Capturing the moment - and sometimes altering it...

Tending the Herd
I found this ant tending to its family aphid herd on a milkweed plant some summer back in the early '90s, I believe. In this symbiotic relationship, the aphids are coaxed to exude a sweet "honeydew" that the ants eat; in return for this "milking", the ants provide fierce protection for them. It was fascinating to watch and being the poor, struggling artist I did my best to get a good shot with what little equipment I had. My macro lens had a close focus setting, but it wasn't good enough to really zoom in tight so I took my 50mm lens and held it up to the camera backwards (easier to accomplish with a reversing ring I know, but I've never gotten one) Focusing was a bit tricky as well being that the depth of field was very shallow and the ant was scurrying like crazy. I was also struggling with making sure there were no gaps in this arrangement that would let light wash in from the side and ruin the shot. There were other complications I won't go into detail about like heat, sweat, mosquitoes, a tenacious bumblebee, etc. In spite of the annoyances mentioned this was a fun shot to take.

Beauty and the Beast
This is a print I made sometime in the 80's from sandwiched negatives when I had access to a color photo lab. The eyes are from a copy shot off a catalog. The industrial ruins were shot in Copperhill, TN. About a week after the refinery shot was taken, there was a large sulphuric acid spill that so contaminated the Ocoee River that it was closed to whitewater rafters for days. The whole area has gone through some serious ecological devistation in it's history, from strip-mining and acid spills/rain to floods. The soil is an eerie, Martian red and the industrial relics have intriguing lines and textures. I wish that I had taken more shots while I was down there. I may have to go back someday on a photo safari.

Blackberry Summer
Took this one back in the '80s sometime. It won me $50 in some newspaper photo competition. Woot! The blackberrys were delicious with powdered sugar and whipped cream.

I worked at a Spencer Gifts for a few years. Not sure why I didn't take more photos there because the lights and widgets make interesting subjects. This is a shot of a disco light and mirror ball rotating next to each other.

Regret, in Blue
Took this shot in an old church basement with a friend, my car cover, and my rappelling rope. Not too much manipulation here. I skewed the color from reddish tones to blue to make it more somber and softened the shroud while sharpening everything else and increasing contrast on the hands to bring out even more detail.

The idea behind the photo wasn't fully formed at the time and, to be honest, isn't really now either. It's more of a thing to make you go, "Hmm". What sort of regrets does the figure have that could so bind him? His own imposing shadow towers ominously even as he clutches his chest in self pity. Something has gone very wrong in this life.

One Day at Thinking Rock
In younger days I had a place I liked to go to sit and muse about anything and everything. It was a massive, moss and lichen covered rock poking out, by itself, out in some magical wood somewhere fair. It was an island, cool and firm and bold in the sea of ferns, leaves, and trees where I loved to shipwreck myself, as it were, from morning to dusk, as needed. One day, this little leaf spoke to me with intense, throbbing, red-orange color against the grey-lavender-mint-evergreen mottled stone. This photo doesn't come at all close to the vibrating intensity of that leaf on that day and that's what makes it special. (Sappy, huh? And are those some long sentences, or what? But I had to say something!)

Light painting and filtered strobes. Yeah, I know it's a bit bumpy around the tires but it was an impromptu shoot and the flashlight had to be squeezed to keep it on. It was a bit awkward.

This was my lovely Honda CRX Si before her untimely demise. -sob- I can't say anymore now.

A lava lamp in the groove.

Dead Where She Lay
This was a display prop I made many moons ago to display a necklace and earrings at art shows. I made a form out of plywood, cardboard, and foam rubber and then wrapped it, mummy style, in strips of black cloth. To finish it off, I put on it a mask I had spray painted copper and black. I haven't used it in years and have no good place to store it so it sits by my fireplace, dead, waiting to be reborn. Shot cockeyed for that "arty" effect.

Clingman's Dome
Clingman's Dome in Smoky Mountains National Park, the highest point in Tennessee at 6,643 feet.

B&W neg printed on color paper so it's a bit muddy. Color cast removed with Paint Shop Pro.

Funkadelic Boneman
Ridiculous twiddling in Paint Shop Pro with a photo of my skeleton. A mix of solarization, negative image, texture fill, and forgotten futzing.

