Tuesday, March 01, 2005

In Love With Black and White

In Love With Black and White
by Kat Yares

My newest love is photography. I have digital cameras, I have point and shoot 35 mm cameras, but what I've fallen in love with is black and white photography shot with my ancient Voigtlander Prominent II camera.

From what I've read, this camera was probably the best made camera on the market in the late fifties. Unfortunately it was also probably the worst designed. It is heavy, parts of it are awkward to use, but it takes superb pictures. Since I've never used any other expensive camera, I really don't know if it truly has any flaws. Guess I'll have to take someone else's word for that.

An old boss gave the Voigtlander to me. He called it worthless and thought maybe my son would want it to 'play' with. Along with the camera in its original leather case, it came with three extra lenses, several filters and a few items I don't have a clue of their use. I took one look and told myself there was no way my then 12 year old was going to play with it. I looked it up on eBay, and the prices it was going for only confirmed my thoughts.

I bought film and learned to use it. It took all of our vacation pictures for two years. I loved the quality of the photos, even those I took through the glass of a moving car turned out wonderful. No blurring, just clean, crisp pictures.

The third year, I loaded it with black and white film. I've never gone back to color. I love the way this camera picks up the nuances of gray in the still shots. I love to take pictures of old abandoned houses, and try to think up stories of the families that once lived there. The Voigtlander gives the old houses an eerie look in black and white and if I'm very lucky, it will pick up the early morning ground fog surrounding them.

It also seems to capture the personality behind peoples faces. The twinkle in the eyes (and never any red-eye) and laugh lines. Take a picture of an old farmer and you'll see what I mean. The shots are stunning.

My only complaint so far is the cost of developing the film. Living away from the big city as far as I do, I only have one option: the local super center. And they aren't cheap for black and white, not buying the film or processing.

This leads me to the next thing on my wish list, my own dark room. I would love to watch my own photographs come to life in front of my eyes. To me, watching that happen would be the ultimate experience.

That is on my to do list, along with finding online sources of good black and white film that won't cost me three arms and two legs to have delivered to the Ozark Backwoods.

Until then, I'll just do the best I can with what I have to work with. It doesn't matter, the pictures are so wonderful, they are worth any price.

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