My photography career started with a love of nature and a wanderlust that lured me down 15,000 miles of hiking trails. In the spring of 1994, I embarked on my first Appalachian Trail thru-hike (2,100 miles, Georgia to Maine). The six-month journey changed my life.
But discontent with the narrow green corridor of the east coast, I turned my attention to the Pacific Crest Trail (2,700 miles, Mexico to Canada) and then the Continental Divide Trail (3,100 miles, Mexico to Canada) before returning to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail a second time in 2001.
From the beginning, I carried a 35mm camera to record my experiences. Eventually, as the photographic process became as important as the journey, I moved to medium format and eventually large format.
Lugging 30-40 pounds of camera equipment, in addition to camping gear, requires a strong back and a stronger will. And getting the right light requires both research and luck. I often go for days without making a single exposure. But in the end, I can’t imagine a more satisfying photographic process.
I now work almost exclusively in large format (4×5 and 4×10) and print via a lightjet photo processor. This method of printing is a unique combination of traditional and modern techniques. I begin by capturing the image on transparency film.
After developing, I scan the film and color balance the resulting file to match the original transparency. Finally, I output the image using the lightjet processor. This device uses laser light to expose photographic paper, thus producing a true “photograph” – not an inkjet print.
And while I followed a non-traditional path to photography, my method is quite traditional. I believe that the most important decisions that a photographer makes are in the field rather than in the darkroom or in the computer. I therefore eschew color enhancing filters, as well as digital manipulation, and use only a minimal number of color correcting filters.
Likewise, my education and background are also quite traditional. I grew up on a small farm near Wadsworth, Ohio, and graduated from Adrian College in Michigan with a triple major in economics, history and political science, as well as a minor in philosophy. Thinking law school was the ultimate goal; I moved to Washington, DC and worked as a historical researcher for the Supreme Court of the United States. Later, I did graduate work in economics and history, and spent six years in U.S. Army Special Operations. It was during my military tenure that I began to appreciate my time out of doors. Eventually, I decided the world would do fine with one less lawyer.
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Images and content copyright © 2015 by CW Banfield
all rights reserved. Used by permission.