I’ll Have a Black Velvet Please.
And no, I do not mean the variety in liquid form. The black velvet I am referring to is the cloth.
You see, in days gone past it was a necessity and in many ways it still is today.
In the days of my studies we used to train with “4×5” view cameras. It was quite an event shooting with a view camera, almost like a ritual. Apart from the fact that it was really big and cumbersome, it also slowed you down, it made you think. As a student shooting on film 4×5 inches big, the cost of buying and processing film was not cheap. This added to an extra incentive to think again, before you pressed the button to expose the film.
The black velvet came in at the composing and focusing stage. Especially when shooting outside, one could hardly see anything on the ground glass focussing screen without blocking out light. This is where the black velvet came in. Now you could have used just any old black cloth, permitting that it blocked out the light, or even a viewing hood, but as students we did not always have that luxury. To be honest, I just liked the black velvet, the way it draped; it was soft and never creased.
It was also part of the mystique of using those ‘old’ cameras. These days we still use black cloth all the time but for varying purposes. From blocking unwanted light in a room to eliminating reflections. But every once in a while when shooting on location and there is too much light and reflection on the computer screen, I ask for the black velvet please.