Friday, November 6, 2009

Large Format..and the circle of Photo Life

They say life is a circle.For me it is a rectangle and a square.

I started with View Camera a very misunderstood item at the time and full of mishaps for me. It scared me.It was unsurmountable. It was in fact "OLD FASHIONED " and I was a hip photographer who wanted to be like the guy in "Blow-Up" a very cool flick.So on the shelf it went and 35mm entered my life.

When I first cranked my Nikon, I learned how to blister my thumb on the lightning speed of film advancing...a crank at a time.It became a dance with subjects and put me into a rhythm that somehow became part of the picture process.Every third crank or so, I would lower the camera while cranking to take another "two eyed" look and come back to the viewfinder with a fresher eye.

As I progressed and graduated to the Hasselblad..(AHHH)..I still love to hold it and appreciate how dam well it was made... I wound instead of cranked and more often had to look up to get the "two eyed" view before firing the shutter. Twelve exposures and it was time to change backs or reload and take advantage of a time to think..or panic, like "crap I forgot to advance to #1" or " Is this really a model?" and sometimes," do I really belong here???"

Then motors came in to my budget and wow look at me now, whirrrrrr...cachunk-cachunk..

Finally Digital came and larger cards and man the camera never leaves my one eye..I became like the Borg on Star Trek...attached to a device seeing the world in ones and zeros and moving through it with great speed. I started to fill drives adn spend endless time and money worrying how to save it all much less how to process it as well,now and God forbid, the future.

Dizzy from the spinning wheel of technology, I stepped off the merry-go-round to try and see the world stand still for a moment in hopes that my vision would clear...and I turned to an old adversary from the shelf who with age mellowed out for me...the 4x5.Its discipline has no forgiveness unless you can convince viewers that this is the new movement in the art world and you are its leader.

Under the dark cloth your view of the world becomes private, an intimate place where no one really knows what you are looking at.It becomes a space for study and second thought.Its methodical movements become a Zen experience once mastered, if that's possible, actually enjoyed, like fly fishing, and art of execution.It is a deliberate choice of view with a rewarding image that often needs no editing, and the best part is, for a future back-up....shoot an extra frame.

There is also something to be said about filing the sheets as well,holding them and viewing a jeweler with his loupe..a time for thinking,admiring,relishing if you will and looking forward to the next.

Now I'm no fool...for most of my commercial work especially these days,nothing beats a digital and I DO USE ONE and like it, but lately I am returning to where I started and feel more like a photographer than a Borg and I'm meeting many others who are feeling the same. For some it's a discovery; for others it's a circle.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tale of Two Lenses part2/Dilemma...

Besides adding to my series "DreamStates" I wanted to find an image that would go well in my new living room, this time leaning on my 24mm 1.4L Canon lense but still bringing my LensBaby along. As usual, I am once again caught between the difference in feel of each, and adding to that, as the image progressed, a new dilemma emerges,(reminds me of the darkroom days of endless printing variations!!)

Here on the let is the original view, 24mm 1.4L Canon, not much correction via Lightroom, my favorite program. Shot raw as all the images I capture..why? I can add more to my dilemma as time goes on.

This next one on the left was shot with the LensBaby, which makes up the bulk of my series and I am addicted to like a great drug, only a lot cheaper.
The only technical thing I can tell you is that I use the ring with the medium sized circle in it and bend the tube like I am massaging a bruise until it looks good to me. I would have been ok with either one, maybe do a test print to see it on a wall EXCEPT..Once in LightRoom the one on the right emerges with one of my I know"what color is the living room??"
Well both ...I had to take the twelve step program to break away from the program and try to deal with just these three has no end only capped by the amount of money you can spend on hard drives. Lenses are like a painter's brushes and programs, like LightRoom, are his paints..
PS..if you ever order a LensBaby...please let them know you got the urge from me here!!
I've been trying to some sponsorship from them to continue this series and bring it to show.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I'm not an anti digital guy. I use it, I get it and I do pay for it as well. It has a good place but sometimes it sort of becomes the place and I get lost in it.

The weather was crappy, not unsual for NJ in early winter months. I was just visiting family and left the "equipment" home. What I did bring though was a 1935 Agfa box camera and a few roll of 120 TriX...yes I said it..FILM..get over it!

