Tag Archives: camera scan

Westminster, CO | Documentary Portraits | Molly & Balloon

With all of the below zero weather this week, I was really longing for some summer sun. I went back through some of my photo shoots from last summer and pulled these documentary portraits of Molly. They were shot during a concert at the Westminster Promenade in Westminster, CO. Molly was having a great time playing with the black balloons while staying in the shade of the Westminster High School tent.

The dark tent overhead, with light streaming in from all sides, made for some beautiful light; and the dark balloons next to Molly’s light skin created really interesting contrast in the images.

You can click on any of the images to see them larger. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Natural Light

Nikon F3
Nikon 50mm f1.4
Ilford HP5 Plus
Ilford Ilfotec DD-X (9min @ 20C)

Camera Scan
Sigma SD9
Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro
Photosolve Xtend-a-Slide

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Documenting Your Family | Photo Tips | Slow Photography

Over on Slate.com there is a recent article about the Slow Photography Movement.  Basically, the idea behind “slow photography” is to think before you  shoot (to be honest, I am a fan of this approach in pretty much anything you happen to be doing). As you may have noticed, this is a theme that I return to often on this blog – think about your frame, consider your camera angle, how will your pictures work as a photo story, etc. The Slate article brings up some interesting points, and I like the general ideas behind the “slow photography” movement; but there are some quotes from the article that I wanted to pull out and discuss.

“…by the logic of volume: If you take a thousand photographs, one or two will turn out great. Professional photographers rely on this logic…”

This is what is often called the “spray and pray” approach to photography, and while there are some “professionals” that use this approach, it is definitely not the norm. Most professionals know that every shutter click has a cost. In the digital world, that cost is time sitting in front of the computer editing photos.

“In slow photography, the basic idea is that photos themselves—the results—are secondary. The goal is the experience of studying some object carefully and exercising creative choice.”

I sort-of see where he is going with this, but I really don’t see how you can separate the “experience” from the “results”. As far as I am concerned, the experience isn’t over until you are holding a print in your hand. The “results”, so easily dismissed in the article, have intrinsic value – be it historical, artistic, or whatever – and that value should not be discounted.

“In the logic of slow photography, the only reason to take photos is to gain access to the third stage, playing around in post-production, whether in a darkroom or using photo-editing tools, an addictive pleasure.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t find a lot of pleasure in doing Photoshop (or darkroom) work. It truly is a means to an end. I want a nice image and so I must go through the post production process (especially with digital captures). Given the choice, I will take some extra time while shooting to ensure better results and less post processing. To me, that is the essence of “slow photography.

“No, the real victim of fast photography is not the quality of the photos themselves. The victim is us. We lose something else: the experiential side, the joy of photography as an activity. And trying to fight this loss, to treat photography as an experience, not a means to an end, is the very definition of slow photography.”

In my experience, quality IS a victim of fast photography. You may end up with a few good shots using the “spray and pray” method. But you will have far superior results using a more considered approach. As for the second part of this quote, again, I don’t think the “experience” of photography can be separated from the final image.  If there is no final image, there is no photography, only looking. Looking is fine, but it’s sure not photography.

I will finish up this post with a slightly older quote that concisely explains what I see as the “slow photography” approach.

“Not many realize that good photographs – like anything else – are made with one’s brains.”
— Edward Weston, October 22, 1924
Tech Info:
Nikon N90s
Nikon 50mm f1.8
Ilford HP5 Plus
DR5 Process (B&W Slide)
Camera Scan
Sigma SD9
Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro
Photosolve Xtend-a-Slide

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Glenwood Springs, CO | Photo School | Pretty Pictures

There are a few places that I tend to think of as my “home towns”. I have spent most of my life in the Denver metro area so that is the most obvious. But another town that holds special meaning for me is Glenwood Springs, CO.

When I was a sophomore in high school  my family and I passed through Glenwood on vacation. I loved it – the old buildings, the mountains, the river – it just seemed like such a nice place to live. A couple of years later, I got the opportunity to live in Glenwood when I started attending photo school at Colorado Mountain College.

At CMC (sometimes referred to as See Me Ski), I learned the techniques, history and craft of photography. Being isolated in the hills above town, provided a perfect environment for learning. There really wasn’t much to do besides sleep, eat, go to class,  and work in the labs. This was back in the days when labs housed enlargers and chemicals rather than Macs and inkjet printers. But I did have a couple of classes using some new software called Photoshop.

During my first week at CMC, I did manage to find time to meet Julie. Who, as it turned out, was from right there in Glenwood. About three years later, we were married at a large house that overlooks the CMC campus and Mount Sopris. Julie’s Dad still lives in Glenwood, and we try to get up there every chance we get.

Below are some pictures from a trip to Glenwood back in the fall of 2007. These were all shot over the course of a couple overcast days on black and white film using a yellow filter. The yellow filter rendered the autumn leaves a very light tone and provided great contrast with the dark tree limbs.

I’m not sure if these are great pictures, but I like them, and they remind me of “home”.

You can click on any of the images to see them larger. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Nikon F3
Nikon 35mm f2.8
Yellow Filter
Ilford HP5 Plus
DR5 Process (B&W Slide)

Camera Scan
Sigma SD9
Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro
Photosolve Xtend-a-Slide

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Brighton, CO | Documentary Portraits | Merry Christmas Everyone

Merry Christmas!

Here are a couple of documentary portraits from a couple years ago on Christmas day. I like the fact that they include the Christmas tree, but it is subtle and out of focus in the background. I also really like the tones and grain visible in these film scans. As usual, these were shot with available light, in the natural surroundings. Just a couple of quick snaps after the kids had opened their presents. It doesn’t take a lot of time to get great shots. Simply pay attention to the light, the situation, and expressions and be ready with the camera. That is the fun, and the challenge, of documentary portraiture.

You can click on the images to see them larger. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Nikon N90s
Nikon 50mm f1.8
Ilford HP5 Plus
DR5 Process (B&W Slide)

Camera Scan
Sigma SD9
Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro
Photosolve Xtend-a-Slide

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Documenting Your Family | Photo Tips | Tell An Authentic Story

With the advent of digital scrapbooking, and inexpensive one-off book printing, it is more important than ever to tell a story with your pictures. Rather than thinking about your final product being a print, think about a series of prints or a layout in your very own coffee table book.

When you work in this way, not every picture needs to be able to stand on it’s own. If fact, they probably shouldn’t. Some pictures will just be there to reveal a detail or give a broader view. Some pictures may even be presented simply to give a visual break. The trick is to remember to shoot these “supporting” images as you are out shooting your more traditional portraits and snapshots.

Also, when you are working in a story format, not every picture needs to be technically perfect. You are free to do some experimentation – dramatic lighting, motion blur, soft focus, interesting angles, etc. These elements can all bring depth to a photo story, as long as you already have a few “safe” shots in the bag.

So, when you are out shooting pictures of your family, try to think about how the pictures you are making will work together as a story and whether that story authentically captures the situation.  Remember to experiment with different techniques and grab some of the supporting shots that will add the flavor to your story.

This weekend, get out with your family and try to find a story to tell. I’ll be curious to find out if you found this information useful.


Below is a series of images of Emma that I shot in Glenwood Springs, CO. You will notice that almost all of these are of the more “experimental” variety (my favorite variety) – We have a cropped portrait with dramatic light and motion blur; another portrait shot from a low angle; an “action” shot that focus on leaves and grass rather than Emma walking; a detail picture that doesn’t even include Emma; and a picture of her climbing on the playground, completely unaware of the camera.

Of course, there are a few elements that tie these disparate images together – Emma’s clothes and hair remain consistent, and the pictures were all shot on the same camera/lens/film combination. But I feel like the pictures are really unified and given a purpose by the final, traditional, portrait. It’s clean and sharp and she has a great expression on her face.

