Return to Oz

23 01 18 Leica Camera AG LEICA M11 Two Trees 2023 05 12 copy

I’ve been consistent with capturing images on a near daily basis, mostly in “Sniff and Shoot” mode, just carrying a camera when out in the back with the puppy. While casual photography is clearly where we are today, capturing in the camera with with an expressive exposure only gets the image 80% there. And some of my adjusted photos capture the scene, but just don’t have that dramatic, cincematic quality that I picked up from Vincent Versace’s Oz books. For the techniques, the color book Welcome to Oz 2.0 is all you need. It’s out of print, but there are used copies on Amazon.

This week I reviewed the two Oz books, taking notes on the techniques, which I can now distill way better than I could when I started down the path a bit more than 10 years ago. Hopefully, with a deeper understanding, speed and facility will follow. Sadly, two of his important tools, FocalPoint is no longer supported by its developers and the Lighting Effects filter in Photoshop has been abandoned. So we need to use alternative means to introduce lens blur and selective lighting. So far, not too much of a problem.

At least I have a few hundred captures this year, so some nice pixels to work on.


I’ve been so caught up in reading and note taking activities that the image making has taken a back seat. I fired up some processing apps today and made sure I had a camera or two fully charged with an empty capture card.

Based on my careful tracking, my reading tilts way toward the fictional side which seems a bit lopsided for my long term goals. So I’m resolved to do more leisure non-fiction reading and make sure that my focused note taking gets some daily attention.

Thiebaud Nine Weeks

I’ve gotten my big autofocus Leica SL2 out of the cabinet to photograph my little friend here. Just too hard to grab focus with my M11’s manual focus rangefinder. Classic Lab.

Time for Recovery

SF Monochrome

It’s funny how a few days traveling, some dental issues and work can so quickly shift the environment from one of reflection to one of the constant pressure of activity.

As my posting over the last few days shows, I had time to capture images while in San Francisco. My goal was just to get back into visual mode after some months of ignoring the cameras. But the light in the city and the capability of the tools was enough to very quickly get me into that mode of looking that leads to making images. I brought the Leica M10 Monochrom which is a camera with a digital sensor that captures only black and white images since it lacks the color filters needed to reconstruct colors in a digital image. I brought the Monochrom because I wanted to be deliberate in capture, something that the rangfinder focusing M10 brings. And since my final product is monochrome, the B&W camera takes me a step closer from capture to image- The more casual approach compared to the cinematic imagery I’m made in recent years.

So I more or less picked up where I left off, trying to abstract the bits of the city that I can isolate with my lens. I brought my newer 35mm Summicron lens, ending up shooting mostly wide open in that sharp, defining California light. And I definitely enjoyed collecting the images and there’s a pretty high percentage of interesting captures. So I’ve been having fun doing a very quick set of image adjustments and publishing here and Instagram. The 35mm lens opens up the view a bit. While in San Francisco, I stopped in at the SF Leica store to look at the images on display and look over the cameras and lenses. It turned out they had a used electronic viewfinder for the M, the Visoflex, at a good price. So the rest of the trip was variously shot with the EVF, the glass rangefinder or the back screen.

On Sunday, before heading back to the airport for the red-eye flight back to Baltimore, I spent a few hours at SFMOMA, the wonderful San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Not much going on in the way of photography because of new exhibit being hung. So I spent more time looking at paintings this time there. I’ve noted here a number of times that my formative experience with art was with the Abstract Expressionists, particularly Motherwell, Johns, Rothko, Diebenkorn. The headline show at the museum were the paintings of Joan Mitchell. I’d seen them before, but there’s nothing like a retrospective like this to get to know a artist well. Of interest to me was how she wasn’t afraid as an abstract painter to let here images drift back to the landscape enough that the underlying structure of nature starts to emerge from the abstraction. And color. Color is emotional.

Joan Mitchell, La Grande Vallée XVI, Pour Iva, 1983

While viewing the show and since I’ve been thinking about how abstract expressionism informs the images I make. I like the tension between my formal abstraction and the concreteness of the photographic image. I can’t hide the fact that what I’ve photographed a fire plug. But you have to ask why did I capture the image? What did I see in that moment that compelled me to capture an image and publish it here. One of the ideas that I took away from Joan Mitchell’s paintings is that the view wants some challenge. Enough to make viewing a way of participating in the creative act. You see, art presents ambiguous, noisy sensations allowing the viewer to participate in finishing the creation through inference. If there’s no sense of participation with the artist, looking is boring and no fun.