Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My First Cyanotype

Bay Bridge with Pilings Cyanotype
Bay Bridge with Pilings Cyanotype; 6x6 cyanotype on Cranes Kid Finish White; original photo here

I successfully produced my first cyanotype print earlier this week. I became aware of the process because somebody on a forum mentioned the Van Dyke process, and provided a link to the wonderful Alternative Photography site. I'd been looking for a way to make prints, ideally contact prints, without a darkroom, and these processes were perfect for that. I spent the afternoon reading about them, and a few days later, ordered a cyanotype kit and some paper from the also wonderful Bostick & Sullivan. The materials arrived late last week, and so this week, I coated some paper, and started exposing cyanotypes.

I first wanted to do some on Sunday afternoon, but there was far too little light for that. So instead, I put two out over breakfast on Monday morning. I took one out after breakfast, and it was quickly clear that it hadn't had nearly enough time. I'd read about people leaving prints out to expose all day, and I had nothing to lose, so I left the other one out all Monday, and washed it when I got home that evening. As you can see above, it turned out just fine (although I'm not sure what the line running through the top of it is from).

I'm exposing a few more that way this week, and intend to experiment a little with toning this weekend (tea and sodium carbonate, aka Arm & Hammer). I've started off small, with medium format negatives, which give lovely miniature prints. However, I may get some inkjet transparency paper at some point later and make larger prints. I could also improve the scanning; this scan is at least twice as much resolution as I need.

For now though, I'm very happy with the process! Look for more cyanotypes, including some toned ones, to appear soon.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Embarcadero Photo Walk

This post will discuss a recent photo walk I took around the southern Embarcadero in San Francisco. For those interested, you can follow along with the route on the map above.

Ferry Building Front
Ferry Building Front; Canon 30D, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6

I started at the Ferry Building; as a San Francisco native I feel slightly bad taking such a touristy picture, but it's honestly such a nice building. It would have been nicer to get closer, but without a shift lens, I would have had to tilt the camera even more.

Ferry Building Roof
Ferry Building Roof; Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16, Ilford PanF+

The ceiling inside is also very nice and classic. This was the first shot of the walk with the Nettar, and I'm very happy with how it came out.

Bay Bridge
Bay Bridge; Canon 30D, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6

Walking down the Embarcadero to the south from the Ferry building, you get some nice views of the Bay Bridge. Not as iconic as the Golden Gate, but almost as photogenic.

Bay Bridge with Pilings
Bay Bridge with Pilings; Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16, Ilford PanF+

There are also some old pilings still sticking up by the shore. When I saw this print, I finally felt like the visualization and exposure lessons from Ansel Adams' books were starting to sink in, because this came out just like I wanted it to, with the dark pilings, medium bridge and water, and brighter sky.

Backlit Building
Backlit Building; Canon 30D, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6

Further down is a nice red and white building, which in the afternoon is backlit very attractively. Slightly more post-processing on this than I usually do, but I'm very happy with the overall effect.

Pier Hydrant
Pier Hydrant; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4

Old Pier
Old Pier; Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16, Ilford PanF+

Even further down is a nice area with some piers; once again I was happy with how my visualization for the Nettar picture matched the result, although I'd like to crop some more of the top off.

Bay Bridege Girders
Bay Bridge Girders; Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16, Ilford PanF+

Returning up Main St, you get a nice view of the underside of the Bay Bridge.

Leaves & Apartments
Leaves & Apartments; Canon 30D, Canon 135mm f/2.8

Apartment Edifice
Apartment Ediice; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4

And some interesting modern construction.

Reflected Building
Reflected Buildings; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4

Finally, back on Market St, the setting sun makes interesting reflections on the office buildings.

Things I learned on this walk: 1) Trying to manage 2 cameras, 3 lenses, a mini tripod, and an exposure meter is hard; do one camera per outing instead. 2) When compensating for the exposure meter putting things on middle gray, make sure you compensate the right way; I wanted a shot down Market St with the sun setting behind the hill, but I accidentally put the buildings 2 stops higher instead of 2 stops lower! At least I did the reciprocity calculations correctly though...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Food Preparation Photography, Part 1

Fatigman Making 1
Fatigman Making 1; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4

Recently I've been expanding my food photography to include food preparation as well as the finished product. With photography of finished, prepared food, one is photographing the food as an object, making it look attractive, well prepared, well presented, well lit, etc. This can be very satisfying. However, I also find two aspects of food preparation equally as satisfying, although in a very different way. This post, part 1 of 2, will consider the first aspect.

Fatigman Making 2
Fatigman Making 2; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4

This first aspect of food prep photography is the human element. Well-made food does not appear from nowhere; it is a created thing, and the process of creation can be as beautiful as the finished product, as well as being both more active and more human. Capturing this requires a slightly different approach than normal food photography. First, ideally not just the food is the focus, but also the creator of the food. Second, both the introduction of this human element and the fact that food prep is an ongoing process, means that the photographic approach is much more like sports or wildlife photography; the focus is on capturing the 'moment' when magic happens. So, while I get out my light stand and flash and flash modifiers when photographing the finished work, so far I have not done that for prep shots; mostly because of lack of space, lack of time to adjust the flashes, and desire to not annoy the cook with a flash.

Pork Pie Making Double Exposure
Pork Pie Making (Double Exposure); Olympus 35RC, Ilford Delta 400, Ilford DD-X

The first two photos in this post are examples of trying (and succeeding, I think) to capture that moment. The third lacks the immediacy and action of the first two, but emphasizes the human element. The overlapped exposure was accidental (winding problems), but since I took two similar photos one after the other, the effect ended up being great.

Some more examples of capturing 'the moment' are these two photographs of people slicing things. For these, I wanted the moment in the middle of slicing, where the new slice is separating from the whole piece; this emphasizes the ongoing action.

Slicing Sprouts Color
Slicing Sprouts Color; Canon 30D, Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8

Slicing Salami
Slicing Salami; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4

Finally, often the utensils and implements used have a beauty of their own that's worth capturing; this was the idea for the last photo in this post.

Fatigman Making Aftermath
Fatigman Making Aftermath; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4

Part 2 will address the other aspect of food prep photography I find interesting.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Front
Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Front; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, Canon 430EX

My most recent acquisition is this Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 folding camera. It was caused by a Christmas present I got, which was a t-shirt with a hand-drawn folding camera on the front. I said 'You know, I don't have a folding camera. I should get one to match my new t-shirt.' And so I browsed around KEH for a while, and ordered this one.

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Back
Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Back; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, Canon 430EX

Vital stats:

120 film in 6x6 format
75mm Novar-Anastigmat lens, f/6.3 - f/22
Vario shutter, B, 25, 75, 200
Scale focusing from 4.6 feet to infinity
Double exposure prevention (you can defeat this by using a cable release with the socket on the lens instead of the body shutter release)
Manual film advance with red window

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Lens
Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Lens; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, Kenko 12mm extension tube, Canon 430EX

When it arrived, I inspected it, and all seemed to be working; bellows looked light-tight, shutter cocked and fired, aperture worked. So I took it out for a walk one morning, and dropped the roll off at a lab (I'm not set up for 120 development and scanning yet - soon!).

Apartments; Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16, Ilford HP5+

First, 120 film is amazing. Huge negatives (compared to 35mm), and the 12 exposure limit will really focus me. Even with the basic lab scan, they look great, and the prints are lovely. Unfortunately, I found out I'm not very good at estimating distances and scale focusing - a skill that I'm sure will improve! Having to manually cock the shutter each time is something that I forgot a lot, and I missed a shot of a train because of it.

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Front with Ilford Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Shutter Release Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Hotshoe
Various; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, Kenko 12mm extension tube, Canon 430EX

This is the most basic camera I own, and the simplicity of it is very alluring. The fully manual operation, with no built in meter and no built in focus/rangefinder forces you to slow down and think before you click the shutter release; you have to run through a mental checklist (estimate or meter exposure, estimate distance, compose, cock the shutter, release) for each picture, and so while you only get twelve exposures, you can be sure that you thought hard about each and every one of them. Hopefully the discipline will help me even with more automated cameras. Verdict: wonderful piece of old mechanical technology that produces great results once some thought is applied.

Modern Offices Traditional Offices
Freeway Parking Lot
Various; Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16, Ilford HP5+

For those interested in flash techniques, all of the pictures of the Nettar were taken with the following setup:

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Strobist Setup
Strobist setup; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, Canon 430EX

Flash is a Canon 430EX, and yes, that is a toothpaste box cut up to make a snoot!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Digital Emulsion

4th & Market Tower #2
4th & Market, San Francisco; Olympus 35RC, Ilford FP4+, Ilford DD-X.

Welcome to Digital Emulsion! This post is intended to be a general description/purpose/mission statement for this blog, and also to tell you a little more about myself.

First, the name. From Wikipedia, an emulsion is "a mixture of two immiscible (unblendable) liquids. One liquid (the dispersed phase) is dispersed in the other (the continuous phase) ... Examples of emulsions include ... the photo-sensitive side of photographic film". Because I intend to discuss both film and digital photography here, the concept of mixing two things seemed appropriate. And because 'emulsion' has traditional photographic associations, 'Digital Emulsion' suggests something traditional as well as digital.

Second, the purpose. This blog is intended for: describing my journey as a photographer; talking about techniques or equipment I find interesting; discussing my photographic processes; relating my attempts to move beyond amateur status; and any other photographic topic that catches my fancy. Look for posts about photos I've taken, photo walks I've done, cameras/lenses/software/etc I'm using, techniques I find interesting or am trying to apply, etc.

Finally, myself. I'm an amateur photographer of just over 6 months, living in San Francisco. I was inspired to start by seeing the many amazing photos posted by people on some forums I read, and bought myself a Canon 30D and started shooting. Recently I've started moving into film photography and classic cameras as well. General photographic interests are: closeups/macro, urban scenes/details, food, landscape.

Enjoy the blog!

Pink Tips
Pink Tips; Canon 30D, EF 50mm f/1.8, Kenko 12mm extension tube.