ROLFE HORNE lens, Make World Prettier
Wanna learn about the classic black and white photography. Experts says begin it with your sense, feel your camera, and learn it from the expert. Here’s our conversation with Rolfe Horn, one of the legendary.
How did you know & learn
photography? Tell us from the
My first camera I bought at a garage
sale when I was 8 years old. I was fascinated
with the camera and the photos
it would produce. I was only able to
photograph a few rolls of film with that
camera because my $2/week allowance
wouldn’t cover the costs. When I
was 14, I rediscovered photography. I
had a paper route so I could afford the
costs. I initially wanted to photograph
my friends doing skateboard stunts,
though after I built a darkroom when I
was 15 I really got into black and white
and began photographing the landscape
What makes you do photography?
What interesting about it?
Photography is a meditative ritual for
me. The consistent pace of life at home
can be somewhat overwhelming, so
going out to photograph is like a vacation.
I get in the car, drive somewhere,
then hike around to see if I can find
something interesting to photograph.
I have always been interested in the
landscape, as I like to travel. Be it
driving down the Pacific Coast Highway
to Big Sur, or traveling abroad, I
find it very enriching to see the world
and find unique perspectives of the
You learn photography from
analog era. What is the different
between the analog photographer
era and photographers
who learn photography on
I think working traditionally (analog)
requires much more patience. Nothing
is immediate when working traditionally.
With digital, one can see the
results on the screen of the camera
immediately, while working with film,
one must develop the film in the darkroom
(which my be half a world away if
traveling) What I can do in photoshop
in 5 minutes may take 5 or more hours
in the darkroom.
Which one do you like better,
digital photos or analog photos?
Tell us the reason
I prefer analog photography. The
power of a photograph is that it
represents reality. A certain reality. By
keeping with traditional methods, the
chain from the scene in front of the
camera to the film to the final print is
totally linked together. If I used digital
imaging in the process, the element of
reality is erased, discrediting the true
power of a photograph. This is because
once in the digital arena, one can
manipulate a scene so easily, like the
way Hollywood makes sci-fi or fantasy
movies using digital techniques.
You had assisted some commercial
photographer & fine art
photographer. What the different
between the two of them in
term of characteristic & mindset?
A commercial photographer is working
from without (take a photo of this
product for company), while a fine art
photographer is working from within
(I like this so I will photograph this).
Does that make sense to you?
Some people said that black
& white photo is easier to be
looked good compared to color
photo. Do you agree on this? Tell
us the reason.
I think either will look good if done correctly.
B&W is removed one level from
reality because of the monochrome
nature. Humans generally see in color,
so that may explain why a B&W print
may be more compelling to view.
Do a very good black & white
photography like Ansel Adams
did is very difficult. Only few
photographers can. What are
they missing that ansel adams
An 8×10 inch camera! (laughing)…
Ansel would find a scene he liked and
then wait for the conditions he felt
were right to make a photograph.
Sometimes he would wait days for the
correct clouds and light. Most people
don’t have the time or patience to wait
so long. Also, Ansel could really see
what he felt and express those feelings.
Zone system is one of the best
techniques of producing photos.
Unfortunately only few that
knows the right definition of
it. Can you simplify what zone
system is, what is the advantage
of using it, and how it work.
The Zone System is a method of exposing
a piece film and developing that
film accordingly to achieve desired
effects. Basically, it is expose for the
shadows and develop the film for the
highlights. The advantage is that one
can produce a negative with consistency,
which will print well on a grade 2
black and white photo paper. It would
take a book to explain how it works,
which is why Ansel wrote The Negative!
Of course, the Zone System won’t work
with digital photography.
Explain what is your “tone system”
Since I use roll film, I do not have the
luxury of fine-tuning each individual
negative. Generally, I expose for the
highlight tones. I let my feelings of
the scene dictate what this might be,
sometimes an overexposed negative
is better, sometimes an underexposed
negative. I use a film developer called
pyrogallol, which is very forgiving. It
allows me to use this method.
When creating a picture, do you
got the idea first or do you get
to the location first then get triggered?
Both. I will go to a location with the
intent of making a photo because I
have been there many times in the past
and I think the light will be appropriate
for the subject. I do enjoy traveling, so
often I will get in the car and drive until
I see something, or go for a hike and
find something. I really like it when I
find something to photograph that is
unplanned. Even by going to a specific
place, I never really know what I will
photograph. Somehow, the elements
in a scene strike me in some way so
that I am compelled to photograph
them. That is usually what happens in
Mention one word that describe
Speaking about fine art. Share us
some tips to improve our level
of art sense since fine art often
perceived as a “difficult to understand”
Create images from your heart. Photograph
what you are drawn to. Whatever
it is that excites you, that is what you
should do, because if you don’t, you
will never make that expressive photo.
Do you think a photographer
should learn about print making?
How important it is, and
what is the advantage of learning
I think that all aspects of photography
is important. Composing the image,
exposing the negative, developing
the film and printing the image. The
print is probably the most important
though, because it is what we present
to the world. There are many good
photographers who cannot make a
good print. A good print is one that
has luminosity, almost a glow from
within the image itself. The balance of
tones, the relationship of shadows to
highlights are very important in black
and white photography. Not every
photo needs a deep black or a brilliant
white. It is in the knowing which
makes an expressive, fine print.
Share us some tips for beginner
to learn photography properly.
The best tip I can give is keep photographing.
Practice. I made many
thousands of negatives and prints
before I began to grasp what makes a
good final photograph. Take classes to
further your studies. Look at work by
photographers you admire and study
the images you like.