Skipper of the Misty-Ann | Black and White Portraits

Last year my wife and I drove along the Norther California coast to enjoy the better half of the state and take some black and white photos. We stopped in a number of small towns including Cresent City. There was a marina and as I was checking it out I stopped to talk with this gentleman. He is the skipper of the Misty-Ann, a small fishing boat. He was kind enough to let me photograph him.

I used my Hasselblad 500cm with a 80mm 2.8 lens.

Skipper of the Misty-Ann - Black and White Portraits - Crecent City California

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Muir Woods - Large Format Black and White Landscape

4x5 large format photo redwoods

 I took this black and white photograph 2 years ago at the Redwood National Forest - Muir Woods. I shot it with my Shen Hao 4×5 camera using Kodak TMax 100 film.

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Film Format, A Compositional Technique

Black and White Panoramic Landscape - South end of Utah Lake - Shot with my Shen Hao 4x5 camera with a 6x17 back.

Black and white panoramic photograph - Antelope Island - Shot with my Shen Hao 4×5 camera with a 6×17 back.

As photographers work on improving their compostion, I have found that there is one tool that is frequently under-explored. The format and or aspect ratio.

35mm film is 24mm x 36mm: a 2:3 ratio. This format along with the 4:5 ratio are the most commonly used formats in photography and within these rigid borders, the artist composes an image. I submit that by limiting ourself to these ratios we limit our creativity.

Once every other semester or so I’ll have a student submit an assignment which they shot with a 35mm camera, and then cropped the print to a panoramic format. I’m always impressed and excited to see this. I even tell the class that just because Kodak or Ilford made the film a certain size, or just because their camera exposes a negative within certain dimentions, doesn’t mean they need to limit their creativity or imagination to work within those confines.

Crop or images, explore different formats, mask out areas of your view finder to help compose differently.

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Photography and the Simple Composition

For some reason I am drawn to 2 film formats: square and panoramic. The square format is so simple and uniform. I find when photographing with my Hasselblad which is a 6x6cm format, I compose the images differently. I very much like the results.

Many books have been written on composition and I’m not going to get into specifics, but I have found that composing an image is learned by doing, and not so much by reading about it. Not to say that the books are useless, just that it’s more common to read about it and critique the work of others, then it is to really explore the concepts by actually doing it.

I very much subscribe to the idea that ‘Less is More’. Keep your compositions clean and simple. Even when presenting the final image, one should consider where it will be located. - A few years ago at a State Fair I visited the photography exhibit. Hundreds of images squished together on portable dividing walls. I hated the exhibit. There were many ‘good’ pieces of work, but because of the presentation, none of them could be really appreciated.

Black and white film photography seascape


Antelop Island - Black and White Film Photography - Shot with a Hasselblad 500cm - Tri-X400

Utah Lake - Black and White Film Photography - Shot with a Hasselblad 500cm - Tri-X400

Posted in black and white, Film, Hasselblad, Landscapes, Medium Format, photography, Seascapes, Thoughts | 1 Comment

Black and White and Why

Black and White Photography - Japanese Tea Gardens

I’ve been asked a couple times why do I shoot only Black and White film? It’s a question that I’ve thought about a number of times and have concluded a few responses.

One of the foremost reasons is that I am comfortable doing the entire process from loading my film, to matting the print, all at my home. With color, I’d need to send out film to a lab to be processed and for the prints to be printed. My humble darkroom is not equipted for color processing.

By processing my own black and white film I get to learn the characteristics of my favorite films and developers. With that knowlege and being very familiar with my camera, I can more easily predict outcomes and manipulate the process to get the results I want.

Another reason for shooting black and white film is the emotional effects of viewing the final product. We are used to seeing the world a certain way. Full color, 3 dimentional, depth, clarity, all 5 senses are involved. With photography there is a separation from reality. No longer are we viewing the scene in 3d with sounds and smells. This separation from reality is even greater in black and white. Black and white photography to me is emotional and dramatic.

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The Degradation of Art

Everyday as I walk down the hall to my office at work, I pass two images hanging on the wall. Those two images are passed by me and my co-workers hundreds of times a week as we scurry about getting our work done. A number of months ago I stopped and actually paid attention to these two images, and have since been bothered by their presence.

Both images are reproductions of famous paintings by the French artist Claude Monet: The Wheat Field and Poplars.

Monet (1840 – 1926) was the father of the impressionist style of painting. His work can now be found through out the world, hanging in the most prestigious venues and collections. With the fame and recognition that these two pieces have, why then am I bothered by them? After thinking about it for a long time I have answered my own question.

If Monet’s original work was hanging in the halls of my employer, I would not be so disenchanted. Not only would I probably spend long periods of my work day appreciating them, but I’m sure there would be many visitors stopping in to do the same.

As a photographer and a photography teacher at a local university, I often bring up the subject of the print, and the image. Although the two could be argued the same, in reality they are vastly different. When a photographer or any artist in his respective discipline is inspired by their current surroundings enough to try and capture that experience and emotion on film or canvas or paper, and actually is able to take a full and rich experience that may include all five senses and successfully translate it to their preferred medium, where generally only one sense will ever be used in appreciating it, art is made.

When Claude Monet finished painting the Wheat Field, I can only imagine he felt as most artists, professional or amateur probably feel; a small sense of satisfaction. As the painting and painter gets more and more exposure, the artist gets more respected and his work more appreciated. Not only do others appreciate his work more and more but the artist himself develops sort of a relationship with his own work.

The more exposure artists gets, the more famous they become. They attract a larger audience, and with it, subjective success. This is where the problem begins.

At this point the artist may be long gone, and his legacy lives on though his work. Renowned galleries display his work attracting collectors and enthusiast from all over. Commerce steps in and wants its piece of the pie and reproductions are made. Pretty soon, the identity of the art work is known around the world. Although a relatively few people have ever seen the original piece in person, everyone recognizes it. The artists’ work starts showing up in calendars, postcards, screen savers, even on neck-ties. This is what I submit to be the degradation of art.

Mona-Lisa’s identity was probably never meant to be made commercial. Her face recognized my millions. Screen-printed and faded on a wrinkled tee-shirt with mustards stains. It has been reduced from exquisite art, to a cheap icon of the past.

I myself have owned 13 month calendars depicting Ansel Adams’ most famous photographs. Printed with lower quality standards, the production value is degraded, the full impact of his work and influence in the photographic world is never even considered as the last month expires and the calendar discarded.

So as I walk down the hall at work and see these two pieces by Monet, cheap posters, faded and warped from the sun, damaged from being in and out of storage, adorned with plastic frames made to look like wood. I think the master who probably never intended his work to be presented in this manner would feel saddened and disappointed.

Brandon Allen

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Kimball Arts Festival - Park City Utah



Hours and Admissions
Friday, August 6, 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, August 7, 9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 8, 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Donations are encouraged for entrance on Friday evening.
Saturday, $10 adults, twelve and under free, tickets purchased on Saturday may be used for entry on Sunday.
Sunday, $10 adults, twelve and under free


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F Stop Magazine - Work Submission


ISSUE #43: Blur & Focus - SPONSORED BY LENSBABY - October/November 2010

Issue #43 will have the theme of “blurry focus” and is sponsored by Lensbaby. There will be two chosen featured artists for this issue and each will win a lens from LENSBABY. (there will also be a group exhibit)

Submit up to 12 images following the guidelines below. Images must be recieved by September 15.
Issue #43 will have an expected publication date of October 1, 2010.

Find out more >>

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2010 Filter Photo Festival

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The Black & White Competition - Deadline Tomorrow

1 day left to submit to the
Black & White Single Image and Portfolio Selection Juried by Tim Anderson

First Prize: Canon 5d MkII or Nikon D700


The Invisible World Porfolio Competition
Juried by Magnum’s Chris Steele-Perkins

First Prize: $3,000
Final deadline of both call for entries:

Saturday July 31st at 11:59pm EDT

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