Sunday, September 27, 2009

Michelle in Swimwear, 1992

In the days before Photoshop, I had a client with five swimming suits but budget for only one model, let alone compositing multiple shots by the printer.  My solution was to shoot with a 4x5 view camera through a narrow slit cut in black cardboard in front of the lens, starting with the back shifted all the way to the right.  I took 18 pictures of each swim suit, shifted the back to the left 20% and ran throught the same film again, building up multiple exposures.  The client was so happy with the result that even  after we had budght for more models, he wanted to keep with this look.  Other clients liked the approach, too, so similar shots wound up as store posters.  This was my first try, though, and it sure helped to have a good, experienced model to make it work.  On a sad note, Michelle was in a bad car accident shortly after this picture was made, putting an early end to her modelling career.

Technical: Sinar F 4x5 camera, Schneider G-Claron 240mm f9.0, Fujichrome 50, f/22 @ 1/125s, Broncolor Flashman head in Chimera bank, silver reflector to give shine to the skin.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Diane Leicht, 1980

We had Diane Leicht under exclusive contract for Stix, Baer & Fuller for a couple of years, such was her talent and on-camera appeal.  Since there isn't much to date it, so this shot for bath and beauty products just sort of stayed in my portfolio.  Diane is from St. Louis and went on to some success in NYC and Europe.

Technical: Nikon F2, Micro-Nikkor 105mm f4.0, Kodachrome 25 Professional, f//11.0 @ 1/60s, lit with single Balcar strobe head shot through a silver/white umbrella.  Print on Cibachrome F using my own first developer formula and reversal process.  Copied with a Nikon D700 and Nikkor 50mm f1.4G.

Historical Note: I was pitching some old Camera World magazines, circa 1979, and noticed an article about non-silver photography.  Among the technologies being considered viable at the time, like UV sensitive plastics that could be erased with a hair dryer (I had a sheet of the stuff that I used to make highlight masks), was the "dark horse" of the day, the Charge Coupled Device.  At the time, CCDs were used mostly for esoteric photometry by astronomers and NASA.  To get an acceptable signal to noise ratio, the chips required a bath of liquid nitrogen.  The only dynamic, non-volatile memory available in 1980 was the bubble chip and 1K of single channel memory cost about $100.  The author of the article estimated that for a digital photography system to replace 35mm color gold standard, Kodachrome 25 Professional, would require 15 to 18 million pixels.

Looking at the 11x14 print of Diane, I realize that the Camera World author had it right.  Same size prints from my 12 mega-pixel D700 still fall just short of the Kodachrome 25 resolution.  Nikon's 24 mega-pixel D3x, released Spring 2009, is the first 35mm DSLR to actually surpass Kodachrome 25, a mere thirty years after the Camera World article.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

African Mast #2, St. Louis Art Museum

This fierce and beautiful mask is one of the more elaborately carved examples in the collection on display, this subject presented a number of challenges.  First it is behind glass with a number of reflections.  Second, it is really dark, despite the spotlight.  Finally, the color balance of the spotlight is odd, maybe 3000K.  Since this is typical of the kind of shooting I like to do in a museum, I purchased the new Nikkor 50mm f1.4G.  With this lens, the veiwfinder is bright enough to see potential issues.  Shooting at f/2.0 kept the glass reflections at a minimum.

Technial: Nikon D700, Nikkor AF-S 50mm f1.4G, ISO 200, f/2.0 @ 1/20s handheld, auto white balance. RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.4.  The primary adjustment was finding the odd-ball color balance.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gargoyle Study #1

Gargoyle Study #1

Calumet Portable Shooting Table

Some new equipment I really wish I'd had in my studio days, the Calumet Portable Shooting Table and two Adorama Flashpoint 85w (480w equiv.) florescent banks.  The table is very well made, surprisingly sturdy and breaks down and stows away in a bag about the size of a back pack bed roll.  The Flashpoint banks have a cheap feel, but for $39, not that bad considering the replacement bulbs are $20 each.  The light on the stand (right) has a removable scrim hanging down.  The light on the floor, behind the table, has the scrim in place.  With the bulbs removed, the banks fold up to the size of a portable umbrella.

