Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

I Can’t Breath- But I Can Photograph

My favorite image of the day, to look up and see this display of people coming together with a flag flying was dramatic.

My favorite image of the day, to look up and see this display of people coming together with a flag flying was dramatic.

I want to establish right off the bat that this post is about photography, not the politics. My choosing to take my camera and record the protest does not indicate my personal feelings nor alignment. What I do feel is that as photographers we have a duty to record the world around us. We don’t have to make a living at it, but we are the observers whose observations can outlive us. Future generations will be able to look at your images and share an experience based on what you photographed. That is a scary thought in of itself, and photojournalism is extremely subjective and barely objective. I certainly seek objectivity in the matter, and feel I pretty much got it. I barely spoke to anyone; actually the only person I had a full conversation with was a NYC Parks Dept officer. Our conversation consisted of the fact that it was peaceful.

I don't usually shoot in panarama mode, but when I do it's for really really really big crowds.

I don’t usually shoot in panarama mode, but when I do it’s for really really really big crowds.

However this is the internet and people throw opinions around like police hand out tickets so at the end of this post, I’m going to speak my mind about the recent issues surrounding this protest. It’s my soap box, you can choose to not read or make your comments. Now, back to the photographic portion of this post…

Pissing off the Police Union is where he is.

Pissing off the Police Union is where he is.

As I stated earlier, I believe it is both your civic and artistic duty to participate as a viewer/observer/recorder of the important social issues that occur in your lifetime. I’m not saying you should go well out of your way, but if these occur locally, be there and f8. They are societal milestones, events, and gain the interest of the masses. They can often define the ascendant generation. Going to and placing oneself in the epicenter is a solemn privilege that you as a creative should encourage.

“The world is going to pieces, and people like Biderman and Hill are photographing stars.”

- David George Brommer, December 2014.

I have shot a few demonstrations in my day. The first was a NORML rally at William Patterson College in NJ in the latish 80’s. The next would have been great anti-Iraq war protest that took place in 2003 in NYC. I rolled through the Occupy movement when it was in full force. I heard about the #MillionsMarchNYC from local channels, and put aside the time to go shoot it. Having watched the other protests, mainly the Ferguson and the SF/Oakland ones, I was a bit wary of getting caught up in a mele. I would be simply a citizen armed with a camera, and my opposing force would have truncheons, shields and tear gas. In the back of my mind a spot fear appeared. We all know what fear is right? It’s the mind killer! Mostly I feared getting gassed. I had seen the nasty canisters bouncing up to a CNN crew and the journalists all getting a good hit of it in Ferguson. I dug out my Israeli issue adult gas mask size three and stuffed it into a WW2 vintage ammo sling bag. Plan for the worst, hope for the best, and if worse happened, I could keep my vision intact and the cameras clicking.

When protesting, protest in Patagonia. Oy.

When protesting, protest in Patagonia. Oy.

Noon: Inspect the camera arsenal for today’s shoot. I go for the Sony RX10 because I want a telephoto lens to pick out faces and signs a distance away (24 to 200mm f2.8). It’s also weather proof and resilient, so it can take it if the environment gets crazy. I also grabbed my trusty Fujifilm Xpro1 and slapped on the 18mm f2.0. I picked the Xpro1 because it can take a hit, and the look and size of the 18mm (1.5x APS-C size sensor brings it to 28mm effective) would both perform, and fit in my bag. Instead of a camera bag I choose a vintage ww2 ammo satchel, because I like the way it melts to my body and it’s discrete while having an edge. Note, the bag does have a Domke insert to further pad the gear. I also stuffed my gas mask and a fresh filter in the bottom of the satchel. In this game the best offense is a good defense.

Israeli issue M15 gas mask and cartridge. Sony RX10 digital camera. Fujifilm Xpro1 with 18mm f2 lens. US issue WW2 ammo pouch.

Israeli issue M15 gas mask and cartridge. Sony RX10 digital camera. Fujifilm Xpro1 with 18mm f2 lens. US issue WW2 ammo pouch.

