Sunday, November 30, 2014

Darkroom Thanksgiving

Can't stop blowing my own horn about this one:
Preview my book!

Or take a look at the Black and white darkroom montage images done 16 yrs ago that are the foundation for the booK:

You've no doubt heard of or seen 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'? (watched it on TV, yes? laughed a bit? yes, i did too.)

Well how 'bout a 'Darkroom Thanksgiving'?!
(California style, i snack on Tortilla chips and hot salsa while working.)

I have untraditional holidays. The only family I have is back east, a stepmother and a sister. A few phone calls or emails, and i'm done w/ the holiday routines.
I got a daughter outside Atlanta - late twenties, a lawyer - but since her mother and I were divorced when she was 5 y.o., We exchange emails around Xmas, and that's about it.
So my holidays - 4 days at Thanksgiving and a week or so between Xmas and New year's when the place i work for closes - are 'darkroom'. Or whatever else.
I have the time to stretch out, relax, really get into it, for days, and find a groove. Though I must say, no matter how long it's been ( last time I printed was July 4 weekend) I find the dormant circuits in my brain fire up real fast. Real fast!
So here's the take - a twenty five sheet pack of 11x14" paper, 3 final prints of all 4 images, got a couple of sheets left.
But before that, I should mention a few things:

#1 - I tried a new paper - RC VC matte surface made by Foma in Czechoslovakia - has mucho  film, paper, all the analog stuff. My 'usual' has been Ilford, matte surface fiber (so i can hand color) but they don't make it in RC anymore, and RC is alot easier to dry in a small/studio apt. I like the matte surface, for handcoloring, but this Foma is not the same as Ilford, doesn't seem like it's as 'matte' (that would take oil colors well) as Ilford, but I saved a few exposure time test strips to try it out. If I managed to hand color a big bunch of pearl surface prints a year ago:
I think things will be OK, or at least i will work out the subtleties.

#2 - I take really good care of my negs - they are all in a tight (old fashioned hard shell) suitcase that lets in NO dust. I give any neg a quick clean off w/ an old anti static cloth, that's it.
You know how many dust spots i had to spot on all these prints? Just one, on one print.

#3 - whatever enlarger you buy, put a 'cold light head' on it.
Don't put up w/ condenser enlargers, they focus the light, and show all the dust.
The cold light is a *glowing* light source, it minimizes any dust or scratches.

Go to google, slam this in to the search terms:

'zone VI cold light head'

That's 'zone 6' - roman numerals are 'V'(=5) + 1 -  which equals 6.

You'll be glad you did. I sure as hell am. I bought my enlarger almost 30 years ago. It's the second best thing I ever bought. The first was my first divorce.
(the second one, the wife paid for.)

So here's the prints, in small size, larger sizes later, in future posts):

Have great! holidays, I'll be back next year, plenty to talk about.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

How 'bout some mo' Digital?

Gotta keep blowing my own horn for a while about my book.
Here's a preview: 

Or take a look at the B&W montage images done 16 yrs ago that are the foundation for the booK:

Time for some more digital. I am still having fun with symmetry, let's look at two of those. But I also have an occasional montage that's not symmetrical, we'll check that out too.

First the symmetry.
I took a walk along a road that follows a bay in San Rafael into a neighborhood I had not visited before, it had a completely different feel from the downtown area I usually spend my time. There were lots of very nice houses on the waterfront, with some colorful exotic plants next to the sidewalk, and many marine/boating businesses. Climbing up the hills are various funky places, to my eastern sensibilities, very amusing, lots of character. It's been 22 years since i moved here, i am still getting used to it, and enjoying the surprises of 'west coast' style.

I'm not usually one for flowers, but I do really like succulents, palms, other plants that I never saw on the east coast, where i spent my first 40 years.
So here's how one image came about, I started w/ a simple shot of a flower:

I cropped it with the idea that the leaf at top left would be at the center...

... and duplicated that 3 times to come up with this 'kaleidiscope' image. 

It could use another layer of something... i chose a succulent, but used a cropped version to fill 2 quadrants of the image, flopped that to cover the other two. Set that layer at less than 100% transparency...  Then added a sunburst in the center. 

I called it 'done'.

Second one was a bit more complicated, but it's more of the same thing.

I suggest you go to the page at my website at the bottom of the post to get all the down and dirty details. I like to keep these posts a bit lean so that anyone can read easily no matter how slow their web connection is, and if you want to explore further, you can, but it's optional, I don't want to clog your browser.

