My Favorites - 2017

Not the usual BEST end of year selection...just my personal favorites. Hope you enjoy this small edit of what I LOVE doing, both personal and professional. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to capture a slice of our world for a living, be it good and sometimes bad.

May 2018 bring more good and peace to all!   Happy New Year my friend!!! 

New Instagram account - @tlr_lifesquared

Finally got around to creating a LIFE SQUARED Instagram account where I will only post my 120 square format film images. Please take a look and follow me at @tlr_lifesquared. All images will have been created from one of my vintage Rolleiflex cameras and presented in full frame with a dirty negative carrier border. #120 ‪#‎ilford‬ ‪#‎bw‬ ‪#‎film‬ ‪#‎rolleiflex‬ ‪#‎tlr‬ ‪#‎filmisnotdead‬ ‪#‎filmlover‬ ‪#‎nophotoshop‬ ‪#‎filmphotographer‬ ‪#‎nostudio‬ ‪#‎pdsphoto‬

Adventures of Tolay's the Wayward Elephant Seal

Volunteering my talents for the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA, documenting the rescue a 900 lbs pregnant elephant seal who originally hulled out on to Hwy 37 in Somoma, CA blocking traffic for hrs. on Dec. 28th. Today, members of the Marine Mammal Center were able to corral, tranquilize, capture and then release the elephant seal back in to the wild, before putting herself in danger again. And during this season of giving, please don't forget the animals that need it the most. Donate to the Marine Mammal Center

Reality Check…

OH Shit! - 4x5 Speed Graphic  Kodak TriX 

OH Shit! - 4x5 Speed Graphic Kodak TriX 

According to the Urban Dictionary:

reality check...
A word or phrase used to bring a person back into the life of those around them, sometimes used to smash hopes and dreams.

As San Francisco rents rise to an all time high for any city across the country. Many of the people who make up the fabric and culture of the area can’t afford to live in this region of California any more.

If you’re not working for one of the large tech firms or ambitious start-ups, funded by millions of VC dollars. The clock is ticking and ticking exponentially fast, especially for those who work out side that industry—artist, creatives, small business owners, service industry workers, to individuals who thought they were well paid and have been living comfortably in this region for decades.

Well, my clock timed out the other day. Not sure if my heart skipped a few beats or just stopped. I think is was the latter, because time just stood still, it got quite, not even a breath as I read a notice from my landlord, notifying me that my rent was going up almost 35% in 60 days.

Reality check…yes!  I refuse to let some greedy landlord rob me of my hopes and dreams. Not willing to give them another cent, I've decided to make a few life changing decisions — so I'm moving on...packing up whats important to me, streamlining my life, selling off the studio (which I dearly love, after building it from scratch) and taking care of family. Change is always hard, but having the support of all my friends and family, it will be amazing and for the better!

The Immortals Project is on ready stand-by, and my focus will be on what I do best, photojournalism and my personal BW film work. I’ve already found a home for the WingLynch, so the film images will live on. I will be available during the transition, ready to shoot digital, film and video assignments. All contact info will be the same. I just won’t have a studio anymore.

So stay tune for the massive studio sale. Looking for some studio and grip equipment? This will be the place to find all kinds of stuff. I’m compiling the list now. It’s going to be pretty extensive, ranging from small super clamps, c-stands, mini booms, 12’ Arkay studio camera stand, suction cup car rigs, flags and scrims of all sizes, to a 16ft overhead frame with silks and scrims. Along with the studio equipment, there will be furniture, tools, original framed prints and so on.

Send me a message for a list or inquiries to many unique items on hand. Help me streamline so I can move on to bigger and better things!

Feature Photo Package for EPA

Here is a recent feature photo package I produced for the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) on the growing numbers of stranded sea lions along the California coast.

Stranded Sea Lions

Photographer: Peter DaSilva

Wildlife services like The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito California and other satellite facilities along the California coast are being pushed to their limits this year following the unusually high number of stranded sea lions reported since January 2015.

