There is one great thing about using a manual focus film camera. I can completely ignore the vast majority of the photographic internet that bangs on and on about Medium Format that isn't actually that, AF speeds, about what 8K might bring in a few years time and other speculative developments that camera manufacturers and rumour sites like to keep our interest with. A while ago I bought a Leica R5 and now I've added a S/H Leica M7 rangefinder. Unlike the R5 the M7 is a current camera, available new. There aren't many of these left, though Nikon still have the F6 and FM10 on their website listed as current cameras. And then there is this.
Plus if BBC iPlayer works in your country you might like this - http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08h99sb/the-man-who-shot-tutankhamun
When I was suddenly overcome with a desire to use a film camera again and bought the R5, I had no idea that others were thinking the same and wanting to use an alternative to the helter skelter of digital photography. I imagined that I would struggle to buy film and get it processed and that my experiment would be relatively short lived until chemical photography disappeared altogether. However, some hipster / steam punk inspired revival seems to be under way. So is it just some fashion thing like Vinyl records?
Well I'm not sure it is. There is no doubt that digital is convenient, quick and easy. But if we like to call ourselves photographers and relish the opportunity to explore different kinds of image making, then maybe, like me, others are somewhat dissatisfied with what digital offers. And if it's that quick and easy, something that anyone can do with their smartphone, then what as serious / professional photographers do we have to offer?
Now I take pictures on my smartphones and the results are excellent. But for some time I've been feeling that I've lost the whole thing of creating an image being a special event. I just snap away and I can see the results instantly, so I know everything is OK, but I still remember the magic of when I started and the mystery and anticipation of that time no longer exists. Well it didn't, until I started shooting with the R5. It was special because every I time I pressed the shutter it was costing me money and it was going to take some chemicals and some other people to let me see what I'd taken. (and yes I could do it myself, but I literally loathe darkrooms !!) So instead of shooting loads of images and fixing them up in Photoshop, I started thinking 'Is it REALLY worthwhile to press the shutter here, or should I wait for something better?' Plus I am in real danger of being inundated with digital images.
A few days ago I decided to see just how long it would take to get all my images onto my Google and Amazon cloud accounts. Well I just checked how my background uploading to Google Photos is going and it told me that there is only another 1,536,641 to go!! And no I haven't taken that many digital images (I have no idea how many film shots I have though I would guess it's about the same) as these are the raw file, the jpg. shot at the same time and the edited version(s). So at a very rough estimate I have around 500,000 digital images sitting on my hard drives, as I still have a huge backlog to edit. And it's become obvious to me that this can't continue. Since I seem to be unable to stop myself shooting too much with a digital camera in my hand, it seems that I will have to find another way to hold back the tide.
So I now have two Leica film cameras. An SLR and a rangefinder. And I have to say that the R7 is a thing of beauty. I bought it second hand and the motor wind and I've just spent an afternoon shooting a test film with a Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.1. Now I've never used a film rangefinder and the Leica does have some arcane characteristics that I'm having to learn. For example I was halfway through my test shoot when I realised that that the winding crank wasn't moving when I took a picture, so I hadn't loaded the film properly. So basically I had to fix that and start all over again. Hmmm....... However that hasn't dampened my enthusiasm. and I'm prepared to tolerate having to learn to use, what is after all, a VERY retro way of creating images.
I'm also still in the process of deciding what film stock I want to use and whether I want to go with my local lab scans or digitise the images myself. And of course all of this takes time. I have an undeveloped film I shot shot weeks ago and to be honest I'm actually quite enjoying the wait. At least at the moment it's not adding to the mountain of images I have awaiting my attention.
As to where this will go, I have no idea. At the moment I'm just enjoying the process again and waiting to see what I come up with and whether it's any good. To be honest I probably have enough images online to give me a decent income for some years to come, so I can afford to do this. And if I can't have some fun doing this then what was the point of all that work I put in to establish myself as a stock photographer? And speaking of stock photography, I am still selling a proportionally higher number of film images than digital, which is helping to fuel this experiment.
And who knows, I may even have to grow a beard !!