Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Modern antiquities?

Sitting here doing some show prep I kept thinking about where the photographic process has been from its inception as a scientific curiousity to a medium exploited by a new group of artists. The digital world sure makes it easier to explore those old technology's with a lot less fuss and muss.

It took a long time before a photographic paper process came along and was considered stable enough for consistent reproduction of images from a negative. Even getting to a useable negative on a transparent support took many years.

The papers of the time were not the fine grained quality type we see today, they weren't even the pure white we have now so that added to the character to the prints and unfortunately their instability. After a lot of experimentation with ways to get the light sensative silver to stick to a paper and not float about the scientists dipped back a few hundred years into the painters back of tricks and used albument, or egg whites to hold the silver on the paper for printing an image on paper. This process became known as the "Albumen Print" or "Albumen Silver Print" first patented in 1850.

It took a few more years to over come some of the early stability problems with the Albumen Prints. By 1855 a new group of patents were given to a process of "gold toning" that helped stabilize the final prints and gave them better definition and a nice warm tone most often associated with this process. This process remained the standard for photographic papers for nearly the next 50 years.

I love the look of those images, partly because of the warm tone, but also this was the period where photographers went from recorders of nature to applying artistic sensabilities regarding composition to put their spin on what they were looking at. The early processes may have lacked some hightlight and shadow detail, but the blocks of black, gray or white added to the artistic quality.

Its this area I decided to explore earlier this year, some of which were catalogued for the Whittier Art Gallery show in July. I knew already that wet watercolor softened an image. I used papers that were already a warm tone, or yellowish tint and furthered the look I wanted in the final image. I did stray from the really dark browns and yellows but otherwise kept the feel of those prints.

Upper Yosemite Falls 2/2005

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Color me Mutated

Today during show prep I stumbled across some old postcards of some old Autochrome slides sitting in the Smithsonian. I found them many years ago and had to buy them. Over the years I have sought out shows where they were a featured item. Very unique almost painterly quality to the images.

The Autochrome process was a rather ingenious development invented in France by the Lumiere brothers at the beginning of the 1900's. They died potatoato starch 3 colors then glued it onto a glass plate. The plate then was coated with lampblack to fill the spaces between the starch and coated with a silver emulsion. From there it was exposed in the camera and through some trickery in the dark room (that in itself would have gotten them burned at the stake some 400 years earlier for witchcraft) ended with a color slide.

This use of layers of colored starch produced images very similar to the Pointillism paintings of Seraut and others of the late 1800's. In both different color doalbeitbiet much smaller when its grains of starch, are placed closely together tricking your mind to see other colors. As an example a group of red dots and blue dots making something your mind blends to purple. In the end how those dots were placed together you saw a pictwhethereter it was the Autochrome image or that of a painting by Seurat. Its this link that ads a bit of romance to the Autochrome's allure.

The process was very grainy and colors remotely resembled what was in the original scene. Because potatoatoe starch was large compared to the silver grains in the emulsion the image lacked fine detail. Oddly, even with its lack of detail and fragility due to its organic nature they were the primary color photography medium until the 1930's. Sadly few have survived due to their organic nature. Those that have survived are well worth seeing when you get the chance. its the final crunch to put together a show for installation the first part of July. In the process I felt the need to supplement the watercolor photograph portion of what I am exhibiting. I worked a bit on "Lone Pine" until I got an image that paid homage to the sensibilities of the pointillists and the Autochrome's of the Lumiere brothers.


Lone Pine

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Today was a Kodachrome Day

Today was a day of curiousity for me. What I wanted was it all in total, saturated color without any of the fuss of running out to buy real film much less send it out for processing. Ugh that's why I went digital in the first place. Thank you photoshop as it is possible to replicate the warmth and saturation of Kodachrome with digitally.

Anyway off to the river I went today to shoot the wild flowers in bloom. The summer bloom of the cacti is just starting and go a bit longer this year as we had a heavy rain last week. Covered with pollen I returned with some images, a few of which I am happy with.

Interesting side bar to all of this is that it dawned on me that the predominate color for the wild flowers...including cactus is yellow. Wonder what ecological twist caused that mutation. Yellow is such a powerful color, not dangerous like red, but always the attention grabber. Right now everything in bloom its just waves of yellow along the river. Really interesting stuff to see.

Cactus are interesting plants. Growing up "back East" they were a curiousity of Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons. The real deal are something that amaze me. Today was productive. Managed to get a few of the "beaver tail" in bloom.

Enjoy my "pop" of color and a change from the Black and White work I have been doing....


Cactus Flower & Two Bugs

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Desert is a magical place.

To most making the "Vegas Run" I-15 is reason to complain and basically crab about nothing to see or do. I could not disagree more. It is an amazing place. I really learned to appreciate the desert and all its vitality and hazards while living in Death Valley for a year while I was taking a break from college.

I cannot think of any other place I have been where there were such extreme changes from season to season. How each season changes the landscape is something truly amazing if you take the time to see what's there. How life has adapted to this environment is equally amazing. Every drive through is a treat to just watch how light and shadow dance across the landscape.

Monsoon season starting as early as July in the Southwest is one of those extremes. It is during this time of year the Mojave Desert has these pockets of moisture pumped up from the Gulf of California. As this moist air hits the desert it is energized by the intense heat of the desert. What happens next is these incredibly intense highly localized thunderstorms spring up and provide quite a show, day or night. One of the more interesting phenomena is "verga" or rain that falls but never makes it to the ground as the air at the desert floor is so hot and dry it evaporates on its way down. Of course the recently evaporated rain goes back up to feed and energize the storm further.

I spent time last year in the Mojave around Red Rock Canyon and Mount Charleston in the Las Vegas area. I was up before sunrise (suppose sleep disorders do have some advantages) and hiked in a wash, watching a storm brew and the sunlight slowly skim the ridges and work its way into the canyon. Another day I was up on Mt Charleston and got to watch a surprise storm work its way across Kyle and Lee Canyons. Watching a monsoon work its way across the desert into the Spring Mountain Range is one of my favorite things to do.

I pulled out a few images from those shoots as part of the gallery exhibition I am preparing for in July. I also will have some of those images at the Art Walks on Myrtle Avenue this summer.

Enjoy, and remember my motto, buy your art to match your soul not the sofa!

Red Rock Drive Sunrise
Mt Charleston Storm