A Kirengeshoma Through A Pinhole
Saturday, August 11, 2012
|Original Fuji 3000 negative peel taken with Mamiya RB-Pro SD|
with a lens cap pinhole.
One of the favourite spots in my garden is a shady corner under the Rhododendron luteum
where I grow a large Kirengeshoma palmata.
Underneath is a fine (and quite rare) yellow green hosta called Northwest Textures. I have taken countless photographs of the spot in the past but today I used the pinhole lens (on the body cap) of my Mamiya RB-Pro SD. My exposure was 10 seconds using Fuji FP-3000B Instant Black and White Film. What you see here is a progression of he scans beginning with the actual negative. I had to dry it very well with a hair dryer to make sure it was not sticky so that I could firmly place it on my scanner bed. From that negative you can see the steps to the final results.
|Straight reversal with scanner|
|Shadow/highlight and contrast with Photoshop|
|Corel Paint Shop Pro X2 Time Machine albumen print|
|Corel Paint Shop Pro X2 Time Machine cyanotype|
Excitement In Virtual Solitude
Friday, August 10, 2012
|Yuliya Kate & yours truly at Focal Point, NIkon FM-2 Kodak Tri-X|
By now some of those who read here might have noticed a pattern that includes photographs of persons posing for my camera who are wearing a red Mexican rebozo. At my last count I had 25 souls. The idea is to have people I know who represent all kinds of professions pose for me while wearing a red Rebozo that my mother obtained in Mexico City in 1952 and which she brought to Buenos Aires where we were living at the time.
|Scanned Fuji Instant Print negative peel & reversed|
The project, provisionally ( I am not sure of the name) is Me&My Project
and there are several restrictions in how I go about it so as to standardize the pictures. But there is some leeway for my subjects to make it personal within the stiff constraints.
I use a medium format Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD loaded with Ektachrome 100G transparency film (slide film). I take an average of five photographs with a 140mm lens but in some situations I have opted for my 90mm. I use a gray seamless background that I set up between my living room and the dining room at the entrance to my house.
One of the photographs looked different because my subject, Yuliya Kate, the professional dominatrix, refused to come to my house. I took my stuff to hers and used her wall as my background. To make it all worse she felt very ill with a terrible cold.
In recent weeks she made it known that she wanted a re take and that she was willing to come over. I thought about it and initially I thought that a re-shoot was not quite right. But then the prospect of having Yuliya pose for me again (and willingly) was most attractive.
|Scanned Fuji Instant Film |
We checked the Fuji Instant Colour print and we both agreed that the picture was not only much better but that it blended in with the look of the other photographs.
I will bore some of you with my experiments as I took some additional pictures of Yuliya who was a in an uncharacteristic mellow and pleasant mood. Consider that while I have sometimes suspected that she may be a vampire she and I sat in the sunny garden and sipped on very good Italian Moscato and chomped on iced cold watermelon.
I have to reveal here a paradox. I feel extremely excited (almost how I felt when I discovered new photographic techniques or experimented with new equipment when I was in my 30s. I am excited about working with Fuji’s colour instant film (I use my Polaroid back that I attach to my Mamiya and get 7 by 7 cm images) and its super fast 3000 ISO Instant b+w film. What is particularly exciting is that the colour Fuji provides me with a way of bleaching out the negative peel and get (hard if not impossible to fully colour correct it) an unusual colour negative I can play with. But even more exciting is the results of scanning the b+w negative peel of the b+w instant film. I first have to dry it with a hair dryer to make sure the negative is bone dry and that it will not stick to my scanner’s glass plate.
My results would have warranted instant assignment from excited art directors of local and national magazines. Unfortunately those magazines are gone and their art directors, too.
Most of my photographers friends have disappeared and a couple will not return my calls. What this means is that I must experience my photographic excitement in virtual solitude.
In a present world of photo apps and the ubiquitous presence of one click Instagram some might say why I bother. I would counter that with the fact that I begin with a good image that does not need improving or fixing up.
In a few days I will be 70 years old. I feel astoundingly happy in knowing that I have many more good photographs to take and that the possibilities are not restricted even though Me&My Project imposes many.
Yuliya Kate - Dominatrix
She demanded a command performance
Yuliya at the computer again
Finding comfort in a dominatrix
An unromantic interpretation of a woman in bed
Not a portrait
A Canon Pellix
Yuliya in the garden
self portrait in Burnaby
|Fuji 1600 ISO colour negative film , Nikon FM-2 35mm lens|
The Lockheed F-104 & The Right Stuff At The Vancouver Planetarium
Thursday, August 09, 2012
For those who might be reading here you must know that every once in a while I am caught up with a sort of blogger’s writing block. It has nothing to do with not being able to write. It is more about having so much to write about that I simply postpone knowing I may catch up in one blow or two. My last blog before this one wasn’t even mine. It was a guest blog on Wednesday, August 8 by Michael Unger re the projection of The Right Stuff
on Friday the 10th.
