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09-20-2009, 11:15 PM   #1
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Essay on film photography

I saw a link to this essay in another forum and thought my fellow film fans here might appreciate it:

Why I shoot film or why should you give a damn

Chris

09-21-2009, 04:42 AM   #2
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Basically, he says that shooting film is harder, which stimulates creativity. Hmm, not convincing... (Nostalgia?) He quotes Fromm, “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” – but letting go of certainties is not quite the same as putting yourself in a situation of many uncertainties (so that you can let go of certainties).

I suspect he shoots film simply because he likes it. And liking it (for whatever reasons, including being used to it) requires no justification.
09-21-2009, 06:11 AM   #3
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QuoteQuote:
I suspect he shoots film simply because he likes it. And liking it (for whatever reasons, including being used to it) requires no justification.
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09-21-2009, 07:34 AM   #4
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Personally, I think he's right that film is harder when shooting with manual cameras. With film, you can't shoot forty-eleven pictures, look at the LCD screen and delete all but two which you then spend a hour on each in PS or GIMP to get the pic to what you think it should be. With film, you have to stop and think about exposure, composition, focus and such because when you get the prints and negatives back, that eagle is probably not going to be sitting on the same tree limb.

Oh and don't get me wrong, I shoot digital and I once spent two hours cloning out wires, power poles and a distant house on one of the pics in my gallery to get it to what I wanted. But I also shoot film with my AP or S1a or Spottie II. Want to really learn to think about what your shooting? Try photographing wetlands on a heavily overcast day with Kodachrome 64 in a S1a with a Super-Tak 150/f4 and only use the Rule of Sunny f16.

Thanks for the link Chris.

CW

09-21-2009, 08:44 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by straightshooter Quote
...Want to really learn to think about what your shooting?

CW
Do you really want to learn? Shoot large format. You don't carry around that many pictures, takes time to setup and meter the scene and you will learn to see the picture and the light before you take it. And since you can develop one sheet at a time you will be able to custom develop the negative for the scene. That is, compress or expand your highlights something that is more difficult, but not impossible, when shooting roll film because you may have to sacrifice other shots on the roll at the expense of another.

With small format, you shoot and ask questions later and often totally rely on automagic features. With medium format you begin to be more selective with only say 10 or 12 frames per 120 roll and begin to learn to meter your own scene if you're using one without a metered TTL prism. But with large format it is a whole new game.
09-21-2009, 10:12 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
Do you really want to learn? Shoot large format.
I'll have to agree with this. I took a graphic arts class in college that included a segment on pre-press work and I had the chance to use an older style horizontal process camera, the ground glass of which must have been 12-inches square. I enjoy focusing an image through the viewfinder of my 35mm Pentax camera but nothing quite compares to seeing an image on a ground glass, switching in the film holder and exposing the shot, and then later running something like an 8x10 contact print.
09-21-2009, 12:54 PM   #7
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Do you want to learn? Plan your shots and examine them afterwords.

There is no particular format that is works better than others. Some people respond better to the instant feedback. Some people work best with meticulous notes and planning. There is nothing inherent with MF or LF that will force you to be a better photographer.

I would probably hate photography if all I had to learn on was LF film. I work best with the immediate feedback and repeated practice.

I see it all the time with flash users. People who have been shooting for 20 years, go digital and their flash skills increase at light speed. Because they can take 100 test shots to get the effect they are looking for before doing it for real, and not 'wasting' all that film on test shots.

You really do have to be shooting every day to keep your skills up and learn how to develop your eye. IMO, you cannot get really good without shooting a lot of bad pictures. LF and MF doesn't change that, it just costs more.
09-21-2009, 12:56 PM   #8
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Good article Chris, thanks for posting.

For me I like shooting film because it makes you think more. I have only manual cameras/lenses & shoot mostly slide film, so room for error is higher. I prefer it this way and like the wait for processing, you have some time to think about what you just shot.

Phil.

