Saturday, November 18, 2017

Seven sisters

If i come upon a few negs months ago, and make a montage, ...and then come back to the same negs/montage months later, unknowingly and most circuitously, and do another somewhat different montage.... am i repeating myself, wandering in the woods?
Or rather recirculating, revising, updating, improving?

This collection of rocks is called 'seven sisters', there are of course,
seven of them, all 50 ft. tall.

Here's the contact sheet:


I'm not sure, not sure i care which is which.
The color version was first, the B and W was second.




Just switching the orientation of the octillo (?)(foreground) changed everything.
Now the highlighted upper branch extends into the rock at the left in a different way, it's the same image, sort of, but not the same.

Soooo... here's 'hats off' to a second time 'round.



In the 'whatever catches my eye' file:

On Stephen Shore, and Looking for America
Nov. 9, 2017

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Maybe it's time we Homo sapiens re-evaluated our relationship with the oceans of the world.

"Prehistoric, Dinosaur-Era Shark With Insane Teeth Found Swimming Off Coast of Portugal"

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Mystery 'Shadow Patch' in Pacific Hasn't Moved For 1,000 Years And Scientists Finally Know Why



Please take a few moments to check out my self published books:




'California Beach Trip':
On Amazon:

'Desert Trip'
On Amazon:

'Seeking the Vibe'
On Blurb:

Previews of all at:

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Some Spooky stairs



This is one of the last two prints i will make in the darkroom - old age, in the form of a bad back (sciatica! Yeeoowch!) - has gotten the better of me, just can't bend over those trays or the enlarger easel and grain focuser.

There are two reasons why i am entranced by this print:

#1 - it goes to show something i have believed for a long time - montage isn't about lots of fancy darkroom tricks, at least not for me. It's about having the right negs, and finding/choosing them from amongst the thousands i have... and then composing very, very carefully. And then printing/exposing negs with some amount of care, but w/ some variation, improvisation. As an old song lyric goes 'hold on loosely, but don't let go'. Sometimes a mistake is a mistake, sometimes it's a blessing in disguise. Figuring out which is which, now that's the hard part.

The top part of this one is simply two monster sculpted rocky orbs w/ a space between them in Joshua Tree. The place is full of impossible jumbles of rock formations. 



The frame at bottom right, some machinery at the Wall St. Mill:




The legacy of one William Keys, this was his ranch:


And one notation of his handiwork, the place was lawless.


Another thing? ...they didn't have triple A out here in the early 40's.







#2 - This is the perfect image to end my darkroom work with - the stairs lead up.. and disappear into... the rocks? ..the space between them? Will i find myself between a rock and a hard place, going digital w/ my montage??

The answer is ...NO! Since the aborted-on-account-of-sciatica darkroom session, i have done over a hundred new images. Yeah, i know, my old photog. friends are saying 'what took ya so long, dummy-dude?'.
I really like the limitations darkroom imposes, they make you 'shit or go blind'. Good training. And as I've been saying for decades 'it's the most fun you can have with your clothes on'.

I took a stab at digitally coloring this one, w/ mixed results:


Digital coloring has a 'fake' quality to it sometimes, this is a good example.

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In the occasional 'whatever catches my eye' file, as i cruise towards my 66th B'day, this one sure did:

What Happens to Creativity as We Age?

Gray Matter

By ALISON GOPNIK and TOM GRIFFITHS AUG. 19, 2017, New York Times



There's a lyric in a Jefferson Airplane (?) song, Grace Slick sings it:
'You're only as pretty as you feel'.

You're only as old as you feel, too.


Monday, September 4, 2017

Encryption machine


The basic/most important neg was shot at the 'Musee Mechanique' in SF/Cliff house, 
which was situated below the classy restaurant level:


Yes, this is the montage, sand and sky:









Cliff House over the years.

Don't know where the idea for this one came from, after all i did it many years ago, in 2008.
The basic shot is of the guts of an old fashioned player piano, you wind it up somehow, the wheels start spinning, and the perforations in the paper roll in the middle strike the keys of the piano. The clouds and the sand, above and below? Which is being recorded?... or played back as the case may be? A tantalizing enigma, come to your own conclusions.  

