Saturday, January 31, 2009

Film is dead!

For several years now, this has been the warning of the digital masses. Yet, Kodak has continued to provide improved versions of their films over the past couple years. Kind of makes you think, eh? Often we are easily led to believe that newer technology is always the best way to go. But there are clear pros and cons to both film and digital. For example, because I don't have the "freedom" to chimp while shooting film, the shooting experience has become more enjoyable. Inititally, it requires an adjustment period, surrending to no longer getting that instant feedback that digital provides. The late street photographer Garry Winogrand often would not look at his exposed film for months or even years after the pictures had been taken. I think this "separation period" allows the photographer to escape from the emotional ties that often make it difficult to objectively edit our own work. I've also realized that the process of shooting pictures have now become more enjoyable. It has been easier for me to become part of the scene, a participant of the event, rather than an outsider looking in.

When it comes to color pictures, I will almost always chose digital over film. But I have to honestly say that I have yet to see an inkjet B&W that can rival the quality of a "well conducted" gelatin-silver wetprint. It's clear that silver prints have become a rarity with the everyday photographer, and have found their niche among art photographers. Considering that, it's possible that medium format might always be the strongest supporter of film. But one thing that appeals to me as a B&W 35mm photographer, is that I still prefer the grain of film over the noise of digital. And with the genre of photography that I presently participate in, the natural grain of film is often a welcome participant of the picture, rather than an unwelcomed party crasher.

What matters most is not which medium is better than the other, but that we chose the right one for what we are trying to achieve. We're living in an age when photographers have a greater freedom that ever before in the history of this craft. We can choose the medium not only for the final results we envision, but also for the process of picture making itself.

Film is no where near dead. It has only found a new neighborhood, making new friends who really appreciate it's specific character.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Right In Your Own Front Yard

I'm not much of a landscape photographer. It's not that I don't admire a seeing a creative rendition of the open range, or even my own front yard. My problem is that I rarely have the patience to stop and think about a composition. That's probably why I've never tried a large format camera, the ideal tool for this genre. But there are times, and usually when we see extremes in the weather, that a little voice that begins as a whisper, eventually evolves into a rather loud roar in your head, and won't leave you alone until you at least give it a try. That's when I find the scene (and that loud roar) irisistable, and a picture must be made.

These were taken in my front yard, within just a few steps from my front door.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

MP = Mechanical Perfection

My choice for most street and availalble light work is the Leica MP, along with the Summilux 50/f1.4 and Summicron 35/f2.0 ASPH lenses.

MP with Summilux 50/f1.4

And the MP pictured here again, with the Elmar 50/f2.8-M, for when I want to travel light and compact:

When I returned to regular photography 9 years ago, I figured I better get started learning how to shoot and process digital pictures. Returning to the craft after a near 30 year hiatus, I felt I had a lot of catching up to do. So for the next 7 years, I moved up the digital camera ladder, until I have what I'm now using anytime I choose to shoot digital, and that's a Canon 40D. I use it primarily for wildlife photography, along with a Canon 100-400mm IS L zoom lens. Last year I even shot my first wedding with it, and the camera performed exceptionally well.

But these days, the camera I spend 99% of my time shooting is a Leica MP rangefinder film camera. The MP is considered by many Leica shooters to be the best camera that Leica ever made, as it has retained much of the company's original design, including traditional high-quality German craftsmanship. The first time you pick up a Leica (especially an MP) and raise it to your eye, you realize that nothing can compete with this camera. And once you learn the discipline of shooting a rangefinder, you begin to experience a new freedom in your photography that you never thought possible. In today's world of cameras that have everything automated, there is nothing quite as rewarding as making a picture with a manual rangefinder.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Gospel of Grain

It's a bit humorous how often digital photographers search for ways to emulate the grain and grittiness of high-speed black & white film. There are even automated Photoshop plug-ins and actions that produce this "look" at the touch of a button. Yet after all that investment in time and money to produce a character in the picture that comes naturally with old-fashioned film itself, the results of all those efforts rarely look as good as the original. Granted, there are times when a picture calls for the sterile, super-clean look that many of today's digital cameras produce. But there are other times when nothing conveys the mood than some good old-fashion film grain.

Today's photographer has a freedom we have never had before, the ability to chose between digital and film.

The photos above are recent additions to the Holy Grounds Cafe "Sounds at the Grounds" photo project. Nekia Parchell. Her website:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Captain Z turns 9 years-old today!

