Corner Member Close Up: Jerry W. Britton

Jerry's been on vacation for a while, so I've had this interview in my files for a couple of months (wanted to wait until Jerry was back in town before his interview went live) - finally it gets to see the light of day! It's probably one of my favorite Corner Member Close Up interviews so far this year, and it includes 40 photographs (he sent me over 60 to use - so I've already had the hard task of trimming it down...). Without further adieu, please allow me to introduce you to Jerry W. Britton (aka jerrywb).

Name: Jerry W. Britton
Username: jerrywb


Tell us a little about yourself.

I answer to Jerry, was born in 1938 and will turn 73 this summer. I live in Antioch, CA where I raised a family with my wife and retired as a Lab Tech from E.I. DuPont after 32 years. The plant site closed its doors here in Nov. 1998 one year after I retired. Before that I worked for Allied Chemical for almost eight years.

What does your username mean?

My user name is a contraction, my first name and middle and last name initials.

How old were you when you took your first picture with a camera; any camera? Was it any good?

I was in the Explorer Scouts around 13/14 and my parents let me use an old Ansco roll film camera on a backpack hike in the Sierras. My pictures (B&W) were at best poor-quality snapshots, still it was a record of a trip that was shared with other troop members.

What was it about photography that made you want to become a photographer? Why do you take photographs?

I believe it was the fact that one stopped time by recording an image with the click of a shutter and that instant in time could be looked back on by anyone. If requested it could be taken to the drugstore (1950's) to get a duplicate print to share, unlike other art forms. At this life juncture my photographic journey has brought me back to recording the everyday wherever I may be, yard, park, sporting event, vacation, hiking (back to where I started) and occasionally selling a print. The idea of climbing up the cable to the top of Half Dome for that one photographic moment is no longer a priority. Instead discovering what is around me with camera in hand and sharing seems just as significant. Now I find myself giving back and occasionally granting permission to a few non-profit organizations the use of a photograph with the stipulation I receive photo credit (actually sold a print or two that way). It feels good to be able to extend a photographic hand, camera or photo, to further a cause one believes will benefit others.

How long has photography been a passion for you? When, where and how did it start?

Hard to pin a specific date to the term "Passion" but it was after I bought a used Nikon F in the 1960's and was not happy with the local photofinisher quality. I tried the more expensive custom prints but they still lacked what I expected. It was around this time I went to a Sierra Club gathering at Diablo Valley College where Beaumont Newhall & Ansel Adams were guests, this opened my eyes to photography as an art form and it ignited a spark, here was nature and the outdoors recorded in its finest reality and splendor, images that I could connect with emotionally with all the artistic merit attributed to the fine arts.

What is your background/training in photography?

  1. HS night classes where I learned how to develop and make a print in a darkroom, then getting and setting up my own darkroom in the garage.
  2. Photography/Camera Club (outgrowth of the night school class) that promoted getting out taking pictures along with the normal photographic competition. At one point we put together a slide show from several trips to Yosemite that was played to a large public gathering. Exposure from this show allowed us as a group to get several exhibitions in places we never dreamed of. Yosemite National Park's Visitors Center (2 different shows), California Academy of Science in San Francisco and the Pentax Museum in Tokyo, Japan (1976), which several members attended. I could not go, I went with my family to visit my wife's brother and family in Kenya that same year, no vacation time or money to make the Japan trip.
  3. I along with several members of the Camera/Photography Club took a number of photographic extension classes and seminars from the University of California. I would say I learned more about light in a class taught by Ruth Bernard than in any others, she was a master teacher on how to see light.
  4. Upon retirement I wanted to move out of the darkroom into the digital age of photography and went back to the local Community College (Los Medanos College) and took everything I could from Introduction to Computers (knew how to enter lab results that was about it), Digital Photography (1998 - instructor required the use of an adjustable film camera and then scanning negatives or slides), Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.
  5. I have had no formal training in the art disciplines such as Basic Design, Form & Color, just a required Art History class to satisfy and AA degree requirement.


What was your very first camera?

My first camera was an Argus C4 (1955) purchased with earnings from a summer job along with a Weston light meter. This camera allowed me to use Kodachrome (ASA (ISO) 10 or 12), unfortunately the cost of film and processing was not within my High School budget and a slide projector was out of the question, besides getting a print was difficult and pricy. B&W was less expensive put I still had to pay for developing and printing, these economic complications put a severe crimp in my budding photographic career, a lot easier today with the digital format.

What equipment is in your camera bag now? What pieces of equipment will be added to the collection next?

Digital: I have a Nikon D700 & D300 with 3 lenses, Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 G ED, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 G ED, Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 D (I have been giving some thought to adding a teleconverter). I also have an old light weight Konica-Minolta DiMage A2 that I carry around in the mountains with a 28-200mm lens with very good macro capabilities, shutter lag is the only real fault.

Film: I still have my Mamiya 645, with 3 Mamiya-Sekor lenses, 80mm f/2.8, 45mm f/2.8, 150mm f/4.0 and extra roll film inserts (120 & 220). I'm guilty of not using this equipment in over a dozen years; just don't know how to part with this last connection to film.

On the film side I also have a Nikon Super Cool Scan 8000 which has become disabled do to driver up-date conflicts with new operational systems.

You are asked to choose one lens from the following group: 14mm wide angle, 50mm prime, 200mm telephoto, 105mm macro. You could only use one of these for the rest of your photographic life. Which would you choose and why?

I would lean to the 105mm macro; it gives a good undistorted portrait image (basically sees/records the same perspective we see) while giving the user Macro capabilities. With today's ability to stitch together images creating a wide view is not lost with this lens.

Bonus Questions

Tell us your set-up, thoughts and tips/tricks of a particular photo.

