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Muny at night by Richard Keeling on 500px.com

It’s been about twenty months since I returned to using film.

I’m still using it.

As I’ve noted several times in the past, this really was not what I expected to happen. I felt sure I would dabble for a while, and then give it up when the novelty wore off, dissuaded by the extra effort required to develop and scan the film.

Every once in awhile, I still feel that impatience. This picture was taken early in the evening of November 30 and I had it scanned and up on the web by the end of the day after about 20 minutes devoted to the actual developing process, a couple of hours for drying, and about 10 minutes for scanning and a few cosmetic photoshop tweaks.

These cosmetic tweaks, by the way, have dropped to only a few to remove a bit of dust or fiber picked up during the scan. In my early days of developing, when I was not as careful and more hurried, I ended up with a lot more flaws. Mostly scratches and occasional dots of salt deposit from washing and drying too quickly. Today, I hardly ever see these. Patience is a virtue when developing film.

Still, the process would have been much quicker had this been a digital shot. But it would not have looked the same. I could make it look the same – or similar at least – by applying one of the many film emulation software add-ons to my Photoshop processing, but although the result to the eyes of most viewers would not be significantly different, it would have been different to me. It would always be the product  of a computer algorithm, whereas I what I have here is (allowing for the fact that it has been scanned and converted to digital for display) the result of chemical interaction with light.

It’s the chemistry that really appeals to me. After all, I am a chemist – it’s my job even if it involves enzymes and biologically derived materials instead of emulsion and silver chemistry. But the same pleasure I get from tracking the course of an enzyme-catalyzed reaction applies to adding developer to film.

This is probably the main drive that keeps me using film and it’s one that is going to be fairly exclusive to me. I have plenty of sympathy for those who are happy to see the back of the old world of film and have wholly embraced digital imaging. For many, it’s both easier and more satisfying.

But not for me. Since I have taken up film, my enjoyment of photography has more than doubled from when I was solely using digital cameras. That’s why I am not likely to stop.