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Apr 102017
 

Making panoramic compositions with a Fuji GX617 and Hasselblad XPan

Dirk Dom

Shooting panoramas is extremely easy nowadays. Either you stitch, or you use a panoramic camera. The images below are made with a Fuij GX617 and with a Hasselblad Xpan.

The big Fuji shoots four 2.2 by 6.6 inch (5.6 by 168mm) images on 120 film. The image ratio is 3/1. I have a 90 and a 180mm lens, which are equivalent horizontally to full frame 20 and 40mm. Shooting it is serious work and needs to be done from a tripod. The images it makes (equivalent to 300 megapixel) can be printed many feet wide, with a crazy resolution.

The Xpan shoots 0.94 by 2.56 inch (24 x 65mm) images on 35mm film, 20 images a roll. Image ratio is 2.7/1. I have a 45 and a 90mm lens. Full frame equivalent, horizontally, is 24 and 50mm. I’ve never yet fired an Xpan shot from a tripod. It’s an extremely playful, spontaneous rangefinder camera with stunning image quality. Motion blur from hand held photographing limits printing to five feet wide.

Panoramas are in principle landscapes with a wide image view. Some examples:

However, one is not limited to landscapes at all. You can use the wide aspect ratio image (let’s say 2/1 and wider) for completely different shots:

 

You’re also not limited to wide angle. Most of the time I use the normal 180 and 90mm lenses. People say I’m out of my mind that I use camera’s like the big Fuji, because digital stitching is so easy and practical.

Yes???

Try these, stitching:

As you can see, exposing a strip of film at once has its advantages. As seen in the fireworks shot, you’re not limited to a horizontal image. If the composition fits the aspect ratio you can get quite beautiful compositions:

I make lots of vertical images. Digital cameras have more than enough pixels to crop to a panoramic image. So do medium format film camera’s. This is a cropped digital image:

 

I think that, digitally, the best way to work is to tape off your viewing screen and use live view to compose your image. Trying to imagine my panoramic composition in a normal viewfinder image doesn’t work for me.

Discovering panoramic compositions.

 You need to fill your image in a beautiful way. Don’t shoot 1.5 to 1 image ratios with a 3/1 camera.

An example. Here I have lots of space left on the sides of the subject:

This is better:

Your viewfinder is your friend to discover compositions. Take plenty of time.

A longer lens allows you to fill the image:

Panoramic composition.

Just as with the square image of 6×6, you need to be able to discover good compositions for the panoramic aspect ratio. It’s possible this is not for you. It’s also quite possible you absolutely hate any vertical wide aspect compositions. Borrow or rent a camera before you take the plunge of buying one to see if it works out.

The rules of composition of course all apply, but my experience is that you have to keep to them more strictly. A panorama has more space and needs more structure, it needs to be sort of calmer. It also takes a longer time to discover the image. Let me give you some rules, of which I’m sure you all know them and some image examples:

Diagonals.

Ideally, from left, up to right, down.

Rule of thirds.

Often, you need to put two subjects in a panorama because the image is too wide:

Repetitions:

Negative space is the part of your shot not occupied by your subject. I like images with lots of room.

Camera view point:

This one is taken with the camera at ground level, 45 degrees up without looking through the viewfinder:

 

Fore- and background:

Symmetry:

Can be extremely powerful in panoramic compositions. Take great care composing.

Clean up your image.

My sincerest apologies to the purists, but I get rid of junk and wires:

Before:

After:

Making vertical and parallel.

Very important with architecture.

Before:

After:

Well, I hope you enjoyed this and it was a bit useful,

Dirk.

Mar 312017
 

Film Friday! Downtown Antwerp with the Hasselblad Xpan and Kodak Tmax 3200

By Dirk Dom

Hi!

When I just had my Xpan, a few years ago, I felt like going downtown and shoot at night with it. I only had the 45mm lens (field of view horizontally equivalent to 24mm full frame) and used Kodak Tmax 3200. Because the Xpan only does automatic exposure with shutter times shorter than 1/15th second, I kept the camera at 1/15th or 1/30th manually and eyeballed it. All shots hand held. The Xpan shoots 24 x 65mm negatives on 35mm film, 20 shots a roll. It’s a rangefinder, but with the 45mm I always zone focus except when I need it to be super accurate. It’s one of my most favorite camera’s.

The Xpan with the 45mm lens

The 24 x 65mm vertical shutter

The park near where I live, between the houses and the railroad

These are old water cisterns from the time when there were still steam locomotives. They’re a very beautiful sight, very close to my place

An old building they refurbished into apartments

A pedestrian / bicycle tunnel under the railroad

The Antwerp cathedral is beautifully lit

A group of statues at the Cathedral, commemorating the building. They worked at the Cathedral for over 200 years. Take that, 21st century!

A shop window, downtown

The Meir, a big shopping street, completely deserted at night. The stone pillars were later removed as in the very crowded street during the day people didn’t see them and got hurt walking into them.

An office buillding on the Melkmarkt

Of course a Mac Donalds on the Meir, and to the left the Antwerp Central Station. This was a difficult composition and exposing the very brightly lit Mc Deonalds and the tower was difficult. Burning and dodging are your friend!

A last one of the Cathedral,

And a last shop window

Walking the city at night is fun. Hope you enjoyed them!

Film exposed at 3,200 ASA and normally developed in Tmax developer, developing time as on the bottle.

Bye,

Dirk.

Mar 032017
 

FILM FRIDAY: The Fuji GL690, a review.

By Dirk Dom

“Nonsense, Bond-san. That Leica is for a child. Here, use my Fujica instead!”
— Tiger Tanaka

I love medium format. I love film. And I love rangefinders. I have a Mamiya 7 and an Xpan. My good friend Ivo, during a slight attack of G.A.S., had bought himself a Fuji GSW 690 III. It’s a very nice camera with a 65mm lens which shoots a 6×9 negative. The lens is fixed. When I was researching these cameras on the Net, I discovered that an earlier version, the Fuji GL690, had interchangeable lenses. And the shutter, which was rather loud in my friend Ivo’s GSW, was almost silent in this one.

So, it was my turn to get GASsy. On the Ebay.com, I found a few of these GL 690 camera’s in Japan, one, supposed in working condition, for €200. That was no price at all. It had the 100mm f/3.5 lens on it, and I decided to buy it. A few weeks and custom’s taxes later, I had this ‘Texas Leica’ in my possession.

