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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment May 24, 2016

7/29/2014 12:48:00 PM
Sisters photographers display work at library
Gary Albertson using his side vision to adjust the f-stop on his view camera. photo by Jim Anderson
+ click to enlarge
Gary Albertson using his side vision to adjust the f-stop on his view camera. photo by Jim Anderson

By Jim Anderson

Gary Albertson and Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer Jay Mather will have their work on display at Sisters Library for all the month of August. Albertson's work on the Metolius River and around Central Oregon will be featured, while Mather will have images of his photojournalism work in Cambodia, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Central Oregon and the Cascades - along with images capturing Gary doing his work.

As a photographer who has serious problems with deteriorating eyesight, Gary thinks differently, perhaps more deeply, about what he does. One of his favorite expressions is: "The image captures me before I capture it."

He thinks of shooting a photograph somewhat like making good bread. To Gary, the "ASA rating" of the film is like the yeast in bread dough. The light he sees and measures is the heat used to bake the bread; the shutter speed - the time it takes to create an image on film - is how long it takes to bake the bread.

"Yes," he says, "there are times when I have to wait 25 minutes to have enough light to bake my bread." And he uses a light meter to measure the light he needs; because he uses a film camera, he thinks in "ASA," not "ISO," as in digital photography.

Watching Gary preparing to shoot, as he did while on the river, is like watching a curious ballet. He places his backpack on the ground in a specific location so he knows it will take one step to reach it. Everything in the backpack has a bright yellow spot on it so he can see it immediately through the haze of his impaired vision. All the equipment is in a specially dedicated place in the compartments - that way he knows where to reach and recognizes everything immediately by touch.

Gary has spent so much time adjusting his life to the loss of sight, his hearing has almost become his first sense of knowing where he is and what's going on. So much so that the sounds he hears while taking photos blend in with what he can see.

To that extent he and a friend Shawn Kirkeby have produced a CD, "Metolius Valley Sounds," a collection of digitally recorded and painstakingly edited audio moments of joyous birdsongs, creaking trees, awakening frogs and talking waters - to name a few - acquired on Gary's daily walks in the Metolius River Basin and roaming through the forest.

"As my eyesight deteriorates, the tactile senses of my fingers have become more sensitive, as it is with my hearing, " Gary explains, placing the film holder on the back of the view camera and removing it for the exposure.

When the photo is taken he puts the dark slide up close to his left eye and makes sure the black portion of the slide that keeps light from reaching the film is black, so he knows that one was exposed.

For a description of how Albertson captures images as he does, visit, a film that Jay Mather made of KGWTV filming Gary shooting on the Metolius.

Visit Gary and Jay's art exhibit in the Sisters Library, presented by the Friends of the Sisters Library.

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