Category Archives: photography

Sloppy borders

I see them on Instagram, on Flikr, and on Facebook.

You’re not fooling me. I know, because I’ve used sloppy borders since 1989.  Real ones, not overlays generated by an artist who maybe has never been in a wet darkroom in their life.

REAL sloppy borders are achieved in the darkroom using roughened and oversized negative carriers.  Each negative creates a unique border as it reflects the image along the highly reflective surfaces of the mangled aluminum negative carrier, this reflection appears in the print.

Filed out Beseler negative carriers. (Not actually mine, mine are in a box somewhere.. but you get the point.)

Filed out Beseler negative carriers. (Not actually mine, mine are in a box somewhere.. but you get the point.)

I first started printing B&W with these borders soon after my arrival in Los Angeles in 1989, upon moving into a cool loft near downtown. A neighboring kid, a photographer, was moving over seas and had an old Beseler enlarger he was selling, so I bought it and a bunch of other stuff.

He had filed out one of the 35mm negative carriers, and these were the older ones with bright aluminum tops, not the newer solid black carriers. These created a unique border. A huge border, but this didn’t work for all the images I was printing.

Since there were 3 35mm carriers, I grabbed one and went to work on it with a file. I made one with a smaller gap, but really rough.

Wow.  It printed beautiful borders.

Mirror Mirror, beautiful REAL sloppy borders. Click to enlarge (electronically, tho)

Mirror Mirror, beautiful REAL sloppy borders. Click to enlarge (electronically, tho)

So I went on a spree of printing all my 35mm in full frame centered on the printing paper.

Then in the mid-90s, back in Austin, I started scanning slides and along came a plug-in for Photoshop called PhotoFrame. This also allowed me to customize the frames and I scanned a large print, cut out the photo to leave the sloppy borders. I then took to placing these around color slides or negatives I’d print.

Now, with apps, you can try to fool people into thinking you shot with film, processed the film and scanned from a real print.

But I still have that border file. I’ve located it and will start using it. It creates a border frame unlike anything provided by Instagram or XnRetro.

Marissa in the old studio. Notice the way her legs are reflected in the border? Doesn't happen in Apps, people...  (click to kinda enlarge)

Another REAL print with sloppy borders.. Marissa in the old studio. Notice the way her legs are reflected in the border? … (click to kinda enlarge)

Go hit my gallery and look at the older Glamor stuff. 90% of the B&W images were scanned from an actual B&W print. Sloppy borders being the real deal there, folks.

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A lot of work to mimic crappy photos from the 70s

Holga-ized Nikon image of a random mountain in Arizona.  Click to enArizonisize

Holga-ized Nikon image of a random mountain in Arizona. Click to enArizonisize


A long time ago, in a land far away, there existed a type of photography that used chemicals. Gas was cheap, the US congress had an approval rating above 25% and we had to wait hours, if not days to see what we photographed. The “good old days”.

Lenses were (and still are) sharp as tacks and the cameras used film, and the final image depended a lot of what type of film you used. You had to work hard to get a really sharp image.  Film grain and film size also determined the final results.

Cameras ranged from high end to what was basically considered toys, with plastic lenses and light leaks.

Artists would often use these cheap toy cameras to create art from the crappy images. You were limited to 12 shots per 120 size roll (24-36 with 35mm). You were a lot more careful what you shot, composing the image with an eye sharpened from years of spending money processing film to find you screwed up somewhere and the results were – at best – shitty.

Then along came digital.  Even the cheap cameras had decent enough lenses to take sharp images with nice color. Yes, film isn’t dead yet.  It’s in a medically induced coma right now, and time is running out.

Many of the toy cameras, Holga, Lomo, and others are still found, but processing is hard to find in smaller towns and doing it yourself takes a big chunk of change to get the equipment and more money for chemicals.

So digital is where it’s at…  and now with Instagram and Facebook, people are using apps to create the look of folder film based images, and going to a lot of work to take a decently exposed digital image and turn it into the by-product of a 1960s 620 Brownie camera with Meniscus lens. Yes, you can still find these cameras, good luck finding the 620 film.  My granny had a Brownie Hawkeye camera with flash. Nice big negative and processing was to be had at any drugstore.

