A few weeks ago I was offered the opportunity to shoot with a wonderful vintage camera, a Hasselblad 500C. I have learned a few lessons with this camera.
Take your time.
There is no rush when using a medium format camera. The 500c doesn’t have an onboard meter, so I used a vintage light meter to check the exposure. Then you focus and then pop up a little magnifying glass to get the focus just right. This while looking down, the image is reversed so you have to really be aware of the direction the lens in pointed. This process takes time, then you do it again to make sure the photo will come out. Remember a tripod is your friend.
6×6 is a challenge.
The challenge of composing a photo in the square format is a lot different than trying to do the same with 35mm film. If you want to have good photos don’t assume that the same type of composition will work.
Shooting film will make you think more!
Only 12 photos on a roll of 120 film. You have to really think about the photo you are planning to take prior to pressing the shutter. There is chance to view the moment after, no delete button. Only the hope that you got the photo you intended. This will make you a better photographer and when you do shoot digitally you will get more “keepers”.
Embrace and learn from your mistakes.
Arrogantly I thought that I would be able to spool and develop medium format film, just like I had 35mm. Boy was I wrong. This was my first attempt at developing 120 film. When I spooled the it on the reel I ended up having it lay on top of itself and not get developed properly. I know I need to get more practice getting the film spooled properly. I will have the chance when I start taking my Yashica twin lens out. It would probably help if I used the more modern plastic reels and tank versus the stainless steel ones I currently have. I did get a chance to embrace my mistake with the shot above. It ended up looking kind of cool with the damage to the negative.
I loved shooting with the Hasselbad, it makes a distinctive sound when the shutter is pressed. I’m glad I had the chance to learn and improve on my skills. In the future expect to see more medium format film photos posted by me.
You have probably read all about why film is better than digital or digital is better. What ever side of the fence you fall on this post is not about that. This is why I still shoot film.
Film makes me a better photographer. It has limitations; number of shots on a role, set ASA number, frames per second, and more. I add limitations to that as well; I use set lens focal lengths and manual focus cameras. How do these limitations make me better? Well I’m glad you asked. Having a limited number of shots forces me to be a more deliberate shooter. I need to make sure that the subject is one I truly feel strongly about. This goes hand in hand with a set number of frames per second. I cannot rely on my camera’s speed to capture a moment, I need to anticipate what will be happening. Having a set ASA number pushes me to have a steady hand, at times I need to be able to use a slower shutter speed than I am typically comfortable with. In order to have the shot be sharp I need to be able to hold the camera still. Limiting the focal length forces me to look at the world differently. I know I cannot zoom in with my feet staying still, I have to move to compose my shots. The last thing on the list is manual focus. Having to focus the lens by hand allows me to recognize focus points faster, sometimes an autofocus lens just cannot pick focus correctly and I know this will not slow me down.
Those are the practical reasons why I still shoot film. On to the non-practical. When I was young my father taught me how to shoot with a Canon AE-1. I learned everything I know about photography from him and Canon. I still know the layout of that AE-1 like the back of my hand. Shooting with film also holds a special nostalgia for me. There is something special about the wait. Not knowing if your photos will be great, or that you captured the precise moment in time is magical. I also enjoy the feel of vintage cameras. The old metal and leatherette is something that you need to experience if you haven’t had the chance to.
I don’t shoot solely on film and appreciate the speed and ease of processing digital. I just hope we never lose the opportunity to use film for photography even if it is solely for the nostalgia.