Going Home: Dad’s Toolshed

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I was born and raised in central Michigan right in the heart of farming country. My dad owned his farm for 70 years until he died; then it went to my brother and finally to me after my brother’s passing.

During one visit — while the crops were growing and through harvest time — I made a lot of images in and around the farm buildings and the fields. This one was from inside an old toolshed. Dad would use it to work on the machinery during winter months (most farmers did all of their own repair work). He had all kinds of tools in there.

I can’t really put my finger on why I like this image so much, but every time I look at it I’m instantly transported back to when I was around ten years old and helping my dad. Those were really good days.

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Rose of Gio’s Villa Brownsville

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Portrait of Rose, Operator of Gio's Villa Brownsville, TX

Meet Rose Jordan. She operates Gio’s Villa of Brownsville, one of Texas’s oldest and most dearly loved family-owned restaurants.

If you follow this blog you have probably picked up on the fact that I love making portraits of real people in their natural environment.

A great portrait doesn’t always have to employ a bunch of equipment or demand a lot of digital manipulation. I’m not one of these rabid souls that argues digital is everything and film is nothing — after all, many of the world’s greatest images were captured on film.

I photographed Rose inside Gio’s Villa, using a Sinar P2 – 4X5 view camera and Kodak TMax 100 B&W film. I set the overall exposure for the ambient light in the room, then placed a large soft box light off to the left to give form to Rose’s face and body.

For me it’s what feels right. If you are a painter you choose the brush and medium that will allow you to achieve the look you want. Photographer’s should do the same. Some subjects just beg to be photographed on film.

 

The Lost Art of Hand Writing

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The Lost Art of Hand Writing Fine Art Photos by Greg Phelps

With the advent of the computer, word processing software and email, the art of beautiful penmanship has become a lost art. My own hand writing has almost become illegible — and to think I came from a mechanical design background where everything was hand-lettered!

I decided to do a photograph as a remembrance of that almost forgotten era.

This is a fountain pen, a ball point pen and a mechanical pencil from the Cross writing instrument company. I always thought they made beautiful writing instruments. I used a piece of sandstone rock as a background and some lavender blooms as a background.

Lighting was pretty simple: one large, soft box directly overhead and then surrounding the entire set with reflector cards.

Why not pick something you are fond of and see what you can come up with as a commemorative image?

Red & Blue in Galveston, TX

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red-blue-galveston-tx-800Galveston, Texas is a really cool town for photographers. It’s right on the Gulf of Mexico so you have all the neat stuff along the beach to photograph and the town itself goes waaaaay back.

I spotted this old store while walking around the town looking for interesting things to photograph. It looks like it had been out of business for a long time. I wonder what it was like during its heyday. Architectural photography is my trade, but stumbling upon old buildings and capturing a beautiful visual image for posterity is one of my passions.

Handbills on the Wall

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Handbills on wall of the old Opry, Galveston, TX

This is a picture of the outside of the The Grand 1847 Opera House in Galveston, TX.  The Grand is one of the few remaining theatre house of its era in Texas and has been proclaimed as the Official Opera House of Texas.

I find the old handbills plastered all over the red brick wall interesting, but it’s such a shame that the power lines made it difficult to bring out the beauty of this interesting piece of history.

Check out my website for more examples of my architectural photography.

Eugene Fernandez

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This is one of my favorite images, partly because of the history behind it and partly because of its beauty.

Eugene Fernandez is one of the last remaining members of the Fernandez family of Brownsville. As Eugene tells it, his family used to run guns between Mexico and the Confederate Army during the Civil war.

I shot this photograph on the back porch of their old family home in Brownsville, (I will be featuring this home in one of my Historic Brownville buildings project, so keep following here to see it.)

The Suit Eugene is wearing was worn by Errol Flynn in one of his movies, at least according to Eugene . It really ads to the realism of the photograph.

I captured this image several years ago, before I had converted to digital. It was done with a 4X5 Sinar P2 film camera. I used Kodak 4X5 Tmax film. Since the porch was quite high I had to extend my Gitzo tripod to its maximum height and and then climb up on a step ladder. It was a lot of work but who ever said creating a fine photograph would be easy? I scanned the negative on my Flextight 848 scanner and did all the finishing work in Photoshop.

Eugene is a fantastic person. The whole time we were working he was regailing me with stories about early Brownsville, and his family’s history (despite the the hellish 97 degree temperatures with a humidity of 80%). As is common for this area, Eugene never complained once. He was really there reliving a part of early Brownsville’s history. I, on the other hand, being an old Yankee, was not immune to the sweltering heat and somewhat suffered through the entire shoot.

 

Man

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I love faces. When I happen upon a face that I think would make a terrific photograph I always approach that person and ask if they would mind if I took a few photographs.

This fellow was doing some repair work to the building my studio is in. I immediately noticed he had one of those great photographic faces. I asked if I could take some photographs of him. He was a little reluctant at first but after assuring him his image would never be used in an inappropriate manner he agreed. I took several photographs of him around his truck. This turned out to be my favorite.

I printed both in Color and B&W, and the B&W won out for me: I found that the B&W version really brings out the character in his face.

I want to encourage everyone who loves taking photographs to get involved with a couple of image editing programs. My favorites are Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom and Photoshop. These days this is our darkroom and if you hope to create images that you truly enjoy, a knowledge of what can be done on the compute, as well as how to do it are vitally important. It’s also a lot of fun to watch how an image out of your camera can transform and take on a life of its own as you apply your own artistic vision.