For the past two decades, the advancement of digital cameras marked the near extinction of film photography. During these years, the obsessions were of mega pixels, high iso performance, and frames per second. I, myself am guilty for being one of those people. With the availability of affordable crop sensor cameras, nearly everyone who can hold and operate a camera can become a photographer.
I remember the first time I held a digital camera that I called my own was a Nikon D3000. I can almost count the numerous hours I spent exploring train tracks, parks, and using it on school projects. Although it only had a 10MP crop sensor, it was more than what I needed. The limitation came very fast with my first digital camera as I grew tired of its low light performance. Before I knew it I was onto the D7000 and then finally to the D750.
Throughout the years I've shot digital, I have developed a wide range of skills and styles. I would be excited to have created a new stylistic look to my images but I was never happy with them. Was it the images themselves, or maybe the overall look? I didn't figure out why that is until one day, I saw the works that came from Richard Photo Lab. I had no idea such form of art still existed. That's when I decided to pick up a film camera.
I knew that it would be an expensive addition to my already expensive arsenal of cameras and lenses. Maybe not from the film cameras (well the Contax 645 was expensive though), but from developing and scanning the films professionally. It's just such a shame that professional film labs are now a rare thing and far from where I live.
I was so nervous when I first started shooting film. It felt like a total different animal. The agonizing week or two wait time for the films scans to come back to me had me on edge. Often than not the scans would come back unacceptably bad. I thought to myself "this is a load of crap! It must've been photoshop!". Not until I've met Paul from The Find Lab, that I finally started to understand how to properly shoot film.
As soon as I started getting results back from the lab I knew I had discovered or rediscovered something that I had been yearning for. The look of the images are so vastly different from everything else I've ever shot on digital camera. The color, soft focus, and the smooth bokeh took me by surprise. I had tried numerous times to replicate the look but to no avail. I knew that there's no turning back. And from that moment on, I realized why I was never fully satisfied with digital photography.
With digital cameras, I was constantly chasing a look, a feel to the photographs and finding myself struggling with technological limitations. Not until film came into my life once again did I realize that it wasn't the limitations of the camera's technology, rather I was struggling with my own limitations as a photographer.
I spent way too much time with my finger on the shutter hoping to catch the right moment; while film has taught me to patiently wait for the perfect moment.
Digital photography is phenomenal, but it can also be distracting because one photo can look thousands of different ways in post processing. Meanwhile, film works the opposite. The specific film stock will give you a specific characteristic with small variations depending on development and scans. It forced me to finally slow down and improve myself as a photographer.
From shooting film, I've rediscovered how timeless it can be. The results that each film stock creates was relevant decades ago, and will still be decades from now. As expensive as it is, I know in the end I would be happy with the results. Every time my Contax 645 comes out to play, time seems to slow down. In those moments, I'm waiting, free of distractions on what the photo should and would look like on a LCD screen. All I know is that the moment I click the shutter, the photo will be as I always wanted it to be... timeless.