Friday, May 10, 2013

05 06 13: A Piece of Work

Image size: 11.5” x 17”
Location: 17th and Chestnut, Philadelphia (Liberty Place)
Camera: Canonet QL 17
Film: Tri-X @ISO 200
Developer: HC110 1:49, 7min at 68F
Scan: Epson V500
Print: Epson 3880 on Moab Lasal/ Piezographic Inks

I was not sure I would get to publish this week due to two shoots in two weeks. If you are curious about what I do photographically when I'm not walking miles with a camera or printing, here they are the photo sets.

Analog on Silver Instant Film:

Vintage Digital:

When the film receives the right amount of light plus correct development, the pictorial structure makes itself known and it’s just a matter of slight adjustments on the way to the completed print. If the exposure is not within ballpark, especially with 35mm, then it becomes a workout. This photo appealed to me enough that I felt it would be worth going into “obsessive mode” and exercising much time and patience until it was either a success or a spectacular failure and learning experience.

As is often the case, I made this print twice. I ended up re-scanning the negative once I knew what I really knew what qualities I wanted to bring forth. The first print’s file had redundant layers and quickly became a tangle. The only way I could get enough "punch" was to use Cone #5 paper; a beautiful material, but the print’s tone did not match the other photos I’ve printed to date which are all on Moab Lasal. To arrive at the final print took quite a bit of experimenting, in fact, a full day of work and then some.  I will also likely make a third version after I "live with it” a while.  Also, I accidentally killed the full, layered file when I made the web version, so I now have a unique print!  Luckily, I still have the correct base scan.

Photoshop is an amazing tool and covers a multitude of sins, but I never rely on my printing skills; I do my best to get it right in-camera. In this case the problem was the negative was fairly dense. The camera I’m using, by the unlikely name of “Canonet” is going on forty years old, and my guess is it desperately needs an overhaul. The beast absolutely won’t fire properly in the cold and my suspicion is an oil-gummed shutter; the whole roll looked overexposed. 

Having spent years worrying about gear that often was purchased then languished, and eventually sold or given away, I’m a big believer in using what you have and just taking pictures-- lots of them, and not worrying too much about the camera. Still, there’s something about the compactness, precision, and agility of an older rangefinder 35, that an SLR cannot match.  In fact, had I been using one of my film Nikons, I probably would not have gotten this image. My guess is that by the time I got the camera adjusted and focused, the woman would have noticed me (which did, in fact, happen). I am in no hurry to purchase yet another camera and lens system with all its concomitant issues and peculiarities. It doesn't surprise me that photographers stick doggedly with a particular instrument or methodology for years rather than go through the whole learning curve all over again while ironing out the bugs and losing shots. I’m keeping to one film and one developer and only two or three printing papers. Still, I am considering the options. Rather than pouring a chunk of cash into overhauling a camera that only cost $40 used in 1993 that has a decent, but not wonderful Tessar-type fixed lens, an upgrade may be money well spent. 

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