Of course, being an old guy of nearly 62 years, I did film. I began somewhat late, around 27 years old with a good old Nikon FE and 55mm Micro Nikkor lens. I have that camera and lens again from eBay for the sake of nostalgia, revisiting my first steps.
Nikon FE with 55mm Micro Nikkor lens
I got very serious with the photography as I do with about anything I bother with. If you don’t get into something, why do it at all? I had a darkroom and did archival black and white prints. I actually built an enlarger for my 8×10 negatives that projected the images horizontally to an easel mounted on the wall using my camera and taking lens as a part of the setup, building the negative carrier complete with glass and the head for the light source using a dozen 40 Watt bulbs wired in parallel so some could be unscrewed to control light intensity locally. I had to order opal glass to diffuse the light and heat absorbing glass to protect the negatives. I built the table it went on and installed a track on which to move the camera for gross focusing. So you see, I was pretty serious.
This is my current 8×10 camera.
I also did 35mm and medium format film as well. With my Hasselblad I would take portraits of my 4th grade students in Dallas each year, print and tone in sepia, then paint them with Marshall’s transparent photo oils and gift the prints to the parents. Maybe by now the prints that survived have nearly reached heirloom status. They were quite sharp with the Carl Zeiss lenses and studio lighting I set up.
Old Hasselblad 500 CM I got from Japan. It required many firings to get the thing to actually work again!
I feel like I’m digressing, but I’ve noticed a lot of renewed attention given to film lately; check out YouTube on the subject. It’s a lot of young people doing it now, jaded by the ease of digital I suppose; maybe they want to experience the analog side of photography like they do in buying their vinyl LP’s to play on their turntables with all the snaps, crackles and pops associated with that vintage form of musical enjoyment. Maybe they’re tired of the “cleanness” of what we old timers see as wonderful innovations to produce higher quality sounds and images. Maybe it’s just another form of rebellion.
Digital will do things film could never think of doing and I won’t abandon it at all. Even the master of film photography Ansel Adams looked forward to the development of the new technology and would have embraced it had his life span allowed him to. Also, I may be in a small group of gray-haired photographers who would even THINK of going back to film at all. It’s just a whole other sensory experience to use film. There’s the opening of the box, the smell of the roll, maybe the removal of the little band on 120 film which you must remove entirely, the experience of opening the camera back, having to thread the end of the film into the slot on the take up spool, feeling the tug of the film advance lever, hearing the sound as the film winds, the sound of a shutter’s firing. There’s the experience of anticipation, of mystery of not being able to look down and see what you just shot or even if the exposure is “good.” There’s the benefit of not missing shots BECAUSE you were looking down! Then for darkroom practitioners there is the smell of the old familiar chemicals, the moment of truth as the film is pulled from the tank or tray of wetting agent and held up or unrolled off the reel and the images just brought into the world are first surveyed, to be allowed to dry and then printed with the enlarger or scanned! There is the thrill of revelation.
I will write more about the film cameras I have collected, about 35mm, medium format and view camera use. For now, I plan to enjoy both worlds, film and digital. I even have a nice set of those Marshall’s Oils to use again. Stay tuned.