Sunday, November 29, 2009

Images From a Pinhole Camera

These images were taken with a pinhole camera made out of a paintcan. The lens for this paintcan camera is actually a small hole drilled into the side of the can- about the size of a pinhole. I used photographic paper instead of film for this particular camera, placed it inside the paintcan, then shut the lid tight. I used a flexible magnet to cover the pinhole until I found the image I wanted to catch. Then I set the can on a sturdy surface, made sure the hole was pointing at what I wanted to photograph, and I removed the magnet for an exposure time of around 8 minutes. Put the magnet back over the pinhole and made a B-line for the darkroom to develop the image.

Here is another interesting landscape image taken with a paintcan pinhole camera. The exposure time was approx.15 minutes. Notice the infinite depth of field typical of this type of lensless photography.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Culture Verses Nature

Maui’s first co-educational high school opened in 1913 in a small frame building at Hamakuapoko, close to bustling Paia town and near the large plantation camps of East Maui.

Hawaii architect Charles W. Dickey designed the the concrete, mission-style school building in 1921. Students came from surrounding communities, central Maui and Upcountry, often by horseback, via Kahului Railroad trains or buses, or over the well-worn footpaths from neighboring plantation camps.

In 1972 a new Maui High School opened in Kahului. The old Maui High closed its doors, beginning years of decline and deterioration.

I recently went to the site where the old Maui High stands today looking clean and fairly in-tact, the grounds were being very well tended to.

I decided to photograph the adjacent structure and beautifully decayed and graffitti'ied building of the old Maui Sugar Mill. With the secondary forest aggressively growing, ficus roots, trunks and branches breaking through all the concrete, I really admire the whole process and found this place to be a real treat to do photo shoots.

I thought it was interesting to compare my color photographs in 2009 of the Sugar Mill with these old 1920-30's black and white photos of old Maui High and this area when it was first constructed.

Photos of Old Maui High School and the Old Haiku Mill

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ko'olau Forest Reserve

I caught some beautiful images here as we went botanizing in the Ko'olau forest reserve on Maui with wildlife biologist Fern Duvall and the Native Hawaiian Plant Society. We entered the forest from the top of Olinda Rd., approximately 6,200 feet elevation and hiked in from there for about a mile or two. It went from hot, dry and sunny, as we walked and slowly changed to misty, cool and muddy. By the time we reached the first bridge, my camera was dripping wet!! Time to put it away, but did manage to photograph some rare and peculiar native Hawaiian plant species; clermontias, ferns- a'mau, repeatedly forking ferns- Sticherus?, native geraniums, mountain naupaka, ohelo, tropical hydrangeas' to name a few and a dominant tree line of ohia.

The upper forest zone of Ko'olau heads up towards Haleakala's northern slope and is cut into many gorges, the biggest of these is the outlet at Keanae, called Ko'olau Gap. Ko'olau, which means 'windward,' catches the rain clouds and squeezes out about 80in of rain annually on the coast and a mighty 200in to 300in up the slopes. No surprise - that makes for awesome waterfalls as the rainwater rushes down the reserve's abundant gulches and streams.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Lost Art of Photogravure

AT ITS ORGIN, photography was intimately linked with printmaking. Some folks had been experimenting with light-sensitive materials since the 1810s. Their efforts were motivated by the desire to make stable fixed images directly from nature, or to make "etchings by light."

Photogravure is not a purely photographic medium. Photogravure is a chameleon, encompassing many manifestations of printmaking using a variety of darkroom and etching techniques, and is therefore hard to classify.

It often surprises people that the inventor of photography on paper, William Henry Fox Talbot, was also the father of photogravure... For Talbot, photogravure had been the logical evolution of his original invention of photography; transforming nature's sketches into permanent and beautiful printer's ink.

In photogravure, the fragile silver salts of normal photography are transcribed in the photogravure process with printing ink. This process adds to an appreciated esthetic improvement, the tonal and tactile qualities and the guarantee of absolute permanence. These values have always been recognized as famous photographers of the early 1900's such as Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Paul Strand adopted photogravure with enthusiasm in Camera Notes and Camera Work. It ceased being used after the Second World War because of its cost. It is only recently that a few workshops have revived this old and marvelous process.

"The quality of touch in it's deepest living sense is inherent in my photographs. When that sense of touch is lost, the heartbeat of the photograph is extinct- dead. My interest is in the living" ~ALFRED STIEGLITZ FROM TWICE A YEAR 1938

I recently attended a three day intensive workshop in copper plate Photogravure, thus demystifying the process for me. We started out with an 8"x10" positive image (obtained from a digital image file or scanned negative) on transparency film and used photoshop and a printer to do this. After our image was printed out as a positive, we were ready to begin the very elegant, artful process.

THE FIRST STEP in making a photogravure print is preparing the printing plate. This pure copper plate must be thoroughly cleaned, its surface highly polished, and its edges beveled (to avoid damaging the paper during printing).

WHILE THE PLATE IS BEING READIED, the image is also prepared. A positive transparency is made from either an original negative or a copy negative. This film positive, which must be made the size desired for the final print, is then contact-printed under ultraviolet light to a gelatin-coated paper (known as carbon tissue) which was previously made light sensitive by soaking it in a solution of potassium bichromate, then dried. In this process, the action of the light through the film positive changes the melting temperature of the gelatin. Areas exposed to light have a higher melting temperature and are said to be "hardened" and less exposed areas stay the same.

NEXT THE IMAGE must be transferred to the prepared copper plate. The image-carrying tissue is adhered to the plate. This tissue/plate is then soaked in hot water softening the gelatin and allowing the paper base of the tissue to separate. Portions of the gelatin that received little or no light during exposure to the transparency remain soluble and slowly wash away, leaving a gelatin image that will act as an acid resist when the plate is etched. The gelatin image on the copper plate, now called a resist, is then dried.

NEXT THE PLATE IS placed in a succession of etching baths. Etching begins in sequence in proportion to the thickness of the gelatin coating and the viscosity of the mordant (Ferric Chloride) bath. The viscosity of the Ferric Chloride controls the speed with which the solution penetrates the gelatin. The result is a plate with many minute reservoirs or cells of varying depths. During printing, the deeper cells hold more ink and thus transfer more ink to the paper, creating the darker areas of the image

FINALLY, AFTER THE PLATE has been thoroughly washed, the gravure is printed - on an etching press, like all other forms of intaglio printing. Stiff ink is spread over the entire plate and worked into the recessed areas that form the image. The plate is then positioned face-up on an etching press. The artist places a piece of dampened, high-quality paper over the plate then covers the paper with etching felts for padding and passes this through the press. The rollers force the paper into the small depressions that hold the ink, creating a printed image. To make the next impression, the artist re-inks the plate and repeats the process. At the end of the printing session, the plate is thoroughly cleaned.

This procedure produces "grain" gravures, so called because of the random dots created by the dusted rosin. Photogravure is a time-consuming, labor-intensive, costly process used today by fine-art photographer-printmakers.

References and quotes:

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Art & Science- Anna Atkins Cyanotypes

"Botanical illustration is often seen as a gap between art and science, not properly belonging to either", as mentioned in American Scientist Nov/Dec 2004.

The work of Anna Atkins is surely striking; she is well known for her amazing, Prussian blue-and-white cyanotype prints of seaweeds in her book published in 1843 on British Algae. Cyanotype is an early photographic printing process using the sunlight for contact printing actual objects as photograms on paper. Although Atkins was a competant watercolorist and draughtsman for botanical illustration, she brilliantly applied the cyanotype process to solve the difficulties of making accurate drawings of scientific specimens and self-published the first installment of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions.

Cyanotype is labeled now as an alternative photographic process used by many artists today. I have been playing around with sunprinting using cyanotype chemicals on silk material and also my handmade papers and am totally inspired by the work of Anna Atkins.

The images have an x-ray or MRI type of translucency that is stunningly beautiful against that Prussian blue backround. They are also accurate plant depictions and totally gorgeous!

Photo's of: Cyanotype photograms made by Atkins which was part of her 1843 book, British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Dunes Of Mo'omomi

"AT FIRST GLANCE the dunes of Mo'omomi appear nearly barren. The far cliffs of Mokio are dim in the salt haze, and arid scrub-wind whipped into curious forms-clings tenaciously to the sandy soils. And yet the site is rich in life; indeed, it is a last refuge for Hawaiian coastal vegetation. Within vast, integrated communities of nearly undisturbed native grasses and shrubs grow more rare coastal species than any other single place in the islands. What remains at Mo'omomi is a vestige of a major Hawaiian coastal ecosystem, a holdover from an ancient era.

Here, the shrubby ocean naupaka (Scaevola sericea- the most common of the islands' native coastal plants-shares the coastal strand with a beach morning glory (Ipomoea pescaprae), and with a mix of less frequently seen endemic Hawaiian plants. Carpets of rolling 'aki'aki grasslands provide a stabilized bed in the shifting dunes for a rare native nightshade, Solanum nelsoni.

In exposed patches of red volcanic soil, an endangered beach legume, the 'ohai (Sesbania tomentosa) flaunts its brilliant red flowers set on low-lying branches that seem espaliered by the wind against a backdrop of rocky terrain. No fewer than five globally endangered plant species make their last stand at Mo'omomi.

Among these is a native Gnaphalium, called 'ena'ena by the Hawaiians, that punctuates the sandstone plain with radient white foliage. Its succulent leaves are thickly covered with fine, sun reflecting hairs-a protective strategy common in the parched flats of Mo'omomi.

Another native plant, a heliotrope, forms silvery mats in the lee of consolidated dune crests. Its whorled, diminutive leaves also are clothed with delicate reflective hairs. The heliotrope's Hawaiian name, hinahina, evokes an image of the moon rising fully over an ocean horizon. (In Hawaiian mythology, the moon embodied a goddess, Hina-the mother of the island of Molokai. It seems appropriate that the island chain's best examples of hinahina occur on Molokai.)

Heliotropium growing with Nama sandwicensis, endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and the only member of the Hydrophyllaceae that grows on the archipelago. Its flowers are tiny and dark lavender in color.

Other plants to be found here include the Hawaiian endemic Chamaesyce degeneri, which the Hawaiians call `akoko or just koko. This species belongs to the Euphorbiaceae.

Also abundant among the sand banks is the Hawaiian endemic Lipochaeta integrifolia (Asteraceae). This island endemic genus, referred to in general as nehe in Hawaiian, is represented in the islands by some 20 species.

It is difficult to picture the ancient dry forest that once stood where Mo'omomi's dunes now hold sway. But, from what we know of remnant low-land dry forests at other sites in the Hawaiian islands, a diverse blending of trees with no single dominant species might have existed. Here in the dappled sunlight beneath the forest canopy, honks of giant flightless geese once joined the chorus of the ocean waves. Today the dunes and their specialized flora distinguish Mo'omomi, and the sands have preserved the area's singular fossils and artifacts...

The coastline of the Hawaiian islands perhaps have seen more change than any other biological zone in the entire chain. No wonder so many people regard saving Mo'omomi as a rare opportunity to preserve a living portion of the past for the future. The Hawaiian green sea turtles attempting to recolonize here are a hopeful sign that the coastal dunes can endure, even recover, if we acknowledge their significance with action." ~Samuel M. Gon III, The Dunes of Mo'omomi, article featured in The Nature Conservancy News Feb/March 1987

Photo's by: Bruce A. Bohm
Photo of 'ohai by: Kim & Forest Starr