We all experience instant memories when we hear some song and that is what happened when I heard a 1970’s song by the Beegees as I drove to town. In July 1978 my friend Alan Atterton and I traveled separately (with me often playing the Beegees cassette during my journey) to a place in Wyoming’s Teton Mountain range called the T Cross Ranch. We were there for a photography class put on by the University of the Wilderness and taught by photographer, and writer, Boyd Norton.
Atterton had found Norton’s book “Wilderness Photography” and passed it along to me. We both poured over that book with its instructions, suggestions, and ideas about photographing the great out-of-doors. I don’t recall how we found out about the class, but I was so determined to attend that I sold my VW to pay for it. The cash would not only pay for my tuition and expenses to Wyoming, it also helped pay for an airline ticket for my girl friend (later my wife) to Salt Lake City, Utah. Our plan was to meet up there and spend time photographing Arches National Monument, Zion Park and the Grand Canyon.
The T Cross Ranch was just outside of Dubois, Wyoming, and our class was comprised of photographers from Germany, New York, Florida, Idaho, Colorado, Tennessee, and two of us from Kamloops. Getting together with other photographers, in my opinion, not only creates excitement, but also is the best thing one can do to become a better photographer.
We hiked and wandered during the days, photographed everything in front of our lenses, and in the evenings had lectures in a large wonderful 100-year-old antique-filled log house.
Our instructor wanted to provide instant feedback for the participants and had come across a new three-chemical-process for developing slide film. The first morning I noticed him reading the instructions and without thinking I said I was familiar with it and immediately became the official class technician. So each evening while my classmates were sitting around the fire talking about the day’s events, I was in an abandoned walk-in cold room removing film from cassettes, rolling them into large processing tanks, then developing and hanging the rolls for overnight drying. Hmm…. me and my big mouth. The participants were all excited that we could have our images for critique so quickly. I thought that film technology had finally become the best it could be. Little did I know or could have predicted the future.
I preferred using a huge Mamiya RB67 at that time. The RB used 120mm medium format film and the negatives were 2¼x2¾ inches. I changed my camera because of that trip. We trucked up to a mountain plateau and Norton said, “There is a lightning storm to the west and we’ll see antelope coming this way to stay out of the storm. Find yourself a good position for some great shots.” I waited behind an old salt lick as several antelope came bounding our way. The lens on the Mamiya RB67 racked back and forth on a rail instead of turning like modern lenses. I tried to keep the antelopes in focus as they ran toward us, but to my dismay I couldn’t. I didn’t get a shot! When I came back within weeks I sold the RB and purchased a jaunty little Hasselblad that I used for years, until, coincidentally, I attended another wilderness class, that time in Washington State, and was introduced to digital. I returned to Kamloops after that class and shortly bought my first DSLR. Both instances were because of the influence of other photographers.
Reminiscing about that trip has reminded me was how important it is to interact with other photographers and participate in workshops, classes, and photo tours. The other thing I noted was that technology changes constantly for those of us dedicated to the medium and holding on to outdated equipment stops growth.