Sunday, November 10, 2013

Embracing the Tradition

I always try to support (and preach whenever I get a chance) keeping our great film photography tradition alive.  I was really pleased to see this well done new website promoting large-format photography pop up on my Facebook feed yesterday, and thought I would spread the word by sharing it here: Eastern Sierra Center for Photography.
They also have links to a small collection of traditional film/large-format related videos on YouTube, and I found this documentary about Edward Weston to be just so good in so many ways.. a little old fashioned in style maybe, being 1948 and all, but everything is still so dead-on true and a perfect expression of what drew me to photography more than 35 years ago now.  Some, who only got into photography when digital cameras came along, will get a lot out of this and see how visionaries like Weston and Adams took photography far beyond what had been a simple documentary/recording process into the realm of fine art.  It's only a half hour and well worth your time.  Thanks to ESC4P for digging this up and please do visit their site.
For those of you that do Facebook and are interested, check out the "Large Format Photography" group, too.
Just for fun, watch the location backgrounds and see if you can spot this formation in Death Valley that I posted a shot of several years ago.
Hope you enjoy as much as I did!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fall: California Style

Can you tell that this scene was taken about 3000 miles from the one in my last post? Maybe if you're familiar with both areas and know your trees:)
Around here at this elevation, about the only native trees that change color much in the fall are the oaks, and they don't get really bright or varied colors, at least compared to the maples back east and aspens, which prefer a slightly higher elevation and don't occur here unless someone deliberately plants them.
This is an almost always deserted road in the forest just below my house where I like to walk in the afternoons after working.. it was especially pretty the other day after a night of heavy rain.
I could go a year and not see a single soul along here, but on this day I ran into a couple of guys in a truck who asked me if I had seen any deer..that reminded me that it's hunting season (this is national forest land) and I'd better stay on the road and not go off track through the woods for a while:)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fall: New England Style

Pond and Woods, Colrain, Massachusetts
Around October 1, I would normally be heading out to Utah and Arizona for my fall road trip, but this year, it came to my attention that I had not been home to Massachusetts to visit my family and hometown for 11 years!   I've become so western-centric over time that I almost forget that there is some pretty beautiful scenery to be had back in the old country.. anyway, I ended up on a slight detour to New England this year.  I knew, however, that between visiting with family and old friends that I would have very little opportunity to get out alone and do any serious photo work, and that's o.k... I decided before leaving that I wasn't going to worry about it and just go with the flow and be real casual about it. 
We were a little early to catch the real, peak color, but it was still very pretty in spots and it was nice to enjoy the totally different vibes of the northeast for a week. I may or may not get in a belated trip to Utah before the snow flies (although it already did here where we live inCalifornia... 2" on October 10!).. depends on work and weather, etc. Of course, the fall colors will be all done and the national parks are all closed now anyway and who know when they will reopen the way things are going, so maybe a winter trip at the end of the year is more appropriate... we'll see.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Devastation View

It has already been, and continues to be, a rough fire season here in the west. This view is the result of the "Mountain" fire, that only by a miracle of weather (and lots of hard work by firefighters), missed destroying our little village of Idyllwild here in the San Jacinto mountains. 27,500 acres were burned.   It started back on July 15, and is still smoldering up in the high country above the town as of August 25, although it is fully contained.  If the wind had been different when it started, or we had not received some unusual rain just at the right time to knock it down when things were looking bad, we might have been goners.  Idyllwild village had to evacuate.. the area where I live is a few miles further north and west, so we were on alert and ready to go, but luckily never had to actually leave.   Definitely the closest call since we have lived here, though.
Another big fire occurred a couple of weeks later down on the eastern foot of the mountain near the I-10, but that was prevented from getting up into the forest which was good for us, but quite a few houses and buildings were destroyed in that one. We haven't even got into the real Santa Ana season yet when some of the worst fires typically happen, so looks like we'll be on guard around here until the winter rains arrive.

Monday, July 8, 2013

How hot was it? It was so hot....

... last week that even the local squirrels were just too gassed to move!  Actually, I kind of felt the same way:) Living in the forest at 6000 ft. elevation normally protects us from really excessive heat, but a few times per year, seems like the mercury travels into the mid-90's, even here. It was close to 100° just below us in the main part of town, at 5000 ft.  Of course we can't complain too much, since down in the desert not that far from here, they are routinely around 110° this time of year and were toying with 120° last week. We drove down there one afternoon and wow.. takes your breath away if you're not used to it. At least we cool off nicely at night, where they don't so much.
In the summer, I always leave a pan of water out for the local critters, because there is no natural water to be found for quite a distance around where we live, and they seem to really appreciate it.. more than food I think.  Guess this guy was deciding if he had the energy to get down to the ground for a cool drink.
Yes, I know... I haven't been updating posts here much recently.. I have quite a bit of deferred maintenance work to catch up on the house and yard this summer,  and then we had a rather large and unexpected vet bill that postponed our plan for a July road trip to Arizona and Utah, so I just haven't had the opportunity to get out and shoot much new work.  In the meantime, I've got plenty of backlogged stuff to process and print anyway, so no hurry!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Red Rock Fix

Our original plan for last weekend was a camping trip to Sedona, but some work stuff came up and forced a change in the schedule.  Probably we'll head out that way sometime in June and expand it into a longer trip. There is a particular ruin up towards Arches that I have been wanting to shoot,  and my wife wants to go to Arches, so we'll see if we can make it that far next trip.
In the meantime, I'm revisiting a few more favorites from last Fall in southern Utah. Another one here of amazing red rock goodness from Snow Canyon... shot with my Mamiya on 6x7 medium format Velvia.

