A short podcast I did for my online web writing class. This is spoken from the heart about my passion for Film.
Philosophically it could be a moment of remembrance; looking back on ones life and their accomplishments. It is introspection of our being or our soul. In my own life, I reflected many times on the back of a ship or boat, looking out to the perpetual sea and stars. A mirror within a mirror, the stars reflecting on a smooth ocean which created an endless vast black space as if we were floating through the universe. All in that moment, I was reflecting on my existence and purpose, merely a speck within a speck.
Physics would tell us that a reflection is light waves being returned to us equally off a surface. As a photographer, I am always looking at mirror to see the world. My 50 year old camera is reflecting what it captures in its lens onto a small mirror and then onto a screen at which I gaze at the world around me. Through this reflection, I am given a choice of what I would like to capture on my medium. An image caught through a reflection of an image.
Astrophysics or Quantum mechanics may suggest that a mirror is a window to a parallel universe. Is it possible that the reflection you see in a mirror is just another you? I often wonder if my reflection has made all the same choices I have in my life; were his choices wiser than mine? We both look the same, which indicates that we have weathered through similar life events. When I look into the mirror do I see a world within a world?
I recently acquired some color infrared film from Dean Bennici http://bennici.net/ He has a wonderful story that I hope to capture on video one day. Long story short he bought some of the last Color infrared film in existence directly from kodak in the form of rolls. He cuts and hand rolls the film into 120 format. He has sold over 50,000 rolls, and is down to his last 100 rolls. Thank you again Dean for doing what you have.
I am sad that such a beautiful medium is dwindling and that seems go be the case across the board with films but especially with the infrared. It is certainly not manufactured anymore.
Ok so let me talk about shooting with it a little. The above photo was shot with a camera that is roughly 50 years old. It is a Rolleiflex 3.5E with a Schneider lens. I chose this camera because I have multiple bayonet filters for it. I used an orange filter for the above shot. The film is rated at ISO 400 and it was about 3pm so I used the sunny sixteen rule and shot at 1/500th of a second at f16. I never really use a meter with my manual cameras. I have got fairly proficient at getting metering correct with the naked eye. So far from my experience you really need sunlight to hit your subject. If it is not reflecting direct sunlight it will not show up on the film, hence the black shadows. Mind you this was a sunny cloudless day in San Diego. The film used was Aerochrome 120, Kodak made the film for scientific purposes originally. Dean bought big rolls of it and cut it down to 120 for consumers to use. It is not the same film as the Kodak EIR but similar. Its not rated as fast and I have never seen 120 format color IR. I personally prefer to shoot medium format.
I was rollerblading with my daughter in a jogging stroller. I saw this guy at this exact position I photographed him and immediately stopped to talk with him. I cant remember if he was 92 or 96 but he was English and his name is Alfred Pepper. He was extremely friendly and we exchanged a brief conversation. I asked if he would go back to where he was and take a few swats at his ball. I then captured this image.
Here are some additional images. All shot with the sunny sixteen rule (thank you again Anton, for your knowledge and teachings). The yellow filters make for a over all very purple image. I havent tried green yet and am curious to see how it turns out. Also I havent used red but from my understanding it will just make for a very red image. Orange has a nice contrast of red and blue with a sky or water both of which have scattered infrared rays and produce a nice contrasting blue with the redish colors.
This photo was taken in NJ facing NYC from right next to my brothers apartment building. I took the photo with a rolleiflex 3.5 and used ilford sfx 2oo film which is semi infrared film. I think I had a medium yellow filter on and it was early evening somewhere around 5. The Rollei is a 50 year old camera with a 85mm zeiss lens.
I was walking from the path to my brothers apartment building when the pylons in the middle of the photo drew my eye to the sailboat and then to the Liberty Tower. There is an eerie ghost familiar to me in this photo, this is where the Twin Towers stood and 10 days and 12 years earlier they were destroyed. Even though there isn’t and outline to those buildings in the photo, the Manhattan skyline will never be the same for me, the image of those buildings is forever seared into my memory. That day was the first time I had seen the Liberty Tower in person. It was nice to see that we can rebuild and move forward. I wanted to catch that moment; The sailboat which for me represents the core of freedom, in the city which was the starting place for so many immigrants looking for freedom.
Tonight I finally had a chance to enlarge some photos. Im still on the journey of trying to get the enlargement process down. Its been a long couple of weeks trying to get Footprint film launched properly with the Slow Motion Video Photobooth, I really needed some Zen time in the darkroom. It slows things down a little and gives you time to think, all the while magic is happening right in front of your eyes.
I learned more about increasing contrast and balancing your whites and blacks. Increasing your filter and decreasing your time to keep your blacks black and make your whites white.
