Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hurricane Survival Brochure - Research & Design

I finished designing a Hurricane Survival Guide to promote interest in my newish East of the Cooper blog. Took about a week to do the research surrounding Hurricane Hugo (too young to remember it), look at other disaster check lists, find hard core facts, and read through 5 or 6 scholarly papers summarizing the storm and public disaster response to hurricanes. Then consolidate everything down to a viable one page document. Getting all the information on to one sheet was the hard part. The other guides I've seen are booklets which are cool but bulky. I wanted something I would use to gather supplies and that meant small, concise and pocket-able.

The other other thing I'd like to add is an old style tracking chart, since television stations often go down and the internet is unlikely to be available, but couldn't do that at the 8.5 x 11" size. I'll probably create a companion tracking chart for the Carolina Region as an addition. I love creating something well designed and useful, that's also promotional.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Morris Island (Folly Beach), SC 1865
Yesterday was bi-polar. I started off in the morning in the 19th century circa 1861, heading to Ft. Moultrie to get some "different" photos of the sesquicentennial commemoration of the Battle of Ft. Sumter. I arrived at the fort to find all the encampees had been sported off to Ft. Sumter in the Charleston Harbor by the National Park Service to perform a reenactment of the surrender of the Ft. Sumter to Confederate forces.

The number of reenactors had dwindled as the week went on and the only folks left manning the camp at Ft. Moultrie were two Confederate reinactors both of whom had flown in from the South of England. So effectively Fort Moultrie was in British hands and subject to the crown again. I was photographing to have some images for a new outlet for creative/community/commercial aspirations, yet another blog EastoftheCooper .

For several days I'd been studying the images from the Civil War which were made on glass plates using the collodion process. The images from that period have their own unique look due to the exacting process. The collodion emulsion which coated the fragile glass plates was very sensitive to the blue segment of the visible light spectrum. This blue sensitivity rendered darker skin tones and blank skies. I was hoping to recreate the black and white tonality of those images, in camera, with the multitude of options available on 21st century cameras. It was an experiment to see if I could come close to replicating that Matthew Brady look.

Matthew Brady (date unknown
probably between 1855 -1870)
Brady and his employees were the most well known entourage of Civil War photographers who followed the Northern & Southern armies into their battles. Their photographs had to be developed in the field amid the carnage left behind.

Sesquicentennial  Battle of Ft. Sumter
Ft. Moultrie,  SC / 4-14-2011
The process from coating the glass with the emulsion to developing the image had to be completed within a ten minute time frame, before the glass plates dried. Almost all the photographs of the Civil War period were taken around encampments or showing the after effects of "a grand and glorious" war. The exposure time for the glass plates made it impossible to stop movement and subjects had to remain stationary even in the brightest sunlight. Exposures lasted from 15 seconds to 4 minutes, depending on the weather conditions (heat & humidity), the age and mix of the collodion and the nature of sunlight that day.

Later that evening my girlfriend & I ended up at a concert at the Pour House in Charleston watching Medeski & Martin after she won free tickets from a radio station call-in. This image is from the show. 150 years in a day.

Medeski & Martin (MAGO) at the Pour House, Charleston, SC 4-14-2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011


The first person to correctly guess which album inspired the font used for the credits in this photo, wins an archival, 8 x 10 print of this image!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Testing Windows Live Writer

Formatting text for Blogger can be a nightmare, if you generate content in MS Word.
Word complicates the process and makes it a time intensive nightmare (have you ever looked at the code behind Word?) Testing this Blogger for Word plug-in to see if it does the trick or if I have to find another work around! Well after much fiddling (this is the 3rd time I’ve tried to get Blogger For Word to work for Word 2007 over the past 2 years) - the following conclusion. TA DA!
MS Word 2007 and 2010 DO NOT WORK WITH BLOGGER, in spite of Microsoft’s claims. Trust me, people have spent hours trying to make it work. You can try yourself, search the help forums. I bit the bullet and got the Windows Live Writer for XP. That's how I’m composing this post.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

! - This Thought Presents Itself Regularly

"Most of the great design work in the universe has already been done - we're just tinkering with it" - BTW March 22, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday, November 1, 2010

New Design & Photography Portfolio

I've finally gotten an electronic portfolio together that actually meets my expectations. It features a select portion of my photography and design work. Had to leave out a bunch of stuff so I'll probably end up with several portfolios up here before too long. There are no; event photos (weddings, gallery openings. parties), not much nature stuff, none of my copy work for painters and illustrators, no technical documents and no photo restoration. If you browse my other posts you're likely to see some of that work.

