Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The less I Have, The More I Gain...or Something Like That

Not too much of note lately.

I’ve another session set for this coming Saturday in the old Victorian home on Bolton Street, this time with model Michelle R. After a week of slightly above average temps and somewhat drier weather, the present forecast promises yet another chilly and overcast day; a perfect recipe for beautiful light and a cold model.

I’m still debating my ‘question of color.’ We’ll see what this next session brings. In the meantime, here’s another from my first session at that cold, old house.


In a recent post, I wrote about the brick shed in my backyard where the freezer containing my film stash is tucked away. As part of my goal to shoot more film in 2010, I’ve been taking an inventory of film on hand and it’s positively overwhelming. I’ve counted 74 rolls of 35mm Agfa APX 25; hundreds of rolls of Agfa APX 100 and 400, both 35 and 120; and dozens of rolls of Ilford HP5, FP4 and XP2, mostly in 120. There are 10 rolls of 35mm Kodak HIE.

There are also several dozen rolls of Fujichrome film, 35 and 120, including Velvia and Provia. I have a few rolls of C41 process film from Fuji and Kodak, most of which are now discontinued.

I’ll shoot through the B+W stuff, as well as the majority of the C41, scan the negs, and print. I’m not sure what to do about the E6 film, aside from trying to sell them all. There are no labs that can do E6 processing close to me, and I really don’t want to get into the hassle of long distance film developing.

Anyone want to buy some Fujichrome film? Cheap? Really cheap?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"...what happened was..." Also, It's a Question of Color

Having said that, I’m pleased to report last Saturday’s shoot was a success; in spite of last minute location changes, cooler than expected temperatures, a sick assistant, and rain, all went well.

However, the day didn’t begin with such an optimistic tone. Ellisia, my assistant and a local leasing agent, phoned to say she was running a bit late, and from the sound of her voice, I knew her flu had returned. The persistent hacking cough confirmed it. The model and I arrived at our shooting location, and stood waiting under the shelter of the old Victorian era porch in the cold and damp. Ellisia was bringing the keys.

The location is an old, three story home, converted to apartments, and rented mostly to local college students. We had been slated to use the topmost floor, but it had been occupied the day before, so we were now to use the second or first floor. I expressed an option for the second floor, and off we went. After fumbling for several minutes at the second floor apartment door, it became clear the key for that apartment was not among the dozens in Ellisia’s hands. Ellisia felt compelled to explain, and in her raspy voice said “what happened was something went wrong with the gas meter in the lower apartment, so the renters were moved to the third floor. But it’s safe for us to use.”

So, we stomped back down the narrow staircase to the first floor apartment and found our way inside. It was musty and cold, but workable, with no odor of gas. A fabulous diffused light poured through big floor to ceiling windows and the curved walls provided excellent opportunities to experiment with perspective and depth. We came prepared with space heaters and to the great relief of the model, power was available. We closed off the room, set the heaters to maximum, and off we went, sending poor Ellisia home after an hour or so.

Savannah was just beginning to emerge from an unprecedented period of prolonged and exceptionally cold weather and the old house had absorbed much of it. The temps were forecast to be in the middle 60’s, and I suppose they were, but the damp and cold was penetrating. After three or so hours, the room where we worked had warmed nicely, compared to the outside hallway and the remainder of the apartment. But as the model will tell you, warmth is relative. This was our first time shooting together, and she was uncomfortably cold during the session, spending as much time as possible swaddling her body in a thick and fuzzy blanket whenever there was the slightest hint of the shooting pace slowing. Still she worked through it, taking direction well and tolerating my slowdowns, creating some lovely images along the way.

In addition to the digital work, I had hoped to shoot 35 and 120 film. It was not to be, eventually being too cold for both me and the model. Heavier rain began to fall and the skies darkened, turning the soft diffusion of light to a flat steely gray. We fled the old house and enjoyed a hot meal at a nearby restaurant.

