I started shooting on film, back in the late 70’s on a borrowed Canon AE-1 from my uncle and taking classes in high school. When I travelled in the pre-digital 90’s it was a brace of film cameras and 50-100 rolls of film. Around 2003 I had pretty much fully switched to digital and for nearly a decade film and my film cameras where forgotten and put away.
Then around 2011 I started playing with some of the old film cameras doing art projects with other photographers, nothing like a dozen high end wedding photographers wandering a mountain town armed with nothing other than Holga’s. I also started looking through my old photo albums and made two discoveries.
1) If in a hundred years an anthropologist would try and piece together information of my family they would assume we all died in 2002. That was the last time anything had been “printed” and added to the albums. All the birthdays, holidays and vacations since then existed only as 0’s and 1’s – in a folder on my computer – well backed up, but still – never had we sat down to go through those images and relive those moments while huddled around the monitor. Sure some might be the screen saver on my phone, but it’s not the same.
2) I missed the the subtle imperfections of analog film compared to it’s digital counterpart. Film isn’t better – but it feels different. Even more so when printed.
So I dug out some of those old cameras and started picking up some others when I found them and spent some time revisiting film over the last two years.
Now as I said I don’t think film is better, in many cases the current capabilities of modern digital cameras are far to useful in situations with constantly shifting light. The high ISO capabilities and shifting ISO or light sensitivity on the fly are pretty amazing.
Still there’s something about film.
Don’t believe me? The most common editing tools for Adobe Lightroom or photoshop are tools that “mimic” film’s look and feel, heck the most popular cell phone camera apps seem to be based around “retro” looks. Photographers are taking the crisp digital capture and investing sometimes a huge amount of time and money to remove the crisp, add film like grain, and shift the tone and shadows to mimic their favorite type of film.
Me – I just opt to shoot film from time to time – although I have tweaked some of my editing tools to more closely match the palate of my most commonly used films for constancy sake.
I’ll most likely always be a hybrid shooter I think – using film from time to time – but remembering there are times that digital is the way to go.
Film also takes a little more time, more thinking about the shots, more care on exposure. On weddings where it’s just non-stop I’ll admit right now the film gear doesn’t always make it out of the bag.
Below are some shots from a recent wedding I shot up in Breckenridge this summer. I brought along with me a medium format camera, a 1958 Rollieflex 2.8E. You get 12 shots on a roll of film with that bad boy. They shoot a square format 6cm X 6cm , massive compared to 35mm film. Manual focus, manual exposure settings. Not even a battery on this – doesn’t need it. Twelve shots on the roll. Twelve square format shots delivered to the client. Yeah, don’t know if I’ve ever had a keep rate of 100% with the digital cameras. 🙂
Here’s a few of my favorites from the roll – now my next post on Friday will be from the same wedding but focusing on a part of the day I used a single “film inspired” but fully digital camera to shoot all in black and white.
Think of it – a camera from 1958 producing images that can stand beside the latest digital files. Makes me wonder how well my Canon 1DmkIV will be doing in 2070. Personally I think it more likely that come 2070 the Rollieflex will still be in use by some art photographer and the 1DmkIV will have been scraped and recycled decades earlier.