I feel like working in a darkroom is such a major benefit to anyone working in photography and film. It is like learning Latin, while it is a dead language it opens your world to all sorts of languages like French, Spanish, Italian and English. I see the world of video and photography so different because I truly understand what contrast is, or how a black can add so much mood to a photo when it is truly black.
I so badly want to master how to light a scene beautifully, its just not something you pick up from reading a book, you have to do it over and over until suddenly you are painting with light in some way that is unique. Every time I light a sitter or a scene, I learn something new. I learn how certain skins reveal more than others, how certain surfaces reflect a very unique reflection and how textures can give a totally different feeling to something that is mundane in normal life.
Recently I had the honor of going on a tour at Bad Robot productions http://www.badrobot.com/ which was eye opening, inspiring, so cool, the best….. haha I could go on for awhile. These guys are responsible for shows like “Lost” and “Alias”, they also have done all the new Star Treks and are going to be doing the new Star Wars movies. This is the J.J. Abrams crew!!!
So what landed me on this tour? I got an email from a very friendly guy (later my tour guide) Josh. It was an email from Bad Robot which in my mind I was imediatly like “NO FLIPPING WAY THIS MUST BE SOME KIND OF MISTAKE!” The email said that they had been scrummaging the internet (a very large place) for a some good footage to be used in a trailer for The Mission Continues http://missioncontinues.org/ that will be in every “Star Trek, Into Darkness” dvd. Somehow they found the video that I did for my friends Dave and Kate, when Dave came back from a deployment.
Josh asked if they could license my footage which of course I was thrilled and honored to do. Not only that but being a veteran it felt pretty awesome to help out such a good cause in what tiny way I did.
I do have to laugh a little, the footage is a pretty short and insignificant detail added to Dave and Kates video. I thought they would want to use the part where they re-united. In any case Josh assured me that they had scowered the internet to the very edges of existence looking for the right footage to put in the video and told me I should give myself a little credit.
The tour was great!
I had to wait a little while in the lobby which was full of all kinds of figurines, statues and cool vintage toys. There was a table in the middle of the lobby which had pencils and paper and a little sign that said “please create”. They also had pre-stamped postcards to send off to military abroad I think it was http://www.amillionthanks.org/ (which I later learned that Josh was responsible for). In a room adjacent to the lobby was a kind of in house marketing/media/gift making/creative room. Josh showed me an old printing press that I think was 150+ years old that they use for “fun” to print things out. He showed me an example one of the interns had done which took him something like 18 hours to align all the letters in the plate (clearly the interns have to work hard there). There was a girl making these cool little clay statuettes and they had a sick 3d printer that Josh said they use to build/test their props for whatever production they need. I got to hold Captain Kirks phaser!!!
The rest of the tour was pretty quick, but I got to see some of the editing suites (they use Avid, because its easy to share work with it) a really nice sound studio and some of the compositing stuff. They had chefs that cook for everyone there and a built in theatre (which I learned later they had to use to shoot some inserts for “Into Darkness”)
Josh Brought me to his desk, where I got to show Dave and Kates video off to a few other employees and then he showed me The Mission Continues video. He also showed me some behind the scenes shots of “Into Darkness”.
All in all it was a great experience. I think it was awesome of Josh to invite me up there, take time from his normal work to give me a tour and he even sent me a couple sweet Bad Robot shirts. I also really appreciate that J.J. Abrams, his wife and Bad Robot are all very appreciative and supportive of military veterans.
Being a little guy in the film realm, it felt pretty good to have my video discovered by someone like Bad Robot.
The dean of my school asked if I would do a portrait photograph of her for future use. I was very humbled by her request and nervous I might not do a good job. I love photography and besides, what is the worst that might happen?
**EDIT** This was a portrait photo that my dean needed for professional reasons, not a completely creative or artistic photo
The shoot went well!
a couple things I need to get better at.
1. MASTERING THE ART OF PHOTO GRAPHY – Light painting. Really what I mean is learning where to put the light on the subject, from what angle etc. There is an element or time for creativity and there is also a time when a person needs their portrait for work related purposes.
2. Getting the focus plane wide enough to get my models face completely in focus. I have a bad habit of going to the extreme ends of my aperture in this case I shot with a 85mm 1.2 on the 5D mark II
3. Directing my model, speaking with the model and comforting them to the point where I see or capture the emotion I would like
I also used a speed light with an umbrella. I shot through the umbrella to create a big soft light source. The best shots though were from natural light coming from a window. It was an 11am sun and a east facing window so the light was perfect.
As far as composition and creative process goes, I was recently inspired by an exhibit of Arnold Newman
**EDIT** I dont consider myself a photographer even close to the realm of Arnold Newman, I was merely inspired by him.
He would typically include something about the “sitter” or model in the composition of the shot. So if you were a architect he might have one of your buildings incorporated in the photo or if you were a sculptor possibly an element of one of your sculptures. In my case it was my dean who is also a teacher. I felt that the library and some of her favorite books would be a wonderful element to include in her portrait. She loves to read but much like a book she passes knowledge on and educates.
