August Photo Chat Get-Together

Time to get together again to discuss our photographs with the ever-expanding group!

Yes, how about joining us and getting together to chat about our photographs and the stories behind them. What was your intent in making the photograph, what were you trying to say, was it a success? If you made your print, were there any particular challenges involved?

This is not a discussion focused on gear — the idea is to share insights, get constructive feedback, learn a few things, relax and make new friends!

Well, if this sounds interesting and fun, how about joining me in beautiful downtown Doylestown, PA, in the heart of scenic Bucks County, and we will get together over a cup of coffee.

Photographers of all levels are welcome.

Bring only a couple of prints to discuss. Obviously the prints should be Black and White and should be film based!

The get together will be on Sunday, August 27th, 10:00-11:30am at the Zen Den coffee shop, located on ‪20 Donaldson Street, Doylestown, PA 18901.

Email or call me at 215-348-9171 if you are interested. First come first serve!

I look forward to meeting you!

The Zone VI Compensating Development Timer and Why It Is The Most Brilliant Darkroom Tool Ever Created

The standard temperature for most film and paper developers is 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course you can use slightly higher or lower temperatures and adjust development time accordingly. However, it is often difficult to control developer temperature, if only because of the time of year you happen to be in your darkroom!

I know a lot of people don’t think this is a very big deal, but I do. I want the mechanical processes I do in the darkroom to be consistent and fully repeatable and not something I have to think much about. Why create variables to worry about when you don’t have to? Trust me, repeatability and consistency is what really we want for non-creative darkroom tasks!

So let’s say you’re developing duplicate of the print you made last fall using your standard development time of 2 minutes. It’s summertime and the outside temperature is in the upper Eighties. The temperature in your darkroom is around 73 degrees and you can’t get the temperature of the water used to dilute your developer stock solution much below that (Note: Maybe some of you are lucky to have your darkroom located on a main floor of your house, but most people I know have them in their basement, or even attic, where temperatures are not well controlled). Ok, you can adjust your time for the new developer temperature or you can throw some ice cubes in the water used to mix the solution. No problem … right? Well, maybe not, because putting your hands in the tray to agitate your print(s) causes the temperature to rise. Furthermore, your developer temperature will start to climb based on the room temperature.

Now it’s winter and the outside temperature is 28 degrees. The temperature in your darkroom is in the low Sixties at best. No problem getting the water to 68 degrees, but soon the temperature of your solution is going to start to drop even with the heat coming from you hands. I have measured temperatures of my print developer as low as the Fifties!

If you kept a print recipe and followed it (something to be discussed another time), it’s no wonder that the original print you made in the fall looks different … and better … then the ones made in the summer or winter if produced under the conditions described above. Why? Because you have no clue what your temperature really is at different times during your standard 2 minutes of development.   No problem, you say … just go ahead and do a new test strip whenever you make a print. Well, go ahead and knock yourself out. Or maybe you never make another print of something you have done previously. I guess I don’t know how to respond to that one.

Wouldn’t it be much nicer if the print you made in the summer or winter looked exactly like the one you originally made in the fall? Ah … yes!

OK, now let’s talk about film. Same deal as developing your prints. Whether you are developing sheet film in trays or roll film in tanks with manual agitation, or even when using Jobo processors with temperature control units, it can be difficult to establish and maintain temperature control.

What to do? For over 30 years I have used the Zone VI Compensating Development Timer and in my humble opinion it is the most brilliant darkroom tool ever created! Why? Simple … it’s digital timer with a sensor attachment that is placed in your print (or sheet film) developer tray, or in a water bath of the same temperature as the developer in your film development tank. The sensor continuously transmits the “real” temperature of the liquid to the timer, which continuously compensates each second of counted time. The timer also has a foot switch that makes life even easier. So let’s say your standard development time for prints is 2 minutes at 68 degrees, and for film it’s 5.5 minutes. First you select the “Paper” setting on the front of the timer (there are two other settings for “Film” and “Real Time”). Now you place your sheet of paper in the developer tray and step on the foot switch to start the timer. But the “real” developer temperature is only 63 degrees … not 68. Guess what happens! The duration of time for each second counted off (both visually and audibly) actually becomes longer to compensate for the colder solution!!! If the developer happens to be 78 degrees, the duration of time for each second counted off is shorter than normal.

