Light Fantastic

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Army photo / Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod,

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Vincent Watkins, a logistics non-commissioned officer with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, directs a truck backing to a trailer July 8 at Forward Operating Base Arian, Ghazni Province.

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I bet that truck in the picture brought fat Sarge MacLeod's late-night snack.

Somebody oughta tell him that it takes more than swinging around a few bright, spectral discotheque lights in the dark to take “great shots” in and of the Military. Even if “Time” calls this picture “Light Fantastic”. (Is he just another general's relative with job difficulties, or what?)

I took over 7.000 (film, not digital) pictures during my draft, in the French Artillery, and my best ones were taken at night, too. However, I used a tripod and sometimes hours (correction: NIGHTS !) long exposures to capture every subtle hue of dark blue, dark green, grey and brown of the silent, windless, pitch-black environment all around me, from

1) the aligned, barely discernible cannons during field maneuvers (with blue moon light over the black tree tops behind them)


2) close-ups with extreme depth of field of the mosses covering walls and solitary bartizans of medieval fortifications preserved by our Military, as a reminder of the transitoriness of our existence

– you name it. Everything looks more animated, mysterious, almost haunted, even romantic this way, without flashes and other disruptive artificial lights. Never “electronic”, PRIMARY and tedious, like MacLeod's pictures – but not propagandistic either.

Man, if I even know how to take good pictures of rusting military gear (my favourite one: Rats nibbling on large, live World War One shells lying in the dirt. Only dim, dull colours – but the sense of acute threat clearly looks through) and of abandoned military installations in a pine forest that gets engulfed by the rising morning mist, with glittering, golden dew droplets on every single pine needle tip, just by getting up early in the freezing winter, etc., what would I already have accomplished in all these places where MacLeod has access to for YEARS ?!

Maybe if he never got paid and publicized for what he does, maybe if he was just another military buff with a passion for photography instead, and armed with an old film SLR camera and Kodak Ektar 25 ASA or 125 ASA film (no Fuji. Ever), his pictures looked a bit more captivating now.


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