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The Film Photography Handbook: Rediscovering Photography in 35mm, Medium, and Large Format

The Film Photography Handbook: Rediscovering Photography in 35mm, Medium, and Large Format

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The Film Photography Handbook: Rediscovering Photography in 35mm, Medium, and Large Format

valutazioni:
5/5 (1 valutazione)
Lunghezza:
484 pagine
3 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
May 5, 2019
ISBN:
9781681985299
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

In recent years, film photography has witnessed a significant renaissance—and not just among those who have previously shot with film. Interest in film photography and analog photography has also grown enormously among those who only have experience shooting digitally. In The Film Photography Handbook, 2nd Edition, authors Chris Marquardt and Monika Andrae speak to both types of film photographers as they offer an easy-to-understand, complete resource to shooting film. In this updated and expanded edition, they address today’s working climate, including such topics as the hybrid film/digital workflow, the digitization of negatives, and using smartphones for light metering and to assist in film processing.

This book is intended for anyone who is curious about film and analog photography, whether you need a refresher course or are discovering this wonderful format for the first time. You’ll learn how easy it is to shoot and process black-and-white film at home, and that just a little special equipment is needed to get into film photography.

You’ll learn all about:

    • The important differences between film and digital photography
    • Numerous film cameras, as well as how to buy a second-hand camera
    • Film formats, from 35 mm to medium format and large format
    • Exposure settings, tonal values, and tonal representations in different types of film, from color negatives and slides to the enormous spectrum of black-and-white films
    • Processing film, covering everything you need to know: equipment, chemicals, and workflow
    • Scanning negatives to bring your analog photography into a digital workflow
    • Both presenting and archiving your prints and negatives

Working in such an “analog” medium requires a unique approach to photography, and it fosters a completely different form of creativity. Working in film and embracing analog photography can also prove to be a great inspiration for your own digital photography, as well. The Film Photography Handbook, 2nd Edition covers it all—from the technical to the creative—and will have you shooting film in no time, whether it’s with an old rangefinder, an inexpensive Holga, or a medium-format Rolleiflex or Hasselblad.

Editore:
Pubblicato:
May 5, 2019
ISBN:
9781681985299
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Chris Marquardt is a photographic mythbuster and the host of Tips from the Top Floor, the world's longest running photography show. His photography podcasts have won multiple international awards. He has taught photography all over the planet, including Europe, Africa, North America, and Asia, where he has often accompanied photographers to the world’s highest photography workshop at Mt. Everest base camp. Marquardt is a regular on Leo Laporte’s Tech Guy radio show, which is syndicated across the United States and reaches an audience of millions.

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Preface

Film photography is one of those art forms where an enormous multitude of different opinions, experiences, and beliefs thrive. Particularly in the age of blogs, social networks, and a huge number of online communities on this topic, it’s unavoidable that some of these differing opinions will clash. Finding common ground is not always easy—in the digital world, we are working with discrete numbers and defined states. But in the analog realm, we generally tend to talk about continuous and fluid boundaries between states. This offers an ideal feeding ground for voodoo and self-styled shamans of all colors.

Correspondingly, along with the accurate knowledge and helpful information out there, you will also find a lot of half-knowledge or—even worse—pure nonsense. We have taken great care to avoid all the nonsense here. Our book is completely rooted in the knowledge we’ve gained through our years of experience. We don’t claim to have all the answers to all the questions. But we are always curious to learn more, and we constantly ask Why? We give reasons and background knowledge about the topics in this book, and in those areas where this book cannot offer enough room for digging more deeply, we offer sources that can provide more information.

Does Film Still Exist?

Let’s answer the big question right away, the one that we as film photographers hear the most: Is film still around at all?

The answer is a very loud Yes!

Yes, film is still around

Sure, film has already seen its heyday. Around three billion films were sold in 1999 and 2000—more than ever before. Around 200 million of these were sold in Germany. Some markets followed slightly behind, with film sales in China and the USA reaching their peak in 2003. We will surely never see film reaching such popularity again, but there is a growing number of people who are (re)discovering this traditional medium and appreciate working with it.

