The fun of delayed gratification and how we’ve all become impatient

Bikinis Employees pose for the film camera - Austin, Texas

Bikinis Employees pose for the film camera – Austin, Texas

Believe it or not, I’m in the midst of shooting with 4 film cameras. I’ve talked about two of them — the Rollei 35 and the Canon Rebel T2 — both loaded with 36 exposures of Portra 400. I’m playing with two other cameras which are new, in a sense, but I’m not ready to reveal them just yet — I don’t know if they are working properly. Once I develop the film and do the high-res scans, I’ll know for sure.

Shooting slowly and deliberately is something completely new for me. The limited feedback and the per shot cost of film will do that to you. Digital, with its instant and free feedback has made me a frenetic shooter and maybe that’s true for you too. But when you think about it, it’s not just photography. Our modern technologies have a tendency to make us less patient.

Ok, I know I’m going to sound like an old fart but bear with me. When I was growing up I had access to 4 broadcast TV stations. We waited anxiously for movies to be televised years after their theatrical run. And it was an event too. Everyone talked about it the next day. There were no 24 hour cable channels or on demand movies via Netflix. No DVDs or Blu-ray. VCRs became available for $1000 and pre-recorded movies cost upwards of $60 each.

I bought records, sometimes warped even when new, with my hard-earned money to get one or two songs that I really liked. We played and “enjoyed” the entire album because we had no possibility of paying a buck and change for only the songs we liked. The concept of creating our own virtual radio stations via something like Pandora was beyond comprehension. I guess we had top 40 radio where the most popular songs might play a couple of times an hour.

That was my world as a teenager. Waiting a few days or a week to get photographs developed was no big deal. That was the normal pace and we were all patient enough to wait. The concept of one hour photo labs sounded indulgent, even hedonistic. My recent foray into film photography has reminded me of life before internet speed. It’s kind of fun. I don’t remember everything that I shot on my current film cameras. It’ll be like Christmas when I get back my negatives.

I’m not giving up digital, I use it in conjunction with my film experiments. I may be slightly romantic but not impractical. The great thing is, as an amateur, I have the option to wait. I am not pushed by a professional deadline to post photos hours or even minutes after an event.

But all this got me thinking. Even in my most fervent pursuit of efficient digital expediency, I’ve never been an energetic social media guy. I just don’t see the purpose of updating one’s status every minute of the day. And who the heck cares about what I’m thinking about at any given moment. I suppose that’s why I enjoy blogging and long form posts more than instantaneous tweets. Perhaps having a bit more patience, forethought and analysis before we all say something will be good for everyone. Or maybe I’m just an old fart and slowly slipping into becoming a card-carrying Luddite.

Note: I shot the photograph above with a Canon Rebel T2 film camera loaded with Kodak Portra 400 with a 35mm lens and flash, converted to black and white with digital post processing.

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10 thoughts on “The fun of delayed gratification and how we’ve all become impatient

  1. People are indeed increasingly impatient and distracted these days. More important to me than film has been printing lately. It’s funny how people (at least for now) seem willing to actually look at prints in some degree of depth whereas photos on a phone or table hardly get a glance as their fingers impatiently swipe at the screens. Sad. I quit showing my portfolio on tablets because with the speed and ease of flipping through images came a lack of appreciation or devoted attention. I’ve seen people stand there and swipe without even looking at the screen. I hear you on social media. I’ve backed way off and I’m not far off from pulling the plug completely. I’d much rather read thoughtful long form posts by intelligent people than the diminutive drivel that prevails in social media.

    1. Mike, I agree with your observation about (real) prints vs electronic tablets. Real paper makes people linger. I want to print books too. That’s something I’ll work on in the future.

  2. Bonjour, je suis totalement en phase avec vos réflexions. Je recommence à utiliser le film depuis peu après une interruption de près de dix années. C’est vraiment ressourçant pour moi. L’inspiration reviens grâce au temps que nous prenons avant de déclencher. Le fondamental de l’âme photographique réside bien dans l’état d’esprit dans lequel nous nous trouvons. Le film met en joie au moment de l’application et continue encore au moment de découvrir les images. J’apprécie grandement votre démarche. Tout mes voeux de joie pour vous.

