One Last Rome Post Wednesday, Oct 10 2012 

I spent this Sunday afternoon finally developing a roll of Ilford FP5 Plus film. It’s a roll I started in Rome, and finished at the Italian Car Festival in Grapevine. I was a little hesitant, because the last time I tried to develop my own film, I wasn’t very successful.

I meant to split this post in two, with one photo in each, but decided you probably had enough of Rome shots for a little while. So, I’m combining them into one post, so we can move to something else tomorrow.

Forum, film

Forum, film

First we have the Forum again, with Temple of Saturn in the foreground on the left and the Coliseum in the background on the right. I like the clarity of this shot, and the high-contrast afternoon light gives a more pleasing result here than in the color shot from a few weeks ago. There is, however, some banding in the sky that is probably a result of an uneven exposure to some chemicals during the development process. But it’s still a very nice shot overall.

Trevi Fountain, film

Trevi Fountain, film

The second shot is Trevi. Again unflattering, late morning light, but a slightly tighter composition brings up the majesty of the fountain a little better than the earlier shot. It also helps that there are no tourist heads at the bottom, but I’m really angry at the Rome municipal government for setting up that scaffolding on the left of the fountain.

Rome is my favorite city in the world. What’s yours?

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New Roll Failures, Grapevine, TX Sunday, Oct 7 2012 

I spent this Sunday afternoon finally developing a roll of Ilford FP5 Plus film. It’s a roll I started in Rome, and finished at the Italian Car Festival in Grapevine. I was a little hesitant, because the last time I tried to develop my own film, I wasn’t very successful.

These two photos are my only major failures on this roll. The culprit again was the spiral spool, and there was a spot where the chemicals didn’t quite flow freely to the film surface.

Lamborghini Murcielago

Lamborghini Murcielago

The first photo above is of a wheel of a Lamborghini Murcielago. You can see that the right side of the photo is a smear, where the chemicals got all haywire. The bottom right corner of the photo is somehow preserved.

DeLorean

DeLorean

The next photo on the roll was this shot of a DeLorean grille. The smear is on the left this time, and you can see how it angles away at the bottom – that line continues and saves that little corner of the previous photo.

The good news is that the rest of the photos came out just fine, and I’ll be happy to post a few more of them next week.

You’re welcome to share your experience and advice about developing film in the comments.

Toadstool Hoodoo, UT Tuesday, Oct 2 2012 

In May 2008, I went on a trip with fellow photographers Tyler and John, and we explored the areas around the Utah-Arizona border.

Right before the trip, I bought a used Canon Elan 7 film camera, because I wanted to use my 17-40mm lens on it, so it can be the true wide angle lens. The results I got on film were really good, and I was encouraged to continue with my retro ways.

Toadstool Hoodoo (Ilford HP5)

Toadstool Hoodoo (Ilford HP5)

Shown here is one of my favorite film shots from that trip. It’s the back of the Toadstool Hoodoo, on the road between Page AZ, and Kanab, UT. The sun came up high enough that the light wasn’t as “golden” as it may have been an hour or so earlier. But I really like how the texture of the rock reflects the grain of the film, and the shadow detail was wonderfully preserved on Ilford HP5.

Like I said, this shot encouraged me to continue shooting film. For our 2009 trip, I bought a medium format camera, the Mamiya 645, and recently I upgraded again, to the 6×7 format of Mamiya 7. I still get great results with film, especially black and white.

If you still shoot film, leave me a comment below.

Nuestra Señora de Almudena, Madrid, Spain Thursday, Sep 20 2012 

For my final photo from Madrid, I decided to re-scan this evening film shot of Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Almudena – a massively awesome looking church directly across from the Palacio Real. In fact, in the photo of the Palace that I posted the other day, I was standing on the steps of the cathedral.

Nuestra Señora de Almudena

Nuestra Señora de Almudena

Pictured here is the north facade – you can see the setting sun hitting it from the right side of the photo. It’s worth noting that there is a statue of Pope John Paul II in front of the east entrance to the church. Which reminds me to let you know that next week I will start posting photos from my trip to Rome this past July, which included a visit to the final resting place of John Paul II.

So, over the last few days, we’ve seen Spanish palaces, churches, gates and squares. As we say goodbye to Spain (at least for now), I should mention that I wrote additional posts about Spain for a travel blog of my friend Dave Dunn. You can read those on his blog, and see a few more of my photos if you click on the following links:

Numbered Beaches, Olympic National Park, Washington, USA Monday, Mar 19 2012 

As I mentioned before, in August 2011 I visited my friend and photographer Tyler in Seattle. He was kind enough to provide me with a tour of nearby National Parks, which he documented quite well over the last few years since he moved into the area.

