Eric G. Rose – Where It's At

Vision

Three Strikes and You’re OUT!

by on Oct.02, 2018, under Cameras, Darkroom, Developing, Film, Location, Scanning, Vision

The Tree

Three strikes and you’re out.  If I had followed this baseball rule I would have given up on a dream.

When I was growing up we lived near an abandoned apple orchard which happened to be at the end of a wonderful and mystery filled hike through a dark forest.  Well that’s the way my five-year-old mind remembers it.

Over the years I would venture down to this oasis away from city noise to just sit and think.  Close by is the Bow River so I could skip stones if I liked, or in later years shoot gophers with my trusty Daisy BB gun.  I also found that there was one particular tree that seemed to speak to me.  Not that I heard voices mind you, it just seemed to be a good listener and when I leaned up against its sturdy trunk or climbed into its strong boughs many of the answers I was looking for just “came” to me.  This tree became my spiritual conduit to whoever was at the other end.

Fast forward 60 years and I was down in the same park, visiting the same tree and to my amazement there were several people who came by and paused just long enough to put their hands on the huge trunk and close their eyes.  I was not the only one!

Like all things that live, someday this tree will die.  As will I.  I felt like I needed to capture this majestic tree in a way that shows off its glorious stature.  Those that have their own special tree will get it and I wanted to create an image that will live beyond both the tree and me.

As someone who has been an avid photographer for close to 55 years I have several photographic options with which to accomplish this mission.  Should I shoot digital, 35mm, medium format or large format?  What about colour or should it be in black and white?  The fall colours are out so the obvious choice would be colour.  However, would the bright colours take away from the strength I wanted to show?  After about a week mulling this over I decided that black and white was what I wanted.  Of course, this didn’t eliminate any of the equipment options.  Since I wanted something of a more permanent nature this in my mind eliminated digital.  Just think of Betamax.  Ok now we are down to only film options.  To get all the detail and tonality I wanted I decided large format was the way to go.

I have both a 4×5 wooden Shen-Hao field camera and a Cambo 4×5 monorail.  I anticipated I might have to use some fairly extreme rise to get the tree top in, so this kicked out the field camera as an option.  Now for lenses.  I decided to pack a Nikon 90mm WA, Rodenstock Sironar 150mm and a Dagor 300mm lenses.

Being that I am retired I had lots of time to scout things out and decided to take my Crown Graphic equipped with a 127mm Kodak Ektar and Kodak TMX 320 film down for a quick recon mission.  A friend had given me three holders already loaded with TMX320 so I decided to use them.  I shot all 6 sheets from various angles and lighting conditions as we had partial clouds that day.

It was one of those magical photographic days.  The sun was making the fall colours explode in all their multi coloured brilliance. Exciting shadow patterns between the trees teased and made me wish I had loaded up more film.

I got home and headed straight into the darkroom.  It had been a while since I had used my darkroom, so it was nice to be back at it.  I commenced mixing up my favourite developer PyroCat-HD from a liquid mixture obtained from The Photographers Formulary.  If there is one thing I loathe it’s dealing with powdered chemicals.  I had some fixer already mixed from a previous printing and film developing session I had done several months ago.

I use hangers rather than a rotary drum not because I think they’re better; it’s just that I am familiar with them and I have a distrust of anything that requires electricity when it comes to developing my film.  Quite frankly I have the same qualms about cameras.  Batteries are evil little beasts that fail at all the wrong times.

Less than twenty minutes later (11 minutes in PyroCat-HD, 30 seconds in water stop and then 5 minutes in fix) I turned the lights on.  To my horror the images were black! The film had been exposed to light before I had received it.  On top of that I had found one of the sheets of film had been loaded into the holder backwards.  Strike number one.  On top of all that I had no tequila in the house with which to drown my sorrows.  The horror of it all.

After I finished beating myself up for being such a fool I set to loading up three new holders with TMX320.