Photographer acquaintance and fellow blogger Dave L will read this and chuckle, I’m sure. He’s written extensively of late about photographing the nude in snow. Dave, I can only say that cold, like warmth, is a relative term.

Regardless, please enjoy these images from that cold and rainy Savannah Saturday.


Since moving out of the studio and beginning natural light projects, I’ve noticed something quite curious: I’m doing much more with color.

Phrasing that so concisely is something of an understatement. Those that know my work and those with whom I’ve worked over the years will understand why this is remarkable. By my own estimate, I haven’t shot a roll of color film in at least 10 years. Until the first of the natural light sessions with Anna in late 2008, and then with Kathy and Michelle last summer, I never did any figurative work in color. I always shot black and white film, or if shooting digitally, I went to grayscale. Each and every shot and light set-up was pre-visualized using the tried and true Zone System way of old.

If you look back in this blog, you’ll note the presence of color nudes from the beginning; in fact, I wrote about the beginnings of my work with nudes and color near the start. Throughout my posts, I’ve presented figures in color alongside others in black and white.

The trend is now becoming clear. In studio, it’s black and white. Editing color digital RAW files from a studio session, I always convert to grayscale. In studio, I see, shoot, and think in terms of monochrome.

Natural light is bringing out something different, however. Colors and textures abound in quantity from location to location, and the quality of light varies tremendously. In studio, light is a constant and unvarying medium, and my models always worked on a solid white or black background. Could it be the use of natural light and shooting locales outside of a studio set are awakening some latent surges of creativity?

I want to explore this further. Obviously, the images posted above are in grayscale, and while they work well as grayscale, I personally like them better as color. One thing I don't like to see is photographers presenting the same image in color and black and white, or the same image layered with a variety of PhotoShop filters. Aside from examples such as these, you won't see that with my exhibited work.

I prefer to see images that are one or the other; photographs that were planned and executed with final presentation as a part of the process.

With that in mind, here’s a side by side image comparison (as 'side-by-side' as the Blogger software will allow!) of two other images from last Saturday’s session. The only difference between the two is the grayscale conversion. I’m interested to hear what you think. Please drop me a line and let me know.


January 31, 2010, will be my final day as a partner in Savannah’s The Gallery. Another photographer, a good one too, will step in and fill my walls on February 1, 2010. His name is Dusty Vollmer. I think his work is spectacular and I’m sure he will be well received. If you’re in or near Savannah, please stop by The Gallery at 20 Jefferson Street to see. I wish Dusty every success that I’ve enjoyed there, and more.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Shooting is set to resume this Saturday, with only minor changes. The plan had been to use an empty beach cottage on nearby Tybee Island. But when I went to look at the place on Tuesday, my heart sank. What had been a rustic, beat-up old cottage was now freshly painted, carpeted, and ready to lease. Great for the leasing company; bad for the artist.

Fortunately, an alternate location has been offered in Savannah’s Victorian district and the shoot is set. It’s the empty upper floors of a Victorian styled home, with huge windows and vaulted ceilings, probably built during the very early 1920’s. It should be fantastic. The frigid and chilly weather is leaving us, with high temperatures forecast in mid 60’s for today and into the weekend. Saturday’s forecast calls for rain; nonetheless, the temps should be tolerable and the overcast should make for beautiful and soft window light. No worries for the model; space heaters are on the ready.

I’m really looking forward to the session; it will be my first with this particular model and I’m planning a mix of digital and film, including some pinhole work if time permits. This is exactly the direction I’ve wanted to take my work, so I’m pretty jazzed. Stay tuned for the results.


The news out of Haiti is horrendous. In my ‘day job’ I’ve been directly involved with every major hurricane since Hugo, including those that have affected our neighbors in the Caribbean and Latin America. Life in a Third-World nation is difficult enough for the average person; after a natural disaster, regardless of the magnitude, it can be horrific.

