Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dale R. Welker--"The World's Oldest Photographer"--In Memoriam

Dale Rene Welker was born October 16, 1928 and died on August 4, 2016. Dale was a commercial photographer who got his start photographing weddings during WWII. He had a stint in the Air Force running a photo lab and doing aerial and other types of photography. He operated a commercial studio in Mesa, Arizona for many years.

I met Dale in the early 1980s. I had started photography as a kid and graduated over the years to 35mm, 2-1/4 and 4x5. I had been using 4x5 for only a short while when I met Dale. We talked and discovered we had mutual interests and became good friends. Although I was never Dale's equal photographically speaking, he always treated me as an equal and was very helpful to me.

Sometime during the 80's we started going on aspen shoots in the fall to Flagstaff, Arizona. We would drive up early in the morning with 4x5s, 35mms and 2-1/4s, film, tripods, light meters, etc, as well as lunch. We probably had just a little more stuff than an infantry company took into Normandy on D-Day. Our first stop was Lockett Meadow, which is on the east side of the San Francisco peaks and reached by a dirt road off of highway 89.The two photos below were taken by Dale in Lockett Meadow on one of our expeditions; I don't know the date.

The photo below shows Dale wandering across the meadow looking for a better view.

After leaving Lockett we would drive down to the foot of the mountain on the east side and take a Forest Road around the mountain. We would always stop for lunch on a side road, at least until the Forest Service decided to block that road off. The photo below shows the log on which we  sat to have lunch, also taken by Dale.

Tho photo below shows my pick'em up truck on the alleged road by the lunch log. Judging by the truck, this must have been about 1989.

As long as we are on aspens, the photo below was taken by Dale near Fish Lake, Utah in 2008.

We went a lot of places besides Lockett Meadow over the years. One of our favorites was the Mesa LDS Temple, especially at Christmas. They do a fantastic job of decorating the grounds and turn the lights on one or two early mornings during the month of December just for photographers. Below is one of my photos from one of these jaunts.

Another expedition was over the Four Peaks road to the east side of the mountains. This was during the spring and the main reason for going was to photograph spring desert blooms. We stopped at Roosevelt Dam before returning to Phoenix. The photo below is of Roosevelt Dam taken by Dale on this trip.

The photo below is of the desert blooming, taken by me on this trip.

About ten years ago my brother in law, Alan Edwards, began spending winters in Mesa. He started going with Dale and me on various photo trips. To keep them straight I started referring to them as the Old White Haired Guy or OWH(Alan) and the World's Oldest Photographer or WOP(Dale). They started calling me things, too, but they are not suitable for a family publication. Below is a photo of the OWH on the left and the WOP at the Pinal Pioneer Cemetery.

The Pinal Pioneer Cemetery is just west of Superior. It got on Dale's radar because Wyatt Earp's common law wife, Mattie, was buried there. We made several trips out there over the years but discovered that the exact site was unmarked; someone put up the marker shown below but it's unknown where the exact site is. Below are photos of the entrance and the Mattie Earp marker taken by me.

We also went to several other places including Florence, Superior, Globe and Miami. The first photo below is of the smelter or surface plant at Globe taken by Dale. The second is of a building at Miami or Superior taken by me.

Two other places that we visited were the small church at Sacaton and the Sunkist Citrus processing plant in downtown Mesa that had closed. The photos shown below of these sites  were taken by me. 

The photo below is of Four Peaks just after a snowstorm, taken by me. This was another photo jaunt with the WOP.

Dale and I collaborated on the photography for a book, The Ninth Temple: A Light in the Desert, Granite Publishing, 2002. This book is a history of the Mesa LDS Temple and we were asked to scan and make suitable for printing the historic photographs that were available and to take some new photographs where they were needed.

The photo below is of Dale setting up a 4x5 camera at the base of the Superstitions, taken by me about 1989. The second photo is of Dale with a digital camera, taken by me in 2011.

Dale was a true friend and colleague. He is and will be sorely missed. I hope the lighting is always good in Heaven and film or digital cards plentiful.