The Center alone so far in 2015 has rescued a total of 1,071 animals of all species, of which 882 have been California sea lions. While over the same period in 2014 there were 146 rescue of which 59 were sea lions. Every month sees a new record in sea lion 'stranding', mostly pups, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A 24-hour hotline receives dozens of calls each day for 'stranding' along the Central and Northern California coastline. Helped by e-mailed photographs and on site volunteer reports, the stranding staff evaluates each call before dispatching a rescue team for a pick up. This is often adding ten animals a day to their already strained infrastructure.

The small but dedicated staff supported by an army of volunteers gather every morning - before sun rise - to start preparing food for the more than 140 hungry animals on site. They continually monitor their 'patients' condition throughout the day, providing life-saving care when needed, tube feeding the weak, preparing the strong for release and removing the ones that did not survive.

The Marine Mammal Center is both a rehabilitation and research facility, collecting data from both the living and deceased animals. Each animal that dies receives a full necropsy, in which researchers look for a cause of death and use the knowledge obtained to give future patients a better chance of survival.

Furthermore the center focuses on providing educational outreach to increase our overall understanding and awareness about the health of marine mammal populations and our ocean as a whole.

Presenting @ Exploratorium After Dark: Photography - May 7th

After Dark: Photography    Thursday, May 7, 2015 • 6:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.   Exploratorium, Pier 15  $15 General; $10 Members; Free for Lab Members Adults Only (18+)

After Dark: Photography

Thursday, May 7, 2015 • 6:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.
Exploratorium, Pier 15
$15 General; $10 Members; Free for Lab Members
Adults Only (18+)

I am so excited to announce I will be one of the featured presenters at the San Francisco Exploratorium After Dark event on May 7th. I will be demonstrating the wet-plate collodion process in combination with the Ascor Sun Light strobe system, from 6:30 to 10pm.

The evening is dedicated to exploring photography’s evolution, the craft of photography, and what makes an image memorable.

I will be photographing three subjects on the wet-plate process throughout the night and holding a raffle to photograph one attending guest.

I’ll be demonstrating the complete collodion process, from pouring the emulsion on to a 14" x 14" metal plate, sensitizing it in silver nitrate, exposing the image through a vintage large format camera and lens, and finally, developing the photo all within the span of about fifteen minutes.

In order to provide the amount of light needed to expose this very low sensitivity medium, I will be using the awesome power of the Ascor Sun Light system.

Please join me on May 7th at the Exploratorium in San Francisco for this incredible night exploring photography. Don’t forget to throw your name into the hat for a chance to get a wet plate portrait done that evening.


It's been just over three years now since I started shooting in the alternative process of wet-plate collodion. This intensive chemical heavy photographic process is not for the absent minded soul. With so many procedural elements, if you don't stick to strict protocols, you can find yourself in a tail spin moments after pouring your first plate. But when it all comes together (what I call the aligning of the moons, i.e. all of moon in our solar system in alignment), you will be rewarded with the PERFECT POUR, which equates to smooth evenly coated plate, clean silver nitrate sensitized coat, properly lit and exposed image, smooth clean developer pour and evenly coated stop bath (no dirt, dust or ripples),  fixed and washed. No artifacts and perfectly clean blacks!

The Perfect Pour with Tori Lyon -

 TORI LYON - 14" x 14" alumintype.  One light (14" Mole Richardson fresnel w/Ascor strobe) 6400ws, no PHOTOSHOP retouching or cleaning.

 TORI LYON - 14" x 14" alumintype.  One light (14" Mole Richardson fresnel w/Ascor strobe) 6400ws, no PHOTOSHOP retouching or cleaning.

Here is my procedural preparation check list before every shoot.

