30 minutes

A few days ago, I woke up slightly earlier (okay actually hours earlier) than I usually do to send my sister off for her first ever camp! Haha I was actually quite excited for her that she’s all grown up now. Long story short, I ended up taking a stroll from her school back home, taking a circuitous route around the neighborhood at 7.15am in the morning.

In the half an hour that it took me to get home, I finished off the 20 odd shots I had left in my camera, which was very very surprising for me since for those who’ve seen me shoot, I am a very slow shooter by nature. I can sometimes follow the other shooters for a whole day and fire off maybe 5 to 6 shoots, and that’s considered a lot by my standards.

Which made me wonder about my shooting style. I wonder if it’s folly, or discipline, that I shoot one frame of a scene and move on. Sometimes it’s folly because my timing might be off, or if I had taken more frames I might get a better picture, but sometimes I feel that if you can’t get that one frame right, you’re doing it wrong.

William Eggleston has the same kind of shooting discipline as me, one shot and that’s it, but granted he’s shooting more still subjects instead of dynamic streets so he has the time to compose. What do you think?

Advertisements

Busy

So sorry everyone that I haven’t been updating this space (all 3 of you who read this blog). It’s just that I’ve been really busy lately with my thesis (it’s finally completed, just need to edit it down by about 2000 words) and job interviews.

Finally got a few rolls of film developed in February and March, and got to scanning them. Some promising shots, but nothing to be too proud of. Shall just share one of them here that I really like. What do you think? After looking at my pictures over the past year or so, I realized that I seem to like street portraiture, but sneaky ones. And that’s something which I’m looking to change. There’s nothing very visually appealing about my pictures, since they’re neither good portraits nor are they reportage nor are they what you would traditionally call “street” (if there is even such a thing).

In an attempt at doing so, I’ve started trying to spot busy scenes and taking pictures of them, trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Below are some of the shots I’ve accumulated in the rolls from February and March so far. Tell me what you think. 🙂

Well that’s it from me for now. Come the 13th of April, I will finally be free of thesis and essays, which will hopefully give me time for a breather from school and go on a photographic spree. At least till my study break for exams begin. Take care everyone!

Fun

Haven’t been updating this space lately because I haven’t been up to date with my scanning. Had about 7 rolls to scan and I just got down to scanning them at pretty low (I think 800dpi or 1200dpi) as contact prints last night.

But one photo from the 7 rolls really made me smile. It’s a photo of my good friend Dav running after a flock of pigeons. A few weeks back I was sitting down thinking that in our quest to take street photographs of random stranger doing interesting things or random items on the street, we sometimes forget that we live in a life filled with many people that matter in our lives. And we sometimes forget to take pictures of those people.

So here’s a reminder, both to myself and others, don’t forget to take pictures of the people you love. It might not be an artistic picture or technically perfect, but at least you’ll have a physical copy of a memory. Whatever it is, you need to have fun when taking photos. Never forget that. Once going out and taking photos becomes a chore, you’ll know its time for a break.

Oh and here’s the picture I was talking about. Starting to like shooting with a 35mm cos I’m liking the wideness it gives, but I need to change my shooting style. Can’t shoot and stand the way I used to. Taken with my Minolta x500 + 35mm f2.8. Can’t remember the film used though. It says 400N on the film edges.

Fed 5B: Post Mortem

After shooting for a week with the Fed 5B, I’m ashamed to say I broke it. In my haste in capturing a shot, I changed the shutter speed before cocking the shutter, and BAM it broke. Luckily the great guys from Peek! said it was alright. Felt really crummy for breaking their camera.

But shooting with the Fed 5B for a week has kind of reconfirmed my thoughts about a rangefinder. For zone focusing at f8 or so, using it is no different from an SLR. Set the aperture, set the focus, set the shutter speed, and its good to go.

I think where the RF really excels is in low light. I was able to handhold shots at 1/15 with no problems. Like the one below.

Or even at 1/4secs, which I thought was pretty amazing. The lack of a mirror helps a lot in this aspect.

Maybe its the Fed 5B, but I really couldnt get used to using a focusing patch in the centre. I know the focusing patches on other RFs are larger, but the small patch of the Fed 5B made large aperture focusing quite hard to do. But once you actually are able to align the patch and the image together, its easier to confirm focus than an SLR split image though. So I dont know. Perhaps an RF with a larger patch can change my mind.

Also, as mentioned in my earlier post, the viewfinder tended to scratch my glasses. Been using my pair of glasses for close to 3 months without a scratch, used the Fed 5B for 3 days and I have just as many hairline scratches.

With the Fed 5B, the viewfinder roughly coincides with 50mm but the fact that you cant really put your eyes to the viewfinder, you end up seeing only like 90% of the actual frame, which is quite bad I think. Even when trying out my friends Leicas, I cant seem to get used to the idea of framelines. Especially 35mm framelines, using glasses I couldnt really see the edges of the frameline, and its slightly disconcerting.

As it stands, I don’t really find anything appealing about using an RF vis an SLR. If you aren’t really using it at slow shutter speeds and are using zone focusing anyways, an SLR would serve you just as well.

All that talk of rangefinder = stealth is overhyped too I think. In today’s day and age, anything other than a DSLR attracts attention. And especially if your film camera is sexy chrome (which I really love), it is bound to attract attention. Stealth is a way of mind, how you conduct yourself. Don’t have to dress like a ninja to be a true ninja.

Damn, my Fed 5B post mortem seems to have become an RF against SLR debate. But I must stress that its not. It truly is my thoughts on using a Fed 5B, and since I’ve never shot with any other RF, I have to base my opinions on my experience of using my SLR, the Minolta x570.

Thanks for reading. Till next time, which might actually be a long time away since I don’t have access to a scanner and have a backlog of film to scan. Plus it’s leading up to the final month till my thesis is due, so I’m busy busy busy.

Keep shooting everyone!

Film vs. Digital

Was having a conversation with my good friend Dav yesterday over coconut juice and samosas, when he said that he was contemplating not buying an M6 (since he already has the M9) and getting a digital or film compact instead. And it got me thinking about something that has been swirling around my head for quite a bit. This whole debate on film vs. digital that’s been going around. I’m not talking about the crop body digital vs. film, but just something that is relevant to the full frame M9 (or any other full frame camera) vs. a film one. I’m not even going to go into the whole rangefinder vs. slr vs. compact discussion cos its also irrelevant here.

From a rational point of view, shooting on digital is way more practical. You have a whole range of ISOs to shoot on, and the fact that it’s almost free is kind of great. I mean yes the initial outlay is crazy high, but after that you can shoot to your heart’s content without worrying about development or printing or chemicals and the big motherlode of timesuck – scanning. And with post-processing (don’t shoot me), you can replicate a whole range of films and look too. You want grain? Move a slider around and BAM! You want it to look like Astia, Provia, or even Superia, move some sliders around and BAM! You have it. There are even presets for it. Yes yes it’s not the real thing, but for the 99% of the people who are going to see your pictures, they won’t be able to tell the difference.

I mean, sometimes I honestly think people use film because of some romanticized notion of film. Yeah with film you get full frame for cheap (but remember that’s not what we’re saying here) but seriously, not many people can tell if you used film or digital. Admit it, how many of us process our digital files to have more of a film look? Why? Because we somehow just prefer the look of film. What is this look? Organic? Grain? Or just something within our hearts that makes us want to emulate film?

To summarize, I think the digital vs. film debate all boils down to this – convenience vs. that irrational, romanticized notion of what it means to shoot film. Sure you can argue that with film, one is more selective with shots since its only 24 or 36 frames (and I do admit, I’ve become way more selective with what I shoot since I started using film), but that self discipline can be self imposed with digital too. One can also say with film you can’t chimp and have to rely on your own gut and skill to take the shot, but hey you can do that too with a digital one. Switch off the damn screen or preview. With a little self discipline, you can simulate the act of shooting digital as if it’s on film too right?

At the end of the day, we just have to ask ourselves, why do we shoot on film? After all that talk, I have to confess that for me, its cos a full frame digital camera is just way out of my budget. I might say that I just like the look of film too, but honestly its cos I can’t afford a full frame camera. Haha!

-edit-

I guess what I’m really trying to say here, is that many of us use film because we just “prefer” it. We can’t really articulate why, but it’s just something we “prefer” [Thanks Kiely (who incidentally writes a blog called Film Wins) for helping me clarify my thoughts!]

-edit 2:-

Since I wrote this, I’ve realized that my article is rather shallow (for that I apologize). I’ve received lots of comments from friends on FB and Twitter on my post. With their permission, I’ve included those which I feel add to the discussion.

Callan: “Even at the small size of an 8″x12” print, the difference between film and digital tones, especially in black and white, is blatantly obvious.

It is also an artistic “handcuff” if you will, basically restricting myself to specific conditions. It enforces a certain discipline that most people who have stuck to digital does not appreciate.

Is it better? No. Horses for courses, as the Brits say. Unless a client demands film, which has never happened thus far, I use digital for work. It’s convenient, and fast, and very controllable, provided you know how the camera will react and capture that scene.

It still boils down to preference of aesthetics, and familiarity with your chosen equipment. That matters more than the false dichotomy of film vs digital.”

Eric Kim : “Still find with film it is easier to separate the shooting/editing portion. Makes it a lot easier to work on projects. And having an M9 – the fact of having an LCD will cause you to chimp (or have the urge to chimp). Film has totally eliminated that for me. And also it is nice to not worry about not having enough megapixels ;)”

Jing Wen “it is really about the experience and look as well”. He also shared a couple of really great reads online. I encourage you to read them up.

Ken Rockwell on film vs digital and Oleg Novikov  on film vs digital  and also on character.

Thanks so much everybody for your comments. Feel free to add more if you want to add to the discussion.

-edit 3-

Dav: “At the end of the day to me, it’s still about the photograph. If it’s a great shot, it’s a great shot, regardless film or digital. For others, people love film because it might be the color, rendering or the process etc etc. Perfectly fine with that. Everyone who is into photography should try both film and digital, then decide what is their preference or use both mediums. Have fun with photography. That’s what it’s supposed to be when we first picked up the camera.”

Adam: ” isnt it about the difficulty too? Be it price, or the general time consuming nature of develeoping and scanning. When you put in all the effort, say shooting full manual on film, getting that perfect exposure, composition, developing it, scanning it.. everything. Doesnt it just feel so much more fulfilling? Thats why I love film now”