The Way We Work

Some pros are dabbling with digital but most still shoot on film“. A remarkable claim by the great Eamonn McCabe made on BBC Radio 4 recently. I’ve been a fan of McCabe’s work ever since i first saw his sports photography in a copy of amateur photographer around 20+ years ago. In this case though, Eamonn seems to have got it rather wrong.

The problem is, is that photographers tend to believe that everyone works like they do – I shoot mostly on film, so therefore everyone else does. Only they don’t! Photography is a fascinating business because it is made up of so many practitioners doing photography their own way. We customise it to our own way of seeing, thinking and our attitudes to the world. We build our own methods, philosophies and believes, creating our own view of photography – and then we guard it fiercely. I’m right, you’re wrong!

For my part, I shoot digitally and on film. I love both and always will, but i am aware that there are photographers, out in this big bad world of ours, who will NEVER touch a film camera ever again. Likewise, some photographers stay away from digital photography. That’s a decision that they’ve made, just like i made a decision to use both digital and film. That’s the beauty of photography – we mould it into what we want, and no mould is exactly the same.

Conversion Completed

Yes! Yesterday, the final galleries of the portfolio were converted over to the SlideShowPro system and the WordPress gallery plugin I’d been using was deleted. I finally got rid of what i regarded as the weak link in the chain from the website.

The gallery plugin hadn’t been updated for over a year, with the developer just abandoning his creation – no word, no improvements, nothing! I just knew that eventually i would update WordPress and find that the galleries no longer functioned. Sadly, the options available in the plugin repository were rather lacking in features, and so i ended up looking for alternatives outside of the WordPress system.

So what now? There is plenty left to do, with the work now focussed around the editing of gallery images and uploading them the website.  I am, for once, ahead of schedule  – the complete conversion to SlideShowPro was pencilled in for completion by the end of January – any further developments this month will be an added bonus.

Having the Edge

No matter how hard i try, sometimes i just can’t understand the attitudes of certain photo bloggers. Take today for instance.

In the news with have the launch of the Nikon D4 and the rumbles of what looks like the end of that once mighty photo leviathan called Kodak. Both stories reflect how quickly the photo industry can change, It wasn’t that long ago that Nikon was seen as lagging some way behind Canon in the digital technology stakes. Now Nikon seem to have the edge.

Kodak’s demise is sad though. I’ve never been a huge user of Kodak products, but for a time i was a dedicated fan of their TMAX range of products – i still (though for how much longer is anyone’s guess) use their TMAX developer. I certainly won’t shrug off the demise of a company that has helped me take photographs over the years. Some others seem less bothered. Photography, for me at least, does not just mean digital imaging.

One of the more popular photography blogs had a post that enthused about the ‘end of the film age‘. Personally i believe that film will last for some time to come, but like in many industry sectors, only a small number of film manufacturing companies will survive or remain in that sector. In the film sector, companies like Fuji and Ilford may remain the only big players, especially if Kodak does go down. I do hope that film remains available. Film offers the user a different picture taking experience to digital. That should be encouraged. If the Impossible Project can make Polaroid film sales viable – surely 35mm, 120 and 5×4 film can have a place too.

Final thought: The decline of our high street photography shops can be linked to online competition, but a massive factor was the switch to digital. The market for photographic materials just vanished. After buying a camera and a memory card, why go back to the store? A lens? A bag maybe. Not regular items you’d go and purchase often though.

Digital changed the business model for the camera store on the high street, as much as it changed the photography industry itself. We have gained much from the digital imaging revolution, but that gain comes at a price. Those that can’t keep up will fall. Kodak, sadly appears to be one of those falling.

Retrospective Book

I’m about to start on another photography book release via blurb.com that should take me most of the winter to put together. This is going to be a big project and an important landmark book (at least for me!) that completes the first phase of the Norfolk project.

Ten years ago, i decided that i needed a long term photographic project. What began as a loose kind of photography exercise in Norfolk, ended up gathering pace and direction. After ten years, it’s time for a break and some contemplation of where to take it next. I have lots of options open, plenty left to photograph in the county, and after a year or two i’ll return.

Over the next few months I’ll be putting all of the photography  together, around 80 images or possibly more, to make a retrospective book that , I think, will be the perfect way to present the first ten years of work. The majority of the photographs that have been released online have focussed on the landscape side of the project, however, the book will stay true to the original idea with a broad mix of landscape and documentary photography. I aim to release the book on March 21st 2012.

The Future of Film

OK. After seeing a few articles about the imminent demise of film, i’ve decided to have a little fun. What i’m going to do is predict what will happen to film over the next few years. One thing to remember. I LOVE both digital and film. I believe they can co-exist. I hope both reign supreme together.

It was all started by an article that forecasted the possibility of the demise of film in the USA within ten years. I’ve been surprised at the level of conviction shown by both ‘film die hards’ and the ‘digital is the future’ crowd who have fought bitterly to defend their positions. Both make good arguments, although sometimes it  seems to come more from an zealous idealogical standpoint than calm reason and deduction.

The claim that film use is going down is correct. It’s bound to as digital cameras have caught on. Most people have embraced digital for convenience and cost reasons but my argument is that so far it has only really impacted the 35mm film market to a large degree.  The launch of a 200MP digital Hasselblad retailing at around £28,000 (plus tax) goes to show that although a good 35mm style digital camera is easily affordable these days, most medium format digital versions are still squarely aimed at a limited number of highly paid professionals or the rental markets. Yes there are cheaper alternatives but the prices are still prohibitive for many amateurs and professionals alike.

Until this situation changes, i believe that film in 120 and 5×4 formats will continue to be the only affordable alternative for large format photographers who want great quality images. As for 35mm, well film will continue to be produced as long as it remains profitable to do so. Colour will probably suffer significantly more than black and white, but it may just still have a place in the digital world. If the Impossible Project can succeed with the business model of selling ‘Polaroid’ film, then i see a potential market for selling film. Small but solid. Digital is the future but some film will remain on sale as long as it is profitable to do so.

In the UK we have a chain of photo stores that go under the Jessops name. The stores used to provide a good range of photographic gear and materials but in the last decade the photo chain’s fortunes have suffered quite considerably. I believe that in part this is due to the widespread adoption of the digital camera. Film is purchased, used, and processed. At each stage something has to be replaced especially if you process your own stuff; the film, the chemicals, and even the negative file you place the negs in have to be purchased on a regular basis. That doesn’t include the printing materials. Digital removes all that because at its core is the memory card that can be used over and over again. No wonder the camera shops are often empty. If i owned a camera shop i’d be actively encouraging film photography over digital – instead it’s vice versa.

A final thought. It’s only a small thing but I often get the professional photographer tag because i carry a film camera. I may be carrying both my digital and film cameras, but it seems that many of the public see film as solely the domain of the professional/uber photo enthusiast.  I’ve even been labelled a ‘proper photographer‘ because of carrying a film camera. I don’t agree with that but i certainly would recommend using a film camera – it’s a more challenging experience than using a digital camera. It complements digital.

A final, final thought. I intend buying a 5×4 camera this summer so i am going through the motions of putting my money where my mouth is.

Through the Gate

So there we have it. The final Baldixette photograph taken from the roll of film shot in North Wales in 2004.  I love this remarkable little camera. It’s simple to use and importantly it  puts you firmly back into the driving seat as a photographer, delivering great results with a bit of effort. You have to think and work with the camera to get an image. That’s not a bad thing for a photographer to experience in this auto-everything world.

Over the Hills

Another shot taken using the Baldixette camera. The camera was purchased in North Wales back in 2004, although sadly I can’t exactly remember where i found it. I think it may have been a charity shop in Conwy, but I could be wrong.

I’ve only ever put one film through the camera (in North Wales) just as an experiment and to see how the camera performed as an image making tool. It was easy to use, however you had to prepare yourself before carefully clicking the shutter as it seems to fire only as quickly as you can press and release the button. There is no set shutter speed from what i can gather, making the film exposing process an interesting one.

It was fun going back to a basic camera like the Baldixette. It is a true photographer’s camera; no gadgets or software to get in the way of the picture taking. The photographer controls the whole image taking process. Hmm I may just put roll number two through the camera this summer just to see what I can get.