What I learned shooting my first roll of film in over 20 years

Digital photography is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere. The rise of social media and phone photography is fuelling digital images at an ever increasing rate. New camera bodies and lenses are on a never ending quest of improvement, and gear war fans can be found on photography forums endlessly debating the pros and cons of sharpness, sensor resolution, the meaning of light, pixel pitch, micro contrast, color rendition, etc. Technical measurebating is tedious and rather boring. Don’t misunderstand me, I love my Nikon and Fuji gear, selling my Canon gear for different reasons, but the digital process of image capture and processing is now no longer a challenge. As technology increasingly develops the challenge will continue to erode. Personally I needed an escape from the notion of pixels and sharpness. Enter the great film challenge.

Film. Old technology. No chimping (constantly looking at the back of a camera’s LCD screen). A roll of 35mm film has 36 exposures. It makes you think. It makes you consider not just aperture and shutter speeds but composition. You don’t want to waste a shot. It’s a considered decision. You have to wait to see your results. You have to learn to trust your knowledge. Now that’s a challenge. Will this make me think and be a better photographer? A better observer? A better understanding of light? Am I mad? Is this a spiritual enlightenment or just some fad that will pass? Who knows, but I’ve started.

Step 1, acquire a camera. Luckily I found a Nikon FE2 on eBay from a great seller that will fit my Nikon 35mm & 50mm D lenses. Step 2, select film. Took a chance and acquired Ilford PanF 50 B&W thinking that the grain should be fine. Step 3, find something to shoot. These photos are OK, but nothing special or seminal. Just a first attempt.

So what did I learn?

  1. Take your time and find the subject you want to shoot
  2. Really understand the light you’re shooting
  3. Shutter speeds less than 1/100 will be less sharp – no vibration reduction etc – I was guilty of this a few times
  4. I probably won’t nail exposure properly until I’ve shot 5-10 rolls
  5. I probably need to shoot several rolls of different films to understand what I like best
  6. Its easy to over expose the skies and you have less latitude to recover this in Lightroom later

Here’s some examples (click for bigger version):

000080030003 000080030005 000080030007 000080030013 000080030015 000080030016 000080030030 000080030031 000080030033 000080030038

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