The Gift of a Book and a Childhood Memory

Before the widespread use of internet and social networking, I had tried several times to locate a book that made a huge impression upon me when I was only eight or nine years of age. A little over a decade ago I even got in touch with the school district, but they could not recall such a book, despite being dead certain about its title.

I do not know what happened to my original copy of “Hans Bei Den Wasseratten,” a book with a story which fuelled a young boy’s imagination with adventure and a taste for foreign shores, a story that also reflected the very essence and existence for the child’s hometown.

Hamburg, Germany, a port city where ships depart and arrive from all points of the map since the founding of the city, is where he grew up, watching ships navigate the river, Elbe and into the heart of the city.

The premise of “Hans Bei Den Wasseratten,” is about a group of boys who find an abandoned lifeboat, fix it up, turning into a sail boat and go explore the rivers coast line and the open sea.

It was also a time when theaters featured movies not only about cowboys and Indians and the Wild American West, but also about the high seas and the dangers of pirates and their reign of terror in the Caribbean Seas. 

As the years passed, turning into more than five decades, the love of the story about Hans and his comrades did not fade from memory, to be forgotten, rather strengthened and after watching a foreign motion picture that was filmed in Hamburg, the search was back on.

The scene did not even last a full half minute, showing a girl exiting a large red brick building with a number of other students at the end of the school day, only to sit down at the last step, waiting for her mother. As the camera pulled back to show more of the yard, it revealed the name of the school, a major clue and after a quick Internet search it confirmed being the very school I attended.

That very evening I posted on my FaceBook page not only pictures of the school and its name, but also my quest for a particular school book, whose story was fresh as the first day I had read it. While it may seem childish wanting to locate a copy of one’s schoolbook, it is no different then the yearning of going back home where one grew up.

That very evening, Edith Meier, a friend who I have never met in person and only engaged in casual conversation since we befriended, messengered me, sharing the good news that a copy of “Hans Bei Den Wasseratten” was found on a German website and that she had purchased the book and was making it a present to me.

I found myself speechless at her kind generosity and for not only bringing to an end my quest but for providing me with the very means to turn back the hands of the clock and try to relive a young boy’s dreams with ever word I read and with every page that I turn. 

We are sentimental beings, clinging to items other find insignificant or even  useless, only because it has a special personal meaning for us. I have not much from my childhood then these few school books, which I hope one of my children will hold on to after my passing, telling the story of “Hans Bei Den Wasseratten” to their children and what this book had meant to me as a boy. Sharing with new generation the excitement of adventure and the desire to explore the unknown, paving out a path of ones own.

Apart from the many paintings I created, the books I illustrated or designed as a graphic designer and photographer, the paint boxes and brushes, there are also the few German school books, an atlas, and of course Edit’s gift of “Hans Bei Den Wasseratten” that will be part of the treasures that just may inspire another young impressionable person.

In your case it might be a fountain pen, which guided the ink over many a pages of a journal or drafted a book. The item that is revered can even be a box of tools that build a chicken coop; a musical instrument, even sheets of music of an original score a family member wrote that are the bases of the telling of a story and keeping alive the memory of that person. And while through it’s retelling over the years the story takes on a different direction from when it was first told, it is not the story but the words themselves and the magic they hold that is important in passing along a memory.

All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved


Passport to My Neighborhood - Abstract Realism

With a visit to San Francisco just a month, a few Abstract Realism discoveries were made and this last weekend trip to the Presidio yielded a treasure throve.

As a multi-media artist there is plenty of cross-over between my photographic subject matter and that of my paintings, in particular my Abstract Realism, a term I coined in 2008 to describe my abstract multi-medium paintings. These images not only serve as a sketchbook for ideas or dynamic composition possibilities, they are in their own right traditional fine art photographs.

These images are also an exercise in honing how one sees and interprets the find in composition, where lines counter and balance, just as much as color shapes define the mood.

Though today’s sampling of photographs are all architectural based, where lines and shapes dominate the subject one just needs to squint at a landscape or any scene, to see the blurry shapes define what dictates the composition is to be. 

While abstract or Abstract Realism are not everyones cup of tea or one is not a multi-media artist, photography is a creative art form. All it takes is seeing the possibilities and capturing them.

All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S, using 6x6, except for the last one, in which the Hipstamatic, using Lowy lens with Sussex film was employed. 

Previous abstract discoveries post

All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved


First Friday of the Month - The District HipstaPak, Pt-II

Last week I reviewed the HipstaPak The District, noting that, “. . . rather limited in its range of usefulness, other then replicating very well the first one hundred years of photography.” So this week I set out using The District’s T. Roosevelt 26 film with a handful of other lenses.

Of the 41 lenses Hipstamatic makes available, I already tried Americana and Tinto 1884, featuring their results in my previous post. The selection included Lincoln lens for comparison to Akira, Hornbecker, James M, Libatique 73, and Lowy. It was also decided to show the scene in color and for this I paired the Lowy lens with Sussex film.

Lowy Lens + Sussex Film

On location at Briones Reservoir, I can upon a scene in which the light was very even, with highlights retaining their detail and there was also enough shadows, to see how much detail they retain. The first image taken of the scene is with a Lowy lens, combined with Sussex film, simply to show what the scene looks like in color. 

Lincoln Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

When there are no changes to the combination, you have excellent light, The District does well and appears more like a duo-tone, having the appearance of a printed photograph in a book from the 30s, 40s or even 50s.  

The lens Akira provides a little punch, by saturating colors and is for that reason I selected Akira to be paired with T.Roosevelt 26 film and we clearly see that now the blacks are richer and deeper.

Akira Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

On the other hand, when paired with Hornblower, the over all scene is portrayed much brighter, which also brings out more detail in the darks and at the same time any lighter areas lose al their details. So this is a lens that would not good with T.Roosevelt 26 film, unless the scene overall is gloomy.

Hornblower Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

Yet when paired with the James M lens, the scene is still rendered lighter but unlike with the Hornblower lens, we retain detail not only in the highlights but also in the shadows, as you can clearly see the trees textures. Also the over all image is less contrasty then the previous one.

James M Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

Because T. Roosevelt 26 film was original paired with a lens design from 1865, I felt it only appropriate to test the film using Libatique 73 lens. While the results have similarities to the James M lens, there are distinct differences. 

The Libatique 73 lens has a hot center and the James M is the opposite. Also the Libatique 73 has strong vignetting in order to give it that antique feel and once again it is the opposite with the James M, whose edges are hotter then its center.

Libatique 73 Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

The last lens in this test is the Lowy, which is not only the sharpest lens from all of the Hipstamatic lenses, it also has none of the special effects, thereby helping me judge an image more accurately and see what a film is truly capable. 

Concerning this scene, we have highlights with detail, including the dark areas. The key difference between the James M rendition and that of the Lowy, is that with the Lowy, the photograph has a greater transition range between the whites and blacks.

Lowy Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

Obviously it is necessary to repeat this test at another location, so I was off to Crockett by the Carquines Straight, because there is the C&H Sugar refining plant. After setting up my tripod and attaching the ShoudPod grip, I slide in the iPhone 4S and begin composing my image and as before I start out using Lowy lens with Sussex film in order to have a color rendition to which the B/W photographs can be compared to.

Lowy Lens + Sussex Film

Here we have a wider range between the white and blacks, including a different color palette. I just wish I had arrived 2-3 hours earlier so that the sun would have been behind me and the light rendering more detail in this interesting brick building.

Lincoln Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

Because of the strong light, The District combination works well, while the tonal range is less, because there are no real whites and blacks are mostly a variety of blue greys. The two silos and one tower maintain some detail.

Akira Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

We now see that the Akira lens has a soft special effect that is now noticeable when we look at the sky. This effect gives the illusion that there is a cloud mist behind the factory and just about this mist, the sky becomes darker, as if having applied a gradation filter. This was certainly not visible at the previous location.

