The Little Brown Dog, Chewed Film, Man Ray.

So I have a little brown dog (Elliot).

Eliot is a great dog, my constant companion, a great photo-buddy who jumps to attention whenever I pick up a camera or tripod. However, sometimes he reverts to his puppy personality and chews up clothing, shoes, blankets. Several years ago, he grabbed a roll of 120mm film from my camera bag and chewed it up one end of the film.

 

Paper Backing, Dog Chewed Roll of Ilford FP-4 black and white film.

Paper Backing, Dog Chewed Roll of Ilford FP-4 black and white film.

 

At first I thought, oh well, another wasted roll of film. Yet, for some reason, I didn’t throw the film away although I believed it was a total loss. Several years later and rummaging through boxes in my closet, I rediscovered the chewed roll of film.  I decided why not see what happens and went ahead and processed the film.

 

 

Roll of Dog Chewed Ilford FP-4 black and white film, Processed in ID-11 Plus Film Developer.

Roll of Dog Chewed Ilford FP-4 black and white film, Processed in ID-11 Plus Film Developer.

 

What I find particularly fascinating with the ragged and fogged bottom edge of the film. The frayed edges allowed the imprinting film counter numbers and shapes onto the negative creating a Dada-eque juxtaposition with the random and amorphous shapes generated during processing of the uneven strip of film.

The chewed film highlights the experimental results which can be achieved by merging film and with chance, and remembering the Man Ray quotation, “working directly with light and chemistry, so deforms the subject as almost to hide the identity of the original, and creates a new form.” [1] Yes, my little brown dog certainly created an engaging new form.

 

Dog Chewed Roll of Ilford FP-4 black and white film

Dog Chewed Roll of Ilford FP-4 120mm black and white film, scanned with a Nikon CoolScan 9000.

 

The physicality of film is a key attribute which opens the medium to experiments with chance as well as the exposure to the elements, time, and the ravages of animals, insects and micro-organisms, and little brown dogs.

 

Eliot, the Little Brown Dog in the backyard.

Eliot, the Little Brown Dog, in the backyard.

 

David Arnold

Notes:

[1] Man Ray, “The Age of Light,” Man Ray, Writing on Art, Jennifer Mundy, ed. p. 117.

Death Valley, Painted Landscapes

Death Valley, Artist’s Drive. Blue Sky (1), 2016.

The mediums of painting and photography have intersected at many times. With the invention of photography painters began to work from photographs. Eugene Delacroix created nude studies based on daguerreotype photographs by Eugene Durieu. Praising the effects of photography, Delacroiz wrote in 1850 “A daguerreotype is the mirror of the object, certain details almost always overlooked in drawing from nature take on in it great characteristic importance, and thus introduce the artist to complete knowledge of construction; light and shadow are found in their true character.” [1] The painter Edgar Degas took photographs and his experiments with photography would come to influence his paintings. Others followed Degas’s example including Picasso, Man Ray, Charles Sheeler, Andy Warhol, and Chuck Close.  Photography would come to exert a large influence on painting and each medium made lasting contributions to the other.

Death Valley, Titus Canyon (1), 2016

Despite the many compositional comparisons between photography and painting, each mediums are different activities with similar aims. [2] Photographs and paintings differ in that they come into being in different ways. [3] As the art historian Helmut Gernsheim explains, “the camera intercepts images; the paint brush reconstructs them.” [4] Others would restate these inherent differences, including Susan Sontag’s dialectic: “the painter constructs, the photographer discloses.”[5] Behind every photograph, even in photographs with no apparent focus or discernible subject matter resides the notion that something at one time was in front of the lens. This may seem obvious, but photography interacts with the physical world unlike other mediums and is reliant upon this physicality, or to allow Sontag to extend her point, “the formal qualities of style—the central issue in painting—are, at most, of secondary importance in photography, while what a photograph is of is always of primary importance.” [6]

Death Valley, Artist’s Drive. Blue Sky (2), 2016.

The differences between painting and photography have generated an intellectual tension which has stimulated experimentation and discourse in both mediums. Modernist critics claimed that the mission of painters and photographers was to discover the distinctive visual syntax of each medium in their work. [7] Photographs, before the advent of digital tools, were primarily preoccupied with physical realities, yet now with digital tools photographers may participate like the painter in the expressive freedoms and private vision of the painter. Still, the differences between painting and photography are becoming less apparent within the broad movements in contemporary art practice, which suggests perhaps that the exclusive separation of mediums was never as important as some critics lead us to believe. [8]

Death Valley, Race Track Island [1], 2016.

 Death Valley, Painted Landscapes challenges the distinctions between landscape painting and landscape photography by merging ink-jet printing pigments with watercolor painting pigments. First begun in 2010, Death Valley / Painted Landscapes pays special attention in revealing the contours of the landscape and filling the empty negative spaces of sky. The process begins with a panoramic photograph created within Death Valley National Park. Using Photoshop’s photomerge action, 3-6 individual exposures are composited into the final panoramic photograph. After the assembly of the panorama, a watercolor paintings is created on watercolor paper which translates the compositional forces of the photograph into color and movement, and broadly outlining the lines and shapes of the photographic landscape panorama. Next, the watercolor painting is feed into the ink-jet printer, with reference photograph over printed onto the watercolor painting.

 

  • Death Valley, Artist's Drive #10, 2010, inkjet print over watercolor.

Death Valley, Painted Landscapes reveals new meanings and chance connections by highlighting and suppressing photographic details of Death Valley’s unique landscape. The centuries of wind and water have washed Death Valley’s spectacular landscape done to bare rock and dirt.  By providing gestural markings which outline the geologic contours of the landscape over the photographic print, Death Valley, Painted Landscapes places the apparent differences of each medium at the center of expression. The imperfect alignment between painting and photograph highlights the tensions of wind, water and geology which shape the landscape of Death Valley and offers a vision of the landscape undergoing an active and continuous transformation.

 

David Arnold

 

Notes:

[1] Eugene Delacroix: Oeuvres litteraires, Paris: G. Cres, 1923, pp. 16-17, quoted in Two Delacroix Drawings Made from Photographs, Van Deren Coke, Art Journal, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Spring, 1962), pp. 172-174.
[2] Susan Sontag, On Photography, p. 94.
[3] See Joel Synder, Photography, Vision and Representation. Critical Inquiry, Autumn 1975.
[4] Helmut Gernsheim, Creative Photography, p. 16.
[5] Susan Sontag, On Photography, p. 92.
[6] Susan Sontag, On Photography, p. 92.
[7] See Clement Greenberg, “Modernist Painting.”
[8] Jonathan Weinber, “Making It Real,” Shared Intelligence, p. 4-5.

 

 

 

 

The Lego Camera: The Theory of Constraints For Creativity

 

Lens-blur-Lego

The Lego Digital Camera

 

Creativity is defined as the creation of something new, useful or generative.[1] The theory of constraints for creativity asserts the contradictory notion that limits engender creative problem solving.  Creativity involves constraints, which can hinder as well as stimulate problem solving. For example, in an overly structured problem, little room is left for creativity, and problems with wholly open fields, people tend to be uncreative and  fall back upon what has worked in the past. Instead, when using constraints which preclude prior examples and encourage novel approaches often results in increased creativity.[2]   Constraints provide starting points and outlines to solve problems and find solutions. The right kinds of creative constraints, over time, present barriers to known responses, which in turn promote creative breakthroughs. Constraints for creativity—what are also called “intelligent constraints”— foster global thinking and allow individuals to engage in activities to “conceptually integrate seemingly unrelated pieces of information.” [3]

 

At its core, experimental photography structures problems which are designed to produce generative results and new approaches to image making.  Experimental photography with a fascination for cameras and equipment that limit the open set of  options available to contemporary photography supports the theory constraints for creativity.  Camera choices such as toy cameras, Holga, Brownie and other vintage cameras with limited creative controls, first generation and low resolution digital cameras provide intelligent constraints which promote new generative approaches to photography. Not every constraint will produce truly influential approaches, but over time, chance, accident and deliberate application of new constraints can lead to new pathways for the medium. The goal for experimental photographers is finding the right kinds of constraints which will make possible the production of innovative works.

 

The term Lego is the joining two Danish words, “leg godt”, which in English means “play well”, a goal equally suited to experimental photography. The Lego camera is formed from the signature interlocking plastic blocks, which remain the cornerstone of the company’s product line. The Lego plastic block sets were first imported into America in 1973 [4], and exemplify the principles of constraints for creativity. Lego boxes of interlocking and multi-color plastic blocks allow users to work with models in an open fashion and are encouraged to seek imaginative new solutions. The traditional Lego block sets represent what creativity psychologist Patricia Stocks terms an “ill-structured problem” or an “incompletely specified problem”. [5] Recently, when searching for toy cameras, I discovered the Lego digital camera in 2009, in partnership with Digital Blue. I ordered the Lego camera and quickly began testing the camera’s potentials for experimental photography.

