1300 Miles of Windshield Time

1300 Miles of Windshield Time …. or 24 hours of driving in 5 days and not making a single photograph.

I recently went on a trip to Lubbock, with a couple of other guys from the Texas Church Project, to install the latest work from the project at Texas Tech University.  The morning I left there had been a nice ice storm the evening before so I left much later in the morning than I had planned.  The roads were still a bit icy when I left on Wed. morning, but after a couple of hours the highways were pretty much clear of ice.

Now, I enjoy driving and viewing the scenery and am always on the look-out for a place to stop and make photographs.  This trip however had a purpose, and the car was already loaded with prints for the show.  So, no camera this time.   There are few wind farms near Abilene, but nothing to compare to the numbers of wind turbines I saw after I turned off of I-20 near Sweetwater and head North on US-82.

The trip back on Friday, was really nice.  Left Lubbock early (read oh-dark-thirty) and watch the sun come up.  The light was just perfect that morning, but a had to get home so I could leave for Tulsa, OK early Saturday morning.

Trip to Tulsa was nice, stopped in Gainesville, TX at the Fried Pie Co & Restaurant.  From the crowd inside the food must be good, picked up 1/2 dozen fried pies (wonderful!!).  Then east on US-82 to Sherman and then north to Tulsa.  There was ice and snow everywhere (remember the ice storm I mentioned earlier).  The further North we went, the more snow we encountered.  By Atoka, OK the snow plowed from the roads was as tall as a car, and most of the ponds were still frozen.  Plus side of this, the roads were nice a clear for the most part.

Visited overnight and headed back on Sunday.  Not a single shutter tripped, not a sheet of film exposed.  Still I enjoyed the trip, though I really would not want to cover that much distance in the same amount of time.

Point of all this, you are probably wondering?  Not really any, other than the mental notes of places to return to with a camera.  That, and the pleasure of driving and enjoying the places I passed by.  Not all trips are photographic, but somehow they all remind me how much I do love driving and looking for a place to stop.  Oh, and how wonderfull the light can be sometimes.  Yeah, I do love good light.

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Ritter 7×11/8×10 Re-visited

Well, it’s been a bit over 3 months since the brown box arrived and I added the images of the camera.  Seems like a good time to reflect on using the camera. 

When it first arrived, I spent some time setting the camera up then folding it up.  The exercise, per Bruce Barlow, is known as ‘cuddling’ and it was a very good exercise – especially once I got into the field using the camera.

So what is using the camera like? Well, it is everything I had hoped it would be.  I have burned a few sheets of film, as recently as yesterday (Jan. 3, 2009).  The wind was pretty steady at 20-25 mph, with gust up to 30 mph.  A test for any camera, much less one that only weighs in the neighborhood of 6.5 lbs.  The Ritter is like any other camera, it does vibrate in the wind.  However I made six separate negatives – 4 7×11 and 2 8×10’s and the as long as I waited for a lull in the wind and did my part – the negatives looked good – even though the shutter was set a 1/2 sec.

Problems?The worst issue I have with the camera, is it has more movements, than my lens have coverage – I use a 240mm Germinar, 300mm C Fuji and a 450mm C Fuji.  Now, I have not run out of image circle with the 450 Fuji, but have gotten myself in trouble with the 240 and 300.  Not a fault of the camera, but the photographer.  Yesterday was a good example – I was shooting a church for the church project and wanted to get the steeple and part of the roof line, using the 300.  Well the camera was tilted up at the steeple at a pretty sharp angle, then the front(axis and base) and rear(base) standards were tilted to keep the film plane parallel, then I add some rise.  Now, that is the most movements I have tried to use and I looked, but did not notice that I had run out of image circle – just clipped the corners at the top of the image.

So, not a camera issue, just a novice photographer learning how to use the tools.  The fit and finish are really nice, the back comes off to rotate, or be replace with the 8×10/7×11 back.  I hauled it up and down the banks of the Guadalupe River, back in October of last year.  If I had been carrying the old Eastman No. 2 (it weighs in at 16+ lbs) it would not have been as much fun.

Guadalupe River
Guadalupe River

After 3 months of shooting, would I recommend a Ritter 8×10.  The answer is a resounding YES.  The camera is light, has more movements than I will ever figure out how to use, is well made and the the weight – well the weight is a dream for a large format photographer.  Don’t look for this one to be up for sale anytime in the future, I plan to put a LOT more film through it before I retire from taking photographs.

Stayed tuned, I have some new 7×11 film holders due in from S&S.  Will give my impression of these after I have had a chance to run some film through them.

Hope you all have a Great 2009.

