Advertising and risk

A few days ago a friend told me that an article on the German artist Julius Von Bismarck had been published in a supplement of the newspaper El Pais de Espana as a result of his participation in the most recent edition of PhotoEspana. A few days before, a different friend had mentioned a similar article, only in the digital edition of the same newspaper. (You can read the link here). The article also talk of Santiago Sierra, a Spanish artist with whom Von Bismarck collaborated in his NO project. In turn, as I write this post, another friend has just given me another link to an article on the same topic. The reason I mention this, is because last October I talked about Von Bismarck and Sierra, and a few days later I wrote a post about “gobos” and projectors in general.

  Proyector © Marcelo Isarrualde

In that post I praised the political concept of the work of both artists whilst explaining how to build your own “mini image fulgurator” for little money. My surprise came when a month later a prestigious Spanish advertising agency proposed the idea of developing a prototype of the same idea on a larger scale, for an important advertising campaign. I received the surprising news in Montevideo airport, about to return to Spain after having developed a workshop for a strobist technique, and the idea excited e a lot. Upon my return to Barcelona I began to develop a 4×5 format gobo projector that reach a projection of 70 metres and be fire from the flashes of the compact cameras of the event participants.

  Proyector © Marcelo Isarrualde

The complexity of the development was the synchronisation and power. The had to be clearly projected 70 metres from a wall because I would not be close to the “target” like Von Bismarck in his political works.

For the synchronisation I counted on the support of Bach Import who lent me an Omnicell slave unit that proved more effective than the range of the Wein units. The slave unit was connected to a PocketWizard transmitter which transmitted the signal to a receiver connected to the flash. I did the first tests on the street with a Bowens flash and I came up with the idea of improvising a symbol/sign that I could design on a black adhesive, and then cut it by hand and stick it on a 4×5 glass plate.

  Adhesive plate with the word NINI

  Bowens bayonet top

  Projection on the street

Another problem to solve in the tests was the flash power – for this I used a TravelPak from Bowens.
  Travel Pak

My Bowens flashes are 750W/S and I needed to see if projection of the symbol was sharp at a long distance, and if not, estimate the necessary power of the flash for that distance. I decided to ask the studio ‘BarcelonaStudios’ to lend me a hand by testing their Elinchrom gobo projector with a generator on the door of their studios.

  At the door of BarcelonaStudios

With the timing, power, and the projection issues resolved, it was only necessary to find a solution of recharging the flash quick enough, as many simultaneous shots were going to be fired with the compact cameras of the participants. To solve this issue I went to some other generous colleagues, this time the people of Top Studios, and they allowed me to test with some equipment by Profoto. I developed a provisional adapter from Bowens to Profoto and got to work.

  Bowens to Profoto Adapter

The Profoto’s recharge time was very fast and the projection at different distances worked perfectly.

  At Top Studios

Using a 4×5 plate projector, the next matter at hand was the choosing of the right lens. It would need to have an image circle for that format, and be able to focus. I built the box with a device to move the plane of the plate and the lens that worked best for the invention was a Fujinon W 5.6/125 large format lens, with a fixed extension tube.

The entire invention took a week of design and testing, and when the prototype was finished the client decided that they didn’t want to take a chance on it. The planned campaign was very shocking and fun, but every venture has its risks. Now my Fulgorito (Little Fulgurator) will be at home for another occasion – but for those of you who are in Madrid, I recommend as I did last October that you do not miss seeing the real “Image Fulgurator” by Von Bismarck, and to meet him and Sierra.

  Original version Image Fulgurator 2008

Advertising and Risk.pdf

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This image was also shot in the Strobist workshop I gave in Montevideo last November. It was the height of summer and I wanted to achieve a summery look which at the same time had a vintage feel as the building we were shooting in was from the 1930’s.

Off camera flash Model Paola Risso

We did the the session at the Yatch Club Uruguayo, a classic and emblematic example of the architecture that prevailed in 1930’s Uruguay. It was built by two architects, Jorge Herrán and Luis Crespi.

Strobist   © Diego Castiglioni

The location allowed for shooting exteriors, interiors and also on the clubs impressive balconies with their panoramic views. We shot on three different sets but the photo I liked the most of all was shot on the third floor balcony, having to mix natural ambient light with flash. This is the photo which I explain further on.


On the web I found a book, written by Joann Biondi, which features a photograph of the famous photographer and model Bunny Yeager on the cover. It gave me the idea for this post, recreate the cover as an homage to this famous photographer. Yeager began as a model and upon retiring switched to photography. In 1954 she met Bettie Page and took most of the photographs of her that year.

Strobist   Strobist

Bunny Yeager and Irving Klaw helped to make Page famous through their photos for Playboy. Although Bunny used various formats, one of her favourite cameras was the legendary Crown Graphic, the superior model to the Speed Graphic used by Weegee.

Strobist   Betty Page

Today its difficult to imagine shooting people with a large format camera, forcing the model to stay put, focusing, the plate, etc,etc. The Speed Graphic doesn’t have all the tilt/shift features of a full view camera and is thus more portable, earning it the name, “field camera”.

Super Graphic

On to the important stuff, the lighting. I chose the big yellow balcony initially as it allowed a lot of freedom to play with contrast against the blue sky even though I ended up going for a closer shot.

Marcelo Isarrualde   Marcelo Isarrualde

The first step was to measure the ambient light and choose the combination of shutter speed and f stop I wanted to use. The sun was strong so I opted for the fastest shutter speed possible, allowing me to open up the aperture and reduce the need for huge amounts of flash. I wanted to create an effect of concentrated light on the model but instead of putting the zoom of the flash in the tele position, I chose to use it in the wide position and mount a parabolic reflector with a honeycomb grid from Bowens.

Marcelo Isarrualde  © Diego Castiglioni

Using a Fomex adaptor I can attach any of my Bowens equipment to the Yongnuo 560 flashes I usually use. I also use Godox PB820 batteries and the indispensable PocketWizards to assure there wont be any problems with flash sync.

Strobist   © Diego Castiglioni

Off camera flash  Adaptador Fomex for Bowens

The light this reflector gives is hard and very direct, by moving it further from the model it gets harder and starts to look like sunlight, which on that day was very hard as there were very few clouds.

Off camera flash   Off camera flash

The final touch was given in post production, changing the overall tone of the image to give a vintage feel like in the previous post.

Marcelo Isarrualde © Marcelo Isarrualde

Lighting diagram  Lighting diagram


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All reproduction is prohibited without the written consent of the author.

Pegaso automobiles

The Centre for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona inaugurated an exhibition on the iconic cars Pegasus. The curator, the artist Francesc Torres, had contacted me about making to the catalog.

Pegaso Z-102 Spider Rabassada (1953)

Like Josep Ramoneda says in the exhibition catalog: “…. It was probably also this power of fascination of the car that attracted Francesc Torres and made him convince us – the CCCB- of the interest to rebuild this rare burst of beauty in the sinister political and cultural universe during Franco’s rule. “


It was a very interesting challenge because Francesc did not want the photographic treatment of the cars to be like an advertising image, instead he wanted each car to be treated as a work of art, almost like a living sculpture. They needed three or four photos of each car, one long shot, always from the same perspective and three detailed pictures that gave us some clues about the car’s anatomy.

Pegaso Z-102 Spider Pedralbes (1954)

The operational problems were many. On one hand, only authorized staff could touch the cars, clean them and position them for each shot. On the other hand, we could not take pictures outside of the premises of the museum. Neither could we have access to the showroom to take pictures since the carpenters and electricians worked to place pallets and lighting in the room that was needed for the exposition. As can be seen in the picture above … The session had to be performed in a typical rental tent for weddings and other events!

We had to put black interior curtains that covered the ceiling and the walls, to that way be able to control the reflections from the cars.
On the wooden floor of the tent we placed a white vinyl floor, seamless, 6 meters wide and 12 meters long, to have a single continuous surface where the cars could slide. On the wall in the back a very thin gray fabric was placed, stiffened and stuck on a wooden frame that was 3 meters by 6 meters.

How to illuminate these cars?

All the bodies of the cars shone very much and the finishes were very different, but what really conditioned the work and how to illuminate the cars was the need to photograph 4 cars per day, each of them with one long shot and three more additional detailed photos.

  Pegaso Z-103 Berlineta Touring (1956)

For the long shot image we decided to use a large light box by Bowens that had the same size as the car and we placed it very close to the frame. All cars were to have the same position to the camera´s perspective and this way an uniform illumination was achieved. We used two Wafer 200 light boxes– of 1.40 x 2.00 mts. By putting them together horizontal, one next to the other, and position them in the structure of a Wafer Bank … They turned into a light box of 1.40 x 4.00 mts. !

I thought about putting a canopy in front of the light boxes – a diffusing surface – of 6.00 x 6.00 mts – to generate softer borders and gradients of the direct reflections of light on the body of the car, but the height of the tent did not allow it. To model the details I had two Wafer Strip 140 windows and another Wafer 200, which together with the Wafer Bank allowed me to shape the reflections effectively and fast. More than the subtlety in the treatment of the light, it was about trying to find a set of functional illumination.


The reflections from the light sources would have a defined edge, hence once chosen the point of view from which we would make the photo of each detail, we had to move the Wafer Strip until the reflections were good and putted the attention on the forms of each car.

  Pegaso Z-102 Spyder Touring (1953)

Sometimes the details were not in the shape of the vehicle but in some detail of manufacturing such as the more than 1000 rivets that Giorgio Giorda had placed on the body of the cars that made the prototype Rabassada, the first official race car form Pegasus.

  Prototype Spider Rabassada, exact replica

The choice of a white floor helped to make so many photos per day, because its color and the glossy shine reflected the light bouncing from Wafer Bank in the floor and reduced the overall contrast of the shot. In turn I used large black cloth on the white ground to mark up til where I wanted the reflections to be seen in the car.

Finally, … Now we only needed to take the cars away again and dismantle the improvised studio in the tent!

  Lighting diagram

Pegaso automobiles.pdf

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Beach or Studio ?

It was July in Barcelona and we could have gone to any beach to do the photo shoot for the cover of Clara for August. But for various reasons the photograph was done in the Hymsa / Edipresse studio. There you can have a complete control of the light, but the difficulty is almost always the same in the photos …They seem made in a studio!

Poetada Clara 167 © Marcelo Isarrualde Clara cover

Alexandra © Marcelo Isarrualde   Model : Alexandra

The idea was for the photo to look like it had been made on the beach and therefor the main light had to be like the sunlight on a sunny summer day, without clouds. Sunlight is very harsh unless it is filtered through a cloud or if it is a cloudy day. Outdoors, heaven helps lower the contrast of light produced by the sun and fills the shadows, but in the studio this contrast is higher and has to be carefully controlled.

As main light we used a Bowens 1500 W/s flash with a Maxilite reflector and the result was great. It was important that the main light was hard, and a flash with a standard reflector – as is the Maxilite – situated far from the model it becomes a small light source and generates a harsh illumination, without gloom, and is wide at the same time ..

Bowens Gemini Bowens Gemini with Maxilite reflector

Fresnel Lens

I could have used another more efficient type of accessory like a reflector with a Fresnel lens but it was being used in another set and hence I could not dispose of it.

Broncolor flooter

These accessories make the light beam of the flash look as the sun by using an optical element. This causes that the rays of light – instead of dispersing – are projected parallel.

Fresnel lens

The Shape of a parabola

I could also have used a parabolic dish like the reflectors from Broncolor such as the Satellite Evolution parabolic dish with a perfect parabolic curvature.

Broncolor Satellite Evolution Broncolor Satellite Evolution

It was only a matter of positioning the light in the right place and that way we would have a very direct and hard light. But we did not have this accessory in the studio!

Parábola © Marcelo Isarrualde  Hemisphere vs paraboloid

It would have been even better having one of the fantastic parabolic umbrellas from Briese, but the budget was limited and few studies in Spain have this fantastic German brand.

Briese 77  Briese 77

Because of their parabolic shape, these accessories allow that the distribution of the rays is parallel (in theory) and thus resembles the sun. I will speak about the Briese accessories in another post because it’s design is spectacular. The effect it produces is like the one of a Fresnel with a very spectacular light, and at the same time very enveloping.  Amazing and true!

Final take

Let us return to the studio to see how the illumination for the set was done. A Wafer Strip light box acted as secondary light to decrease the contrast caused by the direct light from the principal flash, and it was put at a rate of – 1.5 EV. The background was overexposed + 1 EV so that the blue gelatine in front of the flashes that were illuminating the background would burn it a bit. This was to decrease the saturation of the blue color so that the background color would seem more celestial, like the sky.

Lighting diagram © Marcelo Isarrualde  Lighting diagram

Beach or Studio.pdf

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Bream with tradition

Bream is a fish with delicate meat, traditionally eaten in many parts of Spain on Christmas Eve. It can be prepared in various ways and it is an oily fish with low content of fat, ideal for light meals.

Besugo © Marcelo Isarrualde Home economist Ana Torróntegui

The idea of this story was for all the recipes – all of traditional making- to have a very clear and clean graphic image, and at the same time give a subtle  impression of a festive Christmas Eve dinner.

Besugo © Marcelo Isarrualde

The prop was very white, and the glasses of wine – white as well – were accompanying the general mood of the shot very well . I wanted to accentuate the table, but make a close-up photo that made the attention go to the plate and not a wider and descriptive image that would take away the attention from the food.

Making of © Marcelo Isarrualde Hymsa/Edipresse Studios

The initial lighting scheme consisted of a Wafer light box from Bowens as a back light and two white frontal reflectors which decreased the overall contrast of the scene. A white background, distant and overexposed completed the set of lights.

Making of © Marcelo Isarrualde

The article is called ‘Bream with tradition’ and it was realized for the magazine ‘Lecturas Cocina‘. It consisted of 5 recipes, each one with particular ingredients. This generated different forms, volumes and shine in the different plates. For every photography some modification of the light was necessary. Not changing the initial scheme,  but complement the scene with other lights. In some cases we used a reflector with a honeycomb or a cone, in others a Fresnel, or both simultaneously.

Esquema de iluminación © Marcelo Isarrualde Lighting diagram

Bream with tradition.pdf

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Strobist Kit 1

The most important thing to have in mind when using Strobist should be the portability and the weight of this equipment in relation to the use and and the ability to move a studio equipment of flashes to a location. Another important aspect is that the technique used with Strobist is simple but effective.


The portable electronics flashes are most suitable for this practice and there is a large variety of brands and benefits. The ideal is if they have plenty of power so they can to deal effectively with outdoors situations where there might be a lack of light, where it may be required that the ratio is 0 EV or sometimes + 1EV. In my case, I always use M (manual) and never TTL (thru the lens) and can there for acquire models that only work with manual, such as the flashes Yongnuo 560 of Chinese origin, which works very well.

Rechargeable batteries are essential to this practice and the best ones are the nickel-hydride metal batteries (Ni-MH). I use those of 2700 mAh and they work very well and they recharge within a reasonable  time. Obviously you will need chargers for these batteries and there are a large variety of models, with space for 4 or 8 batteries and with various charging times.

Strobist  My DIY Battery and PB820

The alternative to the rechargeable battery is to have batteries at one’s disposal. This way you can make more shots and maintain the recycle time for the flash. There are several models among which the batteries PB820 from Godox work very well. There is also the possible to make them oneself. I did two that work well, in addition to the two PB820 that I bought a while ago. I use the home made batteries with the Metz 32CT3 flashes and the ones from Godox with the  Yongnuo 560, the Canon 580EXII and Canon 430EX .

Strobist  Westcott umbrella

The alternative to the harsh light of direct flash can be an umbrella. By bounce the flash light into the umbrella or pass the light through a translucent umbrella you will increase the illuminated surface and hence  the light will be more diffuse and enveloping. The umbrella is fast and easy to carry in relation to other diffusion accessories such as the light boxes. The are many different brands and prices for the umbrellas. The bigger the umbrella is, the smoother the light will get.

Strobist  Manfrotto 026 + Hot Shoe Kaiser

You will need a ball head for the umbrella, for example the Manfrotto 026, and a foot with a synchronization cable PC, like the Kaiser 1301. Without any doubt I recommend a metal ball head and not one of plastic. That is why I think the Manfrotto ball head is the best option, although there are other manufacturers of metal bearings of this type.

Strobist  Kupo stands

The foot of the tripod is the thing that gives support to the set and should be very stable, especially when working outdoors where there may be windy. Although a model like the Manfrotto 001B is lightweight and convenient to carry, I prefer a more robust model, like the Bowens BW6610 or similar ones. Folded  it measures 86 cm and can reach a height of 3 meters. To give more stability to the set I always carry a couple of camping showers of 15 liters with me. Filled with water they allow me to replace the not so practical sandbags, perfect when you want to work with light equipment and laptops. Of course there must be a tap near the set!


It is necessary to synchronize the flash with the camera. The cheapest alternative is to have a sync cable that unifies the flash shoe to PC connector of the camera. You can also use optical cells  like the Wein – which is perhaps the best on the market – if you shoot with one flash from the camera and synchronize the other flash units. You can also use infrared emitters and receivers, these options are good if you only work indoors.

Strobist Wein cells   Wein optical cells

But if you want to work outdoors in broad daylight you will need to have radio emitters and receivers. There is many types and prices, the high range coming from PocketWizard whose scope is unique and the reliability very high, just like the price.

Strobist PocketWizard

Finally, the great utility of having a set of color temperature correction gelatins like the CTO and CTB type should be highlighted, plus some  gels with color effect like the ones from Rosco, Gam or Lee.

Strobist Rosco gels

Up to here the basics, but there are many more accessories to complete a good Strobist kit. I will keep on explaining them.

Kit Strobist 1.pdf

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Stiletto, a personal project

Some years ago the Belgian editorial Tectum, that had seen my work in the book “Nudes Index I”, edited by Könemann, invited me to take part in the nude pictures yearbook “Nude Bible”.

Polly Fey for Stiletto © Marcelo Isarrualde Polly Fey for Stiletto

I chose to contribute to it with a more extensive project on the object paraphernalia involved in some erotic and sexual practices. Till the date all my personal projects had been inspired on my childhood and this was my first approach to an “adult” subject. One of the references that immediately came to my mind was the fantastic work of Helmut Newton, who had been my idol in my early youth. Also he work of Jean Loup Sieff, Guy Bourdin or Bettina Rheims, among others, has always been a great influence in my photography. Finally I decided to pay tribute David Lynch and his emblematic TV series Twin Peaks.

In that TV serie there was one episode that really caught my attention. It was in the third episode from the first season called “Cooper’s Dream“. In the program the policeman Dale Cooper dreams about the assassinated girl called Laura Palmer, and a dwarf, The Man from Another Place. Everything really seemed to be “from Another Place” and the scenery was the beginning of my personal serie “Stiletto“.

Twin Peaks  Twin Peaks

Same way music is an important element in Lynch’s work, Laurie Anderson song “Born, never asked”, which talks about an enigmatic curtain, was my inspiration for this series of pictures.

Making of Stiletto © Marcelo Isarrualde Making of Stiletto serie

But let’s go back to the lighting! Because my budget was limited and could not afford red velvet for my set, I used a very thin grey fabric, in which I projected red light. I did the same on the floor that had been painted in white, black and grey. To avoid loosing the red hue dominant, we directed the main 5500º Kelvin white light only to the model.

Floor drawing © Marcelo Isarrualde

Painting the floor © Marcelo Isarrualde

Set for Stiletto serie © Marcelo Isarrualde

The main light source was a 1000 w/s Bowens flash and for the background there were three 1500w/s Bowens flashes with red gelatins hanging from the ceiling. They were used at their maximum power since red gelatin absorbs more than +1 EV.
In the wider shoots it could be noticed that the red light projected on the floor looked faded because of the incidence of the main light. This had to be later retouched with Photoshop. This though wouldn’t be a problem because we had been using a Hasselblad with Imacom digital back.

Making of Stiletto serie © Marcelo Isarrualde

Lighting diagram © Marcelo Isarrualde  Lighting diagram

Stiletto, a personal project.pdf

Gobos, spots and fulgurators

In the previous post I explained how, from a technical point of view, the Image Fulgurator had the same function as a spot light, like Zoom Spot 18-135 or a Mini Spot Lite, both from Elinchrom.

