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Film Photography and Plastic Cameras

Photography has never been more accessible than it is today. Cameras are literally in our back pockets. I embrace my iPhone like I embrace my Nikon D850 but I separate these devices that produces images from film photography. I don't know why I love film photography so much because for me, it's damn hard; it always has been. Exposure = Aperture + Time. When I figured out these important elements I shifted to plastic cameras.


I do love a challenge. The Holga and Diana F+ cameras are leaky light boxes with two apertures (the Diana F+ has 4) and one shutter speed. Plastic cameras are mocked (present tense) and routinely dismissed by non-film shooters. Once upon a time light leaks and imperfections weren't part of the vernacular in film photography. I learned film in the darkroom with chemicals and lectures, and I wanted to see how much "quality" I could get out of them.


I'm a Nikon shooter and I instantly missed my Nikon FM2 exposure meter. In order to use the plastic cameras I had to use new math (the metric system - lol) and a stop watch. I'm sure most people were like I'm out at this point or they were pleased with bad images of their feet (images that dominated the web for whatever reason; when I started - feet, lots of feet). I know right.


Detroit is a dirty big city; it's gotten much better over the years but this is one of the reasons that I gravitated towards infrared film. This film redefines the subject and presents a clean non-traditional black and white image. I always felt that these images were a bit creepy with black skies and ethereal white foliage. Creepy. The Holga however, changed my thinking about infrared film.


For black and white IR images I use Rollei film with a Hoya R72 filter. I also like specialty films like Lomography Purple where a ten-minute exposure turned a lush green park into an eerie nightmare. Strange is all over this this non-traditional image; from the off colors to the children's slide that is dead center in a mud puddle. Film is predictable to a point but never certain especially when it's pushed outside of conventional boundaries.


I like long exposure photography for day and for night shoots. One can see a definite difference in the film quality between long exposure and a shutter click; the film looks smoother, however, all images maintain a soft dreamy quality. For a comparison I added the last two images, Flat Iron and the C.P.A. Building, which are shutter clicks and not long exposure.


Plastic cameras are better than most might think. They can, however, be temperamental, unpredictable, frustrating and expensive (film). They're definitely uncomfortable to work with, film photography requires constant thought (36 frames of individual adjustments or 12 if it's 120 film). Chasing the creative rainbow might explain why I love the artisanship of film photography, it's hard and it's a perpetual quest.

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