Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Oops! Me bad! Me stupid!!

I made a big goof on the cover of my 'California Beach Trip" book - the image on the cover ran off the top of the page! Talk about stupid!
The blurberati were nice enough to pull it off amazon, and let me fix it.
But now in the previews i see, the text below the image isn't centered, even though in the edit preview, i did everything i could to center it. Is there a ghost in the machine? Hmmm - what do you think? 
Oh well, next time/next book i won't use the text boxes, that oughta solve that one.


If you want to see all the pages before you buy:

I've got 2 more books waiting in the wings, getting final touches, to be published early next year:

And if you're in the mood for some Xmas?
Princeton Harbor, just south of SF CA.

Outside a motel in Baker, CA.

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, high country, So. Cal.

Along Rte 247, Lucerne Valley, Ca.

Have a great holiday season, whoever and where ever you are!!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

I'm self publishing now!

 After 20+ years of making darkroom photomontage, and not being able to get arrested for it, I am publishing photo books i make with Blurb, getting them on Amazon.
I recently published a revised version of the 'California Beach Trip' images - marvelous and mind-bending B&W darkroom montage images - done almost 20 years ago for a multimedia company that never used them.
The first version was a 'pull out all the stops' thing, adding many new digital images, & overlaying text on the images. i asked two excellent designer friends of mine what they thought, and both answered the same - 'get back to basics, just the B&W, use very little text, & don't put it on the images'.
I took their advice. So here it is, hope you enjoy - it is also much more affordable, fewer images and no blank pages. Add a copy to your bookshelf, or buy the e-Book ( if you can find it, i couldn't but then again i am not that savvy to eBooks) - now that's affordable!

On Amazon

On Blurb:




Yes, there are 3 different URL's, which seem to work differently on various browsers/systems - one of them will work for you, i sure hope!

The preview can't show all the images, but you can see them at the link below.

I've got a couple more books waiting in the wings:

Above, the cover, below an inner page.

The third book, a surreal visual and somewhat philosopical trip.

That's all for now - "Ah'll be back" just like the Terminator/'Ahnold' said.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Crows - some people hate 'em - i love 'em.

I have liked crows for a very long time, since i was growing up in a small town in Maine, where i could walk to the far end of my street in wintertime to a place, a big hill to sled down, and walk into open land, pasture, a farm.
There were 4 colors - white, green, blue.. and black.
Snow, pines, sky and... crows.

As i have come west (to California) in 1992, and explored the land, there are two constants in the desert, the middle of nowhere - telephone & power lines.. and crows.
They are scavengers, opportunists - carniverous, vegetarian, omnivores,  and smarter than we would want to admit.


"Corvus is a widely distributed genus of birds in the family Corvidae. Ranging in size from the relatively small pigeon-sized jackdaws (Eurasian and Daurian) to the common raven of the Holarctic region and thick-billed raven of the highlands of Ethiopia, the 40 or so members of this genus occur on all temperate continents except South America, and several islands. In Europe, the word "crow" is used to refer to the carrion crow or the hooded crow, while in North America, it is used for the American crow, fish crow, or the northwestern crow.

Recent research has found some crow species capable of not only tool use, but also tool construction. Crows are now considered to be among the world's most intelligent animals with an encephalization quotient equal to that of many non-human primates."



I have some images, over the years. A crow sailing over the Marin Headlands, dancing in the updrafts:

Another crow that i photographed at Drakes Beach/Pt Reyes Nat'l park.
I was in my car, in the parking lot, which had a fence of sorts, with wooden posts, chains between the parking lot and the beach.
I tempted this bird with bread crusts on the fence post tops., staying just far enough away so that it would snatch, but close enough that w/ a wide lense, i would get at least one good frame. It took a roll and a half (15 frames on a pentax 6x7/120 film).

And in Death Valley, they are always there. Why wouldn't they be? It is Death Valley after all, and crows are scavengers.

I included it in a book i am close to publishing:

Of course, I had to get creative in yet another way with that one:

And later in the darkroom, this image came about.