Oh, boy, did it look used. 45 years of hard use. It had been sort of repainted, brassed through, and the selector screw for using the shutter with the lid open was completely worn away. I fixed that by gluing on a stainless steel screw head. When trying it out, big disappointment. In shooting mode, which they obviously hadn’t tried out, the shutter only worked after several tries in a row if it worked at all, and I had to push it extremely hard, making aiming impossible. Send it back?

I decided to operate on it. The rewind lever off, four screws loosened and the top came off, revealing the shutter/transport mechanism. After looking for a while, I discovered that the interlock for the shutter which prevents the shutter being released after the first cocking (you need to transport twice for every shot) didn’t work properly. It was a little cylinder on a weak spring which was supposed to move aside but didn’t. The next three hours I systematically tried to stop this cylinder to move in the way by blocking several things, but everything in that mechanism did two or three things at the same time, so I wasn’t successful.

At last, the bright idea: I used a bit of copper wire to put the cylinder permanently aside and this was a success. Now, the only thing not working was the interlock at the first cocking, allowing the camera to fire then, but that was no problem. And I had done no permanent damage. The rangefinder was totally spot-on, so I could start shooting. But let’s first look at ‘The Beast’, as it’s nicknamed.

Six by nine negative. Oh, my!!!

It weighs about five pounds. That is at the limit of what I can hold to my eye without shaking and it’s pushing it. I had a Mamiya RB, which was at least as heavy. Because it had a waistlevel finder I had no problem using the RB handheld as it’s much more stable. Luckily the Fuji has two release buttons.

The Fuji works like a 35mm rangefinder, with two exceptions: first, it has these two release buttons, one on top and one in front. I don’t understand why other camera’s don’t have a release in front, as I use this one all the time, it’s just much more natural.

A second thing is that the shutter and diaphragm setting are rings on the lens because it’s got a leaf shutter. You can move the two at the same time, keeping exposure constant. Brilliant!

Loading the camera is extremely easy.

Since I obtained the Fuji in midwinter, I didn’t feel like wasting film in the lousy light. Only now, two months later with weather getting brighter, I tried it out. I got to the Forest of Ranst with four films Tmax 400 (32 exposures), exposed at 800 ASA because I love grain, measuring with a Pentax spotmeter, thus being not completely mechanical. Yellow filter. Developed normally in Tmax developer, scanned on an Epson V750 at 2,400 PPI, which can give me a 24 inch (60cm) print at 300DPI. Levels and burning and dodging in Photoshop. 6×9 negative is creamy smooth with subtle changes in tone. Oh, my. Grain, even with the 800 ASA exposure, is almost invisible, except in the skies, which is exactly what I like.

Anyway, here’s some results:

At f/3.5, the 100mm is a true bokeh machine.

1/30 second was pushing it.

What’s the verdict?

The Mamiya 7 is more hand holdable. But, 6×9 instead of 6×7!!! I like this aspect ratio.

This camera also mounts a 50mm lens, equivalent to a 20mm on full frame. (The 100 mm is equivalent to 40mm) It’s a rare and expensive lens, but I long for it. In fact, I don’t need it, because I have the 43mm for the Mamiya 7. I’ll see.

Next thing I’m gonna do is put some Fuji Velvia through it!!!

Hope you enjoyed this,

Bye,

Dirk.

Jan 022017
 

Glue and scanning to create Abstract Art

By Dirk Dom

A scanner isn’t a photo camera. Yet it can be used to make images. It has a totally crazy resolution if the object gets a bit bigger. If you scan something four inches on a side at 3,000 DPI, you get a whopping 144 megapixel image. Eat that, you Sony users!

With this project I was making flat objects on a disc, 3.5 inches diameter, so scanning was a much better option than using a macro lens.

What did I do? (It’s O.K. if you judge me crazy)

I put Plexiglas glue on a 3.5 inch glass disc. I mixed it with blue and yellow polyester resin coloring. Put another glass disc on it. Squeezed. Pulled it apart by very carefully putting an X-acto knife between the discs. Let the result dry. Scanned. Photoshopped.

DISCLAIMER: You have to be aware that for me, anything goes in abstract photography. I used Photoshop.

Getting curious?

Well, if Steve actually puts this on his website, here goes:

This is how it actually looked, (almost) no processing:

This is it, solarized:

I wanted it red:

I cleaned the discs with acetone and gave it another try:

Details of the disc:

The detail in the images is incredible. I’m having them printed 24 inches.

If, now, you feel an overwhelming desire to go mess with glue and coloring, you have to be aware that every image had thousands of white and colored little spots and little bubbles. It was three to five hours of non stop retouching per image, even for a three and a half inch disc. I’ve done retouching of scans of old magazines, well, this was ten times worse. I actually had watering eyes.

Now for the serious part.

These patterns are made by the free flowing liquid, the glue. Mathematics and physics still haven’t figured out how to calculate and predict these patterns. They are chaotic. They belong to the same family as the curves a flow of water makes going down an inclined plane without any obstacles. You can see that path in a meandering river.

Well, after two tries, I thought it was enough, just too much retouching. Of course every time you do it again, the pattern will be different, but it’s basically more of the same. You can do the same with varnish, paint, engine or vegetable oil and different colorings in different spots and more or less, longer or shorter pressure. Maybe you should show this to your kids!

That’s about it, hope you enjoyed it, and thanks, Steve!

Bye,

Dirk.

Oct 182016
 

Shooting the Olympus PEN F half frame camera from 1960

And postprocessing…

By Dirk Dom

Hi!

I’ve been in Spain, Costa Blanca, for three weeks, I had a bunch of very serious camera’s with me, but when leaving, as an afterthought I literally threw in, together with my bicycle gear, my little Olympus PEN F with 100mm lens and a red filter. This 1960 half frame camera I had bought about twenty years ago as an investment and I had never shot a single image through it. I brought ten rolls of Kodak Tmax 100. I also took my black and white developing kit.

Anyway, this is the camera:

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Beautiful, isn’t it? It’s a smooth looking chrome little gem, all mechanical, no light meter.

It makes quite a lot of noise when pushing the shutter, and the noise sounds cheap.

