Thursday, October 30, 2014

Road Trip ~

My weekly (some say weakly) blog activity was postponed last week on account of one of my other favorite activities, a road trip. And a big fat one at that, from Portland to Chicago in a fast car. Road trips can have two possible purposes, not always mutually exclusive: to get somewhere (which is probably just a state of mind, anyway), and to wander about looking for things to see and photograph (ditto). This had both of those elements, and to see family at the other end was nothing short of wonderful. I don't often get the opportunity to photograph my big brother, a wonderful artist and musician, and am always inspired when I do. And thus the portrait above. Salúd, Ricardo.

Photographers are restless people, as artists generally are. We travel, says Anais Nin, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls. We go the long way around just to see what there is, and for me, that's often right here in the studio. I long for the restlessness, and sometimes the itchy longing to be home again. For most of us, to travel is to be home.

Just make sure you bring a camera.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Old, And In The Way ~

This is the first digital camera I actually owned. Sure, I was repping for (and later, Pro Photo) so I had access to all the latest pro digital gear that came down the road, but I bought this very one at some point in 2002: the Olympus E-20. Enormous 5 megapixels, shot jpeg's and tiff's, although it took about 10 seconds to write the tiff files. I dug it out the other day, popped in a couple fresh batteries, and voilá! like Frankestein's monster, it came to life. Well, maybe not life as we know it. Although it took CF cards, it couldn't format anything bigger than 1Gb (and maybe not even that) and for the life of me I couldn't find any CF card in my collection smaller than 8Gb. And I was so looking forward to shooting some side-by-sides with my 7D and Fuji Xe2 to see how image quality has evolved and improved over the years. Anyone have any antique cards? Although this photo I took on the Oregon coast with that E-20 in the Fall of '04 shows it had some worthwhile chops.

Time is not a constant thing; it flows at crazy rates all throughout the universe. The film cameras we owned -- the Hasselblads, the Nikons -- were just as good and useful to us after 10, even 20 years. But the twelve years that separate that E-20 from when it was made till now seems like an eternity, and it's now functionally obsolete.

And some mornings when I wake up, I think I know the feeling.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

And Now Let's Get Rid Of Some Color ~

I just don't work in black & white very much, which is a little ironic considering that a big portion of my pre-digital career was spent perfecting those very skills. There was intense craftsmanship to it all: a wide range of films, all with very definite personalities; filter and exposure techniques to master (can't get Zone System out of mind, even now); developing and printing techniques to bring out what you saw (or thought you saw) in the camera. All heady stuff.
One thing is, I just haven't gotten around to setting my cameras to work in monochrome, so I look for color and then try to make conversions in software. Those who do work in monochrome consistently produce outstanding images; my studio mate Whitney and my brother Jim both come to mind.  So what I've been exploring recently are those images that are very monochromatic in nature, so a natural exposure doesn't reveal very much color information to start with. Then -- just like in the "old" days -- I start to see the dominance of texture and the power of design instead.

If you're one of my regular readers -- and indeed if you are, you should probably start spending your time more productively -- then you'll recall how dependent on onOne Photosuite software I am. And here's why: for the first time since I left the delicious analog world of film and paper, I have an arrangement of tools that match up to the photographic vision I've been working and re-working for nearly a half-century. Both color and black & white.

Years and years ago, I had the pleasure of working with an old photographer who taught me as much about life as about photography. He told me that every new technique you master is another hammer in your toolbox that you can use to pound little pieces of reality into shape.

I've never stopped collecting hammers.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Old & Wrinkly = Character, Rght?

My wife was fixing to throw away a bouquet of roses this morning. That, in and of itself, should not be the cause of anything particularly noteworthy. But these roses were indeed past their prime, which made them particularly noteworthy to me. You know me, I love photographing flowers, and when they start showing their age I'm delighted to haul them down to the studio and use them to avoid doing real work. These were no exception.
I think there is a sublime beauty in living things as they age gracefully, whether they be roses or people. We're all going down that same road (some of us faster than others, I assure you) and it is the re-telling of the experiences of a long life that makes such wonderful photography. The rest, as the poets say, is merely prologue.

And to be honest it was also an opportunity to put my new Fuji mirrorless through its paces. For the record, it's the Xe2, and I think it's the beginning of a beautiful friendship. My initial attraction to mirrorless was not so much to any particular model, nor to any perceived improvement in image quality (my Canon gear fit that bill nicely) but instead -- again -- to the vagaries of age, and the not-so-graceful progression of it that I seem to exhibit. 40+ years of hauling camera gear around has left my shoulder in poor and painful shape (although, since we're being honest, I like complaining.) It's going to be a joy to go out wandering with something so light, so responsive, so versatile, and so fun.

Guys my age appreciate the companionship.