Recently I photographed an assignment which represents a personal milestone in my film photography story. It was the first time I had ever left London with nothing besides film cameras; with no digital fallback or access to any alternatives – only the cameras and film I decided I would need ahead of time. The event was Green Man Festival; Wales’ largest music festival. This was my first time at Green Man, and also my first time shooting at a proper Music Festival. Not too different an environment from previous experience, but different enough that it provided some unique challenges.
I decided to take 20 rolls of film, but only shot half of them – useful to know that that’s what I’ll average across that kind of assignment, as I didn’t change much about my shooting approach. From those ten rolls I have 91 shots which I consider keepers, and from that maybe a handful will be ones I cherish, share, and sell as prints long-term.
The Leica M4 lacks any electronic component, and although I trust my eye when it comes to metering I was changing between film speeds fairly often and it was difficult to carry over the maths. I ended up using the G1 as a meter for some of the trickier scenes, and after reviewing the images I have no issues with the way pretty much all of them were exposed.
I sometimes find it difficult to “commit” to a film, and although I went through these films fairly quickly it was still a little stressful choosing between 800/160 film depending on how far away sundown was, and how likely I felt it was that I would finish that roll before the lighting conditions changed. Overall I think I managed to balance the number of low ISO films I shot in low light against the high ISO, brightly lit scenes – there was no situation I wasn’t able to get a certain exposure based on my settings and available light.
Although the first roll of Portra 160 I ever shot was not encouraging I was pleasantly surprised by the daylight results of the remaining rolls I’d bought. The tones are slightly different to Portra 400, and the results have a cleanness to them which is comparable to the way a digital photograph renders. Colours are accurate to how I remember them, and there is the least “colour cast” to the images.
Prior to Green Man I’d only shot a couple of rolls of Cinestill 800, but these were enough to convince me of its suitability for low light situations. Research online gave me some good side-by-side comparisons and I liked that Cinestill seemingly offered the lowest grain of an 800 rated film, even compared to Portra 800 and Fujifilm Venus 800 (which I think is one of my favourite films for daylight!) I’m very happy with my Cinestill results, and the night shots have a special quality to them which only a cinematic film could offer!
In practical usage I wasn’t worried about my cameras at any point. It was lucky that we saw little rain over the weekend, but even during the short mists and drizzle we encountered I had no issues with continuing to shoot. Both cameras are well sealed, and despite the electronics in the G1 I wasn’t going to set it aside and risk missing an image. At the end of the day I’d rather have a photograph than a camera – within reason/discretion!
One of the standout hiccups which would not have occurred with a digital camera was the loss of an exposed roll of Portra 160, which happened when I opened my bag to switch from the Contax G1 to the Leica M4 for a portrait. Luckily, I realised a few hours later, and after searching my tent and the press tent I realised where it must have happened, and we found it in the long grass where it had fallen. Nevertheless, this would not have happened with an SD card, which I would not have switched out at any point over the weekend, let alone every 36 shots.
After exposing my film I stored the canisters in my tent, which at times became very hot due to the humidity and climate. They were then banged around the hold of my coach back to Victoria; but they were developed and show no signs of ill use.
Overall the experience was incredibly positive, and I have no doubts that I will continue to use film for similar assignments. The feeling of the final images definitely has the aesthetic I intended, with a warmth and nostalgic association you can still only get from film. The festival environment was perfect for this aesthetic, and I look forward to photographing many more similar events, and hopefully continuing this application of the film aesthetic.
Thanks for taking the time to read about my time at Green Man Festival 2018 with film cameras. If you enjoy my images here then follow my Instagram for a constantly updated feed of my best work.