June on Film Roll #5 – 1974 Olympus Om-1n

I am attempting to shoot a roll of film a month this year – I’m about a month behind, but I’m catching up. My niece, Laura, came for a visit at the end of June. She is an avid shutterbug and has been interested in learning to operate a film camera. She picked up a Pentax kit and brought it with her on her trip. Once we got the pieces out and looked them over I found that my mother’s Vivitar Cosina from the late 70s was also a Pentax mount. Score! I was able to add a doubler, a fast 50, and a telephoto to her kit. More importantly, I was able to hook her up with a very cool vintage strap…

Couple of shutterbugs – Jasper, Arkansas

In preparation for her visit I had purchased us each a roll of T-Max 400 and a roll of 100 speed film. We covered the basics and she was off and shooting in no time. I started with the 400 – that’s what this roll is. Having Laura here got me out and about, so most of these shots are taken away from the house and I shot very few still lives. I actually only had a couple of chances to shoot indoors at all.¬†I shot exclusively with the 50mm 1.4. This gave me a very shallow DOF, but also allowed some areas of sky to blow out.

Shooting outdoors I had a chance to play with sunlight – sometimes with better results than others. I’m finding that instead of seeking out high contrast subjects, that I need to make sure a black and white image has lots of mid tones.

Backlit Sunflower - Historic District - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Backlit Sunflower – Historic District – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

While the shot above shot worked exactly as I imagined it – the next shot I’m not completely sold on – I like the bokeh and the light on the leaves – even the sunspots, but I wish I had more detail in the sky.

Soaking up the Sun - Historic DIstrict - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Soaking up the Sun – Historic District – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

There is a spot I love to shoot – I’ve never really mastered it but I know that someday I will get the shot I’m imagining there. It’s an underground grotto that surrounds a natural spring. I want to get a shot from inside the grotto in the fall capturing all the color in the distant hills – these are not those shots, but I kind of like them. The feel historic to me.

The View from Inside the Grotto - Grotto Spring - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The View from Inside the Grotto – Grotto Spring – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The shot above is from the center of the grotto – on most days sunlight overwhelms this view, but the detail before you leave the stairs works fairly well. The blown out sky does give you the sense of sunlight pouring in.

Shooting into the Sunlight at Grotto Spring - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Shooting into the Sunlight at Grotto Spring – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Next I tried an angle – it lets the texture of the limestone stairwell come alive, this one feels more like the experience of being underground and looking up into the light.

While I was inside the grotto, a small circle on the ground caught my eye – it’s a perfectly round hole in the surface of the limestone step – a stair railing must have been here at some time…

Rail Base - Grotto Spring - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Rail Base – Grotto Spring – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The surface of the stone gave me some of those mid tones I have been searching for. The deep shadow and the highlight on the water give me the full tonal range I have been hoping to achieve with my black and whites.

I have been reading a lot about leading lines in hopes of improving my landscape skills – this historic bridge gave me some lines to work with…

The Beaver "Golden Gate" Bridge - Beaver, Arkansas

The Beaver “Golden Gate” Bridge – Beaver, Arkansas

This is the Ozarks very own “Golden Gate” bridge – the towers are actually painted yellow – it’s a one-lane bridge so you have to take turns crossing it. I have shot it many times in color and have a photo by a local artist in my home – I resisted the temptation to shoot it straight on and vertical – I see that done a lot here. For the second view I decided to make the diagonally striped sign the focal point – I have never known what that sign means…

Diagonal Stripes - Beaver Bridge - Beaver, Arkansas

Diagonal Stripes – Beaver Bridge – Beaver, Arkansas

The “fast fifty” lens lets me get sweet details in the foreground, like the bolts to the right of the signs – and lets the details in the distance soften.

Shooting the manual camera has been a challenge – you need longer exposures in many cases to capture detail, but it is very difficult to keep the camera still enough. In college I shot my moms Vivitar Cosina – the one I gave Laura. It has an Auto setting that is basically a primitive Aperture Mode. You set the aperture and the light meter tells you the shutter speed. I would adjust the aperture until the shutter speed was about 125. The Olympus is completely manual with a built-in light meter. You have to adjust both the shutter and the aperture until you get the needle centered on the light meter. In some cases there is just no room to shoot at 125 – there isn’t enough light.

Solar Lanterns - Sweet Spring - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Solar Lanterns – Sweet Spring – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

More good mid tones – I shot this with the aperture close mid way down – this let me capture details in the balloons and in the limestone behind them – it was bright enough to still get a decent shutter speed at about f/11.

