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My Thoughts After One Year Of Shooting Film – Guest Post by Aukje

My first year of shooting film Part 12

(read Part 11 here)

A year ago I posted my first guest post on this website, and I thought that this one-year anniversary called for a recap, a moment of contemplation to investigate where I stand now with respect to film.

I started with a simple and cheap camera, the Minolta Hi-matic 7S. I did get some nice results with it, my favourite is the one below which I shot on Fuji Superia in the Peak District.

PeakDistrict-2

Peak District / Fuji Superia with Minolta Hi-Matic 7S

Mainly because of the dim viewfinder I traded it for an Olympus 35 SP, and I also started with black and white. It took me some time to get used to the look, I remember being rather disappointed with this next photo, the first photo I ever took on Tri-X, but I still like it today.

TriXRoll1-1

Sun rays / Kodak Tri-X with Olympus 35 SP

I have to admit that I quickly grew impatient after this. I wanted to see how my Leica lenses would work with film, so for my birthday in November my loving and supporting man bought me a M2. The largest part of the 40 rolls I shot (give or take) have been shot with this M2 combined with my vintage Summilux 50mm (95%) or my modern Summicron 35mm ASPH. With that setup there is nowhere to hide, can’t do much better than that so every failed photo is a failure of myself. I was ready to shoot and learn!

So far I have really enjoyed shooting film, but I still find it difficult to describe what it is that I like. And besides that, I didn’t quit digital photography, and I am not going to any time soon. But more on that later.

What I do like about film is the anticipation, the waiting and the excitement after getting the developed film back. That means that after a trip, for example to Bruges (see photos below) I get to relive the happy times a few weeks afterwards, and I like that. I also like some of the colours and textures on film, but not all of the time.

film-6

Bruges / Kodak Portra 400

film-7

Bruges / Kodak Portra 400

In order to get the learning process going I started doing a 366 project. That has given me mixed feelings so far. I do like integrating photography in my normal life, and having a camera with you all the time feels good. Due to this project I have made some images I really like which I normally would not have made, such as the three photos below.

Leica M2 with Portra 400

Commute photo / Kodak Portra 400

film-3

Cake / Kodak Portra 400

Tree / Kodak Portra 400

Tree / Kodak Portra 400

However, it has also made me more aware of the cost of film photography. I know, I have seen the calculations too, but I am not selling my digital camera to fund film and development, so including development and scanning by a lab each photo costs about 30 (euro-)cent. For my 366 that meant that on days where there was just no decent light to be found, I felt like wasting film and money on a photo which wasn’t going to work anyway. I am also doing a different version of the 366 with my digital camera, and there I don’t feel like this. To be fair, I should calculate the value-depreciation and lowered depreciation-period per click, but I didn’t do that (who does that?).

This leads me to another thought that has crossed my mind several times. I know a lot of people value film photography because it makes you think more before you take a photo. This deliberate way of photography leads to a much higher keeper-rate, which of course is always nice. But the downside is that deliberate photography doesn’t allow all that much of experimenting. I don’t remember who it was, but probably someone famous once mentioned that if you don’t fail you haven’t challenged yourself enough. With experimenting I don’t mean taking 100 photos at the same spot with different settings to select the best one afterwards, but I mean trying something that you know is probably not going to work. I am not saying that that can’t be done with film, but with film you are aware of the cost, so it is more likely that you don’t take the chance.

One example of such an experiment (on film!) is the next photo that I took with the Minolta Riva Panorama on a winter morning. For my 366 I usually make a photo on my way to work, but in the winter there is not much light at 8 am. But since I was determined to take a photo everyday, I did it anyway, and one foggy morning this was the result. It took me some time to figure it out, but I am pretty sure that the hexagonal spots are reflections of the flash light caused by the fog. I like the result, I could never have pre-imagined it or make a calculated effort to create something like this. But experiments like these are rare on film, at least for me. For situations like this I prefer my digital camera so I do have the opportunity to try different options free of charge.

