When I became serious about photography all those years ago, my first DSLR was a Nikon D40x. I bought it from Bic Camera in Japan when I was an English "teacher" living in Nagoya.
Digital photography was by then the norm. My digital cameras before then were compact point and shoot dealies, and I never really tried to compose shots properly or change settings on the camera. It was straight to automatic. My D40x changed everything. Suddenly photography became my outlet of creativity and imagination. I realised I could take good photos after all and Japan was a wonderful muse.
Digital photography allowed me to develop my skills in a relatively inexpensive way. But I was always struck by how the really good photographer can capture images using analogue cameras. 4 years or so ago my Dad gave me his old film SLR camera - a Canon AV-1. He bought it the day my brother was born in February 1982 and it is still going strong. It became my ambition to shoot a roll of film and have the majority turn out well.
Using this camera challenges me to be efficient, fast and alert. There is no autofocus and it has forced me to consider every shot so that I don't waste film. Some of my favourite photos have been taken with this simple yet rock solid old machine.
It was after watching a couple of documentaries that I then progressed to wanting to buy a Rolleiflex TLR camera (to explain simply, a camera that is shaped like a box and you look down into the top of it to compose shots. See the picture below).
These films' subjects were very different but both used a TLR camera to produce stunning images. The first was Vivian Maier and the second was Tim Hetherington. Maier was a French nanny living in New York who took a huge number of photos which no-one ever really saw until her archive was discovered by accident and people realised she was a sensational photographer. Her "hit rate" was remarkable. Hardly any of her photos were duds. Tim Hetherington, on the other hand, was one of the most celebrated war photographers of the modern age until he tragically died in Libya whilst covering the revolution. In the documentary about Hetherington, he is shown walking around a Sri Lankan fishing village with his TLR and taking beautiful portraits of school children.
I took delivery of my Rolleiflex in May of this year. I found one on Ebay and it arrived in OK condition but without an instruction manual or lens cap. It took a while to find a manual online and to understand exactly how to load film and get it working, but once I got the hang of it I began to really enjoy how it makes you interact with your surroundings. The camera is away from your face and when taking a portrait you can chat with the subject. I was told this puts people at ease and I have found that to be the case. Basically, it's a fun camera to use. Photography should be fun!
My first roll of film was OK, without many standout images. The second roll was miles better. The speed of which I operate the camera has improved and it I was lucky to catch some nice moments wandering through London on a late summer's day.
You can see my Rollei photos in this gallery:
I love how some of these shots have come out and I can't wait to get more of the same.
Hooray for film!