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2003 25th year

same old address:
145 Boyd Way
Carmel CA 93923
831 624-5535

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2005 Newsletter

2004 Newsletter

2003 Newsletter No. 2

2003 Newsletter No. 1

2002 Newsletter

2001 Newsletter

Al Weber Mid-Year Newsletter

Narrow Minded Opinions, Important Trivia, Gossip, Books (good ones) & Workshops

Purging the mailing list

In 1987, the last year I ran a program at Victor School, the mailing list was 12,000. I purged it to 1,200. As I continue to downsize, I find there are still too many who aren’t active for the newsletter, and so another purging. Now it rests at 300 who wish a paper copy. Everyone else, can always see what is up by reading my web page. Each year I whack off another workshop or two, and work closer to home. I’m older and slower, and that goes for the old Ford too.

Evolution: In our time

The current trend to digital and alternate processes intrigues me, and I enthusiastically support it all. One problem; those first in frequently are those who couldn’t do well in conventional methods. They hang their hopes on a new and wonderful way that will salvage their sagging creative efforts; like putting a sauce on a badly prepared entree. Wading through all this is time consuming and sometimes depressing, but, once there, one finds those still in the game worthwhile. It appears that a sound structure of traditional photography aids in the pursuit of other avenues, and to this end, I find a place to work. Note the other avenues. Traditional craft shall always be part of my work. Other avenues are an extension of on going processes. For me, there will be no switching, only an expansion of the menu. I grew up with Pictorialism. Then it was Straight Photography. And along came Conceptualism. Shots became pictures. Pictures became Photographs. Then came, oh gawd, the Image. Image this and image that. Scattered along the way we ran up against Cibachromes instead of color photographs. Polaroid Transfers were the rage. and of course all of the alternate processes. Today the photographic world is being bombarded by digital whatevers. We are victims of trends. Relax and enjoy it.

Philip Hyde: An Update

The first weekend in May was a swell time for seventeen people to visit Phil just outside Taylorsville, California. It was a quiet, rainy time and Phil was in fine tune. For hours we talked with this shy man, as he demonstrated how he has dealt with blindness and remoteness and the loss of his wife. There is a new spirit at up there at Rough Rock, and we came away having experienced what a honest and determined personal philosophy can produce. We sat in his wonderful studio and the hours just zipped along. Saturday night we went to Crescent Mills, had a fine meal, danced to live music (with lots of local ladies) and sang songs. This included a solo by Phil of Goodnight Ladies. On Sunday we went to his darkroom, bought all kinds of stuff, including the Durst 138 to Carol Byers and all kinds of knick knacks to a variety of people eager to own something of Phil’s. Taylorsville sits at the headwaters of the Feather River in Northern California. Phil and his wife Ardis, built their home in 1959 on a wonderful bluff overlooking Indian Creek. Taylorsville and the nearby town of Crescent Mills are in lumber and cattle country. The businesses there are friendly and geared to residential needs. The grocery stores are magnificent with old fashioned cash registers and wooden floors and covered porches in front. It seems each building is saying, “Hey mister, take my picture”. We camped in a county park with hot showers, a wonderful river, grassy sites, deer and foxes. Philip Hyde, at 81, is doing well.

Farewell to a Grand Dame With sadness I report the death of Frances Baer on August 5th in Monterey. We lost a good one. She was 85, and now joins her most cantankerous life mate, Morley.
Found Myths: I only photograph to satisfy myself I’ve heard this said once in a while and recently Henry Gilpin came off with it again at an opening. Question? Why did I go to the opening if the photographs were just for Henry? If I were to think like this, I would question making finish prints. After all, it’s just for me, and really, why even develop the film? Why even shoot the film if it is just for me, I could have just stood there and looked at this scene and when I felt I had totally consumed it, I could have walked away with the personal experience and eliminated all that fuss and mess. I went to the opening, obviously, because Henry is a friend of 40 plus years, and I support my friends when possible. He’ll be miffed over what I write, but he’ll get over it.

