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Author Topic: Question regarding Yousof Karsh  (Read 26457 times)
eitanwaks
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« on: April 29, 2007, 12:07:03 PM »
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Hi,
I'm currently taking a photography class that goes over the history of photography. In each lesson we learned about a different style of photography. In the first week of the course we were given a list of 35 photographers. We were supposed to look at their works and choose one in whose footsteps we are to walk for the duration of the course. As you can tell from the title, I chose Yousof Karsh.

I have already purchased two of his books from Amazon. I will be studying his photographs very closely. I have done an extensive Internet search however I have several questions unanswered.

These are mainly technical questions. Which camera did he use? Which lenses did he use? Which film did he use? If the film that he used is not available, what is my best alternative?

As of now I do not own a 4 x 5 system. I shoot predominantly with 35mm cameras. I'm seriously looking into a large-format system. Due to my handicap I'm not sure that I am able to fully operate one. Does anyone know about a 4 x 5 camera that has geared motions (for everything) and that is not very expensive?

Thank you very much for your help,
Eitan Waks
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jorgedelfino
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« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2007, 02:25:25 PM »
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Hi,
I'm currently taking a photography class that goes over the history of photography. In each lesson we learned about a different style of photography. In the first week of the course we were given a list of 35 photographers. We were supposed to look at their works and choose one in whose footsteps we are to walk for the duration of the course. As you can tell from the title, I chose Yousof Karsh.

I have already purchased two of his books from Amazon. I will be studying his photographs very closely. I have done an extensive Internet search however I have several questions unanswered.

These are mainly technical questions. Which camera did he use? Which lenses did he use? Which film did he use? If the film that he used is not available, what is my best alternative?

As of now I do not own a 4 x 5 system. I shoot predominantly with 35mm cameras. I'm seriously looking into a large-format system. Due to my handicap I'm not sure that I am able to fully operate one. Does anyone know about a 4 x 5 camera that has geared motions (for everything) and that is not very expensive?

Thank you very much for your help,
Eitan Waks
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
you can find some answers here;
[a href=\"http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=003kYg]http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fe...l?msg_id=003kYg[/url]

good luck
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eitanwaks
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« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2007, 06:10:46 AM »
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you can find some answers here;
http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fe...l?msg_id=003kYg

good luck
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=114897\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

thanks for the link.
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2007, 10:06:24 AM »
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Does your assignment really require that you use the same technology as Yousof Karsh?  After all, you probably cannot purchase the same film and paper.  You  might have to mix your own chemicals.  The 4x5 camera is, in a way, just a box.  Will you use lenses from the same era as Karsh?

I just visited an exhibition of photos by Yousof Karsh.  All were large B/W prints.  I was most impressed by the lighting.

Do your own interests and final products require 4x5 negatives?

If I were giving or receiving your assignment, I would allow/use digital equipment -- even if for no reason other than the immediate feedback on lighting.
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blansky
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« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2007, 10:47:45 AM »
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One of the most basic areas of study in the art of portrature is lighting. Since you have 2 books of Karsh portraits you should study where the light comes from and how it enhances the subject.

Since I don't believe that there were any camera movements (4x5) in his work trying to duplicate the camera would not be all that necessary. So the only real reason you would need a large negative would be for making large prints or for the negative retouching that Karsh obviously did.

So I would shoot with whatever you have, and the best chance of "copying" the style would come from the lighting as well as obviously how he engaged his subjects.


Michael
« Last Edit: April 30, 2007, 10:48:47 AM by blansky » Logged
steelbird
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« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2007, 07:13:23 PM »
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I hope I'm not being rude in asking, but what is the nature of your disability that would prevent your working with a 4x5?
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eitanwaks
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« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2007, 08:19:45 AM »
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steelbird,
Don't feel bad about asking that question.  About six years ago I was involved in an accident which left me paralyzed from the neck down.  I had a C 4/5 dislocation and partial break.  In the beginning I could not breathe on my own nor could I move any of my limbs.  With time some of my functionality has returned.  I can now breath on my own and move might deltoids and biceps.  I have had to adapt cameras so that I can use them.  I've made a special tripod which I connect to my wheelchair.  Up until half a year ago I used mainly Nikon SLR's.  I always used them on a tripod because handholding to them was out of the question.  With a lot of work and physical therapy I had become strong enough so that I can handhold a camera.  I purchased a Contax g2 which was lighter than my SLR.  I have had success using this camera without tripod.  I am now starting to use my Nikon SLR (N90s) with a 50 mm lens [the 20 mm and 85 mm lens are on the way].  I have also tried using medium format cameras such as the mamiya rb67.  Obviously, I could not handhold this camera.  I found it to be a little too large and cumbersome for my needs.  It is very difficult for me to use an external light meter.  Due to my past experiences I believe that using a 4 x 5 camera would be very difficult, especially with movements.  I enjoy the automation I get from my SLR's (I used mainly aperture priority mode).

blansky,
I completely agree with you.  I believe that I will spend the majority of my time trying to understand and copy his lighting techniques.  I just felt that if I use the same equipment I would more readily "step into his shoes".  Which type of film would you recommend me to try?

gordonsbuck,
the assignment that we received does not dictate that we use the same equipment.  Unfortunately, I do not own a digital SLR.  A digital SLR would have made my trial and error with the lighting much easier, or at least make the learning curve faster.
I love printing very large prints (50 x 70 cm and up to 1 m x 1.5 m and even larger).  I would love to have more detail in my prints and therefore I would like to use a 4 x 5 camera, may be even an 8 x 10.  I'm just frightened that I cannot use such a camera.  My photography experience has taught me that I have to use the appropriate camera gear for each situation.  I believe that when I'm working in a studio environment (after I am competent with my lighting skills) I could use a large-format camera.  When I am traveling and participating in geographical photography I will obviously use my rangefinder or SLR camera.  I also believe that when I'm treating landscapes I could use my large-format camera.  I think I would enjoy the "laid-back" more contemplative style of photography that a large-format camera dictates.

I have been looking at FOTOMAN 45PS cameras (no movements) and Shen-Hao cameras as well as Arca-Swiss.
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blansky
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« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2007, 10:26:05 AM »
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blansky,
I completely agree with you.  I believe that I will spend the majority of my time trying to understand and copy his lighting techniques.  I just felt that if I use the same equipment I would more readily "step into his shoes".  Which type of film would you recommend me to try?

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=115676\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I'm not all that technically minded but if you want some good opinions on film types and their characteristics and what today might look the same as what he used, I might pose the question over at APUG.org .

The films that were available when Karsh was making those prints probably are not available today but there are many ways to manipulate film in development that may be able to come close to the look he had.

Also with todays films a camera like a Hasselblad for instance "may" be able to give the same look as what he was getting with a 4x5 and older style film.

I'd still try to concentrate on getting the "look" through lighting and posing which will be your main dilemma and not worry too much about his equipment and film etc.


Michael
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jorgedelfino
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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2007, 08:17:00 AM »
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I can handhold a camera.  I purchased a Contax g2 which was lighter than my SLR.  I have had success using this camera without tripod.  I am now starting to use my Nikon SLR (N90s) with a 50 mm lens [the 20 mm and 85 mm lens are on the way].  I have also tried using medium format cameras such as the mamiya rb67.  Obviously, I could not handhold this camera.  I found it to be a little too large and cumbersome for my needs.  It is very difficult for me to use an external light meter.  Due to my past experiences I believe that using a 4 x 5 camera would be very difficult, especially with movements.  I enjoy the automation I get from my SLR's (I used mainly aperture priority mode).





[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=115676\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Have you consider the use of a 6 x 6 TLR? Yousof Karsh did use a rolleiflex, they are lighter than a rb67, if you can't find a rollei there is always the posibilty of a cheap russian version of a TLR, 120 film is a lot larger than 35mm, in your case that type of cameras may prove easier to aim and focus also.
cheers.
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wolfnowl
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« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2007, 05:22:06 PM »
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Have you consider the use of a 6 x 6 TLR? Yousof Karsh did use a rolleiflex, they are lighter than a rb67, if you can't find a rollei there is always the posibilty of a cheap russian version of a TLR, 120 film is a lot larger than 35mm, in your case that type of cameras may prove easier to aim and focus also.
cheers.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=116347\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

With a TLR camera though, focus is by looking down from the top, not front to back as with a 35mm viewfinder and reflex mirror.  That may be an issue given the physical constraints...