The BoxNet viewer alters the presentation some, so if you want to see how good it really looks, download the file. The downward arrow under the presentation allows you to do so. The Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Reader does a much better job of rendering it. Since PDFs are such a common file type, you probably already have the reader installed on your computer.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wedding Photographs

I love an unconventional wedding, but really, is there anything conventional left in the world of romance? Thankfully - yes (L-O-V-E you best believe what I'm talking about). This wedding (in the sublime town of Hot Springs in Madison County, NC) was a blast even though I worked some long hours.

There were hot tubs, kite flying at Max Patch, a parade from the church to the Victorian Inn, a Sunday morning brunch with ballad singing and the sacred ambiance of Sunnybank. I was dog's rear end tired by the wrap up Sunday afternoon. Thinking about it now makes me want a massage - and a cold pool of mountain spring water.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Steve James

Music is one of my major passions. I'm particularly attracted to acoustic music (string-bands, jug-bands, old-time and pre-war blues) and musicians. I spent four years as the staff photographer for the Swannanoa Gathering at Warren Wilson College near Asheville, North Carolina in the '90's. They still use a majority of my photographs to promote their programs.

Steve James was one the folks I got to know over the course of the Gatherings and I was highly fortunate to have him as a guitar instructor for several years. I saw him for the first time in ten years at Piccolo Spoleto this year on Bowen's Island. Due to unforeseen circumstances I only managed to grab a handful of photos before I had to leave. I wish I'd able to take in his whole set and hang with him after the show for a beer.

Steve was one of the last musicians who managed to spend time and tutelage under some of the early music greats such as Sam Maggee and Furry Lewis before they passed on. Their vitality, innovation and musicianship live on through Steve and his stories and songs. If you ever have the chance ....

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Children's Informal Portraits

One of the most fun things I've done recently was an informal portrait session with one of my friend's children. Have you ever tried to drag a young child into a portrait studio and convince them to sit for awhile? The thought of this sends a chill up my spine akin to hearing Styrofoam rubbing together or thinking about eating Gefilte Fish.

Photographing children is full-on sports photography. With football or basketball you have a general semblance of parameters and how the game's going to go. With kids you might as throw any notions out and be open to possibilities of the present moment and adapt! They're here, they're there, they're ecstatic... NO! Now it's the end of the world and life as we know it!

Great informal portraits are playtime in a nice setting and should be all fun and games for the parent, child and photographer. Much of the success comes down to quick responses to ever changing situations and moods and planning in advance to capture the child when they're in their best state of mind. You definitely don't want hungry, tired or sick! So for most kids up to kindergarten age this will be early morning or after lunch and a nap in the afternoon. Call me if you want to set up a session! Spring is a beautiful time for outdoor portraiture here in Chucktown.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tabula Rasa - In Retrospect

I've been doing more art related photographs, and experimenting with new lighting devices. My favorite so far has been the flame thrower. The light was intense and markedly different from the standard and pedestrian umbrellas, reflectors, spot lights and soft boxes. I'd love to show these photos to you, but my agent told me that they were proprietary and that I'd be infringing myself were I to put them on the internet.

Instead I'll show you a few photos from a shoot up in Bakersville at the Crimson Laurel Gallery where I photographed the group installation Tabula Rasa in situ. Crimson Laurel has a small upstairs gallery which they've been devoting to different shows and mediums. Tabula Rasa was a mixed media exhibit by eight artists from around Mitchell County. I hope after the success of this showing that the group will consider more succulent funky collaborations.

I ran across the exhibit in September while visiting the Bakersville Creek Walk Arts Festival and was stuck with its depth, whimsy and details. So when I had a chance to photograph Tabula Rasa, I jumped at it, even though I knew the logistics of working in such a small space would be challenging.

