McMullan - Fine Art Photographer

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How I See the World Around Me
Click on Each Photo to See the Larger Image

Photography is all about composition and exposure. Photography allows me to express how I see the world around me. You and I may both look at the same object but both look at it differently and both end up with completely different emotional experiences. There is no right or wrong in how we see things.

With the advent of digital imaging, almost anyone can take satisfactory images with a digital camera. When you snap the shutter on your camera or on your phone, you have an immediate image. If it isn't what you wanted, you take another. I learned photography when it was much different than that. We had to understand what kind of film we needed for a job, then we had to understand explicitly how to expose that film properly. After that, we either had to mail it off to be developed or we had to develop it ourselves. Many people tinkered with black & white photography but most didn't have the proper darkroom and equipment setup to be able to process color film and color prints. Although more people experimented with black & white photography, it is actually more difficult to do properly than color is.

Ansel Adams, the genius that he was, exposed the secrets of how to properly expose a photographic negative and how to make the perfect (if there is one) print. His Zone System changed the way serious large format photographic artists approached "making" a photograph. When I acquired my first 4x5 view camera in 1992, my love for photography grew deeper than it had ever been, even after owning a photography business for a number of years.

Another aspect about photography that truly intriuges me is the historical value it embodies. Once you take a photograph and walk away, that same image can never be duplicated. You may get close but there will be a difference. It may be composition, lighting or even the age of the subject in your photograph. There are many things I have photographed over the years that no longer exist. The only way those things can be remembered is in one's mind or in some kind of media such as a photograph, film or a painting.

While most of the world utilizes digital cameras, there are still those of us who enjoy using film cameras. Don't get me wrong, I do use a digital camera for many things but I still enjoy getting the view camera out and "making" some photographs. When I use a digital camera, I see what I want to photograph, I check my composition to make sure it is pleasing to the eye, I make sure my exposure is set correctly or just let the camera do it itself and then I snap the photo. When I photograph with a view camera, it is a much more complex process. When I find my subject, I visualize how I want the end photograph to look, especially when I am photographing in black & white.

Click on the photograph to join me on my Photo Trip to McIntosh, Florida where my wife and I were joined by Albert Price and his lovely wife Linda Jo for a great day of photography. I will be adding photographs from my Photo Trips in the future.
The process goes from there to setting my heavy duty tripod up exactly level. Then the view camera is manipulated in one or more of several positions to control perspective or to manipulate the subject.

A dark cloth is then wrapped around the back of the camera and I peek my head inside, viewing my subject upside down and reversed from side to side. I then go through a series of steps to focus the image from the lens on the ground glass on the back of the camera. Using a magnifying loupe, I make sure the image is completely focused across the ground glass. That is just the beginning.Then I take my 10° handheld spot meter and take different readings from across the scene determining how many "zones" of exposure are in the scene. I must then determine what shutter speed and aperture setting the scene requires to get the photograph I visualized at the beginning of all of this. Once I've done all of this, I lock the camera down and I slide a film holder into the back of the camera. When I am ready to press the shutter release, I make sure my camera's shutter speed and apertuare are correct, I cock the shutter, then I remove the dark slide from the film holder and finally, press the button on the shutter release cord. The taking of the photograph is almost anticlimactic in the scheme of the whole process but the process has just begun.

After I take the photograph, I slide the dark slide back into the film holder. Then I make a record of the exposure I've just made. Depending upon the zones of exposure in a scene, the development of the film requires different processing times. I'll mix up a batch of new chemicals to develop the negatives and go through that process. I no longer develop my negatives with an enlarger. I combine analog and digital to make my prints these days. Each negative, after it is carefully processed and dried, is scanned into a digital image. From there, cropping, further developing and processing with Photoshop can take place.

As I take more of these Photo Trips, I will post images of the photographs I make. Hopefully, you will enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoy making them!

Jay McMullan
30 Dec 2019

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