8.06.2011

Going backwards. Or, the epiphany I had while out for a walk in the blazing heat. Or, how to rationalize buying a new Hasselblad...

This is one of the very first medium format images I ever shot.  

It was shot with a Yashica Mat 124G which was the desirable cheapy MF camera of the 1970's.  I shot this in late 1979 at my place on Longview, near the UT campus.  It was done on Kodak Panatomic X film (ISO 32) using a Novatron 150 watt second pack with one head aimed thru a shoot thru umbrella.  I only owned one head at the time so that's how I shot it.  (Was Zack Arias even born back then???).

I hand developed the film at the Ark Cooperative darkroom and eventually printed it on Ilford Ilfobrom double weight paper.  This was before the Bass brothers tried to corner the silver market so a box of 8x10 double weight fiber paper, 100 sheets was about $6.95.  I scrimped and saved to buy it.  Texas was a poor state back then and my finances were precarious.  I was so in love with Belinda that any photograph I took seemed incredible to me then.  We dated for five years, spent lots of time enjoying Austin and places like the Armadillo World Headquarters  (saw the Talking Heads open their for Devo one night.....) and eventually decided to get married. But that's a whole other story.  This photo represents our first year together.  She abandoned teaching for studio arts and I abandoned electrical engineering to be a writer.....


Cindy in my first studio at the California Hotel.

When I bought the Yashica 124G I was not shooting for money.  That came later and when I first got a little artist's studio in the California Hotel (an arts cooperative on 7th street in Austin) I decided I needed a camera with interchangeable lenses.  I bought a Mamiya 220C because it was the cheapest (used) interchangeable lens camera I could find.  I bought it with the 80mm lens and the 135mm lens and did a number of wonderful portraits with the combination.  The above was done for some goofy advertising project and I can't remember the details but I do remember that it was photographed on Ilford Pan F film.  I developed the film in my little one room studio and washed the film down the hall in the communal bathroom.  

While I always owned 35mm cameras the bulk of my commercial work, in the pre-digital days, was always done with medium format cameras.  For me there is always something magical about the way a portrait or a still life works in the square.  And there was always some tingly magic in the process of creating black and white images.  The transformation, first from three dimensions, and then from color to luscious tones of gray, has always seemed surreal and wonderful to me....

Renae in my current studio.

When, in the late 1980's, I had finally hit my stride...done my 20,000 hours....logged more time in the darkroom than most people do driving...I bought my ultimate camera.  It was a Hasselblad 500 CM and it was the first medium format camera that I bought brand new.  And I didn't buy just one, I bought two because real professionals always have an identical backup.  If something goes awry in the middle of a shoot a real professional tosses the offending piece of gear aside and reaches for his back-up.  I bought the "holy trinity" of lenses:  The 50mm Distagon, the 80mm Planar and the 150mm Planar, and these optics were to eventually enable me to make more money taking photographs than I thought imaginable.  Those were heady years of daily assignments.  Of evenings processing roll after roll of film and nights spent printing luxurious 11x14 inch prints for clients.  We'd deliver in the morning via a delivery service and hit the studio again in the early hours.  Of weekends shooting our art.

I hit a rhythm with my Hasselblads that I've never been able to recapture in the same way with other cameras.  I've shot with Bronicas and Rolleis and Pentax 6X7's and Pentax 645's but never with the same feeling of magic and wonderful confidence that I had with the Hasselblads.  Even today half my portfolio and at least a third of my website is populated with images I fought hard to create and have rarely been able to equal, using the Swedish cameras.  Something about the feel of the body, the clarity of the finder and the inimitable drawing of the lenses that made these images different......better.

Like a junky I embraced the change represented by digital but I've always been reticent about the change.  Nervous and unsettled.  I'd make the images and process them but in the back of my mind I'd always wondered if they were even remotely as good as they could be if the clients had more time, more patience and more tolerance and respect for the process.

This pushed me to look for the holy grail of digital cameras.  I've bought all comers and the magic never came along with the package.  I've read a thousand times in the forums and in people's blogs that the tools don't matter, only the vision.  And I bought into the truisms like everyone else.  But something in the back of my brain kept nagging at me and teasing at my ego....

