October 2007

Tree Fern

Tree Fern, Carmel California

Made with the new T-MAX 400 film

Greetings Friends,

It's been a long time since my last newsletter. I apologize for the lack of communication. To say the least, we have been consumed with the production and fulfillment of the Recollections Deluxe Limited Edition book and print sets. Some who read this newsletter can imagine how large the task is to carefully handcraft 540 silver-gelatin photographic prints.

I wanted to give you some updates on a few things that have been happening, including awards that Recollections has received, as well as let you know about an upcoming event I will be participating in at PhotoPlus in New York City next week.

In addition, I wanted to let you know that my third book, Places of Power: The Aesthetics of Technology, will be officially going out of print on November 1st. After that time the price for the book will go up, as I will have only a few remaining copies. You can find additional details below.

Thanks so much for your patience and understanding regarding the newsletter silence. At least I'm not jamming up your e-mail in box with continuous bits of useless information, as is the case with much of the email material I receive on a daily basis.

Wishing you the best this autumn!




I wanted to let my newsletter subscribers know that I will be at PhotoPlus in New York City next week. This will be in conjunction with Kodak’s introduction of the new updated T-MAX 400 film.

I am pleased to be a part of a panel discussion, Black and White Photography in the 21st Century, on Friday, October 19th from 3:00 to 4:45 pm. This presentation is sponsored by Kodak. This event is free to those attending the PhotoPlus trade show, and will be held in the Presentation Theater on the main floor of the Jacob Javits Center. It’s an honor to be on the panel with photographers Michael Crouser, Liz Gilbert, and Kristen Ashburn. All of us will be discussing our current work, and our decisions in terms of why we work in black and white photography. There will be a drawing at the conclusion of the event, where attendees will have the opportunity to win silver gelatin prints from each of the four panel members! If you are attending PhotoPlus, it would be great to see you at the panel discussion.

For further information on the Kodak PhotoPlus black and white panel checkout:

Anne and I will also be in the Kodak booth visiting with photographers and signing books - which will be available for purchase - at the following times:

11:00 am - 2:00 pm

10:30 am - 12:00 pm

10:00 am - 1:00 pm

I hope to have the opportunity to see some old friends from among my newsletter subscribers, as well as make new friends during our three days at PhotoPlus.



Today Kodak announced a new improved version of their T-MAX 400 film.  I personally find this exciting news, as it demonstrates that film is still “alive” at Kodak, and in fact they have been working on improving their existing silver halide emulsions.

I've had the opportunity to use this film extensively, in 120 size, for the past month.  Though my primary film is Kodak Professional T-MAX 100, I have also used T-MAX 400 when needed for extremely low light situations, or when wind is a concern.  In my experience the new T-MAX 400 film has noticeably finer grain than its predecessor.  Kodak states that the new Professional T-MAX 400 is "now the world's sharpest, finest grain 400 speed black and white film."

Here is a link to the web page where you can find the Kodak press release announcing the new T-MAX 400 film:

You can find some additional information about the new T-MAX 400 film here:

I have been processing the new T-MAX 400 120 film in D-76 1+1 for 7 minutes at 68?F with manual agitation for 5 seconds every 30 seconds for normal development.  I have been using an EI of 250 with the new emulsion, just as I did with its predecessor. This procedure has produced negatives of excellent quality for enlarging with a diffusion light source.  The grain structure has smoothness that to my eye I have never experienced with a film of this speed.

Kodak recently conducted a survey of more than 9,000 professional photographersin the United States.  The results of the survey show that film continues to have a loyal following, with 75 percent of photographers saying they will continue to use film.  You can read about Kodak’s survey results here:

Kodak will be distributing free 35mm rolls of the new film to those attending PhotoPlus Expo in New York City, October 18-20, at the Jacob Javits Center.




Ventana Editions published my third book, Places of Power: The Aesthetics of Technology, in the fall of 2000. During the past seven years the book has received a number of awards, and enjoyed great success. The good news is sales have been sufficient so that I only have a limited quantity of copies remaining in my personal inventory. The bad news is this means the book is going out of print. Effective November 1st Places of Power will officially be listed as out of print. There will still be autographed copies available from the Ventana Editions online store, but the price will increase significantly.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy for yourself, or for someone else, you can still purchase autographed copies for the discounted price of $50 at the Ventana Editions online store through October 31st.

In addition, I will have some copies for sale at PhotoPlus in New York City next week.  Naturally, I will be pleased to autograph and inscribe those at the trade show.

When I first conceived the idea for Places of Power in 1990 I was not sure what the response would be in terms of sales.  The results have exceeded our best expectations. It was an exciting project to work on, and it is a book that I am still proud of today.




I am pleased to have Light Impressions as a sponsor of my workshop program, and appreciate their support over the years. Light Impressions has been dedicated to supplying archival products of the highest quality to photographers for over thirty years.  They have a full product line of archival presentation and storage supplies.

As a special benefit to readers of my email newsletter, Light Impressions is pleased to offer you a discount of 15% on any orders you place through December 31, 2007. When you order from Light Impressions, please use the key code: 'PHOTO+07' to receive the special discount on your order. This offer may not be combined with any other offer or discount.

To call for a catalog or order by phone or fax please call: 800/828-6216; Fax: 800/828-5539, or order online at:

Remember to use the special discount code above. It's great that this is not a one-time discount, but you can obtain this 15% discount from now until the end of the year




Anne and I are both very pleased with the response that we have received to my most recent book, Recollections: Three Decades of Photographs. It was exactly one year ago that the book was published. The sales of the book have been terrific, and the feedback we have received from purchasers around the world have been very positive.

We are also very proud of the awards and honors that the book has received thus far. The elegant design Cliff Rusch executed, and the spectacular printing by Dual Graphics, have been recognized in a number of design and printing competitions.

