Category Archives: Uncategorized
Kate and I like to have flowers in the house. We’ve gone through phases – tulips, ranunculus, roses of course, and a gerber daisy period – but I think peonies are our all-time favorite. I know next to nothing about flowers, but I do know what I like. And I like the fullness and texture of peonies as they are just starting to open. They smell amazing and if you cup one gently in your hand it’s almost the size of a baseball. My mother planted and tended a huge number of peonies when I was a kid and I have a strong memory of ants being attracted to the heavy flowering buds. So there’s probably a nostalgia factor there as well.
When Kate’s “get well” flowers started dying, I set out on the hunt for peonies here in Brooklyn. Most of our local bodegas sell flowers, but while the price is right, the selection tends to be substandard. We always keep an eye out for good stuff and it took me three days to acquire these 6 specimens. I found them them at a random grocery store in Dumbo as I was walking home from an event. I actually spotted them from across the street. A couple of the buds were already opening up, but the other four were still closed. I knew we would get a good week or so out of them and they haven’t disappointed. Every single day both of us have remarked with wonder, “Oh my god, have you seen the peonies today?”
Over the last week, we’ve taken more a dozen cellphone pics and a handful of DSLR pictures of this batch. Kate’s instagrammed them and I’ve tweeted them. You could almost say we’ve been obsessed.
Yesterday morning I slipped right over the border of “almost obsessed” and into “officially obsessed” country. I grabbed the Hasselblad, loaded it with Fuji Neopan Acros 100 film, and screwed it onto the tripod. Then I spent the next 30 minutes shooting the entire roll of 12 exposures on this vase of peonies. I removed everything from my desk and placed them in front of my hand-painted background. I styled them. Then I developed the roll, waited for it to dry, and impatiently scanned the negatives. All told, I spent an hour and a half with this vase of flowers.
Was it worth it? Definitely.
With these few images, I can finally rest easy and leave the poor flowers alone.
Technical details: I developed the Hasselblad images in Kodak Xtol developer for 8 minutes at 20C. Xtol is my favorite developer for Acros.
This was the last week for the artists in the Sing for Hope Piano Studio. I stopped by on Monday and could not believe the work that had taken place since my last visit. All of the pianos were almost street (and party) ready. Tonight is the Sing for Hope Pianos Launch Party where the 88 pianos will be revealed. It’s my understanding that we have recruited pianists to play each piano in concert at 8:08pm. I’m really looking forward to watching these artists receive the adulations and attentions of an adoring public. The SFH Piano artists have put so much time, energy, and talent into this project.
While the artists have been hard at work in the studio, Sing for Hope has secured 88 spots across the five boroughs of NYC for these pianos to call home for two weeks (June 1st to June 16th).
This is a tremendous effort by all involved and it’s been generously supported by New York-based Chobani Yogurt.
Sunday night Kate accompanied me on an 8×10 shoot by the East River. I packed the 8×10, the tripod, and my film holders loaded with Fuji Neopan Acros 100 film. This was the first time I’ve used this legendary film in 8×10. It’s incredibly hard to find in the US and I had been lucky enough to get this box a few months ago from a fellow large format photographer who had visited Japan.
Wanting to get a decent shot of the abandoned Domino Sugar Factory before developers tore it down, we walked the desolate stretch of Delancey Street to the East River with all of my gear in tow. Kate had the D700 with her and planned to take some shots of the Willimasburg Bridge as well as me setting up the 8×10.
The Resulting Photograph
The Abandoned Domino Sugar Factory, 8×10 Fuji Neopan Acros 100 Film
*Larger Version on Flickr.
Technical details: the camera is an old 1935 Eastman 8×10 View Camera with a modernish (1970s) Schneider 300mm f5.6 lens. Since there were very few developing times online for Fuji Acros in sheet film, I resorted to using an old favorite developer and estimating the times. I used Kodak Xtol developer as a 1:1 solution and developed the sheets in trays. The time I figured out was 10 minutes, but since I use brush agitation I reduced the development time by 20%, giving me 8 minutes. It’s pretty much where I wanted it. The center building is very dark in real life compared to the buildings around it and I worried that it wouldn’t get enough light. Instead of a four minute exposure, I gave it an extra minute for a total of five minutes. Worked like a charm.
A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to the Sing for Hope Pianos project. The Sing for Hope Pianos are 88 reclaimed and painted (or otherwise transformed) pianos placed in public locations across the 5 boroughs. This public art installation will begin on June 1st and last for 2 weeks. Right now, selected artists are transforming the donated pianos into work of art.
I’ve been documenting this process in the last few weeks and will keep visiting the studio until the artists are finished.
If you are local to NYC, you can volunteer to be a “piano buddy.” A piano buddy watches over the Sing for Hope Pianos during their time on the streets and helps to ensure that each instrument stays protected and able to move on to its permanent home once the public installation is over. Tickets are also on sale for a special piano launch party to be held on May 16th. You can purchase your tickets here.
