Photography by Daniel Gregory
Alright, let's take a look at some of your images and maybe you can help guide us through some of the questions on this. And so street photography.
Now, I'm noticing very high contrast here. Is this film development, is this combination of it?
Yeah, so this is an image that was originally conceived of when I was thinking about printing it in platinum. So it was actually a digital capture of color converted to monochrome and then processed to look as close to my film stock as possible. So I have a number of things I do in Photoshop to attempt to simulate my film because my... we all have a little ego thing that we play with. One of my ego things is I have film photography friends who are a little snobby about film but I love being able to lay down two images side by side and have people not know which is the digital and the film. So I work really hard to get my stuff to process the same. The other thing that does from a stylistic standpoint for me is that keeps the style cons...
istent so it's not like I have a digital body of work and a film body of work. So this was processed. It was also high contrast because it was... I remembered the scene being really high contrast so it's a night shot. The lights come on, almost all the ambient light had disappeared, so it was all artificial light and it was just these were really bright street lights up there at the top or lights above the restaurant. And the thing that caught my eye was the girl with the dog. And so I was like okay, so there's the girl with the dog and as long as she doesn't move and then I wanted a little bit of sense of chaos around her so I just dragged that shutter down to about a fifteenth of a second. And so I was able to handhold that, get her still, and have that little bit of blur in there.
That's beautiful. I mean, it's nice framing. Your eye goes right to her because she is the sharpest thing in the frame. So what are your thoughts on using a digital camera, shooting in color, probably RAW, and then converting it to black and white? Does that do a pretty good job for you?
It does and there is a... there's a lot of information in there and the key for black and white is you've got to start to see tone, not color. And the beauty of the RAW file is in the analog world I have to put filters in front of the camera to get that film to respond to build contrast. But in the digital world because it's capturing all that color uniformly, I can in post decide oh god, if I had had a red filter here I would have pushed the contrast this way. If I'd used a blue filter I would have gotten this. So having that color information actually gives me some additional control after the fact. And for the street work it's really nice because sometimes I don't have that time in that flash of instance to make that change.
Now are you using an SLR or a mirrorless for this?
Okay, I was asking because on the mirrorless cameras, you can now turn the EVF into a black and white and so you get to view the world in black and white and I've done that a little bit but I haven't done it a lot and so I don't know if that would help me in shooting black and white because then you get to see. The problem with an SLR is you see the world in color and then you have to do that mental thing, which good photographers are good at doing.
I'm fortunate, well I'm fortunate in that regard because I came out of the film world so I don't have a choice. I just learned to see that way but for a lot of my students now when I'm working on my digital black and white classes or whatever, I encourage them to put their JPEGs into a monochromatic so the RAW files still got the color information but they're seeing that thumbnail in black and white. If their camera will let them see, a mirrorless will let them see in black and white, anything to help them start to see oh my gosh, that green apple and that red apple are the same color to a black-and-white world. That tone is the same, how do I separate those, how do I push and pull those is really key to ultimately getting us to get to the story we want in the photograph.
And just for somebody who might be kind of new out there, let me just explain that one little thing. When you shoot RAW in your camera, you're gonna get all the color, all the information from the tones when you shoot but you can put your camera in black and white and RAW it'll show you black and white either on the back of your camera or your LCD after you shot the image or live view if it's a mirrorless camera. So you can shoot, see black and white, bring it home, what happens I use Lightroom and it is black and white when it brings up the preview and then when the full image loads it's color and then I got to go change it back to black and white and then start adjusting it to make it look right for that. Excellent. Alright so let's move on to the next image here. And I'm thinking this is four by five or eight by 10.
This is eight by 10.
Oh, I nailed it.
