Tuesday, August 25, 2015

100th Anniversary of the National Parks

President Theodore Roosevelt went West and wanted to preserve what he saw. Maybe seeing how the Niagara Falls in New York had been exploited. He wanted to preserve nature. Keep it unchanged.

So on the 100th anniversary of the National Parks I think of Edward Abbey who wrote Desert Solitaire about working at the Arches National Park and how happy he felt that few people came to visit. Let nature stay the way it is. Abbey thought the National Park Service should preserve and that meant fewer people. Dirt roads, two-lane roads, no electricity, just let things be the way they are.

Colorado view from I-25 of  E. Spanish Peak by JGDomke

Texas scene at Enchanted Rock near Fredericksburg, TX by JG Domke
There are lots of other great views, so why bring people to the National Parks, make roads, pave trails, restrooms, and trash. Shouldn't they be closed off instead and preserved?

With the coming 100th anniversary in 2016, CBS highlighted federal parks with a profile on a Colorado photographer, John Fielder, who came out with a collection of photos duplicating scenes taken in in the 19th century by W. H. Jackson.
Having been raised in Colorado I took the Rockies for granted. I liked camping, but saw the damage mining had done and was outraged by the growing cloud of pollution rising over Denver. 

Agreeing with James Michener in his Centenial novel in 1976 concluded that Colorado had too little water, so the state needed to limit their population.

Colorado is a nice place to visit, but there is more water in Texas and I moved out of Colorado to save it.

Growing up in Colorado made me love the west, nature and be an environmentalist. I remember driving around Leadville, Colo., in the Fifties and seeing all the abandon mining equipment. The dredge sitting in the creek where they had crushed all the rocks looking for gold. It was an industrial construction site. NOT BEAUTIFUL. 

Returning today it is amazing how they have restored, the stream, Landscaped it to look natural. Thanks to tourists and skiers. They removed the rotting mining equipment. I was amazed how Colorado is focused on restricting the size of buildings, limiting their size and trying to keep the 100 year old shops that are now gift shops and boutiques. 

Too bad in Texas that the boom towns for drilling haven't become tourist locations. Chico the birthplace of the Hilton hotel chain, seems like a ghost town with huge buildings sitting empty. An early Hilton hotel in Marlin, Texas, was where Texans vacationed in the Twenties and Thirties. They came for the spring water. Business tried to profit from it. Today, nobody even knows it exists. They go to Colorado.
Leadville? No Thurber Texas
It was a rush for gold and silver in Colorado, but in Texas it was cattle and oil. Thurber alongside I-20 has a museum telling how it was the largest town west of Fort Worth and the first to have electric lights, an Opera House, etc. But it was a company town and the union shut it down. They wee making more money from oil in Ranger, it was cheaper not to give in to the union and close the coal mine down, and shut down the brick factory. Roads didn't need to be paved in brick. 

Old mining towns in Colorado now offer boutique beer, gourmet restaurants, craftsmen, and artist boutiques, along with great scenery. Do we thank National Parks?

All photos by J.G. Domke, photojournalist, covering life in America. www.jimdomke.com

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Is the DSLR dead?

Back in the Eighties we wondered if photojournalism was dead. With Life magazine shutting down and Time using fewer and smaller photos. Who was publishing picture stories? Picture pages?

Photojournalism didn't die, it just changed. National Geographic launched its own cable channel in 2001, Frontline on PBS in 1984, and television "cameramen" started calling themselves photojournalists. Associated Press led in moving from film to Kodak digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras with low 1.7 megapixel sensors in 1995. (No time taken up processing film.) Photographers could cover a baseball game, upload photos and then cover the winning run at the end of the game. And still make the 11:30 p.m. deadline for the morning papers!

Technology changes have changed journalism and the cell phone is replacing the DSLR!

This reminds me of the past, when press photographers covered events with the 4x5 Speed Graphic. Thinking they needed bigger film size to get better quality, more usable than small 35mm images. They could manipulate the sheet of film when they developed it, but a roll of film meant all the shots got developed the same. Smaller film meant more grainy images, less detail and less cropping in.

But, the 35mm camera and Kodak's Tri-X film enabled photojournalists to better capture the moment, it was faster and you didn't miss a shot. Telephoto lens were smaller and you could carry a couple of cameras with different lenses mounted to get a variety of shots. With reliability and versatility the single-lens reflex and Tri-X beat out the sharper Speed Graphic in the mid Sixties.

Polaroid camera introduced in the early Fifties, eliminated the darkroom. Photographers used it to check their exposure with strobe lights. And some small weekly papers gave them to reporters, who didn't know how to develop film or make prints. Polaroid got a head shot or group photo to go along with the story they were writing.

Today the digital phone can shoot photos. Is it playing the role of a Polaroid or is it a game changer like the 35mm camera? It's doing both.

In 1975, covering the Republican convention in Kansas City for The Philadelphia Inquirer, I had to get the photo in the morning, then drop the film off at the Associated Press darkroom, wait for it to be developed, pick one or two shots and wait for them to make a print. Then, type the caption that would get stuck along the side of the print, and finally, wait to get a go ahead from AP to start transmitting over the phone line. It took 20 minutes for it to scan the b&w photo. Hopefully the Inquirer got the photo before the 7 p.m. deadline for the first edition.

(Try for the first edition, because once the page was made it was difficult with the letterpress to add photos, the photo simply replaced one and fit the same size.)

Those were the good old days. Trying to scoop other papers and offer more coverage than TV.

But with the "smart phone" you can get the photo, add tags, caption and upload immediately.

The so many digital phones around we see live video coverage of riots, storms, concerts, etc. Uploaded to Facebook, TV stations, YouTube, etc.

Where has the DSLR gone? Has it gone the way of the Speed Graphic.

University of California Berkeley School of Communications offers a PDF Mobile Reporting Field Guide to show journalists what equipment then need for covering events with their cell phone. Motion not stills. Sound with visual. Edited on location and uploaded.

My mentors for photojournalism were W. Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Bruce Davidson, along with newspaper photographers like Gary Settle of the N.Y. Times and Brian Lanker in Eugene, Oregon.

Today I admire Bob Sacha, Anthony Suau and Bruce Dale who are embracing the changes in technology. Directing videos that tell a story.

For some the cell phone is like the Polaroid, but for others it is replacing the DSLR. Depends on how professional you are.