Sunday, December 21, 2008

'The best way to do something creative.. to ask a question you don't know the answer to...'
Francis Ford Coppola, in an interview I read a while ago, I think it was in Time magazine.
I think this is a REALLY good thought...!

A combination of 'positive' space - the pinnacle of rock on the left..
combined with a jagged opening/negative space, extending from the lower right,
to the left of center at the top.
Both negatives made at the beach in Bandon, Oregon a few years ago.
I figured I would overlay some sky on the top 2/3rd's, and have to find another image to flesh out the bottom right. Guess it was my lucky day, 'cause when I found the right sky for the top, it also had some puffy cumulus clouds that blended right in with the rocks fading in from the bottom left...
and made the 'space' as a whole even more ambiguous.

Where is the horizon here?
At the left, it is defined...
but on the right? ..that's another matter, 'who knows'..

Another thought:
Just because I 'ask a question I don't know the answer to' doesn't mean that when I get an 'answer'
(in the form of an image) that I'll actually understand that, either.
Which is definitely the case, on this one.

As usual, I start w/ 3 or 4 prints, & once I get one that's a keeper of the basic image, I feel free to improvise, and add other elements. In this case, I did 4 - and I got a basic final w/ #2 & 3... so #4 was up in the air....... since this had become such an uncertain place, I decided to add the image of a figure, walking along a narrow strip of rock stretching through ocean waves, and tide pool, that I took at the Sutro Bath House ruins below Cliff House, in S.F.

Once the figure was added, it was no longer just a mysterious space... it was about a 'perilous journey'...

As usual, larger images at:

This is the last post of the year...
and it's been a wild & crazy year hasn't it?
I am reminded again of a song recorded almost 40 years ago by The Rolling Stones, called 'Gimme Shelter'.
It was scary and all too true then, and I wish it would have become less true as the years roll on,
but it hasn't.
That's even more scary.

"...Oooo, storm is threatening my very life today..."

"War, children, it's just a shot away..
Rape, murder, it's just a shot away..."
(on the other hand)
"Love, sister, it's just a kiss away"

If you haven't heard this track for a while,
here's a reminder:
The Stones, the recorded/studio version, w/ a lot of rather generic photos of the band...
but you can hear it again, in one click, without having to reach for the vinyl, the cassette, or the CD :-)

If you don't have it in any of these forms, well...uh... I respectfully suggest you 'refresh' your music collection.

If there is any other thought I might add to your holiday/year-end ruminations, this is it:

Have a great holiday!!!......see you next year...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Play me some of that ol' time mountain music...

It's another music player of some sort (at the bottom of the montage image) - the holes in the disc get translated into musical notes.
(At least that's what I think it is.)
It's a disc that you won't find it at Apple, Microsoft, Seagate, that's for sure.
It was also shot at the Musee Mechanique in S.F., at Cliff House, before it was moved.
(See the previous post for links to the M.M.)

It's dodged out to '0' by the middle of the image.
At the top, is a landscape shot at Joshua Tree Nat'l Park - just rocks and sky...
but the rocks have very strong vertical 'grooves' in them.
How they came to be this way, I have no idea - consult a geology expert, if you want a professional answer.
My own personal opinion is... that what we now see as desert?... has been shaped by water, lots and lots of water, & was once much greener... and a whole lot of weathering has gone on, for many hundreds of thousands of years.

The neg that tied it all together was of a root of beach grass that exposed by the elements, and was left to waver back and forth over the sand, and carve these 'grooves'...

This connects the grooves in the rocks, with the disc player at the bottom.
To my eye, anyway...
Since this landscape was the last exposure added, I tried 2 variations.

Larger images are at:

I still feel much the same as I did 20+ years ago, about creating these images, which I've written about in the statement on my website:

"It starts by YOU telling the picture what it will be -- in the end, THE PICTURE tells you what IT will be..."
(Robert Rauschenberg)

I'm obviously interested in things metaphysical - beyond that, it's up to the viewer to decide what's going on.
If I haven't figured them out yet, (and I haven't, not *really*), why should I presume to explain them to anyone else? Many of the pictures just seem to 'happen', because the individual negatives are 'looking' for each other.
I'm just a chaperone, and a really loose one at that......
(...But those were always the best kind of parties, right?)

#1 - I'm surprised that anything I wrote, said, or did that long ago still rings true for me.

#2 - This makes me a surrealist, so far as I can tell.

I'll save you the google search, here's some appropriate links:

Time for one more post before the holidays hit, and then I'm taking some much deserved time away from
anything resembling the 'usual routine' - my plan at the moment is to go to ..."Vegas, Baby!"
But not for anything 'vegas' and glitzy - there's lot of interesting land and parks within an hour or two drive northeast...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Back to the traditional darkroom...

The 'mechanical ("encryption") device' (it seems so quaint and ancient for these times) was shot at the 'Musee Mechanique' when it was still on a lower level, beneath the Cliff House restaurants, at Ocean Beach in S.F. in the mid '90's.

The M.M. has since been moved to much 'nicer' space, but nothing gets the light that used to blast thru windows facing west/ to the sunset - it just ain't the same, for me.
And the ambience?... was great! - it was crowded, noisy and sometimes even a bit smelly.
I grew up on the east coast, & I've been to many of the coastal resort towns there, from Maine to Maryland & Virginia, and it feels more than a little bit familiar.
(Yes, the contact is grubby and scratched eight ways to sunday - guess I've sifted thru my contact sheets alot, way more than i can fix w/ any photoshop filter!)

It's a music player, player piano, of some sort, I think - the holes in the paper 'tape' get translated into musical notes.
If anyone would like to correct/inform me?... please feel free to do so.

Don't quite know why I saw it this way, but to me the rolls at the top and bottom were rather empty, & ripe for ...'something else'....
and there's the 'lucky #7' in the middle...! Whoa!!

'Earth and sky are always interconnected, and affect each other' - that's as best as I can describe my choice of sky for the top, and sand, for the bottom.
The sky was shot off the rooftop deck I enjoyed while living on 12th Ave., in SF.
The sand was shot at Pt. Reyes, somewhere.

(Sand is a favorite topic of mine - it is infinitely variable, & always interesting. It can be formed and reformed, again and again... and never looks the same.
Hey!..that could be a blog topic, just by itself.... watch out, it just might happen! :-) )

As usual, there's nothing technically tricky about this, it's matter of having the right negs to begin with, and then managing to realize they are 'good friends', and deserve to be together, in an image.
I can't emphasize this part of montage-making enough - you've GOT to have the right stuff to work with, before you even start to think about printing.

The first, and most important exposure is of course the first one, above.
I dodged back the top and bottom with two black strips in my home-made filter tray, below the enlarger lense, and dodged a bit extra by hand, but allowed some amount of exposure, on which i could 'overlay'/expose the sand and the sky.
If you haven't already done so, I suggest you check out my 'darkroom methods' pages for details on a simple 'below the enlarger lense filter and dodging device':

'Encryption device'
Why did I call it an 'encryption device'...?
Well, with all the current discussion of climate change, CO2 pollution, etc, etc, etc (ad infinitum, almost), do we really understand how Gaia (the earth) works?
I highly doubt it - we like to think we do, it makes us feel better... but alotta times, it's an illusion.)

Larger images, including alternate versions, are at:

Stay tuned for a lot more darkroom - I got some mountain music, a mysterious space, and an empty bucket waiting in the wings...... and that's not counting the door handle, schoolroom, and carousel tiger I worked on last weekend.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A few loose ends...

