This past December I took some time off and went to Colorado for ten days. I went to visit a few friends and take some time to myself to do some exploring, hiking, and beer drinking. I traveled fairly light, I managed to take everything I needed in two carry-on sized bags. Gear was especially light, I only had my cell phone and my Voigtlander with a few rolls of Tri-X with me, it was all I wanted to carry. No DSLRs, just the basics. I ended up taking a lot of photos of breweries, nature, and spaces I thought were interesting. The photos below tell a brief story of the trip. As always these are straight scans, the most I did with them was a bit of exposure corrections and cleaning up of scratches, nothing more. All photos made with my Voigtlander Bessa R3A, Nokton 40mm f/1.4 SC, Tri-X shot at box speed and developed in Diafine.
I made some new friends at Great Divide, The two in the foreground were a married couple from Texas on a beer tour of Colorado. We got to talking and decided to go to some of our favorite places as a group.
While not a native Colorado brewery, Epic Brewing was our next stop. It was only 8 blocks away and it seemed like the logical thing to do. After a few other watering holes I decided to take a day to myself and go to the mountains. I spent the following day in Frisco mostly hiking around and talking to a glass blower.
You could participate if you wanted to, he was very generous with letting people heat and mold the final product.
A few more shots of watering holes and breweries. I especially love getting photos of the workers in these places, seeing how things are made is one of my favorite things to be able to witness.
I did my part and visited some art museums, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Spending time to dissect paintings and photographs is important.
I couchsurfed for the second half of my trip. I stayed in a house in Five Points with some very musical and creative individuals. I enjoyed staying there and talking about music and learning from others. This was their living room.
Five Points is one of the most culturally interesting places in Denver, it’s a historical representation of all of the change that the city has seen throughout its existence. I could try to write an article about it but there are so many already written, and I’m not much of a writer anyway.
The Butcher Block Cafe was incredible. A diner after my own heart.
All in all, I was able to mentally and physically stretch, relax, and enjoy myself while I was in Colorado. Sometimes having all of that space to yourself is what you need the most.
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. Given my track record it’s clear that I can’t keep a regular blog, I don’t know if I should be attributing this to my laziness to write or to my otherwise busy schedule. Either way, I’ve decided to finally put up some photos I took when I was in Barcelona and surrounding parts of Spain. Before I get into that, though, I’d like to say thank you to the nice folks over at Photojojo for featuring my post on creating solargraphs, I’m glad people are interested in doing them, and that something I wrote was helpful. Usually I’m on the receiving end of the how-to’s so this is quite flattering.
Now onto the good stuff. All photos were taken with a Voigtlander Bessa R3A and a Nokton 40mm f/1.4 lens. Various films were used, mostly Tri-X and Neopan 400 if memory serves. All films were shot at a variety of speeds ranging from ISO 640 to ISO 1600 and developed in Diafine.
That’s about everything I’ve managed to scan so far, when I have access to a film scanner again I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. This is only a snippet of what I saw and experienced while in Europe, but these are some of my favorite moments from the trip.
Hope everyone had a happy holidays and will have a terrific New Year.
It’s been a little while since I updated the blog, lately I’ve been busy with work, and in one case, not work. I took a week long trip to Seattle with my cameras and spent the entire week shooting and relaxing. To make a long story short, it was a much needed vacation. I’ve developed all of the rolls from the trip but I have yet to scan anything, so there will be an update on that later once I get around to the scanning process and actually have everything up on my computer.
In the meantime, I’ve spent my time doing photography of a very different sort from what I usually do. For the past month or so I had been planning out a studio shoot to capture dancer movement, and other similar ideas to that theme. Given that studio photography is almost the polar opposite of my typical style of street and journalism for work, my working style changed considerably. I knew that I had to actually plan this one out in advance, figure out lights, find a model then coordinate with her as far as outfits go and the actual timing for the shoot, etc. I actually found myself having a lot of fun doing all of this, getting involved in that kind of planning is easy, and I found myself easily spending hours at a time some nights planning and talking with fellow photographers about my options.
Luckily enough for me, all of the planning and coordinating fell into place seamlessly, which gave me more time to work out the fun part of the shoot: lighting and other such details. I began my quest for good lighting inspiration in two forum threads I came across: One Light Setups and New One Light Setups. I also did some searches over on deviantART to find what I wanted. I ended up settling on two main light setups, shown here:
The distances shown aren’t 100% accurate, but you get the idea. The lights can be moved farther from or closer to the subject as desired, the files are only for reference purposes. On a sidenote, the file used is very, very handy for creating lighting mockups such as the ones above. No more drawing things out on paper or however you do it, the link to the file can be found here. Take note that I did not make this file.
The first setup is as simple as can be: a 100ow halogen bulb with a softbox and a dimmer camera right and a foamcore reflector camera left. Simple, yet very effective. The second setup is 2x300w halogen lights/barndoors on either side and a 500w hairlight overhead.
The next step was to find a model. I decided to ask a friend instead of having to deal with a professional model for multiple reasons. The model I chose to work with is a friend from college, and is very comfortable in front of a camera. She’s very respectful of equipment and willing to help with the actual studio setup prior to shooting. I would’ve been happy to set everything up myself and don’t like to burden others, especially when that other person is your model, but she ended up helping substantially and sped up the whole process of setting up taking down equipment. Multiple times throughout the shoot when things needed to be moved around she would ask how she can help out, or when a problem arose she contributed ideas as to it’s solution. She has a very positive and energetic personality, and never once complained about a single thing. Overall, she’s simply a joy to work with.
Throughout the month I touched base with her on any new ideas I had developed so there would be no surprises come the day of the shoot. Any clothing ideas, any light setups, etc. I made sure she knew about. In retrospect, I should have everything planned out so I can simply send one large chunk of info instead of sending it in pieces over time, that will be remedied in the future.
Once everything was set into motion, studio rented, model found and ideas flowing, the next step simply was to wait until the day of the shoot. Come the day of the shoot, we arrived at the studio at around 1pm or so. The first thing I noticed: no boom. Well, shit. There goes one setup I had planned out. But wait! Not so fast, turns out the owner of the studio runs a mini hardware storage in there as well. We found all sorts of things like PVC piping and steel rods, clamps etc. that were available to us at our disposal that were hidden away in a closet. Once I confirmed that I can indeed play around with the parts in the closet, I decided to deal with the second light setup later and start shooting right away. I put up the first setup, she changed into her outfit, we got some dance music going and began working.
We spent quite a bit of time with the first setup, I knew that simple was effective, but I didn’t know how effective that could be until I started using it. The possibilities with one light are seemingly endless, and I wanted to make as much use of that as I could. Two of the three outfits we ended up using were shot with the one light setup, the last outfit was done entirely with the three light setup.
When the time came to change setups, the improvisation with the found parts in the closet began. We found a steel rod that spanned just as wide as the seamless background was and two extra light stands that rose up to 13 feet. Rod + stands = solution. We started working on clamping the rod and taping up the clamps to the stands so they would hold their position, making sure not to forget to hang the light from the rod by it’s handle before taping down everything. Due to the decrease in height that I would’ve been using, the 500w was out of the question. I tried it out anyway, and as I expected the light from above was far too strong. I swapped out the 500w with a 300w light that’s identical to the barndoors that are placed from either side in setup 2. After some test shots, I picked what worked and once again we got down to shooting.
The improvised overhead light worked out very well, leaving us pleased with our work. While I didn’t get exactly what I was looking for from it, I feel that if I were to set it up again I could get more out of it, and more consistent results. Given the physical space of the studio and the time frame we had to work with it, the three light setup definitely didn’t disappoint, and some beautiful photos came out of it. It’s a setup willing to work with more, and hopefully will be once I have time to spend in a studio again.
Overall, a month’s preparation for one short day in the studio culminated into some great photos, and of course some great times in general, the interaction between a photographer and his subject is something one must experience for him/herself, and if there’s anything I have learned about this stretching of my boundaries, is that even though two styles of photography may be polar opposites as to how they are done, but when there is a person involved as subject, the connection made between the two people to capture the moment is priceless, and that’s what I loved the most about the entire process.
Nikon D60 (Sadly, I couldn’t borrow the D700 from work so I used my own body)
AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED (borrowed from work)
AF Zoom-Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D IF-ED (older, heavier version, borrowed from work)
Voigtlander Bessa R3A
Nokton Classic 40mm f/1.4 SC
The Bessa setup was an experiment as well. Not exactly a studio camera but I thought why the hell not? The rolls from the Bessa have yet to be developed, but I hope to have that fixed soon. I used Tri-X exposed at multiple speeds and it will be developed in Diafine.
Nicollet Mall has to be one of the most dynamic streets in the center of Minneapolis, throughout any given week the street undergoes vast changes from event to event that takes place there. Every Thursday is the Farmer’s Market, news crews like to film there, protests happen, and the outdoor cafes and bars attract different crowds of people at different times of the day. I’ve been shooting this street for over a year now and have captured a lot of it’s personalities, but since I work downtown during the summer I get to see a side of Nicollet Mall that I haven’t seen before, at least not very often or regularly as I do now: Corporate lunch breaks. Around noon, when I take my own lunch break the street is teeming with corporate figures dressed up in business casual and/or suits who are sitting outside, walking about, checking their blackberries (a million of these things come out at this time), or there are even those who i’ve caught doing some photography of their own. Nicollet Mall is indeed a changeling, a street with multiple personalities that one can capture still frames from over and over again, in many styles of photography.
This was taken on a particularly quiet day outside, it was raining slightly which would explain the lack of people, the faint of heart don’t go outside when it rains, or maybe that’s just business types with nice clothes on. Others though, just need that smoke break. I particularly like her choice of location for her break, the mannequien behind her mimics her pose nicely, or is it the other way around?
I noticed quite a few differences between the groups of people at the tables here, I won’t give away what I saw though. See if you can find them for yourself, a nice little visual exercise for you morning blog readers. I personally fit into that category, at work as soon as my laptop comes out I check all of my live bookmarks, the mornings at work can be quite slow so why not?
I love the Barnes and Noble on Nicollet for this exact reason. I can go in there with my camera, sit down and just observe. There aren’t many cafes where you can do that comfortably anymore, I sure as hell know Starbucks doesn’t like it. I’ve never been ushered out of a cafe yet, but you just get that feeling sometimes about those places. Something about protection of it’s customers or something, as if i’m gonna kill them by taking their photo or something, I don’t know. Anyway, this man was so engrossed in this pile of papers he was going through, it looked like he brought his entire mailbox with him to the cafe and decided to read every unopened letter he had received in the past few weeks. He didn’t notice me sitting at the table next to him, he just kept reading all of his mail, he was in his own little world.
Pre-focusing kicks ass, especially when you’re trying to get away from taking photos exclusively at eye level. I had the camera in my hand here and was looking for an opening in the crowd that tends to roam Nicollet Mall during lunch, and got one. I didn’t actually check my screen (yes, this was with my digital, gotta show my 50mm f/1.8 some love on occasion) until an hour later, found this gem on my card. Once again, pre-focusing kicks ass.
Taken shortly after the shot above, I stopped to pre-focus slightly farther away than before since I wanted a bit more in the scene. I left the camera in my hands again, this time held slightly higher than before. The look my camera got from her is pretty typical. Most people don’t say anything about it though, there’s Minnesota Nice for you.
I love the different ethnic groups of people that congregate at the Farmer’s Market every week. It makes Nicollet Mall look slightly foreign, which is a nice change from the business “daily grind” persona it usually has on most of my lunch hours. The Farmer’s Market always makes the street seem almost NYC-esque as well, it manages about twice the usual traffic during the time I’m out there as well, which is especially nice for me, I’m not approached nearly as much. This group of people was squeezing fruit and talking amongst themselves trying to find the best bargain.
A conversation on one side, and a guy staring at me on the other. He didn’t see me until I was actually framing this shot, once again he did nothing about it, just chilled next to the ad on the wall and drank his coffee. Who drinks coffee when it’s 80 degrees and sunny anyway? While wearing a suit no less, I don’t get that. All these people come out into the sun, with hot coffee. Why not get at least an iced coffee or something cold?
Another hip shot, this time quite literally from the hip. I was walking by one of the outside sections of a semi-fancy restaurant that gets frequented during this time for obvious reasons. his drink, whatever it is, looked good at the time, I was thirsty, and wanted some. I have some mystery hands in there too, go ahead and make up a story about who it is if you’d like.
I usually like to see my subject’s faces before taking their photo, I feel like even though i’m not talking to them I’m at least interacting with them, even if it’s indirect most of the time. A face can tell a lot about a person. What they’re feeling, where they’ve been, etc. and I like to get that from people before I compose and shoot, so I get at least the tiniest sense of who they are, or could be. This woman was different though, I probably stood in the spot I was standing here for about ten or so minutes, looking in her direction on and off. I took this shot about three minutes into my slow domination of my space, but hoped for a better one, thinking she would turn around. She never did. She looked at the clothing that was for sale outside next to the market, and walked away with her back turned to me.
I never got to see her face.
I left this one in color, I rather like it that way. Saw this guy standing about 10 feet away from me smoking. It’s not really a remarkable shot, but I felt like taking it, and when I looked at it it came out so nicely that I decided to keep it. I made it this blog’s header, even. Other than that I don’t have much to say for this shot, just a guy smoking.
Nicollet Mall, please continue to be this way forever.