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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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I shoot both
Old 4 Weeks Ago   #41
webOSUser
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I shoot both

I shoot both film and digital.

I shoot film because I enjoy shooting with the older cameras.

As a personal note, the camera that I used last weekend, a Kodak 35 RF, is the same camera model that my father used in the 50's. Can't do that with digital.

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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by webOSUser View Post
As a personal note, the camera that I used last weekend, a Kodak 35 RF, is the same camera model that my father used in the 50's. Can't do that with digital.
Don't see why not.

Early digital cameras still work - my 2.5 MP Fuji from 20 years ago is alive! OK, I can't imagine using it again, but I know someone who uses a 6 MP Canon 10D that's nearly as old, and makes decent A3 (16 in.) prints; it's still supported by Lightroom and other software.

There's no reason why that Canon 10D won't be around in another 50 years. Even if its raw format is history, I expect JPGs will be around, or at least can be easily converted - JPG is almost 30 years old already, and by far the world's most widely used file format (and increasing); and batteries can be adapted (we do that with film cameras today, e.g. those needing obsolete mercury batteries).

Electronics are pretty hardy: I got this calculator way back in '77, and it's been in daily use for 40 years now. (OK, I've had to replace the keypad a couple of times because I've worn the paint off and can't remember what the keys do!) Note the funky purple LED display; the calculator's so thick compared with modern computers that if you do anything complex like a log or trig function, the display flickers for several seconds while it calculates the answer!
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Highway 61 View Post
What matters for me is how I care about these things as a photographer (and as a citizen). I don't care about people who don't care. I know that people who don't care don't belong to the minority.

The MF stuff from the '30s you cleverly grabbed in the garage before it got destroyed should be given to a public library of your neighbourhood, not kept in your house where nobody can study nor see it.
The institutions ,at least in the UK , aren`t interested.

A very distinguished lady in my photographic society passed a few years ago.
She had a large body of quality work shot locally going back decades.

No body wanted it.

I myself (in a weak moment) asked the Burma Star Association if they`d be interested in my fathers work ,shot during the war in Burma and India.

They weren`t interested either. Said they got a number of similar enquires but didn`t have the time or facilities to store the material.

I`m not celebrating the situation but merely pointing out that we sadly often over estimate the interest.

ps

In the same cache as the early medium format stuff were boxes of K64 from the early seventies.
I carefully scanned and "spotted" them and distributed the digitised files to the family concerned.

Didn`t get a single flicker of interest or thank you.

I was grateful that I didn`t go to the expense of having it printed.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #44
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Sad but true Michael. My cousin had a different approach in that she posted me all the old photos of family and cars she didn't recognise, as I, as an amateur photographer and car nut would no doubt be fascinated - I would have saved her the postage had she asked as I wasn't interested and in the bin they went!
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #45
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It is sad Charles but it seems to be the reality .
I always remember Stewart (Sparrow) saying that he always had his work printed because it would make it more difficult for people to dispose of it .
They`d have to make a couple of journeys to the tip
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #46
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I'm in the camp of those who find film easier. Possibly, that's only because it's what I shoot the majority of the time so I'm more comfortable with it.

I could certainly move to digital if I had to, but there are very few cameras that appeal to me. Plenty of appalling film cameras too, especially in later years, the kind of stuff that led to the mess that are Sony cameras.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #47
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A significant difference between film and digital photography has to do with choices and commitment. When one chooses a film and a film camera, one is committing to decisions that one can change up to the last moment with a more advanced digital camera. Having made and committed oneself to set of parameters can make it easier to concentrate on making the photograph. An argument can be made that you can set default parameters for many of the settings in a digital camera and put them out of your mind, but you are never really committed to them as there always exists the possibility of changing them.

Additionally, the fact that the settings can be changed creates the possibility that they can be set differently than you want them to be for a particular exposure. While many digital camera have the ability to activate a group of user set default settings, the possibility of a incorrect setting always exists.

I wouldn’t want to make an argument that one is better than the other. Just pointing out a difference that exists between the two.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Markey View Post
The institutions ,at least in the UK , aren`t interested.

A very distinguished lady in my photographic society passed a few years ago.
She had a large body of quality work shot locally going back decades.

No body wanted it.

I myself (in a weak moment) asked the Burma Star Association if they`d be interested in my fathers work ,shot during the war in Burma and India.

They weren`t interested either. Said they got a number of similar enquires but didn`t have the time or facilities to store the material.

I`m not celebrating the situation but merely pointing out that we sadly often over estimate the interest.

ps

In the same cache as the early medium format stuff were boxes of K64 from the early seventies.
I carefully scanned and "spotted" them and distributed the digitised files to the family concerned.

Didn`t get a single flicker of interest or thank you.

I was grateful that I didn`t go to the expense of having it printed.

Here is zero interest in Canada for it. National archive in Ottawa just keeps what they have with next to none digitizing and making it available on-line.
AGO in Toronto has big photo-archive. Not on display, no access. Yet, they are pushing some modern and sometimes nothing but conceptual dross or politically correct agenda photos.
I think, it reflect the general public low capabilities. Game of trolls is what crowd is able to digest. Fake history is on demand, not documentary.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #49
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I shoot digital because I print. Not a big deal.

I shot film for the same reason but today, using an Epson, I can make better prints than I ever could in the darkroom using an enlarger, easel and trays. Still not a big deal.

It's a waste of time and brain cells to think about trying to make digital and film look the same. So what if they don't. Too many people obsess over trying to get a "filmic" look and forget how to take decent pictures. You see examples everywhere. If you're a photographer, your flippin' work is to make photographs any which way you want.

Most of my favorite photographers all used film--Evans, Weston, Friedlander, Eggleston, Erwitt and all the others. It makes me happy to look at their pictures. But I have no desire to return to shooting film myself. Yet I learned photography using film and I still shoot pictures today like I did with film in 1972. The gear is different but I still use it the same way.

And I know we live in a partisan society where it's Them Vs Us 24/7 but I don't get it. We're all doin' the same flippin' work.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #50
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I wish there was a "film only" photography forum, and "film vs digital" threads were outlawed. There would be a lot fewer threads and posts and pictures to sort through, weeding out the digital images and digital gear discussions. Yes, I know it would be a less colorful forum.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #51
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No harder than it ever was, not really, and no less rewarding. People seem to be more easily than ever put off by small inconveniences. But, if film is tooooooo haaaaaarrrrd, there’s always a digital camera. And if even that is too taxing, there’s a phone. If even pulling that out, waving it around at your cat, and pressing the button is too much, there’s always staying in bed and moaning about the difficulties of what all.
Film, it’s fun. Just do it.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Cloetta View Post
Film, it’s fun. Just do it.
AMEN brother!
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #53
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I wish there was a "film only" photography forum, and "film vs digital" threads were outlawed. There would be a lot fewer threads and posts and pictures to sort through, weeding out the digital images and digital gear discussions. Yes, I know it would be a less colorful forum.
APUG is still around, but can’t speak to those kinds of threads. Used to lurk there a lot when I was first starting out and archived threads are still my go-to for tech problems.

And I wanted to answer bills initial question with an emphatic NO! It isn’t hard. Get camera, load film, shoot, send it out. Worrying about fil stocks, equipment repairs, chemistry availability, well, that’s the hard part.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #54
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Quote:
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Worrying about fil stocks, equipment repairs, chemistry availability, well, that’s the hard part.
And you really don't even need to do that.

APUG is https://www.photrio.com/forum/home now.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #55
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Originally Posted by davidnewtonguitars View Post
I wish there was a "film only" photography forum, and "film vs digital" threads were outlawed...
There are such forums. But even this "outlawtopic" is able to devide photographers in good and bad.

I am happy here where I could stay all the time from film to digital and discuss all topics in such a wide field of experiences.

This thread is about film and digital. Very factual and informative so far.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidnewtonguitars View Post
I wish there was a "film only" photography forum, and "film vs digital" threads were outlawed. There would be a lot fewer threads and posts and pictures to sort through, weeding out the digital images and digital gear discussions. Yes, I know it would be a less colorful forum.
Well, there is a Film/Developing/Chemistry sub-forum here. Though I will say, it occasionally gets contaminated by posts with digital content.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Cloetta View Post
And you really don't even need to do that.

APUG is https://www.photrio.com/forum/home now.
And the "trio" part is walled-off forums for Analog only, Digital only, and Hybrid content. There's a way to "un-check" the Digital sections of that forum so that you never see those threads.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #57
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There are such forums. But even this "outlawtopic" is able to devide photographers in good and bad.

I am happy here where I could stay all the time from film to digital and discuss all topics in such a wide field of experiences.

