Saturday, August 31, 2013

Knowing vs Understanding Choices

I have been working in darkrooms for almost 16 years and with a new found passion and motivation for over 9 years. During that time I have been influenced by many photographers, painters, musicians, writers... all sorts of people. I have gone through periods of emulating the printing style (and negative processing) of various photographers while trying to develop my own way of seeing. This, more than anything else I'd venture, has helped me learn the craft of photography (and the fact that I will never stop learning...)

For some time now I have observed and admired artists who work one "piece" at a time. That is to say that they come to each image, book, song, or painting anew. Yet in my own work I tend to worry about keeping things in line, wanting prints to match in color, texture and tone... considering my years spent experimenting with different styles it is probably needless to say that my body of work is NOT consistent in color, texture or tone.

So, while I've known that my photography does not need to be consistent in such ways and admired those who make individual works... it has still troubled me. Until recently. I'm in the midst of organizing and cataloging my negatives and prints and in so doing have been taking a trip backwards in time. And only through this process have I begun to understand that each new photograph presents its own unique set of challenges. And in order to solve those challenges we are faced with choices. It is what we choose that not only makes our work our own, but also, what makes each piece stand on its own. Limiting my choices for the sake of consistency will only serve to limit the scope and, ultimately, the evolution of my photography.

As I continue to sort through my archives and make decisions about what prints are acceptable and what prints are not, I now base those decisions solely on the merits of the photographs themselves. One at a time.

I also understand that this is personal and that there are those who impose limitations on themselves for artistic purposes. And that only through working within, and often times against, those constraints are they able to thrive.

But for me, there are more than enough limitations built into the process itself to struggle against.  This realization has been a long time coming and it is incredibly freeing.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Skunk Run Falls #1

I exposed this negative at about 7:30am July 4th, 2012. After hiking up the creek bed I came to this falls which is not listed on the map. I first found it on Flickr while researching some new to me areas of McConnells Mill. The water, which has been low this year, was up after a thunderstorm the night before. The weather was sunny and foggy at the same time but the dappled light had not yet made it into the ravine, which is probably 75 feet deep at this point in the run. The light was low but fairly even, I had to hold my breath under the dark cloth in order to keep the ground glass and my loupe from fogging.

I used a Toyo 45AII, Nikkor 90mm SW f4.5 and TMY2 (Tmax 400) rated at ISO 250. I metered the white water at the base of the falls, the water in the pool, the wet rock faces without flow at the bottom right and left of the falls and several of the black areas with my Pentax 1 degree spot meter to come up with my exposure. Indicated exposure was 8 seconds at f22, I added two seconds of reciprocity compensation per a list made by Lee Lumpkin  (which he compiled from Howard Bond's data). I suppose 2 seconds is negligible in this situation but I always error on the side of more exposure and thought an extra couple of seconds might help lengthen the white stripes in the wading pool a bit. I exposed two sheets of film as is my usual practice.

I have been experimenting with developing my 4x5 film in home made BTZS style tubes but instead of rolling them in water I use them upright as one would a 120 or 35mm stainless tank. I agitate for the first minute and then at the top of each minute thereafter. Agitation is by inversion. The tubes, when screwed together, hold double the amount of solution required to cover the film so each inversion causes all of the developer to leave the film and be replaced in a new position. Thus far development has been completely even, including the edges of the film.

I developed the first sheet for 15 minutes at 1:100. The shadows and midtones looked good but the white water was a little hotter than I wanted. For my second sheet I decided to increase the dilution to 1:140 to help tame the highlights and extend the development time 2 minutes to help keep the shadows up where I wanted them (all was done at 70degrees F). This negative looked great, the shadows had the same density as the first but the highlights had come down a nice amount. It was this second negative that I printed.

The print was made via contact on AGFA MCC 111 fiber paper using Ilford filters (grades 4, 5 and 1) over my old Nikkor diffusion enlarger with a 100mm lens projecting the light circle which just covers my 9x11 contact printing frame. I developed the print in PF 130 at 1:1 for two minutes. The print was then selenium toned with KRST at 1:100 for 2 minutes, this seemed to give the blacks just a bit more density.  My printing notes should be fairly clear to those familiar with MultiGrade printing techniques.  The F number refers to the aperture used and the G number to the filter grade.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Printing "Ice Form, Hell's Hollow Falls"

For those who have asked how much I manipulate my prints in the darkroom (and how I go about it) this example would be at the extreme end of the spectrum.  Or as Brett Weston would have put it, the negative was a real "bitch".  You can see a scan of the finished print HERE.  (Per requests I've added a picture of the mask I made to do some of the ice form burning.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two at TAG

Two of my photographs have been selected as a part of the 46th TAG Annual Juried Exhibition. The show begins Saturday August 14th with an opening reception from 7 to 9 pm at the Trumbull Art Gallery in Warren, Ohio. Normal business hours are Tuesday through Saturday Noon to 4 pm.

This year's juror was Mark Cole, Associate Curator of Sculpture and Painting at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Visit the TAG website, by clicking HERE, for more information.

The pictures selected were: "Reaching" - Shenango River Lake, Pennsylvania and "Roots" - Nelson Ledges State Park, Ohio. Both are 4x5 silver chloride contact prints.

Edit: "Roots" was awarded Honorable Mention. All other awards went to painters... =)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

When Square can be a bit... Square.

As some of you have been kind enough to remind me =) I have neglected the website and this blog since late last fall. I have not, however, neglected my work. There are many new photographs to post and a good bit of writing as well.

My Little Things project has been my primary focus lately and we will begin again with that. Making these 2 1/4 contacts has proven to be a real challenge, due primarily to working with the new to me square format. As the shape of the picture space itself is neutral, it provides no real movement of it's own - no entry point, no release, no direction - that is left entirely to the artist. Over the last couple of years I have become comfortable with this, though as with anything else, I've discovered it's not always the best choice. Some visual elements simply cry out for a horizontal edge or a vertical gesture.

I was made even more aware of this a couple of weeks ago while looking through a stack of 'small prints' by Paula Chamlee. When photographs are printed at such a diminutive size the structure of the composition becomes more evident and, to my eyes, even more closely related to the borders. My next step seemed clear enough, it was time to start making small rectangular prints as well.

The above image is my first attempt. While texture is quite obviously the most important aspect, there is a gentle flow across the picture space which leads the eye from the top left to the bottom right corner and back again. This is made possible not only by the darker threads' relationships to each other, but also (and maybe even more so) through their interplay with the elongated top and bottom edges.

As an exercise, and partly to prove a point to myself, I have tried cropping the image to a square several different ways and with each attempt have found the result lacking in comparison to the original. I'll no doubt be viewing the ground glass a bit differently now and while my final decisions are largely intuitive I've also learned that once something is seen it is not so easily unseen.

And if you must know, it's light emanating through a lampshade.