Always looking for a new brush to work with, this $10.00 beauty and my magnifyer glasses to see through its small finder, was all I had during my walk, 3 blocks from home. Somehow, F/stops,lenses,file endings,program settings went silent, as silent as this moment , and I was able to hear it. While I don't hold this up as a great masterpiece, from time to time it talks to me. The argument of film vs digital and all the fancy expensive equipment settles on one's not what 's in your hands, it's what's in your soul and if you listen hard enough, if you can block out the voices that break the silence of a Zen find what it's really all about...communication.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


We've all been hearing our fellow photographers complain that despite all best efforts, business is not coming their way. I can relate...made me think long on what am I doing wrong. Did I miss some program or fancy campaign, some subscription that I should have taken, a multi tiered service I should have tried? Was I not listening to the well meaning savants advising me on how to dress and smell better to attract that deified client who could anoint me into the sainthood of photography? Depression was setting in quickly, along with some vino, because there is nothing like drowning from the inside , makes your gut float to the top where your brain is and sometimes when they meet, you get a lot of reasons why, like " it's them ".. usually followed by " no.. it's me..."

But this isn't about me. Its about the business, and it's also about fishing... the Shark river inlet to be exact.

When I was much younger, ( don't go there,wise ass) my best friend, high school pal, best man at my wedding (first one) and I , would go down to the Jersey shore on weekends to fish on the rocky jetty along the Shark River inlet. We fished for two elusive things, Stripe Bass (Stripers to the natives) and Bluefish (Blues to them as well..not the Ken Burns type though that came later in life) . Both ran in large schools during Autumn right up untill maybe early December depending on the weather and at that time Jersey was cold, cold enough to see the ice form on the end of the jetty from the ocean spraying the rocks and us in our foul weather outfits. We would arrive at daybreak after long studies of the tide with our best gear in hand, surf rods taller than most men and able to land an Orca if we had to or even could. We had all the right lures. Some costing up to $2.00 each, a lot at that time considering that going to a movie cost .75 cents. We were fully dressed with waders that had boots with cleats to scale the higher slippery rocks. We had belted knives, pliers, ammo bags for hooks etc., in fact we looked like an assault team coming in for a strike. Ours was the state of the art gear, the newest and best things the sporting goods store had to offer. We made money, were single and spent it. It would take us twenty minutes just to gear up once we parked the car.

Just above the jetty along the inlet was an older, typical for its time, small NJ luncheonette owned and ran by an old Italian man, salted by the years that he lived by the ocean. He was a real character but further trumped by his buddies who held a permanent position on claimed diner stools that fronted the matching formica and pitted chrome bar from where behind, Louie would slap down another grisly patty that served as a burger, before Macs came to town. Behind Louie and above all along the walls, were stuffed tributes to their conquests gathering dust, still having the very lures dangling from their mouths that lead to their capture. If this was the capital of fishing then this was its Whitehouse. But best of all each of these old Italian men had their various rods outside,as old as them, leaning on the building just by the door perfectly stacked side by side in a row, like army rifles ready for combat at any moment. It was a different time...try that today and hurry to the pawn shop to see where they went. It was a scene that couldn't have been cast better for any photographer, but I wasn't one yet...I was a fisherman...and we were here for business.

A few hours passed after daybreak and as usual my friend and I needed a break, some warmth and a Louie burger.. not a MAC... NOT THERE..this was an original place and the men in it were more than original. We would take a spot on the outer fringe where the booths hadn't seen a rag in years, and sat to order breaking the silence of dozen or so sets of eyes scanning us, staring us down wondering who "deeze" guys were, despite the many times we went there. It was NJ Italian protocol. The chatter would pick up again and while we couldn't understand what they were saying, we did understand one thing loud and clear. That was when another older than them Italian ran inside shouting....

" Da Blues are in."

