Category Archives: Models

Bob Shell: Family of Photographers

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Photo: Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #29

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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FAMILY OF PHOTOGRAPHERS

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Maybe photography is in the genes. My father was an avid photographer, and my sister and I both got the bug. One of my great uncles, Hank Jewell, was pretty famous as a photographer in southwest Virginia in the late 1800s and early 20th century. One of his cameras is on display in the historical museum in Christiansburg, Virginia. He took the famous photograph of Robert E. Lee and his horse Traveler. The historical society has the “outtakes” from this session, all on glass plates about 4 x 5 inches. Unfortunately, when Hank died his family had no appreciation of the value of his work and hauled all his negatives to the dump. By the time historians heard, it was too late, since it had rained several times. Sad and stupid! Reminds me of how C. S. Lewis’s brother took all of C. S.’s papers out back of the house after his death and built a bonfire of them. Luckily, some people got there and put out the fire before all was consumed. Some Lewis stories now exist only in fragmentary form because of this act of amazing stupidity.

Paper, after all, is a fugitive medium for us to store our memories upon. For many years archeologists believed that the Phoenicians had no written language. Then it was discovered that they did, only they wrote on paper. Their climate didn’t preserve paper, unlike the arid climate in Egypt. No one knows what they wrote, but we’ve lost it all to a damp climate.

Personally, I’m one more of those who believe there was a highly advanced civilization on earth before the last ice age, which obliterated almost all traces. I think this is the real explanation for most of those mysteries discussed on TV shows like the mostly absurd “Ancient Aliens.” Ockham’s Razor says that the simplest explanation is usually the right one.

Anyway, as usual I’ve gone off on a tangent. I was talking about Uncle Hank’s photography. I never knew him, but my father knew him well. As did Doug Lester, one of the photographers who influenced me as I was learning. Doug and his wife Ruth owned Lester’s Foto Shop on Main Street in Christiansburg for many years. Doug knew more about photography than any two other photographers I knew then. I used to hang around the shop and talk photography with him between customers. He was a diehard Rolleiflex partisan; used them for his photography and sold them in his shop. He influenced me to trade in my Bronica S2a outfit for a Rolleiflex SL66, probably the finest camera I ever owned in terms of build quality. And the Zeiss lenses for the system were simply awesome. The major drawback of this camera (besides high price) was the big focal plane shutter, which could only synchronize with electronic flash at 1/30 second or slower. In the studio that was no problem, but it got in the way of outdoor fill flash. Rollei offered three lenses, 50, 80, and 150 with built-in leaf shutters with synchronized shutter speeds up to 1/500 second to get around this, but they were very expensive. Eventually I tracked down a used 150 that I could afford and used it for several years. But, by then Rollei had abandoned the SL66 system in favor of the SLX and its successors, offering the same great lenses in updated multicoated versions with electronic leaf shutters that synchronized with flash at all shutter speeds. I started with an SL6006 that I bought broken and rebuilt, and later moved to the SL6008i system. In addition to the Zeiss lenses, Rollei offered some Schneider-Kreutznach lenses, like the 80mm f/2 that I loved. Unfortunately, Rollei never caught up to the digital revolution and I think they’re gone now. I sold my Rollei equipment around 2005, when it still had substantial value, to raise money to put into lawyers’ pockets. I guess I’m lucky in a way since I sold my film cameras when they still had value, even if I was forced to sell to pay legal bills. By 2004 I was essentially a digital photographer, using Canon EOS 10D and Nikon D100 cameras. Why both incompatible systems? Simply that Canon and Nikon both sent me cameras and lenses for editorial evaluation, and I liked both of them. While I was with Shutterbug I never had to buy cameras. After Shutterbug terminated my contract “due to the accusations” I broke down and bought an EOS 10D. I still have it, although it’s in storage. Very fine camera; I shot all of the photos for several books with it. For most editorial work you simply don’t need massive megapixels. The 10D is a six megapixel camera, and that’s plenty for any magazine or book page (most of the photos for my Erotic Bondage book were made with the EOS 10D). For most of my work, today’s cameras with 24 or more megapixels would simply be memory hogs.

