What I’m Thinking

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I’m thinking I need to lighten my load.

What you don’t see in this series of photographs is the rest of my daily gear. Leica, Blad, Polaroid. Why do I do this? Because I can’t stop shooting film cameras. I still prefer the negative to anything digital. I like the cameras themselves, the process of shooting analog, the limitations of analog, which I feel are what make it so great, and the archive of analog. Yes, I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my 40TB of digital data looming over my head. So on the chopping block is the 5D Mark III and three lenses, and in is the Canon s100. Without a doubt the 5D III is the better, more versatile camera that shoots much higher quality imagery and motion. But what is also indisputable is s100 is a lot smaller and lighter. When I started my current campaign with Blurb it was thought I would be shooting a lot of digital, at least at times, but I’m not. What I am doing is creating a stream of images for lesser needs, and continuing to capture most of the good stuff on film.
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Speaking of film…On the way to San Francisco last week my film set off the TSA alarm for….explosives I think. Something. Anyway, I got the full court press, which was no big deal, but that was the first time it ever happened. They had me for about 15-20 minutes maybe. I got felt up, which is always great, and they got to see all my personal items. Sadly I had nothing exotic or even anything slightly amiss.

Oddly enough, traveling with film, at least for me, is easier than ever before. It’s such a rarity now that typically I get the “Cool, haven’t seen this in a while.” Followed by “Man, I really miss film.” Now, this does NOT apply when speaking of France or Switzerland where I’ve been grilled, threatened, insulted and yelled at for both carrying film and for being an American. Such is life. I kill them with kindness. Or I don’t say anything. Or I keep asking for a hand inspection until they threaten me with not getting on the plane. (This has happened numerous times.) This actually doesn’t bother me. What bothers me are the new rules about carry on bags. And weight. Returning from Australia a few months ago it was deemed, on a whim, that all three of my bags were overweight. The same bags I’d flown to Australia with no problem. Suddenly all my bags were an issue and they tried like Hell to get me to check my gear bags. I opened them up and asked “Would you want to check this?” “Ahhh, no,” was the reply and they let me on, but those days are fading.

So, it’s lighten the load time. I’m even contemplating an iPhone 6 Plus for my interview and podcast needs, which would allow me to leave recorder at home. If I could somehow get my junk down to ONE bag it would be ideal. I know I’m dreaming here because when my Blurb duties are over and I aim at the open spaces of Australia or Abilene, I’m going to want my film junk. What I will try to do is consolidate my backpack and roller bag into one backpack. Audio and visual gear in one bag. Time to call Tenba once again.

Or maybe, if I buy an iPhone 6 Plus I don’t even need this little camera? See, more confused than before.
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Story Behind the Photo: Unknown Mexico


Cemetery somewhere south of Nogales

I don’t remember where this is exactly, but I remember the trip. Circa 1993 or 1994

Somewhere in Mexico, south of Nogales. Another photographer and I made a voyage. She was a staffer at the paper, I was an intern.

No real plan, just drive south and see what we find. Those were the good old days. White, Toyota Corolla, a few bucks, a few rolls of Kodachrome. My Canon. My Leica.

We started near the water, then drove to Hermosillo. Rumor had it the Chupacabra was in the area. We never found it but we did drink illegal moonshine from a tiny cap. It was beyond powerful and made the back of your skull go numb.

Then we drove into the desert.

We found a cemetery where something was going on. Maybe it was Dia de los Muertos.

I think this guy was stunned by the hippie gringo, or confused. There was probably a few “Who are you?” And, “What are you doing here?” But they were cool and we made a few pictures.

That camera in my hand was the game changer. EOS 1, and 20-35mm 2.8, the first of two zooms that took the photography world by storm, as well as the first real autofocus camera to land in full force. I used that camera and that lens for YEARS. That was a Leica M4-P with a 28mm, which I sold. HUGE mistake.

I just scanned this last night and was blown away by how good these old chromes look. I think this image was Fujichrome, but I was shooting Kodachrome on that trip. I’ll post a few of those later. These chrome had great skintone, and also handled the highlights with ease. Plus, there is a depth and texture to them that I have to try to add in when I shoot digital. It never works quite the same. Not sure why it would.

Story Behind the Photos: Kman Does Texas BMX


The infamous Kman, not happy at having to stand still for this picture.

I did what I thought I was supposed to do. Yes, after all these years, I still do this.

My nephew, the infamous Kman, races BMX. In fact, he is a total badass with a room full of trophies to show off his 65-pound prowess.

So I go to visit the family and find out I’ve landed on race night.

I have options.

I think to myself, “This is racing action, I’ve got to get that peak moment, I need a motor drive, long lens, etc,” so I grab the digital body and long lens and toss it in the truck.

And then, more out of reflex than anything else, I toss in the Blad.

The track is easy. A small place, and being Texas people are relaxed.

“Hey, my nephew is racing, can I stand in the middle of the track?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

And with a smoking gun the races begin.

I’m hammering away, motor drive humming, mirror clanging up and down. But I’m distracted. Not by something around me, but by something inside me.

“What am I going to do with these images?”
I begin to ask.

“Do I really want to sit down and edit through all these motor sequences.”

“Ugh.”

“Why am I doing this?”

“Do I really want to archive these, label these, tag these, etc,etc?”

“Ugh.”

Don’t laugh, this is how my troubled mind works.

I began scrolling through the images on the camera, something I HATE doing. I know hate is a strong word, but it fits here. I DETEST looking at images right after. I think it completely KILLS the idea of being a photographer, BUT I CAN’T STOP MYSELF.

I’m like a total crack monkey with the preview window. I can’t stop. If I turn it off, I just turn it right back on. Hopeless.

I suddenly realized, with slight sadness, I had no interest in even looking at the images I was making. The images didnt’ feel like they were mine.

There were a dozen parents in the same area, all with similar gear, banging away. They probably had the exact same stuff, only of their mini-warriors. And I think there was even the dude that shoots every kid and uploads every single image online so that the one parent without their camera can buy a print.

“Well, I know my brother will like these, or my mom,” I said to myself, making excuses for the images, while I took a quick peak at the refreshment stand wondering what delicious treats they had hidden behind the counter.

I packed up the gear and headed for the car.

Right before burning dust in the parking lot I saw the Blad.

I loaded the relic and grabbed my dreaded tripod. Yes, my tripod, and headed out into the world I had just retreated from.

At least 10% of my mind was still thinking of the refreshment stand. I have to be honest.

Suddenly there were whispers around me.

“Honey, look at that guy with the old camera.” “What is he doing?” “Is he allowed in there?”

“Hey, dude, what the f%$# is that thing.” “Holy S%@#, haven’t seen one of those in a while.”

And suddenly I was in my own world. I could see again. I grunted and shuffled around the pit area like a deranged ape.

Things were clear. I dissected with my eyes, and then framed the pieces. A story began to build.

The kids in the pits were like ants invading an empire, merging in lines and shadow, with harsh artificial light painting their movements with razor sharp shadow. The sky was glowing.

Insects pierced the night. Colors were bright. The wind picked up. Darkness and light. Passion.

I don’t remember much of what was around me. I was “involved” let’s say. I was involved in a 6×6 space that started in my medulla oblongata and ended at the tip of an 80mm.

Clunk.

Minutes later.

Clunk.

This was MY work. My mind. My vision. My moment. This was the work I need to be doing ALL THE TIME. All supplied by following the Kman.

I thought about history. I thought about family. I thought about the light. I thought about what these pictures would mean. I thought about who would have them in 100 years. I thought about Kman and what must be going through his mind.

I was away in that place that photographers go when they are working.

And then. Clunk. It was over.

To Live or Not to Live

There was a decision to be made. There was no right or wrong, just a choice. The assignment had changed. The deadline was no more. All the options were inside one Tenba bag, black, just sitting there. “What are we doing today?” I asked.
A 5D and four gig cards. A 1v and five rolls of 36. Left in my hands. The decision. My automatic response was 5D…to save money perhaps? A fast turnaround? Would I save time?
But wait. Was it? Is it? Would it be?
I grabbed the 1v and the first roll of 36. One lens. And then I shot. Three people, one big, two small. One hour. Five rolls.
I didn’t need twenty images of one scene because I got in it the first two. I’m supposed to be a photographer remember? 180 pictures. A lot, more than I need.
Getting in the car, pushing the start button and my mind hits autopilot. Download to the desktop, label folders, open Aperture…..but wait.
No need. I think I’ll make a salad instead, write a little bit, sit on the back porch and think. Film, job is already gone, shipped off. Now I have my life back. And now the mystery remains. The anticipation that so many find difficult to understand. Buzzing.

Hip Being Square


I’m posting this because I got an interesting comment regarding my explaining not doing black and white conversions from digital, and that I don’t shoot color and black and white the same way. It seems that some people took offense to that, but I have another example of something along these lines.
I shoot a lot of square images with a Hasselblad camera. Recently someone looked at my work and said, “Ya, I do square too.” “I just shoot my Canon 5D and crop it into a square.”
Now this struck me kinda funny.
First, when I shoot square, I think square, and compose that way. And, I’ve chosen a film specifically for the ingredients it provides, in that particular camera and that particular lens. The falloff on the Blad is very different than my 5D, so shooting with my 5D and cropping looks very different than my Hasselblad. Better? Maybe, depending on what you looking for in your images, but regardless, they are simply not the same.
If you want a square, why not shoot square?
I think sometimes we rely on the wizardry of the computer to try and give us things that we are fooling ourselves to think we have. And, how much time do you want to spend per image to “mimic” what you could have had by just using the right tool for the look?
Another example of this is the work I have done with Kodak Tmax 3200 film. Over the years I’ve seen one tech expert after another try and mimic this film on the computer. What each of these experiments proved to me was that none of these people had used the film or it had been so many years they had forgotten what it looked like because the end result always looks like a digital file made to look like Tmax.
What I’m wondering about is if the digital file is the final frontier, why are all these software companies spending so much developing actions that “simulate the look of film?”
Am I the only one that finds humor in this stuff? Please tell me no.
So, in honor of this lunacy, let’s honor the square for what it is. Square.