"A player piano (also known as pianola) is a self-playing piano, containing a pneumatic or electro-mechanical mechanism that operates the piano action via pre-programmed music recorded on perforated paper, or in rare instances, metallic rolls,............"


Another great item to be experienced here:





Here's more from the Musee Mechanique:



'Pick a card, any card'



Secrets



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A digital montage that looks like darkroom

I've been doing darkroom/film montage for 3+ decades, i've developed a sixth sense for what i shoot on film, and a similar gut-level compass for finding the right two or three negs to weave together.
For the last few weeks, i've been wallowing in digital montage, color pix & symmetry, i stopped and wondered - "i am losing my B and W bearings?". 
So one Sat. AM i opened up a neg i'd made in Joshua Tree, and looked for it's 'companion', it didn't take long for one neg to step up to the plate, volunteer, and fit right in, nicely. It's sort of a sandwich in that the lower layer is 'normal' but the next layer up is on 'screen'. Yes, there are blending masks going on.

Here's the negs:





And here is the montage, it feels a whole lot like my analog darkroom work!


Making this confirmed my faith that some skills ( photomontage among them) are like riding a bike - once you learn, you never forget. Old muscles may be dormant, but only that - "dormant" - waiting to be used.
And those instincts lead me to make images that have some marvelous details - in this one, the rock formations at the top blend into the clouds on the bottom neg, most 'serendipitously' - if that is a word Webster's would accept.


Here's a screen shot of the PSD file:


The layers from the bottom up:
1 The Joshua tree 'window'
2 The Joshua tree 'window', cleaned up
3 A black gradient, making the bottom pretty much pure black
4 A levels layer, some contrast, the hi-lites got a kick in the ass
5 The Red Rock canyon landscape, with a mask layer blending out the bottom
6 One final levels adjust, that increases contrast on layer 5

This blog software won't show this at the size i loaded - if you'd like a larger view? - click on it, drag and drop it to your desktop, open that in a browser.

Several rules you should observe while building come thing like this:
• start at the bottom (obviously!) and add a layer at a time, don't change the order, that will affect the effect - yes, i am wording that correctly.
• good idea = to double click on the layer title, name it appropriately. I don't always follow my own rules if the layer palette tells me all i need to know.
* Third rule - TAKE YOUR TIME! Save... and return again, later.

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Finally, to tackle the big question 'what does it mean?'.....
Sometimes i have something resembling an answer, sometimes not. I don't like to try too hard on that one, it either happens or not.
There is a lot of tension in this one - at the bottom you are looking out from a cave, from under an overhang, of sorts. At the top you are looking up, at towering eroded cliffs. Maybe there isn't a simple answer, but something more complicated - a question - can radically different points of view coexist?
There is one spot in the center where the two images flow together.
And maybe that's what this means - there can be some unity, some confluence amidst the turbulence, the contrasts, the antagonisms of images, and landscapes before us.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Old muscles never need a tune up




Where do ideas/images like this one come from?
Where does inspiration for images like this reside?
Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies. Perhaps it comes from pondering our recent drought... which has now reversed itself, and may well become floods this spring/summer. The west has been shaped by water, you can't help but look at the desert and not see that no matter how dry it is now, it's sloping playas were formed by water, massive amounts of it.
In this image you are looking at Mono Lake, the horizon in the middle, and what's called tufa rising from it.
Just below the horizon, a few tumbled boulders leak a bit of the water into the foreground - the lake is ...drying...?
The tumbled boulders are from Tioga Pass (above Yosemite), at 8,000+ feet elevation. What and how does anything get tossed around at that elevation??
Don't ask me, ask a geologist.

Here's the contact sheets:




And here's a digitally colored version:




I've always liked this one frame, just one person, sitting... thinking, i suppose., or hope.
A tree grows behind him, several 'rolling stones' frame him.

From the 'whatever catches my eye' file, this one deserves your attention:


Many of the other creatures we share the planet with are a lot smarter than previously given credit for.
And we are plundering the planet in more ways than you can imagine:

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Symmetry - Let's go digital for a change!


