What can you learn shooting film for 6 months?

pdh

Legend
Jan 2, 2011
Ok how about a little thought experiment ...

Imagine for a moment that film had never been invented and digital imaging with cameras much as we have now had existed for, hmm, say 50 years ... Or if that's too much of a stretch, imagine that about 10 years ago all film manufacture had ceased ...


Now, someone happens along to a nice forum like sc and says hey guys, I really want to improve my photo skills, how do I slow things down and really get to learn the art and craft?

What would people recommend to that person under our imaginary circumstances ?
 

pdh

Legend
Jan 2, 2011
Of course you don't even have to indulge in counterfactuals. You just have to think of the person posing the question as killRamsey - someone who simply doesn't want to use film
 

i.am.mine

Regular
Feb 7, 2012
I haven't read the article, but I will. In the meantime, quick thoughts on the responses:

"Film is just a medium." Yes. But that's not what makes using it helpful as a learning tool, in my mind. It's the cost -- and by "cost" I mean both time and money. I've said it before here, but when I picked up film again (and used it alongside the X100), each time I went to press the Minolta shutter I had this thought of "is this worth seventy cents?" That does NOT happen with a digital camera. Everything else can be mimicked with digital (as has been mentioned) or doesn't matter, like the image "quality" (as has been mentioned). Digital is so nice to use because it doesn't cost so damned much per shot, and doesn't take hours / days / weeks to see the results. But the moral of this particular story is that there was a learning baby that was thrown out with the cost bathwater (to complicate a metaphor), and for people who DIDN'T spend 1971-1989 shooting exhaustive volumes of film and thus learning their craft, picking up a film camera and making yourself use it pays dividends.

Poo poo it all you want, but people will keep discovering it over and over again, because it's true. Really does help to slow down and think, and film doesn't give you an option to cheat.
Thanks Kyle! You totally got the point of the article.
 

i.am.mine

Regular
Feb 7, 2012
I still don't get this idea that what people need is to have their options limited by the camera/medium.
Switch digital camera on, set fixed ISO, set to aperture priority, take pictures. If you find you can't do that, and are inevitably drawn to faffing about with settings, then see your gp because there's obviously something wrong with your frontal lobes. (they are the seat of volitional control).
As for the cost of film ... Well, the incredible depreciation of new cameras is a topic oft-covered here and elsewhere
you still don't get the point of the article at all!
and the funny thing is that i agree with you, but first try to understand what i said :)
 

i.am.mine

Regular
Feb 7, 2012
Side note: I think people are mistaking "going slowly and deliberately (by using a film camera, as it happens) has helped me" for "man, this film stuff I've just re-discovered is the awesomest and I wish we would all just stop using digital."
i could'nt say it in a better way ;)
 

i.am.mine

Regular
Feb 7, 2012
Giorgio,

A very well considered article - thank you for sharing. I see the thread has brought out the usual suspects - Bill, Kyle, Barrie and Paul with their insightful commentary. Now it's time for Mark to blunder in and bring down the tone and possibly lose the subject of the thread completely - in the absence of a :dunce: emoticon I think I'll go with :woohoo1:

I agree with most every word in your article. Much of it sounds like the longest foreword ever written - a.k.a. my scratching in "Single in January" photobook from 2011 (as mentioned by Barrie earlier). Much of it still rings true. Again I agree with all you have said but would add that what has changed for me over time is the aesthetic of B+W photography.

I have experienced a realness or tangibility with film that really appeals to me. Submergence in the world, feeling ultra-sensitive to your surroundings (can do this with any camera I know), then you advance the film and you have a tabula rasa (a.k.a. 'clean slate') a small piece of film keen and so latent, you size up a scene - add or subtract to your frame as per your intended message and figure the exposure (either by 'blind' adherence to your average meter or reading your zones based on what you want as 18% grey), but then …oh yes then….you slowly press your finger and things explode. Light floods through the hole you determined of the lens and the silver halide crystals are excited - some more so than others. Then, a small sigh as the shutter closes so quickly. Back behind the black curtain. There is an image that remains in my mind's eye about that 1/125sec, and it remains locked there in the dark. Then I advance the film again…

I hold the image in my mind's eye. And latter there is the anticipation (and art) of development - another separate essay right here - Then to spy the result and the memory returns. The world in miniature, silver halide in suspended animation seemingly in only two dimensions. In your hands (well gloved or within the plastic) is something very real and precious and fragile and sensitive. Crystals arranged in a pattern in response to light. In a pattern that you witnessed in the world and translated into tones. There is something very real and present about this to me. Every negative is individual and unique. I look at my negative very different to my RAW files. Granted the latter are 'ordinarily' sharper and more vibrant to look at but I am left feeling a little distant from them.

Generations from now can hold these negatives and simply project light through them again to replicate what I once saw.

