Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Week of 07/29/2013

Location: Fairmount Park Water Works
Camera: Panasonic Lumix G2
ISO 200, f7.1 @1/2000
Lens: Olympus 14-42 ED @14mm
Image Size: 10 x13 @300dpi
Proof: None

If you walk around enough, you are bound to encounter at some point light and atmosphere that is rarely seen and is highly ephemeral. A photographer like Ansel Adams would set up his heavy large format camera and tripod and simply wait for the right moment. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of that kind of schedule (although it would be a great way to catch up on my reading).

I generally stand clear when I encounter other photographers while I’m out in my travels. I don’t speak to them and I don’t get in their space. When I arrived at the overlook, a well-known Philadelphia landmark, I saw a young woman there with an I-phone and I assumed she was catching the sky show that was unfolding, so I kept a healthy space until I realized she was not photographing but busily texting away. I moved in, took about five frames and then the scene evaporated. I shot so quickly, I didn’t even have time to remember to take the focus off manual nor shoot at the best aperture.  Luckily, being stopped down more than optimally worked in my favor. I did, however purposely underexpose and thus prevented the highlights from blowing out. Although the lens probably wasn't really focused it didn't matter since the great depth of field of the wide angle plus the small aperture more than covered.

I did not have a chance to proof this print, but I’m looking forward to the printmaking.  Unfortunately, both my printers are currently indisposed, one of the hazards of the digital workflow. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

07/22/2013: Through A Glass Darkly

Location: Approx. 25th and Parrish
Camera: Fujica Gs645
Film: TX-120, at ISO 200
Develop: HC110 1:49, 7 min at 68F
File Size: 11.5” x 17” @300 dpi
Scan: Epson V500
Proof print, 4x5 approx., Epson 1400, Cone pigment inks

Given the mercurial weather, it’s been a good time to stay in and get caught up on the many undeveloped rolls of film I have in the ‘fridge. It was perhaps a few months ago that I shot this and I barely remember the jaunt, but I was, and still am thinking about images that somehow feel like an alternate reality.   

Even using an inexpensive scanner, like the V500, I’m always startled at how much depth and detail larger film engenders.  A 4.5 x 6 negative, which the Fujica shoots is closer to 43 x 56 mm, about three times the area of 35mm. From what I have been able to glean, this odd camera was originally popular with wedding photographers in the pre-digital age. While it’s a bit futzy to use (for instance, you have to be sure to cock the shutter before you close it, or you’ll break the shutter linkage), when folded it is very compact and it sports some very smart features such as: a parallax corrected rangefinder with a good size split-image center spot, rapid film advance, and an easy-to-use built in meter. The 75mm f3.8 Nikon lens is an excellent optic. Automation?  None!  The camera takes two small button cells for the meter, but will work without them. It’s not fast on the draw, but is a great camera for things that are fairly static (or cooperative) that will benefit from a richness of tonality and detail. 

To get the final printable file, I made multiple scans. The value range of the Epson V500 is somewhat limited. I find no matter how much I tweak it I either clip the shadows or the highlights. The way around this is to make at least two scans, each covering a certain value range and then combine the files in Photoshop.  I made a special darker scan for the fluorescent light in the upper left corner. Film is very forgiving and unlike digital that just blows out highlights, you can often coax detail from spot areas that are overexposed.

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. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Week of 07/08/2013

Location: Approx. 10th and Wood St.
Camera: Panasonic Lumix G2
Lens: Olympus 14-42 ED
ISO: 200
Proof Print: Epson 3880/ Piezography K7 Selenium inks/ Cone #5 PBaryta paper

I was just about to wrap up an afternoon of perambulations in the area that has come to be known as “The Eraserhood” since David Lynch once lived there and the area does have a distinctively surreal quality. Something told me to keep going a bit longer---to travel west along a narrow and fairly ugly strip that abuts a parking lot; it was near closing time and the sun was getting low. My perseverance was rewarded.

I’m often on the fence about which paper I prefer, the more cold-toned Lasal or the warmer, creamier, Cone 5 paper, that has a slight gloss as opposed to the Moab, which is flat matte.  I usually print on Lasal, since it’s ¼ the price of the Cone and I’m used to the way it behaves. The Cone is also a two step printing process, requiring the print to dry and then receive a clear overcoat. This print seemed to call out for the richer, warmer tone of the Cone 5, plus the better detail and separation in the dark tones that the Cone paper offers.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

07 01 13 Intersections

Location: Woodland Cemetery, Phila.
Image Size: 11.5” x 15”
Camera: Panasonic Lumix G2
Lens: 14-42 ED
ISO: 200
Print: Epson 3880/ Quadtone
Rip/Piezographic Inks/Moab Lasal

I arrived about twenty minutes prior to the five PM closing time, so I really had to move on this one. Luckily, this was my second attempt at this shot, so I went right to it. I took a medium format capture as well on T-Max using a Rolleiflex which I will post when the film is developed.

The first go round the sky was fairly dull and blank and I also had too much going on in the frame. I needed to get closer. Cemeteries are difficult to photograph since statuary seductive subject matter and it’s very easy to go astray in the visual splendor, but ultimately come up short.   

Although the tract where the cemetery stands dates to the 1800’s, the march of technology exhales its hot breathe nearby. The bucolic funerary park abuts the train tracks and the smoke/vapor you see rising in the background is the Dupont plant on upper Grays Ferry Avenue; a plethora of overhead wires cuts the sky.