JUST GO SHOOT! By Aaron Hardin

JUST GO SHOOT! By Aaron Hardin

Steve, I’ve been a Leica shooter for a few years now and have used an M4-P and Voigtlander 35mm exclusively for one of my projects over the past 2 years. It would be nice to have an M9, but you can buy a TON of Tri-X for that kind of money (not to mention a few plane tickets). The following project called “Abyssinia” is a long-term project I’m working on in Ethiopia (primarily in and around Addis Abeba).

Though travelling internationally with film can be a real pain in the neck, I’ve managed to make it through without much hassle. I really wanted to shoot the project with all Tri-X due to the beautiful texture and longevity of its aesthetic. I also like T-Max 100 from time to time.

Now that the gear stuff is out-of-the-way, I wanted to encourage those frequenters of your site to GO SHOOT! I’ve spent countless hours researching gear, looking forward to the next big thing or pining over cameras far out of my price range (read “M9”). But what does it all matter if you aren’t going to take that little machine and produce something with it. We all have a voice and an eye and often times something to say. So don’t be afraid to MAKE A PHOTO.

I had many peers that thought I was crazy to fly halfway across the world with just a camera, lens, light meter and bag of black and white film. No digital camera. No color film. No excuses. We forget that Cartier-Bresson likely used the same body for many years and maybe 2 lenses for his whole career… and he changed photography forever.

Keep clicking,

Aaron Hardin



  1. This awesome so much inspiration. The best inspiration I have seen here. I think we all should go back to film for a while instead of that gear hunting. I enjoy my Leica IIIf for a while and some Tri X.

    Thanks for sharing that Steve.

  2. Very proffessional work! Wow, just keep shooting! When are people going to realise that digital almost always makes you a worse photographer? I just loooooove film… Shooting more and more with my Rolleiflex , my Nikon D3 has been lying on a shelf the last 2 years.. Haha.. Strange, but the passion for photography just comes back when I shoot film, its like I can feel the wings of history flowing through my body and out through my finger when I press the shutter-button, and Im no old chap, Im just 30 years old..

  3. Great photographs, I specially like the 3rd and last one. The third is fantastic, and love that kind of photos with a still subject surrounded with movement. And I’m attracted by the last one.

    I’m on the late teens and have been shooting film since 4 years ago; In a very occasional manner.

    I tried shooting film in my dad’s old plasticy SLR; Was impressed by the result with film. I chose to get an OM-1 instead of going DSLR for further learning and discipline. It’s amusing how the 4/3 system, the one I wanted to get, has become superseded by m4/3.
    When it comes down to cost, I calculated that the 100 GBP expense I did would be paid many more years down the road than doing the big expense of a DSLR that would become obsolete in few years. Not having any income (student) and with the economic situation brought me here. Alright, 4-5€ a roll… but it might take me months to finish one.

    Nowadays I’m shooting more with my Panny P&S that brings me solid go everywhere service and snapping just about everything. True, I haven’t tried the “real deal” digital, with big sensor DSLRs. Oh, perhaps I should go medium format.

    I would like to go hybrid, but the spending of a scanner is a bit of a barrier… I do have the money but believe it’s kinda unjustificable. And for home B&W I should take the plunge too someday.

    Sadly, my studies have kept me very busy lately. Those have finished just yesterday and the OM is bored.
    Summer’s here, together with many probable adventures… So, let’s shoot, then!

    Nowadays I don’t care to give the “photographer impression”, just about shooting and documenting.

  4. I think this is the best way. I will like doing this , when i finished the photography school. Until this time, I take shots from faces of Hungarian street, with my Zorki 1 plus an Industar lens. Great fims, lovely shots!

    Greetings from Hungary.

  5. Some really good photo journalism, I mean “really” good!

    Just goes to show eh’, stuff buying all the latest gear just get out and shoot. Thanks ever so much for posting these I really appreciated you taking the time to do this, as soon as I saw them I was elated. Great work!

    • Just looked at your website, really touching work on your “Sullivans” project too. Thank you so, so much for giving us the opportunity to view your exceptional work Aaron! 🙂

  6. Hands and shapes, the common denominator here. Great, just great images. Thanks for sharing Aaron!

  7. I really like the first image! Just the right balance of focus/out of focus, highlight and shadow, and, most importantly, the right dose of grain – its a kind of magic. For most of the others, in particular the last one, there is too much grain for my taste although the composition of the last one is really great, of course.