Winter has arrived in Northern California - November 1 & 2 we got some much needed rain,
and everyone has pulled the rainy weather wardrobe out of the back of the closet,
where it has been parked since last May.
Last Sat., 11/8/08, was another stormy wet day.
It gave me some time to gather a few loose ends & thoughts...

Why have my posts recently been heavy on darkroom, & light on digital?

In 25 words or less? - because the new camera I bought last Xmas has been a disappointment.
Four years ago, I got a really simple Canon Powershot A-40, image size 1200x1600 pixels. No camera raw, just jpeg's.
It was the first time I have been able to collect 'source material' in color, the way I have been able to w/ B&W since about 1974 or '75.
So for a few years, I just 'messed around' with it - I know color is very different from B&W, and I figured it was going to take me a while to figure out what I wanted to do, in color.
By the end of last year, I figured it was time to 'move up' - I don't have the funds for anything really top o' the line, but I thought that a Canon Powershot SX 100 capturing 2400 x3600 pixels would be a big improvement, it's 4 times as many pixels, right?
Is it a big improvement?
Wrong. No. Bummer.
The 2400x3600 pixels just don't have the sharpness, the saturation or clarity that the 1200x1600 pixel shots do.
This camera does all kinds of things I have NO interest in - movies? audio? panorama stitching?
Please! I want a camera that is JUST a camera, and is focused on, and designed to do that, well - to hell w/ all the rest of it.
Lense quality seems to be the last thing on manufacturer's agendas - when I shoot a copy of a montage print, w/ the aforementioned camera, just by laying it on the floor, and holding the camera 3 or 4 feet above it, the barrel distortion is outrageous - the straight edges of a 16x20" piece of paper bulging out, like my print ate at MacDonald's for month. And 'super-sized' every order. Kinds reminds me of the quality of low end zoom lenses, when they first arrived in the mid 70's.
I don't expect a 300$ camera to rival a Leica, or my Pentax 6x7, but hey, c'mon, it should be a bit better than this.

That's why I've been slacking a bit on the digital end of things.
So beware when buying a digital camera!
'Mega pixel' size isn't really a measurement of quality.
It all makes me love film!... my Pentax 6x7, and simple Yashica D, that much more.
I've always been inspired by things other than what that goes on in the 'photo' or 'art' world.

Three books you should read, IMHO, before you die:

Songlines - Bruce Chatwin
I have a copy of a paperback edition, all 294 pages of it.
The first 162 pages are an account of the authors travel in Australia.
From page 163 on is "'From the notebooks' - This is the best part, and truly 'the heart of the matter',
when it comes to his writing.

Secrets from the Center of the World - Joy Harjo, & Stephen Strom
A very small book of text/poetry & photos that packs a big wallop, it's about Navajo country, the four corners area in the US southwest -
I have a hard time deciding whether I should put her or Bruce Chatwin first - Let's call it a draw, OK?
She is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, and her Native American mindset
shines through in everything she writes.

(From 'Secrets from the Center of the World')
"Anything that matters is here.
Anything that will continue to matter in the next thousand years will continue to be here.
Approaching in the distance is the child you were some years ago.
See her laughing as she chases a white butterfly".

The Snow Leopard - Peter Mathiessen account of his two month journey along with naturalist George Schaller in 1973 to Crystal Mountain, in the Dolpo region on the Tibetan Plateau in the Himalayas.

OK, OK!.... make that 6 books:

Desert Solitaire - Edward Abbey

On Anarchism:
"Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners."
(The subtitle on this page reads:
"Enter at your own risk. Carry water. Avoid the noonday sun. Try to ignore the vultures. Pray frequently.")

Assembling California - John McPhee

(("No more eloquent nor dearly human writing on geology can be found than in the works of New Yorker writer John McPhee. In Annals of the Former World (including Basin and Range, In Suspect Terrain, and Rising from the Plains), his enchantment with the subject…offers an entirely new prospect of how our earth became what it is, as well as where it might be going. McPhee's completion of the Annals comes with his most compelling book on the subject, Assembling California, a delicious field manual on the creation of the Golden State going back a few hundred million years."
--Peter Stack, The San Francisco Chronicle))

In 1978 and 1979, John McPhee also began his wider series of related journeys, traversing North America at about the fortieth parallel, using roadcuts of Interstate 80 as windows into regional geologies, and incidentally profiling the lives of the geologists with whom he travelled. A continental tetralogy, gathering under the title Annals of the Former World, began with Basin and Range (1980), and continued with In Suspect Terrain (1982) and Rising from the Plains (1986), and is now completed by Assembling California.

House of Rain - Craig Childs
(or anything he has written - I doubt you'll be disappointed - I wasn't.)

You may need to register as a NYT regular?, but it doesn't cost a dime,
it's the best damn newspaper in the U.S..... and they won't spam you.

The next four entries/posts?
ALL 'darkroom'!!! I promise!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Darkroom - The Coffee Shop

The 'coffee shop' sign was shot in Blythe, CA. in 2003. Seemed like it was one of those desert towns where most everything is closed by 7 PM.... but they 'leave the lights on' - that's the tag line to much Motel 6 advertising, which I kinda like.
The table setting at the bottom was done as some sort of restoration/exhibit in the Marin Headlands, Fort Cronkite, in about '96, '97, at one of the military barracks there.
I exposed the table setting first, from bottom, up, dodging out the top to '0'.

The coffee shop sign is sandwiched w/ a sky, and blown into the upper half, once again dodging back the bottom to '0', and of course a good bit of overlap between the bottom & the top.
There was no great soul searching on this one, it was about the nostalgia many of us have for old fashioned diners and the neon signage they use to lure you in off the road.
(It was also about a *really good cup of coffee* and the time and space to enjoy it.
Have you ever seen David Lynch's most marvelous foray into prime time TV, 'Twin Peaks'?
Dale Cooper (played by Kyle MacLachlen(sic?)) is always ready to enjoy a good cup o' coffee, strong & black, please.
Amen!, I can go for that anytime, too.
Well, I'd have to add some sugar & milk... hope Dale wouldn't be offended.)

"What makes this hang together as a montage"?...... well the concept, for one - coffee shop + table setting...but beyond that, it's about light - the light falling on the table makes perfect sense with the glow coming from the sign - the table setting was lit by a window that is above and out of the frame.

Notice the long time span from when I shot the table setting, until I shot the sign - about 6+ years!
Also notice that it is drop-dead simple, almost as simple the very first montage image I ever did successfully in 1984:

One thing I've been aware of for a long time is that the most important part of montage printing is not the technical printing details/techniques, at least not for me.
First of all, you have to have the right negatives/'source material'.
After many years of doing this, I seem to have developed a sixth sense about
what I want to commit to film.
Then, you have to connect them, as a print possibility - I spend a lot of time going over & over my proof sheets, making small drawings/tracings, and planning... thinking...& dreaming.
Yes, dreaming...
Neither of these has anything to do with technique, or technology, whatsoever.
It has to do with what goes on between your own two ears.

The best analogy I've been able to think of about this ('what goes on between your own two ears') is:
Jimi Hendrix could pick up the same Fender Stratocaster as anyone else (no doubt Fender has sold many, many hundreds of thousands of these), but when he played it, it didn't sound like anyone else ever had, or has since then.

Another thing this print has inspired me to do, finally, is to print on a matte surface paper again so I can hand-color one of the 3 or 4 prints I usually do of an image. I used to do hand coloring a lot, don't know why I put it aside, exactly.
Ilford's matte surface is very nice for this, but they seem to have stopped making it in RC, which is a whole lot easier for me to deal with than fiber, maybe that's why.
I also chose the Ilford Matte 'cause it's a very smooth, non-textured surface, and I'm finding that scanners are not kind to surface texture - they all seem to 'side-light' whatever you plop on the glass scanning bed. Sometimes that can be interesting...but when it's not? it's a total pain in the ass to get rid of the resulting texture. And I want to be able to scan/'digitize' everything I do at this point.
Anyway, a 50 sheet box of Ilford Matte Fiber is headed my way, from Freestyle Photo, in L.A.
It ain't cheap - 165$ for the paper, + shipping, but I think it'll be worth it.

Larger view of the image:

...there's also a comparison of a B&W print, and it's hand colored version.

And if you'd like a preview of the next few darkroom images?....

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Gimme shelter!...(my first and probably last entry into political commentary)

"Gimme shelter!" ( Give us all shelter!)...
Or else maybe we'll all get swept away by that 'red coal carpet',
and the 'mad bull that's lost it's way'
(as the lyrics of this song go, all credit to M. Jagger & K. Richards).

Less than a week from now, we all go to the polls, and vote.

We live in times that until recently seemed like 'laissez le bontemps roullez'
(roughly translated as 'let the good times roll', if my boarding school French lessons serve me halfway well)
would last forever.
Guess not.
When this song was released in the late sixties, it knocked me on my ass -
It totally described the times & mood then, and though I hoped that maybe this was a temporary
judgement/description?... it seems to have only gotten more relevant as the years go on.
(I guess that's the the measure of true "art", isn't it? - that it stands the test of time?)

This one definitely does:

"War, children, it's just a shot away..
Rape, murder, it's just a shot away..."
(on the other hand)
"Love, sister, it's just a kiss away"

If you haven't heard this track for a while,
here's a reminder:
The Stones, the recorded/studio version, w/ a lot of rather generic photos of the band...
but you can hear it again, in one click, without having to reach for the vinyl, the cassette, or the CD :-)
Michael Hedges version - An excellent cover version of this song.
If you've never heard of Michael Hedges, I suggest you also check out some of the other videos here, he was one of a kind:

Another quote, from way back when:

"Ask not what your country can do for you,...ask what you can do, for your country"
I don't think this should necessarily be interpreted as a call for joining the military or the civil service, but as a way of thinking about the world, and your place in it, as in 'do something positive, make a difference, contribute SOMETHING - if you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem'.

I was rather young when this was spoken by JFK, too young to vote, but it is still engraved indelibly in my memory, as was the news of his untimely death.
He was inspiring, and I think we have another presidential hopeful who can be equally inspiring,
in Barack Obama.
I think the dude has 'the right stuff'!
That's what we need - right here, right now, no fucking two ways about it.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, get out and VOTE!
Our country is at a critical turning point - we can move forward?...
or we can cling to a (Republican) past that is crumbling before our eyes.
As Bob Marley put it sooo well -
"Get up!, stand up!, stand up for your rights!"

After you've done that?... stop back in again - there's a lot of 'darkroom' headed this way, real soon, probably before the weekend is over.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Remembering a few places that I wish were still there..

...Sifting thru contact sheets made years ago, I came across a few that really jogged my memory, in a bittersweet way.
One was of film shot 10 years ago at 'Bonk's Jawbone Canyon Store' which was located on CA. Rte 14, heading north from the town of Mojave, Ca., about half-way to Red Rock Canyon state park.
Red Rock Canyon park is a great place to explore and shoot:

Bonk's (the image on the left, above) was definitely a ramshackle and improvised place, that catered to all travelers (postcards, maps, sunglasses, cold drinks, sandwiches, probably made hundreds of miles away, & shrink-wrapped a week before eating,)...
and also to dirt bike riders headed to Jaw Bone Canyon - gloves, gas, oil, tires, and probably a lot of things I don't remember, 'cause I don't ride bikes.
The place was filled, to the rafters, with stuff you never thought you'd need or like, until you landed in a place like that... including an ashtray, shaped like a coiled rattlesnake!
(I really wish I had bought one of those!)
In short, if Bonk's didn't have it?... you wouldn't need it, anyway.

The last time I drove past the place in 2001, it was closed...
with a big sign and a real estate agent's phone number.

The town of Mojave had changed a lot too - when I first passed thru, in '97, it was definitely a town with one main street, a few local businesses, and that was about it. No chain stores, or Burger King's - there was one excellent restaurant, excellent in an old fashioned homey way - I guess the town has always been home to some aviation pursuits, and this restaurant was as filled to the rafters with photos of planes as Bonk's was with motorcycle stuff.
I got a steak on a sizzling hot platter which I devoured immediately, after almost a week on the road, sleeping in a tent.

The restaurant has changed hands, and now the town has a partial beltway around it, which to me seemed really weird - a BIG beltway, around very little, still. As I remember, there was a KFC(?) and some 'progress'(if you could call it that)... enough that I was disappointed, and drove on.
I don't mean to diss the town, I guess sometimes progress doesn't have much character

Moby's place... (It's on the right, above) was somewhere along Rt. 247 between Barstow and Yucca Valley - the proprietor was a grizzled ol' desert-rat kinda guy, who said he lived there with his 8th wife.
Besides having a collection of BMW motorcycle parts that brought visitors from as far away as Germany, he erected some really bizarre and unique sculptures made from whatever detritus he could lay his hands on.
I've never seen anything like it, before or since.

You've probably guessed the (sad) end to this... which is that his creations are gone - last time I passed by(2003).
I'll bet the old guy died, and anyone who took it over had no interest in continuing his eccentric creations,
and leveled it all.
I'll miss it, glad I took a few frames while I had the opportunity.

Larger images of all the above mentioned places, are here:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A P.S. to the previous post....

I added an image of just the first exposure of the bales, without the clouds, to the page at my site - that makes things a bit more informative than before, for you darkroom/montage enthusiasts.
And since there was a bit of a story behind getting the frame of the crow, in motion, I added that too.
So If you read the page already, but find these additions interesting, stop in again.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Time to catch up on darkroom work

I've had a few long weekends in recent months, where I can spend a couple of days just printing, and still have a day to recoup before going back to battle pixels at my part time day job.
After a few months of rumination over many proof sheets,
I have a bunch of new image ideas to work on.
Sooooo, here we go!, turn on the safelight, and step right this way :-)


The first one I printed was with these bales of hay (shot in '96), under a sheet metal/corrugated roof, they are a kind of storage - horses & cattle can graze on it...
Even though it's been a looong time since i shot this frame, I am sure my intent was to 'do something' with the bales, something that defied the roof, & expanded beyond it's implied limits.
No matter how many skies I have shot, it's still difficult to find just the right one.
I wanted some clouds that felt plump, fat, 'stacked up', just like the bales of hay.
I was pretty happy with the way the one I chose worked, so I did 2 prints of that, and then did my usual "OK, step back, take a break, smoke a bowl, and think about it" thing.
There are definitely two kinds of space here - the one in the distance at lower right, beyond the corrugated roof structure, is very literal.
The other 'space', with the clouds emanating from the bales, is the opposite - indefinite, and open to... who knows what.
I rarely analyze why I make certain decisions, or images, I just do it, it feels right.

You may have noticed I like birds, & since they are capable of flight, they can show up anywhere...
So I added them to both spaces - but in a particular way - the birds at upper left, in the space
that is unreal, are pretty 'real' and make sense w/ the clouds behind them.
The single bird at lower right is in the more literal space, but the bird itself is rather indefinite, & mysterious - is it in front of the poles, or behind? Is it real, or not?
Does this unreal bird want to join the flock above?... or is it unwilling or unable to make the transition?
So many questions, and few answers.
Maybe it isn't that the arriving at an answer is that important, perhaps just asking the question, and pondering, is enough...

As usual, larger images are visible at my website:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

What makes a montage image 'come together'?

This entry is inspired by a question I was asked not too long ago:
" ..Is the perspective of the elements what ties a lot of the more complex photos together?"
Good question.
My short (ten words or less) answer posted quickly in response was: Yes, definitely. I use that a lot.
But the larger question - "What makes a montage image 'come together'?" - definitely deserves a better answer than 'Yes, definitely. I use that a lot.'

All this applies to traditional/chemical B&W darkroom - once you go digital(photoshop), it's a whole different thing, the sky is the limit, you can make as many layers as you have memory to work with, which actually is as much a curse as a blessing - it's very easy to get lost.
The reason I still prefer darkroom is that it keeps me focused on what's really important.

If you are doing B&W montage in a darkroom, and have different 'answers'? all means, do it!
I am offering mine on a 'FYI/FWIW' basis.

Perspective is just one way of bringing disparate elements together into a whole that works.
In no particular order, here some things I have found useful....
(or maybe I should say: "Here are the things I have found 'happening' -
I use the word 'happening', because it implies a certain lack of control,
an open mind to serendipity, which is exactly where it's at for me).
['The best way to do something creative...
is to ask a question you don't know the answer to...'
Francis Ford Coppola, in an interview, 2007]

1 - Similar perspective
2 - Similar lighting/angle of light/illumination
3 - Composition/desgn - shapes & forms that 'blend together', regardless of their individual properties.
4 - Concept - that is to say, a confluence of ideas amongst the individual elements.

In the course of writing this, it became much too long & with waaay too many pictures for this blog, so click your way to: to continue on.
I've spent several weekends the last few months in the darkroom, so that's what the next few entries will be about, for sure.
Happy 'Image Making' to one and all,from Northern California,
regardless of technique!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

How 'bout some summer fog?

It's very cool ( in more ways than one!), can be mysterious, and it's never the same twice.

For more:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

How 'bout a brief return to things digital?

Topics: Darkroom vs. Digital prints...
& Photography as a weapon.

I certainly follow any and all articles in the media that catch my eye on the first topic...
which seems to have been beaten to death, but continues on just the same.
I guess we all like to 'beat a dead horse' as the saying goes... it's easy.

Check this out:
'Would You Pay $1,700 For a Digital Print of Dylan?'

WIRED-COM - By Scott Thill - August 02, 2008 | 11:57:05 AM
My attention was drawn to the comments about the prints offered.
(the bold-face emphasis is mine, not the original writer's.)

"Digital prints? No way. If they were done in the traditional darkroom/wet lab process, using film negatives, I would. Digital photography and digital printing is artificial and is not art. What would Ansel Adams have to say? Digital photography makes it entirely too easy to manipulate the image. I feel sorry for all these younger people who have never experienced the magic of the darkroom. I'm an experienced technologist having been in the software field for twenty five years and you would think that I'd be the first person to embrace digital photography, but I feel that the world of art photography has lost it's soul by so completely embracing digital photography. It's great for commercial photographers but has absolutely no place in art photography."

There's definitely a lot to think about, above, and the comments continue for while.
I suspected that Wired readers might be decidedly pro-digital - I guess not, judging from the above comment.
Personally?.... I hope the world is... 'perceptive, benevolent, and wise enough' to accept and appreciate both traditional and digital.
I hope I am not asking or expecting too much - if you think I am? I suggest you think again.

You traditionalists? ...hey, digital is here to stay.
You digital types? ...hey, traditional ain't goin' away.

Personally, I think there is plenty of room for both technologies.

You'll have to wrestle my Beseler 45MX enlarger (w/ a great cold light head, purchased from Zone 6, in 1982)
"out of my cold dead hands" ( to steal a phrase from Charlton Heston, sticking up for the NRA),
but let's face it, digital offers possibilities that are marvelous, and can't be done in the traditional darkroom.
I appreciate & work with both, and actually 'digital' has made me appreciate the particular qualities of darkroom all the more.
But I also love being able to spend a day walking & shooting somewhere nice here in Northern California, and then being able to check out the pix immediately, while I make dinner!
No processing! No waiting! (No having to hope the lab doesn't screw up, either.)

I know of several friends for whom the chemical-free environment of digital is the only way they can still work - decades of exposure to darkroom chemicals have taken their toll.

As for the person who wrote:
"I feel sorry for all these younger people who have never experienced the magic of the darkroom"
... well, yeah, I feel that way too...but I also realize that this generation of 'younger people' has grown up in a different world than we did, and that's all there is to it.
( I'll take a wild guess the writer is, like myself, age 50+?)
Yo, people! "The times they are a changin' " - get used to it -
when I was 20 or so, I was oblivious to much of what my dad considered important, and today's kids are the same.
In 20 years, maybe they will be sayin'
"Holy Shit! Those people were onto something after all!"
Your best hope & wish?
to still be around, when they 'wake up'.

Photography as a weapon.... & 'Fauxtography'

A conversation between Errol Morris and Hany Farid -
(the starting point being recent photos of Iranian rockets - was that 3?... or 4? of them..?)

Errol Morris is a documentary filmmaker whose movie The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara won the Academy Award for best documentary feature in 2004. He also directed Gates of Heaven, The Thin Blue Line, Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control and A Brief History of Time, among other films.
Hany Farid, a Dartmouth professor and an expert on digital photography, has published a number of journal articles and a recent Scientific American article on digital photographic fraud.

An excellent discussion, indeed - just click on the link, I think you'll be glad you did.

If you think the above 'photo' is a hoot, wait 'til you see the one with Wile E. Coyote!
((Spoiler alert! ;-) ...this poor critter gets hammered, once again!))

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Using Perspective

Someone left a comment on the previous post "Darkroom!! :-) - 'Desert Distance' :

"I noticed with your inspiration desk blog and this one how perspective of the photos can be important. Is (the) perspective (of) the element(s) what ties a lot of the more complex photos together?"

After I read this, I glanced up at the wall above my monitor, and what's hanging there?
This 10 year old print of mine, 'Lizard, Disappearing".

So the short answer is..." yes, definitely - I use that a lot."
You'll notice that even though the perspective may be the same or complimentary (and ties things together), other things are incongruous/conflicting - the tension between the two makes it interesting & surreal.

That's not the only thing I use to tie things together, though - this topic could easily turn into a future post... :-)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Darkroom!! :-) - 'Desert Distance'

I've done plenty of montage images that have been 'top to bottom', and 'from the center/out' blends, but haven't worked much with a diagonal axis blend/dodge & burn.
Being always ready to try something new, I gave this one a spin, the challenge was too much to pass up.
(nothing ventured?, nothing gained! ...right?)

The shack (on the left, above) was shot somewhere in the Mojave Nat'l Preserve.... I think.
The landscape and sky that's burned in from the lower left was taken somewhere along CA. Rte. 58, from Bakersfield to Mojave, CA., looking south-west. I was much closer to Mojave, than to Bakersfield - I was definitely past the mountains, heading down to Mojave.
On this particular trip, I was racing east to avoid all the storminess coming in off the ocean.
The storms made it over the coastal ranges, and continued over the central valley, and hit another impasse at the next range of mountains/elevation - which is what formed the swirling clouds on the horizon I caught in this frame.

