Tag Archives: Paris

Split-Grade Printing, Silver Gelatin

I actually do make silver gelatin prints. I’ve been away from the medium for a while, mostly concentrating on alternative processes. I needed a break from alt process work so I cleaned up my workspace, fired up the enlarger, and started printing my Paris images you might remember from earlier blog posts. With my new (to me) Oriental VC-CLS variable contrast cold light head (a lot of jargon for a light source that allows you to adjust the contrast in your print by changing the ratio of blue and green light exposing the paper), I’ve been having a blast cranking out prints, and the Oriental head makes it a lot easier to do split-grade printing.

For those unfamiliar with the idea, instead of making a single exposure at one contrast grade, and then doing a lot of burning and dodging to make up for it, with split-grade, what you do is make two base exposures, one using a very soft contrast (in my case, most likely grade 0) and a second using a very hard contrast (grade 5). What this does is the soft exposure lets you get your highlights with detail, and the hard brings the shadows in to snap. You still need to burn and dodge for specific things, but you can refine the overall look as the image requires, without getting frustrated at why a certain area always comes out too dark or too bright. You can refine this technique to include your burning and dodging cycles, so that you might burn an area in with the grade 0 filter to put detail back in the highlights but not blocking up the shadows, or with the grade 5 filter for putting deep black in a shadow without muddying up the whites in the same area.

I’ll give an anatomy of a split-grade print here so you can better understand what I’m talking about. This is a real challenge to print “straight” – it’s a high contrast scene, with the dog-walker being somewhat backlit, and the upper left corner a lot brighter than the rest of the scene. This is the finished print here:

Dog Walk, Rue Sevigny, Paris
Dog Walk, Rue Sevigny, Paris

Here is the scan I made from the negative, which also had a fair bit of manipulation. Less successful, wouldn’t you say? The dog walker is still strongly backlit.

Dog Walker, Rue Sevigne, Le Marais
Dog Walker, Rue Sevigne, Le Marais

To make this print, I gave it a base exposure of 20 seconds using the grade 0 filter. I dodged the dog walker for 10 of those. Then I burned in the upper left corner for an additional 20 seconds. I gave a final overall exposure of five seconds at grade 5, to put a little snap in the general scene and specifically to firm up the shadows on the dog walker without losing tonal separation for his buttons, the cords of his iPod earbuds, and the hair of the dog. Were I making this print larger, I’d go back in and burn the sidewalk between his legs and the dog back down a bit, but in a 7×7 inch print, accurately wielding a burning card with a hole that small is tough!

This was printed on Ilford Warmtone variable-contrast fiber paper, using Ilford Warmtone developer. I’m not applying any fancy tricks to the developer like playing around with developer dilution or split warmtone/cooltone developers. That’s a trick for another day.

NYC Subway shot found!

I found the shot I had taken of the NYC subway train oncoming. Again a bit impressionistic, but you can still feel the difference between it and the other city’s subways that I’ve photographed, even though the car isn’t at all visible in the exposure. I THINK this is the N/Q/R platform at 5th avenue and 59th street- it’s been a while since I took the shot.

NYC Subway Oncoming, 59th St
NYC Subway Oncoming, 59th St

Here are a couple more of my subway shots as a comparison. Please pardon the repetition of the recent post:

Gallery Place Metro #2
Gallery Place Metro #2
Oncoming Metro
Oncoming Metro
Toronto Subway
Toronto Subway
Metro Train Arriving, Archives Station
Metro Train Arriving, Archives Station
Speeding Metro
Speeding Metro

All shots taken with my Rolleiflex 2.8E. Film used was either Ilford FP4+ for the b/w shots or either Kodak Portra 160 or Ektar 100 for the color.