2 pm I parked the Vespa on Bleecker and Sullivan. Twitter images showed the masses of protesters thronging beneath the Arch where 5th Avenue meets Washington Square Park. Enter from the rear, so you can get an idea of dispositions of the crowds.

As you neared Washington Square park there was a constant buzz of helicopters. The eye in the sky never looks the other way.

As you neared Washington Square park there was a constant buzz of helicopters. The eye in the sky never looks the other way.

I wanted to capture the faces and signs. I wanted to show the disparity of the protesters, and what they were saying. Simple task.

All Lives Matter.

All Lives Matter.

As I walked further into the epicenter around the fountain I found the wide settings on the camera were taking most of it in. Standing up on bench I was able to zoom into details. The Sony RX10 has swing a out LCD screen, I used my height and tilting out of the screen so I could turn myself into a 8 foot tripod in this fashion. That gave me a sweet perspective on the throngs.

Get that monument in so you can readily arm the viewer with an accurate location.

Get that monument in so you can readily arm the viewer with an accurate location.

There was not a police presence inside the protest throng, except Parks Dept (protecting the trees from being climbed) and this interesting Police Captain from Philadelphia. I do have a regret, I noticed one Parks Dept Officer with a tonfa strapped to his belt. Interesting, but I didn’t feel like getting my lens smashed by it so I didn’t shoot him. I regret that now.

A Police Captain from the City of Brotherly Love.

A Police Captain from the City of Brotherly Love.

The protesters, while mixed with all races, were predominantly white.

Pockets of protesters could broadcast stories.

Pockets of protesters could broadcast stories.

6 pm Time to edit and archive shot images. I shot as jpegs and imported into Nik Silver EFX through Photoshop. Since the subject matter was heavy, I felt that I would add drama and impact by choosing a heavy process. I went to the Film Noir Preset #1 and then decreased the size of the grain 40% while pushing up the structure. I also minimized the spread of the digi-faux rebate edge.

Brommer is now going to discuss his feeling on racism. It might be time to click here for lighter subject matter.

My personal take on the issue at hand is that it’s something that has been brewing in this country since the 1800’s. Racism. It’s not always fair and it’s not easy to understand. It may very well resound in all of us, deep down, hidden and can bubble up in certain circumstances. Others make decisions and judgments based on race with little provocation and thought. I see color and race, I am a photographer and my job is to see. However, I do not let race, nor social standing effect the way I interact with the population. So while acutely aware of racial details and stereotypes the factor is nullified until you give me a reason to respond from your deeds and words. After all, we are all human. And I’ll treat you like a lady or gentleman as long as you are one. That’s how I roll. I’m ashamed when a racist thought runs through my head. My first best friend was Lamont Swain, we played together on the streets and playgrounds. I was a skinny little white kid, and Lamont was a skinny little black kid. R.I.P. Mont Mont, your friendship showed me in the end, we were just skinny kids.

In a perfect world you don’t get taken down so hard you die for selling illegal cigarettes. In a perfect world when you steal and you get caught you don’t resist arrest. In a perfect world the cops don’t have the right to use violent force unless being met with violent force that is un-arguable. In a perfect world a segment of the society was not enslaved and then after generations set free. In a perfect world all the children are taught to respect one another and know right from wrong. In a perfect world no one would take advantage over another. In a perfect world… is just a dream. 

~David

The New Star Wars is Going to Suck But We Will Go See It Anyway

The Legendary C3P0 and R2D2. These two droids have been through a lot.

The Legendary C3P0 and R2D2. These two droids have been through a lot.

