Saturday 26 May 2012

Why I Love Using Film (26/05/2012)

I get a lot of funny looks when I change a roll of film, or tell people that my Nikon FM3A is a film camera. Most people associate the term "film" with the movies and cinema, and almost every time I say that I shoot film, I get a response along the lines of: "Oh what kind of films do you make?".

Nikon FM3A + Nikon E-Series 28mm Lens on Neopan 1600 @ ISO1600 Developed in Stock Microphen
To most people film photography is a relic of the past, or an extinct dinosaur. However to many people like me, it's a way of true self expression, the only tangible way of capturing the moment and keeping it carefully stored and archived for decades. Treasuring that moment and reliving it every time you hold the negative up to some light. Those negatives can be touched, held, and even smelled if you wanted to.

Nikon FM3A + Nikon E-Series 35mm Lens on Neopan 1600 @ ISO3200 Developed in Stock Microphen
Okay okay, those who know me, know that I'm not really an obsessed romantic and that's not really how I feel about film.
Yes, there is the side of me that connects with that romantic sentiment, but there is a logic behind me shooting on film.
The main reason is that on the street it allows me to concentrate more on what's around me, and not obsess about getting a good picture. I see something, I compose the shot, focus, shoot, and move one. I can't review the photo to check whether it's in focus, or displays camera shake. I can't see if my composition is spot on. I don't obsess with any of those things when I'm shooting film. And why should I?
You see, I shoot street photography because I enjoy it. For me it's not a competitive sport, or a way to earn a living (quite the contrary). It's just a passion, a simple pleasure, a way to zone out and forget about everything else. There's nothing else quite like that Zen like state.
When I shoot digital though on the other hand, I tend to find myself pixel peeping and making sure that my focus is right, that there's no motion blur, checking that the image is sharp, etc., etc.

Nikon FM3A + Nikon E-Series 35mm Lens on Neopan 1600 @ ISO3200 Developed in Stock Microphen
Even when it comes to my work flow of processing and editing, film is just so much of a pleasure. Yes, it's hard work, but ultimately like everything else which takes time and dedication it is the rewarding feeling of outcome which makes it worthwhile.
Once you develop you roll of film, wait for it to dry, cut it up to strips of 6 frames and scan them, they are done! That's it. Of course you can tweak the images slightly once they are scanned but there's only so much you can do with a grainy  black and white photo. It's already how I want it to look and there was little or no manipulation needed along the way.
Unlike digital, there's no converting your files to black and white, no trying to salvage under/overexposed photos only for them to look like a dogs dinner (if the exposure is wrong just ditch it), no worrying that there's too much noise in the shadows and the highlights are blown. The film does what your brain had wanted it to do automatically. It's magic!

As long as I can find rolls of high speed black & white film (unfortunately my favourite film, Neopan 1600 has been discontinued by Fujifilm) and B&W darkroom chemicals, I will continue shooting film for my street photography.

Nikon FM3A + Nikon E-Series 35mm Lens on Neopan 1600 @ ISO3200 Developed in Stock Microphen

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