Laura Focusing her Pentax - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Laura Focusing her Pentax – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

This shot of Laura was taken with the aperture wide open – I focused on her camera. The DOF is very shallow. I love the bokeh created by the picket fence behind her.

Lavender flowers at Sweet Spring - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Lavender flowers at Sweet Spring – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

I used the same setting to capture these flowers, Laura was actually shooting these when I was shooting her.

Log Cabin with Cedar Log Rails - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Log Cabin with Cedar Log Rails – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

This log cabin is on Spring Street in Eureka Springs. It hangs out over a hollow in the middle of town. There are trees near the sidewalk, so you have to find a way to peek through them to get a shot of it with the hollow visible. My first instinct was to shoot it straight on from the street – but I thought about the leading lines and decided to get a view at an angle.

Crystal Spring Seen Through a Curved Window - Crystal Bridges - Bentonville, Arkansas

Crystal Spring Seen Through a Curved Window – Crystal Bridges – Bentonville, Arkansas

Now for something a bit more modern – this is a view of the Spring at Crystal Bridges Museum – through a curved glass window. I was curious to see how the curved reflections would play on the image. I close the aperture down to about f/11 in this shot – the DOF is pretty deep.

Brushes at the Norberta Filbert Gallery - Bentonville, Arkansas

Brushes at the Norberta Philbert Gallery РBentonville, Arkansas

When I had a chance to shoot still life, I tried to shoot with the aperture wide open – aiming for a very shallow DOF.

Steampunk Balloons by Tangled Metal - Norberta Philbrook Gallery - Bentonville, Arkansas

Steampunk Balloons by Tangled Metal – Norberta Philbrook Gallery – Bentonville, Arkansas

I loved these – I also like the shallow DOF – but think I could have closed the aperture down a stop. A local artist creates these from repurposed lightbulbs and clock parts. I shot several of these shots at a great gallery in Bentonville Arkansas located very close to Crystal Bridges.

Rademacher Leaf Vase - Norberta Philbrook Gallery - Bentonville, Arkansas

Rademacher Leaf Vase – Norberta Philbrook Gallery – Bentonville, Arkansas

This vase is by a local artist – he fires pieces with leaves pressed into the clay – I have one of his bird feeders and love the look of it.

Rockwell's Rosie - Crystal Bridges - Bentonville, Arkansas

Rockwell’s Rosie – Crystal Bridges – Bentonville, Arkansas

I can’t go to Bentonville without checking in with Rosie – my goal with this shot was to capture a bit of the sheen of the paint on the canvas – it’s subtle but it’s there. It’s very interesting to look at something known for its color in black and white.

Newspaper Machines - Jasper, Arkansas

Newspaper Machines – Jasper, Arkansas

These old newspaper machines gave me another chance to play with leading lines – the diagonals draw you into the image. I like the surfaces on these – they were a vivid blue.

Kayaks Loaded - The Stone House - Oak Hill, Arkansas

Kayaks Loaded – The Stone House – Oak Hill, Arkansas

I shot this image of the jeep with the aperture fairly wide – the DOF is shallow enough to isolate the subject, but not so shallow that you lose the depth of the image.

So – my thoughts on this project 5 rolls in? Well, I’m getting more keepers per roll and I’m taking a lot fewer shots of each subject – on this roll I only shot a few subjects more than once. Showing Laura the area kept me moving so I shot lots of variety. I also took my film camera everywhere except kayaking. Having it with me gave me lots of opportunities. I stared the next roll at Crystal Bridges in the gardens – I am anxious to see how those worked out. I’m shooting 100 speed now, so maybe I’ll get some sharper images in the mix.

If you would like to catch up with my project, here are the links for the other posts in the series:

Roll #1

Roll #2

Roll #4

Where is Roll 3? Well, it’s in the trash because I didn’t pay attention to the light meter.

Rosie and Me – an Update

Several months ago I wrote about my tattoo experience with Rosie the Riveter – you can read about it here.

A quick bit of back story for those who may not wish to click…

1. This is my favorite painting…

This is the photo I took of Rosie at Crystal Bridges last winter.

This is the photo I took of Rosie at Crystal Bridges last winter.

2. Rosie was based on this painting…

Rosie was based on the image of Isaiah from the Sistine Chapel - instead of the Book of the Law, she rests her arm on her lunchbox.

Rosie was based on the image of Isaiah from the Sistine Chapel – instead of the Book of the Law, she rests her arm on her lunchbox.

3. I started a tattoo last year of Rosie by an amazing artist, Serene Temple – as of last February it looked like this…

This is Rosie after 2 sessions - last February

This is Rosie after 2 sessions – last February. I was constantly stopped and asked who did this piece – no one believed me when I told them it was unfinished.

4. Rosie was brought to this point in 2 sessions or about 12 hours work. The first was to lay in the shadows, the second was to add color and define details.

OK – That’s where I left off. This year over my Christmas holiday I scheduled another session with the amazing Serene. She told me that we would be doing fine detail and that this session would be fun. I imagined a couple of hours of highlights and that we would have time to add something I have been wanting to add to my arm. I was totally unprepared for the detail session – it was much more than a few highlights. Layers of color were added to Rosie’s overalls, skin tones were enhanced, details were added – before it was over we spent another 5 hours on Rosie.

Rosie’s face complete with lipstick and curls. Note the highlights on all the glass surfaces like her goggles and mask.

The details in her hair and highlights make this look so much like the painting. The buttons are beyond belief.

The details in her hair and highlights make this look so much like the painting. The buttons are beyond belief.

Since the last session I have gone back to Crystal Bridges to get a shot of the pocket of Rosie’s overalls – it contained a handkerchief and a compact. Those details were added in this session.

Rosie's white compact and hanky are tucked into her overalls pocket. The white seams and the surface of the rivet gun add so much dimension.

Rosie’s white compact and hanky are tucked into her overalls pocket. The white seams and the surface of the rivet gun add so much dimension.

Rosie’s hand had so many more details than I had imagined – I thought it was pretty much done last session – I was wrong.

The crust on the bread of the sandwich, the stippled surface of the rivet gun, the buckles on her wrist strap, and her red nail polish - the details make it echo Rockwell's original.

The crust on the bread of the sandwich, the stippled surface of the rivet gun, the buckles on her wrist strap, and her red nail polish – the details make it echo Rockwell’s original.

The penny loafers and cuffs are by far the best ink I have on my body – I wish I had photos to do them justice…

The cuffs on these overalls are some of the best Ink I have ever seen. The penny loafers are my favorite part of the original and this photo doesn't do these details justice. Shooting your own leg is harder than you think.

The cuffs on these overalls are some of the best Ink I have ever seen. The penny loafers are my favorite part of the original and this photo doesn’t do these details justice. Shooting your own leg is harder than you think.

Ultimately my best shot is one taken by someone at a bit more distance. I think she’s more than I ever imagined she could be…

This gives you a feel for how complete Rosie is looking - next we will work on the background

This gives you a feel for how complete Rosie is looking – next we will work on the background.

Where do we go from here? I have an idea about the background. I don’t think I want the wavy stripes from the original – it was designed to be a flat magazine cover, and my leg is round. I am intrigued by the setting of Isaiah – both of these images are of people who were a part of a fundamental change in how we saw the world. Isaiah introduces us to a God of compassion. He describes a savior that is a conqueror of the heart rather than the head of an army. Before Isaiah our view of God was as a judge handing down punishment, after Isaiah we get a glimpse of Him extending his hand to save us from that judgement. Rosie is the image of a sea change in how we see women. Before Rosie, women were barely assigned enough intelligence to be able to vote, now she could not only do the job of any man – she could do it well. It was her duty, she was doing her part to save the world. I like to think of combining the two – maybe she should be seated on an industrial styled throne-like niche – trade Isaiah’s marble for steel and rivets. At least that’s what I’m thinking today. We’ll see where it goes the next time I go home.

As for that other piece I was thinking about adding, as usual I imagine things are easier than they really are. Serene saw my idea and was eager to tackle it. We scheduled another session on her day off while I was still in town. She did a drawing that took hours of something I had wanted to add something to my sleeve – an image of the camera my mother shot, the camera she taught me to shoot – a Rolleiflex…

What comes after Rosie? An image of my favorite camera.

What comes after Rosie? An image of my favorite camera.

This is just the first session. Details will be added and it will look amazing (I kinda think it already does, but I have learned my lesson) Good ink takes time and the time is worth it when you consider that this is on your body forever.

Rosie and Me

My brush with greatness at Crystal Bridges

I’m an art geek. Seeing a famous piece of art that I have admired in person is much more exciting than seeing a celebrity. I get a little giddy.

Last December I got my first chance to visit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art – it’s located in Bentonville, Arkansas and it’s simply amazing. Gilbert Stuart’s Portrait of Washington, Maxfield Parish’s Lanterns, Thomas Hart Benton, Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein, Winslow Homer – and many more, so many I had admired based on a photo in a textbook or a slide on a classroom wall – here in the flesh in Arkansas. It was like a feast, wonders around every corner. I savored them all passing from gallery to gallery. And then I saw Rosie…

Rosie the Riveter by Norman Rockwell

As a child learning to draw I would study photos of Norman Rockwell’s work – noticing the play of light and shadow on his figure’s skin, marveling at his stunning photorealistic character studies, his elevation of the “everyman” to almost monumental status. Even before I understood its meaning, Rosie was my favorite. She was a strong woman who wore overalls and used power tools! As a teen I often dressed like her – overalls and buttons with penny loafers. I still have a pair of sunglasses that look like goggles. If I were invited to a costume party tomorrow I could pull off a fair Rosie.

As I began to understand her place in history I saw Rosie as someone like my grandmother who went to work during the war – she was no riveter – she was a butcher. But she went to work during the war and she was never content to sit at home as a housewife again. She did a man’s job when almost all jobs were reserved for men, and she did it as well as any man could. She was ahead of her time by more than 30 years.

Did you know that Rockwell based Rosie on the figure of the Prophet Isaiah from the Sistine Chapel? Her pose is almost identical. That’s the magic of Rockwell – this young woman shares the same grace as a prophet in one of the most famous works of art on the planet. She matters.

The Prophet Isaiah from the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo

I was a fine art major in college. Norman Rockwell’s works were often dismissed as “illustration”. I found out about this bias out the hard way. I was assigned a project in my life drawing class – I was supposed to choose a piece of art to use as a template to dissect the human form down into spheres and cylinders – exploring the geometry of the human body. I chose Rockwell’s 100th anniversary of Baseball and was told that although the forms were a good choice, Rockwell was not considered a “real artist”. My choice cost me a passing grade on the assignment. Imagine my satisfaction at seeing Rosie in a place of honor at a leading museum of American “Art”.

My visit to Crystal Bridges occurred because my flight had been delayed. I was heading home for Christmas with my family in Las Vegas. Each year I schedule an appointment with what we call the “family tattoo artist”, Serene, while I’m home for the holidays. My plan was either to add to my half sleeve or to start a leg.

My sleeve so far:

My half-sleeve. An eclectic memorial to people who I love.

Serene is a painter. I confess that I waited a long time to get my first ink – I’m a bit of an art snob and I have seen an awful lot of bad work. Meeting Serene was key for me to get started. She’s a painter so we get each other as artists. I am a collector of her paintings as well as a walking gallery of her work. She also knows color. In the sleeve above she used no white – she created the illusion of white dogwoods by using blues and greys to lighten my own skin tone.

After seeing Rosie, my plans changed – I wanted her on my leg. I stopped by Serene’s studio to see her a day before my appointment to drop off images – she told me she needed more time and that she was really excited to do a Rockwell – especially one so symbolic as Rosie. I left her my photos and she set aside her day off to work on Rosie – she told me that this wasn’t going to be something that we would finish in a day. It was a big commitment for both of us.

When I arrived she had worked out the stencil – a note about artists – you get what you pay for. The work goes beyond the session time. She spent hours getting this ready.

Serene’s reference drawing

The stencil on my leg

This was my first “portrait” style tattoo. This is done more like a painting – shading applied like an under painting, then line used to give definition. The first session was all about laying down depth. The zones on the stencil give the artists landmarks to set in that shading.

I brought along my camera – I thought it might be a good opportunity to capture some of the color of a session.

Ink Bottles

Shading Machine

As we started laying in details I saw it all coming to life – the penny loafers are one of my favorite parts of the painting – it’s where you really see Rockwell’s skill as a painter – highlight strokes. Serene has captured this better than this photo of my puffy leg shows – these were shot right after the session, but you can get the idea.

Detail of Rosie’s Loafers

Detail of my Rosie – this is the only circumstances I could imagine having a swastika on my body – crushed underfoot by the American spirit.

At the end of the first visit this is where we were. I had never ended a session with something that seemed so unfinished – but I was excited to see it progress.

Shading laid in – a hand suspended in air.

Serene had warned me that legs heal differently than arms. At the end of the third day I was one hurting unit – but I loved what I saw healing on my leg. I was scheduled to attend a trade show in Las Vegas in February so I scheduled an appointment for the day before.

Once again I brought my camera to document the process from my unique angle.

I love how some machines have this steam punk look.

Color palette for session two

Inked Serene inking me

The details started really coming together. Laying on my side I held my camera up to see what was happening on my leg.

The details of a club sandwich

My view of the progress

Here’s where we ended up after the second session – between the two sessions we have about 12 hours in this piece.

My leg after session 2. Serene photographed this one for her book.

The detail of Rosie’s face – almost painterly

I still have a session left to add the fine detail. Buttons, stitching, highlights. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying Rosie – taking her out and about.

Rosie on the trail

Recently I took my Rosie to meet the Original.

My Rosie at THE Rosie

I know it might sound extreme to tattoo a favorite painting onto your skin. I like my ink to be meaningful personally and it is, but more importantly it is personally transformative. I have always been a bit self-conscious about my appearance, never quite comfortable in my own skin. My tattoos have become my favorite thing about my appearance. I look in the mirror and I love my skin. I have claimed it as my own after decades of not liking my freckles, my pink skin, my shape. I own it.

As Rosie approaches completion, I am beginning to think about what’s next. I’ve thought about Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Maybe a mirrored Michelangelo’s Isaiah or some of my own photography. Maybe another Rockwell….

Rockwell’s Tattoo Artist – My next tattoo?

…and many more

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Today is Mary Jane’s 99th birthday. She’s one of my closest friends, someone who has taught me a great deal about life. I consider her a mentor and love spending time with her. She’s a year older than my Grandma would have been, and she was raised only 30 miles from my Great-grandfather’s homestead, so I suppose that she has some mannerisms that feel familiar to me. Like my Grandma, she is an excellent story teller.

I connected with Mary Jane the first time I met her. I live in the house her father built in the early 1920’s. I called her one winter day not long after I moved and introduced myself. I had been told that she was close to 90 and could tell me a lot about the my place. She had some difficulty hearing, but we had a nice enough conversation.

The next morning she was at my door – she had driven her convertible K-car through the snow and up my 100- yard-long driveway through the woods. When I first saw her, I assumed she was her 70 year old daughter. She was agile, sharp as a tack, and excited like a kid in a candy store to show me around my own house. We climbed up in the attic and down in the cellar. She told me my front door was actually the side door, that the strange molding in the attic was the missing plate rail from the dining room wall, and lots of other structural details. When she got to the porch she saw that I had re-hung some screen doors that I found out in the shop over the french doors. She got a little choked up as she told me that she had helped her father make them as a child.

We sat down in the living room and she told the story of her mother reading Better Homes and Gardens and seeing an article on the “California Bungalow of the Year” home plan. She fell in love with it so they ordered the plan for $25 and built it themselves from the rocks cleared from the land that they farmed. She even showed me a pile of surplus stone in the woods near the house.

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Over the following weeks Mary Jane would pop in to visit and tell me more about the house. One day the following spring she called to ask if I would like to go for a “walk” – I agreed and we took off down what looked like an abandoned driveway off the dirt road we both live on. She took me down into the hollow and across the bench (her term for the limestone formation where springs form) to the spring several hundred feet below my house. She shared how they had used a hand crank to bring water up to the house from this spring. Next we went back down the bench in the opposite direction until we came to an amazing pivot rock formation – this is an old photo shot on that first hike with a cell phone – I hadn’t imagine we were going to see so much on a “walk”.

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That day we did about 3 miles up and down and I learned one of Mary Jane’s secrets to health, not only is she a “walker” but she loves being out in nature. She knows about plants and herbs. She has an almost childlike love of wildlife. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of wildflower varieties. She told me the other day that her favorite thing in life is to “walk the earth”.

Over the years we have walked hundreds of miles together and she continues to amaze me. Here’s a shot of her at about 93 years old, “bushwacking” through the woods to find an old trail.

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Something I have noticed about Mary Jane – when we get out into the woods she has no problem finding a place to sit and take a break. It’s almost like she is “one with the woods” – its truly her favorite place.

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I’ve also noticed that she typically walks with a pole or stick – she has several at her front door. For her 95th birthday I gave her along one with a large top – when she carries it she looks like the queen of the forest.

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This one is my monopod – high tech, low tech – no matter to Mary Jane, a broom handle will do.

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Mary Jane had mentioned to me that she wanted to see Crystal Bridges – its an amazing new museum of America Art located in Bentonville, Arkansas. It’s nestled into a hollow over an active spring and was built with a eye to disturbing as little of the natural site as possible. It’s surrounded by gorgeous trails and hiking paths. Last month I took Mary Jane to see it, not sure if we were going to look at art or go for a walk. Once we parked she told me that she was much more interested in the outside than in the inside – so off we went.

She had never seen a tulip tree – you can see the wonder in her eyes as she sees her first.

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She lights up when she is in the woods.

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We took a break when we spotted a kitten in the woods.

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We finished two trails, about a mile and a half. We came to a courtyard with gorgeous flowers that she had never seen before and discovered that they are called Mary Janes:)

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At the end of our walk she told me we need to go back in the fall – she can only imagine how beautiful these trails will be in the fall.

I think that attitude sums up what makes Mary Jane the vibrant person that she is – she’s 99 and still has a sense of wonder and discovery, she still looks forward, and she still loves to walk the earth.

Happy Birthday, my friend.

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