There is more to life than sunsets

This weekend I hung out at Cottesloe to take some photos as the sun was setting. Lots of other photographers came down, but generally they had tripods and pointed their lenses out to sea. I tried to capture the people and the mood and was quite happy with this shot as I felt it conveyed the atmosphere. Is it as pretty as a beautiful landscape? Probably not. But does it tell more of a story? I would like to think so. 

Cottesloe couple and surfer-1.jpg

A picture of the everyday

Through the many types of photography that I have tried, I have come to realise what I like to photograph. Yes, I enjoying the spectacular, the views, the sunsets and the holiday photographs but I realised that the photographs I really like are those that blend an artistic style with a moment that means something to me. 

I enjoy street photography, but the photographs that mean the most, the ones I hope to still be looking at in 50 years are those that say something meaningful about my life. When I started out in photography, I was either taking snaps of family, or taking my 'artistic' shots of something else. It was as though my real photography could never have been of a subject close to me because it was too normal and not special. 

What I'm trying to now is blend the two. I see no reason why my best shots have to be in London or New York, or with beautiful buildings in the background. Why not take my best photos around the house? 

This photo is one of my first that exemplifies my thoughts on this subject. Taken on a normal morning when we were out walking the dog. It's a normal moment that is replicated every weekend, but I still like the photo as a photo in itself. 

Mollie and Shadow. Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper.

Processing in black and white: a short video guide

For many of my images, I choose black and white over colour. Why is this my preference? Well, I'm not exactly sure. It may be because I'm colour blind and see red and green differently to other people, or it may because I love the way a detailed and high contrast black and white photo can look. When I shoot film of course, I have no choice. I process my own black and white film so colour is not even an option. Given no choice, it's actually amazing how little I miss the option of colour, I don't see it as an issue at all. 

So for that reason, I have put together a couple of videos which shows the processes I go through for converting a colour RAW file to black and white. There is nothing new here, it has all been done before, but here is my take. I hope you can see how simple it really is and I hope it shows that the real skill is in taking a good photo in the first place. 

The first video covers a simple conversion, whilst the second builds on that to go one stage further. Enjoy. 

One picture, two cameras.

Lately when I've been shooting portraits on film, I've tended to use my digital camera like you would use a Polaroid camera back in the day, to get a preview of the shot. The result? Two similar shots, one that stays on the computer and one that sits as a beautiful darkroom print. One took 5 minutes to process, the other, a little while longer! 

I printed the film image in the darkroom on beautiful fibre based paper, then dried and pressed the print, and finally scanned it. The print sits at home and as long as I take good care, it should outlast Colleen and me. I'm not sure I can say the same for the digital file! 

For both, I wanted a stark picture, with bright highlights and a light skin tone set against a black background. I found the lowest contrast light that I could, then processed both the darkroom print and digital file with high contrast to ensure the background was dark and featureless. 

Two different takes, two similar photographs and one enjoyable experience. 

Silver Gelatin print on fibre based paper

Silver Gelatin print on fibre based paper

The digital version. 

The digital version. 

A portrait of my dad

My dad was a caring, kind and loving man who would do anything for our family. After being diagnosed with lung cancer around three years ago, he passed away on Good Friday earlier this year, a few weeks after his 70th birthday. He was one of the unlucky few that succumbed to the disease having never smoked. 

He was an ever present influence in my life and I will never forget the moments we shared together. He really did live for the family and I will be forever thankful. 

This picture was taken at a gallery after Christmas, 2015, only months before his passing. Here, he stands looking contemplative and thoughtful. Most of all, however, I love the photo because he was being himself. 

Dad, I will never forget you.

Magnum Photography Awards

I decided to enter the 2016 Magnum Photography awards, a competition run by Lensculture, under the street photography category. With no aspirations for winning, I wanted to enter in order to receive a critique of my work, as all entrants receive this as part of the deal. 

Rather than enter a series, I entered 6 individual photos, all of which were scans of silver gelatin prints. 

