Milltown Distressed - polymer plate Gravure Print

On Exhibit in December 2022:
Three River Sonata at Zootown Arts Center

Three River Sonata is a project I undertook during the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Instead of locking down at home, I grabbed my large format cameras and started exploring three rivers in Western Montana: The Clark Fork, Bitterroot and Blackfoot. It wasn't the first time I had considered doing a project about Montana rivers, but the circumstances compelled me. Not only had the pandemic made all the other projects I was working on impossible, it literally cleared the rivers of almost all people.

Montana is famous for its rivers. It is also unique in the Continental US: unlike other western States through which the Continental Divide passes, Montana has rivers in the Western watershed (flowing to the Pacific), the Eastern watershed (Flowing to the Gulf of Mexico) and the Laurentian watershed which flows north into Hudson Bay.

Like the glaciers of distant ages, rivers have continued to shape and define this landscape.

During 2020 and 2021 I shot roughly 800 4x5 and 8x10 images on a specific x-ray film I had found. Early in the project, I developed these films in Adox Rodinal at dilutions of 1:100 or 1:150 in dip-and-dunk tanks. At some point, I even tried mixing my own Rodinal substitute. Ultimately, I decided that because I was doing a project about the rivers, I needed to make sure I wasn't using and dumping any chemicals which might find their way back into the rivers. So I started experimenting with Caffenol. By December 2020, I had developed my own recipe for Caffenol suitable for X-Ray film similar to the Caffenol-C two-step "Caffeafine" developer described on

The result was a series of about 110 images that I felt worked.

In June 2022, I had the opportunity to participate in a polymer-plate photogravure workshop at Lightbox Photographic Gallery in Astoria, Oregon led by artist Karen Hymer of Light Art Space in Silver City, New Mexico. During that workshop I printed one of the images from the Three River series, and I realized immediately that this was the process for this project.

I quickly started looking for opportunities to work on printing. I applied for and received a two-month residency as the Laura Grace Barrett Printmaking Studio Resident at the Zootown Arts Community Center in Missoula and I started printing in October. There were many set-backs. Supply chain issues made sourcing plates a challenge, and several plate shipments arrived damaged. Because I was sourcing plates in mixed orders from different places, I found it very difficult to calibrate exposures. Most of my work was done using a two-step exposure process (exposure with an aquatint screen followed by exposure with a transparent image positive) on Dan Welden's Solarplates, but some were done with Toyobo KM 83 and 73 plates in the direct-to-plate process.

I finally found a solution from printmaker Silvi Glattauer in Melbourne, Australia who I worked with over Zoom for a couple days, and who provided me with a direct-to-plate methodology that reliably worked for plate calibration.

At the end of my residency, I was able to select 13 prints to hang in a solo show.  The show opened with a very well-attended First Friday event on December 2 and will remain on display at Zootown Arts Center in Missoula, Montana through the month of December, 2022.

A book about this project is still in the works.

For more information see the announcement on the ZACC's website. If you missed the opening and would like to see the show, you can find information about gallery hours and get directions here.

World Cup Celebrations in Paris 2018

The Field Recordings Podcast: After the World Cup Final, Paris, France on 15th July 2018

Most of the audio work I've shared is somewhat self-explanatory: recordings of singing, conversation, interviews, etc. But most of the audio work I do is simply to capture the sound of a place at a particular moment. This is type of ambient sound recording is generally called "field recording." This piece, which was published this morning on the Field Recordings Podcast is a good example.

Link: After the World Cup Final, Paris, France on 15th July 2018 – by Leland Buck

On July 15, 2018, France played Croatia in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final. The game was played at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow to a massive crowd of 78,000 people, but the real excitement, immediately after the game, was in Paris. I was in Paris at the time, and I remember how silent the city was during the game. Paris is a vibrant city, and it is full of sounds at all hours. Just the day before the World Cup, the city had been in full celebration mode for 14 Juillet, so in some way the World Cup was just an extension of the normal annual holiday.

Once the match was won by France, the city of Paris exploded in celebration.

Only minutes after the game ended, I pulled out my phone and started recording. This short recording was made on an iPhone 6s with the internal microphone standing in the middle of Rue Jacob in the Left Bank, a small street in the 6th arrondissement.

I discovered the Field Recordings Podcast early in 2021, and I have enjoyed listening to all 300+ episodes they have published. There is something wonderfully soothing and calming that comes from listening to good field recordings. So, I am proud to share this not only as the creator but to introduce others to this fantastic podcast.

Fort Point Channel from Summer Street, Boston

Fort Point Channel from Summer Street, Boston

Daily Photo: November 13, 2021

Fort Point Channel from Summer Street, Boston

Fort Point Channel from Summer Street, Boston

35mm Arista 200 developed in XTOL 1:1
Nikon F100 with 24mm f/1.4
Boston, MA
August 2021

“What metro Boston AAs are trite but correct about is that both destiny’s kisses and its dope-slaps illustrate an individual person’s basic personal powerlessness over the really meaningful events in their life: i.e almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of Psst that you usually can’t even hear because you’re in such a rush to or from something important you’ve tried to engineer.”
― David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

Blue Mountain Post Apocalypse, SE Oregon

Shooting Large Format X-Ray Film & All Through A Lens Podcast interview

This is a post that I am writing to accompany an episode of All Through A Lens Podcast in which I am interviewed. If you listen to that episode (episode #28) and are looking for some images to accompany, this post is for you.

