Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Weekend in the Bay Area

The weekends are a great opportunity to take a break from the normal routine. Some weekends are better than others, and some weekends are easily forgettable.

This past weekend, I went on an adventure to the bay area; in particular, Los Gatos and San Francisco. I had a great time, driving, thinking, and dreaming. I spent some time driving without the radio and just listened to my thoughts. When I arrived, my lovely friend Jessie greeted me with an 8 year old puppy named Daisy.

Being outside of Orange County is refreshing. I was enthralled knowing that waking up the next day, I would see something new. I was so happy staying with a good caring friend, whom I was able to catch up with. I can imagine what I would be doing if I were home, I would have woken up, grabbed a bite, hung out at a coffee shop and seen the same thing... Just on a different day.

So that day was different, spent some time in the downtown area of Los Gatos. There were many small businesses, much to do, much to spend on. I wasn't up there to shop or flaunt. With Jessie, I brought my ukulele and camera. We hung out and told stories, I played her a few songs a friend and I had written. Then I documented the occasion with a portrait of her and also the fountain that was beyond us.

Later that afternoon we walked Daisy around the block. I left Los Gatos, drove an hour up into the mission district of San Francisco. I spent some time in a coffee shop, took some portraits, read, and had random conversations with a few people.

My humongous camera attracted some people's attention some of which asked me “do they even still make film for that?!” To which I would reply, “yes they do. Film isn't dead, you know.” A few people mistook my camera for a video camera because of its size.

One conversation I had was with a man named Jeremiah. He was on his way to leave the coffee shop and inquired about my camera. He asked me “do they still make film for that?” The typical question that affirms my belief that people think that this medium is dead. I showed him how large the exposure is… then he noticed the book that I was reading, it was the biography of Andrew Wyeth entitled “Andrew Wyeth: a Secret Life.” He said, “Andrew Wyeth?” With a look of confusion on his face. I asked him, “what about him?” He replied, “well, I wouldn't think that someone your age would even know about him.” To which I replied, “he was one of the greats! How could I not?” We then talked about other artists and museums and pieces, laughing and criticizing different artists. A few moments later he left.

I spent another few moments at the coffee shop then took a walk around the block. I noticed this building covered with a mural in a graffiti like style. As I continued to dwell around the painted wall, I noticed this banner that was hung up on the wire fence that blocked off a small parking lot suitable for about eighteen cars. The banner read: “Calumet,” it was a name so familiar to me in my photographic endeavors. I was elated by the chance to be in such a great photography store. I walked around the building hoping to find the entrance to the shop. I reached the other end of the parking lot, its fence gate was open. My camera felt so heavy in my arm. I walked toward the door and the security guard on the other side of the door said to me slowly with the use of his lips, shaping each word, “we are closed.” I looked at the door and noticed the time, it was 6:13pm, I had missed their store hours by thirteen minutes. I guess my face went from excited to sad because the security guard looked as though he was sad for me. He turned around and called out on a guy behind the counter that signaled him to let me in. I walked in slowly as though I was entering sacred grounds. The place was full of photographic equipment, most of which I had never used before. I was excited. When the man who allowed me to come in came over and asked me with a smile on his face, “what do you need?” “I need chemicals!” He walked me to the small aisle where they had the fixer, developer, and such. He recommended the D-76 solution and a basic fixer and handed me some Kodak Photo-Flo. I was sold. I didn't even know the price. The total came close to $20, which was something I truly appreciated. After buying my supplies, I looked around the shop just thinking, “wouldn't it be fun to use this… or use that.” I bid them farewell with a “thanks guys!” The guy said, “no problem! See you around.” That was great.

After my great Calumet experience, I met up with one of my best friends and her boyfriend. We told stories, got caught up a bit; laughed, had a pizza, had a beer. It was a great night. The drive back to Los Gatos was great. I came back to Jessie's place by around 11:30pm, she was up with her roommate. It was a great end to the evening.

Now, I've been back for a week since that trip. I'm thinking about how life could be less ordinary, or just as ordinary as we perceive it. Today is a weekend, I'm back to my typical routine. I'm at a coffee shop, writing, I have my camera with me… its still ordinary, but I'm learning to appreciate it. God is good, life is great… moreover when you have friends.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Nine Hour Drive

Driving through the night can be a daunting endeavor alone. I drove up to Northern California this weekend. Left Friday evening and drove through the night. I started this strange adventure by coming home after work and packing light for a stay for two days. After packing I left and picked up some food from an In and Out Burger restaurant off the 210 freeway. It was delectible. I then proceeded to drive on the 210 in order to cut the time it would take me through the Los Angeles traffic on a Friday night.

Upon arriving on the 5 freeway, right before even getting far enough to reach the “Grapevine,” traffic yielded to a slow crawl and I was entrapped by all the other vehicles on the road. Something was wrong. A few miles later, there was a sign that read “5 Freeway Closed Due to Snow.” It was a disappointing sign, but not quite surprising, because earlier that day, it had rained hail in my city. That event is quite peculiar in Southern California.

So I used my phone to re-route my destination. The 5 Freeway was closed due to unamiable weather and what was intended, err, expected to be a five to six hour drive to Los Gatos turned out to be an 8 hour drive not including the hour I spent in traffic. It was a terrible situation that I wouldn't wish upon anybody. The inconvenience alone, as I can only imagine, would be enough to put some people in despair and not take the trip. I updated my friend who hospitably had me stay over for the weekend that I was most likely to arrive around 3-5am. It was indeed a terrible situation.

