Week 5: Black and White Landscape

So that’s a pretty specific topic, don’t you think?  I don’t mind it, though.  At this point, I’m ready for some pretty straight forward assignments.  I’m sitting here at school, in between classes, after having worked on scholarship applications and brainstorming on how in the world I’m going to redo my first assignment for my photography class.  Don’t you just hate it when your original idea flops?  I know I do.  Anyways….

Landscapes!  Black and White!  Two things I’m very fond of!  As a matter of fact, I’m working on another project for my Alternative Processes class (side note:  I’m super excited to be taking this class!).  So, while out shooting for that class, I decided to visit my favorite tree….yes, I said favorite tree, I know it sounds a little weird.  Once I saw him, I decided to do a whole series of trees; closeups, abstractions, and landscapes — the whole gamut of tree shots.  Since this assignment is an introduction to cyanotype, we had to create negatives to use for the contact printing process, and therefore, I had to change my images to back and white.  Perfect for this!

I have to say, even though I’ve worked with essentially the same image of this tree over a multitude of mediums and projects, I never get tired of looking at it.  I think it’s interesting, too, that the original “favorite tree” picture was taken with my film camera, making a black and white image, yet this digital version has a personality all it’s own.  I think no matter what I use, I’ll always love it.  It’s a little creepy, the branches twisting and contorting in ways which I haven’t noticed often elsewhere.  It looks dead nearly all year, but then flourishes in the spring with it’s bright green leaf-filled branches.  Honestly, the spring version of my favorite tree is a little weird; you can still see it’s gnarly branches poking out between the lush leaves.  Maybe I’m bias because I admire the winter version all the time, but I think the bald look fits this tree better.

So as a fun little thing, here’s a comparison of the original, and my new image 🙂

A little bit different, compositionally speaking, but you can certainly tell it’s the same tree.  If you can’t tell by looking at these, however, the original is on the left (a scan of the black and white film), and the new one is on the right.  I’m sure you’ve all seen this tree before — it’s not the first time he’s been on here for different things 🙂

But aside from admiring my favorite little tree, I did take more pictures, so it’s not just an obsession about him (though, now that I think of it…).  Here are a couple of the more broad shots from the project, in their black and white, pre inverted negative, versions.  I’ll save some of the detail shots for later.  I was going to say I think they’ll be more interesting as cyanotypes, but you’ll just have to wait and see.  Maybe I’ll post both versions and you can decide :).  Enjoy!

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Outgoing Mail

Last night I decided to bite the bullet, and get to work.

About a month ago, I received a somewhat unusual looking envelope from MICA, amongst their very regular communications, which I have to say, I do appreciate.  “Odyssey”, it was labeled, with its bright colors and excitement.  Some transfer student information was enclosed.  I slightly shrugged it off, and almost didn’t open it; I’ve been somewhat reluctant to look at all the wonderful things this school offers while being so unsure of if I’ll be able to attend.  You know, don’t want to get my hopes entirely up — I’m a planner, and this plan isn’t coming together.  Regardless, I’m also a curious one, so of course, I was bound to open the letter within seconds.

“Call for entries — 2015 MICA Postcard Project”.  Really?  I haven’t even enrolled in classes, and we’re already being given projects.  Of course it’s optional, but all very surprising at frist glance.  In the letter was a set of instructions, a fancy little magnet adorned in the same exciting colors as the envelope, and a blank postcard.  Subconsciously, I’ve already decided I was going to do this project.  I mean, you just handed me a blank piece of paper with a stamp on it — I’m easily intrigued.  In reading on, the project consists of decorating the postcard however we choose, and selecting from one of four topics: spirit animal, Dadaists collage (it’s just a urinal!! ugh, hate it!), meme yourselfie (I’m questioning my age amongst these incoming students), and vacation postcard.  Yes!  Vacation! Love it!

