Robert Byers

Robert Byers

Member, Freestyle Advisory Board of Photographic Professionals


Robert K. Byers' interest in fine art photography started in 1961 with studies with Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock and Brett Weston. He was a Trustee of the Friends of Photography for nineteen years. During his tenure that organization reached a membership high of 17,000. In addition, he was Treasurer of that organization for eighteen years and served for a time as Vice President. He has taught at numerous workshops throughout the United States, including many for the Friends of Photography organization. He primarily uses large format cameras and has traveled extensively, photographing in the United States, Canada, Mexico and throughout Europe and Japan. He and Brett Weston were on many trips together including Europe, Hawaii, throughout all of the western United States, and on many of the back roads of Canada and Alaska.

His work has been shown in numerous individual and group exhibitions throughout the United States, Europe and Japan. His images are in public and university museums as well as corporate and private collections both here and abroad. He is represented by a number of galleries in the United States and Japan.

Mr. Byers was born in 1918 in Idaho where he spent his childhood. He graduated from the university of California Berkeley with a degree in economics in 1940. During the next seven years he received an L.L.B. from Harvard Law School, an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and served as Captain in the United States Army during World War II. Thereafter, for many years, he practiced law in California's Santa Clara and Monterey Counties and is now retired from a Carmel law firm and devotes most all of his time pursuing photography as a fine art form. He is a consultant to Sata Corporation of Tokyo, Japan, Oriental Paper Distributing Company of Santa Ana, CA, and Photo Gallery International, Tokyo, the largest photo gallery in Japan.

© Robert Byers © Robert Byers © Robert Byers Here are his comments about his photography:
"In working with the camera I want to do something more than make a "record photograph". I want to arouse a reaction in the observer of the photograph similar to that felt by me, which prompted the exposure. Without this reaction I fail. I want the composition, or arrangement of the parts or elements, to have a special quality or character. If after choosing the subject, I can organize the elements in a pleasing and harmonious way, combining them with tonal range and proper darkroom techniques, I succeed. I don't want it to be a mechanical process, but rather a method of reproduction as a creative art. Because I can't place my objects like a painter, I attempt to modify that limitation by camera placement, lens focal length, exposure, camera format and most importantly the light. Above all, I want my prints to reflect a combination of choice of subject, composition, tonal range and technique both in the darkroom and in the field. Each time I photograph or work in the darkroom I want to improve the elements of that combination."

"Because of my long association with photographers who if labeled would probably be called the "West Coast School", I would have a similar tag. My photography is generally landscapes, nature, abstracts, some architecture and a few portraits."

Ask The Experts

Hi Bill, Sorry to hear about your experience with Oriental paper, however, I don't think you should blame the paper. I have used Oriental for many years and I have never had a problem, just great prints. Even today I have some 16x20 Oriental paper that is well over 10 years old and it is still like new. If it is stored in a cool and dry place it should last for years and you should have no problems. Some people keep it in a freezer in a humid climate. I think you problem is in the drying. Don't uses blotter books, wax paper or an electric dryer. Get some plastic window screens and let the prints dry face down on the screen. Don't fuss with them until they are completely dry! You problem is not due to age of paper, over washing or the paper itself. It is a combination of the wax paper and the dryer Oriental, and also Cachet papers, are the best papers available today. Try again and good luck.

Lynn: Here is an answer to your question about the portrait used by Freestyle. It was taken on the patio of our home in natural light, hand held and cropped in the camera, by my daughter, Elizabeth. She was using my Leica M3 with a Nikon 85 mm lens. The film was Agfa 25 for 35mm cameras, which is no longer available. The developer was Rodinal with normal development. That Agfa film was great and I hated to see the end of it in my freezer. A lot of it is luck and the light. Ansel said if he got 12 top images in a year he was happy. Perhaps this portrait was one of Elizabeth's 12 for that year. Hope the above helps with your adventure into b&w.

To Sharp T., FB, or fiber papers, and RC, or resin papers, have the same emulsion coating and only the backing differs in each type. Both tone the same. The range of tones is the same and the only difference is visual to some people. The difference is how you define "quality of prints". The FB prints have a different feel or look and do not shine as the RC paper does. It probably has something to do with the silver getting down into the paper fiber and not remaining on the surface of the resin of RC. I personally prefer the FB paper and have always used it. Most of the fine art photographers that I know, for the most part, use FB only. I know that it is my preference and the extra cost is justified. Many only use RC for tests and contact sheets because of the cost. FB creates a particular mood or reaction for me, and will make quality salon prints for you! Make prints on both papers from one negative and see which one you prefer, when viewed side by side. It all boils down to personal preference. The final answer is what you like. Regards,

Hi Bob, Thank you for your question about Brett Weston's large format work. I photographed extensively with him for many years and can assure you that there were no special materials that he used to account for his beautiful images. A lot of his results in the final image resulted from his unique way of "seeing" and his exposures for deep blacks and white whites. He used ordinary chemicals, usually what was available at the moment, and the same went for film all of which are available in similiar form today, and perhaps even better. He did use Oriental paper for many years as did I, which I think contributed to the "magic" of his prints. Concentrate more on the exposure and "seeing" rather then materials and supplies and you will have the results he achieved. Also remember he was at it every day for about 60 years. That does help. Good luck,

I have never used odor free stop bath or fixer, nor do the ones I use bother me at all. I would not use the odor free even if you don't vent the darkroom properly (which you should) with an exhaust fan. I use diluted glacial acetic acid. I mix my own fixer from a Kodak formula (F-24), although you can buy fast fixer in gallons from Freestyle. That is the way to go unless you are turning out a large quantity of work where the bulk chemicals will save a lot of money. I have used many paper developer over the years, including amidol, but would suggest you try Kodak Dektol or for cold prints, Clayton's Ultra Cold Tone which is great. Good luck and make some great prints.

Hi Isaiah, I had that unit years ago and recall that you have to match up the film size, lens and condensers. I recall the condensers came for 4x5 film, medium format film and 35. The lenses were 135mm or 150mm for 4x5, 75mm or 80mm for the medium format and 50mm for the 35 film. Condensers were available for each and my guess is you have the wrong condenser or lens for the film size you are using. Get on Google under Omega enlargers or history of the D-2 and see what you can find. There are also photographer forums on line that have people who advertise old items for sale there. But first you have to find out what you are looking for. Try e-bay and also go to a camera store with an old timer there who can check the condensers for you. The D-2 is an excellent unit and you should have no problem with the right combination of lens, film and condenser. Hope the above helps.

Hi Pim, You certainly live in a beautiful country to photograph. I have worked there with a view camera, especially in Amsterdam. Keep working in the darkroom to produce silver prints. Most of my friends in photography, and they number among the best working here in the US, still are in the darkroom. If you are into fine art photography the demand is for the silver print. Most of the galleries and auction houses selling photographs still are not really interested in the digital work. I have been in photography since 1936 and feel there is a certain magic to the conventional print that is lacking in one printed by ink. Of course if your goal is commercial as well, you must become familiar with the digital process as well. I also work in that format, but without the camera. I scan in old negatives into scanners and then work on them in Photoshop before printing them on an Epson 2400. I only work in black and white and make prints just for myself. I spent too many years over the hypo tray and don't have the energy to do more of it. But don't you stop. There will always be a demand for silver prints in the fine art field, so don't be overwhelmed by what your contemporaries are doing. Chart your own course, and if silver images are what you like keep at it. Good luck.