rediscovering the magic of film

Today’s photography culture is all about digital: Digital lenses, digital cameras, digital editing, and digital production. Gone are the days where photographers spent hours in the darkroom, trying to produce unique prints from rolls of film and slides. Too often does someone pick up the latest digital SLR and start popping off pictures without learning the basics of photography. This phenomenon has led to the steady rise of self-indulgent amateur photographers who think that only the best and most complicated equipment can capture the best pictures.

There’s one thing missing from all of this, though. Lost in the hubbub of digital techno-wizardry is composition. Composition is the framing of a shot and the essence of it altogether. Having a picture that really captures a defining moment conveys much more to the viewer than does the sharpest of details. There isn’t any magic meter that can flash a blinking light when the perfect composition is ready to be shot; it just isn’t a tangible thing. The great photographers out there recognize this fact, and while they might have access to expensive and sophisticated equipment, they can revert to any old format and still produce incredible images.

To learn about the art of photography, I’ve decided to start off at the basic level. I currently have a Nikon FM2 SLR given to me by my father. It is an original 1982, so it’s quite an heirloom. However, it’s also a workhorse film camera and is revered as one of the best all-mechanical, manual SLRs ever produced. In fact, it’s commonly referred to as the poor-man’s Leica. The weight, materials used, and look of the camera are very nostalgic and timeless. Though I had originally wanted to start off with a Nikon D90, I believe the FM2 is a better starting point not only from a financial standpoint, but from a photographer’s learning perspective as well. The only downside to film cameras is that I can’t view a shot right after I’ve taken it but rather need to pay and wait for film to be developed to see if I’ve made any mistakes or not.

In the coming months, I’ll be shooting with the FM2 to learn the ins and outs of proper photography. It’s not enough to have a computer chip determine what focus and timing should be in your shot; it’s how the picture is composed that will determine whether one has found that sweet spot I like to call “skill”.


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