I had an awesome bike ride a week or so ago. Now for me, an awesome bike ride means good weather, great scenery, quiet country lanes, a few villages, maybe somewhere nice to eat lunch, plus some other things, but one thing that always makes a ride, or indeed a walk, special is meeting people along the way and stopping for a chat. On this day, I think I spent as long chatting as I did cycling 🙂 !
One of the people I chatted to was a young girl who was perhaps in her early twenties, and what caught my eye was the fact that she had two old film cameras round her neck. She told me that one dated from the 1950’s and one from the 1960’s and she had bought both from charity shops for just £12. One apparently had a partly used film in it so it would be interesting to see what was on the part that was already exposed 🙂 !
We chatted for quite some time and it got me thinking about ‘the good old days’. You see, I was brought up on cameras like that – in fact my first camera was an even older square Kodak Box Brownie that belonged to my mum. It dated from the 1920’s or early 1930’s, had no real lens and definitely no adjustments so needed bright sunshine to even get any results at all.
Later on, when I had left school, I bought a Prinz camera that had aperture and focus controls but no way of assessing what they should be set on. Basically, it was all guesswork and I just had to decide by eye how bright the light was, and how far away the subject was, although with the latter I could at least pace out the distance to help make it slightly more accurate. Eventually, I bought a Weston Master V light meter so that I could set the exposure accurately, and that meter stayed in use even when I had progressed onto a medium format camera, because they were all purely mechanical at the time too.
Over the years, the Prinz was consigned to the bin and was replaced at various times by a Canon AE1, Canon A1, Mamiya 645, Mamiya RB 67, Bronica SQA and others as I traded upwards, all of which were loaded with black and white film or colour transparencies.
Processing was done in my darkroom which was basically half of my detached garage. It had no heating or running water so was not great in the winter, especially as I had to wash the prints outdoors using the garden tap……..even when it was frosty or snowing! And quite often I would be out there till the early hours of the morning! It all worked fine apart from when I was using bromide paper which gave the best quality prints for exhibition purposes, for most other purposes resin coated paper was sufficient. The difference was the washing time – bromide paper absorbed more of the chemicals and therefore had to be washed for a much longer time than coated papers……not great when you are stood outside with running cold water and it is below freezing 🙂 !
These days of course, that is a thing of the past. I can now sit at my computer in the warmth of my office and process my pictures but you know, there are things about the old days that digital just cannot match. For instance, no matter how I try, I just cannot reproduce on screen the beautifully rich tones of a negative printed onto a good quality bromide paper. But much more than that, it just cannot reproduce that feeling of satisfaction that I felt when, probably at some unearthly hour, I held that 20 x 16 print that I had laboured all evening to perfect. Even better when it was mounted ready for display. Nor even the journey to get there, such as the thrill of developing the film and seeing for the first time how it turned out, or the thrill of printing the chosen negative onto paper and, by the faint red glow of the darkroom light, watching the picture slowly appear when you put it into the developing tray. And of course who can forget the thrill you felt when that yellow box of slides dropped onto the doormat having been processed by Mr Kodak 🙂 !
There is of course another thing about the past that cannot be reproduced in this digital age and that is this feeling that you had a skill that not many had. In my younger days, there was perhaps one in ten people who owned a camera and even less who processed their own pictures. These days, virtually everyone has a camera or a camera phone so it has become a mass market. Often if I’m out walking past say, Durdle Door, I take pictures of it whilst thinking to myself, ‘Does the world really need another picture of Durdle Door, there are millions out there already’! But I take it anyway, as I do every time I pass it. I guess after all these years, I just can’t help myself……and of course each picture is subtly different anyway 🙂 !
One thing photography did for me is to increase my confidence. As a youngster I was painfully shy and would wish the ground to swallow me up if ever I had to stand in front of a group of people. A few years into photography and I was helping to lead the local camera club, teaching the subject on the club circuit and in college, and judging competitions, something I never dreamed that I would ever be able to do. It all came about because I had ‘developed’ a skill and I wanted to share it.
During our conversation, I ask my young friend why she preferred using old film cameras and she replied that she really liked the fact that you have to wait to see the results. In this instant age we live in, I found that very refreshing, especially in someone so young.
It was like a challenge too, so when I got home, I got out one of my old film cameras…..yes, I still many of them!…..and I bought a black and white film to put in it 🙂 !
Thanks for stopping by.
Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler
If you would like to contact me, my email address is email@example.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.
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