Around three years ago I decided to shoot everything in colour, wanting to improve my consistency. I’ve rarely looked back since that decision, but recently I’ve felt an urge to have a go at some black & white once again.
I’m not sure if it was sparked due to a recent revived infatuation with old favourite Sune Jonssons work. Or perhaps it was looking through old family photo albums, comparing ourselves as babies with our daughter – trying to figure out who she looks most alike. It’s rather amazing how well every print has held up through more than three decades, but especially the B&W images stand out as almost transcending time.
I’ve of course shot B&W before – I shot a few photo-a-day projects in B&W with my GF1 as well as shooting and self developing B&W with my Hasselblad 500C when I first got it. I’ve always felt there’s something a bit timeless and visually freeing with B&W. I also have a deep love for colour in general, and when the time came to commit to one or the other, I chose colour.
Times change and now I’m planning on having a bit of a more extensive go with B&W.
I bought two rolls of Ilford film – one HP5 and one Delta 400. I wanted to try both films and then pick one to use as my B&W film for the foreseeable future.
This post touches on the first roll I loaded and shot. The first roll of B&W film I’ve shot in almost a decade – a humble roll of HP5.
It was a bit of an odd roll for me in more ways than the fact that it was B&W. I’ve been thinking of selling my Summicron 50 V, since I rarely use it. But I wanted to give it a proper send off, so I decided to shoot both Ilford rolls using only this lens and of course the new to me Leica M4-P.
Generally when I shoot film I shoot quite slowly and a roll can usually last me weeks or even months. This roll though, I went through in a matter of a few days, with the first 30 frames being shot over not much more than an hour.
Me and our dog went to our country side retreat to check up on the house since it had been months since we’d there. It was late November and the weather started getting really dreary. Taking the dog for a long walk before departing homeward everything seemed to align. I often have a bit of a tricky time shooting at 50mm, but suddenly I was seeing appealing compositions everywhere (unusually for me mostly in vertical orientation). I felt really in the zone and like I had the perfect set up for the occasion.
Getting the film back from development made me even happier. The characteristics of the film, the lens and the subject matter simply fit together in a, to my eye, pretty much perfect way. I’ve rarely felt this good about the cohesiveness and keeper rate from an outing like this. Over 60% of the frames passed my initial cull, possibly my highest keeper rate ever. Now, I’m not saying it’s my best ever work, but the cohesiveness and the capturing of the mood feels just the way I wanted to.
Heading back home I got another few frames that I also like, and that in some ways felt more important to my continued use of B&W. The one that really got to me was my sister meeting my daughter for the very first time. I can’t imagine wanting this image to look any different. This unique, singular, physical moment frozen in time on silver and gelatin. I can get used to this.