Worst Case Film Survival

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
-- Roy Batty in Bladerunner

San Jose City Hall

There's a bunch of people out there who passionately love film and will never shoot digital. Ever. I'm not one of them.

There's also a bunch of people out there who passionately love digital and love to make snide remarks about film dying. I'm also not one of them.

Our tools change. Ansel Adams started out dragging an 8x10 everywhere. Towards the end of his life, he was using a Hasselblad instead. If you read his series of books on photography, you realize that he used all sorts of cameras, from 35mm to 8x10. He also was quite fond of Polaroids, too, which seems to be the antithesis of the technique people always made a big deal about.

If all of the film cameras stopped working tomorrow, there's plenty of decent digital cameras to switch to. I don't have 10 years worth of film in my freezer and powdered developer stocked in my closet, at best I've got a few months worth, I don't want to have tons of nasty old expired film. I want to have room in my freezer for some frozen goodies.

I do not tend towards rapid-fire photography. I tend to prefer to either view images on the screen or as huge blow ups. And I'm not so keen on spending several thousand dollars on an EOS 1Ds II or an EOS 5D and a bunch of lenses to get the sort of resolution I want. So, film suits me right now. I scan it, so I can still reap the benefits of Photoshop, but I also get a higher resolution image.

The way I see things, I'm most likely to suffer decreasing utility over time of various pieces of gear. It's already starting to happen with my 35mm gear... I buy and shoot a lot more film for my RB67 than I do for 35mm gear. Most of the rolls I've shot in my 35mm camera lately have been C-41 print film and black and white because I can either take them to the local one-hour photo or develop them myself, or emulsion tests to make the difference in film grain more apparent. I have rolls of Velvia that I keep wanting to shoot in the 35mm format, but it looks so much better in the RB67, so they sit unused while I buy Velvia in 120 roll film format for my RB67 in bulk.

I also figure if the worst case scenario happens and film usage really starts to fall off to nothingness, there will be warnings to be seen. If enough of my favorite films are gone in the formats I want, I'll take that as a hint that I shouldn't make any large film investments and start hunting digital cameras.

My big annoyance is that I'm going to want something on the level of the EOS 5D when it's time, with a full set of EOS lenses. I suspect I'll look into getting a digital camera with the hot-mirror filter removed for infrared. This is going to cost a lot of money and I suspect the amortized cost of digital gear to make me not miss my film gear too much is going to end up being more than my amortized yearly cost of film, developing, and equipment currently adds up to.

I also am not sure what's going to happen to some of my techniques. I can't bring myself to turn a color image black and white, nor can I bring myself to fake crossprocess an image, so those may disappear from my palette. I rather admire Cymagen's work, so I might work in that sort of direction once I've lost crossprocessing.

All of my images are already stored, edited, and printed digitally, so I don't really worry about suddenly having to find an optical printer in a digital world, worst case. I'll just end up with a small film camera museum, because I figure by the time I'm done with them, they'll either be broken or totally worthless.

In the meantime, there's tons of beautiful pictures to be taken. I can still get all kinds of neat film, and damnit, I'm going to take advantage of this!


I got a little interrupted in this series after I got scared about Kodak dropping all IR film.

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