The loss of artistic possibilities

Its important for me to stay focused and in pursuit of my artistic goals and visions and one way that helps keep me on task is to listen to motivational audio books wile I am traveling. I am a big fan of Audible and have accumulated a pretty substantial library over the years. Recently I completed a book titled “Art & Fear” by Ted Orland and David Bayles, 3 hours and 8 minuets, narrated by Arthur Morey. “Art & Fear explores the way art gets made, the reasons it often doesn't get made, and the nature of the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way”. Its very well written and I highly recommend either picking up a hard copy or downloading the audio book.


While I found many useful and inspiring points in this book one statement in particular really resonated with me. In chapter 5, about 16 minuets in, the authors begin to talk about the evolution of art and how it was directly influenced by the tools and technologies that were available to the artist at a particular period in time. They begin to build the case that history has shown as technology evolves so too does the art that is produced. From Fresco’s dry-powder pigments to Tempera Painting’s, colored pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder to oils and Acrylics. “The piece you produce tomorrow will be shaped purely and simply by the tools you hold in your hand today”. Makes a lot of sense that the outcome, look, feel, and even style of the work you produce is largely influenced by the tools you employ while creating it. Certainly I felt this to be a good point but nothing profound. It wasn’t until the next statement was read that I really took notice and immediately found the connection to the work I create and more specifically to the tools I employ. “Certain tools make certain results possible. The tools do more than just influence the appearance of the resulting art, they basically set limits on what one can say with their art piece and when particular tools and materials disappear because knowledge of how to make or use them is lost artistic possibilities are lost as well”.

This really hit home for me and inspired me to write today’s journal entry. I began to reflect on what was said and how true the statement was. As you know I am a film shooter and work almost entirely with the color slide film Fujifilm Velvia 50. There was a time when Film was king and digital was the new kid on the block but in the past 10 years that has radically changed. In the heyday of film, stocks like Velvia and other slide films were the cutting edge of technology, known for vivid color, high contrast, sharpness, and fine grain. its easy to see why they became so popular among nature and landscape photographers of the time. However it is true as the statement suggests “The tools do more than just influence the appearance of the resulting art, they basically set limits on what one can say with their art piece”. Though Velvia and other slide films produce very pleasing results, they in fact place limits on the artist and set certain boundaries on the possible outcome of an art piece. For-instance slide film sets very stringent limits on exposure latitude particularly in preserving the highlights but the same can be said regarding shadow detail. In other words, slide film is really only capable of reproducing detail within a 5 stop range. Of course there are other tools that can be employed in conjunction with slide film that will help compress the exposure latitude of the light in a scene, take Grad ND filters for example. However when compared to today’s digital sensors, exposure blending and HDR technologies even with the help of ND Grads, slide film is extremely limiting. Still color slide film produces a very distinct look and feel and was really the genesis of modern digital sensors and is for me a most rewarding and extremely fulfilling tool when it comes to the creation of my art.

Another statement the authors make that I find particularly relates to me and my work is this, “Artists like everyone else have a certain conceptual inertia. A tenancy to keep to their own compass heading even as the world itself veers off in another direction”. This is particularly true in my case as I cling to an analog, “Film Only” method in imprinting the images I create. Though I do convert that analog imprint into a digital representation the final intended incarnation is once again an analog product or a final print to be displayed in the carbon based world, not the digital world of the internet.

I feel that with the passing of the age of film much of the romance in what I do will be lost. Not that one should romanticize over ones own work, rather find romance in the process of its creation. However when I think about the prospect of a completely digital process in my own work, my passion is smothered and my soul turns grey. I was born in the early stages of the digital age, the personal computer, internet, cell phone and social media have all come in my lifetime yet I do not fully embrace the digital renaissance, rather a hybrid of digital and analog. While digital methods employ extraordinary new time saving automation’s and technologies , the process and disciplines of the age of analog are for me the lost leaders of personal artistic growth. They offer evolution in years of experience over the instant gratification brought on by the digital age. Where the choice of ones film, the careful process of loading ones camera or film holders, the process of thinking through a composition and waiting for the right light, the careful metering of light in ones scene, the choice of filter, depth of field, exposure time and waiting to see the final results before heading into the darkroom and print making process have all be skipped over for the most part by the convenience and automation brought on by the digital revolution. A revolution that has brought on laxness and a fix it in post mentality, presets that produce instant treatments and effects, algorithms that stack multiple images together combining exposure and depth of field in a matter of seconds. All of witch take away from predetermination, careful craftsmanship, vision, conceptualization and the romance behind the creative process. After all isn’t that what art is all about, the romance or the love and joy you find in the creative process and with the subject of your art?