Fingers crossed for good, constructive feedback. If you would like to see my entry, it's located at the link below. There are some amazing entries from other photographers so it's worth a look. 

https://www.lensculture.com/magnum-photography-awards-2016/event-submission/198189?utm_campaign=62-mysub&utm_content=mysub&utm_medium=social&utm_source=fb-social

Shooting film: It's the process, not the results

Last year, with my wife and a couple of friends from the UK, we took a trip to Vietnam. This was my first trip with a film camera since around 2009 and I absolutely loved it. The fact that you are mentally focused on either photographing the scenes around you, or on enjoying the holiday is a breath of fresh air. You're not thinking about the next opportunity to charge your batteries, whether you have sufficient memory, and crucially, you're not constantly looking at the LCD of the camera. 

However, it's not all rosy shooting film. When you come back from a trip you have to process your rolls. After Christmas this year I had 13 to develop, which was quite time consuming. As for printing, that just takes things to another level all together. The first time I made a print in the darkroom I had no idea how time consuming it can be to get things just the way you want them. Initially, I thought that with a bit of practice I would improve and the process would become faster, with less wasted paper and better results. So far, for me at least, the opposite has been true. As I've improved my printing my standards have become higher and I expect every print to be perfect. If part of an image is too dark, or light, or has the wrong grade of contrast, I just have to reprint it. I can't stand to think that I haven't got the best print from the negative that I have to work with. 

A recent example is an image that I've shown before and my favorite photograph to date. It's a street scene that I made in a Ho Chi Minh alleyway. It was also the first image that I ever printed when I was taught the basics last year. 

I managed to get a print that I was really happy with. Great exposure, great contrast and and a thin black border that shows it was an un-cropped, full frame print. I made the print on 8 by 10" paper and it looked just the way I wanted it to. The issues started to arise when I wanted to scale up the print to larger paper, 11 by 14" fibre based glossy. 

I had my print recipe all worked out and with an adjustment of the exposure times I thought I would be able to make a simple test strip and go from there to a larger print, retaining the dodges and burns that I had before, albeit with different duration's. 

The problems started because I bought a new enlarger, a much better one that actually functioned as intended and produced prints with parallel edges. The difference, however was that this was a colour enlarger whereas as the older version was specifically designed for black and white. For contrast control with this new enlarger I would adjust the magenta and yellow channels of the enlarger head to giving access to a continuum of contrast control. Try as I might, however, I just couldn't get a print that had white enough whites, or black enough blacks. I made a million test strips and patches, tried the enlargers supplementary filter and all I did was waste paper. It was really frustrating, especially as this was larger, expensive paper that I was saving for my best prints that were destined for frames on my wall. 

I tried everything but just couldn't get a result I was happy with. To fix the issue I had to buy an 'under the lens' filter kit from Ilford, effectively converting the newer enlarger back into a dedicated black and white tool. 

I finally arrived with something that I was happy with and entered the image into a photographic clubs monthly competition. I came last! I was 'awarded' with an 'Acceptance,' effectively meaning that I complied with their rules and entered a valid photograph. Having developed the film, decided that this was my best photograph, scanned it, printed it in the darkroom, refined the recipe, printed it again and again, wasting paper and finally produced a result that I was happy with, then getting it matted, I was pretty disappointed. This was an image that made it into 'Explore' on Flickr, with around 125 likes and nearly 7000 views, I was sure it was a strong image. If I've learn't anything it's that a photo is only a good one if the viewer likes it! 

I started to think about whether film photography was worth it. The effort you put in versus the results you get back. This experience proved to me that the hours you can put into film photography mean nothing at all if the viewer doesn't like your picture. I began to ask myself whether digital would be a better way forward. But I feel that I realised something. I realised that it really doesn't matter whether others admire your photo. Would I appreciate the image if it was shot digitally? Probably not. I spent so much time on this picture that I knew it was a favourite. 

