I have been a black and white Photographer for most of my life. From a very early age nearly 50 years ago I have been shooting black and white and I guess growing up watching a black and white TV, I learned from an early age to see the world in texture and tone, light and shade and also to work with light.
I did use Ektachrome for a while but not for long as I preferred black and white for story telling as I found colour to distracting.
When I moved from Film to Digital the sensors were so bad colour was a nightmare, sensor noise was so bad it made all images far to dark, so I guess I just gave up trying to work with Colour. On a fantastic day with great light it was easy but on a flat day with little or no light unless you had an expert knowledge of lighting it was almost impossible to get consistency.
I tried to shoot JPEG in the early days of Digital but gave up there was not enough latitude to get the full range of tones I required for my work. In fact it was not until around 2013 whilst doing my year of black and white project did I find a way to produce digital black and white images I was happy with.
I have never been a fan of sitting in front of a computer and editing. In the film days I would only print my best work so possibly one or two shots from a roll of film for personal work. So spending more time on digital editing drove me nuts. There is more to life than bing sat in doors.
There is a big wide world out there waiting to be photographed and I wanted to be out there in the fresh air and not stuck indoors. I had quite a lot of flack in the early days and was called a Photoshop Hater but that’s was so far from the truth. I use Lightroom because it was for me the fastest way from A-B. I am Dyslexic so Lightroom made more sense to me than Photoshop, so that what I used.
I was a RAW shooter and every time I tried to find a style or a way to shoot and process Colour images I gave up. It was just ridiculous the amount of time you had to spend in Lightroom or Photoshop to get consistency in your work when using colour.
Kevin Mullins decided once he started using the Fujifilm System to shoot JPEG and created his own style in this way. I did try it but gave up because it just did not work for my Black and White image style. I like my blacks to be black and my Whites White and all the other tones across the range. You could not get this from a JPEG because you had to spend more time undoing what the camera had done. I could process a Black and White image in a couple of minutes from RAW but it was five to ten minute from JPEG.
I can shoot black and white in any light and process very quickly in a very short amount of time and even though I have dabbled in Colour its never really appealed to me until now.
Why ? Well I have retired now so have no reason to have clients wanting all different colour profiles and I used to get fed up using colour charts and profiles to keep clients happy. Now I can explore colour and try and find a style that works for me and even better I have no deadlines so can just shoot colour on days when there is perfect light.
I cant explain in this blog what perfect light is because its probably subjective, but perfect light to me is light that produces an image I hardly have to edit. Its mainly golden hour light, or that magic light you get just after a rainstorm or thunderstorm or that crazy light you get just before a storm.
I used great light in my black and white images at times but most of my black and white work was shot on very overcast days, or in very high contrast light.
My new love for Colour stems from great light and has come about by using my iphone ! I have tried Nikon and Canon RAW’s and JPEGs and nothing works for me without extended processing times. The images out of an iPhone need very little if any processing. I have not picked up my Fujifilm cameras in probably 18 months and when I do if they cant produce JPEG images like the iphone I might have to have a rethink ! I very much expect I will find a way but for now I am just going to work with my iphone and explore colour from there.
Its amazing how having a Stroke and being restricted in a few ways has allowed be to develop some new ideas and ways of working. I am changing my views on the world and on the the photographic process. I want speed and constancy and I want something very portable, I also want a systems and process that are very simple.
One of the best times I had with a camera was when I was walking and climbing with Jane and just had a compact camera in my pocket and a phone to take the odd photo on a day out. Bags of cameras and lenses really don’t appeal to me anymore I just want simple.
I have never been obsessed with Sharpness or that unreal look you get with digital, I have always preferred that blemished film look so will be going backwards rather than forwards in the future that’s for sure.
There is no point in carrying lots of gear about just in the hope there might be some great light now and then ! David Noton used to spend weeks if not months waiting for the light and that was the clue to great colour photography, you just have to wait for the light. Taking images in shit light and then spending hours and hours in Photoshop is not for me when you can just go click with a phone on the right day. I know a phone shot will not be good enough for a decent print but once I have mastered waiting for the light I can then find a camera system that makes my life as easy as the iphone 11 ProMax who knows it might be one of the Fujifilm cameras I have, or it might be a simple compact camera I don’t own yet ! One thing is for sure it’s all about painting with light and always has been for me. I don’t need lots of great images a year just a couple will do me ! Taking one great image in great light once in 10 years would make me very happy.
Photography! Wow its one hell of a journey. I picked up a camera as a young boy over 40 years ago and it was like magic, a simple metal box but when you opened the back whilst pressing the shutter button you could see the shutter move! When you changed the aperture, the hole changed size, what was that all about? The image above is one of my mothers; I remember this image and many others from the huge collection of black and white images that my parents had collated over the years. I had images of me from a baby and could see my life in images. I thought it was amazing and even more amazing the image came from that little bit of light flashing through that hole.
It was simple back then, I used to save up for a roll of black and white film but whilst I was saving I used to get the free Truprint films and practice with the colour cheap film! By getting to know the people in the camera shops I would get film for free and every time I sent a film to Truprint I would get a free film back. I did not have a clue what I was doing but whatever it I was doing, I was getting lots of prints back and lots of negatives. It was not long before I could not cope with the wait for the black and white film to come back so I saved up and brought my first enlarger and a few trays and started developing and printing my own work. By this time I was shooting Ektachrome Transparency for colour and every type of black and white film I could get my hands on. It was a passion with no bounds. I had a Dark Room and a Studio in my parents loft and the future was bright. As I left school I wanted to be a Photographer.