There’s an interesting app I’ve been playing with for the Android called XnRetro.  It’s doing a pretty nice job of mimicking older cameras, especially those like the Lomo with their unique light leaks and badly masked film planes.

I also discovered XnRetro makes a version of its program for Windows, OSx and Linux.  I came across this app while looking at HDR apps.

I downloaded the desktop version and it’s essentially the same as the Android App. No annoying ads, tho. I applied a few of the filters to some existing images shot with the trusty old Nikon and nice results! I have been using it for Instagram posts lately.

Here’s a small gallery of the rework of some Nikon shots from October…



Also posted in Android Apps, Equipment reviews Tagged , , , |

True HDR explained and examples

I thought I’d spend the 2nd day of 2015 talking about “True HDR” versus “HDR effects”.

One is actually HDR, the other isn’t.

A bit of background. HDR is unique to digital photography, because back in the olden days (Pre-Bush Jr) most photography was done via a chemical process. Exposing film in a camera caused a reaction with light sensitive silver nitrate compounds, which were then dunked in various chemical baths to be “developed”. It was during this time/temperature process that the real magic of photography occurred. You never got to see the results until after this process, and I can vividly recall my palpitating heart the first time I opened a processing tank to view my first ever developed roll of Tri-X. Almost beat out by my first ever solo landing in a Cessna… Almost.

Film had a small range of contrast it could handle before it either made shadows go completely black or the highlights went complete white. This range depended on the film you were using. Slide film has the lowest (narrowest) contrast range; certain negative films the widest range.

With black and white negative film one could adjust exposure and then development to compress the image, also called “Zone System”. The Zone System is best remembered as “expose for shadows, process for highlights”

This was best used by photographers utilizing large format cameras, where a single frame could be processed differently from the other frames.

With digital, there is really no processing. So HDR was developed as a way to compensate for the limited exposure range of digital sensors. This is accomplished by making several exposures of a scene, bracketing each exposure to get images with good shadow detail then images with good highlight detail.

Using Photoshop or another piece of software, you then could stack the images and merge them into one single image with shadow and highlight detail. There are various effects that happen, and a good HDR image is almost like what the human eye can see.

Everything else is artistic intent.

HDR effects are simply taking a single, evenly exposed image and getting the HDR look by compressing highlights and shadows and causing edge effects. It’s not really, truly HDR. It’s just an effect.

That effect certainly can’t bring out details in shadows in a scene with extreme range.

Let’s take an extreme example. I uploaded to my gallery a scene of a piece of gnarled tree trunk with the sun backlighting the wood and pine needles. This one I did a 7-EV bracket to allow of the extreme brightness of the direct sun peeking through the pine needles.

Here’s a collage of the 7 exposure range I used….

All 7 exposures. (Click to Loupeify)

All 7 exposures. (Click to Loupeify)

Looking at the contact sheet, you can see where my trusty Nikon thought the proper exposure should be, exposure #4.  Wow…  It’s losing the shadows badly…  and the better single exposure is #5, or plus 1 EV.

And that’s where True HDR comes in.

Using only photoshop, I did a Merge to HDR pro, and played with the settings to achieve a very nice HDR of the scene.

Vola!  Click to gigantisize

Vola! Click to gigantisize

Next post I’ll examine several of the Android apps for HDR photography….

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New Landscape Work…

Been in southern California for about 2 months now, networking out and getting my movie project buzz started. While waiting for meetings, I’ve been wandering around the South Park area of San Diego, just snapping photos with my cell phone, and then I pulled out my Nikon and started taking “serious” pictures.

By serious pictures, I mean I’m hauling around my tripod and several lenses, walking miles a day for the right pictures.

Many people will hit the usual areas of a city, but I went out looking for unusual and unique to the area photo opportunities. First scouting with my cell phone camera, and then going back when the weather was “just right” with the better equipment.

Decided to shoot “HDR” type of images this time out. Then started up an Instagram account to share them around. My Instagram is Oldtex59, or clink this link.


Even an out of the box version of Photoshop or Lightroom can process HDR images quite well. For this blog post, I’m not creating a HDR tutorial. This is mostly showing off some recent photos.

