Year of Film – January
August Schmelzer Photo-Apparate -Radio - Zubehoer
August Schmelzer Photo-Apparate -Radio – Zubehoer

As if I didn’t already have enough (unfinished) projects going on at the moment, I decided to start the year with a fresh theme (see what I did there?). I’ve been shooting Digital for almost over a year now, I’m still getting to grips with all the buttons and settings, the endless possibilities of fucking up a picture. I’m still far off from where I want to be in terms of technical skill and composition, but I enjoy what I do. But it’s not Film.

I grew up using film. I actually studied it at university (believe it or not), I spent hours in the dark room (not that kind you dirty fool) letting the chemicals eat away my hands, developing film and printing pictures. I even had full on lab set up at one point. I had phases where I just shot slide film, then switching to 35mm Ilford Hp5 – my absolute favorite B/W Film. After acquiring a Mamiya RB67 and a Kiev 88, I spent a good 2 years just shooting medium format. I loved it, and to this day I regret selling the Mamiya.

Kiev 88 with TTL Prism Finder and Rubber Sunshade lens hood
Kiev 88 with TTL Prism Finder and Rubber Sunshade lens hood

Being cash strapped I had always debated about switching to Digital Photography – for the sole reason that it was cheaper than buying/developing Film. But I never caved. After moving across the Atlantic, I no longer had the possibility to set up my darkroom, and getting medium format film developed became increasingly difficult and expensive – so I switched back to shooting 35mm film. The allure of switching to Digital became larger over time, but again the lack of adequate funds and other priorities prevented me from converting.

*I need to add at this point, I never scanned any of my negatives, nor published any Photos (aside from 2 rolls of film) on any of my past and current Blogs. I did however have several exhibitions over the years. My Photography existed in the physical world, not the digital.

Snow covered Trabi in Berlin Germany
Snow Covered Trabi (Ilford XP2 Film)

After moving to Berlin my priorities somewhat changed. I wanted to document my surroundings, to share it with others – online, and I felt this was something that I could only realistically achieve with the help of a Digital Camera.

So fast forward a bit. I had been eying up a nice Nikon D5000 for a while (again an economical choice), so my partner – being the wonderful person that she is – ended up buying it for me as a Christmas present. And this is where the descent into the  hell of “digital waste” begins.

After a normal tour, I ended up coming back home with +400 photos. After uploading them to Flickr and sorting through them, I was left with around 100 Photos.  When shooting film, I would probably use a maximum of  2 rolls of film (that’s approx. 54 photos)

Do you begin to see the problem here?

It took me a year to realize that Digital Photography was making me lazy. I was taking pictures just because I could take them. It didn’t mater how many pictures I took, and of what – the sheer quantity of pictures would mean that one of them would end up looking good. Or not.

nikon psam dial
The P stands for “Pro”

Here lies my second problem with Digital Photography. Too Many Settings. For some people this is a gift from god. Theres a setting for every little thing. Now, while I do hold some sort of technical grasp with film photography – the technical issues with digital are on a whole different level. Of course you could just take that Nikon D5000 straight out of the box and go take some pictures, but in reality, they will look like shit. The chance of your photos still looking like shit after you’ve fiddled around with the settings is still extremely high. It’s a process which takes patience – and you will be endlessly frustrated at the photos you’ve botched because of the wrong settings. I accept that. But it still frustrates me.

Nikon D5000 Autofocus Settings
So changing this does what?

Yes, you can equally screw things up with a Film Camera – there is hardly anything more frustrating than getting a roll of film back only to see the negatives are over exposed, blurry or just plain crap. But im not forced to figure out how to turn off that annoying beeping sound, or how long the display light stays on.

I love shooting with my Nikon. Its made my life easier, and made me look at things differently. Because of it I can post things on my blog the way I do.

But I don’t love it the same way I love Film. Film made me embrace “slow”. It forced me to select my shots, to think about them. For some this might sound like bullshit, but if you shoot with film you know what im talking about.

stasi museum graffiti berlin germany
Graffiti on the Stasi Museum (Ilford XP2 Film)

Film runs in my family. It’s a tradition. A Heritage. The photo on top of this article is actually the Photography Store my Great Grandfather used to own. His son (my grandfather) was a very keen photographer as well, amassing an impressive and valuable archive of photographs of Europe from the late 1930s and 40s. The same goes for my father, who is a passionate photographer with an enviable collection of Cameras and Lenses. And then there’s me. I’m nowhere near their level, nor skill, but I have a enough time and passion to get there someday.

