Stephen Kirkpatrick

Saturday, July 2, 2011

False Start

The idea for On A Roll came to me on March 30, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.

Inspired by the challenge, I immediately laid out the parameters for the book. Three rolls of film, three totally different ideas to capture on each roll.

One of the first thoughts that struck me was that capturing 108 interesting, well-executed shots on an unlimited number of rolls would be an impressive feat. To do it in three rolls would require working at another level altogether.

As I wanted each roll to have a good flow from shot to shot, I’d need to be very aware of the order of the images – what kind of shot I’d start with, what kind of shot I’d ideally like to finish with, and the variety of shots in between. Other considerations would be creating a pleasing mix of flora, fauna, and scenics, not to mention colors, lighting, and the placement of vertical and horizontal shots on the roll.

My next thought, honestly, was, “This can't be done.”

Pushing that aside, I continued planning. I would keep a notebook on all the images shot, recording:
1) Subject
2) Specific location
3) Date and time
4) Weather conditions and temperature
5) Lens, exposure, and equipment used
6) Any pertinent information on what happened during the shot

But the question remained, what would the theme or loose subject of each of the three rolls be?

The first was easy. I’d start with the first section of the book called "My Backyard" shot entirely in Mississippi. This was an obvious starting point in light of my knowledge of the state and the availability I have to shooting here. Of course, that familiarity and easy access wouldn’t necessarily make it easy. Because the flora, fauna, and scenery of Mississippi is so familiar to me and to many of the followers of my work, these images would have to be truly outstanding.

The subject of the first roll determined, I could hardly wait to begin work, writing in my notebook, “Inspired, I’m ready to take on the challenge and complete the task, a task that lends enthusiasm and energy to my pursuit of the optimum moment. After all, there has to be a challenge or there is no reward.”
1) Cardinal in Shagbark Hickory Tree  
Madison County 
March 30, 2011 - 2:20 pm
Cloudy, 55 degrees
500mm, 1/80@f4, Tripod 

I shot my first image – a cardinal in a shagbark hickory tree – at 2:20 that afternoon. Nearly three months later on June 22, I shot the last image on the roll, a cottontail rabbit eating grass. Even though I knew somewhere in the back of my mind this would be a "practice" roll, my lazy side wanted it to be "the one."

35) Cottontail Rabbit Eating Grass
Madison County
June 22, 2011 - 7:17 pm
Clear, 85 degrees
500mm w/2xTC, 1/60@f8, Tripod

It was never meant to be.

First, I had planned on using the last shot, #36, to capture a dramatic sunset. Umm, that didn’t happen, primarily because there was no #36 on the roll. When I loaded the film, the camera advanced it too far in, loading past the first exposure. The entire time I was shooting that roll, dreaming of my #36 sunset, there were only 35 available exposures.  Normally, this would not even be an issue – 35, 36, you reload, who cares? But when every shot on a roll has to be planned out, the first thing you have to be sure of is exactly how many shots you have to work with.

Of the 35 images I did capture, I wasn’t happy with five of them. A couple of the "bad" shots were of animals that had moved exactly when the shutter exposed the film – can't do much about that, but it ruined the roll.

I also realized that some of the shots I’d been confident about were the very ones that I was not pleased with once I saw the developed film.

So, the first roll was a false start, but I did understand more fully just what I’d undertaken. For those three months, I had babied the camera with this “special" roll of film in it, constantly monitoring the temperatures I subjected the camera to, religiously turning the camera to "off" so as not to accidentally expose a blank frame (this really concerned me), and agonizing over whether or not I’d captured a shot, knowing it would be months before I knew for sure. I had known the photographic challenge in the field would be big, but I hadn’t counted on having my every waking moment dominated by thoughts of that
one roll of film.

25) Turtle Tracks on Leaf River Sandbar 
Greene County
June 3, 2011 - 7:23 am
Clear, 75 degrees
17-35mm, 1/40@f22, Tripod

30) Leaves, Vine & Dew at Sunrise
Madison County
June 14, 2011 - 6:21 am
Clear, 68 degrees
500mm, 1/125@f4, Tripod
2) White-tailed Deer in Late Afternoon  

Madison County 
March 30, 2011 - 6:18 pm
Cloudy, 49 degrees
500mm, 1/5@f4, Tripod

And of course, when I loaded the next roll of film Wednesday, June 29, I made absolutely sure that I would have 36 exposures to work with.

As I continue to shoot this roll in Mississippi, I’ll post more about my adventures working in my own backyard.

I’ll also post soon about my ideas for rolls two and three. If you have ideas about what you’d like to see on those rolls, please post them. I’d love to know what you’d like to see... 
On A Roll. 

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