Apr 20 2006

The Twisty Photo Lab

Photo by iMac

More often, even, than “why do you hate women and men and babies and women?” I am asked what kind of camera I use. I am going to explain it all here, and then stick it in the FAQ, but first be apprised: don’t use me as any kind of camera-chick role model. What I know about photography could fit in George W Bush’s brain.

My first photolosophy is this: it’s already fake; it can’t hurt to make it faker. My other photolosophy is this: taking pictures is creepy voyeurism, but there you are.

The Twisty Institute’s main camera is a Canon 10D, which is a digital SLR. It is very heavy and obtrusive, so of course it, along with about sixteen other electronic devices, is strapped to my person at all times. I never leave the house without it.

Most of my lenses are even heavier and more obtrusive than the camera. I alternate between a Canon EF 16-35mm zoom, a Tamron 18-200mm zoom, a Sigma 30mm, and a Canon 100mm macro. I also have a Canon EF 70-200mm, but it is the size of the Hubble Telescope and can cause fatal traffic accidents if it is pointed at fleeing celebrities, so I only haul it out to take pictures of shy birds. Bug photos require the macro treatment. Most of the shots on the blog were taken with the 16-35. Man, I love that lens. It’s all beat up from being inadvertently swung into about 3679 door jambs and dropped on sidewalks and left to melt on car seats. Just now, as I was gazing upon it with rapt admiration, I perceived that it has a piece of mouldering garlic stuck to it.

To maximize artificiality, I deploy the 10D’s horrid built-in flash on all outdoor photos. The aforementioned flash is stupid, and burns out anything that isn’t already illuminated pretty well, so for indoor shots I bought a small Speedlite. I almost never use it, though, because it makes the camera fit in the bag wrong. Sure, I could take it off, but that sort of thing is counter-intuitive to a busy spinster aunt on the go. Instead, I stick a handy little cheap diffuser thing, called a LumiQuest Soft Screen, over the built-in flash, and stop that shit down a couple. Photos taken this way still sort of suck, but not as bad as they would if I didn’t use anything. The LumiQuest Soft Screen was sold to me by a nice guy at Precision Camera on N. Lamar who told me all about his bad knees.

But that’s only the beginning. I am a rabid devotee of Photoshop, and I don’t care who knows it. I use and abuse it on practically every picture. No color is sacred, no imperfection is safe. I blur, I stretch, I rotate, I make rotten tomatoes look tasty, I make happy people look depressed. All photos are then blogulized (i.e. turned into small JPEGs) using Photoshop’s companion program, ImageReady. Because I am a horrible photographer, I am not above using the “sharpen” filter.

I know nothing whatsoever about film photography.


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  1. nomorenuts.org

    If it weren’t for the fact that I’m sure you’re much smarter than me, I’d ask if we’re related. I am a hopelessly sucky but nonetheless devoted slave to photoshop…and I can’t think of a time when I haven’t used the “sharpen” filter! I’m buying myself a big fat MF of a new camera as soon as my thesis is finished. If I bought it now I’d be poor and procrastinating more than ever. Incidentally, if you take your camera to the grocery store (I do) look to see if they have any fresh flowers being chilled and bundled in white lacey plastic. The lighting is fantastic. And you wouldn’t believe the fun you can have with reflections! Ya…I’m a sizable dork!

  2. blog.3bulls.net

    I knew it! You could make a bowl of stale cheez-its look good. I have to tell you though, the food presentation clearly goes beyond the images, it is always tasetful, especially the lack of blog.republicofdogs.net trashy, white plates. If there is one thing I adore about Twisty, it’s the faboo dinnerware. Not so much a fan of the writing though.

    Just to add insult to insult….how about some more of these….you can’t handle it…..!!!!!11!!211


  3. You already know you should be using the dedicated swivel flash made for your camera model, with off-camera capabilities, and possible a slave flash too.


    You may already be doing this. It’s worth a try if you aren’t: To minimize shadow shoot in the shade (never in bright sun) and use fill flash, and/or shoot facing a white wall and the flash will bounce off the wall a bit back onto the food. Then you shouldn’t have to stop down.

  4. members.cox.net/thevixen/Cayenne/1.html

    Wow! You have lovely coloring! In fact, you could get work on a SciFi production and never need to spend hours in the make up chair. That would leave time open for blaming. I’m about to get Photoshop just because I’m ready to surrender. Resistance is futile.

  5. Damn! and here I was, thinking I could go out and buy a cheapo digital camera and take equally lovely pictures of my dinner!
    Seriously, I have been saving for a digital camera in part because I’m inspired by the photos of critters and food on your site, Twisty. Now I guess I have to learn how to use photoshop, too.

  6. I seriously have always thought that you were just damn talented with a camera phone. Now I can stop beating myself up over it and give up.
    Obviously I know nothing about photography.

