Over the last few weeks, I've been looking at lots of Michael Kenna photographs and reading the interviews he's given which are posted on his website. Of all the various "genres" of photography there are, his moody images, along with the work that Bill Schwab produces, are what excite me. It's the sort of stuff to which I aspire.
Both men use medium format and usually print square images on 10x8 inch paper. They both seem to give the highlights a light toning in sepia to warm them up and selenium tone the shadows to give them more body and introduce a subtle duo tone effect. Beyond the technicalities, it's all about having an eye for a photograph. No change there, then.
We're always told to develop our own style - something that might have been easier half way through last century than it is today when those things one can pursue to achieve that end have already been pursued almost to death. Sometimes, in the case of Yosemite and Bryce Canyon, even beyond. As one who agrees that imitation is amongst the sincerest forms of flattery and not being in a mood to spend years attempting to make my photographs instantly recognisable, I have no qualms about following in Kenna's and Schwab's footsteps. Ripping them off, in other words.
It helps that I'm drawn to the same sort of subjects and like to give them a similar look. The obvious camera outfit to use for the medium format, square approach is my Rolleiflex SL66E but it's not one that's seen a lot of air time. It's heavy, not readily hand-holdable and just a bit quirky. At least, that was my view of it until I decided to give it an extended run. It also coincided with the purchase of a ball head for the Induro tripod I have - a support that's so much lighter and easier to use than the over-engineered Benbo.
It's fair to say that I'm now happier using the Rollei than at any time in the past six years of ownership. I've even started hand-holding it - and it's not as bad as I'd imagined it would be. It's still quite cumbersome and quirky, though!
I went back to Grange Orchard a few days ago with the Rollei when there was a nice evening light and took a few shots showing the trees in a brighter mood than the misty atmosphere of my previous visit. The main reason for this was to take some photographs with the 40mm Distagon on the camera. With a small project like an orchard it can be difficult building some variety into the shots so different lighting and times of day, different seasons and different focal lengths have to be pressed into action.
The Distagon's a bit of monster with an angle of view that seems wider than the 24mm lens that is supposed to be its 35mm equivalent. It's ideal for capturing a different perspective. I'll no doubt take a few more with it in the orchard in future.
The first pic in this post is an old church across the River Tay in Fife. I stopped by to photograph its abandoned, roofless interior but it's been filled with old doors and fence posts which completely killed any atmosphere it might have had.
Wandering about with the SL66E around my neck, I noticed this view of it from behind that was quite nice. It seems to have an old-fashioned look to it but I'm not quite sure why. The film was Tmax 400 and the Planar is a nice sharp lens with good contrast that wouldn't normally be my first choice if I was trying to capture the olde worlde feel. Maybe it's just the ivy in the foreground that gives the scene a slightly gothic look?
I've also been snapping away with the 250mm lens on the Rollei - handheld as well which requires a steady hand. These films have still to be developed so I've yet to find out if I've managed to pull it off. Perhaps it's just as well the Induro is making my tripod work a good bit easier...