Squire’s Castle

An old one from the film archives… a shot of the main archway at Squire’s Castle.

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Opportunity!

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I’ve been pretty lucky, when it comes to photographing people. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing people, and quite a few of them have been featured on the Don Bensman Photography website, Facebook page and this blog. Some have been professional & part-time models, corporate executives, construction workers, farmers, mothers, fathers and friends I’ve made along the way. Regardless of their background, I get great enjoyment from connecting with someone and creating some great images.

My recent opportunity, was meeting and getting to photograph the lovely person in these images. She happened to be back in Cleveland for a few days, and I was able to get an hour of her time for an impromptu shoot. Although I wasn’t able (due to time) to set up the shoot I had envisioned for her, I couldn’t have been happier with images we got out of this “on-the-fly” shoot. Even though there were a few small challenges to overcome during the shoot, everything just seemed to work out perfectly.

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Revitalizing An Old Image

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On the distant heels of my last post and to get in the spirit of the winter season, I pulled this image from the hard drives. I had shot this when I was out having a little fun with the view camera. This particular image was shot on 4×5 color slide film, and was a little lacking in quality (it wasn’t exposed perfectly).

Not long ago, I wanted to try out a lab that I never used before… just in case I felt the need to shoot a little E6 film or get some quality scans. I ended up sending the 4×5 color slide film out to AgX Imaging in Sault Sainte Marie, MI. I had purposely chose a “not so great” image for my initial test, just to see what they could do. Although I had made sure they did not make any adjustments to the image, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. I ended up with a huge digital file that had a ton of detail, and the ability to make some global & fine adjustments to bring out what was lost in the poor exposure. The best part, was the digital image needed very little clean up from dust getting scanned along with the slide film. Something I was having to deal with when it came to using other labs.

New Look at Old Images

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It’s funny when you look back at images you’ve taken years ago. There’s been times where I dug up some old images, and found myself saying “what was I thinking when I shot this”? The best, were the ones where you were obviously learning something new, trying out a new technique or testing some new lighting. They’re great if you want to see how far you’ve come along, or to see how you’ve perfected and/or evolved with a certain technique. I think the worst has to be when you were shooting in a trendy style at the time, which is no longer trendy.

Recently, I’ve found myself liking some of my old or “irrelevant” images. It’s not uncommon when I’m out shooting a project (wether it’s self assigned, for a client or publication), to shoot some extra stuff. The majority of the time, I’m photographing people. As I’m doing that, I tend to spot things that I find interesting… and I photograph them. Most of the time when I get them back on the computer, I quickly decide that they will not be used. They might not be bad images, just not what I was going for.

After recently speaking with a magazine editor, I found myself having to go back into the archives looking for some images I shot some time ago. As I was searching through images, I started running across all these images that were catching my attention. I realized that I had a whole new appreciation for images that at one point, I found irrelevant. I was “seeing” them differently now.

A good example, is the above image. I had shot this while on a walk-about at a farmers market. As I was walking around, I ended up getting in some shots here and there of the produce. I’m not really sure what I was going for at the time with the pumpkin shot, but I took a pass on it when I edited the pics from that day. When I came across it the other day, I totally found myself loving it. Plus, I really like how it plays a little trick on your eyes.

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Mixing it up

Every once in a while, I get into a conversation with somebody about why I still venture out and capture images with my 4×5 field camera, or onto film. The obvious and upfront easy answer… because it’s fun for me. The other reason (and one that usually involves a little more explanation), because it helps me think differently. For those that never experienced using a large format view camera, have a difficult time understanding this.

When you shoot a with a view camera or onto film, the whole thought process is different. The basic photography principals still apply, but it’s like entering a completely different world than the digital realm we live in today. The process forces you to slow down. You are working with camera movements that do not exist on a DSLR (unless you have a tilt-shift lens… but still not the same). There’s no TTL metering, no auto focus and no LCD screen to check your image when you’re shooting with film. You also have to be mindful of things like compensating for bellows extension and reciprocity.

I could go on and on about the differences, but the whole point to this, is that shooting with my 4×5 on film, helps me think differently and in finding clarity. To me, it’s really no different than the things other people do to refresh, rejuvenate and open up their thought process. While some people go out for a run, and others might spend time gaming, I choose to shoot a different camera on a different medium. For me, this process can sometimes lead into new ideas and new projects. It’s good to mix things up now and again.

This image of a lift-bridge and skyline was taken in downtown Cleveland, Ohio several years ago. It was the last time I had seen the bridge in the down position.

This image of a lift-bridge and skyline was taken in downtown Cleveland, Ohio several years ago with a 4×5 field camera and TMX 100 film. It was the last time I had seen the bridge in the down position.

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The Farmers Project

I stepped away for a couple of weeks, to get some work done on a new project photographing farmers. This project has been in the works for some time, but the parameters kept changing on how it was going to be done. What started out to be a series of up-close head shots shot using a 4×5 view camera transformed into the images below. In the end, it all came down to having the ability to shoot quickly, so keeping camera gear and lighting simplified and portable was essential.

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Contrary to what some people might believe, most farmers are very intelligent, environmental conscious, and some of the hardest working people I know. Their work day can start around 6:00am and not end until 9:00pm, and what most of them consider chores, we would call a hard days work. Depending on what they’re farming or raising, some farmers could potentially put up a life savings each year, with the chance of loosing it all to a bad season. Regardless of the hard work and the risk, everyone I photographed really seemed to love what they were doing. Even the children I had photographed as part of this project were fairly involved with some of the daily activities.

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Although this project is still ongoing, everyone that I’ve met and/or photographed has been unbelievably friendly and generous. With most of their days being filled with one task after another, everyone was gracious enough to take a little time to have their photo taken. As part of this project, I’ve had the privilege of photographing different types of farmers; from the full-time large scale farmers to part-time farmers (which also work another full-time job). In addition to the traditional livestock and grain, I even had the opportunity to photograph some tobacco farmers from Pennsylvania.

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As this project progresses, I will continue to update images here and at www.donbensmanphotography.com