Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘art’:

Old Friends, New Perspectives (or: From Exoskeletons to ExoLenses)

Over the past weekend, I had a long catching-up phone conversation with my friend of several decades, former assistant, and great photographer Jock Pottle, who now lives in North Carolina. A few years ago, I wrote in this space about Jock and his Digging Man series of illustrations…

Jock Pottle: Free Me

I still think the conception and execution of Digging Man are truly unique and the finished works are absolutely phenomenal. I also wish I had a connection to the art director of The New Yorker because that is one publication (among many) where the fit would be perfect. Hope you visit his site and agree.

Anyway, after our phone chat, Jock emailed this photo. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how it was done, although that may just speak to my lack of imagination at the time. Can you figure it out? (If you prefer to believe it’s simply one of the great photobombs of all time, I won’t try to stop you.)

Jock Pottle: grasshopper

On to another matter… Earlier this year, during our annual trip to the NAB show in Las Vegas, I spent time at the Zeiss optics booth. As always, their lenses for virtually every format in motion picture, television, and still photography continue to be at the pinnacle of optical design and manufacture (just look at this “sliced Zeiss” they had on display). Over the past 50 years, I’ve used Zeiss lenses on almost every camera I’ve owned and many of those I still work with.

But here’s the reason for this bit of unrestrained fan mail: I discovered that Zeiss has designed a series of three accessory lenses for the iPhone. Not one of those cheap 3-in-1 clip-on lens sets you’re probably aware of; think of these as prime optics (they certainly don’t come cheap.) The brand name on the lenses is Exo and you’d do well to check them out at I carry the iPhone 7, and the inherent macro capabilities of the phone’s camera are really impressive. However, mounting the Exo Macro-Zoom lens (with its integral diffuser) takes iPhone macro shooting to a whole new level.

There is a range of options for mounting the lenses to iPhone models going back a few generations. I use the case with a threaded screw mount into which each of these lenses mounts. The wide-angle and portrait (2x) lenses are just as impressive… here are some before-and-after demos of each:

This is as good a time as any to invoke the old adage that any professional photographer has used to answer a question asked hundreds of times — “What’s the best camera?”

And the answer, true now as it has always been — “the one you have with you.” And since I always have my iPhone at hand, it’s what I rely on every single day.

Jock Pottle: Architectural Model Photographer, Fine Artist, and Friend

"Take My Hand" by Jock Pottle

Jock Pottle and I first met nearly 35 years ago, when he had recently arrived in New York and was beginning his career as a photographer. He was my assistant for years, became a very close friend and went on to build a career as a very successful architectural photographer, which he is to this day.

A number of years ago, Jock began working in another area of visual artistry that has resulted in a body of work that is absolutely unique and truly wonderful. As I write this, a solo show of his work has just opened at the Jim Kempner Fine Art gallery in New York at Tenth Avenue and 23rd Street — in the shadow of the High Line. The weather was decidedly miserable for the opening, but the gallery was packed.

These images will give you some idea of what he’s been up to, but I really want you to spend some time at his web site In particular, read the short bio he’s posted — that will give you an idea of where the ideas behind the work have come from. And when you look at these images, don’t for a moment think that you can absorb it all in one quick look.

"Pig Pit" by Jock Pottle

On the other hand, Jock’s talents as a shooter are no small matter, either. He’s perhaps the best photographer in the U.S. of architectural models, which themselves can cost a small fortune to make. Sometimes the models are brought to his studio; on other occasions he has to travel to do the photography because the subjects are just too big and complex to be shipped. This area of photography is every bit as complex as food or still life imaging, and a look through his portfolio shows that he’s a master at lighting. It’s also very nice that on the web site Jock lists a number of top tier model builders… you never know.

Jock Pottle at his opening at Jim Kempner Fine Art