A Year in Photos

Photography, fiction, and personal essays form my three primary creative outlets. For this blog's first 18 months, I used it primarily for photography. As I've returned to creative writing, I'll use this blog for fiction, too. Sometimes, when reality needs to be discussed more than truth, I write personal essays.

This blog will continue to showcase as many above-average photos as I can muster. Hopefully my written work will be as good or better than the visual. Whichever drew you here -- photographs or fiction, I hope you enjoy both.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Found Photos Friday -- 1970s American West 1 of 3

Last summer I picked up  small box of slides at a flea market on Treasure Island. The slides had great photos of the American West from what I thought at the time would be the 1950s. How, though, I suspect they are from the 1960s or maybe even the 1970s. The box had two distinct groups of images -- Western U.S. and a car show. So the first three posts will be for the Western U.S. slides, a middle post with some miscellaneous shots from the lot, and then a post of car show slides.

I'm leading off here with a shot of who I suspect was the photographer. Classic self-portrait, and these are often rare in found photo boxes.

This shot was totally red, so recovering the color data was basically impossible. I admit to being curious about what mine that is.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Goodbye to the Olympus OMG

After picking up an Olympus OM-2N a couple months back, I decided I only really need the one Olympus body. I don't really shoot Olympus all that often (even though their lenses are AMAZING.) So I decided to have one last evening of fun with my OMG and some mirrors.

A fun self-portrait. This took a while to get without blur since the exposure time was between two and five seconds.

Using my dad's old Captain Video robots, a flashlight, and (not at the same time) a candle, I set up a mirror box. The box is taped on the outside so I can take it apart if I want. I used a two-way mirror to allow me to photograph it it from outside. Having the lights in the apartment off helped reduce camera reflections, but didn't eliminate them.

For this and the one below, I used a cigarette lighter to create some spark effects.

I'll actually miss the little OMG. It's a great camera.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Photo Class Portfolio

Last fall I took Photo 101 for fun. I learned a lot and got to refresh my darkroom skills, my main goal. For my final portfolio, I picked abstracts. I was happy to see, during the final class, that my portfolio was not the best. I can think of at least two that I thought were as good or, honestly, better. One of the better portfolios came from Erik Bender, whose blog you can read here.

Here's my final portfolio. I'll add some notes about how I made each shot. I decided to attempt abstracts created by abstracting subjects, using darkroom processes, through macro work, and by simply photographing unrecognizable subjects. I managed all four, which I was happy with.

These first four received pretty wild speculation about how I captured them. People noted the movement in the last one, and the abstract forms in the first two. To me, the third should have been a hint that something ordered had occurred. A lot of people asked how I did them and I agreed to show the class after my portfolio showing if no one guessed the method. That received some interest. After my portfolio showing, I turned on my cell phone and switched to my Electric Sheep live wallpaper. I used a macro lens and took about 13 rolls of film of the wallpaper's renderings to obtain these four shots.

I made these two with a pinhole camera. The first pinhole is a Monster energy drink (how do people drink that stuff?!?) can with five pinholes in an "X" pattern. The latter is a Brisk Iced Tea can with two pinholes oriented at about 75 degrees. 

These two were shots at the De Young museum that I manipulated in the darkroom. Prior to and during print exposure, I brushed very dilute fixers onto the images to cause a smoke effect on the prints.

This was a similar process to that above except with developer and a bright flash of light to solarize the image. In real life, it's actually kind of purple and green.

Just a photogram of nails. I set all the nails on their heads, so the different perspectives are from the angle of light casting shadows on the nails.

A macro shot of a white acrylic sheet resting on a beer stein back lit by a naked bulb. This was just a test shot, actually, to confirm focus, but it worked really well.

The bulb on my Repronar. I dodged the surround, otherwise it would have been black instead of gray.

This also stupified people, too. For this I used my Repronar and placed a plastic tray on the light plate and poured in some vegetable oil. I added oil-based paint and the different colors reacted and spread differently.

These two came from a stereoscopic pinhole camera. I've featured it on this blog before.

The first image was an accident created by exposing paper to light and then developing it in the light in developer being mixed and with a distinct temperature gradient in the fluid. The bottom is a contact print of the paper negative.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday -- Ten Great Portrait Photographers

I don't take many portrait photos, but I think sometimes that I would like to. I love good portraits, though. Here are ten photographers who portrait work, I think, is simply stunning.

10- Steve McCurry
I really love McCurry's portraits. I first saw his work in National Geographic -- the Afghan woman that is such a well known photo. However, as great a photo as that is, I think many of his other shots are as good and similarly visually stunning. I would love to have an eye for images that's as good as his.

9- Bryan Adams
It's hard to say if Adams is a portrait photographer or fashion photographer. He kind of does both but neither, to my eye, and I think his results are good. Much of his work that I've seen is similar in framing a structure, but the way he captures his models differently works for me.

8- Emil Schildt (this website contains some NSFW images)
Calling Schildt a portrait photographer alone would be a grave injustice. He works with models and creates creative poses that seem to simultaneously embrace a hyperbolic realism harkening simultaneously to gaunt-chic 1980s culture and the Victorian-era. I like his work's creativity, pushing of photographic boundries, and artistry.

7- Rudi Amadeus Blondia
Simply stunning work. There's no way to put into words how great Blondia's work is.

6- Sam Wang
Wang captures people in their environment. Through the image's surroundings, his portraits give the viewer a greater sens of who the person is than simply sticking a lens in their face could.

5- Sam Rambo (borderline NSFW)
Rambo has a great eye for lighting and studio work. Great composition, well-thought images, and technical perfection. One of the best, if not the best, on this list in terms of technical skill. For an added treat, check out his landscape portfolio -- wow.

4- Petr Sikora
Sikora uses a number of alternative processes as well as analog photography. His portfolio is one of the most stunning on this list because not only are the images great, they were all difficult to obtain and required great skill.

3- Paul Do
More of a fashion photographer, his portrait-like work still captures my eye. I like the way he frames, poses, and lights his subjects.

2- Alex Timmerman
Timmerman's work with wetplate colloidion portraits is probably the best I've ever seen. Check out his work as it explains why alternative processes can still take a viewer's breath away in a digital world saturated by HDR photos and garish image filters. These images are hand-crafted and high-skill artistry as its best.

1- Andreas Feininger
Feininger was one of those photographers who literally could shoot anything and do it well. His cityscapes are espcially breathtaking. However, I think his eye for capturing people is simply astounding.

Top Ten Tuesday will be back next week with Simple Photoshop Techniques to Improve your Post-processing,

Sunday, January 26, 2014

San Francisco 2013 Auto Show

My brother and I have caught most of the auto shows since we finished college, regardless of where we lived. Neither of us are super-into cars in the way that we could quote specs or stats. But it is fun to see what's coming. I enjoy the challenge of trying to get good photos at an auto show. This year was the first with my new DSLR, the Pentax K-3. I had just tested it out at the Blackhawk Auto Museum a couple of weeks earlier, so compared to that the SF Auto Show was a cake walk in a brightly lit showroom. Here are some of the shots that turned out well.

Lexus LFA. Apparently this is a privately owned car that was loaned to Toyota for the car show.

Aston Martins. Stupid chair getting in there and ruining the shot. Why do they need a chair and desk? There's no line of people waiting to buy one of these.

Lamborghini Aventador. It looks better in any other color.

Lamborghini Aventador. It's a fair criticism that this car is really just trying too hard to be too much a Lambo. I still like it.


Audi R8 V10. I had to read the license plate to know that.

"Sir, I'm here to clean your pipes."

Nissan GTR. Of course I'd get a photo of the first GTR I've seen at the auto show. Walnut Creek and Clayton, where I live and work, have about four of these and I see them on the roads somewhat often. So seeing it isn't a huge deal, but it's still my favorite car.

The new Corvette. It's okay, but I kinda like the last body style a bit more. I din't sit in it. The Corvette has never been on my wish list.

What a tool.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Film Found Inside an eBay Camera

I don't often luck out with camera I buy on eBay and find that they have unused film inside them. This one, however, did. I picked up a Canon EOS Rebel GII from a seller in Florida. It looked like the last (may be first) roll they shot with it was still in it. It's strange, for me, to have photos on this feature be of people who are almost certainly still walking around out there somewhere.

Best photo on the roll. I really like this shot.

Next week Found Photos Friday returns with the first installment of a box of 150 or so slides from the 1950s.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Welcoming the Pentax K-3

As I said two days ago, my k-7 is enjoying a well-deserved pseudo-retirement. Spoiler alert: I've already brought it out of retirement for a shoot and it out-performed the K-3 hands-down.


The K-3 held up better than the K-7 could have on a separate shoot, but those posts are coming later this month with more details on that statement.

That said, I'm pleased as punch by my K-3's performance in general. I took it to the Blackhawk Auto Museum here in Danville for the first trial run. The results were fabulous. Here are some of the shots.

This and a later image both made my 10- 20 last year. It was interesting to see how quickly -- the first time out -- the K-3 performed well enough to make the cut into the top 20. 2014's top 20 will be an interesting shootout between the K-7 and K-3 as to which camera take the most shots for the list.

I'm looking forward to getting to know this camera and to taking some great shots with it. In the next year I hope to learn about everything this camera has to offer and use it to the fullest.

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