So what can I take from this? Well, I have realised that it's the process of film photography that I love. Knowing that I was in control of every part of the process is so rewarding. I can truly say that I made that photograph and I have a result that I I love in spite of the rejection from the camera club's competition.  I'm learning not to care about what others think of my photos and perhaps that's the best outcome. At the end of the day there are always going to be better photos out there. So why not just be happy with your best and not care what others think. That's what I'll be trying from now on. Who knows, I may even enjoy the process more. 

Sometime colour just works

Photographing in colour is not my usual preference as you can probably see from my galleries page or Instagram feed. I love the way that black and white produces a timeless image that draws the viewer to what’s really important. A black and white image is simple, contains less information but in my opinion, can be more powerful as a result. 

Additionally, I found out when I was young that I'm colour-blind. Quite badly actually, with red and green. Perhaps that's why I just don't feel drawn to colour photos in the same way that I do with black and white. 

But then sometimes that all changes. Sometimes the light is perfect or I see an image by David Allan Harvey or Steve McCurry. Sometimes I get the urge to shoot in colour but I'm usually disappointed. Here is the result of that latest spell of colour photography. It's a picture of my wife in her grandparents house. I guess sometimes colour just seems to work better. 

Graduate to a 28: the power of the wide angle

Since I started to take photography more seriously, I have been drawn to prime lenses. When I used one for the first time I realised that you have to work for each and every shot, to move with your feet, think about composition and try harder for every picture. I found that with a zoom my default was to become lazy, to frame a shot, see that it wasn’t working and think that maybe if I zoomed in a bit further all would work out. Invariable it never did. With a fixed focal length I was forced to think, and it was then that I really saw my photos improve.

I was always drawn to a 50mm for a number of reasons really, not least of which was the price. For £50 I bought my Canon 50mm plastic-fantastic with its fast 1.8 maximum aperture. I still have it and occasionally use it to this day. When I made the move away from bulky SLR’s towards rangefinders I had realised by this point that I was interested in portraiture and street photography, so with a budget for one lens I again opted for the classic 50mm. It’s not a choice that I regret; you can do anything with a 50, however I have since learnt of the power of the wide angle.

All my film street photography to date has been with my 50mm Voigtlander Nokton. A very fine lens, but somewhat limiting in tighter spaces for street photography. As I have used this lens exclusively for over a year now, I have begun to realise that the strength of a 50mm is its ability to compress a scene slightly and pick out details of geometries, patterns or shapes, sort of like a very short telephoto if you get close enough. I have always been drawn to the geometrical side of street photography, however I have come to realise that the photos that I really like, those that I find really impactful, are the ones which show people and their surroundings. To fill the frame with a person in street photography you must get closer with a wide angle, but in doing this you also get to show more of the environment. This is what I’m aiming for.

The challenging aspect for me is the fact that the wider the focal length, the closer you have to be and as anyone that has tried street photography will tell you, this can be an intimidating barrier. I’m starting to think that the challenge is worth it. Over Christmas I shot lots of digital family photos with my 28mm (equivalent) and tried to go for a street photography style. I tried to show multiple people in each scene and tried to capture special moments whilst allowing the wide angle lens to show the background, the mood and the atmosphere. I really liked some of the results, so much so that I started to think that a 28mm would be a perfect addition for my film street photography.

The flaw in this plan, however, is that I’m obviously very familiar with my family and have no problem getting up-close and shooting. With street or travel photography, however, I can’t imagine that I would have this confidence and get as close with strangers. Perhaps the middle ground of a 35mm would be a more suitable, albeit temporary choice? I can work on building confidence, getting closer and learning to shoot with a smile so I don’t piss people off from the start. Resting bitch face can be a real curse in street photography. Just watch any video of Martin Parr shooting on the streets and you will soon realise how he gets the shots he does.

So that is my plan for 2016. Invest in a 35mm lens and work with that for the time being, to keep shooting and keep building confidence. Who knows, maybe with another solid year of shooting I can graduate to a 28.  