The voice kept saying, "Why do people gush over the prints you did fifteen years ago but barely look at the work you did last week?"  What's been gained besides a lack of film and processing expense and a shortening of the process cycle?  What indeed?

And you know, sometimes these thoughts sneak up on you from nowhere.  Here's what happened to my thought process today:  I needed to log some hours walking in the heat to prepare for a big, outside job that's coming up in the next few weeks.  We'll be shooting outside for hours a day and the best way to prepare is to live it in advance and build up your endurance to heat and heat stress.  I left the house with an Olympus EPL-1 and a kit lens.  I thought I'd walk through downtown and take some random shots (another problem with the "ease" of digital is the promiscuity of it...).  I parked my car near the Power Plant on First St. and got out and ready to flex what's left of my creative muscle when I realized I'd forgotten to re-load a memory card in the camera.  A bit frustrated I decided to toss the camera in the car and go for a walk anyway.

While I was walking I went through a strange process of analyzing my thirty three years as a photographer.  Every high water mark, every award winning ad or photo or campaign I can remember was a direct result of the work I'd done with a square, medium format camera.  Every single one.  My greatest hits, my most personal portraits, the most cherished photos of my son and my family.....all from square format film cameras. From Rome to St. Petersburg to Paris.  From Corpus Christi to my in-laws house in San Antonio....the images with the big resonance all came from my Hasselblads.   My epiphany today was, that for some people, the tool is inseparable from the artist, from the process, from the outcome.  I can shoot competently with just about anything.  I can only shoot passionately with a square format.

As the capricious and impulsive person you've come to know me as I got back in my car and drove over to Precision Camera where I parked myself in front of the case of used medium format cameras and started the process of selecting one.  I found a perfect 501 CM and I pulled it from the case (they might as well give me my own key...).  It had a new style 80mm Planar on the front.  I held it in my hands and had the feeling that a heroin addict must have just before shooting up his fix.  I was at peace as a photographer.  I felt like I'd come home again.

I'd avoided handling Hasselblads for over a decade.  Tried to convince myself that the Rolleis were every bit as good.  But I didn't feel a moment's hesitation when I got rid of the Rollei system.  Tried to convince myself that the Pentax 67 and 645 had the magic but I was happy to see the elongated aspect ratios leave my studio....

I bought the 501cm and the 80mm and an old, black "C" style 150mm and I have an amazing feeling of happiness.  Discount it as "placebo effect" and I won't care because the happiness feels so real and so right.

I'm looking forward to an amazing year of black and white portraits in the studio and out on the street.

Am I suggesting that you rush out and buy the same camera?  Am I making the point that one can't do good work without this specific tool?  Not for a second.  I think the point that became clear to me was this:  If you started with a camera and you love it you might want to resist the temptation to continually "upgrade" and experiment.  And for God's sake, don't sell a camera that gives you images you love.  Even if you have to pony up real money to feed it.  You may have found a synergistic tool with the haptics and the ergonomic that work as a physically induced trigger to your own creativity.

A great camera creates a safe space within which to create and thrive.  A chancy camera creates uncertainty and irregular compensation.  Work with your highest and best tool for your highest and best work and you'll find that greatest sense of calmness and relief.

Does this mean I'm going to abandon all my Canon cameras and my Olympus Pens?  No.  Pandora's box no longer has a latch or even a lid.  The genie has escaped and clients will never willingly go back to having to pay for film and processing (unless you can convince them that the magic is real and important).  The work cycle is shortening and shortening.  The expectation of immediacy is pervasive.  Digital is a "must have" tool. But in our own work, where it matters most, we can still make the rules and we can still juggle exuberance and happiness and work with deep contentment.  

And so begins a reversion to the photographer I once was.  Capturing the sensuality of tone and resolution and lens drawing I've missed so much over the last twelve years.  Next I'll want the darkroom back.  But I guess we'll work on one thing at a time....

Thanks for reading all the way through.  Kirk

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've always loved your black and white square portraits. They exude a sexy vision and some kind of mastery. Hard to define but really wonderful. I'm glad you've rediscovered yourself.

Anonymous said...

Film sucks. You are crazy to do this. But I guess after reading your blog for a year I should expect this. What does your accountant say?

Emory Dunn said...

I'm pretty sure I was looking at that very camera the last time I was in Precision a couple weeks ago. Personally my favourite medium format cameras are TLRs. They're perfect walking around cameras, although not quite as good for studio work.

kirk tuck said...

Film sucks. I am crazy o do this. But what did you expect? Really? I've been trying to shoehorn digital into a medium format square film camera for a decade. Sigh.

Kyle Batson said...

I've been looking at getting a 500CM for awhile now, but it's out of my price range for a hobby camera. I eventually settled on a Rolleicord III I was able to get quite cheap. It's my first MF camera. I really want to experiment with the square format. Unfortunately, my first rolls of 120 haven't arrived from the lab yet. I think I'm just going to have to get some chemicals and do it myself. I can't bear the wait!

ginsbu said...

Funny, I've been thinking about getting a Yashica Mat 124 to shoot B&W a lot recently. So many of my favorite images (of mine and of yours and in general) are square and B&W. And I'm currently frustrated by the weaknesses of the digital camera I have and not entirely comfortable with any of the available (affordable) alternatives either. So maybe best to avoid that dilemma, embrace the limitations of film and try to make them an asset for me in working on my photography. From where I'm at now, your decision looks wise indeed.

(Since you do try so many different systems, I've been a little surprised you haven't given the Pentax K-5 and DA 70mm f/2.4 Limited a go. I'd be interested in your review, anyway.)

Jeff G. Rottman said...

Great post Kirk. Growing up in the early 70's, I shot various 35mm, but longed to get a Mamiya RB67 when they first came out, but as a high school kid I just couldn't afford it. I stuck with 35mm, but did get a Yashica Mat 124G. Since then over the years I have acquired several digitals and recently just bought another Yashica Mat 124G. Love the look of the lens and the shallow depth of field. I just also bought chemicals to develop my own B & W.

almostinfamous said...

i observed that i was chopping off most of my DSLR compositions at a 4:5 ratio, and have promptly invested in a 4x5. I do not see much commercial use coming out of it, but I do hope to get back in touch with the art itself.

Matthew Thompson said...

Excellent. Good to see you found your happy place again.

There's something really magical about Hasselblad equipment. The way it feels in the hand, how it assembles, shoots and just sits. Many of my favorite images come in a square from the past, too. I've been getting my film fix with a Fuji 645 rangefinder for the last couple of years, and it's almost there in terms of image quality (the lens is a corker, meter is perfect), but not the tactile sensations from the leather grain and chrome marvels.

Frank Grygier said...

You must walk through another door at Precision Camera. Your life changes almost every time you cross that magic photo portal. The artist has awakened.

Richard said...

The camera does matter because the camera/lens/film/sensor does impact the look and feel of the final print. It will be interesting to see if this setup can achieve what you are looking for in your final print and if you can work the additional steps into your workflow. I personally would not go back to film but I definitely understand your motivation.

Ed Z said...

"My epiphany today was, that for some people, the tool is inseparable from the artist, from the process, from the outcome. "

Kirk - this is a great quote. I actually came to the exact same epiphany this past year. I too love the square format. I can't explain it, it just "works" for me. Even before I started photography, I was a painter and always tended toward square canvasses. I never really thought about it, that's just what I gravitated to in the art store.

I agree with you - I love making images with whatever tool, and can make a good shot with anything from my iphone to my DSLR to my mamiya, but when I shoot with a camera that really "speaks" to me it's a totally different experience... I feel more "connected" with the process of making the image, body and soul... it's hard to explain, most folks think I am crazy, but there really is something, isn't there?

might explain why almost 100% of my personal work so far this year has been on b/w film :-)
-Ed

Orchard Light said...

I'm scanning 4x5 shots from a short walk this morning while I'm reading this. Of course any walk in the Houston heat with a 4x5 is a short walk.

Anonymous said...

did you consider a digital hassy? I know it's pricey but did you consider it?

Murray McMaster said...

Does this mean you'll need all your big lights back? :)

kirk tuck said...

Murray, we'll see......

Toby Key said...

I think this is a good thing to do for a number of reasons. I think that for most photographers, you pretty much have one method of working, that is arrived upon early on your career. I started using Pentax 6x7's early in my professional career and despite years of using digital I always think an upright 35mm frame is far too narrow for a good portrait especially at half length or wider. I think most of us fix on a style quite early prompted by our early successes, and this is hardwired into our creative brains. We may do other things and elaborate on this style but it is always there in the background.