  • All tanks and bottles cleaned with denatured alcohol
  • Denature Alcohol (squirt bottle)
    • 300-500 mL
    • Constantly wiping down all surfaces (minimizing cross contamination)
  • Collodion (300-500 mil. per 8 plates)
    • Check age  or mix fresh (film speed critical)
    • Check viscosity (ease of pouring emulsion)
  • Silver Nitrate bath (4 liters)
    • Correct specific gravity for dilution %
    • corrected ph
    • maintenance (sunned to remove organic matter)
    • filtered x3
  • Developer (500-750 mL per 8 plates)
    • freshly mix per shoot
  • Stop bath (distilled water 8 liters on hand)
    • 1 quart per plate. Bath discarded, tray cleaned and refilled for every plate
  • Fixing bath (4 liters)
    • freshly mixed per shoot
  • Circulating wash tank (12 liter)
    • Refilled with clean water per shoot
  • Wet Storage/wash tank - THE CELL (24 gallons)
    • Refilled with fresh water per shoot.

That is just for the chemical side for a wet-plate shoot. The electrical/lighting check list is also just as long. Look for that post in the future.

A quote that just made my day!

"You would be a great Cuban"       -Tomas Hernandez

My wonderful (Cuban) friend -Tomas Hernandez, said that to me after I told him about how I repaired broken rocker switches on my 1950's Ascor strobes.

Alluding how I can pretty much fix/repair old technology from the fifties, just like his fellow Cubans back in Cuba!

I am honored to be compared to those whom have survived all these years with very little outside support. A lot can be learned from their ingenuity and tenacity, and the technology of the time they have been stuck in.

Things were built to last, and if they broke, you learned how to fix-it. Not like the way we live now, in this disposable/replacement culture.

Rocker switches repaired with epoxy and machine screws, replacing broken Bakelite and rivets.

Rocker switches repaired with epoxy and machine screws, replacing broken Bakelite and rivets.

On the Make (repair) Again.

The joys of owning 60+ year-old electronic photographic equipment, i.e. Ascor Sun Light strobes.

Equals…continuous maintenance or stockpiling of old equipment for parts or direct replacements.

You ask, why bother using these out dated, bulky, heavy and dangerous strobes. Well, they are the most powerful light source out there, yielding up to 45,000 watt-seconds in a single flash. This gives me the ability to stop action and movement while shooting wet plate collodion images.

Two carts holding 20 Ascor Condensers (capacitors), equivalent to 16,000 watt-seconds of potential strobe power. Each Condenser weighs in at 65 lbs. each.

Two carts holding 20 Ascor Condensers (capacitors), equivalent to 16,000 watt-seconds of potential strobe power. Each Condenser weighs in at 65 lbs. each.

The film speed/ISO of the collodion emulsion is about “0” or slower in the the film speed index. And that does not take in to count the bellows factor if I shoot 1:1 or larger ratio on a Ultra Large Format camera. I think the slowest adjusted film speed index I’ve shot is about, minus ISO 6.  That is about 11 stops slower than ISO 100.

Besides that, I love HIGH VOLTAGE and enough power to light up buildings from a mile away.

So I’m always testing and checking wires for signs of cracking and charring. I hate surprises when you’re just starting or in a middle of a shoot and your strobes just decide to quit, and you smell that distinct odor of burning electrical components. Sometimes, unpredictable is a word to describe these strobes, but for the most part, they are great.

4000 VAC takes a toll on 60 year-old wires.

Did I mention what 4000 VAC will do to you? Put it this way, take the biggest screw driver you can find. You know, one of those that has a 3/8” dia. shaft and is about 24 inches long. Short the two terminals of a 50lbs 4000V capacitor with it and see what happens. If you live, you will have a shorter screw driver, a face full of molten metal and third degree burns.

Respect HIGH VOLTAGE…it will KILL YOU!

Monitoring resistor temperature during capacitor discharge.

Monitoring resistor temperature during capacitor discharge.

