Full Circle

by valrac4_a3kqdy
A photo from the first sequence using a filter that would define my career for the next decade.

A photo from the first sequence using a filter that would define my career for the next decade.

Despite being nearly 20 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday.

It was Dec 14, 1994, and a personal matter had directed me to Edmonton, Alberta. For those who are starting to see some grey on the dome, many would know this is also the home of the itinerant and incredibly talented Daryl Benson. Daryl and I had been contributing editors for Photo Digest―later to merge and become Photo Life―for several years, and we knew each other through the magazine. It was he who suggested I add a few days to my itinerary, so we could head into the mountains for some shooting. Let’s just say one doesn’t decline that invitation.

As we rolled south on the Calgary Trail—which not-so-creatively, yet quite practically, is called the Edmonton Trail if heading north from Calgary—we made a quick detour and loaded another photographer into the caravan. How Darwin Wigget was able to fit amongst the winter clothing and camera gear piled roof-high was beyond me. But, alas, we were off to Jasper and I was saddled between two of this country’s soon-to-be most recognized landscape photographers.

I don’t remember much other than when we were at Maligne Lake the next morning, and Daryl passed me a filter, suggesting it was a polarizing filter and that I should simply rotate it until I achieved a desired result. What he neglected to tell me was that the filter was the Cokin 173 Gold/Blue, and that my career was about to be catapulted into another level that would define my work for the next decade.

Daryl had been experimenting with filters for several years and had introduced his findings to his peers at the Images Alberta Camera Club in Edmonton, one of whom was Wigget. Wiggett and several others who were members of the club at that time have gone on to establish very considerable careers in this profession. All of us, and I suppose I am not being presumptuous by making this statement, owe much to Daryl for freely sharing his generosity and passion. I was fortunate to become good friends with him, and we have travelled many miles around North America and China together.

Yet, it all started on that brutally cold, whether it actually was or not, -40 degree morning, when I recall uttering several expletives while looking through that Cokin filter with Wiggett and Benson watching in amusement with smug smiles of contentment. They had converted, later to be known as corrupted, yet another unsuspecting photographer!

Advance the time piece to 2014 and I am enjoying a cyber chat via Skype with my friend, and Photo Life art director, Guy Langevin. When time permits, we try to have a Friday afternoon Skype chat with a malt beverage; just like friends everywhere across this country do for Friday lunch. I enjoy a man’s refreshment—Guinness—while Guy sips some dainty light ale.

During the course of a conversation, we started chatting about filters. I believe I indicated something about how HDR would go the way of the dinosaur, just as filters had. However, there was one filter that no computer could replace: the venerable polarizing filter. One thing led to another, and I shipped Guy a spare Singh-Ray Gold-n-Blue Polarizer with the only instruction being to have fun.

Guy took that filter on a recent vacation and produced this image. It is a great picture, an image that shows he has already learned how this filter will change his image-making in the future. It is another piece of his picture-making arsenal, something to be applied when the muses and conditions are correct.

And yet another has been introduced to a most unique polarizing filter.

And yet another photographer has been introduced to a most unique polarizing filter.

A very wise man once told me: If you are not willing to openly share your knowledge and experience, then you must surely be insecure in your own abilities. I couldn’t agree more. Don’t be afraid to share your talents and resources. I guarantee you will be more than paid back in kind with the knowledge that you have helped someone elevate their enjoyment of the medium we all so love.

As I looked at Guy’s picture on my monitor for the first time, it took me back to the mountains 20 years earlier. Another photographer has been corrupted, and I have a smug grin of contentment on my face.

Guy: Paid in full, and thanks for sharing.

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