Graphic Pens

Of all of the writing instruments on the planet, these are my favorite. During most of high school, a 2x0 and 3x0 pen were my main writing tools.


Unfortunately I found out that there are some drawbacks to these when taken on an airplane: they tend to empty their ink resevoir onto the user. And the inks these use are... difficult to remove.


I was overjoyed to find that K&E, Koh-I-Noor, Staedtler, and practically anyone else who ever made these still do. Long live the graphic pen!


This was done using a mix of techniques. A total of 54 images were used, taken in two sets of 27 using a CHDK script. Each set was taken at a range of focus values spanning from the very near to the very far. The sharpest part of each shot in the set was combined into a single image using CombineZP, giving this effectively infinite depth of field. The two sets were taken at different exposure settings and the images produced by CombineZP were subsequently processed in Fotomatix as a two-shot HDR stack to help fill in some of the darker shadow areas in the pens.


To the best of my knowledge, this technique of Z-stacking was pioneered by Paul Haeberli while he was at Silicon Graphics. You can read his original article at Grafica Obscura.


(This technique is covered a little better in this article.)

  • Tom Benedict 6y

    Another Flickr photographer, conceptDawg, corrected my spelling of Paul Haeberli's name, and also provided a link to Grafica Obscura, Paul's web site. I've added a link to his site so you can see the original article that led to this technique.
  • Kenny Wong 6y

    Nice ; all for one, one for all .
  • Amir.M. 6y

  • gnlogic 6y

    Nice collection - Nicely arranged
  • Jorge 6y

    I still have my Koh-I-Noor set with 12 pens, 18 rules and the "crawler" as we called in Mexico... I got the plastic green box, I wanted the "delux" set in the nice wood box but finance is never good when you're still s teenager... great memories.
  • petrova fossil :) 6y

    Great photo and i love the subject. about once a year I dig out my old rotrings and try to get then to work - a hopeless task! :)
  • Paulo Dourado 6y

    why not stop down your lens? shoot 2 shots one above and one under and HDR. done.
  • Tom Benedict 6y

    Because if you're this close, you'd have to stop down the lens a lot. This particular camera has a sweet spot around f/4.5-f/5.6. Even stopped down to f/8.0, I can't get the DOF I'm after.

    Another case: I've got a 100mm macro that will go down to f/32. But with an aperture that small, you really start to notice the diffraction. I tried that setup here, and even at f/32 the background was going out of focus.

    The pens here really aren't the best example of this technique. Here's a better one:

    Optics Bench

    The DOF required to do that simply isn't available using a commercial lens with the available apertures. I HAVE done a shot with that kind of DOF using a Crown Graphic, 4x5 film, a 150mm lens, and a custom f/256 pinhole aperture I made on the laser machining center at work. Even so, diffraction really starts to take a toll. The only thing saving the shot is the size of the negative.
  • Roger_T 6y

    nice shot. i like the perspective.

    Seen on my Flickr home page. (?)
  • [ { } ] 6y

    my favorite pens! and wow! you did a lot of work.
  • tuomope 6y

    I would like you to add your photo to group Focus Stacking + HDR.
  • Shelly and Roy Johnson 6y

    Beautifully assembled. Everything is perfectly crisp.
  • Al Greig 5y

    Great photo! The pens bring back many memories of my high school and college days. Alas, I haven't used one for 35+ years, but good to know they are still made.
  • BoldPuppy 5y

    Hats off to you for this work. I agree that while the HDR wouldn't be necessary if the lighting was tweaked a little, it's still a lot of work to get the focus stacking to work right, and you pulled this off very nicely.
  • Thomas Keil 5y

    great composition and look, like it.
  • Stu Keating 5y

    Superb work, and thank you for the insight to create the shot. All the very best to you.
  • James Sheng 5y

    Very Nice!
  • 7D4dusk2dawn 5y


    You are invited to post this striking image in
    Hi 850340q1vryib7nz
  • Matt 4y

    brilliant idea and shot
  • Trevor Dennis 4y

    I gave my Rotring pens to a niece eons ago. Wonderful things to use on Mylar, but as many of you have said, the .5mm used to dry out if not used for more than a minute or two (that was irony btw). Joy as they were to use, I was more than happy to move to Autocad, and I am talking about version 10 where it was all done from command lines in DOS.
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Taken on January 9, 2009
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