27
Aug 16

Back to Basics, a Return to Film Photography

I grew up with the vinegary smell of stop bath so when I made the switch to digital I swore I was done with film. Yet here I am today, prepared to take the plunge back into the world of analog imaging. Why?

Maybe I’m just being nostalgic but it seems like the analog process feels more like making art, it feels more thoughtful and personal. There is something to be said for the act of pre-visualizing a scene, contemplating exposure, anticipating how it will look on the developed film and what sort of paper and printing process you’ll utilize. I think shooting and developing your own film materially teaches you proper exposure and self discipline. When you know you only have 36 frames on a roll of film and that the film will need to be developed and contact printed before you really know what you’ve got, you think very carefully every time you press the shutter. And that’s not to say there isn’t spontaneity with film, surely there is but you have to be prepared to say it within those 36 frames then reload, or carry around a second body. Film invites economy, digital lacks economy. Finally, I don’t necessarily need the speed of the digital process. Don’t get me wrong, I love digital but it feels like the difference between using pen and paper and using a computer.

Nikon FM and Nikkor 105mm f2.5

Nikon FM and Nikkor 105mm f2.5, Vintage Agfa Scala film. 

In preparation I went through my old camera bag and pulled out my two film bodies. One was an F100 purchased at the dawn of the digital revolution. The second was my first “real” camera, bought used in high school, a Nikon FM. Digging deeper I grabbed my old Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 lens. For years the FM, the 105, a 24 f/2.8 and a 50 f/1.8 were my kit. They accompanied me on my first European adventure with a brick of Kodachrome 64. Good times. I’m going to see if I can find, scan and post some of those slides. Sadly the FM is now unusable, the mirror return spring needs to be replaced. I want to shoot film with a manual camera so the F100 will stay in retirement.

Enter the Nikon FM3a. The greatest manual focusing film SLR camera Nikon produced. I need to have one. Searching the web, I found a gently used copy that had obviously been loved by an active photographer. At the risk of sounding like a Leica-phile, it has black paint with just a hint of warm brassing. Perfect. It’s on it’s way to me now from Japan.

More to come.


13
Jun 16

Photo Awards, Efforts and Outcomes

It has been a busy month here at Curious Lizard. We are always active traveling, photographing, researching, exploring and printing. Our biggest challenge, and I think the biggest challenge of most people active in this medium, is trying to say more with our photographs.

Mule Talk. Morocco.

Mule Talk. Morocco.

Hard work and hard efforts have borne fruit. In regional competitions we won first place awards in architectural and religious and spiritual photography. We also won a second place in street photography and a third place in black and white landscape photography.

Most importantly for me personally was the acceptance and inclusion of one of my images in the Center for Photographic Art Members’ Juried online exhibit. Please view the exhibit here.

 


20
May 16

Uighur Life, Xinjiang Provence China

For millennia Western China has been awash in the cultures of Central Asia. Some of their stories have been immortalized in The Arabian Nights and The Travels of Marco Polo.

Uighurs are a Central Asian Turckic people living in the wind swept deserts of Xinjiang Provence in Western China. I hope you enjoy this photo-essay of a seldom seen part of the world.

Boy in a Box. Khotan. Xinjiang, China.

 

Carpet Weaver. Khotan. Xinjiang, China.

 

Silk Merchant. Kashgar. Xinjiang, China.

Silk Merchant. Kashgar. Xinjiang, China.

 

Shopper. Kashgar. Xinjiang, China.

 

Getting Around. Kashgar. Xinjiang, China.

Getting Around. Kashgar. Xinjiang, China.

 

Uighur Butcher. Kashgar. Xinjiang, China.

Uighur Butcher. Kashgar. Xinjiang, China.

 

Game Faces. Turpan. Xinjiang, China.

Game Faces. Turpan. Xinjiang, China.

 

Jade Collectors. Khotan. Xinjiang, China

Jade Collectors. Khotan. Xinjiang, China

You can learn more about the Uighur here.


29
Apr 16

Photographing Petra

This Roman era Nabatean city is one of the most photographed in the world. What do you think?

Mule Canyon. Petra, Jordan. 2012

Mule Canyon. Petra, Jordan. 2012


22
Apr 16

Travel Tales, Over the High Atlas Mountains

“Travel Tales with Curious Lizard and Adventure Squirrel.” Ep. 1

I really dislike riding backwards and as much as I wanted too, I couldn’t complain. Our ride was a twin propeller airplane and our flight path took us straight over the high Atlas Mountains. Gaining altitude as we flew a pattern of slow circles, Mustafa pointed east, “that’s Algeria” he said, “and the base we took off from was used by the French Foreign Legion during the occupation.” My mind reflexively flashed through images of Beau Geste.

Study in Sand. Sahara Desert, Morocco. 2015

Study in Sand. Sahara Desert, Morocco. 2015

From above, brown earth and dusty Sahara air revealed traces of green sinews winding here and there, river valleys bringing life giving water to small farms, fruit and olive trees. We flew higher and the High Atlas Mountains loomed closer. On we went. Waves of fog broke over the summits, boiling air turbulence tossed our little plane, Slam! I reached up to prevent my head form smashing into the fuselage. In spite of myself, I felt a little panic creeping up my spine. Slam! Jokingly, Christy began to invoke the name of a Moroccan demon, both Mustafa and myself blurted out “don’t do that!” She stopped.

The worst of it lasted about fifteen minutes. I looked over to Mustafa and he was praying passionately, this was when I realized we would make it. The rest of the two hour ride was less harrowing and ended with us landing safely in the breezy coastal town of Essaouira. Feet firmly planted on the ground I turned to Mustafa and said “that was the most terrifying experience of my life,” he smiled and replied “really? I was’t scared at all.”


15
Apr 16

Best Focal Length for Travel?

How do you see? What angle of view represents your artistic “vision?” Recently I was having this discussion with some friends and I learned that we, as humans, have a visual field equal to about a 43mm full frame lens. This is why 35mm and 50mm lenses feel so comfortable. However, angle of view does not necessarily equal your artistic sensibilities or best lens option. Then of course, the question becomes,  “what is the one lens that represents you”? This got me thinking. Pulling up Lightroom, I performed an experiment.

In Lightroom 5, I clicked on my good file in the left hand column of the “Library” module and placed the images into grid view. A filter menu appeared on top of the grid and I selected “all dates”, “all cameras” and “all lenses.” I wasn’t too surprised by the results. Greater that half of my “keepers” were taken in the 16-35mm focal length. This is how I see. The next block was taken with the 70-200mm and the third largest block with the 50mm prime, then 24mm prime and finally 28mm prime.

Ok, this makes sense since these are the lenses I use most, however I wanted to know more, so selecting “16-35 lens” and switching to the “Develop” module, I was able to look at each individual photograph in this folder, and it’s specific focal length and metadata. I did this by going into the “View” menu and selecting “Loupe Info” and “Show Info Overlay.” This allowed me to have a much closer and detailed look at my images and to my surprise, the majority of the keepers were taken between 18mm and 28mm with very few at the 35mm length.

Up Close and Personal. Venice, Italy. 2015

Up Close and Personal. Venice, Italy. 2015

Even though the 28mm prime was far down on the list, metadata revealed I used the 16-35mm zoom most often at the 28mm focal length. Interesting. It’s a funny thing but I’m reminded of the Robert Capa quote “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” After this little metadata experiment and my realization on how I use focal length, I appreciate his sentiment more and more.

Light and Line. Venice, Italy. 2015

Light and Line. Venice, Italy. 2015

Now the moment of truth, how do I see? What is my best lens for everyday photography and travel? Given a little wiggle room I would answer the 16-35 f/4 VR so all my bases are covered but that isn’t a satisfying response. The one prime focal length I would choose above all others would be a 24mm f/1.4. Why? Being midway between 18-28mm, it’s wide enough to convey strong graphic elements while inviting me to get in close. A 24mm lens has less problems with proportion distortion than wider lenses allowing more intuitive composition, yet it lets me photograph what I see in a spontaneous way. Also, a 24mm is easy to hand hold in low light.

Next time you want to travel light and grab that one lens, what will you choose?