Thursday, April 2, 2015

Happy April Fools day

Yesterdays post was indeed a joke.

And maybe it was not the most obvious one at first, but no I didn't travel all the way to 'Fresno' to get 'the shot' of Tunnel View. I mean, c'mon.

This post was part of a larger scheme, set up by no other than +Jim Goldstein . About 10 others participated in the gag. Linking blogs to each other and basically what we were doing was posting the same shot over and over again.

It was our way of poking fun at the homogeneity of today's landscape photography scene where everybody is going after the low hanging fruits. And shooting copies of copies of copies of the same photograph. Where's the fun in that?!

Here are the links of all the participating photographers.

Jim Goldstein

Colleen Miniuk-Sperry

Ken Cravillion

Jim Sabiston

Eric Fredine

Floris van Breugel

Richard Wong

Youssef Ismail

Gary Crabbe

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tunnel View

A few weeks back I had to go to Fresno California for work. It was one of those dreaded last minute deals. Fly in early, fly out the day after. When I was looking at the map, I realized that Yosemite National Park was like a stone's throw away. Needless to say, I took the 4x5 in the hopes I got some free time!

I landed, got the rental, drove to the press shop, did the press check (all was well, yay!) and drove straight to Yosemite in the early afternoon hoping on some good evening light. I was hoping on a first stop at Tunnel View but the crowds where just too massive for me to get out of the car and even bother. I was just flabbergasted by the insanity that is going on there. So I continued on my way. Exploring a little deeper. Driving through the park is such an amazing experience. I had never been so I gave myself ample time to look around. There's so much stunning beauty around you in that park, it's crazy. I understand now why Ansel Adams was so inspired by this place. The word 'spectacular' doesn't even begin to comprehend what I felt in this place.

In late afternoon, I ended up back at the classic Tunnel View parking lot. Wow, the crowds where still there! Ugh. Just disgusting. There were about 50 other photographers there, all interlocking tripods, all trying to get their own famous shot. Just brutal! I debated driving away but then I noticed my friend, and fellow photographer Colleen Miniuk-Sperry. I've been supporting Colleen for a while now and I've always admired her unique eye. I parked the car and swung my pack on my back and walked towards her. Sneaking up behind her I said: "You know Colleen, Ansel would have never used a digital camera". She froze, turned around, and then saw it was me. We chatted for a bit about photography and both our future plans. After she was done she gracefully offered up her spot in the lineup. I was a bit hesitant but then I thought, I didn't came all this way for noting, so why not?

So there I was standing in between photographers using the latest and greatest in digital gear. I heard nothing but shutters. One after the other. It was like the sound of a million mosquitoes. I wondered why they took so many succeeding photographs. I used to be like that. Now I know better.
I took my viewing frame out of my bag. The guy next to me gave me a weird look. I started composing with my frame and heard some laughing behind me but I didn't care. Then I opened up the bag and grabbed the 4x5 and a 180mm lens.

"Do people still use film?"
"Can you still get that stuff?"
"Ugh I remember those days, it was so hard to get a perfectly exposed negative".
I smiled. Some photographers just don't get it. And started to set up the camera.

A few minutes later, the low light became super dramatic, casting shadows all over the place. I was imagining the guy next to me to be Ansel. What would he have done? Then I heard somebody say "use the #25 Oli". I looked over my shoulder and there was my friend Ken Cravillion! Geez. You gotta be kidding me! I screwed on the #25 as suggested by Ken. Metered the light, made my composition and snapped two negs.

I packed up and just like Colleen, gave my spot to Ken. That's what friends do right? I waited around for Ken to finish his photo. He shared his unique version of this place with me yesterday. Dang that looks amazing Ken! You are such a talented photographer!

Take a look for yourself and tell me what you think of his rendition in the comments.

After Ken finished up, about 20 minutes later, we were able to catch up for a bit. It was getting dark  and I told him I was flying out tomorrow and had to get back to the hotel in Fresno.

It was just such a whirlwind of a trip but I'm happy I've seen the scene that has made Ansel famous.

I just finished developing the negative over the weekend and scanned it in on Sunday. Man what a beautiful sight. Super happy with how it turned out. That red filter was indeed the correct choice Ken.

