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Just a quick update on the fine art photography front.  Last night I finally had a chance to break out my chemistry and step wedges to do some testing and calibrations for my carbon transfer print workflow.  I’ll talk more about carbon transfer printing in another post, but it’s basically the most archival of all photographic printing processes, with prints dating back to the 1800s looking brand new today.  The most defining characteristic of a carbon print is the very cool 3D relief of the gelatin standing off the paper a bit.  It’s an exquisite sight when done with highly textured or detailed images.  But it’s only practiced by a few hundred people in the world, because….

It’s an incredibly fickle and time consuming method of putting images on paper.  To date I’ve spend nearly two years off and on trying to get a print, to no avail.  It’s a maddening technique when you don’t have the right work environment and uninterrupted time to devote to the process.  But I think I’ve solved my prior issues and am nearing my first real carbon print.

Unlike my first attempt years ago, my gelatin image didn’t float off the surface of the paper before my eyes during development.  I also didn’t have any shadow areas of the image lifting off the paper, which we call “frilling”.  I’m still dealing with some gray highlights and underexposed shadows, but I’ll hash these out with some chemistry and exposure changes in the coming nights.

I love this stuff, as frustrating as it can be.

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The last few days I’ve been busy getting my darkroom area set up, and it’s nearly done and ready for developing and printing.  The safelight has been installed, darkroom sink plumbed, and yesterday I cut new glass to refurbish my NuArc UV exposure unit for printing handmade alt-process prints.  In the next few days I hope to get back to testing my carbon-transfer process using that fancy color chart and step wedge you see on the table there.  Lots of testing ahead I’m sure, given I tried off and on for over a year in Hawaii to get a decent print and failed.  It’s that hard of a process if your environmental conditions aren’t dialed in.  In Hawaii the humidity and some other factors prevented me from succeeding, but I’m starting from scratch with a better workspace here, so I’m anticipating better results.
But before I can print, I need a light tight cabinet to dry sensitized films and tissues in, as well as some beakers and protective gear for mixing up my chemistry.  That is next on my list this week.  Hoping to have print updates soon thereafter.

Wet area on left, dry area on right.  Temp/humidity gauges, glass plates and reference texts...oh and a Brownie Camera to refurbish.

Wet area on left, dry area on right. Temp/humidity gauges, glass plates and reference texts…oh and a Brownie Camera to refurbish.

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We recently had the pleasure of shooting four groupings of luxury products for a six page spread in Desert Companion Magazine, for their advertising client GGP.  It was an awesome gig with great stylists and art direction.  GGP, which runs three Las Vegas luxury retail venues including Fashion Show Mall and the Shoppes at Palazzo, filmed a behind the scenes video of the shoot.  It includes the luxury products, the photography equipment and some interviews with key players in the shoot, including Radiant Photography owner Ryan Weber.

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Radiant recently had the opportunity and challenge to shoot the Oldenberg “Flashlight” sculpture on the UNLV campus for Desert Companion magazine.  I say challenge because the shoot required an evening shot of a matte black sculpture, lit only by mixed ambient lighting, on a college campus that has students walking about.  So I packed up my tilt-shift lenses one Saturday night and headed on down to UNLV to see what I could do.

Being a weekend evening, I didn’t have too many bodies walking through my images.  I was also able to pull long exposures to yank some color out of the sky, courtesy of the reflected light pollution from the Las Vegas Strip.  Now the challenge was getting a three-story matte black object to maintain detail and color fidelity from top to bottom.  The area was lit with a mix of high-pressure sodium vapor, mercury vapor and halogen light sources…a perfect white balance nightmare.  However I brought along some flash heads and a battery pack so I could at least fill the shadowy sculpture with some color correct fill light, right?  Well, kinda.  I did a bit of light painting, but with the intensity of the light needed to light the black monolith, there was just too much flash spill onto the surrounding trees and cement.  So I went the multi-exposure, multi-white balance route.

A series of exposures were made for the highlights all the way to the shadow details that I’d later tone map in Photoshop (no, I don’t use tone mapping software, as I prefer to do it manually layered in PS).  Same thing for the various white balances, although much of the scene was lit under high-pressure sodium vapor lamps which are nearly impossible to white balance, due to their spectral output.  It’s light nerd stuff I won’t get into here.   Anyway, back at the office I processed all the exposures and pulled an under-, over-, and properly exposed frame from each composition.  I then layered those and used masks to tonemap the final image, which has greater highlight and shadow detail than any single exposure I captured.

All in all a great challenge and fun image to work on.  The image below is the magazine layout and unfortunately is quite compressed, so the detail is lacking.  I’ll post up a better shot soon.

Radiantphotography.com Oldenberg Flashlight

Oldenberg "Flashlight" image by Radiantphotography.com

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The awesome LVSK8 art show is upon us again and I’m working on a new skatedeck design for this year’s show. Last year I did a hand-carved tiki (see it here), but this year I’ve put much time and effort into researching how to get a photographic image onto wood. The answer seems to be water-slide decal transfer paper, which I have yet to try. I just ordered a batch online and will make some test prints to transfer to an old deck before I do the final piece.

I figured the show’s deadline was a good excuse to complete a half-finished project that has been collecting dust in the garage for about two years. Late last night I finished building the motion rig for shooting moving cars. Depending on what camera angles and distance away from the car I desire, I have some more support arms to fabricate, but this rough start is functional for some shots. I hope to post a blog post and video strictly on this rig sometime. It uses some steel tubing, insanely strong magnets, fence hardware, and a Super Clamp.

Anyway, here is a sneak peak at the theme of the deck, although probably not the final shot I’m going to use. (Keep clicking on the image to get into a higher res version two pages from here)

68 Cadillac motion rig

68 Caddy with motion rig for LVSK8 IV art show deck (Copyright 2010 - Radiant Photography. Rights reserved.)

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