Tollroad, Rancho Santa Margarita Copyright 2011 Douglas Stockdale
For me, it is always interesting how one thing may lead to another. Last week I finally started the re-work of my project Insomnia: Hotel Noir, specifically to remove the blue tint from the images and return to Black & White basics. While printing the Insomnia images for the updated book dummy, I started thinking about my first project In Passing in which I had thought a warm tone was needed to balance the subject matter. The warm tone decision was supported by the subsequent publication in LensWork in 2008, a Black & White publication about Black & White photography that is a magazie which has every photograph printed with the same slightly warm red hue applied to every image. So while on a roll printing the Insomnia photographs, I selected a few images from In Passing, removed the warm tonality hue layer, tweaked the tonal range and printed them in straight Black & White.
I am not totally sure of why the new Black & White images for In Passing seem to work so well. Part is probably me, I have hopefully matured a tiny little bit, a little more confidence in my own decisions, more trust in my instinct, and realizing the body of work can really stand on its own. Some is technology, where the Photoshop CS3 with the black and white adjustment layers have developed over the earlier version of Photoshop 5.5, and even the first CS, coupled with a better RAW converter and I think that I now understand a little bit better how to coax more out of a RAW file. What I am finding is that while I can open the older Photoshop files (2007) and delete the hue layer, what I really need to accomplish to improve this project is to find the original RAW file and start the whole image processing from scratch. Another aspect, not a super biggie, is for new photographs, I am now working with a camera with a full frame sensor and my new images have a wonderful new dimension to them in terms of contrast, dynamic range, fidelity, etc.
In addition to reworking the earlier images into a more objective Black & White image, I am not so interest in re-photographing the previous sites In Passing, but I am interested in another dimension as to what has happened to many of the original memorial sites that I photographed, especially in California. The vast majority are gone and no longer exist. The Cal Trans policy is that memorials on public land are not tolerated, so after a respectful amount of time, e.g. by the time they need to cut the grass again, they are gone. In some cases, those who erected the memorial have moved on. In other cases, it is a constant tug-of-war between a very persistent person or group of people who doggedly figure out ways to continue on, regardless of how many times what they erect is demolished.
So really another dimension to this project is photographing the sites where I know there was a memorial, which is now gone, but finding the faint traces of the memory that still lingers. I don’t have this entirely worked out, but that is the purpose of writing this, to give the idea some air. Which took me out to the highway recently to check out one of the local memorials erected for a woman, wife and mother who was killed by another speeding and out of control car which rammed into her car, killing her instantly. The original memorial photograph that I created in early 2007 is below, while the recent is above. Over the last four years, I have seen this site plowed under, all traces seemly erased, new vegetation planted, then little by little, the memorial grows back, only to demo’d again, and once more slowly starts the cycle of rebirth.
So the Blurb book I developed for In Passing has yet to sell a single copy in the last two or three years. There has been a lot of interest, but not with the Blurb costing and subsequent pricing. Thus, the few copies that I have will become nicely printed book dummies as I will no longer be selling the book through Blurb, and I’ll be deleting the book sales portion off from Blurb. I may not even keep the book up as a virtual read, especially with the fact that the appearance of this project is changing for the better.
And a couple of years ago, I thought this project was complete and I had moved on. Hah! I do not think that I will let this project rest until I have it professionally published in a book.
Best regards, Doug
I find this very interesting Doug, on a number of levels too. I too only ever thought of myself as a colour photographer, but today I find B&W very satisfying including toning which I do in Lightroom. I think that the software is definitely a factor because it allows us to explore an image in multiple ways before committing to a particular interpretation. More interesting to me though, is your motivation to revisit a previous project somewhat differently. I too have a similar drive with a local area that I photographed some years ago, namely to express how nice I find it. Recently it has been announced that there are intentions to build over 4000 homes on it and suddenly I want to make more photographs. I think that your “In Passing” project, which I found interesting (though at the time, also challenging) may well develop into something much deeper and more meaningful. Your posts always provide reasons to think about one’s own photography too.