Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Week of 01/27/2014: Child's Play

Camera: Canon Eos 5D
Lens: Nikkor 50mm f1.4
Aperture: Approx. f1.4
Speed: 1/80 sec.
ISO: 1600
Image size: 11 x 11 @240 dpi
Location: Near 12th and Pine

Susan Sontag believed that photography was an inherently surreal medium. I couldn’t agree more.  This shot was done at night, the only light being a high-intensity street lamp. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Week of 01 20 2014

Location: West  approach to the South St. Bridge
Camera: Canon EOS 5D
Lens: 24-105, @43mm
ISO: 800
Exposure: 1/640 @f11
File Size: 11 x 13 @240 dpi
Print: Epson Artisan 1430/ Cone Color Inks/ Moab Lasal

 I tried this scene a number of times with a number of different cameras including working on a tripod with my old Rolleiflex and with a 1950’s era Hasselblad with which I’m experimenting.  As fate would have it, the image that works for me was shot digitally and hand-held on my way up to Penn.

The original image was rather flat in the foreground, but the sky had high luminosity and the light/dark pattern was not immediately clear, making the printing more involved.  As I’m learning, digital image processing from camera RAW is complex; rather than a single method, there are many.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Post Holiday Blue

Camera: Canon Eos 5d
Exposure: ISO 400 between f1.4 and 2@ 1/160
Lens: Nikon 50mm f1.4 + Vello Nikon to Canon adaptor
File size: Approximately 12 x 12 @240 dpi

Up to recently it’s been either rainy, bitter cold, or both; weather unsuited to staying out for hours far from one’s neighborhood. Still, if the tools are with with me, there always seem to be things that turn up, so I don’t leave the house without a camera. This time, the weather nastiness worked to my advantage. 

It was a rather drizzly Friday afternoon when I spotted the big Christmas tree that goes up in Rittenhouse Square every year. What had been a symbol of holiday cheer was forlorn and wan in the gray and rainy park. Soon it would be curb fodder.

Because there wasn't much light, selective focus was the way to go. I set the lens at or close to wide open, composed the shot, focused and simply waited-- it did not take long. I captured a few images with random people entering the frame, and then the person with the umbrella came along. Of course, I wanted to do a second similar one, but as it typically is, you get only one whack at it.  

The original black and white image just didn't have enough graphic impact; it needed color. I will defer printing this one. Crop and adjustments of tone and contrast in Lightroom and Photoshop were the extent of post processing. I’m gravitating towards square formats, which is interesting to me, since my first professional camera a Rolleiflex Automat, was a square but for years I didn’t think I liked that format.  This older Nikon 35mm lens, has a creaminess that is much like the Schneider Xenar which my Rollei has.  The Vello adaptor, which allows this lens to be used on the Canon, has no aperture or focus coupling, so the shooting is essentially manual—no autofocus, no anti-shake, and you stop down the lens while keeping an eye on the meter. Slower and more contemplative, it is a good fit for this kind of subject.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Joys of "Slow"

The photographer, at least visually, creates his/her own world. Both these shots were taken on the same street where I live. The difference in the results is in the photos, but in terms of methodology, they are also worlds apart.

The first was taken around 5:30 in the morning when the snow was still undisturbed. I set my digital camera at ISO 1600 and peeked out the door. Within minutes, the file was downloaded, edited and ready to go. (OK, I did fuss with the foreground snow a little bit which added maybe a quarter of an hour. I also did some digital perspective correction.)

The second was taken a day or two later with a 4x5 camera with an ultra-wide pinhole lens. I shot on Fomapan 100, a fine-grained and inexpensive 120 sized film. It was my first use in the 4x5 field camera of a home-made adaptor back that allows me to take eight 2 ¼ x 3 ¼ negatives per roll.The exposure was about twenty five seconds but first I took a “Fujiroid” to check exposure and composition but primarily as a comparison of the formats. I then ducked back into my house to let the peel-apart film develop (three minutes at 60F and yes, you can still get instant film!) Then I had to switch film backs and expose the film for twenty four seconds, but that is just the beginning.

I set my kitchen up to develop film, which means completely clearing the sink area of everything. I then have to bring all the developing chemicals and wash water to 68F. While the temperature is stabilizing, I go load the developing tank using a changing bag I put under a heavy quilt to be absolutely sure everything is light-tight. That takes about ten minutes. I then develop the film for eight minutes (HC110 diluted 1:49), stop and fix for another six and wash the film by filling and emptying the tank which takes about another four. I then clean up thoroughly, but I’m still not done, since the film has to dry.  That takes about three hours, while I go do something else. I then have to scan and edit each negative. All in all, it’s about a full working day.

Constant temperature bath 
It’s an eight-shot roll, so this helps the time-per-image equation a lot.  I refuse to be a “film chauvinist” but the pinhole-on-silver results are unlike anything else you could hope to do with a digital camera. I’ve been developing film since the dark ages and every time I see the negatives for the first time it’s a rush. The images have a pearly luminescence (especially indoor shots under artificial light) and even though they are not uber-sharp like a digital capture, they do show a fair amount of detail. Want to go huge? How is 30” x 45”? That is the un-scaled size of the black and white file. The digital is a puny 12” x 18”. 

An indoor pinhole camera  portrait from the same roll as above using almost 1000 watts of illumination with three hot lights. The exposure was a scant three minutes. My eyes are not really closed, just squinting.

Happy 2014!

Location: Near 6th and Girard Ave
Image Size: 12 x 12” @240 dpi
Camera: Canon Eos 5D
Lens: Canon f4 28-l05mm zoom @47mm
ISO: 400
Exposure: f8 @1/250
Print: Epson Artisan 1430/ Cone Color Inks/ Moab Lasal

The day I shot this, I had been photographing the iron fa├žade that I posted a few weeks back. I was using a screw-mount tripod head (just replaced by a quick-release model, which is a sea-change) and switching between the 5D and a venerable medium format folding camera while standing on a traffic island-- ughh!  When I was done at that locale, I walked south along Sixth Street.

The work had gone well—great light, a few interesting conversations with passers-by and I had worked carefully and thoroughly. I was a bit euphoric. It was great too to be free of the fixed nature of shooting with a set up that is an effort to move and is generally used at or near eye level. To change my mindset and just roam somehow put my eyes and reflexes in a very aware state and this shot unfolded.

I would have loved to have spent more time with this subject, especially as the light changed.  The lift-gate was all the way up initially, but someone must have noticed my presence across the street . Or maybe the mechanic who came out was just locking up for the day. Either way, the gate came down. I continued to shoot as the interior vanished.  The partially closed door caught in travel, ironically, made for a much better composition. 

The original print was in color, which helped me get the tonalities closer to what I wanted, but I felt black and white was a better choice. Also, the combination of low light and possibly the older version of Lightroom I’m using (Adobe Camera Raw appears to be better at handling this) left a fair amount of noticeable noise in the dark interior. I minimized this by making a special less-sharp file for that part of the image that I then masked in using Photoshop.