Archive for November, 2012

You Still Shoot Film???

Will and Rowena, Weston, VT. Photograph with Rolleiflex, 1960

Do you shoot digital?” is a question I am asked so many times. The reason is I shot my first film photographs in 1950. My first digital photographs were published in a 24/7 America, 2003. Took me a while to adjust.

Yes I shoot digital. And I also shoot film. I have a number of different cameras for films—A Leica M6; an old Plaubel with a fixed 47mm lens that shoots 2 ¼ x 3 inch format on 120 film; a 6×7 Pentax that makes a 2 ¼ x 2 ¾ inch negatives; a 6×17 (2 ¼ x 7 inch neg) Fuji Panoramic; a 4×5 Linhof, and a Nikon D90.

For digital I use a Nikon 700 system, which is 12 megapixels and I eventually will upgrade to the 800 system. I did have a Leica M9. I loved the lenses but not the camera. The battery was not powerful enough and the switch was too easy to go from off to on when putting it in the case. The higher ISO’s had too much noise but worst of all, it was not moisture proof. When I used the M9 in a snowstorm, water leaked into the viewfinder and fogged it. Focusing the 50mm 1.4 wide open for head shots, which I wanted to do for bokeh—out of focus background— was a hit and miss job. I didn’t consider the camera professional, so I sold it. Also, I felt uncomfortable with such an expensive camera hanging around my neck.

Each camera has a job. The Nikon is used for journalism and any subject that is to be used for the web. It is also very, very good with noise and low light shooting with auto focus makes it a potent tool. I have two zoom lenses, expensive, but the rest are prime lenses, and some are manual.

When I convert digital to black and white I use Alien Skin, which is software for adding film grain to digital images. I prefer the grain of Tri X for most of my work. I like the feeling of gritty grain and the increased contrast. I did not use Alien Skin for the images used in my latest book, A Lifetime of Vermont People. The photos were scanned once by me, then put through a proprietary process for making duotones by the printer and then printed. I wanted maximum sharpness, brilliance and dmax and figured the image was going through enough without Alien Skin.

All digital and film images go through Photoshop. I use the software to clean the pix, enhance color for stock photos, and convert to black and white. I do in Photoshop what I did in the darkroom. I do not manipulate the images or background although have added the moon but it is always positioned in the photograph where it comes up. Basically, I want a simple photograph where nothing detracts from the reason why you took the photograph.

More of my work is becoming documentary—an honest record of the culture of our time. The Leica M6 is for personal work and for quick shots when I am using larger format cameras. The Nikon D90 is a back up for whatever emergency or requirement comes up that needs film.

I am, in many cases, switching to color negative and I scan edited negatives into the computer.  I like the softer palate and the ability to use Photoshop to leave it as color or convert to black and white. I use two Nikon 9000 scanners with Silverfast software and this is a very good scanning set up. I also have an Epson 700 flat bed, also with Silverfast. Almost all of my film work is now shot with 6×7 and larger format cameras.

And yes, I have a darkroom where I can make prints up to 20×24 if I have to, but prefer not to go over 16×20 size. Some fine art people collect only the old silver gelatin prints. I like the toning and the possibility to use older processing methods of making prints. I also make very limited editions with my darkroom prints. All this is personal and fine art type of photography. So why do I go to this trouble? I like to loupe a negative on a light table, you know, looking at the sharpness, the detail, the grain. Through a loupe I gain an intimacy with the negative. I like the sense of grain in a photograph and having a negative in my hand rather than a digital residing someplace in the clouds and who knows what is going to happen to digital images, the disks, and the machines they are not kept on? For instance, say a giant sunspot knocks out the electricity in North America and we’ll be lucky to have it back in a year? Be good to have a film camera, a cache of film and developer and a darkroom. Back to the dark ages, so to speak?

