March 2, 2011

Artist Profile: Thomas Balsamo

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:33 pm

Have a look at Thomas Balsamo’s portraiture and you’ll see some truly beautiful photographs. Honest, yet flattering images with a sensitivity and luminance that recalls the classic masters of photographic portraiture: Horst, Hurell, Karsh… not bad company to be in. Read his mission statement: “…to create portraiture that speaks volumes about the subjects we capture. We want to thrill, captivate and compel you, the viewer, to linger on our work.”, and it’s difficult to resist feeling moved by his work.

Dig a little deeper and you discover a deep, abiding commitment to philanthropic work. His book “Souls Beneath and Beyond Autism” is clearly a labor of love, an effort to give of his own talent to “…break apart stereotypes associated with autism while illustrating the transforming power of love.”; “i have a voice”, a traveling show describing the unique view of children and adults with Down Syndrome: “To see a world through eyes that don’t judge. To love with hearts that don’t discriminate. To look at people for who they are. And accept them for simply that.”; work with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Evans Life Foundation, and many others…

About this work, Balsamo says:
“My hopes and dreams are to inspire others to find, develop and use their gifts, passions and talents to make a fulfilling career while making contributions to society. What a great place the world would be if everyone would operate in this space. I have never had a job, because my portrait work has been a labor of love. I have been so privileged that my portraiture has been used to raise millions of dollars for non profit organizations. I am so thankful to have had 30 incredible years of creating portraiture.”

This modest statement belies some impressive accomplishments: Thomas’ images of individuals dealing with Autism have been have been displayed in 800 Toys R Us and Babies R Us stores, and across the country, since 2007. 6.5 million dollars have been raised from the Faces of Autism Campaign.

Here, deeper still, you find the core of what motivates Thomas Balsamo. Balsamo’s goal is to inspire artists to create, to build, to strive to make the world a better place with their work and vision. “Change comes from the artists. Artists have the power to make people aware, to inspire, to provoke thought and emotion, to make a real difference. Think of the Renaissance… it all came from Art.” Through his own work he strives to show what can be achieved with talent, vision, and a commitment to making a change in the world. Thomas states in his description of “Souls Beneath and Beyond Autism”, “…The greater purpose, beyond autism, is the universal message that from the depths of darkness often we find the greatest enlightenment. The individual with autism is a beautiful metaphor for this belief.”

The greater purpose of art, for Thomas, is the same. From the heights, or depths of the creative spirit, we can achieve the greatest enlightenment… and often the greatest good.

In considering the power of the artist, and their gift of talent, Balsamo’s work reminds us of the wonderful sentiments of Helen Keller: “There is no better way to thank God for your sight than by giving a helping hand to someone in the dark.”

See more of Thomas’ work at his site: Portraits by Thomas.

Learn more about his philanthropic work here, on his blog, as well as a complete picture of Thomas’ studio.

His book, SOULS: BENEATH & BEYOND AUTISM is available from Amazon.

Thomas has a lot of wonderful photographs on his site…  but our favorite is this simple shot of a group of “his kids” at a reception at the Woodridge Library, seeing themselves through Thomas’ eyes…

-Ted Dillard

March 1, 2011

The Secret of the Cruse? One Word. Lighting.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:41 am

There’s one simple reason why the Cruse Camera is better than anything else.  It’s the lighting.

If you have some experience with copy and repro photography, some of this may be old hat, but bear with me.  I guarantee a “Eureka!” moment.  If this is new, then hopefully it’s helpful in understanding some of the basic principles of reproducing flat art.

Let’s start with how it’s done traditionally.  Here’s a top-of-the-line repro copy stand with a standard four-light array.

If you’re following along at home, the formula is this: Each light is 45º off the axis of the table, measured from the center.  Each light is the same distance from the center point of the table.  Here’s a secret of getting balanced lighting- you aim each light at the far side of the table. This helps overcome the Inverse Square Law.

Oh, snap.  Math.  Well, simply put, the Inverse Square Law is a basic law of Physics, and without all the math it means that your light falls off really fast as you move further away from it.  It’s drops faster than just the distance, that is, moving something twice as far away cuts the light not by half, but by four times…  that is, the light at twice the distance is 1/4 the intensity.  Note the arrows, and the distance of the table from each light.  See the problem? Even from this rough diagram, the distance from one light to the far side is more than twice the distance to the near side of the table. There’s a ton of difference in the resulting luminance.

Here’s a basic diagram of a traditional copy setup, from the camera’s eye.

That’s the table where the art is going to sit, and those four blocks are the lights.  Now.  Because of the Laws of Physics, here’s what the lighting pattern is going to look like…  exaggerated for the sake of clarity, but nonetheless, this is what we’re fighting.

It really doesn’t matter what you do, at some level you’re going to be dealing with the basic Laws of Physics.  I know.  I don’t like Physics either.

Let’s take a look at the Cruse system and see how it’s different.

Here’s the lighting array, with the two strip lights centered on the sample area- literally only inches wide.

Here’s what the lighting pattern looks like:

…getting the idea here?  You have a completely even lighting pattern from one side of the piece to the other, but, more importantly, because the lights are so close and the sample area is so narrow, the intensity of the light is perfectly even.  The issue of the distance of the light from the subject no longer matters, since it’s virtually the same from one side of the sample area to the other.  This is called using Math for Good…  not for Evil.

Here are three shots simulating the Cruse making a scan.

And…  the final scan simulating the lighting:

See what we’re talking about?  Dead-even light from side to side, from top to bottom, without any sort of tricks, plugins or workarounds.

Here’s the cool part.  This demonstrates how the Cruse system works when you’re trying to light something as “Left-Right Even” lighting.  Now, suppose that you want to have a little side-shadow to show the depth of a piece, say…  a painting with a brush stroke?  With a conventional copy stand, that means you kill one side of your lighting, and your even-lighting problems just went ballistic.  Even if you use some very advanced lighting workarounds or software to even the field of the capture, your shadow quality is going to be different from one side of the piece to the other.  Where you’re closer to the light, the shadow will be softer.  Where you’re further away, the shadow will be sharper.  There is simply no way to achieve a true, even sidelight with conventional copy/repro lighting.  There’s no bending of the rules of Physics.

Here’s what the pattern is going to look like with one bank turned off:

Here’s what the Cruse pattern looks like with “Left Textured” lighting, that is, with the right bank turned off:

On the Cruse, once again, the effects of distance from the light source are virtually non-existent.  You want side-lighting?  You got it, from a simple side-light to up to 10cm off-axis, and perfectly even intensity from one side to the other.  You’re not fighting the light, or Physics.  You’re working with the light.

Here’s what that looks like.  This is a top-lit painting, sampled from the very bottom:

Here’s the same scan, sampled from the very top:

With conventional lighting, the top sample would be getting about 200% more light intensity…  here you can see the two areas are being lit precisely the same.  Not only that, the shadow quality, that is, the softness and feel of the shadows are identical.  Game over.

There are very few digital systems out there that anyone can claim are clearly unique…  but the Cruse Camera is one of them.  Next time someone tells you they have the best quality digital reproduction setup, just ask one question.  “Is it a Cruse?”  For more information and a look at what the machine can do, check out our Cruse videos and see the machine in action.

-Ted Dillard

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