Foggy Canal / Kodak Tri-X 400 with Minolta Riva Panorama

Foggy Canal / Kodak Tri-X 400 with Minolta Riva Panorama

Now that I mentioned the Riva Panorama, I did invest ( 🙂 ) in two small fun camera’s to use next to the M2: the Minolta Riva Panorama and the Rollei 35S. I guess one of the joys of film, highly celebrated on this website, is the large amount of affordable fun cameras that can produce very decent results. Add to that the different film types to play with, and you have endless possibilities. Of course I could challenge this by mentioning the even more endless options in post-processing with filters and presets, but somehow that feels different. In post-processing I can get very anxious about finding the best result, not knowing what that is exactly. I can go over small differences in white balance, tone etc, getting more insecure about the result with every option. With film it seems like I am more willing to accept a certain result from a specific type of film, and appreciate the differences, rather than looking for the one best result.

Boulevard / Kodak Portra 400 with Minolta Riva Panorama

Boulevard / Kodak Portra 400 with Minolta Riva Panorama

Scotland / Adox Silvermax with Minolta Riva Panorama

Highlands / Ado Silvermax with Minolta Riva Panorama

The View / Kodak Tri-X 400 with Rollei 35S

The View / Kodak Tri-X 400 with Rollei 35S

Trees / Kodak Tri-X 400 with Rollei 35S

Trees / Kodak Tri-X 400 with Rollei 35S

This brings me to a different observation. Am I accepting results from film because part of the process is out of my hand, and does that make me less critical? Sometimes I think that I might prefer a film result because the process is more difficult, and I am therefore more inclined to be happy with the result. I am not sure if I put this down in the right words, but sometimes it feels that people shooting film are satisfied if exposure is right and the colours (or tones) are decent. Main mission accomplished, this is a good photo. But with (automatic) digital cameras exposure is likely to be fine, or can easily be corrected in post, so to be satisfied we need something more than that. This is probably not true for every person shooting film, and I am not even sure if it is true for me, but I am concerned that I am less critical about my film results than I should be. But than again, I am photographing just for fun, so why should I care?

Going back to the keeper-rate and deliberate photography, I recently spent two weeks in Scotland and this is the first time that I actually thought that for my next holiday I might leave my digital camera at home. I refuse to bring an external drive which means that I ‘only’ have about 30 GByte available for storage of digital files. Which meant that I had to do editing and selection during my holiday, as the amount of files I create with freely shooting exceeds this amount after a couple of days. A year ago I really didn’t mind this at all, in fact my favourite day off would look something like this: explore and shoot in the morning, edit and process files in the early afternoon, blog and publish in the late afternoon. However lately I seem to need days, if not weeks, between shooting and being able to form a stable opinion on my photos. And after a couple of days I did get bored with going through all the files, hence the thought of bringing only a film camera next time. Of course some discipline would be a good solution too, but that might be too difficult. But after receiving the developed film and scans I am glad that I have my digital files too. There are some photos that I like (see below), but some of the things that I wanted to capture look much better in my digital files than on film. I am not sure yet if this has to do with the scanning or with my technical ability, for now I suppose it is the latter.

Isle of Skye / Kodak Portra 400

Isle of Skye / Kodak Portra 400

Highlands / Kodak Portra 400

Highlands / Kodak Portra 400

Isle of Harris / Kodak Portra 400

Isle of Harris / Kodak Portra 400

This sort of leads me to my conclusion: I enjoy film photography but I need my digital camera as I am not (yet?) capable enough to achieve everything I want on film. I guess it would be presumptuous to assume that that would be possible by shooting only 40 rolls.

However, in Scotland I shot one image deliberately on film as I thought that it would not be possible to achieve the result with a (or my) digital camera (with a single exposure at least). The photo below was shot directly into the sun, but there is still enough colour in the foreground. I am quite proud of this one!

Highlands / Kodak Portra 400

Highlands / Kodak Portra 400

I have been looking for reasons to give people who question film photography and this photo might be one of them. But in the end enjoying the process of shooting film is a good enough reason in itself. That doesn’t mean however that I am not striving for good and better results though!

If you are interested you can find more of my photos, both digital and film, on my website: whataukjesees.com. I am also doing a 366 project on film, which I record on tumblr.

