Using B&W To Grab Your Viewers By The Throat…


Yes, deep moody B&W can capture and hold your attention!

Pawleys Island Marsh, North Causeway

I am always curious as to what people like and dislike about my images and make a point of posting them online to see what people think and how they respond.  Sometimes the result of this practice really surprises me.  The funny thing is that most of my personal favorites in B&W are not well received by the public!  Yet those that I consider not as good get better reviews…

It does not matter what camera I choose to create with, Medium Format FIlm (Mamiya 645 AFDii) or digital (Fuji GFX 50r medium format), the output results are difficult to tell apart. I love working in film, its process from end to end defines art to me.  But I also love working in medium format digital as well.  It is a much shortened and simpler  process and only takes a fraction of the time when compared to film.  I think most of you will be hard pressed to pick the film/digital images that I am going to place in this post! So the source of the images make little difference to me.

Approaching Storm at Pawleys Island

Have you ever considered what it is about B&W photography that you are attracted to?  What about it grabs you?   For me, it is simple, the removal of color strips the scene to it soul allowing you to really become one with it.  It removes the confusion and gives a pure view of the scene!

Consider the image of the approaching storm above.  The clarity of the image draws me into the scene, the sharpness captures my interest and holds it.   The dark moody tones make me feel like I am still standing right there!

Pawleys Island Beach Crossover in the fog.

I am not saying color work is bad, rather that I personally enjoy working in monochrome and enjoying the finished images processed in B&W much more that color work.   I suppose that is why working in film is so addicting to me, everything about the process from working behind the camera, film processing, scanning and printing I find very enjoyable.  But with the introduction of the Fuji GFX 50R camera system I am equally thrilled!  You can shoot in both color and B&W on the fuji system. The real difference is that you can set it up with film emulation profiles in camera and generate and output true B&W RAW images!  I find that I like using the Acros/red profile in camera because it matches my film work with actual Acros film!   This gives me another entire workflow that matches my B&W film work 1:1! The fog image above in a good example of the ethereal nature that you can achieve when working in B&W.

Charlee Marie

The image above if Charlee Marie highlights this relationship between working with medium format Acros film and the medium format Fuji GFX 50r camera system.   The amazing tonality of the boat and sky capture my attention and will not let it go.  The subtle tonality of the wheel house is flawless.  Overall this is one of my favorite images produced by the 50R, capturing the heart and soul of the shrimp boat in a non cluttered fashion usually associated with them on the easy to use medium format digital 50R!  This particular image is one of my favorites from the 50R that has not been well received by the public, yet I cannot let it go…

Port Royal Shrimpers

The Port Royal Shrimpers is an example of everything coming together for a powerful image; Good Light, Clouds, Boats and reflective water plus being there!  Of all the images captured with the 50R this one has the highest number of likes and comments online.  Yes it is a powerful moody image but I am not sure if I personally like it more than the image above!

Daddys Girls, medium format Acros film

OK, on last image of Daddys Girls was taken last week on Acros Film on my 645 AFDII  using a deep red contrast filter so the sky is a little darker.  To me this is a powerful image and different from the digital work above it due to the deep red filter.  Yet all other aspects of the image match equally to the work generated on the 50R system.   

To me, this illustrates how well the film and digital systems can work together.  There are times when working in film is just not possible or practical during travel where the 50R would work much better and easier.

I am happy that each camera system can complement each other so closely!  It will make my life much easier and allow me to concentrate on creating art rather than on how I capture it!

 

As always please let me know what you think, I value your input!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The ART of creating MOOD


What Makes Ethereal Moody Images?

Kathy Dean, medium format film

This post is going to be a bit different from my otherwise technical (Geeky) posts of the past.  I am going to share my philosophy of creating MOOD in my art.