Yes, I must admit, prints made from a scan on a good machine have more dynamic range that a print made in the darkroom (usually). And I’m old fashioned. But let’s face it, digital has opened up a new realm to photography that is a blend of techniques, words, motion, film, color, black and white combined with the possibility of adding a dimension to the work. I’ll be dead when they finally figure it out and very few, usually artists, will be making wet prints—those made in the darkroom.


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Yesterday our pitch to fund A Lifetime of Vermont People went live on kickstarter.com. The website takes presentations of projects from creatives, who describe it and ask for donations. The creatives have a bunch of gifts to give, according to the amount of the donation. We are pre-selling at a good discount our new book, we have posters of Fred Tuttle autographed by him, prints of Vermont scenes, other autographed books by Peter Miller and a lavish limited edition of A Lifetime of Vermont People, signed and numbered by the author and it comes with a print of the back cover and it is presented in a special clambox case. So climb on board and give a hand! And watch the film!

Click on:    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1705472942/a-lifetime-of-vermont-people

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Ma Moriarty and the Moriarty Hat

Marvin Moriarty racing at Aspen in the 1950’s

I am finishing up my book (now I have 193 pages of 208 written and designed) and noticed in The Stowe Reporter a new group was inducted in the Stowe Ski and Snowboard Museum Hall of Fame. I looked to see if Ma and Marvin were in and no! They weren’t. So I called the Museum and the director said it takes a while and eventually she pushed for them to be in the next group.

“It’s up to the board,” she said. Sounded dark, crumbly and sniffy to me so I wrote a letter to the Stowe Reporter, which they published and here it is:

Ma and Marvin Moriarty. Did they live on the wrong side of the Mountain Road?   A Lifetime of Vermont People.  A project I talked myself into. A new book. 60 Vermonters, over a half century of words and photographs and people from rural Vermont. A legacy I am leaving behind, or it is leaving me behind, for it has taken all of this year, no I am not finished yet. 60 portraits, 60 interviews, 208 pages, 200 photographs, much more text. A lavish book to be printed in Italy. It will be finished and presented before the summer solstice of next year.

I’m sure you know some of the people who live locally and vibrate within this book’s pages.  Paul Percy and his Rube Goldberg sugarhouse—so practical, so ingenious. The telescope maker and comet finder Arden Magoon. Willis Hicks, a revisit of that wonderful auctioneer who sold the cows of the last farm on the Mountain Road. 1968 was it? An update of the Lepine sisters, retired now, still active, inquiring minds. Bambi Freeman, “Don’t let obstacles ever bother you and your goals.” should be her motto. George Woodard had a dream of turning his farm into a movie location and creating a feature film and so he did, and milked the cows everyday too. And Rusty Dewees, that logger with the ripped shirt, better known to Vermonters than the Governor. Wonderful people.

And Ma and Marvin Moriarty. I’m just finishing a profile on the hat maker and her son the ski racer. Ma knitted the first Moriarty hat and it became viral in the ski world. Thousands were knitted by Vermonters, neighbors of Ma and if they did not have the money to buy a knitting machine, Ma bought them one, told them to pay for it when they could, and never thought of charging interest.  She was that type of person, sweet but tough enough to deck a demanding, pompous customer in her Mountain Road shop.

And Marvin. On the United States Olympic Team when he was 16, won just about every major race in America, retired Mt. Tremblant’s Ryan Cup he won it so many times. Perhaps he was the most talented of all American skiers, save for Marilyn Shaw, another Stowe ski racer, her record eclipsed by World War II. Few know that Marvin designed the racing pants with the racing stripe down the side on stretch cloth, to allow more movement. He also put the Moriarty logo on the outside of the hats as other companies were ripping off the design. It was such a good idea that Nike and other large clothing manufacturers followed by putting their logo all over their sport goodies.

