Film…

The Rambling Preamble

The following pleonastic piece is largely meant for the members of Photography on the Net (POTN), a primarily Canon digital camera forum, but of course, all are welcome to read.

Disclaimer time: The following ultimately refers to a small number of people, and it is not an indictment against POTN members, of which I am one. The site is well moderated, and while tense debates can arise, it is, as one member noted, tame compared with a typical YouTube comment section. The site is inherently gear-oriented, and sometimes ‘sharpness’-centric. Still, enough diverse thought exists, and the site hosts several folks knowledgeable about all aspects of photography. My favorite site for photographic commentary is Mike Johnston’s excellent Online Photographer, but I spend a good amount of time at POTN, hence the disproportionate attention paid to the site.

Secondly, I am a hobbyist, so this does not create any useful publicity; it’s largely a cathartic vent and a convenient means of cutting down on repetition. Nor do I maintain a blog hungry for more traffic.

Thirdly, this cannot be stressed enough, this is NOT, repeat, not a film vs. digital diatribe, as I will happily extoll the virtues of both, if need be, and I have certainly benefited from both mediums.

Fourthly, unless otherwise noted, I will only be referring to black & white, as I don’t shoot color.

Fifthly, I just want to point out that while one does not need to experience something to know that they may not like it—-a needle slowly puncturing the eye—-I almost always assume someone who is highly critical of film, or doubts that anyone else could benefit from it in any way, has at least tried film as a knowledgeable photographer. I provide this benefit of the doubt, as gullible as I might be, because I would hope someone speaking with such certitude has a commensurate degree of credentials.

Of course, I’m not oblivious to reality, so for all those folks who, not with reasonable questioning, but with adamant assuredness, challenge film without having ever used it, might I ask you to spend the next 15 years reflecting on why your value to humanity is next to nil. If nothing else, shut up. To be clear, I don’t think people have to try film to find out if they like it or not, but to jump into a debate armed only with audaciously hostile ignorance is a waste of everyone’s time.

What triggered this missive has been the surprising number of voices that actually appear to celebrate film’s demise. No, I am not referring to the photographer who’s relieved to walk away from 30 years spent laboring in the time-consuming, fume-ridden traditional darkroom. While some photographers cherished this sanctuary of darkness, others felt far less romantic about the whole ordeal, and it is not my place to cajole them back into the pit.

Likewise, I am not referring to newcomers of photography or casual users (most of humanity) who reasonably might be surprised that film still exists. No, what this addresses are other photographers who harbor a deliberate agenda against film.

To some extent, I initially assumed this anti-film front to be just another consequence of the Jolt-injected spastic editing style that has, for a good couple decades now, afflicted our television shackled youth. The resultant truncated attention spans and, though with no empirical correlation, depleted dopamine have throttled our youngsters into the air, flipping high with strobe light perception, all the while denouncing that that has been overran by time; well, presumably so.

Film can certainly not survive the scrutinizing treatment of the new, and I might blame MTV except that crap-ass reality programming is just as alien to this discussion as it is to the reverence of thought. But beyond the elusive scapegoat are creeping fractures in my hypothesis. The most glaring counterpoint is the existence of the “hipster,” which is typically young, and these days, one of the primary consumers of film. So much so that the very fashionable anti-fashion tirade against the hipster scene usually lumps film, particularly those black & white rolls encased in Holga plastic, into the whole mustachio-topped skinny jeans ethos.

If not completely the folly of youth, then, I must blame the inveigling lure of technology for this disdain of film. Well, in this particular case, technology alone is too abstract to serve as anything more than an inert agent. Besides, film or even the ancient camera obscura are themselves gifts of technology. So what or who is the catalyst, the appropriator of technology as a bigoted sieve:  Well, I can only concluded that it must be the act of the myopic fool, whether young or old. It’s all I’ve got, but it seems to fill the slot logically well, as we shall see.

