Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Aprl 2012 Photographers' Formulary Newsletter

The April 2012 Photographers' Formulary Newsletter is Ready for Download

Click here to download:  http://goo.gl/CjgXl

This month we welcome a guest from The Land Down Under. Ms. Kathie Nichols of the Gold Coast of Australia is self taught, first as a painter, and more recently as a photographer. Kathie discovered the joys of photography as she took snapshots to use as models for her paintings, and stumbled on Abstract Macro Photography. You know, the little Flower symbol on your digital camera? Nichols discovered a whole new world eight years ago and has been exploring it ever since.

Then take advantage of Malin Fabbri's offer of a free book, Pinhole to Print, in return for your registration for a year's Supporting Membership in Alternative Photography.com. Sign up for Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, (it's April 29 this year,) and have a blast using one of the earliest means of capturing your image.

The Newsletter Specials feature Formulary Toners this month. The featured specials are 15% off, and a good bargain.

The 2012 Summer Workshops are rushing up on us. Four featured June workshops are on a single page for your easy selection. Sign up for yours now using the 2012 workshop application attached to the newsletter. If you can't make it in June, the entire 2012 Summer Schedule is attached for your review. Remember, click on the title of any workshop to automatically download the full size PDF description.

Anthony Mournian, editor
Photographers' Formulary Newsletter
Questions? Call 1-800-922-5255

Click here to download:   http://goo.gl/CjgXl

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Javier Alonso: From Large Format to Holga

Javier Alonso: From Large Format to Holga
   For the month of June 2011 we turn to the Caribbean for the work of Javier Alonso, native of Rodas, Cuba. Alonso says he’s always been interested in photography. When his family got its first camera in 1970 Javier was excited and volunteered to take all the photographs. As a result, and as is common with photographers, Alonso is in few family photographs. He was happy, however, to compose the image in the viewfinder and to make the image.

    Javier came to the United States in 1972 when he was fifteen years old. He finished his high school at University of San Diego High School in San Diego, California and went on to college at the University of Southern California. After the scholarships and money ran out he transferred to San Diego State University from which he received his B.S. in Civil Engineering in 1989. He continues to work as a civil engineer with the California Department of Transportation (Cal Trans) in San Diego, California, while pursuing his passion of photography in every waking hour.

   Javier spent all his savings to buy his first camera in 1979, a Nikon EM.  Then a starving college student, he didn’t have much cash to buy film and wasn’t able to shoot many rolls because he was shooting only in color and couldn’t afford the film and the printing. It wasn’t until 2002 that he began taking classes at Grossmont Community College in the City of El Cajon (translated, “the bhjox”) and fell in love with the darkroom. In May 2008 he received an AA with the first Grossmont College graduating Photography class.

   Once a month he would take a weekend to shoot. After he started working (and making some money) he was able to go shooting more often and shot 4 or 5 rolls at a time. He had no formal photographic training, but by trial and error, reading the manual and photo magazines he began to teach himself the technical aspects of photography. (For example he discovered depth of field increases as you close the ƒ/stop). He figured out how to meter the important shadow of the image.  Some examples of his early work  are “Driftwood,” “Flower 1,” andYerba Buena Island”).

Yerba Buena Island

    Soon after he married, his wife recognized Alonso’s passion for photography and urged him to take a photo class at Grossmont College. She said he was shooting like a maniac and wanted him to learn to be more selective.  Alonso enrolled in Photo I and tried his hand at black and white photography for the first time.  His first print in the darkroom seemed to him almost “a divine apparition.’  He says, “Watching the image appear in the paper was something just short of a miracle.”  From that moment he developed a deep interest in the darkroom and realized to be a true artist you have to have control of all the phases of photography. He believes the printer as well as the photographer is an artist, and unless the printer is also the photographer he gets little or no credit for the final image. For that reason Alonso prints his own images.

   During his first semester at Grossmont Alonso decided to try street photography.  He needed to be in peoples’ faces most of the time and found street photography challenging. Two examples are his “Window WashersandDay at the Gym.”
Window Washers

   Taking a Large Format camera class opened more new horizons. The large negative and the camera movements gave him more control in making the image. (Country Store).  He found he could selectively focus in ways he would not have been able using a 35 mm camera. Or, the opposite, he could choose to have an area completely out of focus.  He learned how to take advantage of camera movements to make an image of a tall building without the convergence common with hand held cameras.

Day at the Gym
Barn J-9 Ranch
   This opened the field of alternative photography (contact printing) to him.  These processes are labor intensive in all the steps from creating the precise negative, sizing and coating the paper, to exposing and processing the final print.  Alternative processes Alonso has tried include Salted Print, Albumen, Vandyke Brown (Grape Press), Wet Collodion, Cyanotype, and Palladium (Courtyard, Mission San Miguel, Mission San Diego and Barn J-9 Ranch

   After several years of working with Large format imagery (e.g, Window into the Canyon,) Alonso was introduced to the anti-Large Format Holga camera.  With little control over the image the Holga is the opposite of the Large Format camera. Incompletely focused images are common. The only thing in focus is the center of the image. Light leaks are common, as is vignetting (darkening of one to all corners of the image).

