Monday, November 25, 2013

Still Life-ing Along.

I'm getting smarter, one 25 sheet box of 8X10 HP5 at a time, but it ain't easy...  I've always dipped in and out of still life, whether a momentary transfixtion with spinning gyros or wrapping a Shiprock chunk in snake skin.  When I got my hands on an 8X10 Deardorff I struggled with it outside for a bit but then parked it in the studio with a softbox on one side and started building sets.

  A couple of observations about still life. First: if the set-up isn't going to wilt, wither, quit spinning and fall over, melt, burn up or dry up, why bother?    A still life of a static set-up, like bones or bottles, isn't quite as good as the bones or bottles themselves, no?  So just do sculpture or assemblages instead and leave the camera out of it.  Photographic still life ought to have some hoop to jump through that actually requires a camera for it's imagery.  That usually means a time component.

  Second: still life is very hard.  Why is it hard?  Because, its a mind-flip from normal photographic reality.  Shoot a wedding- or a landscape, you are shooting a subject that you don't control.  There it is: make it happen.  Landscape, say something nice and simple, like the Grand Canyon or a blooming pear, is like imaging the mind of God....plenty hard, but pick the spot and get to work.  In still life you have to ASSEMBLE the mind of God.  The whole thing is in your hands.  And guess what?  Your hands are probably weak.  It's a tremendous task.  Shooting Half Dome- well, Half Dome is ready-built.  How about you imagine, construct, light, lens and CREATE something, and oh yes, please make it as least as good as a tourist shot of Half Dome.

  So I've got a little list of assemblages I am working through.  Some will work and some won't.  There's always a problem, or something unforeseen technically with the subject.  Ice.  Fire.  Tacki-wax too hard or too soft.  Lighting.  Posing.  More posing.

  So here I am warming up a month ago.  Nobody moving.  Funnel a gift from Debbie Fleming Caffery.

Busted crockery from a hotel in Connecticutt.

Tin can from estate sale, ebay nautilus.

I really enjoyed these images, but am searching for something on the next level.

I spent two weeks getting to this.

Stacked cups and added fire.  There's a lot more to this than it looks like, believe me. This is the FIRST version.  I learned.

There we go.

Starting point.

Got more complex...

Then a little grabbing and snatching.

I blew gently on the candles to get them to blossom.  That white doorknob was a gift from radula about 20 years ago.  Finally using it.  Coming back to this idea...

Then a nice simple hand....

Shooting at night.  Easier to see the image on the ground glass.

Glove mold borrowed from friends down the block.

And a slightly better idea..

This isn't even the last image.  It evolved.  I won't discuss the last idea I had with this, but it had me hopping up and down in the studio.

    Two exposures: one by a softbox for the image and another to add the flames.  It makes a big difference which one you shoot first.  See those drops of wax on the baseboard?  They flick away...IF you have sprayed the board with water.  If not, they soak in and ruin the board.  You wouldn't believe the gobos/reflectors/light-dams et. I used in just this one simple shot.  I'm even using a big dodging tool I built to block highlights on some of the one-minute softbox exposures.  

Catch-box for falling objects between the set and camera front.  I re-smashed a nautilus shell early before I rigged this up. It's caught several things.  I used the busted nautilus and liked it so much that now I am nervously contemplating breaking another nautilus.  Weird.

  Stuff freezing.  More stuff to stack.  Feathers.  Candles.  Knives.  Frozen tableware.  25 more sheets on the way from B& H.  

Here's one that didn't make the cut, but I KNOW why it didn't make the cut.  I'm doing more with backgrounds now, searching and learning.  Some of my stupid first ideas are evolving.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fall Lab work.

  Lots of fun in a 50 sheet box of Ilford Multigrade warmtone.  Just ran through the end of a box yesterday.  Takes about four printing sessions.  Still having enlarger field-illumination issues.  They just don't make these so they work, even the famously-promoted and improved Zone VI isn't any good.  Struggling by.  Always gives you some odd burning and dodging patterns.  After a couple test strips to get the contrast and exposure close, I use a whole piece of paper with no burning or dodging to see where it needs work.  Then it usually takes one more after that to fine tune.  Three full sheets and strips to get a print.  Typical.

See the dark bar down the left edge?  Plus the rampart was over-dodged.  I gave up on this one because it has two black pinholes in the upper left sky.  Gotta patch holes in the negative.  If I can get them handled it will be no problem, now that I have seen it.

Unprinted negative for a show next year.

My handbuilt frames.

Never printed.  Very tricky.

Last print of the box.  White trees.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fall Darkroom session, 2013

Just five prints.  Working on some negatives from Shiprock, Canyon de Chelly and France.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Still life-ing.

Contact printing the 8X10 still lifes.  They really look better on real paper.  Using Ilford Multigrade Warmtone.  I just ran the contacts under the proofing enlarger while I worked on enlarged prints on the Zone VI enlarger.  When I finished I had 12 contact prints!

Pilates student dropped one of my nautilus shells....but really made it even more interesting.

All the scavenged materials I have around- shells, bones, desert-rusted cups, busted hotel crockery from Connecticutt...using it all, plus some.  These are all in a big tin funnel Debbie Fleming Caffery gave me.

Working through this progression.  I thought I was done but I might have just been starting to learn.

Light from the other side.

And from the other, other side.  Lighting on these looks simple, but it's pretty complex.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Texas Historical Cannons.

Starting the TSRA calendar for 2015.....

Jackson and I shot a morning on the Battleship Texas at the San Jacinto battleground.  This is a little iphone image.  I mostly worked with my D300 Nikon.  The Battleship staff were very helpful.

The first impression of the Texas is how dark it is.  WWII camo paint, they say.

Jackson checking out Turrent 1.

Looks like there might be some details for a view camera approach on board.


Twin Sister replicas in the graveyard at the site of the Texan camp.

Flag drying.

Jackson with a 1911 issued to the ship in 1913.  Rare thing.


Calendar shot will be something like this.  Big guns and a lot of them.  14 inchers.

40mm Bofors AA gun dismounted on deck.

Twin Sister Replica in the theater.

Curator Andy Smith was very knowlegeable and helpful.  We were the first folks on the ship that morning at dawn.  I had visited when I was in about the 4th grade and Katie and I went a few years back.  This was the best visit with the most access.  The Texas is quite an artifact. 

First little printing run of the Fall.

Water temp finally down and I made a little run.  Over-did it as usual.  Printed on 11X14 all the way to 20X24.  Want to repeat this week.

  Zone VI enlarger as bad as any.  Very complex burning-in to get an even print.  Big light source and all the hype really didn't do anything.

Looking South from the nose of the Wing in afternoon light.  Big print on 20X24.

A show of White Trees coming up so I have to print a few images and send them into the frames as I go along.  Love this print but very tough to get it to the right emotional pitch.  Made this a little 11X14.

My old friend the Pear Tree.  Every year the development gets a little closer.  Wonder which one of us will go first?

Black tree with a little rising Moon.

The Dance Floor at Shiprock last Summer.

The afternoon shadow of West Hill at Shiprock.