Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy new year to you!

...For the last 4 days, my darkroom has been open, and busy... and quite a gas
(as in 'Jumpin jack flash, it's a gas, gas, gas' - the rolling stones).

Here's the best of the five images i did:

Titled 'Phoenix rises'
The thing I loved about this binge is the thing I've always loved about darkroom - it's like jazz! - improvisation has always been the best way to go. The darkroom sketch i did for this one turned out to be just the beginning, i tossed many things about it, kept the bare bones, added more.

During the next few months, I'll post all of them.
As the year draws to a close, on a rainy California night...

I wonder.... where are you/we/my humble self.. going?

Who is watching?
 God? Google?? A drone??? Or this 'spirit' in the woods?

 Last but not least, what does all our 'sound and fury' add up to, in a universe so totally huge beyond our wildest imagination?
Here's a bit of 'sound and fury' created a long time ago:

This was probably created no more than
a few thousand years ago, but it's unintelligible to us.

It's probably all a big cosmic joke,
but let's 'eat drink and be merry' for as long as we can.

Dave Matthews Band - 'Tripping Billies'

Happy 2013 to you!!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

On taking risks, making mistakes?.....

Next time you go out on a limb?... take a saw along! Use it...... ( he-he!)

A recent article in the New Yorker magazine reminded me of why I like traditional darkroom montage, and even though digital is marvelous, it can't replace those three trays, and a wash.
The article was about the Grateful Dead, it's very long, it traces the emergence of the band and how it advanced live performance, sound technology, and the underground market for concert tapes... and the huge library of live recordings that exist.
The thing I found relevant to my work is the improvisation, the risk taking they did.
Just when you thought they were about to fall apart, they turned a corner and came together.
And vice versa, just when you thought they couldn't take you any higher, they came undone.

Grateful Dead article:

It's long read, well worth your time.

Same is true in my darkroom - sometimes (most of the time actually) a print will emerge in the dektol that i didn't quite expect, and could only partially plan in advance.

The most memorable (from my point of view) image is what seems to be the one everyone likes the best - 'Edge of Town'.

All the negs were made on the same 2 week road trip: The abandoned building on the left:

...the silhouette of the Indian ruin at the top/right, a desert landscape at the bottom right... and the one that tied it all together, just a simple shot of some high desert clouds.
I started with three sheets exposing the first three negs pretty much identically, developed one to see how it was shaping up. I knew i had an empty area that turned out to be larger than i thought.

Rummaging thru proof sheets, i came upon this sky:

I exposed it on #2 sheet.
#2 told me that the neg was right, my exposure was not.

I am now at the baseball equivalent of '3 balls, 2 strikes'....
I've got one more sheet left, if this doesn't work, it'll all be for naught.
I managed to hit the next one out of the park. :-)

On to the present/ recent work........
I did a 2 day darkroom session a few months ago, that sharpened the focus on 'risk, failure, and success'... and the relationship between them.
First print was a continuation of a previous thread - a desert landscape, with 'something else' burned in to the sky.
Here's the 'previous/thread' image:

And the new print:

Not much risk....'Nice, but nothing new'. I am feeling like maybe i am repeating myself?... which is not neccessarily a bad thing, but still i am a bit disappointed.

The second one, i took a risk, i had done a sketch:

But at the last moment substituted a different 'cave/hole' on the right. It was not a nice sharp neg, there was motion blur, and though i thought it would work, it didn't hang together.

Trying to add a figure/silhouette made things worse.

(After looking at it for a while, i realized what it needed... and i will be doing this one again, soon. Perhaps as a 'hybrid' - the first part being a darkroom print which is then scanned and then added to digitally -  a new way to work, for sure, this opens up new doors.)

The third print blew open new bigger doors that I am still pondering!
Here's the P'shop sketch:

It is a montage of 2 sandwiches:

At the bottom, a campfire shot in Joshua Tree many years ago, and a shaft of light inside an old building with a starcross filter, and a thin neg of some clouds.

The top is a 3 way sandwich of: a huge old oak tree at Jack London Historical park in northern CA,  some artificial 'stars' (just a big black card w/ some holes punched in it, a light behind it, shot thru a star- cross filter) and a lith neg of some birds in flight.
Two exposures, 3 negs each.

I added a bit more 'starcross' beams coming thru the tree w/ handcoloring, and digitally. There ain't much difference between them.

