BLOG 03 - DO I STILL SHOOT FILM?

WHY DO I SHOOT FILM?

In true political fashion I will answer that with another question, why not?

There has been a view that digital photography has killed film, or it is either dead or dying, this is simply not true. There continues to be a resurgence of film use, especially for the larger formats and street photographers, which demonstrates at the moment that it is alive and kicking.

So to answer the original question, yes but not all the time. Working with film is how I learnt photography and I enjoy the process of using film. I am not going to write some dribble about it being the ‘only true medium’ etc. as that is pretentious rubbish. Digital photography is with us every day of our lives, especially as we all own smart phones, and more people take and share photographs on a daily basis. This can only be a good thing.

Technology does not take a good photograph, but it makes the process a lot easier as digital cameras provide instant feedback. We can check focus, exposure, histograms, highlights, noise etc. on the screen within seconds of taking the image. There is also no, or very little, cost associated with taking a digital image so we often shoot many (hundreds) of images in the hope that one will be good. We then spend hours in front of the computer processing similar images and then realising we still do not have that perfect image we visualised.

Yes, I have digital cameras and they are amazing tools which capture stunning images. For a professional photographer it is a must to survive in this modern era. The internet and social media is saturated with digital images, often over processed to produce false colours and impressions. But shooting too many average images is too easy with a DSLR and I have often found my workflow hurried and careless. Slowing down with a digital camera is a constant challenge. I also do not like the 'chimpers', the photographers who are constantly reviewing their images on the screen immediately after they have taken them and then take another 10 images of the same scene. You have to trust your instinct and what you saw in the viewfinder.

My personal experience is that rapid fire shooting does not happen with film as it requires and forces a slower workflow. In 2004 I started shooting medium format film with a Pentax 645 which not only producer higher quality negatives and prints, but it also slowed down my process. When each frame is probably costing about £1 it slightly focusses the mind not to be wasteful. I also believe my black and white images made on film do have a different feel and look to them despite being digitally processed (which is a faster process in Lightroom). If I am shooting film then I use a Pentax645Nii which was the last upgrade to the 645 format. The camera handles like a SLR and it is not as big as you think when you compare it to some of the 'pro' DSLRs around. When shooting with the Hasselblad Xpan I have not choice and have to shoot film.

My Pentax 645Nii at the Miners Bridge, North Wales UK 2018

Pentax 645Nii at Swallow Falls, North Wales, UK

What about image quality? Well this is another can of worms that I am not going to open. My experience is that if you use a good quality film and it is exposed correctly then the image quality can be comparable to digital. The 'look' of the image compared to a digital image will not be the same as digital has this clean almost perfect colouring. The image below of Miners Bridge in North Wales was taken on Kodak Ektar 100 film and the quality of the image is as good as digital. If you visit the galleries and look at the Xpan images I am sure you will agree the image quality is superb.

Miner Bridge, Pentax 645Nii Kodak Ektar

At the end of 2018 I switched my digital gear from Nikon to Fujifilm. I will explain the reasoning in another Blog, but the Fujifilm system includes film simulations. I am looking forward to seeing the results with these. How much film will I continue to shoot? I don't know as there is both time and cost involved with film. I will continue to challenging myself to slow down and not get trigger happy when using the digital cameras. I do like the ability to use live view and review the histogram etc. so there are less excuses for taking bad images. 

I continue to challenge myself to be different and produce images that are unique to me, whether this is digital or film. Project Xpan is looking at the world in 3:1 format using one camera, one lens so that has to be different!

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