If I could get as much atmosphere in my night shots as they did during the 1940s and '50s, I'd be a happy man. Of course, that would be impossible as a large part of the charm of these old photographs is the time in which they were made.
My late dad, John, learned his photography during this era, making a home-made enlarger and using low grade cameras. Working class life in those days was spartan compared to what we have today. As a result of his interest in photography, I started getting involved, too. He gave me a few pointers and then I just devoured the photography books he had lying around the house.
|Selo HP, hyped on the back covers of both mags, helped make night|
photography possible - at least without a tripod.
Several of them featured tips on night photography, something that was just beginning to grow in popularity as faster films became available. Still much slower than today's fast emulsions but at least giving the photographer with a steady hand - or a handy wall - a sporting chance of securing a sharp pic.
You could say, therefore, that I've been steeped, marinaded and pickled in photography books from the 1940s and 1950s. Every time I pick up something from these decades I feel a huge pang of nostalgia. As we continue packing in readiness for our house sale, I've been unearthing some nice old magazines that I'd forgotten even existed and the pics in this post came from another couple of A5-sized books (see above), actually from 1938 but close enough to the '40s.
The rear cover of one of the mags featured an add for Selo Hypersensitive Panchromatic film. Selo was an Ilford brand name and the hypersensitive panchromatic was later abbreviated and is the HP in HP5 Plus. These new faster films, coupled with the improved availability of faster lenses, gave rise to a bit of a boom in night photography after the war.
All of the pics I've scanned for this post were made on Selo H.P. and they manage to pack almost obscene amounts of atmosphere into the frame. Take a look at these:
It's definitely atmosphere that gets me going when it comes to photography. For the last few weeks I've hardly had time to pick up a camera and not much incentive either. The reason? The weather has been too nice! Sunshine makes for a pretty picture, no doubt, but I'm just not interested in pretty pictures.
This morning, however, I was inspired to take a few pics when I saw some heavy clouds over Monifieth beach sitting atop a bright patch of sky that was reflected along the water line. We'll ignore for the moment the fact that I took about half a dozen shots before realising the camera was empty and concentrate on those that I went back and did all over again.
It was gloomy, it was a little misty, there was some light rain - blowing against the front element of the 75-150mm Zuiko I had on the OM2, unfortunately - and I loved it. We'll need to wait for the results as I'm nowhere near finished the film but it was great seeing some moodiness in the landscape again.
Whether I'll end up with anything as atmospheric as the old Selo HP pics is doubtful but for me, at least, I feel the real photography season is coming round again. And already my appetite is being whetted.