I don’t know how it’s happened but this morning after reading a post on Japan Camera Hunter, I found myself perusing film-centric websites such as the Analogue Wonderland, filtr, 595 and clicking around the vintage lens sections of eBay.

Last weekend I mailed off a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 to Boutique Film Lab in New York City for processing and prints. It was a roll of film I shot a year ago with my college Pentax P3. Until that roll of film, I had not used film since 1999. That’s when I switched to digital, which in modern times is more flexible, more capable and has better image quality in the sensors and lenses.

But:

The other day I was walking around a Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition, and if there was one thing I was struck by in the 6×9 prints hanging on the walls, it was their resolution.Said no one, ever

Ektar 100 Film Scans —Pentax P3 + SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/2 @ (50 mm, at f/5.6, ISO100), © Khürt L. Williams

The lab did their best with the roll I provided, but I was not happy with the results. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the Pentax P3 has some light leakage, which is apparent from the scans I received. I inspected my camera and discovered that the back door of the camera has an ever so slight opening. The film had been badly exposed. This is not a problem unique to film cameras; however, because I was not able to immediately see the results of photographic efforts, I wasted film, development, scan, and shipping costs. With a digital camera, I would have discovered the light leakage right away. This lack of immediate feedback is one reason I abandoned film back in 1999.

Now, some photographers will put on airs about film photography. They will speak and write as though the deprecated medium has some magical quality lacking in modern digital photography. A few will admit it’s a matter of preference, but many others create a false narrative about the film. They will write as though their opinions are a matter of fact as though the qualities they are discussing are inherent to the technology, not personal preference.

Ektar 100 Film Scans —Pentax P3 + SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/2 @ (50 mm, at f/5.6, ISO100), © Khürt L. Williams

They will argue that they just like the look of the film. I sometimes like the look of some film stock. But I can buy dozens of excellent film simulation presets online that reproduce the look1 of photographic films from the last three decades. Heck, Fujifilm, the makers of much of the classic Velvia and Provia film that these film adherents use, makes a line of digital cameras with film simulation presets that can produce film-like images in-camera of the same films. The use of film is just one way to get that “look”, whether that look is Kodak Ektar 100, Fujifilm Velvia 50, Ilford HP5+ or something completely new.

The aesthetic – and not the process – is the thing that is appreciated by the end observer of the image, and a very large percentage of the time, the end observer should know and care little or nothing about how or even why that aesthetic was achieved, but instead what that aesthetic evokes in them.Hamish Gill

Some film photographers will claim that, because they can only shoot 24 or 36 frames per roll, using film slows them down, forces them to consider every click of the shutter button. I don’t disagree that all photographers can benefit from taking some time to put thought into their photography. But this discipline is not an essential feature of using film. It’s a necessary behaviour born out of the limitation of the medium. I would argue that some film photographers lack discipline when shooting with a digital camera. Some digital photographers lack this discipline, as well. But this is a limitation of the photographer, not the technology.

Ektar 100 Film Scans —Pentax P3 + SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/2 @ (50 mm, at f/5.6, ISO100), © Khürt L. Williams

The film folks will argue that their film camera doesn’t need batteries but ignore the fact that most popular film photography cameras of their time either have built-in light meters or required the use of a hand-held external light meter for proper exposure. Light-meters use batteries.

When I was looking to set up my Asahi Pentax Spotmatic II film camera2, I discovered that the batteries for the light-meter were difficult to source because the chemical used in the batteries was banned; they are environmentally unsafe. I call bullshit on any film photographer who tells me they can look at a scene and go “This should be shot at 1/250 sec and f/5.6 on this ISO 400 film I am using”.

The film photographers bigots will make statements like “There is some special about the Asahi SMC Takumar 50mm f/2 that is lacking in modern lenses“. Ok. Maybe. I’ll just use this adapter to attach that lens to my modern digital camera. I should get the same results.

