Eyes to see

Randoms musings on Photography and life

Month: February, 2012

I’m excited about doing my first c41 tomorrow

After working with tri-x and developing few rolls I feel more confident now and today I ordered Tetenal c-41 press kit from B&H to process my portra 120 and 220 films! I was certain that I wanted to develop the color ones in lab but then I thought if I am doing the bw already why not give c41 a try too! I should be able to get it by tomorrow and I feel it will provide just the level of spice I need during middle of week!

Recently I bought myself a book called Monographs of Diane Arbus.It was so great to read her writeup in the beginning of the book. There was so much insight. She wrote at one place that she does not get the meaning of a good composition…sometimes good compositions looked bad to her and vice versa. It was such a simple statement but so important. It makes you think as a photographer, for not getting stuck in one frame of mind or to be stuck with rules of the game as people call it. That many a times makes one predictable. The other photographer I am really delving on these days in Ernst Haas. He has so many stupendous photographs, most of the times they leave in me complete awe. Oh, I have not gone to his color photographs, yet!If you have some suggestion please feel free to suggest.

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kodak tri-x

In last few days I have developed few more Tri-X rolls, to be exact 5 rolls including one medium format. I wanted to scan them so badly that I ordered one cheap 8mp scanner from BHPhotovideo. I was watching documentary on Sally Mann where she mentioned that if you are having a block you just need to take ONE picture. If can be of anything. That was really a great idea. Yesterday after returning from office I saw my daughter doing a lot of new tricks and playing around in the home. I felt excited and took few pictures with my F-80. I could not wait to see the results and ended up developing them and scanning them till 3 am. But I felt it was well worth the effort when I saw the output. Some of the frames have come out really good and at least they are better than any other photo taken in last 1 month or so. I am not too pleased with the scan quality of the 8mp but I guess for 40-50 bucks you can’t expect for any better output. Wish I could buy the V700 with which I could have taken care of the medium format rolls as well. Now all I need is really put my head down to get some good frames so get over my photography block.

Format versus Content

What is more important to you? The format or content of your photography or both? I used to believe in sole content but looking at various artists work and how they evolved it seems to be that one drives the other. I recently fell in love with the work of Sally Mann. Even though I have seen her work before as well, but now I think I can connect to it in better way. She uses the Collodion Wet Plate method for all her photographs and she was ecstatic about it and told during the interview that she likes those little imperfections in her photographs. There are other artists too, who echo her words. Seeing this interview/video one thing that came to my mind is although the content is so core to ones whole body of work, the format and medium chosen carry some real importance as well.

A day in Batsto Village and surroundings

After visiting the ghost town outside Big Bend national park and specially Bodie ghost town in California I fell in love with them. I can still experience the feeling when I drove in Bodie ghost town after crossing several small hills. All of a sudden a vast area opened up and the town looked so lovely in it. Alas there is no way you can spend a night there unless special arrangements are made before. The environment, the eerie feeling all you can feel so well. 

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After getting a long weekend I decided to search for ghost towns in New Jersey and soon I found one names Batsto Village which is around 80 miles from my home. I thought this would be a perfect chance to test out my newly acquired Hasselblad as well!! 

It look around 2 hours to reach the place and fortunately it was not over crowded. We first decided to walk in a trail to Batsto Lake (1 mile away) and eventually the trail itself would take us in the village. The village off course was no match for Bodie or Big Bend towns, given the surroundings really come into play a lot for places like this. What I liked though there are small houses where you can stay for couple of nights and they are right inside the village. That’s something which interested me a lot and if I get a chance it would definitely be a great experience to stay and photograph the place in night.

Unfortunately even though the park and lake seemed beautiful, my first outing with Hasselblad did not go that well. First I was able to expose only 4/5 frames out of 12 frames in the roll and then when I tried putting the second roll something went really bad and body jammed. The lens wont come out and  shutter wont clock either. Terrible feeling and to add to that I got myself a headache as well. Anyway I came back home, researched on net and found out that the shutter can be clocked by turning a small screw in the body. Another round of trip to Home Depot and I was all set to work on my 500CM. It did work and voila, am happy again!Image

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Successfully developed my first kodak tri-x film

I still remember vividly that when I picked up my first film camera an old minolta, I ordered some 120 films from BHPhotoVideo and upon receiving them got thoroughly confused. Then I realized my mistake and returned them back to get 35mm films :).

Years have passed after that and I gradually left Minolta, switched to Nikon and did not make those mistakes later, feel really funny now. I guess all of us have their own stories like this. Last time when I was in Texas, I tried my hands on medium format by using Mamiya RZ67 for couple of months. It was a magical piece of equipment and even though it was heavy I loved it. Unfortunately I could not strike same chord with it (I am more of a outdoor person when it comes to photography) and sold it off.

