the actual lighting technique, it becomes a more specific form of light painting. To achieve the graffiti effect, you must not only light your subject, but also light the surrounding areas of the frame, and direct your light source at the camera during exposure. This creates an overall spray paint effect, highlights your subject, and adds expressive and painterly strokes within the photograph.

What you’ll need to shoot this technique is a camera that allows manual override; I’ve used both my D-SLR and my advanced point-and-shoot to do these. The other essentials are a sturdy tripod, a light source, and a dark room. In this demonstration I used a very inexpensive pocket flashlight as my light source. If you choose, you can spend more on sophisticated light sources but the flashlight is an affordable and very effective beginning. A good starting point in terms of camera settings would be ISO 400, F8 @ 30s. Just keep in mind that this is not a rule of thumb, and this technique is experimental in nature when determining exposure. It would also be a good idea to engage your noise reduction feature inside the menu of your camera as noise is a by-product of long exposures.

Once your settings are in order, use auto-focus to get your subject sharp and then turn it off before beginning the painting (otherwise the AF system may hunt for a point of focus throughout the exposure). The next step is to turn your overhead lights off (ambient light) so that you are now in complete darkness. It helps also if you wear non-reflective dark clothing. You are now ready to create your image. You may want to use a wireless remote to trigger the shutter to diminish camera shake while beginning the exposure, or set your camera on self-timer. Then, you will use the flashlight to apply light exactly where you want it, turning it off and on in brief 1 to 3 second clips, with smooth spray painting like movements. Again, none of the times listed are exact, you must find a sweet spot that works best for you.

Once your 30 second exposure is done, turn your overheads back on and preview what you have, tweak what you find necessary, and repeat.

© Michael Reese

Photos of the Month

8/18/2011 3 Comments A+ a-

Diptych, by: Kseniya Bulavko

Worried Man?
Worried Man?, by: newsjeff

506 copy copy
506 copy, by: Jack Williams

Hazratbal Dargah, Srinagar INDIA
Hazratbal Dargah, Srinagar India, by: Girish Sharma

Iguana head
Iguana head, by: Debra Schmidt
Twister in the Sky
Twister in the Sky, by: Mike Gulley

She just may have left her heart in San Francisco.
She just may have left her heart in San Fransisco, by: Little Pink Weeble
Untitled, by: Rachel Carrier
1 2 3 4
1 2 3 4, by: Jordan Parks

Dungeon, by: Drew Perlmutter

All photos were submitted to the KEH Flickr group. Submit yours for next months "Photos of the month" here.

Hasselblad 35mm Panoramic Back

8/16/2011 0 Comments A+ a-

The Hasselblad A2035 back- This back uses 35mm film (instead of the typical medium format films) and produces 20 panoramic negatives of 24x56mm. These backs were only made in black. We have one in-stock, LN condition in the box with the 63073 mask, $1,399. Find it here.

Interview with Wet Plate Collodion Photographer Daniel Carrillo

8/15/2011 2 Comments A+ a-

Daniel Carrilo is a present-day photographer using the wet plate collodion method. Carrilo was born in Mexico, raised in California, and currently resides in Seattle. I adore his work and am excited to share our recent interview and some of his images with you...

I understand that you are both a printmaker and a photographer. Do you consider yourself more one than the other?

I have been drawing all of my life and took up printmaking seriously in 1993 as a way to get more serious about creating artwork. Photography was my artistic mistress and I found that I would quit working on a plate for a month or two to spend some time in the darkroom. As of lately, I have all but stopped making intaglio prints and the last time I printed anything was about two years ago. It has been official for about a year now. I am, and always have been more of a photographer than a printmaker.

Can you tell us a little bit about your preferred printmaking technique- Mezzotints.

I looked upon my first mezzotint in 1992 and I was blown away by the subtle tones, rich blacks, and long tonal range obtained by this engraving process. I did some research and found this technique to be the most laborious of all the printmaking processes, as it does not involve any acid and is considered a drypoint technique. Most mezzotints tend to be small because of the amount of plate preparation. Simply put, a mezzotint is a copper plate that has been pitted by way of a chisel like tool, until the surface of the plate will hold enough ink so that if the plate was to be printed in that roughened state, would print solid black. The image worked or engraved, from dark to light. A very sharp scraper is used to smooth out areas so the will hold less ink and therefore print lighter. The smoother the area the lighter it will print. The copper plate is pitted with a curved and serrated chisel-like tool that is rocked over the entire plate in one direction. Then it is turned 30 degrees and then rocked again. The plate is finished when the plate has been rocked in at lease six directions. The pitted surface is called the "ground" and this is what is worked to create an image. All the steps from rocking, engraving and printing are incredibly demanding and time consuming. I was working 9 x 12 sized plates and was getting 3 finished plates a year. I still have plates that have never been printed as an edition.