To test its strength, I snatched the nearest gargoyle weighing in at about four pounds and put it on the table.  Amazingly, the 1/8 inch flexible plastic sweep didn't deform much at all and the statue remained perfectly level.  Not having to worry about melting the table with quartz lighting is awesome - that used to drive me nuts!  The bank without the scrim delivers a broad light that is sharp enough to give nice shadows.

I think the claimed 480w tungsten equivalent is overly optimistic.  It looks more like 250w to me.  I'll run some color tests as soon as I get a new ColorChecker kit.

Technical: Nikon D700, Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8 AF, ISO 200, f4.0 @ 1/100s, tripod with barely adequate for the combo Manfrotto 486RC2 ball head.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2..

Christina and Natalie, 1980

One of the older pictures from my book stars Christina Kemper, left, and Natalie Zimmerman in Oscar del la Renta for a Stix, Baer & Fuller newspaper ad.  It won a number of awards at the time, believe it or not.  We shot this at the Jefferson Memorial in Forest Park, several years before the renovation.  Christina was kind enough to fly in from Chicago for shoots.  Natalie started her modeling career in St. Louis, then moved to NYC.  I think she was visiting when we shot this.  The art director for this was the great Ranny Millier, who was always open to all my experiments.  This was a full page newspaper ad for a department store, so the grainy film and blurred movement were fairly brave decisions on his part.

Technical: Nikon F2, 105mm f2.5, Ilford HP5 @ ASA 400 processed in Durafine, f/8.0 @ 1/15s in norther skylight.  Printed on Ilford Multigrade FB, bleached in 5% potassium ferrocyanide, then soaked in Kodak Rapid Selenium 1:64 to get neutral whites and blue Zone III values, then drum ferro-typed.  Wow, did I do all that?  

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mei-Li In A Red Jacket, 1992

Don't laugh!  That jacket will be back in style Spring 2010.  Mei-Li Miller was one of the very best models with whom it was my pleasure and good fortune to work.  I wish I had more pictures of her printed, but this one was still in my old fashion book.

Technical: Hasselblad 500 CM, Zeiss 150mm f4.0, Fujichrome 50, f/11.0 @ 1/8s, Broncolor flash on model, Lowell DP with barn doors on background, handheld.  I was going through a flash blur phase; I still like the effect if it is subtle.  Film processed using a modified E-6 kit.  Among other things, I discovered that I got a longer tonal scale with Fujichrome by using real light instead of a chemical fog agent.  Print is on Cibachrome F, using my own formula for the first developer.  Yes, I mixed my own Cibachrome first developer from scratch.  The copy is really flat.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Terrence, 1990

Here is another entry from my fashion days.  Terrence was one of my favorite models, always bringing something fresh and inventive to the set, never afraid to take a chance.  I don't remember what this was for, but I do remember is was very cold in the studio and that we worked on New Year's Eve.

Technical: Leica M2, Leica 90mm f2.8, yellow #10 filter, Agfa 25 developed in Rodinal, f/8.0 @ 1/60s, lighting Broncolor, spot head on a boom.  Printed on Agfa Brovira Grade 3, Kodak Rapid Selenium toner 1:64 to cool the print color.  Copied with a Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm f1.4G, lit with Flashpoint fluorescent banks.

Linda Keaton, 1992

A survivor from my old fashion and beauty portfolio.   The model is Linda Keaton, hair and make-up by Jackie Hicks and I wore the art director hat.  We made the shot for our portfolios, and it was successful in opening some doors for us, I'm happy to say.

I decided to make digital copies of some old prints.  The exercise demonstrated that I really need a proper copy board and calibrate my camera.

