I first semi-seriously picked up a camera around 4 years ago, like many hobbyists purchasing my first dSLR, (a Canon 500D), after eventually tiring of the uninvolved point-and-click phase. I believe I spent the first couple of years sporadically taking the camera on holidays and later, on hiking & camping trips; whilst wresting a semblance of control from it’s automatic functions and getting to grips with it’s manual operation. Upon achieving a sense of competence with the camera, I upgraded my kit lenses and decided to publish a blog which would showcase landscape-type photography in trip-report styled blog posts, mixed in with outdoor gear reviews, you can see for yourself at this blog link.
This exercise was beneficial, in that I became more able to utilise my cameras functionality in differing environments and it initially helped my composition. There came a point however, where I seemed to come upon a bottleneck and certain aspects of the digital process made themselves known as a hindrance to my progression. I noticed that I would take far too many identical shots at varying settings; in the hope of achieving something worthwhile at the expense of nothing but a few shutter counts. Instead of moving around the subject and looking at the spatial relationship between objects in the scene, the use of zoom lenses would give rise to the tendency to crop difficult features from a stationary viewpoint causing me to miss out on much of the learning experience. Without being an exhaustive list, the latter points allude to the superfluous nature of the digital medium whose effects often felt like they were distracting, cloaking the important factors, thus becoming detrimental upon my quest for better composition.
My thoughts eventually turned to film; a medium that you have to work with manually, rather than solely twiddle virtual dials and sliders or fiddle buttons and a process that forces you to consider the act of making a photograph. Specifically, I was engaged by a BBC documentary about Vivian Maier, her life and her use of the Rolleiflex, (can’t wait to see the new one). Despite it’s long and illustrious history, I had never come across such a camera as the TLR, but upon discovering it I knew that this was the way forward for me. I soon bought a Rolleiflex, a metered grey T model, and with it in my hands it’s mechanistic operation and aesthetic beauty immediately offer a more fulfilling experience. I have until now shot only a few rolls of film, both colour and black & white but it’s use has inspired my partner Sarah and I to build a darkroom in our spare room, and with it we have begun to to develop our own black & white negatives and prints, though some day we would like to process colour negatives & prints too.
I have since put down my dSLR and have slowly come to the conclusion that the digital method just feels too disposable, too impersonal and also too aggressive for me; and through imposed obsolescence, like much else in today’s world, that perhaps it has become unnecessarily complicated, having been designed and propagated with technological progress and consumer desirability foremost in mind. At least for now my dSLR will only be used functionally, perhaps for scouting locations or for practising certain techniques, I might one day hack it and turn it into a half-decent IR camera. We shall see, but for now here is my new blog, dedicated to both colour and black & white film photography, now in both 6×6 medium format film and 35mm format, (as I’ve since picked up a Pentax SV), all with an aim towards eventually improving my composition.
p.s. Advice, critique etc… is more than welcome!