Film Friday Guest Post from Photographer Jan Scholz

I started photography after moving to Maastricht in the Netherlands, as a spare time activity, taking pictures around town with a digital SLR. Soon afterwards I turned towards portraits. From then on photography became almost an obsession, consuming most of my spare time.
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The main reason why photography is so fascinating to me, is that I can create my own world and use it as a stage for emotions, stories and scenes, that matter to me, that I find beautiful. I often do not have a defined concept for a shoot and just let myself be driven by what I find, the location, the light, the model.
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I switched to film after I already had a very good grasp on digital cameras and photoshop. The reasons are multifold, and include: I love the look of film right from the scanner. I always loved black and white photography, but when I was shooting digitally I was never happy with the conversion and the resulting tones, regardless of the tools used. My first scan of a simple black and white negative was already a revelation. Film is like a beautiful canvas the image is painted upon.

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Another reason are the beauty of old film cameras. They are a joy to use, their simplicity, their vintage feel, the big, bright view finders to look through, the sound of the shutters, the feel of the mechanics when forwarding the film. All these factors are not measurable in megapixels, dynamic range or frames per second, but they inspire me and contribute to the joy I have when photographing. Maybe I am stretching it a bit, but I think they also have a positive impact on most people I photograph. Especially using a large format camera tends to fascinate people, they feel like being part of something special.

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The limitations of each camera, each format is forcing me to approach photography in a different way. I take different pictures with a fast and mobile 35mm SLR than with a slow and stationary Large Format Camera. Going out with such a tripod based camera and knowing that I have just 10 or maybe 20 pictures to take, will make me photograph completely differently than with a 8GB card in the DSLR. It turned the way I photograph upside down. I look a lot more carefully, re-consider every composition and pose again and again before clicking (or not clicking) the shutter. This taught me a lot and I believe I learned most I know about photography and composition after switching to film.

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For most formats and applications, it’s probably true that digital has outrun film in terms of resolution, but in terms of “look” and tonality I am yet to be convinced. It’s a very personal opinion and decision. There are good reasons for digital and film, and everybody has the liberty to use whatever one likes and finds convincing. You can throw a lot of reasons pro-digital at me, it will not change how I feel about using film, for a multitude of reasons.

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My choice of film has been a little journey. I started out by buying and trying all sorts of films and after some time settled for a small selection suited for the situations I mainly photograph in. I believe my “signature film” is KODAK PROFESSIONAL Tri-X Film, developed in HC110. It offers smooth tones, with the right amount of “punch” in the contrast.
- Jan Scholz

Guest Post for Film Friday: Photographer Tanja Lippert

My name is Tanja Lippert and I am a 100% film photographer specializing in weddings, fashion, commercial, music & fine art photography. I’m also one of the hosts of a very special show on the Framed Network called FILM!

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I live in sunny California, but travel worldwide for photography assignments. I am very passionate and committed to my craft. I love adventure, creativity, traveling, spontaneity, teaching and inspiring others. I am a dreamer and a hopeless romantic at heart. I thank God that he has blessed me with creative gifts and abundant love. On top of all that, I am pretty much a big dork!! I often get asked, “Why do you still shoot with film?” The answer is pretty simple. I am a huge fan of the quality, richness & “magical” look that film has to offer. My favorite films to shoot include Kodak BWCN 400, PORTRA 160 and PORTRA 800.  I love the creaminess of the BWCN 400 and the fact that it is process C41 makes it easy for labs to scan this film and it is really beautiful!  The PORTRA 160 is my favorite portrait film to shoot, the skin tones are beautiful and it has a creaminess to it that I love.  The PORTRA 800 is wonderful film to shoot in both low light and sunlight, it has a beautiful saturation to it, while still keeping skin tones looking natural and amazing!  Shooting film “connects” me to my subject and surroundings and makes me more acute to what is happening in front of my camera. There is no reason for me to be distracted by viewing the images in the back of my camera all day, so instead, I am focused on looking through the viewfinder; waiting for just the right moments to capture.

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So many of those moments came during the filming of this season’s FILM Show. We spent eight days in the desert of Las Vegas shooting everything from muscle guys and muscle cars to beautiful models and beautiful scenery to a real wedding to getting shoot whatever makes our hearts happy.  I chose to shoot one of the Assistant Producers in a series of “beauty” pictures because one of my favorite things to shoot are women.  I love to make them feel special and beautiful in their own skin.