When I first got really serious about making a living from writing about photography, my old friend Lief Erickson said, “Well, buddy boy, you must realise that in this business you can either have fame OR fortune.”. Despite his nom de guerre, Lief was 100% English, which is why I wrote realise and not realize, and I’d first met him in the 70s when he was writing for a great old magazine called Camera 35. I’d written him a letter about one of his articles, and he had responded with a long and philosophical letter. We began a correspondence that lasted several years until I met him in NYC at one of the Photo + Expo trade shows at the Javits Center. We talked there and I invited him to start writing for me at Shutterbug. We developed a great working relationship. I’d call him with a ghost of an idea and he’d take it and run with it and invariably deliver a fine, polished article. Probably never what I would have done with that same ghost of an idea, but always excellent. I hardly ever had to edit his work, and when I did it was always for length, to make the article fit the available space. Writing for magazines is very different from writing. for books. because books usually don’t have strict space limits. When I told one of my writers that I needed 2,000 words, I expected exactly 2,000 words. When I had to shorten an article from Lief, or anyone else, it was because a last-minute ad sale had eaten into the allotted editorial space. That happens often in the magazine business.

Lief actually died on assignment for me. He had a heart attack on the New Jersey Turnpike on the way to a press conference I’d asked him to attend in my stead because I couldn’t come up to NYC right then. He’d had heart trouble for years, but I never thought I’d lose him like that. Lief was a mystic/philosopher as well as photographer, and I loved talking to him more than almost anyone else I’ve met in the business often about things having nothing to do with photography.

Anyway, fame or fortune? I ended up with fame, within the photo industry at least. I sure didn’t wind up with fortune. But it was nice within the insular photo industry to be well known. Sometimes I wanted to be anonymous at trade shows, so I’d order two name badges, one in my name and one in the name Fritz Klages. People would walk up, look at my face. then see the name badge and do a double take. “Bob Shell? For some reason people keep telling me we look alike!”

One time at Photo + I was walking around on the trade show floor when several young men approached me. One had a copy of my Mamiya book and asked me to autograph it for him. I did, and handed it back to him. He looked at what I’d written and said, “Wow, man, thanks! Wow, you’re famous, man! Wow!”. I guess my head swelled several sizes, and I probably couldn’t have gotten my hat on just then.

I considered the photo trade shows great fun, particularly the mother of all trade shows, photokina. (Yes, it’s spelled with a lower case “p.”. I don’t know why, but the people who run it insist that it be spelled that way.). This show is enormous, filling multiple buildings of the big Messe complex in Cologne, Germany. Everyone who is anyone in the world of photography comes. I always took advantage of the opportunity to meet people, and become friends with many. And there are some really fine people in the business; for example Lino Manfrotto, whose name you’ve probably seen on tripods and other photo accessories. Lino was a commercial photographer in Italy and was unhappy with the quality of the available light stands, so he designed and built his own

Other photographers saw them in his studio and wanted their own, so Lino started making and selling them. In a few years this business had grown far beyond his photography business, and he’d branched out into tripods and a line of studio accessories you will find today in most studios worldwide. Lino died not long ago, but his son Abramo keeps the family business going. Today the company also makes a line of display fixtures used by department stores. I will always cherish my memories of visiting Lino’s factory complex with him as tour guide and a trip to Venice with Abramo.

At photokina you also run into the real “characters” of the business. One of them is Ken (Sir Kenneth) Corfield, originator of the Periflex, a camera styled somewhat like an older, pre-M series Leica, but unique in that you focused through a small periscope atop the camera, which was retracted before taking the picture. Strange, but it worked. The Periflex was also almost unique in being manufactured in Ireland. Can you name the other camera made in Ireland, made by Timex?

Well, Ken Cornfield also fathered the Corfield 66, an inexpensive medium format SLR. Last time I saw Ken, he was laughing at the silly prices collectors were paying for those. Not that it was a bad camera, just an inexpensive one originally.

The photo magazine business today sure isn’t what it was. Most of the great old magazines are long gone; Modern Photography, PhotoGRAPHIC, Camera, Studio Photography, Camera 35, and many more whose names I’ve forgotten. And I just learned today that Shutterbug has been sold yet again, and the new owners let three of our best people go and have cut back to six issues a year! And to think we once published every two weeks! But these are signs of the times, I guess. As George Harrison sang, All Things Must Pass…

Maybe printed magazines have seen their day, and will go their way into history. But for me the day the last printed magazine rolls off the presses will be a sad day, indeed.