I’m not going to stop shooting with my Nikon. It is the future. But I would like to share that future with my film photography as well. So this is where we get to my next project – Year of Film.

ampelman crossing berlin germany
The Ampelman (Ilford XP2 Film)

As the name implies, im going to be shooting film for a year, more specifically 1 roll of film every month. That might not sound like a lot to you, but it’s not about quantity. Thats exactly the kind of thing im trying to avoid. Its about regaining the sense of purpose behind the photo. Another reason for the 1 roll of film limit is because im also being realistic. I have a desk job, I sit in front of a computer +8 hours a day. I only have 2 days a week (well actually 1) where I can go out and do some photography. The reasons most projects fail is because they are too ambitious and set unrealistic goals. I think ive found the right balance here.

automate a photos berlin germany
Automate a Photos (Ilford XP2 Film)

I was gifted one of the new Ilford XP2 Disposable Cameras over Christmas (currently only available in England) and I decided to use this as the starting point for my new project.

ilford black and white xp2 single use camera
“I dont work without Flash”

Im normally not that big of a fan of Disposable Cameras, but I was keen to try out this exclusive gem. To bad I forgot to use flash for most of the Photos. 90% of the images came out underexposed. Beginners Mistake – Lesson Learned. Why the camera even gives you the option to take pictures without flash is beyond me. The Black and White Photos you see spread out in this post are a selection from the roll of film.

Im going to be uploading a selection of shots onto my Flickr account every month – so feel free to Check them out as time progresses – Flickr: Year Of Film – January

Berlin Fernsehturm
Berlin. (Ilford XP2 Film)

It can only get better from here on. The journey continues.

Your Comments
  • Interesting!

    I love film, and used to have my own dark room (aka bathroom) many years ago, but I don’t think I’ll switch back. I have been shooting color digital for eight years (jesus!), and I am still trying to get to terms with it.

    I don’t really agree that digital is that distracting. I shot manual and all I worry about is: (1) White balance; (2) ISO; (3) Aperture; (4) Speed. Shooting film gives you the same choices; except that the first two are chosen before you go out by the type of film you buy. If you shoot RAW all the presets are just distractions.

    Interestingly I have read a couple of interviews recently with photographers I admire, who only switched to color later in their careers with digital because they felt that film didn’t allow them proper control.

    I agree you get lots of images from digital. The way I deal with this is to really edit down. On a normal shot where I take 200 or so images I would keep perhaps 20 and post 2-3. It’s hard to edit down, but I think that’s a necessary part of the digital workflow.

    Given how cheap analogue cameras are now, it should cost effective to shot film so long as you don’t take too many images.

    I am looking forward to seeing how your year develops (no pun intended!).

    • thanks for your extensive reply! I guess everybody deals with it a bit different, but I still think that with Digital you have too many options to be fiddeling around with just to get a certain setting right. But thats just my personal experience.

      Its interesting that you mention color – I only started “extensevly” shooting color when I switched to Digital, I do 0 B/W with Digital, but that might be done to the fact that I likle the look and feel of HP5 more than the digital.

      I think editing down will always be my main problem – but shooting a massive amount of images has become almost a necissary evil, as I only have 1 chance to visit a certain location.

      Film will never replace my DSLR – at least not at this stage in my life – its just too quick and easy – but seeing as I recently aquired this little beauty http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=352451758195649&set=a.200123430095150.44920.127008134073347&type=1&relevant_count=1 im going to be investing a fair amount of time (and money) into this.

      I had mentioned it on facebook as well – but I think everyone can profit a from a Film Detox 😉

      • Don’t get me wrong. I like film. If I were to get a 2nd camera I would consider getting either a medium format Mamiya or sometime more compact like a Ricoh for street work. I wouldn’t want to try to do the same thing I am already doing in color digital, so b&w 400 Tri-X would be tempting.

        I think editing is a necessary evil (esp. for digital). I am not very good at it, but rid of the lesser images is really helpful.

  • sounds like a fun project. maybe i’ll try and do the something similar. i just happen to have gotten a seagull tlr as a birthday present and want to give it more than one try (i posted some of the results of the first try here http://dothob.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/preview-and-review/).
    i’m quite interested in how your pictures have been digitized? have you scanned them yourself? i’m looking forward to more bits of your project.

    • the seagull is a fun camera to be working with! its a shame that 120 film is at times so difficult to get developed here.

      These negatives have been scanned to CD by the lab I dropped my film off. I opted for medium quality as this was just a single use camera film, I wasn expecting anything great from it.

      Im shootig with the Leica CL from now on, so im either going to scan them in myself (ive got a related post/giveaway coming up about that topic) or im just going to let the lab do em in higher quality.

      • i went to the guys at fotoimpex in the alte schönhauser strasse for developing. i brought in the second roll on monday and got the negatives the following wednesday. that was very nice. (the first roll took a week, though)
        i’m looking forward to your pictures.

  • Delia Derbyshire had a similar problem with her music… but somehow I don’t think you’ll stop taking pics…

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