Excitement In Spite Of RedundancyThursday, August 18, 2011
|Lauren Elizabeth Stewart, Hydrangea serrata 'Bluebird' |
I told him (he goes by the nickname of Dental Ben), “I am very sorry for having missed my appointment but I have a very good reason for forgetting. I am attempting to cope with a rapid transition from unemployment to retirement. The British have a very good word for it, redundant. I am that or perhaps obsolete. I have a problem figuring out what day of the week it is or the time of day. I do not have any kind of schedule. Mondays are Fridays and Fridays could be Wednesdays or Sundays.” Dental Ben smiled at me (he does have a beautiful smile and perfect teeth), and said, “That cannot be true, can it?”
|Nikon FM 35mm lens|
My memory is vivid on my obsession with having the right equipment when I began my career in Vancouver in 1975. With so much competition I tried to hone my edge by learning new techniques and went even as far as purchasing a camera (a Mamiya RB-67) when just about everybody was shooting 35mm cameras. My new camera shot a big 6x7cm negative or transparency.
I learned to print colour in my darkroom and I learned a multiple filtering technique with my multigrade b+w photographic paper. I could achieve from one negative a level of shadow detail and softness while not losing the edge of higher contrast. Such a technique is obsolete with the digital process. I can scan a negative (be it colour or b+w ) or a slide and using the Shadow/Highlight tool of Photoshop achieve even better results of showing shadow detail but keeping the picture lively with some contrast.
With lights of all kinds (softboxes, umbrellas, grids, Fresnel and optical spotlights and ringlights) I took pictures in all types of styles. I explored classical Hollywood portraits of the 30s and 40s and dabbled in the effects of film noir using gobos with which I projected Venetian blinds, stars and gothic windows.
I went in every direction until I finally settled on the simple which was one light (a 2x3ft softbox) and got close to my subjects using a moderate wide angle lens. The effect was almost an in-your-face immediacy. When I had my studio I worked with this technique plus I used a gray wall. Depending on where I placed my subject the background became black or several shades of gray. And I settled for that, concentrating on getting something out of my subjects and avoiding special effects and techniques.
Now with redundancy and having no stress to be ahead of the photographic pack I find that I am experimenting as if I were back in 1975.
For many years I had no respect for photographers who used colour negative. Colour negative film enabled photographers to be spotty and loose with exposure as the negative could always produce some sort of salvageable result. I opted for the demanding precise exposure slide film. If you were not accurate it would not produce a useable image.
I began to waver when I found out that National Geographic photographers when going to places that they could not return (the North Pole, Mount Everest) they would shoot the usual Ektachromes and Kodachromes but, just in case/you never know, they loaded a mechanical (not needing batteries to function) Nikon FM-2 (I own three of them) with colour negative film.
The clincher that made me change my mind and lower my up-in-the-air nose at colour negative film was seeing colour negative prints at MOMA in New York.
Some months ago a friend and model, Anita called me up and said, “I have some film in my fridge. It’s been there for years. Do you want it?” The film she gave me was a no-name 800 ISO colour negative that was probably manufactured by the now defunct Konica Company. To make it all worse the 35mm rolls where 24 exposure rolls. I have never ever used that sort of thing.
|Lauren Elizabeth Stewart & Kirengeshoma palmata |
I photographed the wonderful Bronwen Marsden in her dark home, early morning. The results excite me and I want to do more.
When we returned from our drive to Texas, a couple of days later my daughter and granddaughters came for dinner. Lauren showed up with her pink dress and a pink necklace. She had lipstick on. I still had an unfinished roll of the no-name film in my Nikon so I picked up Lauren and plunked her in the middle of Rosemary’s kitchen bed where have a brilliant blue hydrangea. I also took some snaps by a Kirengeshoma palmata.
If you study these pictures in which I am unable to completely colour correct you might just figure out why I feel young again and even useful?