It was inevitable: I’m getting into black and white photography. I started to delve into it about a month after getting the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s. I wanted to get comfortable with just shooting film before I attempted black and white. (While black and white film tends to be a bit cheaper than color, developing is actually more.) Now I’m hooked.
It seems like a natural thing to do when one rediscovers film cameras. I mean, when film photography was regularly taught, they typically started folks off with black and white. And then there’s the school of thought that only black and white is “real” photography. I don’t buy that, but I definitely see its appeal. And yeah, you can create black and white images with digital. But you’re not committed to it like you are with film. You can’t switch the next shot to color.
Black and white photography isn’t simply “turning the color off”. It’s a whole different way of seeing things, good black and white compositions aren’t the same as good color compositions. I’m looking for texture, for shadow, for things that will translate. It’s supposed to be more difficult than color, but after doing pen and ink art for thirty-odd years, where all I have is black and white, I think I can hang.
I now have two cameras that I use mostly for black-and-white: the aforementioned Minolta and my newer-to-me Konica C35 EF. Both have traditional threaded filter mounts over the lens, so I can use a yellow filter. Both have fast-ish sharp lenses (1.8 on the Minolta, 2.8 on the Konica), which I like. Both are traditional looking cameras with lugs, so I can use a strap. I have either camera around my shoulder as I ride or walk, while the diminutive Olympus XA2 is also on hand for color.
I’ve been shooting black and white for three months, long enough to get into some habits and experience different kinds of film stock. My first roll was Kodak Tri-X Pan, the “trad” black and white. I’ve shot another roll or two since then. It’s nice, but not nice enough to “hook” me to that particular stock. And it’s on the more expensive side, so I’ve been seeking out cheaper alternatives.
Many folks like the offerings from Ilford, a British manufacturer. Their standard seems to be HP5, a 400 speed stock. I’ve used several rolls of that, and have had good results.
But they also have a more budget line, Kentmere. I’ve gotten a few rolls of their Kentmere Pan 400, and I like it as well. I think this one will be the “go-to” stock.
And I’ve headed further east, too. Foma is a Czech company. Their Fomapan 400 is a bit moodier than either Kodak or Ilford/Kentmere, but it has a nice (to me) feel in certain situations. It’s also pretty wallet-friendly.
And even further east! Astrum is located in Ukraine, and has a unique reputation. As one film seller puts it: “The film is somewhat inconsistent, and as such should be treated as experimental.” I’ve shot one roll of the 100 speed stock, and dig it. I’ll be looking for more.
So, what’s next? I’ll still be shooting in color, but probably will be doing more black and white. It’s fun for me. Eventually I want to dip my toes into developing, whether in a class/co-op environment, or at home. I know that black and white is “easier” for this, so there’s that.
And I’ll be seeking out more situations to shoot in black and white. I’ll be out and about, either my Minolta or Konica slung over my shoulder, seeking out good compositions.