Battle of Nashville Park, January 2016

There is a strik­ing stat­ue in Nashville, real­ly one of the most incred­i­ble I’ve seen in the entire area. It’s in a small park — bare­ly an acre if that — set up as a memo­r­i­al for the Bat­tle of Nashville.

Supe­ria X‑Tra 400, Leica M3.

Best of 2014 Film Photos [Part 2]

Car­ry­ing on with Part 2 of my Top 10 (ok 11) 2014 Film pho­tos, let’s dive into the next five!

Front Lawn. Natchez, March 2014. T-Max 400, 35mm.

Front Lawn. Natchez, March 2014. T‑Max 400, 35mm.

Side Street. Raleigh, June 2014. Portra 400, 120.

Side Street. Raleigh, June 2014. Por­tra 400, 120.

Free Colors. Raleigh, June 2014. Portra 400, 120.

Free Col­ors. Raleigh, June 2014. Por­tra 400, 120.

Rain. Kanuga Conference Center, June 2014. FP4 120.

Rain. Kanu­ga Con­fer­ence Cen­ter, June 2014. FP4 120.

The Bather. Cheekwood, December 2014. Acros 100, 35mm.

The Bather. Cheekwood, Decem­ber 2014. Acros 100, 35mm.

Photo Exploration: Piazza Navona at Night

A long week in Rome offers many oppor­tu­ni­ties for pho­tog­ra­phy. How­ev­er, it was on our last night that I took this image for part of the Pho­to Explo­ration series.

This was with a Canon 5Dmk2, 24–70mm f/2.8L lens. Tak­en at 24mm and cropped to cut out some of the peo­ple mean­der­ing in front of me. 30 sec­onds at f/9.0, ISO 200.

I want­ed to mix the dynam­ic of the archi­tec­ture and sculp­ture with­out the dis­trac­tion of day­time light­ing and shad­ows. At night the ambi­ent light will be often be enough that any par­tic­u­lar light source will, unless it is direct­ly in the frame, have neg­li­gi­ble impact on the scene. Thus, in a long expo­sure such as this, one can get even light­ing across larg­er swaths of space than would nor­mal­ly be avail­able in daylight.

The con­trast of the organ­ic flow of the Berni­ni sculp­ture with the straight and pre­cise lines from the Sant’ Agnese in Agone church embod­ied Rome for me. A city built upon (and upon, and upon) itself with occa­sion­al attempts to impose order on the nat­ur­al chaos. A micro­cosm of the world, you could say.

The tem­per­a­ture of the scene was deter­mined by the piaz­za lights and I kept them as shot. Shoot­ing RAW does allow for greater lat­i­tude with adjust­ing that lat­er, but in the spir­it of “as I remem­ber it” the col­or temp was kept as is. It could have been cooled down to give more of a day­light feel, but los­ing the night long expo­sure effect did not add to the photography. I did not have a way to do a longer than 30 sec­ond expo­sure, but if I had then I think I would have shot longer. The cloud move­ment is sub­stan­tial but not as creamy as I would have hoped.

Over­all, I am pleased with this pho­to and I great­ly enjoy­ing long expo­sures more and more often!

Photo Exploration: Sunset Statue at Biltmore

This entry in the Pho­to Explo­rations series will focus on a 35mm film piece from the Bilt­more Estate.

When I vis­it the Bilt­more, the embar­rass­ment of (pho­tog­ra­phy) rich­es is over­whelm­ing. After the ini­tial “pho­to­graph every­thing!!!” ses­sions, I real­ized I would have to focus my vis­its with lim­its on the medi­um, sub­ject mat­ter, etc. This pho­to­graph was tak­en dur­ing a late-after­noon film ses­sion in Jan­u­ary 2011. I enjoy the way black and white film can enhance stone, and when that is com­bined with sculp­ture the results can be fantastic.

