We certainly live in a weird era of humankind...while many of us, analog photographers mourn the "old good days" when you could get all the photo materials one could ask (including the revered Kodachrome), there are some good things in being dived into the digital age. Even for "pure" analog lovers. Sometimes, digital gadgets just come in handy for the analog world as well. Oriol Garcia kindly asked me for the opinion about his new iPhone application (PhotoExif) he wrote. The application is intended to store EXIF and GPS data of analog shots which can then be useful later when these shots are digitized. While not being an iPhone user myself, I can hardly comment the whole thing per se, but I like the idea...
I have been asked innumerable times by colleagues, friends and even strangers if and why I do not own a DSLR, in various situations. I even got the same questions (not many times, of course) during the correspondence with people when dealing with the activity of this blog. While the whole thing is most of the times quite irritating to me, sometimes I even get quite a rush of pride due to that very fact (for not owning it). I actually own a couple of low-budget digicams (and use them rarely), but I just don't feel the »chemistry« (pun intended) between them and me. It just doesn't work for me, I didn't even feel the minimum attraction every time I had the chance to handle a premium DSLR. So I limit my use of digital gear only for web communication and the like. But from the (quasi)rational point of view, here are the reasons:
While you can buy an entry-level DSLR for little money today, you know it will be outdated quite soon, and its quality (still) leaves much to be desired. A Canon user (like me, while already having a range of EF lenses) can get a 1100D for some 400€. Not expensive, but....considering my 35 mm film shooting rate is somewhere about 15-20 films/year (and I've been shooting mostly color slides lately), you end to spend about 200€/year, provided you get a lab with fair prices for E6 development and you buy your film in bulk (as most of us do these days). So it takes me about 2 years to break even in comparison with an entry-level DSLR. If I was shooting mostly BW, that figure would be much more in favor of my »old« film SLR (or rangefinder, for that matter). Most people, after a couple of years, are already flirting with the idea about getting a new DSLR because their »old« DSLR is already outdated. Getting a good quality full-frame DSLR means you need to spend 2-3k€, that's one decade of film supply and development, and some scanning, with the same or better quality as with a DSLR.
Many film cameras, many tastes
My shooting rate, as said, is really low. And the shooting rate of films/camera/year is even lower. At home, we own quite an arsenal of 35 mm gear: 2 manual SLRs, 2 autofocus SLRs, yet another SLR for macro only, 3 rangefinders, some Lomo-like cameras, and maybe even something I forgot....each camera has its own personality, and I really try to use each one for at least 2-3 rolls of film per year, to render them justice. Even if I compare the two Canons AE-1's (the old version and the newer Program), they differ: it's not that one is better than the other, but the handling is a bit different, although they have more or less the same construction. Can you find such a variety of tastes in the digital realm? I don't think so.
Film cameras are considered less intruding to most people
Doing street or event photography with a »vintage« camera doesn't seem to bother people much. They are often even more apt to cooperate, and many times, very curious about the camera. Film cameras are really connecting people!
I just don't want functions I never asked for
If I want to take photos, I just want to set the few determining parameters, without all the distracting functions being there just to tempt me to use them. This is also the reason I rarely use an EOS camera and more often an AE-1...
The consumerism, being pushed to its limits, is producing products lasting only for a couple of years. Digital camera models just come and go, the real technological improvement between generations of cameras has become marginal. The manufacturers-corporations just want to trick us that you simply need a newer camera. In contrast, 30+ year-old cameras (with minimum maintenance) are just fine and work almost as new (OK, it's not a heavy duty use). And you can load them with the latest film type(like Ektar). This is simply amazing, isn't it? I have a much better feeling when I buy some film, especially from a small film company, knowing that I contribute this way to keep that small company running!
I just love to project slides!
There's nothing better to me as a nice sharp, color-rich slide being projected! Much better than a wall-sized print. It's really the ultimate enjoyment in photo-terms. It's like listening to a quality sound of a vinyl record with a vacuum-tube amplifier! No, this not the everyday routine, you need to take your time, but when you take that time, it's special!