Yeah this is actually of a platinum. There's a couple on the series are up. This is up platinum palladium print and this is one of my absolute favorite bodies of work that this comes out of and it was from a body of work called immersion. And one of the things I recognized in the history of photography was a lot of landscape photography was what I considered observational of the environment. So it was pretty pictures of the environment and what I wanted to try to do is to start to put us in the environment to have more connection. And then also a dominant theme in my work is the metaphor that nature uses because I believe nature, she uses us as muse as much as we use her and so she's always playing with things. And to me when I saw this wheat field in the Palouse, this was rolling waves. So it's just waves and the waves are coming in and crashing and them pushing up on the beach. So I just wanted a slight bit of movement and then that long kind of run of the beach back to the hills, pace off in the distance. And from the beginning it was for a platinum palladium series and so I had that thought in mind. But it was really the wheat's probably three and a half, four feet off the ground, and I am skimmed. The camera is almost into the wheat field and I was able to use the movements of the eight by 10 camera to control perspective--
Right, so you could get that depth of field from the foreground to the background. And for those that haven't had the opportunity to use a four by five camera from the time you, I assumed you were driving by, saw this how long did it take you to photograph it?
It was about 35 minutes. By the time I got out--
And you know what you're doing?
Yeah. Got the camera set up, made a decision about the place of the tripod, 'cause I had both with me, camera, then the lens, and then to get all the movements and then I had to wait for the light and the clouds to shift so it was a very patient piece. And the world's upside down and backwards on a view camera which is the other piece. So what's great is, it becomes very abstract. The abstraction of light color and form.
Composition works very well upsidedown.
Absolutely, yeah. I wish it... I don't know if they'll ever do it but every time a new camera comes out from any one of the camera manufacturers, I go to the feature request and I want really invert it, upside down it in the viewfinder. 'Cause I think it's a groundbreaking change in how people photograph when abstraction happens.
Yeah, knowing the cameras well, I don't think any camera, I could say I've have never seen that on a camera. Trying to think about how you, it's an interesting question because it's just so technically easy. I mean it's just a reverse image and you know, flip image.
Yeah, even if they just flipped it like Hasselblad did, I'd be fine with that too. (laughs)
Yeah. Alright. So more street photography, it's color this time.
Color, yes. This is in a bar down in New Orleans called the Spotted Cat. This one it was interesting because the women on the left I think make the photograph that gesture movement that comes back but it was the the quality of the light coming off the phone.
I was gonna say if this picture was taken 20 or 30 years ago it's like you oh, I see you you stashed a flashlight in her arm right there. It's like there's now this natural illumination on faces as they are engulfed in the phones.
In a nightclub the lights are so, colors are obtuse and saturated and ever-changing but that glow of that blue screen is just, you can see it in the darkness. And I just think they had a really interesting gesture where she's actually looking at his screen but yet hers is what's illuminating the scene. I thought was an interesting element and so they're lost in a world of technology and then the two women to the left are lost in a conversation without the technology. And I thought it was a interesting juxtaposition of who's doing what in what moment.
Right, right. Now this was in color. Talk about choosing color or black and white for images. What do you what are you looking at or how do you make that determination?
So for me that decision's usually made at the time of the shot. I get a sense of a feeling of the quality of color. Color is incredibly important to me and any of my students who have ever taken my color class know I'm hardcore about color. In terms of its fidelity and its use and how aides composition and our sense of understanding and theory behind color. And so for me when I see that color is important to the story, the color has to stay. When light, form, and shadow texture become more important and dominant than it probably drifts into black and white. I'm not one of those people. I don't have a bad color photograph and I'm like oh, let's see how it looks in black and white. I don't do that. It's either color is informative with the story or it's not and if it's not then it can go into black and white.
Okay, that's good thoughts there.
Same club. And this one... it's the shadow on the wall makes it any in the history of New Orleans, that's any sort of heavyset trumpet player. And so the shadow, he's actually a little bit our of focus. So I focused to hit the shadow and I had seen that shadow movement happen like three or four times. I was like oh, I got to get that shadow and then I was like well if I just did just the shadow, like you lose the context of the environment and so I really wanted to have those in there. And the piece I was really watching for is on that wooden board with the signatures on it that trumpet shadow is just coming up on, I wanted the tiniest bit of separation as it just started to come into that space.
No, I mean I have to admit that I first looked at this photograph and just you know the human eye naturally goes to a lighter area so it's not going to the shadow. And so it's like oh, it's a little out of focus and then the shadow is this like happy surprise like oh, look at this other little element here that I first missed.
