Wednesday, January 14, 2015


The photos in this post aren’t the best Ken and I ever shot. We were playing around with a new lighting kit and probably should have set up at least one more light before we started shooting. But I wanted to test the gear  to make sure it worked.

And for some time now I’ve been meaning to get shots of my tattoos. I’ve been careful to keep my ink confined to spots that stay covered during a normal workday, but sometimes people have noticed spots at the edge of a sleeve or poking out past a loose collar. I can’t exactly stop class and disrobe. But now anyone who’s curious can see what I’ve got.

With the exception of the Japanese characters on my right arm, all my tattoos are the most excellent work of Whispering Danny, a brilliant artist and all-around great person.

The Japanese characters toward the top are the first thing I ever got. And when I decided to “get real,” this dragon was my first big piece. The characters say “bushi no me,” which translates as “warrior’s eye.” It’s a reference to seeing things as they really are rather than how we want them to be or even how we think they are.

I have dragons on the right and tigers on the left.

Here’s a better view of the left side tigers. The one on my back is a reproduction of an ink painting in the Nelson Art Museum’s collection.

More tigers on my left shoulder and arm. The Cyrillic is a Russian prison tattoo, which translates as “My mother taught me to steal in industrial zones.” And no, I’ve never been in a Russian prison. A couple of friends and I thought it was funny, so we all got one.

We’ll finish up the top with the chest.

This is my right calf. The octopus is from an ancient Minoan jar, and it also happens to be the logo for 8sails Press.

Left calf. Between the two legs, the Latin phrase translates: “Be not deceived. God is not mocked.” Galatians 6:7.

And last but certainly not least, on my right thigh Godzilla is destroying Kansas City.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Tattoo machines

Nikon D7000, 35mm (35-80), 1/40, f/4.5, ISO 1000, focus stacked

The topic for this week is focus stacking. This is a handy digital post-production tool that allows you to create shots with a ton of depth of field even if your lens and lighting conditions made you shoot shallower when you were in the field.

Take a close look at the four photos below. The light in my friend Danny’s tattooing room generally isn’t the best for photography (though when he’s working he uses a better light). As you can see from the tech specs, I’m pushing my equipment nearly as far as I can. The shutter is at 1/40; any slower and I’ll start getting camera shake. The aperture is at 4.5, the wider end of the lens’s range. The ISO is at 1000; any higher, and the photos may start showing grain and inaccurate color.

But with these settings, I can’t keep the whole subject in focus. As you can see, each shot blurs at least part of the rack of Danny’s machines.

That’s where focus stacking comes in. Photoshop (and other software packages) will automatically combine several photos into a single image, using only the crisply in-focus parts of each shot. It also rotates and shifts photos automatically so they all line up. So all I have to do is make sure I shoot a series with enough partially-focused shots that Photoshop can then merge into a wholly focused image.

The outcome is the picture at the top of this post. The results aren’t always completely perfect. You can see some awkward blurring along the left edge, which I would have cropped out if I wasn’t using this as an example. But it’s way better than the unwelcome bokeh I was getting thanks to the limits I was working with.

Not that bokeh doesn’t have its place, even in this shoot.

Nikon D7000, 35mm (35-80), 1/40, f/4.5, ISO 1000

Nikon D7000, 35mm (35-80), 1/40, f/4.5, ISO 1000

Nikon D7000, 35mm (35-80), 1/40, f/4.5, ISO 1000

Nikon D7000, 35mm (35-80), 1/40, f/4.5, ISO 1000