This one definitely gives me a whole new way to work, but it's harder because I can't change the size or anything else about a negative, it is what it is. I think the montages will be much 'richer', and a real challenge to work out.... but i am up for it!

Larger images as always:

 My 'photoshop sketch book' is gettin' pretty fat, the Xmas/year end vacation I'll be sloppin' some dektol around, so stop in around mid-January.

The whatever catches my eye file this month includes a recommendation to add this blog on your bookmarks, 'behold' at

Then and Now Come Together at the Grand Canyon
By Alyssa Coppelman

Photo © Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe
Posted Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 mark_klett_and_byron_wolfe_grand_canyon_images_then_and_now_photos.html


Dissecting Photographic Specimens With Michael Mapes
By Christopher Jobson


November 12, 2012
A Question of Color — Answered
Rolling blue waves hit the Antarctic coastline
These brilliant blue beauties, which look like tidal waves frozen at their highest point, were captured by French astrophysicist (and part-time photographer) Tony Travouillon as he travelled across Antarctica.

Have yourself a very merry 'christ-moose'!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Symmetry gallery - how a 'one off' turned into a whole new thing.

Some somewhat 'wild and and crazy' advice:
One of the best things about photoshop or any kind of image making is you can come up w/ an image ( that might turn into a 'theme')... and then 'kick the can down the road'.
Save whatever half baked thought you had, come back to it later and bake it a little more. This is something you should try as often as possible, what you do just might blossom into something new, keep doing a bit of work on an image then.. keep kicking the can down the road! ... and adding adjusting something.
It applies to darkroom work also.

Almost 20 years ago, i printed this image:

It seemed like a 'one off'/one of a kind' at the time.

I have always liked the circular grooves in the sand that a few blades of grass can carve, blown by the wind, it seems to remind me of a clock. Every time i see this, i shoot a few pix, whether it's film or pixels.

I've always liked mandalas, for over 40 years - fascinating stuff.
6 or 7 years ago I did a digital image inspired by the darkroom print above that was sort of symmetrical, sort of mandala-ish, and i turned it into something else, still thinking of it as 'one off'. My old 'art director' muscles kicked in, loving typography, i created the roman numeral numbers on the 'clock'. The shadows work like a sundial, casting themselves onto the hour.

The idea of symmetry like this kept popping up, in numerous images, impossible to ignore.
Then, when my dad died a few years ago, my step mom sent me a few things of his that she thought i should have. The shirts were nice, he was about my size, he had good taste.
But the best thing.... was this pocket watch!

That's how people did it, a long time ago, it wasn't strapped on your wrist.
So i shot some pix of it, and scanned it too.
Put them all into this blender called a 'brain'......
and it became:

I guess I have to call it a 'Palm clock', I can't think of anything better.

The idea of symmetry really kicked in at this point.

I shot a really nice petro-glyph in Nevada 4 years ago:

...and then duplicated it 3 times, spun them 90 degrees each, added a scan of a cheapo compass i had, added some landscapes, and came up w/ this:

How did i get from the beginning to this end? (but it is NOT an end, make no mistake about it, it will continue!).....I have no idea.

Just keep... "kickin' the can down the road"! and workin' on something!

Larger images, as always, at a page on my site, including a few on this theme not included above, and some small PSD files of a few images for your edification:
This months 'whatever catches my eye' file?

Here's a couple that relate to this month's symmetry topic:

Miniature Worlds Digitally Assembled From Hundreds of Photographs by Catherine Nelson
By Christopher Jobson
Posted Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, at 7:00 AM ET

Here'a site worth bookmarking:

...and a good article, also on topic for this post:
The Geometric Food Art of Sakir Gökçebag

Last post, I included a link to a guy who applied this technique to San Francisco, using shots taken after the earthquake in 1906, and blending them w/ present day SF.
Now someone has applied this to Europe.

Photo montage shows Europe's past blending with present
Europe's war-torn past is never all that far from the present. This becomes eerily clear in "Ghosts of History," a series of haunting photographs that overlay images from France during World War II with present-day pictures of the same locations.

Why Polaroid Was the Apple of Its Time
By Geeta Daya

"It’s easy to forget now, but instant camera maker Polaroid once matched the mythos — and ubiquity — of Apple. Much like Steve Jobs, founder Edwin Land was single-minded in his determination to create unique products with a strong affinity for design. For Jobs, Land was an all-time hero.