I struggled at school due to my Dyslexia but Art and Photography were a welcome release. I managed to get some jobs shooting freelance as well as a few weddings and some events but people had a habit of not paying. This was quite difficult as once you had laid out for the film; processing and printing it all became very expensive. So a job was the only answer.
I carried on with my Photography but not with the same passion. I shot the odd wedding etc but then I lost nearly all my work in a house fire. I lost more than my images; I lost 90% of everything I owned. I still have a few negatives but nothing from my early years of mass shooting. Avery sad day, hours and hours of work all gone just as quickly as it was shot!
I slowed down after that and even though I still had a camera I hardly used it, generally just family and kids stuff with the occasional landscape and a sale here and there with a few images placed in image libraries.
I have always been able to shoot anything. This was always my problem in photography as people want a Wedding Photographer or a Portrait Photographer. I could shoot just about anything but I just wanted to shoot black and white and develop my own style.
I moved to Liverpool around eight years ago and gave my Nikon film camera to my son before I left Kent. The plan was to go digital and see how I felt about it. So I bought a Nikon D200 and hated the colour images. I then almost decided that digital was not the same and was just about to go back to film but found the black and white image files from the D200 were very nice. Hard to process to get the look I wanted but I stuck at it. The camera got a lot of use so I ended up getting a D300. Great little camera but the black and white files it created were not the same. I am not a technical photographer so can’t tell you why but they just were not the same, the tones were all wrong.
I was now struggling to process the files so just went out and got another D200. At the same time I was fighting with Photoshop to get the look I wanted in the time frame I needed. I had to find some software that worked for me and Lightroom was the answer. The early Lightroom was not great but it was easy to understand and the workflow was simple. I could process an image in 6 minutes in LR and the same process would take hours in PS so LR was the answer but I was still not getting my black and white images the way I wanted them.
But then I found Silver Efex Pro. This was a dream come true. I could now get the black and white digital files to look exactly how I wanted them to look. They even printed better than the images I could create in a wet darkroom. I was at last getting to the point I was nearly happy with my images.
Whilst getting to grips with processing my event work was picking up and my style was developing (pun intended) I was starting to enjoy photography again. I was now shooting with a pair of D3s bodies and using pro glass and looking for the sharpest and best image and everyone on social media was talking about sensors, cameras and the best lens etc and I got caught up in it all. I was confused. I was happy with a film camera shooting when I was 15 but now it wasn’t the same. Everyone appeared to be obsessed with the technical side of photography and I was only interested in my style and how the image made me and the viewer feel.
It was at that point I found ‘Street Photography’ was a perfect complement to my event work. It’s taken me back to my roots as a boy with a camera that no one notices taking shots of people. This was my first love, shooting people and telling a story. It was not about the technical side, burst rates, sensor size and functions it was all about the amount of light coming through that little hole and creating an image that made me feel happy. The same feeling I get when I look at old black and white family photos. My D3s was a weight around my shoulders and for many other reasons as explained in previous posts it was time for a change.
It’s no secret I fell in love with Fuji. I have spent my life looking to make my photography work for me again and Fuji combined with Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro made my style complete! I can now go out into the street with a camera I love and shoot all day. Have fun, have a laugh and make images I love. I never have to hear “look at the size of that camera” or “look at the size of that lens” again! With 20 kilos of Nikon kit it was hard work, even when I bought a Nikon D7000 and a 35mm lens to try and shoot street it was just not working. Once I got out there with the XPro1, it was like everything had all come together at once. The XPro1 with a 35mm lens is just about all you need for Street. I have the X-T1 and its great as well for Street but it’s a different style of Street. I use the XPro1 on a strap under my coat to pull up and shoot and the X-T1 I keep in my hands ready to shoot, all the time making use of the tilting screen for some very special candid shots. So, I now have two amazing little cameras that are the closest match I have ever found to the metal box I used to have. Yes, the best camera I had ever owned was the Nikon Fm2 but that all changed with the XPro1 at first, and now the X-T1 is a modern day version of the Fm2.
I have never seen so many comparisons between Fuji cameras and the other Pro gear out there. To be fair, stacking the Fuji XPro1 up against the Nikon D3s was quite interesting considering the D3s was a 3.5k Camera body and the X-T1 is getting stacked up against the D4 and the 1DX ! These cameras are over 4k just for the body, amazing to put a little £900 camera up against top pro cameras to make comparisons! But the funny thing is the image quality is stunning from the Fuji bodies! The Fuji glass is also stunning, sharp and is also getting compared to glass twice or three times the price. Wow! Well done Fuji!
I am not a technical photographer and sometimes I cringe on social media when people spend half their lives talking about sensors, frame rates and circles of confusion etc
I just love photography. Getting out there in the open air and taking pictures, making exposures and having a go. Photography makes me happy and if you ask Jane that’s not an easy task! I think people need to take their cameras out into the open air and just use them, have fun, play about with the functions, learn to see and learn to have fun. Don’t get bogged down with all the technical information, it’s a camera and it’s designed to make images. So go out and enjoy it!
If you are not feeling the passion in the brand of camera you are using then change the brand! You never know you might fall in love again!
Yes is me on the beach, I wish I was that age again !
The image above is what its all about for me those moments when it all just comes together, shot at the Bluecoat Liverpool.