View From the Haerter Bridge: Panasonic Wide Converter (DMW-GWC1)

Here’s a photograph captured with my new Panasonic Wide Converter…a Micro 4/3 camera accessory which is also known as the DMW-GWC1. If you ask me, better names must certainly exist.

As I’ve explained in other posts, the converter attaches to the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 and presto—you have an 11mm lens. This is equipment for those who occupy a very specific niche: The Micro 4/3 completist, or at least anyone in possession of the 14mm Panasonic lens who’s curious about a wider field of view (and doesn’t want to fork up the $600-plus for the comparable Olympus lens).

The picture was captured as a RAW file (handheld, and using a Panasonic GF2). The RAW was converted to JPEG in order to publish it here at my site. No color adjustments were made, and the file hasn’t been sharpened. A slight reduction in contrast was employed in order to make the image more internet-friendly. (Keep in mind–you really should be checking out at these photographs on a MAC monitor anyway if you want them to be spot-on, a point which is especially relevant when it comes to highlight detail.)

If you’re wondering, the gradation from the upper left to the upper right in this photograph is entirely natural (the sun was shining a few degrees starboard). Happily the files from converter photos show only a slight (but acceptable) amount of vignetting. If you’re horrified by any vignetting, the post-processing fix will cost you all of four seconds. Barrel distortion is present, but can be likewise dealt with in Photoshop. If you’re not shooting architectural subjects it may not matter anyway. Overall, the optics of the converter seem  comparable to the 14mm lens it attaches to.

The location of the picture:  Sag Harbor, USA…on the eastern end of fish-shaped Long Island where our wild roses are now blooming.

Several more of my converter photographs along with additional comments may be found at the following links:

https://johntodaro.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/swan-at-havens-beach-panasonic-wide-converter-dmw-gwc1/

https://johntodaro.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/sag-harbor-photography-wall-and-flowers-shooting-with-the-dmw-gwc1/

My friend Peter (at .documenting.the.obvious) has  published a more thorough review of the DMW GWC1, (especially as regards vignetting, barrel distortion and corner sharpness). Visit his post at the link below but please take some time to enjoy his many unusual photographs:

http://dothob.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/into-the-great-wide-open/

Another Hoodoo…Montauk

I rarely make these statements, but I’d have to say that this picture is my favorite of all my own hoodoo images, east, west or anywhere in between. I do concede that it’s a gloomy scene, but for me it evokes the place, and I can smell the tide and the crumbling earth and the oozing out of spring.

They don’t call them hoodoos for nothing.

Have you ever been at Shadmoor and asked yourself, “How did they get here?” These formations (unlike their more famous cousins in places like Bryce Canyon) are not comprised of eroded sedimentary rock.  What we have here is a mish-mash (my wife’s words) of sand, clay and gravel–also known as glacial till. Long Island itself is pretty much nothing more than a sandbar full of such debris left by retreating glaciers.

The formation of hoodoos here in Shadmoor occurs when water percolates down and begins to move horizontally in the ground. There it pushes out the softer deposits, which kicks off a process of slumping and erosion creating hoodoos out of the remaining harder sediments.  In spring, if you hike down in front of the bluffs on the beach, you’ll often find water leaching out of the clay. In some spots, it forms rivulets which flow onto the sand below. The ocean takes care of the finishing touches with its own brand of erosion, chomping off huge vertical sections after storms.

Montauk Images – Hoodoos In Winter

Anyone who has visited National Parks in Utah (or who has read anything by Edward Abbey) invariably comes away with a fondness for the term “hoodoo”. In the west, a hoodoo is a name for eroded sandstone and limestone formations, especially the ones that conjure up ghastly shapes, anthropomorphic or otherwise. The term is an alternate take on the word voodoo and probably originated in Africa. You can see plenty of hoodoos in Goblin Valley State Park (in central Utah) or in Bryce Canyon.

But the west doesn’t own them all.

Similar spires may be seen in Shadmoor State Park in Montauk, where eroded bluffs create a fantastically ragged coastline. Much like their western cousins, Montauk’s formations continue to erode and reshape themselves (and are arguably just as spectacular).

This photograph was taken a few years back on an obstreperous winter’s day when a storm was clearing out. For about a half hour, I was present for a very interesting display of light which included the occasional sunbeam slanting down to the ocean. The picture was shot on negative film with my Hasselblad.

Montauk – Ocean (and Bluffs) At Shadmoor

Shadmoor State Park preserves a half mile of oceanfront in Montauk along with 99 acres of parkland up on top, and is home to a variety of rare plant and animal species and unusual wetland habitats. Sand Plain Gerardia is present here along with thick stands of Black Cherry and Shadbush, the small tree which gives the park its name.


