Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Submitting Art to Galleries

Sunrise. Photograph by Tim IrvingIt's a new dawn, it's a new day

Before you ask, I'm feeling a wee bit better, but still very weak.
I had to drag myself off the sick bed yesterday to submit 2 pieces to be judged in an open exhibition at Bury St Edmunds art gallery.

I completed and returned the application back in February together with the entrance fee. The art was taken to the framers in March and collected a few weeks ago. The submissions are accepted over three days.

I had to drive 30 odd miles in beautiful countryside on a lovely morning, so naturally, I decided to stop for refreshments on the way. The cafe was new to me, but looked promising, it's called Tubby's. The name conjured up a cheerful rosy cheeked chef preparing good food.

When I entered the cafe it was mid morning, which in the UK is break time. Truckers, sales reps and everyone on the road take a break, mid morning. Cafe's are always busy around this time, but Tubby's was empty. Still I had high hopes as I ordered from the menu of "Famous All-Day Breakfasts".

Menu board. Photograph by Tim IrvingTubby turned out to be a young couple, neither were tubby or cheerful. The first disapointment was the tea. It's very easy to make a cup of tea and the profit margin on a tea bag is huge but Tubby's tea was dreadful! Weak, tasteless and too hot. The tea was so hot and the cup so well insulated that it was still steaming dangerously after I left the cafe. It's probably still sitting there, steaming away.

Miserable breakfast. Photograph by Tim IrvingThe breakfast itself was a miserable affair, look at it. Re-heated bacon, canned tomatoes and canned mushrooms. Those mushrooms were boiled and slimy.

I won't discuss the fried (greasy) bread or the suspiciously pale sausage, you've heard enough of this sorry story, but I would just like to say that if you can't make a cup of tea, and you have trouble cooking a breakfast for one paying customer, why would you open a cafe with a "Famous All Day Breakfast" menu?

Half an hour later I arrived in Bury St Edmunds, hungry and thirsty. First I went to the gallery to submit the work which was quick and painless. I noticed that there were hundreds of pieces of art (a lot of it looks impressive to me), already stacked against the walls and it was only 11.30am, and there are two more days to submit. On the way out of the gallery more entrants were arriving, and walking through the town I saw several hopefulls with large bundles of frames under their arms heading to the gallery. The competition is very stiff, I estimate over 1000 entries so I'll be extremely lucky to have one of my works selected.

Next year I'm entering a couple of pieces in the Royal Academy of Arts summer exhibition which receives over 11,000 entrants. Exhibitions are hard on artists, emotionally and financially.

Bury St Edmunds. Photograph by Tim IrvingBury St Edmunds

I finally crawled into a small cafe in Bury St Edmunds that wasn't pretentious. A nice little cafe in a street with interesting shops. I ordered a pot of tea and a caramel bun which lifted my spirits no end.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Brought to my knees by a damn cold

Actually, I was fluffy till I went flat, yesterday! I've been knocked out by the common cold. To be more precise I've been infected during the latest mandemic.

I'm aware that this particular strain of of the cold is extremely dangerous, and I'd like to take things easy today, but I can't. I have to go out, which is stupid and puts me and other men at risk, but I have to do it.

I'm feeling very weak at the moment, but I'll try and keep you up-dated on the situation. Thanks for all your emails of support.

Monday, June 28, 2010

English Embarrassment

Cortijo. Photograph by Tim IrvingCortijo

Commenting about my post the other day "Photographing Cliches" Viktor said... "Silent couple you say... you are not in Spain anymore ;)"

How very true Viktor! While the British are terrified of meeting or (heaven forbid), making eye contact with a stranger, the Spanish love to meet and greet. I remember once trying to find my way to the top of a moorish watchtower. The path was non existent and the whole hillside was covered in thick bamboo. I'd been climbing for a few hours and thought I was probably the first person to visit the watchtower in ages. When I finally reached the top, there was a wall to climb over, and on the other side of the wall was an old woman with 5 goats. (That's her cortijo above, leaning at a beautiful angle).

There was no messing with formalities. We had a nice chat, I was offered an orange to eat and given directions on getting down safely. I considered the event to be surreal but my new friend never missed a beat, as if it was an everyday occurence.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Arsen Savadov

Savadov - From Deepinsider project

I'm excited by the work of Savadov. He's a unique artist, larger than life with great talent. He also loves to shock the viewer, be warned!

