Sunday, December 21, 2008

Night Light

Mars & Evening Stars, © 2001 Jeane Vogel Photography, 
Cibachrome print

There is something special about night light. It changes with the seasons. Cloud cover, moon phase, even air temperature can change the quality of the light after sunset.

Shooting at night means long exposures. I hate setting up the tripod, calculating the exposure, adjusting the tripod and camera to get the right composition, re-calculating the exposure because this process has taken so long that the light has changed and I have to start over. Ugh. It's not very magical.

I love the results, though. Anything that is moving during a long exposure takes on quality that the eye cannot see. Water become silky. People or leaves or animals moving look ghostly and other-worldly. Light sneaks in from places you didn't think was possible.

I cringe when I hear people say that photography captures of moment in time. It doesn't. And long-exposures prove it. Photography captures an essence of the moment. A feeling. Often, it captures life that simply cannot be seen.

Today is the Winter Solstice and tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. Both events are about the value and wonder of night light. It's interesting that they coincide this year. I don't remember that happening before, though I'm sure it has -- sometime.

The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of daylight -- and the longest of night light. 

Hanukkah comes every year when the sky is darkest. Our candles burst through the night light and beckon back the day light.

It's a time of wondrous light.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Film vs. Digital

Summer Storm on the Current River, 
©1980, 2008 Jeane Vogel Photography, Cibachrome print

I got a shipment of Polaroid sepia film yesterday. It's rare and when I found it, I jumped at the chance to use it again. I have no idea what I will do with it or where it will take me. It will wait until it knows what it wants to be.

I also found some 120 medium format Infrared film. That's even rarer. Grabbed that too. I absolutely know what I'm going to do with that. 

I'm a little sick of the arguing, but is there really a difference between film and digital? Most people can't tell the difference in the final product unless the photographer over-saturates the colors or over-sharpens the image. Why do they do that? It's awful!

But a talented photographer, one who has mastered both film and digital, and works everyday to master it just a little more -- the images from that artist don't show the materials or the equipment. You just see the art.

"Purists" claim they can see the difference. Sometimes, just for fun, I challenge them. They can't tell the difference, not if the image is processed properly. It's arrogance and a sense of nostalgia that drives their purism,  I think. These are the "my camera can beat up your camera" folks who think that best camera and the best lens and the best technique and the best Photoshop plug-in will create their perfect image. Or they tell me that film is just superior and nothing will replace it. Are they trying to hang on to the "good old days?" Do they think that their brand of photography is best? Don't they realize that film was dismissed as "not pure photography" when it replaced coated glass plates?

We say it all the time. It's not the equipment. It's the vision. I'll say this out loud too: I am very tired of self-proclaimed purists' superior attitude about film. You can drag around a 100-pound view camera and process your own film, but you can still take bad pictures. 

So if film and digital are the same, why not just dump film? It's expensive. It's time consuming. It's not very "green."

Ah, but it's not the same. The results might look the same under a practiced hand, but part of the creation is the creating.

I want to use everything. Sometimes I use film. Sometimes I use digital. Sometimes I use Polaroid. Sometimes I shoot in black & white and hand-color it. Sometimes I shoot in color and convert to BW. 

The point is, it's all good. Can we stop arguing about it now?

Monday, December 08, 2008

It's Baaaaaaack!

Let's Fly Away, © 2008 Jeane Vogel Photography, Hand-altered Polaroid Photograph

Polaroid Film. It's back! 

I don't know for how long and I don't know how good it is, but a company in Austria is making it again for artists. Small batches. Hand crafted. 

Oh, yippee!!!!!

For those who don't know, here's the backstory:

In the late '60s and early '70s, Polaroid made this terrific film, SX-70, for instant cameras. You took a picture and watched it develop. It was all the rage at my boy-girl parties in high school. I understand adults at the time liked it too!

It had a flaw, though. Touch the film too harshly before it hardened -- about two hours -- and you got nasty black marks. It didn't take artists long to figure out that the soft emulsion could create some wonderfully impressionist results.

Polaroid changed the film and got rid of the flaw. We artists begged them to bring back the old version. They did. They they went belly up. Twice.

In December 2005 they stopped production forever, four full months BEFORE they said they would. Last June, all Polaroid film went away.

As my stash of film dwindled, my collectors bemoaned the loss. Surely someone will start making it again, they said. We hoped.

If not, I guess this work will go up in value! We hoped again.

Truly, I wanted the film back. Some artists have tried to reproduce the results in Photoshop, but it's not the same organic, fluid results you get from this film. 

So when the film's return was announced, I ordered some. Got some sepia film in another Polaroid format too. If the film has good qualities, I will produce new work. And start teaching it again. 

Oh, oh, oh -- the possibilities!

Monday, December 01, 2008

We Have to Fix This

I know I'm not the only one who was sick to learn of the death at Walmart on Long Island when the doors opened at 5 a.m. and frenzied shoppers trampled a man to death so they could get $9 CDs and $700 plasma TVs. 

I know I'm not the only one who was disgusted to hear that some of the shoppers groused about the store closing because of the death and kept shopping anyway.

I know I'm not the only one who tired of being told that I'm a Scrooge if I don't buy the best and newest for everyone I know.

Who sucked the joy out of giving?

I'm not "silver lining in every cloud" kind of person, but I do see an opportunity when it hits me upside the head with a two-by-four. This economic downturn is trying to tell us something: stop buying crap you don't need for people you don't like! Stop doing it, whether or not you have money in your pocket.

I don't mean that I think it's a good idea that people are losing jobs and homes. That we have to stop. Today. But I do mean that sometimes we need a reminder that shopping frenzies are not worth dying for. Or killing for. And we don't have to listen to the marketers every minute.

The typical response to this buying free-for-all is "make your own gifts!"

That's great advice for those of us who can. Not everyone wants to. Or is good at it. Oh sure, everyone can bake a plate of cookies, but that gets old too. 

There is another answer. Buy local. Buy free trade. Buy from independent artists and crafters. Whether on-line halfway around the world or in your neighborhood, there are artists who have the perfect gift for someone special. Please support them. 

Let's put the joy back in giving. Give something unique. Give something special. Give something made with a human touch.

We can fix this.