I’m afraid of the new Star Wars trilogy. I feel sorry for the Millennials and the generation after them. They didn’t get to go see the Star Wars trilogy that my beloved Generation X got to grow up on. Millennials got Jar Jar Binks and a whiney teenage Anakin Skywalker. We got introduced to a new spin on the Arthurian based characters set in a space opera that took us to a galaxy far far away. They got over the top CGI to cover up horrible dialog and soulless characters. We got awesome lines to live by, such as, “Never Tell me the odds”, “Use the Force, Let Go” and the best line in movie history ever, “There is no try, there is only do or do not”. They got, “The people of Naboo are a peaceful people”. As great as Episode 4,5, and 6 was, Episode 1,2, and 3 were horrible. However, I paid out $$$ each time to see it in the theaters hoping against “A New Hope” that George Lucas would redeem himself and take me back to those awkward pre-teen years of 1977 a long long time ago. All the new episodes did were to make me appreciate the treat that seeing the originals were in theaters back when was I just a kid. For me, Star Wars proved to be both a moral compass and inspiration to dream, and dream big.

Rawwwwggghhhhhhh. Let me suggest a new strategy, let the wookie win.

Rawwwwggghhhhhhh. Let me suggest a new strategy, let the wookie win.

Like must of us, I watched the new trailer this holiday weekend. And yes, it has its moments and promises us the force will be with this new movie… but I got burned and I’m just as cynical now like Jawa under two suns at noon.

First trailer for Star Wars Ep. 7 "The Force Awakens".

First trailer for Star Wars Ep. 7 “The Force Awakens”.

So you might say, “what’s your problem? JJ Abrams is genius”. And that is my first problem. Mr. Abrams is not right for the job. My reason is simple; he is a Star Trek guy. There are two universes to consider, one takes place a long time ago and the other in 300 years. Never the two may cross. In Star Trek you have a Warp Drive, in the Star Wars you have a Hyper Drive. Phazers vs Lazers, Deflectors vs Shields, and all the other differences can be argued by geeks till blue in the face but one thing is certain, the look and feel of these sci-fi worlds are vastly different. Vulcans cannot mix with Wookies, Mr. Data can not play space chess with an Astro-Droid. But that is just it, JJ Abrams rebooted Star Trek and now he is going to reboot Star Wars? Too much power to wield from one director says I.

Two Bounty Hunters and Jabba's pit boss.

Two Bounty Hunters and Jabba’s pit boss.

I’m going to sum it up this way; JJ can bring the bling for sure. While I’m not a huge fan of what he did with Star Trek I’ll throw him a whompbat pie and say, OK he did pretty good. But that’s just it- pretty good. Star Wars deserves better than pretty good. It should epic. It should thrill you, and take you on a ride you have never been on before. This includes through Asteroid fields, artic plains, lush forests, mammoth space stations and of course, arid deserts where you farm moister. It shouldn’t look like perfect digital, it should look real, as in a sound stage on location. I want to feel the movie, feel it course through myself… oh wait… sorry I got lost in great Yoda wisdom from the Empire Strikes Back.

Two Jedi Masters. Judge me not by my size do you.

Two Jedi Masters. Judge me not by my size do you.

Here is the crux of my problem. Can he do this? It’s second to last scene in a New Hope- Episode 4. The whole movie has brought us to this one point, the smuggled plans that reveal the achilies heel of the most devastating object in the universe, the Death Star (hellooooo a frigg’in DEATH STAR!!!!!!!). The proverbial underdogs, the rebellion is going at it with vim and vigor, it’s a long shot but they are the good guys and if they can win the day, they save not only a planet, but end tyranny and evil on a grand scale. It comes all down to Luke as he pilots a hot rod of fighter through canyons of steel, lazers and enemy tie fighters led by the most evil character in movie history (besides Hanibal Lecter of course). The tension is palpable, he is so near his goal, to make a “one in a million shot” and start the chain reaction that will destroy the Death Star. It’s David vs. the Ultimate Goliath and he is turning off his computer and using the force to do it. Lord Vader is on his tail, has him in his sights and says, “I have you now…” when the prototypical cowboy-scoundrel-pirate flys out of the glare of a star in the Millennium Falcon and wings Vader’s mean tie fighter off into the void of space. Han Solo exhorts Luke to “You’re all clear kid now lets blow this thing and go home”. Luke takes exhales deeply and takes his shot… It’s perfect, you are in the X-Wing at that moment, you are Luke, and you are the hero of the rebellion for a moment. Your stomach twists and you pull up out of the Death Star’s canyon as the your proton bolts fly into a small exhaust hole and Luke-You destroy the ominous Death Star in a spectacular climax.

