Army Years - Part 2

After my time at Camp Drum came to an end in the fall of 1973 I found myself back at Fort Dix, New Jersey. As you can see from the photo on the right, I had expanded into using color film, in this case, color slide film which I sent away for processing.

Fort Dix had a well-equipped photo lab to use but I didn't spend as much time there as I might have liked which was unfortunate because, unlike Camp Drum, the lab in Fort Dix was staffed so I could ask questions and pick up tips. Due to the nature of life at the time, especially the shift work I was assigned to, access to the lab was limited. When I was on patrol duty (Military Police), I worked 3 days on swing shift, 3 days on midnight shift, 3 days on day shift followed by 3 days off, then repeat. For a month, February 1974, I was assigned to guard duty at one of the magazines (ammo dump) where we worked 12 hours on, 12 hours off. Then there was the month or so after that when we went into combat training mode which was like basic training all over again. That culminated with a week spent at West Point, NY for field problems, living in tents and fox holes, and riot supression training. All fun stuff. However, I did get out and shoot a fair amount of film during this time, mostly black and white, which I did develop and print myself. I also shot the occassional roll of color, either negative or slides, which I still sent out for processing.

I was devouring magazines and books on photography such as Modern Photography, Popular Photography, and Petersen's Photographic. The latter was one of my favorites and I was impressed that one of the columnists, Bob Routh, was a photography teacher at California State College, Long Beach, where I planned to attend after my service was over. I especially liked articles covering fun things to do in the darkroom, for example the Sabbatier effect and the posterization process, activities that I would later spend quite a bit of time trying to master. There is more about these process in the Workshop links on the left.

In the meantime, I did occassionally carry my camera with me on duty. Here are a few examples of us at work:

Trainee puts jeep in ditch.

New Jersey ice storms were rough.

Rousting some trainees.

Weapons room duty.

Traffic stop.

During my time in New Jersey I did some side trips and went to Philadelphia, over to Valley Forge and Gettysburg, Amish country around Harrisburg, down to Atlantic City (pre-casinos days), the Jersey shore, Lakehurst Naval Air Station where the Hindenburg crashed in 1937, and Washington, D.C. I also roamed the woods and cranberry bogs that surrounded the base and took lots of photos during our icy winter.

My skill set was improving, although not necessarily reflected in the images here as these are unretouched direct scans of the negatives rather than the prints I made. My prints were starting to look better and I was learning how to do retouching. I was still sticking with Plus-X and Tri-X for my black and white films and Ektachrome when I wanted color slides. I had looked into developing and printing my own color but it was involved, technical, somewhat expensive, and the lab on the base was not really set up for it. It would have to wait. My dad had sent me his Ricohflex, twin-lens reflex, medium format camera and I had tried my hand at portaiture using it in the base studio that was equipped with a variety of lights. The larger negative size yielded some nice results although I didn't feel that portature was really in my future.

Here are two images I shot while in New Jersey but not printed until a few years later. They are on Ektachrome film and these images are scans of prints made on Ilford Cibachrome. I love the intense saturation of that material.

One day about May of 1974 I came in to report for duty and there was a massive buzz taking place. It turned out that our battalion had been disolved. I looked at the "orders" listing posted in the main hallway and followed my service number across the page to my new duty location: Germany. I had a bit of time off and headed to the West Coast for a vacation before I flew back across the country and then to Europe, reporting for duty in the first week of August 1974. I took a few personal items: my camera and my negative file with my first 50 rolls of film.

Click to goto to the next page: Army Years - Part 3

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Updated December 2020.