  7. notahamsandwich.com

    I covet your lenses.

    For that, I blame my own glass greed.
    (And, of course, I also blame the patriarchy.)

  8. Why do you keep your camera stuff in your pantry? (I like purple flavor Powerade too).

  9. Is that a Fisher Price kid I see on the shelf above the PowerAde?

  10. nomorenuts.org

    Pony says, “Is that a Fisher Price kid…?”

    Annie says, That’ll teach Aunt Twisty to let strangers peer into her camera bag.

  11. I’ve been doing some searches on this breeding topic. Salon has been all over it, and several, nay dozens, of other hits came up. Here’s one. I have no idea what they’re trying to say.

    Hormones may lead penguins to kidnapping:

    Speaking of Salon.com. IBTP was mentioned there *again* in the Broadsheet section. Not only in the “blogs we read” section on the left, but in a Broadsheet throw. Journalists/writers love Twisty. They know hot damn when they see it.

    Salon quoting Twisty:

    “Gray area? “The lip curls. The laugh is mirthless,” says I Blame the Patriarchy, who alerted us to this story.”

    They have five pages of reader comments.

  12. my dad built a photo lab in our garage in the 1960’s. he crafted the swamp sinks of fiberglass over wood, managed the plumbing, taught himself about chemicals and techniques, and personally sealed all the light leaks. he had a ton of equipment, and could make 30″x40″ blowups of anything — well into his 60’s, he’d pull all-nighters to do his photo jobs on tight deadlines. his little darkroom TV had a special red filter, so he could catch his spy shows while he worked.

    my dad got sick just as digital photography was taking off. by the time he died, his prized collection of film gadgets was basically worthless. now i have a little pocket-sized digital, and a doodad that prints snapshots right at my desk, in color even. we haven’t taken the photoshop plunge yet, but it’s just a matter of time.

    dad would have *adored* the new gagetry. his only digital was a mini-spy-camera, about the size of a keychain, and able to take photos with the resolution you might expect from a toaster. i know he’d envy your lenses — who wouldn’t?

    dad ended up with 4 daughters. we were the only kids on the block to get super-secret-walkie-talkie briefcases for holiday gifts, and who knew how to develop prints.

  13. Those wouldn’t be those GAY penguins, Pony, would they?

  14. Kathy A. That’s a lovely story about your dad. Thank you.

    Ms. Kate: Have you noticed the spate of research articles that have this evolutionary biology theme to them? Kind of like: the Bonobos did it and that’s why we do it. Case closed.

  15. saraarts.com

    Nice coloring. Reminiscent of Elphaba.

  16. blog.3bulls.net

    Is that Walmart sports drink in the background?

  17. Twisty

    You freaks! It’s yellow-flavored Gatorade! But I made it purple with Photoshop! Behold the power!

  18. blog.3bulls.net


    I also refer to Gatorade flavor by its color. “Chemical” doesn’t really help me convince myself there was a reason to buy it in the first place, whereas I can say “orange” and others will think I mean the taste.

  19. blog.3bulls.net

    PS. IT also looks decidedly NASCAR themed. YUCK. I would give a million dollars if someone could sponsor a Twisty excursion, in the Airstream, to the Texas Motor Speedway.

    I would post taco porn from now until the cows come home to make that happen.

    Roller derby is the gateway drug to NASCAR.

  20. You freaks! It’s yellow-flavored Gatorade! But I made it purple with Photoshop! Behold the power!

    WHEW! Twisty! For a moment there,I thought you were suffereing the long term effects of being systematically poisoned within an inch of your life. Next we know, you would experience a certain rigor of the facial muscles, yielding a permanent grin and penchant for truly evil retributions against the patriarchy with your super powers of Femme!

    When does the radioactive spider come in? 10am?

  21. And Pony, I have noticed. Of course I noticed. You see, there certainly must be a study somewhere that says that Pandas have recently noticed a spate of humans reading articles which imply some sort of reality-based anthropomorphism in a retro-regressive-meta-cognative-ev-psych direction from beast to man way.

    Chock it up to the emergent evolution of awareness that humans really are animals, grafted to “it’s nature baby” patriarchy.

  22. climactericclambake.blogspot.com

    Please tell me that you said “sharpen” for brevity’s sake, and not because you use the “sharpen” filter as oppposed to the superior “unsharp mask!” Mmm, Photoshop fanatic and Canon bling, what could be better, except that I bet you do it all on a Mac?

  23. redstatefeminist.blogspot.com

    your images are masterfully beautiful. I can’t often read your blog before lunch or I get hungry, tho’…

    I wish you could take a photo of this delightful Pastichio I am currently enjoying! The crunchy golden top! The creamy sauce! The knobby macaroni! The seasoning! — Yums!

    oop, too late. its’ gone.

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