Monday, December 29, 2008

Sorry, we only have books on digital photography...

(alternate post title: My newfound appreciation of the local library)

There is still a looming possibility that I will be able to rent time in a local darkroom, and considering that the last time I spent any hours in a darkroom was about 2 years ago I thought I should bone up on some darkroom theory. I headed to the local Borders store and went to the photo section only to find books on digital photography and manipulation. There was not one book on darkroom techniques - everything was digital. I even asked a clerk if she knew of any darkroom books in the store thinking maybe there was a hobby section where those books were kept. She informed me after searching for a few minutes that the only books on photography were in the section I had already visited.

Thinking I'd have to tap into for a book on darkroom techniques I gave up the search and planned to look it up when I got home. I never got around to it that night when I got home, so when my wife and I had a few minutes to kill before our daughter's Christmas party at her school we decided to swing through our local library to hunt for some photo books.

I can't remember the last time I was in a library, and that's not a good thing. I really need to make better use of the library - a point underscored by the fact that I found exactly the kind of book I was looking for. I actually found two - volumes 1 and 2 of Darkroom Techniques by Feininger. Sure they may be 34 years old now, but a lot of the principles are the same.

So, not only did I gain a new appreciation for my local library, I also located two books that are a great start to learning more about darkroom techniques and even building your own darkroom.

Next up is securing a spot to actually develop and print and find some materials to use.

I know it's not the equipment that makes great images...

...but I still want to get my hands on the new 5d MKII. The movie mode alone is worth the upgrade from the 30d. Take a look at what Vincent Laforet is doing with the new 5d mounted on a remote controlled helicopter:

Vincent Laforet: Taking Off with Jamie O'Brien

He has also posted a first in a series of behind the scenes movies on how this project is coming together:

Vincent Laforet: behind the scenes part I

It's really helpful to see photographers at this level offering glimpses behind the work that they do. Vincent Laforet, Chase Jarvis and David Hobby all seem to be leading a new charge in sharing knowledge and experience that is making the whole photography community better.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Three days straight

Got three full days of snow from Friday through Sunday and at the end of it we probably have 20 inches or so on the ground. Thank god for snow blowers.

I went out this morning and took some shots just as the sun was coming up. Mostly just to document the first big storm since moving back to MA.

These were all shot with the 17-40 f/4 lens mounted on my 30d. All shots taken on my street within walking distance from the house - it was only about 10 degrees out so I didn't wander too far ;-)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

that's alotta snow

Heard the plow coming up my street last night as I was heading to bed, so I thought I'd see if I could catch him streaking by.

This was on a tripod - 8 second exposure at f/6.3 and ISO 1250 converted to B&W in lightroom. I used the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 lens that hardly ever leaves my 30d. The two are nearly inseparable. I shot this from inside my house and had to shield the window from the lights from my router as the reflection was showing up in the shots.

We ended up with nearly a foot of snow. Took me over an hour to clear the driveway this morning, and we're expected to get more tomorrow. I knew the first winter I came back from California was going to be a good one...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Drawing with a flashlight

I had always wanted to try out light drawing, so one night I grabbed a few LED flashlights and setup my camera in the kitchen with the lights off.

I was lazy so I just put the camera on the counter and aimed it toward the family room. I had my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens mounted and left that wide at 24mm. The shots were all taken with a 25 second exposure at ISO 100 and an aperture of f/13.

Drawing with LEDs and flashlights is a lot tougher than I thought it would be. After dialing in the exposure (the easy part) I had to mentally create a frame in my mind that was roughly the size of the image I'd be capturing. This was the canvas I drew on. The hard part was keeping the image in my head so that I could complete lines and add elements without "drawing" over areas I'd already passed my light through.

I only shot 12 exposures, checking back on the camera's LCD screen after each one, and the last 4 images actually turned out fairly well. Next time I attempt this I'll try drawing on objects and will keep the shutter open a bit longer to capture more of the background light. But, for a first attempt I'm pretty pleased.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Yashica? YASHICA! holga? HOLGA!

So I jumped on the medium format / holga bandwagon recently and I just got back three rolls that I had processed and crudely scanned to CD (I need to convince the wife that I can't live without a scanner... these scans blow). Here's a few that I think turned out OK. The top two (alley and buildings) were shot with the Holga. The rest of that roll made me realize that I need to be very steady when I shoot with that camera. The rest were taken with the Yashica I picked up on ebay. The B&W were shot on Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 speed film and the color shots were on Fuji Pro400H.

Not only were these the first shots to get scanned, they were the first ones I had sent out to a lab through the mail. I had my doubts about getting them back in tact, but the negatives all seem clean. My only gripe is the low resolution of the scans - each one was barely a megapixel, and as you can see in the sunset shot there is a lot of vertical banding. Oh well - good for proofs I suppose, and even more ammunition in the argument for picking up a quality scanner of my own.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My photo is in the top 50 for the November photo contest

I submitted a picture I took at the Topsfield Fair to the November photo contest on - the theme was Motion. There were around 140 entries and that list was trimmed to 50 by Boston University's director of photojournalism, Peter Southwick. Just getting into the top 50 is exciting, but if you want to vote for my photo to be one of the top three, just visit this site:

Voting instructions are on the page, and they're really simple. Just find my photo (you can see it below) and drag it into one of the top three spots. Find two others you like, then click submit.

Here are a few more shots that I took that night.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Photographers of Etsy

The Photographers of Etsy is a very active Etsy Street Team with more than 400 members. From the blog:
"The Photographers of Etsy (PoE) is a group of dedicated photographers from all over the world, who sell their quality photographic prints on, alongside fellow artists such as painters, jewelers, quilters, and other talented craftsmen."
I found the group while browsing for photographers on Etsy. I noticed that a lot of the individual prints for sale as well as the profiles of the sellers were tagged with POE-Team, and being new to Etsy I had no idea what a team was or what it was for. When I peeled back the layers I discovered a thriving community of photographers and photography enthusiasts. The POE Blog as well as the Ning community they have setup offer great resources on capturing images, managing a photo store on Etsy, and features on selected photographers that change about monthly.

If you get a chance search for poe-team on (or just click here) to see some of the incredible talent.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Demolition Derby + Tilt Shift Time Lapse = must see

I saw this posted via today and was completely blown away. This comes from Keith Loutit and it's a time lapse movie taken from stills shot though a tilt-shift lens of a demolition derby. The miniaturization effect from the tilt-shift lens coupled with the staccato movement of the time-lapse makes this look like a toy set.

Metal Heart from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

Keith Loutit has a few time lapse movies of tilt-shift images. Another favorite of mine is Bathtub III. Check out his blog here: and his other tilt-shift movies on Vimeo here:

Posted from Gizmodo from Vimeo from Keith Loutit's blog

Monday, December 1, 2008

Photos from Broadway and Columbus

I spent a night shooting around the corner of Broadway and Columbus in San Francisco a couple years ago this past November. This was my first real go at taking night shots.

This area of San Francisco is famous for neon, strip clubs and City Lights book store. Only a few blocks away is the Transamerica building - the iconic peak in the San Francisco skyline - and the surrounding financial district.

The shot above was taken with the canon 24-70mm lens at 24mm mounted on a 30d at f/14 for 2 seconds. The film speed equivalent was 100.

The three images below were all taken with the same lens at a variety of shutter speeds and apertures - all with the intention of capturing the glow of the lights that surround this corner of San Francisco.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fishy Polyptych - "parade"

The four images that make up this polyptych (think triptych + 1) were taken at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California. The aquarium features quite a few viewing portals into the tanks where the lucite windows are around 6 feet tall. I took a series of shots with my 50mm 1.4 lens at f/5.0 with a 1/4 second exposure to get the motion of the fish to blur (ISO 200) - the camera was in a vertical orientation.

When I reviewed the shots these four seemed to line up very well, almost as if I had cropped four separate sections out of one shot.

Here are a few other shots from that trip to the aquarium. All of these were taken with the 50 1.4 lens on a Canon Digital Rebel (first edition) camera.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Welcome to Matt Allen Photography's blog

The goal of this blog is to showcase some of the photographs I've taken over the past 5 years as well as be a place where I plan to upload at least one new photo a week.

Most of the photographs on this site are available for purchase at my store - If you see a photo here that isn't on my store and you'd like a print, just send me an email and I can make a listing for you on etsy.

Thanks for stopping by!