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  • Experiments in Composition

    Back in December I was not too far from my home town and I drove past another abandoned farmhouse that I knew I had to shoot as part of my on-going series on farmland and barns in Michigan.

    An abandoned farm house with junk in front of it

    One of my main goals with these photos was to challenge myself to think outside the box on my compositions. Many of my photos tend to follow very basic compositions like the Rule of Thirds and when viewed in succession, it can get obvious and boring to look at. On this outing, I wanted to experiment with more styles to see how they changed the story of the image.

    Much of my inspiration came from Willem Verbeeck’s and Nick Carver’s YouTube channels. To be 100% honest, I don’t actually like a whole lot of their work. But, one thing I was able to take away from their work is their different approaches to composition. Verbeeck has this very odd way of framing photos that makes a lot of his work look like photos of nothing. But what’s really happening is the subjects of his photo are as obvious as they first seem. You can see many examples of what I’m talking about in this video.

    This photo was very much inspired by Verbeeck

    Where Verbeeck goes complex, Carver goes super simple. His more popular photos are all done on a panoramic medium format film camera with the subject of the image dead center in the frame. It’s an intriguing combination, as most panoramics are made with the intent of fitting in a very wide or tall subject into the entire frame without zooming out and potentially loosing the subject in the extra vertical space. Carver’s photos use the panoramic to instead draw their subject out of the frame even more by putting them in their empty context.

    While not panoramic, the simple framing of the subject is inspired by Carver’s work. Although I wish I shot it with a shallower depth of field as the building in the background is distracting.

    Like all of the images in this series, I used the Mamiya C330 medium format film camera with Ilford film. For being almost 50 years old, the Mamiya Sekor 80mm f/2.8 is astoundingly sharp when stopped down. Here’s a 1-to-1 crop on the upper-right on the tractor grill from the earlier image taken at f/11.

    Click to see a full-size version

    This is from a flatbed scan from a mid-level epson scanner and the film is still out-resolving the 45 mega pixel TIFF. This image has more detail in it than anything I’ve shot with my A7ii. Crazy!

    I think the experiment was a resounding success as I feel the images I took on this outing are some of the best I’ve ever made. It wasn’t until I scanned the tractor image that I was sold on the idea that this series could really become something more. Additionally, after taking and reviewing these photos I think I have a better understanding of Verbeeck’s work. Things appear cut off or the subject is unclear because he’s trying, whether consciously or unconsciously, to photograph a feeling or even just a color rather than a subject.

    If you like these photos you can them and more over on the project page. If you like my photography, you can follow me on instagram for my up to date work.

  • The Coffee Shop With The Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM

    Recently I had the pleasure of renting a Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM lens for use on my Sony A7ii. At that I rented it, I was planning on shooting some indoor wedding photography where the wide angle and bright aperture would come in handy. With the current global “situation” (don’t want to use the word since it flags you in search), the event was limited to ten people and I could no longer attend.

    Unperturbed, I knew I still had a $2,200 lens in my hands for a few days, so I made the most of it. My mom’s coffee shop (which is still taking orders by the way) recently renovated the entire interior and needed some shots to promote it on Facebook and to update the images on Google Maps. I decided to head over and see what kind of photos I could get. I’ve never used a lens wider than 28mm on a full-frame camera before, so I was absolutely blown away by the kind of images I was getting.

    Interior of Battle Alley Coffee
    Interior of Battle Alley Coffee

    Now I’ll be the first to admit my interior photography needs some work. The edges of the frame are crowded and there’s way too much going on in this photo. But, on the bright side, by intention was to portray the relaxing nature of the interior and I think that comes across.

    Espresso machine making double shots
    Close up of the espresso machine making two shots

    While this isn’t a review of the lens, I was kind of surprised at the low corner sharpness at f/2.8 zoomed out to 16mm. But looking at sample images of the competition, this seems to be the norm. Limitations of the laws of physics I suppose.

    After handling the lens for a few days, I’m now seriously considering buying the Samyang AF 18mm f/2.8 FE to add an extreme wide angle lens to my toolbox. It’s only $350 brand new, and there’s just no other way to capture the feeling and look that a 16-18mm wide angle lens gives you. Regular sized objects like the espresso machine can now fill the frame and grab your attention. Average sized interiors become cavernous. And usually plain exteriors become vast, wide-open landscapes you can fall into.

    Train Tracks in Holly
    You know I had to do the stereotypical train track shot

  • 5 Frames of Ilford FP4+

    This article originally appeared on emulsive.com on April 17, 2020

    I grew up in an area that used to be completely farm land about 100 years ago. Some of the smaller family owned farms are still in operation, but almost all of the original land owners decided a long time ago that the money from selling the land would be more than the money they’d be paid by continuing to sell crops. The original plots of land still have the original farm house and barn, both of which now look out of place on a much more modestly sized plot of land.

    Fast forward 100 years and most of the owners these old buildings are poor and don’t have the money to keep up with repairs. The barns are in especially poor condition since they serve less practical value than the house. I wanted to capture these buildings before more of them fall over from age or are torn down from condemnation. There’s something about old barns that I can’t quite put my finger on that makes me love them. These giant yet practical buildings have withstood the test of time and were often put together by a single family or the community working together.

    I had never shot black and white on medium format before, so I took my newly acquired Mamiya C330 Professional, the 80mm f/2.8 Mamiya Sekor and a 120 roll of Ilford FP4+ to start my project. The C330 is a twin lens reflex with a waist level viewfinder that’s notable for having an interchangeable lens system, unlike most other TLRs. Mamiya is generally known for well made medium format cameras with sharp glass, and the C330 appears to be no exception. It shoots 12 6×6 negatives on a roll, which was great for me, as I’ve never shot anything other than 2:3 pictures and it acted as a good creative limitation.

    The smooth tones and fine grain were exactly what I was looking for when I choose FP4+, and I couldn’t be happier with how these images turned out. I developed these negatives in Rodinal with a 1:25 dilution for nine minutes and scanned them on an Espon v600.

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