    I have been there myself, with my Nikon D-some thousand bugs and havn’t done any better: I know these flat stones, the short textured grass, the extremely hard light even at sun rise or sun set, and of the resulting overlay of the grass texture with the grain/digital noise in the images. The last image reminds me rather of my own images of this landscape than of the landscape itself. But just this observation supports your point: it is not a matter of gear. It is just really difficult to shoot this landscape against the Ethiopian sun, irrespective of gear.

  8. Fantastic shots, I love the 2nd and the last shots. Miss shooting film.

    It is amazing that most of this site is filled with comparisons on how sharp, and detailed the images new cameras can produce. We spend significant amount of time going over minuscule details of sterile digital images trying to figure which camera can make our photography better.

    And here it is we see the best images ever posted on this site, soft grainy but with amazing content and character.

  9. Incredible shots!. I agree with your comments regarding priced Leicas. I have always wanted to have a leica, a sort of dream. However, their current prices are just outrageous and I want to bold that they are, nowdays, just electronics… so why to pay 5,000 bucks (or more) for something will be obsolete in no more than 3-4 years. That´s not the same that analog technology… a M4-P is still an incredible tool for photographers like you congratulations. A leica makes a better photographer? is the question.

  10. I guess it’s all relative …thats a pretty expensive rig for some …but great shots and I agree, just go.

    The enjoyment of photography starts the second one stops worrying about equipment.
    The learning curve increases the more one enjoys what he is doing.

  11. This is a “Classic Example” of what Photography is all about! A personal vision unencumbered by what gear is being used. Excellent Work!

  12. You make an important point very well, and back it up with superb photos.
    Not going out and using the equipment (that some people do nothing more than talk about), is like having a beautiful car in the garage and never driving it.
    You’re an inspiration.
    Thank you.

  13. Shoot film. Get a scan on disc and work on the final images digitally.
    Best of both worlds. Yes, you do have to buy the film and pay for processing but that’s nothing against the cost of an M9.
    Works for me. M6TTL + Apple Mac with lightroom or aperture.

    • Plus, you have your images in two separate media, which increases the chances of never losing them if something goes wrong.

    • Steve J, if you’re going to “..work on the final images digitally..” ..then why shoot on film – why not just shoot with a digital camera?

      Why shoot first on film, and then digitally scan the negs, and then digitally manipulate the images on a computer, but their admirers say that there’s something intrinsically more marvellous and ‘magical’ or ‘awesome’ about film? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

      If you’re using film and chemicals, then why not enlarge the film and print it chemically (with an enlarger, lens and paper, developer and fixer) ..if film is somehow so ‘special’?

      I’m not asking as a newcomer to photography ..I’ve been doing this, with chemicals, since 1954.

      I just don’t see why all the fuss: why people want to shoot film if the result’s going to appear digitally onscreen. For digital results, shoot digital. Click! ..card into Mac, adjust with Viveza or Aperture or iPhoto or FocalPoint or Fisheye-Hemi, or whatever. Done!

      To print on photographic paper, shoot on film, develop, print (and dodge and burn, or tilt, or whatever). Done.

      Why mix and match? Why choose lower ISO film – for digital results – when digital shooting offers higher ISO, variable ISO, and more than 36 on a roll?

      I don’t know of anyone who does it the other way around – shooting digitally, and then making chemical prints (except in mini-labs).

      So why shoot ‘chemically’ ..and then digitise it all to make digital prints when you’re at the mercy of the resolution – and other characteristics – of whichever scanner you use?

      For digital, I use digital. For chemical, I use chemical.

      • . Why mix and match? Why not??? It gives you the benefits of two worlds if you do. Why be so stiff? It’s not harming anybody, and it’s not the end of the world if you do shoot film then process them digitally. 35mm film makes no sense in some ways, compared to digital – but photographers still choose to use it. It’s maybe not a totally rational choice – but rationality is sometimes overrated. I love to use 35mm film cameras – maybe it’s a heart thing and digital is a head thing. I’m not the only one for sure!

      • It’s actually quite common for galleries to request silver gelatin prints from digital images, because collectors prefer them.

        Also, the movie business has been using a hybrid workflow (shoot film, transfer, and post on digital intermediate) for a decade now.

        This gives you the aesthetic quality of film with the flexibility of digital post, and a negative you can archive in a vault.

        • So true and the dirty little secret that people who are anti film/gelatin prints would prefer not known. Ya know, the people who really know very little about the ACTUAL photographic art world.

          Galleries, collectors etc place a far higher value on silver gelatin prints (whether it be from an older neg or a brand new one).

          It is the process that counts to many collectors and gallery heads. There is no process in digital, especially when one can do it so easily with Instagram or snap seed. “Dig has become very supermarket level – for the ugly masses”. No joke, that is a word for word quote one NYC gallery owned quipped.

          Film and a gelatin prints – is an art form and one that is becoming very sought after as digital is now so commonplace and ‘easy’.

      • Dave, mate, maybe cos the photographer prefers the look of FILM. Whether scanned or printed – it has its own LOOK and mood – I’m half blind and I can judge that easily.
        Film is so versatile, it can be scanned, projected, printed, touched, smelt, felt, placed on a light table and admired under a loupe, held up to the light, manipulated digitally or manually, archived and kept – it’s precious, unlike some lines of code on a computer screen to all intents and purposes might as well be computer graphics

      • David, the biggest reason I shoot film is for the aesthetic and discipline. I’m in my 20’s and began my venture into the photo world shooting digital. And I still shoot digital. As I read up on many of my favorite photographers and their photographs over the past several years, I noticed a trend. Many shot with Leicas and Tri-X. So began my love of Leicas and Tri-X. Now, its not for everyone. And I may be a bit nutty. But I really enjoy the compactness of the machine and the tonality and grain of the film.

        But mostly it is about discipline. I needed it. We all do. Every Joe out there has a DSLR. And photography has taken a beating because of it.

        I believe that good art needs opposition. At least I need it. We need to push this cart up the hill. It’s what makes us excellent photographers as opposed to average. Again, this is my own personal journey. But I can honestly say that the opposition has been so great for my work.

        Peace, Aaron

        • “..But mostly it is about discipline..”

          But one can discipline oneself just as much – I think, anyway – with ANY camera ..with digital, too.

          What about putting a cloth over your head and using a glass plate camera? You know; focusing upside down on a ground glass screen? There’s even more “discipline” for you.

          It’s just a matter of mode of thought. You can take your time, and think carefully, with ANY camera ..yup, an old Instamatic, a Polaroid, a 35mm film camera ..and a digital camera too.

          Why not use an old waist-level-viewfinder twin-lens reflex? ..You have to think even harder with that: move to the right, and the image moves to the left.

          If you want to THINK, just set your digital camera to Manual, instead of Auto, and ignore the lightmeter. Then assess the light by eye ..or use an external meter, as with your M4.

          And Cartier-Bresson, I think, “..changed photography forever..” not because he was using film, or a Leica, but because he was photographing patterns, shapes, compositions, arrangements, situations, rather than objects (like Edward Weston) or people (like Karsh, or National Geographic photographers), or buildings, or accidents, or assaults, or deserted towns, or events, or war, etcetera.

          If automated (and digital) photography is too easy “..And photography has taken a beating because of it..” why not just turn off the automation? Use a manual focus lens – like you do – and choose the aperture, speed and ISO yourself. Oh, and filters, too.

          Personally, I don’t think that “using film” is what makes the difference ..I think it’s the personal decision-making which you’re after, when you say “..it is about discipline..” and “We need to push this cart up the hill”.

          If you want to think about every step – light, focus, depth-of-field, exposure range, shutter speed, sensitivity, angle of view, distance, perspective, height, orientation – you can do all that with a digital camera too.

          Just turn the switch away from ‘A’ ..to ‘M’.

          • Well thats a nice thought, but the difference is that if you shoot all manual with a digital camera and get the exposure wrong, the image is completely destroyed, if you expose incorrectly with film, you still have a very usable image.. Thats the difference and thats why I love film. It just has happened to many times with digital that a great shot has been destroyed because the digital file did not have enough dr to be saved.. and thats really heart-breaking.

          • I think that depends, to a great extent, on which digital camera you’re using – and which software you use to try to retrieve the image.

            The Oly OM-D, or E-M5, or whatever they call it, seems to have enormous latitude: under-expose or over-expose ..an image can almost always (in my experience) be retrieved ..more so with some programs than with others.

        • ..Sorry: I’m not trying to lecture you (though it sounds like it, I know!) or to tell you want to do! ..I’m just trying to dispel this myth, as I think it is, that there’s somehow some mystique or something “magical” about film. I don’t think there is.

