First of all: I know I added more pictures than I was supposed to but I do have the feeling that I just need to share them, I hope you consider posting them all. Oh and: thanks for all the work you put into your great website! 🙂
During the time of becoming a better photographer I came across some ideas and opinions, wisdoms if you will, which I would very much like to share with others, because I think it might also help them as much as they helped me in becoming a better photographer.
I am a 21 year old student, studying medicine in the town of Graz in Austria (No.. not Australia.. no kangaroos, only cows…). I’ve enjoyed the process of taking pictures for as long as I can remember but never really was really intrigued by it. That all changed when a friend of mine from the Netherlands visited me and brought along his Canon 500D (if I remember that correctly) to take pictures. It was just the summer break after I graduated from school and thus I had loads of time and that was pretty much when it all started. I bought myself a 1000D and a Tamron 18-270mm back then. I liked the feeling of having a DSLR… you feel like a pro. Luckily I didn’t make the mistake that so many photographers my age tend to do: believing I was. I started to read books, watch youtube videos, basically suck up as much information as I could. Well… Over the years equipment came and went. The 1000D was replaced by a 7D which was later replaced by a 5DmII, which I still have and love. By then photography had completely sucked me into it. I work(ed) part-time for two companies, taking pictures at events such as graduation balls (they are more common here in Austria than in other countries I hear?). That way I could and still can (because I still work there) afford my gear. Financing photography with photography. Especially as a student money is often short. Luckily I have chosen the two cheapest hobbies… photography and music (watch out for sarcasm in this one!). What I want to say is: If you want to, you can afford to buy your stuff. It’s all about time management. If you are strict, if you set your own rules and follow them, you can get what you want. I study medicine, sing in a band, have a girlfriend and still somehow manage to work two jobs part-time to get some money in. Of course there are some shortcomings. While other people go out and party, I work and earn some money instead of spending it. It’s not that I don’t have a social life… Thank god I still do. I need to be around people, that’s who I am and I couldn’t do without, but what I mean is: reduce the time you waste and replace it by something that brings you forward.
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That’s the first thing I want to get out to others: If you want to have something, you can have it. It’s just about setting and obeying your own rules. Stop wasting time with stuff like TV. Always think to yourself: how can you use your time in a way that brings you forward in your life. Or in other words: Become the best self you can become.
During last fall I picked up an old SLR of my father. First I actually just wanted to play around with it a little but the process of shooting film somehow got me. The re-cocking, the sound, everything. It was a really nice experience. I’ve looked into the Leica system for quite a while back then. I couldn’t afford an M9 so far, but had been saving up for one for quite a while. I thought to myself: ‘What the heck, you can always buy an M6 and resell it later for the same price if you don’t hammer it around!. And well… lenses… lenses are here to stay! I need those on the digital M as well!’. So my plan was: Buy an M6, some nice lenses and when you can afford it, switch the film Leica with a digital one.
What happened was I actually ended up selling my amazing Canon 70-200 f2,8 IS II (I still miss that beauty but I didn’t use it enough to justify having it anymore) and buying two M6s (I bought the second one dirt cheap, actually only so I could resell it and earn some money by that!). I had saved up quite a bit of money so I found myself buying a Summicron 50, a Voigtlander 35 1,4SC and a Zeiss 21mm f2,8. That’s what I have now and love to death. By the time I can afford it and an M10 is out, I will probably sell everything else from my Canon gear that isn’t essential for work anymore and probably buy the last camera I’ll ever need. I found myself using the 5DmII less and less since I got my Leicas. I still love it like crazy and the high ISO performance always amazes me, but it’s too bulky for an everyday camera. I take one of my M6s depending on what I am going to do with me whenever I leave home. Mostly attached with the 35mm because that thing works great indoor and outdoor and it is TINY! I usually have one M6 loaded with Ilford Delta 100 or FP4 and the other with Delta 400 @ 800. That’s what I mean by: choosing camera depending on what I am going to do: More light → slower film, less light → faster film.
What I realized by the time with shooting film with those pieces of art was pretty much the opposite of what my thoughts about photography were before. Whenever I shot digital I wanted to have the best, cleanest, sharpest files you can get. My craving for better lenses and equipment had become more and more the more I got into photography. The thing is with film: You don’t get that. At least I don’t. I don’t get clean files. At all. When I shoot my Delta 400 at 800 ISO and compare it to 800ISO on my 5DmII, well, I quite simply can’t. Furthermore I develop the films myself (I only shoot black and white film, which is really simple/cheap to develop) and then scan them. I got an Epson V600, which does the job quite fine, especially because it’s fast and easy to scan them (you can put 2 strips of 6 negatives in and batch scan them!). The only thing that bothers me is that the files that come out of flat-bed negative scanners are much but definitely not sharp. So I import them into photoshop and run them through a sharpener. But that doesn’t bother me too much. Let’s be honest to ourselves: How many times did we take one of our pictures and blow it up to 3 x 2 m to hang it up the wall? Furthermore, if I really wanted to do that with one of my film shots, I would just take the one negative to a shop, get it scanned professionally and then printed. So all in all, the quality I get out of my files are ok to print on normal size photographs, look at on the computer and even on the TV and that’s all I ever do with them under usual circumstances.
What I want to say is: even though film has more dynamic range, the quality is not comparable to my 5DmII. So? So that is EXACTLY why I love to shoot film with my Leicas. Let me tell you what I mean: I shoot film and I shoot digital. Both have their purposes.
What I came across during my process of becoming a better photographer was that it’s less important how perfect a shot is, but much more how much emotion it triggers inside of you. That is why I love film. It just has its own emotion and mood in all it’s imperfections. Photography is all about freezing the moment and the emotion at a particular time. If a photographer manages to do that, to make others feel the emotions, he/she has done her job right.
I can’t say I like film better than digital and vice-versa. They are different things. Both have their purposes (for me at least).
What the two main things are that I wanted to point out to others: Choose and use your time wisely – and that’s not just to help you with your photography but to bring you forward in life. And the other thing is: Don’t get too stuck up on image quality. A photograph isn’t necessarily good just because the files are clean. It’s all about emotion. If you trigger them in yourself and others when they/you look at your old shots of places you’ve been to, people you have met and they manage to take you back to the place inside your head or just tell others the emotions of that very moment, well, you have managed to get the essential purpose out of a photograph.
As I said I still shoot both. Digital mainly for landscapes and low light situations when I need cleaner files and of course for work, film for better light situations and for every day purposes. In the end I want to thank you for taking your time to read all of my thoughts all the way up to here. I hope it helped a little bit to help you and it inspired you, because that was, what this was all about.
So to top it all off, here are some of my shots, film and digital, mostly from my 4 day trip to London which I just came back from three days ago.
Good luck to all of you!
On a break from work (I guess)
Taken last year when tripping through Europe with two friends of mine.
My grandfather reading a newspaper.
It is the film look, that is so unique and somehow makes every shot special