At the bottom, a campfire, slowly burning out, Above that a shot with the camera in motion, the dying flames. Above that the crow, sandwiched with some 'pseudo - ' stars some sky/clouds, and some birds, a lith neg,
Let's see.... that's 5 exposures.
Don't know exactly how i arrived here, but happy i did.
The end justifies the means.
A 'Murder of Crows'
Full Episode - PBS
Premiere date: October 24, 2010 | 0:53:10 | Buy the DVD
Although cultures around the world may regard the crow as a scavenger, bad omen, or simply a nuisance, this bad reputation might overshadow what could be regarded as the crow’s most striking characteristic – its intelligence. New research indicates that crows are among the brightest animals in the world. NATURE’s A Murder of Crows brings you these so-called feathered apes, as you have never seen them before.


Read the comments on this page before you go to the video episode. My browser and computer (both old an somewhat outdated) didn't react to this too well. I hope you have better luck.



Soooo... don't call anyone a birdbrain again - they can fly - can you?
They are the last of the dinosaurs... i think.
The final scientific verdict on this one is still out...

And about that asteroid that hit planet earth, and caused dinosaur demise?
Who T. F. knows!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Constant themes - do you have some?

After a few years of (serious?) photography do you have some constant themes running thru your work?
I sure hope so. That means you are focusing on something, hopefully refining your vision.
I recently dug into some 16x20 boxes of montage prints i had made way back east, a loooong time ago.
It was revelation - i found prints i had made almost 30 years ago that had very similar themes to much more recent work, in particular, a chair in the middle of some kind of bizarre enviroment. It awaits a visitor. Print done in... oooh... about 1988 or 89.

A west coast update, circa 2014:

And a direction sign, a huge arrow, pointing to who knows what.
The old version:

A west coast update, the raw neg, somewhere around the Salton Sea.

What i did with it in the darkroom:

And a photoshop sketch I have in the works, this is how I figure out what I want to print, and get some idea of how it might (notice the choice of word 'might' as opposed to 'will') work out.

I've done some serious colorization here... but more on that in a future post.

RE moving to Ca. in 1992 - here's a really interesting article:
My Dark California Dream

Credit: Mark Pernice, Image from Curt Teich Postcard Archives/Lake County Discovery Museum, via Getty Images

"Our parents had wide open spaces all around. We still had nature within reach. Now what?"



I am a transplant from the east coast - arrived in SF on NY's day, 1992, with just what i could fit in a Subaru hatchback. Now that's travelin' light, ain't it? I had no great vision or design, or expectations of some kind of 'golden state' stuff. I had visited SF a decade before, on business for an ad agency i worked for, to do a shoot. The photog's ass't got me ridiculously stoned on Hawaiian weed, i loved the way when i woke up on the tenth floor of a hotel on Nob Hill, it was foggy, couldn't see beyond a block or so.
By noon, sunny, beautiful. At least where we were, 'south of market (street)' in SF.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, at the coast it was still socked in, i am sure.

I also went to Reno a few years later to do a shoot for Brick Institute of America, a firehouse in Sparks, NV. I had included a '(bad)weather day' in the estimate, and sure enough the first day was cloudy/murky, no good for shooting.
The car rental agency didn't have the compact i had asked for, so they gave me... a fucking Cadillac, coupe de ville! Lucky me. And lucky me that i took it up into the hills...
Civilization melts away, there is nothing but raw land and cactus of various sorts.
Color me thunderstruck, it stuck in my mind.
Which is why i came back. For good.

I don't think California is over, it's just going thru some 'ch-ch-ch-changes'.
Got it? What city or state hasn't in the last 20 years??

"Our parents had wide open spaces all around. We still had nature within reach."
Now what?"
So you'll have to walk a bit further. Big fucking deal.

I take a 15 minute commute from San Rafael to Novato every day, and yes, i see alot of suburban sprawl, but i also see many huge hills, open space, way more than what has been settled/suburbanized.
If you think the world will stand still so your vision of it will remain true? You're a dreamer, and i don't mean that in a nice way.

I've been here 23 years now, and i still fee like an easterner - alot of Californians come across to me as being a bit spoiled, self centered. Maybe that's as much about my upbringing as it is about the natives.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The 'whatever catches my eye' file

The 'whatever catches my eye' file which I put it at the end of a post is a hit or miss kinda thing. Sometimes there's not much worth mentioning, IMHO. Or maybe i am just not interested in whatever crapola the media head my way.

