Film Sensibility

Pentax 645 Transparency film Nikon LS9000 scanner
All images - Pentax 645 Transparency film Nikon LS9000 scanner

In my last post I used the phrase "Film sensibility", so what does this mean? Is it pretentious BS or does it mean something?

Well it does actually mean something and its a shorthand phrase for what Ann and I were doing with our photography back in our film days. As I have said often before , film in the digital age isn't easy to work with, with scanning and editing its a time consuming and difficult process. 

When it was universally used for picture reproduction, which pre-internet meant virtually 100% print reproduction, it did make sense. Transparencies were sent here there and everywhere and the task of getting the image into print was undertaken by repro. houses. So with labs developing the film, as photographers we only had to get some rudimentary captioning done and make sure that the material got to the right place.

However there was a cost to this. For example a two week trip to France when I was running my travel picture library would cost around £1500 in film and processing costs. Roughly around £1 per picture. As you can imagine, knowing that every time we clicked the shutter there was a quite steep cost, we would make sure that we were getting something worthwhile. No "I'll give this a try, and if it doesn't work I'll delete it, or try to fix it in Photoshop" experimentation, as happens with digital. No firing off countless frames from every angle with every lens. 

On the lens and camera front, medium-format particularly, was expensive big and heavy, mostly involving prime lenses. Carrying a bag full of them was out of the question.

So consequently, what you are seeing with all these film scan posts is the result of a selective, disciplined approach, that is the complete opposite to a snapshot, shutter pressing frenzied, "there must be something decent in this lot" way of working.

Pentax 645 Transparency film Nikon LS9000 scanner

So, a kind of pre-editing, if you like. As a result of this, there was obviously a higher success rate and the images that we would return with, were the result of a much more considered and concentrated decision making process. True, there were occasions when something may have been missed, as digital has proved that often unpromising situations can produce surprisingly good shots, but on the whole this approach worked very well. Certainly going through the material as I am currently, has revealed very consistent batches of images.

Pentax 645 Transparency film Nikon LS9000 scanner

Pentax 645 Transparency film Nikon LS9000 scanner

Much of what I learnt then has crossed over into digital. Much of what you see posted is the result of using a two prime lens kit, and as you will be aware, that is very often my outfit of choice. I also spend a long time considering each image. Its why I'll never be any good as a street photographer, since by the time I've checked my exposure and composition a few times, as I invariably do, the "decisive moment" is long gone.

However one thing that digital has changed, is I now have a tendency to shoot far too much. The liberation of not having to calculate how much all of the shots are going to cost, has meant that I take far too many pictures in any given situation. Plus as my Photoshop skills have increased, I find that I can get a satisfactory image out of virtually anything I shoot. Consequently, during my busy times in the summer, I constantly have 1000's of images that need editing and uploading, and I only usually get them all sorted in the winter, which is the case at the moment. 

I've always promised myself that I must be more selective, but until recently I haven't been able to keep that promise. However going through all this film material is finally making the point for me. Looking at sheet after sheet of transparencies has shown me that being more selctive works. It raises the quality, and actually makes editing a pleasure instead of a chore. Currently I can't wait to get to the next batch of slides, to see what we came up with. Certainly it has made the daunting task of going through all this film material a source of anticipation, rather than the mind numbing task I thought it was going to be.

Pentax 645 Transparency film Nikon LS9000 scanner

Pentax 645 Transparency film Nikon LS9000 scanner

So, to sum up, use less gear and be more selective, is actually what I mean by "film sensibility", but then that doesn't sound quite as good does it?

Pentax 645 Transparency film Nikon LS9000 scanner

Pentax 645 Transparency film Nikon LS9000 scanner

All images taken in the English Lake District. Images are © David and Ann Taylor-Hughes