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Monday, March 19, 2018

Camara Man: Osborn has been taking photos for decades (slideshow 5)

By Kyle Vuille

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

“A good photograph is knowing where to stand,” Terry Osborn quoted from the great Ansel Adams while sitting among piles of boxes of negatives in his basement.

Osborn, who moved to Glendive in 1975, has been pressing the shutter button since he was eight.

He received his very first camera back when his family went on their first family vacation to Yellowstone. He recalled the camera being an Ansco.

Throughout his school years, he saved up to buy better cameras. Osborn still owns the Polaroid “Swinger” he saved up for in high school.

His love for photography and cameras didn’t end there.

Osborn recalls one of his first cameras he purchased as an adult: a Yasmicha single lens reflex. He said he took photographs of his daughter’s birth in 1979 just as a keepsake, with no intention of becoming a photographer.

Several months later, the urge and desire of photography really hit him prompted by one of his neighbors who was into photography and was taking photos of the solar eclipse that year.

“I was completely enamored at this point,” Osborn said.

He said about a year after the eclipse, Osborn’s  neighbors were preparing to move and asked if he wanted to buy all the darkroom equipment they had. He described several big boxes with an enlarger along with other processing equipment he bought from his neighbor for $150.

The problem was Osborn had no negatives to mess with or make prints of with his new found equipment. He went back to his job at the police department the following day and told his boss about his new hobby and the dilemma of having nothing to work with. His boss rifled through his locker and pulled out one negative he had found during an investigation.

“I made so many prints of that same negative,” Osborn said.

Osborn took his first photography course in 1980 at Dawson Community College after his wife bought him a Canon AE-1 for Father’s Day. He remembered the instructor being such a purist.

“We had to log everything, what aperture, what shutter speed, completely manual,” Osborn said.

Osborn explained there were only two settings besides shooting fully manual, which were aperture priority and shutter priority, but his instructor wanted to learn proper exposures through skill, not pre-set program modes.

“It was a pivotal point me,” Osborn said. “Everything changed and I started looking at light differently, seeing it for what it was, and learning how to control and manipulate it.”

It was at this point that Osborn started thinking about becoming a professional photographer, but he wanted to have the nuts and bolts of the art down before he continued.

A moment of achievement came in the form of five black and white prints Osborn submitted at the 1982 county fair. All five photos received blue ribbons and won the photo sweepstakes that year.

That’s when his phone started ringing off the hook with people asking Osborn to shoot family portraits and such.

As a police officer for about 20 years, he was given the opportunity to attend the crime scene photography school in Bozeman, at the police academy.

“It was an 80-hour course,” Osborn said. “I learned a lot about critical focus and controlling depth of field.”

He attended another crime scene photography class in Chicago, this time put on through the Professional Photographers Association of America. The crime class was only offered once a year, but he got a spot.

Back in Glendive, Osborn was shooting sports photography after he got the bid for the ABC baseball league, Babe Ruth and Girls softball. 

Once again, thoughts of trying his hand at photography in professional sense entered Osborn’s mind and in 1994, he joined the Professional Photographers Association of America.

He then again returned to the school in Chicago, but this time took a class on portraits and lighting.

“It took me awhile to digest it all,” Osborn said.

With years of experience under his belt and knowledge from the technical side, Osborn started looking for his own photo studio in January of 1995.

Osborn had not yet retired from his position at the police department and was working 40 hours at both the studio and police department until he retired from law enforcement in January 1996 after 20 years of service.

“I was taking a big risk opening the studio downtown,” Osborn said.

He explained there were two other full-time studios at the time. 

“We never looked at each other as competition, we helped each other at times and I even learned things from them,” Osborn said.

One of Osborn’s prized cameras, a Swedish made, medium format camera, a Hassalblad, was purcchased from the Adelphe Studio.

The camera itself has been passed through a number of hands, even a burglars after their studio was broken into. The camera was eventually retrieved by the Glendive Police Department.

Throughout the years, Osborn took hundreds of family photos. One family portrait that he will never forget involved a family wishing to take a family portrait because the grandmother was expected to pass away in the near future. The father of the family and Osborn didn’t get along usually, but Osborn and the man put aside differences for the day and the portrait was taken. According to Osborn, the father died after a complication in surgery several days after the portrait was taken. Because this was back in the time of film, Osborn said he didn’t trust sending off the film to Billings for prints so he made the drive and brought back the proofs for the family.

“I didn’t tell them I drove to make sure they made it,” Osborn said.

Osborn closed his studio in June of 2014.

Osborn continues to click away at the shutter button and even finds his photos making appearances on local news sites.

Osborn said he does find it frustrating that everyone with a camera phone and social media fancies themselves photographers because in his words, photographers “create” art.

“Most people look, but they do not see,” Osborn said. “I used to go out looking for things to photograph and come back without shooting a single frame.”

The advice he offers folks who ask him ‘how do you get all those beautiful colors?’ is simple. “Be there when the light is there.”

Reach Kyle Vuille at

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