   Even though Alonso likes to use a large format camera he was captivated by the uniqueness of the Holga image. Images which he made from the Grand Canyon show the wonkiness of the Holga.  Photographers often use a large format camera to capture all the detail of the canyon but the Holga gives images a feel that they were taken in the early days of photography. Examples of Alonso’s Holga images are Lone Tree Overlooking the Canyon, and Tree Waves to the Canyon.
Window into the Canyon
Tree Waves to the Canyon North Rim

Mission San Diego
   Javier is a member of the ƒ-45 Group a photography group organized by retired Grossmont College Instructor Jim Noel. The group’s purpose is to encourage the use of large format photography and film photography in general. Through the ƒ-45 Group Alonso has exhibited at the New American Museum in 2010, the San Carlos Library in 2010, and, the Borrego Art Institute in 2011. Alonso has exhibited and has work as part of the permanent collection at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas as part of the Al Weber “California Missions” portfolio series.

Joshua Tree
Grape Press

All photos © Javier Alonso, used with permission

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Heidi Kana Emidy: Multifacted Photographer

Hanging on the walls of a modest San Diego restaurant, the Nazca Grill, is a collection of images taken by photographer Heidi Kana Emidy. Emidy, born in Tupper Lake, New York, raised in Argentina, Brazil and Peru and graduated from high school in San Diego, has been a photographer for most of her life.

Heidi lives a portion of the year in San Diego, where she devotes herself to her work as a holistic healer, and where she assembles videos of her images from mountain villages and remote locations in Peru.

The photographs at the Nazca Grill are a small sample of Emidy’s work. They show women spinning the wool of the Peruvian Alpaca and Llama in preparation for weaving colorful blankets, shawls and scarves. From colorful balls of yarn dyed in herbs the women fashion traditional patterns on simple looms. 

Peru is a country rich in precious metals, but poor in arable land. Though the country is large in square miles, many areas are  unsuitable for growing crops. The towering Andes are rock, with an thin layer of soil in narrow valleys. There are no wide open spaces or broad plains as we have in the United States for growing crops, and what little arable land in the Andes Mountains exists is often on precipitous slopes requiring careful terracing to accommodate plantings.

Emidy has used her camera in Peru to document her work with the village of Challabamba east of the mountain city of Cusco as she works with a Padre Mateo, the priest of the local church. and members of the village hierarchy to build, staff and sustain an orphanage. Some children have lost their parents to disease and death, while others have simply been abandoned to fend for themselves or to be cared for by the kindness of strangers.

The orphanage, Casa Hogar de San Martin de Porres will be home to sixty children, providing food, shelter, clothing and education. Because there is no education provided by the Peruvian government, Casa Hogar will provide it for primary and secondary grades, as well as self-sustaining small trade training for secondary grades and young adults.

The mayor of Challabama, with the Governor of the district of Paucartambo, donated
the land to Padre Mateo to build Casa Hogar. The goal of Emidy's non-profit, Divine Space, is to build and to sustain Casa Hogar for the future by providing donations, volunteers, education, and developing self-esteem in every child with needs.

Over the years Heidi has traveled up and down the three regions of Peru, la cordillera, la costa and la selva, photographing stunning landscapes, Inca ruins and remote Quechua villages.

Capturing smiling faces of little children has never been a problem, nor has it been difficult for Spanish speaking Heidi to gain the confidence of the women in the villages as she photographs them at work spinning, dying and weaving their colorful blankets and serapes on their “back strap” looms. Watch a male weaver at work at the Center for Traditional Textiles in Cuzco. A single strand of weft took him two minutes!!

Working with Padre Mateo and the mayor of Challabamba is only one facet of Heidi’s activities in Peru. To the east of the Andes lies the Amazon basin. Heavily forested along the river, finding wood for fuel is no problem. But to the west of the Andes fuel is scarce. Wood on an open fire is still the most common means of cooking and heating, and open fires pose a grave danger to little children as well as adults.

Emidy has acted as translator, photographer and medical assistant in bringing medical care to remote villages. She saw a need and opportunity to change the way villages used their limited supply of wood for fuel.

Through the darkness of the first night of a visit with a medical team to the village of Pucallpa in the Tarapoto region in northern Peru she heard the cries of a small child in pain. The next morning she found the child in a hut with severe burns to the upper part of his body. He had been burned by an open fire. She and the medical team cared for the child for several days before  moving on, but not before Heidi saw a way to prevent similar injuries to villagers, adults and children alike. 

