I’ve got an itch for buying prints, not photographs but aquatints. I like the way they can reproduce a scene with an absolute minimum amount of information, but still impress the feeling of being there. I like the smudges, the washes of monochrome, the imperfections, and the missing bits, the two-dimensional flatness, and the three dimensional imperfections of the paper. It’s rougher, rawer and more tactile; less is more. Photography often falls into the more information is better camp, from the tips of your toe to the edge of the world in focus, sharpness and 3d “pop”.
An upcoming work trip overseas and the thought of carrying film stock around the world and shooting old cameras got me thinking that perhaps I’m being obtusely anachronistic in shooting film and especially Tri-X.
I thought the idea through, I could move to a digital body that uses the lenses I already posses.
Option 1, I could buy a used Fuji X- Pro body and a M adaptor. But I wouldn’t be able to use the optical viewfinder and would have to zone focus, or try and use an EVF viewfinder. And then I’d have to either try and update my four year old MacBook to Mavericks so I could use Lightroom 5 (which I could get under my creative cloud licence) or try and get to grips with “silkypix” whatever that programme is.
Option 2, I could just buy a “tele- converter” for my X100 and shoot at my preferred view of 50mm, but then because the camera is the old model, I wouldn’t be able to correct for distortion.
Option 3, I could stretch finances and buy a second hand M8: my 28mm and 40mm lens would be 35mm and 50ish mm so that’s a bonus, and it would mean I could enter the digital leica world, albeit with an 8 year old electronic camera that isn’t supported any more if it breaks, and I’d have to buy UV/IR filters, otherwise black would look purple.
In the spirit of fair play I downloaded some samples of M8 DNG files. I can read them in Lightroom 3 so I wouldn’t have to try and upgrade to Mavericks, wouldn’t have to learn “Silkypix” and could just get on with it. No disrespect to those who shared the files on the web, they’re nice, but no matter how I tried to stuff them up, I just couldn’t get them to look like how I wanted them to. Curves, noise, film grain, Tri-X simulations in DxO, nothing. They just looked…clean, sharp, distinct, and just a little bit like I don’t really care about them.
So back to where I started from. I don’t need to upgrade to Mavericks, I don’t need to learn another image processing program, and I don’t need to buy any more filters. It was an entertaining few days, but I’m now going to shoot everything at sunny 16, develop in old coffee grounds and print on “tea soaked toilet paper” – tannins are archival right? It might not be sharp or clean, but it’ll be closer to what I want to show.
The two “flat” photos shot on 5X4 film with a 40-year-old MPP field camera.
Back to travel photography soon, as we’re away again on a shorter European trip.