09-21-2009, 01:11 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
Do you really want to learn? Shoot large format.
I'll pass on that one. After three back operations and having my right shoulder rebuilt, I doubt if I could even carry the stuff, much less use it.

CW
09-21-2009, 01:14 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by alohadave Quote
There is nothing inherent with MF or LF that will force you to be a better photographer.
Hum, I take it that is a voice tempered with experience in all three formats? All I can say is that for me and everyone else I know who's done all three say they got better at selecting their shots after large format. So, yes, inherently, hauling around only 12-16 shots for all day shooting is much, much different than 16GB worth of pictures or 10 rolls of 135 film, no?

Last edited by tuco; 09-21-2009 at 01:55 PM.
09-21-2009, 02:16 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by alohadave Quote

. . .

You really do have to be shooting every day to keep your skills up and learn how to develop your eye. IMO, you cannot get really good without shooting a lot of bad pictures. LF and MF doesn't change that, it just costs more.
I took up photography (again) as a hobby, thinking, "I don't have the time or commitment to get good at golf."

My bad
09-21-2009, 05:33 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
Hum, I take it that is a voice tempered with experience in all three formats? All I can say is that for me and everyone else I know who's done all three say they got better at selecting their shots after large format. So, yes, inherently, hauling around only 12-16 shots for all day shooting is much, much different than 16GB worth of pictures or 10 rolls of 135 film, no?
Digital, 35mm film, 120 film. Being able to select a shot is a great ability, but like I said, you can do that in any format, you just need the discipline to do it.

On the flip side, being limited to 12-16 frames in a day doesn't necessarily make you a better photographer, it makes you more cautious.

There is more than one style of photography, and different formats support those styles in different ways. I'm a run-n-gun photographer, I get in and get out. That doesn't exclude being thoughtful and planning what I shoot, but I like the flexibility to be spontaneous, and digital gets me that.
09-21-2009, 06:54 PM   #13
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I guess it all depends on what one means by "better photographer".

I started shooting 35mm film in the late 1960s and took thousands of slides and probably an equal number of B&W negatives. I got generally good results and was pretty pleased with myself. About 2002, I bought a Canon G2 and started down the digital road. I still carried a film camera and traded off between the two. While I considered the G2 to be a serious tool (and still do), I don't think it did much to improve my photo skills. It never performed to the same level I was used to with film.

Enter the K10D in 2007. Now here was a tool...a level of control similar to my film cameras, a sensor to rival the films I was using and no added expense to try new stuff. I could literally try stuff out until I got it right. I don't know how long it would have taken me to work the kinks out of shooting macros if I were using film to do so. The short period of time from exposure to workable image along with the ability to perfect a skill without breaking the bank were a God-send.

Was I a better photographer for working with the K10D? Maybe.

I have better technique and a more extensive bag of tricks than before, but I have to admit that I honed the skill of "seeing" the photo back in the film days. The cool part is that the skills I picked up with the dSLR are transferable back to the film camera. The net result is that I have a greater percentage of "keepers" from both mediums.

Steve
09-21-2009, 10:21 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by alohadave Quote
There is more than one style of photography, and different formats support those styles in different ways. I'm a run-n-gun photographer, I get in and get out. That doesn't exclude being thoughtful and planning what I shoot, but I like the flexibility to be spontaneous, and digital gets me that.
Yes, a style of photography for sure and one small format excels at. And a style where composition is the only thing being exercised because it is compose, push a button and take care of the rest in a graphics editor.

But all this started off as, "...Want to really learn to think about what your shooting?". And I gave an argument for what can help you learn to do that better.

Last edited by tuco; 09-21-2009 at 10:28 PM.
09-22-2009, 05:50 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
Yes, a style of photography for sure and one small format excels at. And a style where composition is the only thing being exercised because it is compose, push a button and take care of the rest in a graphics editor.

But all this started off as, "...Want to really learn to think about what your shooting?". And I gave an argument for what can help you learn to do that better.
And where exactly did I say anything about 'taking care of the rest in a graphics editor'?
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