Anyway, I put a roll of Tmax 100 in it (72 images), put the red filter on and started shooting. I eyeballed the light, using the sunny f/16 rule, which, after developing my first roll, I made into the sunny f/22 rule. This was the first time in my life I did that, being used to 1/10th stop displaying spotmeters, and all my shots came out good.

I had my Rodenstock medium format loupe with me and I also looked through the 45mm lens of my Xpan to see the results. What I saw really pleased me, and shooting the camera was both challenging and fun, so I just shot the camera with the 100mm and red filter the entire three weeks I was there. I totaled two and a half films, about 180 images.

At home, I scanned on my Epson V750 at 4,800PPI, which brought out the Tmax grain real nice.

I expected some sort of ultimate grain pictures, which I truly love. What I didn’t expect was the very mediocre sharpness. We are sooo spoilt by digital. The compositions were nice enough, but they had none of the WOW!!! Of my medium format.

A typical scanned image was like this:

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Not that great, isn’t it? I ‘d say pretty hopeless.

I had also shot with a red filter for the first time in my life, (normally I use an orange filter). You know, I’m crazy about clouds, and the red filter brought them out nicely. But my landscape part often was extremely dull, with such small differences in grey tones that I had banding in Photoshop, even in 16 bit TIF files. So, another lesson learnt: use a red filter with great discretion.

I went searching for a way to make the shots presentable and even beautiful. I’m giving you my evolution, not the finished stuff:

It took a great deal of burning and dodging, often very subtle, to make the images nice. I accentuated the grain by sharpening until it looked nice and balanced.

At first, I made the grain much too pronounced and aggressive:

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When I realized this, I got images where the grain looked more natural and which still had the spark in them:

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And, what do you think about this? I put in some crazy contrast.

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Now. I didn’t just shoot crazy cloudscapes. What I had had in mind originally, was using the camera for street shooting. Didn’t do a single shot of that. But the “normal” shots look absolutely nothing special.

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I kept myself at maximum 1/125th second shutter time, the sunny f/22 rule put me, in sun, at 1/250 and f/5.6, with the 3 stop red filter. I didn’t go below 1/125, f/3.5 to avoid motion blur; so, evenings, I was a bit handicapped with was, in fact, exposure on 12 ASA. This is after sunset, have to do this one again, because it’s oversharpened, see the white contour around the landscape part?

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The 1/125 made for nice images, sometimes, also after sunset:

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Now, a poll.

Do you think these images worthy of printing or do you consider them a failure? Personally, I think it was a worthwhile experiment, but I think medium format is more beautiful. Maybe more different than more beautiful? Should I make a 12 x 18 inch album on Hahnemühle Baryta out of these shots, just to show how different it can be, photography?

Dirk

Aug 302016
 

About negative space, looking 3D and some other things.

By Dirk Dom

I wrote this essay a few years ago, now I translated it to English. I hope you enjoy it.

Negative space is the part of your photograph which isn’t taken in by your subject. It can disturb, or make your photograph stronger instead. It’s really worth paying attention to your negative space, because it can improve your image significantly.

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Often, you’re so excited taking a shot, that you completely forget turning the photograph into something beautiful. When you come home, disappointment is bitter: A boring or even disturbing composition, perfectly avoidable junk in your image, etc., etc. I experience this a lot when I’m photographing insects, because, then, I’m on a hunt. Only by paying constant attention, taking the effort and calmly taking my time, I make truly beautiful images.

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To bring a beautiful negative space into your images, in the first place you have to learn to look three dimensionally. Look about for the potential in backgrounds before you take the camera to your eye. Can you put an extra element into your image, not sharp, using the rule of thirds? Can you use lines, light/shadow, colors? You should discover all of the above before you raise your camera, because, once you start looking through the lens, your field of view is seriously limited and the looking about stops. Camera angle, image angle of the lens, depth of field and kind of background all give you possibilities to create your negative space.

After you ‘ve discovered negative space with potential, you can start using your camera.

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It is useful to go practicing without your camera: search for meaningful lines of sight between subject and background. Effectively go through your knees to observe how the image changes. After a while this will become second nature and you will start to discover a multitude of images. The background is three dimensional: you learn to project it into a 2D image in your mind, without your camera. Take someone along on this camera-less journey and show him/her how you look at things so that beauty maximally emerges and explain why every time. Without a camera this is a very pure and efficient learning process, because you don’t waste time setting up and with the technicalities of photography.

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One stage further you’ll discover backgrounds with lots of potential to begin with and then you’ll put in subjects by moving around. Your way of looking then has become fully 3D, you look the way the cone of your lens looks.

You also have to learn to visualize what you want with your depth of field. My opinion is not to long for a maximum depth of field, but to use it for a result which is as beautiful as possible. Close focused wide angle shots will yield great DOF. Your background will be sharp: Then you have to take great effort to find a composition without disturbing elements. The same goes for shots you take with a compact or smart phone: because of the enormous DOF you need to carefully select your background.

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You can be extremely selective with depth of field:

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Then, you have to commit what you visualized to your film/sensor. The simpler your gear and the better you know it, the easier that is. When I’m shooting in a serious way I walk with one camera, one lens. That way I only have to be on the lookout for compositions for that one lens, which greatly simplifies matters. This is also the reason for the truth that you make better shots with simple camera’s (without three trillion menu settings): You don’t need to think about your camera.

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Less gear, I think, indeed gets you better results: A friend of mine went on a photo hunt with me with a standard zoom and an 105 macro. 80% of the time he was changing lenses and he missed shot upon shot, while I was happily shooting my 200 macro, which was my only lens. Do the walk twice or change lenses at the turning point and don’t care about missed shots. Taking two camera’s works for me, too, then I don’t need to change lenses. I sometimes take the Mamiya 7 with super wide and the Olympus PEN with macro lens with me if I’m going on a walk I won’t repeat. This enormously slows down my walking speed, however.

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All this goes directly against photo gear advertising, which brainwashes you, making you think that you’ll certainly miss that one truly exceptional shot, which you’ll regret your entire life, tells you the great images are just out there en masse, but that you have to buy and lug along every possible bit of photo gear to grab them.

The photographer swallows this hook and rod, everything you read on the Net is about gear and almost nothing about making images, some time ago a detailed analytical explanation about DOF: For God’s sake, every lens is different in character, go try it out!!!

