A Little Sierra Beauty

A little high sierra beauty to brighten your mid-week.  Photographed this past July from a most amazing 50 mile solo trek through some of my favorite country.  The story behind and more images from shall be forth coming.  But for now smell the clean alpine air, hear a distant breeze build and watch the immaculate apenglow ignite the eastern sky.

(click on images to view larger)


Existentialism and a Pretty Flower

A little existentialism if you please.  Is art about execution or idea?  As a practitioner of a heavily technical medium I'm inclined towards former, but as an artist I'm inclined toward the latter.  For visual artists it's an important question to consider.  I feel non-visual mediums don't suffer as much from this, a poorly written and preformed piece of music is instantly recognizable, as is bad writing as well as poor acting.  Yet in the visual media one is almost always forced to describe in words what the point is, why this particular stroke of color or that symbolic metaphor.  The first minute of Bach's Suite for Cello leaves me breathless, and yet I've never read his personal interpretation of it.  Is it the responsibility of the artist to do so, or not.  Shouldn't the idea behind the work be clear if the execution was well executed.  Or does it help the viewer understand a deeper, more personal meaning if the artist expands on the idea verbally.  Visiting modern art shows, in all mediums, I sometimes get the feeling well crafted pieces are brushed aside as merely that.  That somehow, complete control of the tools will invariably inhibit the free expressive use of them.  This bothers me because unsubstantiated ideas are cheap and prolific.  It takes beautiful execution in your chosen medium to portray that idea with grace.  I'm a proponent of understanding every nuance of the tools you use to create your work.  Chance favoring the prepared mind.  I recently carved a didgerdoo while on vacation and when deciding on it's surface finish I came across an article talking about how the native Aboriginals of Australia have no distinction between art and craft, they are one in the same.  Perhaps only when execution and idea meld together does true art become made.  No words, no descriptions, no eloquent debates, just the inevitable magnifying glass that true art holds against the self, the species and the world.

So with that, here's a non-existential pretty flower to brighten your Sunday!
Cheers all!


Camera Project - Part 2

I've now been working on this project for two weeks, and it's really taking shape.  The camera is essentially two boxes, nested together (see previous post for fun historical info).  Both sides are complete (minus the finish coat, not sure what that's going to be).  I designed and constructed the first film holder, which holds a single negative on each side, and put together the ground glass insert which fits into the same slot the film holder goes into and which the image is focused upon.  The holders have been by far the most complex items to design and build.  Each consisting of several layers of very thin wood slowly glued together to form a rail system where film is inserted behind a removable darkslide (which stays in place until the moment of exposure).  I've also finished building the aperture system.  Because it's a single element lens the apertures have to go in front of the lens roughly 1/7 the focal length.  I designed a card system where each card has a different hole aperture drilled/cut into it.  I merely slip the aperture I want into a slot I cut into an extension tube that fits snuggly over the lens (you'll see in the pictures below).  It's been designing, constructing, designing, constructing, repeat for awhile now.  I think most of that is finished and now it's time to move into the darkroom projects (or my small bathroom which will have some unique alterations).  Since I'm doing the entire process, from camera/lens construction to film/printing paper manufacturing I had to hunt down a chemical supply house and labware supply house.

Not being a chemist it's been an interesting two days making a grocery list of chemicals I need, from silver nitrate to potassium dichromate.  There's about 15 different chemicals I need, some are benign like milk lactose, while others are a bit nasty.  Not ever having a formal chemistry class it's been more than helpful having a very smart wife who can not only tell me how many oxygen atoms happen to be in sodium sulfite but can write out the chemical structure and tell me what happens when it's mixed with anything else on my list.  She is one smart cookie!  The funny part is I have to fill out a DEA form in order to get some of these, not sure what potassium iodide is used for other than to coat photographic paper with?

Initially I wanted to do this as a fun camera project, to build something that has real historical significance to my chosen career, a reaction to the ever increasing speed of digital media. I wanted to see if I could hand produce every aspect of the photographic process, from camera and lens to the negative and final print. Totally analog. To slow down each process to it's foundation of conception. When the negs take 4 hours to produce and dry, have to be shot within a few days, and where developing alone takes 2-3 hours (it's not a printing-out process, but is developed in a solution of Gallic Acid) I thought it would force me to see photography and the way I look through the lens in a new way. It has. Photography as an artistic medium is older that modern painting, yet the technology that produces it continually evolves whereas a painter today is essentially using 500 year old techniques. I noticed something interesting the other day, something we all do now, we look at the back of the camera after every shot. We now expect instant results and I truly think this dulls the external creative eye. How many times have you really taken the time to look, to watch and absorb the scene before you.  Slow down sometimes, it opens new creative pathways.  Stay tuned, more to come...

Process picture time! 
(not in construction order, sorry)
Laying out wood and designs for the film holder
More film holder work
Attaching the lens board to the front box
Prepping the front box for black paint on the inside, the rear box is standing on end, you can see the film slot.

All the layers of the film holder

It took three days to fully complete the film holder, I hope the others don't take as long, sheesh!

The lens element fit well, but I had to fill in some light gaps on the edges.

Finished and painted film holder without the darkslide in place.

The ground glass holder, the blue piece to the left is a piece of plexiglass with it's protective layer on.

Completed ground glass with a piece of frosted acetate glued on so the image has something to focus onto,

A side view of the camera's focus locking mechanism.  I needed a way to lock both boxes after focusing was complete,

A closer look at the mechanism

The aperture tube and wood to make the aperture card slot that'll hold the aperture hole cards.

Figuring out the correct size for each aperture stop, all products of the square root of 2, kind of neat how it works out.

An aperture card with a f/64 hole cut into it.

Finished and tested in place.  I'll make about 5 aperture cards from f/16 to f/64

The installed aperture holder with aperture card.

Initial construction of the front box.

Side view of the camera before I installed the lens board and lens (bottom left)
Initial stages of the film holder

The front box painted on the inside. The black really soaks up light, no need for felt liner.

Getting ready to mount the lens element into its plumbing fixture holder

The mounted lens in place.

About halfway through film holder construction

The rear box and film slot being constructed
Test fit with everything

Both boxes in the initial stages
Laying out the lens board for marking and cutting, you can see the rear box nesting inside.
 Starting on the first film holder, laying out and cutting the wood

Now go build something, it's fun!