Last month (February) I took 34 digital photographs and 195 film photographs. Even allowing for the enthusiasm I expressed when I first went back to film, this is a remarkable development. Not one I would have predicted to be honest. I really did think this was going to be a fad for all my fine words at the beginning. After the thrill had worn off, surely I would return to ease and simplicity of digital photography. Well, it hasn’t happened yet.
There are lots of reasons why. Perhaps the most surprising is the growing and deeply satisfying sense that by returning to an obsolete technology I have stepped off the bandwagon of endless upgrades. With the concurrent abandonment of the deep covetousness that often overtook me as I perused the camera equipment websites. This has been an enormous relief. I really was unaware how much time and effort I had been giving to tracking the latest trends and technologies. Often paying a lot of money for a beautiful but ultimately only marginal upgrade in equipment. I’m actually spending less on my photography now than I have for years, despite buying film and developing materials, simply because I am no longer chasing that $2000 lens or body. Instead I am using equipment that is decades old.
Even when using my old Canon film bodies that can support a large subset of my accumulated lens collection, I find myself falling back to very few lenses, most often my by-now quite old EF 24-105mm f4/L. With the Rolleiflex, I am restricted to the Schneider Xenotar 75mm lens built into the camera, but it doesn’t feel like a restriction. For the first time ever, I am beginning to understand why some photographers never felt the need to move beyond a single fixed lens. Moreover, for perhaps the first time since I began photography as a child and really didn’t care what I was using (or indeed that much about the resulting picture), I find myself thinking of the photograph first and the equipment second.
This has to be a good thing. I find myself taking far fewer photographs overall, but with a much higher satisfaction quotient from the results. Photography has not only become more fun; it has also become more rewarding. I have also learned a massive amount about film over the past months and find this knowledge bracing. I’m slowly tiptoeing into color, and will get more deeply involved with time. Whether black or white or color, I find the look of film entrancing. Yes, I could photograph digitally and process the image to mimic film. The technology to do this improves all the time. But that would remove the process element from my film photography, and that process is just as rewarding as the final result.