BCA News: Fall 2021
Born and raised in Scotland, I was introduced to the art and the craft of photography at the age of 13 years by a neighbour who was more or less a retired professional photographer whose offspring showed no interest in following in their father's footsteps. In the early years behind the ground glass (while under the dark cloth) I had somewhat of a hard time dealing with a downside-up image but under the tutelage of my mentor I was thrilled with the why and how changing the angle and position of either the lens or film plane could bring everything into sharp focus.
His speciality was table top images of rather expensive gold handled dinner-wear shot in a small room using but one light. One of my jobs was to stick strips of coloured paper around the wall (behind the table) that provided a small dark line around the furthest edge of each plate to visibly separate soup bowl or desert plate from the flat plate used to reduce the chances of soup-drops staining the somewhat expensive table-cloth that was provided by his client. By the proper use of swings and tilts every object on the table was sharp and in focus, something that was difficult (or impossible) to acquire with a smaller format camera that does not have that ability.
In 1963, after my formal education at SRUC Agricultural College, I decided it was time to spread my wings and worked my passage to Canada on a cattle boat caring for the needs of a young Clydesdale horse (Muirton Catriona III) and nine young Hereford cows. Eventually, I ended up working at Labatt's Research Farm for a year until I was laid off due to a shortage of funds but was soon offered a position at the University of Guelph where I got to photograph the results of research experiments within the department when it was too cold or difficult to transfer the subject material across campus to the A.V. Building.
A neighbour saw what I could create with my camera and invited me to apply for a position with Canfarm Data Services, part of Agriculture Canada's Economic branch. I travelled across Canada photographing farmers' facilities and the work being done on their farms. When desktop computers became more common, that government service was eliminated and I was invited to apply for a position at the Agriculture Canada's Research Centre on the eastern edge of Lethbridge, Alberta.
I then joined the Biological Photographic Association (BPA) and eventually earned my certification as Registered Biological Photographer (RBP) in 1985. I was honoured by being elected a Fellow of the Association in 1995 at the annual meeting in Philadelphia.
The Agriculture Canada closed their research facility in Ottawa in 1997 and transferred their staff to the nearby research center. Part of my duties there had included processing and printing all the films from exposures made with both the scanning and transmission electron microscopes.
After I left Agricultural Canada's research facility my daughter then challenged me to earn my BFA degree at the nearby University of Lethbridge. As a part-time student and over 65 it was free. Majoring in photography I graduated and received my parchment on the 30th day of May 2014 at age 74.
I am still HAVING FUN, this year I will be 81. Whenever the weather is suitable and allows, I continue to hump either my 4x5 mono-rail Linhof or my much older and more experienced Burke and James 8x10 out to fulfill my life long desire to be artistically creative. This also keeps me away from boring day-time television programming.
Over the past few years, I have been making the majority of my prints using historical print processes, with my home-built UV light source. I scan my negatives and print onto Pictorico OH film using the appropriate colour ink. They are a bit more work and time consuming but somehow much more satisfying to one's inner self.
I recently re-joined BCA as a means of providing whatever moral support I can for the well-being of a most valuable organization.
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