Tag Archives: photography

Big Bay, South Africa

David Blackwood is one of Canada’s leading printmakers and most popular artists. Blackwood has been telling stories about Newfoundland in the form of epic visual narratives for 30 years. Blackwood explores the timeless theme of the struggle for survival between humans and nature in one of the most exposed and hostile environments on earth.He has created an iconography of Newfoundland which is as universal as it is personal, as mythic as it is rooted in reality, and as timeless as it is linked to specific events.


This image is not by David Blackwood however I tried to render it in the style of one of his aquatints. It is in fact a Google Street View capture at Big Bay, near Cape Town, South Africa. Every week, a group of photographers on Google Plus take part in the Artistic Google theme where we visit Street View images for a locale and post-process them creatively for the sheer joy of practicing our skills and with no commercial intent.

How small our world is. Driving around South Africa in the Artistic Google Magic Bus, I would have sworn I was in Texas (a theme that we did a few weeks ago) but then I came across this beach near Cape Town and thought I might turn it into Bonavista.


Art Gallery of Ontario Sky Furnace

Dundas Street reflected in the glass facade of the Galleria Italia at the Art Gallery of Ontario on an overcast day last fall. Taken with my Coolpix point n’ shoot.

The photo reminds me of the imaginary fleet of sky-furnaces from The Red Star graphic novel series from Christian Gossett at Archangel Studios LLC.

Sky-furnaces are the most terrible sky warships on the service of the U.R.R.S. (United Republics of the Red Star). Powered with the mysterious Post Human (ie. dead people) Energy, these warships fly the skies instead of plying the world’s oceans. They are armed with a lateral array of Isolator Tunnels that allow for sorceress War-kasters to transform themselves into unstoppable energy beams and, when lucky, re-constitute themselves back into human form. Ventral arrays of Immolators sweep massive swaths of ground clear of life, leaving only ashes and rocks turned to glass by the immense heat.

(Description from somewhere on Google…)

Image copyright Jan McCartney 2011 All Rights Reserved

The Dog in the Road

Google Plus is a paradise for photographers and artists. The richness of sharing of images and dialogue is seductive.

The photographers and artists that I go back to over and over for inspiration end up in my “Favourites” circle. And I want to share one with you.

Anssi Lehtonen doesn’t say very much about himself, but his photographs speak for him. There are superb macros and domestic tableaux that stop you in your tracks with secondary meanings. Superb execution, visual irony, and more than a trace of the wild.

Anssi’s image of the dog waiting in the road touched me deeply, as it will touch all of you who have known canine companionship.

For more of Anssi’s images, visit https://plus.google.com/u/0/115382700381405490861/posts



The spiral staircase at the Art Gallery of Ontario, shot from below with my Nikon D300s and tarted up in Photoshop to look like a rainbow nautilus shell. The stair, by Frank Gehry, is 11 residential floors high.

The curvature and pearly sheen of this image reminded me of a nautilus shell, although the spiral is not the same. The nautilus shell, in fact, presents one of the finest natural examples of a logarithmic spiral.

According to Wikipedia, nautiluses are the sole living cephalopods whose bony body structure is externalized as a shell. The animal can withdraw completely into its shell and close the opening with a leathery hood formed from two specially folded tentacles. The shell is coiled, aragonitic, nacreous and pressure resistant. The nautilus shell is composed of 2 layers: a matte white outer layer, and a striking white iridescent inner layer. The innermost portion of the shell is a pearlescent blue-gray. The osmena pearl, contrarily to its name, is not a pearl, but a jewellery product derived from this part of the shell.

Internally, the shell divides into camerae (chambers), the chambered section being called the phragmocone. The divisions are defined by septa, each of which is pierced in the middle by a duct, the siphuncle. As the nautilus matures it creates new, larger camerae, and moves its growing body into the larger space, sealing the vacated chamber with a new septum. The camerae increase in number from around four at the moment of hatching to thirty or more in adults.

Image: Copyright Jan McCartney 2012 All rights reserved.

