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Inside the Lockey Hill Cello of 1780

Inside the Lockey Hill Cello of 1780 - Architecture In Music

This is a reshoot of the photograph that made this series famous.

When I first posted it people were commenting that it looked like the inside of a boat or barn, so I wanted to print it really large… However there was a lot of noise in the photo and a lack of detail in the dark areas. Big prints just didn’t look good. So I rephotographed it using different techniques.

(Lockey Hill Cello c. 1780, portrait version) 

The Instrument:

Lockey Hill was one of the earliest members of the Hill & Sons family. They would go on to become the most famous family of luthiers in the UK, kind of like the Stradivari family of Italy (although not that famous…). Lockey’s career was cut short when he was executed for horse theft in 1790! For those wanting to read the grizzly details you can see his trial notes here:

The Shoot:

I photographed this using two very specific pieces of equipment, a Lumix S1R camera and a Laowa 24mm probe lens. This combo let me slide the lens into the hole for the endpin at the base of the cello (we had to loosen the strings to do this), and then photograph it using “High-Res Mode” which employs pixel shifting to create 187 megapixel frames.

There are a couple of challenges with this technique. The first is that the lens itself doesn’t let a lot of light in (its aperture range is f/14-40), and the inside of the cello itself is really dark. So I have to use the lens at its widest aperture, which means I only have a few millimeters in focus at any one time.

I took around 120 images for this shot, each one focused slightly further away from the last. Each one of those was actually a combination of 8 frames put together in-camera! So there are at least 960 images making up this single photo!

I couldn’t use flash with the High-Res mode, so was stuck with continuous lighting. I used a couple of Apunture 600d lights which are extraordinarily bright, however they are very very hot! So I had to pause every 2 shots to let things cool down and not risk damage to the instrument. This took hours…

After that I needed to use special software (Helicon Focus) to combine the in-focus parts of each image and discard everything that was out of focus.

The result is a massive photo (16743 x 11143 pixels), which I can print in incredible detail up to at least 2 x 3 meters.

This whole Technique creates a cool optical illusion, where the inside of the instrument appears much larger than reality. This is a combination of having everything in focus as well as having a wide angle lens which creates a lot of depth. It’s sort of the opposite of the tilt-shift effect where you selectively blur images typically shot from far away to make them look small.


Zooming in on the detail of a portrait version from my Limited-Edition museum print series.

Printing a 2.2 x 1.4 meter canvas of the Lockey Hill Cello at SKAR Image Lab in Auckland, New Zealand

Details of the signature and stamp on a small Limited-Edition print

A Poster Print fresh off the press.

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