Monday, 16 November 2015

Roger Lever - History, learning curves and working in mono

When I was a young lad in Yorkshire I purchased a Praktica Nova 1 SLR camera. Boots couldn’t give me much advice about using it as it was new on the market.

Getting a film into the camera was the first hurdle. I remember going into a pitch black room and fumbling around trying to get the d—n thing into the back of the camera. Then I discovered that I really didn’t need to do it in the dark at all. This was the beginning of a long l—o—n—g learning curve which continues to this day. Ok, now what? Point and shoot? No, there were also sorts of dials and settings even on the simplest of SLR cameras like the Praktica that needed to be set first! I worked through the brief manual that came with the camera. Then it was a case of “having a bash”

Ok, I had a bash and took the film back to Boots for developing and printing. I don’t really remember what those very first images were like but whatever they were it certainly encouraged me to carry on. All the prints I did then were were in black and white of course. To cut a long story short, I was fortunate that a friend of the family lived just down the road from our house and he was a keen amateur photographer. He developed and printed his own pictures.

I spent a lot of time in his dark room 'messing about' developing and printing films. I learned about the chemicals and the different ways of changing the final print. Eventually I created my own darkroom, developed my own films, enlarging and printed my own images. When I look back at some of those photos I produced then I am really quite pleased with what I achieved.

Colour photography quickly took over from the black and white images I was producing so it became necessary to send the film away again to be processed as it was rather more complicated to develop and print colour film in those days.

I never forget though and still admire good black and white images of landscapes and portraits. I regularly look back through my collection of books on photography just to get inspiration. I still produce many of my own black and white images although now I work in my digital darkroom which is my computer. I have a printer which I use to print many of my own images. In fact when I look at the equipment I now use it all looks pretty complicated. The cameras are like mini computers and have far more capabilities than most photographers require. You can pay a few hundred pounds for a good camera but several thousand for a Rolls Royce of a camera.

The lenses we attach to the front are similarly priced. That’s before you ever take the photo. The computer and the software again can cost thousands of pounds. So as a professional photographer these days the level of investment is pretty high. We would all love to have a Rolls Royce of a camera of course, a mere £26,000 or so just for the camera body. Then there are the lenses and on you go. The fuel consumption is pretty pricey too!!

Oh! And if you have a camera like that you need a special vehicle to drive around in! Just to look the part! Dream on.

I still have that old Praktica camera and I do believe there is a film still in it.

Roger Lever

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