Monday, July 30, 2012

Beach Polaroids

Last week, I visited my family in North Carolina and we spent a few days at Carolina Beach.  I brought along my Polaroid Land Camera, which captured the blue colors very well with Fuji film.

Unfortunately, the peel apart film was messy to use on the windy beach and the prints got covered in sand. You can see where brushing the sand off lifted the emulsion in spots.  Afterward, I realized that leaving the sand on and displaying the prints in a shadow box frame would have made a fun statement about the tactile nature of film.  Next time!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Two More Portraits

Here are two more portraits from my afternoon hanging out with my friends Holly and Chika.  These two are my favorites of all,  from my Mamiya 645 Pro and Kodak Portra 800 film.  

See also my Rolleiflex and Polaroid photos from this day.

I'm bitten by the people-photographing bug.  I want to make more portraits this weekend...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Soothing Summer Blues

Soothing Summer Blues

Overcast skies and thunderstorms colored my week with steely blues and soft grays.  After months of bright sunshine and primary colors, this low-key palate soothed my eyes and spirit – and my sensitive skin, which was happy for  some cloud cover!
These colors and the feelings they evoke inspired this collage.  I began with the soothing familiarity of my own bicycle, then dressed my imaginary self in a made-to-order organic cottondress from Portland-based designer, Makool Loves You, paired with crocheted sneakers and a silky helmet cover. The cover is made for equestrian helmets, but I wonder if it would work for bicycling?  A lovely perfume would help with the sweat-free summer strategy – here I chose iris and white musk, the scent of a flowering garden after a heady summer storm.
I always have a book with me in my bike bag and this is a good time to delve into the work of America’s new Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey.
Overhead, pelicans glide in threes—
their shadows across the sand
dark thoughts crossing the mind.
My imagination paints this scene with the same blues and grays.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rolleiflex Portraits of Friends

When I took these these polaroids with my Mamiya 645, I also shot a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 with my Rolleiflex TLR.  My friends Holly and Chika were discussing Holly's current art project, after two hours of Bollywood dancing and a bike ride in the rain.

Then I got a couple of straight-forward portraits.

I enjoyed playing with the light and shadows that resulted from big windows, an overcast day, and slow film.  Most of all, I enjoyed taking pictures of people.  I also shot a roll of Kodak Portra 800 with my Mamiya 645; I will post some of those later.

I want to use my Rolleiflex more, especially with color film.  I shot five rolls while visiting my family in North Carolina last week, so I'm working on it.  The only drawback is the expense of developing and scanning medium format color film.  I cannot use my own film scanner because it is awful with color, despite repeated calibration attempts.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rolleiflex Self Portraits

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about practicing portraiture on myself and illustrated with a few Mamiya 645 polaroids.  That same day, I also shot a roll of film with my Rolleiflex 3.5e TLR.  

I thought my Rollei was loaded with Kodak Tmax 400 B&W film and I shot accordingly, intending to develop the film myself.  When finished, I was surprised to pull out a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 color film.  I did not want to pay lab fees to develop the roll, so after some googling, I decided to develop the film in D-76 (the chemical I use for B&W film) - exactly as if it were Tmax 400 - and see what came out.  The result very pleasantly surprised me -  nice tones, grain structure, exposure, and also easily scanned.  I may use Ektar this way intentionally in the future.  

The sharpness of the first photo is what I aim for, but there is extra vitality in the slight motion blur of the second photo that interests me.  I don't know if the result looks like a technical mistake to others, but I'm going to experiment with this look in the future.

I'm certainly not breaking any photographic ground here, but I'm learning a lot by doing.  This particular experiment: 1) reinforced my love of square medium format black and white film for portraits, 2) demonstrated the flattering simplicity of direct window light; 3) showed me that a little blur is not necessarily a bad thing; and 4) allowed me to discover the wonder of Ektar developed in D-76.  As I said before, trying something is better than simply thinking about it.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild

I recently went to the theater with a group of friends to see Beasts of the Southern Wild, knowing nothing about the film, and found myself thinking, where in the world did this movie come from?  Amazing.  Haunting, thrilling, surprising, compassionate.

