Film and Smartphones

If you read the photographic internet you might be forgiven for thinking that photography was all about DSLR's 'versus' mirrorless, the benefits of in body IS compared to lens IS, face recognition, high ISO performance and all the other 'fluff' that so engages people on blogs, review sites and forums. However it's a bit simpler than that, how to capture a two-dimensional image that we photographers (and somebody else) might like to look at. And over the years from the first attempts by Daguerre and Fox Talbot to preserve that image there have been many ways to do that. I have to say I'm amazed at what some people write about concerning how they feel unable to do that simple thing without the latest technology. And yet somehow some of the worlds greatest photographers created some of the greatest images with none of that.

Photography as an art form is basically about using our eyes and our brain. Cartier-Bresson is rumoured to have said that the only creative act in photography is pressing the shutter button, but I don't subscribe to that. It is however good shorthand for the process involved. Choosing a location, choosing a subject, a lens, an aperture, a shutter speed, an ISO rating and above all timing when to press the shutter, or tap the screen. In essence it is that final activity that records the image, but there's a whole lot more that goes into it, which the more we do it the more instinctive it gets.

And for me, very little of that has to do with 'DSLR's 'versus' mirrorless, the.....' etc. etc. Regular readers of my ramblings will know that the simpler it is, the better I like it. On of the reasons I like smartphone shooting so much is those large screens help me to compose the picture, pretty much the most important thing as far as I'm concerned and then commit the image to the digital memory. No fiddling, no changing lenses, no scrolling through menus. Many would disagree but for me that's pretty much 'pure' photography. But now I've re-connected with another way to capture images that I used for what is still the majority of my serious photographic years, shooting on film. 

OK, it's complicated to actually get a viewable image and it takes lots of noxious chemicals, some money and either a scanner or a printer to get something viewable, but the actual picture taking process is very simple. I don't have to turn my Leica R5 on, I just focus and press the shutter. And after pressing that shutter I look for the next shot. I can't see what I've shot and it could be a while before I do, but I actually like that. For example I went out yesterday with the R5, shot about 12 images, because my hope that I will shoot far less on film, is proving to be the case. So the camera went back in the cupboard because I've got another 24 frames to go before I can rewind the film and think about getting it developed. So, it could be after Christmas before I see what I've shot. Now I could have taken the same shots with my phone, so I would have had something to see immediately, but I'm actually happy to wait and get a surprise, pleasant or otherwise. 

I have taken this film camera + smartphone combination out before and whether I choose to shoot on both is a decision I make on the spot. Yesterday I chose to shoot only on film, before I didn't. Next time...... who knows. I can't really explain why, but I find it a real pleasure to use these two very different ways of creating images. One rooted firmly in the modern world and the other seriously 'old school'. The phone thing is amazing because just after I create the image it starts uploading it to the cloud, so I'm backing up as I go. I can, if I so wish, upload it to social media or even send it directly to several of my stock libraries. I don't but I could if I wanted to.

I maybe don't know why I enjoy this so much, but I know why I wanted to try taking photographs this way. Basically, I was getting stale. Shooting familiar subjects in a way that was very much in my comfort zone. Now I may well not be about to create avant-garde images or do produce images that are radically different from what I've created before, but at least the process will be different. And in the case of film, I do like the idea of having my images as actual things rather than zero's and ones stored on magnetic tape that needs a whole pile of other stuff to make them visible. OK, there's not a whole lot to see with a colour negative, but at least something is visible without the need for electricity. 

So is this some indication that before long all the digital cameras will go? Well probably not, but I'm not as certain about that as I once was. Because I do remember my early days of exploring photography with my first serious camera, a Pentax ME super. And back then I shot a lot less, but I really treasure those early images. Because there were only a few of them they seemed to be more significant and somehow more important to me. And that's what I'm rediscovering with film and smartphones. Again with the phones I really don't shoot much. And again I can't really explain why, but I suspect it has something to do with those large screens. It is like holding up a small print in front of me and the whole way of taking a picture with one actually makes the capturing of an image seem special. I used to be critical of that way of shooting (not proper photography etc. etc.) but now I think it's actually a more photographic way of creating an image. Have you ever noticed that when people take a picture on their phone they usually don't rush it, but take some time to compose. Somewhat different to the way people who use DSLR's and Mirrorless do it. 

Now all of the above may be meaningless twaddle and given more time I may decide that it's pretty much all BS. But currently I'm finding it an interesting way to work and one that I find stimulating and rewarding. And anything that stops me adding to the mountain of images that I have to edit and upload (currently up to a 2 year backlog and rising) is certainly a good thing.