Somehow shooting film today is "cooler"?
Disclaimer: Author has nothing personal against photographers who choose to shoot film over digital today ( November 2013.). All images illustrating this post were produced on FILM and they are part of series FROM LAST CENTURY. So I read today one too many blogs or essays about how the author "rediscovered" film in his/hers art of photography. How after getting that "old" film (Leica) camera author's craft suddenly "changed" and the change in medium basically made this person a better photographer... How by not "chimping" at the back of gigantic DSLR ( and getting instant feedback from LCD) made this person "insecure" and striving for better images. Or another one who states that once in possession of film camera there is suddenly a "magic" of not pressing the shutter button so often and so long ("continuous shooting mode")... Don't even mention a popular mantra off the net that goes something like this: "shoot film, not pixels" or "film over food". And that somehow "real" photographers have to shoot celluloid... Everything else is less "art"... Really? What if you're like me and started with OR-WO film and Forte Silver Paper in Eastern Europe in 70s? I loved photography from the first day I took my father's Zorki. But, I dreaded post production part of the process. I always hated developing negatives. Always! Dust was my immortal enemy. For years. Having an "exciting" roll of B&W film in my hands, only to discover all bunch of dust spots after developing it by my self in my family's home bathroom... Devastating! Or spending hours making a "perfect print" from that "thin" negative frame. Numerous copies of that expensive paper, smelly chemical odour on my fingers (never was a fan of those darkroom "pliers"...). Burning, dodging, burning, dodging. The entire process was too tedious and nerve racking. The reward was great, don't get me wrong. Finally making that B&W print the way I wanted was priceless... But, the process... So yes, I started in "analog age". I learned my craft with film. Various formats. From 126 to 4x5... I did it all. My "way of shooting" was always the same. Regardless of what type of film was behind the lens. The "way I see the world around" was/is the same regardless. My views and style changed of course because I got older and matured as a human, not because my camera has memory card instead of a roll or sheet of film... And then the evil "D" showed up! Yes, digital started creeping up. From the first encounter of early "digital monsters" by Kodak (at the introduction sessions at IATSE 667 meetings) I knew film is ready to be retired. Some 13 years later, Kodak is gone and and I don't shoot film at all any more. As soon as full frame digital cameras were reality, all my photography became "film less". No regrets. None. At the same time, I still "think" the same as if I have film in my camera. I don't click like crazy. If you look at my cameras shutter counter, you'll see that numbers are extremely low for gear used professionally (I sold my 5D MKII after 5 years of "heavy use" both stills and video with 16K on the clock, my M9 after 4 years has less than 7K). No excessive "chimping" here as well. I do like the fact that today's cameras have that luxury of displaying just captured image, but that tiny LCD screen is not in use. Heck, my Digital Rangefinders even have a half case with the screen "flap door" covering it. Out of the way, out of mind. And at the end of the day, my batteries do last longer. After a full day of shooting on location, I am not "glued" to my lap top reviewing and editing my work in Lightroom or Photoshop. If I am in South America or Africa, after the productive day, I back up my cards on external hard drives while enjoying a bottle of local brewski and that's it! What's there, is there. All my hard work will be "inspected" back in Toronto... Sometimes I even leave lap top at home. No backing up while traveling. No reviewing the work while traveling as well. Just as I did with film. I keep my full memory cards safe and secure. Just as I did with rolls of Kodakchrome some years ago. Nothing changed. I admit one thing: I do love fine and powerful modern gear. Sometimes I even go over budget to get that particular piece of gear. But, once in my possession that's it. I am ready for a "love affair". I stop looking around for a next "great thing". I tent to keep my gear long enough to write it off with my professional practice if not longer. Yes, cameras/lenses are objects of desire for me as well. I keep them in perfect cosmetic shape. I hate dings, nicks and brassing. I even get teased by my friends for being "anal" about it. But, my gear stays perfect. For me, having a banged out and scraped camera was never an "ID" for being a pro... Digital age brought us devices that are not "cameras" any more, but rather "computers" with lens mounts. So, like any other computer today's image capturing devices have much shorter life span. That is a reality. Still, all that has no effect on how I shoot. I don't need to go "back to film" in order to improve my self. I did film. I did it for so long. I am totally comfortable sitting in my living room "developing" my images on my lap top and not standing in some dark, smelly, rental darkroom in downtown Toronto juggling paper sheets in darkness and waiting for prints to show in the developer... I am guilty, but not feeling romantic about film...
I find shooting film a very good exercise to get the habit you have developed over years during your film days: Thinking before shooting. Also, I find film extremely useful to understand some of the basic parameters of photo-sensitivity. In order to learn what photo-sensitivity is, what are the sensitivity limitations of your medium and what are your options as a photographer, you need to experience several mediums. Heck, in order to do that in the digital world, you need to change cameras. In the film world you change your film, your developer or your development times, and all the photo-sensitivity characteristics of the medium change. How cool is that? Having started in the digital age, I always thought all digital images are as stubbornly lifeless as the ones coming out of my EOS Rebel. God, I hated that camera so much I stopped taking photos. In the olden days you always had the option of buy an older, but working professional camera from a couple of decades ago, one with professional-grade tolerances and reliability to get to know the luxury of a huge viewfinder, extraordinary color reproduction of good glass, the shallow depth of field of a fast lens, and the reliability of the whole shooting process. Actually that's how most enthusiasts started: with second hand cameras. What can you get today? A mediocre Digital Rebel, all plastic, with a slow plastic zoom lens, and shooting programs that are designed to neutralize all your efforts to expose the sensor in any specific way... That is the sad experience I (or we) had, that took me too film, and seriously, I loved film. It is a medium that surprises me, that invites me to think, that is permissive (in focus, exposure, etc...), and that is very honest (I don't have to fight with 2000 digital artefacts at the same time). And guess what, I scan the negatives and I continue the rest of the process digitally. I learned how to make darkroom prints, but I did not find it much rewarding. On the other hand, I find the process of shooting with film extremely rewarding. Ever since I have always kept an analog body that I use once over a while to remind myself about the process. Now, of course if a beginner can spend 10k on a digital M system rangefinder with a couple of those magnificent Leica lenses, he/she will probably have a different experience of digital photography. Even a second hand digital M system costs north of 5k. I won't even tell you about medium format photography. What are the options of an enthusiast to experience with digital MF? Nil, none. Maybe we can use the Hasselnuts iPhone digital back! But if not, there is only film. And how do you learn to compose, if you don't ever look through the magnificent viewfinder of a Leica or a Hasselblad? You don't! You keep increasing the shutter actuation count to no avail. That's how it works on this side of the film divide...
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