Portland Head Light
Portland Head Light

Our lives change so dramatically, depending on our social contexts and age. I started moving more towards monochrome about a year or so ago. Since then, I have presented a greater portion of my work this way. At first, articles describing monochrome as the more artistic medium—better able to show form, texture, and in many cases, strong contrast, motivated me. It removes color’s “distraction”. Naturally, not all compositions maximize the uniqueness of monochrome

Harding Beach, Cape Cod; image scored 14 of 15 pts in Camera Rochester juried competition

(birds, flowers, and sunsets come to mind). Therefore, the trick when shooting monochrome is to see our surroundings from a monochromatic perspective to identify those compositions that might be best presented this way.

So, art theory aside, what draws some photographers to monochrome? I think because it gives us another dimension to express what we feel. Consider the first photo. Here, Portland Head Light stands at the gateway of Casco Bay and the North Atlantic on a mostly overcast day in late November. Guiding ships and boats, it stands vigil at the end of seasonal growth, awaiting the darker winter days ahead. The fence post in the second photograph stands alone,

Steps to Somewhere

no longer connected to the other posts. The steps on a winter’s day leading to some unknown in the third photograph—all metaphors for the loss of loved ones, unrequited love, and loneliness.

Fortunately, social contexts change—one day I will shoot more color.

Resurrecting My Fifty-four Year-old Film Camera

We are currently experiencing a mini-boom in the return to analogue. Vinyl records are making a comeback, as are film cameras. Much as I have come to love digital photography, I have thought more about supplementing my work with film (you do recall film). Just as vinyl has a richer sound than digital, film images have their own quality, compared with digital (though the latter can mimic a range of film emulsions). So, why bother with film? Well first, my 1963 Yashica TL-electro SLR 35 mm is by definition, a full-frame camera (i.e., it has a 24 x 36 mm frame size), whereas my three digital cameras have smaller APS-C format sensors. All other things being equal, larger sensors/negatives mean sharper pictures.

High dynamic range is another reason for film. This is the range of definition between a scene’s darkest and lightest areas. Film provides a greater range of detail in high contrast light and dark scenes (e.g., Kodak Vision3 provides a 14 stop range) than digital (e.g., Canon 7D provides an 8.7 stop range), thus requiring less bracketing of photos for high contrast scenes. A third reason for using film is that if you are shooting in B&W, unlike digital sensors that record color, no detail is lost as happens with digital’s B&W conversion (unless you buy a Leica M monochrome digital camera, but then that will set you back about $7500 + a few thousand for lenses). See Quora for a technical discussion of detail loss during B&W conversion.

However, there is yet another less technical reason for film photography. Film and its processing costs money and there is no screen on the camera back (what!?) to see how the image turned out. Nonetheless, these “disadvantages” force the photographer to slow down and think more deeply about exposure settings and composition. In fact, this is a major reason for using film cameras in a program, for which I volunteer, that works with junior high, city kids. Over time, they learn to slow their brains down and better focus on getting good compositions, something that we expect will help them in their other academic and life activities.

In preparing for my film venture, I tried my Yashica and everything seemed to work fine, so I bought a roll of film and took some test shots. Unfortunately, the mirror locked up at slower shutter speeds after the first four shots and the mirror would not return until I advanced the film and released the shutter. This meant that only every other frame would contain an image!

So, off the camera went for a complete overhaul ($193, including shipping both ways). Since the camera is only worth about $30 on eBay, you might ask why would I do this? Well, I also have Yashinon 50 mm f/2 & 135 mm f/2.8 prime lenses, including a 2X Soligor tele-converter—all scratch-free with smoothly operating diaphragms and focusing rings; I also have polarizing and skylight filters. It would be unlikely that I could replace all this excellent equipment for much less.

I will be using this camera for making extremely sharp B&W macro and landscape prints. B&W is the film of choice for emphasizing form and texture in those situations where color would be distracting. Under these circumstances B&W yields a more fine art look. Since these compositions will be static, fast shutter speed will not be necessary. This will enable me to use Ilford’s PANF Plus ISO 50, and Delta 100 Professional ISO 100 B&W, fine grain films, further enhancing very sharp images. This camera, therefore, will be sitting on a tripod most of the time.

This brings me to developing and printing. I will have a local, custom lab develop my film according to my preferences (contrast, sharpness, overall quality, etc.) and produce a contact print of the roll. After reviewing and selecting the best negatives from the contact prints, I will use my film magnifier to look for sharpness and any imperfections before deciding what negatives to scan with my Epson V800 scanner. These improved B&W images might require that I transition from a two to a three black ink-jet printer. We will see.

If any of you have shot film and print it digitally, I would love to hear about your experiences and/or suggestions.

CVNP’s Structures

Unlike our majestic western national parks, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is more urban, stretching from Akron to Cleveland. It is skinny, as it

follows the valley. Huge overpasses for I-271 and major roads span the

I-271 Overpass

valley. As destructive as they are to the park’s aesthetics (and probably to its ecology with winter salt run-off, though the overpasses might be sanding only zones) I took an interesting photo underneath the I-271 overpass.

The Boston Visitor Center (BVC) is centrally located in the park next to the Ohio Canal; here you can get information, park maps,

Boston Visitor Center



and, of course, buy books and souvenirs. The BVC was originally a supply store and depot for barges plying the canal. Unlike the Erie, this canal was never widened or maintained. It is now mostly over-grown and impassable.

Service Garage

Next to the BVC is a small gas station and garage of the 1940s era. It is not open for business and you cannot go inside; it too, made a good photo.

Then there are the park administration buildings–all completely refurbished (without any vinyl siding). I’m told these were houses originally sold by Sears & Roebuck to workers in one of the local manufacturing plants.

Rehabilitated worker houses purchased through Sears & Roebuck catalogue

Today, each building has administrative  offices for safety, personnel, purchasing, and so forth.

Then there is the rail line running the entire park, with

CVNP Rail Line

stations at Rockside, Canal Exploration Center, Station Road, BVC, and Peninsula Depot. During the warmer months visitors can buy a pass and get the scenic tour.

My next post will explore the park’s waterfalls in greater detail than my first post.

Myth, Mysticism, and Magic

Until now, the focus of my blog has been to show images of birds, animals, and landscapes to encourage people to think more deeply about the consequences of climate change and preserving our natural environment. I have backed up all my environmental statements with scientific evidence from credible private and governmental sources. I have kept direct political statements out of my posts. However, I must make an exception as political events could limit the free flow of scientific information on my blog.

An article in today’s New York Times cites the “disappearance” of scientific data from some U.S. Government websites as a result of the Trump Administration’s wish to sweep climate change and other topics with which it sees as contrary to its agenda “under the rug.” This is akin to the Catholic Church’s suppression of science in the days of Copernicus and Galileo. So, not only is democracy increasingly eroded here in the U.S. and elsewhere, but now the most objective way we have for understanding how the earth, and indeed the universe, works is also at risk. The implication is that we are to believe in myth, mysticism, and magic, as well as government propaganda.

I will be reviewing the U.S. Government hyper-links in my earlier posts and pages. In those cases where I find a link to be inactive I’ll post, [Link deactivated by the Trump Adminstration].

CVNP’s Soft Scenes

First Signs . . .

During my six days at Cuyahoga Valley National Park I hiked about 18 miles. Getting away helps me put aside all the “baggage” of my hometown so I can focus more on my surroundings. How we


photograph is strongly influenced by our personal histories and current states of mind, as well as the settings in which we find ourselves.

Indigo Pond

This series is one that I don’t normally shoot. But recently I’ve been influenced by a fellow photographer who shoots this way, though her work is far better. But,

Indigo Pond

temporarily released from the “bonds” of my history, I gave it a shot, several in fact. Also different, I took the first image with my Tokina 11 – 16mm lens, and the remainders with my Canon 100 – 400mm lens, instead of my usual Canon 15 – 85mm lens–I might as well be completely different.