Ordinary Objects

This is part of a series I’ve been working on – photographing ordinary objects we pass by on the street every day but take for granted. They are things we see but don’t see, and they may well vanish, like pay phones, mailboxes, and newspaper vending machines, before we realize they’re gone. Pay phones are all but replaced by the cellphone. Newspapers as a physical object may cease to exist thanks to the internet, and along with them the newspaper box. Email has just about killed the personal letter – the only thing keeping the postal services alive these days are mass marketers with their junk mail, Ebay and Amazon with package deliveries. Not everything in the series is vanishing in a literal sense like pay phones, but some of them do vanish from our perception like the fire hydrant, the lamp post, and the traffic cone. We know they’re there because we don’t trip over them when walking on the streets, but they exist at the periphery. They each have their own beauty and form, however, and within their function there are a remarkable variety of forms – the hydrant in Chalon-sur-Saone, while as recognizable as a fire hydrant as the hydrant from Washington DC, has a very different form, as does the Siamese spigot.

Payphones
Payphones
Everyday Objects - Payphone
Everyday Objects – Payphone
Lamppost, Riggs Bank, 14th Street
Lamppost, Riggs Bank, 14th Street
Yellow Postbox, Paris
Yellow Postbox, Paris
Mailbox
Mailbox
Hydrant, Chalon
Hydrant, Chalon
Mueller Hydrant, K Street, DC
Mueller Hydrant, K Street, DC
Siamese Spigot
Siamese Spigot
Traffic Cone
Traffic Cone

Bikeshares – riffing off the Public Transit theme

For rather obvious reasons, most of these are of the bikeshare here in Washington DC. I will be shooting more in other cities where I find them – I’m going to try New York the next time I’m up there, as the CitiBikes are everywhere in Manhattan. I do have token representation from Paris, though. I shot these with a range of cameras, from my Rollei to a loaner Fuji GSW 690 II, to my RB-67. Each has their merits and the different formats I think actually work together to convey the varied moods and perspectives of the bikeshare experience.

Ve'Lib Bikeshare
Ve’Lib Bikeshare
Capital Bikeshare - Konica Infrared
Capital Bikeshare – Konica Infrared
Bike Share Rack, 11th Street
Bike Share Rack, 11th Street
Wet Bike Seat
Wet Bike Seat
BikeShare #2
BikeShare #2
BikeShare #1
BikeShare #1
Capitol Bikeshare, Rhode Island Avenue
Capitol Bikeshare, Rhode Island Avenue
Capitol Bikeshare, 7-Eleven Windows
Capitol Bikeshare, 7-Eleven Windows
Bikeshare Downtown, in the Rain
Bikeshare Downtown, in the Rain
Capital Bikeshare, Snowstorm
Capital Bikeshare, Snowstorm
Bikeshare Kiosk, Washington Monument, NIght
Bikeshare Kiosk, Washington Monument, NIght

Public Transit

I mentioned in my post about Toronto how the different transit systems look and feel, even when capturing them in a similar way. Here are four shots of the Toronto, Paris and Washington DC subways. All four are behaving similarly – long handheld exposures as the trains pull in to the station, yet all four look and feel quite different.

Toronto Subway
Toronto Subway
Speeding Metro
Speeding Metro, Paris
Metro Train Arriving, Archives Station
Metro Train Arriving, Archives Station
Oncoming Metro
Oncoming Metro

Paris in October – part 32 – Notre Dame in Color

Notre Dame looks very different in color than in black-and-white. The stone takes on a different texture, the shapes of the arches and buttresses are somehow different, and I think you feel the age of the place much more. This is, after all, a 900 year old building.

In the garden behind the cathedral, there is an apple tree. The groundskeepers must zealously patrol for fallen fruit, as I never saw one on the ground in a week of passing through. I was talking with someone at work about this apple tree and he observed an irony of having an apple tree in the garden of a cathedral, if you’re into Christian symbolism.

Notre Dame, Apple Tree
Notre Dame, Apple Tree

A closer-in view of the rear of the cathedral, including the spire. The towers top out at 226 feet, but the spire and its weather-vane go on to 300 feet tall. I don’t think you realize that when looking at the building because of the relative mass of the towers, and the perspective you have when viewing either spire or towers – you’re always looking up, and at the distances required to see both, the height differential is erased by perspective. You can clearly see in this photo the stacked wedding-cake structure of the building – the lower floor with its side chapels spreads out much wider than the center aisle.

Notre Dame, Rear
Notre Dame, Rear

A side view of the cathedral, showing both the towers and the spire. Even from this view it’s hard to see an extra 75 feet of height on the spire.

Notre Dame, Side View
Notre Dame, Side View

Another view of the rear, with the apple tree. This one includes people in the garden for perspective.

Notre Dame, Apples
Notre Dame, Apples

Paris in October – part 31 – More Notre Dame in B/W

These are a few more from that last remaining roll of b/w I didn’t develop until yesterday. Just some additional looks at Notre Dame cathedral in black and white.

It’s hard to view the cathedral without trying to interpret the towers as a graphical element. They’re the most recognizable element to the church, perhaps other than the rose window. The main body of the church is actually rather narrow and delicate, relative to its perception. All those flying buttresses make it seem much more massive than it is. The tower facade, though, really establishes that perception because when viewing it straight on, it seems like a solid wall, and that the church behind it must be equally as massive.

Twin Towers, Notre Dame
Twin Towers, Notre Dame

Trying to look at the towers is a vertigo-inducing experience. They are quite tall, and the nature of the decorations make you keep looking up to see all the details to the very last set of gargoyles some 226 feet in the air. Getting up in the towers to view them up close and personal is vertigo-inducing as well – it’s a nearly 400-stair climb to the top of the tower (which I did NOT do – I’m too out-of-shape to attempt something so heart-stressing). At one point in time, Notre Dame was the largest building in the western world – you can still easily spot it from the 2nd tier of the Eiffel Tower, despite the intervening buildings, several miles and the bend in the river between the two landmarks.

Tower, Notre Dame, Looking Up
Tower, Notre Dame, Looking Up

Here is a view of the incredibly detailed facade. One thing I did not realize until looking at this photo is the fact that all three main doorways are different. I always assumed that the left/right halves of the facade would be symmetrical. If you look carefully, the archway over the left hand door is a little smaller, and crowned by the angular, peaked molding. The right arch is larger and lacks the angular molding. Another detail that often gets forgotten – we assume that these cathedrals were all bare stone, and that the way we see them today is how they were intended. Au contraire – most cathedrals of the Romanesque and Gothic periods (the 7th-15th centuries) were brightly painted, inside and out. The statues on the exterior would all have been polychrome, as would the interior walls have been. Time, weather, wear and neglect have conspired to strip the coloring off the buildings. They did find some early medieval frescoes inside the old cathedral in Salamanca that had been covered up for centuries after an earthquake damaged both cathedrals (they’re kind of conjoined twins and share a wall).

Notre Dame Facade, Afternoon
Notre Dame Facade, Afternoon

I really don’t know why they built this mammoth viewing/reviewing stand in the plaza in front of the cathedral. You can ascend the steps on the front face, or you can climb the ramp up the back. This is the view of the towers from the ramp – the tarp-like covers on the ramp provide a starkly modern contrast to the gothic stonework of the cathedral.

Notre Dame Towers, from Ramp
Notre Dame Towers, from Ramp
Towers, Notre Dame Cathedral
Towers, Notre Dame Cathedral

The crowds at Notre Dame are non-stop, even at night after the cathedral is closed. This is a typical weekday afternoon on the plaza out front. The little house to the right is the rectory for the cathedral. Along the fence surrounding the rectory is where you will find the bird feeders – people who will sell you a scrap of day old bread or a stale churro that you can hold up in your outstretched hand to attract the sparrows who will hover over to get a bite.

Crowds, Square, Notre Dame
Crowds, Square, Notre Dame
Feeding Sparrows, Notre Dame
Feeding Sparrows, Notre Dame

Some architectural details of the fence around the rectory:

Capital, Fence Column, Notre Dame
Capital, Fence Column, Notre Dame
Fence Capital, Notre Dame
Fence Capital, Notre Dame

Beside the cathedral there is a park with views of the Seine, replete with benches, gardens and, as part of Haussmann’s renovations, public drinking fountains. I loved the way this looked backlit with the evening light. Consider it another one of my portraits of everyday objects.

Drinking Fountain, Notre Dame
Drinking Fountain, Notre Dame

And last but not least, the tradition that began in Rome of young couples buying a padlock, writing their initials on it, locking it to the railing of a bridge, and tossing the keys in the river as a symbol of how their love cannot be undone has come to Paris. It is so popular that it has infested three or four bridges across the Seine now, and the boquinistes with bookstalls along the Rive Gauche nearest the Ile de la Cité sell a variety of padlocks and permanent markers. It seems only natural that people would do this on the bridges closest to Notre Dame, as it is one of the most romantic, inspiring buildings in a city full of romantic inspiration.

Love Locks, Notre Dame
Love Locks, Notre Dame

(see, I told you you wouldn’t have to wait long for the next Paris post!)

Paris in October – part 30 –

So I FINALLY got around to developing the last roll of black-and-white from the trip today. Here are some odds-n-ends from the Palais de Justice. These are from the courtyard through which you exit after you visit Sainte Chapelle (you can see the spire of the chapel in the background of the lantern photo).

Not only did the lantern appeal to me, but the absolutely crazy Escher-esque layers of the building behind it just begged to be photographed. It’s like many different buildings collided and transformed into another entirely new one.

Lantern, Courtyard, Palais de Justice
Lantern, Courtyard, Palais de Justice

This is a fencepost on an iron railing around the Palais de Justice building. I thought the sunlight passing through the outer fence casting a striped shadow on the wall behind this iron fence had an ironic feeling of multiple layers of prison at a place of justice.

Fence, Palais de Justice
Fence, Palais de Justice

These windows also had an Escher-esque quality to them because they have balance but not symmetry – again lots of angles that mimic and overlap without being truly parallel.

Windows, Palais de Justice
Windows, Palais de Justice

On the way out of the courtyard you pass by what seems to be an entrance to the Metro, all closed up. This is a block and a bit from the main entrance to the Cité metro, so it is possible this was a direct entrance to enable workers at the Palais de Justice to go directly to and from their offices. Or it could just be an underpass or an entrance to a tunnel system connecting multiple buildings in the neighborhood. I’m voting for subway entrance even though it doesn’t have the nifty bronze art nouveau surround because the lamps above the gates look like the lamps over the Cité station entrance. Any Parisian readers are more than welcome to chime in and correct me.

Abandoned Subway Entrance, Palais de Justice
Abandoned Subway Entrance, Palais de Justice

Paris in October – part 29 – Opera Garnier

I thought I’d start this post off with a comparison of my 1870s photo of the Opera Garnier with the photo I took this year in 2013. Not exactly the same shot (the antique is of the left side of the facade whereas mine is of the right and middle) but I did manage to include several of the same elements.

Paris Opera albumen print
Paris Opera albumen print
Facade, Opera Garnier
Facade, Opera Garnier

I don’t know when my vintage photo was taken, but it could be as early as 1867 when the facade was unveiled. Alas, the lampposts have changed, and significantly decreased in number. I can only imagine what the plaza in front would have looked like with all those lamps lit.

This was a lucky grab of the arcaded balcony on the front when the woman wearing the red scarf just happened to be looking out.

Front Balcony, Opera Garnier
Front Balcony, Opera Garnier

The grand staircase at the Opera Garnier was one of the highlights of the building, and considered a major attraction from the moment it opened. It has been much copied around the world. Photos of the space do not do it justice – this IS truly one of the great public rooms of the world.

