Frank Petronio photographer

Blunderwater Camera

Like many others I’ve long admired underwater and surf photography ~ beautiful sunset waves, sleek swimmers, strange distorted seascapes. So when Aquatech had their sale last Fall I picked up a Base water housing for my D810. I’ve used it enough to realize that I’m only getting mediocre results, partially due to lack of control and the mucky water we have around the Northeast. To do things “right” I need to get the model with a full set of camera controls, flash housing, larger domed ports for better lenses ~ and then travel to warmer, clearer waters or find myself an awesome pool. But that’s a much larger investment and I’m not convinced I’m enough of a waterman to really do anything significant with the rig. Like powder skiing, I rather be out enjoying the experience of playing in the waves instead of photographing others, call me selfish. And besides, if I ever was in the surf with this plastic beast attached to my wrist I’d probably drown. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of fun to play with. I listed mine for sale so go for it, knock yourself out!






Polaroid 20x24

800mm lens, Sinar shutter

64,000 watt/sec of strobe

The camera has its own technician

Back when I was a wiseass on various photography forums I developed a small following (ca. 2011). One fellow asked me to do his engagement photos with the Polaroid 20x24 camera at the NYC studio. I only charged him $500 (rather than $2500) because I was excited to try the camera out. I think the studio rental was $1800 and each exposure was $300 but I suspect the prices fluctuated somewhat. In any event it cost him a pretty penny… travel, nice hotel, professional stylist, and at the end of the day there were 8 or 10 large prints that he suddenly realized he needed to ship home to Atlanta ~ hustle to find a shipping box and arrange safe passage ($$$). By the time he got one or two framed he must have spent $10 grand. Ouch. 

He called me last year to ask if I wanted the prints because they were getting divorced? Bummer but no, I did not. Of course if someone bothered to store these prints for 100 years they’d become priceless again. But it ain’t going to me. 

It was fun using the giant camera but I wish I had slowed down long enough to have made some better photos of the process. As it was these are the only snaps I have, from a crude small sensor camera. 

I haven’t checked the status of where Polaroid 20x24 is at lately… like a lot of art there was a wealthy backer of the enterprise. There was some sort of relationship with the Impossible Project and other trendy ventures but I never paid any further attention. Hipsters get more wrapped up in the media than the medium when they should be out making new photographs instead.

Back in the 80s-90s when Polaroid was a viable tool for professional photography I thought it was too expensive, wasteful and time consuming. Its chemistry stunk like old piss. And like Kodachrome it gets overly romanticized in spite of being a lousy way to make pictures. 

The camera tech I worked with ~ Jennifer Trausch ~ is a damn good photographer who has mastered the 20x24 Polaroid and 8x10 conventional film cameras. Better than me. Her website hasn’t been updated in years, no idea what she does now. 




First Real Underwater

Alyssa at Olcott Beach, Lake Ontario

After waiting around all Winter, I finally got to take the Aquatech Base water housing out (with a beater Nikon D800 and 35/1.8G) but the water was 41˚F, 5˚C ~ pretty intolerable and we could barely function for only a couple of minutes. I have the simplest base model that only allows autofocusing and shutter release but I think if I wasn’t panicking from the cold I could probably concentrate enough to look through the viewfinder and check image review sharp enough to make effective casual shots. But now I see why you’d really want the full control back plate for serious work. I think a wider lens and closer working distance would help a lot too, and the above/below photos were pretty distorted with the flat front plate. While I can blame it on the cold, I generally didn’t feel in control so it became a spray and pray kind of situation. That can work, you can make serendipitous art when you’re lucky, but I prefer to have control and then loosen my grip rather than the reverse. 

Also, even though Lake Ontario was as clear as it could ever be, the silt and debris is impressive… enough so that it can fool the camera’s autofocus for a percentage of the shots. Guess this is why most of the hero shots you see are in beautiful tropical waters but it was impressive just how nasty our primary drinking water supply is ;-p (We have a reverse osmosis system thankfully.)  

So mixed results, I suspect I will use this casually over the Summer and then evaluate whether I want to dive deeper (pun) or chalk it off to novelty. So now in addition to my Nikons I also have a drone (Mavic Pro, works great but you always want a bigger camera) and a GoPro (a cheap III clone but it works pretty well for a camera that will ultimately get destroyed). They’re all kind of toys but I see how you can do some nice work with them. 

Water so toxic her hair turned green


Memorial Day

Irondequoit, NY

I made this photo in 1986 when I had a Rittereck 5x7 camera. Whoever hung their flag every Memorial Day stopped the following year, I assume they died. 

To properly celebrate Memorial Day we Americans should bring our troops home and stop policing the world.

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