Driving past Chichester on Wednesday last week, I couldn’t help dropping in to see more of Michael Kenna’s prints at the superb Bosham Gallery.
In my previous post I talked about my delight at the ‘Michael Kenna – 45 Retrospective Exhibition’ that was showing through the summer. They had followed it up with another featuring his work called ‘New and Rare Works’ running from 2nd to 28th September…so just a few days left to see it as I write this.
I was able to chat with the owner Luke Whittaker, who had obviously set up a very good relationship with Michael to get more prints personally produced by him to show. There were indeed some ‘New’ ones but also some that had ‘sold out’ of the artists 45 print editions. For these Michael had released ‘Artist Proofs’ from his archives.
I was bold over by one of his images taken in Hokkaido back in 2002. A picture I had never seen before.
So simple but that faint dark line against the snow on the trunk made it a memorable a image and of course it was a really wonderful print. Alas the rarity of being an Artist Proof from a now completed Edition made it carry a £17750 price tag!
I look forward to more exhibitions in the future of Michael’s work at this delightful gallery. It’s a wonderful place to photograph as well…I was trotting around the Quay at 4 in the morning under a nice moon a couple of days later with my camera!
I’ve finally made it to the wonderful 45 year retrospective exhibition of Michael Kenna’s work at the lovely little gallery at Bosham, near Chichester.
It was pleasing to see the care with which the owner Luke Whitaker and manager Angus Heywood had put into choosing and hanging the 42 prints from Michael’s years of image making since the 1970’s through to this year.
Michael has always been the most intelligent and thoughtful of photographers and you can’t help but notice how consistent his photographic style has been since his earliest days. Quite remarkable in fact to have distilled your ‘vision’ into something so long ago and not feel the need to change it, only to refine it.
As you can see from the Bosham Galleries picture above, the prints were mainly hung as a double row and all were framed in what I’m sure is Michael’s preferred manner, in 20″x16″ black frames. This provides ample ‘white space’ as the images are always printed fairly small at around 8″x8″ and that sizing certainly draws the viewer in.
This is how a Michael Kenna print looks when framed. A pure white matt is used and the prints are dry mounted with a narrow border that carries the edition number and Michael’s signature. Sepia or Selenium toning is used though I don’t envy him having to handle the chemicals every day in the darkroom. He uses Ilford Multigrade photographic paper which is modified through filters in the enlarger and understandably allows considerable contrast adjustment when in the darkroom but personally I’ve never been in love with that papers slight sheen. The printing technique is totally beyond criticism, he’s just a wonderful printer and the time spent in the darkroom and undertaking spotting must be immense. The prints are ‘little gems’. As my own old ‘wet darkroom prints’ remind me, film grain is reduced by cold cathode enlargers and yet images appear wonderfully sharp.
The gallery must have been over the moon with capturing one of the great living photographers and so far had managed to sell over 30 prints at prices from £2500 to £7400. So it was particularly pleasing to see that Fine Art Photography can survive in the UK away from ‘Mayfair’ and good of his longstanding London dealer Giles Huxley to let Bosham have an exhibition.
The day before the opening in June, Michael had a book signing at The Photographer’s Gallery and I was able to get a signed copy of his new book ‘A 45 Year Odyssey’. This was also the name of an exhibition in Tokyo at the beginning of the year. Luke and Angus at Bosham hadn’t felt the need at all to follow the choices from the book and Tokyo exhibition and had scoured Michael’s vast archive for their own selections. So this was really a unique exhibition. Wonderful also to find that there was even a brand new ‘unseen print’. It was ‘Red Crown Crane Feeding’ in the the snow of Hokkaido, which although it dated from 2005, Michael had brought over in his luggage as it hadn’t been printed or shown before . It was just a simple beautiful image.
