ARTIST'S STATEMENT

In 1983, in acknowledgement of a long-latent interest in photography, I purchased Ansel Adams’ three-volume Basic Photography series:  The Camera, The Negative, and The Print.  I found them fascinating in their detailed, technical description of how he made his masterpieces.  I studied them diligently.  Then, as Ansel recommended, I bought a spot meter and practiced visualizing images and measuring their subject luminances pursuant to the dictates of his Zone System. After several months of reading, and practicing composition with a cardboard cutout and measuring the light with the spot meter, some dear friends gave me a Hasselblad for my fortieth birthday.  It is the only camera I have ever used for my black and white landscapes.  Back then, I developed the film in my kitchen sink with a changing bag and a light-tight cannister and then did my printing in a wet darkroom. Today, I still develop my film in my kitchen sink, but I long since gave up printing in a wet darkroom.  For the past twenty years, via a high-resolution film scanner, I have been converting my negatives to digital files and post-processing them in PhotoShop, adjusting local contrast and tonal range.

Over all those years, I have spent thousands of hours practicing and honing the dictates of Ansel’s Zone System, and teaching myself to integrate the arcane processes that can result in a photographic image that is accepted as art. I have never taken a photography or PhotoShop class, but I have had a wonderful mentor, Robert Byers, a fine black and white photographer and coincidentally, Ansel’s friend and lawyer.  

A Hasselblad is not a snap-shooter’s tool.  With four fixed-focal length lenses and a tripod, it weighs some thirty pounds.  Its effective use requires considerable pre-meditation.  The advantage of it is that its 2¼ x 2¼-inch negative, when scanned, creates an 80 mega-pixel file which enables me to print thirty-inch square prints at the optimum viewing resolution of 360 pixels per inch.  The disadvantage is that I can’t see the image I have just captured in the camera.  I have to return home, develop the film and scan it into PhotoShop to see what, if anything, I have accomplished. The process all but demands meticulous attention to perspective, depth of field, wind (at the slow shutter speeds necessary for maximum depth of field in low light, moving branches appear blurred), clouds and, most of all, the light and shadows.

I spend much more time searching out subjects and often even more time finding the best perspectives of those subjects than I do actually photographing.  In fact, I expose very few negatives; and before I capture an image that I like, I usually make a “study” shot and process it – often multiple times – to discover the adjustments I should make to perspective and to timing (vis-à-vis sun angle) to get the light right.

In a black and white landscape, there is only the subject, the perspective and the light.  The vast interpretative power of color is not available.  A good fine art image is one that has some compelling aesthetic appeal.  While subject and perspective are integral to an appealing composition, I believe it is the use of light in the black and white landscape that evokes the aesthetic appeal and maybe even a quiet “Oh, wow” from the viewer. I am very attentive to the capture in my images of what I call evanescent light. That usually means shooting in the early mornings and late afternoons and evenings.

Being a long-time resident of Sausalito, I have confined my search for subjects to the transcendent beauty of San Francisco and the nearby coast.  My images are simply my visualization of what I found to be a beautiful or interesting scene in the best integration of subject, perspective and light that I could make. Any inference of intellectual thesis or other subtle meaning must be of the viewer’s own invention, for nothing so deep is contemplated by me in the making of my images.

I have sold many prints through my website and through the kind referrals of friends and previous buyers.  With the exception of two appearances in the Sausalito Art Festival a decade ago, however, I have never publicly shown my photography.  This late in my life, it occurs to me that it might be time.  Hence, I am exhibiting at the City Art Gallery San Francisco during the months of March and May, 2020.

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