Film Lives

3:33 p.m. on February 9, 2012 (EST)
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Kodak will keep investing in their film business, which is still profitable:

BJP: Kodak phases out digital businesses, keeps film alive.

Film cameras, the more manual perhaps the better, remain a viable option for the outdoor photographer. Kodak make some of the best negative film (for prints) ever designed and it is what Hollywood still uses. Film can be dropped off (in most towns) and picked up with prints and CD images ready in a week or sooner. All this relatively easily and comparatively inexpensively, when the archival possibilities are taken into account.

For the enthusiast, good scanners by companies such as Epson and Plustek are available for the price of semi-pro printer (or less).

And it is also hip.

3:41 p.m. on February 9, 2012 (EST)
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I saw this and posted a link to this story on my FB account. I find this pretty interesting. 

New doesn't always necessarily mean better. 

4:00 p.m. on February 9, 2012 (EST)
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True, Rick. Pros and cons for most practices.

And in case anyone missed this first time 'round:

CNN: What Film Photography Still Has To Offer

4:20 p.m. on February 9, 2012 (EST)
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I used to exclusively shoot film, but had to be pragmatic and make the switch to digital once I was no longer shooting weddings and portrait photography. 

four years after I had converted over to digital, I was culling though old work when I cam across a bunch of my old film prints. They were shot of NPH, and the color and visual tone of the real film about made me cry, as I had forgotten the depth and subtlety of film. 

Sigh...

5:21 p.m. on February 9, 2012 (EST)
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They quit making Kodachrome.  My absolute favorite outdoor film.

8:18 p.m. on February 9, 2012 (EST)
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No question that film still has it over digital. HDR is an attempt to give digital the dynamic range that is inherent in film. It is interesting that the Nikon D800 has an HDR setting which will make a "double" exposure (actually 2 simultaneous frames) at a specifiable EV difference, which can then be combined into an HDR image (full HDR can be up to 5 to 7 images, stepped in EV to get the full dynamic range, but that generally requires a static subject, since the images are recorded sequentially, not simultaneously).

With film, there are a myriad of things you can do that still can't be done with digital plus PhotoShop.

2:47 a.m. on February 10, 2012 (EST)
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I worked as a cinematographer for almost 30 years. By necessity, toward the end, nearly half of my work was on video. Each medium has its pros and cons. However, for dynamic range, detail, and oddly, overall cost, film would still my choice. The T grain emulsions are amazing in their ability to record both highlights and shadows. In still photography, digital is now on par with 2 1/4, but still doesn't have the range and detail that can be had with film in 4 X 5 or larger formats. Ocalaguy mentioned Kodachrome, a wonderful positive film. Oddly, though I always liked it and miss it now, I shoot digital much like I shot Kodachrome and other positive emulsions. Rate it a stop slower, and a five stop range and you'll be fine. However, digital cannot compete with the 10- 12 stops I can get from negative emulsions. Sadly, the last quality pro labs in Seattle for still photography shut down several years ago, leaving only two mom and pops who are ok for B & W, but only process Ektachrome a couple of times a week. And their printing isn't very advanced. LA still has decent labs, but it is hard to justify the expense, which is why I made the switch to digital.

5:32 a.m. on February 10, 2012 (EST)
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I have a degree and 25+ years expereince in Industrial Photography.

  Digital imaging put me out of work and into a totally different 2nd career (Engineering).

ALways prefered film. Like a nice piece of wood - it just feels good in your hands.

anyone want to buy a 100' roll of Plus-X that's inside a bulk loader?

 

It's only been in my attic since 1988.

 

Kodachrome was an ok slow speed film (25 and 64) - but, the major draw-back for me was... you sure weren't gonna develop it yourself when you needed images asap. 

7:17 a.m. on February 10, 2012 (EST)
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The main thing I like about digital is the ability to take hundreds of "everyday" pictures, without changing film with a camera that will fit in my pocket.  The second thing is being able to review a picture instantly. 

I like film to take art shots.  I'm looking in to HDR. 

9:22 a.m. on February 10, 2012 (EST)
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ocalacomputerguy said:

  I'm looking in to HDR. 

 There is some really well done and compelling HDR, but it is easy to fall into the hype and gimmick of the method. The vast majority of HDR out there is pretty awful. 

10:26 a.m. on February 10, 2012 (EST)
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Like anything, HDR can give great results or it can be garbage. You are right about the "hype and gimmick" aspect.

12:53 p.m. on February 10, 2012 (EST)
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The thing I always had a good laugh about, is when Sony would come out with another new HD camera, including the ones that Lucas used in continuing the Star Wars saga. They'd wine and dine us DPs and rent a big screening theater, and then show their projected HD tests, next to film and say, "Look at how it compares to film". A lot of us who shot mostly film would think, "OK, it's pretty good for video, but why not just shoot film?".

For a Nat Geo doc I was doing on volcanos, I sat down with a Sony engineer and an engineer from Film Look, a process that mimicked the look of film and asked them how I should shoot for their process. What they told me in all honesty, was that I should compose my shot, and then have my engineer peer into his wave form monitor and vector scope, and adjust the gamma and contrast for the best image. That is why, on a number of projects, the film budget turned out to be less than the same project budgeted for video. It took less time to shoot and fewer crew people. Plus you eliminate the number of people like creative directors(three or four guys who share a brain) who look at the B & W image from the video tap and ask why weren't we shooting in color.