So even in my doubt, I start thinking of ideas.  It’s a good thing when my mind starts racing creatively.  I’m pretty set on the type of media, cyanotype, and am just working out what my subject will be.  When I think of vacation, nothing else, or better, comes to mind than the beach.  “But how will this translate to cyanotype”, I think to myself.  While all the tones of blues are lovely, when I think of the beach, I think of vibrant colors, sunrises, and sunsets.  I put it on the back-burner for a while.  Along with the simple submission of your work for an optional “welcome project”,  everything submitted will be exhibited in one of MICA’s galleries, scanned, and posted on a blog promoting the exhibit.  A conundrum for someone who may not even be there; a situation I don’t want to set myself up for.

So a few weeks go by, I go on vacation, I write a few blog posts, and I struggle to work things out for school.  You’ve seen it, and if you haven’t, scroll down 🙂  Among all of those things, I did my Sunrise/Sunset post, where I discovered a little hidden gem.  As usual, when beginning a new weekly project, I show you guys a few pictures of things which I have already shot that fits the description.  I really enjoy this little system which I have worked out; it allows me to revisit some old favorites, as well as work with some images that I really haven’t worked on at all.  In looking for some sunrise/sunset pictures that I haven’t shared in the past, I stumbled across some of the black and white film work that I did during my first semester at school.  I seriously haven’t been able to stop thinking of that one simple picture of the ocean ever since.  I can’t wait until I have access to a darkroom again, because that’s the first photo that I’m working on.  With that, I realized that cyanotype would absolutely work with beach photographs (how could I have ever doubted it?!).  And once I got back from vacation with some new images, I had all I needed.

Still, I waited to the last minute, well, almost.  I haven’t quite figured things out yet, and still have a gap in regards to tuition being due for the semester.  In my mind, however, I’m going.  It’s decided.  So with time ticking on this project, since it has to make it to the school by the 3rd, I decided to get working on things.

First, and definitely the hardest part, was selecting the image.  Like I’ve mentioned, the colors and details of the sunrises and sunsets are my favorites.  So objectively, I looked at the images I had to pick one which I thought had some good variations in contrast, as well as some sharp details which would translate over well to a cyanotype, and this was the winning photo!

Second, was converting the image to black and white and inverting it.  I’m always tempted to print the “negative” version of the image when I’m working on it, and almost did so on accident today.  I don’t know why, but in my mind when I see the black and white version of an image that I’m working on I automatically think that I’m finished.  I’m pretty sure all of my cyanotype files have the black and white negative file to go alone with the positive file that I actually use.  Luckily for me, and my wallet, because those photo transparency sheets are expensive, I’ve only made that mistake one time.  Still, even if I do print one out, I’ll be sure to use it.  The negatives make such ghastly, interesting images.  You can see one of my “happy accidents” here.

Once that’s done, it’s off to the print making.  I’m always a little nervous when it gets to this part.  I’ve just finished working on an image which I liked at first, and then liked again as a black and white photo.  Then, in one easy step I’ve inverted the image, and I’m not sure about it all over again.  Will the details come through?  Will I have enough contrast?  This doesn’t look right!  I have to remind myself to trust the process, and the fact that I’ve done this several times, and ended up with good results.  This time, however, I only have one shot.  The pressure is on!  Though I have been pretty lucky in my recent cyanotype/photo transparency combinations, I did have some pretty bad results while just starting out.  I couldn’t help but worry when using a different type of paper, and only having one chance, that I would mess up.  It doesn’t help that the instruction letter also stated in all caps “we are not able to send another postcard, so what happens if you make a mistake?”… Essentially?  Fix it and deal with it.  I didn’t like the sound of that.  I’m very much a perfectionist when it comes to presenting someone with a final print.  A sub-par or doctored up image just wasn’t going to cut it.

