News Column

Abilene Reporter-News, Texas, Big Country Journal column

May 12, 2014

By Ronald W. Erdrich, Abilene Reporter-News, Texas



May 12--BRECKENRIDGE -- The first time for anything is usually a special memory. Your first kiss, your first car, or even your first photogenic tornado.

"This was April 22, 2010, in a little place called Goodnight, Texas," said Ben Jacobi, gesturing toward one of his photographs hanging on the wall at the Breckenridge Fine Arts Center.

Even without the tornado, it's a nice image. It's a placid country scene, a road leading off to a near horizon with some low buildings on the side and a lovely tree in the middle. And a tornado.

He calls the picture "Rope Out," a term used to describe a twister at the end of its life when it's beginning to dissipate into a ropelike strand.

"The highway patrol had blocked us off, we couldn't go any farther down the hill, so we hung back," he recalled. "There was this little tree there, I love this because the tree almost looks as fragile as the tornado."

Jacobi and three other Wichita Falls photographers are presenting a show this month at the Breckenridge Fine Arts Center called "Captured Light." It runs until May 31 in the Main Gallery. In the East Gallery, Beth Pritchard's "Art, Plain and Simple" features a collection of her pastel and oil paintings depicting landscapes and still-life scenes.

Jacobi's work includes some landscapes as well; he said that's what he finds himself doing in the "off season". That is to say, whenever there aren't tornadoes to be pursued.

One of his most striking images he called "Stacked Plates," a wide-angle photograph of a large storm.

"Yeah, that's always a looker," he said. "This is a meso-cyclone, it's a consistently rotating updraft of a thunderstorm, what you would call a Super Cell."

Softball-sized hail was reported within, as was possibly a rain-wrapped tornado. But you don't need to see the twister to feel the sense of awe and power contained within the storm. The scale alone does that.

It's not scale that marks Mark Moody's photography as unique, but the contrast between color and black and white in the same image.

His "Tuesday Morning Coffee Club" was an idea that was a long time in coming.

"I love old things, I love old houses and I love old cars," he said. "This picture I had envisioned in my mind for a long time and I had never been able to find it."

Three old pickup trucks and a tractor are sitting in a junkyard. While the vehicles are in color, the scene around them is in black and white.

"It's like four old retirees," he said, chuckling about his photograph.

Making the image required a bit of wizardry using Photoshop.

"It's not a quick process. You get your original picture, make a duplicate layer and convert that to black and white," he said. Using the computer, you bring parts of the color layer into the black and white one.

Some of Michael Fiore's work was created in a spectrum usually reserved for catching ghosts on TV or looking for hot spots after a building fire. Infrared black-and-white film has a devoted following, but Fiore is running into the same problem everyone else is having -- Kodak stopped making their film almost 10 years ago.

"Yeah, that totally shot me down," he admitted.

Still, there are European manufacturers creating their own infrared black-and-white emulsions and while they aren't as sensitive as the old Kodak High-Speed Infrared, they are easier to use and come in a larger format than 35mm.

"The European film is much more finer-grained and a little more predictable," he said. "Kodak wasn't that predictable, you'd always wonder what exactly you would get."

That's due to the inability of most light meters to read infrared light, not to mention that the amount of IR light varies with the time of day and weather conditions.

His "Stone House" is an example of that European film. Smooth textures and a warm tone cast using Photoshop give it a look like something from the first 10 minutes of "The Wizard of Oz" before Dorothy took her fateful trip. Or maybe it's after she got back; the building in the picture does look a little beat up.

"Some of the filters in Photoshop will let you emulate infrared to an extent, but it's missing some of the effects of the film," he said. "I may have to convert to an infrared camera, it's just getting hard to find the film, real hard. But I love the effects of it."

Torin Halsey's work appears almost every day in the Times Record-News, but you likely won't find any of it here.

Curing burnout is a common issue with news photographers. What do you do to make yourself remember why you love photography?

"I'd been taking pictures for years and years, but I was always on my way to an assignment and I'd see something but I couldn't shoot it," he said. "One day I just finally stopped and said, 'I'm going to take this picture, even if I'm a couple of minutes late.'"

Twelve months later, he had an exhibit at an art gallery in town.

"It's really paid off for me, it's opened a whole new venue for what I feel is my creativity," he said. "I'm just really glad I started taking time to express myself, this rejuvenated my interest in photography."

He's drawn to things that are old and falling apart, or rusty with the paint cracking off. Details of life that others might pass over, but for someone used to looking for the gem in an otherwise mundane scene, it's gold. Texture distinguishes his work, like the spider web cracks in his "Broken Glass," an old window surrounded by red brick. The eye is drawn to each jagged detail.

The work evens the scales between what he produces for a newspaper and what he creates for himself.

"Sometimes we work too much and we don't take time to have fun," Halsey said. "You've got to balance the fun with the work."

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(c)2014 the Abilene Reporter-News (Abilene, Texas)

Visit the Abilene Reporter-News (Abilene, Texas) at www.reporternews.com

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Source: Abilene Reporter-News (TX)


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