Monday, February 10, 2020

If Necessity Is the Mother of Invention. . .

Cover of the Colorado Springs book.

. . . then Desperation Is the Father of Creativity.

One of the first editorial assignments in my fledgling career was a commission to do the photography for a book about Colorado Springs, Colorado. The publisher was Windsor Publications, a California company which specialized in producing magazine-format books for Chambers of Commerce to use in touting their respective cities as ideal places for businesses and individuals to relocate.

I photographed, and sometimes wrote, many such books for them over a period of a dozen or so years, but this was my first, and I made a beginner's mistake: when I returned home, had my film processed, and edited my slides, I found that I did not have a cover shot.

This was a serious problem, especially for someone trying to get established with a new client. The cover shot is the most important photograph in the book. It's largely responsible for sufficiently piquing the interest of a potential viewer to cause him/her to pick up the book and look through it. And I didn't have a single photo in my take that would work for that!

The slide used on the cover needed to be in vertical format because I was shooting Ektachrome 200 film in a 35mm (Olympus OM) camera. The image quality of that combination would not have been sufficient to allow cropping out a vertical section for an 8.5x11-inch cover, so the slide had to be a vertical.

What to do, what to do, what to do? 

Looking through my slides again, I found a vertical format photo of downtown Colorado Springs with Pike's Peak in the background. A 135mm telephoto lens compressed the space and made the mountain appear almost to rise straight up  from the very edge of downtown.

Okay, but still not enough impact for a cover.

Looking through the slides again, I found a vertical-format photograph of a statue of General William S. Palmer, the founder of Colorado Springs. Inspiration struck, and I sandwiched the two slides together in one mount. Viola! I had my cover!

We did things differently in those pre-digital days.

But you can bet that I never again left a location without making sure I had a cover shot or several in the can.

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