Back to Beginnings
Starting out in photography back in the seventies, I learned to shoot and process black and white film. Developing film seemed like a chore to me. It was like making a cake that you couldn’t eat. You just pour in chemicals and then pour out chemicals all while watching the clock. When you are done, you squeegee the film and hang it in the drying cabinet. It’s a fairly simple recipe that you follow with few variations. As I recall, the only thing we changed was the developer. Mostly, we used Kodak D-76 or less often Agfa Rodinal, and very occasionally Kodak Microdol-X. The developing times changed depending on the formula and dilution, but the rest of the process seemed to stay the same.
For me, the magic really began with the print. Fitting the negative into the enlarger, checking your focus with a grain magnifier, setting paper into an easel and then exposing your print; it was just the beginning. Sliding my exposed paper into the Dektol developer and watching an image appear in the soup was a life changing experience. I was hooked!
I was a real contrast freak back in the day. The above image would have been printed on glossy F5 high contrast paper. These days, I upped the contrast to darken the sky and lighten the clouds before converting. I used Color Efex Pro 3 with an orange filter in the black and white converter.
On this second image, I would have used a matte double weight G2 or G3. In this case, I’ve added a bit of warm tone after the B&W conversion. Again, I bumped the contrast to highlight the wood grain. I was in a shallow depth of field state of mind on the Photowalk and shot this one wide open at f/2.8. I’m still undecided if it works on this image…
To me, the tack sharp B&W images call for that high contrast glossy paper, usually an F4 or F5. The light was really harsh at Mesa Verde that day and the contrasty light replicated what was there. I’ve been in a color mode for so long, it’s been a big remembering curve to get back into black and white. Before digital, color slide film was almost all that I was shooting; so there was little opportunity for black and white. I’m starting to enjoy it again.