Black & White – Trial 1

Last night I attended my first, of 5, classes in Black & White photography & darkroom technique. 5 minutes ago I finished taking my first roll of film. I’m never going to make a good film photographer, unless I have my own instantly accessible darkroom, can you believe that I have to wait an entire week before I can see what I’ve imaged? Last night’s class was primarily an intro, the teacher will only be with us for the first two weeks, she’s over committed herself, and then we’ll have a new teacher for the final three weeks. Personally, I think this shows in the way she taught the class. It’s a five week quick wiz class, I get that, but still she could have actually thought about what she was teaching us and presented things a little better. I know what she’s talking about and what the aim of this weeks assignment is, not because of her, but because I have copy of the Michael Langford, Basic Photography book she’s referring to *sigh*. Unfortunately she was a little all over the place which resulted in unclear instructions and serious problems working out what information was important and what was just interesting.

Anyways, this session is focused on pattern and texture composition, thinking about lighting, selective focus, repetition and movement. Some of the suggested subject matters include corrugated iron (rusted, painted, corroded etc), peeling paint, torn posters, graffiti or natural subjects such as trees/bark/driftwood, leaves, lichen, rocks etc etc. We are using 100 ISO, Rollei retro film (emulsion: 706), it’s a German made film @ 24 exposures.

My other new experience, aside from B&W photography in general, is the fact that I’ve never used a film SLR in manual mode! I used to own one, I had no idea what to do with it and plugged it into auto 90% of the time (with a few experimental days of shutter speed and/or aperture play, not much and not often). So I’ve had to borrow a camera for the class, it’s a Nikkormat FT3 (produced the year I was born), by Nikon. Nikkormat On the camera I have Nikon, Nikkor 35mm 1:2.8 lens.

So far what I’ve liked about today’s session was the fact that I paid a hell of a lot more attention to the texture of the objects, climbing into the patch of nasturtiums under the lemon tree to capture the veins and that sort of thin. I’m frustrated with the fact that I can’t just upload the images NOW so that I can go off and improve them. I also have no idea how well this camera focuses, the light meter is really hit and miss, it’s a needle that moves up and down and is the only battery operated, automatic part of the entire camera. So there are loads of challenges for me, B&W composition, manual focusing, sketchy light metering (using the sunny 16 rule here a bit), a fixed lens and a camera that’s as heavy as a brick. Challenge = learning experience = better photographer (repeat infinitum). Tomorrow I’m hoping to inspire myself to play around with light a little more in my compositions – how? I have no real idea just yet 🙂 Now, because I have a Nikon D70, I can use the lens from the Nikkormat on the D70 so I’m going to slow myself down a bit and actually take one shot on the Nikkormat, remove lens, place lens on D70, take same photo. I can’t unfortunately use all the same settings as my D70 doesn’t do ISO 100, only 200, but I’ll do my best to get things equal. I’m then going to upload the D70 photos and do some Photoshop B&W conversion so that next week after I’ve developed the film I can do some comparisons, and hopefully give examples.

I’d also like to note that the above photo was taken by me a few minutes ago in a very simple light tent (or box rather) that I made this morning. It’s a cardboard box with white card curved into it to make a seamless backdrop, lighting is 100% natural coming in front on, through the front door. Not perfect and not really suitable for true stock photography uses, but very usable for this sort of thing and great practice for me.

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