Mood in creating an image

Mood in creating an image is an aspect of photography often overlooked. There are many variables to this process but ultimately, the goal is to bring an emotional element to viewing an image. Many times I go out with a vision in my head of what I am looking to capture. Others times I go out not looking for a particular image but for a particular mood. I touched on this briefly from my last post but will briefly touch on this some more.

During this winter, I want to fully convey this time of year. Not just through a 2d image, but by attempting to tie emotions to that image, or rather, a mood. Black and white film is exceptional for this but color can equally capture this. With color, the thought process is somewhat different. Thought to color palette in choosing a film is one area of consideration. But ultimately, for me, it is the entire process.

What I will highlight today is a few B&W images and a few color images taken recently. I chose to use a very old camera, a 1952 Leica IIIF with an equally old or older leica 35/3.5 summaron. The summaron delivers a delightfully low contrast image, flaring easily to bright points of light. I could have easily chosen a modern lens however I wanted character, mood if you will, of time forgotten, past, etc. In the color department, I chose a cheap consumer film. I had my professional films, my ektar and portra, but I wanted a film to impart imperfection. Visible grain was to be desired. Sometimes, the perfection is through the imperfection. Other times, it is the imperfection that is a part of the sum total that will aid imparting mood.

Here are a few examples, snapshots if you will, of just getting out and about with nothing planned other than to capture the dreary mood of winter. Or, mood in creating an image.

short springs

short springs 2

old stone fort deer

old stone fort deer 2

old stone fort sunset

old stone fort sunset 2

Monochrome motion

Traditional black and white film is an abstract medium, presenting an alternative reality that must be interpreted by the viewer. It is here that more elements can be interpreted from the scene. This winter, as color is muted and represents earthen tones, I have attempted to accentuate the mood and feeling of this dreary time of year and incorporate motion of water as a primary focus rather than just a part of the composition. Monochrome motion if you will. Whether I have achieved this or not is left up to the viewer and their interpretation however, I find that I often spend more time viewing these images which in the end, is what one desires. Time, thoughtfulness, wonderment about the image captured which can only be done through time spent viewing a particular image. What follows is just a few examples. A few of these images or more abstract with others being closer to straight photography. Enjoy!

below savage falls

monochrome motion

old stone fort state park

old stone fort 2

old stone fort 3

fiery gizzard creek

fiery gizzard creek 2

savage falls

Could you go back to film?

“Could you go back to film?” was the question posed on FredMiranda.com in the alternative forum. I read briefly through some of the thread but apparently, there were some heated and off topic rants from both sides of the coin. However, the thread got me thinking and I felt compelled to share my feelings at this time. Below is my post which I felt compelled to share here for you, my reader. I could go on but ultimately, photography is not an end result but a process, a journey and not a destination. With that in mind, maybe the context will fit my brief discussion below.

For me, I am shooting more and more film, and less digital. In fact, I am almost 100% film. As most of my work is for pleasure and little is for pay, I find delight in using old mechanical rangefinders (Leica’s) and old mechanical SLR’s (Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Pentax, Olympus, etc). There is a pleasure, a tactile pleasure, and experience that I enjoy. I find digital boring today. Maybe because I feel I have mastered digital photography (I can get the results I want, to an extent. Can’t emulate film but a topic for another post). I have not mastered film and neither will I ever, just improve. To a degree, the same with digital but again, the experience is different and not as enjoyable. Too many variables, too many challenges with film. There is absolutely (to me) nothing more enjoyable then pulling out my leica iiif, guessing exposure and winding on those knobs for the next frame. A pure tactile dream! My M5 is almost as pleasurable with the added spot meter. Then the fun of mixing my own chems and developing. Sometimes I mess up, other times I have great results, still other times I am wondering how the result I was after is different than what I had anticipated. Granted, this would not be for everyone, but I like the hands on approach. Probably why I roast my own coffee beans instead of buying them roasted. I like my results and the experience, or rather the journey, is part of it. Not the end result, but the whole thing. The process, the journey, getting there, and then starting down the next path. Digital doesn’t give me this anymore. I’m starting at the end. It’s like buying the bag of ground coffee and brewing it. Yes, I can use a French press or a mocha pot for something better than the Mr. Coffee machine but still………..

My 5dmkii is dusty, I usually pull it out to swap L lenses with my film EOS bodies essentially using the digital body as an expensive rear lens cap. My workflow works and is at times quicker than my digital, more rewarding and requires less post processing. Right now I am a hybrid shooter. I develop my film and scan on a Kodak Pakon f135+. It gives gorgeous 6mp files (this is not a flatbed but a dedicated lab scanner) and will scan a roll in about 2 minutes. Color is usually spot on with c-41 due to the Kodak built in color profiles. B&W is beautiful. My lightroom editing is minimal. Adjust levels and sharpening. That’s it. 10 seconds max on an image, usually less. I could batch them all in the scanner and export jpeg and have no post processing but I like to fine tune things. Currently building a dark room for traditional printing, my winter project if you will.

I shoot digital for weddings and portraits but recently have been incorporating film into my wedding work. I sell fine art landscapes and have them in homes, on book covers and in office building across the country. Not a lot, but enough to keep me doing it. But that doesn’t bring pleasure. Just work. I am mostly an amateur photographer and for this reason, I enjoy film. It is where my most personal work is made.

What I didn’t share were some images. Here are two I scanned yesterday. They were shot on hand rolled cassettes of film that I spun off bulk rolls of Kentmere 100. I shot them in my Leica M5 using a vc 35/2.5 color skopar lens with orange filter. Development was using Rodinal (a very OLD developer, classic if you will) at 1:50 dilution. Film was scanned with my Kodak Pakon f135+. These images speak to ME (maybe not to you) but this is what it says. It reminds me of a beautiful afternoon riding bikes with my wife through Gulf State Park (my emotional tie). Aesthetically, I am drawn to the second image particularly. The lighting, the tones, the depth (the pleasing of the viewing experience)…you decide.

Gulf State Park

Gulf State Park 2

Hoarder or Collector

I think the time has come to clear out some gear. My wife would call me a hoarder but my therapist self would rationalize that I am a budding hoarder in the making and have some unresolved issues that prevents me from a) letting go of things, and b) a need to accumulate. The other possibility, or “what’s behind door #3?” is what this post is about.

So my Tammy (my beloved wife) would say I have something like a 100 cameras. I on the other hand know (or at least believe) that I have anywhere from 30-50 cameras. The reality is I have too much junk (but not enough of the good stuff!). The junk needs to be cleared away and the collection needs to have some semblance of rationality of a legitimate collection. In what I have, there is legitimate collector pieces…and a lot of mix and match and junk. The problem is, I like thrift store finds and, well, I feel the need to rescue these wonderful (and not so wonderful) photographic tools from the trash heap. A more nobler pursuit that I rationalize through my denial defense mechanism is that I am recycling. Now, a recycler of goods, not a wasteful consumer. That sounds nice, puffs up my ego just enough to justify the $2.99 thrift store purchase.

Now here is the problem, I use what I collect. Or in theory I do. But, I have too much stuff. Some of it I don’t use and never have, others I haven’t used in a long time and still more, I have gear that is half working or non working that I probably will never get around to fixing though the intention is there. A hoarder would not let it go. A collector would clear out the junk, consolidate the collection and with fewer pieces, focus on the really good or desirable stuff. Digital isn’t the issue, it is my film cameras, lenses and gear.

I have multiple working and non working FD and EOS bodies, numerous Nikon bodies (good stuff with both but not the top of the heap stuff), plenty of lenses in both mounts (with really good FD and EOS lenses). I also have plenty of Minolta bodies, both AF and manual focus. Plenty of good rokkor lenses and some A-mount stuff that is just so so. Multiple Pentax bodies with K mount and m-42 screw mount lenses and adaptors. The bodies are middle of the road stuff, lenses as well…not bad but not the best. I have one Olympus slr with 2 lenses (really wanted to get into the small oly system but hasn’t worked out yet in thrift store finds) and lot of Olympus point and shoots as well as the famous XA and XA4. I have a Mamiya DTL1000 with an assortment of screw mount lenses. And then the Leicas. Now the good stuff. An M5, a CL and a IIIf with assorted leica lenses in M and L39 mount w/ adaptors as well as canon screwmount w/ adaptors. These are definitely not going anywhere.

So, time to focus on the good stuff. Getting rid of all my point n shoots but one, a leica mini II clone, the Minolta freedom escort. The XA and XA4 work for ultra compact and will stay. Time to unload all my partial or non-working film bodies. Probably time to dump the orphaned systems that I don’t use like the Olympus and Mamiya systems. Oh, and I forgot the Konica autoreflex T4 and lenses. It’s going. Getting rid of the Minolta AF cameras and AF lenses and thining down the Minolta bodies to 1, the srt102. I want to add the XD-11 but that will come soon enough. I have a lot of good Minolta lenses and they are just too good to let go. The canon system isn’t going anywhere as I am committed to that brand. I have a couple of AF Minolta bodies that can go and possibly a lens but will keep that. Then to let go off about 30 skylight and UV filters of various dimensions, numerous vintage bags I don’t use (I would like a small leather or waxed canvas bag for my rangefinders) and unload some straps. That would clear up a bunch. But I digress.

