To those that participated; thank you for rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty!
In the immortal words of Harry Callaghan, "do you feel lucky punk?". However, this shouldn't be about luck, this is a test of your skills in a tricky environment: Mid summer, Adelaide, one roll of 35mm (not Xpan) or 120 (up to 6×9) tranny film, one morning to shoot. Midday we process and sleeve, 4pm meet back at Atkins to choose your best frame and a discussion of what everyone shot. From there the Atkins will scan and prepare prints with minimal editing and host and exhibition during the following month. We will gather votes over the month for an informal 'peoples choice award' Are you up to it...?
The cost of entry includes the roll of film and processing.
Friday, January 31st, 9.30am pick up your film and head off afar a quick chat. 12.30pm with a return to the lab for processing at 4pm for review and discussion until 5pm.
To book for the Film Challenge and other Summer School sessions, click here.
For more information on the Summer School click here.
Over coffee or tea we will discuss film scanning methods and review the 5 methods we use here at Atkins. They all have their pros and cons and are worth reviewing. We are breaking our 'last friday of the month rule' this month, let's pretend it is a leap year! Paul will lead this discussion with demonstrations.
Where: AtkinsTechnicolour, 89 Fullarton Rd Kent Town, SA When: Friday, March 1st 2012, 4pm – 5.30pm Cost: $0, no need to book, just bring your ideas.
Every year I find myself heading off to Kodak's head quarters in Rochester New York for their prolab conference. It is a swell affair that fuels me with ideas. I always visit other labs on the trip, and invariably enjoy a wander with the camera. This last trip I felt like bringing my Mamiya7 120 film camera. I love how it feels in the hand, I love the aperture priority, the rangefinder focus and the big negatives it produces.
I am not a film nut. I use a Nikon d700 most of the time and I often travel with a Lumix LX3. But this trip I wanted to see New York differently.
The film I chose was Kodak Portra 400. I broke down the pro packs of 5 rolls into singles so the airport security theatre could inspect without X-ray. And this was to be my first and last surprise: At every security checkpoint, the guards were happy to feel the rolls, and do an explosives test. No questions asked. All I had to say was "this is high speed film, can you please hand inspect". Bingo.
So what was the downside of shooting film? As you would expect flexible ISO was the thing I missed most, although it only caught me out once when I wanted to make the ubiquitous subway photos. In the evening I left the camera behind. I could have opted for higher speed film, but that was not part of my plan.
Managing large rolls of 10 exposures was a bit fiddly, but I shot a lot less and a lot more deliberately. In total I shot about 11 rolls, or about 107 frames. There were few repeats, and few mistakes. Changing the film on the fly is an exercise in dexterity, but years of experience using a Mamiya Press on the racetrack came flooding back and I never missed an opportunity. The camera did not attract attention, and it's near silent "plink" sounding shutter was never noticed. A few saw me winding on, as that lever makes quite a sweep when advancing 7cm of film. The Mamiya7 hangs well from your shoulder and nestles behind your arm, it is light enough to not impede progress in a crowd, and quick to draw up as the strap comes from the right grip, so you find it easily.
I slipped back into the habit of prefocusing, where you judge the distance to subject as you draw the camera up and move the focus to suit and in the same action, checking the aperture suits. For me it was either wide open or f8. All that was left to do was compose and squeeze off a shot. No waiting for AF to hunt, no checking the LCD for the results, no options to tempt.
Actually the option I did struggle with was I kept switching it off for fear of killing the battery. Which is really dopey because it takes months to flatten the battery in the Mamiya. I must learn to leave it on. But years of cautious digital use is hard to shed. What about the results?
I don't think I'm the most objective fellow, I have spend most of my life shooting film. I've pretended to be Ansel Adams lugging my 5x4 kit through the bush and Henri Cartier-Bresson with an Leica M4P in Las Vegas. So perhaps when I say I loved the experience of working with film again I'd been on a sentimental journey... I do like the way colour neg falls off to shadow and pointing it into the sun produces a look that digital struggles with. The physics of medium format gives the images a 'big' feeling, depth of field is shallower, lens boca is more effective. That 80mm standard lens (the only lens I have for it) is gold. It is a grand look.
And there is so much room to move inside the frame, so much resolution. In our experience, 35mm film through an average camera can be scanned to 25 megapixels, and there is room for six 35mm frames in one 6x7! So a big print is like looking through a window. Will I do it again: yes, why not? It is a possible choice, at least in the near future. Will I shoot digital: hell yes, it is fun, fast, flexible. What is my ideal camera: if LeicaM gets a sensor as good as the D800, I'd sell one of my kids.
If you want to see more from my trip, follow this link to Flickr.
PS - Different story but, I worked with Simone Hanckel on our fantastic new sample images we have been using this year, and I shot both D700 and the Mamiya7 with Portra400. Simone's work was astounding as usual, my D700 shots were ok, but I spent the better part of a day working them to get the look and feel I was after...
But the 120 film shots were perfect, I gave the film to John Clarke in our C41 department, he processed and passed to our film scanning department and Karen Tilbrook did here usual great work, and bingo the look and feel was precisely what I had wanted. Not only did I shoot fewer photos, but the result was easier and as good if not better.
Was that me wanting a film look from my photographs, or is it still awesome...?
An interesting comment from one of the contestants of "Photo Finish", the ABC reality competition TV show. This episode involves the contestants shooting lo-fi with Lumo, Holga and Diana cameras. All three contestants enjoyed shooting film and the results were interesting. At the show wrap up, the winner stated "photography is film"...all three contestants seemed to have no experience in shooting film, but their day shooting film really inspired them. Can film really save itself? Will they keep shooting film?
I just returned from New York, and I chose to shoot medium format film. I had a blast. Working with the limits of aperture priority only, fixed iso, and manual focus was wonderful. The only restriction I experienced was iso, when I wanted to shoot in the subway. But for street work it was perfect.
What I loved mostly was the sense of importance I found myself putting on each shot. It really slowed me down, I was more considerate. I loved prefocusing and prejudging the aperture needed, it meant that when the camera was put to my eye I could shoot instantly without focus hunting or exposure consideration.
Is this a passing love affair for me...?
Well I know I am not getting 'married' to film, but it is an old love I cannot leave, I will continue to shoot it around using the D700, and perhaps until I can afford my M Leica digital which, rightly or wrongly, I am holding as my holy grail.
Back to the TV show "Photo Finish, It is doing a great job in promoting photography, printing and professionalism. What a great opportunity for our industry. Well worth watching.
We see quite about of Lumography shooters. Our film processing is kept quite busy with c41 (print film), e6 (slide film) and black and white at the moment. But I hope more people get married to film and enough have their affairs so we can keep processing it.