Monday, May 30, 2011

Inspiration From Other Media

I just finished the fourth book in the hardcover SAGA OF SWAMP THING collection, and I have to say that it is the most exciting comic work (that I have read). If you are into comics, even just a little, you know about Alan Moore. You have most likely seen movies adapted from his works: V for Vendetta, The Watchmen, Constantine, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and From Hell.

Back to Swamp Thing. What has blown me away by this series is the incredible and experimental use of artwork format to convey impeccable storytelling. This series does not have the typical 9 panel pages that practically dominates the layout of comic books. Reading the stories and the panels is like following a chaotic roadmap, but it has an organic feel, which would be appropriate for any story involving the Swamp Thing. It is this experimentation that is going to force me to delve back into the collections again and look for tips on lighting, composition, and storytelling for bringing my photography to a new level.

I want to step outside of that "9 panel" comfort zone. I want to experiment. I want to continue to learn and learn and learn and transcend the normal conceptions of photography, or specifically, what I have been doing.

I believe the route I want to take has to do with photo methods, so to assist I picked up a book titled ALTERNATIVE PHOTOGRAPHIC PROCESSES. When I learn the possibilities of what is capable outside of the cookie cutter develop, scan and or print mentality, my pre-visualization abilities will increase to give a clearer, stronger, image of what I want from the final image.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Niagara Falls (part 3)

This is my final entry about Niagara Falls, I hope you have enjoyed the images from the previous two.


I thought what this guy was doing was pretty dangerous; standing on the perilous ledge of the falls , but hey, I have to thank him because I like the shot. He also sports a none-too-flattering wedgie.

Taken with the Olympus OM-1 and 35mm f/2.8 single coated Zuiko lens on Kodak Tri-X film, souped in TMax chemistry.


Prepare for the impact; a first hand look at the power of the falls from the Maid of the Mist.


Wham! This picture was taken before the last picture, but I think this sequence tells a better story :)

Both shots with a crappy point and shoot.

One of the five cameras I had specifically brought for the Maid of the Mist shots crapped out on me at the hotel, so I had to get a crummy disposable camera, which did an okay job.


Taken at a park in Queenston Heights while my friend and I were on our way to check out a town called Niagara on the Lake, which was supposed to be an 18th century town, but it felt more like Scarsdale (in Westchester County in NY) with all of its overpriced boutiques and restaurants and pay parking. The monument featured at this park (Brock's Monument - seen in the distance) is quite ridiculous. It is so high up that if the artist did a fantastic job, no one would appreciate it. If the artist did a poor job, no one would realize it. Funny in a perverse sense, really.

I was going for a silly picture here. Instead of posing my subject on the steps and looking at me for an environmental portrait, I had him bend over for no apparent purpose. I am sure it sounded pretty creepy when "bend over more - I like that..." came out of my mouth.

Taken with the Olympus OM-1 and 35mm f/2.8 single coated Zuiko lens on Kodak Tri-X film, souped in TMax chemistry.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Niagara Falls (Part 2)

I was most surprised by the insane commercialism of the area. On this one street there were about 4 wax museums, ice cream shops on every block, and almost every type of fast food place you can think of. Outside of the immediate area the place was somewhat depressed and dilapidated:


Taken with an Olympus OM-1 Zuiko 35mm f/2.8

The night before the last day in Canada, John and I ventured to the falls to take some night time pictures (around 11pm) while spotlights shone on the water:



On the last morning of the trip my friend and I woke up at 5am and walked down to again and took a number of pictures and here are the best ones (spare the image from the last entry):



All of these were taken with the Bronica SQ-A with a Zenzanon 80mm f/2.8 PS lens

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Niagara Falls (Part I)


I have tried to break into Canada twice before, but alas, the fates must have conspired against me. The first instance was about a year ago when my friend and I were all set to go, but the morning of the trip he informed me that his green card had expired and that he would probably not make it past the border control to get back into the states.

The second time I was going to visit with my girlfriend at the time, but my car died on the trip and we had to take the train back down to get home.

This time I actually made it, but it was a close call.

After a long car ride, a conversation with a gamut of topics, and listening to some great tunes we made our way to the border where this cutey of an officer was asking us some questions:

Q: What is the nature of your visit?
A: I wanted to answer "Pleasure" but said "Came to see the Falls for vacation"
Q: Have you ever been here before?
A: (No, but John had)
Q: Can I see your hotel reservation?
A: (Passes confirmation printout)
Q: Did you bring any cameras?
A: Yes
Q: How many?
A: Thinking and looking up for a moment I counted in my head and said "five".
Q: Five? Why do you need that many?
A: "Because I do film photography" - granted that is not the most lucid answer to someone who might not be into film photography, but it made sense to me at the time.

After a few more questions she handed us a yellow sheet of paper and said to pull over and give that to the people that would come out to meet us. On the yellow slip of paper "5 CAMERAS" was written and underlined.

John noted that he did not want to have a cavity search because I had brought five cameras across the border.

The people that came out to greet us said that we needed to go into "immigration" while they searched the vehicle.

Inside I had to explain that I was not shooting for commercial purposes and that our visit was recreational. After a short probing we were let through.

I received the nickname "5 Cameras" after the incident.

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Single-Coated vs. Multi-Coated Lenses


A thought occurred to me the other day. I believe that single-coated lenses are worth far more bang for the buck than their younger multi-coated brothers. For the most part they perform exactly alike, except that single-coated lenses generally make for a less contrasty image with slightly softer colors.

A less contrasty image is of great benefit to render greater detail in shadowed areas. If the initial image is too contrasty, information can not be brought out.

In the darkroom or on the computer you can always easily add contrast to an image like the picture above. If the concern is of colors, those could easily be pumped as well, but not too much, please.

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Sakura Matsuri Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

So I was not entirely sure what to expect at the 30th annual Sakura Mastsuri festival. The programs listed throughout the day sounded fun (traditional drumming, cosplay caberet, and the art of Japanese karate to name a few) and I had been to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden before so I thought I would be able to get some beautiful shots of the cherry blossoms in full bloom; however, I did not expect the mob scene that it turned out to be.

The garden was so packed that one could not even hope to dream of getting an isolated shot of a row of trees, or even a single tree for that matter, so I focused on the characters, which turned out to be fantastically interesting:

May be my best shot of the day.

I can not explain to you how adorable this girl was.

This girl sang a bad ass version of the Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood theme song during the caberet.

This is cosplay.

Japan is big into animation and dressing up like your favorite characters from one's favorite series. What reason you ask? Fun, obviously. There are places here in the States that you can experience cosplay, like anime and comic conventions, but this was the first time I had ever experienced it in person.

It seemed like everybody attending had some DSLR on them and throughout the day I heard the rapid cycling of thousands of shutters as the photogs crowded and surrounded the people in costume, but I noted a few Leicas, a Contax, a TLR, a Pentax, a Minolta, and a Zeiss Ikon. I was happy to see that there were still a bunch of film users about.

Proudly I displayed the Bronica SQ-A to represent precision Japanese medium format photography, and let me tell you, every time I use this camera I fall more and more in love with it - even my subjects like being photographed by the elegant hulk!

I got all of these shots because I asked for them. If you want an up close and personal shot with someone do not be afraid to go up and ask the person - the worst they can say is no. There is so much more to gain if you actually engage a person.

I knew there would be lots of color during the day, so Fuji Velvia RVP 50 was the obvious choice, but to tell the truth, I was a little bit worried about the rendering of skin tones because of the proclamations from a certain well known reviewer.

Anxiously, I picked up my film after work yesterday because I was not sure what would develop; whether I had wasted money and such, but soon as I opened that cardboard cube box my heart skipped a beat: the slides were gorgeous. I can wholeheartedly recommend this film for color portraits. Even the clerk who ran the place came by to take a look at them with me. He was also surprised with the brilliant colors and neutral skin tones and even brought the slides over to the light table for a closer look with a lupe.

Once I got home I hurried to scan them, but for some reason (surprisingly) the scanner does not portray the images justly. They all scanned underexposed and I started freaking out that the Bronica's meter was incredibly off and that I would need to get something repaired, but I looked at the slides again today and clearly only a couple were under (most likely by human error). I am not sure why the usually excellent CanoScan 8800F crapped the bed, but maybe it does not handle Velvia well? The scanner always seems to work better with Kodak films; maybe therein lies is the mystery?

I did the best I could to salvage the photos last night, but these turned out less detailed and duller than the real thing.

You can check out the whole Sakura Matsuri set here:

And now you know that I love anime.

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