Monday, February 18, 2008

The Argus Observes – The camera makes you want to go places and do things beyond your capacities

By Don Lynch
From The Argus-Observer for Feb. 19, 1953

To the country editor, a news camera is something like a charming but temperamental woman – extremely difficult to get along with, but actually quite impossible to get along without.

The camera makes you want to go places and do things that are quite past your capacities to perform.

We could spend a good half of one person’s time shooting and processing pictures; and it is only by rigid discipline that we are able to remain the master of the camera instead of having it master us.

We try to take top news pictures as their availability fits into our working schedule; and we take a few pictures for advertising use where the taking of the picture has the direct effect of producing increased advertising revenue for the operation of the paper.

We avoid taking organization pictures because there is not end to calls of this kind. And we shun so-called “society” and family pictures like a plague. That work keeps three Ontario photographers busy at commercial rates. If people could have the kind of work done gratis for news use, they would keep a half dozen men going at it all the time.

The camera is unpredictable, too. Or rather the team of camera and photographer is unpredictable. You never know what you’ll find when you go into the dark room to soup the film. Sometimes it is a total blank, no picture at all.

This happened to us two weeks ago producing embarrassing results. We had taken nine news shots in three days. Pictures of an iron lung presented to the city of Ontario, pictures of state corn growing winners, publicity for the spring bull sale, shots of the Hollingsworth auction sale, and a photo for a feature story about African missionaries.

During all of this photography the focal plane shutter had covered the lens. A perfectly simple control was out of adjustment. We were able to retake some of the shots but not all of them. And some of our readers were disappointed yb the failure.

There was one consolation. The same thing happened to John Estano at the Broadhurst (murder) trial six years ago and he has hardly forgotten the pain of it even now. It happens to good photographers as well as us.

Sometimes we have to pass up desirable pictures because our energies won’t spread thin enough. This week we were so buried with work that we missed an important news photo of the Legion district meeting here.

Ordinarily, however, things run more smoothly. We get the pictures we really need, and the Argus-Observer prints more pictures of news than almost any other newspaper its size in the Pacific Northwest. So we feel that our failures are offset by the over-all results accomplished by simply doing the best we can within our rather limited resources.

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