Friday, April 26, 2013

More from JT

Another quick study from a few weeks ago out in Joshua Tree. The big rocks near the right of the frame in the distance are a very popular spot for rock climbers.. you can usually find a bunch of them up there on the weekends.  Guessing they're approx. 80' high. Not for me, but fun to watch:)
Two really great camera phone apps that I have been using recently are Camera Awesome! by the folks that run SmugMug (it's free), and KitCAM, which is very similar and costs only about $1.00 (basically free).  Besides adding a kit full of shooting utilities, both come with a very good selection of useful presets for processing and framing right in the camera... and then quick export links to update to your various on-line accounts, or your regular camera roll, for later processing or storage on your computer.  The in-camera processing maintains the original exposure also, so you're not damaging anything by playing around with the more creative processing possibilities.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Evening Light-JT

Another "phoneography" example from my most recent afternoon out in Joshua Tree. Once again, a little over the top on the contrast and color compared to normal taste, but guess I'm just enjoying that look right now, for a change. My nice, convenient clouds from earlier had dissipated, but I found another way to occupy the sky:)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

More on "Phoneography"

I drove out to Joshua Tree last weekend, specifically to reshoot this scene that I had made some quick studies of last year. I've been waiting for the right day, weather-wise, combined with the free time, but it never seemed to work out so I finally decided to just get in the car and go, win or lose. Didn't have high hopes when I left.. you can usually control the time of day, but not the sky, and that was crucial to my vision of the shot.  The sky was way too clear and blue when I left, but by the time I arrived, these perfect high, thin clouds had thankfully appeared and not only did I get the shot I had in mind, but a few other good ones, as well, over the course of the afternoon.
This stands as another example of "phoneography".. shot and processed entirely on my phone's cam, (which explains the blow-out in the clouds, but that is from the uber-contrast of the processing, not the original exposure). All I did on the computer was down-size it for posting here.
This is likely not my ultimate, finished version; I'll go with the more conventional version in this particular case because I want to print it, but while I had my regular Nikon setup on the tripod, I simply pulled my iPhone out of my pocket and shot hand-held from the same vantage point. I kind of like this over-the-top interpretation, though. It's a great way to change up your process, experiment and most of all have fun, as opposed to always doing it the technically "correct" way. 
Check out the kid sitting on top of the rock:)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New Tools and New Ways of Seeing

I love wide format for landscapes.  Not necessarily just super-wide panoramas, although those can be fun. Since I don't have a real panoramic-format camera (there are some), the two normal techniques I use are a 6 x12 roll film back that fits on my 4x5 field cam, or the usual digital method of shooting multiple overlapping frames from a tripod and stitching them together later.  Make that I "didn't" have a real panoramic camera, because the iPhone's new pano capture feature is the real deal. Considering that you not only don't need a tripod, but you are shooting hand held with the camera in motion, the results can be pretty remarkable.
It's all instantly and seamlessly patched together... and best of all, you're actually shooting in vertical format, which flips the full 3264 pixel WIDTH of the camera over to the VERTICAL... and then you can extend the horizontal as far as you want. ( I kind of have trouble twisting my body enough to fill the entire possible frame:)  You don't need to utilize the entire possible width of the panorama.. you can stop anywhere that looks good and end up with a file resolution that rivals many dslr's. This one, before I cropped some of it off, came out to over 30" wide at 300 dpi! That's some printable stuff, folks.. and the grainy, soft, low dynamic range pics that you would have expected, even a couple years ago, are history due to advances in the technology.
I'll have some more to say about how much I have been using my phone cam in place of a standard dslr recently, and why.

Monday, January 28, 2013

More Red Rock Textures

Another from my last stop in Utah, just after the heavy rains. Love the complex, layered textures of the red rock accented by this neat little reflecting pool. I made quite a few shots with this uniquely-shaped white rock mountain on the horizon.. that impressed me right away a perfect eye-catching element for the background.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

SkyWatch: Pools in the Rock

I think I mentioned before that driving out to this site was through a torrential rain that let up, luckily, just as I was arriving.  As a result, I had quite a few opportunities to use these many temporary reflecting pools as an unusual subject matter out here in the petrified red sand dunes. I wanted to use my grad ND filter to knock down the sky, but it kept spitting rain off and on and getting all over the filter, so I had to stick with just a lens hood to somewhat keep water spots off the lens, and then try to catch the moments when the sky was less bright. Shooting with film, I lost a number of frames to bad exposure because of that, but that's the way it goes sometimes. The multi-tiered erosion almost makes this look like a deliberately landscaped pool, don't you think?