Yesterday, at Bloodworth Bellamy I photographed two ‘recognition planes.’ These are model planes made in in the 1940’s to train spotters to differentiate between civilian and enemy aircraft. This is the venerable Douglas DC-3 Super at 1/72 scale. The DC-3 had to have been the toughest little plane ever made (it’s still my dream to get to fly in one someday before they are all gone). The models are exquisite; someone carefully crafted every curve and line in metal to make the plane exactly to scale. It’s truly a piece of art. More coming soon, might make a series of these if they don’t move too quickly from the shop. He has a number of them but they are apparently extremely rare (these came from the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney).
This is my first light painting with the new Olympus E-M1x camera. Other than a few workflow changes, it fits right in to the process I’ve been using for these images. I’m quite pleased with the results; the colour and dynamic range it outputs with this techniques are impressive (it’s quite easy to fry the specular highlights on metal and the white of the garlic for example but this turned out quite well). The knife is an original from the Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala. It’s probably been used to skin reindeer; however, it handled cheese service with great dignity.
Back in the shop at Bloodworth Bellamy today for a new light painting. I’m putting some of the techniques from my recent workshop with Harold Ross into play. As an aside, the only camera I had at hand that was set up for light painting was my ten year old Nikon D700; it’s nice to know that it’s holding up well after a decade of service and that one doesn’t always have to have the latest gear (that said, the next time I light paint, I’ll be using my new Olympus…so).
I've just spent several days with Harold Ross in Lancaster, Pa. This was my second workshop with Harold as I continue to learn his light painting technique. As I type this, I'm in Charleston, SC with my long-time friend and mentor, J. Nathan Corbitt. I'm, as I grow older, learning to appreciate the value of mentorship over larger spans of time. There is a place for the punctuated moments of 'wise advice' that we receive early in life; but it's another matter to have people who can both observe and speak to one's experiences over time as one is shaped and matured through them. I think it's the same whether we are talking about navigating our daily lives, work, or art. We need mentors, not to set the course or make the decisions, but to act as collectors and observers of our lives as a long-term project. At one time in my life, I searched for a mentor that could tell me what I should do but that's not a healthy expectation (and I can easily spot the stereotypical older man who wants to play the role of a mentor but is essentially looking for converts to his way of thinking). The best mentors are people who are secure enough in their own life experience that they have no need of changing others but, equally, confident enough to share it.
I've been blessed with good mentors and teachers though my life. I don't know that this necessarily means I've always made the best decisions along the way. However, that may not be the point. Some of the wisest people have made rather unwise decisions (one of the best pieces of wisdom I've had from Nathan is 'you never really find out what you want to do; but you will know what you don't want to do again'). You can't learn that if someone is there to simply fill in the blanks for you and navigate every turn. I found this as Harold guided my work over these past days. I've been using the technique over several months since our last time together; however, I had developed some sloppy practice along the way so much of the workshop was just reviewing the previous one and correcting my errant ways. Harold patiently brought me back through the process as we worked on several images together. There was little hint of frustration on his part. It's an involved technique that has taken him years to master; a good mentor has the understanding of the scope of worthwhile work in a person, a project or a piece of art. Also, though he explains and shows how to do the lighting and then post-production in Photoshop, Harold takes care to make sure his students actually do all the work themselves on a final piece (though, full disclosure, there are a couple layers in 'The Titan' above that Harold did for the sake of time as we ended the last day that I will redo myself later). Over coffee one morning, we discussed people who expect a plug-in that can mimic the look of this whole process with the click of a mouse. That is no more possible (or desirable as an artist) than a magic way with which one can solve any given life issue; the whole point is the process itself regardless of how difficult or sometimes painful.
One of the things I'm starting to understand with my photographic work is that, yes, it's important to have a certain volume of practice. However, for me, I'm at a place where it's perhaps more important to have a slow steady studied output where my technique is refined through consideration and rigour. Perhaps that’s a common theme in life and art regardless.
On the two images: Both images are practice pieces pieces to work on specific challenges (textures, metallic surfaces, etc.). The piece of driftwood is only a couple hand lengths across; however, as we worked on it up close, it presented as a vast cliff face (it would be interesting to see it printed large as it could be quite enveloping). 'The Titan' is an artificial hip joint atop an assembly of various bearings and gears balanced on the largest fuse I've ever seen (I think it was something like an 8000 amp fuse). Scale, scope, angle of light and our perceptions…it all takes time and wisdom to shape and understand.
I’ve uploaded a couple new light paintings to the web gallery. This is a lovely piece at Bloodworth Bellamy (which weighs about 15 kilos; really had to make sure my set was well secured). The dried flowers are Australian natives and the whole thing is sitting on a 100 year old Japanese paper stencil used to dye kimonos.
Here is another one from Bloodworth Bellamy. It’s already sold but there are so many other things to photograph! This was particularly fun to work on with all the details for light and shadow. (However, I think I’m going to have to consider a computer upgrade at some point. Though I have a decently equipped laptop, once I get to about fifteen layers of uncompressed TIFFs, the processor starts to complain a bit).
Another light painting made in the basement of Bloodworth Bellamy. The figurine in the image is from Australian artist Suzanne McRae. I’m still getting the hang of colour control and backgrounds with this technique (the whole process is quite involved). I’m also going to start a separate Sculpting with light gallery on the blog to collect these images in one place.
I’m excited about a new collaboration with @bloodworth_bellamy (an eclectic shop in Sydney). I’ve open access to his wonderful collection and hope to make a series depicting the life and times of vintage curiosities. Here is part of a damaged chocolate stirring machine reimagined as a maraca player (perhaps I should not overly anthropomorphise my imagery). This is using the technique I learned some months back with Harold Ross that I wrote about in an earlier post. More to come, so watch this space.
After having abandoned Facebook some months ago, I’ve tangentially come back via Instagram. It’s not a platform I’ve engaged with before but I’m finding that it could be a good way to network professionally (though I am equally wary about the Big Brother aspects regardless). You can find me here @edge_of_somewhere with imagery new and old. I’ve some side projects I’m working on in the coming months that I’ll hint at on Instagram and write about here so watch these spaces.