I have had a love for photography since I first held a camera in my hands. Film was always my medium of expression. After capturing an image I moved to the darkroom where I developed and printed my work. Controlling the whole process was important.
In the beginning all of my work was in Black and White, because it was cheap. After studying the works of Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, and Edward Weston, B&W became my passion. Early subject matter was the people around me. Not so much portraits, but capturing them in their environment. My friends and acquaintances made willing subjects. Travel and wanting to capture those experiences drew me color. I graduated to Kodacolor and Kodachrome.
As with many photographers, I started with basic simple equipment, always 35mm. My first camera was a fixed lens rangefinder, which was replaced with a simple fixed lens SLR. The real turning point was when I acquired a well-used Leica M3 rangefinder. All I knew was that a Leica was a good camera, and I had gotten a great deal. As I used it I realized what a magnificent tool it was and how it freed me to make good images.
At some point I could not afford needed repairs on my Leica so I sold it. Then, getting a “Real” job and all that entails pulled me away from my hobby.
As I began to travel I acquired more sophisticated SLRs. For a long time I remained with film, manual focusing, and simple light metering. I was aware of changes in technology and advances in optics. One day while contemplating the acquisition of a new camera, I paused to again look at the work of Cartier-Bresson and Adams. I also looked back at my earlier work. The proverbial “light bulb” clicked on. My decision was to go back to what I loved and felt comfortable with. Not just with the tool I was using but making Black and White images.
My new acquisition was a manual focus rangefinder, a Leica. The move from a fully automated SLR with zoom lenses and “auto everything” to a simple rangefinder was magic. Not only because it brought me back to my photographic roots. It brings my focus to each step of the process.
Metering is simple but complex (back to the Zone System). I set the aperture and speed to match my subject and how it is lit. I take more time to compose the image, to measure the light, to consider exposure and depth of field.
Black and White
I have been asked why, when I live in the beautiful Napa Valley, most of my images are in Black and White. When I looked at the work of the artists who made the most impression on me, I realized that the Black and White images seemed more expressive, the contrast more striking. The sky and the clouds formed a dramatic backdrop and a focus on the foreground. I experimented by developing my digital raw images into both color and Black and White.
So why Black and White? All around me, the valley, the vineyards, the hills, and the vistas. All beautiful, all deeply inspiring. The changes in light, the shadows, and the beautiful cloud formations. Truly one of nature’s amazing pallets. All of it very breathtaking in color. All of it very spiritual.
Sometimes, most times, I just love looking at it in Black and White.