Images from the Film Archives — 1994
You wouldn’t know it from the photo itself, but taking it took quite a bit of effort and determination to get the shot. However, any adversity overcome, any mountain scaled, or river crossed to record a photo, has nothing to do with its success. On the opposite side of the coin, I’ve often said that I’ve been fortunate at times to be at the right place at the right time, and that the only requirement was to trip the shutter.
Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.
But we have to remember too, that much effort is often expended in pursuit of an image with absolutely nothing to show for it. All we can do is persevere. I guess if the pursuit of photography continues long enough, those two sides of the coin will tend to balance out.
Concerning the image above, we were hunkering down during a winter storm that was nearing its end when the snow began to turn into sleet and freezing rain. I could see the nearby vacant lot from my living room window where the Queen Anne’s Lace began to bend under the weight of the ice, and I felt there had to be a photo there. But was it worth trudging out there in the midst of a storm for only a possibility? The single thing that tipped the scale to go out, was the umbrella holder attached to the tripod to protect the camera from the elements. My firm belief is that water and electronics do not play well together, so I try to avoid them doing so whenever possible.
So I set up the camera on the tripod, wrapped it in a plastic bag and ventured out, all bundled up so the cold wouldn’t hurry me in making a photo. Stepping gingerly around the area that by now was slush, making sure not to put footprints anywhere I might want to photograph, I finally settled on what is seen above. The camera angle became very critical to maintain the flow of stems and pods in a graceful arrangement while still maintaining a balanced composition. The final problem to overcome was depth of field (no focus stacking then). The camera needed to be raised as high as possible while still being able to look through the viewfinder (no flippable digital backs), to get more distance from the ground to expand the depth of field from directly in front of the camera, to those tiny plants in the background. Then, using the markings on the lens barrel to set the hyper-focal distance, everything was set for three bracketed exposures, pack up, and head back to the house. By then my feet were soaked and cold, and the weather was worsening, so I called it a day with only this single composition.
I eventually had it printed in a New York City photo lab, but was never satisfied, and it languished for many, many years until I began to process and print my own work. It took quite a few attempts to process the film scan in a way that illustrated the delicate interplay of lines without any overbearing dark tones or heavy contrast, and keeping the slushy snow as white as possible with only the slightest shadows to convey the undulations of the snow’s surface. In fact, proper printing will have the bottom of the print nearly as white as the paper, with the upper portion only slightly darker. It finally all came together when it was printed on a very white mat paper (Epson Hot Press Bright) and took on the feeling of a pencil drawing rather than a photographic print. Languishing for nearly two decades, the image finally saw the light of day.