Looking at my notes I was surprised to see that I have never included Michael Kenna in my Friday Inspiration series. His minimal landscape work resonates with me in a deep way. I enjoy the space that he provides the viewer for their own thoughts. The range of subjects that Kenna has photographed is quite impressive from minimalist Japanese winter landscapes to a power station in England to his daughter’s kindergarten classroom. Quite an inspiration.
I was excited a few years ago when I saw a short trailer for a documentary following Kenna as he photographed in Shinan in Korea. Yet I never was able to find the full length documentary until recently. Check out ‘A Letter From Shinan’ below.
I’ve been thinking about creativity a lot in recent weeks, about ‘making’ images rather than ‘capturing them’ and about realizing your voice. To me Keith Carter’s work and particularly his evolution as a photographer is an interesting case study in this. His subject matter is wide ranging but most often draw the his surroundings in his native Texas – the children, people and animals. His approach seems to me at least to have evolved substantially over the years from relatively straight photography, to (mis)use of a tilt shift to give interest shallow depth of field effects to the increasingly grungy images of recent years.
I was interested in the video tour of his house below to hear and see that he deosn’t follow the often heard suggestion of live with your work but rather he surrounds himself with the things and work from others that inspire him and fill the well. Check out the tour of his house, the profile of Keith and finally listen to him talk about his work and his evolution as a photographer in the videos below.
I stopped in at The Focus Gallery recently and while I was there saw the image above created by Bryant Austin. The image was awe inspiring – ~ 5ft x 20ft. Truly immersive and a fitting presentation for images of the largest mammals on the planet.
Austin, a California based photographer, has spent over 10 years working out how to take compelling photographs of whales – images that could really move someone, that reflect the experience of being in the water with the massive mammals. To achieve this goal he evolved his approach, from shooting off the coast in the US to more tropical settings, the gear he used, from film to digital, from fish-eye lenses to traditional portrait lenses and built computers able to handle the resulting files. His talk at Google that I’ve included below is a fascinating insight into what it takes to pursue a dream and what you can achieve if you’re prepared to go all in.
I almost jumped off into the world of film photography recently. I was at a skate park when my Canon (it’s hardly inconspicuous) drew the attention of one of the teenage skaters. He told me that he’s just sold his DSLR to fund the purchase of a Hasselblad 500 series camera and then went on to extoll the virtues of film over digital. It did make me stop and think.
There is a mystique surrounding film for me – I came late to photography, never owning an SLR camera until the digital system that I got in 2005 – and so I feel as though I’ve missed out on something special.
It is quite possible to emulate the look of film using software packages such as those made by VSCO. While I’ve played with these software packages quite extensively never having shot film to any great extent I don’t have a good point of reference to know how close they get. If these emulations are good representations of the film that was/is available I’m glad that I didn’t have to deal with the imperfect color rendering – it would have driven me insane.
If you take the camera body out of the equation the only other piece that could have an impact on the particular look from a given film camera is the lens. While it’s not possible to use the exact lens same Hasselblad lens on my Canon cameras it is possible to get Zeiss lenses that are compatible. This was the path that I decided to pursue.
The image above is taken using a 18mm Zeiss ZE lens. I’ve had some fun learning to use this lens. The biggest challenge for me has been the fact that it requires manual focusing, so my reliance on autofocusing was out of the window, I do still get the reassuring ‘beep’ when the image is in focus by holding down the shutter release button. The other trick that I’ve been relying on is the ‘live view’ function and zooming in to check on my focus.
I’m not sure that I can tell the difference in quality in images made using this Zeiss lens and the Canon equivalent but they do feel better.
I’ve been taking a look at how people have photographed Iceland in the last few weeks. One of the photographers that came up time and time again in my searching was Hans Strand. Strand is a landscape photographer based in Sweden who has a solid body of work from more than 15 visits to Iceland over the course of 20 years. His landscapes are striking. While there is a mix of the grand landscape with more intimate landscapes, I suspect that the intimate landscapes are aerial shots that abstract the landscape. His aerial work was one of the key factors that separates his work from that of others in Iceland. For those interested in workshops, Strand’s Iceland workshops often include an aerial session, something worth consideration if you want a unique perspective.
Check out the Hasselbald promo video below that gives a behind the scenes look at Hans Strand at work in Iceland, photographing an active Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that brought air traffic in Europe to a halt for weeks.
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.