I am told that the freely available version of the interview runs about 14 minutes. The longer version runs a full hour. If you are interested in the full interview, you need to subscribe to the All Through A Lens Patreon. I recommend you do this anyway, as it helps support the project and its people. While you’re at it, you should subscribe to my Patreon. Most of the images I am sharing here also appeared in a post on my Patreon from August 15, 2020. I have made that post available without a subscription if you are interested. I have been terrible at promoting it, but I am using it more and more as the place where I share new work, and I will be offering all sorts of special deals on prints, workshops, zines/books, and more to my subscribers. (There, self-promo done. Thanks for not bailing on me.)

I’ll also mention that Vania did a review of my zine “Paris Syndrome” back in Episode 10.

Since this is intended to accompany that interview, I am going to let you go listen to it and not try to write a long explanation of everything. Go listen to the episode, and if you haven’t subscribed, do. I like these two and have been a regular listener to their podcast since it’s beginning. It captures the spirit of adventure and learning that drives my photography. If you’re a film photographer and you are looking for a way to learn more, start with All Through A Lens.

I reference a series of tests that I did when I first started shooting with UltraCruz Blue X-Ray film. This first image is a really bad still life I shot with a Cambo 8×10 and Schneider 300mm f/5.6 lens as my first exposure with this specific film. I set it up with a few things I had on hand that gave me good shadow areas, textures, a range of colors, from dark to light, with emphasis on yellow & red, and I put the whiskey glass in because it threw some interesting light on the cut-glass.

Still Life: Flowers and a gin glass

The above image was shot at ISO 100 and tray developed in Rodinal 1+100, which was a decent starting point, but no sooner than I had hung the negative to dry, I realized I needed to do some more thoughtful testing. So I cut 4 8×10 sheets down to 4×5 and loaded those 16 sheets into 4×5 holders. I labeled pairs of holders so I had 2 sheets to shoot at ISO 3, 6, 12, 25, 50, 100, 200 (and I had two sheets reserved for reshoots because I generally make one or two stupid mistakes). I set out to a cemetery and found a couple of scenes to shoot. Here are 4 images from 7 shots in a series that best demonstrate the differences in sensitivity rating. (They are left-to-right ISO 12, ISO 25, ISO 50, and ISO 100.)

Based on this test, I determined that the best results were between ISO 25 and 50, and that is where I initially started shooting outdoors, at ISO 25. I have since modified that to ISO 50 as my general starting point. My standard development at ISO 50 has been 7 min tray development in Rodinal 1+100 with constant gentle agitation (gentle because these negatives scratch if you look at them wrong so you want to avoid as much surface contact with tray bottoms as you can.) I always do a 4 min pre-soak in distilled water before development. For ISO 25, I often develop for 9 minutes, especially if the scene is low contrast. I still will shoot the film at ISO 25 in certain higher-contrast mixed light situations, but generally prefer ISO 50 for most everything else in natural light. It renders better in the midtones than ISO 25. My advice for anyone starting is to do a similar series of tests, from ISO 6 (ISO 3 is a waste of a sheet of film) to ISO 100. I think you’ll find the 12, 25 and 50 ISO results are the most instructive and give you the best feel for how the film can be handled for different conditions.

The key to X-Ray is to harness one or more of the qualities it best enhances. In general, the negatives have a reasonably short value scale (about 5 stops from total black to white), deep shadows and easily blown-out highlights, and in full sun a tendency to be incredibly grainy. This is the film that I was referring to when I started using the “Whole Grain Film” tag, and for good reason.

Below are a few more images showing the three qualities I mentioned above 1. Short value range scale: I wouldn’t waste a lot of time with traditional 10 stop scales when shooting this film. Try a scale of 5 stops from deep black to total white instead and you’ll be closer. 2. Beautifully smooth and dense shadows — this is in part due to the emulsion on both sides of the film. 3. Whole Grain. Grab a napkin, this is a crumbly bran muffin of a photograph. This is what full desert sun looks like. 4. The last image is a nice compromise showing grain and density of shadow which I have come to adore about X-ray film. This image, though taken in a Sacramento, CA cemetery makes me think of the stories of Paul Bowles about Tangiers. 5. Finally, this is a portrait of my daughter at the grave of Jeanette Rankin. It was shot with a Cambo 8×10 in shade

The images below are:

  1. “Purple Heart Monument” taken in strong morning light at California State Capitol Park, Sacramento.
  2. “Mr. Haskell’s Eternal Dream In Blue” taken in Historic Sacramento Cemetery, Sacramento, CA
  3. “Blue Mountain Post Apocalypse” taken in full-midday sun on the top of Blue Mountain Pass, about 4 miles north of the town of McDermitt, NV in Southeastern Oregon.
  4. “Sacramento hints of old Tangiers” taken in Historic Sacramento Cemetery, Sacramento, CA
  5. “Lucia at Jeanette Rankin’s Grave” 100 years after Women got the right to vote. Cambo 8×10 monorail camera Schneider 300mm f/5.6 lens. 8×10 UltraCruz Blue X-Ray Film at ISO 100 tray developed in Rodinal 1+100 for 9 minutes. Missoula County Cemetery, August 2020 Missoula, MT



Daily Photo: September 19, 2020


Mamiya RB67 with Sekor 90mm f/3.8 lens
Fomapan 100 film developed in Rodinal 1:50
WPA Rock Garden
William Land Park
Sacramento, California
September 2020

Gardens are a great place to find one’s thoughts. My life has been a study in asymmetry filled with light and shadow, and Opuntia (Prickly Pear) seem to reflect that asymmetry beautifully. Living in Montana, I find myself missing cacti. So when I find myself in a place with interesting cacti, I let my eyes feast and enjoy. I found this massive sculptural Opuntia in the WPA Rock Garden in Land Park, Sacramento. It stood about 15 feet in height, and I just loved the way it danced in the sunlight.

Recent Figurative Work

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