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About Me - A Photographic History

 

My passion for Photography began very early in life, and was sparked by my father who filmed my mother carrying me out of the hospital shortly after my birth in 1956. His 8mm films often ended with a large image of his nose as he fumbled with the camera trying to hit the off button on the front of the camera. He also took endless photos of us with his 120mm film camera that he acquired in the Army during the Korean Conflict. I was fascinated by his camera, which had a paper bellows that folded out of the camera containing the lens on a focusing rail. My mother had one of the first Polaroid cameras available to consumers. It produced instant photos that had to be swabbed with fixer soon after they came out of the camera.

 

By age 11 I had saved up enough money to buy my first camera. It was a Kodak Instamatic 134 that used 126 film cartridges and flashcubes. It did have a crude light meter built in with red and green indicator lights. I learned the benefits of outdoor fill flash using this camera. I soon became the official family photographer recording family events on demand. In 1969 I had the unique opportunity to photograph my cousin’s wedding from behind the altar. I was an altar boy at our church and Father Klementovich gave me free reign. My cousin cherished the photos I took from a perspective that the pro photographer did not have access to. The compliments I received fueled my passion and soon I was using my father's camera to make several 8mm movies with themes and story board titles and captions. The actors were my little brother and his friends.

 

When adolescence kicked in, I lost interest in photography. Hormones and peer pressure were very powerful influences. It was 1975 before I aquired my first 35mm camera, bought in the PX while stationed with the 427th Medical Company in Ft. Rucker, Alabama. The Pentax Spotmatic F had a needle meter and came with the standard 50mm 1.4 lens. My father had recorded his Army experience on film and I was determined to do the same. The camera was puzzling at first because it had so many controls. This was a camera I had to focus! With the help of the light meter, I soon learned the relationship between shutter speed, aperture and light. I discovered the power depth of field had on photos. I learned the limitations and beauty of natural light photography, as I had not yet purchased a flash. The tripod was my next purchase! With it I could take longer exposures with smaller apertures in low light. I could also take pictures that included myself using the spring fed self-timer. As time passed I added a flash, 28mm wide-angle lens and a 70-210 zoom. I learned how to stop action with a high shutter speed as well as the benefits and limitations of flash photography. I had effectively rekindled my passion and again photographed everything. My company commander recognized my interest in photography and I soon became the official company photographer. I was called on to photograph promotion ceremonies, field exercises and company parties. I photographed my platoon sergeant’s wedding in Dothan, Alabama. In 1977 the 427th Medical Company went on a deployment exercise in Germany. Reforger 1977 became a photographic project for me. Enlisting the help of other company members we published a book recording the event from our perspective. We raised money through donations and advertisements, produced our own layout and design and sold the books to cover our costs. A copy of this book is included in my portfolio. While the book is rather disorganized and juvenile, it is a reflection of the “70’s peacetime Army.”

 

My camera gear was stolen from my car in 1980 while attending University. I did not have the money to replace the camera and again my photography came to a standstill. In 1985 while working as a NYS Correction Sergeant in Green Haven Correctional Facility I saw an ad for an auto-focusing camera. I now had income and became the proud owner of a Minolta Maxxum 7000. I was amazed by the advancement in 35mm cameras since my old Spotmatic F. I learned different metering modes such as aperture priority, shutter priority and spot metering. I learned the differences between average metering, center weighted metering and spot meter averaging. I learned about different film types and the effect ISO speed had on film grain. I soon upgraded to the professional model Minolta Maxxum 9000 with a digital back that allowed me to customize camera functions and record camera settings on the film frame. I explored macro photography with a 50mm 1:1 macro lens and a ring flash. I learned the effect of first and second curtain flash and how to sync 2 or more flash units wirelessly.

 

The Photography bug bit hard this time! I began buying more equipment and decided to set up my own darkroom. I bought some books on the subject and a used Bessler black and white enlarger. The local camera store soon knew me by name. I learned how to load my 35mm film on to spools in a changing bag and how temperature and agitation affected film development. I started making my own prints, learning how to dodge and burn with the enlarger to get perfect prints. I have always loved color and was not satisfied with black and white printing. I learned how to sepia tone prints and hand color with Marshall’s Photo Oils. This process was rewarding but tedious. I traded my Bessler enlarger for a Patterson PCS 2000 Color enlarger that operated with additive color filters via a dial in wired remote. These filters were also useful for controlling contrast in black and white prints. I kept a composition book with recorded color settings for different film and paper combinations. The color paper was more sensitive to light and had to be exposed in total darkness. The color chemistry was much more delicate than the Dektol developer, stop bath and fixer. It was very temperature dependent and I soon found the need for a semi-automated processor. I bought a used Jobo processor that operated in a temperature controlled water bath with a motorized agitator. I could now make beautiful 11”x14” color prints, slides and was no longer dependent on outside labs. This did come at a price for every “perfect print” took two or three tries. Unlike black and white, you could not see your results until the entire process was complete. I learned how to shoot and mount slide film. I learned the differences in E-6, C-41 and Cibachrome process chemicals.