Yeah and I've debated long and hard about how much that out of focus was there and I've been working on my own piece with photographers because I've noticed that there's a distinction between something being blurry for composition and something being out of focus. And photographers talk about it, they're like oh, I don't like that, it's out of focus. But then like oh, it's blurry and that's kind of cool. And this one to me fell in the blur is not an out-of-focus, I didn't know what I was doing with the camera element and so, I kind of went back and forth about was it too much out of focus and well yeah, well incredibly low light. I mean there's much light in the place and there was not gonna be oh, let's go to F/ and let's get them both. I had to pick one of the two and I thought the shadow was more important.
Excellent, well that's good, that's good. Alright so minimalism here. And so I came up with the title for this one.
Next to nothing.
Oh, that's nice.
So tell us about this.
So I don't know if you can see it on the screen but the subtle nuance of color in the sky here is for me, pretty much memorizing. There is pinks and blues and some yellows. There's a tint of a magenta in there, and then the split on the horizon with the island off there in the ocean, I was enamored with the color in the sky and then how there was this merging of sky and ocean. And how there was just this a little bit of element sticking out of there and so it created just in my own concept, a really strong story of our understanding of the ever-changing natural world. And I have a body of work that is slowly developing, which is along those lines of us being nature's muse and how she finds forms of us in there. And so this to me has a representation of somebody sleeping with the blankets being folded up and there's like an arm sticking out or something like that. So it's reminiscent of something being hidden and emerging in that in our world, that nature has somehow captured. But the print for this is all about getting those very subtle tonal structures there.
This has to be a tough one to print.
It's really tough. And you can calibrate your monitors at home by that description of color.
Because the interesting about color is we're initially drawn to high saturation first and so if I put two images up people will always say oh, the higher saturated image is better. But over time we drift to the enjoyment of a more sophisticated muted palette. And so this is one that almost like a Rothko painting is kind of my other, not that I'm a Rothko painter, but in that sense of when you look at a Rothko painting you're like oh it's blue and orange. And then if you stand in front of it for two, three, four minutes you're like holy cow, there's like 10,000 hues and tones of blue and orange. This has the same way when I get it printed right and you look at it, you're like the longer you look at it the more color you see.
Changes your palate.
Absolutely. So this is a palladium platinum print off of a digital image and so one of the things like I said, I love the blending of the two so this is a shot and then I create a digital negative out of that, which is basically take the digital file, we tone map what platinum palladium can do in Photoshop. We do a pretty weird wonky curve.
How do you get from the digital to the analog process? Do you print it out?
Yeah, so it prints on overhead transparency and then we apply a curve that basically says the percentage of ink of 95 percent platinum ink gets mapped to 22 RGB value in Photoshop. So we apply this kind of weird curve and we get the image to come out. We print it out on a Epson printer or on a Canon printer, it just prints on over a transparency and then it goes through the platinum plating process. And this one is from, this is my sense of irony, this is from my series metal-on-metal. So the whole image is old rusted-out metal printed onto platinum palladium, which are two of the noble metals in the periodic charts. That's a little play on words for that. The brush marks around the edge people ask about as well. So that little dark piece. One of the things about platinum palladium and one of the reasons I'm drawn to it from a fine art standpoint. So this is a digital file. One of the people things people argue about with digital is that there's this infinite reproducibility to it and it's always the same. Which is one of the hallmarks of photography. But from a collector standpoint, fine art collectors and collectors of art like things that are unique. So this strides that line between I can always recreate that image to be almost identical but those brushstrokes are done, that paper is coated by hand. That's how the emulsion gets put onto the paper so we mixed the chemistry and we paint it onto the paper and then the negative goes on to that and then it gets exposed to UV light and that's what ultimately creates the image. But the brushstrokes each time are unique and so it'll always for--
It adds a unique element.
Yeah, I could never recreate that exact image again.
Nice, well that's good to have that unique. And so part of the same process here?
Same process. This is a platinum print there's no palladium in this one. Eight by 10 negative. And this is again, this was carrying a very heavy camera into the woods and finding some ferns. And I really just loved how delicate it felt and so it was one of those things like I just, nothing had walked in there and nothing has disturbed it. And so I was able to kind of get my camera right at the edge of the trail and photograph kind of down and onto it. I really just wanted everything to kind of compress into some mid-tones and not have really high contrast. And there's a few pure blacks in there but for the most part the black that you see in there is an artificial construction of our brain's desire to create contrast and so there's detail in pretty much every one of those little dark spots. There's actual detail that emerges out of those.
