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Category Archives: Oooh, purty!

Beech Staggerwing prepares for departure

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I was honored to be asked to shoot the wedding of Kelli Refer and Tom Fucoloro a couple weeks ago. It was a great deal of fun, and the bride and groom rode their bicycles to the wedding on a gloriously sunny early October day. Many of the guests attended by bicycle. So did I.

Tom is the primary author and editor of the Seattle Bike Blog, and just posted his thoughts (and a very nice plug for me and my work):

I got married by bike, and it was beautiful

Any of my half-dozen readers will remember my post about Opportunistic Landscapes. I finally mixed up a new batch of darkroom chemicals and did some developin’ earlier this week. This resulted in finding the film version of the digital picture I posted in that original post.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the film version (shot with a Canon QL17 with a 40mm f/1.7 lens on Ilford HP5+ and developed in XTOL):

Stillaguamish River

And, should you wish to compare, the digital version (shot on an Olympus OM-D EM-5 with a 20mm f/1.7 lens):

Stillaguamish River

The film version is actually quite crisp, and at web size, basically grain-free. It doesn’t hurt that the film version was scanned at 6400 DPI, with a final image size of 378 MB vs. the digital version’s 2.1 MB. I am so glad storage is cheap.

I was out and about today, enjoying a cool, overcast Memorial Day weekend. I was up in the Mount Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest, on the Stillaguamish River, and came across this scene.

Stillaguamish River

Moments like this are always tough. On the one hand, I want to take the best picture I can of the scene, since it’s so beautiful, and there are so many little tiny details to record: in other words, I want the 5×7 camera. But I really wasn’t on a photo expedition — I was on a motorcycle, enjoying the road through the park, so my photographic tools were limited. Instead of the 5×7, I had my “carryin’ around” camera, an Olympus OM-D EM-5 with a 20mm f/1.7 lens. But I also had my Canon QL17, which is a 35mm rangefinder from the early 70s with quite a nice 40mm f/1.7 lens on it. It was loaded with my standard Ilford HP-5+, which is a fairly good 400 speed film. It’s a great film at 5×7, but ends up being kind of grainy at 35mm. I shot the same scene on film anyway, just out of curiosity to see how the two compare (I already know, to some extent: the digital will be much clearer, and the film will be perversely pleasing, precisely because of the grain).

I find myself enjoying the film camera a lot these days, though digital is still my go-to for “real” work, primarily for the ability to shoot hundreds of images if necessary, and secondarily for the immediate turn-around on images. The problem, ultimately, with digital, is that in 50 years, I suspect most of those images will be unreadable. They’ll get lost in some hard drive accident, or everyone will have forgotten what a JPG is, or (more likely) how to decode a Canon RAW file. PSD files may or may not still be readable — Adobe might have dropped Photoshop as a product 20 years earlier when 3D became the only way to go, or they might have gone out of business when everyone got their brains updated with digital storage, and photo manipulation programs became obsolete in the same way buggy whips are obsolete now.

However, we’ll still have eyes. We’ll still have some way of recording a thing optically, into whatever format is current. Film, in other words, will still be readable and useful. I think about this, and frequently find myself very consciously taking pictures of people with film. It’s almost superstitious: that image, assuming I can take reasonably good care of the negative, will continue to exist long after I’m gone, just as my grandparents’ negatives and slides continue even though they’ve all passed away. In a way, the person pictured will live on in that moment. It has a kind of poetic beauty that I can’t similarly ascribe to digital photography.

I suppose this all makes me a film snob in some people’s eyes. I’m really not. Film is neat because it’s so simple and so real, unlike many things in life. Digital is still where I’m going to do 90% of my photography, but I doubt I’ll ever stop being interested in film, as long as I continue on this photography lark.

Jason and Jayson posing before the ceremony

Jason and Jayson posing before the ceremony

Some time in August, I was approached by my friend Jason: would I be interested in taking photos at his upcoming wedding to long-time boyfriend Jayson? Would I! I said yes as soon as I’d confirmed that I didn’t have the date promised to anyone else.

Jason is an actor, and he and Jayson both have a good sense of the theatrical. In fact, the wedding would take place in a banquet-hall-like space called the Bullitt Cabaret at Seattle’s ACT Theatre. I learned later that our mutual friend Rachel would be the officiant, which is beautiful in its own right: Jason and Rachel and I all worked on a series of shows together, in which Jason played a super-strong superhero called The Cap’n, and Rachel played a fiendishly intelligent villain named Chaos Theory, who thwarted his team at every opportunity. We couldn’t resist calling back to our shared past for one shot.

Chaos Theory is back to wreak more... chaos

Chaos Theory is back to wreak more… chaos

As the ceremony proceeded, after we had taken the formal shots on the gorgeous stairs (including shots with the almost hopelessly romantic 5×7 camera — there is nothing like having your photographer disappear under a dark cloth behind the 1910-era wooden camera and calling out “Say Cheese!” before the flashes ignite), a titter rippled through the audience as we realized we were in for more of a show than anyone had reckoned on.

