Breakthrough: the excited, enthusiastic public reception (read: "WOW!" factor) to my production of ultra-high quality Ilfochromes from 35mm transparencies (1994-2010) after a decidedly lukewarm reception to RA-4 prints;
Breakdown: The end of Ilfochrome and the shift of the public's /art world's divergent interest to digital / abstract art and "roll your own masterpieces". Analog production just got so much more challenging, but ultimately personally satisfying.
Light is the key. Avoid burning film in bad light. Shoot in good light and you may or may not get something.
I had been a casual snapshooter of family and such and had my film developed and printed at a local camera shop. There was a particular negative that was printed rather poorly even to my then un-trained eyes. Shortly afterward while on vacation in California my wife and I accidentally happened on to an exhibition of 100 vintage prints by Edward Weston. Not knowing and never had heard of him I commented to my wife "look how good his pictures are compared to mine I bet he has his own darkroom".* As soon as we came home I bought my first enlarger and trays, etc. The salesman asked what paper and chemistry I wanted. I said whatever you recommend I'll figure out how to do this. Through the past forty years the passion for photography (and my wife who has put up with it) is still there.
*his are still better than mine
I think mine came in the last few weeks. I guess I was stuck in a rut both with photography and with life in general (a pretty hard time mentally for me that needed counselling). My psychologist set me a goal to do something positive every day for a week and I didnt know where to start, so she suggested that I get the camera out and take 4 shots per day and to bring them back the following week. It was hard the first day to even choose a camera. But I perservered. I tried each format I owned and realised that I see the world as a panorama and that 8x20 is the format for me.
So for me it was limiting myself to a single camera, a single lens, a single film and developer and the same with paper (although I havent printed any of the photos as yet). I still have the other cameras but if I am honest with myself I will probably cut them back to just the 8x20 and an 8x10. I realised it wasnt about the gear anymore, but about how I see the world.
I think that one task set by the psychologist was the trigger to me finding out what was important to me both in photography and life. And the 4 shots a day are still continuing not because I have to, but because it makes me feel alive again.
I've had a few (and hope to have more).
The first was in 1979. I was taking a workshop in France. As I was walking around a small village, I came upon a scene which I wanted to photograph. I thought... I framed... I metered... I shot... That night, I processed the film, and printed the next morning. For the first time, what I saw in my head ended up on the paper exactly as I had planned.
Another occurred around 1983. I was on Cape Cod, where I had shot an image the year before, in color. On this trip, I wanted to duplicate the image in B/W, for hand-coloring. I had lugged the camera about a mile, it was over 100 degrees, and my eyes were stinging under the dark cloth. I got the shot, and packed up the camera, hoping to get back to the house for a cold one. As I turned, I saw a shot I thought would be nice but, being a puddle of sweat, initially thought about skipping it. A voice in my head said, "you'll regret it". I pulled the camera back out, set up the shot, and got it. To this day, I think of that moment every time I want to get to a cold one...
Kickin this back to top of the pile. I liked reading the responses and I know there are more of them out there :)
When I finally got the chance to see real prints by Adams and Edward Weston. It was somewhat liberating for me because I was disappointed - as my father, my first photographic teacher predicted I would be.
When I first started photography, the printing standards I set for myself were based on a false reference point - the laser-scanned duotone reproductions I poured over in some of Adams's books. They were ultra-sharp, silvery jewels with a heightened, almost three dimensional presence. No original prints I had seen up to that point by other photographers looked that way, and no matter how hard I worked I could not get photographic prints to even remotely resemble the Adams reproductions I saw in those books. It was immensely frustrating until I finally saw the real thing. They were great prints to be sure, but my father was right on. Even the small print sizes, and contact prints by Weston didn't have quite the sharpness, silvery tonality and jewel-like sparkle I knew from the books. This experience gave me the confidence to keep printing. I immediately signed up for a John Sexton workshop (something I had previously been afraid to do), mostly so I could show him my prints and get a reaction from a top printer. As it turned out he liked them very much and didn't see anything lacking in the tonality I had been so frustrated by for so long. I'm still extremely self critical, but at least I'm no longer chasing a false reference point.
Interesting. I had a similar discovery with the Empire State Building going across the 59th Street Bridge (Queensboro) from Queens into Manhattan. I've seen the view many times while crossing the bridge, but was only able to grab this shot when the traffic slowed considerably. I love the Empire's juxtaposition with the Chrysler and Trump and others.
After sixty years in photography I'm still waiting for my "breakthrough moment" :)
Thats a great photo, Alan. I'm still trying to figure out the perspective that lets the ESB be 400 feet taller and still appear shorter than the Chrysler!