It's been way too long....
I just looked at this neglected blog and I have to apologize to both of you who might actually follow this blog. I felt a bit stuck in my photography over the last couple of years. The funny thing is that I actually had an image published in a book, had a number of images in gallery shows, etc., but I haven't felt particularly inspired. I decided it is time to simply finish off a project and move along. The project I finished is some work I've done in California when there on business. It was all shot with the same camera and on the same two stretches of beach. All were printed as lith images....with almost all of them on vintage paper. I'll leave that for another post. Now that I've finished the project, I need to figure out what to do with it......
The Secret to Great Prints
OK, there is really no secret, but lith printing taught me something that helped my standard printing. And it is something that every book on printing will tell you: prints (generally) need a solid black and a solid white. I've never been a fan of this approach, but there is a bit of truth to it. For my priniting, I've always been OK with a bit of solid black with no details, but I can't stand solid white with no details so that is how I print. In lith you expose for the highlights and develop for the shadows. Straight printing can be similar. You expose for the midtone and adjust the contrast to get the highlights and shadows correct. If you look at the black church image above, you can see what I mean.
I recently went on a trip to Iceland organized by Bill Schwab (great photographer and all around good guy) to photograph the Western Fjords area. I'd highly recommend a trip there if you can swing it. Lot of water, green and sheep. Not many trees or people.
I primarily used a Hasselblad with 50-80-150 lenses. I also brought along a Leica M2 to play with, but this was a medium format-on-tripod kind of place. I only have a few images printed so far. There will be two separate bodies for work from this: landscape like this and abandoned things like old herring factories and ships. I suspect it will be a while before I get the complete work printed!
Macro and lith
As time goes on, I am tending more toward the abstract. I'm a lot more interested in forms, lines and shapes than the actual subject lately. I also have much less time to actually photograph. The answer for me is to look closer at everything. There is beauty in the details but they can be hard to see unless you are looking. Lith seems to complement this approach. I suspect I'll be trying to perfect this for a while!
New life for old paper
One thing I love about lith printing is the incredible variety of looks that are possible. Some of the favorite papers have been discontinued over the years and a few new ones pop up. The good news is that papers that are no longer good for regular printing are just fine for lith printing. The photo above was done on an ancient (like from the mid-60s) Luminos single weight paper. I bought about 200 sheets for about $10 on ebay. Old Agfa papers like Brovira work great. I have some Kodak Polycontrast RC from 1963 that still works. Amazing stuff. My favorites old papers are Kodak Polycontrast, Luminos, Oriental and Brovira.....but I still have a lot more to try. The only ones I have found that don't work are any Ilford papers (modern Ilford Warmtone is fantastic, though) and Kodak Kodabromide.
Controlling dust in the darkroom
Haven't printed all summer which is a bit disappointing, but it is fall and time to get back in the darkroom. I almost forgot how much I hate dust. I am lousy at spotting prints so I do everything I can to avoid it. There are two things that made my life much easier. First, I made my darkroom positively pressured. I have my ventilation fan blowing into the darkroom and I have a not-quite-HEPA filter on the outlet of the fan. Basically, I built a frame/plunum to hold the best furnace filter I could find and installed the biggest Panasonic remote bathroom ventilation fan I could find. This makes sure that no dust enters the darkroom while I am printing and keeps the chemical fumes out of the fan.
I also bought a Kinetronics film cleaner that was a repair part for a Fuji Frontier printer. It is a filtered vacuum with soft brush. I think I paid about $65.....well worth it and about 10% of retail.
In praise of less
I'm not sure why people think they need a wide range of focal lengths to be a good photographer. HCB needed maybe one or two. Maybe as you get better you need less. Personally, my normal lens (80 on med format) is good most of the time with the 150 getting ample service with the 50 doing less than 10%. Does that mean that I could only get along with one lens. I'd feel a lot more limited perhaps, but I'd bet that I'd get just as many good images. My favorite camera right now is my Fuji GA645zi.....it is a loud, obnoxious thing, but it allows me to be spontaneous in my shooting by not worrying about the exposure or the focus,,,,,or really the focal length. It varies from a gentle wide to a gentle tele. That is all I really need for most of what I shoot. For my Hassy, a 60 and 120 would be plenty.
Another great year for Photostock. Bill Schwab organizes a get together in Harbor Springs every year where 40-50 people hang out, shoot pictures, take in a few workshops, do portfolio reviews, and drink literally barrels of Oberon. You want wet plate, photogravure, pin up photography, lith.....there were workshops and presentations on all of them. Plus there were evening presentations by noted photographers Andrew Moore, Bill Schwab, and Suzanne Revy. Great people. Great area. Great time.
I did get a couple of requests to post my presentation. It was made as a presentation so there isn't a lot of text, but hopefully people will find it useful. I'll try to get some time to annotate it a bit to make it more useful. And feel free to contact me with any questions.
New York Times promoting film
I don't really understand why they focussed on the crappy camera movement, but any one who promotes film is OK by me.
Lith talk at Photostock 2012
I'll be giving a talk at Photostock this year. The talk will be in the evening of June 23 (tentatively). The talk will focus on the wide variety of looks possible with lith. If you are in the neighboorhood....
Mark Fisher, photographer, product developer and lover of old mechanical things