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May 22nd, 2009

On The Road…Topeka, Kansas

Truckhinge – Topeka, Kansas

by Bruce | Link | React!

March 16th, 2009

Undeveloped Film As Archeology

Holy Crap!  Remember those old rolls of film I mentioned in the previous post?  The ones I’d mistakenly put into the color film reserve in the fridge?  Two of them were almost thirty years old.  No kidding…I have new found images of my life from 1979 to look at.

by Bruce | Link | React!

Hectic Weekends With The Absent Minded Photographer

[A longish post about developing film and the wages of procrastination…]

I have a little staging area in my basement bathroom/darkroom, where I sit the odd roll of exposed film to be developed at a later date.   If it’s something immediate, I do it then and there.  But if the roll gets put into the staging area who knows when I’ll develop it.  I’ll get to it later, I tell myself.  Later being anywhere from tomorrow to the heat death of the universe.

Point of fact, as of Saturday morning I had about twenty-five rolls of exposed 35mm black and white film from various periods in the past decade that I hadn’t yet processed.  Some of it was stored in the fridge, and some in the darkroom staging area, and none of it was labeled.  This became important when I decided this weekend that I absolutely positively had to develop the last roll of black and white I took at the class reunion.  Over a year ago.  Okay…now which one was that…??

I’d turned in the digital images from the reunion, and tons of shots I’d taken back in high school, long ago.  But that last solitary roll of Tri-X I’d exposed mostly just for old times sake, just to see myself snapping some Tri-X with my classmates as I had once upon a time back when we were all kids, just hung out there waiting.  And waiting.  This weekend, I was determined to get to it.  I reckoned I’d just develop what I had in the staging area until I got to the roll I was looking for.  Ha.  Setting up to develop film isn’t as simple as copying your digital image files from the flash card to the computer.  It’s a tad messy and you have to be careful. This is probably why I’m getting so lackadaisical with my roll film backlog.  The digital camera is spoiling me.

I needed to make fresh chemicals and for that I needed to go to the store and buy distilled water.  A gallon for Kodak Rapid Fix, Indicator Stop Bath, Perma-Wash and Photo-Flo, then enough to make a half-gallon of HC-110 stock solution.  From the stock solution I make a working solution of one ounce stock to fifteen water.  I have a Kindermann stainless steel tank that can hold two reels of 120 roll film and four 35mm.  The tank needs a quart (32 ounces) to cover four reels of 35mm, so that’s two ounces of HC-110 stock solution to 30 ounces of water to make 32 ounces of developer.  That’s a one-shot solution…that is, you use it once and toss it.  The advantage to a one-shot solution is you always start with your developer at a consistent strength.  But I was going to need 30 ounces of distilled water for every batch of film I ran through the tank.  So I went to the grocery store and bought six gallons of distilled water.  I swear one of these days someone is going to look at me going through the checkout line with all those bottles of distilled water and think I’m running a meth lab or something and call the cops.

So I get my plastic jugs of distilled water home and start cooking up a batch of fresh chemicals.  I have a large assortment of measuring flasks, and a bucket I’ve marked off with half-gallon and gallon tick marks (my European readers are just going to have to endure my constant references here to U.S. measurements…sorry.).  I pour the old chemicals out of their storage bottles and rinse them thoroughly.  One thing this process isn’t is very green.  I use tons of water and all sorts of chemicals are going right down the drain.  Whether the chemicals needed to create the circuit boards and memory sticks of the digital realm are any greener when all is said and done is something I wonder about.  But from a household point of view, film is a messy business.

I have the basement bathroom light sealed.  All I need a darkroom for these days is loading film into the tank.  That needs absolute darkness.  I have a routine.  I set down my film cassettes and lay out all my tools…the stainless steel film reels and developing tank, its lid, a pair of scissors and a tool for popping open 35mm film cassettes.  I need these things to be where my hands expect them to be, because once the lights are out the darkroom is, must be, so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face.  You have to know the room by touch.  You have to do everything by touch.

A 35mm film cassette is a metal case with a length of film inside, wound around a plastic spool.  When I have the lights out, I feel for one, get my fingers around it, and then find the opening tool and pop the case open.  Then I ease out the roll of film inside.  There better be not even the faintest breath of light in here now or else the film has just been ruined.  I carefully put the opener tool back Exactly where it was, then get my fingers around the scissors.  The start of a roll of film is shaped into a little tab that goes into the camera’s take-up spool.  I have to cut that off to make the end square.  When that’s done and the scissors put back, I feel around for one of the stainless steel reels and carefully try to get film started on it. 

The reel holds the film in the tank and allows the processing chemistry to circulate around it.  Some folks use a loader device but I use my fingers.  In the darkroom it’s all about touch.  So long as your hands are clean you can safely touch the back of the film and the edges and you’re fine.  Just never touch the emulsion side.  You need to feel around the edges of the reel to know which way it’s oriented so you don’t try to load the film on backwards.  Then thread the film into the center of the reel and start working it around the track.  Once you get it started correctly it’s not hard to wind film onto a reel.  If it jumps the track you can feel it start to kink and you just backup until it’s going on right again and continue.  You must do all this by touch.  The saving grace of it is that the natural film curl helps you out in this.  It just wants to slide nicely into the reel.  If it’s fighting you then you know it’s jumped the track somewhere and you need to backup and do it over.  When I reach the end of the film I need the scissors again to cut it off the spool.  I let the pieces…the metal case and the spool, just fall onto the floor in the darkness.

