I’m on the road this week for the first time in a while. There were a few back to back years where I clocked in excess of 100K miles but I haven’t done that in a while. Those years did teach me something about packing for business trips – pack as little as possible so you can carry your bag on, bring a minipower strip and have back-ups for important data and computer gear. All the obvious stuff. What people can’t teach you, and you won’t find in a book, are the things that are important to you. The small things that will make life on the road tolerable.
I have yet to develop a system that I’m happy with when it comes to packing for a photography trip. This is especially true since most of my photography takes place locally, or at least within a days drive, which means I can just put all and everything into the car without having to think to hard. When faced with a technical question I always start with Moose Peterson. Check out the videos below for comments from Moose on packing for travel.
and John Paul Caponigro on the Art of Packing and in the video below the Art of Travel
The above photo is one of Trey Ratcliff’s photos of the famous New Zealand Moeraki boulders, check out his post that goes along with the photo here.
A visit to the Moeraki boulders is on my list of places to visit and I’ve been toying with the idea of an extended visit to New Zealand to photograph the boulders and all things New Zealand. My biggest fear about any trip is that I’ll not get ‘the shot’ and will have wasted my time which generally ends up with my doing a mountain of research before I go.
I’ve written about ‘virtual scouting‘ before and I continue to use this method while looking for additional tools that would be useful. One tool that I’ve been playing with recently is Trey Ratcliff’s iPad app Stuck on Earth. It seems to be a cross between Flickr and Google Earth. You can use the app to navigate to pretty much any interesting place on the planet and see what other photographers have achieved. I can’t wait for it to be available in other formats.
I’m continue to enjoy watching the 1983 BBC tv series ‘Masters of Photography’. This week I’ve been watching the interview with Andreas Feininger. Not surprisingly I was blissfully unaware of Feininger’s experimental photography, much of which we take for granted now. He is perhaps best know for his photographs of New York taken with a telephoto lens. Telephoto lens, what’s the big deal with that you say – I certainly did.
He started working with a telephoto lens in Stockholm. There, in order to get the images of the waterfront that he wanted he shot from over 3 miles away using a telephoto lens. At that time, around 1938, telephoto lenses were hard to come by and expensive, so he made his own camera. In New York working for Life magazine he used a 40-inch Dallmeyer telephoto lens, equivalent of ~1000mm,the compression of perspective that he got with this was quite remarkable. The image above is a good example of it.
In addition to his work outside with the telephoto lens, he took the idea inside to photographed close ups of nature, things that he found on walks on the beach. These are quite interesting in that they are not just records of what is in front of the camera, but he goes to some effort to stage the object in an effort to record what he feels about the object.
Take a look at the interview with Andreas Feininger in the video below:
Rare are the days when the photograph that pops up in lightroom is close to what I had imagined it should look like and a few tweaks and I’m done. More common are the times where I have some playing to do in lightroom and then photoshop but I know where I’m heading and then there are those images that I just wonder what I was thinking. Believe it or not, the image above started out in this last category.
The image out of the camera is shown below.
After a few moments of not really knowing what to do with it I started clicking through the presets built into the develop module. I haven’t been a big fan of presets preferring to know exactly what slider I was changing and why. Clicking around though it quickly became apparent that this photo should be black and white. The five built in presets gave the following ‘looks’.
I liked looks 2 and 3, with not a lot to choose between them for me. I chose version 3 as a starting point and made it a little darker and a little grainer. The image below was the result.
A little bit more clean up and I was done. I must admit that this experience changed my outlook on presets. They’re great starting points, to be pushed further or dialed back, and invaluable to get a quick sense of what different processing could do to your image. Even better if you make your own and share with friends.
My intersection with Bill Brandt came by way of Michael Kenna. In a number of places I’d read that Michael Kenna was deeply influenced by Bill Brandt and yet when I looked up his work, much of what I found was nudes. Being very English and uncomfortable with all that nakedness, I left it at that. More recently I steeled myself for another look and found, in addition to the nudes, an eclectic collection of photographs from portraits to a look at society life to miners of the North of England to landscapes. It seems to me that Brandt’s later photographs became darker and more extreme in contrast, something that I assume he pushed in the darkroom. A good example of this is shown below:
For fun click here to see Michael Kenna’s rendition of this image.
Many of Brandt’s images can be found on his website under the licensing section. Well worth a look. Also worth a look if you’re in or around New York is the exhibition of Brandt’s work at the MOMA ‘Shadow and Light’ that runs until August 12.
To hear Brandt talk about his work check out this 1983 BBC interview:
I’m continuing to play with black and white conversions of photos from my archive. The above photo is the latest image that I’ve played with and is one that was originally posted here and is also below. Check out the original and the new version – I’d be interested in your comments.
Arno Rafael Minkkinen is a Finnish photographer who has lived in the US since 1951 and currently is a Professor of Art at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. I first came across Arno Rafael Minkkinen’s work through a documentary on PBS. I can’t find this program online but it is worth checking out to watch Arno in action. His photography has a sense of whimsy to it and is often slightly surreal, reminding me a little of Jerry Uelsmann’s work. His photographs are largely self-portraits: A naked Arno (or at least the part you can see is) integrated into the landscape. What is quite interesting to me is that all of his images are captured in camera on a single frame of film. No digital hanky panky here! In looking at his work I find myself trying to work out the ‘trick’ to how he pulled it off. His camera has a cable release and a 9 second timer, which allows him to get in position before tripping the shutter and throwing the cable release out of the frame. Even so, some still leave me wondering.
Check out the video at this link to hear Arno talking about his work.
I was quite excited to find out that the image above ‘Three Beach Pilings’ was selected to be included in the South Shore Art Center exhibition ‘Photography Now‘ curated by Karin Rosenthal. The exhibition opening is April 12 from 6pm – 8pm. Please do stop by and say hello if you’re in the area.
I’ve been thinking in recent weeks about how photography can support environmental concerns – not a unique idea I will give you that – and some of this research led me to the work of Naoya Hatakeyama. I have not read much about Hatakeyama but it seems to me that much of his work deals with the interaction of man with the environment, how we shape and bend nature to suit our purposes. It is interesting to me to see how his projects evolve – his photographs of the limestone quarries in Japan was followed by an investigation of the factories that processed the limestone, then on to the cities that were subsequently built from the cement and then back to the sources of limestone in the underground tunnels in Paris. Something to consider as we look to extend and develop our own work. Naoya talks about this project and more in the videos below. Check them out.
I quite enjoy looking at photobooks whether they are produced by friends or by icons of photography or both. While I may not be able to own the great works I can live with them through the books.
The quality of photo books has certainly evolved in recent years, the color reproduction being an area of most significant improvement. For instance, some of the Eliot Porter books I have do not come close to the colors of the original prints, I was blown away when I saw an image of his at the Farnsworth Museum, or even to images in the more recent books of his work (see here and here). On the other hand black and white reproduction seems to have been consistently of a high quality, certainly amongst the books that I own.
Even with the relatively high bar that I have for black and white photobooks I was pleasantly surprised with Paul Caponigro’s ‘The Wise Silence‘ that I found recently. A former library book, my copy is a little battered and grubby, clearly having been enjoyed by many before I found it! It is however a great collection of Paul Caponigro’s images, perhaps my favorite of the books of his that I own, printed on a nice heavy textured paper (Mohawk Superfine) and the text is letterpress on the same paper. All this makes for a great package – I wish there were more books like this and perhaps there will have to be if books are to exist as physical objects.
As we move increasingly towards digital formats it seems to me that there will be a real reason for books to exist in a physical format. Physical books will need to have something that sets them apart from their digital counterparts. That something could be size, or high quality fine art paper, a vehicle for letterpress printing, but will need to be sufficient to move people towards paper rather than sticking with there electronic devices.