Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - Year in Review

It’s December 31,2012,  even though it doesn’t seem possible.  It literally feels like I was just sitting in downtown Sonoma, California, contemplating how my year in photography had ended up and what my resolutions for 2012 would be.  I was proud of my progress over the course of that year, but I was focused on not settling for what I had accomplished to date.  As I look back at my 2012 photo resolution post, I feel like I made some lofty goals for myself.  While I might not have accomplished everything on the list, I can walk away fully satisfied with the year I’ve had and an eye for even better things to come in 2013.

To recap, here were the resolutions I set for myself in 2012:
  • Shoot more
  • Shoot more film
  • Experiment more with Polaroid (Impossible Project)
  • Begin working in the darkroom
  • Start shooting large format
  • Expand my participation in art shows
  • Expand my participation in photo clubs
  • Participate in another solo show or a joint show
  • Start shooting Super 8
  • Experiment with alternative processes

Again, as I look at this list, I can’t help but think it’s a lofty list.  Regardless, here’s how I fared in 2012.  When I set the resolution of shooting more, it didn’t mean to shoot more in regards to quantity.  It meant to shoot more in regards to quality and to go on more dedicated photo excursions.  As I look back through my work from 2012, I can honestly say that I didn’t come near the quantity that I shot in 2011, but I certainly increased the quality of my work.  I feel that I’m my own worst critic; however, I would select almost any of my “best” images from 2012 and put them up against what I considered to be my best in 2011.  I really feel like my photography has taken a huge step forward in regards to the conceptual nature of what I create.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have a long ways to go, but I feel as if I’m heading in the correct direction.  In regards to the second part of the resolution, I did set aside more time for dedicated photo shoots/excursions.  In addition to the three vacations we took (Seattle, New York City, Upstate New York), I went to an analog photography weekend event in Cleveland, Ohio and I set up numerous photo shoots around my area for a few projects that I’m working on.  I believe those dedicated sessions were very integral in helping me to create more quality work in 2012.  
The second resolution was to shoot more film and I can say with a certainty that 2012 was most definitely a year of film.  I have already shot more rolls of film than I did last year with a few outstanding rolls to be finished up before the year’s end. I rarely touched my digital gear, only picking it up for a few shoots.  I used it for work, a few small projects and a family portrait shoot.  The rest of my year was spent producing black and white negatives I shot with (mostly) my medium format cameras.  Shooting film has completely altered the way I approach the creation of an image and has given me a finer appreciation for the finished product - a print.  There’s something to be said for the process of using film.  It’s the antithesis of immediate gratification.  You’re limited in the number of frames you have to shoot with and you can’t see the result instantaneously.  There’s a bit of anxiety involved, but the feeling of pulling your film out of the developing tank and seeing the images you took for the first time is something that absolutely can’t be replicated.

The next resolution was an extension of the shoot more film resolution.  It involved my continued experimentation with instant film.  I developed a love for instant photography in 2011 and I looked to continue that in 2012.  This was a resolution that I feel I didn’t fully accomplish.  I shot a lot of instant film over the course of the year, but I didn’t feel that I explored it’s full creative potential like I hoped for.  While I experimented with new types of film released by the Impossible Project, loaded up on their older formula films and started a project that had been in the conception stage for a year with their silver shade black frame film, I didn’t spend a great deal of time doing emulsion lifts, transparencies or reclaiming my negatives.  This is something I hope to rededicate myself to in 2013, but I’ll leave that for my 2013 photo resolutions post.

My fourth resolution involved a different type of experimentation - the traditional darkroom.  For me, this was the most important resolution of 2012.  I felt as if I couldn’t take my photography to the next level until I learned to work in the darkroom.  Darkroom work didn’t start until the third and fourth quarter of 2012, but I’m glad to say that I accomplished this resolution.  I had a lab at my disposal and a willing teacher ready to teach me through my connection with Edison Community College and the Edison Photo Society; however, due to the society’s transitional position with the college, that fell through.  After that, I went on a search for a public darkroom in my area and I came across one in the city of Kettering.  It simply required an orientation session and a small fee per use.  With a facility at my disposal, all I needed was some instruction and I was ready.  Luckily, a friend I met through the Film Photography Project, Mat Marrash, offered one-on-one workshops catered to the individual needs of the student. I  contacted him and he set up a two weekend workshop that would teach me the basics of film developing and the finer aspects of optical printing.  I have now successfully developed four rolls of film and have printed numerous contact sheets and a variety of working prints, all on my own.  I’m constantly learning and I love spending a few hours in the darkroom making my photography come to life.  I look forward to expanding my skills to print quality enlargements for future exhibitions and projects.

Resolution number five was to start shooting large format.  This is one resolution that I didn’t get around to.  I’m still very intrigued by large format and I plan on shooting it sometime in the future, it just wasn’t in the cards for 2012.  However, The Impossible Project recreated 8x10 instant film and I was able to secure an old 8x10 Polaroid processor from a friend, so I very well may be heading down the path to shooting 8x10.  If that is the case, Mat Marrash is an avid 8x10 shooter, so I’m sure another workshop could be developed if that’s the direction I want to take.

The next resolution was to expand my participation in art shows and competitions.  I’m proud to say that this was a resolution that I easily accomplished.  I competed in more exhibits (juried and non-juried) than I ever have before.  I exhibited my work all over the region and I even entered a few national and international competitions.  It was a very good year for awards and recognition, but I don’t plan on stopping there.  I already have an ongoing list of exhibits that I would like to enter in 2013; if I keep to that list, I should easily surpass my participation from 2012.  I just hope that I have as much success and luck in the coming year as I did this past year. In addition to my increased participation in art shows and competitions, I resolved to expand my participation in photo clubs.  While I didn’t join any additional clubs this past year, I spent a great deal of time helping the existing members of the Edison Photo Society decide the fate and direction of our struggling club.  A unanimous decision among members led us to break our affiliation with the college and refocus our efforts on the activities and presentations that mattered most to each of us.  We’re still on shaky ground, but the club is still together  and now has a clearer vision of what the future may hold. With that being said, I did participate in a photography critique at one of the local art councils and I met a number of other regional photographers due to my increased competition presence from the past year.  Whether or not I participate in any additional clubs in the coming year, I do look to build on the relationships with the people I met in 2012 to enrich my overall photography experience. 

My eighth resolution was to participate in another solo show or a joint show.  I didn’t participate in a solo show in 2012 and this was mainly due to the fact that I didn’t feel any of the work/projects that I’ve been working on were complete.  I don’t want to exhibit my work in a solo show capacity unless I feel that it’s finished, acceptable and worthy of public viewing.  I have a few projects in the works and I’ll see how the year plays out.  If you count any of the juried shows that I made my way into, those could be seen as joint exhibits, but outside of that, I didn’t obtain this resolution.  

My last two resolutions were also resolutions that I didn’t get around to this year.  One of them was to start shooting Super 8.  While this resolution is something that I do want to achieve, other items took precedent in 2012.  I am throwing around a few ideas for a “moving picture” as part of one of my projects and I recently was given a Lomography Lomokino for Christmas.  I plan on exploring this concept and hopefully it’s something that will come to fruition in 2013.  The last resolution was to start experimenting with alternative processes.  I was unable to achieve this resolution, but that’s mainly due to timing.  I didn’t start darkroom work until the end of the year and once I have a better handle on the basics, it will be natural for me to move to alternative processes.  I have a great network of individuals familiar with these processes and it will be very easy to obtain basic knowledge regarding these techniques.

In numbers, I obtained 4 of the 10 resolutions I set out to accomplish.  Three of the remaining six resolutions were touched on in different ways and three were not achieved.  Overall, I’m happy with my progress, as I mentioned earlier.  I progressed my photography and I look to follow that up with a great 2013.  Stay tuned for my 2013 Photo Resolutions and thanks for following along in my adventures; I really appreciate it.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Clauss Family Portraits

If you’re a follower of this blog or of my work in general, it’s evident that I don’t typically photograph people.  On occasion, you may see an image or two of a human being here or on my Flickr stream, but it falls into one of a few different categories:  (1) my wife, my muse; (2) street photography; (3) travel photography; (4) project-related photography and (5) work shoots (of which you won’t find on my personal photography sites).   Outside of those instances, family portraits, senior pictures, wedding/engagement pictures and child portraits have never been featured.  I consider myself a fine art photographer with a focus on still life, inanimate objects, architecture, decay, project-based photography and generally subjects that don’t require human interaction.  Yes, individuals are unique and fascinating (in most cases); however, it’s not what interests me when I’m behind the lens.  

I’ve begun to establish myself photographically over the last four years and while I’m happy with this fact, it brings about many requests from friends and family members.  It’s been my experience that the general public unknowingly thinks of photographers as having one specific purpose – portraiture work.  If I speak to someone outside of the photography or art world and I tell them that I’m into photography, they usually ask if I take senior pictures, family pictures, etc.  For some reason, that’s what’s been ingrained in their memories when someone says photography.  Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Stieglitz, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, etc. are never thought of.  Perhaps it’s because our (America’s) lack of focus on art education; I’m not sure, but that’s a debate for another blogpost.  Regardless, my photography has automatically been associated with the aforementioned styles.  Most of the time I politely decline; other times, I have agreed, but for one reason or another, participants change their mind about having the portraits.  Well, a few weeks ago I was asked by good friends if I would be willing to take family portraits.  Normally, this wouldn’t have been a complicated request, but this shoot would include their newest family member - their two month old son.  I thought about it for awhile and I decided that I would go ahead and help them out.  

If I was going to break out of my comfort zone, I wanted to do it my own way.  I immediately asked if they would mind if I shot black and white and instant film in addition to digital.  They didn’t mind, so I began brainstorming.  I checked out some of the portrait photographers in the area to see what type of work my new clients might be expecting or hoping for.  I developed a creative shot list and started thinking about different locations to use.  We initially set the shoot for a weekend day during the week of Oct. 21, but the weather forecast was not being kind to us.  With temperatures in the mid 70s during the week, I was able to accommodate a shoot on the evening of Oct. 25 with the option of a follow-up shoot on Oct. 28.  I asked them to meet me at Menke Park in Troy at 5:30 p.m.  I arrived early to scope out locations, lighting, leaves, etc.  Once they arrived, I was ready to get to work.   I knew we had very little time to work with the light changing every minute, but little did I know I was in for an even bigger surprise.

The moment baby Logan was taken out of the car, my carefully planned shot list went out the window.  Having a two month old on a photography set is like playing roulette.  He was tired, cranky, happy, crying, content and hungry, but never the emotion you were hoping for at a specific time.  I realized that my Hasselblad would have to stay in the bag and I was going to focus on getting what I could with my digital camera and my Polaroid SX-70.  I shot for a little over an hour, using the remaining light and providing a small amount of direction.  I decided it was best to let them naturally interact with each other and just shoot.  This is the exact opposite of how I normally approach my photography.  I take a great deal of time to set up a shot, use one to two exposures and then move on.  Moments with family and children sometimes happen so quickly that I found myself firing away.  I don’t prefer this type of shooting, but it served its purpose for this job.  Afterwards, I immediately went home to look at the images.  I was surprisingly happy with the shots, but I pushed for one additional shoot with the hopes of using some different techniques and cameras.

The second shoot was scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 28 at Charleston Falls around 12:30.  It was chilly and windy, but I was hopeful that the overcast day would provide nice lighting and I could experiment a little more than I did the prior shoot.  I found some great locations and I was upbeat about the possibility of Logan being in a better mood for this shoot.  That, unfortunately, didn’t happen.  He was crying more than the previous shoot and the colder air didn’t help him or his parents.  We shot at about half the locations I had planned to and the Hasselblad stayed in the bag for a second consecutive time.  I got a nice mixture of usable shots that complimented the images from the other shoot.  

While it didn’t go exactly as I planned, I adapted to the situation, I enjoyed the nice change of pace in subject matter and I delivered images that I was satisfied with.  I hope that they enjoy and cherish them as much as I enjoyed shooting them.  I wouldn’t mind doing a shoot like this again, but I would prefer to have more control over the situation so that I could shoot more conducive to my style and output.  As they found out, regardless of the true style or nature of the photographer, it never hurts to ask.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Darkroom Work Begins!

One of my 2012 photo resolutions was to develop and print my own negatives.  As of September 29, I officially began my journey down the rabbit hole that is the darkroom.  A great photographer friend of mine, Mat Marrash, was my instructor for a two day workshop.  Mat is an amazingly talented analog photographer that specializes in 8x10 large format and alternative process photography.  He’s the co-host of the Film Photography Podcast, completed not one, but two 8x10 one-a-day projects, has dabbled into wet plate and carbon printing, and has created an astounding body of work with his barbershop series.  If you haven’t checked out his site, do so here.

In addition to Mat’s photography, he has a wealth of knowledge in regards to traditional darkroom work and photographic chemistry and he offers to share that knowledge through classes and one-on-one workshops.  Since I wanted to learn the basics of film development, but spend more time on the printing process, I decided to contact him regarding a one-on-one workshop.  He enthusiastically created a two day workshop agenda spread over the course of two weekends.  So, on September 29, I made a trip up to Findlay, Ohio and spent four hours in the darkroom learning from one of the youngest and talented working photographers today. 

Mat’s enthusiasm for photography and the darkroom is contagious, which makes him a great teacher.  We covered the basics of developing tanks, film reels and loading film for development.  We quickly moved onto basic darkroom chemicals and actually developed the two rolls of 120 that I shot for “homework.”  While waiting for the negatives to dry, we took a quick trip to see Leslie at Imagine That! After blowing an hour or so geeking out about cameras and film, we headed back to get working on the negatives.  We cut and sleeved the negs, loaded them into a contact printer and printed contact sheets.  We were now getting to the part of the process that I was really excited about - creating a silver gelatin print from a negative that I exposed and developed by my own hand.  Even though the final product is the same (only in the sense of the word), scanning a negative and printing digitally is nothing compared to exposing a negative with an enlarger onto photographic paper and then watching the image appear before your eyes.  It’s absolutely magical.

Camera:  Hasselblad 500 c/m
Lens:  150mm
Film:  Kodak Tri-X 400

After evaluating the contact sheets, we chose three images to create working prints from.  We used 8x10 Oriental RC paper and went about the enlarging process.  The output ended at a total of five prints.  Mat taught me the basics of dodging and burning and we used that short lesson to make a few adjustments.  I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see the image emerge after a short time in the developer.  That feeling is taken to a whole new level after the print has been fixed, washed and dried and you’re holding it in your hands in daylight.  To know that what you’re holding was hand-made and you had control of the entire process from exposure to finished product, is a great part of photography that is generally missed from the today’s typical photography work flow.

The second session was more of the same, but with much more time spent on final prints.  I shot two more rolls of 120 for “homework” and then I attempted to load the film for the first time on the reels in the darkroom.  It took a little while, but with a little help, I was finally able to develop the film.  A little more practice on a dummy roll at home and I’ll have this process down in no time.  After developing and waiting for the negatives to dry, we went through the working print process again.  We made contact sheets, decided on two images and made some working prints.  After evaluating those, it was time to enlarge them and make final prints on 16x20 fiber based paper. 

"Wounded Wood"
Camera:  Hasselblad 500 c/m
Lens:  150mm
Film:  Kodak Tri-X 400

Last time, I spent the majority of my time souping the prints in the chemistry as I watched Mat operate the enlarger.  For these prints, running the enlarger was my job, so that I was comfortable with the entire process from enlarging to developing the test and final prints.  I’ve already mentioned that Mat is a great teacher, but I can honestly say that I walked away from the two session workshop confident in my abilities to walk into another darkroom and start hand producing my work.   

Watching these enlargements develop before my eyes was more exciting than the first session.  I was staring at a large print that may be hanging in an exhibit or competition and it’s something that I made with my own two hands.  The fiber based paper gives the print an entirely different feel and even though it’s a bit harder to work with (due to curling and longer development time), the finished product is more archival than RC and it just has a unique hand-made feel to it.  After going through an archival washing process, we toned the images with selenium toner.  This provided additional archival stability to the image as well as adding a little bit of punch to the final print (in terms of tonality). 

Camera:  Hasselblad 500 c/m
Lens:  150mm
Film:  Kodak Tri-X 400

Of the final two prints, I definitely have a favorite.  I can’t stop admiring the beauty of the silver gelatin and I know that I’ll never tire of producing them.  I want to send another thank you to Mat Marrash for giving up two weekend days to help me out in the darkroom.  Mat’s a brilliant photographer and teacher and is very willing to pass along his knowledge and help others develop their photographic skills to achieve their photographic dreams.  Besides that, Mat’s also a good guy that I consider a friend.  I’m glad I decided to make the initial trip to the FPP Midwest Meetup for his first gallery show.  If you’re interested in learning more about developing, printing, alternative processes or large format photography, Mat Marrash is your guy.  I’ll be getting back into the darkroom soon, so I’ll be posting more work on this blog in the near future.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Traveling and Photography - A Realization

While this blog has primarily been dedicated to photography (techniques, meet-ups, industry news, practicing artists/past legends, shoot reviews, etc.), it’s also served as a spot for me to reflect on my travels.  To me, traveling and photography go hand in hand.  It’s been ingrained in us since we were children that one of the most natural things to do while on vacation is to take pictures.  It serves as a reminder of where we were and what we did with our friends and family as we travel through life. 

After having hung up my Kodak Star 110 camera as a child and not touching a camera for years, I developed a new found love for photography and the photographic image in 2008.  This was brought about by my first trip to New York City and my desire to capture elements of this iconic city on camera.  But not just the standard “I was here and I took a picture” shots; I wanted to create something different from the standard tourist shots that I was used to seeing.  Since that time, I see traveling as an opportunity to capture something that I can’t see while I’m home.  Maybe it’s the change in surroundings that allow my eyes to see new possibilities for images everywhere; maybe it’s the ability to capture the true sense of a city that only a photographer and the bond with his camera can; or maybe, at the very least, it’s a need to document a piece of my own personal history.  When an image is created via film, it becomes a tangible object that can continually be revisited.  The same can be said of a digital image that is printed.  The things we see and encounter on our travels become real, tangible memories that can be held in our hands.  There’s something magical about that.

I tend to get overly excited about what cameras and film I’ll be taking on a trip.  It takes longer for me to pack my camera bag than it does to pack my suitcase and I’m usually traveling with no less than five cameras.  I may not use every camera that comes along, but at least I’m prepared for whatever shooting situation might arise.  Even with a large supply of film and an array of cameras at my side, I often find myself being disappointed with the amount of images I come back with.  I always wish I would’ve shot more.  It’s funny, because when I regularly shot digital when traveling, I came back with an abundance of images.  The images weren’t all keepers and the majority of them are simply taking up valuable storage space on my hard drives.  One of the reasons that I l began shooting film more is that it’s allowed me to slow down, examine the scene and use my exposures wisely.  I began shooting film because I wanted to craft my photos from hand (using film, chemistry and making optical prints) and I was tired of the over-processed, too perfect look of digital and now I find myself wishing I had the quantity of pictures that I did when I was shooting digital.
It took awhile, but I think I’ve realized that I will never take as many pictures when traveling as I did in the past.  There are a few reasons for this:
(1)  I’ve been shooting film avidly for almost two years now.  I’m in the mindset that I have a limited number of exposures and I want to use them wisely.  I have trained myself to be even pickier than I was before.  I will never go back to firing off exposures because I can. 

(2)  When traveling, I have a limited amount of time in a location with an abundance of things to see and do.  In order to accomplish all that is planned while on vacation, sacrifices have to be made.  One of those sacrifices can sometimes be the amount of time spent photographing a particular location or the aimlessly wandering around taking photographs that can be easily accomplished while you’re at home. 

(3)  These travels are not specific photography excursions, where the entire day will be spent photographing whatever it is that I want.  I’m trying to create experience and memories with my wife and those don’t always include a camera. 

At some point in my life, I’ll travel to destinations for the sole purpose of photography.  Until then, I have to stop putting so much pressure on myself to come back with rolls upon rolls of film after a four, five or even seven day vacation.  I’m still shooting while on vacation, just not to the same degree that I shoot while I’m not on vacation.  I also have to accept the idea that sometimes it’s alright to shoot something to show that “I’ve been there.”  Vacations and travels are about experiencing local cultures, enjoying a new landscape and taking in this massive world that is outside of our doorsteps and comfort zones.  I briefly touched on it in my last blog post about Seattle, but the feelings and the memories that you bring back should resonate with you longer than any tangible item.  Engulf yourself in the city, become part of the local culture and reflect often.  It’s the true essence of travel; if I embrace this idea, my travel photography will come much easier and may even break down the rut that I seem to find myself in.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


This year, my annual anniversary trip took my wife and I to Seattle.  Seattle has been on both of our travel lists for awhile now and it is one of the premier cities, if not the premier city, in the Pacific Northwest.  Seattle is situated on a narrow strip of land between two bodies of water; the salt waters of Puget Sound and the fresh waters of Lake Washington.  The area was first settled in 1851 and they originally dubbed the settlement "New York," but after moving to what is now known as Pioneer Square, they soon renamed it Seattle.

It's funny that the first settlers named the city New York, because I compared the two cities frequently during the trip.  The similarities between them are obvious (at least in my eyes): intellectuals are in abundance, foodies have many choices, culture and diversity is appreciated and celebrated, iconic landmarks are present and each city is made up of very distinct and different areas.  Where they differ is the pace of each cities' inhabitants.  Seattle is much more laid back than New York.  The people seem friendlier and things seem to move at a more relaxed and "chill" manner.  Don't get me wrong, I love visiting New York, but it's not a place that I would consider living.  However, I could see myself living in Seattle.  There's something about the Pacific Northwest and Seattle specifically that's very appealing.  Maybe it was the fact that I was visiting during my anniversary with my wife or that we had wonderful weather and we were able to experience a lot that the city had to offer.  Regardless, I really connected with the city and I feel as if I was really able to take in the environment and surroundings.

Our stay was split into two areas (Belltown and Downtown).  It didn’t matter a great deal because Seattle is a very easy city to get around in and the hotels were literally a few miles apart on the same street.  Walking to various locations is very feasible and for areas that are a little farther from your accommodations, the bus is a cheap and easy mode of public transportation.  All it takes is a little consulting of the King County Metro Transit website and you will have the entire trip planned out for you.  During specific times of the day and year, the bus is free within a set downtown Seattle Radius.  We began our trip in Belltown, a cool, little neighborhood featuring some fabulous dining spots and interesting boutique shops.  It’s within walking distance of Pike Place Market, the Seattle Waterfront and Seattle Center.  One of the gems of that neighborhood was our hotel, The Ace Hotel.  The Ace is a hip, boutique hotel which occupies a historical building.  The décor can be described as hip, funky, Pacific Northwest chic.  The pricing is outstanding for a downtown Seattle hotel and the staff will recommend cool spots that won’t be found in a guidebook or by your fancy hotel concierge.  If you’re ever in Seattle, I highly recommend staying there.  A few other cool spots to visit in the Belltown area are Macrina Bakery, Local 360 and Bedlam Coffee.
Camera:  Polaroid SX-70
Film:  Impossible Project PX100 UV+ Test Film