Mike.
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steelbird
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« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2007, 06:50:07 PM »
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If you are not required to use the same gear as the photographer you're studying, then you don't necesssarily need the 4x5.  It would be better, as previously mentioned, to study the lighting technique - when it comes to portraiture, lighting is often more important than the camera that is used.   I think, however, that Karsh used the 4x5 largely in neutral position, though.
   Considering the "neutral position," however, and using a 4x5, perhaps a field 4x5 might be an option.  I don't know if this would be suitable for you, though.
    As for getting better detail without the size of a 4x5, maybe the camera to be used should be a Mamiya 7 rangefinder - or if you can find them, Fuji made some medium format rangefinder cameras a number of years back, but unfortunately, their model numbers escape me at the moment.
     Good luck with your endeavours - and I would like to add that what you're doing and what you've accomplished is very admirable, indeed.
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jorgedelfino
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« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2007, 09:57:20 AM »
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With a TLR camera though, focus is by looking down from the top, not front to back as with a 35mm viewfinder and reflex mirror.  That may be an issue given the physical constraints...

Mike.
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Most TLR had a feature knows as; "sport finders", (The focusing hood has an open frame plus a pop-up magnifier). All you had to do was set the distance to the subject and then aim through the "open window" at eye level, pictures taken with a old rollei, (2,8 or 3,5) will blow anything taken with a 35 mm camera, those carl zeiss-rollei lenses where as sharp as the hassy version of them, (same planar 80mm).
I had a rollei 2,8 in the old days, and the b&w prints of up to 50x60cm were just incredible!
Again, is just and idea since Yousef did use a rollei.
cheers
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wolfnowl
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« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2007, 02:42:11 PM »
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I still have an old TLR that I take out from time to time.  For me anyway, the sport finder is a waste of time since it doesn't allow very good composition and focusing is a guess.  I use the top down hood with the magnifying lens for more accurate focusing and I can see directly what's in my viewfinder.

As has been suggested already though, if the intent is to study Karsh I would 'focus' (no pun intended) on what he achieved in terms of lighting, composition, position, depth of field, etc. - what made the photograph work -  and less on what equipment he used to achieve those results - unless someone can make a valid argument that his results could ONLY be achieved with the same equipment.  Every film, every sensor, every lens has a 'look' to it but equipment will only take you so far.  Not everyone with an expensive camera is an Ansel Adams or a Yousef Karsh, and many don't want to be.  To me, what made Karsh brilliant was how he revealed the real heart of his subjects in his work.  It was his way of seeing that stands out.  He wouldn't use the same setup to photograph a ballerina and a bullfighter.

Mike.
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jorgedelfino
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« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2007, 11:04:56 PM »
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I still have an old TLR that I take out from time to time.  For me anyway, the sport finder is a waste of time since it doesn't allow very good composition and focusing is a guess.  I use the top down hood with the magnifying lens for more accurate focusing and I can see directly what's in my viewfinder.

As has been suggested already though, if the intent is to study Karsh I would 'focus' (no pun intended) on what he achieved in terms of lighting, composition, position, depth of field, etc. - what made the photograph work -  and less on what equipment he used to achieve those results - unless someone can make a valid argument that his results could ONLY be achieved with the same equipment.  Every film, every sensor, every lens has a 'look' to it but equipment will only take you so far.  Not everyone with an expensive camera is an Ansel Adams or a Yousef Karsh, and many don't want to be.  To me, what made Karsh brilliant was how he revealed the real heart of his subjects in his work.  It was his way of seeing that stands out.  He wouldn't use the same setup to photograph a ballerina and a bullfighter.

Mike.
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agree with you 100%, but still think that you need at least 21/4" square to replicate his work.
cheers
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eitanwaks
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« Reply #14 on: May 13, 2007, 05:08:07 AM »
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Thank you all for all of your responses.  They have been very insightful.