This blog will run on the Thursday where I will write of my experience at the film on the next. I am writing this today which happens to be Sunday August 12. It is curious how a daily blog can go back and forth like a film’s flashbacks.
The films at the Vancouver Planetarium compensate for their not too stellar projection quality with something that I find thrilling, endearing and comforting. This is the realization that I am with my family in a beautiful room that is not a Multiplex and that all of us there are sharing (not the facebook kind) a good film. There are no distracting smells of popcorn, the noise of chip bags or the constant order from the pre-film shorts to “enjoy the show”.
The two previous films at the Planetarium, 2001: A Space Odyssey
and Star Trek 2009
were both enjoyable experiences but somehow they were no match for my third outing. There is a special quality to The Right Stuff
, that brings back the excitement to those of us who were alive and young when somebody, on October 4, 1957 ran into our St. Ed’s boarding school dormitory, “Hey guys, the Russians have put something called a satellite up in space. It is called Sputnik.”
|Bergstrom Air Force Base, 1958, Agfa Silette, Kodak Tri-X|
Not too long after that I went to an air show at the nearby Bergstrom Air Force Base of the Strategic Air Command which featured the then state of the art B-52 bombers. Bergstrom is now Austin’s airports. When you land you can see a few Quonset huts and some of those long narrow wooden buildings that were ubiquitous in US military bases during WWII and after. In recent trips to Austin I could feel (or perhaps just imagine) the ghost of those airplanes I had photographed back in 1958 with my Agfa Silette loaded with Kodak Tri-X.
The star at Bergstrom Air Force Base that day in 1958 was a Lockheed F-104A Starfighter. I distinctly remember getting close enough to it to pass my hand by the almost razor sharp edge of the plane’s stubby wings.
Many years later this airplane became the mainstay of the German Air Force and it was given the sobriquet of “widow maker”. It was explained to me by my Buchanan Dam friend Howard Houston (who flew KC-135 tankers during Vietnam) that the Germans removed all the back up equipment for these planes. When something went wrong (and this happened with regularity) things happened!
I will return soon to the significance of the Starfighter and The Right Stuff
My son-in-law Bruce Stewart (who contributed to making the Bell X-1 model for the picture here) my daughter Hilary and my oldest granddaughter Rebecca saw the film ( a longish 193 minutes) which was so exciting that it went by quickly.
|Michael Unger holding Bruce Stewart's Bell X-1|
I kept telling Rebecca how gorgeously good looking Sam Shepard was and is and she told me I should be careful about making such statements as people might think me to be gay. Hilary interceded on my behalf, “There is no chance that anybody will ever think that Papi is gay!”
What I particularly liked about this film is that excitement generated had nothing to do with film violence or special effects. It had to do with my boyhood sense of the miracle of dreaming of someday living to see a man in space. While I knew all that was to happen (much like going to a classic Greek Play) in the movie it did not diminish my pleasure and anticipation of what was going to happen.
We left the show satisfied and moved over to the Planetarium observatory to have a look through the telescope. It was pointed at the M11 Wild Duck Cluster in Constellation Scutum. I saw some bright dots. It was boring and I loudly said so. I should have been more polite! At my age I should know better and not fall for the trap of insisting that special effects have made the real thing irrelevant.
The Right Stuff ends with a sequence where Sam Shepard admires an F-104 and then without any kind of clearance (obviously a film ploy not based on the true facts) he flies it, loses control and ejects and survives to see another day. I did learn that he did not test fly and more planes after that. In the film the flying shares back and forth sequences with a beautiful dancing fan dancer, Sally Rand (played by Peggy Davis) entertaining the original Mercury 7 astronauts. This happened in 1963.
I knew that the F-104 first flew in 1964 and I had managed to photograph one in 1958 so I wondered about the significance of the airplane in 1963 and its connection to the film. The 104 in the movie was supposed to be a NF-104A which was especially equipped with a liquid fuel rocket engine in addition to the conventional rocket engine. The aircraft was used to provide space flight training at a fraction of the cost of fully rocket-powered research aircraft. The first one was delivered on October 1, 1963 to the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards AFB, which was commanded at that time by Colonel Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager. Yeager indeed did crash the plane December 10, 1963 but it was not his fault as an investigation later showed that the cause of the crash was a spin that resulted from excessive angle of attack and lack of aircraft response. The excessive angle of attack was not caused by pilot input but by a gyroscopic condition set up by the J79 engine spooling after shut down for the rocket-powered zoom climb phase.
This F-104 sequence particularly when Sheppard (as Yeager) eyes the plane in its hangar was for me an erotic one (Tom Wolfe got that one right!). It was sort of like a man looking up and down (in slow sequence) at a woman and undressing her with his eyes.
The film brought to mind a world that now seems to have been an uncomplicated one in which airplanes looked like airplanes (and wonderfully so) and we could thrill at the sight of a rocket blasting off into space with a man cramped in a glorified tin can (albeit with a window and a safety hatch equipped with explosive bolts). It was a time when cars looked like rockets and not ugly weapons of war as the current batch of SUVs.
I think I am going to look at the pictures snapped by Curiosity and get excited and shame on me if I am not!
The DVD scan of The Right Stuff is the one I won after I correctly answered a skill testing question at the Vancouver Planetarium. What was the question? Who was the first man in space? My answer, “Shepard,” was enough even though I almost blurted out Sam Shepard.
To this day on one side of my enlarger in my darkroom I have an 8x10 glossy on the wall of the F-104. In 1957 I was a member of an aviation "club" where I could purchase exciting pictures of the latest airplanes.
The Right Stuff At The Vancouver Planetarium
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
Michael John Unger aka Johnny Tomorrow
|Michael Unger - Johnny Tomorrow|
It is probably safe to say that without competition and rivalry stirring the human ego in its quest for dominance as a species on this planet, nothing would get done. Such was the case when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957 thus thrusting the Americans, who couldn’t be bested by the Communist regime that threatened their perceived way of life. If there was no Cold War would we have even gotten to the Moon? Would humanity have been content to sit on their front porch and admire the sun setting, and moon rising without ever venturing off towards them?
In 2010 I created Johnny Tomorrow for the Fringe Festival in the Planetarium. Initially a lot of my motivation for doing the show came from the same reasons. Perceived notions of competition with other artists, wanting to be on their level or better, but mostly the turmoil of an artist comes from within in trying to achieve a monumental task and the doubt of failure if you don’t get there. Creating a planetarium show from scratch was not an easy thing to do especially for one that has never done it before, but that’s exactly the scenario that newly formed NASA found themselves in when they were tasked with the goal of getting to the Moon before the Russians did. I guess that’s what they call healthy competition, but what happens when there is no competition? How do we motivate ourselves as a species to create a better world with exploration when there is no competition of dominance or some monetary justification? As I write this with the Mars Rover Curiosity just having spent one day on the Red Planet, it’s clear our task as a species is not to just seek out the burning questions of what else is out there in the universe, but to inspire the next generation so that they can be the ones to actually touch the surface of another world. We must restart the passion of exploration that has fueled our species since the beginning of time.
The Vancouver Planetarium is showing The Right Stuff
this coming Friday at 8 pm.
Tom Wolfe's book on the history of the U.S. Space program reads like a novel, and the film has that same fictional quality. It covers the breaking of the sound barrier by Chuck Yeager to the Mercury 7 astronauts, showing that no one had a clue how to run a space program or how to select people to be in it. Thrilling, funny, charming and electrifying all at once.
Directed by: Philip Kaufmann
Starring: Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Barbara Hershey, Veronica Cartwright
Presented on one side of the planetarium dome, with the stars filling out the 360 degree space. GSO Observatory open till midnight.
Spock meets Harold
Timothy Turner - Real Estate Agent
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Timothy Turner - Real Estate Agent
Who among us feels that their job defines them?
I guess we all have at times. Be it businessperson, nurse, gardener, sculptor or whomever. It may be what you do on a daily basis to earn a living to support yourself and others, but don’t be so quick to slip into that comfortable little pigeon hole where society loves to place you. Your job is only your job. It isn’t really who you are at all. Indeed, you are a much richer reservoir of nuance than you may believe and you are most definitely more than the sum of your parts.
Most of us are familiar with the remarkable works of art created by the Italian master, Leonardo da Vinci. Was he simply an artist or was he much more than that? Was he not an amalgam of his many interests, professional disciplines and hobbies? He was an accomplished engineer, mathematician, innovator, anatomist and inventor. Without a doubt, he serves as a leading example of what we now describe as a true Renaissance Man. His genius was fueled by his insatiable curiosity about the world around him and his fascination with the human condition - all of which was manifested in one facet of his being, his artistic expression.