Photographing Cliches

Because of my rant yesterday, I forgot to mention the strange encounter I had in the poppy field. But first I must tell you that poppy fields, together with homeless people, do not need to be photographed. Those two subjects have been flogged to death by every photographer that ever walked the earth. I should have driven past the red field, but I didn't.

As I climbed over the gate of the poppy field, I found two other photographers, a man and woman. They had tripods erected and were about 10 feet from each other with the gate between them. I greeted both of them "Good evening - lovely view!". Neither looked at me or replied.

I spent about half an hour walking around the edge of the field, photographing cliches, when I returned to the gate the pair were in the same spot. As I climbed over the gate to leave I said "Lovely view, it was nice to meet you!", again there was silence, neither looked at me.

So, dear silent couple, if you're reading this (he he), I apologise for stealing your view and creating a terrible atmosphere in the poppy field.

To everyone else, have a lovely weekend. See you on Monday.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Understanding Contrast in Photography

Poppies by Tim IrvingWalking in poppies last weekend

The envelope containing my negatives and CD of images dropped on the mat this morning, as always I was excited to see what I'd produced but my excitement was short lived. I have to admit I took some rubbish photographs at the weekend. There are a couple of interesting shots, but nothing to move the world, this week (I'll have to move it next week).

Several of the photographs are out of focus, which is a combination of using a wide aperture for shallow depth of field and my poor eyesight, but most of them lack contrast in one form or another.

Pass me that soapbox mother, it's time for a rant!

Contrast is one of the least understood principles of photography, I suppose it has to be mis-understood because everyone thinks they know what contrast means. Artists and designers are taught (or should be), about contrast in college. But a lot of photographers assume contrast is a property of the lens or the printing paper.

Understanding contrast is knowing what to look for and how to make adjustments to your image to improve the composition. It's putting your finger on what works and it allows you to repeat your success and avoid failure.

Contrast is one of the five pillars of design (The others are repetition, alignment, tension and proximity, maybe I'll explain the other principles in the future), unless you understand the principles your photographs are little accidents and the result of chance. You can take stunning photographs by following the rules and you can take equally stunning photographs by breaking the rules, but before you can do either, you must know the rules.

So what is contrast?
Contrast is a simple way to add interest and make objects in the composition stand out! You create contrast when two elelments are different. But here's the catch, the difference must be big! Don't mince around, be bold.

Examples of contrast

Counterchange is very easy, it is placing dark against light and light against dark. There's nothing new about the technique, it's been used by artists for centuries, and all great photographers since Julia Margaret Cameron have used counterchange.

Eujenio by Tim IrvingEugenio: counterchange

You can add contrast with colours, but a little goes a long way. I tend to look for contrasting temperatures, (think cool and hot) rather than colours on the oppostite side of the colour wheel.

Happy holidays by Tim Irving

Touches of hot and cold color

The contrast between empty and full. If theres a lot going on in the picture, adding space will create a resting place for the eye and introduce contrast to a busy scene.

Eddie waiting to be fed by Tim IrvingGiving the little dog a little space.

The opposite of contrast is "similar" or "same". If two objects are similar make one different.

Provence by Tim IrvingSimilar objects - made to be different

Blur contrast against sharp, it's a powerful visual tool for the photographer. It's one of the unique elements of photography unavailable to other arts, think about it, you'll rarely see a blurred painting or sculpture.

Clothes pegs. Photograph by Tim Irving

Sharpness and blur (bokeh in the background)

There is good blur and there is bad blur! The quality of blur is decribed as "Bokeh". To exploit bokeh and use it to create contrast you need to have a camera that lets you look through the lens (a single lens reflex or view camera). Small digital cameras are a waste of time when it comes to blur because they render almost everything sharp.

Here endeth my rant on contrast. Amen.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Creatives are Hoarders

Pencil box. Photograph by Tim IrvingPencil Box

The idea that all you need to draw is a sheet of paper and a pencil is rubbish. I've been in the loft this morning sorting through boxes of art supplies, I could open a shop with the stock I've collected.

I remember an art teacher saying "to be a proficient watercolor painter, be prepared to waste a lot of paper". That statement must have hit a nerve with me because not only have I wasted reams of perfectly good paper in the past but I've also hoaded a vast amount to be wasted in the future.

There are boxes of paint up there to keep the paper company. Dozens of tubes, oil, acrylic and watercolor, some old and going hard, others new, un-used and also going hard.
There are four pencil boxes (why?), in each pencil box there are pencil holders. A pencil holder is a nice object to have and one pencil holder could last a lifetime, but I have four. I remember shopping in an art supplies store after a life drawing session when I bought a pencil holder together with a supply of paper and a few brushes. A fellow scribbler who attended the same session bought a dozen, telling me "they're difficult to get in Brighton".

Pencil holder. Photograph by Tim IrvingPencil Holder

I won't bore you with the rest of the paraphernalia, rolls of canvas, forests of brushes and hundreds of odd things like Ox Gall. Disposing of the stuff is un-thinkable. I suppose I could leave a request that when I die my friends and relatives should smear my un-used paint over my corpse and roll me over a large canvas, nice idea!

Of course it's the same with photography. I have loads of cameras, a freezer full of film and boxes and bottles of chemicals all over the house.

I'm comforted in the knowledge that I'm not alone in hoarding stuff. Every creative person I know suffers to a greater or lesser degree from the same affliction. Is it paranoia that supplies will dry up? Possibly, but in my case I like to have materials/cameras at hand for future projects. The notion that I couldn't ceate something because I lacked the tools or materials would keep me awake at night.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bencini - The Italian Job

Bencini Koroll II. Photograph by Tim IrvingThe Italians are a little bit different!

For my last year of junior school, which I attended from the age of 4 until 11, I sat next to an Italian boy called Mario. Mario stood out from the rest of the class, not for anything academic, but for his dress sense, or to be more exact, how he was dressed by his mother.

Not only was Mario turned out impeccably, but even at the age of 11, I knew he had a little more style than me. Our uniform was a blue blazer, grey short trousers, grey shirt with a blue and white striped tie (even at the age of 4), grey socks and black shoes. There wasn't a lot of room for rebellion in the uniform department, but Mario's mother managed to make him stand out.

From Mario, I learned that the Italians are a little bit different! Clothes, cars, music, it all has a certain style, as do the cameras.

Bencini cameras. Photograph by Tim IrvingMy current obsessions are the Bencini cameras of Milan, and I would ask you, is there anything more Italian in style? Bencini made delightful moderately priced cameras from the 1930's to the 1960's. As you can see by the photo, Bencini's look a little odd. I imagine Pee-Wee Herman uses a Bencini camera and Jacques Tati would have carried a Koroll II. All that polished aluminium gave the impression that the Bencini was an expensive photographic tool, but in truth the Bencini was a humble snapshot camera dressed with Italian style. That style was never cool, until now.

During the 1950's and 60's Bencini made cameras in 3 formats, 35mm, 127 and 120. It's the 120 cameras we're interested in here. The Bencini's have a single shutter speed, slow lenses with lots of chromatic aberration and vignetting, a choice of apertures using the bright and cloudy symbols and focusing by guesstimate. The lens is real glass and sharper than plastic, but not by much.

Besides the styling, what makes the Bencicni's stand out is that a few of them (Koroll, Koroll II, 24 and 24s), can be used as 120 half frame cameras. That's 24 exposures on 120 film, each one 3x4.5cm. There's no double exposure prevention which makes the Bencini perfect for overlapping the images.

Bunting. Photograph by Tim Irving

I've been using several Bencini cameras for the past year and I'm in love with them. Each one produces slightly unique images but all have the Bencini DNA. My film of choice at the moment is Kodak Ektar 100 film, the latitude of the film produces excellent results in all but the darkest lighting.

The Bencini's are very well built, over engineered if anything. They're compact for a medium format camera and all models have excellent viewfinders.

So, if you like the look of photographs from plastic cameras, and if you like the look of yourself with a Diana (camera), around your neck, the Bencini's are for you. They are the antidote for digital blandness.

Mario! che camera ti piace?

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Cat Next Door

Poppy the cat. Photograph by Tim IrvingThis is Poppy, my neighbours cat and my current muse. Always a willing model, she'll pose for hours. She also tries to talk to me in a high pitched squeak. The lens I used for this photograph is rather good, I'll be talking about it next week.

I'm driving to Wales tomorrow with an old camera and a pocketful of film. I hope you have a lovely weekend and I'll see you on Monday.



Hotel. Photograph by Tim IrvingProvincial Hotel - Photograph by me!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Doors of Perception

What is your perception?

The postman just delivered a fat envelope (one of my favourite things), of negatives and CD's that I had processed.

I'll show off a few more images later, but for now I'm interested in the door photographs below, which I'd completely forgotten I'd taken. I admit I have a vague interest in doors because I'm renovating a house and doors, and door furniture are likely to crop up in the near future.

The title of this blog "Doors of Perception" is a pun and refers to the 1954 book by Aldous Huxley about his experiments with drugs to "open the mind". "Perception" is a term used in psychology to describe a process of awareness that is triggered by outside stimulus. In the case of art and photography, part of the brain is triggered into action by visual perception. What you perceive is a result of your experiences and your culture.

In simple terms, perception can help you find beauty in the mundane and ordinary, which is what, as artists, we are striving for. And perception can be easily developed, simply by looking carefully (awareness) at the world around, and practising your art on a regular basis.

Of course there's no guarantee that the art triggered by perception will be any better than art created by the conscious mind, it's just another way of working.

So it seems that the doors are my proof that perception was at work and can be a driving force for creativity.

Door. Photograph by Tim IrvingDoor No.7

Door. Photograph by Tim IrvingDoor No.20

Door. Photograph by Tim IrvingDoor No.5

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My first digital camera

Apple Quicktake 200. Photograph by Tim IrvingApple Quicktake 200

The camera above is my first digital camera, an Apple Quicktake 200 that I bought in the spring of 1996. My reasons for wanting a digital camera in 1996 were only obvious to me. I worked as a designer and illustrator for a company that published small runs of technical manuals. All my work was done on a Macintosh computer that had 4 programs loaded, QuarkXpress, Microsoft Word, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

Photoshop was launched in 1990 and it must have been a great leap of faith by Adobe because at the time there were no useable, color, digital cameras available. The program was used solely to drive and capture images from a scanner. Photoshop had fewer features than it does now but it was, even then, a complete digital darkroom. When Apple launched the Quicktake 100 in 1994 Photoshop at last had a reason to exist.

Review of the QuickTake 100

Between 1990 and 2002 and except for buying a house and a car, products made by Apple were my biggest expense in life and the cameras were no exception. I don't remember what that first digital camera cost, proabably £400-500, but I do remember applying for a bank loan, and waiting for the letter that said I'd been approved.

You can see from the review above that the first Apple camera (QuickTake 100) got some glowing reviews in the press ("Forget Film"), at the time and that got me lusting badly. The QuickTake 200 received even more praise to the extent it became a "Must Have" item. And so, as is my way, I had it.

I used the camera professionally within a day of buying it. I had a freelance job designing a brochure and web site for a car hire company. I believed the time and work saved by using the camera would allow me to complete the job quickly and increase my profit. Oh what a naive young fool I was.

You should never believe the hype, but I'm a sucker for it. Looking back I can see now that the reviewers didn't know anything about photography, they were writing nonsense that I believed. I mean how could they compare early digital cameras with film, you couldn't make prints from digital cameras, photo printers hadn't been invented! The only indication of quality was a small computer screen or the very small viewing screen on the back of the camera.

The camera I went into debt for was a bad joke but nobody ever said so. It was almost un-useable. Looking at the camera now - it takes 4 AA batteries and if you buy the best, most expensive ones you'll have enough power to make 8 exposures, but not enough power to review them all. Anything other than the the most expensive batteries and you'll be lucky to get 5 exposures.

You compose your photograph by holding the camera at arms length and peering into the 1" x1.5" high screen. You press the shutter then wait for an eternity while the screen goes blank.

The resolution is 640 x 480 pixels which makes a reasonable print, the size of my index finger nail. The image can be viewed on a small computer screen, say 10 inch but no bigger. Then there is the quality. At anything other than bright sunlight the images look like mud, but very colorful mud. My portraits of the staff at the car rental company were grotesque.

After one professional engagement the QuickTake made me eat humble pie. I made excuses for everything I used it for, then I re-photographed the whole job. What was worse was that I couldn't get rid of the thing, I didn't join Ebay until 2000.
Apple Quicktake viewing screen. Photograph by Tim IrvingOther than the above, there's not a lot else to say about the Apple QuickTake 200 other than the fact that it is definately a modern camera, its genes have found their way into the latest digital cameras. What I find amazing is that 14 years after the Apple Quicktake, camera manufacturers are still striving to get it right.

