Thursday, December 26, 2013

4 Reasons To Consider Moving Back To Analog SLRs

AFP PHOTO/Ben Stansall

I realize this post might be consider heresy on a digital photography website and yet, I type about moving away from all digital and incorporating some old-fashioned analog (film) cameras in your photo kit. I’m not advocating a worldwide ban on digital, nor do I think all you young kids need to get off my lawn and pull up your pants. I’m not that old yet (but really, pull up your pants). I do see some value in picking up a film camera on the cheap.

It Can Help You Learn

I teach photography and I see both sides of this concept. On one hand, I learned in the days of film and the steep cost for making mistakes forced me to learn to see light, think about it, quantify it and set my exposure accordingly. That way works and has for over a century.

But digital allows for instant feedback and to see cause and effect in real-time with Live View modes. This can also help but can also be a crutch. There is no right or wrong way between digital and film which is why I state it “can” help you learn. It can also frustrate the heck out of you.

Takeoff and Landing

This is my personal reason for digging through my Dad’s stuff to find the old camera I handed down to him over a decade ago. I posted a picture of beautiful Seattle from a flight while on approach and a friend on Facebook busted me for being below 10,000’. I like to follow rules and not have to hide my camera (or phone) as if a criminal on a plane. That is why I am going back to film.

I travel a lot, usually stepping on a plane once a week at least. I plan my seat assignment to get me in front of the wing and engine and then to take advantage of light as well as topography below. I think too much. And a number of times this past year I have witnessed beautiful scenes out the window I wish I could capture. A lot of those are near takeoff and landing when “approved electronic devices need to be shut off…”.

My old camera, now returned from my Dad, will be put to good use in the skies over Seattle, LA, Portland and number of other locations. I wish I had one in Dubai. I wish I had one in Costa Rica. Now I have a small solution to a modern problem.

Always In Your Car

How many times have you wished you had a camera in your car? If “Zero”, then skip this one. I would love to leave a camera in my car that can take excellent photos but not make me cry for months if it is stolen. It would also be nice to not have to tote my big DSLR from the house to the car as often as I do.

Always having a camera at the ready in the car can serve many purposes. From kids doing silly things to documenting a traffic accident for insurance purposes. And the advantage of the film camera is the batteries will likely never die. It’s always ready and it’s always there. Heat can be a problem with this one, though (film doesn’t like heat that DSLRs simply shrug off).

12×12 Photo Marathons

Have you heard of the 12×12 Vancouver Photo Marathon? From everything I’ve heard, it’s awesome and I would really love to go next year. The marathon is a 12 hour competition where each participant is given a roll of 12 exposure film and each hour a new theme is announced. Participants have one hour to be as creative as they can be interpreting the theme and then executing a shot.

Participants get one shot at each theme. Just one. When was the last time you limited your shooting to one, well-thought-out shot? It sounds tough, fun and well worth the cost to pick up an analog camera.

Your Ideas

I’m planning on jumping back into the film camera world but not abandoning my beloved digital camera because it serves a purpose to me. What reason might you have for picking up and using a film camera?

Peter West Carey is a world traveling photographer who now is spending a large amount of time going back through 6 years of travel photo and processing them like he should have to start with. He is also helping others learn about photography. This original article was published on Digital Photography School.

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  1. These are amazing. Thank you! I've never been to SF, but when I see these I can't help but think about Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series.

  2. Great post! - about 90% of the photography we shoot with for the magazine relies on the depth and feel of medium format film photography. It really does have a different feel to it. Plus if you want to get into medium format photography without having to sell your house (something like that) - then film is the perfect route to take. Now as far as leaving one of those cameras in the car........