Ansel Adams BBC Master Photographers (1983)

Ansel Adams BBC Master Photographers (1983)



this is it okay what step Ansel Adams is America's most revered photographer world's leading figure and landscape photography and Harden conservationist he has spent almost half of the century exploring nature and recording its grandeur and photographs in this he follows the path of three other great American photographers Edward Weston Paul strand and awkward Stieglitz all of whom had a profound influence yes I did arrive we have it 6:40 right the shadows I put on three when I wanted after Heather they get down we're now to be at 60th to 2010 32 but I've got to use this extreme front f-stop scale also when his three f-stop scale oh that's right though that would account thought only four times 22:32 anyone have it okay Owen in San Francisco in 1902 Adams has never moved far away from the sweeping landscape of his native California exploring the landscape of Yosemite and the Sierra on foot he began to record in pictures the wilderness he saw he was soon hooked on photography and gave up a promising career as a concert pianist that's good this said 10 and 2,000 off based on two and there's still the face of detail and the separation in the Vice no orders no for this stand a few minutes beautiful but they sure have put in on that other side very good for experiment Adams is considered one of the most outstanding craftsmen in photography he often prints the same negative again and again in order to achieve flawless pictures of extraordinary ternal velocity the technique which has earned him a worldwide reputation his most famous prints like the legendary moonrise over our Nanda's Valley now fetch such high prices that Adams has decided to sell only to museums and institutions what meat we decide to become a photographer you started as a concert pianist well somebody said in Morris and Eddie inevitable infection I was trained as a pianist and spend the summers in this era not mean folk about photographing all the time primarily making records visual diary and finally the fish began to be a little interesting to me and I was seeing things better and I made a first rather good picture in 1923 and that I made my first really visualized photograph in 1927 but I was still piano with the music were being beginnings we wrote it a bit and then I met Paul strand in 1930 in New Mexico and thousand and saw his negatives and that's what really turned me turned me over to this decision to be a photographer then I tried to keep both the piano and camera going for several years but it has to be all undone you can't do it do you think the two things are related well I think it was the writer but M skew so that all artists especially the same thing so the relationship there's nothing direct anymore the imperium sculpture at a certain aesthetic principles which automatic not taught her formalized and there is also in photography or body music a very great necessity for discipline as you got to have the right notes it you wait a very long time to achieve that particular image well we don't wait we come across what is called the found object as as my approach in this case I saw this tree and I saw the Sun and I realized it could be a very effective image so I suppose after selecting the the object and perhaps waited 8 to 10 minutes simply to get a vehicle some position but that's all this what is a very strange thing is practically and totally a silhouette Kathy Bernthal says there is a precise moment for taking a photograph well here's an absolute genius in the anticipation of the moment and he Valerie does that for an individual situation individual or a person but it do it with many people you'll have a group several people several things happening and his mental computer is able to to anticipate where everything's going to be I mean there's nobody liking is there's a fuel that approach like Jean Smith and well there are a few other but either I think he is silver superb weena superb anticipated I coffee when you took this particular photograph did you know in your mind's eye what it would turn out to be yeah there's going to be a silhouette I had hoped I could hold a little more definition here but the life is changing very fast and I trusted to memory rather than to bother reading I could have had a little more about the inhibited nothing in the native so it has to be put in very deeply this or one of my earlier one and it's one of my most satisfactory it happens to be very difficult to print because it was a fully processed native it's taken with a very long lens on a four by five in the southern Sierra called precipice Lake and there's a matter of being there at the right day in a lifetime just a few days later this ice is melted and the feeling of disappeared and in this case I was very anxious to emphasize this beautiful white door and if I achieved the higher value throughout I lost the impact of the door so it hasn't for out a slightly mournful intense feeling to it which that's why I saw it or visualizes mr. Adams this is one of your very first prints isn't it well the nature is made in the early 1930s but it's everybody seems to like it and it's very nostalgic for me why is it nostalgic well it's the experience of the place the whole southern Sierra is incredible and this is what we call the Kern River Sierra and this next one is in the upper Kern that is northern near the headwaters I'm working here I guess about 12,000 feet eleven to twelve thousand feet and it's just a moon sunrise setting wound it's a very difficult thing to print to get feeling of life because if you get the moon ladder you lose your sky it's very interesting that the rock here in southern let's write it in the moon which is after all a very very dark substance this is almost an abstract one isn't it well you bring up an interesting point there as to whether you can actually have abstraction and photography because you do have the inevitably realistic image the lens I like to use a word extract and the shapes of nature are then organized in the camera in the mind first and in the format and develop towards a form formal statement relationship it can't be abstract it can be highly selective you cannot be absolute because I don't think you can photograph anything's which isn't already inherent in NASA you cannot do what they're not objective Peter can do can build up a series of impressions of abstract colors will play abstract I'm using have again a different way impressions of color and shape and integrate them with the photographer's problem is result of establish a configuration or a chaos and he has to think of his format in enclosures relation a textured and values but again that comes it's automatic I can't sit there and contemplate okay by the time I finish the contemplation the sand would be blown away and I would have heard I would be lost are you very aware that you try to preserve fleeting moments well depends what you call fleeting sometimes in the geologic sense a year is a very freely moment and sometimes with the people it's a twenty fifth of a second of course if I notice happening in very obvious and in just a few moments a few minutes is going to be perfected if there was a funny little cloud moving out of the sky if it had no relation to the picture did nothing forward I would wait to the let number the other hand if I keep waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting the light changes the mood changes excitement changes so I'm supposed to see a rather swiftly the external tone allottee of the shades of grey and black and a little bit of white is that what happens in the camera or is that what happens in the preview you see of course again none of my images are realistic in terms of values I mean the the original about softer than the photograph and in order to get certain vitality if I kept a lot of shadow in here I would have a totally different picture so I sometimes will let things go very deep and where's it's it's a manipulation of value intentional manipulation but it also gives the photograph an extraordinary clarity and Christmas it's like the piano you have 88 keys you go from the lowest to the highest or you usually work within a few octave well there were some magnificent things within just some activities so it's all a matter of the basic feeling this again is a feeling nature few hours later that's a change it's just an disappearing ice floe on a on ellery lake that is east of Yosemite and it again it is intentionally the background and the water itself and it very deep simply because of the excitement of this sometimes luminate advice i don't ask me why I did it I just couldn't help doing it I like things usually in fairly soft rich lightness is sunrise and late autumn in the Rocky Mountains and there again but subjects were very soft and would be very gray and uninspiring in its back in white but again beautifully colored but here we have to expand so expand the contrast because we know we have to have any print to become exciting value something like this to this but this is still on the border they were still substance it's not a black hole but if that is a week of variation for my point of view then it would become rather insipid like this photograph very much was made in Cape Cod many many years ago and it's an interesting matter of interpretation because my first prints tried to capture the very soft grey light of the area and I became too satisfied with the qualities of the prints so I simply improved the pretty and I think by increasing values and strain but there are the two steps I mean one is the moment of taking the photograph and the other one is when you actually print the photograph well that's an important question actually there's this two ways one is to take an average exposure just shoot you know and I hate that word but you click and then you process and despite you expect some miracles to happen the sad fact is they very seldom happen the attitude of they create a photographer tonight for instance April West's and seeta's people in that caliber that they saw very clearly in their minds eye on other words they visualize the image before they made the photograph them the technique or the craft is be applied as required and while you do have certain you might say enhancements as you print things we detail it become revealed you never can escape the original visualization you shouldn't I mean that's the native and you've got it and I'm guilty of creating a cliche which I use very often is that in actuality the negatives like the composer score all the informations there and then the predator performance see so you interpret this score at very aesthetic emotional levels but never far enough away to violate the essential concept so if somebody would take your original negative which is the score and print it up one would end up with a totally different photograph because it's a different performance I hope it would be different after all when I was a pianist I was playing music you're marking Vivaldi and Mozart who not only were long dead but had never heard a grand piano so in a sense any music performance of that music is a hell of a transcription a contemporary composition which is made for the contemporary instruments there's something else over there the three prints are from the same negative on thing this is probably buy my first visualization I chose the filter especially for the dramatic effect from the sky so I began to see as a dark heavy sky and intense shadows so it was made in 1927 and this is the first print which is about 54 years old and the big one the end was made here at about 1960 2 or 3 and the center one is about maybe 5 years old so it's a case of four different performances of of the same but all three of them have totally different emotional qualities every day well if I were pianist are giving concert I probably would play a particular piece very differently in February than I did in June they saw or at least ten or twenty or thirty of the fifties of me years difference you would have a different feeling so you think a negative has infinite possibilities of of different prints well yes it was shouldn't respect for the original intention but I have sent I will give all my negatives an archive to the senator creative photography in Tucson and one of the stipulations with the negatives is that the advance students are serious photographer will have an opportunity to print them for non-commercial use and under academic supervision it just won't go and food that'll be since that the V&A it is that I hope will last for quite a while and the thing that excites me is within not too many years we're going to have a tiring new medium of expression at the electronic image so I've seen what can happen to print reproduced by the laser scanner and how that is enhanced and that's just the beginning I also seen some magnificent electronic images direct direct electrical not pictures of pictures and I know the potentials are there I know it's going to be wonderful well in that sense the natives for these photographs that an example will take the place of a Frescobaldi or personal there are some early composer will then be reinterpreted through a fresh medium and I think that is marvelous this is not a young negative this has been very hard to print it was taken very early in the morning autumn morning in Yosemite the problem is that the values of the cliff and the values of the foliage and things are pretty close so I had to expand the contrast on there and a color photograph this would be a very very quiet subtle they probably with him it's a very short range of values which would be hopelessly dull and in black and white so I have allowed shadows to cut out almost to maximum depth and then these pick up and the difficulty of course is trying to separate values like this and rock because nothing I can do all these problems have to go through your mind you know like calles el but you still work totally instinctively well I had to measure everything I had a just that time arrested meter so when I couldn't major exactly actual interpolate and I got a pretty good idea of placements of values did you take many photographs for a picture like that no I usually take just one I had not never brackets with the following exception this I knew when I took this it was a good team there's gonna be a good image so I take two for protection and actions can happen scratches and anything that's nothing to do with thee with the actual photograph and if you take if you compare the two of them are they almost I don't have it and you don't bracket now bracketing is a sign of insecurity when you're say gee I don't know whether that's F 2015 11 I'd better try F 8 and 16 and well you know but that that means you don't really know what you're doing how does one avoid for instance a photograph like this just to become merely pretty well that's a matter of taste and no that's true visualization I can see I can see all kinds of prettification 's you want to use the word but there is something that if it relates to you in an aesthetic sense that's all you can do because the danger of the postcard of course the danger at least so the literal postcard it's just something it isn't very clearly seen and again uestions that made some revivalist remarks and one of them was that the composition in photography is the strongest way of seeing yes I mean during your career you moved away more and more from a mere pictorial you the the Pater has a totally different approach painters approach is purely synthetic in a sense he pulls many things together I don't mean synthetic in the magazine and the photographer's approaches is is analytic this is except the painter has the possibilities of an accumulation of time and intentions while the photography is the frozen own that has to be right that's right you're very concerned with mood obviously well that's part of the visualization the aesthetic aesthetic and emotional statement I think it might be helpful to you to quote out for the season since statement when someone asked him in the earlier days when photography was gone usually that has it students we don't understand let's talk about creating photography in creativity with the mechanical medium how do you make a creative photograph and he replied it he was interested would go out of the world with his camera he would come across something that excited him emotionally it's virtually and aesthetically forget all those words they don't mean my said they're symbols of something much deeper and I see the picture in my mind's eye I make the photograph and I give you the print as the equivalent of what I saw him felt and that word equivalent is is really profound because it is the equivalent of two things what he saw and what he felt about mr. Adams's your pictures obviously either true expression how you feel about life that you don't like to be very unethical about it well the element of verbalization of explaining what's in the picture what you feel about it I think is very futile because if it isn't in the picture are you talking about it and I have known a system dear friends would be verbalizes and they would demand that I would make a verbal expression of why and what I did what I felt well I should just look at the photograph that's all I can say about it and it's a very important point because you cannot it isn't that you don't become critical and I can look at this and I can see how I could have improved but I never could put into words the particular feeling in the emotion of this particular moment because it's contained in the foot and it's impossible to put into words just what you feel you just say that I think this photograph has it or it doesn't have it or I can tell you what camera or lens of film and all those we call chatter but when they come right down to tell you what I felt or what I tried to or what I saw when I felt in the emotional sense you have to leave it to the print to explain that did you use the camera almost like a poet would use the pen to write in or a painter the brush so if it didn't do pretentious to say that I guess that's close to it here yes music the comparison would be that you well I'm both the composer in the performer yeah I'd like to know the next performers gonna be you have obviously a very strong romantic streak in you know I admit that freely yes I mean romantic in its true sense because it also has the menacing dramatic side of romantic when you think about the romantic painters like Fuzhou Leo Caspar David Friedrich they have the same menacing quality what doesn't it in a sense mean that the sub you should have something to do with it yeah and this is still a thunderstorm if in Cimarron New Mexico and it was a tremendously dramatic scene this magnificent view of the southern Sierra and this was a very dramatic and difficult thing to the photograph technically and I I think I solved it fairly well but it's matter of extreme contrasts and it isn't popular I think because this is very dramatic what is it that you drawn to so much to nature untouched by human beings well it's it's simpler and it is it's us confused with with different meanings there's some people that always demand some humanity in the nature there's something specially a pictorial grooves be caught with demand that there be a monk standing by this church gate to see I can she's not looking at it as a thing of beauty and pure form do you think it is also something to do that it lends it sort of timeless quality to the photograph it takes it out of any immediate superficial human connotation now this is the Mission Santa Vidal Bock from southern Arizona and it's probably the most America's most beautiful Spanish type and structure and the thing like this is very hard to photograph it doesn't