The Patsari Stove is a simple appliance, most of which is made from local materials mixed and assembled on the spot. The stove, developed by Grupo Interdisciplinario de Tecnología Rural Apropiada (GIRA) of Mexico, has an efficient combustion chamber and is made of more durable materials, including a prefabricated metal chimney and hotplates. See how they are built: http://goo.gl/NASTm          or

A standard design, and a mold to assure uniformity of size and shape, is used to build the stove. The stovepipe acts as a “chimney,” drawing smoke up and out of the cooking area. Smoke, a significant health hazard anywhere, goes up the pipe and out through the roof of the dwelling.

The Patsari Stove’s design reduces the amount of wood fuel used to cook a meal, and eliminates the dangers of an open fire. It reduces smoke in the cooking area, which in turn reduces respiratory problems for cooks or “cocineras,” and little children inevitably underfoot.

In this photograph, of a little boy less than four years old, painful “acid rain” burns cover his face and scalp. These are chemical burns which come with the seasonal rains, and are probably a disastrous by-product of chemicals used in making “pressed wood” from trees cut in nearby forests.

Visit Heidi’s website at http://divinespaceperu.org/, and her video channel on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/divinespaceofkana.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Keith Pitman: Working in Large Formats

A Man and his Camera
  In these days of digital darkrooms and armchair image editors, it's a pleasant surprise to find an online example of a "traditional" wet darkroom, complete with -- capable of printing negatives from 35mm to 8x10. High in the Rockies to the west of Denver, Colorado, photographer Keith Pitman makes his home with his wife, Barbara and their cat, Tristan.
  After forty years in the business world Pitman has moved on to his true passion, black and white photography. Using 4x5 and 4x10 large format cameras, he pursues his art in every available moment.
   Shooting in 4x10 format requires an entirely different setup from that required by a 4x5 "shooter." So Pitman  has put together two complete outfits to prevent, as nearly as possible, forgetting a crucial piece of equipment when changing formats. His light meter is one of the few things he doesn't feel he needs to duplicate, perhaps because it's always around his neck!
  Pitman explains he also carries a small "survival" kit in his pack consisting of headlight, space blanket, compass, and matches. He recalls with some irony,  “I once got caught out at nightfall and spent the night in the woods.  I did not have a kit like this and it was a long and chilly night.”  To simplify life he "steps" all his lenses to 67 mm, avoiding the inevitable moment when he might otherwise be unable to match a filter to a lens face.
Keith Pitman's current darkroom

Keith’s present darkroom, (his fifth,) is equipped with two enlargers, a Saunders LPL Dichroic 4x5 enlarger and a Zone VI with 5x7 and 8x10 heads. He uses the Zone VI for 4x10 and 5x7 negatives, and the Saunders/LPL for 4x5 and smaller negatives.
  The darkroom is built around them, using a salvaged stainless steel sink on the "wet" side to develop prints which he processes and mounts to archival standards
  Keith enjoys finding the unexpected and doesn't appear to mind the inconvenience of cold weather or difficult shooting conditions. Most of his work is the tradition of rust, ramshackle, rot and ruin, the formula Gordon Hutchings uses with great success in his work.
"Chimayo Windows"
  Pitman is willing to go out on a cold winter's day if it means he can capture the beauty of a waterfall shimmering in a long exposure, as twin ribbons wind their way down a frozen embankment. His eye for beauty takes in more than the "lay of the land," as he watches for and captures  landscapes strong in bold contrasts, yet delicate in detail. His photograph of “Chimayo Windows," taken on a shooting tour with other photographers, captures the mystery of the small chapel in Chimayo, New Mexico where even the dirt is thought to have miraculous qualities. Long shadows cast by roof beams known as “vigas,” lend drama to a simple composition of an adobe wall caught in the light of a dying day.

  His Chamonix 410 camera  allows Pitman to capture wide angle shots that might otherwise require significant cropping using a conventional 4x5 setup.
  There’s a flash of humor in his 4x10 “Take Out” shot of an ancient stake-bed truck hooked to a small trailer diner, and perhaps a bit of tongue in cheek with his photograph of the “ATF” store somewhere in the mountains of Colorado. Not all landscapes require a wide angle or a grand sweep of the skyline.
"In the Dunes"
  On a trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park near Mosca, Colorado, Pitman stumbled on a small but intimate landscape of a lone bush in the middle of the dunes.
  In 2004 the Great Sand Dunes, previously a National Monument, became a national park by an act of Congress. Apart from preserving the natural beauty of a highly unusual setting, the national park protects an unusual aspect of the dunes, a large water reserve just below the sand. According to park literature, dig down a few inches almost anywhere in the park and you  will find wet sand.
  Pitman and his wife, Barbara, visit the area every few years. They enjoy the wide open space in and around the dunes, and the bonus of Kodak moments in almost any direction they turn.
"Prairie House"
  Pitman’s 4x10 caught “Prairie House with almost the touch of a watercolor’s delicate brushstrokes. High clouds appear to drift slowly overhead, as the lone building prepares to gather against approaching weather.
  His two images of Hanging Lake, in Glenwood Canyon, Colorado, one taken in perhaps late fall, the other in freezing winter, demonstrate the difference a day can make in a photograph. Both are dramatic in their bold contrast and shimmering detail, yet draw much different responses from the viewer.
"Hanging Lake"
"Hanging Lake in Winter"