Ignore grain, embrace the moment

Lately I have been prompted to shoot more digital photos along side my film work. Specifically, in 2016 my photographic aim is to photograph more of my daily life and my family and friends. This started before Christmas when I realized quite how much I appreciated my parents putting photo albums together over the years, preserving the memories of our family. 

I'm determined to continue with this tradition so that if hard drives crash and all my archive is lost, I still have something to remind me of the good times I spent with my wife and family. With that in mind I aimed to shoot family pictures with a 'street photography style', showing people as part of the scene rather than isolating them and making them the sole focus of the image. 

Anyway, I'm quickly learning that often the best photos come from extremely challenging situations. Low light, back-lit, foggy, whatever. These are not conditions that are generally thought of as conducive of producing great shots, but I beg to differ. The best, most famous shots often come from sub-optimal scenarios. In the past, I would never have turned up the ISO to it's maximum and would have missed so many memorable shots as a result. Everyone talks about the lack of image quality at high ISO, but my view is that it's so much better to get the shot and preserve the memory, irrespective of image quality. Take the shot below, for example, this was a darkened room, in winter, in the UK, whilst it was raining outside. There really wasn't much light at all. But I knew that to photograph a toddler I needed at least 1/125th second. As a result I set the ISO to 6400 and still had to boost exposure when I processed the picture. So really, there has never been a stronger justification for digital photography than this, in spite of my love for film.

This is a photo which simply would not exist if I was shooting with HP5 so for that reason I'm happy just to get the shot. Grain or no grain, it's a keeper to me. 

How I started in photography

My dad always enjoyed photography so this was part of our family growing up. He would have his Pentax SLR with him on family outings and a roll or two of Kodak Gold. My mum, however, also played her part by meticulously organising and putting together family albums- placing the small photographs under the clear acetate sheets against the white backing board. We amassed album after album, chronologically cataloguing our family life. This has continued to the present, and when I go back to visit my parents each year in Yorkshire I love to thumb through the 40 or so albums.

My interest in photography began when I was around 17 (2002). This was a strange time in photography as it was the time when film was winding down and digital started to become more prevalent. I was at first interested in the technical side of things, so when I got a digital point and shoot with no manual control I quickly came to realise that what I really needed was a proper camera with manual control. I saved up and in 2004 I bought a film SLR, right when the first consumer DSLR’s were coming out. I continued with this for a while, mostly taking landscapes and travel images, but with a student budget and ever increasing costs of film and processing my use of the camera dwindled and after around 2009 I never touched the camera again. I did have a little success during this time with the camera- I would take landscape photos on Fuji Velvia, an amazing slide film on the verge of being discontinued today. The colours and lack of grain were amazing and I had the odd cibachrome print made, one of which still hangs in my parent’s house in the UK.

After this period, digital took off, I started a job and my photography fell by the wayside until 2012 when I bought a DSLR. However after a brief period of use, I started to lose interest again. That was until I tried a prime lens for the first time. What an experience! I was forced to move, to think about my shots and to work harder on composition. I had to learn to zoom with my feet! Added to that was the fact that with a fast prime lens I was able to blur the background and get shots that were impossible before. My enthusiasm was born again and so far I haven’t looked back.

Soon after I addressed the other issue that prevented me taking more pictures- the camera was too big so I left it at home. I sold all my gear and used the money to buy a mirrorless camera and two tiny prime lenses. That was a turning point for me. I would take my camera along with me much more often and take more pictures as a result. The manual controls of my camera also made me realise that I wanted to use film again, specifically black and white. I joined WCC a few months ago with this in mind with the aim of learning to print in a traditional darkroom. That paid off and with the assistance and advice of Greg Bell I was quickly able to learn to make prints, a process that I absolutely love which can be as frustrating as it is rewarding!