We are no different than Leonardo. It doesn’t mean that we must be a famous artist or world-renowned anything. It just means that we need to nurture our varying interests. Celebrate our diverse experiences from the world around us. Feed our curiosity. Dabble and dip into the unknown. Harness our experiences to create new ones. In effect, embrace our inner Leonardo.
I suspect that my own experiences as a university graduate, lawyer, television producer, advertising executive and realtor are really just part of my ongoing learning continuum and merge with my hobbies as gardener, renovator, painter, interior designer, photographer and singer. Each serving as colourful threads that weave together to create the ever expanding tapestry of my life.
Every day, we paint the picture that we wish to inhabit. Some of us are a little more shy and shield the outside world from our thoughts while others are comfortable shouting from the mountaintops. Neither one is better than the other. Wherever you find your place in the world it is important to learn to recognize and appreciate your own uniqueness and manifest it where ever and however possible.
Regardless of the degree of fulfillment you enjoy from your work or profession, your job does not actually define you. You define yourself in every human interaction and in the manner in which you embrace learning and seek meaningful activities and pursuits, big or small, day in and day out. Remember to embrace that inner Leonardo that is in all of us.
Johnna Wright & Sascha
Director/Mother - Son/Dreamer
Decker & Nick Hunt
Cat & 19th century amateur
Vancouver Sun Columnist
Statesman, Flag Designer
Vancouver Sun Columnist
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart
Monday, August 06, 2012
|Gentiana asclepiadea, August 5, 2012|
In the late 80s I traveled to England on a literary tour that included Eastwood where D.H. Lawrence was born. I went into his house. It was a very cold but sunny day and in Lawrence’s room where he had lived as a young boy I suddenly felt extremely depressed. Lawrence is one of my favourite writers but every time I read him I feel that melancholy. Perhaps I equate him to my Buenos Aires born but very English father. Both were alcoholics.
About 12 years ago my Argentine artist friend Juan Manuel Sánchez, gave me a Spanish translation (a Chilean edition) of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain
and commanded me to read it. I must say that Sánchez was right and to this day it is one of the most wonderful novels I have ever read. What particularly delighted me was to read Mann’s description of the surroundings of the Davos, Switzerland sanatorium. His protagonist Hans Castorp goes to visit his tuberculose cousin Joachim Ziemssen. It is here where Mann mentions the gentians. Suddenly my garden gentians had a place outside the garden.
Rosemary and I have the easiest gentian to cultivate, Gentiana asclepiadea
. It is blooming right now and it will do so until the end of August. Since this gentian grows in Europe I am almost sure it might be Mann’s gentian.
The blue, a very pure blue, is striking in this gentian. Perhaps mores so because one of our larger plants grows in almost deep shade and the ultra violet light present in shade enhances the purity of the blue. Our roses are resting before their next re-bloom. The gentians may not be fragrant or compete in variety of colour, but nonetheless I am warming to their cool colour.
My on line diccionario de la Real Academia Española informs me that the meaning of asclepiadea is in relation to plants that have alternating and narrow leaves with flowers in racemes. This is exactly what a Gentiana asclepiadea
looks like. But while I have no proof of the etymology I like to think that willow gentians (Gentiana asclepiadea)
might have something to do with the healing power of willows (the source of aspirin) and that the name may be a derivation of the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius. The definition below is from Wikipedia.
sclepius ( /æsˈkliːpiəs/; Greek: Ἀσκληπιός Asklēpiós [asklɛːpiós]; Latin Aesculapius) is the god of medicine and healing in ancient Greek religion. Asclepius represents the healing aspect of the medical arts; his daughters are Hygieia ("Hygiene", the goddess/personification of health, cleanliness, and sanitation), Iaso (the goddess of recuperation from illness), Aceso (the goddess of the healing process), Aglæa/Ægle (the goddess of beauty, splendor, glory, magnificence, and adornment), and Panacea (the goddess of universal remedy). He was associated with the Roman/Etruscan god Vediovis. He was one of Apollo's sons, sharing with Apollo the epithet Paean ("the Healer"). The rod of Asclepius, a snake-entwined staff, remains a symbol of medicine today.
I want to imagine that the purity of my gentian’s blue helps to purify my soul and ease the pain of stress. And if that were not enough I know that later in his life D.H. Lawrence wrote a poem about Bavarian Gentians. I do not want to believe that they may be much different from Mann’s Davos gentians or the ones that thrive n my garden with no care at all.
D. H. Lawrence
Not every man has gentians in his house
in Soft September, at slow, Sad Michaelmas.
Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark
darkening the daytime torchlike with the smoking blueness of Pluto’s
ribbed and torchlike, with their blaze of darkness spread blue
down flattening into points, flattened under the sweep of white day
torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness, Pluto’s dark-blue daze,
black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,
giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter’s pale lamps give off
lead me then, lead me the way.
Reach me a gentian, give me a torch
let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of this flower
down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on blueness.
even where Persephone goes, just now, from the frosted September
to the sightless realm where darkness was awake upon the dark
and Persephone herself is but a voice
or a darkness invisible enfolded in the deeper dark
of the arms Plutonic, and pierced with the passion of dense gloom,
among the splendor of torches of darkness, shedding darkness on the
lost bride and groom.
El Árbol De Los Amigos
Sunday, August 05, 2012
|Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' August 5, 2012 |
This morning, a very sunny Sunday morning I looked out of the window and noticed that the last few leaves of our Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy
are dry and shriveled up. It all started some four years ago during a storm. The Eastern Canada native commonly called a Red Bud had fallen in a windstorm. Rosemary loves the tree so much that we propped it up with a strong rope and a sturdy stake. But I noticed a a couple of years later that our beautiful tree had some rot at the lower trunk. Last year the tree leafed out late but gave us a pretty nice display. This year it was all but bare and we knew that the tree was dying.
The leaves are a beautiful green/purple/red in this Forest Pansy variety. But the tree while now virtually dead has sprouted a healthy shoot from its side in which the leaves (green with very little red in them) tell us that this part of the tree has reverted. Come fall we will cut down the tree. The wood is extremely hard and will burn very well in our fireplace. And the sapling that will have taken its place at least will give us some memories of the glories of its parent.
As the tree struggled this spring I thought of a Borges poem (not so I have subsequently found out) that equates the leaves of a dying tree with one’s friends. The translations (very few) that I have found are even more sentimental and saccharine. I will leave it in Spanish and most who read the above will understand that the fewer and fewer leaves of a dying tree really represent our very own existence. The sapling left behind would be our children grand children. It is somehow comforting. I have noticed that while I thought that Rosemary would get very upset she seems to be taking our Forest Pansy’s exit with a great degree of equanimity.
El Árbol de los Amigos
Existen personas en nuestras vidas que nos hacen felices por la simple casualidad de haberse cruzado en nuestro camino. Algunas recorren todo el camino a nuestro lado, viendo muchas lunas pasar, mas otras apenas las vemos entre un paso y otro. A todas las llamamos amigos y hay muchas clases de ellos.
Tal vez cada hoja de un árbol caracteriza uno de nuestros amigos. El primero que nace del brote es nuestro papá y nuestra mamá, nos muestra lo que es la vida. Después vienen los amigos hermanos, con quienes dividimos nuestro espacio para que puedan florecer como nosotros.
Pasamos a conocer a toda la familia de hojas a quienes respetamos y deseamos el bien.
Más el destino nos presenta a otros amigos, los cuales no sabíamos que irían a cruzarse en nuestro camino. A muchos de ellos los denominamos amigos del alma, de corazón. Son sinceros, son verdaderos. Saben cuando no estamos bien, saben lo que nos hace feliz.
Y a veces uno de esos amigos del alma estalla en nuestro corazón y entonces es llamado un amigo enamorado. Ese da brillo a nuestros ojos, música a nuestros labios, saltos a nuestros pies, cosquillitas a nuestro estómago, etc.
También existen aquellos amigos por un tiempo, tal vez unas vacaciones o unos días o unas horas. Ellos acostumbran a colocar muchas sonrisas en nuestro rostro, durante el tiempo que estamos cerca.
Hablando de cerca, no podemos olvidar a los amigos distantes, aquellos que están en la punta de las ramas y que cuando el viento sopla siempre aparecen entre hoja y otra.
El tiempo pasa, el verano se va, el otoño se aproxima y perdemos algunas de nuestras hojas, algunas nacen en otro verano y otras permanecen por muchas estaciones.
Pero lo que nos deja más felices es darnos cuenta que aquellas que cayeron continúan cerca, alimentando nuestra raíz con alegría. Son recuerdos de momentos maravillosos de cuando se cruzaron en nuestro camino.
Te deseo, hoja de mi árbol, paz, amor, salud, suerte y prosperidad. Hoy y siempre... simplemente porque cada persona que pasa en nuestra vida es única. Siempre deja un poco de sí y se lleva un poco de nosotros. Habrá los que se llevaron mucho, pero no habrá de los que no nos dejaran nada.
Ésta es la mayor responsabilidad de nuestra vida y la prueba evidente de que dos almas no se encuentran por causalidad.
|Rosa 'Ímmortal Juno' & leaves of Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'|