Digital Started My Film Career

This Viewpoint was contributed by Conrado Gonzalez...

I grew up with film cameras all around me. At the time, my father was an enthusiast, amateur photographer, whose habit guaranteed that you could find in our house the latest issue of Popular Photography Magazine. 

He used to explain to me how to load the film and how the cameras worked in general, but I was not impressed. I had no interest in photography. In fact, I will not have any interest for decades to come. That is, until the advent of digital photography.

"Stryper" - Nikon F3, 135mm lens, Kodak Gold 400 film.

Digital made photography obvious to me. The learning curve was more approachable, and thus in the winter of 2007, I got a Nikon D40 with its 18-55mm kit lens. It changed my life.

Like many, I devoured information on the internet about all kinds of photography topics from composition and etiquette to business and file management, and everything in between. And yet during those years, film never crossed my mind. Why would it? It was evident that it was a thing of the past.

Such conclusion began to dissipate in late 2010, when a friend let me borrow his Mamiya 645E medium format camera... indefinitely. Trouble.

Nowadays, I rarely shoot digital. I don’t dislike it or think that it is "inferior" to film by any means. I just prefer my experience and thinking process as a film photographer. For instance, with film I don’t get distracted with the preview image in the back of my camera after every shot. Instead, I find myself being very conscious of light and my settings. I also find it easier to find a "look" in my pictures with film that somehow feels more genuine and consistent. Sure, my mistakes with film are painful, but my successful images are more satisfying.

"Farmer Tron is in the House" - Contax G2, 28mm lens, Kentmere 400 film.

Additionally, I have this peculiar OCD thing about deciding if a digital capture should be in color or black and white. Since I shoot raw, I always get to see the color version in Lightroom. Sometimes I end up liking both versions. Film resolves this angst for me. If I shoot black and white film, the final image will have no color counterpart to compare it to. And if I shoot color, well the image stays as such, for the most part.

Film cameras and equipment allow me to concentrate more on photography itself and less in gear. Nowadays, I shoot mostly street and documentary style photography in South Texas with my Contax G2 and a 28mm lens, though I have the 45mm and the 90mm as well. I also have a Nikon F3 and my beloved medium format Rolleiflex. 

Finally, I develop my own film, which in my case adds to the fun of shooting film. Once developed, I scan the negatives and polish them in Lightroom. In essence, I have the best of both worlds. Great times to be alive for sure!

You can see more of Conrado's work at www.conradogonzalezphoto.com and www.instagram.com/gonzaljevic

Article and photos by Conrado Gonzalez.

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