  3. I came late to digital. I had to wait for it to be invented, then to become good enough. Old habits die hard, while I do take more pictures than I did on film — the cost of developing and printing, even when you do it yourself can be shocking — I still crop in the viewfinder and bracket shots. I don’t bracket for use as HDR, but to make sure I get one “best shot” to work with. Unlike you, I’m not a big HDR fan. I like the variations in tone that occur naturally and while you do magical stuff with HDR, most of the HDR I see is obviously over-processed. Everybody is getting on the “processing your pictures to death” bandwagon. One filter or three over the line. Film is a good place to learn to take pictures that are good from the ground up. Not augmented, filtered, special effected … just good. Well composed, good lighting. Even when you finally get tired of the extra work and expense and drift back to digital, the lessons you learn will change your perspective.

    I enjoy digital as much as anything because I can afford to take a lot of pictures. I remember counting each picture and calculating what it would cost to process and print it. Not to mention how many hours I was going to be standing in the darkroom playing with shadows 🙂 For all that, many of the best pictures I ever took were taken back then on those old cameras with lenses to die for.

    1. Perfectly understandable. I would hate a world where it’s film only. I have no real interest in developing my own film or printing (at least for now). I like combining the film and digital together. For the high volume stuff, digital is still going to be my go to medium. I’m only going to shoot film occasionally but will still post process the film scans with digital tech.

  4. I’m an odd bird with regards to digital. I turn 61 this December, having used some kind of film camera going back to an Instamatic 104 when I was a kid. My first digital camera was a Canon Powershot A300 3MP in 2003. It was deeply discounted at a local Target. It lasted about three years through my hands and then my two daughters hands. My first digital ILC was an Olympus E-300 two-lens kit, again on sale, purchased on-line from Newegg in 2006. I’ve been pretty much an Olympus digital user ever since.

    During that film period I was heavy into all aspects of film processing, having tough myself darkroom techniques to the point where I worked in or ran a number of local B&W darkrooms during the 1970s. That ended when I met my future wife around 1980. From that point forward I ran my stuff through local labs, primarily shooting slides.

    The last film camera I bought was a Nikon N90 when my second daughter was born. My thinking was I would use that as a foundation for a renaissance in my photography, built on Nikon gear. Instead my film photography withered to the point where I seldom picked up a camera except for family events. The old passion faded slowly over the years after the purchase because of the friction and expense involved with trying to gather together the camera gear and the supplies for a darkroom and maintaining it all once acquired. “Post processing” with film is a lot of effort and expense. I still remember those days, and frankly, I don’t miss them.

    While I appreciated the Canon P&S, I didn’t have those creative photographic passions truly re-ignited until I got the E-300 on a lark in 2006. From that point over the last eight years, up until about the middle of this year, I produced tens upon tens of thousands of exposures. The immediate ability to see the results was an incredible lure, and the ability to post process without having the smell of chemicals or the sting of stop bath on my hands (winters in Atlanta were dry and cold and caused my hands to dry out and crack) helped to drive me along. I don’t miss film, I don’t miss darkrooms, and every time I try to run a film through an old OM-4 I have, it takes a year to get it through the camera. In the end I just wind it back out before finishing the entire roll.

    Now the second wave of passion has subsided a bit. Which is a bit odd, because I’ve finally found the digital cameras I wish I’d had when I started my Olympus digital phase, the E-M5 and the E-M10. Using either of those cameras is a genuine pleasure. Neither one has failed to take a photo when called upon to do so. Their files provide incredible flexibility in post processing if needed. And yet, the passion has damped down. Since I’ve been through this once before I’m not too worried about it. And I have my “micro-burst” moments of creativity when I find something that triggers a bit of creativity. The E-M10 with its 1.8/17mm is a tiny jewel I carry with me always.

    I am a solidly digital photographer. I’m glad I had the opportunity to work with film; it certainly taught me a lot, and back then that’s literally all you had. But digital gave me a new lease on photography and a level of creative flexibility to experiment that film never did, and never can. If I hadn’t purchased that Canon and then all those Olympus cameras then my personal photography would be truly dead. I’m fully committed to digital, and I will never go back to film.

    1. Wow, thanks for sharing your photography background. I think I understand where you are coming from, even though I didn’t develop my own film. In my case, I really never liked the photographs I was getting back from the mini lab. With digital, I got what I wanted a lot easier and later, as my post processing got better, I was able to tweak images the way I wanted them. So I too am fully committed to digital.

      The playing with film may be a passing fancy. Perhaps I’m finding my interesting in digital photography waning somewhat and I’m looking for something interesting and new. I have no interest going back to a pure film experience. I’m now enjoying film because I get a certain look from it which I can tweak in digital the way I like it. I don’t think I would be an enamored with film without the digital post processing.

      So I’m taking a hybrid approach. Fusing the old and new.

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