I gave a review of the Hexar here which was wholly positive, and Hamish gave his more negative thoughts here. Suffice to say I still have the camera. Yes, the menu system (if we can call it that) is a nightmare, but I will be upfront about my usage: I stick it in P mode, and click away happily. Some shots, therefore, are better or worse than others. Let me just say that when I’m inspired to take a shot, the last thing I engage is my sluggish brain. Despite its faults, the Hexar’s brain is definitely less sluggish than mine!
So, here we have some frames which I’ve just rediscovered on my hard drive. They were taken on a family holiday to Dunkeld, Scotland, in August 2016. But don’t panic! I’m not simply sharing holiday snaps. What struck me a few moments ago, after finding them, is how much I love analogue photography. Despite their merits, or lack of, as images, they do something special: they remind me not so much what I saw, but of how I felt at the time. I also took (for safety…) some digital shots, and they do the opposite: they remind me of what I saw, not how I felt.
What is it about film that does this seemingly magic trick? I’m sure the big digital-camera companies would like to know!
Take the shot above, the pebbles under 20 inches or so of beautifully clear water. It’s certainly a clear-enough shot, reminding us how good the fixed lens is on the Hexar. But when I look at it, I am reminded of things you couldn’t possibly know. This was the last shot of the holiday, and we didn’t want to go home. The river is the Tay, which runs out into the North Sea by Dundee, on the East Coast of Scotland. As it does so, it passes a hill where the ashes of my mother had been scattered some 20 years ago. I was thinking about this at the time, and somewhat romantically sent my best wishes to her along the flow of the water. No one could guess that from seeing this image. Yet I also took a digital shot, which I saw first earlier this afternoon, and it reminded me of nothing. When I saw this film (Ilford XP2) the memories came flooding back.
Further along the bank, and possibly the previous day, I saw this tree trunk reflecting in the river. The clouds were so beautiful that day. In Scotland this is a BIG THING, as the sky is mostly uniform grey all year round, with just a few days of cloudless blue sky, and some glorious days with broken-up cloud, like this. Not in the least pretentiously (I hope you agree!) the tree in the river made me think of the early Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who said something along the lines of, “We can and we cannot step into the same river twice.” Meaning, we can step into the River Tay twice, but each time it will be different, as the water has moved on. A deeper reading is that every moment is new for all things. By the way, I love how the Hexar caught the wild flowers on the riverbank.
This shot is called Last Morning, and seems to have been taken just before the pebble shot above. You can just see a wooden fence on the right edge, which leads to the hotel we were staying at for two nights. The flow of the tide is towards the camera, and the small boat was anchored.
The above shot was taken close by, at The Hermitage. I am not a fan of slow-shutter speeds and milky water. The water is as it looked. But what strikes my eye is the softness of the surrounding detail. A digital shot might have been too exacting. I come back to that word “feeling”. The image captures for me something of what it was like to stand there, not overwhelmed by detail, but somehow cradled by it. It was a very beautiful moment, as close as I’ve ever got to mindfulness with a camera. Again, that might not be obvious to any observer other than myself, but I know my digital shots could not give me this feeling.
Finally, a family snapshot of daughter and wife, by the banks of the Tay. I had wandered off taking photos, while they spent some time watching the river flow. None of us wanted to leave. I recommend Dunkeld (and the hotel, Dunkeld House) for a holiday, but do remember to bring your film camera with you, otherwise you might not remember how it felt to be there!
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