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My Beginnings

Photography runs in my family.  My grandfather, Earl A. Marshall and his brother C.L. Marshall, along with their uncle Norm Seaman were taking photos of Oregon on glass plate negatives starting in the early 1900s and on through the nineteeen twenties.   In the nineteen thirties they switched to roll film.   Many of their photographs are in the collection of the Oregon Historical Society.  My father, David B. Marshall is a wildlife biologist.  As a kid we lived on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Oregon.  Dad took his photography seriously, and his photos still have importance in Fish and Wildlife Service archives.  I was given my first camera when I was seven- a box camera which took black and white photos.  That was over fifty years ago, but I can still remember the packaging the prints came in from a lab in Portland.  It had a windmill for a logo. 

When I was twelve years old, and living in Portland, Oregon I got a 35mm Exa for my birthday.  This was soon replaced by an Exacta.  I still have the Exacta.  On the bottom it  is stamped with the words "U.S.S.R. Occupied".  The company was located in East Germany.  Photographing with an Exa or an Exact required far more thought and attention than today's cameras.   There was no built in light meter.  One had a separate hand held meter.  To take a picture, one had to open up the aperture to focus, close the aperture to the appropriate f-stop, set the shutter speed, cock the camera and press the shutter button.  I mainly shot Kodachrome slides.  The ASA (ISO) was 25.  Obviously this was not a set-up for action photography.  It was great training for using a 4x5 field camera which I took up later. I had the Exacta through college at Oregon State University.  I also purchased a Mamiya C-33 twin lens reflex camera, which I took black and white with.  I probably didn' t make the most of my undergraduate years in college.  I was fascinated by water and the things that lived in it, so enrolled in a Fishery Science program.  I learned little about what I had come to know about.  The dry academic approach to looking at nature was hard for me to relate to at the time.    My best grades came in courses outside of my major:  zoology, botany, english, and humanities courses.  I took a course in photojournalism taught by a Professor Zwahlen.  I never scored a grade higher than a B on any assignment.  At the end of the quarter the grades were posted, and I had an A.  I was astonished.  I went in to see Professor Zwahlen.  He told me, I was only getting Bs, because I was not doing photojournalism, but my work was so good he could not in good conscience give me anything but an A.


West of Timberline Lodge 1969, Lime Mtn. Lake 1966, Glacier Lake in Wallowas 1968

At Oregon State there is one course which made a huge impression on me.  It was not for credit, and was offered through the "Experimental College" kind of a hippy establishment within the university.  It was in black and white landscape photography and was taught by a graduate student in the art department.  He had studied under Ansel Adams and worshipped him.   We did serious dark room work, trying to make the most out of each negative.  The philosophy of Adams resonated with me.  Adams was not out to produce a pile of pictures.  He chose his lighting carefully, composed meticulously and understood the mechanical side of cameras also.  In the lab Adams went to great pains to produce the best in every print.  His prints are archival and live on long after his death.   I understood for the first time how photography could be a respected art form.

When I was in my early twenties and had a real job, I bought an Olympus OM-1.  That was a great camera.  I took my first published images with it.  Kodachrome 64 was my film of choice.  I was living in Centralia, Washington and working for Weyerhauser as a forestry research technician.  The job situation was not a happy one for me, and I never bonded with the town of Centralia.  I lived for weekends when I could be out exploring the South Cascades and Olympic Mountains  in pursuit of photographs.

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