I squeezed in a roll of Tri-X in my shooting with the models. I wish I had had the chance to shoot some frames of Trevor, the other model, in black and white, but such is life. Another time.
Grayson has a very commanding gaze and makes for a great portrait subject. He uses this to compensate for an otherwise willowy physique (not that there’s anything wrong with willowy).
We shot all of these down under the Whitehurst Freeway where it runs parallel to the Potomac River on the edge of Georgetown. Despite the deep shade it creates, it makes for some beautiful, soft light.
The tank top reads “I like bad boys” in French. It was Grayson’s own choice of wardrobe – very fun and cheeky.
The last shot was at a boarded-up building tucked away under the freeway. I’m surprised given the value of real estate in Georgetown that such a place could exist. Whatever, it makes for a neat backdrop for models. The bottle of Fat Tire was found en-situ, and trust me, nobody drank from it.
While we were out scouting a location, Grayson saw this bit of graffiti and said, “I want my picture taken next to a sign that says, ‘Nuclear Age Sucks Shit’. The colors were cool, the message edgy, and the model was inspired, so who was I to say no? I’m going to keep it on my list of places to shoot.
The Anarchy symbol made for a kind of halo in purple for Grayson.
In this case, the diffuser wasn’t big enough to soften the light on the whole scene, and the hard-edged shadow on the wall made perfect sense given the message of the mural – the shadows recall the kind of shadows cast by the blast of a nuclear weapon.
In this last shot, I moved in tight to get the golden mushroom stenciled on the wall. It just seemed a fitting counterpart to the rest of the graffiti.
Again, all shots were taken on Kodak Ektar 100 in my Rolleiflex. It gives punchy saturation when you need it without being over-the-top.
Here are five portraits I did of the models last Saturday. Trevor and Grayson were easy to work with, and I would be happy to give a reference for them to anyone who wants to work with them.
All images were shot on Kodak Ektar 100 with my Rolleiflex 2.8E. I wanted to make a point out of this because I hear lots of people saying “I can’t get good portraits with Ektar – I don’t like the skin tones”. I haven’t had to do anything special to get these, other than the obvious minor retouch to remove a pimple or two (these guys are in their early 20s after all). For the shot of Trevor in bright direct sunlight, I used a white diffuser disc to soften the light on his face. Otherwise these were just natural light. The shots of Trevor in the aviator jacket were taken in open shade in an alley, so no diffuser was needed, as was the shot of Grayson wearing the black cotton top and the one in the white mesh hoodie.
Today, I had a group shoot with two models and several other photographers. We wandered around the streets of Georgetown, one of the oldest neighborhoods in DC and once a separate town but merged with DC in the early years of the Republic. Of course, I shot the majority of my images on my Rolleiflexes (4 rolls Ektar 100 and one roll Tri-X). But I also put my new iPhone 6 to the test. It is surprisingly good- these look to me to be as good as the shots I take with my Canon 5D. Look and judge for yourself:
I drive by this place every morning on my way to work. I watched them working on getting the place ready to open and kept telling myself I really ought to stop in and try it out. Well, this weekend, I did. It was my treat to myself for having sold four prints. The restaurant is right on U Street, and the space is not large – they have perhaps ten tables and bar seating for another ten or so patrons. The ambiance is classic Italian eatery, down to the red checkered tablecloths and the mid-century pop and light jazz (think Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Tony Bennett) playing at just the right volume. And most importantly, the food is FANTASTIC. I had Bronzino with roasted beets, pears and almonds, and a Valhrona chocolate cannoli that was just to die for. I will be adding this to my roster of regular haunts.
Here is a streetscape including the marquee for the restaurant.
Alphonse has their own wood-fired pizza oven. One of their pizzas is next on my list of things to try. I had the Rollei with me as usual, and everyone on the staff was particularly appreciative of it. I was trying to take a shot of the pizza chefs working at the oven, but one of them caught me out of the corner of his eye, turned, and they both mugged for the camera.
This is the view of the restaurant from my table in the back by the pizza oven. As you can see, it’s a long, narrow space, but with charming atmosphere. The front of the restaurant has a small shop where you can buy desserts and Italian specialty grocery items like salamis.
With the sun down, the ambient light outside is pretty much equal to the illumination inside, which means that with the Delta 3200 film loaded in my camera that I was shooting, I could hand-hold pretty much equally well inside and out. You can see this in the shot of the market door – there is no brightness difference (and no manipulation of the image to equalize the brightness level between inside and out).
