How I Got Here Part Two?

So we’ve established in the beginning, I was interested in what I would call a fine print. Based on the concerns of other photographers who’ve gone before me. Such as Ansel Adam’s Technique, and later, feebly attempting to explore the surreal and philosophical underpinnings of Frederick Sommer’s ideas.

Frederick Sommer Petrified Forest National Monument, Arizona1940
Frederick Sommer, Petrified Forest National Monument, Arizona
1940, Gelatin silver print,  (20.4 × 25 cm)

The next and final question is how, do you make/get a fine print? When one starts to get serious about your prints, it easier to produce good prints from good negs, plenty of shadow detail, not too blown out in the highlights, with hopefully a long scale of tones, [all based on a well published list of characteristics of materials.]

Long scales of tone, then give you license to manipulate them, the tones. Grain was a no-no, and high contrast was considered bad form, unless you had a good reason for it. Remember this is based on the ideas that the f64 group had pioneered.

black and white print of Dynon Road circa 2015 before the infrastructure came into affect
Dynon Road circa 2015 gelatin silver gelatin print 19 x 19 cms

This necessitated knowing your materials intimately, both film and paper. [I still use the same film today as when I started exploring materials over 30 years ago, but not the same developer or paper.] It also often meant lugging a tripod EVERYWHERE, because like good ol’ Uncle Ansel, you shot at the smallest possible aperture to get the maximum amount of Depth of Field. Usually on Medium Format or Large Format Cameras to help keep grain to a minimum. To keep your images sharp, you not only ALWAYS used a tripod, but a lens hood as well. Depending on your film developer combination*, even on bright sunny days, the best you sometimes could get was 1/8 a second at f22. Being a ‘landscape’ photographer, I never practised hand holding at low speeds, and today I still feel a little weird shooting wide open.
As a consequence I rarely photographed on a whim, and unless I was lucky enough to have a boot full of gear with you at all times, making images required a level of preparation and planning that would make trips to the Himalayas look like a picnic in the park.

Pylons near the Westgate bridge circa 1994
Pylons near the Westgate bridge circa 1994 gelatin silver gelatin print 19 x 19 cms

So; given the effort required to get your gear to the spot and with hopefully good light, you also needed to get the best neg you could, you were always trying to make sure you exposed the negative correctly, and then developed it to it’s full potential, if you were developing your own black and white film. I think I’m pretty good at developing my own b&w, but when compared to the ‘masters’ I learnt from I’ve another 20 years of practice to go.
Bad negatives, and I have plenty of them, were the bane of my life, but often got fewer and further between, as I became more skilled at my craft. Ever wonder what to look for in a bad neg?
Here’s a list of ‘straight photography’ no-no’s unless the idea or the print is enhanced by it**.

  • Camera Shake, not to be confused with poor/incorrect focus
  • Flare
  • Dust and scratches on the Negative/Print
  • Poor/Incorrect focus, neg or print
  • Empty blacks with no detail in a print
  • Highlights with no detail, in your prints unless spectral like chrome
  • Flat or Muddy tonality in your prints
  • Poor tonal separation in your prints
  • Chromatic Aberrations or other lens defects, in your print

The one thing bad negatives taught me, and many other people was, “How to make a good print”.
So how many photographers on any of the social websites out there walk EVERYWHERE with a tripod, a medium or large format camera, have tested their materials and equipment extensively and know their place in the broader history of photography?

Well not me that’s for sure. That’s why I love my mobile phone and my desktop publishing software, and flickr and the web in general.In part three, I will elaborate.

*At one point in my experiments, I used a Developer called pyro, with a recipe for it, that lowered my favourite film down from 400 ISO, to 6 ISO, it gave beautiful long scale negatives, but was very tricky and messy to work with, in the end I settled for, my own hand made D25.  I’m now using a 2 bath developer solution, with a long PH buffer after the developer.
**Artists Like Joel Peter-Witkin and The Starn Twins, took this all to another level, as their work is the antithesis to these ideas, and I admire and respect these artist’s work immensely.

Part one  || Part three

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screenshot of the website
my page on the website

About a year ago, an app surfaced that was attempting to usurp Instagram. It was using a paid model from the get go making it one of the more reasonable options. I was lucky to grab an account. A year later things are still a bit quiet in there, but that’s not a bad thing really. Some other tweaks that were recently brought to my attention are that there is now a web interface. The other changes have been, the ability to simply “appreciate” a photo, a bit like a like on Facebook or Instagram. Lastly they now have a broad range of categories to add your photo to to help its get found.
So its going to be another 12 months for me on this platform as yet again Instagram changed how it presents itself.

There is another free service called, I of course have an account there as well [s2art]

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Moving Towards A Post Adobe World

In my never ending pursuit to escape the clutches of Adobe’s leasing model, I’m always on the lookout for alternative software to manage organise and process my digital files. This last few months I have been working exclusively without any Adobe products. Lightroom was my go to tool until I resurrected Aperture by Apple on an old Desktop. Now I’m using 2 apps to do all the heavy lifting.

Neofinder's interface, is like Adobe's Bridge, but creates a catalogue file or files,
Neofinder’s interface, is like Adobe’s Bridge, but creates a catalogue file or files,

NeoFinder is the first. It is now my digital asset tool of choice. Finding and using this software has potentially saved me from buying a new desktop computer. The software is stable, fast and flexible. If it had an ability to “ingest files” and process them as raw then I’m set.  As Neofinder does not, my workflow consists of using Apple’s Image to ingest files, Neofinder to rate, sort and organise, and Affinity Photo to process the raw files.

Affinty Photo, is a powerfult digital editing tool with a similar feature set to Adobe's Photoshop with out the ongoing lease cost
Affinty Photo’s raw processor interface. It is a powerful digital editing tool with a similar feature set to Adobe’s Photoshop with out the ongoing lease costs.

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On the cusp

As we reach the end of summer here in Australia, I’ve been exploiting the  the effects of La Niña. With the Melbourne Art Book Fair approaching rapidly, I was hesitant to head out to make pictures but this Friday the weather was just right, so I exploited that and made pictures for a couple of hours.

google earth view of the are explored
google earth view of the are explored

I initially set out to make some pictures as teaching aids, but as I was on a bridge near the ring road, I decided to wander towards an aspect of the Maribrynong river that has always intrigued me.

I started under the EG Whitten bridge. A sad spot in so many ways. So much rubbish just dumped. I am unsure about the status of the land under the bridge as well. I know that the edges of rivers up to the high tide mark are considered crown land, but this land is well above that and also bordered by some private land. The western side of the river seems mostly private. This has been heavily impacted by trail bikes and other uses. This is the part I found most interesting. As the bike riders reshape the topography.

An early influence for me as a student of photography was Joe Deal’s work, The Fault Zone Portfolio, a group of 19 silver gelatin prints that documented suburban life along the San Andreas Fault Line in Southern California. This place reminds me of that except the forces at play are much more human in scale.

I only took digital equipment with me on this occasion. Given what I saw I’m sure a return visit is in order with at least my Hasselblad. It would be no mean feat to cary this equipment in, but more than worth it under the right lighting conditions.

Maribrynong River from the EJ Whitten Bridge
Maribrynong River from the EJ Whitten Bridge in 2019
Rubbish, and sticker art under the EJ Whitten Bridge
Rubbish, and sticker art under the EJ Whitten Bridge
Dirt Bike tracks litter the area
Dirt Bike tracks litter the area
Landfill to the left and natural landscape to the right
Landfill to the left and natural landscape to the right

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