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Thursday, 5 June 2014

ON THE EVE OF THE DAY OF ALL DAYS

IMAGINE the scene when unique films exposed under heavy enemy fire are rushed from the Normandy D-Day beach landings in France to London for rapid processing. The expectations surrounding the results are building nervously and senses are on edge among waiting Life magazine editorial staff.

Now try to imagine the crisis that followed when a teenage lab assistant discovers he has set a hot drying cabinet too high in haste, causing delicate emulsions to melt.

The result? Of four complete rolls covering 106 exposures, just 11 frames were usable. Apparently, Robert Capa never said a word to his bureau chief about the loss of his pictures and the 'The Magnificent Eleven' group (as they were termed) of surviving shots were given dominant space on pages of a following issue.

Capa had been among the second American assault wave on Omaha Beach, on 6 June 1944, holding in readiness two Contax II cameras with 50mm standard lenses and spare film. After two hours of front line action, he had taken more than 100 shots and was ready to pull out after the forces storming Omaha faced heavy enemy resistance.

Captions accompanying the The Magnificent Eleven described the pictures as 'slightly out of focus', claiming that Capa's hands were shaking, yet in a personal account he admitted 'his empty camera was trembling in my hands'. His autobiographical account published much later featured Slightly Out of Focus as his chosen title.

Observers have suggested that much of Capa's work in the war years, from the trenches and the more usual arm's length perspectives, redefined a role for action photography. Among his favourite sayings was: 'If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough.'

War action was not new to him. He had already covered, famously, the Spanish Civil War and the Second Sino-Japanese War, and had survived the experiences. In May 1954, he was working with two Time Life journalists covering the First Indochina war. While travelling with a French regiment through a known danger area, he left his Jeep and walked towards the advancing action. There was a telling explosion within minutes. Capa had stepped on a landmine, wounding him fatally by the time a field hospital had been reached.

Capa's photographic misfortunes were not confined to D-Day only. His vast Spanish Civil War picture collection was presumed lost for many decades after he fled Europe in 1939. The negatives appeared in the 1990s in Mexico City, where they had been dubbed the 'Mexican suitcase'. All items were transferred to the Capa Estate in 2007 and now rest in a Manhattan museum.

As this year marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, there are questions to be asked about what the other 95 melted exposures might have have held to show the realism facing Allied forces on a day that helped to change the outcome of the war.

AP reader Dale Adams recalls how a darkroom disaster almost ruined historic D-Day landing pictures.

From an article in the Back Chat section of Amateur Photographer magazine of 7 June 2014.

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To my Photo Blog,

All my monochrome photography is darkroom produced. This portfolio consists of photographs from several of my projects, assignments, personal and course related work. Some of these monochrome photographic prints are then selectively toned.

Take a look at the slide show, or the popular posts. Click onto some of the many excellent blogs that I have listed in my blog roll. I welcome constructive feedback (post a comment).

Click onto the links in some of my posts which will then take you to the relevant website link where you will be able to find out more about that location, charity or organisation etc featured in the post and which is relevant to that specific image.

Also please click onto my links. Join my blog and my Google + followers. If you would like to know more about any particular photograph or project then please send me an email. My email address is at the foot of this page.

Also from time to time I will post videos that are of interest to me, mainly from my military background.

Yours sincerely

Trevor David Betts BA (Hons)

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TECHNICAL INFORMATION

All the photographs featured on this blog spot were taken on Canon analog 35mm SLR cameras which included: Canon A1, Canon AE1 (non-programme) and Canon T90. The Canon A1 was rendered useless after prolonged exposure to salt spray residue, and the AE1 suffered a malfunction, and one of my T90s just packed up on me during a photographic shoot.

Most of my camera equipment was initially purchased brand new, then as the years have past I have purchased second-hand equipment. But the vast majority of equipment I currently possess is well over twenty years old.

Canon FD lenses used were: 28, and 35mm wide angle, 50mm standard, 35-105mm short telephoto zoom and a 70-210mm large telephoto zoom lenses. Also used was a loaned Mamiya 645 with 50 and 80mm lenses. My favourite combination is a T90 fitted with the 35-105mm lens with an Hoya orange filter. I use Hoya orange, red, neutral density, and skylight filters. Hoya and Canon lens hoods. A Canon remote cable. I have used a great Metz 45 CT-4 flashgun for many years. I used this for the bounced and fill-in flash for some of the documentary and portraiture work.

Studio flash used was Courtenay brolly flash (just two heads fitted with soft boxes) at Hull Community Artworks studio (sadly this excellent local arts facility closed in 2001). Billingham and Tamrac camera bags (the Billingham is a old model that I have had for years - wonderful bags). The Tamrac one is a medium sized back pack type bag. Slik Black Diamond 88, and 500 DX Pro tripods. A Cullmann touring set (which consists of a light tripod, ball and swivel head, all-purpose clamp, suction cap, and a ground spike). I presently have three Canon T90 and one A1 SLR cameras.

Film used was mainly 35mm (with some 120mm). Ilford Delta monochrome negative print film, 100 asa (a few rolls of 400 asa as well). Ilford HP5 and FP4 (400 and 125 asa respectively). Fuji Neopan 400 asa. Various Fuji colour film. Photographic chemicals: Ilford ID-11 and Microphen film developers. Agfa Rodinal fine grain film developer, and Ilford Hypam fixer.

Photographic paper: Ilford Multigrade IV VC paper, Fibre based VC paper including warm and cool tone. Kentmere Velvet Stipple and Art Document papers. Kodak selenium toner. Barclay and Fotospeed sepia toners, and Colorvir blue toner. Durst M60 and Meopta 5 enlargers fitted with 50 and 80mm Schneider lenses. Kenro negative sheets and Jessops negative folders.

Most of my photography involves the use of the camera being securely mounted onto the tripod, with the shutter set to the 10 second delay. I bracket my exposures (relying on the excellent Canon in-camera meter). My aperture settings are usually between F5.6 and F22. In the vast majority of cases the very first exposure I take is usually the correctly exposed one.

Finished photographic prints (spotted if needed). At the 10 x 8 inch size are then scanned on an Epsom 1660 photo perfection scanner using Adope Photoshop CS2 at the 5.5 x 3.5 inch image or canvas size, 150 dpi and at the 750 x 550 pixels size, and saved as for the web. The only thing that is manipulated is the brightness balance and contrast levels.

DON'T FORGET

"It is the soldier, not the minister, who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to fair protest.

It is the soldier, not the politician, who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag."

From: "Fighting for Queen and Country,
by Nigel 'Spud' Ely. Blake Publishing London, 2007.
"