The Circle is now complete...

The Circle is now complete…

It’s 1977 and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) do this with models and green screen. No CGI. It’s almost real. Han and Chewie have your back and it’s a perfect suspension of dis-belief.

Hammerhead. 'nuff said.

Hammerhead. ’nuff said. You might notice his eyes are soft, that’s because he was the first figure I photographed and had the lens on the RX10 set to 2.8. All the others were shot at f8. note to self, when doing macro, shoot stopped down!

Can Mr. JJ Abrams replicate this? Sadly, I don’t think so. I think the movie will be lost in pointless dialog and over the top effects that have no soul. I hope I’m wrong- I truly do, for the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.. oh wait, wrong movie.

Tie Fighter Pilot. So bad ass, they aren't even clones.

Tie Fighter Pilot. So bad ass, they aren’t even clones.

The images found on this post were shot in the portrait style I used for the Seattle Suspects. The figures are from my personal collection; each one was played with in back yards, friend’s rooms and construction sites. I photographed them with a Sony RX10 using one reflector and widow light. A sheet of 13×19 white satin paper was used as the back drop. I then ran the images through Nik Silver EFX to get them to look like my old Tech Pan process looked like. Contrasty and filled with detail.

studio set up

that's no moon.

that’s no moon.

~David “may the force be with you” Brommer

The Story Behind 10 Hours Walking in NYC as a Goth Viral Video

Portrait of Paradox shot with RX10 at 180mm 2.8 jpg and processed in Snapseed

Portrait of Paradox shot with RX10 at 180mm 2.8 jpg and processed in Snapseed

My first foray into video started off as a parody of sorts, but then it got serious as I delved deeper into the project and realized I could offer a commentary on what fringe persona have to deal with on a daily basis. I invite you to watch 10 Hours Walking in NYC as a Goth before reading the rest of this blog post, you’ll laugh and the whole thing will make more sense!

Click to watch video

sleep in a coffin

In early November a video was released on Youtube called, “10 Hours Walking in NYC as a Woman” which secretly video documented a simply dressed woman as she silently made her way about NYC and received catcalls left and right. The elements of the 10 Hours video are particular. The subject does not speak; they are “silent walking” and no matter how much they are intimidated they don’t respond. Subtitles are given for the catcalls they receive, and these subtitle float along at the bottom of the screen as the subject walks. A person also joins them and walks beside them for a prolonged period, and the subtitle keeps a tab on that time. The 10 Hours Walking as a Woman is actually quite a good piece of film making due to its stylistic choices. Proof of it being so good is the viral exposure it has garnered, over 36 million views!

woman

Ten Hours Walking as a Woman was created Rob Bliss, who runs his own viral video marketing agency. Bliss partnered with Hollaback, an advocacy group dedicated to ending street harassment. If you are interested in more of the original story behind the video the Washington Post has a great article about it here.

What got me were the parody videos that appeared after the original. Three in particular inspired me to make my own, the first was 10 Hours Walking in NYC as Jew, which is super hilarious. If you don’t get the joke, let me explain- Jews normally aren’t missionary, but a particular sect, the Lubavitch, or Chabab Jews get extra points for bringing a way ward Jew back into the fold. So in NYC, if you look even remotely Jewish, they accost you and try to get you to pray. It’s pretty indimic and I have been accosted by these particular jews many times over the years. Blame it on my big nose I guess. The other funny ones are; 10 Hours Walking in NYC as Princess Leia, as a white male, as a jets fan…  it goes on. They got to me and I figured it would be great subject matter to make a short video with. I had to try! (Note: the Princess Leia one is extremely funny in a nerdy way)

starwars

For the gear, I was currently testing a Sony RX10 for a B&H project and this camera, aside from an awesome still camera, shoots incredible video as well. Now I’m so not a video guy but I like a good challenge so I figured this was the opportunity to test the camera. I slapped on a Rode Video Mic ‘cause the built in mic is lame. The stabilizer in the Sony RX10 is superb, so no need for steady cam was called for, and also, I wanted a little bump and jump to give it that renegade look. I had my lifelong friend and Suspect assistant Joe Asaro guide me as I walked backwards in front of Paradox. The excellent Rode mic picked up her footsteps perfect, and since it was facing forward, didn’t pick up my steps (which I was worried about, walking backwards gives you a heavy step).

