Thursday, December 13, 2007

Chicago in Kodachrome ...

Kodachrome is a very special film. I've always had a soft spot for it, even though I don't shoot it much. I'm having a final fling with it, since the consensus is that it will be going away, totally, within the next few years. :(

Contrary to what Paul Simon says, Kodachrome does not really have the "Nice Bright Colors" at all. It's actually muted when compared to today's color films.

It does have natural colors when exposed properly, but it doesn't have that "Fuji Blue" sky or the punchy greens and yellows of the common films (or digital images) of these days.

The tonality of the bricks and stone is very indicative of Kodachrome in this scene.

(For some perverse reason, Tom Lehrer's Poisoning Pigeons In The Park lyrics run through my head when I look at this one.) :)

Despite the natural color rendition, Kodachrome, as well as most other reversal (slide) films, does not handle high-contrast scenes well. Notice that you really can't see details in the shadows in front of the building here. Adjusting for more shadow detail would have overexposed (stark white) the railings in the foreground.

This is one of Kodachrome's shortcomings, which it does share with other films, and to an extent with many of today's digital sensors.

Kodachrome will tell you the way it is, not the way somebody might wish it to be with colors reminiscent of an explosion in a paint shop!

Yes, you are! :)

Kodachrome's days are numbered, unfortunately, and it's not really a question of "if" but one of "when" it will be discontinued. Kodachrome's sales are down, and only one lab in the world (Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kansas, US) still does daily processing runs of Kodachrome.

Kodachrome was the first commercially successful full-color roll film, appearing first in the 1930s. It's somewhat unique that it was invented by two musicians (Godowsky and Mannes) and not by photo chemists. It's the longest-lived color film family on record, being available in various versions for over 70 years!

Speculation is that the Kodachrome era will come to an end within the next five years, with obligatory talking-head epitaphs, punctuated, of course, by the Paul Simon tune.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Forest For The Trees ...

I am not the "outdoorsy" type at all! You can say that my idea of "roughing it" is staying at a hotel without cable TV!

However, over the past few years I've enjoyed taking casual leisurely hikes in Fontenelle Forest, just south of Omaha along the bank of the Missouri River.

Fontenelle Forest is a private forest preserve, founded by a group of environmentalists in the early 20th. century, and now operated by the nonprofit Fontenelle Nature Association. (Fontenelle Nature Association actually came about when the founders were turned down on their request to have Fontenelle Forest become the first Nebraska State Park.)

Fontenelle Forest (as well as countless other things "Fontenelle") is named after Chief Logan Fontenelle of the Omaha Tribe.

Chief Fontenelle is considered to be the last of the Great Chiefs of the Omaha tribe.

Logan was the son of a French fur trader and a Native American mother. He was killed in battle at the early age of 30, shortly after his election as Chief.

Logan is buried, along with his parents and brother, within the preserve, but the exact burial location is unknown. Granite markers along History Trail denote the approximate location.

Fontenelle Forest has two distinct sections, the uplands and the wetlands, divided roughly by the BNSF tracks. The uplands consist mainly of dense, hilly old-growth forest. The wetlands are a mixture of hardwood savanna and grassy marsh areas.

Visitors to the Forest are most familiar with the uplands, and the mile-long double-figure-8 Riverview Boardwalk, one of two equal-access trails in the forest complex.

This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg, or in this case the northmost tip of the forest!

Well-marked and well-maintained trails and paths make up most of the Uplands.

Some are terraced, making for a leisurely time on the hills. Others are more challenging!

And some are more challenging after a good rain! :)

The wet gullies are mostly bridged.

Although parts of the Upland South section were logged by the settlers of nearby Bellevue, Nebraska, the Forest is considered to be the largest unbroken old-growth forest tract within several states!

There are concrete mountains in the city ...

The tallest peaks of the Omaha skyline are visible from the Riverview Boardwalk in the distance above the hills.

Old Man of the Forest ...

Upland South was, for decades, the home of Jim Baldwin, who had a homestead encampment in the hills above Hidden Lake. Although Jim was a reclusive hermit, he was very congenial and was popular with hikers and campers. Baldwin remained in the forest until the 1960s under a "gentlemens' agreement" with the Fontenelle Nature Association, until he was no longer able to care for himself and reluctantly moved to the city to live with relatives.

Many artifacts of Baldwin's forest life still exist in the vicinity of his encampment.

Gifford Road bisects the uplands ...

...leading to the wetlands.

The Gifford Memorial Boardwalk leads from the Wetlands Learning Center to an observation blind on the north bank of the Great Marsh.

Hidden Lake is an estuary at high water -- its level follows the stage of the river. At low water it becomes a true lake. There is evidence (click diagram to enlarge) that both ends of Hidden Lake once connected to the river channel.

Evidence of something (bridge?) once crossing Hidden Lake? There's nothing obvious of a path or road.

Fallen trees, mossy ponds, rickety bridges, reeds, rushes, cat-tails, lilly pads, all abound in the Wetlands.

The keepers of the Forest prefer to let nature take its course -- there is very little human intervention!

"Incredibly scenic" is an understatement when describing the Wetlands!

Wildlife up close!

Two juvenile raccoons posed for me along the banks of the Great Marsh. I'm very surprised that they let me get this close. These were taken with a normal lens. They were incredibly tame! They seemed to be just as curious of me as I was of them. :)

Wild turkeys (I assume that's what they are) :) scramble across my path without warning! They vanish quickly into the underbrush.

But wait -- there's more! :)

I didn't mean to come off as a walking-talking infomercial for Fontenelle Forest, but ...

