Monday, January 30, 2006

On a Clear Day

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
You feel so much more alive. On Friday afternoon, our obligations fulfilled, we drove over to Presque Isle Park , shot a lot of images, and then drove on Hwy 550 towards Big Bay. That is the typical route that we would have taken if we were going to the Huron Mountain Club. However, in this case, we went to Sugarloaf Mountain, a small granitic outcrop overlooking Lake Superior.

After a heart-thumping walk and climb to the top (geez, I am out of shape..., and those ice-covered stairs were a challenge), we enjoyed a great view with the late afternoon sun raking across the landscape. We could see Marquette to the E and the Huron Mountains to the W. It was a fantastic view, and capped a wonderful two days in Marquette.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

icy splendor

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
We were walking along the beach at Presque Isle Park in Marquette yesterday. It was an amazing day here, especially considering that it is Januaury in the UP. Temperature was in the mid 40s, and although the day started with a fierce wind, it had largely abated by the afternoon. I was told by a local that the Yooper Fitness Program had taken a setback (digging out from snow).
Along the beach we found large bulders at the end of the bay that were coaated with layers of ice from the storms -- and their shapes reminded me of a bunch of walruses. The softly sculpted forms with sheets of icecicles were incredible, and if you look closley you can see sand grains suspended in the ice. All in all. a wonderful day!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

AuTrain Bay

autrain bay
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I am on the road as I write this. We are staying for a couple of nights in Marquette. Tomorrow we go to NMU for a scholarship competition that Marjorie is participating in.

I did get a chance to shoot a few pics on the way -- this one taken at one of my favorite spots - AuTrain Bay between Munising and Marquette. This actually the first time I have been this far west and N in the UP in the winter... crazy.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

No Digital Today

Fleming Creek
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
This morning, I went out to Matthaei Botanical Gardens to do some shooting. I brought my Nikon FM2N, three lenses, b&w film, tripod, and my Rollei 35TE (a tiny 35mm camera). There was lots of hoarfrost, great frozen puddles, icy ornaments hanging from branches in the water, frost-covered bridges, and a bright sunny morning. I LEFT THE DIGITAL CAMERA AT HOME... on purpose.

I shot 5 rolls of b&w film. I had to think about the exposure values of the scenes, compose on the tripod (which of course, I do as much as possible), bracket, and take my time. This was an enjoyable morning where I thought about the abstractions of the scenes, form, and the motion of the water. Sure, I could have done it the same with my DSLR, but I chose to do it without the instant gratification. I'll develop some of those rolls this evening, and if I did it all right, I'll have some beautiful negatives that I will scan as well as print in the darkroom.

There is always the part of craft that is involved in traditional (i.e., silver-based) photography. That part is being diminished by the onslaught of the digital tidal wave. I look at this morning as keeping myself sharp and refining my technique and improving my way of seeing what is there. On top of that -- there is no technology between me and the image, save for a lens and a shutter. That can feel liberating in its own way...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Afterwords will leave a void in my heart

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I found out last night via Kate's blog that my favorite Ann Arbor bookstore, Afterwords, will close at the end of the month.

That's really sad news. It's the one bookstore in Ann Arbor where I have found so many bargains -- whether it was a book on gardening, insects, or photography. I have been going there for nearly as long as I have lived here -- nearly 25 years. I'm not sure when AW opened, but I suppose in the retail scheme of things, they have lasted a lot longer on Main street than many other stores. That still doesn't make it any easier to take. I will certainly miss buying photography books there that I usually don't see elsewhere.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Take a walk

all that remains
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Sometimes we get tied up in our routines. To go and shoot some photos, we have to explore new places, travel a few hours, and scout out locations. Bunk.
You can find beauty in some of the oddest places. Sunday morning, Adrienne and I walked to Panera's to get some bagels. It's about a mile from our house. As we approached Washtenaw she spotted this frozen puddle. It was a hole in the ground left by some construction crew - maybe 3 ft across at most, and just a few inches deep. The repeated thawing and freezing had left a series of concentric patterns. A single leaf lay at one end. Pure photographic nirvana. If I had brought a long a tripod, I would have spent more time, but i did fire off a dozen shots or so to capture the beauty of that small area. It could have been somewhere along the Upper Peninsula or the East Coast, but no, it was a small puddle along a busy street in a busy town. That singular moment is captured here, without all of the clues that would tell you otherwise.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Square Format

Carnegie Library
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I love square format images. A couple of days ago we enjoyed glorious sunshine and spring-like conditons -- so I went out at noon and shot a roll of film with my just-acquired Ferrania Elioflex, a fairly simple TLR that was produced from 1950-1953 in Italy. I think I paid about $12 for it, and I was rewarded with some pretty decent images on some J&C Pro 100 film.

Here is the camera:
new toy

The image shown is from the Frieze Building at the Huron Street side, where you can see the vestiges of the old Carnegie Library. It's important to record this particular building, as the University is planning to tear it down this year to build a new dorm and student center there. I'm not particularly fond of most of the Frieze Building, which used to be known as Ann Arbor High School. A lot of it is really bad add-ons from the 1960s. The core building is actually pretty interesting, but has suffered from typical lack of upkeep.

One thing about using a cmera that takes square format images, is that you never have to worry about whether the shot will look better as a vertical or a horizontal image. What is there, is there in the viewfinder. Some people shoot with the intent to crop later. Not me, I am always thinking full frame when I shoot.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Weston Show follow-up

Follow Art
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Yesterday, Marjorie, Andrea, and Matt accompanied me to the Edward Weston exhibit (see previous post) at the Muskegon Museum of Art. For once, we had great weather for such a trip, especially considering that it is January. The sun and relatively warm temperatures (about 35 deg. F) made it seem more like a day in March than the beginning of the year.
The MMA is a grand marble building, and admission is only 4 bucks, which is quite amazing. The Weston exhibit is a travelling show, and the gallery for it was really wonderful, with my only criticism being that some sections could have used more light. The selection of Weston images went from his early pictorialist style to his Point Lobos days. I was amazed to find that some of his early nudes were contact prints from 2.25" x 3.25" negatives. What was most enthralling to us was the transformation of Weston's ability to capture form and present everyday objects and landscapes in a way that made them viewable either as abstractions not just as nudes, landcapes, or still lifes. He must have seen the sensuality and universality of curves - whether it was a pepper, nautilus shell, dunes, or Charis' body.
To see so many of his photographs superbly matted and framed -- all in 16 x 20 mats (4 ply) in black wood frames, was just an awesome experience. They were often grouped by the period or the subject matter, and the groupings were well-planned.
The only odd thing in the show were two separate small exhibits of cameras. Now, you know I am a camera geek, and one exhibit implied the cameras that Weston would have used, such as the 5x7 portrait Graflex. Another display had several Kodak box cameras and a Disc camera! No explanation about the cameras or their significance (other than their original prices and that they came from the local historical museum), which makes me wonder about why they included them.
Overall, the Life Work show of Weston is a great exhibit that I recommend to anyone with an interest in photography. If you want to see the breadth of one of our greatest photographers, this is the show.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Edward Weston in Muskegon

I only found out about this because of an article in the Ann Arbor News. The Muskegon Museum of Art is holding a major Weston retrospective, which began on Dec. 10 and runs until Feb. 5. Edward Weston: Life Work promises to be a really nice exhibit, and I am driving there Sunday, along with some other local photographers. It should be a fun day.

In case you don't know -- I think very highly of Edward Weston's work. His breadth of subjects and attention to detail is unsurpassed by anyone else during his era. He managed to produce a large body of work, often under penurious conditions. Nonetheless, his fame slowly spread, and like many artists, his recognition in the larger art world came late in his life. He was not a self-promoter, and although early on he made a living as a portrait photographer, he really wanted to be free of that, and produce real art. Whereas Ansel Adams is the acknowleged master of western landscapes, especially Yosemite, Weston was a master of still lifes, landscapes, and form. He didn't just photograph his subjects, he sometimes slept with them, and in the case of Charis Wilson, married one. Weston's breakthroughs seems to take place when he was in emotional turmoil -- whether in Mexico with Tina Modotti, or later, with Charis. I use turmoil not in a bad way here. His passions stirred, they transferred to his art, too. Guggenheim grants allowed him to finally work and do his thing, and he and Charis travelled many miles across the USA to photograph for several projects.

Weston was a true artist -- he strived to get just the right image, and probably threw out many times more sheets of film than he kept. He kept his workflow simple. The final image was the thing. He kept at something until he got it right. He was never the teacher and experimenter that Ansel was, but he was a master of his craft.

There has been a lot written about Weston, but perhaps some of the best writings came from his own Daybooks, edited by Nancy Newhall. Ben Maddow's biography is a must read. Charis Wilson's biography is a wonderfully written book, too. One other amazing legacy from Weston is that all his sons were artistic, and Brett, his most famous son, was also a fine photographer. The legacy lives on with Kim Weston, who lives in Carmel, and carries on the family tradition of excellence in photography.

It's hard to pick a favorite photo, since Weston did so many that I like. If I were to have a wish granted that I could have any print that I wanted, which one would it be? I suppose it would have to be Head Down Nude, 1936 that has Charis with one knee up, her head down, and hands wrapped around her lower knee. A beautiful study in form and shadow. She's nude, but nothing's really showing.

I am looking forward to seeing the exhibit Sunday. While we are there, we hope to do some photography in Muskegon. Nothing that will rival Weston, but we probably will all come home thinking we shot at least one masterpiece. That's probably what Weston would have thought, too.