Monday, December 22, 2008

It Figures (The Book) Second Edition

No longer available. Look for a new book soon.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Craig Tanner, who used to do a photographic Daily Critique on Radiant Vista has started a new site called The Mindful Eye ( This week he has selected one of my images as "image of the week" as part of his Daily Critique. You can view the image and Craig's discussion on YouTube at

Thanks, Craig!

Mark Johnson has also started a new site at where he is presenting his Photoshop Workbenches.

Best wishes to both Craig and Mark in the new ventures!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

John Cornicello Artist's Statement

John Cornicello
Artist’s Statement
October 2008

I photograph because I have to.

The experience of collaborating with a another artist (the model) is the point of photography for me. That we end up with a beautiful image to share with the world is secondary. Process over result. The collaboration is a performance with two or more actors who are equals of each other. Unrehearsed. The people in the photographs are not objects. They are real people who are integral to the process.

I photograph people because they are, to me, the ultimate form of beauty. People photos are also a form of self-portrait and reflection of my inner thoughts and feelings.

Photographing the figure is fun. It is never work. Though both photographer and subject may well be exhausted at the end of a session, it is the good kind of exhaustion. It is also a very personal learning experience for both model and photographer.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Will Travelocity come through for me?

Back in April I booked a trip to Carmel, CA to attend a workshop with Kim Weston. I made all the travel plans through Travelocity (air, rental car, hotel). Got my confirmation for everything the same day. Around $750 for the entire trip. Good price. Maybe too good?

**UPDATE: October 1, 2008** Travelocity has come through with their promise to refund the hotel part of their charges. Thanks!! **

Come September I merrily go on my way to the airport. Great flights. Rental car is the one I expected, and its waiting for me in Monterey. Have lunch with a good friend. Go visit the seals on the piers in Monterey. Everything going great.

Then I get to the hotel (Carmel Inn and Suites)...

Oh, we're sorry. We do not have any reservation for you from Travelocity. We don't have any regular rooms available, as we have a wedding in for the weekend. HOWEVER, we do have a King Suite that you can have. But we cannot give you the Travelocity rate, you need to pay full price or a discount if you have a AAA card (which I happened to have with me). They signed me up for the first night and had me call Travelocity to figure out the rest of the problem.

Travelocity talked with the hotel. Didn't seem to accomplish anything. All they could do that day was have me pay the hotel and offer to refund the hotel part of my original Travelocity costs. What could I do? I'm at the hotel. Don't know what, if anything else, is available at better rates. I'm going to start a workshop class early the next morning. I take them up on the refund offer and pay another $716 to the hotel for three nights. Originally it was going to be around $900. But they gave me the AAA discount and moved me to a different (less expensive) room for the middle of the three days. Of course that meant repacking everything each morning to get moved to another room. So now I've paid out $1470 in travel expenses.

Workshop was wonderful. I'll post some photos once I get permission from the models.

And here we are nearing the end of September. No credit yet from Travelocity on my credit card. So I call them again. Go through all the info again. They call the hotel again. They're faxing my original travel plans and information to the hotel again. But this time they are asking the hotel to refund my payment to the hotel instead of Travelocity refunding the travel part of my original payment to Travelocity. Sounds like a better deal to me if it actually happens. But what ever happened to the original refund promised on September 5?

Latest word from Travelocity today is that I need to deal directly with the hotel to get the refund from them.

Check back. I will update this if anything happens.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Busker Sadness

It has been a rough few weeks in the new vaudeville and busker community, especially in Seattle. Well known Pike Place Market busker Jim Hinde passed away on Tuesday, June 10 ( and I just heard that another favorite, Sandabeth Spae of Amber Tide, passed away a few days ago. I have not been able to find an online reference. You can learn more about her at the Women Buskers Museum.

Here are a couple of photos I recently took of these great artists at the Seattle Moisture Festival. I miss both fo them already.

There will be a memorial for Jim at the Pike Market on Wednesday, July 2 at 7pm.

