Craft Matters

Ilford on verge of bankruptcy. Again.

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According to this Google Translated swissinfo.ch article, Ilford Switzerland has run into financial difficulties and could be on the verge of bankruptcy. Apparently they were unable to pay their employees during the month of June. I confirmed the news with a local source. And I should note that Ilford Photo, maker of traditional black and white photographic supplies, is not affected. Oh, the irony.

With an open Ilfochrome chemistry order that, if not fulfilled, leaves me high and dry with tens of thousands of dollars worth of Ilfochrome paper, this news is very disturbing. And, to twist the knife a little more, I use Ilford’s Galerie Prestige for digitally-based print making which is best-in-class ink jet paper.

I’ve been told a chemistry run was completed and that it should be shipping out so I’ll hold out hope. Beyond that, let’s hope Ilford can work something out to help secure its viability a little longer.

Sunset on the Eastern Oregon Desert

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Sunset on the Eastern Oregon Desert

One of my first sojourns out of Bend took me into the Eastern Oregon desert chasing weather and the chance for some thunderstorms. Monitoring satellite photos from my iPhone, I drove 4 hours southeast towards Denio, Nevada. Just west of Denio I hit a strong batch of wind and rain which was good for washing the bugs off my windshield, but, alas, no lightning. Disappointed, I had dinner at Denio Junction and considered my route home. Needing gas, I discovered, rather un-amusedly, Denio had none. Their recommendation (a scribbled note of the station tank) was to go north to Fields, Oregon.

As I considered this, a sudden hard rumble of thunder shook the truck. I looked up and saw lighting off to the west, not the direction I could head with such a low tank. So, angrily, I headed North. But my mood was assuaged when, as the road (Hwy 205) turned Northwest, I intercepted the storm. Or should I say, the storm intercepted me. And this storm seemed angry. Lightning flashed on both sides of my truck. Heavy rain mixed with hail came down in sheets and, though there was easily an hour’s worth of daylight left, it felt like nightfall.

Fields had gas but the store was closed. Argh! The next stop was Frenchglen, another 50 miles up the highway. I had about 60 miles until an empty tank. And the farther North I went, the angrier the storm got. The lightning seemed to be chasing me. The rain and hail intensified pounding down incessantly for the next 40 miles. To the west, not more than a mile away, the clouds broke wide open. You could see blue sky. But the road and the storm seemed hitched. With the sun lowering, I knew there was the potential for some incredible light, and indeed, the sun poked through the clouds and set the sheets of rain, clouds, and hills around me ablaze in a warm neon orange glow.

Any chance for a photograph meant I had to get beyond the edge of the storm. Nothing doing. I cursed the road. It seemed to tease me at every big curve hugging the storms edge. A brilliant rainbow appeared in my rear view mirror and when I frantically stopped and tried to position my truck to block the wind-driven rain to make a photograph, my camera and body were soaked in seconds.

Then, just as the sun was on the horizon, a break in the action! I pulled over and was able to make several photographs of the setting sun illuminating sheets of rain to the northeast. I chose my Zeiss 18mm wishing to capture as much of the grandeur of light and cloud play holding out hope that a little lightning might sneak itself into my composition. The lightning had ceased. But what was left, was soft lit and magical.

I made it to Frenchglen on fumes. They had gas. Available at 9:30 am the next morning! The bed in Room 1 of the Frenchglen Hotel (a state heritage site) was a welcome relief. And the homemade french toast the following morning was heavenly.

New Directions

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Granary Stack

I can feel a shift or maybe, more accurately, an expansion of my photographic direction inspired by my northern relocation and the new subject matter I’ve encountered on the several trips I’ve made to and from Bend. The agriculture and, in particular, the granaries have exerted a creative pull on me. This photograph came courtesy of some graceful evening light from a late spring storm. And the luck of exceptional timing in my travels that day.

I’m very excited about the new possibilities.

Hello Smith Rock State Park

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Reflections along Crooked River, Smith Rock State Park

While not an official Oregonian just yet, I managed my first jaunt out to one of the local “hang outs”, Smith Rock State Park. Smith Rock is iconic in the region for its lava formed jagged peaks which lure big wall rock climbers from all over the West. And photographers. I spent a couple hours meandering the banks of the Crooked River, the geologic architect of this place, eventually focusing on these reflections just as the sun was about to set.

The evening was a most relaxing and pleasurable introduction.

Random Inspirations

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Sanded Raw Paint

Step out of your car while on a random errand and, voila, a bit of inspiration in the form of an old beater car hood whose aging exterior makes an interesting photographic moment.

This is actually a straight photograph (cropped in Lightroom, no enhancement) from my iPhone 4.

Hello Bend, Oregon

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2350 NW Lemhi Pass

It’s never easy to say goodbye to one phase of life and hello to a new one. But that is what 2350 NW Lehmi Pass represents. Starting in June. A new life, in a new home, in a new town, in a new state. Athletically, artistically and aesthetically inclined people. Great bakeries. River trails. Very friendly and seemingly supportive people. I’ll spend some time getting acclimated, doing a little photography, supporting my daughter in a new stage of our relationship and dreaming up whatever is next. Exciting scary. Scary exciting.

I will miss my friends and the Bay Area but the door will always be open for visits. And I’ll actually have a guest room to welcome you.

I know this is my right path forward. Hopefully, in time, those I love will wholeheartedly agree.

Black and White

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Stacked Pipes

I spent New Year’s Day driving south from Bend, Oregon to San Jose, California thinking about my photography. With Ilfochrome discontinued and ~2 years left of stock, I wonder whether I might take up Black and White photography. I certainly enjoyed my time with Polaroid Type 52.

There’s a lovely expanse of rolling hills south of Winters along HWY 5 that beckoned a side trip which took me through lots of agriculture land. At one point, near sunset, I passed a group of stacked pipes on the side of the road. They begged a U-turn. I only had my Nikon D800e which I still associate with as a color photographic tool. But I worked up a composition attempting to visualize the scene as a black and white. Having nice contrast in tonality plus highlights on the front edge of the pipes felt critical to the success of the image. Post processing in Lightroom was a series of stops, starts, and redox, considering the ways tonalities are changed with different adjustments. Lots of learning ahead but I like how this first pass turned out.

Some great films that actually used film.

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And some of the best films of the year were actually, in the old-fashioned literal sense, films, brought to us by the chemical transformation of strips of stuff rather than the mathematical manipulation of strings of code.

Love this observation by A.O. Scott highlighting his favorite films of 2012 for the NY Times.

In fairness, I’m not trying to dig on digital but its popularity, as with digital photography, necessarily means it’s become a medium filled the good, the bad, the ugly and the horrific. Filmmakers who chose to stay with traditional film-related processes have clear artistic intent and this year they seem to have delivered some stellar films. As Scott later says “…maybe technological means are, finally, less important than artistic ends”.

Amen.

Own a cell phone? Read this.

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Two days ago while out on a walk, I neared a 4-stop intersection where a woman was crossing with her dog. An approaching car, while going slow, did not stop. At the last moment, the woman lunged back with her dog averting senseless harm, even tragedy. The woman in the car was on her cell phone.

Then tonight, while driving home, a woman on a cell phone was crossing in a crosswalk. It was dusk, hard to see, and she wore dark clothing. The car in front of me, going nearly 40 miles an hour, did not see her. I reacted slamming my beams on high and flashing them repeatedly. The flashing caused the woman to look up which paused her as the car zoomed by within a hair’s breadth. It was so close I’d clenched my entire body in fear of the possibility.

Once calm and home, I contemplated the events and drew the following two conclusions:

#1: Wake the f**k up people! Lift your heads up and be present. The world on your screen is no substitute for the world about you. Don’t learn that lesson through tragedy, especially now during the holidays.

#2: I believe in the web of life. I believe in the interconnectedness of things and that our individual actions while small (and sometimes large) have rippling effects in the universe. I’m honored to have had the opportunity this evening to prevent a series of ripples that would have caused pain, grief, doubt, anxiety, all the things we generally prefer to avoid in our daily lives. Think of all the people and situations that would have been adversely affected had either of those woman been struck. How about the effects on the driver? When you contemplate such a thing, it’s incredibly profound. And humbling. Because you realize that cultivating such awareness might mean you do something as simple as rephrase a text, make someone laugh, hold a door open, or save a life.

Happy Holidays. Be safe.