Luckily for me, all my worries were put to rest.  Aside from the added panic that some passing clouds caused, I’m really happy with the way this print turned out, and I think I may have just found my new favorite thing to do.  Like it’s black and white counterpart, as well as my image from a few weeks ago, this style gives my beach photographs new life.  I’ve been making postcards and greeting cards for my Etsy shop for some time now, but have stuck to contact printing with botanicals.  They’ve been reasonably popular, but I think this will become a quick new favorite in the shop!

I love the dreaminess of this print, how soft the waves and sand looks, while still being able to make out clear details in both the water and sky.  So, appropriately, I’ve named it “Summer Dreaming”.  As I set my little postcard project out to be picked up in the morning, because yes, the final part of the project was that they prefered for it to actually be mailed, I had to admire it a little more.  It really charmed me, as well as the crunchiness of our old, chipping mailbox.  But seriously, who wouldn’t love to find something like that in their mailbox?  Too cute, in my opinion.  Hopefully it makes it there in one piece, and without all the emulsion rubbed off.  Wish it luck!

Week 28: Sunrise/Sunset

Now if this isn’t a subject that is right up my alley, then I don’t know what is!  Sunrises and sunsets; some of my favorite pictures are of these two things.  Having just been to the beach for a weekend, I’m feeling a little remorse that I didn’t save a few pictures to show you for this post, but oh well.  All the more reason to get out there and shoot some more!

I would say that the trick to this week’s theme is to think of an idea that takes the very conventional landscape photographs and turns them in to something a little unconventional.  I often find my self wondering just how many more of the same sunrise/sunset pictures I am going to take as I click away.  Part of me hates the redundancy, you know that by now I’m sure.  The other part of me just can’t get enough of it, and that’s the part of me that always wins.  No matter how many pictures I have of the same beach, park or pier, I’m always pleased with the differences of each individual day, and am happy to capture a moment that I will never see again.  And besides that, they’re beautiful, so why not get as many shots of that beauty while you can?  It’s good to appreciate the sunny days while you have them.

As far as the tricky part…Don’t you just love it when an idea immediately pops into your head, and it’s a good one?  I do!  And as rare as that is with my picky self, I’m quite grateful.  Now, just to go out and find the prop that I have in mind (side note: yes!  email just popped up with a coupon so I can order AND get a discount!), and to recruit a couple of volunteers, the true tricky part, as usual.  I suppose even if the volunteers don’t work out, my idea still will, but it’s just one of those things.  I have the perfect vision of what I want in my mind, and I’m really hoping that I can capture it just as I see it.  I suppose the other tricky part to this week’s theme will be getting that “sunrise, sunset” song out of my head….especially since I’ve had it stuck in there the whole time I’ve been writing this.

Yes, I suppose you can tell I’m also feeling a little better since my last post.  I know, I know, I kinda poured on the dramatics a little heavy with that one, but I was going through it, so give a girl a break.  I’m trying to be a little more optimistic about things, which is hard, and contrary to how I usually am (I mean, I’ve gotta be realistic here).  I’m also trying to keep myself motivated to work towards the things I want, like going to school, and finding a decent job.  Taking pictures of my favorite things this week should be a great aid in keeping my spirits up.  Fingers crossed that my prop doesn’t take too long to get here.  I would do express shipping, but if you couldn’t tell over my coupon excitement earlier, I’m a free shipping kinda gal.