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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 herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-optics-photography/

 

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Vote: November 6, 2018

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Vote! November 6, 2018

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Bob Shell: Optics & Photography

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Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

 

 Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #28

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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PHOTOGRAPHY & OPTICS

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 Most people know that light moves really fast. In ancient times it was believed that light was instantaneous, but as the science of physics developed it was realized that light does move at a measurable speed. That speed is about 186,284 miles per second in a vacuum. Light’s speed through transparent media is a bit slower, although I’ve never bothered to memorize what the speed is in various media. What’s important to know is that as light moves from one medium to another, say from air into optical glass its speed changes slightly. This phenomenon is what allows a lens to bend light to converge or diverge it. A lens that’s thicker in the middle and thinner toward the edges will converge light and is capable of forming a projected image. An ordinary magnifying glass is an example, and you can use it to project an image onto a surface. Conversely, a lens that’s thin in the middle and thick at the edges will diverge light and cannot form a projected image by itself. How much a piece of optical glass bends light is referred to as its refractive index, the higher the refractive index the more a ray of light is bent.

But that’s not the whole story. Everyone has seen how a prism breaks “white” light into its components. That’s where Mr. Roy G. Biv makes his appearance as an easily remembered mnemonic for the colors, called the spectrum. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. These colors we see are only part of the spectrum, which extends beyond red into infrared, and on to more energetic waves like X-rays. It also extends below violet into the ultraviolet. Insects and some birds (raptors in particular) can see ultraviolet, while most mammals see a narrower range than we do, being red-green color blind or monochromatic. It’s been speculated that primate color vision evolved to distinguish ripe fruit from unripe, but I’m not completely convinced by this proposition, partly because in some species of New World monkeys only the females have color vision. (Most of us have tricolor vision, with cells in our retinas sensitive to red, green, and blue, but a small percentage of us have four, although I’m not exactly sure what they can see that the rest of us can’t.)

Anyway, prisms made of different types of glass will spread the spectrum into wider or narrower bands. This differential spreading of colors is referred to as dispersion. Obviously, if you are using a lens to form an image in your camera you want minimal dispersion. Otherwise you will see color fringing around objects in your images. One reason for using multiple elements of different glass types in a lens is to correct for dispersion. It’s relatively easy to design lenses corrected for two colors, and such lenses are called achromatic. Most old quality lenses are achromats. But the ideal is to eliminate all dispersion, or at least as much as possible. Lenses corrected for all visible colors are called apochromatic. Apochromats used to be very difficult and costly to make. This is still somewhat the case, but new glass types called LD, VLD, ULD, etc., for Low Dispersion, Very Low Dispersion, Ultra Low Dispersion, etc. have been developed to help solve this problem, which is worse with long, or telephoto, lenses. Sometime in the 1960s, I believe, it was discovered that natural fluorite crystals exhibited extremely low dispersion, and were ideal for use as lenses. Unfortunately, fluorite is very difficult to grind and polish into lens elements and suffers degradation if exposed to the atmosphere, so must be used only for internal elements in well-sealed lenses. So far as I know, only Canon currently uses fluorite elements in some premium telephoto lenses, made from synthetic fluorite crystals that they grow. Other firms have concentrated on developing glass types that incorporate fluorite or mimic its characteristics. You will often see terms like low dispersion, Ultra-Low Dispersion, ULD, Fluorite Glass, etc., used in lens advertisements. Now you know what they’re talking about.

Another term you will see in lens ads is aspherical, or aspheric. Literally this just means not spherical. As I said in my previous post about optics, most lens elements are spherical; meaning that the surfaces are segments of a sphere. As I said, this is fine if you’re focusing the image on a curved surface like the retina of your eye, but film and digital sensors are flat, not curved. One solution to getting lenses that will project images onto flat surfaces is to use aspheric elements, that is lens elements whose curvature varies from the lens center to the edges. Regular elements are made from lens blanks, wafers cut from cylinders of optical glass. These are ground and polished to the desired curvature by machines that start out with coarse grit and use progressively finer grit until the rouge used for the final polish. But these machines are able to only create spherical surfaces. To make ground and polished aspheric surfaces requires much more complex machinery and processes. Thus, ground and polished aspherical lens elements are costly and so are the lenses incorporating them.

