Exploring the world through film photography

Deciding one day to re-visit the old days and pick up a second hand 35mm camera has breathed a new lease of life into my photography journey.

A childhood growing up with film

Let me take you back to Madrid in the late 80's, where Kodak and other now extinct film brands were alive and well. I used to really look forward to waiting for the films to be developed and never quite remembering whether Gloss or Matt was the way to go for the prints! I remember the days of the throw away camera, and of the ever cool "waterproof" throw away camera!

From these throw away cameras I "upgraded" to a basic 35mm with interchangeable rolls, 24 or 36 exposures being the most important decision to be made. I always remember as a kid feeling more like a grown-up when going for the (slightly) more expensive 36 exposures. At this point I didn't worry too much about composition or light, I just shot what I thought looked good. We had enough printed albums at home (and guess what, they are still there!) to give me ideas. My Dad was (and still is) a great photographer, and he taught me the importance of self placement. How and where you place yourself, what your vantage point is, will drastically affect your final photograph. I will cover some of those memorable shots I learned from in a future post.

Why film, why now

Fast forward to now. After following a typical photography enthusiast's journey, I heavily invested in a mirrorless system (Olympus EM1 to be exact) and tried all types of lenses, from telephoto to super wide, from macro to prime. I took loads of photos and experimented with different focal lengths, with filters, and any number of other accessories that whilst fun, can be distracting to the basics of photography. I feel this is a journey everyone goes through as they start narrowing down what part of photography they most enjoy.

After spending too much time editing photos in Lightroom and trying to get that perfect shot I realised I was spending too much time in the 'after process' and not enough time thinking about what makes a good photograph in the moment. Enter film photography. I had read a few articles about the resurgence of film and with the help of a friend, picked up an old Nikon FE2 on Ebay. Below is one of my favourite shots with the Nikon.

Timeless train, Frankfurt HbF

Timeless train, Frankfurt HbF

Having skipped the DSLR movement and headed straight into the mirrorless world, I was not used to cameras with mirrors! The 'mirror slap' as they call it was not as loud as people would lead you to believe, but loud enough to be noticed by people in a street photography context. Besides that, the manual re-wind of the film and the lack of an LCD screen completely changed my approach to photography.

Not only did it take me back to my childhood, it proved to be very useful in focusing the mind on the shot at hand. Here are the top 5 things I have learned from shooting primarily with a film camera:

1. Manual madness: the whole manual experience of the camera, from the film re-wind, to the lack of LCD, to the mechanics of the camera, completely focuses the mind on what you are trying to photograph

2. Legends of the past: it reminds you of the analogue age and actually makes you re-visit the pioneering work of the likes of Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson, providing a continual learning experience

3. Money, money, money: I've worked out every time I press the shutter it costs me €0.50 (film cost, developing, scanning). Whilst that doesn't sound like a lot it adds up, trust me. The end result: helps you decide whether the shot is really worth it or not. No more 50 shots of the same thing

4. No computers anywhere: outsourcing the developing and scanning of the film has helped me focus on just the photograph. No more lightroom, photoshop, digital storage problems. Surprisingly this gives a razor sharp focus on your photography

5. Being different rules: I quite like doing something that is very different to what the popular trends dictate. There is also quite a large following to film, much bigger than I had realised. Being part of this is not only very cool, but will hopefully connect me with other like minded individuals and allow me to continue learning from others

Below are some more samples of some recent photographs on film I have taken. Future posts will include thoughts on my current Leica M6 (yes, I did take the plunge and join the club, and oh is it so worth it), experimenting with different 35mm film types, and journeys around Germany.

Signing off from my first blog post of what I hope will be many more to come. A quick thanks to Dave Powell at Shoot Tokyo, his site was the inspiration for this one. Although I will have to change my design a bit as I made it a bit too similar! Regardless, go check out his site, he has captured some really unbelievable scenes of Tokyo.

Thanks for reading!