Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This photograph taken last June at Natirar (Raritan backwards) in New Jersey is particularly important to  me.  It has a very wabi-sabi affect...the bridge's decay, and the spring's floral renewal...has a powerful resonance of my father's world of the Philadelphia of his youth.  So many places we visited in Fairmount Park, Germantown, and along the Schulkyl River in my early childhood had this 19th century ethos about them, that it has become an indelible emotional chord.  I am not a student of Asian or Japanese culture, but some of the few elements I have come to understand are remarkable and valuable additions to my linear and "contemporary" American world view. It's good to go slowly, and savor the moment. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Behind our house is a secret treasure of great beauty.  The secret gets out when the fog rolls in, or the snow covers every branch and twig, or a wonderful light suffuses the woods.   It's almost embarassing to relate how easy it is to throw open a window and point the camera where the eye rests, or carry the camera out on the deck with not much more than a robe and slippers to confront the weather.   As it says over on the right, it just isn't necessary to travel very far to find film worthy subjects...they're in our own backyard.


Monday, November 23, 2009

This past weekend was so springlike that, if you closed your eyes to the fallen leaves and November light, you would have thought you were enjoying a late April day. I decided to visit GPMSP* with the 4x5 (which I've not used for quite a while) to photograph these particular trees in this particular way. I've thought of both of them as an homage to Michael Kenna's Retrospective Two, but with a sardonic poke at the contemporary photofashionistas who seem to decry unalloyed beauty, and demand irony in the only work they insist is currently worthy.

*Goose Pond Mountain State Park

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Last week's walk in Goosepond Mountain State Park couldn't be repeated this weekend because of the rain, mud, and general dreariness, but here are a couple more from then. I think the more one is familiar with a place it becomes both harder to photograph because of that familiarity, and yet more rewarding to photograph when you can break through, and see it freshly. The variables that contribute to this are time of day, season, weather, and light. At least one of these will nearly always be different. The discipline is to be there often, and with openness to each.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Well, so much for the notion that the weather was going to send me into the darkroom and studio, and much less often outside. It's been unseasonably mild and gorgeous which makes time in the darkroom totally uninviting until it's dark outside at least. Here are two from a couple of rolls that I exposed on a lovely walk this past Sunday. Shorts and a tee shirt again in November?? Wonderful!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Last Sunday was a gorgeous mid-autumn day that lured us out to the black dirt farming region of Orange County. My wife, a friend, and I stopped by the road and spent a considerable amount of time photographing the 'scape. Susan and Mark, using digicams, fired off eleventeen scadzillion exposures to my 30 film frames, but we'll see who ended up with what...;-)...(it's all good!!!). We ended our intensely absorbing afternoon at the abandoned farm buildings and silos in the first photograph below, and had earlier explored the roadside view of the plowed and irrigated fields in the second image. I am amused at my decision to abandon tripod, and mirror lock-up, and guesstimate the exposure with a polarizing filter for the silos image. It worked out fairly well, but it certainly isn't my usual technique....oh! the thrill of perilous adventure!!! ;-)

It's important to me to emphasize that what you see here are scans of negatives, not prints, that have been adjusted in PhotoShop in the direction I will likely pursue when and if they are printed as actual reflected light images on paper. I have been very tentative about posting such work here because the paper prints are better by orders of magnitude, but I really want to share the "vision thing" (hehe...) nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It is about to be the season for me to feel it's okay to stay in the darkroom on a Saturday with only a brief foray outside for exercise and/or photography. It's going to be cold and nasty, and the warm womby darkroom will be a happy place to work without regrets for the lack of outdoor exposure.

It's a great tribute to master photographers that their "vintage" prints (those made at or near the time of their taking or their initial printing even if at a later date) are regarded as prime by dealers and gallerists. For those of us who inhabit a lesser sphere, the revelation that later printing that has had the benefit of long term percolation can vastly improve our initial attempts can be dramatic and thrilling. Below are three photographs that have been posted here before, but have been floundering around in my head as not very worthwhile as final prints. Using the magic of Photoshop as a tool with which to play, I've altered the original rather prosaic virtual "prints" into versions I'm far happier with and which I can very competently render in the darkroom with my traditional workflow.

So... what you see here is typical of the kind of work I'll be doing for the near future...i.e revisiting old work, and printing what I've not been able to get to. There may not be much or anything new, and there may be untypical lapses in posting, but I'm working on making better final images than ever, and that takes time.......

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Autumn has come to the wetland, and with it the wind and the rich color that fades all too soon. For one who photographs in monochrome, it's a challenge to separate value from chroma knowing that only the values will be registered on film. The two images below were made to record the wind (the leaves are a mess...almost unidentifiable) in the tree, and the suppliance of the reeds.

What these two photographs represent is a pleasant memory of a quiet, and tranquil walk in a place that has become as intimately known to me as my own face. Neither is remarkable, nor particularly memorable, but if they were pages in a book about this wonderful, simple place, they would certainly belong there as much as any other.

I spent some amiable time that afternoon talking to a couple of delightful people who have known this terrain for some 80 years. They were enjoying a walk on ground they've known a generation longer than I've been alive. Their love for each other was palpable..profoundly comfortable, and deeply, deeply familiar. Both have wonderful faces that speak of a rich, and happy life together. I'm beginning to view my relationship with the wetland in a similar way.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

As this is a blog, and not a website where the posted work should be the best one can make, this entry is just a "for instance". It's an example of the dilemma that confronts the photographer who is still loyal to the imperatives of modernism as defined by Adams, Weston, and their legions of disciples who continue to make photographs in that tradition to this day. But also, a photographer who's imagination is entertained by revisiting the pictorialists and their many modern practitioners who've reinvented that art and revitalized it. "Alt processes" now inhabit the photographic landscape in significant numbers, perhaps because artists demand to have a robust and active hand in making their art rather than to have to slavishly serve the authors of algorithms.

The pictures below are two versions of the same scene at nearly the same time. I had gotten to this place (Lakes Road beside the east end of Walton Lake...that's in "upstate" Orange County, New York, folks) just a bit too late for the excellent light that had been there moments before. I decided to play with selective focus, and sharp focus because I'm more and more intrigued by the former after being addicted to the latter for most of my work. Were the light on the foreground leaves, the top image would have been the clear choice for me. As it had just disappeared, the bottom 'graph made sense because of the graphic values that remained. Neither will be likely to ever be printed, but these have value to me as lessons learned...or at least considered. And, the exercise serves as one more invitation to be more playful and experimental. It's an amusing mystery to imagine what my posts might look like two years from now....Yikes!

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's that melancholic time of year when mid-afternoon's sunlight dancing on golden leaves too soon gives way to deep sylvan shadows, and redolent misty air. Evening encroaches ever earlier. It has been noted by those who are the gatekeepers of art that "unalloyed beauty" is suspect....too easy, and not intellectually challenging. Such writers fail to appreciate that the "alloy" can be a union of the viewers spirit with the image that brings him to a private, personal, and unique place. Each of us is original, hence each of us experiences art uniquely. Perhaps that is really all that is necessary.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

It's been a few weeks since I've posted anything here, and even longer since I've posted a photograph, but I am posting the one below because I want to be able to look at it away from this 'puter. It's a place of great solitude, and natural stillness, and to visit it online during a stressful day at work is a genuine treat. It's of a boardwalk that is suspended over a small section of the wetlands at Goose Pond Mountain State Park. This summer has been unusually wet, and there has been an absolute riot of growth in these fields of rich soil and abundant moisture.

The 5 PM sun was quite low here, and there's a slight lens flare hot spot on the near planking even though I used my hand to help shade the lens beyond what the actual lens shade was able to do but I don't think it intrudes too much. I've toned this negative scan in PhotoShop to more closely approximate the actual rich warmth I'm getting in my prints now using the thiocarbamide and selenium prescription I wrote about below (September 2nd).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This post is for the eleven people on the planet who care about such things, but here goes nonetheless: my current toning regimen with thiocarbamide and selenium . Tim Rudman's excellent (and currently out of print and expensive to buy used) "The Photographer's Toning Book, The Definitive Guide" has been a bible of sorts for this exploration.

To achieve a chromatic tonal pallette more or less like the PhotoShop filter I've used on the more recent negative scans below, a variable sepia toning process can be used. It involves purchasing the chemicals: thiocarbamide, potassium bromide, potassium ferricyanide (no...it won't kill you unless you're stupid careless), and sodium hydroxide (which will burn your skin off in a trice if you don't wear protective gloves, goggles, apron and magic amulet..it's commonly known as lye), and those were purchased from Photographers' Formulary. Dr. Rudman's book gives a recipe for a stock solution of the bleach, toner, and activator, but the adventure lies in tweaking the brew till it suits one's taste (aesthetic taste, of course). Here's what I've settled on for the moment, which may change a bit as I get familiar wtih it on different images:

Pot Ferri bleach: 10% solution for 30 to 40 seconds
Thiocarbamide toner with Sodium Hydroxide activator" 950 ml of 9 to 1 dilute toner with 50 ml of activator for 2 minutes or until full redevelopment seems to have been achieved.
Thorough washing need to be done between each step, and then a 4 minute bath in selenium 1:10 and a final 30+ minute wash.

Serve with coffee or scotch depending on the time of day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Well, I was mistaken. Photography IS possible in August...especially when it rains. The photographs below were made on our deck between downpours. It wasn't fun standing in 90 degree heat with 100% humidity, but art is a demanding taskmaster and must be obeyed. (big wink...I'm not that impressed with myself. As my mother often said, those who love themselves too well have no rivals. She was wise.)

I don't know the name of this flower, but Susan has arranged for it to grow vinelike (and a vine it may well be) around and through some branches cut from a dead tree we had to have felled which are wired to our deck's railing. The birds love to come and perch there, and this plant seems to thrive on the armature the branches have become.

I seem to be most often drawn to a lens that offers about a 65 to 80mm lens view in 35mm terms. Each of the cameras I use has one lens that more or less fits that way of seeing. In this case it's the 135mm lens on the P67. That lens also has some macro capability, so it's well suited to this subject. We'll see what else compels me to put the camera(s) to work in the coming two weeks before the summer ends for me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

August is a terrible month for photography around here. The light is harsh, the weather is hot, humid, and not conducive to "getting out there", and since I've not yet succumbed to the current craze for last light, or no light (i.e. night) photography there won't be much if any film exposed. I was also so disappointed in the rest of the film I shot in North Carolina that I choose not to post any of it here.

But...there are a helluvalotta negatives I've yet to print, and the two scans below are among them. The other challenge is to finally lash myself to the "wet side" of the darkroom, and work on selenium and sepia toning until it meets my expectations, which are quite high.

It's a paradox that during the academic work year I long for unstructured time away, but when it finally arrives I find myself mired in inertia. Yes, the movies I've watched were good to see...the extra sleep was welcome and needed, contemplation of my navel needed renewed attention, and general laziness has a worthy place in a well balanced life. But, getting stuff done that makes one happy is a low stress imperative that I need to adhere to in the waning weeks of vacation (which is actually a lifestyle change), so to the grindstone I shall commit my nose forthwith. Well...maybe tomorrow...;-)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"The South" is not what I grew up thinking it was...witness a teeshirt I saw for sale in North Carolina that boldly proclaimed: "Paddle Faster, I hear Banjo Music" Well, that may or may not be funny, but as a caricature, it's close to what I was raised to expect. The civil rights movement also made an indelible impression of a culture so antithetical to mine that I early on told the woman I would eventually marry, who is in fact a southerner, that I wondered what was the point in venturing anywhere "below" Washington, DC.

I've come to know better. The states from Virginia to Florida that I've just begun to become familiar with are beautiful, interesting, cultured, artistic, and totally worthy of respect and high regard. They have a difficult history, as do the northern states. So what!

My time spent in Georgia and North Carolina has been immensely rewarding. The two images below were made on the property of the rented cabin we spent several days enjoying in North Carolina. I'd have posted images from our day in Savannah, GA as well, but I didn't make any...too much to absorb in too little time to make photographs. There will be some more images to come from our little hike at Linville Falls. I hope you enjoy these two.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

For the past ten years I've been assistant principal cello in an excellent professional orchestra that performs for nascent, and experienced conductors at an upstate NY college during the month of July. These conductors are there to improve every aspect of their approach to the conductor's art which is exceptionally demanding, and highly stressful. We are there to perform significant repertoire in a way that accurately mirrors what they, the conductors, are attempting to show through gesture. This month the repertoire includes Mozart-Jupiter Symphony, Beethoven-Symphony No. 8, Brahms-3rd Symphony, Mahler-5th Symphony, Ravel-Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2, Bartok-Concerto for Orchestra, Stravinsky-Rite of Spring, Berlioz-Symphoy Fantastique, a wonderful full string orchestra version of Shostakovitch-String Quartet No. 8, and a yet to be chosen contemporary work that will have a world premier at the end of the month. Sooooo.....I just haven't got time to make photographs, nor post here this month. I need to be able to play these pieces well, and be flexible enough to modify what one conductor chooses to do, with the next, and possibly different approach that may immediately follow.

