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Hasselblad 500 CM

I’ve never been a great fan of the Hp5+.

I mean, I’ve had some decent results with it but I always feel that it’s too cold. It lacks the depth and the spirit of the Delta 400 or Trix.

Kodak Trix 400 is like a sprinkle of cinnamon on a hot apple pie slice. It’s smooth, warm. It has depth.

Ilford HP5+ is like a lemon slush on a cold afternoon.

(I’m no photographer as you all know and I don’t know how to express myself using technical terms however, I use the films, I develop them, I scan them and I print them in the darkroom, and these are the therms I know to share my thoughts.)

On the other hand I absolutely love using HP5+ pushed to 1600 or 3200 or 6400! That’s when those blacks really start to show up. Well it all depends, of course, of what we want from our pictures.

I’m just saying that the HP5+ is not my favorite 400 ISO film, to use at 400, and despite being very good when pushed it is not, still, my favorite film to push.

Trix is still my favorite film and choosing from the two Ilford offers I like the Delta 400 more than the HP5+.

Please do take all of the above stated with a huge grain of salt!

Here are the samples.

Gear:
Hasselblad 500CM
Recipe:
Ilford HP5+, Tmax Dev, 1+4, 7 min

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Gear:
Hasselblad 500CM
Recipe:
Ilford HP5+ @1600, Tmax Dev, 1+4, 11 min

 

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Hello guys.

The title of the post is a joke, of course, however I would like to try and write something a bit deeper about it, about ugliness.

I’ve been reading a book for the last 15 months, it is called “On Ugliness”. Being too simplistic it’s about The Ugly and The Ugliness in art. Of course the analysis go beyond the art world and into sociology and psychology. The perception of self and others.

According to the authors, coordinated by Umberto Eco, the Ugly or the perception of the Ugly is tied to the concept of “non conformity”.

We, as individuals and as society, look at non-conformity as Ugly.

We do that in order to protect our “group”, the ones that fit into “conformity” but in this case we are protecting a huge group, society itself.

The physical aspect of someone is the primary target of evaluation. Too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny… As society we tolerate some deviation from the conformity. We set the average point and go from there.

Being blind, missing an arm or a leg, being disabled, having scars, missing teeth, mental illness… Those are all severe deviations of the average, those are all ugly.

The homeless, the refugees… modern days ugliness.

Here’s an example. (Taken by Bruce Gilden)

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Please keep in mind that there’s no judgement whatsoever about morals. Of course we all look at a fellow human and despite the fact he is different from us, we accept that difference. But that’s a process of reason, not a process of perception.

Perception rejects, reason makes it acceptable.

Some more “ugliness”. (Taken by Roger Ballen)

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To accept the non-conformity we, as society, have to sit down and think about it. It’s all reason and, through the complexity of our societies, reason turn into laws and we all know the failure of imposing something that collides with our perception of the self and others.

Religious issues.
Race issues.
Sexuality issues.
Human rights issues.

Basically we can’t stand the person next to us on the bus.

We are narrowing down “non-conformity” to everything that it’s not “us” and the very few we find “beautiful”. The rest of the world is nothing but ugliness.

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I went for the first photowalk of 2016 with some friends. It’s always a good excuse to go out and take pictures.

It was also an opportunity to take some portraits using a combination I like very much. The Hasselblad with the 120mm and the 21mm tube.

Really tight head shots with shallow depth of field. You can see some examples here.

I want to find out a formula or a way to do this right. I don’t like the distracting background and I don’t like using the lens at f8.

I’ve done this many time and I pretty much have an idea how to do it. Plain background, lens opened at f4.

Gear:
Hasselblad 500CM
Zeis 120mm Makro Planar
Hasselblad 21mm extension tube

Recipe:
Ilford HP5+ @ 1600
Kodak Tmax Dev
1+4
10 min

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The bottom line is… well, there is no bottom line.

These are all friends, these are all beautiful, they are all so very unique and it showed in that 1/500 of a second.

Unique is a good word.

As usual I apologize for my writing.

I know nothing but I know this: nothing is THE real thing.

Film is not the real thing, digital is not the real thing, darkroom printing is not the real thing, scanning is not the real thing.

Nothing is the real thing. The only real thing is the pleasure we get doing the things we love the way we love.

True photography??… I’m yet to find out what that means.

After the post about my darkroom adventures I got a comment from the excellent serial photographer saying:

“I always found it therapeutic when i was printing, the slow, measured moments were always valued I do miss it, that said i still use film but have to now scan, which to be fair has its own unique quality.”

Most of us, film passionate, do treasure darkroom work. We all share the fascination for that process but, the truth is, very few of us have the time/space/money/patience to still do things in that particular way.

However and this is the most important thing, like serial photographer pointed out, scanning has its own unique quality. Most TRUE!