Personally, I’ve experienced similar loss. During the early 1990’s, my wife and I lived in south Dade County, Florida, in a southern suburb of Miami. On August 24, 1992, we became instantly homeless along with thousands of others, when our home was destroyed by hurricane Andrew. We were left with only what we were wearing, and the few things we had taken with us when we decided to evacuate. At least we had warning. It’s an experience I’ll carry with me all of my days. Living through the event and surviving the disaster is but one phase of the recovery. The people of Port Au Prince and all of Haiti will be facing very difficult and trying days for years to come.

The best way to help those affected is by making financial contributions to nationally and internationally recognized aid organizations, such as the American or International Red Cross. That everyone should be aware of scams goes without saying. Clothing drives, food donations, etc., while well intentioned, have little effect. I’ve seen piles of donated clothes and food rotting in the weather after hurricanes. So let’s break out our pocketbooks and wallets and do what we can.


Today's image is one more from my session with Kathy and Michelle this past summer.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hurry Up...and Wait!

For most of us here in the States, 2010 started off with a shiver. While the Deep South didn’t get the paralyzing snows and winds that smacked the central Atlantic and northern states, we did get prolonged, debilitating cold. The average daily high temperature in Savannah this time of year hovers in the upper 50’s; our warmest temperature of the last 10 days has been 41 degrees, with most not getting out of the mid-30’s. Friends, that’s cold for us.

Even though we’re in the southern states, we do get our share of sub-freezing temps in the winter. We also get our share of blustery days with biting wind chills. But those days typically number two or three in a season and are short lived, most often lasting no longer than 48 hours or so, and are always associated with passing winter weather systems. This particular frigid weather pattern has been quite unusual. 2010 has also started out as a record breaker.

Of course, this was an opportunity local media couldn’t ignore. On this past Friday, the local weather forecast gave a 30% chance of snow flurries mixed with rain. Most of this was forecast to occur before sunrise, and the overnight low temperature was forecast to be 33 degrees. On Wednesday, the local school board declared that schools would be closed. On Thursday, I received no less than three automated recorded phone calls from local government offices assuring me that “the weather system was being closely monitored, and to please stay tuned to local television and radio for emergency weather updates and other important information.”

In the end, the weather never happened. It was a complete non-event; just a cold sprinkle of rain that lasted perhaps an hour or two. And that warmest temperature mentioned above? It was the overnight temperature from Thursday into Friday.

There can be no argument the weather’s disrupted a lot the past week or two. It’s certainly screwed my shooting schedule. I’ve always worked on the principle that I would never ask a model to do something I wouldn’t do myself. Well, I wouldn’t disrobe in 15 degree wind chills, or model nude inside an abandoned and unheated structure during such cold, and whether anyone would want me to do so is beside the point. So, I’ve rescheduled and reshuffled session dates and times, the first of which is set to take place on Saturday, January 16th, in an empty beach cottage. Unheated, of course.

Today’s image sums up my feelings on the situation. It’s Anna, bored, probably waiting for me to make up my mind on some minor detail.

Hurry up and wait.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Binge and Purge

I’m a gadget-geek. That’s not something I readily admit, but when it comes to photography, there’s no denying it. I’m not as bad as some I know, but I’m bad enough to get myself into a bit of trouble every now and then. With the New Year comes time to do a bit of housecleaning.

In the past, selling old and unused equipment hasn’t an easy thing for me to do. It’s not as if I have an overabundance of things, but I do have enough that storage of it all is becoming an issue. The desire to purge started when a friend called and asked if I wanted to sell one of my old cameras, an original Canon Digital Rebel. I hadn’t used this camera in so long, I wasn’t even sure where it was. I found it and putting it with all the stuff I had that belonged with it, called her back and made the deal.

I’ve since taken a long and hard look at what I need and don’t need to keep moving forward. The most obvious in the “don’t need” category are my studio lights and accessories and a literal library of digital photography books, most of which are actually how-to types tied to long obsolete versions of PhotoShop.

The books will likely be donated to a local photography club or sent to Good Will or some other drop-off type charity. Another option is the local chapter of the American Humane Society where they actually have an impressive used book store.

