Sunday, December 6, 2009

Road trips: what's so bad about winging it, and improvising, hunh?

Thanksgiving is over, and many of us have done a bit of travel...
Xmas is approaching, and maybe we'll do it again.
A few more thoughts about 'travel' are appropriate.. or at least,'potentially relevant'...
hope you enjoy the following thoughts.

I recently read this:
"Apps of the week: Getting there from here"
By Cody McCloy, CNN
November 11, 2009 12:22 p.m. EST

It seems to be all about the various 'digital things' (GPS, etc?) one can use on a a road trip, to guide you along the way.

It struck me as being... well... really strange, and 'not what road trips should be about' - at least not for me.

My perspective is, of course, from my childhood - born in 1951, growing up in New Hampshire and Maine thru the 50's.
There was no interstate hiway, you got this thing called a map, on paper.... and you followed it, as best you could.
Most roads were two lanes, with a single dotted white line down the middle, at best.
My hometown was Gardiner, Maine, a few miles south of the state capitol, Augusta.
My Dad liked to take us all on road trips, and once we took one to Quebec City, driving through the Maine back roads to Canada.

Soooo... we set out.... and the road got narrower, and the signs fewer, and soon, we didn't know where in the hell we were.
My Dad?...he just kept on driving...that's the kind of guy he was - fearless, even when the gas gauge in the car was at "Empty!)"...
"shut up, kids, we'll get there"... (and we always did).
My mom was in the front seat, she was the most nagging 'back seat driver' you would ever want to know.
She was sure we were doing nothing but getting more & more lost.
(Sorry, Mom, if you can read any of this from 'the other side' ! - i think you would agree...but I would never hold any of this against you! - Dad needed an alter-ego, and you did it well!)

And ya know what?... after a while, the road signs stopped being in english, and were, instead, in french!
"Voulez-vous Gitanes? Gaulouse? Arretez ici!" (French branded cigarettes, "stop here!")...stuff like that.

('Toto, we're not in Maine anymore, are we!?!')

We drove into Canada, without passing any customs, or anything similar.
And we ended up in Quebec city just fine.

I take the same approach (for obvious reasons!) to road trips - just get out there, and drive!
I did exactly that about a decade or so ago, in Arizona.... and the images I stumbled into?... were marvelous.
I just woke up in some cheapo-motel in Arizona, got some bad gas station coffee, smoked half a joint, and drove...
I passed thru this burned-out and deserted town,...and took a few frames that have served me very, very well.

The best montage image to come from this, is one of my best, of all time:

Another time I took a side trip on the way home (S.F.) from the desert (the Mojave/Joshua Tree) to check out Lake Isabella.
... which wasn't all that interesting to me, photographically...
but the drive down into the CA. central valley on Rte 178 (totally unexpected!) was awesome!

Another few words about road trips/travel:
Back-road adventurer on America's 'Blue Highways'

William Least Heat-Moon, best-selling author of "Blue Highways," "River-Horse," and most recently "Roads to Quoz," shared his insights on the American road with CNN. What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation.
November 18, 2009 3:28 p.m. EST

An Excerpt:

'...Go with a loose sense of destination....'

"Everybody in this nation, in the Americas, we all are descendants of people who came from the other hemisphere, each of us a descendant of travelers. Movement is in our blood....
To speak metaphorically, we seem to carry a travel gene that makes us want to move.
And a lot of us also carry an active curiosity gene.
We're bears that go over the mountain to see what we can see.
Speed is anathema to deep travel.
If you want to learn the territory between your place of departure and where you end up, you have to have time and use it wisely."

Well said, I agree.
I say 'to hell with *figuring out* where you're going, just go somewhere' -
the place you don't know about might just be a lot better than the place you thought you wanted to go.
(That's also true about life in general.)

"Celebrating the world's worst travel disasters"?
by: Spud Hilton
Sunday, November 15, 2009 -

(Right on topic, here :-), check it out, especially all the added comments!)

More from Spud's blog:

And of course, something in the New York Times:
(The Grand Canyon during winter)

This'll be the last entry of the year - time to take a break - coming up at the beginning of 2010 - a bit of darkroom - "A Desert(ed) Heart".
You can get a preview in the '2009' section of my site:
Have a great holiday!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dead end road...?

(Above is one of my 'photoshop sketches' of this one.)

I don't know... is this a dead end, or isn't it?
I'm not sure. I'm not sure it's the right title for the image, but I don't have a better one.
I guess it could be a dead end... or... you could drive right on thru the opening, couldn't you?
(But you better not be yakking on a cell phone, or texting, if you are gonna negotiate this road!)

And if you did drive thru the opening, where would you be then?
Too many questions, too few answers. I like it that way.
You're not gonna find too many hard and fast answers in a place where rocks turn into clouds, are you?
Sometimes my prints are a riddle, even to me.
I wrote a statement of sorts, 25+ years ago, which remains true, and that's surprising to me.
I don't whether it means I am on a 'steady and true course'... or whether I am stuck in the mud.
Whatever it is, it is.
(Fortunately, I have a 'better than part-time' day job, and some inheritance income, I don't have to worry about paying the bills w/ my photo work, I can do as I please, & follow my muse. I didn't plan it that way, but am glad it has worked out the way it has.
You won't catch me driving a Jaguar...but you won't stumble over me begging for a change on the streets of SF, either. :-) )

The statement goes like this:

"I think it was Robert Rauschenberg (correct me, someone/anyone, if my attribution is wrong) who said it best - " It starts by YOU telling the picture what it will be -- in the end, THE PICTURE tells you what IT will be...".
I feel like I take that approach..... Not through any 'great design', or dogmatic adherence, ... it's just the way that comes 'naturally'.... and that is all I am interested in.

I collect negatives by taking myself, and simple camera, to places I love - the California coast, and desert - and start walking.....and .. "things happen" ....
I spend a lot of time with my proof sheets, and in a small room, under a dim red bulb. 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? "

As usual, more/larger images on a page at my website:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

'Nomads' - some travel links...and a good bit more.

We are all nomads, of one sort or another.
The image above was taken on X-mas day, at 4600 ft elevation, in Red Rock Canyon, outside Las Vegas, NV.
I guess none of these people cared about a turkey dinner, or a football game - I didn't either.
I heard many languages (besides english) being spoken: french, spanish, german, japanese, chinese, and a few others I couldn't figure out/recognize - suffice it to say, it was a 'very international crowd' who braved this very fierce weather.