Jim said...

I know what you mean about the square format. I fell in love with it on a borrowed Minolta Autocord (I'm still fighting the urge to buy one of those). I've never had a Hasselblad but I have owned a Yashica and still own two Mamiya 220 bodies and three of their lenses. Great lenses.

Several years ago I sent letters to Canon and Olympus suggesting that they make a square format digital camera. Canon ignored me, Olympus politely thanked me. I see now that the four-thirds cameras have a square format option in camera but they are cropping the rectangle, not the other way around. I wish someone would build a 16MP (4000x4000 pixel)camera with some really good lenses so I can decide later whether (or if) I want a vertical or horizontal format and not have to turn the camera to make the photo.

Dave Jenkins said...

It's always fun to see what your next enthusiasm will be, Kirk. :-) One of the best things about your blog.

As for myself, I made the switch to digital in 2003 with Canon DSLRs and shot no film for seven years. But over the past year or so I've felt increasingly stale in my way of seeing. I think digital is better than film in most ways, but it does have some built-in traps. And a major trap, for me at least, is the tendency to shoot more and think less. It is just too easy to fire off a string of exposures, check the histogram, and think "Nailed that one. What's next?" My work was okay and my clients were at least happy enough to pay the invoices without protest, but more and more I was finding photography less challenging, less satisfying, and less. . .fun.

In an effort to shake up my vision, I dug my Rolleicord Vb out of retirement, ordered a propak of Astia 120 from B&H, and set off on a road trip for the book I'm currently working on, Georgia: A Backroads Portrait. (Now nearly press-ready.)

Looking down into that square viewfinder, I became aware of composition in a way I hadn't been in years. Even shooting transparency film, I allowed myself only two exposures per scene -- one at the meter reading, and one a half-stop under. And I spent some time walking around, evaluating different angles on the groundglass before making those exposures. When every click of the shutter costs a dollar or more, one tends to think about what one is doing.

It was refreshing, and in a way, very liberating. As Picasso said, “Forcing yourself to use restricted means is the sort of restraint that liberates invention." For me, it was a return to my roots, because the first major influence on my photography was Fritz Henle, known as “Mr. Rollei” for his dedication to the TLR. In the early years of my career I pored over his books, absorbing his classic sense of composition and his philosophy of always searching for the beauty in life.

As I returned to the TLR, I found that many of the things people consider drawbacks are the very things I now like. The square format, for instance: I find that composing to fill the square has done more than any other one thing to refresh my vision. Another “drawback” is the fact that one usually has to look down into the top of the camera to see the viewing screen. I like this, because for me it seems to shut out the rest of the world and allows me to concentrate on what I see on the screen.

A third thing I like about TLRs is that most of them don't have interchangeable lenses. That greatly simplifies things, because instead of trying to be prepared for any and all subjects, I can look for subjects the camera is suited to handle. That is by no means as limiting as it might sound –- in fact, it is liberating rather than limiting.
On the other hand, scanning film is neither liberating nor fun if I do it myself, and expensive if I don't. I have found a compromise that works very well for me: an E-PL1 set to square format, with the VF-2 tipped up to its look-down position. It combines the best features of the TLR in a body that's smaller, lighter, and cheaper to operate. And the results look to me to be at least as good.

christopheru said...

"look for subjects the camera is suited to handle."

Nice thought Dave. I shoot with an E-3 and have only three lenses for it. It has been almost a year since I have left the house with more than one lens (not quite true, I brought two with me the other day, but that was an oddity.) I decide what I want to shoot with, bring that, and hunt for subjects that meet what I have with me wherever I happen to be. I find it opens creativity that would not have existed before when I had a bag with lenses in it. I also find that I don't hesitate as much since I know precisely what limitations the camera body and lens combination will give me and shoot accordingly, and I am not making a decision about lens choice - I just shoot.

Kirk, I completely understand where you are coming from about the tool being important and about there being just something about certain tools which works. I have worn grooves in my current camera (the aforementioned E-3) and find that what I get out of that camera, combined with how I like to process the pictures, has a look that I would have a hard time creating elsewhere (some would argue that point and argue it rightly, and that is ok, but I am colourblind and have to some extent rely on what comes out of the camera and make adjustments from there - I have grown used to the colour pallet from the Olympus cameras, and find processing other raws very tricky to get the balance I want). There is just something about the look I like. I am like that with bicycles too after I have ridden them long enough to wear a groove in the parts of the bike I hold onto.

I also like the more square format of the 4/3 choice that Olympus made. I could, and sometimes do, wish that it (the sensor) was that format only bigger :) but I like that format - I too have used a lot of the 4x5 crop and find that I don't lose much off the edges of the files when I go that route. I like square as well, but find 4x5 has such a wonderful sense of balance that for me I just don't see elsewhere.

Thanks for the insightful post (and from others, the insightful comments).

Ct Photo said...

I understand where you are coming from you have certain favorite shots that resonate with you. Most of my favorite pictures come from my old Olympus Om2n with the lit 50mm F1.8. I switched to Nikon 15 years ago and still haven't recaptured the magic of my Om2n. I think I hear KEH calling my name.

Jan Klier said...

Sometimes the test of time can be a good filter. Not everything is worth coming back to - MF film is. It doesn't lend itself to everything we shoot today, but it most certainly is a joy to work with on the right project.

I could go into details, but most likely it will only spark one of those debates online forums are known for. So instead - I'm glad you took the trip to the camera store and enjoy the results. Looking forward to seeing them on a future blog post.

Craig Yuill said...

Similar to you, I too owned a Yashica Mat 124G, then traded it in for a Mamiya 330f. I too got the 80mm and 135mm (a fine portrait lens), and also added the 55mm and a 220f plus a couple of other accessories. I loved shooting square medium-format film. But I got a hankering to try large-format, and shot mostly with that for a few years. Then I went back to 35mm. But I still kept the Mamiya and large-format gear, believing that I would probably use it again at some point.

I found that I looked at things and photographed in different ways with each type of format. For some reason foregrounds became much more prominent in my compositions when shooting in large format. I would often transfer ways of looking at things from one format to another. If I had recently shot in large format, then my 35mm compositions would often feature a lot of foregrounds.

I suspect the Hasselblad might help you regain those ways of looking at things that you feel you are missing. I will bet it will cause you to slow down a bit and think more about each shot you are taking no matter which type of equipment you are using. I have really enjoyed pulling out and using my old 35mm film SLRs. On Friday I got some more 35mm slide film, and decided on the spur of the moment to also pick up a roll of 120 format film as well. I'll see where that takes me.

You might be surprised about the current state of film quality. I don't know what Tri-X is like these days, but I have noticed that ISO 200 slide film seems to be much finer grained now than it was 10 years ago. I wouldn't be surprised if Kodak, Fuji, Ilford, etc. have been tweaking all of their films, including the classics.

Enjoy your new old equipment.

Michael Meissner said...

I tend to agree, that at times a camera is just a camera, but some times they have soul. It may not be the camera itself, but also the memories that the camera evokes.

I never used MF and the 35mm I used in high school many years ago (Chinon) has disappeared in the mists of time. However, after being away from most serious photography for about 20 years, I came back via digital photography.

Now, my first digital was a no-nonsense Olympus D-510Z that didn't have much soul. But the second one, the Olympus C-2100UZ did have soul in spades. I spent 4 years with that as my only camera, and now it mostly sits waiting for me to pick it up again. This post is reminding me to take it out more frequently. As an amateur I really don't need more than 2MP anyway for most of my shots.

My other camera with soul is the E-1. You've owned an E-1, so you probably understand about the soul of that camera as well, particularly coupled with the 14-54mm lens. My E-3 is at Hauupage, hopefully being cleaned before the extended warranty runs out.

In terms of stats of use, I've shot 33% of my album with the C-2100UZ, and 27% with the E-1, though the E-3 is coming up at 22%.

As I write this, I think I'm going to spend more time with those two gems. The E-3 and E-P2 can wait their turn. I should mention that I feel the E-3 and E-P2 also have some amount of soul, but the E-1 and C-2100UZ have more.

I've had some cameras (both Olympus and not) that didn't have soul. I haven't shot with the SP-550UZ in about a year, as the E-P2 pretty much eliminated the niche that it fills (and your praises of the XZ-1 have me thinking about that as the small pocket camera to take everywhere). The E-510 was just a camera, and I had no regrets when I sold it. The D-510Z that started me with Olympus was a forgettable pocket camera.

obakesan said...

