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Author Topic: The Stunning Photography of Allan Walls  (Read 1175 times)

Michael Erlewine

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The Stunning Photography of Allan Walls
« on: January 07, 2022, 03:35:26 pm »

Today I just spent some time on a Zoom call with the expert photographer Allan Walls. I have never been all that taken with ultra-macro shots on the high end, like photos of the compound eye of a dragonfly, etc. For me, see one or two of those and I’ve seen what is to be seen. There is not enough context for my taste. Then comes the work of Walls and it changed my mind in a flash, just like that. IMO, these are incredible macro photographs. They have a sense of wholeness and spirit all their own.

And the most fun part of our first Zoom conversation was discovering that Walls has a very similar approach to the process of his photographic work as I do, which involves complete immersion in the ‘process’ of taking photos. In my case, I use the age-old Tibetan meditation technique of Vipassana (Insight Meditation) to reach the timeless immersion I need to lose myself in photographing an image and Allan does something very similar, which just shows me that photos taken in what I call a ‘special’ state of mind, our being one with the ‘process’ of photography, do produce results that reflect that special state of mind.

Allan Walls is the first photographer I’ve met where, by means of a simple discussion between the two of us, we matched our approach very exactly. Of course, the results are totally different, yet it is the process and the resulting images for each of us that speak to viewers of what I call this non-dualistic approach. I spotted it right away in his work and he mine.

I am used to having no one to discuss my particular approach to photography, so it was thrilling to be understanding each other almost instantly, and I saw this in his work even before we spoke online, and this thanks to another dedicated photographer, Michael Kanfer, who brought Walls and I together. Kanfer obviously could tell that we would relate well. We did.

Walls has mastered a variety of photographic techniques, of which this ultra-macro is but one, and he also offers instruction to photographers who want to learn macro photography. Here is Wall’s ‘home page’:

And here is his blog page, which I found fascinating to browse through.

In particular, I liked his three-part essay on comparing what are probably the two major pieces of software that stack focus, as I do, Helicon Focus and Zerene Stacker.

And after meeting Allan Walls online and our fascinating discussion, this got me to thinking:

If I look back in my life to where I first had an insight into how the mind works, it was perhaps through reading the journals of the German writer Franz Kafka. There was a single line in one of his entries that went something like this “Each line I write, it already has perfection.”

Hmmm. That caught my mind’s eye and I spent years pondering it and trying to grasp for myself what Kafka might have meant. It eventually came to me that Kafka, instead of working on his writing skills as many authors do, worked on training and purifying his mind more in the traditional way that meditators do. Of course, that’s exactly what those of us interested in mind training do, and which I have done for decades.

And I understand that it was probably in that purified state of ‘mind” that any line that Kafka wrote already reflected where he was at. Of course, this made perfect sense to me.

And over the years I have come to take a similar approach to photography, in my case working with Tibetan mind-training practices for more than 45+ years, and eventually finding and using the process of the Kagyu style of Insight Meditation, that with its immersive non-dualistic nature, is to some significant degree reflected in my photographs. At least I see that.

I saw something similar in Allan Walls photo images and recognized that same quality right off. Then, speaking with Walls personally, it was clear that he has a similar approach to my own, accent on the process of photography. It made me feel not so alone and that I had company in this approach, and that eventually we may find there is a whole group of photographers who consider the ‘process’ of taking photos at least as important as the resulting photos. In fact, immersion in the process of photography can be a superior way to improve our image results in a meaningful way.

For example, I have never printed out even one of my photographs, much less posted it on the wall. Why? Because I never feel any of the photography I produce is finished. Instead, each is a trial, an attempt to capture an impression. This is why it always surprises me when other photographers comment on my photos, telling me I should have done it this or that way. For me, everything I do is a work in progress… or better yet, as explained in this article, a work ‘in-process.’ Enjoy these special images by Allan Walls. Used with his permission./

[Photos by Allan Walls.]
« Last Edit: January 08, 2022, 11:44:41 am by Michael Erlewine »
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Eric Brody

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Re: The Stunning Photography of Allan Walls
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2022, 03:07:25 pm »

Thank you Michael. I thoroughly enjoyed his images.

The discussion of the comparison between Helicon and Zerene was absolutely fascinating. I have and use both and learned a lot from reading the paper. I'll likely be sticking with Zerene for now.


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    • Pieter Kers
Re: The Stunning Photography of Allan Walls
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2022, 09:04:50 am »

+1 thanks for sharing; Stunning photographs! Amazing those little creatures with their exoskeletons...

Using Helicon since some years i am keen to understand how Zerene does a better job of retouching inside the program.
For that is what i understand is the essence of the main benefit of Zerene...

That Helicon crashes often to him never happened to me : it is rock solid and as he states; lightning fast. Must be some computer related problem on his part.

Pieter Kers


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    • Frank Disilvestro
Re: The Stunning Photography of Allan Walls
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2022, 12:34:08 am »

Thanks for sharing and excellent photos and discussion.

Just to let you know, there is a new version of Helicon Focus (8.0.1, still in beta) that offers "Slabbing". How good it is compared to Zerene I don't know yet.

And a couple of notes:
Raw-in DNG-out creates a linear raw, not a tiff. It is a big difference.

In regards to the plugins, both Lightroom and Capture One, Having to close Helicon at the end is not a bug, it is the way the plugin works, otherwise LR/C1 cannot know the focus stacking process has finished.

C1 - HF only works with tiffs, while LR - HF can use both tiff or DNG.

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