Technial: Hasselblad 500 CM, Zeiss Sonnar 150mm f/4, Agfa 25 film, north window light + Broncolor studio strobe, f/5.6 @ 1/8s, handheld to get slight flash blur, printed on Agfa Portriga Rapid Grade 3, Kodak Selenium Toner 1:32.  Copied with a Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm f14 G, ISO 200, f/5.6 @ 1/40s, lit with twin Flashpoint 5500K 85w fluorescent banks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Glass and Brick Study #2, Clayton, Missouri

Another picture I took during Art St. Louis '09.  The color version is very dull, but I think the monochrome saves it by emphasizing the design.  The 180mm "Leni" lens is just amazingly smooth and easy to handle.  The flattened perspective helps de-empahsize non-parallel lines, but I still find it a little annoying.

While I don't miss lugging the equipment and tedious setup, I do miss the extra control afforded by a view camera for architectural work.  Once upon a time I owned an enormous 450mm f9.0 Schneider Symmar HM that I used primarily as a portrait lens for my Sinar F 8x10.  As I was shooting and trying to frame to minimize the converging parallels, it occurred to me that 450mm on a 4x5 yields roughly the same perspective as a 180mm on a DX sensor.  

Technical: Nikon D700, Nikkor AF 180mm f2.8 ED-IF, ISO 200, -1.0 exp. comp., f/8.0 @ 1/2500s.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.5 to convert to greyscale, then use split toning add sepia to mid tones.

Utility Wires #1 - Clayton, Missouri

It is amazing to me that anybody could make sense of this maze of wire, but the fact that I was able to get a composition suggests some sort of order.
Technical: Nikon D700, Nikkor 180mm f2.8 ED-IF ("Leni" lens), ISO 200, f/8.0 @ 1/2500s, handheld.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.5 to apply Nikon Landscape camera preset and convert to a tone I think is close to a Agfa Portriga Rapid lightly bleached in a 5% solution of potassium ferrocyanide. 

Glass and Brick Study #1 - Clayton, MO

What can I say - I love the color and lines that nod to art deco.  I've been wanting to begin shooting cityscapes again and this makes a good start for me.
Technical:  Nikon D700, Nikkor AF 180mm f2.8 ED-IF, ISO 200, f/8.0 @ 1/1000s, -2.0 exposure comp, handheld.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2 to apply the Nikon Landscape camera preset.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Construction Crane - Clayton, MO

A dozen or so construction cranes peek above the Clayton skyline.  The closed off streets for Art St. Louis provided vantage points not usually accessible.  I keep thinking about Salvador Dali's "Soft Construction with Boiled Beans" for some reason.
Technical: Nikon D700, Nikkor AF 180mm f/2.8 ED-IF, ISO 200, f/8.0 @ 1/1600s, -1.0 stop exposure comp.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.  The crane is a bright yellow, which felt too bright for the composition, so I desaturated and worked on brightness.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lily Pad Study #5 - Missouri Botanical Gardens

I've seen some nice shots of the Chihuly glass onions in the Missouri Botanical gardens lily ponds, but I really don't like them.  A long lens helps to shoot around them, but it isn't easy!  The wind blows these pads around quite a bit.  I got set up, then had to wait about 20 minutes for the second pad from the top to drift back into the frame.  My Manfrotto 486 RC2 ball head was also drifting quite a bit because the camera/lens combo is just too heavy for it.
Technical: Nikon D700, Nikkor AF 180mm f2.8 ED-IF, ISO 200, Cokin circular polarizer, f/16 @ 1/30s, tripod, ball head, cable release.

Water Lily With Insect - Missouri Botanical Gardens

I've been eager to try out my new Nikkor AF 180mm f2.8 ED-IF "Leni" lens at the botanical gardens, but it wound up being an exercise in frustration because my Manfrotto 486RC2 ball head is not heavy duty enough to support it.  I was hoping to do some HDR work, but the frame kept drifting during the brackets.  I'd love to hear recommendations for medium priced ball heads.  The "Leni" lens is really magnificent!  I wish I'd purchased one much sooner.

