I was very excited to find my copy of Bruce Percy‘s new book hanging from my mail box when I got home on Wednesday. Bruce’s book is a collection of 40 of his images that cover both his landscape and portraiture work, one image per page with an accompanying page of text. I suspect that the title is a nod to Galen Rowell and Bruce acknowledge’s in his introduction that the format is a nod to Ansel Adam’s book ‘Examples: The making of 40 images‘. The foreword is written by Michael Kenna another of Bruce’s influences.
I’ve been a big fan of Bruce’s photography for quite a while, although I associate him more with landscape photography than portrait work so the mix in the book is curious choice for me. I find the photographs of Scotland particularly intriguing – perhaps the familiarity of being of being at home allows Bruce to push beyond the obvious pretty landscape and try for something that is less of a record of the scene and more a record of what he felt. If there are any images where he is channelling Michael Kenna it is these, but that’s not to say that these are Kennaesque copies. Rather, they use the recognition and inspiration from Kenna’s work that the camera need not faithfully record the scene but can effectively capture your response to the scene. It’s a great book, one that I’m going to enjoy going through in much more detail.
You can find ‘Art of Adventure’ for sale here. Well worth adding to your collection.
With the review event as a deadline, I’m now working though my archives for a set of photographs that hang together as a cohesive set. I think that I have a reasonable nucleus of images that would work and I’m considering including the one above in the group. I believe that this was taken on the morning that I ended up in the water with my camera. As is the case with many of the photographs that I ultimately end up liking, this was a throw away shot. Not something that I tried hard for or thought too much about. I saw the wave, thought it was pretty interesting and made the photo. It took me longer to type that last sentence than it did to go through the process. I like the motion blur that I got in this image and also that the horizon is ambiguous.
I’d be interested in hearing what you have to say about it too.
I end up buying a lot of books, some I find more interesting and useful than others. The difficulty that I have is knowing what level the book is pitched towards. Books about photographing kids can be a real mixed bag. I have found a few that I liked. Nick Kelsh‘s book ‘How to Photograph Your Baby: Revised Edition‘ is interesting. Not f stops and shutter speeds but more what it takes to get a good shot of your kids. Working through some of the ideas had a significant impact on the quality of the photos of my kids. Well worth a look.
My recent purchase was Photographing Childhood by Lanola Kathleen Stone. I regretted the purchase as soon as I’d clicked buy on the amazon.com site. What was I thinking? I take a lot of photos of my kids but I’m happy enough with what I’m getting that I don’t feel a need to pursue this hard. I was blown away when Photographing Childhood showed up on my doorstep a few days later and I began flipping through it. The book covers a lot of ground, beginning worth a historical tour through some of the masters who’ve shot children and then onto the only chapter that deals with technical issues ‘Tools of the Trade’ which discusses light more than it does f stops and shutter speeds (awesome!) before hitting ‘A Timeline of Childhood’, a tour through some contemporary photographers and dealing with issues of file storage. If you only read the the chapters dealing with the historical and contemporary photographers you’d be ahead of the game. Buried in this section is a primer on how to view new images and a list of questions to run through as your doing so – for me this was worth the price of admission. Even if your primary focus is not shooting kids this is a great book to have on your shelf. Go get it!
When I first came across Joni Sternbach‘s photographs over on Chris Orwig’s site I was amazed that the photographs were ‘modern’ because they look like they were from a century ago. While I listened to the interview that Joni did with Chris Orwig it didn’t really resonate with me how much effort goes into making these images. The tintype photographs that Joni is producing really were the ‘instant photographs’ of the day back in 1850. These images are developed on site in a portable darkroom. It really is quite remarkable when you consider the hostile environment that Joni is working in. Check out the video for more.
I spend a lot of time traveling around Boston using the underground system which is locally referred to as ‘The T’. Even though I’d traveled around for years on the T it was only since my obsession with grungy iPhone photos kicked in that it occurred to me that there were some potential images to be made while waiting for the train. Initially I considered these to be sketches of what I might be able to do with my ‘real’ camera. Even so I quite like what I’ve been able to do so far and will continue to push the idea forward.