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When I started shooting fashion work back in 2001, digital was not even an option. I learned photography on film and have NEVER switched. Despite the pressure of the photographic industries and all my fellow photographers, I have held steadfast and true to my love of film and have NO plans on ever switching. By using one of the best film labs in the world to scan my film into high-resolution digital files- I get the best of both worlds, film & digital. I get the look and beauty of FILM CAPTURE along with the convenience of digital (like utilizing Photo Shop when needed and being able to show my work on the internet and share digital files with my clients). Yes, it is true that film is more expensive to shoot and requires me to be an EXPERT at my craft. That is exactly why I will continue to shoot with it. For me, photography is still an art. It’s MY art. It’s my blood, my sweat and my tears. It’s also my joy and my love. I would NEVER dream of sacrificing the quality and look of the images I produce for anything. I know that every photographer has his or her opinion about which is superior, film or digital. For me, film is what makes my heart happy and emotionally ties me to my images.

http://www.tanjalippertphotography.com

http://instagram.com/tanjalippert

https://twitter.com/TanjaLippert

Tori Johnson: DIY Kid’s Magnetic Educational Photo Board

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As a mom of a rambunctious two-year-old I am constantly on the lookout for do-it-yourself ideas that are fun, affordable and educational. When I saw this idea on Pinterest I thought it was the perfect DIY to try out and I immediately had a cool idea on how to make it even better…use PICTURES instead of flashcards! Another bonus, you can do this entire DIY for approximately $30! Can’t beat that!

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Supplies:

  • Variety of Kodak photos
  • Oil Drip Pan (purchase at any auto supply store for approx. $10)
  • (1)  8x11in dry erase magnetic sheet
  • Variety of magnetic photo holders
  • Magnets
  • Scissors
  • Dry Erase Marker

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 First, I decided what the “categories” were that I wanted to feature on the board. I knew that these would change as my son got older so I decided to go with a magnetic dry erase sheet so that I could easily make adjustments. I then just cut it in to strips to use at my category names.

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After I decided my categories I found some pictures on the Internet and ones that I had taken as well that fit in to my categories. I then dropped them on to a USB and took them to my local Kodak Kiosk which is right down the street at CVS. Within minutes I had all my pictures printed out. What is so great about using pictures is it is much easier for a toddler to understand what you are asking them is in the photo because they are true-to-life unlike cartoons that you see on flashcards. Additionally, you can make basically any category you want vs. being confined to what is available on a flashcard.

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Then you just slide the photos in to their magnetic holders so they are protected from little grubby toddler hands.

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That’s all it takes! Now ask your toddler all sorts of questions to drive their development! Some questions that I ask my son are, “Which photo is a cow?” “How does a pig go?” “Point to the color green.” Among many others! You can also use your extra magnets to hang photos of your family on the board as well!

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 Tori Johnson writes about fashion, mommyhood and everything else in between on her blog The sTORIbook (www.thesTORIbook.com). You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

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Rebecca Szuniewicz: Calling all Photographers of any level!

Every year, in August, the Pittsford Carriage Association takes Walnut Hill Farm back to the late 19th century to host the Walnut Hill Carriage Driving Competition.  For five days in August the farm transforms, to a time where the horse and carriage was the main source of transportation, and also represented social status.

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I have attended this event the last couple of years.  It is a wonderful opportunity to get some beautiful and unique photographs.  The farm is decorated beautifully with thousands of flowers, which in itself is great for photographs. The carriages are restored pieces of art from early Americana, and are a must see! The outfits are truly remarkable and add to the authenticity of this event.

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And, of course saving the best for last, the horses!  They alone command attention and respect the minute they enter the ring.  They will definitely give you reasons to keep your shutter clicking away.  Once you start taking pictures of these majestic creatures, you won’t stop. Put the whole package together-flowers, carriage, outfit and horses, and you have yourself a brilliant afternoon full of tons of photo opportunities. And besides your photographs you will truly enjoy the afternoon at this unique international competition.