I've loved mandalas since i first set eyes on one. 
Incredibly detailed, psychedelically colorful, mind boggling, and entrancing.



"A mandala (Sanskrit: मण्डल, lit, circle) is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the universe.[1] In common use, "mandala" has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe.
The basic form of most mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. Each gate is in the general shape of a T.[2][3] Mandalas often exhibit radial balance.[4]
The term appears in the Rigveda as the name of the sections of the work, but is also used in other religions and philosophies, particularly Buddhism.
In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of practitioners and adepts, as a spiritual guidance tool, for establishing a sacred space, and as an aid to meditation and trance induction".
A few years ago i started doing symmetrical images in Photoshop:


I have loads of sky photos, that was the starting point. Then I continued adding things to the images:


And reshaping them any which way that occurred to me.
I quote Robert Rauschenberg in my artist statement:

"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 also have several boxes of things I've collected thru the years, from walks on the beach - stones, bones, shells, these are a small part of my 'visual library' so to speak.


I guess maybe i could call them 'modern mandalas.'















This takes you to a portfolio page of images:


This goes to a 'how to' page, showing how i built this image:


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And now a few words about my books:
(Check 'em out - i doubt you will be disappointed.)

After many years of making darkroom photomontage (since the late 80's), and not being able to get arrested for it except for a few appearances in competitive group shows, and some assignment illustrations in various magazines ....I am designing & publishing books I make at Blurb with 'Bookify' - two of them are on Amazon, one is at Blurb.

'California Beach Trip':
On Amazon:

'Desert Trip'
On Amazon:
This includes an image i have recently posted, titled 'Desert Time'.

'Seeking the Vibe'
On Blurb:

Previews of all at:


As the Terminator most famously said: "Ah'll be back"



Monday, March 20, 2017

Window to soul

I've been wrestling w/ some nasty developments lately - my aging (65 YO) lower spine has gifted me w/ this thing called sciatica, which makes bending over the easel, especially to use the grain focuser, and bending over those smelly trays of chems. into a very painful experience. So it's time to go digital with montage. I never thought it would happen but now that it has? ....WTF, 'continue on, dude'.
Taking 'fun' drugs is a youthful pursuit. 
The drugs i take now stave off several not so nice conditions.

This one was done painfully, refusing to take one of the 95 or so hydrocodone pills i have. They totally wack your system. I won't join the legions of people who are addicted to this shit.

It went thru quite a metamorphosis from beginning to end.
It's a sandwich, two negs together in the enlarger neg holder, exposed at the same time.
The P'shop sketch looked pretty interesting.
Here's the window neg:


And the sky:



It needed some serious photoshop help, and got it, 'cause i really like what's going on. The window was shot somewhere in the mojave desert; the totally weird cloud, shot off my rooftop deck in SF, both many years ago. How i managed to combine such disparate elements i have no idea.
There's a saying: 'shit happens'. 
But serendipity happens too.
Is the cloud inside the room, or somewhere beyond? 
Make up your own answer. 
Mine is 'both'.
Windows are common and finite, the clouds are infinite, at 20,000... 30,000 feet.

First, the digital sketch that got me going.


Then a quick dig colorizing that had some interesting possibilities:


Then the darkroom print:



and finally the darkroom print w/ some digital color.


The key to making this work w/ the digital coloring is 'balance'.
There's a blue hue sat layer affecting the window, a selective color layer hitting up the background, and another SC layer wacking the details in the background. It's not really very complicated, you just have to have a plan that really addresses your ideas, and execute it, carefully and tastefully.
Yes, beyond 'balance'? - 'careful and tasteful' are the keywords. Always!

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After many years of making darkroom photomontage (since the late 80's), and not being able to get arrested for it except for a few appearances in competitive group shows, and some assignment illustrations in various magazines ....I am designing & publishing books I make at Blurb with 'Bookify' - two of them are on Amazon, one is at Blurb.


'California Beach Trip':
On Amazon:


'Desert Trip'
On Amazon:
This includes an image i have recently posted, titled 'Desert Time'.


'Seeking the Vibe'
On Blurb:

Previews of all at:

Signing Off - the silverwizard ;-)