Booth Sunday

Sunday I am shooting a photo booth. The photos I print will look somewhat like this:


Even a “mere” photo booth needs expertise. Shooting expertise. Computer expertise. People expertise. For an experienced photographer, all types of photography are fun: photo booths no less than any other type.


Repeat Post from 2010

When I was 16, I first saw Patti Smith’s album “Horses”.

The cover photo of that album changed me: I know instantly I wanted to be a photographer. Here is that one photo, taken by Robert Mapplethorpe of his then girlfriend Patti Smith:

Everything comes together. The light, the high-key shot, the left-right angle, the way we slightly look up at her, her hands, the expression, the coat over her shoulder, the contrast, the greys.

I think I have been in love with Patti ever since. And with photography.

A few years ago I stayed at The Hotel Chelsea in New York, where all this happened. I felt in the presence of greatness, of history… everything happened here. Leonard Cohen. Bob Dylan. Andy Warhol. Dylan Thomas. Arthur C. Clarke. The list is long.

Hotel Chelsea, photo by Michael Willems

Hotel Chelsea (Michael Willems)

And the hotel has, um, character:

Hotel Chelsea, photo by Michael Willems

Hotel Chelsea, Reception Desk (Michael Willems)

And art. And a sense of history, and time. I mean… I actually stayed where this was made, the picture that set off my interest in photography: how cool is that?

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe together at the time, by an anonymous photog:

And Patti Smith, by Robert Mapplethorpe, at The Chelsea:

Another beautiful photo.

And finally, one more from me: the view from the hotel – what Patti would have seen if she looked straight ahead:

Chelsea, NYC, view from The Chelsea Hotel (Photo Michael Willems)

View from The Chelsea Hotel (Photo Michael Willems)

I just ordered “Just Kids”, Patti Smith’s autobiography of that time, on Amazon.

Inspired, I continue my day.

85mm f/1.2 all the way

One of my favourite lenses is the Canon 85mm f/1.2 lens. 

A prime lens forces you to think about composition. It also allows you to blur backgrounds beautifully. And to shoot in low light. It is also consistent: prime means “set up one shots and all similar shots are the same w.r.t. things like depth of field and tolerance of motion blur”.

85 is a short telephoto lens, which is great for portraits. You can get close without getting too close, and you need no great big spaces. Perfect length.


You can make images with extremely shallow depth of field. Especially when you choose to get close:


This lens is great for outdoors portraits, but also indoors.

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You get a typical compressed telephoto look—without it being extreme.


The 85mm f/1.2 is sharp, very sharp.

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It is very sharp, with beautiful bokeh, and the manual focus mechanism, being electronic, is the smoothest I have used, ever. Yes, it autofocuses also.

This is my favourite lens now, I am safe in saying. For many purposes: not just portraits. More later.


PS I am doing a studio lighting workshop tomorrow, Sunday 1 May. Just saying. I need signups to go ahead, but not many—it is limited to 4 participants.


Left right left right

Did you know that we are left- or right eared and eyed just as much as we are left- or right-handed? Odd thing, the brain.

Why is this important? Because of how you look through your camera. If, like me, you use your left eye, your right eye looks at the back of the camera. If you use your right eye, you have to squeeze your left eye shut, or you can use it to get an overview of the scene.

What are you? The vast majority is right-eyed and -eared, or if left handed, the opposite. Some, like me, are right agreed but left eared and left eyed.

Check it out now. How do you look through your camera?

Tonight I am talking about Creative Flash at tthe Etobicoke camera club. Check it out. Humber Valley United Church … Islington & Rathburn. $5 for non members. See you there perhaps?