Three Years with Film

A little over three years ago I took the plunge and ordered a Nikon FM2n and five rolls of Ilford HP5+. At the time I was open to the possibility that I might lose interest after six months, but I still have my FM2n plus a few other film cameras and still enjoy shooting with them, though I still use my digital cameras regularly as well. In those three years I have come to a few conclusions about my approach to film photography. Here they are, in no particular order.

First, I’m a 35mm SLR bloke. I tried a few rangefinders along the way – a couple of Konicas and a Yashica – and have occasionally been tempted to try medium format but I have ended up with three main cameras, all of them 35mm SLRs. The rangefinders are fun little cameras but I prefer the size, adaptability and solidity of SLRs.

Second, I like classic 1970’s SLRs. I tried a couple of newer models – the Nikon F100 and F75 – but I preferred a more hands on approach and concluded that if I was going to use an auto-everything camera I preferred a modern digital model. That my preferred modern digital camera, the Fujifilm X-T2, is as well built as the F100 and a lot better built than most film SLRs from the 1980s onwards only confirmed this for me. There is an element of nostalgia to this as well since I was a teenager in the late 1970’s just developing an interest in photography and the SLRs I now own are all cameras I dreamed of back then but could never afford.

Third, I don’t really care about data. When I first loaded a scanned negative into Lightroom the emptiness of the Metadata panel unnerved me. I started trying to work out how best to record data manually and organise it in Lightroom and physically in a film archive. I even wrote an article about it for the Emulsive website. Now? I don’t really care. Camera, film, lens (though sometimes I forget to note this) and the approximate date is all I record. The rest is detail.

Fourth, I don’t feel the need to archive my negatives. I started out keeping them all but then reasoned that since some, many, of the pictures were rubbish and not worth five minutes to scan, why should I keep the negatives? Also, I don’t do this with my RAW files. So now I just keep negatives for the pictures I like and bin the rest. Of course, these negatives need a little organisation so I can find them again but I keep it simple – year and roll number.

Fifth, the process is more important than the outcome. Truth be told, if I never take another shot on film worth publishing or printing I would still go out and shoot. I find film photography with mostly manual cameras and a limit of 36 shots therapeutic. The pleasure is in the process of shooting rather than the creation of pleasing images. The latter is a bonus but nothing more. When the outcome is important I use my Fujifilm digital cameras.

Sixth, and following on from the previous point, I have no interest in developing or printing my own film. I can understand that this might be a critical part of the process for those for whom the outcome – the final negative, the final print – matters more, but for me the pleasure is being out with the camera taking pictures.

If you would like to see the bonus pictures that I do think are worth keeping you can find them all in my Granularity category.