I don’t know about you, but I have this terrible habit of always wanting to rush through things; and for a perfectionist, it is the definition of hell itself, because I want to get many things done all at once while expecting them to be done well. So basically, I am the French guy preaching the importance of joie de vivre and the importance of slowing down while rushing through my life like the mad hatter from Alice in Wonderland.
So I decided I should do everything I can to cure myself of this disease once and for all. Or at least try that is; as getting things done and ticking off lists is very important to me and my sanity…
So anyway, one of the fields in which the disease had creeped itself in was photography. I’d take 10 frames of everything, worried that I would not get the picture I wanted in just one shot. Ah the joy of digital photography! It doesn’t cost anything to take pictures anymore, so why should I bother to think or take my time?! The cure? Go back to film! I was a little apprehensive at first, but a good friend told me that if our grandmas used to be able to do it, we sure as hell could do it too!
I didn’t want to let go of picture quality though, so I chose to invest in a medium format camera. A 50 year old Mamiya like the one in the picture below. I have been shooting with it for a few weeks now, and boy was it the right cure for my disease!
- I know each shot costs about 1€ in film alone (a roll of 12 is about 10€), so I take more time to plan each photograph. My basic rule is to never take a picture I wouldn’t be proud to print and hang on a wall in my home.
- I had to really learn more and pay attention to the basics of photography (composition, light, exposure…).
The side effect of all this is that I am able to take better pictures even with my modern cameras (oh, yes, by the way, I’m am not a crazy person! I won’t be letting go of those. They are just way too practical).
My advice to those of you who’d like to take better pictures with your big modern DSLRs, without going all the way back to film like I did, is to use your phone cameras more! Focus on composition, subject and light! I promise it will make you a better photographer!!
Using film cameras, and especially one of these old twin lens monsters, is also a fantastic ice breaker between you and my “models”. It makes street photography and portraiture an absolute breeze and a joy. I always ask people if I can take their picture (OK, almost always). But with my big DSLR, even if a nice smile goes a long way, I would say that 20 to 30% of the people I ask turn me down. When I approach people with the film camera (and a smile) however, nearly everyone says yes and most people will actually start a conversation with me. The older folks will tell me they haven’t seen a camera like this in decades and that “they were so wonderful” and “these were the good old times” etc… The kids (and by kids I mean anyone between the ages of 4 and 35) find it absolutely “wicked” or “cool” as they say. Some people even come to me to ask if I can take THEIR picture.
You see?! I’m a real hipster now! I have the beard and the old film camera… OK, I know, I need to loose a “few” pounds and I don’t have any hair left for a man bun, but you know… I feel quite “cool” :0) :0)
Anyway, I could write bout this for hours (and probably will in the future), but my point is that with film, I found yet another way to slow down and appreciate my French heaven more… I now take more walks in the vineyard or along the river to take pictures. I found inspiration and purpose again.
Embedded in this post are some of my very first attempts. They were taken along the river in downtown Bordeaux last Sunday. I asked 8 people and 8 people very happily said yes :0)
36 Comments Add yours
Bravo Stéphane une idée superbe pour mieux apprécier l’art de la photographie – le temps de préparation qu’on a presque oublié – des leçons très importants d’apprendre! Les résultats sont très beaux en plus! 🙂 🙂
Now you put a big smile on my face!!!!! I used Mamiya RB67 with Secor lenses 15 years ago 😉 Then a Reflex came in…. followed by a digital Reflex… and lately by the iPhone.
I love your bw photography… AND YOUR THOUGHTS, as always… no matter the format 🙂
Love your blog! With you developing the pics yourself, where are you finding the equipment and chemicals to do so? I have a Canon Rebel that I got in the ’90s when in grad school, and photography and the darkroom were my ‘escapes’…and I miss that kind of creative mindfulness. That kind of photography is really a type of zen.
Hi Carrie. Yes, film photography is slowly changing my life. It does slow you down and helps you focus on the basics. You can find really good film cameras on ebay or in specialized shops. Most camera stores still sell all kinds of film. As for the chemicals, you’ll find them in camera stores or on the net. They are quite cheap. I hope you give film another try. It really is quite special 🙂
Great post! I still don’t really understand what a hipster is. We keep asking our kids, but they are never clear. Maybe they don’t really get it either. But aren’t tight jeans/jeggings involved? Love the photos, and it all makes perfect sense. So happy for you! I don’t rush through things so much as I get bored too easily…
I read a hipster is someone who follows the latest trends, especially those outside the cultural mainstream… Hense the beards, 70s outfits, hats, film photography and vintage VWs 😎
Love seeing the film shots, Stephane! You have a real feel for photographing people; a special gift, and I’m sure that your warm personality helps, too!
Ih Cynthia. I can always count on you to make me feel like a million bucks… Thank you 😊😊
Cell phones take amazingly clear pictures these days. Although I love my digital Nikon, for traveling, I just use my telephone camera. But the vintage cameras do send a message of each shot being more important somehow.
Oh don’t get me wrong. If I had to get rid of All but one camera, the only one I’d keep would be my Iphone 😉 But there is something very special about film and I don’t think it’s just the nostalgia speaking…
The photographs are exceptional, crisp and clear and excellent quality. But that I believe is what can happen when you use film and in the hands of a talented photographer it’s magic.
Thank you so much!! Yes, I think one can achieve similar results with really expensive digital tools, but there is something about film… It is crisp and creamy at the same time… + it makes me feel like an alchemist 😎
Have you set up a darkroom too? Your photos are wonderful, B&W tones on film have no equal no matter how much tweaking you do on Photoshop.
I knew you’d see the difference!! The tones as well as the incredible creamy texture of the out of focus areas. It gives a sort of weight to the image… I hab’ve indeed set-up a mini dark room but I am in the process of converting one of my bedrooms into a large darkroom where I’ll be able to make my own prints too…
Love your blog
Thanks Lisa! So happy to have you!
Whenever I am poised to take a sunset…perhaps at the coast at the Pacific Ocean who always pleaded with us “5 more minutes”. He was so frugal with his 35mm that I know he would have loved the carefree attitude with digital. I’m glad you are finding a way to slow down because prozac AND vodka are a not a good combo. LOL
Bonsoir Stéphane, your post makes me love my/your French Heaven even more. I really missed your posts. You´re so charmingly open about your approach to photography, to finding subjects for portraiture, to..life it´s almost impossible not to like that 😉 And you know that I´m sure !!
You are always so kind Sabine! I hope we get to meet someday!
would be awesome!
Haha….The reason more people are wiling to speak with you and don’t refuse your request for a picture is because they think you’re an escaped mental patient! 🙂 🙂 Who else who doesn’t have a long thick beard, a lumberjack jacket, and isn’t a gluten free vegan fruitarian, would possibly use such a contraption? Ipso facto…a dangerous lunatic who must be humoured! 🙂
On a serious note, I love the new work, and if it helps you to slow down hey, it’s better than Prozac and Clonazepam.
Prozac’s kinda cool though… especially with vodka! ;0)
What a wonderful way of slowing down and appreciating what’s around you more. Your photos are always brilliant but so interesting to hear about your new film camera. I remember having my first camera as a kid, a box Brownie, and having to decide how to use the 10? 12? shots over a whole holiday!! Now I’m snapping with my digital and iPhone all the time … not as much thought but hopefully after all these years of practice, better photos!!
The medium is not nearly as important as a good eye and I know yours to be quite special. So film or DSLR or even Iphone, who cares? As long as we’re having fun along the way…
Thank you Stephane 🙂 x
Exceedingly cool! My heart raced while reading. I’ve found I’m too shy to ask people for permission, so rarely take a “people picture”. I carried around Model Release cards for years, but still have all but one blank. I did use one with a friend when taking snaps of her toddler. I ran across the prints (yes, from film) a few months ago, and was surprised at how pleasing they were.
But mostly flowers, plants, and skies were my targets – couldn’t resist early-morning crawls along alleys in my neighborhood where there was an abundance of dew-dropped flowers beckoning to me every morning. The old Kodachrome 25 made such glorious reds! It is unavailable now, more’s the pity.
As always, I swooned over your b/w portraits! The skin tones are so gorgeous!! So jealous! ;->
Oh I would jill myself if I had to make people sign releases. 😉 go on YouTube and look for a doc called “the last rool of Kodachrome” it is lovely!
I looked . . . there are myriad instances, all with different lengths, so presume they are all different takes on the subject. Which one did you see?
It’s from national Geographic and it’s called “The last roll of Kodachrome” with Steve McCurry. 30.66mn and 442152 views
Thanks. I saw that one, but didn’t know if it was your intended reference. I’ll look at it this afternoon at nap time. ;->
Also watch “Long Live Film”. It really inspired me…
Wow Stéphane, I guess I can now cross “get to know a fat Hipster who takes film photographs with a wicked camera” off my bucket list. These are fabulous!
Ha ha ha!
Due to an accident I can not use my Nikon anymore (to heavy for my 1/2 lame right arm I now have to take all the photos with my Mobile camera for my Blog, but have no clue whatsoever how to manipulate. I rely on Paint or Photoshop in my computer. But I very much understand why you have gone back (partially) to the old camera – love it.
So sorry about your accident !! Photoshop can be a lot of fun too though 😉📸