News flashes about the decline of Kodak or popular film brands such as Kodachrome going out of production stick in our memories because the news media made a big story of it. You don’t see film on supermarket shelves, any more. Most drugstores still carry a small selection of film cartridges, and they increasingly stock Fujifilm Instax instant picture film. Many drugstores and other specialized stores also offer color film, slide film, and black-and-white film development, as well as high-quality prints on genuine silver halide paper. But the boxes for the paper pouches with the developed film have shrunk, and have often been replaced by printing machines with memory card readers. The digital camera has definitely taken over; film has retreated into a smaller niche.

But in that niche, it’s alive and kicking.

The advancement of digital technology has not made life easy for film enthusiasts. But more than just the big names, such as Kodak, Fuji, and Ilford, continue to produce film. Some smaller companies are also still on the market. Even an old traditional film company, the Italian Ferrania, managed to get a revival through a crowdfunding campaign in 2014.

The German film manufacturer ADOX is currently enjoying a renaissance. It is one of the oldest film manufacturers in the world but has managed to transform itself into a modern, innovative company. It manufactures photographic film, paper, and chemicals in two factories in Switzerland (now taken over by Ilford Imaging) and has even built a new factory in Bad Saarow, Germany. In addition its own line of products, ADOX also continues to manufacture a line of Agfa black-and-white photo products.

Today, film is mostly traded on the Internet. Various online retailers offer everything you need for ambitious analog photography—from film and photo chemicals to equipment for photo labs and darkrooms.

Many directors still use film for shooting movies. In February 2015, Kodak announced new contracts with some large Hollywood studios, which should ensure the production of material for analog movies for many years.

We shoot both analog and digital these days, and one thing we want to avoid in this book is to split the photography world into these two camps. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages, and they are both an integral part of our photographic life. Ultimately, this book is all about photography—regardless of which medium it involves. It’s about the creative process; about creating pictures that the viewer takes another look at instead of just turning the page. The process with which the pictures in this book are created is important to us for many reasons. Mainly, we want to be advocates for film photography. In this book, you’ll read about our reasoning, our inspiration, and about the photographic process.

Wondering if This Book Is for You?

If you are reading this text, you are expressing an interest in exploring film photography with the intent to learn more. That’s wonderful. We wrote it for anyone who is curious about using film as a medium, and looking for an alternative—perhaps new—approach to their photography.

What draws us to film photography is the joy we get through experiencing a process that has given us a deep and lasting understanding of photography. Dealing with the topic in an intensive and, above all, playful way has changed how we look at the medium in general, and also how we look at subjects. We have learned to welcome the accidental and to learn from mistakes. Not everything we tried worked out in the end. Not everything that worked out was pretty. But we found beauty in places where we had never imagined it could be.

We cannot give you a recipe for great ideas and creativity, but we would like to provide you with fresh impetus to try something different with your photography and to expand your toolbox with new opportunities. If you enjoy doing things yourself and being a hands-on learner; and if you like experimenting and losing yourself in the step-by-step exploration of a process—this book is for you. Please use the suggestions in this book as a starting point for your own experiments. Pick out the ones you like, change things, dismiss others.

. . . Or Maybe It’s Not for You?

With this book, we invite you to explore the process and spend time testing your new skills. We enjoy playing around and are convinced that it is a good way of developing new ideas.

What we describe on the following pages includes materials and cameras that might be considered faulty, inadequate, obsolete, or not state-of-the-art by today’s standards. We firmly believe that technical precision isn’t everything in terms of creating a good picture. In our eyes, it actually tends to get in the way.

Not everything you try will be a success. Even photos that succeed are not necessarily going to be museum-quality. Our purpose is not to show you how to make great works of art; primarily, we want to show you how to have fun and to encourage you to think outside the box. We want you to ask what if? If you like the result, that’s enough—whether or not others share your opinion should just be a side issue.