Do you ever mix your printmaking and photography work?

Yes, I tried using photo-polymer film exposed on copper plate and inked and printed on a press but found the image quality very poor. A half-tone screen is exposed onto the polymer first and then the image to give the polymer the tooth to hold ink. These half-tones look too mechanical and I never really warmed up to it. I have never tried solar plates or photo-gravure though.

How did you get into photography?

My older Brother introduced me to photography at about 11 or 12. He brought home a 35mm SLR and I fell in love with the mechanics and engineering. When I took a class some years later, I bought some darkroom equipment and started developing images in my bedroom as a hobby.

Your wet plate collodion portraits are striking. Please tell us a little bit about the process and how you got into making them.

Thank you very much! The chemicals and process are the exact same from the time wet plate was invented in 1850 by Fredrick Scott Archer. This technique made it possible for photographers to create paper prints from positives. If the negative is underexposed then it will read as a positive when held against a dark background. Tintypes are the same thing only shot onto japanned or blackened metal. Basically, a solution of collodion or nitrocellulose, ether, and grain alcohol is salted with iodides or bromides. This solution is poured over a very clean plate of glass and the excess is flowed off into a bottle. As the solvents evaporate the collodion skins up and forms a film. The plate then goes into a bath of silver nitrate. The silver binds with the cellulose and the halogen salts react with the silver to make it light sensitive. After a few minutes the plate is removed from the silver under safelight conditions and put into a holder while still wet with silver nitrate. It is exposed in camera and then developed all while still wet within a few minutes. Development is stopped by washing off the developer and then the plate is fixed in Potassium Cyanide or Sodium Thiosulphate. The plate is washed and then varnished to protect from tarnishing. It is basically an old-time Polaroid but the speed is very slow! I would estimate that the collodion to have an ASA of 1 or .5. With my lights, I typically get
exposures of about 6-10 seconds at f/4.5 for a tight headshot. A head brace is a must have for these long exposures.

About how long does one wet plate take to make?

Before the subject comes in, glass plates are prepared by cleaning and grounding down the sharp edges. When the subject shows up, I sit them down and start playing with the lights. I take one or two test exposures and the subsequent exposures go much more quickly. I say from start to finish, each shot takes about 10-15 minutes. Time really flies and it is not unusual to have the subject in the studio for 3hrs and get 9-10 exposures. Of those 9 I would say that 4 or 5 are "keepers".

What kind of camera are you using to shoot these?

I mainly shoot in the studio and I like to use my 11 x 14 Deardorff Studio Camera on a Century Studio Master Stand. It is such a pleasure to use and it has tilt and swing in the front and back standards, as well as rise and shift on the front. These movements come in handy for head shots and when there are objects of interest other than your subject. I have and old 16 inch Bausch and Lomb f/4.5 tessar and a beautiful 18 inch f/4.5 Taylor-Hobson Cooke portrait triplet. I also have an 8 x 10 Deardorff field camera and I use the 16 lens on that.

What draws you to the antique processes?

The old process just suits my personality. My background in black and white photography, printmaking, and picture framing all led me down this path. I have made a lot of my equipment and this old process requires a bit of ingenuity and problem solving because you can't run down to the local photography store and buy a silver nitrate tank or a portable darkroom box.

What are the challenges of using an antique process like this?

I would say the biggest drawback is the cumbersome nature of the having to take a portable darkroom with you to shoot outside. Also the speed at which you take a photo and the tremendous amount of light necessary to expose a plate. All of these challenges can be overcome but only for those who don't care to know any different. Back in the good ol' days they just set about doing what they could with what they had and they created some of the most incredible images under the most terrible of conditions.

Do you have a favorite photographer?

This may sound horrible but I don't know if I have a favorite photographer. I have seen some great images but I probably couldn't tell you who produced them. I really like the work of Mary Ellen Mark, Bruce Davidson, Avedon, and Karsh is one of my favorites.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

I have to say my wife. She has always been there for me and has really believed in what I was doing.

Where are you shooting and developing your work?

I shoot and live in Seattle. I am currently in the middle of a 3 month residency. I was awarded an empty storefront by the Seattle Storefront project to use as a studio. I recently landed a studio in the Georgetown district of south Seattle. Right now it is just an empty room. I plan on getting that studio set up for making Daguerreotypes- my next adventure!

Tell me about the workshops you offer.

I offer a full day of hands-on wet plate instruction and support afterwards if the photographer decides to continue on their own. Because it is one day only, I focus more on pouring plates, developing and working with the cameras. This is how I learned and this is how I got hooked. I took a one day workshop from Jenny Sampson and it changed my life.