One of my favorite books of all time is "The Songlines" by Bruce Chatwin. It is constructed in two (or maybe three?) parts, the first a narrative, of his travels in Australia. The second part is titled 'From the notebooks' - it is a collection of various thoughts that he seems to have been intending to turn into something else, something larger... but the topic was just too large, even for his great talents.
Eventually, part two merges w/ part one, and becomes Part three, about the end of his Australian travel.
Two great quotes from 'The Notebooks':

"Our nature lies in movement; complete calm is death"

- Pascal, Pensées
(in French, 'penser' means 'to think', so 'pensées' means: 'thoughts')

"Life is a bridge. Cross over it, but build no house on it"
- Indian proverb

If you haven't already done so, you really should bookmark the L.A. Times and the N.Y. Times, & their Travel sections - Here's some recent offerings:

Oregon to Washington road trip completes a West Coast journey:

Driving California's coast in 10 days

67 beauty spots along the Pacific
Land meets water -- now there's an irresistible story.,0,2354917.htmlstory

Road trips from SoCal: The West
To help you tap the region's cache of getaways, we've compiled this list of out-of-state road trip spots.,0,510944.photogallery

Three different US road trips:,0,7836642.htmlstory

36 Hours at the Grand Canyon:

America’s Outback: Southern Utah:

On Rock Walls, Painted Prayers to Rain Gods:

Devil's slide
( I know this place myself, rather well, since i lived in SF for 10 years, this is just a few miles south)

Know the rules of the road trip - It's pretty basic: Vehicle. Road. Go:

Some photo & digital links/thoughts/ discussions??.......

Leica Tour: Inside a Camera Company at a Crossroads
By Matthew Shechmeister
October 12, 2009

Does the Brain Like E-Books?
"Through the Dark"
'When I attempt to over reach with human reason, I cannot hear.
When I remember that I am a spirit then I have access to eternity.'

The Moral of the Story - The Ethicist's take on the news
October 20, 2009 , 12:01 am
Should Photos Come With Warning Labels?
By Randy Cohen

Photo manipulation (of one sort or another) is nothing new:

October 19, 2009 , 9:30 pm
The Case of the Inappropriate Alarm Clock (Part 2)
By Errol Morris

"James Curtis, a professor emeritus at the University of Delaware, in 1991 published a revisionist history of F.S.A. photography, “Mind’s Eye, Mind’s Truth: F.S.A. Photography Reconsidered.” Curtis’s thesis was simple. “The bitter reality” of the Farm Security Administration (F.S.A.) photographs was not the result of clinical, photographic field work: “The realism was deliberate, calculated, and highly stylized.”
Check out this entire series: "the-case-of-the-inappropriate-alarm-clock..."

'The Restless Medium'
Jed Perl - 'Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before'
By Michael Fried (Yale University Press, 409 pp., $55)
A very good review and discussion....

And, if you will permit, one last thought about the transitory, and ever-changing, nature of all our lives:
The Eagles - 'In a New York minute'

Oh, make that *two* thoughts about the transitory, and ever-changing, nature of all our lives:
"Enjoy every sandwich" - Warren Zevon

Monday, October 5, 2009

'When Johnny (or maybe 'Jose'?) strikes up the band'

(Yes, I've borrowed a Warren Zevon song title - Thanks so much for your work, Warren - RIP.)

Here I am, banging the 'improvisation' drum, once again.
(Don't hope I will stop anytime soon, forget about that one, it just won't happen.)

I've had 4 negatives of these crazy 'mariachi monkeys', for over a decade.
They were shot at the 'Musee Mechanique' at Cliff House in S.F., and at certain times of year, the light coming thru the west-facing windows did lots of interesting things to the MM's contents.

I did this one at the end of a darkroom session when I had a few hours left, and the developer wasn't 'coffee brown', yet.
The proof sheets of monkeys, and the landscape/clouds, landed on my work table next to each other... and.. well, that was all the license I needed, it just popped into my head.
I didn't know how it would turn out, I just knew I had to do it - what could I lose (or waste) but a few sheets of paper, and an hour or so?
I did four prints of this image, exposing the landscape/clouds the same, on four sheets... & then adding the mariachi monkeys, differently for each of them.

I recently saw a video clip of the Grateful Dead, playing live, circa 1971 or '72 - it was all improvisation... working 'without a net', of any kind - Garcia, Weir, Lesh, Kreutzman - that was it, all *blowin* at the same time.
And I read an interview w/ Francis Ford Coppolla, who said that 'asking a question you don't know the answer to...' is at the heart of creativity.
As I was working my way through writing this, wouldn't ya just know it, something popped up in the media that took all the words outta my mouth:

This is impossible to capsulize in any way, I'd be an idiot to try - click on the link, and play the music file.
If you don't already know Keith Jarrett's work, you should get to know it,
he is a master of improvisation on the piano, & has been so for decades.

Several quotes that struck me?

'Jarrett emphasizes, paradoxically, how critical it is to clear his mind and set himself free from his own knowledge and habit's...

"Risk-taking is central"

"How do you get past your own [understanding]? Those are barriers."

'This is an astonishing notion: that, in order to tap into your most provocative creative possibilities, you need to not do what comes natural, not do what is most instinctive and habitual.'
'I just move my hand [away] and say: "Do something." '

Yeah, exactly, ... "just do something" :-)

Let it rip!!


As always, larger images of all four prints at my web page:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Does 'planning in advance' become too much of a good thing?

Over 25+ years of doing montage work, I've been 'up, down, and all around' on this one.
Many times, I make tracings from my proof sheets, like the one at left, above..
and then take that into the darkroom.
Sometimes, I just 'see it' in my mind's eye, no tracing or drawing, and that's all I need.
Recently, I've started doing what I've been calling 'photoshop sketches' - I make really fast and dirty digital shots of my proof sheet frames, and working w/ them digitally, like the image at right, above.
But I've quickly become to wonder if this is perhaps 'planning too much'.
As it turns out, it isn't - how it works out in the darkroom is never the same as any planning I can do.
That's relief to me - I thought maybe 'digital' was rotting my brain, my sense of adventure and improvisation. Glad that hasn't happened yet. Though I am going to be very vigilant to see that doesn't happen.

At the bottom is what's known as a cairn - a mound of stones, embellished in some way, serving as a marker, for fellow travelers. This one was found in Joshua Tree NP, directing me, the finder and viewer to... I'm not sure where.
I photographed it, anyway...figuring that I'd figure it out... sometime in the future.
The flames were shot at a campfire, a decade ago - it was rather tightly framed, which is why I had to add some sky around it, to keep it from completely dominating the image.

When I printed the image, even w/ this sketch at my elbow, it still turned out different ! :-)
As usual, too many images to post here, including a final print w/ one more thing added ('frosting on the cake' so to speak) check the page at my website:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Hit the road, jack!...."

This entry is just 'fun', OK?... no photoshop or darkroom yak...

It's late August, and a lot of people are 'hittin' the road/ vacationing'... in anyway they can.
As long as there's still some oil (and gas) around, let's do it.
You may be traveling who knows where... and see something along the way...
don't just keep driving - stop!....and take a few frames!
You'll be glad you did!

Here's a few of mine, to (hopefully) inspire you, if I might be so bold as to suggest...
It's just 'the road'... somewhere....
Enjoy!! :-)
"Life" is a road, isn't it? And a 'one way' road, for sure.

More images, at the link below :-)

Monday, August 10, 2009

"To Photoshop, or not to photoshop.."

And if you do 'photoshop' (that has become a verb hasn't it), when does it become too much?
This is a topic that gets constant press, and will inspire discussion that is interesting, amusing... all the way to ridiculous, for a very long time.
It would seem to be pretty easy to spot 'over-the-top ridiculous' work, which would fool no one, but that doesn't stop some people:

"Photoshop jobs gone very, very wrong"
Betsy Schiffman, SF Gate, 07/31/09
"Some real estate agents and home owners go a little too far in their attempts to spruce up a listing. Take for example...."

