Black and White – Round 3

Lunch Break

Lunch Break

Next week, I start a third semester of black and white photography.  We use film cameras and my current film of choice is Kodak Professional 400TMax.  We develop the film in the classroom lab through what is chemical magic to me.  I’ve learned to use an enlarger, negative carrier, contrast filters, and an easel.  A year ago, I didn’t have a clue what these items were.

The first semester of this class produced high anxiety.  The worst task for me was going into a pitch black closet, extracting the film, and then rolling it on a metal spool.  As I blindly looked for the correct prongs to attach the film to, my hands began to sweat, and my head started to ache.  I’d slump down on the floor, methodically turning the spool to attach to the little square openings on the film.  After an eternity, I’d complete this task and then gently feel the film to see if it was smoothly wrapped.  Instead of the required uniform consistency, I’d feel a large wart-like protrusion immediately signifying I’d screwed up again.



Another huge challenge for me was developing a perfect print.  Most of what I learned in the first two semesters were the myriad ways you can actually improve a mediocre print: e.g., changing your f/stop and exposure; using contrast filters; adjusting the enlarger head; and selecting different developing times.  While this may sound straightforward, it isn’t.  The path to a perfect print is scattered with one quarter inch test strips, and later, full sheets of expensive Ilford Photographic Paper.

                                                                          North Beach
North Beach

You might wonder why I am taking a third semester of this class.  I’ve learned more about photography using a black and white film camera than any digital class I’ve taken.  I’ve learned patience and persistence…beautiful photos just don’t happen.  I’ve collaborated with talented photographers in my class and I’ve learned from them.  My instructor’s demand for excellence has pushed me to improve.  The number one reason I’m returning for round three…to see a print magically appear before my eyes again and again.

Man with Cane

Man with Cane



Shadow  Book

Shadow Book

The above prints are some of the framed and matted images from my black and white portfolios over the last two semesters.  I took a digital picture of each.  Just for comparison, I then shot the following digital photos which have a black and white vibe.  So much to learn, so little time.

Angel Wing

Angel Wing

Shadow Line

Shadow Line


Urban Geometry


Saturday afternoon in the San Francisco Financial District.  The skyscrapers form deep ravines where, during the work week, commuters and workers bustle and jostle along the City streets.  I love the relative quiet of these urban canyons on the weekend.


Looking for photo opportunities, I stretch my neck upwards and marvel at the masterful work of many talented architects.  Skyscrapers are works of art.  Their symmetry and predictable patterns of shapes, angles and curves fascinate me in a way classroom geometry never did.   The mirrored facades of the buildings create strange and distorting images of their neighbors.



Some buildings transform into designs reminiscent of tribal art.



The old and new bridge the years through the use of repetitive patterns of squares and rectangles, and the juxtaposition of cool modern angles with exquisite lines and swirls from the past.



Other reflections project a sense of disorientation and visual confusion.



A late afternoon shadow on a geometric truss creates triangular pools of light.

A pattern of identical window openings march in perfect unison along regimented rows.


Urban geometry transforms my vision.  I see its influence in painted brown, square bricks centered with a long rectangle of white.


But the ultimate representation of urban geometry is the Transamerica Pyramid.