PAW / 2002 / Quarter 1 Index

Welcome to the PAW picture index for the first quarter of 2002, January through March. (There is a separate index for each quarter to keep the download time reasonable.) This index contains thumbnails and journal entries for each photo, arranged in chronological order.

Click the thumbnail to see a full-size version, or skip all this verbiage and just view the larger versions virtually text-free (the pictures do have titles). Start at the beginning of the year or jump in at the second quarter (April). Clicking "index" will take you to the journal entry for that picture. Thanks for visiting!

Week 1: The Impossible Dream

The Impossible Dream (thumbnail)

This photo was from a number taken in the Grill of the Lotos Club in New York during their annual Twelfth Night Frolic. I took pictures of bagpipers, a roast pig, jesters clothed in motley, musicians, kitchen staff, and even one of the professional photographer who was working the party. Virtually all of them, however, were simply too dark to use. This was my second roll of Neopan 1600. The first roll I tried was also used in very low light and was also very dark. I had rated that roll at 1600, so for this night, I decided to rate it at 1000. But, I don't think that's slow enough. I used a normal development time; perhaps a "push" would have helped.

The photo is of the Grill's head chef, Donald, taken in a room adjacent to the kitchen. Donald was in high spirits: This was his last night at the Lotos Club, and he was leaving to take a better position as executive chef of a brand-new restaurant on Staten Island. He had changed into his street clothes and regaled us with "The Impossible Dream" sung into the handle of his umbrella. I'm tempted to say he shouldn't quit his day job, but he actually has a very good voice, although Robert Goulet has nothing to worry about.

Although this picture is pretty soft, I feel fortunate that one of the evening's most interesting shots was also one of the best-exposed.

January 5, 2002

Nikon F3HP handheld

50mm f/1.8 AIS

1/30, f/2 (I think)

Fuji Neopan 1600 developed in Xtol 1:1 for 7:30 at 68 degrees. Scanned the negative.

Week 2: Railing

Railing (thumbnail)

One of my favorite photographers (if not my favorite) is André Kertész. For Christmas, Anne got me André Kertész, His Life and Work, and I had the chance to see a large number of his photographs instead of just the handful I had come across in other books. After studying the book, my appreciation for him only increased. I wish I could express what I find so moving in his work, but I don't know how to describe it. I will say, however, that I was struck by the graphical power of his images, regardless of their subject matter. All his photographs are formally interesting in terms of shapes and tones. I think this realization made we want to photograph subjects that, while maybe not intrinsically interesting, would serve as studies of form and tone.

With my head full of Kertész' images (I carried the book with me on the train ride to work), I happened on this railing one morning at the train station. A fresh snowfall had transformed it with large drops of moisture clinging to every surface. I tried to organize the lines and feature the droplets as best I could. I wish I could have held more of the railing in focus, but I was limited by the lack of light and a handheld shutter speed to only f/5.6.

January 7, 2002

Nikon F3HP handheld

50mm f/1.8 AIS

1/60, f/5.6

Ilford Delta 400 developed in Xtol 1:1 for 9:00 at 68 degrees. The short development time was a mistake. This photo was among six taken in early January after which I removed the roll from the camera, switching to Neopan 1600. I set this roll aside, neglecting to label it. When I needed a roll in March (see Week 10), I chose this one. Because the roll was unboxed, I skipped over the first ten frames just in case. I "pulled" the development of this roll, because I rated the film at 160 for the pictures taken in March, so this photo received less than normal development. Scanned the negative.


Week 3: Audi TT

Audi TT (thumbnail)

The right-rear of an Audi TT taken at the Philadelphia Auto Show. I dunno. No excuses. I just like this one.

January 8, 2002

Nikon F3HP handheld

50mm f/1.8 AIS

1/30, f/4 (I think)

Fuji Neopan 1600 developed in Xtol 1:3 for 13:00 at 68 degrees. Scanned the negative.

Week 4: Byard Lancaster

Byard Lancaster (thumbnail)

While between trains at Suburban Station (in downtown Philadelphia), I heard the distant, echoing sounds of a solo soprano saxophone. As I followed the sound to its source, it became clear that this musician was far more accomplished than the street musicians I was used to hearing. It turned out that the musician was none other than Byard Lancaster, who has been a luminary on the Philadelphia jazz scene for many years. He sounded great.