Or maybe, ... Ansel was looking over my shoulder after all...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The story behind the photograph

I love this photo. I absolutely do. It was made after I had instructed for 5 days straight with +Royce Howland and Costas Costoulas of Calgary's Resolve Photo in January on our Monochrome Printing Masterclass. 

In those 5 days we had given our students exercise after exercise to help fine tune their vision. Obviously I did the exercises too (with my iPhone). And our own exercises had an affect on me. It changed my vision a little bit. Talk about a win-win situation right?

I had seen this tree a few times before and it always intrigued me and stood out from the crowd so to speak. I had a gut feeling there was a photo there. But which one? 

After the workshop I said goodbye to my fellow instructors and drove straight to the tree. I got out of the truck, grabbed my viewing frame and started walking towards it. At first, I framed it wide with a lot of trees around it. Didn't work. Then I went to stand underneath it. Didn't work. After a few other tries I said to myself: 'OK Oli, step back and think about this for am minute. What do you really see?'.

I started to imagine how I would feel if I was that tree. How it would be to know there's a Forest fire on the way and you can't move. How would I feel? 


How would I feel when there was a lot of smoke around me. Obscuring my view. Filling my lungs. 

It would feel claustrophobic. And I would panic. 

Now I started to look at this tree again. How could I compose this so it communicated those feelings? My answer was to frame the tree super tight. Filling the frame to the edges. But I wanted to convey a sense of hope as well. That's why I decided to keep the sky blank and fairly light (there where clouds in the sky that day though). This was done in development. I placed the tree bark on Zone II 2/3 and overdeveloped so the sky would fall close to a Zone VIII. Setting the negative up for a nice contrast range (or contrast index).

But I also kept in 3 trees on the bottom to further enhance a secondary storyline of 'hope'. I deliberately made sure these trees where out of focus. Because I didn't want them to detract from the main focus too much and I needed them to be there in a supporting role. Quiet literally really. 

I think in the end I feel I made more of a portrait of this very unique looking tree than anything else. I was through my imagination I was able to see through the obvious and make an emotional and graphical looking photo. 

I should do this more often.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My 2015 resolutions

Every year I try to think about what I want to focus on in the 12 months ahead. It's my way to staying focused on my craft. Some people do a 365/52 weeks project to achieve the same results.
So here is that obligatory post.

1. Darkroom printing

This year's main goal is to start printing wet. Yes I know I've been talking about this darkroom for about 2 years now but it is coming. I had my second meeting with the general contractor over the weekend and we will be ready to start soon I hope. The goal is to be set up and start my adventure in printing in April of this year.

2. Focus on one project

My other major goal is to focus on mostly one particular project this year. And think about ways my photography can make a difference in talking about problems in this world. Let me explain.

In October 2013 I stumbled onto a forest clear cut SW of Sundre. I was floored with how disrespectful we were going about harvesting lumber. There got to be a better ways in doing this I thought. Maybe I was (am) naive in believing the reality about the lumber industry in Canada.

The view I saw made me very sad. I couldn't understand why this was happening so close to home, so close to the protected Rocky Mountain parks. That day I also saw a herd of wild horses just north of where I initially parked the truck. They looked as confused as I was.

In the mean time I've sat down with 2 action groups and shared what I am trying to achieve. Both are very supportive and are now sources of information and guides for me to take advantage of. Also tonight I am sitting down with one group in a meeting with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development to talk about what is going on and what is going to happen West of Cochrane for example. Should be interesting.

As part of this point I also want to make a few print donations this year to causes I believe in. A first 16x20 print will be leaving soon and will go to the Stivers School for the Arts silent auction. The auction consists of student work and donated work from professional fine art photographers from around the world. All the proceeds go directly to the photography department and are used to buy cameras, dark room equipment and chemicals for student use. The money raised each year helps keep their successful and award winning program running. I am all for programs like that because film photography is my main passion after all.

3. Spend less time online

I will also spend less time on social media so I can focus better on what I am doing and what I think is important for my art. Nobody needs to know what is happening with me all the time. A little seclusion should be good in my self growth.

4. Keep moving forward

Lastly I am also looking into attending a workshop this year. I am particularly interested in a 5 day darkroom workshop with living legend Bruce Barnbaum. Ever since I've read his book The Art of Photography I was hooked. Every photographer should read that book in my opinion. It is that fantastic!
So there you have it. 4 major goals this year. I should say ONLY 4 major goals this year. But 4 big ones.