I like cameras, I like to shoot cameras, I like old cameras especially as they are like fine watches with precision gears and mechanics. Did I say I shoot cameras? I do. Now here are some pictures of what we both collect, critters, specifically of the canine or feline category. Part of our family.

Noah
Noah

Howie
Howie

Rip, the foster kitty now in a forever home
Rip

Observation about black and white

Today I will post an observation about black and white images. This was inspired by my short post on a film thread I follow on Fredmiranda . This is what I said:

“Observation and not intended to derail this thread: The more I shoot black and white film, the more unnatural and dissatisfying it is to see B&W out of a digital sensor, even the m monochrome. Traditional emulsion has a look, a texture, a feel, a depth that is so much more gratifying to the eyes than the fake stuff. Maybe my eyes are being “retrained” to see things different. Maybe….maybe I need to continue to shoot film. ”

This posting was in response to viewing images from the Leica M Monochrome (a true black and white digital sensor and a camera costing many thousands of dollars. caveat, I own 3 film Leica bodies so not a leica basher nor fanboy). The images are HERE. Now I ran across this link due to the author out of enthusiasm posting the link on Fredmiranda. Fantastic! I would be thrilled too. However, the images to me are severely lacking in life. I will try to expand on this and maybe try to show some examples though I am sure will fall short.

Digital sensors are linear and do not like highlights. Once a threshold is hit, everything goes pure white. Film has a “shoulder” where highlights tend to roll off and extend for a long ways. For those with an audio background, think clipping. Digital input clips at 0db where you could get some natural compression and go over 0db with tape. Principles are similar. So the look is completely different. In addition, film has character, texture (due to grain) and depth (light is captured at differing depths within an emulsion). I can’t really explain it other than once your eyes get adjusted to the differences, it is stark. I will now post some images shot on digital and converted to black and white to SIMULATE film and then some actual film images. Hopefully you will see what I see.

First the digital. This was from a wedding I shot this past spring. I tried very hard to emulate film, using a “Tri X 400” plugin and adding grain digitally for texture.
digital B&W

Here is from a couple weeks ago of my wife shot with some kentmere 400.

kentmere 400

a film landscape from 2 weeks ago
kentmere 100

and a more apples to apples (though different camera/lens), from my first roll of Tri X 4 or 5 years ago (my sister, niece and nephew)
Tri X 400

Do you see the difference? I know these are small examples. Viewed large and especially viewed optically printed, traditional black and white is a completely different experience. Next time your in the antique store, look at some of the old photographs you come across. Hold it in your hands, appreciate this art that has slid to the backburner of society and appreciate the difference between film and 0’s and 1’s (digital). Film actually captures light and awaits to be chemically released creating a physical image. A completely different process.

Expired Kodak Plus X

Shooting expired film can sometimes be a crapshoot. Such was the case with this past roll of Kodak Plus X, expired in 1983. That means this film was most likely packaged in the mid to late 70’s. This roll of expired Kodak Plus X is almost 40 years old. I have no idea how this film was stored (heat is a killer for film) but was given a few rolls of this from a lot of expired tmax400 I wanted. Here is an image of the finished roll:

plus x

Ahhhhh, the old yellow grandfather.

Now, I did a little research before I shot this. I knew that I would need to develop in Kodak hc-110 to hopefully deal with the base fog better. I also knew that I needed to rate it lower, at least 2 or 3 stops at best. So I shot this 2 stops over the rated speed of 125. An old film needed old components, or so that was my reasoning. Might as well go really old. I chose my Leica IIIF from 1952, lens was the collapsible summitar with corresponding Leitz Wetzlar yellow filter. I actually used an old handheld Agfa Lucameter S from the 1950’s that surprisingly still works well. I was set. The roll was shot this past Sunday. Developing was timed at 3 minutes 45 seconds in dilution b of the hc-110. I had to compensate for the warmer water I had (approx. 75deg).

Now so much can go wrong with really old expired film. And certainly, this film was not stored well. If refrigerated or frozen, this film would still be nearly new with just some loss of speed. Not so. The negs came out really flat (loooooow contrast) and many frames the emulsion was coming off the film. However, I was still able to get quite a few usable images. Processing was minimal. The negatives were extremely fogged however my Kodak pakon f135+ scanner handled it without a hiccup. Adobe Lightroom 5 was used to bring the black point down and add a little sharpening. That is about it. See for yourself.

Roma Tomotoes, expired plus x

Grundy Lakes 1, expired plus x

construction site, expired plus x

coke ovens, expired plus x

So don’t throw away those old cassettes of film you find at the garage sale, estate sale or at the grandparents/parents house. It still has some life left in it.

Rocky Mountain National Park – a brief review

I have been neglecting this blog with new content for a variety of reasons. Often times, life and family take precedence and so it has been. Needless to say, I do feel somewhat compelled to post a short piece on a recent trip my wife Tammy and I took to Rocky Mountain National Park about 3 weeks ago. This will be a brief review of Rocky Mountain National Park, basically outlining the good and the bad of the park.

Tammy and I have fallen in love with our National Parks. We are not one for convential vacations (what is a conventional vacation?) and have found a passion we both enjoy. Included in this is our active lifestyle of hiking, climbing mountains, adventure and new experiences. It is our mission to visit all of our Nations National Parks in our lifetime. Not just visit, but truly immerse ourselves into them. It would be easy to tour the American west on a 2 week road trip and hit 75% or our parks. However, would you really have SEEN our parks? We intend each vacation to be a park. Camping, hiking and experiencing our parks. One problem is that we often fall in love with a specific park. Such was/is our experience with Big Bend National Park necessitating 4 week long visits in 4 years. I still want to go back even after committing to our last trip being the last. Never the less, this was intended as a short piece on Rocky Mountain National Park. The good and the bad.

GOOD:
Breathtaking beauty
Stunning vistas
Mountains, mountains, mountains!
Wildlife abundance
Varied terrain (woodlands, tundra, streams, meadows, glaciers)

BAD:
People
More people
Too many people

If it wasn’t for the good, the bad would have outweighed the park for us. It was flogged. I mean FLOGGED with people! Yes, it was summer, yes, it is our 2nd most visited national park (and for good reason) however exploring nature becomes difficult when you feel like your in Times Square except for buildings and streets you have trees and meadows. Ridiculous! My recommendation for anyone is to go off season or to go backcountry, far back country backpacking to get away from the crowds. Forget about the campsites, they are packed and booked way in advance. However, I must say, the beauty was amazing. Overall a positive experience. I am still working on images, slowly but surely from this trip but I will post a few to give you an example of the good.

Sprague Lake

Elk - Tundra

Rocky Mountain National Park Sunset

Rocky Mountain National Park Twilight

A thought on black and white photography

This morning, I was having a quick thought on black and white photography. Not really even a thought but an awareness. I am moving personally to more and more black and white capture. Specifically in the realm of traditional silver halide emulsions but with digital as well. Granted, nothing like some fall colors or a brilliant sunrise/sunset however there is something about a monochrome image that holds my attention just a bit longer, makes my brain twist just a bit more. Nostalgia maybe, or maybe something more.

I think I will roll up a couple/three rolls of kentmere 400 for my overnight trip to Memphis to pack along with my M5.

Here is an image from 2 or 3 years ago. Granted it is digital (shot with a canon 5dmkii) however I have a stronger connection to it than some of my other images from here in color from this location.

Fiery Gizzard Creek - Black and White - panorama

Savage Gulf

Last month I went hiking at Savage Gulf. Savage Gulf is part of the South Cumberland State Park located in TN. Specifically, I hiked 20+ miles in one day, my personal longest, from the Savage Gulf Ranger station, to Hobbs Cabin and back. This would usually make a great overnight backpacking trip however my faithful hiking companion, my wife Tammy, would not be available this day. This is a hike I have been wanting to tackle for quite sometime but various factors have prevented me. See, to do this mileage in one day, I would need plenty of daylight. However, the hot summer months are not conducive to long hikes. So, late spring appeared to be the best time. I was graced with spectacular weather this day as well. Partly cloudy most of the day with temperatures in the low to mid 70’s.

I did bring two companions with me. They were begging for a long hike. Literally. My trusty dog Noah and my new puppy Howie (6-7 months old at that time) would experience this with me. Noah I knew could handle it however this was Howie’s longest by 15 miles to date. He appeared eager and I brought him plenty of Tammy’s homemade dog biscuits. Due to the rain the night before, I knew the wet weather springs would provide them water.

selfie

This hike appealed for numerous reasons but foremost was due to the fact I had not done it! I also knew that though long, it would not be overly strenuous as it stayed up on the plateau. Additionally, there would be a diversity of sites I had not experienced. Perfect to help myself document sections of the park I had not previously done. So I packed up my gear and headed out long before daylight.