I thank you who visit here regularly for doing so, but there will not be any new posts till sometime in August I expect. Ironically, my drive to and from Bard College is a gorgeous one, and I'd love to be able to stop and make photographs, but it just can't be done. So...please visit as often as you'd like to review past work, but nothing new will appear for a few weeks.

Bye for now!

Monday, June 22, 2009

These three photographs were made a little over a week ago when I first noticed how over-its-banks the Wallkill River had become from preternaturally heavy rains. But now the rains have continued, and I'm going to have to go check out how much higher the water may have risen out where these were taken (very near Montgomery, NY where our gallery is located). I'm not used to seeing tree trunks in water, and their lower hanging branches bobbing in the rapid flow, so there may be some more good stuff to photograph.

They are scans of 4x5 negatives made with the Shen Hao and my 250mm Fujinon lens that I love to use. But....that is one big honkin lens, and the Benro K-2 ball head just isn't doing the job of holding it very well, so I'm going to return to using the Bogen 410 geared head that is as rigid as a wingnut conspiracy theorist. I paid less than $100 for the Benro (only to then read that some consider it to be a GPS..and no, I do not refer to the satellite guidance thingie.) and it works very well with my other two medium format cameras, so I still feel it's an okay piece of kit, but if I win the lottery, I'm going to get me one whoop-di-doo Arca Swiss B-1 or B2 that'll hold a howitzer in a hurricane. But there's that pesky hurdle of first winning the lottery ....sigh!! (Must remember to buy ticket...must buy ticket...must buy ticket....!!!)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I have just officially saved myself about $120 at the very least. Why? Because I decided not to send my new-to-me Mamiya C330 to a camera repair shop to have the light seals replaced. Instead, I bought a repair kit on-line from ebay for about $10 including shipping, and did it myself. I did try this earlier using the self-adhesive soft half of a strip of Velcro without any success at all, so I'm really glad I found the right stuff to use this time.

The images below are from two different rolls of long expired HP5 (2002) that I used to check the results. Woohoo! success! There's no discernible photon penetration in places that shouldn't be penetrated by photons especially in the upper 'graph which was made in very bright and intense sunlight. And, happily, the film itself seemed to have done well despite its alleged terminal status.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

When, for whatever reason, I can't actively be making a photograph in the field or the darkroom, I am constantly looking at photographs by any medium available. Of course, on-line is the most likely, and I've posted some favorite sites on a side bar. But I've stumbled onto a site that offers the visual equivalent of a nearly endless buffet of food. It's a buffet that allows indulgence without calories or guilt. A wallow if you will (or even if you won't).

I believe that looking at photographs as much as possible is an indispensable part of educating one's self in the medium. It nourishes the visual literacy that is necessary to distinguish worthy work from the trite and cliched, as well as what's just not going to ever be part of the aesthetic you embrace however well regarded it may be by others. I experience a palpable, and visceral thrill when I see photographs that resonate with my current sensibilities, and find myself startled when work I'd not thought I'd ever be likely to enjoy satisfies my viewing.

So here, in lieu of a photograph or two of my own, is the URL of the site I've discovered. I warn you that you will need a lot of time to explore it's many contributors, and I make no apology if such indulgence gets you in trouble with those who insist on availing themselves of your time. I wish you who visit this resource multiple eyegasms!


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Last week's post mentioned the multitude of millionaires in New Jersey. Well, some of these folks were thoughtful enough to leave or sell their estates to the state or counties which have now become extraordinary parks for all to enjoy. Natirar (Raritan backward) is the name of an estate once owned by the king of Morocco. "The river and Peapack Brook run through it. The estate includes 22 buildings, many historic, six wells and three bridges, NJ Transit right-of-way and three streams, a pond, woodland. The 33,000 square-foot mansion itself, grand that it may be, is sedate and austere. Its history intrigues."* It is owned by the Somerset County Parks Commission which bought the place for 22 million dollars. "The mansion, two cottages, carriage house and greenhouse stand on 88 acres that the county plans to lease to Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Airlines. The house will continue on as a retreat facility ­ albeit commercial, not philanthropic ­ with a full-service spa, conference center and restaurant that will be open to the public. The other 403 acres will be maintained as open space." *

The place is an absolutely gorgeous park. The two photographs below were made on May 15th while circumambulating the carriage path that is about a mile and a half or two in length. I schlepped the entire 4x5 kit (3 lenses, Shen Hao camera, 1 degree spot meter, darkcloth, tripod, film holders (10), filters, and loupe); the P67 might have done as well, but I love the big negatives. Thank goodness I don't have an 8x10 jones, or I'd be in traction.

