Chris Bartol growing with photo technology

Published 3:00 am Friday, February 27, 2009

What&squo;s your favorite subject, if you had to pick one? Aerials. I went out to Bright&squo;s Creek a month and a half ago, right at the peak of the season and they brought a helicopter in from Asheville. It was my first helicopter ride in years. The funny story about that is she&squo;s younger than my daughter. Her name was Rachel, she was really sweet. We went over all the angles and shots we needed to take. We took the door off on my side, and she opens her door and lifts up her seat, then takes out two ten pound dumbbells and puts them off to the side. I said, &dquo;What&squo;s that?&dquo; She said, &dquo;Well this particular helicopter has a minimum that you can fly with, and I don&squo;t weigh that much.&dquo; She had to add twenty more pounds. I guess she didn&squo;t have to worry about it with me, just strap me in. White Oak early fall 2008 photo by Chris Bartol&bsp;Anyway, aerials are a lot of fun, as well as product photography. I like getting an item, just a piece of manufacturing equipment and making it look good. Also, the challenges, like I&squo;m sure you&squo;ve see the picture of wine going into the glass for Green Creek. Yes, I saw that. I worked on that for a week. I knew I wanted to do it. Albert comes in with this grainy looking shot and I said, &dquo;Albert I can do that.&dquo; &dquo;Really?&dquo; I said, &dquo;Yeah, I have to use the wine, because that&squo;s your product. Give me a couple of days and I&squo;ll have it set up.&dquo; I played around with water and some different things and getting the shot, and finally nailed it. I said, &dquo;Bring in the product.&dquo; I took about 20 shots and got the one that you see. Wow. I love the movement in that shot. That was what I wanted, some action, not just bubbling into it. I had a big tent with plastic all over the place. Splashing wine? I also learned too, you never eat or drink photo food. I enjoy the commercial end of it. I do good executive shots I think. Family portraits in the home, I&squo;d rather go to a home and get the environment where they are comfortable. They may have a pet, a mantel piece full of pictures, or a painting on the wall that relates to their family. You have some connection when you have something personal in a family portrait. What about some of those old Tryon photos you were showing me the last time I was here? Yes, the Hansel Mieth, things of that sort. That&squo;s something that is a project in the works right now. I&squo;ve got a treasure trove of a hundred photos from Hansel Mieth. She wasn&squo;t employed by LIFE magazine, but worked as a freelancer generating income. She came to Tryon hoping she could do an article on the horse show and equine community and present it to LIFE magazine, which she may have, but the proofs, the pictures you saw, are 11×14 and 8×10 proofs. Do you know if any of those actually made it into LIFE magazine? Mike McCue is really astute at collectable stuff and the area. He did research on it and could find nothing. There&squo;s a lot of Hansel Mieth&squo;s work, if you go to Getty Images (, which handles images for Time & Life Pictures, her images go for $1500 a pop. Wow, so this really is a treasure trove. As far as you know these are unpublished proofs. As far as I know, they are unpublished. A few have been published in A Sense of Heritage, which is the book about Polk County and Tryon. Those in that book are also attributed to her. We were very careful about making sure, because at that point she was still alive. She and her husband were somewhat controversial. They were taking pictures of poverty, Appalachia, and a lot of the rugged condition of the mills and textiles. She was very good and very intent at exposing hardships and disparity in this country. She had a lot of controversy in her life. When Mike McCue found out she was retired and living in Santa Rosa, California he wrote to her specifically making sure we could use this images in the book. How many of these have been published then? Maybe half a dozen have been published in A Sense of Heritage. But that&squo;s a local publication, nothing national. There&squo;s an interest in this now, particularly in the horse community because we know so many of these people. These are people whose descendents are still in this area? Some are still alive. These are from what time period? 1938-39. What we&squo;re trying to do, even with the economy being the way it is, we&squo;re still going to do a reception with these matted and mounted in museum quality mats, and put the buzz out there that they may be available. There&squo;s a cocktail table book we&squo;re looking at too. Mike is working on now a book on architecture in Tryon. You may have heard of the Tryon Toy Makers? Yes. Mike has come across a treasure trove of glass negatives. He got them as negatives and couldn&squo;t read them. I said go to Photoshop and invert them. I&squo;m hoping that they&squo;re going to be better quality. Wow. How would you take a picture that ends up on a glass negative? Before they had cellulose or acetate they had the daguerreotypes which were on metal. If you look at them a certain way you see the positive image. Then they graduated to glass you could see through and then consequently you could make a print. The image was a negative. If you took that image and put it in contact with a piece of photographic paper, then the negative became a positive. After that the film was put on acetate. You could still make a contact print, or you stick it in an enlarger and maker and the negative exposed became a positive. Do you think there&squo;s something that we loose with digital film that you were able to capture on the acetate? Some of the pictures from the old days will seem incredibly sharp and crisp. Well, when you have an 8×10 or 5×7 negative, yeah. You&squo;ve got a box, what they call a &dquo;u camera&dquo; with a big, good sharp lens. Then they began getting the material on acetate and it could be rolled and hence the smaller cameras, the Kodak and that sort. You could also take more photos? Evening on the Pacolet photo by Chris Bartol&bsp;Take more photos. Now obviously with the advances in optics, Leica for instance came out with a 35mm camera. I&squo;ve seen Leica camera lenses even today that you can take a 4×5 film camera and a Leica 35mm and put the prints together and you&squo;d be hard pressed to tell which came from the larger negative. The trade off between digital and film was a chasm. Hence, I didn&squo;t think digital would take over film in my lifetime. It&squo;s to the point now, where the pixel array of some of the larger cameras, like the Hasselblad which is a medium format, will have a 48 or 50 megabyte file for one image. A 35mm will have a 3 megabyte file. The bigger file is sharper with more detail. Ten years ago, they would have these systems where you could not take an instant picture. It had to be a time exposure and the film back was cooled. It had a refrigeration system around the back and if you had $125,000 you could get one. In as little as 15 years we&squo;ve gone to the League System, which was a $155,000 computer contraption that had to be used in the studio. Literally you couldn&squo;t take a picture of Brie cheese because it would be moving during the exposure. Now we&squo;re shooting as film. That&squo;s my camera, that&squo;s a 10 megapixel camera, but it&squo;s like a 35mm the way it holds, the way it feels, the way I use it. I had a friend who was inseparable from his Leica. Leica is primo. For the longest time it was the only camera allowed in courtrooms, because it was a range finder camera. This is called a reflex because the image comes through onto a mirror, onto a screen and you&squo;re seeing what you&squo;re looking at. With a range finder camera, the optics looking through to focus and everything are not through t
he lens. If you have a little point and shoot camera, you&squo;re not looking through the lens, you&squo;re looking through a view finder. When you trip the shutter, the mirror slaps up, shutter opens and closes, and the mirror slaps down. You&squo;ve got a &dquo;ca-chunk.&dquo; With a range finder it&squo;s so quiet because all that is happening is the shutter going across the film. There&squo;s no mirror flopping up and down. Basically the digital versus film in some ways is still lacking if you&squo;re a purest and you really want to shoot film or large format. In some ways it is a little better. But, they&squo;re getting now to where the total range, the contrast range kind of stuff is coming closer and closer. My son was talking to me about a new camera that has an 8×10 or little bit smaller screen, but the contrast ratio is a million to one. That&squo;s what happening. You&squo;re suddenly getting life-like depth. I&squo;d be willing to bet will have 3D televisions pretty soon. You put on a pair of glasses and watch a movie. Soap Opera dramas that take place in the middle of the living room? I remember at the Alderman Company 25 years ago all the managers of the studio were called in to see this &dquo;fascinating&dquo; thing. It&squo;s called a facsimile machine. We had a studio in Dallas, Texas and he said, &dquo;Look at this.&dquo; The phone would ring and as you wait for it and all of the sudden this image would come up that was being sent directly from Dallas. Albeit black and white and hard to visualize, but it was in real time. There was a way to get the image to the client fast. It got to the point not long before I left Alderman, somebody was saying, &dquo;Let me tell you what the future&squo;s going to hold.&dquo; We were shooting 8×10 film with big cameras because of the depth and everything else. We didn&squo;t have shutters on the lenses, we would have a card. We&squo;d pull the slide off the film, wait for the camera to settle down, open it up, maybe go get a cup of coffee. You may have a 35-40 second or even a minute exposure. Then you put the slide back in, turn it around and do another one. Somebody said, &dquo;Visualize this: your client is in New York, your printer is in Dallas, Texas. Here we are in North Carolina. They&squo;re going to have a pixel array instead of film.&dquo; I snorted and went, &dquo;Yeah right.&dquo; &dquo;Put this thing in the camera just like you do film, take the picture, and you&squo;re going to see it on a screen over here. You can make corrections and all that kind of stuff on the screen. If you think you like it enough, you get a modem and dial the number in New York and you can send this image to the guy in New York.&dquo; He said, &dquo;Whether the client approves it or not, at least you&squo;ve got an image up there. He may call you back and say he likes it. Then you call the printer in Dallas and send it there and then go on to the next shot.