But sometimes it's harder to spot manipulation, and to decide where to draw the line.
A recent brouhaha at the NY Times is a good example, they have a great photo blog, check it out:

The brouhaha I am referring to is this one:

Lens - Photography, Video, and Visual Journalism
July 8, 2009, 8:04 pm
Behind the Scenes: Digital Manipulation
By David W. Dunlap

A reply by the photographer followed on 7/31:

July 31, 2009, 4:43 pm
Behind the Scenes: Edgar Martins Speaks
By David W. Dunlap

Edgar Martins is a photographer whose picture essay in The Times Magazine on July 5 and an accompanying slide show on, “Ruins of the Second Gilded Age,” were found to include digital alterations — contrary to the stipulations of his contract and his stated, repeated assertions to the writer, editors and fact checker at the magazine. This week, Mr. Martins released an essay, “How Can I See What I See, Until I Know What I Know?” It constitutes his response to the controversy that has arisen.

"How Can I See What I See, Until I Know What I Know?" you say?
Personally, I think the writer (and photographer) has either spent too much time in some fancy art/photo school, or maybe he just found the wrong calling, and should do creative writing instead.
This question implies that one must 'know' before one can 'see' - exactly backwards.
The 'seeing' must come BEFORE the knowing, the 'seeing' informs the knowing.
Anyone who thinks differently, has their priorities mixed up.
At least, I think so.
I can't possibly know much of anything, until I see it.

Fortunately, there is more sensible ( and more easily understood than Mr. Martins) discussion being had:

"Photoshopped images: the good, the bad and the ugly
The graphics editing tool is praised for making people look their best and dissed for setting the bar too high."
By Jeannine Stein
August 2, 2009,0,3129812.story

Even as I was in the process of writing/compiling this, for this August 9th or so entry, yet another instance of 'hey, too much photoshop?' was in the news:

The Buzz Log: Kelly Clarkson Cover Controversy Rocks The Web
Posted Fri Aug 7, 2009 1:15pm PDT by Claudine Zap in Stop The Presses!

I am no Kelly C. fan, but from the pix I've seen, she looks just fine.
Her fans, judged by the comments posted after the above web page, don't care how she looks...
and they are not as easily fooled as one might think - here's one comment:

11. Maggie - Fri Aug 7, 2009 4:59pm PDT
Does anyone else see the irony with Self magazine airbrushing the Total Body Confidence issue of their magazine?

Maggie is probably not alone.
You know where I stand on this one, photoshop is 'neutral', it's just a tool - it's the brain & heart behind the hand on the mouse that counts.

Another thought, amidst all the constant tweaking done to the images in magazines, & in show-biz, etc, & the 'American Idol' crapola?....
(All of this is, of course, a matter of 'looks count' (too often, more than substance..))
Have you ever seen the album cover for the U.S. release of the Who's first album, with the four band members posed w/ an iconic London tower in the background?
None of these guys would make it far past square one on American Idol ("waay too ugly!") - Keith Moon might make it past square one on 'looks', but as soon as he opened his mouth, or sat down at a drum kit, you knew he was anything but normal.
The rest of the band?.. all look like guys you would never, ever, want to meet in a dark London alley after a few pints.

Sooo... what's happened to them, since this album cover photo?

Pete Townshend has become one of rock's most revered and respected writers...
John Entwhistle has been recognized as a bass player with few peers...
Roger Daltrey is one of the few rock vocalists who can actually *sing* ( and the only one who could ever do justice to Townshend's writing...)
Keith Moon?.......just broke the mold, any mold, anywhere, at least in 'rock' music, there has been no replacement since - listen to the drumming in "Won't get fooled again".)
Enuf said.
Oh, sorry, not quite enough yet, just one more thought - what do you think American idol would have done w/ Jimi Hendrix???

I'll be back, soon, w/ some 'darkroom', including, at some point in the future, this one, still just a photoshop sketch...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Digital vs Darkroom - The 'Desert Ride'

So I did a darkroom (B&W) version of this image...
And recently I did a digital (color) version of roughly the same image.
(Both are above.)
In this case, it was kind of a no-brainer to try a digital version of something 'darkroom' - I had both film and pixels of the same situations, a carousel, and some very nice skies taken in Nevada last December, at the end of the day when the sun was close to sinking behind some mountains - it was a very fast moving situation, and the pixels and film were different - color vs B&W, and 'normal' lense length vs. a very wide Pentax 6x7 55mm lense.

Comparing the two images & techniques seemed definitely worth doing.
It is ALWAYS a good idea to review what you have done in the past.
'Could it be different? Could it be better'? ( whatever 'better' is!..)
"Critique yourself", ya know?
It's a habit you should try out - that was the 'lesson' part of this entry.
No one (but you) will be kinder... and no one could be harsher, it all depends.

For years now, photo friends of mine have been asking, in so many words, "how long you gonna keep being a (darkroom) dinosaur, dude?".
The answer is "always!".... and "shut up, **** you!".
(Just tryin' to keep things 'PG' rated, OK?)

When I first worked w/ Photoshop ( V4, in 1992) all you could do montage-wise was "float" a selection, move it around/etc, but you couldn't save any layers ( that capability didn't exist yet), and you had to 'merge all' before you could save anything. And 'saving' anything substansial?... You could go see a movie, have dinner, and when you came back, it might possibly be saved. How times have changed.
My first hard drive, in '97, was all of 1 GB/1000 MB's.
Now?... the chip in my digital camera saves over 4 *Gigabytes*!, and it's about as big as my thumbnail.

Back to the difference between the two images...
To tell ya truth, I like both of them, for different reasons.
I will always like B&W darkroom - the severity it imposes forces you to deal w/ *just* composition, and values...
And film, at least the film I shoot on a Pentax 6x7, is soooo much sharper than anything digital I have seen, there just ain't no comparison, at least not w/ anything that is within my price range, and you could add a '0' to the price? and it still wouldn't compare.
I will never stop loving the process, of seeing a B&W image develop in Dektol, & rocking it slowly back and forth, in the tray...
The burning/dodging I can do takes less than a minute...way easier and faster done than anything digital.

The digital version of this image?.... well, 'color' makes everything different, naturally.
I chose a different foreground, just because I could - I really liked the rolling hills, the way they were lit, and the color they are.
I used a different sky, because it was color - the B&W version wasn't the same, I had no 'equivalent' to work with.
And the color of the land kind of matched the color in the sky (a different relationship - 'color' as opposed to 'design'(B&W))
And the digital version became vertical, as opposed to the darkroom version, horizontal.
Why? it just felt right, it 'worked' - what more reason do ya need?
I always try and stay open to what is going on in the image, no rules, no 'given's.
Kind of like golf - wherever your ball lands? that's where your next swing starts.
Unless you cheat, and who would want to do that?... it destroys the integrity of the game/match!
Same goes for images - 'stay true'... you'll be glad you did...

