The places that I like to explore are rarely spectacular. Their names aren't mentioned on tourist guides. They are ordinary places like there is anywhere in the world. Most people would drive through without a second glance at the scene, perhaps just intrigued at what in the world could make a photographer stop there. However, for those who like to saunter at various hours of the day and throughout the course of the seasons, common places conceal treasures of beauty. The shades of green of the springtime, the bright or subdued fall colours, the graphical simplicity of the winter, the mystery of a day of mist, the immaculate aspect of a snow coat or the enchanting laces of hoarfrost — can turn what would otherwise be an ordinary sight into pure beauty.
Harsh daylight does not suit this style of landscape photography. In the prospect of having the best light, I often find myself climbing the mountain trails when hikers are already on their way back. Once the thermal winds have calmed, photography can go on until dark. The gentle light coming from nowhere reveals the smallest details and the most subtle tones. The way back is often with a flashlight, but the mind filled with expectations.
Predicting small scale weather conditions is not an exact science. To have good chances of witnessing something unusual, one needs to go out often and in various weather conditions. When eventually enough factors converge to produce a striking view, the photographer is overwhelmed by a sense of urgency. Fighting the inertia caused sometimes by an exhausting walk , or by the long wait, or simply by the desire to not miss anything from the scene, he rushes to the bag and pulls out a camera, puts it on the tripod, mounts a lens whilst mentally framing the picture. The reversed ground glass image needs to be focused precisely with a loupe, and then a sheet of film can be loaded. After metering the fleeting light, one or two slides can be exposed. I can't tell how many shots were missed for not being able to complete the whole process while the magic lasted, for waiting endlessly for the wind to calm, and also sometimes because of some technical failure that reveals when the sheets come back from the lab. But the large format photographer is pugnacious by definition. Chance always rewards perseverance, even if there more to it than mere chance. When eventually a fine image displays on the light box, previous failures and frustrations vanish almost instantaneously and you have but one thought : go out and strive to pick more of that delicate light!
All the photographs presented in these portfolios were taken on Fujichrome Velvia and Astia transparency film, in medium format 6x7, 6x9, 6x12, 6x17, and in large format, mainly 10x12.5cm (4x5"), and 13x18cm (5X7"). Digital photography has virtually supplanted film media. The price of some equipment capable of delivering images rivalling medium format at the level of detail makes them very attractive. I now use Sony cameras in conjunction with Pentax and Mamiya lenses designed for medium format. Mounted on an adapter used to offset the body from the lens, the device allows to take several successive slices of an image. Once assembled in a perfectly invisible way in Adobe LightRoom or Photoshop, the images high resolution obtained have nothing to envy to the large format film. This approach, which requires the use of a tripod and the preliminary research of a composition, remains comparable to the meditative style of shooting of the past, while having the merit of being very convenient since it is no longer necessary to use films that have become rare and expensive and to go through development and digitization. Would Ansel Adams have considered going digital? I believe that as a good pragmatic technician, he would have welcomed this advance with enthusiasm. However, with the abandonment of materials and the disappearance of those who practiced this art, the techniques of printing on silver medium that were developed and refined over decades will soon be a thing of the past. This observation, undoubtedly normal in a world made up of technological advances, remains quite disturbing compared to a lifetime of experiences. My last Ilfochrome prints for which I had to develop a method and tools for contrast masking and the processing of panoramas in drums, are now relics of a bygone era. It must be said that inkjet printing is much more convenient, and it also involves fewer health hazards. I nevertheless salute those who strive to make one or the other of these ancient techniques persist, so that they do not get lost completely.
“Longing for wide open spaces of primeval nature in days of yore, I had wished that photography would allow me to travel the vast world. In reality, it's a nearby world, a world made up of fragments of beauty which have to be found, somehow as one catches the shine of the gems or the nuggets among the rubble of a river, a world nevertheless captivating and almost interior, which has yielded to my lens.”