The Sunsphere was the theme building for the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. The red squiggle in the adjacent building was a piece of neon art in an artist's studio. The sun is from a seperate sunset photo which was used upside down, if I remember correctly. These two images were combined by sandwiching the negatives in the enlarger at the photo lab I once worked at. Digital manipulation includes removing a number of tree branches and badly placed clouds from the sunset photo, increasing color saturation, and some sort of muddy futzing at the bottom. Not sure what that's about unless there were a lot of branches there, but at any rate it gives it a sort of an apocolyptic feel.

A cardinal freezing his tail feathers off after an ice storm.

A shot of a lamp that was sold at a place I used to work.

Watch parts shot with 50mm lens reversed.

Cumberland Cove at Dusk
Taken with a disposable camera I rescued from the trash at the photo lab I worked at and color filtered out the wazoo at same, I present this pleasing purple panorama for your perusal. Just looking at this, fake color and all, makes me want to get out the hiking boots and hit the trail. Anyone want to join me? All I need to do is load some film and slap a fresh piece of duct tape on the door of my panoramic camera.

Copperhill 3
Another photo from Copperhill, TN. Flipped this to greyscale, sharpened, pumped contrast, then went back to true color to tint. I went for a heavyhanded approach with the tinting making it mostly just a 100% color fill to flatten things out and give it a pop-art poster quality.

The Holy Virgin of Spencer's
This is one of those "lightning" disks like you may have seen on the Borg regeneration stations on Star Trek. This one was on display at the Spencer Gifts store where I worked. The green is from the Lumiglass and the other colors are neon lights reflected on it through the open wire shelving. The "face" in the upper right corner is not the Virgin Mary enjoying some tangy, seedless grapes. Do not spread word far and wide that it is, that it can work miracles, and that if you stare at it without blinking for a full minute the price of gasoline in your neighborhood will go down 25 cents. It is only coincidental that it looks like that. If, however, it somehow inspires you to make a charitable donation to some worthy cause, please peruse my jewelry catalog and know that for each item you purchase you will be helping feed, clothe, and shelter a needy artist. Thank you.

A crab spider, crouching on goldenrod in appropriate camouflage, patiently awaits a visitor to its trap. These spiders will sit like this for hours until some unsuspecting insect gets within their reach, then they pounce.

If you saw the movie Spiderman and recall the woman at the lab mentioning a spider that could change its color, this is actually one that can do that. I've seen this same variety colored white on Queen Anne's lace, lavender on thistle, and pink on wild roses.

Night Flight
This shot combines a cliff-dwelling tree at Clingman's Dome in the Smokey Mountains, an agitated redwing blackbird that decided I was too close to its nest, and a Moon shot from the NASA web site.

Originally the bird and tree were already merged via sandwiched negatives during printing. I decided the bird would look better flying toward the open space instead of the tree, as it was in my photo print, so I flipped it. I felt the Moon would add to the drama and bring a highlight source to an otherwise dark image. Also, since there was this light source added, I dodged the clouds and rock bit.

Colorwise, I did little to the original photo which I printed dark and heavy on magenta anyway (bird and tree shots were actually shot in broad daylight), I just bumped saturation a bit and colored the Moon to match.

Copperhill Portal
Another shot from Copperhill, TN. This image of one big, honking section of pipe was made with the old darkroom trick of making a contact print from a normal, positive print resulting in a negative image. Of course these days one can flip positive to negative with a click of the mouse. If you flip this image back to positive you'll notice a cyan cast caused by the light filtering through the original photo paper.

Nubian Grace
A quick pic of a couple of items on top of my entertainment center; a '50s ceramic Nubian bust and an old piece of architectural detail.

An assassin bug lying in wait inside a flower for some other insect to come along for him to stab his "beak" into and pump full of digestive juices which he'll then slurp up. Mmmm.

A tight shot of the front of my copper Sunbeam Mixmaster, Jr. hand mixer (in need of a good cleaning and buffing).

An Angry Goddess
Made from sandwiched negatives when I worked in a color photo lab. The tree and rock are from a photo I took at Clingman's Dome in Smoky Mountains National Park, the highest point in Tennessee at 6,643 feet. The eye is from a copy negative I made of a 1980's Spiegel catalog cover.

All images Copyright © 2004 Bart Smith / handheadman