Jan 18 2007

A tedious technical note


Maybe I’m imagining it, but it seems as though some of the more sensitive among you express, from time to time, an interest in what kind of camera I use, and whether I would sink so low as to affect photo-blurriness through Photoshop rather than “naturally” and so forth. At the risk of boring the many for the sake of the few, I have compiled a little dossier on the Twisty Photo Studio.

Right away we should clear one thing up. I am, in a sort of secularly pneumatological sense, a photographer, but I know next to nothing about photography. Nothing, I mean, about the mechanical aspects of the sport that so many seem to find so absorbing. Sometimes my fellow layabouts in coffee shops, keenly observing that I am lugging around the world’s largest SLR, mistake me for someone who has the slightest idea what an F-stop is.* Conversations with these people are awkward.

Sometimes there are attempts to engage me in a digital-vs-film debate. Digital is so cold, Photoshop is so phony, etc. The eyes glaze over. This technology-is-the-enemy-of-art argument is on my last nerve. I ask you: what picture, beginning with Lascaux, has ever been possible without technology?

But I digress. The large camera to which I allude is a Canon EOS 1D. It weighs about 57 pounds, making it more sidekick than camera. It is a professional instrument the capabilities of which vastly exceed my expertise. If I were given to lyric excess, I might call it a behemoth, except that it is not entirely a beast rude full of cursedness. I encumber myself with it because, unlike all other digital cameras, when you depress the shutter it takes continuous shots until you release it. All cameras should do this. I cannot understand why they don’t.

To the aforementioned giant camera it is my current fad to attach a ridiculous appurtenance called a Lensbaby, a lens that essentially makes everything look kind of wack. I suspect that the Lensbaby is a phase all novice photographers go through, if they are the sort of people who believe strongly that if you’re going to do away with entire dimensions, the least you can do is bestow upon their remains some glowy blursomeness. I love my Lensbaby because it has freed me from the tyranny of the Holga and all that tedious medium-format film (which produces a similar result but only after considerably greater effort). The Lensbaby, in other words, gives you that inexpert, piece-of-shit look without all the hassle of having to become good. Lately I am enamored of the wide angle attachment, which, as you might infer from the picture, looks, feels, and wiggles insolently like a length of vacuum cleaner hose. You focus it by squeezing it in and out and side to side with your bare hands, hoping for the best.


As for Photoshop: I use and abuse it daily. Verisimilitude is not a goal. I can certainly appreciate subtlety and nuance in “art” generally, but as a practitioner, my leanings are toward the neon-paint-on-black-velvet school. My taste is not exquisite. Weep for me.

* In South Austin coffee shops, about every third schmoe and his mongrel black lab has a camera hanging off him. Or her. Austin, as I’m sure you are aware, is supposedly home to a large “creative class,” which I think means “people for whom cameras and dogs, as well as Mini-Coopers, flip-flops, and bed-head, are requisite accessories.”


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  1. Carpenter

    Remind me is Austin the town Slacker is set in? If it is, do those bullshit conversations really happen?

  2. anarkallisti

    I love the Lensbabies. They make everything look like art in a way that the Holgas don’t. Also, as someone who has spent much of her adult life working in photo labs, I can’t discourage the use of Holgas strongly enough. The sheer pain experienced by the poor schmuck stuck with the job of printing film that has come out of a Holga is simply not worth it. That and, at least in my area, Holgas seem to only be used to shoot young hipsters in various stages of undress and their cats.

  3. Chris Clarke

    but if you’re holding the camera in that shot, what did you take the picture with?

  4. Twisty

    The 1D is so fancy it can photograph itself from across the room.

  5. Twisty

    Carpenter: yes, and yes.

  6. Sandy D.

    The Lensbaby shots remind of a photographer near me, in lovely Ypsilanti, who takes pinhole pictures with cameras made out of paint cans and Altoid boxes and the like: http://blackcustard.livejournal.com/

    He also uses a lot of cheap plastic toy cameras, and a Holga. I have no idea what a Holga is, but it sounds archaic and artsy.

    I’m not sure whether comparing your work is insulting to you, or to him, or to both of you, so let’s just say I like all of it.

    PS Your anti-spam question requires me to know what a sum is. Good thing I’ve been helping my 4th grader with math homework.

  7. kathy a

    i actually made a pinhole camera in 3d grade, using a cigar box. it took a respectable enough photo. my dad had a darkroom in the garage; he supervised this particular science fair project. alas, both the digital revolution and lensbaby passed dad by. when he died, he had a garage full of equipment, but his only digital was a mini-“spy” camera, the artistic qualities of which are zip.

  8. yankee transplant

    Terrific post and even better photos. Verbal and visual delight!

  9. Becker

    That top picture is so Residents.

  10. CafeSiren

    As far as tedious goes, this isn’t. At least, not to me. Thanks for the info.

  11. speedbudget

    Your posts are always good, but sometimes they make me love you a lot more than usual. This is one.

  12. stingray

    Yeah, uh, Twisty, I’ve been meaning to tell you. That camera’s kinda’ crowding me out. What’s a sidekick to do?

  13. Twisty

    Stingray’s just being a tool. She knows I’ve got two sides. That’s one for each kick. Ow.

  14. Pony

    Is that a raised fist on little Rotel?

  15. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Your taste is not exquisite? Meh. Eye of the beholder. The arbiters of taste are snobs. I’m no snob, and I say to anyone who is, it’s your problem. Keep snapping what catches your fancy (and sharing it with us, of course).

  16. alphabitch

    I used to have the film version of the Canon EOS, and also a Nikon 8008, both of which had that continuous-shots-as-long-as-you-held-the-button-down feature, which I miss terribly. Why indeed don’t they all do this? The digital camera I use at work now is the Nikon Coolpix, and it fails on this count and several others. I’m wondering now if I can attach one of these lensbaby devices to it. My life would be improved quite a lot if I could. I’m enjoying the Holga, but it is a lot of expense and hassle. Plus I hate having to wait to see the results — especially given that I’m only really pleased with maybe ten percent of the pictures and I’d like not to have to deal with the other ninety percent. And yes! to digital manipulation of the pictures — although I use Macromedia’s Fireworks instead of Photoshop.

    And Stingray, you’re no slouch as a photographer yourself — no new work posted lately? Or am I looking in the wrong place?

  17. Twisty

    You can stick a Lensbaby on any SLR. Lensbabies.com. I use the 2.0 version, personally, but I’m thinking of getting an Original.

  18. Harpie

    I’m in looove with the Original LensBaby. I have a bad Macro habit already…think of the amazing bird photos I could get with a LensBaby! Cool. Hey, my birthday is coming up…

  19. deja pseu

    Oh, Twisty, I love that picture of the little girl with the sunglasses! It looks just like a picture of my little sister at the same age (and with a similar poofy dress and and I’ll swear the exact same white plastic sunglasses) from the early 60’s. Wonderful!!!

  20. the first born fish

    I shoot most of my black and white with a Holga, and I get some amazing (and crisp, and clear, but still somehow soft and artsy) prints. The problem is not with the cameras but with most of the photographers (Holgagraphers).

    Half-naked hipsters and their cats (as mentioned above), probably own one for the hipness factor, and prooobably don’t have an interest in photography beyond vain self-preservation.


  21. KMTberry

    If it is, do those bullshit conversations really happen?

    I was in SLACKER, and I can tell you that it was ENTIRELY scripted, if that helps, as well as fully typecast….(I was typecast as frigid old maid, quite accurately actually). It is an annoying movie; I try to kindly think of it as a student film, and you know, it isn’t terrible, just really, really youthful.

  22. aymayzed

    “Also, as someone who has spent much of her adult life working in photo labs, I can’t discourage the use of Holgas strongly enough. The sheer pain experienced by the poor schmuck stuck with the job of printing film that has come out of a Holga is simply not worth it.” anarkallisiti.

    It’s not exactly Holga qua Holga then – if a person’s using any kind of pin-hole, then why aren’t they using positives, and if they’re using a neg format box, which a quick search just now tells me is a Holga, then why aren’t they making their own artistic prints? What does the user expect a lab to do with their creations, fer chrissake? Put them in a colour-correction puter?
    Laughing at all this fashion stuff.

    Back to work next week.
    Thanks for the fun break on the wholly wacky web.

  23. poody

    I really miss talking witch ya. How can I reopen communications?!
    And I’m jealous of yer camera.


  24. Betsy Carson

    You’ve got the coolest juice on the planet!

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