Photography

The joy of photographing

I’ve started sorting through this year’s photographs to find my ten favorite. I do this every year for a post just before the new year. See my past annual posts here.

I made more images this year than in any year before. But a lower percentage of them were good.

In 2020 I have used photography as a distraction from considerable stress. It hasn’t been only COVID — it’s also been family and work stress, at times intense. Sometimes it’s been too much to cope with all at once. Getting out with a camera let me take my mind off it for a while.

I photographed near home a lot; since I’ve been working from home, I’m here a lot. But I’ve also made some short trips just to make photographs. Whether by car or by bike, the trips themselves fill my bucket. I explore and see new places, or familiar places at different times of year. I especially enjoy the scents — the sweetness of new spring flowers, the freshness of mown grass and hay in the summer, the earthiness of fallen autumn leaves. It’s even been interesting to feel the weather: hot sun, cool overcast, rain.

Holliday Road Bridge

Wherever I stop for a photograph, I spend time with the subject. I get to know it a little by walking around it looking for the best angles. I enjoy it most when I’m in a remote place where others are unlikely to encounter me. I’m so self-conscious with a camera when I’m in public!

Central Indiana Telephone Co.

I photograph what seems interesting to me in the moment. Frequently when I look at the resulting images I see that the subject wasn’t that interesting after all, or that I couldn’t find an interesting way to see it. But it’s fun to try to find that interesting composition.

Maybe it’s just gravy when I nail a composition. I get so much pleasure out of simply using my cameras — the ones I’ve kept, anyway, after thinning the herd. I’ve shot my Yashica-12 a lot this year, and the more I use it the more I love it. Given that it’s a TLR, it’s a big brick in the hands. But its form factor fades away as I work the silken controls to control exposure and make the subject crisp, as I look through the magnifier built in over the focusing screen.

I’ve also shot the Olympus OM-2n often. I only got it this year and am still getting to know it. But that’s fun, too, when something about a new-to-me camera delights me for the first time.

I love it when I get a roll full of beautiful images. But even when I don’t, if I enjoyed everything about all the previous steps, I have no reason to be dissatisfied.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Contemplating boy

Contemplating boy
Yashica-12
Fujifilm Velvia (expired 8-2006)

Inside Crown Hill Cemetery, as you go up what turns out to be the highest hill in Indianapolis, you find the graves of some of our city’s most prominent and wealthy citizens. The markers can be elaborate, sometimes even gaudy.

This statue of a kneeling boy sits on a concrete bench marked “Home Sweet Home.” No name is given. It’s unusual for this part of the cemetery. I’ve always wondered this statue’s story.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Film Photography

single frame: Contemplating boy

.

Image
Statue

Squinting statue
Yashica-12
Kodak T-Max 100
2019

Here’s another photo from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. I used to drive over here all the time when testing new-to-me old cameras. There’s all sorts of interesting scenes to photograph here, and it was five minutes from my old house. When I had some business not too far from here the other day I made sure to bring my Yashica-12 along, as I was finishing up a roll of T-Max 100 I’d spooled inside.

I have no idea who this statuesque fellow is, but I’ve always wondered what he’s squinting at.

I developed this at home in Rodinal, at 1+50 dilution. My bathroom was a perfect 68 degrees so I didn’t have to adjust developing time for temperature.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Film Photography

single frame: Squinting statue

.

Image
Angel guiding the way

Angel guiding the way
Yashica-12
Kodak T-Max 100
2019

As I’ve been learning how to develop black-and-white film at home, I’ve stuck to 120 film and have mostly used my Yashica-12 TLR. The more I use the 12, the more I enjoy it.

I took half an afternoon off because of personal business that found me on Indianapolis’s Far Northside. I brought the 12 along and stopped at a couple favorite places I don’t visit much since I moved to Zionsville. One of them is St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, which has lots of lovely scenes to photograph.

I love this little statue of the angel lighting the way and have photographed it several times. The TLR with its peer-down viewfinder easily let me get right down onto its level for a straight-on shot.

I processed this film at home in Rodinal. Everybody says Rodinal brings out the grain, but this looks plenty smooth to me.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Film Photography

single frame: Angel guiding the way

.

Image
Film Photography

Industry, agriculture, literature, justice

The Birch Bayh Federal Building and Courthouse in Indianapolis, completed in 1905, features four allegorical statues by John Massey Rhind: Industry, Agriculture, Literature, and Justice.

Statue at Courthouse, 4
Statue at Courthouse, 3
Statue at Courthouse, 2
Statue at Courthouse, 1

I made these with my Olympus XA2 on Ultrafine Xtreme 100. More on that tomorrow.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Standard
Photography

Each negative holds a thousand photographs

I’ve been increasingly interested in seeing printed photographs, especially from the acknowledged master photographers. And so while Margaret and I were in Chicago recently we visited the Art Institute and its photography exhibit.

A print of W. Eugene Smith’s Madness moved me deeply. I’d never before seen this famous image of a woman in a Hatian mental institution, her face emerging from a sea of black, her eyes searching and frantic. I stood astonished for several minutes before this photograph, scanning for detail, reading the woman’s face, trying to determine what she felt and thought. Was she simply, as the title suggests, mad? Or was she simply frightened, or struggling to find her way? Even in the fraction of a second this image captured, it’s hard to tell.

madness-art-institute

The Art Institute’s print is astonishing. The paper’s velvety finish turned the dark into an enveloping night that threatened to consume the woman. Her face appeared as though it lay inches below the paper’s surface, as if you’d have to reach into the print to touch her.

You can’t tell any of that from this dreadful scan, which I lifted directly from the Art Institute’s site (here). Not only is it marred by white specks not present in the print, but those velvety blacks have turned muddy, tepid gray. This scan loses all of the print’s punch.

And that’s on my monitor. It might look different on yours. Yet if  you traveled to the Art Institute to see the print, it would look the same to you as it did to me.

The paper was just one choice Smith made in the darkroom. Another was the amount and placement of the light he chose to shine through the negative. Consider the image below, which I found on this page and is said to have been published in this book of Smith’s work. I believe it to be from the same negative as above, given how the woman’s expression appears to be exactly the same. This digital image reveals information on that negative that never made it into the Art Institute’s print.

madness-

Which image is true? Both. Or neither. Is there a truth in photography? Any finished image largely represents the many choices a photographer makes from the moment he or she decides to expose a negative.

Standard