Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to look at it more closely. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Pilot

The Pilot
The Pilot

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Color May be In...but Black and White is Where its At

Many years ago my first attempts at photography involved using an old box camera that my grandparents had…an old No 1 Kodak Brownie model with the additional optical view finder that added .25 cents to the original $2.00 price tag.  It used 117 or 120 2 1/4 inch black and white roll film and you know it actually took very good pictures. Many of their old photo’s can be dated back to the early 1910’s and still hold up today almost 100 years later.  They used that old camera for many years eventually storing it in a drawer where I happened to find it one day some years later after they had graduated to a more modern camera.

With that old camera I took my earliest pictures…none of which survive today that I am aware of…I was fascinated with the fact that I could insert a roll of film, turn a knob until number 1 appeared, look thru the tiny view finder and push a silver lever to release the shutter, repeat that process until all the film was used up…then after a day or two at the drug store receive back all the pictures I had taken.They were black and white but full of rich tones and character…the composition of the shots left something to be desired…but, it was a beginning.

By the time I was in my early teens I had graduated to the point I was able to do my own B&W processing in a make shift photo lab I set up inside a cramped closet.  I didn’t have much money to spend so I ended up making my own enlarger out of old Quaker Oats boxes.  It actually worked better than you might think…I used a large light bulb with the guts removed and filled with water as the condenser to diffuse the light…a regular 40 watt light bulb as a light source which was connected to an old fan timer as an on/off switch (I simply counted the exposure seconds), a lens from an old bb-gun rifle scope, and a red Christmas tree light for a safety light.  It lay on its side, for construction simplicity, and projected on the wall and the negative was inserted into an easel made out of old shoebox cardboard.  Another shoebox easel was attached to the wall that would hold the print paper which was inserted after all the focusing was done…which by the way was accomplished by simply sliding a smaller oat mill box, with the lens attached on the closed end, back and forth inside a slightly larger oat mill box. If I needed a larger image I simply moved the whole contraption back a few inches. Hey, when your allowance was a dollar a week, you made do with what you could…so we learned to innovate.



The pinnacle of those photo processing days came when I was able to attach an Estes Camroc camera to the top of a model rocket that snapped a single image at the apex of the flight…which would reach upwards to 1000 feet depending on which rocket engine was used.  I would manage to make two or three launches and then rush home to process the negatives…wow…pictures of ponds and cows from the air…even aircraft on the ground as we often would launch on one end of the local airport…with permission of course. Great fun.

Today with the advent of digital photography…man how the world has changed since then…but you know, color digital photography may be in, but Black and White is still where it’s at.  Only today it is so much easier to create great B&W images…and only slightly less fun than watching with anticipation those images appear in the chemical trays. 

I recently acquired some B&W conversion software called Silver Efex Pro by Nik Software…all I can say is I never realized how great digital B&W could be until I started using this software. I’m not trying to promote or market a software package, but what I’m attempting to do is speak about the nature of B&W and the visual impact it can have. Just think about it for a moment…who hasn’t seen the greatest movie of all time ‘Casablanca’…talk about the power of black and white…it was never more effectively used that in that movie.  Only black and white can give an image the kind of strength and graphic expression that captures all of the viewer’s senses and imagination.  It is a powerful form of photography that too many people tend to discount…myself included until lately.

Although I will continue with the color variety of images…you will begin to see more black and white on this blog as it allows one the opportunity to explore photography in its truest form of expression.

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