The iPhone has had a major impact on personal photography. While it’s nowhere near as capable as my Fuji X-T1, it is both an exceptionally capable and flexible photographic implement, and the camera you always have with you. One of the very cool built-in features is the panorama function. On my way home from work today I was having fun playing with it, and testing out the low-light quality simultaneously.
As you can see, you achieve a panoramic image by swinging the camera from left to right (or in some cases top to bottom- This can also be reversed and swung the other way). You can do an up to 360-degree image. Because of the rotation of the camera, you get linear distortion.
When used carefully, This can make for some interesting images. The curves really highlight the shapes and the light in the scene. Used poorly, it can drag your eye (and hold it) in an ugly and/or uninteresting part of the image.
Another effect is if you have subjects moving through the scene, they can get stretched or compressed, depending on their speed of motion and direction, relative to the camera’s rotation. You can see that very clearly in this image.
Nighttime exposures present some challenges to image quality, especially when combined with the swinging of the camera to stitch together the exposure.
I’ve noticed that as the series continues, my style of shooting it has evolved, which is a good thing. The photos are becoming more consistent, especially in terms of composition. The camera is placed on a level with the object, which usually means much lower than eye or even sometimes waist level, and more frontally square to the object.
The hydrant is in a suburban Florida cul-de-sac where the tallest things around it are date palms, and they’re not massed together to form a giant wall, so the lighting is direct sun, not a diffused sky. I’ve been looking at it and trying to decide how well it fits the series – I think it does on the subject matter and the compositional level, but until I shoot more objects in suburban or rural environments it feels weird because the background isn’t walls or windows or passing traffic, but grass and trees.
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.
Another sign of change and transformation is the ebb and flow of graffiti. My latest find was this:
I loved the serendipitous juxtaposition of the advertisement wording for the cellphone repair shop and the graffiti – “Any Make, Any Model… Black is Beautiful”. There’s truth in accidents. Or maybe it wasn’t an accident.
A generic graffiti tag on a bricked-up window of a house. This is casual art, that has its own accidental grace and beauty despite not having any great aspiration beyond marking territory or gang initiation.
Then there’s graffiti that is transformed from simple defacement by virtue of adopting the form and structure of the object upon which it is inscribed, like this manhole cover.
Some street art I found in Toronto. There’s a point where graffiti transcends defacement of property and really does become art in itself.
More graffiti as street art. There is part of this wall that I intentionally cropped out as it makes a statement that I don’t know I’d want to make or pass on (decapitated nude female torso).
Back to simplicity, this bit speaks to collective identity questions – the figure transforms the Washington DC city flag of three stars over two bars into a humanoid with a hand for a head. Politics, ethnicity, religion, all rolled into a piece of temporary public art (the wall upon which this figure was painted has been gentrified into several very expensive restaurants).
The camera of record is a Rolleiflex 2.8E, and the films used are FP4+ for b/w and Kodak Ektar 100 and Portra 160 for color.