Scanning is not a poor substitute for printing in the darkroom. Scanning is/can be a working/creative process in its own merits.

It’s not about which is the “most real” process, it’s about using different methods to suit our creative or workflow needs.

That being said, I’ve tried to come up with some examples to show you guys what I often do with a scanner.

Thank you Serial Photographer I most agree with you.

HP5+ scanned using Kodak Gold profile. Adjusted in Photoshop. Inkjet printed on plain paper and scanned again.

HP5+ scanned using Kodak Gold profile. Adjusted in Photoshop. Inkjet printed on plain paper and scanned again.

HP5+ scanned using Kodak Gold profile. Adjusted in Photoshop. Laser printed on glossy paper and scanned again.

HP5+ scanned using Kodak Gold profile. Adjusted in Photoshop. Laser printed on glossy paper and scanned again.

HP5+ scanned using Kodak Gold profile. Adjusted/converted to B&W in Photoshop. Inkjet printed on plain paper and scanned again.

HP5+ scanned using Kodak Gold profile. Adjusted/converted to B&W in Photoshop. Inkjet printed on plain paper and scanned again.

I’ve started 2015 in the best way possible by meeting Rita.

It’s always fascinating meeting someone new, both visually and emotionally. I can never separate these things. As I’ve said many times before, it’s not about the moment I press the shutter, it’s about everything else.

Sure, it is the visual part that first draws me to someone but I’m always curious to know a lot more about the person.

Will we connected somehow?
Is she interesting?
Will she find me interesting?
Will it be boring?
Will she find me boring?

Ten minutes after meeting Rita I felt that it would be a great day and it was. We share so many things. We are both graphic designers and Rita also loves film photography. On top of that she’s an illustrator.

She is clearly a creative person and we got along just fine.

Please do check out her work.

Cargocollective
Tumblr and Tumblr

As for the rest… well… Rita is beautiful. Everything about her face is like a drawing, so gentle and yet so… unsettling.

She has THE most amazing hair! It is a true black force of Nature framing a delicate face.

It was an absolute pleasure and an honor.

Thank you so very much Rita.

Gear:
Hasselblad 500CM
Zeiss 120mm Makro Planar
21mm extension tube (on some)

Recipe:
Kodak Trix 400
Adox APH 09
1+50
14 minutes

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Every year I invite one, maybe two girls to model for me.

It’s a slow process finding someone who is visually interesting and then asking that person without looking totally wacko/stalker/depraved…

It’s a lost battle 99,9% of the times.

I get all kinds of reactions and I handle “no” for an answer in the most respectful and understanding way.

My approaches are always polite and friendly, however these are not polite or friendly times and I absolutely respect their concern. Women do experience far more verbal and other kind of abuse on a daily basis. I respect them, no means no, so I just walk away.

What I get the most is the: why do you want to take my picture??

That’s a tough question but I always go for the honest answer: well, I think you are a beautiful and a visually interesting woman/girl.

Wrong answer!!!

As soon as I say those words, girls run away as fast as they can because:
I find them beautiful and visually interesting and that means I want to have sex with them and maybe to take nude pictures to share worldwide!

The ones that don’t run away usually go for a hard defense:
– My father is a cop/has a gun.
– My brother is a black belt in Ninja/Kung Fu skills.
– My friends will stab you in the throat.
– I’m going to call the Police.

No husband or boyfriend can ever tolerate having another man taking pictures of their wife/girlfriend. It’s like cheating and pictures are, of course, just a way to con those poor women into having sex and maybe, into taking some nude pictures to share worldwide.

Many times I end up thinking that maybe approaching a woman saying that I find them beautiful or visual interesting is just another kind of abuse and I’m no different from all the “uh baby love your ass” kind of guy.

But sometimes, just sometimes, everything comes together and all it takes is a special woman on the other end.

Marta is such a woman.

Thanks to Maria, a mutual friend, I had an excuse to introduce myself properly to Marta a few weeks ago. I sent an email explaining who I was and inviting her for a little photo session.

It was easy enough to see that Marta is a cool woman and brave enough to have her picture taken by an almost complete stranger. However… I like little stories, they bring everything together.

In fact I met Marta a couple of years ago. She was working, I was just a costumer, and the moment I saw her I thought to myself: how awesome it would be to take this girl’s picture!

I would never approach her face to face, it’s just not in me to do such a thing, so the idea of shooting Marta faded away.

Somehow the Gods of Photography managed to put Marta in my path again and I can never thank her enough for accepting my invitation. We spent a wonderful Sunday morning getting to know each other and taking some pictures.

Thank you Marta, you are a beautiful living “story book”. I felt honored.

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I made some mistakes to say it gently.
I messed up all the films and sensitivities and recipes… but here it goes anyway.

Gear:
Hasselblad 500CM (with the PME 51)
Zeiss 120mm Makro Planar

Recipies:
First 3 shots
Kodak Trix @ 200 ISO
Adox APH 09,
1+25
11 min

Next 3 shots
Rollei RPX 400@800
Adox APH 09
1+25
9 min

Last 2 shots
Kodak Trix @ ??? (maybe 1600) ISO
Adox APH 09,
1+25
11 min

The last two shots were scanned in RGB mode using the Kodak Gold 200 as profile.

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A few months ago my oldest friend asked if I could take some shots for his new album. The idea was to create an image for each song.

I think that this kind of challenge is a dream for any photographer, professional or amateur. I had total creative freedom to inspire myself on the music and poems to come up with images that would visually represent the songs.

This post is not about my “creative process” but about more visually pragmatic aspects and all the mistakes I’ve made during the process.

It would have been easy to make everything in black and white, or color, but I wanted a little variety as I felt that some songs called for color and others for a more dense and… noir feeling. Variety is good, I think, but… there’s the issue concerning visual unity.

Sometimes I lost sight of the big picture. I was too focused on shooting for individual songs, and that was a big mistake.

I realized that mistake when I started working on the first two songs.

These are the images for the songs.

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If memory serves me right, the first shot was taken with Fuji Pro 400H and the second one with Trix pushed to 1600 or 3200 ISO.

My problem was the first shot. I absolutely love Sandra’s hair and skin tone but that green hurts my eyes. On the other hand it is the green that makes the red/brown hair stand out. A touch of warmth over a cold green field.

They just don’t work well together tough.

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My first thoughts were: I’m willing to lose that gorgeous hair color on Sandra’s shot to make it “match” Joana’s. To create that visual coherence.

I ended up with this.

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On top of the broken heart for turning the color shot into black and white, they still don’t speak the same visual language. I thought it was the contrast being so different.

Second try:

2No good. The things I loved the most about Sandra’s shot were now gone. First it was the color and now that curly hair… Another attempt to save, at least, the hair, keeping the overall darkness.

 

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No good. What am I doing? Am I trying to create a clone shot sacrificing everything I like about the color one?

They are different in every way. The songs I’m visually illustrating are different, the girls are different, the mood is different, the light is different, one was taken indoors and the other on a green clover field… so why am I sacrificing the initial idea behind the shots just to make them look good together? For visual coherence?

But visual coherence does not mean both shots should look alike. It means that I must try to bring out the best of each one while trying to keep a certain honesty to their initial spirit. Why “certain” honesty and not “plain” honesty?

I can not forget that these images are intended to be covers. They must illustrate a certain song. They will be seen side by side on iTunes store, they will also be printed and, as such, the graphic designer in me, must deliver quality material.

I’m much more concerned in delivering a good final product rather than a good, honest, out of the scanner photograph. The image is not the star here, the song is. The image must enhance the spirit of the song and, visually, it has to stand out from the other covers on a shelf or on iTunes.

So, back to the beginning. Sandra’s shot should be in color, but not so vivid, and Joana’s shot should be a bit more colorful while keeping that darkness.

Here is the result.
I’ve desaturated Sandra’s shot a lot and I’ve kept a nice deep chocolate brown color on the hair. The skin is lighter and some parts are really close to plain white but there’s still enough texture on the darker areas and I like that white glow coming down her neck to the shoulder.

Dança Final

 

Joana’s shot is so dark but so sensual in a certain… sinful way. The light is there, the shot is there, all I did was to add two color casts over the black and white original. The deep blue gives it a cold feeling, a bit uncomfortable. The very light yellowish is an attempt to create a moonlight kind of light.

Alma e sangue - Final

On top of it all, they now look like… family.

Family

I’m not saying in any way that this is a master example of whatever. I’m not a graphic design/Photoshop wizard and I’m surely not a photography wizard. These are only my thoughts about what I feel I did right and wrong.

As usual, please forgive the rough English.

Gear:
Hasselblad 500CM
Zeiss 120mm Makro Planar
Kodak E100 G @ 200 ISO
Cross processed at box speed

I really, really like the results.
I’m not totally sure if this was a random act of kindness from the Gods or if I can really trust this “recipe”. For a cross processed film, the colors are not much off. To my eyes the whole color combination really works.

Cross processing the Kodak E100 G did not change the colors to the level of the unreal. It did not added an overall color cast to the whole image. Well, it did, it added Cyan but in a very soft way, keeping the scene pretty real chromatically.

I was afraid that pushing the film and developing it at box speed would exaggerate the saturation but it did not, it held pretty good. I was expecting something Lomography like.

If I can trust this recipe this is a combination I will use more often for portraits.

PS: On the other hand, there isn’t a film, or process, in the world that can match the sheer beauty of my dear friend Joana. She is a breath taking woman.

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