Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Getting inspired

I'm a huge fan of David duChemin's photography and writing. If you're a photographer (or any type of creative) and you're not subscribed to his blog, do yourself a favor and head over. His mantra of "Gear is good, Vision is better" really encapsulates his approach to the creative process. This idea is born out in his images which evoke emotion and purposefulness. Seeking to bring some of that spark to my own work, I latched onto his idea of "stirring the paint". The thought here is to inject something into your life that gets the creative juices flowing. Maybe this is going to an art exhibit, or reading a book, or trying something that you've long had in the back of your mind. I decided to take my dad's old Mamiya 645 medium format film, yes film, camera and head into the great outdoors. Here's the beast.

Mamiya 645 Pro TL

This was intimidating. Where's the screen?! How am I supposed to know if got the shot or not? Thank goodness it had a built in light meter. Even the simple act of buying film was intimidating.

Sales Guy - What kind of film do you want?
Me - Medium format
Sales Guy - Yes, but what kind?
Me - Color?
Sales Guy - Which kind of color, flat or vivid?
Me - I like vivid, yes let's go with vivid.
Sales Guy - What speed?
Me - I have to decided that ahead of time?

Buying black and white was slightly less painful since the choices were limited, but needless to say I didn't come off as a seasoned pro.

After my dad gave me a quick test drive on the camera, I was set to go. Did I say the camera was heavy? It is. Did I say the shutter scared me the first time I took a shot? It did. It's all so, so mechanical. And I loved it! The viewfinder. Oh my. Looking through that eyepiece after using only DSLR's is like going from a porthole to a picture window. The image is so immediate and tangible. Want to know if you're in focus? All you gotta do is look in there. Autofocus? That's so 1980's. Aperture? Get your hand out there on the lens and dial it in. I found myself being so much more considered about the shots I was taking because the whole process felt so formal. My composition was more thought out, my exposure was checked more carefully and my depth of field was given great consideration. I wasn't just pointing and shooting, I was crafting images. So inspiring!

This experience didn't suddenly turn me into a film shooter who looks down his nose at digital photography. Quite to the contrary, I appreciate even more now all the awesomeness that's packed into my DSLR. I also appreciate it's speed when the situation needs it. But I also have a new appreciation for a slowed down, methodical approach to making images. That's what this was about; opening myself up to something new, something inspiring. I can't wait for my next film outing, or whatever exercise that can "stir the paint".

So, am I having my first film exhibition next month? Sadly, no. I got all those rolls of film developed (at no small cost) and I had maybe two pictures in there that I liked. But the experience was so energizing and the things I learned are starting to shape they way I see and make images.


Anonymous said...

Love it man!

Skeller said...

mmmmmm, film. medium format film at that! Good for you, Marshall!!

I keep thinking about pulling out my old non-digital Canon and giving it a whirl. but, gosh. the cost.

boddiesdrinker said...

are you going to share some of the results?