In the latest issue of Lenswork, headlining an article by someone named Frank Van Riper, it states “The path to Fulfillment-and every so often to money and to greatness-begins with the realization that the artist has only to please him or herself.”

But, they always want to exhibit. Why?

In a essay “Learning to See” by Barry Lopez, he refers to photographers. I think he hits the nail on the head. It parrots what I have been saying regarding an audience. “.....without an audience (of which we’re all a part) the work remains unfinished, unfulfilled. A photographer seeks intimacy with the world and then endeavors to share it. Inherent in that desire to share is a love of humanity.”

Boy, I wish I had said that.

Both Van Riper and Lopez have photographed. Lopez has moved away from photography and now just writes. The credentials of Van Riper seem weighted by journalism. Lopez lives in Oregon, Van Riper in Washington DC. In the Van Riper article there is one photograph of a home made stone grill. He states that he gave the making of the grill photographed his “total attention and my best creative shot”. First the grill, a jumbled pile of rocks, can only be described as ugly. Living in a community of Italians, many of whom are masons of superb taste and skill, I am used to seeing fine stone work. Mr. Van Riper, your efforts at masonry are a joke and primarily reveal more about you than I am interested in seeing. As a teacher I have heard that old saw about “I don’t care what you think, I did it for myself” used to the hilt. Second the photograph can only be called a snapshot. I’m glad you are happy with your grill, Mr. Van Riper, and your snapshot, but next time I would hope you and Lenswork would keep your best to yourselves on your path to fulfillment. For examples of what is meant by directing your communication (photography) to an audience, see all of the other photographers in that issue (No. 46 Apr-May 2003) especially the Morrie Camhi series.

Publish: or Perish

The old university threat, has instilled a stigma that one is not a photographer until there is a book out there with your name on it. I know of few who do not covet a book. Everyone is working on one. Stories (or rumors) about huge advances and royal treatment evoke dreams of new cars and houses and travel and adulation. Reality says, however, few of us will realize this pipe dream. I’ve thought about this, even put together bits and pieces that could be a book, and finally I’m fussing with three book projects. One is so bizarre I know no publisher would consider it, so it will be self published and of interest primarily to those who have spent time with me in workshops. When it is ready, you’ll be reading about it in this newsletter. The second looks like it will be published in serial form in Photo Techniques. and deals with the Zone System and how it has evolved. The third, about rock art, pictographs and petroglyphs, has drawn interest from a publisher. The first thing they threw on the table had nothing to do with the book. It had to do with money. I would have to contribute to the cost of publication of the book.

For about fifty years, I have been photographing rock art. There has been no passionate drive, simply a sustained interest and sense to photograph rock art.

Others also have been photographing rock art. Many have already published their work.

If you were in my shoes, what would you do? One serious thought is to simply box everything I have done, negatives, prints, and writing, throw in some silica gel, seal the box and put it on the top shelf labeled, “almost made it,” and just move on. Maybe someday down the road when existing rock art has all been paved over, I will be able to sell what I have done.

The issue is Ego. Everyone wants to see their work in print. Publishers have taken advantage of this physiological/psychological phenomenon. The photographer, in their need to see their work published will agree to ridiculous terms just to get in print. The term, Vanity Press goes back a long time. A vanity press will publish anything that an author will pay for. It is a business. It has nothing to do with what is popular, what is needed or what might sell. Publishing in general, has now incorporated vanity press as a part of their business tactics. It would be worthwhile to know how much value publication is to a photographer.

Self Publishing In the supposed conflict caused by computers and digital work, one major plus for computers is the idea of desk top publishing. Anyone with a computer can now produce a book at will. Quality depends on the characteristics of the computer, the skills of the computer operator, and taste. Outstanding works are around. Editions are usually limited because there is so much hand work and costs are high. BUT it is here, and it is an option. You can do a book of your own in an edition of one. Having done one, you will quickly decide just how much more time and effort you are willing to give to do more. The technology is new; the idea is not. Ansel Adams collaborated with Mary Austin, back in 1930 in the wonderful book, Taos Pueblo. Dassonville (the pre-cursor of Xerox) sensitized paper so that Ansel could make real prints on the same paper as the book was printed. The edition was 108, and sold for $75 each. Imagine going to the darkroom and making 12 prints, 108 times. It sold out within two years.

