I am a member of Kelso Camera Club, which is, like most other camera clubs, almost exlusively digital photography focussed. I enjoy it from a social and inspiration point of view and it gives me some regular goals to aim for, which helps motivate me to make new work. Being interested in historical photography processes does go against the grain a little (or should that be against the pixel?) and a lot of the emphasis on fixing things in photoshop is a different direction from where my interests lie. But we all have photography in common and how you get to the end result doesn’t usually matter to the viewer.
Aside from the very different set of skills and hugely different workflow when you compare historical processes to digital photography, one thing for sure; the end results are really quite different too. It’s both the workflow and the end result that keeps me in love with anything and everything prior to digital photography.
At the camera club we have regular themes and competitions. The themes are judged by guest speakers who will discuss their thoughts and rank their top three photographs from the members’ entries. I try to create photographs for the themes using non-digital techniques and it can be quite interesting and sometimes amusing to hear the thoughts of the judge. I don’t expect to win any prizes; it’s enough for me to gain the motivation to make new work and explore different themes I might not usually photograph.
Last week we had our “Macro / Close-up Theme” judged by our guest speaker. I don’t think I’ve ever really attempted Macro photography before on digital never mind using a historical process. Not owning any macro lenses is the main reason, but of course with bellows cameras it can be possible to get pretty close to the subject with enough bellows extension.
We can submit up to two images each – one is usually a ‘standard’ or ‘safe’ image and the other one should be a bit more ‘experimental’ or ‘adventurous’. I chose a small (about 8cm tall) cactus as my first subject and used the Marion & Co 12×10 camera and 8.5″ Jules Vogel Petzval lens. I produced a few 5×4″ ambrotypes and tintypes (on aluminium) until I had one I was happy with (OK, I ran out of time and picked the best of the bunch!)
I sprayed some water on it too to add a little more, I don’t know, interest or something. Macro pictures often have water droplets, right?
The judge started off his critique of our photographs by saying:
Now bear in mind that I’m not interested in photography, I’m interested in nature photography.
I knew my photos would be in for a hard time… 🙂
Very shallow depth of field on this one…
I like the background on this one, I’m not really sure what it is but it looks alright. Looks like a reflection of a cat or something [talking about the artifacts at the top right from my bad dev pour!], perhaps you skinned a cat and put it up there. [huh?]
I assume you’ve made it into a black & white once you’ve taken the picture, I think the black & white works well, almost like a sepia tone.
I think I would have liked to see more of it sharp though, rather than just the top bit, against the that lovely background.
Unfortunately I only have one waterhouse stop for that 130+ year old lens and so it’s still quite wide open. I really need to try fabricating some more, shame it’ll be too late for this macro theme. Oh well. I’m glad he appreciated the flaws in my collodion (I was trying to not get those though!) and glad he likes the colour of collodion images too (no Photoshop required!)
The good thing is that the other camera club members now recognise my collodion images and so listen to the judges’ comments knowing full well when my images are being misunderstood.
In case the collodion photo of the cactus wasn’t alternative enough for the judge I chose an even stranger subject. This is a birds nest I found in the kids’ playhouse, which included the remains of a baby bird that had failed to fledge (it died). I used my Sinar Norma 5×4 monorail camera with Schneider 150mm f/5.6 lens and maximum bellows extension (after adding a 6″ extension to the standard rail). The depth of field was super shallow and so in addition to stopping down to f/32 I used some tilt and swing to modify the focal plane. There is a lot going on in the composition, but I wanted the image to not be immediately obvious and for the viewer to take time before discovering the dead bird. I think I was successful in achieving this, but it wasn’t appreciated by the judge.
This one took my eye a me a while to figure out what was going on, and then I thought oh, right, a nest and the remains of a dead bird
I’d imagine you’ve turned it into a black & white, which probably helps it.
I find it a little bit too fussy, I want my eye to settle on one particular thing. It took me a while to realise what it was.
Yeah, I wasn’t sure about that one.
I agree it’s too busy, I found it a tough subject to photograph and so that’s why I settled on the idea of forcing the viewer to search for what it is. It was a risky move. It was also risky to photograph a slightly morbid, dead animal, in black & white when the judge’s own work is pin sharp, colourful and digitally perfect nature photography. 🙂
You can see the top three choices from the judge on the camera club website.
Until the next theme…