Aspens at June Lake

June Lakes, Hasselblad 500 C/M

These past couple of months I continue to work both film and digital, nature and street. In May I spent a weekend in Bodie and June Lakes in the Eastern Sierra’s. I spent more time being with my husband than shooting, but I got in some late afternoon shooting at Silver Lake and then the next morning at Bodie. I previously posted my Bodie images from the Horizon Perfekt.

These are from Silver Lake in the late afternoon, around 5pm. Silver Lake is on the northern side of the June Lake loop. There is a nice lake with marshy grass and lots of aspens. The area I was shooting is right off a parking lot which probably accounts for the graffiti on the trees. It seems that no mater how much I work on my nature subjects, I’m still attracted to the scenes with a human touch.

I’m fairly happy with these images, but still view them as learning-sketch images. Compositionally, nature scenics is something that I still need a lot of work at to capture the quiet elegance that I’m after. Recently I learned of the photographer Tim Rudman through an interview with him on the Film Photography Project (FPP) podcast. I like his imagery very much (and the FPP too!).

June Lakes, Hasselblad 500 C/M

In this scene of Silver Lake, I was attracted to the texture of the marshes, the sweep of the shore-line and the bushes on the far side. I have only an 80mm and 60mm lens for the Hasselblad. I am working hard at capturing the right light for these black and whites.

I think the aspens are somewhat more successful. Here is a different composition of the trees with the graffiti. Though I’m not so sure about the space between the group of trees on the left and right.

June Lakes, Hasselblad 500 C/M

Technical Details

Camera: Hasselblad 500C/M
Lens: 80mm Planar T*Filters: Yellow, ND Grad on the scene with the lake
Film: Fuji Neopan Acros 100
Development: Rodinal 1+50


Mysterious Forest – Learning from the Negative

Hasselblad 500 C/M, Ilford Delta 100, D76 1+3, Post processed in LightRoomHasselblad 500 C/M, Ilford Delta 100, D76 1+3, Post processed in LightRoom

This image represents the next steps in my learning about development, scanning, and post-processing. They all go together and even though there was a good amount of additional contrast added to this image (as well as some dodging and burning), the feel of medium format and film are still very present with an expansive feel and lovely tones.

The first thing about this image is that, straight off the scanner, it was amazingly flat. I can’t even tell you have flat it was. It was so flat that I thought I’d completely messed up the processing. However, after some help from my friend on Facebook community “Film Shooters Collective” I was able to reverse engineer what was going on.

1) The image was somewhat under-exposed.

This was one of Southern California’s typical “June Gloom” days (even though we are now in August!) with high overcast and flat lighting. It was precisely this lighting that encouraged me to go out shooting. Shooting in a strong sunny day is nearly impossible to manage the highlights and shadows. However, still having shot way more digital than film (in an intentional way) I was too concerned about the highlights and I let the shadows go too dark. The upshot was that most of the image was underexposed.

2) The scanner software, left to its own devices, wants to make a neutral gray image

Much like the metering in our cameras, the scanner software, by default, wants to find an image that averages out to neutral gray. In the case of my first scan, this produced a really gray image, and I thought it was the negative itself. It wasn’t, it was the scan. After I figured out what was really going on with the negative by using the densitometer in the SilverFast software, I was able to tweak my scanning parameters to get an image that was easier to modify in post. I still added quite a bit of contrast and then the normal dodge and burn but there is a beauty in the gray tones of this image that reflects the film itself.

3) My film holder was not positioned properly for a sharp scan

Flatbed scanners have a specific place where they focus – as some distance above the glass. It turns out that this is variable from scanner to scanner and there are little feet on the film-holders that can be adjusted. However you need to figure out how to adjust them and then run the experiments to find just the right height. In my case, I have the Epson film-holders set to the + position and added one-ply of post-it note paper in addition. I’m now really happy with the sharpness of the scan.

4) You will need multiple scanning software

Just like post-processing software and camera bags, one-size does not fit all. I ended up using SilverFast to judge the quality of the negative (it has a densitometer), once I figured out what was going on with the density itself, I was able to get nearly identical scans with either SilverFast or VueScan. VueScan is still easier if you know where you need to go with the negative itself.

Trees in B&W – Learning to Scan

Tree in B&W

I again spent the night behind the scanner learning the different scanning software. The Epson software is kind of like hitting “Auto Enhance”. SilverFast SE is, as we say in the software industry, buggier than food (think about it, it will hit you). VueScan seems to be the one that I can really get a good solid base scan that I can then work in my Adobe Camera Raw (LightRoom) digital workflow.

More to learn, however, my developing tank and chemistry just arrived. Time to practice loading film onto a reel.

The Forrest and the Trees

Aspen Studies
Aspen Studies by I Nancy, on Flickr

Like many photographers, I have been fascinated with trees for some time, but it is only recently that I’m feeling comfortable with my renderings. My approach has been to look for the patterns created by the trees. In the upper image I found this arrangement of three (three is good). The way the trees are bending in different directions give me the feeling that they are dancing to some unheard  early electronic music from the 70’s. In the lower image I saw the contrast of the grasses in front of the forest behind. Again, there is a subtle dance to these trees. I used black and white to show off the contrasts of the yellow leaves against the rest of the tones in the scene.

View more in my Eastern Sierras set

Aspen Studies
Aspen Studies by I Nancy, on Flickr

Figueroa Mountain Oaks – Subtle in HDR

Figueroa Mountain Oaks

I’ve heard that the best way to learn is to do, but I think the best way to learn is to teach. This weekend I was working on an overview of HDR photography for the Thousand Oaks Photo Group. My teaching philosophy is around motivation more then instruction. If you can motivate the learner into wanting to use a technique, the instruction takes care of itself.

I needed a set of images to explain why to use HDR and I remembered some images I took at Figueroa Mountain last spring. Figueroa Mountain is a beautiful place spread with old oaks and fields. We went for the wildflowers, but they were a bust this year. We had to satisfy ourselves with the groves of trees and mountain air. The oaks were just sprouting their light-green tender leaves and the sky was beautiful but bright. These were the conditions for neutral-density graduated filters or… HDR. I bracketed many scenes but never got back to fully process the shoot. This weekend was my opportunity to do some experimentation with the goal of creating a concrete set of guidance for approaching HDR.

My use of HDR is subtle and I typically shoot in 1-stop exposures. I use Photomatix Pro on my RAW images for the tone-mapping and then Lightroom and Photoshop for additional adjustments.

Figueroa Mountain Oaks