If you have any interest in Carousels?
Check these links out:

Carousels in the SF Bay Area:

National Carousel Association:

As usual, larger images are at a page on my site, including a download of the digital version at much smaller size, if you want to see how it's done:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Skies & Clouds!

In the last few weeks, a lot of things happening 'up there'.
Above are two color images from recent online articles about cloud formations, and beneath them one killer frame I took in Nevada last December.
If you recall some of Ansel Adams most notable landscapes, they are all graced by marvelous skies.
I totally 'second that emotion', skies can be very important to my images, too.

If you hadn't heard, scientists are seeing the possibility of an El Nino this winter, which I would be happy to see.
During the last big one (1997), here in Northern Ca. it rained 'cats, dogs... and other assorted small mammals'...
(It rained sooo hard sometimes, it set off car theft alarms!)
I'm looking forward to another one - not only could we use the rain, but the clouds to be seen before and after storms were marvelous.

My thoughts and links are, as usual, more voluminous than I can post here (sequencing the images, and interspersing the text properly is difficult! ), so click on thru to a page at my site, with many larger pix, and links.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Part 1 of 3 - Memorial Day weekend

Fog at the coast (summer is here, already?!) just didn't clear out...
so it was a darkroom weekend.
Which was OK, hadn't done any printing except for one session, since taking in a whole lot of new stuff in Nevada. Still trying to sift thru the new stuff... and integrating it into all the existing stuff... that'll take a while, for sure...
But I definitely had some new things that were ripe for printing.
(If you haven't already checked out my 'darkroom techniques' pages, I suggest you check 'em out, the link is in the column to the right.
It occurred to me that if you are not familiar w/ some of the techniques, this all might leave you wondering "Whaaa???",
and that's definitely not my intention. If you have questions?..please by all means, feel free to ask.
It's: - 'operators are standing by' ;-)

Desert Ride

I did four Photoshop sketches of this one....( w/ different foregrounds), they are above.
the one that really caught my attention was one that used a landscape I shot at the end of the day, looking north from a turn-out near Red Rock Canyon, NV., lower right.
(sometimes you don't have to walk far off the beaten path to get a good shot - my knees and hips like that, a lot...:-)
Hey, what can I say but "57 y.o." and feelin' it, all the time! ...but don't get out a shovel, anytime soon, OK?)
I am finding this process of doing 'sketches' in Photoshop to very helpful, but I still feel nothing replaces doing the actual print the old fashioned way.
Why did I choose that one?
For one thing I really liked the strip of directly lit land, w/ shadow in front and behind it. There was also a lot more interesting detail in the mountains beyond than the other frames.
The lighting in the other landscapes implies direct side lighting in the sky, but the carousel horse is softly/indirectly lit - the two don't match up very well. The image hangs together better when the carousel horse feels like it's being lit by the glow on the land in front of it... that's why I chose it.

One thing I noticed as soon as i made a test print of the foreground?
I've seen a number of 'fine art photo prints' lately, the source images being digital, that are very nice, and 'tasteful' and all.... but none of them are very sharp. Sorry, but I have a problem w/ that - and why shouldn't I?
Digital cameras seem to make sharpness the last thing on their agenda.

This negative is just totally tack sharp, on Joshua trees that probably a mile away(?)...
and also on the mountainous rocks beyond, that are probably 2 miles away.
(Pentax 6x7, 55mm lense,Yellow filter, Ilford FP4 souped in Rodinal, 1:50, it doesn't get any better than that.
Unless Agfa rose from the dead, & resumed making it's 100 ASA B&W film, which will definitely not happen.)

And, if you want some icing on the cake? this is hand-held, no tripod.
I tossed that away 15 years ago. Did a decade of 4x5 view camera architectural photography, on a tripod - been there, done that... enough, already!

First I exposed the bottom/foreground... then I added the sky, much lighter in the center than around the edges, then I blew in the carousel horse, from the center, out - adjusting each of 3 ( or was it 4?) prints each time - the position, & the exposure.
The final print ( one of them, anyway) is at the bottom of the images above.

As usual, many more & larger images on a page at my site:

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hand-coloring B&W photo prints - a dying art?

I don't think so!...If big art supply companies are still stocking them, I guess they ain't dead yet.

"Hobby Set — The contents of this set include fifteen ½" × 2" tubes, a ¾" × 4" (2 cm × 10 cm) tube of extender, a 1 oz bottle of P.M. Solution, and a 1 oz bottle of Marlene (for removing and cleaning), as well as cotton balls and toothpicks. Colors included with this set are Basic Flesh, Cerise, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cheek, Cobalt Violet, Lip, Neutral Tint, Oxide Green X-Strong, Sepia, Sky Blue, Titanium White, Tree Green, Verona Brown, and Viridian.

"...Basic Flesh, Cheek, Lip, Oxide Green X-Strong, Sky Blue, Tree Green..."

Hunh???.......I don't know what to do with these colors... puh-leeze give me the basic painting colors I am so used to...

I ended up buying a really basic oil color set, it's a lot more color for less money, and since the tubes and caps are larger, it seems easier to keep them well sealed for future use - those Marshall oil tubes are just too small, and hard to deal with, and they dry out way too fast.

Oil colors:
Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, Ultramarine(blue), Viridian(green), Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber.
Now that's 'basic'!

I inherited a watercolor set from a photog. who was ditching all his traditional stuff
( there seems to be a lot that going around these days) -
A Marshalls "Photo Retouch Colors" set:
"Primary" - Blue, Red, & Yellow.. and a "Basic" - Black, Brown, Flesh, Blue, & Green.
Using these basic colors means that you will have to mix them to get the colors you want, many times.
So 'mix away' ! Fiber based matte surface paper is definitely the way to go - a matte surface absorbs the colors well.
The currently available Ilford matte ( which is what I used) seems to have a bit more texture than I remember from a decade ago - I just don't want the surface texture to show at all.

Another 'MUST'!!! Use a "NON-HARDENING fixer"
A hardening fixer will make coloring difficult.

The flatbed scanners I have used lately seem to all emphasize surface texture - In fact, many very nice prints I've made on 'pearl' surface papers are unusable for Hi-res scans - too much texture that no amount of Photoshop filters can get rid of.

I only use the watercolors very sparingly, on small details first, before going to oil colors.
They (watercolors) are very hard to control, they soak into the paper almost immediately, and can't be 'worked with' the way oil colors can.
After a few small watercolor details?... then on to the oil colors.
Maybe they are kinda 'retro'...?
But, hey! ..there's no software to install, wrestle with, or update!
Neither Bill Gates or Adobe gets a dime of your money!
All you need beyond the oil colors is some linseed oil, cotton balls & Q-tips.

I always give the entire image a nice 'prep' coat of linseed oil, first: I apply it liberally, then use a paper towel to wipe off the excess.. (this makes it easier to blend colors together, and 'work' with things a while) ..and then go to it. :-)
Use the cotton balls for large areas, the Q-tips for smaller ones, and after the print has dried for a day or two, you could add small detail things w/ Marshall Oil Pencils.. which I did not investigate the availability of, to tell ya the truth - I still have what I bought 20 years ago.
Another thing? - get some tracing paper to tape over the print while it is drying - any dust that settles on the print will show when you photograph or scan the print.