I spend a LOT of time studying the fine art photography of the past masters (Ansel and others) and current photographers.  I visit galleries, web sites like 500px scouring  for examples of the creative process that generates images that speak to me.   This takes up a lot of my time but I feel that it is a worthwhile investment to further my understanding of what makes great art that reaches out and grabs my attention!  I do NOT do this in order to copy others, (that is not my way) rather it is to understand what about an image makes it reach out and tweek my artistic desire!  You would think that after 55 years of personal photography that this would not be necessary, but if you think about it you will realize that life is learning and we never stop that process.  Sometimes it is re-learning forgotten lessons, other times it is about learning new lessons.  We all change and our tastes also change as we age, so to me this is a natural progression in our path in artistic endeavor.

I personally tend to work mostly in B&W Film, but do not limit myself to it.  I create as well in color both digitally and on film too, but my real passion is B&W. Here we are going to discuss only B&W and all of my examples are created on various 6×4.5 medium format camera systems because working with flim and the process of film motivates and enhances my creative process.  I am going to leave out the technical details of the images because I want you to really study the images without considering the technical aspects of the creative process.

Let us consider the image above of Kathy Dean, a shrimp boat in Port Royal, SC.    What about this image gives you pause, making you want to really study it?   Sit back and consider the mood of the image and what you are drawn to as you study it.  For me, it is the dark moody sky and reflections contrasted against the bright whites of the boats.  My eyes continuously circle around these details and re-settle on the boats again and again.  The dark sky and water create a moody ethereal frame that traps our attention on the boats themselves yet provides a scene free of the distractions of color

If we were standing there today with camera and tripod wouldn’t we be thinking that we could have a much better image with fluffy clouds?  Let me suggest that if indeed there were clouds the day I created this image that they too would have been a distraction from the mood of the image. 

I will honestly tell you that as I stood before this scene that it was my primary thought that this could be an amazing moody image provided that I set it up as a longer exposure to smooth the water and darken the sky and reflections.   In other words, I studied the scene, pondering what it was that drew me to it and how to use the camera (my tool) to create my vision! 

These are my secrets to successful fine art photography:

Stop, Look and Think about the scene:

  • Why are you attracted to it?
  • How do you compose for a simple yet powerful image free of distractions?
  • How to super charge the image with mood?
  • How to use the camera to create this vision?

Lindale Denim Mill, a study of extreme dynamic range in a single image…

Let’s take a look at another image, this one digital (yet another tool), and the camera on hand when visiting the inside of the Lindale denim mill in Georgia.  This is one of those  location that  will NEVER fail to deliver scenes full of wabi/sabi goodness full of amazing mood providing you approach it with the right motivation and mental tools!

Lindale Denim Dye Tank

I spent 7 hours here over the course of 2 days.  It was a power parade of mood that swamped my senses and at every single turn. I was continually stunned at what lay before me as I moved through the factory!  What more motivation could a fine art photography artist desire?  I slowed down, WAY DOWN and studied each and every hint of mood before me. 

For this scene, (Blue dye tank) I studied the dark moody ceiling and walls behind the pillars, the deep tank with its grungy details, but I particularly paid attention to the play of light coming through the windows and highlighting the entire scene!   I realized that in order to capture this scene with mood that I would need to control the sunlight and keep the dark areas from loosing detail.   I setup the camera to control both and average the entire composition.   This happened quite fast (remember 55 years of experience) and it only took ONE SINGLE EXPOSURE

To me, this scene has amazing flow that draws me in thru the lighted windows, walking around the exterior of the room and moving down the ladder.  My attention never leaves the room.  It has a wonderful dark mood and speaks to me of days long gone.   

What more can a photographer ask for in such a creation?

My path in creating this image:

  • I walked around the entire room several times, studying the elements that the scene contained.
  • I constantly asked myself;  “Mark, why do you like this?”  and “What do you actually like?”  I answered; “The dark mood broken into segments by the light coming thru the window and the LADDER!”
  • Can the camera I had capture the overall mood and range before me?  “YES!”
  • What is the best vantage? “Closer to the ladder!”
  • How best can I control the contrast and range of this image? “Multiple spot meter readings to shift the scenes entire dynamic range into that of the camera!”

After this it was just a simple matter of setting the the composition, exposure and capturing the image!

