Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hybrid Photography

Chris, Kirsten, and I took a trip out to one of my favourite Manitoba spots over the spring break, the Spirit Sands near Carberry.

While there, I shot a roll of colour film for the hybrid assignment.

The early spring is a great time of year to be at the Spirit Sands - it's not blazing hot yet, and there is still some snow on the ground which can make an interesting compositional element. We chose a great day to be out there, too - the weather was spectacular.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Starving photographer rescued from B.C. wilderness

Always take enough food, people!

Starving photographer rescued from B.C. wilderness

By CBC News

A wildlife photographer who planned to spend the winter living in a remote trailer in the wilderness of northeastern B.C. narrowly escaped starving to death after he failed to pack enough provisions.

A wildlife photographer who planned to spend the winter living in a remote trailer in the wilderness of northeastern B.C. narrowly escaped starving to death after he failed to pack enough provisions.

Hudson's Hope RCMP say the 42-year-old man was trapped for more than two weeks without food in the Carbon Creek area near Williston Lake.

Police and rescue volunteers found the hungry man on Feb. 1, about 36 km from the W.A.C Bennett Dam, according to Hudson's Hope RCMP Cpl. Darel Woroshelo.

'He'd been without food for, I believe, 17 days.'?RCMP Cpl. Darel Woroshelo

"He'd misjudged the amount of provisions he'd need to make it through the winter. He'd been without food for, I believe, 17 days," said Woroshelo.

Driven by hunger, the unidentified man attempted to snowshoe out by himself along the rough roads he used to get the trailer in during the summer.

"He made it several kilometers, but then was just too weak and he couldn't continue and made it back to his trailer," said Woroshelo.

Unable to escape the icy wilderness, the man lived on water melted from snow until he was finally able to signal his distress to a passing helicopter, which left him some food, and notified Hudson's Hope RCMP.

"He did have a good supply of heat and water, which I'm sure is what kept him alive for those 17 days," said Woroshelo.

Rescued by snowmobile

Once notified of his plight, the RCMP and some volunteers launched a rescue mission by snowmobile to bring him out.

"He seemed to be in good spirits and, of course, he was happy to see them," said Woroshelo.

But once back in town the man refused medical treatment and asked to be taken to a local restaurant and then a motel instead.

"He was going to get some food, and warm up and re-nourish," he said.

The man plans to stock up on food and head back into the wilderness for the rest of the winter. But in the meantime the man has asked for privacy, and declined to speak with CBC News.

One Hour Photo - Film Review

One Hour Photo
Brilliant. A movie in which photography plays a central role that actually speaks intelligently about photography. Okay, so the main character, Sy, is a haunted lunatic on the edge, but he's tech in a one hour photo lab that actually gives a shit about proper colour correction! This guy is my hero... except for the whole creepiness factor. But, you have to be a little obsessive to be a genius.

Colour, of course, plays a central role in the film as outlined in the "Anatomy of a Scene" special feature. Who hasn't felt that sanitized cold fluorescent whiteness of a big box store like SavMart? And then the warmth of the colours of the real word when you step back outside? And the off kilter colours of your life if you're a needy lunatic loner on the edge? I mean, everyone knows what that looks like... right?

The sequence inside the mini-lab developer was cool, and the warmth of the colour in that sequence contrasted very well with the coldness of the outside of other machines in the movie, such as the camera used to take Sy's mug shots at the police station. Also, I loved the shout outs to Stanley Kubrick - the similarities of the mug shot camera to the HAL 9000 in s "2001: A Space Odyssey", and Kubrick's influence is clear in the creepy use of linear perspective in the bleeding eyes scene of Sy in the SavMart isle.

I appreciated Sy's commentary about photography. For example, "Someone looking through our photo album would conclude that we had led a joyous, leisurely existence free of tragedy. No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget." He's speaking, of course, about family photo albums, and I've often wondered what aliens or future anthropologists would make of our lives if all they had to go on was family photo albums. Probably that we are ridiculously happy creatures. Of course, people are not that ridiculously happy, and in fact some, like Sy, are ridiculously unhappy.

