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Sofia with Leica - freedom in submission

Think I've not only come back to film, but become a proper film nut !

Spent the past few days sifting through the 18 films' worth of pics I recently got back from the lab, all taken in the past couple of months, including one and a half films or so recently in Sofia/Bulgaria.

I was there with nothing but my M6, but the rest was taken with combination of my various Nikons, and even my Rollei 35 S, without my having been particularly bothered to label each film.

Have to say I was massively chuffed with the results ! I don't mean to blow my own trumpet, I was bowled over by the feel, the texture, the grain, the character of film (mostly Tri-X, with a smattering of Tmax). The surprise of looking at what came back from the lab after a week or two. The pleasure of using perfect little mechanical instruments, rather than just another special type of computer, together with the freedom of concentrating on the picture without needing to think about countless settings and parameters.

The freedom, in fact and perhaps oddly, that comes from submitting. To the limitations of your equipment and the slower pace this subjects you to; to the uncertainty of results you'll see only days later; to their technical imperfections. It's a liberation from the control-freakery that often emerges and insinuates itself from the myriad options of your standard digital camera, meant paradoxically to free you from the constraints of the light as it is.

Brings to mind an especially beautiful travel book I read some years ago: Unexpected light, travels in Afghanistan, by Jason Elliot. At the beginning of the book, Elliot talks of submitting as a traveller to the land, its people and crucially to whatever event or experience may lie around the corner, whilst abandonning the will to predict or control it, or indeed the illusion that this may even be possible.

My Sofia photos aren't particularly great, notably because I didn't have that much time there and because I didn't know the place or have any immediate "feel" for it - but among my portraits and family snaps I certainly had more keepers that with digital, and I should say I was especially pleased with the results, not least because of the fantastic character that comes from film.

As it happens, I more or less simultaneously discovered two really cool websites; Eric Kim and Japan Camera Hunter, largely devoted to film photography. Since then I hardly check out dpreview any more, with its endless talk of pointless technical minutiae.

I incidentally sent a bunch of gear to Japan, courtesy of Japan Camera Hunter (Nikon F2, prime Nikon lenses), for CLA's, and mightily look forward to receiving them back, good as new of very nearly so !

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