As 2012 rolls to a close, it’s time once again to look back at the year’s photography. I’ve been doing this for five years, so this is the sixth time for the review. The exercise is rather interesting for me, for not only is it a way to share images with others, but it also forces me to review my year’s work.
This year a few trends stand out. First, it wasn’t a very high volume year. There have been a lot of writing projects, and that has cut into not only the number of posts here (virtually nil for 2012) but also my photography. There’s been almost no black-and-white film work, and a very low number of digital images. That said, there have been some up sides. There was more color film work — mostly using my trusty old Pentax K1000 — and more importantly my first dip into medium format with the acquisition of a Mamiya RB.
The ten images below are in chronological order. Each is on my Flickr stream, and if you want to learn more about the images, there are extensive captions there — just click on the photo to go there. Here, though, I will provide some brief comments about why these images made the cut.
Portaiture is something I enjoy doing but for which I don’t often have a chance. When a friend visited on break in January, I took the opportunity to give him a portrait, and done properly: on Ilford Pan F for real posterity. The weapon of choice: my reliable old K-1000.
The G9 remained my travel camera of choice, as with this image from an early in the year trip to Tacoma. I’ve been shooting more and more structures, driven by my studies and writing over the year. The G9 does this only with some difficulty, as the widest it will go is to about equal to a 35 on a 35mm SLR. Not ideal. Thankfully here in Tacoma I was able to get enough distance to get a fair amount of the building in, while also working in some branches.
Above I mentioned that I was spendng more time with buildings this year, and this image shows a slightly different take on how and where: archives. In this case, I was trying to trace down information on a design for a Union Station in Portland that predated the design that was built. Hidden — and cryptically mislabelled — in the depths of the Oregon Historical Society holdings was a drawing of this design, by the storied New York architecture firm of McKim, Mead & White. OHS was kind enough to allow me to make some photographic reproductions, as this was part of a project for another civic organization, the Architectural Heritage Center.
I love this image. Hegewisch is nothing like what it appears at first glance. The traditional style depot here dates to the 1990s, not the 1890s, and inside is rather spartan and dull. The platforms outside are all galvanized steel, with smooth surfaces that strike a contrast against the building’s mock traditional forms. Meanwhile the whole thing is beside what is arguably the nation’s only continuously operated interurban, which itself uses some very modern equipment. Perhaps Hegewisch is a bit of what the rest of the nation’s suburbs would look like today had the interurban era never ended. This image, by-the-way, is another film one, made on Ektar 100, which has an interesting color balance that renders earth tones with a lot of depth. I’ve never loved brown so much.
If there’s any doubt about my interest in color photography, this image ought to set it to rest. This is another Ektar 100 shot made with the Pentax K-1000. Interestingly, when I first scanned it, the colors did not match the prints very well. It took a bit of fussing in Photoshop before I could get them to match. As for the image in particular, bringing more of the infrastructure of the city into the mix — and more maritime subject matter — is of growing interest to me. Here we get the Fremont Bridge and I-405 above the Willamette and the bulk terminals of Albina. And in the foreground? Sculptural art that bespeaks a shift of uses on the western shore.
The insanity finally soaked in this year, and I sprung for a Mamiya RB, a medium format film camera. Oof, what a tank. Getting this image of a semi-abandoned log bunk on the practically abandoned Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad took a lot longer than a shot usually takes me. Tripod, check. Camera, check. Light meter, check. Level everything, check check check. Positioning the camera, lengthy. I felt more like a surveyor than a photographer. Atop that, my roll had an odd brown tinge to the top edge — perhaps a light leak? I feel a bit like a novice again with the RB, though in some ways, thats part of why I wanted it.
This is another image from the Mamiya, and this one, I think, more sucessful. Standing on Rathtrevor Beach on Vancouver Island, watching the sun barely burn through the clouds over the Georgia Strait, I knew I had to make this image with the Mamiya. The longer setup time of the Mamiya and the more cumbersome adjustments slow everything down, and I found that my mind began to think in more formal terms. Bang, the sun got stuck right up towards the top, dead center. I haven’t had a chance to spend a lot more time with the Mamiya, but I wonder how the tempo of it may shape the way I make photographs.
On the other side of the coin is this, another of those travel-related spontaneous shots, this time from a Seattle trip in October, using the G9. This was my first time riding the Alweg monorail and the first time I had visited the Space Needle, and the combination of futurism and outdatedness was intriguing. As we departed Seattle Center, this view of the needle suddenly presented itself. This is about as wide as the G9 can go, and the window tinting on the Alweg helped balance out the light difference between the interior and exterior spaces.
Getting this shot of both the Alweg monorail and the South Lake Union streetcar in Seattle took a fair amount of patience. The Alweg runs infrequently — maybe every twenty minutes or so — and the streetcar, with only two cars in regular service, also is a bit slow paced. Thus getting both in the same shot as each is departing from their respective termnals near Westlake was a matter of waiting while the two independent timings slowly converged. Judging by the time spent here, it seems that the two synchronise about once every 2-3 hours.
Chinatowns have always interested me, perhaps in part because Portland’s has always been so lackluster. Seattle’s has far more atmosphere and vitality and, bonus, lots of neon. It’s tough to capture it all in one spot — it’s scattered about in different windows — so I collected images of almost all of them and then made this composite. As with most of my travel photography for 2012, this was done with the G9.
The year past brought a fair amount of travel, and put the G9 into service yet longer. I’ve written about this camera before, (here, here, and here,) and it has served me well over the years. It has, however, grown a bit long in the tooth. For one, it has had a flaw inside the zoom lens for well over a year, acquired who knows how. The back screen, long scratched, has developed a serious crack, compromising the camera’s water resistance. The G9 can soldier on, and in most images the lens flaw cannot be noticed, but I knew that it was nearing time to replace the camera.
Now, it has been. Behold the Fuji XF-1:
Mine — the brown trim one as in the middle of the above image — is now set to be my next primary digital camera.
With time I will have more comments — possibly a review as I did with the G9, and a bit more of why I use a small upper-end point-and-shoot for my digital work — but for now, it’s onward with 2013.