Now let me break here to wrap some perspective around this. I’ve spent a good portion of the past decade writing about terrorism, war, crime, poverty, social unrest, disease, natural disasters, and other socioeconomic ailments. I have perspective. Moreover, as stated earlier, there is no mass uprising against film, no notable movement of any type, excluding the market, trying to hasten its obliteration. Yet, in the compartmentalized world of POTN and similar sites (as this is NOT unique to POTN discussions!), it is still surprising how any degree of opposition to film should exist at all, even if isolated in nature.

In other words, the points I’m making, and that I’m about to make, have had to be repeated far too many times on POTN alone, and so I’d just like to set this in place to preemptively address that myopic fool who’s invariably destined to blurt out some cretinous remark that insults photography altogether.

Am I being all too sensitive, too defensive—- do-ith thy protestafith too muchumif? Maybe: so what? Doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Besides, I ain’t got nothing else to do right now. OK, but couldn’t I just ignore all of this? Absolutely, but self-amusement comes in a variety of ways, and I can’t help but indulge. Anyway, if you’re an active POTN member, you’re hardly cleansed of unwarranted verbosity.

The reality is that while photography is a hobby, I do care about the arts in general, and in my country, America, enough politico-cultural forces have already colluded to provincially assault the arts (along with education in general). Of course, I cannot control the market, but when fellow photographers vocally promote limitation to stroke their nonsensical prejudices, I feel the urge to speak out.

So finally, let this wordy wending path veer towards the story of my conversion to film. Yes, that’s correct, conversion. I’m not some…actually, I am some boring old fart, a misanthropic curmudgeon at that…but a nostalgic Luddite, no, so you can shelve that tiresome ad hominem retort in your myopic fool’s ass (to think, I actually bought my first CD player in 1985, before many of these techno-humpers were even born, Luddite my ass).

 

The Switch

I’ve had film cameras in the past, and even a digital point-and-shoot (the wonderful Canon G3—-still an achiever). But it was not until I was 40 that I actually learned the fundamentals, like the meanings of ISO, focal length, f-stop, and such. As such, it was the July 2005 purchase of a Canon 350D digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera that kicked off my serious, albeit hobbyist, pursuit of photography.

Without the advent of digital, it is highly doubtful that I would have engaged in photography so emphatically, and for me (perhaps not anyone else), this would have been an unfortunate loss, given my love and respect of the hobby. The advantages of digital as a newcomer were several, not the least of which was the ability to effectively shoot endlessly at little costs and to retrieve the photo almost immediately. Finally knowing what ISO meant, I couldn’t believe that film photographers were saddled to just one setting, or for that matter, just one mode, color or black and white. And perhaps most instructive was the histogram.

Nope, I was not going back to film, and I couldn’t understand how pre-digital photographers managed. Oh, how I read with open faith any article that espoused the superiority of digital over film.

But then again, intent is often fraught with precariousness, with none of the following transitions foreseen when I bought the 350D:

·       September 2005: Just three months in, decided to shoot only monochrome (Color Raw files converted to B&W).

·       December 2005: Purchased used Canon 20mm-35mm, end of telephotos.

·       January 2007: Bought East German-era Zeiss Jena 35mm Flektogon, end of zooms, end of autofocus.

Add all of this to the fact that I mainly do “street” photography, and it should hardly come as a surprise that I began eyeing a rangefinder. Problem was that in the digital arena, the only available rangefinders were, at the time, the Leica M8 and the aging Epson R-D1, with the former costing about US$7,000 and the latter about US$3,000. Neither camera was ‘full frame,’ and neither camera was remotely affordable.

And so I had to seriously reconsider my moratorium on film. Besides, digital was not giving me the astonishing grain of Daido Moriyama, and Photoshopping ‘fake’ grain was like a person with perfect vision wearing glasses for cosmetic glow; something that was organically off-putting for no particular reason. Now by this time, I had probably converted more than 1,000 color Raw files to monochrome, and to this day, I’m quite happy with several of these photos.

