“TO FILM OR NOT TO FILM” Episode 1-5
I’ve always been a fan of wristwatches. I wouldn’t claim to be a collector as I only own a few models, but two of these watches sum up my feelings toward photography perfectly; My Rolex Explorer 2, and my Apple Watch Silver Stainless.
In many ways, they look very similar.
They both have a comfortable and classic stainless steel bracelet. They both look good when I’m wearing a suit, or hiking a rugged mountain trail. While the Rolex has two very important complications in addition to telling time, namely the date and a 24 hour second hand I set for different time zones, the Apple Watch is infinitely more functional and does far more than a mechanical watch could ever hope to do. I can read my emails on this watch, I can record my heart rate during a bicycle ride, and I can see what the weather will be like in Moscow next week. As far as complications go, this so-called “SmartWatch” has seemingly endless possibilities, it’s very pretty to look and, and it’s a joy to wear.
The Rolex is just as enjoyable when worn on the wrist. It is a work of art, a marvel of human ingenuity, a precise timepiece that requires no batteries, yet can be worn for years without fuss or fault in letting me know what time of the day it is. I appreciate the talents of the men and women who designed and created this masterpiece, and I have great respect for the hours and hours of care and attention that was required to bring it to life. It really is like a living thing, and I love to hold it to my ear and listen to the beating of its heart as it runs effortlessly, minute after minute, hour after hour. So which one do I like better? I love them both, and the one I wear at any given time depends on the mood I’m in, or the activity I’m engaged in. To be sure, each watch brings equal joy, for different reasons. Like the three motorcycles I own, or the five children I helped bring into the world, I would never love one over the other. That kind of favoritism just doesn’t compute with me.
As a photographer, a question I’m sometimes asked is, “Do you like shooting digital or film?” My answer is always yes! I began shooting film some 40 years ago so of course film photography carries a certain nostalgic feeling with it. It brings back good memories and has a familiar look and feel that I really respond to. And film cameras are often finely engineered instruments that I can’t help but admire for their craftsmanship, as well as their performance considering their age. It’s an incredible feeling to create an image with a camera that can be twenty, thirty, even sixty years old.
Today I can do a photo shoot with the same film camera I had when I was a teenager, and the images look fantastic! How would that not bring a smile to one’s face? It does to mine, and today I also enjoy buying the film cameras I wish I could have bought when I was a drooling teenager flipping through the photography magazines of the time, dreaming of the day I could own a world class instrument like a Hasselblad. I’m constantly amazed at how sharp my thirty-year-old Hasselblad lenses are and I shoot that camera with the utmost confidence, knowing my images are going to be great.
Digital cameras are just as wonderful. Like the Apple Watch they have far more functionality and features than an old film camera possesses, and they bring their own feeling of confidence, especially since you can check your work the moment it’s created.
A modern Fuji or Nikon camera can do much more than I ever need it to, but just the ability to shoot in extremely low light, or hold a thousand raw images on one card makes shooting digital a convenience that cannot be understated. The fact that you don’t have to remember an x-ray bag when you travel, or wait a week or more for your film to be processed and digitized means that a digital camera is often my choice when I need my images in a hurry. The magic of digital photography has made the art so much more accessible to the masses. Even the digital camera built into my phone, the one I carry in my pocket, has made communicating through imagery an almost daily occurrence. And the images are very good!
So to film or not to film is not a question I ask myself very often. I love shooting film just as much as I love shooting digital. It simply depends on the mood I’m in and the activity I’m engaged in. I’ve never felt like I wanted to be devoted to one discipline over the other. Regardless of the camera I’m shooting with, I find that the process of creating art with whatever is in my hands is an endeavor I enjoy thoroughly.
I shoot film because I love the look and feel of the images, I love the cameras, I love the process, and I love making the effort that’s required to create a good image on film. I also shoot digital because I love the capabilities of modern cameras, and the ability to instantly check my work and make adjustments. I also love the astounding quality of today’s sensors and lens technology.
At the heart of it all, I love photography. It’s an art that brings me tremendous satisfaction and it has for a long time. I’m just grateful we have all of these amazing tools at our disposal. The choices are endless, and so is our ability to create and express ourselves. This is a blessing worth remembering.