Frank Petronio photographer

Rethinking the Workshop

Indulge me here…. If you haven’t guessed I’m extremely lucky and privileged. Growing up my parents gave me room to have a workbench in our garage so I could build my model rockets. Later on I was given a heated room in my Grandparent’s barn to use for building larger model airplanes. During college and in all those shitty proto-adult living spaces I always had a workbench and ski tuning tools with me. I’d even mount ski vises to the tailgate of my truck when camping. Not that I’m any sort of craftsman… almost everything I’ve built has a few “opps” to it. My guns have idiot scratches, most screw heads get buggered, and I’ve been known to use duct tape, super glue, spackle, and epoxy to excess. I don’t think I’ve ever cut a perfectly straight 2x4 by hand, my skis’ sidewalls have chatter marks, etc. 

Yet zie persisted….

My wife has multiple hobbies and crafts that while she is very proficient, there is never quite enough time for. This consumes space and any flat surface will be piled upon. Shelves, drawers, and closets get filled past capacity. Then the boxes, books, and papers get piled on the floor amongst strewn clothing and shoes. Our daughter has adopted her Mom’s approach to the extreme, her room is off limits and if it wasn’t for her cat I swear it’d be infested with vermin eating junk food out of her bed. I try to take a zen approach, accepting what I can not change. My response is to carve out my own personal space where I can… striving for minimalism and neatness I throw away more than I take in. I have two feet of closet space to her 30+, my dresser has vacancies, I have only two storage boxes in the crawl space, four rows of book shelves out of 50 or so, etc. 

But I’ve been carrying this mass of tools and hardware with me since childhood. From back when Stanley was made in the USA and still a respectable brand… ancient, often awkward and ugly tools, rusting nails, buckets of nuts, bolts, washers, and doohickies. Last week I threw most of it out and got a handful of new tools that reflect what I actually do these days:

I’m not building fine furniture. I have no need for a planer or impact driver. I’m merely assembling and cleaning things. Making simple repairs. Putting together guns or maybe whipping out a Balsa wood hand launched glider. Most of what I do requires twisting so I bought myself some higher quality German tools… Wera and Wiha keys and bits. I replaced my vintage Disston saws with Japanese pull saws. Completed my set of Channel Lock pliers (made in Meadville, PA). Swapped the Indian-made square and rule with Starretts. Found 20-year old things I never even used. Threw out, donated, or craiglist’ed all the Chinese-made crap I’ve been lugging around. The only power tools left are a couple of drills and sanders. 

Now I have 20% of the tools I once had but I’ll use them fully and they’re all of better quality than what I had before. I can’t think of anything else I want or need, and my goal is to wear out and use up what I already have. 


I got myself an Aquatech water housing and picked up a beater Nikon D800 body to use inside it (with a 35/1.8G lens). Aquatech had a Black Friday sale and being the off season you can save a good amount. I’m still testing but I’ve got the basics down. Stuck my hand into the frigid and: 

I’ll have to find something amazing to justify going back into freezing water! But without foreground subjects like fish, boats, or models I’m at a loss…. If I study rocks and ice perhaps I can visualize something and do a quick in-and-out with my old kayaking neoprene? Otherwise… any excuse for a Caribbean trip is a good one.

Sarah K

I love doing these 20 minute portrait sessions. (Ignore the six hours spent driving and editing.) 

The Nikon 105/1.4e is the best short telephoto lens to date, with the best autofocusing accuracy and speed along with beautiful, sharp yet smooth rendering. It beats all of the other good lenses I’ve owned: Zeiss 135/2. Sigma 135/1.8, Nikon 85/1.8G, 85/1.4G, all the AIS lenses, etc. Its only downsides are the price (over $2000) and that it uses odd 82mm filters. To avoid spending more on filters I’ll rarely use I got an 82-77mm step-down ring, figuring I could crop slightly. (I carry a circular polarizer and an 8-stop ND.

I also have the 28/1.4e but I’m not as receptive to wide-angle shooting, in spite of it having similar qualities to the 105. And I’m still frustrated that Nikon doesn’t make a comparable 50mm to these two fine lenses. That trio would be perfect (along with a set of pancake primes for travel). 


I mainly show the PG version but the Mono is not forgotten. Handheld 4x5 film in a cheap Crown Graphic with the brilliant Aimee, who survived her stint with Suicide Girls and is now a Mom, writer, teacher, and editor. Things do work out more often than not. 


Holimont, Ellicotville, NY

I’m guessing this is from Spring 1986, three years after my climbing accident and when I still skied the super small Lange shells. I used those race stock Rossignols for many years (they were 213cm with the old Rossi Roc 550 construction… basically slabs of Aluminum wrapped in Fiberglass), still had the 70s Vaurnets. I know I felt slow and pudgy at the time but Lordy, considering the subsequent abuses this was peak Frank. 

It’s hard to describe just how much I identified with being a skier, and a ski racer at that. I did coach the University team in Oregon; qualified for pro race against some World Cup guys, and for one brief weekend I was 176th in the world for Giant Slalom if I read the points right. But I had a late start (age 15), physical deformities (really messed up feet), and when I took a 60-footer climbing fall in 1982 that pretty much put the kibosh on my ski industry career (why be underpaid if you can’t enjoy skiing everyday?) 

Still, this was probably one of the hero days I so fondly remember. I still ski those same trails and when the snow and sun cooperate I can create those same G-forces and arcs, it really is like flying. I have skiing dreams and I often fall asleep thinking about skiing, it’s burrowed deep inside. Which is why we put up with all the ridiculous things we do in order to do it. 

Using Format