Seeing with new eyes

In addition to my regular shooting and darkroom printing, lately I've also been digging into photographs I took early last year. At the time, I did not put much stock in these images. I did not think they were very compelling, and not worthy of adding to my portfolio, printing, or even posting to Instagram. 

But what a year does to your perspective! Since I started focusing on shooting film, I've certainly developed my eye. I've become more selective, and specific, about the things I shoot. I have a much better sense of what, and how, I should be photographing. And I'm constantly refining my eye. 

But apparently, it goes the other way too. My eye must also be attuned to things that I did not initially appreciate. Because when I look through these photographs, I realize now that they are compelling, in their own special way. Here are just a few, all shot in early 2017.

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2001 in new 70mm print

Today I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, at the Castro Theater here in SF, for its new 70mm print/50th birthday release extravaganza. This is a movie that gets better and reveals more of its beauty and mystery with every viewing. Seeing it today, roughly a couple years since my last viewing, in 70mm, was a transportive experience.

I think a lot of what makes this movie so special and important is that it's pure cinema. It's a film made not just to tell a story, but it's a work of film as an art itself. 

What I mean is that the movie's sole purpose is to tell its story through the medium of film, and using the medium itself to tell the story, without any outside manipulations or effects, digital or otherwise.

Watching it today, there were so many sequences that I could not figure out how they were shot. Sequences that people today wouldn't bat an eyelid at, given modern-day special effects. 

But when you think about the fact that 2001 was made purely using actual, physical, tangible things that you can see, on the tangible medium of film, it astounds you. 

And that's part of the beautiful mystery of the film. Not just is the story ultimately a mystery, but the way it is told and committed to film is just as mysterious. 

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A new project

So in addition to my Tenderloin portrait series, and my other street work around SF, I've begun work on a new photo series! This one will be focused on a residential area of Palm Springs, called Blaisdell Canyon.

This is in its very early stages. But I think what I'll be trying to do is present the area in a way that conveys an epic sense of emptiness.

I still view it as street photography, but on a larger scale. And inverted, in a way. 

The work I produce with this should be viewed on large silver gelatin prints, not on a computer screen.

For that reason, don't expect to see much digital output from me around the photographs, beyond the video below. It shows the first 16"x20" print I made for the series.

I'll be focusing on taking more photographs, making large darkroom prints of them, and eventually have them exhibited.

So, stay tuned!

Shooting with the Pentax K1000

Today I went out and walked around Chinatown, and the Embarcadero, primarily to scout some possible spots for an upcoming shoot I'm doing. But I brought my Pentax K1000 with me, and ended up shooting quite a number of street photos in the process. 

It's been well over a year since I've used this camera, and I realized again what a joy it is to shoot with. Because it's fully manual (and mechanical), making pictures on it is a much more tactile, physical experience. You need to do a little bit more work to take your pictures, but that's what makes it so great and so fun to shoot with. It really feels like you're working the camera, and making all the decisions on your own (because you are), and I love that about it. 

Plus, it just feels great in the hand. It's very ergonomic, without any unnecessary frills or clutter, and the perfect weight. Not too light, and not too heavy.  

It also has a wonderful shutter sound. It's more of a clap than a click or clack, but still plenty swift and mechanical. 

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Digital images of film negatives

So I've started on a bit of a new project among others -- taking digital images of my film negatives, using my iPhone, on a light table.

I'm digitally shooting 35mm color, 35mm b&w, and 120mm b&w film negatives, as well as 35mm slides.

I am not sure exactly what I'm trying to do, say or achieve with this, but its been very fun and exciting so far. Below are just a few images of my 120mm b&w negatives, shot this year and last around the Tenderloin of SF and Lake Merritt in Oakland.

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Falling in love with slide film

I was recently gifted some slide film, and have since fallen in love with the format. It certainly has a much livelier tone and vibrancy to it than color negative film. But what I think I love more is what you get back: Individually mounted exposures that are exactly the pictures you took. It's like holding a tiny little print in your hand, which you can do whatever you want with, and enjoy for as long as you live. You can project it, gaze upon it on a light box, or simply hold it up to the San Francisco Bay. 

film is eternal

Yesterday I began a new black & white darkroom printing workshop at San Francisco City College.

One of the other photographers printed a photo of a bunch of lions feeding on a buffalo carcass in the African grasslands. 

It was a beautiful and bold photo. Perfectly composed, taken from a high angle so that the camera is peering down on the lions as they fed. The image quality was super sharp.

