Archive for May 2007

Here are a few photos of model Kerie Hart from Canada, who I photographed here in New York last year. She was wonderful to work with, her cheerful persona complementing her curvy figure. I’d liked to have worked with her outdoors, but I just don’t know of any good places in New York City for that and Kerie didn’t have the time to go for a long drive to some secluded place. (She wanted to have lunch with me afterwards but her schedule didn’t even permit that.)

Otherwise, it still looks like I won’t be able to develop any film for a while. This is compounded by the fact that the cold water here is too warm for any developing during the warm and hot summer months. To try to catch up, I’ve been considering sending some of my film out to a lab to be processed. I called up someone I know who works at one of the big photo labs in New York and he quoted me a price of $10 per roll for 220 B&W film. (That’s just for developing, without any contact sheets.) In comparison, I figured out that it costs me roughly $2 a roll to develop the film myself.

So, the question is: do I want to spend five times the do-it-yourself price to have someone do it for me? Obviously, doing my own developing has saved me a ton of money over the years – but how much do I want to fall behind with more figure photo sessions and hopefully a nice foreign trip coming up over the next months?

My answer for the time being is: I haven’t decided yet. Perhaps I’ll try farming out a few rolls at a time and see how long it takes me to file and annotate them. I’ve still got a few rolls of model photos that I shot in Canada and Maine last year that need to be done, so those would be the obvious candidates.

Stay tuned.

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I’ve traveled to Southeast Asia each of the past two years. (I wanted to go back this year, but the recovery from my October 2006 foot surgery prevented it.) In February 2005, I went on a general tour to Hong Kong and Thailand. In February 2006, I went on a tour, lead by a photographer, to Laos and Vietnam. Why is it that I’ve posted 45 images from Laos and Vietnam on my website (plus some here on the blog), while I have posted none from Hong Kong or Thailand?

I had to think about this one for a while, but finally I remembered why. I develop my own film. I mostly use Kodak TriX320 in the 220 size and I develop it with Ilford’s DD-X developer. Unfortunately, DD-X was unavailable here for several months following the 2005 trip. I’d go to B&H to ask for it and they’d tell me “next month” – so I’d go back the following month and was again told “next month,” etc. Eventually, “next month” did arrive, but by then it was around early summer – and I can’t develop film in the summer because the cold water here is too warm!

So, I had to wait until the autumn to develop my backlog of winter (and spring and summer) film. By the time I finished all of the 2005 film, it was just about time for me to embark on the 2006 trip. I was able to develop that film relatively quickly, but was left with two years worth of travel photos to scan and post. I guess I chose Laos and Vietnam over Hong Kong and Thailand because those places were just fresher in my mind. So, with this blog entry, I’m going to try to catch up on things by posting some Thai photos.

All of these four photos were taken in the north of Thailand, a place with lovely mountain scenery that’s home to a number of ethnic minority groups generally known as ‘hilltribes.’ The top photo shows a young woman who belongs to a “Long Neck” tribe that lives mostly across the border in Myanmar (fka Burma). Only the women wear the rings that elongate the neck, and no one seems certain of the origin of the practice.

What is certain is how we got to see these people. A woman on the tour had found out that we could visit a village of the Long Neck people for an admission fee of $15 per person. She wanted to see them, and everyone else decided to go along. I figured that it would be something different to see and photograph these people (and it would be easier than visiting Burma!). So, we walked down a steep road lined on both sides with souvenir stands, and then descended a series of steep steps to the bottom of a valley. I was expectant of the site of this village, but instead what I saw was………more souvenir stands!

I’d thought I’d be seeing a place where people lived and worked (like any village), but this was nothing like that. It was just souvenir stands. True, they were souvenir stands of Long Neck people, but I was mightily disappointed. Still, given the situation, I just tried to make the most interesting photos that I could. In the top photo, I tried to show a Long Neck woman in profile, juxtaposed with the Long Neck women in profile on the souvenirs. The next photo shows how young the girls are when the neck rings are first applied.

The third photo is of a woman from a different ethnic group. I photographed her outside of a restaurant where we had stopped for lunch. As is often the case in such places, there were local people outside trying to sell souvenirs – and when I saw this woman I just knew that I had to photograph her. I think she had one of the most wonderful faces I’d ever seen in my travels – or perhaps anywhere else. As I often do when I want to photograph a vendor (and as I’ve explained before here), I usually buy a little something and the person is normally happy to pose – and that’s what happened here.