* from: http://www.njskylands.com/clnatirar.htm

Sunday, May 17, 2009

People give the entire state of New Jersey a terrible time. It's as if it were simply destined to be the butt of jokes because some state had to be, and Jersey's number came up....I don't know. It doesn't help that it hasn't got a single city that's got the stature of it's Pennsylvania, or New York neighbors' greater cities; nor that it's decades of polluted air from the oil refineries in the northeastern part of the state are drive through souvenirs as one traverses the New Jersey Turnpike. But I recently learned (though I haven't checked that this is true) that NJ has more millionaires than any other state in the union. It also has some of the loveliest and most cultivated wealthy suburban and semi-rural areas I've ever visited. It has some pretty damn good universities too i.e. Princeton, and Rutgers, and one helluva popular Atlantic Ocean coastline.

The two photographs below are from a Morris County park called Willow Wood. It's an arboretum that is easy to walk through, and lush with a rich variety of plantings that offer wonderful flora that bloom and strut their stuff during the different months and seasons of the year. We will return to this pocket paradise again...and perhaps many times...to paint and photogarph it's vivid beauty.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I often marvel at the extraordinary still life photographs of flowers done so well by so many photographers. I, however, have almost never made an image of a flower or flowers either outdoors or in the studio with the notable exception of some flowering dogwood trees. But, here are a couple that I've posted to break the ice. The lower one was made at an arboretum here in Orange County. Making flower photographs there is like fishing in a well stocked pond...the subjects are abundant; the skill to capture them well is another matter. The upper 'graph was made at the little park in Craigville where I've made a number of images that I really like. As I may have written somewhere else on this blog, it's a memorial to a young boy who died of an incurable disease, and whose family belonged to the religious congregation that built the park. A lovely stream runs through it, and the place fosters a deep sense of peace that is a fitting commemoration of a young life too early extinguished. I never fail to find something that absorbs me there, and may also be worthy of a photograph. But most of all, I enjoy the sense of tranquility that permeates the trees, grass, and flowing water.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The photograph below was posted with a rant I should never have written late on a Friday night when I was too tired for my frontal lobe to have taken an active part in its composition. In other words, it was a pretty dumb thesis that seemed even dumber after a good night's sleep. It wasn't dumb because it was wildly wacko wrong, but because it needed a lot more words, and a lot deeper scholarship to make its' case. So...here's the pic that it went with without the blather. It's a bit abstract, but not too much so that you can't recognize what it is. I hope you like it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

This weekend was spectacular! It has been unseasonably warm...a strong taste of summer...and brilliantly sunlit, but the humidity didn't accompany the heat, so for me at least, it's been a real treat. On Saturday morning we drove over to Iona Marsh that lies just south of the Bear Mountain Bridge on the west bank of the Hudson River. Susan wanted to scout the area for painting subjects, and I had brought along both my MF and LF kits to make photographs.

It's interesting to me that marshes seem to change very little from season to season other than the presence or absence of ice which isn't even a factor when the marsh is in salty water. The water this far up the Hudson is, I am told, a bit briny although it's quite far from the sea, because salt water is conveyed in ever more diluted quantities by the tide.

Once again (as will often be the case now) this is a PS toned negative scan that attempts to replicate a real print that will be toned as described below. The camera was the P67 with 135mm lens, and a green filter.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Living where we do, spring gets sprung a bit later...maybe a week or two...than it does closer to NYC. The early vivid green of nascent leaves and swollen buds on a warm and sunbathed day is palpably thrilling. I found myself wandering near where our gallery is located (Montgomery, NY) and drove to several places I'd thought might yield promising camera fodder, and was happy to discover what you see here. These are negative scans that I've photoshopped to resemble the toning they'll get when prints are made. The toning will be a light bleaching in a dilute potassium ferricyanide and potassium bromide solution, and then a brief bath in thiocarbamide with sodium hydroxide controller followed by selenium 1:10 with generous washing between steps. For certain subjects, I think the warmth added by the toning is very welcome. (BTW, I was using the P67 with a 135mm lens for these which I've cropped to the more squarish presentation I prefer. )