Camera:  Polaroid SX-70
Film:  Impossible Project PX100 UV+ Test Film

On our very first night in Seattle, we did the touristy thing and headed over to the Space Needle.  If you weren’t aware, the Space Needle is currently celebrating its 50th Anniversary.  It was built in 1962 as the symbol of the World’s Fair which eventually lead to it being the symbol of Seattle.  It’s one of the most recognizable structures in the world and is worth seeing in person.  The ride up to the top is bit of a tourist trap, but it’s worth doing once to see the Seattle skyline from a 360 degree view.  As a photographer, it’s hard to approach a subject so iconic because it’s been “photographed to death” by countless individuals.  However, I tried to use my unique approach to photography as well as draw inspiration from Zeb Andrews’ Eiffel Tower series to shoot the Space Needle differently.  I was happy with what I was able to capture.

Camera:  Canon AE-1P
Film:  Kodak Tri-X 400

Camera:  Canon AE-1P
Film:  Kodak Tri-X 400

Camera:  Canon AE-1P
Film:  Kodak Tri-X 400

Our first full day in the city began on a bike.  We took a two hour bike tour of the city, visiting many different areas like Pioneer Square, the International District and the Seattle Waterfront.  Our guide also provided us with a great deal of history about Seattle and the various areas that we saw.  It was a great tour, but buyers beware when biking in Seattle; the hills are killer.  From a couple that usually bikes an average of 10 miles per bike ride, we thought it would be rather easy.  Trust me, you find out how flat Ohio is after biking in Seattle.  After our tour, we walked a few blocks to Pike Place Market.  It was super crowded (as it was every time we passed it) and loaded with tourists but it featured some of the freshest fruit, vegetables, seafood, flowers and goods you can find.  We picked up a few lunch items, including some amazingly delicious peaches, and enjoyed lunch while overlooking the waterfront.  We did some shopping and stopped back at the hotel; from there we headed to another area called Ballard.  Ballard is off the beaten path in Seattle and is an old railroad/shipping town.  We didn’t spend much time there, but we were treated to some authentic Comida Tipica Mexican food at Senor Moose.  If you like authentic Mexican, then this hole in the wall restaurant is definitely a place to look up.  After scoring a table upon arrival, the place was at capacity and there was a steady 35-45 minute wait for patrons from the moment we were seated until after we left.  It was also voted best Mexican Restaurant in 2012 by Seattle Weekly as well as Best Margarita.  Believe me; it lived up to the hype.  Afterwards, we then headed to the super hip Capitol Hill neighborhood for drinks and dessert at an ultra cool prohibition style bar named Tavern Law. 

Camera:  Polaroid 440 Automatic Land Camera
Film:  Fuji FP-100C

Our last two days in Seattle were packed with activities.  After some antiquing on the waterfront, we hopped a ferry to Bainbridge Island.  Bainbridge is a 30 minute ferry ride from Seattle and is about 28 square miles and has a population of a little over 23,000 people.  To give you an example of its’ size, Manhattan is about 23 square miles in size but has a population of about 1.6 million. It’s a little bigger than NYC, but with only 1% of the population.  The community is vibrant, artsy and quaint.  The town center, Winslow, is bustling with boutiques, shops, bistros, cafes, galleries and museums.  It’s a great place to spend a day.  After exploring on foot, we decided to rent bikes for the afternoon and make the trek to an organic distillery about 2.5 miles away from the town center.  Again, we were faced with the harsh reality of Washington State hills. It took us 45 minutes to get the distillery and we were exhausted.  The distillery, Bainbridge Organic Distillers, was a fun pit stop.  While their operation is small and they’re still trying to perfect their formulas, they have managed to create a gin that is very distinctive and they have a waiting list for their whiskey, which was still aging in the barrels.  After a few samples and a bike ride back to the ferry, it was time to head back to Seattle for the evening.

Camera:  Canon AE-1P
Film:  Kodak Tri-X 400

Our last day was spent exploring, shopping, eating and drinking in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.  We briefly explored this area when grabbing a drink at Tavern Law, but this time we had more time and were able to explore it in daylight.  Like other areas of Seattle, Capitol Hill is situated on a hill and is east of the central business district.  This neighborhood is very hip and reminds me a lot of the Lower East Side in NYC.  If you’re looking for a variety of things to do and a vibrant night life, then this neighborhood is the perfect place to spend your time.  After a fulfilling brunch at Oddfellows, vinyl, book and vintage shopping, coffee and espresso at Espresso Vivace and a few brews at Elysian Brewing Co., we headed to the Bumbershoot festival.  This is Seattle’s annual Labor Day Music and Arts Festival.  It’s a three day event that features countless music acts (including some fairly big names), comedians, arts and food vendors.  We had a great time at the festival and were able to watch sets from City and Colour and M. Ward.  It was the perfect end to our wonderful trip.

Camera:  Polaroid SX-70
Film:  Impossible Project PX70 Cool

Camera:  Polaroid SX-70
Film:  Impossible Project PX70 Cool

Camera:  Polaroid SX-70
Film:  Impossible Project PX70 Cool

After a morning coffee run at Stumptown Coffee Roasters, it was time to hop a cab to the airport and head back to Ohio.  In my research for the trip, I came across a quote from an article by Travel + Leisure’s Gary Shteyngart.  He was writing about a recent trip to the city and a waitress said to him:  “You have to leave it to love it.”  I think that quote sums up Seattle – you don’t know how magical it is until after you’ve visited.  Being with the right people helps, but there’s just something about this city.  It will stick with you and that’s greater than any souvenir you can purchase.  That’s how traveling should be; the feeling and memories of your short time in locations and destinations should resonate with you longer than the magnet or trinket you brought back home.  Embrace the city, become part of the local culture and reflect often.  It’s the true essence of travel and you’ll never forget.