This was a photo taken for a Premier Project (Still Life) here on the corner. I have no artificial lighting set-up and make do with available light situations. My lighting here was from a skylight and window, the subjects was set on the back of a large poster on the kitchen counter using late morning light. If I had lights/flash I would not hesitate to use them, better control than "waiting on the light".

Have you ever Photoshoped/edited a photo but told others you haven't?

I don't believe I have, I use Photoshop & Lightroom (Photoshop more) and really don't remember ever taking anything straight from the camera to a print or post. I use both programs like I would use the darkroom; the print (or post) is as much a part of the creative process as the initial exposure in camera. If one ever gets the chance to view some of the old original 8x10 contact prints of Ansel Adams next to one of the enlargements later in life from the same negative I believe you'll be "amazed" in the difference.

Do you like your photos most of the time or dislike them most of the time? Why do you think that is?

It depends on what I'm trying to convey with the photograph, if it's recording a family or group affair I'm usually happy with about 35% of what was taken to tell the story. If I'm going out and wondering around in nature, city, etc., I'd say I'd be very happy if 5% of what I took is worth working on. In sports maybe 25/35% is decent enough to tell the story of the match/game and feel delighted if I get what I think is an excellent moment capturing the action (less than 1%).

Do you think that photographers take photos because they can't paint; or do painters paint because they aren't good photographers?

I believe artists pick their medium because of the unique challenge it offers and how they visualize within that discipline then deciding what they want to convey and you to see. I'm drawn to photography because it records an actual event in time with light recording a basic starting point, sort of an act of immediacy in progress after the fact if you will.

What are your favorite places/subjects to photograph? Why?

I enjoy photographing all things, sports, flowers, people, landscapes, urban/suburban, animals, etc. but the mountains in Idaho where we go every summer would probably be a favorite place I relish returning to and photographing (family cabin located there, love fly fishing). But mountains anywhere appeal to me and will always compel me pull out the camera to try and capture there intrinsic beauty, unfortunately I'm not as successful doing this as I'd like to be.

You are given a dream assignment to photograph one location in the world. Where/what would it be? When would you shoot it? Why that place and that time?

There are three places in the world I would relish traveling with camera in hand, Patagonia (Argentina/Chile), New Zealand or British Columbia, preferably with a guide and the time of year would be summer or fall. I honestly can't pick just one; I've never been to any of them, just my fantasy spots to visit, any one would be fine.

You are given a dream assignment to choose one person in the world that you can photograph. Who would you choose? Where would you photograph him/her? Why that person and setting?

At this point in life my dream event would take place in the future and it would be photographing my oldest Grandson receiving his diploma upon graduating from college.

Who are your biggest photographic influences? Why? What about their work influences your work?

The f/64 Group (Ansel Adams) and Jerry Uelsmann - the f/64 Group for their Pre-Visualization concept and Jerry Uelsmann going against the grain with Post Visualization and moving the Art of Photography to the PhD level. They are/were all masters of the print with Jerry Uelsmann the Grand Master in my opinion.

What are your goals for your photography?

Just enjoy it while keeping up with the never ending learning path photography takes me on and with any luck encouraging others to do the same.

What photo did you take that you are the most proud of up to this point in your photographic journey?

I don't know what I would pick as a best, I can't pick a favorite image, maybe it involves family, sports, landscape, a breakthrough image I struggled with, contest winner or any of the Gallery sub-headings here on the Corner? I honestly have no definitive answer.

What was your most embarrassing moment while taking pictures?

Taking pictures at an event for a friend that could not be repeated with an empty camera. I had 2 camera bodies and thought both contained a 36 exposure roll of film and proceeded to take 36 non-pictures.

What was the most dangerous thing (or worst thing) you ever did to get 'The Shot'?

In the mid 1970's a friend and I mounted his motor driven 3fps camera with my 28mm lens on the front of a Blown Fuel Flat Bottom Drag Boat. The driver was ejected over the bow, hit the camera leaving it un-repairable, breaking the lens filter but leaving the lens intact and functional. The driver was not hurt, just some bruises. Not smart for photographers without resources.

What do you do with your photographs?

Every once in a while I sell a print and did make a little over $900.00 last year, not close to breaking even with this hobby. I still do Art Shows and contests occasionally and as stated before have loaned images for use to certain non-profit groups plus have given/donated a few prints for display.

The Corner

What initially drew you into Corner?

I read a recommendation on the Web and checked it out, liked what I saw and have been here every since.

What keeps your hanging around the Corner?

The whole pkg. from the people in the galleries to the forum and the Premier Projects which gets me out of my comfort zone trying to be creative with in required subject parameters. Even retired I don't always get as much time to participate as I would like.

What section of the Corner is your most frequented or favorite?

The Galleries (basic area of sharing) and Premier Projects because it forces me out of my comfort zone to be creative.

What advice would you give other members of PhotographyCorner?

"Learn the Basics", enjoy your photographic passion(s) and don't be afraid to break the rules if you feel it is the right thing to do, you are the artist with the vision and final decision. What someone may dislike may be the reason behind your creative visualization, still keep in mind recognizing failures are part of the path forward. Art is a 2-edged sword.

If you could meet any member of the Corner, but could ask them only one question, who would you want to meet and what would that question be?

"Oneof42". Where do you find the time to do all the imaginative images I've seen here?


What thing about yourself as an artist do you want to be remembered for?

Hopefully encouraging others to get out with their camera and share their artistic passions along with the every day backdrops of life.

If you knew it were your last day with your equipment, whether it be by choice or not, what would you photograph and why?

The Boulder Mountains in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area of Idaho.

Posted by Tim L. Walker on Fri, 2011–08–19 16:13