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Old Skool Photography?

Why would a modern-day professional photographer want to return to the historic formats of film or pinhole cameras? Isn’t that a bit old-school? Isn’t digital the be all and end all? I don't think so. I generally use my trusted Canon EOS kit and one of their latest mirrorless DSLR’s. But a couple of years ago I chose to buy a new camera: a beautiful handmade wooden pinhole camera by Ondu, a Slovenian firm who make a range of pinhole cameras designed to take film, and which are built with love and care using sustainable products. I chose a camera that would take a 120 film for larger negatives that produce larger prints. I chose to try the Ondu because everyone can take a ‘good’ photo using their smartphones these days; they give well exposed and sharp images and if you don’t like the composition or something isn’t right, you can delete and take another, and another, and another until you’re happy. One could ask where the skill is in this? But ‘good’ isn’t good enough anymore; in an increasingly competitive professional photography world, a photographer needs to stand out and I decided that one way of doing this was to wind back the clock and start producing photography that goes back to basics. The relentless stream of digital imagery where it’s hard to distinguish a true, unadulterated image from a composite is distorting people’s reality of the world around them. Stepping back from the digital world means taking things slower, it means really thinking about a shot, using a light metre, working out your exposure, knowing what ISO film you’re using and with no viewfinder or LCD screen, the composition has to be really thought about and intuitive. Using a 120 film gives just 12 exposures and given the cost of developing the film and getting negatives scanned before you can use them, means that there’s a cost incentive to shoot carefully – you can’t just delete a photo from a film like you can with a smartphone. And the result? Well, that depends on what film you use but the choices give a lot of creative freedom. I have been playing with infra-red film, which produces ethereal white foliage monochrome images, as well as black and white and colour films. As a new medium, it’s been trial and error seeing what works and what doesn’t, but I'm still happily embracing the different films available and I've been really pleased with some of my results so far. In fact, I've even been awarded 3 Honourable Mentions in the International Monochrome Awards with pinhole images. And the other plus? Carrying a pinhole camera and a lightweight tripod is a lot easier than a heavy DSLR kit!


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