Thanks for reading, and Hamish, thanks for having me!

Read Part 13 of journey into film here.

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36 Comments

  • Reply
    Teddy
    October 7, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    Absolutely lovely shots! Keep up the good work.

    • Reply
      Aukje
      October 7, 2016 at 8:34 pm

      Thanks Teddy, much appreciated!

  • Reply
    Martin Cutrone
    October 7, 2016 at 9:07 pm

    Agree with previous comment. Your photos are quite good! Like you, I have continued to shoot in both analog and digital, and, depending on the day, I like one or the other better. Perhaps the truth is that they both have their place!! Keep the great images coming!

    • Reply
      Aukje
      October 8, 2016 at 5:13 am

      Thanks for your support Martin!

  • Reply
    Des McSweeney
    October 7, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    Love the highlands in print (Silverman) and Skye in colour, well done you. I am being dense, what is your 366 please? A pic a day for a year and a bit? Anyway Aukye congrats on all your contributions here, your hard work, your time and your engaging style. You give real personality to your photography and your writing. Des

    • Reply
      Aukje
      October 8, 2016 at 5:16 am

      Thanks Des, that means a lot to me. My 366 is a 365, one picture a day for a year, but since 2016 is a leap year we get a day extra! However it turns out that I didn’t manage to take a picture every single day so far, thus the name is in fact no longer correct. But that was the intention!

  • Reply
    David
    October 8, 2016 at 3:08 am

    I love the colors with Portra, there’s something about how it renders the greens that really make your images nice.

    • Reply
      Aukje
      October 8, 2016 at 5:17 am

      Thanks for the compliment, David!

  • Reply
    Terry B
    October 8, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Aukje,

    I love the way you have captured the late sun in the Peak District, and I really like the misty shot of the canal. Who could have foreseen this result?

    I agree with you that the water droplets in the mist have reflected the light of the flash, but I am going to make an assumption regarding the cause. I suspect that the Riva must have a four-bladed aperture and the effect we are seeing in your image is the flash being reflected off the closest water droplets back into the lens. This could explain the multiple reflections and which are all slightly different owing to the reflected light come from different point sources and at unequal distances from the flash.

    Do we see squares or hexagons? I see mostly squares, but then I look again and some, but not all, do appear to have hexagonal tendencies. I’ve looked at this image for quite some time, and I’m still undecided which is the main one. Oddly, when I see a hexagon, it also appears as a square in relief, or a shallow box. In relief I see three short sides providing depth, and what would be the lid or top of a box provides the four equal length sides. This is why I see a square, but with depth.

    Now if your Riva does have a four-bladed aperture, then I would stick my neck out and say these ghost images are squares, albeit slightly distorted. But if it has a six-bladed aperture, then hexagons they must be, and I stand corrected. :D)

    • Reply
      Aukje
      October 8, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      Hi Terry, thanks for your nice words and in-depth analysis of the foggy canal shot. I don’t know about the shape of the aperture, it just looks round. I would guess that it is a fixed aperture, I don’t if there are blades in such a case. Anyway, your analysis makes sense, so thanks for that!

      • Reply
        Terry B
        October 8, 2016 at 1:47 pm

        Hello, Aukje,

        I tracked down the manual on the internet, and Minolta are somewhat shy when it comes to the specification.
        The lens is of five elements with a maximum aperture of f4.5, so it is not a cheap plastic job, but they don’t quote a minimum aperture and they are somewhat coy when it comes to the shutter speeds. It has AE of EV7 to EV17 and is DX coded for up to 400 ISO films. The only reference to shutter speeds is when the flash is cancelled when they say it is 1/200 to 1/4. This simple feature was for when using flash could be banned, such as in museums, but it is still AE, there is no manual exposure setting at all. So there must be a way to stop the lens down as even with 100 ISO film loaded, it will grossly overexpose on sunny days if the aperture is fixed at f4.5.

        If you can get it to fire without a film in, open the back and whilst looking through the lens fire the shutter and point it at different levels of illumination and see if you can determine if the aperture does close down and what its shape is.