  Keith visited Hanging Lake the first time at the behest of John Sexton’s wife, Anne Larson. Though he had driven through Glenwood Canyon many times, and seen the sign for Hanging Lake, it wasn’t until Pitman had seen Sexton’s photograph that he knew he had
 to see for himself. He describes it as “A small but spectacular site.”

"Café de France"
   The only photograph on Pitman’s website to include people is titled, “Café de France,” and was one of the high points of a two week photographic trip to southern France. Pitman recalls his 4x5 camera was set up on the tripod and he was getting ready to make an exposure when he heard a voice behind him speaking in French.
  Keith turned to a much older gentleman and explained he did not speak French; the man immediately switched to English. The old man told Pitman, “I, too, photographed the Café de France.  I am Willy Ronis.” Pitman didn’t know who Willy Ronis was at the time, but had a friendly conversation with him about Pitman’s view camera. Ronis wanted to know if it was old. (It wasn’t.)
  Later that day Pitman bought a book of Ronis’ images of life in post WWII Paris and Provence and discovered Ronis was a street photographer well known in France and published worldwide.
Ronis, born in 1910, lived to the ripe age of 99, breathing his last in 2009. Though as a child he hoped to become a composer of music, Ronis’ career was turned to photography by his father, a portrait photographer.
  Perhaps Ronis' best known image is titled “Provençal Nude," taken in 1949. It shows Ronis’ wife, Anne-Marie, washing herself beside a window looking out over a garden, and exemplifies the free and easy atmosphere of Provence. Ronis was surprised by its popularity and once commented, "The destiny of this image, published constantly around the world, still astonishes me."
  Visit Keith Pitman’s website gallery here. . . . for a delightful and expansive tour of Colorado and the southwestern United States.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Boulevard Photographic, front cover
Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library
With the end of WWII in November 1945 came the end of coupons, rationing and shortages of food and most other commodities. While rationing didn’t end until the following year, manufacturers began gearing up to satisfy more than four years of pent up demand for products of all kinds.

One of the greatest signs of recovery after WWII was in the automobile industry. Detroit, or Mo Town as it became affectionately known, became the center of production for millions of new cars every year after the four year famine of WWII. No civilian cars were made between 1942 and 1946. Every bit of production had gone to the War Effort, but when the war ended the Lion roared and Detroit came rushing back to life.

New cars were at the top of the list for many families and Detroit was more than happy to oblige. MoTown rolled out passenger cars by the thousands, using dated pre-war designs. America didn’t care, it was enough to be able to buy a replacement for that old “beater” car babied and cosseted through the war years even if the styling was stodgy and conservative
Ford, Chrysler and General Motors weren’t the only ones producing cars. Studebaker, Kaiser, Frazer and others heard opportunity knocking at the door and answered the call alongside the Big Three.

Until the 1950's photography in automotive advertising had been the exception rather than the rule. Ad agencies and the manufacturers they worked for were accustomed to using art illustrators in carefully composed ads to sell their products. This was across the board, from Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup to Tide Soap.

Boulevard Photographic, back cover
Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library
Everyone needed advertising to draw in customers and to drive demand for their product. Until the 1950’s it was not common to see photography used in automobile advertising. When photographs of cars were included in ads most were “record” shots, unimaginative and pedestrian. Most car ads used line drawings or artist’s illustrations to show off the lines and colors of the cars. Artists could “stretch” a car’s lines or accentuate a feature.

There were several reasons for this. Until the 1930's color photography was time consuming and difficult. Color photographs were not unknown, but only the hardiest photographers dreamed of producing a large body of work in color.

It wasn’t until 1942 that Kodacolor, the first color negative film was introduced, and even then it was unpredictable in quality and results. Ektachrome, introduced in 1946, put Eastman Kodak at the forefront of color transparency films and became the film of choice for professionals shooting portraits or advertising.

Photographers Jimmy Northmore and Mickey McGuire were little more than kids when the war ended. Northmore had been born in 1925 and McGuire in 1929. Neither had had a burning desire to become a photographer, much less to become a pioneer in the field of automotive advertising. But both needed a job and in 1951 serendipity brought them together at Art Greenwald’s New Center Studio, a Detroit based art illustration studio scrabbling in the postwar economy.

