Anyone who knows me or has ever been with me while on a road trip, vacation, or out photographing anything knows I have this morbid love of cemeteries. Okay its not morbid to me, but to some its a little weird how much I love cemeteries. Pretty much anywhere I go I’m always on the lookout for a good cemetery, seriously.
A couple weekends ago my parents, my niece & nephew and I all went for a day trip to Jackson, Ca in search of some gold mines to poke around in. While accidentally missing our exit I spotted a cemetery on a hill from afar, it was gorgeous- Ansel Adams’ “Moonrise” instantly flashed into my head while I was passing it all the while clapping my hands and going “OOOOOOOO OMGOMOMG ITS SO CREEPYOMG OOO!” – seriously its what I said, you can even ask my mom. Anyway I happened to have my camera with me loaded with some Kodak B&W c41* film that I needed to use up (I’ve had it since my NZ trip last year) so I asked permission to stray off our path on the search for this cemetery. We kind of got lost for a quick second and ended up on the other side of the darned thing because I was trying to find it by sight but eventually we got there and it was totally worth the detour.
Kodak B&W c41 color 400speed film
Levels & Contrast adjustments in PS
While I’m glad I had B&W film for this, I’ve grown to realize how much I actually loathe this type of b&w film. Its great if you are in a pinch and don’t have access to a darkroom, but its horrible because you are at the mercy of the machine (and operator) which processes it and prints your pictures (if you’re lucky and know the operator ask them to take special care in correcting the pix). Some of the photos scanned in have been auto contrast corrected leaving them muddy and fuzzy and sooooooo grainy its sad. I’m going to have to go and develop those prints later on with my own special touch in the darkroom, or give the guys at ritz SPECIFIC instructions next time. After picking up these photos from Ritz I made a vow to myself to never shoot with B&W c41 film ever again and to only use black and white film that I will develop and print myself- no matter how little time I have to do it. I think I owe it to the photography gods.
*c41 processing is the type of processing that normal color film goes through, Kodak and Illford films both offer black and white c41 film options, for more about c41 feel free to read up on the wikipedia page for it.
I mentioned on my First Post Friday Post (see what I did there) that I started the beginnings of working on my book project. I finally got the roll I shot developed so here is a preview of some of the shots. My 2 favorites:
35mm Fuji 400 speed color film
Level & contrast adjustments in PS
Bottom photo is true to color, Top photo- color balance tweaked to bring more green out in branches
The top one is kind of uncharacteristic of me, my shots are usually straight forward but there is just something about this photo I can’t let go of, maybe its the blur in everything except that branch and the sky, I don’t know. The bottom one is more straight forward, maybe even boring to some, but I love it still.
Once in a while when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed by well life in general (work/bills/chores), I like to either get away to Bodega or the Sierras or take a day to focus on art (I really do enjoy all forms of creative art), music, and enjoying simple things of life I tend to take for granted. Things like taking the time to enjoy a latte at the new little corner cafe that opened on my block months ago. The one that I have visited ONCE because I’ve been too busy/drained to even step foot outside my apartment once I’m off work. But I digress…
In Sacramento, we have this museum that has been around for over a hundred years and pretty much anyone who grew up here has visited on a school trip or by spending quality time with grandma on a weekday during the summer. To be honest it was cool that it was so old and the architecture of the original building is really pretty, and sure I was proud that my little Sacramento had a famous museum… but the times I have gone I found it kind of boring and dimly lit. Having visited other museums SFMOMA, Getty, etc…, the Crocker Art Museum kind of paled in comparison.
Recently they underwent a remodel and a huge expansion with modern looking buildings and the works. Last sunday was their grand opening (yes on 101010) and because I was so drained from opening that morning and church and other things I missed out on all the grand opening hooplah. So today since its my first real day off in what seems like an eternity I’ve declared today will be my vacation day from adult life and have a little fun, experience a little art and check out our New Crocker Art Museum, appreciate the little and big things that keep me sane in my race for survival- otherwise known as life.