When I’ve wound a roll of film into a reel it goes into the tank.  Rinse, repeat…  I do this four times for four rolls of film and I’m done.  I put the lid tightly down on the tank and now I can turn the lights back on.   My floor is littered with film cassette cases, spools and film tabs, which I clean up then and there.  It’s Real Easy throughout this process to let everything turn into a big mess and you can’t let that happen or you’ll get sloppy and make a mistake and ruin your film.  You have to concentrate.  I am not a naturally tidy person, but I will keep my work areas clean and well organized because that helps me keep my focus on what I’m doing.

I take my film tank around to the art room The rest of this can happen in normal light.  Thanks to the scanner and the computer I don’t need a paper darkroom anymore.  Processing film is nothing compared to the work and mess of making paper enlargements.  Nowadays I can make bigger prints of far, far better quality with Bagheera, my art room Macintosh, and my nice Epson wide bed printer, then I ever could with my old enlarger setup.  And it’s a lot less of a mess.  But processing black and white film is mess enough.

The art room is the finished front half of my basement, which the previous homeowner made into a clubroom.  It’s got the usual knotty pine walls and thick carpet.  He’d put a bar in the back of it.  I set up there.  On the bar I lay down a work rag because no matter how careful I am there is always some spillage.  I put out three one quart measuring flasks.  Into one I carefully measure and pour two ounces of HC-110 into 30 ounces of distilled water.  Then I pour a quart of stop bath and fixer into each of the others.  I have a precision Weston dial thermometer I dip into the flask of developer.  It responds quickly and I get a fix on the solution temperature.  From that I calculate my development time using the Kodak charts.  I am using a non-standard dilution of HC-110…the photo hacker children call it "dilution ‘H’".  But it’s simply a double of the standard times for dilution ‘B’.  I also take the temperature of the other two solutions.  This is important.  If they’re not close enough to the temperature of the developer I have to take steps to equalize them.  Tri-X is a fast, but grainy film.  If you keep everything the same temperature during the process the grain you end up with will be nice and uniform and not bother the eye really.   But if the temperature of your solutions diverge very much the grain will tend to clump together and it will look horrible.

When I have all my chemistry ready I hang an old fashion stop watch around my neck and click on and pour developer into the tank and I’m off.  For the next fifteen minutes I can’t be disturbed or distracted by anything.  While you have solution in the tank you have to watch the clock and agitate every so often.  That’s because the solution against the more highly exposed parts of the film gets exhausted quicker then what’s against the less exposed parts, and so development slows down there sooner then elsewhere.  Agitation brings fresh chemical up against the parts of the film that are exhausting it quicker.  If you don’t agitate those areas of the film don’t get as well developed and overall contrast suffers.  But on the other hand if you agitate too much the effect is to over develop parts of the film.  This effect is something a film photographer knows how to manipulate depending on shooting conditions.  This, and adjusting the development time, is how we used to finesse contrast in the negative before Photoshop.

So I’m sloshing chemicals in and out of the tank.  11 minutes development time at 65 degrees f.  10 minutes at 68, which is the more ideal temperature.  My basement nicely oscillates between the two in the winter months.  In the summer I have to let my chemicals cool down in a bath of cold water before I can begin.  Pour out the developer and then pour in, and right back out, the stop bath.  This is just a very weak acid solution.  The developer is a base (remember your chemistry class?) and when the stop bath hits what’s left of the developer sticking to the film it kills it.  It’s like an instant off switch for the developer stage.  Then in comes the fixer.  Fixer is acidic too, and so some photographers don’t bother with a stop bath for film.  I do it on the ground that at least it protects the fixer from becoming exhausted too quickly.  But it isn’t critical.  The developer changes the silver salts in the film that were hit by light to metallic silver.  The fixer dissolves the silver salts that were not developed, leaving the negative image on the film.  4 minutes to fix.

Then I have to wash it.  I take the tank over to the sink, take the film reels out of the tank and drop them into a film washer that holds the same size and number of film reels as the tank.  It connects to the sink faucet and two holes at the base draw in air and create a vortex that swirls around the film, getting the last of the fixer off it.  That’s very important.  If any fixer is left behind on the film it will begin to slowly stain it and then your negatives are ruined.  Again, I have to monitor the temperature of the wash carefully.  It needs to be the same as the chemicals I used for developing. 

Now I can relax a bit.  The critical part is done.  I will usually take a quick glance at the film now, to reassure myself that everything is okay.  I can let my mind wander a bit…maybe go grab a snack from the kitchen.  But I still keep the stopwatch around my neck.  After about fifteen minutes of washing I pour a solution of Perma-Wash into the tank and dip the film in it for a minute.  This is supposed to neutralize the last of the fixer.  Then wash for a few minutes more, then I pour a solution of Photo-Flo into the tank and bathe the film in that for a minute.  Photo-Flo is a simple wetting agent that prevents spotting on the film as it dries.

Slosh, slosh, slosh.  By now I have little spills everywhere.  I’m not exceptionally clumsy, but you have to get these solutions in and out of the tank pretty quickly and I won’t fret if a little spills now and then.  Your kitchen isn’t going to remain spotless while you’re busy cooking in it either.

Then I take the film back to the bathroom and hang it up to dry.  It must dry in as dust-free an environment as I can manage.  At this stage the film emulsion is soft, and if dust gets on it now as it is drying and hardening it’s there forever.

Once the film is up on hangers to dry, I begin cleaning my workspace.  Even if I am going to do another batch right away, I clean everything up.  Especially then.  The used developer goes down the sink.  The stop bath and fixer back into their storage jugs.  The tank and reels and empty measuring flasks into a wash bin I carry upstairs to the kitchen sink.  I mop up every spill until the workspace is clean and dry again.  I rinse out the tank and reels and flasks and set them out to dry, or hand dry them if I need to use them again right now.

Take a breath.  Pause.  Think about what you are doing…go over your mental checklists…  Wash…rinse…repeat…

I did this all weekend long, looking for that damn roll of film from the reunion.  And I didn’t find it.  Twenty-five rolls I processed, and none of them were the one I was looking for. 

There was one roll left in the staging area…a roll I wasn’t sure was Tri-X.  It was in a Fuji color film cassette, but I’d often re-used those for bulk reloading back in the day.  I usually make sure to put a piece of tape over it to identify it as Tri-X though.  This one didn’t have that, but it was one of the older Fuji cassettes I usually used for that.  So I turned off the darkroom lights, popped the case, cut off the tab, put the film back in the case, turned the lights back on and looked at it.  Even before I’d turned the lights back on though, I knew it was one of my bulk reloads because of how I’d shaped the tab.

I had a batch of film from the big tank in the wash.  I had some smaller tanks though that held only one and two reels, and a spare reel.  So I ran that roll through the process while the others were washing.  That wasn’t the roll I was looking for either.

I was beginning to get desperate.  I dug around and uncovered three more unprocessed rolls of Tri-X in a part of the fridge I’d reserved for color.  They’d gotten mixed in, but this was old stuff and I doubted the film I was looking for was one of those.  I dug through my camera bags looking for anything I might have missed.  I found a partially exposed roll still in one camera body that I though might…just might…be the roll from the reunion.  My habit is to use one body for color and one for black and white, and at the reunion I had both of those plus the digital camera.  Maybe I just hadn’t taken out the roll of film from the black and white body.

But I was done for the weekend.  I’d used up all the distilled water I’d bought and before I could process any more I’d need to buy some.  After a thorough search of Casa del Garrett I’d come up with four possible rolls of film and a fifth that had still been in the camera.  Figured I’d do them Monday.  I was already thinking out my apology to the reunion committee for loosing the film.  It wouldn’t have been a big loss…I’d given them a ton of stuff already.  But that one last little roll might have had some good shots on it too, and it seemed now that it was gone.

So this morning I get up and start cutting all the film I’d developed down from the hangers.  I cut a roll to lengths of six shots each, and store the strips temporarily in glassine envelopes until I get them scanned.  During scanning the roll gets assigned a number based on a system I’ve used since high school, and then it goes into an archival film holder page with that number written on it, plus a few notes about what’s on it, and the page goes into a binder for safekeeping.  As I’m cutting I’m looking at what’s there.  It’s an odd assortment of images from almost a decade’s worth of odds and ends…film I hadn’t gotten around to developing because it wasn’t pressing.  An office Party.  Images of Kansas and Monument Valley.  Shots from around my Baltimore neighborhood.  Oh…what’s this…??

I’d worked my way back to the beginning of my weekend’s work and there, in the middle of one of the rolls, were the shots from the reunion.  I hadn’t taken a whole roll of black and white that evening, which was probably why I’d not developed it the next day.  I’d likely wanted to finish the roll first, then in the process of getting the color film developed and working on the digital images plus all the stuff from my high school years, I’d let it slip.   I’d developed the roll I was looking for in the very first batch I’d done and I’d missed it completely.  The reunion shots were right there, in between a trip to Stroudsburg to visit my friend Glenn, ironically another high school classmate I hadn’t seen in almost two decades, and Peterson’s performance at Gallaudet a month after.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere but I am unlikely to learn it.  Considering the volume of film I still shoot, even with the digital cameras in my stable, I actually don’t stage all that much.  It’s mostly odds and ends that I put aside for later processing.  There were another two full rolls from Peterson’s Gallaudet performance that I’d developed right away, and one from that first visit in years to see Glenn.  The reunion shots were in the middle of both of those and I had tons of other stuff from that event that I’d taken care of.  It fell between the cracks. 

I do this all the time…staging odds and ends for development that I never get around to for years, and then suddenly I do it all at once.  And what I discover every time is how facinating the odds and ends are when you look at them after years have gone by.  It’s like re-living random bits and pieces of your past all at once.  But I need at least, to make it a rule from now on, that no film goes into the staging area without a tag on it that tells me what it is. 

by Bruce | Link | React!

March 9th, 2009

Photos And Browsers And Books

If you’re picky about how your photos are displayed, then putting them up on the web is going to make you pull your hair out.  You can get it just right…perfect even…in your photo software (I use Apple’s Aperture).  Then you look at what you’ve done in a browser and it isn’t the same.  The browser rendering engine renders it just a tad differently then you see it in your photo software, or any of the operating system’s built-in picture viewers.  And what is more, each browser seems to render your image files a tad differently. 

I was looking at some of the photos I posted yesterday in Firefox and the contrast was off.  I started up Safari and they looked better.  I’m looking at them now in IE and they look very flat.  I took those shots in overcast conditions and paid careful attention to the contrast values as I was making the image files for upload, and the browsers just make all that work go for nothing.  Hopefully something of image content gets through to the viewer.  That’s all I can do.

I’m going to re-arrange my photo galleries a tad in the next few days.  2, 3, 4 and 6 are coming down, and I’m going to create a few loose galleries that group the images together better then the topics I put them under there.  Rather then the context of how I came to take them, I’m going to try something a little different.  I’m working myself up to producing a nice book of my art photography later this year.  It won’t be cheap and I doubt I’ll sell very many.  But I’m going to arrange with one of those print-on-demand outfits so I won’t have to buy a lot of inventory all at once, which I can’t afford. 

I’ve got some books on self publishing, and getting set up with those ISDN numbers and such.  They hand them out in such a way as to indicate clearly to book sellers and reviewers that the book was self published, but in this day and age I really doubt that makes much of a difference.  Whatever I produce will be as high in quality as I can get, which will probably make the book somewhat expensive, but this is going to be my declaration of a lifetime’s work so far and I’m going to do it right.  What will be in the book is the images as close as I intend them to be viewed as I can get from a printer.  The only thing better would be right off my own printer, which you can always ask me for if you want.

That’s the other thing I’m going to put on the gallery main page…how to order.  I sell them for $40 for 11×17 inch prints, plus shipping.  Signed and dated on premium gloss photo paper in non-fading pigment base ink at maximum resolution.  They will look much better on your wall then in a browser, so if there’s something in the galleries that you like ask me about it.

by Bruce | Link | React!

March 8th, 2009

Weekend In The Lost World – Part 2
by Bruce | Link | React!

Weekend In The Lost World – Part 1

It got really nice all of a sudden in Maryland.  So I took a day trip to New Jersey.  Saturday I drove to Wildwood, which I have never really spent much time in.  It’s down the Jersey coast from Ocean City where I usually go.

Wildwood is an echo of what Atlantic City used to be before the casinos moved in.  It has a big boardwalk and two really huge amusment piers.  It’s more big city by the sea then anything else on the Jersey coast apart from Atlantic City.

I took my camera.  Rather then make this post take forever to load, I’ll split it into several parts…






by Bruce | Link | React!

February 23rd, 2009

It’s Not The Mirror’s Fault You’re Stupid

There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.
-Ansel Adams

I am a graphic artist.  That is to say, I express via imagery.  I don’t perform on stage.  I don’t write.  I am not a composer of music.  I paint.  I draw.  But mostly I take one of my cameras and go for these little strolls around my world.  I am a photographer.  Not a professional nor a recognized artist, but a serious amateur.  I have some galleries up here on the web site you can peruse if you like.  They’re typical of what I do.  Photography as been a passion of mine ever since I was in grade school.  I think I can say after all these years of doing it, that I have a distinctive voice.

I don’t like a lot of what I produce.  That is to say, I would rather be producing something a tad more cheerful, or sensuous maybe, or beautiful.  But I have this urge to produce a lot of this…






…that I can’t turn away from.  I have to make these images.  It’s what I do.  I take a camera, decide if I’m in a color or black and white frame of mind just then, and go for a wander.  Sooner or later something I’ve never been able to put words to tugs me over to something, and then I am exploring a subject.  Snap…circle it a bit…snap…circle some more…snap…snap…snap…  It’s what I do when I get a camera in my hands.   Oh yes…sometimes I get a chance to do a little of this…


I love this one…but even this, if you look at it carefully, has a sense of the other stuff in it just below the surface. 

For almost a decade I gave up taking photographs because I couldn’t stand to look at what was coming out of me anymore.  This is hard for some folks of a…shall we say…religious right persuasion…to get about the artsy tofu and brie types they just love to loath…let alone liberals in general.  It isn’t so much If it feels good do it, as You do what you must.  As a matter of fact yes, it is entirely possible to be consumed with a subject matter you don’t much like, and still feel absolutely compelled to approach it with fierce honesty.  But honesty is even less welcome then art in the mega-mall cathedrals of the heartland.

Via Sullivan…  It seems they don’t like looking at pictures of themselves at Patrick Henry College

My first preview of at photographer Jona Frank’s book of portraits about Patrick Henry College occurred through Mother Jones, where it appeared alongside image galleries on phone sex operators, Aryan outfitters, and women in Afghanistan. (Mother Jones’ photo galleries reflect a wide variety of topics, but I’m mentioning the ones it promoted alongside the photos from Frank’s second book, Right: Portraits from the Evangelical Ivy League.)

The students of Patrick Henry College, the nation’s first residential college designed for young people who grew up as homeschoolers, looked awfully stiff and serious. I asked Ed Veith, a professor of literature and provost of the college, for his thoughts. Veith sent along a memo that he wrote to Patrick Henry students when he saw the book:

I was greatly angered when I saw the book Right: Portraits from the Evangelical Ivy League by the photographer Jona Frank. The book features pictures of many of you — portrayed in the [worst] way possible — with an accompanying text that plays to all the leftwing stereotypes about Christians and conservatives. The dishonesty of the artist is staggering: she posed you in stiff and awkward positions and told you not to smile; then she caricatured you as stiff, awkward, and without a sense of humor. In reality, I know that you PHC students are lively and interesting, with vibrant and highly-individualistic personalities. I think that Ms. Frank, who hung around campus for months and who even visited some of your families, betrayed your trust, violated your privacy, and distorted your identity.

Since writing to Veith, I’ve found another collection of Frank’s PHC images at Newsweek. That collection includes a narration by Frank, in which she speaks with clear affection for these students. Newsweek’s gallery is well worth a visit, as Frank’s narration is so warm and engaging.

If the photographer was any good…and Frank’s photos can put you in mind of another Frank in their straightforwardness…then her images are honest representations of what she saw, what she found when she went to Patrick Henry.  But you have to understand what Adams is saying in that quote I put at the top of this post.  The photographer is always present in every image.  But so are you, the viewer.  Frank didn’t set out to preach and not seeing the sermon he expected out of her, Veith got angry.  But not every negative review, is a bad review.

[Update…]  So I bought a copy of Frank’s photo book.  It’s good…but I wouldn’t put her in the same class as Robert Frank.  Most of the photos are posed.  Few are the kind of beautiful human moments frozen out of time shots that Frank did so astonishingly well.  But Robert Frank casts a large shadow over all of us.  He’s one of Photography’s perfect masters.  Jona Frank’s work here is good, she works well with her subjects and all her photographs are taken in their environment.  You get the sense of how they fit together, how the people and their environment are each expressions of the other.  But she is not a beachcomber searching for the stray seashell, the random pebble that tells stories of the open sea.  She does environmental portraiture and she’s good at it.  Robert Frank did moments in time.  Different stuff.

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

February 15th, 2009

How I Spent My Valentine’s Day…

I’d been thinking about the self-publishing options available to folks now (see my post below), and I found myself that morning scanning through some web links about photo book publishing.  I’ve wanted to put together a book of my art photography too.  I began scanning pages of comment about how well Apple’s online photo book publishing mechanism works with Aperture…the Apple photographer work flow software I use. 

I discovered several insights into the problem of color management I’ve been wrestling with, ever since I got a request, that came with a promise of actual money, for a print of one of my Puerto Valarta images.  It took me so many test prints to get the colors right off the printer, that I actually lost money on it.  But it was worth it to me, just for the satisfaction of knowing I had a fan of my art photography out there who was willing to give me good money for a print they’d particularly liked.

Here’s the image that gave me so much trouble:


This is off the Puerto Vallarta gallery.  You can’t really see it in this JPEG, but the actual image is rich with delicate detail in the floor tile and brick work, and there are so many beautifully subtle colors and gradients.  I love it myself.  But getting what I saw on Bagheera’s screen (Bagheera is my art room Mac) to match what I got from my printer, a very nice Epson R1800, turned out to be a royal hassle.  This JPEG doesn’t do it much justice either…but I wouldn’t expect much fidelity from a JPEG.  The printer was another story.  I spent a lot of money on it to get something I could produce art quality prints with and I had no idea it would turn out to be so hard.

The worst…and you may find this hard to imagine…was that damn beige wall around the brick archway.  I could not for the life of me get it right out of the printer.  I could get the tile floor.  I could get the brickwork.  I could get the lovely wood in the shadows, and in the bright golden light of the morning sun in Puerto Vallarta.  I could get the dog perfect…just perfect.  I could not get that goddamned beige wall.  It starts out with a distinctly reddish cast at the far end, and gradates over the stucco to the lighter, paler beige in the near end.  It is just lovely if you get it right.  But I kept getting a yellowish wall, or an orange-ish wall or some puke colored wall.  I was having fits until finally, just by accident, I hit on a combination of Aperture output settings and printer color settings that got it right, and I was able to give my customer a good print of it.

This…I thought…cannot be right.  I’d taken a profusion of notes during my struggle to get a good print of this image and looking through them the only thing I could say for sure is I had a combination of settings that would work on That One Photo and probably I’d have to do it all over again for any others.  I knew there was this thing called "color management" you could enforce…somehow…which was supposed to use the color profiles of your printer and monitor to make sure that what you see on the screen is exactly the same as what you see in the final print.  But whenever I looked into any of these color management systems they were all horribly expensive to buy and more complicated to install and use then I had the money or the time to fool with.  There had to be an easier way.

Last summer I was asked at the last minute to do the photography for a relative’s wedding. Some of the photos I took were with the Canon 30D digital SLR.  But some shots, the critical couple and family portraits were done with the Hasselblad.  I’ve been hemming and hawing for months now about getting them prints because I knew it was going to be a massive effort to get each individual print right.  They’ve been very patient, but it’s been embarrassing.

So I’m reading this article online about using Aperture to publish photobooks via Apple’s photobook service, and I see a simple, straightforward explanation of how Apple’s own internal color management system works that I’d never been able to find while I was struggling with the Puerto Vallarta photo…and suddenly everything snapped together for me. 

I had only a vague idea that Apple even had color management built into the operating system.  And there it was, laid out for me in an simple step-by-step process, to set it up in Aperture.  Apple’s system is called "ColorSync", and since it was built-in to the OS, it Was as simple as I thought it had to be.  Just a matter of getting the latest color profiles for my printer installed and then, in Aperture, switching on the onscreen proofing and making sure it was using the printer profiles.  The default is the Apple RGB space.  On the printer side instead of trying to set up a third-party color management system, I just switched on ColorSync.  When Aperture printed, I just had to make sure it was using the printer profile for the particular kind of paper I had in it when it sent output to the printer.  That was all I needed to do.

I ran a test print of the image above through it and it came out…perfectly.  Then I got into the wedding photos I’d taken last summer.  The wedding portraits were all taken outdoors under a tree with a little lake behind it and the lighting conditions kept varying because the bright puffy beautiful clouds in the background kept passing in front of it.  I picked out an image of the couple that needed some adjustments in the light levels and tweaked until I got everything to my satisfaction.  Then instead of making a test proof print, I just sent it directly to the printer using the ColorSync setup and the expensive high gloss paper.  I wanted to see the final product right up front.  It came out exactly right.

I was thrilled.  Now I could make as many art prints as I wanted and not have to worry too much about wasting paper and spinning my wheels searching for the right combination of printer settings to get something to print the way I wanted it to print.  I started work on the wedding prints I’d been promising my family…the southern Baptist side down in southern Virgina…for so long.  It was great.  Everything was coming off the printer perfectly.  Just perfectly.  I was delighted.

I’d printed up a nice 13" by 19" print of the couple’s wedding portrait, and thinking to myself with that sense of completeness and inner satisfaction an artist gets when you have a head of steam up and it all comes together and its all perfect that, Hey…They’re really going to like this…  Hopefully it’ll make up for the delay in getting it all to them…  And then I realized what I was doing.

It’s Valentine’s Day, I’m 55, I’ve been single almost all my life except for maybe that short affair I had with Keith ten years ago and even that was more a roller coaster of yes we are no we’re not yes we are no we’re not until he dumped me…I’m sick, absolutely sick with loneliness and despair is settling in to keep me company in my old age…and here I am happily, cheerfully even, working on other people’s wedding photos.  Like…this is what my life was always meant to be after all.  I exist, to serve other people’s happiness.  I was born to watch other people get a love life and settle down.  Keith settled down.  My first high school crush is happily settled down and has been for over thirty years now with the person he calls his soulmate.  And a certain heartless jackass I know in Arlington Virginia keeps telling me my problem is I just don’t work at it enough, like a sanctimonious billionaire who thinks the only reason people are poor is because they are lazy and just don’t want to work.

I get to watch it all…the parade of life.  I get to point my camera at it.  I get to make drawings and paintings of it.  I have the skill…and the eye.  I get to document it all as it passes me by.  That’s why I was put here on this earth I guess.  I think I saw it, finally, last night.

How I spent my Valentine’s day: I made other people’s wedding prints.  Trust me, it wasn’t what I’d planned on doing.  If someone had even suggested it I’d have laughed in their face.  I’ll do them later…just not Valentine’s Day.  Not when I’m so lonely while the whole fucking world celebrates being in love.  And it just…happened.  Like an omen.  Like a tap on the shoulder reminding me I have a place in this world, and that’s not it.  How I spent my Valentine’s day: I made other people’s wedding prints.

Well…I need to go get some more photo paper.  And…ink. 


[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | React!

January 23rd, 2009

Upgrading Bagheera…(again)

[Geek Alert…]

One reason I started this blog once upon a time, was as a way of journaling.  I hadn’t kept a diary since I was a teenager, and I thought it would be useful to have a journal I could reference from time to time.  I note here, that back in March of 2007 I wrote a series of posts about upgrading Bagheera’s (my art room Mac) data drive from 200 gig to 500

This was back when my Big Scan Project (wherein I am running all the film I’ve ever shot through the Uber nice Nikon Coolscan 5000 ED film scanner I bought back in December of 2006) was starting to really fill Bagheera’s data drive.  The plan was that, hopefully, the price of disk storage would keep going down, so rather then buy several terribytes of hard disk space upfront I would just replace the data drive when it got full and hopefully the next step up would be affordable by then.

I further note in my blog archives that I bought Bagheera back in October of 2004, from the local Apple store in the Towson Town Mall.  Bagheera as I recall didn’t have a second hard drive in it when I bought it.  I added the 2 gig drive at a later date but I don’t see it noted in my blog posts when I installed it, just a first reference to it on November 2005.  I started the Big Scan in December of 2006.  By March of 2007 I needed to upgrade the 200 gig drive to 500.  It’s January 2009, and the 500 gig drive is almost full.  Time to buy more.

I was going to go for 2 terabytes but I couldn’t find 2 locally and my favorite online computer parts store, Directron, didn’t have any for sale, surprisingly, because I know I saw them selling 2 terabyte drives a couple months ago when I was noticing I was getting close to the line on the 500.  But I am up against the line now and I have some projects I can’t do without more disk space so I went to Best Buy and bought a 1 terrabyte Western Digital SATA for Bagheera.

It’s down in the art room now.  Some things have changed since the last time I did this.  For one thing, I’m using SuperDuper as my backup software now, not Retrospect.  Retrospect put everything into one great big backup file with a companion index file…similar to the way a lot of backup programs work.  SuperDuper simply makes a straight file copy of everything onto whatever other drive you point it to, making the backup drive’s file system identical to the one you’re backing up.  What I like about that is that if my data drive fails for whatever reason, I can just plug in the backup drive (after making a safety copy) and I can get right back to work.  Or I can just pull off files directly from the backup drive if and when I need to revert back to a previous copy of something. 

But Retrospect had one feature that SuperDuper does not and that’s it does a verification pass after it’s done backing up.  So I’m currently doing a Unix diff command on the two drives to make sure everything on the backup drive is good before I pull the old data drive out.

I use two Western Digital USB/Firewire external drives for my backups and keep one in my desk at work and the other here and rotate them weekly.  I do this with Bagheera’s system drive too.  The nice thing about Apple computers is that you can make a bootable copy of your system drive onto a Firewire external drive and if your system drive ever fails you can boot directly off the backup drive.  I love that…it gives you much peace of mind.

The other thing that’s changed is I’m running Aperture 2 now.  In my previous post I wrote about how Aperature made upgrading the data drive difficult because it would not use the volume name to get the path back to its referenced image files.  So after I copied over my image library back over to the new drive, Aperture complained that it couldn’t find its reference files and I had to manually "reattach" the masters.  Hopefully Aperture 2 does all that a little more elegantly now.  We’ll see.

So right now Bagheera is doing a ‘diff’ on the data drive and the backup drive.  I expect that to take most of the rest of the night.  When that’s done, if the diff found no problems, I’ll start doing the drive swap. After I get that taken care of, the plan is to upgrade Bagheera’s system drive and upgrade to Mac OSX 1.5 (Leopard).  I’m still at Tiger, largely because I am not sure how well Leopard will run on the only single processor G5 Mac Pro Apple ever made. 

It took two months shy of two years to use up the 300 gig of extra space I bought back in 2007, but I’ve been spotty about sticking to the Big Scan.  If I’d run Bagheera and the scanner constantly it would have probably taken less time, but I have other things I want to use Bagheera for besides scanning in old (and new) film, so the Big Scan is an off and on project. 

Sometime this coming year I may well purchase a more powerful Mac Pro for the art room.  Four years is pretty old in computer years, and already I’m seeing Mac software out there that won’t run on Tiger.  But upgrading Bagheera is budget and work status dependent.  If I’m looking for another job by the end of this year, like a lot of other Americans already are, I may be worried about more then how slow my art room Mac is getting.  If I do it though, I’ll make the old machine into a dedicated film scanner and then just keep running film through it.

by Bruce | Link | React!

November 19th, 2008

On The Road…

A few images from South Of The Border, where I spent the night last night.  I love that place.  Besides the fact that all its motel rooms have their own carports, which make it easy to unpack the car for the night and repack it the next morning, it’s delightfully pure tacky roadside Americana…






I seem to get the biggest kick out of photographing amusement parks in their off season.  It’s like…when all the people are gone you can hear the all the fiberglass and wood structures speaking for themselves…

I’m in Orlando now…at the Radisson just outside the entrance to Disneyworld.  My Disneyworld hotel reservations aren’t until tomorrow, and check-in time is 3PM.  Not sure if my Disneyworld hotel will have Internet or not.  If not it may be a while before I post here again.   

by Bruce | Link | React!

November 12th, 2008

You Thought They Jumped On The Anti-Gay Bandwagon Just Yesterday Did You?

People seem to be discovering that, surprise, surprise, the Mormon church has been working against gay equality for a bit longer then just Proposition 8…

Memo: Same-sex marriage strategy discussed by Hinckley in 1997

This memo was reportedly sent from a LDS General Authority to a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.

It deals with the issue of same-sex marriage and it is dated, March 4, 1997.

This eleven-year-old memo gives a glimpse into President Gordon B. Hinckley’s strategy for dealing with same-sex marriage.

It talks of a meeting with President Hinckley who reportedly said to "move ahead" with the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

This memo also discusses joining forces with the Catholic Church, saying:

"…the public image of the Catholic Church is higher than our Church. In other words, if we get into this, they are the ones with which to join."

But President Hinckley apparently urged caution as the memo makes clear, "he (President Hinckley) also said the (LDS) Church should be in a coalition and not out front by itself.

And this is a key point…

You best believe it is.  They’ve been waging a semi-stealth campaign against gay people for a decade now, and probably much longer then that.  It’s not surprising in the least, coming from a religion that declared black skinned people got their skin color because their spirit ancestors defied God.  The mindset that the different ‘other’ wasn’t really human was there right from the beginning.

by Bruce | Link | React!

October 12th, 2008

My World…

Sometimes the images just leap out at you as you’re strolling down the street…


This was taken by a Blockbuster Video store that’s downsizing.  They used to put current release posters up in the windows on that side of the store.  Now they’ve vacated that side and the posters are in tatters. 


by Bruce | Link | React!

September 1st, 2008

Ocean City Photos

So I just now put up a new gallery of shots I took at Ocean City, New Jersey yesterday.  Labor Day weekend kind of snuck up on me this year, and I hadn’t made any plans at all.  I had a lot of housework I could do, but I could just let the weekend slid by without doing Something. So I thought of going to Ocean City. 

Ocean City is where I went with mom on her summer vacations, back when I was a young teen.  I’d been taken to a variety of east coast beach towns when I was small, but in my early adolescence we settled on Ocean City, and went back year after year.  And OC is where most of my best memories of vacationing by the seashore are.  You can see some of the shots I took way back in the 1970s in Gallery Three – The Shadows and Light Sessions

It was probably too late to reserve a room at the beach…and anyway I am saving for a couple trips I want to take later this year…One to Key West on New Year’s Eve, and the other to Disneyworld…maybe…during the week the Hubble servicing mission launches.  Disneyworld could end up costing a lot, and for sure Key West will as the rates just go through the roof there that week (as I found out last year!).  So I have to save for all that.  But Ocean City New Jersey is only about a three and a half hour drive from Casa del Garrett.  So yesterday morning I basically just jumped in the car with only my Canon digital SLR and a zoom lens and drove to Ocean City for a day trip. 

It’s a short drive…first up I-95 to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and then basically follow US Route 40 almost to the coast.  At Harding Lakes you take road 559 to Great Egg Harbor Bay and across to Ocean City.  It’s one of those Jersey Shore barrier island beach towns.  From the north end of the island you can see the Atlantic City Casinos, which I’ve never had the slightest urge to visit.  Ocean City has a nice beach, a great boardwalk and a friendly atmosphere…in part I’m convinced because it is one of the few "dry" beach towns on the east coast.  Meaning they don’t serve alcohol there and you can’t buy it in any store.  I think that probably keeps the rowdiness factor down.  If you really want it, you can buy it at the huge liquor store right across the bridge on the mainland and bring it back, and drink to your heart’s content in your room.  Just don’t take it outside or go wandering around drunk because you Will get noticed by the police.

When I got there I drove to my OC point of reference…the Port O Call hotel, which is a really nice 60s design six floor hotel right on the boardwalk…the only high rise they ever allowed to be built there.  This time I wasn’t getting a room…my plan was to just find a parking space and stroll the boardwalk with my camera for the afternoon, and maybe take in a good boardwalk restaurant.  At first it looked like I might not be able to find any street parking at all.  Most of the streets near the beach are lined with individual guest houses, many of which have little to no parking of their own.  So everyone parks on the street.  When the guest houses are full, so are the streets.  I drove up and down for a while, and then went to where the all day lots are, and as it turned out, there were spaces available there after all.  It was twenty bucks for all day parking…but that was a lot less then the cost of a room and the boardwalk would provide all I needed for the day in terms of food and drink and clean restrooms.

Now I know I can have a good time at OC for an afternoon on the spur of the moment with just my camera and a few bucks.  The only drawback was that I didn’t want to go home and kept putting it off until late.  So consequently I didn’t get back until very late.  But for just the cost of gasoline and parking and beach food it was worth it.

I may go back on my birthday week.  I asked around and it turns out nowadays the boardwalk doesn’t start closing down until October.  The big Wonderland amusment park at the north end of the boardwalk doesn’t close for the season until October 15th.



More in the Ocean City photo gallery…Here.

by Bruce | Link | React!

June 29th, 2008

Why Are Bruce’s Photographs Like Hitler’s Watercolors…

Answer: They have no people in them.

So…it’s come to my attention that certain folks seem to think my photography is notable for absence of people.  That’s not exactly true, or I probably wouldn’t be invited to take pictures so often of things like weddings and prom dates.  Oh…and drag performer award ceremonies.  But I’ll admit it’s true that I don’t often spotlight my people pictures in my art photography galleries.  Sad but true…what you mostly get there is this kind of thing…



That’s from the Puerto Vallarta gallery.  People were asking the other day where the hell the people were.  I’d depopulated the entire city, they joked.  I’d posted a private gallery with a bunch of snapshots of the friends who took me there, but I elected to omit those from the published gallery for two reasons.  First, those were private.  But the gallery was intended for my art photography, and yes, that stuff tends to run in this direction…



That’s a typical specimen from the Shadows and Light gallery.  I do that sort of thing.  And…this sort of thing too…




And this sort of thing…



Lots and lots of that sort of thing, actually.  It’s what comes out of me most of the time.  And for what it’s worth…I hate it.  I hate it so much that for just over a decade I put my cameras down and refused to take any more pictures because I was so sick of looking at it.  Even when I was trying to be playful, I kept seeing it…



They say there’s a fine line between artistic and crazy.  After just over a decade of not even so much as touching my cameras, I picked them up again because I just had to.  It sounds insufferably arrogant to stick the ‘artist’ label onto yourself, but if one symptom of it is you do it because you have to, even if you hate what you’re doing, because something deep down inside of you just keeps pushing you into it and you could stop breathing before you could stop making your art, well then that’s me. 

But…well…I don’t hate everything I do.  I really like my people pictures.  Back in high school, and my college years, back when the camera bug really got me, I actually did a lot more people stuff then shadows and light stuff.  I really got into it as a matter of fact.  Really, really into it…



Really…really…into it…


And…somehow…I stopped doing that kind of thing.  I just can’t imagine what happened.  Nobody who knows me seems to be able to figure it out either.  All they know is Bruce doesn’t take people pictures.

Well…Actually…yes I do.  When I get the chance.  When it’s something that strikes at my heart.  People I find doing noble work, and I just have to document it, because it’s so beautiful to see…







People I know…creative people…doing noble work… 





People taking a stand for life’s beauty…becoming beautiful themselves in the doing of it…





People…  Yes…I take pictures of them…










But…you know…sometimes it’s the artifacts we leave behind, the marks made on the earth by the human hand…by the human heart…those ephemeral footsteps along the shore we leave behind…that speak so profoundly to the human condition…to existence…  


And that’s what keeps calling to me.  That’s what I have to go find.  And bring back.  These are my little footsteps in the sand. 

There’s a difference between the carefree snaps I take of my friends when we go here and there, and my art photography.  And my artwork isn’t entirely devoid of people.  Furthermore, if you look closely, carefully, you can still see a spark of that sense of life I used to have…back when I could still be certain I would find my soulmate…back when I could still be certain beauty made life worth living.  At least I can still see it.  A little bit.

You know…beauty…


Yes, actually, I Can do people.  If all you can see in my photo imagery is the lack of people, you’re not really looking at it.  On the other hand, I really really wish my friends would quit thoughtlessly blaming me for the solitary, emotionally isolated life I’ve lived for so long, that I hate the sight of whenever I look at the brutalist imagery.  Particularly the friends in a position to at least try to help me out of here.  If I fucking hear "You just need to get out more" one more fucking time I swear I will go nuclear.   Yes, as a matter of fact, there Are people in my photos, and yes, as a matter of fact, I Do go out from time to time.  Just not into gay bars looking for this week’s trick every Friday night.  Does that make me a recluse? 

So…some months ago we all went to this bar we’d never gone to because our usual hangout had been invaded by bears.  And yeah…you all noticed how immediately taken I became by the bartender that night.  You started joking about it.  That’s Bruce’s type all right…  And there I was…gawking away like a schoolboy again.  Somebody did me a really big favor that night.  A favor nobody else had ever done for me before.  They got his name for me.  Sweet.  And then I was able to talk to him.  And some of you may have noticed that I put some effort into getting to know him a bit more in the weeks and months afterward.  Yeah…nothing eventually came of it.  But to the guy who did me that favor…Thank You!  I had a chance I wouldn’t otherwise have had because of your kindness.  Nobody ever did that sort of thing for me before.  I am not kidding.  That was the first time in my life someone ever did that for me…and I note that you not only didn’t think twice about it when you sized up the situation, but that you enjoyed doing it.  Wow.  Never mind a boyfriend…where were You all my life! 

For a while there, I didn’t feel so disconnected from…people.  It’s nice to feel like you’re a part of the world from time to time.  I really don’t want the brutalist imagery to define me.  You know what I really hate more then the thought of dying alone?  It’s the thought of people picking over the body of my work after I’m gone from this earth and going "Oh how tragic that he was so lonely…but Such Wonderful Artwork that tragedy produced!  No.  Please.  I’m going to put it in my will that if I die never having found that intimate other in my life, my executor is to burn it all.  All the film and prints and hard drives with the digital library.  All the paintings and drawings.  Take down the web galleries and the cartoon pages.  No collector’s joy in my desolation…please.  One way or another, I will not be defined in death by my sorrow.


by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

June 14th, 2008

Puerto Vallarta

So…I’ve told you I went to Mexico a couple weeks ago…right?  Here are some photos

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