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Click for larger image

In our workshop after learning how to coat evenly, applying the emulsion to 5mil (thousandths of an inch), we ended up with some extra emulsion.  It appeared that there was not enough to properly coat a piece of paper, so with gloves on I poured this remainder onto a sheet of Strathmore Bristol and used my fingers to spread it around.

This actually worked better than I thought it might but there was one flaw.  Spreading in this way resulted in a circle of emulsion that was very thick.  This thickness meant that the fixer was not able to properly penetrate the emulsion, and that ring can now be seen as a brown stain.  Looking a little more closely I can see numerous small pockets of thick emulsion that have turned brown.

It takes close examination of the paper itself to see that the D-Max dramatically changes with the thickness of the emulsion – the thicker the emulsion, the greater the D-Max (makes sense).  So while we coated to a 5mil thickness, if a greater D-Max is required (accompanied by the highlight areas going a bit darker) then perhaps an 8 or 10mil thickness can be tried.  By feeling the paper I am guessing that the non-fixable areas are at least 25mil (maybe more), as I can feel a distinct difference.

It’s cool when screwing around can result in actually learning something.

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Click for larger image

I had an opportunity to attend a workshop at the Eastman House in Rochester where I learned how to make photographic emulsion.  One might wonder why bother when photographic paper is so readily available.  It is available now, but there is certainly no expectations that this will continue into the future.  After all, go back ten years and who would have thought that Kodak would be completely out of the photographic paper business?

But it is more to it than just that.

Historic processes are those that are no longer commercially available and paper for contact printing is now in that category.  As photographic papers continue to disappear the knowledge of how to make them will do the same.  There are a zillion people these days working with collodion and another zillion platinum printers, but few make their own silver gelatin.  I like to feel that I am retaining that knowledge, and at some point I may be able to share it with someone who has an interest.

This print was made at the workshop using Kodak’s AZO formula, and was the first one I printed.  I used a blade to coat the paper and a glass plate negative that was about the right contrast.  I am currently collecting the equipment and chemicals to start making the emulsion at home and hope to match the excellent results I was able to get at the workshop.

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Click for larger image

I removed my prints from the excellent show in Berkley Springs, where I had the opportunity to show my work along with a number of others who work with the alternative processes.  On my way home I came upon this, so I had to stop and take a picture.  I have a similar one taken along a road leading to a parking lot in West Virginia.  You tell me, was someone having a laugh or did they spend thousands of dollars to have a consultant determine the exact speed limit?

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There are times when I photograph something and immediately work on the image to make it presentable, and there are other images that I, shall we say, set aside for a rainy day. They end up in a pile that I occasionally look through to see if I am ready to address, and sometimes one jumps out and commands me to pay attention.

That is the case with this particular image.

I have friends in places where a couple of feet of snow is no reason not to go to work, as it is part of their expectations this time of year. They certainly look at  Maryland and shake their heads when six inches of snow shuts down, but we are accustomed to wimp winters, where six inches can be the total amount we get in a winter. This winter, like that of four years ago, has been another story.

I believe that that is why this image commanded me to take the ones and zeros and create a Bromoil print. The photograph started its life back in October after my son had given me his old cell phone. I found out that a plan could be obtained where one paid by the month, as opposed to being required to enter a years long commitment, so I joined the rest of the world in that regard. At the time I photographed this I was struggling with figuring out how to control the camera phone with one hand while holding my umbrella with the other. Of the two images of this woman that found their way into the camera, I felt that this one better served my purpose.

So now that pitchers and catchers have reported to camp, I think it is time for the snow to make a quick exit, as I would be more than glad to trade a rainy day for the temperatures in the teens that have been common this winter.

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Click for larger image

At times I like to work with images that are not so clear as to their intention. These personal images have a meaning for me that I am not sure translates to everyone else. Of course, that does not mean that the image should be locked away and hidden. Chances are that someone else can look at it and derive meaning that is specific to themselves.

This is the case with this particular image, which for me begins as an abstract, then brings meaning, then becomes more and more abstract as I look at it.  Perhaps this will happen to you, or perhaps you will go to another page without a second thought.  Both are okay.

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Click for larger image

I don’t like winter.  For those who know me, that is the definition of an understatement – I was the one who posted “I am already sick of winter” on my Facebook page – back in October.

