11.30.2015

Two Texans Stumbling through the Old World with a Clunky Camera and One, Lone Lens...


When I showed these (in luxurious print form) to a friend a few weeks ago we talked about how I photographed back then. He asked me if I zoomed in to find the right composition and I told him that the camera I was using didn't have a zoom lens, I was using a single, prime lens. "How many prime lenses did you take?" he asked. I told him that it was just the one. Just a 100mm lens which was a slightly long, normal lens for the 6x6 cm camera. Then we talked about metering and he asked me if I used my trusty Sekonic, incident light meter. I had to admit that, in my desire to travel light, I left the meter at home and tried to depend on both my memory of what light looks like at certain levels, and my secret weapon. 

"Secret weapon?" Yes. In those days Kodak included a little slip of paper inside the box in which their black and white film emulsions were packaged. On one side the paper had the most popular developers listed along with their standard dilutions and times/temperatures. This allowed one to get in the ballpark when developing the film. On the other side of the paper was a series of pictograms that showed different daylight fighting situations. Cloudy, Cloudy bright, hazy sun, full sun, sun on sand and snow and, of course, heavy overcast. Along with the pictograms were recommended exposure settings for these light conditions. One would learn to open up a stop and a half when shooting inside the train with light from the window or to start at 1/60th of a second at f4.0 when shooting under typical office fluorescent lights. This was all predicated on using ISO 400 as your  film sensitivity, if you used consumer Tri-X. (Professional Tri-X had a different emulsion and backing and was rated at 320 ISO --- I tended to steer clear of that film). 

I shot hundreds and hundreds of frames of film on that trip and very few were spoiled due to exposure errors. The little sheet of paper, taped to the bottom of the camera, made it seem all so easy. Even to this day I remember the exposure settings. Not always needed in the age of effortless digital but still convenient to know. Not having to make choices between cameras, lenses and different films was such a delicious way of working. So was having what seemed like infinite time. 




13 comments:

amolitor said...

I often use an AIS 50mm on my bottom-of-the-line DSLR. It cannot meter at all, it can barely help me with focus.

If I think about it a little, I generally get the exposure pretty close right off. It's just not that hard. Sure, a modern sensor (even at the bottom-of-the-line) gives us a bunch of latitude, but you know what, film has a lot of latitude too. You can be a stop off and get.. *something*, either way.

It might not be what you visualized. Maybe you don't get that buttery full-range print you imagined, and you're stuck with a high contrast thing with blocked up shadows, but if you bend with necessity and find something good in there, that can be OK.

Sally Mann says that she lives in fear of the day she actually masters wet plate photography, because then all the beautiful serendipity will be gone.

Omer said...

Photographs 2 & 4 are lovely. You seem to have a cache of wonderful B&W personal photographs. Perhaps a book is waiting there.

Andy deBruyn said...

The one of Belinda looking out the train window is just superb. Very lovely indeed.

Daniel Walker said...

You are really taking me down memory lane. I was with my wife in 1971 with one camera, one lens on trains all over Europe. In Nice, France I passed a news stand and spotted a copy of Life mag, where I had won an honor in the Life photo contest That Nikkomat and 50 served me well. Is the new Lecia M a call to my past.

Gary said...

These are delicious images. I tend to forget how good a B&W print can look, and these are only scans of prints.

Anonymous said...

Photograph #2 - Parma? An interesting city, but not high on the "must see" tourism list.

Peter Ziegler

Kirk Tuck said...

Peter. Kudos. It is indeed Parma. I liked Parma very much.

dasar photography said...

Time to come back in Italy with your wife.
Let us italians know whether you decide.

Bill said...

This is why I keep coming back to your blog. Thanks.
-Bill

Peter said...

Aside from the photography related insights that one picks up by reading your blog (hate that word), it is very pleasurable to come across someone that is happy with his family, his work and life in general. Makes me feel good when I read your posts.

shooter said...

Kirk what comes across on the portraits of your good lady is the love you have for her, beautiful.

David Mantripp said...

Thanks for this reminder of Back Then when life was simple and selfie sticks were unimaginable...

Anton Wilhelm Stolzing said...

Wonderful pictures!