Category Archives: Architecture

Palacio De Bellas Artes, Mexico City

PalacioBellasArtesSol

The last time I wanted to photograph the Palace of Fine Arts, the weather was not so accommodating and the skies were hazy and smoggy every day. This trip, the weather cooperated and you can see the glory that is the Palacio. The domes of the Palacio are so iconic a symbol of Mexico City, they’re even on the Starbucks mug! Next time I’m back, I’ll have to go in the Sears across the street and see if I can get a good shot out one of the third or fourth floor windows.

The interior is every bit as spectacular – The entrance lobby is a glory of Deco Mexicano – very much Art Deco, but with a distinct Mexican cultural twist – you can feel the stirrings of pride in indigenous Mexican heritage that were finding expression in stylized Aztec and Mayan motifs and the murals of Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siquieros and Jose Orozco that adorn the walls of the lobby.

BellasArtesDomeInteriorUp

I feel lucky to have pulled off this shot, as I had to point the camera straight up, and hold it still for 1/15th of a second (I think it was a 1/15h, might have been 1/8th). No small feat when your camera is as big and heavy a brick as my Mamiya RZ67. I must say it has an extremely well-damped mirror that doesn’t cause camera shake – while it isn’t quite as smooth as my Rolleiflex, which has no mirror movement at all, I can hand-hold it down to 1/15th or 1/8th regularly (the Rollei I feel pretty confident to 1/4 second, and have been known to pull off 1 second exposures hand held).

Washington DC at Twilight

More specifically, the Georgetown neighborhood. Georgetown may be many things (incredibly overpriced, a tourist trap, insanely busy and difficult to navigate because they refused the Metro when the system was being built) but it is very vibrant and there’s always something going on. It still retains much of the late 18th/early 19th century architecture from when Georgetown was actually a separate city from Washington DC, and has a very distinct feel. I like getting out and photographing there, especially at twilight into the sunset hour, because Georgetown’s position on the crest of a hill overlooking the Potomac really captures the light of that hour like no other part of the city.

This is looking east along M Street, one of the main commercial corridors in Georgetown, from the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street. The sun is setting, the light is fading, and the traffic and street lamps are glowing with the first hints of night lights.

EastOnMStreet

The cyclist is moving just fast enough to be blurred as he passes through the scene.

Here is the famous Farmers and Merchants Bank at the corner of Wisconsin and M Streets. This is an absolutely iconic structure in Georgetown, and is instantly recognizable around the world to people who have visited Washington DC.

GeorgetownBankNight3cars

I love the dull gleam of the gilded dome of the bank catching the last rays of the sun.

And here is a glimpse of Georgetown’s industrial waterfront past, where the C&O Canal carves its last yards of waterway through the city before meeting the Potomac River, and where the warehouses for tobacco, wheat, corn, cotton and local products were stored, bought, and sold at the last navigable port on the Potomac.

CanalSunsetGtown

Today, fancy boutiques and high-end condos line the canal, the smokestacks of power plants remaining as decorative follies to remind us of the town’s industrial past.

WHO/PAHO HQ, Washington DC

I keep shooting this building and the surrounding intersection because the architecture provides all kinds of graphical possibilities. Here, today, the drum in front of the tower looks almost like polished metal, whereas in reality, it’s coarse concrete. And a 25-second daylight exposure eliminates all but traces of traffic and the most immobile of pedestrians.

WorldHealthPano

The 6×18 pinhole, when kept plumb, level and square, is virtually distortionless. I’m going to try shooting this scene again but from a low angle, pointing up, to see how curved it gets.

Now, with working with the pinhole, Kodak Tri-X has really turned into my go-to film because I really need the extra speed even in daylight. And the grain of Tri-X, in 120, and in contact prints/scans, really is a non-issue.

Key Bridge, Evening, in Palladium

Key Bridge
Key Bridge

Another print I made this weekend – Key Bridge, in palladium. This is a 5×12 negative from my Canham. For the technically minded, I used a circa 1949 Kodak Commercial Ektar 12″ lens for the shot. It’s a very sharp lens with pleasant rendering, and a good match for the subject matter. I also want to talk for a second about the printing – this is a pure palladium print, with a touch of NA2 added for contrast. Sodium Platinum (NA2 for short) is a contrast agent you can add to a palladium print to boost the contrast if required. NA2 is very powerful stuff – a tiny bit goes a long way. In this case, I needed just one drop of 2.5% NA2 added to the 12 drops of Palladium and 12 drops of Ferric Oxalate sensitizer. NA2 comes from the manufacturer in a 5% strength solution, so you can see how little was needed to give the print some snap.

If you are using blended platinum and palladium, or trying to do a pure platinum print, and are in need of a contrast boost, you cannot use NA2 as a contrast agent – the platinum in it binds with platinum in your paper and what ends up happening is you reduce your highlights, blowing out detail, without actually increasing contrast. If you are using a blend, or pure platinum, you have several options – you can boost the contrast with a different additive, such as gold chloride, you can pre-coat your paper with fumed silica, or you can use a dichromate infused developer. I prefer adding a contrast agent into the emulsion rather than in the developer, because to do the infused developer route, you’ll need to have six or eight bottles of developers with different concentrations of contrast agent, and then you’ll have to play with chemistry to mix up replenisher for each developer concentration as it gets used. That realistically means keeping twelve to sixteen bottles of developer around. The downside to additives to the emulsion is that most of them will alter the color of the print. Gold Chloride will do anything from slightly cooler gray tones to eggplant/aubergine tones, depending on how much of it you use. Sodium Tungstate will actually reduce contrast in the print, and give you reddish brown tones. You can use dichromate in the emulsion as an alternative to the developer, but you must be careful in handling the undeveloped print as dichromate is toxic.

Fun with Triptychs – revisited, this time with prints!

You may recall I recently posted some triptychs I did with my Lomo Belair X/6-12. I had been postponing printing them because I was A: being lazy, and B: I knew that they would be challenging to print because 1: lining up two negatives is hard enough, but getting three is even harder, and these are three pieces of roll film which doesn’t want to lay flat, and 2: I was concerned that there would be too much space between the frames because of the size of the image area vis-a-vis the negative size.

Inertia being the greatest of obstacles, it took me until now to get around to printing them. The challenges of registering the negatives to map my coating area, then re-registering them so they would align properly when exposing were substantial, but not as bad as I thought they would be. I guess there was enough humidity in the room that they cooperated for the most part and didn’t act as dust magnets or tensioned leaf springs while trying to place the cover glass in the contact frame.

Columbia Plaza, Horizontal Triptych
Columbia Plaza, Horizontal Triptych

I think of this first one as a panorama of panoramas – it’s a horizontal panorama in the end, made of three vertical panorama shots. It’s the more conventional of the two in that it shows a fairly straightforward interpretation of the scene.

Columbia Plaza, Vertical Triptych
Columbia Plaza, Vertical Triptych

The vertical triptych I got a bit more creative in my interpretation, showing the middle frame askew, and each frame is not discreet in what it depicts – if you look carefully, they overlap in their subject matter, and you could almost do the top and bottom frames as a square-isn diptych.

Both images were printed on #Hahnemuhle #PlatinumRag in pure #palladium. No contrast agent was used, and they were developed in #PotassiumOxalate.

Pinhole Photography- another way to have photographic fun!

Don’t worry- I’m not abandoning lensed photography with high-acutance, high-precision cameras. I love my Rolleiflex! What I am doing, though, is exploring pinhole photography and other forms of lo-fi photography (my previous post with the Lomo Belair triptychs for example). I find it quite liberating in many ways – you have to quit worrying about precision, and just make images. Live with the serendipitous. Like this first image. I’m absolutely blown away by what I pulled off with it – it’s actually a double-exposure. I’m going to play around more with the idea of multiple exposures on pinhole.

Foggy Bottom Metro, Waiting
Foggy Bottom Metro, Waiting

Pinholes, although they are very slow in many ways, have some major advantages – because there is no glass to distort the image, they are absolutely rectilinear. Straight lines will always be straight lines. There’s no shutter or aperture to set with one – the pinhole is the aperture, and in the case of my pinhole camera, it’s f/208, which means that even in full sunlight I’m getting roughly 1 second – 2 seconds for exposure times. The shutter in this case is just the body cap – take it off, count one one thousand, put it back on. It doesn’t get simpler than that. Of course, this has a different downside – hand-holding exposures is not realistic, ever, unless you really really really love motion blur.

Pan-American Health Organization HQ
Pan-American Health Organization HQ

I like motion blur well enough, but I like it applied selectively – I like the contrast between sharp, static and moving, blurred. I like how using long time exposures captures a third dimension to a photograph, time, that we perceive as non-existent in “typical” photography where time is condensed/extracted to 1/500th of a second. Playing with time in a camera really does in a way turn the camera into a time machine. It also shows us that our concept of time is artificial. Things exist not IN time but rather THROUGH time.

Playing with Triptychs

I’ve been having so much fun lately with my photography. As it should be – it should never be WORK – it should be fun. And the Lomo Belair X/6-12 is part of the reason. Yeah, it’s lo-fi, it has a plastic fantastic lens, it’s auto-exposure with virtually no feedback (you never have any idea what shutter speed you’re using). But you’re shooting medium format panoramics! And for $250!! Where are you going to find a (useable) Brooks Veriwide or a Horseman 6×12 for $250? Even a 6×12 roll back for a 4×5 will set you back $400. So there’s a lot to like about it for the money.

And although the negatives themselves are, shall we say, less than razor-sharp, they do make awesome contact prints (witness my Roman panoramics and my recent Sinister Idyll series). This triptych was inspired by a vertical panorama series I saw someone else do. Theirs was a landscape, but I thought this office/apartment/retail complex in Washington DC would make a good urban subject to try it out on.

Columbia Plaza
Columbia Plaza

Another fun experiment with my Lomo. This time a vertical panoramic triptych. I intentionally skewed the middle panel to give what is otherwise a very static subject some visual movement and dynamism.

Columbia Plaza
Columbia Plaza