I've decided to continue working with my 35mm SLR until I feel confident enough with my lighting techniques.  I believe, as many have stated in this thread, that the most important part of this project is learning how to shed light on the subject the way Yousuf Karsh did.  This will be much cheaper and easier for me using my SLR.

Once I feel that I have mastered the technical aspect of this project I might consider using a larger format so that the results could be enlarged to the sizes that he used to print (40 x 50 cm) in a pleasing fashion.

I have a question regarding metering studio lights (strobes).  Let's say I have a setup using to strobes.  The first is my key light, and the second is my fill.  Let's say that I want a one-stop difference between my key and my fill.  Do I take my light meter and meter the scene with both strobes going off, or do I meter the scene first with my key light only, and then with my fill light only?

Thanks for the help,
Eitan Waks
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blansky
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« Reply #15 on: May 13, 2007, 11:53:14 AM »
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There are different ways to do it but I'd turn off the key light then meter the fill light.  Depending what kind of depth of field you want (blurred out background etc) maybe set the fill to about F5.6. Then either turn off the fill or block it with your body and meter the key light and set to say, F8. That would be a 3:1 lighting ratio or one stop difference.

(Note: Some people call a one stop difference a 2:1 ratio and some call it a 3:1 ratio but it is really just semantics on how they were taught to evaluate this.)

One thing that is important with lighting is the "quality" of the light. Softboxes give a soft quality to the light and reflectors will give a harder quality to the light. The CLOSER the light is to the subject the SOFTER it is. Since I don't recall Karsh using softboxes you may want to stick with "harder" lights and perhaps just use an umbrella for the fill.

Michael
« Last Edit: May 13, 2007, 11:57:09 AM by blansky » Logged
BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2007, 02:03:13 AM »
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I didn't read the whole thread and honnestly not very familiar with Karsh'd work, and please forgive me if I state the obvious, but one aspect of 4x5 that does impact the feel of images compared to native 35 mm is the aspect ratio. The image is much more square.

Cropping the 35 mm images a bit will easily enable you to simulate a 4x5 aspect ratio of course.

Regards,
Bernard
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A few images online here!
Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2007, 04:41:32 AM »
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Note: Some people call a one stop difference a 2:1 ratio and some call it a 3:1 ratio but it is really just semantics on how they were taught to evaluate this.)

A stop is always a change with a factor of two, either a halving or doubling. A 1-stop lighting ratio is always 2:1, and a 3:1 ratio is ~1.7 stops. Nobody would call going from 1/30 to 1/10 shutter speed a 1-stop exposure difference, why would you do so with lighting?
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blansky
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« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2007, 10:17:36 AM »
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Traditional portrait photographers taught generally by Professional Photographers of America instructors in the last 30 years were taught that a 3:1 lighting ratio was a one stop difference and was attained by the following.

The fill is set at say f8. That means that the overall face has one unit of light on it. The key lights is set at say f11, which is twice as much light as f8, therefore 2 units of light. Hence the fill light or shadow side of the face has one unit and the highlight side has 2 units plus the one unit from the fill light equals 3 units of light.

That makes a 3:1 ratio. If the key light is f16 then the "math" equals 5:1.

Whether this is "correct" or not from the way you were taught I don't know. I never ran into anyone calling it a 2:1 ratio until a few years ago. Since then I sort of see it as "you call it tomato and I call it tomAto" kind of thing.


Michael
« Last Edit: May 14, 2007, 10:20:42 AM by blansky » Logged
eitanwaks
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« Reply #19 on: May 17, 2007, 04:06:09 AM »
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Hi,
yesterday I got a lot of the studio advice that I needed from a local photography school.  There are hosting a studio photographer and I had a chance to sit down and talk with him over pictures from the new book I got from Amazon.  It's one about Karsh.  We analyzed several of his photographs from a lighting standpoint.  It was very helpful.

After looking over more of his pictures I noticed that a lot of them had the silvery look to them.  It reminded me of Sexton's prints that I saw.  How do they get to that quality?  I understand that they print in the traditional darkroom.  Is there any way to mimic this in the digital darkroom?

Regards,
Eitan Waks
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