The seated figure to the left
was sculpted by Melissa Cadell.

The shoot gave me a chance to feast on the individual table settings in detail. I'm still exploring them in the photographs and snacking on hidden minutia and niblets. Check out the Crimson Laurel's website and visit the gallery in person if you have the chance. It's one of the better showcases in Western North Carolina for regional pottery, jewelry and furniture.

Below is one of the individual place settings by artist Lisa Gluckin. The first shot is a detail and then you have the complete setting.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Carl Sandburg

Been working on restoring some of my fathers' Carl Sandburg photographs. I consider them some of his most important images, although by the late 50's and early 60's when the images were taken, Sandburg wasn't doing much writing. But then again if I had the chance to hang out with Marilyn Monroe ...

For many of these photo restorations, I'm working with large (18 x 24") prints which require multiple scans. The multiple scans are then stitched together resulting in monster file sizes. My poor computer is groaning, but I think it's worth the time and effort.

Image copyright the Estate of Tom Walters. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Preserve Your Family Photographs! Retouching & Restoration Services

I have a long history with photo retouching and restoration. Though the work can be tedious and is definitely time consuming, there's a nice personal reward in helping preserve family and historical photographs. My initial experience included a substantial amount of work restoring my fathers' photographs. He was a commercial photographer who never got around to printing many of his images with preservation in mind. Until the 1980's, photographers for the most part, thought little about mounting photos, the acid content of papers or how to store images for longevity.

To keep the essence of the original photograph, I do most of my scanning in color, even with a black and white image. You have to have a sensitivity to the original image and how it was produced. Black and white is more involved than most people realize with subtleties in process, paper color, toning and age. I don't want to take a photo from 1910 and make it look like it was shot in 1990.

Ideally a photograph should be returned as close to its original state as is possible, it should still reflect its time, place and some of the ambiance of that period. Techniques in photography have vastly changed from the 1840's through the present and the resulting images have different characteristics.

Films and glass plates had different color sensitivities in the earlier part of the 20th century. They were very insensitive to blue light which left almost all skies a blank white. Clouds were often painted in or a second negative would be used in printing to add some interest to the sky.

This kind of knowledge may seem trivial but in this recent retouching (above) of Cutting Day in England (circa 1905-1915) it played an integral part of the restoration process. Knowledge of the history of photography helped me "realize" the original sky in the photograph and not try to recreate a sky where the mold now suggested clouds.

Preserve your most important photographs before they become unsalvageable. Once they've faded past a certain point they can't be brought back. For all photo restorations, I produce a new archival print and produce electronic files suitable for use on the internet or emailing.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Photochemical Prints

Archiving any type of collection is a daunting task. With my father's photographic collection, which spans work from 1942 to 1991, I'm looking at between 400-500 prints and probably 20-30,000 thousand negatives. Logistically, it's not easy to decide on a given course for how to proceed. From a practical standpoint reducing the physical volume of material is paramount.

Prints take up the most space and yet only in the print is the photographers' vision fully realized. When they are available, prints are much preferred over negatives of the same image for this reason. In a photochemical darkroom, an image can be manipulated an extreme amount during the printing process.

There is the choice of paper surface (glossy, matte, satin, semi-gloss and textured) and each paper brings it's own properties to the process. Some papers are warm leaning towards a brownish hue, while others are cool swaying an image towards a bluish cast. Papers also vary in silver content which affects how sensitive they are to subtle gradations of light.

There are techniques which are used to bring out details or mask areas. Burning in (a longer exposure to light of a selective area) darkens an area. Dodging (holding back the amount of light reaching a selective area) lightens it.

Then there are toners or chemical agents which coat or interact with the silver in the paper. Toners change the color of the final image, some subtly and some in a more dramatic fashion. Prints can be selectively bleached using potassium ferricyanide to lighten a region or totally turn it white, erasing an area back to the original shade of the paper.

These three broad areas; paper choice, light orchestration and chemical interactions touch on only a few of the methodologies employed by a fine print maker. A few techniques such as flashing and spot developing can't be mentioned in polite company.

I'm discovering that the poorly stored existing prints are going to require an extensive amount of retouching to get them back to pristine condition.