Friday, November 29, 2013

Gordon Lewis: "Ten Reasons Why I Still Shoot Film"

I shot this 19 years ago on Venice beach in Los Angeles. I was doing a review of a Leica RE 35mm SLR for a photography magazine. My "sensor" of choice at the time was Fujichrome Velvia. This is pretty much how the original transparency looked. I didn't even lay a finger on the Photoshop saturation slider.

Even though I own and use a digital camera I still shoot film; not as much as I used to, but often enough that I keep a supply of film on hand. I'll even go a step further to state outright that I prefer film for my personal work--the stuff I shoot purely for my own personal satisfaction. Here are ten reasons why, numbered only for the sake of numbering and not in any special order.
  1. It's still available. Let's face it, if film were no longer available there wouldn't be any point in going any further, right?
  2. I enjoy the feeling of handling film cameras. Depending on the camera and the control, the feeling is smooth, precise, crisp and responsive. I get the impression of owning a much more expensive camera than it actually is.
  3. The 35mm film cameras I use most are small and light yet sturdy. I can carry a body and two lenses in the same space it takes to carry a single DSLR with a zoom.
  4. I can use top-quality lenses that are just as small, light and sturdy as the bodies. My older 35mm film cameras all use manual focus lenses. Because they're manual focus they don't need motors, can be made of metal instead of plastic, and can be a lot smaller. When is the last time you used a lens with a 49mm filter thread on your DSLR?
  5. The viewfinder is large, clear and bright. I can actually see with my eyes whether the image is in focus or not. That's a good thing too, because there's no autofocus. I have to focus by eye, yet after all these years I still do a consistently good job of it.
  6. I'm not dependent on batteries. If the battery dies only the meter dies, not the whole camera. Better yet, the batteries will last for months, not days or weeks.
  7. I like the way negative films handle highlights. The highlights compress rather than clip, which means I don't have to obsess about avoiding overexposure. In fact, I can intentionally overexpose to add shadow detail and I still won't blow out the highlights.
  8. With "only" 36 exposures per roll I tend to shoot with more forethought. There's less of a tendency to take a picture of something just because I can.
  9. Film manufacturers are still producing better films. Film processing at minilabs with Fuji Frontier or Noritsu machines is amazingly good. Pro labs are harder to find, but the better ones are still in business and able to do things you could only dream of doing with your home scanner and printer.
  10. This is major for me: Less reliance on a computer for processing and printing. I write on a computer practically all day. Why would I want to spend even more time on the computer messing around with digital files? I'll do it if I have to, but any chance I get to have someone else develop my film, scan it at high resolution, save the results onto a CD, and make a dated index print, I'll go for it.
This gentleman was enjoying a cigar while reading a digital book device. I was enjoying my Nikon FM3A.

It took me only a second or two to manually focus on this woman looking at lithographs on a table. If I had used an autofocus camera there is a good chance it would have focused on the window in the foreground. In the time it would have taken to refocus I would have lost the gesture in shadow on the far right. The color balance is also intentional. It looks exactly how sunlight this late in the day should look: warm.

This young scholar with chocolate ice cream smeared on his face was waiting for his mother just outside of Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I shot it with a Canon 7s rangefinder loaded with Kodak Tri-X. How can you not love a camera that makes it easy to get photos like this?

So that's my list. Did I miss anything?

Gordon Lewis is a photographer based-in Philadelphia, US. He has been active in photography for more than 40 years. Most of what he's learned has been from books, magazines, personal experience, and working with some of the top commercial photographers in Los Angeles. He has had scores of photos, articles, and reviews published in national magazines such as Petersen's Photographic, Camera 35, and Camera and Darkroom. This original article was appeared on his blog here.

Pin It Now!

No comments :

Post a Comment