A Tale of Two Photographies: Digital and Film Formats

My day was strange, and despite my better judgement I have decided to write about it. Negativity is one thing I mostly avoid on the blog, because I am focused on acting towards the positive in lieu of complaining about the negative. Still, there is a lesson in the day even if I do not fully understand it myself.

I began by heading over to Northern Artist Lab where I buy my film and have my negatives developed. They are great guys, very professional and make me feel like my business is important to them. Nick managed to order me in 100 sheets of Ilford’s 4×5 Delta 10 film for the Linhof Kardan, and I appreciate that they know my name. I went by today to pick up the film negatives from Thursday’s session with Jamey Levek and a few rolls from Chicago, and the whole experience reminded me why I go there with any business that I can. If you are shooting LOMO or have a film camera, then go see them, grab some film and get out there to capture the life around you.

I ended my day by heading over to Vistek for a professional seminar on the new Phase One IQ 180 Digital Backs. While I am not in the position to buy a $50,000 piece of hardware that has a limited life before becoming obsolete, I am always trying to see if I am missing turning points in the industry – an 80 megapixel back might well be a turning point. All I can say is that I would have better spent my time reading brochures. I hate to say that people are incompetent, but the last thing a photographer wants to hear about a $50,000 piece of equipment on demo is “Well, this back has some bugs because it is a demo unit, so sometimes it works and sometimess…ha ha ha” or the old “That is a great question, but I just got these last week, so I am still learning about them myself.”  I doubt a client would want to hear that when you are on site and only have an hour to create a masterpiece. I get that the technology is bleeding edge, I get that lots of people just do their job and that is it, and I also get that you may not always know an answer, but c’mon General Custer do you expect me to follow you blindly into battle?

What did I do? I did not even bother to touch the Phase One IQ 180, I walked downstairs to Vistek’s bar fridge of film [yep, Canada’s leading photography experts have a bar fridge for film now] and bought all of the Kodak Portra 160 VC and 160NC film they had out. 30 rolls for around $300. Kodak silently killed the VC and NC in favour of Pro film, but that is hard to get still. Ektar is good, but does not have the same tones.  A year of high-fidelity photography for a lot less than $50,000; seemed like a good deal to me. On my way out I asked the clerk in the monitor section if she knew how to tilt the EIZO monitor I bought from Vistek last month for a cool $2000…bet you can guess her answer.

On the sessions front, I am finishing up the edits and scanning on Jamey Levek’s shoot. I must say that I really like the balance I found using digital [the Canon EOS 1DmkIII with a 50mm f.1.2 L lens] and the film options [a Leica M3 loaded with Ektar 100 and a Hasselblad 501CM loaded with Ektar 100]. Taking a series over a day’s session with a few camera options not only gave a me a sense of control, but also a sense of possibility – the digital is the filet mignon, but the film is the perfectly matched Cabernet Sauvignon that will bring it all together. I am starting to love the 50mm, and am sure that it will work beautifully for the school’s yearbook and promotional images in the Fall, which is how long it will take for me to learn the lens inside out. Jamey’s final dvds should be ready for Monday, and this was one job that I actually enjoyed doing; funny how a great person can make the whole process come alive. I know that the best of these photographs are exactly what will take him to the next level, and that feels good…to be able to help a good person get better.

Speaking of steak…I have a session for Paderno booked for tomorrow with steak knives that V. is going to help me with, and I am certain that Mingus and India will eat the steak if necessary. Then it is off to New York City for the week to complete three workshops on differentiated education. While it would have killed me three years ago to do work over the summer, I am looking forward to it. If I am lucky, then I might get in a food tour, visit BH Photo to see if they are better than Toronto’s options, and then try to shoot in the evenings – I would love to hit a few good restaurants, but after Chicago it might kill me.

Finally, the first image in the blog is what I came away from Chicago with: a panorama of Wrigley Field with the Cubs playing the Giants – the photograph is sized for 50 by 20 inches, so the tiny blip on the blog really does it no justice – give it a double-click to see a spectacular vision from what is available on a camera like the Hasselblad or maybe a Linhof 617. I shot it with the Hasselblad SWC/M using Ilford Delta Pro 100 film. The photograph is three shots stitched manually in Photoshop and then perfected in Nik Software’s Silver EFex Pro 2 . I am a big fan of this plug in for creating superb black and white images, and the new borders feature saves me the hassle of pulling in my stock borders as a layer. the panorama is not perfect…but it is damn close, and it reminds me of exactly what it felt like to sit in the stands with my mom for her first professional major league game. As the old guy next to me said: “Well, uuuhh I guess everybody’s gotta have a hobby!”  Yep. My film expires in 2013…let’s run hard with it while we can!

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