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'


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.

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:


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!


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 ;-)

Monday, February 6, 2017

An old fashioned gas pump, a derelict arrow/sign

This gas pump no longer pumps, hasn't for a while. A symbol of....? I'm not sure what - power that was, but is no more, at least here at this station. 
And a big blank arrow, pointing... but to where or what?

It all started when i came upon this abandoned store, if memory serves me halfway well, in a place called Death Valley Junction, Ca. Rtes 127 & 190. These frames were taken over 20 years ago, i have been by more recently, and 'progress' has caught up with it. The abandoned gas station was an active/open store of some sort catering to tourists. I didn't even go inside. 
Here's the contact sheet from the first visit: 

I got sooo much mileage out of this, it was one lucky prescient discovery.
As for the horse shoes on the antler? I'll get back to that later.

I did numerous 'sketches' & studies of what to do with the gas pump and the direction sign:

Ended up doing this darkroom print:

The dodging/blending is very simple on this one:
Dodge out both top and bottom, starting about 1/3 way from top or bottom, ending
beyond the halfway point. 
I've always found that overlapping 2 images more than i might think would work actually works the best.

Then I hand colored it, and added a bit of digital saturation.

So maybe the image asks a question of the viewer - when you are out of gas, and got no clear direction, whaddaya do then? Punt? Give up and rollover dead?? I hope not - snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, turn a lemon into lemonade.
This not the obvious take away from this image = 'you are out of gas, and got no clear direction'.

But the best response is: Life hands you a lemon? Make lemonade!

In the very so often 'whatever catches my eye' file:

We live in times of 'alternate facts', a president that is IMHO spinning out disgraceful behavior on a daily basis. I keep replaying this track in my mind, regularly.

Orig. studio recording:
Gimme Shelter
 "Oooo storm is threatenin' my very life today,
If i don't get some shelter yeah, i'm gonna fade away"

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Time for another sandwich

A landscape from Joshua tree, Barker Dam Lake 
(who'd think there would be a lake in a place a desolate and dry as Joshua Tree?):

...juxtaposed/sandwiched with two different frames of rolling stones, also Joshua Tree. 

They make for an interesting vision. Questions abound - how did the rolling stones get there?? What has rounded them, and rolled them to this place? Here's the two sandwich prints:

The little details are intriguing:

There are many such conundrums to be found at Joshua Tree NP.


Perhaps the two rolling stones are not solid rock, but lenses, allowing a view to geologic history, the shaping of this place by nothing else but water, vast quantities of it, over many millions of years, more fingers and toes than you can count on.

This one really screamed 'hand-color me!' So I did.

I must admit that after i scanned this, i hit the 'hue/saturation' buttons rather hard :-)

In the occasional 'whatever catches my eye file':

I find this to be very depressing:

“Most of my top clients are on Instagram,” said Gorvy, who joined in March 2015 and has 54,000 followers. His daily posts are a mix of art images, artist quotes, personal musings, lyrics from David Bowie or Leonard Cohen. “That’s where the future is. It’s now, it’s happening.”

When i went into art directing in 1976, you could call up a creative director at an agency, get a few minutes of his/her time = some human contact, Same w/ fine art photo gallery people. I always thought it was about 'human contact'. Is instagram 'human contact'??

Obama names Utah, Nevada monuments despite GOP opposition
[Associated Press]
Brady Mccombs, Associated Press
Associated PressDecember 29, 2016

FILE - This April 5, 2012 file photo shows rock formations in Gold Butte, located about 90 miles northeast of Las Vegas. President Barack Obama designated two national monuments Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, at sites in Utah and Nevada that have become key flashpoints over use of public land.

But Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye called it an exciting day for his tribe and people of all cultures.

"We have always looked to Bears Ears as a place of refuge," Begaye said. "The rocks, the winds, the land — they are living, breathing things that deserve timely and lasting protection."

Some westerners, the Clive-Bundy-type crowd, view their 'rights' ( to 'manage', mine, profit from the resources of the land) as superior to the larger 'rights' of those who would want it saved intact, or at least as intact as is possible at this point in time.

Let's back to a more basic concept - Who really 'owns' land?
Answer: No one. Not really.