La Dolce Vita: The Second and Third Axis Countries

The decision to use medium format film becomes more difficult before each new journey. This summer began with digital on Prince Edward Island, plus a single roll of Kodak’s latests Ektar 100 film. The film was used to do portraits of my immediate family, and was a special project that I knew was important enough to take in film. The rest of the Courtney Hogan sessions would have made no sense whatsoever to do in film, because I would not know what the lighting actually looked like, and I was often shooting in less than ideal conditions.

But the second trip of the summer, Berlin to Rome, is much different in nature. I am traveling to cultural centres of humanity where everyone has taken photos since photography existed. For me to run over with digital and expect to come away with unique images seems impossible. However, what I can do is grab my Hasselblad and trudge about with a bag full of film to continue my Chasing Light series that I began in Paris last summer.

About the film…it cost me $280 for 12 rolls of Kodak Portra 160NC [220] and 10 rolls of Ilford Delta 100 [120]. This is certainly not the most rational financial decision to make, especially since the cost does not include processing. My total available photos for this trip is 408, which is unlikely to change as 120 film was difficult tot find in Japan, where film still has a huge cult following. So why shoot film when I can shoot digital for free, and have unlimited image opportunities: shooting with film brings me joy.  Shooting digital pays for my passion of shooting film, and it makes no sense for me not to indulge this passion while it is still possible. In five years, it may well be impossible to find film or anyone to develop the rolls, so I want to capture as much of my travel catalogue in film while I can.

I chose the Porta in 220 format and the Ilford in 120 because I have two separate backs for the Hasselblad. I can load the A12 back with black and white, while the A24 can be colour. I will have no doubt what I am shooting and I will be able to change backs very easily. I should mention that I really had little choice in film formats this time around. Henry’s carries little to nothing in film [and they act totally put out when I ask what they have in], and Vistek has reduced their film stocks to the size of a bar fridge. Northern Images carries random stock, which is cool and I love the manager’s passion, but I was not sure what I would find up there just days before I leave.

I am hoping to find some classic Italian street images and edgy German images. The Chasing Light series is based on the idea of what you would like to frame at 5×7-8×10 inches. It is shot for a hallway or an entrance, whereas the rest of my images are shot for 16×20 or larger. I will be honest and say that I have absolutely no idea what I am looking for in Italy and Germany. Between Aeroplan availability on flights this summer and where I could travel alone, it seemed that the time for Middle Europe was now. As of this afternoon, there is a random possibility that a friend might hit the road with me, which certainly ups the ante of how far I can travel without the worries that accompany traveling alone (medical, legal, and transport). Life has a way of tossing new paths in each of our ways; sometimes we can choose, but most often we take the one that remains.

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