Lessons in Digital and Film

Penn's CovePenn’s Cove, Whidbey Island Washington
Ilford Delta 100, Hasselblad 500 C/M, 80mm Planar T*

I’ve recently started shooting some film – 120 medium format on a fully manual camera with no meter and no battery. I exploring big quiet landscapes as a compliment to my street work. Shooting both film and digital is allowing me to learn lessons from both worlds.

Do not under estimate the advantage of controlling every step of the process.
With digital you have control over every step of the process from exposure to processing to print. I just got back a roll from, what should have been a good lab, that was totally over developed ruining both the contrast and grain. My developing kit is now ordered.

Cost is relative.
Developing single rolls of B&W at home requires an initial investment of about $150 of equipment and chemicals, a few hours of study, and some practice spooling film onto reels in a dark bag. Developing theroll takes about 30 minutes (including setup and cleanup) and probably costs less than $1.00 in chemicals. Adobe Creative Cloud (assuming you use LightRoom and Photoshop) costs $40/month, takes hundreds of hours to learn, and NAPP membership is $100/year.

Having a limited number of shots on a roll motivates discipline.
When I am shooting film I don’t press the shutter when my brain says “you know that’s not good”. This doesn’t mean that I won’t experiment. Digital is a fantastic sketch book, film is the final oil. Sketching to develop new ideas is good, but drawing drivel is a waste. (Though sometimes drawing drivel is the only way out of a block.)

You can buy thousands of years of experience for $4.19.
A roll of 12 exposure 120 (medium format) Ilford Delta 100 B&W film costs $4.19 on Amazon. It represents thousands of person-years of science, experience, taste, and subtlety designed right into its emulsion. A digital color-to-B&W conversion is spectacularly susceptible youthful exuberance, lack of vision, and any momentary lapse in judgement that can occur while making any one of a hundred of decisions realized simply by pushing around little sliders. (This actually applies to processing your color shots too).

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