Throwback Thursday

Once again, here we go, searching the archives and bring the past into the present…

A couple of quick throws this week.

Architectural Geometry

Intently looking is a major component of a photographers DNA. We are always staring, looking for something to capture our attention that then compels us to make a picture. Something I often refer to as “restless eyes”.

Sometimes referred to as “vernacular photography”, Stephan Shore is the Godfather of all practitioners. There is no one better. He is one of my photo heros.

Each of the images here was made while out and about, with no particular goal in mind. In the case of Architectural Geometry, I was standing in line waiting to see a film during the Full-Frame Film Festival in Durham. Being captivated by the lines and graphic elements of the office building across the street, I couldn’t resist the impulse to take out my phone and make a few pictures.


Diesel

Diesel was made while stuck in traffic. I was totally entranced by the graphic elements created by the smudges on the bus next to me. A picture had to be made.

Looking up

Looking Up was made while on a lunch date with my wife. I was particularly taken with the contrast between the umbrella and the clear blue sky. Initially I thought the moon (as a small spot on the left) was a cool addition. Now it strikes me as an annoying dust spot but I’ll keep living with it for now.

None of these pictures are especially noteworthy or potentially award winning. But who cares? What all three of them do have in common is the joy that comes from sharing the vision of our “restless eyes”.


Throwback Thursday

Once again, here we go, searching the archives and bring the past into the present…

An often annoying character trait of many photographers is the obsessive need to discuss gear. Put more than one photographer in a room and before you can say: “Say Cheese!” there will be a conversation on the type of gear they’ve used in the past; what they’re using now; what they’ve sold to buy more gear that now they wish they’d kept; and what they’d like to buy in the future.

Ugh…

I don’t know why we do, but we do. I am occasionally as guilty as anyone else. Perhaps it’s because it’s bond we all share. Perhaps it’s because we have nothing else interesting to say. Who knows?

All i do know is, it just doesn’t matter.

The best camera is the one you have with you, and most often, it’s your phone. As convenient as that is, with all the apps available, it couldn’t be more fun to make pictures. Even when I’m carrying another camera, I will still use my phone if I think I might want to play around with the images later.

Farm House

The picture above was made on one of those occasions. While out working on a project, I passed the abandoned farm house and after making several pictures with my larger cameras, I thought it might also be fun to make a few with my phone.

Generally, my go to phone app is Snapseed, mostly because you can make all your adjustments later, and if you don’t like them, you discard them. But I really love my Hipstamatic app and that’s what I used here.

So while technically, this IS about the gear, it was really mostly about the fun!

Throwback Thursday...

So in honor of Holga Week, once again we go deep into the archives to bring the past into the present…

I’ve probably mentioned it more than just a few times that I have a sizable collection of cameras most of which I’ve owned for a very long time. With the exception of my digital gear, I don’t think that there is a film camera in my arsenal that I’ve owned for less than a decade.

And I still use them.

All the time.

Because of this, whenever I travel, I feel the need to bring it all with me. Not a big deal if I’m going by car, but, lacking a Sherpa, any other mode of transportation presents many logistical challenges., not the least of which is the sheer weight. The old stuff was mostly made of metal, built to last forever and it’s heavy …

Fortunately, one of my favorite cameras, is small, made almost entirely of plastic, fits easily in my bag, and weighs practically nothing.

Yes, it’s the Holga.

I absolutely love this camera and never venture out without one. I have at least 6 and of varying models. I have versions with a plastic lens, glass lens, panorama, stereo, pinhole, you name it, I probably have it.

Alaska Triptych

So naturally, on a trip to Alaska a few years ago, my 120 GN got an extensive workout.

Alaska is like no other place I’ve ever seen. It rained just about every day we were there. This is fine by me as I prefer the light on cloudy days as it’s much more diffuse. This tends to soften the shadows and reduce the specularity of the highlights. It’s “God’s softbox” as I like to say. So the feel of the light and way it presented the landscape made me think the soft and dreamy look of the Holga would work well together. I think I was right.

The sequence above is a strip from one of the contact sheets. It wasn’t planned but the three images really work well together, so I had them printed as a single panorama print. That’s one of the great things about analogue photography. Had I just been looking at files on a screen, I don’t know that this sequence would have made itself known. As much as we like to think we’re so clever, we really aren’t. Sometimes the discoveries come to us…

Throwback Thursday...