My first digital camera didn't put me off the type, far from it, I'm still the first in line when a new, "groundbreaking" product hits the streets but I'm still devoted to film.

My Apple Quicktake remains the least used one of the most expensive cameras I've owned. It sits, in mint condition, at the back of my sock draw as a reminder not to take out loans for the sake of your art.

Sometimes, when I'm lying in bed, just before falling asleep, I can hear a noise from the sock draw. It's the camera laughing at me.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford - Grand Hotel 1932

Is this the finest portrait of Joan Crawford? I think so, especially as I associate Joan with "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane".

The Zoo

Birds eye. Photograph by Tim IrvingEye contact

What a wild weekend I've had. Yesterday I wore a beige safari suit and went to the zoo! The last time I went to a zoo I was 9 years old, I found it miserable then and it's still miserable.

However, you're here to be entertained so I've put up a few photos to convey the blandness of it all. I did seem to be in the minority at the zoo, there were plenty of visitors who found the sleeping animals exciting. I saw some serious photographers too. One couple wearing vests with lots of pockets and logos, carried 2 cameras each, all 4 cameras fitted with enormous white zoom lenses, wow.

As we all shuffled past the last cage I made eye contact with a very handsome bird, that's him above. We studied each other for a few minutes and I left the zoo feeling that the bird was more stimulated than I was.

Zebra. Photograph by Tim IrvingZebra

Tiger. Photograph by Tim IrvingTiger

Lions. Photograph by Tim IrvingLions

Sleeping lemurs. Photograph by Tim IrvingSmall sleeping animals

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Incredible Landscape

Rare rock in mist, taken at Heavenly Sea New Path, June 2004, 1 PM - Wang Wusheng

The landscape photographs of Ansel Adams were probably the first photographs I really studied, they got me interested in photography. I obviously looked too deeply because now I find most landscape photography very dull.

But occasionally I see something that wakes me up. The photograph above is by Wang Wusheng one of several young talents from China whose work I'm enjoying.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Found Film

Verichrome Safety Film. Photograph by Tim Irving80 year old mystery film

I once had a friend who bought a very old, small (3ft high), strongbox/safe with a combination lock. The safe had been sitting in the corner of an office for over 50 years. Rumour had it that the previous tenant of the office had died taking the combination with him to the grave.

The office that housed the safe was to be converted to trendy inner city apartments and when the safe was being manhandled from the building, the workmen noticed that something heavy was rattling around inside. The developer, sensing a quick profit and free advertising called in the local newspaper telling them the story of the previous tenant and offering to auction the safe to the highest bidder with 50% of the proceeds going to his favourite charity.

My friend, who was very conservative and would never normally risk wasting money, paid £1000 for the safe at a charity dinner where the food was indifferent but the wine flowed like water.

The safe was delivered to my friend's garage and a few days later he paid for the services of a locksmith to open the door. It was a big occasion, lots of reporters, photographers and interested parties. The locksmith (probably thinking he'd get his own chat show out of it), performed his trick while talking everyone through the procedure. After 15 minutes my friend was solemnly asked to turn the handle and open the door. The safe contained one brick and one steel bolt!

I tell you this story because of something that happened to me this week.

We have several local auction houses within a short drive from me. On Tuesday I paid a visit, bid and won a Kodak Portrait Brownie camera (it needed a home). It was in the trunk of my car since I bought it, so today I brought it in for an inspection, and guess what was inside? Yes, a very old exposed film.

The spool of the film has a wooden spindle and is stamped "Kodak Brownie" which suggests that the spool came new with the camera. The film could be the first and only roll taken by the camera.

The camera was made between 1929 and 1933, the film looks to be around the same period.
It's Kodak Verichrome Safety Film, made between 1931 and 1956. I've seen lots of Kodak Verichrome but never with printing this old.

So shall I develop it, or should I let it keep any secrets it may hold? Not developing is more romantic, I mean it could have a stunning image that's been lost for 80 odd years, which I like to think is possible, but it could also be the proverbial brick.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Scientology and the art of Photography

L.Ron HubbardWhen Dennis Hopper died I was surprised by the number of commentators who didn't know he was a talented photographer. So before they die, here's a list, quickly assembled, of celebrity photographers, as opposed to photographers who photograph celebrities.