When (or if) I shoot a roll of film, I will be doing it with a roll of Ilford HP5+ or Kodak Ektar 1003 or Fujifilm Velvia 50 in my Asahi Pentax Spotmatic II. When I load the film, operate the knobs, press the shutter, wind the film, etc. I will spark fond memories of the adventures I had with my brothers, my mom and my dad. I will be doing it, not because the film has some magical property that is not present in digital photography, but because I get to time travel.

We’re not talking about morality here. We’re just talking about the properties of photographs. No property automatically makes a photograph better. No property automatically disqualifies a photograph from being good. Being bigoted just closes us off to a greater range of possibility in our own work, and to a greater and more subtle range of possibility in the accomplishments of others.Image Virtues by Mike Johnston in The Online Photographer

Ektar 100 Film Scans —Pentax P3 + SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/2 @ (50 mm, at f/5.6, ISO100), © Khürt L. Williams

  1. Of course, the so-called look of the film is dependent on the development process used and whether that film was pushed/pulled or under/overexposed at capture. 
  2. My father died earlier this year. I inherited his un-repairable Asahi Pentax Spotmatic II, and I was feeling nostalgic for my dad, so I bought a used one on eBay. 
  3. Because Kodakchrome is no longer available. 

My client has run out of office space in their Northern New Jersey location. They are seeking new office space. It is interesting to listen to some of the employees speculate about where the company may relocate and whether the new location would be close to a train station. Commuting in New Jersey can be challenging.

If the company relocates further north, closer to New York City, many current employees would have a more challenging commute. Employees from the central part of the state could see car commute times as high 90 minutes. Trains time could be more than that; New Jersey Transit (NJT) lines don’t run past the state capital of Trenton. If the new location is not near a train station – the current one is a 10-minute walk from a northeast corridor (NEC) line – then all employees would be impacted.

I know that I have an upper limit of tolerance for shitty travel. If I had to travel the NEC NJT line every day, I might lose my mind. It’s a horrible experience.

New Jersey Transit commuter trains have hit their worst on-time and reliability records in the 18 months since Governor Phil Murphy promised to overhaul the nation’s second-biggest commuter railroad.

For the 12 months ended in March, 90% of peak trains departed or arrived on schedule. That’s the lowest average among 16 years of such data on NJ Transit’s website. Trains also broke down more frequently than ever from the July start of the fiscal year through March, records show.

Commuters face even more inconvenience. The agency through 2020 is testing federally mandated emergency braking, a project that caused unprecedented disruption last year as locomotives were sidelined for software installations. And for 12 weeks starting June 17, at least 5,000 daily Manhattan commuters will have to take a ferry or another railroad to cross the Hudson River to accommodate track work at Pennsylvania Station.NJ Transit train delays hit a record after Murphy’s pledge to fix them

Kiran needed to photograph some architectural elements for her AP course project. We walked and drove around Princeton and Princeton University on a photographic scavenger hunts for what she needed. I discovered parts of the campus and the town I had not explored before. Helping her with her project forced me to photograph subjects I had overlooked in the 18 years I have lived in the area. I have included a few of the best of the set of images. I need to create my won scavenger hunt.

One requirement of her project is that members of her “team” had to be included in the photographs. Bhavna, Shaan and Kiran took turns posing for the pictures.

The light changed during the three hours we walked around. It went from afternoon to early dusk, to nighttime. Making sure we had good images to use in Kiran’s project and doing it all hand-held, pushed the limits of my camera and photography skills. The Fuji X-T2 held up well even at ISO 12,800.

Princeton University Press —FujiFilm X-T2 + XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (20 mm, 0.002 sec at f/5.6, ISO800), © Khürt L. Williams
FujiFilm X-T2 + XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (28.3 mm, 0.014 sec at f/5.6, ISO12800), © Khürt L. Williams
Terra Momo Bread Company —FujiFilm X-T2 + XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (16 mm, 0.500 sec at f/5.6, ISO12800), © Khürt L. Williams