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The event takes place Aug 14th-18th at 397 West Bloomfield Rd in Pittsford, NY.  Walnut Hill is handicapped accessible (call ahead for a staffed golf cart to meet your car), provides ample free parking, and dog friendly.  For full details and schedule of events please visit www.walnuthillfarm.org

- Rebecca Szuniewicz

‘From Fleeting to Forever’ – New E-Book Makes Memories Everlasting

Michael McEnaney and his co-author Greg Scoblete have covered the photo and technology industries for a wide variety of print and online publications. McEnaney, a long time industry expert, was most recently publisher and editor-in-chief of Picture Business Magazine as well as the editorial director of the TechnologyTell network. 
Michael McEnaney

Michael McEnaney

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Is there anything more important than our memories? Most of us spend endless hours snapping pictures and recording video in an effort to preserve and recall the best moments in life. According to research analyst firm, IDC, consumers take about 266 million photos each day, or about 97 billion photos every year, and those numbers are expected to rise year-over-year.

While smartphones and digital cameras have made it easier than ever to capture every fleeting moment, they’ve also created some unique challenges: many of our cherished photographic memories are locked away on computer hard drives or camera memory cards never to see the light of day again. These images are not only gathering virtual dust, they’re also vulnerable to hard drive crashes that could erase them forever.

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All of the above is why I co-authored a new eBook titled From Fleeting to Forever: Enjoying & Preserving Your Digital Photos and Videos, that explores the many remarkable things there are to do with your digital images and, just as importantly, how to protect them for future generations. For just as digital photography has created a new set of challenges, it’s also unleashed a wave of new creative services for reliving and enjoying our digital memories. The e-book includes chapters on how to better organize you growing photo/video collections, how to share your images safely and privately in the digital era and how to ensure that you can pass your digital photos down to future generations as easily as you would a shoebox full of prints.
The idea for eBook sprung from a website I launched with fellow journalist and the other half of the co-authorship on From Fleeting to Forever, Greg Scoblete. The site is www.your-digital-life.com and as you’ll quickly find we provide visitors with a daily dose of information on post-capture suggestions,ideas, services and deals in an effort to keep your images and videos alive and more a part of your everyday life. We feel strongly about the notion that they’re your memories so why not relive and enjoy them as frequently as you can?
During the book’s research stage, I began realizing that this was a subject matter that had potentially very wide appeal since everyone we talked to immediately agreed that they never know what to do with their images and videos after they capture them. A lot of people also told Greg and I that more often than not, the person who took a particular picture for them—or of them—was the only person who ever ended up seeing it.
Above all, the eBook stresses the importance of printing your images and the joy inherent in turning your digital memories into lasting keepsakes. And ultimately, when it comes to your digital photos, the truth is there’s no better way to store them for the future than to print them. Not all of them, of course, you’d go broke, but certainly the keepers.
And if printing at home simply isn’t an option for you, retail photo kiosks remain a great option and Kodak’s Picture Kiosks (Retail Systems Solutions) are still a dominant part of this landscape at retailers such as CVS, Target and Bartell Drugs.  Wi-Fi connectivity (www.Kodak.com/go/mobile) has now become a standard part of the kiosk mix so getting prints from the images on your mobile phones has never been easier.
From Fleeting to Forever: Enjoying & Preserving Your Digital Photos and Videos is available now for $6.99 at Amazon, Sony, iTunes, Kobo, Apple and Barnes & Noble bookstores. It will be available at other e-book sellers soon.

Printing is Alive and Well by Joe LaBarca

Today’s Wednesday Works comes from Joe LaBarca

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On Wednesday Works, we’ve discussed topics relevant to both the retail and professional photography industry. While we’ve talked about how as an industry we can drive printing, just as important as driving printing is the media on which you print.

First, why so much discussion of printing when some say printing is dead?  If you look at the statistics of number of pictures printed and compare to the number of pictures captured, it’s a very logical assumption because the number printed is such a low percentage.  However, let’s go a little deeper to understand why printing in general, and printing on silver halide photographic paper in particular makes so much sense.

In the beginning, there was film, and negative film required a print to be made.  While a seemingly obvious statement, as a result, you could say that 100 percent of images shots became prints. Consumers today still want prints, but they have the choice to print or not to print. So they don’t ask for every print, but rather, the “keepers” that they want to have around for months, years, and generations.  This includes consumer snapshots, as well as professionally captured images from important events such as weddings and school photography. While the amount of prints made today is certainly less than those made during film’s peak years, the number of prints made from digital is growing and the growth is accelerating, according to InfoTrends, in its January 2013 Consumer and Professional Imaging Analysis titled “Road Map 2013: Photo Printing Trends.

