1 May 2014

Journeying to the Past

I've been craving the idea of shooting film for a while now. I'm an old-fashion-minded person and I like everything old. I've had a medium format camera for a long time, but due to lack of the means for developing (lack of chemicals/tools), I have not attempted to actually use it.

So why crave film if I have digital?

If you shoot digital, then you must have faced a situation when you wished you had more dynamic range. Digital SLR sensors, in this regard, are limited. Get into a high contrast situation with lots of strong highlights and dark shadows and you know what I'm talking about. You can only expose for one or the other, never get both. The only solution is high dynamic range, which you can only capture in one shot, affordably enough, by the use of film.

The only films I have ever shot previously in my life were 110 format shot on one of those long chocolate-bar-like cameras which every family had. I would shoot one cartridge per school trip and get it developed and printed at a photo lab. The camera did not have any settings. Not even glass in the viewfinder which was no more than a tunnel of plastic that I used for an approximate framing of a badly taken snap of a friend or myself leaning on a tree. Other than that, I never shot film.

My first craved camera was the Nikon Coolpix 8800 back when it was first introduced in 2005. The first camera I can say I started doing photography with was a digital pocket camera. Canon IXUS 80 IS. In pink. It belonged to my sister so don't judge. I brought it with me to the UK and was able to take some decent shots with it. Of course, upon first arrival in the UK back in 2010, my first purchase was of course the Nikon 8800, which I had dreamt about 5 years earlier. I did not do very well using it as I was completely new to basic concepts such as aperture and shutter control. It was difficult to get the right settings, but when you did, I thought the images came out like a revelation. It was a slow reader to CF card compared to the much more user friendly compact with a larger screen and a flexible SD card option which was the Canon. It was also outdated. I soon sold it.

My first SLR was a Canon EOS 300D, and from there, I moved up the ranks of EOS line, using 350D, 400D, 450D, 550D (borrowed), 1D Mark II N, 5D, 5D Mark II, and the EOS M. All that digital goodness got me very well acquainted with photographic principles and effects. It cost nothing to make mistakes, and you could see the result of what setting you're playing with immediately. I understood the physics of photography and light, messed about a lot with manual lenses, and because I'm very mechanically minded, I had to do everything manually, using the M setting as much as I can, and soon enough I started shooting RAW exclusively.

One of the many ways in which RAW is useful is that you can generate an HDR file out of three exports from the same file, or simply retrieve data from pixels that would normally be recorded as 'overexposed' in JPG. Get those details back. I was still not pleased and wanted to get even more manual. Nothing could satisfy me more than developing my own film, even printing my own photographs.

Due to my stubborn insistence to do as much as I can by hand, and to pay as little as I can, developing needed to take place at home.

The easier, cheaper, and more aesthetically pleasing experience for me has been to shoot black and white film. Having finally found a joblot of darkroom stuff which included both the chemicals and all the plastic required, I was finally able to load my first film into a camera.

In the following few posts I will talk about the experience into shooting film and what I have learned from it. I will also post photos/videos whenever I can, so stay tuned to hear more about it.

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