The fourth and final photo here was made in the Chiang Mai, the principal city of Thailand’s north. I was walking around late one afternoon when I came upon this man. I’m not sure why, but he just seemed to look interesting to me. (Perhaps it was the hat?) As I do in such cases, I held up my camera and smiled. I could see that he agreed, so I I focused and pressed the shutter release a few times. As it was late afternoon and getting darker, I had no trouble using a wide aperture to blur the background. (In fact, I think I had no choice but to do so!)

As for the man in the photo, I think he became something of a star for a moment. While taking the photos, I could hear and see the people around him commenting, laughing and smiling in regard to what I was doing - and I could see that he was getting a kick out of it, too. I guess it’s not every day that you strike the interest of a foreigner with a huge camera, is it?

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I was thinking of posting some of my travel images this time but I’ve decided instead to go with a few more nudes. I really don’t have much to write in regard to nudes right now. I am trying to set up some photo sessions for the upcoming summer, but I’ve still been unable to develop any of the film that I shot in Ohio last month.

I also need to develop a few more rolls from Prince Edward Island and Maine that I shot back in August. Yeah, it has been a long time. Part of the reason why I haven’t finished it off is that my foot was hurting from my foot surgery in October, but part is also just a lack of concentration – which may be another way of saying laziness. Whatever it is, most of my PEI was film was developed up there, but I need to develop everything in order to get them organized and annotated before I can begin scanning them.

The photos I’m posting here were made at a weekend workshop at Big Sur in California in the spring of 2004. I used Kodak’s HIE 35mm infrared film for all of them. The models are Leila Swan (blonde) and Amoreena (brunette). You may think that the weather was warm, but in fact it was rather chilly. I had photographed nudes at Big Sur several times before but I haven’t been back since. Perhaps one day I will. It’s worth visiting the area if only to see the great aquarium at Monterey again.

I’ve also been looking at different alternatives for my summer travel plans. I’ve got a particular trip to Tibet in mind, but as not enough people have signed up for it as yet, I’m considering a journey to Mongolia as a possible backup. (I read recently that Genghis Khan’s real name was Temujin, something I’d wondered about for a while – Genghis Khan being a title meaning something like ‘great king.’ The Mongolians, by the way, call him ‘Chinggis Khaan.’)

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Back in March, I posted a photo here of a model from England named Alison. That image was published in the French magazine PHOTO and was made outdoors in the Scottish Highlands, where I was visiting my friend Alex Ingram.

Today, I’ll be posting some more of Alison. These photos were made the same day as the other one but were taken in the evening with strobes in Alex’s makeshift home studio. It was a simple set-up – a black backdrop and Alison plus a chair in some photos. I really don’t consider myself to be an especially good studio photographer, but Alison is such a good model that she made my photos look pretty good. Those people who know her say that her personality certainly comes across in them.

I last spoke with Alison about a year ago when I was thinking of going to Alex again to visit with him as a friend and to photograph some models. Sadly, circumstances prevented me from making that trip and I didn’t follow up with Alison about it. I hear that she’s working now as the manager of a commercial photo studio in London and doesn’t do much modeling any more, but if I make it back to Scotland (or London), I will definitely have to give her a call to see if we can work together again.

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My friend Dave Levingston recently told me of an art fair he’d visited and how he’d thought of maybe trying to sell some of his work there. One of the problems there is that images of nudes were kind of hidden away in the back, he told me – and the overwhelming body of Dave’s photo work for sale is nudes.

That’s one reason, I told him, why I like to photograph more than nudes. I’ve got a limited time in which to do my photography, so I don’t want to try doing too much, but I have decided to concentrate on two things – nudes and travel images. For one thing, it gives me work to use or display when nudes are inappropriate or just plain unwelcome. I also like some variety in my photography and wouldn’t want to be stuck with doing one thing (even if it is a subject like nudes). The other truth is that I just like to travel and enjoy photographing what I see.

I’d written earlier about how one of my photos of Japan was recently published in the annual contest issue of the Photo Review. It was the first time I submitted photos other than nudes (which never got chosen), so sending in some travel images worked. That photo was a close-up of a huge wooden statue’s foot, but I saw that most of the photos published fell into what I call the ‘social documentary’ category.