On a final note, if you can believe it, I have some sunrise and sunset photos you haven’t seen yet.  But Rachel, you post these kinds of pictures all the time!  I know.  Like I said, they really are my favorites.  So here are a few unusual ones.  First, a set of black and white photos of a sunrise on a vacation in Mexico with a few friends.  This is actually the only time I’ve done sunrise photos in black in white, or with my film camera for that matter, because I’m always so focused on featuring the colorful sky.  I love the somewhat aged feel these photos have; it doesn’t hurt that my negatives dried a little spotty, and that my camera just puts little spots on things anyways.  It used to drive me crazy when working with film, but to some extent, I think I’m just going to go with the flow now.  I mean, of course I’ll be scrubbing some of those negatives to get a clearer print on about 95% of my pics, but the dots and dust, I can deal with.  As for the sunset, we’re traveling to Argentina.  While flying from Iguazu back to Buenos Aires, just at the end of our trip, we passed right over downtown, as well as part of 9 de Julio, wich is the largest avenue in the world.  The view that we have is one of the smaller areas, closer to the airport, so check out the link to see the true monstrosity.  When you’re walking across this “avenue”, it feels like it’s the everlasting gobstopper of streets!  It’s really huge!  Anyways, I’m always a little hesitant to use my camera while on planes (you know, they always say how it can mess stuff up.  It freaks me out a little!), but as you can see, I got over it this time.  Enjoy, and wish me a speedy delivery!

Week 25: Diptych/Triptych

I’ve been looking forward to this week!  Mostly because some of my favorite photographs have been parts of diptychs and triptychs.  That’s the theme for this week: diptych, a set of two images, or triptych, a set of three images.

It’s funny, when I started going back to school a couple of years ago (agh, that’s weird to think about!), we were constantly working in series of images.  When I would think about my photography at the time, I would say that I just had a bunch of random images, and never really thought to work in groupings.  Admittedly, I also didn’t really want to work in groups or themes, and just wanted to continue my randomness of getting various different successful shots.  Now, I can’t seem to get away from it.  I mean, come on, you’ve seen my blog (hopefully — if not, then explore!), it’s like a struggle for me to only post one image when working through these themes and topics.  It seems like everything I do is in a group, and I have to say I miss the random good image that can just stand alone.  But back to topic, I’m still happy that I get to work like this again.

Aside from working pretty much consistently with groups of images through school, there were a couple of projects where I worked with diptychs and triptychs.  I didn’t realize it when I did it the frist time, but my very first project which consisted of the photograms that I did, I also had a single rose which I used, and produced an image, as well as an inverted image.  I loved the simplicity, as well as the ying and yang qualities they had, so I always placed the two together.  Later on, I was actually assigned a project where the goal was to come up with a set of two images (diptych! — which I still didn’t realize it was call that then).  The images were supposed to be either opposites, or around a related theme, so clearly, I went with the opposite theme.  When you’re not getting a glimpse into my nature photography and I’m working on a personal project, I work a lot with conflict and emotions; inner turmoil, regrets, and memories.

The “opposite project”, as my professor and I named it, were my favorite images.  That is, until the next semester, when I audited the class and got to do a whole bunch of fun, experimental things, like my double exposures.  During my first semester final, this girl appeared on that last day of class, images on the wall ready for critique, and I had no idea who she was.  Turns out she was auditing the class at that time, and was working on a much more flexible schedule.  She had completed some pretty interesting images, one of which was a double exposure.  The only thing I’m sad I missed out on was having a nude model in-class; apparently that was discontinued during the semester prior to my arrival.  This girl was lucky enough to have one, and completed a double exposure of abstracted model photographs and flowers.  The images really stuck with me, and I couldn’t wait for a chance to do something like that…eventhough it was the end of the semester, and I was clearly going to have to wait a good amount of time.  So when I got through my first two classes and got my first assignment of “the concept” during the audited class, I used that to my advantage.  “Just come up with a concept, something conceptual” was along the lines of what I was told, so of course, you know I struggled for a while with that broadness.  Finally, I had an idea, and there was a chance to do my double exposures.  Working with old photographs that my mother took during my childhood which I either used the existing negatives or photographed to create a new negative, along with new images in the same location of the childhood images, I created my “now and never again” project.  One part memories, one part remorse for how much things have changed, and a pinch of sadness, you know, to stay inline with my usual process, I worked for weeks to combine the two images seamlessly, and show how the happy memories from childhood are gone, the places have changed, and many of them are in poor condition.  Even though I created a set of five images, I selected three to be presented as a triptych (also, not knowing that was a thing.  I need to stop living under this rock apparently…).

So, while I’m constantly looking for new things to do as I work through this 52 week challenge, I think I’m going to stick with some of the themes I love working with as I complete these images.  Opposites are such a great thing, and can show a variety of concepts, thoughts, and struggles.  So enjoy my previous works while I think of some new ideas (and sorry, not the best quality scans on some of these)!

Now and Never Again

Conflicted Life and Death

Week 24: Shades of Grey

Lovely!  This week I have a blank canvas, so to speak.  I have enjoyed working through nearly half of this 52 week challenge, but what has been an unexpected challenge is how blocked I would be when working with specific themes.  I suppose it’s good, and the purpose of this whole thing — not only do I have to constantly get out and shoot, but I also have to think out side of my own box.  I’ve enjoyed some of the themes more than others, but beyond that, I have enjoyed working in ways I would have never thought of on my own.

Now, back to the good old stuff…

Working in shades of grey has me thinking of one thing — black and white photography!  I mean, what else could it be?  Ok, it could be a lot of things, and just as I’m typing it, I’m thinking of tons of ways to capture this theme without taking it so literally.  But the one thing I’ve missed about working with film are the beautiful tones of the blacks, whites, and greys developing in the darkroom.  And the smell?  Yum, weird, I know, but I love it.  Ok, so there are a lot of things I miss, but I digress… Even though I would love to, I can’t do a film project for this theme.  Being out of school has been fun, and weird, but it’s also left me without the resource of a dark room.  So for this week, my digital files will just have to imagine they’re film, and my computer will become its own imaginary little darkroom.

I suppose this theme is coming at the opportune time… I am in a rather “grey” period of life….like a dark slate, thunderstorm, type of grey.  So while I’ll be working in the spirit of the darkroom, I’m probably not going to produce any more of my happy little nature photographs again in the near future.  And with that, I’m off to think, and to reminisce.  Here’s another film project from a past class of mine.  It was the first “story telling” type project that I worked with, and out of all the different ideas that I had, this was my favorite.  I liked that it told a story in so many different ways, without actually saying anything direct.  It allows you to look at it and interpret it as your own story, and to me, it has many meanings, which is in a strange way kind of cathartic.  Changing of seasons, passing of time, a year going by, life passing you by, standing still, running in circles, travel — just a few of the meanings this has to me, and, just a few of the things I’ve meditated on while looking at these photos.  So enjoy, and feel free to leave me a note of what you think!

Week 23: Mouth-watering

Mmmm yummy…mouth-watering…..definetly not the feeling that way after having just struggled through my left overs!  This week’s theme should provide an interesting challenge.  From what perspective should I take this?  The first thing that I think of when I think of “mouth-watering” is something incredibly delicious to eat (like The Melting Pot…my favorite resurant…don’t judge…lets go!).   A craving, your favorite dish or restaurant, a decadent dessert, a savory dish.  It’s something you enjoy every single bite of, and admit it, you’re a little sad when it’s over.  In the world of blogging, cooking shows, advertising, and so on, the lovely name of “food porn” has even been created by those who have to take pictures of every interesting, unique, and well executed meal that they encounter and obsess over.  Yes, mouth-watering can be defined as something which smells/looks delicious, and is intended to be consumed, but it could also be defined in another way.

To be incredibly tempting, enticing, or highly attractive is another perspective.  Wouldn’t you say that the common phrase “to drool over” someone is another interpretation of mouth-watering?  I would.  Well, I suppose that is unless you think of it as Homer Simpson would, who literally drools over pretty much anything. I mean, even when people talk about other attractive people, they describe them in ways that you would a really great tasting meal.  Ex:  “Look at that tall drink of water coming this way.  Yum/delicious/mmm/tasy….etc”.  I’m cracking myself up over here, but you get what I’m saying, and the list goes on.

