Tag Archives: Rolleinar 2

July 4th Shoot – Figure in the Landscape, Along the Potomac

I was determined to avoid crowds and public gatherings on July 4th. Post 9/11 I get nervous in large crowds, especially when ingress and egress are difficult, and when large numbers of them are drunk. Not that my PTSD* gets triggered and I feel like the walls are closing in or anything (although I did get near-panic at Obama’s first inauguration- that was just WAY too many people and it was hard to move- even if something rather pedestrian happened like someone fell and got hurt, or a bottle of carbonated beverage froze and burst and people panicked THINKING it was a gunshot, you could have gotten trampled to death in the stampede!). Anyway, back to the real story – so I wanted to avoid the National Mall, because it’s just a filthy zoo of humanity on the 4th, so I called up a friend who had expressed an interest in posing for me, and we went out along the Potomac to some spots I know that are fairly private and make for good shooting. These are the first few images from the shoot (we’re still negotiating the use of the rest of them).

Chern K - Profile
Chern K – Profile

These first two portraits I particularly like. The profile shot was taken with a Rolleinar close-up adapter on my Rolleiflex. The Rolleiflex by itself has a minimum focus distance of 3 feet, which is fine for general subjects, but for flowers, bugs, macro photography in general, and even tight portraits, 3 feet is not close enough. So Rollei in their infinite wisdom invented the Rolleinar close-up filter sets. They come in four strengths – 1,2,3 and 4. The 4 is extremely rare and you almost never see one on the market in any size. The #1 cuts the minimum focus down to 1.5 feet, the #2, to .75 feet, and so on. I have a #1 and a #2. At some point I MAY get a #3. Some people complain that the Rolleinars add too much “distortion” to portraits and as such are bad for doing them. I say shots like this disagree with that notion. If you need more proof, check out the work of Richard Avedon, as well as my friend Sanders McNew (the book cover for “Triptych: Sixteen Months” looks like a good example).

Chern K - Backlit Portrait
Chern K – Backlit Portrait

The backlit portrait was shot normally, no close-up filter required. I was figuring out the exposure for this shot and used my meter in incident reading mode. I had a brief doubt when taking the shot because the meter was suggesting only 1 stop different from what would have used for a non-backlit subject, but I went ahead and used the setting anyway. My doubts were renewed when I looked at the raw negative – reading a negative is a skill any serious film photographer should develop, and I’m pretty good at it now, having looked at literally thousands of negatives I’ve produced over the years, but I’m still, always, getting better at it. This was a case in point.

Then we got into playing with props, specifically, an ostrich egg and some leather masks I got at the Maryland Renaissance Festival.

Chern K - Ostrich Egg
Chern K – Ostrich Egg

I’ve been carrying around this ostrich egg shell for a while – I got it as a prop to use for another shot in my Tarot Cards: Re-imagined series. But getting the model who is supposed to use it to show up and sit for me has been a challenge, so it has been lingering, unloved, in my prop bag for some time. Well, it earned its keep with this shot. This is just a straight scan of the negative, so I’m still playing around with how to render the ostrich egg better – I want to preserve detail in the shell without it looking gray, or getting too blown out. Just as I got the shot composed, clouds kept drifting in and out of the sun’s path, changing the nature of the shot. I watched and noticed that the blown-out brilliant highlight caused by the direct sun on the shell’s smooth surface was greatly reduced by the cloud cover. By the time I got the meter reading for the cloud-diffused light, though, the clouds had moved on and it was back to full sun. So a waiting game ensued. I took this shot with partial, thin cloud diffusion because it was getting too hot for either of us to keep standing there waiting for a big cloud to drift back over again!

Chern K - The Sun Peeks Out
Chern K – The Sun Peeks Out
Chern K -Devil Mask
Chern K -Devil Mask

Here are the mask shots. Not much to say about these really – they’re fairly self-explanatory with the masks doing the talking. The masks were also bought for use in the Tarot Cards: Re-imagined series, and this is giving me new impetus to take up the series again and try to finish the Major Arcana.

I shot these all with Ilford PanF because it is such a slow film, and I wanted to try and shoot a lot of these wide open to get the blown-out, swirly background the lens is capable of producing. On the Rollei this can be a challenge with faster films because the fastest shutter speed is 1/500th of a second, which still isn’t fast enough in bright daylight to let me shoot the way I was looking to if I used even FP4+.