Other times, there's plenty that might have been off your radar, but deserves your attention, it caught mine, fer sure.

First let's take in some photography:


"In a sense, all photographs are ‘viewfinders.’ The window is also a ‘finder of a view,’ whether from within or without; as such, it acts as a surrogate for the camera lens and the process of photography."
The Window in Photographs by Karen Hellman

I have a few window pix myself, first the straight shots,
then the darkroom montage versions of one of them.

I went to a most prestigious east coast boarding school that required i take Latin and one other language. I chose French. This makes one keenly aware of how fluid and subtle the way we express ourselves is.
American english is derived mainly from  British english, but there are a lot of other things added to the mix. Language is a constantly evolving thing. Especially now, in the internet age. An interesting piece about how fast things change:


A few years ago the acronym 'DWTS' would have been greeted w/ a 'hunh? WTF?' (there's another acronym for ya!).
Now we know it means 'Dancing With The Stars'. And 'What the fuck'.

There are many french words/sentences that have english equivalents.

There are also nuances between french and english that just defy direct translation.

'je ne sais crois...'
This is an easy one:
je = I
ne = this negates whatever follows
sais = know
croix = think

the whole phrase = 'i don't know what to think'

Another one - 'joie de vivre'
Literally 'joy of living'
English equivalent? not sure there is one.
So i found this story/link to be very interesting:



The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead



On my bus commute to & from work a lot of people are glued to a small screen.
But there seem to be, thankfully, a few who read books. Many of them young, more than likely to be glued to some screen. But they are not.


Big Tech Has Become Way Too Powerful - NYT


Ten years ago, i was saved from almost certain death by a brilliant surgeon.
Here's a few words from another one:

"I love my profession. I truly do. It is a privilege to be someone’s surgeon. I have cured countless people of their cancer, improved and extended many lives and shared the highest of highs with my patients. Many times. But the lows are infinitely lower."




Will El Nino arrive? and what will happen when/if it does??

There is a great lesson in this image to be learned,
if you are willing to listen, learn.

White House ruins, Canyon deChelly, Arizona

The first is about geology, the earth, the planet we live on, the tectonic plates our civilizations have rested their foundations on. But, whoops! they are not static.
Look at how carved that rock wall is - wow!

How many civilizations/cultures thrived and then died here is open to great and continuing debate. I have read a few books about this, and they all have a different opinion. Are opnions like assholes - everyone has one.
Perhaps so, but they are all worth discussion. And they make great reading.

The best of social orders, societies, can crash and burn.
This one did just that. Flourished, and when the tides turned (drier climate is the prime suspect) it all disappeared.
This is a brilliant fortress, I doubt invaders did these people in. It's about 50-75 feet above the valley floor, only accessible by rope ladder - pull up the ladder, no one can get to you.
Of course who knows how they got to this spot in the first place. I've seen petroglyphs 50-75 feet above a canyon floor, on rock walls that look unclimable. Unless you are as capable as the guys who recently scaled the face of El Capitan in Yosemite barehanded.



"It started with in-state tuition.
Then came driver's licenses, new rules designed to limit deportations and state-funded healthcare for children. And on Monday, in a gesture heavy with symbolism, came a new law to erase the word "alien" from California's labor code.

Together, these piecemeal measures have taken on a significance greater than their individual parts — a fundamental shift in the relationship between California and its residents who live in the country illegally. The various benefits, rights and protections add up to something experts liken to a kind of California citizenship."

Allow me a few words on immigration.
Times have changed, we now have countries with borders, and rules.

However the history of the American SW is immensely complicated, way too complicated to be dealt w/ by borders and rules. 'Kicking them all out' isn't a solution.
Donald Trump? Go take a flying leap, OK??
This simplistic thinking is actually part of the problem.
The Spanish were here (in Ca.) first, Vallejo willingly sold (gave?) Ca. to the US.
Whose economy and government would you rather live with - the US or Mexico? Given a choice, only an idiot would choose Mexico.