I recall there was a Kodak camera which gave excelent monochrome images from a sensor without an anti-alias filter. Perhaps that may be something which tells us something?

I know how you feel and still find a sheet of well focused 4x5 has a look I don't see anywhere.

you don't see it in the megapixels and you don't see it in the 100% views of scans.

:-)

Spiney said...

Great entry as always. I have 2 cameras that got away that I'd like to revisit. 1st a Rollieflex with a 2.8 Xenotar lens. I was given this camera by a good friend for doing some computer work for him. I had a Bronica Etrsi system at the time but that was my money making camera. I felt free to carry the Rollie with me to places the Bronicas did not travel. The beach, boardwalk, the waterfront at Baltimore harbor. I created some of my best personal work with this camera and the negs were always tack sharp. Unfortunately I had to sell it along with a Speed Graphic kit to make the rents one month. My second camera would be my RZII system. That was my dream camera. It never left the camera stand or tripod and rarely left the studio. I had a 90mm, 180mm and my dream lens for Portrait work the 100-220 Zoom. I wanted that big old zoom forever and we did enough High School Sr. work to justify it. I had all the goodies for the RZ also Motor Drive, Remote, and AEII Prism. I loved those big old 6x7 negs. Then just when I paid off the lease and it was mine I took a chance on a Fuji S2 and never looked back. The convincer was a cleaner 20x24 from the Fuji than from the 6x7 as unbelievable as it sounds. I still have the S2 but all my film cameras except my Nikon 8008s and my first SLR a Minolta SRT-101 are gone. Like someone suggested to you, the ideal combination for me would be the RZ with a digital back. But realistically my next purchase will likely be a Nikon D7000 because of it's low light and fast focus capabilities.

Bernie Greene London Portrait Photographer said...

You'll have to get the darkroom back. No question about it. How can a lab possibly print the way you would? Or are you planning on just getting scans?

It was a wonderful read and it rekindled my own lust for the tactile (ness?) of working with film and darkroom printing. But, at least for now, I will live those memories vicriously through your blog.

Kurt Holter said...

Generally, I don't miss my Hasselblads. However what I really do miss is a digital equivalent of my SWC/M. It all went in 2001 when I went 100% digital.

Anonymous said...

Film makes me feel good, from acquiring it, to loading it, shooting it, to developing it. I hate how expensive it is, but it's cheaper than producing large lithograpfhs (said in semi-tongue in cheek). I just spent a while in Asia, shooting snaps with a Ricoh GRD, and it was the right tool for the job. Oh, how I wished I could have had the luxury of shooting film there! But I am lazy.

Film instills a mindset that somehow feels a bit spiritual to me; digital feels like a hyper-competent tool.

Keepers include film and digital, but the ratio of success/failure favors film by a wide margin.

My experience and attitude is contrarian.

atmtx said...

I really love your square black and whites. Seeing them in print was magical. Makes me understand the limits, not only of digital photographic capture, but also displaying images with digital technologies.

Looking forward to your next generation of black and white portraits.

kirk tuck said...

Thanks atmtx, I appreciated you visit to my little studio. Fun to actually look at the differences between prints from digital and prints from film. I have the new camera loaded up and ready to shoot. I'll head out when I finish with my daily writing. Always inspired by your passion for photography!!!

mrgecko said...

There is always another option, get the Hasselblad you love and then either add a Hasselblad or Phase One digital back to it. You would still be able to shoot film when the mood strikes you, but would have the speed of digital when not in the mood to do Film. BTW you can get ridiculous resolution from these backs if you want to shell out a fortune. Just saying if you want 80megapixel they have that.

neopavlik said...

I occasionally have daydreams of having medium format digital and it is usually comprised of the non-digital 500/501 models and lenses...giving me a big viewfinder, sexy sync speeds, and nice files.

I haven't put much into my camera/lenses yet, perhaps because of your blog that some of those constant updaters drop enough $$$ over time to afford Medium Format if they'd just stop switching so much.

Either way I'll be shooting my D40 until it busts.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! As I keep saying to you here, your film stuff is the best! Forget about that "film sucks" guy. He's either a punk or some guy who works in R&D at a major camera company or both.
Also, try some color! The new Portra is amazing! unbelievable latitude!

