Through a film digitally

There are big debates on the Blair v Hitchens scale. Life, the universe and everything – that sort of thing. Then there are debates which dwarf such piffling concerns and chief amongst these is film versus digital. Obviously it’s slightly skewed in that anyone who is totally in thrall to digital is a geek and can safely be ignored and anyone who is totally in thrall to film is eccentric and can safely be ignored (although they’re on the side of the righteous). This shot is an example of one that happily straddles both film and digital and could not have come out looking like this without the involvement of both.

It was originally shot on medium format (120) Kodak TriX film in a Zeiss Ikon Nettar. TriX has been around since before the Fall and my Zeiss Ikon is older than my dad. Obviously a digital camera is perfectly capable of taking shots like this but I find that the way I set up, compose and fire is better suited to a straightforward film camera (and a camera with no meter, manual wind on and no focusing window is perfectly straightforward). The film was then scanned by the good folk at Bayeux in return for one of my major organs. And although everything was there – the silhouettes and the white band, the musican and his shadow – it was weak, lacking in contrast and not actually the image I’d thought I was taking.

Now, I’ve played in a darkroom. With a bit of delving into my memory and the use of more bubbling chemicals than Frankenstein on party night I could have salvaged something. But it would have been a broad contrast boosting approach and not really done the business. The end product here is the result of up to five minutes work with Photoshop Elements (this is a good four minutes more than I normally allow myself). A whole three extra layers (hard light, levels, brightness & contrast) later and I have an image that I kinda like. It’s not just speed that digital has helped me with here though – I couldn’t have done the experimenting to get it right in an analogue world, and I probably wouldn’t have got there anyway.

Like I say film v digital is a big debate but every so often we can achieve a beautiful consensus. And in this wikileaking age, isn’t that a lovely thing?

You can see this shot – I like it so you don’t have to – here.

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