The Universe need fewer and more beings like this one…
Archive for 2008
“Why don’t you shoot film man…!?!”
“Zebrio: now that’s an interesting comment… I’ve been sorely tempted to get myself a MF film camera and give it a go. there are a couple of things that stop me, the biggest of which is that I’d miss the immediacy of working with digital… and the most petty being that i don’t really have time to deal with the processing. that being said, i still love the idea of working with film again, so maybe one day.
i’m curious what inspired the comment. what about this shot makes you think it’d be improved by having been shot on film?”
“Well, technically speaking, (take this for what its worth cuz I’m looking at a 4” photo on piece of shit screen…), there is far too little detail in the blacks, the highs are drowning in lows, the bokeh has no real umph, and the tonal range is just sorta flat. No real drama here.
I don’t think that’s for a lack of effort because I love this kinda thoughtful and simple shot, done in B&W. But tones should be the real stars of a photo like this, and I am talking about all of them, the whole cast of blacks, whites, and grays. (Think of B&W magazine, think of Ansel Adams.) And your use of light and composition, DoF, pin-sharp or life-is-prettier-in-soft focus, and finally all your processing techniques should emphasize those tones and the gradients and nuances within. Then in turn the tones can add so much more the composition. I think this is where the time that film requires, and the grace that it provides can make and otherwise good black and white photo, a great one.
And I’m not saying that you can’t do it with digital. But film just has a mood, a smell, a feeling, a sentiency that digital inherently lacks. Ry said to me once “inanimate objects surely come to life on film”. I thought that was really spot on…
And to take it a step further, it’s the romance of shooting film, choosing your poison, getting in the soup, and having something to hold and touch add another layer of enjoyment that, I think, will more than compensate for the lack of immediacy and convenience it looses to digital. Besides, the waiting is exciting. It’s challenging. It’s like Christmas every 3 days.
It’s not that daunting once you get started, if you want to get started, that is. And it probably takes a while, buring through a dozen or more rolls of film. But once you get your first really great shot on film, then compare it to really great digital shot, I promise, the photos will speak for themselves. Try this one again on film and tell me what you think…”
“Zebrio: ah rats. that’s a much better answer than i was expecting… couldn’t you have been a little less convincing? this is going to end up costing me a fortune :P
i pretty much agree with what you say… there is a part of me that says that technically digital is getting to the point where it’s equivalent of iso 100 film (resolution of detail, etc) but that’s very tangible and the tangible is only a small part of the deal.
the intangible is harder to quantify. the mood, the romance, the feeling, those are the reasons that i’m tempted to give it a whirl…”
“It actually doesn’t cost that much. Think like this. Putting all gearhead talk aside, a decent straight-forward digital SLR camera and lens cost at least, say…$1200. A decent film equivalent cost say… average $250 (although you could get something much less or much more, same for the digital …and you don’t need lenses cuz you use the ones you have.) One irony here is that the digital camera will last you two-three years max. A standard manual focus Nikon FE, you can get from your grandfather and give to your grandkids.
Ok, so you have to add another 200 bucks for a scanner if you don’t have one already. Your up to $450.
With film, you inherently shoot less, going for quality over quantity. But don’t worry about shooting less. And you can blow through rolls of film like tissue if you please. That’s fun too.
So a roll of film costs you from purchase ($3-4 black and white) to developing ($3-$4 unless you develop yourself, then its just a matter of your time cuz a years worth of materials is less than a couple beers). So lets say 7 bucks, no prints cuz you got a scanner. And you have 750 bucks to spend on film, that’s 100+ rolls of film, 200+ if you develop yourself, 3500/7000 photos, that’s about 3 rolls a week, perfectly reasonable. Unless your Daido Moriyama and shoot 20 rolls a day.
And you find sales, and expired film, and slide film is more expensive. Again part of the enjoyment and adding to the creativity. But then you tend to buy more cameras and books and print and frame your favorites.
Basically, when it really boils down to it. It’s the same. Its not exactly a cheap art form, but it can be, but then again, we’re missing the point altogether.
You know, its kinda like the difference of snorkeling and scuba diving. They both rock! Snorkeling is just fun and easy, no need for lots of cost but you are just on the surface. Yeah, scuba gear is hella expensive, its difficult, and there is a level of risk…but look how much deeper you get to go…some places are good for snorkeling, others are good for dive. And just cuz you do one doesn’t mean you can’t do the other.
I’m stating the obvious here and just sorta ranting at this point.”
The digital that I shoot usually ends up staying in my camera for about 3 to 4 months. My camera becomes like a little mobile storage thing on which I can look at the last few months of photos, over and over again while riding the train. Then I import through lightroom to my disk and edit what looks good, then send it all over my computer to ridiculously and uselessly filed folders. Its a nightmare.