Oldsmobile and an an Old Movie
Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

The partnership Northmore and McGuire eventually formed was to last more than forty years. Anyone who has been in a partnership knows how unusual that is. Though partners are supposed to share equally in the profits and the losses, it's not unusual for a partnership to end in times of financial hardship or mishap.

In “Boulevard Photographic, the Art of Automobile Advertising, ” author Jim Williams takes us through the life of America's premier automotive photography firm. Williams, a writer, editor and later art director of “Car and Driver” magazine, knows cars, and he understands photography. He's combed the files of Boulevard Photographic and included almost 200 of Boulevard’s best shots to illustrate the remarkable history of a firm whose time has come and gone.

This is not a new book. It was published in 1997 by MBI Publishing Company and is long since out of print, available only as a used book. Why review it? Because it contains some of the finest automotive photography backed up by explanations from a photographer writing about photography in ways all of us will understand, “Boulevard Photographic, the Art of Automobile Advertising,” is more than a coffee table volume of beautiful car photographs. Williams traces the careers of Jimmy Northmore and Mickey McGuire, illustrated with photographs taken from the archives of Boulevard Photographic, and followed by collections of favorite photographs selected by Northmore and McGuire themselves, Williams's work provides a window into automotive advertising that would otherwise be unknown to us.

Northmore's boss, who was not a photographer, asked him it was possible to shoot a car inside a light tent. It didn't take Jimmy long to come up with a way to do it He rented a Detroit music hall, then used white muslin fabric to create a giant light tent. A forklift hoisted a tricked out 1949 Mercury onto the stage. Banks of lights outside the tent illuminated the tent, filling it with soft white light devoid of shadows.

Jimmy Northmore’s boss, Art Greenwald, at New Center Studio was an unwitting accomplice to moving photography out of the shadows and into the bright sunlight of Detroit’s assault on the American lust for power, speed and elegance in its automobiles. At a meeting of ad executives Greenwald listened as a potential client bemoaned the fact that cars could not be photographed the same as silverware, in a light tent, a technique which allows silver to be photographed in such a way that the printed product looks like silver. Greenwald took the problem back to Northmore who said he thought it could be done, and proceeded to create a giant light tent out of a Detroit theatre stage.

White Chrome on a 1949 Mercury
Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library
Northmore forklifted a brand new 1949 Mercury onto the stage, then bounced light into the huge “light tent” and clicked the shutter. ¡Voila! The Mercury’s chrome printed out as pure white, and without extraneous reflections to mar the image. Jimmy’s boss had opened a Pandora’s Box, and Jimmy had solved the first of many “impossible” tasks for automobile photographers.

The light tent technique wasn't new. It was well known that silverware photographed inside a tent of white cloth, lit from outside the box using diffuse lighting sources, would appear silver in the print. Because the only thing inside the tent would be the silver, there would be no extraneous reflections to detract from what would be perceived as shimmering silver.
This “simple” solution to a vexing problem turned the automobile advertising industry on its head. It wasn’t long before Northmore was taking finished photographs for use in car ads, replacing the work of artist illustrators.

But, because photographs of cars taken this way all tended to have the same “look,” it wasn't a technique to be used every time. In fact, some art directors refused to have it used because it didn't “look real.”

Northmore and McGuire figured out that a foggy or an overcast day would give the same kind of “white chrome ” effect, and not require the use of a light tent. Glamorous models draped over elegant automobiles were photographed on the beaches of Carmel and Monterrey, or the winding roads of Big Sur, but always in the diffuse light of a foggy or overcast day. The only problem, never completely solved, was that, again, the photographs tended to look the same, low in contrast and lacking “sparkle.”
Dodge Charger out of the Night
Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

“White” chrome wasn’t the only problem to be solved, however. An artist could accentuate one element of a car over others. With a few brushstrokes he could make a car look longer, lower or wider. These were not things easily done with a standard box camera. But using an 8x10 view camera has many advantages. Using tilts and swings, rises, falls and front or rear shifts a skilled photographer can alter the perspective of a building, or an automobile, eliminating convergence, straightening a line, adjusting a horizon or perspective, or even eliminating parts of a scene before the shutter is opened.

Northmore, and later his partner of more than forty years, Mickey McGuire, were masters of the view camera. Using every bit of the view camera’s potential they found ways to reproduce the tricks of the artist illustrators, and soon convinced art directors of the major ad agencies that finished photographs could, should and would be used in every major automobile ad campaign from the mid 1950’s to the 1990’s.

For his entire career Northmore used the same ancient wooden Ansco view camera. But even though it seemed he could do almost anything with it, he couldn’t lengthen a car without destroying its proportions. That is, not until he and McGuire came up with a curved film back made to their order. This required a curved ground glass for setting up the shot, but that was just an added detail, easily solved.

