Archive for December 2008

December 4, 2008 Childhood’s End

December 4, 2008

When I was a child, playground equipment was simple:  swings, slide, teeter-totter, and merry-go-round.  Like most little boys, I played hard on this basic equipment, swinging higher and pushing the merry-go-round so fast that I nearly got sick.

Fast forward half-a-century.  I now travel with my cameras, seeking emotional connections with the landscapes, small towns, and natural details of America.  When I saw this playground in the forest, I was camping at Pike State Forest in Indiana and using a bit of electricity in the picnic shelter to power my computer.  Then the idea struck me that this old and well-used playground equipment behind the shelter would make a fine subject for infrared photography.  So I got out my old Pentax 6×7, loaded the black-and-white infrared film in a dark corner of the shelter, and set out with my hand-held light meter and B+W 092 filter to get some evocative images.

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Infrared film is tricky to expose, because the film sees a different part of the spectrum than our eyes.  With the filter on the camera, exposures are measured in seconds, rather than a fraction of a second, so a tripod is essential.  Infrared light focuses at a different point than visible light, so one hard-for-me-to-remember step in taking each photograph is to change the focus.  Basically, I compose the image in focus, then screw on the extremely dark red filter, then turn the focus on the lens to a little red mark that indicates the point for infrared focus.  Then I set the shutter to B, cock the camera, then trip it with a cable release, counting one, one-thousand, two, one-thousand, etc. until I want to end the exposure.  The three pictures shown here were exposed about 10 to 20 seconds each in morning light, and I made several longer and shorter exposures for each image so that I could be sure to get what I was hoping for.  Film infrared photography is a slow and deliberate procedure that harkens back to the era when everything about photography was slow and deliberate.  It takes patience and is among the few things in life I have patience for.

Once the negatives were processed and the contact sheets made, I scanned the best negative of each piece of playground equipment and printed it.

Black-and-white infrared pictures render foliage in ethereal shades of light gray and white, which gives the photographs a mystical quality.  And what could be better for looking back through the mists of time to our childhood experiences?

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To see a variety of my photographic work, including photos for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com

December 3, 2008 Digital Hawk

December 3, 2008

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The biggest advantage of digital photography is that I can often abandon the tripod and be more free and spontaneous in the field.  For serious nature photography, film demanded the use of a tripod because of its slow speed (low ISO or ASA).  But with a good professional digital camera, I can raise the ISO to 400 or 800 and still get a sharp, richly saturated image. This allows me to go into a location and work quickly to get a set of good pictures when time is limited.

2008_wa_1583wpAll of the pictures in this group were taken in about 1.5 hours when I stopped briefly at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Washington while on my way to the Columbia Gorge.  All the images were handheld, including those of the Red-tailed Hawk, for which I used a 500mm lens with 1.4x extender at an ISO of 640 (for those of you to whom this is Greek photo-speak, suffice it to say that in the past I might have gotten a couple of pictures on film, but with a less pleasing background and focus not so sharp).  The image stabilization built into the long lens is also great for controlling camera movement and shake.  Digital is good.

 

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To see a variety of my photographic work, including photos for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com

Click on the photographs below for versions with captions.