I started shooting film for two reasons: to separate myself from all the other landscape photographers out there, and to take just a handful of really great photos that I could print huge and hang on my wall. What started out as a relatively simple goal for a couple prints has turned into a passion for film photography that has seen my collection of film images grow to over 80.
Since 2010, I’ve been shooting mostly on 6x17cm film using a Fuji G617 panoramic camera. The camera has a fixed lens that can’t be replaced and can’t zoom, but despite its limitations, it allows me to get images with incredible detail. Digital technology keeps getting better, but you still can’t get the same amount of detail in a single shot with a digital camera right now that costs less than $40,000.
Film forces me to slow down when I’m out in the field since I can’t just fire off hundreds of photos of the same scene and choose the best one. I also find that film photos have a “grittier” look to them than comparable digital images. It might be the film grain, the contrast, the colors, or something else, but they seem to bring a realism that I rarely see in digital photography.
Another aspect of film photography that can’t be replicated with digital is checking out the transparencies on the light table after I get them back from the lab. It brings a satisfaction that I just don’t get when looking at images on a monitor.
After getting the film developed, it usually takes me a while to figure out which ones to send out to get scanned. In order to extract all the detail that these transparencies contain, I need to have them scanned using a high-end drum scanner that is only found at a few labs across the country. It costs a small fortune to get each one scanned, so I’m very selective about which photos I digitize.
As digital technology continues to improve and better cameras become more accessible, I’m sure that we will soon see consumer cameras that can take sharper images in one shot than I can with film. In the last year, I’ve started taking some digital panoramas by stitching several images together. It’s usually easier to travel with a digital camera than my giant film camera, but the images I get just don’t have the same appeal to me as my film work. I’m sure I’ll continue to shoot film as long as it’s still available.