This is an image I created back in 2004, on a family vacation in Prince Edward Island. I used my old Canon Digital Rebel, and although the original picture was captured in colour, to me it didn’t really come to life until I converted it to a toned black and white image; only at that point did the light start speaking to me.
I don’t do a lot of self-portraits; it’s not something I’ve been comfortable with. I always knew I wouldn’t end up on the cover of GQ, and as I hit middle age, gravity and my appetite have taken their toll. Nevertheless, having followed a couple of photographers and their approach to self-portraits (especially the amazing, intense work of April Lea), I’ve been so impressed with the open and honest nature of their work that I feel compelled to revisit self-portraiture. It will be a difficult, self-confrontational process to force myself over to the other side of the lens, and deal with the insecurities, and the echos of schoolyard taunts of decades past.
It starts now.
I am trying out Ilford Delta 3200 Professional film, one of the fastest black and white films you can get. When I was researching online on what developer to use, I was amazed at the variety of opinions, and just how tricky it is to get this film “dialled in” in terms of exposure and processing. My first try was using D-76 developer at a 1:1 dilution, which was not completely successful in terms of graininess. When shooting available light (or available darkness!) subjects though this is the kind of film stock I will need to master, so I have one more roll, and I will try another developer next time. The fun is in the discovery though!
You don’t often get a second chance to capture an image. This week, I had that chance; I had to be downtown early on Tuesday morning for a meeting, and the combination of the rain-slicked pavement and lights made an arresting combination. I only had my iPhone with me, and while I tried to capture the scene, it didn’t turn out the way I wanted.
Luckily, I had to be downtown again the next day at the same time, with the same rainy weather: my second chance.
I am going to put another twist on Time-Warp Tuesday this week. The image below is not an old image; in fact it dates from just this past Sunday, when I was at the Beaches in Toronto. What qualifies it for Time-Warp Tuesday is that it represents a mix of old and new technology. First the old: the camera I used, my Mamiya M645J medium format, dates from the late 1970’s. The film format it uses, 120, dates from the first decade of the 20th century. Finally, the developer chemical I used to process the film, D-76, dates from the mid 1920’s.
The new is represented first by a couple of great iPhone Apps that had a part in the making of this image. First, since the camera is a completely manual model with no built in light meter, I needed something to calculate the exposure. Instead of bringing along a traditional light meter, I used a great (and free!) iPhone app called Pocket Light Meter, which takes advantage of the light meter built into the iPhone’s camera, and it did a pretty good job, better in fact than my “real” light meter as a matter of fact. The second app I used was in the dark room, and is called Massive Dev Chart; it combines an encyclopaedia of development times for various film and chemical combinations, with a specialized timer that makes timing the various steps of the development process a snap.
I think one of the greatest things about photography is the ability to mix the old with the new; you can go completely digital start to finish, or at the other end, use completely “obsolete” processes, like wet plate collodion. With the hybrid workflow, you can find your spot anywhere in this technology spectrum, using whatever fulfills your vision. These are exciting times.