Sunday, May 22, 2011

Vietnam Battalion Stringer -- Part Two: Taking pictures with an SLR

My return to country on second trip to Expo 70 went flawlessly. I arrived back in country on time and had plenty of time between arrival and departure to visit some of the places I had been to the first time I toured around Da Nang. 

I took mental images of pictures I wanted to take, knew enough about the camera to properly focus the lens, keep the shutter above 125th of a second and adjust the F-Stop so that the needle was exactly in the middle of the gap on the right side of the viewing screen.

I also knew Ektachrome was what the Public Affairs Office of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Mobile) wanted me to shoot.  Had around 20 rolls of Ektachrome film and decided to use the polarizing filter like a religion.

By the time I got back on the C-130 and headed up to Camp Eagle, all but a few shots were left on roll 20. I used them up on landing at Phu Bie and arriving at Camp Eagle. I had just enough time to turn in the film over at the PX.

I counted 19 rolls. I had forgotten that one roll was back in the hooch and forgot where I put it.
So, I processed 19 rolls.  Two days later, I processed the 19th roll over at the recreational services photo-lab.

My hear skipped a few beats.  Not because the images were lousy but because the hand developed images looked so much better than I remembered what they looked like in real life.

A few day later, the images came back in from the PX. I payed for them and opened the slide boxes. They came out okay but didn't give me that feel of confidence the roll I developed myself did.

From that day on, I would develop my own rolls of color slide film over at the recreational services photo-lab and no where else.

After going through the slides, I narrowed down the images I wanted to show division PIO editors what I had and went over to them with the slides.

One of them gave me a ho hum look, put them up on the white Plexiglas table and started giving them a once over with a loop. I don't believe he he got passed the first one before calling his buddy over.

The first editor gave me this look that said without words, "Okay, who are you?"

The second editor,  "Man, we need this one for a double truck."

He then turned and looked at me, "How took these pictures?"

"I did."

"I think you missed you calling!"

"Thank you, what's a double truck?"

"A two page spread."

"We got a pack of 40 rolls in the refrigerator. It is a bit outdated. You have a refrigerator at the Battalion?"


"Good, take it. Bring two rolls back here per week. We'll process the film for you. You'll have to come in and write your name on the bottom of each slide."

"Do that with these and we'll use them," said the first editor. "Mark the location where the images were taken on the top. Here's some slide protectors. Once you mark your slides, place them into these.  And be careful not to touch the film of the slides."

We put the slides back into the box and I grabbed the film out of the refrigerator and headed back over to battalion. After putting the film into our battalion refrigerator and started marking all my slides with my name on the bottom and the location on the top.

So, for the next 16 weeks, I took two rolls of film over to them, added the locations and my name on the bottom of each slide and gave them images that to this day I'm not sure what they did with them all.

In the mean time, between taking pictures for the division PIO and the task of taking Battalion Awards and Decorations ceremonies, I was pretty busy working on the articles I wanted to get published.

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