It seems that I am addicted to film…
I still shoot with digital (A7RII) and love the look and capability of it, but FILM is what I go to every time I go out shooting… It is Terrible and exciting at the same time! It is so bad that I am looking for another freezer to store my excess film stock!
This is (again) Stormy Seas in Georgetown, SC (perhaps the most photographed boat in the Low Country). I have hundreds of images of it but I am pulled to photograph her in B&W film each and every time I am in Georgetown. There is something about her lines and textures that inspire me to document her life, and I have for years. Yes I will visit ANY shrimp boat (or grist mill for that matter) and each and every time I visit I see something different and unique… Yep addicted!
The image was taken about 5 days ago on a 6×9 Fuji GW 690 II using medium format Fuji Acros 100 film and a red filter, developed in Perceptol 1:1 and Wet Mount scanned on a Epson 850 pro. The 6×9 format will give me 8 images per roll and I will usually scan 2 or 3 per roll, but I am very critical and selective because the wet scan process takes about 3/4 hour per scan!
The top image is near Stormy Seas in Georgetown, about 2 blocks away at another commercial dock and seafood house. I have shot this a hundred times on both digital and film, but never have I captured such a pleasing image as this. It is to me a more enriching image full of mood, contrasts and tells a story. I pleases me to no end the tell the story on an old FILM camera of an old boat and failing lifestyle just as the shrimp boat is in the background and the Egret in the foreground telling a different yet the same story!
There is also the consideration that is tied to the process of working in film. It is slower and much more deliberate, a truer work of love in that you control every single step of the process…
- Film choice (Kodak Tmax 100, Tmax 400, Fuji Acros 100 or Rollei IR400)
- Camera and lens choice (Medium or Large Format)
- Considering the composition and lines.
- Getting the exposure dead on (how many of you do that in digital?)
- Adjusting for contrast and detail in shadows or highlights.
- Film development and processing for highlights or shadows (another complete immersion of self discovery)
- Drying (yep at lest 24 hours in a dust free drying cabinet)
- Choosing the best image for exposure, sharpness, composition, contrasts, lines, dust & hair and so on..)
- Wet scanning (at least a 1/2 to 3/4 hour project per shot)
- Cleaning up on the computer by removing dust and hair and adding a bit of contrast)
All in all, the top image took about a week to complete from end to end! I simply love the process, being immersed in it and becoming one in the creative process. Yes it is slow but when I am done it is a total representation of MY PERSONAL VISION!
Film is making a HUGE come back in the world of photography! So much so that you will be shocked when you visit Ebay and look at the prices of old film cameras and systems! All of the major film makers in the world are increasing their production of films and even Kodak is bringing back discontinued film products! New film companies like New55, Impossible Project, and FILM FERRANIA have opened up and are making emulsions!
Developing has never been easier, there are many mail order labs out there but you can process your own film in your kitchen with very little effort and investment! You will need:
- Dark Tent or changing bag to move your film to a daylight tank.
- Daylight tank (I reccomend a Stainless Steel tank with steel developing reels by Hewes)
- Distilled Water
- Developer ( I recommend Perceptol by Ilford)
- Stop Bath
- Water Rinse
- Distilled water rinse with wetting agent
- Clips to dry your film in your bathroom shower
- A flat bed scanner like Epson 500, 600, 700, 800 or 850)
Total you are looking at about $120 for everything accept the scanner! There are great videos on Youtube that will take you thru every step in the process!
The image above of the Tybee Island Lighthouse was taken last month on Kodak Tmax 100 rated at 50 ISO on the 6×9 format medium format Fuji System. It was hot and the area full of tourists, even up on the top of the lighthouse itself! Still the act of creating this image was both fun and fulfilling and I walked away with exactly what I envisioned as I stood there looking at the scene!
I especially love shooting with Medium Format cameras. They are easier to travel with and the negatives are large enough to give amazing prints. I do have 3 4×5 large format cameras also that are great fun to you but as you can imagine, they are difficult to travel with. Once in a great while I will shoot with a 35mm camera, usually smaller rangefinder that were sold in the 60’s and 70’s!
- Fuji GF 670 (this is my travel camera in 6×7 format with a 85mm lens that folds up into a thin light camera)
- Fuji GW 690II (this is a 6×9 format camera with a 90mm lens and a bit larger and better built than the GF camera)
- Fuji GW 690 III (a newer version of the 690II)
- Shen Hao 4×5 Cherry Field Camera with 5 lenses and film adapters for also using 120 film.
- Polaroid 900 converted to 4×5 with a 150mm Fujinon lens. Think of 4×5 travel camera!
- Polaroid 110B converted to 4×5 with a 90mm Schneider Angulon lens, again travel!
So, while film does indeed require much more effort over digital, the results simply cannot be compared. These medium format negatives have a native resolution to create a 71×53 inch print without upsizing it at all! The amount of detail is simply stunning and more importantly (at least t me) is the fact that the process become a Zen like activity in creation!
I hope that you enjoyed this post but more importantly to me at least that you considered my words on the creative process and taking complete control of it!
Mark, I fully enjoyed your latest on shooting film, and was not aware of the new films out, and on the horizon. I have a question not about the film–as I have a large freezer of it–but about getting your print from the film. Is using the scanner far faster, cheaper, and perhaps better for quality, than using the old wet darkroom with printing paper? If so, do you always scan for new prints from old (or new) negatives? Is this also true with your old infrared negatives? Your 35mm, 70mm and 4×5-inch negs that were so beautiful from Kodak? Can you get better prints–capturing all that you want–from scanning infrared film negatives? Thanks.
Steve thanks for the comments and question. Once developed and cleaned I wet mount scan my negatives then clean them in photoshop. I print several ways, digitally by running them thru a RIP to a Epson 7900, or as an chemical alternative print , either a van dyke brown or a platinum /palladium print.
I always enjoy your words and images Mark. A great post. For me I stick to digital because I use panoramic stitching for everything to create perspectives that can’t be replicated by real lenses. I do sometimes contemplate getting the film camera out though. My Pentax 67 is sitting upstairs unloved currently.
Thanks for the kind comments! As I said I too shoot digital
But only on workshops or for specific images
a great post as usual, although a little too deep for me, but it makes for a fascinating read.
On a slightly different note, I have been trying to buy the two DVDs that you have made about infrared processing, can you please give or send me the link where I can buy them is they are still available? and include postage to the UK, I would like to pay by PayPal if possible, best regards, Stanley Kemp.
Stanley go to YouTube and search for Mark Hilliard
Infrared and you will find the 3 main IR tutorial videos for free
many, many thanks, looking forward to hours of watching and hopefully learning, best regards, Stanley.
You are quite welcome.