Tag120 film

The chaos of film

I shot digital for a few years. I don’t hate on digital images, I just don’t care for the process. But I do miss one single aspect of the digital workflow: the organization.

I’d come home, plug the CF card in to a reader, and the computer would zip the files off of it and arrange them neatly on the hard drive. All in all, an easy, mindless process.

Film isn’t that easy.

As I write this, the desk is covered with film holders for the scanner, and sleeves for three different sizes of negatives. The pile is substantial. More live in binders on the shelves, and on the floor. They’ve slipped from organization in to utter chaos and it seems I can’t corral them all and get everything back under control.

I’ll admit, I’m not the most organized person as a rule. I like to tell people I thrive on chaos and madness and to a degree, that’s true. But sometimes, I do wish I could find a particular negative without devoting a lot of time and profanity to the search.

I’ve been looking for a system to file negatives for some years now, and I can’t seem to find or create a workable one. I’ve thought of getting a file cabinet and organizing that way, but we live in a tiny loft apartment, and I really don’t have the space for any such thing. It doesn’t keep me from thinking about how it could be done and walking about with an eye to finding a space, I just haven’t had any luck so far.

shoot-377This is one of the things I like most about film biting me. Unlike those digital files slipped automagically in to virtual folders on hard drives, film is a real thing. You can hold an image in your hand, and look at it on a light table. It’s not a collection of ones and zeros that require a machine to interpret it and show it to you, it’s a real, tangible thing you can just look at and take in. And as a real, tangible thing, it takes up real, tangible space and there’s the rub.

Hoist by my own petard, as that English guy would say.

So now what? What am I going to do about it? I’m still looking in to that. In the mean time, I need to corral all these negative sleeves and get them under control. I still haven’t looked at all the pictures from the tour we just finished. They’re developed, and nicely cut and sleeved, but then they were consumed by the gaping maw of disorganization that is my desk and vanished.

I’ll spend some time this weekend sorting that chaos out. I’m going to need an old priest and a young priest.

More is less

shoot-349Less is more. More is less.

I’ve finding that shooting more is less of what I want, and shooting less gives me more of what I want.

I’m using SLRs less. I realize ease of use is a relative thing, but I seem to find a lot of them too easy to use. It’s easier to just snap off a throwaway shot with them. I still prefer to use them in situations that require speed, but aside from that, I find myself hardly using them at all anymore.

More often than not, I’m using rangefinders. I’ve heard it argued that you can use a rangefinder as fast as you can use anything else, but I don’t find that true. I could resort to zone focus or pre-focusing and stopping down for maximum depth of field, but that’s not guaranteed to give me the result I want. So I take more time, setting up shots deliberately, and slowly. It’s taking me much longer to move through rolls of film, these days.

If rangefinders are slow, medium format is snail-like with a waist level viewfinder. And it’s even more deliberate in framing a shot as a result.

And if medium format is snail-like, large format is glacial. I’ve hardly gotten though half a box of 4×5 in the last month. I’m still learning about movements, and I haven’t even thought about trying to figure out bellows and exposure compensation.

So the volume of work is down, with the number of frames I produce as low as it has been. But I’m finding less is more.

While I’m taking less frames, I’m loving the results more.

shoot-350I’ve never been a spray and pray kind of guy, even when I had the misfortune to shoot sports. I surely don’t produce as many images as a digital photographer. I am finding that I just don’t put the camera to my eye as much these days. Not out of dissatisfaction with that I shoot, but more about how I think about how and what I shoot.

Frequently, I find myself asking, “does this image need to be shot” when I start to take it. A lot of the time, I’ll answer myself with a no, and lower the camera. I’ll take fewer shots, but I like the ones I take more. Some of them, I even love. They’re still rare, but they seem to occur more often.

I want to have more of those frames in my future. Shooting less is more. The way to get more is to shoot less. A bit of a paradox, but one that seems to work.