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Monday, 24 February 2020


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I like it. I have sort of the same level of committment (purchased the Nikon, a scanner and found 20+ rolls of film hiding in the back of my fridge. Good light!

Twenty rolls a month is *very* optimistic, not to mention expensive! Surely it would be better to have an actual project and then just shoot however much film it takes to realise that?

I shoot both film and digital, and only use film on projects where it gives the look and feel that I want. For me, the camera, the choice of film, exposure index and processing are all important, as the character of the images reflect not just the emulsion but also the way that you personally interact with the limitations of the medium and tools.

My own continued use of (b/w) film has been relatively easy from a practical point of view. Developing the film yourself is easy, and exciting! I also have access to quite a few other options (labs etc). And on the printing side I just went scanning / digital printing.

Of course there need to be some benefits if you are going to persevere

For me the things I get out of it most are a) The equipment is often a joy to use after the anodyne digital experience. b) The rigoor of 12/36 exposures and the inability to chimp has a big effect on success rate and approach (I think)

I say Mike....

Have you ever heard of this exercise where you acquire an old Leica with the screw mount and a lens?

I think the originator called it an OCOLOY or something?

Anyway, apparently the idea is to experiment with a one lens setup and one black and white film. At least one roll per week, processed and scanned. At least once per month, print your favourite shot.

At the end of the exercise, and if you don't want the Leica any more, it can probably be sold at a small profit, or at least, no big loss.

The benefit is not only accrued by students of film photography but there is much to enjoy for those who already have good skills. It is an exercise in the imposition of limitations.

I know that I benefitted wonderfully from the exercise, indeed, I still do!

Jack may be the catalyst to your success, Mike. Nothing spurs me on more than somebody saying "you can't do that!". Have fun anyway.

Mike, I had my first dark-room long before you were born and I closed the two last ones (located 1200 km away from one another) a few years after I bought my first digital camera in 2011. I do not miss film and darkroom..

I never understood the people talking about "the magic of seeing the picture appear in the developing tray in the faint red light of the darkroom". That, to me, is a modern urban tale.

Darkroom work was necessary to produce a print you could show to people, or, if you were lucky, sell to a newspaper. Yes, it was thrilling to have a first look at the wet film just out of the developing tank, but once it had been established that the negatives were "clear", the rest was work. Work that had to be carried out with a certain degree of perfection, as swiftly and as economically as possible given the perfection restraint. No magic, just hard work and devotion.

Bailure is a good word that describes what I do as well sometimes. My guess is you will splurge on one of the developing and scanning services rather than do it yourself? Looking forward to seeing your early results.

Used fifteen rolls of 35mm (36-exp.) film last year, taking at least one photo a day. It's been a few decades since I last used two or more rolls in a day - that's what digital photography is for (IMHO).

Good luck... as the three months of rain commences.

Good luck! I hope you are going to keep us posted with the process. What films, what camera? Will you develop yourself or have it done? Scanner or enlarger? And everything else...

Many of us will be looking forward to the results of this more than the progress of the primaries in the US! (And I am sure that group includes more than just us non-Americans.)

Since you have acknowledged your sordid past, may I suggest that you lower the bar a bit (if you haven't already) by setting your goal at 20 rolls of 120 film? If you load said film into your Exacta 66, that's just 12 shots per roll. Even at the most leisurely pace, it shouldn't take more than a few days to complete a single roll. Another benefit is that it's easier to get great results when you use a flatbed scanner with 120 film than with 35mm.

I like that word, "bailure". I had an older brother (half brother, 18 years older) who taught me something I have valued ever since. He was teaching me to water ski and I kept falling and saying "I can't". His response was "There is no such thing as can't. If you want to do something, you can."

Now there are limits to that life lesson of course. One cannot leap off a cliff and fly like a bird but OTOH people are constantly demonstrating that the will to succeed can overcome formidable obstacles. I predict that 'if' you you are truly committed, you will shoot 20 rolls of film in a month. It is up to you, not the opinions of other people.

