I joined Flickr in 2004 and have been posting photos there, on and off, ever since. For years, Flickr was the place to share photos and discuss photography. Then Yahoo neglected and thus helped ruin it. And of course Instagram eventually finished the job.
I dislike Instagram so much. Tiny, compressed photos. No good way to post from my computer. Terrible search. An unfathomable algorithm. Fucking hashtags everywhere.
And yet, Instagram is where everyone is.
Everyone except me, that is. I’m planting a flag and staying with Flickr.
Everything that’s important to me about a photo-centric sharing network is better at Flickr. Sure, it could use more people, but I can always cross-post things I might want more people to see. The photos are shown large and uncompressed. I can make albums and groups and add proper tags. I can post a thousand different ways. The API is first-rate. Camera metadata is readily available. Search works. Oh, and it’s not owned by Facebook.
I’m going to continue using Flickr for my primary sharing and social platform and ramp up my activity there. I’m now using it as a backup of all my “keepers” (instead of Google Photos).
To make this simple self-portrait, I didn’t spend an hour setting up the Wista, loading sheets of film, processing with half-expired C-41 chemistry, crossing my fingers, drying, scanning, spotting, inverting, storing, and on and on.
Instead, I set a digital camera on a tripod and triggered the shutter with my iPhone. The whole thing from idea to upload took less than 10 minutes.
I used to look at a shot like that on film, amazed that I hit focus and got the color somewhere close to what I remembered and there weren’t any distracting dust spots or light leaks or water spots. Thing is, it’s really just a boring selfie. But if it was on film it would have taken more work and therefore have more intrinsic value built in, right?
I used to think so, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe it doesn’t matter to me anymore.
When I first saw the Leica SL, I was amazed by its brutalist audacity. Coming from the M series, this was not what I pictured when thinking “Leica”.
And yet the SL appealed to me immediately. It was powerful, flexible, beautiful, and very, very expensive. In fact, it was so expensive that I eventually stopped thinking about it. Then, when the SL2 came out last year it all came rushing back.
So, after five years, I bought one.
This came only a month after I purchased my dream digital camera, the Leica M10-P. Why would I do that? Well, as much as I adore the M10-P; its size, classic design, build quality, and optical rangefinder, I’m finding that I struggle with focusing. Rangefinder focusing has, for years, been my favorite way to manually focus a camera. Snapping those two offset squares together was fast and accurate, regardless of lighting. My eyes must be getting old because I now have trouble doing it.
When talking about the SL, people tend to talk about three things: Size, price, build quality, and the viewfinder.
One of the first things people mention is the price. OK, sure, when new, it was crazy expensive. Fine, but I paid only about 1/3rd of the original price, so let’s move on.
Leica doesn’t build cameras to a price point. They build them to a standard. A very high standard. This, then, is part of why they’re so expensive. And the minute you pick up the SL you can feel it. It is a brick. Solid, heavy, dense, and confidence-inspiring. Machined from solid blocks of aluminum, the camera feels amazingly well-built. Every control feels precise and just right. I value these things highly in a camera.
The SL is weather sealed, which is important to me, even though I rarely find myself needing it. I can’t explain it, but knowing I can use the camera in freezing or rainy weather is comforting, even if I hardly ever do it.
How about that electronic viewfinder? The internet was right, it’s awesome. For a long time, I was dead set against using an EVF. Then, they got better. And better. The EVF on the SL is so good that I barely notice it’s an EVF, except that it shows exact content and exposure of the image I’m about to make. It’s great. I thought the viewfinder on the Leica Q was good, but this is even better.
An EVF like the one on the SL makes manual focusing easy. This is awesome because I have a few nice Leica M-mount lenses that work perfectly on the SL using an adapter. Using M lenses on the SL seems to be as popular as using native lenses. After a day of testing, I can see why. The big, bright viewfinder and focus peaking is a combination practically purpose-built for it.
Let’s talk about the size. The SL is a big, heavy camera. Here is me shooting it with the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Lens mounted.
And here it is next to the M10-P
No doubt about it, it’s big, but put an M-mount lens on it and things get much more manageable.
For me, there are two modes when it comes to taking photos; I’m either out specifically to take pictures or I’m not. If I’m out to take pictures, the size of the camera does not matter. I might feel differently if I was into street photography or planned to hike miles uphill for landscapes, but I normally do “editorial” type photography or portraits. Camera size isn’t a meaningful factor for me. If I’m not out specifically to take photos, I put the little Ricoh GRIII in my pocket.
Aside from my focusing problems with the M10-P, I bought the SL because I wanted something more flexible. And I still wanted a Leica, for all the reasons above.
Sometimes, I want more than what the M cameras can do. You know, fancy things like focus automatically and use zoom lenses. For this, I bought one autofocus zoom lens, the Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 Art lens and it seems fine as an all-purpose lens, especially considering the cost compared to the other options.