Hornblower Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

The Hornblower over-exposes the scene, providing details in the dark areas and one looses all detail in the lighter areas.

James M Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

It would appear that using the James M lens reveals details in the dark area, while mostly holding details in the highlights, yet the blue black are still soft.

Libatique 73 Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

The only reason I do not care much for this lens is that the circular vignetting that is occurring is simply to pronounced, yet it does realistically illustrate who a lens from 1873 might have behaved.

Lowy Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

We conclude this Test with the T. Roosevelt 26 film with the Lowy. We see detail in the dark areas as well as in the highlights and because this film as a blue tint to it, there are no true whites or blacks.

I went to another part of Crockett and repeated today’s film test another two more times with no real changes in the current results. I do hope that when lighting conditions are dramatically different, with a more gloomy sky where clouds appear to boil and a moody scene of a graveyard or dark mysterious structures, to see what The District is able to achieve when the tables are turned from conditions like today.

Lincoln Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

Even though there are still another 33 lenses left to test the T. Roosevelt 26 film with, and though I shall try some of these, for now I prefer the Lowy with this film as I do with most Hipstamatic’s films.

You will have to establish your own tests and depending on your style and creative vision, will arrive at a combination that fits your needs. For now, this film still remains limited and dated, due to the way a scene is rendered. I am pleased that at least the film is borderless and is without special effects that come with most other Hipstamatic films and lenses.

The District HipstaPak certainly will benefit from post production and even being reintroduced in Hipstamatic’s other program, Oggl. Use you imagination and skills, to find new ways in which The District will become a valuable asset. 

No post production edits or enhancements were applied to the test images. Photographs were resized using Photoshop. 

Part I of The District

All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved

First Friday of the Month - The District HipstaPak

Hipstamatic’s First Friday of the Month this year falls on July 4th, America’s Independence Day for American citizens and while tropical storm Arthur makes landfall into North Carolina, downing trees and rattling homes with category 2 howling winds, Hipstamatic users will be relived to learn that this months HipstaPak is a Black & White film.

The Hipstamatic community has been waiting a very long time for a new Black & White film and their wishes have finally been answered with the T. Roosevelt 26 film. Just in case you were wondering what the 26 stood for, it is because Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was Americas 26th president (1901-1909) as well as the youngest at that time. He also received a Nobel Peace Prize for his negotiations of the Russo-Japanese war.

Accompanying the film is a mid-19th century style lens, appropriately named for Americas 16th president, President Lincoln, fashioned in appearance like a penny coin with a warm copper casing dated 1865 and holding a small bluish grey lens. Only thing missing is a nice cherry wood view camera case with copper fittings.

So how does this 44th film and 41st lens hold up ?

Though daylight is still another seven hours away, I add Lincoln and T. Roosevelt 26 to my ‘Favorites’ along with another America HipstaPak, which comes with the Americana lens and two films, US 1776 and Blanko Freedom 13.

I felt it only appropriate and patriotic to merge the new HipstPak, The District and America HipstaPak for a film test, especially since America HipstaPak comes with one Black & White and a color film, allowing me to see how the Lincoln lens behaves when paired with a color film. I also opted using the Lowy lens, as it is Hipstamatic’s sharpest lens and see how the T. Roosevelt 26 film stacks up.

At the last moment I also decided to test The District HipstaPak with the TinType SnapPak from 2012 that has been hugely popular, thinking that the C-Type and D-Type Plate film would make a good pairing with the Lincoln lens, while maintaining historical simulation. Concluding the film/lens tests by applying the more modern film with T. Roosevelt 26 film and turning the calendar a quarter century back by using the Tinto 1884 lens.