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The Lego camera fully embraces the playful brick and knob block design that made Lego the 4th largest toy company in the world. As a camera, the Lego, possesses a limited set of creative controls:

 

    • 3MP Resolution
    • Holds  only 29 photos at 3MP setting
    • 1.5″  square LCD screen which obscures the actual image area
    • Built-in flash and fixed focus*
    • No memory card, images are downloadable from internal memory to computer via USB cable
    • The brick and knob blocks on the top encourages extensions and additions.

 

Working within the limited constraints of the Lego requires considerable adjustments and time. In an age of unlimited picture-taking, the limit of 29 photographs requires subject matter planning. Pictures can be deleted using the LCD screen, but the square screen is small and presents only half of the full capture.  The screen is dim and easily obscured in bright sunlight.  The camera sensor has a limited dynamic range which performs well in shade but not in high contrast scenes. The sensor does produce unpredictable and sometimes pleasing film-like noise. The colorful and lightweight camera body engenders a playful risk taking, and by precluding the full range of creative controls present on contemporary DSLR’s, the Lego camera demands a simplification of subject matter and lighting conditions.

 

The Lego camera encourages exploration and chance within the boundaries of the constraints built into the limited creative controls. The camera supports an environment of play, a toy camera that engenders learning about the medium of photography. Like the Lego block system, Lego can help experimental photographers imagine new possibilities and create new work based on play. The Lego’s limited controls and poor sensor dynamics encourages a graphic approach to subject matter. The simplicity of the camera makes approaching complex subject matter more difficult, a paradox which points to the principles of constraints for creativity — new approaches to the medium also involve creating new constraints.

Street Photography with The Lego Digital Camera.

 

©David Arnold, October 2013.

 

Citations:

[1] Patricia Stokes, Creativity from Constraints: the Psychology of Breakthrough, p. 1.

[2] Stokes, p. 7.

[3] Marguc, Janina; Förster, Jens; Van Kleef, Gerben A. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 101(5), Nov 2011, 883-901.

[4] LEGO.com About Us About the LEGO Group – The LEGO Group , October, 25, 2013.

[5] Patricia Stokes, Creativity from Constraints: the Psychology of Breakthrough, p. 4.

Morning Glories: Lumen Print Making

Morning Glories, a series of lumen prints

Lumen print making is one of the most fascinating camera-less photographic processes. Lumen prints begin with silver gelatin photographic papers, the traditional photographic paper used in the making of  black and white prints since the late 1870’s. Silver gelatin photographic papers are conventionally used in a darkroom under safe light conditions. Lumen prints are made by taking sheets of unexposed black-and-white or color photographic paper and placing objects or negatives on top of the paper in the same manner as making a camera-less photogram. Instead of using an enlarger, the lumen print making process takes silver gelatin paper out of the darkroom and into the bright sunlight to produce camera-less photographic images. Being able to move from the darkroom and into the bright sunlight is the most exciting aspect of lumen print making.

To make a lumen print you will need the following materials:

• Any black and white or color photographic paper
• Objects and materials to place on top of the silver gelatin papers (translucent and organic materials add depth and visual interest to a lumen print)
• Contact print frame, contact proofer, picture frame or sheets of plexiglass
• Bright sunlight or strong UV source light
• Film changing bag or large thick black plastic bags to protect exposed prints from further exposure to sunlight
• Scissors, tape, and clear plastic wrap to hold objects onto the paper

Lumen Print Set-ups: silver gelatin paper exposed to full sunlight.

 

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Lumen Print Making Steps:

1. Prior to taking silver gelatin paper into the sunlight, assemble lumen print materials.
2. In a room with subdued lighting, place photogram materials on top of photographic paper and into a contact frame.
3. Place contact frame in the bright sunlight (time varies from 30 minutes to hours depending on light conditions and paper).
4. When exposure is complete, place paper to light tight bag until ready to scan or fix.
5. Scan your lumen print prior to fixing your lumen print as the colors will shift in the fixing process.
6. Fix your lumen print in photographic paper fixer for 2-4 minutes.
7. Rinse and wash paper for archival requirements.
8. Optional: tone or colorize your lumen print using any silver gelatin print toner or print coloring agents.

Out-of-Date Silver Gelatin Papers.

 

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Photographic papers are divided into two types: developing out papers and printing out papers. With printing out papers (POP) a photographer places a negative over a sheet of photographic paper and exposed the negative and print to sunlight. The photographer monitors the slow conversion of the silver halide to metallic silver. Once the image reaches the desired density and tone, the paper is fixed to halt further development. No developer is needed with printing out papers. Printing out papers were used extensively in the 19th century and prior to the widespread use of silver gelatin papers.[1]

With developing out papers, such as silver gelatin papers, upon exposure, photosensitive materials capture a latent, invisible image which must be developed-out in a chemical bath to be viewed. These papers require a very short exposure time and require the addition of a developing agent such as Kodak’s Dektol print developer to bring forth the latent image in the developing solution. Lumen prints, a rarely used printing process, relies upon the principle that any photographic paper, if exposed to enough sunlight, will produce an image without a developer. Once fixed, the image is permanent. The lumen printmaking process uses developing out papers as printing out papers to achieve wholly unpredictable results.

Lumen prints work well with old or fogged silver gelatin papers. All of the prints in the Morning Glories Series were created with very old silver gelatin papers: a package of Kodak F-2 Kodabromide with an expiration date of Dec 1, 1947, a package of Oriental Seagull G2 bromide paper, and a package of Ilford Ilfobrom Velvet Lustre, both from the 1980’s. Exposure times in most cases was fell into the one-two hour range in full sunlight.  Each silver gelatin paper used with the Morning Glories Series responded very differently to the same materials and conditions, producing reds, blues and yellows color shades, and again with black and white printing papers. If left unfixed, the ephemeral colors of lumen prints will continue to darken; once fixed, the colors of the lumen print will change significantly, often ripening to rich browns and golden yellows. The results with lumen prints vary with environmental conditions, material selection, exposure times and paper choices. The simplicity of the lumen print making process opens us to the core of photographic process. Each lumen print is a unique photographic event.

©David Arnold

 

Notes:

[1]Mark Osterman, “Printing out vs. Developing Out Papers,” Notes on photographs, George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography, Rochester, NY.

 

Borrowed Sources

Thoughts on Walter Benjamin, Appropriation, Technology and Landscape

Walter Benjamin

Published in 1936, Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is the first commentary on the ways in which technology changes the conditions of art. Benjamin’s tightly written essay continues to generate debate and has spawn thousands of critical interpretations. In he Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Benjamin outlines his concept of the aura of a work of art. The aura for Benjamin is a perceptual relationship with a work of art which allows the viewer to experience the unique history of a given work of art, and by extension, the viewer’s place in tradition. Benjamin’s associates the aura with looking, “as the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be. If, while resting on a summer afternoon, you follow with your eyes a mountain range on the horizon or a branch, which casts its shadow over you, you experience the aura of those mountains, of that branch.”[1] For Benjamin, the aura is situated in a specific object, time or place, as well as present within the viewer in the contemplation of the work.

Benjamin believed that with the separation of art from ritual, first experienced in the Renaissance, the function of art changed—art becomes a product designed for exhibition. For Benjamin, the Renaissance period substituted a cult of beauty for a lost ritual tradition of art where a “secular cult of beauty…clearly showed that ritualistic basis in its decline and the first deep crisis which befell it.”[2] The cult of beauty mentioned by Benjamin is prominently on display in contemporary art museums and can be seen in the elaborate viewing experience presented at large exhibitions, aided by dramatic lighting we experience a simulation of the ritual associated with the previous religious tradition. Benjamin also discusses how the reproduction of works of art in posters, magazines and books changes how we experience art and how technology supports our desire “to bring things “closer” spatially and humanly, which is just as ardent as their bent toward overcoming the uniqueness of every reality by accepting its reproduction. Every day the urge grows stronger to get hold of an object at very close range by way of its likeness, its reproduction.” [3]

  • Borrowed Source: Sailboat Detail, Joseph Mallord William Turner, English, 1775-1851), Van Tromp, Going About to Please His Masters, 1839, Getty Museum.
    Sailboat Detail, Joseph Mallord William Turner, English, 1775-1851), Van Tromp, Going About to Please His Masters, 1839, Getty Museum.

Appropriation and Technology

Benjamin argues that the accelerated mode of mechanical reproduction changes the way that art is experienced. Benjamin believes that mechanical reproduction “emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual.”[4] An authentic work of art for Benjamin is dependent on its function in ritual, housed in a specific location which forms a relationship characterized by distance and provides the context for generating meaning. The withering of aura through reproduction diminishes the quasi-religious or cult status of art, which opens the door to the new forms and uses of art. Benjamin discusses in Work of Art, a group of early twentieth century artists, the Berlin Dadaists, who intentionally performed “a relentless destruction of the aura of their creations.”[5] Here Benjamin refers to the art practice known as appropriation which means to take over another work of art. The Berlin Dadaists took reproductions from newspapers and magazines and used them as source material for their own works. The Berlin Dadaists along with Marcel Duchamp were the first to reintroduce the longstanding practice of appropriation into modern art.