As many of you know, I like walking around my neighborhood with the Rollei on my neck, photographing what I find. I went out this past weekend to put some Ilford Delta 3200 through the camera, to test how it performs as a low-light film. I wanted to shoot some interiors and some street scenes in low light, hand-held. Ilford Delta 3200 is really the last man standing in this game, as Kodak has discontinued their Tmax 3200 in any size, and even when available, it was only available in 35mm.
I was out to meet a customer who was interested in my photography – I made a print sale! (that will be a different blog post). In celebration, I was out exploring the neighborhood and took a different route home and came by this (relatively) new coffee shop, simply named, “The Coffee Bar”. It’s very cute inside, and they serve a really tasty chai. They did a fantastic job renovating the place and gave it a very inviting atmosphere. I love the sayings on the chalkboard menu – “decaf coffee is like a hairless cat – it exists, but that doesn’t make it right”.
One of the things that happens when you test out a new film is that you discover character quirks that help you decide how and when to include it in your palette of options. Delta 3200 is a high-speed yet (at least in 120) relatively fine-grained film. Since my Rollei has a top shutter speed of 1/500th of a second, the film’s speed severely curtails my ability to use it in daylight situations. In low light, though, that vice becomes a virtue and I can hand-hold photos that I would ordinarily need a tripod for. That was, as Donald Rumsfeld would have put it, a “known known”. A characteristic I did not know until I actually developed the film was that apparently Delta 3200 does not have an anti-halation coating. Anti-halation coatings prevent ‘blooming’ in highlights that give a “glow” to light sources within a scene. When you don’t want that, having it can be bad. However, in a scene like this, it really works and gives a warm atmosphere to the scene. This is a shot that I think when I make a silver-gelatin enlargement of it, I’ll sepia-tone the print to give it that extra warmth, and give it a real ‘coffee’ atmosphere.
The doors to The Coffee Bar were catching the last blush of sunset in the sky, and the reflection of the street lamp just starting to glow in the twilight. I love this kind of light at this time of day, where the sky is dimming to be just as bright as the landscape below. This is one shot where I wish I had the second Rollei with me and some color film loaded, as I would have liked to capture the deep blue sky, the patina’d green lamppost, and the orange glow of the street lamp globe reflected in the window, the gold leaf of the street number and ‘The Coffee Bar’ on the glass twinkling in the sun’s last rays. Another time – I know where it is, and I can always go back in for a good chai to warm me up on a chilly fall evening.
Just some random thoughts from walking around Roosevelt Island. The south end of the island anchors one end of the bridge that carries Route 50 over the Potomac River. Looking through the arches of the bridge, you can see the Lincoln Memorial. Without a twin-lens reflex camera like my Rollei, I wouldn’t have been able to take this photo – to get the Lincoln to show more than a hint of a roofline, I had to hold the camera above my head, upside down, my arms outstretched. Doing this, I can use the waist-level finder to my advantage and gain an extra two feet of height. I’m sure it must look as utterly awkward to a third party observer as it feels when you’re doing it, but sometimes there’s no better way to see over a crowd (or a wall, in this case).
Turing around 180 degrees from where I was pointing the camera for the under-bridge shot, you can look up the estuarine inlet on the island, and feel like you’re a hundred miles from civilization. If you look very carefully you can see a snowy egret crossing the stream in the center background.
And then there’s the Roosevelt Monument in the middle of the island. It feels a bit like a Soviet Realist architect was designing a set for 2001: A Space Odyssey. White marble monoliths ring the perimeter with quotes from Roosevelt chiseled into them. Looking at them I half-expected to hear the strains of Also Sprach Zarathustra come wafting out of the woods if I stood there long enough.
And thinking of Ubermenschen, the statue of Roosevelt really feels like you could swap out his head for Lenin’s and nobody would even notice. This monument would be equally at home in Moscow. Of course, the placement within the natural environment and the environment’s intrusion into the monument belie its non-Soviet origins. When was the last time you saw something like this with so many trees and shrubbery dedicated to a Communist icon?
The bowl of this fountain is monumental in itself. It kind of reminds me in a weird way of Napoleon’s tomb at the Invalides. Fortunately nobody is buried in the fountain. But it is big enough to be a bathtub for William Howard Taft.
I saw this man sitting, reading his book, attended by his thermos. I think it’s a fitting image to close with as it re-humanizes the monument and makes a statement about how public places can have meaning and emotional resonance for the people who use them.