Like a rehearsed dance troupe they sprang up and ran out grabbing their respective rods while in motion and charged out to the jetty, with us clanking behind. We never could keep up with those guys. Maybe it was all our gear,my rod was too big, our boots too heavy, who knows cause those guys had little, I know since we made enough fun of them about it. Each took his respective spot out there and like a beautiful synchronization of branches dancing in the wind, their rods and lines would whip out sending their lines above the crashing surf and with almost every cast reeled in, a huge Bluefish would land behind them. We joined in furiously. Our luck wasn't as good but still we caught some smaller ones and lost a lot of lures. Frustrated, I went to see what each of the men were using, to find an answer, a magic pill, but it didn't seem to matter, even a bare hook on their old rods, properly cast brought back a good result.

Then it ended like it started.." dats it, der gonna" and they simply picked up the best fish that they kept and went back to where they were, taking their places like extras in a movie, their coffee still warm and continued conversation as though nothing had interrupted it to start with. We of course stayed on the jetty working hard at trying to get more, something bigger, better, but all there was there were the occasional crap fish that often got you tangled in the rocks. We did that for a few years. Time showed more worn stools and less rods and finally the very place itself and Louie were gone, and so were we.

Years went by and still I often think of those times, especially in these. I had learned two important thing from that experience about business especially this one.

One...It's not your rod, your gear, the lure, nor is it the fact that you might not speak Italian...I think it's very simple. The Blues aren't running and like my old friends there who knew how to be ready, pick up your rod, and strike when they do run, they in the meantime, went inside, met up with friends, got together, had a coffee,talked, and shared a part of what makes up their lives, the things that brought them there week after week. Maybe its not all about the fishing after all. Enjoy life. Take part in getting together... When the Blues start running again, grab your rod and go...meantime don't get hung up and study why they left or where they went...they will be back..they just run with the tide and run in schools.

The second..and more important..

Remembering my friend... I went back to Jersey one year after the hurricane, to the very spot we used to fish from. They had turned the place into a college town and had even paved over the jetty for those "lilly pad walkers." I walked out to the end on the now smooth jetty. It did seem different but when I looked out, some seagulls were diving into the water, a sign of a passing school feeding on smaller fish. When I reached the end I looked down and there scratched into what was once fresh cement, now wetted by calmer ocean waves, was written,

" Man is never defeated, he just simply gives up " ...

one man had left his mark , .. and this man heard his voice.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Two out of One

You can drive yourself to drink by sitting with Lightroom and seeing how many variations you can get from one image. On the bright side however, that drink can be a celebration one, when you can re-interpret that image into the "feel" of what you see and the rescue
of what you got.

This is the original on the right,in raw,he stepped out quick and my response was more to the scene than to my settings. Had this been in the film era or 7BD , I would have sadly trashed it but it isn't.

It is 5 AD and I was able to rescue it. I always shoot raw and as a result was able to translate it , on the right ,to my preset color palate that I use for this series...

The question now becomes which one captures the "feel" better. More drinks!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Tale of Two Lenses

Here are two sets of images from two different lenses.

One of the most asked questions photographers hear is.."What kind of equipment is he using" As though the equipment itself is why the image is good or great and not the content, never mind all the other factors that weigh in.

I'm sure Picasso himself was asked what kind of paint he had or what weight hammer did Michelangelo never ends... BUT..does the kind of equipment help to translate what you see into how you want others to see?

I've been working on a series,"DreamStates" shot on Miami's South Beach, over the last year. The idea is, visons at sunrise through dream filled eyes..or at least that's how it started. Like everything, it evolved and its now taking another turn(more later). Today was not a great morning for light, subject, or maybe my eyes were just too sleepy who knows, but it lead me to do a comparison just to challenge the old question.

This image on the left, done with a LensBaby and unless you haven't seen one, it does a floppy or as the new one does,a swivel thing to put a portion of the image out of focus...good for art, not so good for most editors, why? , it scares them.

The one on the right is with Canon's 24mm F1.4. The difference..focus of course and roughly $1000.00 but that's not the point. The real point is, which one is best capturing what I am trying to achieve or does what "he is using" really matter?

Monday, August 24, 2009

37th Frame..

In the good old film days, often you were able to squeak out one last frame that always seemd to surprise you and often got selected by the editor..."the 37th frame"

Sometimes you held back on it because it was always an turned and fired or said..hang on one more.. or maybe you had no choice because it had to appear on your contact sheet..(remember those??) you tried to rub over it but it magically got selected none the less..

