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Going back to film (temporarily)

Going back to film (temporarily)

Old Jan 9, 15, 4:24 pm
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Going back to film (temporarily)

I've been into photography for a good 20-25 years. Before digital came along, obviously I shot a lot of film. A lot. And I processed and printed it myself too. But once I got my first good digital camera, that started waning, and with my first DSLR it stopped completely.

But lately I've been kind of reminiscing about the simplicity of film. The forced discipline of having to actually make sure the exposure is right (rather than just checking it on the screen immediately and/or fixing it in RAW processing), being limited to 36 exposures per roll, and forgetting about white balance (a.k.a. accepting that your shots will have a color cast under a lot of lighting). So for a trip I'm taking in a few weeks, I've decided to go back to the old days. I'm bringing a single film SLR with a single lens (ok, maybe I'll throw one spare in the bag) and a bunch of rolls of Velvia.

I'm under no illusion that my results will be as good as what I'd get if I brought one of my DSLRs and a bag of lenses. Heaven knows my exposure discipline is rusty, and getting good film scans is a challenge. But I think it will be fun, and I'm curious to see if the imposed limitations will induce me to shoot more carefully, and come up with more interesting photos. Maybe, maybe not...

Have any of you done something like this? What was your experience like? (I know plenty of people who never stopped shooting film, but I'm mostly curious to hear tales from people who did stop and then went back).
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Old Jan 9, 15, 5:38 pm
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I started off in the darkroom in high school working on prints, using Kodachrome for my slides and I still have my Nikon F. When I first saw sports photographers on the sidelines at college football games shooting digital, I just couldn't see how that could possibly compete in terms of quality with analog. But times have changed.

To me, I just can't see going back to film with its unknowns and cost per image.

I will just relay a story I heard from Art Wolfe in the creation of his most recent book, Earth Is My Witness, which is a compilation of some of his best photographs. When he started putting it together and was looking at his transparencies, he realized that the quality of the medium did not hold up in the digital world. So for the ones he could recreate, he spent a couple of years reshooting. The times have changed.

Your proposal might be a good exercise in focusing on the craft, but I wouldn't want to risk my memories on a film-based system when the quality of digital is available. Have you considered just taking those rolls of Velvia and shooting them locally first before committing to a trip?
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Old Jan 9, 15, 5:52 pm
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Originally Posted by ND Sol View Post
Your proposal might be a good exercise in focusing on the craft, but I wouldn't want to risk my memories on a film-based system when the quality of digital is available. Have you considered just taking those rolls of Velvia and shooting them locally first before committing to a trip?
Totally valid points. I've been shooting some stuff locally over the last few months to get re-acquainted and make sure all my gear works. Also, I will be bringing both my iPhone 6 and a P&S for the "snapshotty" memories-type photos. The film stuff is more of an artistic experiment - something on the side. The reality is that, at this point, if I weren't bringing the film camera, it would still just be the iPhone and P&S (I don't feel like lugging a bag of DSLR gear on this particular trip, and photography is not the primary goal), so I don't think I'll be losing anything.
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Old Jan 11, 15, 3:19 am
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I still shoot my Nikon FM2 from time to time just for laughs but really, digital does everything film does and more.
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Old Jan 11, 15, 11:22 am
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I always hated having to protect my numerous rolls of film from the airport security x-rays on the outbound of a big shooting trip. They will tell you the machines won't harm film but they are not telling the truth. I don't think I even have the old lead film-shield bag anymore. Going back to film now would be a major hassle for the way I travel and shoot. Good luck.
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Old Jan 11, 15, 6:59 pm
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I shoot lots and lots of film no matter where I am.
I have my 5D which is my commercial work camera but I always have one of my medium format cameras (Hasselblad or Fuji 6x9). I've taken rolls of film sometimes through 8-10 xray machines and I've not really noticed anything.

Depending on what it is I will have all the film in a bag and if I can I'll hand it to them saying can you please hand check it? Sometimes they say yes and sometimes they say no...if it is a non-US airport I just go with what they say (aka at ICN I'm not about to talk about the finer points of the ISO rating and xray machine with the security agent).