The production quality and artistry of the film are high, even though the budget was low, which shows how deeply everyone cared, especially the 29-year-old director. The cinematography is gorgeous, shot on 18 mm film with lovely color, tones, and graininess.

The film centers on a father and daughter who live off the grid on a small Louisiana island.  The little girl who plays the heroine is a pure natural - she gave an amazing performance.  The story could be criticized for romanticizing poverty, sustenance living, and even alcoholism, but I see the film as acknowledging the beauty unique to a certain lifestyle and the dignity of the people who live it.  Plus, I am a bit of a romantic myself when it comes to art, so I give a lot of leeway to a story told with beauty and passion.  If you can find this film at a theater near you, I highly recommend watching it on the big screen.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Polaroid Portraits of Friends

This morning I was out with my friends Chika and Holly when we got caught in a thunderstorm.  Chika's apartment was nearby, so we ducked in to wait out the storm with wine and watermelon. 

Large windows brought in beautiful light and I happened to have my Mamiya 645 Pro with Polaroid back, so I took some pictures.  



I also got a couple of rolls with my Mamiya film back and Rolleiflex TLR.  I look forward to getting those developed.  

Holly shared with us the idea behind her current art project and I talked about my vague ideas for a photographic project.  Lots to think about.  Yay for creative, smart, supportive friends (and for natural window light)!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Self Portrait Polaroids

Lounging in bed today (I had just finished reading A Room with a View) I admired for the hundredth time the beautiful natural light that flows through my bedroom in the afternoons.  A west-facing picture window is the source and its white shade works nicely as a diffuser.  I was inspired to experiment with the light in a portrait setting, something I had not done before.   My husband hates being photographed and refused to sit for me, so I had only myself as a model.  I changed out of my t-shirt and shorts, slapped on some lipstick, and set up my Mamiya 645 with a Polaroid back on a tripod.

There are several shortcomings of using myself to practice portraiture.  First, framing is not precise.  For example, I cannot see if I am cutting off my hands - major pet peeve.  Second, focusing is difficult.  Instead of looking through the lens and zeroing in on my own eyes, I used a teddy bear stand-in to approximate focus.  Third, when evaluating a portrait, I cannot help but be critical of my looks, shifting my attention from the technical merits or demerits.  Finally, and most importantly, I cannot practice connecting with the sitter, which is the most exciting and challenging part of making portraits.  If I manage to capture a certain look in someone's eye or a certain smile, I flatter myself that I drew it out; such is never the case when I know that the result is from my own self-conscious preening in front of the lens.   

Despite these shortcomings, the experience is valuable.  Always better to try something than merely think about it.  Now that I have an idea of how the light in this room looks on film, I can move to the next level and ask a friend or two to sit for me in the afternoons.  (Maybe I could even rig up some backgrounds?)  Portraits interest me greatly and my friends seem always to appreciate well-taken pictures of themselves.  :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dear Stranger

This week, I saw a new exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary ArtSkyscraper: Art and Architecture Against Gravity.  A small part of the exhibit was three photographs from the project "Dear Stranger" by artist Shizuka Yokomizo.  For this project, Yokomizo made portraits of residents in ground floor apartments in Berlin, New York, Tokyo and London from outside their windows.  The twist is that she did not know these people; she simply left notes on their doors.

Dear Stranger,
I am an artist working on a photographic project which involves people I do not know...I would like to take a photograph of you standing in your front room from the street in the evening.
The notes went on to state a date and time for the person to stand in front of the window - alone - or draw the curtains to show refusal to participate.  Because she took the photos in the dark, the people could not see her, only their own reflections in the windows.

Studying the portraits, I imagine the mixed emotions the subjects must have been feeling.  This idea is fascinating to me and makes me want to begin a photographic project, to go beyond documenting whatever happens to be in front of me.