A few weeks later I ventured out again.  This time with the Cambo monorail and my bag of lenses.  I did two different setups on the tree exposing three sheets of film.  To get the rise I needed for the tree I attached my Cambo bag bellows.  Fortunately, the Nikkor 90mm wide angle was just right for the job.  You see I had a playground just behind me and I could not back up any further to get the shoots I wanted from that vantage point.  Next, I found a beautiful row of Spruce trees with wonderful shadows.  I switched to a Rodenstock 150mm Sironar APO for these shots and just left the bag bellows on.  Two sheets exposed there.  With my remaining sheet of film, I had planned on trying to create an image of the railroad tracks near the park so ambled over there and setup.  Naturally a train came along so I figured I would just incorporate it into my image.  I shot it at ¼ of second to give the train some blur thus showing it was in motion.

I was quite happy with what I shot and rushed back to my darkroom.  Again, I mixed up my PyroCat-HD and poured the fixer into its tub.

Twenty or so minutes later I was done and with some trepidation turned on the lights.  Again horror!  The images were very dark and muddy looking.  Plus, all the ones where I had used the bag bellows showed signs of fogging.  I double checked my meter and it was spot on.  I suspected the fixer was bad, so I cut off a piece of 35mm black and white film and chucked it into the fixer.  Waited 5 minutes and turned the lights on.  Indeed, the fixer was in its final stages of a slow and merciless death.  And still no tequila!

In all my years of photography I have never had such a series of misfortunes.  I firmly take credit and responsibility for all of it.  But really??  This was now becoming a mission!

The very next day I loaded up three more two banger 4×5 film holders and set out once again to capture this blasted tree.  I was beginning to think there was some higher power that was either trying to teach me a lesson or just did not want me to succeed in this quest for THE image.  I had struck out twice.  If I strike out again, that’s three.  Does this mean I just need to be sent back to the bench or heaven forbid the minors?

I drove the 45 minutes to the park, parked my Kia Soul (see I do have soul) and with a sense of foreboding unpacked my camera gear.  I decided to stick to angles that did not require my bag bellows.  Eliminate one problem, check.  No fancy angles that require lots of rise, check.

Hiked into the park, said hello to the grounds keeper who by now thinks I’ve been dealt a few balloons short of a party.

The light was fantastic, there are no little urchins running around getting into my shot.  I have it in the back of my mind God is messing with me.  I make four exposures of the tree.  One setup I actually bracket, something I never do.  The fear has set in.  So, three different angles of the tree are done, now out to the railway tracks.  I make one image there.  Without the train it’s not that special.

I’m actually a bit nervous about souping these shots.  Three strikes, that would be a killer!  So I procrastinate, something I do quite well actually, and put off going down to the darkroom until the next day.

Once I get my courage up and venture into the darkroom the first thing I do is mix up new fixer and developer.  I always treat PyroCat as a one-shot developer.  It’s so cheap trying to stretch it does not make any sense.

The lights are out and it’s time to load the hangers.  Again, I spend 20 minutes in the dark thinking crazy stuff like if this attempt fails I will just sell all my camera gear and take up billiards.

Once the lights get turned on I pull one of the hangers out of the fixer and with some trepidation hold it up to the light.  I could almost hear a celestial host singing a song of triumph!  An image, a good image, well exposed and developed and most importantly fixed.

In the end I was not struck out.  That game may have gone into extra innings but in the end, I got the winning run!

What did I learn?  The main lesson learned is not to take anything for granted and not to be over-casual about things even though you have done them a thousand times over the past five decades.  The other lesson is not to put yourself under undue pressure like a three strikes mentality.  Each attempt is a learning experience, not a failure.

You might not see anything special in the images I made but they are special to me.  I learned long ago that if there is not something special in your subject that gets you excited you might as well leave your camera in its bag.  You will only be making “I was there” photos or worse yet what I refer to as “museum” photos.  It was only my passion and love for the photographic medium and my desire to express something through photography that kept me going.  While I shoot both digital and film it is only film that gives me a really organic high when I am creating imagery.  Just remember to load your own film and insure you are using fresh chemicals.  Oh and remember to actually put the developer concentrate into the water, but that’s another story.

The Tree welcomes all
The Trinity
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Lens Quality, what does it mean?

by on May.06, 2013, under Cameras, Digital, Film, Photographers, Vision

 

 

fly_wheel1_TVGP_eric_g_rose

(c) Eric G. Rose

Rodenstock Sironar 150mm – this lens is so sharp and contrasty you could smell the grease when looking at the print.

Mike Johnston has an excellent blog called The Online Photographer.  I usually start my day by checking to see what’s new on TOP as the regulars call it.  Recently he asked the question: “I’m asking how important the quality of your lenses is to you. That is, when you’re choosing which one(s) to buy.

My idea of  “quality” might be different than the usual consumer definition.  This is what I responded to Mike’s question:

The signature of a lens is of utmost importance to my photography. I utilize it as a painter uses different brush strokes to mold the look he/she wants. I have differing photographic styles (portraiture, landscape and still life) that require different lens signatures to fulfill my vision.

A lens I love for landscape probably will not be my first choice for portraiture. All my personal black and white photography is done with film as I find the type of film used and how it is developed just as integral to my vision as the lens signature. Please note I am not saying film is superior, it just works better for what I want to accomplish.

I strive to create photographs that are true to my vision, not technically perfect photographs. MTF charts, pixel counts, resolution etc. mean nothing to me. Like Frank DiPerna said, ‘show me the print on the wall.’ That’s all that matters to me when I choose the tools I need to create the image I have in my mind. Today it might be a lens with smooth bokeh, tomorrow a lens that is razor-sharp and contrasty.

While putting my kit together I spent a lot of time viewing as many photographs as possible. If a photograph had a ‘look’ that I resonated with, I would find out what was used to create it if at all possible. My intent was not to copy but to learn which lens and what capture media produced what results. For 35mm I ended up with two systems, Leica and Nikon. Each system had lenses that ‘worked’ for me. Please note they were not always the latest version of a lens but sometimes a golden oldie. I am not saying Leica and Nikon are better lenses than Canon or Olympus etc., just that they gave me a look I wanted. So for me what worked was first determining the lenses I wanted to use, then the capture media.

Not surprisingly I also have a preference for enlarging lenses but that is a whole different story 🙂

In addition to this I would like to add.  I recognize that many of the qualities of old lenses and film can be replicated using a digital workflow.  Bokeh is one such lens signature that is extremely hard to handle in a digital environment if your lens does not have good bokeh to begin with.  I used a high end digital camera for a number of years and got quite adept at getting what I wanted from Photoshop.  In the end digital is not my first choice for my personal black and white work.  For commissioned work digital is the only way to go because these days customers are more interested in getting the finished product quickly than they are in quality.  For me it’s not an “us or them” mentality when it comes to choosing film over digital for my own creative personal work, it just works better for me.

So some would say I put the cart a head of the horse.  Lens selection drives my choice of camera body.  I haven’t found a camera body yet that added to the creative artistic impact of an image.  Lenses however contribute the most.  Don’t just look for the sharpest, contrasty lens with beautiful MTF curves.  Lens choice is part of your artistic tool belt.  Not just focal length, but signature as well.

All this is an important part of taking your photography from great snapshots to images that have emotional impact.

DAVIDHAMILTON

(c) David Hamilton

Photo by David Hamilton – he used Minolta lenses exclusively due their lower contrast.  I started off with Minolta cameras and lenses but got tired of the lower contrast images.  I found I could use Nikkor lenses which had better contrast and simulate the Minolta signature with filters.  The Minolta lenses were not as sharp as the Nikkors either.  You can always reduce the sharpness in the print but if it’s not there to begin with you are out of luck if you are looking for a sharp contrasty image.

coba_boy_with_pet_eric_g_rose

(c) Eric G. Rose

Boy holding pet – Coba Mexico.  I used a Rolleiflex TLR with Tessar 3.5 lens.  I love Tessar’s for their great bokeh.

bannack_merry_go_round_eric_g_rose

(c) Eric G. Rose

Schneider 210mm lens wide open and front standard rotation.  This lens is not only tack sharp stopped down, it has nice out of focus qualities when shot wide open.

san_sebastian_cem_eric_g_rose

(c) Eric G. Rose

Mexican cemetary – Leica 50mm Summicron shot at f2.  Another lens that has great bokeh and is tack sharp and contrasty when stopped down.  I have used other 50mm lenses that would render the background in an ugly blotchy manner.  Not what I was looking for in this image.  Although that might be a quality I want in an image that is meant to cause tension in the viewer.