The curved back was a closely guarded secret. Though simple to use, Northmore and McGuire made it seem complex by adding faux adjusting knobs to fool unsuspecting onlookers. With the curved back they could make a car look longer in a finished photograph without any further manipulation after the film was exposed.

Later they replaced the curved film back with an anamorphotic lens, a lens developed in the film industry to compress or to expand images horizontally, changing their aspect of viewing. The anamorphotic lens, used with the tilts and swings of a view camera, allowed Northmore and McGuire to achieve the same effects they had created with their magic curved film back.

During the course of their careers Northmore and McGuire created the largest and most successful automotive photography studio in the history of Detroit. At the height of their business, and before they decided photographing cars on commission was more lucrative and satisfying than running the business of doing it, their studio, Boulevard Photographic had shooting facilities in five cities and took shooting assignments worldwide.

“Controlled Motion Rig”
Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library
The light tent was the first of many Northmore ideas and techniques which changed the field of automotive photography. By the time it was all over some forty years later, Northmore and his partner, Mickey McGuire had shooting facilities in five cities across the United States, each of them more than thirty feet high, one hundred feet long and fifty feet deep.

Another problem was shooting cars in motion. Film, unlike digital images, must be developed before the image can be reviewed. “Is this what you wanted?” could only be answered long after the cars had been loaded on the trailer, and the models and drivers had headed home on the plane.

Leave it to Northmore and McGuire to come up with a solution for shooting “controlled motion.” Northmore realized that a car in motion could be photographed in perfect focus against against a static background if a way could be found to also put the camera in motion in sync with the car. The car and camera didn't have to travel far or at great speed, they only had to travel a parallel path for the same amount of time the shutter was open.

Northmore came up with a plan to mount a view camera on a precision “camera dolly.” The camera would move in the same direction as the car at exactly the same speed. The background would remain stationary. As the car moved forward and the wheels turned, to shutter would be open, capturing both the motion in the wheels and the motion of the car relative to the background. The effect was a car perfectly in focus seeming to move across the field of view at highway speeds. Properly lit, the effect was magical. Then, if that were not enough sensation of speed, it was possible to have the background move as well, but in the opposite direction, effectively doubling the illusory speed.

“Flying Flat”
Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library
Then there was the “Flying Flat.” Giant light tents made it possible to photograph chrome as pure white, but the light within the tent was utterly uniform and flat. McGuire and Northmore devised a “flying flat” to give them additional lighting controls within the tent, adding contrast to what could otherwise be a sterile look.

Over the course of their careers Northmore and McGuire made it look easy to photograph what Kazu Okutomi recently described as twenty foot mirrors. They made photography the driving force in automotive advertising, and they taught the rest of us a few things along the way. By the 1990’s computers, Photoshop and digital images had begun their tsunami across the entire field of photography and McGuire and Northmore’s days in the sun were over. They had come in at the beginning and they went out at the top of the Golden Age of Automotive Photography.

Mickey McGuire now lives in retirement in Palm Springs, California; Jimmy Northmore lives in Detroit, Michigan.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times is running a "Win a Trip with Nick" contest. The deadline to post video entries is midnight, January 18 and some people are having problems uploading their video to Kristof's YouTube channel.

After his own struggle to post a video on Kristof's site, Formulary editor, Anthony Mournian, developed a set of instructions of how to make it happen - now!

Here they are, in a message to a person who was having a problem. Step by step. Follow them and your worries are over:

Dear Ms. J____,

Thank you for writing. I had no problem uploading the movie to my own video channel on YouTube; my problem was in trying to attach my first upload to Kristof's blog. It took a while to figure it out because the problem is in the YouTube software. I have many other videos on YouTube and while the software purports to allow you to choose from a list of your movies, only the FIRST 50 or so are available.

In the end I uploaded a second movie, with a slightly different title to fool the YouTube censors, but loaded it using the following:

So here it is, in one easy lesson.

1. I went to Nicholas Kristof's YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/NicholasKristof

2. I clicked on the link below the movie, Opinion: Win-a-Trip With Nicholas D. Kristof- nytimes.com/video

4. Clicking in the rectangle below the movie, "All Comments," reveals "Sign in or Sign Up Now to Post a Comment."

5. Click the "Sign in" link if you have a YouTube account already, or the Sign Up" link if you don't have one yet.

6. Once you are signed in the All Comments rectangle enlarges, giving you 500 characters to write, and, off to the side, the chance to "Attach a Video."

7. Clicking on the "Attach a video" takes you to this link: http://www.youtube.com/video_response_upload?v=k_LsTws52Nc saying "You are posting a video response to" - - - - "

8. Immediately below that line you choose between "Choose a Video" and "Upload a Video." Click on Upload a video

9. From here on it's the same process as uploading a video on your own video channel. Click on "Click "Start" to begin uploading your video response." This takes you to: http://upload.youtube.com/my_videos_upload?v=k_LsTws52Nc

10. You will either click the Upload Video (in the yellow button,) or the blue link, "Record from webcam."

If you choose Upload Video you find your movie on your own computer and click on the movie title. Uploading begins automatically.

I see there are many YouTube movies uploaded by different "Monica Jones" so I am unable to know which one is you. I wish you luck, though I hope I get to go!

I will call you later today to make sure you have been able to upload your movie.

My best wishes,

Anthony Mournian

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bruce Barnbaum’s “Seeing, Planning & Printing the Fine Photograph” A Great Success

Set in the Swan River Valley between the Mission Mountains to the west and the towering Swan Mountains to the east, Bruce Barnbaum's "Seeing, Planning and Printing the Fine Photograph" got off to a rousing start June 13 at the Photographers' Formulary in Condon, Montana.

Recently returned from Peru where he photographed the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, Barnbaum opened the workshop with an introductory session displaying and discussing some of his current and past work. Held in the spacious classroom area of the Formulary workshop, the talk gave students a hint of what was to come in the next five days of intensive lecture and hands-on activities.

Barnbaum set out to demonstrate by example what he hoped to teach his class. He invited each student to display their work, then to answer the question, "What were your goals,” or, “What are you trying to say” [with the photographs] and a short explanation of purpose. In this way he hoped to encourage planning and a conscious goal for any photograph before the film is exposed, rather than trying to develop a raison d'etre after the film is developed.

Barnbaum noted that in any workshop he has only a few days to help students develop their talents to see what makes a good photograph, then to capture that perceived image on film for development and printing in the darkroom. If there was a lesson to be taken from the workshop it was the success of the image begins before the film is exposed.

His first question to his students asked, "What is composition?" Easily posed, the question generated many different responses, ranging from "How the photograph is put together," to "The arrangement of elements within the framework of the print," to "What is included or excluded in the photograph to hold or direct the viewer's interest?"

Composition, Barnbaum said, requires the “derandomizing” of the viewer’s eye movement focusing on the image. Said another way, it is creating an image with a purpose, and guiding the viewer’s eye to the main focal point of the image.

Keep in mind, said Barnbaum, that the frame of the image is a confined space, with an infinite amount of image beyond the borders of the frame. The negative is a false border on what the viewer is capable of seeing.

Bruce put his students through their paces. From start to finish, he honed in on how to successfully plan and print a black and white photograph for greatest effect.

High on the list of discussion was Ansel Adams’ Zone System of exposing the negative. Barnbaum reduced the Zone System from a mysterious process to an evaluation of the quality and the intensity of light on a given portion of an image. It’s not enough to meter your subject and expose your film.

Remember that every light meter made computes an exposure equal to 18% gray, or Zone V. This means, he said, that metering a very bright or very dark subject would in both cases give you an exposure based on middle gray, and both would be incorrect.

The Zone System, Barnbaum explained, allows the photographer to correctly expose an image based on an adjustment of that middle gray reading, so that a bright white cloud can be printed as bright and white, while an important shadow area with significant detail can also be printed .

The Field Trip into the Woods

During an early morning field trip into the woods nearby the Formulary, Barnbaum demonstrated his techniques for evaluating light and “placing” the exposure on a specific area of the image. Morning light in a forest, filtered through the trees and softened by ghostly mist above the waters of a pond creates a near magical effect. The entire scene metered to middle gray, or Zone V, will result in a “record shot.” There will be little or no “life” or sparkle in the image unless the exposure is adjusted to take into account the varying amounts and quality of light in different areas of the image.

To properly expose the brightest areas requires an increase in the amount of light striking the film. This is achieved by either allowing more light into the camera by increasing the time or by creating a larger opening in the lens by choosing a larger ƒ/stop.

Conversely, to properly expose shadow areas with significant detail requires reducing the exposure by one stop and “placing” that area on Zone IV.

On a single negative you can make a single adjustment in the exposure. Choose what part of the photograph contains the most important information and make the appropriate adjustment in exposure. From that adjustment the rest of the image’s exposure is also adjusted up or down.
Once internalized none of this is rocket science, but it is at the base of the Zone System and to be ignored at the peril of the photographer. You’ll never take your own “Moonrise over Hernandez, NM” unless you understand and apply these simple principles.

Developing the Negative

With a field session behind them, Barnbaum’s students returned to the classroom for discussions of how to develop the film for more or less than the nominal time recommended by the film manufacturer. Barnbaum explained again what all had learned early: on a negative, density is the product of exposure and contrast is a product of development.