In the new book Instant: The Story of Polaroid, New York senior editor Christopher Bonanos traces the dramatic rise and near-collapse of one of America’s most iconic companies."

It's still called the Beach Blog isn't it?
OK time for one last link... to the ocean...
Friday, September 28, 2012 10:06am PDT
Sailors capture spectacular footage of rare dolphin super pod encounter
By: Pete Thomas,

Saturday, September 29, 2012

My photoshop sketch gets me into trouble...sort of.

...Maybe a better way of saying it would be the P'shop sketch 'bit off more than i could chew' in the darkroom.
I've been a darkroom diehard for over 30 years now. It's the most fun you can have with your clothes on, ya know? I will never give it up until i get alzheimers (I will soon be 61 YO! Yikes!) and can't find my way there anymore. Or darkroom paper and chems completely become unavailable. Which ain't gonna happen anytime soon. A lot of products have been discontinued, but replacements have either sprung up, or there's another product that's a good substitute.
An example?... for many years my film of choice was Agfa 100ASA, souped in Rodinal.
Agfa is gone but i find Ilford FP5 to be pretty good - it builds up density a bit faster, but i can live with that. The formula for Rodinal is old enough that it is in the public domain, so another company makes it, and calls it 'Adonal'.

I've been doing photoshop sketches for darkroom montage prints for a while, they've been a big help, and the darkroom print has always worked out fine... until this one.
Here's my sketch:

I used some layer options and multiple overlays in ways I just couldn't replicate in the darkroom, though I sure as hell did try. And it's not that the darkroom version was bad... it just wasn't what I expected or hoped for.

Here's how the layers work, from the bottom up:
1 - image of the old gas station
2 - a white gradient that lightens the top part/sky a bit.
3 - a levels layer that lightens all below.
4 - the sky, w/ a layer mask that blends out the bottom, so the landscape horizon ends before the area of pavement in front of the gas pumps begins.
This is set to a layer options setting of 'lighten' - this is the part that darkroom can't do, that got me in trouble.
5 - a duplicate layer of the sky, layer option 'normal' but dialed back to 70%.
6 & 7 - just a levels layer that crops the image - i add guides that are the crop, marquee that, invert the selection, & add a levels layer, slamming the white point all the way to the left, turning everything outside the guides to white.
8 - one final levels layer to adjust contrast.

So here's the darkroom print:

This worked... sort of. It still doesn't have the transparent feeling of the sketch.
Is this bad?... or good? As always, it's all in the eye of the beholder. I wasn't completely happy, i wanted to explore this one further.

So I tried some hand-coloring on this one. Hand-coloring is a way of re-focusing attention, rebalancing how things are perceived.

Moderately successful...

I went back to the scan of the darkroom print, and did some Photoshop work on it, attempting to get the same feeling as the sketch. It seemed much improved, much closer... b-b-b-but still not the same... as the sketch.

So i caved in, came over to the 'dark side'(digital).

Which of all versions is better?
It's "viewers choice". I really can't choose, or decide. They're all interesting.

Larger versions of all images:
(including a small PSD file of the digital version)

Next month? - Digital - turning a 'one off' into a whole new thing.

Two changes to the blog:

#1 - I have closed the comments option - all it does is collect spam.
I would be happy to hear from anyone:
"bobbennettphoto at"

#2 - The 'whatever catches my eye' file is now at the end of the post.

Here's this month's collection:
Vintage Photo Eye Candy: A 1940s Guide to Becoming a Pro Photographer

The Atlantic
Friday, September 28, 2012
Vintage Photo Eye Candy: A 1940s Guide to Becoming a Pro Photographer
By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

Sep 25 2012, 11:18 AM ET 9

"Portraits, illustration, news, cinema -- this 1946 film from the Your Life Work series describes the many career tracks open to young people interested in photography and cinematography. Courtesy of the Prelinger Archive, the educational reel is full of tips for hobbyists and aspiring pros.

Skip to about 4:20 to learn about photojournalism. The dry narration doesn't glamourize the industry, pitching it as a sensible professional path: "Contrary to popular opinion, a press photographer's life is not just one big thrill after another! He does shoot exciting scenes from time to time, but such events are the exception. Most of his work is routine in nature, consisting mainly of pictures of people and places connected with the news.