Last but not least? China Beach Pier.

Funny how intuition and that 'sixth sense' can work. I visited a place called China Camp, east of San Rafael proper, juts out into the bay. It's a state park that has been fitfully maintained, the camp the Chinese made is poorly kept up. But being Chinese? it survives in spite of all..... I took a few frames.
One of the pier from inside a building, the other of sunlit hi-lites on the water through openings in the building wall. Yes, a star-cross filter got into the act on that one, i just held it in front of the lense.  I sandwiched just two frames, on a whim. They *flew*. I like that. I think perhaps what this montage says is.. there is 'light at the end of the tunnel'. Find it, it's there.

As always, larger images at a page on my website:

The 'whatever catches my eye' file has been lean lately, but this one is worth it:

Duane Michals

(My browser had trouble w/ both the pages below - web designers are getting too full of themselves, too fancy, and the code they write sometimes goes awry. i hope you can get to the meat of this w/ out too much BS. As a copywriter i used to work with just outside Wash. DC would say about his parties in Baltimore - 'it's worth the schlep'. Some things are. Yup.)

It's the sequential images that 'zoom out' so to speak that struck me - #9-17

this one is pretty good too, a dedicated darkroom dude:

I'll be back in a month w/ some darkroom, unless i am dead.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Preview my book and/or dive into my latest darkroom creation: "Secrets"

Check out my first book, at
Or take a look at the B&W montage images done 16 yrs ago that are the foundation for the booK:

OK, on to the darkroom - Darkroom binge - July 4, 5

#1 Secret

Started this darkroom binge (2 days - July 4, 5) the same way i do all of them - w/ something simple.
This one is just a sky...dodged back a good bit in the center:

 ...and a beautifully lit doorway shot on a ship docked at SF harbor during 'fleet week'.
The door is locked tight, you ain't gonna get in here. But what you can't have is always want you want to have, isn't it?
There's something secret and probably valuable here, other wise, why would it be locked tight?

After I nailed the print in the first two passes, i just had to try something else.

So I blew in *something completely different* ( thank you monty python, for the phrase/description, it serves me well).
This was to burn in a neg made years ago at Cliff house/Ocean Beach/SF...

of the amusements there, at the Musee Mechanique,
just a wee bit of this neg, below
(I didn't even 'test' the exposure, i just burned it in.)

I should have tested it, the print is 'a nice start', but i should have burned in more.

I scanned it, and colorized it ( P'shop).

Far from perfect, but if you follow this blog at all, you'll know that i am not interested in perfect. I like mistakes, i like improvising. You won't discover anything new by being safe.

I've heard a lot of photographers say pretty much the same thing in so many words:
'The best thing about photoshop is you can do anything. The worst thing about photoshop is you can do anything, and get lost in the possibilities, and never make up your mind.'

I don't usually go for that approach, but this time round, WTF, let's work this one a bit.
I scanned the proof sheets, and came up with some alternate versions:

a not-so-subtle version, above.

and a version very close to the darkroom print:

I'm not sure which I like best, i think perhaps i like the darkroom version, but i can't hand-color glossy paper. Boo-hoo.

As usual, larger images, and a bit more yak at a page on my website:

In the 'whatever catches my eye' file this month:

A very interesting discussion of the well worn but will be infinitely discussed topic, film versus digital:

S.F. next door to ocean wilderness filled with beauty and beasts
Carl Nolte
Updated 8:52 pm, Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sometimes You Just Need to Print Your Photos the Old-Fashioned Way
By David Rosenberg

I was reminded of a photographer whose work is widely admired by of all things a good old fashioned newspaper article:

Robert Frank, his book 'The Americans' is a classic.

Robert Frank

A text interview w/ RF:

Robert Frank and photography: Art in the age of image overload
Photographic overload.

By D.K. Row, The Oregonian The Oregonian

"I was pondering the implications of such a possibility while spending time with the 48 Polaroid images by Robert Frank on view at the Blue Sky Gallery. "

You've no doubt seen many pictures of the famous 'HOLLYWOOD' sign, but who else shot it like this?
So what does just an 'H' stand for?
It might not be hollywood, it could be 'hello'...
or it could be 'hell'. You got any other suggestions? Feel free to interpret as you wish.

Stop back in again in a month or so - more darkroom to come, more digital montage, and probably more rambling, 'wild and crazy' thoughts.