... for further information, visit:

Operators are standing by now!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cross-processing The Bean ...

To make a long story long ... I had a free day in Chicago last Sunday. I met a local friend for a late lunch and I planned to spend the afternoon and evening shooting. I set out maybe 2:30pm, finished up a roll of Kodachrome and started a roll of Sensia.

After less than an hour I was getting uncomfortable, as this was the day when it was unseasonably hot and humid, the day when they had the fatality at the Marathon and ended it early. It was more like Birmingham in August than Chicago in October, too {expletive} hot and oh-so-sticky! So I went back to the hotel and took a power nap and planned to resume just before sunset.

I wanted to get some shots of The Bean at night, so I headed off in that general direction, intending to shoot the rest of the Sensia before I lost the remaining light of day, then switch to Fuji 800 for Night At The Bean.

First attempt at a shot -- no meter movement at all! :( Pointed it right at the still light sky, nope! :( Took out the battery for a taste-test -- DEAD! :( So I went to the nearest Walgreens, they had a peg for 625 batteries, but no batteries! :( Next a CVS, nope! Another Walgreens, nada! :( {profanity!}

So here I was losing daylight, more than half a roll of Sensia (200 speed) still in there, a totally dead battery and no meter except the carbon-based light meter which I've carried with me for more years than I admit to. I'm confident enough exposing negative film in bright light using the Sunny-16 rule and my eyes, but in twilight, street light, ambient light in a park?

Plus, this is slide film, and it can't take a joke as far as exposure is concerned!

Then the light bulb hit! If I exposed this film as if it were 200 speed negative film, cross process it as C41, I may get more exposure latitude than if I had it E6 reversal processed normally.

Cross-processing is (was now, I guess) one of those things on my "eventually try it once" list, however, sometimes you just have to say "what the {heck}" and it looked like eventually was Sunday night! I had a good feel of what the speed and f-stop was like for photos I took with a meter in similar light, plus I was confident that I could hand-hold at 1/15 if I really concentrated, so I just went ahead and did it.

When you cross-process slide film, what you get back are color negatives, but without that amber mask that's familiar to anybody who has shot color negative film. With some fairly simple adjustments when scanning, a near-normal color rendition can be achieved. (I would not want to try mini-lab-processed prints with this, however.)

The Bean is totally different at night. From a distance, it sparkles ...

At times it's like it's illuminated or has an image projected from within.

This is that other sculpture in Millenium Park, just to the north and east of The Bean. I've never seen this at night before, and is absolutely gorgeous with the sweeping colored lights. The photo doesn't do justice to this. You really need to see it in person to appreciate it.

As kind of a follow-up about amateur photographers getting hassled for shooting The Bean, there were cameras all over the place.

It was very obvious who knew, and who did not know, what they were doing. Every few seconds there was another flash, somebody doing a point-and-shoot, then chimping, then frowning. Only a few used no flash.

I don't know why, but for some unknown reason I'm always the one who seems to be approached by others, asking me to take their photo with their camera, and such was the case last week. A mother and son asked me to snap them with their digicam, and they moved over to stand directly in front of The Bean. I motioned them to my right, so the dark sky was behind them and the bean was to their right side and I was able to get them a very nice shot showing both them and The Bean without the garish reflection from their on-camera flash.

But anyway ...

The guys shown below were quite obvious and received no attention at all.

See the following for the original story:

Forbidden Images, Polishing The Bean

Saturday, September 29, 2007

O-Bang! double-take ...

I'm most definitely not used to shooting medium format, having shot 35mm since I was in my teens, which is more years ago than I care to admit. :) Almost all 35mm cameras can't take a double-exposure unless you really try.

Unfortunately this can't be said about many of the popular MF cameras.

When you get a double-exposure, it usually means two ruined shots. However, every once in a while, a photographer will report on, and show off a double-exposure, which actually works. I think I may have one of those here, at least it's the closest I've ever come to it. :)

I had stopped to take a few frames of one of the sculptures of the O! Public Art Project, sometimes known as O-Bang, and I shot maybe half a roll of 120 on this particular object.

I really didn't know I had double-exposed that shot until I had them developed. My first reaction was some not so nice language muttered to myself.

Then as I looked at it more and more, I realized that it did have eye appeal, to me, anyway, and may indeed be one of these cases of accidental artistry.

I posted the photo on a local chat board and received a response of: "I do love this shot though and the creativity and vision it took to pull it off!" LOL, thanks {blush}, but trust me, it was very accidental creativity and vision here. :)

My first MF photo in oh-so-many years was the obligatory self-portrait in the mirror with the new camera. Of course I overlaid it with an otherwise great shot of the mineral springs in Elmwood Park. :(

Yeah, I know, wind the {expletive} film after each shot, dum-dum! :(

I'm not really fond of that "portrait" anyway, but I've used it as an avatar on some of the photo boards, kind of like a badge of admission into the MF club. :)

Oh well, but anyway ...

O-Bang is sponsored by Alegent Health, in cooperation with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. 22 artists from Omaha and the surrounding area participated in the project.

Several Omaha area photographers have announced plans to photograph the entire set of sculptures. I'm not one of them! :) I may or may not take on that feat. :)

Since it's not a permanent exhibit, I do plan to shoot at least a few more of the sculptures before they go bibi!

The official page for the O-Bang project (I've been told they don't really like that nickname) is on the web HERE

Oh, if you wonder where the term "Bang" comes from, it's typographers slang, a one-syllable easy-to-say name for the exclamation mark, which has been popularized in mainstream culture in recent years by computer programmers.