Generations from now might still have the codec to break into my RAW files…..
Great words. You described something you can't describe ;)
 

KillRamsey

Hall of Famer
Jun 20, 2012
Hood River, OR
Kyle
Now, someone happens along to a nice forum like sc and says hey guys, I really want to improve my photo skills, how do I slow things down and really get to learn the art and craft?

What would people recommend to that person under our imaginary circumstances ?
You would have options that rely on self discipline, instead of having that discipline enforced on you by the technological limitations of a non-digital medium. You'd say something like "Go somewhere pretty, and limit yourself to 36 shots. You only get 36. Set your camera to all manual, bring only one prime lens, and leave when you have taken your 36th shot. No chimping, wait til you get home to view the results."

For some people it might work, they would stick with it. Others would be there and would see more and more things they want to shoot, or the same things from more angles etc, and would cheat a little.

Also, even people who stuck with it and stopped at 36 shots would know really quickly (that day) how they did, and could then go out and try again sooner. That's not a bad thing in and of itself, but having to wait a week for film just ups the "be careful dammit" ante even farther.

And it would be similar to using film, in the ways that we've said matter here: it would force some forethought and care into what would is more often a haphazard and careless process. But for the reasons listed above (and more that I can't think of, no doubt), it wouldn't be the same. So the argument here isn't that you can't go this with digital cameras, it's that it's easier and better to force this kind of process on yourself with film. Because film is a harsh old mistress. Beg all you want, she ain't gonna get 100 shots on a roll of 36.
 

Lightmancer

Legend
Aug 13, 2011
Sunny Frimley
Bill Palmer
I can only speak for myself, but two of the three film cameras I currently own are Leicas. They are totally manual - no meter, no af, not a single electronic part. I shoot them "Sunny-16", and derive great pleasure from doing so and getting it right. They happen to be film cameras, so for me it is a form of therapeutic alchemy - brass, cloth, glass, gelatin, photo-sensitivity, chemistry and soul. I decide what is a "correct" exposure, not an onboard microchip programmed with a set of parameters by a man in a far away land. When I get it right, it is all my own work, and all the more soul-satisfying for that.

That is what I mean by the "journey". Bear in mind, by the way, that there are film cameras with as much if not more electronic wizardry than many digital cameras - ever used a Nikon F6? But there are no digital cameras with the simplicity of my Leicas.

Think of it as driving an MGB or a Jaguar XKR. Both get you from A to B but one is more engaging - more engrossing - than the other. There is an unalloyed pleasure to be had on a crisp spring morning in that MGB on a windy country lane, double-de clutching at just the right moment, picking the perfect line and feathering then opening the throttle in perfect harmony with the sweep of the road. I get the same buzz from a perfect exposure with a fully manual film camera.

But that's me... ;)

Sent from another Galaxy
 

pdh

Legend
Jan 2, 2011
you still don't get the point of the article at all!
and the funny thing is that i agree with you, but first try to understand what i said :)

and you still don't get the point of my posts at all!
and the funny thing is that i agree with you, but first try to understand what i said :)
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Jul 13, 2011
Lexington, VA
Steve
Suppose you shoot with the Nikon F6:

http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Nikon-Products/Product/Film-Cameras/1799/F6.html

You can be just as automated as any DSLR. The only real difference is that you can't chimp so you can never be sure you got the shot. Maybe it's the very decision to shoot film that changes your approach. It may be, however, that it may work for some and not others. This thread may just be determining who's who.
 

Lightmancer

Legend
Aug 13, 2011
Sunny Frimley
Bill Palmer
That's a good point. I know that when I shoot b&w film I "see" monochrome motifs because I know deep down that that my palette is limited to shades of grey. It's not the same when shooting colour film or digital, even when set to mono - I always know I can revert to raw and "start again".

The point I'm making is that the true difference is between my ears, not at the film plane...
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Jul 13, 2011
Lexington, VA
Steve
The OP's article went on to talk of darkroom work. There is definitely a level of satisfaction making a print, a physical object, that PS and a nice printer can't quite match. Still, the level of control available in digital is more extensive and more available to a wide range of people. Some would not want to lose that level of control. There is more Zen than Zones in this thread. Whatever sucks you into the image making process will give you a level of focus that will result in better pictures, regardless of methodology.
 

i.am.mine

Regular
Feb 7, 2012
The OP's article went on to talk of darkroom work. There is definitely a level of satisfaction making a print, a physical object, that PS and a nice printer can't quite match. Still, the level of control available in digital is more extensive and more available to a wide range of people. Some would not want to lose that level of control. There is more Zen than Zones in this thread. Whatever sucks you into the image making process will give you a level of focus that will result in better pictures, regardless of methodology.
Nice point. It's just a method to improve your skills like many others. You don't have to do it if you don't want to ;)
 

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