Shadmoor has historic significance because it’s also the location of Camp Wikoff, where Theodore Roosevelt and his troops were quarantined after the Spanish American War.  Additionally, there are two observation bunkers in Shadmoor which date to WW II and which were part of our coastal defenses.

I’ve photographed Shadmoor at various times and seasons. This image is from down on the beach in front of the bluffs facing Ditch Plain. A half mile walk will get you up-close and personal with the famous Montauk hoodoos, which is the local name for the eroded bluffs of the park.

Not Just For Portraits…the Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm f1.8

In December, as I’ve mentioned, I picked up a lens for my Panasonic Micro 4/3 outfit – the Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm, a lens of such beguiling compactness, it could snuggle up next to a golfball. But more to the point, it’s the very satisfying speed (f 1.8) which has been making most of the news.

By designing it both small and fast, they’ve escorted handheld telephoto imaging into a new dimension. Interestingly, the M. Zuiko suggests a miniature version of my much-used 90mm Sonnar (for my Contax G2)–a Zeiss telephoto that was another good performer when used without a tripod.

Much has been written about the lens’ ability to deliver a creamy soft focus when used wide open (aka bokeh). As you might know, this is an old technique which is quite the rage at the moment. And it is true–with this lens, a very shallow depth of field is possible, to an extent not previously achievable with point-and-shoot.  If you’re into bokeh, this lens is your huckleberry.

Needless to say I’m generally not using it for portraits (nor for shallow depth of field). The picture above demonstrates how an effective handheld picture is possible in low light outside. My camera was set at ISO 400, at a moderate f 9 aperture, with a shutter speed of 1/400. Because I was only ten feet from my subject, the depth of field achieved here (with a handheld camera) is quite impressive throughout the image.  Plus, because this lens is so fast, the image was recorded in the very sweet central area of the glass. (Using a zoom I would’ve been shooting much closer to wide open, and would’ve also required a tripod which would’ve made this particular image nearly impossible to take.)

To me, getting handheld images like this is a testimony to the compactness of this lens, and the beauty of the Micro 4/3 system.  The 45 f 1.8 is capable of delivering stunning bokeh wide open, moderate bokeh when used around f 5.6 (something which I often employ when shooting in fog), and superb depth of field at the higher f stops (which, in truth, is even greater than a comparable 35mm lens because the lens construction for Micro 4/3 is so much smaller).  In these terms, the Olympus 45mm f1.8 is extraordinarily versatile and one of the most usable telephotos ever made.

The lilliputian character of this lens relates directly to the Micro 4/3 sensor. It should be interesting to see if the (significantly larger) Sony NEX 7 system will have a comparable fully automatic prime telephoto available in the next year. I doubt it, but even if one comes along, it’s likely to be larger. For landscapes I much prefer a fast telephoto that’s usable without a tripod. I’m not ditching my Panasonics, and I suspect there’s an argument to make for using both formats.

BTW–This is how I’m currently working with my 4/3 primes:

I pack the Panasonic G 3 and the GF 2 into a small Tenba bag. The weight of both cameras (and all three prime lenses) is less than my old Hasselblad 180mm. That’s a lot of lightweight equipment using very little space. I keep the 14mm Panasonic on my G 3 and the 45mm Olympus on my GF 2. Since my GF 2 is silver, the lens is quite bewitching when paired this body.

The odd man out is my equally speedy 20mm f 1.7 which I can quickly install onto either body when needed. Having two bodies affixed with prime lenses makes it very easy to switch horses in the middle of a shoot. Advice: if you already have a GF body and are considering the G 3 (or GX 1)–keep your original camera. With prime lenses in your bag, having more than one body makes a lot of sense.

Here’s some specs on the lens from the Olympus press release:

http://www.olympus-global.com/en/news/2011a/nr110630zuiko45e.html

Winter Beaches – Square Format Images

The four square format ocean landscapes were shot on negatives with the Hasselblad 903 SWC – a fixed wide angle camera with a 38mm Biogon lens. To this day, the 903 is totally without peer in terms of its compactness and the ability to deliver a ruthlessly precise and highly accurate wide-angle image. Click on the thumbnails to see an enlarged picture:

Taking Photographs: Getting Psyched For Winter Beaches

It’s 16 degrees this morning, and if that doesn’t feel cold enough, we’ve got 30mph gusts–winds that will be coming down on us out of the northwest like they finally mean business.

