Tag Archives: film

Prints, Part II

Because I shoot film, once in a while I’ll choose to get prints done of a particular roll. Not because I hang onto some form of outdated media (I always get scans irrespective of whether I’m getting prints or not), but because I like to have some physical record of how my film photography is going.

Getting prints done isn’t some egotistical thing, either — I mostly use it as a way to remind myself that shooting film has a cost that’s not associated with digital photography, a real cost both in terms of taking the individual frames and work that has to go into the final roll. I still don’t develop my own film and probably ever won’t, but getting printed copies of my film photography gives me something I can hang onto.

I got back the two rolls I wrote about the other day, and they look pretty good. Taken as a set of 38 frames they’re mediocre, but there are some standouts in the two sets, like any roll. I feel as though I waste anywhere between 5 and 10 frames per roll of 38, just because I’m taking multiple shots of the same thing. There are one-time deals that work out amazingly well, and then there are those that take 2-3 shots and still don’t turn out right. That’s where digital still has the edge over film photography, and always will.

As much as I like some of the photos, and as much as I’m happy with how the shots I did take turned out — there’s this one that is an almost perfect shot of the front of the National Library of Australia — I’m still not content with the kind of photography I’m doing. If Monte Carlos are the only Arnott’s biscuits I’ve ever loved1, then street photography is the only kind of photography I really enjoy. Which kind of sucks, because I’m only average at it and almost never work up the courage to take the shots that I want to.

It’s honestly one of the worst things about street photography. You can’t just walk up to someone and take their photo, and while you can try and catch people in their natural — staring at their phone, waiting for the bus, leaning against a wall — as soon as you stick a camera in their face the moment is gone. If the second hardest thing about street is taking photos of people in their natural habitat, the hardest thing is working up the courage to do so.

But hey, that’s half of what makes street photography so thrilling. Thrill of the chase, and all that.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.

  1. See https://twitter.com/bdyling/status/531385411742863361 

Potential

IMG_1763Film is so strange. For the first time in a long time, I took photos with my film rangefinder during my recent working holiday in Canberra, and that’s kind of a big deal because the last time I did so was back in January this year.

Only there’s one difference between the photos I took in January and the photos I took earlier this month. The film I was using — the only film I use with my film rangefinder, Kodak Ektar 100 — expired back in May. From what I’ve read everything should be OK, or maybe the colours will be slightly funkier than usual, but the film has had a pretty gentle life — it hasn’t been refrigerated, but has been stored away from direct sunlight.

I made the silliest mistake when winding back the first roll of film, too. I forgot to set the shutter speed low enough for a short exposure, and accidentally left the shutter open at f/16 when winding it back. Granted, it was in a dark room, and the camera was pointing downwards towards the floor, but the shutter was open for perhaps the last fifth of the roll, as I wound it back. It was such a rookie mistake. I’m not sure what effect — if any — that will have on the final exposures. Maybe it won’t have any effect at all, or maybe the last few shots will be overexposed by a stop or two.

Either way, I’m not sure how the last two rolls of film will turn out. You never are, of course, film being film and all, but that’s just how it is when you choose to shoot film. There’s all this potential contained in those little canisters — huge potential for some really great shots, or the potential for blurry, out of focus, over/under-exposed messes.

It’s half the fun, really.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.

Thirty Six Shooter

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Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t feel pressured to take photos all the time? Because digital is cheap, it means we have this idea that we have to capture everything. It’s terrible if you even have the smallest of compulsive tendencies, because you’re probably taking photos of the most random things possible in your never-ending quest to document anything and everything.

Yours truly:

I’ve felt this pressure myself, too. I’ve often found myself saying: “hey, this costs you nothing and means you can remember every detail of this moment every time you look at this photo in the future” on more than one occasion, and you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. As humans our memories aren’t perfect, so if we need a little help remembering our kids’ first steps, or that time when bird poo landed spontaneously on our friend, or that time we saw our friend at that place, what’s the harm in taking a photo to remember the occasion?

Enter film photography, stage left.

Paul Miller returned to the internet yesterday after a year of no internet, and a lot of what he talked about was how the internet has trained us to give us that instant hit. Click a link, get a webpage. Google something, become enlightened. Hit a keyboard shortcut, send a tweet. Of course, a lot of other stuff happens behind the scenes to make those things happen, but this instantaneous feedback loop that the internet provides is something we should be more cautious of, in my opinion. I mean, It’s probably why people get burnt out more than they used to — in fact, it’s probably why burn out is a even a thing. No-one got burnt out before the 20th century, and you know why? Because they didn’t have the internet. They didn’t have the internet to give them that instant information hit they so badly craved.