Recently, I have received two self published books, and one self published portfolio. Understand I cannot duplicate the quality of the works. For more information and purchasing, I urge you to contact the authors direct. I know the effort that went into each project. They all would be wonderful additions for any serious collector. This is a way to support your fellow photographers, and reward them for doing something substantial.

It also can serve as notice to the publishing industry that they are no longer the only avenue.

For further information regarding the three illustrated self published books or portfolio, contact:

David Vestal. PO Box 309, Bethlehem CT 06751. no e-mail

Paul Christean. 854 Wilshire Place. Salt Lake City UT 84102.

Bruce Haley. 619 Ojalla Road. Siletz OR 97380.

picture book
photos by David Vestal
excerpts from David’s
newsletter, Grump 88,
June 2003

My new inkjet ability opened a door I hadn’t imagined before-a chance to print my own picture book according to my own taste and offer the result to anyone who’d want it. Not so easy to do as it seemed at first, but yes, possible. More experiments followed, and now I have a letter-size book, half an inch thick, of 52 b/w photos in inkjet form-It’s the simplest picture book I could think of. I like it. Then David goes into an in depth run down of costs and problems and prep work and how the process went on and on, for about three weeks. He found he could print, collate and bind two copies a day. Such is the carefree life of the self-publishing photographer. Adding, “to my pleasure and dismay, a few of these inkjet prints look definitely better to me than the darkroom prints I scanned them from. That surprised me, but it stands to reason; inkjet printing gives me a new kind of chance to solve some of their problems.” And finally he says he doesn’t know how much to charge for this book, and asks an opinion. By the time you get this, I’m sure the money issue will be resolved. This is an excellent chance to procure a major body of work by David Vestal at a bargain price.
Distilling Apocalypse into Art
Observations on the post-communist industrial photographs of Bruce Haley

“For three years, Oregon-based photographer Bruce Haley has documented the decaying industrial infrastructure of countries once shrouded by the Iron Curtain. This new body of work offers a provocative glimpse at the legacy of pollution and destruction left behind after the fall of communism.”
—Barron Bixler.

A quality 500 edition portfolio in a die cut folder with 13 loose photographs printed in quadtone process by Meridian Printing. A gorgeous production, by Meridian, the best.

Finding The Light
The Space Time Travels of Paul Christean

Paul has traveled with me since 1988. I doubt I have taught him anything. I think he just likes the company and the places I go. He is one of those who dances to different music. In my dictionary, he could easily replace the word surreal. When I look at his photographs, taken while with me, I wonder how he ever saw ‘that’. His sometimes outrageous dry humor and wit leave many a newcomer scratching their head. 54 photographs that are inner events; what is going on between Paul Christean and the subject. Urinating in the middle of the Extraterrestrial Highway (375), near Rachel Nevada, at mid day with a can of Tab in his free hand seems reasonable. He lives and works in Salt Lake City. He is Mormon, and although he sometimes pokes fun at the church, I think down deep he is quite proud of his heritage. Whatever it is, I don’t know, but something has made him the way he is, made him see the way he sees, and drives him to see a project through with style and class and quality. He is a breath of fresh air in a sometimes suffocating yuppie oriented society. In his day job he works for a high tech industry, yet he does not have a cell phone. The Stephen King of Photography. You’ll have to talk to Paul about the book, and don’t expect a reasonable answer. Press, and get one however. I’ve got mine.
The Rendezvous: My Gawd, the Rendezvous

In February, I received a letter from Huntington Witherill. It was polite and certainly not offensive. The nature of the letter was his dislike of the Rendezvous being held at Songdog Ranch. He listed his reasons and ended by saying he would not be coming to the Rendezvous anymore as long as it was at Songdog. Hunter is a good friend, and one of my favorite photographers, AND he’s married to that nice lady, Tracy. I took his letter seriously. I made many phone calls. I asked for opinions, and boy did I get them. The wires were hot with all the e-mail comments, and like or dislike, they all were well thought out and made sense.

The first Rendezvous was in 1988 and it was a take off of my fall workshops around Mono Lake dating back to 1969. Four of us organized the 1988 event: Don Cameron, Bruce Carter, Randy Hahn* and myself. 88 people attended at America Flat, a mining ruin near Virginia City, Nevada. Don Cameron led us there as a place he had worked and done a fine body of large format work. Neat place even if we did have to co-habitate with a sedate bunch of skin heads. The following year (1989) I took over the Rendezvous, moved it to Lundy Canyon and restricted attendance to those who had taken previous Al Weber workshops. My idea was to run a cheap outing where friends could get together and share work. I’ve been teaching workshops a long time, and know a lot of photographers who would like to get out with others, but really no longer need a workshop; thus the Rendezvous. Lundy Canyon was a great spot, but in late October, when the Rendezvous is held, it routinely was darned cold. Earlier and warmer weather finds the canyon full of fisherman types, and there never was room for a group of our size. After a few years of freezing our tails off, we moved South to Diaz Lake by Lone Pine, where it seemed it would be warmer. The complaints rolled in; too noisy, lousy food service in Lone Pine (still the truth). People showed their prints then took off and photographed instead of staying and looking at the other work, some campers decided to split off and find their own camp up in the hills, leaving the main camp where lots of good conversation happens after hours. So Diaz Lake wasn’t the ideal place. DJ Bassett kept telling me about this funky ranch between Bakersfield and Ojai. So we checked it out. Songdog Ranch, run by Jim Reveley, is designed for motorcyclists and is on a very remote, treeless, dusty high plain. It has a straw bale lodge, outhouses, some shade shelters, and a large BBQ space where Rev and his crew prepare food for many people. The price was right. Two nights camping, four meals, and my administrative charges (insurance, mailing, Jack Daniels, etc) added up to $115 per attendee. Yep, it’s dusty up there. and yep, there are a lot of flies, and yep, in 2001, the food wasn’t good. BUT it was secure, isolated and cheap. That brings us to now.

The Rendezvous is already scheduled for this coming October 17-19 at Songdog Ranch. Two guest demonstrations are scheduled. Carolee Campbell and her Ninja Press and Kazu, a fine illustration photographer from Chicago. The program will run as before. The cost is $115 for each person who attends. No dogs or children and no drop ins. This will include a camp site for Friday and Saturday nights, evening meals for Friday and Saturday, and breakfasts for Saturday and Sunday.

I’m convinced that if we camped at the Taj Majal and had catering by Julia Childs, there would always be someone who is not happy. The food incidentally was just fine in 2002 and I think that issue is behind us. Speaking of behinds, one complainer described a splinter in their rear from the outhouse. Yes, those who move around an outhouse with their drawers down can expect slivers. There seems to be a substantial group who wish to continue the Rendezvous at Songdog. So be it.

In 2004, and beyond, The Rendezvous will continue at Songdog Ranch.

* Randy Hahn had been with me in workshops since the 1970’s. He was first and foremost a Texan, did commercial work, and ran a large color lab in Dallas with his wife, Lee. We don’t know what happened to Randy, but the best guess is that he just got tired of the rat race and decided to move on. He committed suicide; no date or further information was given.

Fall Workshop Schedule

03-04. Rendezvous at Songdog Ranch. October 17, 18 & 19. $115
Dating back to 1988, the gathering is designed for those who have attended previous Weber workshops. Portfolios are shown and discussed, without criticism, a guest demonstration is planned, this year by Carolee Campbell of Ninja Press with her exquisite hand made portfolios and museum quality books. There are general discussions of topical issues and a print exchange. Tuition includes two nights camp fee, 2 dinners and 2 breakfasts and a neat old lodge where we meet. The meals are cooked cowboy style, chicken, turkey, tri-tip, beans, garlic bread, SOS, scrambled eggs and lots of coffee at picnic tables. Just like camping out, but you don’t have to do any cooking or clean-up. The idea of a rendezvous dates back to thinking there are many who have been in workshops, would still like to get out and mingle with others, but don’t need further instruction.