Happy Holidays

Old post from 2008, but I like the tree…and it fits the time of year.  So for Christmas 2014, enjoy and wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Hope this finds everyone enjoying the holiday season.  With the economy the way it is, this is a good time to remind everyone that you can still give a special gift without spending a great deal of money.

Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas

How?  Well I’m glad you ask (aren’t you?).  Photographers love to share what they have been working on.  If you have a photograph that someone has admired, or one you think is special why not put it into a mat and frame it.  It’s not difficult at all, you could purchase a ready made mat and frame at a local craft/hobby store.  Or if you have a mat cutter, make a special mat and frame for your special print.

Have several prints you want to share with someone, then make them a small photo album/memory book.  Pull from older photo albums and give them an updated look with what is available today.  I did this for my girls a couple of years ago, pulling from photographs that I had as well as from albums their grandmother had.  From the looks on their faces, I would say it was a very welcome gift.  It covered several generations, from my great grandfather to the girls and their brother.

My wife’s niece told her a few years ago, she wanted an original print from me.  So, each Christmas she and her husband look forward to a new print from Aunt Debbie and Uncle Mike.   I enjoy mounting and framing a new print, each year I try to pick the right print from the years work – yet it is fun as well.

One photographer I know, makes handmade books of his work.  This is also a great idea, I think.

So, be creative and give a part of yourself to others.  And have some fun along the way.  You could even invite family/friends over for a scrapbook party.

Edit: Forgot a wonderful gift a friend of mine made for a family member last year.  Using the transfer paper, used for T-Shirts, etc she scanned photographs from ‘then until now’.  Ironed the transfers on to material for quilts and then made a Memory Quilt.  It was (and is) a wonderful gift and another way to use those old photos and share a lifetime of memories everyday.

Now aren’t you glad you ask?

Happy Holidays (and enjoy the snow on the screen – like winter it will not last long).

Practice, Practice, Practice

If there is one thing I have learned while shooting large format, it is you have to practice your craft.

I was out last weekend for the first time since Memorial Day weekend.  I had been waiting for the new Ritter camera to come in, plus work and life in general kept getting in the way.  So, I found a scene of interest and set up the camera.  It looked great on the ground glass, I moved around to make sure I have composed the scene so that it fit what I was seeing.  It was an indoor shot, so wanted to make sure I had the light just right – the main part of the image was a group of wooden chairs that were hanging from the ceiling of an old store.  Did not want too much of the light coming in the windows to show.

Check, rechecked the ground glass for focus. Took several spot meter readings, and felt I had the exposure down – f/45 for 8 sec.  Test fired the shutter a couple of times, made sure the legs of the tripod were extended and not going to move at the wrong time.  Loaded the film holder, closed the pre-focus lever on the lens.  Pulled the darkslide, cocked the shutter and made the exposure.  First one with the new camera, replaced the darkslide and removed it from the back.  Off to find another image to expose.

Fast forward to when I made it back home.  Had 2 sheets of 7×11 film ready to develop, and even though I was beat – have been fighting a sinus infection for a month, wanted to see the first negatives from the new camera.  Mixed the chemistry, unloaded the film in the dark and processed it.  After about 15 min, the moment of truth was at hand, started washing the film and pulled the first sheet out  – really dark, dense negative.  Hmmmm, what went wrong – development?  Looked at the other sheet of film, nope it looks good (except forgot to correct a problem with the bellows intruding in the image area).  Went ahead and finished washing the negative and hung it up to dry.  After it dried, kept looking at it, what went wrong – did the holder have a light leak – not this bad.  Looking at the background could not figure out what I was seeing until it hit me – the only thing in focus were the chairs and anything in the same plane of focus.  I forgot to stop the lens down to f/45.

It is important to keep making exposures, finding time to get out and ‘practice’  the craft of photography or it is easy to forget the little steps we go through to make an photograph.  My good friend Matt Magruder seems to be going out and shooting photographs ALL the time.  It is what keeps him going.  Of the really good photographers – professional or amateur, the one thing I have noticed is they are always creating new work.  They do not sit in front of a computer wishing they could make an photograph like so and so does, they are sitting around wishing they were better – they are out there, making photographs, creating new work…creating Art.

It isn’t easy, many of us have day jobs and family’s which demand part of our time.  Yet these are the same demands that the really good photographers have as well.  They just managed to get out, they have the motivation and disciplineto go out and make a least 2 or 3 exposures when they can.  They are not all great photographs, but they have more keepers than I do.  Do they make the same mistakes I do, like pulling the darkslide before they have closed the shutter pre-view lever?  Sure, they will do it once in a while, but a lot less often than I will, because I have not been ‘practicing’ .