I learnt that I wasn’t interested in taking landscape photos, I was interested in taking photographs with a human element. Portraits or street photographs are now my main focus and I am absolutely hooked. As far as gear goes, I use both film and digital cameras. A perfect camera in my opinion is one that is small enough for me to carry often, but large enough that is produces fantastic quality images. I’m no longer interested in a huge lens or the highest resolution. I’m interested in capturing moments in everyday life, on the street, or with friends and family.

It took me a long time to figure out where my photographic interests really were, but now that I have I enjoy photography more than ever and I cherish the memories that my mum and dad have preserved. So with that in mind I hope to keep on taking pictures, documenting life, and maybe someday I will have a book shelf full of albums too.

Christmas 2015 (99 of 104).jpg

Why the disadvantages of a Leica makes for better street photographs

The first thing I should say is that as soon as I started learning about street photography I started to learn about Leica. Street photography and Leica go hand in hand and the brand has a long history of producing cameras for almost all of the most celebrated street photographers. I was enthralled by this, who wouldn't want the best? What's more, their all mechanical precision and durability, the heavy all metal bodies and the fact that they can be repaired rather than thrown out when they break make them all the more alluring. I recently bought a Leica M6TTL and I have no regrets. It's a camera I hope to keep for life which will never be outdated because let's face it, it was outdated when it was new!

If you're reading this it's likely that you know about Leica rangefinders. The internet is full of material on why Leica's are supposedly perfect, so I will not repeat that here. Instead, I hope to convey why I think they are totally imperfect, and yet make great cameras for street photography. In fact, I can honestly say that for the un-initiated they are the hardest cameras to use, but once you overcome these obstacles you will learn to love a rangefinder.

A new Leica rangefinder is as outdated today as they were in the 1960's and for my camera, the M6TTL which was produced from 1999 to 2003, was outdated then. What they have going for them, however, is an innate simplicity that makes them beautiful to use.

Whilst some Leica's do have a meter, all but the newest have manual exposure only meaning you must set your camera settings, ISO, aperture and shutter speed, and reset them whenever the light changes. To a beginning photographer this sounds like a nightmare! Each time you take a shot in auto, the camera chooses the settings and upon reviewing the shots, you'll notice that the exposure settings are different almost every time! How can you possibly get correct exposure using manual settings without taking forever each time? The answer lies in the fact that auto settings over complicatethings and can actually give poor results, whilst a good understanding of light and colour allows the photographer to get better results with the use of manual settings.

To take this concept further, it comes down to reflectivity and the fact that a camera light meter is a relatively simplistic tool. A light meter reacts to the amount of light falling on its sensor and makes a suggestion as to the camera settings. The problem lies in the the fact that that light meter is unintelligent, and assumes that it is pointed at a colour with mid level of reflectivity. This may work well with a wide scene with lots of different colours because the scene is averaged out and the exposure settings suggested by the meter should be suitable. In practice, however, this may not work. Imagine a scene in which you photograph a person wearing dark clothes walking past a dark wall. Clearly, the most important part of the photograph to expose correctly is the persons face. With light skin in an overall dark scene, the camera meter is fooled into overexposure because it wrongly assumed that the scene is of mid reflectivity. The result is that the suggested setting brings up the dark wall and makes it a lighter tone and in turn overexposes the face. So in essence, correct exposure relates to the amount of light present, whereas the cameras meter reacts to this as well as the reflectivity (or colour) of the subject.

So how does this relate to Leica? Well, a manual Leica or any other camera for that matter forces you to learn correct exposure. It forces you to learn to expose for the amount of light present rather than the colour from which you take a meter reading, it forces you to learn when to override the cameras suggested settings. Finally, it makes you learn to see the light, quite literally. You begin to realise that the light doesn't change as much as you think and that the multitude of camera settings used when the camera is in auto mode relate as much to colour as to the amount of light present. I prefer to think of this as a mental spot meter. A manual camera forces you to think about what you are trying to photograph and decide what you want to expose for. You may waste a few frames initially or miss a few interesting moments, but it's worth persevering and the results will be worth it.

