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On Photography

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Dan and Photography

What does photography mean to me... that’s a good question.

Well, I've been a photographer for over 25 years. I first picked up a camera as a young child. My twin, David, and I actually learned to use a Nikkormat FT2 and one of the first events I ever photographed was the wedding of a family friend. My twin and I decided to take the camera to the wedding so we could practice with it. We had several rolls of film, the camera, and a Vivitar 283 flash. We took turns using the camera at the wedding. What we hadn't planned on, was the professional photographer’s lab accidentally exposing most of the film he had shot at the wedding. Vincent and his new bride asked us for the photos we had taken— we were happy to give the couple what we had of their wedding.

I guess that was when it all started. I've been a Nikon person every since. I first learned how to use a 35mm SLR. The next camera I learned to use was my father’s Mamiya RB67, a fairly large and heavy medium format camera. I then taught myself to use an old Burke & James wooden field view camera that I had purchased during my college days. I later gave that camera to my uncle in New York.

I acquired a Leica M3 at a yard sale. At first I doubted it would work, but it turns out that it was in fairly good condition. It’s a different type of photography from using an SLR. The camera is almost silent. I use the M3 the most as part of my view camera kit. It doesn't have a light meter, so I have to carry an external one, or guess-timate my exposure. When I'm out with my view camera, I use the M3 to scout locations that I discover on my way.

I've got an old Horseman 4x5 monorail that I mainly use for still lifes, architecture and landscapes. Using a view camera also takes a different mindset than smaller format cameras. It is a much more contemplative and structured mindset. I guess that just comes from the format— a view camera may take more than 10 minutes to set up— the camera has movements for the lens and back that can be used to control depth of focus, plane of focus, perspective. You focus a view camera by looking through the ground glass with a cloth draped over your head and the camera. It’s amazing what funny looks you get using an old-fashioned view camera. Then, once the camera is set— you cock the lens shutter, load a film holder, remove the darkslide, and finally, take the photograph. You then put the darkslide back into the film holder, put the film holder in the camera bag, and then you can setup for the next photo.

I have a color and 4x5-capable darkroom that’s based around an old Beseler CB7 enlarger and a Jobo CPP Color Drum Processor. I haven't setup my darkroom in my house yet, but I hope to get a few friends to help me work on it next summer.

I've also taught photography. I've taught several friends, children at a Boys & Girls Club in Boston, and as a teaching assistant at Northeastern University. I've also taught at a local darkroom in Northern Virginia.

Recently, I've gotten into digital photography. I had started in digital photography a few years ago, but stopped for a while after a hard drive crash cost me most of the photos that I had of Gee. I now burn the photos to CD on a regular basis. I also use a Nikon Coolscan III film scanner to convert older slides and negatives to digital format. The real reason I started back into digital photography is the internet— I have been doing a fair amount of work on different websites, and realized that I needed a digital camera to really work efficiently. I chose to get a pro-sumer level digital camera— a Nikon D100— six mega-pixels, and it uses interchangable lenses. I had gotten some pretty good feedback about the D100 from my friend Paul. He’s just recently gone all digital— sold his darkroom and got a killer G5 power Mac.

Take a look at my other photography pages, and drop me a note via e-mail if you have any questions.