Digital, with care, can deliver good images. But film offers, plain and simple, more information. Whether you finish directly to a print, or process through a digital medium, originating in film gives you more options. And it certainly is more reliable.

Yes, Bill, garbage in, garbage out. If you take a crappy shot, no amount of post work can fix it.

11:33 p.m. on February 10, 2012 (EST)
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Lest anyone is confused, HD and HDR are different technologies. "HD" means "high definition" and "HDR" means "high dynamic range". Film inherently has a dynamic range between the darkest (black) and lightest (brightest) values of something like 8 to 15 "stops" (or EV steps) vs digital images with 5 or 6 stops (depends on the film and sensor). HDR seeks to extend the dynamic range of electronic images by combining a series of images that are "underexposed" and "overexposed" to capture more detail in both bright and faint parts of the picture. "HD" means higher resolution of detail. Standard TV is a picture of about 640 x 480 "pixels" or resolution elements. HD is anything greater in loose usage, but generally means roughly 2 to 4 times more pixels in each dimension (this is an oversimplification). One flaw in many HD movies is that because the data are compressed, you can see "pixelization", blurring, and other picture breakup all too often (like one Star Wars feature I saw, where in a couple of the battle scenes, the image suddenly looked like scrambled eggs)

7:08 a.m. on February 11, 2012 (EST)
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"Film inherently has a dynamic range between the darkest (black) and lightest (brightest) values of something like 8 to 15 "stops""

And for the layman this is called "lattitude".

Given my expereince and all the testing we had to do the 1st semester of photo school,  I would argue that  film really only has a "wokable" latitude of 4 or 5 stops...and that depends on if we are discussing silver vs dye emulsions.

 

What bill describes is the basis for the Ansel Adams system (of which I am a desciple).  With black and white film, you expose the film for the shadows and develop for the highlights.

then grab some Agfa Brovira paper, Ilford bromophen developer and let the magic happen.

Man, this thread makes me wanna drag out the old darkroom equipment.

 

10:53 a.m. on February 11, 2012 (EST)
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I still shoot film for my fine art work, though i generally favor a combination of Fujichrome for color and Ilford Delta for black and white. The detail, texture, and vibrance are unmatched in digital so far, especially with 4x5 fil., let alone bigger formats.

Even with my flatbed scanner, I get amazing detail... The drum scans are something else altogether. There's something magical about an image the size of a poster that remains razor sharp When you approach to read the caption.

2:18 p.m. on February 11, 2012 (EST)
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As BillS mentioned there are inherent problems with digital that need to be overcome when shooting with it. Although there are certainly issues with panning speeds in digital, film also had issues with that because of frame rates.  Part of the problem with digital stems from how the information is gathered. Aside from things like compression, HD, referring to HD video, as well as older video formats, use detail enhancement to overcome the lack of information. In effect, this puts an edge around objects to make them appear sharper. By contrast(pun), film uses lens technology and more information to achieve the same effect. At a seminar about 15 years ago, the amount of resolution between film and HD video was discussed. Although a direct comparison cannot be made, while 1200 lines of resolution is good for HD video, 35mm motion picture film(negative, T grain) would be somewhere in the region of 4200 lines of resolution. At the same seminar, we also discussed whether Super 16mm film was suitable for origination and transfer to HD. Sony had maintained that it wasn't, because they had trouble with their proprietary transfer process. It turns out that since the grain structure changes from frame to frame, their system was trying encode all the grains, which on 16 are quite fine, and their system was crashing. The problem was that with Super 16 film, Sony's system couldn't cope with all the information it found. The end result was that using a Rank or Bosch Telecine, Super 16 was a suitable origination format for HD.

All film is not the same. While Kodachrome was great as a positive film, I preferred shooting negative for its range and miss that with digital which is more like positive in its limited range. While I miss film, it is all just a hammer, and while a nice hammer is important, it is what I make with that hammer that I am most concerned about.

EdG, a workable range of 4-5 stops? I would agree that is true when printing, but in the negative I think it has a much greater range, looking at detail in both highlights and shadows. I sometimes wished for less latitude, so I could get contrastier images. I'm being facetious, but a light meter was almost unnecessary. 

2:57 p.m. on February 11, 2012 (EST)
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Erich said:

... I should compose my shot, and then have my engineer peer into his wave form monitor and vector scope, and adjust the gamma and contrast for the best image. ..... Plus you eliminate the number of people like creative directors(three or four guys who share a brain) who look at the B & W image from the video tap and ask why weren't we shooting in color.

 Well, then, why not have an automated "gamma and contrast adjustor" (like the Auto SmartFix in Photoshop) that "corrects" every frame automatically?

Did you ever ask the CDs why they though Ansel shot in B&W (he did shoot color for some commercial projects)?

Not being an artist type, my impression has long been that "creative directors" are neither.

4:48 p.m. on February 11, 2012 (EST)
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Way back when, I also worked with the Zone System as it was called by Minor White. The trick was to do all the testing with your preferred negative stock and use a spot meter or a Weston Master V or Ranger 9. The Master V had the zones right on the dial, if I remember right.

