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School's photo lab enlarges on legacy

Published Sep. 1, 2005

Lecanto High School's student photographers may be familiar with Bob Moreland's work, but most never knew the seasoned photojournalist.

Moreland is revered for capturing the trademark image of a wide-mouthed alligator next to a "No Swimming" sign in Homosassa Springs. The pictures Moreland shot of the key political and entertainment figures of his day _ such as Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Elvis Presley _ depict an era students only read about in history books.

Moreland, who retired from the St. Petersburg Times in 1992, died March 19, 2002. He was 76.

Jack Calbeck, Lecanto High's photography instructor, and Reba Moreland, Bob Moreland's widow, wanted to make sure students remember Moreland's contributions to the art of photography, to the community and to the school's photo department.

Reba Moreland recently donated close to $3,000 worth of her husband's equipment to the school's photography program. Calbeck said the department also purchased, for $1,000, an additional $3,000 worth of Bob Moreland's quality equipment.

"(Reba Moreland) gave us his whole darkroom," Calbeck said.

Gifts include a film dryer, two darkroom enlargers, enlarger lenses, a stainless steel sink, Nikon cameras, beakers, trays, film processing tanks, timers and more.

"It's given my kids the opportunity to work with some first-class equipment," Calbeck said.

Now, Calbeck added, "students can dry their film in three minutes instead of seven minutes."

The equipment allows advanced students to fine-tune their skills and pay closer attention to detail. Beginning photographers whom Calbeck deems mature enough also have the opportunity to use Moreland's gear.

"(The enlarger) worked really well," said Maggie Sharar, 17, who worked with the equipment during the spring semester. "It focused a lot better because the old ones, they were harder (to use), the knobs were loose."

Sharar, a senior, has taken two years of high school photography and plans to enroll in Calbeck's advanced class this fall.

Some of the donations, Calbeck said, are 40 years old and not commonly used in the photo world. Many professionals have progressed to digital images. But Moreland's equipment provides a great learning tool to teaching photography's basics, such as how light and lenses work, and the step-by-step process of producing a picture.

"The darkroom will always be there for some artists," Calbeck said.

Moreland previously donated to the photography department's library. Dozens of his books fill the room's bookshelf. Before becoming ill, Calbeck said, Moreland often spoke to students about his experiences working for the Times.

Calbeck has spent a good part of his life shooting pictures and teaching photography.

Calbeck has been an instructor at Lecanto High for seven years. During that time, he has impressed upon his students Moreland's ideals of keeping abreast of technology and repaying others with good deeds.

"One of (Moreland's) philosophies was that he never wanted to become an obsolete photographer," Calbeck said. "He always wanted to keep up with what the modern objects were."

Calbeck, whose parents were friends of Moreland's, remembered the photographer as a happy and upbeat person who always was working on something. Moreland even helped Calbeck get started with his own photography business in Homosassa several years ago.

Initially, Calbeck said, students didn't realize the significance of the donated equipment. But after using it, they began to understand the finer points of photography and the importance of precision and quality.

Between 24 and 30 advanced students and about 60 beginning students will benefit from the donations.

"It's always nice to get equipment donated for your kids," Calbeck said. "But when it comes from someone who has a history in photography like Bob Moreland, it's really special."