Jeff's Photo Blog said...

I like many others love B&W square format. I love how you talk about cameras having soul. I've finally got a soulful camera again, the Nikon D3s is perfect for me. I alos love TLRs and I have often wished for a digital Rolleiflex. That could really be perfect.

mbka said...

Agree on your post and on many comments. The happiness with the tool is why the tool matters so much - it changes your state of mind.

In formats somehow 4x5 works best for me, followed by 3x4. I always disliked the 2x3 format and still do, although I used it exclusively for many years in film.

Somehow I also find all current digital cameras unappealing. There's none that I really dream of, "If I could only afford it...". I now use a Panasonic G1 and it works very well but I wouldn't call it love really...

I had a different epiphany recently. I scanned old color negatives (135 format). The color depth is just amazing. And: shoot the sun and have no blown out blooming - just star shaped rays from the aperture blades... and they have tonalities that are amazing... I shot a lot of slide film, in the days, but I now see that color negatives are actually amazing. Much better than slides in scans, when they're in good shape. They have none of the harshness of slides. They don't burn out. I should try color negatives with the Crown Graphic before it's too late...

Which brings me to tonality. People harp about clean files and low noise in digital and it's true, it beats film in same for same formats. But large format film - even as a scan - has tonal ranges that are just amazing. No one talks about that really, but right now I am getting a bit disgruntled about the look of digital in terms of tonality.

kirk tuck said...

I had coffee with Michael O'Brien this morning and we talked about medium format cameras and film. I keep thinking that the cost of buying, shooting and processing film kept most of us from being promiscuous with our shooting. Just because a sensor can shoot "for free" is no reason to let our vision get slutty.

Film may be the teacher about editing that everyone seems to have overlooked. Imagine if you could only take one shot in a day. How well thought out would that image be?

Jeff's Photo Blog said...

I love Jim Brandenburg's book- Chased by the Light.

http://www.amazon.com/Chased-Light-Journey-Jim-Brandenburg/dp/1559716711

space2k said...

Beautiful photo and I really wish I still had a YMCA Camp Carter T-shirt! I spent some idyllic summers there in the late 70s...

Anonymous said...

If scanning wouldn't suck so much I'd do the same.

Reuben said...

Film doesn't suck, it's a wonder. You are crazy to do this, but only commercially speaking.

You know my thoughts - I wrote the Olympus piece at dyladad.wordpress.com

The haptics matter. A lot; maybe more than the products their experience delivers.

To all the digital zealots, never forget people were making great photographic art for a century and a half before your toys were R&D'd 15-20 years ago. And will continue to do so long after you've all dabbled in weddings and decided it's not for you.

To dream of "making a living with your camera" may well be achievable for some with sacrifice, hard work and compromise. The fact remains, for most who claim to 'love photography' that end goal is a fancy, an impossible conceit. And many who aspire to it don't even know how wrong they are about the likelihood of their success. Digital makes it easier to dream. Plugins, pre-sets. Pfft.

But to enjoy shooting for it's own sake? That's available to everyone. On that score, film and digital are different beasts, and I'll take the moving parts, the physical relationship with the materials in my hands, every day of the week..

Paul Marsh said...

As I just Tweeted ya - I found a roll a few weeks ago at my parents house, sitting in my old metal developing tank. Fortunately it was wrapped in the paper backing otherwise I would've had no idea what was in the tank (if there was even still film in it). To be safe, before I wasted chemicals and 30 minutes of my time, I put the tank in my changing bag and opened it up - sure enough it was still loaded.

So I ran it through the undiluted, fresh development process (I just refreshed my developing chemicals) and was amazed at the photos that were on there. It was the first and thus far only roll I'd shot on my grandfather's Zeiss TLR. Most of the photos weren't really that great, but there were one or two that I love. I don't remember exactly when I took them, but it was some time between 1992 and 1995. So the film sat in that tank, undeveloped for somewhere between 15-20 years.

I wonder if I stashed a memory card away, whether or not the images would actually still be on the memory card. And if they were, would I have the means to get them from that memory card to whatever computer is available to me in 20 years.

Somehow, I'm quite skeptical.

#LongLiveFilm!