I recently read the book “Reframing the New Topographics” , a collection of contemporary essays about the landmark 1975 exhibition “New Topographics”. Greg Foster-Rice’s essay “Systems Everywhere” has a line that I keep thinking about: “Baltz described [Robert] Adams’s photographs as bearing ‘the relentless light of perpetual noon,’ while Tod Papgeorge has described it as ‘pitiless light, virtually combusting in the thin Colorado air.’ ” (p.62)
With apologies to both Baltz and Papageorge, I’ve been thinking about the possibilities of working with ‘the pitiless light of noon.’
Thinking Out Loud, Part One.
I live in Shoal Harbour Newfoundland which is a rural town so small it has been amalgamated with Clarenville. The combined population of both towns is about 5,000. There is a lot of development happening here lately. There is site preparation and active construction underway in at least seven sites around town. I have been making some images at these sites lately. These photographs portray a landscape in transition between wilderness and small town development.
I have become mostly neutral on the political issue of development. Any development has issues with environmental responsibility, loss of wildlife habitat and more. And there are also undeniable benefits such as job creation and economic development. In these times and in this province job creation and economic development are welcomed. Besides, I live in a house that was built on land developed from wilderness. Everybody does.
This is a work in progress. I’ve posted several images on photo sharing sites like Flickr. In part this was to get some reactions and feedback. Mostly it was to share my latest images with some photographers I’ve come to like online. What few comments are posted usually react to these images as editorial or political statements. Understandably, many people lament the fact that natural forest is subjected to machinery and change. It’s interesting to me that so few comments relate to these images as photographs and in photographic terms. Maybe I’ve failed.
My intent is to make landscape (some might say “landscrape” instead) images that work with traditional formal considerations like light, line, texture and forms. These are early days with this work and in some ways these images pick up on themes I’ve always explored with my camera.
The subject matter isn’t always pretty. But should it be? Should we strive to only portray the beautiful? And if the subject matter isn’t pretty, does the image always imply some flavour of condemnation? And perhaps more to the point, is it even possible to make images that are neutral?
There are so many reasons to love digital imaging. And scanned film is now one of them. I’ve recently been scanning some 4×5 negatives shot in 1980 and 1981. These were part of a series of man-made structures in the landscape. These were originally made as 4×5 contact prints with very few adjustments. Contact printing at this small size doesn’t allow for much in the way of dodging and burning.
These scans are from an Epson flatbed V700 scanner at medium resolution to keep file sizes at a sensible level of 20 or 25 MB. Much higher resolution is possible from this scanner but the price is a corresponding leap in file size.
Having a digital file means that I was able to make some minor, but in some cases important adjustments to local luminance and contrast. Lightroom provides excellent adjustment tools and Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 has some additional features that I think helped to improve on the original scan.
These are first efforts at scanning negatives and I’m still learning how to get the most out of each negative. The range of B&W tones available from film seems to be far more subtle and engaging than what is available from digital sensors. These first results are encouraging and may lead the way to re-acquiring a film camera.
After working with Nik’s Silver Efex for a few more days, I am much more impressed with it. I did buy the licence after the trial expired. This is a very clever package that is capable of delivering good results with a little patience. I don’t usually rely on presets in any program and have totally ignored them here in favour of individual adjustments. The magic is in the mid tone controls with Silver Efex, in my opinion. Lightroom is a superb photo editor, but this package from Nik can take B&W conversions a little further.
My daughter Emily was travelling in Europe recently and we agreed to meet in London for a week. Nothing beats the first morning in a new environment for fresh seeing. I live on the outskirts of a tiny rural town in Newfoundland Canada. My usual environment is untouched natural wilderness which I love. Waking up in one of the world’s greatest cities was a wonderful opportunity to see with fresh eyes. This scene greeted me as I walked east on Kensington Rd. near Royal Albert Hall in Westminster.
On this morning in London, I was lucky to have such interesting light and even luckier that an iconic London black cab pulled up to a traffic light in the shaft of morning sun coming through the light mist.
Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 @ 14mm, 10 sec. f/8 ISO 100
“You can see a lot just by observing” – Yogi Berra.
I’ve always been attracted to doing landscape photography and especially landscapes with objects in them. Roadside Attractions is a theme that I’m building on and will update here from time to time.
This old steel bridge crosses the narrow salt water inlet of Clode Sound near the mouth of Southwest River near Port Blandford. It’s used mainly for ATV traffic now, cars cross further up on the newer causeway. I’ve wanted to make a photograph of this bridge for some time. I like old bridges. I like their structure and what they symbolize– a link from one side to another.