El Capitan, Yosemite, peeking out of the clouds during a winter storm.
Scheduled for around Memorial Day, a week in Yellowstone, with a camera.
This guy was sitting at the side of the road, hanging out and protecting his harem.
Back in high school when I was the sports editor and shooting primarily sports and yearbook and doing a chunk of the darkroom for the paper black and white was all I did, and Tri-X was my standard film. Unlike a lot of photographers who seem to miss film and spending hours in a dark, smelly, chemical-filled darkroom turning out one or two prints, I do not miss my film days whatsoever. I’m guessing most of the people who are remembering the good old days of film sent their film out to labs to be developed and never lived in a production lab for hours at a time across days in a row… but I digress.
Despite not missing my days developing and printing black and white film fondly, I have felt for a while that I needed to get serious about black and white conversions as a way to continue to push my photography forward. This has been one of my “I know I have to put some time and effort into this — someday” projects has been to dig in and study monochrome conversions of digital images.
So this weekend I sat myself down at the monitor and started grabbing images out of my collection more or less at random and started doing conversions so I could see what came out. I do not remotely pretend to be an expert at this; I do not pretend to even be good at it. That’s the point, actually: I have to invest some hours in the process to learn how to do this well and do it consistently, and this is the starting line. I’m going to try to do a number of images every couple of weeks, and make black and white conversion of at least some images of new shoots a regular part of the project plan.
Here are the first images to come out of the chute. I’m curious what you think of them. Some of them I like, some of them I honestly don’t know what I think about them yet.
Bridalveil falls, Yosemite. This one I knew I wanted a black and white version of, and I really like it. Like it enough I’m probably going to print this to paper and see how it turns out.
This is my second favorite of the bunch. Again, I took a relatively “easy” subject, white birds, but there are some subtle tonalities that it took me a while to get the way I liked, especially around the beak and lores.
A pure experiment (the color version is here). I felt it really needed a heavy tint to it to make the white flock of birds pop. I’m not at all sure this is good, but it sure is striking, and I think this would make a really interesting background for a cover of a book or something similar. I’m just not sure it’s good as a photo. It’s very definitely not like my normal work, which makes it really interesting to me.
Here’s another one I really like (the color version is here) – I ramped up contrast to build drama, and this is all about pushing the eye so it sees Morro Rock and trying to make the rock a focal point of an image that it’s not really prominent in. The color version of this left me wishing I’d shot it with a polarizer; this version takes advantage of the fact that I didn’t to really bring the slough waters to prominence.
Not a huge shift in this image, since the scene had very muted colors in the original (you can see it here). Probably my least favorite of the group, but I felt it was a stretch given my current skills.
And probably the least interesting of the bunch. I think the conversion is successful, but I think moving this image to monochrome took a lot of the life out of it. In the original (here it is) there’s some nice subtle coloring that gets lost in the conversion. I didn’t think this would make a great monochrome image, but that’s one reason why I decided to try it. I think I was right.
One thing that might be obvious to a careful viewer is that all of the images are tinted at least slightly. That was true of a lot of my darkroom personal work back in the day, where I tended to use papers that brought in some tonal shift off pure monochrome. I find most “pure” monochrome conversions feel sterile to me and I much prefer to give them at least a hint of a tone. Honestly, I think that ties back to both my work printing for the school newspaper and yearbook and my dad’s work with the newspaper where so much of it ended up being the fake handshake artificial smile shaking hands talking heads thing that was so common in the local newspapers back when they actually existed. I’ll have to push myself to avoid the tints at some point, but right now, I much prefer the look with at least some of it in the image, and when I do use it, you’ll see I’m using coffee or sepias most o the time. I’m probably creating a bad habit i’ll have to break at some point, but what the heck. There are worse bad habits in the world…
You never know what you’ll find out wandering the hills. On this day, it was a bobcat, sitting out in the field, far too comfortable to bother getting out of view of a couple of people with cameras…
Someone dropped me an email and called me to task for using “Rhymes with Crisco” in my note yesterday announcing my new job. The email could be boiled down to “Dude, really?”
