We all experience instant memories when we hear some song. That’s what happened when I heard a 1970’s song by the Bee Gees as I drove to town this week.
In July 1978 my friend Alan Atterton and I traveled (with me constantly playing a Bee Gees cassette on the 4 track player) to a place in Wyoming’s Teton Mountain range called the T Cross Ranch.
There was a photography class put on by the University of the Wilderness’ instructor, photographer, and writer, Boyd Norton.
Atterton had found Norton’s book “Wilderness Photography”. We poured over that book with its instructions, 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 jaunty VW bug to pay for it. The cash not only paid my tuition and expenses to Wyoming, it also helped pay for an airline ticket so my girl friend (later my wife) could fly to Salt Lake City, Utah to meet there and then 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, photographed everything in front of our lenses, and 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 state of the art three-chemical-process for developing slide film.
The first morning I noticed him reading the instructions and without thinking I volunteered, becoming the official class technician and 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.
We were excited that we could have our images for critique so quickly. I thought that film technology had finally become the best it could be.
I preferred using a huge Mamiya RB67 at that time. The RB used 120mm medium format film and the negatives were 2¼x2¾ inches.
One morning 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!
I returned home and within weeks I sold it and purchased a compact little medium format Hasselblad that I used, until, coincidentally, I attended another wilderness class in the late 1990s, that time in Washington State, and was introduced to digital.
Shortly after that I bought my first DSLR. Both instances were because of the influence of other photographers. Technology changes constantly for those of us dedicated to this medium and holding on to out-dated equipment stops growth.
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.