Back to Film
First I want to say thank you for all the great work. Your site has been part of my daily inspiration for some time now so I thought it would only be right to make a small photographic contribution. My name is Jay Lynn and I got my start in photography as a junior in high school back in 1985.
My school had a school newspaper and if you were selected to be on the paper’s staff you got out of school three hours early everyday to sell ads to local businesses and follow-up leads on local interest stories. That was too good an opportunity for me to pass up but I had one problem. The paper had plenty of stand out writers and my writing skills were average at best. Just as I was about to resign myself to not making the staff, the faculty coordinator asked me if I had any experience with photography. I did not but I knew that my father had an old Pentax ME Super along with a few lenses that had been sitting in a bag in our basement for years. I had never so much as picked it up but I sure wasn’t about to blow my chance to get out school early.
What followed was a steep learning curve but I got the hang of it and when I got my first good roll of film back from the lab I was hooked. I went on to “upgrade” to a Nikon FG and eventually began developing my own film. My passion continued unabated throughout college until I joined the Marine Corps and became a Marine officer. After the events of 9/11 and the subsequent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, I just could not justify making time for photography amidst the constant training and combat deployments. Of course there were so many moments that I experienced during those deployments that would have been amazing photographs but for obvious reasons I could not even allow myself to think about that. In those environments you have to be 100% focused on the job at hand. Still, the passion never died and every time I had a photojournalist embedded with my unit I did find some time to talk photography and admire their gear and their photos.
Leica M6 with 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit M and Kodak Porta 400
In 2011 I was assigned to the Marine Forces headquarters in the Pacific, which is located in Hawaii on the island of Oahu. For the first time in over 10 years I picked up a camera again. So much had changed with the progression of digital photography since I had last enjoyed photography but so much remained timeless. I bought a Nikon D5100 and a few lenses to get back in the game. Within six months I sold the D5100 and purchased a D7000. Ergonomically the D7000 just worked better for me and I got a lot of mileage out of that camera. Being in Hawaii affords me an opportunity travel throughout Asia and to photograph a lot of amazing landscapes. In 2013 I jumped at the chance to purchase a D600 for use with wide FX lenses and that has been my primary digital body ever since.
I love digital photography and about half of my work is digital. But as much as I enjoy the convenience of digital I really began to miss the tactile aspects of film photography and the deliberate nature associated with the process of shooting a role of film. The other thing that had changed since I took my break from photography was that all the film cameras and older lenses that I had lusted after in high school and college were now readily available for next to nothing on online auction sites or even for free in some instances. So I bought them all! Well, practically all of them. And I do love them but I noticed that I was spending more and more time shooting the old manual cameras like the FM2 or the F2 versus the more modern film cameras like the Nikon F5 or F6. I have a Mamiya 6 rangefinder that I travel with a lot and I really began to appreciate the process of using a manual focus rangefinder over the more automated cameras. You know where this is going, right? Yup, you guessed it.
Leica M4 with Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 C Biogon T* ZM and Kodak TriX 400
In October of this past year my wife and I took a three-week backpacking trip through Vietnam. I used that trip and the need to travel lightly to justify buying two Leica film cameras, an M6 that I used primarily for color film and an M4 loaded with Kodak TriX 400. With the addition of the wonderful Zeiss 35 f/2.8 ZM and a Leica 90 f/2.8 Elmarit M, I was set. I knew that I wanted to take portraits, landscapes, and street photography while in Vietnam. I carried only the two Leicas and the Mamiya 6 for the duration of the trip and I have absolutely no regrets. This was a huge step for me because I am usually the guy who brings along the proverbial kitchen sink “just in case”.
Mamiya 6 with G 75mm f/3.5 and Kodak Portra
Traveling with light gear that I could carry in a small, inconspicuous sling bag was such a liberating experience and I am so happy with the results. I really do believe the adage that the unobtrusive nature of the Lecias allows for more candid shots because your subject is not intimidated by a giant camera and lens combo. I also love the all manual approach that the Leica rangefinders require.
It makes me think more about what I am doing and it also makes me feel like I am more involved in the decision-making cycle that occurs before the press of the shutter button. I especially enjoy the M4 which I do not use with a meter. I practiced estimating exposure for weeks before the trip and got comfortable enough determining exposure that I never regretted not having a meter when using the M4. I am attaching just a small sample of the nearly 1000 images I made during the trip. One from each camera. Of note, I have more “keepers” from this trip than I have ever had since I began shooting film again. I have to believe that the process of using all manual film cameras has something to do with this and that this translates to digital photography as well and will ultimately make me a more discerning photographer. Enjoy the photos and keep up the great work.