In fact, in February 2008, when, after some heavy deliberation, I bought a Voigtlander Bessa R2M film rangefinder camera, I had planned to use the 350D up to 80 percent of the time, fearing the film would cost too much beyond this. I was certainly not out to make some type of pro-film political statement. Nor was I seeking to be ‘different.’ After all, in the world of street photography, there is nothing more common than shooting black and white film.

I’d like to step outside this chronological reminiscence to make a quick point. Some folks have actually said that there is absolutely no reason—-not one—-for anyone to use film these days. I would like to ask these people if a new, fully functional full frame digital rangefinder can be found for under $1,500. The answer we know is ‘no.’ So shut the f**k up you goddamned myopic fools.

Anyway, taking out the Bessa was initially freaky, flipping the camera over to glimpse an LCD screen that just refused to show up. Fun for all, though, and the next step was to get the Tri-X developed. Living in Japan, I did not have the linguistic wherewithal to discuss potentially dangerous chemicals and proper disposal, so I found a joint that developed negatives.

Actually, when I arrived in Tokyo in summer 2007, I was still using a digital camera, still intent on only using a digital camera, so I was surprised to see how many folks of various ages were using film. Tokyo does not exactly shy away from technology, never mind electronic gadgetry, so it all seemed a bit incongruent, but then, having lived for a few years in northern Japan a decade earlier, I came to almost expect such paradoxical quirks. Almost.

Having picked up the negatives, I rushed back to shove them through my then recently purchased Nikon V ED Coolscan scanner, which along with the rest of the Nikon scanner line, would unfortunately be discontinued a year or two later. Just making sure that the scanner and software were setup correctly was a bit of a nervy procedure, but as the first exposure incrementally materialized on my iMac’s monitor, I was pleasantly struck by how different the tonality was in contrast to my numerous digital black & white conversions, particularly in terms of depth and range. And then there was the grain, the whorish but gratifying grain.

Now, using a scanner kicks up a whole other set of debates, and I will address this later. At this point, I will just say that the alluring “look” of the scanned black & white film was enough to prompt the immediate retirement of my 350D.

 

The Benefits

The conversion occurred, and the following will address some of the advantages that have since sustained my interest in film:

Camera Choice

As noted, if for no other benefit, film offered me the financial ability to purchase a rangefinder, which is the perfect tool for my style of photography. I am also hoping one day to get a twin lens reflex (TLR), of which a digital version does not exist. Likewise, I might grab me a Holga. You’d be surprised how many people think photographers should shoot only DSLRs (or maybe a digital medium format if they have the money); these people are awash in the ways of the myopic fool.

Grain

Grain is not ‘digital noise.’ Lots of folks don’t like film grain, but no one likes digital noise…unless it’s from a Ricoh GR series set to JPEG and monochrome at 1600 ISO.  Anyway, I side with grain (for b&w), sometimes for its grit, but more often for its subterraneous effect on tonal warmth and depth. Whatever the case, Tri-X gets it right.

To be sure, a crop of sophisticated film emulating software has emerged over the past couple years, but these choices were not available at the time of my switch. However, as noted above somewhere, I wasn’t much into faking it then, and I remain resistant. I’m not philosophically opposed to digitally created grain by any means, and it’s great that digital folks have more choice to handle monochrome conversions. It’s just a personal thing. Should note, however, that these wonderful emulators wouldn’t have existed if film didn’t. Like vignetting, limited dynamic range, and black & white, grain was a function of technological limitations that just happened to contain, for some, considerable aesthetic value.

The Experience

OK, so let’s say that digital film emulating had become so impeccably exact, that not even the most trained eye could distinguish between a black & white digital or film photograph (this actually might be technologically impossible—-I don’t know—-but for argument’s sake…). And let’s say that an excellent digital full frame rangefinder was available for about $1,200 or so, and that I excised any aversion to digital replication of grain. Would I go back to digital?

Nope.

The experience of shooting film, both tactility and psychologically, is different from shooting digital…that is, it is for me…maybe not for anyone else on the planet. Unsurprisingly, effectively conveying this crucial benefit has frequently slammed into the abutment of egoistic intransigence that permeates the Internet. Yes, the Internet, where you can reveal your favorite color, and people will still seriously dispute this; is it really a wonder why I don’t have much favor for humans.

Anyway…

Some people still like to use their hands to mold clay, to drive a manual transmission, or to knit a scarf. Not everyone is enslaved to or enamored of automation or the latest that technology brings, particularly in the world of hobbies…so get the f**k over it.

Well, with your digital camera, why don’t you just put black tape over the LCD screen, shoot all manual, and use a small capacity flashcard…it’s the same thing. No, no it’s not, and if you had a more holistic understanding of the experience, you would realize the appalling failings of your simplistic remedy. So please retire this ineffectual recommendation.

The incontrovertible, indisputable fact is that I enjoy the process of shooting with a film camera more than I do with a digital camera, just like I enjoy shooting a film rangefinder more than I do a film SLR. It is nothing more than personal preference, and it’s not a comment on the quality of the medium.

Even so, some folks believe that their proclivities represent the absolute; they can’t conceive of any other way than their own, and any derivation exhibited by anyone else stirs tumult. These people are, of course, not just myopic fools, but also a disgrace to the arts in general, as they advocate arbitrarily imposed constraints on choice.

Moving On Up

Crop versus full frame debate: Doesn’t exist. (And yes, I know about ½ frame film cameras, irrelevant). For those who barely have the economic means to buy a full frame DSLR (perhaps against your better financial judgment), think about a photographic world where this isn’t an issue in the decision-making process, where there isn’t any such perceived sacrifice. Hell, even medium format is affordable. Heaven, right?

The Serendipitous Stuff

The following reviews those little unanticipated niceties that crawled right into my grateful heart.

†When you own digital, no matter how satisfied you are with your camera, there’s a good chance you’re sniffing around for the next development. Digital technology progresses rapidly. The reality, of course, is that most entry to pro-level DSLRs released during the past six to eight years are all remarkably capable cameras, and of course, I’ve seen excellent photos from a one-megapixel phone camera. What we are entering into is the issue of image quality (IQ), and I’ll touch upon this later.

The point being, once you go back to film, upgrade worries, no matter how subtlety embedded in the subconscious, retreat; well, at least for the most part.

If you still develop wet prints, you have to worry about diminishing choice of silver halide papers and chemicals. Choice of color films, in particular, is tightening up, and scanner choice has evaporated even more hastily (but God bless Plustek and the OpticFilm 120). And for us hybrid folks (film/scanner), there is inkjet printer technology. Actually, for color prints, inkjet is producing excellent stuff, and even black & white has dramatically improved, whereby any notable gains brought by upcoming model are starting to plateau.

But seriously, tossing those caveats to the curb, it has been nice to largely ward off any underlying concerns about better ISO capabilities and the like. Again, my POTN crowd, whenever Canon releases a new model, reflect a moment on the collective outcry that predictably follows, with some of the outrage even assisting Nikon recruiters—-potential seppuku being an ever-present possibility. Meanwhile, I comfortably sit on the sidelines, entertained by the moaning (even if legitimate in some cases), because when you use a 60-year-old camera, you’re not really asking for much anymore.

†Somewhat along similar lines, it was an unexpected relief to stop searching for the best black & white conversion process. In digital, a number of ways exists to convert a color file to a monochrome one, and software has made admirable strides in the matter, with even Photoshop alone adding some great features. Currently, there are some pretty sophisticated emulators available, but even so, questions regarding preferred conversion method still pop up on POTN. That I don’t have to fret over which is the best process is not really something I appreciate much now, but at the time of the switch, it proved a nice benefit.