You can click on the images to see them larger and read a caption. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Nikon F3
Nikon 35mm f2.8
Ilford HP5 Plus
DR5 Process (B&W Slide)

Camera Scan
Sigma SD9
Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro
Photosolve Xtend-a-Slide

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Arvada, CO | Documentary Portraits | Real Baby, Really Cute

It’s hard to shoot a picture of a baby that isn’t really cute, but you don’t see a lot of portraits of babies that are really real. They are usually laying on a white background, or sitting on a blanket covered with roses, or popping out of a cabbage patch in a costume. While those types of pictures are fun, they don’t really tell you much about that baby’s personality, or what makes them different.

Below, I have some documentary style baby portraits. These pictures were made in a real location, with natural light and authentic everyday baby clothes. Through the pictures, you can relate to this little one’s environment and understand how  she interacts with the world. They give you a good sense of how old she is, and where she is in her development. She is alert and aware – curious about the camera. She is able to pull herself up to a sitting position. She is very tactile, using her fingers to better understand her surroundings. This is all important information that can be effectively communicated through documentary portraits. And of course, you also get to see all the “cuteness” visible in a more traditional studio portrait – the big eyes, the peach fuzz hair, the chubby cheeks. I think it is the combination of all these elements that makes for interesting pictures.

You can click on any of the pictures to see them larger. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Nikon N90s
Nikon 50mm f1.8
Ilford HP5 Plus
DR5 Process (B&W Slide)

Camera Scan
Sigma SD9
Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro
Photosolve Xtend-a-Slide

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Westminster, CO | Documentary Photos | Friday Night Lights

This is a series of pictures from Westminster High School’s homecoming football game back in October. My goal was to go out and capture the atmosphere of a high school football game, rather than document the game itself.

To accomplish this, I decided to use my Canonet QL17 GIII. The little rangefinder with a fixed 40mm lens. Using this camera meant that I couldn’t get caught up in shooting typical photojounalistic football action shots. Instead, I would have to focus on the periphery of the game – coaches shouting, players celebrating, officials moving up and down the sideline – all the stuff that goes on during a football game that goes almost completely unnoticed by the crowd.

There are some things that I find really interesting in these images. First is the lens flare caused by having the bright stadium lights in the images. This really seems to capture the glare that you notice when down on the field. Another interesting aspect of these images is the contrast… black uniforms – white numbers, dark sky – bright lights. Finally, there are the relationships – players talking, coaches teaching. If you’ve never been on a football field these can be easily overlooked, but they are as essential to the game as touchdowns, helmets or big hits.

You can click on any of the images to see them larger and read the captions. Enjoy…

Tech Info:

Canonet QL17 GIII
Canon 40mm f1.7 lens (fixed)
Legacy Pro 400 (AKA – Fuji Neopan 400) – pushed one stop (ISO 800)
Ilford Ilfotec DD-X Developer (10min @ 20C)

Camera Scan
Sigma SD9
50mm f2.8 Macro
Photosolve Xtend-a-Slide

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Denver, CO | Follow Up | Quiznos Pro Challenge Press Conference

With today’s announcement of the route and host cities for next year’s Quiznos Pro Challenge, I thought it would be a good time to show a few more pictures from the announcement press conference back in August. My previous pictures from the event are over here.

I went downtown to hear the announcement and see if there would be anything interesting to photograph. To my surprise, thousands of cyclists showed up on their bikes to see the press conference and have a group ride with Lance Armstrong following the event. Needless to say, there was plenty to photograph.

I was mostly looking for interesting details and quirky situations, rather than traditional “news” or press conference images. The fact that I was shooting with a fixed 40mm lens certainly eliminated the possibility of getting close-ups of the speakers, but I do like the context provided by the crowd in the shots of Governor Ritter and Lance Armstrong speaking.

You can click on any of the images to see them larger and read the captions. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Canonet QL17 GIII
Canon 40mm f1.7 lens (fixed)
Legacy Pro 400 (AKA – Fuji Neopan 400)
Ilford Ilfotec DD-X Developer (7min @ 20C)

Camera Scan
Sigma SD9
50mm f2.8 Macro
Photosolve Xtend-a-Slide

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Arvada, CO | Documentary Portraits | Jaxon Playing Outside

This is Jaxon. He is truly a boy’s boy. He is happiest when he’s eating, sleeping, or playing outside. He loves to run through the rocks, weeds and grass. He loves to play with sticks. And most of all, he loves to push his jeep.