Gear for this trip was simple. Plenty of water (3 liters and a diet redbull for a lunch recharge), food for the dogs and myself, headlamp for caution, 2 sources of fire, knife, and two lightweight cameras with plenty of film. Film you say! Yes film. You see, my digital slr, though a compact (canon 5dmkii) compared to a a 1d series canon, is still very heavy compared to a comparable film kit. Add to that a zoom like the 24-105L and I would be weighted down with more than I was willing to carry. I also prefer c-41/negative film for daylight shooting as it handles highlights more effectively due to it’s almost infinite shoulder characteristic, it’s tonalities and predictability. I was not chasing magic light. I was documenting the rich natural beauty of this hike. And I was carrying one of the lightest camera setups ever made. A cheap (in case I trashed it in a fall) Nikon FG-20, a series e 50/1.8 pancake lens and a series e 28/2.8 lens. My backup camera was an Olympus XA4 (28/3.5 lens) loaded with black and white film (kentmere 400). Film for the Nikon was a mixture of Kodak Gold 200, Kodak proimage 100 and Fuji 200. I was set.

The trail began upon a path I knew very well. After the first junction, the trail began to cut across the plateau following the old Dinky Line Railway bed.
Dinky Line
10 miles of trail would meander through the forest with one climb of Cagle mountain. The scenery was very pleasant and without a soul in sight, peaceful. The following are images capture along the way.

savage gulf 2

savage gulf 3

Eventually we came up on Hobbs Cabin, but not before a spectacular view of the gulf! The mountain laurel was also out in full bloom.

savage gulf 4

savage gulf 5

savage gulf 6

savage gulf 7

savage gulf 8

savage gulf 9

As I had my lunch and the dogs their rest, we headed back out. I knew this section would be beautiful and was not let down. View upon view, overlook upon overlook was provided with endless viewing pleasure. Though as is natural for me, my image taking slowed down as my endurance began to slacken. Regardless, I still burned another couple rolls up. Here are a few more images from the second 10 mile leg.

savage gulf 10

savage gulf 11

savage gulf 12

savage gulf 13

savage gulf 14

savage gulf 15

I made it out by around 5pm. Sore and tired, I was glad we made. The dogs were too. At a later date, I will expand upon my journey’s through the South Cumberland State Park.

Is film coming back?

My response to a thread on Fred Miranda. Is film coming back? Just some of my thoughts on the subject. My response as follows…

I have moved from 100% digital to 95% film. I pull my 5dmkii out of the bag about 1x per month. Probably the reason I have yet to upgrade this body (though I continue to add nice L glass). How has this happened? I like to figure things out and like a challenge, I enjoy the process, nothing like shooting a an old film body (my leica iiif is an absolute tactile joy) and film is a completely different medium from digital providing completely different results. But this evolution has been a process and I will elaborate.

In 2009 or 2010 I picked up some film camera from several different places adding to the old ae-1 of my dad that I shot with during the digital revolution. I could never get the quality scans I wanted on my old Epson flatbed and figured bigger was better moving to medium format. However could never get c-41 colors that looked right. Enter the Kodak pakon in late 2012. I bought the f135+ pakon scanner. Initial setup was a bit of a pain but settled eventually on using a VM XP on my Windoze 7 machine. It has been rock solid. The biggest bonus is 2 fold. Speed and color. I can scan a whole roll of film in 2.5 minutes flat and get the baked in Kodak color profiles. Win win. So much so I now only shoot 35mm film. Which leads to the 2nd reason I shoot film:

I love the tactile feel of old film cameras. The simplicity of a Nikon FM, the rangefinder of my Leica M’s and barnack, the compact size and solid feel of my pentax me, the old rokkor glass from a dead Minolta system, I love it all! And for pennies literally. I have 20-30 film cameras ranging from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Mamiya, Minolta, Leica with glass for all. These cameras are a joy to use. I even use my modern L glass on a canon 7ne (eye control AF!). This is for me to enjoy. This is what I shoot most of my personal work on. My family, what matters to me. Paid jobs I shoot digital. Critical work (stuff I plan on selling) I shoot digital though this is starting to change. I shot my last wedding shooting both digital and film (portra and triX). Guess which images I prefer

I also develop my own film, both c-41 and b&w. I am also in process of setting up a darkroom (have a besseler 67 given to me) and will hopefully begin learning this side of things.

I also roast my own coffee beans. Yes I can buy them in a store (poor quality). I can order online from a micro roasting company (pricy) or I can have the ultimate in cup quality from my own roast.

My experience. I am sure I am not alone. A lot of people moving back to a more traditional slow process to move away from our instant society. I am about to order 3 100′ rolls of film. I doubt film is going anywhere.