Why this photojournalist still shoots film

Nov 14, 2016

Gary Nylander

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Why this photojournalist still shoots film

Nov 14, 2016

Gary Nylander

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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I use film for my fine art work because it inspires my imagination in ways that I don’t get from shooting digital. I have been shooting film since I was 15 years of age, after more 40 years of film usage I still feel that film has value in today’s digital world. Some back ground: I have been a newspaper photographer since I was 18 years of age. I started out shooting black and white film with my Nikon F2 camera. Today its all digital and I have to say that I love shooting digital for my newspaper work.

Back in November of 2001 the newspaper I currently work for, the Kelowna Daily Courier, bought Nikon D1H digital cameras for the photo staff. I would never want to go back to film for my day to day work assignments at the paper . Digital is a must in photojournalism, I wouldn’t want to be with out it, as it’s awfully convenient to use.

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Shooting film on my time off is a whole different story, for one I have no deadlines to contend with, so it doesn’t matter to me that I can see my pictures right away, I feel as an artist, I want to slow things down a bit so I’m okay with taking some time create my work. For more than twenty-five years I have been using a 4 x 5 view camera with black and white film, I have shot a number of different film types, Kodak Tri-X, Kodak T-Max and Ilford HP5. I totally love making images with my large format view cameras, using 4 x 5 inch film sometimes 8 x 10 inch film. Almost all the work you see on my website, my blog here and my Facebook page is done with view cameras.

I am frequently asked, why film and why a view camera? some think its bulky, time consuming not easy to use which is probably true. One of the things that I have found that with shooting film is not so much that it makes me a better photographer but that it clearly makes me look at my subjects in a far different way than using digital, its hard to explain, I am much more selective in terms of how I photograph my chosen subject when shooting with film.

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I have not found a digital equivalent to the view camera, but to me there is nothing more beautiful than looking at my composed image, even though it is upside down and backwards on the ground glass screen of my view camera.  It’s really that beautiful and inspiring to look at, a direct ‘pure’ image coming through the lens, in some ways a truly ‘raw’ image.

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These days I work with a hybrid system or a digital scan-workflow, I shoot sheet film and then scan the negatives with a flatbed scanner a Microtek F2 ( read my review here ). I also hope to do more contact sheet printing in the wet darkroom from my 8 x 10 negatives, I have always been inspired by the work of Edward Weston, what I love about Edward’s work was the simplicity of his craft in making his wonderful images, his darkroom consisted of just a few trays, printing frame and darkroom lights, he was able to set up almost anywhere.

I would say that shooting film may be a little crazy in this digital age, and may seem like the hard way to produce an end product when the easier route is to shoot digitally, but then so is running a marathon, there are a lot easier ways to cover the 26.2 miles by pounding the ground with your feet. Also I feel that there is a sense of accomplishment in that some film cameras are not easy to use, but then neither is playing a violin, it takes years to get good at playing such an instrument, but the effort is well worth it, in terms of one’s personal satisfaction and knowing that you have worked hard for something and earned it.

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Another analogy to music , some musicians might use a whole range of instruments to create their music,  for example Yo-Yo Ma plays with a 300 year old cello, or some musicians play with the latest electronic instruments while others might use a mixture older non-electric and electronic instruments. I think that that great photographs can be taken with a variety of cameras either film or digital with no camera or work flow better than the other, it comes down to what is best on a personal level for each and every artist. produce an end product when the easier route is to shoot digitally, but then so is running a marathon, there are a lot easier ways to cover the 26.2 miles by pounding the ground with your feet. Also I feel that there is a sense of accomplishment in that some film cameras are not easy to use, but then neither is playing a violin, it takes years to get good at playing such an instrument, but the effort is well worth it, in terms of one’s personal satisfaction and knowing that you have worked hard for something and earned it.

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Another analogy to music , some musicians might use a whole range of instruments to create their music,  for example Yo-Yo Ma plays with a 300 year old cello, or some musicians play with the latest electronic instruments while others might use a mixture older non-electric and electronic instruments. I think that that great photographs can be taken with a variety of cameras either film or digital with no camera or work flow better than the other, it comes down to what is best on a personal level for each and every artist.

About the Author

Gary Nylander is a photographer for local daily newspaper The Kelowna Daily Courier in Kelowna, B.C., Canada. You can find out more about him on his website, follow his adventures on his blog and Facebook, or reach out to him through Twitter. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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9 responses to “Why this photojournalist still shoots film”

  1. Reynard Muldrake Avatar
    Reynard Muldrake

    “”Why this PHOTOJOURNALIST still shoots film””
    because…oh wait!…actually he doesn’t:
    “” I would never want to go back to film for my day to day work
    assignments at the paper . Digital is a must in photojournalism, I
    wouldn’t want to be without it, as it’s awfully convenient to use.””

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      He still shoots film. He just doesn’t shoot it for everything. :)

      1. Gary Nylander Avatar
        Gary Nylander

        Yes, that would be correct.

    2. Gary Nylander Avatar
      Gary Nylander

      I didn’t write the headline. I like to shoot film for my personal projects on my time off. I have seen a few photojournalists who do like to shoot film for special projects though.

  2. Len McCluskey Avatar
    Len McCluskey

    The way media is consumed nowadays (quantity over quality), shooting film would be a waste of time. Don’t get me wrong, I think film captures emotions way better than digital, but the latter is more convenient.

    1. Gary Nylander Avatar
      Gary Nylander

      I have heard of some photographers working for larger daily newspapers in bigger cities in Canada here who shoot large format 8 x 10 cameras for special projects like portraits, where a daily deadline is not an issue. For myself I just shoot film on my time off for my own personal work.

  3. Ralph Hightower Avatar
    Ralph Hightower

    Shooting film in a digital world is not crazy. Although I now have a DSLR, I continue to shoot with my Canon A-1 which I bought new in 1980 and with a Canon New F-1 that I bought used in 2013. With two film cameras, one is loaded with B&W and the other with color.

    1. Gary Nylander Avatar
      Gary Nylander

      Sounds great about shooting film with your Canon cameras. I see film as an alternative for something different.

  4. Lee Smith Avatar
    Lee Smith

    I dunno, but I guess I just don’t understand why photographers feel the need to justify their choices. The work should transcend the equipment used. I’m reminded of a quote from the great DP Roger Deakins…..”It’s where you put the camera and what’s in front of you that’s important. There’s too much obsession these days about digital vs film…it’s becoming so technically-orientated, and that’s just distracting from what’s actually being put in front of the lens.”