The archival footage of journalists and their retro gear will warm the hearts of any die-hard fans of analogue image making. Check out the shot at 5:00 of newsreel cinematographers perching tripods on the roofs of their cars to get a high-angle shot:

Don't miss another gem from the Your Life Work series, which pushes careers in typesetting".

Click on the link for this one! A Career in typesetting? You might think that digital had completely buried this one, but from what I have read, after some significant exposure to digital, many are coming to appreciate traditional/analog stuff.

1906 + today, earthquake photo mash-ups
(A great concept, very well executed)

Photographer Shawn Clover created “photo mash-ups” of the ruins with the modern day cityscape, in hopes of going beyond the typical setup of “then and now” photos. The project began in 2010, with the second installation out a few weeks ago.


Beloved High-Speed Film Camera Faces Extinction
By Jakob Schiller

For more than five decades, the Charles A. Hulcher Co. filled an important niche in the camera world. Their cameras, which shot up to 100 frames per second, were used to make photos of everything from Space Shuttle launches to Major League Baseball games.

But as digital cameras came to dominate, Hulcher saw business decline steeply, and today the company is down to just four employees.

“Digital has pretty much killed film cameras,” says Richard Hill, 75, who has been at the Hulcher company since the 1950s.


What does 'limited edition' mean? - open to interpretation, it seems.

Hope you enjoy all the above, stop back in next month.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Digital colorization

Time for a bit of Photoshop? Sure, why not!

But first, the 'whatever catches my eye' file:
Painting with light

"The majority of amateur photographers discover this by pure accident while taking photos, not noticing their camera is set to a long exposure. Others apply the setting to achieve a desired capture and yet another group of creative people opt for a surprise by breaking the rules deliberately to discover an unexpected result."

Interesting article, interesting site.

Pigs and squatters threaten Peru's Nazca lines
By Mitra Taj

LIMA | Fri Aug 17, 2012 5:21pm EDT

Squatters have started raising pigs on the site of Peru's Nazca lines - the giant designs best seen from an airplane that were mysteriously etched into the desert more than 1,500 years ago.

This is a shame, but at least you have to give the natives a break, they are just trying to survive.
They're not as wantonly destructive as people who do this, which I photographed a few years ago in Nevada:

Art photography: When 'reality isn't good enough' - Pixels gone wild?

By Ashley Strickland, CNN
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Sat August 18, 2012

Amazing Photo: 'Fire Rainbow' Over South Florida
OurAmazingPlanet Staff
Date: 01 August 2012 Time: 04:35 PM ET

So-called "fire rainbows" are neither on fire nor are they rainbows, but they sure are stunning.

They are technically known as iridescent clouds, a relatively rare phenomenon caused by clouds of water droplets of nearly uniform size, according to a release by NASA. These clouds diffract, or bend, light in a similar manner, which separates out light into different wavelengths, or colors.
According to the Weather Channel, these are pileus clouds caused by a fast-growing thunderstorm that shoved air into the upper atmosphere through a layer of moisture. This created a fog-like cloud that looks like a glowing dome atop the thunderstorm.

Photo © Ken Rotberg.

Kodak’s Idealized Colorama Returns


Comeback of photo booths exposes yearning for what's real

Digital technology gave us photography without limits. But suddenly, we're seeing the virtue of limits. Photo booth photos are on a human scale. They take place in real time in a private space we chose to occupy.

By Gale Holland, Los Angeles Times,0,4042676.column


For Desolate, Shrinking Salton Sea, Another Dream
Published: July 29, 2012

...the Salton Sea, created by accident 40 miles south of Palm Springs, has been shrinking for decades now, while the saline content continues to rise — it is roughly 50 percent saltier than the Pacific Ocean. Waterfront homes built more than a generation ago sit abandoned and boarded up, on a labyrinth of streets where only a couple of houses on each block are occupied.

But California does not give up easily on its dreams, so yet another ambitious development is poised to rise beside this vanishing sea.

I've been there a few times, the place could definitely use some better luck than it has had. Here's a few photos i took years ago:

Pretty desolate, isn't it?


Has image overtaken music?
By Todd Leopold, CNN
updated 9:33 AM EDT, Sat July 28, 2012

From my '60 YO lived thru the 60's and 70's perspective', i think the simple answer is 'yes'.

This is how rock SHOULD be - An air-raid on the ears!
Incredible Live Who track!

