1967 Alfa Romeo GT Friday, Oct 22 2010 

A few years ago, I found one of my favorite public events in the Dallas-Fort Worth area – the Italian Car Festival, held each September in Grapevine. Growing up in Europe, I always lusted after Italian cars, although some of the less exotic ones were easily found in the neighborhood.

First time I visited was in 2006, where the featured brand was Lamborghini. Then, in 2007, I was excited to bring my new DSLR (Canon Rebel XT) to the event, but it was stolen only days prior, so I had to make do with a point-and-shoot (Canon PowerShot A520). Then, in 2008, when I was excited to finally use a DSLR (Canon 20D), the event was canceled. Finally, in 2009, I brought my DSLR to the event, but the persistent rain limited the selection of cars on display.

So, here I am, in 2010, at the Nash Farm in Grapevine, with not only my Canon 7D, but also my Mamiya 1000S medium format rig. As a part of my September Manifesto, I brought the Mamiya to shoot a roll of medium format film. The resulting slides turned out very nicely, and there were several interesting ways to juxtapose the sporty European cars with rugged American farm equipment.

1967 Alfa Romeo GT

This is a classy and elegant 1967 Alfa Romeo GT; Alfa was the featured brand this year, because of the 100-year anniversary of the company. It’s a classy brand, albeit with a reputation for less-than-quality workmanship. Of course, when I was a kid, Alfa’s reputation was for winning rally races and going fast.

The bonus shot is the impossibly gorgeous 1971 DeTomaso Pantera. The film I used was Kodak Ektachrome, and I was curious about how the colors would hold up in the mid-day sun. On most of the shots, they were nicely saturated, but relatively restrained compared to my usual Fuji Velvia. I bumped up the reds a little bit on this shot, but on the main Alfa shot, the colors stayed pretty much as is.

Nevada Falls, From John Muir Trail Tuesday, Oct 19 2010 

I mentioned in my previous post that I visited Yosemite National Park during peak water flow. Scott, John, Tyler and I wanted to spend a day climbing up and down one of the signature trails of the park, The Mist Trail, which that day could have been named The Enormous Plumes of Spray Trail. The section just under the Vernal Falls was the worst, and we were more concerned with protecting our expensive cameras from the water than with using them to take photos. On top of the falls, we had to change shirts and expose some soaked clothing to the morning sun.

The final climb to the top of Nevada Falls didn’t quite resemble an unrelenting cold shower like its counterpart downstream, but we still got plenty of gusts of wind that brought the chilling spray upon our weary bodies. By this time, sun hid behind some clouds and the temperature dropped a bit. Wind was strong, and the clouds were moving, which made photography a bit challenging due to the changing light.

We finally made it to the top and enjoyed lunch, before we got on our way back to the valley following the John Muir Trail to the other side of the falls, against a sheer granite cliff. Just after one last refreshment courtesy of some persistent snow melt, we paused to gather our strength for the descent. I fired off a few shots, including the one of the back side of Half Dome I posted earlier.

Nevada Falls, From John Muir Trail

I then changed lenses and tried a wider composition with my next shot, which is what you see here – notice the similar scattered light. At 17mm, pretty much everything is in sharp focus, and I really love the distorted clouds reaching for the corners of the image with Liberty Cap dominating the center. I hesitated to post this, because it was too similar to the earlier shot, but upon further review, I decided this photo has a character of its own and deserves a spot in the blog.

Vernall Falls, Yosemite National Park Sunday, Oct 17 2010 

Fort Worth’s Amon Carter museum recently displayed an exhibit of Ansel Adams photographs, which I was excited to visit. Like most people, I was exposed to his work through his most popular images, and seeing an actual print of the glorious Clearing Winter Storm was certainly a thrill. I even saw the original Monolith: The Face of Half Dome (although slightly mislabeled by the museum), a 1934 print on Dassonville Charcoal Grey paper; on my June visit to Yosemite National Park, I bought a reproduction of this amazing photograph and it now hangs on a wall in my bedroom. Finally, I came face to face with his photo book Taos Pueblo, wishing I could flip through the gelatin silver photo paper pages on which Adams individually printed the photos.

But, it was the lesser known Adams Work that really got my attention. A photograph titled Pinnacles, Alabama Hills was magical – vertical rock outcroppings covered with lichen platelets against the background of snow-capped mountains. The level of detail was tremendous and you can sense the pre-visualization that Adams was so famous for.

Then there were several images from Big Bend National Park, made in the mid-to-late 1940s, especially the Santa Elena Canyon, which is not merely a composition, but a symphony of rock and light. The photograph seemed to be asking me why haven’t I made the 10-hour drive to this National Park yet; not exactly in my back yard, but in Texas terms certainly not beyond reach.

In all of his work, Adams emphasizes sharp focus and eye for detail, even in grandiose vistas. His Half Dome, Blowing Snow is a testament to this, with its portrayal of the friendship between ice and granite. Another theme that is noticeable is his use of the sky in his photos. It seems as if he used red filters just about every time he expected to show the sky in the photo, so that it would appear darker than the clouds scattered across it.

And finally, here and there, there are traces of Adams the portraitist, whether he’s photographing an unnamed Woman Behind Screen Door or his friend Alfred Stieglitz in his studio. One realizes that such photos were probably not done with his view cameras, which require slower, more deliberate operation, but rather with a more compact 35mm camera, making Adams a well-rounded wielder of photographic equipment.

Vernall Falls, Yosemite National Park

To illustrate this blog post, I chose not to use any of Adams’s images, as they are easily available on the internet, albeit in form nowhere near deserving of a fine work of art. Instead, here’s one of my own offering from the trip to Yosemite; a digital snapshot that’s been on top of the “Maybe” pile for four months. It’s a photo of Vernal falls, inspired by an image by Adams. The master was able to get close up to the water, which indicates it was probably later in the year — we were there in peak flow season, and it was impossible to use any electronic equipment on that particular portion of the aptly named Mist Trail. This was taken from a bridge further downstream, and I rather liked the way sun found a few ways through the clouds to offer some pleasant highlights on the water and foliage around it.

October Manifesto Sunday, Oct 3 2010 

In my September Manifesto, I set some goals designed to get me more involved in photography. Overall I did pretty well – I posted eleven portraits on my Flickr page; I shot a roll of medium format film and I read the book “First Light”. The goals I fell just short of were the number of blog posts (six instead of projected seven), and I did not make the 11×14 prints I wanted.

Despite not completing the list, I’m pretty pleased, and it definitely helped to define the goals in order to stay driven. It makes me adjust my October goals slightly, based on available time and opportunities to do photography-related activities. So, here they are:

Write 6-8 blog posts. Six is a good number – not too much so that I would have to blog too often, and not too little either so that I can stay motivated. I still have to get some ideas out there, so this should not be a problem.

Post 8 photos. I still have some maternity shoot photos to post, and let’s not forget that I shot a roll of medium format film that I could scan and post a few keepers.

Read “The Camera”. It was great that I was able to satisfy the September requirement by reading “First Light”, but that wasn’t really the achievement in reading. It was definitely amazing to learn the experiences of five great photographers, and even more inspiring to see their photos, but there wasn’t much text in the book, and I finished it in a few hours. However, “The Camera” is a little more substantial and requires some effort, perhaps even taking some notes. Still, I can’t wait.

My favorite photo from October 2009

Make 11×14 prints for portfolio. (From the September Manifesto) This is what I do to show people my work, and also to evaluate the possibilities of making even larger prints. All the Yosemite shots should be in here, as well as a few others; there are serious candidates for drum scans there, I just need to be able to visualize what I want.

Streamline Flickr page. Right now, most of the stuff is there, but there are some orphan sets, and a few things need to be tied together. It’s a vague goal, but any step would be a step forward.

I could also invest in a frame for one of the prints I made, and shoot another roll of medium format film, but this is enough for now.

What’s your plan for October?

Model Shoot: Crystal Friday, Oct 1 2010 

The third model in my July shoot (besides Elizabeth and Diana) was Crystal, who put the whole thing together. That’s what she does; she’s very passionate about modeling and keeps coming up with ideas for shoots. I met her last December at a hangar shoot organized by a local photography club. She was one of about a dozen models I shot that day, but just about the only one who followed up with me afterward.

A few months later, she had an idea for a shoot at a cemetery near downtown Dallas. She did hair and makeup herself, and even showed up with a few props. We had a great time shooting, and she wasn’t afraid to roll around in her dress, make faces and try different things. The weather was chilly (it was February), and it even rained a little, but overcast sky was friendly to our portrait mission, as there was no harsh shadows.

Crystal organized the July shoot pretty quickly, with a few photographers and models she worked with before. Even though she had a studio shoot earlier in the day, she came prepared with a couple of outfits and lots of energy. Time got away from us quickly and I got to shoot with her again only briefly toward the end of the shoot. We were joking around and most good shots ended up being candids, like this one here. You can see a few more shots of her on my Flickr page and her Model Mayhem page.

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