Middle Ground, San Diego, 2016 copyright Douglas Stockdale
I have enjoyed a short breather from my Middle Ground project, an investigation of “Fortress America”, a sarcastic visual parody of the current political desire to build a HUGE wall to protect America from the desperadoes of the South. I touched on this project briefly during my interview with Aline Smithson for Lenscratch, but none of photographs from this project were included (I think that this is my bad, as I meant to, but not sure that I actually provided one)
So a quick recap: I now think that I have all of the photographs to finish this project (which means I will not be acquiring the 50mm Distagon for a film version of this project), now heavily into editing and I think that time is of the essence to get this project completed. I do not think it will stop the political folly, but this might help with the discussion as to why this wall is such a stupid, impracticable and expensive idea (I don’t think that this concept worked for China or most recently in Berlin). Yes, a billion dollar wall that can be overcome by a used $25.00 ladder. sigh.
One idea for an artist book (and hopefully a trade edition) is to design, print and bind the interior pages as an accordion (Leporello or Concertinas). The results will create a continuous line of the barriers (photographs), thus another layer of visual parody about The wall.
Okay, back to work!
Untitled (Middle Ground) copyright 2016 Douglas Stockdale
Something that has not really captured my attention for some time is working with video. I am of that generation in which movies were made with super-8mm film, a real bear to edit (actually had to physically splice the film together) and trying to add sound was an actual nightmare. To do movies right also meant investing in 16mm equipment, so still photograph made life so much easier. Even when I purchased the Canon 5DMk3, which has professional HD video capabilities, I did not even read the manual on how to use this feature until very recently (yes, like over this last New Years holiday while I was sicker than a dog).
So what prompted this wild & crazy idea? While photographing the Middle Ground project, I came up with the idea of doing a video of the same freeway urban landscape that I was looking at as I did the slow pokey drive in the bumper to bumper traffic. What might that urban landscape look like as a video, as I had no idea. The idea is that the video would complement an exhibition of the still photographs to provide another visual alternative to this same project. This is in addition to photographing this landscape project with my Hasselblad (still have not purchased the 50mm CF Distagon yet), which I wrote about here.
I knew that my daughter’s brother-in-law Cameron has a sound studio in Santa Ana, but I had not realized the amount of video that he has also worked with until we started talking about it over the holidays. The reason I even brought it up with him is that Kevin, a good friend of mine, has been playing piano for many, many years and while listening to his CD it occurred to me think that this might provide a nice background sound track to my video, which it turns out, Kevin was game for. So I was primarily asking Cameron about his ability to add this sound track to my video. No problem! I then received a interesting mini-lesson in video and what I could do with my 5DMk3, which then prompted me to want to actually read the manual ;- )
2016 was my year to try Instagram and 2017 may be my year to try video. Who knew?
untitled (Middle Ground), copyright 2016 Douglas Stockdale
While working on my current project, Middle Ground, I have thinking that I might want to consider using my Hasselblad and start shooting this with color film in 2017. The biggest issue is that I do not have an equivalent Hasselblad lens for the digital gear I am currently using. I have decided to work with a wide field of view for this project, selecting a 28mm focal length and field of view using my Canon 5DMk3 and the 24-105mm lens (a little scotch tape does a pretty good job of locking down the lens at the focal length that I want). Yes I could also purchase a 28mm prime lens for the Canon, but I am also a bit cheap and this works pretty well.
The closest thing for the Hasselblad is the 50mm f/4 Distagon lens and using a 1.6 factor, this lens can provide about a 31mm equivalent field of view to my 5DMk3/24-105mm. So I taped the 24-105mm lens at what is about 31mm tested it on a drive to San Diego. Part of the drive I also locked (taped) the the lens at 35mm to compare (the 60mm Distagon is about 38mm field of view equivalent). The 31mm was not too bad, but the 35mm started to tighten the pictorial framing of what I want to capture a little too much, thus confirming that an investment in a Hasselblad 50mm Distagon should work. It would be nice to borrow a 50mm Distagon to try out, but my buddies near-by do not have this lens to lend. darn.
Since I will be acquiring a used lens, which of the four different 50mm Distagon models to look for? I think that the CF will do the trick for me, a bit newer and better (lens coating) than the original C model and as I am not focusing close-up the later FLE (Floating lens element) model is probably not necessary (and save me some extra bucks as well).
So the lens hunt is now on!
Untitled (Life in the Slow Lane) copyright 2016 Douglas Stockdale
So a good friend tells me that since I am trying to make lemonade from lemons and my photographs are created when the car comes to a complete stand still in traffic, then really I have a “lemonade stand”. sigh.
I continue to think about some of the elements that I photograph while working on this project; that when the traffic stops and where I come to halt is very arbitrary, there is a big element of chance as to what the landscape exists beside me is at that given moment. What is in the foreground; the debris, vegetation and condition of the meridian is the first layer of the photograph. The next layer is the passing cars in the opposite lane, which are not in bumper to bumper traffic. Then if visible beyond the meridian is an open landscape of trees, vegetation, hills, and man-made structures. So now what are the potential metaphors for these photographs?
It is also interesting to me that this is another project that is evolving from my playing around with the mobile phone. I think that I allow myself a sense of experimentation and trying to have fun when I use the mobile camera phone. So I hope to keep that playfulness going; an endless series of singular images and open ended investigations.
Life in the slow lane, Southern California, copyright 2016 Douglas Stockdale
Yes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
So this may or may not develop into a full project, but at the moment I am reacting to this current experience. I have an assignment in San Diego that frequently has allowed me to drive down the I-5 freeway in the morning and become entangled in what is called the north county bumper-to-bumper traffic jam. Prior to this, for the same assignment, I was driving up the I-5 and 101 freeway into and through Los Angles, and experiencing a similar bumper-to-bumper traffic stall, just that the view while stopped on the freeway was different. Exactly; this crappy drive was a like some really sour lemons!
Initially, it was pleasant time to listen to the XM tunes, but then I started noticing things while stopped in traffic that I had not notices blasting through the same area at 65 miles per hour. Similar to my In Passing and Lest I Forget projects, what we miss while hurling along through life. So I started taking some photographs with my mobile phone/Samsung and found that these were kinda of interesting images. Then I started posting them on Instagram and surprise, others thought these photographs were kinda of interesting too.
So now I am evaluating the potential of using film with this project and the first step for me was evaluating a larger image and determining what lens I might want to use. I locked down my Canon zoom lens at 28mm which provides a wide view similar to that of the Samsung and would look similar to the 50mm f/4 Ziess lens on the Hasselblad. Since I would have very little time to grab a photograph with the Hasselbald when I had a random stop, I would need to prefocus and set up the exposure ahead of time, then play it by ear. So that is what I tried to simulate and similar to the Samsung photographs, I find these kinda of interesting.
Issue to resolve; driving south in the morning means looking directly into the rising sun and dealing with some mega-backlight conditions (see the lens flare in the first image below). Then driving back home in the afternoon, the same back-light conditions reversed. So I could fight that or work with it, again try to make some lemonade. Either way, I will be driving down to San Diego for a while so I am trying to figure out how to make the best of this without going nuts, which is my life in the slow lane.