JANUARY

Ah January. Today: cold, windy, raw, low 30s, cloudy. Inside the studio? Perfect. Got Spotify cranking out Beth Orton and Mark Kozelek. Hot coffee. Just last week printing a bunch of prints for a local gallery that looked but will not take them as it is paintings only. Free now to get back into a tabletop project using a light tent for the first time.

Longing for summer and it's only the first month of winter. (Here my daughter Maru, her daughter Skye, friends from Toronto Gail and Hall hanging out on the steps taking pictures.)

At any rate, I am here studio bound happily wiling away the hours shooting and printing, feeling blessed I don't have to be outdoors

I can only wish the same for you. Doing what you love, working on some files, a respite from chores or appointments that take forever, a deep contentment and satisfaction too. Remember the same in darkroom days, long hours making prints, no phone, no distractions, just that pervasive red light, water running, the smell of stop bath and fixer. White light turned on to look at the print, most often going  back to the enlarger to make another one, adjusting something. Requiring patience and acceptance. 

There is something to be said for the doing. Actually doing the work to make it all pull together, shooting, working the files or the negatives, making a print and maybe another and maybe even another,

I just switched Sonys from the A7R MK IV to the A7R MK V. Too soon to say anything except that it got bigger and heavier, 723 grams. No longer a lightweight. With the Sigma 24-70mm f 2.8 on it there's no way I want to walk down the street with this over my shoulder.

Update: Well it is now early February and 17 degrees F outside and going down tonight to below zero. Oh boy. 

My small show at the Acton Senior Center a success and coming down next week. I  am giving a gallery talk on Wednesday, February 8 at 2 pm if you're local.

Thoughts on the new Sony (A7R V) now that I've had some time with it. Each iteration of these cameras have been worthwhile upgrades and this is no exception. I spent some time with David at Hunt Photo going over its settings and I am very grateful for his time and expertise. I honestly don't think anyone can manage the menus on these cameras without help. Speaks to the perversity of photographing these days with present-day equipment. Yes, impressive results but what a mess setting them up.

The camera is, of course, amazing and I am getting files that are very very good. To really get its quality I fear more time will be spent with it on a tripod, claims of improved IBIS notwithstanding.

To all readers in cold climes: Spring will come. We will be outdoors. It will be good.


Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted February 3, 2023

Show Opening

My "Retirement Show" opens this coming Tuesday, January 10 from 4:30-6:30 at the Acton Senior Center. Landscape photographs from the years since I retired in 2012.

Too long since we've met face to face. I hope to see you then! 

Notice in the January "What Will You Remember": https://www.whatwillyouremember.com/best-photo-picks-january-2023-boston-and-new-england/

Topics: Shows Coming up

Permalink | Posted January 6, 2023

Tom Petit Caramels Again

I bring this back every year, but as I get ready to make them with my granddaughter again this year I can't help but think of Tom and, of course, his wonderful caramels. 

https://nealrantoul.com/posts/tom-petit-caramels

They make great gifts, btw.

Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted December 15, 2022

Does Anybody?

Does anybody print well anymore? Does anybody know the long tradition of tonal separation, effective use of contrast, burning and dodging (whether analog or digital), and control of contrast through altering exposure and developing times?

I am talking specifically about black-and-white printing but this mostly pertains to color printing as well. Throughout photography's almost 200-year history there has been a tradition of making really beautiful monochromatic prints. I know this as the years from 1969-2005 were only black-and-white years for me. I cared about my prints and slaved in the darkroom making them as best I could.

Look at Gene Smith's work, using potassium ferricyanide to bleach back specific areas of his photographs in, for instance, the Minamata work.  Or Ansel Adams, of course, making masterful orchestrations of landscape prints, miracles of craftsmanship. Or Fred Sommer, making one print a month with his live-in assistant, tailoring chemical concentrations and color dye masking his 8 x 10 negatives to balance and align his pictures to be exactly as he wanted them to be.

Now, thinking of taking your color files and outputting them into black and white? How about just throwing out the color info and going from there? Think again.

From "The Field" Medfield, MA ©2016 Neal Rantoul

Sorry to sound hard-assed but practice your craft, learn the medium's history and traditions and work on your imagery.Want to get better? Take control of all the variations possible these days. Don't let the computer make the decisions for you. Accept responsibility for all areas of your photographs, use the adjustments provided to drive them to look the way you want them. Study the precedents that came before you, that established benchmarks of quality and work towards prints of unsurpassed luminosity and presence. 

I recently looked at some black-and-white photographs that were well-seen and edited, where the photographer had made some very distinct decisions about placement, framing, and focus, and clearly had a point of view that was smart and provocative. But the printing was awful, muddy, and inconsistent, one print too contrasty, the next too flat, and so on. I cannot get past that.

In class, I often used this analogy: Take a symphony, say Beethoven's 6th, played back on CD or vinyl, on a good system. Sit still and listen carefully. If all is well you will be transported to the music itself, swept up in the movements, perhaps the individual musicians' performances, and so on. But, now do that same thing with a hairline crack in one of the woofer's paper cones.  One that makes a grating scratching noise every time the base drum hits a certain note. Now what are you listening for? That defect, that aberration. This is no longer fun and basically the experience is ruined.

Now, apply that to a body of photographs. Same thing. Good work can be ruined by one bad print, simple enough. Don't do it. Don't allow your audience to question your judgment or skill, to find fault in anything you make. 

Last, it is all too easy these days, with incredible software and controls, to make prints that are generic. Yours the same as anyone else's.To allow the various algorithms to make your prints, in effect, for you. Don't do that. Take control and make them the way you want them.


Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted December 6, 2022

The Crit House

Local photographer and (now)YouTuber Jeff Larason has been running a series of critique sessions called: The Crit House. He finds a photographer with works he/she wants critiqued and pulls together two prominent photographers to evaluate the work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSoDnjVxMko

It is still early days but Jeff is bringing us work worthy of looking at while the two reviewers give insight, add perspective, and often weigh in with a historical context.  At a time when we all could use a fresh look at each other's photographs, I find I am seeing new work and learning about it through the two reviewers' discussions.

Recommended

Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted December 3, 2022