Technical: Nikon D700, Nikkor AF 180mm f2.8 ED-IF, ISO 200, Cokin circular polarizer, f/16 @ 1/15s, using tripod, ball head and cable release.  The polarizer made a big difference in color saturation.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2 to straighten (fixing ball head drift), apply Nikon's Camera Vivid profile (first time I've actually used it) and burn in the foreground -1.0 (the light was very flat).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I've been shooting photo gear today for our Zootography class in October. This image will be used on the lead slide of the 'Lenses' section of the talk. It's a front-on view of my 24-70mm f/2.8. There's something weirdly recursive about shooting photo gear, but I think this image has a nice tranquility about it. Nikon D2x, 85mm f/1.8, f/11 @ 1/125, ISO 200.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Meramec River - Castlewood Park

Infrared view of the Meramec River from the big hill at Castlewood Park.  Nikon D700, Nikkor AF 24-85mm f2.8-4 IF, ISO 200, Cokin P007 infrared filter, 28mm @ f/8.0 @ 1/400s, monochrome capture.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2 to make minor exposure and contrast adjustments.

Cloud Formation - APR-S Version

This is a sepia update to an earlier post.  As I was preparing to make a print, it seemed to benefit from the sepia conversion, opening up the tones and giving a more airy feel.  Nikon D100, Nikkor AF 180mm f2.8 ED-IF "Leni Lens", ISO 200, f/8.0 @ 1/3200s.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2 to crop and tone conversion by first converting to monochrome, then using the split tone to add color to taste to the shadows.  The tone reminds me of one of my favourite conventional combinations, Agfa Portriga Rapid with a light selenium toner to cool it a tad.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Diseased Leaves - Castlewood Park

Strands of tiny white flowers decorate a patch of diseased, semi-devoured leaves along the River View trail in Castlewood Park. Nikon D700, 24-84mm f2.8-f4.0, ISO 200, 48mm @ f/8.0 @ 1/50s. RAW capture processed in Lightroom 2 to crop and convert to sepia.

Railroad Spike - Castlewood Park

A spike displaced to a fence post on the River View Trail. Nikon D700, 24-85mm f2.8-f4.0 in macro mode, ISO 200, 52mm @ f/8.0 @ 1/50s handheld. RAW file processed in Lightroom 2 to crop, adjust contrast and apply Sepia preset.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cloud Formation - Castlewood Park

Another cloud shot from my recent Castlewood hike. This is an in-camera monochrome capture through the Cokin P007 infrared filter. Nikon D700, ISO 200, Nikon 180mm f2.8, f/8.0 @ 1/100s, handheld. RAW file processed in Lightroom 2 to crop 1:1 and adjust contrast.

The Arch vs. The East Side

Um...hello! My name is Benjamin Gandhi-Shepard, and aside from being a STL based photographer I also happen to sit next to the Personable Preston Page at work. He showed me this blog site and I begged him for permission to share some (E)STL based photos.
So, here we go. This is a photo that I took several years ago when I used to work in East St. Louis. I've always liked the classic night time shot of STL from the river bank. And I think that image influenced the framing of this shot, however from a couple miles back...and with an ESTL (industrial) foreground/midground.
Canon 20D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO 200, 22mm @ f/9.0 @ 1/125s, handheld. JPEG beatup and cleaned up in Photoshop CS.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Meramec Valley - Castlewood Park

Meramec Valley from the big hill in Castlewood Park. On a clear day, it is worth the hike for the veiw. Nikon D700, Nikon 24-85mm f/2.8-f/4.0, ISO 200, 35mm @ f/8.0 @ 1/4000s, handheld. RAW file processed in Lightroom 2 using the Nikon D700 Landscape preset, otherwise this is straight out of the camea.