I don’t know if this is what the competition judges like these days or if it’s just the majority of what people submit. Well, it’s time now for this year’s competition, and in keeping with my success last time, I’m sending in some more travel images. Most of them I think of as portraits, but perhaps they can be seen as social documentary, as well.

Here are three of them from my trip to Laos last year. At the top is a photo of some kids belonging to the Lanten ethnic minority group. They’re all cute, but the little one with the earrings on the left is especially so. Next down is “The Little Vendor,” an adorable little girl selling some trinkets on the street in the former royal capital, Luang Prabang. I’m a sucker for cute, so I bought a bracelet from her for about a dollar to help in getting a good photo.

The third photo here is one of the best, I believe, from my trip to Laos and Vietnam last year. I’d met these two young Buddhist monks inside a temple in Muang Sing, but I asked them to come with me to this door for better light.

What’s next on tap with my travels? I’ve had my eye on two trips to Tibet this summer. At this point, one of the trips is fully booked and the other one doesn’t have enough people signed up yet. Hopefully, before too long, it will!

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I like using Kodak’s 35mm HIE infrared film, especially when I’m photographing outdoors in bright, sunny conditions. It’s pretty much the only 35mm film that I use now, everything else being in medium format.

What I like about infrared is the glow that it gives. It’s almost an otherworldly look, sensitive as it is to a different spectrum of light than what our human eyes see. It needs to be handled in complete darkness, but the one thing I most dislike about it is the way the negatives retain their curl (from having been wound in the 35mm cartridge) for such a long time. A perfectly flat 35mm HIE negative seems to be an impossibility (at least whenI develop them!).

Still, it is worth the extra effort in handling. I’ve mostly used the film while photographing in Nevada, Arizona and California, but I began using it back in 1998 in New Mexico. I was attending a weeklong workshop at the Santa Fe Workshops with an instructor, Elizabeth Opalenik, who likes to use HIE film. Therefore, she saw to it that everyone in the class got a couple of rolls of the film to play with.

Two of the photos I made with mine that week are shown here. The photo at the top is one of my favorites from the week with any film. It shows a pregnant young woman in a tub at spa near Santa Fe and displays how much water absorbs infrared light.

With the second photo, of a different model lying on her back, I was just trying to show an interesting shape. (A woman from England in the class, though, said that she thought it looked like a blancmange!)

For those interested in using HIE film, I set it at ISO 320 and use a #25 red filter. Kodak supplies no ISO rating for the film, but Elizabeth suggested 320 and, after doing a bracketing test, I would agree.

I’ve got a few more good infrared photos from ’98, I think. They’re just waiting to be scanned – and posted here.

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It was completed in the 1850s and stands 316 feet tall, next to Westminster Bridge on the north bank of the River Thames in London, England. Thousands upon thousands pass it by every day, many of them taking photographs of it. Chances are you’ve seen one of those photos - its big clock evident - in a travel magazine, tourist brochure or a friend’s travel album. It is the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster - or as the palace is better known, the Houses of Parliament. (The Tower of London, though, is something completely different.)

“But wait!” you say, “isn’t that Big Ben???” Well, yes and no. True, many people today refer to the tower as Big Ben, but few people have really actually seen Big Ben – although plenty have heard it. Big Ben, as originally named, was neither the tower nor the clock, but rather the bell inside it. (It seems to have been named after a government official who was extremely portly and had the first name Benjamin.)

Whatever it’s called, it poses a well asked question for the travel photographer: how do you photograph a well known place or monument that’s been photographed a gazillion times and still keep it interesting? With my photo of the tower above (top), I decided to frame the tower with the out-of-focus fence surrounding the Parliament complex. I think the fence adds some visual interest, helps fill the frame and gives a sense of the surroundings.

Likewise, in the second photo here, I photographed the tower from across the river, putting it out of focus and including the Westminster Bridge, whose lines lead toward it. The third photo was likewise made from across the river, this time photographed on a rainy day through a pane of wet glass on London’s huge modern ferris wheel, the London Eye, and including all of Parliament.

At the time that I was making these images, I imagine that plenty of others were photographing the Houses of Parliament, putting their cameras up to their eyes without thinking of how to make their photos better. They needed to know this: a little bit of brain, when exercised properly, can go a long way toward making a good photo.

