My latest camera purchase was one I didn’t see coming: A lovely Yashica-A twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera. But when I saw it in the case at Englewood Camera, with a $125 price tag on it, it got my attention. Then when I looked closer, I just couldn’t not take it home with me.
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I went to sleep last night thinking about the 120mm lens that’s coming on Monday for my Pentax 645, and apparently, my brain decided to latch onto the notion of film photography while I slumbered. I woke-up this morning in the midst of a dream where I was interviewed for a podcast about why I like film photography. Weird, I know, but it did get me thinking about the subject in a fully conscious state, and since I’d come-up with something interesting during the dream, it seemed to be something I should write down.
It’s been nearly 20 years now that film photography started its downward trajectory, and while the vinyl-record-like resurgence of film is encouraging, and all signs suggest that film has stabilized,* it’s not been helped by a general decline in photography over the past 10 years or so — essentially the point at which smartphones came onto the scene, and became everyone’s default camera.
You can argue the timing, and you can argue the facts, but one thing is tough to refute: Camera shops have basically died off, helped by the rise of e-commerce, and we’re left with scant choices when it comes to photography gear in general, and film photography gear specifically. So what’s a photographer to do?
Just over a year ago now, SmugMug announced the acquisition of Flickr from Verizon’s Oath (née, Yahoo). At the time, I didn’t much care, frankly. My use of Flickr was the same as many people who were suckling at the free storage teat that the site offered; I had (and still have) about 4,000 digital photos uploaded which I put there for accessibility to family and clients.
Then late last year, SmugMug started sending lots of e-mail to me and others: The free ride was, in large part, coming to an end. Or, at least, a truncation — only the newest 1,000 photos would be retained unless I acted promptly. I hemmed. I hawed. And in the end, I paid. Why?
I’ve known about light (technically, exposure) meters for a very long time. They seemed — and still seem — like some old-skool relic from a bygone age. And yet companies like Sekonic and Gossen still make them, which sort of implies that someone still uses and buys them. Count me now among those people. Why on Earth would I choose to buy a light meter? Well, it’s complicated.
When I started rediscovering film photography earlier this year, I went on a hunt — initially to find my Polaroid OneStep, and in the process, discovering all my old cameras, including my Minolta XG 1, and Canon Rebel G (500N). I also found something else.
In my very short time shooting film in the 21st century, I’ve tried a number of film stocks. Certainly by no means anything even remotely close to what’s available, but I’ve tried to make informed choices about my films, and one seems to have floated to the top of the pile: Lomography Color Negative 800, or as I tend to call it, “Lomo 800.”
Why do I like this film so much?
In early April, I did a blog post on Polaroid, right at the very beginning of my renewed interest in film photography. (On another note, I can’t believe it’s only been a month and a half; it feels like it’s been a year, given everything I’ve been doing.) As fascinated by and happy as I am about the former Impossible Project (now Polaroid Originals), I’ll be honest: I’ve been pretty disappointed in the reality of it. Just yesterday, I read this blog post over at Emulsive that really resonated for me.
Late last week, I received back from The Darkroom my latest batch of film processing. It was a mixed batch; four cameras, six rolls. And the results were also mixed. To be sure, there were some photos I really liked and am proud of. And there were also a ton of duds I didn’t even bother uploading to Flickr. But this process has gotten me thinking about film, about control, and about those results.
Since getting my “new” Pentax 645, I’ve been thinking about all the wonderful things that would allow me to get more good out of it. A flash. A zoom lens. One or two long, fixed focal length lenses. A teleconverter. Maybe that 120mm with macro focus. To be sure, all of these things would indeed bring more utility to the camera. And then, I started thinking about my Kodak Duaflex II — and about my music production journey, process, habits, and thoughts. Then, I started to see parallels that deeply concerned me.