Here's another shot from my growing collection of photos captured using the techniques I wrote about in my previous post. This one was captured using a 70-300mm lens on a Pentax K1000 body, and the shot was (once again) about an hour long. At this point, I'm trying to figure out how long of an exposure is actually necessary to get a usable image, as the paper actually stops darkening at a point. Hopefully I'll be able to travel around a bit this week, and capture some even more interesting images!
I'm working on perfecting a photography technique right now that I've never actually seen done before. Based on the readings of a technique called Solargraphy, in which one documents the tracks made by the sun using a homemade pinhole camera and photographic paper as a film medium, this method I'm developing now harnesses a similar quirk of the photo process.
Photographic paper, the stuff that black and white photographers use in the dark room, is usually extremely sensitive to light, as it is developed and fixed in chemicals that bring out an image captured in a matter of seconds on the paper. But because it is so light sensitive, photographic paper also darkens when exposed to sunlight, which (in a sense) overexposes it to the point of visibility. Solargraphy utilizes this same quirk of the paper to let it act as a negative, capturing an image over the span of a matter of months. But Solargraphy uses a tiny pinhole, which lets in a minuscule amount of light. What if you used an actual camera, with a wide-aperture lens?
This is the result. Each one of these images takes anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours to capture, depending on how bright the sun is. The "negative" that is created on the photographic paper is extremely impermanent, due to the fact that it cannot be fixed to halt any reactions that might occur. You basically get one chance to scan in the negative, after which the negative becomes even more faded from the light in the scanner. The images created with these methods are ethereal and oddly timeless, using unorthodox techniques to call back to a time when photography was much more inconvenient and difficult to master. It's a far cry from the digital cameras that we're so used to now, and it really makes you appreciate just how special the art of photography is.
I'm not sure I'd say that I invented a new technique. In all honesty, I'm not that clever. Someone must have done this before me, I simply can't find any record of it. Still, on a personal level, I came up with the idea on my own. And sometimes, experimentation of this sort is worthwhile to achieve results such as these. There's nothing fancy about this. No film is used, no developing is needed. Chemicals are unnecessary, and you only get one shot to get things right.
One of the first things any photography student learns is the important of having a broad tonal range in a photograph. A photograph that is either too "bright" or too "dark" is, theoretically speaking, not aesthetically pleasing. Fortunately, in photography, rules are meant to be broken. Sometimes having a vastly underexposed image can hide certain details not essential to the main thought in a photograph, or add an air of mystery to an otherwise ordinary scene. Most important of all, composing a shot with the intention of underexposing the final image creates a photo that's out of the ordinary. In the photograph above, taken inside the run-down once-popular Saltair resort in Utah, the main visual element in the composition is the highlights across the handrailing. The staircase itself is merely an afterthought, and thus does not need to be emphasized to such a degree.
Another important reason to underexpose an image is to capture interesting or visually stunning light. The art of photography itself is the capturing of light, and a good photographer holds the ability to recognize worthwhile light in a scene. The photograph above was taken on the freeway near Pleasant Grove, Utah. For most, the dance between the mountains and the clouds wouldn't seem special in any way. But at the time, I recognized that underlying layer of light that, in its present form, was simply too bright to allow for its subtle intricacies to make themselves known. Lowering the exposure on the photograph and increasing the contrast reveled what I saw in the moment which, for me, is the best possible outcome one can achieve in the post-production stage.
The Federal Building in San Diego's Balboa Park is an oddity, in that it does not follow the traditional architecture that the park is known for. Now home to the Hall of Champions, the building features a façade reminiscent of ancient Mayan art. Reliefs of the Mayan rain god Chac, with his elephant-like trunk, adorn the building, surrounded by similar pattens of a Maya Revival style. Though the art covers only a small percentage of the building's front, it is nonetheless an intriguing and eye-catching feature that many never take the time to notice. The photograph above was taken with a 70-300mm lens, with post-processing done using Adobe Lightroom 2.
The photo above was taken at Angelo's Burgers in Encinitas, California. This little drive-through fast food joint is literally a "drive-through." The building is separated in two, with the drive-through lane down the middle. Though it looks moderately dirty and unmaintained from the outside, this is part of its charm. The food is big, greasy and messy, beckoning to a distant past when people weren't so obsessed with over-cleanliness and the practice of soaking every last surface with a flood of antibacterials. And the overwhelmingly wide variety of food types offered, all placed on a visually crowded and somewhat unorganized menu, results in the haphazard photograph above.