          • “..the images are proof of that..”

            Oh. Well, I s’pose I’ve yet to see the differences..

            Here – just in case you’re interested – are six of all the pics I’ve taken in the last few months: http://gallery.mac.com/davidbabsky#100398 ..A, B, C, D, E and F. They’re nothing special; no particular merit ..they’re just pictures.

            Half of them were shot on film, and half with a digital camera.

            You don’t have to – there’s no compunction – but, just in case you’d like to, could you say which three were shot on film ..and which three weren’t?

          • Ah well, as they say in “radio talk” (..when you’ve replied to someone, but you haven’t heard any acknowledgement..)

            “Nothing heard. Out.”

          • AEF-Film


            David, I shoot both film and digital. But shooting film for ME has greatly helped my digital shooting and not shooting (as in shooting less). And I enjoy using the Leica. It is small and all manual and simple. No electronics. I don’t think the tools make you a better photographer in and of themselves, but there are definitely better tools for the job and the photographer. The point I was making is that we need to be shooting and editing to best of our ability. Laziness kills good work (duh). And shooting in a way that is challenging to me but also very satisfying helps me to make better images. But this isn’t for everyone (but neither is photography).

          • Aaron – you got every one right (..though my comments about which was which, and “Nothing heard”, were addressed to Ibraar).

            Well, I admire your conviction that shooting with film “challenges” you more, and “disciplines” you more.

            I don’t quite see that myself, but we all have different attitudes and intentions, so I’ll accept that.

            Funnily, I like your colour photos in your website’s Editorial portfolio, and ‘Loss of a Hero’, much more than the black and white shots ..except for that man silhouetted on a beam in ‘Abyssinia’. I just don’t “get” the others. So maybe it’s me. Perhaps I just don’t have the perception to see what you see in the black&whites, and in film, and in the “discipline” of shooting with film.

            To me, it just makes no difference ..and perhaps it shows!

      • Hybrid workflow David? Many top photographers (inc Magnum) use it so there must be something in it. 😉

  14. Great pictures and good philosophy. I’m trying hard to make it become reality, as I’ve sold nearly all I had during the past year. I’m keeping a rangefinder with fixed 50mm lens, a Rolleiflex for 6×6 work and I mostly use Tri-X films.

  15. Hi everybody,

    I’m new here (I’ve been following for 6 months now but this is my first comment) so I want to thank Steve for the great work he’s doing on his blog (it always makes sense, which is quite precious). Also thank you to Arron for those great shots. Amazingly interesting and beautiful. Lastly, sorry for my poor english.

    So thanks again and keep on.

    All the best,


  16. There’s something about paper that no M9, MM, or whatever gear you want will be ever able to attain. Some intrinsic solidity, some fragile and unrepeatable reality, some magic. Aaron, go digital only if you don’t care about loosing that, or the possibility of creating that. Magnificent work, congrats.

  17. JUST GO SHOOT! God Bless You. Best post on the site.

    B&W film is like nothing else, but people, don’t lose sight of the incredible options in digital B&W in camera. And in your smart phones. The genius is in the photo, not the tool or process you used to get it.

  18. The little boy in the 4th image is absolutely beautiful.

    I really like your treatment of your subjects. Good work.

  19. Amazing photography Aaron. I wish I could produce some stunning visuals one day! I used to focus on getting the best gear money could buy until I realized that best images come not from the gear but the ones you take. I guess I have been hanging with too many studio photogs and totally forgot that documentary photography is my passion… Amazing work. Some of the best on this site film or digital.

  20. beautiful pictures no doubt, especially the last one. it’s nice to see film results again but to be honest
    i truely dont see any difference between digital and film any more, and it is deffintly much easier to travel with digital equipment
    anyway i loved your work

    • Hm.. funny, I feel absolutely the opposite. With a manual film camera and a bag of film I wont even need electricity to be able to take photos. I can take photos anywhere anytime. Thats the beauty, the feeling of freedom.

  21. Wow, thank you all so much for your kind words. And thanks to Steve for putting my images out there. It’s hard to get these images in front of people that appreciate this type of work here in Tennessee, so I am honored to share them with you all. And thanks to those who have drop me a kind email. Continue shooting friends. – Aaron

  22. Thanks for sharing the wonderful images and narrative. I have just begun to shoot film again, for several reasons. While digital is in some ways more expedient, I really do not enjoy using computers very much, during my personal time. (I have been using computers at work since 1983.) My wife and I both developed film during our younger days, she much more than I, and we are discussing building a darkroom.

  23. Digital age, Digital Revolution. That are such boring words to me (and getting very dated).

    The digital revolution has come and gone.What is digital photography now? Well to 90% of the population digital photography means Iphone and instagram. They are no longer even purchasing dig cameras en mass.

    The industry has pushed dig so hard that the public no longer feels they need a camera to take photos. I.E. less r&d, less pro bodies and they are no longer making the $.

    Sure, people of here purchase DSLRS or M9’s but the are a drop in the ocean compared to 99.99999999% of the world

    The irony is that the 17-22 age group and going back to film, as it is seen as arty and creative and surprisingly more individual. They see digital as being everyday, boring and exclusive to their iphones.

    Oh, really strong images – regardless of the capture method.

  24. Aaron – firstly thanks for sharing…Yes B/W medium is really making one think of the subject, where color could be distracting. Once you’ve mentioned you shot this on FILM, I am sure no one will make comments that the images are too saturated, or have too much contrast..or whatever… It is all about your artistic expression and you capturing the images as light permitting…. That is why I wish all the digital photographers out there focused on shooting and sharing their images rather than shooting their mouths off, about W/B, DMAX, etc, etc… Hey, film is getting more expensive as the medium, if one factors cost of developing, scanning, printing etc… but I am glad it is still available…And congrats on having Steve letting you post your images on his site….NICE. All Best

  25. Fantastic work!! Thank you so much for sharing these. And your point is well-taken, and a reminder to stop focusing on all of the trivialities and get out there to take pictures, with whatever tools you enjoy.

  26. awesome. I”m with ya! Somtimes I just take my yashica A ..with my rolls of film and my black bag…kind of a pain..that’s part of the fun!!

  27. Fantastic images, Aaron. I’ve just recently decided to switch to a Leica film camera myself.
    Thank you for sharing, I’m heading off to explore your site now.

  28. Great shots Aaron, all very inspiring especially the first and last ones. TMAx looks beautiful. Makes me want to pull out some rolls from the ref and go out and shoot.

  29. ‘Crazy’ but truly amazing project and your words are as inspirational as your photos… As you say:
    ‘What does it all matter if you aren’t going to take that little machine and produce something with it. We all have a voice and an eye and often times something to say. So don’t be afraid to MAKE A PHOTO.’
    Analogue man or digital man? In this case, simply a man with passion and a caring, sensitive soul. Keep up the great work.

  30. Wow these images are amazing. The first one is a knockout. You have a great grasp on composition and light, which really shows in your photos.

    I have to agree with the others and say that these might be the best images in a Daily Inspiration that I’ve seen on the site.

  31. Love your work and totally agree with your comments.
    Nice to see someone passionate about their work.

  32. oooooof Absolutely fantastic. I hope to shoot one day….when I can start getting a good photo per 1000 digital shots, maybe I will consider it.

    Great work

  33. Ethiopia and Eritrea are heaven for a photographer. That’s where I got my start. My spotmatic and TriX were my constant companion.

    When I saw the kid, I knew for sure where you were. Love your photos. I lived in Eritrea for three years(66 to 69). It changed my life, and influenced my photography.

  34. I couldn’t agree more! The most important camera you will ever own is the one you already have. I certainly understand the joy and thrill from using a new camera, but ultimately you as a photographer are going to be judged by the images you make, not by the camera you have around your neck.

    Everything from the $5.00 oatmeal pinhole to the M9 is a tool that has it’s strengths and challenges. It’s your job as a photographer to use whatever stengths and challenges there may be to your advantage to create something beautiful.

    (oh, and great images btw)

  35. I would love to shoot film (bought a Holga a while back) but the problem is finding a place nearby that will do processing. I can’t have my own lab in my small house. There are websites that will let me ship the film to them I think, but its too much of a hassle and can get expensive if I want digital scans.

    I love listening to music on vinyl too (and I have a collection I listen to and love) but there are limitations in this day and age.

    For better or for worse, this is a digital age (sorry about the cliche)

    • you dont need a small lab. you need a changing bag or a closet, a tank, some reels, chems, and a sink. get a cheap scanner and scan them to get em on your computer.

      i can literally fit everything i use to dev film in a shopping bag (except the sink).

  36. Great photographs. The first two are my favorites. I completely agree that you should just go around and shoot no matter what. Keep shooting film!

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