And so it goes, if I want to make fewer mistakes – make better use of the time I have to photograph, then I need to practice more, so that the little things I need to do to make a photograph are second nature and I can concentrate on what i see, and not a film holder, darkslide, tilt of a camera, shutter settings on a lens.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Photographers are junkies

Photographers are junkies, well sort of…

 

Really, most photographers are junkies – they fall into one of the following groups”

  1. Equipment Junkies – these are the photographers that have bounce around from camera to camera, lens to lens, etc.  Nothing wrong with this, as long as one realizes that they enjoy the equipment more than making photographs.
  2. Format Junkies – 35mm, medium format, large format, ultra larger format – these photographers can’t find a format that is their own, each time they try one format they will see someone work and think that is the format for them.
  3. Process Junkies – Silver Gelatin, Silver Chloride, Platinum/Palladium, Gum dichromate, Van Dyke Brown, the list can go on.  These photographers will often times never master any process but will think they are well versed in each process they have attempted.
  4.  Forum Junkies – these photographers prefer to talk about photography rather than going out and making photographs.  Pre Internet days, they would spend a lot of time looking reading photography magazines or hanging out at camera clubs talking about the latest new photo gadget.

 

 

Most photographers I know will fall into one of the list of junkies above in some form or fashion.  Sometimes we have to pass through a phase to find our photographic voice, so the list is not meant as a bad thing.  It is when the process, equipment, etc becomes the focus that it is no longer about photography, but something else.

 

Sometimes a snap-shot is just a snap-shot, a photograph is just a photograph.  Other times a snap-shot or a photograph is art.  It is good that we have snap-shots to remind us of events, people or places that are(were) part of lives.  It is also good to have photographs that not only remind us, but ones that we want to hang on our walls and share the Art with others.

 

So consider what kind of photographer are you?

 

Some of us just to take photographs and sometimes art.

 

What Does Ike Have to do with Photography?

Wasn’t even in Texas when Ike hit the upper Texas coast, but the news of Ike left me with a sinking feeling nonetheless.  Why? What DOES Ike have to do with photography?

Working on the Texas Church Project has been as much an education on life along the Texas coast 100 plus years ago.  Many of the churches we have photographed were the 2nd or 3rd building at a location.  The reason was not because of growth, but due to storms along the Gulf coast or fire (no electricity in those days).  So while not really that old, the fact that these old buildings survived is quite special.  Photographs from those days indicate how the area looked, as well as the mode of transportation, dress, etc. 

The recent news footage from Galveston and the Upper Texas coast indicate that many of these old buildings could have been damaged beyond repair.  If that is indeed the case, some may be lost with only the photographs of them remaining.  It is the news of the destruction that fires up the need to go out and photograph the remaining buildings – all over the state, before they to end up a pile of rubble.   Our friends in Europe will tell you that a building 100 or 200 years old is not that big a deal, and from their point of view it’s not.  Imagine sitting in a building that is 400, 500 even 600 years old, these are places I would like to visit and listen to the tales the walls have to tell.

Which brings me back to the stories we tell with photographs and what Ike has to do with photography.  The destruction itself is one of the stories, the buildings that survived is another.  In 50 years or even less those stories will be buried in a newspaper office, stuck away in some database, or be a brief mention in some history book.  But the photographs will show what happened, and perhaps serve as a reminder to not linger when warnings are issued – they will show the absolute power of Nature and how we should never take her for granted.   And without photographs, how could we compare the destruction of Ike with the storm of 1900?

If you live in an area with great historic buildings, take some time this weekend or very soon, and record what the buildings look like today, share the beauty that has endured for the past 50, 75, 100 or 150 years so that if the worst happens you will have reminders of what it looked like when….

New Ritter 7×11/8×10 Camera

There is nothing like a new camera to get you going..and here is my new Ritter 7×11/8×10 camera, made by master camera maker Richard Ritter.

The camera arrived today (9/20/2008) and I plan to spend some time ‘cuddling’ to get a feel for the camera. The phrase cuddling a camera comes from Bruce Barlow, his way of saying setup, takedown, focus, hold the camera so that it’s functions are easy to set up when you are in the field – Thanks Bruce.

The following are some pics of the camera with the 7×11 back and the 8×10 back, along with the 375mm Caltar lens mounted (it’s a bit large).  As I use the camera I will post additional thoughts on it’s functions – right now I can say it is well made and many of the features show what happens when a camera builder is also a camera user…it is a very fuctional camera.

A Place for an Amateur Photorapher and Texan to Ramble