Grand Stair Hall, Opera Garnier
Grand Stair Hall, Opera Garnier
Grand Staircase, Opera Garnier
Grand Staircase, Opera Garnier

I did something a little different with this shot – I cropped it very tall and vertical. It was in part because I wanted to focus the attention on the bronze candelabra, and also to deal with some horrible flare in the right-hand side of the image coming from one of the other light fixtures in the hall.

Candelabra, Stairs, Opera Garnier
Candelabra, Stairs, Opera Garnier

The Opera Garnier is famous for one particular chandelier (and we’ll get to that), but it houses a multiplicity of beautiful light fixtures. Here are some samples of the variety of chandeliers at the opera:

Hall Chandelier, Opera Garnier
Hall Chandelier, Opera Garnier
Reception Hall, Opera Garnier
Reception Hall, Opera Garnier

The salon is reminiscent of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, but if it is possible, it is even MORE over-the-top ornate than that palatial room, ceding to it only in length.

Salon, Opera Garnier
Salon, Opera Garnier

The hall itself is a candy confection of red velvet, gold leaf, and frescoed ceiling. Attending a concert here would be quite the experience – I would think you could easily be distracted from the performance by just trying to take in all the architectural details! I don’t know that this would be more sublime than my experience of the concert at the Palau de la Musica in Barcelona, but it would certainly be a feast for the senses.

Box Seats, Opera Garnier Auditorium
Box Seats, Opera Garnier Auditorium
Giltwork, Ceiling, Opera Garnier
Giltwork, Ceiling, Opera Garnier

And last but not least, we get to the infamous chandelier. Perhaps the best known chandelier on the planet, this is the one around which the “Phantom of the Opera” story revolves. The ceiling, hinted at in the previous photo, is not the original ceiling design for the hall, but was painted in 1964 by Marc Chagall. It brings a modern touch to an otherwise very baroque space and the colors enliven and lighten the otherwise heavy and serious room. The chandelier weighs 7 tons. Originally it was raised through the cupola for cleaning, but now it is lowered. One of the counterweights for the chandelier crashed through the ceiling in 1896, killing an audience member, thus inspiring that part of the Phantom story. The other bit about the underground lake beneath the opera comes from the fact that there is a man-made cistern under the foundations because the ground water is so high that they needed to relieve water pressure on the foundations. It had the added benefit of providing an ample supply of water in case of fire.

Grand Chandelier, Opera Garnier
Grand Chandelier, Opera Garnier

The Opera Garnier has been used for concerts and the ballet since it opened, and today it serves first and foremost as a dance space, although classical music continues to have a place in the schedule.

Paris in October – part 28 – The Pompidou Centre

The Pompidou Centre is a massive modern art and culture facility in central Paris, on the western edge of the Marais district. Its architectural claim to fame is that it was designed with all its systems (heating, cooling, plumbing, visitor circulation, etc) exposed on the outside of the building, a sort of deconstruction of the notion of architecture. This, in addition to being an interesting concept, gives it another claim to fame: being perhaps the single ugliest piece of modern civic architecture known to man. And in a world where Brutalist architecture exists, this is no mean feat. What this does do positively, however, is provide a venue in which urban street art has a genuine, appropriate, sanctioned environment in which to exist. The wild vibrant gestural organic nature of street art contrasts with the highly composed, almost abstract structure of the ventilation and exhaust pipes and the security fencing around their access points.

Lone Exhaust, Pompidou Centre
Lone Exhaust, Pompidou Centre
Exhaust Stacks, Pompidou Centre
Exhaust Stacks, Pompidou Centre

Street art has even been allowed to take over the stuccoed side of an existing 18th century building in what appears to be an homage to Salvador Dali.

Street Art, Pompidou Centre
Street Art, Pompidou Centre

Of course this doesn’t entirely stop unsanctioned street art or even just flat-out graffiti of a very pedestrian variety from cropping up around it. Graffiti aside, I thought this little house squeezed in between the gothic church and the later townhouse was fascinating – I could actually see setting up a small studio on the ground floor and living in the room above it.

Little House, by Pompidou Centre
Little House, by Pompidou Centre