Film photography is kind of like that. Not like the world without the internet or anything, but a world where photography teaches you patience. You’re not crimping every shot to see if the lighting was right, to see if the focus was okay, or because you didn’t expose to the right. You’re not re-taking shots because you didn’t like the direction the wind was blowing, or because a car got in the way of that building. Well, maybe you are — but you’re not doing it over and over again, just so you can make sure at least one of your shots is useable. You’re not firing off bursts of shots just to make sure you get that one shot that you can actually use.

And when it does come time to finish off a roll of film, you’re waiting for the development process. If you develop your own film, I tip my hat to you; I don’t think I could without going insane waiting for all the various steps. I’d much rather just give it to someone else to handle, forget about it for a day or two, then come back and grab the processed film and the scans, which I can then just load into my computer.

No mess, no fuss.

It seems that a good 85% of my photography these days is film. In a world where digital SLRs can shoot crazy numbers of frames per second (seriously, have you heard the burst rate on the 1Dx?), it’s even crazier that at times, 36 frames is too many. Having to shoot random frames to finish off a roll of film that I’m itching to be developed isn’t exactly uncommon. I’m not sure whether this is poor planning on my part or just a reality of film photography, but I do it all the time.

I find it nothing short of weird that 36 frames is at the same time too many frames, and yet, not enough.

Too many frames because film teaches you this idea that every frame counts. You only have so many shots before you have to reload your camera with another roll of film, so you make every one count. But then you finish shooting whatever you’re taking photos of, and what happens? You’ve still got a handful of shots remaining on the roll. So what do you do? Do you shoot a few fun ones just to finish it off, or do you wait until you actually have something worth taking photos of? Because I’m impatient and have more rolls of film stockpiled than I know what to do with, I usually opt for the latter. Being able to see my eagerly-taken photos is also a plus.

But at the same time, 36 frames are not enough. It’s nothing compared to any recent-ish DSLR. My 60D, for example, can do 5.3fps quite happily — whereas I can probably manage perhaps one frame a second on my manually-advanced film rangefinder. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand where a high burst rate comes in handy. Sports photography, for example, or if you’re an amateur like me and want to make sure that you’ll get at least one photo worth using, and the more shots you take, the larger chance that has of happening. And if you happen to capture more than one frame that is usable, well, what’s the big deal? Digital is cheap, remember?

Revolvers are described as six shooters. Film rangefinders, then, are thirty-six shooters.

Relay for Life 2013

Hobart Relay for Life 2013

The 2013 Hobart Relay for Life might have been the first time I cracked 10,000 steps on my Fitbit One (and probably the one and only time I’ll crack 20,000), but it was also a time of realisation.

The vast majority of my recreational photography these days is film photography. If I had to put numbers to it, I’d probably say I do 85% film, 15% digital (which includes my iPhone, as well as my digital SLR). There’s just something about film photography that appeals to me — maybe I like it because it’s different to every other Joe who has a digital SLR, or maybe it’s because the photos taken with film all have their own unique character. Maybe it’s just because I haven’t experienced the very best digital photography has to offer, but these days — for whatever reason — I prefer film.

It was during a trip to Melbourne last year when I realised I could do all my recreational photography solely with my film camera. I only took my film-loaded Bessa over there, and it was perfectly adequate for my street photography and random snapshots. I missed focus on a few photos, and didn’t realise what my shutter speed had fallen to (resulting in a blurry mess) in another one or two, but apart from those random three or four photos, the photos I captured were totally fine1. After the trip, I looked back at my photos, compared them to the ones I took the last time I was in Melbourne, and realised: hey, this camera does a damn fine job of capturing the image I want it to, and, not to mention, it’s also a lot more enjoyable to use.

Relay for Life just affirmed that realisation.

I took my film rangefinder along to Relay because it presented a unique opportunity for me: a chance to take photos of people I actually knew and in reasonable light conditions, instead of the usual street photographs of complete strangers. I took my DSLR along as well, expecting it would get used during the night, when my film Bessa had been retired in favour of the selectable-ISO of my DSLR — I even borrowed my friend’s Speedlite, like I had done the previous year — but as it turned out, I took a total of zero photos using my DSLR this year at Relay.

Straight out of camera, would you believe, in the early hours of the morning.

Straight out of camera, would you believe, in the early hours of the morning.