Elinchrom Zoom Spot 18-135

Elinchrom Mini spot lite Elinchrom Mini spot lite

DIY Image Fulgurator © Marcelo Isarrualde DIY Image Fulgurator

The special features of these accessories is that they have an optical part – lens or condenser – that allows that image located between a strobe and the optical part, to be projected in a background. These metallic parts that can be put between the light and the optic, are called Gobos (Goes Before Optics). There is quite a large variety of options that can emulate venetian blinds, foliage, and stars, among others.


On one occasion I used them on a photo shoot for Clara magazine. It consisted of making a cover on Araceli Segarra, followed by an illustrated article that could be the first of a series of covers, dedicated to prominent women in different professional areas.
The ambience on the set shouldn’t have to have too many elements because any of the pictures could be considered a possible cover. There had to be enough empty space to allow for text and headlines.

Araceli Segarra © Marcelo Isarrualde

It had to look like it was a wide space with natural light. To achieve this, we used a Wafer big softbox with a Bowens 1500 strobe and the contrast was decreased with three big expanded polystyrene reflectors (Porexpan®, Telgopor®, Styrofoam®, Frigolit®, etc). A big white umbrella was set above the camera, exposed at -1 ½ EV below Wafer softbox power, to light up Araceli. Finally, an Elinchrom Zoom Spot 18-135 adapted to a Bowens’s bayonet was used together with another Bowens torch at 1500 W/s. A gobo with the image of a venetian blind was placed on to the spot light.

Lighting diagram © Marcelo Isarrualde Lighting diagram

The shot was taken with a Kodak slide film EPP100. In the analogical world a correct exposure and the power ratio correspondence between the strobes ,was key because of the little latitude margin of the slide film, (error margin in the exposure). But also nowadays it is very important a correct exposure in order to the make the most of our raw files.

Araceli Segarra © Marcelo Isarrualde Making of

Gobos, spots and fulgurators.pdf

Catwoman visits Barcelona

Some weeks ago I took this picture of Marta wearing her self made Catwoman suit that would be included in her photo book as well as in my personal portfolio. This was a good opportunity to use my DIY battery for the first time. To have more battery life I also had with me a Travel Pack of Bowens for the Gemini 750W/s flashes. My DIY responded so well during this photo shoot that I have decided to make another one. Bowens Gemini de 750 W/s con su Travel Pack.

At this time of year, the best hour for taking this picture was at 21.10hrs. Ten minutes earlier Agbar Tower would have turn on its lights. So I had 15 minutes before the sky would loose the blue shade that we needed for Catwomans suit to stand out of the sky.

We started with the preparation of set at 20.30 and still had enough time to coordinate the power relation between the main and the background lights.  For the main one I worked with a Bowens flash, with a Photek brolly umbrella and with a Metz 32 CT3 with Bowens traslucid umbrella, for the effect light.

  Lighting diagram

Setting the meter at ISO400 and f8 for the ambient light, we needed an aperture speed of ¼; the main light was then exposed at f8 and the effect one at f11.

Lighting diagram © Marcelo Isarrualde Lighting diagram

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My DIY battery

For practical reasons, whenever I can I work with external camera flashes and leave my Bowens studio flashes at home to work on more elaborated pictures. With the external flash, despite having less power and not having a modeling light I am able to get similar lighting conditions. If it is not required for the assignment, why carrying a bigger equipment?

Little by little I equipped myself with a “strobist” light kit and even made my own battery. So today I am happy to introduce you to my DIY battery that I built this summer.

If you have a look at Internet, you will find many sites with examples of people that have made their own batteries. Here I give you some links that I found very useful when I was building mine.

Battery 01

Battery 02

Battery 03

Battery 04

Battery 05

Battery 06

Battery 07

As you can see I have put a fuse, a switch and a charger connector. If I decide to work again on another prototype I will also add a couple of leds as the battery Charge indicator. But so far this requires more time than I actually have. !

If you don’t feel like making your own, I have seen some more affordable models than Quantum, like Phottix PPL-200 or Godox Power Pack PB820.”

My DIY battery.pdf

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It is forbidden the use partial or global of this website unless authors written permission.