Thursday, December 18, 2008

And now for something completely different...

After nine years of nothing but digital photography, with the exception of a few times I dusted off the MP & loaded a roll of Tri-X, I'm embarking on a new journey down an old path.

Considering the idea for several months, I purchased a used, medium format 6x6mm Kiev88, the inexpensive and famously unpredictable Russian version of a Hasselblad.

Although I am a diehard believer in the quality of digital images over the past several years and certainly am happy enough with my Leica M8s, I find myself being less and less deliberate when I choose to make an image. Even though I keep my cameras set on single frame and rarely use the "continuous" mode, I think less about each individual exposure than when I had to change film every 36 frames and process a batch at the end of the day.

I have been shooting professionally for 28 years, so even after nine years using digital cameras with unbelievable automatic functions, still, almost two thirds of my work has been with film. As mentioned in a previous journal, the very convenience of so much work being done by the camera has become a creative dilemma. Or at least a bugaboo that I need to address.

I have judged several photography contests recently; professional, amateur, high school and college. I have become convinced that auto exposure and auto focus functions on cameras has leveled the playing field in that almost all entries are technically, at least, equal.

Now an image is judged solely on its content and the creativity & skill of the photographer, and that is a good thing, whereas in the olden days a judge could toss at least 60% because the technical quality was crap, regardless of the content. And that was a good thing, too, because technical skill was as much about photography as creativity.

However, be it for good, bad or otherwise, manual focus and manual exposure are skills that are no longer necessary. These skills used to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially when photographing in difficult, tense or dangerous situations.

Be that as it may, I am not one to bemoan the disappearance of these skills any more than I bemoan not having to clean my eight-track tape player or LP records and turntable stylus with special cleaners and little brushes. Cruise control may have made me a lazy driver, but not necessarily a worse driver. But it hasn't made me a better driver, either.

If people never learn to use their cameras on anything but full auto, that's OK by me. A good image has little to do with the camera itself, anyway.

But as for me, I don't want to get any more lazy than I already am. I use calculators and spell check for even the most simple challenges.

I used to take pride in being able to read available light without a meter, choose my f-stop/shutter speed combination without a second thought and manually focus on damn near anything as it moved in damn near any direction.

So now I've got this Kiev. It has a waist-level finder because I like the look of an image made four feet off the ground. I'm looking forward to composing in a square format where horizontal or vertical has more to do with content than with how I orient the camera.

Nearly all my personal work has been of the street variety with a small rangefinder: candid shots, hip shots, wide shots. But there's no concealing this monster under my jacket. The shutter sounds like someone dropped a frying pan on the floor.

I will have to be very deliberate when I take a picture. Especially since each frame will cost about one dollar, counting film and processing.

I can tell you one thing: this ain't the kind of camera I would ever want to use for street photography.

(It will be a LONG time before I even consider setting up a darkroom again.)

Anyway, I'm looking forward to it. I'll let you know how it goes, or you'll see it on eBay in a few months.

Trabajar por la Vida


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Peregrinaciones de Virgen de Guadalupe


From Blogger Pictures

The celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Virgen de Guadalupe), with its colorful religious processions (Peregrinaciones) from December 1-12, is the most public and extended religious holiday in Mexico. Guadlupe is the patron saint of both Puerto Vallarta and of Mexico. She is also known as La Virgen Morena (the brown-skinned virgin). She is believed to be the manifestation of the Virgin Mary in the Americas.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Women are Beautiful (With apologies to Garry Winnogrand)

Click title ^above^ for audio slide show

Recent street & public places snaps....

Friday, July 11, 2008

A New Time for Mexico

A street vendor competes with an international ice cream chain for business...

Although many United States citizens bemoan having to "press one for English," and trumpet the risks that our country is becoming Mexican-ized, I believe the opposite is true: Latinos in general and Mexicans in particular are influenced by gringo culture at a far greater pace. Mexicans are more likely to listen to U.S. rock and roll music than gringos are to listen to rancheras. Mexicans are more likely to wear T-shirts with English logos and insipid catch phrases than gringos are to don campesino clothing, mariachi pants or hats the size of hot tubs. Although that would be cool.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Taxco, pronounced "Tasco" and previously spelled the way it is actually pronounced, is a quaint, steep, traffic-choked and exhaust-fumed previous colonial silver mining city. It is literally butted against the sides of mountains a few hours southwest of Mexico City wherein the guardrails along the highway into town are mostly crosses and shrines indicated by skid marks over the high side.

History has it, depending on who you ask, that toward the end of the revolution (my guess it was the first-of-a-series of popular Mexican revoultions), the Spanish blew up the mines to keep them (the mines) from falling into the hands of the revolutionaries wherein the cash and American Express receipts would be squandered on, you know, "the people" rather than on yet more elaborate Catholic cathedrals. The silver market of exquisite jewelry and sculpture is now geared toward the Mexican and Gringo tourist trade. Mexicans who live in Mexico City will look for any reason to bolt for a few days.

Anyway, the silver trade is still one of the most important elements of the Taxco economy. That and hustling cardboard "handmade-by-my-family" placemats and brightly-colored Chinese finger handcuffs (only God know why) around the Zocalo, or central plaza.

Following are some photographs snapped around the little sidewalk-challenged -- meaning there are none -- city of 55,000 souls, where all the streets are as vertical as a steeply-pitched roof. Many are hip shots of locals, taken along the streets, sidewalks and around the zocalo while my wife researched the many joyerias (jewelry stores, I'm told), & the William Spratling ranch in Taxco Anjego ("old Taxco"). Spratling's designs, gringo industry and gringo capitalism in the early 20th century helped establish the current Mexican silver market. Like most artstes, Spratling's efforts command more capital today, following his death in a 1960's traffic accident (which suprisingly, there aren't more of).

If you've gotten this far and are not yet bored to tears, re-start the slide show to begin at the beginning of a bunch of snaps. Seriously, it shouldn't take long to wade through them.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I'll Take the Train....

Forty eight hours to San Bernardino and back to see my new grandaughter. Here are some snaps of the trip: