Using Old Glass in Toy Photography

Old Glass
Old Glass

Old Glass

Swirls of light bend and transpose
Stretched and tangled, bokeh galore
Changing perception
Warps the view
Deciding the factors of focus anew
Gathered inception
Sketched and revised, blur adore
Whirls of bright mend and expose

~ Joseph Cowlishaw


Using old glass in toy photography

I love the look of old glass.  It has  unique imperfections that really make the feeling of a photo.  The newer glass is almost too perfect.  They have successfully eliminated the character of uniqueness through perfected manufacturing processes.

I recently purchased a mint copy of the Jupiter 37a lens from a Russian auction.  It shipped from Moscow and arrived to my home only a little over a week later.  I purchased this lens for its uniqueness in creating creamy smooth bokeh.  My brother Nathan Arizona recommended it and after seeing many example of excellent bokeh swirls I decided to get one.

I have also added an old macro lens to my collection – the Minolta Rokkor 50mm.  It has added more dimension to my toy photography with its imperfections and it’s perfect focus at close range.

I recently found an old video lens at a local thrift store – it was only a video telephoto 2x lens and was made during the age of videotape.  It was $10 so I decided to pick it up.  Obviously, the poor quality of this cheap lens hampered my photos by destroying to look of some of my higher end old lenses.  I tried attaching it to the end of my Russian Jupiter 37a lens and the results were horrible.  So I decided to disassemble this video lens and use the inner elements.  I liked how big the glass was and it looked relatively unscathed.  The front element had a bit of coating on it which allowed for some interesting colors and reflections while photographing it.

Coated front lens
I disassembled this lens to use the glass elements!

Charlie saves an old friend

About the same time that I acquired this cheaply built old lens I also received a Charlie Chaplin figure in the mail from Minifigures.com.

I was trying to figure out how to use him in a shot, and these elements lent me some ideas!

Interdimensional portal
Charlie Chaplin finds and reaches for a blur in time and space…

I thought how cool it would be for Charlie to stumble into unknown territory.  Unknown even to us in all our futuristic grandeur.  The lens worked perfectly for this setting.

Panda Sucked into interdimensional vortex
Charlie’s old friend Panda was inadvertently sucked into the interdimensional vortex
Old Glass lens
It looks as if Charlie is trapped in the old Glass…

I love using my old glass to create new feeling mixed with a retro feel and look.  Plus it has the added benefit of being super affordable. Old glass on a newer camera body means it has to be manually focused and controlled.  Using manual focus has taught me so much about the technical side of photography.  I love being able to change every little detail and setting to get that perfect feel that I am looking for.

Old glass does not mean poor quality.  I have found that some of my old lenses rival my newer autofocus lenses.  And they have the added benefit of character that is hard to reproduce.

I also find it interesting that there are now so many new applications that allow the user to “add” character to their shots.  I guess we miss that feel that comes from character and glass.  It is fun to add these details to the image while composing.  Even more fun than in post processing!

Don’t step on the crack or you’ll break your teddy’s back


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Don’t step on the crack or you’ll break your Teddy’s back! 😳

Good morning folks!  Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend the day with my brother Nathan Arizona at the Heard Native American Art Show in downtown Phoenix, AZ.

We got to meet several new native artists and visit with old friends.  We have our mining company Earthtone Trading to thank for this opportunity.  We hauled down from Utah two tons of our Mohave Brown Alabaster to sell to the talented sculptors.

We arrived to the show late and ended up taking a long time finding a parking spot.  We finally found an open spot large enough for our truck in the basement of a parking garage.  We walked the show and talked with folks and then I headed back to the truck to get some flyers and take a break.

I was trying to think of a good spot for Lego photography and I am always amazed at the simply mundane areas that make my shots come to life.  The shot of Mr. Bean above with Teddy was not the shot I intended to take.  It was a gradual process from the start of looking for the right spot with some rails in the parking garage basement.  The rails made for some great bokeh and contrast. 

Mr. Bean through the bars
I really liked where these shots were taking me so I continued to enjoy the creative process and setup different angles.  It was a bit tricky to get the depth I wanted on the right and still show enough of Mr. Bean on the left.  I also decided the shot looked much better in black and white.

A glimpse of Mr. Bean
After composing a few shots I decided to try it from the other side by sticking my camera through the bars.  Luckily I have a tilt screen on my Olympus OMD EM5, so I was still able to compose the shot without having to hike around to the outside.

Mr. Bean strolling on the outside.
This is when I noticed the striking crack on the concrete and an idea popped into my head.

Careful Mr. Bean
I was so excited to have stumbled upon this idea!  I had to balance Mr. Bean just right – the umbrella and the teddy were the counterweights.  It took some patience to get it just right and luckily there was no wind at all.  Even a slight breeze would have toppled Bean and mad enough this shot impossible.  So the heavens aligned and I was able to capture these images!

Mr. Bean has a somewhat childish outlook in certain ways and that why I find him so humorous.  He takes the moment like a child would.  I felt this image conveyed what I used to feel about cracks on the ground.  The old adage “don’t step on the crack or you’ll break your mothers back” seemed like the perfect title with a bit of a change to put what Mr. Bean cares about most.  Thanks to Minifigures.com for making a great custom figure Mr. Bean.

~ Joecow