Recently I returned to one of my enduring passions: shooting film. I’m Italian and I recently moved to California. In Italy, it’s really hard to find a good lab to develop film and it’s even more difficult to find rolls of film of the brands I like. Here in the US, I felt reborn with new joy: everything is so much easier when it comes to shooting film. All over the world shooting film is getting more popular, it’s in fashion again, and it’s even possible to find photographers returning to analog, ditching digital for paid jobs. In Italy, the business of photography completely revolves around shooting digital: almost no one thinks about film anymore. So for me, it was amazing to take my four 120 rolls to the lab to discover they could be processed only after the order for the previous customer was finished… the lab told me a well-known company with a blue logo based in the Bay area had just delivered a big batch of 70 rolls for processing! I was kind of sad when I discovered my batch was delayed by 48 hours (beyond the usual 24 hours needed for developing, printing the contact sheet and scanning everything in high resolution), but I finally received my processed rolls and you can see some results in the images of this article.
The transition from film to digital was one of the most dramatic shifts in the history of photography, and countless new techniques arose along the way. Everything from exposing to the right to the ability to review photos on-the-fly dramatically changed the photographic world. Of all these changes, though, one has transformed landscape photography far more than any other: the advent of digital image blending.
Three years ago, when I made my first photo tour through the magnificent landscapes of Iceland, I fondly recall an interesting dinner discussion with my fellow photographers. We had just returned to our guest house from a memorable photo shoot. As we shared good wine, food, and laughs, the discussion pleasantly turned to photography. After the seemingly prosaic and obligatory discussion of camera gear, we got around to more interesting topics such as light, travel destinations, and our individual exploits. One pleasant, wise, and well-traveled gentleman from Holland made an interesting comment that has resonated with me ever since. With a blend of delight and amusement, he said, and I paraphrase him:
Even though my first camera was the digital Nikon D5100, I always have felt a sort of secondhand nostalgia for the days of film photography. The vast majority of history’s great photographs were taken on film; masters like Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell defined the medium of landscape photography in my mind, and both were entirely film photographers. Personally, by using a digital camera so early, I felt that I was missing a more hands-on appreciation for photography’s complex history. Perhaps this thought was not first on my mind while in the field, but it certainly surfaced from time to time.
At this time when many of us are excited by the new camera announcements, I thought it will be intriguing to do a write up describing my first time shooting 35 mm black and white film. Last summer, I found some time to swing by the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in White Mountains near Bishop, California. I knew that the timing of my trip will not coincide with the best lighting for photography, especially in color. So, I decided to photograph these ancient trees in B/W. Why B/W film? Well, I have always wanted to enjoy the aesthetics of it as well as I thought it will force me to think in terms of highlights, shadows and texture. All in all, a good learning experience.
A winter storm hit the Boston area sometime in February and when various weather channels called for a clear evening/night, I got thinking. I live close to Merrimack River and have tried photographing it several times before but so far not have not been satisfied with the resulting images. Sometime it is either an out of place tree limb that destroys visual harmony or distant apartments, houses or other man-made structures that compete for attention. I realized that if the storm started to clear 30-40 minutes prior to sunset, I might be in luck. A quick 4 pm peek outside the window signaled just that and I immediately rushed out with my camera bag. Since I already knew what I was after, and possibly needed to react quickly to changing light, I opted for a shoulder bag that contained a Nikon D610, along with 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G and 24-120mm f/4 VR lenses.
Recently, as part of a photography class at my university, I had an assignment to shoot two rolls of film with the theme “Point of View.” This topic was open to interpretation, but I was encouraged to try something out of my comfort zone. I puzzled over the assignment for a few days – and I almost decided to shoot a roll of typical abstract photographs – but one other possibility began to interest me: With enough effort, could I take realistic landscape photographs from my kitchen table?
In this final installment to this series, I have chosen to discuss one of my favorite topics in photography: close-ups. My goals with this article are to provide a basic understanding of light and exposure when photographing a subject at close range, the rationale for exposure loss during magnification, and guidance on how to correct for this exposure loss. To illustrate these principles, I will share my own empiric observations, review the pertinent calculations that govern magnification and exposure loss compensation, and discuss select photographs that I have made at close range. Hopefully, this article will help beginning and advanced photographers grasp the physics of light at close range and take command and control of magnification and exposure compensation. Although I crafted this article from the framework of a photographer using traditional close-up and macro equipment (i.e., bellows, extension tubes), the use of an external light meter (i.e., non-TTL metering), and continuous lighting (e.g., natural light, lamps), the tenets and technical considerations for close-up exposure compensation are still relevant to those photographers who prefer automation, TTL metering, and electronic flash. Finally, I will wrap up the discussion by sharing some thoughts on the use of film as a tool for learning the visualization process.
In this fourth installment to this series, I have selected a series of photographs that I made with long exposures on three film stocks to share in the context of a discussion of film reciprocity departure and the use of filters in color film photography. Although I had originally intended to include a discussion of exposure corrections for close-ups in Part IV, in the interest of brevity I decided to defer this topic to a final Part V to this series. Of note, reciprocity departure and filtration in color film photography are complex and interesting topics. This article is not meant to be a comprehensive treatment of both topics, but rather an introduction that I may expand upon in future articles.
In this third installment to this series on visualization and film photography, I have selected a sample of photographs (mostly made in the 35mm format) to share and discuss. Although I heavily focused on technical aspects in film photography in Part I and Part II of this series, my goal with this article is to provide a more aesthetic description and simplified approach to the construction of photographs. I thought it would be of interest to beginning 35mm photographers to briefly discuss some of the film choices available. Although the choices of film stocks have dwindled over the years, fortunately there remain a plethora of excellent professional and consumer 35mm films from which to choose and enjoy. Even though I have used many – but not all – of the available film stocks, I cannot possibly discuss all of them here. For one particular film stock, I am delighted to share a pair of interviews with more experienced photographers that readers might find interesting and helpful. Of note, Photography Life contributor Vaibhav Tripathi has previously shared his experiences and beautiful photographs made on 35mm with Fuji’s Velvia 50 and Kodak’s Portra stocks in his inspiring photo essays on Acadia National Park, landscape photography, and Waterfalls of New England series that may also be of interest.