So I am finishing the Moriarty story and the Stowe Reporter publishes the names of the 2012 Hall of Famers chosen by the inner circle of the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum. (They added the word “Snowboard” for what reason I can’t imagine.) And who is elected to the Hall of Fame? Minnie Dole, who started the National Ski Patrol and worked Mt. Mansfield top to bottom. Deserves to be in. Then there is Jack and Donna Carpenter who made a fortune with snowboards; Trow Elliman, a former editor of the Stowe Reporter and was in a bunch of ski associations; Tiger Shaw, who did well on the World Cup in the 1980’s.  And the ski journalism awards were given to ski editors of the Stowe Reporter. But no  honors for Ma and Marvin. Like they never lived in Stowe, or came from the wrong side of the Mountain Road, or even existed. For ten years the museum has ignored them. Hey, what gives? I’ll take bets that Marvin could ski circles around Tiger Shaw, if they raced in the same era, and that’s not taking anything away from Tiger. Well, Marvin grew up poor. His first skis were boards and the bindings were Mason jar rubbers, used ones that his grandmother gave him to ski on the hills near the Stowe school.  He made friends with the Mt. Mansfield ski patrol and copied the style of the Austrian ski instructors Sepp Ruschp imported. When he raced in Europe he trained with the Austrian ski team. He skis with ankle power. Still does.

Well, Marvin is a gifted athlete. We could fill a book about his life in Aspen and Stowe. He lives in Stowe, with Beth McMahon, his sweetheart of 36 years, and has a place in Florida. He’s in super shape, teaches tennis at the Stowe tennis club. Hikes and bikes. At 74  he’s doing great for a man who went through a bypass and inherited the family diabetes.

Marvin was close friends with Max Marolt, a racer not on Marvin’s level, but up high enough to be on the US Ski Team. There’s a statue of Max in Aspen. Marvin saw it and said what an honor for Max and his family. Stowe has Helen Day, a bunch of fund raisers, some with big change hanging heavy in their pockets but you won’t find any statues in Stowe of Charley Lord, Sepp Ruschp, Marilyn Shaw, Billy Kidd (According to one book, he never lived in Stowe) or Ma and Marvin Moriarty. Why not, huh? If you think the people of Stowe and the ski museum should honor Ma or Marvin send a vote in to the Stowe Reporter or to me on Facebook. It’s wrong to ignore them.


Well a bunch did. After all, Ma and Marvin are, outside of Billy Kidd (more Steamboat than Stowe) are nationally known, Marvin for his ski ability, and Marvin and Ma for the outstanding success of the Moriarty Hat.  Here’s my favorite letter:

To the Editor:

Thanks to Peter Miller (Oct 18 column in the Stowe Reporter) for bringing to everyone’s attention the oversight regarding the Moriarty’s. Following are some of the facts of their legacy. Anabel not only provided a cottage industry for many in Lamoille county but was like a second mother to many of us. Some thought we were uncontrollable but Anabel always saw things in a different light. She truly was one of a kind, for which I’ll always be grateful.

Just a few facts regarding Marvin’s achievements: At age 16, he was the youngest American male to make the U.S. Olympic Team, followed two years later by the U.S. FIS Team. During this period, he was the first American male to win a slalom in Europe. He was also a three-time winner of the Kandahar series, for which he is still waiting for his diamond Kandahar pin. He was a back-to-back winnter of the Jay Peak trophy, and so retired that trophy, which is now residing in the Vermont Ski Museum, along with many other items. After winning the first time, he was relegated to start last (28th) behind all the A racers. Marv was an “Elite A”. Don’t make him mad; he blew the field away.

What an athlete. Catcher on the Stowe High School baseball team. Took up golf, and within a month broke 40 for nine holes. Certified tennis and platform instructor. Was also one of the first members of the international Professional Ski Racers association. I would hope that the powers that be would see fit to enshrine Anabel and Marvin in the Hall of Fame. The truly deserve the honor.

Frank Lamphier, Morrisville, VT.

As the saying goes, the record speaks for itself  but perhaps there are contingencies with the board at the museum. They may not even know who Ma and Marvin are.

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