Readers’ wildlife photos

February 12, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos come from James Blilie, but they’re not his—they were taken by his dad. He explains below; click on the photos to enlarge them.

My Dad served in the US Army Air Force in WWII, flying a full tour of combat missions (35 when he was in) in the 8th Air Force over Germany and occupied France.  When the Korean war broke out, he was called up in 1950 or 1951.  Since he’d done his full combat duty, he was assigned to Military Air Transport, where he continued to fly as a navigator on cargo airplanes.  He was mainly based in Tachikawa Air Base in Japan; but also flew frequently into Clark Field near Manila in the Philippines, Taipei, and Taegu and other fields in Korea:  The work involved supplying US forces in Korea.

When he was not on duty, he wandered the areas around the air bases.  These photos are ones that he took around Tachikawa, Japan and around Manila in the Philippines.

I am stunned at how many great shots he got.  He was really in the groove when he was taking these. As one commenter on FB said:  He really knew how and when to snap the decisive moment with portraits.

These are, of necessity, my interpretations of my Dad’s negatives.  I think he would approve. I cropped the images, adjusted exposure and contrast, occasionally spotted out a distracting element, and spotted out the dust (some of my dust-spotting is sub-optimal).  But the final versions are quite close to the originals.

The first two are street photos from Manila in the Philippines.  These are just people he photographed in the street.  No idea who they are.

The next bunch are all from the vicinity of Tachikawa, Japan.

Scanner:  Epson V500 Perfection (current model is V600).  Wonderful scanner for precision work.

Processing:  Lightroom 5.  I am a beginner at processing B&W negatives in LR.  I may choose

a different SW package in the future.  Fortunately, LR does not modify the original images.

I have resized these in order to email them.

20 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Oh man, these are wonderful. I opened this in one browser, saw it was going to be very special, so I switched to a Safari because it shows Jerrys’ page in extra wide format. Very rewarding to peer into these!

  2. These were taken in 1952 and 1953. I missed that in the description.

    My Dad was my inspiration into photography. He always built a dark room in every house we lived in. The legacy really started with his mother and the box Brownie she got in the early 1900s. My Dad got his first camera in 1946, an Argus C-3. He was into 35mm format pretty much from its start. He also shot a 6cm X 6cm Rolleiflex camera with Schneider lenses. And I’m passing along this passion to my son Jamie.

    Most of these photos (negatives) I had never seen before. These were just from a 15-minute flip through the notebook from the early 1950s. Thankfully, he was very disciplined about recording when and where the photos were taken and who was in them (if he knew the people). His “hit rate” on these rolls from Japan and Korea and the Philippines is astonishing.

    There are 5 loose-leaf notebooks full of his 35mm negatives plus another notebook of 6cm negatives. 1946 through 2000, 54 years’ of photos. These will be a retirement project!

  3. These are fantastic, James! The one of the mother and child is a work of art! You must be very proud of him. He was obviously a special, talented person. It’s no wonder that you’re such a gifted photographer.

    1. Thanks very much.

      My Dad was a true Renaissance Man. He was an electrical engineer by trade; but he was also an artist. He drew, painted in watercolors and oils, was a great reader and writer, a photographer obviously, he built and operated his own radios (amateur radio, aka “HAM radio”), and he was very active in politics (on the opposite end of the spectrum from me! though I am confident he would have rejected Voldemort (POTUS 45) as incompetent and immoral). He also loved to travel and took us on long summer road trips.

      I have no idea how he squeezed all this in, while working full time and raising kids!

      I miss him very much. I am grateful he got to know my kids.

      James L. Blilie (1923-2010)

  4. My Dad made an album of photos from Japan in the 1990s. This is his introduction to that album:

    I was in Japan for 15 or 16 months starting June 1, 1952. I was a Captain and navigator in the US Air Force, assigned to the 315th Troop Carrier Group at Tachikawa, about 30 miles west of Tokyo. Tachikawa had been the “Wright Field” base [JB: analogous to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio] for the Japanese air forces before and during WWII, where they conducted research and development.

    The main function of the 315th was to support the US Forces in Korea. We flew to Korea frequently. But I was in the 15th Troop Carrier Squadron, which had most of the navigators in Tachikawa, so I also flew frequently to Okinawa, Taiwan, and the Philippines, and occasionally to Guam and Iwo Jima. [JB: What an adventure!]

    I came to Japan with a Rolleiflex and a Leica IIIf. I had 50mm and 135mm Leica lenses [JB: He bought these in Germany when he was based there in 1950 or 1951]. While in Japan, I bought a Leica-compatible f/1.4 50mm Nikkor lens and a Leica-compatible 85mm Canon lens. In addition, I bought a Canon camera that used the same lenses as the Leica. Most of the photos I made were on Kodak Super-XX film.

    There was a dark room on the base [Tachikawa] for service personnel to use. I developed all the films there, and made many prints. However, many of the photo prints I made there were on old paper and some were not adequately “hypo-ed” [fixed] or washed. So many of the prints in this album are replacements made at 12 Brian Road, Chelmsford, Mass., in the late 1960s.

    Almost all the pictures of people are candids. Either the people did not know I was taking their picture, or were not concerned with posing, etc. For this I was grateful.

    Japan has changed greatly since 1952-53. These photographs represent and era that has passed, as I have been told by various people from Japan. I think this makes the pictures more interesting and valuable.

    [JB: I still have my Dad’s Rolleiflex; but he sold all those other rangefinder cameras and lenses (for next to nothing) in the 1980s. I regret this very much. They were fine cameras and lenses.]

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