Franklin B. Way
Perfection In Color

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Keahua Arboretum, Kauai, Hawaii.
Photos © 2003, Franklin B. Way, All Rights Reserved

Some images are remote and poetic. Others are majestic and dramatic. All represent a fixed and silent moment in the personal vision of photographer Franklin B. Way. In Way's photographs I am reminded of Alfred Stieglitz's words, "Everything in the frame of the photograph has to be important." For Way that means each thing will be sharp and in focus from the closest object to infinity.

Cedar Creek. Upper Blue Hills, Utah.

"When I shoot," Way says, "I am so taken by what I am trying to capture on film that everything else disappears from my mind. I want the image so bad and am concerned with all the technical things that are going on from making the image correct to how I see that scene and how I am going to record it on film. I want none of the details to escape. When a person views that picture I want them to know it was not taken with a 35mm and that these are not accidental photographs. They must know that care and time was taken along with an understanding of the exposure, tonal range, and depth."

Redwood National Forest, California.

A Quiet Beauty
Born in 1947, Way grew up on his grandfather's farm in Hartford, Michigan, before moving to Indiana, then Ohio. It was in Michigan that his career as a photographer was shaped when his grandfather gave him a Kodak camera. "Michigan has a quiet beauty, much like New England," Way says. "There are lots of trees, rolling orchards, plenty of produce farming, and a beautiful countryside." Currently living in Lincoln, Nebraska, Way admits the Plains can be rather colorless, so he seeks out the "lemon and lime" colors of spring and "the painter's palette" of the fall season in other parts of the country. For eight weeks each year Way travels anywhere from Alaska to Hawaii. His most recent trip at the time of this interview was to Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming where he photographed the early fall color.

Dance of the Ferns. Keahua Arboretum, Kauai, Hawaii.

Walking Into The Image
In response to my question as to what prompts him to photograph when he spots a potential subject, Way says, "One thing I ask myself is if I can walk into this image. I imagine myself standing there or sometimes walking through a winter scene when everything is bright and intensely blue--just walking into that cold with no leaves on the trees. The scene must evoke an emotion and spark something in me. What makes a good photograph for me is when it gets into the soul," he says. "It must have tremendous depth, not just visual, but emotional and a kind of spirituality. If I love it, I shoot it."

A Mentor Leads The Way
It is an ongoing quest for Way to define who he is. He admits that he is always learning and developing to attain the level of perfection he seeks. He attributes his success and expertise to a former teacher and traveling companion, photographer Joe Englander. "I took workshops with him and he then allowed me to accompany him in his travels because he felt I was passionate about what I was doing. It was by far the most beneficial of anything I have done in my life.

"It was from Englander that I gathered all my technical knowledge. He made me aware that the scene is only captured once and that what I thought I had when I focused my lens may not be what I see when I put the loupe on it. A slight breeze, for instance, may have put a branch out of place. There are variables we can't control. Light changes when setting up or I may have to wait until the winds die down. I have known occasions when it was so windy I couldn't set up my camera the entire time. The elements I refer to mainly are weather related."

Way recalls driving to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming where he remained for 11 days and only took one exposure. "It was heavily overcast for the entire 11 days," he recalls, "and I never saw the Teton Range. I ended up taking one image in Bridger-Teton National Forest. It was frustrating. The image, `Aspen in Winter,' was taken right along the roadside.

"That fragment of time that we see will never reappear no matter how many times we return to the scene. I have heard people say they found Ansel Adams' tripod marks and set up their tripod in those marks. But they will never capture what Adams did."

Sycamore and Ash at Waters Edge. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee.

His Favorite Images
I asked about his favorite images and he explained that, to his chagrin, what may be his favorite does not always translate into someone else's. "One photograph I feel strongly about has not sold a single print as yet," he says. "Shot with an 8x10, `Sycamore and Ash at Waters Edge,' was taken in the Smoky Mountains along Laurel Creek in Tennessee and reminds me of Monet's Poplars. It was a challenge. I had no place to set anything down or to hold film. Just putting the film holders into the camera was a struggle."

Another of Way's favorites was shot recently in the Redwood National Forest in Northern California. He told of chasing the fog as it rolled in and out in order to capture a particular tree in the fog. "The amazing thing about photography is that when you move just a foot the image changes. I didn't realize that in moving around my subject I was several hundred yards away from where I had started. There was moisture dripping off my cap," he recalls, "and my shoes were full of water and there was no sight of my car!"

On Animus Pond. Upper Peninsula, Michigan.

His Own Style
Way feels that he has finally developed his own style and says, "When I first started out I looked for vast, wide scenes that had sky and foreground. My main subject would be in the middle. I went to high tourist areas, popular spots. Within the past couple of years I am more definitive and focus in closer on my subjects. My view is narrower. Also, my subject does not need to be a place that is widely recognized. The photo can stand outside its own surroundings. It may be only a fragment of the overall picture, like a small piece of the Grand Tetons in the foreground of the scene, but it can reveal an image that stands by itself."

"Are you looking for more detail and intimacy with your subject?" I inquired. "Both of those," he replied. "The photographer doesn't necessarily have to define a specific place but rather he should look for an image that evokes the feeling of a place at that moment.

"Recently I have been playing with double and triple exposures. A new image, `Dance of the Ferns,' was taken in Hawaii. I exposed an image of the ferns on the image of an arboretum to look as though the ferns were dancing through the forest."

Large Format
Way shoots mostly with a 4x5 Linhoff Technika from the early 1990s. The camera has a metal body that takes a lot of abuse when he's hiking. On occasion, when he feels he wants a larger image, he uses an 8x10. "Sometimes when I get my transparencies back," he says, "I will crop. I'm not afraid to crop. Maybe if the scene looks better tighter I will crop rather than use the 4x5. I try to crop in the field but sometimes I take only a limited number of lenses so I may not have the right focal length." His Fuji Panoramic is still a favorite and until three or four years ago was his main camera. All of his prints are made via Lightjet and are printed on Fuji Crystal Archive paper.

More of Way's images may be seen on his website at www.franklinbway.com.

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