We asked this guy, So when did you take this photo? We figured it was fairly recent. 

Sometime in the 70s, he said. 

Apparently he had dug up the old negative, and decided that was the photo he was going to print yesterday.

Looking at the beautiful print he made, you never would have guessed that the original image was captured 40-some years ago.

Art I'm thankful for this year

[In no particular order]

Good Time (film)

Blade Runner 2049 (film)

The Disaster Artist (film)

Dunkirk (film)

I, Tonya (film)

A Ghost Story (film)

A Deeper Understanding, by the War on Drugs (music)

Pure Comedy, by Father John Misty (music)

Cry Cry Cry, by Wolf Parade (music)

Damn, by Kendrick Lamar (music)

Hot Thoughts, by Spoon (music)

Sleep Well Beast, by The National (music)

Songs of Experience, by U2 (music)

Loney Dear, by Emil Svanängen (music)

Stranger Things 2 (tv)

Apple Watch Series 3 (tech)

Tesla Model 3 (tech) 

Larry Sultan exhibit at SF MOMA (photography)

My photography

My friends' photography

My music 

[]

Tomorrow is a departure // a trip to Yosemite // and the larger, Sierra Nevada // mountain range region.

A safe base in Mammoth Lakes, with only 1 camera and lens, to physically take // my Nikon f3.

On the agenda, is an old west Ghost town // with a literal connection to inspire // to make.

Film to be used: Ektar 100, Portra 400, Portra 160 ... Kodak Tri-X.

There are things to capture // of this season's end // and the end of golden disasters.

Series: Desert Forms

Last month I visited Joshua Tree National Park, and I was blown away by its contrasts. It's a calming, peaceful place. And a dry, dusty place that will eat you alive if you're not prepared for the heat. 

It's a place full of whimsical, human-like trees that conjure a fantastical Dr. Seuss story. And yet it's also the California desert, offering sunsets that remind you that you're still just due east of LA.

It's a place for artists seeking to escape the rat race. And yet it's still a hard place to make it all work. 

But I think it's important not to get caught up in these contrasts. Above all Joshua Tree is elemental. It's the land, it's the road, it's the rocks, it's the trees, it's the plants, it's the sunsets.  

I wanted to try to capture those simple forms with these photographs.

If you like what you see, please head to the store! The 8x10 handmade darkroom prints below I'm selling there. All are limited edition, so get yours before they run out! Enjoy and thanks for looking.

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Desert Forms / Untitled #8

Desert Forms / Untitled #12

Desert Forms / Untitled #12

Desert Forms / Untitled #5

Desert Forms / Untitled #5

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Desert Forms / Untitled #4

Shooting with a Holga

Last week I bought a Holga on eBay (with flash), and this weekend I shot my first roll of medium format film. What a treat.

Shooting with the Holga is a liberating experience. Yes, there's barely any controls on it, but that's part of what makes it great. You just have to know how to leverage its limitations.

The fact that people still use this camera, and are creating amazing work with it, is the perfect fuck-you to today's conveniences and technologies, both in and outside of the camera world. This camera forces you to embrace its limitations, find ways to work with and around them, and in the process it turns you into a better photographer. 

Example: It only has one shutter speed. That means you may need to choose a different ISO speed film to shoot with for a particular shot, or you may have to shoot at a different time of the day, or you may have to shoot on bulb mode, and calculate a longer exposure time yourself. Or, you know, shoot something else. 

When you're shooting with a modern digital camera that does most of the work for you, you're learning considerably less.

That's not always a bad thing. Photography is about more than technique and settings. But my position is that when you're forced to make more decisions about making the image, it gives you greater ownership over the finished work.   

On Exploration

A month or so ago I rented a zipcar and took a drive up to Point Reyes. I had never been there before, it was a beautiful Saturday, and I wanted to spend some time just exploring, walking around and making photos. These are a few of the pictures I developed.

Even if you feel settled, and you think you know an area, it's very important to venture out just a little bit, and explore. Often times you don't even have to go that far. It might just be the next neighborhood over, or a few towns above you, or an hour's drive away.

Whatever it is, there are whole other worlds out there to explore and see new things. You don't have to pay hundreds of dollars and get on a plane and travel to another country just to experience something new.

That's the perspective I have, when I feel like exploring. Point Reyes is only a couple hours from San Francisco, and yet it feels like an entirely different world. There's a calming peacefulness to it. And a sense of it being untouched. It's glowing country.