 

Ok one last example…  Daddy’s Girls…

 

Daddy’s Girls, medium format film

This is one of those scenes that I visit time and time again.  It is only a few hours from home down in Bluffton, SC (a location where my oldest son lives).  There is only one single boat at this commercial dock and processing plant.  There is a boat launch and pier close to the left, but  for for this shot I wanted a more head on view.  I got my son to take me out on his boat so that I could get this angle on a terribly stormy day. Dark and Stormy it was.  Heavy rain and wind, but these were the components that were in my vision so I suffered through it to get this image.  I took several shots of the scene (waves, no tripod and a moving boat) so I invested an entire roll of 16 images knowing that a lot of them would be blurry and out of focus.   Good thing too, I only got this one single sharp image but it was so worth the effort!

Do you see what I am getting at?  I KNEW what I wanted with this image, I knew what tool (camera) I wanted to use so I returned dozens of times here, re-evaluating again and again till I got what my vision demanded!   I have been here a hundred times over the past 4 years and was NEVER satisfied with the scene!

What my vision demanded:

  • Moody, Stormy Sky.
  • Bright light on the boat.
  • Cloud detail.
  • No other boats to clutter the scene at the launch.
  • Medium Format Film only.
  • No workmen on the boat.

So it took years of returning again and again until I got the scene that matched my vision!  But to me it was well worth it!  Will I stop returning?  Heavens no, you NEVER know what nature will provide you with so keep returning!

As always, I hope that you enjoyed this post!   Please consider leaving feedback and comments!

 

 

 

 

Another Film Dynamic Range Adjustment Post!


A Quick Dynamic Range Followup and Example

Hurricane Florence is coming… Spent all day today starting to get ready. But yesterday I stopped by the causeway bridge to Litchfield beach and shot 1 roll of FP4+ film on my Fuji GA645zi changing between the red R24 and R25 filter. I was looking to the North from the bridge. It is a very beautiful spot and scene.
This is one of my go to spots when I am looking for inspiration and it did not fail to deliver for me. I was heading home but decided to stop at the studio and put the film into the processor, wait the 20 min then hang it in the dryer overnight.
 

But…

When standing there looking at the clouds I realized that the whites were going to be blown so I subtracted 30 seconds from the development time to compress them down towards Zone 8 so that I could capture the entire dynamic range, then in scanning moved them back up a bit to place them closer to my memory of them and bring the blacks up a bit! I love the effect the deep red filter gives to the blue sky.

How did I do this you ask?  I am glad you asked!

With a hand held spot meter I measure the brightest white I desire texture in, then measured the darkest black for texture.  Pushed the average button on the meter and got the zone 5 reading along with a chart showing max and min.  This tells me that the whites will be blown out on the negative.  SO I adjusted my exposure to give texture (Zone 3) in the blacks I wanted and let the whites fall where they will.   In the processing knowing how far over exposed the whites are I can now adjust the developing time (-1N in this case) to compress the whites down to zone 8 (-30 seconds).  Easy!
In the scanning software (VueScan) you have the opportunity in the extended menus to again shift the black and white points up or down.  I simply adjusted both to expand the dynamic range back out to the range of the Gicle’e (RIP) printing system I use in my studio yet keep the whites from being blown out!
  1. Measure the range of the scene and determine if the film can capture it all
  2. Expose to move the blacks with texture to zone 3.
  3. Pick a -N developing time according to where the whites fell in the negative (1 stop for this one)
  4. Scan to keep the textured blacks at zone 3 and move the compressed whites back up where they belong in VueScan)

 

The Results:

 

The Causeway going to Litchfield Beach, SC

It was a pleasant and very satisfying endeavor and made me very happy today when I scanned this image on my way home from preparations.
 
