You are the universe experiencing itself.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Revisiting the Past

While I've been slaving over my "Rewinds" every now and then I'd get frustrated, overwhelmed, and exhausted, and I would need to take some time off it. To take a break from it I started shooting stuff at night again; like timelapses, but also long exposures and starscapes sort of like my JAPR stuff at SNC. It's nothing serious right now, but my interest has been growing and soon I might have to start working more seriously on it again.

Here's an awesome quote from James Balog in his movie Chasing Ice:

"Early in my career I discovered that there was something really special about photographing at night
that places your mind on the surface of the planet. You’re no longer just a human being walking around
in the regular world. You’re a human animal striding around on the surface of the planet that’s out in the
middle of the galaxy."

Thanks, James, for summarizing my entire JAPR in three sentences.

Armed with a stockpile of the now discontinued Fuji Provia 400 in 120 (It breaks my heart that this film is now going away, I love how startrails come out on it) I am ready to shoot a lot more. But I'm also now considering working digitally more.

Anyway, here's a fresh digital shot that I was surprised by. I'm actually really drawn to the softness of the foreground versus the stars (which also become distorted at the corners). I think I'd like to start exploring more like this.

The Real Update

I do not want to spend too much time just writing an update about what has happened in the past several months so I'll just recap the highlights quick so I can get to the fun part:
  • I was accepted into San Francisco Art Institute's graduate program for photography
  • As a result I moved to San Francisco
  • I am now almost through my first semester at SFAI
Now the real reason I wanted to make this update is to address what I've been working on since I started at SFAI; I think I mentioned earlier that I have returned to my film rewinding stuff. Well the process has come a long way now.

At first I performed everything manually, specifically I rewound the film by hand using the tiny little crank knob on the camera. Doing this while holding the shutter open and spinning around in circles while trying to roughly aim the camera where I wanted it was fairly difficult. It required quite a bit of coordination, and just looked damn silly. Getting good results was largely a gamble since every aspect of the process was completely imprecise:
  • It is nearly impossible to rewind the film at a fast but consistent speed (very often I would lose my grip on the damned tiny knob and the film would stop mid-exposure)
  • Since there is no real shutter speed the only exposure adjustment I have is the aperture, but there is no way to meter for it so it has always been mostly an estimation based on past results. (I could also theoretically adjust the speed I rewound the film to increase or decrease exposure, but as I explained the difficulty in rewinding by hand I never considered it a realistic option.)
  • How fast I spin around, or how fast objects move by is another variable that is difficult to judge. Depending on what lens I am using, how far away things are, and how fast the film is rewinding are all factors that I need to consider for what kind of motion is needed. Generally I tried to keep all these variables the same so I could establish a norm. For example I stuck to using a 50mm lens (also because that was the only option I had at the time)
So why am I explaining all this? Well with all this confusion and uncertainty the most obvious idea for improvement is to motorize the rewinding. I first decided against trying this because, believe it or not, I actually liked the idea of the physicality involved with the process. I felt that the inconsistencies of my hand rewinding the film was important in that it communicated a humanness in the photograph. I believed it was like seeing the strokes of the artist in the paint. I haven't entirely abandoned these thoughts, but after I started working on this project again this semester I decided I should try it.

I was not going to settle for some half-assed jury-rigged abomination though. If I was going to incorporate a motor I was going to do it right. This proved much harder than it seemed like it should be, but eventually I ended up with this:

This was mk1 for my motorization. However I wasn't happy with a few things: First, the motor seemed just barely strong enough to pull the film, second the motor was not ideal to hold in place with one hand, another problem was there was so simple way of detaching the motor. Also the on/off was controlled by a switch on the battery box, which was attached by fairly short cables. This all means that I had to hold not only the shutter open with one hand, but I also had to hold the motor and the battery all while trying to switch it on.

Mk2 had two improvements: a new stronger motor powered by a larger 12v battery pack, and new hardware that allowed for the motor to attach and be removed easily (though it doesn't look it, but the black screws easily slide in and out of the motor hub).

Finally came mk3 which is the current model I am using right now. Improvements are a new momentary switch attached to the motor and an extension cable for the battery pack. Now I am able to stow the battery in my pocket while I hold the motor and press the button to power the motor.

With my camera system satisfactory I was finally ready to expend my bulk load a film, and start to work on printing.

That's about where I'm at now. I've got 11 more rolls left from my 100' roll of Delta100. So far I've printed two +16ft prints. I'm still perfecting the scanning process and troubleshooting a new exposure problem, but a lot of progress has been made for me this semester, which is now almost over. Unfortunately now I have quite a number of academic responsibilities that require my attention before the end.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Long Lost Update

Better late than never. This update is long overdue and unfortunately it won't be a very fulfilling one either. In the time since I last posted anything here the most significant development is that I applied, was accepted to, and am now attending graduate school at the San Francisco Art Institute as a candidate for a MFA in Photography. As a result I am now living in San Francisco and finally getting down to doing more (art)work.

Currently I have picked up on my timeline pieces again, where I expose 35mm film as I rewind it through the camera. I recently was able to try this technique on a bicycle race in San Francisco (Giro di SF) and it produced some awesome results. Hopefully very soon I will have a system for motorizing the rewinding for a more consistent exposure, which though it will have its benefits may also have some drawbacks to be seen.

... Hahah so here I even forgot to post this update for several weeks now. Oops. Real update with some new stuff soon to come.