The digital readout on the timer shows 2 minutes of compensated time regardless of how much actual time has elapsed. It could be 1 minute and 55 seconds, or 2 minutes and 10 seconds depending on the temperature of the solution. IT DOESN’T MATTER! I smugly remove the print when the timer says 2 minutes of temperature compensated time has elapsed. Simply brilliant!!!

Unfortunately these wonderful devices are no longer manufactured. However, they are available occasionally on eBay, but can be somewhat expensive. I recently saw one for a good price and purchased it as a backup just in case mine were to die someday. Honestly, I could not live without one of these marvelous devices.   So what if you can’t find one on eBay, APUG or Craigslist? No worries apparently. A software-based solution that comes with a temperature probe is available. It is called CompnTemp and sells for $85. I cannot vouch for the product but it appears to be highly regarded. Finally, RH Designs manufactures a compensating timer called the Process Master II that sells for 219 British pounds. Based on the manufacturer’s description it appears to accomplish what the Zone VI timer does with more programmable features.

I can only speak for the Zone VI timer, which is an utterly simple … and in my experience … bulletproof device that does what it is designed to do with perfection. You can be patient and one will turn up, or look into the other two options.

In any case, make this investment and lower your darkroom frustration level forever!!

Success

A have another passion … listening to music … on vinyl records. That’s right. And I am a tube lover too! Probably not surprising that I don’t own a CD player either. Hum … black and white film photography, vinyl and tubes. Perhaps there’s a pattern here! Well in any case I was driving in my car on a recent Sunday. I had decided to blow much of the day by going to a camera show located an hour and a half away at a small fire hall in Jersey, not far from NYC, and then completely in the other direction to a used record store near Camden, just over the Ben Franklin bridge from Philly. Makes sense … right?

Both pretty much ended up being duds and I used up well over a half a tank of gas, not to mention all the tolls I paid.   But it turned out that there was a silver lining in of this running around. Flicking through the channels on the car radio I happened on an NPR broadcast that focused on subjects covered by the always interesting and sometimes-profound TED Talks. The subject of this particular show was Success. The host was interviewing several very successful guests and played portions of TED Talks they had given related to the topic.

So things worked out well. I was able to listen to most of the show in between stops and I think I was able to grab some very useful snippets that are relevant to photography and life in general. Here are a few that I foolishly jotted down on my note pad while driving (something I don’t recommend others do!)

First, it is essential to discover what you are passionate about, find out what you need to do in order to make that happen and never settle for something less.

Second, grit is the willingness to complete long-term goals. It requires perseverance, the determination not to give up despite setbacks, and the drive to finish what you begin.

Finally, one of the guests brought up the matter of envy, as something many have when confronted by others (like you) having more talent, vision and drive then they possess. In other words, they are jealous and view you as a threat to their own situation or standing, or just don’t want to be of any help. Sound familiar? I never had thought about this particular point, but once I heard it and let it sink in for awhile, it dawned on me how often it had manifested itself with others I had come in contact with in my professional and photographic lives.

So what does this have to do with success, our endeavors to be creative photographers and our desire to express ourselves in meaningful ways? Everything!

First of all, we need to assume that there are many who we will come in contact with that unwilling to find the time of day to give helpful advise and support or just will not do it because in some strange way you are jeopardizing their position or standing. They don’t want you to be successful or they just don’t want to help you in any meaningful way. The result is the same. But, don’t worry; most of those folks are useless anyway. Keep working. Find the unselfish few out there that truly want to share their knowledge and pay it forward with the advice they once were given. Great people are not selfish or threatened by others. And they are willing take a moment when asked. Go out of your way to find them and nurture those relationships. Having them will support your success.

But in the end, to be successful in our photographic lives – by those measures that really matter us – we need to discover what we are passionate about and not let roadblocks thrown up by others, or those we create ourselves … like failing to learning our craft, settling for less, or just not finding the time to go out and make photographs … get in the way of achieving our goals.

George Tice, Urban Landscapes

One of my favorite photographs, Petit’s Mobil Station, Cherry Hill appears on jacket as well as page 67 of Urban Landscapes. It’s something you have seen a million times in your life … a gas station almost empty of customers at night with a few lights on and lone car parked outside. Nothing special … right? Actually it is pretty special as are many of the other photographs contained in this great monograph by George Tice. The quiet peacefulness and grandeur of the scene is really something to see, made ever more exciting by the inclusion of a majestic water tower lurking in the background, eerily visible in the darkness of the night. Every detail is clearly discernable because Tice used an 8×10 view camera to capture the scene. Not the easiest camera to make a nighttime image but he uses it to stunning effect!

All of the photographs were made in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties in his home state of New Jersey with that same camera. A large and difficult to use tool for the job, but for Tice the absolute right choice!

Other special images include White Castle, Route #1, Rahway; Strand Theater, Keyport; and Oak Tree, Holmdel. Interestingly, all three were made at night, but there are many other wonderful images to be found here as well.

I have read some comments on this book, describing the contents as mundane and bland. I disagree. For those of us growing up and coming of age during this time, urban landscapes such as those found here may have held little interest and perhaps were something to escape from. What we didn’t notice … and those who think of these images as mundane do not appreciate … is the quiet beauty, and even majesty of the everyday urban structures and artifacts captured in exquisite light by Tice.

Maybe not everyone gets it and perhaps you won’t right away. Maybe it will take a few times studying it closely. It’s an examination of what may be a rapidly bygone time and place in America. Images we have passed by in life without a second thought cannot be taken for granted here, as they are laid before us in this most beautiful book.

Elegant Machines

I don’t normally read Popular Photography, but I was given a copy of the September 2016 issue, so I took a look. In it was a nice article entitled “Elegant Machines” by Theano Nikitas that discussed the resurgence of interest in rangefinder and SLR cameras, fueled in part by the younger generation. The story featured Bellamy Hunt, aka Japan Camera Hunter, who has a very nice business in Japan sourcing great camera equipment for buyers worldwide. I have communicated with Bellamy several times and can attest to his knowledge and the fact that he’s a good guy. Check Japan Camera Hunter out at http://www.japancamerahunter.com

It’s understandable that more people are going back to these wonderful cameras and film for the same reasons they are buying turntables and vinyl LPs. Both film and vinyl provide a much different, and to many, a more pleasurable experience vs. digital image making and CD/MP3 listening. It’s not about convenience, but rather the entire user experience and the end result – the image and the sound!

In the article Bellamy says “vintage cameras have stunning designs”. They “have a certain magic that makes you look inside yourself when you shoot. You feel connected to the creation of something permanent and tangible.”

I agree!

Nikitas goes on to say “whether you perceive the idea of unplugging as positive or negative, shooting with analog cameras truly does force you to slow down.

Again, I agree!

The article features some wonderful cameras – Leica M6, Mamiya 6 and 7, Nikon F3, Nikon FM2, Olympus OM-1, Leica Barnack cameras, Olympus 35SP, Pentax Spotmatic, Nikon S/S2/S3, and the Yashica 124G TLR – where to buy them, and pointers concerning what to look for when shopping for one of these beauties.

So it was a pleasant surprise to stumble across this entertaining and useful little piece. If you are thinking about giving film a try and are still on the fence, spend a few bucks and pick up one the low cost gems featured in this article … or go a little crazy and get a Nikon … or … maybe … a Leica! Either way, I think you will be glad you did!