Driving home to Dorset I began to think of my own favourite Kenna images. The ones I would buy for my ‘Kenna Wall’. There would be’ Four Birds’…such a simple stylish image…just look at the birds positioning:
I love Corridor of Leaves:
I’ve already shown two of Michael’s other tree images in an earlier blog back in April, the ‘Stone Pine Tunnel, Pineto, Abruzzo 2016’ and my favourite of the many Kussharo Lake Tree images which is ‘Kussharo Lake Study 6 Hokkaido 2007’. So here’s another tree from Hokkaido…how perfect is that fence:
Keeping it simple again, like one of those ‘Harry Callaghan’ images I suppose, but perhaps even better:
Michael Kenna absorbed many ideas from others but went and made them his own. ‘Influenced by’ but never ‘copying’. Lots of photographers now mimicking Kenna should learn from this.
Yet another from Hokkaido:
He’s made many fence posts images in the snow, taken mainly in Japan. They are all stunning. I’d really need to have one of the Huangshan mountain pictures, perhaps this one with it’s mist and ‘layers’ of mountains:
And the first ‘Moonrise’ that triggered my interest in capturing the passage of the moon in very very long exposures:
And something from the French countryside, how about moonlight and lightning?:
And a Holga image from Paris of a perfectly captured ‘peace symbol’:
Spain?This one’s got a wonderful dark sky to offset the windmills:
Michael has never been frightened by ‘less picturesque’ industrial subjects. He followed in the footsteps of Charles Sheeler who had spent 6 weeks photographing the giant Ford plant at Dearborn in Michigan in 1927.Michael undertook his project every year between 1992 and 1995 and produced photographs far exceeding Sheeler’s work. I’d choose this one, used on the book cover of ‘Rouge’. It’s perhaps not a typical Kenna image at all, but he’s printed it so there are lots of silhouettes:
Mist has often played a part in making his pictures special and I love this long lens shot which uses clouds to produce the same effect :
And one from his early years, this from his arrival in the US, a quiet, satisfying against the light composition in mist:
So many that I would pick but those would get me started I guess! Michael Kenna is a truly prolific photographer who has just got the ability to go right to the soul of almost any subject and make a meaningful image.
I’ve been shooting long exposures of the moon ‘rising and setting’ ever since I went back to using a film camera, a few years ago now. I was taken with an image by, once again, Michael Kenna, of the moon rising over the Chausey Islands off the French coast. I realised that over the years I had photographed the moon many times, but never as a really, really long exposure. The magic that happens during an excessively long exposure is quite wonderful and Kenna had started a whole ‘minimalism movement’ in monochrome photography with his ‘frozen water’ and also his many images by moonlight. Others had done long exposures before but Kenna did lots of it and made some outstanding pictures…as he still does.
So my first attempt was an exposure over a couple of hours or so a Corfe Castle. I stood around for a few hours, whilst the full moon rose up behind the castle…and my images were rubbish! First lesson, the moon only lights what it can shine on so find something in the frame that will get illuminated….a silhouette of a dark castle isn’t very interesting!
On then to attempt number two. This was perfect…the moon rising behind the wooden ‘Low’ lighthouse that stands on the beach at Burnham. I had to find a night of the full moon when the tide would stay off the part of the beach long enough to capture a very long image. Moon tables and tide tables…planning always comes into this sort of photography.
I feared my tripod would move during the 3 hours and 15 minutes that this exposure took as the beach was soft as you can see….but I got away with it. The magic that happens is partly to do with the reflections from the moon ‘spreading’ across the image to give a much bigger illuminated area than is observed by the human eye. Plus of course you don’t actually know where the moon will ‘travel to’ during the exposure…although you soon learn to judge it pretty well. There is no ‘live view’ screen on my Hasseblad film camera alas.
Here’s a slightly different one, of the moon ‘setting’ over misty water and mountains.
That’s a 2 and a half hour exposure. I set up two cameras, the Hasselblad SWC/M with it’s 38mm wide lens and another 501CM camera with a 50mm widish lens. If I’m lucky with my location I can wander back to my campervan and make myself a coffee…as I did here. The mist arose as I was away and I hadn’t put anything on the camera to keep the condensation off but the images were OK.
