Archive for March, 2011

I took this photo last year during one of my forays into Ceres Park. The trees are Atlantic White Cedar.

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I was saddened to find one of the large cedars broken and leaning precariously after a fierce storm. I imagine the tree has either fallen over or been cut by now. I’ll be heading back to Ceres soon and I’ll be sure to have a look then.

I think I published an earlier version of this image last year. This version was re-scanned because I wanted to push the contrast as much as possible. Twas fun and I wanted to share.


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We lived on Reedland Street in Philadelphia, PA from 1977 to 1987. Our daughters (Erin and Sue) celebrated their 4th and 2nd birthdays one month after we moved in to our first house. A couple of weeks ago Sue asked me to scan any of the old photos from that era that I could find.


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We ended up with 125 images. I found this gem while scanning a box of old Kodachromes. Sue is the kid in the background, the one with the orange jacket. Her friend Noel reflects perfectly in the hood of the car

Kids in the street? Not to worry. Reedland Street was (still is I guess) a narrow, one way street running from 71st to 70th street. The only traffic were careful drivers who lived on the street and understood that all the kids played in the street.

PS — This photo was taken in March, 1981.

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I published an early version of this photo two months ago for Weekend Reflections. After many hours working on additional cleaning and subtle tonality improvements, I made a print that hangs on the wall of my newly painted room. I invite you to view the improved digital version.

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This image speaks to me, pulls me in and won’t let me go. And I almost gave up because of the poor condition of the negative. I wanted to title this “Fascination” because of the young boy in the foreground. His expression, the way he leans forward… What was he seeing? What fascinated him? I can’t remember.

His older brother (I’m assuming here) seems fearful. He leans back holding on to the roll (for reassurance?).

And the mother (another assumption) sits quietly in the background eating her meal.

The relationships among the three people hold together with visible emotions and are reinforced by the strong diagonal and the play of light and shadows.

I worked the dark tones in the background so they held just enough detail. The light tones of the young boy also hold detail without blowing the highlights. I spent some time burning and dodging the two boy’s faces to smooth out some ugly tones in the first version.

Ansel Adams knew what he was talking about when he said: “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.” The score for this performance is a poorly processed, scratched, 44 year old negative. But that score contained everything I needed to pull off what I consider to be my best image from my year in Vietnam and certainly one of the best images I’ve ever made. I’m satisfied now.

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I suppose you could call this a ‘corner store.’ The photos were taken from one of the back gates, in the outskirts so to speak. Suburban Saigon? Hah!

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This image is about the people. No, they aren’t looking out from behind the barbed wire, they’re on the outside. Can you see the smile on the young woman’s face? She’s the one in the white pants on the right. No party dresses, no fancy cars here.

I don’t remember the circumstances behind this photo. I’m sure they were aware of me, the photographer. Were they posing for me? They’re comfortable and relaxed in their own environment. I don’t remember which camera I used but I had to be close to the fence because I only had one lens, a 50mm.

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Here’s another shot. I zoomed out with my feets for this one. Nice house eh? This one has the better reflections, and I include it for context. But it lacks the emotional appeal of the first.

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This portrait of my granddaughter Emily and my late friend Roscoe is an improved version of the image I published early last year.

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As I mentioned in the original post, this image is one of my all time favorite photos (portraits). Luck was with me that day when I captured the definitive moment. I don’t remember which Nikon or which lens I used. The original is a color negative that I rescanned and converted to black & white.

I have better software and a more complete understanding of the conversion process now. The modest crop is almost the same, but this time I scanned at the highest resolution, cleaned the scan carefully and converted to B&W using different channel percentages.

The contrast and tonality are more subtle this time. The background is lighter and doesn’t compete with Em & Roscoe. The blacks are a bit lighter so I could bring out more of Roscoe’s heavy fur and you can see his tongue clearly in this version.

The image is sharper overall as well. I used unsharp masking twice: Once with a low amount and high radius for local contrast enhancement and the second time with a small radius, larger amount and threshold for overall sharpening.

I tweaked the levels and did another modest sharpening after reducing the original image for this post.

I’m pleased with the results and wanted to share this portrait with folks who haven’t seen this image. Here’s the link to my earlier post: Monochrome Photography: Em & Roscoe

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Have you ever come across a street scene and wondered what’s going on? What’s the story here? Join me for a journey back in time, to such a scene taking place on a Saigon street in 1966.

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A young boy seems to be the center of attraction here. At first I thought this might be some kind of street transaction and maybe it was — we’ll never know. A confrontation? Does the boy have his arm behind his back? In his pocket? Or is that arm all there? The image is a scan from a small snapshot (I must have lost the negative) so there’s not enough resolution to know for sure.

Everyone (except one of the girls on the left) has zeroed in on the action here — a moment frozen forever in time. Young girls in fancy dresses, street vendors squatting by the curb…each one of these others has a story to tell. We can only reflect and imagine.

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