Camera Position 64 : Old Tools

Those of us who work with traditional photographic tools sometimes wonder… will those things disappear in the face of the digital revolution? Will we be stuck in the middle of an island with no way to produce images? We consider those ideas in this episode.

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17 thoughts on “Camera Position 64 : Old Tools”

  1. I was actually talking about this topic the other day. One thing I think is really in the favour of film as a medium that will continue is the advent of digital negative scanners. That I think is an important step as it combines analogue and digital together.

  2. Hi, Nigel; thanks for the comment.

    Well, in my case, you’re spot-on, as what I currently do is shoot film in my 4×5 camera and then scan it in order to make digital prints from the scans. It works really, really well and combines the best of both worlds for me.

    Five or so years ago, I think that folks thought that digital would just completely replace film, but I think there are a lot of possibilities in hybrid applications of both.


  3. Hi Jeff,

    Thank you so much for this wonderful website and podcast. I am passionate about photography in all its forms, and your insights are so constructive and inspiring. I love film photography and have a darkroom at home, I think the emotion of seeing an image emerge on a blank paper is a magical moment that digital photography fails to provide. I am Brazilian and work as an English teacher, but photography is my true love. I had the chance of living in Illinois ( Blandinsville, near Macomb) as an exchange student. I have some of my work at ( my user name is mawc_ny ). Your pictures and ideas continually inspire me to become a better photographer! My brother is a professional photographer here in Porto Alegre, Brazil ( and also a big fan. We have hours of discussions about photography and art and your name usually comes up as inspiration! Thank you!!

    Marco Cavalheiro

  4. Are these lessons available as text too?
    Or some kind of subtitling/transcript.
    Hearing impaired, no native English speaker, can’t follow the podcasts as I wish.

    Thank you,

  5. Hi, Renato;

    Thanks for your post.

    No, I’ve not ever transcribed my oral comments into text. Because of time constraints, I don’t imagine that I will, either.

    So, unfortunately, I can’t provide text transcripts.


  6. Marco;

    Thanks so much for your post and your very kind words!

    I’m glad the podcast is useful to you and your brother. I really love talking about photography and knowing that I’m reaching those far-off corners of the world is really a lot of fun.

    Keep listening!


  7. Jeff –

    I’m interested in learning more about large format photography. Can you recommend either books and/or web sites?


  8. Hi, Nick;

    The best book that I know of is Jim Stone’s A User’s Guide to the View Camera. It’s what we use to teach large format cameras in at College of DuPage.

    Other good resources would be:

    Using the View Camera by Steve Simmons
    The Camera by Ansel Adams (an oldie but a goodie… the one I learned from as a young photographer)

    The best all-around website I know for large format photography is:

    Hope that helps!


  9. Jeff, I understand the Zen appeal of film and large format photography. After 40 years of chemical photography I’m very happy to have sold my darkroom and be fully digital. For me I can still find the Zen feelings and involvement with a DSLR. I don’t have the movements of a view camera but I do enjoy stitching together several exposures to achieve the detail normally associated with a 4×5. Seeing the image come together on the computer is just as much fun for me as having discolored fingers while I gaze into the tray of developer. 🙂

  10. Oh, I get that, Ron… I think you’re right, too… my point is that I think there are a lot of photographers out there who haven’t had that experience of gazing into the tray of developer and that the tactile experience of doing that is very different from the experience of doing similar things on a computer screen.

    Keep shooting!


  11. Jeff, I’ve been listening to Camera Position for quite sometime now, but this i must admit is my first trip to the website. This whole idea really hits home with me. My personal work is almost all 4×5 and then scanned. But in the real world i’m a digital image artist, photoshop teacher, and help people convert from film to digital. I’m a digital guru, eveyone comes to me for tech updates, etc. But I love the old ways. But also i have to admit that photoshop is nice. I can do so much more in Photoshop than i could in the darkroom, and i can watch TV while i do it. I fully agree that if anyone gets the chance they should at least try a 4×5 camera. The experience is like none other. You look at photography in a whole other aspect. I may go shooting for a couple hours and only make one or two exposures. You learn to really make the shot count. You really take an intimate look at the exposure you are about to make and what our vision for that image is. I have to send my chromes out of state now a days just to have developed so everything included, it cost me about $8 a shot. But since i have this whole mindset i take that into the digital world as well. I may have a 4 gig card in my camera, but still only take 10 shots on a full day of shooting. Then working on that one image in photoshop that i labored on in the camera. And finally seeing that print come off my printer, it just is so rewarding. It’s the best of all the worlds. And film is not dead yet. In fact all the camera and supply stores shut down here (other than Ritz, etc) and yet the other day a new place opened where we can rent darkroom space. It’s still there and going strong. Man i could go on forever about this. BTW, whatever happened to the Italy trip.

