That’s how it is with me and bananas. I buy them or my wife does, and most of the time they sit on the plate and turn all brown and spotted. We keep them well beyond the CSI decomposition stage. Fruit flies are buzzing around the kitchen before we finally toss them into the trash.
Sometimes my wife will take the semi-brown ones and make banana nut bread, which I like. More rarely, when one is just right, not too ripe and not too green, I’ll capture it and enjoy. Ever watch a monkey open a banana? They open a banana at the bottom, not from the stem. They are smarter than we are about such things. Try it. Be like a monkey.
When I worked in an office I made my rounds routinely at the end of the week. My old friend John B. had kicked back one Friday, feet on his desk. He was leaning back, relaxing in his chair, and enjoying a banana before heading home for the day. Rituals are funny like that. I should say he appeared to be enjoying a banana. I walked up and observed him for probably just a second or two. Without missing a beat, he looked up at me and smiled said, “I hate how they taste. I just like how they feel.” Well I about fell down laughing, and I think he almost choked on it.
So here I am talking about bananas. What do bananas have to do with photography, or in this case with color film? Well, I just like how it feels!
Why the heck shoot color negative film today? Years ago I struggled with the disappointment of color negative film. Those 1-hour photo labs and even professional photo labs never quite got the colors exactly like I pictured them in my mind. I think Steve Koletich, God rest his soul, was the only photo lab owner in metro Atlanta who actually knew how to use a Shirley Card. He made one himself using his wife as the model. She was lovely. He could get colors right. However, I much preferred shooting in black and white, and I could control the outcome. During 25 years of wedding photography I shot only two weddings in black and white, and only one wedding in which I shot both black and white and color film.
When digital came along, I was doing part time work for an Atlanta studio and I was forced to be an early adopter: Louis gave me a call. “Bill,” he said, “We’re switching to digital.” “Okay,” I answered. That was the entire phone call.
The now long gone Wolf Camera on 14th Street had a professional counter, and they told me that I was the 5th person in the city to buy a Nikon D100. I bought the last one they had on the shelf. They were back-ordered, so I moved fast. Wolf’s were the big dog in town, so I believed what they said. That little camera gem set me back two thousand dollars… that is $2000.00 in 2002 money, and I had to do serious calculations to see if I could cost justify the thing!
If you are trying to make money you don’t just go blow a couple grand on a camera for the heck of it. Well, some high end photogs might smack down five or six grand or more now, but us grunts have to watch our pennies. Based on the number of exposures and cost of film vs. number of exposures and cost of digital, I could pay it off through sleight of hand and creative accounting.
I went full blown digital, cold turkey. I had entered the 21st Century, “a veritable age of reason, like they had in France,” and for almost 18 years I never really looked back. I think technology finally caught up with digital urgency maybe ten years ago, and the tools started producing some really stunning images. But in 2002 the guys at my studio could blow you away with 5 megapixels. Things are easier now.
Once I worked out the exposures on the D100, I realized that digital color was definitely much better than film in color fidelity, easier for me to visualize, and a lot easier for me to control. I could actually get what I wanted and get it consistently. Strive for consistency. You should not have to think through every shot. It should be muscle memory and reaction time. If you are fiddling with controls, you have lost it.
So my film cameras went the way of all flesh, except for a couple of sentimental relics. I wish I’d kept my Leica. Ouch. But wait! Film is back. It never really died, except for Kodachrome. And now with digital scanning and Photoshop, I can control the results like I never could with film twenty-something years ago.
Here ya go. Nikon FM2N and Fuji film. Wanna know about the nuts and bolts? Stay tuned. It’s not that color film has a technical advantage over digital. Certainly not now. I just like how it feels.