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The Empty Mind -- film vs. digital
Old 03-10-2008   #1
Steve Williams
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The Empty Mind -- film vs. digital

Since the end of November I have committed myself (along with a friend) to shoot two rolls of film each week, process, and make three silver prints. At the end of January I started posting the results on my Vespa blog (a Vespa and Leica are similar) and until this past week was quite satisfied with the process.

You can see the 3 Prints Project posts HERE

The key word for this post is process.

Another friend and serious photographer cautioned me about becoming enamored with process and suggested that passion for what I see should be driving me and not the warm fuzzy feelings I get being in the darkroom (yes...*sigh*).

And he went on to suggest that not only might I be hobbled by the process but shooting film might keep me from reaching the Empty Mind, the place where I can let go of my expectations and preconceptions and really begin to see.

Words from him are not something I take lightly. And I have considered carefully how I work with film. Looking at my contact sheets it's obvious that I am careful tripping the shutter and work with what is familiar and comfortable. I don't take risks and don't push. He could see it. (*******)

Ever the rationalizer I suggested that if I wasn't getting the warm fuzzies from the camera and process I wouldn't be shooting. He conceded my point but told me that it did not remedy my careful view of things.

So I have been second-guessing myself for the past week. I parked the M6 in the Domke bag and have been carrying the Nikon D200 with a 20mm lens around. I use it professionally but never much personally. It's a beast in comparison and I don't feel comfortable with it. Strange considering how much I use it otherwise. But there is no doubt that I am face to face with my narrow approach and predisposition with the Leica.

I can't turn this around in my head any longer. (Well, I could but don't want to). So aside from venting existentially I was wondering if any of you have run into a similar fork in the road?

Have any of you long time informal shooters made the transition to a digital SLR and found new freedom? Or new paths?

I carried the Leica everywhere. The D200 is a pig but carry it I do. But I feel myself hating it.

Will this pass?
Steve Williams
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