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What is it about film?


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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What is it about film?

23 Oct 2020 8:56AM   Views : 437 Unique : 293


Yesterday, I wrote about a photographer who uses (or at least seems to me to use) film. What is it about film that appeals to some of us so much?

Well, the more I learn about digital picture-making, the more I think that itís the realm of control freaks. We can manage everything to the finest detail, retrospectively changing colour and everything else. Film, by way of contrast, requires some good decision-making upfront, with far more limited changes after the event. As I have said a few times, itís like a high wire act without a net, and that gives me a big buzz when it works.

Then thereís the way that film has a non-linear response to light: this softens the extremes and gives a much gentler treatment to skin, in particular.

And itís like gourmet food: so much of the process is about patience and waiting, and the rewards are somehow higher because of it.

Then thereís the feel of the cameras: this doesnít apply to every camera, but the best (not necessarily the most expensive) are a tactile delight. Thereís a silkiness to a metal manual focus mount that is superior to the most accomplished fly-by-wire electronic lens. Iíll probably be writing about camera Ďfeelí before longÖ

Anyway, itís Film Friday, so please post an old-school picture. Scan a negative or slide, or maybe get out that old camera and see if the battery still works.

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bluesandtwos 13 544 1 England
23 Oct 2020 9:27AM
Havent used film for years, the virtually free digital image appeals to my meagre pension, deprived, wallet!Grin
But I used to love the whole process from taking, film developing through to printing and mounting. I enjoyed the process, the act of doing.
The same applies to when I make a 'proper cup of tea, with proper leaves in a proper teapot, it takes longer ( almost certainly costs a little more) but going through the act of making it makes the finished product so much 'better'! It's easy to pick up a ball point pen to write but so much a better experience to take a fountain pen, open the ink bottle ( the smell), fill it, write with it and roll the blotter over. It's the pleasure of the act.

As for camera feel...my old, sadly long gone Nikon F2s, everthing clicked when it should click, smooth movement when it should be smooth, it just felt right! I wish I had managed to keep it!Sad

Always enjoy your blogs John, keep them coming. I was going to add a bit here about actresses and bishops but thought it best not to!Wink

dudler Plus
19 2.1k 2018 England
23 Oct 2020 10:36AM
Cheers, Dave!

Yes - the tea-making analogy works really well for me. That's precisely it. A hallowed ritual.
James124 Plus
8 73 57 Portugal
23 Oct 2020 2:15PM
I'd already posted today when I read your blog. Most of my negs and prints are packed away after our move but I have dug out a couple of prints to scan.


Rainy night in Moscow, 1974, view from our flat, Pentax Spotmatic II either 50mm or 28mm Takumar lens and Ilford HP5 (or HP4) film


Trombones, summer 1982, Pentax Spotmatic ii, 50mm Takumar, Ilford HP4 probably 1/125 at f/8 on a sunny day.
Probably both developed in Ilford chemicals. Developed and printed in temporary darkrooms with a Durst enlarger.
Both photos as scanned at 600dpi.
I sold a copy of Trombones to the player's mother, the only print I've sold!

I still have all the kit, but doubt if I shall use it againSad

PS in addition to Dave's rituals above I do like the ritual of listening to vinyl LP's, removing the disk from the sleeve, cleaning it and gently lowering the stylus into the groove, and turning it over for the second side; then of course there's the sleeve artwork - another lost photographic market.

dudler Plus
19 2.1k 2018 England
23 Oct 2020 3:05PM
Love the pictures!

I have had fond memories of my Spotmatic II for many years - sold in 1976 so that I could afford my first Contax. I had 28/3.5, 50/1.4 and 135/2.5 lenses. Recently, I've bought a secondhand Spotmatic with a 55/1.8 lens, and it's reminded me just what a straightforward and beautiful camera it is. A delightfully solid piece of kit, and none of the fussiness of the later K-mount Pentax line.

I'm finding that I keep using it just for fun. And, indeed, I used it for the header shot, of a Patent Etui (which is worth a blog in its own right...
altitude50 18 23.5k United Kingdom
23 Oct 2020 3:49PM
I have taken a lot of photos on film, some of my favourite times were using my Bronica ETRS 645 in a forest after the great storm of 1987 and later taking photos at Blists Hill industrial/social history museum all b&w. D&P this myself printed on Agfa paper and scanned.

dudler Plus
19 2.1k 2018 England
23 Oct 2020 5:46PM
Just so appropriate for Blists Hill, Paul.
saltireblue Plus
13 14.0k 86 Norway
23 Oct 2020 6:38PM

Quote:Well, the more I learn about digital picture-making, the more I think that itís the realm of control freaks. We can manage everything to the finest detail.../...

We can, but we don't have to. But, and this is a big 'but'...we inevitably do, don't we? We are presented with this bag of assorted sweeties, and can't resist putting our hand in and sampling all the flavours.
dudler Plus
19 2.1k 2018 England
23 Oct 2020 9:56PM
The big question is whether Constable or Turner or Degas would have preferred an iPad... Though I know David Hockney has used one!

It's like writing with a fountain pen, rather than a pencil: part of it is simply having confidence. And being happy to accept the odd imperfection for the sake of flow, character and some sort of authenticity (heading for Pseuds' Corner in Private Eye now...)

Or, as Moira sometimes suggests, knowing when enough is enough.
Techno Plus
14 7.3k 8 England
25 Oct 2020 8:52AM


Part of my Harem (Blush) from the early sixties, one of whom became my wife, no idea what film or camera sadly....
Techno Plus
14 7.3k 8 England
25 Oct 2020 9:29AM

Bit late joining the party, John, nevertheless I enjoy your write up's on a subject I know very little about, except for some distance memories......
I do know this image of my eldest son with his first car (early 80's) was taken with a Canon AE1 Program, film most likely to be Fujifilm 35mm slide....Mono...ised
dudler Plus
19 2.1k 2018 England
25 Oct 2020 12:52PM
Keep scanning and posting, Mal...

That's a well-preserved Mini if the shot was taken in the early eighties: my first car was a Connaught Green Morris 1100, VVT248G, a decade earlier. Not as rust-free as most cars are these days.

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