Thursday, January 24, 2013


A month and a half ago (give or take), thanks to my friend Laurence, I 'found' these two relics in the prairies to the north east of Calgary. She had stumbled onto this scene a fews days before and I asked her if she would be able to disclose the location. I was happy that she agreed to do so. 

When I came to the scene, I knew it was going to be a tough scene to photograph. There where a lot of long grasses spread out everywhere and I somehow hoped, I could work around them.

Like I said in my previous post, film photography can be a very hard teacher. And that's either a good thing or a bad thing. It all depends on how you look at it. The majority of photographers would be so disappointed after a while that they would contemplate giving up photography all together. In my opinion, photography is not about stringing together winning image after winning image. It's about personal satisfaction.

Sometimes the outside world thinks that we – photographers – create winning piece after winning piece. Or the photographers that we follow – through our various feeds (like Twitter, Flickr, Google+) seem to do so by posting winner after winner.

How do they do that? How do they keep themselves inspired 100% of the time?!

They don't.
It's just humanly not possible.
It is just clever marketing.
Remember that!

But back to the post I was trying to write.

Here are the two negatives I was talking about. These are straight scans. No alterations to the negatives have been made (I didn't even clone out the dust). Technically, nothing is wrong with these negatives. They are sharp, the metering was fairly good, highlights on the snow are white, ample shadow detail.

I could have underexposed this by about a stop or so to give the cars a bit more density, and developed it N+1 (maybe even N+2) for more contrast. I was afraid I would loose to much detail in the cars by doing so. Now I know I can.
Although, the scene looked OK on the ground glass, I was wrong. Seeing the 2 negatives I made was a big disappointment.

And why is that?

Sally Mann said it the best in the documentary What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally MannShe said: "There's always a time in any series of work where you get to a certain point and your work is going steadily and each picture is better than the next, and then you sort of level off and that's when you realize that it's not that each picture is better then the next, it's that each picture ups the ante. And that every time you take one good picture, the next one has got to be better".

I couldn't agree more.

Before I had even set up the camera, I had walked around these relics and I had a very good idea this was going to be a bust. When I was photographing in digital I would have snapped away while walking around, looking at the LCD and THEN realizing that it was going to be a bust.

At least it was a bust for the minimalist in me and for what I had in mind with this scene. But nevertheless, I went ahead and exposed a couple of frames. I essentially took these exposures as a light metering exercise and to be able to study the scene a bit further afterwards.

So when I
do go back in the future, I have a better idea what to expect and what to look for. 

Just for fun, lets dissect the two negatives.

Photograph no 1

This is the view looking North East, standing from the range road. I kinda like the overall, diagonal composition but in the end it is a boring photograph waiting to happen. The light just isn't there and the sky is very bland. Remember kids, in photography, light is the most important ingredient! The scene is also full of annoying clutter. And I can't help it but question what this scene is about? The cars in the foreground or the house and the trees in the background. There are too many elements in this scene to make a compelling photograph don't you think? 

Photograph no 2

This is the view looking South West. Placing the subject in the middle is definitely NOT the way to go for this scene. Although I used a bubble level, I can't help it but feel like this negative is crooked (actually both feel crooked). And what is that grass doing on the bottom of the frame? That is definitely something I didn't see. Again a very boring flat sky. That range road in the background is not very flattering nor is that fence. Maybe a potential square in this view?
So how would me be able to make this better? 
Well I think you will agree with me that we need to simplify this scene. There are so many elements in both these negatives that are making this scene look very cluttered, that we either need to eliminate some (by taking our weed whacker to the grass) or by using a technique that will simplify the scene for us.

Two things I am thinking about doing are: photographing this scene during very foggy conditions. That way I will be able to simplify by eliminating background elements. Or photographing this with a long exposure on a stormy spring/summer day. That way we can get that dramatic sky I think this scene deserves, and all the grass will be blurred making the static elements stand out more.

There you have it. That's my confession. Most of the times I suck. Just like every other photographer out there. My initial meeting with these relics was not something that produced the results I was hoping for. But it has become the starting point of a thinking process.

A process that I know I will enjoy.

To be continued...