I’m aware that I’ve mainly been shooting the moon ‘rising’ soI now have to find locations for more of the ‘setting’ moon images. It’s less easy to findinteresting ‘west looking locations’, particularly in my home area on the Dorset coast. The lens I choose obviously determines the size of the moon in the image. Those like the Blea Tarn one above have a pretty small moon, whilst in this Southampton River Test image, shot with the 250mm lens the moon is really big. Some passing clouds also do ‘nice things’, as they add texture to the moon, even better then than a totally clear sky.Over such long exposure times, most moving clouds won’t even register, just the ones that get brightly lit my being close to the moon.
Here’s my latest image from the full moon earlier this month. I haven’t yet had the full ‘rising moon’ monochrome image (that I took over 2 and a half hours) processed as it’s still sitting on a roll of Acros in one of my camera film backs. However here’s my first colour ‘moonbeam’, although the moon obviously is still bright white. This was taken over 15 minutes at the Durdle Door arch, here in Dorset. Shot on Portra film. I’m still deciding if I like the image in colour, even if it is pretty ‘monochrome’, ie one colour!
My last post was about the recent Hasselblad product announcements and particularly about the slim little ‘body’, that Hasselblad is calling the 907X.
The Hasselblad press announcement stated that it would be able to take, in addition to the obvious XCD lenses from the X-1D camera, the H Series lenses and also the ancient V Series.
Here’s a look at what I think that means. Hasselblad, along with others like FotoDiox, Klipon and Cambo, have all been making Hasselblad lens adapters for sometime. But let’s start with the Hasselblad adapters currently for the X-1D camera.
This is the Hasselblad X to H lens converter, currently available for the X-1D camera.
This guy’s going to let you use the HC and HCD lenses from the big H Series cameras. That is the range of cameras that ran from the original H1 and H2 film cameras, which became H1D and H2D digital versions and then into the H3D model which has continued on to the latest H6D. I think there are 12 lenses available that fit those cameras. These have all been built by Fujias the Hasselblad association with Zeiss ended with the V Series.
The adapter is fairly big and when mounted on that little waif of a 907X body plus the CFV digital back, it’ll almost be as big as any other ‘normal camera’ in your hand. With this adapter you will have control of the HC/HCD lenses built-in leaf shutter, aperture and auto focusing…all from the buttons on the back I guess although the new side grip looks like adding ‘more buttons’.
Hasselblad also stated the 907X would be able to use the old Zeiss V Series lenses. Now they produce an adapter to do that currently for the X-1D camera as well.
The film plane was some distance away because of the V series mirror, so this adapter moves the lens well away and is pretty big. However it adds the ability to mount all those Zeiss Distagon, Planar, Tessar and Sonnar lenses on the 907X, which will be very interesting to behold. The XV adaptor shown here is currently available to get your V Series lenses onto an X-1D. Sadly in doing that you have to give up the leaf shutter built into each of the Zeiss V lenses and you have to enable the use of the electronic shutter built in the in the X-1D body. Oh dear…that’s not great as the electronic shutter takes about 300mSecs to sweep over the sensor, thus making it useless for moving objects. You also don’t get any other ‘auto’ facilities, so manual focusing, exposure etc but that was to be expected with V Series manual lenses. The full range of flash sync speeds that a leaf shutter also gave are also gone… But hey…I’m a manual sort of guy…I’d get by.
It’s difficult though to see how this XV adapter would work with that little 907X at all unless the 907X was getting an electronic shutter…or maybe even the CFV-II 50C would get the electronic shutter?I believe that Phase One have incorporated one into a digital back already.
Well suprisingly things weren’t always this crude….Hasselblad had already built a ‘better’ adapter for mounting V Series lenses…this time is was for the H Series bodies. This one was an even more serious device as it had the ability to use the leaf shutter in the V lens and also control of the aperture.
They called this the CF adapter. This is what Hasselblad said: “The automatic focusing system in the H Camera can be used to guide the manual setting of focus through the use of the focus confirmation signal displayed in the viewfinder. Light is measured at full aperture with all lenses, which produces an aperture and shutter speed data display in the camera for the manual setting of the exposure. Owners of CFE version lenses receive an additional benefit as the preset aperture setting is automatically transferred to the camera. Shutter cocking is performed manually with all lenses and is quickly accomplished by an easily accessible lever on the side of the adapter.” So users of this earlier H Series adapter get the following with their V Series lenses: Normal use of the built in leaf shutter, which they can cock with a lever…along with those higher flash sync speeds which are still manually set on lens from 1s–1/500s including B and T modeand no use of a laggy electronic shutter. There’s light metering at full aperture and electronic focus confirmation on the viewfinder display . The databus connection with the late CFE lenses operates and is past through to the camera.
I wonder therefore if this more complex adapter could comeback in a new form to be used on the 907?
Hasselblad just made a set of surprise announcements. They are going to be selling a Mark 2 version of their most beautiful looking digital camera to date, the X-1D. It has a better touch screen and I do hope it will fix some of the things they omitted when the original X-1D came out. I hope they’ve remembered that photographers need a proper ‘remote release’…you can’t rely on being tethered to remotely fire a camera. Also they must fix the small built in delay the camera suffers from. Pressing a shutter must be instant!
Although staying with the 50Meg pixel resolution, the X-1D also gets another new lens…fine, but the best news for ‘old dinosaurs’ like me who love their old V Series film cameras is that we haven’t been forgotten. The long standing CFV range of Hasselblad digital backs were brought up to date a few years ago when the CFV-50C model appeared giving us the 50Meg pixel CMOS detachable back. An expensive option at the time, although it was dropped in price…. but then it was discontinued when all of the Sony 50Meg chips went to the new X-1D production. I thought it had ‘gone forever’!
Now the CFV-50C detachable back returns and gets an big update, with bigger, brighter flip screen and a better set of controls that mimic the X-1D functions. All Medium Format backs are ‘cropped’ as no manufacturer will make a 6×6 cm square back. So compromises give us at best a nearly ‘645 format’ or something well under it It’s not easy to turn a square format designed V Series camera, even with a prism on it, so will they make the new back ‘rotatable’? It doesn’t look like it. I can shoot in either ‘landscape or portrait’ with the very old Leaf Aptus digital back I have but the Hasselblad CFV-50’s were always stuck in ‘landscape’.
Now I usually use a 1997 Hasselblad 501CM or an even older 1970’s 500CM and also love the very odd camera that Hasselblad originally called the ‘Supreme Wide’ or ‘Super Wide’. The model I have is the SWC/M CF version from 1982. The development of this camera came from Victor Hasselblad’s desire in 1954 to have a really wide angle camera, but wanting to use the Zeiss 38mm Biogon lens. It’s an outstanding true wide-angle design and not a retro-focus. This lens has almost no barrel distortion and ‘back in the day’ it was indeed a ‘supreme wide angle’. Now though it’s perhaps equivalent to a ‘full frame’ 21 or 24 mm lens I guess. Alas it requires a very short distance between the film plane and the back of the lens and could not accommodate the usual Hasselblad reflex mirror. It also came with no viewfinder and relied on an external finder to approximate the cameras view and even had no rangefinder…all very crude, even then!
My love for the images this SWC camera makes is why the last announcement really intrigues me! They’ve announced something called the Hasselblad 907X. This firmly ties it to the ‘Super Wide C’ line…as the last models ever built of those were designated 903 and 905.
That’s the 907X in the picture below. The ‘sliver of a body’ just squeezing in between the new detachable CFV II 50C back and one of the existing line of XCD, or even HC lenses. The XCD’s are from the X-1D cameras and the HCD and the HC lenses are from the current ‘big Hassy’ digital cameras…The ‘H Series’.
