Thursday, June 20, 2013

Week of 06/17/2013: The Road Less Traveled

Camera: Lumix G2
Lens: 14-42 Olympus ED

ISO: 200

Conversion to b&w: Photoshop via channel mixer and gradient mapping

Print Size: 11.5” x 15” @270 dpi

Print: Epson 3880/ Pieozography K7 Inks/ Moab Lasal Paper

 I originally had another photo prepared for this week, since I tried to get a jump on things before the Jazz Age Lawn Party that was this past weekend on Governors Island. I’ll save that shot for next week.

The photos from the vintage photo booth are here on Facebook:

These were done using a special camera I designed and then had built by sculptor Christopher Smith. The rig allows a digital camera to capture the ground glass image from a 1950’s era press/view camera. It’s a little tricky to use, but one soon becomes accustomed to its idiosyncrasies. 

I had wanted to do some shoot walks in the Big Apple for some months now, but the timing and psychological space never seemed to work out. Surprising myself at my efficiency in getting the party images post-processed, I determined to seize the moment and spend some time in NYC photographing. The walk went from Jay Street, Brooklyn in DUMBO to Pier 6 at Atlantic Avenue, to Henry Street, across the Manhattan Bridge, into lower Manhattan and uptown and west to Varick Street, where I again caught the subway.

One thing I’ve learned is to simply go for the jaunt and see what happens; forget about bagging the great photo and enjoy the landscape and what unfolds. Let the mind wander along with the body. Luckily, I love to walk and simply take in what’s there, the only destination being to arrive at a state of being fully present. Alfred Stieglitz talked about the creative photograph aiming to be “an equivalent;” that is, a formal expression of what the photographer was feeling at the time the shutter was pressed. This is all well and good, but on the practical end, there are other convergences that have to take place. In fact, there are too many to discuss here, both internal and external, and traveling the road that courts serendipitous moments is the real work. While not the whole answer, a large part of getting the muse of chance more on one’s side rests in getting behind the camera as often as possible.

The Brooklyn Bridge is too much a tangle of tourists and bikes for my taste, unless it’s very early in the morning. The pedestrian walk of the Manhattan Bridge (bikes travel on the opposite side), near lunchtime was practically deserted. I could stop and take a shot as it pleased me. There is a wire mesh fence to contend with, but the Lumix, because it is not a full-sized dslr, but a micro 4/3, can stick its zoom lens right through with no problem and leave a little maneuvering room to boot. The only problem to contend with was the bouncing of the bridge from the Q Train that goes by. You don’t notice it when simply walking, but look through the camera’s magnified spot for focusing by eye, and the vibration becomes quite evident. Luckily, the weather pattern was very stable, the Sun very bright and I could use a high shutter speed to arrest any telltale motion plus a small f-stop for a deep field of sharp focus.  I patiently waited for the wave phenomenon to damp down, using the time to frame a stronger composition. 

The print was reasonably straightforward to make and could be printed full frame. Being evenly lit, brightly but with a reasonable dynamic range, it required minimal masking other than a special channel mixer layer mask for the sky to make the clouds show. I used it to pull back the blue prior to conversion to b&w. I applied a slight gradient to deepen the right side slightly and improve the symmetry. The left foreground had some fairly dusky areas and some planes that I lightened to make the overall image better tonally balanced. It only took 19 small proofs and about a morning of work to arrive at version with which I was tentatively satisfied.

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