Obviously, if you are new to this, work on some prints that you don't care about particularly, to learn the process first.

While we/re on the the topic of other 'retro' & alternative processes:

An excellent directory/compilation is here:
(Center for Alternative Photography, in NYC)

It includes:

Bromoil Printing: Joy Goldkind, March 22 (Details)
Albumen Printing: Daniel Levin, April 4 & 5 (Details)
Alternative Process Projects: A Critique Seminar: Keliy Anderson-Staley, April 13, 20 & 27 (Details)
Intro to Wet Plate Collodion: Fundamentals of the Black Arts : Nate Gibbons, April 18 & 19 (Details)
Daguerreotype Workshop: Sean Culver, April 25 & 26 (Details)
Lost & Found: Photo, Collage, & Photocollage: Jesseca Ferguson, April 26 (Details)
Calotype: Dry-Process Paper Negatives: Alan Greene, May 2 & 3 (Details)
Cyanotype Printing: Robert Schaefer, May 9 (Details)
Platinum/Palladium Printing: Carl Weese, May 16 & 17 (Details)
Mammoth Plate Wet Plate Collodion: Eric Taubman, May 30 & 31 (Details)
Salted Paper Printing: Brenton Hamilton, June 6 & 7 (Details)
Lens Seminar: Geoffrey Berliner and Eric Taubman, June 13 (Details)
Bromoil Printing: Joy Goldkind, June 14 (Details)
Introduction to the Dry Plate Process: Terry Holsinger, TBD (Details)
Pinhole Photography: Making a Camera and Shooting: Harvey Stein, TBD (Details)

A Polaroid Update:
(Remember Polaroid 55 (PN) film? If you missed it, you missed something special & unique!)

For more on my hand-coloring exploits/techniques/tips/etc...
including several 'before(B&W) and 'after'(hand-colored) images - you be the judge, & jury..

Also included is a digital colored version of one image, with a small photoshop file you can download to see the things I came up with to color the image.

Up next?.... Hhmmm.... either some skies/clouds... or maybe a lotta darkroom.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Nevada - digital montage

My approach to digital montage is, of course, the antithesis of darkroom montage - you can 'get something started', then save it in suspended animation (photoshop) 'til you see what you want to do next.

I'm sure I'll be opening one or more of the 550+ digital pix I took in Nevada last X-mas for quite a while - I've tossed together about half a dozen 'getting something started' files, two in particular I knew immediately had stronger potential than the others - they included petroglyphs:
A human figure that seems to be tightrope-walking between two cracks...
and a figure w/ an arrow ( which seems to be a 'direction' sign).

One of the big reasons I took this particular trip was to see petroglyphs, and I was not disappointed.
The two mentioned & shown above are the only ones I saw that were 'understandable' in any way, to me/anyone in the oh-so-'developed' 20th/21st century.

The 'direction sign' is very clearly exactly that - it is situated along the path to a tinaja in Red Rock canyon.
(A tinaja is a place where water collects, and remains, in recesses in the rocks, long after a storm has passed by.
This is definitely a place where people would hang out for a while, water being essential to physical survival, and not easy to find in this kind of enviroment.)

It is about 50 or so feet up & off the trail, carved into the vertical face of a rock that could crush your house into bits, unless your house was as big as... oooh... Steve Gate's or Larry Ellison's.

As for the 'tight rope walker'? I continue to wonder what the artist meant by placing the figure in this spot.
Is the figure 'walking' on the lower crack? I would answer 'yes'...but that's just the answer from a 20th century guy who wants to see a logical explanation of things.
Is the figure using the upper crack in anyway? is this significant??
Your guess (and they are guesses, aren't they?) is as good as mine.

One thing about actually seeing a good amount of 'glyphs is... that you come away w/ more questions than answers. And it is impossible not to be awed.
Only a few are at easy viewing distance/ close to ground level - most are 25...50...75 or more feet above the beaten path. And I do mean 'above' - & very dangerously so!
( As I was walking along these trails, there were others who brought binoculars to view the glyphs, that's how high up they are!)
It took a whole lot of effort to do these, so they must have been important, in some way.

I have read in a number of places that the earth and this place in particular was significantly warmer and wetter a thousand years ago - even taking that into consideration, this is one very difficult place to 'make a living'.
That these people made the effort to carve these signs/signals... & 'worship'(that's really what it needs to be called) is amazing.
I ended up feeling really small... and stupid.
But that's a good starting point, isn't it?

Here's a few links to pages about ancient rock art/etc:
(this one is very strange, but very interesting)

On the topic of 'creating messages that will stand the test of time' -
which is indeed a big question we need to answer, and seeing and attempting to interpret petroglyphs raises this question:

'The monumental task of warning future generations about nuclear waste dumps'

To get back to the images, which are a small concern, compared to nuclear waste dumps...
One, in particular, deserved much additional work:
the 'direction sign' ... and a compass, they are the images above.

As usual, much more on a page at my website:
(Including some of the 'getting something started' image files, and a screenshot of all the layers that make up the bottom image, above)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Do you read the New York Times?

Well, if not, perhaps you should give it a try.
IMHO, they consistently produce/publish the most interesting news reports anywhere..
( I guess you can't quite call it a news'paper' anymore, it's just not that simple)
Here's a few relevant samples:

Why Newspapers Can’t Be Saved, but the News Can
By Eric Etheridge

Polaroid Lovers Try to Revive Its Instant Film (5/26/09)

"Marta Bukowska, a partner in Basic Model Management in New York, said that digital cameras had entirely displaced Polaroid for the workaday tasks of scouting talent, pitching clients, and beginning a photo shoot. About 18 months ago, the agency stopped using Polaroids regularly because digital is much less expensive, but still gets requests to capture that “high-quality, old-fashioned look” with a genuine instant photo.
“It used to be something you use for a lighting test,” Ms. Bukowska said. “Now it is the art itself.”

From a follow up article published today:

"At first, we were merely amazed. Hundreds of readers answered our request on Tuesday for their Polaroid photographs, in response to an article in The Times about efforts afoot in the Netherlands to reinvent instant film. By the time we closed the submission gates on Thursday morning, 932 of your pictures had arrived.
Our amazement, however, soon gave way to grateful and respectful astonishment. The quality of the work was even more impressive than the quantity......"

"Smile and Say ‘No Photoshop’ "

No photoshop? They're kidding, right?? They aren't, and I'm happy to hear it!

"I'll be back" ;-) in a few days, w/ some Nevada digital montage things... which are, definitely, photoshop.
But have no fear, I haven't succumbed completely to the 'dark side'(digital) yet! - there's a good bit of 'darkroom' coming up after that.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Darkroom - a 'silver lining' in a cloud

This is the first print that has come out of the film I shot in Nevada last December.
Curiously enough the main negatives were 'bookends' for the trip - the stormy sky being shot the first afternoon I went to Valley of Fire, and the carousel being on the last roll, at Casa De Fruta, outside Gilroy CA., on the way home.