I have photographed in the single digits (Fahrenheit) and the low hundred-teens, and my cold weather images are no more special than my comfortable temperature images, so I tend to do more printing in the winter.  This being an unusually cold winter, my darkroom has been in the upper 50′s, so I finally fixed that by getting a decent space heater.

Recently, a friend of mine, Dave Stovall, with whom I will be sharing space along with a couple of other large format photographers in a show late next month, gave me a lifetime supply of Kodak E100VS.  He uses this film, with its highly saturated colors, in the large format size to create intense photographs of the American vernacular.  The film he gave me is marked as bad because it is either fogged or has lost the characteristics he requires for his photography.

I love it when I get something like this, which is why I purchased a small freezer to store the paper that has been given to me by people who have switched to photographing completely digitally.  I loaded a few film holders with the film, put it within my pinhole sieve camera, and gave it several minutes of exposure from the front porch of my house.  Using straight Dektol I developed the film and loved the results.

This is an easy example of one person’t junk being my treasure.  I need to now work with the film to see what speed I will actually get with it and how to best use it, but the mere fact that it works gets me excited even more for the winter to be over.

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After a few very busy months I have finally had a chance to get back to working on some of the things that were put aside.  One of them is a continuation of my Braddock Project.

On Braddock Avenue is Braddock Farms, which is part of Grow Pittsburgh, a non-profit organization that facilitates sustainable urban agriculture within the Pittsburgh region.  This farm is quite cool because the land was previously a series of vacant lots.

Each summer I have visited Braddock I have stopped by the farm and spoken with the people working there.  What I have not yet done has been to go to the farm stand  that is open on Wednesdays, so that is something that needs to happen, perhaps this coming summer.

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My daughter and her husband have a dog named Lucky, certainly one of the sweetest dogs on the planet.  She decided to knit antlers for him.  She took a picture of the results and put them on her Ravelry page.  My son then took the picture, put it on imgur.com and linked to it from reddit.com.

Understand that when I place an image on Flickr, getting 100 views is cause for celebration.  In this particular case her image went viral, and to date this picture on imgur.com has about 90,000 views.  I decided to put together a little page for Lucky at GLSmyth.com/reindeerdog/ and noted that this image has been used on other websites – actually, many, many other websites.  You can click on the “Find the Reindeer Dog!” link at the bottom of the page to see the current crop.

So how does one photograph the most famous greyhound in the world (other than Santa’s Little Helper)?  I have no idea, but I engaged Lucky on one of his many busy breaks and got this picture.

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Click for larger image

When I arrived in Braddock to photograph a few weeks ago I started at the old Harco Electric supply store but did not catch The Brew Gentlemen there.  I then photographed from the streets on the river side of town, then worked my way uphill and photographed there.  As I approached the halfway point to completing that side of Braddock the battery on my camera ran out – good thing I had a spare battery in my pocket – bad thing that I had forgotten to charge the battery.

So I headed back to the car, grabbed my back-up camera and completed the hill side.  I had been photographing for about four hours by the time I walked down the hill and saw a truck in front of the Harco building.  Tapping on the glass, I met Matt and Asa.

I was given the grand tour, which included a portion of the basement, where the magic happens and where I took this picture.  Since I had no lights I needed to shoot at a high ISO, which resulted in quite a bit of noise – considerably more than if I had remembered to charge my backup battery and been able to use my main camera.  Then again, I like the grainy look of an unfinished area that is waiting to be filled in.

This post reminds me that I need to check my home brew of Grand Bohemian Czech Pilsner, which should be at the fermenting point where I can test it to see if it is ready for bottling.

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Nothing moves quickly in Braddock, but sometimes the most interesting things do happen.  I have been photographing Braddock now for several years, returning about every six months, and somewhere in my archives I am sure that I have this image before the text was added.  I think this because I almost certainly remember walking past this spot and seeing two guys with a hose cleaning the area out.  Perhaps I took the picture, perhaps it only remains within my head.

But this is evidence of The Brew Gentlemen (I am guessing that this is their warehouse), two young men who decided to establish a brewery within Braddock.  Were this an extension of Big Brother Beer (Bud, Miller Lite, and on and on) then it would be of no interest to me, but this will be the real deal – beer that one does not have to drink frigid cold so as to kill the taste.  There will be several standard brews and a regular rotation of seasonal beers.  They are currently in the process of gutting and rebuilding the old Harco Electric Supply store, and will have beer flowing and the end of this winter.  I can’t wait.

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