The opening scene starts with the walker adjusting the lens. I love Paradox's "Marilyn Manson" eyes in this scene.

The opening scene starts with the walker adjusting the lens. I love Paradox’s “Marilyn Manson” eyes in this scene.

 

While the original was spontaneous I knew Paradox would get little attention in the East Village where I wanted to film. So I went on line to the facebook group, “Goth after 30” and polled the elder Goths catcalls they have heard over the years. I edited together these comments and built a script. To parody the guy who walks beside the woman in the original 10 Hours vid (Shoshanna Roberts) I wanted something sort of outrageous so I bought a Priest shirt at the Halloween Adventure Store for $15 bux and caste the perfect “Priest”, NYC underground actor Joe Freedom. The idea for the “Jesus Saves” comment was made up on the spot, but I feel it worked out perfect. Notice the (13 minutes) line, the whole video has small subtexts that fit goth humor perfectly. Event the last title states, “666 comments were made”, that’s goth humor at its best.

Priest

One of the stars for sure is my Mother-in-law Elvira. She is a sweet little lady from Milan and needed a bit of coaxing to be the freak with the crucifix. I figured with her diminutive size and black clad look she could pull off the scene comically and with aplomb. In the editing phase I had to make her appearance with a fast cut because she looked to Barbara, her daughter and my wife right after “accosting” Paradox. I think the fast cut is hilarious and gets the point across perfectly. Almost all of the scenes were done in one take.

Elvira

Speaking of comedy I wanted to interject something very goth culture like, and the dominant factor that brings all gothdom together is music and dance. Paradox had asked if she could bring a some friends along, and I immediately conceived of the scene outside of the Gothic Renaissance (notice the gargoyle?) store. It would be a fast dance scene complete with old skool boom box. Joe A. schlepped in his boom box and I recruited the one and only William of New Goth City fame to be the boom box operator during the scene. The music is a youtube approved goth sound track that really worked. I only wanted them to dance for a few seconds but what got me was Paradox’s perfect sashay. She sums it up in haste, and as fast as it begins, an unscripted pedestrian walks through the scene, then it’s over and Paradox continues her silent walk.

dance scene

The video took about 3 hours to shoot. It was cold, I was layered up, and Paradox was a super trooper for enduring the scenes only wearing a skirt, corset and light top. William stood vigilant over the gear as we shot, and I trusted Joe to guide me as I walked backwards and faced Paradox as she strolled along, umbrella in hand and getting harassed left and right. Albeit a scripted harassment, half of the harassers were recruited right on the street, the other half I arranged to meet up at points along 2nd Avenue. We ticked off the best comments and gave the lines out the strangers that we recruited. The shoot went off perfect. It was tons of fun and Paradox really rocked it. All that was left was to edit the footage and that was the part I feared most.

BTS shot by Joe Asaro with iPhone

BTS shot by Joe Asaro with iPhone

I started off working with Apple’s iMovie but it turned out that soft ware was not up to the task. You couldn’t add the text in the live video, and I needed that to pay proper homage to the original with the subtitling of the catcalls. I downloaded the trial of Adobe Premier and rolled up my sleeves and had at it. I haven’t learnt new software in ages but with in 5 hours, had it cut and ready to go. After spending 5 hours looking pretty much at Paradox’s face and those eyes (double contacts if you were wondering) to say I didn’t have a bit of a goth crush would be a lie. Premier was easier to figure out than I feared and dare I say, I kinda like editing now. I look forward to my next project to edit.

