Holy Week, Part 2

Consider this the second part of my previous Holy Week post [I’d link to it but the “new, improved” WordPress software doesn’t allow me to do even basic things without incredible hassles. Suffice it to say that it totally sucks, and explains, why, among other things, I’ve been unable to give many of my posts ‘Catagory’ tags]. Go back a few posts and you’ll find it. There, I had posted a series of photos taken with a medium format film camera, a Fuji GS690. The photos had subsequently been tweaked to get them to look like I wanted them to look.

The bulk of the photos I’d taken that week were taken with a Leica M4 loaded with HP5 and pushed to 1600 ISO. I subsequently found a number of scans I’d done from those 35mm negatives – straight scans without much manipulation. Of course, the scanned files of the best 3 or 4 of the entire series were corrupted, so I’m unable to post them. I do, however, have the negatives, So I can go back and re-scan them, which is something I couldn’t do if I was dealing with native digital files.

The point of posting these photos is to note the difference one’s choice of format can make for a given subject. The 6×9 negatives are huge and produce beautifully detailed prints with subtle tones and gradations. The 35mm negatives obviously produce a much rawer look, grainy and indistinct. My intent was to use those specific characteristics to my benefit. I chose to shoot night scenes in available light with the M4, all handheld at very low shutter speeds. That’s how I envisioned the subject, sort of mysterious and furtive. At the risk of showing you my failures, this is what I came up with.

While I love the photo that leads off the piece, the rest is, at best, hit and miss, or, to put it bluntly, they don’t work. In retrospect, the day-time medium format photos are far superior insofar as they allowed me to document what I saw in the manner I saw it, albeit with the posthumous aide of digital software manipulation. Same subject, same photographer, different film format and camera, remarkably different output. The camera sometimes does matter.

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5 thoughts on “Holy Week, Part 2

  1. Rob Campbell

    Perhaps your problem is the one to which Capa referred: if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.

    Your fourth shot down, the close up, looks pretty powerful to me.

    Looked at another way: your first shot is the establishing shot, defining what’s what, and the heads are the nub of the matter. Seen like that, it becomes more than a list of random shots of a religious procession.

    Perhaps a further problem is that there is not really a lot more to be told. Which is hardly your fault. However, though that would suggest any storyline has to be very brief, there is a lot of opportunity for (and in) making more of those close up images; in other words, if you forget story and focus on individuals, material might be forthcoming in abundance.

    So you need a longer lens and a low-light Nikon to avoid getting trampled and/or in the way of the marchers.


    1. Rob Campbell

      The trouble is, from the perspective of today’s digital cameras, all film cameras are crap unless they can accept a digital back. The cost of film today puts them into dentist territory.

      The greatest loss, I believe, has been in the modern slr digital camera screens that are not designed to permit easy focussing by eye; fine for compositional purposes, but try to focus on something small or to the sides of the frame, and you are screwed. Trying to focus in the centre isn’t much more of a pleasure either.

      Of course, if the fun for anyone today lies in processing film and printing wet, great. These days, I wouldn’t shoot anything if I had to go through all that rigmarole again. It was enjoyable when it was the only game in town, and even more so when it meant making money because you could do some things better with it than could the competition. Otherwise, I really have to hand the bouquet to digital.


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