‘tis the season for resolutions, for looking back and for generally taking stock of life. There was a time when I would have written a series of blog posts on these themes incorporating a commentary too on what I’d written about and how regularly I’d actually written during the previous 12 months. Well, spoiler alert, I’m not doing it this year so this isn’t that post. I have however been doing the thinking even if I’ve decided against writing it all down.

© Dave Whenham

I’ve spent almost all of the Christmas period unwell, missing family gatherings, sleeping upstairs all day whilst children and grandchildren all descended on the house on Boxing Day, most disappointing of all though I’ve not been eating and drinking all the festive treats we got in for the holiday. As I write this, Christmas was four days away and there’s only a little over two days left of 2022 and I’m still coughing and spluttering, using at least half a dozen handkerchiefs a day and generally feeling crap. I therefore don’t particularly feel like reviewing the past year or contemplating the next. I just want to feel human again!

And I shall.

One thing that I did ponder on whilst laying in bed on Boxing Day was, as it happens, this blog of mine. I started it many years ago as a diary for my studies. Somewhere that I could record my research and related activities, ponder results and share them with my tutor and fellow students. I continued with the blog post studies, including a big “move” to a different blogging platform during which I lost 75% of my blog. Not a good time. I still dream of finding in a forgotten folder some of the essays that I’d worked so hard on and whose loss I still regret. But, as my studies came to a close, I continued to write in the blog.

Partly as a way of sharing my hobby … but mainly because I actually enjoy writing.

Why did I carry on though? Partly as a way of sharing my hobby with the handful of people I stayed in touch with but mainly because I actually enjoy writing. I enjoy crafting the flow and pace of a written piece. I also enjoy seeing where my thoughts will take me; unlike an essay for my studies I rarely start with a firm plan and the subject evolves as too does the main point I am going to make. Sometimes this resembles whatever induced me to put fingertip to screen in the first place but oft-times it’s a surprise to me and the first I know of it is when I proof read the copy.

The germ of an idea this time came from watching Alex Luyckx’s latest YouTube video. This led me to ponder resurrecting my nascent interest in making videos, or VLOGs as I termed them, a pursuit I put on the back burner when my formal studies ended. I then found that Alex had, somehow, left me with a thought revolving around the empty recesses of my skull … “write about what you know”. This in turn led me to think about what I do write about and why and thereby to this point of sitting at the dining table tapping furiously at a screen trying to get it all out of my head before the family need the table for tea.

One thing I have noticed is that my blog became more focused once I’d made the transition from digital to digital plus film and from there to being once again a mostly-film based photographer. Much of what I’ve written about has related to my experiences and experiments returning to film photography and also discovering new techniques or formats. Often these are things I couldn’t experience first time around due to lack of funds or time but often through simply not knowing about them. Hard to understand in this digital age I know and I suspect many take for granted the wealth of information available at the tap of a finger or the click of a mouse button.

It’s not a gear-centric blog, although I enjoy the gear, but is more focused on what I can achieve with the tools and materials. At times, usually when I’m restricted in my movements through ill-health, I write opinion-based content, but on the whole I like to share what I know, what I’m learning and what I’m trying out by way of new techniques. This is both as a means of making sense of it myself but also as a way of sharing.

So, that’s my point for today in what is probably, but not definitely, my last blog post of 2022. If you are a film photographer, whatever your level of experience and whatever your particular specialist subject is, please consider sharing your knowledge, your experience and your technical skills. Whilst film photography is enjoying a resurgence it’s still a fledgling and its long-term survival is not secured yet. For it to continue to thrive and continue to grow we all need to play our part.

It’s not just about supporting those companies that are undoubtedly doing their best to keep film alive, they have a strong vested interest, nor is it just about making the gear available but it’s about keeping the knowledge and skills alive, ensuring they are passed on through the generations. I don’t mean simply burying things in websites or online databases. Those artefacts can be found of course and have value – but only if they are found, only if future film photographers know the right questions to ask or keywords to enter in a search engine. Our mission, should we wish to accept it, is to actively spread the word, to share and not to hoard our knowledge so that newcomers to this world can see for themselves the wonders that await beyond the marketing stories, the slick packaging and the glossy offerings of hip influencers.

So, that’s what I will be doing in 2023. Or rather, that’s what I shall continue doing in 2023. Whether or not I branch out into a podcast or I resurrect my nascent and long-dormant YT channel (thanks for that ear-worm Alex!) I shall at least be continuing to write for my blog. Continuing to share via social media and continuing to do my small bit to keep the film flag flying.

I hope you do too.

Here’s to a healthy, happy and creative 2023 with as much sharing as we can all manage.

Pondering on influence

Does the camera you choose influence what and how you make photographs on the day?

I was pondering that this morning following my wife’s announcement that the bathroom, where I hang films to dry, was out of bounds. “You will have to shot digital for a few days” was her less than sympathetic postscript. Now I’ve nothing against digital, I’ve several digi-cams available, but as my reader probably knows by now, I habitually use film. Mind you, having used (exposed, developed, digitised and sleeved) seven rolls of film over the last two days I thought it probably wouldn’t hurt. My thoughts shifted to what camera I should take.


I took my phone.

I still need to make a photograph every day as my picture-a-day challenge continues but the phone will be well up to the job. Had I known about the bathroom ban last night, I’d have charged a battery or two and stowed a small digital camera in my bag in readiness for this morning. As it was, I had just five minutes to decide what camera to take. However, we make the best of situations.

Once outside I photographed heavy frost on the car, explored some frost covered leaves and patterns in ice. All things the phone handles well enough for my needs. Scraping the ice off the protective screen with a fingernail I photographed the outdoor thermometer (-5°) and headed off on my morning’s errands which in large part covered exactly the same ground that I covered yesterday.

iPhone (and my car)

It was whilst sat in my favourite café, jobs completed, that I realised I had been looking at the world around me differently to how I’d looked at it yesterday. I further realised that this change in perspective was actually quite normal for me. I am always looking or at least sub-consciously watching, for compositions and photo-opportunities but it dawned on me that what I watch for varies with the camera in my bag.

Yesterday, I had the Holga Pan and two rolls of film in my bag. My thoughts instantly turned to architectural multiple exposures, inspired totally by friend and fellow photographer Andrew Keedle. My phone was in my pocket but it was the Holga Pan that had my attention and I photographed accordingly.

Holga Pan

Today with just a phone for company I was instinctively looking for images that suited the “camera” in my hand. Thinking back over the past week during which I’ve used five or six different cameras, I’ve adapted my vision each day to the cameras at hand. Adding the Holga Pan on a couple of days was a conscious decision as it’s on loan and I wanted to try the multiple exposure technique Andrew demonstrated. However, going back through my archive it is clear that what and how I photograph is very much influenced by whichever camera I happen to have with me.

The fact that I probably make more images in the streets surrounding my home than everywhere else combined means that I am very familiar with my surroundings. I still manage to find something different every time I venture out however and I think that this is in part down to the fact that I look at my surroundings with slightly different eyes each time I go out.

Sometimes I go out with an idea in mind and on those occasions I choose the camera for the job. Oft-times though the camera I take is chosen quickly and the choice also influenced by what cameras currently have film loaded (normally at least four cameras have film loaded).

Horizon S3 Pro
Canon 5DII

After a full English and several mugs of hot, black tea it was clear that I needed to vacate my corner seat as the café was starting to get busier with lunchtime trade. I’d written most of this blog post whilst sat there in the warmth but it was time to venture back outside onto the frosty streets. I thought more about the topic as I walked home and the more I thought about it the more I realised that my day-to-day photography was influenced mostly by what photographic tool I put in my bag or pocket as I leave the house.

In passing I guess that another factor to consider is the experience levels of the individual. I’ve tried most genres of photography over almost fifty years and am comfortable with quite a few of them. I am also predisposed to trying new things and experimenting, something that has grown particularly in the last few years. My familiarity with my cameras also means I generally don’t need to think too much about the technical aspects which leaves the brain free to attend to creative matters.