It was the angle of the roof in the shack, and the similar angle of the clouds, that connected for me.

This is a good time to back up for a few moments, and explain my work process in the darkroom.
I almost always start by making successive exposures on four sheets of paper - I put them back in a light-safe box, and make additional exposures, until I decide to develop them.
Usually if there two dominant exposures that make a 'basic' version of an image, I'll develop the #1 sheet, to see how that works. If I'm lucky and 'in the groove', that first one might be a keeper. If not, that's OK, I still have 3 more left, I can make adjustments & corrections.
Hopefully, prints 2 & 3 will be exposed better. If I develop #2, it's almost always a 'keeper', and if so, I'll also expose & develop #3, just so I have an alternate.

Then I have #4, undeveloped, and ripe for an 'additional touch' ;-)

In this particular case, #1 fell a bit short, #2 & #3 (above) were right on...
so #4 got that 'additional touch' - a traffic directing sign, in the middle of nowhere......
Larger images, including the final/#4 are at:

(If you've been wondering "Hey, what happened to the supposed '50% digital' in this blog?",
well, I just haven't done much of that recently, what else can I say?
It just does not turn me on the way darkroom does.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

RE: my RSS and Atom feeds - I am a caveman!

I've done the best I can do to check all the right boxes in the blogspot preferences to make
this available ('syndicated') to one and all....according to the help info, that should take care of it,
but like everything in the digital world, nothing is as simple as it is presented to be... Nothing!
One source of checking (I guess 'validating' is the correct term?) tells me i am validated
(but 'could use some improvement').... another disagrees w/ that.
To me, it looks like the Atom feed is a-workin'... but the RSS isn't.
Do I know how to fix or reconcile this?
Hell, no.
The amount of html/code i can deal with, wouldn't fill more than a bottle cap...
and never will.
I went to to see if anything there would help.
I was in waaay over my head in no time flat.
I think my rating on their most amusing scale would be this:


Since I am pretty good photographer, and a very good printer, I'm not gonna lose any sleep over it.
If the aforementioned 'feeds' aren't working for you, let me know - maybe, just maybe, I can deal w/ a mailing list.
FWIW, I usually post every couple of weeks or so... but I don't post something just to meet some artificial deadline.
The next few posts will definitely be 'darkroom'...:-)

Happy 'whatever-you-do-that-turns-you-on' to you...!
& 'best wishes' from northern one and all.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Darkroom again - 'The Fog Desk'

A few years ago, I took a ride up the coast to Ft. Ross State Historical Park, it's about half an hour north of Jenner, Ca.

It's a nicely done restoration, if that's the right word - at least I got some frames that proved to be worth the trip, and then some.(Actually the ride was done along w/ three other guys, two of them visiting from the east coast, and when easterners get to Ca.?.. they tend to go a little wacko - there was always at least one open beer in the car, and a pipe was used liberally....but never by the driver!
Maybe that's just 'the easterners I know' that get that wacky...?
Whatever the case, it was a great day trip - Thank you Dan & Walter, just for being yourselves!)

I've used the desk in front of the window before:

...but since it's definitely an image that could be used in different ways,
I wanted to try another variation, this time with some fog wafting through trees at Pt Reyes.

It's a really simple print - the desk/chair is burned in to the center thru that oh-so-handy black card with a circular hole in the middle... and the surrounding foggy forest exposed around all sides - I exposed the whole image, but held back most of the center with a simple circle of black paper, held by a thin wire, so I could wave it around in the center and leave no trace of it around the sides. Real, real simple.

So to continue the 'thread' from a previous image post ( the 'Inspiration Desk')...

"...if you were to sit down at this desk, what would the topic of study be?
Would a teacher or guide of some sort appear?"

In this case, there are tools of various sorts on the desk...
& there isn't anything visible thru the window....
Sooo... maybe it's an invitation of sorts?
In times like these, we could all use a quiet place to sit down, and ponder it all, right?

If it's a bit of an enigma, that's fine with me.

Larger images at:

Friday, June 27, 2008

Do computers really make us smarter (and/or more creative)?.... or not..?

Concerning an article in the The Atlantic monthly, July 2008,
by Nicholas Carr:

"Is Google making us stoopid?
What the Internet is doing to our brains"

Being the cover article, it caught my eye as soon as I pulled it out of my mailbox, I was reading it in the elevator to my floor and continued as I walked along the breezeway to my apartment.
The second paragraph begins:

".....Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading....."

Whoa! Can I relate to that?! Let me count the ways....!

I'd been thinking things along the same lines for a while now, but since I spend a clear majority of my time in front of a Mac with Photoshop, Dreamweaver and a few other programs open, and make 2/3 of my income from digital work, heading down a road called ' Biting the Hand that Feeds You' is one I should...uh..'drive slowly on'.

But since thoughts can be notoriously hard to control or contain, well, I keep thinking pretty much what Mr. Carr describes:
"My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think."

However, I would revise the subtitle "What the Internet is doing to our brains" to read: "What computers are doing to our brains".

I've spending a lot of time the last month or two going over all my proof sheets, just drawing sketches, and connecting various ideas. After my 'end of year(2007) darkroom binge', I felt like I needed to step back a bit, and try doing things a bit more like I did 10 or 15 years ago. My montage work has definitely changed in the last 7 or 8 years - it's simpler, and for lack of better terms, the connections are more linear/less surreal.
There's nothing inherently bad about that ( I don't think I'll ever stop being a bit surreal or less than linear) but the change has been noticeable, and leaves me scratching my head, wondering "hunh?(& why)??"
I thought perhaps it was a reaction to my different circumstances, having an apt. that was much less conducive to my impromptu darkroom, which made me work faster, looser & not spend nearly the time I did in the past sifting thru contact sheets to fill 'holes' in an image.
Then I started to think that spending so much time in front of a computer
( which is all VERY ' linear/point & click/ drag and drop' ) was inspiring me to work very improvisationally....

Thank you Mr. Carr, for clearing the cobwebs outta my brain.
Marshall McLuhan was right, the medium is the message.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to turn this thing off, and sift thru through some of those contact sheets again...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Back to the darkroom - 'Inspiration Desk'

The most important part of my montage printing happens before I fire up the enlarger, and pour out the chemistry - I sift thru my contact sheets, over and over again, making sketches of images I think may have possibilities, and trying to find other images that go along with them, somehow. ( I put the contact sheet on a light box, and trace, onto good ol' fashioned tracing paper like I used in advertising in the 70's.... and I keep adding to the sheet, when I come across something that connects to one of the images already traced.)

The body of work on my website has all been done since I moved to California in 1992 - I don't show hardly anything from what I did before that. At first, the pile of contact sheets wasn't so big, and was easy to sift thru... but as time went on, it became seriously deep, and sifting thru ALL of them became... well... too cumbersome.
In 2002, I moved out of an apartment I had for almost 10 years in SF (which was very conducive to an impromptu darkroom) to a place in Marin county, where an improvised darkroom arrangement was a lot less convenient - I had to make the entire apt. 'dark' to print, & it felt really claustrophobic!

