Archive for February, 2010

Feet tapping, squirming in our chairs…waiting…and waiting…and waiting for Spring. Sick of winter, longing for the fresh air, the new growth and the wonderful colors of spring, we remember past seasons.

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Bam! The colors of this begonia knock me out. One fine spring morning a few years ago, my wife and I took the day off from work so we could pack the car with colorful flowers for our spring planting. This begonia, one of the loveliest I’d ever seen, begged to have it’s portrait taken.

Fresh plants, still in the pots, are a great photo opportunity because you can choose the best location and lighting. I did just that and I have to say this shot is one of my best flower shots ever. Everything came out as I envisioned it.

I used color transparency film and my usual rig of my F3, 75-150mm zoom with a two element diopter close up attachment, my trusty tripod and a good cable release. I probably used my hand held incident light meter as a check on the TTL meter and bracketed my exposures as further insurance. I keep the slides with the best exposures and toss the rest.

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Here’s a B&W conversion of this beauty. This is the same image that I sepia toned and featured in last week’s Sepia Scenes. I prefer the sepia version over the B&W version because the sepia is warmer and more appropriate to the subject. Both monochrome versions change the nature of the image. Without the color, the form, the texture and the light dominate.

I choose the color version for the breathtaking colors and the mono versions for the beauty of the forms. I’m in the mood for color today and I’m betting you are as well. Enjoy the memory of this begonia and anticipate the return of Spring — soon.

Be sure to visit Lisa’s Chaos for more Macro Monday photos. Thank you Lisa. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to share.

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Over the past week I’ve sorted and filed the negatives from dozens of rolls of film. Most of the latest batch have been from color film. I already had a scan of the two sisters. Not satisfied, I dug out the negative for a better scan now that I have VueScan installed.

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This image is better. The lady on the left is my mother, the baby sister. My late aunt Martie Ann is on the right. I took this candid portrait of the Sisters during a family get together over the holidays in 2003 with a Pentax Spotmatic and 50mm Takumar lens I had just won in an ebay auction. I’m pretty sure the lens was wide open (or close to it) for this hand held available light shot.

I used Kodak Porta 400BW, a black and white chromogenic (C-41 color process) film at 400 ISO box speed. I’m lucky that my shots were in reasonable focus because I discovered that I couldn’t get proper infinity focus. I took the spotty to the shop and they corrected the problems and gave it a good CLA in the bargain to bring it up to spec.

The built in meter was DOA but I expected that. Otherwise, the Spotmatic works as good as new. They built that camera like a tank. I remember reading an article with a title something like “Camera as a hockey puck” where the author talked about the ruggedness of the Pentax Spotmatic and the Nikon F. He said you could drop it on the floor, kick it around (like a hockey puck), then pick it up and it would keep on shooting.

I have a couple rolls of the latest Kodak B&W chromogenic film in my refrigerator. I’m anxious to try the new stuff. This film has an entirely different look from traditional silver B&W film. It’s not as sharp, but it’s virtually grainless and has a smoothness that makes it ideal for portraits.

Couple this film with the 50mm f/1.4 Tak and you have a superb combination for available light candid portraits. I bought a new body, a Bessaflex, about 5 or 6 years ago so I would have a modern body for my screw mount lenses. Aside from the built in stop down metering, the camera is 100% mechanical.

I use it instead of the Spotmatic because the Bessa’s viewfinder is much brighter and I can see the entire image while wearing my glasses. Shutter speed goes up to 1/2000 of a second and it’s lighter and smaller than the Spotty.

Drop on by The Monochrome Weekend, especially if you are a monochrome maniac. There’s lots links to some great monochrome photography. And some of the monochrome maniacs still use film like I do.

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When it rains it pours. Well, it wasn’t pouring, but it was raining and I was out looking for photos. I had taken shelter in the side doorway of the local real estate agency when…

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I looked at him, brought the camera up and snapped this photo as he looked back at me. All he needed was a box of Morton salt pouring out of his bag behind him as he walked along.

This is another shot from my 1970-1971 archives (I don’t know the exact date). I’ve always liked the pose and the expression on the boy’s face so I decided it was time for a guest appearance on Jame’s Weekend Reflections.

I used my Pentax Spotmatic and Takumar 105mm lens for this shot. As a matter of fact, I loved that 105mm lens and kept it on my camera all the time. A bit long for a “normal” lens, but I never liked sticking a camera in a person’s face. I was always pretty steady so I could handhold at a slower shutter speed and still get decent results.

My portrait lens these days is an 85mm Nikkor. It’s a bit shorter, but it’s faster too. With a 24mm for wide angle shots, a 35mm and 50mm for “normal” shots, and 85mm for portraits, I have all the bases I need covered. About the only time I use my zoom lens is when I’m shooting macros. Prime lenses are lighter and faster.

John zooms with his feets.

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Sharps can fall flat. This time I’m only using the white keys on the piano, not pushing the slide on my harmonica and glad I captured this moment with just enough motion blur — sharp would have been a yawner — too flat.

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It’s been so long ago (almost 40 years) that I can’t remember the circumstances behind this shot. I recognize the location and imagine that I was standing or walking along Baltimore Ave. in my old Phila. neighborhood when this happy young man came running by. I can picture myself whipping my Spotmatic up for a quick shot.

That winning smile is the clincher.

This negative was a bear because it’s dirty and scratched. Shame on me! The exposure needed some help so I did a bit of dodging and burning in the digital darkroom. That is, after I ran the image through another program to clean it up enough to be usable. The contrasts were extreme but I think I’ve tamed them enough to share this moment.

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Sepia Scenes: Begonia

Help is on the way. Yes, for those of us sick of winter (we’re under another winter storm warning for the next two days!), let’s dream of new growth, flowers and the magic of warm season light.

Sepia Begonia (Click to enlarge)

Begonias are one of my favorite flowers so I’d like to share a sepia vision of one of my best begonia images. Don’t worry about the colors, look at the shapes of the petals, revel in the glory of delicate tones, feel the textures and bathe in the light.

This is another of my early experiments at converting original color transparency scans to monochrome. First to B&W, then sepia toned. The leaves are still there, but they go dark so the begonia flower becomes the center of attention. Likewise, the dark background becomes a neutral third party to the celebration.

Not all flowers lend themselves to this kind of treatment — this begonia does. The color version is beautiful. This version changes the game by transmuting the distraction of color into a celebration of light and shadow.

Over the top? Nah, I’m simply having fun being a cheerleader for the wonders of monochrome photography.

A big thanks to MaryT for hosting Sepia Scenes. Stop by and visit — there’s more.

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Once again I was digging through my archives for some good macro images. I found Da Bug!

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This is the coolest bug I’ve ever managed to photograph. In fact, it may be the neatest insect I’ve ever seen. Here he comes, crawling out of the heart of his “jungle” now.

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This shot is my favorite. I’m glad I managed the sharp profile. Have you ever seen a bug with an articulated head like this? I haven’t.

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Caught him from above right in the midst of a wiggle. His legs fascinate. I lucked out with this guy because he wasn’t spooked. Then again, my 75-150 mm lens gives me plenty of room so I wasn’t in his face.

This series is from a roll of color negative film. I’ve finally begun going through all my color negatives. My goal is to file all the negs in archive sleeves. Scanning color negatives can be a real chore. With color transparencies, you can see exactly what you have when you pop them on the light table.

Color negatives have reversed colors and an orange mask — no good reference colors. You must depend on decent scanning software. Up until a few days ago, I used the scanning software that came with my Minolta scanner. It’s OK with color slides and B&W, but scanning color negatives drove me nuts.

I solved my problems the other day when I purchased the pro edition of VueScan. The images in this post were scanned the week before last using the Minolta software. The color is OK but it took me awhile to “get it right” (assuming I did that is). When I was evaluating VueScan (yes, you can download and test the software to see how well it works for you on your system before you buy it) I scanned a color negative of my wife and one of my granddaughters at her christening. It came out perfect on the first try.

I can’t tell you how I struggled with the color balance of this image in the past and never could get it right. And B&W? Oh yes, VueScan is my new best friend for scanning B&W. I’ll tell you all about it as soon as I have more time to put the program through the paces.

Meanwhile, enjoy the images of “Da Bug,” and hop on over to Lisa’s Chaos for more Monday Macro fun.

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This week I’m returning to one of my early experiments — my first serious conversions of original color images to B&W. Before I began, I was dubious, but I’m learning that the right combination of images, tools and imagination can yield very good B&W images.

Trumpet Vine I (Click to enlarge)

I’m also learning to print darker. The B&W ‘Trumpet Vine I’ image has depth, form and a mood that I like. B&W images, without the distractions of color, sing to me.

If you love the music of b&w, drop on by The Monochrome Weekend, especially if you are a monochrome maniac. There’s lots links to some great monochrome photography.

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I thought a bit of whimsy might be fun. So I dug through my archives yet again for an appropriate reflection.

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I found this image on a strip of negatives that I shot in 1970 or 1971. I have no idea what I was thinking at the time. I picked this shot out of the group because I liked it. Good enough reason? Sure and why not.

Stop by James’ Weekend Reflections to see what he has up his sleeve and to visit with other friends and their creative reflections.

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These images of people boarding a subway-surface trolley car have been languishing in my archives for nearly 40 years. One day, back in 1970, I grabbed my Pentax Spotmatic, a couple rolls of B&W film and headed into downtown Phila. for a day of shooting.

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This photo was taken in the subway-surface station at 13th street under city hall, last stop on my photo shoot before I boarded my own trolley for the trip home.

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Interesting how the movement of people transforms them into phantoms when you’re forced to use a slow shutter speed.

Now that I’ve discovered Motion Thursday (actually Margaret suggested I stop by), I’ll have a good look through my archives for more motion shots. I’ll probably take some new ones as well because I like to have fun while being creative.

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This winter has been the snowiest on record for our region (South Jersey) and seems to be the “forever season” this year. I’ve contrasted a winter and summer image for this posting. The winter scene was shot last week, the summer scene almost four decades ago in 1970.

Morning After the Storm (Click to enlarge)

The sun shone brightly the morning after our second major snowstorm in five days. I took a lot of photos during the second storm but I saved about half the second roll of film for the morning after. I’m glad I did because I was able to “tame” the brilliant light and show a peaceful, shadowed scene before the sun melted all the snow from the branches. How? By exploiting the long tonal range of B&W film and using exposure compensation to ensure white (not gray) snow. The film was Ilford FP4+. The Camera, my Nikon F3 with 24mm lens.

Summer 1970 (Click to enlarge)

I found this image yesterday while rummaging through my archives. I had completely forgotten this scene. Judging from some of the other images on the negative strip, I think I shot this one behind (or next to) the Philadelphia Art Museum way back in 1970. It certainly looks like summer to me! The film was Kodak Plus X. The camera, my Pentax Spotmatic that I had purchased new a few months before.

I used the tint transformation in Picture Window Pro (PWP) to add sepia tone to both photos. The first image received 25% and the second 30%. Blacks are still black and whites remain white while the midtones take on the sepia tones. One of these days, I’ll publish a tutorial on how I tone my images using PWP. I’m still experimenting.

A big thanks to MaryT for hosting Sepia Scenes.

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