Through all of this process I realized that not only am I am inspired by some of the greats but I also try to emulate them. My friend and mentor Anton told me once that there is nothing wrong trying to learn and copy other photographers styles, thats how you learn. Recently in my script writing class my teacher Lisa said “your foolish if you think youll be unique by not copying or reading other peoples work”. Obviously she wasn’t saying to plagiarize but she was saying take other peoples ideas and make them better. You cant be unique without knowing what else is out there.
I have a few people I really look up to in regards to photography. These are the people who I am trying to emulate in my own work.
Anton Orlov http://thephotopalace.blogspot.com/2013/08/on-hold.html
Rodney Smith http://www.rodneysmith.com/portfolio
Irving Penn http://irvingpenn.org/
Arnold Newman http://www.arnoldnewmanarchive.com/
Richard Avedon http://www.richardavedon.com/
Dean Bennici http://bennici.net/
I went into my favorite camera shop Georges Camera in north park to buy some chemicals for my darkroom when I was informed of some alarming news. I needed some fixer and when I asked for it the sales rep said “we have a bunch on back order from Kodak, but it might not ever come in,” which I said “It might not ever come in!?” MIGHT NOT EVER COME IN because Kodak may possibly stop producing one of the most essential ingredients to developing and enlarging film. Of course someone else like Ilford will end up picking up the slack for awhile.
It hits hard with me that I finally found something I love, a way of expressing myself artistically and the art is vanishing all around me. The majority of photographers I know dont use film or havent ever used film. There are a lot of believers in film but I am starting to see that the only people really doing film are Artist. Its almost impossible to make a living as a photographer shooting Film, unless of course you are that good. I myself would not take a film camera to a commercial job, or a wedding. However I still feel like analog photography is so essential to being a photographer.
Two things that make Film so special to me.
1. It is almost luck or chance every time you snap a picture. Film is very organic in nature, for all you know you could get a roll that is different from any other roll, it might be more contrasty or hazy etc. Everything has to go right to capture that special moment. Meaning that you have to frame the shot, set the exposure and hope that when you hit that shutter release button, the thing your trying to capture is exactly where you want it. Its a blink of a second out of life and everything in that camera has to work perfectly to catch it. Which is what makes that moment so valuable when its enlarged on a piece of paper.
2. Its a very romantic process. You snap a photo and when that mirror clicks up or that shutter sound goes off you know in your head, “that was a good shot” and you hope to god that everything else went right. Then you spend all this time in the darkroom, hands on with your film. A black roll of undeveloped film holding dearly to your image. A burst of light altered that film and now its your job to to pull your image out of that film. Its so fragile and delicate, so many things can go wrong, but when you hold your negative to the light and see that you did indeed get that shot you were hoping for, its the most rewarding feeling ever. I think the best part of all of it is the physical tangible object in your hand, both the negatives and the print.
The world will not be the same if film becomes a lost art.
Last night a fellow student and I drove out to the mountains outside of San Diego. The meteor shower “perseid” was coming to an end after three days of spectacular light shows in the sky. A few things that I learned about night time photography and time-lapse.
canon 5D mkII hacked with magic lantern for intervalometer
14mm 2.8 prime lens
85mm 1.2 prime
I shot wide open with both lenses and at iso 3200
1. For time-lapse you really need a lot of time to be able to do one at night. I was shooting 30 second exposures every 30 seconds which is 1 frame per minute. That is 60 frames an hour which if you are outputting to 30fps that equates to 2 seconds of video. That being said you need a lot of time, one good spot and a full battery.
2. the infinity focus is not infinity. You have to back the focus down just a hair to keep the stars from being blurry. Also on that note, the movement of the stars is much less noticeable with wide angle like the 14mm. I shot with the 85mm and had to back my time down to about 10 seconds so I didn’t get star trails. If you shoot for 30 seconds with the 85mm it will look like the stars are blurry, but actually its that they moved in that 30 seconds.
3. High ISO was not noticeably noisy at 30 seconds which really surprised me. I was going to just shoot at 1600 but another meteor gazer who was in the navy came over and gave me a few pointers (thanks if you ever read this) and he told me 3200 would be fine, which it was. That being said, I also did a 5 minute shot aimed at polaris because I was trying to get the star trails. The shot came out OK, but would have been better with a lower ISO. In the future I will shoot a much slower ISO for those LONG shots.
Over all once you get everything tweaked the right way its pretty straight forward. Hopefully you have a good book, some NPR or a good buddy to enjoy the infinite universe with.