So, in conclusion, what I chose to photograph is generally influenced by the camera(s) I have with me. Other factors, such as the light and if using film, what films I have with me, are also contributing influences. The main exception is when I go out with a specific project in mind in which case the camera is chosen accordingly.

Hhhhhmmmm, now then, does your mood influence the camera you choose?

All images created over the last five days

The connected world

I’ve been ruminating over the last few days on the benefits to me of social media. The turmoil at Twitter has led to a stampede for the exit from a large number of the #believeinfilm community, some seemingly completely ditching the platform. Whilst it seems to some of us that this is perhaps rather hasty the reality is that the community is the poorer for the exodus. Which is a real shame as in the couple of years I’ve been active within the community I’ve learnt so much from its members.

One of the great differences between when I first used film (early 1970s) and nowadays is the wide availability of information to inform decisions on film choice, developers etc. When I started it was the local camera club or camera shop who provided knowledge and expertise to newcomers to the hobby. If you had a club whose members were welcoming and open to encouraging newcomers then you learnt a lot in a very short time. Likewise an interested and informed retailer would make recommendations and pass on experiences from other customers etc.

We had no internet, no instant connections with film photographers around the world and therefore if the local community was not welcoming and encouraging then you were somewhat on your own. Such, sadly, was my experience in the 1970s. I can honestly say I’ve learnt more in the last few years through the worldwide online community than I did during my first decade of the hobby.

My lack of consistent guidance during those early years however didn’t deter me; indeed I was largely unaware of the paucity of my education. In the last few years though I’ve come to recognise this and through the online community have set about filling in the gaps in my knowledge. I knew a lot of the “hows” for example but not the “whys” nor the many alternatives. Folk like John Finch (Pictorial Planet) on YouTube have shared much information that I would have benefitted from knowing fifty years ago for example.

To my mind this type of online community is important if film photography is to survive longer term and not just as a passing trend. Whilst I believe I had a less-than perfect introduction to the hobby I’ve stuck at it for almost fifty years. But, not everyone would have done so and that’s why the existence of communities such as this are so important. Film photography is not simply a case of point, shoot and an app or AI does the rest. It’s both an art and a craft. Artistic vision is of course important whether you are a digital or analogue devotee but for the latter there is also the craft of processing your films that once learnt can be used to support your artistic vision. True, you could simply send the film to a lab and ask them to scan it too but to my mind that hands over part of the artistic process to chance.

To digress slightly. It important to be discerning when choosing your online sources however. One of my hobby-horses is the number of YouTube “influencer/experts” who use one roll of a new-to-them film, send it to a lab to dev & scan then pronounce on its veracity. Really? John M and I have discussed this privately many times, but long story short, I do wonder if these, no doubt well-intentioned, “experts” do more harm than good. Take Ilford HP5+ for example. Choice of film developer makes a big difference to the resultant negatives as does the speed at which the film is exposed as I’ve discussed here more than once. A single roll, developed by a lab cannot hope to do justice to any film. To provide useful guidance you need to put in the work and test various configurations. Alex Luyckz for example uses multiple rolls in a film test and develops in several different developers before publishing a review which clearly discusses the results from each combination. John Finch, mentioned above, produces detailed, well-researched videos from which his vast experience simply oozes.

So, the vast amount of online information does need to be used with discernment and discretion but the fact remains that there is a huge repository of knowledge to be tapped into. This is important as if we are not careful newcomers to the hobby will not appreciate the vast potential that film photography has for personal expression. There is a tendency to look for the shortcut in todays ever-connected world where “there’s an app for that”.

Social communities such as the #believeinfilm folk are an important part of promoting and developing film photography as a hobby to my mind. The old-style forum is slowly disappearing to be replaced by the likes of Twitter where informed discussion has been the order of the day over the last couple of years but that too is starting to wane in favour of the instant hit of dopamine from post, click, like, heart-emoji style social media. Sadly, the fragmentation of well-established and knowledgeable online communities won’t help in the long term to nurture this hobby that we all enjoy so much.