The next flaw in a Leica that I want to discuss is again, a blessing in disguise, but only if you use this flaw to your advantage. This flaw relates to the fact that with a rangefinder you don't look through the lens. Rather, you look through a viewfinder which is offset to the left. This so called flaw is in essence the reason why SLR cameras were invented because by looking through the lens, you can see exactly what is in focus and you can see exactly what is in the frame, thereby eliminating the main drawbacks of a rangefinder. Moreover, an SLR permits the use of any focal length, or zoom lenses for that mater, whereas with a rangefinder is only truly compatible with lenses for which it has dedicated frame lines within the viewfinder. Up to now, I have painted a picture of a rangefinder which is quite negative, however I plan now on discussing these drawbacks in relation to street photography and how they can be used to help achieve great photos.

By looking through the viewfinder rather than the lens you will notice that everything is in focus. You have an uninhibited view of the scene. One of the aspects of a great street photograph is often that the scene appears layered. Interest in the foreground, mid distance and background can yield some fantastic results. This type of shot becomes harder with an SLR. An SLR camera is designed to have a bright viewfinder and the only way it can achieve this is by having the aperture fixed wide open until the moment immediately prior to releasing the shutter. The result of this is that with fast, prime lenses, much of the frame is out of focus, especially if you are up close with your subjects. One trick to street photography is that an interesting subject in the foreground can be made even better when an interesting subject is found in the background providing a layered image multiple points of interest.  With a rangefinder, everything in the viewfinder is sharp. The photographer can spend his or her time thinking more about composition rather than focus or depth of field, safe in the knowledge that a sufficient depth of field will yield both in correct focus.

By removing the depth of field from the viewfinder, it forces the photographer to find interesting angles and compositions. A rangefinder makes things more difficult, forcing the photographer to concentrate on composition, the most important aspect of photography. With an SLR, many beginners take poorly composed photographs with a wide open aperture. Moving up from a phone camera or point and shoot which doesn't allow for a shallow depth of field can leave you impressed by these photos with a shallow depth of field because it can hide the flaws or make the subject stand out. It doesn't change the fact, however, that a poorly composed photograph remains a poorly composed photograph, despite the pleasing look of a shallow depth of field. Eliminating the depth of field from the equation during composition shows the photographer all the information they need. It forces you to hunt for interesting subjects and backgrounds because at the end of the day, an ugly background is still ugly if it is blurred, it's just less ugly than if it was sharp!

Flaw number three is the limited number of frame lines in the viewfinder and the 'spare space' around the edges of the frame. For the uninitiated, a Leica or other rangefinder camera has a fixed viewfinder. This means that if you use a telephoto lens, you must use a frameline in the centre of the image, whilst the remainder of the viewfinder is outside the edge of the frame. Conversely, a wide angle lens is paired with frame lines that full more of the viewfinder. Most Leica's have a viewfinder with a magnification of 0.72 (in relation to life size) meaning there is (just) enough space for frame lines for 28mm lenses. Additionally, framelines for 35, 50, 75, 90 and 135 mm lenses can also be found (in a Leica M6, older Leica's omit the 28 and 135 mm framelines). The general consensus is that the 28 mm framelines can be very hard to see as they are so wide within the viewfinder, whilst the telephoto framelines represent only a small area and can be hard to frame accurately. Many people who use these longer lenses prefer to use SLR's. What's more, because of the fixed framelines, zoom lenses are not a viable option because you would have to guess the composition!

One advantage of a rangefinder which specifically applies to street photography is the space you see around the edges of the frame. This is not dead space, and it can be used to see what is coming into the frame. You can leave the camera to your eye for longer and be ready to take the shot. Clearly, the real strength of a rangefinder comes with the use of 35 or 50 mm lenses. This may seem like a huge limitation, and it is, however it forces you zoom with your feet, and hunt for a better composition. Being limited like this sets you free as a photographer, and your photos will improve no end. It also forces you to get close to your subjects which is key in street photography. You can always spot a street photo taken from afar with a telephoto lens. They often lack something, a sense of place perhaps. It can be difficult to put your finger on it, but it's always visible. Getting up close with a 50mm or wider works wonders. It makes you work hard for your shots and can be intimidating at times, but the results are worth it.

Why I choose street photography

Of all the mainstream photographic genres, I am drawn to street photography. It's a photographic style that that demands the photographer to look for moments and compositions, to anticipate action and to react quickly, both in terms of pressing the button but also in terms of using the camera, focussing and setting exposure.

A good street photograph captures the people on the street looking interesting, it's not about making everyone look good, but that can help too. Added to that, composition plays a huge role; capturing the moment is well and good however if this moment is poorly framed the photo will suffer. My brief journey into street photography has shown me more than anything else that it is hard to get right. So hard, that in the last six months, I have a small handful of photographs that I'm truly proud of.

I have lots of ok photos, but for anyone that goes out specifically to photograph, be it anything from landscapes to portraits to street photographs, who really cares about ok photographs? It is great pictures that I'm after and I don't have many, but it's this that keeps me coming back again and again. Photographers that know how to take a nice portrait and have access to lots to of willing subjects could probably knock out a good number of 'keepers' in a day. Unfortunately for street photographers, that's just not the case, try as we might, we are limited by the scenes that prevail.

A quote from National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson is that "if you want to take better photos, stand in front of more interesting things". Whilst I think this is true, especially if you want to photograph landscapes or temples, street photography is different. Streets are everywhere so we have an almost unlimited source of subject matter and yet somehow, we come away with almost nothing. You could say that as a street photographer we are facing terrible odds, but the feeling of accomplishment brought by seeing success makes all the failures worth it.

Ho Chi Minh City, 2015

Ho Chi Minh City, 2015

Why I shoot film in 2015, and why you should too

Some may say that to shoot film today ridiculous. Well, in many respects, it is! But the reason I choose to shoot film in 2015 is simple: I take better photos when I use a film camera.

In comparison to digital photographs, the pictures are grainy, less sharp, cannot be enlarged to the same degree (with 35mm film) and contrary to what most film advocates will tell you, the dynamic range is no better than digital. Added to that, film can be expensive and availability can be an issue in Australia. 

It seems that with film there are a number of downsides and yet I am drawn to this medium again and again, so I will try to explain why.

Firstly, having no way of checking your photos after each shot for composition or exposure can be limiting, but by becoming used to it, I started to shoot with a heightened sense of awareness and concentration. Knowing this pushed me to shoot slowly, understand light and get the shot I was aiming for. More care brought better results and with that came more enjoyment.

Releasing the shutter indefinitely burns an image into a physical medium that cannot be undone, deleted or erased. With this in mind, you find your style. With digital I gave everything a try, pointing my camera at innumerate subjects whilst accruing thousands of pictures which may never see the light of day. Film made me think. It made me selective and my hit-rate improved.

Every click costs. Whilst this can be a pain (in the wallet), it’s likely on par with the depreciation of digital equipment. So costs aside, I see this as a blessing due to the mindset that is adopted when trying not to waste film. I started to see things differently, thinking more about the shots I aspired to create.

The final reason I shoot film, and possibly most importantly, is that with film photography I print my work in the darkroom. With digital, the process is over once the photo is uploaded to Lightroom and adjusted. Not so with film. The final product is a print which lives on into the future and the process of getting to that point is so rewarding it’s difficult to describe. Emerging from the darkroom with a print that I’m proud of is a wonderful experience. A print is the final interpretation, the finished product that cannot be changed. To quote Ansel Adams, “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance.”

In spite of its flaws and inconveniences I love the process and results of using film. It’s the process of analogue photography, after all, that keeps me coming back for more. I increasingly view my portfolio as the prints that I have made rather than the images I can show on screen. Knowing that I have taken the photo, developed the film and made the final print is something I’m proud of. If you’re a digital photographer with an inclination to give film a try I would highly recommend it. Just let me know and I’ll gladly donate your first roll.