Monday, September 15, 2014

So if this is 'the beach blog' what better place to announce my first book?

I'm not very good at blowing my own horn, but for this one, I gotta get out some new chops, and make some noise.

16+ years ago I did almost 50 darkroom montage prints for a project that was called 'Beach Trip'. done for the company a good friend of mine founded back east, which imploded before the project came to fruition/publication.

I put together a website w/ most of the images ( but it hasn't exactly gone viral.

A year or so ago the same friend wrote me and said 'self-publishing is here! Let's do something w/ this!"
I waited for further instructions - they never came.. and when I enquired 6 months later, he'd gotten way too busy with other things to deal with it. to the rescue. 
I looked at a bunch of the online options, but since this was really a photo (and not 'text') book, blurb was the obvious choice, i can make all the pages myself easily. No text, just PSD image files as jpegs.
So i went about 'colorizing' the images digitally, and added a number of new digital ones that seemed to fit in.

This is the first version of this book:

I put all the images on a right hand page, not realizing how expensive that would make it.
(I wanted to make it possible for anyone to trim out a page, and frame it, without losing any of the other pages.)

I've revised - a much shorter, leaner book is coming soon, much more affordable, and better as an eBook (no blank left hand pages!).

Check it out, give it a spin. I put my heart and soul into everything i do. Hope it is appreciated somehow.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Beach Mirage - in the darkroom again

I started w/ just an image in my head, of a figure on the mirrored beach walking into the distance, in search of what? ..i wasn't sure.
It is of course a B&W neg, i shot a whole roll of this view, it was a spectacular occurrence at Ocean Beach, San Francisco. The sand was almost level, at low tide the water didn't recede, it created this glass-like mirrored surface, reflecting the sky. This is a digitally colorized version of one of the frames.

For this montage, i chose another frame w/ just the single figure.

Initially i thought i would burn in some ships moored at a long pier, something like this image, done in 2010:

But it felt too much like i was repeating myself, the first test was just muddy... so i went back to old tried and true methods, and sifted thru contact sheets til i came upon some images taken at Marin Headlands, of a figure at the end of a long tunnel, one of the remnants of decades of military installations and gun batteries.
The figure is playing bagpipes, the tunnel echoed the sound mysteriously, incredibly. Which of course doesn't show up in the film at all.

There we go again, i had the 'Aha!' moment.
On the contact sheet, it didn't look like there was much shadow detail, when i worked with it, it turned out there was shadow detail, as it fades into the sky, makes it more interesting, what is this space the figure is walking into? A place of myth or legend? And who is the figure standing out over the ocean?
That's a 'the viewer gets to decide' question.

I tried a digital colorization of this one, once again it's.. uh... kinda interesting, but nothing to rave about. There are 4 layers of color adjustments:
1 - a basic Hue/Sat colorize that makes it all seemed toned blue.
2 - a selective color layer that only affects the beach, warming it up a bit, making the blue a bit more cyan - Neutrals/ +cyan, + Yellow.
3 - a selective color layer only affection the opening at the end of the tunnel, warming it up a bit, +y to neutrals.
4 - an overall SC layer, adds a touch more warmth (whites/ +Y).

Then i came back and worked on it some more.

Subtle difference, but it works for me.
Now I can hit 'save' and write it to back-up HD's.
As usual, larger images at a page on my site:

Last but not least, digital photography is now 25 years old.
This is a page well worth your time:

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Some mo' darkroom! this one's called 'ascension'

...I started this one by working with the P'shop 'sketch', working w/ a sandwich of two negs (The clouds and the mountains at the top), and a few stair steps from military ruins in Marin Headlands.

But as i started working on the print (the sandwich part), and did a test, it just didn't feel right, it just didn't work, i had a feeling in my gut about that. (Doing this sort of work, or any creative work, you need to develop that 'gut feeling' instinct.)

It still needed work, but it had some magic about it.
So...... sparing you the description of the rummaging i went thru, i ended up w/ something else.

I did something i have done many times before, when i was vexed, and couldn't go further - i covered the tray of developer w/ some freeze wrap, to keep it from degrading ( +becoming weaker from one day to the next).
I slept on it, this image, hoping i would come up w/ the 'next step'.
Which is what happened - i sifted thru all my Nevada 2008 negs, and found 1 where the hi-lite on the desert floor, when sandwiched w/ the stair steps, lined up perfectly, or awfully damn close to it. The way the stair steps start, on the playa... and then ascend thru the mountains and into the sky adds mystery, and tension.
It took a few tries to perfect the dodge and burn on this one - the lower right corner was a bit too dark, the steps at upper right were a bit burned out.

Once I nailed that, i thought...Hmmm... is there anything else that 'belongs here'? ..that expands the meaning of this one?
The image is about a journey, a trip, climbing up somewhere, somewhere beyond the mountains and horizon. So what do i have that compliments that thought? (it might not be obvious, or visually obvious).
I found something, a neg I'd shot many years ago at the Musee Mechanique in SF, when it was still on the bottom floor of Cliff House. The only windows faced west, and the end of day light streamed in at varying angles depending on the time of year. It was always interesting to see what was lit up, it changed subtly from day to day.

This one item, a weight machine of some sort, had a spinning wheel that would display various 'fortunes' you might be liable for. I really liked the one that said 'there are many answers to all questions'. it seemed to connect w/ the journey/quest idea in the image...... so i blew in just that part of the neg.

That works for me, adds that extra something special, enigmatically, tugging at your imagination.
How many questions? How many answers?
It's endless. welcome to 'life', it's crazy, but make it fun, you only go around once, no rehearsals, no re-do's, no Command+Z.

I did digital colorizations of both of these, just for shits -

....they are only OK.... just barely.
I can do soooo much more w/ Q-tips, cotton balls, and some oil colors:

...and you can, too.

Larger images, a few more comments:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

'Vibration' - more darkroom montage

.......I'm not sure where to start on this one...
It went thru some 'ch-ch-ch- changes" as the Bowie song goes.
Once again I did a P'shop sketch of this one...

The stacked stones were shot at Ocean Beach, mid '90's. O.B. stretches for a few miles from Cliff House south, it's easily accesible, and VERY large, there is a wealth of raw material for the creative soul, all kinds of stones, driftwood, and soft sand cliffs you can carve into with whatever is handy.

A nice start, but 'no cigar' as the old saying goes.

Then i changed my mind and replaced the crashing waves w/ some circular 'splash' ripples. I looked at adding a huge tree.. and also adding an additional thunderhead of a cloud.

And then ended up remembering the old Zen question - 'what's the sound of one hand clapping?' and i thought 'what's the sound ( or vibe?) of 5 stones *levitating*?'... and decided to keep it simple, just 5 stones floating on the water, making one vibration.

Once again when i saw the first test print of the ripples at the bottom, i was surprised - the sketch seemed to have left out the far side of the circular ripples, but they showed up fine on the test. This put a new spin on the image -  how about if the stacked stones become somewhat transparent at the bottom, and you can see the further ripples - what does this say about how the stones are suspended in space? Are they held up by the surface tension of the water alone? (physically not possible, of course.)

So I made 3 prints, all slightly different, i'm not sure which i like best.
The three are indistinguishable at web resolution, here's just one:

I also took a stab at coloring this one digitally:

Not very happy w/ it, but i always give it a try, just to see what will happen.

If you want to see it (and the others above) larger, and check out the psd file, here's the place:

And now it's time for this blog to ..uh.. wander a bit.
(Try it, you just might like it!)

Interesting story about these people that precariously stack rocks like the above:

There's always alotta fun to be had at beach, it's that kinda place.

Southside Johnny & the Asbury Dukes/Live:
SS Johnny - 'Trapped again'. It totally sears your speakers!
"It's been a long time"

'It's been a long time...'

....'coming'? - i could add that word, but it would recall another most famous song -
Sam Cooke -  'it's been a long time comin' but a change gonna come'.
Yes, indeed. A beautiful voice, a life cut too short, a message that resounds decades later.

I still am one on the happiest guys in the planet to have a cassette copy of 'Southside Johnny & the Ashbury Jukes' - "Love is a sacrifice"
And i have a cassette player that will play it! *Yabba-dabba-doo!*
It *totally ROCKS* from beginning to end, with no let-up in intensity - it is totally ON from start to finish.
Tomorrow (July 4) i am celebrating 'Independence day' by being *independent* of digital, opening up the darkroom and doing whatever i can in 2 days time.

On sunday, i will go to beach. Yabba-dabba-doo!

If you don't get 'Yabba-dabba-doo'? it's from the Flintstones cartoon TV show,
many years ago. Fred Flintstone says this when he's very, very happy.
Whoever, where ever you are? ..try to find something 'happy' in whatever you do.

