General

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!

My Trip to the Second Sunday Camera Show in Jersey

Finally got around to watching the movie Interstellar that I had DVR’d about 2 years ago. Not sure what that says about me. In any case it got me thinking about my experience the next day going to what admittedly is a tiny regional camera show – The Second Sunday Camera Show, at the fire station in Wayne, New Jersey.

Like the movie’s human colony near Saturn, I thought of the show as an outpost of analog gear activity in the fight against the digital onslaught. Yes, there was a certain amount of digital stuff and a range of odds and ends such as filters, camera bags, straps and beat up accessories available, but interestingly enough, most of what I saw was old film cameras and associated lens … and yes … film!

I’ve been going to these things for most of my life and they are usually a lot fun if not sometimes frustrating. Sort of like going into a candy store. Plus it gives me an opportunity to get rid of my odds and ends that have been sitting around and gathering dust.

While much of what I saw had been around the block so to say, there were many fine camera bodies and lenses by the top manufacturers available in nice condition and at good prices. Everything from miniature formats to large format view cameras.

This was not a big show and I have been to many larger ones, but it was enjoyable nevertheless. Over the years I have found nice deals on camera gear, darkroom equipment and all sorts of hard to find items I’ve been looking by rummaging through the ubiquitous large cardboard spare parts boxes that are always a staple of these events. Nothing this time, but I did sell an unwanted item that paid for my $6 admission!

So why not find out if there are any camera shows near where you live. They’re a lot of fun and you can score some really neat stuff … or just unload some “obsolete” digitalia.

Takeaways from the 25th Annual Phillips’ Mill Photographic Exhibition

Yes another Bucks County show to talk about … but for a good reason. At least I think so. Awhile back I wrote an entry here entitled Does Size Matter? In it I stated that very large prints seem to be trendy now and that almost every time I see them in exhibits I am overwhelmed by their size and underwhelmed by their content. Often what are displayed are large images of boring subject matter.

I went on to mention two shows I had seen — Edward Weston at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Paul Strand at the Michener Art Museum. None of the Weston prints were larger than 8×10 because he only contact printed his large format negatives. With Strand, most were no larger than 8×10, with many being much smaller. I felt these prints forced you to stop, get close and look at them. Finally I said that I think a small print really has to stand on its content, but just as importantly it draws in the viewer and compels him or her to really concentrate and think about what is going on in the image.

Well guess what, I haven’t changed my mind about size. If anything I feel more strongly about it! So what does this have to do with the prestigious Phillips Mill show I saw on Saturday? A lot! The vast majority of 124 photographs selected were at least 11X14 and many were much larger. Most were technically perfect but not emotionally barren. And of course the winners and others selected for special note were very large … at least 16×20 and 20×24 to my eyes.

It just doesn’t do it for me. So I will continue to make my prints no larger than 8×10 because I really do think that a small print has to stand on its content.

So I hope you will consider moderation when printing your images. If you do, I am sure you will only print those that truly have something to say, rather than those you think might get attention.

Takeaways from the Delaware River Towns Photo Project Exhibit

On Saturday I drove about 20 minutes to the beautiful town of Lambertville, just over the New Hope – Lambertville Bridge on the Jersey side of the Delaware River. Lambertville is one of a number of small historic and picturesque towns that dot both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the river close to where I live in Bucks County.

The purpose of the drive was to view the exhibit of the Delaware River Towns Photo Project. The intent of “Project” was to “bring photographers together to photograph on the same times in the same places to see what they saw”. It was a collaborative effort bringing professional and amateur photographers together to photograph six towns on both sides of the river that share a common proximity and history. Those on the Pennsylvania side grew up around the construction of the Delaware Canal in the 1840s and ones in New Jersey emerged in response to the building of the railroad several decades later.

In February the Philadelphia Inquirer and a number of the smaller regional papers published a “call for photographers” and the photo shoot took place on Earth Day Weekend in April. The only rule was that you had to photograph within the municipal boundaries of each town. Every subject was fair game. 281 photographs were submitted for judging and 108 were chosen for the exhibit. All were 8X12 inches in size, both black and white and color, with a range of subjects from architecture, to railroads, to the river, to the people that inhabit the towns.

I always come away from a show learning something or gain a new insight. The Delaware River Towns Photo Project was a tremendous success. It fulfilled it’s stated objective, but most importantly it served as a vehicle to get people out and photograph … and hopefully … to learn something more about where they live. Something we all could probably do more of – right? And the title of the initiative includes the word “project”. I have written previously about the value of doing both long and short-term photographic projects.

Going to see theme based shows like this can give you the push to either get your dormant creative juices flowing again … by appropriating the idea for your own work, if that’s what it takes … or just give you the necessary kick in the pants to get out there period!

Was it a monumental artistic event? No. Was it a worthwhile and a good thing?  Yes, and for all the right reasons!!!

Morley Baer, The Wilder Shore

This is one of my favorite books and I think I know why. But more on that in just a bit.

Morley Baer was a tremendous large format photographer and an all-star member of the West Coast School. He was friends with Edward Weston and assisted him from time to time towards the end of Weston’s life. He also assisted Ansel Adams, and along with Adams and Brett Weston, he was one of the founders of the Friends of Photography. Baer was considered one of the world’s foremost architectural photographers, but what originally attracted me to his work were his wonderful images of California’s beauty.

For over fifty years he used his beloved Ansco 8X10 view camera in a most effective way to capture California’s farmlands, coastline, forests, deserts and buildings. Legend has it that as time went on his camera was barely (no pun intended) being held together! The ancient machine was not particularly sexy, and he used classic old lenses such at the famous 480mm 19” Goertz Artar to make mostly black and white contact prints that are simply stunning. Not only did he possess a purity of vision, but his images were of the highest technical quality.

So why do I enjoy this book so much? Well first of all, the black and white photographs of California’s landscape are just flat out beautiful and inspiring. And then there is a wonderful text by David Rains Wallace. But what makes this book really interesting, and yes special, is the inclusion of color prints that accompany most of the black and white photographs. And yes this color work is fantastic! Recently I discovered why. They were made with tungsten balanced Ektachrome slide film intended for indoor work! The film could be corrected for outdoor application by using a #85B filter on the lens and this enables a warmer outdoor image than standard Ektachrome. But wait, there’s more! Baer created a softer contrast by overexposing the film one stop and having the color lab develop it for less than normal development time. The result … beautifully delicate, yet powerful images that are the complete opposite of the usual over saturated and postcard looking color we are so used to seeing! The entirety of book is sublime and I never tire of looking at it.

I’ve used this book to great effect as a teaching tool with my students to compare black and white and color images of similar subject matter. Several have bought a copy because they fell in love.

I think this is an under appreciated book by a truly marvelous photographer. It can often be found for under $50. I purchased mine years ago as a remainder for $25.

Listen … just do yourself a favor … find this book and buy it!