Life in black and white

By December 19, 2008Blog

I’ve been sharing the photos from my 10-day NYC trip, and I figured I’d shake it up a little bit with something I shot a couple of nights ago. Enjoy!

Life in black and whiteFilm:
Bronica ETRSi, 50mm f/2.8
on Kodak T400CN pushed to 1600

Digital:
Canon 5D, 50mm f/1.4
@ 50mm, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 1/800s

Recently I started doing some freelance work shooting hotels (still photos and 360 VR tours), which has me driving all over Texas. A couple of weeks ago, while driving from San Antonio to Edna, TX, I spotted at least five or six potentially great landscapes/scenics. I didn’t have any time to spare on this occasion for pulling out the camera, tripod, and setting up the shot… but it got me thinking. These shots would have been fantastic captured on medium format. And I’d been itching to play with film again…

So I called up my good friend Al Caballero and asked if he still had his old medium format camera lying around. Well, it turned out he had three of them, and hadn’t pulled them out of the closet in ages. He was kind enough to let me borrow his Bronica ETRSi so I could experiment with the format and decide whether it’s something I’d like to get serious about. He even gave me a bunch of old film to shoot with it as well. And I mean old – most of this stuff is from 2001 or earlier, though it had been stored in the fridge. So I bought a new battery for the meter, loaded up some of the ancient film, and shot a few test rolls just to make sure everything still worked correctly.

Whenever I’m playing with a new lens or camera, I always turn to my favorite subject in the world, my goddaughter, Isabella. I’ve been taking photos of her since she was a baby, so it doesn’t even phase her when I’m snapping away as she reads, plays with the puppies, or whatever else she’s so busy doing. (Have a look at my old portfolio, half the portraits are Bella – and I was holding back. I need to migrate all those photos into the new portfolio – which was actually the old one, explaining why there are more photos in the ‘old’ one… confusing, I know… forget I said anything.)

After getting the test rolls back from the lab, I suddenly realized something I’d, rather stupidly, forgotten. Negatives come back, um… negative. Blacks are white, and vice versa. I knew this. It just slipped my mind since I shoot digital 99.9% of the time. So I pulled out the lightbox anyways to check out the photos, and after a couple minutes I put it back away. My feable mind can’t swap the black with the white.

It wasn’t until about 4AM, while I was listening to some John Frusciante to keep QuickBooks from sucking the life out of me, that I got the itch to do something with my camera. This isn’t uncommon for me… I often get a random idea while I’m working on some other random thing late at night. Given my earlier disappointment with the negative negatives (how dare they not make my negatives positive!…), the idea suddenly hit me to shoot the film, as displayed in my lightbox. Before I even pulled out the camera, I knew almost exactly what I wanted the shot to look like in my head. 10 snaps of the shutter later, I had my keeper.

After downloading the photos to Lightroom, I used my custom preset Grayscale Portrait, Punchy, and then changed the Black Clipping to 0 to give back some detail in the darkest areas. For the next step, I edited in Photoshop CS3. I adjusted curves a bit for slightly more contrast, duplicated the layer, inverted that layer, and then cropped the image to just inside the frame of the lightbox. Next, I doubled the width of the canvas, and moved the inverted layer to the right half of the image. That’s it – a bit more involved than my usual edit, but nothing too complicated.

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