The Art Council’s August First Friday began under a beautiful blue orb-of-a-sky that stretched clear across the river and beyond the Montgomery County cornfields. Eighteen artists were in town to share their collective creative works with town visitors and locals, alike. For shoppers, art lovers and the curious, there were paintings to ponder, pottery to peruse and jewelry to jingle. There was also photography, leather crafting, chocolate art and writers scattered about the retail spaces in town.
One of the visiting artists was professional photographer David Hasty. He had set up outside and inside the General Store on Schiller, where he was showing a mixture of digital and film prints. David hails from the St. Louis suburb of Woodson Terrace. Much of his work involves nature and old architecture within the city. He has also concentrated on views within national parks throughout the U.S.
He got the shutter bug from his uncle who taught him how the camera “sees,” how to compose an interesting photo and how to use light to get the best shots. He cherishes the first photo he took with his Brownie Hawkeye camera (a model made in the 1950s), of his little brother in his skivvies holding up a bluegill fish he had just caught. Not only was the photo a keepsake, but a pretense of things to come.
He lost interest in photography throughout his early years, but picked it up again when he started visiting national parks and wanted to bring home a little of the beautiful scenery he was experiencing. And like the tall trees that enamored him and the rushing river rapids splashing serendipitously within the laws of nature, he was going to capture it all on his own terms, using nature’s light and trick of the eye to bring out the mystery, the majesty and magnanimity of God’s creations.
In his humble way, he says, “I’ve never taken a class in my life—I’m self-taught.”
Thumbing through the prints, there’s a close up of a multi-colored butterfly on a Cardinal Flower, taken at the St. Louis Botanical Gardens, a log house shot during a snowstorm, swirling brown bands of sedimentary rock within giant geologic formations, and the St. Louis arch, lit up over the Mississippi River, just after sunset.
The latter photo print is surreal, but David shuns software like Photoshop to modify his captured images. He used a medium format film camera (to get a large negative), set on a tripod. A polarized lens took out the glare of the riffles on the river, but it also decreased his light in an already darkening western sky, so he matched his camera settings for a larger aperture to let in more light and slowed the shutter speed to make the flowing river look like a still pond, catching the reflections of the city lights on the stillness.
“When you lose your light, you’ve got to expose your film for a longer period of time,” explained David. “The longer exposure smoothed out the water [riffles].”
He said the end result wasn’t intentional, but became a happy surprise—one he had to work for to get home without incident in his unknown surroundings.
He took the shot from the sketchy East St. Louis side of the river near dusk and actually had three men approach him from different directions to corner him for questioning. It turned out to be railroad security that were jumpy from the fairly recent 9/11 attack in New York. He was escorted back to his car and strongly advised to get permission if he was going to do photography in the area. Such are the risks a photographer takes to get just the right shot.
As for shooting digital versus film, he prefers the craft of film.
“You’ve got to work for the picture,” he says.
With film, there are no computer chip algorithms automatically adjusting light and depth of focus behind the scenes. He must manually set the conditions for the light and depth-of-field. He also likes the delayed gratification of working with film.
“You know you have something good on the camera, but you’ve got to wait [to process the film], “ he says. “Then it’s like opening presents on Christmas morning—wow—look what I got!”