&dquo; We&squo;ve discussed the move from glass negatives now all the way to digital. When I had my shop before, I did a very good job in doing a lot of copy work, but it was with negatives. I would have to process the film, and I learned how to &dquo;flash&dquo; the negatives to reduce the contrast. A lot of technical things I was able to do, which I&squo;m able to do now but in real time. When I do a photocopy or any type of thing, I know exactly what I&squo;m getting because I&squo;m looking through the back of the camera. I&squo;ll still bracket. I&squo;ll shoot what I think is on and I&squo;ll go one over and one under. For whatever reason, I may have to go a darker or lighter one. That&squo;s a watercolor by Pam Stone&squo;s mother I&squo;m working on, and I can shoot through glass. Here&squo;s before and after. That&squo;s how it looked in the camera, and here&squo;s the final. The colors are still there even if the first shot doesn&squo;t quite look true. Some people will only shoot in RAW without compression. But it&squo;s a huge file and it takes a while to play with. I&squo;m at ease with using JPEG. That&squo;s what I shoot in and everything I shoot is in JPEG. It is a compressed file, so you&squo;re losing a little bit every time you play with it. Everything you see here that I&squo;ve printed is in JPEG format. So you&squo;ve gone completely digital? I haven&squo;t shot a roll of film. Even art galleries are accepting digital images. It&squo;s so much easier to share the image. Pearson’s Falls photo by Chris Bartol&bsp;Absolutely, it is so much easier to manipulate. If you&squo;re honest with what you&squo;re doing, particularly news shots. There have been some major things like a photo of an uprising in Israel. Even I could see they added smoke. A bomb had been dropped, but the smoke was digitally repeated in the photo. Of course it was spotted. Has film become a dinosaur? Film is still available and cameras are being used, in fact I repaired one last week. A fellow brought it in and the shutter wasn&squo;t working right. A mechanical camera I can still deal with, but the electronics being what they are, it&squo;s very difficult to repair digital cameras. In my line of work, one the reasons I had to go with digital was magazine work where they expect to get your images before you leave town. I would do six or eight shots in a day, download them and give them an invoice. That makes your work easier. For weddings, I don&squo;t do prints or albums. Everybody&squo;s become so savvy, what I offer as the package, so much an hour, three hour minimum and give you, in addition to that, a CD with every single image on it. On the CD is a disclaimer saying that though Bartol took the pictures they can use them any way they want. So you&squo;re basically giving away all the images? I&squo;m making it worth my while, but I&squo;m no longer in the loop. You&squo;re not trying to keep copyright? A lot of the stuff that I see in the Bulletin, like the pictures I did five or six years ago of Phil & Gaye Johnson I&squo;m still seeing the images, but no credit. I wish I had put my name on them. Some things I wish I had credit. Like Cathy Smith Bowers photos that ran with her article? I want to get my name out there and get recognition, but I&squo;m not A.S.M.P. (American Society of Media Photographers), I&squo;m not from New York. I don&squo;t have these demands on my work. If I do a landscape, or a terrific shot of clouds from my deck, it&squo;s going to be copyrighted.&bsp; If you are doing your artistic work? If I&squo;m doing some work for a client, those images belong to that client. If I find one of those images that I really like, yes I do have the option of copyright. When it comes down to editing these images it&squo;s about your eye to refine that image. One of the assets I have is that I was in the dark room a lot. I love the dark room. Where you add contrast and then develop the print and see if you like it. Or you add density or lightness, burn or dodge, and then you develop the print and look at it. I&squo;m doing exactly the same thing in real time. And you still have your original image saved. I still have the original. I learned that the hard way. I&squo;ve learned to save, save, save. Once in a while I&squo;ll be working on a project for two hours and I&squo;ll go to lunch and find out I&squo;ve got automatic updates and everything I have is gone. I had papers in college that vanished on me that way. As you can see I&squo;m excited about what I&squo;m doing. I&squo;m going to continue doing it for a while. I think there is a need for my service in this respect. You&squo;re just taking a lower profile. People know I&squo;m available and I&squo;m in the book. I&squo;ve been here a year. Having been from Tryon, I&squo;m delighted to be ba
ck in Tryon. My legacy is here and what my family and great grandparents have added to this community through the Tryon Fine Arts Center and the Congregational Church. I&squo;m related to Andy Haynes who worked on Rogers Park and Lanier Library. The list goes on. I had the good fortune to meet Carol. Her daughter and my son set us up at the old Side Street Pizza in 1986 and we got married in 1988. You&squo;re here providing a service. I came back to Tryon in 1986 knowing that because I was commercial, I could work in Atlanta or Charlotte and do okay, but getting noticed and getting a niche and breaking into the world here was tough. I&squo;m glad I&squo;m here. I&squo;ve got no doubts that I made the right move. Stop by to visit with Chris Bartol in his studio space and see what he&squo;s able to do with images for yourself at 28 Oak Street in Tryon. Set up an appointment by phone 828-859-0497 or on the internet at

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