5:00 p.m. on February 11, 2012 (EST)
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Bill, the problem with an automatic system is how it works. It can only average, but not actually "see" what you are trying to do. A video engineer can translate what you are trying to achieve and balance with that in mind. A similar analogy that may help to illustrate this is in the film transfer process using a Telecine. One can employ a colorist to do a "best light" which means that he or she, can monitor the transfer and make small adjustments on the fly, or do a scene by scene transfer, which is much more expensive. A similar process is used in printing. In film transfer, especially for longer programs, I would order a best light transfer of everything, do a rough cut on video, then go back with my time code numbers and do a scene by scene color correction of just the scenes that I needed.

You are right about creative directors, although there are some who are in the know. BTW, my experience with the videotap was even more frustrating. The agency mooks were concerned because the tap doesn't produce a very high quality image. One of them even said, "This looks like video, I thought we were shooting film". The video tap is just a micro video camera that takes an image through a prism in the camera gate, so the noise, the presence of a film camera, the loader loading magazines and threading the camera, etc. made that person's statement really ridiculous. The old joke about two creative directors on a set, discussing a scene. First creative director, "I dunno, what do you think?" Second creative director, "I dunno, what do you think?" I hope I'm not offending any creative directors on Trailspace. I do have some DP, grip and teamster jokes! How can you tell which one is the teamster's kid on the playground? He's the one watching all the other kids play.

8:13 p.m. on February 11, 2012 (EST)
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I do have a bit of experience with taking pictures, and was influenced by a series of master photographers whose names you would recognize. I first met AA, my major mentor, when I was about 16 when several of us went hiking in my favorite part of the Sierra (Palisades, out of Big Pine). We had set up camp at a lake when this group came up with a heavily laden mule. This ancient bearded guy (younger than I am now!) started pulling all sorts of stuff off the mule and set up a huge camera on a huge tripod, then did a lot of fiddling around before taking a few photos. We were chuckling among ourselves about this old-fashioned camera (typical teenagers!), when one of our group suddenly realized we were in the presence of the Master himself. We ambled over and introduced ourselves, then got a brief talk on visualization. Over the years, I became better acquainted and even spent some time with AA in the darkroom, plus a couple months in workshops and doing some galleyproofing of a couple books in his series in a new edition. I could produce really excellent prints in his darkroom under his supervision, but never could duplicate the final product in my own darkroom. There was one genre of images that I made over the years that he liked a lot. I discovered several years after he passed that I am mentioned (though not by name, just as "an astronomer friend") in one of his books. It was his influence that for about 15 years I took the majority of my photos with the view camera that currently sits in a closet, often taking pre-photos with Polaroid P/N film.

Unfortunately, now that I am doing almost all digital, I am afraid I have gotten quite sloppy in my image control. Partly due to the same reason he preferred to do monochrome and avoid color unless it was part of a commercial job (there is one book available on his color work that I know of).

9:11 p.m. on February 11, 2012 (EST)
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I learned a lot by reading about AA's zone system, but never got the chance to meet him. To actually work with him would have been the highest honor. You were very fortunate, Bill. As my career focus was on motion pictures, I followed the work of Nestor Almendros, John Alton, Haskell Wexler and others. As I grew, I started referencing the work of the great still photographers, AA, Edward Weston, Robert Doisneau, and the lighting of earlier cinematographers. I had the opportunity to shoot a B  & W art house film that I enjoyed very much. I modeled my look on the German films of the twenties, especially the films of FW Murnau. What was hard, was to achieve the same high contrast look. Their stocks were quite slow, and consequently the lighting had to be hard and intense. Newer films see too much. I ended up using Plus X, and using a lot of ND on the lens to bring it down to a practical ASA of 12. I also used an 80 or 85 to milk out the skin tones and over exposed it by a stop. By using a high con print film, and pushing it, I was able to get close to the old look. Doubtless, some of this might be achievable using digital effects today, but I don't think you could replicate it completely. I love working in B & W. I have, several times recently, toyed with the idea of getting a good field camera, and learning how to make platinum, or more affordably, palladium prints, but I don't have a mule! I agree that it is easy to get sloppy when shooting digital. I have to admit that most of the time I shoot digital much like I shot film and try to work the frame as much as possible before I start recording images. 

In my office, I have a very nice tissue print of a Zuni Governor from Edward S. Curtis's series. The same feel cannot be duplicated in digital.

7:55 a.m. on February 12, 2012 (EST)
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I once had the opportunityy to spend a week with Mr. Adams at one of his workshops at Yosemite.

One of these days, I will have to scan and post a really cool photo I took of him with his hat perched atop his 8 x 10.

 

I was fortunate to have an awesome education in B&W photography at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.  My teacher studied under Arnold Gasson at Ohio State.

Color photography was briefly touched on, just so you learned how to develop and print film.