 

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So many choices!

by on Dec.13, 2012, under Books, Commerce, Photographers, Vision

Slot Canyon - Eric G. Rose

Slot Canyon – Eric G. Rose

A new Blurb book is in the works.  Now what does this really mean?  It means I am thoughtfully pondering what the theme should be.  Or maybe it should not be theme based but geographically oriented?  How about all colour, or maybe black and white?  Well you can see there are a lot of things to consider.  With over 40 years worth of images to choose from it gets a bit daunting.

In preparation I took out several photography tomes from my local library.  I wanted to see how they laid out the images and incorporated text and graphics.  Surprisingly the National Geographic books I took out were well laid out, however suffered from incredibly bad photographic reproduction.  It was so bad I could not get through them.  If I had spent 6o plus dollars on them I would have felt supremely cheated.  After years of doing design and layout work for clients I find that it is very hard to decide on a format for my own work.  It’s easy for me to gauge the personality and spirit of a client’s work but turning that focus on myself is not an easy task.  Maybe that is why so many self published photography books are so poorly executed.

I also find that I am my own worst enemy when it comes to editing my images.  Some images that I think are just freaking wonderful are ignored by those I ask to critique  images I am considering for a show.  Rule number one: get someone not related to you to edit your images.  Actually press several people into editing service.

Even though I feel my imagery can stand on its own from a fine art perspective,  I enjoy telling people the back story for many of my images.  Sights, sounds, circumstances and personalities are all important facets of the story.  As an illustration, I was at a concert performed by one of my favorite singer/song writers, Neil Young.  Young’s songs have resonated with my life since the days of the Kent State massacre.  The first time I heard the song Ohio, it brought tears to my eyes and put a rage in my gut.  In those 13 seconds of shooting my attitude towards the Vietnam war was galvanized.  While I supported the troops and still do, I could no longer support the machine that was responsible for the four deaths at Kent State and the senseless killing of 58,282  American troops.  I was hoping Young would relate to the audience some of the back stories around his songs.  He said maybe 10 words during the 3 hour concert.  Sure the songs were there, both new and old, but nothing else.  I could listen to Young’s songs at home on my stereo and get better sound.  It was a bucket list thing to do; see Young in concert; but in the end I felt I only got half of what I needed to make it a fulfilling experience.  Others I have talked to thought the concert was amazing.  That’s why they make chocolate and vanilla.

Well all of this raises another question.  Do I include selected back stories or not?  I guess it depends on my overall goal.  Do I want to create a commercial product or a personal keepsake?  The decisions never end!

This brings up the following question.  Does the selection and sequencing of photographs vary depending on whether I include back stories or not?  Do I need to follow a theme for the back stories?  Around and around it goes.  Choices choices choices.

Do me a favor and take the poll on the right.

Interested in the back story for the image at the beginning?  Ask me and I’ll share it with you.  By the way I have a $50 off code for Blurb I would love to share with you.  Email me: eric at ericrose dot com and I will send it to you.

 

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LensWork Magazine – 100 issues of greatness

by on Oct.03, 2012, under Darkroom, Film, Location, Photographers, Vision

In the pantheon of photographic publications I believe LensWork initially found its place as a niche magazine mainly aimed at an older demographic.  It probably identified with and found influence from Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and others that were part of the west coast photographic movement of the 1930’s.  Over the years this has changed with LensWork showcasing very divergent photographic styles.

What sets LensWork magazine apart from the other more mainstream photographic magazines are its exquisite black and white reproductions.  Many of the photographers featured have commented that the images in LensWork are the equal of those they could produce in their own darkrooms.  Each publication is like being given a miniature gallery print from artists you could never afford an original from.  Brooks Jensen, owner and editor, features lesser known artists along with familiar names such as Kenna, Barnbaum, Witherill and Shelby Adams.  Getting your images published in LensWork is a real boost to a struggling artist not to mention the honour.