Jim Hinde

Sandabeth and Thadeus Spae

Monday, March 31, 2008

Moisture Festival

Originally uploaded by John Cornicello.
The first weekend of the Moisture Festival was great! New artists, new acts, old favorites--they're all there. And this week add in a number of burlesque performances at the ACT theater. Get your tickets soon!

In addition to photography, I will be playing in the house band at the Hales Palladium theater on Wed, Thurs, and Saturday.

The photo is of "Duo Madrona" who many of you may also know by their old name of "Curly Burly".

More Moisture Festival photos on Flickr.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Moisture Festival Returns

Yes, it is that time of year again. Sunny Seattle hosts the 5th Annual Moisture Festival.

I'll be there in my usual roles as photographer and musician. The accompanying photo is from the volunteer orientation party. It takes a very large group of fantastic volunteers to keep the festival up and going. Sandy Palmer and Katherine Bragdon cheer on Ron Bailey and entertain the volunteers. See last year's volunteer team at

See the 2007 schedule at and order your tickets early. The shows sell out!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Resolution does matter when you print

Here is a hint to go with the previous blog entry on Resolution.

The same three samples that were included in that post have been placed into a page layout program (Adobe InDesign) for printing. The two smaller ones were not resized after placing. The larger one was shrunk to about 2% of its original size because it came in so large.

The smaller of the three is the 300 dpi version. The medium size one is the 180 dpi version. The large background image is at 1 dpi (print size is 350 inches x 350 inches, that's why I had to scale it down so much to fit on the page). The 300 dpi version prints at 1.167x1.167 inches and the 180 dpi version prints at 1.94x1.94 inches. Of course, any of them can be scaled to print at the same size (and resolution) within the page layout program. All of the files have the exact same pixel dimensions and quality. But it is much easier to start out with the image having an appropriate dpi rating embedded in it so it doesn't come in at 300 inches wide.

But on screen (as in the previous entry) they are exactly the same.

Another quiz... oh my!

Following are three example images. One is 300 dpi, one is 180 dpi, and one is 1 dpi. Can you tell which is which without downloading the image files and checking the metadata?

DPI Example 1

DPI Example 2

DPI Example 3

Quiz Answers or Focal length, Perspective, and Depth of Field.

Answers to the quiz from the previous blog entry...

All three images were taken at the same aperture (F/11)

Examples A and C were taken with the 24mm lens
Example B was taken with the 100mm lens

What I hope to have shown here are:

  • At the same magnification (subect size is the same), focal length has no bearing on depth of field. Same DOF with a short lens or a long lens. Aperture and magnification are the factors that affect Depth of Field.
  • Perspective is determined by camera to subject distance. A long lens doesn't compress a scene. A shorter lens doesn't expand a scene.
You set up your camera-to-subject distance to give you the perspective you want and then you select the lens (focal length) that fills your frame at that working distance.

If you want to be two inches from your subject you are forced to use a short lens (a long lens can't focus that close and its field of view is too narrow) and you get that wide open/expansive perspective. But that perspective is not because of the lens. Think of it this way... A short lens ALLOWS you to get that expansive perspective feel because you can work close to your subject. But it doesn't create that perspective.

  • Using a shorter focal length lens does give greater depth of field **IF** you don't move in closer to make the subject larger. The part after the IF is often missed/dropped/forgotten when people talk about ways to increase depth of field. Remember... Magnification and Aperture, not focal length.
Note that the image quality in Example C is lower than in A and B. It is kind of grainy and the star on Wonder Woman's forehead is not quite as crisp. That is because I enlarged a very small section of the full frame to match the angle of view of the longer lens. Here is the full frame image that Example C was cropped from (Examples A and B were already shown as full-frame).

Going back to the Quiz examples, A was taken with a 24mm lens and B was taken with a 100mm lens. That accounts for the different angles of view. The 24mm lens takes in a wider angle of view and you see more of the background. What changed between the two images (besides the lens used) is the distance between the camera and the Pez dispensers. I moved the camera closer for the 24mm image to try to get the Wonder Woman dispenser about the same size (same magnification) in both images. By moving in closer with the 24mm lens the perspective changes because the relative distance between the items in the scene is increased. The 100mm image looks more compressed because it was taken from further away (not because of the longer focal length lens).

