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Pretty as a picture
Ross Hamilton shares the treasures of the Olympic Peninsula
By MARK ST.J. COUHIG
The Olympic Peninsula 2011 calendar is now available in stores. Like the six best-sellers that preceded this year's edition, the 2011 calendar provides 12 of Sequim photographer Ross Hamilton's very best landscape photos.
Hamilton calls the calendar "a labor of love," which is his subtle way of saying 1) it is an awful lot of work, 2) doesn't put an awful lot of money in his pocket, and 3) is wonderfully satisfying.
To ensure the photos are the highest possible quality, Hamilton eschews digital and continues to work with the old "4 by 5" format - as in 4 inches by 5 inches, or 15 times larger than 35 millimeter film. And not just any film, but transparencies - what a layman would think of as slide film. Transparencies are superior to negative film, Hamilton said, because they give you a visual reference to work with.
This commitment to top quality "means hauling a lot of equipment," Hamilton said, but the results are worth it. Before going to press it's necessary to digitize the photos, but he takes no shortcuts there, either, creating files that are 100 megabytes each. They contain "a lot of fine detail," he said.
The results are dazzling.
Hamilton chuckled at his own early naivete and at that of new photography enthusiasts. "They think, 'I can do that.' But they soon discover it's not as easy as it looks."
Part of the job is finding the right landscape but Hamilton says there's no trick to it. "I just go looking for them. I love the outdoors."
Hamilton's roots run deep in the peninsula soil. His father was born in Sequim but eventually moved to California. Hamilton reversed the process: He grew up in California and moved to Sequim when he was 26 years old.
Hamilton says his father was lucky enough to have missed out on one family legacy: a predisposition to glaucoma that seems to skip generations. "My father never even wore glasses," he said. Hamilton was less fortunate: He was diagnosed with the disease while still a young man. That, he says, has lent a personal urgency to his career.
"It's goaded me to get all the work done as fast as I could," he said. "So for 41 years I've been enjoying the beauty and trying to share it with everyone I can. It's been my delight to go out and find the treasures. That's what I call them: treasures."
Hamilton is intent on capturing photos that are as realistic as possible. He says he tries to never alter a photo, though he will use Photoshop if a change is necessary.
Hamilton cites photographer Ansel Adams' credo: "He said there are two ways to take a photo. First there's 'manipulation and distortion.' That's legitimate," Hamilton said. "But you can also treat it more reverently and just try to represent it.
"There's a creative nature to (photography). That's unavoidable. But we try not to manipulate it any more than possible."
"The landscape can't be improved upon."
To capture the feel and the spirit of the place - to put it into a photograph isn't easy ... because there's always so much more there."
Now on newsstands
The calendar is produced with the assistance of Sandy Frankfurth, who finds the inspirational quotes that accompany each photo. Ruth Marcus, a Sequim graphic designer, provides the layout.
With a little help from his friends, Hamilton also produces note cards, postcards and posters featuring his work. His book, "The Olympics: A Wilderness Trilogy," can be purchased at his website, www.rosshamilton photography.com.
The 2011 calendars are $17.95 and can be purchased in Sequim at QFC, Sunny Farms, UPS Store, Walgreens, The Good Book, Pacific Mist Books, Frick's and Phillips' Hallmark Shop.
Reach Mark Couhig at firstname.lastname@example.org.