Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bluegrass Music / 8×10” Enlargements / Mr. Monroe’s 100th Birthday

In the last five years as all else in my life has slip-slided away, two things remain: my camera and my music. Today I dig deep into my academic, bluegrass, and photography past. I can thank one person for creating a music form that has shaped much of my musical development: William “Bill ’ Smith Monroe.
Bill Monroe's grave, Rosine , KY, Andrew D. Barron © 9/13/07
Photographed on an emotional visit on Mr. Monroe’s birthday, 2007. Days later, I was proud to do a radio interview.


Things have been busy and very stormy here on the Pacific coast of Oregon, USA. Twenty four hours of rain, a break, and a mega hail storm were exciting. Less exciting were the power fluctuations from the thunder and lightning. There were some very close lightning strikes. Recently, two ethernet-tethered computers had their motherboards fried when nearby lightning struck; in the houses on either side of this studio! I imagine a degree of hardware protection from using laptop computers, but I’m not sure about that. A lightning suppressor is starting to look very important.

I have been working on many things in tandem, and sadly none of them are taking pictures or playing with different cameras.

The Rebel 2000 35mm camera giveaway has landed in Singapore. (image provided)
Barron photography 35mm camera giveaway lands in Singapore
Announced on 1/28 and shipped a few days later (2/2), it arrived on 2/11. All the way across the world. The new owner is excited about the camera’s journey and he looks forward to shooting with it. What more could a camera want?

Something happened to my p&s in the last few days. Suffice it to say that it’s not taking pictures right. The hipstamatic is fun to shoot, and until I get through this crunch phase, these are the pictures I took today. There were two very nice shots with the Instax 210. That camera and the hipstamatic share a certain preference for what they can image well.

The sunset was amazing but uncomfortably cold. I don’t know how Juha does it!
Ophir sunset, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/15/11
The clouds above the studio were breathtaking tonight. It was hard to shoot because I kept saying ‘WOW’ aloud. I held a 52mm polarizing filter up and later used Neat Image to reduce jpg noise.
Clouds above the studio, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron © 2/15/11
The clever folks that make the Hipstamatic camera application like to predate the BlacKeys Ultrachrome film by 30 years. There is an option to stop that, but I’ve grown a fondness for it.
Clouds above the studio, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron © 2/15/11
Soon, I will be back to taking pictures. I have dedicated all of February to this ‘final exam’ of my photography to date. I am processing images to make prints. Many are 4×6” for friends, but most are being sent in for 8×10” enlargements. My recent experiements with analog formats are closing out in this phase, and I must tell you I am excited awaiting Instax scans printed at 8×10”. I am also sending a couple of the recent 110 images for 8×10” printing.

1995. I was nearing completion of my undergraduate degree in geology. I returned from a summer internship at a gold mine in Elko, Nevada. At 22 years old, with a new perspective about the world (and my career), I set myself on a trajectory to complete another degree in economics. Along the way I also audited courses in graphic design and eventually became a GIS professional. Early in 1996, my first semester as an econ major, I scribbled this on the back of a note listing homework:
Personal philosophy, 22 year old Andrew D. Barron © 5/23/10
One important measurement of success is the amount of time you can acquire in your life.
Andrew D. Barron, 1996

I am unsure how this piece of paper still exists, let alone how it found it’s way with me here. I photographed it last May, some 14 years after it was written down. The image makes a good experimental print because of the harsh overexposure of white that camera is prone to. You can see the the bands made in preparation for cropping errors by the photolab. For these enlargements, the main image is 7.6×9.6” slightly larger than a matte with a 7½×9½” opening. I added a series of 0.1” borders alternating in black and white to bring the file to 8×10”. In this way, I’ll have calculable evidence of the mistakes for returning them if necessary. Perhaps I can learn what on earth needs to happen to prevent cropping mistakes.

Another project is the celebration of Bill Monroe’s 100th birthday here in 2011. It wouldn’t be right to let the opportunity to share my images from my year in Kentucky slip away. There were things that made shooting in Kentucky difficult: the light, my own early days as a photographer, and the suspicions of a post-911 American people. A few nice images have surfaced thus far. This year, I aim to bring prints to bluegrass festivals and see what response there may be. I usually end up playing and singing too much to be bothereed with anything else though.

My year in Kentucky began on September 9, 2007, only two days before Mr. Monroe’s birthday anniversary. These shots are from the birthplace of Bill Monroe and of bluegrass music on Jerusalem Ridge, near Rosine, not far from Hartford and Beaver Dam.
Jerusalem Ridge, Rosine, KY, Andrew D. Barron © 9/10/07
In 1991, this building was dilapidated and falling down, seen in a documentary where Mr. Monroe sadly strolls through and sings a falsetto a cappella verion of The Old, Old House. The first studio version of that song is from the first Monroe box set I splurged for. It spun endlessly while doing my doomed PhD research in the Nevada desert near Winnemucca, Nevada in 2003. All the while, driving around I was retraining my right hand and pick grip to tackle bluegrass mandolin which took a deep hold of me at that time. In those days, I was using an iRiver CDROM mp3 player that held 5-8 CDs worth of music per disc.
Bill Monroe's family home near Rosine, KY, Andrew D. Barron © 9/12/07
The old home place of the J.B. Monroe household.

There are more photos to dig through. Wayne Lewis was the lead singer for the Bluegrass Boys for 10 years, starting in the late 1970’s. He sang My Sweet Blue Eyed Darlin’, one of my favorites. Unfortunately, the orginal LP version is available only from the 4th career-spanning Bear Family boxed set (of 7) or on used vinyl, (Bluegrass Body and Soul, recorded in October of 1976.)

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Lewis during that first month in Kentucky. I also had an embarassing moment of singing Sweet Blue Eyed Darlin’ unaware that he was watching. Mr. Lewis has one of the finest voices in bluegrass; ‘a powerful lead.’. Playing bass in the photo is my friend Mark Hargis.


Wayne Lewis and Mark Hargis, Jerusalem Ridge, KY, Andrew D. Barron © 9/12/07
Quite late on 10/20/10, I ran through the song. I’ve never made a claim as a bluegrass flatpicker (I play mandolin, remember?). I normally perform the song in Bb, though Mr. Lewis’ version is the neighborhood of A. This one below is in Ab.

By no means is this a fitting tribute; it’s just what is handy tonight.

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