Week 1 – Intermediate Photography

I hope I’m doing this right…this next class proposes a new challenge for me: create new work weekly, whereas I’ve been going back to old habits.  I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a scary concept for me, as I’d like to think that I’m thrifty in how I shoot, but also, I just didn’t do a lot of shooting this summer.  I just developed Thursday a roll that has been in my camera since mid-June.  Can I shoot a roll of film a week, and, in being forced to present at least three new images weekly, how much will my quality suffer, especially if I’m pressed for time elsewhere?  I’m halfway through a roll of Provia, but I don’t want to waste that roll to the needs of expediency, plus it would take nearly a week just to get it processed.  I’ve thought about cutting 36-exposure rolls in half, I’ve thought about a 100ft bulk roll of Fomapan or Kentmere, I’ve been comparing prices back and forth.  A 100ft roll of Tri-X is $50 more than a roll of HP5.  Wow.  With Tri-X, it’s almost exactly the same price between a 100ft roll and the same number of feet in 24-exposure rolls, 36-exposure rolls are cheaper than a bulk roll; and you don’t have to load the cartridges yourself.  I eventually found some newly-expired T-Max 400 in 24-exposure rolls for not too bad a price, since it was there I decided to go with it; I don’t think I’ll feel as bad burning through rolls of T-Max.

I was trying to figure out just how I got a light leak across four out of the first five exposures, I think that it must have happened after I took that fifth picture, and it must have happened on the right (take-up) side of the camera: the light leak is in the same spot on each picture and the effect is lighter counting back from #5.  I’d be disappointed (and probably should find some gaffers’ tape anyway), except that it literally happened only on the pinhole shots, and I suppose that gives them just a bit more of that authentic lo-fi aesthetic.  As for the others, some friends of ours from Ohio were in town, and I like taking pictures of my friends, especially when I haven’t seen some of them for 6-7 years.

Someone else who likes making pictures of his friends is artist and photographer Chuck Close (at least according to this site), and so I give you his daguerreotype portrait of minimalist composer Philip Glass:
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Philip Glass, Stage II – Chuck Close

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass…

I remember seeing the documentary of Close working with the 20×24 Polaroid, but I’m not sure I’d seen his daguerreotypes before, that was a real treat for me looking at them in class.  I love to see the old photographic processes alive and well after 150+ years: it’s a ray of hope that the most tedious and expensive (and best-looking) photographic processes still survive in the modern blink-and-it’s-gone digital world.  I chose the Philip Glass portrait because being a composer myself, I like seeing the masters of my craft celebrated in a larger sense, by those outside the music world, and Philip Glass is one of the only living composers who is fairly well-known and recognizable to a lot of non-musicians.

Close’s work is meaningful to me also because it is transformative: here is a man who started out started out as a painter focusing on portraits, who has embraced the more modern world by using technology, yet he chose the most outdated process of them all.  As his paintings were gigantic, so too can these large format images be increased to truly tremendous size with almost infinite detail.  It’s also a redemptive concept how physical limitations and life circumstances don’t have to end who we are.

Close has been presenting portraits of Glass for some 35 years now, and it’s fascinating to see how he’s physically changed over the years.  Max Reger once said that pigs and composers only come into their own after they’re dead.  Glass is now nearly 80 years old, and while he’s not quite there yet, looking at this new portrait while remembering the old one makes me more conscious of the fact that no one is here forever.  Yet here is a composer whose style is instantly recognizable and oft-imitated, one of the most successful modern classical composers, and here is his image preserved for future generations, just as we have portraits of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and countless others.  May the music last in people’s memories even longer than his image.  In Close’s portrait, I see a man approaching immortality.

This post was written while listening to Songs from Liquid Days.

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Community – short film

Sorry guys, I’ve had a busy few weeks completing final projects, writing papers, and all the other general craziness with finals week, plus playing a show Friday night.  Here is what became my final for my film scoring class, Community:

We did two video assignments in the class.  I wasn’t sure if the second was going to come off or not, but we ended up doing it anyway; we only had a week and a half to shoot, edit, and score the film.  Thankfully, the minimum running time was a manageable 1 minute, so I threw some stuff together using part of my final in my Alt.Process class (don’t tell the instructor!)

I was happy enough with my project that I entered it (unscored and not-quite complete) in my school’s short film festival, and competed against three other films in the Experimental Film category.  Needless to say, I didn’t win, but had fun being there again, and took the opportunity to talk a bit with some of the students and faculty in the filmmaking program.

The footage came from a roll of T-Max 400 and a roll of Tri-X shot at 800, and was developed in the Caffenol C-L recipe using my trusty Spotmatic SPII.  This was also the first time I was really able to put the 1.4/50 Super -Takumar through its paces and it performed really nicely, I think.  It was definitely nice having the extra 2/3 stop, as the light was quite dim in the room.  Unfortunately that lens has a screw loose (literally) and is in danger of falling apart at the moment, so I’m not using it anymore until I can get the thing fixed.

edit: Thankfully, it wasn’t that expensive (maybe $5 at Cameraworks), and the lens was back in commission 10 minutes after taking it in, so I used it a lot for black & white work over the next year.

Pinhole Day pics – Alternative Processes

It was cold and wet that day, a sprinkling of rain/snow (it couldn’t decide which it wanted to be).  I ran around town with my camera on a tripod and just started getting shots, really.  Thankfully, it all just comes off as mist and looks quite good.

I was out shooting on Pinhole Day with my Spotmatic body cap.  I ended up with five images that I really liked, it was a bit hard narrowing them down to one to submit to pinholeday.org, and actually I read the rules wrong and ended up submitting all five.  Then later, I realized my mistake.  Anyway, there’s only one left, but it’s up there.  Click here to see my class’s group page at the gallery.

I used expired T-Max 100 that day, I don’t know if the film being out of date screwed me or not, but most of what I’ve found online suggested developing in Caffenol C-M for around 15 minutes, and it fogged my film!  Also, there are streaks which would seem to suggest too vigorous agitation.  This has definitely convinced me to stick with C-L for every film type, I don’t care how slow.

Pinhole lens vs. macro lens comparison – Alternative Processes

Yeah, I was sure there would be a big difference, I just didn’t know how much!

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For reference, the top image was the 4/50 S-M-C Macro-Takumar, and the bottom with the pinhole lens which has a size somewhere between 1/3-1/4mm, giving it an effective f/stop between f/172-256. It was also my first time using T-Max 400, which I already knew was going to be way overkill for the pinhole lens.  I noticed that the grain was about the same size between shots on T-Max 100 and Tri-X, and I suspect that even Tri-X is overkill when it comes to sharpness, which means there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be using the fastest, grainiest film I can find!

At least the Caffenol C-L concoction I’m working on doesn’t seem to be hurting me any.  Yet.

This makes me really want to make another pinhole lens, with a much smaller hole…

Happy Worldwide Pinhole Day!

Today is Worldwide Pinhole Day, so if you happen to have a pinhole camera, break it out, get shooting, and share you get!  Not only that, but it’s required for our Alt.Process class, so you can be sure I’ll be out there shooting today.  It’s nice and foggy today, so I hope I get some good stuff…

Tri-X and Caffenol is not a good idea – Alternative Processes

At least not the Caffenol-Delta recipe!  I jumped in headfirst on this, and should have done a bit more research before I tried it out.  Live and learn, I suppose, but I knew going into it that I was taking a risk, I just wish I had tried it with another roll of film, because I had some beautiful shots on this one, and this roll ended up looking like a reel of super-8 film using a super-grainy stock.  These were all with the pinhole lens, but compare them to what I was able to do in regular D-76.

We had a day of extremely heavy fog, so heavy that after making it 15 miles out of the 40+ down to school and narrowly avoiding 2 accidents in that time, I decided it was a safer bet to pull off CO-24, hang around Woodland Park, and take some pictures instead trying to tempt Fate once again (also, I had Jim Grey’s words rolling around in my head, I’m sure that influenced me).  It really was beautiful, and I love foggy mornings; sadly it’s something that doesn’t happen too much in Colorado, but I’ve been fortunate this year.

The last two shots were fulfilling the requirements of our pinhole assignment in Alt.Process class, which was to construct a pinhole camera and take some pictures of objects that relate to what object the camera was in its previous life (before being turned into a camera).  Since mine is a lens rather than a whole camera, I took pictures of my current film stockpile and collection of Takumar lenses.

This has a good chance of turning into my final in this class, plus I think I can combine it with my current film scoring class assignment, so I’m soldiering on.  I bought some T-Max 400 to try in the delta recipe, and signed up to the caffenol facebook group.  In fact, I’ve learned one rather important thing there just this morning: Tri-X works quite well in the Caffenol-CL recipe, which would really make my life easier, easier than trying caffenol and learning a new film at the same time…

M42 pinhole lens – Alternative Processes

As part of our pinhole assignment in class, we were to construct our own cameras.  After not being all that impressed with the results from the coffee can (or having to return to the darkroom after each picture), I decided to construct mine from a body cap.  Not only can I take quite a few pinhole pictures in a short period of time, but I can use a device I already know well, with whatever speed film I feel like (instead of ~ASA10 photo paper), black and white or color.

I don’t know if that means I took the easy way out or not, but it allows me to work the way I’m already familiar with, and not having a darkroom, I don’t know that I’d have much use for a coffee can pinhole camera or shooting photo paper outside of this class.  The body cap, on the other hand, is now a fun weapon to add to my arsenal, and compact enough that it’s always in my camera bag.

I first tried shooting Tri-X with the Pentax ES (middle image), hoping that I would get something with aperture priority, but sadly it didn’t work, so I was relegated to the bulb setting.  The second time I used T-Max 100 in the regular Spotmatic.  One thing I noticed was that the pinhole I made is too big, and the lens isn’t quite as sharp as I could wish (I am planning on making another), the result being that the difference in grain between Tri-X and T-Max 100 isn’t very great at all.  This pinhole lens has an f/-stop somewhere between 176 and 256.  What I ended up doing in later rolls (I’ve shot four so far!) is to treat it as f/176 outside (underexposing slightly) and f/256 inside to compensate for reciprocity failure.  Anyway, using the Sunny-16 rule (or Sunny-256 I guess), I’m shooting 1/4sec with ASA400 film or 1sec with 100 film in full sunlight.  Obviously there are more images, but framing issues came into play a few times, and honestly I just didn’t take as much time as I needed to to ensure that my images were as interesting as possible, plus I was doing a lot of bracketing.

I just got done printing roll 3 (Tri-X in caffenol, not a good idea for future reference), and roll 4 (Fuji Velvia 100) will be picked up from the camera store in 10 minutes, as soon as I finish this post and hop into the car….