Monday, August 6, 2012

Portrait of the Artist as a, Photographer. With Apologies to Dylan Thomas

About a year and a half ago I began a project to digitize(scan) all the film-based photos that I have taken over my lifetime, with the exception of photos that I took as part of assignments from publishers for books-in this case the publisher owns the copyright and I don't particularly care if those photos are digitized or not. At the start of this project I estimated approximately three years to completion. I have now revised that estimate upward. I hope I finish before I croak. Scanning transparencies is tedious and time consuming. I find that I can only scan about 50 35mm slides in one day without running out into the street screaming obscenities. Anyway, the other day I scanned some 35mm slides taken in south Cache Valley, Utah in 1991. These are probably on Fuji film, but I can't tell for certain without taking the slide apart, which I don't want to do. I use a Minolta Dimage 5400 II film scanner. One slide in particular stood out—a rural scene of an old farm, with mountains and the valley in the background, and with my 4x5 camera mounted on a tripod at the edge of the scene.

I usually carried a 35mm camera with me when I went out with the 4x5 to do landscapes. The 35mm is more agile and at times necessary to get a photo you might otherwise miss. The quality of the 4x5 is far superior, due to the size of the negative if nothing else. First I thought I was shooting with the 35 and forgot the large format setup was at the edge of the frame. Then I found another slide with the 4x5 at the other edge of the frame-must have been deliberate.

I believe this was an attempt to do a self portrait. This photo reveals a lot about the artist. He likes rural landscapes, as well as mountains. He likes beautiful skies with white puffy clouds. He is particular about his art. He would rather not photograph at mid-day, but early morning or late afternoon when the light is better. In this case not too late or the mountain shadows would be over all the scene. He uses the best equipment he can afford(4x5) mounted on the best, sturdiest tripod available. He also has a 35mm camera with him and is not afraid to use it when the circumstances call for it. He probably scouts locations that interest him and then returns at the right time of day or even time of year to get the shot he wants. He may be at a scene for many minutes to hours waiting for the sun to come out from behind a cloud. He is probably more deliberate than impulsive. Taking a photo with a 4x5 is a very deliberate process, requiring a series of manual steps done in sequence. Miss a step or get out of sequence, no photo. Experience has taught him about composition, depth of color and light as well as patience..

Below are scans of two of the 4x5 transparencies I took from this spot. Must have been from where the 4x5 is shown in the above photo, and earlier  as the mountain shadows have covered the farmstead in the 35mm photo. The film was a Fuji film; the scans were done on an Epson Perfection 1680 flat-bed scanner.
All in all a fun exercise. Also, Dylan Thomas' Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog is an excellent read. I highly recommend it.

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