Category Archives: Cameras

Bob Shell: Learning to See and Equipment Meditations

Portrait of Kimberly Kane. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2020

 
Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020
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Learning to See and Equipment Meditations 
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Many people, when they get into photography, become “equipment freaks,”. buying lens after lens in a quest for better photographs. I know, I was one myself. Those people keep the camera companies in business. I didn’t understand that better photography comes from training the eye and mind, not from accumulating more equipment. Yes, you do need some good equipment to make the best photographs, but adding lens after lens won’t make you see better. After going lens crazy early in my career I reached a point of saturation. Then I began to pare down my equipment to just what I needed. For most of my travel I carried a simple outfit of a 24mm lens, a 28-80 zoom, and a 100-300 zoom. Depending on where I was going I might add a 20mm, 100mm macro or a 400mm and 2X tele converter. I found I could handle almost any contingency with that simple outfit. I rarely used the 24mm or the long end of the 100-300 zoom range. My kit fit handily in a medium sized camera bag with room left for a flash unit and a bunch of film. After digital my kit didn’t change much, just a bunch of storage cards instead of film.

One time when I was going to Las Vegas for a week I challenged myself and took only a little Leica point and shoot with a 28mm lens. I came back with a bunch of great shots, and only wished for my regular kit a couple of times. When you only have a lens with one focal length you learn to zoom with your feet. I wrote an article in Shutterbug about that experiment and illustrated it with some of the photos from the trip. The only time the 28mm was a problem was in closeup photos of people, but just stepping back took care of the distortion.

In my studio I found that I could do just about anything with a 28-80 zoom, and rarely attached anything else to my camera. For my outdoor nudes the 28-80 f/2.8-4.0 and 70-200 f/2.8 could handle all my needs. The 24 was in my bag, but rarely came out. I had a 20, but used it so seldom that I sold it. I kept a 16mm Russian fisheye around for those rare times that it made sense.

Try an experiment. Spend a week photographing with only one lens. Instead of changing lenses, change your point of view. Zoom with your feet. Force yourself to think in terms of that one focal length

Many of the world’s great photographers worked with the Rolleiflex twin lens reflex cameras, with their fixed 80mm lenses on 6 X 6 format. Those photographers learned to see in terms of that one lens, and produced some spectacular images.

In the 70s I tried that for a while. I bought a used Rolleicord, the cheaper model of Rollei TLR and worked with it all one summer. I had a lot of fun with that camera, and got some photos I like very much. That camera taught me the benefit of carrying a tripod for the sharpest possible images of non moving subjects, a lesson I’ve never forgotten. When a tripod was just too cumbersome to tote, I’d carry my lightweight Gitzo carbon fiber monopod, which doubled as a walking stick. A monopod is also great for getting shots from high angles by holding it up overhead and using a remote release or self timer to fire the camera.

My favorite tripod/monopod head is the Acratech ball head. Compact, light, and very sturdy. I’ve tried many other ball heads over the years when reviewing them for articles, but always found myself going back to the Acratech for my personal work. I used the version with the Arca-style quick release, which lets me put a camera and lens on and off very quickly and easily. The only time I used a different head is when shooting with a view camera, either my 4 X 5 Toyo monorail or my old Eastman 2D 8 X 10 field camera. For those heavier cameras I have a big ball head made by Schoon in Holland. Obviously, I really prefer ball heads. When using the big, heavy 8 X 10 I use a heavy duty wood tripod. Mine is the Brom Master, made in Germany. It will support damn near anything. But the times I’ve used my view cameras after I started working with digital can be counted on the fingers of one hand. I wouldn’t want to be a view camera salesman today. I even thought of selling my Toyo outfit until I saw the low prices they were going for, and decided just to keep it. Maybe one day the prices for digital backs for them will drop down to my level. There are many things you can only do with a view camera with full swings, tilts, and shifts. Tilt-shift lenses can come close, and are sufficient for many applications. Zorkendorfer in Germany makes adapters to allow tilt and shift on most digital SLR cameras using medium format or enlarger lenses (www.zoerk.com).

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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.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/civil-war/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

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Emily Williams: Home/Solitude

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Photography and Text by Emily Williams, Copyright 2020

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HOME/SOLITUDE

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I dedicate this series to my grandfather, Leon Williams.

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Driven by my frustration with the passage of time without a singular place to call home, I started to think about the meaning of home—a feeling rather than a physical space. A feeling that I chased, both literally and figuratively, while running countless miles on roads both familiar and unfamiliar. Listening to the sound of my own feet, in part, lead me to this series.

As the series grew, it started to center around solitude, the feeling I always circle back to when meditating on home. I wanted to explore the range of emotions contained in solitude—from loneliness, to peace, to anger. I aim to create visual representations of quiet that convey and explore the nuances among feelings that come with large amounts of time spent alone.

My photography searches for the evidence of humanity—an unmade bed, an abandoned shoe, an open window, a dilapidated gate—to discover who was or will be in that space. I want to find places that mean something to whomever may have inhabited them but appear vacant at the moment they are photographed. I felt the mundane, uninhabited nature of these scenes best convey solitude.

In the first few months of working, I mostly photographed inside houses. I was drawn to the easily recognizable evidence of their inhabitants. Later, other spaces that were not as easily recognizable as inhabited, such as landscapes and abstract pieces, were incorporated into my work.

Throughout the year, I have been consistently concerned with the geometry of my compositions with the exploration of different patterns of light. How light shapes what we see, how it defines space, and how its presence and absence creates mood fascinates me.

I used analog and digital processes in making and printing my photographs. I have printed on 11 in. x 14 in. Ilford warm tone, silver gelatin paper, and made inkjet prints on Baryta Photo Rag paper of the same size. I started by printing on the Ilford warm tone paper in the darkroom, and found that it allowed for more detail to be visible in heavy shadows. I chose the Baryta Photo Rag because it was the closest digital equivalent. I have used both the analog and digital processes in order to print each photograph in the process that suits it best. The photographs are taken primarily with Kodak 400TX film, in both the 35mm and 120mm sizes; I have on several occasions used Ilford HP5 for my 35mm photographs. Both of these films have a wide exposure latitude, allowing me to push and pull them as needed and giving me the flexibility to shoot in a wide range of lighting situations.

My work is inspired by that of Abelardo Morell, mainly from his three series Childhood, Still Lives, and Light, Time, and Optics. He records light and shadow, patterns, and domesticity to create compelling photographs of the everyday. I draw aspects of my creative process from Haruki Murakami’s book What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, where Murakami seamlessly connects his work as a fiction writer with running.

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About The Author:  Emily Williams is a recent graduate of Haverford College majoring in Fine Arts and History.  Class of 2020.

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Tatiana Lathion: Silence Among Chaos

Photography and Text by Tatiana Lathion, Copyright 2020

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Silence Among Chaos

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It is spring in the year 2020. The world is silent, as the pandemic has forced the voices of the people inside. For me, the pandemic has sent me back to my hometown of Ponte Vedra, Florida. This is the place that saw me ride a bike for the first time and the place that I said goodbye to my parents four years ago as I made my way to Pennsylvania for college. I grew up here, saw the infrastructure grow over the years and experienced the excitement of southern hospitality. My house was the place I went to sleep in and every waking minute was spent outside in the sun. The only memories spent indoors over the years were during hurricane season in which the howl of the wind and rain were too dangerous to be experienced outside. 

During this quarantine, my experience of this town has changed drastically. The once crowded restaurants, boardwalks and beaches now lay empty. The people I interact with are limited to just my mom, dad, and dog. In this series of images, I focused on this concept of emptiness and isolation juxtaposed with the growth that occurs in the absence of humans. The beaches and nature seem unbothered by the lack of people while the existing infrastructure seems out of place with nobody to utilize it. While the lasting impacts of this prolonged isolation are yet to be realized, the moments of joy throughout this process have been truly rewarding.

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About The Author: Tatiana Lathion is a senior enrolled at Haverford College majoring in Political Science and Government. To access additional articles by Tatiana Lathion, click here:https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/barbara-kruger/

 

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Athena Intanate: Vacancies

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Vacancies by Athena Intanate, Copyright 2020

 

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Vacancies

I’ve never met a Bangkok this quiet – devoid of the hustle and bustle, the monotonous hum of vehicles, the faint smell of smog lingering in the air. I’ve never met a Bangkok where motorbike taxi drivers linger in their stations, idling, waiting in apprehensiveness for a customer; where roadside street stores don’t burst open with hungry lunchtime customers; where delivery drivers outnumber sit-in patrons.

And yet, can you ever truly hollow out a city?

Signs of life and normalcy exist even within the quiet: clothing still gets hung on lines; garbage bags still need collecting; restaurants still cook dishes that we all know and love. Even if I returned to a city that I had trouble recognizing, it didn’t mean that it was no longer the same city. People often tend to forget that we do not all have the luxury of self-isolating and self-quarantining in tumultuous times like this; for many, life has to go on. And life does go on, in the same cyclical cycles that it always has. Life grows; the absence of one thing sometimes leads to the flourishing of another.

In that sense, ‘Vacancies’ isn’t about true vacancies at all. Rather, it is about how perceived emptiness can sometimes actually be full of life, can still hold hints of existence and the what-once-was. Just like each individual photo is constrained in black, we too have become boxed into very selective views of our current world and lives. We’ve coloured in our blinkers, sometimes in bleaker shades than they should be. As I walked around the city creating this project, I came to realise this the most. That the memories of the city I love haven’t been lost – they’ve simply been put on a halt. The remains are still there but quieted, limited in their former capacities.

It simply waits for us to reach out once again, and press the amplify button.

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About the Author: Athena Intanate is a freshman enrolled at Haverford College, Class of 2023. To access additional articles by Athena Intanate, click here: https://tonyward.com/nan-goldin/

 

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Joy Bao: Inside Out

 

Photography and Text by Joy Bao, Copyright 2020

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Inside Out

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I have always considered myself as a homebody. At the beginning of self isolation this spring, however, I felt the longing to go outside desperately. “Home”, a word that represents warmth and comfort, also becomes a kind of burden that restricts our activity. After a few weeks into this life style, I began to get used to it and took it as a chance to reexamine my living space.

The dorm I currently live in is also my freshman dorm. At that time, I lived in the basement and the window in my room was higher than normal, resulting in significantly less natural lighting inside. I hated that room. I also learned how important, for me, the windows and natural light are. Especially nowadays, windows become the closest and most literal connection we have with the outside world. They frame in different views, make our indoor spaces less dull and more fresh.

In this series, I focused on the indoor spaces and the presence of windows. We walk pass all these windows everyday, but not every time we would stop and look outside. The views are always unique, depending on the time of the day, but also the different angles we have when looking at them. I also wanted to use this chance to observe the natural lighting that comes through windows. I found the backlighting in some of these pictures fascinating, as the effect that it creates resonates with my image of cinema. When I stand in a dark room and look at the bright world outside, it is almost as if I am looking at someone else’s life in another world. During special times like this, it is very easy to feel the disconnection with the world around us. While windows build and create the connection for us, they can also enhance that isolating atmosphere.

I also tried to capture the stillness and quietness in these spaces. Modern life seems to always involve a fast-paced schedule, but now is the time for us to take a moment and look at where we are. I hope this set of pictures provides the viewer a chance to reflect on living spaces and the relationship with the outside world, as well as a reminder for all the beautiful moments scattered around us that we have missed before.

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About The Author: Joy Bao is a senior enrolled at Bryn Mawr College. Class of 2020. To access additional articles by Joy Bao, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/sensational-

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