This time I gave medium format another serious thought. I felt digital to some extent did spoil me or I am unable to control myself. Sometimes I become shutter happy and take pictures without much thought i.e. I tend to not ask myself “why” am I taking this picture. I feel this is due to the fact that you just need to hit one button to delete the frame. No more thoughts. I compared this with situation when you have loads of money you seem to care less about odd 10 bucks here and there; you let them go. Anyway I deciced that I am going to give medium format another try but this time I should look for light ones. After pondering over mamiya6 and mamiya7 I decided for Hasselblad 500C/M with Zeiss 80mm F2.8 glass. I want to take pictures more cautiously, I want to develop them in my own hands and if possible someday I want to print them too — all by myself. I don’t want to put my images in next 10 minutes.

As a start I had quite a few rolls lying around, finished. I looked up in youtube and read some manuals and with butterflies in the stomach I ordered D-76 developer, tank, reels, darkroom equipment, thermometer, photoflo, kodafix, hypo-cleaning agent, beaker and other small things. Within 2 days thanks to wonderful response from BH my stuff arrived at my doorstep.

Oh boy! I was so thrilled. I quickly finished my holga film and with lots of confusions started bringing out the film from the reel.After an hour of effort when I finally completed washing them they came out – all blank :(. I was so so disappointed to see that. I read on net, it could by my fixer went bad or my film was not exposed properly due to camera issues. Generally I give up for the day, but I picked another film which was used in F80 and gave it another try. This time I was more swift and voila! finally I got what I wanted, my first developed film. I was so excited after so many days I could not believe it. Now I ordered a small scanner to scan to see which ones are keepers, which are not. Hope to post some of them here too!

My photographic journey and finding the meaning of it

Okay, so finally I sit down to write about my photographic journey so far. I feel it will help me to understand what I am going to do and what really photography means to me, after all these years. So it’s sort of speaking out loud!

When I started to take photography as a serious hobby around 2007 and got myself a DSLR I was uneducated and open minded. It all started with landscape photography and I was making nice and good photographs, not great ones. I felt my shy nature would be a severe obstacle in getting into other areas of photography that time. Over time though, I slowly moved to more and more people centric images and started to look outside of landscape genre. Being in India you get lots of subjects and subjects are more approachable too. I started making good photographs again with essential ingredients – sharp, great color or BW, moments etc.

But street photography in India has its negative side as well, part of which is due to flooding of digital cameras in our hand. These days acquiring a camera has become lot easier than ever and it has led many people to go out and shoot in street. If you are working and plan to continue having photography as a major hobby good luck to you because soon you will find yourself along with thousands of other enthusiasts who are eager to capture the same subject with or without you. I fail to see how this one to many relationship is going to help in future, it at all.

To work on more specific segment, I started to concentrate on documentary photography and I really felt I could finally connect with people and do some good via my photographs. My initial series lasted for few days or few weeks and I was able to come up with photographs which I was able to connect. After putting those series I got some great reactions and critiques as well. One point that stood firm out of all those critiques is, to be able to project such issues one needs to put significant time behind it. If a series is targeted for social networking sites or online blogs then in the beginning itself it becomes miniscule. The photographer should devote considerable time and energy behind it and work towards building a body of work which can be used for books, blogs, online magazines etc. One of the most important parameters in this genre is time and if you are not able to give it, you will always end of producing good and very good series, not exceptional ones. If needs a lot of hard work in any fields to shine and photography is not an exception.

I started working on a village in West Bengal and wanted to focus on multiple aspects in the final outcome not just poverty stricken photographs which have become so very common from my part of the world. It all worked out very nicely and I felt inspired and motivated. Halfway into the series, I sent my initial photographs to Delhi Photo Festival and was asked to join the workshop for a week. Finally it appeared to me that I will get a chance to meet like minded, show my work there and see where we are heading. But some things in life are too good to be true. Due to my work pressure I had to relocate again and I failed to attend the photo fest. After weeks of anticipation giving up literally broke my heart and I could not touch my camera for few months.

In those few months I stared reading a lot about photography and asked myself many questions. Why am I doing this? What is the need? What separates my body of work from others? Or do I really have a body of work? The more I asked myself, more I felt lost in thoughts. The background where I come from the practice of photography is very different there. Picture making like many other things in life has become a rat race and you are supposed to win competitions to showcase your talent. Showing your body of work does not matter that much since if you do that there are thousands who are there to mimic you. If a very different practice of photography I felt. Although these are not written in stone, but thoughts keep coming and doing away with such thoughts is never an easy decision.

One year back, I decided I will concentrate on social issues and look into documentary photography. Looking back at the decision I feel there is an immense scope in that area but when you have a job which you can’t do away with and running a family is your utmost preference, you cannot do justice to that cause. You need to go back to those people, work with those people, day after day with sheer passion to get a great series, no exception. When I left the ongoing series for my job I felt I let those people down whom I was photographing, I let myself down and I cannot continue it this way.

Right now I find myself in all sort of cross roads and constantly asking myself questions. But in these few months I have learned many things, I feel more oriented and hope to take photographs which are more personal to me and make more sense to me. If I can justify myself one photograph, I will be content and in that process surely I can find some goal. Alec Soth said in one of the interviews that you should try everything, every genre of photography before you settle for one. It was such a brilliant statement. Keeping an open mind is utmost importance while making images and I guess I will be an ever amateur due to my job. That’s not bad as you are not tied up and free to roam. Photography in last few months has become even more personal to me and I intend to keep it like that too!!