My method is to use a tripod, fire off 5 or 7 or, hell, even 9 exposures using the Nikon’s bracketing mode. I set it for a EV shift per exposure, such as -2, -1, 0, +1 and +2… etc.  I then look at the images in Lightroom, export a TIFF or PSD from the Nikon raw file, then stack these in Photoshop using the automagical Merge to HDR Pro (found under File, Automate). I’ll fiddle around with the various settings, looking at making a very naturalistic HDR or out-of-this world Vivid van Gogh image… with a touch of Tim Burton.

Check them out, in the new gallery collection, San Diego HDR.  It’ll be updated while I’m in SD.

Cheers and have a happy New Year!

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This is a simple comparison between a dedicated film scanner, the Plustek OpticFilm 7300 and a Canon 9000F.

Unless the Canon has improved significantly with the newer 9000F MarkII, this remains valid.

I shot mostly 35mm and I have a few tens of thousands of slides.  I also have 120 film and a medium format camera, so I needed something to scan both.  I got the Canon because funds were limited and I needed a scanner under 200.

I was disappointed with the quality of scan from the 9000F scanning 35mm.  So recently, I managed to get a Plustek for under 120.

A serious difference.  Like between a VHS tape and a BluRay Disc.

Example – from the Canon: full frame

Canon Canoscan 9000F at 7200 dpi

Zoom into the eye, and see how soft the scan is (click to view):


Crop of eye, notice how it’s completely lacking in sharpness.

Now, same slide from the Plustek Opticfilm 7300:

From the Plustek Opticfilm 7300 @ 7200 dpi

Now, zoom into the eye (again, click to view):

Zoom of the eye – notice clear film grain!

Yes, what appears to the untrained eye as “noise” is actually the grain from the film.  This is what I expect of a good, sharp 7200 dpi scan of a slide!

This is Kodak’s Ektachrome 100SW.   This is a reversal film, which produced a positive color image without needing to be printed.

The 7300 doesn’t have any scratch removal hardware, but I had a Nikon LS-200 from 1998 until it died in 2006, and when it removed dust the resulting image was often soft…  and it never worked on B&W film anyway.

You have to move each slide into place and start the new scan, but it’s easier to use than the other sub-$500 scanners on the market.

This will do until I have the funds for a Nikon V!!

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Head shot special

To celebrate getting a studio space opened up – I’m running a head shot special Feb 25th through March 2nd.

More info here:


Also posted in Models Tagged , , |

Model Search

Looking for models to help me get back “into the swing” of things.

See the Menu header marked “Model Testing”

Also posted in News

I love old photos….

And Shorpy is one of my favorite regular reads online.

The above image is captioned: October 1939. “The Free children in doorway of their dugout home in Sunday clothes. Dead Ox Flat, Malheur County, Oregon.” Medium format nitrate negative by Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration.

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The Merits of Shooting Film in the Digital World —

There are several advantages to shooting film, some concrete and others philosophical. When you shoot film, you are exposing light onto silver halide crystals covered in layers of dye in the instance of color film. The size of the average silver halide crystal is about 1 micron. Thus the total amount of “image receptors” for a piece of 35mm film will be about 100 million. That number will only jump up as we utilize medium or large format and you will near the one billion mark. This number of image receptors will manifest itself to the user as definable in detail, and especially so when enlarging negatives. Digital captures on a pixel, and a current pixel’s range in size from 3.4 to 11 microns. This translates to a full size 35mm sensor, say the one that is found in the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III SLR Digital Camera as having about 14 million “image receptors”. To make matters more complicated for digital capture we have to factor in the Nyquist limit, which was discovered by a Swedish-American scientist of the same name. This sampling theorem proves that to avoid massive aliasing distortion and artifacts two pixels are needed to capture a single detail. Clearly, film has advantages in capturing details, especially when enlargements are made. This stands true today, but as the mega pixel count goes up, the gap will narrow. Advantages are not only found in the details, they continue onto dynamic range and exposure as well.

via The Merits of Shooting Film in the Digital World —


And this is why I still shoot film myself……… I”m one of the 4% who still shoot film.

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Street Portrait gallery updated with more images

Added a few more images.. check it out!

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