Shooting Film. A ode to the humble negative

May 21, 2021

Shooting Film.

Terrible title.
Just the two words 'shooting film' wants to make me put a suit on and eat a fat Steak for fear of getting typecast as a Lumberjack shirt wearing, Man Bun and Beard supporting hipster. (no offence if thats you).

 


But let's continue, see where this story takes us.

Shooting film in 2021 is a choice. You can pretty much pick up a digital camera and use Googles free edit tools for less than the price of a 'vintage' 35mm SLR these days. Digital has so many applications, a simpler process, work flow and it ticks all the instant gratification bullet points that society pines after. You can photograph your dog and within seconds have 12 likes on Instagram.

Film however is slower. It is more considered. To add a cliche or 2, it's a slower way of working. You make choices as to what to photograph rather than 'spray and pray' with your 25 FPS Digital set up. Shooting film is a waiting game. You expose your frame and wait to see if it worked. You can't check the screen and do it all again if you don't like it.

 

35mm film is where I started. I'm not old and crusty and going to throwback to my youth. But I will say I started on film. The Battered old Praktica MTL 5b with the 50mm pentacon lens I've been using is the same battered old Praktica MTL 5b that my mum used. I actually remember a crash course in exposure on some family picnic at long forgotten National Trust garden. The day is gone, but my memory of that little viewfinder light meter needle wobbling up and down is a visual treat.
As a 14 year old, the Duke of Edinburgh award in the UK started me off on my photographic journey. I'll always remember great chap called Stuart, a scout leader then and still a scout leader now. He taught me how to develop my first roll of black and white and from there, college beckoned.

The science of it all is a miss with me. I don't really care about chemical reactions and Silver Nitrate, Sodium Chloride and silver Chloride (or whatever. Feel free to correct me). What I love, and have always loved, is the mysterious magic. The Magic and the meditation. The tactile beauty, the authenticity of it all. The fact you start with one thing and end up with another. Real, actual negatives that are something you can touch and feel and look at rather than virtual digital files, something that is there but not there.

When you shoot film, you 'get ready' You don't just pick up a camera. You check first. A little nod to film speed, an awareness of shutter speed and aperture settings. A little peek at the exposure count. A look up at the heavens. A little look around your surroundings. Then the process of correctly exposing, tweaking the composition and boom...Nothing. (because you forgot to wind the film on!)
Start again and boom. The slap of the shutter. Something real is created. Happy memories or interesting faces imparted on such a sensitive slip of plastic. A moment, truly captured forever, in its most honest.
Ok ok ok... A little far? A little too guffy?

Maybe.


But shooting film is just more. Its just... More. It's almost meditation. The physical aspects of loading film. It feels true. Muscle memory. Connected and always exciting. You just don't get the same connection when 'popping in a fresh memory card'. Having a fresh roll of 24 or 36 frames to capture something, anything is a whole new ball game. And when you are done, you have something precious. Again something real. A canister full of of treasure. Who cares if it is all over exposed and blurred. It's still something. Something real.


Its's difficult to describe this kind of thing without sounding like someone who is stuffed up their own bum. So hopefully this hasn't put you off. I think what it is, at its core, is this. Shooting film, for me, just feels more personal. Especially in light of a previous post about 'photographerlife' and the personal disconnect working as a pro can have with something you love.


So thats it. Digital for work. Film for home.
And no, I'm not going to grow a Man Bun.

 

 

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