I happened on a travel article (http://tinyurl.com/kitglsy) this morning written by Melanie Kaplan for the Washington Post travel section. The article talks about a "new trend" in photography - using film. While Ms. Kaplan's article deals mostly with the re-introduction of the Polaroid-style instant film, I thought I would open the can of worms on film and look back on my own film experience spanning 35 years.
I came to photography (and I am talking about something other than being an occasional snapshooter) later in life than a lot of people.I was 31 years old when my wife took me to a local electronics store in Fairfax, VA, and told me I could buy as 35mm SLR camera and lens. (Yes, she did give me a monetary limit. No top-of-the-line Nikon or Canon or the infamous rangefinder Leica!) I spent about an hour handling various camera bodies with their standard 1,8/50mm lenses. In the end, I picked an Olympus OM-10 and Zuiko 1,8/50mm as my weapon of choice. The year was 1978.
The next step, of course, was film selection. Within a short amount of time, I settled on two Kodak films - one color and one black&white. I would use these two films exclusively for the next 20-plus years.
Initially, I tried several color negative, or print, films. But those films just did not work for me. I enjoyed the one-hour processing but to see the images I needed to do prints. Yeah, I know that is so "old school" but scanners like my current Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED were not available to me back then. But the images from the various negative films did not strike a chord within me. You know, those images that just beg to be shared.
So I shifted to color positive, transparency/slide, film. One film began to stand out to my eyes. One of the top films of the day was Fuji Velvia, an ASA50 film, but I did not like the skin colors that Velvia registered. Kodak's Kodachrome25 renders the tones to my liking but was just too slow for my style of shooting. Enter Kodak's Kodachrom64. I was in love. Processing took longer but no need for prints so overall costs dropped. Add in that, in that day and age, most magazines would only accept slides for consideration to print.
For black&white films, it was different. My first roll went to the local one-hour processing lab again but the images came back all muddy. None of the great tonal range and contrast that I was seeing in the landscape prints of Ansel Adams (I had no knowledge of the Zone System at that time) or the images of Henri Cartier-Bresson and other photojournalists of the day. In the end, I took a couple of classes at the local community college and learned the rudimentary process to developing and printing my own images. What an amazing difference there was in b&w images when you have total control over the development and printing of them. I tried different Ilford and Kodak films and settled on Kodak Tri-X, an ASA400 speed film.
Today, the only film I shoot is Tri-X as Kodochrome64 is no longer available. And, even as good as K64 was, I am not sure I would have a need to shoot it today. As anyone who has visited this blog or my flickr stream, facebook pages, or website, it is apparent that I am totally hung up on b&w imagery. I was never a good color photographer in my opinion. I spend too much time watching expressions, movement, and the light that I very seldom remember the colors. My two new digital cameras are setup so their electronic viewfinders show only b&w representations and, for me, that is great as it helps me to photographically "see" the image better.
In my early shooting days, I reached a point where I would mentally "see" an images in b&w tones rather than color when I was shooting b&w film. I am not sure I could do that today with digital SLRs where you see only what the camera sees. But when I pul out my dad's old Yashica rangefinder, I do tend to see as I did back then. Something about shooting b&w film that triggers something in my brain.
For today's images, I dug into my negative files that I have scanned in the past year or so as I try to digitize everything. I picked one from my early days of shooting and one from 2011.
The first one is another of my wife on her birthday. It was shot with the same camera/lens combo she had let me buy the previous year and Tri-X film. Many people do not like Tri-X as it is too contrasty for their eyes but I love the rendering that Tri-X provides. Hell, sometimes I even boost the contrast a little!
Besides the fact that this image conjures up all sorts of emotions within concerning my "model" here, I love how the Tri-X tonal range handles the light. At that time, I had been shooting enough Tri-X that, instead of "seeing" in color, my brain took over I saw her as this image presents - in black&white. Now I know she is a blue-eyed blonde but I cannot tell what shade of eyeshadow or fingernail polish she was using that day.
But the ability to "see" in b&w is something that has eluded me (not including the new cameras' capabilities) in recent years.
EXCEPT when I started using Tri-X in my dad's old Yashica rangefinder. There is something about shooting with film in that rangefinder that triggers the old responses. My mind doesn't necessarily disregard colors but tends to see the colors in shades of grey. When I develop the film these days, I can't remember what the colors were. The second image was shot during the Seaside Fourth of July parade in 2011. I was trying to see if I wanted to return to shooting nothing but film (something I may still do some day!). I know there was a lot of color that day but I have no idea what the colors were in this shot! All I saw was a range of greys.
If you have looked at my flickr stream, you might have seen this image before. But I love the kid here. He was nice enough not to fire his water cannon but I love the story it tells.
Anyway, that is today's post. I never know what I am going to post so stop back by when you get a chance. There is no telling what dumb thing I will do or post next!!
And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....