The more I photograph the more I become aware of what I want to achieve with a particular photograph. Often when a photograph fails to wow me it’s not because I didn’t get the composition right but rather it is because it doesn’t leap of the page in the way that I think it should. My big struggle has been that I couldn’t quite put my finger on what the problem is it not sharp enough, not saturated enough not enough contrast. What?
I’ve never been much of a student of history but I do enjoy understanding how other people work and what tools they use. Watching the Christopher Burkett video I posted recently there was the mention of his use of contrast masks and the impact these have on his images. So why not give that a go?
Using ‘The Google’ I found this tutorial on the use of digital contrast masks on the luminous landscape website. Just following the tutorial as described I was able to take the image from last week from this:
Which with some final tweaks becomes this:
What do you think? Seems like an improvement to me.
If something’s worth doing it’s worth doing to excess. I’ve subsequently tried this technique out on 20 or so images with varying degrees of success. The contrast mask, not too surprisingly, reduces contrast which may not be the appropriate fix for all of my images. I’m starting to have a sense of where this technique will work for my photographs, generally for images that I take within 10 – 15 mins of sunrise and will try this out before I do any heavy lifting in photoshop. Try it out for yourself and let me know how things turn out.
Lumiere Press are celebrating their 25 th anniversary with the release of STEICHEN: Eduard et Voulangis . As I’m sure you’re all well aware Eduard Steichen was an American photographer, painter, and art gallery and museum curator. Amongst other things Steichen was the first fashion photographer and the curator responsible for the family of man exhibition at the MoMA: An exhibit of 508 photos by 273 photographers in 68 countries were selected from almost 2 million pictures submitted by famous and unknown photographers.
STEICHEN: Eduard et Voulangis focuses on the period of Steichen’s life just after the first world war when he spent time in his home village of Voulangis, just outside of Paris, experimenting and developing as an artist. The volume pairs a very early portfolio of the early modernist work of Eduard Steichen, with an essay from Michael Torosian that charts the path of Steichen’s early development as an artist, his ascent in the orbits of Paris and New York and the confluence of cultural, aesthetic and personal events that dramatically forged his work as a photographer. My copy arrived just before I headed off for a trip to Europe and I’m looking forward to chance to dig into when I return home.
After my moment of angst, self-doubt, call it what you will I was back at the beach again recently. I don’t think that I’ve ever managed to be at the beach at exactly the same point in the tide’s cycle and so I’m always surprised by what i find. On this morning there were sand bars that meant the incoming tide would be deep and then very thin giving rise to some interesting contrasts in texture of the water at the shutter speed that I was using. I’ll be back for more.
For me the Lindhof Techno falls into the group of things that are out of reach. I’ve never shot film, never used a medium format camera and yet this camera appeals to me on all kinds if levels. It’s a digital based system using the medium format backs from companies like Hasselblad or Phase One. High resolution files and big prints! That it is a medium format system with bellows, means that you can get excellent front to back depth of field. Something that you would have to use either focus stacking or a tilt shift lens on a DSLR to get close to. It looks like it would be work to set up an use – this more deliberate style of photography is something that increasingly appeals to me rather than the run and gun approach that I all too often fall into with my DSLR.
I’d love to rent one of these systems for a couple of weeks to see how I’d get along with it – let me know if you know where I could rent one. If you have experience with the Linhof Techno I’d be delighted to hear your experience with it.
I sincerely hope that your Halloween was less eventful than it has been for many residents of New England. An early winter snow dropped several inches of snow on the region, leaving many without power, prompting many towns to shift their Halloween festivities to the coming weekend.
The image above was taken before the games began, while my family were looking for pumpkins for the front step. Taken with my iPhone this image was processed with my usual lomography workflow.