These are by no means all the reasons, but probably the most important ones, and I am sure these are more or less the same reasons you to stick with film. And I would really like to know your very reasons.
Simply, it is not a digital one. Right? But at its core a ccd or a cmos is an analogue device, transforming photons into electrical charge and only afterwards its converted in digital file. But we all agree that this kind of photography is so called “digital photography” and not analogue (or analog in American English) photography. But large amount of analogue photographs after all is converted into digital files by scanning negatives. At least for on line presentation. It’s a little bit complicated.
But leave philosophical matter about analogue vs. digital for another column in the future. Analogue photography it’s whole universe of diversity at itself. But what it is real analogue photography? Some would say that real analogue photography is when it is taken on some light sensitized material and that aperture and time this material is exposed to light is manually controlled. Other would say give me some film and any camera it would take it. Then it will take film to develop and printing to the local Quick lab. This is also an analogue photography. But what would you say about alternative processes? There it’s not already prepared film in advance, but you must prepare your own light sensitive material, you must do developing and also printing (if it’s needed) at your own. Are those processes more analogue than previous one? What do you think about? What’s your way to be analogue?
p.s.: About last column and which camera I took to the hike. I chose Altix. More about this matter in the next column.
Last Monday column I wrote about analogue photography as escape from digital world. In this column I will tell about things in analogue photography that differentiate analogue photography from modern digital world and which I love.
You are already familiar with all sorts of digital and electronic helps and shortcuts found in modern digital and not so modern analogue cameras. A few classical photographic electronic helps found already in cameras made in 70-ties and before. We are all familiar with metering in our cameras, P, A, T (S), and M modes. Aperture and shutter speed is controlled electronically from mid-seventies Canon AE1 camera or maybe even before that. Now days you have face recognition, smile shutter, all kinds of scene modes that help consumers, amateurs (not that I underestimate amateur photography and “casual” photographers) and people who know nothing about photography except phrase “smile” or “cheese” and then they press shutter button in one move, all way down... There are all sorts of these so called scene modes; from helpful like portrait, landscape and action, to downright bizarre ones like candlelight, sunset, food, party, or even pet scene modes. And then are so-called effects, for people who are not familiar with post production, like B&W and sepia, or effects that simulate some legacy film emulsions, or even pin-hole effect, and so on... Better I don’t write about live view and video in modern cameras. Sure I missed plenty of them.
Electronics, firmware and hardware are developing in very high pace. So every year we have new “useful” features. Some are turning out useful and most of them really are not. Some of this year’s “new photographic” features are: Wi Fi incorporated in camera, so you can control camera by your phone, and wirelessly transfer images, camera equipped with phone android operating system, so you could benefit with all sorts of application, useful or not, for your camera. And also you can share freshly taken photos on your favourite social network... But feature that stroke me most is that on one of new camera that was presented from giant in consumer electronics at Photokina last week. It is called Auto Portrait framing function. When it’s enabled the camera use face detection to locate your subject, crops the image based on a rule-of-thirds, and resample the picture back up to the same resolution as is the original shot. Effectively camera decides about framing instead of you!!! Where this is going I think don’t need to tell.
So whatever these are useful, helpful and needed photographic tools, I prefer a purist way of taking photographs. With all manual and mechanical way of controlling my camera. So when I’m taking pictures and they didn’t turn out in the way I wanted to, it’s only my fault. I prefer working with my light meter, manually turning knob to specific shutter value, turning the aperture ring on selected f stop, zone focusing and manually rewind the film... And then, when I press the shutter button, it’s a pure mechanical joy!
What’s the reason to practice an analogue photography? It is because it’s better than digital? Or maybe it’s not better quality but better looking? Maybe it’s the reason the thrill of unknown, the so called chocolate box effect; that you never know what you will get until you develop the film? Or maybe it’s all about the feeling of operating the beautifully crafted mechanical photographic box?