Both were taken at f/11. The magnification of the main subject in both images is about the same. At the same aperture the depth of field is about the same, despite the difference in focal length (24mm vs 100mm).

We are always told that a shorter focal length lens gives more depth of field. But the above examples seem to show the same depth of field for two very different focal length lenses. Does a shorter focal length lens give more depth of field? Yes. When the magnification changes.

That brings us to Example C. This image is also taken with the same 24mm lens at the same f/11 aperture. But now the depth of field looks greater. Why?

In this example the camera was moved back to the same position as it was in for the 100mm image and a small part of the image was cropped to the same field of view as the 1oomm image. Now the depth of field is greater (the subject was not magnified as much in camera). Also note that the perspective is the same as the 100mm image (because the camera to subject distance is the same).

So now the depth of field is greater, but quality suffers due to having to enlarge the image. With the relatively grain-free quality of low-ISO digital the quality loss is not as detrimental to the image as I would have imagined. In film, such a severe crop might not work out so well.

Bottom line... yes, you will get more depth of field with a shorter focal length lens if you are magnifying the subject less. So, if the camera and subject are the same distance with a 100mm lens and a 24mm lens the 24mm lens will have greater depth of field. But the subject will be much smaller with a lot of periphery in the image. If you moved in closer with the 24mm lens to get the same subject size and to eliminate the periphery you will then get the same depth of field.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pop Quiz Time!

I have three example images here (A, B, and C). Two lenses were used (a 24mm and a 100mm). Can you tell which lens was used for each? Can you tell if the aperture is the same in all three or different?

Example A:

Example B:

Example C:

Post your answers in the comments section. Once we have a couple of comments I'll post a description of the images and background information.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Considering Focal Length

I feel like I've stirred up a hornet's nest with some of my comments about focal length. Especially in when discussed in conjunction with depth of field and perspective.

While focal length is part of the equation for figuring both depth of field and perspective, I think a lot of discussions miss the point and give too much emphasis on focal length. Let's look at each of these separately.

First I'll tackle perspective. I define perspective as the relative distance between objects in a scene. When you work close to your subject items appear spread out with a lot of room around them. You could say that the scene is very open and spacious. An example of this situation could be a portrait of a person holding an object in their hand with their hand stretched forward towards the camera with the camera only inches from their hand. That object, be it an apple, a cup of coffee, a tree ornament, or whatever will appear very large. The person holding their hand out will be smaller, and anything in the background will be tiny.

When you work far away from your subject the items appear to all close in on each other and stack up giving a flattened perspective. We are used to seeing this flattened perspective when we see photos of distant overlapping mountain ranges or a distant image of a city with all its skyscrapers appearing to touch each other.

Focal length gets "blamed" for both of the above scenarios. But the focal length of the lens does not cause these issues. In the first example with the person holding their hand out you have to use a short focal length lens to capture the scene. A longer lens would not have a wide enough angle of view or allow you to focus that closely, so you cannot take this image with a long lens. You could turn that around and say that a short focal length lens allows you to capture that apparently distorted scene. But the lens does not cause that distortion. It is a fine distinction, but a very important one. Consider the following passage from a book, Elementary Photography by C.B. Neblette, Frederick W Brehm, and Everett L Priest that was published in 1936...

"A lens should seldom be used with a film the diagonal of which is greater than the focal length of the lens. This is because with a lens of short focus the image is small. To make the image larger the photographer is tempted to get close to the object, with the result that he gets pictures the drawing or _perspective_ of which looks wrong. This effect is caused by the fact that the objects near the camera are drawn on a much larger scale than distant objects. If the picture is viewed at a distance equal to the distance of the film from the lens when it was taken (in the case of 35mm photography, about two inches), the perspective will not appear distorted."

The problem is, how often do we view photographs from two inches away?

