It is a tradition: come fall Bas Stubert and I pick a day, or several, to go to the woods and shoot mushrooms. With our cameras. Just for fun. Every year I try to do something different. This year was my first time without tripod, because I wanted to rely on the image stabilization (Pentax calls it SR for shake reduction) of the phenomenal 90 mm macro. Turns out tripod beats SR under these circumstances. None of the following photographs are tack sharp, but they still give a nice impression of the mushrooms we encountered.
Just a short post about the Pentax 135 mm f/4 leaf shutter lens which I bought second hand for my 645D. One of the things I wanted to use this lens for is portraits: to get the eyes tack sharp (in focus, well lit with flash, using a short shutterspeed of 1/500s) and the tip of the nose as well as the ears already fading into blurriness. (Click photo for slightly larger version and check the tip of his nose!)
Went away to Memmingen in the south of Germany (quite near Austria) with a friend to sample their exquisite dark beers. Photographically speaking I worked on my double exposures (except the last day, WHEN I FORGOT TO BRING MY ROLL OF FILM) and shot two photographs in my Water series (to be published soon).
Below are some of the vacation snapshots that I, of course, also took. Such shots may help to discover elements, motives, themes that might sit right with you and they certainly help develop or sharpen your technique, especially with regard to composition, I find. This time not so much maybe, but fun was had nonetheless.
Lately it seems the Dutch islands are slowly replacing the Veluwe as short getaway for me, this coincides with me moving away from trees and branches towards water and skies. Yesterday, after a sleepover because of the distance, a friend and I took the boat and walked along the northern coastal line (consisting of beach) of Ameland.
A couple of observations come to mind.
1) Me moving away from trees and branches also stems from an inability to transcend the style of portraying them I developed for three years. While resulting images can be beautiful, it is boring (to me) and I want more. This is something that needs exploring later.
2) While tangled branches were an excellent metaphor for my state of mind for some time, the past couple of months a placid sea seems a more adequate representation of what is going on with me. This is both good (less stress) as bad (more denial).
3) My third observation flew away into a clear blue sky.
Shooting photos for the fashion blog It’s the new blog on a regular basis proves to be fun and inspiring. Lately I tried to go beyond my ordinary modus operandi even using a bit of lighting (one studio flash). Something I want to do more often.
Making double exposures is an old technique where you expose your film twice, shooting the second photograph over the first one (I have sometimes shot more than one photo on the same piece of film but in the interest of the research it seems two exposures is enough). I use an old folding camera for this, with this camera it is easy to trip the shutter, not wind the film and trip the shutter again and only then wind the film (no automatic winder…).
The outcome of a double exposure is often hard to predict, combined with the old folding camera, with which even a single exposure is hard to predict (not able to aim very well, no light meter, vague distance scale) this is for me an exercise in letting go. Loose control and introduce the random back in my photographs.
In the end, of course, I will probably want my control back and produce the double exposures digitally. However, the current randomness sheds light on possibilities with this type of image, much more than when I would start layering in Photoshop and be confined to what my mind can think of. In that sense, trying double exposures is a way to expand the stuff your mind can think of.
These are some of the results so far (mostly shot in Austria):
The frames are 6 x 9 cm shot on (mostly expired) medium format film, scanned by my friend Bas Stubert with his Nikon Coolscan 8000 medium format filmscanner. Testprints confirm a printsize of 70 x 100 cm (approximately) is optimal, revealing all the detail present on the original film.
Things to take away from a visit to the Kunstrai 2014…
I am reluctant to become commercial. The bigger public that could be buying art again in the coming years has a distinct idea about how “art” should “look”. With that look there are two problems: 1) It is not imaginative, and only slightly creative. 2) I do not have it.
The reason I wanted to talk to some gallery owners (my friend Bas Stubert took some photographs of me trying to network, a unique sight for sure) is that I need to sell some of my work to be able to produce the work. I can finish maybe 30 big prints mounted and all now but I can not store them, let alone display them for people to see. During my recent testprinting it became clear that the photographs only reach their potential when printed (large). This is my dilemma.
However, to obtain this freedom (of space) I am not prepared to inject artsyness into my work for the sake of being recognized by the art-buying public, because I would be faking it. My double-exposures are probably the closest it will come to that (and their raison d’être is entirely different). I am sure that once an artist starts getting famous (in general) the art-critics and blogsters will find stories for the work even if it does not look artsy.
A mini version of Jeff Koons’ balloon dog? Some 2d representation of the diamond covered skull by Damien Hirst? Give me a break. Gallery owners as hardworking drugstore proprietors. Salespeople with a story. This is not how I imagined it. I know marketing and connections are important but maybe exposure can be reached from a different angle. Try to find a crowd consisting of artists and organise shows ourselves. The Kunstrai also excited me to concentrate on the work more (I have tons of ideas but because the execution is lagging I could not show them) and not be influenced by what is considered art nowadays.
Even if it leads to obscurity.
The Pentax has proven to be a great catalyst for photography, I have gone on quite a few photowalks lately with friends. A photowalk is perfect to learn to see better, try out things and maybe even get inspired by locations. But they are even more perfect for having fun with photography and your camera, and your friends. Of course there is talks over coffee and beer (later in the day most of the time) involved with these walks.
All the time my main story (or subject) lives at the back of my head, about the situation of human kind, more specifically the organised individuals living in the whole. While I hope to develop in this regard, finding better metaphors, I now concentrate on nature versus culture in images, chaos versus order, entropy. This can be a landscape of nature (trees, mountains) or a landscape of culture portrayed in the same way. Nature / chaos may show the submissive role of the individual (as we see ourselves, our influence, civilization), while culture / order may show our society (I like to stress that I do not mean our current society but the final way man will exist as a group, next to and amongst everything else).
Not forgetting that for a photograph to be appealing there has to be some aesthetic pleasantness (rythm, surface distribution… difficult). It is the shiny layer of beauty (beauty by hideousness is allowed, the sublime as destruction living next to perfection) that draws the attention of the viewer who has to be immediately led into his or her own imagination, so he / she can invest in the work. You can do this by adding or stressing foreign or puzzling elements, the viewer will put this into a framework of his / her own. Everything you leave out from now on will be thought up better by the viewer than you could have ever imagined (because it will fit the framework better). When I say adding something foreign or puzzling I also mean leaving out something expected. This sounds very shallow and maybe it is, but necessary.
Here are some of the photographs from the previous weeks, enjoy!
Vianen / Lek:
- Attach the SMC Pentax 645 LS 1:4 135mm the usual way to your Pentax 645D.
– When selecting the shutterspeed on the lens (front ring) leaf shutter operation is automatically engaged on the body, it displays “LS” on the screen.
– Available shutterspeeds: 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 and 1/500.
– The lens also has a setting of “0”, which doesn’t use the leaf shutter (it becomes a normal 135mm f/4 for the Pentax 645 system).
– Attach your flash (trigger) to the standard PC connector on the LS 1:4 135mm.
– Aperture is automatic, like with all Pentax-A lenses (no stop down metering necessary).
– Remember to cock (wind-up) the shutter after each photo, you do this by turning the ring just behind the shutterspeed ring on the lens.
– The shutter is cocked when you can see through the viewfinder. After you take a photo the viewfinder remains dark indicating that the shutter has fired and has to be cocked again.
– There is some delay after pressing the shutter-release button before the Pentax takes the photograph.
– Mirror lockup doesn’t work with leaf shutter operation (no biggie).
Using a leaf shutter lens has been a long-time wish of mine because it enables you to use flash on all speeds, so you can use faster shutterspeeds (usually up to 1/500 to 1/800) than the x-sync speed of your camera, blocking out daylight and / or freezing action or even slight movements better. For the Canon system I owned before there are no leaf shutter lenses. To this day I don’t understand why Canon won’t make a couple, for example a 40 f/4 and 80 f/4 with leaf shutter operation up to 1/800 second or even 1/1000. Or maybe a 35 f/4, 75 f/4 and 150 f/5.6. Even Pentax doesn’t make them anymore, but they used to and when I decided to get the 645D (even before I actually got it) I managed to scare up an SMC 645 LS f/4 135mm in mint condition on Ebay. I had some doubts as to whether it would work perfectly on the 645D but fortunately it does, just attach it and everything works automatically.
To test it I set up a couple of shots with my favorite model Annette (read her post: Editorial shoot) in a beautiful apartment in Rotterdam, where the 1/500 flash synchronisation the leafshutter in it provides would be somewhat benificial, to block most of the natural light and create the mood with flash only. I used my Aurora Fusion studio flashlight, connected with an extended pc-sync cord to the LS 135 f/4. I fear my triggers aren’t fast enough for 1/500 second so I didn’t use them. I will test that later.
Of course the SMC Pentax 645 LS 1:4 135mm is manual focus only but since I always use MF anyway that isn’t a problem for me. The sharpness and overall quality (lack of artifacts) is excellent, even compared to the 90 f/2.8 macro I own. Maybe it’s slightly less sharp (it better be, considering the price of the 90 f/2.8) but I’m sure that will go completely unnoticed under normal circumstances. This will be my preferred fashion-lens for sure. I’m already setting up another shoot because I want to use it so bad.
Lately, out and about shooting with my Pentax, I have been thinking about the photograph as a semi-finished product. You take a photograph of a location because it is a cool location, you see something in it. But there are often elements missing. With such a photograph as starting point you could stage something that makes the image more compelling, or you paint the photograph to legitimize it (investing more, small changes that make it more your own work maybe).