I don’t know if it was because I had been bottling up my human figure creative juices for so long, or the fact that I had a good model who understood how to pose and move, or having the right tool in my hands for the job, or what, but I got a crazy amount of successful images from this shoot- fully 24 out of 36 were ones I wanted to work with. That’s an amazing hit ratio, especially when you consider that of the 12 I didn’t pick, probably 1/2 were variations on a theme of ones I DID pick. So an 80% +/- hit rate? WOW.

* I was working in the Pentagon on 9/11, when the plane hit. Low-flying aircraft still make me jittery, but 12 years on, that’s about it. I have it pretty good all things considered.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Here are a few shots from my visit to the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The Folklife Festival is held every year on the National Mall, and it is a celebration of cultures and traditions from around the world. This year’s featured country is Hungary, and the overall theme is “One World, Many Voices”. There are representatives of many indigenous cultures around the world from Hawaiian Islanders to Penobscot Indians to Quechua speakers from Bolivia and Peru to Tuvan people from Siberia. The “many voices” part has to do with showcasing efforts to preserve vanishing languages and cultures. Go to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival Official Page to learn more about the events and programs for this year’s festival.

This pavilion is part of the Hungarian exhibit – playing on traditional Hungarian crafts like lace-making and using the forms and styles in a wooden structure.

Hungarian Pavilion
Hungarian Pavilion

And here is a sculpture of a Puli shepherd dog, rendered in blackened wood. Pulis are similar to Komondor sheep herding dogs except they are black, not white. They used to get shorn along with the sheep they guarded, but now are left to grow their coats out as a fashion statement, to the impairment of the dog’s mobility.

Kuvacs Sculpture
Kuvacs Sculpture

The door of a Yurt, representing the various nomadic peoples of Siberia who are sharing their culture this year at the Folklife Festival. Yurts are traditional nomadic home structures – they are portable like tents, with canvas or fabric tops and latticework side walls.

Yurt Door
Yurt Door

Paper flowers in the Mexican pavilion:

Paper Flowers, Mexican Pavilion
Paper Flowers, Mexican Pavilion

Quechua musicians, getting ready to perform a traditional Quechua song, talking about the meaning of their indigenous language and the importance of preserving the language, to pass on the connection to their cultural traditions of respect for the environment.

Qechua Musicians
Qechua Musicians

A Tuvan instrument maker, carving the body of a lute:

Tuvan Instrument Maker
Tuvan Instrument Maker

A Tuvan stone-carver, demonstrating hand-carving techniques, making a bull out of soapstone:

Tuvan Stone-carver
Tuvan Stone-carver

These last three shots are not specifically of the Folklife Festival, but are representative of the location and the spirit of the day. The weather was quite hot, but at least we had a relatively dry day with periodic breezes (Washington DC, particularly the area of the Mall, was built on a swamp, and big chunks of the Mall area, especially west from the Washington Monument, are actually landfill. Which is why the Washington Monument is sinking very slowly. So summertime in DC can be particularly miserable – almost New Orleans-esque in its heat and humidity).

Washington Monument
Washington Monument

The sculpture is outside the American History Museum, which caps one end of the Folklife Festival and plays host to the temporary festival gift shop.

Sculpture, Cloud, American History Museum
Sculpture, Cloud, American History Museum

It was tough waiting for people to NOT be walking through the shadow of the sculpture on the pavement. I’ll have to come back and shoot this again in the wintertime when it casts a longer shadow and there are fewer people out on the plaza so I can catch it as more of an abstract piece.

Sculpture, Shadow, American History Museum
Sculpture, Shadow, American History Museum

All shots were taken with my Rolleiflex 2.8E, on Kodak Ektar 100 film.

Orchid Show at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum

Here’s a few shots I took at the Latin American Orchid exhibit at the Smithsonian over the weekend.

Yellow Paph

Pink Dendrobium

White Cattleya

All shots taken with a Rolleiflex 2.8E with a Rolleinar 2 close-focus adapter, Kodak Portra 400, and hand-held at 1/30th of a second between f2.8 and f4.5. I think I’ll go back another weekend and try again this time with a flash so I can get more depth of field. Don’t know if I’ll take the Metz or something smaller, as the Metz may be TOO powerful.