        • Reply
          Aukje
          October 8, 2016 at 3:30 pm

          That is a good suggestion. At the moment I don’t have any film in it, so I fired it at a dark place, with the flash going off. And it has a hexagonal shape. However, it closes non-symmetrically, so half-open it is more square-shaped. I managed to take a photo of it so you can see what I mean: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kaukje/30157361326/in/dateposted-public/

  • Reply
    Paul
    October 8, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Great shots. I’ particularly like the shot of the foggy canal. Timeless and atmospheric.

    • Reply
      Aukje
      October 8, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      Thanks Paul, I appreciate it!

  • Reply
    John
    October 8, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    I have a number of different film cameras,ncluding the 35SP, yes, there is something enjoyable about the slower shooting when using film. I only use black & white, so I enjoyed seeing your colour shots. For colour I use digital.

    • Reply
      Aukje
      October 8, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks John. I enjoy both b&w and colour on film, but I seem to get more results I like with colour. But I will keep practising both.

      • Reply
        Terry B
        October 8, 2016 at 4:04 pm

        Great, Aukje. Now it is clearly apparent that the ghosts in your canal image are of the diaphragm being projected on to the film. The non-symmetry is the same in both. So hexagons they are, or should be! :D)

        • Reply
          Aukje
          October 8, 2016 at 4:11 pm

          Thanks for helping me clearing that up! One of the reasons to love this community…

          • Terry B
            October 8, 2016 at 4:15 pm

            Dat is geen probleem. Isn’t google translate a wonderful tool!

  • Reply
    jklphoto
    October 8, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    Agree, it is all about the process Aukje. With film, one can be present in the moment, without chimping and feeling the need to spend hours processing images later. Aperture, shutter speed, film stock. Pure photography. Meditative.

    Is film limiting? Of course, fixed ISO being the biggest factor. But show me a full-frame digital camera as small and elegant as a Leica M film camera. Buy a 500 Series Hasselblad and you will really fall in love with analogue photography. Shoot what you love, love what you shoot!

    • Reply
      Aukje
      October 9, 2016 at 4:58 am

      Thanks for the support JKLphoto!

  • Reply
    Pim
    October 9, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Aukje, werkelijk prachtig en een zeer herkenbaar verhaal. Ik ben, maar niet zo voortvarend als jij, van analoog naar digitaal en weer naar analoog gegaan.
    Twee vragen: de 30 cent per foto wordt in hoge mate bepaald door de prijs voor het scannen. Waar laat je dit doen?
    Hoe heb je dit belicht? Met een separate meter ?
    Groet

    • Reply
      Aukje
      October 9, 2016 at 10:10 am

      Dank je Pim! Ik laat meestal ontwikkelen bij ag-photolab.co.uk, en dan de medium scan (8 gbp inc development). De scotland foto’s heb ik voor het eerst laten scannen door filmdev.co.uk (8gpb voor een large scan). Daar komen nog wel verzendkosten bij, ik verstuur er meestal drie tegelijk. In Nederland heb ik nog geen lab gevonden die goede kwaliteit bied voor vergelijkbare prijs.
      Ik gebruik de app myLightMeter Pro op mijn iPhone. Ik vind deze fijn werken, en volgens een calibratie van Will van Manen van Kamera-service is deze even goed als een dedicated meter. Maar de gratis app van Lumu werkt ook goed.
      To other readers: sorry for the Dutch!

      • Reply
        Pim
        October 9, 2016 at 10:36 am

        Dank voor je antwoord, als ik een fatsoenlijk lab heb gevonden zal ik het je laten weten

  • Reply
    Lukas
    October 9, 2016 at 10:03 am

    Lovely shots, where do you develop and scan your films if you don’t mind me asking? Do you use local lab or do you ship it somewhere?

    • Reply
      Aukje
      October 9, 2016 at 10:13 am

      Thanks Lukas!
      I have them developed and scanned by a lab. Most of these are done by ag-photolab.co.uk. Some are developed and scanned by UKfilmlab, but they have moved to Canada. For the Scotland photos I tried filmdev.co.uk for the first time since they are a bit cheaper and faster. All have good service.

