Portraits and B&W

I’m very fortunate to have such a photography whizz for a grandmother (if you read my last photography post you’ll know it’s her old Minolta I’ve been getting to grips with). When she came to visit me in Paris, she gave me an expired roll of Tri-X which she’d been keeping in the freezer to preserve it. It’s her black and white film of choice so I thought this would be the perfect way to start practicing taking portraits.

One sunny evening I headed down to the Seine to meet my friend Lucy who’d agreed to model for me. On my way there I got a few artsy shots of the river and bridges under the Notre Dame cathedral. After locating Lucy, we sat by the river with a couple of beers to begin our first ever semi-awkward, semi-tipsy amateur photoshoot.

It initially felt like a bit of a waste using black and white on such a gloriously sunny and colourful day but apparently these bright conditions are the best for b&w and I'm pretty pleased with the results!  As you’d imagine, the photos came back with varying degrees of success but I’d say I’ve learnt from it. Using this roll of film forced me to think much more about light and what I needed to do to get a pleasing photo. There are some which came out really well where I was focussing on the contrast between shadows and bright sunny patches, like the ones under the bridge.

When it came to the portraits I found the black and white added a real atmosphere. I like how the textures are accentuated (like on Lucy’s jacket, the ripples on the water and the brick walls) presumably because it makes shadows/highlights show up more.

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My favourite above all is probably this action shot of Lucy dancing in front of a band performing on the bank of the Seine. By complete fluke the shutter speed was just right to capture her figure at the same time as being blurry to show her movement. I like that you catch her teeth to show her smile, contrasted with the deadpan expressions of the band. This was the last exposure on that roll so I feel bloody lucky to have captured that moment JUST before that man’s head came any further into the frame and ruined it !

Some shots which would’ve been really nice were ruined by a bit of camera shake when the shutter speed was slightly too slow. I’ve since become more aware of how fast I need it to be for my shaky hands to capture a sharp photo, 1/100th of a second is ideal, anything around 1/30th or slower and you’re asking for trouble. It’s also a mental thing I’m getting used to – taking the time for each photo and thinking about how you want it to look, as opposed to what we do naturally: repeatedly hitting the button on your phone and trusting that at least one of them will be 'instagrammable'.

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Thanks to Lucy Bonnett for her company, time and face !

Check out more photos in the gallery section.

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