In the mid-80s engineers at Canon developed a process to mold heated optical glass into aspherical lens elements. This was a major breakthrough, but was limited to lens elements of relatively small diameter. I understand that they have now considerably increased the maximum possible diameter. Other firms developed “hybrid aspherics” in which a molded plastic aspheric surface was bonded to a glass element. Some used aspheric elements made completely of molded plastic. If you look at diagrams of complex lenses you will see that two or more lens elements are often combined into one. The separate elements are bonded together with transparent optical cement.

Three people taught me the most, Wolfgang Volrath, Herwig Zorkendorfer, and. Les Stroebel. I never met Stroebel, but he is the author of Applied Photographic Optics, the standard technical book on the subject, a professor at RIT for many years. Wolfgang Volrath was, at the time I knew him, the chief of lens design at Leica. Herwig Zorkendorfer is an old friend who operates a business in Munich making specialized optical gadgets (www.zoerk.com). I’ve used and written about his products many times. Using his adapters you can mount enlarger lenses onto your SLR with both tilt and shift. Enlarger lenses are mostly of very high quality, and with the decline of the darkroom, you can buy even the best cheap. Other of his adapters let me use my collection of Carl Zeiss Jena MC lenses (50 mm, 60 mm, 80mm, 120mm, 180mm, and 300mm, originally for the Pentacon Six/Praktisix/Practica 66 line of cameras) on my Mamiya 645 cameras and on my Canon EOS cameras, the latter with shift and tilt. Herwig is an old hand in the photographic industry, having worked for Heinz Kilfitt in Munich, one of the makers of exceptional quality lenses after WW II (later. bought by Zoomar, for whom Kilfitt built lenses), and Mamiya Germany. I’d ask him a complex optical question over lunch at a street cafe, and he’d proceed to fill napkins with diagrams and equations, usually going far beyond the answer to my question.

Wolfgang Volrath was a different matter. His English is limited, my German is limited, and the translator we had didn’t know any of the technical optical terminology, so we communicated mostly in drawings. I was introduced to Wolfgang by Dennis Laney, my editor at Hove Foto Books and an expert in the history of Leica. Dennis had worked with me on my first book, and all the successors I wrote for Hove. In his book on Leica lenses, Dennis had quoted liberally from Wolfgang, and I could not wait to meet this man who had designed the optics for some of the best lenses ever made. To my surprise, Wolfgang told me that he was a nuclear physicist by training. But, he said, “a ray trace is a ray trace.” Leica, he said allowed him to design the best possible lenses, cost no object. His 100mm macro lens for Leica SLR cameras is without question the best lens of its type ever. It uses one element made of a special glass that Leica makes from scratch in a small laboratory in one of the old buildings in Wetzlar. I was fortunate to see this process on a visit to Leica not long after they had moved production from the old buildings in Wetzlar to their very modern new facility in Solms. But the glass making, at least at that time, was still being done in what looked like a medieval alchemist’s laboratory in Wetzlar. It appeared to be as much an art as science, with the glassmakers putting the raw ingredients into heavy platinum crucibles that were lowered into the furnace. Once the brew had cooked long enough, the crucible was lifted from the furnace, and the molten glass, glowing red-orange, was poured into wooden molds. That’s right, the molds were wood. And they didn’t char or catch fire, I don’t know why. Once the rough block of glass cooled, which was done slowly to avoid internal stress, it was cut into cylinders that were sliced into blanks that were ground and polished into fine lens elements. Only certain special lens elements are made this laborious way. Most elements are made from ordinary crown and flint glass which is sold on the worldwide commodities markets. When I was at Solms they were just quality testing a batch of glass that had come in from Tamron. Those ordinary optical glasses might be bought from any number of suppliers in Europe or Japan (and today probably from China or South Korea). There’s nothing special about them, no matter what you may be told by enthusiastic salesmen.

