Too much choice?
Up until recently I have always said I love shooting all my cameras and they all have their own place in my photography. But is it too much? I am literally spoilt for choice.
It goes without saying that there are a lot of used film cameras out there up for grabs and most of us get excited at the opportunity of owning a new camera. Especially if it’s one you have always longed for and the day has finally come. Or a camera that you’ve seen on ebay that is selling for next to nothing and you’ve always wondered about it. Easy pickings are those cameras. Don’t cost much and you may have found a diamond!
If you are a film nut like me and have been for many years the word gets around your local area that your a film nut and cameras just seem to get offered to you for free. “Old Tom passed away and his Sister knows you’re a film nut and passes over his much loved camera onto you as she knows it will get put to good use”. I have many of those. And I use them!
So many cameras and so many different films and developers to play with. It can actually get in the way of your photography. I for one know this.
If I go back, way back, before I had the YouTube Channel I had three cameras. A Nikon F90X with a Sigma 28-135 Lens. A Pentax Spotmatic F and A Braun Paxette. All 35mm Cameras.
Just three cameras and of those three I would mainly use the Pentax Spotmatic. I just liked shooting it. It was not as heavy as the Nikon F90X and it was fully manual with a great classic needle light meter. Just one lens on it which was a 50mm Takumar Lens.
The Braun Paxette was given to me by an old friend and it works fine but is more of a nostalgic peice. And the F90X I would use occasionally, generally if I wanted to play with the Sigma 28-135mm.
I had brick after brick of Ilford Fp4 and Hp5 and what seemed like an endless supply of Rodinal. Yup, Rodinal and HP5! Perfect match for guaranteed grain! A bit less with the FP4. But hey, who doesn’t mind a bit of grain eh? And I guess you don’t have much choice if thats the combo you shoot.
Jess, our Daughter. Pentax Spotmatic F and FP4. Not tac sharp but who cares. A moment in time recorded on silver.
So in the early days my combo for nearly all my photography was a Pentax Spotmatic F, a 50mm lens with FP4 or HP5 and Rodinal. Rodinal because I could get many rolls for my money, it lasted ages on the shelf and very economical when stand developed.
I didn’t have any other choice. Which was perfect really. When I wanted to go out and take photos the only choice I had to make was FP4 or HP5 and where to go. I knew exactly what that combo could deliver for me with regard to sharpness, tonal ranges, exposures and development.
Ford Cortina, Pentax Spotmatic F and FP4
I now have many cameras that I have purchased and have kindly been gifted over the years and I literally am spoilt for choice when I want to go on a shoot. Woodland for example. I can take any one of those cameras into a woods and take photographs. Don’t get me wrong. I love using all of my cameras and it is essential for the channel to show various cameras. It breaks it up and keeps it interesting for you and for me. But when I plan a shoot now off the channel I have to make a choice.
What camera. What lens. What Film. What Developer.
It never used to be this complicated to just to go into the woods and take some photographs. It was a no brainer. Pentax Spotmatic F, 50mm Lens, Ilford Fp4 and a bit of Rodinal when I got back. Happy Days! Unless I fixed the film first which I have done a few times in the past! (Label your jugs and take your time).
Today before I even get in the car I’d have spent much thought on what camera, 35mm, Medium Format, Large Format. And then what film and thinking of what developer and how to develop when I get back.
It’s not healthy for your photography to have so much choice before you’ve even taken a single photograph. Instead I should be looking at the light available and knowing what my faithful combo can acheive when I get on location.
Some photographs I took back in the day…
There have been many times I have got on location and made silly mistakes because I haven’t used that chosen camera for a while. It’s soon realised after the first frame but a thought process runs on the camera before I’ve pressed the shutter. I’m talking of framing with a rangefinder and TLR and the camera that has inaccurate shutter speeds that I forgot about. The same would apply to the chosen film and developer. More so the film and developer though.
A film I have really started to enjoy of late is ORWO UN54. It is a brilliant motion picture film made in Germany. I buy it in 100ft tins and roll my own cassettes. You don’t see me show it much on the channel and instead see me shooting other films. I do this to break the content up. As I said earlier I would rather show many cameras and many films and developers on the channel as it is not much fun banging the same drum every week. For example, the other week I sent an image of a photograph that I took and he replied “ORWO Again?”. I found that amusing yet interesting. I realised I had been using ORWO off the channel extensively and maybe it was predictable. It was in fact FP4 but you see the point.
Unfortunately my Pentax Spotmatic F light meter no longer works so when I take that out for a play I have to take a light meter with me. Not so much fun when you have 36 exposures.
So I have decided to (off the channel) get back to my old routine of one camera, one lens, one film and one developer and see where it takes me. I have chosen the Nikon F6 with a 50mm lens as my faithful shooter. (“Wait, What… You have a Leica MP and you choose the F6?” Yes, A good friend gifted me one). The F6 is a robust all weather camera. Feels good to grip and less likely to get mugged on the streets. I just don’t wanna wear the MP out. Although the F6 eats batteries faster than I eat my Easter eggs!
Orwo UN54 as the film. And 510 Pyro as the developer. ORWO UN54 is a 100 speed film but I can push it nicely to 400 in 510 Pyro. I chose the Nikon F6 because it is not too heavy, has an amazing light meter inside and works a treat on the shutter. And I should be able to nail this combo for most lighting situations I am up against and really get to know this films strengths and weaknesses with that developer.
Of course, now and again I will bring this combo onto the channel but behind the scenes this is where I will mostly be for my photo walks, scapes and woodland photography.
No more wondering what gear to take out, unless I really do fancy shooting Medium Format or Large Format or any of my other lovely 35mm cameras for a change. Forget Pinhole Photography and the Holga. I have other projects for those.
It is still nice to have that choice and I feel fortunate for that. But sometimes I am thinking too much about choice of camera and film and developer and it does get in the way of my photography.
If you only have one or few cameras then you’re where I was years ago. It’s good to try different films and developers but always try and master for yourself one film and developer combo. If you have many cameras and are getting a bit lost for inspiration go back to the beginning with one camera, one lens, one film and developer combo.
I shall blog my recent developments (pardon the pun) on the SFLaB website as well as the channel.