I’ve decided to shoot some film more recently to slow me down again. I purchased the Fujifilm X100 not long after it first came out – yes, I’ve been using Fujifilm X-Series cameras as far back as 5 years ago now, not just jumped on them recently! The X100 was awful when it first came out in terms of operational speed, at first I hated that, but I came to love it because it forced me to stop and think before taking a shot – very much like film – and was a total change from my dSLR where I could shoot hundreds of frames and hope one came out! It improved my photography considerably as you pretty much only got one chance to shoot what you were after because by the time it had recomposed itself ready to shoot and then re-focussed, the moment was gone again!
Now I’m in a contradicted position where Fujifilm have improved their cameras so much that it’s almost like shooting with a dSLR again, which on the one hand is great – they had to do it due to market forces and most photographers desires, but I also miss being challenged as I once was by that early X100. note: since upgrading the firmware of the X100 several times, it is considerably better than it was on release too.
I’ve been looking for alternatives, but the only options I can really see that go back to slow and steady, simple and basic is the Leica M, and I just can’t afford one of those!
So I’ve decided the other option is to try out film again. I purchased a Fujica ST605N for €1 in France and a 50mm lens (should have got a 35mm!) for around £10 on eBay. The film and batteries cost me more!!
As it’s a Fujifilm camera, I decided I should shoot Fujifilm film too. Across seemed relevant.
Since then I’ve also had a Hasselblad 503CW kind of fall into my lap, although if I want to keep it I still need to figure out a way to pay for it!
Both of these cameras are essentially stripped back to their bare minimum. Choose your film speed, then simply dial in the exposure with the aperture and shutter speed, there are no other choices and that’s exactly what I’m looking for. If Fujifilm did a digital camera like that I’d buy it in a heartbeat, and other photographers I’ve mentioned this too have actually said the same – I’m swear if the Leica M were affordable then they would sell so many of them.
Manual focus kind of sucks right now, but that’s a learning curve – I used to manual focus back in the days I last shot film, so I must be able to do it again! It is not a speed thing for me, it is an accuracy thing – especially on the Hasselblad where even at f/8 with an 80mm lens (approx. 50mm in 35mm terms) the DOF is relatively shallow, so getting it bang on can be very hard, and when you only have 12 frames, shooting 2/3 to be sure of focus isn’t something you want to be doing.
Film costs on 120 run to about £1 per shot developed (but not printed) for the 6×6 square negs from the 503, and about 30p per shot on 35mm.
Why am I wanting all this hassle then? Basically I want to refine my skills – I’m already getting quite good at guessing overall exposure levels, but thinking about exactly what to expose for and correct for within the frame, that is an acquired skill. Slowing down and actually checking and double checking not just composure, but that there also isn’t anything in the frame or the background that is going to distract or look odd, getting the horizon straight, and all those things becoming second nature because you know you can’t just keep shooting and shooting as you’ll run out of film is what I want to get out of it. I also want to learn patience to get the shot I want by actually waiting for the right moment. Spending £1 per shot suddenly makes you think a whole lot more!
I’m hoping this process will improve my photography and lead into better practices when I shoot digital. I’m also planning on doing something a bit different and unusual with film that I could conceivably do with digital, but with digital it would be far too easy and not as authentic or challenging. Until I’ve refined my idea and got a lot of practice shots out of the way I’m keeping that to myself as I’ve never seen it done before. I will show off my efforts in due course if they come off! I suspect that’s 20-30 rolls of film down the line though before I start to get something like the results I envisage and figure out what works.