Confessions Of A Film Zealot IX

I know I did one of these film zealot posts not too long ago. I thought another short one wouldn't hurt too much. I shot this image almost exactly a year ago, maybe a little tiny bit less - like 11 months ago. Granddaughter Leela chowing down on a slice of watermelon. I love this image not because it is the most fantastical photo I have ever made. I like it because it's my granddaughter in all her glory at 5 months old gripping a piece of watermelon with all she's got.

You can probably tell that's my hand in the lower left giving her a little help so it doesn't squeeze out of her tiny little fists. That means I shot this one handed. What's interesting is that it's with a manual focus camera really close up. I could do this because I could actually see what was in focus as I moved the camera ever so slightly back and forth even with the lens wide open at f1.4. So what's better - a camera with a zillion little focus points with some dot in the lower left that lights up when in focus - alternatively trying to align and let them "AF" or actually being able to see it yourself all over a big giant screen in absolute real time?

Going into technical details I specifically used a Nikon FE with a 50mm Non-AI 1.4 of the all metal variety wide open. I was loaded up with some fresh Kodak Portra 160. A camera made in 1979 with a lens made in 1966. The combo cost under a hundred bucks. The film cost about $5 and processing at Walgreens another $7. I swear I wished any of my cameras as small as the FE performed this well, were half the pleasure to actually use, had a finder that allowed such a great view of the subject, and had color and dynamic range anywhere near this. See the bright mid-day sun lighting up the background. Exposure was manual - the light wasn't changing. I was in open shade. I remember just taking a reading off of the grass or something in that shade. Set it and forget it. I shot the rest of the day without changing a thing since the light was the same.

Had to shoot this.

and this…

Nothing complicated or special or setup just snapshots on a spring day. I probably shot too many of the watermelon and the chair that are about the same but not near as many if I were shooting digital. I didn't even wrap up the 36 exposure roll. That's unusual for me. I had a couple left. Shot random stuff. Here is one I shot during an extremely long period after a spring storm where there was no power. Yep hand held via only that torch and a few candles at f1.4 ISO 160.

I have said it before and will say it again. We have gained a few things with digital but have lost a lot of ground as well. For the most part the cameras are much bigger, more expensive, and not nearly as pleasurable to use. Controls are clunky and in a lot of cases don't really help you work fast nor do they allow you to make pictures any better than you could have before. Sensors have given us higher and higher ISOs with not a whole lot of progress in other areas. Color has become do-it-yourself - not a great thing in my book and overall image aesthetics are maybe on par. Oh look mom no noise at 100% - ummm okay digital wins. Oh yea this is amateur 35mm shit we are comparing isn't it.

Do yourself a favor. Grab a really really fantastic 35mm from the 70's in whatever flavor floats your boat. Small manual metal SLR - a "full frame" great-great grandfather of the X100 like a Canon, Minolta, Ricoh, Olympus, or Yashica fixed lens rangefinder (tiny) and a roll of Portra 400. It's fun, it's cathartic, it will refocus (hahaha) and uncomplicated your photographic thinking and you may even demand a little more from the people supplying us every year with new improved better stuff for thousands of dollars a pop.


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