Wednesday, 16 March 2011

I'll not be doing that again in a hurry

A while back I got the urge to shoot film. HP5 through my old Pentax ME like I used to do 30 years ago. Using the camera was great in some ways, less great in others.  It's small enough to hide in my hand, and the clunk of the mirror/shutter is sweet. Remembering to focus the damned thing was annoying at first, but not as annoying as waiting to get the film back - my developing tank being long since consigned to the bin.

While some say that using film slows you down and makes you consider what and how to photograph more I can't really agree. Even with digital I turn the lens away from subjects without releasing the shutter. What did slow me down was knowing the shots HAD to work in black and white. With digital you have the option of colour or monochrome.

The two biggest handicaps are the lack of instant review, which is more a frustration than a handicap in truth, and the negatives. Nasty dust attracting negatives. Dust was always the bane of my printing life - apart from my horrible cheap Russian enlarger and it's distorting lens. One thing that HP5 does give you that digital can't is that look of gritty realism and instant nostalgia. The feel of the images is just the same as the ones I took in the late 1970s and early '80s.

For the look I can understand why people shoot film still. But for practicality and speed - I always have been an impatient photographer - there's no beating digital, even if the images may look a little 'clinical'. There's no doubting that digital images do look different to those from film. It's not a worse look, it's a different one, one I like partly because I seem to be able to make decent colour pictures from digital files when I never could from colour films (print or transparency). Much as I like the look of the HP5 photos I doubt very much that I'll be shooting film again, digital is so much more versatile and life's too short for all the messing about it requires to either print or scan the negatives. No wonder Garry Winogrand left thousands of rolls of film undeveloped before his death.

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