So let’s get the math straight – the percentage of images printed is smaller than ever because of the explosion in the number of images captured.  Many in the industry estimate that nearly 400 billion images were captured in 2012.  That’s four times more than the roughly 100 billion from film’s heyday.  And with this number growing the number of images printed will also grow even as the percentage of images printed versus captured continues to decline.  A fast rate in growth of images captured with a slower rate of decline in images printed versus captured, means images printed will grow.  And this growth could mean that prints from digital might actually meet or exceed the number of images printed during film’s peak in the not too distant future.  Bottom line: a very small percentage of a very large number is still a very large number.

So, as a professional photographer or a professional lab, how will you print this growing number of digital images?  Knowing that people want the “keepers,” as a professional lab or a professional photographer, you should consider what paper would ensure that these images last a lifetime. While there are many choices in digital printing technology, KODAK PROFESSIONAL ENDURA Premier Paper, is optimized specifically for digital printing and reflects the newest emulsion and dispersion/dye technologies to provide further improvements in an ongoing stream of benefits to the labs and the consumers. A technical paper presented to the International Symposium on Technologies for Digital Photo Fulfillment provides the technical specs of ENDURA Premier, as well as the benefits of this silver halide paper to both wedding/portrait and commercial labs. Among those benefits: the latest in efficiencies for high speed, low cost digital printing, providing consumers with greater color gamut and improved image quality. At the same time, the paper maintains the critical characteristics of excellent flesh tone reproduction and all-around image longevity that, in my opinion, simply cannot be matched by any of the other digital print technologies available today to professional labs and their clients.

Cole Barash, Iceland and Kodak Film

On the very first portrait Cole Barash went to shoot for his feature on Iceland, “64.133 ºN/21.9333 ºW” in this month’s Relapse Magazine, one of his lights blew up.  Blew. Up.

“Yeah, it’s not like you’re able to run to Adorama and pick up a new light,” said Barash. “So I just stripped my kit to basically a one-light set up with a fill option. It pushed me a little bit to use just that and not have so many options. OK.”

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At 25, Barash has photographed campaigns for Adidas, Nike, Rag and Bone, Brixton and Burton. A die-hard film user, Barash’s laid-back persona belies the strength of his creative vision, his disciplined approach to photography and respect for the medium and its history. That drew Relapse Editor Ian Frisch to his work.

“The concept of film in relationship to his photography even furthers my view of him as a true photographer,” said Frisch. “Rather than picking up the newest and flashiest equipment, Cole utilizes the history and foundations of photography, in a physical sense, to capture moments in a way that people have been doing for decades that, in some instances, the younger generation has lost touch with. His passion for photography, across the board, is something that is very rare now-a-days, and something that I hold in the highest respect.”

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Barash headed to Iceland with 100 rolls of film to shoot a personal project. When Frisch heard about Barash’s trip, he asked him to do a shoot for Relapse featuring the increasingly influential arts and fashion scene in Iceland. Relapse, founded in 2012, showcases edgy, progressive fashion photography and provocative culture journalism.

With not a lot of time or pre-planning, Barash moved quickly to find and create compelling portraits of designers and artists who make up this community and culture.  That same creative vision and work ethic he uses in the back bowls of Canada worked in the studios of Reykjavík.

“Shooting snowboarding out in the back country has taught me a lot. You can’t exactly run 200 feet through waist deep snow to go check an angle,” said Barash. “You really start to put yourself in that 200 foot position and how it’s going to frame up and what it’s going to look at. You need to go find the best angle quick.”

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In Iceland, when shooting designers, “as soon as I got into their studio, I made some quick decisions on how their brand and how they as a person would be interpreted to me – light and flashy, dark and moody, vibrant and atrocious.”

For the bands, Barash wanted to create photographs that conveyed the feeling of Iceland, as well as the band members themselves.

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In all cases, Barash moved fast – deciding how he wanted to shoot, the tools he would use to shoot and the need to focus his energy on making a connection with the subjects.

“I knew the tools I had and what I could do with them. I kind of quickly made decisions about the environment – where I wanted to shoot them and how I wanted to light it. Then I just started shooting.”

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Barash shot mostly with KODAK PROFESSIONAL PORTRA 160, with a bit of  KODAK PROFESSIONAL TRI-X thrown in.

“I love the tones on PORTRA, especially on the skin – I haven’t found anything better,” said Barash. “It’s very soft and fairly muted, but not so muted it feels desaturated; very good contrast.”

“TRI-X – generally the contrast and the grain is pretty spot on for what I like to shoot. Especially when you start developing different filters and process,” said Barash. “I think I’ve been shooting it for so long that I know how something’s going to look on a negative.”

