Stare Network
Home  |  Newsletter  |  Workshops  |  Contact
2006 28th year

145 Boyd Way
Carmel CA 93923
831 624-5535

2009 Newsletter

2008 Newsletter

2007 Newsletter

2006 Newsletter

2005 Newsletter

2004 Newsletter

2003 Newsletter No. 2

2003 Newsletter No. 1

2002 Newsletter

2001 Newsletter

Al Weber 2006 Newsletter

Defining a Newsletter. A newspaper sells advertising to support printing the news. A newsletter prints news to promote advertising. Recent mail has newsletters with little or no news. What’s the story? The loss of Photo District News and Grump put a hole in my newsletter inventory. They were good. They had useful news. John Sexton writes a letter that has useful information. The latest gossip about Kodak and what they are doing, for instance. It also lists his books, his workshops and the prints he has for sale. It’s a fair balance. Maybe others who contain no news, have no news to pass on. Some seem rather full of themselves. Those who editorialize are fine. I read what Brooks Jensen says in Lenswork, (although it really is a magazine and not a newsletter), because he’s not afraid to tell you where he stands on issues. I may not always agree with him, but I know that if he writes it, it isn’t hype from some sublimal source. I like those who not only have an opinion, but aren’t afraid to speak out. Go get em Brooks, and keep doing the most handsome magazine out there.

Several years ago, I asked a graduate class to research a number of articles in the magazines. They found a substantial number of so called authors, never had done what they wrote. Of course that doesn’t happen anymore, does it?

David Vestal couldn’t stand the retirement of Grump. That’s what it looks like to me. He has introduced a new publication, finity, that is brief and has quality pictures. Same old David. Full of vinegar and fact and good taste. I am a loyal fan, because I find him worth being loyal to. This new finity costs $30 for a subscription. If you are interested in serious and solid photographic information, sign up now. Editorial aim? finity aspires to the spasmodic and inconsistent achievement of imperfection in all that it undertakes. Nothing less will do. David Vestal, PO Box 309. Bethlehem CT.06751.

The IRS says newsletters are advertising. So I guess that makes it so. Who wants to argue with them? I think, and this is just my opinion, many who say they write a newsletter really produce a catalogue. And those of you in rural communities know what catalogues are good for.

Vestal & Weber at the Photographer’s Formulary
Well, you might as well know the truth. In my August 2005 newsletter, I lied. David Vestal and I WILL do another workshop at the Photographer’s Formulary in Montana. June 25-30, 2006. I don’t know why anyone wants to hang out with two old geezers way up in Montana who still work with film and chemicals and 40 year old cameras. Maybe because we’ve been doing it a while; combined about a hundred years. (more really) We argue and don’t agree on everything. Mysteriously we seem to keep making respectable photographs. David takes pictures. I make pictures. That’s what David says. I’m not sure what it means, but it’s OK with me. Almost forgotten cameras like Leicas, Hasselblads and Rollies. Old fashioned suspicious hardware that seems to just keep working, and doesn’t go out of date with a change in the weather. A week of black and white photography with emphasis on hand craft. No esoteric mumbo jumbo about psychological under currents. Leave that to the long winded crystal ball gazers. Stay in a swell room, shared or alone, your choice, camp or hang out down the road in a motel, and let Lynn and her crew pamper and feed you like royalty. The meals alone are worth the tuition, and you don’t have to wash the dishes. Outstanding and well equipped darkrooms, and a chemical supply house second to none.

With the rapidly changing photographic world, Black and White, as known for the past 100 years, is changing and shrinking. Common only a decade ago, the silver gelatin print is becoming more and more rare, making it almost eligible for an alternate process designation. With time in fact, that is exactly what will probably happen. Shrinking availability of film, chemistry and paper is the result of digital growth. Arguing about it and swearing about it are simply a waste of time. If you enjoy the characteristics of a fine black and white print join us. When done right, it is fine hand rubbed lacquer compared to cheap enamel.

Like all the other processes taught at the Formulary, many from the 19th century, each has its very own strength and beauties. Like a kid in a candy store, one has the option to move in many directions. Black, and White, or Silver Gelatin, joins all these other methods to assist the photographer in choosing the best approach for their individual taste. None is better or best; they’re simply different.

To those who continually argue about this or that, they could be making photographs. One has so much time, so much energy. I choose not to waste one precious minute.

Come on up, hang out, work, observe or just suck it up. This is a super week, that’s why we do it. Priced at $685.00 plus room and board. A touch of masking, pre-exposure, the Zone System, pushing, fine printing, proper negative development and the wonderful world of Vestal, his fastidious approach and supreme prints; easily understood and there for the taking.

To learn and contol black and white aids those who choose any photographic process. That includes color, silk screen, digital and all the gorgeous non silver avenues. It is the simple and proper ground work to all applied sensitometry.
The Photographer’s Formulary The Photographer’s Formulary is located in Northwest Montana. It is a full service workshop and supply center, specializing in 19th century processes. The facilities are the best. The labs are well equipped and spacious. Housing is great. The meal plan is outstanding. It is a great place to study, work, and relax. Long known for its outstanding chemical supply business, Bud and Lynn Wilson have built an enviable camp. With the closing of Victor School, it offers me a great place to keep my fingers in the western photographic world, do a little teaching with an old friend, and recharge my batteries. For a catalogue of workshops, contact the Formulary at PO Box 950, Condon Montana 59826-0950. 800 922-5255. Fax 406 754-2896.
The Rendezvous, 2005 Sixty hearty souls showed in King City for the Rendezvous. I guess it went OK. Everything seemed to work well. Many thanks first, to Russ and Lee Tinsley for feeding the whole crowd on Friday night. It was just great. Second, Jan and Gale Pietrzak did the honors on Saturday night. Don’t expect it in the future. It was a lot of work, but much appreciated. Besides sharing photographs, several ideas came out which have merit. Jim Ginney suggested that a scholarship be considered to the Rendezvous. A committee has been formed. It will be in effect for 2006. See Scholarship below.
The Rendezvous for 2006. October 21-23. San Lorenzo Park in King City CA. $125. Other dates were suggested. It just didn’t work. We will meet, as usual, on the third weekend of October. Reservations are already made. The park seems good for our group. I need suggestions as to group dinners. Yes or No. The purpose of the Rendezvous is for former workshop participants (of Al Weber workshops) to gather and share work and ideas. Even find a bit of time to make a few photographs. It usually is a large crowd. That gives more exposure to what you’ve been doing. Over the years (began in 1988) the program has grown into a quiet steady affair that is supportive rather than critical or cute. Honest feed back by peers is the idea. You may camp in the park, stay in your RV in the park, or stay downtown in a modest motel. Camping fees are included in the tuition. King City is the hub of Salinas Valley agriculture. Surrounding fields and barns are picturesque. Two missions are nearby. Adjacent hills are covered with live oaks. It’s a pretty nice setting, and the park is a county agricultural museum with historic relics and equipment of many descriptions. October is pleasant. Somewhere between 30 and 60 will attend. FLASH. As you know, I try to have a guest at each Rendezvous that is for the good of the order. This year with the assistance of Martin Vargas (who, with his wife has a fine new son, Diego) Ken Cook will join us. Ken runs a family studio that covers four generations (that’s close to a hundred years). He prints everything he shoots and in my eyes, is one of the great portrait photographers of our time. He’s going to run out his ideas and lighting techniques for us and talk about his success story that is most enviable. Those interested in photographic portraits are in for a real eye opener.
Historic Missions and Wildflowers. April 28, 29 & 30. David Gubernick and Al Weber. $150. Limit 20. The Salinas Valley in Central California is diversified, elegant and featured frequently in the writing of John Steinbeck. Dating back to when the padres established the chain of missions, all the subsequent changes, mostly agricultural, can be seen and photographed up to the current trend of grapes and wine. Working from King City, three missions are within minutes. Wildflowers, as illustrated in Gubernick’s wonderful book, WILDFLOWERS OF MONTEREY COUNTY are abundant in the spring, and David will concentrate in this area. Weber will work more with the missions, but neither will exclude the other. Applications in selective focus, macro photography and the artistry of close-up photography will be emphasized with individual coaching in the field. Polaroid will be used to illustrate view camera functions at the missions. Participants may camp at San Lorenzo Park or stay in nearby motels. We’ll get away from the hustle and bustle and explore several old country roads less traveled. The Salinas River, creator of the valley, is mostly underground, but highly visible in the springtime. This is a pleasant time of year in the valley. The workshop is intentionally priced below market (see diatribe about high prices) and with two instructors, who know each other well, offers a range of applications, both conventional and digital, 35 mm to large format, to satisfy everyone. Bring work to share if you like. For reference, David’s book above, and Anne Fisher’s THE SALINAS, UPSIDE DOWN RIVER are excellent. The Fisher book is out of print, but available at the library. Additional material will be sent to registered participants.
Your Dollars and My Sense If this works, it may be the way of my workshops for a while. I am disturbed/disgusted with the ever escalating prices of everything, including workshops, and by golly I’m going to do my small part to combat it. Programs like Extension at Santa Cruz (and they’ve moved to Cupertino) have become excessive. The average cost at Anderson Ranch in Colorado is now running from $250 per day to $400, JUST FOR TUITION, and you have to get there, which even adds to the dilemma. (Unless you have a Lear jet and can fly into Aspen) I’ll try a lower price and two instructors, and see how the attendance goes. Watch for the next thrilling chapter. You’ll know it worked if I do more. If there is no more-oh well, we gave it a shot.
Enrollment To sign up for a workshop, send a tuition check to Al Weber, 145 Boyd Way, Carmel CA 93923. On receipt, I’ll send you a information sheet regarding the workshop. It’s that simple. No sign ups by e-mail or phone. You will be placed on a roster when your check is received. Should you sign up and later change your mind, all of your money will be cheerfully refunded. No questions asked . No administrative fee retained; you get every nickel back. This keeps paper work tidy and the cash flow healthy. Thank you in advance.
A Scholarship to the Rendezvous $500 cash plus a free tuition. The idea is to support a needy student who might find the Rendezvous of interest. I also think it will be good for some of the old timers to see what younger people are doing and thinking. No strings attached. Winner only needs to attend the Rendezvous and participate. Spend the money anyway you like. Camp out, eat beans and put a few bucks in your pocket, or, stay in a nice motel, eat at Margie’s and enjoy yourself. For an application, contact Jim Noel, at Your financial status will be of major concern.
Used equipment Maybe you will see something you just have to have. It’s a great time to be buying conventional photographic equipment. The growing popularity of Digital has flooded the market with now unused cameras and darkroom equipment. If you are staying with traditional photography, buy used equipment now

1. 8x10 Toyo View. As new. Halliburton case, a few holders. Dagor 8” & Symar-S 360mm. Both with Copal shutters. See at Al Weber’s. The camera belongs to John Patrick in Pocatello Idaho. Best used camera I’ve seen in a long time. $2500.

2. Leitz Focomat V35 Autofocus B&W/Color Enlarger. 40mm f/2.8 lens. Operating manual. $1000. Carefully used by Carolee Campbell. If you are into 35mm this is the crown jewel of enlargers. The best. 818 906-9971.

3. CAP 40 Ilfochrome processor. A laminar flow table top three step machine for Ciba/Ilfochrome processes. Owned by Dan Bianchetta in Big Sur and only used to make lovely color prints of Indian rock art. Call and haggle. 667-2502.

4. Used, but hardly, 8 ft Alaskan cab over camper. Owned by a little old country lawyer in Wyoming. Fits _ ton pickup with 8 ft bed. Complete and everything works. Call Al Weber if interested, and I’ll make the connection. And no, it’s not my old beat up 10 footer. (which, incidentally is free to the first taker, as is)
Books Notes On A Shared Landscape. David Bayles. Image Continuum. $29.95. David brought us Art & Fear with Ted Orland, and now presents his inner thoughts regarding wilderness, the writing and photographing of it. In harmony with Robert Adams, Barry Lopez and Bill Jay. A new way of expression; I like it. At your independent bookstore or Amazon.