This is weather, in other words, which is sure to wake us up.

That being said, the sun is shining with an icy radiance, much like those January mornings back when we were kids. When I was in Sag Harbor earlier today, I re-discovered the satisfaction of stepping into a warm building. Bank, post office, or five-and-dime–we become more of a community when it’s freezing out. I say: bring it on. To hell with warm weather. The absurdly balmy climate we’ve been “blessed” with lately here in the middle latitudes has actually been depressing (my opinion). This is the argument:  The earth has a bit of a fever. Shouldn’t we be rooting for the planet? Shouldn’t we be wishing for it to be cold out when it’s supposed to be?

Winter is my favorite time to photograph beaches, but I’ll need to clarify that. In truth, I’ve taken pictures on days that are cold enough in November to feel like winter. Ditto for March and April, (months that have sent me home with popsicle fingers on more than one occasion).

Many of you live far enough south to never see snow on a beach. Others are trapped in ocean-deprived deserts or in situations where taking yourself to a frigid beach comes with very little appeal. I admit that it’s not easy to be out there taking pictures in a salt-soaked wind that’s cutting into your bones like a sushi knife.

But there’s tantalizing things going on–especially for photographers.

After a heavy snowfall, the slush that forms on the beach is beyond compare. A high tide can tease a beach full of snow into a distinctive foamy pulp. After getting gnawed at by the tides, it often refreezes. It can be crunchy (like walking on styrofoam)–or a whipped frozen froth speckled with sand and seaweed. It’s hard to tell what you’re walking on exactly. I once bought a set of “tripod snowshoes” which I’ve yet to try out, but I’m not sure if they’d work in the variable states of beach slush.

Up on the dunes, winter can come with ravishing views. It’s possible to find beachgrass encased in the ice of sea-spray (see my other post today). This is beautiful stuff–something rarely glimpsed. Several winters I’ve encountered large blocks of ice that dot the sand as far as you can see. In my rangering days on Fire Island I once rode on horseback into such a landscape. It was surreal–a blue and white polka dot beach with no one in sight in any direction. My horse trotted between the ice blocks while I took the pictures. Somewhere I have a photograph I took that day.

The beach in winter can be rewarding. My advice: dress warm, wear high boots (or snowshoes), and find some gloves that will permit you to use a digital camera. Keep in mind that microscopic buttons and dials are difficult to operate with fingers full of congealed blood. Beyond that, avoid changing lenses. Avoid using tripods without rubber grips. Make sure your camera batteries work in low temperatures. At all times, remember that you’re heading out into the absolute worse conditions for optics–salt, sand, dampness, ice and all the rest of it. Clean your camera when you get home…and whatever you do don’t drop it!

Footnote: I’ve included the picture up above in my Beach Days gallery. I admit that it was taken under conditions that almost no one would associate with a “beach” day.  Anyone I would have encountered out there would’ve been fully clothed and their umbrellas would’ve only come in dark colors. In other words, there were no stripes anywhere and no lotions.

I’m suggesting we expand the common view: some days should be considered beach days for reasons other than the ordinary ones. Indeed, maybe every day is a beach day of sorts.

Ask a duck– it’s not always about getting a tan.

Main Beach, Photographed From The Jetty

Here’s an early morning look at breaking surf just east of Main Beach. I took this photograph about three weeks ago, positioned up on the jetty with my back to the sunrise. It’s maybe not apparent from the photograph but since I was standing on the jetty, the camera is actually about eight feet above the surf.  Just to my left were the small flock of Purple Sandpipers who are regular visitors to these rocks (and who were eyeing me with more interest than the waves). They’re not common birds. If you’re down at Main Beach bring binoculars because they’re often found lurking around at the end of the jetty.

There’s no snow in the picture, but it does speak the language of winter. The steep scarp on Long Island’s ocean beaches is common during these months because of changes in current. This time of the year the ocean tends to scoop sand away (rather than deposit it),  later throwing it back in time for summer. In the picture,  a scarp is beginning to form on the beach to the right. The direct sunlight slanting across the water at daybreak is also a winter phenomenon.

For the next few months, it’s not uncommon to find scarps with four foot sheer drops caused by the erosive effects of a high tide. If you’re so inclined, it’s fun to play with a frisbee along the edges of these because you can practice diving catches.  Dogs and children welcome.