The latest issue of Relapse Magazine is available now in New York at Barnes and Noble Union Square, Soho International News, McNally Jackson Bookstore, Lafayette Smokeshop, Bouwerie Iconic, and Bedford Exotics in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It is also available through the iTunes Store on all participating mobile devices.

For more on Cole Barash, visit

ColeBarash.com

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Instagram: @nomadda.

And for more on Relapse Magazine, visit

http://relapsemag.com.

Instagram: @relapsemagazine

Michael Raso: For the Love of Film – The 2013 FPP Walking Workshop

Today’s Film Friday blog post comes from Michael Raso

This past April 12-14, more than 50 film-minded professional and amateur photographers converged on the town of Findlay, Ohio to attend the first official mid-west Film Photography Project (FPP) Walking Workshop.  It was a fluid, fun weekend of casual instructions on all formats of traditional photography including 35mm, 120, 4×5 and 8×10, perfectly complemented by Kodak film.

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I wanted attendees to use some Kodak films that I shoot.  If you haven’t used it yet, PORTRA 800 is a beautiful addition to the PORTRA 160 and PORTRA 400 line of film. I’ve been shooting PORTRA 800 and wanted to share this experience with our attendees.  And, with so many Film Photography Podcast listeners shooting Kodak Tri-X film, I was thrilled to put rolls of Kodak T-Max 100 and 400 in their hands. The Kodak T-Max BW films are the sharpest BW films on the planet!

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The Findley, Ohio FPP Walking Workshop attendees were an amazing, diverse group of men and women of all ages. It was especially awesome to see 30-year Kodak veteran Dale Deven assisting a student on how to load a 35mm Leica camera. Previous FPP meet-ups, held in New York and London, were the inspiration for Findley’s more structured and instructional event – our biggest successes to date.

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Why shoot film in a world gone digital, you might ask?  For me, film remains the best and most satisfying medium.  I love the aesthetic, the process…and creating tangible assets I can archive.  I’m so glad that I’m not the only person that feels that way.

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In 2009, I launched the Film Photography Project (FPP) as an Internet radio show. With my years of broadcast experience, I thought that a radio show about film would be lots of fun. I had no idea that thousand upon thousands of people who were also as excited about film would be regularly tuning in. The podcast soon became a source of inspiration and discovery for both my listeners and me. Not only was I using medium format and large formats for the first time but those tuning in were also sharing and learning as fast as episodes could be recorded and posted.  My YouTube channel of instructional videos followed shortly thereafter, as did the Film Photography Project website, an online resource for film shooters worldwide.  Now, with the FPP Walking Workshops facilitating instruction and exploration of film with film enthusiasts directly, what better way to spend the weekend than with other film-loving people?

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The Film Photography Projects offers ongoing educational blogs, videos and podcasts about using film via the website http://filmphotographyproject.com/

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If you’re interested in trying film for the first time, trying a bigger film format or even developing at home, please do visit our podcast archive. E-mail inquiries or questions: Podcast@FilmPhotographyProject.com

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Photos by Lance King, Leslie Lazenby, Mat Marrash and Michael Raso shot on Kodak Portra 400 and Tri-X Film.

Michael Raso is a photographer, producer and filmmaker working professionally in the visual arts for over 20 years; Michael is also the founder of the Film Photography Project and its fortnightly Internet radio show, the Film Photography Podcast. Michael’s goal?…to get as many people as possible to experience the joys of shooting with traditional film! 

PEOPLE v. PLACES

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Last fall, on Twitter, we came across Stephanie Bassos and Timothy Burkhart collaborators on People vs Places. In this double exposure project, Stephanie exposes a full roll of 35mm film of only “people,” and Timothy reloads the film again into the same camera, to imprint only “places” and locations to the same roll. These images are all the end result of their ongoing series and are unedited negatives straight from the camera. After seeing their project on Tumblr, we wanted to know more.

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What prompted your project?  

Stephanie Bassos: We both meet at our full time job, where we both work on various photographic projects at an online-based startup. We do a range of things from basic photo editing to smaller studio shoots. Our friendship sparked from casual conversation about our love for photography and the projects we were both currently working on outside of work, as well as other artists we were into at the moment.  Our styles seemed to come from opposite ends of the photographic spectrum, and we had an admiration for what the other was doing.

