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Archive for February, 2011

Young boys and puddles have an affinity for each other. I happened on two boys and a puddle one day while cruising Saigon with my camera.

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There’s a story here. I wonder what it was? Whoops I dropped my homework in the puddle? What do I do next?

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Let’s crouch down for a closer look. Here, look at this. Or…? Maybe the boys saw the paper floating along and stopped for a closer look. We’ll never know but we can imagine a story (or two). Enjoy.

I’ve always loved taking pictures of kids. It was easy back then. Today? I’d probably get arrested or something.

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A street portrait with subtle reflections from a 44 year old Plus-X negative that came from the last roll of B&W film I shot before leaving Vietnam in January, 1967. I ‘found’ this image when I collected and rescanned all of my B&W negatives from my year in Saigon last month.

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I certainly got the look from the young girl — while her neighbors went on with their business unaware of my presence. I enjoyed wandering the streets of Saigon with my camera trying to capture the spirit and emotions I encountered.

My memory is a bit hazy, but I know I bought a new SLR with a 50mm lens a few months before I left Saigon so I’m sure this image was taken with that camera/lens combination. The camera was a Yashica (what did I know back then?) I use Nikons now and I still like the 50mm viewpoint and use it frequently.

I’ve been busy and haven’t had my cameras out for a few months. I must get out there and grab some new images soon — after I finish painting my home office.

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Portrait #1: Saigon 1966

I’ve always enjoyed making unposed portraits of children. One of the high points of my one year tour (USAF) in Vietnam back in 1966 into early 1967 were the photos I took on the streets of Saigon.

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This image is one of my favorites from that era. I was finally able to get decent scans and color balance from these old slides. The face, the expressive hands and her connection to her mother tell a lovely story. Enjoy.

 

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I found another dramatic, high contrast sky shot among my color slides and converted it to a much improved B&W image.

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Maybe I should have titled this one “Behind the Wire.” The aircraft is a South Vietnamese Air Force prop driven fighter.


I run the risk of spoiling the impact of the first shot with this one. The image is a cludge from a poor slide but it gives context. The main runway is on the right on the other side of the wire. The silver objects in the distance along the wire are the propane tanks that fueled the floodlights I mentioned in my post last week. You can see the blurred outline of the steering wheel in my jeep. Take note of the wonderful road I had to drive.

I almost broke my thumb one night when my front wheel slipped into a rut and the steering wheel spun like a roulette wheel. Ouch!

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King Salmon Air Force Station, on the north bank of the Naknek river, on the Alaskan Peninsula, was my first tour of duty in the Air Force. I was there from November 1963 to November 1964. My first full day of duty was November 22, 1963 — the day JFK was shot and all hell broke loose when the US military went on full combat alert.

I finally got all my surviving color slides (73 images) from my year in Alaska scanned and ready for prime time. All the images are ‘super slides’ shot with a box camera on 127 film. Here are a few neat reflection shots.

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The Air Force Station was at one end of the King Salmon Airport. Our mission (Air Police Security) was guarding the alert aircraft hangar and the nuclear storage facility. The runway was long enough to accommodate a wide range of aircraft and we had all kinds of interesting visitors like this KC-135 Stratotanker from SAC (Strategic Air Command).

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Here’s another shot I took from inside the patrol vehicle. Most of the time, us junior guys humped the ramp but we did get to ride patrol (in rotation).

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I like the angle of this shot. There’s no mistaking this aircraft for anything but a tanker.

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This final shot isn’t so dramatic, but it does give you a better sense of the refueling boom on the aircraft’s tail.

Little did I know that a year later I’d be stationed at Westover AFB in the center of Mass. Westover was a huge SAC base and 8th Air Force HQ that had 15 B-52s and a fleet of KC-135 tankers on alert ready to go when the sirens went off. The bombers were loaded with nukes and the tankers full up with JP4.

I was assigned to the Combat Defense Squadron (don’t remember our unit number). Our mission was to secure the flight line and guard every one of those aircraft and their alert air crews. I have plenty of stories but no photographs. And yes, I got to know the KC-135 and B-52 intimately — 8 long hours at a time.

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At the height of the Vietnam war, Tan San Nhut airbase/airport was the busiest airport in the world.

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I got a good angle on this shot, taken from the ground. The big aircraft in the foreground is a C130 transport plane taxiing for takeoff. I can’t remember what the fast mover was. We had lots of F4 Phantoms and F100s — could have been one of them.

I really like the dynamics of this shot and the great sky. This image was converted from a color slide scan. I liked the intense blues in the color shot but this B&W version is better because it removes the distraction of the colors and heightens the drama

The date stamped on my slide is Dec 1966 so I probably took this photo when I was making my rounds on the base perimeter. I was a short timer by then. I left Nam in January 1967.

So, back to my rounds. I got this great job for the last two or three months of my tour. I was the lamp lighter (among other things). We had propane gas floodlights around the base perimeter. Every evening about dusk, I’d drive around in my jeep and light all the floods. During the day, I would change empty propane tanks for full tanks.

They were big suckers too. It was lots of fun driving around in a jeep with one or two gas tanks that barely fit in the back seat, especially since I was driving on rutted dirt tracks.

The first shirt and some of the guys in security ops made a holster for me to carry my spark gun. We had a good laugh over that one. I used it too.

I was in charge of the C-rations as well. I’d drive our stake truck over to the chow hall periodically to pick up the C-rations. When our guys were on post during a mealtime, they got C-rations. Yuck! Some guys actually liked the ham and lima beans.

I liked my short timer job, a lot better than humping the ramp or working one of the flight line gates or… Plus I had plenty of photo ops like this one.

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Here’s another ‘lost transparency’ rediscovered after years of hiding. Old Ektachromes are a challenge but I’m getting better and I think the color in this scan is true to the original scene.

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It’s been far too long to even remember taking this photo but I must have zeroed in on the woman in the center. Or maybe she zeroed in on me with ‘the look.’

I like the way the composition came together here. The scene brims with the street life of Saigon in 1966. And the bonus. Who knew I’d be looking for reflections 44 years later?

Finding the ‘lost transparencies’ has given my Saigon images new life. I thought I was done last year but now I have more photos to share from that era. I’ll also re-publish some of the photos from last year because new tools are yielding better results. Stay tuned.

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