A few months ago, it looked like this day would never happen - Zoomer's 9th birthday. So much has happened in the past 3 months that it blows my mind just thinking about it. Zoomer, my greyhound, has had many aliases over the years, which include but are not limited to: Zoomer-boomer, Boomer-boy, Z-Man, Millenium Child (born in 2000), and Crow Dog (due to some connection with big, black crows early in his life that I never quite understood). But the one alias that he is probably known by best is Captain Z. Zoomer aquired that name when he was just about one year old. A little boy I knew invented this character, a type of cartoon canine super-hero and alter-ego for Zoomer. Until recently, Captain Z's true identity was known only by a priviledged few. Now that he's retired from this service, we feel that his identity can be safely revealed.

Here are a couple early promotional photos that were used early in Captain Z's "career".

So here we sit, my wife and I, blessed to have been given extra time to care for this devoted, beautiful creation of God's, and honored to be chosen as the guardians of this living legend. And if you think that I'm a bit off my rocker and not quite in tune with reality...well, my friend - you just haven't met Zoomer yet! LOL

This is a picture of Zoomer enjoying his retirement, and celebrating his 9th birthday with a new stuffed teddy bear!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Sound of Light

I'm presently working on a project featuring musicians of many styles that I plan to exhibit this coming spring. When two creative disciplines are carefully melded together, a beautiful union occurs. I hope that this exhibit will be just that. Here are a couple samples that will be featured in the show.

Friday, January 9, 2009

50 Years Before My Time

Yesterday I received a roll of film that was manufactured before I was born. The expiration date on the factory-sealed box is September 1958, so I imagine that it was probably made around 1956 or '57. I might try and shoot this someday, but for now I'll just use it for a fun prop.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Inspired by the Aged

There are times when an artist finds himself in a slump, when he questions whether all the years he has spent in pursuit of his craft have been a waste. He asks himself if he has actually been fooling himself and all the passion has been nothing but worthless illusion. I have learned that these times are often a prelude to another experience of unexpected insiration from above. My faith in God allows me to release my anxieties and take them to Him. And it's often during these times when I see the supernatural power of God materialize into something I never expected. It has happened to me several times over the past year, and it happened to me again last week when my wife and I visited her mom at the retirement home.

I remember as a boy in high school, when I needed to write my first essay. I had never written one before, so at first I didn't know where to start. But upon visiting my aging grandparents in the nursing home, I immediately felt the need to record my thoughts and feelings. And the experience I had that day visiting them, provided the inspiration and subject matter for that essay.

So fast-forward about 35 years into the present, and I find myself in a similar situation. The loving environment that is present in my mother-in-law's retirement home has brought a new inspiration into my photography, which is really no more than an extention of my heart. As I have moved away from wildlife photography, I have felt a relentless passion to capture the beauty of human interaction, specifically those times of kindness and compassion, to bring a refreshing respite from all the discouraging news and images we are often bombarded with by the news media.

These pictures are my interpretations of those precious moments, ones that often go by so quickly, sometimes without much reflection of how the Lord has truly blessed us. If you look closely into the eyes of these people, you can easily see the love they have for each other. And if you look a bit deeper into those eyes, you might also see that it is a reflection of the love that God has for us.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Grainy Side of Polka

Growing up in Milwaukee, I heard a lot of polka music when I was a kid. The AM radio stations were playing it all the time. There was a disc jockey known as "Fritz the Plumber", who is burned into my memory for playing constant polka music. I also had a cousin who was at least 10 years older than me, and he would play his accordian at wedding receptions. When I got into my teenage years, and my own tastes in music began to develop, polka was about the corniest stuff you could hear. But here I am, about 40 years later, and learning to really love it!

On New Years Day, my wife and I attended a party at the group home where my mother-in-law now lives. It was a blast! The accordian player, Don, played a lot of old favorites, many of which stirred up long-forgotten memories. Here's a picture of good ol' Dan, that wonderful accordian man. I shot this with Kodak T-max P3200 Professional film. This is the first time I've tried developing this film myself. I think it came out pretty good. I love the way the natural film grain works in this type of picture. For all the tech-heads reading this, I shot it at EI 1600, with my Leica MP and Summilux 50/f1.4 lens. I think the aperture was f2.0 and shutter speed about 1/20 second.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009: Who? What? Where? When?

Each new year brings new questions, opens unique opportunities, and presents ongoing challenges. Each person has his or her own personal story, and each one is important as the next. As a photographer, I have moved through phases that I had never expected when I first returned to the craft nearly 10 years ago. One thing for sure, I look forward to working more with people. I have developed a growing passion for recording ordinary life, in a way that will show us that no one is truly ordinary. And my desire is to produce an emotion in the person who views my pictures, in a way that will make them realize that all of life is important.