I prefer working with people and shooting portraits, while Tim shoots mostly landscapes and places that don’t directly include people. We had entertained the idea of collaborating on a photo shoot or project, but we couldn’t really nail down how to make it happen. Tim had been shooting with some older film cameras at the time and had an instance where he unknowingly double exposed a roll of film resulting in double exposures. He then realized that his camera wasn’t rewinding film all the way and allowed the same roll to be loaded again fairly easily. This occurrence seemed to be the perfect vehicle for us to bring our two styles together into one image as well as series. We have been shooting for around nine months now and sticking to the formula of me shooting only people and Tim shooting only places, although we each don’t know the specifics outside of that.

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How do you choose your subjects and the order in which you shoot?

SB: The order we shoot is completely random.  We don’t have a specific way (people first, or places first.)  We were originally passing the same camera back and forth after we finished shooting our respective subject, but that slowed the process significantly.  If we both had a trip planned at the same time and only one had the camera, it seemed counter productive. To solve the issue we bought another one of the cameras we were using and tested it to find that it had the same rewind issue as the original. This allowed us both to shoot simultaneously.  Now we both have a roll in our cameras at all times, and whoever finishes first gives it to the other to re-load.

Timothy Burkhart: We choose our subjects by observing our surroundings and just going about our daily lives. The people Stephanie shoots are mostly her friends, or candid strangers. The places I shoot are in transit or traveling.  The project definitely has a point and shoot aesthetic and vibe to it.  It’s rare that we go out to a specific place or find a specific person to shoot with-shoots aren’t premeditated.  The camera is always on us, so we just constantly have it in the back of our minds and we shoot our life as it happens.

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Why did you choose Kodak film for this project?

TB: When we first started shooting we used what was most available. Lots of camera shops have been closing up around us in Chicago, so we were picking up Kodak Gold 200 at the local pharmacy or corner store, which fit our needs of availability.  Kodak films in general always have a bit more saturation and warmer color tones than other manufacturers and this was something we both liked aesthetically. After we shot on Kodak Gold for a bit to get a feel for the project we switched to Portra 400, which gave us a little less grain and even better tones.  Now we go back and forth between those two and shoot whatever we have available. People Vs. Places (6 of 6)

 How does this fit in with your overall photography work/style? 

SB: It’s a pretty perfect project for both of us to do outside of our own freelance. It gives us a chance to focus on what we love shooting most, and also comes with an element of surprise when the film is finally developed. It keeps us constantly creating and observing and thinking about photography in a different way.  Rather than focusing on composition and style to create the photo we want constantly, we surrender some of those decisions and leave it up to fate and cross our fingers hoping the great “people” shot was overlaid by a perfect “places” shot.

TB: It throws us both out of our comfort zones a little because we are not able control the frame in it’s entirety… but that’s good for us because it forces us to not think too much about one specific shot. The project looks a lot different than anything we both do.  We both shoot in our own ways and have a cleaner shooting style, so doing this project is a way to break away from our own personal process and have some fun with an old camera and some film.

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The Majestic Oak

Today’s blog post comes from Kyle Ford. Kyle Ford is an artist and educator currently residing in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate, NY. He holds a Master of Fine Arts from Savannah College of Art and Design and has been published an exhibited worldwide. Kyle’s work investigates ideas of perception, representation, and interaction surrounding the natural world. For more information and insight into his work please visit: www.kylefordphotography.com

Portrait of Kyle with 8x10

It was a hazy Monday morning in early May 2007. A forest fire had been burning in the Okefenokee Swamp since the weekend and thick smoke had begun to descend upon the coastal city of Savannah, Georgia. That morning I had set out to make a portrait of one of the oldest living things east of the Mississippi: The Majestic Oak.

I first came in contact with the tree a week before. Back then, my friend Jarrid Spicer – a great photographer in his own right – and I would often take trips to seek out these ancient sentinels of our country. Our expeditions, more often than not, would end up in forest preserves or state-run parks. Because of their strict environmental regulations and separation from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, these sanctuaries proved to harbor many beautiful old specimens. But this time was different. We found ourselves smack in the middle of a suburban housing development just a few miles southeast of Savannah proper. The development, aptly named Majestic Oaks, was somewhat of an over blown cul-de-sac. At the center of the giant turnaround stood our living relic.

