Saturday, June 30, 2012

To evoke a mood

Now that I'm taking online classes, I've been experimenting more with my thesis and the goals I'm trying to reach within the project.  This summer I am concentrating most of my efforts on concept through narration and storytelling.  I question a lot whether the primary story that I am trying to convey should be openly narrated to a viewer or not.  Should a person make their own conclusions on my imagery?  How much do I reveal?  How much do I hide?  Is it important for them to know the Korean story?

Along with these concept builders, I am also [always] working on print output.  Now that I have an amazing UV exposure unit, I can work more on print experimentation.  And again, similar questions arise...  What does this print say in digital format?  In color?  In Cyanotype?  In toning?

For now, I realize there is a goal in my imagery and with the mood I am trying to evoke.  The challenge is figuring out the best way to convey this emotion.  Take my first thesis image that I'm working with.

Here it is in digital:

Now here it is in Cyanotype:

And finally in a toned Cyanotype:

For now, I find that the toned Cyanotype is creating that fantastical world of old.  I feel that this kind of imagery grounds the idea of a per-conceived history of my Korean heritage.  I like that I lose the digital-ness of the image.  Plus, the grain!  Oh the paper grain, how I love it so!

I could care less on overly sharp imagery and the Cyanotype forgives harsh criticism on tack sharp details.  I belive the point is to embrace these anomalies.  This image also hits close to my love of Pictorialism and I indulge in the soft dreamy feel that the image evokes.

Of course I've looked at great works by Henry Peach Robinson, Steiglitz and Steichen.  Their quiet and reflective work creates a timelessness that I hope to achieve.
Fading Away, Henry Peach Robinson
Moonlight the pond, Edward Steichen

Gertrude Kasebier, Alfred Stieglitz

And while I can look at the masters, there are also great contemporary artists that continue to work on these aesthetics.  One such artist, whom I had the lovely brief chance to meet at an SPE conference is Emma Powell.  Her self-portraiture work is highly conceptual and balances the fine line of reality and fantasy.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to make a digital pinhole camera

I've already created a post on making your own analog pinhole camera.  (Which you can find here!)  But now I want to post on how to take your DSLR and turn it into a pinhole camera...which is a lot easier and faster than the whole tin can pinhole! 

This project takes probably 15 minutes, with the right tools, from start to finish.

You will need:

Along with a power drill and 3/8 drill bit, which I forgot to photograph.

Let's get started!  Begin with a DSLR body cap that screws onto your digital camera.  You can buy generic body caps online for cheap or use the original cap that came with the camera.  I used my original cap since I never use it and if I ever do, I'll just cover the pinhole to prevent any dust from entering the body.

 I placed a 3/8" drill bit on my dads power drill and drilled a hole in the center of the lens cap.

Then I sanded the surface smooth and got rid of any rough edges.

After that, I cut a soda can in half and cut out a 1"x1" square piece of aluminum.

And then I took a #10 sewing needle and pricked a small hole in the center of the piece.  Don't poke the needle all the way through, just enough to create a very small hole.

I took a black Sharpie marker and colored the entire piece black, both inside and outside.

Finally, I took black electrical tape and positioned the pinhole onto the outside of the body cap.  I made sure to cover all the edges of the aluminum so that I didn't allow any light leaks.


I was so excited after putting together the pinhole that I went outside right away and took some photographs with it.  My ISO was set to 1600 and this allowed me to take relatively shorter exposures.  (It also helped that it was sunny and around high noon.)  My exposures ranged from half a second to one second.  I enjoy the soft qualities of the imagery and the unexpected distortions created by the pinhole.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Bad Tiger

A loose edit on some thesis imagery that I'm working on.  I'm sure the editing and outcomes will change over time.  But the idea and concept hold strong.  I've decided to channel back to my storytelling capabilities and reincorporate that back into my thesis.  I have chosen to photo-illustrate Korean children's stories.

The stories are amazing.  (At the least the few that I can find in English!)  So grim and dark but whimsical and enchanting.  Many dealing with adopted children.

This image above illustrates a story of a tiger who becomes blinded by his own ignorance.  In many regards this image reflects my childhood feelings on my Korean heritage.

This kind of tie between the imagery and my personal journey have drawn me further to illustrating Korean stories.

I'm sure there will be many more to come.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A new series

I've started a new self-portrait series. 

The idea came to me after waking up one morning lying in bed with a Christmas song stuck in my head.  Frosty the Snowman to be exact.  I like the idea of an inanimate object coming to life.  It plays off of the idea of a childhood make-believe friend.  There's a sense of innocence and whimsy.

The series is also influenced heavily by a few of my favorite movies like Forrest Gump, The Artist and Moonrise Kingdom.  These movies gave me a feel for the environment I would be creating my images in.  The time period in Moonrise Kingdom and Forrest Gump are perfect for what I am thinking for this series.  And that beautiful scene in The Artist where Peppy interacts with George Valentin's dress jacket gave me the idea of animating my own.

Also songs.   Turn! Turn! Turn! By the Byrds and The beat goes on by Sonny and Cher to name a couple help me create the mood I am representing.  It also adds to the time era once again.  I'm pretty much stuck in the late '60s for this series.

I'll be posting more images soon but I had to share a couple of them today!

I hope you enjoy!

How to build a UV exposure unit!

 As promised, tonight I am posting on how my father put together my ultraviolet exposure unit that I'll be using for my historical photographic processes this summer.  And I realize that it's now a bit past midnight EST, but I can't help that I'm still on PST it's still today somewhere in the world!

The concept and construction of the unit was fairly simple with basic knowledge on carpentry and know-how on electrical output.   I say this like I was the one doing it, which I wasn't.  I mostly watched and carried or retrieved things when needed.  But I did capture all that my dad did for me in the past few days to write this post with.

 To begin with, my dad started to put together a simple wooden box.  One side of the box is to be hinged and it acts as the door for me to place paper in.  The top inside of the box is to hold the UV light source.  My dad had some scrap wood from an old cabinet he had on hand, so they became the bottom and top parts of the box.  They measure about 20"x28".  The side boards are from Home Depot and are 1"x12" #2 pine.  My dad pre-drilled all holes before screwing in the sides together.  He later added a sealant caulk to strengthen the seams and hinder any light to creep through.  And finally before wiring, he spray painted the inside silver and the outside white. (Silver to help bounce the light around inside the unit.  This provides an optimum usage of the UV light.  White spray painted on the outside...just because.)

 After allowing the spray paint to dry over night, I carried the pieces down to the basement.  There, my dad screwed in the two ballasts to hold four 24" Fluorescent black light bulbs. 

I had done a lot of research on UV bulbs online and in various articles.  This source, by Sandy King gives the best information on the different kinds of lighting sources you can choose from.  I choose the BLB bulbs because they fit the type of ballasts we had purchased at Home Depot and they are cheaper than BL bulbs.

My dad worked on the wiring and added a switch to turn the unit on and off while also incorporating an extension cord to plug into my darkroom timer.

OK.  I'll admit that I just summed up a huge majority of this DIY in one sentence.  Honestly,  I couldn't keep up as my dad confidently placed this wire with that and striped this cord to connect that one, etc.

I do however have a wonderful web resource for those still needing all the technical information on wiring here.

Finally, my dad screwed two hinges to attach the side door that will swing forward and allow me to place a contact printing frame on the bottom of the box.  Handles were added to each side of the box (seen in the previous picture above) and are used for easy carrying.  I think in total the box weighs about 40lbs or so.  And because of this amount of weight, he added rubber furniture stoppers on the bottom of the unit so that it will not slide around or scratch any table top surface.  Lastly, He added a hinge on the top to keep the door closed during exposures.  Finished!

I'm incredibly lucky to have such a supportive and handy father.  I can't thank him enough, he really is the best.  :)

And I'm really super proud that I can now say that I have my own exposure unit.

Extra info:

The Cra Lab timer was purchased off of Craigslist.  And an interesting story on that:  I had purchased the timer from the Rochester Craigslist while I was still in San Francisco.  I had a wonderful friend pick it up for me and hold it until I flew home last week.  Thanks again Em! 

Darkroom equipment is still pricey in the Bay Area and I knew that it wouldn't be in Western New York.  My thrifty thinking strikes again!

In total, with the cost of the timer, my entire exposure unit came out to:  $182.00

Hardware, wood, electrical supplies:  $100.00
(4) UV BLB T8 Fluorescent Bulbs:  $47.00
Cra Lab Timer:  $35.00

I would factor in a good two days worth of labor by a hard working father too.  :)

Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to make some tests and see what this baby can expose!

Thanks again Dad.  I hope everyone else has a wonderful Father's Day.

Friday, June 15, 2012

How to conquer your parents basement and turn it into a darkroom.

Divide and conquer...

Transform and reinvent...

Sweep in and kill the spiders...

Lost yet?  Don't worry, my parents were too for a while.

This summer I made the decision to fly back home for two months and take summer classes, albeit online.  One of my classes is another historical printing process course and thus requires a darkroom. I had looked into the Buffalo area and tried to find a community darkroom at a University or community arts center with no luck.  Being stubborn savvy, I decided to try and take my parents basement and turn it into a makeshift darkroom.

There were three main issues that I needed to resolve before committing to this project.

1.  Light tight.  My parents have six glass block windows that sit ground level to let light come through into the basement.  I had to figure out a way to cover them up in a semi-permanent way.  This was the easiest problem to solve once I bought this product.  Blackout plastic.  Easy to cut, easy to put up with some black ducktape and easy to remove when the time comes.

2.  Chemical disposal.  I had to figure out what processes I am going to use this summer and how to properly dispose of any excess chemicals.  In my case, I will be working with historical processes that are mostly water based developing.  (Cyanotype, Gum Bichromate and Van Dyke Brown)  In the case with VDB, any used fixer that I accumulate will be properly labeled and sent to a local photo lab for disposal.

3.  Exposure.  Figuring out how to create and control UV exposure was my biggest problem.  Working outside with sunlight is too unpredictable, so I knew I'd need an Ultraviolet exposure unit.  I looked into buying one but was shocked by the hefty price tag.  ($600+)  So I enlisted my father to help me put together a simple box with two ballasts attached to the top and a front swinging door.  (I'll put together a post on how he made it tomorrow!)

With these three problems solved, the rest was just a lot of elbow grease, pushing random things into corners of the basement, and avoiding the scary amount of spiders.

And since I have no photographs to illustrate anything of this above [yet], I leave you all with a photograph of my dinner tonight.  Pizza on the grill!  Jim Lahey's dough recipe here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A wedding in the mountains

This past weekend I traveled up to Crown Point, New York to photograph and attend the wedding of a photo college friend, Seth.  You would think that a fellow photographer would be just as crazy over photo details as the rest of us, but surprisingly enough, I found that the bride was the one scheming up the big ideas!  Thank goodness!  I feel that half of my photos taken should be credited to Cody.  :)  Such simple things to think of too, like hangers!  How many ugly plastic hangers have a photographed???  She thought of her "Thank-You" photo that incorporated a vintage car.  There were two sets of bouquets.  (One for the ceremony and one for throwing)  A homemade photobooth....  The list goes on!

But honestly, that is what makes good wedding photography good!  And I'm happy to oblige her and create beautiful photographs.

The weather was amazing the entire weekend and what's even better, my college roommates joined me for the festivities.  We all stayed at a beautiful Victorian house that served as a charming Bed & Breakfast with rooms next to each other.  It was basically a giant slumber party the entire weekend.  I had a great time catching up with the three gals I lived with not too long ago.  I miss them already!

But anyway, here are a few edits I wanted to show from that Saturday.  No particular order.  :)

Congrats to Seth and Cody!