Well this is digital and here this is not the 37th but the first of 4gigs...anyone with a name for it please post.. I, working on a series, " DreamStates" went to a spot I wanted. I took out the camera and a torrent of rain came a haste I fired one anyway and took cover..back in bed,under the cover that is..dissapointed with the weather the following day I went to refromat the card BUT before I wanted to see what was there...and 37th frame or whatever it can be called is here...Moral: don't think, just shoot..somewhere inside your experience lies someone you buried with a host of bills,obligations,things I should do...a mountain that stands before you and why you are doing this in the first place...The 37th frame is still around,it just has another name.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Economy

No one need tell us that times are tough. Everywhere you look are signs of the times. Everyone you talk with reminds you in case you didn't notice the white spaces in your calander. We tend to think that it is tough for us, ONLY.

Today I got an email from an editor , I had just finished working with. We had done several jobs in the past and had a great relationship including with some other photographers I know. She announced her long time position is being eliminated from the magazine. It wasn't her, but her position! Kinda like firing the Chef to cut back expenses in a restaurant. Somewhere this publication fell victim to bean counters whose bad economy thinking is placing them in a downward spiral. Instead of making it better, let's make it cheaper because we are concentrating on the problem , so make it cheaper, not the solution..make it better.

President Obama ran his campaign on one word.."Change" That scared and is obviously is still scaring a lot of people who fear an end to it all and are scrambling to save their sinking ship by throwing overboard half their crew and for some, the captain as well.

A better word than "Change" is "Evolve" and that is what we must do. The economy has given us a pause where many of us are soul-searching and wondering if our end is near. An actor friend once told me when I asked him what he is doing these days with.." I 'm between the acts . " His lack of a role didn't get him down, it was his pause, simply a time to rehearse and be ready for the big role that was sure to come. He did off Broadway and coffee house bits to keep in the loop and stretch his talents.It kept him in touch with why he went into acting to start of the stage.

We are in that time, between our acts, and the wise will take advantage of it to re-create, re-brand, re-structure, learn new programs, create new visions, so that we re-emerge bigger and better than before, not change but evolve. Time to see this as starting all over, fresh to this field making discoveries in your work and getting excited once again by producing something from the heart rather than from the wallet. Work in a new direction...shoot something different than what we are used to. Go out and just shoot like it's the first time you picked up a camera. Share images, via the social medias or take part in our own "Open Screen Nights" for no other reason than look what I did.

If we can focus more on photography rather than the business, we will rekindle a passion that brought us here and in that, make new discoveries that will renew oneself.

We should realize that In these challenging times, we can afford to lose some ground but we can't afford losing faith.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No Life Guard on Duty

By now every aware photographer knows,has heard of or has tried the Lens Baby. Why not, it is great way to become an Impressionist overnight.

Like from a previous post, new tools lead to new visions and in some cases from there another series emerges. My original vision is an ongoing series, "Dreamstates" ...Impressions at sunrise through dream filled eyes..
or as it is sometimes referred to as "..Love you have that one in focus? "

So first, for those who "love it" and are ready to ask if I have do it in focus, know that the reason you are attracted to it, might be the look that goes with the image. Both go hand in hand, like Casals and a Cello, to make the music you are hearing. Oddly I do that question anyway.

Any other photographers experience this? If not, then I truly am alone which is why I am here! Anyway C'est la vie MF. and on to

where I was really going with this..

a new brush, the Lens Baby and my ongoing series.

South Beach,FL. just has it for this lens IMHO, the pastel colors and surroundings at certain times of the day seem to just paint themselves, and really turn me on...well not THAT way, but of course this alone thing might contribute to that. But another thing that happened while shooting this series is not just a new vision from a new brush but a new viewpoint emerging from it.

" No Life Guard on Duty"
Ralph Gibson talked about the point of departure.To sum up; a necessary place from where you start but may not be where you wind up, but without it,you would never come to where you are. Recognizing this, you use it by going with the flow and what happens from there might just be something that is intuitively deep with you,based on your experiences,tastes,outlook,feelings etc. For some, inspiration, for others, the sum total of your soul reaching out to express something inside by recognizing something that is outside. "Out of focus?" ........are we all alone...or is there No Life Guard on Duty?