 

In 1987 I decided to join one of the oldest running camera clubs in New York, the Newburgh Camera club. This was exactly what I needed. Through monthly slide and print competitions, I learned about composition, the rule of thirds, s-curves and triangulation. I learned about polarizing, neutral density, warming and cooling filters. I learned how to use studio lighting. I learned how to judge photographs and slides. I participated in this club for six years and the collective information sharing provided me with the confidence to consider myself a professional photographer. I joined The Photographic Society of America and competed nationally in slide and print competitions. I also completed the Minolta School of Photography . This 3-day seminar taught basic photographic techniques using the Minolta Maxxum system. My photographic interests expanded to include underwater photography using a Sea and Sea Motormarine II with external strobe. I also explored 3D photography with a vintage Viewmaster MarkII stereo camera as well as Stereo Realist camera both modified to accept an electronic flash. These cameras were from the late 1940’s to early 1950’s and had rangefinder type focus systems and no metering. I learned to use an ambient light meter for correct exposures. One of my duties at Green Haven was to give press tours of the “death house” and the electric chair. During one of these tours for a reporter for the National Law Journal, David Kaplan asked me if he photograph the electric chair. He was not allowed to but my superiors trusted me with the task. The photograph along with his article was published in April 1989.

 

From 1989 to 1993 I worked part time as a freelance photographer. I photographed too many babies and weddings! I worked freelance for The Hudson River Sloop Clearwater based in Poughkeepsie, NY. I did the merchandise photography for “The Clearwater Rivercrafter” catalogue. I also had several photos published (including a cover) in their monthly magazine “The Navigator.” I had a photo of Pete Seeger and the Clearwater Sloop Singers published in the Middletown “Record” and a photo of the historic site Olana published in the Hudson “Register Star.” I flew down the Hudson River with a friend in a private plane to photograph the Statue of Liberty. I photographed the desert in Phoenix, Arizona and the Grand Canyon in a snowstorm. I photographed the Caribbean Islands of Martinique, St. Thomas, St. John and Tortola. In July of 1993, my partner Ken Yeso who was an educator on the sloop Clearwater died of AIDS and my photographic passion seemed to die along with him. I eventually sold all of my cameras and darkroom equipment.

 

Retreating into the computer world with the Internet, I found a great source of information for technical learning. In 1995 I invested in a Nikon Coolscan LS-10. With the scanner and my computer, I could digitize my slides and negatives and print them out on an inkjet printer. I learned how to manipulate images in Adobe Photoshop and was slowly regaining my photographic passion. I did not pick up another camera until 1999 when I bought a Fujifilm FinePix M2900 Zoom. It was the beginning of the digital era and for me a new photographic beginning. The M2900 had a 2.3 mega pixel sensor that was huge for it’s time. I invested in a large format inkjet printer (Epson 3000) and began making prints from my old photographic stock and new digital images. I upgraded the M-2900 to an Olympus E-10 that has 4 mega pixels and fast fixed zoom lens. This camera was larger and had manual controls as well as an external flash. The resulting images had enough resolution for larger prints. I started taking freelance jobs again, starting a business under the name “Hudson Digital Imaging.” I photographed an advertisement for Van den Akker Antiques, in Hudson, New York that was published in “Elle Décor” a nationally distributed decorating magazine that featured Hudson Antique dealers in 2000. I photographed and published a small brochure of outdoor furniture for Escabelle Home and Garden in Hudson, New York using Microsoft Publisher. I photographed couture clothing for Timothy Dunleavy’s shop. I was getting a lot of small jobs that did not pay that well. A friend suggested that I sell some of my photographic prints so I entered a local annual art show in Hudson called “Arts walk.” I learned how to print on canvas and to cut mat board and frame prints. I set up my first gallery showing in Hudson, New York at Van den Akker Antiques in 2000 resulting in the sale of 1 print for $250. I also published the first web site for Van den Akker Antiques who has since relocated to New York City. The following year’s Art walk resulted in 4 sales totaling $1,250. My 2001 prints were displayed at “The Red Dot” restaurant on Warren Street in Hudson, New York.

 

In 2002 I was injured at Coxsackie Correctional Facility where I worked as a NYS Correction Lieutenant, breaking my left arm and elbow in 13 places. I was forced to retire from my state job and dissolve my business. With much time on my hands, I studied digital photography on line and joined several photography discussion groups eventually buying into a professional digital system, the Canon EOS 1Ds. My current arsenal of photographic equipment includes the EOS 1DS, Canon EOS 7D, 17-40mm f/4 L lens, 24-70 f/2.8L, 100mm 2.8 macro, 70-200 f2.8 IS L, 75-300mm f4-5.6 IS, 550EX flash, 580EX II flash, MT-24 ring flash, Manfrotto tripod with 468MGRC2 ball head, Mac Pro 2.66 quad with 12GB ram, 3.5TB hard drive, Wacom Cintiq 20WSX, HP LP2480zx DreamColor monitor, 15.4" Mac Book Pro 2.5Ghz 4GB ram, Epson V750-M flatbed scanner, Xerox Phaser 8550DP solid ink printer, Canon IPF5100 wide format inkjet printer, DataColor PrintFix Pro Suite which including monitor calibrator and a Spectrocolorimeter for reading print patches and creating printer icc profiles.

 

I decided to increase my knowledge of the publishing industry with a formal education graduating with high honors in May 2008 with a degree in Visual Communication - Graphic Art - Printing. My training in Art, Design, Digital Photography, Chemistry and Physics as well as the Adobe Creative Suite with QuarkXpress, expand my ability to create new design using photography as a focal point. My knowledge of pre-press preparation for offset printing was refined by site visits to Quad Graphics and RIT School of Imaging Arts and Science. With my newly acquired graphic design skills, I am ready to embark on my second career.

 

 

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self portrait 2011

Self Portrait 2011

427th Medical Company (Germany) 1977

Private Gibbs 1977

Lark Street Albany, NY 1980

Judy Skrocki 1985

Ken Yeso 1989

Spring Ken 1989

Lady Liberty 1985

Pete Seeger & Clearwater Sloop Singers 1989

The 80's Wedding

Reflections 2000

 
 
 
© 2013 Gerald J Skrocki