unMonday: kodak tri-x 400

In unMonday this week, I have yet another variety of black and white film: Kodak Tri-X.  From what I can tell by looking at my own photos, Tri-X tends to produce softer, more gradual contrast than it’s Kodak cousin T-MAX; while the darker shadows are bolder with T-MAX, more details are visible in the darker shadows with Tri-X.  Even though harsher contrast might make for dramatic photos, I think I prefer the Tri-X for its wide range of grays (especially during the dark, dreary autumn/winter in Seattle, when just about everything is in the shadows).  Out of all of the black and white film we’ve shot so far, which do you prefer?

With this roll of film, I really tried to make the mental effort to take my time in composing and exposing my shots.  I noticed that, the more I shot with film, the more I began to adopt the same rapid-fire-unlimited-ammo mentality that I have when shooting with a digital camera.  While there’s a time to shoot quickly to capture a fleeting opportunity, one of the most valuable contributions that shooting film has made to my photography has been the lesson of patience, thoughtfulness, and intentionality.

When I shoot with film, I have to think about the fact that I have 36 or fewer shots, that I need to take the time to manually focus and set exposure settings, and that it’s incredibly expensive to develop and scan true black and white film (probably time to start developing and scanning on my own).  And because those thoughts and actions slow down my shooting process, it gives me time to assess what I’m seeing through my viewfinder and ask myself: Do I really see a good picture here?

I know that by taking more photos, I can increase the chances of capturing a truly good photo – I have seen dozens of photo opportunities escape un-photographed because of my hesitation.  But for me, it seems like the digital camera is better suited (and more affordable) for that kind of high-quantity photography, while the film camera calls for more care and consideration.  My hope is that the lessons that I learn by shooting with film in “slow motion” can be sped up and solidified as instinct when I incorporate those lessons into my digital photography.

The important part, I suppose, is that I’m happy with a lot of the photos on this roll.  I feel like my slower approach actually paid off and allowed me to capture the images that I saw in my mind’s eye before I composed each shot.  I’ve included my favorites in this post, and you can find more of them on my Flickr stream.

in other photo news

  • I broke my Canon 50mm f/1.4 – apparently it didn’t like being dropped lens-first (don’t worry, it’s getting repaired)
  • Coming soon: photographs of my hometown Ontario, OR
  • Coming soon: photographs of Elijah Sussman in concert using a rented Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L
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