A New Mount for an Old Lens.

---This post also appeared on PetaPixel---

Turns out my great-great-grandfather was a photographer. Born in 1850, Robert Stapleton served in the US Army for two five-year tours in the then-wild-west.

US Army at Gillems Camp, Lava Beds National Monument, 1873, representative of what Stapleton would have been doing around that time. Photographer unknown, archived by NPS.

US Army at Gillems Camp, Lava Beds National Monument, 1873, representative of what Stapleton would have been doing around that time. Photographer unknown, archived by NPS.

When he got back home to Kansas he didn't want to farm, so he bought a camera and worked as a photographer. My uncle (also a photographer, in Washington DC) ended up with a lens of his from around the turn of the century, which he recently sent me as a gift. Manufactured in Rochester NY, with a patent date of February 24, 1903, it's in near-flawless condition.

The Baushch & Lomb-Zeiss Tessar lens, from circa 1903. Photo: Ian Tuttle

The Baushch & Lomb-Zeiss Tessar lens, from circa 1903. Photo: Ian Tuttle

Bausch & Lomb - Zeiss Tessar lens, wide open at f/4.5. Photo: Ian Tuttle

Bausch & Lomb - Zeiss Tessar lens, wide open at f/4.5. Photo: Ian Tuttle

There was only one problem.... I needed a lens board to mount it to my 4x5 Speed Graphic. I bid on a few on ebay but kept losing the $8 or $9 auctions at the last minute. It was frustrating.

Thankfully, the guys at Glass Key Photo connected me with Lucas Saugen, a photographer and 3-D printer.

Lucas, in front of one of his printers. Photo: Ian Tuttle

Always eager to solve new problems, Lucas spec'd out a lens board to fit the lens and my Speed Graphic, and in a matter of minutes he'd printed it for me!

The CAD instructions the printer uses to build the lens board. Photo: Ian Tuttle

From code to real world...

The new lens board. Photo: Ian Tuttle

It had to be triple-thick to prevent any light leaks.

The back of the new lens board. Photo: Ian Tuttle

 

The old lens precisely fit, and the rough plastic actually looked perfectly weathered.

The 100+ year-old lens mounted on a few-days-old lens board. Photo: Ian Tuttle

The old lens and new lens board. Photo: Ian Tuttle

The lens fixed to my Speed Graphic. Photo: Ian Tuttle

Speed Graphic ready to shoot with the lens mounted. Photo: Ian Tuttle

The view through the ground glass. Photo: Ian Tuttle

It's a trip to use a 110-year-old lens on a 60-year-old camera with a 1-week-old lens board. The results were gorgeous. I shot an engagement series with the set-up a few days later.

Photo: Ian Tuttle

...And then I brought it out for a street portrait.

Photo: Ian Tuttle

Keeping the photographic tradition alive, one technological advancement at a time. Thanks to my uncle Steve who sent me the lens, to Lucas for the 3-D printing, to Glass Key for making the connection, and of course, to my great-great-grandfather Mr Stapleton, without whom I wouldn't be here in the first place.

The Really Real Smile

Coaching facial expressions as a portrait photographer is a tricky task. In day-to-day life you don't consciously manipulate your face muscles the same way you do, say, your legs or fingers (unless you're a mime or a politician). Your outward expressions are the visible reactions to what is going on in your brain. When you try to fake an expression it usually results in a terrible portrait.

Prof Paul Eckman (University of California), is the godfather of our understanding of expressions. In the 1960's he built on the work conducted by Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne (shown above performing facial electrostimulus) a century earlier and determined that the difference between a real smile and a fake smile is rooted in the signal generation in the brain; that is, totally different parts of the brain are responsible for creating real and fake smiles.

It all comes down to muscle control. You can consciously trigger the zygomaticus major, which creates a "fake" smile. But it's really tricky to tense your orbicularis oculi, which automatically contract during a "real" smile! Famed portrait photographer Peter Hurley figured this out after photographing faces for decades and teaches "squinching" to look cool when you're getting your portrait taken (Watch it! Please!!). Basically, squinching all comes down to--you guessed it--flexing the orbicularis oculi!  

And then there's another little muscle problem... According to body language expert Vanessa Van Edwards, the zygomaticus minor is the critical muscle in a "real" smile. While it's easy to consciously flex the zygomatic major, and you can work your orbicularis oculi if you really try, the zygomaticus minor isn't as responsive to conscious control. In fact, only 1 in 10 people is capable of moving it at will!

(Click to take the test)

(Click to take the test)

Now that you're a real smile expert, do you think you can tell who's smiling for real, and who's a phony? Go ahead, take this test that the BBC put together. (I only got 17 out of 20. Must've been some mimes in the bunch!)

PS: I always heard that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. ("Smile! It's less work!"). In fact, a genuine smile uses 12 muscles. A frown... only 11! If you want to know specifically which muscles are put to the task, read this rundown by plastic surgeon David H. Song, MD.