Modern lenses typically have multiple lens elements, each a discrete lens, and designed to work together to produce a quality image. The main problem with easily manufactured simple lenses is that we want to project the image onto a flat surface, film or electronic sensor, while simple lenses focus their image onto a curved virtual surface. That’s why the retina in your eye is concave. When you project such an image onto a flat surface you will find it impossible to get both the center and outer areas in focus at the same time. Focus on the center and the outer areas are fuzzy, and vice versa. Some portrait lenses are intentionally designed not to correct this and allow a face to be sharp and everything else to be soft. But most of the time that’s not what we want, so lens designers go to great ends to eliminate this so-called “spherical aberration.”. They do this with multiple lens elements, each designed to correct for the problems of others.

Most lens elements are spherical. That means that the curve of the glass is a segment of a sphere. Lens elements can have convex, concave, or plano (flat) surfaces. A plano-convex element would be flat on one side, convex on the other. Similarly, a biconvex element would be convex on both sides, Generally, convex surfaces converge light, whereas concave surfaces diverge light. A common example of a biconvex lens is an ordinary magnifying glass. Often two or more elements are cemented together into a unit, called a group. When you look at ads and product reviews you will see descriptions of lenses saying the lens has “12 elements in four groups” or something like that. A single un-cemented element counts as a group in these schemes. Does this tell you anything important,? Not really. Buying a lens simply on the number of elements/groups is like buying a car based on how many pistons it has. More elements and groups doesn’t make a better lens; some excellent lenses are simple in design.

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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 herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-stone-walls-do-not-a-prison-make/

 

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Fashion Fetish 25 Years: Now Available!

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FASHION FETISH 25 YEARS: ORDER NOW!

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Now taking orders for this special limited edition print run of 500 copies on superior quality, Proline Pearl Photo 140# paper stock.  Standard portrait size, image wrap cover 8 x 10 in, 21 x 26 cm. 240 pages. Each copy sold is printed to order, signed and numbered until the edition is sold out. U.S. customers please allow 14 days for printing and delivery. International customers please allow 30 days for printing and delivery. Click here to enter check out: http://tonyward.com/shopping-cart/books-bonus-gift/#gallery/537ab8257ae5dd811ebdcab8cff3523a/102/cart

I would like to thank all of the incredible models, editors, stylists, magazines and companies that made this book possible! 

In order of appearance:

Mikala Mikrut, Alice Chaillou, A.H. Scott, Titziana, Michelle Seidman, Anthony Goaslin, Pascale Descance, Bill Weiting, Ayesha, Dana Rochelle, Sandy Ward, Sharon Franklin, Monica Miraglilo, Marita, Paul Mojica, Deborah Shaw, Richard Elms, Ingrid Cesares, Lee Henshaw, Sandra Bauer, Angelique, Wendy Taw, Nami, Vibe Magazine, Scott & Richard, Bob & Becky Marker, Deann, Paulette Fallon, Bobbi Eden, Kianna Dior, Shay Sights, Rachel Louise, Kelly, Holly Singelyn, David, Savanna, Hallie, David & Devon, Diana Desiderio, Tyson Beckford, Thandie Newton, Quincy Jones, Keith Murray, Heidi & Michelle, Andrea Suwa, Blend Magazine, BLVD Magazine, Lilian DeJong, Steffi, Justine Bakker, Ivita Rence, Jana, Anna Borleffs, Allison Dunlap, Dagmar Rose, Ettore Salon, Elizabeth Southward, Jennifer Cole, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Vault Productions, Domina Barbie, Jilian Nonemacher, Leg Show Magazine, Isabella Reneaux, Esther Young, Sascha Lilic, Spoon Magazine, Neiman Marcus, Penthouse Magazine, Natascha, Emina Cunmulaj, Sonya Bright, Tony Ward (the model), GQ Magazine, Thomas Kramer, Park Avenue Magazine, Guinevere Van Seenus, Atomic Bombshell, Catherine Trifilleti Design, Alex Wagner, Louva, Alejandra Guerrero, Floore Jansen, Kimberly Kane, Jennie Shapiro, Maggie Stein, Delicious Corsets, Taboo Magazine, Rachel V, Ashlynn Brooke, Bonnie Rotten, Jessica Saint, Jennifer Lester, K Vaughn, Aradia Ardor, Kevin Stewart, Becky Marker, Katie Kerl.

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PSA: VOTE! November 6, 2018

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Vote! November 6, 2018

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