Rachel is well known around town as a puppetteer, and is even running her own puppet business, Vox Fabuli Puppets. There was a suspiciously shaped box at her feet as she brought Jason and Jayson up to the landing where she’d be performing the ceremony. Tittering turned into full laughter (and not a few shocked gasps, I suspect) as she pulled out her new puppet, the Right Honorable Ruth Monster Ginsberg. Chaos indeed. Ruth Monster Ginsberg officiated the whole wedding, although she had to be checked at one point when it became clear that her ABCs of good relationships would have taken up the whole alphabet, if given free reign.

Ruth Monster Ginsberg officiating.  She doesn't see what's so funny.

Ruth Monster Ginsberg officiating. She doesn’t see what’s so funny.

The ceremony was endless fun, and indeed turned into a proper show, with acts on stage, singing and dancing, the whole nine yards. We also took advantage of a fantastically baroque chesterfield in the upper balcony to create another photo booth for anyone who wanted to be part of the drama.

Chesterfield + theater people = delicious drama

Chesterfield + theater people = delicious drama

On top of having a fantastically good time taking pictures at a good friend’s wedding, I was also told yesterday that one or more of my photos from the night may be published in a magazine early next year. More news on that if it becomes real, but even the possibility is pretty exciting.

In my work as a photographer, I typically come to the photograph: I’m in the time and place where I know a photo is going to come together. Usually it’s a show, or a headshot session, or something else I’ve scheduled. I signed up in advance to be there, with a camera, and make awesome photos happen. It’s gratifying how often that happens.

Then, other times, a photo will more or less jump up and punch me in the eye, insisting that I take it. At these times, I’m glad I pretty much always have a decent camera with me: I can pull out my camera and oblige the photo by capturing it. It’s not terribly often that this happens, but when it does, it’s simply not a thing that I can ignore. I suppose this is a good signpost on my journey toward being the best photographer I can be.

Yesterday was one of those times. I walked into the garage ready to get on my bike and huff and puff my way to work. The day was bright without being sunny, and while I wasn’t exactly late, I wasn’t looking to dally on my commute. But then there was this sight staring at me. My old vintage Honda CL175 was sitting in a pool of light without any intervention on my part. The picture more or less jumped up and punched me in the eye. With a muttered “Aw, jeez,” (poor old me, I know) I turned around, unpacked my camera from the pannier, and took the photo. This was also my first day with the new Rollei 35 S, so I checked what exposure numbers the digital camera had used (1/80 at f/1.8 at ISO200), did some quick and not terribly accurate mental math on stops, and tried to simulate that exposure with the Rollei, which only goes down to F/2.8, and was loaded with ISO400 film. I think I ended up with 1/30 and f/2.8 at ISO400, with a safety at 1/15.

I’m still missing a good way to scan the film I shoot, so here is the digital version, which came out quite well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The film shot came out alright, but focus and sharpness (the things I’m most curious about with this Rollei) are not a strength when shooting a negative on a light table with a digital camera, even a carefully focused digital camera. A film scanner is clearly on my short-list if I’m going to continue with this film binge.

Update: here’s the film version, done up as well as I can for the moment. This was re-photographed on a small light table with a Canon 100mm/2.8 macro lens on my 7D. The focus was pretty good, and the depth of field should have taken care of any slight imperfections. I think I’m going to call this the Rollei being not as clear as I might have hoped, but with an interesting character all its own. Still need to get this negative into a real scanner, though.

rollei-shadowbike-web

Sometimes, you pull out the old camera gear, and get started down a path. Then you’re reminded of things you’ve wanted to do for a while. Then you do them.

Thus came it to pass: I now have a Rollei 35s. I’ve wanted one for a while, and now that someone (ahem) splurged on a bulk roll of 35mm film, well, one simply needs cameras to use up all that film, yes? Yes. Say hello to the smallest camera in the Dangerpants collection. It is adorable and wee.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is a photo I put together last night to help promote The Luxuria Cycle at Annex Theatre (which just won the 2013 Theatre of the Year award at the Gregory Awards!).

In the play, Luxuria is a corporation, similar to Google or Facebook, which has taken control of most aspects of life, but primarily love and relationships. It’s a very interesting concept, and well executed. Inspired by the play and the costumes, I put together this photo of the cast keeping tabs on their users.

phone-circle-web

IMG_9009-web

I have no idea what to say about this photo. I’m riding the biggest wave of photo-awesomeness I’ve ever felt, and it’s all right here. To think, I actually said, “I think we’ve got enough for tonight,” moments before she turned her head just so and I nearly bruised my face raising the camera to my eye.