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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

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Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Why film?
Old 07-09-2017   #1
Bill Pierce
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Why film?

I still maintain a wet darkroom, but it sees most of its use providing silver prints from some of my old negatives for folks who prefer silver over inkjet. My family and friends are likely to get inkjet prints from scanned negatives. This afternoon I was scanning some family negatives from the í70ís, and I wondered why some folks still shoot film. In many technical aspects, todayís digital cameras produce images that are superior to film, especially if you are one of the many who did the majority of your pictures with relatively high speed 35mm films.

I could only think of 2 reasons, although Iím sure there are more. (1) If you first looked at digital some time ago, and havenít looked since then, it really has improved. News photographers were among the first to use digital. Believe me, the sensors are better, the cameras are better, the final images are technically better. Iím reminded of this every time I look at my early digital images. (2) Film slows you down. There are a limited number of frames on a roll of film (much less a sheet film holder). Thereís only one ISO at a time. And itís highly unlikely you have a motorized film camera that is going to shoot 11 frames a second. To put it simply - itís more likely that you think before you press the button. That to me is the important reason.

Now it isnít impossible to think before you press the shutter release on a digital camera. It may not be done very often, but it is possible with a great deal of self discipline. Therefore I want to know from the folks who are still shooting film why they are doing it.
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Old 07-09-2017   #2
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Why I shoot film.
1. I like Going slow
2. I like the ratty look compared to digital (because digital is just so good).
P.S. I was the guy in high school that was told I had so much potential but was wasting it on goofing off.
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Old 07-09-2017   #3
Jake Mongey
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I shoot film because originally it was different to digital and i fell in love with that aspect but now that magic has long worn off i keep shooting it because I enjoy the process and the end goal and sure my digital is better than my 35mm equipment but I HATE editing which is required as the raw files are always very flat meanwhile I have the darkroom process which I love, I have some speakers in my darkroom and can easily pull a ten hour day in there working.

However, I still have to edit and scan film for sharing online and any jobs ive worked who need digital files but its often far better than digital editing because Im not selecting from 5 different versions of the same shot and putting punch into it. Theres also the surprise element even when scanning that really still gets me.

Also the quality I can get from my RB67 is just stunning, really really stunning to the point when I go back to 35 (which isnt very often anymore) I find the quality disappointing when I print 12x16 which is always the end goal.

This year is probably my best year for shooting film as ive been trying to migrate any work ive been doing digitally to film which takes a bit of convincing to clients but ivew had good luck. The pinnacle of this was getting the opportunity to shoot backstage and catwalk at London fashion week where I left my digital and just shot with a Mamiya C33 and Rb67 with a metz flash and now ive got my film back - I regret nothing, they came out great
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Old 07-09-2017   #4
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I use a digital P&S for casual snap shots. But for serious recording of images (people, buildings, streetscapes, and scenery) I shoot only B&W film on an archival film base.
That is a polyester film base. I do very little printing - only for my wall or to give away
prints.

I just obtained some Arista Litho film to start copying some of my old slides onto.
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Old 07-09-2017   #5
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Though I do use digital I really enjoy the process of using film much more.

To start, there is a certain anticipation that builds between the capture and seeing the negative.

The delay also results in a bit of separation and I seem to be able to be a little more objective when I view the results.

With film I capture my image, or a series of images, and move on. With digital I have found myself taking and deleting what amounts to more then a roll or two of shots trying to get that specific exposure.

I get to use some really interesting equipment. I certainly can't go out with a full WeeGee setup of Speed Graphic with flash and bulbs, or a Leica 1, if I am using digital.

I get to really learn the characteristics of a given camera, lens, film combo, and what I can and cannot do with it. Digital allows me to pretty much post process anything I want.

I don't remember ever having accidentally deleted a negative, or losing an entire hard drive full of negatives.

There are probably tons of other reasons I could think of, and probably will later on. But there is the one reason that captured my attention back in High School in the first place, and still sends a thrill running up my spine every time it happens.

I am hooked anew everytime I turn on the lights and I see that print that I created floating in the fixer. That is magic my friend, pure magic. No computer monitor can recreate that same magic for me.
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Old 07-09-2017   #6
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I was discussing boating with a colleage while out on the lake yesterday, He prefers everything modern, with GPS navigation and computer control. Basically set your origin, your destination, and let the boat take care of the rest.

A few decades ago, one of my professors got into boating big time, but his passion was for sailing. His dream was to sail down the Atlantic coast (of Canada, and the USA), into the Carribean Sea and then make his way back. I think that he finally did it soon after he retired. He loved the feeling of the wind, the adjustment of the sails, all of that stuff.

I guess there are two types of people in the world.
The first type are those who just want the end results in the most efficient way.

The second type are those who want the experience of the journey, with all of the uncertainties, and mystery of whether or not the end result will turn out. The second type likes the craftsmanship aspect of working with your hands, thinking on your feet. You may produce something as good as the computer controlled version can do it, but you have a much higher likelihood of botching it up. But, that uncertainty of outcome is what makes it so much fun.

I can see why news photography went digital ASAP. They want the picture before the event becomes stale. My wife loves digital photography. She thinks that the cell phone is the greatest thing that was ever made for picture taking. I'm of the second group. I'm not in any hurry to see my pictures. When I finally do see the roll developed, I see the event from a different perspective. I'm not in the emotion of the moment, and I can see the results from a more detached perspective. I do own a digital camera: an 8MP Kodak from 2006. It still works, and I occasionally use it to take pictures for stuff I want to sell on ebay. For that role, it is fantastic, and I get instant results. I rarely use it for anything else, though.

I still like the mystery of not knowing with certainty what the outcome will be. I'm frustrating myself further with my experiments with IR film, and using flash bulbs for fill-in flash. I just did some of this today. I was wondering about my sanity for being out in 94 F heat with high humidity, hiking up and down woods and firing off flash bulbs as I go. (I did bring along a bag to collect the used bulbs, not to pollute the woods).

My own personal view is that digital is like microwave cooking. Fast, efficient, and able to raise about as much passion in me. I'd rather cook over a wood fire, or charcoal. It's much messier, takes way longer, and there's a good chance that I'm going to turn a good piece of meat into cinders. But, when it's done right, it just feels so good.
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Old 07-09-2017   #7
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1. fLeica is cheaper than dLeica.
2. fLeica needs no batteries.
1 and 2 are practical reasons for me.

3. I see no reason to use digital for art part of my photography. News, FB, paid shots are for digital. But it has nothing to do with art for me. Darkroom print is the art. Even if it family snapshot. For me.

4. I have tried all bunch of digi for street and landscape. And not long time ago. Modern cameras with 20+ mPixels and 12K+ ISO. It just doesn't work for me. Every time I hold film Leica, it feels right for me.
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Old 07-09-2017   #8
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Because they don't make cameras like the Nikon S(series) anymore.
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Old 07-09-2017   #9
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I shot digital only for 10+ years. I just did a extensive scanning project of B&W negatives from India in the 70s and 80s. I was so taken with the look of the images, that I decided to give film a serious go. I replaced my MM1 with an M6.

So for me the pull is mainly the more organic aesthetic. I also appreciate the slowing down aspect. The prospect of jumping off the digital camera merry-go-round is also appealing. And, of course, film Ms are such a treat.

We'll see where it leads, but so far I'm finding the results and the experience wonderful.

John
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Old 07-09-2017   #10
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Because it's like an old bolt action.
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Old 07-09-2017   #11
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I take photos for a living. I shot film for many years before going to digital under client pressure in 2006. My work-work is almost all digital now. I occasionally run a roll or two of 35 b+w on a portrait job after making digital photos.

I like the look of film better. It's a personal taste thing. All of my personal b&w images are made on film. Color is mixed between film and digital.

All of my printing is digital. I think pigment printing is far better for my personal work than wet printing. Another taste choice. If some of the older Agfa papers I loved, like Portriga Rapid, were around I might be willing to do some wet printing again.

Another reason for making my personal images on film is the number of problems with digital archiving. Bit Rot is real. Friends in the music business complain of it often. A recording made days before will have lost something over a short time. Piano harmonics are often cited. Storing digital data on changing materials is also an issue. With digital media storage types changing constantly - (remember 5 1/4 & 3 1/2 floppy disks, Zip Drives?) in a few years the devices used to recover data will be lost to "more modern" methods. A piece of film as a Master, can always be scanned on whatever modern method is in vogue.

A fellow I know got the contract to digitize a great part of The Library of Congress. He's using very high end Creo IQ scanners for this work. But the storage media chosen is 78 RPM vinyl disks.. 78 RPM records. The thinking being, that a simple stylus on a vinyl disk, moving at 78 RPM would be easy to construct far into the future. The digital data is safe on vinyl, it's not magnetic or UV problematic like much of the optical media available .. no Bit Rot.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_degradation
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Old 07-09-2017   #12
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Film cameras are less complicated to operate; i.e. fewer settings and controls, in standard locations.
Decisions are made solely by me, in my head, not by a microprocessor using the latest algorithm.

And then there are the negative and the print, tangible results of the craft.
Making the darkroom wet print is my favorite part; so magical, so sensual...

Chris
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Old 07-09-2017   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
Therefore I want to know from the folks who are still shooting film why they are doing it.
1. My digital cameras cannot duplicate the image quality I am able to obtain from my medium format and large format film cameras.

2. I cannot fiscally justify replacing my medium format and large format film cameras with comparable digital cameras.

3. I prefer battery independent cameras.
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Old 07-09-2017   #14
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Moved from digital to film for similar reasons others have stated above:

1.Could not afford a digital rangefinder at the time (2008). Still cannot afford a digital rangefinder (2017).

2. Like the look of black & white film, particularly the grain, whereas I never liked digital noise.

3. Love the process itself, well, most of it. Really though, the film advance alone is a tactile delight.

4. I will soon start making my own darkroom wet prints, because I psychologically struggle with the Ďsurfaceí aspect of B&W inkjets. I say psychologically, because it's primarily an issue when I already know the print is an inkjet.

5. Discovered after switching the joys of not fretting over batteries or the latest and best B&W digital conversion software/method...why bother trying to emulate?

6. Yes, it did slow me down in a positive way, although I think both digital and film have their pedagogical advantages depending on the individual.
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Old 07-09-2017   #15
Steve Bellayr
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A new Leica is $7000+ (US). I can't justify the expenditure.
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Old 07-09-2017   #16
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Pretty simple really, I see more money from making silver prints via the darkroom in my future than from digital. I also see a better life lived in doing it and eventually sharing my passion for it in teaching workshops at my new home which I am currently building out a 500 square foot, top of the line fine art darkroom in.

For the past few years and considering how much it added to the cost of my new home, I have invested well over $100,000 into being able to do film and silver gelatin printing for the rest of my career....a career that has seen full time use of digital since 1994.

It's the real deal, it takes real talent and it is now more popular and respected as an art form than ever...
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Old 07-09-2017   #17
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First of all, I'm an amateur photographer, so I have none of the pragmatic pressures that weigh upon the professional.

I like the simplicity and the tangibility of film.

I was originally alienated by auto-focus, multi-mode film SLRs. I'm left-eye dominant and I wear glasses. The grouping of controls just to the right of the eyepiece was always an ergonomic nightmare for me. Add to this the fact that with my slower, more contemplative approach to photography, I never felt the need for auto-focus. So, I stuck with the older technology.

Then, I started migrating more and more into medium format and square composition with TLRs. I really like composing on a waist-level finder with the camera on a tripod. It's like laying the composition out on a canvas while viewing with both eyes and having both hands free to adjust the camera controls and placement.

Back to the principle of simplicity, I like all-manual cameras with just the basic controls, all managed by me. Modern cameras with all the menus and controls - all to manage just focus, aperture, and shutter speed - feel so chaotic. This chaos utterly destroys the "Zen" of photography for me.

(Oh well, I drive an Accord with a stick shift and I like fountain pens, mechanical watches, and such.)

- Murray

PS. I'm really gratified to see someone Jake Mongey's age so rapidly developing solid photographic skills, in digital, film, and the traditional darkroom. Finding a sixteen-year-old who is interested and skilled in film photography and who makes such solid contributions to a forum like this amazes me.
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Old 07-09-2017   #18
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I'm an old timer and started shooting film, processing and printing when I was a kid. One I like the look of a fine silver gelatin print vs digital. I feel there's a tonal depth that's different than digital prints. Digital prints have come a long way but they still don't equal a fiber base silver gelatin print. Archiving raw digital files and retrieving them to browse is a pain. Important digital files need to be backed up on multiple storage devices. Film in archival pages in archival binder boxes are so easy to view on a light box. No booting up a disc and waiting for previews to load and render.

The East Tennessee History museum has established a special collection of my documentary work in Appalachia. I've willed roughly 100,000 negatives of cock fights, moonshiners, kkk cross burnings, serpent handling church services and many more topics to them. Many museums won't accept digital files due to archiving issues and questions as to whether those files will be readable in 100 or 200 years. I continue to shoot subjects for the museum and continue to shoot B&W film. Today I drove 4 hours and shot a serpent handling church service in the mountains of East TN.

I got into digital around 1998 shooting with a Dycomed scanning back for commercial work. I adopted digital when the Nikon D1 came out and upgraded regularly and phased film out as digital improved. I still shoot a limited amount of commercial work of which most is digital. I will however use large format when extreme enlargements are requested.
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Old 07-09-2017   #19
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I don't know. Habit perhaps.
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Old 07-09-2017   #20
Daryl J.
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My earliest digital work has bit rot. And lots of it.

Sure, film can get damaged and technology will migrate, but it has a chance of being useful to somebody in the 2100 and 2200's. My digital files won't have a chance in &@**.

So I shoot b&w film for the future. And iPhone for the rest. But I'd love an X100F or M10.
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Old 07-09-2017   #21
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I've got a Sony RX1RII, so I know what good, current digital looks like. Two other digital SLR bodies as well. Most of the time it just sits there, and if I'm shooting, I'm shooting film over 90% of the time. Most of the reasons have already been listed above. Worse than that, of the many film bodies I own, when I grab something to go out the door, more often than not, it is one of the technically less sophisticated bodies, with the lenses that exhibit loca, coma, spherical aberration, or some other supposed horror. Don't know why other than I obviously just must enjoy it more that way.
The one big thing that digital does better than film is resolution. I could care less. The level of resolution needed to make a beautiful photograph, was handily surpassed by a Spotmatic with a SMC 50/1.4 decades ago.
People obsess about resolution because you can put a number on it. Not everything which can be measured is beautiful, and not everything which is beautiful can be measured.
"I love my lens, it has such wonderful corner sharpness." Meh. Good for you, you two will be very happy together.

"Digital is better because it's sharper." No. It's not. It's sharper because it's sharper. "Better" denotes something else entirely. You can't measure what makes a better photograph.

But, for a lot of people, that's the alpha and the omega of what a better camera is-it's "sharper" (easier too. no chemicals.) Meh. You're a chemical too, get over it. Does what denotes worthwhile photography get to be defined according to the narrow, measurable fixations of those who prefer digital? Not seeing any objective reason that should be the case, though those who believe that to be the case seem to feel comfortable being the arbiters. ("It's sharper. I can print bigger than makes any real sense for most people. Because I am such a lousy photographer I don't understand how to look at a scene and frame the thing that actually makes an interesting photograph, I can just press this thingie and later crop away the 80% that is pointless. looking for the good photo that must be in there somewhere, like Michaelangelo finding David in that big piece of marble. Because I have 42 megapickles of resolution, and you don't, because you have film, which is so last year.)

For me, it is about the process, at least as much as the result, and the process of film, taken as a whole, I find vastly more entertaining than digital, at least to this point. Garry Winogrand left, what, 2500 of undeveloped film behind, more? Vivian Maier, same thing. My contention, could be wrong, is that they just enjoyed the process of getting that far, far enough to stick them in the drawer and forget about them until later, and get back out and do some more of the fun part. And what is exciting about "later" with film? The eternal film question: "Did it come out?" "Oh, look, that's cool!" With digital, you don't get that. Of course it "came out". Not only that, because it is a high quality digital image generated by a modern sensor, it looks exactly like the other twelve hundred billion digital photos taken today, in aesthetic terms. Really sharp, possibly even without blown highlights.
"Look, I can take another picture of my wife/girlfriend/Shih tzu lit only by candlelight, and our food, because 256,000 ISO." Okay, if that fills a perceived artistic need for you, I guess that is a huge advantage for you. I struggle on without those, my life much diminished, I am told.
Others may disagree, possibly excitedly, but am only answering the question which was asked. Shorter version: Speaking only for myself, film is just way more fun to shoot and process, plus, to my eye, the results, unpredictable as they sometimes are, are way more interesting, day in and day out.
God knows I've tried do make myself love digital and make myself find it rewarding, or even interesting, and am still trying, just not there yet.
(If I had to produce photographic product for a living I'd be singing a different tune. Fortunately, for me, this is just an avocation.)


"Honey, don't you think that Monet thing with the water lilies would have been better if it had been sharper."
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Old 07-09-2017   #22
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Bill,
If we invert your reasons for shooting film then the reasons for shooting digital are technical image quality and efficiency. There is more to life than that. Shooting film is enjoyable and rewarding and using a manual film camera is relaxing.
To follow on from Roberts analogy, why would anyone cook at all? It is more efficient to get a technically "better" meal at a restaurant. I just made my first sourdough from scratch (made the started too). It took ages and wasn't perfect (or cheap), but it was tasty and rewarding. What more could I want?
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Old 07-09-2017   #23
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Another film perk:

Two Saturdays ago I was at the local Farmers' Market with my Leica IIIc, 3,5/5 Elmar, and 5cm viewfinder. The guys shooting digipix annoyed others. The aesthetic of that old Barnack, however, opened friendly doors of welcome, conversation, etc. I was given fresh fruit, fresh veggies, and free whiskey. I kid not. Film. Gotta love it.
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Old 07-09-2017   #24
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1. Quite simply I like shooting film. 2. I love darkroom work. It is time out from the rest of the world. There is a note on my door ďIf the building is on fire knock otherwise talk to me when I come out.Ē People have learned that it means what it says. 3. I have yet to find a digital that has has the quality, size, and heft of a Riga Minox.or a Primo Jr. TLR.
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Old 07-09-2017   #25
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I have to remind myself to use my Leica M240, I have to remember to give my M6 a rest!

I shoot film, both 135 and 120 because of its "look". Despite all the digital apps available to reproduce the "film look" they don't quite there do they? Nah, if you want the film look, shot it. And I want it.
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Old 07-09-2017   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daryl J. View Post
My earliest digital work has bit rot. And lots of it.

Sure, film can get damaged and technology will migrate, but it has a chance of being useful to somebody in the 2100 and 2200's. My digital files won't have a chance in &@**.

So I shoot b&w film for the future. And iPhone for the rest. But I'd love an X100F or M10.
You can solve some of those digital problems by printing your images on good quality materials. Cotton rag papers and archival pigment inks. The prints will outlast the files by decades.

One big problem with digital photography (my thinking) is that almost no one prints their stuff. In days past, a shoe box of small prints or a photo album was passed down through generations of a family. Now with digital, these things are posted to social media and stored in "cloud farms". Two non photographer friends recently lost all of their family photos and hobby photos. One friend lost his to Yahoo's cloud..removed without notice as they closed their operation. Another from a major storage group (I can't remember which one) again, without any warning from the host. Result, no family photos... all gone.

Print you're Digital stuff; Film can wait till you're ready.
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Old 07-09-2017   #27
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Originally Posted by Larry Cloetta View Post
....

"Honey, don't you think that Monet thing with the water lilies would have been better if it had been sharper."
"Dear, Degas Dancers have serious pixelation problem".
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Old 07-09-2017   #28
sreed2006
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I am still shooting film because I have such a large quantity of it in the fridge, and I don't want it to go to waste. Plus, I like my film cameras.

Perhaps when all the film on hand gets used up, I will retire the film cameras, and use digital all the time. Luckily, that decision won't have to be made soon.
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Old 07-09-2017   #29
citizen99
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I just like trying out, tinkering with, and using, old, non-electric, cameras. Pleasure use is for non-rushed landscape and townscape photography with total control of the camera, taking time to consider the view, framing, etc. 6x9 gives me all the quality that I need.
For family or impromptu snapshots the smart phone is good enough. A second-hand digital compact does the job for documenting camera repairs or modifications.
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Old 07-09-2017   #30
Chris101
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I still maintain a wet darkroom, but it sees most of its use providing silver prints from some of my old negatives for folks who prefer silver over inkjet. My family and friends are likely to get inkjet prints from scanned negatives. ...
Have you held a wet print on fiber paper, then held the same picture scanned and printed digitally? There's your difference. I'll bet your friends and family would appreciate silver prints. But I agree that digital printing is so much easier to do!
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Old 07-09-2017   #31
Lee Rust
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Digital is for now and film is for later.
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Old 07-09-2017   #32
KM-25
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Digital is for now and film is for later.
Love it, simple and to the point.
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Old 07-09-2017   #33
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Beyond the look, the shots don't require much tweaking.
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Old 07-09-2017   #34
MikeL
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For my needs, film does what I need it to do.
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Old 07-09-2017   #35
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looks better. feels better. the end.
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Old 07-09-2017   #36
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Not only does film look better, mostly (especially Black & white), but the cameras are much more fun to use. Too many damn buttons on the digital ones!
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Old 07-09-2017   #37
Bill Pierce
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Have you held a wet print on fiber paper, then held the same picture scanned and printed digitally? There's your difference. I'll bet your friends and family would appreciate silver prints. But I agree that digital printing is so much easier to do!
Two of the folks who helped me when I first started out were Gene Smith and David Vestal. As different as their personal styles were, they both felt that interpretive printing was part of the process. And it is. All of us worked as hard on our printing as on other facets of our photography. Today, much of my printing is inkjet as was Davidís at the end of his life. Had Gene lived long enough, Iím sure he would have beaten all of us in the digital darkroom.

Once a picture is framed and behind glass, it is difficult to examine the paper surface and tell whether the print is silver or inkjet. I routinely ask folks to tell me whether my framed prints are silver or inkjet. They can be either, but so far, folks havenít been able to tell which. Thatís not because Iím a good inkjet printer. Itís because Iím an inkjet printer who grew up with silver and knows what a silver print looks like. You can make digital look like almost anything you want, if you know what you want. (But, your probably going to have to throw a little of the shadow detail away if you want a digital print to look like a silver print - and thatís understandably hard for most folks.)
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Old 07-09-2017   #38
Bill Pierce
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Not only does film look better, mostly (especially Black & white), but the cameras are much more fun to use. Too many damn buttons on the digital ones!
I'm not sure film looks better, but you sure are right about those damn buttons.
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Old 07-09-2017   #39
Juan Valdenebro
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I think there’s a language problem here… If you think of painters, say El Greco, or Van Gogh, and then you think of a more contemporary one, like Freud, no matter their differences, achievements, periods they lived in, there are, there were things in common, lots of things, related to the way they felt and thought while slowly working the colors on their canvas, while having time for playing… Well, if you think of a good illustrator working with a computer, creating for a magazine, even doing it with a certain level of freedom, and let’s call it art for a moment, this illustrator can do good work, can express himself through art, but even if he’s as worried about life as painters have been, and even if he feels he plays with colors virtually on the screen, he knows he doesn’t share with painters all those things related to the oil paintings process and long times… So, in this case, the oil painter and the computer illustrator don’t share the process, everybody knows, and they do share worries about life, and they both can do art, but they receive different names… One is called painter, and the other one is called illustrator, and nobody calls the second one painter.
In photography, as selling a new type of gear was some years ago the big business, and as selling lenses for that new type of gear remains the big business, the materials for producing images, in both cases, real images, and virtual images, share the same name, camera, and both guys doing two very different processes share the same name, photographer, and two disciplines, one where you imagine the final image, and one where you check it, share the same name, photography. That’s a language problem, and it starts puzzling people before they notice it.
About digital gear having improved, who really cares? I mean, I wouldn’t enjoy more Frank’s book The Americans if it were done with an M9 and an aspherical lens… I wouldn’t enjoy it more in any way, at all, because what’s enjoyable in photography has no relation with sharpness or with any other technical part of the image, but only with heart and mind, and any cheap lens or camera can produce the most wonderful photograph…
To answer Bill’s question, who I deeply admire as a photographer and as a human being, and certainly a question that’s interesting and remains alive as years go by, I prefer film because I don’t use it as an employee, but only for pleasure, and when you have time, the process around film is really enjoyable. And I don’t mean the darkroom, which is so beautiful too, but walking with a film camera, and using it…
Charging and carrying batteries in the digital world is a real pain to me… I will never consider that normal. I have done it, and I have worked in photography, and for speed and customers’ satisfaction digital was necessary, sometimes it was the only possible way, and those years I was really away from my photography.
So the answer is I prefer film because I prefer pleasure, and because digital photography is related to money and to other people’s needs, and to electronic and power problems, and I prefer not to get involved in all that, as it’s not good for my photographs.
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Old 07-09-2017   #40
PKR
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Quote:
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Two of the folks who helped me when I first started out were Gene Smith and David Vestal. As different as their personal styles were, they both felt that interpretive printing was part of the process. And it is. All of us worked as hard on our printing as on other facets of our photography. Today, much of my printing is inkjet as was David’s at the end of his life. Had Gene lived long enough, I’m sure he would have beaten all of us in the digital darkroom.

Once a picture is framed and behind glass, it is difficult to examine the paper surface and tell whether the print is silver or inkjet. I routinely ask folks to tell me whether my framed prints are silver or inkjet. They can be either, but so far, folks haven’t been able to tell which. That’s not because I’m a good inkjet printer. It’s because I’m an inkjet printer who grew up with silver and knows what a silver print looks like. You can make digital look like almost anything you want, if you know what you want. (But, your probably going to have to throw a little of the shadow detail away if you want a digital print to look like a silver print - and that’s understandably hard for most folks.)
Bill; I've found that when printing on rag paper with a bit of a tooth, I'm able to get richer blacks than I could achieve with silver prints. This includes selenium toned prints. The deeper tooth filled with black pigment reflects less light than a silver print does. The first time I saw this, I bought an Epson. The difference can be seen through a sheet of framing glass.
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