First, a bit of background? As much or as little as you are comfortable sharing… Name, Where you are from, what you do, What else in life do you enjoy? that sort of thing?
My name is Rob MacKillop. I hail from Dundee, though I married an Edinburgh lass, and found myself stuck in Scotland’s capital city – not such a bad thing for a photographer! The place is hyper photogenic, though that can have a downside when it comes to finding something new to say.
My main job is a guitar teacher. I teach at home five days a week, then watch TV in the same room five nights a week, at least. So, after deciding that is not at all healthy, I took to walking. A camera made that activity far more interesting. I walk most days for at least an hour, and almost always have a camera with me.
How long have you been taking photos?
Nearly three years now, I think. I’m beginning to lose count, or not care about such a thing. I’m a regular contributor to RPF, and the folks there have been a help and an inspiration.
What sort of photography do you enjoy or partake in the most (street, landscape, etc)
If I’m not walking far, it tends to be street. But I do like to go further at weekends, and have done a lot of land and river/seascapes. I would like to get more into still life, but really don’t want to start collecting lighting equipment, preferring natural light. It’s possible to work that way, of course, so we shall see what happens.
How big a part of your photography life are 35mm compact or rangefinder cameras?
I am a fan of fixed-lens cameras, analogue or digital. Any digital camera I’ve gelled with has been pocketable, and have a user experience similar to film. Hence I have enjoyed using the Fuji X100 (now sold) and the three Sigma Merrill cameras. My film cameras are the Konica Hexar AF, with it’s stunning lens, and the Olympus XA3, which is just far better than it deserves to be. Having said that, I’ve just bought a Nikon F4…
What about the experience of shooting with them appeals to you?
I don’t want a “perfect” camera, one that would get 5 stars at dpreview, passing all the tests. No, I want a camera with character. That character could be a maverick, a lonely teenager, a hungover existentialist…you get the picture (so to speak). The Hexar will put a hex on anyone who falls under its gaze; while the XA3 will lull you into a peaceful dream, before caressing you with its soft gaze.
Do you feel they have effected your style? become part of it? or are the reason for it…?
I’m writing this at a time when I’m tired of my own digital work, and am beginning to find film work far more interesting. Even old film shots I took two or three years ago now look more interesting to me. Digital colours LOOK false. Film colours ARE false, yet don’t FEEL false. I can’t explain that. Even digitised film shots don’t LOOK false. So, if a style is developing, it’s not because I am seeking a style (I’m definitely not), it’s because I’m looking for an (oh, what’s the word?) honesty in my images. Film gets me closer, and 35mm film from compacts closer still.
Which is/are your favourite cameras? the one/s that go with you the most?
Of the two compacts I have, the XA3 slips easily into a trouser pocket. The Hexar requires a bag, and I get lazy, despite it being the “superior” camera. But I plan to take the Hex out more from now on.
What is it specifically about these cameras that appeal to you so much?
They don’t announce to the world: I AM A PHOTOGRAPHER – FEAR ME!!!!
What was the path to this shooting habit? How did you discover it appealed to you?
Slowly, through walking, I started becoming more aware of the environment I was walking through. Photography has helped that. These days I don’t take as many images as I used to, and very often I’ll look at something and my mind will say, “That would make an interesting photo” – but I don’t bother taking the camera out: I just experience the moment. It doesn’t bother me that I didn’t get the shot. The experience is more important. But sometimes the experience of taking the shot is, well…beautiful. It is! You can be utterly in the moment, aware of being part of your environment, having a relationship with it. That’s a great drug.
What films do you shoot with and why?
XP2 for b&w. I’ve tried various colour: Reala, Velvia, a few “creative” ones from rollei, but I really liked using the beautifully subtle CineStill. They have to be C-41, as I don’t develop my own shots, and it can be expensive sending them off.
XP2 has great contrast and grain. I love it.
How, where, why do you process and or print your photos?
In Edinburgh there is Boots and a Kodak shop. Boots is closest, but they’ve not always done their work well. The Kodak shop seems better, but is another bus journey away – worth the trouble though. I once did a course on developing your own, but became really ill with asthma – it’s just not for me.
What other cameras/type of camera do you regularly shoot with and why – what situations require something else/more if any?
The trio of Merrills from Sigma are the closest digital cameras get to the experience of shooting film. They are digital cameras for film shooters. The b&w mode is better than any other camera, as far as I can tell. They definitely have their limitations, and can be frustrating, but they have character in abundance (see earlier answer).
As mentioned, I’ve just bought a Nikon F4, an slr camera body, and am currently reading up on lenses. It will be something of a departure for me, but I’m looking forward to the challenge, especially doing some landscapes and portraits. But none of this means I’ll be giving up on my XA3 and The Hex!
My favourite images taken with a compact:
Three from an Olympus Trip, which I gave to my daughter, so haven’t mentioned it above – but it’s a great wee camera.
Four with the Konica Hexar AF: