Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Is That The Spirit Of An Omega D2V-XL I See?

I didn't notice it when I sat in Mike's office/digital "darkroom" but when I saw this picture on screen Omega was what came to mind. Mike has gone 100% digital from a background of shooting weddings on film and getting machine made color prints. I doubt that he's ever seen an Omega D2 enlarger, let alone the XL and V variants. Yet up there on top of the black cabinet in the left rear is a black shape with a white square on it. The size, the shape, well it triggered something in my brain. An Omega lamphouse, it screamed!

For a few decades the Omega D2, going back to the days of the 4X5 Speed Graphic, was the mainstay of newspaper and magazine darkrooms everywhere, and most studios and custom labs had them also. The XL stood for Extra Long. That variant had a longer massive aluminum girder holding the enlarger head than the standard model so it allowed you to make cropped prints as large as 16X20 inches right on the base board.

As first Rollieflexes using 120 roll film, and then Leica, Nikon, and Canon 35mm cameras replaced the 4X5 for news photography, shorter focal length lenses were used on the enlarger, and they required another set of condensors for each lens used. Omega devised a new lamphouse. It had shelves inside and a flip-up door in front. Now you could move one of the condensors up and down to match the lens being used. That's where the"V" for Variable came from.

Like I said, Mike is digital. He still has a couple of film bodies for his Canon lens collection. He'll admit that every rare occasion the look of film is just what he needs, but he scans the negatives and prints digitaly. I think some of his photos look a bit over sharpened, flatly lit, with garishly intense colors. Some of the "shadows" he puts on the background look fake to me. His whites often lack detail and his dark areas tend towards featureless blacks. I'm not into those dramatic vignettings either.

But he's great at working the tonal shortcomings of digital into some dramatic compositions, his posing is very well done, and he has a good rapport with his subjects. They're thrilled with his work, and that's what counts. Whether you're looking for a traditional wedding photographer or a studio portrait give Mike Rifai a call at 305-893-2322 and tell him that I sent you. His website is http://www.ssph.net/

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