 Of course with the development of analyzers - a trained monkey could produce a good color print

9:57 p.m. on February 12, 2012 (EST)
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I have an old 4X5 Speed Graphic press camera I still take out occasionally, but frankly it would be better off in the hands of a more skilled photographer.  I used to take a 4X5 rail camera on some of my trekking/photog trips, but found the whole system heavier and bulkier than what it was worth in my hands.  SLR 35mm cameras were ok to me, but again felt their fragile nature, bulk and weight were too much to deal with on anything other than trips specifically planned to take pictures.  Two 35 MM cameras I liked to take into the backcountry were point and shoot tools.  Yashica briefly entered the point and shoot market in the early 1980s with a darling of a camera that had a great lenses, and the ability to control F-stop and shutter speed.  It was also very durable; I once dropped that camera 40 feet and it kept on working!  A screw driver from an eye glass repair kit and tweezers from a Swiss Army knife permitted most repairs in the field.  Alas it had a malfunction in the mid 1990s.  This time when I went to overhaul it, some of the pieces in the lenses housing were under spring pressure and catapulted into oblivion, rendering me a useless camera.  I replaced that cam with a point and shoot by Lieca that was wonderful, and used that a few years more.  But given my talents with a camera and the improved resolutions of digital, I now find digital to be a better option in the small formats, since I rarely enlarge these images beyond 5X7.

What I really miss is the simplicity of operating an old fashion film camera.  Lenses speed, F-stop, and focus: learn what they do and you are dialed forever.  I don't find the analog simulation of these controls on the digital devices to provide the same control or feedback; meanwhile all the alternative interfaces and variety of specialized settings require you be a dedicated gadget freak photo bug, else you have to reread the manual and relearn your camera every time you go on an outing.  Quite annoying.  

Ed

12:26 p.m. on February 13, 2012 (EST)
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Ed, I agree that digital cameras have too many bells and whistles, and the consumer versions have only a couple of buttons, making it much more difficult by requiring the user to cycle through more of the menu items. Rather than having to call up the menu and select a faster shutter speed(equivalent) on my Pentax W30, all I had to do on my film cameras was turn the shutter speed knob and open the lens. My Canon 5D, is much more user friendly and in practice, I don't go into the menu very much. I have a certain setting that I like shooting with(like knowing a particular stock) and stay with that most of the time.

1:32 a.m. on February 16, 2012 (EST)
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That's also been my main criticism of the latest generation of digital cameras. The companies making them are adding features, many of which have nothing to do with photography, because features are what sell stuff. I rarely use most of the "features" on any digital camera, because all I need are shutter speed, aperture, ISO, focus, zoom, and a shutter release.

Nowadays, the obsession is with more and more automation, in an attempt to enable increasingly mindless operation. :-/

9:43 a.m. on February 16, 2012 (EST)
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ocalacomputerguy said:

They quit making Kodachrome.  My absolute favorite outdoor film.

 

Exactly how i feel. I have a few rolls left but I hope they start making this one again.

I really have enjoyed this thread.

11:06 a.m. on February 16, 2012 (EST)
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Mumblefords said:

ocalacomputerguy said:

They quit making Kodachrome.  My absolute favorite outdoor film.

 

Exactly how i feel. I have a few rolls left but I hope they start making this one again.

I really have enjoyed this thread.

 They won't.  It's too difficult to develop and there films that are just as good.    In it's hey day I think that there were only about 8-10 processing plants in the world.   There is no place to get it developed now.  For Kodachrome Fans, Road Ends at Photo Lab in Kansas  

11:18 a.m. on February 16, 2012 (EST)
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The switch from film to digital is like the switch from land lines to cell phones.  Not as good a quality (Remember the "pin drop" long distance commercials? Now it's "can you hear me now?") but far more convenient.

11:54 a.m. on February 16, 2012 (EST)
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I can't say if Kodachrome will ever come back, and it isn't likely to, but the formula is there should there be enough perceived demand. In the motion picture world, as I was getting out, I was aware of a generation of film makers who had grown up with video and never used film(all low budget, local stuff). There is a fascination with this thing called "film", in the same way typewriters have become popular again. After "The Godfather", China bought the the three strip Technicolor process and the hardware. Maybe someday, it will come back in the West. In many ways, it is about perception. I had a producer argue once that with film you never know what you are going to get until the film was processed. Except for dirt and scratches which are lab or camera faults, I always knew what it was going to look like, because I knew my stocks and how they performed.

6:37 p.m. on February 16, 2012 (EST)
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Besides  the aesthetic enjoyment of film and film cameras (handling the freshly opened roll, winding on, selecting the aperture/speed with each click, the mirror slap), I think there is a lot to be said for the forced creativity that its limitations involve. For instance, knowing that each shot must count for more, due to expense or your frame counter reading and how much you have brought with you.

What might seem like a limitation may only be so when seen from an outside perspective. For example, why use chromogenic black and white film when colour would give you three sets of luminance information and all you gain is a bit more tonal quality (and the ability to print in a darkroom if it is Ilford's neutral rebate version)? Besides the convenience of C41 local processing, I think one answer is because when you know you have black and white loaded, you think and act differently and that contributes to a differentiated process, creatively speaking. You feel and see the difference and others may too, though it is not distinguished in the same way for them - i.e., it is just good in itself.

Minor White said, you should photograph things not just for what they are but also for what else they are. That is typically subjective but it offers an intersubjectivity for anyone determined enough to go there (if there is a there).

So perhaps photography is more than the ability to produce hundreds (or thousands?) of perfectly exposed, sharply focussed (but possibly meaningless) images of frozen-time, in the most efficient way possible. If the manufacturers and the media are to be trusted, that other thing is secondary, or even irrelevant, especially if it cannot be quantified.

I think you see and feel more when you slow down (at the right time) but knowing when to slow down may be something the latest commodity prevents us from understanding and comprehending; in fact, it rather serves to propel us forward to the next one.

I imagine it is much easier to climb with oxygen than without, and more efficient given the obvious purpose. Or is it obvious and is it the same purpose for everyone?

Jon

7:21 p.m. on February 16, 2012 (EST)
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"the decisive moment"

11:37 p.m. on February 16, 2012 (EST)
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I've been following this thread with interest, which is ironic, since I have very little interest in actually practicing film-based photography.  But I find the topic interesting anyway.

Sure, I started out with film too, but I sold my Minolta & moved to the world of digital in the late 90's and never looked back.  On the surface it seems like film is just a hassle.  Yet I probably spend as much time fiddling with Lightroom and Photoshop as the film people do in their darkrooms, but somehow it just "clicks" for me more than dealing with a physical darkroom space & all that equipment and chemicals (or even just schlepping the film away to a lab & having to wait a week to see the images).  Then there's the matter of having to change film after every 12/24/36 shots.  It's hard to imagine now having only 36 shots before changing the SD card.

I'm sure the purists will disagree, but I've seen enough awesome digitally-produced images from pros to know it's possible to create high quality images without dealing with film (and, so we can bypass the often-heard "it's not the camera, it's the photographer" comment, I mean "image quality" as opposed to "well composed shots").

I do consider myself an enthusiast ("serious amateur?") when it comes to photography, but even so, I still prefer digital.  Maybe this isn't the best analogy, but to me, film is to photography as vinyl records are to music.  The purists prefer them in each case, but the newer technology suits the rest of us just fine :).

5:19 a.m. on February 17, 2012 (EST)
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"I have an old 4X5 Speed Graphic press camera I still take out occasionally"

I landed my 1st "pro" photo job when I was a 20 year old kid.

Worked for the Allegheny County Detective Bureau - Homcide Division.

I was a CSI guy way back before it was cool.

Anyhow,  that's the camera we carried everywhere - a  Speed Graphic along with 40 film holders and believe it or not - flash bulbs!!

 

I still have all my albums - and a very good Thorens turntable that was $500 back in 1977.

 

Bill...how the heck did you manage to end up in AA's darkroom?

10:34 a.m. on February 17, 2012 (EST)
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It's not forced creativity it's a limitation.  I don't have to be forced to be creative.  Put a label on the back of your camera remind yourself to be creative. If you are using film how many times are you going to try to take a shot of a fluttering butterfly on a flower when your hiking? I took over 250 pics on a 2 day 2 night hike.  The same as seven 36 exposure rolls.  It's about $30 for 8 rolls of Kodak Gold 200.  I couldn't find any prices on Walgreens' or Walmart's website so I'm just guessing $8 to get them developed and printed.  That's 86 bucks for pictures using the cheap route.  Go with some Ektar 100 film and professional development and it would be a lot more.  I certainly wouldn't be snapping nearly as many pictures. I can't afford it. A lot of the pictures I took I knew weren't going to be that great and I wouldn't have wasted film on them, but they help me remember the hike.  In some situations you don't know what opportunities will be coming up and you hold back, skipping shots you know would be good so you won't miss shots later.  Where's the creativity in that? 

Even professionals benefit from being able to take more pictures. A while back (8-10 years ago) I built a computer for a videographer (former pro photographer) for video capture. His specialty was a highlights segment where he went through the video and cut out a frame or a few seconds and put it to music. He mostly did meetings but worked with a pro photographer and they did weddings together.  He always waited until they had purchased their photos before showing them the video highlights.  He said on many occasions the couple would not have ordered nearly as many prints if they had known how good the highlights segment was.  He pointed out that his vidcams were going to catch so many more good shots than any still camera could.  Same thing goes for digital stills.

Film is going the way of vacuum tubes.  Tubes are still used for specialty applications.  If you need to handle huge amounts of power (radio stations) tubes are the only thing that can handle it.  Want the warm tones of even harmonics in your guitar amp?  Tubes. Want detail in the shadows and highlights?  Film.  Need to blow it up really big?  Film. 

The thing is you still have to be good at taking photos to get more than the random luck shot. There is no substitute for talent. There is no electronic substitute for being able to pose your subjects or frame the shot. Electronics can help with exposure, I've even seen one feature that made sure everybody's eyes are open in flash pictures.

Has digital caused a decline in the quality of pictures?  Objectively, yes.  Film has more exposure depth than digital.  Is the percentage of good shots lower than they used to be? Probably, but I would guess that the total number of good shots is up.   Subjectively? Well that will always be up for debate.

Digital and film each have their limitations.  You have to pick which is better for the situation you are in. 

One other thing.  The aesthetic enjoyment of changing film is totally lost when you're trying to get that shot that just popped up in front of you and you run out of frames. Frantically trying to change film is not fun.

12:42 p.m. on February 17, 2012 (EST)
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ocalacomputerguy said:

Has digital caused a decline in the quality of pictures?  Objectively, yes.

 

I don't agree with that. The quality of the imagery that the best photographers produce today hasn't degraded in any way just because they're using digital... but the amount of pure crap that we're inundated with daily has exploded, because digitoys make it easy to produce crap, but it still takes effort and dedication to become a genuinely good photographer.

New people in general don't want to do anything that requires effort and dedication, so they prefer to be satisfied with the mediocrity that their digitoys happily create for them.

12:48 p.m. on February 17, 2012 (EST)
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pathloser said, "So perhaps photography is more than the ability to produce hundreds (or thousands?) of perfectly exposed, sharply focussed (but possibly meaningless) images of frozen-time, in the most efficient way possible. If the manufacturers and the media are to be trusted, that other thing is secondary, or even irrelevant, especially if it cannot be quantified"

The difference between the two was something that would come up on various projects. The arguments for video would be made that you can see it immediately, you know what you have, it's cheaper. Film arguments would be that it's higher quality. For two projects two years apart, for the Washington Forest Protection lobby, (the bad guys, it was a job), I chose video for the first one because that was what the budget allowed. The second one came around and I argued for film. Comparing the two for an article in a film magazine we discovered a couple of interesting things. Bear in mind that these were very much the same shows...interviews on location, remote locations showing wildlife, trees, environmentally responsible logging practices(?). At most, film turned out to be 1-2 percent less expensive. With the video project, we were often in deep woods. In order to make it look at all decent, we hauled a gaffer, a grip, and a generator, along with a couple of HMI fixtures, all very expensive. I used reflectors for the film project two years later and did not need the extra person.

For other projects, I would compare the two by saying, "If you are walking out your front door and want a record of the moment choose video. If you want to have something with more warmth, depth, feeling, choose film." 

Certainly I over simplify the issue. Digital can produce more images cheaply. But are more images what you want, or do you want one great one to hang on your wall? Digital can produce great images and I've seen some. Don't kid yourself though, those photographers are taking just as much time and probably more to produce that image. Most pro still photogs I know regret the change to digital, but it may not be the reasons many think. The push came from the ad agencies. They want it now, not tomorrow, they want it on their computer and they want to be able to put the smoking dragon in the car. All of that can be done with film, but it does take longer.

 I sometimes saw tests of the same scenes, taken digitally on video and on film, shown side by side to the public, who had to chose. Most of the time, the audience would choose film , but they never could really quantify it except to say that it looked better. Video looked more real, more of a depiction of reality, while film looked like something created.

1:25 p.m. on February 17, 2012 (EST)
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I don't think this should be a digital vs film debate as that would be inane. All of the technical questions have already been answered anyway, all over the net.

Some things I wonder about:

With the introduction of satisfactory DSLRs (D70 etc) for the enthusiast, there was a lot of talk along the lines of, "digital helps me become a better photographer". If that is true, has the quality of photography improved in a perceptible way, globally?

Are the best photographs being taken by those who learned within the limitations of film? In other words, is the discipline of film photography a good thing regardless of the capture methods now, and will the difference (across generations) ever be perceptible?

I think the answer to both questions is in the affirmative, though I don't think that could ever be demonstrated, especially in a way that would satisfy most people.

By the way, I agree, this thread is really interesting and thanks for all the stories.

1:57 p.m. on February 17, 2012 (EST)
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Erich:

Your posts remind me of the idea of asking people to name their favourite cinematographer. I'm ashamed to say that the only name I can ever remember is Robby Muller - the others are obscured by the Directors (joining the Writers in obscurity I guess).

Ed G:

Weegee!

7:01 p.m. on February 17, 2012 (EST)
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Pathloser said:

..Are the best photographs being taken by those who learned within the limitations of film? In other words, is the discipline of film photography a good thing regardless of the capture methods now, and will the difference (across generations) ever be perceptible?

I think the answer to both questions is in the affirmative...

I am inclined to dis on the cultural and intellectual decline of our society, seeing some of this results from over reliance on and infatuation with electronic gadgets.  But I disagree with the notion that choice of media used to learn an art (photography) affects the ability of a photographer (artist) to rise to their fullest potential.  Media, however, will influence stylistic trends.  Hence I also disagree that evolutions in media will affect the caliber of what constitutes top level photographers.  No era created better photographers than any other era; most such distinctions are related to media limitations and subjective stylistic preferences, not artistic aptitude or mastery of a given media  The media may, however, hobble or facilitate quality renderings, depending on the quirks of the media du jour and what the artist is attempting to create.

Ed

7:50 p.m. on February 17, 2012 (EST)
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pathloser, among my favorites were James Wong Howe, I think I already mentioned Nestor Almendros and Haskell Wexler(they both shot Days of Heaven) John Alton(a great film noire DP).

I think that in regard to your question of whether those schooled in film are any better than those who learned digital only, the answer is hard to quantify. Certainly, the main thing is to have the eye. Not just to look at a scene and say, " That would make a nice photograph", but be able to translate what you see, into another format, whether it is digital or film based(or painting for that matter). That means being able to have a thorough understanding of the tool.

That is more in the craft end. Real artistry, such as what Ansel Adams possessed, is to take what you see in with your eye and deliver something that goes far beyond reality. This is where the manipulation comes in and you use all of your tools, lighting, framing, movement, printing to go to that step.

As a DP, I often described my job simply as crew chief. I was in charge of two or three men and women or fifty, and make sure that they all worked toward a common goal. More complexly, my job was to translate the director's vision, to celluloid in a way that achieved and enhanced what they wanted to say. Often, they had trouble expressing those feelings, so I had to understand the story as deeply as they did. 

Whether it is still photography or motion picture, and whether the format is film or video, or scratches and charcoal on the walls of a cave(the original story telling) it is all about telling a story, a good story, and evoking a feeling.

Look at what Picasso did with a simple sketch. But he knew his tools well, and knew what their limitations were. In that way, I sometimes think that having some limitations actually forces you to be more creative. When I started my career, I shot news. As an exercise, a couple of us would go out and set up a camera and see how many shots(usable shots) we could get only from that one tripod height and location, in a set period of time...perhaps five minutes. If we could tell a story, so much the better. After all the garbage of film school, I really learned my craft from a news photog, who could tell a story with a one hundred foot roll of reversal film on a simple windup Bolex.

I will say that in my experience with motion pictures, those who came out of only the video realm, often didn't take the time to really think about their shots and the story they were trying to tell. Consequently, they would shoot everything with the idea that they would find the story in the edit room.

When I'm in the field doing still photography, whether on a canoe trip or a day hike, I always go with a purpose, ask my self, "How would I tell this story?" That of course will evolve as the story tells itself, and that is also not to say that I can't get a shot of a bee on a flower even if that isn't part of the story.

There are times when I take a couple of photographs just to remember the moment. For the most part though, even if I only take a few exposures, I make sure they count and they convey the mood, the story that I am telling.

I find I shoot digital, much like I shoot film. I don't shoot thousands of exposures, and never more than a thousand over the course of a two week trip. I don't have time to go through thousands.

8:01 p.m. on February 17, 2012 (EST)
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The classic example of how it is the photographer and not the camera is the Diana Project. The Diana was/is a plastic toy camera that used 120 film. Many years ago (1960s, IIRC), a photographer in NYC got curious about creating images with minimal equipment. He chose to use the Diana. A number of other photographers got interested, and since that time (continuing even now), the Diana Project has continued. The camera itself is extremely simple - a simple plastic lens, holding the film (originally B&W only, later color was also allowed). Despite the limitations of the camera, many fantastic images have been made.

In this thread, I see a fair amount of confusion between technically perfect images (that is, an exposure that includes a full histogram from the brightest sections through the darkest sections showing detail, plus colors in the color images) and artistically excellent images. A year or so ago, someone discovered a stash of photos of Yosemite in the style of Ansel Adams. The photos all follow the official salon rules - rule of thirds, balanced chiaroscuro, use of negative and positive space, etc etc etc. In the end, though, they are "just nice pictures". It took me only a glance to see that they were not Adams photos, as did a number of other people. The finder has gone to court to somehow prove they are by Adams, hence very valuable.

Earlier this week, I sat through a "webinar" on bird photography. My initial impression was that it was to be about the title subject. What it turned out to be was more of a sales job to sell some software that works with PhotoShop to provide some darkroom functions that are not in PhotoShop. PhotoShop does provide a number of the old darkroom techniques - altering the H&D curve, dodging and burning, etc. The new software provides some other functions that are possible but tricky to do with film printing - among them altering the effective depth of field after the fact and selectively shifting the color balance among different sections of the image. In the end, I thought the photographer's images were nice, but they did not strike me as being particularly more than "pictures of birds". One thing he did that is very popular these days is to pump up the color saturation ("make the picture pop" was his term). "Neon" colors draw your attention, but that doesn't necessarily make the photo better in the artistic sense. Some real-life things do have very saturated colors, but most are more subtle. Yet a lot of people taking digital photos set the camera to fully saturate the color. Yes, there are excellent works of art that include rich, fully saturated colors. But not every photo benefits from this.

9:50 p.m. on February 17, 2012 (EST)
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Tamerlin said

I still shoot film for my fine art work, though i generally favor a combination of Fujichrome for color and Ilford Delta for black and white. The detail, texture, and vibrance are unmatched in digital so far, especially with 4x5 fil., let alone bigger formats.

Then said:

ocalacomputerguy said:

Has digital caused a decline in the quality of pictures?  Objectively, yes.

I don't agree with that. The quality of the imagery that the best photographers produce today hasn't degraded in any way just because they're using digital... but the amount of pure crap that we're inundated with daily has exploded, because digitoys make it easy to produce crap, but it still takes effort and dedication to become a genuinely good photographer.

You just disagreed with yourself.

7:02 a.m. on February 18, 2012 (EST)
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WeeGee?

 

What tis dis WeeGee?

 

I do have a Wee Gee board.

Never used that thing since 1981 when I had some real strange things come thru that thing.

 

College kids who like weed should not take Psychic and Mysticism classes

10:58 a.m. on February 18, 2012 (EST)
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You just disagreed with yourself.

 

No, I didn't... I was placing the blame for the decline of quality on the people, rather than on the medium, which is where it belongs.

1:58 p.m. on February 18, 2012 (EST)
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Tamerlin

If you objectively compare digital to film, film will win for all the reasons you use it for your art shots.  If everybody shot film then the quality of subjectively bad images would technically be better but they would still be trash. 

2:38 p.m. on February 18, 2012 (EST)
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Bill_S said:

The classic example of how it is the photographer and not the camera is the Diana Project. The Diana was/is a plastic toy camera that used 120 film. Many years ago (1960s, IIRC), a photographer in NYC got curious about creating images with minimal equipment. He chose to use the Diana. A number of other photographers got interested, and since that time (continuing even now), the Diana Project has continued. The camera itself is extremely simple - a simple plastic lens, holding the film (originally B&W only, later color was also allowed). Despite the limitations of the camera, many fantastic images have been made.

Brings back memories.  My first camera was my mom's old Kodak Brownie.


5443314022_61a5c51da6_o.jpg



4:18 p.m. on February 18, 2012 (EST)
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"The classic example of how it is the photographer and not the camera is the Diana Project. "

 

Or David Hamilton's book: "sisters".

He used nothing but a Minolta 101 and a 50mm 2.0 lens and created some of the most spectacular existing light images imanginable.

 

Soooooo...... what dis is WeeGee?

 

 

4:37 p.m. on February 18, 2012 (EST)
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I misread you Ed G, as a young reporter doing homicides with a speed graphic, thus Weegee.

Funny how Weegee (Arthur Fellig) features in most histories of photography, at least American. A New York photographer in the thirties who slept with a police radio, the nickname came from his always arriving at the scene of the crime before anyone else; therefore, 'he must be using a Ouija board to divine the future.'

6:42 a.m. on February 19, 2012 (EST)
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Ahhhh. I, of course have heard of Arthur Fellig, but never the term Weegee.

I also did a stint at photo journalism - if you want to call it that.

 While in photo school I worked as a stringer for UPI. Cool job, all I did was shoot, hand in the roll of film, and got $25 for every published photo. 

My main assignment was to shoot the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team at home games.

I'm not a hockey fan, and back in the mid 70's the Penguins were a terible team...but I was a young kid (19/20) who got to hang out in the press room and eat dinner with all the local news/sports celebrities.

 

Very funny to hear Myron Cope talking with a mouthfull of food.

 

5:24 p.m. on February 19, 2012 (EST)
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ocalacomputerguy said:

Tamerlin

If you objectively compare digital to film, film will win for all the reasons you use it for your art shots.  If everybody shot film then the quality of subjectively bad images would technically be better but they would still be trash. 

 

It sounds like we were talking about different things. With a print size of, say, 8x10, or on the web, film and digital are difficult to differentiate on a technical basis. Step up to big prints, and the edge starts to shift to film.

My point was that the convenience of digital has enabled people who haven't bothered to learn the first thing about composition to publish images, so while overall the quality of the photographs has degraded drastically, it's not because of the medium, it's because one side effect of the medium is that it's easier to publish images by yourself, thereby circumventing quality filters such as publishers and editors.

11:24 p.m. on February 19, 2012 (EST)
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Tamerlin said, "My point was that the convenience of digital has enabled people who haven't bothered to learn the first thing about composition to publish images, so while overall the quality of the photographs has degraded drastically, it's not because of the medium, it's because one side effect of the medium is that it's easier to publish images by yourself, thereby circumventing quality filters such as publishers and editors."

Oddly, even with the filters in place, quality has gone out the door. I have a still photog friend who has been making a good living for almost 40 years. Recently, he complained that there has been a trend at Time Magazine, to buy images for the cover from the internet. Whereas before, Time paid thousands for a cover photo, they have found they could save a lot and pay $35 to some guy who took an image with hardly more than a cell phone. I saw my commercial work go the same way in the late 90's. As well, Nat Geo budgets collapsed at the same time. In 1990, we were getting between $1.2 million and $1.6 to produce an hour show. By 1998 when the Specials Unit in LA shut down, budgets had shrunk to at most $600,000 to produce an hour show. Almost no travel, built from stock footage, etc. Sad but true, budgets have taken precedence over quality. In commercials, the clients started to not care, often because they had never seen film.

6:26 a.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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Yes, our society has dumbed down its level of standards, regarding what level of quality in a media is deemed acceptable for public consumption.  This same dilemma is happening in music production, with media tweaked so it is easier to listen to in a noisy car (lacks the spectrum of soft to loud volume range) or over a blackberry phone, (lacks lower register octaves).  Likewise sampling in the music industry is the analog of Time and NG resorting to stock libraries for their content.  Nevertheless we are confusing the public's level of cultural sophistication and commercial economics with the artistic prowess and the artist's mastery of media.  I maintain today there are more really talented artists than ever before; but they languish in obscurity because the reality of economics requires they spend significant time in day jobs to put food on the table, meanwhile compete with cheap posters for wall space in people's living rooms.

Ed

12:28 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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As with beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder.  Remember black velvet paintings?

7:14 p.m. on February 22, 2012 (EST)
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Erich said:

Oddly, even with the filters in place, quality has gone out the door. I have a still photog friend who has been making a good living for almost 40 years. Recently, he complained that there has been a trend at Time Magazine, to buy images for the cover from the internet. 

 That's true too, unfortunately. There aren't many markets for anything where it isn't... because especially these days, cost is everything. It doesn't help that so many people think that all it takes to be a photographer is having a good camera, and it helps even less that so many "photographers" are willing to work for nothing but credit, as if they can somehow live on fame alone.

11:31 p.m. on February 22, 2012 (EST)
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ocalacomputerguy said:

As with beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder.  Remember black velvet paintings?

 I will keep this short: Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but owning a set of eyes doesn't automatically make one a qualified judge of art any more then owning a camera makes one qualified to judge what constitutes good photography.  Another rabbit hole is this topic.

Ed

5:27 a.m. on February 23, 2012 (EST)
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Hey now, what's wrong with velvet paintings?

 

You be dissin' my 6 fooot high Elvis artwork that hangs in my bedroom?

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