Since I discovered that my Tiffen dark orange filter fits perfectly on my Hasselblad’s Zeiss lens I’ve been experimenting with getting a nice, dark sky effect (without using post-processing). First, you need a deep blue sky to get a dark and dramatic tone. Second, the filter factor seems a bit too extreme for this #21 filter. Most guides have recommended giving 1.5 to 2.5 extra stops of exposure when using this filter. My experiments have shown that one stop is enough to compensate for the filter placed on the end of your lens. For instance, two extra stops on my 8×10 setup seemed overexposed. Over the weekend, I shot a roll of Fuji Neopan Acros 100 film in the Hasselblad. I bracketed my shots and have found that I’m happiest with just one stop of extra exposure when using the filter with Fuji Acros. I developed these in Rodinal 1+50 at 20C for 13.5 minutes.
The midtown sky behind the Chrysler building was a bold and clear blue for this shot and this is the exact effect I was looking for out of a dark orange filter.
The sky was less of a dark blue here and there were wispy clouds framing the building. Still an improved look over a bland, white sky I would normally get with no filter and B&W film.
The sky surrounding the Untied Nations building on the East River was an intense blue and I waited a bit for the thin clouds to line up with the building. Another good effect.
This shot is just me goofing around while deciding if I wanted to walk over to the UN building or not. The orange filter provides a nice contrast boost on the buildings here, but very little darkending of a light blue sky.
The bottom line is that I need less extra exposure than the manufacturer suggests and if you want a dramatic sky and properly exposed buildings, it helps to have a nice deep blue sky day. Now I’m just waiting for another fluffy cloud day in the city…
Yesterday I realized that the Tiffen Orange Filter that I bought for the back of my 8×10 Schneider lens also fits on the Zeiss 80mm f2.8 lens for my Hasselblad. I had the filter in my bag when I was in Lower Manhattan yesterday, so I thought I would try it out on the New York by Gehry Building.
There’s very little difference, but I’m sure it was because the sun was very bright, which really lightened the blue of the sky. A darker blue sky would have resulted in a much darker sky on the second shot. Anyway, I love the building and especially love these two compositions of it. I’ll go back on another day when the sun is a bit lower in the sky.
These shots were developed in HC 110 Solution H for five minutes at 20C.
Last weekend Kate and I spent a long weekend in San Francisco celebrating our anniversary. I wanted to pack lightly so I didn’t take any cameras except for the Nikon D700. I still took quite a few pictures while we were there as it was such a beautiful city.
I knew the streets in San Francisco were steep, but had no idea they were *that* steep until we spent Saturday walking up and down them. So much fun.
When we return to San Francisco, and we definitely will, I’m taking the Hasselblad along to get some real pictures.
While my wife was sewing curtains for our front room I decided to play around with the Fuji HR-T X-Ray film and some flowers. This green-sensitive film renders the color green much lighter than we would see it and gives plant life a rather odd look. I was curious to see what type of effect it might have on a vase of flowers.
One of the wonderful things about view cameras is that you can focus very close up and make photographs that are even larger than life size. If your camera has the extension rails to extend the bellows all the way out, you can do amazing macro shots. The Eastman View Camera No 2D has a detachable rear extension rail that gives you 30 inches of bellows extension. When I found my camera I made sure that the extension rail was included. It’s not necessary for everyday shots, but if you want lifesize or larger then you need the rear rail.
Fair warning: what follows is probably either overly technical if you are not interested in how a view camera functions OR not precise enough for those photographers who have to have everything perfectly measured and exactly so… But if you are interested and not wedded to a slide rule then read on.
There are compromises (three of them, really) when you extend the bellows this far out. First, the depth of field is incredibly shallow at full or near full extension. My Schneider 300mm f5.6 lens at f5.6 gives less than an 1/8 of an inch of focus. At f8, f11, and f16 you may get a 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch. To shoot a vase full of flowers you need at least a couple of inches of depth of field. And for that you would need to shoot at f48 or f64. I shot this at f64.
I lit the vase from the side with my Westcott TD6 Spiderlite (1200W) through a medium-sized softbox. This gave me an EV value of 7.5, which at f64 called for a 30 second exposure. But then you also have to consider the second compromise. You’ve racked your bellows out to 28 inches and this means less light will hit the surface of the film – i.e. bellows compensation factor. To figure your bellows compensation factor there are a few mathematical equations you can use. I’ve studied all of them, and understand the concept, but I simplify it as follows: I have a 12″ lens. If I double the length of the bellows from the normal 12 inches to 24 inches I add an additional stop or so of exposure. Extended fully to 30 inches I add a stop and a half. This is close enough for me. It might not be for others, but it’s what I use. At this point, I’ve almost arrived at a correct exposure.
