A lot of people who don’t know me, don’t realise I started my passion for photography by learning about film and processing. This was all from my college days and learning the basics of black and white. All of which I still enjoy now – measuring out chemicals, trying to struggle to spool the film in a changing bag and the not knowing if you’ve messed everything up and those photos you thought you had are no more!! So why my love for film photography?

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Think Before Release

Pretty much nowadays anyone can pick up a digital camera and shoot a picture. However what turns a picture into a photograph – the meaning and concept behind that captured frame. Therefore with me I find I think more about the frame I’m about to capture when I’ve got a film camera in my hand. Unlike digital where you get hundreds even thousands of photos, a roll of film is 36 or even 12 if you’re shooting medium format! So no more happy snapping away, a longer thought process is needed before taking that shot.

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That’s the one of the things I enjoy, the thought process. Looking at a scene and slowing down my photography, knowing you can’t change your ISO just shutter and aperture to achieve the effect you’re thinking in your head. Trouble with digital is that you never really truly look back at your photos, could shoot hundreds of snaps but when do you look through them? Film you look through everyone – bad or good.

Camera Styling

The age old saying “They never make them how they used to” is some what true to cameras today. There are so many elements in current DSLR’s, circuit boards and processors hidden behind that camera shell, there’s just enough room for a memory card. With film, depending on the type of camera you pick up, there can be nothing electronic to make them function. Such as my very first film camera – Nikon FM2n. The style and body feel of the camera it just so simple but so nice to use, that’s where my love for film photography started from. A lot of times you buy a film camera for its looks as to be honest they all do the same job but it’s the minor things and functionality of the cameras that make them different. I’ll run through my little collection of film cameras and why I bought them below.

Nikon FM2n

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This was my first camera that got me into photography and one that is very close to my heart. I’ve been through a lot with this metal beast beauty. It was the main camera that I used when studying film photography at college and how my passion first started. So why did I choose the Nikon FM2n….?

At the time of studying photography I was still massively into my skateboarding so wanted a camera that would cope with that. I could of picked any film camera to be fair but the flash sync speed was of the highest importance if I wanted to use flash, which I was. So the sync of 1/250th was what hooked me into the FM2n. We also had to make sure the camera we bought for our studies was fully manual, which the FM2n was. Along with that, the fact because it was the M series of Nikon’s F cameras, it meant the camera was full mechanical so if the battery ran out, could carry on shooting.

This camera has been through a lot with me, so it’s showing a few “battle scars” however each mark on the camera tells a story. The release leaver is some what stiff, maybe from when it was in my bag running down Reading train station and pierced through a can of beer in my bag. Soaked the strap and most of the camera, however still keeps on giving!! Definitely a camera I can never ever get rid of, workhouse that has never let me down.

Bronica SQ-A

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My second camera in the world of film was my Bronica SQ-A, bought online through eBay, for around £200 – camera, 80mm lens, 2x 6×6 back, polaroid back, WLF and a few random bits. Not bad for a camera which back in the day was being used professionally! Compared to my Nikon FM2n, shooting medium format was a whole new experience, the way the film loaded, no correction in the finder so looking down everything was switched around and now I only had 12 photos on a roll. A totally different world but fun and exciting learning a whole new way of shooting. A higher flash sync speed now as well, so better stopping power with flash during the day, 1/500th sec. Modular styling as basically it’s a box shape with the extras added to it, lens, finder, back. This makes the camera easier to build to your own shooting style. From this I can now change my film half way through a roll which is handy if I wanted to shoot colour and B&W at one location at the same time.

The main reason for buying the Bronica was down to wanting to create the same style of skateboard photography I was seeing in the magazines and online on websites such as SkatePerception. The level of detail from the larger film size and the way the action was soo crisp made everything stand out a lot more. The only thing with medium format photography is a lot of the equipment now is quite hard to get hold of. On my Nikon FM2n if I was after a fisheye lens it was quite straight forward, Nikon still make a 16mm f/2.8 AF-D which can be used. The older manual ones appear quite a bit on eBay as well. For the Bronica however these lenses are getting more and more like good dust! I never thought I’d end up getting one but that all changed when a sale ad on a UK skateboarding forum came up for just that very lens, I had to have it! I’ve never looked back since, the lens is just something else. Heavy and a massive front element but the results when shot right are hands down, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Below is a photo I shot a few years ago on a road trip around the UK skateboarding. I didn’t even know if I got the shot I was after, however once it was developed and scanned – I was blown away!

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Nikon F100

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I know I didn’t need another 35mm SLR but when I was camera whilst I was walking around Woking and saw this is a camera shop window I knew by the end of my time walking around town it would be mine! The main reason for picking up a F100 is this camera falls into the semi-pro 35mm camera bracket, not quite a Nikon F5 but still with the same solid feel. Sort of like my Nikon D700 which I had at the time, not quite a D3 but still a workhouse.

With this camera compared to my FM2n, I now have auto focus! Strange how a little feature like that can speed up shooting film so much. As well as this the whole feel of the camera is very simialr to my D700 in the fact you’ve got a mode selection button, so now rather than just having a manual mode, you now have – Program, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority. There’s less to think about when using this camera, which can be nice a lot of the time as I can just get on with shooting. It’s also quite fun having a high frame rate on a film camera, although can be quite costly especially when what you’re shooting doesn’t turn out totally right!

Nikon F3

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This is what happens when you buy a mouse mat for your PC or a camera, you end up wanting the camera in the picture! Well that’s what happened to me anyway and how I ended up with another Nikon 35mm film SLR. It’s not a bad thing though as this camera is just soo nice to look at and use. One of Nikon’s longest production film cameras and a camera that pretty much most of the press used back in the day. A big plus of this camera is the fact you can shoot in Aperture Priority on what is mainly still a fully manual camera. As most of the time with my DSLR’s I’m about 85% in Aperture Priority as I’m a big fan of controlling the depth of field.

What I was so drawn to by this camera was the fact you can remove the prism and replace it with different finders, very much like my Bronica. So that’s why when I bought my F3 the shop I purchased it from luckliy had the waist level finder, so I bought that to go along with it as well. It’s like having a mini 6×6 camera with you (minus the negative size and extra weight), looking down the finder onto the screen. A lot of fun when shooting and makes for some interesting street shooting as nobody takes notice when your camera isn’t up to your eye. Another camera that’s built like a tank however I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy the motordrive any time soon as that makes this camera HUGE!!

The Feeling of Getting that Perfect Frame

With film photography unlike digital you never know what your final picture is ultimately like until it’s back from being developed. Sometimes rather risky especially when I used to shoot a lot of skateboard photography as you’d never know if you’d times that trick just right. However that’s somewhat of the buzz with film, the not knowing factor however it also, I believe improves your skill as a photographer.

You slow down how you shoot, take time to compose the shot. Once ever setting and context within the scene are in place that moment is captured- frozen in time on that negative. After the roll is done taking to the developers or for myself if it’s some black and white film I hand develop it at home. All throughout the process you’re wondering if the photo is going to come out how you’ve pictured it those few seconds before you’ve pressed that shutter.
For me film photography and the whole process is going to stay very close to my heart mainly because it’s now in a modern day of photographers a lost talent. Until the day they stop production and selling film I’ll be there shooting on one of my many film cameras, taking in the moment instead of being a happy snapper!!

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