Jeff Bridges
Helen Mirren
Brian Adams
Lou Reed
Woody Allen
The Queen
Graham Nash

A short list off the top of my head, there must be many more, if you can think of any more let me know because I like knowing these things.

I've seen examples from the celebrities listed above, they're all very capable. I was most impressed by Helen Mirren's early work. Lou Reed, not so good. Graham Nash shows art school training, Woody Allen is OK. Bryan Adams isn't up my street. The Queen can do no wrong, I can't comment.

But of all the people who juggle two or more careers none are more interesting than L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology. I have a copy of a book called "Ron - The Photographer - Writing with Light". I bought my copy several years ago from a camera dealer in London, I've never seen it since, not even on Amazon, perhaps you can buy a copy from the church, it's definately worth getting hold of.

There's no doubting that Ron was highly gifted. A prodigious writer of fiction and non fiction he once wrote 138 published books in a 5 year period. As a photographer he was no less dynamic or should I say dianetic! Ron started taking photos aged 7 and became serious about photography as a boy scout a few years later. By the time he was 13 he had sold 6 photos to National Geographic Magazine, it was the start of a career that continued until he died.

Ron's camera collection is the jewell in this book. I don't know how many cameras are in the collection, but there must be close to a thousand important cameras, all beautifully displayed at his house in Sussex, England. It's certainly the biggest and most impressive collection I've seen.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Dream Rangefinder Camera

Contax G2. Photograph by Tim IrvingI have a weakness for rangefinder cameras that's akin to Imelda Marcos's weakness for shoes. Of the Leica range, I've used everything from the 3F to the M6, only missing out on the M5, which for many years I thought was too large - but now it's grown on me to the point where I need to own one real bad.

I've also gone through a few Linhof's, both the medium and the large format rangefinders, and as you know I'm very fond of my Canon 110ED 20 camera. I had a brief fling with a couple of Super Ikontas and an inappropriate relationship with a Voigtlander Bessa 2, what a mess that turned out to be!

Now I have an hour to kill before I go out to work, and instead of doing something useful I'm mulling over which rangefinder is the most satisfying to use. The only guide I can use is which camera I would grab at this moment if I were going for a walk. And today I would, and probably will, take a black Contax G2.

This isn't a comparison piece, just my thoughts about a particular model. I've owned my G2 for about 7 years, I wanted one when they were launched in 1996 but couldn't afford it until the price dropped due to the digital revolution. The person from whom I bought mine, needed the cash to upgrade to a silver, plastic, Canon digital Rebel, I still wonder how he's getting along with that one.

So the camera was originally very, very, expensive. I think the cost of this camera must have reflected the R and D that went into it because it was years ahead of its time. The design of the camera is spot on, all the controls are in the correct place - there's not a lot to think about, just concentrate on the composition.

Obviously, for a multi thousand dollar camera it's beautifully made, it oozes quality. It's heavy and I suppose that's why they opted for a magnesium alloy body as a means of keeping the weight down, but I have no problems with heavy cameras, I find the weight reasurring.

The metering is as accurate as anything I've ever used. In the days when I used slide film I would set the Contax on auto and be 95% confident it would get the exposure correct. Of the 5% of times I wasn't confident I'd dial in the compensation to make sure. Now I use print film which has huge lattitude, I don't give exposure a thought, it's always correct.

I have 2 lenses for the Contax, a 45mm Planar and a 35mm Planar. The 35mm I keep on a Contax G1 but I occasionally swap them over. There isn't a lot to say about the Carl Zeiss lenses, they are just about perfect, and like the later Leica 50mm Summicron they are the benchmark for optical quality. The 45mm Sonar is my favourite focal length, it feels normal. An amazing lens and I feel very fortunate to own it.

The Contax G2 viewfinder is great but different! It's different to other rangefinders and you might prefer one over the other. I don't really have a preference, I find the Contax viewfinder perfect.

I have a few minutes left and I can't leave this without talking about the famous autofocus. There's a lot of nonsense written about focusing the Contax, usually by dunces who have never owned the camera or if they have, never taken the trouble to read the manual (which isn't the greatest manual ever written).
Contax G2 focusing button. Photograph by Tim IrvingJust like any other autofocus camera, you can focus the G2 by half pressing the shutter button. However, the G2 also has an ingenious focus button which sits right under your thumb. Using the focus button on the back feels a lot more natural and is more accurate and faster than focusing using the shutter button.

