Could you go back to film?

“Could you go back to film?” was the question posed on in the alternative forum. I read briefly through some of the thread but apparently, there were some heated and off topic rants from both sides of the coin. However, the thread got me thinking and I felt compelled to share my feelings at this time. Below is my post which I felt compelled to share here for you, my reader. I could go on but ultimately, photography is not an end result but a process, a journey and not a destination. With that in mind, maybe the context will fit my brief discussion below.

For me, I am shooting more and more film, and less digital. In fact, I am almost 100% film. As most of my work is for pleasure and little is for pay, I find delight in using old mechanical rangefinders (Leica’s) and old mechanical SLR’s (Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Pentax, Olympus, etc). There is a pleasure, a tactile pleasure, and experience that I enjoy. I find digital boring today. Maybe because I feel I have mastered digital photography (I can get the results I want, to an extent. Can’t emulate film but a topic for another post). I have not mastered film and neither will I ever, just improve. To a degree, the same with digital but again, the experience is different and not as enjoyable. Too many variables, too many challenges with film. There is absolutely (to me) nothing more enjoyable then pulling out my leica iiif, guessing exposure and winding on those knobs for the next frame. A pure tactile dream! My M5 is almost as pleasurable with the added spot meter. Then the fun of mixing my own chems and developing. Sometimes I mess up, other times I have great results, still other times I am wondering how the result I was after is different than what I had anticipated. Granted, this would not be for everyone, but I like the hands on approach. Probably why I roast my own coffee beans instead of buying them roasted. I like my results and the experience, or rather the journey, is part of it. Not the end result, but the whole thing. The process, the journey, getting there, and then starting down the next path. Digital doesn’t give me this anymore. I’m starting at the end. It’s like buying the bag of ground coffee and brewing it. Yes, I can use a French press or a mocha pot for something better than the Mr. Coffee machine but still………..

My 5dmkii is dusty, I usually pull it out to swap L lenses with my film EOS bodies essentially using the digital body as an expensive rear lens cap. My workflow works and is at times quicker than my digital, more rewarding and requires less post processing. Right now I am a hybrid shooter. I develop my film and scan on a Kodak Pakon f135+. It gives gorgeous 6mp files (this is not a flatbed but a dedicated lab scanner) and will scan a roll in about 2 minutes. Color is usually spot on with c-41 due to the Kodak built in color profiles. B&W is beautiful. My lightroom editing is minimal. Adjust levels and sharpening. That’s it. 10 seconds max on an image, usually less. I could batch them all in the scanner and export jpeg and have no post processing but I like to fine tune things. Currently building a dark room for traditional printing, my winter project if you will.

I shoot digital for weddings and portraits but recently have been incorporating film into my wedding work. I sell fine art landscapes and have them in homes, on book covers and in office building across the country. Not a lot, but enough to keep me doing it. But that doesn’t bring pleasure. Just work. I am mostly an amateur photographer and for this reason, I enjoy film. It is where my most personal work is made.

What I didn’t share were some images. Here are two I scanned yesterday. They were shot on hand rolled cassettes of film that I spun off bulk rolls of Kentmere 100. I shot them in my Leica M5 using a vc 35/2.5 color skopar lens with orange filter. Development was using Rodinal (a very OLD developer, classic if you will) at 1:50 dilution. Film was scanned with my Kodak Pakon f135+. These images speak to ME (maybe not to you) but this is what it says. It reminds me of a beautiful afternoon riding bikes with my wife through Gulf State Park (my emotional tie). Aesthetically, I am drawn to the second image particularly. The lighting, the tones, the depth (the pleasing of the viewing experience)…you decide.

Gulf State Park

Gulf State Park 2