Black & White in the Modern Age.
Here are a few views I made with my Rolleiflex Model T of Mass-Central’s former Boston & Albany branch on July 10, 2014.
Why black & white? Why film? Why in 2014?
Mass-Central GP38 1751 crosses the Route 32 bridge in Ware, Massachusetts on July 10, 2014. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.
Former Boston & Albany freight house at Gilbertville, Massachusetts along the Mass-Central’s Ware River Branch on July 10, 2014. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.
Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens. The film was processed in Kodak HC110, dilution B (1 part developer to 32 parts water) at 70 degrees F, for 6 minutes using three agitation inversions every 30-60 seconds.
Mass-Central 1751 works north of Gilbertville on July 10, 2014. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.
There’s no question, digital photography is easier. If I desire a square black & white image, all I have to do is set my Lumix LX7 to a 1:1 aspect ratio using a switch on the camera, and set the ‘photo style’ to ‘monochrome’ using the function button.
This set up procedure takes just a few seconds, and I can switch back to color quickly and easily whenever I choose.
Working with the Rolleiflex is more cumbersome; the camera is klutzy to load, it only makes 12 frames per roll of film, and the film takes about an hour to process in the darkroom (dry to dry). Then I need to cut and sleeve the negatives and then scan them for presentation here.
Yet, I still do this. Not for every photograph, not on every outing, but I still go through the motions of using black & white film.
Why? I have five reasons:
1) I like it.
2) It gives me a subtle ‘retro’ quality that I can’t really get from digital.
3) It allows me visual continuity: I’ve been making black & white railroad photos since the 1970s. Why stop now?
4) I can still do it: I have the cameras, the film, the darkroom and the skills to get great results.
5) The B&W film medium is known to be archival. I process my film using a two bath fixer, permawash and rinse for 15 minutes in clean running water. They are stored in archival sleeves. Barring the unforeseen, the negatives I processed should still be in good condition for viewing in 50 to 100 years, maybe longer. They will need no extra attention regarding ‘back up’, except to store them in a safe dry place.
This last point is not true with digital photos. I make three backup copies of every digital image and store them in separate locations, but digital remains an ephemeral media. Hard drives, DVDs and all other existing means of commercially-available digital storage will, in time, go bad. Hard drives can fail, suddenly, completely and without warning. The information will be lost. The photos will vanish. Like the tide coming in on a child’s sandcastle, the images in their digital form will be washed away, forever.
Mass-Central at South Barre, Massachusetts. Exposed on Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens.
A cropped section of the above photo, enlarged to show detail. One of the flaws with WordPress web media is that images are automatically compressed which lowers the quality for ease of display.
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Tomorrow: Colorful consist on a bridge!