A Morning at Venice Beach

Plastic Friends

January 3rd, Venice Beach morning, enjoying the last days of my winter days off. I walk through joggers, dinners, vendors, and tourists with pithy mantras running through my mind, placed carefully, I hope, by those I’ve chose to study with: “Compose and wait”, “Not so literal”, “Be open”, “You are responsible for every millimeter of the frame”, “All I’m watching in the bottom layer of the curtain”.

I find myself drawn to reflections and scenes perceived through optical filters. I wait for the right gesture and for the right moment. I look at the relationship between objects. I look for unusual compositions and perspectives. In most attempts I fail.

Red Lattice


Piano Tuner #2

Through the Looking Glass

Streisand and Me


Truck in the Center of the Town

Truck and TownWhen framing up these panoramas my compositional agenda was to look for layers. I tried to bring some object into the foreground while looking for a perspective that aligned interesting items behind it. While looking for this image, I walked all the way around the truck and finally ended here giving each element a place of its own.

Horizon Perfekt, Arista Premium 400 (TriX 400), Clayton Chemicals F76+ (1+9), 7:15 @ 68º. Agitate for the first 30 seconds and 2 turns every minute.

Propped Up in Bodie

Propped UpThe Horizon Perfekt is a Russian camera, made in China, and sold by Lomography. It is in a class of cameras called swing-lens cameras. This camera takes a 120º pano with a 28mm lens by rotating a slit from left-to-right. The film itself, ordinary 35mm film, is held in an arc so that the lens is equidistant to the film plane during the full image capture.

I was inspired to purchase this camera by the work of Jeff Bridges (yes, the actor, son of Loyd Bridges the star of Sea Hunt) who uses a vintage camera called a Widelux. Jeff Bridges uses his to document the making of his movies. I was looking to purchase a Widelux, but they are expensive and due to their age, prone to need custom repair. The Horizon Perfekt was $349 through the Lomo site and comes with a 2-year warranty.

Development notes: Arista Premium 400 treated as if identical to Kodak TriX 400. Developed in Clayton Chemicals F76+ (1+9), 7:15min @68º. This was an experiment to increase the development time to bring out a little more contrast than my previous TriX negs. I will keep this new time, especially for overcast soft lighting. Agitation first 30 sec, then 2 turns per minute. Your mileage may vary.

Bodie and the Horizon Perfekt


Do a search for Bodie on the inter-galactic-web and you will find lots of pictures. Color, black & while, and plenty of HDR. Each time I visit Bodie I want to capture its mood in a special way. My plan for this visit was to take a bunch of 4×5 looking to capture as much detail as I could muster. But I also took along a new toy – the Horizon Perfekt. The Perfekt is a “swing-lens” camera taking a 120º view by, literally, swinging a lens around an axis. It uses 35mm film, but the negatives are about 1.5 times wider. Once I started framing up the area with the Perfekt, I couldn’t stop.

Destination: Santa Barbara – Mission: Large Format Photography

SB Mission Church(Click image for a larger version)

This past week, I took my first seriously considered shots with my newly acquired Tachihara 4×5 field camera. I recently purchased it from a good friend who does marvelous landscapes, but says that she is “too old” for film and 4×5 now. Mine is a neutral wood color with chrome fittings. The bellows are a little crumpled at the lens end, but light tight. I have two lenses. The 180mm is considered a normal lens, somewhat equivalent to a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera. The 90mm is a wide-angle, equivalent to a 30mm. I updated the ground glass, which is what is used to focus the image, with a hand made borosilicate glass from Steve Hopf.

My first destination was the Santa Barbara Mission. The Santa Barbara Mission is actually quite small, and not much of an opportunity, outside of the church itself. Unfortunately, the front is under some restoration and was covered with scaffolding and surrounded with ugly green fences. My sights were set on the church interior. I carefully setup and initially pulled out the wide angle, but soon realized that the normal would do. This image is the kind of image that is made for large format photography. I took two more in the courtyard, but they really just can’t compare.

I must admit that I felt a little self-conscious under the dark cloth, a little like an impostor. I recognize this feeling from when I first started doing street photography. It is a kind of I’m not good enough self-editing that will go away with a few more clicks under my belt. It was also fun to see people stop, as if they were going to wait for me to take the picture, even before I had the lens on the camera. I politely waved them through.

SB Pier(Click image for a larger version)

My second destination was the Santa Barbara Pier. It was a little later than I had anticipated and a bit of a race with the sun. With more experience I might have felt the adrenaline of Ansel Adams rushing to get his one shot of Moonrise Over Hernandez, but I just kept muttering “not the way for a novice to try large format photography”. None-the-less, I lined up a nice shot of the pier. I waited a while to avoid some people, but then the kids came into the scene. As the sun was setting, I had no real choice but to work them in, which of course makes the picture.

I’m using Ilford FP4+, rated at 125 ISO, but I’ll be honest, I just metered as if it was 100 ISO to keep things simple. I used the modern equivalent of a Polariod back to check my exposures, my Olympus OMD. It is really no larger or heavier than a spot meter and far more flexible. My developing was with Clayton F76+ using his published times and agitation method as described in a sheet he sent to me. 7 1/2 min @68 degrees; agitation for the first 10 seconds followed by 1 turn every 30 seconds. I scanned with VueScan with no adjustments. Post-processed with a little dodge and burn in LightRoom. The thing to note is that there was no overall tone curve or levels adjustments, the tonalities of the film was just right-on. The image of the pier was cropped vertically to a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Ghostly Spirits – Salton Sea

Ghosts- Fish Out Of Water
Ghostly Spirits – Fish Out Of Water

I have finally finished processing my Fish Out Of Water series. This series represents my impressions when visiting the Salton Sea.

The Salton Sea is a complicated place. It is not entirely man-made and not entirely natural. As the Salton Sink, it would fill and evaporate about every 400 years (they believe). In 1905, the perfect combination of nature and man, a wet winter and broken agricultural canal, flooded the area and created today’s Salton Sea. In the 50’s this area was to be the next playground oasis in the desert. However the sea continued to evaporate, salt concentrations increased, and nitrogen-rich agricultural runoff  caused huge summer algae blooms. These conditions led to a annual summer tilapia die off which pretty much put a kibash on the summer water fun.

When visiting the sea, you cannot escape the sight of dead fish at various states of decay. At the northern ends the fish are mummified and nearly whole. As you move south there is more decay. Ghostly Spirits is from an area in the middle where fish get covered with mud and slowly dissolve. Here, however, they appear to be crawling out of the earth.