Monday, March 27, 2017

Lots Going On...

It was a very busy weekend...  I took Friday off from work.  My original plan was to head out exploring with my camera.  But, the weather wasn't very cooperative.  It was very overcast and gloomy with a cold breeze blowing.  The temperature did not get up nearly as high as it had in the days prior.  I did a few chores and ran a few errands in the morning, waiting and hoping that the light would break in the afternoon.  It did not, so I headed down into the darkroom and worked on some Van Dyke Brown printing.
In the evening, Margarit and I headed over to River Cree Casino and took in a concert by one of my favorite Canadian rock bands, the Tea Party.  The show was really good, but the sound quality in the venue, particularly with a harder, heavier act, was not great...
On Saturday morning we packed up and headed down to Calgary.  I had four tickets for the Oilers game that day... two from my season seats and two that I won at our neighborhood pub.  I had to give these away to guys on my hockey team as I needed to be in Calgary to celebrate my little brother's 50th birthday.  Nothing makes you feel older than your little brother hitting a milestone.  Wes had booked a community hall in Calgary and his band, as well as a couple of others, were playing.  They had a BBQ with burgers and hot dogs and an open bar.  It was a fun time and we were up until the wee hours.  The three little girls brought sleeping bags and stayed at Wes's house with their cousin Simone.  Margarit and I took a room at a nearby hotel.  It was about 3:00AM before we got back to the room and tried to get to sleep.  Four hours later, when the alarm went off, we were both still really tired.  Margarit dropped my off near downtown.  I met up with my other brother Greg and his family, who had been staying with another relative.  They were heading back to Edmonton that morning and I caught a ride back with them.  Margarit headed back over to Wes's place for a family brunch that was taking place that day.
I made it back home around noon and began getting ready for the Renegades playoff hockey game.  We had a 3:30 ice time at Kenilworth Arena for a game against the Mighty Ducks.  This was game two of a best of three series, and we had already won game one.  We were trying for a sweep of the series and a berth in the division final.  My team was well prepared and very determined and despite having to play with our backup goaltender, we hung on for a 2-1 victory.  We now have a few days rest before the final series starts on Thursday.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ice Bubbles

Here is a recently processed large format shot of the ice bubbles at Abraham Lake.  This image dates back to the day trip that Hailey and I took out to Nordegg, back in January.  The skies were clear and the temperature mild but the ever-present wind, whipping down the North Saskatchewan valley made it rather unpleasant.  I had to be careful setting up my camera and splaying the legs of the tripod wide enough to withstand the wind.  The tripod was warm from being in the back seat of the truck and the metal spike feet melted into the ice rather quickly, helping to secure a foothold.  This shot was captured on Fuji Neopan Acros 4" x 5" film with my Ebony view camera and Schneider 110mm lens.  I used a red filter to darken the sky and the shadow values.  Development was for a slight contrast increase in Rodinal 1:50.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Renegades - on to the second round...

After winning the first playoff game against the Panthers 5-4, we played the second game on Friday, March 17th.  None of the young guys on my team were crazy about having a game scheduled on St. Patricks Day.  But they all showed up for a 10:30 ice time at Coronation Arena.  We got the first goal, but the Panthers, with their backs to the wall, pushed back.  They got a couple of quick ones, built up a lead, and never looked back.  Our entire team played one of the worst games we've played in a long time.  The game finally ended at midnight and we were handed a 10-2 defeat.  None of us were very pleased with our effort.
This brought about game three of the best of three series.  The game was last night at 9:30 at Confederation Arena.  I wish we played here a little more often as it is a nice rink and only about six blocks from my house.  With this being an elimination game I expected both teams to be playing desperate hockey.  The game started with a really quick pace and it stayed that way for the entire game.  We seemed to want it more than the Panthers did and perhaps they were expecting another easy victory.  We were up three goals to none at the end of the first period.  They scored in the second to make it a little closer, but then we quickly responded with two more, and never looked back.  The effort by my team was a lot better and I think we showed our true ability as we coasted to an 8-1 victory.
We now advance to the second round of the playoffs.  There will be four of the eight teams in our division remaining.  The first place Griffins easily knocked off the 8th place Rack Monkeys to advance.  The 7th place Moose Heads surprised the 2nd place Clansmen and swept them out in two straight.  The Griffins and the Moose Heads will now meet in the second round.  The 4th and 5th place teams, the Ducks and the Ice Kings are still playing and will have their third and deciding game tonight.  The winner of that series will advance to play us beginning on Wednesday.  Eventually it will get down to two teams in the division final, and then a best of five conference final against the winner of Division 7 in the north conference.  Lots of hockey left to be played but for now we need to focus on the next round and not get ahead of ourselves.  Its been quite a while since my team has advanced beyond the first round and I'm really savoring this again....

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Yellowhead East

Yesterday Margarit and I went out for an afternoon drive.  Of course the big camera was a passenger in the back seat.  The three little girls stayed home, with a list of chores.  We got a late start... around lunch time, and were only out for the afternoon.
We took a drive east of the city on the Yellowhead highway.  We wandered about for a while checking out a few old buildings, some backroads and some small towns.  Some elderly guy in a beat up old mini-van snagged us in one of the towns and bent our ears for a while.  He was obviously lonely and was happy to have some one to talk to for a while.  We got a complete run down of the entire town and a commentary about a bunch of the locals.  I managed to take a few shots with the big camera and it was really nice to get out for a while.  We've been cooped up indoors for the past few weeks with stretch of rather miserable weather.  On this day it was quite mild and got up to about +8C.  Unfortunately the skies were mostly overcast and at times the light wasn't great.  But, it was great to spend an afternoon out with my young bride, exploring, making photographs and getting some fresh air.  
In the evening, after checking in on the girls for a while, we headed back out together and went to the Oilers hockey game at Rogers Place.  I'm a huge fan and have followed the Oilers for years.  Its nice to see that they finally have some success and its looking like they should make the NHL playoffs this year.  But it disappoints me that the Oilers owner is making so much money on the backs of the taxpayers, and the fans.  Our tickets in the upper bowl have a face value of about a hundred bucks each.  It costs 13 bucks for the two of us to ride the train to and from the game... or we could pay more and park close by... though my truck probably doesn't fit into most of the downtown parking spots.  Food and drink at the game is horrendously expensive... 11 bucks for a hotdog, about the same for a beer... even water is 5 dollars.  Its getting so that I don't buy anything at the games now, and just stop off at our neighborhood pub after the game.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Renegades - Playoff Hockey - Winter 2016/17

My Renegades hockey team wrapped up the regular season with a win over the Ducks.  This saw us finish in 6th place, out of 8 teams.  Our playoff matchup is a best-of-3 first round against the Performance Graphics Panthers.  These guys finished the season in third place.  We played them twice during the winter season and lost both games.
Our first playoff game was on Sunday March 12th at 8:45PM at Glengarry Arena.  We started the game with a parade to the penalty box, including a tripping penalty to yours truly.  But we weathered that storm and jumped out to an early 3-0 lead.  The Panthers broke the shutout in the second period with a goal, and then another.  We added two more to put the score up to 5-2.  The Panthers put on a big push, attempting to even things out.  They got a lucky goal off a deflection off one of our players, and then added another with their goalie pulled in the dying minute.  But we hung on for a hard fought 5-4 victory and the lead in the series.  Game two will be on St. Patricks Day.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Large Format Negatives

Most of my photography is done with a large format 4" x 5" camera.  I also own an even bigger 8" x 10" camera, and occasionally shoot with it.  It is much more challenging than 4x5, for a number of reasons.  
First its the physical size of the thing.  I have it in a large Pelican case and when I carry it around, I'm not really able to carry anything else, except maybe a tripod.  The tripod also has to be bigger and heavier than what I normally use, to provide the required stability for the heavy camera.  The film holders are large and cumbersome and I have about 20 that I take with me out in the field, ten each in a couple of Pelican cases.  Then I have another Pelican case full of about half a dozen lenses, and yet another Pelican case with all the rest of the stuff I need.... meter, filters, extension rails, cable release, focusing loupe, etc.  I usually only end up shooting stuff that is fairly close to the road as it takes me three trips from my vehicle to pack all the gear out to what I want to shoot, and of course when I'm finished, it is three trips to pack everything back.
The lenses are also somewhat limiting.  A normal focal length for 8" x 10" format is a 300mm.  A wide angle lens is about 120mm, and a longer portrait lens would be about a 450mm.  The depth of field of a given lens is not a factor of the format that it is used with, rather it is a factor of the focal length of the lens.  These long focal lengths do not have a lot of depth of field.  They need to be stopped way down to sometimes really small apertures to hold the subject in focus.  Shooting at F32, F45 or even smaller is not uncommon.  This can create issues with long shutter speeds and subject or camera movement.
Finally, there is the issue of printing these large negatives.  8x10 Enlargers are costly, hard to find, and take a lot of space.  I bought a used one a few years ago but have not yet had time to set it up.  For the time being it remains in crates at my shop.  I need to renovate the space adjacent to my darkroom to make space to set it up.  The ceiling is slightly too low for the enlarger so I will need to cut an opening to allow the column to project up an extra inch or two between the floor joists.  There just aren't enough hours in the day for all the projects that I've been meaning to get around to and this one has been put on the back burner.
In the mean time, the only way that I can print these large negatives is by contact printing them.  This involves putting the negative in direct contact with a piece of light sensitive photographic paper and exposing it to a light source.  The resulting print is not an enlargement and is an 8" x 10" print, the exact same size as the negative.  Traditional silver gelatin prints can be made by contact printing but mostly I have experimented with some alternative processes.  In the past I have made some Ziatype prints that use palladium and iron as the light sensitive material.  Most recently I made some Van Dyke Brown prints.  A light sensitive chemical is coated onto a sheet of fine art paper and allowed to dry.  The negative is then put in contact with that paper and it is exposed to a UV light source.  The sun works as a light source but I use some ultraviolet lamps. They are consistent and repeatable and I don't have to go outside, particularly in the winter, and I am not limited to printing during the day.  The UV light darkens the emulsion and the image gradually appears.  When I am satisfied with the density of the image the light is turned off and the paper is rinsed, fixed and washed.
Back in February I set up the big camera and took some portraits of the girls.  I processed some of the film that I shot that day and was quite happy with the results.  I also found a box of exposed 8x10 film in my cupboard and just the other day decided to process them.  This was nine sheets of Ilford Delta 100 film and the images were all taken back in 2009 and 2010.
Here is an example of one of those negatives.  The first is just a scan of the negative, with just a little adjustment to brightness and contrast but no other computer manipulations.  The second is a photograph of the Van Dyke Brown print that I made from this negative last night.  The subject is the confessional inside the old restored Catholic Church in Dorothy, Alberta.  At the time that this photograph was taken, in May of 2009, the restoration was still in progress.  Now, almost eight years later, that project is complete.
This image was taken with a Nikkor-SW 120mm lens.  This is a wide angle lens for this format and would be about equivalent to a 20mm lens on a full frame digital SLR, or on an old 35mm film camera.  The Delta 100 film was rated at 160 iso and given plus development in Kodak HC-110.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Willow Creek

I just recently did a little work on this scan.  This is Willow Creek, not far up the road from our place in East Coulee.  I shot this last October, when my friend Rob and I were exploring in the badlands for a few days.  We had originally planned to go to southeastern Alberta, but it rained too much and we called that off and stayed around the Drumheller area.  
I shot this on Efke PL25M 4" x 5" sheet film with my Ebony SV45TE camera and a Schneider Super Symmar XL 80mm lens.  In some ways the image was a success, and in other ways it failed.  The creek was flowing with a trickle of water, a result of the recent heavy rains.  That water was so muddy and brown that it looked more like "liquid dirt".  There were some rocks in the creekbed just upstream from this spot and the current spilling over and around them was generating a lot of bubbles.  I hoped that a long exposure would render those bubbles as streaks.  I'm not sure whether the color of the water or the length of my exposure created the issue, but those streaks really didn't show up.  I used a six stop neutral density filter in combination with a #25 Red filter.  This particular film is really slow to begin with and I typically expose it as iso 10.  In this case, it was about 1:30 in the afternoon on a clear day in early October.  The lens was stopped down to F22.  The exposure needed for this shot was over 5 minutes... 320 seconds to be precise.
It was a failure in that it did not render the moving bubbles in the water in the manner that I had hoped.  But it was a success in that the tonality of the image is really nice and I think it portrays the feel of a fall day in the badlands quite nicely.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Winter Hockey

The Renegades played our last game of the winter regular season on Sunday afternoon.  This game was against a team called the Ducks.  We played these guys a few times during the year and were never able to scratch out a victory.  In fact, we haven't done all that well this winter.  On paper it doesn't look too bad as we had 13 victories going into this game.  But... five of those were against the two teams that are below us in the standings.  Four wins came against teams that have been moved down into lower divisions.  And, four wins came against teams in the division 7 of the north conference of our league.  Those north conference wins were all against lower teams in the standings.  Going into this game we didn't expect to be able to win.  But, the guys that showed up played a really solid game.  We were down a couple of skaters and had a backup goaltender but we managed to scratch out a 7-4 victory, sealed with an empty net goal at the end.  The game finished very rough and chippy and there were quite a few penalties, mostly to the Ducks as they became frustrated.  We ended our 28 game regular season in 6th place out of 8 teams with a record of 14 wins, 12 losses and 2 overtime losses.  We now start playoffs next weekend.
Our matchup to start is against a team called the Panthers.  They got moved into our division partway through the season so we only played them twice.  We lost by a score of 6-2 in late October, but then took a game to overtime and lost in January.  The first round of the playoffs is a best-of three and we will get our first chance this Sunday... a morning game.  It doesn't sound all that bad if you say it fast enough... "8:45AM ice time"... but this is the day that Daylight Savings Time begins so it is really a 7:45AM puck drop.  The game is on the north side of the city so allowing time to get up, eat something, get ready, drive to the rink and get dressed I probably have to get up at about 6:15 AM...!!
I don't do well with early mornings... but this is playoff hockey...!!!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Preachers Point

This is a scan of a negative that I shot back in January.  Hailey and I went for a day trip out to Nordegg, and checked out Abraham Lake.  See my earlier blog post for more details about that trip.  I brought my view camera along so that I could photograph the ice bubbles in the lake.  This particular shot was taken at Preachers Point, at the upper reaches of the reservoir, where the North Saskatchewan River begins to widen out.  It looks like a mild winter day, and the temperature was actually quite agreeable, but like usual, there was a bitter wind sweeping through the valley, which made it painfully cold.  I just can not operate the small control knobs of the camera or the tiny adjustment levers and dials of the large format lenses, with gloves on.  As most of these components are metal, it isn't long before fingertips become numb and frozen.
This particular shot was taken with my Ebony SV45TE view camera and a Schneider Symmar 135mm lens.  The film was Adox CHS-50, exposed at 25 iso and developed in Rodinal 1;50, for 7:00 minutes at 24C.  This development time is slighlty longer than my normal and that, along with the #22 Orange filter that I used, jacked the contrast up a little.
This film was new to the market several years ago.  I bought a few boxes of it at the time and began to experiment with it.  It was being coated at the same Eastern European facility that coated all the Efke and Maco sheet film emulsions.  The factory suffered a "fatal equipment failure" and as the machinery was so old, it was not repairable and the factory shut down.  Several films that I really liked, including this one, were instantly unavailable beyond existing stock.  Since then film photography seems to be enjoying a bit of a renaissance and some new products have even been brought to market.

Saturday, March 4, 2017


"... the days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectaions, well I have really good days."

Ray Wylie Hubbard.   Mothers Blues, from the Album, The Grifters Hymnal.

Friday, March 3, 2017

March Doldrums....

March is a challenging time of year.  By this point we have suffered through three months of winter and are looking forward to spring.  The winter this year, here in Edmonton, hasn't been all that bad.  It started really early, back in mid-October, when we got a heavy dump of snow.  That cost the agricultural industry millions of dollars.  There were a lot of crops still standing, and some swathed, and they ended up buried in snow.  Most of those crops are still out in the fields.  We had lots of mild spells after that initial snow, but it was too little, too late, and the crops never dried off enough for the harvest to proceed.  
We have had a really up and down season, which is mirrored in our weather conditions today.  During the winter months we had two cold snaps, one in January and a second in February.  It got really cold, with day time highs in the -20's and even into the -30's.  And... it stayed cold for an extended period of time... about 10 days during the first one.  In between it has been really mild, and we set some record high temperatures in Feburary.  I think one day it got up to around +15C.  We have had very little snow through the winter, and the ground is bare in a lot of places.
Now that we are into March, it has definitely come in like a lion.  Hopefully the old saying holds true and it goes out like a lamb.  These past couple days it has been rather cold... around -10C.  Today the sun came out, a warm front rolled through, and the temperature spiked up to +11C this afternoon.  But two hours later it had dropped down to near freezing as a cold front rolled in from the north.  The temperature is supposed to drop down to -20C by morning, and we are supposed to remain unseasaonably cold until the middle of the month.  A bunch of snow is in the forecast for the next few days as well.  I hate this roller coast ride and am getting really impatient for spring.  In the mean time I spend my evenings working in the darkroom and scanning film.  
On that note here is a recent scan from the trip to Jasper last fall.  This is some boulders on the shoreline of Medicine Lake.  This was shot on Fuji Neopan Acros film with my 4x5 view camera.  I used a 150mm lens and the film was processed in Rodinal developer, 1:50, for a slight contrast increase.  Looking at this image it makes me long for days spent out in the field hiking and photographing.  It appears that will not be in the cards for this weekend, given the forecast, but hopefully those days return soon.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Another Trip to Saskatoon

I just returned from my third and final [for now] trip to Saskatoon.  I drove there in early January to deliver the prints for the Procession West show to the Saskatchewan Craft Council Gallery.  Then I made a second trip in late January to attend the reception.  Our show was taken down last weekend and this time I had to pick up the four crates full of prints and bring them back home.  My brother in law Shawn was in Saskatoon visiting his girlfriend and he gave me a hand this morning to load the crates into my truck.  We also got together for a visit and a few drinks on Sunday night.  Today I made the long drive back home.  I had hoped to be able to stop along the way and take a few photographs, but it was not to be.  It was moderately cold, for this time of year and there was a really brisk wind blowing that made conditions rather uncomfortable.
I did have lunch today with Zach Hauser.  Zach was on the jury at Saskatchewan Craft Council that accepted our show and I met him at the reception.  He is a former professional photographer that has now put photography aside to pursue a retirement career in artisan furniture building.  I bought some film holders and some paper from him and it was a very pleasant visit this afternoon.
It seems March has come in like a lion so hopefully the old saying holds true and it goes out like a lamb.  It was -17C this morning when I went out to start my truck in Saskatoon.  Here in Edmonton we are supposed to have similar conditions for the next few days.  Night time lows approaching -20C and daytime highs only around -10C.  This is far below the long term average for this time of year.  Hopefully once we limp through this current cold snap things will turn around and we will see a gradual transition into spring weather.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Horseshoe Channel

Here's another recently processed negative.  This one is from the Fall Photo Weekend in Jasper, last year, with the gang from the Monochrome Guild.  This is the southwest arm of Horseshoe Lake, in Jasper National Park.  This dates back to late October of 2016.  I took this one with my Ebony SV45TE view camera and a Fujinon-W 125mm lens.  The film was Kodak 100 T-Max, exposed at 80 iso and processed in 510 Pyro developer.

Fujinon SF F5.6 250mm Copal 3

Here is an example of a portrait taken with my soft focus lens.  This is from the recent portrait session, a couple weeks ago.  This shot, of middle daughter Annelise, was taken on Kodak 100 T-Max and processed in 510 Pyro developer.  I had the lens nearly wide open at F6.5.  The main light was a softbox, with the fill light bounced off of an umbrella.  I used my trusty old Sinar F1 view camera and my Photogenic strobe lights for this portrait session.  I quite like this lens and the way that the center of the image stays nice and sharp, but the fringes get all swirly and soft.  It may not be overly noticeable in this scan, but under Anna's right arm there is a structure that looks like a squashed bug.  This is static discharge, that exposed the film in this area... fortunately it is not overly detracting from an otherwise great portrait.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Family Portrait

Here's another image taken on the new Foma Retropan Soft 320 emulsion.  Two weeks ago I set up my backdrop and studio lights in our living room and took some portraits of the girls.  It has been quite a while since I have taken any formal portraits.  Margarit has a couple of antique picture frames that she wants to put some up to date portraits of the girls into.  This may be one of them....
I used my Sinar F1 view camera and a heavy studio tripod.  I used two strobe lights, the main one at camera right with a soft box, and a fill light at camera left bounced off an umbrella.  I used a Fujinon SF 250mm soft focus lens, though for this particular shot the lens was stopped down enough that the soft focus effect did not occur.  I have some other images from the same studio session where the lens was opened up and the soft focus effect is quite evident.  I will include at least one of those in a future blog post.  Once again the film was processed in Ilford Microphen developer, 1:1, for 15:00 minutes at 24C.  I think the grain and the open tonal range of this film work well in a portrait.