"Ah'll be back"........ next month.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Darkroom - 'Stories to be told'

Tell me a desert story - a myth, a parable, whatever.

Let's go back to the darkroom for a spell, this one was done late last year.

Top part of this is a sandwich, some rocks at a place called '7 Sisters' in Valley of Fire SP in Neveda, and a desert bush of some sort.
I did some PSD sketches that used the the 7 sisters rocks, and combined it w/ other things, but they just didn't 'ignite', didn't feel like they were worth printing.

I had scanned the proof sheet.
A plant is also on the same roll, i can't keep these plants straight, it is either a creosote, or an ocotillo. Or maybe something else entirely. It waves sadly and slowly in the wind.
I just had an inkling something might be going on by sandwiching just these two, so I pulled out the negs, and sandwiched them manually, held it up the the window light and thought 'aha!', that's IT!

Almost immediately I remembered a neg taken a long time ago.

The bottom part is a book left on Ocean beach in SF, and has been significantly weathered, the scene untouched by human hands. I took it 20+ years ago. And now it comes in handy. Don't ask me what i had for dinner last night, but i can remember this neg after all these years.
Once again, it's all about something other than software and photoshop - the best software is between you ears, and that's what I use to connect these negatives together, and weave them into montage images.

I flopped both negs so the light direction would match up w/ the book, which i don't want to flop, seeing as how you can read the text.
That I shoot negs for hi-lites, and let shadows fall into black (or close to it), continues to work just fine. The shadow in the rocks has just a bit of detail, just enough to add some interest/contrast to the sandwiched plant branches.

I tried out a digital/colored version of this....
Digital colorization many times feels false/forced, to me, though I've been getting better at it. Some images are conducive to this, others just aren't.

There are stories here, in this book, and in the desert... you just have to take the time and effort to read.

For larger images, here's the link:

In the 'whatever catches my eye' file this month:
Slate Magazine: A quiet yet profound look the the American West
By Lisa Larson-Walker

and one last parting suggestion:

Go to the beach, if you can, you'll be glad you did. ALWAYS!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Another digital montage post

There will be a link to a page on my website at the end of the post that will have larger images, screen shots of the PSD files showing the layer palette and small PSD files you can download.
The first 2 images to discuss are digital shots of the sun, which i liked for the starcross thing (didn't need a filter to do this - dig camera lenses suck, and do this with no help), but needed to change them a bit so i could drop it into anything else with mucho flexbility. I wanted a light one, and a dark one.
For the light one the capture had a major flaw, there were some palm tree leaves in one image at the edge of the frame.

So I copied part of the image, flipped it horizontally and merged the two. Then i copied that layer, flipped it vertically and that finished it off - almost. Then i used a white circular gradient ( from transparent to 100%) and it was done.

The other one, similar technique - copy, flip, merge, copy and flip again. 
Here's the starting point:

Here's where i ended up:

(I also hit this one w/ a severe 'Hue/Saturation' layer to play up
all the wierd things these cheap digital camera lenses do.
Whatever lands in your lap, do something with it, ya know?)

So now that I had some nice 'suns' what did i do with them?

Added one of them to a rather dark and somewhat ominous sky symmetry... with some waves dropped in and copied and flipped symmetrically. The 'icing' on the cake was one of the suns.
I used the same approach as other 'symmetry' images, copying layers, flipping horizontal and vertical, lining them all up (use 'guides' in P'shop, and make the 'snap to guides' option active, (it's in the 'view' menu choice on the top of the menu bar) they are very handy :-) ) They ain't perfect, so enlarge image to 100% in the navigator, and push the layer back and forth until the seam is purrr-fect.

Larger images, and screen shots of the psd files with the layers palette, and downloads of psd files at:

In the 'whatever catches my eye' file this month:

In other beach and ocean related news:

While we are exploring the ocean depths w/ incredible new technology:

.....sometimes something amazing just 'falls into our hands', so to speak:

Scientists amazed by accidental Gulf catch of second-ever goblin shark
Heather Alexander, Houston Chronicle

Updated 11:05 am, Friday, May 2, 2014

But some news ain't good at all:

And last but not least one small nugget of wisdom:

Enjoy life - this is not a rehearsal.

...and 'trashing the planet' (as noted above) is not a rehearsal at all.

In fact it is the first act in a tragedy, still unfolding.
I don't think we have a clue. Dinosaurs lasted for millions of  years.
We won't even come close.