Before we began, I busted out my Deardorff 8x10 with Kodak 14" lens and made two exposures with Berrger BPF200. Yup, I'm the kind of guy who shows up to shoot film still with a wooden 8x10 camera. Truth is, the Paul Strand retrospective at the Philly Museum of Art I had just scene inspired me and with a great model at your disposal such as Paradox, you gotta make the most of the collaboration.

Before we began, I busted out my Deardorff 8×10 with Kodak 14″ lens and made two exposures with Berrger BPF200. Yup, I’m the kind of guy who shows up to shoot film stills with a wooden 8×10 camera. Truth is, the Paul Strand retrospective at the Philly Museum of Art I had just seen inspired me and with a great model at your disposal such as Paradox, you gotta make the most of the collaboration. I hope to print these in cyanotype soon.

One thing that surprisingly manifested itself as this project unfolded, while the whole film was scripted and started as a parody, it rang true. Paradox and her ilk do indeed endure catcalls. So while it is funny, and was inspired by a straight up girl doing the silent walk, there is a substantial statement about society and those who walk the margins have to endure. This video does make a statement, and while catcalling any woman is un-gentleman like, the same applies to woman, boys or anyone who expresses themselves in a flashy, punk, drag, or gothic manner. Regarding the original, it has also caused some controversy. The video states that she was catcalled by all ethnic backgrounds, however the video seems to show only latinos and blacks. Where are the white men? I’m not going to comment further, but would like the viewers question this aspect and draw their own conclusions. Also, Shoshana B. Roberts is now receiving rape threats as a response to the original video. Humanity can be disappointing in all its forms.

Please help the cause and share the video! Thank you,

 

~David

Do we really need a Black & White Challenge? The Answer is a colorful YES!

Eastern State Penitentiary Sony RX10 B&W Jpeg

Eastern State Penitentiary Sony RX10 B&W Jpeg

Recently on social media, and in particular Facebook, the Black and White challenge has gone viral. The parameters appear to be that once you are nominated by a peer or friend, you have to post one image a day for five days, and on each post, you must nominate another photographer to do the same. The result, if the challenge is accepted, creates a pyramid of photographers posting B&W images exclusively. These rules are stated in the post of the photograph, and of course the nomination tags the photographer. When I did it, I liked to tag the person who nominated me, and on each daily post I made, I also tagged those who I was nominating during the duration of the challenge.

Eastern State Walls

 

I believe this to be a very interesting social media phenomenon, since it is creative and not just a social media useless trend, like the Bill Gates Millions chain e-letter. You can engage it many ways with deepness, like challenging a photographer who is known for color (I challenged Brandon Remler) or a more timid social media poster and film guy from Japan, my friend Mark Hammon. What was interesting about nominating Mark was that the mainstay of his photography circle is Japanese, so the challenge is spread globally.

Eastern State Pen View

I nominated my wife Barbara, who is a capable of making stunning color images and the occasional b&w. She took it to a new level and put the parameter of “some of her favorite things” and her posts are of objects and places that she loves instead of arbitrary images. She also nominated an Italian co-founder of the Cortona on the Move Photography festival, thus expanding once again across cultural and geographic boundaries.

Eastern State Walls

 

I tried to find out where and who the originator of the challenge is, but alas, that appears to be lost in the web. The Phoblographer made a good post about the challenge as well. Their post elaborated on what makes a good b&w shot. Pretty cool. Another aspect is that the level of photographers participating is very high, Sean Kernan is in on it. At this point, the challenge has gone through my photographer circle and some stunning work has been posted.

The above images were all shot at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. The reason I chose to include this catalog of images for this blog post is that the location begged to be shot in b&w.

 

I believe this to be a blast, and very good for our medium. It’s actually a useful social media endeavor that can be challenging and interactive. Social Media is always evolving in unexpected and welcome ways.

 

What about you? Have you accepted the challenge?

The Trees – A New Series Takes Root

 

 

The mist is my new favorite weather to shoot in.

The mist is my new favorite weather to shoot in.

“There is unrest in the forest

There is trouble with the trees

For the maples want more sunlight

And the oaks ignore their pleas”

Rush- The Trees

 

I’m so thrilled, in the pursuit of creating images using the RX10 for an upcoming presentation on the camera I stumbled upon a new series that is taking shape, The Trees.

 

Watchungs2

 

I like to use the long fast lens on the camera to find a pattern and texture of the trees. I am shooting jpegs, and then putting them into Nik Silver EFX2 for a black and white treatment.

The Mist in the forest at Shenandoah National Park.

The Mist in the forest at Shenandoah National Park.

 

Diagonal Composition

Diagonal Composition

Bird Watch #4 Neighbor Mountain, Shenandoah National Park

Bird Watch #4 Neighbor Mountain, Shenandoah National Park

 

I’ll be honest, I don’t really care for Nature photography. But this series is resonating to me, I mean I do really like trees. They are old and wise in general, they have a mystical quality. Being pagan it’s like photographing gods in many ways.

 

 

 

 


Watchungs3

I hope you like the trees.

Watchungs4

~David

The Aesthetic of Compositional Perfection and Post Production

The fog was thicker than pea soup at the Dickey Ridge Lodge.

The fog was thicker than pea soup at the Dickey Ridge Lodge.

I’m one of those odd people who throw on a heavy backpack and hike in the woods for days. I have been doing it for a long time now, at least 25 years. I have a dwindling network of friends who I go on these hiking trips and we fancy to call our selves Trailpounders. Among all the miles I have hiked in pristine wilderness across many states I am reluctant to carry a cameras, or serious one at least. The reason being weight, and getting the picture right. Cameras can weigh quite a bit, and add to that good lenses so that you can make high quality photographs is daunting when you’re crossing mountains and pushing every fiber of your body to keep moving up switchbacks.

I have been tasked by B&H & Sony to create a program on the RX10. The focus of the program will be, “Travel Composition with the RX10”. To prepare for the program I have been shooting exclusively with the RX10 and pushing what it can do while learning what it cannot do. I’m familiar with the camera, and those who follow my blog will recall the initial review of the RX10 I wrote and shot a little under a year ago.

Elderly folk appreciating the park. They moved slow, but stuck a cord inside me. America's National Parks are for everyone, every age.

Elderly folk appreciating the park. They moved slow, but stuck a cord inside me. America’s National Parks are for everyone, every age.

This past weekend the Trail Pounders planned a four day hike in the beautiful Shenandoah National Park. Since I was working on material for the presentation, I figured this would be the perfect place to shoot with the RX10 and put it to test doing some nature photography. I would suck up the weight (1.79 lb / 813 g with battery and memory card) and stuff the camera in my trusty Moutainsmith Frost Fire pack.

The trip was excellent and pretty heavy duty. I’m not getting any younger and that pack isn’t getting any lighter. I felt I could have reached for the camera more often, but hiking (especially in a group) is an act all of its own. We managed to traverse about 17 miles in three days which didn’t afford me much lens time. On the trail we crossed a pine covered mountain top (Neighbor Mountain) and ran the ridge. I came across these interesting pine cones that had survived a fire, called a pack break and took some photos. I did my “composition dance” and moved around trying to find that perfect angle to capture the pine cones, you know that angle, the one with a perfect background and every branch facing the right direction? Well I couldn’t find it. I just couldn’t get the lens, the pine cone, and what I wanted to capture groove.

Pine Cone as it was shot- no editing.

Pine Cone as it was shot- no editing.

As I sat editing I thought, “I was so close… but darn those extra branches”… I saw them when I shot and figured they would not cut my mustard. It was then that I figured I’d work them in post and try to rescue them. This wouldn’t be retouching per sey , but more compositional rescue. I busted out my trusty Wacom table and set to it. After the image was cleaned up I ran it through Silver FX and finished it to my personal standards.

Pine Cone

Did I succeed? Did I just polish a turd? I always joke that I have taken so many bad photographs that when I do shoot now, it’s with a great intensity to only shoot what is decent if not compositionally perfect. But now, when the world is simply not cooperating it might be safe to shoot the best you can, and then do some very heavy post to get it right. Ethically I’m not 100 percent behind this, but I do feel good that at least the option is open. What do you think?

Here are a few more from the first edit. I shot in jpeg and used the creative modes that are built into the RX10 such as “Autumn Leaves” and “B&W”. Each image is taken into Photoshop and massaged.

Home and Shelter. I have had this tent since 1993.

Home and Shelter. I have had this tent since 1993.

Hiker JA- one of the Trail Pounders founders. Note, a circular polarizer was used to clear up the water behind Joe.

Hiker JA- one of the Trail Pounders founders. Note, a circular polarizer was used to clear up the water behind Joe.

SHAZAM! Joey V, he was a  Trail Pounder for years and didn't even know it.

SHAZAM! Joey V, he was a Trail Pounder for years and didn’t even know it.

Fall Leaves straight up.

Fall Leaves straight up.

The lone tree sits in the fog.

The lone tree sits in the fog.

I’ll post a link to the RX10 Presentation when it goes live. If you don’t live near NYC, we will be recording the presentation and I’ll post that too.

Till then, this Trail Pounder is signing off!

The three last Trail Pounders.

The three last Trail Pounders.

CBGB- The Last Day OMFUG

The Last Day of CBGB

The Last Day of CBGB

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco

This ain’t no fooling around

This ain’t no mud club, or C. B. G. B.

I ain’t got time for that now…

 ~Talking Heads – Life During Wartime (1979)

CBGB was the iconic NYC club that defined the punk era in America. The letters CBGB were an acronym for country, bluegrass, and blues, which was the brainchild of Hilly Kristal who opened the club in 1973 at 315 Bowery. CBGB soon became a famed venue of punk rock and new wave bands like the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith Group, Blondie, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and Talking Heads. From the early 1980s onward, CBGB was known for hardcore punk.

Seeing bands play at CBGB’s would always be a blast, and just having a drink at the venerable club was always exciting. The place had tons of character, and I’m not even going to go into what peeing in the bathroom was like. As a matter of fact, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art did the show, Punk: Chaos to Couture they featured a installation piece of the bathroom! CBGB was storied, and an important landmark in NYC. However NYC is an expensive place, and Hilly got his club in trouble. In 2000, CBGB entered a protracted dispute over allegedly unpaid rent and a deal to renew CBGB’s lease, expiring in 2006, failed. The club closed upon its final concert, played by Patti Smith, on October 15, 2006. The end of an era.

 “There’s new kids with new ideas all over the world,” Patti Smith declared outside the club at the last show, “They’ll make their own places — it doesn’t matter whether it’s here or wherever it is. but It’s a symptom of the empty new prosperity of our city”.

Upon learning on the eminent end to CBGB I set out to photograph it as part of my loose project entitled, “NY Out of Business”. On a cold and windy late October day I set up my Deardorff 8×10 camera and wide angle 8 ¼ dagor lens in front of CBGB’s. Cars and vans were always parked out side, so I set up as close to the curb as possible and made my exposure. Fearing the high wind would have rocked the camera and caused a blurry image due to a low shutter speed I returned the next day only to find the premiss white washed and the awning skeleton removed. The last vestige of CBGB and her punk heritage was obliterated. Luckily, I shot it just in time.

CBGB's Last Day

This was made by scanning the 8×10 negative and correcting for perspective with photoshop using the transform tool.

A year later, the awesome clothing designer John Varvatos leased the property and with deep respect to the orignal punk ethic, integrated as much of the enterior to his shop. Walking in the Bowery Varvatos store is almost like entering a punk museum. He saved the landmark from becoming a 7-11 or worse. Thanks John!

Here is what the store looks like now.

John Varvatos

This is the original shot from the Deardorff. I was too close to correct the perspective, so after scanning the negative I was able to correct for perspective in photoshop.

CBGB 8x10

CBGB I miss you, one more piece of NYC that has gone to history.

~David

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