This thread is about film and digital. Very factual and informative so far.
Apug is gone to fortio. Not enough film only subscribers.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #58
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I started film just a few years ago to slow down and force me to actually learn and understand the technical aspects of photography. I started with a little spotmatic F my grandfather gave me. I fell in love with the anticipation. Everything is so immediate nowadays, I forgot what it was like to wait for things. Who doesn’t look at their negatives with a bit of excitement that had been building since the shutter was clicked? I’ve since built a pretty good sized darkroom and fell in love with the printing process...another build up of anticipation. After a while of doing this, I ended up preferring it to digital. I still love digital, but each has their place and I prefer film for myself. From an aesthetic perspective, It’s sort of like why I still oil paint instead of do digital design. The final result is tangible and has every ounce of human imperfection that I’ve put into it while striving for perfection. Plus, it’ll be cool to give my son a binder of negatives and say “here’s your life kid” rather than a memory card.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #59
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I'm into film and paper, no digital; older historical processes still work!
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #60
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In my experience, film is easier in the sense that pictures almost always just "come out," and because of the wait, the surprise element of seeing your developed pictures is such an incredible rush, like attending a really interesting movie. I make special occasions out of the first viewing where I put on music. I do that with digital pictures also but film definitely provides the better trip. I can't count how many otherwise good digital pictures I've had to discard because there was an ugly highlight, bad shadows, saturation clipping, banding, or some other digital sensor-related problem. This never happens with print film in my experience. (I now slide film is a different discussion.)

Film cameras are easier to use for me because they are simpler and an expression of my intentions. I don't have to charge them or continuously override digital auto functions. Batteries can last months to years in many film cameras. This makes it easier to just grab and go outside.

And is there anything more fun and meditative than developing and especially printing in the darkroom and seeing the photo appear in the developer bath? You have the sense that you are making art, something lasting. It is the only activity I do where I really create something with my hands, as we evolved to do. It is therapy. Sometimes it's the only thing keeping me sane. Digital PP is okay, but very difficult for me and involves a lot of screen time, software bugs that drive you crazy to work around, etc., etc.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #61
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #62
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With film, the color balance is never wrong.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #63
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidnewtonguitars View Post
I wish there was a "film only" photography forum, and "film vs digital" threads were outlawed. There would be a lot fewer threads and posts and pictures to sort through, weeding out the digital images and digital gear discussions. Yes, I know it would be a less colorful forum.
used to be: APUG.ORG (Analog Photography Users Group)
and now photrio.com
I sometimes visit their B&W forum for updates of Film photographic in general. That forum is quite active https://www.photrio.com/forum/forums...-chemistry.85/
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #64
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
...can digital photography be practiced with the same shooting simplicity and attention to the subject as film photography.[?]...
Yeah. I don't see why anyone can't set ISO, shutter speed, aperture and then take pictures all day. I do it every single time I shoot, always with a modern DSLR or a Fuji X. It helps that I manually focus only and that I shoot only raw files. If I need exposure compensation, I do it with my brain and hand directly turning the controls.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #65
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With film, the color balance is never wrong.
With one exception - daylight vs tungsten balanced film.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #66
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidnewtonguitars View Post
I wish there was a "film only" photography forum, and "film vs digital" threads were outlawed. There would be a lot fewer threads and posts and pictures to sort through, weeding out the digital images and digital gear discussions. Yes, I know it would be a less colorful forum.
Dave, I feel your anger, or maybe it's just frustration. I feel your strong dislike for all things digital! Just the word "digital" leaves a vomit-puke-poop like taste in my mouth too!

However, the way I see it, one should not worry too much about what one can not control.

These are just the rambling thoughts of a retiree with a camera and some free time on his hands.

All the best,
Mike

P.S. I actually like film and digital equally. Sorry!
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #67
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Same here -- I shoot B&W film because I want to print the negatives in the darkroom -- I spend 40+ hours a week "playing" with some of the finest computers out there, and therefore do not want to spend more time in front of a monitor.
Exactly the same reason here. I'm plugged all day to different consoles, IDE's etc... there's always some LED/LCD in front of me, I've to type or click to do everything.


Doing something with my hands, getting an image framed from start to the end, openning a canister, getting wet in the lab.... without any digital involvement is as magical as therapeutic for me.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #68
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With one exception - daylight vs tungsten balanced film.
I know, my comment was a joke, of sorts. Ektar is going to look like Ektar and 400H is going to look like 400H and never the twain shall meet, but you always know exactly what “color balance” you are going to get with a given roll, no need to make the model hold a grey card for the first shot, and no time spent in post processing necessary to “get it right.”
I shoot film and digital, but color is one area where film is a bit easier than digital because what you get is what you get, and you know what you are going to get when you pop the roll in the body. No temptation (or at least less) to spend the afternoon moving sliders around. (Even this can be argued, I suppose.)
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #69
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Exactly the same reason here. I'm plugged all day to different consoles, IDE's etc... there's always some LED/LCD in front of me, I've to type or click to do everything.

Doing something with my hands, getting an image framed from start to the end, openning a canister, getting wet in the lab.... without any digital involvement is as magical as therapeutic for me.
+1.
My job is already too much dominated by computers and monitors.
In my rare free time I don't want to be a "digital slave", too.
I don't want that the world-dominating digital companies control my entire life.
Using film means freedom and independency from all that. And much more fun for me .
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #70
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I have no anger at all, I don't know how you read that. I am just a film camera only photographer, and a simple one at that, and the hybrid nature of RFF is only a slight bother.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yokosuka_Mike View Post
Dave, I feel your anger, or maybe it's just frustration. I feel your strong dislike for all things digital! Just the word "digital" leaves a vomit-puke-poop like taste in my mouth too!
All the best,
Mike
P.S. I actually like film and digital equally. Sorry!
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #71
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Cloetta View Post
No harder than it ever was, not really, and no less rewarding. People seem to be more easily than ever put off by small inconveniences. But, if film is tooooooo haaaaaarrrrd, there’s always a digital camera. And if even that is too taxing, there’s a phone. If even pulling that out, waving it around at your cat, and pressing the button is too much, there’s always staying in bed and moaning about the difficulties of what all.
Film, it’s fun. Just do it.
Thank you Larry! And I think you hit the nail on the head.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #72
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It is not hard to shoot film. It is not hard to process film. It is not hard to scan film. If you want to shoot film, just do it.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #73
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It is not hard to shoot film. It is not hard to process film. It is not hard to scan film. If you want to shoot film, just do it.
I am back from ten wonderful days spent in Italy (where I use to go on a regular basis every year and several times a year if possible) in October.
I have just developed the 4x 120 and 12x 135-36 films shot during this recent journey.
Now I am at sorting them out and scanning. Some photos may benefit from wet printing on FB paper during the forecoming winter.
Nothing "hard" so far.

What you said.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #74
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It is not hard to shoot film. What is nice, is that you can make gelatine/silver split grade prints from negatives on film. As far as I know, split grade is not available digital.

Leica III black/nickel, Summar nickel, 400-2TMY, split grade printed on Adox MCC 110.

Erik.

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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #75
Kai-san
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidnewtonguitars View Post
I wish there was a "film only" photography forum, and "film vs digital" threads were outlawed. There would be a lot fewer threads and posts and pictures to sort through, weeding out the digital images and digital gear discussions. Yes, I know it would be a less colorful forum.

Check out Filmwasters.com.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #76
Nokton48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidnewtonguitars View Post
I wish there was a "film only" photography forum, and "film vs digital" threads were outlawed. There would be a lot fewer threads and posts and pictures to sort through, weeding out the digital images and digital gear discussions. Yes, I know it would be a less colorful forum.
www.apug.org Analog Photographers User Group Now called Phototrio
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #77
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I used to find it hard to shoot film. Partly because it cost a bit more than I could afford at the time, but mostly because I didn't have the nerve to think I could produce any decent images.

I've now come to accept that I probably won't produce anything I actually think is "good", but I'm more able to take the plunge and actually send the film off anyway and hope that I've done a couple of "passable" ones.
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #78
helenhill
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It’s harder to shoot digital
If You don’t nail exposure your doomed ... blown Hilights are a constant dilemma
Film is so forgiving , longer latitude, so easy to shoot
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #79
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I'm a longtime user of slide film, so I don't find film forgiving. I don't find it especially difficult, either.


Slide film is probably the film that behaves most similarly to digital, but film cameras are way less complex and there is no post-processing involved, unless one scans and does digital prints of slides.


- Murray
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #80
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Mr. Bill Pierce, is that it? An opening and closing statement in one?

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