True Black And White

I tracked the FedEx package all day. After I pulled into the parking lot, I rushed to the apartment complex’s office to pick up the brown envelope that contained the first true black and white film that I had ever shot. I rushed upstairs to my little apartment and ignored my dog’s pleas to go for a walk so I could see the images I had shot. I love the black and white aesthetic. Some of my favorite photographs are devoid of color. I was and continue to be very excited to shoot in true black and white. I have been shooting with my film camera using Ilford Delta 400 35mm film. I have neither the expertise nor the education to process film. I don’t have the means to scan them digitally either. So, I had sent them to a photo store not far away. They arrived today.

At first, I was surprised by the grain. This could be due to the ASA speed of the film. The picture above was taken on a clear sunny afternoon. I am tempted to try 100 speed Deltas for daytime shooting. After I got past the film grain, I really started to like the pictures. They seemed to have a depth to them. They felt warmer; they made photos from digital cameras feel sterile. I have been exclusively shooting with my iPhone for the past year. The digitally post-processed black and white photographs looked good but this was different.

I was shooting with an old Nikkor 55 Micro f/2.8 lens. I found most of my day shots fairly high in contrast. There was a fair amount of overexposure in places that were not intended to overexpose. I may have to try a neutral density filter to shoot during the day. The picture above was one of my more successful experiments. I made sure the visible part of Christina’s face was properly exposed. I let the rest overexpose. This picture came closest to executing my vision accurately. In the future, I may have to compensate for the camera’s built-in light meter which is the only electronic bit of the Nikkormat. The light meter seems to overexpose when outdoors during the day. The exposure in darker conditions are fairly acceptable.

I spent a day photographing my neighbor Christina. She was a joy to photograph. We walked through some of the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the Florida Southern campus. This glass wall caught my eye. I tried to capture Christina and her reflection in it. While composing this image, I realized that I was not getting what I wanted to see. Photography is nothing more than seeing something and capturing it into media. The camera and lens are just tools, and they are usually in the way. I have been told that normal human eyesight is similar to looking through a lens with a 50mm focal length. My 55 Micro would have been able to capture what I saw. However, I tend to see more than what my 55mm lens shows me. I tend to see a wider focal length. I may be conditioned to compose a wider frame since I have been shooting exclusively and frequently with the 35mm equivalent lens of the iPhone 4S for the past twelve months.

I now have a Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 lens which shows me more than I am used to composing with my eyes. Sometimes, it makes me nauseous when looking through the viewfinder. I am slowly learning to see the 28mm aesthetic without putting the viewfinder against my eyes. I walk the same streets everyday always trying to see things differently. Access to a new focal length makes new explorations easier, and fun. A new lens is the closest thing to a fresh pair of eyes.

Posted by on February 20, 2013 in photo


  • Bob Rosinsky says:

    Nice job. To really have control over tonal range, you need to process the film yourself. Black and white film processing is easy–three chemicals + photoflow, and a tank. Marshall’s in Auburndale sales all of the equipment. Also, it can be found on Craigslist. That only leaves you with the problem of how to digitize the negatives. That’s another conversation entirely. There are a lot of good scanners that can be found on eBay,, and Fred

    • Abhishek says:

      Thank you, Bob. Processing my own film is the next step. I need someone to teach me. I am a patient man but waiting weeks before sending a roll to the developer is pushing it. I have a scanner in mind. It scans 9600 dpi and costs under $200.

  • Jenny says:

    Last couple of paragraphs, very interesting info. I didn’t know that. I have been enjoying your progress with photography, Abhi.

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