What's next... you mention a book in your video (below)?

I would love to have a book published about the artists portraits. Right now I am busy concentrating on becoming a better photographer. Photography has just become a serious thing for me and I feel like there is so much to learn and lots to improve on. My new obsession is to start making daguerreotypes so the book seems a bit farther away.

Anything else you would like to share?

The beauty of wet plate is that shots can be instantly inspected for lighting and composition and adjusted accordingly. The only requirement for someone who is interested in wet plate is a good work ethic because the process is demanding. Never settle on an image that simply shows the obvious characteristics of wet plate and try to focus on trying to make images that have a good quality of light and pleasing composition. I have many images that were somehow justified just because they were done in wet plate.

Want to see more? Check out this video on Daniel, his process, and his work-




Also check out this video, to see what a clear glass ambrotype really looks like.

Printing With Caffenol

8/12/2011 0 Comments A+ a-

Earlier this year we wrote about how to develop your black and white film with coffee and vitamin c. If you missed that article, be sure to check it out here. Today, we're taking the developing with caffenol one step further to develop your prints also. 

Caffenol has become a popular choice in at-home darkroom communities as a non-commercial black and white film developer.  Darkroom enthusiasts have also learned that it will develop b&w photographic printing paper as well. There is no modification in its formula required to be used for developing printing paper. For those who want to try their hands at processing b&w prints with this developer, here is its recipe:

8 oz. of water
2 tsp of Washing soda (also known as soda ash & sodium carbonate)
4 tsp of instant coffee crystal

Mix ingredients together until dissolved and solution becomes uniform.

Caffenol is considered by many of its users as an unpredictable developer, meaning it is difficult to standardize a set of rules for and apply to its processing procedure. Too many factors can affect its performance, from method of mixing up the solution to the ingredients itself. And, as it is with film, the print will still require stop and fixing baths, as well as rinse and dry to complete the process. Another factor that needs careful consideration is the type of paper you plan to use for printing, RC or Fiber base.
RC paper has a layer of developer already incorporated into its emulsion, thus requires substantially less developing time than fiber based paper. Developing time for RC paper can still run up to 12 minutes in Caffenol when it is at its full working strength. Fiber based paper will take at least triple the length of time it takes to develop RC paper. And since you can’t see the image being formed on the paper while submerging in the dark solution of Caffenol, visual inspection is the way to determine the completion of your print's development.

left- negative, right- print (positive)
Uneven development can also occur if you’re not tending to your print throughout its developing stage, as seen on the above negative image. The image was developed for 12 minutes (unattended for about 1/3 of the total developing time).

Image 2 was placed in the developer right after image 1 was taken out of the tray and developed for 12 minutes also. I used this time based on the overall appearance of correct density from image 1.

Image 3 was place in the developer tray right after image 2 was taken out. I overexposed this image by 1 stop and in theory, it should be developed for 12 minutes and yield double the density of image 2. But after 12 minutes of development the overall density of image 3 still didn't reach that of image 2. So, it was left to continue developing for another 6 minutes. That's 50% longer than the last 2 prints developing time. Again, visual inspection of the print is used to determine its overall appearance of correct density. Image 3 took 18 minutes to be fully developed. This tells me how quickly Caffenol is exhausted and loses its working strength. As with film, Caffenol takes too long to develop a print to be viable as a commercial developer. It is best to accept it as an experimenting developer and just have fun exploring its capabilities with silver based photography materials. A good number of darkroom practitioners have successfully created beautiful artistic images using Caffenol as their print developer. One such success story is photographer Tom Overton, who was nice enough to consult with me for this project. You can check out some of his Caffenol images here.

© Kris Phimsoutham

The Art of Self Critique

8/11/2011 1 Comments A+ a-

Editors note: Last week our guest contributor talked about being honest with yourself in regards to your abilities and interests in photography (see post here). Today we're taking the honesty topic a little further... guest contributor and photography teacher Melinda Hurst Frye talks about critiquing your own work, which no doubt must be done honestly as well.

Assessing your own work, or self-critique, is one of the hardest things to do as an artist. (Insert mental image of the tormented artist here). Critically looking at your own work can be emotional and maddening, especially since important reflection needs to happen when work is fresh and, gulp, vulnerable. The spectrum can range from feeling that you are creating work that is unforgettable and epic, to feeling that the same work is painfully boring and overdone.