The Majestic Oak, Majestic Oaks Housing Development

With a branch span of over 165 feet and a base girth of 27 feet 8 inches, this 300-plus- year-old tree was enormous. Its trunk alone was wider than I was tall. Its symmetrically shaped branches hung effortlessly, like a cloud descending upon the surrounding landscape. Strands of soft gray Spanish moss draped evenly throughout the tree, while patches of red and green lichen modeled the branches with splashes of texture and color. I instantly thought to myself, “I’m going to need a bigger camera.” Somehow, the prosumer DSLR that I traveled with (mostly for note taking) just wasn’t going to cut it. So much texture, gradation, and detail would be lost to the APS-C sized sensor. I knew to do it justice I would need to capture it in large format on Kodak film.

I returned the following week with my 4×5 K.B. Canham field camera and twelve sheets of Kodak Portra 160NC. This was before the marrying of VC and NC film types. As luck would have it, the haze of smoke from the fire burning in Okenfenokee Swamp had created a beautiful warm diffusion of the morning light. As I stood there setting up my camera, I heard a voice. About 200 feet behind me, a person emerged from a screen door on the back porch of a townhouse. It was the owner of the home on her way to work. She stood behind a waste high stonewall, waving a piece of paper. As I approached her she said, “This is the Majestic Oak,” indicating the paper in her hand. On the paper was an artist’s rendering of the tree. In pen and ink, the tree floated there, isolated on the soft white base of the paper. Absent of background and surrounding context, this “tree” she presented me with looked more like a symbol or an icon of the majestic tree.

We had a short chat about the artist, the history of the ancient oak, and the neighborhood. Before the owner left, she informed me that I was standing right where the artist made the illustration. As I turned to face the tree, from where I stood, I could almost take it all in in one glance. From that distance, The Majestic Oak seemed more like a perfect sculpture than a tree. As I looked around at the surrounding houses I began to realize that similar to the artist’s drawing, this tree itself was an icon.

Separated from the forests that once surrounded it, this tree stands isolated in the center of the cul-de-sac. Akin to a great work of art, it adds value to all the surrounding homes that gaze uponit. A plaque to the left of the tree indicates its title and estimated age. The neighborhood even installed lights to illuminate the treasure year round. At that time, I realized the artist’s rendering hadn’t done something new by isolating and iconizing the tree; that happened long ago, when a decision was made to preserve it.

Its intrepid strength as a living organism aside, The Majestic Oak still stands today for one reason: its aesthetic characteristics. Without those traits, the tree might have fallen the way of the forest that once surrounded it. The Majestic Oak survives as a reminder of a decision made long ago to preserve an aesthetic. Somehow, by photographing the tree, I feel a connection to the countless others who along the way chose to preserve its beauty, iconizing it in one form or another – be it pen and ink, poetry, photography, or even the seemingly small, yet lasting decision, not to let the tree fall subject to human development.

I knew I had to take my photograph from the exact spot where I stood and where I’m sure so many have stood before me. I had to create an image that would consume the viewer the way the tree consumed me.

I set up my camera once more. Originally, I had intended to use a wide-angle 90mm lens (roughly equivalent to a 28mm lens in 35mm) but upon looking at the ground glass I realized that the aspect ratio and detail in texture still left a lot to be desired. I needed the final image to have a large enough native resolution to produce a print the size of the wall with tack sharp detail you could get lost in. So I decided to transfer a technique that was common in digital photography to my view camera practice. I would shoot several negatives and stitch them together digitally to make one seamless photograph. This is one of the many reasons why I religiously shoot Kodak. The Kodak Portra series has a phenomenal film grain that produces unparalleled depth in tonal gradation and texture when scanning. Shooting Kodak allows me to practice a kind of hybrid technique of shooting film and scanning for digital process and output.

I switched lenses and grabbed my Symmar-S 210mm. At that distance, distortion caused by rotating the angle of the camera would be minimized, and I could easily set my aperture to the middle (f22) and sharpest point of the lens, still obtaining the full depth of field I required in the shot. I then divided the tree into six different quadrants and made an identical exposure of each, leaving a small amount of overlap to line up the negatives in  post. I returned to the lab, processed the film, scanned each sheet in 16 bit at 2400 dpi resolution, and began the week long stitching process. I opted not use any automated stitching programs to minimize any distortion automation might create and instead used layer masks and blending modes to stitch the negatives.

In technical terms, the end result was a 4GB file that could produce a seamless mural sized print of up to 10ft x 5ft at a resolution of 300dpi. For me, the final image was a small tribute to the beauty of The Majestic Oak and the simple decision made long ago to preserve it.