My photographic work in the Catskill Mountains now spans almost four decades. I began in the mid 1970’s using a 4×5 inch view camera given to me by my grandfather which years before had been given to him by my great uncle uncle. Though no longer in use, that early Korona view camera combined with modern Kodak Ektachrome color transparency film produced some of the best color images I have ever made, many of them still being reproduced in books and magazines today.
Although photography has changed considerably since the advent of digital imaging, I continue to work traditionally using large and ultra large format film combined with very sophisticated (and very large) optical enlargers to print my images. My work is now done entirely in black and white.
What hasn’t changed over the years is my attraction to the wild and unpeopled regions of the Catskills. Thanks to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and The New York/New Jersey Trail Conference we enjoy an extensive network of well maintained trails throughout the Catskills. I make good use of these wilderness paths in my endless journeys in search of evocative mountain images. For landscape photographers familiarity with a location is an important factor in making successful pictures. Knowing the lay of the land, the seasons and the effects of weather are crucial to achieving the single most important element of landscape photography; timing. Being in the right place at the right time. Without that, the best equipment and the keenest sense of composition actually mean very little. We photographers, unlike our luckier counterparts the landscape painters, rely entirely on truth. The truth of the scene unfolding before us as we set up our cameras. Granted one can manipulate in the darkroom or photoshop, but only so far. Beyond a certain point the image becomes obviously unreal and doesn’t work.
Thus, familiarity with and access to a particular region can be critical in making dramatic, believable photographs. A good example is the work of Ansel Adams during the 1930’s when he and his family lived full time in Yosemite National Park. Many of his greatest images like Clearing winter storm, Yosemite Valley were only possible because he was there and could run out the door when he saw something amazing about to happen. Luckily, the Catskill Park is a sort of live-in wilderness with quick road and trail access to glorious places when nature summons us. All one has to do is plan, watch and wait. ©Thomas Teich