One criticism though, and this is something I hate about Hollywood in general: they beat you over the head with the obvious. In "One Hour Photo", Sy brilliantly places Will Yorkin's (the husband's) incriminating photos of Will's affair in Nina's (Will's wife's) photo order. Sy stakes out the store until Nina picks up the photos, and then Sy follows her vehicle. You see Nina's car driving down the highway from Sy's point of view, and we're waiting for Nina to see the incriminating photos. Then Nina's car suddenly swerves on the highway and pulls over. Next, we see the interior of Nina's car and a very upset Nina looking at photos of her husband and his girlfriend. Okay, right there - we didn't need to actually see Nina looking at the photos - we KNEW that that was why she lost control of the car on the highway and pulled over. It would have been much more effective if all we saw after the swerve on the highway was her car pulled over, and Sy watching. Then Nina could have driven away. We would have known perfectly well what had just happened without having it explained to us like weren't capable of critical thought. But, that's Hollywood for you; I guess they have to appeal to the average intelligence of their largest audience.

Pecker - Film Review

I feel violated. What the hell was this? I usually like odd and strange movies, but this one was...painful. (Sorry Paolo!) It was as if Norman Rockwell and David Lynch got together and dropped acid, but the trip went horribly wrong. I get the wholesomeness combined with raw edginess thing, but it ends up being mostly distressing in this case. It wasn't ALL bad - there were some funny lines - "Pubic hair causes crime." and "I love you more than Kodak!" And some of the quirkiness was quite inspired. I loved some of the scenes of the talking Virgin Mary ventriloquist dummy. But for the most part the comedic timing was off (maybe bad editing or directing?), and in the end I'm left feeling like I had a bad dream.

The plot centres around a young man, whose name is Pecker (I guess that's supposed to be edgy), whose snapshots of the ordinary people in his ordinary and small hometown show the raw humanity of his subjects. Pecker becomes a sensation after being discovered by an art dealer from NYC. Pecker's success then brings unwanted attention to the subjects of his images, who are his friends, family, and neighbours, and their lives are very nearly destroyed in the process. Pecker then has a gallery showing in his hometown in which the subjects are the movers and shakers of the New York art world. By forcing them to come to Baltimore and see themselves on display for a change, and by mixing with the common folk of Pecker's hometown, somehow both sides see their common humanity, and thus Pecker saves the day.

The film actually raises some important issues for photographers - permission, appropriation, the negative impacts photographs can have on their subjects, film versus digital, and the risk of being an overnight success (yeah, I WORRY about that happening all the time). But it's hard to take these issues seriously when the windows in Pecker's basement darkroom aren't even blacked out, he and his assistant seem to think that prints don't need to be in the fixer for more than a few seconds, washing apparently isn't needed at all before hanging the prints to dry, and all the prints in his gallery shows are vertical shots while we mostly see him taking horizontals. And for a movie about photography, the cinematography was boring. Perhaps director John Waters is trying to say something ironic about photography with this, but I think it's just lazy film-making.

But then again, maybe I just didn't "get it".

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

O Brother, Where Art Thou? - Film Review

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
This movie is all about place, and the cinematography puts us in the Deep South of the 1930s beautifully; the landscape shots in this film are amazing. Most Coen brothers films have a certain colour, and in this one it's low saturation and a gold tone. As was mentioned in the "Painting with Pixels" special feature, they had to make the Deep South in the summer (read: lush and green) look like the Depression dust bowl, and the gold tone worked for this. It also gave it a (sort of) sepia-tone that gave it an antique-y feel. The soundtrack is killer, and also places the film in it's particular time and place.

I like pretty much anything the Coen brothers do, so I'm a little biased, but if you happen to like beautiful black & white films, I'd recommend another of their films, "The Man Who Wasn't There". Gorgeous! It was filmed in colour, and converted to black & white later, I'm assuming digitally. And it's darkly funny like most of their films.

Hey, if anyone out there LOVES great cinematography like I do, here's one for you: " Hero". It's in the same genre as "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon", and omg - I so want posters made of specific scenes. Also check out Guy Maddin's "Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary". I'm not a Guy Maddin fan per se, but visually this is a movie you can...uh...really sink your teeth into.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

DT 13.2 - Blogging Non-School Related Photos

In a scant few days, it's back to getting up at 7 a.m. every morning. I'm considering doing that thing my parents made me do when I was a kid, and summer vacation was drawing to a close - starting to go to bed early now, just to get back into the swing of things. However, it being New Years Eve today, I'll think I'll get on that... later. The break has been good, though. Here are some of the things I've been up to.