Genetic Data and Fossil Evidence Tell Differing Tales of Human Origins
Published: July 26, 2012

After decades of digging, paleoanthropologists looking for fossilized human bones have established a reasonably clear picture: Modern humans arose in Africa some 200,000 years ago and all archaic species of humans then disappeared, surviving only outside Africa, as did the Neanderthals in Europe. Geneticists studying DNA now say that, to the contrary, a previously unknown archaic species of human, a cousin of the Neanderthals, may have lingered in Africa until perhaps 25,000 years ago, coexisting with the modern humans and on occasion interbreeding with them.

A Desert Beyond Fear
July 23, 2012, 7:00 am

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty.
To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
— Bertrand Russell

On a cold, sunny day in early March, my husband, Steve, and I layered up and took ourselves out to our backyard: Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. For a few days we had been spiraling downward through a series of miscommunications and tensions — the culmination of my rigorous dedication to fear, or what Bertrand Russell aptly coined “the tyranny of the habit of fear.”  A fresh storm had dropped 10 inches of snow with little moisture giving it an airy, crystallized texture that sprayed out in an arc with each footstep and made a shushing sound, as if it were speaking directly to me. Shush. Shush. Shush.


On to 'a bit of photoshop'.

While I've been bouncing around between 'traditional' and digital hand coloring, I couldn't help but notice the difference between the two. Traditional has an 'organic/ inexact' quality to it. And you can do all kinds of blending in ways that to me seem much more arduous in Photoshop.
For instance, I could never take the time to hand-color this 'motel sign' digitally.

But i can do it w/ good ol' fashioned cotton balls and oil colors in less than an hour.

Digital (Photoshop) is more.. uh.. sterile... but that has an appeal too. And has it's place/use... w/ some images.
I pulled out one image from my archives that seemed like a good possibility for digital coloring - a shot taken at Ocean Beach, at low tide, w/ Grrr-eat reflections on the shoreline/sand.
I've messed around w/ all kinds of media , 'way back when'/ in college - acrylics, oils, lino-cut prints, charcoal, pencils - you name it, i tried it.  One thing I never tried was airbrushing. Couldn't afford an airbrush, i think it cost more than 100$.
W/ P'Shop?... airbrushing/ gradients are super easy, and very clean.
So I applied them to this straight/film shot........with interesting results.
Here's the B&W image w/ photoshop colorization:

The bottom/background layer is of course the image, B&W.
The next two layers are gradients, from top down, and bottom up, just black to white, at various percentages, the equivalent of 'burning in' in a B&W darkroom.
The next layer is a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, clicking the 'colorize' option and adjusting it to give the whole image a blue cast, as if you had toned the image w/ blue toner.
Clouds aren't as blue as the sky, the undersides are grey... so i selected the clouds, and added a Hue/Sat layer that desaturated the clouds.
Next, I blew in another gradient for the sand/lower part of the image. It is an 'image' layer, but is set as 'color' in the Pshop layer options. It's not full strength, it's about 60%, so i got the color of the sand, but it's not too heavy handed.
The sky still seemed a bit too bright for me, so i added another levels layer w/ a gradient mask that makes the sky just a bit brighter.
That's it, I like this, it's done!

Then I tried out the same thing on a dark room montage print, Nevada Melody.

This one is served at least as well by digital coloring/toning than what would happen w/ traditional/oil colors.
There are just two areas, clearly defined - the sky... & the 'land', including the piano guts.
I selected the sky, added a 'color balance' adjustment layer, and a Hue Sat layer...
I selected the landscape/ground, and hit that w/ a Hue Sat layer.
I also added a layer with just some of the distant landscape selected, used selective color to tweak the hue.
Then i selected just the cactus leaves breaking the horizon, set that to 'colorize' and made it green.... and then applied that ( by 'painting in' the layer mask) to some of the piano strings leading up to the cactus.
That kind of 'ties the top and bottom together'.
Once again... it's simple, clean, & well thought out.
You've heard the old saying "less is more'? Well, it's true.
If you're thinking 'this isn't very advanced or complicated', you're right, it isn't. I know of many people who will build a photoshop file w/ dozens and dozens of layers - not me. Have a clear idea of what you want to do, stay focused. And to tell ya the truth, after 10 layers, i start to get cross eyed and lose track of what is doing what.

For larger images, screen shots of the layers,  and layered photoshop files you can download to see how it works: