Getting it all Wrong to Get it Right

During the process of relearning the multitude of things about film and film cameras I’ve forgotten over the past decade (since I went digital), I have stumbled across photographs in the computer that have languished forgotten in obscure folders for years. Pictures like this one, which is terribly underexposed and therefore by today’s rules of engagement, useless. There was no better one taken at the time so the picture was ignored after downloading, lucky in fact not to have be deleted. Found only by accident because it was in a folder with older negative scans

With film I find myself constantly revisiting, reprinting, and reviewing the negatives  and when also is reviewing the scans one needs to look closer, it’s more labour intensive, requires more concentration, which is how this one was discovered.

In this instance the gross underexposure has worked (If the truth be known, the image is probably better for the mistake than if it had been correctly exposed) giving it a very W. Eugene Smith kind of aesthetic and I have always admired Smith’s work.

The camera is my old 5D and the lens is a cheap Sigma 28-300mm, which makes the picture a good example of money not being the key to a good image. To add to the lack of professional expertise, it was shot directly into the sun and through the window of our hotel in Gdansk.


Glory Days

Still being nostalgic with today’s image as well as staying with film. This was shot in Melbourne around 2001. I’m not sure what exactly was going on but all of a sudden there were these two women dressed in period costume who were happy to be photographed. They affected a pose and waited patiently while I took light meter readings with a hand-held light- meter, then manually set the camera’s aperture and shutter speed while composing and focusing with a waist level viewfinder. The camera is my trusty Bronica SQA 6×6 (which I still have and still use), a camera that has survived in almost pristine condition despite the almost constant use up until recently (I think it’s about 35years old). While robust, the camera can be difficult to quickly focus accurately, which is why patience on the part of the person posing and the photographer is a prerequisite.


Bronica SQA, Kodak Tri-X, ASA 400 120 roll film

In The Moment

Financial District of New York in the late 1990’s, and as you can see, I’ve always made pictures that have the appearance of being carefully choreographed. Henri Cartier-Bresson said that the best method of taking pictures with both decisive action and an interesting background was to find the interesting location and wait for the moment to happen, which is what I did here.


The film is Tri-x, and that’s all the info I can find.

A Very Different Creative Act

It’s no secret that I’m a confirmed digital photographer, who on occasion shoots film.

Processing today’s image got me thinking about the whole digital vs. analogue thing, not about which is better or more relevant, but about the differences. I make no distinction as to which is the better medium, each has ardent followers, whereas I’m rather ambivalent about it all. However, today’s picture gave me pause because it seems to me that it is a striking example of monochrome analogue photography. Ignore the grain and warm toning and look at the smoothness with which highlights blend with the mid tones. And the blacks seem to have a depth I rarely see in digital images. Also, the image is not sharp at all, yet the focus is perfect, and finally, it looks like old technology, because it is. This last dated technology look I think is the main difference, it’s subtle and difficult to define because Photoshop users such as myself can do wonders with a digital image, but more often than not even well worked pictures look like someone has done wonders with them in post processing.

I will admit it could only be nostalgia tugging at the heartstrings, and yes, I will endeavor to create a digital image that looks like film, but I expect most of the heavy lifting will need to be done in camera if it’s to be done at all. This expectation stems from a past when I only used B&W film. Like so many others at the time I trained myself to see the world viewed through the camera’s viewfinder in the same tonal range of black and whites as the film stock and it showed in the final result.

I now think in colour and digital post-processing, it’s a very different creative act.

The link below might be of interest to some×20-inch-camera-in-10-hours/

Canon EOS5, 50mm, Fomapan 200asa film, Rodinol developer.