Selling old cameras, especially an old digital, proved to be quite painless. The studio lights will be easy enough to let go of too. Readers may recall I attempted to use the lower level of The Gallery, where I’m an owning partner, as a studio in order to save the costs of renting a formal studio. A good idea, but I ran into complications. (You can read about that experience here if interested.) This grand idea of using The Gallery basement as a studio came about as a way to reduce my shooting costs by not having to rent a studio since I had my own lights. However, I’m soon to be an ex-partner of The Gallery, so I’ll no longer have access to the space. This means I’m back to renting my friend’s local studio for indoor work, and since it’s a fully equipped and stocked facility, I won’t need lights. Thus, the lights and their accessories are now for sale. I’m planning more natural light work anyway; therefore my original goal of lowering studio renting costs should happen. It’s the perfect solution, right? Let’s hope so.

Purging and de-cluttering are good for the soul when done properly. I’m convinced of it. For a number of years, I lived my life by that rule. When I met my wife, everything I owned fit in my car. While those days are long gone, simplifying one’s life, perhaps a bit painful at first, almost always creates good results in the long term. But the things I won’t sell are my film cameras and my good glass. I’ve made that mistake once before.


In my backyard is a small storage shed. Inside, among the various unused yard tools, long forgotten bicycles and camping equipment, there’s a refrigerator and freezer full of black and white and color film and black and white photographic printing paper. When we bought the house in 2004, I had hoped to convert the shed to a working darkroom. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Confounding local building codes, my own ethics, and a hard to ignore shortage of funds ended the project before it began.

In another attempt to reclaim useable space, I’ve decided to shoot more film in 2010, the goal being to clear out at as much of the refrigerator and freezer as possible. This meant spending most of New Year’s Day mixing chemistry and getting set for the coming onslaught of rolling film onto reels and timing inversions of development tanks.

Actually, I’m looking forward to it. As many of you know I’m a film shooter at heart. I had considered selling most of the color film, but I think I’ll shoot it too. Since there’s not a darkroom available in which to print, I’ll have to scan and work the negatives digitally anyway, so why not? The printing papers can sit idle a bit longer. Besides, getting to play with all the developing stuff and chemicals really appeals to my inner ‘photo-geek’.


Here are two more nudes, lit naturally, from summer and fall sessions in 2009.

Monday, January 4, 2010

“Rover, Wanderer, Nomad, Vagabond, Call Me What You Will…”

When I started this blog in June 2009, some of the very first topics I wrote about dealt with artists, fear, and change. I’m afraid to say not too much is different. However, with the arrival of 2010, which brings not only a new year but also a new decade, hope rises anew.

Truth is I’ve not felt much of a stabilizing influence in my work since 2004. 2004 was an eventful year for me; a year rife with change. It was the year of my first solo show in a “real” gallery and it was also the year I did some of my finest work. It was the year Agfa stopped producing film and Kodak ceased production of all black and white printing papers; papers I learned to print with some 30 years prior while in middle school. And as 2004 became 2005, the darkroom where I did my work was shut for good.

It seemed that just as I was getting rooted, just as I was finding and “developing” my style, the rug was pulled from beneath me. The proverbial “last straw” was my relocation from a city that is a major photography market to a city that has turned out to be a very minor one – or perhaps it’s better to say, one with a significantly different view of what photography is.

Emotionally, I found myself in a place that took me by surprise. After the close of the darkroom in early 2005 I seriously considered putting an end to all of my photography. The transition to digital imaging was, and still is, a struggle. My roots are in film; film is where I’m most comfortable. However, the final image is the desired result, and the path one takes to get to it, little more than a means to an end.

So, while digital processes may not my preferred path to the final image, they are certainly the prevalent way. I decided in the end the argument with myself of continuing or not continuing to do my work was as silly as trying to swim against the tide. In reality, what I resented about the transition to digital was that my hand had been forced by the shareholders and executives of huge and not so huge corporations. Having been self-employed for the majority of my working life, I understand economic decisions. They’re not always easy, and they’re hardly ever liked by all involved.