†And look ma, no batteries! So accustomed to batteries have we become that we don’t think about them until they are no longer a concern. True, many modern film cameras are equally dependent on batteries as any digital camera, but I’ve got three older film models that operate just fine without them. And yeah, it’s not something that will arouse euphoric elation, but the reality is that batteries can be a pain in the ass.

Now, I already heard some folks dismiss this advantage as “laughable.” That’s because these folks are myopic fools. Look through any POTN thread on camera disasters, d’oh moments, and dumbest mistakes, and you’ll find that batteries play a role. Think about it. If the opportunity arose to buy a battery that, fully guaranteed, would forever keep its charge at the same price as a normal rechargeable, would you buy it, or would you be more inclined to just apathetically flip a coin to decide which variant you bought? Right, the former, so don’t tell me it’s completely inconsequential.

Actually, I understand; for some folks, batteries are effectively a benignly invisible necessity, but for those of us who don’t want children, a big lawn to mow, a house to repair, or batteries to replace, respect our measly delight in being relieved from one more hassle. I’ve got enough on my mind having to witness the concurrent rise of the fascist Tea Party, Christian evangelic extremists, and politico-corporate plutocrats.

But wait, you’re going to tell me that the ‘hassle’ of batteries is greater than hassles involved with using mechanical cameras and film—-the automation that batteries bestow certainly compensates for any of their inconveniences. Well, in general, this is certainly true for most people, including me, but in regards to photography in particular, not me—-see above regarding ‘experience.’ See how different people like different things for different reasons?

 

The Contentious Stuff

1.  Film versus digital is like most other volatile rivalries: much ado about nothing, but fun nevertheless. For a number of folks, this debate has centered on image quality, namely resolution. In this sense, digital has markedly strengthened its position in just the past few years, but the ruckus continues, especially if throwing large format cameras into the ring. As for me, I don’t give much a f**k about any of this. For f**k’s sake, I frequently shoot Tri-X pushed by one or two stops; laying waste to any hope of sharpness and resolution. On the other hand, back in my digital lovefest days, there were film shots that, in terms of tonal atmosphere, distinguished themselves from anything digital (as much as I didn’t want to believe at the time, and as much as I tried to replicate it).  

It is this “look,” which I mentioned earlier, that I still prefer. This is not necessarily a make or break factor, and I cannot always distinguish between a digital and low ISO film shot. It’s an extremely subjective issue. And, again, in regards to technical perfection, I’m pretty indifferent, so I’ll just put a tie on this debate room’s doorknob and saunter elsewhere, like:

2.  Using a film camera makes you think more or, said another way, digital makes you lazy. To start off, I have encountered a few blogs by longtime professional photographers who confessed that the simple and forgiving qualities of digital and the safety net of Photoshop lulled their brains into a sloppy stupor. Others, however, take understandable umbrage with even the slightest suggestion that using digital should sedate their mental facilities to the slightest degree.

Then, there are some digital users who will announce a possible switch to film, or at least a ‘give it a go’ declaration, explicating that the move will help hone their concentration—-none of this “spray and pray” crap. Upon hearing this, other digital users slip into a real pissy mood, let me tell ya. Camera type has nothing to do with my thought process; you must be stupid!

I’m here to tell you that both sides are absolutely right!

Here was my personal experience, as in it might not be applicable to anyone else (redundancy unfortunately needed). Starting up photography with a digital camera had some clear advantages, and the ability to experiment cheaply and get instant results was not only instructive, but also incentivizing. When I switched to film, I was already comfortable with the fundamentals, so I could cope with exposure without my histogram pacifier.

But yes, going out with only one ISO setting and a limited number of exposures SLOWED ME DOWN. No sh*t it did; is that so f**king hard to imagine? Jesus! Step outside with only 18 frames left compared with 500 and an LCD screen and the context of life as we know it changes; at least it did for me, maybe not you. Consequently, before shots involving static objects, I spent a little more time conceptualizing than I did with digital.

This was, for my style of photography, an important mental exercise. Why? Because when doing candid shots, it doesn’t make a difference if your camera is sporting only one exposure or 1,000; you have time to make only one shot, with the framing and shutter click sometimes occurring within a second—-no time to shoot from 50 different angles. You have to quickly visualize the shot, just as the camera’s viewfinder is swiftly moving to the eyeball.

Well, if you have a clip of 500 exposures and the ability to spit out 10 frames per second, you wouldn’t need to be so reliant on timing…this is true, and if I was a professional sports photographer, I would tend to want these features, at least as an option. However, as with other elements of automation, I want nothing to do with them. Remember, for me, the experience of the process is half the joy!

Would digital have forever hindered this conceptual workout; no, just like I could have learned, like a trillion people before me, to master exposure with a film camera. The unique aspects of both tools helped expedite different processes in unique ways.

What is particularly annoying is that some digital folks will enthusiastically confirm digital’s benefits as a learning tool, but then they will as eagerly deny that film cameras possess any pedagogical assets, even if for just SOME people, arguing (again) that it’s the person’s discipline, not the camera, that shapes development and the speed of such. Oh, the endless hypocrisy in which these myopic fools bathe.

More infuriating is that after sincerely sharing my experience with film, the detractors remain openly incredulous. Well don’t f**k with my integrity you goddamned myopic fools. Yes, I can certainly accept that for you, your camera might not influence anything…you are solemnly at one with your brain, and no external factor will infiltrate it; I get it. But it sure would be swell if we didn’t have to constantly confront a passel of folks who mistake their subjective predispositions for universal truth.

3.  One of the more relatively frequent criticisms of film cameras is that they are the photographic equivalent of the horse and buggy, typewriter, slide ruler, and so on. There are actually two angles on this analogy, so it is important to clarify.

Some folks are simply referring to convenience, and in this sense, yes, film cameras are, in general, “antiquated,” and for professionals, convenience can equate to more money. As such, I don’t have many qualms with such comparisons in this context.

However, any assertion that film cameras are anachronistic in regards to their core purpose is thoughtlessly untenable. When asserting that digital is to film as a car is to a horse, does this stand true when focusing on the purpose? The purpose of a car is, for the most part, to get the passenger(s) from one point to another in a quick, safe, and comfortable manner. In most cases, the car succeeds at this purpose better than does a horse.

The purpose of a camera is to produce a photograph. With this in mind, a digital camera does NOT produce better photos than a film camera, and one can argue, in fact, that a 100-year-old platinum palladium print from a large format camera can still, in terms of gorgeous tonality, obliterate anything coming out of an inkjet printer. Yes, this is debatable, but the point is it is still debatable.

Beside, many people to this day like to ride horses, and convenience, efficiency, and technology alone should never be in sole position to measure the value of the tools of art, or for that matter, the pursuit of fun.

Moreover, the advent of digital photography has not heralded, by any means, a jump in the overall quality of photography, and personally, my favorite period mostly stems from the 1920s into the 1940s. Absolutely, technology has expanded the field of photography, the proverbial shot of a bullet piercing an apple as proof, but it has not enhanced the broader aesthetics of the global photographic canon. You want to argue this point. Well, peruse Flicker. Case closed. I win. Of course I win; because it is subjective, so put your MTF charts away, they mean nothing to me.

Amid photography’s emergence in the 19th century, concern existed that the camera would replace paintings. This seems naïve now, but this mentality is not unlike those who believe that digital and film cannot or should not coexist. Oddly, some of these digital adherents would not scoff at the use of oil paints, but on the use of film, suddenly a perverse resistance surfaces. It shouldn’t.