look that way and it shouldn't look that way the spectator but trying to get these elements and these distance needs to work either use a very short focal length lens and the slightest movement of the camera changes position see I could make it with the camera two inches to the left and this will impinge here and all kinds of even though I've taken if I can see where I could have improved it a little bit by moving do you think a photograph represents reality or does it interpret reality well why it should be an interpretation you can also be a document it can represent it and there's no doubt that this admissions had a Via del Bock but it's only if fragment of it and yet an interpretation of a statement of feeling about this particular frame I also think Barry just showing a fragment you capture the essence of the church very often much more and then another point would be this is not a photograph to rosin driftwood this was not Mary Rose but I found that if I use a short lens came in very closely I had what was called a looming feeling of coming toward your space and the men's had it been twice as long I think this was a four inch if I'd use a lens with eight inches this would have had a certain flatness by the desolate flatness but you've taken the most natural object and it almost looks artificial well yeah I guess it isn't not official in our sense of I could try didn't compose it but it did I mean it has become an object rather than that's innate that's a good way to put it it's become an object in itself yes mr. Adams you not normally known as the people's photographer but you have done quite a few portraits well I worked professionally I did a great many people and things related to people and things with people and think for themselves I did portraitures professionally but I never liked it because again if it didn't stir me to do something on my own with people it is very difficult to try to manufacture something you just don't understand and it's the pages of my part not in their part or not in their necessary and their character it's just that I I couldn't control it so what I did it as good as I could but sometimes they liked it and sometimes they didn't I like this one because of the peculiar quality of light and again there's a certain nostalgia in my mind because of the fishing involved very dear old lady don't independence California this is an interesting image this was the camp near the shipyards at Richmond and both parents were off working in the yards probably double ships and this boy was keeping the little kids under control there's actually four of them and the kid was being interviewed and he was here to death but the intense element of the I see again the picture of my mind's eye and I reached for another camp when the Rolleiflex and I've had no chance to really compose the whole thing we've done just a matter of a minute but it's very difficult to print but it has a certain quality that I like and I would put it in with my good work these children were obviously not aware that their photograph was taken but whenever I hit a little baby one yes that's right but when you look at the next one that's a much more posed picture because these people knew that their photograph was yeah that's a very good point they did and it was this farm family up with me Sierra Nevada foothills they were sitting there and I was looking around for something because I had to do the picture you know and I thought I found a pretty good location and then I turned back and there they were that was better than anything so I just moved in and we got it but this picture is coming up it's a very recent one yeah no yeah but November last year I mean her face is almost like a landscape well she's an incredible person and one of the very great artists and said I want to make you photograph and she said oh why why don't you find somebody that's worthy of photographing Oh some silly comment so I said well I've got a very simple rent and she sat down and I just looked around and she was just waiting him I just saw it was quite organizes various leaves so they seemed to work everything so then I said let's go so she just looks at the camera and I do it that's always true and of course who keeps all my husband or husband they Alfred Stieglitz this isn't color photograph interesting and the census turn on one of the early cook homes early 1940s and we had this print made fairly recently but they cover hell very well it is and it's just sitting in his office with a window lighted no artificial night but talking about color you do prefer photographing in black and white I still do although now the modern materials easy getting better but color always seems to cheapen a bit the photo yeah I mean he said advertising which is done that in a sense she's most advertising photographs are all done with control light and the color value is selected and they they make the recording and you get out into nature you have a variation of what we could Kelvin or a color temperature counting a very complex contrast problem and you can't do anything with it I mean the nature the green may be very beautiful and the ocean colors out there may be beautiful but rustic comes together with what the film said it realistic it would be very ugly so part of the visualization that you have to consider that would be what's going to happen to color how do I control is colored can we have a look at your gallery I think there are some of the larger ones yes it would be very nice to take a look back unfortunately let me design the house we can have room for the gallery space and darkroom this must be your most famous picture isn't it well it's the best known I guess yeah it's it's been rather popular does it bother you that this image has become so popular and now become this museum piece no I think it's good that people like it I think sometimes the values tributes without side excessive but it's completely out of my control this could be seen and I just happened to see an extraordinary moment and pictures actually made with a leeway of about 30 15 seconds because the Sun went off crosses youth illuminated from a very Western Sun wearing a lot of edge cloud would you call this a perfect picture no it's it's comes pretty close to it but I couldn't find the exposure meter and I had to rely on what I knew was the brightness of the moon or the luminance of the moon as we say and I could have given them more exposure with a little more support in a lower area but I can't scriber spilt milk have you taken the perfect picture yet no the best pictures around the corner like prosperity you