The focusing (if you know what you're doing), is incredibly fast and (a blessing for me because my eyesight isn't perfect), extremely accurate.

So there you have my quick appraisal of the Contax G2. It's silky smooth, fast, accurate and stylish, with the finest lens Carl Zeiss ever produced for a 35mm camera.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Overlaps - my big adventure

Green bicycles. Photograph by Tim IrvingI had this idea a few weeks ago when I was looking at a viewmaster reel. I thought it would be interesting to create 2 images, similar to stereo (here's the clever part), but not stereo. I worked on this for a while, making sketches until I came up with a sequence similar to a strip cartoon, one image containing several frames of information.

I've been busy, experimenting with overlapping frames to produce a sequence of images and I'm excited about the results. I haven't got everything right yet, but it's progressing nicely.

I'm using an old camera with a red window in the back to count the exposures. Knowing how much to roll on is tricky but I'm getting a feel for it. The difficult part is estimating the spaces between the frames.

The big problem for me is that I use a company to process and scan the negatives. With each film I send, I enclose a note asking them to scan the overlapping frames as one image. It's a lot to ask a busy lab (I wouldn't do it!), and I appreciate that they try and follow my instructions, but so far they've missed a few images from each roll and the ones they miss always seem to be the most promising.

I'll work on my frame spacing and stick with the lab doing the scanning for the time being, maybe write more detailed notes to them, but I can see I might end up forking out for a big scanner to do the job myself.

The images here are my first attempts. I'll keep you informed on my progress.

Green bicycles. Photograph by Tim IrvingOverlapped Cambridge

Green bicycles. Photograph by Tim IrvingOverlapped Bicycles

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Brian Duffy dies aged 76

Photograph by DuffyReggie Kray and grandfather (1964) - Duffy

I'm sad to say that Brian Duffy has died.
Known simply as Duffy, he was one of three working class photographers who changed photography and art in the 1960's.

Duffy had a notoriously difficult personality and will be remembered for burning his negatives. Like Dennis Hopper who also died this week, I think this aspect of Duffy overshadowed his work which was a pity because he was a class act. Duffy had a beautiful mind, creative and erudite, we owe him a round of applause.

Photograph by DuffyDavid Bowie as Aladdin Sane (1973) - Duffy

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Abdullah Brothers

As an antidote to the bizarre prices expected at the Sotherby's Polaroid sale later this month, there is a series of school and college photographs taken between 1890 and 1893 in Istanbul, Turkey. The photographs were taken by the Abdullah Brothers.

Reminiscent, but pre-dating August Sanders by 20 odd years, these are beautiful and highly desirable images.

Available for FREE download from the Library of Congress.

Photograph by Abdulah BrothersStudents, Imperial Polytechnica - Abdullah Frères

Photograph by Abdulah BrothersStudents of Mekteb-i Sultani - Abdullah Frères

Photograph by Abdulah BrothersStudents, art school for girls - Abdullah Frères

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Polaroid Photographs go to Auction

9 Part Self Portrait, Chuck Close9 Part Self Portrait - Chuck Close, 1987

When Polaroid collapsed in 2008, it wasn't entirely digital photography that killed it off. Polaroid was the victim of a Ponzi scheme similar to the one operated by Bernard Madoff. One tragic side effect of Polaroid going into administration was their famous collection of prints being sold off. Now the collection is being broken up and will be sold off later this month by Sotherby's, New York.

The collection of more than 1200 prints was put together by Edwin Land over his lifetime. It would have been a fitting tribute to Polaroid and the genius of Land if the collection could have remained together and gone on permanent display but that's not possible.

I'll be interested (and sad), to see the inflated prices the photographs reach. One lot by Ansel Adams, a large print of the Sierra Nevada is expected to fetch $500.000. I you miss it don't worry, there are five others exactly the same but in different sizes. There's a very nice joiner by David Hockney that should fetch a reasonable $50.000, in fact there's something for everyone ha ha.

David Levinthal - UntitledDavid Levinthal - Untitled (Wild West series)

 Avalanche,  William WegmanAvalanche - William Wegman, 1982

All photographs courtesy of Sotherby's.


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