My first year of shooting film Part 7
A couple of months ago I wrote a guest post about my first roll of Tri-X. In fact it was my first roll of black and white ever. I wasn’t sure about the results, thought they lacked contrast and impact. And I was definitely unaware of what might have caused the look of them. But here’s the beauty of this community: I received quite a lot of comments, people giving useful feedback and taking time to write down suggestions on how I could improve my photography. I cannot express how much I appreciate your feedback and your support, I love the discussion and it really helps me going forward.
Apart from the support and feedback there was also a nice guy named Graham, that did not only suggest that a yellow filter could be useful, he even offered me to send me his spare one! How cool is that? I am amazed by this generosity, sending his filter to someone he has never even met. And I am amazed that we are, or to keep it close, that I am able to connect to people around the world that I would not have been able to connect with 20 years ago. Yay for the internet!
I must admit that a big part of why I enjoy shooting film is being part of this community. When I started to be serious about my photography I started looking online for people to connect with, to share photos with, and to exchange tips and tricks with. I tried several media: Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. I joined several groups centred around different aspects: beginners, Leica, landscape, etc. But it was in the film community that I found most inspiration, even before I tried it myself. And with inspiration I do not necessarily mean the images, I also find lots of beautiful digital photos online, but mostly I am talking about the way people discuss their photography, what is being said about photography and how people interact. Somehow in the film community I find a language and a tone of voice that suits me. So everyone who takes the time to read my posts and helps me with suggestions, thank you for including me!
Now back to photography, lets talk about the suggestions that were made with respect to my black and white photography:
- A bit of post processing helps and is completely normal: I sometimes feel, I don’t know where it comes from, that one shouldn’t do that. Something about film should be pure? The strange thing is that I don’t have reservations about processing my digital files. I do believe that as long as you’re not in journalism anything is allowed to create an image that you like. However, somehow with film I have read too many times that people particularly like film because they don’t need post processing. So I got reminded of the fact that in achieving your preferred look post processing is normal, and that the people in the lab cannot know what you want specifically, nor have the time to fine tune every image individually.
- Use a yellow filter. As a yellow filter will reduce the amount of blue light, but not red and yellow, contrast should be increased, specifically in the skies. And as Graham kindly sent me one, I used a yellow filter on my Olympus with my next roll.
- Ilford HP5 got mentioned a couple of times: also worth a try.
- My own observation: It takes some time to get used to a certain type of (film) look. When you are used to looking at a certain type of images, trying something new can look and feel strange, and therefore wrong. Well let’s start with the ‘strange and therefore wrong’, this is of course not true. But you need confidence to stand behind something that is not mainstream. For me, being new at film photography (for how many months can one say that they are a newbie?) I need time to really evaluate the results. Ok, they look different, but is that good or bad? Is it what I want, is it a step in the right direction, or is it indeed not working out? I guess I am slowly progressing, understanding better what I like. I also notice that I should hold out my judgement for a couple of weeks. Look at my photos regularly, and see which ones keep standing out to me.
I tried to combine all suggestions in one roll 🙂 Not very scientific of me, changing more than one parameter at once, but hey, I get impatience sometimes… Just as a reminder, I shot the roll of Tri-X from the previous post with an Olympus 35 SP, and the images shot in this post were shot with that camera as well. I intended to return it when I bought my M2, but somehow I can’t seem to part with it… So this time I shot a roll of HP5, and used Graham’s yellow filter. I also did some post processing, but not with every photo (check the caption). And, although cautiously, I must say that I like the results. There is room for improvement of course, but I am enjoying black and white more than I thought. I shoot a lot of colour, because most of the time colour is what catches my eye first, but I want to explore this direction too.
So here are the results. It’s a mixture of subjects as there are a lot of days that I only take one photo. I am missing a bit of sharpness in some of the photos, but they are growing on me. Currently I have my M2 loaded with HP5+, so I am curious to see if that will make a difference. Apart from sharpness, or lack thereof, there is something I like, but I still cannot pinpoint what it is. That not only holds for the images itself, but also for shooting film in general. I get drawn to it, although the results are not always like I expected them to be. Apart from the sympathetic community, there is something else. I think it has to do with the fact that it’s like a puzzle, and I love the process of solving it. From that respect I should hope that it is going to take a long time before I can create images that I want, because maybe after that the magic is gone! Well, I don’t know, somehow it is like there is a promised land of beautiful images when I solve the puzzle of film photography 🙂 . But I am also afraid to think like that, because then I might get disappointed from having too high expectations…
Graham: thank you so much for lending me your yellow filter!
Thanks for reading, and Hamish, thanks for having me!