I've started using what most might consider to be an ass-backwards way of figuring out a montage image - I make a quick digital shot of the contact sheet frame, and mess w/ it in Photoshop, to see how it works before I make a print.
If you haven't been paying attention, the cost of traditional materials seems to have increased a lot in recent years - the 50 sheet box of 16x20" paper I used to buy at a local store (in SF) for a bit over 100$ is now not available there & has to be ordered from Freestyle in L.A., after shipping, it's almost 200$. So whatever I can do to zero in on the image without wasting paper is a good idea.

(It's also convenient that I like rice, beans, pasta... and have a simple 'no frills, and no car', life! )

The Photoshop sketch, crude as it is, tells me all I need to know - this one is gonna look reeeal nice - :-)
The big curve of the clouds is a mirror of the shape of the carousel.

When I see a test of the stormy skies, it's pretty obvious that the foreground/land is waaay dark and featureless, almost clear plastic film base... so I held(dodged) it back, and blew in another foreground, from Valley of Fire.

In spite of the fact that this was printed on RC 'pearl' surface paper ( which is definitely NOT a hand-coloring artist's choice!), I gave it a try anyway.
it turned out better than I thought it would.

As usual, for more go to:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Desert Spaces

One 'disease' that is really good to get... is a thing called 'the travel bug'.
If you are a photographer, it will never do you wrong - gotta get out there, somewhere, anywhere, and 'shoot yerself silly' = make a capture (or shoot film) of anything, & everything that catches your eye...
& 'bring it on home'.... and sift thru it all, many times.
You may perhaps find that what you shot very quickly, 'off the cuff', to be better than what you thought initially was a good shot.
If you've been following my posts (thanks for doing so, BTW), you'll remember that I took a year-end 2008 trip to Nevada - shot 24 rolls of film, made about 550+ digital pix.
Sooooo glad I did!, I am still looking over all those images, and seeing things I didn't see before.

I suggest you do the same! - get out there, somewhere, anywhere, and 'shoot yerself silly'!.
You'll be glad you did.

If you are raising kids? Throw 'em in the car, and hit the road, show 'em a few things they haven't seen before. Eventually, they will thank you for it. If they complain? tell them to shut the **** up, and count cows, or something like that.

My dad took all the family on many road trips when I was growing up - our 'home base'? - Gardiner, Maine.
We went to: New Brunswick, Canada,...Quebec City,...Toronto, ..Upper NY state (Lake Champlain), ..the Bay of Fundy (Nova Scotia).... and a lot of other places I don't remember in particular, after 40 years, but I definitely remember the gist of it it all.
What a grrrr-eat 'education'! So glad he did, didn't appreciate it that much at the time...
But wow!, it has really stuck w/ me.
I continue to 'get out there', follow the thread he started.

(It is said that the dead aren't really gone, until everyone alive... forgets them.
I haven't, and won't. Maybe you should consider doing the same.)

A couple more pages of Nevada landscapes:

If that ain't enough desert for ya, here's more:

For more on the formation/geology of the west:

And for good trip advice?...

108 road trips from Southern California,0,5653256.special

*Anything* the New York Times publishes, is worth your time:

America’s Outback: Southern Utah

What better parting words could there be but 'hit the road, jack...' (and take a camera w/ ya!)

See ya in a couple of weeks......

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Aaah, Simplicity! - 'The Viewpoint'

This one is very simple - just two images - that's it.
But they've made a rather mysterious place, haven't they?

Which brings up the whole topic of image making vis a vis the ridiculous amount of tweaking that can be done these days, digitally.
You've probably already guessed that I don't think too much of that.
Here's something I suggest you check out:
the last sentence in this 4.5 minute video?
"I dare any magazine to publish just one issue w/ out any retouching"

I don't think any magazine will take up this challenge.
In my darkroom, there isn't any choice about this, whatever I print *is*, as it is, and that's it.
I like it that way, ain't gonna change it, ever.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Time for a 'blast from the past'...

This ' "Warped" D.C.' image was made in the darkroom, late 1988, or 89... this point, I don't quite remember.and it's not that important what year it was, 'plus or minus one', anyway.
It got done, before Photoshop, that I know for sure.

(hey, we all stand on someone else's shoulders, don't we?)

Invaluable Creative & Art Direction: Mary Ann Casem / Promisloff & Casem Design, Rockville MD.
Equally invaluable source photography: Steve Uzzell.
I think I added a few frames of my own, but most of them were Steve's.
BTW, Steve Uzzell continues to do marvelous photography, year after year, no two ways about it:
I pulled all Steve's negatives & M.A.C.'s direction, together...
and spent 2 full days building this image, one exposure at a time, the total number of exposures was *27*!!
(every last little gargoyle, and figure, one at a time, Phew!!)

It was then selenium toned, and hand-colored.

I came across a 4x5 Ektachrome transparency copy of this, while looking for a few other things in my
'ancient(east coast)' files, recently.
After all these years, and the drastic shift to digital, one could well ask:
'Well, now that you can tweak every pixel, Bob, is there anything you would revise?'
Very little. Very, very little.
A nice surprise, to me - i thought I might look at it, and be disappointed, and want to tweak it a whole lot w/ photoshop?!... but no, that ain't gonna happen.

But looking at this one again made me think about whatever additional techniques I used to do many commercial/assignment images.
In the 'Warped DC' image, I used a lot of litho masks on the negatives, made w/ what was/is called 'graphic arts' film - developed in the appropriate chemistry, it is either dead black or clear plastic film base, nothing in between. It's a whole lot of extra work I no longer bother with.

What I did on some assignment images like the above was make rubylith or amberlith masks that I taped to the top part of the easel, (so the mask sits above the paper, obviously) - the 'margin for error' is a lot easier to deal with.
If this is a bit of retouching to make edges meet exactly, well, get out a triple 000 retouching brush, and some Spotone. If you're printing B&W, you should already have these.
Rubylith and amberlith are two similar kinds of material ( I sure as hell hope they are both still available, check your local art supplies store) - a clear plastic base supports a red or amber layer (which allows no exposure through), that also allow you to see the image beneath & can be cut w/ an exacto blade ( I prefer a #10, myself - it's also good for alot of other things I won't describe here).
The technique for making a mask like this is pretty simple & 'low tech'.

First of all, you gotta be using RC paper, so you can make a print of the part of the image you want to mask, and dry it off *quickly* - Also, RC paper is 'dimensionally stable' - that is to say, fiber paper when it dries, shrinks, cause it's fiber. (This is an additional/second print, you should already have one taped in place on your easel.)

Step 2 - tape the print to the ruby/amber-lith, and cut the mask you want, thru both layers of the material.
Step 3 - tape the first print to your easel, in register w/ the projected image from the enlarger - set your timer to 30 seconds or so, move the print around until it lines up, and tape it firmly in place.
Step 4 - Then take the ruby/amber mask, and tape it to the *top* part of the easel, in register to the print that you've taped to the bottom part of the easel.
(If you need to supplement the ruby/amber, get some some black paper, of any kind - I bought a 100 sheet pack of black craft paper 8.5x11" a decade or so ago, just finished the last sheet recently - it cost all of a couple of dollars.)

You're 'there' - that's it...!
Mask yerself silly!

More at 'the usual (extended) page on my website', including examples of the above...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Are you ready for some fruits & nuts?

No, I am not talking disparagingly about any of my fellow Californians!
On my year-end 2008 trip to Las Vegas, I finally stopped into a place I had only driven past on previous trips -
it's called 'Casa de Fruta', along Rte 152 from Gilroy leading into the Ca. central valley, where I hook up w/ I-5 (a much better drive than Rte 99) to drive south, to Bakersfield and beyond.
(My starting point is San Rafael, in Marin county, I take 280 south from SF to the San Jose area, then continue on 101 to Gilroy.)
The 'Casa' is lucky - they have their own exit off the hi-way!
It doesn't get much better than that, does it?!
They sell everything that is grown in the valley, and many by-products...
and... they also have a great carousel...!
B-b-b-but wait!, there's more! - a marvelous collection of old farming machinery & vehicles.
It's definitely worth a stop, if you are passing by.
The carousel is very nice... I took a few frames, both digital & film.
(I've already done a montage image using the carousel, that'll be coming up real soon.)
I'm really glad I finally took that exit, and checked the place out - I'm still snacking on a big bag of nuts I bought... :-)
(like I'm not nuts enough already, ya know?)

The point of this all?
Well, actually, there's two of them.

#1 - Hey!...Safeway, Whole Foods, and Walmart will survive all this economic mess just fine, but smaller businesses, and impromptu stands set up but the roadside? ...these people are struggling, and could really use your patronage. Wherever you are, stop in, check them out, and buy a few things you normally buy somewhere else.
There's an old saying: 'what goes around, comes around'... which is a way of saying 'do something positive, you will ultimately be rewarded', karmically speaking.
Besides which, places like this are a whole lot more fun than anything 'big box'.

#2 - It pays off to explore anyplace/anything that, however gently, tweaks your 'photo-interest' button. Ya never know what you'll find, and you'll *never* find it if you don't try, will you?

(There's also a preview of the darkroom image I made w/ shots of the carousel.)

Next entry, in two weeks, I'll be talking about 'masking' in the darkroom - see ya then :-)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Too many tigers here!

I seem to have a fascination w/ rather 'dated forms of entertainment', like the Musee Mechanique in San Francisco.
That includes merry-go-round/carousel rides like the one above, in both images, in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
There's something about the garish colors, and the simple momentary pleasure of a ride here,
that's really refreshing, especially in times like these.
'Let's eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we'll die' - something like that.

Not a bad 'plan B' - When everything financial is melting down, religious extremists are banging on any door they can aim an RPG at - like they'd really know what to do w/ an entire country, if they controlled it - & hey, perhaps we should throw acid on the faces of female Afghani students, to discourage them from getting any education, that's really 'progress', and a great way to run a society, isn't it?
Enough of my political rant, already.
I can't affect any change...but it feels good to complain, and let it all out, doesn't it?

I recently got some positive feedback from a reader who liked a post from many months ago,
which involved a darkroom image and the digital variation of the same theme(s)...
So this is a follow up to that, another image that I worked with in the darkroom, and digitally -
they come to separate and different ends (what a surprise! ;-) ).

Obviously, there are big differences between doing darkroom work, and digital.
In the darkroom, I have to work relatively quickly - I have a tray of developer that is degrading quickly by exposure to air, and getting browner by the hour. So I've got to finish a print within a few hours of starting it...unless I cover the developer w/ a sheet of plastic/'saran wrap' weight, and hopefully it will survive until the next day...
but that's about all the 'rope' i have (to strangle myself with?).

With digital, you can do whatever the hell you want, and hit 'Command+S(='save')' -
and return days, weeks, months... later.
I'm not sure whether that is a good idea, or a bad one.
I've heard a lot of photographers say pretty much the same thing about Photoshop:
The best thing about it is?, you can do anything...
the worst thing about it is? can do anything..
(and get totally lost in the possibilities, and never come to a conclusion)
I had an interesting (digital montage) image of a beach, with waves washing over the sand,
with a nice sky above, so I tried out the tiger, overlaid on that.
'Not bad' I said to myself....
let's 'save' (and 'park' that for while...)

The darkroom version came about very haphazardly, just a bunch of proof sheets on my work table, and these images ( the tiger and the palm trees) just landed there at the same time - I've always liked the neg of the palms trees, it was made years ago, somewhere in So. Cal. - I guess it's a 'palm tree farm'. I love how they have them all in very nice rows, that recede in diagonally, as you turn one way or another.

M. C. Escher would have a field day w/ this 'palm forest'...

And I thought of the phrase in a Rudyard Kipling poem:
"Tiger, tiger, burning bright"
((At least that's how I remember it, many years after reading anything by Kipling.
I think it was on my mom & dad's bookshelf, which was in the hall outside my bedroom - I'll figure they put it there for a reason, so that if that was as far as I could walk when I was sick ( which was ALOT when I was 6, 7 and 8 y.o.), I would dig into it, which I definitely did.))

So I tried a few prints of the two, late in the afternoon. Glad I did :-)

As usual, many more images than I can post here, are at my website:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Darkroom - 'The Handle'

I shot the handle of an abandoned refrigerator (top row, at right) in the town of Bombay Beach, on the Salton Sea, about 8 or 9 years ago. It's a couple of stone's throws away from where Robert Misrach made his rather famous photos of various things sinking into oblivion(water) many years ago.
The only thing that seems to have changed? ..the water has receded even further,
and damn near everything is encrusted w/ salt.
Not a pretty sight, but a pretty arresting sight.

A few links to the Salton Sea:

A handle is, of course, a means of opening a door, however this refrigerator door handle doesn't lead to cold beer, frozen pizza, eggs, cheese, cold cuts & milk ;-)

The landscape (top row, left) was shot a looong time ago, in Joshua Tree N.P. -
there has always been something about this frame that fascinated me, for a long while - I think it's the very long shadow of the hill - this something you just don't/can't.. see back east (where I am originally from) - there's not nearly as much change in elevation... and there are all these things called 'trees' in the way of any view.

I didn't really have any idea where this one was going, and sometimes it's better not to ask, but to just do it...and see where you end up - I knew that the two first exposures would make something interesting, and worth exploring further.
(After 20+ years of doing montage, my instincts are pretty good, I go with them!)

Since the edge of the refrigerator door was a strong vertical that divided the image in half, I held back the top right corner, and burned in just a bit of some rocky landscape, also from Joshua Tree, that echoed the diagonal of the hill in shadow on the left.
Since the dodging on this negative took 2 hands (one for the left side, another for the top right corner), and I have to use one hand to hit the enlarger timer's button for 2 second exposures, (usually 8 or more,) the dodge on the upper right varied more than usual, which is why in one version, it's darker than the others.
(I've thought about getting a foot pedal for my enlarger timer, but since I don't need it 99% of the time?..I never bothered.)
Once I had the these three exposures done, I realized the sky was a bit dull, So I added some nice clouds, that's in the middle row, at left.
& finally started developing the 4 prints, one by one.
After #3, I decided to add something else to the desert space, just a few details of some bizarre homemade sculpture by the roadside, that's in the middle row, at right.