Taking pictures of my friends' animals was one activity. Pets seem to be everywhere. This particular dog is very intelligent. A few moments after taking this photo, she said to me, "Get that damn camera outta my face." (In English.)

This is my sister's cat, Sonic. My nephew named him Sonic because he can run at super-sonic speeds. However, that was before they moved from a house into an apartment and Sonic entered middle-age in cat years. Now Sonic is the size a football and doesn't run at all unless I chase him with a vacuum cleaner.

This is my sister expressing her feelings about me chasing her cat with a vacuum cleaner.

This is my nephew. This was taken at a family gathering a few days after Christmas. I think this is a cool window light portrait. My nephew can be very serious at times...

...for example, he has a serious problem with gummi worms. But, one of our main activities as a family during the holiday is eating tons of food, so go ahead kid, knock yourself out.

Another favourite activity over the holidays is drinking wine. I had had a few glasses by the time I took this photo. I chose this particular depth-of-field because it's a fairly good representation of how I was actually seeing things at this point.

My nephew got a Wii system for Christmas. Here, he is playing a (serious) game of Wii tennis, or cow racing, or something. Note the glass of wine in the background.

Nothing says family togetherness like a good game of world domination. This is the state of play after the fifth hour of a game of Risk. I'm about to invade Irkutsk. I was drunk with power.

"After the Fall of Irkutsk"
And she thought she could invade invade Eastern Canada with impunity. Notice the pain with which she is clutching her side. It hurts to lose Irkutsk, doesn't it?

This photo was taken at my step-son's taekwondo school's Christmas party. This is a friend's daughter. She likes to pretend she doesn't want her photo taken - just like cats "pretend" they don't like being chased by vacuum cleaners.

So, that's about it. I'm off to a New Years party just down the street. Gotta love those parties that you can just walk to, and stumble home. See you next year!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

AT 11.2 Karsh - Jonah O'Neil - Group A - Analog Techniques

Title of photo: Pablo Casals, 1954

Link to photo:

On the technical side of things, Karsh was a master of the "inspection" technique for developing negatives, which is suited for 4x5" and larger film, and involves developing negatives by hand, traditionally under a green safelight, to produce optimal highlights in specific areas of the image. Karsh used this technique to create negatives that have significant tonality. "Pablo Casals, 1954" definitely shows significant tonality, which can be seen in the stone wall, the floor, and in subject's clothing.

Like the majority of Karsh's work, this photo is high in contrast - the highlights are very bright and the shadows are quite dark - for example, the highlights around the subjects head, shoulders, and arms versus the shadows on his back. So I'm going to go out on a limb here, and suggest that he used the magenta filter. He may have employed split contrasting because, while the figure in the chair shows quite a bit of contrast, the wall in front of him does not show a lot of contrast.

It looks to me that Karsh dodged the stone wall quite since it is so much brighter than the dark areas in the photo. It would also appear that he burned in the area of the wall around the subject's head, shoulders and torso, giving the subject a frame of darker tones, and separating him from the background quite nicely. That's pretty cool now that I'm looking at the photo again. Huh. Inspiring even.

I think this is a great composition. To begin with, it's a bit of an anomaly for Karsh to have his subject facing away from the camera. But this makes sense considering Pablo Casals' background and what Karsh wished to portray. Casals was a Spanish cellist who refused to perform in any county that officially recognized the Franco dictatorship. As Karsh put it, Casals was a"voluntary prisoner", and the setting and composition of this photo certainly brings to mind a prisoner sitting in a cell. And the fact that Casals is facing away from the viewer suggests that he has turned his back on Franco and those who recognize him.

Other compositional elements that I like are:
- The implied line from the window to Casals which suggests at first that it is light from the window that is illuminating the subject and the floor, but which must have been from another source.

- The natural frame along the left side made by what might either be a curtain or part of a door frame, giving the impression that we are peaking in on the subject and catching a private moment.

- The tension caused by the back chair legs extending just beyond the edge of the frame.

- The tension caused by not lining the chair up with the lines on the stone floor.

- The tension caused by the shadow underneath the subject and the chair, because that's not a shadow being cast by the subject himself. I can't for the life of me figure out what that shadow is.

- The aforementioned burning around Casals providing a nice frame for the subject.

- The fly sitting on the back of the chair. This is hard to see in the photo online, but at the WAG it was actually visible. Hard to say, though, if Karsh managed to capture that elusive moment and got behind the fly's mask to portray its true self. I bet he did.