Saturday, June 30, 2012
I wasn’t in a bad mood or nothing. The person shooting my Leica wasn’t sure where the shutter release was, and kept pushing down on the the speed dial. I think I was saying, ”no, it’s the other button to the left. . .”[click]
My favorite shot in a long time: I only made one frame of this moment.
Pete came up to me at Grass Valley and let me know that he liked what I was up to on the mandolin. Monroe-style mandolin can be an insiders type of music as the years roll on and styles change. Monroe’s approach to the mandolin, especially in his later years, is fairly alien to many west coast ears. Pete is also a mandolin builder and I enjoyed picking his F5 number four at Susanville.
On Sunday, I walked around with my cameras instead of my mandolin.
At some point late on Saturday I asked Katya for a slightly more formal shoot with the Hasselbad. In the short time I had for set up, I was unable to find anything pleasant for a backdrop.
It was a high, low, and in between week. I went out with Jim for fish and chips.
I wanted to get to through this roll, so I went out Thursday evening around the property. The goat from my last blog is in the background here.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
It has been quite a whirlwind. I’ve now got two vehicles. I’ve shot many rolls of film and had them processed at Gordon’s, which is local to my office. It’s like a Portland lab I once used, but closer and without the condescension. They seem to be happy to see their film customers come in the door.
After the amazing time I had at Grass Valley (finished 6/18), I went to another festival in Susanville (6/21-6/23). It was much smaller and intimate. I seem to have graduated as a mandolinist and played in jam circles with the main stage acts. It was an enthusiastic scene. I overheard a banjo player crawl out of his tent on Sunday morning proclaiming that those “ first Jim and Jesse recordings are the shit!” Time and again this weekend, I reflected on my early enthusiasm for bluegrass.
After that, and the multiple car retrieval triangle (Chico-Susanville-Reno), Straight Ahead Bluegrass Band had our first practice in four or five years. Things feel pretty good already.
I am also toying with a solo act that is somewhat of a chautauqua about bluegrass music. At practice, my bass-playing friend Dwayne said he just watched Rachel Liebling’s film High Lonesome. I went home and watched it again. I forget how deeply influential in my bluegrass beginnings. It begins with an old man, Bill Monroe slowly, plaintively reciting his own lyrics,
Back in the days of my childhood
In the evenings when everything was still
I used to sit and listen to the foxhounds
With my dad in the old Kentucky hills.
I’m on my way back to the old home
The road winds on up the hill.
But there’s no light in the window
That shined long ago where I lived.
Remember the fence shot from 2006, when I first got my camera?
I went back a few weeks ago, a couple months shy of six years later.
I’m finding my photography increasingly personal and somewhat private. This may have something to do with film, or not. I’m not really sure.
Mike Melnyk has been the CBA photographer for some time, and we’ve had a neat dialog running for three years now. Last year he set up a backdrop backstage. This year I approached him with my Instax 210, asking if he could set his speedlights to optical triggering, and if he wouldn’t mind posing. It took three exposures, but this is one of the the sharpest Instax 210 photographs I have ever seen.
It has been pretty weird for me here. I am surrounded by old friends, but am quite alone. Misunderstanding seems to be the rule.
Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone
But it all works out
It doesn’t matter much to me
Goats are weird. But where I am staying there are three. It is pretty funny to be talking to them while they just start pissing. All three of them did this while I was trying to finish up a roll in the Hasselblad.
I picked up a refurbished Epson V500, and I think it will work fine. However, the film holders for 120 film suck beyond belief. I had no idea. I may pick up the BetterScanning film holder right away. When I do, I have six rolls from the Hasselblad to get through. Or not. Who cares, right?
Well, a sad lonesome feeling are the blues. When you’re living out in the country like this old home place right here. If you’re around by yourself that feeling can come right in there and stay right there with you. Make you sad. . . the blues will.
Bill Monroe in High Lonesome
Thursday, June 21, 2012
One afternoon in Gold Beach last month, I taught myself Bill Monroe’s Old Dangerfield. Though it isn’t quite right, it went along fine with the one person who knows that tune. Also had a great time playing Stoney Lonesome, which I recently heard in some random movie dialog is a slang term for prison. A fiddler named Gail helped me break through somewhat in the B section after these six years.
I found out that my style of wearing a cowboy had is called “high and tight” and people like to talk about it. If I could care less, I would.
The first bluegrass I ever heard was at the Laxson Auditorium in Chico, 1993. It was called the Masters of the Banjo, and was an evening of many different types of banjo. The promotional CD was the only bluegrass I had for ten years or so. You can pick up very inexpensive copies at Amazon. Sweet Fern and Nobody’s Love Is Like Mine were sang by Laurie Lewis and Dudley Connell. In about 1999, I was streaming high quality mp3 broadcast of KPIG, and there I heard a smashing version of Chuck Berry’s Nadine. This was the early days, so I used Napster to download that version, done by the Seldom Scene and sang by none other than Dudley.
That track made it’s way onto several of my mix driving mix CDs back in those days. I have probably written elsewhere about how I went to a bluegrass jam in Mountain View, was sharply critiqued by Ken T., It was a lesson well taken, and one that I (more politely) give to guitar players who have not played bluegrass.
When I first got into bluegrass I was a documentary-holic, as well as video lessons from Homespuntapes. In the 1991 film High Lonesome, there is quite a lot of footage of the Seldom Scene when the great John Duffey was still alive. An early mainstay for me was a bootleg server called BluegrassBox, long since defunct. I listened to many Seldom Scene concerts when I first got started. Our band Straight Ahead Bluegrass was steeped in traditional bluegrass, with our main influences being Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, mixed with early Seldom Scene and Hot Rize.
A great song we have always done is called Wait A Minute. When I returned from Nashville, I sold an electric mandolin on craigslist. The guy that bought it was a musician and later we got together to pick some. He put on Herb Pederson's album, and there I heard on vinyl for the first time, the original. So, Herb Pederson is fronting a new band, called Loafer's Glory. With most of best and oldest friends, we were treated to Herb singing his classic song backed by the amazing vocals of the Seldom Scene.
I went to the office for a couple of days.
Then I did a photo shoot of a model.
This was across the street from our shoot location.
Then I went to a bluegrass festival for a week.
It was one of the best.
In the middle, I swapped out to get my gramma’s 1991 Chrystler Mini van for a while. I am still getting used to major difference other drivers treat an old blue van. I saw Darrell Scott at the Sierra Nevada big room with my mom. Then it was back to the festival.
These guys are pretty good festival friends, Cyrill and Barry.
After it was all over, Barry and I enjoyed a very nice Italian meal in town. In three years, we have not played music together, but always have great conversations. He is a swell guy.
Saturday, June 9, 2012
Inigo Montoya: Let me ’splain.
No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
Poison oak outbreak: miserable, now improving
Haircut. Real job.
Costco C-41 processing 1 hour. Sweet. Costco printing and scanning, not so much (scans of 35mm to some kind of inkjet printing).
Leica. Is. Amazing.
Not too fond of the overly sharpened Costco scans, but I liked getting film processed and scanned in (about) one hour.
Thrift store finds! There are so many in Reno. For this shot, I set them up under a frosted glass patio table and was pleased with the noon light this way.
Ektralite 10 110 with 14 remaining frames. $1.50
Spectra system camera with sonar focusing. $4.99
Polaroid Land Camera Automatic 100. Aluminum build, glass lenses, tripod mount. Overpriced at $20. Now undergoing 3AAA, 4.5V battery conversion.
Two new packs of FP100c.
Hasselblad lens caps + body cap: $6.
Random encounter = prism viewfinder for Hasselblad made by Kiev. $0.
Model shoot this weekend. Huh?
Three nights of jamming. Old friends.
Two nights of contrailing. Two nights without. How do people ignore them?
Sushi. Deli Towne. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in a can?
Each year around this time I try to come up with some new material for the festival. It has been this way since I got into bluegrass. After 7 years, we finally have decent version of Stony Creek. My life was in shambles at my first Grass Valley in 2005. I wandered around in between jams working out the low part to Wheel Hoss, and had one of my favorite festivals. There is getting to quite a few now, so we have to bracket our memories with the ridiculous things I said or did in a given year. When I got to Kentucky in 2007, this song by Mike Compton was in prominent rotation amongst the local pickers, sung with great power by my friends Byron Ooost and Mark Hargis. I think 2012 is a good year for me to learn it.
Monday, June 4, 2012
I also made a very brief video before the gears fell out.
As I write this blog, I am having my first outbreak of poison oak in decades. You see, I went up to Agness and hiked some of the Lower Rogue river trail. There were many trees that had fallen over the trail (maybe a dozen) and only too late did I notice the boat load of poison oak in the makeshift rerouting of the trail. But the culprit was forgetting that the pants had been doused. During laundry, the residue seems to have spread all over.
It was a week ago that I went up there, so allow me to step back. There was a beautiful patch of California poppies near the store. The photos will look amazing when the film is returned and scanned. I shot lots of film lately and have a nice pile ready for what I hope will be some of my last outlab processing. I really must get serious about developing film! However, most of this week’s photos are using the infrared-converted D5000. I seem to always prefer them as black and white these days.
This image looks across the would-freak-me-out-if-i-had-to-land-there air strip, though you can’t really tell.
I haven’t really said so, but the 35mm ƒ1.8G Nikon lens, while wonderfully sharp (even wide open), it leaves an infrared hotspot at apertures smaller than ƒ4 or so. That is why so many of my infrared photographs have a shallow depth of field. If I use smaller apertures, there gets to be a noticeable circle in my photos. Just thought you’d like to know. Soon I should retrieve another lens, hopefully one without the hot spot problem. This problem only occurs for very few people who change their camera’s sensor to infrared. It’s a shame too, since the lens is the best $200 I’ve spent in gear.
The lower Rogue trail is 12 miles one way from Agness to 6 miles up from Lobster creek bridge. There isn’t really an easy way to do this hike in it’s entirety, but I tried out-and-back from both points. A twelve mile hike, while photographing, is much too far for me, so I only saw portions of the trail. And got a lot of poison oak on my clothes.
I once said that infrared might be a great way to shoot in the deep shadows of the Rogue river and I still feel that way. However, it is kind of a one-trick pony. Due to the problem of hotspots at small apertures, I shot this more wide-open than is needed to preserve the details in the trees that were beautifully lit by the sun’s last ray.
The first time, at the lower trail head, I lost a tire. The second time, I got the worst case of poison oak that I can recall. I’m positive this has very little to do with the great trail though. Just watch for the leafless poison oak branches as you make your way around the many trees that have fallen on the trail.
This is a good place to interrupt the infrared photos with the film photographs I processed this week. I was glad to play music with my friend Cliff, but there I learned that shooting musicians (especially a fiddler) with a waist-level viewfinder was not ideal. I was kicking myself for not also borrowing the prism-viewfinder, which allows one to use a Hasselblad at eye level like a normal camera. Oh well. Anyway, film. Right. First up, from the very dead Konica Autoreflex T, this was the last frame of it’s last roll. I was turning in film at the lab in Portland and had a few frames left on the Velvia 50. In my brief time in Portland, I didn’t see much light like this, so it was nice.
I am sure it is impossible for anyone else to follow but, well, here goes. This camera never took another picture. It is hopelessly jammed. The very next camera that found it’s way to me was a Leica IIIf. Cool, right? I have been very much enjoying shooting with the IIIf these days, now almost through my third 36 exposure roll since c-l-a.
With the square Hasselblad photos, I haven’t determined the best size. Lately I’ve quietly embedded links where most photos can be viewed in isolation at Flickr. The Hasselblad shots benefit the most from this extra click. I look at a lot of photos on flickr using the on black mode (L) with a full screen browser, called presentation mode in Chrome. (F10 pc, apple-shift-f mac) This does bring up a point that will become serious in the years to come: retina displays, as rumored to be in the new Macs and already in iPads. I will have to put up quite a few more pixels in my photos.
The Patterson Bridge over the Rogue river had it’s 80th birthday. I heard of no celebration, but in February, there was a person who wrote a book I should get. When I first got going with 110 film, (I shot four rolls), I ran all around and got some neat photographs. One of my favorite shots ever is on the tiniest negative imaginable, the 110. By the way, you can be part of the 110 resurgence by getting some new b+w film! Be sure to send it to a quality lab, like Blue Moon. That’s where this print came from, snapped on 10 year outdated film in a 35 year old plastic Minolta:
I went back with the wide angle on the Hasselblad. I am often challenged by the square format. Here is what I got.
Now when I first looked at the maximum aperture of ƒ4 on the Distagon 50mm lens, I was disappointed. However, it allows a closer focusing than the 80mm ƒ2.8. Maybe. Anyway, wide open and close focused, it makes beautiful photographs.
Whew, okay. I have one last adventure. Oh wait. We had some amazingly beautiful days last week. From some random steep road in Gold Beach, this looks out across the mouth of the Rogue River. The black areas at the bottom outline the Jettys:
Before the poison oak from hell, I went to the top of one of Sisters Rocks. I have shot them countless times, but never have been brave enough to scamper up the seriously deadly trail. It was an incredible night up there and I am so glad that I got into a new roll of Portra in the Leica. I have a feeling the muted orange and green tones that I was seeing there above the sea are going to come out grand. For now, here are some infrared photos.
(Pardon the self-indulgent portraits. . .) I had grown a (very white) beard. In this iphone pic, the mound that I scrambled up to is right in the middle above the right of my hat brim:
Once on top, I was exhilarated, but also concerned about how my obit might read in the awful local newspaper if I fell. So for posterity, I turned the infrared camera on me. It took forever to get down. I’d probably do it again.
Feet on the ground, head in the sky. It’s okay, I know nothing’s wrong.
I got plenty of time.
You got light in your eyes.
And you’re standing here beside me.
I love the passing of time.
Never for money, always for love.
Cover up and say goodnight.
Home is where I want to be,
But I guess I’m already there.
I Guess This Must Be The Place
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