While it is possible to print an underexposed negative, you can never print what is not on the negative. At the other end of the scale, an overexposed negative will have all the information, but will be difficult to print because of the long times required in the enlarger.

Underexposure of the negative can be deliberate, as can overexposure. The density on the underexposed negative is low, but within limits a photographer can “push” film, or overdevelop it to increase its contrast. “Pushing” the development of film is also called “Plus” development, while underdeveloping film is called “Minus” development.

Both techniques are handy in working toward the Nirvana of an eye-popping fine art photograph.

The Formulary Darkrooms

An attraction of the Photographers’ Formulary is the availability of three darkrooms. One is a traditional “wet” darkroom. Another can be set up for developing films in all formats from 35 mm roll film to 8x10 sheet film. A third darkroom is used for alternative processes such as cyanotype, platinum/palladium and Van Dyke Brown.

For those students with film to develop, Barnbaum worked with them to explain and demonstrate how to apply “plus” or “minus” development to individual sheets of large format film. This was invaluable for students who had never considered altering the manufacturer’s recommended development time to achieve a negative better suited for printing the ephemeral fine art image bouncing around inside the mind of the photographer.

At the same time, over in the “wet” darkroom, up to ten students were able to use the Formulary’s ten Saunders LPL enlargers to make prints from negatives they brought with them or made at the Formulary.

Students printed from 35 mm, 6x6, 6x7 and 4x5 negatives. As each print made its way from the enlarger to developer, stop and fix, then out into the hallway for evaluation and discussion, Barnbaum was there to help.

When a print was lifeless Barnbaum explained to the student how to best burn, dodge or later to bleach to achieve the best possible result. With more than 12 hours of darkroom time each printing day, it was possible to get a massive amount of printing instruction, and Barnbaum stayed as long as students had a problem or a question.

Making the Print

As a first step in printing, Barnbaum advised making contact prints of every single negative, and making that contact under a consistent low contrast setting. This gives each negative the same predictable starting point.

Then, tossing aside the time honored test strip with multiple exposures two seconds apart, Barnbaum advised making a test print of the entire image. The test print is easily constructed, he said, by using the best estimated exposure as the midpoint, then computing an initial exposure of 50% less time, and a final exposure of 50% more time. This is the quickest way to get a good idea of where your ideal exposure lies.

Don’t move toward your optimum exposure in “baby steps.” After evaluating your original three panel test print, be bold and unafraid to give more or less exposure under the enlarger to move in the direction of the best possible exposure.

"If you are printing a negative, and improving it by making it either lighter or darker, more or less contrasty, etc. on successive prints, you'll never know if you've reached the best print until you overshoot the mark.", Barnbaum said, so don’t hesitate.

Do the same in evaluating the contrast of your print. If your print looks weak in the knees, give it plenty of contrast to see what happens. If the print improves, then give it even more contrast until you see your print losing essential detail. Then back off. With this method you will have made the best possible print of your negative. It may not be the dazzling print you thought was on that negative, but it will be the best print you can make off the negative you have in the enlarger.

Bleaching a Print

Advising his students to save any print that isn’t a final print for practice with bleaching. Barnbaum demonstrated on one of his own prints how to use potassium ferrocyanide, or bleach, to bring out detail in areas of shadow or bring out areas of white from areas of gray.
"Mix a few crystals of bleach in an ounce or two of water in a heavy glass or cup," (so it doesn't tip over easily!), Barnbaum explained, saying that most photographers mix the bleach too strong. Make it weak and use it with water running beneath its path to keep it from bleaching the wrong areas of the print.

Work from the bottom up, keeping the water running, and don’t let bleach stay on the print any longer than necessary. By working from the bottom of the print toward the top, always with water running on the workspace, fresh, undiluted bleach mixture cannot run down onto areas of the print unprotected by running water. Bleach by degrees, not all at once. Don’t be over aggressive with bleach.

Remember that bleach attacks the highlights or the lighter areas of the print first. It won’t do much to a dark area right away, but it will bring out the whites by immediately attacking the highlights.

By now the workshop had progressed from a discussion of composition, to a field trip, with a return to the darkroom to develop film and to make prints. Barnbaum had shown how to “bump up” the contrast in the print by using greater filtration, and how to use less filtration to “burn in” discreet areas of the image.

He cautioned his class to burn with restraint, saying that when someone comments you have done a good job of burning you have done too much. Good burning should affect the appearance of the image, but be undetectable to the viewer.

The workshop had come full circle. From opening remarks to a closing discussion of what is meant by “fine art photography,” Bruce Barnbaum had led his students up a sharp learning curve on how to plan and to print a fine art photograph.

The workshop was over almost before it began. Five days had passed in the blink of an eye as students exchanged prints and said their goodbyes.
Mission accomplished.