Wednesday, September 28, 2022

After the Autumnal Equinox

This can be a real fun time of year, and bitter sweet in some ways.  We had to say goodbye to many of our summer friends, like the Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, the Wrens, Chipping and Song Sparrows, Eastern Kingbirds, Dickcissels and the Hummingbirds.  

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to properly time their departure?  Ha!  Just put out a new jar of grape jelly and the Orioles leave...just mix a new batch of sugar water and the Hummingbirds leave!  It's crazy, oh well...

Ruby-crowned Kinglet in the Viburnum - photo - © Bruce A. Morrison


I've been welcoming the new arrivals the past few days.  Lot of Harris's, Lincoln's and White-throated Sparrows; a few warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets.  The Harris's and White-throated Sparrow lyrics have been the new morning staple out here on the acreage...very pleasant music to start the day with.

And I've been trying to get photos but there are so many distractions in the studio and outside.  Apples to pick, seed to harvest in the pastures, chain saw work in the groves - still left over from the last derecho 2 months back (final small cleanup work).

Also been trying to get back into some artwork!  Much has been left for summer work and now maybe can be picked up once more.  I had a Dickcissel idea last spring and it keeps evolving/changing...maybe it'll be next???  Also have a larger painting on the easel that got started too late in the spring...waiting for summer and fall to end.

"Eastern Kingbird - Portrait" - color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

I had a friend stop by a couple months back mention Eastern Kingbirds...I joked how they seem to move in the opposite direction - fence post by fence post whenever I have my camera with me!  Funny but true.  I did manage to find some fair poses in my image files that made a nice iconic Eastern Kingbird pose for a small color pencil portrait.

"Red-breasted Nuthatch - Portrait" - color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

Getting the pencils out brought on more image ideas that had been pent up all summer.  I haven't caught up with all those ideas but I've done a few. Here's a Red-breasted showed up a couple weeks ago and it makes an appearance every now and then.  Hope it sticks around! 

"Sharp-shinned Hawk - Portrait" - color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

I've had some raptors in the yard this summer...mostly Cooper's Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks and an occasional Red-tail.  This bird, a Sharp-shinned adult gave me such a great pose a few years back...I knew I had to save the idea for a drawing.  With it now being Autumn and our colors so poor this year, I decided to give it a colorful background to set it off.  I try and do all these bird "portraits" life size.  Sharpies are only about Blue Jay size or slightly larger, so this is not the biggest drawing - but then, in comparison the that Red-breasted Nuthatch it sure looks big!

Now I need to catch up on framing!  Always something!

We've got another dry Fall here on the acreage...our third severe (listed) drought in a row.  We seem to be in a "finger" stretching up from the southwest; travel 10-20 miles north and its not as 20-30 miles east...again not so bad.  Further south seems to get rain as is what it is.

Really the only issues we have here are the gardens being poor producers, the orchards were insect and bird damaged, and the pastures had poor seed production, stunted growth and many plants gone dormant, again.  We've found out the hard way that the American Viburnum we've planted are not "consecutive year" drought tolerant...holes are being punched into the 20 year yard planting here.

Weather all over the world seems to be in the news...Hurricane now hitting Florida, drought out west, and the NE...flooding in so many locations worldwide.  We'll just be grateful for what we have and do the best we can for those in need.

Its a crazy world out there - be kind to one another!

Friday, September 2, 2022

September Archival Works Friday!

It's Archival Works Friday!

As I mentioned before - I'll post a painting, drawing or serigraph (silkscreen prints) from the "archive" files of years past...and give a little back story on the work - the first Friday of the month.

I am now including photographs of past years. I hope you'll find it interesting! 


My first large format camera - a 1951 Crown Graphic

I was first introduced to “large format” photography back in the early 1970's when a student at the University of Iowa's School of Art.  My Father-in-Law bought an old Crown Graphic 4X5 press camera from an older gentleman who had been a professional photographer all his life. The retired photographer “Andy” had bought this camera new back in 1951. I was a one year old in '51!!!

For those out there that don't know what large format is – its a camera that takes any type of sheet film from 4X5” and larger.  One sheet of film.  Large format cameras were build to accept film holders – they held 2 sheets – you'd shove the holder into the camera's back, pull a dark slide out of the holder, take the photo, push the dark slide back in and pull the holder out...if you wanted to take another photo you would turn the holder over and shove it back into the camera back and repeat the process.  You had to remember to mark the holder or flip the dark slide so you'd remember that sheet was already the heat of the moment I must have double exposed my share of film over the 30 years I used my 4X5's!  Oops!!!

