Confessions Of A Film Zealot VIII

Someone asked me if I still shoot film the other day. I guess that's because I don't write much about it here. Short answer - Yes, I still shoot film. I haven't done any large-format work in quite a while. Probably because I don't have a suitable project as of late. I do shoot a roll of 35mm here and there as well as some 120. I fear that those of us that still love color film will be high and dry sooner or later. My guess is that Fuji's announcement that it's out of the movie film business is really an announcement that it's out of the film business. As soon as current stocks are gone I bet 400H will be no more along with whatever else is still available from them.

That leaves us Kodak and unless someone finds out how to make color neg at some reasonable volume/cost that will be over as soon as there are no more film shooters in the movie business. One of the reasons I have always liked shooting film is just because of how it looks with no fuss and no muss. Yea I could hire someone to do post processing for me I guess but it still won't look the same and the cost of that would far exceed how much my $7 drugstore processing costs me.

I also like the cameras that the film goes in. Small, beautiful, quiet, solid, great viewfinders, simple direct controls and you don't have 90 million things distracting you from the matter at hand - the subject. No firmware fork-ups, no insane unfathomable guessing games as to why engineers programmed the camera/computer the way they did, etc, etc.

One of the reasons I love to shoot it is somewhat psychological as well. It keeps me grounded. Within a few frames of actually shooting a new roll and winding to the next frame it makes me pay more attention to what I am doing. I tend to get amazingly sloppy about making choices when I am shooting digital. Hard to do with you actually have to do something just to get to the next frame. That one action sort of makes you realize that you just made a picture. Sometimes you say to yourself - whoooooa wait a second - that sucked, I was careless and now I have one less picture I can make, better make this one count.

I know that's stupid but different strokes for different folks. For me it somehow gets my head in the game a bit more than when I have endless images and don't even have to do anything - not even change a battery for days let alone do something or make a decision on every single frame. That bleeds over a bit to my digital shooting. At least for a little while.

The other reason I still love to shoot it is to be reminded of how good the cameras, the lenses, and yes the film we all shot even 20 years ago. Damn good. When all I shot was film - when that's really all there was my "high quality" option was 4x5, 8x10, or 120 depending on enlargement size. 35mm film was only acceptable as a journalistic medium but even that was amazing stuff at reasonable reproduction sizes. Size does matter for lots of reasons, technical quality for one, aesthetic quality for another.

The image at the top was just family stuff - namely the very first crab of the season one of my daughters caught of the season a while ago. Shot a roll of Kodak Portra 160 that day. Sort of a day in the life kinda thing of my daughters. About 30 out of 36 images are what I would consider keepers. Here's the amazing part… Look reasonably good to you? Looks reasonably good to me… Does it look amazingly grainy? Way off color? Low contrast and all "fade-y"? Not to me. Looks good - especially for a shittyscan™ from Walgreen's. The funny part is that this roll of film were the remnants of a shit-load of Portra 160NC that I found stored in a box that was over a dozen years expired. Not even close to it's prime. Stored in wildly varying conditions from freezing to Texas summers in a garage during all those years of "going bad". Doesn't look instagramy to me.

This is what really old film stored in really bad conditions looks like with remotely reasonable exposure. I have no idea where all this film simulation shit gets it's inspiration. I like to have some idea of how film looks. It looks really really good - far better than OOC jpegs. Of course it has some hidden magic built in, namely "post processing" to fit the shooting conditions to it's intended output medium of file or print during that process of scanning/printing but it doesn't look whacked out. It looks "natural" and neutral. This is really what I want in terms of my base image. Simple repeatable easy no work involved to have my contact sheets look like this. That's it. It's a great workflow capable of gorgeous results.

How far have digital capture devices come in a dozen years? Compared to digital cameras I guess they have come pretty far. How far "better" are basic results and cameras versus where we were all at 20 years ago? Ummmm not that different. But hey I can shoot millions of shitty pictures and have them broadcast to the world immediately at insanely high ISO speeds with no noise… I guess it depends how you measure.

RB

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