John Todaro Photography – Studio Appointments Winter/Spring 2011-2012

My studio in East Hampton is open for appointments anytime from now until May. I’ll be displaying new work that I’ve been posting here recently, along with existing editions. Photographs are available in a variety of sizes either framed or unframed.  (My frames are white wood). If you’re interested in purchasing prints, picking up gifts or checking out the inventory, send me an email at the “contact” link at the top of the page.  For those situated beyond the Hudson River my work can be shipped. Email me through the contact link for details.

Incidentally, Napeague Lane (where this photograph was taken) is a wise choice if you’re looking for a beach in Amagansett that’s  off the beaten path. This time of the year it’s a good place to bring a spotting scope and watch Gannets. A short walk to the east will take you into Napeague State Park and its 1300 acres of undeveloped oceanfront. In mid winter, I’ve found Harp Seals here snoozing on the beach and soaking up the warmth of the January sun. Even in the summer these are beaches with lower visitation.  The walk from Napeague Lane to the White Sands parking area and back is about six miles on the ocean and is one of the most secluded walks of this type on eastern Long Island.

Fish Traps – Long Beach, Sag Harbor

My 100th post. Thanks to all who have stopped by!

This photograph is of a group of trap stakes forming the leader for what has been called a “fish trap” here on eastern Long Island for as long as anyone can remember. The picture in my previous post will give you an idea what the complete trap looks like from the water.  My friend Brad Loewen, (a lifetime commercial fisherman in Springs) told me recently that the more proper name is pound traps — a term rarely used here unless it’s in an “official” conversation.

It was only after talking to Brad, that I gained an appreciation for the amount of work that’s involved in preparing these stakes. For years, fisherman have been harvesting young oaks and hickories and shaping them into twelve foot poles, shaving each to a pointed end. The final step in the process involves pumping them into the mud of shallow bays…a tiring job done from a boat (which sends the fisherman home with a ravenous appetite!)

Sometimes when hiking along the bay I’ve stumbled upon groups of freshly honed trap stakes lying above the tideline. The poles are ready to go, complete with rigging.  In a day or so, the fisherman will return to drag his stakes offshore to be installed in a fish trap. I’ve often noted how these poles (with their bluntly sharpened tips) seem to closely resemble the small trees felled by beavers.

Fishermen like Brad are maintaining an age-old occupation which has been carried on here since before the arrival of Europeans.

Incidentally, Brad’s wife Cyndi is an outstanding  watercolorist and stipple artist and we’ll be doing a show together at Ashawagh Hall on the weekend of February 18, 19 and 20 next year. More on that later…

Fish Traps – Northwest Creek East Hampton (photographed with the Contax G2)

The Contax G 2 is one my film cameras. Please note the use of the present tense in that sentence. You can’t buy a new G2 anymore, but mine is far from retired and I’ve still got the stuff in my refrigerator (film, that is).

The Contax G2 was one of the last great cameras from the film years because it was a petite rangefinder with an impressive array of fast Zeiss lenses (21mm, 28mm, 50mm and 90mm). I never owned the 21mm which required a separate clip on viewfinder, but I still own the other three – a trio made with the finest optical glass and costing only a fraction of what they used to charge for the nearly identical lenses made for Leica. This picture was taken with the 28mm. You can still find lenses for the G2 but it will call for foraging around on Ebay.

Interestingly, my G2 lenses can be also mounted and used manually on my digital Panasonic Lumix G3, an option which I’ve not yet explored. To tell you the truth, I’m a little hesitant. Putting these lenses on a micro four thirds body means having to purchase an adaptor in order to install a titanium lens on a plastic camera. You end up with a cute little camera with really heavy boots.

My advice for anyone with these lenses is to go find some film. They still make it.

Five  years ago I was taking my G2 onboard my sea kayak in all sorts of strange conditions. The day I took this picture I’d paddled over to Shelter Island from near Alewife Brook in East Hampton. When I got back home the sun was going down and I carefully removed my camera from its dry sack and waded out to chest-deep water.  The G2 was one of the most ergonomic cameras made for hand-holding a picture.

More on fish traps in my next post…

November Light – Sagg Main Beach

This recent scene from Sagg Main demonstrates the sun’s current position relative to the beach at sunrise. It shines directly down the beach and sets the place ablaze. You won’t see that here in summer. Another interesting thing about the picture is the graceful pattern formed by the tire tracks – something which I’m usually trying to avoid!

 The picture was photographed with the Panasonic Lumix Gf2.

Sagg Main Beach – Photograph At Sunrise

In Sagaponack yesterday morning there was a conspicuous blanket of frost on the farm fields despite the presence of an offshore mist. The haze around the ocean these days is due to warmer water temperatures that have yet to catch up to the air. In a way, those conditions make this a November-specific picture.

btw… the photograph was taken with my Panasonic Lumix GF2 and a 14mm lens.

Sag Harbor Bay Sunrise

On Monday morning, I photographed the sunrise from the Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter Bridge. Even without a camera, the bridge is a good place to watch the morning begin.  Our most recent sunrises have been subtle events – clear, with only a smattering of clouds. That can be good especially for a more minimalist approach to the seascape.

Sunrise on Sunset Beach

Don’t let the name fool you.

Sunset Beach Road (in North Haven) can also be a good place to contemplate the sunrise.  If you’re on the beach here at dawn in November you’ll have the opportunity to observe the peninsula of Jessup’s Neck as it becomes illuminated in the first rays of morning sun. Jessup’s Neck is completely within the boundary of Morton National Wildlife Refuge and separates Noyack Bay from Little Peconic Bay.

Dawn Sky With Cormorants – Sammy’s Beach toward Hedges Banks

This was recorded on a recent morning from the East Hampton side of Gardiner’s Bay at Sammy’s Beach.  From this spot there are expansive views in all directions and it’s possible to walk north to the Cedar Point Lighthouse, a distance of three miles. The flock of birds entering the scene from the right hand side of the image are Double Crested Cormorants and so I’ve appropriately entitled the piece Cormorants.

Southampton Photographs – Meadow Lane Boathouse

A morning kayak trip across Shinnecock Bay yielded several photographs of the historic Meadow Lane boathouse. Although this structure rises from the marshy flats of Eastern Long Island, much about it reminds me of similar abandoned buildings from the high plains – both from an historical context and also because of its sequestered setting. For Southampton, the boathouse is a footnote to a local history which is all but gone. It stands (at least for now) as a monument to former times. Approaching it from the bay by kayak is a good way to get a feel for this place – a building far more connected to the sea than the land.

Other photographs of abandoned structures from the west and elsewhere may be seen by clicking on this link:

https://johntodaro.wordpress.com/category/viewpoints/solitary-structures/

Here’s a link to another photograph from Shinnecock Bay on the same kayak outing:

https://johntodaro.wordpress.com/2010/05/13/southampton-photographs-great-egrets-and-duck-blind-shinnecock-bay/

Napeague Harbor Sequence – Petite Landscapes

This is is a sequence of four images from various points around the perimeter of Napeague Harbor.  There’s a number of ways to group these, but in this instance I’ve arranged them vertically to convey something of what you might find at your feet during a walk on the beach.  I like to think of these images as petite landscapes – photographs close to the observer, with most of the elements of the larger picture. Clicking on them will produce an enlargement.

For other sequences from Amagansett and elsewhere go to this link:

Roaming the Remote Beach: Sapelo Island, Georgia

These photographs were taken at the edge of a maritime forest which had been overtaken by encroaching dunes. I photographed these fallen branches in the first rays of sunlight on the Atlantic shore of Sapelo Island near the inlet separating it from Blackbeard Island.

Sapelo is a gem – one of the last outposts of Gullah culture in the United States. Its only access is by boat, and 98% of the island is protected. Tours are conducted by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources several times a week and lodging (and tours) may also be arranged with the residents of the community of Hog Hammock. Visitors to Sapelo must be part of an organized tour, or registered guests of residents. There’s a passenger ferry that operates from a Visitor Center in McIntosh County.

Sapelo is one of the lesser known Georgia Sea Islands, a bit north of Cumberland. A couple of years ago we vacationed there for three days and it’s still one of the best places I know for solitary beaches. It’s also an outstanding destination for those who would rather not have  to deal with a car. Bicycles are the preferred means of transportation. There are a number of possible routes on the island along it’s network of mostly unpaved roads. On the south end, there’s a lighthouse, and the Reynolds Mansion which is the location of the University of Georgia Marine Institute. Sapelo is a stunningly quiet place noted for its  pine forests, live oak and saw palmetto. More importantly, it’s an island with extraordinarily deep roots in African American history. There’s not many places like this left.

For more information about Sapelo you can visit the website of our host and lifelong resident, Cornelia Walker Bailey. I highly recommend her book:

http://www.gacoast.com/geecheetalk.html

Another good site:

http://www.sapeloislandbirdhouses.com/index.html

The images were photographed with a Contax G2 and a 28mm lens.

Amagansett Beach Photographs

These photographs work nicely as a pair on several counts. Each is a square having been shot with the Hasselblad 903 SWC. They’re each pictures I took late in the day using negative film, and each composition is a pattern largely defined by a dune fence or walkway.

