Black and White

Black and White

I love black and white photography. It’s where I started when I purchased my first camera. My next door neighbor where I grew up went to Ohio State University and got a degree in Medical Communication.  As part of his education, he took photography classes.  He used to come home and show me some of the things he had been doing.  I was blown away by what you could do with photography.  I decided that at some point in my life, I would get my own camera and learn how to use it.  Later, when I attended Ohio State, I got that camera and took classes on photography and photojournalism.  I  learned how to use that camera (a Minolta SRT 201) and process the black and white film myself.

 I loved being in the dark room with the safety light burning over my head. I loved the smell of the developer and fixer. I loved watching the print emerge from the developer as you lifted and lowered the developing tray. I loved bringing the images out into the regular light and really looking closely at them to see where I needed to do extra work, dodging areas that were too dark and burning in areas that were too light.  I loved getting the spot tone out and painting little dots of black on the spots that showed up on the print (today we use the clone stamp and healing brush to fix those).  I loved mounting the image onto the mat board and seeing the finished product, or seeing your images in print in the newspaper.

I miss that. I miss being in a room full of enlargers and other photographers around you working on their images. But with digital photography taking over from film photography, much easier to do all that in the computer. Now, I long for the time I spend behind the camera composing an image, really looking at the light and making sure that the image looks great and capturing the image. I look forward to getting home and getting the images into the computer so that I can start to really look at them, really start to see what needs to happen to make that a truly special image.

For these images above, I use a software tool to convert them to Black and White.  I love the way that it gets the tones just right and it also allows me to emulate different film styles, like Kodak Panatomic X 32 ASA film.  I really liked shooting that film.  It had a slow speed with a really nice fine grain to it, but the best part was the velvety blacks and luminous whites that you got from that film.  

Darr Family Portraits

Darr Family Portrait

Two postings in two days, but that’s how it goes sometimes. As I said in my last posting, I’ve been shooting more portraits lately and that’s perfect for me. I love doing portrait work. And it was especially fun working with this family.

I’ve been photographing their son since before he made his entrance into the world. And I hope that continues long into the future. He’s such a cute kid and you can see the ornery coming out of his eyes at times. In the image with the park bench, he climbed up on it and went through a series of poses without any inhibitions (of course at his age, he hasn’t learned any).

These images were also taken at the same park where I shot Ian’s Senior Portraits. As I said earlier, this is such a beautiful park. I had to laugh to myself though. It’s senior portrait time and there must have been 10 photographers and their subjects at the park that day. At one point several of us were grouped around the entrance to the park waiting for our clients. It reminded me of a press conference with all that photographic gear. I gotta say though, photographers are a fun bunch to hang around. We’ll strike up a conversation with anyone and if you are carrying a camera we end up talking gear and images.

Help Portrait

Tomorrow is the annual Help Portrait day. For those of you who have not heard of this project, it was started a few years ago by Jeremy Cowart as a means of giving back from the Photography community. The concept is very simple. Find a person in need, take their portrait, give them the portrait. No charge, no fee, no muss, no fuss. This event happens around the world on a single day.

To date, there have been over 200,000 portraits given by 16,488 photographers, with 23,984 volunteers in 1,720 locations in 60 countries.  We’ve seen stories from India, where a team went to a school for blind children and took their portraits, or in Mexico where the team went to a hospital for terminally ill children and took portraits of the children there (most likely the last images that their parents would ever have).

This is my 3rd year participating and it is such an amazing event each year. In many cases this is the first time that a family or person has had a professional portrait made. Over the past few years, we’ve had quite a few single moms with small children. My first year, we had a family that had emigrated to the US from Africa and they wanted to have portraits made in their traditional dress clothing. It was really cool. They were so proud and so happy to have this service happen for them. In some cases, we see people only one time. I’m hoping that their lives have gone better and they no longer need a portrait from us.  In other cases, we see people returning year after year.

I think the most touching story was for one of my colleagues last year. He was taking the portrait of a woman who told him that she had been a drug addict and ran away from home (as an adult) and had cut off all contact with her family. They had been enabling her drug habit and she wanted out. She had no contact with them for over 15 years. We normally give each client 2 copies of the print so that they can keep one for themselves and send one to someone. She was sending her second copy back to her family so that they would know that she was alive and well. Let’s just say that there were a few teary eyes around the room hearing this story.

We send a team of female photographers to a local Women’s Shelter and they take portraits there. One woman had a lot of bruises on her face, our team of editors were able to spend time and eliminate the marks so that she had a portrait that would remind her of a positive experience and not the pain she had suffered from the man in her life.

I love doing portraits of the kids. No matter the situation, children are so positive and easily happy. You joke around with them and talk to them and they respond.
The day starts at about 9am and runs until 6pm, though we start setting up around 8am. We have about 40 photographers and volunteers. Last year we did about 300 families in the course of a day. This year, we expect more, about 400 families.
Our group choses to travel to several locations around the city instead of setting up in one location and having people come to us. Public transportation is not as easy in Columbus as it is in other places. We normally work at YMCA’s or other places where people normally congregate.

At the end of the day, we collect all the images we have captured for the day and merge them into a single package that we take for fulfillment. We make 2 prints for each family and then take them back to the place where we took the photos for them to collect. They key thing is that once we have the images for fulfillment we remove them from our cameras, hard drives, thumb drives. They disappear and are never used for personal portfolios or web sites. The team feels that these are gifts to our clients and that they should not be used for any personal gain. I think that’s really important. It truly signifies the giving aspect of the day.

It will be a really long day tomorrow with a lot of laughter and tears, but it’s one day that I truly look forward to each year.