Thursday, December 29, 2016

Projects can keep you fresh.

Day 8 of "Solstice to Solstice"
It's just about the end of the year, and while 2016 has seen its share of bizarre events, disasters, celebrity deaths, and potential end of life as we know it-- on a personal note, I can't complain.  The bigger picture is beyond my sphere of influence, and rather than let fear and/or anger lead my way, I have to do what I know best, and that's to do photography.  I'm not an "event photographer" nor am I an "adventure photographer."  My work is more often introspective, about nature, slivers of life and places, and of course, a lot of it is on film.  If you look through my images on Flickr, where I have been since 2004, you'll have a pretty good idea of what I photograph.  Probably over a  third of the images there are on film.   I continue to shoot it a lot -- in fact, I think 2016 might just be the year that I have shot well over 100 rolls - close to 130.   Developing my own C-41, E-6, as well as B&W has saved me a lot of money -- which of course, can be used to buy more film!

So, with all the film have I shot, what have I done with it?  I have long-term projects that accrue by the fact that the subjects are easily grouped -- Michigan post offices would be one such project. Recurring images of water in various states would be another, and while I had an exhibit in 2102 of winter water images, there are always more.  Sometimes, a single roll can be a small project, and that is always a fun challenge.  I feel that it's good to have some goals and  projects to keep one engaged, no matter what your endeavor. I rarely announce a photography goal, but this year, I am doing a "Solstice to Solstice" project, where I upload one image taken that day, from the Winter to the Summer Solstice -- basically, 6 months. That's not really a project I can do on film, and I decided to use just one camera for that, a Nikon D3200.  It's lightweight, takes different lenses, and while lacking features of my workhorse (and some may say outdated) D200, it allows me plenty of creativity.  So, on December 21, I shot and uploaded Day 1.  I hope to finish with consecutive images on Wed., June 21, 2017.  The idea that I have to produce an image for each day is challenging, and it has to be a worthwhile image.  Half a year's worth.  I think it'll be fun, sometimes frustrating, but I want it to be worth the effort.  I'll know in June.

It's not a bad thing to set some goals, and I think it helps one grow as a photographer.  Maybe you would like to be better at doing portraits.  Learn about lighting, and experiment. Enlist friends or family to pose for you -- find out what your "style" is.  Maybe you'll find that b&w works better for you than color.  Or not.  You'll never know if you don't try.

AuTrain Bay, Pentax 6x7, August 2016
Take a single camera and lens combo and use it a lot.  We all get that "gear-acquisition syndrome" or GAS.  I'll be the first to admit it.  But what if you found that just using a 50mm lens or a 28mm lens for a lot of photography made you a better photographer?  Give it a try.  There are many "projects" one can do in 6 months.

To go to the other extreme, shoot one Polaroid a day.  It's been done by many, but what about you? What story do you have to tell?  Six months of Impossible Project film might be pretty expensive though. Hell, one month of IP film would be expensive, so 6 months would be about $750.  Make those shots count!

Since I have been on winter break (one of the perks of working at a university), I have had time to do some darkroom cleanup, mix up more C-41, and process a lot of color film.  Some of it dates back to June!   Scanning is going fine, and yes, while it takes time, I enjoy the results.

Kalamazoo, MI, July, 2016. Canon EOS 2000.
FPP recording  session, my house, Feb., 2016. Minolta XG-M.

Princess Phones, Kiwanis, December 2016, Minolta X-700

UM Art Museum windows, Dec. 2016, Minolta X-700

Berkeley, CA. Nikon FG, April 2016

Hocking Hills, OH. Nikon F3HP, May, 2016

Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Nikon FE, Feb., 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Holidays

You can't escape this time of year.  For me, the Winter Solstice is a time to reflect, to connect, and to look forward to longer days. It's no secret that the winter solstice held  much importance to ancient cultures, so much so, that Christianity ended up melding its celebration of the birth of Christ to the Roman Saturnalia and the Yule traditions.   However you celebrate the shortest days of the year, I wish you the best.

I love the lights and many of the decorations and the general festiveness, and the food. Since this is a photography blog, I hope that if you were wanting that "special" photo item, you ended up getting it, or giving something to start another young photographer on his or her way.  In Christmas 1973, I received a new  Exa IIa, which cemented my love for photography.

At one time, it seemed that a lot of people had a roll of 12 exposures in their Brownie that covered not one, but often, two Christmases.  Then Polaroids and Instamatics got them shooting a bit more frequently. Here is  a really dorky photo of me from Christmas, 1966, in which I am holding my prized G.I. Joe doll (ahem, they had not come up with the term action-figure as yet).  I was 10, so that was 50 years ago.  My cousin Brenda MacDonald was less than a year old.   Are cardboard fireplaces still a thing?

Anyhow, shoot some film, enjoy the festivities, and be careful on the road!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

It's that time of year!

Card design by Samara Pearlstein
When the snow starts falling, my photographic output falls a bit, until I get my mindset aligned with the change of seasons.  First of all, doing any photography in the winter can be a challenge, depending on the severity of conditions.  There are factors that work against you, aside from getting cold fingers.

Keep your gear from getting wet. Snow can cause havoc -- and if you are in a snowstorm, you really don't want it on your lenses.  An easy way to keep the snow off the front element is to just use a skylight filter on the front. It will making cleaning it off a lot easier.  Use a soft cloth, such as a piece of an old t-shirt to wipe off the snow or condensation. A micro-fiber cloth for fogged lenses usually works pretty well, and a lens hood also helps to keep snow from the front of the lens.

Try to avoid changing lenses, but if you must, keep them wrapped in a cloth until you need them.  There are lens wraps available that protect lenses quite well.  Changing lenses in the cold weather with cold fingers is a good time to have a case of the fumbling fingers appear.

Some cameras are just harder to use in the cold -- folding cameras are a good example. The bellows get stiff, controls fiddly, and so on.  All-metal cameras with small dials and metal lens barrels also may become difficult to use.  While I wear gloves or mittens with flip-away tips, my fingers get cold from handling equipment, and it helps to have a warmer in your pocket.  Carrying a tripod is another source of cold hands, so use some pieces of foam pipe insulation and tape them over the topmost leg section.  It really makes a huge difference.

If it gets, really, really cold, you can strip the sprockets right off the film with a motor-drive.  If you are shooting film, I advise you to use as simple a camera as possible for below-zero conditions. A Nikon FM2N, Pentax K1000, or similar camera will be ideal.  If you are shooting digital, keep spare batteries inside your coat.  Nikon made an external battery holder (DB-2)  for the FM and FM2N and similar cameras-- it has two AAs with a long cord that screws into the battery compartment - keeping the battery inside your coat. Cold dry air can cause static discharge on the film as it is wound or rewound.  I have had that happen only once, and it wasn't all that cold.  It was an "interesting" effect on the negatives. So, another reason to wind slowly.  While I doubt that most of us would find ourselves in the Antarctic, under those conditions, film has simply shredded as it was wound.  So, under ultra-cold conditions, digital may be the better choice!

I tend to shoot mostly nature scenes in winter, but street shooting has it rewards, too.  However, a pocket camera works well in winter, and something like an Olympus RC or Trip 35 is easy to use with gloves.  Holgas are great for winter, too.  Nothing much to adjust, and with some b&w film, those snow scenes could be even more interesting shot with a Holga.

Keep your hands, feet, and head protected in winter. The rest will be fine if you do that.  The clothing available now for winter wear is amazing, and dressing in layers is still the best way to go about it.

One last bit of advice -- experienced photographers already know this-- but remember to adjust your exposures for snow.  Generally, 1 to 2 stops more exposure than your meter is telling you.  Sunny-16 in winter is a wonderful thing.

To close up, here are a few recent images that I shot on the FPP- Mr. Brown ISO 6 film.  It was snowing heavily, and I used a Canon EOS Rebel 2000 (all-plastic) at ISO 8.  The film was developed in XTOL 1:1 for 10 minutes.  I think the results are pretty good.

The gray smudge at lower center is a walker in the woods.
Long exposures!
I turned 60 last Monday, so I better be getting my senior discount now, but unfortunately it does not apply to film purchases!  Stay warm, stay positive, and keep shooting film. I know that I will.