  • Reply
    Louis A. Sousa
    October 10, 2016 at 3:39 am

    Looked at this post several times. Great images. Images and posts like this affirm why I shoot film.

    • Reply
      Aukje
      October 10, 2016 at 5:29 am

      Thanks Louis, that means a lot to me.

  • Reply
    George Appletre
    October 10, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    That foggy canal photograph is excellent. The flares enhance it, the tiny lights give perspective to it and the grain brings a pretty mood.
    Most of panoramic cameras trend vigneting in some extend. But it fits very good in it.

    • Reply
      Aukje
      October 10, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      Thanks George!

  • Reply
    Michael Ricciuti
    October 12, 2016 at 12:05 am

    Beautiful photos! Happy to hear that you are enjoying film. I find it much more rewarding than digital, though it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why that is. Not that I’ll be selling my D750 anytime soon. One comment on your experience with the Hi-Matic: I also experimented with that camera but quickly moved on to a Yashica Electro 35 which has a very good and very sharp lens. I highly recommend it. It’s the most fun that you can have for $20.

    • Reply
      Aukje
      October 12, 2016 at 3:26 am

      Hi Michael, thanks for the nice words and for the suggestion.

  • Reply
    Ken Hindle-May
    October 17, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    I did my first (and only) Project 365 on film, so here are a few tips that I learned:

    1. Available light is a big problem in the winter months, so lunch breaks are your friend. I downloaded the Blue Hour android app, which tells you when sunrise, sunset and the golden and blue hours are for your location. Golden hour and blue hour are more accessible on winter mornings.

    2. Plan, plan, plan. Start by making a list of things you think might be good to shoot so you can try to get them on days when nothing jumps out at you. If you’ve already taken a good shot that day and see something else you like, add it to the list. This isn’t digital, we don’t have the luxury of taking an unremarkable shot and making it interesting in Photoshop and the other mainstay of digital P365 (endless macro shots of whatever you find lying around the house) isn’t really open to you either – macro on film is UNFORGIVING.

    3. Safety in numbers. I bought a lot of new cameras in order to keep the project fresh (cheap ones – my Olympus XA was by far the most expensive at £50) and as a result, I was often shooting more than one camera at a time. Fortunately, on the few occasions I suffered a total camera failure, I’d shot something on the other camera so didn’t have to leave a blank space. From this, I also learned that I really like carrying one camera with colour film and one with B&W.

    4. Beware overconfidence. Although I did manage to get a shot for every day of the project, there were probably 20-30 days where I really wasn’t very happy with what I ended up with. This usually happened because I’d convinced myself I’d got a killer shot, only to realise the focus wasn’t right when I finally got the negs back. This is a particular risk with AF compacts, so shoot accordingly.

    5. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. There were a couple of times when I saw an interesting scene while I was rushing somewhere and made a mental note to grab a shot on the way back, only to find the scene had changed by the time I got back (usually rubbish or broken things being taken away). Later in the project, I saw some very photogenic flowers while late for work and made myself even later by crossing the road to shoot them. I looked for them on the way back home, in case I could come up with a better angle, but they’d all been chopped down!

    While I don’t think I’d ever want to do another Project 365 (it felt like a chore at times and it has been a blessed relief to only shoot/share what I want to), I’m really glad I did it. Not only did I learn a great deal about cameras and film, but my photography improved a lot (at least, I think so). Perhaps more importantly, I feel like I finished the year with a much clearer sense of my ‘voice’ as a photographer i.e. what I like to shoot and what I shoot well.

    The finished project can be viewed on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/90524886@N00/albums/72157650622415526

    • Reply
      Aukje
      October 17, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      Thanks for all the tips, Ken. I feel like I should do another one next year, with better preparation and more stamina. I am still doing the current one, but missing quite a few days by now. But I try to be not too hard on myself, as it should be fun.
      I think it is also helpful to realise that it is ok to take more than one photo (on different days) of the same subject.

  • Reply
    Joe
    October 20, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    I really love that I can see your progression with film and how I feel like it’s improved over time. Good post!

    • Reply
      Aukje
      October 21, 2016 at 5:33 am

      That’s nice, thanks Joe!

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