Medium Format Film Photography

I grew up in the film era.  By film, I mean film photography.  Sure, movies were (and some still are) constructed using film, however, my experience comes from shooting 35 and 120 MM black and white film.  While I have maintained my interest in and development of film, I was seduced by the dark side: digital photography for a while.  OK, so yea, digital photography is NOT some kind of short cut to photography; however, the lessons I learned in film photography are not necessarily inherent in digital photography…..with cameras that adjust for any light source or environmental conditions, the shot is all about the snapshot….with no concern for the number of shots left or cost, digital photography can expand into a near video shoot of still scenes.  Even the iPhone has a software feature that takes stills photos and gives them a slight video feel.

Beginning a few years I ago, I decided to re-establish my film photography.  I shot film in Japan in 2008 during a trip to the country and found the process really enjoyable.  I left behind the strong desire to “see” my instantaneous image and instead relied on my knowledge and instinct to grab the shot I wanted.  More recently, I committed to the Hasselblad and 120MM photography.  My partner gave me a Hasselblad 500 C/M as a wedding gift in 1997 and I am forever grateful for Katie opening the door to medium format photography.  The Hasselblad really forces me to slow my photographic process waaay down…I spend time using a light meter, framing the shot, and clicking off one of 12 stills on a single roll.

The other less talked about but equally important part of working with a medium format film camera is the weight of the beast.  With a 50MM lens attached to the camera, the Hasselblad weighs in at almost 6 pounds.  Add to that a bag to carry film, film backs, and an extra lens and BOOM serious weight considerations!  Just holding the camera is a real trick; on a recent trip, I noticed about 5 out of 60 shots completely out of focus….probably because of shaking during the shoot.

One of the more interesting parts of modern film photography is that IF you want to share images with folks electronically, you have to scan those images.  I’m lucky in that I have a place to develop my film for free; however, getting that film into digital form takes real effort.  A flatbed scanner is the cheapest solution, AND the time commitment is huge; in my case, roughly 3-5 minutes per scan!  Commercial scanning is available and runs roughly $20 per roll (with development)! Yikees!

Enough drivel for today; on to the show!  Included here are a few images from last summer’s trip to Japan and Bhutan.  I am still processing film and scanning images…these photos give you a glimpse into both the process and the place.

For those interested, all of these images were shot on Ilford HP5 in 120MM format with the Hasselblad 500 C/M, 80mm lens.




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