T.Stops Blog

The mix of old and new: Director of Photgraphy Joe Taylor creates stunning images with a RED and Antique Cooke Lenses.

Feast your eyes on this!

This entry is to profile director of photography Joe Taylor and the progress on his project “The Lonley Moan” a documentary project based on the real life locations and events that inspired Cormac McCarthy’s fictional novel “Blood Meridian”.  The tale of the John Glanton gang, a group of government hired scalp hunters who  performed their insidious deeds in the very landscape pictured.  Joe Took his RED along with some Cooke Speed Panchro II/III’s from the 1920’s and 1930’s and assembled the footage you see above.  Its simply glorious stuff, and really shows the merits of working with a great eye, a great camera and a great set of lenses.

Initially Joe shot some 2nd Unit footage for the project with an Andre Derbie Parvo hand cranked 35mm film camera, and a 1″ Tessar Zeiss lens.  Unfortunately that footage is not up on his site, however, according to Joe, the images inspired him to experiment with the antique Cooke lenses and a RED.  Thankfully he did.

Here are in his own words the visual basis for “The Lonley Moan”.

My approach to “The Lonely Moan” will be different than most historical documentaries.  Although there will be some recreations, they will be sparse, drawn out affairs with very long takes that will deal mainly with Samuel Chamberlain’s flight through the Sonora Desert after escaping with his life after an Indian attack at Yuma Crossing.  Another example of recreated moment of this lost long-ago time, will be of long, slow, one take walk through of a small dingy tavern set on a hot afternoon in Mexico.  There’s an old barn/shed converted from a tavern near the Mexico/Arizona border that still has the bar, tables, even a little cubby closet stuffed with a few tables and even brooms and other from when it was a bar back in the 1920’s or earlier, when Arizona was still a Territory.  There’s a description in Chamberlain’s account of walking into a bar in where one of his fellow gang members is playing cards half-stands from the table and pisses on the wall—the other members don’t care to notice and keep playing cards.  That’s what I’m after in that scene.  A moment so far removed from today’s sensibilities that it almost seems impossible.

The Speed Panchro’s that Joe used were loaned to him, and were converted to PL from their original Newman-Sinclair mount.  Cooke lenses, in case you don’t know; are famous for their warm, organic look. There is an intangible quality that they lend to the image, which it seems regardless of medium, film or digital, still carries through to the final product. In Joe’s noted;

“I like to sometimes, if the light is right, use a Antique Suede #2 filter that emphasizes the heat of the location, but only if the mood and light is right.  The period Speed Panchros simply did not take to the Antique Suede.  When I put the filter in front of the lens, which normally gives a slight, special golden look, everything turned a sickly green as soon as the filter dropped into place.  Every one of the Cookes did this.  It had to have something to do with these filters not having any coating on them.  I would put one of my more contemporary Zeiss primes on the Red, and we were instantly getting a more desired look.  Those old Cookes just would not have anything to do with color filters, no matter how slight the alteration.


The photogrpahy is sublime. The movement, the careful respect to color, the patience required to wait for the weather, light, location, and time to be right is to be admired.  Joe made his mark on the film scene with his equally beautiful and haunting “Dead Lonesome”; viewable below.  Dead Lonesome was Joe’s first paying gig while he was still a student at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and showed all the signs of a talented and growing cinematographer.




I for one cant wait for “The Lonely Moan” to come to fruition….




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