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Rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies © Robert Sommers 2017

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Carl's Cowboy

I was supposed to meet a guy in the parking lot of the Carl's Jr. in San Clemente to buy the woodblock. The day was cold and cloudy and traffic on the 5 North was murder because of an accident on Basilone Rd.. I met my associate, did my deal and couldn't help but notice the interesting chap playing his guitar in the background in the parking lot to an audience of zero.


Now I collect people like this, love eccentrics, love their stories, enjoy seeing what makes people tick. A grizzled guy serenading exactly nobody in a god forsaken parking lot is right down my wheelhouse. Besides I had four exposures left in my Ilford 100 black and white roll and this would be perfect. My first black and white roll shot on the 1953 Rolleiflex K4a.

I asked the cowboy if I could get his story and take his picture.

"Well, I'm awful hungry."

I slipped him a ten spot, feeling flush at the moment and figuring whatever story I got would be worth the high price of admission. And maybe he was hungry, who the hell knows?

He told me that he was a broke down bronc rider from Texas. He had taken a fall that had literally broken his butt or some other major bone in the general vicinity. Life had evidently been not too kind and his new gig was playing the guitar and trying to figure out his next move.

I used to pan handle when I was broke and have heard lots of stories, some even true. This guy may have never been closer to Texas than Pacoima for all I know but it doesn't really matter. He had a good story and a slick patter.

He asked me how he would be able to see the shots and I told him he wouldn't and he was okay with that too.

Ken thought I was seriously underexposed but I'm actually really happy with my shots. Lots of information in a medium format. Click on the shot and look at it big. I think that I have found my portrait camera.

Postscript; here is the shot straight out of the can. You may like it more or hate it less...


10 comments:

Sanoguy said...

I like this, I like the story… i like these same things. My only suggestion: try to lighten his face a bit and darken the edges… he will stand out better from the background.

Blue Heron said...

I could pop it a million ways if I wanted to, prefer it the way it is. Appreciate art by committee but I am as hard headed as the rest of us.

NYSTAN said...

In the darkroom, your friend would be correct and this would typically be an underexposed frame thus the weak blacks, but here, you should be able to compensate by checking your histogram and re adjusting. In general, if you are going to be scanning negs, err on the side of overexposure by a good stop. Rate your 400 film at 200 and when you scan, set the black and white points yourself. Don't use an auto setting. Usually the darkest black should be close to the film with no density, along the edges off the image area (base plus fog in Zone parlance). And just a suggestion that you did not pay enough attention to the background...the truck and trees are not being utilized to their best advantage here. And you should try XP2 or the Kodak equiv if they still make them. BW chromogenic films that are run in C41 chess and have 14 stops of lattitude.

NYSTAN said...

by the way, be hard headed, but read into the suggestions because the print is bad, relatively. Your values look distorted. Nothing artistic in the critique...just common sense to place skin tones and blacks in balance so they look pleasant to the eye.

Ken Seals said...

Looks really good!

Anonymous said...

Still got himself a guitar tuner, ring on his finger and decent pair of shades. Could be worse.

Helen Bauch McHargue said...

Great looking character. Reminds me a bit of Nick Nolte.

Blue Heron said...

I have one rule for my photography - does it pass my personal eye test. I try to please one guy, probably do it wrong lots of times. Thanks for your observations though, it is obvious we all have our own subjective litmus tests.

Ken Seals said...

NYSTAN - you are right on with your technical comments about this scanned film image. I was the one who pointed out to Robert that the film was underexpose and very thin. I do come from a darkroom background but I've been scanning film for about 15 years. I understand what you say about setting the white and black points, etc. In this case the neg was so thin that a lot of detail was almost missing altogether. I was actually surprised that he got as much out of the neg as he did.Artistically it's non-productive to critique Robert's work :-) :-).
I think if I knew you in person, we would get along great!

Anonymous said...

The cowboy photo is nice. I didn’t react to the flatness or darkness as they seemed congruent with the down and out dude on a cloudy day.

A lot of photographers will react reflexively to this kind of picture. Ny Stan’s critique is all true and I understand it and can show you how it works if you ever give a damn.

Thing is, I am less sure it would be your picture if you did all of that although it would be a nice print. My preference is for #2 in the blog as it is brighter and the face stands out from the trees. I suppose one could lighten the face up a bit.

Still #1 has a particular “dark” emotional quality that #2 has less of.

Just to be a pain in the ass, I think I have a sense of what you were going after and that would never come out with Stan’s corrections. Here is what I would prefer to do, if anything. One could darken the background of #1 and make the print a heavier sepia tone. It could be necessary to select the figure out in Photoshop and then darken the rest a bit.Then add enough lightness to the face to make sense of the whole thing. I see a figure emerging from hell singing and if that is anything like what you were thinking you won’t get there by making it light and attractive.