One day, I’ll tell you a sad story about a very nice sunrise at Mount Rainier, but this story, far less sad, begins later that same day.

After breakfast at Rainier, we broke camp and took a few hours drive west to a quaint little town of Forks, WA, made famous by some teenage vampire novels you may have heard of. We stopped at a few places along the way and took some photos, but the main goal was to get to the Second Beach, a secluded place on the western side of the Olympic peninsula, in time for the sunset.

Third Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

Third Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

And we did, or so we thought. The First, Second and Third beaches are adjacent lagoons, each with its own trail leading back to the main road to La Push, WA. But, since it was an afternoon of a long day when we drove by, we didn’t realize we took the trail for the Third beach until we hit the sand, a mile or so later.

Twilight-themed signs at a restaurant in Forks, WA

Twilight-themed signs at a restaurant in Forks, WA

Which was just as well, because it was a perfectly lovely place, and the dying light of the day provided great back lighting to the distant sea stacks. I started a new roll of Fuji Velvia film with two sunset shots, of which I prefer this one, with more dramatic clouds and nice reflection in the water. I wish I had a longer lens than the normal 80mm on my Mamiya 7 medium format camera, or that I were closer to the distant sea stacks, but it still ended up being a very nice photo.

We went back among the werewolves and vampires (see phone camera photo), regrouped and tried again in the morning to find the Second beach. When we got there, I saw why Tyler wanted us to go there in the first place. Massive sea stacks dominated the landscape, and an extremely low tide revealed many of the smaller rocks, and billions of muscle shells clinging on to the rock.

Second Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

Second Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

Spoiling the fun were the Pacific Northwest clouds which obscured the rising sun. We still tried to make the best of it and trotted around the beach and among the rocks, and made a few photos along the way. I changed films from the high-contrast Fuji Velvia to the lower contrast Ilford Delta 100. The overcast sky and the lingering fog gave the scene a moody feeling, which I ended up enjoying.

Although remote, Olympic National Park is well worth the trip – in this post, I didn’t even mention the central part of the park with rainforests, river valleys and dramatic waterfalls, like the Sol Duc Falls. By the time we got back to civilization, the weather cleared up very nicely. As a bonus from the visit, during our stop at a Starbucks I ended up picking up Hugh Laurie’s excellent CD “Let Them Talk“, which I like almost as much as these photos.

Vlašić Mountain, Bosnia and Herzegovina Friday, Dec 23 2011 

In October of this year, as I try to do every year, I visited my homeland of Bosnia and Herzegovina and spent two weeks with the closest members of my family – mom, dad, and sister. The four of us wanted to take an extended weekend trip to a resort on the mountain of Vlašić, a few hours north of the home town and capital of Sarajevo. All photos in this post were taken with my new medium format film camera, Mamiya 7.

Clouds over a Valley

Clouds over a Valley

To properly write “Vlašić” is hard enough with English alphabet, and to pronounce it even harder. But the place is a gorgeous ski resort, which we visited before the first snow and the official start of the busy season. The black and white photo above (Ilford HP5 film) was one of the first I took up there, on a trail just above a ski jump tower, which can be seen above the tree canopies on the right. The sky was quite foreboding and threatened the sleepy valley below.

Last Light on Pines

Last Light on Pines

The following morning, I was too lazy to get up and shoot the sunrise, but in the evening, I went back up the trail to try to catch some of the warm “golden hour” light. The clouds parted a bit and just before the sun went down, it lit beautifully this row of conifer trees. I like the way that streak of red stands out among the green, both of which come out great on the Fuji Velvia film.

Ski Lift Shack

Ski Lift Shack

Remarkably, I managed to squeeze one more shot during this golden hour – the odd looking building is a tiny wooden shack at the top of the ski lift. The wood picks up the warm light nicely, enhanced again by the magical Fuji Velvia.

Splash of Color

Splash of Color

A day or two later, on our last evening on the mountain, I went for a walk in a different direction – not as much elevation gain as the top of the ski lift, but still some nice scenery. I was walking through some fields and found this bundle of color in the grass. I envisioned a depth-of-field shot, turned my aperture to f/4 and got as close as I could to the flower. The depth of field in the resulting shot was a little too thin, but I still like the way it turned out.

For more of my photos from other trips to Bosnia, visit my Flickr sets here, here and here.

City Postcards: Seattle Monday, Nov 21 2011 

A few months ago, my friend and photographer Tyler invited me to spend a few days in the Pacific Northwest. Although our main target were the National Parks in the area (photos from Mt. Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park are coming shortly), I wanted to get a good look at the city of Seattle. So, here’s a selection of best shots that I created with my new Mamiya 7 camera; all photos were made on Ilford Delta 100 black and white film.

We’ll start this post with a view of Seattle’s most famous building.

Space Needle

Space Needle

I’ve been on top of a few famous buildings, so I didn’t want to spend time and money climbing on top of Space Needle. I’m sure the view is great, but I had limited time to spend downtown, and the ticket was slightly over priced. Nevertheless, it’s still a very cool, sleek structure, in the middle of the city, surrounded by parks and businesses of all kinds. We’ll come back to it in a moment.

Pike Street Market

Pike Street Market

Almost as famous as the Space Needle is the Pike Street Market. It’s blocks and blocks of shops and vendors, centered around the intersection of Pike Street and First Avenue. You may have seen the whole fish-throwing act; that’s right here. According to the clock, it was around 3:30 P.M. when this was taken. It was Thursday and it was lively; people having lunch, running errands, tourists with cameras around their necks, UPS truck deliveries… It’s a city center in many ways.

Coffee House, Seattle

Coffee House, Seattle

Rewind a few hours, and go back about a mile, and this is the scene in a more quiet part of Pike Street, further up on the hill. One other thing that Seattle is famous for is coffee, and the coffee houses are everywhere. This one caught my eye because it was particularly colorful, with its teal paint job and a gold window frames. And yet, as I often do, I preferred this b/w film shot to my color digital. Maybe it’s the old-school font in the name of the business that gave the whole scene a more serene, relaxed look.

Downtown Seattle, from Gasworks Park

Downtown Seattle, from Gasworks Park

The August days were surprisingly sunny, but this Monday started like a traditional Seattle day – gloomy, overcast, with a bit of a drizzle. I explored the neighborhood of Fremont and moved along the shoreline until I got to Gas Works Park. Tyler has made some fantastic images there, and I was excited to see the old machinery that still resides there, but the park is also a nice overlook to downtown Seattle on the other side of Lake Union. There’s Space Needle again on the right edge of the photo.

Machinery, Gasworks Park

Machinery, Gasworks Park

An interesting note about the machinery photo above is that I heavily corrected the vertical perspective in PhotoShop. In the original image, the chimneys were converging toward the middle axis of the photo. Because of the correction, the chimney on the left looks unusually large, but I’m satisfied with the overall result.

And, finally, here is my favorite photo. With only a few hours before I had to head back to Seattle-Tacoma International airport, I took a bus toward Volunteer park and then walked over to Lake View Cemetery. I wanted to visit one of the most visited grave sites in the US, the final resting place of Bruce Lee, my childhood hero and one of the coolest icons of the world of film. The cemetery office was across the street from the gate, so I stopped by to sign the guest book and pick up directions to find Bruce and his son Brandon.

How cool was Bruce Lee? Well, consider this: Steve McQueen and Chuck Norris were among the pall bearers at his funeral. Rest in peace, master.

The Dragon's Eternal Nest

The Dragon's Eternal Nest

Nevada, USA Monday, May 16 2011 

This was the fourth consecutive year that I took a photography-focused trip with my friends Tyler and John. Even though we’ve been there before, we decided to come back to Zion National Park and explore it a little bit more. More on that later.

As on the previous trips to Southern Utah, we flew into Las Vegas, rented an SUV and drove north. This time around, we decided to stop at the Valley of Fire State Park, which is only a few miles off the main interstate.

The park is the home for many interesting rock formations, and several examples of petroglyphs, drawings carved in stone by ancient peoples inhabiting this area. This shot was taken from an elevated platform by the Atlatl Rock, where some of the petroglyphs can be seen up close.

Nevada, USA

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, USA

There are several things seemingly illogical about this photo. Clearly, there are no petroglyphs immediately visible. In fact, I was turned the other way, into the desert, bathed in the mid-day sun. Further, despite the fact that the whole idea of the Valley of Fire is that it’s the bright red sandstone that gives the rocks their attractive color, I was shooting through a roll of Ilford FP4 Plus black and white film.

But, I’m pleased with the way this turned out. The film’s sensitivity to red end of the light spectrum rendered the sand nearly white. The desert, dotted with bushes and dissected by a straight road against the backdrop of rocky hills and distant mountains, gives off a quintessential American vibe; even more specifically, a Nevada vibe.

Color of Nevada

So, it’s the wrong time of day to take a landscape photo, there is no clear subject, there is no color, and there are certainly no petroglyphs. And yet, at least for me, there is a story. For comparison, I included the digital color shot.

(NOTE: Ilford FP4 Plus film processed by the Dallas lab BWC.)

Point of Inspiration: Alan Ross Wednesday, Jan 26 2011 

This past Saturday, I met Alan Ross, a master photographer, who spent some time in the 70s as the assistant to Ansel Adams. An exhibit of his work opened at the Sun To Moon Gallery in Dallas and he was on hand to schmooze with the Dallas socialites, which, for an hour or so, included yours truly.

Alan Ross

Alan Ross, inspiration

On display was about 20 of his quite exquisite silver gelatin prints, in formats up to 24×30. My favorite by far was Bridalveil Fall in Storm, obviously an homage to Ansel’s Clearing Winter Storm. The touch of genius was a river at the bottom of the frame, which miraculously picked up some great light from the clouds. Then there was Farm and Clouds, New Mexico, layers upon layers of rich details and flowing lines, truly a magnificent work of art.

Then I saw a few others and realized something. I’ve been fortunate to visit some really amazing places the last few years with friends Scott, John, Tyler. All those places were on the walls of the gallery – Bryce Canyon hoodoos, Monument Valley rock formations, and scenes from Yosemite that nearly retraced my own steps.

Which is telling me I’m on the right track. Sure, those are places of world-wide known beauty, visited by million people every year, but my friends and I have done some amazing work there. I have little doubt that we’re getting to where we’d be able to post our own work in galleries. The way we see things, the way we make decisions about what to shoot, it’s all leading somewhere. A lot of the shots I’ve seen at this exhibit are of fragments of nature; a group of aspens here, a pile of rocks there. There was always something outstanding though, and it was usually the weather – the clouds or the fog. So, not always the golden light (it’s black-and-white, after all), but often something to enhance the subject and transform it from ordinary to extraordinary.

Alan signed my copy of Ansel’s Autobiography and we talked shop a little, which inspired me to establish my 2011 resolution – start developing my own black and white film. This was taken with my Canon Elan 7 camera with 85mm lens on great Ilford HP5 Plus film. The only thing that could have made it more exciting would have been to develop it myself.

The Indestructible Fifty Friday, Dec 3 2010 

I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I had to start rebuilding my Canon gear from scratch. After I decided to purchase the EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens, my needs dictated to get a “walkaround” lens, something that I can keep on my camera about 80% of the time. That ended up being the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens, which is truly spectacular, and served me well in many occasions.

Lovrijenac Fortress

Nifty Fifty at its best

And yet, with two Canon cameras (one digital and one film), I was not done collecting gear. My friend Scott was selling his EF 50mm f/1.8 II, otherwise known as “the nifty fifty”, so I was happy to take it off his hands. The Fifty proved to be a wonderful addition to my arsenal almost immediately, as I made some really nice portraits with it, although it was also occasionally useful for landscapes. It’s very light, and I once mistakenly took it off the camera thinking I’m only twisting off the lens cap.

Lenses of that focal length aren’t difficult to manufacture, so they are of very simple design and very good optically. Its large maximum aperture opened up a lot of possibilities for photos with narrow depth of field. I was able to use it in a wide variety of ways, and the image of the Lovrijenac Fortress pictured above is one of my favorite photos, a print of which is awaiting matting and framing. I loved using it on my film camera (Canon Elan 7), because there was something basic about the combination.

Indestructible Fifty

A photo of the old lens, taken with the new lens

Alas, in the last year or so, it had it rough. The Fifty had to share the backpack with several other pieces of kit, many of which were more sturdily built. At some point, it lost the battle against the Mamiya 645 1000S, and its autofocus function was no longer available. The innards were spilling out, and at one point along the Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park, I even dropped it and barely saved it from a fall of many hundreds of feet. The Indestructible Fifty kept on clicking, but it clearly needed to be replaced.

This past Thanksgiving Week, I spent a few days in New York City, and on my list of places to visit was the B&H Photo Video store, the largest camera store in the world. They are the best in the business, and I’ve purchased items from their website many times before, anything from a roll of film to my Canon 7D. The store is insanely efficient, which it has to be, because the amount of shoppers rivals any department store I’ve ever been to. The staff was extremely knowledgeable, and through an amazing system of belts and elevators, they provided me with a brand new copy of the nifty fifty. I used it to snap the picture of the old lens falling apart, but I hope to find many happier subjects for it in the future.

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