To be fair, the weather didn’t exactly help; it rained for much of the afternoon and evening, preventing any serious photography from taking place. Had the weather been nicer, like it was last year, then maybe things would have turned out differently, and maybe I would have experimented with long exposures. I had intended to do long exposures during the day, even bringing along my 10-stop ND filter to try my hand at daytime long exposure photography, but alas, the weather had other plans.

All of the above should give you a pretty good idea of where I think digital SLRs and film rangefinders stand. Like I’ve said before, there’s still a place for the digital SLR in my photography endeavours, it’s just that that purpose is becoming more and more specialised where the role of the film rangefinder is expending. Don’t get me wrong: there are occasions where I wouldn’t choose a film rangefinder over a digital SLR, but those occasions are getting fewer as I gain more and more experience with film.

Like I’ve been saying all along, one format isn’t better than the other, and there’s room for both formats in my life. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. But when it comes down to which format takes the better photo, or which one I prefer for any given task, the answers to those questions are a little harder to come by.

Pram Cam 2013

In any case, Relay for Life was good. Not great, because it rained so damn much, but good. Like last year, we put the GoPro on the Team Radi8 mascot (a pram adorned with our names and stick figures), only this time around I turned it around so it faced the people pushing the pram, and recorded a mix of video and time-lapse footage. The video was kind of a mistake as sitting through 7 hours of people pushing a pram around a track isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but I still managed to capture a few nice moments here and there.

Unlike last year, though, that was pretty much all I did photographically. No time-lapse camera in the grandstand. No separate point-and-shoot for later tilt-shift intentions. All the digital frames that were taken were taken on the GoPro (with perhaps a panorama or two on the ol’ iPhone), but apart from that, it was analog all the way.

And honestly, if I was going to do it again, I would have done exactly the same thing the second time around.2.


  1. I’m tempted to add a qualifier here along the lines of “for a film camera”, but you know what? When a friend asked me (incidentally, at the Relay for Life) if my film camera took better photos than my digital SLR, I replied “I wouldn’t necessarily say better, but it does a pretty damn good job”. 
  2. I can’t share any of the (better) photos here for privacy reasons, but if you know me in real life ask to see them sometime and I’ll happily show you. 

The Benny Ling 2012 Photographic Year in Review: By the Numbers, An Introduction to Film, and Just Taking Photos

One of my favourite photos of the year was of this pink bike. Not this particular photo, but one of them.

2012 marks the first year I’ve taken photography seriously. I’ve always been interested in photography, but haven’t really gotten as involved with it as I did this year. It probably had a lot to do with the acquisition of my own DSLR kit late last year, and even more to do with doing my own photography — the shots I’ve seen other people take but have always wanted to apply my own spin or interpretation of, combined with the creative control a “serious” camera like a DSLR allows.

By the numbers

Lightroom says I’ve taken 7343 images with my 60D this year Of those:

  • 3493 were taken with the Sigma 30 1.4
  • 2105 were taken with the Canon 17-55 2.8
  • 662 were taken with the Canon 18-135 3.5-5.6
  • 632 were taken with the Canon 24-85 3.5-4.5
  • 200 were taken with the Canon 50 1.8
  • 251 were taken with a Samyang(?) 6.5mm fisheye

The Sigma’s high numbers are pretty easy to explain: it’s the lens that got busted out at my first ever wedding reception, and it’s usually the one that’s attached to my camera the most often. It’s usually the lens that I take when I’m going to an event at youth, and of course, being the fastest lens I own means it gets used quite a lot. Overall, I quite enjoy the Sigma — it’s a great piece of glass when you consider the price. Fast, with a great focal length for a crop sensor.

The 17-55 is easily the most expensive piece of glass that I own, and in a few respects it’s a better lens than the Sigma. Its numbers are lower than the Sigma on a pure photos-taken basis mainly because I don’t use it as much. I’m not sure why, because it can produce some truly great photos. It’s the lens I took with me to Melbourne that one time, the one I used at the Relay for Life, and what I do most of my landscapes with. But I seldom use it at youth events, purely because it looks (and feels) intimidating; people tend to shy away from it. It may produce some excellent photos, but it’s not exactly subtle. It’s heavy, too — almost a full kilo. In an ideal world I’d like this lens to be the one permanently attached to my 60D, but such is the advantage of an interchangeable camera system.

The rest of the numbers aren’t exactly special: the 18-135 was the first lens I owned, along with the 50 1.8, the latter of which doesn’t get much use due to the slightly longer focal length and the fact that I have the much better (sharper, faster) Sigma to use instead. Maybe when I go full-frame I’ll use it more, but that’s definitely for another time.

An introduction to film

Around April, I bought an old film camera, and experienced film photography for myself. Our family had an old film point and shoot before the days of digital, of course, but I rarely used personally. But the Yashica Lynx 14 I bought off an OCAU forum member made me realise that maybe there was more to this photography thing than just pressing shutter buttons. Perhaps it was the fully-mechanical nature of the camera, or maybe it was having to wait to see if my photos were any good, but film photography made me start enjoying photography all over again.

I ended up loving that Yashica Lynx — non-operational/slightly temperamental light meter and all — so much that it ended up with a stuck shutter, which was the end of that particular camera.

But by that stage I couldn’t give up rangefinder photography, which has more advantages than just looking the part with a fancy film camera. Long story short, I ended up buying a Voigtländer Bessa R2A camera, paired with a Voightlander Nokton 40 1.4 to replace the old (like, late 1960s-era old) Yashica Lynx.

The story continues…

Back in the Saddle

There’s a gap in my Lightroom library.

It encompasses the period from October to November this year, and represents a two month period where very few photos were taken.

Why? I’m not sure myself, actually. It could have been any number of things: the iPhone 5 was released during that period, Uni exams were during that period, I got into the Twilight series, and many more reasons (some even more ridiculous than the ones I’ve already posted) besides. Maybe it rained a lot. Or maybe I didn’t leave the house because I was too busy studying for exams and/or re-re-re-watching the Twilight series.

Whatever the reason, there’s a gap in my Lightroom library.

And it’s such a stupid thing to get hung up on, but it’s more than just a time where I didn’t take photos, film nor digital. Perhaps that gap represents something entirely different other than just “a period where very few photos were taken”. For example, perhaps that gap points to a period where I was felt so uninspired that taking photos felt like the worst possible thing to be doing at that time. Perhaps I just didn’t feel like competing with others when it came to taking photos.

Or maybe — and I suspect this is closer to the real reason than any any excuse I’ve offered up this far — the gap represents a time where I was questioning my own photography compared to the photography of others. By this I mean: what sets my own photography apart from those taking photos with iPhones? Or with their Polaroids? What makes my photography special? Why should I bring my camera out to events when someone else can document it just as well with their iPhone, and share it instantaneously with others?

And, you know, it’s great that we live in a world that can be documented and shared instantly with others. It’s great that iPhones now approach the capabilities of the more advanced point and shoot cameras, and it’s even better that they have the advantage of being able to share their photos instantly via the ever-connected web.

But then I think about things like Instagram, and realise that as much as things change, the more they stay the same. Cute girls post pictures of themselves on their social network of choice garner more likes than should be possible in the blink of an eye, and the more popular individuals on one social network will be equally as popular on others. Haters gonna hate, and so on, and so forth.

I’m not sure why there’s a gap in my Lightroom library. Whatever the reason, I’m glad there is — otherwise I might not be taking pictures now, and maybe, just maybe, my photos wouldn’t be nearly as good as a result1.


  1. Both photos you see in this post are from September. Bonus points if you can name the place where the second one was taken. 

Ithaca College →

Ten disposable cameras. Five locations. One authentic view of a day at Ithaca College.

Pretty cool. Leave a few disposable (film!) cameras around, collect them at the end of the day, and put the photos up on the web.

I’d love to do a little project like this one day.

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New PC Hardware

I’ve never been one to call computer hardware sexy or anything, but this is pretty nice, aesthetics-wise1.

Results in a pretty nice performance upgrade over my previous graphics card, a GTX 480, too:


  1. Photo taken with my Olympus mju-II and Superia X-tra 400. 

Does it make you a better… ?

There’s a scene in The Unit — one of my favourite TV series of all time — where one of the lead characters asks another soldier who’s about to make a life changing decision: does it make you a better soldier? In that scene, Jonas asks Mack whether what’s he’s about to do will make him a better soldier, and it’s a good question: if killing your superior officer (who slept with your wife) doesn’t make you a better soldier, you have to ask the question: what does?

It’s the kind of question I ask myself all the time; what can I do that will make me a better person?

A while back I was asked if shooting film made me a better photographer. At the time, I didn’t really have an answer for the guy who asked, because I hadn’t really thought about it myself.

But thinking about it now, the answer seems pretty clear: sure it does, if only on a purely technical level. When you shoot film with a manual-exposure camera, when you’re guessing exposures, you learn about apertures and shutter speeds in addition to thinking about all the other aspects of your shots. A lot of shooting film is also the experience of not being able to look at your photos immediately and having to wait for it to get developed. That teaches patience, which, last time I checked, was a pretty good attribute to have.

With film, you’re limiting yourself to only shooting a certain number of frames. It means you can just spray people at 5fps — 12 if you’re lucky enough to have a 1DX — and it means that you value your shots more because you’ve got less to work with.

And you know what? At the end of the day, maybe taking photos with film cameras doesn’t have to be about if it makes you a better photographer. Maybe it will, and maybe it won’t — but if you’re having fun doing it, then I guess that’s okay too.

A New Rangefinder (feat. Bessa R2A)

I was about 30 exposures into my 13th roll of film when suddenly, the shutter button on my Yashica Lynx 14 just stopped activating the shutter. Quite inconvenient, really. I always wind-on directly after firing off a shot, which cocks the shutter automatically — but somehow, that wasn’t happening anymore. The shutter wasn’t being cocked, even though it seemed to still be advancing film.

I made a short video which explains exactly what was going on.

The shutter was being fired when I was winding on. Not sure how, or why it started happening pretty much spontaneously; I had noticed similar “shutter-not-cocking-after-wind-on” issues a few weeks prior, but I didn’t know it at the time and dismissed it. Resulted in some pretty funky exposures too, since it was opening the shutter after winding on a new frame — mostly shaky, blurry-cam type stuff, but kinda cool in some sort of surrealist way.

I was pretty upset. Shooting with a rangefinder is incredibly satisfying, and seeing as my only rangefinder had just given up the ghost, not shooting with a rangefinder for street just wasn’t an option.

Being an old, fully mechanical camera, I investigated repair options: taking it to the local camera repair shop resulted in a repair bill which could have run into the hundreds of dollars had I chosen to send it off to some gentleman who specialised in older cameras, multiples of what the camera was actually worth (in monetary terms, anyway). I decided to do a little DIY, taking apart the camera and seeing if I could fix the issue myself.

Sadly, that didn’t work due to a lack of understanding about which camera parts did what. I took the entire thing apart (except for the lens assembly), and I still didn’t figure out how it worked. Nothing terribly obvious was wrong with it, which seems a little strange when you consider that it’s a fully mechanical camera, and not some electric-powered everything like the DSLRs of today. But I digress.

I did get the chance to clean out the rangefinder patch and window, though, which has now resulted in a viewfinder that looks fantastic. Shame it doesn’t actually take photos anymore.

Which brought me to an entirely new dilemma: which replacement rangefinder was I going to purchase? Not having a rangefinder wasn’t an option, they’re just too much fun to shoot on, way more portable than a DSLR, and besides,, I don’t mind manual focus. I lusted over a digital rangefinder for about the same amount of time it took to look up the price. Until I start getting paid handsomely for photography, they’re a little out of my price range.

After looking around for a bit, it was a toss-up between two Voightländer cameras: the Bessa R2A, or the Bessa R3A. They’re practically the same camera, but the Bessa R3A has a 1:1 ratio viewfinder, which is pretty cool because it means you can take photos with both eyes open (if you look though the viewfinder with your right eye, that is). Apart from that, they’re both 35mm film rangefinders with built-in auto exposure or metered manual — and if I was going to shoot street, autoexposure was exactly what I wanted, allowing me to set the aperture, focus, and let the camera take care of the rest.

I ended up buying an R2A second-hand, because the store that I wanted to buy from didn’t have any in stock… I also ended up getting the super-popular Voightländer Nokton 40mm f/1.4, perhaps one of the cheapest ($529 new, hah) M-mount lenses that you can buy. Compared to some of the massively-upwards of $2000 Leica lenses, it’s dirt cheap whilst still providing excellent image quality — and by excellent IQ, I mean knock your pants off stuff.

But perhaps the best feature of the Bessa isn’t that it has auto-exposure, or the fact that it’s a reasonably recent film camera (i.e. introduced in 2004, still manufactured today), but the fact that it has the all-heralded Leica M mount.

Ah, Leica. They’re not a brand for the beginner or even for those without deep, deep pockets, but they’re renowned for the simple reason they have some of the best glass in the business. All manual focus, but lenses that are unparalleled when it comes to sheer resolving power and image quality.

The Bessa R2A isn’t really unique in that it’s not the only 35mm film rangefinder that features a Leica M mount, because there are a fair few rangefinders that do — but besides all that, it’s still a (very big) step up from the el-cheapo Yashica Lynx I was using before. Not top-tier (Leica M6/M7/MP-level), but not exactly bottom-barrel, either.

Besides being fantastically built and opening up yet another wide variety of super-expensive glass to lust over, the R2A is really good fun to shoot with.

But that’s for another time.