They have a point. It’s trite, silly and rather 12 year old. That was, in fact, the point. Let me explain.
First, I’ll admin: guilty as charged. It’s silly, and supposed to be. I get to have a bit of fun here if I want to.
But it also serves a more serious purpose. I used it for the same reason I use “Mama Fruit” when talking about one of my former employers. And I do that not just because it’s silly — and we all take this stuff way too seriously some days, especially when talking about the tech industry — but because it prevents my comments from being easily found in the search engines.
When I write here I write on a personal basis and not as a formal representative of my employer or any organization that I’m writing about. I learned — the hard way — that you can load your stuff with disclaimers all you want, all it takes is one troll with an axe to grind to choose to ignore that to make your life miserable.
You learn to watch what you say. But I’ve also found you can limit the chances of what you say ending up in the hands of random idiots looking for a fight by managing how you say things to stay away from hot button terms. Like using “Mama Fruit” and “Rhymes with Crisco” instead blah and blah. I’m not pretending this is more than it is — it’s like talking quietly at a party about a topic instead of grabbing the mike from the DJ — but it makes it easier to talk about some aspects of some organizations with less risk of those discussions getting hauled into larger discussions I want to stay out of by someone trolling specific keywords for content to start fights with.
Effectively, it’s a way to make it easier to talk about some things with you all, the people who normally read this blog without a lot of risk of those comments ending up in some troll fight that I’m not interested in getting dragged into. That’s what this blog is primarily about — sharing and interacting with the people interested in what I say and do. This is just one way of managing the audience that sees some of the comments I make and limiting that audience to people who understand the context.
It serves a useful purpose. It’s a tool I’ve adopted in cases where I specifically don’t want to try to attract a large audience and instead talk more quietly to people already involved with me and this site at some level.
So yeah, it’s silly. But to date, it’s worked pretty well…
Given that I will soon have about ten days as a “man of leisure”, I’ve been thinking about things to do and places to go during that time. I immediately made a list of the usual suspects, starting with a couple of days in Yosemite, because, well, it’s never bad to plan a couple of days in Yosemite.
But that got me thinking, how do I want to spend my free time? Do I want to do something different? I’ve been wanting to get down to Salton Sea to bird and shoot since 2007; I still haven’t gotten there. I’ve wanted to explore the Mendocino coast. A friend of mine has been working on a project in Vancouver, and well, dammit. Vancouver. Maybe bird up around Klamath? hey! Disneyland!
It didn’t take me long to triple-book this time off. One of the things I started to realize is that I’m just not that interested in putting lots of hours driving to a place — the Grand Canyon, for instance, might be fun, but with ten days free, do I want to invest two days on the road for two days at a place? I have things at home I want to get done, too, so a longer trip isn’t high on my priority list, especially with the Yellowstone trip looming.
So, I finally decided — four hours drive max. which given I live in Northern California, doesn’t limit my options too much. Because of this, I’ve started thinking in terms of day trips and acting more as a local tourist.
So here are some of the things I’ve decided not to do:
I could put yosemite back on the list depending on how the wildflower blooms hit, but right now, I’m deciding against it.
And on the maybe list:
The question I want to throw out is this — what haven’t I thought of here in the bay area that’s worth grabbing a half or a full day and visiting, doing, or taking pictures of? How should I spend this rare week of no meetings and freedom to wander? What are your favorite suggestions?
What I definitely don’t want to do: ten days of sitting at home doing nothing but writing. This is about getting out and seeing things I never seem to find time to get to…
One suggestion I got I really like: limit yourself to ten miles around your house, and find interesting things to shoot. (as it turns out a few shooting spots I really like are within that area. not sure if going to them would be cheating…)
Another idea that’s turned up is Calaveras Big Trees.
I also am now thinking I might day trip out to Yolo Bypass on a birding trip.