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Tuesday, 02 August 2011


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Sounds like you're enjoying the film "buzz" -- the certain magical feeling between exposure and processing!

My bet is I think they'll turn out. They somehow always do... you don't lose that feeling overnight, or over digital. What may happen is some crazy exposure setting on the new camera or something like that might trip you up; but I suspect that your facility is more than intact.


Oh wow.

First, top photo above, the one from you I mean. I'd definitely hang something that peaceful onto my wall if it would be mine.

I've been thinking about medium format, and - since I cannot afford one of those fantastic digital backs - of film lately, and what you write here (namely, that it's "nerve-wracking") is good food for thought. Yes, maybe it has some romantic aura to go back to and use film, but I also clearly see the negative side of it. And as much as you, I think I experienced the positive aspects in my earlier life - you take much less photographs than you do with digital, but maybe that is the one and main reason they stick to your memory that much longer, even if the ones you've got are far from perfect. I miss that completely with the ~ 14,000 photos I took since I went digital in late 2009. Still haven't decided if I need/want just an analog "body" for my OM Zuiko lens, or if I should go up all the way to 120 Rollfilm, like my dad used to. And those nice Contaxes are getting more expensive by the minute, which doesn't make the decision any easier at all...

Then, wow again - and this time I mean Capa's photo in your old blog, and your Top4. Yeah, that was such a moment. He must have known it - you know what I mean, sometimes when you press the shutter, you know that you have something. Happens less and less to me lately, maybe also because of digital, and not being able to wait for that "decisive" moment (HCB) anymore.

Of course I've seen that Capa picture before, but anyway - this again also proves why I'm a regular and thankful reader of T.O.P. - you have quite an art gallery here, and together with the Luminous Landscape and a few (very few actually) blogs, this is one I check daily.

Me, I'm only an amateur, but "amare" means "to love" in Italian as you might know. Thanks for doing what you're doing, and for doing it so perfectly - no matter if you write about gear (lusting for a D700 like anyone else), or if it's about art, and life itself.

Keep up the good work, Mike, and
with best regards to Ctein as well,

I like the vignetting. Kinda makes me want to throw a small bit of window screen in my camera bag.

If you don't mind scanning them yourself, Walmart will process your 120 roll and give you 3" prints for only $1.50. For high-rez scans you might try Precision Camera's develop and scanning special for Rangefinder forum members.


They did some Velvia 50 120 for me a while back and also scanned the film.

I thought the scans were fine. Three bucks a roll for the scans seems pretty reasonable to me.

I guess I'm one of the few that didn't take to the new Portra 400 film. While its box speed is ideal of handheld use outdoors and grain is very acceptable, it does have a HDR look and the colours didn't appeal to me (though one can never be sure precisely what they are for colour neg film). Anyway, I have plenty left in the fridge and may give it another shot (or two).


Well, that looks like a nice place to get subject fatigue. So I should get the Oly E-P3?



PS: I am going to Boscobel, WI this weekend so at least we'll be in the same state. Not stalking, mind you.


I wouldn't sweat so much about film, except that I do sweat about going back to old certainties.

Quite a few years ago, I attended a sniper course. I sort of passed, maybe buoyed by the fact that I was the only officer on the course. Most of the soldiers doing the course were hoping it would lead to selection as a sniper (maybe one in three made the grade). A few months later, I was in Sarajevo, when the UN decided to change some rules of engagement and "we" could start shooting back. I found myself in charge of a (technically) anti-sniper platoon , with mostly frenchmen doing the sniping. We achieved our aim.

Fast forward 15 years, and I am asked to shoot for my local county. I no longer have a gun, nor have shot for at least ten years. I borrow someone else's gun, and acquit myself passably. Those first few rounds at 800 metres felt like I was losing my virginity again. After the event, and flushed with some small success, I blow £2000 on a decent gun and scope. Now I am back into it, and hitting bulls at 1000 metres (mostly, not always).

You'll get back into it.


About six months ago I had a conversation with the people at Mike Crivello's Cameras on Bluemound Road about film and processing. It might be worth a conversation with them.


I think you've hit upon a key part of the magic of film: the anticipation of seeing the image. I've heard at least one film photographer say it's like opening presents on Christmas morning when one gets a developed roll back.


Fred at Tom Fritz Studio in Milwaukee heads up their internal/external lab. They process for professionals and students; C-41, E-6, and some black & white...they also scan...FYI...


One of the keys for me to doing good work is to shoot enough that I don't remember individual frames, and then to edit later, 'reminding' myself in the process and through that selecting the really good photos rather than the ones associated with some memory. This dictates that I use a lot of film and my Leica M8 is near its 100,000th shutter cycle. Large format proved almost impossible for me because of this modus operandi. The main problem is it only partly works: despite trying NOT to remember, there are still a few frames I remember at the moment of taking, for a variety of reasons (which turned out good, bad and indifferent, of course), and worse, there are a few shimmering transcendent moments that I missed, but remain burned into my memory, all the better in my head for never having made it to film/sensor and then a print. When I started photographing I would never have guessed that memory was a major impediment to good editing, and therefore producing good work.


Mike, I use North Coast Photo Services for processing all my film (B&W, C41, E6) and hi-res scanning. Some people on RFF seem happy with Precision Camera. I think they even have a special for RFF members see form.

I like the photograph of Zander, he has cut his hair, grown a furpiece of his upper lip and appears more stable. Maybe he could grow a beard like Dad?

As to the frustration with film, you've been too long in the digital camp Mike!

Reality is film carefully composed, and carefully framed. You'll do just fine; besides this a vacation, do you really need to take photographs? Relax and veg!

"Instead, I took this quick snap through the screen using the digicam and went back to bed."

You were up already - you should have gone fishing.

If you don't have a decent local pro-lab that still does film developing I can certainly recommend mailing it to Dwaynes Photo (yes, the same place that processed the Last Kodachrome Ever). Their medium format scans are decent enough if you don't have a scanner that can do film.


Even if I can't share your pictures at last (due to some scanning difficulties, etc.), I can share your feelings and imaginations at this moment.

Thanks a lot.


Mike, I've got that stomach-pit feeling too. After the experiences of the past few weeks (a few rolls of now-extinct but still only slightly out of date Sensia 200), I've put my K7 and APS-C optimized zoom on the market and am giving it at least a year of Pentax MX/Rolleiflex T only.

I'm actually enjoying the sensation of waiting for the package in the post, and wondering whether the shots I really want have turned out. And I spend less time in front of the household God (aka iMac)

Mike, I've got that stomach-pit feeling too. After the experiences of the past few weeks (a few rolls of now-extinct but still only slightly out of date Sensia 200), I've put my K7 and APS-C optimized zoom on the market and am giving it at least a year of Pentax MX/Rolleiflex T only.

I'm actually enjoying the sensation of waiting for the package in the post, and wondering whether the shots I really want have turned out. And I spend less time in front of the household God (aka iMac)

I send color neg to North Coast Photo, the lab Ken Rockwell is always going on about. Their "enhanced scans" are pretty good.

If you're up at that ungodly hour (as I usually am), keep an eye out for a display of noctilucent clouds (also after sunset). This is the time of year for them, and a few displays have made it pretty far south this month. See spaceweather.com for examples.

My G9 stopped working the day before leaving for a two week vacation, so it was all film all the time for me for the last two weeks. 7 rolls in the can. Lots of important family get togethers. Hope I didn't fail, but I too have many wonderful images in my mind for the time being.


Expensive and worth it.

I just shot my first roll of MF in about a year (Fuji Provia 400/Fuji GA645) at Filoli Gardens a couple of weeks ago and was just flat-out delighted with the results. There's something about spending $2-3.00 every time you press the button that focuses the mind wonderfully.

Mike, be honest. Did you think up the whole "ten greatest photographs" exercise as a way to make your point about captions?

I don't find film that nerve wracking. My medium format camera is though. Maybe a GX680 isn't the easiest of camera's to handle (it shure ain't no point and shoot) but having said that, maybe a Mamiya 7II would make things easier. But I found out that the approach to pictures changes with a GX, and that really profoundly. With a camera like that you chose your subject not on the fly but you know what you want to shoot beforehand and then go into the field and try to find a optimal shooting position for the story you want to tell or the idea you want to convay. I think that is the role for a GX680 and that is what it is best at. Slowing you down and wearing you out while shooting. I guess that is not film that is just the camera so I wonder what a GSW690 would do for me, and I'm willing to try that out as soon as budget and oppertunity come together.

Greetings, Ed

P.S. Enjoy your holiday Mike, well deserved I guess.

I'll be very interested in your thoughts on the Mamiya 7ii. I'm holding out to find a not so expensive 2nd hand copy of the, rare as hen's teeth, Mamiya 6 as I so love the Square format. I keep thinking that I might just have to settle for the 7ii.

I think the vignetting adds to the shot. Extra effort might not have got you a better picture.

With digital, having (effectively) infinite shots available there's a real danger of not putting sufficient thought into individual shots. With film you've got a limited resource and want to make each shot count. I also miss the anticipation/fear of whether the shots will be as imagined.

Haven't used them, but have heard good things. If I was to send off film, this would be the place.


No, you might have missed the datelines, but the T.O.P. Ten was written five years ago now.

I was going to do more "one picture" essays like that, but they were actually pretty difficult writing assignments, the kind of thing I could easily do once a week but a little too much for once a day. Believe it or not, blogs do better with shorter posts; one of the many ways I could make TOP more popular would be to write pithier posts and stop indulging myself with length so often. Of course, *I* wouldn't enjoy that as much.


Even if they don't turn out, I'll still have had a week or two of living with my imaginary masterpieces.

Nicely stated, Mike. Good to hear that you're having fun with your Mamiya 7II at last.

I understand completely. FYI: You'll see a lot of people raving about RPL (Richard's Photo Lab) just because they're never shot film before and decided to buy Jonathan Canlas' eBook or follow him on Twitter. IMO they do great work but have slow turnaround and are expensive.

I can highly recommend http://www.oldschoolphotolab.com/ Free shipping, great rates and high quality developing and scanning. There's also an online directory of film labs worldwide at http://www.photomfa.com/


Re: subject fatigue
Compared to Hiroshi Sugimoto you're a dilettante.

Re: "it's disconcerting not to have the immediate confirmation that we've all gotten so used to in recent years"
That's probably what photographers were saying in the 1880s when they switched over from wet plate to dry plate.

Mike, you should have tried shooting some weddings back in the film days. Then you'd remember forever just how nerve-wracking film is.

I remember being taught about A rolls and B rolls, and making sure every formal shot was taken with two different cameras with an A roll and a B roll, and how you make absolutely sure the A rolls hit the lab on a different day than the B rolls. Thus you'll have at least some version of each portrait and formal shot even if one camera is borked or the lab ruins one batch. Of course, both of those can happen at once, in which case you're still scrod; so it remains nerve-wracking even after expending that much effort to try to be safe.

"Even if they don't turn out, I'll still have had a week or two of living with my imaginary masterpieces."

Succinctly and elegantly stated. That is what I love so much about photography and, to an even greater extent, shooting on film: seeing the world in ways and to an extent that I ordinarily would not.

Those masterpieces in your imagination are worth the (different but not higher) cost of film-shooting. They would not linger in your mind if you were digitizing them quick and moving on. AND the quality of your seeing may change and intensify with this use of a medium that demands patience and . . . just looking without shooting.

I think I see the world more clearly and more, period, when I use film bcs the camera is not always on my face. I'm waiting, waiting . . . and watching. If I get a good picture, great. If I don't, I have nevertheless seen the world for a moment.

Dwayne's Photo in Kansas does an excellent job. I mail however many rolls to them, they develop it and send the negatives back to me (I scan the negatives myself but they would do it for you too). The whole process usually takes a week (I live on the East Coast).

Has anybody thought about the cost? I should first mention that I recently ran a roll of color film thru my Leica M3 DS. It just confirmed that I am better off using my GF1, with the same lenses plus Panasonic's excellent 40mm lens. But back to cost, I calculate 5 rolls of your film at $24; Film development at a lab here in Denver at $30;and 5 roll scans at time of development at $75: Total for the weekend of shooting is $130. Do that once a month for a year and you have spent $1560 that you would not have done with one of your good digital cameras. As we know, there are a number of very good DSLRs on the market for less than $1560, in case you are thinking about upgrading.

I don't know when your posts go up, but there are a zillion comments and a featured comment before I get there/here.

Anyway, I see the 50 exposure limitation of pro pack of film as a tremendous plus. My biggest problem with the onslaught of digital is cultural; that is to say without the limitation of 12 exposures or 36 or even 50, a level of enforced intentionality has been lost and the result has been an absolute glut of useless images. Now this limitation didn't necessarily lead to improved consciousness in making photos, but it helped. Scarcity always helps focus efforts and plenitude often diffuses them. What it will take to bring back an equivalent focus, I do not know.

Feeling (temporarily) logical I visited the Kodak USA Portra product page and clicked on support to find your local film developers


Seems there are 3 Kodak Prolabs in Wisconsin that do C41, but when I also ticked a box for high res scanning the results were beyond my limited knowledge of USA geography.

I never got used to shooting rapidly with digital and still consider each shot before pressing the shutter, with my small memory cards it's like going out and having just a 50 or 100 exposure film in the camera.

Came perilously close to selling my last film cameras a few weeks back but the occasional need for a monochrome fix made me keep one and buy another - can't think B&W with a colour sensor or film in the camera.

Good of you to share your brief vacation with us Mike, thanks.

I bring my computers places. But I never do *work* on them when on vacation trips. It pays to cleanly separate work email from home email.

Taking the old Moskva 5 out to New Jersey in a couple of weeks, loaded with rolls of black and white for 120 6x9s. I may contact print the negs, I may scan them, but they'll be pretty near permanent, good or bad. If I go colour in the big stuff, we still have a photolab in town that charges $6.35 for 120 negs or slides, and the local CVS charges 2.19 to process 35mm 24 or 36, regardless: Walmart's closer to $3 a roll.

Wolfgang said, "Yes, maybe it has some romantic aura to go back to and use film, but I also clearly see the negative side of it."

No wonder folks still like film, it is a natural pun. Took me almost an entire career to even notice.


My wife, kids and I recently returned from a nice vacation in Wyoming. The thought came to me while packing that I might get the chance to snoop around in Grand Teton N.P. so I threw the Nikkormat, a 28mm and a couple of rolls of Plus-X in the back of the car. One film camera, one lens, one film. Sure enough, I located the roadside parking lot with an overlook of the winding Snake River in the Grand Tetons near where some famous guy took a decent photograph in 1942. It just seemed to be the right thing to do. I've now had the opportunity to try my hand at B&W photography in three of the locations where Ansel Adams shot some of his more famous photos.

The nice part about subject fatigue is it forces you to shoot only to please yourself. How cool is that?

Those are nice photos, Mike, in spite of the lack of sharpness and vignetting. They go well together too - the blues and orange and the calm feeling that strongly radiates from both. I thought you had a K-5 though so it's unclear why you say you miss image stabilization in your digicam (?).

Re: Steve Rosenblum's featured comment.

It is still possible to cut the tech string, for at least a little while. The missus and I head for Hornby Island, one of BC's mid gluf islands at least once a year. While she cannot resist checking her facebook or e-mail I never touch a computer for two wonderful weeks. 'Film cameras only' strictly self enforced too. And, as a little reward, a nice two week pile of Online Photographer posts to go through when I return.

Hi Mike,
Hope you're enjoying your holiday.

Subject fatigue; that's what you go on holiday for - to avoid talking to the likes of us, so you come back refreshed! I still leave my mobile at home when I go out (to the annoyance of friends trying to get hold of me), but when I'm getting away from it all I want to immerse myself in what I'm doing, not get interrupted.

THe pic of Zander is nicely caught, and even if not pin-sharp will still probably be remembered and looked at long after your sunrise pics are forgotten by your family ;-)
Which leads nicely onto the Omaha GI in the surf by Robert Capa, which to my mind is far more powerful than "fallen soldier"; to me it sums up the chaos of D-Day - sometimes a lab accident is just lucky as I'm not sure it would be as powerful if it cam out as he envisioned it. In the last 2-3 years various Spaniards have done more work on the "fallen soldier" story.

best wishes phil

ps. I prefer longer blog posts as they allow more to unfold and I don't think the lowest common denominator always has to be pandered to.

I love film cameras, handling film, anticipating the results, the ambiance of darkrooms, etc. However, the bottom line is that I get better results with digital. With film I was more careful and had a higher hit rate. With digital I make five times as many exposures and get twice as many keepers. The cost/benefit tradeoff (in time, hard drive space, film, processing and equipment expenses) greatly favors digital. But to each his own.


I recently started shooting film again for the first time in a few years and have had good luck sending film out to Dwayne's Photo in Kansas. I ship the film out in one of those $5 flat rate priority mail boxes and get everything back in about a week. The prices seem reasonable and the machine scans aren't bad at all.


Subject fatigue? What's that?

@DC Reiger,

I see that differently. I use a GX680 as I mentioned earlier. Now in order to get to a place to shoot I use a car which eats gasoline (a 2,5 dollar per liter or about 12,50 a gallon). Which means that a phototrip cost about 60 to 70 dollars on gasoline alone. Now a GX680 will allow for 5 to 6 shots a day, then you are busted, broke, worn down, and kaputt. I sometimes manage to blow out a whole film of nine shots. That film costs me about 7 dollars, and developing costs 3,5 to 5 dollars (black and white I do at home and color I do by Fuji since it is their film in the first place). Now that means I wast about 10 to 20 films a year which comes to a total of 100 to 200 dollars in film. Gasoline outstrips the cost of film 7 to 1. Now the good part......I use Velvia 50 and Velvia 100 and thus I can get about 50 Mp scans of my film (if I invest in a 9000ED professionaly) I get 120 Mp.....eh, that means a 120 Mp camera system for 1000 dollars (the GX680 and 2000 dollars for the 9000ED).......cool, in fact unbeatable. And for all the rest there is always the GF1 (or if I use it professional a Leica M10 since an M9 is not much of an upgrade from the GF1 if you tweak that camera a little). So i'm not saying that you should only use film, by no means, I would not live without digital, but I think you should not underestimate the power of chemicals.....and with a Leica M6 I and a razor sharp Summi to match, try Adox CMS20 and scan on a good Nikon, Minolta or veen beter Hassy scanner (at 6800 dpi) and be amazed, blown away, stumped and bewilderd. And yes they do that amazing stuff in 120 rolls as well (hens the 9000ED which in my book).

On a sad goodbey, I just watched the german WDR from Cologne and I have to say, today they started tearing down the old Agfa plant in Leverkusen. But Adox keeps the soul alive.....

Greetings, Ed

I know what you mean by subject fatigue as I have been shooting the same project for over 10 years. I finally decided that the way around the issue was to shoot with a different camera and try to learn flash. Instead of a Leica M6 and 50 mm lens, I now use a Mamiya 7 ii with the 65/4.0 and an old Nikon sb26 to shoot young women placing their babies for adoption. I also started shooting color film, the very same Portra that you mentioned. It is a beautiful film.

Pretty much all pretty sunsets look the same, but each young woman placing her baby for adoption is different, as different as you and I (or is it "you and me")? Unfortunately there are only a finite number of angles in a small hospital room from which to take pictures.

The only thing I can tell you Mike is to mix it up a bit and not get the digital thing put you in a lazy funk. People aren't taking better pictures with digital but they are able to delete more crap than when shooting with film.

The pictures that you took with the Mamiya 7 ii are every bit as good as you remember them when you took them. There is a special something that happens when you take a picture with a camera that you love: the good ones seem even better, the bad ones don't seem as bad.

James Meadows said it well above. The related line that caught my eye was this: "... I find myself imagining how good they'll be ..."

There's something to be said for anticipation. It's a special treat---yes, like a gift---and perhaps valued more because of it.

The pic of dawn is awesome.Not sure why you get subject fatigue.:>

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