Two beaches along the Amagansett cceanfront are represented:

Hither Hills and Indian Wells

More photographs of East End beaches may be seen by clicking on this link:

https://johntodaro.wordpress.com/category/viewpoints/beach-days/

If you’re in East Hampton and are interested in seeing my photographs or purchasing prints, send an email any time to set up a studio appointment, or to inquire about upcoming shows:

johntodaro1@verizon.net

 

 

 

Shipwreck, Two Mile Hollow Beach

In Sag Harbor, you may have noticed the weathered wooden ship stern which decorated the grounds in front of the Bay Street Theater for a number of years. Before ending up there, it spent most of the last century submerged near Two Mile Hollow Beach between East Hampton and Amagansett where it was said to be visible during times of exceptionally low tides. When it washed ashore on a cold afternoon fifteen years ago, I drove to the beach and joined a crowd of hushed-voiced locals who had already converged on the scene. We huddled around the boat in the last hour of daylight.  It seems that whenever the ocean coughs up a ship or a whale they  arrive with equal measures of sadness and curiosity. Except for the words on the transom indicating a home port of New Bedford, no one could say much about the vessel. As the sun went down I took some photographs. The remains of the boat sat on the beach glowing – a gilted wooden crescent.  I returned the next afternoon hoping to see it again but it was already gone.

Wainscott Photographs: Killcare and the Pebble

Killcare

The view of the ocean from Wainscott and the west end of Georgica is dominated by the iconic home known locally as Killcare. Whether seen up close or from a quarter mile down the beach, it catches the eye and stirs the imagination the way few buildings ever do.  I’ve been watching it for twenty years, in every manner of light – holding its own on the dunes amidst the awesome flux of landscape. I feel lucky to have glimpsed a small part of a creative project that’s lasted for over a century.

On a certain level, the subject of this picture is impermanence because I can’t help but notice that the structure’s isolation within the landscape is made more beautiful by that fact. The picture is also about the curiosity of brushing against it with your own mutable presence. In a sense I was taking a cue from the house – interfacing with the landscape to see if there was any poetry in it.  I’ve sometimes walked my own shadow into a picture and felt the chilly effects of an unannounced visitor. On other occasions I’ve left my footprints where others had left theirs and then faced the empty beach to release the shutter.

This time it was a pebble – the one that got tossed into the temporary trough of flatwater that forms on the beach in between breaking waves.  I’ve been tossing pebbles into spots like these for as long as I can remember.  As always the event began with radiating concentric circles. There was time for a single exposure. The ripples subsided and the water itself began the process of evaporation. This was a scene in no mind to stay in one place. In ten minutes nothing remained  but swash marks. The piece is entitled Killcare –  a landscape and a self portrait.

Montauk Photographs – Shadmoor


The camera at this location was one with a sweeping view of the Atlantic,  a logical segueway from the photograph in the previous post from Bandon, Oregon. This time I was visiting Shadmoor State Park in Montauk,  New York.  Again, the weapon of choice – the Hasselblad 903 SWC. By way of comparison, the Montauk photo was made on positive film (or transparency), and the picture from the West Coast was a negative. Same camera, different coast and different film.

If you are still intrigued by putting a roll of film in your camera, the two pictures provide a good opportunity to study the differences between negatives and transparencies. Whereas the Bandon picture has a decidedly warmer pallet, the Montauk scene is one of cool tones and snappier contrast. The smoothness of the Bandon picture is answered by Montauk’s abundant detail. Two different looks – both of which can translate agreeably into digital files (assuming you still have the patience for scanning). To some of us, there is nothing like the delicious clumpy grain of silver halide.

In the decade that’s passed since I took this picture, the 99 acres of Shadmoor have  been declared a State Park and its cliffs have become dangerously eroded. These days a fence keeps visitors away from the edge in an effort to protect the habitat and prevent injuries. The park is unique for many reasons, not the least of which are its wetlands, its thick stands of Shadbush, and the historic bunkers that have been fronting the Atlantic Ocean since WW II.

To see other photographs taken with the Hasselblad 903 SWC click on this link:

https://johntodaro.wordpress.com/category/viewpoints/square-format-hasselblad/

Bandon, Oregon – Hasselblad 903 SWC

This photograph was taken fifteen years ago, looking west from the left-coast  at an ocean I’ve rarely photographed. It was November and I was high on a bluff  in Bandon Oregon – an unpretentious town at the end of a dusty road with a surprisingly epic view of the Pacific. Something about this place reminded me of off-season Montauk and  similar towns – timeless places putting on their winter clothes – communities that can be counted on not to change for the worse.