These are documentary portraits of Jaxon doing his thing. For this set of images, I really wanted to show him in his element, so we went outside in the morning, when the light is good, and before he has a chance to get tired and cranky. I pretty much just followed him around and waited for him to do something interesting. He didn’t need any direction, I would occasionally say his name, just to get him to look at the camera.

My camera selection was based on my desire to place Jaxon in context. I wanted it to be obvious that we were outside running around and playing. So I went old school – these were shot using an old fixed lens rangefinder camera from the 1970’s. Notice the soft corners in some of the images. That is one of the great things about using old film cameras and lenses, they each have their own unique look that can really add to the feel of the shots.

One thing I especially like about this particular camera is the fixed 40mm lens. It is close to a standard 50mm, but just enough wider to give more context to the images. However, it is not as wide as a 35mm, which can show distortion in portrait images. 40mm really seems to be the sweet spot, at least for me.

You can click on any of the images to see them larger. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Canon Canonet QL17 GIII
Fixed 40mm f1.7 lens
Legacy Pro 400 (AKA Fuji Neopan 400)
Ilford Ilfotec DD-X (7min @ 20C)

Camera Scans
Sigma SD9
Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro
Photosolve Xtend-a-Slide

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Denver, CO | Byers-Evans House | Wet Plate Collodion Demo

Last weekend I went to a wet plate collodion demonstration at the Byers-Evans House Gallery here in Denver, CO. Leading the demo were Mark Sink & Kristen Hatgi. Mark is a well know photographer living in Denver, who currently has a show hanging at the Byers-Evans House (highly recommended). He and Kristen have been collaborating on fine art wet plate projects for a few years and they share their expertise through demonstrations and workshops.

Wet plate collodion is an antique photographic process that was in popular use at the time of the Civil War. If you have ever seen an old Tin Type, you have seen a wet-plate image. The process is pretty complicated and involves:

  • Setting up a portable darkroom
  • Coating a sheet of glass or tin (they now use aluminum with a black enamel coating) in gun cotton
  • Adding silver halides to the plate (in the dark)
  • Putting the plate in a “film” holder
  • Composing the portrait on a large format camera
  • Locking the camera down and inserting the “film” holder
  • Exposing the wet plate for a few seconds (the sitter has to remain motionless)
  • Processing the wet plate in the darkroom
  • Waiting for the plate to dry
  • Varnishing the plate to protect it

Why would anyone go to all this trouble? The number one reason is that the resulting images are beautiful, with great tonal range, swirly out of focus backgrounds, and interesting imperfections from the totally hand crafted process. Another aspect that makes these images interesting for fine artists, is that the resulting images are one-of-a-kind originals. They can sell this original image like a painting, it is totally unique. Of course it is possible to make a scan and create reproductions, but there is only one original.

It was really exciting to see the process unfold. I don’t know that it is something I would start shooting, it uses some potentially lethal chemicals – 100% pure grain alcohol, gun-cotton, ether, and cyanide – but it certainly inspired me to think about ways to improve and expand my own portrait work.

This week, I pulled my old 4X5 camera out of storage and started brainstorming ways to incorporate it into my arsenal. That led to thinking about the pinhole photography work that I did back in college. Now I have at least two new projects to explore. That is something I love about photography, there are always new things to learn and new paths to follow. I will put this new work up on the blog as I experiment and test.

Below, I have added a few documentary images from the demonstration. If you scroll all the way to the bottom, there are four cellphone snaps of the tin-types that Mark and Kristen created during the demo.

You can click on any of the images to see them larger and view captions that explain what is going on. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Canon Canonet QL17 GIII
Fixed 40mm f1.7
Legacy Pro 400 (AKA Fuji Neopan 400)
Ilford Ilfotec DD-X Developer (7min @ 20C)

Camera Scans
Sigma SD9
Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro
Photosolve Xtend-a-Slide


Tech Info:
Cell Phone snaps with my LG Dare
A lot of Photoshop work to make them presentable

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