I have been a big fan of Brooks Jensen’s LensWork Magazine since it’s inception.  Even when times were tough I would always make sure I had enough scratch to buy the latest copy from my local book store.  Funny thing was this “local bookstore” was this sketchy shop that had a large number of what I guess is referred to as gentlemen’s magazines at the back.  I hated going in there lest someone I knew saw me or even worse saw me coming out with a magazine in a plain brown bag.  I can honestly say it was worth the angst and I have not been disappointed with any edition.  Do I enjoy all contributions?  No but there are always some images, words of wisdom from Brooks or interviews to keep me turning pages.  “End Notes” by Bill Jay was always a favorite of mine but sadly he passed away several years ago.

The past several years has seen LensWork recognize that the paper format may be coming to an end, either due to lack of demand or cost.  To Jensen’s credit he has embraced digital publishing using Adobe Acrobat.  With the reduced cost of production Jensen has published what he calls LensWork Extended.  This is a digital version of the paper magazine in pdf format plus extra folios in both black and white and colour.  Additional video and audio clips are added in the form of in-depth interviews.  I receive both versions.  The reason I get both is because I find even with a high quality calibrated monitor I still do not enjoy the richness and luminosity the printed magazine gives me.  I want to see photographic images on paper.  I guess I’m old fashioned.

A short time ago LensWork Magazine reached the 100 issue milestone.  I have to admit I have an entire shelf devoted to back issues.  Those I don’t have a printed copy of I have on a CD.  When I am in a photographic funk I grab six or seven issues and sit down on the couch immersing myself in the rich creativity contained within.  It’s not to learn new techniques because LensWork does not publish “how-to” articles.  That’s one of its strong points in my opinion.  My revelry is merely to lose myself in the wonderful diverse creativity LensWork showcases.  It’s like watching a great game of football to get psyched up before your own game.   Somehow gets my photographic endorphins going and beats artificial stimulants.

Some of my favorite artists and a representation of their images follow.  As you can see, even with jpg compression, Brooks sets the bar high when reproducing photographers’ images.  I feel it’s just not a desire to satisfy his readers but a respect for the artists he is showcasing.  To see full size images click on the thumbnail.  This takes you to another page were again click on the image.  Kind of dumb but that’s how this gallery system work.  Looking at installing a different one in the future.

If you are serious about photography and have moved beyond the “gear” phase I strongly suggest you buy a subscription to LensWork in whatever format suits you.  You will not be disappointed.  The images will inspire you, the interviews entertain you and Brooks will challenge you with his always thought provoking articles.

Here is the link to LensWork:  http://www.lenswork.com/

Do not miss Brooks Jensen’s personal work:  http://www.brooksjensenarts.com/

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Life is Good

by on Jan.16, 2012, under Cameras, Digital, Life is Good, Location, Photographers, Uncategorized, Vision

When I look at the news these days it reaffirms my belief that for me at least life is good.  Is this why so many people have become news junkies, they need to see someone suffering so they can feel better about themselves?

I think we all know the person who spends all their available time glued to CNN or some equally intelligence numbing news porn pusher. I firmly believe our local CTV news department here in Calgary has a quota of blood and mayhem they have to meet for every evening newscast.  If nothing is gory enough locally they dredge up something from some backwater hillbilly county in the US.  While it may be tragic for the people closely associated with the shooting, stabbing, car wreck or beating it has absolutely nothing to do with my life. There is nothing I can do beyond feel bad for them while at the same time thinking, geez my life is so much better than theirs.  Thank goodness I watched the news, I never would have known how good I have it.

What does this have to do with photography you ask?  Good question.  My life is good, and I don’t need anyone external to tell me so. Yes I could be making more money, I could be 40 pounds skinnier, maybe I should be able to run 10 miles.  Right now, today, I feel great with who I am and where I am.  Well maybe Brooks Jensen from Lenswork magazine could call me up and say he loves my photography and wants to publish some of my stuff in his excellent magazine.  That would make me a tab bit happier.

