52 Photo Tips #22: Learn to see in black and white

ferry_webThis is the 22nd post in a series in collaboration with Film’s Not Dead.

Black and white photography is a lot more complicated than a colour photograph with all the colour removed.

By removing the colour, you must make the other elements of a photo – composition, texture, contrast, form and atmosphere – do all the work.

That requires some patience and experimentation. But there are some tried and trusted ways of making sure your black and white pictures look compelling.

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Zenit E sampler

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Whitstable, xpro on Agfa CT100 Precisa

The Zenit E is one of the Soviet Union’s most enduring photographic legacies. Designed in the mid-1960s, it was produced on an eye-watering scale. Millions and millions – as many as 12 million, some believe – were produced in Soviet factories until the middle of the 1980s, by which time it’s rough and ready charms were decidedly old hat.

I reviewed the Zenit E in the early days of the blog – it was one of the SLR cameras I’d burned a bunch of rolls through. The Zenit E’s a pretty uninspiring camera if you look at the specifications – a handful of shutter speeds, chunky, clunky lines, an uncoupled selenium meter and screw mount lenses.

It turns out, though, that the Zenit E’s unsophisticated, uncluttered CV makes it a pretty decent sunny weather camera…

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52 Photo Tips #21: Shoot your neighbourhood


This is the 21st post in a series in collaboration with Film’s Not Dead.

Look back through old family albums, and you often see photos taken in one of two situations – holidays and momentous family occasions. The ordinary life in suburbs and neighbourhoods gets only a passing look. The camera seems to have been taken to beaches and birthday parties, and little else.

When you’re starting out shooting film, getting into the practice on seeing and shooting is vital. You don’t have the convenience of digital, where you can review what you’ve shot seconds after you’ve taken it.

Unless you’re incredibly talented or incredibly lucky, photography takes many hours of dogged practice before you start to see result.  Leaving the camera on the shelf and only using it now and then is a surefire way to let those skills ebbs away. So don’t wait for a city break or a summer holiday – shoot your neighbourhood, the stuff you see every day.

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Wellington Railway Station xpro


Wellington Railway Station is one of the most impressive buildings in New Zealand’s harbour capital. Built in the 1930s on land raised from the sea during a massive earthquake in the 1800s, it’s an imposing, Gerorgian-style edifice.

Before I moved to London in the mid-90s, the station was familiar territory; a vast (it seemed then) station concourse, the gateway to the suburbs that stretched away on the other side of Wellington’s vast harbour. I passed through it hundreds of times.

I was back in New Zealand over the Christmas period, and once again found myself commuting into the station – this time, always with a camera to hand. This is the best of the images I took there.

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A Gallipoli diorama in black and white


As a kid I loved wargaming. I would spend countless hours creating carpet-level battlefields, a stretched-out general recreating skirmishes and firefights with companies of inch-high plastic soldiers.

Most military museums across the world will have some kind of display recreating a battlefield of the past, dioramas modelled with amazing accuracy and technical skill.

But I’ve never seen one quite as ambitious as one earlier this month, back in my hometown of Wellington, New Zealand. The centrepiece of the Dominion Museum’s Great War Exhibition is an incredible diorama recreating one of the most bloody battles in the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915.

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