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.