We live in a frenzy world. The photographic technologies are developing too fast for my taste. They are excelling and superior at first sight. But like fast food tasteless and fatting (your mind). Photographically I’m a digital child. So I often catch myself just shooting (with my digital camera) at my photographic subject/object without thinking about it. And when I’m not satisfied with the results I just shoot more. But when I’m shooting with a vintage camera loaded with film I just switch the mind. I’m suddenly aware of my subject/object, I think about it, how to capture it without ruing my film. I’d had a success ratio about 25-30 frames of 36. How many do you think I had at same time shooting digital? Ok. I’m improving and I’m trying harder with my digital camera. So I’m improving my digital success ratio. But without analogue photography I would remain without experience that only shooting film gives you. Its calmness, some kind of therapy how to heal of digital frenzy that surrounds us every moment of our lives. And that’s just one reason why a photographer should practice an analogue photography.
I think that every photographer it has his own reason. Or reasons? What’s mine? I’m not really sure. Analogue photography exists officially from 1839 when Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre presented to French Academy of Sciences the first photographic process in the world. So the analogue photography has at least 170 (or more) years of history. How many photographic processes, techniques, cameras and films were developed and worth to try out in that time? I’m interested in many of processes, techniques, cameras and films and in some not so much. In contrast digital photography exists only a decade or so (at least when majority of photographic professionals migrated to digital). Maybe in the future our grandchildren will find technology of today relaxing and interesting? Who knows?
Monday Column: About Not Reinventing the Wheel, Giving the Due Credit, Digital helping the Analog Etc.
Our Monday columnist Matjaž has been quite busy lately, so please forgive me if I took the role of the "surrogate columnist" this week. A while ago, our contributor Alessandro kindly reminded me that it would be very nice if we would discuss the reclamation of Fuji FP instant film negatives on the blog. So true, and I am very grateful to him. Fact is also that I only lately began to play with the instant material. Though a bit more expensive and having a more limited color palette, I find instant film very pleasing with its own aesthethics. Instant film also fits perfectly into our rushy lifestyles-you can shot and get quickly a few photos having all their analog beauty and then set your camera into standby mode till next time. Yet you can still get a negative from your shots. The specific aesthetics of these negatives comes also from the fact that the negative is actually a superposition of a color and a BW negative, therefore the colors get quite muted. Fortunately, there are many many useful tutorials how to obtain a usable negative from Fuji FP film by just using common household bleach, that seemed to me pointless and unfair to make yet another tutorial about this very topic. It would be really just reinventing the wheel. But it's nice to remind about this hidden potential of instant film once in a while. Below, I included a video tutorial made by Sebek (YouTube user baldipl) which seems to me simple and concise to comprehend. And I thank him for his contribution to our community.
Sharing the information, photos or videos among the web is another issue and it just happens too often people just forget to give the proper credits when posting something on their own sites. It's not only unethical-we all know that-it doesn't pay you back such a misbehavoir. You can only lose on your own credibility, that's it. And makes someone else (the proper author) angry. Be nice and fair to others and others will be nice and fair to you.
Coming back to reclaimed negatives-I thought it would be a good point anyway to show how important is to NOT allow the bleach to come in contact with the emulsion side-it will bleach your image too, and you'll get a "nice" magenta cast in the negative (green in the positive image). Below is my very first bleached negative and the inverted image (without corrections).
|Reclaimed negative shot on the light table. Bleach leaked underneath on the emulsion edge and also spilled near the truck's front end. The result are green stains (magenta in the negative).|
Last but not least, I must confess-the negative on the light table has been shot using my small and handy Philips HD camera. Yes, I have some "digital sins", I confess :) I bought it because is water and shockproof, portable like a cell phone and makes videos of acceptable quality, for example instructional videos. The photo quality leaves much to be desired, but for descriptional purposes only is good enough. I think it will be a good tool helping me with the blog. And paid it only about 110 €. I just try to be conservative with the digital gear. If I'd be a bit more conservative with the analog gear, probably it wouldn't hurt, too. But that's another story.