Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pinhole Photography

After stumbling upon the pinhole photography of Ardine Nelson I really began to understand what incredible work could be done with a pinhole camera. Every camera has it's own unique signature and when placed in a capable hands that feel passionate about the camera it yields magic. This is certainly the case with Nelson. Her wide angle, ground level photographs take us into a dreamlike world invisible without the camera. Eric Renner was kind enough to lend me a Leonardo 4x5 pinhole camera and I quickly decided it was not for me. I remain a fascinated viewer of pinhole photographs. The latest ones I admire are those of Craig Barber's Ghosts in the Landscape series. The pinhole effects is greatly enhanced by seeing two photographs placed side by side to form a panoramic with a center that doesn't line up with how the eye would see this long horizontal space. You can build your own camera as these photographers did or buy one from Pinhole Resource.

all rights reserved © 2006 Paul Light

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Toward a Longer Tonal Range

One of the technical objectives of many photographers is to get a tonal range where both the shadows of the photograph and the highlights are the way one's eye sees it rather than being a compressed range where either the shadows or the highlights aren't quite right. Ansel Adams solution to this was the Zone System, a carefully worked out system where by modifying the exposure time or aperture and modifying the development time too would help resolve this compressed tonal system problem. His photographs are proof that this was a pretty good solution. Better Light developed a scanning digital back that gets a very long tonal range, but this requires a very large camera and a tripod as part of the process. Neither the Zone System or the Better Light camera back offer much of a solution to the user of a $150 digital camera.

One solution is to shoot close to sunrise and sunset on sunny days and only disregard this rule on overcast days. This soft light helps record a fuller tonal range.

Now the Photoshop solution.

The Adobe CS2 option of HDR and the less professional software options PhotomatixPro and FDRTools seem like a great way to get a longer dynamic range. I have not used any of the above and am not sure if I ever will. The one problem, and I see it as a big problem is that every shot requires a tripod. As someone who frequently works with a tripod I am looking for more sitiuations where I do not need a tripod not more instances where I need a tripod. I'm glad HDR software is available, but would greatly prefer a sensor with a better dynamic range and lots more megapixels than the software.

all rights reserved © 2006 Paul Light

Monday, August 14, 2006

Diptychs, Triptychs and Panoramics

Extended grid photographs have always been a part of photography. In the 1960s and 1970s there was the occasional work of Jerry Uelsmann in this area. Art Sinsabaugh created a large body of panoramic photographs with a very old banquet camera. During the 1990s lots of panoramic cameras began appearing in a variety of formats and prices. Photoshop offered and continues to offer a lot of ways to make extended grid photographs.

Some significant contemporary diptychs, triptychs, and panoramics include the photographs of David Hilliard, Jenny Ellerbe, Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe and Brian Kosoff. Most panoramic cameras are expensive. One great inexpensive toy panoramic camera is the Ansco Pix Panorama camera. Phil Morris has done wonderful work with this camera.

all rights reserved © 2006 Paul Light

Friday, August 04, 2006

6' x 8' Photographs

In 2002 while browsing in a bookstore I came upon Thomas Struth: 1977-2002, a book and catalog of his 100 print exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art. I liked the work immediately and wanted to know more about this work. Two of the oddest things I noticed about his work are that he made very small editions - editions of 10. Also the prints were very large - often 6' x 8'. I had seen very large prints before with Sandy Skoglund's photographs. She had done an incredible exhibit at the Norton Art Museum. The Struth prints were quite a bit larger than the Skoglund prints. Currently the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is hosting an exhibit of photographs by Laura McPhee. Again giant prints in very small editions. They are also 6' x 8' and based on past work possibly in editions of 5. By making them so large, as Thomas Struth has done before her, the size itself functions as an innovative style independent of content. All 3 photographers work with a camera that shoots 8"x10" film allowing them to make very large prints and still hold detail. After spending a couple of hours at the Laura McPhee exhibit I walked away with a sense of pride. When I began photography in 1970 most photographs as art were 8"x10" or smaller, black and white and selling for less than $100. Photography was barely considered art. It's very exciting to see galleries and museums taking photographs seriously, selling at prices that reflect the amount of work put in to them and at sizes as large as many paintings.

all rights reserved © 2006 Paul Light

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Candid Photography

During the Early European Renaissance in 1500 the painting of the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch and than 60 years later in the paintings of the Dutch painter Pieter Bruegel The Elder created the early roots of candid photography. 200 years later the French painter Jean-Francois Millet created candid paintings that look quite a bit like many contemporary candid photographs. In the 1930s with the invention of the Leica camera placed in the capable hands of Henri Cartier-Bresson candid photography came into it's own as an art form of museum quality. 20 years later the Swiss American photographer Robert Frank radically reinvented the candid photograph. Frank's influence remains significant in contemporary candid photography.

all rights reserved © 2006 Paul Light