Film will help you shoot more deliberate. Why not just touch up on a few rolls before your trip (re exposure). You can also get some gaffer or electrical tape and cover up the display on your digital camera and take that out for a few days shooting at home. It'll help you simulate shooting with your film camera.
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Old Jan 13, 15, 12:38 am
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I've done this as well for a few trips - shot exclusively film. It forces me to think a bit more vs taking a picture, reviewing it, recomposing/retaking the photo, etc. I enjoy it - the uncertainty of the experience, the patience required and the delayed gratification you receive when you re-live moments when [finally] developing the film. To this day, I always travel with a compact film camera - sometimes it's nice just to go and walk around and experience things and not know whether or not the scene you saw will be remembered in a photograph or only in your mind.

aaron
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Old Jan 13, 15, 3:49 pm
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I still shoot a lot of film (as well as digital), both for the aesthetics (like the look of film with some subject matter) and for the ease of archiving. Once I've developed the film and made a contact sheet, I'm done. No multiple back-ups, and then doing it all over again to switch to the new digital storage medium de jour. And, as you mentioned, the discipline of shooting film pays off in better digital exposures. Attention to detail in exposing saves a lot of time in post-production.
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Old Mar 5, 15, 10:03 pm
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Just realized I never followed up on this.

I think it worked out great. I still took lots of digital pics, but some of the film shots are my favorites. I definitely missed exposure a bit more often than I do on digital, simply because of the lack of instant feedback (funny how reliant you become on that), but not too much. That lack of feedback plus the limited latitude of Velvia really forces discipline in metering, which I found also brought discipline in composition and timing.

So, I of course wouldn't say that film is going to replace digital for me, but I do think I'll bring along a film camera more often from now on. It's fun, give it a try!
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Old Mar 5, 15, 10:49 pm
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Originally Posted by ND Sol View Post
...I wouldn't want to risk my memories on a film-based system when the quality of digital is available.
The irony of that statement, and something that many digital photographers from hipster doofi to long-time pros are just starting to realize, is that film is a far more permanent and safe medium than digital.

Long-term storage and preservation of digital imagery is already a serious problem. Many of the first DVDs from the late 1990s are already suffering from bit rot and digital images stored on magnetic hard drives can begin to deteriorate in as little as five years - even less if the drive isn't used regularly.

Who wants to have to worry about migrating all of their professional work or precious memories every time a particular storage format approaches EOL or is made obsolete? And trusting in the cloud may be fine for people who love to take pictures of their cat but I just can't see Ansel Adams or Cartier-Bresson arguing over the phone with Apple about lost images due to a server crash in Iceland or why their account was deleted because the credit card they had on file was expired or declined.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for example, faced with growing concerns for how to preserve digitally captured films for future generations concluded that, "There is no digital archival master format or process with longevity characteristics equivalent to that of film."

Properly processed and stored B&W prints and negatives have lifespans in excess of 100-years, slides from K-12 and the better E6 films and Ciba/Ilfochrome prints from same are right at 100-years, and even today's mini lab-processed C-41 color negative films come close to a 100-year lifespan.
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Old Mar 6, 15, 5:16 am
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Originally Posted by anrkitec View Post
Properly processed and stored B&W prints and negatives have lifespans in excess of 100-years, slides from K-12 and the better E6 films and Ciba/Ilfochrome prints from same are right at 100-years, and even today's mini lab-processed C-41 color negative films come close to a 100-year lifespan.
Yes, but it's a lot harder to make backups of them
And that is why I am going to have to disagree with your statement about film being a safer medium than digital - provided you store your digital images in more than one place.
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Old Mar 6, 15, 8:50 am
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Shoot film if you think it's fun, but there's no reason you can't put the same amount of thought into a digital shot.

And backup backup backup. Digital will last forever if you back it up. Film can't say that.
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Old Mar 14, 15, 3:58 pm
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Originally Posted by abmj-jr View Post
I always hated having to protect my numerous rolls of film from the airport security x-rays on the outbound of a big shooting trip. They will tell you the machines won't harm film but they are not telling the truth. I don't think I even have the old lead film-shield bag anymore.
Back in film days, if we were doing a shoot in another city, we'd go to the closest respectable pro camera store and buy film. Then do test shooting and have the tests processed by the closest pro lab. Then we'd process the actual shoot before heading home.

Yeah, that's why it's called work.
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Old Mar 14, 15, 5:04 pm
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Originally Posted by wiredboy10003 View Post
Back in film days, if we were doing a shoot in another city, we'd go to the closest respectable pro camera store and buy film. Then do test shooting and have the tests processed by the closest pro lab. Then we'd process the actual shoot before heading home.

Yeah, that's why it's called work.
+1. Me too if we were in a city. Unfortunately, most of my shoots back then were on mountain climbs or in back country areas which were a bit short on camera shops.
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