Friday 29 May 2015

Art journaling

I got my art journal out again this week, after quite a while. An A4 Moleskine watercolour journal with nice thick paper, which takes acrylics and mixed media very well. I like art journals, they are perfect places to just play, experiment, slap some paint on the page and see what happens. It doesn't have to be perfect, you don't even have to finish it. There is no pressure to create something 'presentable'. You don't have to show it to anyone, but can keep it all to yourself, if you want to.

I like to use the pages to let my imagination run free. To paint more intuitively, with just a vague idea to start with, and then see what happens. One such idea is 'home'. Where is my 'true' home? Where will I live one day? Will I ever find that place? Does it exist at all? For this page, I glued some pieces of a map on the paper first and then painted over it. It's not finished yet, and maybe I'll never finish it, but just leave it as it is and move on to the next figment of my imagination. We'll see.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

On my wish list: a SLR 680

I had the opportunity to try out a Polaroid SLR 680 camera for a few days. The SLR 680 is sort of the successor of the SX-70, a foldable single reflex camera with sonar autofocus. I always think that that sonar autofocus system, some sort of soundwaves, sounds (and looks) a bit weird. Like something from a science fiction novel or a submarine. My two Image cameras also have sonar autofocus, and I must say, that it works very well. But as to SLR cameras, the SX-70 seemed the one to go for. The real thing. Now I love my SX-70, and when you get the focus right, the photos are brilliant. But depending on the subject, the focusing with that small viewfinder can be rather tricky, and since I'm shortsighted, I don't really trust that what looks in focus to me, really is so in reality. And then I tried out a SLR 680, and wow, how cool's that! Unlike my Image cameras, where you just know that the focus is in the centre of the viewfinder, and you focus and compose your image accordingly, with the SLR 680, since it is a single reflex camera, when you push the shutter button halfway down to focus, you see the actual image in the viewfinder, which allows you to have much more control over your focus and composition.

There are some issues with this particular camera that I don't like. For one thing, it doesn't close properly on one side when folded, which results in the lens making a whirring noise almost every time you move the camera. It is not only a rather annoying sound, but I also guess that it means that the batteries get drained quicker. Also, there are some undevelopped patches appearing at the top of each image, and the overall exposure seems uneven, with the bottom being much too light. But at the top, where it is right, the contrast and exposure are wonderful, and the detail and sharpness are just brilliant. I'm afraid I'm sending this baby back, however.

But a SLR 680 camera is definitely on my wish list.

Sunday 24 May 2015

Photo Sunday May

There are those special places. Places where you feel at peace, relaxed, free to breathe, and just generally happy and content. One of those places isn't too far from where I live, just on the other side of the small mountain. In 1953, Robert Seleger, a master gardener, discovered, among the rich green fields and pastures, a patch of hill more and planted a first rhododendron there. In the following years, he travelled the world to find rhodondrons, crossing them to grow plants of different colours hardy enough to survive the cold winters. The place grew into a beautiful garden, beautiful azaleas, rhododendrons, ferns, peonies and many more plants and trees as well as rivers, ponds, a little lake, bridges, and lots of soft pathes. The water lily ponds are home to hundreds of frogs a well as dragon flies and water snakes. The air is filled with the scent of flowers and the song of birds. A truly magical place. I went there with my Mum at the beginning of the week, and we picked just the perfect day. Not only the last warm and sunny day before another series of cold and rainy days, but also when the rhododendrons, azaleas and peonies were in full bloom. Of course I took loads of photos, and so for today, it's a bit of a photo overload. (You can find more information about this beautiful garden on their website).

Happy Sunday!

Friday 22 May 2015

What's in your fridge?

I put aside the portrait I've been working on for the past three weeks, and instead got my sketchbook and watercolours out. I somehow didn't get any time for painting during the weekend, and if I want to do something in the evenings, after work, getting out the acrylic paints always seems a bit too much. Watercolours, on the other hand, are the perfect medium for that. And if you don't know what to draw or paint, well, there's always the fridge. I've been keeping those tomatoes all week in order to finish the painting. I'm looking forward to having them for dinner tonight.

I meant to add some words too, but it was getting too late last night. I might add them later though. Most of all, I'm just happy about the fact that I sat down for an hour or so on two evening this week to paint. It doesn't take much time to do something, even when you're working (almost) full time. You can always manage to fit in a little bit of time, even if it's just 15 minutes or half an hour. I have to remember that more often.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

The sweet bliss of getting a sharp image, and two new cameras to play with

I'm still learning how to take photographs with my new SX-70. It's not as easy and straightforward as with the later autofocus cameras, and every photo that turns out properly focused and sharp just makes me insanely happy. Because you have so much less control of the outcome than with a digital camera, getting it right is somehow so much more satisfying.

Yes, I admit, I might be getting a bit obsessed with these old instant cameras. I just bought another not one, but two cameras. Well, they came as package of two, looked good and were reasonably priced. One's a Polaroid Image System, the other a Polaroid Image Pro. They're quite similar but the Pro has a flashy LED display and some extra features in addition, such as the option of multiple exposure, which I'm quite excited to try out. I only had one Image/Spectra film to try at the beginning of the weekend, so I decided to try out the Image System first. The Image/Spectra films used for this camera have a different image format, not the traditional square, but a rectangular format of 9.2x7.3cm. It also has an electronic display in the viewfinder, which gives you green light if your photo is going to be good, or a warning if it isn't so that you can recompose it.

16/05/2015 - The Old Apple Tree
After the first couple of photos I noticed that the frog tongue was a little bit creased at the edges, which leads to those two light stripes at the edges, where the photo is exposed to too much light when ejected. I plan to eventually replace the frog tongue, but for the moment I found an easy solution to the problem in one of the discussions on Flickr. When you take the photo, instead of releasing the shutter button immediately, keep it pressed down. As long as you don't release it, the photo won't be rejected. (This actually also comes in handy when wanting to take a double exposure with this camera, but more on that when I've tried it out). I took a dark canvas tote with me, sticking the whole camera into it before releasing the button so that the photo is ejected straight into the bag and not exposed to any light at all. And that did the trick beautifully. The stripes are as good as gone or only faintly visible.

16/05/2015 - Garden Corner

Yesterday, two more packs of Image/Spectra films arrived in the post, and I could finally try out the Image Pro. The frog tongue works perfectly here. I just need to read up a bit more about its functions and how to set all the settings on the LED display. It does feel almost modern, compated to the all manual SX-70 and the simple switches of the Image System.

Friday 15 May 2015

Still a work in progress - stretching those rusty muscles

It's like when you haven't done any sport at all for a while, and then start again. You've become rusty, the muscles don't know the moves anymore. It's painful at first, and it takes a while to get back into those moves again, but the more you keep going, the easier it gets and your muscles relax and begin to fall into the pattern easily. It's quite the same with painting. You get rusty, if you haven't done it for a while, and getting back into it feels strange at first, a bit unfamiliar. The paints behave kind of odd, you're not quite getting it right. It'll take a little while to get comfortable with it again, you just have to keep working on it. Little by little.

She's not finished yet, but I'm taking it little by little. I'm glad that I set myself the goal for this month to link up to Paint Party Friday every week. Because without the pressure of needing something to share, I probably would have given up on her. And I'm glad I did. Because those muscles need a lot of work and stretching for the moves to become familiar and comfortable again.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Learning the SX-70, and a walk in the forest

I'm slowly, very slowly, learning how to use my new Polaroid SX-70. It's not easy, and I still get it wrong most of the time. This one's definitely a lot more  temperamental than the plastic box, my 600 type Polaroid. So I'm even more excited about every photo that turns out reasonably okay, which at the moment is about every one in four or five. I hope to get the hang of it soon, or else it's going to be very expensive. I'm taking photos in all kinds of different situations and taking notes of what worked and what didn't to find out what works best.

I also find it quite difficult to scan them. The colours just don't turn out quite right. They do look much better in reality.

On Sunday, I went for a long walk in the forest with my Mum. I took the SX-70 too, and I've learnt that the forest is not the best place for it. Maybe it was too dark, even though it was a sunny (and hot) day. Or maybe the contrast was too strong in the midday sun. Also, I find it very difficult sometimes to focus. Not only because it can be very tricky to get it right with the split focus circle, but also because I find it difficult to keep the camera still enough. Which is actually one of the reasons I'm embracing instant photography so much the moment. To help me become more mindful, focused, calm. Something I've been working on for a while now. But I'll write more about that some other time.

While my Mum walked through the forest at a brisk pace, thanks to her walking sticks, I was constantly either lagging way behind while taking photos with up to three different cameras (though mostly my DSLR), or trying to catch up at an even brisker pace while carrying a heavy camera bag over my shoulder. And most of the way was going slightly uphill, may I add.

But I'm glad I brought my DSLR. It was a lovely walk (even though I was exhausted afterwards) and I enjoyed taking photos in this beautiful forest. For the past ten years, it has been allowed to grow back into a natural forest, with next to no intervention, except when trees have fallen over the pathes. And even then, only the bits that block the path are cut off. Everything else is left to nature. It's a truly magical place.

Well, we might not have carpets of bluebells in our woods, but the forest was full of wild garlic, and it looked and smelled beautiful.

Friday 8 May 2015

On my easel: Portrait WIP

I've got a few projects for May, and one of them is to take part in Paint Party Friday every week this month (and hopefully afterwards too, as much as possible) to help me get my painting mojo back. I can feel it coming back, but very slowly, and so I've only got a work in progress to share today. But I'm sharing it anyway, again to motivate me to finish it by next Friday. I've still got a lot of work to do on her, but I so enjoyed painting a portrait again.

Apart from a guided visit to the Bührle Collection on Saturday, I'm looking forward to spending most of the weekend painting, and finally taking my new Polaroid SX-70 out for a walk. Just hope it won't start raining again.

Happy Paint Party Friday, wishing you an inspiring and creative weekend!

Tuesday 5 May 2015

A new addition to the familiy

My little family of cameras just got a new member - my Polaroid SX-70 arrived last Thursday. I only ordered it the Saturday before, from the US, and I impatently checked the tracking service about every five minutes. Of course I was secretly hoping that it would arrive before the weekend, but never really thought it possible, especially as Friday was a public holiday here. I thought I'd have to wait til Monday, and so I was especially thrilled when it did actually arrive on Thursday. And what a beauty it is.

Of course it isn't new at all. None of these original Polaroid cameras are. But while it is not the oldest one in my little collection of cameras, it's certainly among the older ones, and probably the oldest of the ones I actually use. The Polaroid SX-70 was the first instant SLR camera on the market, and the first model, with a metal body, was manufactured in the early to mid 1970. Now I don't know when my model was made exactly, but I like the thought that this camera and me might well be exactly the same age.

The design of these cameras is just so beautiful and clever. They fold flat and to use them, you pull it up into position. This proofed to be a bit tricky with mine. At first, I actually didn't manage to open it at all. I was pulling quite hard, and I was getting afraid of rippint the whole thing apart. But eventually, it folded open, and I'm slowly learning to get the hang of it, although I still have a bit of a problem with it at times. Because of this, and because it looks so clean and unscratched, and smells almost new, I believe that it might not have been used a lot.

Of course I had to try it out immediately, even though I knew it was probably too dark. The SX-70 films are a much lower ISO than the 600 and so need plenty of light. Thursday was a grey and dull evening, and on Friday, it was raining all day and looked more like a late November afternoon than a spring day. I would have loved to take my camera out to the forest, but intead I had to try it out inside. But I was still pleased with the first results. You can see how, with the manual focus, you can get much more DOF than with my autofocus one (even if it's a bit out of focus here).

With the one taken the next day, on rainy Friday, I managed to get a slightly better focus.

And when it stopped raining for a few minutes, I quickly popped out for a photo of the lovely dogwood bush outside the house. I can't wait to take it out for a walk in better light!

I'm thinking about doing a little project with this camera. Not a 365 though, although that would no doubt an interesting project and a great way to get to know and learn how to use this camera. But it feels a bit too much, and it would be expensive too. But I've got some other ideas, I just haven't quite decided which one.

Sunday 3 May 2015

Photo Sunday May

I've been taking so many more photos again this year, that I have decided to post a little series this months. One or more photos every Sunday, without (m)any words.

ap-pre-ci-ate. judge the value of; understand or enjoy fully in the right way; be thankful for

Around us. Within us. Sometimes so easy. Sometimes oh so hard.