If you are one of those people who wants to get a standardized result as quickly and efficiently as possible, you may not find what you want in this book. If you appreciate maximum precision and absolute reproducibility in photography, you can certainly achieve these results with film photography, but this topic is not a priority in this book. Our main focus is on film photography and the creative possibilities of processing negatives. We will discuss both hybrid processing (digitization) of the pictures and their digital post-processing.

The main focus of this book is not on traditional darkroom work. That would probably fill more than one separate book.

Thanks

We want to thank Lothar Muth for the Berlin branch of our workshops and plenty of developments and prints; Frauke and Michael for rekindling our analog fire; Annik Traumann for inspiration, good talks, and contacts; Heinz Wille for enthusiasm and pictures; Allan Attridge for invisible cameras and visible chairs; Alexander Waschkau for helping us realize deep insights within ourselves; and @baumbaTz, @Hamateur, and @klein_gedruckt for app tricks from the world of Android. Also, we are grateful to Lady Caraway and Lord Coriander for every hair they did not shed onto our negatives.

1

Why Film Photography?

With film photography in particular, people often question why we’re using an outdated medium. Are we merely nostalgic? Or is it because being retro is currently trendy?

We like to say, just try it out yourself, and you’ll see. Indeed, there are many people who are curious about our workshops. They may not know exactly why they want to learn more on the topic, but they are always more convinced by the viability of film photography as a relevant art form after they take our workshops.

1.1Enjoying the Process

Nowadays, if you decide to work with analog methods, despite the countless digital options, you sometimes need to explain yourself. The topic is much discussed, but still touches a nerve. Sometimes when you mention that you are taking photos on film, the statement is met with incredulity and triggers certain recurring questions.

What can you do with an analog camera that I can’t do with a digital one? Both just capture light—the only difference is, one does it with film, the other with a sensor.

Why should I deal with the process of how the photo is taken any more than I have to? It’s not relevant to the end result.

If you opt to use film and analog cameras, you do not just choose a different output medium or special aesthetics—you set the course for an entirely different process. What can you do with an analog camera that you cannot do just as well with a digital one? Both capture light, true, but the difference between film and sensor is significant. We are talking about a far greater difference than two differently colored buckets that hold water in the same way.

When working with film, you’ve made decisions (before any light even hits the film) that have a considerable impact on the end result of the photo. It starts with the choice of camera—its particular format, its features that might affect the picture, and its technical possibilities and limitations.

Then comes the decision about the film, depending on how much and what kind of light and contrast you can expect at the location where you are going to shoot, and how both can be used to create impact. The emulsion characteristics of the different brands of film can influence the resulting image just as much as the developer you are using. Ambitious film photographers like to have options, and before going out on a photo tour, they will decide on the combination of film and developer they will use that will best support the desired message of the picture or subject they are shooting.

You could expand this list because strictly speaking, it’s not the end of the line yet: you can play around with developer temperature, tilt rhythm, and so on, without sliding into the esoteric—and that’s just in terms of the development of the film and the assumption that you do hybrid post-processing. You haven’t even been in the darkroom yet. This is an important and fascinating aspect of film photography: the enormous creative potential offered by the various combinations of camera, exposure, film, and developer—particularly with black-and-white film.

Inzigkofen Monastery, large format on Ilford Ortho Plus

If you have ever let films drown in light and then pulled during the develop stage or (vice versa) underexposed by three f-stops in the brightest midday light and then pushed during developing, you will remember that the differences are anything but negligible. If you do not consider in advance which film and corresponding exposure and developing you can use to implement your specific ideas, you either get only an average result or, in extreme cases, blank negatives. With digital photography, there are many decisions you can only make during post-processing. With film photography, you have to decide in advance. Otherwise, many creative ideas will never see the light of day. The key to working creatively lies in making the right decisions about processes concerning technical factors.

Of course, you can make it a rule only to expose films at their nominal film speed (the ISO sensitivity designated on the film) and then have them developed in a lab with any developer, in a standardized process. Then you can take the result as it is and simply enjoy what you get. But it is much more exciting to explore the deeper connections and possibilities, to find the settings and parameters that expand the photographer’s options of expression to an almost unlimited extent.

The process of shooting, from manual light metering to focusing to manually winding the shutter, can be completely irrelevant to you depending on the camera type you use—but that means you miss a chance to learn more about this process. The example of the analog large format makes it impressively clear how many steps of the whole process any modern 35mm or medium-format camera does for you. Implicitly, any one of us probably knows that you have to cock a shutter before it can do its job—but you will only really grasp it if you have worked through your mental checklist before taking the first shot with a Graflex.

If you can manually focus instead of leaving it up to some autofocus function, you will be forced to think more about the subject and the elements that are really important to your picture. The same applies to the exposure: Where and at what angle do you measure the light if you don’t have access to matrix or multi-zone metering with a connected in-camera database, but are brandishing an old light meter from the flea market?

Hands-on experience with the camera helps you gain a better understanding of photography, which will be reflected in the resulting photos. This deeper knowledge is certainly no guarantee for award-winning works, but the creative potential of analog processes is an area where you can dive into your hobby and leave the daily routine behind. That’s precisely why the process is just as important as the end result.

1.2Too Many Options Make You Unhappy

The digital world holds many temptations; not only do digital pictures appear on the camera display within fractions of a second, but affordable memory cards offer almost unlimited space for thousands of photos.

You can redesign pictures over and over again during post-processing. You can optimize them and even put off decisions about important factors, such as white balance and other details, until later. New camera technologies, such as light field photography, even make it possible to delay the choice of focus of a photo until post-processing.

Staircase, Berlin, Kodak Tri-X in HC-110

At first glance, film photography cannot compete with the flexibility offered by digital equipment. Some things simply take longer in analog, and many decisions cannot be changed after you have made them. Once we insert black-and-white film into the camera, our world is black and white for the next 36 pictures. In film photography, we have to (re)learn to make decisions and stick with them. Many will see this as a disadvantage. Why should we limit ourselves? Isn’t it true that more is better?

Not necessarily. Film photography forces you to concentrate on the essential. And that can also have advantages. The necessity to make decisions in advance not only has a photographic dimension, but also a psychological one. Numerous experiments and surveys have shown that our level of contentment initially increases with a greater number of options. But there is a point of diminishing returns: An unlimited number of choices does not necessarily make us incredibly happy.

This paradoxical fact may surprise you at first. But many studies show this effect. The more options you have, the harder it becomes to make a rational choice. Buying a car is a good example. Today, there are countless equipment options, all of which the buyer wants to assess rationally. Studies have shown that people become unhappy if they are given more than about 10 options, and that people then feel overwhelmed. If you are asked to choose from a selection of 30 varieties of wine you will find it harder than choosing from only ten varieties. And the number of bottles purchased also decreases with the number of varieties available to choose from. This effect is constant through many studies. The desire for a purely rational decision is rather unrealistic in psychological terms as emotional factors also play a great role; for example, which make of car your father used to drive for decades or the brand of the first car you owned. People with brain damage in areas that are responsible for emotional decisions often have great difficulties in making decisions. This shows that decision-making is always a combination of rational and emotional factors…‘less is sometimes more!’—Alexander Waschkau, psychologist

That explains why film photographers are often much happier with the results of their photography. This applies to us, too. Where we perhaps only like a handful out of 100 of our digital photos, this ratio is usually considerably higher for photos taken on film.

In this case, it also matters that film photographers often work with a very different level of care. Every photo on film costs a measurable amount of money. Unlike a memory card, film is not reusable. Although computers use electricity, the amount of developer used in analog processing is much more tangible to a person in terms of cost. For that reason alone, we almost always generate fewer rejects in analog photography than we do in digital.

Concentrating more on the process provides an important, positive side-effect: Dealing more deeply with the how and why of photography results in a learning process that is more immediate than it is with

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