Now, before you make any more judgements about this, I want to say first that I've driven through the night for more than fourteen hours. I'm able to stay awake and cognisent througout most roadtrip expiditions. This few hours setback (four hour setback to be accurate), wasn't quite the ordeal that I was intending on taking, but it was an ordeal that I knew I could take and manage.

I drove through the hills with such vigor. First starting the journey without sound from the stereo system. Listening to my thoughts. Then played two hours of podcasts; then silence. Then the radio...

Then, I had a moment in my drive where I noticed the cars that were passing by on the other side of the road. Their headlights were illuminating the hillside or mountain to my left. I noticed what seemed to me to be lush vegitation, then my mind filled in the rest.

I wasn't able to see the beauty that was because of the abscence of light.

It was an epitomy... a simple one. Rushing in at 65-70mph in my car, I could not see the hillside next to me, just glimpses of it because of the cars on the opposite end of the road, heading in the other direction. There's a metaphor there; an idea so simple, and so common in my life that just resonated with who I was at that moment. I felt right.

After a nine hour drive I arrived in Los Gatos by 3:10am, Saturday morning.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Why Film?

I wanted to take some time to write about film, about how I feel about it. Its easy to just say that I like it. Sometimes language doesn't suffice. I want to tell you what is it about film, or analog photography, that makes me enthralled.

Imagine yourself in an empty room. Four walls, two windows on one side. Dark wood panels surround you, three walls painted in an ocher yellow, the floors a red mahogany. Look up in your mind's eye, notice that the ceiling is absent, just wooden trusses and the panels that keep the rooftop. There's a warmth that seems to envelop the space, lit in a haze. You walk toward the window to your left and look out; you see a yellow tree.

You breathe slowly. One. Inhale. Two. Exhale. Vapors cloud before your head. Without a thought, you turn to your right and step outside of the room and look out. The wood creaks beneath your feet. You stop before the four steps that led you away from this lonesome cabin. It is the afternoon, the light passes through the trees. You breathe.

Light Through Trees

This is how I feel when I look at this image. Maybe it takes a certain kind of imagination, but the idea is there.

An image to me is a captured moment; whether it may be a painting or a photograph, these moments have a quality to them. Within every image, intrinsically, there's an idea. A wisp of thought, like smoke. Each image could tell some sort of story, or provoke an emotion. Being able to capture these moments have always been a hope for many. I think of this as I compose a photograph, or as a painter laying paint, that what is happening in my mind is a moment that is faster than the reality where my body resides. As I take a photograph, or gently hold a brush and paint, I'm making an impression of this moment in my mind.

There's a certain quality to these ideas because of meaning. The intentions behind it. I do believe that it is true that one could capture an image, a good image. With the proper tool, the right light.. anyone could capture a good image. But what makes an great image, in my opinion, is the meaning behind it and the thoughts or emotions it inspires within me.

The medium used to render such images is important. The fidelity of the idea counts on it. Film, like other analog technologies is somewhat romantic in this sense. Silver is sensitized through a chemical process and is prepared onto a cotton laden gelatinous sheet in complete darkness; where the next moment it should ever see light is when you've released a shutter and exposed it. The silver reacts to the light and moves in an organic manner. It goes through another process to erode the “tagged” silver, and fix the silver that should remain on the film, forming a negative. A process so similar to its earliest conception. Its a faithful process that has a distinct character to it... and each film is different. Its not even a perfect process, and its become somewhat of a novelty

Film has a quality to the images it's able to capture. There's not just grain, but also some form of dimension to the image. I like to think of a similar relationship between sound and a vinyl record. Vinyl reproduces sound so well (given the appropriate environment and speakers) that it has a warmth and seemingly natural tone to it. When I listen to music on it when I get the chance, I feel as though I'm hearing what the artist meant when he or she strummed that chord, or sang in such a way. When I look at silver gelatin prints, or glass plate positives, or even chromogenic print, I feel the same way. I hear these analog processes whisper an idea in a wisp, like smoke, welcoming me to understand them. Without a medium to be faithful to the image, I feel as though the meaning could be lessened or even lost. The analog process is still the best way to capture an image photographically.

I am not against digital photography at all. I just find that photography doesn't progress in the ease of doing it, but the quality of mind and medium used to bind it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What's New?

So, what's new? A lot has changed within the past year (2012). This redesign of aarondelani.com is a reflection of that. I've been working on a few different things these past few months. Among the other new things in my life is this nifty light meter:

Playing Around With the Light Meter

So, you're probably wondering, “What's with the light meter?” Well, let me tell you... I got a new camera, its a medium format Mamiya RB67 Pro S. Here's a picture of it a few weeks after I got it:

Photo by Aaron Delani

Its a great camera and its really enabled me to take some really great shots that I wouldn't be able to take before. The first roll I took on this camera, I felt in control for the first time in my medium format photography experience. It was a ton of fun. I'm also planning on processing them myself, the film process would also be a great experience... at least I think so. Since I've been taking so many more pictures, I've also been working on a portfolio of images.

Also in the mix is the Illocution Zine (more about that later on)... I think I'm forgetting something... oh yeah, I just redesigned my whole website! Took a few weeks, but it was shorter than the last. Anyway, that's it for now. I just really wanted to update my blog.