For 2012 my goal with this blog is to publish one image a week that makes me happy.  It could make me happy because it records a joyful occasion, creates some visual magic like Bruce Barnbaum‘s slot canyons and cathedrals or represents something spiritual.

Along with the image I will outline the all important W5’s.  Maybe even some photo geeky stuff too.

Below is the first image.  Anyone from my generation (baby boomer) can relate to this scene.  Instantly you have memories of going with your parents to the local hamburger drive-in;  the smell of the car’s interior, the AM radio playing anything but what you wanted to hear, pretty car-hops in short skirts, and REAL hamburgers with the condiments oozing out into the foil wrapper.  Maybe you went with your friends in a souped up Chevy or Ford.  A hot car of this era just had to have Thrush mufflers and a jacked up rear end.

Every payday my dad would take my mom and me to the local A&W.  I can remember the day when I was finally old enough to order a Teen Burger and my very own order of French fries!  During those days the family car was a very powerful Plymouth Fury with a new one in the driveway ever year until they got rid of the fins in the early 60’s.  Then it was on to a string of Oldsmobiles.  Why Olds?  Because they had a 455cu, 375hp engine and a nice factory AC installation; horsepower for the old man and AC for my mom.  From Olds the old man went on to Buick Wildcat’s.  That is until they detuned them in 72.  He stuck with his 455cu, 375hp Wildcat until the day he died.  They might have to pry a gun from Charlton Heston’s dead hands, but for my dad it was the keys to his monster Buick with it’s 10mpg.

This picture was taken at a street festival here in Calgary.  I was feeling lazy that day and decided to leave the D700 at home instead pocketing my beater Canon A640.  I figured it would be a generally lousy day for photography but was instead presented with a very target rich environment.  Live and learn.  I did the best I could given the lighting, proximity of Mosquitoes (people in my way) and the limited space between the vehicles.  While the car was an integral part of the photograph, for me it represented mainly a time stamp. The food, now that was what caught my attention.  Did I mention I am just a tad overweight?

Since my digital days are rather recent compared with over 40 years of shooting film I only took one photograph of this subject.  Mind you it took me some time with lots of ducking and weaving to get just the right angle before I pulled the trigger.  I hope you enjoy this image and it brings a knowing smile to your face.  If you were too young to have enjoyed the drive-in experience rent a copy of “American Graffiti” to get a flavor of what I am talking about.  Say hi to the Wolfman for me.

55 Merc Memories - Eric Rose Fine Art Photography Blog

55 Merc Memories

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Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.

by on Oct.07, 2011, under Commerce, Vision

Steve Jobs - R.I.P.

Steve Jobs - R.I.P. image by Jonathan Mak

Many things can be said about Steve Jobs.  Many things have been said by people much more eloquent than myself so I will not add to the discourse here.  I must state I am a dyed in the wool PC person.  I have tried to get Macified but it just didn’t work for me.  However I do enjoy my iPod.  I will miss Steve’s drive, pugnacious stick it to “the man” attitude, even though he finally became “the man”.  Our lives are better because of Steve Jobs.  There is no one in North American business that has their poop together like Steve did.  He actually MADE something.  Created new products, new directions and new methods.  His company profited because of his vision and drive.  The world economy is failing because no one creates anything new anymore.  Things are run by investment bankers and traders who only know how to create ever more convoluted money manipulation schemes that as we have seen come crashing down leaving us holding the bag.

America was great when we had the likes of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Benjamen Franklin and the guts and determination of the people like the engineers and support staff of NASA when they brought back a severally crippled Apollo spacecraft.

In 2005 Steve gave a commencement speech at Stanford University.  It is one of the most inspirational messages I have heard in a very long time.  The title to this blog posting comes from it and I encourage you to watch it in it’s entirety.

Steve Jobs – Stanford Commencement Speech

America and I include Canada in that needs 50 Steve Jobs.  Today.  We are doomed without them.

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