Admittedly the view of the ocean here was more like Montauk on steroids – scenery on a truly grand scale. Appropriately, I chose my Hasselblad 903 SWC – a medium format camera that came fixed with what quite possibly was the finest wide angle lens ever made – the 38mm f4.5 Biogon. This was a camera unburdened with bells and whistles and redundant gadgetry. With it’s detachable viewfinder and ability to accept a ground glass back, the 903 has reigned for years as the ultimate choice for wide angle devotees.  Perhaps for this reason, the camera has earned it’s nickname “Superwide” although the number of people familiar with it on that basis is sadly dwindling. In the previous century when Hasselblads were in vogue both here and on the moon, the Superwide had a much deserved reputation for pinpoint accuracy and corner-to-corner sharpness. But now, due to the lack of a digital back, it sadly falls out of fashion with those of us producing millions of pixels. Perhaps its moon is waning.

My friend Jonathan who studies these things tells me that the 903  was first produced in Sweden in 1954 which also happens to be the same year I was manufactured. An early prototype was unceremoniously shipped to our shores around the time Charlie Parker was making his final recordings. With only minor modifications it has remained unchanged ever since. You can still buy it, or you can buy an older one and put a brand new back on it which will attach with no problem. That was the point.  It was produced when things were still bench-made by guys who assembled things with a panache for precision. It was put together with sturdy parts and close attention to details. The damn thing worked. It felt good in your hands. When you put it back in it’s case and took it out the following spring, it didn’t need any improvements. Once you bought this camera there was no need to upgrade your operating system.

And so I am not yet ready for it’s elegy. Digital imaging is here for good and I’m not inclined toward orthodoxy whether it’s on one side of this argument or the other. I can live with the complexities of being a hybrid and will happily scan my film.

To see other photographs taken with the Hasselblad 903 SWC click on this link:

https://johntodaro.wordpress.com/category/viewpoints/square-format/

For a commentary about the use of the detachable rangefinder and  ground glass back on the 903, go to this link:

https://johntodaro.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/hasselblad-903swc-rambling-thoughts/

East Hampton Photographs-Main Beach (Square Format)

This image was taken with my Hasselblad 903 SWC one winter morning during the opening blast of daylight – a moment when everything ignites into a harmony of striking colors. I was much in the mood for photography especially with the addition of all those footprints and not a single person in sight. On this occasion and on many others,  framing the scene in a square made it sing with the sweetest voice.

Squares are uncommon and if you chose to put your landscape into one,  you can congratulate yourself on an unconventional choice. In these days of digital capture, the square is becoming downright eccentric.

Having no bias for up or down and not being partial to across, square compositions can also be what you might call pleasantly ambiguous. If you’ve been frustrated by horizontality – try throwing a square around your scene and you might be onto something. The photographer David Plowden did this to the seriously horizontal high plains of the American west back in the 70’s and made extraordinary use of squares.

Many landscapes, to be sure, will never work as squares. But setting landscapes to default horizontals shows little imagination.  Squares can create a surprising twist on a feeling. They can bring mystery through the door and take the mundane out to the trash. Squares can say something new rather than old, and can sometimes speak volumes when there’s otherwise nothing to say.

To see other photographs taken with the Hasselbad 903 SWC, go to the Location and Topic menu on the sidebar on the right and click on Square Format-Hasselblad. You’ll find additional commentaries about the camera at several of those posts.

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Southampton Photographs – Great Egrets and Duck Blind, Shinnecock Bay

A worthwhile excursion by sea kayak (assuming the winds are cooperating) takes you from the landing east of the Shinnecock Canal over to the marshy area which backs up to Meadow Lane in Southampton. The bay is shallow, easy to cross and is a place that’s full of expectations for rare birds.

Early on the morning I took this picture, getting over to the beach was no issue. The sky had intriguing color and there was a captivating chill in the air. Once in the marshes, I spent some time floating about in the vicinity of the old boathouse. I was occupied by short paddle strokes and subsequent long glides over mud banks which were pleasantly stuffed with mussels. It’s the quiet in places like this that appeals the most– and I was trying to keep it that way because I had a hunch that something interesting lay ahead.  I’d packed my camera in a dry bag just in case and the bag was stuffed under my spray skirt.

Just west of the boathouse I suddenly came upon two Great Egrets sunning on top of a duck blind. These birds are by no means rare in Southampton, but good photographs of them are– especially if the photographer is nervous about keeping his camera dry and isn’t looking for reasons to capsize his boat. They watched with suspicious eyes.