Squall Light

Along time ago I read a great newsletter by Fred Picker in which he described a particular and rare type of light that can occur around strong weather events and mostly during the summer. He called it squall light and described it like this:

“A black bright presence that arrives in a rush to announce heavy rain or high wind or a cold front coming through. Squall light, though rare, seems more frequent on summer evenings but it can appear, where I live, at any time of the year. Its effect is startling. Dark objects seem bright, somehow concentrated, as though charged with energy. Pale objects radiate light. The effect is unearthly, unsettling, exciting, surreal.”

To me it is perhaps the most eerie and beautiful light imaginable and I have been lucky to see it only a few times in my life. One of those times was a couple of weeks ago.

My wife was recovering from an absolutely awful virus that is going around and asked me if I could get her out of the house for a few minutes in the car. We would take a two-minute drive to the local coffee shop; I would run in to get her something, then we would quickly drive home.

I went in, got the coffee and came out to the small parking lot. And then I noticed it.

Squall light!

OMG it was beautiful. Of course I didn’t have a camera for this five minute round trip #$%^&#@$%^& but I did witness something I will always remember and cherish. Not only was there the squall light itself; it was accompanied by a beautiful rainbow!!!!

Most of us don’t get the opportunity to witness such a strange and beautiful event in our lives and unfortunately most are completely oblivious to such an occurrence when it happens. This was proven to me when I looked around at those walking on the street. None were aware or cared about the miraculous lightshow that was taking place around them!

I guess I really shouldn’t be too surprised. Because I photograph, love art, listen to music and read a lot, perhaps I am more in tune to such things. As fellow photographers maybe you are too. And this get’s back to my thoughts concerning the beauty and wonderful things that can be found around us as we go through our everyday lives … that we can capture or at least experience to astonish and push us forward in the craft we love … or if nothing else, just make us a little bit happier.

The squall light and rainbow was only visible for a few minutes, but I will remember it for the rest of my life.

My July 1-31st Exhibit at the Red Filter Gallery

I am very pleased to announce that I have a one-person exhibit showing during July at the Red Filter Galley entitled Jerusalem and Aida: Close Yet Far Apart.

For many years the Gallery resided in a physical space in Lambertville, NJ. Now it resides “virtually” on the Internet. What is exciting to me is the Gallery’s “focus on monochrome images, Black and White, allowing new examination of abstraction, tonalities, textures and light.” I am therefore very proud and excited to also be included as a Gallery artist.

These photographs mean a lot to me and I often think about making them and the circumstances under which they were made. Jerusalem and the Aida Refugee Camp though close in proximity, present a stark contrast.  During several visits to Israel and the West Bank I endeavored to capture some of the differences in these two places, as well as the ironies that are seen in daily life.

I hope you can take a moment to check out my exhibit at http://redfiltergallery.com/index.php and while you are there take a look at the work of the other fine photographers featured by the Gallery.

July Photo Chat Get-Together

Time to get together again to discuss our photographs with the ever-expanding group!

Yes, how about joining us and getting together to chat about our photographs and the stories behind them. What was your intent in making the photograph, what were you trying to say, was it a success? If you made your print, were there any particular challenges involved?

This is not a discussion focused on gear — the idea is to share insights, get constructive feedback, learn a few things, relax and make new friends!

Well, if this sounds interesting and fun, how about joining me in beautiful downtown Doylestown, PA, in the heart of scenic Bucks County, and we will get together over a cup of coffee.

Photographers of all levels are welcome.

Bring only a couple of prints to discuss. Obviously the prints should be Black and White and should be film based!

The get together will be on Sunday, July 9th, 10:00-11:30am at the Zen Den coffee shop, located on ‪20 Donaldson Street, Doylestown, PA 18901.

Email or call me at 215-348-9171 if you are interested. First come first serve!

I look forward to meeting you!