Between that, and the great amount of time I now spend in front of a computer, doing the printing in a very improvisational way(without searching too much thru contacts) felt really good - "too much 'point & click, drag and drop' makes Jack (& Bob!) a dull boy" to rephrase an old saying.
As much as I was relatively happy w/ the results of my recent Xmas darkroom binge, I felt like I wanted to get back to the way I did things previously - much more sifting thru contact sheets, and 'exploration', before printing, even if the stack of contact sheets had become knee high.
So I now have 5 or 6 sheets of tracing paper that look like the one below.

Recently I decided to print one of the images, the one at the bottom left, of a desk(at the bottom of the image) dissolving into a landscape(above).

Getting to this point ( 'connecting' these two images) brings me to mention another couple of important conclusions I've come to, also along the lines of "The most important part...happens before I fire up the enlarger...".

#1 - No matter how much Photoshop you can do, nothing trumps having the 'right' image elements to begin with (Photoshop is a tool, and an excellent one, but there are no ideas there, anywhere)...

#2 - Now that anyone can put 'who-knows-how-many images' together digitally, that's no longer a challenge - the real challenge now is doing something that.... is more than the sum of the parts, an image takes you somewhere you haven't been before, even if it is very, very simple.

The desk was shot in 1996, somewhere in the Southern Ca. desert, I have no idea where.
Because the 'M.O.' for my road trips is simple - I have: cash, credit cards, cameras&film, and a lot of bud :-)
Use all 'as needed'/or 'liberally', whatever the situation requires :-)
Where I am, exactly?? what difference does it make?

(I'm sure i can find my way back to SF, when i really need to.)
((If I ever get a rental car w/ a GPS-thingey, i will turn it off, if possible.
If I ever rent a car that starts talking to me? I will be severely tempted to reach under the dash and rip out
as many wires as I can reach.))

I guess this comes from my childhood (old habits die hard, don't they?)
Vacations were always road trips, and on one, we drove from home (Gardiner, Maine) towards Quebec, Canada.
My dad wasn't much for maps, he figured he could find his way there without any help.
My mom was always his alter ego, worried that maybe we were lost.
On this particular trip, my dad took a shortcut - a road that was barely a road, which didn't please Mom one bit.
They argued, while we (2 brothers & 1 sister) just watched it all pass by.
At a certain point, we all noticed something - any kind of signs stopped being in English, and were in French.
I guess that means we were there, already?!...which we definitely were.
'Customs'? National boundaries?? we seemed to have missed those, entirely.

When I shot the desk, I had no idea what to do with it, but it was a 'pregnant' symbol -
someone discarded it as useless,
but if you were to sweep the crap off it, you could still sit down and work on it.
The landscape above/beyond it is Death Valley, I think around 'Badwater', shot five years later, in 2001.
The perspective on the water (in the distance) is about the same as the top of the desk, which is why they came together, for me.
I wanted the top of the desk to blend into the distance somewhere, even though the desk's legs are obviously sitting on the foreground ('feet in the sand, head in the sky'?)
The first print of just those two, together, turned out to be pretty interesting.
At the same time, it begged for more -
'so what happens here?...if you were to sit down at this desk, what would the topic of study be?
Would a teacher or guide of some sort appear?

I used to have some kind of prohibition about using the same negatives more than once...
not anymore. I definitely have some themes I want to work with, so why not use some of the same negs
several times?
Even though I have used the 'stars' on several occasions... and also a flock of gulls,
why not use 'em again?
Both seem to be symbols of...hmmm, let's see: the stars = some kind of divine intervention?
a cosmic zap of enlightenment?
and the gulls? this case, all hovering above, headed towards the viewer?..maybe they are
the inevitability of... everything - the passage of time, for one.
Perhaps even the arrival of wisdom, if you should be so lucky (as if the stars weren't already enough!)
If you'd like to read anything else into either of the above?
Help yourself... I'd love to hear about it.
I never know exactly why I arrive at some of the 'solutions'(final prints) I do - if I actually understood it?,
then I probably didn't go far enough.

For larger images:

The next few entries? .... definitely more darkroom! - I got a 'Fog Desk',
and a 'Desert Distance' waiting in the wings....
but there may be a digression or two along the way!

Monday, June 9, 2008

So how long does it take a film photomontage guy to find a 'new voice' in pixels??

The short answer is: Don't hold your breath, I didn't hold mine - it's taking a while, and then some.
...& I'm still workin' on it.

Sometimes I feel like the lonely blades of dune grass above, straining to survive the onslaught of the ocean - the (digital)future is comin' on fast, ain't no denying it...but the grass will send out new roots & shoots, and so will I.
I'll never give up doing darkroom work, as long as there's something to work with -no way, no how - that's 'where it really happens', for me.
Finding the begininngs of a new voice in digital?.. has taken...oooh...4 or 5 years.
One thing that is VERY different about it?... it's color!
I've been collecting B&W negatives, & doing all my own processing and printing since 1974.
Being able to collect color images the same way?.. is....
a whole new ...'thing' / 'ballgame' / kettle of fish....!
(Chose the metaphor you like best - any of 'em will do, if it works for you.)

It actually took a lot longer than that to accomplish the same in the darkroom.

After an aborted stab at college from Fall '69 til late '70, I went back to school (Northern Va. Community College) in '74, and took as many art/photo classes as I could, in the evening.
At the time, I had a day job at a law firm in D.C. as a messenger, which happened to give me easy access to a copy machine - not a Xerox, but some other brand, that did copies of photos that were reeeally interesting - very hi-contrast, and grainy, on a slick semi glossy surface.
I made a ton of copies ( no charge, management didn't care about that - they were happy we showed up, returned from any errand sober, and didn't abscond w/ the with the petty cash for taxis! - It was a great job to have when you're still young and a bit crazy.)
I took all the copies home, cut 'em up into all kinds of pieces, and collaged them back together. That was the begininng, in '74 or so.
In '76, I started working in advertising ( 'ass't art director', which was a glorified title for what was essentially 'paste up artist') and photography took a back seat.
'Round about '81, I'd had enough of ad agency bullshit & politics, and since I had been working on a lot of real estate related accounts, and had started to do some of the shooting myself, I bought a 4x5 (Toyo Omega 45F, a 'monorail' design) & went freelance, shooting architecture.
I also bought a Beseler 45MX enlarger from Zone VI, with a cold light head - best purchase I ever made! - it is still at work today :-), having been schlepped from the east coast to S.F. in the back of a Subaru hatchback.

One thing I quickly discovered about shooting architecture in the DC area?....there's this thing called 'winter'!... and no architectural photog. wants to shoot anything, except maybe interiors - this is basically 'bad for business'.
So when I asked myself 'what can i do to perk things up?', the immediate answer was 'darkroom!?'
(since it was already paid for, & available 24/7/365.)

By the late '80's, I started doing some assignment illustration...and also some 'art' work.

But the things really kicked in when I moved to the west coast at the end of '91 -
the 'raw material'(negatives) I could gather were totally different from the east coast,
and infinitely more inspiring.
I finally felt like I had 'found a voice' for my montage work.
And it only took 15 years.

Once Photoshop arrived, I had a few friends who made comments like:
"Well, I guess you'll be melting down your enlarger now, won't ya Bob?"
Nope. And I'm not all that crazy about having 50 texture filters, and a zillion other options.
Photoshop is as responsible for the good work it has made possible
as it is for all the junk created by people who think owning the program makes them an artist of some sort.
Regardless of tools, making images is still about the same few things - having some amount of taste, focus, and vision.
I've always taken a lot of lessons from music, and one thing that sticks in my mind is this:
Jimi Hendrix played the same Fender stratocaster anyone can buy off the shelf....but it sure didn't sound like anyone else's playing, did it?
Enough said.