With a bit of luck, I managed to locate my camera, change a lens, brace myself with a paddle float, and capture an image just as the birds flew off.

Sequence Photographs – Seaweed and Sand, Amagansett

I’ve been working on a project which involves grouping compatible images into sequences.  This began a few years ago with a series I called “Dune Studies” –seen here:

https://johntodaro.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/amagansetteast-hampton-dune-image-sequence/

Last summer while on vacation in Utah, the idea gained momentum.  We were taking hikes each day, often following streams in canyons. On these walks, I was photographing water reflections, rocks and lichens- all subjects that were easily found a few feet away.

At home, I began sorting through these pictures along with others shot on local beaches during similar walks. I found that if you assemble a group of three or four images in a vertical line, the results can suggest the movement of both time and space experienced during a walk.

Over the last few months I’ve put together 8 sequences of either three or four pictures each. I made two groups from last summer’s Utah trip- one of lichens and another of creeks. All the rest of the photographs were taken on beaches in East Hampton and Amagansett. In addition to those, I created a series of photographs made on various segments of the Paumanok Path (a 125 mile trail that winds across eastern Long Island). Two of my beach sequences (including the one on this page) are from Napeague Harbor at low tide. This harbor, especially in the vicinity of the Walking Dunes, has striking color and texture:

All of these sequences share characteristics—For one thing, they’re made up of individual photographs of what one might expect to encounter when hiking in a quiet place.  But with these pictures I don’t want to convey the larger landscape. This isn’t about distant horizons or dramatic skies. What matters here are the textures and colors of “local” things – subjects found while walking, often no more than ten feet away.

That’s the stepping-off point. Sequencing begins another process.

To do this, it seems to help if you view your project much as a painter might. You dab, so to speak, and you try things out. You play with line and texture. You move things around until it all starts to work.

If you pay attention to your groups you soon have something new. You’ve created a sequence of photographs that is asking to be viewed as a single unit. Its lines, colors, textures are now an integrated whole.

At times, the impressions generated from these sequences can be both refreshing and complex.

More sequences from the beach (and elsewhere) can be seen by clicking here:

https://johntodaro.wordpress.com/category/viewpoints/sequences-and-grouped-images/

Sea Kayaking and Photographing Eastern Long Island

I’ve always lived a couple of miles from the sea, but for most of those years, my gaze was the only part of me that travelled to it. My view visited the water but my feet remained in the sand. Tides and swells were observed with fascination but rarely experienced with the pleasure that one can only feel from a boat.

My earliest years in New York City were a stone’s throw from crowded Brooklyn beaches, but by the time I was five, I’d already been transplanted to the west coast of Florida.  There, my father would drive us in the family station wagon to the Gulf of Mexico where I learned to swim and hunted for Coquina shells.  Years later I spent my teen-aged summers at a place called Crab Meadow- a leeward beach found between tall bluffs in Northport NY where the Connecticut coastline glimmered in the heat and the waters of Long Island Sound provided an excellent place to cool off.

In my twenties I lived for two years on Fire Island employed as a ranger for the National Park Service. In midwinter I’d walk the steep-scarped ocean beach savoring it’s desolation. In spring, I saddled up a government horse named Bandit, and we patrolled together in the shadow of the lighthouse. Nearby, the dunes were crowded with budding beach peas and blooming roses.

In the 1980’s I moved to East Hampton on eastern Long Island where sandy ocean hikes became rocky ocean hikes near Montauk. My wife and I walked these places hundreds of times and later we walked them with my son.

It wasn’t until ten years ago that I finally left the land behind. In the spring of 2000 I purchased a 17 foot sea kayak – a British-made boat named for Capella, the vivid star in the east on winter evenings in this part of the world. My father had just died and I needed a change.

The swells, rips and breakers which I’d been merely looking at for decades were now open for exploration. In the subsequent years, my boat has taken on the distinct look of well-worn fiberglass that has seen serious use.

She has taken me offshore to nearly every place you can get to from where I live, and I’ve often found myself in places that rival anywhere I’ve ever been for solitude. This fast yellow boat also took me to an unending array of new places to photograph.

Among these is the 2000 acre Nature Conservancy Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island. A paddle over to it from Northwest Harbor is generally conducted with no one but gulls along for company and is within view of several thousand additional acres of preserved land in East Hampton. I’ve made many trips along Mashomack’s ten miles of undeveloped shoreline and also many photographs. It is one of the quietest places I know.

The Algonquin word Mashomack means “where they go by water” a place name (which for obvious reasons) is at the top of my list of favorites.