I was going through some film recently and ran across this image I had shot of my father while he was on dialysis. I had forgotten about taking this photo with my Pentax 6×7. He did a lot of sleeping during the last couple of years of his life (he passed away September 15, 2014) and usually had his CPAP machine on while sleeping. I spent many, many hours and days with him over 2 years just like this, watching him sleep. It was peaceful and something I enjoyed, for when he would wake up, I would have the opportunity to talk with him about old times, what projects I was working on, just anything we felt like talking about. I have never been much of a person for talking, but could always find something I enjoyed talking about with my Dad.
As a commercial and editorial photographer in Oklahoma City, I normally carry a wide range of lenses and cameras when I am out working for clients. But when it is just me and family, I often just carry a camera mounted with my favorite lens – a Nikon 50 mm prime. These are photos that show what you can do with just a simple setup.
My family had a busy birthday gathering at my son Adam’s home in Yukon. Lots of family attended, including my mom and dad, as well as my niece Summer Hanks and her niece, Isabella Hanks. Isabella was generally pretty busy, playing with the other kids, but all of a sudden she ran over to my dad, jumped into his lap, lay her head against his chest, and just hugged him for what seemed like five minutes. I had my Nikon D3s mounted with a 50 mm lens – my favorite. I just snapped a quick shot and liked it best in black and white – simple and clean. Oftentimes as a photographer, it is important to be at the right place at the right time ready to capture the fleeting moments of our lives. My father has since passed away and this is one of our cherished images of him with one of his great granddaughters.
Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.
Today I was processing some old 4″x5″ black and white film that I had shot some time ago. If you haven’t shot much 4×5 you probably don’t realize how difficult it is. My “keeper” rate is about 25%. A lot of things can go wrong – incorrect exposure, improper film loading, mistakes in processing. Today I processed 9 sheets and only 3 turned out. As I pulled this one out of the wash, my heart skipped a beat.
I remember taking this about 15 months ago but had forgotten about it. I wanted to get a shot of my dad with my Toyo VRX-125 with the front standard tilted so the only thing in focus is his eyes. He sat patiently while I fiddled with my camera, getting all the settings just so. Shooting with a tilted front standard is very difficult to do correctly. The depth of field is very, very narrow and it is tilted so I have to duck under the hood, check focus, adjust my camera, check focus again. Lots of things can go wrong. It takes about 5-8 minutes to shoot one photo like this. Dad held still while I worked the camera. Finally, I inserted a film holder, locked everything down, then snapped the shutter. One shot. That was all I got.
So all the odds are against me. I have taken dozens of photos like this but I can’t remember a single one turning out correctly because SO many things can go wrong from the time you start loading film to the time you scan the final image, which in this case was 15 months later.
I am one lucky guy, let me tell you. I now have this awesome photo of my dad, who has passed away. The photo was extremely difficult to take and get right. And now I have it on 4″x5″ film, scanned at 196 megapixels.
Yep, I will take luck any old time. This made my year right here.
After mom and dad met the relationship quickly blossomed. Dad was smitten. He worked for his brother Tommy in Oklahoma City on a paving crew during the week. On Friday night he would fire up his ’56 Ford and head out Highway 9 towards his hometown of Eufaula where my mom worked in her family’s cafe on Selmon Avenue (Highway 9 going into town). (The cafe is still there today – J&M Cafe. Of course that was before the Selmon brothers of OU Football fame made Eufaula famous, so not sure the name of the street back then.)
His 1956 Ford was no normal automobile. It had a Ford Interceptor engine. This hot rod motor was put in at the factory and typically used for police cruisers. In addition, dad had made a slight modification to the car – he had added aftermarket exhaust known as “Steel Pack Smitty’s”. And they were loud. REALLY loud.
Mom would be working at her family’s cafe and knew about when my dad should arrive on Friday evening. She would hear the roar of those Smitty’s as he rounded the bend west of Eufaula and backed off the throttle, the Smitty’s popping and snapping as the unburnt fuel exited through the red hot exhaust pipes. Mom would grab her purse and run out the door and stand on the sidewalk. As dad screeched to a halt he would reach over and open the passenger door, allowing the momentum of his stop to fully open the door. He would look at mom in her tight blue jeans and cotton shirt and think “man, she sure is pretty”. As the Ford would slide to a stop on the loose gravel in front of the cafe, Smitty’s clinking and clicking as they cooled, mom would jump in the door dad had swung open, give dad a quick kiss, and dad would hit the accelerator, peeling out in a cloud of dust as the Smitty’s barked and echoed off the downtown Eufaula buildings. Another weekend had just begun for the two love birds.
As dad retold this story during his hospital stay, he assured me that “the rest of that story you are NOT going to here!”
PS: Mom said she hated the sound of those Smitty’s, so her and dad’s mother took the car one day to the local garage and had them cut off the Smitty’s and replace them with something a little less
obnoxious loud. Dad was none too pleased when he came home, fired up the Ford, and didn’t hear what he considered the sweet sound of Steel Pack Smitty’s.
While my dad was in the hospital recently and not in good health, I asked him to tell the story about how he and my mom met. I had heard this many times. His face just lit up and his eyes sparkled when he started telling this story. He could barely speak and get the words out, but I got to hear it once again. I knew the story well and could fill in his slurred and mumbled speech.
My mom and dad met in 1956 in Eufaula, my dad’s hometown. Dad ran the projector at the movie theater in town owned by Mr Dalling. Dad’s friend wanted to date my mom at the time, so he set up a double date where he went out with my mom and my dad went out with one of mom’s sisters. But the entire time dad was wanting to get to know mom, and she felt the same way.
Their date was at the movie theater where my dad worked. After grabbing popcorn and a Coke, they sat down for the movie. After a bit dad stepped outside and then went back in and told his friend that someone was looking for him out in front of the theater. When dad’s buddy went outside to check it out, dad scooted in beside my mom and started talking to her, thereby striking up the fires of a 50+ year romance!
I asked dad what his buddy thought of that move. “He’ll get over it.”
He’s sneaky devil when it comes to love….