Fear the Analog

Last year when I decided to finally upgrade my camera system I was really interested in going the mirrorless route. This had less to do with an insatiable appetite for the latest and greatest, but more size or the lack there of. As an outdoor photographer the less weight I have to lug around the better in my book. In addition to squeezing a full frame sensor in a compact body, my new camera has several features my previous did not. Features such as live view, Bluetooth enabled, and the ability to see adjustments in-camera as you make them are huge in terms of getting the specific shot you want with instant feedback. As someone who remembers shooting in the days of film, this condenses the photographic process time down to almost nothing.

About a year ago at a workshop I attended, one of the presenters talked about why he enjoys shooting film. As a disciple of the old ways (manual transmissions, telemark skiing, paper books, ect.) I connected with several points made about film; the way it requires you to slow down and be more intentional about each frame. Even the development process requires a great deal of patience and work to make your original vision come to life. I left the workshop inspired to go home, dust off the old N90, and reconnect with the world of film. To take it one step further I decided to go way analog and bought a 35mm prime lens with manual focus. Armed with my stripped down kit, rolls of film, and ideas for projects I was ready to create analog magic!

Okay, confession time - despite my excitement and eagerness to dive back into film, I find myself almost paralyzed with fear. What if the exposure is wrong? What if it is out of focus? I won’t know until it is too late!?! Like many things in life technology giveth and technology taketh away. Amazing how those things that enhance our abilities can also feel like dependencies. Now this isn’t to say I’ve gone full auto, I certainly am still very conscious about my settings before pressing the shutter release. But I also realize I’ve come to rely on things like in camera histograms to let me know if I have everything dialed. Film, as I am relearning strips all that away and causes you to not only slow down the process, but appreciate a major element of photography - luck or as I like to think of it trust.

In one of my favorite photography books – Mountain Light, the author Galen Rowell talks about luck less in the sense that a photographer is in the right place at the right time, but more in that it is the “special sauce” that brings together technical proficiency, photographic vision, and light to make a great photograph that is difficult to duplicate. It is trust (luck) that you’ve put in the pre-work and made the right technical choices to translate the scene in front of you into the photograph that you have envisioned. With digital photography you don’t need all that much trust because you can see it in front of you instantaneously and make adjustments before conditions change. Film, not so much. Shooting with film you won’t know if you got everything right until you get the negatives or really until you develop prints. 

So it is time to put my big boy photography pants on, load the film into my camera, dig deep into my technical memory bank, wait for the right light, and trust the process. I’ll let you know how it turns out – in a few weeks.

Using Format