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Unique images exist and for a surprisingly large part you get them by being completely ready, waiting calmly for the perfect moment and the perfect light and not by lugging along all gear imaginable. Personally, I don’t care if I miss an image: I’ll make another, different one, soon. And think about this: Every possible shot has been made a hundred thousand times already, much better than you’ll ever do it! It’s a waste of time, photographing! I go through all the effort for the immense personal pleasure a really good image gives me and because searching for images makes me feel deeply calm and in the moment in a way nothing else does.

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Once you really are familiar with 3D looking and negative space, you’ll become much more boss over how your images will look. You’ll quickly discover how you can make much better photographs with small or very radical changes in viewpoint and camera settings. You’ll start talking about your photo’s in different terms: “I put my subject like this, I chose that background, my sharpness I put there, I decided for this kind of light.” You picked your 2D image out of 3D space: You’re in control!

Dirk.

Jul 282016
 

Simply…..Prints

By Dirk Dom

I so much wish there were a cheap way to look at my shots the way they deserve it – but there isn’t. An expensive beamer, an Eizo screen, serious prints. About half a year ago, I decided to go for the non-compromise way: portfolio books with high quality inkjet prints. I started doing a book with fifty 24 inch panorama’s from my Xpan to check it out, and now, I’ve almost completed printing my good shots. I’m doing one more with the Xpan, from Spain, a mix of color and B&W:

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 To me, a print is the ultimate. I think the reason is I can look at it from the whole, from a distance, composition, etc., to really close, structure, grain, the stuff I worked on in post, in one sweep. My Eizo gives me the same image, but I can’t look at it the same way. And I can carry my books anywhere, which would be impossible with the Eizo. I have a very good HP laptop I do my processing on, but the screen!… Often, I open a shot on it, and then I think: “ Oh, my! The blacks are without structure”, or: “ The color saturation is way too weak”, and when I open it in Photoshop on my Eizo, everything looks perfect. Whew! I don’t want to carry my laptop to people to show images anymore.

Anyway.

The books are 19 by 13 inches (A3+), ring bound so they open flat, between the shots I have tracing paper. The covers are matte board, I draw something onto them and on top of that I have a protective plastic film.

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The printing is done on a very big inkjet printer with some 11 colors and grey tones and such, I have it done by a pro. He gives me a good price because I send him files which are 100% O.K., he just prints them, everything being calibrated. All the cutting I do myself and the binding gets done at a copy center. I completed one book with 36 black and whites from San Francisco, printed on Hahnemühle baryta. That book cost me a solid 900 dollars. Was it worth it? Yes, every penny.  I’ve never seen my black and white work so beautiful and so perfect, texture in really everything, exactly the way I had done it. This paper is incredible. This is what B&W is made for.

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 The color work is a riot. A friend of mine went to Namibia and as a souvenir he bought these two very high quality offset printed books full of photo’s. Compared to my inkjet prints there is no contrast and everything is flat.

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Looking through my flower shots to decide what I’d print, I rediscovered digital photography. In about 2010, still shooting film with my Canon F1, I started discovering a variety of techniques to shoot flowers and insects. Then, I bought a used Olympus PEN EP-3. Being unlimited in shots, being able to see exactly what I did through the electronic viewfinder and being able to go higher in ISO, I started on an exponential curve of creative discovery and perfection.

Like, being really able to shoot insects, with a 1% keeper percentage.

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And perfecting flowers with another flower as a background, using a 200mm macro

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And shooting flowers with an interesting background.

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Or just beauty

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All this prints like you wouldn’t believe it.  I realized, after two years of exclusively shooting film, that I have to absolutely restart it, it has simply too much potential and it’s too much fun!  My film flower shots, using 3 stops overexposed 800 ASA film, show perhaps the best on my prints. I see everything, from grain, close up, to the impressionistic whole image, all in one sweep.
 

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Is it expensive?  Hell, yes! I could easily have bought a Sony A7S II from it! Is it worth it? Absolutely!
Hope you enjoyed it,
Bye,
Dirk.

Jul 182016
 

QUICK SHOT: New Alien

by Dirk Dom

For a few years I’ve been making mosaics of photographs. Very rarely I discover a face in them. This happened five times now. Twice I only got the idea only a few years after making the shot, once in the middle of the night.

I have two kinds of images: the symmetriads, which are composed out of four identical pictures, and the asymmetriads, which are composed out of four shots taken in rapid succession. These composites are not symmetrical on the small scale.

This is my first asymmetriad alien.

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My friend Nancy mentioned that an asymmetriad mosaic of mine, composed of four images of grass would be particularly effective at a show at the University of Antwerp, where there are lots of biologists and they have a famous electron microscopy department, because the subject is biological.

I wasn’t real enthusiastic, because I wanted to show two aliens, but all of a sudden I thought I could make an alien out of this!

It worked!

Thanks, Nancy!

My former aliens are in a posting on this site about my abstracts.

And, … I can blow these up to insane size as the original is 64 megapix!!!

Bye,

Dirk.

(From Steve: Have ONE SHOT you really think is interesting or enjoy? Send it in to me HERE to submit as a quick shot image for this site! Be sure to include a description and a link to your blog, portfolio or wherever  you like!)

Jul 072016
 

Street Photography in San Francisco using film

By Dirk Dom

Hi!

My wife and son live in San Francisco, I live in Antwerp, Belgium.

I ‘m in love with S.F. and as a lifetime project I want to make a really great photo book about it. One can only do a few things perfectly in a lifetime and for that reason I’d rather go to S.F. as much as I can and really get to know it instead of going to several places only once. I’ve been to S.F. for photography three times now, doing serious shooting, I’m gradually getting a feel of the city and in April ’17 I’m going back for five weeks. I ‘m 58 and I think I can get to S.F. about ten more times. Ten times ten really good shots printed very high quality is a hundred good shots, almost a book.

I’m very much a flower and landscape and cityscape and panoramic and abstract photographer. These things don’t react when I shoot them. I don’t feel at ease photographing people I don’t know. My wife says that’s a huge gap in my photographic portfolio. She’s right, I have to get over it. I usually ask and talk before shooting and street musicians I listen to, talk with and if possible buy their music. Shooting people on the streets I’m very much a beginner.

