Monday, July 15, 2013

Week of 07/15/2013: The Feline Gaze

Location: Near 28th and Grays Ferry
Camera: Panasonic Lumix G2
Lens: Olympus: 14-42 ED.
Image size: 11.5” x 17”
Proof: Epson 3880/ Piezography K7 Selenium inks/ Moab Lasal paper

Recently I closed a sale on a print because I related some interesting details about the subject.  I don’t want my photos to need a back-story to be engaging and for the work I view, I often don’t want to know the particulars. I want to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the idea of photographer as metaphysical magician; however, this capture has an anecdote.

It was past dinner time on a Friday night.  There was a knock at my door but I didn't answer.  I wasn't expecting anyone and I figured it was a solicitation of some sort.  I was curious if someone was going door to door, so I peeked out and saw nobody, but there lying limp and wet on my threshold was a USPS   delivery notice. “Damn, I missed the mail carrier!” I thought.

Saturday, early, I hiked out to 29th and Grays Ferry, only to have the postal clerk tell me the package was returned to the sender a month ago. Although some force of the universe had led me on a wild goose chase to a desolate part of town, I didn't look at it as a bad omen.  I took my time on the way back, capturing a number of interesting tableaux, including this one which seemed to just materialize before me. I fired off two shots: one “from the hip,” the second making sure the auto-focus had locked on and double checking speed and aperture. I stealthily approached to get closer, but I held out little hope that this feline would stay put, and I was right. As soon as I started to sneak up, she bolted.

The maximum focal length on the micro 4/3 zoom lens I was using is equivalent to an 85mm on a full frame camera, so the image required a fair amount of cropping and enlargement of the file, about 200%. The original composition was a horizontal.  I used a free program called “Smilla,” a digital enlarger that uses a fractal algorithm to prevent pixilation and saw-toothed edges when you stretch an image. I ended up making two files, the second being a special softer one for the cat since the dark tones had too much digital noise due to over sharpening.  I also dodged (digitally) one large black area on the cat’s body to make the transition from gray to black smoother and less chunky.  Though the image is not tack sharp and I always want more detail, it holds up well at the 11.5 x 17 size I've been printing at and is at least as good as the home brew 35mm flatbed scans from which I've been working.

The spalled, powdery brick behind the cat was a problem area. I needed to get the wall to feel “brick-like” but not become dominant.   Printmaking is always that kind of dance between a myriad of details the overall statement and the graphic quality of the print itself. While capturing an image is almost a reflex, printmaking is a kind of alchemy and where the difficult work often lies.  I managed to get to the final print in fourteen proofs. 

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