For slide, usually it takes about 2 months for 5 – 10 rolls of slide to pile up at which point I take most or all of it to the shop during my lunch break. I tell them I want it mounted and I want them to write the name of the film and how many stops its pushed or pulled, on the outside of the envelope so I know what it is without having to forget and then having to open up a mount and then plugging in the code to find out what it is cuz I never remember the codes. They tell me it will take about 3 days or so, depending on whether I have pushed or pulled. But that doesn’t stop from going in the next day to see if its ready (which its not) and the next day and the next, and so on…until on a lunch break, I run down to the shop cuz I know its ready, pick it up, sit there on their light box, put it all out in front of me, then go through it all with a loupe really quickly cuz I only have 30 more minutes for lunch. Then pick them all back in a funny way that orders them the way I like them, the right way up and then back into those annoying little containers, I make sure they go back into the correctly labeled envelopes marked with the details. Stuff them in my bag, run past the 1/2 price box, see if anything is worth getting, then to kaiten sushi and skarf down 5 or 6 plates of sushi. Get back to work. Then on the way home, on the train, look again at as many slides as I can on the excruciatingly packed 6:00 train, in this contorted way that allows me to hold one to the light, keeping a dozen in the other hand with the stupid container and the lid in my pocket. Then I get home and sleeve it (note: 39 slides with an M6), and look at again on my lightbox. (Note: do not use 50mm summilux as loupe or you risk falling asleep one night while looking at film only to find your lens jumping out of bed with you the morning…It wouldn’t be a problem if a summilux was like a cat and always landed on all fours…but I digress…) Next, I use my planner to pinpoint the exact date(s) it was taken on and label it accordingly, then label what film it is, where it was developed, (in what chemicals and at what times and temps if I developed myself) whether it was pushed or pulled, whether there was any music playing at the time of/if self development) the main events on the film , then in a crude rating system of stars circles and comments, mark with grease pin notable photos in the lot. I find the next chronological hard case with room, add the photos to the top of the pages and add the events and dates to the table of contents that I have made for each hard case. There are about 10 cases. Then and only then can I think about scanning or printing.
For black and white film, it piles up much more quickly than slide, as many any 10 to 20 rolls a month. Sometimes less, sometimes more, sometimes a lot more. Its start to get scary. I try to remember some quote I read somewhere that instinct is an imperative part of photography, despite instinct more of less having a negative meaning based on the fact that it is the ‘supposed’ notion of having perception of something before it actually happens. And the guy who said this about intuition. also said that he took a ridiculous amount of photos in his your youth for a lack of it. So I guess I should use my instincts more. Anyway, I start to have Winogrand nightmares of vinyl bags packed with film filling up closets and desks, and even though I can think of a million more interesting and productive things to do than dealing with the mess of getting it all out and doing it and putting it all back to develop it, and even coming as close to taking it in as putting it in my bag and just saying fuck it, then finally come to my senses and fill up the sink with hot water. I get the chemicals from their special toy box outside the window, plug the sink with a graduated cylinder (as long as I don’t have to make any new chemicals) Then I start pulling the film out of the containers, cut the corners, and start organizing by development times, ie. 9 minutes for Tri-X 400 pushed to 800 in D76 or 1.5 hours stand developing neopan 400 at speed in 1:150 Rodinal or maybe 13 minutes in diafine for Neopan 1600 combined with the roll of Delta 100 that I accidentally shot at 800, Anyway, try to find everybody a buddy to develop with, then I ask Yasuko if I can turn out the light for 2 min, put the toilet seat down, and the tank in the sink with the lid, and roll the film on the reels and into the tank…lights back on, chemical warm enough, start developing. maybe a prewash, maybe not, I babysit it if I am agitating, and not if its stand, then stop it , fix it, wash the hell out of it, the suds it the bubble fuck bath up with driwel, then pull it out, check it out genkan light, hang it with wooden clothespins, one on top and one on bottom. put the reels on a towel on the ground, stick a blowdryer unfront of them for 5 minutes, annoying my neighbors, until dry, meanwhile pulling out and cutting corners on the next rolls, and repeat. (Beatles playing, refill wine). I take great joy in this, always forgetting why I was bitching about doing it in the first place.
Wear out…clean up…take a shower…go to sleep…wake up…pull it down, cut it into 6′s, sleeve it, label, ‘rank’ it, file as above. Then spend hours everynights for the next few weeks scanning it, while writing ridiculously long nonsensical nothingnessisms. Then import it into photoshop or lightroom depending. Maybe up to flickr, and/or decide which of it is destined for the darkroom, which is another post entirely….
“I have not invented a “new style,” composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from “this” method or “that” method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds. Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a mirror in which to see “ourselves”. . . Jeet Kune Do is not an organized institution that one can be a member of. Either you understand or you don’t, and that is that.”