December 08, 2013

That's a Rap...

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Thru my transition from shooting digital to film, then to wet plate collodion, I always felt the need to to back up the shoot with my digital slr. Maybe it was the comfort level that digital gives all of us, seeing what we have shot in real time. But as I became reacquainted with the large format film and wet plates, I didn't feel the need to have that digital back up. If my intention was to create a great film shot or wet plate, having digital on stand by was a crutch that I could always beckon. How was that making me a better film or plate photographer.

I have to admit it took a good amount of time where I left the digital camera behind. It has gotten to a point now that I have to remember to bring the digital because my client wanted some colour images to go along with the monochromatic wet plates.

There is a sense of arrival being able to tell my subject that we are done with the session after just 4 exposures. I'm reminded of a story from a fellow assistant, way back in the day when he assisted a photographer who shot the Marlboro Cigarette billboards. The jobs would end up taking weeks and weeks, from location scouting, creating the scenes, gathering local cowboys and horses and all of the other elements to making sure the shoot would go according to plan and with everyone as happy and comfortable as possible. On one occasion, one of the photographic images that needed to be captured was having a dozen horses running over a hill, creating a fog of dust in the background, then into a shallow lake. The perfect locations couldn't be found, so they created a lake at the very base of the hill somewhere in Wyoming where the horses were going to run over. Thousands of sheets of plastic had to be brought in, truck loads of water hauled and poured...

Finally, the perfect moment of twilight arrived, the photographer radioed to the cowboys to get the horses to gallantly run over the hill and thru the water. As the reflections of the water started to break up upon the first set of horses creating splashes and waves, the golden light of the sun being trapped in the dust over the hill, manes of the horses dancing upon their necks, the photographer snapped one exposure and said, "Thats a rap..."

Kiley 1 of 4

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