How to grow “artichokes”

How to grow “artichokes”

M. Hanif Raza

Growing artichokes is a lot of fun. There are no time and weather constraints and anyone can grow artichokes whenever he can find some spare time.

Great painters and renowned artists have been good at growing artichokes. In fact a friend of the renowned French artist Alberto once asked him, “What is the secret of your success and popularity as an artist?” His reply was very simple: “I grow artichokes.” Elaborating his point of view further he added, “Every morning I go into the garden and watch some of the cozy corners and various plants there. I see the play of early morning sunlight on the plants and their leaves and discover new combinations of color and fantastic patterns of light and shade. They inspire me and then I go back to my studio and paint the artichokes seen there.”

No doubt, having light and shade, good combinations of colors, good compositions and suitable subjects are the basic ingredients for growing artichokes. These “ingredients” are also essential to photographers and most will find that they have these things available in one form or another.

As mentioned above, Alberto was considered a quality painter simply because his work was different than other painters. He used different color combinations, different patterns of softer light and shade and selective angles of light. His pictures looked different too so he was popular and considered very creative.

In this world of chaos where sounds splinter the attention of mankind, it is always good to be different from so many others. One can always try to get out of the crowd of mediocre and try to treat different subjects using different styles and create an impact in one’s pictures or shall we say, grow artichokes. I have done this several times and enjoyed a new sort of satisfaction.

Growing artichokes is easy–let me list the few steps that it requires. The first step is that one should have a good collection of pictures. Normally most of us have a lot of good quality pictures. The second step is the selection of appropriate subjects/pictures having good detail and good contrast. The third step is the preparation of good negatives and good positives of the selected pictures. That is not complicated either. Let me tell you how I do that:

a) In the initial days I started by using Kodalith film because it was easy to develop. The procedure is the same as that used to make an enlargement from any one of your negatives in the darkroom. You place a negative in the negative carrier of your enlarger, select the size of your enlargement, focus the enlarger, put a sensitive paper under the enlarger on the easel, set an aperture and expose. In this case, the only difference is that you are putting a sheet of film under the enlarger instead of a paper. Develop the film the same way and the result is a positive picture on the film instead of paper. You can produce three or four positives keeping your density and contrast requirements in view and varying your exposure and development times.

b) Later on I realized that Kodalith film was too contrasty and I was not getting enough details in the midtones. I then switched over to the panchromatic films that the professional scanner houses use to produce color separations required for printing purposes.

c) After producing a good set of positives, I produced another set of negatives through contact printing. The enlargement size that I typically used was 6×8 inches because that offered me good working space and good detail of the subject.

d) Positives and negatives are then joined together and their registration can be kept a little off in order to get a bas relief effect if desired, though it is not a requirement.

e) The combined negatives and positives are then placed on a light box and exposed with the camera. My light box has four fluorescent tubes, two feet in length and the method has been working well. You can produce either color transparencies or color negatives depending on your choice of film. The procedure is the same as if you are taking any other picture.

f) The next important step is the addition of color and that is done before exposing the final pictures. There are two options. One, you can use the multi-exposure technique by changing various color filters before each exposure. If you don’t have many color filters, you can use transparent gelatin papers. The paper is placed on the light box in between the source of light and the negative-positive combined and then the camera is set and pictures exposed.

That is how I grow artichokes. The procedure is simple, yet the pictures are different.

M. Hanif Raza



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