Once again we go deep into the archives to bring the past into the present…

This picture was made for a very good friend of mine very early in my career. Made sometime in the early 80’s, it would become one of those defining moments that would lead me to the path that would eventually define who I would be as a photographer. Although it would only become clear to me later…

Jenny & Eric

Jenny & Eric

I had been photographing both kids since they were born, and so having me around with my camera was second nature to them. This was just around the time I had my first studio location, but since it was a nice day, and we often took pictures of the kids outside, we thought it would be fun to make some portraits at the park.

So after the obligatory “posed” pictures, the kids went off to play and I just tagged along,continuing to “play” with my camera, making pictures as they ran from one play thing in the park to another. After a couple of hours, children and adults both being suitably exhausted, they returned home for naps, and I to my studio wishing I could take one too.

When the contact sheets came back, there were several really good portraits, and a few more really good candids, but this one turned out to be mom’s favorite. It’s still one of mine, even with all the “flaws”.

For one thing, the background is over-exposed. On such a bright day given the difference in brightness between shadows and highlights, it would have been necessary to use some fill flash to balance out the difference. But since it wasn’t planned, we were just playing around and I was shooting from the hip, it didn’t seem necessary.

Now days, cameras and flashes calculate these things automatically. In those days, I would have had to meter the shadows in the foreground, meter the highlights in the background, figure out the difference, calculate how much light I wanted to fall on the subject, the power level and distance of the light source, set the flash and camera controls… AAUUGGG! It’s a great moment! We’re all having fun! Just take the picture!

So I did.

There is another frame from this series where Eric is standing still and the lines of the jungle-gym are straight. I don’t like it nearly as much as this one. When Eric started to move I tipped the camera and tripped the shutter. I like his movement against the dynamic of the tilted lines. I think it adds a little energy to what is already an energetic moment. Most importantly, it’s mom’s favorite too. Many years later, I would also photograph Jenny’s wedding. This photo was on the wall still…

So this picture was the first commissioned photograph created in the style that would eventually define my work for the next 30+ years. Ironically, it would be a picture I made in the studio that would eventually lead me in that direction. But that will have to be a story for another day…

Throwback Thursday...

Once again, we dig into the archives and bring the past into the present…

This week I’ve gone just about as far back as it’s possible to go. For several years I photographed with cameras borrowed from friends or that belonged to the school I attended. Unfortunately, those negatives are lost to time.

Contact Sheet 0001

The first serious camera I owned was a Yashica 35mm. It was sold as a kit that had a 35mm, 50mm, and 135mm lenses. And it came with a really nice leather camera bag! I still have the camera and it still works flawlessly. although only the 50mm lens remains with it.

My parents insisted on using the camera at my sisters graduation because they wanted “really nice pictures”. What exactly happened is a story for my therapist*, but the bag and extra lenses never returned. The loss was also deepened by the realization there were several rolls of exposed film I had failed to remove from the bag, and now, they too, were gone forever.

*Sigh*

Nevertheless, the image above is a contact sheet from the first roll of film that I put through the camera. The pictures were made as I walked to and from school and work. It was a roll of Ilford HP5 B&W film that I developed and printed myself. There are 3 missing strips from the roll and I think those were images shot for the yearbook that year, and so I kept them separate. Wherever they went I’m sure they were wonderful.

Contact sheets are an invaluable editing and organizational tool for photographers. I even make them from my digital images. For a long time I used 16x20 enlarged contact sheets as a proofing tool. Clients loved them, and often purchased one or more as add-on’s. A highly beneficial and unintended consequence resulting from something I did just because it was different and easy for me to do. Who knew?

For all the materials I save, one thing I don’t have are accurate records of when the pictures were made. For some silly reason (perhaps my therapist can shed some light on this?*) in those days I didn’t put dates on anything, so I can’t say with any certainty when any of my early work was done. At some point later, I did add a guesstimate of April 1979 for this roll. Based on the image content and what I remember of that time, this is probably a pretty good guess.

Nowadays, with digital imaging, the record keeping is done for you in the exif data embedded in each image file. And geo tags will even tell you where you were when the picture was made! Although it was easy enough to keep good records back in the day. All you needed was paper and a pen. Oh, well…

*I don’t actually have a therapist. In fact, the story had a kind of happy ending. From the money I received from my parents home owners insurance, I was able to purchase my first Nikon, an FM2. I still have that one too…