The Esselen Indians of the Big Sur Country. Gary Breschini and Trudy Haversat. $ Esselens, native to Big Sur, are little known when thinking of American Indians. Archeologists Gary and his wife, Trudy have spent years researching and documenting their history. This is a great read and very thorough, Trudy and Gary are good photographers, and the book is handsomely illustrated.

Douglas I. Busch. Retrospektive. Doug Busch. Edition Braus. $50. A catalogue of extensive showing of Busch’s photographs, ranging from early work right up to last minute minimal color. A great way to see in depth, the work of Busch. Contact either Busch (510 547-5477) or Weber. I have a few.

Pirkle Jones California Photographer. Aperture. Fine book about a great photographer. Normally $45, but I got a few remaindered at $25.

Don Worth Close to Infinity. Photography West Graphics. Photographs from Six Decades. My vote for the finest book in recent times. About $100.

Point Lobos. Monica Hudson and Suzanne Wood. $19.99. California Legacy Tours. .Great little history book on the background and development of Point Lobos, nicely illustrated and good reading. The Hudson family owned Point Lobos at one time and it was almost subdivided. Read all the juicy facts.

Cranial Czar, Eh? Stu Levy. $40. Nazraeli Press. 526 East 16th Street Tucson AZ 85701. One of my favorite people and one of my favorite photographers in one of my favorite presses. A lovely little jewel. Just what I would expect from Stu and Chris Pichler.

Halcott Center. A Catskill Mountain Valley. Mark Citret. Shinbark Press. San Francisco. A long time coming. I consider this the foundation from which Mark works. $42 plus tax from Mark at

Passing Through. Richard Menzies. Stephens Press. $21.95. An Existential Journey Across America’s Outback. Once in a while you bump into someone who gets your attention without trying. Richard is that way. This superb book of his travels around the back roads in a 35 year old brand new VW van is a screamer. It is rural western America at it’s finest, by a most talented photographer, all in black and white. I like it so well I have two copies.

You can’t buy this one. Read this and weep. Otis is a Place. By Janet Schipper. An edition of ten, and I got #6. I credit Carolee Campbell of Ninja Press for the enthusiastic upswing of hand made books, of which this is one. No publisher would print the Otis book, I am sure. But it needs to be seen, even in a limited number. Quiet, sensitive and tasteful, this is what is coming about more and more, and I say hooray. Stay the course, Janet, you’re a hero to me.

While looking at small hand made books, for Christmas I received a winner by Erik Woodbury, in Santa Barbara. It is of his two daughters and called, Here’s Looking At You, Kid. Briefly it is modeled after an early series where each page had one animal and was cut horizontally. The top and bottom could be turned independently such that the top of any animal might be juxtaposed with the bottom of any other animal. Only Erik did it with his daughters. There is life yet in books. They don’t all have to be duo tone printed on Chromekote with some esoteric introduction.

Rita Bottoms, Polyartist Librarian. UC Santa Cruz 1965-2003. Interviewed and edited by Irene Reti. $121.24, Regional History Project, McHenry Library, UC Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz CA 95064 A 265 page history of the career of Rita as Head of Special Collections. Rita went straight to UCSC out of Library School at UCLA, and started what has become a major collection in our state. Her drive, sense of order, and unusual wide spread vocabulary in the arts, all arts has made Special Collections at UCSC what it is today. The interviews take you through all the negotiations with each and every cranky squirrel that has been collected. Their idiosyncrasies, their passions and what made them great. Each page is a laugh or cry, and chronicles the importance of housing our regional and national art. Rita is retired now, and Special Collections will go on, but it will never be the same as when she stalked the corridors of the McHenry Library. And I’ll bet you thought all librarians were quiet and shy.

Beginners Mind. Jerry Wolfe. $39.95. This is a dark dance that goes to the roots of our subconscious mind where light and form first recognize each other. From the introduction by William Giles. A leading and most respected authority on the application of Buddhist philosophy to the making of fine art photographs. Richard Garrod there is nothing I can add to that. Jerry has done a swell book.

Land and Light in the American West. John Ward. $45. Trinity Press, San Antonio, Texas. I’ve followed the work of John Ward for 25 years. His devotion to the earth we live on and environmental issues is ever present in highly crafted, large format black and white traditional process. He is a standard bearer to all who would work in the landscape. Influenced by Elliot Porter and maybe Ansel Adams, he continues their venue of showing us the beauty of nature. Quiet and serious, with his wife Susan, who is a fine potter, he travels the western states in his aging Ford truck and just simply keeps making wonderful photographs. This book makes a companion to his earlier book, Colorado Magnificent Wilderness, which is all in color.

The Landscape in Black and White. Oliver Schuchard, 1967-2005. University of Missouri Press. This is the work of a teacher. In each picture, Ollie gives you his inner thoughts as he time traveled through the American Midwest and West. It is the work of a model Midwesterner. Mild mannered, quiet, soft spoken and deliberate, Ollie has spent his whole teaching career at the University of Missouri in their art department, and now they honor him with this fine book

Tanili. Mary Ann Hanson. High Desert Productions. Well, you probably won’t find this one, but if you do, it is a smile maker. Remember Mary Ann? The great helper at Victor School back in the 80’s. Well, she is now a book illustrator and this is a children’s book, an AfroCuban folktale, and it is charming. Sometimes one wishes they could look ahead instead of looking backward. I never would have guessed this is where Mary Ann would go. But bravo.

While on the Victor subject, Hal Halberstadt taught our first workshop in 1979. Hal is gone now, but his oldest son, Hans has a neat series of books out. The first one, The American Fire Engine is a fine picture history of our glories fire equipment, nicely illustrated and excellent text and the second is Farm Tractors with text by his wife, April and photos by Hans. The first response is one of simplicity and clarity, but don’t be fooled. These, and all the other books the Halberstadts do, run deep and carry sound historical information. About $30 each. For complete information, write The Halberstadts and Webers , as the saying says, go way back.

FLASH. Just out, but I haven’t seen a copy yet. Ted Orland has a new book; a companion to Art & Fear. The View From the Studio Door. How Artists Find Their Way in an Uncertain World. $12.95. Look it up on Amazon. More philosophic than A&F, but still with the Orland touch. This has to be another winner. Few have the insight and humor of Ted.
Weird Harold & Fat Albert’s Good Eats From the Series: Great Restaurants for Real Photographers. A while ago, I wrote about Tommy’s in Seaside. The city leveled his building and Tommy has moved to Marina. It’s on Del Monte, South end, behind the Union Station, in a neat small house. Believe it or not, nothing has changed. Same great breakfast, Same working type people around. Same Working Man’s Breakfast (2 eggs, hash browns and toast) for 99 cents, same great waitress, Judy. She isn’t kind of good at what she does, she is definitely the best. Last week I ate at a Carmel favorite. From Scratch. Eggs, toast, coffee, bacon. $12.50. This week I ate at Tommy’s, same everything, $3.50. The difference? Tommy’s was better.

OK, so you’re coming to Carmel and by God, you are going to eat in a Carmel restaurant. That’s what the little lady wants. One of those cute little Hansel and Gretel cottages where you can get a watercress sandwich and a cup of tea. Piddly little fair, but hang onto your wallet. Let’s compromise. In the Crossroads, just east of town, is a delightful and colorful restaurant where you will get good food, friendly service, a fair price and parking at the door. Masheed and Harry Khani own and operate Stravaganza. This is a swell place. Very colorful, bright and sunny, with patio dining. Super friendly people and a menu that defies description. It seems everyone can find something they like. Advertised as California-Mediterranean, or, “What color tastes like”, I promise you won’t go away hungry. I’ve never had anything there that wasn’t good. More Carmel than Carmel. What Carmel restaurants would like to be, but can’t because they are too hung up on the money. Run, don’t walk. The meat ball or snapper sandwiches are two of my lunch favorites. Stravaganza. 831 625-3733. 241 Crossroads Blvd.