Another pitfall in critiquing personal work can be your own emotional tie to an image, outside of the image’s content or intent. Have you ever photographed a friend or a scene on a day when everyone had a lovely time, but the subject was overexposed or poorly composed? A great challenge in that situation is to recognize when the emotional attachment is stronger than the visual success of the image. We artists can get hung up on the experience of making the image, as well as the people involved, and forget to place ourselves in the viewer’s shoes. Does the image have impact and why?

 A focused visual voice comes from recognizing what is working and understanding why, which is rooted in understanding what is not working and why. So how can you separate yourself from emotion while evaluating your work and not feeling like a robot? What we need to be able to do as artists is to lean on selected assessment methods. These methods are not intended to divorce the artist, you, from the work or eliminate any emotional ties, however they are to help you recognize what is and isn’t working in your own words and on your own terms.

You can have craft without art, but you can’t have art without craft
First and foremost, how is your technique? Technically speaking, if you can’t let go of an image that has a clear issue, then you are putting lipstick on a pig when defending the work. If your image is out of focus, under or overexposed, too low of a resolution for its application; bag it. Assessing your own work requires you to be objective and recognize when your exposure or focus may be off, or a weird, distracting element is in the frame. This can be super hard, but your work will be stronger if you can identify and do away with the technical issues.

Is the content clear?
After the work has passed your technical scrutiny and the image measures up, then it is time to move on to what the work is about. Photography is a visual language, and as an image maker you are speaking to your viewer, sharing your point of view and even acting as a storyteller. Consider distilling your intent down to the basics. This not only opens up the conversation and the viewer’s interpretation, but also frees up the artist. By having a more succinct message to deliver, you are able to explore that idea from multiple angles. The more elaborate of a message, the more complex the delivery of that idea becomes, and often times the intent is simply lost on the viewer. Thick plot lines can be tricky in the still image. So, ask yourself, ‘what is my intent?’ Is that coming through in the image? Is something watering down your message to the viewer? Or is the intent clear, and how can we recreate that in another image?

Say it visually, not verbally
Assessing your imagery for what it is actually communicating, requires that you share the image to learn how it is being received. Fight the urge to over explain the work’s intent, and allow the viewer to have his or her own experience. If you are compelled to explain and defend the direction of your imagery, you are missing the point of your own imagery. Ask the viewer questions about what they are or are not responding to, rather than telling them what they are supposed to feel. If they are not pulling out the concept that you had hoped for, don’t blame the viewer!

Go with your gut
It is important to show your work to others for feedback, and to listen to that feedback, as well as listening to your own gut. Do you have an image that is, by your definition, spectacular? If you have gone around and around, and you must have that image in your portfolio or a specific body of work, by all means, keep it. Possibly sequencing your work differently will allow the viewer to see what you see.

Perhaps you do not have another image that sets up the image in question to be well received yet. In this case, make imagery that helps to tighten up the series.

On the other side of the coin, your gut can provide valuable insight when an image is not resolved or should not be included. Does your stomach sink when a certain image pops up, and you pray that your viewer will move on soon? That may be a sign to revisit that work.

Live with your work
You need to spend some serious quality time with your work. We have entered an era when it is common to view imagery on a screen and less in print. However, this has diminished living with our own work on our walls, and assessing it throughout the day. Viewing your work in print and not on screen is a different experience; slowing down your critical eyes, allowing you to pull out details that were overlooked when the image was on a screen. Print out your images and hang them up all over your home, hang them in your bathroom, kitchen, wherever. Looking at your work in various moods and contexts will not only strengthen your self critique, but may lead to new ideas of what to shoot in the future!

Assessing work requires the artist to be honest with him or herself about technique and concept – which is the hardest part. Don’t make too many rules for yourself, just be candid about what is and isn’t working. Share your imagery with others for feedback and really, really listen. Finally, make the decision yourself.

Melinda Hurst Frye is a photographic artist and educator based in Seattle, Washington. She holds an MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design, exhibits regionally and nationally, is an active Society for Photographic Education member, and teaches photography at the Art Institute of Seattle.

all photos © Melinda Hurst Frye

A Short Video

8/10/2011 0 Comments A+ a-

See KEH in-action at one of our buying events:

P.S.- You may remember the Nikon camera he talks about in this video from this post.

Nikon F KS 80-A US Navy Camera

8/09/2011 0 Comments A+ a-

Nikon F KS 80-A (U.S. Navy) Camera- A special F model in black with a modified F-36 motor drive. Built for U.S. Navy pilots for easy, one-handed operation. Shutter is activated by a trigger on the pistol grip. Shoots single frame or continuously at four frames per second. The back has a large ID tag complete with the contract number on it, and grip is engraved "U.S. Navy". Camera comes without battery and charger, and is inoperable. BGN grade- $4,649. Find it on KEH.com here.