Wednesday, August 05, 2009

C Is For Colour

And For Cameras, Which Capture Those Hues

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


I honestly don’t remember the first time I saw a colour photograph, but I was probably very little, maybe about five years old. Most of the photographs in our family albums were black-and-white images, back in the days when 35mm cameras were a luxury item.

School photos were black and white. Formal portraits were black-and-white. Wedding photographs were black and white. Life was in vivid colour, but black-and-white photography was - and still is - the ultimate form of pictorial art.

But my father also used colour film and what I do remember is that it could sometimes take months to finish a single roll of colour film. Then the camera would be taken, almost like a religious icon, to one of the city’s leading photo studios. There, someone would take the camera into a darkroom, wind off the film and return the camera to Dad.

Then the film would be put in a special bag and despatched 2000 kilometres away to Bombay (now Mumbai) where it would be processed and returned to us in a special envelope, with the prints in one packet and the negatives in another.

What I do recall with clarity is that after handing in the film, it was more than a month before we would actually see the prints.

Another thing I remember clearly from my childhood is that strips of colour negatives had that unique burgundy colour, whereas black-and-white negatives were glossy black. And another vivid memory from those years is my absolute amazement that if a particular area on a colour negative was green, the colour on the print would be red.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would one day travel to some of the world’s most beautiful places, capturing each aspect they offer, in real-life colour, thanks to the magical technology of digital cameras.

It is our duty to recognise, with humility, the R&D that goes into the equipment that we use. But most of all, we need to recognise - also with humility - that a power greater than anything Mankind could possibly harness, created the beauty around us that we seek to capture.


For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.

34 comments:

Shadow said...

love your message today. yes, lets! lets be grateful for all that we take for granted, the blessings, in our everyday life.

Daryl said...

My dad had a Rolleiflex camera and when I was in high school he let me use it for my photography class 'assignments' .. its what got me hooked on taking pix ... he would love the little Olympus Stylus 9000 I just got . its got a sweet 12 mega pixels and a 10x optical wide angle zoom ..

The Good Life in Virginia said...

so right on david.
i think as we age we tend to finally understand things with more clarity and more appreciation. i am entering a phase(i guess that is what you could call it) to simplify my life from top to bottom.

The Good Life in Virginia said...

so right on david.
i think as we age we tend to finally understand things with more clarity and more appreciation. i am entering a phase(i guess that is what you could call it) to simplify my life from top to bottom.

spacedlaw said...

I have similar memories about colour photography as a child (although our films traveled less, I think), in particular because we did the black and white processing at home but the colour processing was too delicate for our rickety home settings.

jinksy said...

Now I feel twice as ancient. I actually have a studio portrait of me, aged about 4, which was hand tinted! I was at art college before I had coloured slide film to play with in my first, Agfa 35mm camera.

Maggie May said...

That was a great post, David. I remember all the things you did & I had thought that I was MUCH older than you! I'm sure I am!
My Dad used to get the National Geographic Magazine sent over from USA. (An extravagance in those days) and I noticed the bright colours of the print of the photos and that very rich people had colour TVs. The photos in that magazine where brighter than anything I had ever seen in English magazines. It was through reading them that I got interested in people from other countries! Thanks to my Dad!

Luiz Santilli Jr said...

If you can visit this blog and leave a comment!
You aided to construct this idea!

TODAY'S FLOWERS FIRST ANNIVERSARY

Hugs,
Luiz

only a movie said...

I remember sending the film off in those little envelopes too! Life has certainly changed a lot...
I love your message to appreciate the magic that goes into what we're able to do now with photographs, and what we are observing in our world.
Great post. :-)

Indrani said...

What a travel down the memory lane!Some of my childhood shots are in B&W too. I didn't know such a long process was involved. Great post1

James said...

I love the colors and angle of the top picture.

mrsnesbitt said...

Indeed David, we are a longtime gone! Let's party!

Pagan Sphinx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pagan Sphinx said...

Color. Oh, yeah. What is it? It hardly matters. :-)

Mojo said...

Funny, I was just having a conversation this morning about whether or not there was even a lab left in town that could handle E6 processing.

What many people don't realize is just how long ago color photography actually began. The first color photographs date back to the 1850's (1857 if memory serves, and James Clerk Maxwell). And some of the early color processes were really quite inventive!

Photography has come a long long way, even since the days when I got my very first Kodak Instamatic 104 for Christmas at the age of six. Even then, though you could unload the camera yourself (owing to the "new style" cartridge films), you had to wait a week to 10 days for your prints. And it really hasn't been all that long ago that the very first "One-Hour Photo Labs" appeared. I can recall in my early 20's still having to have my film sent out (though it didn't take nearly so long by then). Then came the "mini-lab", and machines that would take the typical C41 process from unspooling to ready-to-print in 12 minutes flat.

I still miss the smell of developer sometimes.

clairedulalune said...

David, lovely reading your post today! I just thought back and have realised I have always had a camera. Fantastic, I love them! Time changes everything so fast!

willow said...

It would sometimes take my dad over a year to use a whole roll of 35mm color slide film.

Lola said...

Every morning when I wake, I thank God. I thank Him for my son's well-being, for the sun, I thank Him for health, for the family surrounding me. I thank God for His love and for protecting my beloved ones.

Tomorrow morning I'll remember to thank Him for all the wonderful colors in my day.

Ciao,
Lola xx

Sandi McBride said...

I don't know why, but every time I read your memories of India, I remember the book The Little Princess...her life in India before going to London to live...the attic scene comes to mind with the vivid descriptions of the silk pillows and wool rugs, the lovely tassels on the slippers...and I remember thinking how very grateful I was to have a loving family and plenty to eat and no worries...I wish it could be that way with all children...that one child goes hungry in no matter what part of the world worries me, and makes me want to give that child shelter...lovely message. Yes, C is for Colour!
Sandi

Janie said...

Great reminder. Yes, digital cameras and the instant gratification is so wonderful. But the natural world that we photograph is the greatest gift of all.

Suzanne said...

Beautiful! I remember taking Polaroid pictures and squeezing the color up to warp the image with rainbows. Magic.

Willow said...

I agree completely with you! Let's never take any of it for granted! Especially the natural beauty in our world!

Shirl said...

Yes, I do remember my first color photo I think I was 8! I'm amazed how sharp these pictures are. I do need a new camera. Suggestions?

Sylvia K said...

What a true lesson, David! We do have so much to be grateful for, so many blessings. I recognized that particularly today, my birthday that I was able to celebrate with three of my children! That alone is a great blessing! Not to mention the marvels of photography these days. It has certainly brought something new and wonderful into my life.
Enjoy your day!
Sylvia

Nan said...

I keep trying to explain this to my kids.

Oh, my word verification is "undies"! Tee hee!

Leslie: said...

As usual, a wonderful narrative to go along with a simple word like "colour." Nicely done! :D

Roger Owen Green said...

I have stuck in my head a song by Chicago called Fancy Colours after your post. thanks, I think.

The Cowgirl said...

Fabulous post, David. Blessings come in many forms.

Brooke said...

The red against the blue sky is just very striking. Beautiful.

Regina said...

Nice one!

jay said...

I remember the first colour photos too - and how they were (at first) more expensive than B&W. And how quickly they faded! The earliest colour prints I have are all orangey-pink now, despite being kept away from the light.

I also remember how terribly bad and fuzzy the first digital shots were, and I remember saying I'd never buy a digital camera!

Ha! I have three now, including a very nice DSLR!

Janet said...

And the people said Amen. All this beauty definitely came from a higher power.

I remember those negative strips, too. All our pictures were in black and white until I was about 5.

Q said...

Thank you for honoring those that have came before us. Digital photography has opened the door to recording the everyday in our backyards. I have bonded with my cameras and am so grateful to have the equipment and the time to become a photographer.
Thank you again for inspiring me to be the best photographer I can be. Colour and cameras are perfect Cs!
Sherry

Tumblewords: said...

I, too, remember b&w. My mother and I used photographic paints to 'color' some of them. Life is much easier now in many regards! Excellent post!