When I started out in Lomography in 2009, I was confused by afraid of the ‘B’ setting on many of my cameras. My advice to any newbie lomographers out there who have similar anxieties (nope? Just me then!) would be to embrace the bulb as soon as possible – you definitely won’t regret it!
When I got my first few Lomo goodies a couple of years ago, I was somewhat confused about the difference between ‘N’ and ‘B’ and in what situation I would need to use each setting. When I thought back to my childhood where I had used analogue cameras, you either used it in the daytime (no flash) or night time (flash all the way) and if you got any pretty light trails on your pictures, well that was surely just a stroke of good luck wasn’t it? In my little childhood brain it certainly wasn’t something you could choose to have in your photos as and when it suited you. When I looked at my Diana F+, and saw the little switch on the side I panicked. I knew it was something I would get wrong, or forget to check and this would lead to blank photos. In the early days for me that was a common problem. For some reason in my head ‘N’ meant ‘night’ (so should be used when it is dark) and ‘B’ meant ‘bright’ (so was for shooting in the day time), which is of course the opposite of the truth. For that reason I tended to leave my cameras on ‘N’ all the time and only use them at night with a flash.
This was fine for a while but in the interests of experimenting, and after seeing some examples of what this magical ‘bulb’ setting could actually achieve, I decided I needed to give it a go. I tried it first with my trusty Diana Mini and got somewhat mixed results.
I hadn’t appreciated how still I needed to keep the camera or the things I could do in bulb mode rather than just holding the camera still and waiting for things to move. I also spent a ridiculous amount of time asking people if I ought to have the camera on ‘n’ or ‘b’ (both pronounced like a toddler learning to spell for reasons unbeknown to anyone!) and although I still do this to an extent, I have improved massively and now just try to ask myself.
I am a now a huge fan of bulb mode, and some of my favourite photos have been taken using this feature on a few different cameras (Diana F+, Diana Mini, Fishseye No.2, Colorsplash). I wish I had got to grips with it a bit earlier on as it is such a versatile function, with many practical uses which I have listed below.
My advice therefore, to anyone new in the analogue community is to embrace the bulb mode if your camera has it as early on as you possibly can as this is where some of the most striking images are created. Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong as some of your best photos will be accidents as you learn. Try not to get hung up on exact exposure times and the like, just try what feels right and if it was wrong, well then just take that as a lesson for next time. Most importantly, have a great time, shoot hundreds of photos and see what works best for you. And if you are anything like me, do try to get ‘N’ and ‘B’ the right way round in your head before you start!