Monday, January 14, 2008


I've been working on studio shots in my small, makeshift studio, which means a temporary converted dining room. I love seeing the work of studio photographers, both portrait and still-life. I'm always amazed at their ability to get the light just right. I know they play with the light in many iterations, they take hundreds of shots, and review the result frequently, or at least they do now days with the ease of digital cameras.

But that wasn't always the case. I watched a documentary on the 1930's Hollywood portrait photographers who used 8x10 cameras. They would set up for days before the person, mostly movie stars or other celebrities would show up. Then they would play with the light for another day with the person, and then take 2-4 shots. They were done. Just two to four exposed sheets and off to the lab.

They not only knew their craft - the light, the person, and the exposure - they knew how to translate what they saw in the scene to what they wanted for an image and the print. It's the thing Ansel Adams wrote about in his books about the technique they used, to see the scene from the photograph to the print. It's what made them great.

And me, I'm barely seeing the scene. I would have been a terrible photographer then, or at least one who made numerous mistakes. My difficulty is seeing the end image. I'm a visual person but a here and now one, I have to see what it looks like to visualize anything I can capture. Producing the image has always been my problem, and that means I can't translate the scene to final image.

Reading a paper recently the author noted that most photographers are of two types, those who focus on the capture and leave the production to others, and those who can see both the capture and the final image, the end product as they say. And some photographers are great production specialists, and rarely step out of a lab or digital office. That's what's important, learn and do what you do best and if you want, give the rest a try.

I'm clearly a see it and capture it photographer, and I like to produce images I see, almost a straight translation from photo to image. So studio work challenges me to learn to see beyond, to extend my visualization through the capture to the production. I'll never be much more than ordinary, but it's the road we travel that matters, and it's a whole lot of fun learning and seeing.

And so you want to see what I have to produce this image? Or not. But if you do, I use sets of Minolta 360PX flashes in soft boxes linked with Pocket Wizards to any of the cameras, the two Canon digital and film bodies, the Minolta X-700's I used before (seen here), and my Horseman 4x5. Yup, if it's got the PC sync connector the PW's works. I also use a pair of Lowell Tota lights (seen on) to help prepare or for black and white images since the light source doesn't have to be color corrected.

It's not the best setup, but affordable and enough to learn and occasionally get lucky with some images. Something to do on rainy winter days when you wondering what to do. And all is gray and wet. So visualize.

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