Sunday, June 6, 2010

Serendipity in Black and White

I've not shot film since going digital in 2004. There were about a dozen rolls of film in my possession that have been sitting in the fridge even though they all expired in 2006. Recently I came across a creative exercise in David DuChemin's Ten More, to shoot monochrome as a way to learn to see lines, tones and gestures without the color. David even suggested shooting black and white film with a manual camera, to give color and all the digitalness a much needed break. I was itching to pop a roll into my Nikon FE, my first camera given to me by my dad in 1983. However, I needed a partner in crime, someone crazy enough to hop down the block with me because, "hopping down the block on one foot is a lot less silly if you find a friend to do it with." At about the same time my friend, the fabulous Shannon Sewell, also found her long-since-forgotten film camera and some expired film. So we conspired to go on a little serendipitous adventure together.

We went down to the Old Town section of Portland and just wandered around to see what interesting subjects would come our way. True to the spirit of serendipity, a group of monks in their red robes appeared in front of our eyes to cross the street. Well that red color would really stand out in the black-and-white---NOT! That became the running joke of the day, "I wonder how that would look in black and white." Color contrast was to take a back seat because of the medium, yet I did not know how to shoot for black-and-white because of my unfamiliarity with it. I had few expectations because the film was so expired in the first place. I was ready if nothing turned out at all. Yet we went through the exercise of carefully exposing and composing the shots, because it was not free like shooting digital. Except we kept wanting to chimp--to look at the non-existing LCD to make sure we we got "the shot." Several times I clicked the shutter and nothing happened because I had forgotten to advance the film after the previous shot! It was interesting to return to film after so many years of shooting digital. Personally, digital has helped me become a better photographer.

It took a good week and then some before we would see the prints. Boy what a surprise! They turned out way better than what I had expected. I was beyond thrilled and I will let the images speak for themselves. Somehow the prints came back in sepia, which was also, serendipitously, unexpected. Incidentally, my flatbed scanner is so old that it no longer works with the new computer. So I "scanned" the prints with my 12MP digital camera mounted on a tripod...

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