The Wikipedia entry reads:

"General Vallejo was responsible for military peace in the region until 1846, when independence-minded Californians rose up against the Mexican government of California in 1846 in the Bear Flag Revolt, followed subsequently by the annexation of the California Republic to the United States. General Vallejo, though a Mexican army officer, generally acquiesced in the annexation of California to the United States, recognizing the greater resources of the United States and benefits that would bring to California."


'There have beem many flame outs, but few will remain as unforgettable as Hendrix.'

I still listen to Hendrix, as enthralled as I was when I first spun 'Are you experienced' on a turntable.
'All along the watchtower' is marvelous from the first opening thrash to the ending fade out.
BTW, that's Dave Mason playing acoustic guitar on a 12 string. *Beautiful* chord progression.


Here's one my shots that makes me wonder 'how the hell does it end up like that?'
( I am referring to the rock on the far left, a balancing act)

Here's some kind of answer:


I photographed architecture for 10 years on a 4x5 view camera, so anything about architecture is more than likely to catch my eye.
I have read a few articles about a Chicago based architect, a woman who has designed buildings with marvelous twists in them. They defy the usual straight flat facade. Dealing with wind stress is a major part of her concerns, and anyone who designs skyscrapers.

I am in an apt building just 5 stories tall, and when the wind is howling, i can see the water in my toilet bowl slowly rocking back and forth. At ten or twenty times this height? The structural stress must be enormous.


So far, with all the sway, i haven't missed the bowl, taking a piss.


San Francisco’s strange detour from paradise to parody


I couldn't read most of this, the sfchron website is nothing but headlines and an ad for subscriptions.
But just the title gives me a good idea of what the story is about.

'detour from paradise to parody'?

Many cities have gone thru this kind of change. And probably more will.
I graduated boarding school in NH in June 1969. I then went to American University in Wash DC., for all of two semesters. Then I dropped out. Tuned in, turned off, ( or is it the other way round?) as the saying goes.

At that time DC was a rather sleepy sort of southern place, nothing very tall.
K street was all 3, 4 story townhouses, apts for rent.
Now it's glass and metal, 12 stories tall, full of lawyers and lobbyists.

Alexandria Va, just across the Potomac?
Was mostly black, (white) people told me 'you don't want to go there'.
I lived there in '73 - '75 never had any problems w/ anyone - it was live and let live territory ... I wandered the streets on Sun. AM w/ an old Nikon and 24mm lense. Some saxophonist was playing out in the open, for anyone in hearing distance to hear. The perfect sondtrack to a walk at sunrise.
Easy to smoke a joint while walking, there wasn't a soul around.
Before any of it was 'yuppified', which happened pretty soon thereafter.
I remember Springfield Va. when it was really just a field, not a mall or a suburb.
I remember buying a used '60 Chevy off a guy's lawn for 150$ somewhere out there.
Best car i ever had, bar none. You could put a huge TV in the trunk, with room to spare.
That slant V6 engine was awesome.
It was stolen off the street in DC a few years after.
When i described it to the police officer, and mentioned the slant 6 engine?
He said 'forget about finding it - they knew what they were stealing - that engine!'

Bottom line? Everything changes, all the time. But that shouldn't be news to anyone.
Hope you have enjoyed this meandering somewhat off the topic of photography post.
Just so you don't think i have strayed too far from photography, here's an image that will show up in a future post.

Ponder it's meaning -  let your imagination run wild.

I would give you that same advice  -
('let your imagination run wild') even without the photo.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Surreal Wash. DC

This one is an *oldie but a goodie*, fer sure! - a very surreal take on cherry blossom time (March?April?) in Wash. DC.
Done in 1989 or 1990, i forget which. Well before any Photoshop.

It is definitely the wildest montage I have ever done, 27(+/-?) different exposures done over 2 days. Yes, 2 days. How do i keep the developer from going bad? Cover it w/ a very large piece of freezer wrap/plastic sheet, let it fall into contact w/ the liquid, that'll keep the air out. Infinitely re-usable, throw it in a sink and rinse. This was a collaboration - just about all the contributing photos were taken by another photog, Steve Uzzel, the piece was done as one page in a printing companies calendar, the assignment being? 'pull out ALL the stops, go wild, be mind-blowing!!'

Mission accomplished, me thinks. There's cherry blossoms on the trees, the Jefferson memorial (the domed thing in the middle), and Jefferson himself super-sized, numerous gargoyles in the trees, and several moons in the sky.
Yes, folks that's how strange Wash DC can be. And then some.
This was selenium toned, and then hand colored just a bit, the moons, the cherry blossoms, and especially the roaring lion, in the middle, to the right of center.
I think he is the only honest guy around - roaring his discontent to all else. Especially congress and the White House.
It's been so many years, i don't remember many of the production details, but i do know that many of the smaller elements ( gargoyles and moons) were masked with lith film so i could  expose them without any additional background tone. Same goes for the gargantuan Jefferson and the the lion.
After all these years, I like the lion the most.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Darkroom - "cinema au verso"

The title comes from the latin 'au verso' for 'on the other side', but i meant it in another way, as in 'in reverse'.
This one is like cinema in reverse - there's a large light (the sun) projected on a canvas (the earth), then framed and focused down to a small square of light in the lower left corner, it's that small square that made me take this frame.
it's the large empty/vacant spaces that begged for clarification, embellishment.
This one came to me as a concept - i wanted to subvert the flat empty spaces, somehow, some way.

At the top left, i burned in some Red Rock Canyon formations, i love they way they blend in, all the way to the lower left corner - Purr-fect!
For the light area of the wall?...  a stack of stones, a sculpture of sorts found on the beach.
I did three variations on this one - these stones were the last exposure.
I wasn't that keen on how the sky to the right of the stones worked out, i would have preffered to have no sky there, but it's in the neg. Maybe a case for 'hybrid' here? Or maybe some creative handcoloring/retouching?

Photoshop has cast this spell that we must tweak everything til it's perfect.
I don't fall for that very often, but in this case, i tweaked the sky at the right, and the lowest rock just a wee bit. I probably could have done this in the darkroom w/ a copy print, but this is a whole easier.
Wanna see this images a bit larger?
You got it!


In the intermittent 'whatever catches my eye' file, here's a couple of interesting links:

When Computers Go Down, It’s Not Always a Hack
By Vikas Bajaj
July 8, 2015 3:18 pm

I quote from the article:

"If anything, recent technical failures are an important reminder that we are increasingly reliant on systems that can be quite unstable and insecure."
Yes, indeed.


Definitely worth a click, and if you've never seen the book?
Correct that !!ASAP!!


Sunday, June 28, 2015

How about some inspiration?

That's the title of this month's image - 'Inspiration'.

It's one where i did a darkroom print, and then did some digital embellishment, even took a stab at coloring the thing. I've been calling these 'hybrids', darkroom followed by digital. The levels adjustments are the kind of thing i could easily do if i shot a 4x5 copy neg, and did some burning/dodging/contrast adjustments in the reprint. Which is something I did plenty of back in the days before digital.

From bottom to top: there's a hand holding a candle in darkness; an abstract thing, a shot of light coming thru the bottom of a textured bottle, or maybe it was a stack of filters held against the lense, i can't remember at this point...

.....and some campfire flames I have used in a number of contexts.

Here's the basic scan of 'Inspiration':


Here's  the hybrid, w/some levels adjustments, the burning in of some edges - 
pretty simple stuff.

7/17 - A big P.S. and a bit of a rant! I was reviewing this post while drafting the next one, and realized that the tweaks I had done in the full res file (3600 pxls tall) barely showed up in the 700 pxl tall image you can see at the link to my page below.
They sure don't show in the thumbnails above.
All this leads me to comment on what digital has done to image quality - it's taken a BIG nosedive. So much for 'web quality images/discussions on this blog about subtlety'.
It's a waste of time. iPhones and all these other devices have lenses that are made of plastic, no larger than your fingernail. They are crap. People seem thrilled that they can 'share' (which is a euphemism for 'bother you with') whatever they want to.
REAL camera lenses are mad of glass - by Leica, Nikon, Schneider, Fujinon, Pentax.
I shot architecture for 10 years w/ superb Schneider lenses w/ a 4x5 view camera, i still have a pentax 6x7 w/ a 55mm lense so sharp you could slice salami with it.
Now THAT'S image quality!

One last thing? - how many people reading this have seen an Ansel Adams print?
I'll bet the answer is a resounding.......(almost) none.
Your loss. I suggest you correct this oversight whenever possible.
or buy a book, a real book, of the work of the masters of the past.

[[OK, end of rant, return to blog]]

Now here's some digital coloring. It's always interesting to try, but i can do soooo much more by hand, with much more subtlety, in less time.

Oh, yeah, almost forgot - i sandwiched the hand w/ a very thin neg of wispy clouds, wanted to add a bit of mysterious texture to the darkness.

I guess this is my version of 'the light bulb going on' that is so often used to express this.

For larger images, go here:
The world has gone wacko IMHO, but the news this week had some bright spots. The Supreme court decided that gay marriage was OK, and the ACA was constitutional too.
I'm not gay, couldn't care less who sleeps with, or marries, who ...as long as it's consensual. And the ACA has been good for me! - a subsidy that reduces my insurance from 700-something to 77/mo. is very niiiice! And I'm don't feel guilty about it - in a few years i hit Medicare, and the feds pick up the whole tab!

In the 'whatever catches my eye' file this month:
RE: the ocean and the beach:
Very good books, and reviews of them, as always the NYT does it right!





If you agree the world is a bit crazy?... read this:

I'll be trying to continue to live the small happy life (I've been doing it for a while anyway) for another month.
As the terminator said so eloquently:
"Ah'll be back"

Probably more 'beach' - definitely more darkroom.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Temporary shelter - more darkroom

A tent is a temporary shelter, I didn't know what event this was set up for, but it is obviously temporary.

A tent of some sort i shot somewhere in the Presidio in SF, dodged out the top and burned in a sky, with a line of clouds at the bottom that corresponded to the beginning of the top of the tent. Here's my crude photoshop sketch.

This is one where dodging/burning in *just the right way* is really important. Did three prints, all a bit different. Can't decide which is best. Did them all in less than 2 hrs.
In the sketch, you can't see the top of the pole that holds the rope, but for the print I decided to keep it. Don't know why, it just felt right, there needed to be that 'anchor' of sorts.

I guess this one asks a question - we erect shelters of various sorts, but how long-standing are they, any of them?
The sky? Why do i call that 'temporary'? Because it obviously is - sit down, cast your gaze up and watch it morph from moment to moment. At least it does where I live near the California coast where weather is constantly moving in from over the ocean.
Ah, but the sky is a shelter too. On the splash image header on my western skies blog:


......the text reads "we are protected by a thin skin of atmosphere that shields us from who knows what radiation/etc, and transports moisture, and produces rain around the globe - without it? we would be toast, like Mars.
And you've probably seen the images beamed back from NASA's great vehicle on Mars. The Mojave is most considerable hospitable compared to this. For one thing, it's got a (breathable for humans) atmosphere.
The sky is perhaps a much more important shelter than whatever we build will ever be.

Our atmosphere now?
78% Nitrogen, 21% oxygen

I read somewhere that at 20 % oxygen? ...nothing would burn.
So much for cooking much of anything.

At 25% oxygen? EVERYthing would burn.
I like birds. Use 'em in my montage work from time to time.

I grew up in Maine, in a small town. In winter i would wander down to the end of my street, which opened into farmland - there were only a few colors - white=snow, green = pine trees, blue = sky.
And also black = crows.
So I saw this in the NYT Science section, I definitely clicked on the link to the article.
"When Birds Squawk, Other Species Seem to Listen"

'Inside' -  NYTimes



Here's some awesome improvisation/ temporary art from a guy I've mentioned in this blog before:



"Click Here for the Beach"
By John Guida and Sara Barrett
May 5, 2015 2:39 pm


In his book “The Mysterious Opacity of Other Beings,” the photographer Richard Misrach offers a unique beach experience. The bird’s-eye images of swimmers, sunbathers and expanses of beach and ocean were taken by Mr. Misrach on a digital camera from a hotel balcony in Honolulu.