As usual, larger images, including #4 with the sculptures rising into the sky, are on a page at my site:

Next couple of entries are gonna be a lot more digital... see ya' in 2 weeks :-)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

'Schoolroom' - darkroom print

Maybe I should call this 'apocalyptic lessons'?
I printed this last November, and it seems very current/appropriate for right now,
with all the headlines about financial meltdowns, etc.
The 'school room' is intact, but it is housed in what looks to be a fractured dome of sorts.
It was shot at Fort Ross State historical park (,
about a half hour north of Jenner, CA.
((At least, I think it's a school room, that's what it looks like to me, anyway.))

The dome is a decaying military structure in the Marin Headlands, just north of S.F. -
there are a lot of those, I've photographed many over the last 16 years.
No one wants to haul away all the concrete in these many (gun) batteries, they are just left to deteriorate.
I sandwiched the dome w/ a sky, that was the top of the image.
As usual, if the first of 3 or 4 prints looks good/is a keeper, I improvise w/ the rest...
& add 'something else' maybe...a crow(or raven?)!
(now there's an loaded symbol, if there ever was one.)

As for further interpretations of this image?.... that's up to you.
To me, it looks like the human species may be 'an old dog', that definitely needs to learn some 'new tricks' if we are going to get over all the problems we have now.

As usual, more & larger images at:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Darkroom - a bucket in the sand...

.... & a cloud in the sky.

To pick up from where I left off last year...
('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.)

The second 'question I didn't have an answer to' was about this bucket of sorts, actually half a barrel, I photographed at Limantour beach at Pt. Reyes a few years ago, swept there from who knows where.

(It's probably a container for a lawn plant, tossed out by some suburbanite?
If anyone gave me (a confirmed apt. dweller) this much dirt to grow something in?
the plant would be illegal! a nice fat bushy cannabis plant!
and I would not be tossing the bucket out, anytime soon.
But someone did, and here it is.)

It's left a trail in the sand, for which I found an 'echo' in a sky made a decade or so ago, from my roof top deck in SF.
Once again 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 also the case on this one.

This recalls the often quoted question "is the glass half empty, or half full?"

This bucket is obviously beyond that question, it's just plain empty.
but another question remains/is posed, by the swirling starry mass above it -
is this what has been recently released?...
or is it there to refill the bucket??
'Ask me no questions, I'll you no lies', I really don't know the answer.
(Wow, I sure am 'quoting' a lot this time, aren't I?)

Sometimes ambiguity is just fine, you can read whatever you want to into the image.
I enjoy hearing other people's interpretations, sometimes they see things that would never occur to me.

As usual, there's nothing complicated about the darkroom technique - the bucket is exposed 100% at the bottom, and is dodged out to zero by a bit above the horizontal halfway mark. I am not holding the dodging card horizontally level, it's a bit lower on the left than the right, following the angle of the trail in the sand left by the bucket.
The sky negative is pretty thin, there's not much there but the cloud itself, the rest is almost clear plastic.
Perfect for sandwiching with some of those 'stars' I concocted many years ago, and keep reusing.
So that sandwich is exposed 100% at the top, dodged out to zero just shy of the horizontal middle, at the same skewed angle as the bucket, lower on the left than the right.

There is one thing I could have done, that I did not, that would make this one even better -
can you spot it, now that you know the elements involved?

Take a minute to think about it...freshen your beverage/empty the ashtray/make sure the kids or spouse aren't burning down the house, or turning dinner into charcoal/ let the dog in, or out...)

There now, got an answer?

Here's mine:

In the enlarged view, you can see a few of the 'stars', softly, descending into the bucket.
On the print (14x18"), they are more pronounced... but what I should've done...?
was to also sandwich the stars with the bucket, so the feeling that they were sinking into/emanating from there was more pronounced/obvious.
With Photoshop? ..this would be very easy to fix, but I have this old-fashioned knee jerk reaction to 'fixing' everything with Photoshop - it's too easy to get lazy and sloppy, and I definitely don't want to end up there.
I've seen plenty of that, it sucks, and is definitely lazy and half-assed.
Who needs that?
I'm gonna leave the image the way it is, like it or not.
Next time, I will think a bit harder.

As usual, larger images are on my web pages:

I heard from someone recently who commented favorably on an entry that compared/contrasted the darkroom treatment of an image ( circular lines drawn in the sand by some windblown blades of grass) with a digital version of the same thing.
I got another similar entry (darkroom vs. digital) in the works.

More darkroom in a couple of weeks.
I still have 2 darkroom montage images from 2008 to talk about,
and I'm still wading thru *many* images taken in Nevada last month, including petroglyphs. :-)
...sooo many fiery red rocks... and some awesome skies.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Have you ever been to Nevada?

A good friend of mine calls it "the land of poker and whores".
i couldn't possibly care less about either of them...
and perhaps his comment is a little off the mark? -
an astounding 86% of Nevada is either BLM land, or US military facilities,
so it couldn't be more than 14% 'poker & whores', could it?
That's still a lot of poker, and enough whores to... well...
let's not even go there at all, OK?
(I like to keep this blog PG rated :-) )

Up until a few weeks ago, I had only been there twice before.
Once in the early 80's, while I was still living in the Wash DC area and was shooting architecture, I was hired by the Brick Institute of America, to go to Sparks (outside Reno) to photograph a fire station (made of brick, of course).
I had built in a 'weather contingency' to the budget, which was a good idea, cause it was rather cloudy for a day or so upon arrival. So I drove out of town, up into the hills, and the land caught my imagination, something fierce.

My second visit to Nevada was 'just barely there' -
I was visiting Death Valley, and cruised up to Rhyolite,
a ghost town that is just barely in Nevada.

I haven't taken a good ol' fashioned 'photo/road trip' in 4 years -
health problems and 'financial adjustments' have kept me close to home.
But this Xmas?.... the aforementioned problems are under control...
or at least, I chose to ignore them - sometimes that's a good plan - "ignore reality!".
I'm sure you've tried it, probably with varying degrees of success.
I was tired of spending my life in front of a computer...
and the economy could use a few more people spending money, couldn't it?
Sooo... What the hell! Let's do it!
I hit the road, destination Las Vegas (people also call it 'Sin City', or 'Lost Wages'), intending to take in Red Rock Canyon,
and Valley of Fire, for as long as my increasingly lame & arthritic hips, legs,
and ankles could take.

How can anyone capsulize and condense all the thoughts and impressions that pass thru the mind during any kind of travel experience?
I won't even try to write about it, let's just cut to the chase, and get to some pictures.
They may not be 'worth a thousand words'... but they say much more than I can.
The first image is some bizarre storm clouds, shot at sunset outside Valley of Fire.
The second one, a petroglyph along the trail to Calico tanks in Red Rock Canyon.
The third is Valley of Fire.

For many more photos & some comments:

For more info on the places visited:

The state of Nevada:

Valley of Fire:

Red Rock Canyon:


"I'll be back"... soon, with some darkroom from late 2008...