Film Developers

I recently discovered that all of the film developers I have been using had radically changed formulae. This occurred without warning and I’m lucky that I thought to run control strip tests on the latest batches. In all three cases, I found the chemistry to be useless. I process B&W film for customers, so can’t afford any mistakes.

I ran several tests with different manufacturers and have found my favorite developers for B&W film. This image was from a test roll I shot at the Mt. Pisgah Arboretum. It was shot on medium format Ilford Delta 400 film and I attempted to print it first in the darkroom. It had major light flare since I was shooting into the sun, so had to resort to a scan and the resulting inkjet print you see here. A lucky shot for a test roll.

To glaze, or not to glaze

Being a bit of a klutz, I never get through a framing session without spilling red stuff on mat board.  So, for shows in my gallery and the PhotoZone gallery, I choose to frame without glass.  If I am showing in a more formal gallery, then I give in to the norm.  But everyone I talk to agrees that images look much better without the added reflections.

Certainly, glass protects the image, but in my case it doesn’t matter too much since I print my own work.  Cost isn’t the issue if an image shines with a more intimate vibrance.


A new direction

I’m taking my photography in a new direction.  For years, I’ve been trying to photograph the landscape in such a way that denies the presence of human influence.

Recently I was on a trip to southern California and did some photography with 35mm infrared film.  We were staying at a town called Three Rivers which is literally 1 mile from the entrance to Sequoia National Park.  I was out early with my old original 35mm camera (1963 vintage) and a several prime lenses. I was trying to photograph the surrounding trees and landscape using my “O’Brien eye”.   To explain, my wife always teases me about the  way I go into dense underbrush to photograph.  She sees something she thinks I might like to photograph and says, “There’s an O’Brien”.  I take it as a complement and I know she means it to be.  After all my series “Sienna Woods” was born from this approach.

When I processed the film some days after the Sequoia trip and started to isolate images to print from the contact sheets, I noticed that the images that worked had evidence of human presence.  I was disappointed when I started to print a shot with power lines.  Having noticed that I decided to print it anyway.  Well because of the power lines, my heart wasn’t in it and the print got torn up later.  Some days later, I went back to the darkroom and tried printing another image from the same roll.  It was an old tree with a corner of black sky.  I noticed that two power lines were running through the sky area.  Very disturbing, but then I noticed that there was a light fixture attached to the tree trunk, with electric cords attached as well.  I suddenly decided to put energy into making a quality print.  When I removed it from the drying rack the next morning,  I decided that I liked the image and intended to call it “Wired”.  Afterwards, I printed at least one other image like it.  So looking back at my work, there are several successful images that have some small hint of human influence.  Apparently this has been creeping into my work for some time.  So is this a new direction?  Perhaps I have older images that I didn’t print because of this.  I suspect that in future, I may start to look for such things.  I don’t want them to overpower the image, but would like to see them there if they create tension and wonder for the viewer.

I’ve attached 4 recent images from that trip including one other older image from Kangaroo Ridge. Some didn’t like the fence on the left.  I decided long ago that it needed to be there.

Note that in Three Rivers California, the presence of humans is very subtle.  Probably not easily seen at this size.


Last of the Color Negs

For years, I have processed color film.  I have finally dropped that process in favor of digital photography for color.  Shooting and processing black and white film is still my favorite activity.  When possible, I still make silver gelatin prints from film.

The images above are from the last processed medium format film.  My favorite color negative film is Kodak Portra 400NC.  Since I no longer do darkroom prints from color film, I have scanned these negatives as I have done for many years to make archival inkjet prints.

Photos from Santa Fe Opening

The Handmade Photograph Exhibition:  Contemporary Photographers working in Historic Processes. On display until July 27th at el Museo Cultural in Santa Fe.

This is a juried show of alternative process images.  It was Bostick and Sullivan’s first juried show.  There were over 1200 submissions.  About 80 were chosen. We weren’t able to attend, but photos of the opening were provided by Bostick and Sullivan.

Trip to Sequoia and Yosemite

Here’s some recent photos from our trip to southern California.  Color images were all made with a digital SLR and were edited in PhotoShop.

 The black and white photos were made with a converted digital SLR.  The camera is now infrared sensitive.  The tint was added digitally to simulate either sepia or platinum/palladium warm tone prints.  The color images are all from a digital camera.

Disappearing History

Disappearing History

I love digital photography, shooting, scanning, editing, printing , etc.  A lot of my clients don’t seem to be aware that photos taken these days, will mostly not exist for future generations to view and use.  In the distant future genealogists will find a great void in photographic material.  Why?  Because people no longer print their photos.  I have friends who have thousands of photos on their phones.  When they pass, no one will have access to them.  Many other people keep images on their hard drives.  Hard drives fail and even if not, when they pass those hard drives will be wiped clean, recycled or end up in the land fill.  To me this is the greatest disaster to befall historians and genealogists of the future.  You may be thinking, “Well he’s in the printing business, he’s just trying to promote his trade”.  That is partly correct.  I was in the one-hour photo business for 23 years and in those days every roll of film had every frame of film printed.  I no longer do mass production printing.  My business is a custom enlargement service.  So most of the images I encounter are by people who treasure them. Sure those one-hour images probably went in a shoebox or album and yes that box could end up in the dumpster or burn in a fire.  But the chances that someone might come along and rescue those images for whatever purpose was much better than it is today. How many Vivian Maier’s are out there today?  

If you feel you don’t need to print your work, at least archive it in multiple places and with multiple types of technology.  20 years from now a lab will look at the CD you handed him and say, ”What’s this?”  Get my drift?  

There are still labs that print from digital sources, maybe you don’t want to print the 5,000 images from your last outing, but at least save the people photos.


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