03-05. The Pinnacles and Mercy Hot Springs. October 24, 25 & 26. $275
South of Hollister, along the western flank of the Great Central Valley, lies an agricultural area of California that has just sat there for decades, drawing little attention. Wonderful old fence rows, wooden barns, big ones, huge oaks that reach out over the highway, and fields, as far as the eye can see. There is a comfortable campground at Pinnacles National Monument for the first night. The Pinnacles are a workshop to themselves; full of mystery, straddling the San Andreas Fault, then over to Mercy Hot Springs; must have been a super spa, back 80 years ago, but still some funky cabins, a pool, a campground, a place to look backwards instead of forward. Maybe a run up to Los Banos for a family dinner at the Wool Growers Hotel, a fine old Basque restaurant. Nothing intense about this trip. Easy going, fun, great photographic exercises just ripe for the picking. Tired of all the conceptual contemporary politically correct crap? Tag along on this one for a breath of fresh air. Scheduled when the landscape is dry and golden.

03-06. Carmel Studio, Big Sur Coast & Mission San Antonio. November 7, 8 & 9. $275
Day one, hang out at the studio, going over technical issues, checking meters, looking at examples, demonstrating some Polaroid, and an afternoon shoot. Day two, travel south down the coast, shoot and run, lunch at Big Sur, camp in the wooded high country of Hunter Liggett. Day three. Mission San Antonio; a concentrated day working with the architecture of the mission, the related gardens and artifacts.

To Apply If you want to sign up for a workshop, send me a check, say which workshop you want, and I’ll send you an information sheet. Any money sent will be cheerfully refunded should you decide to cancel and I don’t care why. I ask that you notify me of cancellation prior to the workshop. Your name will be placed on a roster only when I have received a check.

No sign-ups by Email or telephone.

Little Known Naval History

A Newsletter with only photography would indeed be very boring

The U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) as a combat vessel carried 48,600 gallons of fresh water for her crew of 475 officers and men. This was sufficient to last six months of sustained operations at sea. She carried no evaporators (fresh water distillers).

However, let it be noted that according to her log, “On July 27, 1798, the U.S.S. Constitution sailed from Boston with a full complement of 475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of fresh water, 7,400 cannon shot, 11,600 pounds of black powder and 79,400 gallons of rum.”

Her mission: “To destroy and harass English shipping.”

Making Jamaica on 6 October, she took on 826 pounds of flour and 68,300 gallons of rum.

Then she headed for the Azores, arriving there 12 November. She provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and 64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine.

On 18 November, she set sail for England.

In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war and captured and scuttled 12 English merchantmen, salvaging only the rum aboard each.

By 26 January, her powder and shot were exhausted. Nevertheless, and though unarmed, she made a night raid up the Firth of Clyde in Scotland. Her landing party captured a whiskey distillery and transferred 40,000 gallons of single malt Scotch aboard by dawn.

Then she headed home.

The U.S.S. Constitution arrived in Boston on 20 February 1799, with no cannon shot, no food, no powder, NO rum, NO wine, NO whiskey and 38,600 gallons of stagnant water.

The above information was provided by Ron Suttora, keeper of important and applicable trivia. For additional juicy tidbits not usually provided by the media, contact

Flash! David Vestal and Al Weber will team teach a workshop next August (2004) in Condon, Montana for the Photographers’ Formulary. For further information, contact Bud at the Formulary, 1-800 922-5255, or e-mail
See what happens when you put a Grump and a Old Goat in Big Sky Country
Flash II

Photo Techniques will publish an article about David Vestal before the end of the year. Known as somewhat of a East Coast mal content, the article will be written by West Coast mal content Al Weber.

That’s it for now, see you when I see you,
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