Camera:  Canon AE-1P
Film:  Kodak Tri-X 400

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Lucie Foundation International Photography Awards

2012 International Photography Awards Announces Winners of the Competition
The 2012 International Photography Awards received nearly 18,000 submissions from 104 countries across the globe. IPA is a sister-effort of the Lucie Foundation, where the top three winners are announced at the annual Lucie Awards gala ceremony. The Foundation's mission is to honor master photographers, to discover new and emerging talent and to promote the appreciation of photography. Since 2003, IPA has had the privilege and opportunity to acknowledge and recognize contemporary photographer's accomplishments in this specialized and highly visible competition. Visit

I'm very excited to announce that I was awarded in the International Photography Awards Competition for the following:

  • Honorable Mention in Architecture - Buildings category for the winning entry"Solitude."
  • Honorable Mention in Architecture - Historic category for the winning entry"Solitude."
  • Honorable Mention in Architecture - Interior category for the winning entry"Solitude."
  • Honorable Mention in Architecture - Other category for the winning entry"Solitude."
  • Honorable Mention in Deeper Perspective - Deeper Perspective category for the winning entry "Solitude."
You can view my work and the other winners in the gallery here.

I've been working on an ongoing series, photographing abandoned prisons and mental institutes. Below is the five image series "Solitude" and a companion piece that I submitted to the competition.

Solitude emphasizes the quality of being or living alone.  We are born into this world in a state of solitude and we leave it in the same manner.  From a young age, we are taught to stand on our own two feet regardless of the countless interactions we may encounter through our existence.  What path those two feet lead us down depends on a series of choices that we, alone, make. The juxtaposition of our choices should allow us an unveiled view of the outcome; however, the world in which we live is filled with in betweens and blurred boundaries.  Black and white become grey, light and dark become neutral and right and left become moderate.  Regardless, one choice has to be made and each choice will bear a consequence which we must accept.  In the end, aren’t we simply making choices that somehow further our solitude in one way or another?    

Show Season

We're halfway through September and a week away from the official start of fall.  Football (High School, College and NFL) kicked off the last couple of weeks and in Ohio the shift in seasons is evident.  In the art world in west central Ohio and elsewhere, it also happens to be show season.  One of my photo resolutions for 2012 was to put my work on display more than I have before and part of that requires entering shows.  Although my blog posts have been spread out this year, I've been producing a lot of work, it's just that it's all been part of bigger projects that I've not been ready to unveil to everyone yet.  However, for those of you that would like to see some current and past work, here's where you can find me right now:

Gateway Arts Council 1st Biennial Photography Show
216 N. Miami Ave.
Sidney, Ohio 45365
September 10 - September 28
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Pieces on display:  "Fallen," "Man on the Street" and "Untitled"
*Second Place- Still Life

Piqua Arts Council 20th Annual Art Show
Apple Tree Gallery
405 N. Main Street
Piqua, Ohio 45356
September 14-September 21
Pieces on display:  "Free," "Prohibition," and "Solitude"
*Honorable Mention- Photography

Greenville Art Guild Annual Fall Show
Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center
4267 St. Rte. 502
Greenville, Ohio 45331
September 29 - October 3
Pieces on display:  "Alone," "Free," and "Solitude"
*Second Place- Professional Photography

2nd Annual Holga Out of the Box International Competition - Juried Show
TCC Photo Gallery
207 N. Center St.
Longview, TX 75601
October 5 - November 30
Pieces on display (web only):  "Stop"

Wassenberg Art Center 35th Annual Photography Exhibit - Juried Show
Wassenberg Art Center
643 S. Washington St.
Van Wert, OH 45891
October 6 - November 2
Pieces on display:  "Alone," "Solitude," "Ed," "Fallen," "Gone by Night" and "The Same, but Different"
*Best in Show (Black and White) and First Place- Nighttime Photography

So, if you're in the mood to look at some great local art, I recommend checking out these great exhibits.  If you're interested in more of my work, head over to my Flickr page.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Random Camera- Olympus XA2

Hello again!  It's time for another entry into my random camera/random film series.  Today, I will be discussing the Olympus XA2.  Typically, when I create posts for this series, I've at least shot the camera or film in question a number of times; however, I've only used the Olympus XA2 once.  I feel that I have a pretty good handle on this camera after one use and since the images were from the Analog's Pulse event in June, I figured it would be a nice way to wrap up that experience.

The Olympus XA (predecessor of the XA2) was introduced in 1979 and quickly became the standard for the XA series.  It was a true rangefinder with aperture priority exposure and a six element lens.  It is a compact, but mighty little camera and was the first of four cameras within the XA series.  Now that you have a brief overview of the original, let's talk about the camera that I have - the Olympus XA2.

The XA2 was introduced in 1980, a year later than the XA and was a more simplistic version of the XA.  The first noticeable difference between the two cameras is the focusing.  The rangefinder focusing of the XA was replaced with a zone focusing system of 3 feet to infinity.  Aperture priority exposure was replaced with an automatic exposure system and the six element lens was replaced with a four element f3.5 lens.  What started as a tiny rangefinder became a tiny point and shoot 35mm camera.  I happened to obtain this camera almost by accident.  I was at an auction about a year and a half ago.  The auction featured a multitude of old film cameras; most of them grouped into box lots.  I was present when the auction began and waited for a few hours, but only a few boxes had been auctioned off.  I was discouraged and didn't want to waste the entire day away, so I left.  After lunch and a few other errands, I decided to go back to see if anything was still left.  Sure enough, the majority of the cameras were still waiting to be auctioned off.  The auctioneer began auctioning off box lots for small amounts of money.  I had my eye on numerous Polaroid SX-70s and ended up winning two boxes for the low price of $11.  I obtained three different SX-70 models in addition to a number of other cameras and accessories.  Hidden in one of those boxes was an untouched Olympus XA2 with accompanying A11 flash unit.  I replaced the batteries and the camera worked like a charm.  It set in my never ending stack of cameras until I decided that Analog's Pulse would be the perfect time to use it.

There are two things that stand out to me when I talk about this camera.  First is the clam shell cover that slides open to essentially turn on the camera and subsequently reveals the lens.  It's a typical feature for Olympus compacts, but there's something that I love about it.  It's almost as if it was created for spies instead of consumers; the cover masking the main thing that makes it a camera - the lens.  However, it pales in comparison to the wonderful Minox spy cameras that are an engineering marvel and are still available and functional today.  Regardless, it brings a bit of intrigue (at least for me) to the camera.  The second thing is the shutter.  The shutter is a square red button on top of camera.  This is the most sensitive shutter that I've ever encountered.  A fellow film photographer that I met on Analog's Pulse, John Meadows, made the comment that he didn't want to get too close for fear that he might sneeze and set off the shutter.  His comment is not too far from the truth.  In fact, the first time I was introduced to a member of the XA series, I set off the shutter and didn't even realize it.  In addition to its sensitivity, it's also very quiet and functions in such a stealthy manner that it again brings about visions of spies during the Cold War.

In regards to the camera's functionality, it's fairly straight forward and can pretty much be used "right out of the box."  There is an "aperture" button on the front of the camera for you to determine the distance to your subject.  Once selected, simply point, compose and click the shutter.  The camera chooses the appropriate shutter speed and aperture and does all of the work for you.  Simply wind the film and follow those steps continuously until your roll is fully exposed.  One thing to remember about this camera is that every time you close the clam shell cover, the focus button resets itself; so, make sure you have the correct distance selected before you fire the shutter.  The camera seems to handle fairly well in a number of different lighting situations.  I used the camera to begin the day when it was overcast and rainy; I went into a few darkened alleys and I shot it when the sun was blazing overhead.  It performed quite well for a compact point and shoot.

A few things I noticed about this camera:

-  There is a green light that occasionally comes on in the viewfinder.  It's actually hard to notice, as I didn't even realize there was a light until the end of my roll.  Apparently this is to alert you to under/over exposure.  It still allows you to take a shot, but there is the potential for the exposure to be off a bit.  When reviewing the images, there were a few that were a bit darker with more grain, but nothing unusable.  So, I assume that the light was flashing when I was creating those exposures.
-  While the compact size makes the Olympus XA2 a great traveling companion, I found it to be a bit awkward in my hands.  I'm typically used to shooting larger medium format cameras or a standard 35mm SLR, so this more delicate than I'm used to.  It doesn't necessarily take away from the camera, but it took some getting used to on my part.
-  The Lomography LC-A+, the flagship Lomography camera, is a sleek, portable, highly coveted 35mm camera.  As great as it may be (I haven't had the privilege of using one yet), it does come with a steep price tag.  The Olympus XA2 (or one of the other XA models) is the perfect substitute.  Yes, the Lomo LC-A+ boasts a 32/2.8 Minitar lens, has multiple apertures, a multiple exposure switch and has the capability to add numerous accessories, but you can still apply the same Lomo rules and attitude when shooting the Olympus XA2.  So, if you want a similar camera and don't won't to shell out a fortune, pick up an Olympus for a fraction of the price.  You can always upgrade later.

Overall, shooting the Olympus XA2 was a nice change of pace for me.  Coupled with Ilford HP5+ 400 black and white film, I was able to produce some decent, higher grain, photos during the first photo walk of Analog's Pulse.  I tend to prefer shooting my SLR and Medium format cameras, so I'm not sure how often I'll use this.  However, I can't rule out that this won't end up in my camera bag on the next outing :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Analog's Pulse Instant Photos

In my last post, I mentioned that one of the three photo walks that took place during the Analog's Pulse weekend in Cleveland, Ohio was an instant photo walk.  This was probably my favorite walk of the day, as I was able to use two of my favorite cameras - The Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera and the Polaroid SX-70 Sonar One Step with ND filter.  While I didn't place in the instant photo contest, I did create a few images that I'm very happy with.  Below are some of the fruits of that walk.  Enjoy!

Camera:  Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera
Film:  Impossible Project PX70 Cool

Camera:  Polaroid SX-70 Sonar One Step w/ ND Filter
Film:  Impossible Project PX600 Silver Shade UV+ Black Frame

Camera:  Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera
Film:  Impossible Project PX70 Cool

Camera:  Polaroid SX-70 Sonar One Step w/ ND Filter
Film:  Impossible Project PX600 Silver Shade UV+ Black Frame

Camera:  Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera
Film:  Impossible Project PX70 Cool

Camera:  Polaroid SX-70 Sonar One Step w/ ND Filter
Film:  Impossible Project PX600 Silver Shade UV+ Black Frame

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Analog's Pulse

I have a number of blogposts on the horizon and I thought I would start them off with an overview of a great event that I attended last week.  The event was a three day film photography extravaganza (digital shooters were welcome too) in Cleveland, Ohio.  Analog's Pulse was coordinated by Scott Meivogel, photographer and owner of Aperture:  A Photography and Variety Store in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland and was sponsored by A and A Studios, Film Photography Project and Old School Photo Lab.

As the title of the event implies, this event was focused on film photography.  While digital technology has been flooding the photography landscape for the past decade, there has been an increasing number of shooters switching to film or rediscovering film.  There is a movement taking place and there is a clear energy behind it.  It's a very exciting time to be a photographer, especially one that loves to shoot film.  Regardless of your personal opinions, it's clear that Lomography and The Impossible Project have helped to foster this rejuvenation; all which led to an event like this being held in my home state of Ohio.

The event kicked off on Friday night with a "social hour" opening reception at Aperture.  A group of approximately 20-25 people attended from different areas of the U.S. (even Canada), enjoyed some frosty beverages and listened to opening remarks by Scott, Michael Raso of the Film Photography Project and Jake Bouchard of Old School Photo Lab.  After we went over the itinerary for Saturday and purchased our film, we went our separate ways.  I had the pleasure of having dinner with a few individuals at Prosperity Social Club.  Jared, a relatively new photographer from Point Pleasant, West Virginia (home of the "famed" Moth Man) and Chris and Katie, two amazing photographers from Milwaukee, were my company for the evening.  We enjoyed great food, beer and conversation.  Chris and Katie regularly travel Route 66 and document it with the help of Polaroid cameras and film.  In fact, they just released a book, six years in the making, entitled Polaroid Photos from Route 66.  In addition to that, they run a site entitled "Fading Nostalgia," they're Urban Explorers and Chris is an amazing night photographer.  It was a pleasure to meet these great individuals and it was the perfect kick off to the weekend.

Camera:  Canon AE-1P
Lens:  50mm
Film:  Fuji Provia 100 (XPro)
Saturday was a jam packed day with three themed photo walks, with the first set to start at 8:30 a.m.  We were to meet in between Gund Arena and Jacob's Field (now Quicken Loans Arena and Progressive Field) and start out on a street photography themed walk.  While the numbers weren't to the level of RSVP's received on Facebook, there were still a good number of people that showed up for this event and we added individuals as the day went on.  We made our  way through the Gateway District, E. 4th Street and ended at Public Square.  The walk was very informal, with Scott pointing out various landmarks as we walked.  Shooting took place sporadically, with different groups forming and advancing along the path.  For the first part of the day, I decided to keep my shooting pretty mindless and went with two "point and shoot" film cameras.  I broke out the Olympus XA2 loaded with Ilford HP5 Plus black and white film (I'll post those results once the roll is developed) and my Holga micro 110 camera loaded with Lomography's new Orca 110 black and white film.  I was able to finish my roll of HP5, but didn't shoot my 110.  The morning started out hazy with drizzle and the fixed aperture and shutter speed of the micro Holga coupled with the 100 speed of the film didn't lend itself to being used.  By the end of the first walk, the haze and drizzle lifted, the sun came out and the heat began to intensify.  I enjoyed the walk, but after attending several meet-ups, I've come to the conclusion that this type of event doesn't lend itself to my style of shooting.  I'm a solitary photographer that takes a lot of time to line up a shot, using my exposures sparingly and prefers to shoot with a tripod versus hand held. However, it's fun to meet new like minded people and geek out about cameras, film, photography and beer :)

Camera:  Canon AE-1P
Lens:  50mm
Film:  Fuji Provia 100 (XPro)
After a bit of a break and some rest, the instant cameras came out to play and the instant photo walk began. Most attendees were shooting multiple cameras, with a mixture of Polaroid pack film cameras and Polaroid integral film cameras being used.  I sported my original Polaroid SX-70 loaded with Impossible Project PX70 Cool film and my Polaroid SX-70 Sonar One Step with ND filter loaded with PX600 Silver Shade UV+ Black Frame.  This walk featured a contest for the best instant photo submitted (with three wonderful prizes at stake as well as pride) and spanned through the Warehouse District and the Flats.  It was a great walk, hearing the beautiful Polaroid sound coming from many integral cameras and other individuals pulling and peeling pack film.  I have a number of images from that walk that I'll also post once I have them scanned.  After the walk, we all chose our one best shot for the contest and headed back to E. 4th Street for lunch.  We decided on Flannery's Pub at the corner of Prospect and E. 4th.  I had a wonderful Reuben sandwich, enjoyed some beer and wonderful company.  We had about a total of two hours before the next walk was set to start.  I had a brief issue with my Hasselblad back (which seems to be fine now) and so instead of shooting a roll of slide film for the next walk in my medium format beauty, I had to switch it up to a roll of 35mm slide film in my Canon AE-1P with 50mm lens.  Since my hotel was right down the street, I switched out cameras, unloaded some gear and grabbed an iced coffee at the Erie Island Coffee Company before we headed out for the third and final walk of the day - the cross process walk.  We headed out to the theater district of Cleveland and snapped away using film provided courtesy of A and A Studios.  Jake Bouchard from Old School Photo Lab gave us a few pointers on shooting the film for cross processing and we trekked across the theater district and ended up in an old cemetery right behind Jacob's Field.  I had fun on this walk, but I had to change gears as a shooter, seeing as how I had to get through 36 frames within two hours.  Anyone that knows my photographic style and how I shoot knows that the task set before me is a tough one.  However, I was able to finish, although I had about 10 "throw away" exposures and candids at Panini's, which was where we ended the day.  Scott said a few words, announced the winners of the instant photo shoot, and we all drank and enjoyed each other's company.  After awhile, everyone began to go their own way and soon the night was over.

Camera:  Canon AE-1P
Lens:  50mm
Film:  Fuji Provia 100 (XPro)
Even though a few attendees headed out on Sunday for a large format walk, my Analog's Pulse experience was over.  It was a great time and I'm glad I could take part in the event.  I met a lot of great photographers and people for that matter, enjoyed great food and company and got to shoot the cameras that I love so much.  It was the second time that I've been to Cleveland in the past few months and I'm really beginning to dig the city.  I want to return to shoot some of the areas by myself; where I can set up my tripod and just take my time.  Regardless, I would participate in this event again.  I know something is brewing for next year,  so stay tuned to Scott's website and get excited for F8 in 2013.  Until then, cheers and keep shooting!

Camera:  Canon AE-1P
Lens:  50mm
Film:  Fuji Provia 100 (XPro)