For specific things like portraits, I may consider one of the 85mm or 105mm L-mount options by Panasonic or Sigma. The Leica SL lenses are still way too expensive to consider, as lovely as they may be.
I’ve only had the SL for a couple of days, so it’s too soon to tell how well it will work in real life, but so far it’s everything I expected.
Prepare for an onslaught of dog photos, self-portraits, and snapshot of random objects around the house.
Film photography is a lot of work. Not so much the actual shooting part, that’s work no matter what the medium, but lately I find the rest of the process (developing, scanning, storing) to be more trouble than it’s worth.
Thing is, I enjoy spending time in the darkroom, processing film. It’s meditative; the perfect hobby for an introvert. I have various wonderful old cameras, which are often reason enough to shoot film. But is it worth the trouble?
If forced, I must admit that I like being seen as a “film photographer.” It makes me feel like I’m in a group separate from the masses. I like being an outlier.
The trouble, I’m finding, is that I don’t really like the results I’m getting. I’ve shot maybe 20 rolls of film this year and a couple dozen large format negatives. Not a ton, but I’ve gone through them and there are only a handful that I really like, and most of those I only like because of their filminess.
By “filminess” I mean grainy, blurred or otherwise odd in some way that screams “I’m not an iPhone photo!” Is that really the characteristic I’m going for?
I look at a lot of film photographs on social media. I’ve begun noticing that they’re often not very good. Aside from the fact that they were made on film, they’d be entirely forgettable. A lot of the images look like nothing more than an excuse to use a cool camera or a way to finish the roll.
In fact, this attitude is what I see in my photos, and I don’t like it.
As usual, I’m overthinking things, but the infrastructure I have amassed in order to ease the process of shooting film is ridiculous. If the results were better, I wouldn’t mind. I’m tired of getting to the end of the long, sometimes tedious and difficult process only to look at the images and think, “meh.”
Film photography is a wonderful hobby, but maybe I need a little break from it.
I’ve prided myself on my ability to shoot a Leica M3 or Hasselblad 500C/M with no meter, no auto-focus, and no auto-exposure. Who needs it? Real photographers certainly don’t! Plus, being fully mechanical means that the cameras require no batteries and should be repairable forever. It’s a badge of honor.
Except, and maybe I’m getting lazy in my old age, I’ve grown to like letting the camera do at least some of the work. In fact, I prefer it. They’ve gotten pretty good at it and if I’m honest they do things better than me most of the time.
I guess it depends on the camera. For example, the big 4×5 cameras are slow, deliberate beasts, so having to adjust things just so is part of the experience. On the other hand, when just walking around with a digital or 35mm film camera, I want something fully automatic. Since most of the time I’m in walking-around mode, this means that most of the time I want to let the camera do the work.
The realization that I now prefer automation came to me after I bought the Leica M10-P. The Leica of course has a meter and aperture-priority exposure. But it needs to be focused manually. When I must manually focus, I love using a Leica’s rangefinder, but unless I’m range-focusing in bright light there’s no way I’m faster at it than I am with a modern auto-focus camera. Also, it takes two hands and sometimes it’s better when I can just lift a camera to my eye and press the shutter.
Manually focusing a camera is a pain I simply don’t feel like dealing with.
So, I’m finding that although I have my dream camera available, I most often pick up the little Ricoh GRIII. The Ricoh is much faster to use and, honestly, the images are comparable to the M10-P (shhhh, don’t tell anyone).
The same thing has been happening with film cameras. I stopped using the fully manual, no-meter-having Leica M3 and M4 and started using the M6. I wanted a built-in meter. Even more surprising is that lately I’ve been grabbing the big old Canon EOS-1v or Nikon F100 instead. Those cameras don’t have anything approaching the soul or joy of use of a Leica, but I kind of just want to point and shoot and move on, ya know?
I don’t know if this slow drift away from manual cameras is just a mood swing or if it’s permanent, but it’s changing how I think about shooting.
Here are my remaining 35mm SLR film cameras. Clockwise from front-left, they are.
Canon AE-1 Program. An AE-Program was my first real camera. I received one from my parents as a graduation gift. Today, though, it’s my least favorite. It just doesn’t feel good to use.
Nikon F100. This might be the single greatest deal there is when it comes to film cameras. These are semi-professional, high-end cameras that sold for around $1,400 (In 1999 dollars. One would cost more than $2,100 today). These can now be found for under $300. Great cameras.
Canon EOS-1v. The 1v was the best film camera Canon ever made. Or will ever make. It’s a solid, water-resistant, workhorse brick of a camera. I think if I were forced to keep just one SLR this would be it (with the F100 a close second).
Nikon F3. In production for nearly 20 years, the F3 is was a professional staple for as long as any camera I can think of. Mine is in great shape and works well, but I’m not in love with it. I can’t put my finger on the problem, but I never seem to reach for it other than to be sure and run a roll or two through it each year.