After initially restricting photography in galleries, museums are now encouraging photography and smart phones use to aid the viewer’s experience with art. No clear guidelines exist across museums as restrictions on the use of cameras and mobile devices within galleries remains unevenly applied, still the trend is for the transformational aspects of technology to continue to reshape the museum experience. The use of technology to bring the experience of viewing art closer is in full evidence, including gallery tours guided by smart phones. In galleries where photography is permitted, visitors appear to photograph as much as they look at painting, and viewer’s appropriations support Benjamin’s prophesy, “the urge grows stronger to get hold of an object at very close range by way of its likeness, its reproduction.” [6] Whether intentional, museums encourage the appropriation of works of art via smart phone photography and sharing across social media. What was once a revolutionary art practice in the hands of the Berlin Dadaists and post modern artists is now common place.

 

 

Several recent studies have investigated the viewing patterns of visitors at museums and have concluded that visitors spend between 2 and 32 seconds viewing paintings and reading wall text. A Metropolitan Museum of Art study found that the median time viewers spend with a work of art is 17 seconds.[7] Studies conducted at the Louvre found that visitors spent only 15 seconds viewing Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, the most popular painting in the history of the planet.[8] As Benjamin’s example of the aura suggests, time spent viewing any subject does not fully quantify our experience of viewing, as even brief periods of time spent looking may led to lasting impressions. Nevertheless, the small amount of time spent viewing exhibitions of works of art has led museums to support further research into the viewing patterns of visitors, including using eye tracking equipment and software to provide empirical evidence to better understand their how visitor experience art on display.[9]  Possible questions for future studies could include does smart phone technology draw people closer to the works of art? And does the use of smartphones and social media sharing encourage a closer viewing of works of art? Unanswered are the questions of why so little time is spent with works of art and if we are witnessing aspects of withering of the aura which Benjamin detailed nearly 75 years ago.

The series, Borrowed Sources employs the art practice of appropriation to comment on the process of looking and viewing art within a museum context. While walking through galleries, painting details catch our eyes and merge with other works on display—small details jump to attention, while others fall away. Using a lens designed to shift the focal point to one small area of the image and rendering the majority of the surface space out of focus, Borrowed Sources references how the eye scans works of art while strolling through museum galleries.[11]  Borrowed Sources considers the process of interpreting works of art through the processes of looking and photographing them. Sixteenth through nineteenth century landscape paintings created prior to the introduction of mass photography were selected for their association with the appropriation of visual space propelled by the invention of linear perspective, a function taken up by photography in the nineteenth century.

 

 

Landscape

Landscape is a term bound to the notion of space. The English term landscape originated in the German landschaft, where it first appeared. The German term referred to an area of “shaped land, a cluster of temporary dwellings and more permanent houses, the antithesis of the wilderness surrounding it”[10]. The term, at this time, was without any particular aesthetic or artistic or visual connotation.[12] The Dutch in the 16th century used the term landshap to refer to a tract of land. With the invention of linear perspective, landscape became a subject suitable for paintings.  By the end of sixteenth century after Dutch painters began to produce paintings featuring land, landship was used to refer to a painting of a place, as a “perceived as a scope or expanse.”[13] The word was introduced into English to refer to a painting and over time, the English term would be used by geographers, in a neutral and scientific sense, and by artists to refer to a particular kind of painting. Landscape provided new ways of evaluating the tracts of land as well as a ways of perceiving the world. Within these connotations, landscape took on aesthetic and emotional content.[14] Today the term is largely connected with the terms place and view, and often refers to scenery. Landscape now contains its early associations with tracts of land, yet refers as well to representation of particular tracts of land favored by artists in their paintings and later photographers in their photographs. The term landscape in the visual arts is connected broadly to the term nature, and today, landscape is associated with beautiful scenery or with picturesque largely rural scenes.

 

 

Landscape painting grew from the enlargement of scientific knowledge and is linked directly to the Renaissance invention of perspective drawing. Surveying, mapping and the exploration and colonization of new lands, each expanding at this same time, are directly linked to the concept of landscape. Denis Cosgrove defines landscape as “the external world mediated through human subjective experience.”[15] Landscape in the broadest sense became a new way of seeing and structuring the world. At the center of this new visual space was the individual. Linear perspective became the visual representation of a rationalist conception of the world. Surveying, mapping, and new mathematical formulations of space were used to measure individual estates, and later the entire world. Linear perspective became the guarantor of visual realism in the landscape painting, and the tool by which the artist represents and appropriates the external world.

 

 

Perspective painting was crucial to the development of landscape painting and a key factor in the powering the desire for photography.[16] Linear perspective, and in the same way that photography has come to dominate our visual world, assumed authority and control of space. Linear perspective provided the certainty of the reproduction of nature into art, underlining the power and authority of the work of art and the creativity and authority of the individual artist.[17] This too, is a role photography was happy to assume. As Susan Sontag states, “To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge — and, therefore, like power.” [18]Landscape painters would come to provide breathtaking illusions of depth and controlled entry points into the picture plane. Immediately after the invention of photography, these examples would inform the new medium of photography. Early photographers, many who first trained as painters, employed the same conventions of composition to their photographic appropriations of the landscape, and in landscapes of great beauty, in the forests of Europe and in Yosemite Valley, photographers worked side by side with the landscape painters to depict the external world. With linear perspective, as Cosgrove suggests, “Realist representation of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface through linear perspective directs the external world towards the individual located outside that space. It gives the eye absolute mastery over space.”[19] By the 17th century, landscape paintings were often commissioned by wealth landowners, and depicted a visual space doubly owned through possession of realist painting of his land. The realistic landscape painting became a prized and expensive object,  and like the landscape itself, a property,  which affirmed the control and appropriation of the external world.

By extension, linear perspective allows the viewer to appropriate the visual space of the painting, a role that in the nineteenth century, the new medium of photography assumed. Borrowed Sources investigates how the eye, aided by linear perspective, travels through painted landscapes and by extension the external world. Borrowed Sources concerns the appropriation of visual space predefined by landscape painters working prior to the twentieth century. By treating landscape paintings as landscapes from the external world, Borrowed Sources traces the source of our concept of landscape in common details found paintings, as well as searches for ideas expressed by Walter Benjamin in The Works of Art. In particular, Borrowed Sources tests Benjamin’s association of the aura of work of art with looking and examines the desire to use technology to close the distance and get closer to the work of art through its reproduction.  Borrows Sources looks to those painted details, those mountain ranges, those horizons, those trees and twigs and branches, which carries the eye through painted landscapes and engages the viewer in a dialogue with the past.

 

David Arnold, July 2014.

 

Citations:
[1] Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, II.
[2] Ibid, IV.
[3] Ibid, III.
[4 Ibid, XIV.
[5] Ibid, IV.
[6] Ibid, III.
[7] Jeffrey K. Smith and Lisa F. Smith, Spending Time on Art, Empirical Studies of the Arts, Volume 19, No. 2, 2001.
[8] Amelia Gentleman, “Smile Please,” The Guardian, 10.18.2004.
[9] Museum and the Web 2013, Capturing Visitors’ Gazes: Three Eye Tracking Studies in Museums, 4.2013.
[10] Lucy Lippard, The Lure of the Local, p. 8.
[11] Technical details: All images were captured using a Sony A-900 full frame digital camera equipped with a LensBaby Composer and a Sweet 35 Optic set at F2.8. The ISO setting varied  between 1500 and 6400 ISO. All images were edited with Adobe Lightroom 5.0 and Adobe Photoshop 2014.
[12] Denis Cosgrove, “Prospect, Perspective and the Evolution of the Landscape Idea,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series, Vol. 10, No. 1 (1985), p. 56.
[13] Lucy Lippard, The Lure of the Local, p. 8.
[14] Christopher Ely, This Meager Nature, p. 8-9.
[15] Quoted in Lucy Lippard, The Lure of the Local, p 7-8
[16] Denis Cosgrove, “Prospect, Perspective and the Evolution of the Landscape Idea,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series, Vol. 10, No. 1 (1985), p. 48
[17] Peter Galassi, Before Photography, p. 11-31.
[18] Susan Sontag, On Photography, p. 4.
[19] Denis Cosgrove, “Prospect, Perspective and the Evolution of the Landscape Idea,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series, Vol. 10, No. 1 (1985), p. 52.

Experimenting with Box Cameras: Brownies at Mono Lake

 

Brownie-Target-scan

The Art Deco Brownie, the Brownie Target Six-20, circa 1946.

In 1888, the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company headed by George Eastman, introduced the Kodak camera, a wooden box “neatly covered in black leather”[1] which became the most significant event in the history of the medium since the invention of photography. The camera was loaded with a 100-exposure roll of silver gelatin film attached to two spools, and sold for $25. Once all of the film was exposed, the photographer had only to return the camera to the Eastman factory in Rochester, New York, where for $10 the film was removed and processed and a fresh roll loaded into the camera and returned to the customer. When Eastman began work on the Kodak camera in 1886, he paid close attention to the ease of use and the efficiencies of manufacture.  Eastman first announced the Kodak at an annual photographers’ conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The convention awarded the Kodak a gold medal as the invention of the year. [2] Considering the cumbersome cameras and photographic processes prior to the release of the Kodak, the simplicity of Eastman new camera was stunning.

 

With the release of the Kodak, mass photography and mass marketing were born. Eastman personally controlled of all the marketing and promotional details, oversaw the preparation of instructional manuals, advanced literature to suppliers, and arranged advertising. The advertising campaign for the Kodak featured women and children operating the Kodak to emphasize the ease of use for anyone without regard to professional training, technical expertise or aesthetic intention. Most famously, Eastman conceived of the often-quoted slogan, “You press the button—we do the rest.” By the end of the 19th century, the name Kodak became iconic—the brand name for photography.  The Kodak Girl became the symbol of the modern photographer. The Kodak box camera became so popular and successful that the Eastman Company changed the company name to Eastman Kodak in 1892.  Eastman felt the name was “firm and unyielding”, a strong name, and easily pronounced in multiple languages. The name Kodak became both a noun and verb—to Kodak now meant to photograph.[3]

 

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The new Kodak camera was the lead article in the Scientific American, September 15, 1888. 

The Kodak was the world’s first successful roll film camera. The Kodak shipped in a wooden box that contained the camera, a carrying case, the Kodak Manual, and the Memorandum of Kodak Exposures, and a notebook that enabled users to record their exposures. The camera featured an innovative lens mounted in a cylinder that rotated to act as a shutter.  The lens was a fixed focus f/9 periscopic lens with a 2.25-inch focal length. The Kodak had rotary shutter that could be opened by pulling a string; the shutter had a single fixed speed, but also featured timed exposures. The 100 exposures of the Kodak were often used for travel and vacation photography where a large number of exposures would be required. Photography soon became associated with leisure, holidays, and major family events. Still, in 1888 dollars, a $25  Kodak was an expensive item. The Kodak served primarily as a vacation camera for the upper classes, and as the Scientific American article noted, “Yachting trips may be illustrated; the pleasure of journeys through foreign countries will be increased by knowing that any novel sight the traveler may see can be caught and preserved to show to his friends.”[4] Prior to the 1880’s, each photographer operated as his own handicraft producer of photosensitive materials. In 1889, Eastman introduced a modified version of the original Kodak, now named the Kodak No. 1. Eastman’s new cameras were loaded with transparent film, the standard for Kodak cameras. In 1891, Eastman introduced the Model A Daylight Kodak, a box camera design, which permitted daylight loading of roll film. The new Kodak cameras changed the landscape of photography from a decentralized, handicraft mode of production to a centralized, mechanized mode of production geared predominately to an amateur photography market. Eastman was responsible for the “conception of an amateur camera and a system of photography.”[5]

 

Eastman’s most successful line of box cameras was introduced in 1900, when the company introduced the famous Brownie box cameras. “Brownies” were cartoon characters created by Canadian illustrator Palmer Cox and were featured in magazines and later in his very popular children’s books. Eastman appropriated the Brownie name and Cox’s characters in his advertising campaigns without attribution or paying a licensing fee. [6] Eastman’s advertising equated owning a Brownie camera with the fun-loving, adventurous Cox characters who were always on the cutting edge of new trends and technology. By marketing the Brownie to children, Eastman signaled that the camera was easy to use. He bet that as children grew older they would purchase newer and more expensive Eastman Kodak products. Eastman courted adult buyers by advertising to children, and as one headline proclaimed, the Brownie was a camera “that you and your dad can enjoy together.” [7] Widely advertised in popular magazines of the day, the Brownie sold for a fraction of the price of the Kodak No 1, a marketing and promotional strategy that ushered in a steady stream of film, print processing, and accessory sales. Unlike the original Kodaks, anyone could afford a Brownie and more than 150,000 Brownie box cameras were sold in the first year of production—a marketing success that launched nearly 200 separate camera models with the Brownie name and established the Eastman Kodak Company as the dominant force in photography for 100 years. [8]

 

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Early Brownie Camera Advertisements.

Brownie box cameras had a simple meniscus lens or doublet lenses with a fixed focus of approximately 8 feet to infinity and a rotary shutter with speeds of approximately 1/25th to 1/50th of second plus a bulb or long exposure setting. Box camera bodies contained waist level finders and were made of cardboard or metal covered in leather. Early Brownies accepted numerous film sizes, with later models standardizing on 116 and 120 roll films.[9] Many notable photographers were introduced to photography by the Brownie camera, including Ansel Adams, Henri Carter Bresson and Edward Weston.

 

Brownie cameras in good condition can be purchased today for as little as $10 on Ebay. Brownie box cameras make excellent experimental cameras, offering potentials with multiple film formats and light-sensitive mediums. Brownies feature large imaging areas. The long exposure setting with Brownie shutters permits experimentation with slow speed emulsions such as black and white printing papers, color and black and white sheet films, wet collodion materials and daylong exposures with cyanotype papers. Brownie box cameras are easily modified to accept multiple film formats including 120mm roll film, 127mm roll film as well as 35mm film. When using unconventional film sizes all that is necessary for the camera to accept different film sizes is an original film spool to engage into the film take-up crank.

 

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Experimental Brownies loaded with 35mm film.

In October 2013, I took three Brownie cameras, a Brownie Model B No. 3, Brownie No2 A, and a Brownie Target, loaded with 35mm Kodak Portra 400 color negative film negative film to Mono Lake to photograph the tufa towers along the southern shore. Mono Lake, in Mono County, California, near the California and Nevada border, is one of the oldest lakes in North America, naturally alkaline and salty. The lake’s most prominent feature, large tufa towers along the shoreline, form as fresh water springs bubble calcium carbonate into the alkaline waters of the lake.  Calcium and carbonate form limestone to produce the tufa towers, some as tall as 30 feet high. With the lowering of the lake levels through the diversion of water to the Los Angeles basin, the large tufa towers are easily assessable and have become a popular destination for tourists and for photographers. [Click on thumbnails to enlarge images]

 

The No. 3 Brownie Model B (1911-1920) features an image area of 3.25 inches by 4.25 inches. Originally accepting 124mm roll film, the camera features a meniscus achromatic lens and a rotary shutter.  Ebay value: $10-50.

With the Brownie No2A and the Brownie Target, I loaded a single roll of color negative film, and with the Brownie Model B, which has a large format negative area (3 inches by 4.25 inches), I loaded rolls of 35mm film side by side. Prior to loading the camera with 35mm film, a test roll determined the crank rate for advancing the film and all potential light leaks were taped. Without a light film changing bag, and because of the way the film needs to be loaded and unloaded into the box cameras, I could only shoot one roll per camera. Once shot, the 35m film needs to be re-spooled back into the 35mm cassettes using a 35mm camera with a manual re-winder, and of course these procedures must be done in total darkness! The Kodak Portra when processed using Walgreen Drugstore’s one-hour film processing. The film processing produced a decided shift to the blue. After scanning, the film was color corrected with Photoshop.

The Brownie 2A (1901-1935) was the first camera to accept 120mm film. Over 2.5 million Brownie 2A’s were manufactured. The camera features a meniscus lens, a rotary shutter and an image area of 2.25 inches by 3.25 inches. Ebay value: $10-25. 





The Brownie Target Six-20 (1946-1952) is a metal box camera that originally accepted 620 film with 2.25 by 3.25 inch image area. The Target Brownie Six-20 has a meniscus lens, a rotary shutter and three aperture settings: f/11, f/16 and “B”. Ebay value: $15-20.

While photographing with the Brownies at Mono Lake, I noticed photographers in the bright October sun with cameras of all shapes and sizes. Using 3 Brownie Cameras which spanned the box camera era and ushered in the snapshot was therefore an appropriate match for the popular contemporary photographic destination of Mono Lake.  In selecting the narrow format of the 35mm film, I hoped to accentuate the vertical white forms of the tufa towers. I was uncertain how the Brownie’s meniscus lens would respond to contemporary color film. I was happy with the uneven results and I felt that the bleeding of color seen along the film edges and through the 35mm sprocket holes spoke to the corrosive  landscape and natural processes of Mono Lake. Equally, the uneven color that resulted from light leaks and one-hour film processing is suggestive of the chemical staining and the residues associated with 20th century film technology introduced in earnest with Brownie cameras. Although the original film used in the Brownie cameras did not contain sprocket holes to guide the film through the film transport, the random holes of the 35mm film sprockets speaks to the continuing limits of photographic representation. All told, it was a great afternoon!

 

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Holding the Brownie No. 3 Model B with Tufa Towers, Mono Lake, CA. Oct. 2013 (photograph by Margaret Arnold).

David Arnold ©2013.

[2] Instantaneous Photography, Scientific American, September 15, 1888, page 164.

[3] S. F. Spira, The History of Photography As Seen Through the Spira Collection, p. 101.

[4] Instantaneous Photography, Scientific American, September, 1888, page 164.

[5] Reese V. Jenkins, “Technology and the Market: George Eastman and the Origins of Mass Amateur Photography”, Technology and Culture, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Jan., 1975), pp. 1-14; Kodak.com. History of Kodak.

[7] Todd Gustavson, Camera, p. 140.

[8] Todd Gustavson, Camera, p. 140-143.

Cross Processing and the Lomo LC-A

 

lomo-up-closeThe Lomo LC-A showing the viewfinder, Minitar 1 lens, zone focus and exposure controls.

The Lomo LC-A is a wonderful little camera. With a sleek black design, an ease of use and the unique Minitar 1 wide-angle 32mm f/2.8 lens, the Lomo LC-A inspires play and experimentation. First introduced into mass production in 1984 during the last decade of the Soviet Union, the Lomo LC-A was designed as a copy of the Japanese compact Cosina CX-1, and was intended to be a people’s snapshot camera. The camera was exported to Eastern Europe and discovered in Prague in 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Empire by a group of Austrian students and photographers. In 1992, the Lomo LC-A birthed  the Lomographic Society International, a conceptual, experimental, entrepreneurial, and an early Internet association of photographers. The Lomo LC-A became the Lomographic Society’s flagship product. In 1997, the Lomographic Society convinced the post-Soviet regime to begin production of the Lomo LC-A, a version of the camera, which has remained in production until 2005. A replacement Chinese production LC-A+ with a Russian lens was introduced in 2006 and after 2007 the Lomo LC-A+ has been manufactured in China with a Chinese manufactured Minitar 1 wide-angle 32mm f/2.8 lens.[1] The Lomo LC-A+ cameras is a now available with Russian made lens or with the Chinese manufactured version, and features expanded features such as a multiple exposure option and expanded ISO settings up to 1600. [2]

Key Lomo LC-A technical features.

•35mm film format. •fixed, Minitar 1 wide-angle 32mm f/2.8 lens. •auto exposure systen reliable even at night. •electronic controlled shutter speed (2m—1/500 of a second). •manual zone focus lens—a little lever adjusts the focus distance from 0.8m to infinity •the camera is one of the smallest 35mm cameras you’ll find—easy to place in a camera bag or pocket and take it everywhere. •manual film advance and rewind. •hot shoe attachement •ISO setting from 25-400. •inexpensive—$150 (average cost for good condition Russian made Lomo LC-A on Ebay).

Loading Film into the Lomo LC-A. 

For several years, I have been using the Lomo LC-A for the distinctive edge vignetting produced by the Minitar 1 wide-angle 32mm f/2.8 lens, and for the Loma LC-A’s ease of use and lightweight design—the small palm sized camera is easily carried in a pocket or added to a camera bag.  I’ve found that the Lomo LC-A coupled with cross processed transparency film produces a wholly unique color scheme. Cross processing involves intentionally developing film in chemistry not recommended by the film manufacturer.  The results can be spectacular. With cross processing contrast, color saturation and grain are  increased.  In general, cross processing enhances the abstraction of forms and shifts to brilliant green and blues are most common.

Mysterious Color Shifts With Cross Processing.

Color film contains blue, red and green dye layers plus silver-halide crystal layers. Color results vary according the silver halide grains that correspond to the amount of light recorded on each layer. Color film processing employs specially engineered chemicals which react to produce color couplers on the image forming layers.  The silver halide crystals are removed in the development and bleach steps. The  final color image contains only dyes: the blue sensitive layer forming yellow-colored dye, the red sensitive layer forming cyan-colored dyes and green sensitive layers forming magenta-colored dye. In conventional color processing, the color image  is closely representative of the scene in front of the camera lens. Cross processing uses the complexities of color film image formation to produce unexpected and unique results which varies according to the dye composition of each film stock. [3]


The four examples above illustrate the unpredictable nature of color cross processing. With Big Dead Oak and Pismo Beach Rock images, I selected Kodak Elite Chrome 100 EB2 film, a warm toned color transparency film. Note the radical color shifts in the two sets, exposed on adjoining frames, taken moments apart, and processed at the same time in the same batch of C-41 color processing. (Click to enlarge).

Color transparency or slide film is normally processed in E-6 chemistry. Rather than processing the film in the manufacturer’s recommended E-6 process, I intentionally developed my Lomo LC-A  film in C-41 chemistry, a process used by one hour photo labs which is intended for processing color negative films.   Cross processing unlocks unexpected and dramatic results by substituting different chemicals from those recommended by the film manufacturer, producing a color schemes not achieved by any other means, including digital post processing. To accentuate cross processing effects, my Lomo LC-A film is scanned to CD’s immediately after processing, producing an impressionistic noise structure. Cross processing, and especially when coupled with the Lomo LC-A, produces intense, electric, vibrant colors, converting an ordinary scene into an expressive event.

Lomo LC-A and Cross Processing Gallery

©David Arnold, 2013

Citations/notes:

[1] Lomo LC-A History. Lomographic Society.

[2] Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Lomography and the Lomo LC-A, p. 354-5.

[3] Robert Hirsch, Exploring Color Photography, p. 17.

At Chimney Beach: Using a Freezer Bag as a Waterproof Housing

 

  At Chimney Beach (with the Takashi EZ F521 Digital Camera in a freezer bag).

Chimney Beach, a narrow band of sand on the east shore of Lake Tahoe, is accessed by a trail from Nevada Highway 28. The beach is managed by the Nevada State Parks Department and is named for the lone chimney nestled at the top of a small cove, the only structure of any kind found in the area. Dense outcrops of smooth granite boulders line the shore and spread like tiny islands along the narrow underwater shelf on lakeshore. The views from the beach looking to the southwest are spectacular and when the winds come up in the afternoons, small waves break against the granite boulders and on the sand strip, generating an ocean-like experience.

Margaret Arnold, At Chimney Beach, Looking West

The intense natural beauty of Chimney Beach has inspired many photographic field trips. On a recent trip, I experimented with Takashi Digital FX 521. Since being released in 2009, the small retro-styled digital rangefinder is marketed under several names: the Yashica Digital FX 521, the Takashi Digital FX 521, Lomo JOCO VX5 Digital Camera. Referred to as “Digital Holgas”, “Digital Dianas”, or “Digital Lomos”, the little camera shares little in design these earlier film cameras, however, the camera’s lack of creative controls and small plastic lens are suggestive of popular film-based toy cameras.

Mar­garet Arnold, the palm-sized Takashi EZ F521 and with freezer bag waterproof housing.

The Takashi EZ F521 sells for about $99 from Amazon and ebay. The palm-sized camera makes it an easy second or third travel camera. Most promising about the Takashi EZ F521 is the pleasing and smooth film like quality of the noise. Other features include two fixed focus settings, landscape and “macro”; an optical viewfinder; a 5mp 1/2.5″ CMOS sensor with interpolation up to 12mp, with interpolated images generate the most pleasing noise; a 3 inch LCD screen; and 640—480 pixel video capture.

 Margaret Arnold, At Chimney Beach: the Takashi EZ F521 inserted into a freezer bad

As an experimental camera the Takashi EZ F521 performs remarkably well. Light weight and inexpensive, the camera engenders risk taking. Illustrating an experimental approach with camera vantage point, I took the Takashi EZ F521 with me on a recent trip to Chimney Beach. I placed the camera in a freezer bag and used the camera at the water line and submerged the camera just below the surface. I experimented with capturing small breaking waves and smooth granite boulders lining the shore of Chimney Beach from water level. The view through the plastic freezer bag coupled with the plastic lens of the Takashi EZ F521 generated a unique otherworldly blur, suggestive of watery and floating world.

David Arnold, At Chimney Beach with the Takashi EZ F521 inserted into a freezer bad

©David Arnold, 2013

On Bokeh—the Red Tree

 

Experimenting with Bokeh, The Red Tree Series
Using the Minolta F/1.2 MC Rokkor-X 58 mm Lens

 

Early references to the Chinese Pistache tree[1] appear in Ernest Henry Wilson’s A Naturalist in Western China. Wilson notes that the hard wood of Chinese Pistache forms “a natural “fork” at one end and is in general use for the balance rudder on all the larger boats.” [2]The tree is drought and insect resistant and can be grown in hot dry climates in poor soils. Easily maintained, the Chinese Pistache has become a popular choice for plantings along roadways, parking lots and as a shade tree. Young trees are scraggly and asymmetrical; mature Chinese Pistache trees reach 40-50 feet, and grow into a uniform and dense oval shape. With dark green foliage the long narrow oval shaped deciduous leaves of the Chinese Pistache become a riot of red, orange, coral, crimson, purple, pink, yellow in the fall.[3]

 

The Red Tree Series, 2010-present.

 

Several years ago, I noticed a lone Chinese Pistache tree set amid the Blue Oak savanna of the Spenceville Wildlife Area. From a nearby road, the lone Chinese Pistache in full fall display was the most prominent visible evidence of an abandoned ranch site set in a meadow below the low ridgeline. In 1942, the United States War Department purchased ranches in Yuba and Nevada Counties in the Northern California Foothills and joined the properties into Camp Beale, a training ground for the 13th Armored Division.[4] Following the war, the property near the Chinese Pistache was added to the Spenceville Wildlife Refuge. The tree is spectacular from middle October into December, and commands the meadow at the edge of the abandoned ranch site. The variegated color of the lone Chinese Pistache tree with the long drooping lower branches provides a continuing subject for experimental photography.

 

In the Red Tree series, I selected a vintage Minolta MC Rokkor-X 58mm lens to create a series of photographs of Chinese Pistache tree, following the changing foliage through the fall season. I selected the Minolta Rokkor 58mm lens for the opportunity provided by the lens to highlight the lanceolate shaped leaves of the Chinese Pistache tree, and render the changing colors of the canopy and branches in a soft glow. Featuring F/1.2 aperture, the manual focus lens is one of the fastest lenses produced for still photography. The highly regarded lens was manufactured in the 1960’s, and is now prized for the smooth bokeh produced even at the largest apertures.

Three views of the vintage Minolta MC Rokkor-X 58 mm f/1.2 lens with Chinese Pistache leaves in the background. Figure #3 shows the Minolta MC Rokkor-X 58 mm f/1.2 lens with an optical adapter for mounting on Sony A mount DSLRs. (Click on thumbnails to enlarge.)

 

The term bokeh first appeared in photography discussions in the late 1990’s.[5] Taken from the Japanese, bokeh originally referred to the blur present in ink-wash painting;[6] In photography the term is now applied to the blur present in the out of focus areas in a photograph. Determining the sharpness of a particular film, lens, and now our sensors dominates the technical and aesthetics discussions in photography. Discussions on bokeh have opened a dialogue on the aesthetics of blur, blurring and out of focus elements in photographs as well encouraging research and development of lens, software and techniques to achieve bokeh. Ironically, the term bokeh has sharpened discussions of the aesthetic qualities of blur and out of focus areas of a photograph as well as the particular characteristic of lenses and lens designs in creating expressive blur in a photograph.

 

Details: Minolta MC Rokkor-X 58 mm f/1.2 Lens with an optical adapter for Sony DSLR. Aperture setting between F/1.2—F/2.8. Note the smooth gaussian blur that is present in the out of focus area of the details. Details shown at 100% views. (Click on thumbnails to enlarge.)

 

Understanding the limitations of current lens designs is at the core of what we call photographic seeing. With current lens designs, during image formation, only one point of the image is in absolute focus, a point referred to as the focal point. During image formation, and restricted by the aperture, light rays form cones of light. If the point of light is not at the point of sharp focus each point of light images as a disc of light, known as a circle of confusion. The overlapping discs of light cause the image to look less sharp, forming bokeh, or the out of focus area of the photograph. The farther from the point of sharp focus, the larger the circles of confusion become and the more out of focus the image appears. If the size of the aperture is reduced the cones become narrower and the circles of confusion become smaller resulting in a sharper image and reducing the amount of bokeh.

 

Details: Minolta MC Rokkor-X 58 mm f/1.2 Lens with an optical adapter for Sony DSLR.  With aperture settings between F/1.2—F/2.8, note how the lens produced discordant hard-edged circles of confusion in the highlight areas. These areas exhibits what is often termed “bad bokeh”.  Note as well, that “good  bokeh” and “bad bokeh” are created with the same lens at the same aperture setting. Details shown at 100% views. (Click on thumbnails to enlarge.)

 

Discussions on bokeh emphasizes the complexities of image formation and the aesthetics of blur. That no term was readily used until the 1990’s highlights the dominance that image sharpness has held over technical and aesthetic discussions of image formation. Like discussions of color aesthetics, all evaluations of bokeh are subjective and relative to each lens and each lighting situation. Weighing the subtleties of good bokeh, “smooth and pleasing,” vs. bad bokeh, “jagged and discordant,”[vi] and even neutral bokeh, somewhere in between, may trivialize the aesthetics of image formation and the properties of blur in a photograph. More welcome is the dialogue on image formation that the introduction of the term bokeh has stimulated and encouraged discussions on the aesthetics of selective focus. Conclusions: the quality of light is a key factor in creating pleasing bokeh; as with discussions of sharpness, considerations of bokeh remains individual and subjective aesthetic decision.

 

©David Arnold, 2013.

Citations / Notes

[1] Pistacia chinensis.

[3] Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson, Pistacia chinensis, Chinese Pistache, United States Forest Service, Fact Sheet ST-482, Oct. 1994.

[4] Historic California Posts, Beale Air Force Base, The California State Military Museum.

[6] Harold Davis, Practical Artistry: Light and Exposure for Digital Photographers, p 62.

[7] Harold Davis, Practical Artistry: Light and Exposure for Digital Photographers, p 62.

 

Google views looking north with the Lone Chinese Pistache circled,
Spenceville Wildlife Area Yuba County, California, April 2012. (Click on thumbnails to enlarge.)

A Point of Historical Interest—Toys Left for Julius.


Toy Portraits With the LensBaby Composer Pro

 

About 7 miles east of Nevada City, California, and just off Highway 20 is a Point of Historical Interest, the burial site of Julius Albert Apperson, a two-year old boy who died on May 6, 1858. In 1971, the Native Sons of the Golden West erected a monument at the site for “A pioneer who crossed the Plains to California who died and was buried here.” The Native Sons monument implies that Julius Apperson was an emigrant who died making the difficult crossing of the Sierra Nevada Range, and dedicated the monument to perpetuate “the memory of all Lone Graves throughout the State of California.”[1]

 

Enclosure2

 A Point of Historical Interest: The Lone Grave of Julius Albert Apperson, Highway 20, Tahoe National Forest, Nevada County, California showing the Lone Grave Enclosure, twin cedar trees, and Native Sons of the Golden West Monument, August 6, 2013.

Julius Apperson was a native son of California who was born in 1856 in nearby Nevada City. Milton M. Apperson, Julius’s father was a tanner, and built a home in the heavily wooded area near the gravesite. The Apperson home, named White Cloud,[2] at the 3500 feet elevation on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Range, was near the Old Overland Emigrant Trail, one of the many variant of the California Trail, which followed the Truckee River to Donner Lake and then over Donner Pass. The original trail followed the Washington Ridge above the South Yuba River canyon and carried emigrants into Nevada City, Sacramento and the California gold fields.[3]

 

Plaque1

Native Sons of the Golden West Historical Marker, August 6, 2013.

Milton Apperson was an emigrant from Kentucky, and settled in the area in 1851 or 1852. He had recently completed construction of a new family home and he instructed his children to burn wood shavings in the yard. Julius Apperson, the youngest of four children, died on May 6, 1858 after being severely burned when he caught his pant leg in the fire while playing with his brothers and sisters. The boy died a month after the accident and was buried at the edge of family property. [4]  Shortly after the boy died, the Appersons family left the area, leaving the boy’s grave unmarked, except for two cedar seedlings. Volunteers took an interest in the Apperson grave, and in 1863 constructed a fence around the gravesite and placed a marker. [5]  The fence has been rebuilt several times, and permanent gravestone replaced the wood marker inside of the grave enclosure in 1948. In 1957, the fence was rebuilt again and painted white a small granite headstone was placed inside the grave enclosure.[6]

 

Enclosure3

The Lone Grave Site With Grave Offerings, August 6, 2013.

Just after passing the historic marker, a one-lane turnout provides motorists easy access at the Lone Grave. Two white wood plaques attached to the two cedars frame the gravesite, and about 10 feet away stands the Native Sons of the Golden West Monument.  River rocks outline the bottom of the white fence and trail off at the cedars. The blue lettering on one plaque has completely disappeared and on the second plague reads “In Memory of Julius Albert Apperson, Died on May 6, 1858, Age 2 Years, 2 Mo. And 25 Days.” Passersby leave a changing array of grave offerings at the Lone Grave: stuffed bears and dogs and cats are stuffed between the white lathes of the picket fence. Winnie the Pooh pinwheels and Santa Claus hats festoon the posts of the grave enclosure. Bright Mardi Gras beaded necklaces, fake daisies, fake flower leis, and crib toys dangle from the picket slats. Plastic 4×4 jeeps, fingerboard skateboards, children’s books, plastic horses, hot wheels, rubber ducks, toy sheriff badges, golf balls, crayons, notepads, original children’s drawings, and stuffed Bambies and fish litter the ground. One day the grave enclosure will be littered with grave offerings and at the next passing, grave tenders will have removed all of the grave offerings.

 

With-Close-up2

Toy Portrait Set-up with Close Up Filter: The Lensbaby Composer Pro outfitted with the Sweet 35mm Lens Optic and attached to a Sony 900A full frame camera body. The Sweet 35mm is equipped with a 12 blade manually operated F.2.5—22 aperture. Selective focus is achieved by rotating the swivel ball and manually focusing on the lens. Above, a close-up filter is attached to the LensBaby lens to permit close focusing.  The tilt-shift control is especially helpful with close-focusing and macro photography.

 

At the 3500 feet elevation of the Sierra Nevada Range, the offerings suffer wet and snowy winters and hot summers, and the bright colors on the stuff animals quickly fade, and cobwebs stick to the pinwheels and sunglasses secured to the fence. For many years, I watching the changing display of grave offerings at the Lone Grave, and began this summer a photographic documentation of the toys left at the Lone Grave. Given the thick forest surroundings the gravesite, the picket fence enclosure is usually in heavy shade, although areas of intense sunlight penetrate the canopy of pine and cedar branches to highlight individual grave offerings. The focus of the project has become the stuffed toys crammed into the slats of the white picket fence enclosure at as guardians to Julius’s grave. Fully exposed to the weather, the expressions of stuffed captures best the changing light and color and speaks to uncertainties of existence as a two year old in the Pioneer West and as guardians of a roadside gravesite.

 

LensBaby-w.macro

Toy Portrait Set-up with Close Up Filter: The Lensbaby Composer Pro outfitted with the Sweet 35mm Lens Optic equipped with a LensBaby Macro Converter.

With the exception of establishing shots to provide a context for the toy portraits, I’ve chosen to photograph the Lone Grave offerings using a LensBaby Composer Pro Lens with a Sweet Optic 35mm attached to a Sony 900A full frame camera body. The Composer Pro is a tilt shift lens, which permits the movement of the point of focus. Employing large apertures with the toy portraits, I’m also using close-up lens attachments from Plus 1 to Plus 4 magnifications, and with a few examples,  the LensBaby Macro Converter attachment. My lens choice serves to separate each stuffed toy, which line the grave enclosure. The Lensbaby Sweet Optic 35  renders each stuffed toy into a soft glow, and the close up lens brings the toys forward within the composition. The soft focus suggests of how a child might hold toys in their hands and close to their face. The soft focus also honors the sentiments and personal histories of the individuals who have left offerings at the Lone Grave and the volunteers who continue to tend the Lone Grave.

White-Bear-with-Macro

White Bear With Red Ears: LensBaby Pro Composer with 16mm Macro Converter.

White-Bear

 White Bear With Red Ears: LensBaby Pro Composer with Plus 1 Close-up Filter attachment.

©David Arnold, 2013

 

Citations / Notes:

[1] Native Sons of the Golden West, David S Mason III, Grand President. October 10, 1971.

[2] A nearby National Forest Campground continues the White Cloud name.

[3] The Old Emigrant Trail goes by several names including the Truckee Route and follows the present day Interstate 80 and California State Route 20.  Charles H. Dodd, California Trail, p. 35.

[4] John Milton Apperson, “Brother Tells Version of Early Day Tragedy” (Letter), Nevada County Historical Society Bulletin, Volume 15, Number 1, January 1961.

Experimenting with Infrared Digital Capture

Using a Lumix G3 Mirrorless Camera for Infrared Capture

 

MSAurura_ir1

David Arnold, MS Aurora Docked on a Dead End Road, 2013.

Constructed in 1955, the MS Aurora was the first ship wholly made in German shipyards following World War II. The MS Aurora began service as a day cruiser named the MV Wappen Von Hamburg, serving the ports of Hamburg, Cuxhaven, Heligoland and Hornum in the North Sea. Later the ship was sold to new owners who converted the ship into a small cruise liner serving the Greek Islands.[1] Since 1960’s, the MV Aurora has gone through 7 name changes with 9 different owners. The current owner, Chris Wilson, purchased the ship since 2005, in bad repair, and has been working to restore the ship. Since being renamed the MS Aurora, the ship has berthed at several locations in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Delta and in San Francisco Bay. In February 2013, a tug towed the MS Aurora from Pier 38 in San Francisco to the ship’s present location at Herman and Helen’s Marina on Little Connection Slough in the San Joaquin Delta, about 10 miles west of Stockton, California.[2][3]

 

In route to photograph the Venice Ferry, a small cable ferry which crosses the Little Connection Slough, I noticed the MS Aurora hugging the top of the levee. Making the turn in front of Herman and Helen’s Marina, I stopped to take a series of photographs of MS Aurora, berthed beside the road. Gleaming in the late afternoon light, the MS Aurora dominated the landscape. I photographed the MS Aurora with several camera systems but finally settled on using a Lumix G3 converted to infrared capture. I felt that the infrared capture best accentuated the intense visual contrast and the juxtaposition of visual elements which I felt as I approached the ship—the white cruise liner set against the blue sky and empty road was stunning.

 

Our decisions with what is termed photographic syntax—the decisions we make with equipment and processing, directly influence the look of our images. William Crawford, in his seminal Keepers of the Light, an early history on 19th century photographic processes, first introduced the term photographic syntax. Crawford uses the metaphor of a net to refer to photographic syntax—the shape and size and efficiency of the net allows the fisherman to catch specific types of fish.[4] By extension, our decisions with our equipment and processes allow us to create a specific kind of image. The equipment and processes we select, our photographic syntax, directly influences the work we create. If we make a photograph using an iphone and then use a large format view camera, the images will have a distinctly different look and feel to them.

 

 

I used the Lumix G3 to photograph the MS Aurora. The Lumix G3, is equipped with the digital sensor modified to capture the infrared spectrum along with portions of the red spectrum.[5] The Lumix G3, a mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera system (MFT), features a large sensor size in a very compact body with full manual controls, and is equipped with an electronic viewfinder that permits a real time preview of the infrared spectrum in the viewfinder as well as on the rear screen. To photograph the Aurora, I mounted a Lensbaby Tilt Transformer with a Nikon f/2.8 20mm lens attached onto the Lumix G3. The Tilt Transformer is a perspective control adapter made for Micro Four Thirds cameras such as the Lumix G3. Using the Nikon f/2.8 20mm lens with Lumix G3 sensor effectively doubles the focal length, the 20mm lens becomes a near normal 40mm lens in 35mm equivalents.

 

Lumix-w.tilt-transformer

David Arnold, the Lumix G3, a Lensbaby Tilt Transformer and a Nikon F2.8 20mm lens.

 

MS Aurora Docked on a Dead End Road is a composite of 9 images, which were later assembled in Adobe Photoshop using photomerge action. Starting at the upper right corner, I captured the scene in a grid pattern, overlapping each section. The scene was first captured with each section in focus, followed by a second set where the lens was titled to optically blur portions of the image.  Composting multiple images permitted me to experiment with creating regions of visual interest in the scene. I’m fascinated with the paradoxes of seeing and in particular the differences between how we view a scene compared with how a camera records a scene. By capturing multiple images with a tilt shift lens, and once composited in Photoshop, I generated different levels of sharpness in the image, and in much the same manner that we might scan the scene with our eyes. Through my use of multiple images, I experimented with a method to create a dynamic visual experience. In addition, I wanted to call attention to how we generate composite or mental pictures of powerful visual experiences. My working methods in creating MS Aurora Docked on a Dead End Road is suggestive of how seeing is a reconstruction of a scene through information supplied by our eyes rather than a matter of recording light as happens with our sensors or with film capture.

 

David Arnold

 

 

Experimenting with a Telephoto Lens

Experimenting with a Telephoto Lens

 

Depth of field, or the area of acceptable focus within a photograph is influenced by three factors: the aperture of the lens, the subject to camera distance and the focal length of the lens. Our expectations for photographs are that they transparently represent the subject of the photograph. Each of the three components of depth of field offers exciting opportunities for experimentation and with challenging our expectations for a photograph.

Focal length measures the distance from the sensor or film plane to the tip of the lens, which is the distance from the point where light converges on lens to the film plane or sensor. Focal lengths also determine the angle of view of the lens. A telephoto lens reduces the angle of view, or by definition an angle of view less than 15 degrees. A wide-angle lens increases the angle of view of a scene or any lens with an angle of view greater than 55 degrees. Changes in the angle of view with both telephoto and wide-angle lens produce apparent distortions: a wide-angle lens causes objects close to the lens to appear larger than surrounding objects; a telephoto lens makes objects within the scene appear closer, or compressing space, the opposite effect that we see with a wide-angle lens.[1] Wide-angle and telephoto lens are said to distort perspective, however this is a misconception. Perspective is influenced by your relative position or distance from a subject. The choice to use a wide angle or telephoto lens may force you to change your location will influence the perspective of the photograph.[2]

 

Tokina1

Lumix G3 with Tokina 150-500mm: Shown here is the Tokina 150-500mm f/5.6 SD telephoto lens mounted onto a Lumix G3 Micro Four Thirds format camera. The Tokina is a manual focus telephoto lens. The lens is huge (about 5 pounds and 13 inches long) and is mounted directly on a Bogen tripod head. The Tokina is a highly regarded 3rd party lens which was manufactured between 1986-2000. The Tokina is considered an optically excellent telephoto lens.

Focal length designations vary across camera formats, and have become more complex with the introduction of new formats such as APS and Four Thirds sensors. Focal lengths for a 35mm film camera traditionally have been used to establish the baseline for focal lengths. Focal lengths for each camera format is determined by the diagonal measurement of the camera’s format. In 35mm equivalents, the diagonal for 35mm film or a “full frame” sensor is 50mm. A wide-angle lens therefore is defined as any focal length lower than 50mm, for example a 35mm, a 28mm and the popular 24mm are all considered wide-angle lens. A wide-angle lens provides a wider angle of view than a normal 50 lens. A telephoto lens is defined as any lens longer in focal length than a normal lens, and typically a telephoto lens begins with a focal length of 135mm and longer. Lens focal lengths between 50mm and135mm are considered telephoto lens, but they carry the special designation of a “portrait” lens.[3] Telephoto lenses generate a much smaller area of focus than a normal or wide-angle lens. Wide angle and normal focal length lens appear to shrink objects in the distance relative to objects in the foreground of the photograph, where as telephoto lenses, because of the angle of view will appear to normalize the relative size of objects in a scene compared with human vision [4]

 

Tokina2

Lumix G3 with Tokina 150-500mm: Shown here is Tokina 150-500mm lens attached to the Lumix G3 using the LensBaby Tilt Shift Transformer adapter. The Tilt-Shift Transformer accepts accepts all Nikon F mount lens and works only with Micro Four Thirds camera and is one of the primary reason I purchased the Lumix G3. With the focal length conversion to the Micro Four Thirds format, the Tokina 150-500mm lens becomes 300-1000mm telephoto lens. As a tilt-shift lens, the Tilt-Shift Transformer also offers perspective control corrections, which are especially useful with the spacial compression issues associated with telephoto lens.[5]

 

Decisions regarding focal length dramatically influence the representation of subjects within a scene. Long telephotos have traditionally only by wildlife photographers and sports photojournalist, but experiments with depth of field, compression and layering of distant objects and the distortion of scale offer great opportunities for expressive photography. Wide-angle lens have long been the preferred lens choice for landscape photographers, however long lenses, including “super” telephoto lens present opportunities for highlighting graphic relationships in nature.

Donner-Lk-Tokina2_

 DA. Donner Lake, Sierra Nevada, Ca. The Donner Lake photograph was created with the Lumix G3 and the Tokina 150-500mm lenses. The lens was set at f/8. The photograph is a composite of 24 separate photographs taken in a grid pattern from the top to the bottom of the image. The images were assembled in Adobe Photoshop using the photomerge action. By incorporating the shallow depth of field associated with telephoto lens and in particular super telephotos lens like the Tokina, varying degrees of sharpness where generated across the image to create an more dynamic visual experience. The composite of smaller images also generates larger image for print output, the final image size is approximately 25 by 60 inches. 

 

Yuba-Rice-Field-Barn-1

DA, Barn and Reflection, Yuba Rice Fields, Yuba County, CA. Barn and Reflection, Yuba Rice Fields was created using the same techniques discussed in the Donner Lake image. Again the Tokina 150-500mm lens was attached to the Lumix G3 using the LensBaby Tilt-Shift Transformer. The Tilt-Shift adapter permitted a slight tilt of the camera body forward to compensate for the tendency of buildings to appear as if they are bending backwards.

 

Citations:

[1] Henry Horenstein, Russell Hart, Photography, p. 79.

[2] David Falk, Dieter Brill, David Story, Seeing the Light, Optics in Nature, Photography, Color, Vision and Holography, p. 115.

[3] Henry Horenstein, Russell Hart, Photography, p. 83.

[4] David Falk, Dieter Brill, David Story, Seeing the Light, Optics in Nature, Photography, Color, Vision and Holography, p. 115.

[5] Ken Rockwell, Tokina 150-500mm Lens.

See also: Cambridge in Color, “Using a Telephoto Lenses” for an excellent discussion of telephoto lenses.

Digital Brownie

 

Digital Brownie—Using the Vest Pocket Kodak as an Experimental Lens

 

vest-pocket-model-B

DA, the Vest Pocket Kodak doublet lens.
The Shutter is on the upper left, the aperture dial (#2) is on the right,
the shutter setting, T for “timed” and I for “instant” are found on the top.

 

By introducing a camera that could be taken anywhere, and used by anyone, the Brownie camera series revolutionized photography. Released in 1900, and selling for one dollar, the Brownie introduced the world to not only mass photography, but also to mass marketing.  The Brownie’s “target market” included children and woman, and even the Queen of England, Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII. Alexandra used the Brownie to take portraits of the royal families of Europe before World War I.[1] During the 80 year production run for the Brownie, nearly 100 different camera models were sold under the Brownie name, [2] and Brownies continues to turn up at rummage sales and an active Brownie market runs on eBay attests which attests to the Brownie’s popularity with collectors. The Brownie series is also popular with experimental photographers who adapt the camera to contemporary film stocks. As we will see, the heart of the Brownie, the soft focus meniscus lens, can be adapted to work with interchangeable digital camera bodies.

vest-pocket

 DA, The Vest Pocket Kodak, Model B, Autograph model, (note the stylus on the left), serial # 27325, circa 1925.

I recently discovered a Vest Pocket Kodak Model B,  a very popular variant of the Brownie series manufactured from 1925-1934 [3] and recently explored  experimental options with this beautifully designed camera system. Touted by Kodak’s marketing as “You Don’t Carry the Camera, You Wear It”, the Vest Pocket Kodaks were produced from 1916-1934 and sold for as little $7 dollars. The Vest Pocket Kodak was “always ready for the unexpected that is sure to happen.” [4] Designed for use with 127mm roll film, and producing a 4 x 6.5cm negative, the Vest Pocket Model B series featured a simple “Kodak Droblet” lens[5] with a rotary shutter and rotary aperture with four settings. Autographic Vest Pocket Kodak was supplied with a stylus, similar to those found on smart phones, which allowed the user to etch notes onto the paper back of the 127mm.[6] The Vest Pocket Brownie Model B is folds up small enough to fit into a pocket and is a little over an inch thick when folded. [7] Like all folding Brownies, the camera contains a bellows unit, which in the case of the Vest Pocket Brownie completely detaches from the film holder. The detachable lens bellows permits interchanging with contemporary camera bodies. Once the bellows unit is detached from the film bed, the Brownie’s lens can be fitted over the lens opening of any interchangeable digital camera body, and simply held in place with your hand to take photographs with this 88-year-old lens. [8]

 

The Vest Pocket Brownie bellows unit moves on a track, which guides the lens into the film bed when folded. When detached from the film bed, moving the lens on its track permits focusing of the lens when attached to a digital camera body. The shutter features two settings: “I” for instant or between 1/25th and 1/50th of a second and “T” for timed exposures. Placing the shutter on “T” means the shutter will remain open until manually closed.
digital-sony

 

 

DA, the Vest Pocket Kodak, Model B lens/bellows unit removed from the film bed
and place over the lens opening on a Sony A900 full frame (digital). 

Using the Vest Pocket lens/bellows unit on an interchange lens digital camera body is relatively easy. No elaborate modification is necessary, and no damage is done to your highly collectable Vest Pocket or your digital camera body.  Here are steps for converting your Vest Pocket Brownie into an experimental soft focus lens:

 

1. Remove the lens from the digital body.

2. Set the Vest Pocket lens to “T”; trip the shutter;
turn the rotary aperture ring set the adjust the depth of field

3. Next set the Vest Pocket lens/bellows over the opening for the lens.

4. Set the digital camera on manual and take your first exposure.

5. Depending on your camera model, you may need
to set your digital camera shutter to fire without a lens attached.

6. Use the LCD readout to adjust your shutter speed up or down to dial in your exposure.

7. Good to go!

 

Holding-brownie

 Margaret Arnold, DA holding the Vest Pocket Kodak over the lens opening on the Sony A900.
Note that the lens is retracted about half way down the  track to focus the lens.

bills-t-bird
DA, Bill’s Restored T-Bird, with the Vest Pocket Kodak lens and Sony A900.
The aperture was set at wide open, and note the soft bokeh [9] produced by the lens at the the edges of the frame.
morning-glory-digital-brownie
DA, Morning Glory. The Vest Pocket Kodak lens works well as a macro lens.
Enjoy!
David Arnold, 7.2.2013


[4] Eastman Kodak Company Advertisement, 1920.

[5] See Charles Edward Kenneth Mees, The Fundamentals of Photography, p.20-32 for a lively discussion of Brownie Camera Lens types.

[8 127mm roll film is still available from Freestyle Photo.biz and from other suppliers including B & H Photo. 35mm roll film cassettes must be modified to work in the Vest Pocket Brownie.

[9] Bokeh refers to the out of focus area of a photograph.

 

The Experimental Condition

 

The Experimental Condition is dedicated to presenting new approaches to the medium of photography. Photographic experimentation, the blending of unlikely materials to produce new photographic processes and new photographic devices is a permanent feature in photography’s short history. The tradition of experimentations continues into the present day with computer programs, silicon, and optics and with combining the new photographic processes with old processes. Where once there were no photographs, today photographs inhabit every public and private space so that no place and no event are beyond the reach of photography. Let us hope that the vast quantity of photographs which covers our world underscores as much what we still do not know about the world, and launches new searches into the unknown. The Experimental Condition is dedicated to the magic of photography, found in the combining of new and old processes.

David Arnold

 

Sand-Spit-Tahoe

David Arnold, Sand Bar, Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe.

 Sand Bar, Kings Beach, Northshore Lake Tahoe illustrates the principle of merging new process with old process, and that each step is an important link to new discoveries.  The blue/magenta tone in Sand Bar, Kings Beach, Northshore Lake Tahoe was produced by developing out-of-date Fuji Super HG 400, color negative film from the 1990’s, which was developed in Kodak D-76 at full strength, a developer designed for black and white negative film. After scanning the negatives on a Nikon 9000 film scanner, a set of three overlapped images where merged into the panorama format using Photoshop’s “photomerge” action. The Photoshop file was then output using a Epson 4800 printer onto fiber-base ink-jet digital printing paper.

©David Arnold, 2013.