From a completely opposing view, and a medical stand point, mouth-watering can be a precursor to some pretty gross things, like nausea and vomiting….so I’m pretty sure I’ll be staying away from that!  I don’t want to take pictures of people throwing up, thanks, and I’m sure you’re not interested in seeing things like that, double thanks.  I’m sure that wasn’t the intended interpretation for this week’s theme anyways.

So, since I don’t particularly want to take pictures of food for this week, I’ll be thinking of some alternative approaches for this theme.  As always, since models are hard to come by for me, I’ll leave you with a few pictures, sans people.  I suppose you could classify one as your typical “food porn”; my most popular cupcake flavor, la Red Velvet.  It’s truly delicious.  The second is from a film photography project where I was working with opposites.  I was sort of stuck in this theme or good and evil, pure and impure, fresh/new and old/decrepid.  One of the ideas I had, which I ultimately didn’t work too much with, was the apple; one pure, and the other , bitten, but biting back.  It sort of reminded me of the poison apple from Snow White, but then also gave me the feel of the apple from the Garden of Eden.  Both were under circumstances where they knew they shouldn’t be eating it, but they just couldn’t resist, and suffered the consequences.

Week 22: Parts of a Whole

Well, this seems like a pretty fun task for the week.  “Parts of a whole” could be interpreted in a number of ways, so I’m happy to have the flexibility.  Though I have completed some work in the past that would fit in to this category, I may revisit these styles, since some of my favorite pictures came from it.

The first is a couple of projects which, in my photography class, we called “big picture” projects.  I had two along these line.  One was in my first photography class, where we shot a series of images in a specific order, organized all of the negatives and printed a contact sheet to compose a large image.  The next was in my second photography class, where I shot the images in the same manner, but then actually developed each image, which when put together, compose a complete scene.  I really like the result of working like this, where each individual image can be interesting on its own, but is a part of a whole, lager, photograph.  The images also don’t match up perfectly, which if you’re working with moving subjects in particular, can give you some really interesting overlap, and allows the viewer to have enough information to fill in gaps when needed.  The funny thing about this assignment….I thought I only had to do one “big picture”, to which I put a lot of thought in, went out and found a great location, waited until sunset, and so on, to get this great picture.  When I got to class….I needed two…oops.  So I took my camera around campus, looking for something that wasn’t going to be as mundane, and appear as rushed, as a picture of the parking lot.  I went up a set of stairs to check out what was on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building I was in, when I decided to take a pic of the stairs themselves.  You be the judge, but I like the unexpected second project better than the first, thought out results.  Check them out!

The next example that I have for “parts of a whole” are some images that I did just for fun.  A friend was house sitting, so I stopped by to keep her company while she was working from (someone else’s) home.  The home had a pretty interesting style, filled with some pretty neat objects, one of which was an entire vintage hair dryer chair.  I was immediately charmed by the chair, and when I visited her the next day, I came prepared with camera in hand.  The part which I most enjoyed was the actual dryer head, which sparkled in the sunlight.  So, knowing that a picture of just this chair sitting in the corner could be a little boring, I waited (…and waited, and waited…) on this cloudy day to catch the sunlight reflecting in the sparkles of the dryer head, and lighting up other parts of the vintage metal labels.  I didn’t think much of the images while I was working on them, other than that I liked them, but as people started to view them, I realized they were a little more interesting than I had thought.  In my attempt to make a less boring photograph, of just having a chair in a room, I photographed very close up elements of this chair.  I thought I was simply capturing the aspects which I found really interesting about the chair, but I had also abstracted it in such a way that people didn’t realize what they were looking at, and really had to think about it, making it that much more interesting.  So, with that final result, I was truly happy. Going forward in this week, I’m not sure how I will be working this theme.  Maybe I’ll revisit these two tried and tested approaches once more, or maybe I’ll think of something new, and work on a more conceptual level.  Guess you’ll just have to wait and see!