Over the past couple of months I have decided to try and shoot more black and white. Some might say this is easier since there is no color. However, with the absence of color, factors such as composition and cropping really become apparent. I use the rule of thirds quite a bit since my camera will show me the guides in the viewfinder. This makes moving subjects where I want them a snap and I can also make sure my horizons or rooftops are straight. Who wants to sun themselves on a slanted beach?
I’m fortunate that I live about thirty minutes from one of the biggest antique meccas in the USA, Arcadia, Florida. I first really had a chance to walk around this town when Arcadia was assigned to me by a magazine to shoot some of the items. The writer and I walked from shop to shop, talking with owners and photographing their eclectic items. I couldn’t believe some of the items that were for sale. Things that I haven’t seen since I was just a young buck, and items that were used at the early 1900’s. One of the items that I had to photograph for the magazine was “Vaseline glass”. This literally glowed in the dark and upon further research it was popular in the 50’s and does have radiation in it! Perfect, drink ware with radiation! Of course the items themselves all tell a story of their own, but the town looks like it is stuck in a time warp. Old buildings, falling apart paint, rusty stairwells…my kind of place! I don’t mean to describe a place that sounds like it should be condemned. It’s an amazing place and I love its charm.
When we arrived we found a side street to park and as we were getting out of the car, I saw this lone bench waiting for its next visitor. Putting it off to the side using the rule of thirds makes this more interesting than having it in the middle of the frame.
Sometimes the photo is across the street. We were walking around and I looked up and I loved how these windows and plants were lined up. However, since I was very close to it, there was not going to be a way for me to get a proper photo. I walked across the street and that allowed me to get the angle I was looking for. Since I was shooting up, I had distortion of the top was shorter than the bottom. No worries, I left some extra space around the frame and used the “Lens Correction” filter in Photoshop Elements.
One of the things that I wanted to do was to walk some of the alleyways. There are always photos lurking in the shadows. I came across this stairwell to someones loft above the store. It was rusted and you could tell these stairs have a long history with this building. Also, the siding on the back of the building had an interesting pattern. Since I was going for black and white, the pattern really popped out in post. I moved the door off to the left of the frame as the stairs move your eye up and down the frame. Sneaky huh?
One of the iconic places that I like to visit when I’m in Arcadia is the old opera house. It’s still intact. The only difference is where the audience sat is now where the store is. Also the dressing rooms have been converted. The floors creek when you walk along and has that essence that everything has a lot of history. If you are looking for a particular item, check this place out. For example, I found a room of nothing but vinyl records, including the turntables to play them on! One of the techniques that I have to keep reminding myself is that I need to get down. Since I’m 6’ 4”, not everyone wants the birds eye view! These records were low on the floor and that is where the shot was. I stooped down, framed the photo and took it. Then it was a race to get back up!
In the same building, there was an area of just typewriters. For some reason I seem to really like typewriters. Maybe because before I had a computer I was using my mother’s manual typewriter to send letters to people. These are all photographed in available light, however this subject was side lit from a window. Anytime I can get side light I take it since that creates depth and dimension.
I wish I could say that I planned this. The photo Gods came together for me. The old building with the tea room and to top that off, this old Ford was parked out front. I about fell to my knees when I saw this! This is an excellent subject for black and white at it looks like something out of 1920.
A couple of notes about how I photographed these and processed them. For equipment, I used my Nikon 24mm f/2.8 prime. I have fallen in love with primes, I still use my zooms when I need to, but you can’t beat the sharpness of some of these lenses. I shoot everything in manual mode using a RAW file. I shoot in color since the post software will read the color and allow me to change different shades of colors to different degrees of gray in the final product. To do the actual conversion, I use Nik’s Silver Efex Pro. I have used it for many years and has served me well. Here’s a tip, if you want to see what might make for a great black and white conversion, you can put the camera to RAW + JPG. In your pictures styles choose either black and white or monochrome. When you take a photo, what you will see on the LCD will be black and white. The RAW file will still be in color. That is the file that I use for my processing.
That’s all for now. If you are visiting in the area, be sure to stop and visit. Saturdays and Sundays seem to be better since most of the shops are open then. If you want to photograph more of the city and buildings and don’t want anyone in your photos, then I would say a weekday after 5:00 would be best. Don’t be surprised if you’re the only one there like I was awhile back!
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean