It has all gone – I have just put the last of my digital camera gear into the mail, sent off to new owners, and am now, officially, fully analogue.
It has taken a good number of years. Initially, using 35mm was a fun experiment – something that felt a bit more involved and thoughtful than digital. Then, I started to use 35mm more extensively, upgraded cameras a few times and acquired everything I needed to develop film at home. After this I also gained access to a dark room and learned how to print my pictures, slowly realising that I was taking pictures that were absolutely on par, in terms of quality as those I was taking with my digital camera. It was my film scanner that was holding them back, and more on that later.
At this point I would say I was using film about half of the time, but digital was reserved for holidays, when I felt like I would be taking a lot of pictures. Then came an experiment in Scotland, where I took nothing but an old, fully manual 35mm camera, and three 36 exposure rolls for a one-week trip. After this I decided, I didn’t need digital in my life at all.
There are a number of pragmatic reasons for this. I have acquired a Ricoh GR1, which I will write about after using it a little more, which is absolutely tiny (far tinier than any remotely capable digital camera). It is full frame though. I now have something that fits in my pocket, that will take full frame images! Equally, after my Scotland holiday I picked out some of my favourite images, did absolutely zero post-processing, and put them in a book. They were covered in dust where I had left them for a couple of weeks before scanning them, and on one of the rolls I had used a lens hood meant for a longer lens – something you could never do with digital – so they have a big vignette. They look like something that could have been shot on an Arctic expedition. This was the first time I had done anything at all with pictures taken on holiday, and it was purely because I had shot them on film, and got results that hours of post-processing digital images wouldn’t have given
But more than all of this, the most important reason to own and use a film camera, is simply because it is more fun. Taking a picture on 35mm film is a mechanical, chemical process – you create a tangible, irreversible change that, if treated well, will last for the rest of your life. You are limited by the amount of film you want to carry, and so you think about what you want to record. And finally, developing and printing your pictures is like magic. You’ll never get the thrill of pulling a roll out of the developing tank, or seeing your image appear in the dark room by plugging in your USB cable and clicking through your images.
So the digital camera has gone – this has coincided with an investment in my analogue equipment, and a commitment to spend more time in the dark-room making prints. The film scanning mission continues apace also. My current scanner has a dedicated film scanning option, however it deals with contrast very badly, especially if there is a large area of cloudy sky in an image. This is another reason all my Scotland pictures look far better printed in the dark-room than scanned, they are full of snow! I think I may invest in a more professional solution, allowing me to digitise my negatives to a reasonably good standard – because this way, I still get to play with them in Photoshop, store them on my hard drive, and share them on Instagram, but I still have all the fun taking them.