Motif #1

I shot this circa, 1973 on Tri-X film. Motif # 1 is one of the most often painted and photographed scenes in New England. This is the

Motif # 1

original building destroyed in the blizzard of ’78 (the blizzard shut greater Boston down for a week). Although this scene harks back to a simpler time, it really wasn’t. Within a year there would be the oil shock, and along with other social and economic factors, would herald the de-industrialization of the West. The result was an increase in economic inequality that continues to this day.

“It’s All Happening At the Zoo . . . .”

My friends and I recently took our “heavy glass” to photograph at the Seneca Park Zoo. It was a bright sunny day, perfect for getting sharp pictures, even though the mid-day sun creates harsh contrast. The last time I was here was many years ago with our young nieces. How the time goes by.

Today’s zoos meet higher standards to keep their accreditation than in the past. The animals’ physical and emotional needs are better met.

Elephant’s Eye

Zoos often provide safe haven for injured and nearly extinct animals. Zoos are especially great for kids, particularly since fewer of them see animals in their natural habitats.

Still, I wonder when seeing the animals’ expressions, if they are happy being fenced in. Separated from their natural habitats, they are not free to roam, associate, and mate as evolution has shaped them. According to Wikipedia:

The welfare of zoo animals varies widely. Many zoos work to improve their animal enclosures and make it fit the animals’ needs, although constraints such as size and expense make it difficult to create ideal captive environments for many species.[41][42]

A study examining data collected over four decades found that polar bears, lions, tigers and cheetahs show evidence of stress in captivity.[43] Zoos can be internment camps for animals, but also a place of refuge. A zoo can be considered an internment camp due to the insufficient enclosures that the animals have to live in. When an elephant is placed in a pen that is flat, has no tree, no other elephants and only a few plastic toys to play with; it can lead to boredom and foot problems (Lemonic, McDowel, and Bjerklie 50).[full citation needed] Also, animals can have a shorter life span when they are in these types of enclosures. Causes can be human diseases, materials in the cages, and possible escape attempts (Bendow 382).[full citation needed] When zoos take time to think about the animal’s welfare, zoos can become a place of refuge. There are animals that are injured in the wild and are unable to survive on their own, but in the zoos they can live out the rest of their lives healthy and happy (McGaffin).[full citation needed] In recent years, some zoos have chosen to stop showing their larger animals because they are simply unable to provide an adequate enclosure for them (Lemonic, McDowell, and Bjerklie 50).

You can see more of my photos from the day’s shoot at my online gallery.

Monochrome

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
Remains

(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.