For good portraits I need to take hundreds of shots in often very fast succession. So far, I don’t see myself doing that on film, not because the film cost, but because of the hassle putting new film in, developing, scanning and post processing. I use my digital PEN and so far Canon FD manual focus lenses. I long for an autofocus lens with large opening in the 85mm range, which I’ll probably buy soon, when I’ve made up my mind doing people shots digitally. With my manual focus lenses I miss lots of opportunities.

I’ll see if I make the switch to film doing people on the streets, too; maybe I shouldn’t take the easy way out and be content with making far fewer photo’s.

During my six week 2012 stay in S.F. I made four people shots which were good:

This guy was at a barbecue of my wife’s neighbors. He wore this sort of ultimate American shirt.

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I was listening to this guy’s music when another listener started to dance to it. I took some fifteen shots in rapid succession. The musician gave me a free Cd.

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No lack of interesting, fun people in S.F.

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I took perhaps 200 shots of this drummer. One came out good.

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In 2015 I did two people-I-don’t-know shots. I only had my Mamiya 7 and Xpan with me.

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I liked this lady’s green sunglasses.

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This English guy had wonderful tattoos. I told him so and asked him to pose holding his cap. I took two shots. You can see it wasn’t very warm on the Sausalito ferry.

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Mamiya 7

Of course the ultimate camera, but only ten shots a film. I hesitate to take it out for people shooting. The images would be great in grain and texture, I guess, but compositions and portrait beauty? I need much more experience with street shooting, putting people at ease, before I try the Mamiya.

My son Geert, he’s a rock hound (inherited that from me) and here he’s inspecting a piece of rock. It makes a nice, different shot of the Golden Gate. It’s not a selfie!

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That was people shots in S.F.

Thanks for reading and looking,

Bye,

Dirk.

May 312016
 

Hi!

San Francisco.

accidentally exposed Kodak Ektar 100 instead one stop pushed Kodak Tmax 400 black and white film, through an orange filter, and tried to recover with automatic colors of Photoshop.

I dodged the grain in the sky, got rid of a magenta cast and this came out:

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You have to admit it’s different from the 1,850,789,788th selfie from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Bye,
Dirk.

May 132016
 

40 years of flower shooting in the Zevenbergenbos, Ranst, Belgium

By Dirk Dom

I got my first camera, a Canon FTb, 40 years ago, when I was eighteen. It was a present from my mom and dad because I had graduated athenaeum.

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It came with a 50mm f/1.8 lens, and for little bit of money I bought a set of diopter lenses and I started shooting flowers. I had extremely little money then, but two years later I had a real Canon FD 100mm f/4 S.C. macro lens, with which I would take tens of thousands of shots. Some were even good!

The Zevenbergen forest in Ranst I knew since birth, and there I went back again and again. Especially in spring, this little forest has spectacular flowers. This is how it looks in March:

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And this is how the meadows near it are in high summer:

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Both shots with a Mamiya C330 TLR, Fuji Velvia of course. So, plenty to shoot.  After 40 years, I still go back there often; I know every square inch of it, so I know exactly where to go.

About four years ago, I got tired of shooting flowers. I had reached perfection and I shot absolutely beautiful and absolutely boring flower pictures. I upgraded to making interesting flower photographs, like this one:

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I had bought an Olympus PEN and I had a 200mm macro lens and I experimented a great deal. I learnt to look and how to get the picture the way I wanted it. I don’t think I could have ever reached the level I’m at now without those three years of being digital. Two years ago I got fed up with the limitations of digital, and I stopped shooting flowers again. The limited processing potential, the burnt out whites and colors and the color noise, the absence of surprise. So, about a year ago, after looking back in detail at my film flower shots (scanning and opening them up myself) and discovering the potential, I went back to film. I had also gotten into medium format shooting Fuji Velvia with a Mamiya C330 and of course that totally smoked my PEN. I experimented with film, found out it was what I looked for, got more confident and now I’ve started doing a new kind of flower shots, using a 85mm f/1.2 wide open and a Petzval lens. You can find the explanation on this site, I posted a few weeks ago.

These are the first shots I took with the 85mm and a 50mm extension tube in the Zevenbergen forest. My 58th birthday was April 16th, so, forty years! I shot one film in about two hours and got seven good shots. When I shot with the PEN, I usually came home with about 400 images. At first I was a bit fed up because it was the same routine all over again, but after ten shots I got interested and started really searching. Unlike digital there is a very big surprise factor here.

All shots Fuji Superia 800, overexposed two to four stops, scanned on an Epson V750, not that much post processing because the film look is kind of delicate. Well, here they are…

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I hope these shots won’t get boring, I’ll diversify, maybe I’ll use the 200mm macro again and see how my old techniques look on film, but now I enjoy this.

Dirk.

Feb 122016
 

Hasselblad Xpan, a print solution.

By Dirk Dom

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The Hasselblad Xpan is a panoramic rangefinder which makes 65 x 24mm images on 35mm Together with the Mamiya 7, this is my absolute favorite camera. A problem is: what do you do with its output? The panoramic format doesn’t lend itself to standard stuff.

Here’s a solution which works real well for me.

Scanning.

I use an Epson V750, scan at 2.700PPI. That is resolution enough for a 24 inch print.

Printing.

I used to paste two images together on a 30 x 45 cm print, and have it printed on a Fuji Frontier. But these prints were just too small, and I had no solution to present them, so it wasn’t any good.

After two trips to san Francisco, Easter and Summer 2015, I decided to go without compromise. I was going to make a real album with 24 inch prints.

Here’s how I did it:

I scanned my images and photoshopped them. I looked at them at 200% and got rid of the tiniest faults.

Printing image by image on a 24 inch roll of paper made for lots of paper loss, so in Photoshop I combined the images in huge prints of ten, with 1 centimeter of white in between. I can tell you these 2.5 meter prints look real impressive.

The prints were made on a very high quality inkjet printer with archival inks and on Permajet Oyster paper. I didn’t do this myself, but had it done by the company Kodec in Belgium, who are real masters. I have a 24 inch Eizo screen and the image on it is 100% the same as the printed result, so I don’t need to have tests made.

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I bought myself a paper cutting machine and cut out the prints.

I bought 100 grams tracing paper to put between the prints and cut that, too. The prints were 604mm long, I got two sheets out of A1 size tracing paper. All the cutting was done in two hours, I could have never done it without the paper cutting machine.

The prints came from a roll and they had a curl. I first put them under a flat board for a week, but that didn’t help. After looking on the Net, I discovered you need to reverse curl the prints. I experimented a bit. The photo shows how I did it, between rolled up drawing paper.

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You need quite a small curl radius: first I tried 6 cm, then 4, and only with 2cm it worked and the paper went flat. I used a plastic broomstick of 2 cm diameter on which to reverse curl. I rolled and held for two minutes. Of course I did all print handling with white cotton gloves.

I made front and rear covers in matte cardboard. The bridge drawing I got off the Net.

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Everything was now ready to bind.

I used a spiral (Wire-O) bind because I wanted the photo’s to open completely flat. I had a plastic cover put over it. The binding I had done at a printing shop. There are two options to bind the book: either you put the binding to the left, which makes the book open 1.2 meters, or you make the binding on the top, like a calendar. I thought the part above would interfere with appreciating the shots, so I chose a binding to the left.

This is the result:

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Although it’s very clearly visible that this is a book which is self-made, it handles perfectly. The pages turn over very smoothly, and the tracing paper stays nice and flat. To me, it’s a success.

The 24 inches are a perfect size for the Xpan photo’s. Xpan panorama’s need 24 inches for their WOW! Factor to come out. I can now take my prints anywhere, and even let people handle them. I’m thinking of converting all my portfolio’s to this bound shape.

The book is a bit too big to carry around, I’m making a cardboard box for it.

How much did it cost? Well, not cheap. The book has 36 prints. It cost about 800 dollars, of which 300 went to buying the necessary tools. These, of course, I can use again.

I researched having a panoramic album with prints this size printed commercially. There are print services for it on the Net. The price is the same as this DIY book and they look very beautifully made. They open flat, but the panorama is printed across two pages and has a fold in the middle. I was 100 % sure the print quality of my book would be outstanding, with the commercial work, you have to wait and see. So I chose the DIY option.

Well, Xpan users, this is my solution to the print problem.

If you’ve made it this far through my exposé, you deserve a little reward. Here’s some shots I made with the Xpan in S.F. All Kodak Ektar 100.

I have both the 45mm and 90mm lens, I used the 90 (equivalent to 50mm on full frame) about 80% of the time.

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Thank you,

Bye,

Dirk.

Feb 042016
 

Visiting the European Motor Show in Brussels

by Dirk De Paepe

A different approach to a car show.

1902 was the first year of the Motor Show in Brussels.

It has been a big event in our country as far as my earliest memories go (and far beyond that). I remember the black and white TV reports, showing the new cars of the late fifties. I still treasure the remembrance of visiting the show as a little boy in the early sixties, together with my parents and my brother, exchanging thoughts about what would be our next car. I also remember visiting with the last class of high school, around 1970, and later a few times to get information for my own next car. The event gets much attention in the Belgian media and provokes lots of traffic jams in the area.

This year, I didn’t visit the show because I was into buying a new car. I visited it because, being such a big event for so many people, I find it an inspirational place to take pictures. Yet this isn’t a typical Motor Show report, with lots of new car models in the lead role. I even carefully avoided to make it too obvious what cars are in the picture. Instead, I wanted to show the visitors. Perhaps you remember from earlier articles of mine, that “people’s behavior” is my favorite subject. Therefor I like to visit places where people behave in a typical, specific or remarkable way.

It always strikes me how people behave in a particular way, when visiting a car show. Well, that’s precisely what I wanted to picture. I’m looking for scenes that stimulate my imagination, that make me wonder what people feel – how they experience the event. I fantasize about their mutual relationships, what there intentions might be, what makes them act as they do, etc…
I hope it’s not too big a disappointment, having to miss all those car pictures, but I’m sure, if you wanna see those typical motor show shots, that you’ll find it not difficult at all to get tons of them on the internet. :-)

First the picture

I invite you to first look at each picture, before reading its title and story. With the title, I try to nail the essence of my personal thoughts about the scene and my intent with the picture. If the title is not immediately clear, the short story will clarify, I hope. Like I said, what I write is just my personal thoughts that go with the scene. I’m not at all saying that those thoughts are all the absolute truth. They’re just the reflections of how my imagination was stimulated by the scene. They are the reason why I took the picture.

It’s clear that I have no part in the scene itself. I’m merely observing and registering. My part is limited to the scene selection, viewpoint, timing and framing. So I didn’t have any power over the light neither. Many consider the light the most essential element in photography. I tend to not share that opinion completely. I believe the most important power of photography is its ability to freeze moments out of reality, giving that moment “a life of its own”. IMO no other art form can do this as easily as photography does. That’s why, again IMO, registering typical and remarkable scenes out of human life, is one of the main “tasks” of photography. Of course, if the light conditions are optimal, that’s wonderful. But I find being there at the right place and the right moment, to be even more important. I believe, when registering, the occurrence outweighs the light.

So each picture is a small story on itself. But let me be clear. I’m not proclaiming that my stories are the absolute truth. Indeed, some of what I describe actually happened. On the other hand, much of it is my personal interpretation of the scene. Which is truth and which is fantasy is completely irrelevant, because I have no journalistic aspirations with this article, not in the least. It’s merely a painting of general human behavior, feelings, reflections. Anyway, I always try to interpret the scene in a way, that very well could have been what actually happened. My goal is to make viewers reflect on human behavior, and thus to induce a better understanding. You are very welcome to interpret those scenes in your personal, very different way. I even strongly invite you to do so. That’s why I prefer the title to be put under the picture, instead of above – like Claude Debussy did with his preludes for piano, putting the title at the end of each score, inviting us to listen and have our own fantasy first, and only afterwards suggesting the subject.

Zeiss Loxia and Batis

When registering, one is first looking for a place that offers opportunities. Then it’s a matter of feeling: moving oneself to a favorable viewpoint, and acting as fast as possible – which sometimes requires cropping/reframing afterwards in pp. To be able to act very fast, is why I often apply zone focusing (with lenses up to 50mm focal length). The Loxia MF lenses are absolutely perfect for this application, IMO – great for zone focusing, thanks to their straightforward DOF scale and fantastic to manually focus very fast thanks to their super smooth focusing ring. Although, for these series, I also used the Zeiss Batis 85 – my first AF lens. I thought it could make sense to have AF in a tele, since its DOF is a lot smaller by definition, which significantly reduces the possibilities for zone focusing. But I have to say that, as far as now, I’m a bit disappointed in AF. I’m just having a hard time, handing over the decision to the camera. And I can’t say I’m experiencing that much “extra comfort” from the AF, compared to using a MF 85mm. It’s different, but on the whole… it’s not that spectacularly focusing faster or better (sometimes the focusing is worse than when performed manually).
Like I said, the other lenses I used were both Loxia’s, 50 and 35 (mainly the 50 here). Those Loxia’s are IMO simply perfect for the A7RII. When Zeiss will make a Loxia tele, I guess I’ll sell the bulkier Batis and replace it with yet another Loxia. (BTW, while writing this, my Loxia 21mm just arrived. The first thing that struck me is that it’s absolutely very compact for a 2.8/21. And I’m also immediately blown away by its IQ.)

OK, enough introduction. Let’s go to the pictures. I hope you’ll enjoy.

 

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Sheer Delight

American cars with big V8 engines are still pretty exotic in Belgium. To experience this is a real joy for many guys, regardless of their age – even if it’s only in a static way and for just a few minutes… at the motor show.

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Still Dreaming

Although already of very respectable age, this man’s mind is in another place. He’s not considering how much he can use this car – how much convenience he can get from it in his professional activity. Instead he’s dreaming about how much he wànts this car – how much pleasure he can get from it for his leisure passion. At the motor show, the dreaming is served for all ages.

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Not Sure

I admire this stylish lady. She proves that women can age beautifully, while still remaining completely natural. I noticed how she came to the show, watching and judging the cars. She wasn’t carrying a paper bag to gather brochures of so many different brands. She was only holding one catalog, the show catalog. A representative was explaining her the specs of a specific model. She was eager for the information. But I think that not all new, modern car features were immediately clear to her, which made her unsure as yet about what to decide. It was the duality of her motivation on the one hand and dubiety on the other that made me wanna take her picture.

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Matters into her hands

This remarkable lady was really into a new car. A few things stroke me. She was on her own. She was visiting the booth of a pretty exclusive brand. She was getting very specific information from this representative for her next personal car. She was connecting very targeted and without any restraint with this young(er) man. I even wonder if he was not taken slightly discomfited by her pretty assertive approach, not looking towards her, while she was absolutely focusing on him. It made me wonder about her place on the social ladder. For sure, she made herself a great career. She seemed to be at the pinnacle of her performance ability – in the stage of her life that she’s 100% self confident, going straight to her goal, fully aware of her exceptional competence. Scenes like this make me realize that we live in an absolute wonderful society in Belgium, where women can make a difference.

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The changing of the guard

Fathers teach their sons. That’s how we believe it to be. But at a given age, this changes, although we usually don’t dwell on it. The son, that I pictured here, wanted to visit the big Motor Show, and has invited his father with him, as a kind of treat. Of course he remembers, as if it were yesterday, how his father took him to the same show as a little boy, more than four decades ago, giving him the best day of his life. Today, he is pleased to return the favor – so happy to demonstrate the marvels of modern car technology, even though his father is at that stage of his life where cars are merely a means of transportation and a lot less thrilling than they used to be. In this scene, the son demonstrates how the lid of this heavy SUV can simply be closed by pushing the button. It’s obvious that the father didn’t know this feature yet. He’s clearly watching in fascination, as if a kind of small miracle is about to happen. I absolutely love this scene. It’s probably my favorite picture of this series. The profound love between father and son screams from it and really moves me.

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Athletism

This man has made it. He’s getting a special VIP treatment. He’s trying out the flagship of a leading brand, a state-of-the-art sports coupé, with all thinkable features and comfort and stunning performance. But merely getting in and out apparently is kind of an ordeal. Although in great shape, training his body on a regular basis, it took quite some time to figure out how to get back on his feet. I took several shots of him – one even showing him with the tongue a bit between his teeth, thinking of the best way to accomplish this task. I even thought of putting those pics in a series of five, for better illustration, but finally reckoned that this one shows a perfect synthesis. It illustrates the required body strength and control. It proves how, once found out the right way to go, one can “dismount” in complete harmony with the lines of the car – as long as one is kind of an athlete. BTW, next picture shows his collaborator (who takes profit from his “boss” to enjoy many exclusive cars on the show), having more difficulties.

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Suction Force

With a less well-trained body and being not that limber as his boss, this guy has great trouble getting in the cockpit. His body just seems much too colossal to ever succeed. At this stage, I almost expect him to be sucked in with a loud “pwah!”, by a big vacuum-cleaner-like force in the car. Well,… he finally got in alright, but the getting back out was just problematic. He performed like a dozen different stages, taking a good twenty seconds to complete the process in the most inelegant way thinkable, before finally getting back on his feet with a big smile on his face – just to conceal the shame of his fumbling. This car clearly is worth every penny – a show within the show.

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A Job to Love

Years ago the girls, working at the booths of a motor show, had kind of a pinup role. Nowadays, there are still (young) women working, but they do a terrific job in informing the visitor. All of them, as far as I could observe, were perfectly multilingual (in Brussels that means at least Dutch, French and English) and were professional in their approach. The young lady in this picture is clearly loving what she does. I spoke to her afterwards, showing her this photo and asking if I should delete it. Of course I could keep it. But the way she communicated with me in an open, friendly and welcome way (like she did with all other people) was simply telling me that she absolutely loves working at the motor show. And she does a great job indeed!

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The Decisive Test

I took four shots of her, since she gave me so many nice poses. When she realized that I was really shooting her, she stopped, looked at me and said (with a big smile): “You are taking my picture, or what?!”. I answered: “Well, I find girls much more beautiful than cars.” “Oh”, she replied with an even bigger smile, “a normal guy!” I can tell you, she is a very beautiful girl, playing a nice role in this scene, kind of how a movie star often has to play expressive scenes. What is the value of a car anyway, when you can’t properly check you makeup…! Her brother, sitting in the passenger seat, is just checking the dashboard. The representative, standing next to her, doesn’t seem to get the relevance of her test and is just patient.

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Tresspassing

When an exhibitor places a barrier around a car, he indicates that this is a very expensive and exclusive model. He expects the visitor to be that tactful, to stay behind the barrier, unless he is invited to approach. The two guys in this scene visit the show together, since they work together (like is the case with many male duo’s visiting a motor show). One is the boss, the other a privileged employee. The employee feels the need to prove his initiative and dynamism to his boss, by stepping over the barrier and elucidate some technical specs of this exceptional automobile. The boss absolutely keeps his reservation, being able to get all the information that he wants, from the place where he is expected to be. In a very controlled and subdued way, he’s perfectly mastering every situation.

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Ultimate Specs

This male duo is young friends, and are staying well behind the barrier. They are reading the specs of a Formula 1 car. And it’s not just any bolide, it’s the one that became World Champion in both the 2014 and 2015 seasons. It’s a car that, for 200% sure, they will never drive. Still they are absolutely fascinated about those specs. Totally unrealistic of course, but still the ultimate car fantasy for sure.

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Inspection

Yet another duo of friends. But those are apparently really into the technique. I guess they know what they’re looking at and that it’s not just an act for show. Future customizers?

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On Facebook in a Minute

I guess about half of the visitors is taking pictures. Many with a camera, even more with their smartphones. Those two cars are in an enclosed environment. I didn’t see how this young man was able to enter “the premises”, but I could see him perform the “I was here” act.

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Enlightened Admiration

The exhibitors spare no effort to draw the visitor’s attention to their booth. Here, they performed a quite impressive light show at the ceiling. This young man is clearly loving it.

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Design

Some visitors have a double purpose: watch and be watched. This young lady drew a lot of attention.

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Keeping it beautiful

Those booth workers, both male and female, have different assignments: informing the visitors and from time to time cleaning up the cars, wiping away the dust and possible finger prints. Like I said, those jobs are done by man and women alike – and I shot them both. But who can blame me that I selected this picture as the most beautiful one?! BTW, again, the professionalism of those workers is remarkable. I was very obviously aiming my camera at here for about maybe a minute to get the right frame. But this didn’t change her attitude or her facial expression one single bit. All the time she just kept on cleaning, just as if I wasn’t there, not specifically posing, but giving me all the time I wanted for my shot! Indeed, the exhibitors still engage beautiful girls, but they are so much more than just looking good.

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The Essence

I noticed this scene, because, although this is one of the smallest cars of the show, it brought the biggest smile on people’s faces – like if it made them realize that it’s the feel good factor that matters the most. This girl clearly enjoyed this particular one a lot. So I wanted to catch her happy face in the rearview mirror. But her face immediately changed in a kind of wondering expression. I didn’t notice that her boyfriend was in fact trying to get a beautiful picture from his love, sitting in the driver’s seat of her dream car. He was waiting for me to leave, because he didn’t want me in his picture. I, from my part, unaware of his presence, was waiting for her happy face again to appear in the mirror. After some five seconds, she understood what her friend was referring to. She looked in the mirror and gave me a beautiful smile. Only at that moment, I understood what was going on, noticing (part of) her boyfriend with his camera in the very corner of my frame, so I came half a step closer. I pushed the button and thanked them both for their open and welcoming spirit. I believe the boy took his shot ten seconds after mine.

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Today and Tomorrow

This is not a typical motor show picture, but rather one that shows our present world. Since Bataclan, also the Belgian government pickets protection at every event where lots of people gather. This is what we see today, and it’s not gonna change any time soon. The shot was taken, while standing in the cue at the cloakroom, just before getting back home.

See more on flickr

You can get more technical details about these pictures, via the exif data, that goes with them on my flickr pages . I gathered all these pictures in HR in a dedicated album, with the obvious title “Visiting The European Motor Show Brussels 2016” (https://www.flickr.com/photos/keepnitgood/albums/72157663992622111), where there will also be black and white versions of them.

And I’d like to conclude with thanking Steve and Brandon for keeping this unique site online. I insist on mentioning with every article, that the opportunity they give us, by publishing our articles, is flat-out fantastic. We have a really great community here, thanks to their effort. And having been in the publishing business myself for over 3 decades, I know that this is far from obvious. I love to read the articles of so many of you, I also hope you liked mine.

Dirk

Oct 192015
 

Hi!

Just post processed this shot, it’s originally a Fuji Velvia 100F slide. It’s a photograph of a frozen lake with the setting sun illuminating the reed, I took it on a walk on the first sunny day after winter. I used a Mamiya C330 (6×6 TLR from 1980) with the 180mm lens, I had all seven lenses of the system, from 55mm to 250mm. Just gave the camera to Matthias in Australia, who is a very good and promising young photographer I befriended, so this, for me, is sort of the culmination of using that camera. I now use Xpan, Mamiya 7, Linhof. The C330 was my entry into medium format. I hope Matthias will enjoy it as much as I did. I very much recommend a C330 (pro S) to anyone wanting to try out medium format.

The shot

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The amazing thing is the sky. The texture wasn’t visible on the slide, but came out during post processing. Also, the frozen lake, which is deep blue on the slide, shows amazing texture.

I put three hours of post processing work in this shot. It gets printed 24 inches on Baryta paper. Sorry for eventual compression artefacts here on the site, don’t know what to do about them.

Spot metered on the reed and overexposed that reading one and a half stop.

Scanned on an Imacon.

Bye,

Dirk.

Oct 162015
 

Some fun with solarizing.

By Dirk Dom

Hi!

Thirty years ago I spent a great deal of time in the wet darkroom. I finished one print about every six weeks, and I was fascinated by the Sabattier affect. I exposed hundreds of sheets of paper trying to control the effect and making interesting images. I also got out there a great deal to get suitable negatives. Photoshop can also solarize.

The next photos are solarized and those with a white background are made negative.  It’s an extremely simple process, taking no more than a minute. The shots I did it on, however, are my very best flower shots, I put a great deal of time in them, shooting and simplifying. Only extremely simple images work. Amongst my collection of flower shots, only about ten lent themselves to the process. Is this kitsch? I don’t know. I’d very much value your opinions on that. I personally think, that, if I did only this, it’d be kitsch. My work is so diverse, however, that I think I can get away with it. Well, enjoy! And, don’t be alarmed, I did this just for the fun!

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Oh, yes, images taken with a digital Olympus PEN and a 200mm macro lens and a Canon F1, with 85mm f/1.2 and some extension tubes.

And, yes, I’m getting them printed!

Dirk.

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