Taking ‘old school’ photos

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A few weeks ago I took part in a photo expedition in Old Town Alexandria with a close friend of mine. We both have previous photography experience from college classes, and I take photos almost daily since I carry a pretty good camera with me on my iPhone, but this photo expedition was special. We were shooting in black and white on medium format film, using cameras from the early 1900s.
My friend Jen Athanas met Alan Whiting of Five Colors Science and Technology in Alexandria during a small business function put on by the city of Alexandria. He proposed a day out using our cameras.
Alan offers a special kind of photography service. He will evaluate your antique camera, help find film and batteries, etc. Afterward, he will take you on a picture-taking expedition and then have the film developed and contact sheets printed. Yes, there are still companies locally that do that. It surprised me too.
Jen shot with her great-grandfather's Kodak Vest Pocket camera, circa 1912-26, and I shot with two cameras I had bought - a Brownie Hawkeye Flash, circa 1949; and a Ciro-flex, circa 1948 - because they were vintage and looked cool on a shelf in my art studio. Neither of us honestly ever thought we would take a photo with any of these cameras.
The experience was exhilarating and reminded me why I got interested in photography in the first place.
Shooting film (with 8-12 photos per roll) makes you slow down and examine your surroundings and take your time composing the "perfect shot." Shooting in black and white also challenges you to think more in terms of tone and contrast rather than composition - though that comes into play as well.
All three cameras we used have a viewfinder that you look down into and the mirror inside reverses the image. That is a bit challenging to get used to, and the cameras also have limitations on shutter speed and aperture and even focusing distance.
Afterward, Jen and I met with Alan to pick up our negatives and contact sheets and discuss our overall experience.
We both were pleasantly surprised to find that yes, the cameras did work. My Brownie seems to have a filmy haze over one of the lenses, but it actually added something interesting to the print that you likely couldn't achieve with a digital camera today.
The anticipation of waiting more than a week to have film developed, and having no idea if anything we shot and composed so carefully turned out, was a surprisingly nice break from the "instant satisfaction" world of digital photography.
Most of us rush from one thing to the next, rarely taking time to slow down and enjoy the simpler things in life. Taking these old film cameras out on photo shoots is going to become my "slow down" hobby. Go discover your own.
Rausch can be reached at srausch@catholicherald.com.

Find out more
fivecolorssandt.com/home/camera

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016