27 thoughts on “Ansel Adams BBC Master Photographers (1983)

  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    "The best picture is around the corner, just like prosperity". What an enjoyable interview. It was interesting to hear his ideas about the similarities and differences between photography and music as well as painting. A great artist and educator. Thanks for posting. Y

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    it's sad that people today seem to think black and white photographs arent worth making. unless it's over saturated colors then nobody likes it.

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    What I forgot to say in my last comment, that making a black and white photograph in the darkroon, you select the paper, which involves the image tone and paper surface, the different types of chemicals and how they effect the way the image appears, the rich velvity black tones, the mid-tones, etc.

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    Ansel Adams is indeed a great photographer. He understands the craft . I've always liked black and white, because it's not just taking a picture, it's making a photograph. I'm sure Mr. Adams will agree, that weather you're using digital or a large format film camera, you need to know the craft. Sometimes you're going to set your camera on totally automatic and auto-focus…..and click. Then there are times when you're going to use a large format film camera like Adams and meter here and meter there, and set your camera this way and that way….you're making a photograph.

    Did you know that Adams also took pictures in color as well? That's what I read somewhere. But I've never seen any of the color prints.

    If you love photography, then you love everything about it.

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    so sad that he never got to see the great advances in digital photography that he was talking about

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    Thanks for these uploads.

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    amazing what a great man!

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    @5:10, the name of another photographer is mentioned. Does anyone know who they are referring to? Sounds french.

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    I wonder what Ansel would have thought about photography today.

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    What a wonderfully peaceful guy.

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    I love how excited he was about digital photography and tehnological advances in photography.

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    His assistant is John Sexton, a famous and amazing photographer in his own right.

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    I really love many of Ansel Adam's pictures, he is one of the very few really great landscape photographers in my opinion. But I honestly never understood the – for lack of a better word – hype for 'Moonrise over Hernandez'.

    Admitted, it is a good picture; I – being a mediocre hobby picture taker myself – would be proud, if I could say that I made this photo, but compared with the general quality of his work in the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite, it does not even come close to the pictures I would consider AA's best work.

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    Thank you, Adams, for paraphrasing well the reason why I came to watch your video as a non-photographer, that all forms of art carry the same principle of creativity! Bravo, fortissimo yaaaa

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    This man has been editing his images even before many of us heard of Photoshop. I guess this puts a damper on those who believe "pure photography" means shooting without manipulating their photos.

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    He is the soul reason I picked up a camera at such a young age and wanted so badly to be a photographer one day.. now I'm living my dream. Great stuff here.

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    If I am using 35mm film (black and white film for C41 processing and scanning the negatives, is it possible to still use the zone system?

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    Thanks a million for sharing Rob!

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    Thanks for sharing.

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  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    thank you for sharing

    Reply
  • May 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    thank you for sharing

    Reply

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