Think about it; did the introduction of digitally created music, as in MIDI and synthesizers, not CDs and MPEG, render pianos, guitars (electric or acoustic), and drums ineffectual? Does Apple’s GarageBand undercut the value of a Stradivarius? Does everything today inextricably sound better than does an orchestra performing Mozart for no other reason than today is tautologically modern (for now)?

Look at it this way: do all photos taken with film suddenly appear obsolete? Of course they don’t, and if you think so, your worth as a human has been greatly compromised.

4.  Film seems to inspire a glut of reductionist assumptions, including repeated claims that film serves only to satiate nostalgic cravings, especially if using black & white. Undoubtedly, for some folks, it is a nostalgic venture. Even so, this is not the case for me: I listen to Mozart, but I’m not particularly nostalgic for the 18th century.

The 1950s might have been a swell time for some, but that’s not the reason I would choose a 1957 Ford Thunderbird over a 1997 model. Does the ‘57 look dated; does it reflect a period that has since long past; does it possibly unleash sentimental gushes within certain viewers? Yes to all, but that’s irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that the ‘57 is more aesthetically pleasing. The elements of art can possess timeless qualities even if, on a separate level, referencing a different age. It’s not complicated, but some people still grapple with this duality.

Yes, I definitely understand how the vast majority of folks view digital as an outright replacement for film in light of their personal or professional needs, but I, and actually several other folks, don’t. Film is another tool, much like the piano, guitar, and drums. Their inherent value does not wholly vanish with the arrival of new tools or technologies (as it would be shameful if they did); and nor do they solely subsist on the rejuvenating juices of nostalgia.

[Before I go on, just today Kodak announced that it was selling off a number of units, including its still film division. This could prove positive if a company more dedicated and better-managed takes over; Tri-X by any other name is Tri-X, but should the worst eventuate, I reckon I’ll be checking out Fomapan, maybe an occasional return to Ilford. Wonder how many renewed “good riddance film” comments the story will generate.]

5.  Why bother shooting film if you are just going to scan. You get this not only from the digital side, but also from the film purists…rolled up by both parties into a blaspheming Luddite.

Well, for a number of folks, logistical considerations fall into play. My apartment in Tokyo had just enough room for a hamster and me, should I had ever been tempted to raise one of the critters. My subsequent joint in NYC was not much bigger. And then there are the chemicals and the time required.

The film-Nazis contend that film photography is superfluous without wet prints involved. Fine. The digital-Nazis brainlessly believe that all scanned film ends up looking like all digital stills—-so why not just shoot digital. Fine. Well, fine, except for the inundation of arbitrary rules and erroneous assumptions that militate against good sense in this case.

As for why I shoot film, please see above—-prints are important, but wet prints are not the solitary objective. Moreover, I STILL HAVE THE NEGATIVES. One day, I might just in fact get some silver halide prints made, so redirect the riot act elsewhere. And no, while a scanned film negative printed out with an inkjet printer may or may not retain the quality of a wet print, it is still often better [for me!] than is its digital only counterpart.

I had the opportunity a few years back to talk with a local photographer who mainly works with large format camera. While meeting at his studio, he laid out two sizeable photographs side by side. The two photos were the same, except one was crafted in the darkroom, and the other was scanned from the same negative. The wet print appeared a litter richer, but it was also warmer in tone, which could have accounted for the greater sense of depth. On the other hand, with the scanned print and Photoshop, the photographer was capable of using more precise dodging and burning techniques to bring out certain details that would have been mostly lost under traditional conditions.

And then there is Nick Brandt, one of today’s more exceptional photographers, and probably the best wildlife photograph around. He uses a medium format film camera and a scanner to create his superb photographs. He has earned the final word on the matter.

6. Film cost more. Um, yes and no. Remember, for me, buying a film rangefinder and a quality 35mm dedicated scanner saved me about US$5,000 in relation to a Leica digital M. That’s a lot of money left over for film, development expenses, and other film cameras. Could the argument be made that in the long-term, a digital rangefinder would save me money. Sure, but it’s not applicable to my situation, since I did not have, and still do not have, the lump sum to pick up a Leica.

