Looking Back at Black and White World


I was going through some very old pictures, you know, old snapshots of distant relatives and family from the old days.  I have come to realize that when I was born in 1934, it was the beginning of a color world.  To explain what I mean, it seems like everything before that was black and white.  The civil war, for instance, was not only black and white, but also sometimes sepia.  The president and other statesmen of that era were all black and white.  I can’t picture Abe Lincoln in a red  or yellow neck-tie.  Or having a sun tan.  Nope.  He was just black and white.  The old dust bowl days were even worse, it was a grainy black and white world. 

I remember visiting an aunt in Huntington, Indiana when I was a little kid.  Her walls were covered with old photos of distant grandfathers and great-grandfathers.  They were an aging black and white photos, and the eyes seemed to follow me when ever I moved about the room.  Very eerie.

Anyway, as I was saying I think I entered a color world, even though RCA hadn’t invented color yet.  We did own an old, actually new at the time, 1934 Studebaker.  But I was born at that time, followed by two brothers at two-year intervals.  That must have been bad for my parents, to get a new car, then have three brats during the next five years.  I guess that explains why we didn’t get another car until we bought a new Chevrolet 4-dr Fleetmaster in 1947.  By the way, the color of that old Studebaker was, you guessed it, black.

I and my brothers were really troublesome, even though all the neighbors called us those nice Zeller boys.  But we squabbled amongst ourselves, got in trouble with our parents.  I always got the most blame because I was the oldest.  Then it was me that got the spankings.  My dad, rest his soul, really taught me to dance.  🙂

But I must digress and get back to those old photos.  My mother had a box camera, the kind with a little window in the top that you looked down on to see the image and compose the picture.  She wouldn’t  let us kids use it, so we whined and begged until she bought us each a Brownie Hawk-eye camera.  I loved that little thing and I got pretty good at taking neat black and white scenics.  Composition came naturally to me.  Several years later, when doing some serious studying with NY Institute of Photography, they taught about composing pictures in “The Rule of Thirds.  That is dividing the image into three areas.  Heck, when I looked back at all those old Brownie pics, I realized that was how I was composing my images back then, not knowing I was actually doing it right.  So I really feel that composition can come naturally to a person.

Now I really don’t bother thinking of my pictures in thirds.  If it looks good to me, I’ve probably done it right.  One thing that I see in amateur photos is that the picture taker was afraid to fill up the frame.  He or she will concentrate on the subject, rather on the overall picture, then end up with a photo of a person looking tiny in the middle of the image.  My advice is that when looking through the view finder, check all the corners of the frame, get in close so the person in the photo doesn’t look lonely and distant.

You can do this by zooming in or out if you have a zoom lens.  If shooting with a fixed focal length lens, the move back and forth to get the desired composition.  My personal favorite lens is a Canon 100-400mm zoom lens, because I shoot a lot of wildlife and I am usually a long distance away, and this lens still gives me portability.  When shooting scenics, I use a Canon 24-105mm zoom lens.  That would also be a good lens for anyone that just wants to photograph people or scenics.

Hey, I hope you enjoyed this post today.  When I started at the top, I didn’t know that it would end up being a lesson in photography.  But tune in again in a few days, and I may surprise you again.  Welcome to my color world.  🙂

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