From the USA

jerry bodine

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Northwest Washington State, specifically, near Seattle. I've been doing large format work for a long time, starting in '68 after four Yosemite workshops with the Man (AA), leaving smaller formats behind and learning the Zone System. Now I'm pretty much an Ilford guy (except for the HC-110 still in my inventory). I'd used Galerie graded papers with my E6 Omega 5x7 diffusion enlarger, the one with the "saucer" head, but then converted it to LEDs for VC work. My current bible is Way Beyond Monochrome 2nd Ed., to supplement AA's series. Glad to be aboard this civil forum.
 

jerry bodine

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Way back when my legs would obey my commands, I did a lot of LF backpacking into Washington State Wilderness areas as well as the Canadian Rockies. Here are a couple of my favorite 4x5 images from those days. These are scanned 8x10 prints on Ilford Galerie.

1st: Winthrop Glacier on Mt. Rainier, my third attempt (uncooperative weather) to reach this location.
2nd: Prusik Peak in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area in Washington (my all time favorite area). I don't often use a polarizer in b&w work, but here it was useful for remove a bit of the surface reflection in the tarn to render the rocks below as well as to darken the clear blue sky somewhat.
Winthrop Glacier.jpgPrusik Peak (Alpine Lakes Wilderness) (2016_10_09 18_43_47 UTC) (2).jpg
 

David M

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Four AA workshops must have been a remarkable experience.
We know him principally as the Zone Man and he's often quoted in matters of exposure and processing. (Perhaps a little too often?)
Clearly he was more than a fine technician.
What did you learn about the other side, about the making of pictures?
 

jerry bodine

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The printing came mostly later, self learned. One of the workshops was focused on printing and was "spearheaded" by one of his assistants (Al Weber, RIP - an excellent teacher); we were schooled on presentation of the print mostly, mounting/matting, but not framing. In one of the workshops in AA's darkroom, we were asked to bring a negative that challenged our printing abilities. I handed him the negative of Mt. Rainier (shown above) and explained how I envisioned the textures in the glacier (the soft lighting under the cloud and the harsher lighting where the crevasses were in full sunlight. My burning/dodging skills were not good at the time. He put my negative in his 4x5 Beseler that had a special lamp control for variable contrast paper of the day. It is described and illustrated in his book The Print as "Ferrante Codelite"; far too costly for a learning printer to consider, plus I had absolutely no knowledge of vc technology at that time. He grabbed a sheet of Dupont vc paper, put in the enlarger, made a few dodges & burns, made NO test strips, tossed it into the developer and up came the print that perfectly met what I wanted. So I learned NOTHING from that demonstration except the realization that methods existed which needed to be learned. That led me - over the years - to where I am today with my 5x7 Omega enlarger with LEDs. Also my dodge/burn skills have improved sufficiently for those prints that, to me, look better on Galerie graded paper.
 

David M

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Thank you.
A curious way to teach, but it seems to have worked for you. Enviable virtuosity. I suppose it demonstrated to the group that there was a way ahead.
Did you do any work on visualisation? Any advice in the field?
 

jerry bodine

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The only thing I can remember re visualization is during review of prints submitted for Q & A discussion. I think that topic is really too subjective/personal and is something that can't be taught, rather it has to be "felt." Field advice: practice, practice, practice. Though, he did demonstrate a few examples of view camera movements.
 

David M

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Very interesting. Thank you.
I've not heard a first-hand account before. English workshops are different.
Did you take away any other lessons?
 

jerry bodine

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Apologies for this lengthy response; brevity is normally my strong suit.

During the first workshop in 1966, at the outset, those participants interested in gathering to introduce one another did so. The group was moderated by Al Weber, who asked the question "Why Do You Photograph?" I didn't have an answer at the time; I'd never even thought about it, since I always simply did it because it was generally fun, but to pin-point a specific reasoning was new to me. That question stuck in my memory for quite some time. Eventually, after constantly pondering my motive(s) and behavior, I concluded it was due to the analytical nature of my personality that drew me to the processes of photography that I enjoyed so much - the same personality trait that resulted in a fifty-year career in engineering research/analysis.

FYI-I've since looked into research (done by experts) of personalities and WHY people do what they do. It's left brain / right brain stuff and is now more common knowledge than when the question was posed to me. Left brain activity is involved more with analytical thinking; right brain more with creative thinking. But it's more complex than that. Seems there are four different personality types - Analytical/Expressive/Amiable/Driver. Many people have some mix of these traits in varying amounts. In simplest terms, these traits individually manifest themselves as follows:
Analytical - very reserved behavior, quiet thinker, rather solemn.
Expressive - jolly, bubbly behavior, very creative in many ways, socially-oriented.
Amiable - very quiet, easy to please, unassertive, non-combative, often not even noticed among others in a gathering.
Driver - in-your-face type, results-oriented, whatever it takes to get the desired results, "out-of-my-way", can be quite obnoxious.

It's now almost automatic for me to "read" people quickly, and I must say I find your wording talent to be very enjoyable. I read that, while not rare, some people have a mix of equal parts of all four types, and have the ability to accomplish whatever they wish. I came to the conclusion, after reading his autobiography to discover what made him "tick", that AA was one of these.

Attached is a photo of AA at the 1966 workshop by Al Weber, who must have certainly been beside me at the time as I was doing an almost identical shot with my Leica M3.

Ansel, LeConte Memorial by Al Weber.jpg
 

Alan9940

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Jerry, thanks for the thoughtful post! I've never given much thought to why I photograph, either, but since you brought it up two things jump immediately to mind for me:

1. I forget which famous photographer said this, but I wholeheartedly agree: I like to see what something looks like as a photograph.

2. I love being outside! Therefore, carrying a camera under the guise of "making images" has always been my excuse for roaming the countryside.

Always liked that image of AA, too!
 

David M

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Jerry,
Thank you for that. A very interesting account. And a good question, perhaps one we don't ask often enough. You write with great clarity.
 

David M

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You made me think. I did a bit of searching and came across this:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-People-Photograph-Selected-Reviews/dp/0893816035/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

It's by Robert Adams, who writes elegantly on photography. I'm ordering a copy.

If I may comment on something you said, I suggest that composition can be taught. Not quite like teaching driving or woodwork, of course, but lessons can be learned.* Discussing different images and visualising different approaches can help, particularly if done in a group. A change in cropping can sometimes bring an image to life, and visualising what would happen if the camera had been placed elsewhere is particularly useful for LF photographers, who are obliged to be parsimonious with exposures. All this implants itself under the skin so that when confronted with the ground glass, it seems to be, as you say – "felt".
After thinking about composition, it's possible to go forward to discuss "meaning" but that's a much trickier matter. The word meaning means different things to different people and an image may affect the viewer differently when associated with other images. Deeper waters here.

*I notice that I've used the words taught and learned above, as though they were different sides of the same coin. Being taught and learning are not quite the same. Being taught can be passive: active learning is what we need.
 
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