Photographic film also has this weird property called reciprocity failure that means that the film actually needs more exposure when you expose it for an extended period of time. Films differ on how well they handle reciprocity. My favorite B&W film for long exposures, Fuji Neopan Acros, doesn’t require any adjustments for exposures up to 2 minutes. That’s fantastic and it makes things much easier. Other films need more exposure time if your shutter stays open for longer than a few seconds. For example, if I was shooting Kodak Tri-X film, I would have exposed the film for a full 5 minutes to get a true 1 minute and 30 seconds exposure. Since I was shooting X-Ray film and no one really has published a reliable table of its reciprocity characteristics, I just went by my own experience. My experience has shown me that Fuji HR-T X-Ray film needs a little bit of added exposure, but not nearly as much as traditional films. I gave this shot an extra 30 seconds.
And just for the fun of it, I focused this next shot with the bellows stretched completely out to 30 inches. I shot it at f64 for a full three minutes.
I tray developed the Fuji HR-T X-Ray film in Rodinal 1:100 for six minutes. I used normal trays and lined the bottoms with glass. My only remaining flaw in X-ray film development is that I’m using 8×10 trays (because I happen to have a few pieces of glass cut to 8×10 for contact printing.) Even with very minimal agitation (rock all four sides of the tray every 30 seconds) I still get surge artifacts on the edges of the negative. This makes the edges of the negative darker (lighter once scanned or printed). My next step is to get 11×14 pieces of glass to line the bottoms of my 11×14 trays. This will give me a more even development across the entire negative.
Normally I use this blog to post my personal work, which revolves almost exclusively around shooting film. But I do have another photographic life, using a digital DSLR, that I don’t feature here. Yet, it’s one that I’m passionate about. As a Sing for Hope volunteer and the “photographer in residence,” I photograph community visits and concerts for this amazing NYC-based arts organization. What they do is very simple, but how they do it and the effect it has on the community is inspiring. Tapping into the large and talented pool of musicians, actors, singers, and artists based in NYC, Sing for Hope has developed a huge roster of performers who donate their time and energy bringing the arts to places that need it most. Since I’ve been involved with Sing for Hope, we’ve visited hospitals, nursing homes, schools, community centers, shelters, and clinics, bringing world class performers to every corner of NYC’s five boroughs.
This year, the Sing for Hope crew is doing something crazy…
88 pianos. 5 boroughs. 2 weeks.
This mega-project would be ambitious even if it were simply placing dozens of pianos in outdoor public spaces around the five boroughs of NYC. Imagine the red tape and the logistics for such a proposal. To make it even more complex, over the last couple of months, artists from all over the city submitted proposals to transform a piano before its released into the wild. The selected artists will paint and decorate their pianos and then the pianos will be placed at 88 locations across the city in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.
Right now these pianos are nestled into a sparse industrial floor of a midtown building. Each piano is being repaired and tuned by a group of technicians; these are not just art installations – each one will be tuned and play-ready. Next week the artists will begin transforming the old pianos, giving each of them a new life. I’ll be documenting this process and enjoying every minute. In June, the Sing for Hope pianos hit the streets.
For more information and insider photos from the artists themselves, follow #SFHpianos on Twitter.
And lastly, here are a few photographs that I took of Sing for Hope’s “Play Me I’m Yours” campaign in 2011, before I even knew what Sing for Hope was. It was these photos that led to my relationship with Sing For Hope; one of the coordinators came across them on flickr and reached out to me.
I reunited with an old friend last night. For months, my Hasselblad has sat on a shelf, watching me play with the 8×10. In fact, I have only shot the Hasselblad twice since getting the 8×10 in working order. I’ve been more than a bit obsessed about getting everything right with the larger format, and as a result I had forgotten how much medium format film is the perfect sweet spot for photography. Medium format cameras are super portable and easy to carry around the city, yet MF negatives yield so much more information than 35mm negatives.
Last night when Kate and I were walking to the sub I remarked that my small bag and tiny carbon tripod (compared to my wooden Berlebach tripod for the 8×10) felt like I was carrying a point and shoot in my pocket after dragging around LF gear. But the Hasselblad is no point and shoot. It’s a great camera that takes no time to set up and the results are fantastic.
I had been wanting to take a good 8×10 night shot of the Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District, but hadn’t really checked out which spots I wanted to shoot from. So rather than drag the 8×10 outfit over there and not find a nice angle, I decided to test it out with the smaller camera. Not too bad for test shots…
And moving just a bit further back I was able to get some nice headlight trails:
Oddly, I had to stop and think about developing times for 120 film after being so used to developing sheet film in trays. I developed the Acros 100 in HC 110 Solution B for at 20C for five minutes. I don’t quite have the hang of scanning 120 film with the V700 however. This was the first roll of 120 film I scanned with the new scanner and it was a bit of a pain to align correctly.