Here is a list of awards that Recollections has received thus far:

- 2007 SAPPI North America Printers of the Year Awards
Silver Award - Book

- 2007 Independent Publisher Book Awards
Silver Award - Photography Book

- 2007 Prix de la Photographie Paris PX3 Competition
2nd Prize - Fine Art Photography Book

- 2007 Applied Arts Photo Illustration Awards
Winner - Complete Photography Book

- 2007 Gold Ink Award
Silver Award - Hard Cover Book

- 2007 American Graphic Design Awards
Winner book category - Design Excellence

- 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards
Finalist - Photography Book

- 2007 International Photography Awards
onorable Mention - Fine Art Photography Book



Filters can be valuable tools for photography - whether working in black and white or color.  My simple premise in terms of using filters is to ONLY use a filter when it has a specific purpose. That purpose can be as simple as using a UV-Haze filter or skylight filter to protect the lens from damage. Personally I only use such a filter in adverse conditions such as blowing sand, salt spray, etc., but many people leave one of these filters on at all times to protect the delicate and expensive front element of their lens. In the past there have been suggestions with black and white film to “always use a yellow filter to make the results more natural.” This isn’t always bad advice, but I think a filter should be used to accomplish specific goals. Keep in mind that a yellow filter at 12,000 feet can have a much stronger effect on darkening the sky (and also the shadows!) than a red filter at sea level -- use filters with thought and care.

Years ago I used gelatin filters. I was taught that a gel filter could take a fair amount of abuse without any image degradation. I learned the hard way that this simply is not the case!  In 1983 I switched to glass filters. I tested a number of different glass filters from different manufacturers, and selected Tiffen filters as my choice at that time. I have used Tiffen filters now for nearly 25 years, and continue to be pleased with their optical and mechanical performance. One of the things I like about Tiffen filters is that they use the Kodak Wratten filter numbers, which I have used since my early days in photography.

I’ll try and cover more fully filter use in practice in a future newsletter.  Let’s get back to the topic of taking care of filters...

There’s nothing more frustrating than having a filter jam onto a camera lens or jam into another filter or adapter ring.  It’s essential that the threads of the lens mount, as well as the filter itself, are kept clean. With use these threads accumulate dirt, grime, dust, and debris.  Periodically (once or twice a year) I clean and “lube” these threads. The cleaning part is easy. You can use something like rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol on a Q-tip. You can find some neat specialty cotton swabs in the make-up section at your local drug store. They’re pointed on one end and, combined with a traditional cotton swab, make a good pair of cleaning tools. Be careful not to get cleaning material (or lubrication) on the front element of the lens.  As is the case with most things in life, a little goes a long way.

After cleaning the threads, I suggest that you add a SMALL amount of lubricant. For years I used Vaseline petroleum jelly.  It seems like an unusual lubricant, but this was suggested to me by the folks at Linhof for lubricating the aluminum-to-aluminum precision tracks on a Linhof Technika camera. I definitely would suggest to NOT use silicone-based lubricants for filters or focusing tracks. I’ve had bad experiences with silicone lubricants in dry climates, at least for filters and focusing rails.  Silicone lubricants can be useful for other things.

What I now use is a material called Super-Lube.  It seems to be most easily available on the Internet at gun reloading suppliers. It’s also available from a great source for camera repair tools called Micro Tools. I put a SMALL amount on a clean Q-tip and gently wipe the threads after they’ve been cleaned. Then an important step. Try to remove virtually all of the Super-Lube or petroleum jelly with a clean cotton swab. If you can see lubricant on the threads, there’s too much there.  You don’t want to create a situation that will attract dirt and debris. Keeping your filter and lens threads clean will greatly minimize the possibility of the two becoming stuck together.

If they do become stuck, I’ve found an inexpensive, nifty tool that there will always be room for in any camera bag. For years I carried two pieces of tire inner tube rubber, cut about 5x5”.  At Micro Tools and perhaps at your local dentist, you can obtain a 5x5” dental dam. If you carry two of these you will have a filter wrench that will be useful in a number of situations.

If the filter becomes stuck on a lens, simply place one of the dental dams on the filter, put the palm of your hand flat on the dental dam, push in slightly, and turn in a counter-clockwise direction. The latex dental dam will give you “gription,” and will give you a lot more power than using your hand without the sticky rubber. Thus far on workshops I’ve found that this works in every situation. Once there was a filter stuck to an adapter ring so severely that we actually had to put the combination into an ice chest, lower the temperature, and finally got the two to release from one another.

Having two of the dental dams makes a filter “wrench” useful for removing filters that are stuck to adapter rings, or to one another. Simply put the flat dental dam on the palm of each hand and the stuck filters between them. Press your hands together and twist in opposing directions. The filters should then release and come apart. If you simply squeeze the filter rings when trying to loosen them it will distort their shape, and make it much more difficult to “unlock” them. I have two or more dental dams in every camera bag and camera pack. Fortunately there have been very few times when I’ve stuck filters together, but that’s because I try to take care of my filter threads. Most of the times I’ve had to use my dental dams have been unsticking things for people on workshops. I have found that, on the few occasions when I have had difficulty getting filters apart, it’s when it’s essential and the light is changing quickly. Pick up a couple of these goodies. They cost virtually nothing, and I think you will find them a valuable tool.





“To make enduring photographs, one must learn to see with the mind’s eye, for the heart and the mind are the true lenses of the camera.”
- Yousuf Karsh

“I've learned that you shouldn't compare yourself to others -they are more screwed up than you think.“
- Recently received email signature

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John Sexton
Post Office Box 2338
Carmel Valley, CA 93924
Voice: 831-659-3130
Fax: 831-659-5509


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Copyright © 2007 John Sexton. All rights reserved.

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