Thursday, December 13, 2012

... from Art to Experience back to Art?

Sony has taken to putting WiFi into their NEX5 and NEX6 mirrorless cameras.  Check it out.

cartes de Multiverse Divination
 Multiverse Tarot Carte ~ The Four of Airships

I had been thinking about Samsung's NX-series cameras and hoped the rumor that the Android OS would be put into the third round of cameras, which should be released some time next year, is true.  Having the Android OS in a large sensored mirrorless camera would have a LOT of advantages.  A person could process their images and upload the results directly to the 'net without the need of a computer.

Sony's approach is currently something in between the old proprietary software language ASIC driven function selections and capabilities, and Samsung's current point and shoot Android-on-camera offering.  Apparently, with Sony's latest cameras, you can transfer images to your mobile phone and apply the image manipulations there before uploading the results to the 'net from the phone.

cartes de Multiverse Divination
Multiverse Tarot Carte ~ The High Priestess

I'm pretty old fashioned.  I don't carry a full-function mobile.  In fact, our phone sits unused on the shelf in our living room.  No.  It's not an invitation to steal it.  You wouldn't want it.  Rather, it's my way of saying that I'm not sure how I could use Sony's WiFi capabilities while leveraging my current electronic infrastructure.

In similar time, I've been thinking about how to share my portfolios of images without printing copies and carrying an old fashioned book.  I have a lot of new work which I would love to share, and printing everything takes time and space.  A book has it's advantages, not the least of which is the images are archival and won't disappear unless physically destroyed.  There is a certain look and feel to an image printed to 300+gsm 100 percent cotton rag.  I think images are gorgeous when presented that way.

Google has a new device that looks pretty darned interesting.  It's called the NEXUS 10.

Tarot of the Multiverse
 Multiverse Tarot Carte ~ The Magician

I can see how a tablet device could provide a flexible image presentation platform.  Tablets can run the image manipulation software that many iPhone and Android mobiles do, with the benefit of having a larger display.  Which could be good for these older aging eyes a benefit to be able to see what I'm doing before dumping something to the 'net.

I need to think about this some more and make sure the software applications are powerful enough to meet my needs, but it seems that the combination of Sony NEX/Nexus tablet could be rather interesting.  And if Canon's next "pro-sumer" grade full frame 40+ mpixel DSLR had the ability to connect to a WiFi network, I'd be "covered" from field to studio to 'net fairly seamlessly.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Art and Experience [part five]

I LOVE reading equipment articles and reviews.  I used to be an engineer, after all.  So the attraction to equipment is deep in my blood.  Very deep.

I'm very much looking forward to the next significant steps in the integration of optical, sensor, networked information technologies.

Is it too early to hope for a FF sensored interchangable lensed on-camera editing capable fully LAN connected image capture device?  The speed of image making might just barely keep up with the things I "see" and want to share.

cartes à jouer

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

... from Art to Experience? [part four]

The "meaning" and purpose of photography has changed.  Radically changed.  In just a few years.

Voyageur Chronomètre

As I've said in the first three installments on this topic, photography has moved from being important as an "object" (something to have and to hold, to display and to enjoy) to being an expression of experience.  Cell phone based cameras have flooded the internet with all manner of cruft and junk photography.  250 million images were uploaded to Facebook in 2011 alone.  Of this outpouring of images, few could be considered "objects", though some (perhaps very little?) fine work has been turned out.

Most (mobile phone based) photography is now 1) see something 2) snap a picture 3) upload it to the internet to share with the world.  All this in the span of just a few moments.

I have spent a fair amount of my free time over the past 40 years working on the craft and practice of photographic image making.  I come from a time of film, cameras (sometimes very very large cameras), lenses (sometimes very large and very old lenses), and chemical processes (sometimes nearly alchemically arcane).  I have studie William Mortensen where I have worked to understand lighting and composition.  I have worked to experience how it is to have one's work hung in nationally recognized galleries and published in international journals of photography.  Making images has never come easy to me, yet I enjoy making images immensely.

Voyageur Chronomètre

It boggles my mind to think of all the images being dumped into the world.  All for, seemingly, a passing glance.  How do you get "eyeballs" in this new crazy world of image image image image image image image..?

I can't help but think of painters at the advent of photography.  Paint artists must have felt their world had changed forever.  Yet painting remains in the world as a serious pursuit, a serious interest, where some people feel there is great value in certain artist's work.

So it may be with "traditional" photography as "object" as well. Early photographic techniques will still be deployed to make new photographic expressions by some artists.  Film and chemical processes have yet to disappear.  Digital image making... well... that's where I see an open field, even if that field will be empty of most of the human race... who might be looking for photography as an art "object"...

American Tintype from Matt Morris Films on Vimeo.

Realizing the scale of the changes that have taken place, I come to a place once again to where I need to realistically consider what the meaning and purpose of photography is in my life.

My pursuit of creativity seems to follow a stream of nearly endless ideas and pursuits.  It's like jumping into a sometimes raging river.  I go where inspiration and ideas take me.  With an, some might say overly, active mind, inspiration and ideas lead me all over the place.  My work unfolds as an expression of my creative experience.

I feel my work is unique.  I prefer it this way.  I can't stand making "straight" photographs for myself and my own images.  Though, I can and do appreciate excellent creative work that seems to come straight out of a camera.  No, where I go has to please me.  It has to fit whatever inner "vision" comes to me.  It has to "be" because it needs to "be".  It has to come from the inside (of me) out (to be seen).  For this reason, some of my work must seem a little odd to viewers.  I'm willing to take the risk of confusing or unsettling viewers.  A work emerges because, as I just said, it must emerge.

Voyageur Chronomètre

For me, the question of viewership is one that is quickly and easily answered.    On Flickr my work has already received approaching one and a half MILLION views.  Using software technologies and internet platforms, I will follow the "experience" path of rapid image creation and sharing.  Photographs as objects will certainly remain available, but the concentration will be on electronic distribution.  I will use places like Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Flickr, and many other such sites.  The promise of technology will be fulfilled if I can harness "eyeballs" in these ways and through those social sharing web-communities.

I want to see where all this can lead.

I enjoy the feeling of making order out of a chaotic universe.  In the deepest darkest night of the soul, all I'm left with is doing or choosing to not do.  Which reminds me.  A nice Belgium beer awaits on this cold winter eve...

Captain Brannert

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

... from Art to Experience? [part three]

Photography has become a means of experience sharing.  Photographs are no longer just objects that are viewed and sometimes hung on a wall for some small part of the world to admire.  How we approach photographic works has an opportunity to change.

Light ~ Florence

Image capture manufacturers seem to have taken notice.  I saw two items from the recent Photokina camera show in Germany that showed me this might be the case.  The first is a new camera offering from Sony.  The second is a new camera offering from Samsung.

For many years, images passed through a process (chemical or computer) before emerging as a final "work".  The final "work" was an "object" in the tradition of classic art "objects".

With the advent of mobile telephones, image making is suddenly connected directly to the vast network of information sharing.  The new image making process is one of 1) see scene 2) image scene 3) manipulate scene (using various creativity applications) 4) share scene across the internet.  No film.  No chemicals.  No computer.  No costly software applications.  No costly "professional" image making gadgets.

Mobile telephone cameras have not been of particularly high quality.  Yet some brilliant work has been done using these relatively simple low resolution image making devices.  I wonder what could happen if higher quality image could be produced using networked devices.  While I don't believe that higher quality images would have a significant impact on what we see on the web, good high resolution images might be made and shared between people who care about image qualities where large prints or publication is concerned. 

Light ~ Florence

Sony introduced two cameras this year that caught my attention.  They are part of their NEX camera series.  One is the NEX5r and the other is the NEX6.  What is significant about these 16.6mega-pixel cameras is that they can be connected directly to a LAN on the internet and Sony is promising software that allows for the creative manipulation of images before they leave the camera.

I love Sony's NEX cameras.  These cameras are small, light, and just as powerful in making quality images as many DSLRs.  Creativity and image manipulation can now take place right on the image making device.  I think this is a wonderful opportunity to ditch the computer for image processing. 

The second camera that caught my attention is Samsung's new 16mega-pixel Android-based point and shoot camera.  If I understand the capabilities correctly, we will now have a high quality image making device that is tied directly 3G and 4G telephone networks.  More importantly, if Samsung has built their new Galaxy camera correctly, image makers will have instant access to the thousands of already available mobile-phone-based image making creativity software applications.

Light ~ Florence

I like the idea of a camera company using Android as the base operating system.  It is based on Linux, the Open Source software that was started by Linus Torvalds many years ago.  The open standard means that the ability to create new software is nearly unlimited.

Up to this point in technology history, camera manufacturers have written closed system software that drives camera internals (menuing, metering, focusing, creativity selections, and the like) that is sometimes based on VxWorks (in high-end professional cameras), manytimes based on their own proprietary software solutions (for pocket cameras and low-end DSLRs with firmware that ingrates into company proprietary ASIC-based engines).  If you know anything about VxWorks, you will quickly realize just how limited it is in it's ability to connect seamlessly to quickly evolving network communications standards.  Proprietary software would be an even more challenging problem to try and network, particularly if the languages used to program these cameras is based on non-extensible standards where network communication software protocols are not readily available (as is widely the case).

Light ~ Florence

While the market may initially not know what to do with the Samsung Android camera/not-mobile-phone, I can see that on-camera image processing is currently at the front edge of a new and potentially exciting capability.  In fact, I just read a rumor that suggested that Samsung might move it's NX mirrorless cameras to the Android-based operating system.  I find this very exciting.

To my way of thinking, the new level of software integration on-camera can lead only to one thing: More creative images widely shared at the speed of experience.

Monday, November 19, 2012

... from Art to Experience? [part two]

Having grown up wishing I could attend an Ansel Adams seminar in Yosemite Valley taught by St Ansel himself, having made special trips to view Edward Weston original prints in Newport Beach, having worked as a black and white print technician in Hollyweird, having watched the death of the Great Yellow Father (Kodak), and having witnessed the transition from photography as something to hang on the wall and admire into photography as an immediate means of sharing experience, the scope of this short span of history is more than a little mind-boggling.

Sunset ~ Place Vendome

For years, the measures and gold standards of photography as "art" included being shown in a significant gallery and selling a great many images for as much as the market would bear.

Alas, very few photographers have ever really been able to achieve these goals.  Edward Weston died after some time suffering from Parkinson's disease.  Ansel Adams never really saw much money from his artistic endeavors.  Modern day photographers have made money by being commercial artists, where very few have made money from their art.  Annie Leibowitz, while claiming to make $1Million a year, is essentially broke and may have sold all rights to her prior work to cover her enormous debts.  Christopher Burkett, the incredible color print artist, while doing well financially, is largely unknown on the world stage.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II ~ Milan Italy

The rise of the camera as a creative tool of artistic expression has morphed into something completely unexpected and is now very different from what many of us thought would be possible.

Think for a moment.  If what the Facebook CEO says is right and if 250MILLION photographs have been uploaded onto the social networking site in the year 2011, and if the majority of those images were made using mobile telephones,  the very nature of what photography "means" has changed.

Gone, likely forever, are the days where it mattered what you used as a camera and how your tended your technical, as well as creative, processes, including all the energy it took to nurture the relationships of who you knew in the publishing industry and gallery art worlds.

It's as if the mad painter Van Gogh were able to multiply his already prolific output by hundreds of millions of times.  If you'll  recall, Van Gogh's last three years of his life were filled with artistic creations of spectacular success and heart-wrenching hard to believe failures.

Sunset ~ Place Vendome

It's as if the potential for sculpting  incredibly good and incredibly bad marble had suddenly reached the planet Earth's 3 billion inhabitants, and every single one of these creatures could make something, according to their abilities, desires, and whims.

And so it is with photographic image making.  You get a few brilliant images and a lot of just plain rubbish.  Yet, all of it is meaningful to someone somewhere somehow.  All billions and billions of images of it.  All being cranked out at the speed of networked telecommunications.

The Peter Brook Wired Magazine article that I linked in part one of this series solidified, for me, where we are in the "state of things".  I agree for most of society that we have moved from a photograph being an object to photographs being experiences.  Re-read M. Brook's thoughts and see if you don't agree.

Bridges ~ Florence, Italy

Friday, November 16, 2012

... from Art to Experience?

I have been  wondering about the direction of image making for quite some time now.

Summoning the Beasts

Looking back over the 160 year history of photography, the transition from hand-made chemical processes (typically with egg whites and silver nitrate) to dry plate film (thank you Great Yellow Father Kodak) brought image making to a larger population of potential artists.  Dry plate film has only recently (in geologic time) been replaced by digital technologies.  Here too, the transition has brought image making to a larger population of potential artists.

In fact, as I have said many times, Brooks Jensen wrote a wonderful editorial in his LensWork Magazine some time back.  Therein he suggested that there may have been very few "artists" of the early egg-white/silver-nitrate age.  It took a lot of knowledge and practice to string together the long series of steps that it took from "seeing" something of interest to realizing a finished image.  Brooks, if memory serves, felt there were perhaps three or four outstanding "artists" from that age.

Holy Homunculus

In the transition from wet-plate to dry-plate, image making allowed, perhaps, ten to fifteen outstanding "artists" to emerge in any given generation of photographers.  The process of image making was somewhat shorter and more people could grasp all the steps and bend them to their creative purpose.

With the transition to digital image making, "artists" no longer have a need to understand optics, aperture settings, film sensitivities, chemical processors, shutter speeds, and the like.  So much of the "thinking" about the technology of image making has been well integrated into image making devices.  Again, if memory serves, Brooks posited that perhaps ten to fifteen thousand "aritsts" could emerge in this, the age of digital photography.

Awakening the Other Side

I enjoyed what he wrote and have used it as a guide for how to navigate the increasingly large sea of images that are being shared across the internet.  From Brook's thoughts, I have fashioned my own ideas of what it means to be a photographic "artist".

I have been fortunate to have worked in a field of technology that allowed me to make money during the week and to make images for pleasure over the weekend.  I have worked hard to make my images the best I can and to realize the things in image that I feel.  It has been an exciting exploration.

Yet, something was evolving in the field and I couldn't quite put my finger on it.  I've watched as Flickr started as a wonderful image sharing site, only to see it languish under Yahoo's ownership and to feel that Flickr has yet to reach it's potential.  I've watched as Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, and other social sites have taken up from where Flickr failed.  I've read that in 2011, ten percent of all images ever made were created in just that single year (according to Facebook's CEO).

Deep Sea Shape Shifter

The old ideas of what photography "meant" and what it could "do" might need to be replaced.

Just yesterday, I read an eye-opening article on Wired Magazine's site that pieced together various elements of the current state of image making in a coherent manner.

In short, we have moved from photography being a "thing", something to look at, to potentially treasure and hang a copy of on a wall.  We have moved into a new age where photography has become an experience.  The idea has certain merit, to my way of thinking.

The author cited the recent events surrounding the huge earthquake in Japan.  The internet and social sites were flooded with images and videos that people made from their cellphones.  The experience of the earthquake was well documented.  However, few of these images have survived "the test of time" to remain in front of internet viewers.  We experienced the event as it happened and that was pretty much that.

Iconic Muse

What has become of photographic "art"? I need to think about this and perhaps write a little at some point in the near future.  In short, I feel there will be an increasingly small pool of buyers of "art" to hang on their walls or to store in their vaults.  The value of "art", photography, and image making, has shifted.

Traditional ideas of what constitutes "art" may need to be reexamined.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Photography and image making...

A recent post on Mike Johnson's "The Online Photographer" started me thinking.  Perhaps I'm thinking a bit too hard, but I'm thinking.

The topic is image properties verses image quality.

Interior Landscape ~ Sans Coeur

I feel it's all too easy for photographers to hide behind a camera and assume that the equipment will provide enough quality in an image to make it appreciated by viewers:  Resolution, contrast, color rendition.  It seems all too easy to assume a photographer only has to provide content and all the rest will become "good" if only one had the right camera gear.

If I understand Mike's comments correctly, image quality is not the issue.  Rather, it is the properties of an image that lend it meaningful qualities that we as viewers can appreciate and like.  In general I agree with Mike's sentiments on this topic.

Somewhere in the middle of the article, Mike said "Consider that during the time of the pictorialist movement—and among the amateurs that kept its values alive in its aftermath—the same assumption held sway, except in the reverse. Image unsharpness was the virtue, the accepted convention."

Aqua Mammalian Progress

I formulated a short rant about pictorialist photography where I brought William Mortensen into the fray.  Thinking back to Saint Ansel's autobiography, I was shocked to read the violence with which St. Ansel attacked Mr Mortensen's pictorialist approach to image making.  St Adams derided the lack of clarity in Mortensen's images and looked forward to the day when the pictorialist was dead.

It was from this perspective that I responded to Mike's article.  Contrasting modern photographic approaches where image quality is somehow ensued with what I thought Mike was talking about when he mentioned the pictorialist movement.

I said, pick up a copy of William Mortensen's "Pictorial Lighting" and "Pictorial Photography", and you will read nowhere in the entire text anything that extolls "unsharpness" over "sharpness". Quite the contrary. Indeed, the High Priest of Pictorial image making (Mr. Mortensen)stresses the importance of presenting a clear image with a clear vision and a clear result.

Homunculus Rising

Petzval formula lenses (followed by a great many "portrait" lenses) have been in wide use, but even these optical tools provide a sharp image at the point of focus. How the out of focus areas are rendered is part of the optical designs of these kinds of lenses.

The only tools that seem to approach out of focus image making that I'm familiar with are achieved through the use of pinhole "lenses" and zone plates. Yet, it can be argued, even these are not truly "unsharp".

To me (and this was my key point), pictorial image making has more to do with exploring an idea and creating an image that represents that idea, as compared to finding a scene/subject and snapping an image of it.

Mike came back with "Oh, dear. Not even close."

Homunculus ~ Gravure #2

Confused, I used the Force (Google) to look up pictorialist photography.  Now I am even more confused and wonder what people can mean when they use the two words, pictorialist photography.  I know what I mean.  I know what I have read.  I know how I understand the words.  Yet, I'm at sea wondering what I have missed.

There seems to be a rather wide range of interpretations of these two words, pictorialist photography. 

Monday, October 08, 2012

Lights. Cameras. Wheels?

We no longer own an automobile.  Nor a bicycle.  We transport ourselves or use buses/metros/trains/airplanes.

So the question arose as to how I could put together a serious studio kit and keep it portable enough to take on public transportation?

Our apartment is too small for the kinds of photo-sessions that I was used to when we lived back in the States.  After looking around and talking with people, I found two dance studios that rented time by the hour.  Since I had worked in Jane Archer's "Euphoria Studios" for bellydancers, I had a pretty good idea of how I could use those kinds of rooms to make images in.

Once settled into our new location, I was anxious to acquire a studio kit.  Yet, it wasn't as easy as I first thought.  You see, I was hoping to acquire another set of Paul Buff Einstein 640 monolights with stands and parabolic light modifiers.  The closest outlet for this gear is in England and they charge a fortune for the gear.  Just the Paul Buff equipment alone would have set me back well north of 4000USD, which is over twice what I paid for this stuff when we lived in the USA.

Canon DSLR
Canon DSLR (as backup)
3 Elinchrom BX 500 Ri with light stands
2 Elinchrom softboxes
3 105cm umbrellas (combo bounce/shoot-thru)
1 light bounce kit, large
1 backdrop system with stands
3 cotton backdrops
1 power supply extension cord
1 partridge in a pear tree... tra-la..
I know I could have built a very small studio kit out of Canon or Nikon flash units and could eliminate the "need" for the robust, large, heavy Elinchroms..  I knew the Strobist had talked with Rembrandt (the painter - tongue in cheek, of course) and found that wall paper held to a wall with temporary tape would eliminate the need for a back drop system.  I knew that Sony's NEX7 could make a very fine image in place of the old, large, heavy Canon DSLR/24-105L setup.  But somehow, I just couldn't bring myself to introduce such large amounts of change to my "known" workflow, never mind the costs of changing every element in that flow.  I figured I'd better stay with what I knew.

As commented on in an earlier post, I found Elinchrom BX 500 Ri lights and stands could work well.  To avoid the high costs of the PLM light modifiers, I would return to using bounce/shoot-through umbrellas.  The basic Elinchrom kit that was being sold at a reduced price also included a pair of small softboxes.

I went to and purchased three big umbrellas and a really nice light bounce kit.  It's round and folds into a very small package.  It includes white, gold, silver, and black surfaces to move light around with.  Why hadn't I purchased one of these before?  It's wonderful!

After figuring out how to lash 8mm umbrella rods to the 7mm-capacity Elinchrom system (no small amount of sweating blood, until I realized that funny little bump on the side of the post mount was what I was looking for), I tested the rig and waited for the rest of the studio kit to arrive.

The new backdrop system is very small and portable.  The top rod comes in four sections and the stands are sufficiently strong to hold the cotton duck cloth that came with the kit.  I then purchased a hand painted backdrop of a kind similar to what I used to own.  It looked like I had all the parts of a studio kit that I needed.

Javel Mortadelle
 ... from my first Paris shoot, with Javel Mortadelle...

I plopped the whole thing into the middle of the living room floor and stared at it awhile.  How on earth was I going to haul this from the apartment to whichever dance studio I chose to rent?  I nearly wished I'd changed everything and went with the smaller, more portable, less powerful kit.

A bit more digging around on the internet and I found a large "sports bag".  On a whim, I went around the corner to a small shop.  That's where I found what I was looking for.  It's huge and was purchased from one of the great little "we have EVERYTHING" shops.  If you live in Paris, you already know what these shops are like.  They really do seem to have everything.  The bag was cheap and came with wheels.

I loaded up the sports bag and scheduled a photo-shoot with a local model.  The studio kit was hauled to the tram, and then from the tram to the dance studio.  The shoot went well and I hauled the studio kit home.  But there was a problem.  The sports bag kept turning off the wheels and onto it's side.  In the process, the bottom of the bag was being abraded and holes would soon appear if I didn't do something about it.

My wife and I visited Castorama.  Castorama is a large "Home Depot" style hardware, home supply, fix it all kind of place.  Jude found just what I needed.  It's a medium sized metal cart that will haul upwards of 80 kilos.  It folds down nice and compact.  And when it opens up, the substantial wheels swing out with the bed of the cart.

Vapeur ~ Stephanie Lee
... from my second Paris photoshoot, with Miss Stephanie Lee...

Held in place with a little nylon strap, I put the sports bagged studio kit on the cart for a second photo-shoot.

Heading back to the tram I instantly knew I now had a completely portable, full sized, ready to roll photographic studio rig.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Putting out the request for a bit of help...

I was chatting with Pascal, the editor of "Dear Susan", the Franglais Photobog, when I mentioned that since I'm new here in town that I'm having a hard time finding creative people to work with.

He came up with this!

I can't thank Pascal Jappy enough for this kindness.

Goddesses Entanglement

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lightweight large format view camera lenses

Another page from my old website...


Large Format Lens Field Kits

This is where I get to sound so much like the Oracle on the Mount... The following are my suggestions on what to carry into the field when photographing the world using a 4x5 camera. No attempt has been made to recommend lenses for use in a studio. Lenses are grouped into catagories in an attempt to illustrate different priorities. I have ranked these lenses based upon inspection of size, weight, and lens quality. Comments on each lens follow. I hope this proves helpful...

If Used/Very Low Cost/Weight is important

  • Wollensak 3 1/2" f/6.3 - $125 This lens is very reasonably priced and provides adequate preformance and coverage (no movements). These are very light and compact.
  • Schneider Xenar 135mm f/4.5 - $125 These lenses are of a tessar design, provide little movement, but are widely available, inexpensive, and quite sharp
  • Schneider Xenar 150mm f/4.5 - $150 These lenses are of a tessar design, provide a little movement, are widely available, inexpensive, and sharp
  • Schneider Symmar Convertable 150mm f/4.5 - $250 If you had room for only one lens to carry this might be the one. It converts into a 265mm long lens and provides adequate performance as a 150mm lens.
  • Kodak 203mm Anastigmat f/7.7 (uncoated) - $125 For an uncoated lens these test very well indeed! These are very light and compact. Not too much to fear for the lack of coating as this lens has only four elements that are air-spaced. So flair will not be too apparent. It's certainly not like having to coat a multi-element modern lens...
  • Kodak 203mm Ektar f/7.7 (coated) - $200 The quality of this lens is truely amazing when one considers that it started life as one of Kodak's Anastigmat lenses. The engineers did their job right. Mounted in a small Supermatic shutter, these lenses are a joy to carry into the field.
  • Rodenstock 210mm Geronar f/6.8 - $250 For a three element design that comes coated it'll provide adequate performance. The size is good for carrying into the field as well.
  • Schneider 210mm Symmar Convertable f/5.6 - $400 If you have to have a plasmat-design lens this one is adequate for the price and performance needed to properly render an image in the field.

If Used/Performance/Weight is important

  • Schneider 90mm Angulon f/6.8 - $200 Search for a Linhof shuttered example if you purchase one made in the 1950's. It's manufacturing quality was improved into the 1960's. Find one mounted in a Compur shutter that provides a focusing pre-view lever (there's lots that don't have this option, so shop carefully) to help make life easier. Shoot straight on as these have practically no coverage for 4x5
  • 1970's Schneider 90mm Angulon f/6.8 - $300 The last of the Angulons were probably the nicest as quality control was at it's peak for this series. Too bad these aren't made anymore... they are light and sharp.
  • Kodak 100mm Wide Field Ektar f/6.3 - $150/$275 This is a good lens. This lens has very nice coverage for 4x5, and allows a bit of movement where a 90mm Angulon does not. Search for good clean examples and have loads of fun!
  • Kodak 135mm Wide Field Ektar f/6.3 - $200/$375 This is a surprisingly good lens. Kodak had some of the best quality control/production control mechanisms in the industry. This lens has absolutely huge coverage for 4x5, and can be used straight on for 5x7. Search for good clean examples and enjoy the quality.
  • Fujinon 135mm W/EBC f/5.6 - $250 This lens has the quality of German lenses. F/11 and f/16 performance is good. F/22 performs right at diffraction limits. Just make sure you pick one up that has the multicoating. To know this look for the engraving on the outside of the front element rim and bright green highlights reflecting off the glass
  • Fuji 150mm W or WS f/6.3 - $350 These lenses should be more highly touted! Excellent optics with very reasonable coverage. Illumination circle is reported to be around 290mm. The usable area will be something less than this as this lens is most likely of Tessar design, but still providing 57 to 62 degrees of area to work in.
  • Rodenstock 150mm N f/5.6 - $350 This lens is small, light and provides outstanding quality. Resolution performance was outstanding in the one example we tested. Look for a recently manufactured lens as construction quality improved greatly during the 1980's.
  • Schneider 150mm Symmar-S/MC f/5.6 - $375 For a used lens you will find nothing finer. Simply excellent performance at a good price. Matches Rodenstock's Sironar-S most excellent 75 degree plasmat at half the cost used!!!
  • Nikon 200mm M f/8 - $450 These are not widely available, though they should be. These are very small, and very light. It's worth looking for as they are also very sharp. Keep your eyes open and launch that boat anchor-Plasmat design in favor of really great optics.
  • Fuji 240mm A f/9 - $500 If you're looking for the longest non-telephoto 4x5 lens mounted in a #0 shutter which is, at the same time, very highly regarded for it's outstanding image qualities (even at infinity), then look no further. Unfortunately you might pay a premium for one, even on the used market (Robert White sells new 240mm Schneider GClarons for less - thought that lens is only single coated and mounted in a #1 shutter). Kerry Thalmann considers this lens a Future Classic.
  • Nikon 300mm M f/9 - $450 These are widely available and are very small, and very light. It's worth looking for as they are also nice and sharp. Kerry Thalmann considers this lens a Future Classic.

If New/Low Cost/Weight is important

  • Congo 90mm Wide Field f/6.3 - $275 Want something that's multi-coated, in a new shutter, and light? This is worth considering. I've heard that quality control is non-existant at the factory, but for a peice of glass costing not much more than a new shutter, what can one expect? Well, for starters you can expect quality on par with the old Wollensak 3 1/2 inch wide field lenses... and that ain't 1/2 bad...
  • Congo 120mm Wide Field f/6.3 - $295 Still want something that's multi-coated, in a new shutter, and light? This is also worth considering. Think of this lens as a new 120mm Angulon, but without the quality control. So test before using, and you could come out very happy...
  • Schneider 150mm Xenar f/5.6 - $375 I was surprised to find this lens is still made. It's very small, light, and would make a great traveling companion to a Nikon 200mm M.
  • Congo 210mm tessar f/6.3 - $325 ? You roll your dice and take your chances. If you buy one test it. I think you'll find that it's performance is real similar to the Wollensak lenses of 40 years ago. That is to say, adequate for the job.
  • Schneider 210mm Xenar f/6.1 - $500 Here too I was very surprised to learn that this lens is still being made. It's mounted in a #1 shutter so is larger to haul around than an Ektar or Nikkor. But if you have to have new and like the way tessar-formula lenses render images then here it is.

If New/Performance is important

  • Schneider 80mm f/4.5 Super Symmar XL - $1300 from Badger Graphic (no idea yet what Schnieder USA will be charging). I guess I should have been surprised by the addition of more aspheric lenses from this company. This may seem a rather odd focal length but it neatly replaces two lenses at once - a 75mm and 90mm and it's smaller and lighter than either of them. Coupled with the next lens on this list and you'll have the short end of your lens collection covered.
  • Schneider 110mm f/5.6 Super Symmar XL - $1200 from Badger Graphic Give me the option of carrying only two lenses, and money no object! This would be right in the running for providing the shorter focal length. Words cannot describe the image quality of this lens. You can see it on the test negatives standing three feet away (well, if a Wollensak 108mm negaive shot at wide open is hanging literally next to it :-). It's reasonably small, fairly light, and would be worth selling one's first born for if you had to make your living in photography. Or maybe just a limb or two. Badger Graphic brings these into the US apparently straight from the factory and offers this wonderful lens at 1/2 the street price of equipment coming through other distribution channels. Kerry Thalmann considers this lens a Future Classic.
  • Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Super Symmar HM - $900 from Badger Graphic I used to poo-poo these lenses as too expensive. That was until Schneider came out with it's 110XL. If I had nearly unlimited budget I'd seriously consider purchasing this lens. When combined with a new APO 210mm lens one's field kit could accept the small weight gain and launch the 75, 90, and 150mm lenses in favor of a two lens kit. This lens is a super performer in every way. And it's cheaper now in the US by buying directly from a reputable supplier!
  • Fuji 125mm f/5.6 CM-W - $600 Don't have the money to spend on the Super Symmar? The Fuji lens continues to support their highly regarded reputation for constructing great lenses. At over half the price of a Schneider this lens provides decent coverage and excellent preformance. This is an outstanding value.
  • Rodenstock 150mm f/5.6 APO Sironar-S - $700 Need a little extra coverage for movements? This 75 degree plasmat is truley surprising. It matched an outstanding 72 degree plasmat in the Schneider 150mm APO Symmar in terms of size, weight, image quality. These guys have done their homework! Combine this lens with nice 90 and 210mm lenses and you'd have one rightous field kit.
  • Nikon 200mm M f/8 - $625 Small and sharp are the right words to describe this beauty. If you need new and want the latest coatings but need to romp the hills of Easter Island this is a great lens. In fact it should be the cornerstone of any light/portable field kit. Too bad everyone thinks they need the image circle of a nearly 8x10 lens and end up carrying those boat anchor 210mm plasmats... this is the only modern lens in my kit that fits into the folded body of an old Linhof Super Technika III.
  • Schneider 210mm APO Symmar f/5.6 - $1000 As expected this is a truely wonderful lens. It's sharp beyond sharp. If weight didn't matter this is the one lens I'd pair with that incredible 110XL or 120 Super Symmar HM. But I'd do it only if I could stand the weight. Maybe this is why God gave us mini-vans... to carry all this wonderful stuff... just don't stumble too far from home as the weight might become important.
  • Fuji 240mm A f/9 - $655 This is the longest new lens a person can buy that's mounted in a #0 shutter. And it's wonderful. Use this lens as the cornerstone of a 90/150/240 three lens field kit and you'd have a truely outstanding combination. You'll find nothing finer. And if you buy one from Badger it's also very reasonably priced.
  • Nikon 300mm M f/9 - $900 If you have enough bellows this lens is small, light, and sharp. Like it's less well known sister, the 200mm M Nikkor, this is a great performer.
  • Fuji 300mm C f/8 - $650 If you have enough bellows this lens is small, light, and sharp. Like it's well known cousin, the 240mm A Fuji, this should be a great performer.

A modest proposal - from back in the day of film

Yet another page recovered from my old website...


A Modest Proposal - or how to calculate the value of one's photographic system

I have been trying to come up with a way that I can evaluate lens and system costs vs. performance. I think I've hit upon one useful mechanism. Hence this Modest Proposal for evaluating the relative costs of performance for Large Format lenses and Medium Format systems. I believe _one_ way to evaluate performance vs cost can be described by:

{cost of item} / {max. resolution of item to film } = {cost of one line per mm of

Here are several examples of what falls out of this calculation:

90mm Angulon - $200(used) / 67 l/mm       = $2.98 / line / mm

3 1/2" WARaptar - $125(used) / 60 l/mm    = $2.08 / line / mm

90mm SW Nikkor - $750(used) / 80 l/mm     = $9.30 / line / mm

90mm SW Nikkor - $1350(new) / 80 l/mm     = $16.80 / line / mm

110mm Schneider XL - $2300(new) / 80 l/mm = $28.75 / line / mm

135mm WF Ektar - $375(used) / 76 l/mm     = $4.90  / line / mm

150 mm APO Sironar S - $750(new) / 85 l/mm = $8.80 / line / mm

150mm Symmar Convertable - $300(used) / 64 l/mm = $4.60 / line / mm

200mm M-Nikkor - $450(used) / 67 l/mm     = $6.70 / line / mm

203mm Kodak Ektar - $200(used) / 67 l/mm  = $2.98 / line / mm

210 APO Symmar - $750(used) / 76 l/mm     = $9.80 / line / mm

210 APO Symmar - $1000(new) / 76 l/mm     = $13.10 / line / mm

Bronica SQA w/ 80mm - $800(used) / 67 l/mm        = $11.90 / line / mm

Fuji GW690III w/ 90mm - $1000(used) / 67 l/mm     = $1492 / line / mm

Fuji GW690III w/90mm - $1300(new) / 67 l/mm       = $19.40 / line / mm

Kodak 620 Special w/100mm = $15(used) / 63 l/mm   = $0.23 / line / mm

Mamiya C220Pro w/80mm - $225(used) / 67 l/mm      = $3.35 / line / mm

Mamiya 6 MF w/80mm - $2800(new) / 95 l/mm         = $29.47 / line / mm

Mamiya 6 MF w/80mm - $1800(used) / 95 l/mm        = $18.95 / line / mm

A couple things fall from this.

  • It could be argued _based purely on these numbers_ that the best value per line of resolution in LF is an old 3 1/2" WA Raptar or the 203mm Ektar. They'll both cost a person less than $3.00 per line per mm of resolution.
  • In MF the winner, hands down, is an old Kodak Special Six20 with 100mm f/4.5 Kodak Anastigmat. It wins by costing only $0.23 per line of mm of resolution!!! More reasonably the Mamiya C220 Pro comes out costing a person only $3.35 per line of resolution. So my modest proposal is: When newbies ask what the best value for their money is, simply take it's cost, divide it by the number of lines per mm of resolution it's capable of returning, and evaluate competing systems based on the lowest cost per line of mm of resolution...
    I hope this spins a few thought wheels... :-)
    - Chris
  • I used to go through a LOT of equpiment...

    Searching for the ultimate camera and lens used to be a game I played.  It was a convenient way of avoiding having to make a nice image.  That's all changed since I've moved to digital.  Now it's all about the image and I could nearly care less what equipment I use to achieve it.  Cameras and lenses are only a means to an end.  But it took me decades to realize that.


    Last Updated: 05/07/03
    Equipment Bought, Used, then Sold...
    This page presents a list of equipment I've purchased, used, and discarded. I include reasons for the original purchase and final sale. I hope you find it fun. Gosh, have I really used all this stuff...?
    Large Format Cameras Reason purchased/notes on use Reason sold
    Sinar F 4x5 First large format camera.  Great Swiss quality.  Simple to use, large to carry in the field.  Expensive lensboards. Traded straight for an early Linhof Technica III. No lasting regrets.
    Linhof Technica III 4x5 (early) Traded into for use in the field.  Had all the movements I thought I could ever use.  Small lens boards precluded using #3 shutters.  Built like a German tank Sold to get a lighter 4x5 field camera.  No regrets.
    Tachihara 4x5 wood field camera Bought to help the kit weigh less into the field.  Had plenty of good movements.  Bright ground glass - was one of the nicest surprises in using this camera.  Wista lensboards were cheap from MidWest Photo Sold to pay for another 4x5 camera.  No regrets. But I miss the light weight. In fact, I've been thinking of toying with a Gowland super-lite 4x5 for those occasions when I want the big image size, but don't want the weight of a German Tank!
    Speed Graphic 4x5 It was too cheap. I couldn't pass it up. Such is the price for visiting a local photo swap. The focal plane shutter worked. I even mounted up a 7inch f/2.5 AeroEktar for the heck of it. This would have worked out GREAT in the field. These are wonderful cameras. Stupidity.
    Burke and James 8x10 wood field camera Was a buy of the century.  Came with a mint 12" Commercial Ektar.  Fairly light for the format.  Was a pain to haul away from the car.  Contract prints were fabulous though.  Some of my most pleasing images from a technical standpoint were taken using this camera. Too heavy, too difficult to use (or so I thought at the time :)
    Seneca 11x14 wood field camera Was a good buy.  But needed work.  I never completed the project. Sold to make room for a 12x20 Folmer and Schwing that required less work. Talk about going from the frying pan into the fire!!!
    Folmer and Schwing 12x20 field camera Was a very good buy. But needed a small army to operate. Sold to make room for a brand new Mamiya 7 (go figure!). The size and weight of the F&S was simply too much to deal with in the field. Any my 4x5 equipment fit my ability and needs, and the new Mamiya has some of the sharpest optics I've ever tested. Besides, the smaller equipment is easier to travel with and I'm just a hobbiest, not a pro...

    Large Format Lenses Reason purchased/notes on use Reason sold
    Fujinon 240 A f/9 This was my recent madness to procure and use Fuji LF optics. This was a wonderfully small, light lens and it was very sharp. Sold due to it's very close proximity to my 200mm Nikkor M f/8, and due to the fact that I never used it, even on 8x10. OK, so I used it once in four years. But that was it. Time to liberate the money and buy something else. The proceeds were used to buy a Mamiya RZ camera kit (complete with 110mm Z lens and 220 film back). No regrets yet.
    Fujinon 450 A f/9 This was another of my recent madnesses to procure and use Fuji LF optics. This was a very small, light lens and it was very sharp for it's focal length. Sold due to the fact that I never used it, even on 8x10. It was time to liberate the money and buy something else. The proceeds were used to buy film backs, a new screen, a 180mm W-N lens, and a 65mm L-A lens for my Mamiya RZ system. No regrets yet.
    Kodak 100mm Wide Field Ektar f/6.3 This was my last attempt to press small, light lenses into use in the field. This was a wonderful lens and was sharp. Sold the make way for a fabulous new Schneider 110mm Super Symmar XL lens of greater coverage. No regrets, particularly since the Super Symmar is such an incredible piece of glass!
    Kodak 135mm Wide Field Ektar f/6.3 This was my second lens to press small, light, great coverage lenses into use in the field. This was a wonderful lens and was very sharp. Sold to help finance the purchase of a fabulous new Schneider 110mm Super Symmar XL. No regrets, particularly since the Super Symmar is such an incredible piece of glass!
    Schneider 150mm Xenar f/5.6 This was a find! I didn't realize that Schneider continued to make small, light, sharp large format lens. It was wonderfully light, sharp, and fun to use. This is highly recommended to anyone who might be on a tight budget. I paid $375 new for this one. Sold the make way for a mint Fujinon W/EBC 135mm lens.
    Kodak 200mm Ektar f/7.7 This was my first attempt to press small, light, decent coverage lenses into use in the field. This was a wonderful lens and was very sharp. Sold to help finance the purchase of a fabulous new Fuji 240mm A No regrets, particularly since the Fujinon 240 A is such an incredible piece of glass!
    Schneider 210mm f/5.6 Symmar S/MC This was my first large format lens. It was sharp, contrasty, had tons of coverage. Beautiful. But it was also a heavy lens. Sold to pay for a Kodak 203mm Ektar f/7.7 Occasional regrets.
    Schneider 90mm f/5.6 Super Angulon This was my second large format lens. It was huge and heavy. It had plenty of coverage. Sold to avoid the weight and single coating on all those elements! Eventually replaced by a Kodak 100mm Wide Field Ektar f/6.3. No regrets.
    Schneider 150mm Xenar f/4.5 Linhof This was my third large format lens. It was very light, sharp, and was fun to use. This is highly recommended to anyone who might be on a limited budget. I paid $125 for mine and it was mint! Sold the make way for a lens of far greater coverage: Kodak 135mm Wide Field Ektar f/6.3. No regrets, particularly since I found out that Schneider still makes this Xenar, and I bought one. :)
    Schneider Angulon 90mm f/6.8 Bought to replace the 90mm f/5.6 Super Angulon boat-anchor. This example was very sharp, light, and was mounted in a modern Compur shutter. Sold to make way for a wonderful Kodak 100mm Wide Field Ektar f/6.3. No regrets, particularly since the Kodak 100mm lens provides a bit of coverage over the Angulon
    Schneider Angulon 65mm f/6.8 Bought to use for 4x5 work. This example was very sharp, light, mounted in a modern Compur shutter, and extremely small. Sold out of lunacy... Regrets.
    Kodak Commercial Ektar 12inch f/6.3 This lens came on the Burke and James 8x10 view camera. This is one of the world's greatest lenses (he says ever so humbly). It was sharp, contrasty, and the Ilex shutter even worked reliably. Stupidity. Particularly since I've gone off and bought a Deardorff 8x10 and needed lenses for it... oh well... Regrets. Though I did recently pick up a 300mm G-Claron f/9 that's as sharp as any shorter lens I've ever tested! This new lens will work on the Deardorff.
    Goerz Red Dot Artar 45cm f/11 In barrel, this was a very cheap lens. I think I paid something like $89 from Midwest Photo. The coating on the rear element was coming off. It had bad marks on that element. But one would never know it from the images it produced. Along with the 12" Commercial Ektar, this was one of the sharpest lenses used in 8x10 format. Sold when I 'got out' of 8x10. No regrets.
    14inch Goerz Doppel Anastigmat Series III In barrel, this was a very beautiful uncoated lens. Easily covers 12x20 and was very very sharp. Great inexpensive way to get lenses for very large format equipment. I'd heard that they were getting harder to find. Sold when I 'got out' of 12x20. No regrets, except from a 'historic' standpoint.
    Rodenstock 24inch f/9 Ronar In barrel, this was an inexpensive and very heavy lens. The coating on the front element was coming off. Sold when I 'got out' of 12x20. No regrets.
    Medium Format Equipment Reason purchased/notes on use Reason sold
    Hasselblad 500CM system I bought this camera after testing a friends Hasselblad SWC. I thought that Zeiss lenses might be very good and that there would be no problems with reliability. I was thinking it might be nice to have a camera with interchangable backs that might also be light enough to travel with. Strange things happened with this camera. A light trap failed and I lost a few vacation images. The front and rear plates were out of alignment (who ever heard of such a thing?). The mirror was mis-aligned and caused the focus to be off by 1 foot at a focusing distance of 5 feet. One of the rear barn doors spring bent and I lost an entire shoot. So before anything else broke on it or was found to be out of alignment, I sold it. The kit was replaced with a Mamiya RZ kit. For what was paid for the 500CM, 80mm lens, and two film backs, I bought a Mamiya RZ, 65L-A, 110Z, 180W-N, 360Z, two film backs, and several odds and ends. If my experience with the Hasselblad is any indication of reliability, then it's a very overrated camera system. In contrast, my Mamiya has not failed. Ever.
    Graflex Crown Graphic 23 I was given this camera and film back by a very kind friend. I bought a 100mm Schneider Symmar Convertable for it after the 101 Ektar that it came with died in it's shutter (800 Supermatic). Due to the size being so so close to my 4x5 Linhof SuperTechIII, and the fact that the knob wind was so close to the back of the camera that my knuckles hurt, I decided I would sell this wonderful thing and buy a pair of old folder cameras. So now I have a Bessa I 6x9 and a Zeiss Ikonta 532/16 6x6. Only mild regrets.
    Rolleiflex 3.5F 6x6 I was still hoping to find the full Rolleiflexes had sharper lenses than my Mamiya C220 Pro. The optics were supposed to be world renowned. The second camera I owned turned out to be only marginally better than other equipment I already owned. And it failed to come anywhere close to matching the sharpness of my new Mamiya 7. No regrets. For the second time.
    Balda Baldix 6x6 I went crazy. The promise of light, portable 120 format cameras drove my buying for several months. I looked at everything. Or so it seemed. And I bought lots of equipment. This camera was a keeper. The lens was small, light, and sharp. The entire system was simple to use and smooth in operation. It was fun. Sold to pay for a Ricoh Point and Shoot No regrets.
    Kodak Special 620 I thought I wanted as large a negative as I could reasonably stuff into a super compact camera. This camera's optics were outstanding, even though they were uncoated! This camera's operation was even smoother than the aforementioned Balda's. Kodak did their job right with this little wonder Sold to help pay for a Ricoh Point and Shoot Moderate regrets.
    Rolleiflex MX 6x6 I was hoping to find a lighter, sharper camera than my current Mamiya C220 Pro. Rollei has a good reputation. The optics are world renowned. The camera turned out to be the same size and weight as my Mamiya. The lens wasn't any sharper than the Mamiya. It felt 'old'. No regrets, though there is still lust in my heart for someday affording a new Rollei Gx or Fx TLR...

    Working with an old Burke and James 8x10inch view camera

    Recovering yet another page off my old old website... c.1990's

    Recovered: Lost images... Around a decade ago, I purchased a Burke and James 8x10 view camera outfit. I found it at a local photo swap. It came with a few film holders, a case, a darkcloth, and a like new mint 12 inch Kodak Commercial Ektar f/6.3 lens. I quickly scrounged a tripod to hold the camera and headed out for a few shoots.

    At the time I rode motorcycles. Lots of them. Being in the community of riders, I had access to some pretty sweet machines. So I lined my friends up and started taking photos of them with their scoots.

    The images here were recovered recently. I moved to a new home and mislaid a bunch of things that I wanted to reprint. Rummaging through boxes I found some of what I was looking for. The prints here were made prior to the move. They look great. The contact 8x10 inch prints gleam and glow. There's nothing like a little film, a big camera, and subject matter. Oh, and that Ducati was mine. I later sold it to pay the mortgage off on the old place.

    Ducati 750GT (redone in the style of a Sport)

    Vincent Rapide and the owner of Langlitz Leathers

    Norton 850 Commando and a good friend  
    BSA Gold Star 500cc and it's owner/restorer
    Norton Manx 500cc and a good friend


    Ultra Large Format - info from my original website

    Here is some potentially useful information, for shooters of ultra large format film.  It's an old page that I maintained on my old web site (which is now defunct).
    Last Updated: 06/15/05
    Ultra Large Format re-entry...
    This page documents my experiences with 10x12, 11x14, and 7x17inch Ultra Large Format photography.
    I recently traded a lens for a 11x14 Century ultra large format view camera. The camera came with a 10 3/4inch Dagor that should cover the format. Also with the camera came a 10x12inch Korona film back. There are film holders for both formats. The condition was fairly good. The bellows are intact and the wood is in decent condition. The camera has obviously been used. I needed to cement wood shims onto the main mounting block to keep the rear section from flopping about. From years of use, the aluminum cleat had rubbed the guide channels wider than the original design allowed for. Once in place, the shims work very well and the back is now rigid. Additionally, I built an adapter for the 10x12 back to mount onto the 11x14 rear frame. Everything is now ready to go.
    Prior to this I picked up a 7x17 Korona ultra large format view camera. Its in fabulous condition. The wood looks like its new. Over the 2004 end of year holiday season I was able to take it out and try my hand at making super large negatives. The camera was very light and useful. In fact, it was a pleasure to use. I more recently took the camera down to the local roundhouse for a few images of old steam locomotives. I can't wait to process the film to see what I have.
    The bulk of what follows regards lenses, coverage, and my observations and disappointments in using various lenses on the 10x12, 11x14, and 7x17 inch view cameras.
    Optical image circle requirements
    Various ULF cameras require lenses that cover the following:
    • 11X14 - 450mm
    • 7X17 - 466mm
    • 8X20 - 540mm
    • 12X20 - 585mm
    Lenses that cover 11x14 and 7x17
    Looking at and other resources, here's a list of small light shorter lenses that have been reported to cover 7x17 with sharpness corner to corner. In increasing focal length:
    • 18cm/183mm Zeiss Protar f/18
    • 18cm/183mm Bausch and Lomb Protar Series V f/18 (built under license to Zeiss)
    • 240mm Computar f/9
    • 240mm Germinar-W f/9 (maybe, the corners might get lopped just a little)
    • some 240mm Kowa Graphics
    • 240mm Zeiss Dagor (not the Goerz version)
    • 250mm Kodak Wide Field Ektar f/6.3
    • 270mm Computar f/9
    • 270mm Goerz Dagor
    • 300mm Computar f/9
    • 305mm Schneider GClaron f/9
    • 355mm Schneider GClaron f/9
    • 360mm Fuji A f/10
    • 450mm Fuji C f/12.5
    • 450mm Nikkor M f/9
    Here is a list of potentially expensive, large, heavy, hard to find, or old lenses that reportedly cover the 7x17 format:
    • 210mm Schneider Super Angulon
    • 210mm Schneider SuperSymmar XL
    • 300mm Goerz Dagor
    • 300mm Fujinon-A
    • 305mm Germinar-W f/9 (not the APO Germinar version)
    • 355mm Schneider Symmar
    • 360mm Fujinon-W
    • 360mm Germinar-W f/9 (not the APO Germinar version)
    Calculations on 7x17 lens coverage The 7x17 format is 178 x 432 mm. A full diagonal is 18.38 inches or 466mm. Here is what various focal length lenses must cover to adequately shoot 7x17 with a usable image circle of 466mm.
    • 300mm lens - 74 degrees
    • 250mm lens - 85 degrees
    • 150mm lens - 114 degrees
    Example: If I've done the math correctly, here's the calculation for 150mm coverage on 7x17.
    9.19inches (diagonal from center of the format to the corner) divided by 5.9inches (150mm lens length) equals 1.55. The atan of 1.55 is 57 degrees. 2 times 57 degrees to get the full angle equals 114 degrees. I use a 110SS-XL on 8x10. To accomplish this, the lens needs to cover 112degrees. It does this with ease. Its probably a stretch to think the 150SS-Xl mightjust reach 114degrees. Anyways, I will never know. I sold the 150SS-XL.
    Obervations on 7x17 lens coverage
    There is some question whether an 80 degree lens like the Fujinon 250mm f/6.7 would work or not. One person on the 'net suggested that it would cover. Others said no, it wouldn't. But I purchased the lens anyway in hope that I could use a small modern 250mm lens and avoid having to deal with size and weight of an older optic.
    The gent who originally owned my camera used a 250mm Kodak Wide Field Ektar f/6.3. The WFEktar is rated at 80 degrees and is not a wide angle lens. Its a wide field lens. I didn't buy it at first due to a somewhat non-working shutter (Ilex #5) and due to its overall size and weight. But I made a deal for the optic later and it was quickly delivered.
    Over a holiday week I took the Korona into the field and tried the Fuji 250mm W f/6.7 lens. I shot at f/45 and focused somewhat near infinity. The subject was probably 50 feet away. After processing the negatives, I can say with direct personal experience that the Fuji does not cover 7x17. There is an arc about one inch from the neg edges where the light falls completely off. This is a little sad as I really like the focal length for the kinds of things I "saw" in 7x17. Well, its back to trying the old Kodak 250mm Wide Field Ektar.
    I also picked up a Fuji 250mm SF f/4.5 (soft focus) on rumors that it covered 7x17. Over the same holiday weekend I tried the SF optic too. While it "covers" the format, it "pulls" the image in very unpleasing ways around the edges. It does this to the degree that I doubt I'll use the soft focus lens for anything on 7x17 other than close ups. For soft focus work at subjects around infinity, a person will need to consider a different/longer optic.
    Computar Coverage
    The coverage of Computar f/9 lenses has been widely discussed. Some people say they cover 95degrees. Is it too good to be true? Seems like it. Here is the reported coverage at f/22:
    • 210mm Computar - 456mm (though some people have tested this at a more realistic 390mm when mounted in a #1Copal shutter, and others have told me that the lens "works on 7x17, but the corners do go soft)
    • 240mm Computar - 523mm
    • 300mm Computar - 655mm
    Further information on the camera or images using this format are found at:

    Tuesday, July 31, 2012

    Looking back, looking forward...

     Update: Fifteen minutes after I posted this, the buzzer to the apartment rang.  It was la poste.  They had my 5in1 reflector.  I came back up stairs and not five minutes after that, as I was taking a leak, the buzzer rang again.  It was le livraison with my Elinchrom system.  Yea!  It's all here and I'm off to visit a new dance studio to see if I can get a more inexpensive but very serviceable place to shoot in.  Whee... the creativity train is set firmly in motion...


    Les lumieres, ils ne sont pas ici!  I should believe it, but I don't.  The French delivery system from is not working as the salesman said it would.  The lights have not yet arrived.  It's going on a week since I placed my order.  I might have to go back, ask a few questions, and see if I can't find the warehouse to go pick the Elinchrom system up myself.  I don't want to be a Horrible Incorrigible Foreigner, so I might have to see if I can get my Indignant Parisian "on".


    While kafeching my plight with a friend, he sent along a suggestion.  Maybe I should give up all this digital madness and work "real" art.  Wet plate collodion.  The process is interesting, if not a little convoluted, complex, and potentially explosive.  Ether can be that way.  Explosive, that is.

    To whet my appetite my friend sent along the following video.

    Dana Geraths - Wet Plate Photographer from Kia Anne Geraths on Vimeo.

    It reminds me of my many years of hauling around very large cameras in search of ultimate image quality.  The man in this video showed up at the 2012 Brooks Steamup out in Oregon.  I beat him by several years.  My first trip to the Steamup saw me hauling an 8x10 Deardorff and lenses and film holders and tripods and dark cloth.

    Hood ornament

    The things I came away with pleased me well enough and there are a few fine palladium prints in storage that I'm particularly proud of.

    Alas, times change and the following year saw me carrying a new digital whiz-bang DSLR.  Such a difference in approach and such a difference in results too.

    Thinking about it, the old alternative process ship has sailed for me.  I can't go back.

    Locomotive - Snow Plow

    Sure, it has it's own sense of beauty and grace.  Yes, the final results can be pure photographic.  But I wonder about the flexibility and I worry that so much process could easily sideline my rather mercurial creativity stream.  I'm not sure my wife would appreciate my bringing explosive materials into our small Paris apartment.

    So, I sit here impatiently waiting the arrival of my now very late Elinchrom studio lighting system.  Between fits of anxiety over whether it'll ever arrive, I dream of photoshoots and creativity and ideas and artistic frameworks of reality.  I test my ideas and hopes and dreams against other artists output.  I remain anxious to get going on new projects.

    I feel like a horse pulling against the reins wanting to get the show on the road.

    Thursday, July 26, 2012

    OK. OK. It sputters and starts again...

    To avoid shipping charges, I sold my Paul Buff Einstein 640, PLM 64 kit before moving out of the US.

    There were times when I regretted that decision.  I loved that kit.  It was flexible, fast to set up, and easy to carry.  Three heads, tripods, parabolic parapluies, portable back drop rig, and I was good to go.

    After arriving in France I realized that for me to replace that kit would set me back nearly 4000USD.  Quel dommage!  Quel horreur!!  C'est vraiment trop cher. 

    What to do?

    "Use the Force", hook up Google's search engine, and do a little investigating, that's what's to do.

    It took me some time, since I was so partial to the Einsteins.  I really wanted that old system, so nothing I looked at was ever good enough.

    The problem, I saw, was that Paul Buff's European rep added a ton of uplift to the cost and padded things a bit to make sure their doors stayed open.  In other words, the cost of doing business put the cost of the Einsteins straight out of my price range.

    Fortunately, after the fog in my thinking cleared and I realized there MUST be other good, if not better, manufacturers of photographic lighting equipment, I stumbled upon Elinchrom.

    Elinchrom offers several light sources, heads, stands, and battery packs.  Since I plan on using these lights only where power is readily available, I could by-pass the rather large costs of a battery pack.

    There were several kinds of heads to choose from, so it came down to choosing what I felt I could afford.

    I sit, even now, out on the back porch of our new apartment down in the 15th arrondissement, in Paris, France, on a rather hot 33C day, listening to a couple several floors up eat a very late dejuner, watching the doves nesting in a tree near by, and wait, not so patiently, for to deliver my new three head Elinchrom BX 500 Ri kit.  They said they'd bring them before 18h00.  It's now 16h00 and my foot is tapping the varanda.

    The portable backdrop, muslin, 109cm parapluies, and reflectors should arrive tomorrow from

    With luck, I might have two models lined up to work with in August and maybe two more to make images with in September.  Though I'm still looking for creative people like those I worked with back in Portland, Oregon, USA.  They'll come.  Soon, I hope.

    Tuesday, July 03, 2012

    I'm growing stale...

    It's been a full three months since we've moved to Paris, France.

    My wife and I have been rather busy.  We needed to visit the OFII to process our long stay visa requests.  We needed to find a new apartment, one that we could live in for at least a year.  We need to get things moved.  All of this has taken an incredible amount of time.

    Time Keeper's Goddess
    Timekeeper's Goddess

    In the meantime, I have been attempting to make connections into the creative community here.  I've been hoping to begin making images again.

    Alas, I'm constrained, just as I said I would be, to making travel photos.

    I have started to look for a place to work in.  I started with dance studios to see if I could find a room I could rent by the hour.  It's possible that there is such a place down in the 14th, but I'll have to see how far it is from our new apartment.

    I have started looking for people to work with.  This is where the differences in cultures between the USA and France seem to be hitting hardest.  The French are indeed conservative.

    Sometimes, back in the States, I would come across someone who felt that the only valid art was "good, professional" art.  In other words, art that hangs in galleries and museums.  Art that plays out on a "professional" stage.  Art that is somehow "acknowledged" to be good by some ill-defined group of "experts".

    Saint Rationalism
    Saint Rationalism

    It's disappointing to find this approach to art is in full play here in France.

    I'm used to finding creative people, sharing a bit of what I do and how I do it, and to come to a point, in many cases, where we could find common ground where all parties could share the results of an art work party.  Some on some level were professional.  Others were simply very creative people looking to extend their art.

    I have yet to find that kind of creativity, quick understanding and engagement here.

    I will need to remain patient.  We've only been here three months.  Still, I look forward to getting out of the habit of making travel photos.

    Thursday, June 07, 2012

    ... just as quickly...

    Just as quickly as the muse arrives to make a "straight" image (see my prior post), she turns and opens the enormous heavy oak doors to reveal a different sister muse.  The first muse leaves and slams the doors behind her.  The second muse comes in and sits herself right down and says "Now is the time to get on with it.  Got it?"

    My wife and I had a visitor.  She was a neighbor of ours back in the States who had come over for a two week science study of marmots in the Alps.  We had laughed, shortly before I lost my job in high tech, that it'd be good fun if we met up in Paris after her study was complete.

    Our change of life experiences was so vast and so complete that we indeed had the opportunity to see our neighbor.  Right here.  In Paris.  For three full days of fun and exploration.

    Study in Anthropomorphism [2]
     Our world is not as it first appears...
    The line to the Louvre was long and reached from the pyramid all the way back to the gates of the original pre-pyramid entry.  We stood there and hem'd and haw'd trying to decide if we wanted to stand in line for hours.

    But, since we couldn't figure out what else to do, and since the line looked like it might be moving nicely, we walked to the end of the line and joined the queue.

    We bitched and moaned and complained about all kinds of things.  Which led to a conversation with an Australian couple who were just in front of us in line.  It was a great way to pass the time and before we knew it, 20 minutes had passed and we were going through the screening station inside the pyramid.  Another 20minutes standing in line to get our tickets and we were on our way to see the Vermeers.

    Alas, the Vermeers had to wait.

    The three of us got completely lost into our own worlds as we experienced the incredible [Bob] Marley statues and the religious stone carvings that date from over 500 years ago.  I had never been in this wing of the Louvre, so it came as a very pleasant surprise to find this treasure trove of incredible art.

    I knew fairly quickly that something interesting might come from the visit.

    Mortal Soul Revealed

    Friday, June 01, 2012


    To anyone who follows my work, seeing a "straight" photograph must come as something of a surprise.

    I tend to work in textures and pulled/pushed colors.  My static objects tend to be heavily re-worked to express a time and place that never existed.  My people photos tend to also be heavily worked to move a scene in directions that, hopefully, express what I feel.  In nearly all cases, seldom, if ever, do I make a solitary image.  I prefer to work larger projects where a common theme, look and feel can be expressed.

    So, you can imagine my own surprise when I stumbled across an image I made in the Passy Cemetery.  Just the one image.  Nothing else.

    Passy is a wonderful place to live.  It's in the 16th arrondisement in Paris, France.  It's people are completely and utterly Parisians.  They are quiet, reserved, and, in many cases, rather well to do.  I sometimes feel more than a little out of place.  Afterall, I'm not much more than a retired software engineering manager of modest means.

    Passy's markets are as up-scale as their clientele.  The bread here is incredible.  The cheeses... words escape me.  The tartelettes are scrumptious.  The chickens, sheep, beef, and pigs are over the top tasty.  The fruits and vegetables are fresh.  Meals around are apartment are generally accompanied with moans and squeals that come from the pleasure of eating fabulous food.

    There is also a small art filled cemetery here.  In fact, it sits on the Trocadero.  Due to the high walls, it sits up and over the place where it can collect the light breezes that sometimes waft their way over the city.  Many people don't even know this place exists, such is their intent on seeing la tour Eiffel sitting off in the opposite direction.

    One day, my wife wanted to sun a bit and I was looking to make a few images.

    The mid-day sun can be difficult to contend with, photographically.  Yet the shade side of the crypts can be wonderful to work near.  The reason is that shadows are filled with light reflecting off near-by light-colored stone crypts.

    Working the image back at the apartment I quickly realized that a light touch was all that the image needed.  A little burning.  A little color space manipulation.  A little contrast control.  Et voila!

    Passy Cemetery