I saved my favourite of the roll of film till last.
I guess the last bit about film and why I shoot it I have not touched on is the developing stage. Its the part where it can all come together, or go terribly wrong. I typically develop with Ilford ID11. Its cheap and comes in powder form, so I can store if for a good length of time if I don’t shoot film for a while. Although I have several tank options, I generally use my daytime developer. Its convenient and easy. I can do it as soon as I get home, rather than wait for night to be closed into a cupboard. I enjoy the process of getting the water to the right temperature, mixing in the developer, agitating as it develops. We then pour out the developer and put it through a quick stop wash. Following this the fix and final rinse. Once thats done, I unroll the film…has it turned out?…did it develop right?…where is that shot I thought would really come out good?… – its the lack of instant gratification I think. I need to wait, work, and cross my fingers that I caught the shot.
Of course we can all do this on our digital cameras also – just don’t chimp, turn off the preview. Don’t look at images until they are on the computer. Not quite the same though.
So, as I mentioned earlier in the week. We went out for a short shoot around the Winter Gardens in Auckland’s Doman (and also a quick stop at Mt Eden). My film of choice for the day was some Rollei Retro 400s. I had looked at images other had used with it, and having never shot with it before, wanted to give it a go. with 24 shots a film (you can often squeeze one or two more if you wind on carefully), it was a good amount for an afternoons shooting. I often buy the 36 shot films for cost effectiveness, but ironically (compared to digital shooting) fine them just a little too long.
Post developing, I must say I do like the film type. I also have some Rollei Retro 80s to use at some time now. Being quite a slow film,I have not yet decided what type of environment I will shoot it in.
I think another aspect about film photography is the medium, – film. On my digital cameras I shoot onto my SD cards, fill them up, empty, wipe, start again. There is nothing wrong with that – really from an environmental perspective, its better, and once one has the camera, its certainly a lower ongoing cost! But film, you purchase it. 24, 27, 36 shots per little round canister. You shoot the given shots it provides you, and then somewhat magically (ok, just chemically) develop those shots into negatives. That roll of film is a one off. It does not have multiple lives. Each frame was created to capture one, and only one image forever. It may well be a rubbish image, but there is still something special about it.
There are a number of elements that keep pulling me back to shooting film on occasion. People once argued between film and digital – which was better, more cost effective, had better dynamic range etc. etc. I think we have reached a point where both fall under the umbrella of Photography, but are very different mediums. I don’t believe film (I’m talking 35mm)has any superior quality to offer now days image quality wise – potentially quite the opposite, especially if you just get it developed at your local chemist.
So what brings me back to it time and again? Ive thought about this on and off quite a bit. I started my photography days with film. Anything other than sub mega pixel web cameras simply didn’t exist as I learnt to shoot a SLR. So there is some personal nostalgia there. For cameras like my Ricoh TLS, its also the nostalgic feeling one gets holding and using something old, well used and mechanical. Aside from the light meter, I don’t need a battery. The camera was made of quality materials and built to last. The paint has worn and scraped off in areas, leaving the brass construction exposed. It looks old, it is old, but it still delivers the odd image that I absolutely love.
Giving my friend his fully manual SLR, I though it only fair that I use one of my completely manual ones. I have got a bit of a selection of SLR’s at home at the moment, and although pondering minimising this a little, I do like both some of the fully manual ones, and some of the slightly newer auto exposure ones.
Four our photo outing, I chose my old Ricoh Singlex TLS. Ive written about this model in posts previously. A beautiful old, well used and brassed example, I purchased the TLS off a local designer some time ago. It had belonged to her father, and although she had not shot with it, she had held onto it for sentimental reasons. Being unused for some time, it was a little dirty and slower shutter speeds sticky. I gave the exterior a polish over, and rather than taking apart for a ‘CLA’ (clean, lubricate and adjust) just gave the shutter mechanisim a dry (no film) workout whilst watching TV in the evening. The slow speeds are still not quite right, but the faster speeds, to 1/1000th are pretty good now.
I recently gave a friend a 35mm SLR to give him the ability to play a bit with film, as well as a method to learn the basics of the aperture, shutter speed and film type. All of these things can of course be done on DSLR’s today. The one difference being you still have the option to click something onto auto, or to take 1000 shots and delete them at the push of a button if none worked out. I think there is still value in learning on film – learning to slow down, think about the scene, adjust the settings guided by the light meter to get the exposure you need. Doing all this on a limited number of frames adds just that little bit of added pressure.
Over the weekend, we went for a ‘mini shoot’ around Auckland. Mostly centred at the Winter Gardens in the Auckland Domain.
For the next few days I’ll share some of my images I caught.