So the 907X is similar in concept to Victor Hasselblad’s original 1954 ‘SWC’ design…but in a digital form…and now with a removable lens. An ‘old dinosaur’ like me hasn’t been able to get a true wide angle when using a digital back on the V Series as the crop factor meant the widest 40mm Zeiss on a V camera was somewhat cut off. The 907X will take the 21 and 35mm XCD wide angle lenses now of course and you use the tilt screen and buttons on the new CFV II 50C back to control it. The ring around the shutter button allows exposure changes I believe.
There was also no fun in putting a CFV-50C back on the SWC camera, as the ‘microlenses’ used within the back caused fringing at the edges of the image….although to be honest the ‘microlenses’ problem only came about well into the development of Medium Format digital backs. My 12 year old Leaf Aptus does work well on my SWC/M camera, although it’s still cropped of course.
The press release also mentions old V Series lenses as being adaptable to the new 907X, but they’d have to improve the current software correction for it to be for all the V Series lenses to make that really good I think.
The 907X is so ‘basic’ that it’ll come with an external viewfinder…just like the SWC did and also with a handgrip giving ‘more buttons’. I’m dying to see it….particularly since Hasselblad have apparently dropped prices.
In the early summer of 2015 I took my dear little Toyota campervan to France.
I headed to Mont St. Michel on the Normandy coast and found a quiet parking spot on the west side, that looked out across the marshes to the Abbey of Mont St.Michel.
A heavy rain cloud produced this image.
Dawn and nightfall are as useful for monochrome photographers as for colour photographers and as night was falling I got this with some mist lying along the shore line and just after the Abbey illuminations came on.
On another day out on the marshes I walked past a young couple, who sat down and started kissing.
Well we all are envious of French lovers so I had to capture them.
I photographed from various locations for about 3 days before settling at another spot on the eastern side.
As the afternoon past I sneaked a picture of what looked to me like a French farmer, who chatted on his mobile phone with the Abbey in the background.
I was photographing with a Leica Monochrom camera at the time and having been taking landscapes on a tripod, the camera had a strong red filter on it. In a hurry to capture a picture, I left the filter on and quickly took another stop off the exposure, as the camera meter misread the red filter.
Not sure which image I prefer…but the red filter turned the red trousers and shirt that this guy wearing…into a much more interesting (for black and white)… white! Alas I wasn’t clever enough to realise that until I’d got the picture on the computer!
Knowing that evening was a good time and liking this spot I headed off along the track shown above. A pretty long walk but eventually, when it was now really dark I was able to get the image I guess that I had been waiting for. You usually know when a picture is worthwhile as you press the button.
It is obviously made by the ‘searchlight effect’ from the lights. I love it’s simplicity and think that even my hero Michael Kenna, who famously photographed Mont St Michel back in the ’90s, would have been pleased with getting it.
I felt able to drive away from this location…well until the next time I’m in France when I’ll try for another good image of it.
Living on the Dorset coast I’m near that strange bit of coastline that runs the 8 miles from Portland to Burton Bradstock that is Chesil. It’s a ‘beach’, made of stones that are washed up forming a bank with a partly freshwater lake, The Fleet inland of the bank.
One of my favourite spots is to go onto the South Dorset Ridgeway above Abbotsbury at Wear’s Hill. From here I can look down on The Fleet, bounded by Chesil Bank and with the rather strange ‘island’ of Portland beyond.
Sunrise with the low sunlight reflecting off The Fleet. St. Catherine’s Chapel is foreground and Portland at the end of The Chesil Bank.
Another morning, a bit later…perhaps 10am. The well masked sun is lighting both the sea and part of The Fleet. I always like the little country road, seen on the left when it gets caught by the sunlight.
And a misty morning. Portland just visible and now the light is on the foreground little hills, with the sheep…and that lovely little road gets quite well lit.
So I can happily walk up onto Wear’s Hill most mornings and see a slightly different vista.