Gum Bichromate Experiment

I have had this image sitting on my desk for ages and wanted to share it as an illustration of the (partially finished) art process. So many of my Google+ Artist friends share their drawings and paintings, and I think this fits in that category, although it a photograph.

This is a gum bichromate treatment of a photo of my grandmother. Gum bichromate is an alternative film-based technique that I learned in a workshop at Gallery 44, which thankfully still promotes antiquarian processing.

The image here is in its rough state, and you can see the masking tape that attached the image for exposure, as well as the pigment brush-strokes that given the impression of having been painted by Francis Bacon (of the screaming popes).

From Fox Talbot to Robert Demachy, from the Lumière brothers to Heinrich Kühn, the bichromate process has a long and varied history spanning well over a century. After falling out of common use for an extended period of time, a resurgence in gum printing began again in the 1970′s through the writings and work of a new generation of artists. It is essentially a modified watercolour. This one was done on Arches paper and has a heavy, antique feel to it.

Gum bichromate (or dichromate) printing involves creating a working emulsion made of three components:

Gum arabic
A dichromate (usually ammonium or potassium)

The emulsion is spread on a support, such as paper, and allowed to dry. A negative or matrix is then laid over top the emulsion and exposed to a UV light source. Usually a contact printing device or a sheet of heavy glass to ensure even, constant contact is employed. The light source hardens the dichromate in proportion to the densities of the negative. After exposure, the paper is placed in a series of plain water baths and allowed to develop until the unhardened portions of the emulsion have dissipated.

Dream of the Japanese Maple

“It has never been my object to record my dreams, just the determination to realize them.” (Man Ray)

A photogram is a photographic image made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of a light-sensitive material such as photographic paper and then exposing it to light.

The technique is sometimes called cameraless photography. It was used by Man Ray in his exploration of rayographs. Other artists who have experimented with the technique include László Moholy-Nagy, Christian Schad (who called them “Schadographs”), Imogen Cunningham and Pablo Picasso. Variations of the technique have also been used for scientific purposes.

Some of the first photographic images made were photograms. William Henry Fox Talbot called these photogenic drawings, which he made by placing leaves and pieces of material onto sensitized paper, then left them outdoors on a sunny day to expose. This produced a dark background with a white silhouette of the object used.

From 1843, Anna Atkins produced a book titled _British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions_ ; it was the first book to be illustrated with photographs. The images were all photograms of botanical specimens, which she made using Sir John Herschel’s cyanotype process, which yields blue images.

Photograms were used in the 20th century by a number of photographers, particularly Man Ray, who called them “rayographs”. His style capitalised on the stark and unexpected effects of negative imaging, unusual juxtapositions of identifiable objects (such as spoons and pearl necklaces), variations in the exposure time given to different objects within a single image, and moving objects as the sensitive materials were being exposed.

This photo would be a negative of a photogram, had the film image not been taken with my Nikon FE in late October. These are leaves from a Japanese garden that have fallen into a pond.

(Thank you, Wikipedia!)

The Burning of the Leaves

Now is the time for the burning of the leaves,
They go to the fire; the nostrils prick with smoke
Wandering slowly into the weeping mist.
Brittle and blotched, ragged and rotten sheaves!
A flame seizes the smouldering ruin, and bites
On stubborn stalks that crackle as they resist.
The last hollyhock’s fallen tower is dust:
All the spices of June are a bitter reek,
All the extravagant riches spent and mean.
All burns! the reddest rose is a ghost.
Spark whirl up, to expire in the mist: the wild
Fingers of fire are making corruption clean.
Now is the time for stripping the spirit bare,
Time for the burning of days ended and done,
Idle solace of things that have gone before,
Rootless hope and fruitless desire are there:
Let them go to the fire with never a look behind.
That world that was ours is a world that is ours no more.
They will come again, the leaf and the flower, to arise
From squalor of rottenness into the old splendour,
And magical scents to a wondering memory bring;
The same glory, to shine upon different eyes.
Earth cares for her own ruins, naught for ours.
Nothing is certain, only the certain spring.

Laurence Binyon, The Burning of the Leaves

Image: Sunflowers, October’s End, © Jan McCartney 2011