Here's a link to the first/older page:

And to the newer page/& images:

I still tend to 'keep it simple'... and I've lost count of all the files I started, added a bunch of stuff, just 'because i could'...and ended up trashing.
The images that survive tend to use the same techniques I use in the darkroom, good composition & choice of elements - and the various layer options, 'screen, multiply, overlay' used at varying percentages of opacity.
Here's an example, with a breakdown of all the contributing elements:

"I'll be back".... with some 'darkroom', real soon.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Is anything photographic 'real' anymore?

(First of all, I haven't disappeared or died in the last month, just been busy on various new things - the header on this blog mentions that I'll show up and post something 'when I have something worth your time to read'.. and sometimes that takes a while.)

I've heard a lot of creative types say pretty much the same thing about digital(& photoshop):

'The best thing about photoshop is that you can do anything.
And the worst thing about photoshop is?...that you can do anything!'
(and get totally lost in what can seem like infinite possibilities).

(Didn't Charles Dickens write 'it was the best of time, it was the worst of times'? - not much has changed, has it!?)

Anyone interested in the changes the new technologies have brought us in photography should definitely read this article published in the May 12 edition of The New Yorker magazine, about the work of Pascal Dangin - retoucher to the stars of fashion photography, it's titled 'Pixel Perfect'.

I am not even going to attempt to comment on this, someone else has said a lot of what I have been thinking much better - check Mark Morford's column in the SF Chronicle:

I highly recommend both the above.

'I'll be back' (to quote the Terminator), real soon.......with some 'darkroom'...
and wouldn't ya just know it ;-) some pixels, too.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

On the importance of skies - Part 2

"The sky is very can make or break a montage image...."
Yes!, definitely.
One recent example is from a blog entry a month or so ago:

Another one that has stuck in my mind has been the image above:

The sky is at the top, the abandoned motel facade, in the middle..
and the final montage at the bottom.

From a darkroom printing point of view, this initially looks simple -
just two elements: the sky & landscape that fills most of the top half...
And the foreground(shadows & staircase).. that slowly disappear into the distance/sky.
But often times what looks simple isn't so simple.
I still find it a lot easier to blend images in the darkroom.
Besides the fact that I can do it so much faster than I can do anything on a computer, it's just waaaay smoother, and a whole lot more fun than 'point & click'.

I started by exposing the 'decrepit/crumbling motel facade' from the bottom, up,...
until i got a bit above the curb......
then i burned in the rest(above the curb) thru the 'oh-so-simple' hole
in a black piece of paper.
For the sky, I put a black strip into my 'below the lense filter holder'...

(see my 'darkroom methods' pages:

...that blended the sky/landscape out to '0' a little before the curb.
Additionally, I held back the center of the sky, so that the motel(burned into the center) would show thru.
Indeed, it did, and blended w/ the sky in ways i could not have forseen.

I like being surprised, I don't have any great desire to control everything in the print.
It's a bit like life in general, these days - don't think you have a handle on too much -
in no time flat, you will find out that is an illusion.

Larger views of the above images, and a few more thoughts/comments at:

Monday, April 7, 2008

On the importance of skies - Part 1

The sky above us?
What a marvelous thing! - we manage to be shielded from the worst of the sun's radiation/UV waves, our planet is hospitable to life as we know it, which can only exist within a very small range of temperatures.
Well, most of it, anyway - microbes that survive in arctic ice, and whatever lives next to vents in the sea floor ..are the 'outer limits'.. on this planet, anyway. And that's still a range of only a few hundred degrees.
The atmosphere?.... 21% oxygen - splitting the difference between 25%, at which point EVERYthing would burn...
and 15%, at which point NOthing would burn.

B-B-But wait... this isn't a science's 'sposed to be a photo blog.

The sky is still very important - It can make or break a landscape shot.
It can make or break a montage image, too.

I live just a few miles north of the Golden Gate bridge, in Marin county, California - All the weather here comes from the Pacific ocean, heading east.
Winter is my favorite season, here. I sure didn't feel that way back east - winter meant snow, unavoidable snow! Bummer.
In Ca., snow is a choice - You want some? - go to Yosemite, the mountains, Lassen or Mt. Shasta.
You don't?...go to Santa Cruz - do the boardwalk. Or to Monterey, & play some golf.

The winter storms bring all kinds of interesting skies -
All kinds of energy & turbulence, hitting the land.

Here's a few recent images.
Sky meets land.... 'Silverwizard' gets camera... :-)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

#5 of 5 - Darkroom Binge

Hole in the Sky

This was the last print of the 4 day binge, after the previous print ('Into shadows'). It was another total 'wing it' effort. It is actually 2 skies blended together, one on the left, the other on the right. Between the two of them, two opposing arcs, they make a 'hole' in the sky. The one on the left was taken from the rooftop deck at a previous apt. in S.F. about 12 or 13 years ago, the one on the right was taken at Joshua Tree in 2003, which explains why I stumbled upon it - the previous print had managed to make the 'Joshua Tree/Mojave Reserve' 2003 contact sheets drift to the top of the pile.

I exposed 4 sheets with first (left side) image, then did one with the sky on the right side, and developed that.
Which looked good, just by itself - Just this big...'hole in the sky', nothing else added.
(At first glance, it is not even a montage - it's just another sky, unless you have a refined eye for skies, which would clue you that this is not a natural occurence.)

But wherever there's a hole of some sort, something may want to crawl into it...
Like...uh...maybe one of those small lizards? (4-5 inches long), that I've seen everywhere from the Mojave desert, to the parking lot at my apt. complex.
As soon as you look at them the wrong way, or move a bit, they sense it, and are gone, gone, gone, faster than you can say 'holy shit!'.
A perfect candidate to 'disappear' into this sky, so that's what I added.
It's moderately successful I think, but nothing that will make the phone ring off the hook with frantic calls from photo gallery directors.

Both images larger at:

(One thing I have learned from past efforts is that what I might think now, rather immediately after printing it, might change a lot in the future - I might look at it again in six months, and see something going on that I hadn't noticed before.......... so I never shred anything, and put it all up on my website for anyone to see.)

So....... that was the end of this binge - the developer was the color of very strong coffee, I'd spent 4 days working.. and it was time for some 'beach'.

I've added all the images the my 'Darkroom 2007' page at - I figure there are a few people out there reading this w/ some regularity, 'cause my profile has been viewed 100+ times - so you tell me, rate 'em, from:

'5 - whoa! awesome, dude!'
'1 - give up! just drink the damn developer and die, will ya?'

Say whatever you want to - even if you write 'drink the damn developer and die', don't expect me to do's just a figure of speech.

The 5 images are:

Decay Cab
Into shadows
Hole in the sky
The Powers that be

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Darkroom binge - #४ of 5

Into Shadows

This turned out to be the 'pleasant surprise'(and real 'zinger'!) of the entire 4 day session.
Neither of the negs had caught my eye during previous times i'd sifted through proof sheets, but they did just that while I was looking for something else doing the previous prints.