And so on to the final statement “When particular tools and materials disappear because knowledge of how to make or use them is lost artistic possibilities are lost as well”. When certain films or all film for that matter, and film camera systems are discontinued and abandoned for digital replacements, artistic possibilities are lost and that my friends will truly be a sad day. For with the advent of the type writer, the art of spoken story telling was drove to the brink of extinction. The paperback replace the story teller and while this brought the story to a larger audience, some of the romance was lost. As physical books give way to tablets, e-books and blogs so too does a little more of the romance die along with the knowledge of them and the process of how to produce them. I don’t mean to pronounce all technological advancements as evil and the enemy of art, certainly the digital revolution has brought on some amazing advancements that complement the process of creation. And certainly there are many that would state to the contrary that the digital revolution has expanded the tool set available to artists and unlocked new frontiers of possibility for creatives. And I really couldn’t argue with them. But for me like many other artists the old tools are still the best tools in our creative process and even a blend of both is welcome. But to loose these old tools completely and with them the knowledge of how to use them, is not only a loss for the creators of the art but a loss for those who are lovers of art as well. And any loss of love, romance, beauty and expression in a world that needs it more than ever is truly a sad thing indeed.

Black and White Film

“Awakening” CCD Scan from 6x6 CM Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100 - Hasselblad 501c

“Awakening” CCD Scan from 6x6 CM Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100 - Hasselblad 501c

I have recently began to experiment with black and white film again. Like most photographers over 40, I got my start shooting with B&W film in high school, digital had yet to be born , and I continued to do so for several years up until 2003 when I purchased my first digital camera, a Pentax K20D. When I began shooting film again in 2012, I moved right into Fujifilm Velvia 50 and 100 color slide film, and have not strayed much since. I did shoot a few rolls of Ilford Delta 100 through my 6x17 panoramic back for my Ebony 4x5 but have mainly stuck with Velvia. I just happen to have fallen in love with the look and feel of Velvia, but after recently purchasing a Hasselblad 501c just before my September 2018 trip to Yellowstone and not having the proper Bay60 ring for my Lee Foundation kit, was sort of stuck without a good way to use my ND Grad Filters. I need Grad NDs to control the exposure in areas of my compositions that exceed the exposure latitude Velvia is capable of and since I didn’t have what I needed to adapt the foundation kit to my Hassy, I decided to do something truly revolutionary. I picked up a roll of now discontinued Fujifilm Acros 100 and a roll of Kodak T Max 100, knowing that the exposure latitudes of these films was more forgiving and along with my newly acquired 501c, Mamiya 7II and 12 rolls of Velvia 50, boarded a plane for Yellowstone.

Hasselblad 501c.jpg

I was only going to be in Yellowstone for 4 days and I wanted to walk away from this trip with enough images to put together a decent collection. This was to be my first study of the Yellowstone Caldera after all, but I also wanted to begin to work more in the 6x6 square format I have been gravitating toward over the past year. After shooting 3 rolls of Velvia in 3 days through the Mamiya, I felt comfortable experimenting with the Hasselblad so I loaded up the A12 back with a roll of Fujifilm Acros 100. On the final morning of my trip I exposed 12 - 6x6 frames in the Midway Geyser Basin, completing the roll of Neopan and packed it in. I felt accomplished and was looking forward to getting the film processed and I was especially looking forward to seeing the results of the 12 exposures made with the 501c. I returned home, sent the film out for processing and patiently waited for its return. I am happy to report that all 4 rolls came back yielding results I am pleased with and I will be sending out several exposures to be scanned by the marvelous James Beck . Its of course easy to see the results of the color slide film at first glance on a light table however negative film is a little tougher, especially when one is used to viewing the world as it appears not inverted. The Neopan negs looked to be exposed correctly and after viewing them quickly via my iPad with colors inverted, more on this in another article, I was assured that I had some images to work with. But before sending the negs out to be professionally scanned I decided to put them on my Epson V700 and see what I could do with them as a preliminary effort. The image you see at the top of this article is the result and I am quite pleased with the outcome. There is of course a few areas I would like to improve upon such as the almost pure white, upper right hand corner of the image and a few other nuances, but all in all I am quite pleased.