The second scenario is easier to show, as you can take a photo of distant mountains with either a short or a long focal length lens. Try this some time. Put your camera on a tripod and point it towards some mountains or skyscrapers in the distance. Take a photo with a short lens (maybe a 28mm or a 35mm) and then _without moving the camera_ switch to a longer lens (maybe 200mm) and photograph the same distant objects. Afterwards make an 8x12 print from each frame. Make the print from the long lens a full-frame image and enlarge the image taken with the short lens so that the objects are the same size as in the long lens print. You will find that the distant objects have the exact same perspective in each print. The quality of the long lens print will be better because of less enlargement. But the perspective is the same. We tend to use a longer lens for this type of photo because it works out better quality-wise. Not because it gives a different perspective.

OK, that one was pretty easy. Now for the trickier subject. Depth of Field.

Everyone has been taught that a shorter focal length lens gives more depth of field than a longer focal length lens. I don't dispute that. But, that description is only half of the story (maybe 1/4 as the missing part is very important). Let's quote Elementary Photography again. "...the shorter the focal length of a lens, the greater its depth of field." OK, that's a given. But then it goes on to say, "However, if the short-focus lens is brought close enough to the object to give the same size image as the long-focus lens, they both with have approximately the same depth of field." That's the part often dropped off or ignored in discussions. So, what does that mean?

Let's take an example. You have a scene in front of you. There is a park bench in the foreground and a wall with a mural painted on it in the background. You want to photograph someone sitting on the bench to make it appear that they are interacting with something in the mural. Maybe they are picking an apple off a tree in the mural or something like that. Also consider that there is a telephone pole off to one side and the edge of the building on the other side and you do not want to include those elements in the photograph. You initially set up with a 100mm lens and find that by setting the tripod up at 15 feet from the bench you can get the framing you want between the person, the mural, and exclusion of the pole and edge of the building. But you also find out that the bench is far enough in front of the mural that you can't get them both in focus, even if you stop down to f/16. What are your options?

A. You might be able to stop down to f/22 or f/32 if the lens allows it.
B. You can switch to a shorter lens.
C. You can just go for it and hope for the best.
D. You can switch to a shorter lens and move in closer to get the subject to the size you wanted and to try to frame the background the way you wanted.
E. You can move further back.

What happens when you try each of these?

A. Not all lenses will stop down as far as f/32. Some may not go down to F/22. And even if they do, you are now well into having to deal with diffraction. The aperture is so small that the light rays have to bend considerably as they pass by the aperture blades that the quality of the image begins to be seriously degraded.

B. The shorter lens will give more depth of field because the image is smaller (less magnification). But, as noted, the image is smaller. Now that telephone pole and the edge of the building are in the image. You need to crop the image and enlarge it more to make the print. Enlarging it will reduce the quality and will also reduce some of the depth of field that you gained by switching to the shorter lens. Or you can go with it as is and be limited in how large a print you can make. Smaller prints will display more depth of field than larger prints of the same crop.

C. Nothing different happens. This is the original setup.

D. By moving closer to the subject you are increasing the magnification and your depth of field is diminishing. When the subject is the same size in the viewfinder (same magnification) the depth of field is going to be approximately the same, no matter which lens is used. And by moving closer you have altered the perspective relationship between the person and the background, changing your concept.

E. Moving back will give less magnification and greater depth of field. Like in B, you will then have to crop and enlarge the image, sacrificing some image quality. Plus, like in D, by moving the camera (back this time) you now have a different perspective on the scene. The person on the bench will not have the same relationship with the mural in the background. Your grand concept now has to be altered. You will get more depth of field. But you will be making a very different photograph.

Of these options, which is best? B is the only option that maintains your original concept. But you may find out that you have to limit the size that your image can be printed (maybe no larger than a 5x7 print). Or you have to accept that at 16x20 something in the image that you wanted to be in focus (either the person or the background) is going to be soft. The silver lining here is that with a larger print the viewer will tend to stand back and view from a greater distance. So it may all balance out. But you really haven't gained any additional depth of field, you will get about the same DOF results in a print from either lens because the final image magnification is the same.