With new opportunities for shooting, new ideas and concepts to explore, and new models to work with, 2010 represents a hope renewed. You can look for much new work that will meet face to face with fear and change. I promise, it’s gonna be good!


This week, I plan to deliver matted prints for sale to Horizon Gallery. I had hoped to avoid being in the print business, but after six weeks of exhibiting framed work in the space, it’s quite clear prints are needed. So, I’ve selected seven images, some of which are represented by work on the walls, to be in my print bin.

While I was represented by The Gallery, I sold many matted and loose prints in various sizes. I’ve decided the prints that will be in Horizon as unframed work are going to be one size: 11X14, matted to 16X20. This one size, one price method will hopefully result in less work for me to do, and less material for me to inventory and still appeal to the fine-art print buyer. I’ll add more images of new work as I shoot through the year.


Today’s images are from sessions shot in October 2008 and July 2009.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Decade…A New Beginning…

Indeed, let’s hope it will be that and more. Welcome to 2010!


Beware: photo-geek moment ahead!

Take a look at my new toy. Or, should I say “my new to me” toy.

It’s a Kodak Vigilant Jr. Six 20 folding camera, produced between 1940 and 1948 and was made to use Kodak’s 620 film exclusively. I’d heard of 620 film, but not ever having dealt with one of these “folders” before, had never used it, so I headed straight for Google. My research taught me 620 film is exactly the same as 120 film. The marketing geniuses at Kodak made the spool carriages in the body slightly smaller so that standard 120 spools wouldn’t fit, thus forcing owners of these cameras to purchase and use only Kodak ‘620’ film. The difference between the 620 and120 labels is the ends of the 620 spools are a slightly smaller diameter than their 120 counterparts. Pretty shady (or crafty) planning on the part of big yellow, depending upon where you sit on the Kodak fence.

The DAK shutter is factory fixed at approximately 1/100, (on other versions of the camera, the shutter speed could be set to either 1/25 or 1/50), and has options for Bulb and timed exposures. The aperture range runs f12.5 to f32. It produces a standard 6X9cm (2.5X4.25in) negative. There is an optical finder fitted at the shutter.

This camera was given to me as a Christmas gift; quite a pleasant surprise considering the source: my mother-in-law. To understand why this was such a surprise, you must understand my mother-in-law sees all other adults, particularly those in her immediate family as children. No matter the age; no matter the relationship; no matter that I’ve been married to her daughter for nearly a quarter of a century; in her mind we’re all children, little more than perpetual 10 year old toddlers. Christmas gifts from her to me are usually socks or some other mundane and random item of clothing. Finding the little folder in the box was great fun.

Then came the next surprise – inside the camera, tightly rolled and sealed with the “Exposed” label, was a spool of Kodak Verichrome 620 film. She told me the camera was given to her in 1950 by her grandfather for a 12th birthday gift, and by her best guess, the film had been exposed around the same time. I’ll develop it sometime in the next few weeks and see what, if anything is there.

I’m still trying to decide if I want to use the camera. I’m really tempted to; I’m certain it would be great fun to shoot with it. But before I try to do anything, the little folder will need a good and thorough cleaning, lubing, and adjusting; the good ol’ “CLA overhaul.” I’ve got a bit more research to do before I invest the money in the old gal, or just add it to my shelf collection of antique image making devices. The one good thing about finding the film inside is that I have a pair of 620 spools to use in the camera, spools which I understand to be very hard to come by. Of course, this is only good if I choose to use the camera, and spool bulk 120 film by hand.


Finally, after a couple of years lurking as a guest, I’ve ponied up and joined APUG – The Analog Photography Users Group. It’s an unrivaled resource for the film-based world and a very friendly community of knowledgeable, helpful, and generally good folks. Check them out; click on the link above or to the left, under ‘Photography Links.”