The Apex of Film and Digital Photography

I’m first and foremost a photographer, I love to take pictures.  It took me a long time to allow myself the freedom to proclaim that to myself never mind sharing it here on my journal.  I am a photographer, I love the act of taking a photograph.

I’m also a very conflicted photographer.  Many years ago I used various film cameras.  To be honest with you, I can’t remember what cameras they were or what film was in them.  Back then I shot photographs the way most people do, to capture a moment or an event that was special for me.  Whether it was the family vacation or an event like Christmas or a birthday.  I still have many of those images from my past.  They’re not very good technically but they do preserve special memories  so they’re valuable.

In the past decade or so I moved on to digital and that brought me to a new level of passion for photography.  I don’t know why I caught the photography bug but I caught it hard, another part of the reason I feel I can call myself a photographer.

I’ve now returned to film. I think I did because I gained a new level of confidence in my image making through my experience with digital. Digital gave me the technical experience to understand the basics of photography, exposure and composition.  Not that all my images were good.  I just learned what and how my camera worked.  Digital helped me learn faster.

Film is harder technically and emotionally.  With film, gone are the opportunities for instant feedback after each shot and the chance to make corrections if I missed the light or subject.  Now, with film, I have to be far more deliberate and sure of what I might be capturing.  With film I have to anticipate the result. Of course I can always take a second or third shot if I want to bracket an exposure, but the moment could just as easily have gone by.

So I continually ask myself why I shoot film, why have I gone backwards?  In truth, I haven’t completely embraced film.  I still love to shoot digital.  I have a couple of digital cameras and in fact may buy another one or two in the next year or so.  But I do love the challenge and character of film images.  I do love the textures and imperfections.  I do like the analog process, the physicality of film itself. The fact that I’m capturing an image just like it has been done for the last one hundred plus years.   I compare my digital files and my scanned negatives and I can see the unique qualities of each.  I also recognize the convenience of digital and the investment in my time and resources to shoot film.

Truth is, I love both.  I am grateful for both mediums.  It’s a great time to be a photographer. To have all the choices we have today.  To be able to embrace amazing digital and processing technologies and at the same time to embrace the legacy of film and the amazing variety of film available.  At the moment, we may be at the apex of this wonderful ability to have it all available to us.  I suspect that we could move to an era where film becomes less available with a narrower  choice while at the same time seeing greater and more wonderful capabilities in digital cameras.  At some point I suspect the choices will tilt much more towards digital cameras and film will become much more of a cult medium.  We’ve already seen it in audio technology with CD’s and now downloadable music while at the same time there is a small but stable and perhaps growing community of music lovers embracing vinyl.  It’s kind of funny because I remember buying master editions of LP’s back in the day and the best turntables, amplifiers and speakers to get the purest sound quality possible.  Today’s iPods have better sound  than we could ever hope to hear in the good old days from vinyl. But there is a unique ambience with vinyl that just seems to match with the old music.  Hearing old digitally remastered songs from the past somehow takes away some of the inherent qualities of the music itself. Some things are just not meant to be perfect.  So it is too with film and digital images.

So while I love to shoot film, I’m also a realist and understand it will be increasingly difficult to keep it as my primary medium.  But I’m going to do all I can to maximize my use of it while the going is good.  I also know that it would mean lost opportunities to go back to film and completely ignore digital.  There are cameras and technologies I want to use.  There are different and new challenges with the emerging technologies in digital photography.  I’d be a fool to ignore the benefits that come with being open to using the medium that meets my technical or emotional needs.

The most important thing…take photographs every day with whatever suits you best.

Thanks for reading!

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