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Listen to photographer Annie Griffiths Belt describe the challenges of shooting        with infrared film.

Real Audio    Windows Media

Listen to artist Jill Enfield describe the process of hand tinting photographs.

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Capturing William Bartram
In 1773, William Bartram set out to become one of the first naturalists to explore the frontier of the American South. While settlers tried to corral the wilderness, Bartram approached it with respect and awe. Cataloguing plants and wildlife for science, his paintings reflect the gentle hand he laid on untamed nature.

Photographer Annie Griffiths Belt and artist Jill Enfield use contemporary techniques to capture the essence of Bartram’s work.

Since 1978 award-winning photographer Annie Griffiths Belt has covered for National Geographic such subjects as Baja California, Petra, Vancouver, and Jerusalem. Most recently her work was featured in the National Geographic book, Women Photographers.

One of the country’s most respected hand-coloring artists, Jill Enfield has taught her technique at institutions and workshops throughout the United States and Europe. Among the collections featuring her work are El Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín in Colombia, the Boca Raton Museum of Art, and RJ Reynolds Company. Her book, Photo Imaging: A Visual Guide to Alternative Processes, will be released this fall.

On Assignment
Annie Griffiths Belt and author Glenn Oeland share their experiences in the field.

Zoom In
View a gallery of Bertram’s drawings.

Birds of a Feather
In graceful motion, a great egret (above left) grooms itself. William Bartram recorded the bird in his catalog of 215 American avian species, including this sandhill crane (above right), which he sketched and then ate.

In a sight reminiscent of frontier America, tens of thousands of sandhill cranes pepper the sky during their annual migration. See them and hear their mournful call as they find safe haven at Rowe Audubon Sanctuary in Nebraska.   Real Player   Windows Media

View a colorized version—the video equivalent of hand-tinting.   Real Player   Windows Media

Imitating Bartram—How They Did It

Photographer Annie Griffiths Belt

Even though he was an important naturalist in America’s history, William Bartram is not a household name. I was searching for a way to handle the photography on this assignment so that it was compatible with the lovely, delicate method he used in painting his natural history subjects, such as this sandhill crane. I also wanted to do something to make the photography stand out a bit in the magazine and, hopefully, encourage readers to get to know Bartram. After brainstorming with my colleagues, I gained the editor’s blessing to shoot black-and-white infrared film and have Jill Enfield hand tint the prints.

The film itself is very tricky to handle. It’s extremely sensitive to heat and infrared light, so I changed it in a dark bag and inside an air-conditioned car when I needed to. I used a 600mm lens and spent a day with a colony of nesting birds in Florida to get the photograph of this great egret. All the birds were beautiful, but this one was particularly lovely.

Photograph by Annie Griffiths Belt
Photograph Hand Tinted by Jill Enfield
Illustration by William Bartram

Artist Jill Enfield

Annie and I met many years ago when we both taught at a photographic workshop. At the time we talked about how nice it would be to do a project together. I was very excited when this opportunity came up.

We spoke back and forth quite a lot through the course of this assignment. From the beginning we determined that the film should be processed on matte-surface paper because of the way it takes the paint. I studied a book of Bartram’s images, and we discussed what the region looked like in his time and how he went about his work. We wanted our work to have a similar feel. Then, using oil paints, pastel chalk, and colored pencil, I painted the photographs in my studio and sent them back to Annie for review.

For the image of the great egret I needed to keep the bird as white as it was in reality, so I added dark colors around it to bring out the whiteness of its body. Then I used pencils and pastel chalks to draw subtle lines throughout the bird, which gave it detail. White tends to reflect the colors around it, so I chose hues from the background and added them to the shadow areas on the bird.

When Annie took the picture, she focused on the bird’s eye and beak. I wanted to keep that focus, so I layered very subtle color on the eye until I got the desired intensity.

Painting on black-and-white infrared prints gives the image an ethereal look. I love being able to take a picture a few steps away from reality.

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