between 1955 and 1970 it was the greatest time for me and black
& white nature/wildlife photography. The films were
developed immediately after getting back from the heath or moor,
in a daylight film tank which had to be tipped back and forth
every few seconds so that the used developer could be separated
from the film emulsion and to be mixed better.
you had been taking pictures during harsh sunshine with a slight
overexposure, you had to make the process of developing a little
shorter so that the film gradation would turn out a bit softer.
If you had been taking pictures without sun then you would be
shorter on the exposure but a little more with the developing of
the film so that the contrast would turn out a bit better.
the evening you would put a wooden board over the bathtub, that
way you could put the enlarger and the containers for the
developer, stopper and fixing bath on top of it and fill the tub
half full with water so that you could take the paper pictures
out of the fix after a 10 minute bath and directly into the
water in order to continue to process them.
enlargement took place on 18x24 cm, high glossy paper and you
had 6 different paper gradations available: extra soft, soft,
special, normal, hard, and extra hard. Whereas you always tried
to expose and develop using the gradation “special”, because
that turned out the best nuances. You made the pictures in tonal
values and cutouts exactly the way you imagined and had complete
control of your photo from the take all the way to the final
didn’t have to let your valuable negative go either because
you just sent the 18x24 cm enlargement for print or archiving to
the picture agencies, publishers, and editors. Those were the
with 1970 the triumphal procession of color photography
commenced for home and for publishing. Don’t forget: a color
photo 7x10 cm at that time cost exactly 1,- - DM in a
photography shop and that at a time where the newspaper
“Bildzeitung” cost ten Pfennig. A 36 color film with one
print each cost almost 40,-- DM which was a fortune at that
time. Today you can get 9x13 cm pictures starting at one cent…
like “Wild und Hund” (game and dog) or „Foto Magazin“
only had a colored title page at that time and the contents were
all black & white up to then. This
started to change. A magazine called “Color Foto” came out
and by its name alone heralded a new time coming.
Soon the drum scanner, which made it even possible to
make great 24 x 36 mm film prints in color, came along. At first
everyone thought that everything would go on in color just like
in the B/W era. The photographers would take pictures on
negative-film, then develop it, enlarge it – only in color
instead of B/W – and the colored 18 x 24 cm enlargements would
be sent to the agencies and editors. But that did not happen. It
took too long, was too expensive, the photographers had big
problems making sound color enlargements on their own and the
results were too inconsistent. That is the reason why slides
became more and more widely accepted as film material for the
film was originally put on the market for the “few”
photographers that wanted to give slide presentations but now it
boomed even though it was completely unsuitable to use as a
first print. Its range of contrast was vast and it was much too
brilliant to be usable for print. If printed like this according
to the slide, the depth was pitch-black and the lights
completely eroded. You just couldn’t bring its contrast onto
paper. That was the reason a “crutch” called blurred masking
was invented: so that you could work with slides for print. With
this, a B/W copy was taken from the slide through a contact
exposure without stacking the slide and negative directly on top
of each other with the shiny sides of each up, which would have
resulted in a sharper negative, but the emulsion side of the
slide with the base (shiny) side of the negative face to face
that resulted in a slightly blurred B/W negative of the slide.
That is where the name “blurred masking” came from and is
still used in the Photoshop program today.
if you took the four-color set which was layered and put the
color slide with slightly blurred B/W negative together with it
into the slide frame you got a much lower contrast color slide
which range of tonal value was such that you could print it. The
slide film was actually only a “work-around” for the
printers because there was no better solution
the ideal raw material for a lithograph. As photographer you
weren’t very happy about this sudden change of direction with
the slide films either and only because the printers wanted it
that way. Principally you couldn’t just develop a slide film
real quick on your own and you had to give up your valuable
original for the print or send it to the agency.
all, the artistic freedom of the wildlife/nature photographer
was suddenly and drastically limited. You pushed the shutter
release and that was it.
the slide was too light or too dark, if the color balance was
off, if the cut out turned out to be catastrophic through the
heat of the moment during an action take – endsville. You
could do absolutely nothing about it. It’s a case of sink or
Miller once called photography the crudest of all art and was in
part right during this episode of slide photography because our
possibilities of lay-out were dramatically more limited then
with all other forms of art.
with digitals we have regained the control we once had in our
B/W photography and had so sorely missed during the interlude
with slide film. We can set the contrast, sharpness, color
balance and the cut out completely by ourselves and are
certainly taking better pictures then was ever possible with
slides. Slide film required exact exposure times and you really
had no choice but to set the exposure manually, which needed a
lot of concentration and time. Now, with the tolerant digital
photography, I almost always use the automatic timer with which
I am much more flexible and faster and I can focus my
concentration more on the subject instead of having to deal with
the exposure setting.
fantastic thing is the dramatically expanded possibilities. With
the pc you can straighten out converging lines, subtly use a
split filter, “scheimpflügen” and take panorama shots; all
things you used to need a special camera for before. And we even
have the test Polaroid with the SLR, digitally and for free,
which during the time of the slide film was really only used
with large format cameras.
do see ONE big draw-back with digital photography: There are so
many possibilities and ways that you can easily get lost and
because of all the technology lose contact to the actual
would really be too bad if most of the wildlife/nature
photographers would know how a RAW-converter works and where you
use it in Photoshop-CS 25, but forget how to tell the difference
between a black redstart and a common redstart.
Actually, my piece of advice is: acquire the
basic knowledge you need to successfully photograph digitally
but try not to drown in the flood of technology that sweeps over
us every time a new issue of a photo magazine comes out each
create your own, if possible, easy digital workflow for indoors
and outdoors and forget all the technology, go out and take
pictures of butterflies and autumn leaves.
wildlife/nature photography does not mean to celebrate
technology on the seventh level of Photoshop……wildlife/nature
photography means that you go outside to photograph nature.
hope you will have great pleasure and a lot of success in doing
in the Hüttrup Heath in the area of Greven, Germany 1955.
One of my first serious wildlife pictures.
lllf, Telyt 4.5/200 mm with mirror box, ISO 100, camouflage tent,
Gull at Lake
Saxony, Germany 1962.
Taken from out of a camouflage tent that was put
up on top of a moored fishing boat.
with Noflexar 5.6/400 mm, ISO 100, Tripod
in the Nairobi
first Africa-picture and one of my last B/W pictures (1970). At
the time there still were cheetahs in the
Magazin” in Germany even published this as a center spread
photo in 1971..
SL66, Zeiss Tele-Tessar 5.6/500 mm, 220 roll film, ISO 100, taken
from out of the car.