I've always loved the *loooong* shadows there are in the desert at the ends of the day - that's why I took the frame of the empty landscape with the strong diagonal shadows.
I exposed this over the entire image area, but progressively held back the center - if I were to develop just that, the sides, top & bottom would be 100%, gradually lightening to about 30-15% in the middle.
I chose the dilapidated building to burn into the center ( yes, I reversed/flopped it) because it was the opposite of the desert space, in some ways ( but it was also very 'complimentary' in a weird way) - it was vertical, the space was horizontal, but there were strong shadows in both that connected, somehow. Positioning and composing was very important in this one - both the shadows, windows & door - but also the way the window frame at the right disappears with the cloud above it - smooth as silk.

Both negs were on the same roll, made in the Mojave preserve somewhere, with a Pentax 6x7, 55mm lense, w/ yellow filter.

For larger views of the montage, and contributing frames go to:

Sunday, February 3, 2008

X-mas Darkroom binge - #३ of 5

The Powers that be

Starting point for this one, a lone shell left on an eroding plateau of sand, carved by wind & water. The way the sand has been carved, it feels like the shell has been somehow forced (down) into this spot by some unseen or long gone power.
The sky I had intended to use?... I couldn't #*%@-ing find the neg! It seems to have been mis-filed in the process of other prints that used the neg next to it, or in the same roll. I've only done this only once before and it took me several months to unravel it, and find the neg, but that time-frame isn't very useful now, with a print in progress!
I did 4 initial exposures of the shell, dodged out to 0% at the top.
The first 2, I used an alternate sky I thought would work....but was only halfway there - sure enough, it's spooky, but I wanted a more concentrated 'force' driving the shell.
I found it in a sky taken a decade or so ago, somewhere in the Apple/Lucerne Valleys (Southern CA.) area - it had a vertical strip of cirrus that blended right into the 'force' driving the shell.
Once again, I was happy - that was a 'wrap' for the session :-)

Larger images can be found at:

(One thing that's occurring to me as I'm doing these is that I haven't handcolored anything in quite a while, and sometimes what I can do w/ handcoloring to a print that isn't the best one (which I want to keep, as B&W)...... can be most amusing, and take the image to another level. I think I gotta try that again, sometime soon.)

An amusing anecdote?
....As I was taking the sky neg I finally used, I was driving along one of those long desert roads that's just two lanes, with an occasional turnout which was the beginning of another long desert road, this time a dirt road, that led to a cluster of small houses and trailers a mile or so away. The turnout has the mailboxes for everyone at the far end of the road. I parked in the turnout, & as I was tripping the shutter a few times, a grizzled old resident pulled up to the mailboxes, got his mail, noticed me taking pictures and said:
"Nice sky!..You takin' color?"
"No" I said, "black and white."
"Oooohh!!... like 'Adam Ansel'?"
"Yes" I said, not wanting to correct him - I figured that was plenty enough culture to have found it's way to a guy like that, who lived in a place like that.
Leave well enough alone, I thought.

One day I may live at the end of a long dirt road like that, and I won't want to be bothered by much 'modern/current culture' either.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Time to take a break from the darkroom...

I don't call it the 'Beach Blog' casually...
......'Cause the best thinking really does get done when you're completely out of touch w/ the rest of the world - no cell phone, none of this totally on-line all the time crapola -
nothing but... 'some sand, and some waves'.

That's my choice anyway - 'sand & waves'.

After my darkroom binge, I rented some wheels, and went to the coast, Pt. Reyes in particular. Always, a good choice/destination - never let's me down, always reminds me what's real.

So... come on, let's talk a walk, jes' you and me, and some sand and surf - ya ready?...
Let's do it...!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

X-Mas Darkroom Binge - Part २ of ५

A few months ago I did a montage that included a lighthouse, perched on a percarious pinnacle of rock, high above the ocean - it was Pt. Bonita on the Marin Headlands, built to to guide ships through the Golden Gate.
I'd also taken some close-up frames of the lantern itself...& wanted to work with those 'close-ups'.
I don't like to 'over think' things when I print - sometimes it's fine to go on a wing & a prayer, that was how I took this one - I just wanted to float the lantern in some kind of ambiguous space, and somehow question it's purpose, meaning & value....
Times like these?... we are all looking for...direction?, meaning?, value of some sort?, somehow, someway....Aren't we?

First exposure, the lantern itself, thru the classic 'black card w/ circular hole' - I have several differently sized ones.
Next, a sky - the best one I could find filled all the requirements (that the light source/sun be in the same place as the center of the lantern) & the print looked OK, but it didn't have the sense of light from the lantern.
Hhhmmmm... time to improvise!(isn't it always? :-) )..... But I didn't have to look too far - I have a great shot of sunlight blasting through some pines with the last of the fog dissipating, making marvelous 'shafts' of light, the sun at the center.
I positioned it just right, and just dodged in a bit of it in a few areas, that was all it took.
I was happy - that was a 'wrap' for that day's session :-)
Final prints:

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Darkroom Binge - Xmas '07 - Part 1 of 5

A foreword of sorts - all these prints, done 14x18" image on 16x20" paper.
I use RC paper, cause it's a whole lot easier to deal with in my confined 'guerilla' style darkroom, in a simple studio apt., and it's a whole lot easier to do a test, dry it out in a few minutes and tape it to the easel in register, to aid in positioning whatever else blends into it.
(RC is only 'non-archival' if it's run through some kind of mechanical processor, and you leave it at that - If you give it a sodium sulfite/'perma-wash' treatment?, it'll last as long as anything 'fiber' based.)

For additional darkroom techniques not obviously described here, please check my 'darkroom methods/techniques' pages:

Decay Cab

I found this disintegrating old truck at a place called the Wall St. Mill, in Joshua Tree Nat'l Park. The name it was given was wishful thinking, & turned out to not be true - no one got 'Wall Street rich' here. The strong side-lighting was immediately attractive to me, and the way the bush behind the truck is spreading outwards & upwards makes it look like it's 'giving itself up' to the sky.
(You feel really alone at this place - it is very, very quiet, and you can almost feel ghosts, what with all the Mill ruins, abandoned cars and mining equipment. Every time I heard the faintest rustle of the wind in the trees, I expected to turn around and see some old-timer who'd gotten 'lost in time' step from behind a rock, and challenge me for being there. If not that, maybe a hungry coyote or mountain lion.)

I'd wondered what to do with that feeling, wanted to find a way to amplify it, for quite a while (I took the frame in 2003). It seemed like as good a starting point as any for what turned out to be a 4 day printing binge.
I used the 'filter tray' attached to the enlarger below the lens to support a 'dodge' card horizontally, just below the truck, and then used a black card with a circular hole in the middle to expose the truck while blending out the bush equally from the center - the exposure was a semi circle, sorta like a 'D' rotated 90 degrees CCW.

No matter how many skies I take, it always seems to be hard to find one that is *perfect* for any particular montage - the one I found to burn in at the top & sides was about as close as I thought I had, but I'm still not completely happy with it - it could be even more dramatically 'exploding' from the center.
The bottom, a bunch of stones also in Joshua Tree similarly side-lit, was dodged in to fill the empty horizontal space beneath the truck. I just couldn't decide on anything other than this at the time, so I went with it.
Even though it doesn't add quite the 'zing' I would like it to add to the larger image, the way the bottom of the truck blends into the rocks still ends up being interesting - one thing I always look forward to?.. is seeing things come together in ways I don't expect or plan. :-)
I never rule out going back and reprinting an image a different way - If I were to do this one again? I think I'd look for some sand or rocks to put at the bottom, that had patterns emanating from a central point, like the sky, so that everything except the truck cab seems to be expanding outwards, exploding into the cosmos.(It is 'decaying', after all, isn't it?)

The final print in a larger size than here: