Posts Tagged ‘sofobomo’

Sofobomo Silence and Koni-Omega Back in Action

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

So, I’ve been pretty silent on sofobomo. Unless you follow me on twitter, in which case you may have seen my intermittent bitching.

This isn’t due to lack of work — I’ve been shooting, scanning, and processing this whole time. In fact, I’m almost done. But I haven’t shared any of that, for a few different reasons — I’ve had some color balance problems with my calibration solution (don’t ask), which accounts for a lot of it, and more generally, I’ve sort of felt like this is something I don’t want to spam all over the internet until it’s one.

Of course, for the same reason, I’m probably just going to drop the sofobomo PDF in a hole when I’m done and do something completely different as the real output for the project. The issue is the 35-image limit — not because I don’t have enough images, and even (quite) because I don’t have enough good images — but because this project, and really most projects, I think, are not really well-served by a glut of images, which is what this amounts to.

Of course, this is probably just a failure of imagination on my part…I think next time I do sofobomo, if I do, I need to plan out several more or less discrete sub-topics…

Anyway, so as not to leave you dry, image-wise, let me drop a couple of shots from the 60mm f/5.6 that brought my Koni-Omega back into action after two, count ‘em, two 90mm lenses failed me. Unfortunately, it’s missing the finder, but I should be able to snag one on ebay if I’m patient.

Do click through and look at the larger sizes.

Test Roll w/60mm f/5.6

Test Roll w/60mm f/5.6


Needless to say, I am extremely pleased to have the K-O functioning again. Leica, shmeica. This is a rangefinder.

ThinkTank Streetwalker Pro

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Normally, I prefer Domke-style bags. My F3X is almost perfect. However, for SoFoBoMo, I’m going to be carrying my RB67 with both my lenses and my 055XPROB pretty much all the time, and carrying the 055 as well as the RB67 is a bit of a stretch using the F3X and a tripod bag.


So, I went the other direction and got a modern camera backpack. I looked at a bunch of different models, and unlike previous times I shopped for a backpack, I was able to immediately discard the models that were designed to carry a laptop or designed for quick access. (This is mainly for the RB67 and tripod work — not impromptu shooting.)

I settled on the ThinkTank Streetwalker Pro. In addition to its excellent name, I’ve been wanting a ThinkTank product for a while (to see if the hype is justified), and I liked some of the design aspects. It’s not intended for air travel or hiking in the country, but for carrying a bunch of crap around in an urban setting all day — which is what I need.


First thoughts:

* The outgassing from this bag has an interesting smell. Sort of durian-like
* The bag has a cute little corporate folder with pictures of photographers and their job descriptions all over it and the instructions inside (yes, the backpack needs instructions)
* Build quality is extremely high. Better than Lowepro and similar bags, not that there’s anything wrong with Lowepro’s build quality
* There are a lot of nice design nuances, particularly with the straps and whatnot
* Lots of pockets and loops and d-rings and dinguses
* The tripod holder works fairly well, even with a bulk tripod like my 055.
* The interior space is a good shape for all and only photography gear, which is what I wanted


If you click through to flickr, I’ve got some notes on these images providing additional commentary.

The problem of catching eyes

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Encroaching Green

To continue on my Simone Weil theme of a week or so ago, here is another quote of hers of which I am very fond:

“Beauty captivates the flesh in order to obtain permission to pass right to the soul.”

Weil is referring to the heart-stopping aspect of art — the way that a particularly beautiful work, can seize our attention in a way that sort of shuts down or fades out the chatter of our bodies and minds, giving the viewer/reader/listener a sense of pure observation, akin to meditation or spiritual communion or — at the risk of sounding quackish — the “flow” state described by Csíkszentmihályi and folks.

This is an aspect of photography which is of great importance to me. I became seriously interested in photography around the same time I started noticing myself slipping into a frame of mind I was more familiar with from the meditative practices I more or less abandoned years ago. A basic technical fluency (fluency meaning no need to think about the operation of the camera as I operated it) combined with a kind of disciplined vision (a “trained eye,” although how well-trained at that time, or the present?) caused me to photograph without overt thought. Just eyes and hands and legs adjusting position, framing, focusing, shooting. And every now and again, when I’m both good and lucky, I can put enough of that into the photograph that the viewer, too, will be seized by the image, and look with a still mind.

Of course, I’m usually not both good and lucky at the same time, and all too often, I’m neither. : )

But something that worries me, in general, and with my upcoming sofobomo project in particular, is that in some cases some of my best work — or what I consider my best work — may not have enough initial eye-catching-ness to gain and keep the attention needed for the viewer to give the image a chance. It seems like popular photography skews hard toward images with a “wow factor” — whether in heroic content or bravura technique or intense manipulation — that make them leap off of a screen of flickr thumbnails. (Although this problem is not a digital innovation — I think it goes back at least as far as the ascent of Ansel Adams (as opposed to Edward Weston or Minor White or other folks of that general time) in the mind of lay photographers and the general public. The flickr thumbnail is just an incarnation of the problem I happen to encounter on a regular basis.)

I’m very wary of creating images whose success is based on such a “wow factor,” because the typical response to such images is, “Wow, I wish I was there,” or, “Wow, how did you do that,” or, “Wow, I wish I had that lens/camera/film/etc.” This is not the response I want to evoke, or at least not all of the time. (Sometimes it’s inevitable; you can’t take a non-crappy picture of a bird without getting these responses.)

So, partly because of this issue, my sofobomo project (“Engulf”) is deliberately constructed to avoid as many “wow” factors as possible. The subject — small-scale conflict of nature vs. civilization — is not at all heroic. (By small-scale, I mean manifestations in highly mundane urban settings — for example, a tree which is growing around a metal pole and engulfing it.) I’m not utilizing sophisticated lighting techniques or macro lenses, or naked ladies. In fact, many of the images will be of largely two-dimensional subjects.

This leaves me with a limited vocabulary of photographic elements — texture, color, and shape, essentially. This prevents me from getting caught up in the arms race of eye-catching “wow”-ness — but I wonder if it won’t also get in the way of the deeper goal that Weil described — I worry that if I do not catch the eye, I cannot captivate the flesh.


Friday, March 13th, 2009

So, I recently signed up to do SoFoBoMo. You can click through and read about it there, if you aren’t already familiar with it, but the short version is, it’s like NaNoWriMo for photography. I think it’s a great idea, although I don’t feel so positively about the name. It makes me think of someone trying to cuss me out while eating a peanut butter sandwich.

I signed up in part because I’m a sucker for stuff like this, but mostly because I have yet to do the sort of project where you conceive, execute, and output a bunch of images on a single subject in a delimited time window. And that seems like something I ought to be able to do, and ought to have practice doing.

I’ve debated a bit with myself on the topic. I was considering using my translation of Chapter 18 of the Mūlamadhyamikakārikāḥ (a Buddhist philosophical treatise in verse), but I think I should save that — I don’t think it would be best served by a rigid constraint on time and number of images.


So, I think I’m going to revisit a photograph (at right) I made some time ago, and with which I was never fully satisfied. The subject is a tree which is growing around a metal pole, and if allowed to continue growing, may at some point fully engulf the pole within itself. I plan to return to this subject, and to others like it, which embody the conflict of nature and civilization in small ways.

We’ll see how that works out for me. I plan to use my RB67 and shoot the whole thing on Portra 800, a film I know fairly well and from which I believe I can get good results in a wide variety of conditions. This will have the advantage of giving me high-quality output I know how to work with, along with a degree of built-in consistency. This is good, because consistency between images is not something I’ve previously worked to achieve; normally, I treat every image as a task unto itself. I don’t generally try to match the look of one image to another.

The downside is that this means shooting 35 images on 120 film (minimum four rolls; with any degree of redundancy, more like six-eight), and getting them developed and scanned, which adds overhead in the chronology.

Well, we’ll see.

Peek w/case

Right now what I’m doing is scouting potential subjects. I may do a few still life images at home (likely with vegetables), but for the most part, this is going to be about things found in the “wild,” as it were. I normally just wait and shoot subjects as I come across them, but for this, I’ll need to make a lot of images in a comparatively short period of time in order to have the time needed to develop, scan, process, and design. Thus the need to plan ahead.

To do this, I’ve been using the combination of my Peek email device and Remember the Milk, an online todo list service with particularly good email integration. When I pass by something that I particularly like, I send an email to RTM, along with a reminder date (shooting for sofobomo won’t start for a while) and an instruction to file it in a separate sofobomo list.

I could, of course, keep a paper list, but the metadata aspect is really appealing, and paper doesn’t remind you when to do something. And while paper is great for some things (like taking notes while I’m shooting), I find it doesn’t work well for me when I’m aggregating lots of little notes over time. Either I make the notes in a fixed-page journal, in which case I have trouble finding them all later in the midst of the other text, or else I make them on a removable-page notepad, in which case I tend to lose the pages.

So, yay for technology….