Portrait of Suzie on the Barton Creek Greenbelt. Past.


I really love to make portraits. How much do I like the process? Well, after a hard day's work in the studio, making portraits, I love to unwind by heading out of the studio and making some more portraits. This is an image from long ago. Suzie was an Austrian make-up artist that I used to work with. While her expression in the image above is a bit severe she was a warm, happy and thoughtful work friend. The kind of person who brought you herbal tea when you came down with a cold. 

We both had some time one day to just go out and shoot, and even though it was the middle of a hot summer we trudged down some thin trails to the slow flowing water of Barton Creek. Suzie brought along a couple of outfits and I brought along a Pentax 6x7 medium format camera, a tripod and a pocket full of Kodak T-400 CN film. Interesting film. It was basically color negative film that yielded a black and white negative with a very, very long tonal range. The advantage that I saw was that my lab could process it in C-41 chemicals thereby freeing me from more time in the darkroom, swirling chemicals around in a metal tank. 

We shot until the light evaporated and then we trudged back up the trail in the semi-darkness of the sunset's afterglow. 

It's not an amazing portrait or much of a fashionable image but it reminds me of the sheer immersion with which I lived photography at the time. Hardly a day would go by without me somehow going through four or five rolls of film (on a day off) and thirty or forty rolls of film on a work day. I still shoot a lot. Mathematicians might tell us that the act of creating so many "data points" probably increases my chances of getting something decent more often than if I'd have stayed home and watched TV. 

I loved that particular time period of photography. Everything was transiting in my business from large format to medium format. The feel of the backing paper wrapped around the film. The little strips of adhesive paper with which one sealed the finished and wound off film. The quick glance at a Minolta incident meter to make sure your brain's internal meter matched reality... The cameras seemed like magic back then. And the mirror slap of the Pentax 6x7 was legendary. I used the mirror lock up for nearly every shot. Why not when you're on a good tripod?

I've been away from photography since last Friday and I feel deprived. When I finished the clerical work and accounting work I have at hand I'll head out for a stroll with a camera in my hand. But not a Pentax 6x7. Those were just too damned big.


Dave Jenkins said...

I think the mirror slap on the Pentax 67 was overrated, and probably mostly came as the mirror returned after the exposure. Anyway, I could hand-hold mine down to 1/30th second with no noticeable loss of sharpness, and used 1/60th frequently.

I considered the Pentax my "field" camera and didn't use it on a tripod except for architecture. I had a grid screen installed, and it made a great combination with the 45mm lens. I wish I had never sold mine, because I think it gave me the highest percentage of keepers of any camera I've ever owned.

Other than architecture, if I planned to work from a tripod I used the Mamiya RB67 instead of the Pentax.

As you have mentioned more than once, those finely-honed film-camera skills which I so much enjoyed using are nothing more than detritus in the wake of the triumphant, all-encompassing march of the digital age.

Kirk Tuck said...

Dave...with respect...your Pentax 67 experiences are much different than mine. I could barely handhold mine at 1/250th with the 150mm lens I usually had on it and the "mirror up" was seismic while the mirror traveling back down was just dramatic. No matter! The cameras did help us generate some really great images. I am impressed at your skills. I should have worked harder on mine.

Robert Roaldi said...

Smoldering look.

Yoram Phone said...

Why not get back to medium format with the pentax 645d ? I think it even takes 67 lenses

Dave Jenkins said...

Well, to be fair, I wasn't usually working with longer lenses. My mainstays were the 45 and the 105 that came with the camera. I had a 200, but didn't use it much. I mostly used the longer lenses, a 127 and a 250,on a tripod-mounted RB.

In 2000, when I closed my studio in Chattanooga, I divested myself of all the 8x10, 4x5, Mamiya and Hasselblad stuff (but kept the Pentax) and bought a Fuji GX680 outfit. What a hoss that camera was! But that's a story for another day. Sorry to bend your ear with all the reminiscing.