Many years ago before the era of digital cameras, I used to own two Olympus film cameras which I took on all my travels. Naturally one was for color film and one was for black and white, because you just never knew which one you wanted at the time. I was doing that for decades until my whole world changed one day when digital cameras entered the scene. It didn’t take long to fully embrace it and for a long time I never really looked back. Digital as we all know is so convenient. It rewards you with instant feedback when you take your pictures, allows you to re-do pictures you’re not happy with and you could even create black and white images from it. All with a click of a button. What’s not to love! Over time I eventually learnt how to control my camera settings on my Canon DSLR and just loved how these images came out. Digital is a wonderful medium and there it plays a prominent part in my sessions.
However, a couple years ago, I started to notice a movement of photographers, especially those in the high-end wedding markets who were re-introducing the idea of film. Film was something I’d sort of forgotten about and just assumed that Kodak and Fuji had gone out of business. But were they still making film? And for a photography market that was thriving? That’s when I came across fine art photographers like Jose Villa and Johnny Patience. Both create stunning works of art of people using their medium format film cameras. Those pastel colors and the dreamy images just caught my eye. But there was something different about these images than the ones I was taking with my film camera back before the era of digital. I discovered that these artists were using old school film SLRs to create their work, not the point and click film cameras that I was using. By this point of course, I was already shooting in manual and had a good understanding of exposure and light, so I thought why not give film a try since it couldn’t possibly be all that hard.
Coincidentally my father-in-law had a fifty year old 35mm vintage SLR he was willing to part with, so I took it upon myself to study the old manual, buy some drug-store film (yup, Walgreens sells 35mm film!), load it up, take it to the beach and go to town. It all seemed pretty easy until my first roll came back and boy, was it beyond disappointing. Every single image except for one, turned out muddy and certainly didn’t have the same “look” as those fine art photographers I was coveting. I really didn’t think I could take a bad picture since I knew my way around a digital camera and how to control my camera settings. But what I didn’t realize was that what works for digital SLRs doesn’t necessarily work for film SLRs. Since I was determined to master film, I kept plugging along, waiting two to three weeks for feedback from each roll I sent in. Learning film takes a lot of time and energy, People! And just when I was finding my stride, my vintage 35mm SLR decided to crap out and eat my roll of film as I was cranking the winder to get it out. It turned out, according to my father-in-law that this “occasionally” happened! Eek! Small detail! But things happen for a reason, they say, and this little malfunction brought me to the idea of perhaps purchasing a used medium format camera instead. Medium format cameras to 35mm cameras are like digital’s full frame vs crop sensors. The negatives created on medium format are much larger than 35mm cameras and they tend to have that almost three dimensional look if you can actually master one of those cameras. They’re much heftier in weight and they take a different size roll of film altogether, which of course happens to be more expensive than the 35mm film we’re used to seeing. But I figured now was the time to invest in one of those if I was ever going to do it. I really wanted to introduce this idea of creating beautiful portraits on film, especially black and white images, into the family photography sessions. Why should these stunning images only be reserved for the wedding industry? I know both moms and mothers-to-be who would love to preserve these beautiful ethereal and dreamy film images of her and her family on film on archival quality framed prints for generations to come. We’re really creating these fine art images not just for ourselves, but to document our family’s legacy for future generations.
So to get one step closer to my goal, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Angus! He’s my vintage Swedish-born Hasselblad – a medium format workhorse, who is entirely mechanical. No batteries, no bells and whistles. Just pure photography! And one of the (many) cool things about him is all his images are SQUARE! And therefore Insta-ready! So ahead of his time! I’ll be posting a few of my first images with Angus in a separate post. Stay tuned!