Old Time Stitching

Most of the 35mm negs from the multiple headshot portrait period have been either lost or are in places so deeply buried I doubt I could ever find them again, although I will admit that doing the blog on them has awakened my interest, so I might just go looking for them.

I’m not sure I would claim this image to be a good portrait but it does clearly exemplify one of the techniques I was using during this period, the other of course was using the 6×6 format to slice the person as well as tilting the horizontal perspectives.

Which coincidently, I am beginning to do again with the 6×6.

A big plus of experimenting with this multi-shot technique is that it usually leads to some sort of breakthrough, which then translates into some interesting pictures.

And then I move on.

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Continuing on with the Theme

Continuing on with the theme of using the natural framing attributes of the square medium format camera to create interesting framing options, we have this image.

This picture is a combination of careful organization and prompt innovation.

I was walking towards the photo lab and saw this strong slanting sun light and thought it perfect for a portrait in my then current style. The only person in the lab who would consent to having their portrait done on the spur of the moment was this graduate student from Germany.

She liked the picture and has a copy, it is also possibly my most favoured pic from that period, although that can change on a whim.

Incidentally, the image looks much better as a large print than is does on the computer screen.

As a print it has a lot more of a presence, whatever that may mean.

Back in the Day

Back in my days at uni I went through a stage were I cut people in half, quarters with the edge of the frame. It got so extreme that at one stage I would shoot ten or twelve frames of the sitters head and then print them in an overlapping sequence. Remember, this was before the computer made such things seamless. As a consequence, at the time I thought of myself as very avant-guarde.

Fast forward to 2019 and such conceits are almost a cliché, but there were some successes which have stood the test of time.

In this image I asked the young woman to hold her finger near the camera lens as if trying to touch it.

The technical specs of this picture are important because it wouldn’t have worked with a 35mm camera. I was using my Bronica SQA with the 50mm wide, important because the square format allows the picture to be framed as it is and I believe that if the top or bottom was cropped as it would be with the 35mm format then the picture stops being interesting, with the framing becoming just another gimmick, which it is, although it’s not, if you know what I mean.

The image was shot in a studio with a flash and large soft-box on her left side

Personal Choices

This is not a portrait that resonates with many people, especially the young woman in the picture, but I find it fascinating. For me there is something a little decadent about it, although I doubt I would be able to explain why.

The session was a very successful one and we got a couple of amazing photos from the shoot. One in particular tends to be a staple when I show images of women, but the above photograph, is usually overlooked, or more painfully, disdainfully ignored.

It was shot in Jakarta during the summer of 2012, ostensibly for a model portfolio, although the young woman never worked as a model as far as I know.

It doesn’t really matter to me why people want to have their portraits done, but often, when they’re young and attractive, I think it’s for future reference, which I also happen to think is a perfectly wonderful idea.

The picture was shot in my studio with a digital camera so it goes without saying that the borders were added in post-production for aesthetic reasons, although today I’m not exactly sure what the aesthetic criteria were.

Eastern Perspectives

In the first half of the last decade in the previous century I was in Prague for six weeks and naturally I visited the few galleries exhibiting photographs. Having recently thrown of the stupefying effects of foreign occupation, photography in Czechoslovakia was in the process of realigning itself with western style aesthetics; however, it had not historically had the same love affair with small format street photography that America had had.

The focus was on medium or large format pieces that explored the intrinsic beauty of the everyday, the tonal ranges between black and white and the way light creates form and dimension in a picture.

Both simple and complex at the same time, they tend to be quiet and meditative. Totally at odds with the freneticism of modern photography.

I have retained a long and enduring love for this type of work -, so much that when I once again picked up my larger format film camera, it was almost a fait accompli that I would begin with this style.

Bronica SQA, 80mm, 1/2sec, +1 filter, Classic Pan 200asa (10 years out of date) developed with Adox Rodinol, diluted 1/50 for 12 minutes

Glory Days?

One would expect to be able to say that as one’s style matures then it would be normal to do more and more unusual stuff. However, as this 2003 picture attests, my framing has slipped back towards the banal instead of seeking new horizons.

If pressed, I would say that the reason I have regressed back towards film (the last two months) is because the ease of digital has robbed me of something important. With film everything requires time and concentration. Each shot has to have something to validate the expense of shooting the frame, consequently composition is very, very important.

Nope, I am much more conservative today than I was yesterday, but that can/will change.

No idea of the technical data of this picture except that the film used was Ortho Classic Pan 200 asa and it was shot with a Canon Eos5 using a 50mm lens.

A Post Revisited

I received a comment and a request to enlarge on a post done on May 26th of this year. I put the post up just after I bought a battery grip for my camera in effort to induce myself to break the long established habit of shooting in the landscape position and shoot more in the portrait position.

In this post I explained I spent the day shooting with the camera in a vertical position to become overly  familiar with the compositional elements of this format.

Why did I think this necessary? Because one of the main problems I’ve always had with shooting in this style was negative space either at the top or bottom of the frame, as is evident in the first picture of the car, which was also the first image shot on the day. The unwieldiness due to the large expanse of black at the top of the picture easily demonstrates my lack of familiarity with the format when shooting street work.

The second image (according to the metadata), was shot about an hour later, and still evident is my need to fill the bottom of the frame which in this case left the top a little empty .

The frame is getting fuller and more controled by the third image, which was about two hours later. After aprox three hours and a couple of hundred frames the format has been tamed, as is evidenced in the last photo, which is obeying rules of two thirds but ignoring the time-honored tradition of not placing the center of interest in the center of the frame.

Since the May post the battery grip has remained connected to my working camera and I now work comfortably in either landscape or portrait position. In fact, I’ve begun to notice many of my contemporaries still shoot only in the landscape position, whereas now I’m constantly switching as I seek to optimize the compositional elements of the image within the frame.

The first two images were shot using 50 mm and the bottom two images using a 70-200mm.

I’ve also found that a when shooting in the portrait position a lens’ length of 50mm or more is often an easier option than a wide-angle lens.