I’m running a quick impromptu by-the-seat-of-the-pants version of my Intro to Platinum/Palladium printing class this weekend. It’s a bit of a hash because we had scheduling conflicts of varying types to deal with, but we did manage to meet today. My normal plan with students is to take them out into Glen Echo park and have them shoot a bunch of negatives with my 5×7, then come back and process them. WELL… today, the daytime high was still below freezing, so we scratched that idea. Instead, we shot some self-portraits indoors using my Hermagis Eidoscope soft-focus portrait lens, a 1000-watt hot light (a VERY welcome hot light given the weather today!) and an improvised guillotine shutter composed of a pair of dark slides, held in a V-formation. The “shutter” starts with the lower dark slide completely covering the lens, and to allow exposure to happen, the pair are swung past the lens so that the gap between them briefly allows light to strike the film. Exposures can be a little variable, but these are forgiving media.
Here is one shot of one of my students:
and here are two of me:
I brought the Hermagis to class to give the students a little something special to play around with, since they both had past experience in working with large format, and I think the soft-focus lens fits very well with the alternative process print look.
Of the two of me, which do you all prefer? I know which one I like better, but I’ll wait to get some feedback before I offer my opinion. All three of these are scans from the negatives, not from prints. We will be meeting again tomorrow to do the actual printing.
Just a reminder we’re having the closing reception for our Silver Visions: Large Format Photography show at the River Road Unitarian Church on Saturday, May 3, from 3-5 pm. Please come out and see the work (and maybe even buy something??? Prices are very reasonable!).
The church is located at 6301 River Rd, Bethesda, MD 20817, but the entrance is on Whittier Boulevard (turn on to Whittier from River Road and make the second left into their driveway – the immediate left is the exit from their parking lot).
For more information about the exhibit or visiting hours or directions, see:
Just thought I’d do a re-visit of all my Glen Echo color work, to put them in one place. When I get a bit more organized, I’ll put my platinum/palladium Glen Echo photos together and do another mini-gallery. This has all been shot with a mixed bag of films and cameras. Mostly my Rolleiflex 2.8E, with one nod to my Canham 5×7 (the Glen Echo sign at night – it’s special enough it gets its own row). The films have been Kodak Portra 160NC, Kodak Ektar 100, Fuji NPS 160, and Fuji NPH 400. With the exception of the Ektar 100, most of the film used has been anywhere from a couple years out of date to almost a dozen years expired. Which says a lot about the quality of modern color film emulsions.
Part of the purpose of this exercise was in response to a discussion recently on an online photography forum I read where someone was complaining about how hard it was to take good photos in places you are familiar with. While I love travel photography (I’m getting ready to indulge in some serious travel photography early next year, probably one of those once-in-a-lifetime trips – I’ll keep you updated as the time approaches), I think it’s absolute baloney that you can’t take interesting photos of places you know and see every day. If anything, the opposite is true. But each type of photography requires a different mindset. Photographing on the road requires you to be able to filter out the extraneous detail because it’s ALL wondrous and new. Photographing at home requires you to turn off the detail filter so you start finding the interesting stuff you ignore because it’s what you see every day.
Photographing my own neighborhood is about recording and observing change – it’s like doing a series of portraits of the same person – this week in a suit, next week in a sundress, then later in an anorak, this year a little taller, next year a beard, the year after with a tan and a buzz cut. The Glen Echo photos are another form of portraiture, portraiture of a place. Places can have spirits and identities, and their face changes over time, just like a person’s.
The fresh noodles and Peking duck house on 6th Street, NW. I think someone needs to teach them about Windex, as the “OPEN” sign is fuzzy not from being out of focus in my composition but from the splattered duck fat on the window. And no, I’ve never eaten there to know if the food is any good or not. But if you’re lucky when you wander by you can watch them making traditional Chinese noodles in the window, stretching and re-folding the dough over and over and over again, then cutting the ends and BOOM! you’ve got all these separate strands of pasta.
I liked the juxtaposition of the empty sidewalk out front, the lone Prius in the parking lot next door, and the intimate diners in the window.
This one gets a cutesy title because there’s just something so post- and meta- and ironic and all that kind of stuff about having a sushi joint on the ground floor of Mary Surratt’s boarding house, where the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln was hatched. Don’t believe me? Read the plaque on the wall of the house, like the two time-blurred figures in the photo are doing. It’s a very odd vestige of what downtown Washington looked like in 1865, and despite what Robert Redford would have had you believe in “The Conspirator” (by filming in an albeit lesser mansion in Savannah, Georgia), evidence of the utterly middle-class lifestyle of Mary Surratt.
All the above images were shot with my Canham woodfield 5×7, using my Kodak 12″ Commercial Ektar, using Kodak Portra 160nc film.
Today was a very busy day. This morning I went out to Glen Echo Photoworks to help out with the open house. We had a lot of folks come through asking about my upcoming classes and about the prints I brought along.
Then I went to dinner with my parents for their 50th anniversary at Blacksalt, which is a fancy fish and seafood restaurant here in DC. I had made the reservations and told the restaurant about the anniversary in advance, so they prepared special menus that said Happy 50th Anniversary on them, and when dessert came out, they specially decorated the plate with chocolate sauce.
The photo relevance here is that I brought the Rollei along to take their photo at the table. I’ll have the film dropped off Tuesday and get it back later this week.
On the way home, I detoured back to Glen Echo and waited for the neon lights to come on so I could burn through some more of that 5×7 Portra I have sitting around. And burn through it I did. I also stopped off in Georgetown and shot some more on the waterfront, and even grabbed a couple of sheets in the rain. I’m really looking forward to seeing those!