I also had a Graphic 6 sheet holder – this was very cool if it didn't jam up or was finicky!  If I were to fog or waste a sheet – B&W film wasn't too bad...maybe about 35-50 cents a sheet, but the color film could be as expensive as $1.50 to $2.00 a sheet!  To make matters worse, if you didn't realize you screwed up your shot, having to get it processed or doing that yourself spent more money on processing or chemical costs!   It was always a moment for regret after processing a batch of film only to find out something had gone wrong!  A sheet of color film, after being processed could add up to as much as $5.00 “A SHOT”!  That was a bundle to lose back in the 70's through the 90's!!! Especially for just one picture!

There was a lot of ways to lose shots...the subject moved...the tripod jiggled a bit during a time exposure...the film holder leaked, or just plain blew the exposure...and a lot more ways!

Don't get me started with how easy everyone has it these days!!!  Oh dear, my age is showing!

I became very good at processing sheet film...I worked in a professional photo lab in Kansas City for 3 years back in the mid 70's...processed thousands of sheets - “manually” by hand. And I found I could cut my costs by over a third by doing my own that way, but it was extremely tedious and time consuming...and chemicals were not cheap or forgiving.

My 4X5 Field Camera - a Tachihara
 I used 2 types of 4X5 cameras – the first one I mentioned a ways back was just one year older than me...the other was a beautiful wood/folding field camera...a beautiful piece of workmanship, a Tachihara 4X5 Field Camera.  This wooden field camera was lighter than the lenses and lensboards I used!  I won't get into all the drawbacks or challenges of large format film and cameras, suffice it to say I've already mentioned a few, but the 2 toughest hurdles for me were always depth of field and the shutter speeds you were forced to use.  Most large format landscape images required F/32 or higher and shutter speeds of ½ second or longer...ya, try hand holding that!  NOT!  My favorite tripod was a wood ash tripod – still use it to this day – HEAVY bugger but steady as a rock!

I guess I could keep complaining or bragging about how I had to walk to school for over a mile, up hill both ways, when I was a kid (Really – I kid you not! Well, after grade school any way) But it was “work” for sure. (Just don't get me started on cameras and smart phones these days – Aacck, there I go again!)

There are a lot of stories I could get into with Large Format photography, but the all time favorite was one vacation back in the early 1980's.

On vacation, the family had to resign itself to the fact that I was always stopping to take pictures...always!  The tripod and back pack were ever present and a photograph could take up to several minutes to as much as a half hour or longer – depending on what was going on or where we were.

I carried a lot of loaded film holders, but it didn't take me long to run out of film! The only way to “re-load” film holders was in total darkness.  OK...if you're out camping in a tent, on vacation, your opportunities are limited!

One day in Cascade River State Park in NE Minnesota I ran out of loaded film.  This was NOT the place to run out of film!  We were camped in the park itself and there were too many cars, headlights and flashlights at night to chance changing film holders in the tent, so I went searching for the park ranger's house, knocked on the door and tried best I could to explain my dilemma...I showed him a sheet of film and a film holder...showing him how it worked. I asked if he had a room in his house that was able to be completely darkened in the middle of the day. He said the only room he could think of was the hallway closet and agreed o let me take it over for about a half hour!

Well the closet was “close” to being dark...there was light making it's way under the closet door, so I took clothes off their hangers (ya using the ranger's coats and jackets) and stuffing them around the door bottom. It worked! The room was very hot after a few minutes and I had to try and keep from letting sweat drip onto the film – literally!

As I was getting to my last couple holders I heard a woman's voice enter the house. Then I heard foot steps walking down the hallway toward the closet door. Next I heard the ranger's voice almost shout “Don't open the closet door – a man's in there!!!”

I don't remember much after this point except with me “popping” out of the closet drenched in sweat – then the ranger's wife shrieking hysterically!

I'm sure we spoke briefly before leaving the ranger and his wife behind, but really all I remember is the unstoppable laughter emanating from their house as I carried my pack of film holders back to the campsite.

I do remember leaving them a sheet of film as a memento of this auspicious/wacky occasion.

I'll wager the word “photographer” brings back a story for them both to this day!

Crazy camera nut!!! 

(No argument there...)