I guess that goes for a lot of other things, too.

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As readers of my blog will know, I went to Ohio last weekend to visit my friend Dave Levingston and to work with some models there. I photographed six figure models there on a total of 28 rolls of film. I had planned to begin developing that film today, but I must report that any film developing will have to wait.

That’s because I was hit by a car crossing the street Friday morning. (Yes, I am 100% serious about this.) The collars of my shirt and jacket were soaked red with the blood coming from my head. An ambulance came, the paramedics gave me a quick once over, then they restrained me on a stretcher and lifted me up into the ambulance. The neck restraint was the worst as I felt like it was almost choking me.

The next stop was the emergency room of a local hospital, where they gave me (I suppose) the full treatment – squeezed and poked all over, needles stuck into me, EKG, x-rays, CAT scan, etc.

While I do feel very thankful indeed that I am still alive and kicking after what happened to me (I was, after all, hit by a car), the injuries that I sustained do make it impossible for me to develop film (and to do other important things) at the present time and perhaps for the near future. Sorry about this, but sometimes life just has a habit of getting in the way.

Or, as John Steinbeck famously wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.“ (Steinbeck, by the way, got the line from a poem by the Scottish poet Robbie Burns: “The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley/ An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain for promised joy.“ I certainly know the part about pain)
Oh, and by the way, if you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to be hit by a car, take it from me – you don’t want to know!

Moving on, the photos I’m posting here were made last summer at a weekend figure nude workshop at Woodstock, New York. I’ve written before that I began photographing nudes at the Woodstock workshops, and while I am well beyond the need to take workshops, I still try to go once a year to get some feedback on my work, meet other photographers and potential models, etc. Getting out of the city for a weekend is nice, too. I also hope that maybe my prints will prove to be an inspiration to those people just starting out, just as others were inspiring to me when I was starting out.

This year, if anyone is interested, nude figure workshops will be lead by George Holz, Connie Imboden and Eikoh Hosoe. More information is available at the website of the Center for Photography at Woodstock: . (And no, I do not benefit personally from anyone signing up.)

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My last blog entry was made Sunday evening from Ohio, where I’d gone to meet my friend Dave Levingston and to photograph some of the beautiful models out there. By Sunday night I’d been photographing for two days – Sarah Ellis and Model Sarah on Saturday, followed by Jackeller, Nemesis and Gaea on Sunday - but I still had a Monday morning photo session with Jacqueline Chantelle coming up.

I’d gotten the feeling from our correspondence on Model Mayhem that Jackie was a lively kind of girl, and so she was in person. The photo session went by pretty well, aided by the use of a large mirror laid down on the floor (that seemed to give Jackie a feeling of vertigo for a few seconds) and an old wolf mask that I had asked Jackie to bring along. (See the top two photos here, including yours truly with her in the second. My thanks to Dave L for the photo.)

I’m also posting here some other photos from the weekend made with my little pocket digital camera: two photos of the lovely Sarah Ellis plus one of her with Model Sarah (Saturday); and Dave L photographing Jackeller and Nemesis with a pinhole lens on World Pinhole Day (Sunday).

Overall, my long weekend in Ohio was very enjoyable and, I think, successful. One can’t ask for more than visiting a good friend (thanks again for everything, Dave) and photographing half a dozen beautiful women.

My only problem was getting there and back. This was the first time I’d flown with Jet Blue and I was disappointed, to say the least. The flights were operated by Jet Express as the regular aircraft was in for maintenance. I don’t know if this had anything to do with it, but the outgoing flight was delayed by about three hours and the return by nearly two and a half. Delays are sometimes unavoidable, but what can be avoided is the way that correct, up-to-date information was unavailable. Several hours into the Friday night delay, the Jet Blue website still listed the flight as being on time! Telephone information via the automated system was unavailable, too – and the boarding gate wasn’t listed on the board even with only 20 minutes left to the initial flight time.

On the way back, after I landed in New York, the information board didn’t list which carousel our luggage would be on. I only found it because I took a long stroll down to the other end of the baggage claim area and saw my bag on the conveyor belt. If not for that, who knows how long I’d have been waiting.

Still, I shouldn’t let such aggravating things spoil an otherwise fine weekend. I’m even thinking of going back in the summer!

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