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    May photographer of the month:
Eilert Ofstead
music lovers.jpg



It was Christmas of my junior year, and after briefly exploring a few simple cameras, I became the proud owner of a neat 120-film-size folding camera--full manual control! I used it a bit, but my bigger excitement lay in the discovery of a contact printing process which was (for me) very unique! Using special paper and a small contact printing frame, I put the film and paper together in the frame; then I held it up to a light bulb for several seconds to expose the paper! Going into a moderately darkened room, I used a simple brush and applied this magical liquid to the paper for a couple of minutes. The solution was a combination of developer and slow fixer, and when I washed everything off, it had allowed the print to develop and (eventually) get fixed with only one solution! That was fascinating and became my first example of an extra interest in experimenting with technology over the many years to come.


A year later, a H.S. graduation gift (1952) was my first 35 mm camera, an Argus C3. Wow, now I was off into taking color slides, and I got hooked! Good old Kodachrome, ASA 12, I think! Boy, have things changed since then, but for the next couple of years, that was my go-to camera. 


As I started college, I got a job working for a tiny photo business. It was a small studio with a darkroom in the basement of a home behind the little store. The owners introduced me to the darkroom processing of B&W prints. When customers came in, they brought their 35 mm B&W films to be printed, and I became “the guy”! The owner was primarily the shop-keeper and portrait photographer along with his doing a bit of commercial work on the side. His wife was chief darkroom operator, printing weddings and high quality enlargements. Working that job kept me going for three summers while I was in college, and I became hooked on what could be done in the darkroom. Later, that knowledge translated to processing digital images on a computer, which I still love to do. One other major opportunity I had during that time was the chance to purchase a Leica camera cheaply and add extra lenses to it (because the business owner sold Leicas). 


Photography was sort of an on-and-off hobby for many years later including my time in grad school and subsequent marriage. Making records of family activities was a priority along with some nature photography,--plus travel around the country and also a few trips to Europe which was kind of a photographer’s paradise!


The most important thing that happened along the way was the discovery of the Akron Camera Club in 1974, and I have been a member ever since. Slides were my main focus originally, and competitions were a big event for all of us, but shortly after I joined a remarkable color printing product was announced-- Cibachrome. It greatly simplified the development process and in addition produced very vibrant and permanent images! I headed into the darkroom again becoming addicted to color enlargements, and I became a “regular” in print competitions. Nowadays, I really miss those print competitions. A print is kind of the ultimate goal for a good image--in my mind.


About 1995 at a time when digital cameras were either non-existent--or terrible--I learned of a way to scan slides and then process them onto a computer. That was a major introduction to digital imaging for me, especially with such a large collection of slides


Next step, I got a copy of Photoshop 3 for $50 from a truck salvage store. I also got an updated Mac computer and started having fun. However, it was to be about 3 years before anything interesting in the way of digital cameras came along. Then, in about 2001, $700 got me a 2-megapixel Olympus camera--my first. Since then, cameras have gotten much better but not costs. I would buy an upgrade about every 3 years for the same price! 


These days I have reverted to a small, versatile pocket camera--the Sony HX99. Image quality is very good for photos posted on the Internet or for the occasional print I make for family. With its 18 megapixels, tremendous 30-to-1 zoom ratio, raw file format (useful for contrasty images), and a whole lot more (eg, video), and being very small, it meets my needs. I use it for almost everything now.


One additional characteristic of the digital-image world is the remarkable ability to fine-tune my image as a “pure” photograph, to achieve something close to art that expresses my vision. Or… I can go to an infinite variety of transformations of my image, to really create a new one that expresses almost anything I want it to. What a world!


As far as subjects go, most anything can catch my eye. Most of my photos are from nature: landscapes, animals, plants, sky, etc, and sometimes architectural things as well. Of course, catching family images are important. When we travel, I am always looking for new subjects of interest. Occasionally, I like to document local area engineering projects if they are not too big. Over the last several years, I have covered: the rebuilding of two bridges in our area (Bath Road over the Cuyahoga and Northampton Road over Mud Brook); the reconstruction of the historic Keyser barn as part of the Cuyahoga Falls Sesquicentennial; and the removal of the two dams in the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cuyahoga Falls. Those were the days!

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First four images are from 1980's slides, others are very recent

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To see additional images by Eilert, click here to go the Members Gallery.
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