Monday, March 21, 2022

Degree of Difficulty

This was taken with window light in our house in Wellesley, MA in 1973. I used a Kodak 2D 8"x10" camera built in Rochester, NY in 1941, the year of my birth. It's of my sister in law Kim whom we raised as our daughter. She was 12. I had just received the Schneider-Kreuznach 185mm Symar f5.6 lens for my birthday.

As I prepare for my mentorship with Angelina and Samantha in Antonito, I’m being pulled in a half dozen directions. What can I impart in a measly week? Generally, when I think of teaching, I lean toward the general first then the specifics. The principle being that when you understand the concepts the details will make more sense. Not to mention that in week of, say four or five sessions, how many how-to-dos can a couple of novices absorb?

I photographed Alain Comeau on Mount Cranmore in North Conway, NH shortly after I bought my Canon 1Ds DSLR in 2002. I used a Canon 28-135 mm zoom at f5.6 at 1/250 of  second. The cloudy sky served as a huge softbox, something Edward Weston favored in 1920s Mexico. I was about a foot from Alain's face. It's a style of close-up that I still favor.

Using only window light I photographed the late barber and unofficial mayor of Taos Juma Archuleta in his shop just before opening. He opened at 7am. It, too, was shot with the 1Ds and 28-135mm zoom at 125mm, f5.6 and 1/10th of a second. I was rock steady in those days.

Shot under the portal which provided diffuse light Lindsey Enderby was photographed in front of his since shuttered western memorabilia emporium, Horse Feathers, This was with my Canon 1Ds and Canon 28-135mm zoomed to 135mm at f7.1 and 1/50 second.

And finally because I love the shot here's a reenactor at the Philmont Scout Ranch holding his pet chicken. It was shot in a barn with soft light from the open door. Shot with Canon 5D Mark lll, the Canon 28-135mm zoomed to 90mm, f5.6 and 1/640 sec due to the high ISO of 1600.

Yet they both have expressed interest in portraits and portrait lighting as I noted last time. To that end, over the last week I have posted portraits to Instagram that I’ve taken through the years. Along with the photographs I’ve described the who, where, when and the lighting used to make the shot. I sought to show that a variety of lighting techniques can be used to make a memorable portrait. You’ll note that I used “make” not “take” to describe the process. Make is more constructive than take which seems to suggest that that the photographer is a passive player who simply picks the fruit. And, yes, leading with specifics without explaining the photographic world from ten thousand feet was putting the horse before the horse.

Today jewels were all shot with natural light both outdoors and in. Next week I’ll show images made with on camera flash and studio strobes with various light shapers.

This post and the one next week are cleverly disguised tutorials for my mentees, Samantha and Angelina. So far, they have been largely unresponsive to five days of portrait examples on Instagram. Which is to say one of them said “Beautiful” and the other hasn’t responded at all. That concerns me enough that I sent them an email a couple of days ago asking that they indicate that they have seen each Instagram image by clicking the Like button or heart symbol. That way I’ll know they have seen them, and we can discuss their comments and questions when we meet on March 31. I’ve heard nada, zip and zilch.

I expressed my concerns to my wife Peggy and three friends over lunch on Friday. When I said I’d heard nothing Peggy cautioned me that there could be a host of reasons they haven’t been responsive. They don’t have email. They are afraid of social media. And they are timid. I granted that based on what I'd been told both of them have tough back stories and modest means. They have been described as shy even withdrawn. Two friends who are educators told me of students in their spheres who had come from limited means and who had difficult family lives. They described the difficulties these students had to surmount and the secrets they carried about their circumstances. Another, a retired social worker, coached me to a better level of understanding and patience. Thanks to you all for your wise counsel. This mentorship is after all, about Angie and Sam and not about me. If I can give them a glimpse of the wide world beyond Antonito and inspire them with the endless possibilities in front of them my efforts will have been worthwhile. If they enjoy photography for the next 75 years it will be a gift to Angie and Sam and to me.

Still, I’m mystified when efforts are not acknowledged, questions are not answered, and requests are not honored. It's as though I'm talking to myself and that's not a recipe for success.

Throw me a bone here, girls. Learning is a two way street.


Blacks Crossing said...

I'll throw you a bone, Esteban. First of all, I think your approach of posting images you made on Instagram is a good idea, whether or not the young ladies have access to them. For you alone, if that is the case. It is a another part of curating, for a different audience and a different reason. All that you said could be reasons for non-responses. No access, life in general, shyness. But I must say that Fred and I both have friends that respond very slowly to emails, texts, and phone messages. It is always a bit off-putting, especially when they really are very good friends. That is the way some people roll, especially if they have dyslexia. Anyway, I was pleased to see you start with natural light and that you will progress to assorted complementary light sources. That will be important for your "students" to see. You will have a great time and they will be the better for it. People always remember some tidbit from teachers, and many from the good ones, which you are. Thanks for the blog. I have always been fond of the image of Juma Archuleta. Enjoy your teaching and please keep us all posted!

John Ellsworth said...

You see, Senor Immel, you see the Instagram and the world through a different eye than any of the rest of us do, the eye of the learned artist. Your mentees most likely see some headshots and have no idea why you've called them up and posted them. It is very difficult to comment on something you don't see. But I understand your frustration, which is exactly why I keep my head down and have no writing advice for anyone--save for you--as it saves on my serenity. Good luck with teaching your new friends to see as you do. If they come away with a tenth of it they'll be lucky.