                    My test combinations

          1: Lincoln Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film
          2: Americana Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film
          3: Lincoln Lens + US 1776 Film
          4: Lincoln Lens + Blanko Freedom 13 Film
          5: Lincoln Lens + C-Type Plate Film
          6: Lincoln Lens + D-Type Plate Film
          7: Tinto 1884 Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film
          8: Lowy + T. Roosevelt 26 26 Film

                    Post Production Notes:

No post production edits or enhancements were applied. Photographs were resized and assembled using Photoshop.
When the images were uploaded to Google’s Picasa albums for storage, a few of the photographs lost the trademark of The District’s blueish tint. After several attempts trying to fix the issue, the problem persisted. Where the photograph is an issue, the caption will be mark with this symbol †.

Lincoln Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film 

As you will see, the T. Roosevelt 26 film is borderless, something which is preferred and surprisingly there are none of the usual anomalies, likes blurring, smudging or other special effects to distract from the image. The outcome of this combination is an image with slightly faded bluish-grey tones, similar to newsprint or prints in books dating back to the first half 19th century. 

Highlights almost contain no detail, while shadows and dark areas also lack much detail. By no means is this at all unwelcome, especially since the scope of todays film/lens test, is to maintain a historical perspective.

Americana Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

The Americana lens has scattered soft edging that is intruding into the image, as other parts are relatively in focus. The lens has no effect on the films tint. If an antique look with imperfections and softness is desired then this would be one of your combinations to consider.

Lincoln Lens + US 1776 Film

The US 1776 film has imperfections that is similar to when film was not washed properly or the water was contaminated, since the entire area is covered in a random stippled texture. This becomes visible when an area has a certain percentage of grey. 

By looking at the left image, upper right hand you will see that it is noticeable. Regarding the right image, what one assumes as the texture of the flower is actually the texture effect that US 1776 film is noted for.

Lincoln Lens + Blanko Freedom 13 Film

By joining the Lincoln lens with Blanko Freedom 13 film, we see Lincoln lenses provide a touch of saturation. Also the detail in the highlights hold up well. 

Lincoln Lens + C-Type Plate Film

Maintaining the historical focus with this combination, we see the Lincoln lens works very well with C-Type Plate film, causing colors to be soft and moderately desaturated and giving the image either the look of early color photography or an image that once was hand colored but now they have faded over the years. For me this was my favorite combination for the Lincoln lens.

Lincoln Lens + D-Type Plate Film

An alternative pairing to the early color film of the C-Type Plate, this combination renders the scene slightly in warner greys due to the lens and because of this, highlights appear to hold better detail. Blacks are not black but more a deep soft brown and in medium to dark show more of a reddish brown grey. This variation in tones is pleasing for this combination.

Tinto 1884 Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

While one certainly can say that any historical accuracy in using the Tinto 1884 with T. Roosevelt 26 film is far fetched, it is at least an exercise in the improbable. Yet the moody blueish tones of the T. Roosevelt 26 film replicate nicely some of the old tintypes, as if the metal has started to permeate through the image and making this a very good combination.

Lowy + T. Roosevelt 26 Film

I conclude this months Hipstamatic’s First Friday of the Month film/lens test to see how the T. Roosevelt 26 film responds when paired with Lowy lens. A professional sharp lens, capturing every fine detail and nuance from its subject. Making this also an excellent pairing for mainting detail in the highlights and in the shadows, while having rich blue-blacks.

Two sets of random sampling using
Lincoln Lens + T. Roosevelt 26 Film combination

So what is the verdict, The District HipstaPak has its good points when paired with  C or D-Type Plate film, or the Lowy lens. I did give the Lincoln lens a try with Blanko BL4, Sussex, and Shilshole film, I found the reddishness of Lincoln dominating a little some of the colors when using Sussex or Shilshole film.

Obviously one would need to try The District with far more other film and lenses in the Hipstamatic arsenal to find other potential combinations one would consider useful, apart from the three I felt were excellently suited for each other. 

The District HipstaPak in the end is rather limited in its range of usefulness, other then replicating very well the first one hundred years of photography. Though I also have noticed when good lighting is present, with strong shadows and highlights, The District combination worked very well. 

The District HipstaPak is indeed a very moody combination and I look forward in finding the right subject matter and lighting conditions in which the Lincoln lens and T. Roosevelt 26 film will shine.

All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved
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