Olympus OM-1n. What a wonderful little jewel this is. And by little I mean little. Just look at it compared to the others. My copy is interesting because it came in a box of gear I bought on Craigslist. It was all dented and bent and basically unusable. The guy I bought it from said that it had literally fallen into a volcano (he was a geologist). I had a local camera repair shop attempt to fix it, and they did. It works great still today. The OM-1n has one of the biggest, brightest viewfinders I’ve ever used. I love it. I wish it didn’t use mercury batteries, though. I’ll never get rid of this one. I used to have a couple of the later OM-2ns and often consider picking up another.
I’ve been thinking of selling some of them. Instead, I’ve been loading them up with various films and shooting with them. It’s been so much fun that I’ve changed my mind and I’ll be keeping everything. At least for now.
Gutenberg is powerful and useful for enabling those of us who don’t feel like working too hard to create decent-looking, complex, media-rich layouts. But, most of my posts are just an image with a paragraph or three of text. I don’t need a fancy, complex, block-based editor for creating those.
So what to do? There are some great options for creating posts right on my Mac and publishing to WordPress. I’ve used MarsEdit on and off for years. It’s great at what it does. It allows me to write and publish to WordPress from a solid, well-developed macOS app.
I’ve tried publishing using other writing tools on my Mac. For example, Ulysses is a lovely app and enables posting directly to WordPress. Well, that’s not exactly true, since for many of us hosting our own WordPress installations, there are things that can prevent xmlrpc from working, rendering Ulysses incapable of properly connecting to WordPress. There are workarounds, but I don’t feel like dealing with workarounds.
None of these tools, as good as they are, address my favorite thing about managing a blog with WordPress, and that is WordPress is a Typewriter. As I wrote then, the problem is that…
…creating and editing content is too far removed from the actual rendered page.
This applies to static sites as well as local tools for publishing to WordPress. I prefer to edit in place. I want to read over a post, find something I want to change, click “Edit”, type, and click “Publish”. Using local tools like Ulysses or MarsEdit or even plain ol’ Markdown files forces me to work “over here” when I’d rather work “right there”, if you know what I mean.
So, I just ignore the things I don’t like about Gutenberg and use it anyway. There are ways around it, but not using Gutenberg feels like swimming upstream and I don’t have the energy.
I sometimes use the Iceberg plugin, which is basically a wrapper that makes Gutenberg look and feel more sane…more like just writing text in an editor. But it’s still Gutenberg, and that’s going to have to be OK.
I have lots of film stored in my fridge. Some of it is very old. I’m determined to shoot it rather than throw it out, so I ran a roll of Ektar 25 through my Nikon F100.
Let’s just say the results were less than stellar 🙂
To be fair, this roll had expired nearly 25 years ago, so I wasn’t expecting much. Another thing I wasn’t expecting was that someone had already exposed about half the roll. It wasn’t me. I wondered why the number “13” was written on the leader. Now I know. They’d exposed 13 frames and then removed the roll from the camera.
The thing about shooting film is that even disasters like this can be interesting.
I hate scanning film negatives. Especially color film negatives.
Scanning software is universally atrocious to use. Getting good color from scanned film is such a hit-or-miss (mostly miss) proposition that I’d largely given it up.
Many people are moving from using film scanners (flatbed or dedicated) to “scanning” with digital cameras. I’ve been skeptical of this, but ever since the introduction of Negative Lab Pro it’s become more interesting. NLP makes it easy to get decent color from a digitally scanned negative.
To scan film using a camera, you need a copy stand to hold the camera, a lightbox or other bright, even light source, a macro lens, and something to hold the negatives.
I’ve been using my Fuji X-T3, 7Artisans 60mm Macro, Kaiser Slimlite, and the MK1 from Negative Supply. This all worked pretty well, but was limited to scanning 35mm film. I also shoot 120 and 4×5. Putting together a kit for every format using the pricey Negative Supply gear would run me well over $1,000. More like $1,699 for the pro kit.
I started looking around for something a little more reasonable and found the Skier Sunray Copy Box 3. The kit for 35mm, 120, and 4×5 costs $299, so I took a chance and ordered one.
My scanning station looks like this…
Skipping to the chase, the Sunray box works great. The light source is ridiculously bright, allowing me to stop down and keep a fast shutter speed to avoid any shake. The holders are easy to handle and do a good job of keeping film flat. I was able to digitize a roll of 35mm film in less than 10 minutes.
My workflow for this is a little convoluted, since I use Capture One Pro for editing but NLP requires Lightroom Classic. I import the “scans” into Lightroom, crop, and convert in NLP, save TIFF copies of the edited RAW files, then move them into my C1 library for finishing. I’m still working on making this more efficient, but I’m getting the hang of it so it gets easier every time.
If you are looking for a (relatively) inexpensive way to scan film negatives using a digital camera, the Skier Sunray Copy Box 3 is a very good option.