He very graciously permitted me to begin snapping away. Unfortunately, all the pictures are very soft. I swear I was focusing carefully. Really I was! Anyway this one is sort of in focus and not too dark. Again I chose the photo that's least embarrassing from a technical standpoint, rather than the most interesting moment or composition. Sigh. Er, I have a whole year to keep trying, right?

January 9, 2002

Nikon F3HP handheld

50mm f/1.8 AIS

1/60, f/2

Fuji Neopan 1600 developed in Xtol 1:3 for 13:00 at 68 degrees. Scanned the negative.

Week 5: Birch Trunks in Snow

Birch Trunks in Snow (thumbnail)

This is the first shot in this year's PAW where I really had some technical control, instead of crappy handheld shots in no light, so it should be great, right?

Er, no.

I used Neopan 1600, which is probably not the best choice for a subject like this (duh!), but it was what was in the camera. How's that for artistic dedication? At least I used a tripod.

It snowed over the weekend, so I headed out to brave the bitter winter storm. Snow was actually falling when I took this, but don't feel sorry for me, the dedicated photographer trekking miles into frigid, remote wastelands for art's sake. This was taken in the back yard--I was only thirty feet from a nice hot cup of green tea. Of all the "snow" pictures taken that weekend, I like this one the best.

January 20, 2002

Nikon F3HP on tripod

50mm f/1.8 AIS

Unknown shutter speed, probably f/8.

Fuji Neopan 1600 developed in Xtol 1:3 for 13:00 at 68 degrees. Scanned the negative.

Week 6: Men in Black: Jim

Men in Black: Jim (thumbnail)

I had my camera with me this night to try taking a few pictures of my friend Jack, who needed an informal "head shot" in a hurry for a brochure he was doing (see Week 7). Those pictures are best forgotten, mostly because I wasn't able to bounce my flash (the ceiling was about thirty feet high), and the on-camera flash light just didn't look right. While this was going on, I was able to grab this "decisive moment" of Jim, surprising myself that I could react quickly enough to catch his expression before it passed. The on-camera flash doesn't look half bad. Incidentally, what Jim is doing is removing a trumpet mouthpiece from its case.

February 12, 2002

Nikon F3HP handheld with Vivitar 285 HV flash mounted on-camera.

Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AIS

X (1/80), f/16 (I think)

Fuji NPH 400 developed and printed by Larmon Photo. Scanned from a 4x6 print.

Week 7: Men in Black: Jack

My friend Jack needed a quick and simple "head shot" for a brochure he was making, so after one abortive attempt, I came better prepared to try it again. We were able to use a small library room where I had Jack try a variety of poses: sitting in an armchair, standing in front of a bookcase, leaning on a table, etc. For each pose, I made one photo using each of the following lighting techniques with my Vivitar 285 HV: 1) bounced off the ceiling with a small foamcore reflector to throw some light forward; 2) bare flash held a few feet to the right and left of the camera; 3) flash bounced off a 2-foot square piece of foamcore held a few feet to the right and left of the camera. The third technique simulates what you would get with an umbrella, I suppose. I just held the flash and foamcore where I wanted it and used the camera's timer to trip the shutter. This technique produced the best results, although the bare flash didn't look bad either. It's just that the shadows were very hard. The room was very dark, and I made no attempt to mix any ambient light in by dragging the shutter. It might have been nice to have a little fill on the shadow side, perhaps from a reflector of some kind.

We took about 30 pictures; this was my favorite.

February 16, 2002

Nikon F3HP on tripod with Vivitar 285 HV flash held to one side and bounced off a 2-foot square piece of foamcore.

Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AIS

X (1/80), f/11

Fuji NPH 400 developed by Larmon Photo. Scanned from the negative.

Week 8: Philadelphia Flower Show

Philadelphia Flower Show (thumbnail)

This was an exhibit at the Philadelphia Flower Show (for a caterer, I think). The exhibit didn't have very much to do with plants, but it was very dramatically staged and lit. This photograph doesn't do it justice. Although I was drawn to the centerpiece of calla lilies, I wasn't able to hold enough detail in them to evoke their subtle creaminess (not to mention how small they are in the frame). I was hoping that the composition would lead the eye toward the flowers, but I'm not sure the trip is worth it!

March 2, 2002

Nikon F3HP handheld

50mm f/1.8 AIS

1/30, f/2.8 (I think)

Ilford Delta 400 developed in Xtol 1:1 for 10:30 at 68 degrees. Scanned the negative.

Week 9: Big Beans

Big Beans (thumbnail)

It's been said that you should photograph what you love, so I've been thinking of doing a "coffee" series. So here goes: Three coffee beans up close and personal. The trouble is, they are so large that they no longer look like coffee beans, but more like a wall inside of a coal mine. Nevertheless, the photo accurately portrays how large coffee looms in my life.

At this magnification, depth of field is miniscule, so only parts of the beans are in focus, even though I tried to put the beans in the same plane as much as possible and stopped down to f/32.

March 2, 2002

Nikon F3HP on tripod with Vivitar 285 HV flash fired through a homemade softbox. Two flashes were used (double exposure) to get enough light (and that's debatable!)

50mm f/1.8 AIS reversed on Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AIS

X (1/80), f/32

Ilford Delta 400 developed in Xtol 1:1 for 10:30 at 68 degrees. Scanned the negative.

Week 10: Empty Lid

Empty Lid (thumbnail)

So many of my pictures this year have been compromised by technical problems that I was determined to do something that was at least technically competent. On a partly cloudy Saturday, I headed out to a park near my house I've visited many times. The park features a paved footpath, which is the most popular feature with most people, but what makes the area interesting to me are the acres of woods, a meandering stream, and a collection of ruined farm buildings. On this trip, I was drawn to a pile of discarded plastic drain pipes. It's the kind of raw material that seems to offer an abundance of compositional possibilities... to someone creative, at least. Hmm.

I made two compositions (the other one I felt was a little too busy and disorganized). For exposure, I tried something new. I usually take an incident reading with a handheld meter which provides the basic exposure. This works very well with slide film, but for negative film you have more flexibility. In this case I decided to abandon the incident approach and try to place the values higher on the scale than they would normally fall using the incident method. Because the subject was mostly dark (black actually) except for the white label and covered only about a four-stop range, I was worried the scene would be underexposed. Since there was no detail at all in the white label I needed to preserve, I didn't worry about its value. I was rewarded to see that there is no place on the negative where the film is clear. Even the darkest areas have some density. For someone who habitually underexposes, this was a triumph!

There is a lot of detail in the negative that doesn't show up in the scan at all. For example, the "empty" lid features molded-in lettering which reads: "Do Not Reuse for Food and Drink."

March 9, 2002

Nikon F3HP on tripod

50mm f/1.8 AIS with Nikon Y48 yellow filter

1/15, f/16

Ilford Delta 400 rated at 160, developed in Xtol 1:1 for 9:00 at 68 degrees. Scanned the negative.

Week 11: Field of Beans

Field of Beans (thumbnail)

Let's have another shot of coffee, shall we? This was lit by my homemade softbox. I bracketed a number of exposures, but this one is about one stop over the incident meter reading.

March 14, 2002

Nikon F3HP on tripod with Vivitar 285 HV flash fired through a homemade softbox.

Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AIS

X (1/80), f/11

Ilford Delta 400 developed in Xtol 1:1 for 9:00 at 68 degrees. Scanned the negative.

Week 12: Sycamore

Sycamore (thumbnail)

I went to a local park specifically to photograph a picturesque railroad bridge. When I got there, however, I was drawn to a large sycamore growing on the bank of a creek (I never photographed the bridge, by the way). The tree featured a huge branch that jutted out from the side of the trunk only a few feet off the ground. The branch was nearly as thick as the trunk itself. The end had been sawn off clean quite some time ago, and a number of branches had sprouted vertically from it. The composition combines the texture of the exfoliating bark with the dynamic shapes of the upswept limbs.

I had to ask Anne what kind of tree this was. From my description of the bark, she was able to identify it immediately. Later she pointed out that a street near our house was lined with mature sycamores, scores of them. I had passed them by for years without noticing their knobby trunks and mottled bark. Talk about not "seeing."

The print was among the first I made in my class at the Abington Arts Center ("Intermediate to Advanced Black and White Photography" taught by Bill Kelly). In previous classes, we had been using multi-contrast paper, but I had never spent any time experimenting with filters, preferring to just crank out prints. But I had some nice negatives to work with (this one and Week 13 below), and they both seemed to some change in contrast. During the printing process, I finally began to understand in some small way the whole "visualization" process. You use filters and other manipulations in an effort to exaggerate or focus the viewer's attention on what drew you to photograph your subject. The aim is not to reproduce reality, but to enhance and transform it, according to your idea of what it should, in other words, your vision. That's what Ansel Adams did all the time, and his manipulations brought out the essence of the scene. It's not about trying to replicate what you saw in person. You are trying to create a print that evokes something in the viewer. The original scene is only the raw material.

In this case, a straight print rendered the lightest bark a dull gray, which is probably accurate, considering the lighting (overcast) and the actual color of the bark (a pale brown). But I felt that the bark "looked" closer to white, so we decided to use a #3 filter.

I have mixed feelings about this composition and can't decide whether it is successful or not. I like the texture of the bark and the contrast between the light and dark. I wish I was able to suggest the shapes of the upswept limbs better; most of the branches simply merge together. I used my longest lens (105mm) to compress the limbs and crop out everything but the tree, but the result feels a little cramped. Featuring the raw cut end of the tree so prominently is also questionable. The whole composition is a little unbalanced. There's too much going on in the right side of the print and not enough on the left. I think it takes asymetrical composition too far. Whatever.

March 16, 2002

Nikon F3HP on tripod.

Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AIS with Nikon Y48 yellow filter

1/4, f/22

Ilford Delta 400 developed in Xtol 1:1 for 9:00 at 68 degrees. Printed on Ilford Multigrade IV Deluxe RC Pearl, with a 3 filter. Scanned from the print.

Week 13: Water and Water

Water and Water (thumbnail)

I pass this little valve cover every day walking from the train station to work. I never gave it much thought until one day it was raining hard, and I noticed it was surrounded by a muddy puddle. I took a number of pictures of it and a faucet right next to it. None of these were very interesting. The next morning, the puddle was still there, but now the sun was shining, creating sparkling highlights and shadows. All the photographs I made were compromised by my attempt to crop out the faucet, which I couldn't figure out how to incorporate.

I printed this around the same time as Week 12 (above) in class and used a 1-1/2 filter to bring out some of the detail in the shadows. The print actually has a nice glow to it. In fact, it may be the nicest print I've ever done in terms of matching the printing choices to the subject. Other than the filter, there was no manipulation.

March 21, 2002

Nikon F3HP handheld.

50mm f/1.8 AIS with Nikon Y48 yellow filter.

1/125, f/8

Ilford Delta 400 developed in Xtol 1:1 for 9:00 at 68 degrees. Printed on Ilford Multigrade IV Deluxe RC Pearl, with a 1-1/2 filter. Scanned from the print.

Week 14: Hunter

Hunter (thumbnail)

Kyle Cassidy, the inspiration of this PAW project hath writ "The 10 Commandments of Leica Photography," Commandment Three of which states, Thou shalt not photograph thy dog, nor thy cat, nor thy ass. Good advice, I'm sure. Indeed I get the impression that it is horribly gauche to create a "web site" whose only content is pictures of your pets and children. I wouldn't go that far, and in fact haven't seen very many sites like that.

Nevertheless, I'm crazy about cats and have taken a goodly number of cat pictures, but so far have resisted the temptation to share them with the world, at least in the context of my PAW. But this shot had such a warm quality to the light that I thought it might have more of a universal appeal--to dog lovers even. Anyway, this is Hunter, a Maine Coon mix we were privileged to take care of as a foster cat until he was adopted. I shot four rolls of film of Hunter while he lived with us, the best of which grace Hunter's own page where you can see more pictures of him if you are so inclined. A number of the pictures were taken using my homemade softbox, as was this one, but this one features a twist. For one thing, Hunter liked to camp out inside the softbox (see third picture down on Hunter's page; notice the white background). For this picture, he was catching up on his grooming directly behind the softbox (which was aimed at the couch naturally). Because the light was all reflected, I could only manage f/4 (I think), so only his head is in focus. And of course his left side is in shadow. Oh, well. This is still my most evocative cat picture in the sense that it captures some of the warmth of his loving personality.

March 28, 2002

Nikon F3HP on tripod.

Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AIS

1/60, f/4

Fuji Astia.

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