A break from Analogue Photography

As 2018 approaching to an end (yes, it’s ending really soon!), as usual I’m taking a look at my stuff and trying to make some changes and tweaks in hope to improve myself, improve my life, reduce clutter, streamlining stuffs, getting closer to minimalistic and so on. 

This time around, my drybox gets a makeover. I sold off all my film related stuffs, from all the film cameras to scanner, all gone. Many people asked me why. Had I lost my interest in film and analogue photography? Is film dead? Is analogue not something worth to shoot anymore?

Well, not really. There’s a point of time in my life where I’ll need to make the decision, whether to stay or leave. Just happened that after some serious consideration, I decided that now is the time. I still love film, I still enjoy shooting with analogue camera. However, looking ahead, after completion of my study, I’m actually planning on something else, which will probably keep me busy again most of the time. I may end up having little time to shoot, let alone shooting with film.

Will I ever return to analogue photography? I don’t have an answer for now, but I think it’s pretty likely. As of now I still have a soft spot in my heart for films and film cameras. Hopefully after this break, someday… I will be back. I’m glad that I had captured some great photos with my film cameras, and I will cherish them for the days to come. Till then.

Goodbye Fujifilm GW690III

Fujigilm GW690III with Kodak Portra 400

“What was all the hype on medium format?”

That’s the question I had awhile ago, and in order to answer it, I got myself the Fujifilm GW690III, a medium format fixed lens camera. It shoot film at 6×9 ratio, probably the largest you can get, completely manual for both focusing and exposure, built like a tank, and works like a charm. I wanted a taste of medium format myself, so instead of buying a digital back with interchangeable lens system, I decided to just keep it simple.

The Fujifilm GW690III was a great medium format camera. But why I decided to sell it? Well, my issue was not too much on the camera itself, but rather on handling of film. As the negative was so huge, it’s hard to get it flatten for a proper scan, and you really need a good scanner to extract the very best bits of it. Hence, I can’t do the negatives justice, and getting them scanned by the lab cost a bomb.

Fujifilm GW690III with Ilford HP5 Plus 400

So is medium format really worth the hassle? Well, it really depends on what you want to use it for. For landscape, hell yes. The amount of details you can extract, the huge print you can enlarge and make, it’s really jaw dropping coming from full frame. The same advantages go to shooting still life products and portraitures. Everything else? Well, I personally don’t see a need but you will be your own judge.

Looking beyond film, currently there were a few high megapixels full frame digital cameras that offer similar advantages at a much lower price point, hence eating into the pie of medium format cameras. However, digital medium format still has some other advantages (such as tonality) that position them better, but that’s a whole different story that I’ll not go through today. All in all, I really enjoyed using this camera and shooting with medium format, but it’s not what I need at the moment. So it’s time to say goodbye and hopefully someone will make better use of it. Till then.

Bentong Getaway

Last year’s December, I spent some time back home in Malaysia during the Christmas and New Year holiday. While lying around at home with nothing to do for about 2 weeks time, I decided to head on a short road trip with my friends to Bentong. It’s about one hour drive from where my house, and we get to indulge ourselves in some greeneries and nature and just walk around and relax.

We visited the so called “hot spring”, it’s pretty rundown actually but still, its a place you need to visit when you are in Bentong. Then we went to Bentong town for a walk, had a lunch, and shop for some local produce. We then spent our night staying over at Waterway Villa, which is quite a nice place for short staycation.

The next day, we went to Bukit Tinggi and visited a few locations around such as the French Village and Japanese Village. We also got ourselves some durian and rambutan, though I’m not a fan of them. And the final morning, we went for a short stroll to the fruit farm nearby to where we stayed, wrapped it up with a trip to Genting Premium Outlet for final shopping before we head home.

It’s a nice outing with good old friends, where we get to talk to each other face to face, having fun, and most importantly, relaxing my mind, body and soul after a year of stress accumulation. For the whole trip, I shot 5 rolls of film (both colour and black & white) with my Hasselblad Xpan & 45mm lens, and Zeiss Ikon with the 50mm F/2 Planar. It’s been awhile since the last time I bring them out for some exercise, and I screwed up some settings on my first roll of film too, but luckily everything turned out fine.

All in all, glad that I had this lovely trip with my lovely friends. Hopefully we’ll get to do more of this in the future.

Between the Line of Film and Digital

Dakota Crescent. Shot with Sony A7R Mk II. RAW files edited in Lightroom.

Recently I had noticed something when I switch between shooting film and digital camera. When I shoot on film, usually I will end up with a roll or two rolls of films after each walk, and I will get them developed by a local lab and once done, I’ll scan the pictures, clean some dust spot, follow by minor adjustment on level and curve and that’s about it.

When I shoot digital, I’ll probably start by selecting good pictures from all I have shot, then edit them to taste. I’ll probably spend more time experimenting things like HDR, playing with colours and HSL, deciding whether to convert one to monochrome and so on.

Dakota Crescent. Shot on Fujifilm X-Pro1. Straight out of camera JPEG.

Based on the way I work on film and digital, there are a few notable differences that interest me:

  1. Obviously, I will end up with less picture and, in a way, more keeper when shooting film. Less picture means less to be processed.
  2. There will usually be a gap from the day I took the shot until the day I get the processed film back in my hand. Hence, I’ll have some time to “cool down” myself before processing them. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. Usually I will process the digital files very soon.
  3. I’m more lenient when it comes to flaws on my film picture as compared to digital. I can accept some degree of out of focus, or some minor dust or scratches on them. But when shooting digital, I’ll try to strike for “perfection”.

Reflecting on both mediums, it seems that shooting digital is a more “tedious” and time consuming process for me, and it certainly defeats the purpose for those who wanted instant sharing of their works on social media.

Dakota Crescent. Shot with Zeiss Ikon and Ilford Pan 400. Scanned and slight adjustment in Lightroom.

I certainly enjoyed the process of shooting and editing my film pictures more. So does it mean I should shoot more on film instead of digital? The easy answer is yes, as instant sharing isn’t really something that I really need. But why don’t we look at it from another angle, can I simplify the digital process to be as close as the process I have while shooting film?

Perhaps it’s possible, and that’s something I’ll try out and see how things unfold eventually. Shoot with smaller capacity SD card maybe, be more critical on the shot I take, let my pictures sit for awhile before working on them, don’t be too fancy with post editing and so on. Sounds about right. Hopefully by simplifying my digital workflow I will get to focus more on shooting instead. Till then.

Shooting Slides

Xpan + Provia 100F
Slides, or positive film, is another type of film that has been favoured by most in the past for producing extremely sharp and detailed print with very little grain. Unlike ordinary colour film or black & white film which were negative film, when slides exposed and developed, you get to see the picture itself on the film in full colour. I can still recall the feeling of receiving my first roll of slides… it’s magical.

Xpan + Provia 100F
In the past, people prefer to mount the film onto holder, then project the film directly in order to share and view the picture. This is something that can only be done on positive film but not the usual negative film.

Zeiss Ikon + Velvia 50
I had shot a roll of Velvia 50 sides before this, and the result were horrid. From there I learned on how to work with slides and expose them properly, as they have very limited room to push and pull in post, and luckily my second roll of slides, which was Provia 100F, came out pretty well in terms of exposure.

Zeiss Ikon + Velvia 50
Slides certainly produced very good image quality, and it’s not hard to understand why there are photographers who are still swear by slides and using them, especially for large format shot. But the trouble of getting slides processed and the price of it do put me off to shoot more. Perhaps once I get a hang of it, I’ll work out some personal projects that shoot on slides. But for now, I’ll probably stick with negative film.