Data: GW645zi – 55mm – Roll 95 – Fr 8 – Red 25 +3 Filter – f8 – 1_60 – FP4+ – Xtol Stock -30s – Wet Scan – T CI 50 – Litchfield Marsh- 2018-09-09
I know, this was a really short post, but I was really pleased with the image results and the entire process was one of those “By the seat of the pants” type of evolution.  I wanted to share again, now simple the process is for adjusting the range on film in development and scanning.  There will be yet another one of these in the future but it will be VERY detailed and perhaps even with a video!

As always please let me know what you think!

Beach Day For Lilly!


Exploring new things can be fun!

 

Let’s Get To It, Fuji GA645zi with FP4+ processed in Xtol Stock and Wet Mount Scanned

Well, we went last week (Ellen and I, Megan and the 2 grandkids Lilly and Jordan) for a beach day here in Pawleys Island South Carolina.   Meg asked for some images of Lilly’s reaction to the ocean!  I am really not one for hours on the beach but who can turn down a 17 month old babies reaction on B&W film?

I grabbed my Fuji GA645zi camera (auto focus, 4 position zoom, great meter and built in flash) with a roll of Ilford FP4+ film and we headed out!  Not a long trip since we live in Pawleys  so soon we were there.

Data: Fuji GA645zi using a yellow/green filter to bring out the skin tones and a bit of the sky and clouds with Ilford FP4+ film processed in Xtol stock and wet mount scanned today.

Lilly did not know what to think of it all but went into the water and quickly backed up.  Meg sat down with her and helped ease her into the concept of big water.  Pretty soon she was running around having great fun.   Normally I do not do a lot of posts of people or family but hey, you know film?  You got to honor the challenge!

Meg easing Lilly into the water! Fuji GA645zi with FP4+ processed in Xtol Stock and Wet Mount Scanned

Of course Jordan, my 9yo film photographer grandson is an old hand at this and just looked good at anything he did there!

Jordan my 9yo grandson film photographer!

I took only the one roll but saved one shot for  the local beach landscape!  Hey your there so you gotta do it right!

Dunes behind us!

As always, comments are welcome!  Let me know what you think.

Railroad Day Trip and the Fuji GA645zi


The Art Of Film Photography And Travel

 

Jordan standing on part of a giant Redwood tree on the top of the mountain


Day 1

Earlier this month Ellen and I took our 9yo grandson Jordan on a week long trip to the San Francisco area.  We did many things and visited some great sights! One of the most memorable was a 2 day visit to the Roaring Camp where the Big Trees and Pacific Railroad is!  They offered several train trips around the mountains and through the giant Redwoods. 

There also were two covered bridges in Felton, one in Roaring Camp itself and another a short distance away in the town. Here is the Roaring Camp bridge.

Roaring Camp Covered Bridge

Dixiana, a 160 yo steam train being lubed

Our first trip was on the Dixiann a 160 year old narrow gauge steam train designed to move ore down the mountains from the mines.  It was special in that it had geared drives to all of its wheels and while it could not move fast it could pull loads up and down the mountains and take as much as an 8% grade!.

The rail yard was full of amazing trains that were in various stages of repair or being torn down for parts. It was a photographers dream!  There was so many different parts, trains and cars around the yard that I could have spent hours and many rolls of 120 film there.   The film I did choose was Kodak Tmax 400.  The reason for this was the fact that I was in the mountains covered in giant Redwoods and there was not too much light!

 

Pacific Railroad Yard in Roaring Camp, Felton, CA

Dixiana, a 160 yo steam train arriving at the station to pick us up

Once it was time to board the train Jordan and I went down beside the tracks trying to get some good angles on the steam engine with its puffing smoke and steam. 

As it approached we were physically pushed aside by an foreign  woman and her daughter who then stood directly in front of us taking phone pictures. 

We were already setup with our film systems when they did this.  It was the only black mark on the day for us and caused enough anger for me to yell at them for being so rude but they simply did not care.  So this next image had to be majorly cropped to remove them from it. Some people are totally clueless and without a shred of common sense or decency.

If you take a look at the engine you will notice that there is really no dark smoke.  This is due to the fact that it has been converted to burn used motor oil!  There was a water town that it pulled up to and topped off its water level too.

The engine  had a central drive shaft that powered the gear drives to all of the wheels.  Next is another image of it getting ready to leave the top of the mountain on the ride back down to the station.

Dixiana, a 160 yo steam train getting ready to head down the mountain

There was another interesting covered bridge in Felton as well.  It was the tallest covered bridge that I have ever seen!   The town built a nice park around it.

Felton Covered Bridge, Tmax 400

Felton Covered Bridge, Tmax 400

 


 

Fuji GA645zi Medium Format Camera

Let’s take a bit of time to talk about the photography a bit…  On these two train trips, light was an issue as well as not being able to use a tripod.  As this was a week long trip and not photography based I chose the Fuji GA645zi medium format camera because of its light weight, 55mm to 90mm 4 position f/4.5 zoom lens, fast autofocus, accurate built in meter, Aperture, Shutter and Manual modes, internal flash and lightweight as the only camera I would take and carry. It is also tough with a solid titanium body!  In other places around California I was able to use a small carbon fiber travel tripod from Really RIght Stuff and then shutter speed became a non issue.

As I said earlier, ALL shots in this post were done on Tmax 400 due to it being difficult using a tripod as well as lower light levels in the Redwoods.   Normally in a situation where I have enough light or am able to use a tripod I will always choose Ilford FP4+ 125 ISO  film for its amazing sharpness, small grain and great contrasts.  I also shot with an orange filter whenever I could but sometime even that had to come off in order to keep a decent shutter speed.   Processing was done in Kodak Xtol stock in my FIlmomat automated table top film processor.   Once dried I used a wet mount scan process.  I find the Tmax films very easy to use and they give consistent results are easy to load on the reels due to their thick film base.  I also brought along some Velvia 100 film and managed to shoot a few rolls of that at the covered bridges and ocean scenes.


Day 2

TIme for the Beach train ride!  This was a 3 hour trip from the mountains down to the boardwalk along the beach in Santa Cruz! Of course Jordan liked this trip also because the boardwalk held a huge amusement park!   We had an hour to play there once we arrived but he was having so much fun that we decided to wait 4 extra hours for the last train back to Felton.  The train this time was a diesel, Gene O”lague #2641 that took us and we actually rode on tracks thru Santa Cruz proper!  I was pretty interesting and sad at the same time due to the VAST numbers of homeless people who had setup permanent camps along the tracks in the low mountains outside of town.

Gene O”Lague, the diesel that took us down the mountain to Santa Cruz for the beach trip

The train is shown here arriving to pick us up at the station.  It was huge and I managed to capture this one image of it arriving before a mob of people again ran out in front of me, oh well…  

The trip done out of the Redwoods was very interesting and we even went through a long tunnel as we came into Santa Cruz.  The tracks are actually down the center of the streets and was very slow do the traffic!  ALL of the people on the streets, in the cars and trucks waved continuously as we would pass.

After we arrived at the boardwalk the train powered down and sat there for an hour waiting for the first trip back to Felton.  This gave me ample time to do some detail shots of the train which I found very interesting.  This is my favorite of the roll!

Gene O”Lague, the diesel that took us down the mountain to Santa Cruz for the beach trip stopped at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz

 

Of course we were now at the boardwalk amusement park.  We were there a few days earlier (the park) but could not spend much time there for Jordan.  So as I said earlier we decided to add 4 extra hours here for him to ride and play.  It was time well spent and he enjoyed the day.

Sky RIding on the boardwalk in Santa Cruz during the Beach train ride

Ellen & Jordan

All in all the train rides and park were a nice time on the trip for us all.  It was both fun and very tiring but I managed to capture 14 rolls of B&W 120 film and 4 of color slides.  I continue to evolve in my technique for travel photography with the inclusion of more capable travel medium format camera systems which makes me VERY happy.   I hope to travel much more with Ellen in the future and once in a while I will take my larger Mamiya 645AFDii camera and lenses there is good reason to stick to the lighter Fuji GA645zi system with its single zoom lens!