This was Kodak 400cn, which is an inter­est­ing black and white film as it is devel­oped via the same process as col­or neg­a­tives (C‑41) as opposed to tra­di­tion­al devel­op­ment of black and white film (think Tri‑X, T‑MAX, etc). There are many ben­e­fits to this film — smooth grain, incred­i­ble scan­ning fideli­ty, ease of devel­op­ment and so on. Although it won’t ever give you the grain and feel of a Tri‑X or HP5 (and def­i­nite­ly don’t try push­ing or pulling it and then expect most labs to be able to fol­low those direc­tions), it is an excel­lent choice for start­ing in black and white and giv­ing the pho­tog­ra­ph­er the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­cen­trate on tonal val­ues and shape with­out the dis­trac­tion of col­or reproduction.

Meter­ing was prob­a­bly done by hand. When there is a dif­fi­cult light­ing sit­u­a­tion, a cam­er­a’s built-in meter can be thrown off by the dif­fer­ence in ambi­ent light and what is being reflect­ed from the sub­ject. In this case, the stat­ue was offer­ing very bright and very dark spots and I was wor­ried about over/under expo­sure. With an inci­dent meter, I was able to con­cen­trate only on the light of the scene and not the dis­parate light read­ings com­ing from the statue.

I want­ed to tell a sto­ry with this piece and not so much doc­u­ment the art­work. By going around the stat­ue, I found angles that lost the stat­ue’s face but gained van­tage points for a more engag­ing point of view. I like to think that this flautist is giv­ing a bit of a salute to the set­ting sun and is per­haps call­ing friends togeth­er for a night­time celebration.

Photo Exploration: Navy Pier, Chicago, September 2012

Con­tin­u­ing the series start­ed here, I’d like to select anoth­er image that I just fin­ished work­ing this week.

This was a dig­i­tal expo­sure, with a Canon 5Dmk2 and the 24–70mm f/2.8L lens. 35mm focal length, f/13 @ 30 sec­onds, ISO 200. It is an exam­ple of the cre­ativ­i­ty one can encounter with long expo­sures at night.

This par­tic­u­lar place was a bit out of the way from the main traf­fic towards the end of the Pier. My wife was fond of the Juli­et (of Romeo and) stat­ue and I’d been look­ing for a way to frame a mix of still and motion, so this loca­tion was a stel­lar point to explore. Find­ing a loca­tion in such a busy area where I could set­up for a long expo­sure was cru­cial to reduce vibra­tion and also to be con­sid­er­ate of those around us. With the stat­ue very still but the Fer­ris Wheel in motion it was a shot that near­ly framed itself.

The only main deci­sion I had to make besides fram­ing was aper­ture selec­tion. My first require­ment was get­ting the entire scene in focus via a large depth of field. By uti­liz­ing a hyper­fo­cus tech­nique, I was able to get the entire field of view in focus with an aper­ture of f/8. How­ev­er, that was­n’t pro­vid­ing a long enough expo­sure. By stop­ping down to f/13 I was able to get a longer expo­sure with­out get­ting too far into DLA-land.

Then it was recheck­ing my fram­ing, recheck­ing my set­tings and trig­ger­ing the shut­ter. I did use the cam­er­a’s self-timer to reduce shut­ter shake. A bet­ter prac­tice would have been a remote shut­ter, which I cer­tain­ly would have used if I’d had mine with me.

My long-term per­cep­tion of this piece is still being formed, but my imme­di­ate reac­tion is one of struc­ture, cre­ation and time­less­ness. I almost feel like that wheel has been spin­ning around for as long as that Juli­et stat­ue has been there — with both of them placed at the dawn of Chica­go and will always be there. I think that long expo­sures con­tribute to that feel­ing of time­less­ness. By extend­ing the time cap­tured in the pho­to, we extend the per­ceived time that the sub­ject will con­tin­ue to exist. On some lev­el, isn’t that what pho­tog­ra­phy is all about?