Also, cheaper way to get to full frame and, even more so, to get to medium format.

7.  Film is the domain of the annoying hipsters. This is an increasingly common contention on POTN, but I might want to remind my fellow site members that DSLRs with big lenses are the domain of the paparazzi, clueless tourists, sexual perverts, and, as far as an amped up cop is concerned, Islamic terrorists. To associate film with just ‘hipsters’ is to imbecilely erase the last 150 years or so, all the while degenerating some of the most salient pinnacles of photography.

Besides, as annoying as some ‘hipsters’ might be, when it comes to the arts, I’m going to count on them coming through a lot more than I will on some corpulent suburban dolt who believes that the glaring whiteness of his large telephoto is going to somehow wash away his congenitally prosaic vision of the world, photographically speaking, of course.

Was that too harsh? Perhaps paints me as a hypocrite. Well, seriously, my point is that creative types can undoubtedly be unbearably pretentious, but that doesn’t mean that their output reflects the more unappealing aspects of their personality, on the contrary. So let’s not be quick to judge or conflate, photographically speaking, of course. And really, someone who, without a hint of irony, uses the word “photog” forfeits his right to condemn anyone else about anything.

As for me, I welcome anyone who buys film for whatever reason, because I need there to be a market, no matter how niche it will remain.

8.  Film is not a digital medium, and digital is the all-encompassing future. Well, this seems like a common, albeit specious, argument (See No. 3), but the disturbing intensity of this digital worship is what differentiates it from reasonably based pro-tech advocacy. Fortunately, this narrow perspective is a rare condition on the forums, but I’ve nevertheless encountered at least one or two of its proponents. These folks latch their fragile self-esteem onto whimsical immediacy and flippantly reject precedent to construct a contrived sense of smug coolness.

Yes, that’s right. We’re talking about adolescents; well, a very certain type of adolescent, you know, the ones who shun their parents’ music until a few years later, when they’ll be aching to download their folks’ old Nirvana catalog.  Along with film, these children will also toss books, magazines, paintings, photographic prints, vinyl albums, and anything else that has a digital counterpart into the fire. The sad thing, of course, is that these adolescents, I fear, might be adults, since most of the younger ones on POTN bring with them a more open and spirited climate to the site.

 

And Finally…

Basically, what this all comes down to is that a great photo is a great photo irrespective of the camera used or the process employed. That scanning film, or for that matter, using a cellphone camera and Instagram, risibly devalues photography is ludicrous crap, and any photographer who feels the need to advance any sort of senseless proscription on tools used should be beaten senseless with a Canon 1,200mm lens. OK, I kid; I’m not advocating, condoning, or desiring to incite violence on any level, but some photographers have so stained the practice that maybe confiscation of their gear is in order, at least until they recognize the ills of their ways.

Other folks have written about their decision to return to or try film, triggering skepticism if not outright hostility on POTN. Not by everyone, or even the vast majority. However, that any confrontational objection should manifest is inexplicable.

Now, if these film users were saying that digital sucked and had no merit, that it was soulless and that only true photographers use film, I could understand (even support) the belligerent responses. But for the most part, these folks, like me, were just expressing their very subjective experience with film, and what they liked about the medium. As I’ve said above enough times, this is about personal preference. Even so, some will still construe this as an unconditional dictate seeking to enforce the destruction of digital and the resurgence of film. For those who do, you’re cognitively numb, and your misguided misinterpretation only fabricates an issue that doesn’t exist. I can only implore you to sit down and think for a few moments, just think.

Other than this, use what you need, use what you want. Don’t fear choice (unless for some reason, you really, really get off on it—-but still, refrain from seeking to impede others, photographically speaking, of course).

That’s all…and good day.

[Note, this has been edited to comply somewhat with POTN rules, thus the lack of open expletives, showing remarkable restraint on my behalf]