If you’re anything like me and get overwhelmed easily by the stress of life I HIGHLY encourage days like these, they keep me on the level and they keep me inspired to keep doing what I’m doing- to not give up no matter how drained I am.
What are some things you all do to keep from getting stressed out? What are things you do to keep inspired (about anything really)?
So I’ve definitely run my body into the ground this past week with 2 back to back weeks of 6 and 8 day weeks. I got sick last weekend haven’t been able to get better because I haven’t had a day off. I hope to be back in the land of the living/blogging within the next couple days. Thanks for bearing with me. ANYWAY.
While being sickly I queued up a somewhat outdated documentary from National Geographic about their staff photographers, appropriately called “National Geographic: The Photographers.”
While it doesn’t include the digital revolution, it covers lots of the photographers that I grew up looking at in their publications and photos that influenced the world. It was definitely inspiring and interesting to get a behind the scenes kind of look at the most famous photos and photographers.
These photographers did it old school, changing rolls of film in the middle of the jungle with an assistant blowing air at your camera so the swarm of flying insects wouldn’t get into the camera, chasing after lions on the Serengeti in the middle of the night in your Humvee with flood lights to get the shot, climbing up into a tree using only a rope toting SUITCASES of photographic equipment, getting home exhausted and having to sort through dozens of 35mm rolls of film…. it was old school but totally my style. If you get the chance I would definitely recommend watching it when you have some spare time or are sick like me.
I’d like to know: Are there any films and documentaries that inspire your artwork? If so, what are they?
I want to drop a little knowledge bomb on you every once in a while so I’m going to be sharing some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way that generally make my life and photographs better, I sincerely hope that they are of use to you.
On metering (assessing the light and selecting the correct exposures): For those of you less fortunate souls (like myself) who can’t afford to buy all kinds of photo goodies like a hand held light meter and instead use the one built into their SLR camera, here are a couple techniques/tricks I use to ensure the best possible exposure.
Many people don’t know/realize that instead of using a grey card (which is totally inconvenient by the way), you can use the palm of your hand. The light reflected from your hand is nearly equivalent to the 18% grey cards used by many photographers, and comes in way more handy (pun intended) when you’re out and about without your bag of gear.
A really good way to become comfortable selecting proper shutter speeds for the best exposure with “difficult” shots (anything with interesting lighting basically) is to always bracket shots that are giving you weird meter readings. Say a night time shot, or a weird shadowy shot that would normally be washed out due to your light meter wanting to make everything neutral- you can bracket up or down, which means exposing for a stop more or stop less than what is suggested. It’s a really good way to get a feel for your camera and how to correctly identify exposures- in the long run the more you train your eye the less you need to rely on light meters. I like the least amount of crap with me when I go shooting- some photographers are the opposite and want every gadget available, it’s all a matter of preference.
Lighting & composition (outdoors): it’s really easy to fall into the pattern of photographing something already “perfectly” lit (even & head on) and then just upping the contrast in the darkroom (real or digital) so here are a couple reminders about lighting.
Take a minute to look at your subject and note the direction of light, if it is head on, change your angle by at least 90 degrees, shadows create a much more interesting photo than one that has only middle tones.
If you want the good shadows and not the bad and you’re getting funky shadows on someone’s huge honker bust out that ghetto reflector card (I’m all about budget photography)- grab anything with a white surface (scratch paper works) and use it as an on the spot reflector to bounce some of the light back to fill in those shadowy areas on the face. (this is probably best with b&w film)
Play with your lighting options, look at every angle through your viewfinder and don’t be afraid to get low or high or even sideways, shoot. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your lighting options either, I once shot portraits out in a field in the middle of the night using only the light from my cars headlights on bright- I actually got some pretty interesting shots that night.
I know I’m not a pro, but I feel like these tips are good things to know for anyone interesting in taking photos. I really do hope they help you all because they sure have helped me.
Oh and those pictures I was talking about…these would be with the assistance of a very beat up 96 camry and my headlights on high…(disclaimer, they are digital- le gasp!)
PS. Are all 2 of my readers sick of my alliterations yet? Haha.
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