Saturday, March 15, 2014

Breaking the rules can be fun . . .

Anybody ever wonder what would happen if you took the lens out of a camera and reversed it?

Yeah, me too.

I was out shooting an advertising shot for The Daily Sentinel, the newspaper I work for here in Nacogdoches, in the town of Center. It's the county seat of Shelby County, the next county east of us, and is also the county seat. As such, it has a courthouse.

But not just any courthouse. This is the historic Shelby County Courthouse, built in 1885. And it's freakin' amazing!

Shelby County Courthouse in Center, Texas. Image made with Mamiya 645E on Orwo NP15 (ISO 25) 120 film.

This, by the way, is not the camera I took the lens out of. That was done to the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash I've been shooting with this past month or so for the Analog East Texas project. I have to admit, I love that little camera. It's just darn fun to shoot with.

And others seem to think so, too. I was out shooting last week (I honestly can't remember where) and I stopped to get somebody's name. There was a younger girl (who am I kidding? Everyone's younger than me!) who was standing nearby and, as I explained the project and that I needed this person's name, she looked at the Hawkeye dangling from my left hand.

"Oh, that's so cute!" she said.

Well, what can you say to that. The Hawkeye is just a small, square bakelite box, with a strap on the top and a simple meniscus lens. Unlike some of the other cameras I've used so far in this project/series, it really only has one control, a lever you can pull up to switch from regular shutter release to a bulb/time setting.

Despite all that, it really takes pretty good images. Until, and unless, you pull the lens out and turn it around. Then it gets really funky.

Here's what happens, at left. (Click image for a larger view.)

As you can see, the image has almost a tunnel-vision effect, which I'm kinda liking. It reminds me a little bit of the very first photographs I've seen at various locations on the World Wide Interwebs.

But that's where the fun really is for me, working with the analog cameras and film, getting into the darkroom, finding out how things work again and getting back to my photographic roots. Some of the greatest photographs of all time have come about as a result of experimentation, of somebody asking themselves, "I wonder what would happen if . . .?"

On almost any website that has anything at all to do with photography, you'll find a discussion somewhere about "The Rules" of photography. Everybody seems so hooked into the rules any more. I've even had photo instructors (well, one) years ago who wouldn't look at an assignment if, in their mind, it "Broke 'The Rules'."

Now, before you all start yelling at me, I'll say this: Yes, the rules are important in photography. But, they aren't the be-all and end-all of photography. My father used to tell me, when I was first starting out, "Learn the rules of photography so you will know when and how to break them."

And those are words I took to heart almost from the first time I picked up a camera. And it is important to learn the rules, the rule of thirds — OK, that's the only one I can remember off the top of my head. But I learned them. Really.

Hey, trust me!

If I hadn't learned them, I wouldn't be much of a photographer. But, by the same token, if I hadn't learned when to break them I probably wouldn't be having as much fun with photography as I am right now.

I wouldn't have wondered what would happen if I took the lens out of a Brownie Hawkeye and turned it around. And I most certainly wouldn't have done it! That would have been just crazy! I mean, Arthur Hunt Crapsey Jr. — he was lead designer for a lot of popular Kodak cameras, including the Brownie Hawkeye — put the lens in there in that way for a good reason, didn't he?

Well, yeah, he did. And I'm not even starting to claim I know better than Mr. Crapsey, who has a great name, by the way, and designed some really great cameras.

All I'm saying is, if I hadn't learned to break the rules, the two images above probably wouldn't exist.

I guess that's enough for this interlude. The next edition of the Analog East Texas project should hit the streets (and the Interwebs) on March 30. As always, you can check out the latest additions to the growing Flickr set. A lot of nice folks have been commenting/communicating with me about the project. And, so far, nobody has said, 'You suck!'

That's kinda a first for me.

Oh, here's final parting shot (no pun intended) of the courtroom at the Shelby County Courthouse.

It takes up the entire second floor of the building and has (my favorite part) a trap-door escape hatch behind the judge's bench.

How cool is that?

Analog East Texas is an ongoing photographic project by Andrew D. Brosig, photo editor for The Daily Sentinel in Nacogdoches, Texas. Each month, Analog East Texas highlights an antique film camera from Brosig’s personal collection.
The idea behind the project is to explore the technology and technique that inspired both amateur and professional photographers in the pre-digital age. Analog East Texas also gives the photographer a chance to return to his roots in nondigital, film-based photography. Additional images may be viewed in the Analog East Texas set on my Flickr site.

No comments: