Thursday, November 28, 2013

Not Fading Away Gracefully

In 1951 General Douglas MacArthur in a farewell speech said:

I am closing my 52 years of military service. When I joined the Army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all of my boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that "old soldiers never die; they just fade away."

And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty.

In many ways I think this also applies to old photographers like this one. And the comparison seems to fit photographers even better. We fade like a badly fixed photograph. They usually yellow and develop spots and ultimately they are gone.

But like MacArthur, we might fade away, slowly enough to make a bang here and there.

At age 71 I believe I am taking the best photographs of my life. My film based photographs cannot be retro because I am using film in a contemporary way. I make do with the best of two worlds by combining my slides, transparencies, negatives and darkroom printed b+ws with my Epson Perfection V700 Photo scanner. And on the rare occasion that the scanner will not do I go to DISC Imaging in Vancouver and Grant Simmons will expertly drum scan my stuff.

Working with both these worlds means that while I can print beautiful 16x20 prints on very good photographic paper I can also use digital files of my 6x7 cm transparencies (slides) to have DISC print giclées that surpass even light jet prints (digital files projected on photographic colour paper with a laser enlarger)in detail particularly in the shadows. Until now conventional colour film (both negative and slide) had awesome shadow detail that was limited in that they had to be printed in the photographic products of their time.

But all the above does not mean I have eschewed the use of digital camera. I have recently purchased a Fuji X-E1and I am learning how to use it without allowing me to have it tell me what to do! This camera has an available adaptor (which I purchased) which enables me to use all my old style (non autofocusing) Nikon lenses. Until I can figure out this camera’s eccentricities I use it just the way I use all my film cameras, with an accurate Minolta flash/exposure meter.

Today, I was able to see my latest cover for an arts weekly in Edmonton, Alberta. I am particularly pleased by the look that the designer gave to my photograph. This is, he did nothing to it and kept it clean. In this age this is amazing.

For those who may be curious on how I photographed singer/songwriter Art Bergmann here are the facts. I photographed him in my studio (I had one then) in March 2009. I used  a Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD and a 90mm lens. My film was Ilford FP-4 which I rated at 100 ISO. I processed the film in Kodak HC-110 dilution B.

For light I used a Profoto ring flash modified to be plugged into a venerable (I purchased it in 1979) Norman 200B. I purposely mounted my camera crooked within the hole of the ring flash so that the lens would see the edge.