Fujifilm lighttable and Velvia 50 color slide film from the Yellowstone Caldera 2018.

Fujifilm lighttable and Velvia 50 color slide film from the Yellowstone Caldera 2018.

So in conclustion what have I learned from this experience? For one I have affirmed my attraction to the 6x6 square format, its very pleasing to my eye and invokes a zen like feeling. I have also decided to continue to work with black and white film as it conveys a completely different feeling than that of color work and while I will still continue to work in color I also want to prepare myself for what some dub as the inevitable end of Fuji Velvia. I also feel that working in black and white pushes you to pay closer attention to tone and form. Its easy to loose sight of these principals and be distracted by vivid color but with the absence of color your are pushed to look much deeper and pay attention to tone and form. It will be several months before I get all the film from this trip scanned and begin work in the digital darkroom but I am looking forward to releasing my first collection of the “Yellowstone Caldera - Study 1”.

Copper Harbor & MN North Shore Trip Film Review

Here is a video review of the three rolls of 120 film I shot wile on my July 2017 trip to CopperHarbor, MI and the North Shore of Lake Superior in MN. Its a first impression account on the images I captured and my reaction to reviewing them. I hope you injoy!

Mistakes, Discovery, and Zen

When doubt sets in realize its only a feeling created by the mind and not actual truth.


"Journey" Presque Isle River, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan

"Journey" Presque Isle River, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan

September 30th 2013,  Presque Isle River, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan. Journey is born on FujiFilm Velvia 50 surrounded by doubt and frustration. There is a morel in here, one I seem to continue to relearn. Journey is the outcome of my first attempted exposure on a trip to the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Sometimes we need to just trust and have faith and not let thought and confusing take hold. I made a total of 5 exposures of this composition on this trip and the first was to end up Journey. Take a look at this video journal from October 1st 2013 and you will see what I'm talking about. Not only is Journey the story of the river, but its also the story of an image. One that ended with beauty!



Kodak to re-release EKTACHROME

I am excited to pass on this announcement from Kodak Alaris regarding the re-release of EKTACHROME, color reversal film. While there is no mention it will be made available in medium and large format cuts as of yet, it is very positive and exciting news!!! It would appear that notice has been taken, film is still very much a viable medium!

Kodak Brings Back a Classic with EKTACHROME Film

Las Vegas, NV, Thursday, January 05, 2017 --

To the delight of film enthusiasts across the globe, Eastman Kodak Company today announced plans to bring back one of its most iconic film stocks.  Over the next 12 months, Kodak will be working to reformulate and manufacture KODAK EKTACHROME Film for both motion picture and still photography applications.  Initial availability is expected in the fourth quarter of 2017.

KODAK EKTACHROME Film has a distinctive look that was the choice for generations of cinematographers before it was discontinued in 2012. The film is known for its extremely fine grain, clean colors, great tones and contrasts.

“It is such a privilege to reintroduce KODAK EKTRACHROME Film to the cinematography community,” said Steven Overman, Kodak’s chief marketing officer and president of the Consumer and Film Division. “We are seeing a broad resurgence of excitement about capturing images on film. Kodak is committed to continuing to manufacture film as an irreplaceable medium for image creators to capture their artistic vision. We are proud to help bring back this classic.”

Kodak will produce EKTACHROME at its film factory in Rochester, N.Y., and will market and distribute the Super 8 motion picture film version of EKTACHROME Film directly.

Kodak Alaris, an independent company since 2013, also plans to offer a still format KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTACHROME Film for photographers in 135-36x format.  KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTACHROME Film is a color positive film, also known as “reversal,” “slide,” or “transparency” film. Unlike all of the other KODAK PROFESSIONAL Films available today, which are color negative films, EKTACHROME generates a positive image that can be viewed or projected once it is exposed and processed. This makes it ideal for high-resolution projection or presentations. It is also well suited for scanning and printing onto a range of professional-grade photographic media.  Availability is expected in the fourth quarter of 2017.