That old cliché, probably from Stanford, that says you should not live to eat but eat to live, obviously came from some prude who never sat down at the same places I find. Years ago, Monterey had a grand old doctor, who practiced into his 80’s. He wrote a letter to the local paper titled,” Stanford is the Enemy.” He told how he started the day with two Camel cigarettes, followed by bacon, eggs, toast with plenty of real salted butter and black coffee. With lunch he usually downed a couple of martini’s, and he admitted to having a thing for a good steak, often. He lived and worked into old age, and continually ranted about all the university findings concerning nutrition.

As I grow older, and older, which certainly is better than the other choice, I find myself moving further from what might be termed fine cuisine. I’m sick and tired of bread full of grains and no preservatives. Give me good old Rainbo or Wonder bread, white of course, never ages, and always tastes just fine to me. Skippy peanut butter, Van Camps pork n beans, French’s mustard, big white onions, and hamburger just barely cooked: now you’re talking my language. Wine in a box makes a lot of sense. Cheap gin tastes like gin. Hot dogs smothered with everything, fried eggs and crisp bacon. Strong black coffee. Hell, I might live to 120, maybe longer, if Bruce* makes the coffee. Bruce makes a mean cup of coffee that will get your attention. Problem is it gets your attention for quite a while. Great cure for that occasional constipation however. For emergencies, one should ALWAYS have an adequate supply of Spam on hand and be able to wash it down with Tab, the all American beverage. Some day, instead of writing another book about the Zone System, maybe I’ll do a cookbook for workshops.

Understand in my effort to streamline and condense my mailing list/workshop attendees, the above ramble will automatically eliminate a certain element.

*Bruce Carter has traveled with me on workshops for thirty years. He can fix anything, cook anything, walk anywhere, does snore and fart a lot, but mostly is just plain good company.
We Need to Remember Last year was a tough one with the untimely loss of some good old traveling buddies: Dick Baker, Charlie Morrell, Dudley Wiltse, Cherry Hunter, David Noblett and Miriam Birmingham. 2005 was not a kind year. Well, they are gone, but I will remember all of them for a long, long time. I find Hunter Thompson’s comment most fitting.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a ride!’ “

(for Charlie)

“I heard the news today, oh boy,”
the song goes.

But not this one.

“Oh shit,”
would be more like it.


I heard the news today
that Charlie passed away,
the kind of guy who’d call that
word, “bullshit.”

Tell ‘em simply I died,
he would say.
Not passed away,
or passed.
I’m gone, man, just gone

And with him,
this short guy you didn’t call that
or didn’t notice, really
the shortness

This gruff guy,
heart as big as the Universe
his internet messages poured into,
his website the world came to see

Charlie, photographer from Colorado
assistant to my friend Al
from down the coast.

The quintessence
(a bullshit word he’d call that,
but it still fits),
the quintessence of independent artist
roaming the West in his beat-up camper

being with fellow photographers
drinking whiskey
watching out for the new guys
like me.


I miss him,
miss not being reminded
of there being an end
to each moment

on the road together
as we headed out
crack of dawn
to photograph some unsuspecting beauty
sidelit by the sun
somewhere in the Southwest

Miss not having to think
that all my friends and lovers
are no more permanent than I


“I’d love to turn you on,”
the song says,
but not, I believe now,
the way I used to

switch me on
turn the key
let out the clutch

just get goin’
Charlie would say

live this moment, buddy
live it, man
live it like there’s no tomorrow


I will, Charlie,
thank you.


Though I sure wish we had said goodbye.

Robert Nielsen
Carmel Valley

(on reading Al Weber’s email about coming to my poetry reading, and the news of Charlie Morrell’s death)
Well, that's it for now, see you when I see you,

contents copyright ©2006 Stare Network; all rights reserved