Things learned:

  • While a wider range of interchangeable lenses would be nice, the camera/lenses are just too heavy to travel with and carry…
  • I love rangefinders but an auto focus made my photography much more fun and faster with my family in tow…
  • Take more film…
  • Split the B&W film evenly between slow and fast.  Stick with Tmax 400 and Ilford TF4+ 125…
  • Take along a faster slide film…
  • Get a bigger dark bag to hold exposed film…
  • Did I say take more film?  Yep, but it is a biggie!

 

Thanks for bearing with me thru this ultra long post.  While it does come across as more of a family vacation (which it is) post it really does go into ways to make such a easier and funner experience!

 

As always, please let me know what you think of it all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Amazing (and affordable) Dayi 6×12 Medium Format System!


BIGGER is BETTER!

 

This is the Causeway to the Litchfield Inn in Pawleys Island.
100TMX processed in Xtol 1:1. Yellow filter, f/22 at 1 second metered on the white roof on the distant boat house where the water seems to end an placing that in zone 7 to 4 seconds then to 6 seconds for reciprocity..

 

Well… Yes, I have a NEW medium format camera system! Not new used, but NEW NEW!

It is the Dayi 6×12 and is custom made in China for each order.  It is very affordable, the camera, lens cone (adjusted for you lens ahead of time) film back, focus screen and shade, viewfinder and a Arco swiss mounting foot!  All in all this ran me around $1000 and took 2 months from payment to delivery.  There are several companies selling them but I chose ecbuyonline2008 on Ebay, contacted them and then dealt directly with them for a nice discount. They provided a direct email at ecbuyonline@foxmail.com.

Dayi 6×12 showing the ground glass and shade and my custom dark cloth attatched.

Ok, the camera itself is very well balanced and easy to use.  As with most types of cameras of this design it uses a lens cone cut specifically for the focal length of the lens used.  If you use a different length lens as a 2nd then you will need another cone designed for it as well.

Dayi 6×12 showing the film back and ground glass

The focus is controlled by a CALIBRATED helical mount that gives very fine control of the focus.  Because it is calibrated, you can just dial in the distance and forget the ground glass.  Me?  Not so much.  My eyes are not calibrated very good.  Now, a cheap laser rangefinder would be just the thing.  Fire it, dial in the distance and shoot!  I use the ground glass as my focus operation.  I have a custom made dark cloth that fits the glass frame and works very well.  I have a nice 8x loupe that I use to make up for my old eyes!

 

There are calibration screws around the outside edge of the lens cone and you can see the small hole for one at the end of the video above.  These allow you to set the infinity point and place the lens in the correct position.  You can find a tutorial HERE for this process.

Lenses that will work on this camera can be found HERE.

The camera is a bit heavy and not suited to handheld work, but it can be done.  It is a VERY well designed and built camera system and has ZERO light leaks.

When the camera first arrived, the film holder was scratching the surface of the film emulsion.

Here is the issue, a spring next to a roller that is too high in the film plane with rough edges! It is the bright silver line under the roller.  See how it is bent up in the center?  It actually touched the film.

The complete assembly

I took it apart and realized that a spring was adjusted too high on the film holder back and touching the film.  It was a simple adjustment to fix this but I still sent an email about it and a few days later this video arrived showing how they said to fix the issue which is exactly what I had found!

This goes to prove that they are responsive to customer complaints, problems or suggestions!  That is a big plus in my book!

The system is simply a joy to use.  It is bright in the corners (of course that is lens dependent) and the focus is spot on!  I have put about 10 rolls of film thru it so far including some Ektar 100 (which I have not processed yet but have the chemistry). Now that the scratching issue is fixed I see a great future for the camera in my kit.

The folks at the company in Hong Kong are easy to work with and very responsive  over email.   I highly recommend them.  They have MANY other cameras for sale also including a larger 6×17 version of this one.

Stormy Seas, Dayi 6×12, not the best composition but a good example of the quality from the camera!

 

I hope you enjoyed this short post on the new pano camera system.  There will be more following!