So before doing any repairs or even putting my hands in to the box, I discharge the capacitor with a large 8” ceramic resistor. I monitor the temperature to gauge the discharge. Because using a multi-meter to check the voltage will do wonders to your meter. You only do that once, and yes I’ve accidentally have done that, I ended up with a $250 Fluke multi-meter rattle.

So to nights repair was a short in one of the molded connectors. Solution, moving the capacitor to another enclosure. Some times the only solution with old equipment, with damage to a proprietary components, is to just find another one. 

A little bit of folk lore about the Ascor Sun Lights.

“when you purchase a set of Ascor strobes, you also get a broom stick. that is to pry your assistant off your stack of condensers after being electrocuted”


Throw-Back-Thursday - Disturbing Reality

For this week’s Throw-Back-Thursday, I would like to share this image from March 4th 1989. This original Associated Press Wire LaserPhoto would have shown up on editors’ desks in newspapers and magazines across the US back in 1989.

I have covered many protest and riots over the years, most recently the crazy Occupy Oakland protests, but the one that stands out as the most disturbing, was this white supremacist neo-Nazi skinhead protest in Napa, California.

Originally touted as the “Aryan Woodstock,’’ this week long recruiting concert was to be held at a private isolated ranch just outside Napa. With bands sympathetic to white supremacist neo-Nazi skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members.

Unfortunately, the necessary concert permits had not been obtained, putting an end to the music but not to the hateful gathering.

Lacking the music concert the number of white supremacist dwindled down from an expected crowds numbering in the thousands, to about one hundred. Now facing off with around four hundred anti-skinhead protesters, including members of the New York based Guardian Angels.

Fearing violence between the skinheads and protesters over 200 law-enforcement officers, some in riot gear, were on duty at the site.  

What surprised me from the start was that the white supremacist members who were condemned by the protesters for their racist views and violent history were relatively quiet and subdued.

It was the protestors who came to denounce the skinheads who were the ones with all the anger, hateful language, and threats of physical violence, many of them spitting, throwing rocks and gravel, and forcing confrontations. Including a Guardian Angel who through a punch at a Klan member.

Bill Albers, a member of the Ku Klux Klan being chased by a mob of protesters. AP/Peter DaSilva

Bill Albers, a member of the Ku Klux Klan being chased by a mob of protesters. AP/Peter DaSilva

Disturbing…YES!  Not the way I would have thought when the day began. The groups who deplored hatred, racism and violence were no different than the ones that prescribed hate, racism and violence.

Don’t get me wrong, I disagree with what the Klan and groups like them stand for, but how are we to change how people treat each other, if the ones fighting against these views, become just as violent?

An old dog...(me) can still learn new tricks.

Not that I've been fighting the push to join the multimedia world...well just a little, OK a lot. I recently was asked to shoot stills for a couple of stories and possibly videos too for NowU, a Gannett web magazine. Yes, a major departure from my world of shooting film with a Rolleiflex and tintypes with a 11x14 Deardoroff studio camera to producing a video, what a better time to jump in with both feet and my eyes wide open. A quote by Edwin Land, founder of the Polaroid, says it all!

An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail”          -Edwin Land

I have to say, diving in to this unknown was a bit scary and extremely rewarding. The whole editing process had it's it's hurtles to overcome, but at the end it was a great feeling of accomplishment. Yes, this old dog did learn a new trick.  Click through these links and take a look.

How printing has changed - New business cards!

Hot right off of the "whatever the hell they print with in mass theses days" (presses), my new LIFE SQUARED business cards have just arrived and their SQUARE! Go figure! ;-)

Do you remember the days, if you wanted to do some thing like this. It would have been ten separate multi-image half tone plates, eleven press runs at a staggering number per run, just to keep the cost down per card and multiple trips to the printer to check and sign-off the image quality. And then, you would have been stuck with thousands of card that would last you a life time. Amazing how far we have come in "on demand printing". Hell, I could be issuing an new set every month! Enjoy them while they last. Only 200 cards per-set.