Any guesses where this photograph by German photographer Peter Schlör was taken? Any of my British friends recognize a popular summer holiday destination?
I recently came across Peter Schlör’s book ‘Black and Wide‘, a collection of very moody black and white photographs that if you’d told me were of the Pacific Northwest I would have believed you. But no, they were taken on the Canary Islands. I couldn’t believe it. When I think of the Canary Islands I think of it as a summer destination, the ocean, blue skies & bright colors. What you’ll find in these pages are images with very dark shadows, trees, fog and low clouds. It’s an amazing transformation. I’m looking forward to finding out more about Peter’s work.
I was pleased to find the video below of Peter and the team getting ready for an exhibit of the Black and Wide images but very disappointed to find out that it was all in German. Anyone able to help out with a translation?
In any case, it was interesting to see how the images were prepared for exhibition. This is one of the things that you miss out on when looking at images in a book, the scale of the final prints. It was interesting to see what an eclectic mix of sizes and presentation styles that were used and it makes me wonder why he made the choices he made. Worth a look even if you don’t speak German!
Look behind you is of course part of the standard audience participation in pantomime, a particularly English form of entertainment. It is also good advice to photographers because often good things are happening all around us and taking a moment to look up, down and all around can result in you spotting other good opportunities.
That was certainly the case for the photograph above. I was on the way to the Sol Duc falls and had stopped to photograph the mossy rocks that are part way to the falls. In taking a moment to look behind me I noticed that there was interesting light in the trees behind me. I shifted my attention to the trees for a little while and was fortunate enough to get a shot that, with the application of my standard B&W preset, resulted in the image at the top of the page.
So far I like this more than my mossy rock pictures and it just goes to show that looking behind you can pay off if you make a habit of it.
When I was poking around on Bainbridge Island recently I did a quick tour of most of the interesting shops on the main drag, Winslow street. I wasn’t looking to buy anything, my bags were perilously close to the 50lb limit imposed by the airline as it was, but rather looking. Looking for inspiration, looking for things that I could use later. In Bainbridge Arts & Crafts I came across a book by Mary Randlett called Landscapes that I thought was amazing.
Mary’s photography came to the notice of the public as the person who took the last photographs of the noted poet Theodore Roethke. She then went on to photograph Roethke’s students and other Northwest artists (including one of Johsel Namkung who I’ve written about previously), their artwork and architecture. As I understand it (from one of the essays in the Landscapes book) Mary’s landscape work was ‘personal work’, photographs that she made for herself and shared with friends as christmas cards. These photographs eventually were published in the Landscapes book.
What particularly appeals to me about Mary’s work is that there is little of the grand landscape here. The feeling is much more of someone who had spent time with the landscape, enough time to let the landscape reveal itself.
To see more of Mary Randlett’s Landscape work I highly recommend the Landscapes book. The University of Washington has some of her work online in their digital collection. As always let me know if you find a good resource that I missed.
Home again after what seems like quite a while in the Pacific Northwest. I’m still digesting what I saw and learned while I was out there, so be prepared for Pacific Northwest related posts for at least the next week or so. Just for the record my path home was car, boat, car, plane, car. Not tortuous, but it did involve a Viking Festival, which was a surprise.
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.
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.
I’m often sucked into the vortex that is lusting after new gear. While there is something to be said for the improvements in technology i’m more often that not thinking about larger format cameras – Hasselblad 503C and the Linhof Techno. While thinking about these I entertain the notion of a digital back but in reality I’m thinking about what people have created with these and similar cameras using film.
It took a while but it finally dawned on me that what I’m hankering after is not necessarily the gear but the look that is created. The look of course is in part gear dependent since each of these cameras has a unique mechanism, good but different lenses, that I’m sure but can’t prove to you today that have a unique look to them, and then of course there’s the film that imparts a certain look too. Camera body, lens and film all give a distinctive look as do the choices made after capture, the choices made during development of chemistry and paper.
For a while most of the images that I shot with my iPhone were processed to give a ‘lomography look’ to them and I did entertain for a while getting a loom film camera but at the same time thought that I ought to be able to create that look digitally with the camera that I already have. More recently I’ve been taking gritty black and white images with my iPhone and again felt that I ought to be able to achieve a similar effect with the DSLR that I already have. The image above is a first attempt. I’d be interested in your thoughts. I’m chasing the look, just with the tools that I already have to hand.