40 Shades of Blue

Well not quite 40 but you get the picture…no pun intended.  The 40 shades concept comes from the old folk song called 40 Shades of Green, not the 40 Shades of Gray book.

Today’s pictures are just a study of water birds in a very blue environment. I really don’t have much to say about the pictures themselves. The extreme blue colors in some of the images come from a blue tarp that covers a boat and is reflecting into the water.DSC_6625

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It is entirely possible that I am the most senior photographer in your life. Not necessarily the oldest (hopefully), but the photographer with the most seniority.  I began serious photography in 1971, and made my last images during this year of 2013.   I have written much on these pages about what it was like to be a photographer in the past.  The equipment we used, and what we had to do to call ourselves professionals.  There is much that has changed during my 42 years.

Somewhere in the mid to late 1980s, I jumped on an airplane that was headed for Colorado.  Colorado had been my home for a few years and this was my first return trip. I of course intended to visit a few national parks/monuments, like any serious nature based photographer.  That seems simple enough, but for three or four years, there were some problems.

There were and still are rules about making pictures in our national parks.  You cannot for instance bring in a crew to assist you with your still or video photography without securing a license and paying a fee.  In other words, no  product/model shoots or TV commercials without a lot of red tape.  I think that is more than fair. In fact you cannot obstruct the view or ruin the experience of other visitors.  Fair enough again.  Somewhere in the 1980s the head of the parks department took that to mean that no professional photography of any kind, even simple stock photography done on speculation, is allowed without weeks of red tape and a stiff fee to be paid.  I like many photographers, believed that to be an unfair interpretation considering that we like everyone else, actually own those parks.  I fully intended to make my pictures and let the chips fall where they may. Some photographers had been fined and at least two were detained in a local jail.

You may ask the question of how possibly could rangers know whether you were a pro or an amateur?  You have been to the parks recently and there are thousands of photographers everywhere.  Well times have changed.  Before the creation of digital photography, probably half of the visitors to a park would pop out at some point and literally “point and shoot”.   The rest made no pictures at all.  Back in the day, at times I visited national parks without seeing a serious photographer of any kind.  I am talking of those with pro level cameras and tripods, a camera bag and film.  At the time, few amateurs would ever waste their money on that.  I often shot with bazaar (to the general public) medium format cameras.

I had made images in Rocky Mt. National Park the previous day without incident. I saw no tripods or serious camera equipment with others, which was normal.  I also saw no park rangers.  I left my car and was carrying a Pentax 6×7 camera, Nikon 35mm camera, a tripod, and full camera bag with about ten rolls of film.  The light was perfect. I had just lined up a gorgeous mountain stream with a snow-capped 14,000 foot peak.  I saw pictures everywhere, but as usual, time was fleeting.  Excuse me….I heard.  Heading my direction but still about 100 feet away, was my first park ranger of the trip.  I was highly visible from the road and I was spotted.  I felt like a criminal.  In my own (and yours) national park.

He was stern as he inquired as to whether or not I had acquired a permit. He was just doing his job, but I politely objected.  I removed my “rules of behavior for federal parks and lands” papers from my vest pocket.  Remember this was before the internet. There was no such thing as typing a question into Google and clicking on a link, highlighting a section and printing. Luckily a photography magazine had spent the money to actually print ten pages of rules directly from the parks administration bylaws. They were made to rip out of the magazine. Primitive I know but we managed.  I asked (with courtesy) the ranger to show me where it stated that I could not do what I was doing.  He surprised me by actually looking through and reading much of the document.  He pointed out the section that referred to the necessity for permits for professional photography. I suggested he read further as it also stated that professional photography meant conducting commerce on the property (selling prints, workshops, etc.), or using models or making images with intent for advertising products or services.  I told him that I was making images on speculation, for selling as stock.  Calendars, magazines etc.  He asked me to stay right there and returned to his Jeep.  He had connected with his boss via car phone, who told him to let me go on my way.  I didn’t count. That backstep came from the protest of many professional photographers.  Not the kind of protest with signs and tambourines, but with thoughtful letters. Those objections went all the way to the White House and the order was given to back off. He apologized and told me of some great backcountry spots for images.

There were many other issues like this “back then“.  In all cases they were resolved with a smile.  A serious photographer stuck out like a sore thumb at one time.  Today a good camera and a tripod is the perfect way to blend in.  Of course as more photographers opt in favor of cell phone cameras and serious point and shoots, maybe once again the photographer with all that equipment and the willingness to carry it, will find themselves alone.

Ah to be John Sexton.  I believe John still carries a 4×5, wooden tripod and black & white film.  Art doesn’t have to be difficult, but it usually is.

Eliot Porter was one of the first large format color landscape photographers. In addition to landscapes, Eliot did detail work, and even birds (with 4×5).  He made inroads to the art market with his color work, and eventually Galen Rowell was the first to find his work in the sort of (snobbish?) galleries that previously would have nothing to do with color photography.

Today I have included five John Sexton, and three Eliot Porter photos for your enjoyment.js1

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When I write about things from photography’s past, I realize that not everyone will be interested.  In fact that is true when I write about what’s happening in photography today, or what I believe the future holds.   There are so many photographers today that it is natural that the majority just want to know how to make a good picture.  Maybe they just want to look at some images. They aren’t really interested in the subject that they practice. When photography was practiced by a few, virtually everyone, or at least everyone I met, had a larger interest in everything photographic. More people means more different reasons for making pictures.

I have never really known how to do something, or practice something, without studying it, exploring its past, viewing its present, and thinking about its future. Baseball, football, auto racing, nature, birds, horses, politics, religion, philosophy  and photography are just a few of those subjects.  I am never an expert, but my need to know drives me.  I may be the only person you meet who studies not only the past of history (obvious), but how it is interpreted or misinterpreted today, and how history will be viewed in the future. Every single subject has a past, a present and a future.

Thank you, I very much appreciate you allowing me to ponder what interests me, and share it with you.  Stop back again and have a great day.                                                      Wayne

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