I photographed several insects for my Karl Blossfeldt-inspired final project in advanced traditional photography. Partly this was because Blossfeldt--with the exception of a dragonfly while a student at art academy in Berlin--rarely, if ever, photographed insects. Historically, when old-school film photographers would take macro shots insects, they would kill them first using formaldehyde or alcohol or whatnot, simply to keep them still and manageable as they focused and composed. I don't do that. With digital, it's much easier to take a bunch of environmental photos of insects in short order as they crawl around, enough to ensure getting several keepers. This wasn't always possible and practical in the film era. The photographer gets his or her photo, and the bug goes on its merry way. Except for the sumbitch in the image below. I killed him good in the deep freeze, whilst the rest of his tribe died a quick death via neurotoxin spray. I love bees, despise wasps. So now you know the rest of the story.
Someone in class asked me just what the heck this is. I have no idea. It came from a small, dessicated shrub in the middle of a pasture, and I stumbled across it whilst helping The Wife with a bridal shoot. I've never seen something so evil-looking in all my born days. Every seed pod radiated nasty thorns, and they weren't for show, either. Those things were tough and sharp. And every other stem and leaf boasted its own assortment of needle-like impalement devices ready to draw blood at any moment. I swear, if one has said "Feed me, Seymore. Feed me now!" I'd have not blinked an eye.
This is an example of why no opportunity should be dismissed, photographically speaking. There's a garden of poppies that come up every spring at our church. I saw these dried seed pods, and while I thought they looked interesting overall, I doubted they had enough tiny detail to make for an interesting macro subject. Even after developing the negatives, I wasn't too impressed. It wasn't until the end of one of my darkroom sessions that I decided I'd print one up to see what it looked like at a size larger than contact sheet thumbnails. Wow. There's a lot going on here, and I'm very happy I took a chance on this one.
Here's the third and final Texas thistle shot from this project. I hadn't realized it until after the fact, but these give me a pretty nice tryptych. That's a fancy fine art word for three images that go together in an aesthetically pleasing and intentional way. And if I may be allowed to engage a bit of bragging, my prof commented during the final critique that he'd had many students influenced by Blossfeldt over the years, but none of those previous projects were on the same level as mine. Now, I'm not discounting the possibility he was engaging in a bit of hyperbole to give us students encouragement and inspiration as the class wrapped up for the semester, but even so, it's nice ego-boo.
Got busy yesterday, so naturally I slipped further behind in posting. Here's the next image in my Blossfeldt sequence, a Texas thistle. I've found that spiny, thorny and otherwise disagreeable plants make some of the absolute best photo subjects.
This is one of the few environmental macro photos I included in my final project--most of the images were shot in my makeshift, table-top studio, echoing vaguely the techniques of Karl Blossfeldt more than a century ago. But I have white-veined pipevine growing in the back yard, and they have the most bizarrely alien flowers, so I had to shoot some for this project. This wasn't the best image I got of the pipevine flower, nor was it the most artistic. It is, however, the only one where I captured a tiny fly in the throat of the flower, doing its best to pollinate and perpetuate the plant species. That is cool enough to trump any technical shortcomings the overall image may suffer.
Christina Amphlett, lead singer of the Aussie 80s band Divinyls, died this week from breast cancer. Since I already featured their biggest U.S. hit, "I Touch Myself," a while back, I offer their other notable hit, "Pleasure and Pain" today as tribute. She had large, full lips, so it is unfortunate that she felt compelled to do the model pout/duck mouth throughout the song. It's not terribly attractive, although I'm sure she thought she was being sexy at the time.
Previously on Friday Night Videos... Pat Benatar.
Now Playing: Electric Light Orchestra Afterglow Chicken Ranch Central
Sometimes working on this Karl Blossfeldt-inspired project utterly consumed me. Consider this dessicated red yucca seed pod--I caught a glimpse of it from the corner of my eye driving across campus one day, and instantly thought it'd make a great photo subject. But I was driving, so I immediately put it out of my mind. Except it wouldn't go. So I ended up turning around and collecting the brittle stalk (it wasn't easy to get to, actually) and photographing it a few days later. I'd seen a lot of red yucca seed pods, since the plant is popular around here in xerescaping, but none of them grabbed me like this one.
During the critique of the final project, my prof said (and I paraphrase) that I should be taking my work--this project, specifically--to art galleries in the region and trying to get them to show. Which is extremely flattering and a great bit of ego-boo, but internally I know better. I look at the final project (which isn't at all bad, I'll allow) and see all the flaws and mistakes from shooting, developing and printing that I've made which relegates my work to the minor leagues of fine art photography. But then I look at one of my rare pieces like this red yucca, and a little voice inside my head goes, "Yeah, he may be on to something."
This isn't the best photo in my Karl Blossfledt-inspired final project, nor is it my favorite. But it is possibly the most unlikely and most curious. Outside the back entrance to my office building there's a large, elevated area paved with limestone blocks, with tiny patches of moss growing between the crevices. When it rains, the brown moss greens up, and as I noticed a few weeks ago, send up tiny, almost unnoticeable flower stalks. The fact that this takes place invisibly to the hundreds of people who pass the area every day is endlessly fascinating to me.
I know I've photographed Mexican fritillary caterpillars before, but my final Karl Blossfeldt-inspired project was a perfect venue for this guy. With very few exceptions, Blossfeldt didn't photograph insects, so this was a chance to differentiate myself even further from him. Plus, I knew from experience that the caterpillars had a alien look to them that would go over well. The orange tones of the caterpillar didn't lend themselves to good contrast, so I cranked up the filter to 4 on the enlarger for this one, if I recall correctly. That accounts for the dramatic black-and-white patterning on the insect.
My Karl Blossfeldt-inspired Advanced Traditional Photography final project continues with my macro close-up of a dandelion puff ball. I had several ideas for this--including some photogram concepts--but none quite panned out until I came up with this cut-away composition.
So, I had my final project presentation in Advanced Traditional Photography yesterday. For the final, we had to pick some photographer or piece of art work that influenced us, and present no fewer than 15 prints demonstrating that influence. I've been on a bit of a Karl Blossfeldt kick of late, and since my macro photography work had been well-received in the class, I decided to run with it. Ironically, the first print I made turned out to be the most Blossfeldt-like image I produced, wholly by accident. I photographed this oak pollen cluster against a mottled grey background, and the contrast was horrible. The entire image was a dull grey with little detail. Hoping to save the shot, I printed multiple copies in the darkroom using progressively stronger contrast filters on the enlargers. This final image used a 4.5 filter with an exposure of 60 seconds or so. The coarse, contrasty look gives it an antique feeling and echoes some of the texture of Blossfeldt's masterful works, although his images were normally much darker than this.
Falling a week behind in my 365 postings does not reflect well upon me, I know. But in my defense, I've been going out on photo shoots for my Digital Photography final project, and spending many, many hours in the darkroom making prints for my Film II final project (which is due Tuesday). So I've been quite industrious--no slacker, I.
Back on Thursday, The Wife invited me along to her advanced photography course she teaches through New Braunfels ISD's continuing education program. The class wanted to learn about night photography, and since I've done more car light trails, star trails and light painting than she has, I pitched in as her so-called expert. Not that I am--I just make it up as I go along. Toward the end of the night, with my camera snugly mounted on a tripod, an ambulance and fire truck came up. We were on the traffic circle in downtown New Braunfels, so, just for the hell of it, I triggered my camera (already set for a 20 second exposure) and panned (unevenly, I must point out) to follow the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles around the circle. The resulting image is a surreal confluence of lights. It's not a great photo by any means, but it is interesting.
Pat Benatar's "Sex As A Weapon" was a top 20 hit for her back in the day, but oddly, she left it off her greatest hits compilation. The song's pretty in-you-face for the time, but really, the video goes so far beyond the song it has to be seen to be believed. Yes, there's some valid social commentary at work here, but the whole thing is such a gonzo exercise of 80s excess that it stumbles drunkenly into exploitation territory, albeit in an entertaining, hilarious way. Enjoy.
They don't get any fresher than this! Despite my declaration a while back that I wasn't going to bother trying to keep the order of my picture-of-the-day/365 photo project consistent with the day it was taken (mainly because I'd fallen so far behind on posting I'd lost track of which image went with which day) sometimes providence takes a hand. To wit: About half an hour ago I found this little Mediterranean in our back yard. Barely an inch and a half long, it was much smaller (and younger) than most of those we see around the house. So I took the opportunity to get a few photos, and this one turned out quite nicely, despite the fact the little guy wasn't entirely cooperative.
And, oh yeah. I got my 7D back. Yay!
I've been on a bit of a Janis Joplin kick of late, so why not share the love? This is her performance of "Ball and Chain" from the Monterrey Pop Festival, the show that put Joplin as well as Big Brother and the Holding Company on a whole lot of people's radar. I love the shots of Mama Cass in the audience, completely gobsmacked by Joplin's performance. I don't know how much of it was fueled by the prodigious amount of drugs she was doing, but Joplin had an amazing stage presence and threw herself 100 percent into the songs she sang. The moral of this story? Heroin is really, really bad stuff.
Those of you keeping score at home may remember I posted a huisache blossom about a month ago. I wasn't happy with it. I wasn't happy with the photo overall. I didn't like the exposure, color or contrast. I wasn't happy with my processing afterwards. So I re-shot the whole thing. I think the difference this time around is obvious. See? Sometimes I do indeed learn from my mistakes.
Misplaced my CF card yesterday, which explains my lack of a photo of the day. So here it is now. Those of you keeping score at home may remember I posted a huisache bud about a month ago. I wasn't happy with it. I wasn't happy with the photo overall. I didn't like the exposure, color or contrast. I wasn't happy with my processing afterwards. So I re-shot the whole thing. I think the difference this time around is obvious. See? Sometimes I do indeed learn from my mistakes.
Here's a nice macro photo of a loblolly pine flower and catkins that is only a test shot. Sadly, there's no "real" shot to supersede it. Follow: I'd set up the subject, and taken a few test shots to fine-tune the focus and lighting (getting the proper amount of reflection/fill light is always tough for me with these macro projects). I'd just about gotten everything the way I wanted in the image above, when I was called away for a few minutes. It was only a few minutes, mind you, and once I returned I planned to finish the test shots with the DSLR, then get some good, finely-detailed black and white shots using my Elan 7ne film camera. What could go wrong with a plan so simple?
I returned to discover the cats had eaten the loblolly flower and catkins.
Then vomited them all back up onto my macro studio setup, which I featured in yesterday's picture-of-the-day. Sadly, such happenings aren't uncommon in my life.
Camera: Canon 5D mark II Lens: Canon EF 100mm 2.8 macro
Now Playing: Syd Barrett Crazy Diamond Chicken Ranch Central
Now that my "Missing Persona" series is out of the way, I'm about to start serious work on a bunch of macro shots for my other photography class. I thought I'd start off by sharing my decidedly low-tech macro photography studio set-up. Some day I'll have extension tubes and a focusing rail, etc. But for now, the kitchen table, foam board, felt, thumb tacks and aluminum foil will do.
But wait! What's this? Could a coincidence of Shakespearean proportions be right around the corner? Is redemption and/or reunification so close at hand? (And by the by, this one took a lot more work than most of the others--an not just for obvious reasons. The sidewalk had an odd slant to the right because of the camera angle, so I had to work at leveling it out while not introducing terrible distortion to the rest of the image. Sometimes reality does bite).
I hate to admit it, but I didn't think about adding a cheap bottle of liquor in a paper bag with the edges rolled down until well after I'd broken down this session. Sometimes inspiration strikes too late. Anyway, you get the idea. Our Hero is not in a good place.
The second installment of my tender saga of a head that's lost its body. I expect this to become a Hallmark Hall of Fame telefilm shortly.
Camera: Canon 7D Camera: Tamron 28-75mm 2.8 Lisa On Location
Now Playing: Emerson, Lake & Palmer Return of the Manticore Chicken Ranch Central
And now for something completely different. Here's installment 1 of a series I call (for lack of a better title) "Missing Persona." It's the tender tale of a head that's lost its body. I conceived and developed this in response to a photography professor dismissing a previous project of mine by saying "It didn't look like you put much effort into it." So, yeah.
Okay, here's the deal: I'm falling farther behind on my 365 postings again (I'm guessing I'm about 10 images short of current) and this past weekend didn't help. I'm still shooting, mind you, but during the Easter weekend travels to visit various relatives, I accidentally left my camera at said relatives. And because of my jam-packed schedule, I'm not going to get it back until next week. Now I've got other cameras here I can use to keep shooting (back up bodies are great for that!) but the shots on the 7D's memory card are out of reach for the time being.
Anyway, here's a self-portrait to help fill in the gap. It was actually a test shot to check lighting and focus, but I liked the dramatic shadows. I've got other, more interesting stuff coming up soon.