Nice commitment Mike - but I still think you should take a digital camera with you and take exactly the same shot with it.
At least then you will know if film was worth it or not.

PS - there is a program about Miles Davis on PBS tonight. 8pm Central time so maybe 8 or 9 by you.

Good luck on your film journey. I enjoy using a Yashica mat 124g occasionally because it gives me a look that I can't duplicate with my aps-c digital camera.

I hear what you say re. getting out and shooting, but 20 rolls of what, Mike? I think the choice of film should be affected by your decision re. printing method, and you haven’t yet made that. If you’re going to do traditional darkroom printing, then I suppose any type of monochrome film will give you your negative. But if you’re going to do digital printing then by definition you will need a file, and I’m still not sure how successful it is to scan a traditional monochrome film, e.g. HP5 or Tri-X. I remember reading an article some years ago by Roger Hicks (I can’t remember where, I’m afraid) in which he explained that the resolution of film scanners tended to magnify film grain. (It seemed plausible at the time, and certainly all of my FP4/HP5 scans were very grainy.) So chromagenic B&W films might better for scanning.

In fact, why stick with B&W chromagenic? There is an argument for shooting colour negative and then converting the scans to mono at a late stage in the process. You might find commercial processing of colour negative film easier, and maybe cheaper, than processing chromagenic B&W. (I’m assuming that if you decide to use traditional chemistry film you’ll probably do your own developing.)

And finally - if you’re going to print digitally, how are you going to get the scans done?

Follow-up to my comment on this post: I’ve just discovered that Roger Hicks died last year - ouch. Furthermore, he was born in 1950, the same year as me, so double-ouch. He didn’t quite reach 70, and these days that doesn’t seem right.

I never met him, but I always enjoyed reading his columns in Amateur Photographer, and reading his books. He struck me as a traditionalist who liked a good argument, but who was always prepared to be persuaded.

If I may, wish you a Happy Birthday as well? :)

“Bailure”. I love it! And, yes, your nickname could be Bob (Baron of Bailure), as your record is long and rich!

But seriously, not to be a bore but why devote your "commitment" to the means rather than to a more productive creative goal? What, for example, if I declared a commitment to use at least one Blackwing pencil each week? As you enjoy writing I would expect your immediate reaction to be, "To write what?".


I certainly understand fetishism but you're coming into the 7th inning here, man. What do you really want to do and leave behind?

Realizing that you don't want to continue early isn't a failure - it's self-realization. In this case, you know you like shooting on film, so it's less a new territory than finding out if it still holds interest - it's an experiment, and so long as you get an answer, there's not failure in finding out that shooting film doesn't fit you anymore.

That's a good test, but... the proof in the pudding is- how are you going to print? Community labs where you can consistently make exhibition quality prints are rare- and expensive. So you either have to make your own darkroom (again), or scan and print digitally- not a bad option if you ask me, but I don't think that's what you're after...

"I predict you will walk away from it in days if not weeks..." That is really sad. "I'd rather have root canal than shoot a roll of film again." I have read a lot of cynical comments like these from former film users who have jumped on the digital bandwagon. Many of them sound like they are trying too hard, as if they are still trying to justify to themselves why they gave up one skillset (at which they might have been quite accomplished) and moved to another. It is as if they have a degree of internal cognitive dissonance about the topic. OK, so some photographers want to use film? So what? Support them, don't disdain.

I apologize for being so forthright on my expectations of your film career. Your revised goal is more concrete, but perhaps even more challenging. One big plus is low expense. You already have many film cameras laying around so no GAS. Twenty rolls of film is a modest expenses. But pray tell, will they all be one type or a mix? Should I fly in and take your portrait anew but with the twenty rolls of film stacked up? May I suggest your first image to capture is a still life of the 19 remaining rolls of film?

Not sure there's anything wrong with trying new stuff if that's what you mean. For what it's worth, I have a basement full of "bailures".

Kind of funny but I get an annual budget for them - probably self defense on my wife's part to maintain some semblance of control but it works. Somehow I've never viewed it as a negative.

The downside is you'll never get to be an expert which is a problem if that's in your DNA but I'm okay with it.

Good luck

Of course, subjectively, twenty rolls may not be the same amount it was back in the day, but as arbitrary benchmarks go, it seems reasonable. As a birthday present to yourself, it seems more than reasonable.

Does that include calibration rolls? I would need a few to figure out what everything wants to do, between the camera/lens/eye, the current emulsions, and current darkroom chemistry; and that's if things go smoothly.

But you know what they say: "The road to success is paved with bailure." I think it applies double to photography, which is why the golden rule of photography is "Try it and see."

Good luck, Mike!

And Happy Birthday! Congratulations on all you have going for you, and on having the wisdom to see it!

With the idea of film check out this link to Jim Brandenburg's project "Chased by the Light".


Take it as a starting place for ideas on how to implement your film shooting. He shot one frame a day for 90 day. Discipline and at times desperation drove the choice of what to focus on before tripping the shutter.

With your project make a goal and stick with it for a set time. Whether initially or after few weeks when you have settled down a bit with the film choices.

Whether a project or just a dream - enjoy what you photograph while you are having fun.

Mike, you are being too hard on yourself. Quitting (which is very distinctively different from failure, btw) is OK. Worst case, you will discover that trying to do film was a mistake. And as somebody I know had posted this pertinent quip by his office. "People who never make mistakes, don't make much of anything else, either".

Film is not my game, but you go give it a try. Why not? And if you have your answer at 10 rolls and 2 weeks, go ahead and quit early. That's called "efficiency" - not failure.

I bought a Rolleicord and ten rolls of Tri-X six months ago. Shot two rolls. Still haven’t developed them.

I hope you do better than me :)

First, happy birthday! It's good to be here (wherever that might be for you) and I'm happy to hear that you're grateful. It's a good thing to be.

As for the film thing. OK, fine. But after thousands of hours in darkrooms and bazillions of rolls of film, my own personal take is that the only thing that makes all that stuff worth it is a silver-based print on real photo paper (no RC please). So... if you're gonna scan it... I don't get it.

Mike !
you know we'll ask you which camera you'll be using...
how about a minolta cle and its 40mm? your old friend cle :).

Enquiring minds want to know what camera and lenses you will be taking with you on your foray into film...

What struck me about the comments to that post/question was that there were so many along the lines of;

‘Film!?, that ancient technology? Why, I quit film years ago and don’t regret it one bit. Digital is so superior.’

Or similar thoughts. For years it has seemed to me that at least some believe they have a need to justify why they shoot digital. And to do so they slam film, gleefully pointing out it’s limitations compared to the current crop of digital wonder cameras.
But photography takes place, first of all, between the ears. And, unless you have like me, all the artistic talent of a house brick, you actually can take interesting pictures with a Holga, a Hasselblad, or that digital wonder camera.
To see what I mean, look up Michael Kenna, or David Burnett.

If you want to shoot film or digital or wet plate, go for it. No justification or approval from anybody needed.

Ok, but what size and kind of film?
Most “enthusiast” digital cameras seem to be intended to replicate the 35mm SLR experience, with color reversal film. I suspect the color reversal as opposed to color negative film behavior is more inherent to digital than a design choice.

If you really want to change things up may I suggest a 120 roll film TLR loaded with old style thick emulsion B&W non tabular grain film, and put your new and improved eyesight to good use.

If you ever got the knack of putting your distance estimating and muscle memory skills together to master the trick of focusing a tab lens rangefinder camera before you get it to eye level, then you might particularly enjoy a Minolta Autocord.

Know what's hard? Trying to play the digital/film game together. Sounds easy but getting good at anything requires dedication. You mentioned a year to master a new camera.

Well if one is trying to master said (digital) camera then one is not mastering his/her choice of film format, film type, development techniques and printing. (or vise versa) Choices should be made.

Twenty rolls of what? There's a huge difference in shooting experience between medium format and 35mm. By the way, happy birthday, good Sir.

Are you going to divulge your developing techniques?

I have two large plastic containers in our fridge that have survived three house moves. One is full of exposed film and the other full of unexposed film...Your posts have at least motivated me enough to develop the exposed film (much to me wife's relief), however I was going to take the 'easy' route and stand develop in Rodinal. Any thoughts?
Hopefully I'll enjoy it enough to continue...thanks.


A couple posts back I said don’t ask for advice on the internet. After reading some of theses comments I’m tempted to say don’t announce ambitious intentions on the internet (unless you gain determination from the doubt and skepticism of others).

[In this business it all has to be grist for the mill. --Mike]

Hey Mike. I think it was Picasso who said “the projects that I create where I know what I’m going to do, those often come out well but the magic is in the ones where I go to the canvas and I don’t have an idea and I allow myself to play and the idea comes to me.” I think you could go out and shoot those 20 rolls of film just by seeking your subject and letting it come to you instead of having it all spelled out like some people have suggested. By just going out and playing. I think there’s something fascinating about that, letting the muse comes to you. Like that photo of the elbows in the backseat you did. Photos that appear before you. Whatever you do enjoy it!

Bailure = failure? Well, that depends on your goal here.

How many frames on a roll? 36? 20 rolls = 720 frames so is your goal to find out whether you can press the shutter 720 times in 3 months with film in a camera? Stop before 3 months without pressing the shutter 720 time and finishing the 20 rolls and bailure = failure. Hit 3 months without pressing the shutter 720 times and you've got failure without bailure. Actually press the shutter 720 times within the 3 months and you've got success, but what's the point of knowing you can press a shutter button that many times?

On the other hand, if your goal is to find out whether you want to shoot film again, then bailing before the end of the 3 month period isn't failure if you've found the answer to that question. If you decide after a month or so that you don't want to shoot film, why would you continue doing so for the rest of the period when you could be shooting the subjects you want with the medium you want? That's a pointless exercise.

There are only 2 reasons for shooting film during throughout your 3 month period. The first is that you haven't yet found out whether or not you want to shoot film. The second is that you've found out and the answer is that you do want to shoot film. The moment you reach that decision during the 3 month period you have effectively bailed, you're no longer shooting for the reason you started the trial. You've finished your trial early and you're continuing to shoot film because you want to shoot film, not because you're trying to find out whether you want to shoot film.

I don't think you're trying to rack up shutter presses. Provided you aren't doing that, you can't fail by bailing. There's only one way to fail if you're trying to find out whether you want to shoot film and that's to get to the end of 3 months without being able to answer the question.

Hi, Mike. I'm enjoying your exploration of this topic, as I'm having similar thoughts. What prompted me to write in, though, is the tone of your supporters; they are all very comfortable with all of the possible outcomes, simply encouraging you in the journey. While reading one comment, I recalled a conversation a few years back with a ranger in South Africa. This wasn't just any ranger, this is the ranger who was born 100 yards from the camp, whose father was the anti-poaching warden, as was his grandfather before - Derek knew the reserve like the back of his hand. While we were watching an elephant throw his toys about in order to intimidate us, I admittedly grew concerned about how we would deal with the next phase, when he would charge (since Derek was showing no interest in leaving). I asked him how you tell whether it was a mock charge or not - his reply, "he doesn't stop". Words to live by. Mike in Vancouver

In a photography group, we all meet once a year for the One Challenge. One camera, one ISO setting, One focal length of lens and take no more than 36 photos within 2 hours but submit only one photo. It actually becomes very hard to take 36 photos when you cannot use the scatter gun approach. Of course this group started in the days of film predominance but the discipline has carried on.

So, good luck with your Contax II. I may join you but using my new to me Contax III RTS with either the 45/2.8 or 85/1.4

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