And so you have physical prints of this, how large?
So for this process, the print is the size of the negative because it's a contact print. So this print is actually eight by 10.
Eight by 10. So that's one of the reasons you're using an eight by 10 camera so you can get eight by 10 perfect prints.
Exactly and that was the beauty of the digital negative because the digital negative I can print 16 by 20. I can print 20 by 24 and then I could make 20, it'd be expensive but I could make a 20 by 24 platinum print And that allowed me, that's what really opened the door up because I had small format images that I wanted to do this way. And I wanted something bigger than one inch by two inch. And so getting to the digital negative really opened up that opportunity.
Excellent, excellent. Alright, more of the same process. More metal on metal.
Metal on metal, yep. And so this is a from one of the world war, one of the forts here in Washington that was used to protect the Puget Sound channel. And that's a tie-down anchor they would put on one of the big 10 inch guns. And they would loop a chain through there that would hold the gun in place when it fired evidently, But the texture on the wall is just absolutely, absolutely wonderful. And compositionally I wanted to play with that top line on the horizontal rule of third and then that sweeping kind of curved diagonal. And it was that juxtaposition of the negative space where those two lines intersected on the edge tension is what it had the placement of the ring being in that lower left corner.
Right, now what type of print is this? Is this a palladium or?
This is a palladium print.
And so this one is similar to the one we saw earlier and this is on a meditative state again. Quality of color here and this one I've printed in aluminum in two different variations. I've printed it on about six different papers. Wanted to find that perfect color piece because there really is the interpretation of the color here and the gradation. And this is basically the waves come in and it's receded back. So in the actual print you can see the undercurrent of the sand underneath. You can just hit hints of the sand detail so it's finally where that that balance is.
I love any photo that shows really good gradation of color just kind of your eye just kind of moves from one color to the next. And that nice smooth tone that we have on the foreground there I think is lovely. Really nice.
So this is one of my favorite street shots. When it's printed big there's actually a little bit of smoke coming out of his nose. Yeah and in street work I'm not a person who always goes up and ask to photograph because I do think that then causes a shift. So sometimes I'll ask if I can photograph somebody, sometimes I don't. But this guy's standing there so I just kind of held my camera up and he kind of just gave me a look. Was like yeah that's okay and I took about two frames three frames and it gave me this. And he's like yeah, you're done. And so this was in that frame sense and I have three shots, one without the blue on the left, and I left that blue in because it's a juxtaposition of the color against the orange. Yeah so that got left in there but yea. Now this is a great, just it was a great moment between he and I. And that little bit of smoke coming out, I just found it really--
And obviously very good use of color. This is not one that I'm guessing you even tried to look at in black and white.
That color really sells that there especially with a little blue off to the side. Well excellent, excellent work. Thank you very much and with our remaining time, would you like to look at some of our student's work? Alright so what I'm gonna do is talk about your classes for just a moment here. Before we get out of keynote. You got a couple of classes here at CreativeLive. Describe these real quickly if you would.
Yes, so the Introduction to Black and White Film is a really fun class. They let me actually bring in my darkroom basically and I got to develop film live. So we cover the zone system and a really understanding of how black and white film works, seeing in black and white, how you meter, how you select a film. Then actually how you process it so you could process it at home. And then because a lot of people are digital these days, we talked about how to scan film and then actually how to print digitally. And then the last part of the class is just a bunch of advanced, I call them advanced topics but it's filters, how to find an analog darkroom, how to just do a bunch of different things with film. How film actually gets measured, how do we know all those different things. And then the Large Format class is I start at the very beginning of what's a large format camera. We go through all of the gear and selecting the gear, how to use the large format camera, and then we do an in studio portrait shoot, and then we go out into the field, and we actually do a landscape shot.
And all the different components with that.
Sounds like a good class for anyone who is wanting to get into the the retro world.
Yeah, they're both great with that.