But first, the seductress:
We had many good rationalizations for moving from film to digital. Not all of them worked out the way we expected. The first rationalization was the money that we'd save by not having to buy film and polaroid. We'd save a second fortune by not having to pay for processing and scanning. And, finally, we'd save a fortune because the immediacy of the process would free us up to do more and enjoy life. So, what did we get? Some good and some bad, like anything else. We gave up a slower pace and we lost some months in re-training to become color separator/experts. We got the nod to shoot lots more stuff but now we're still at a loss for how to store it for the duration. We got out of the darkroom and into our Aero chairs. We stopped having to buy archival pages and sleeves but we're filling hard drives. All that stuff seems to be basically a wash. For me the two big losses were the shrinkage of format choice and the abandonment of the MF depth of focus characteristics.
Everyone tells me just to crop but there's a psychological shove that makes us conform, even if only subconsciously, to fill whatever space we're given. We see it on the edge of the frame so we figure out how to incorporate the edge..... But I want to see things through the camera the way I want to see things.
I've said it before but it also bares repeating that the look for the focus "fall off" is profoundly different --at the same camera to subject distance---between 35mm sized sensors and a full on frame of medium format film. Much different. It's not just a question of shooting an 85mm 1.4 wide open. The stuff I shoot at 150mm f4 looks different.
In the end though all choices are equally valuable. I like shooting m4:3rds at times just as much as I love shooting 35mm full frame. And, when time is short and budgets are shorter, it's good to be able to knock stuff out with digital. We just should not forget that there ARE times when budgets and time are less pressing and we might have the idea for images that just plain work better big and fat and on film.
I'm not giving up digital. I'm not going back to a film workflow. But I'm re-embracing MF film for my own sake just because it feels so right to me.
I spoke of an epiphany and I should share the moment the light bulb came on over my head. A few years ago I made a "greatest hits" book of my favorite black and white portraits. Just so happens they were all squares and all shot on either a square format Hasselblad or Rolleiflex. I found a cool square book and flush mounted them all. I started showing that book along with a more topical book, filled with 13x19 inch color prints from digital files. The digital files were from Leaf digital backs, a Leica M9, Canon's of all stripe, and some savory Nikon files too. And when I showed the color book people would smile and nod and say stuff like, "That's pretty nice." But, young and old, when I showed the square book people slowed down and stared at the portraits and said stuff like, "Oh my gosh! These are incredible."
I put two and two together and it equaled the working methodology I'd evolved working with my preferred tools. I can have it both ways.