As Much a Printmaker as a Photographer

As Much a Printmaker as a Photographer

I had a chance to reminisce during last weekend's Labor Day Show here in Mammoth. It has been forty years since Galen Rowell picked out my very first Nikon camera at a camera swap in Berkeley. This was my best move after the legendary plane crash at "Dope Lake" in Yosemite. There is a wonderful and authoritative article about this crash in Men's Journal.  But back to this blog. With Galen as one of my finest mentors, photography has been my career for all these years, and one of my first decisions in those long ago years was to take a different path than him. I always had an interest in darkroom work in high school, and so I naively branched out to printing my color work, and then in 1981, I upgraded to a 4x5 filed camera to make improved prints.

I began color printing in1978 at the Ranger Club in Yosemite with Cibachrome prints made in the old plastic tubes! I relocated more-or-less full time to Mammoth Lakes the next autumn to be with my wonderful wife-to-be, Margaret. I perfected Ektacolor printing in the eighties. In the nineties, my interest shifted to the famous old Dye-Transfer process. Dye-Transfer made wonderful luminescent prints. But the process involved dangerous chemicals, and was prone to mistakes, and those mistakes were sometimes not noticed until the next day. Times and technology change! Along came the late nineties, and the digital printing began. My darkroom work came to a halt.

I was always fairly comfortable with computers. My high school years involved classes at UC Berkeley. (My daughter, Sabrina, has always teased me about my career choice!) My switch to computers took a few years, to really feel and understand Photoshop and then Lightroom and their amazing properties. But now all is all natural to me; the process of pre-visualizing a capture, from obtaining all the information in the camera, to the computer work in Lightroom. Printing can be difficult; there are books the size of the New York phonebook, that purport to show you all the details! The image above, Precipice Lake, was made in the summer of 1985. I did not realize a good print until later in my Dye-Transfer years in 1997. Sometimes printing takes a few weeks, sometimes decades elapse before a marvelous print is obtained. But these days, the printing process is all in the right-side of my brain. And I am really pleased to get away from all those dangerous darkroom chemicals. 

Printmaking is an integral part of my photography. And I do believe that my best work is still ahead too.

May the autumn months lead to great images!

Vern and Margaret