  12. Andy;

    Thanks for your post.

    I think that, say, 5 years ago, there were people saying that traditional photography was “over” and that we would never see serious photographers using film in the future. I think that vision has been proven wrong on so many levels and we’re seeing a great number of photographers using hybrid methods (like you describe) as well as straight film workflows.

    I think the beauty of our current situation is that there are choices and we can exploit those choices creatively. If the digital revolution did nothing else, it at least put some great and useful (traditional) photo gear on the market at really great prices. I just picked up a used Hasselblad lens in near-perfect condition for less than 1/8 of what it would cost new.


    Thanks again,


  13. Yes, in the old days when you had to go to your camera shop to buy film there was a concern that if your shop is gone, your supply is gone. But this is the age of the internet, everything is available on a click, all you need is a computer and a credit card and after several days you have a package.

    Secondly, a large format shooter should be the last to be concerned about availability of materials. The early practitioners had no film to buy, they did their own plates. Many LF photographers are turning towards these processes again and it is a fascinating avenue to take your photography. I also recommend the book “Primitive Photography” by Alan Greene on the topic.

  14. Wow… you’re right, Dirk…. I can’t believe how many photographers are actively embracing “archaic” technologies and making really amazingly cool images with them. Wet-plate collodion, tintype, cyanotype, platinum… the list goes on and on. And… the availability of materials, once one of those things where you had to “know a guy who knows a guy who can get us the chemicals” is now as close as a couple of clicks.


  15. I’ve noticed that as labs start to close, people are moving to developing the film themselves. There’s even a healthy number of people who do color film at home, most of the ones I know are in Europe. Of course, that in turns speeds the closing of more labs. In time I think the lab as we know it will be a thing of the past, and people who shoot film will either develop their own film or form “coops”. Freestyle Photo already repackages your E-6 and C-41 chemicals for home use. I think that trend will continue. So while I think the chemicals will continue to be sold, the labs will continue to retool themselves for the digital world.

    I think the truly exciting thing about film and traditional photography in a digital world is the possibilities for a hybrid world. Already people are experimenting with “digital negatives”, which amounts to a callibrated ink jet print on transparency materials. You take the digital negative and make a contact print. There you go, you can have fiber based black and white prints that either came from scanned film or your digital camera. It also opens the doors of alternative processes to digital users.

    For me personally, I like working with film. For black and white photography, I don’t think anything beats it. For color, I’ll reach for my digital camera. The one thing that I am concerned about is the historical impact of digital. I inherited a number of negatives from when my grandparents met in 1948 Japan. They may not be of great import to everyone, but being able to see my grandparents 60 years ago was moving. The pictures were taken with a Kodak Brownie on 127 film, which is about 4cm wide. What that means is that there are no film holders for this film, so scanning it is a problem. I can print it in my enlarger no problem. But think about the pace of change for technology and its our pictures being passed down to our grandkids 60 years later. While I don’t think there will be any problems reading TIFF, JPEG, or GIF files, the likelihood of the files surviving that long is rather slim. If you subscribe to server storage, as soon as you stop making payments your data is evicted and lost. If you rely on CDs and DVDs, there may not even be players in 60 years. There’s a growing business in Japan to archive your digital pictures on slide film. You’ll always be able to read film, people already know how to preserve it, and physical items are easier to bequeath/inherit.

  16. Hi Jeff,
    I loved this particular podcast. I have had my own darkroom set up and done some courses and darkroom work in the past – which I enjoyed so much. It is all packed up at the moment as I have nowhere to set it up at present but I don’t think I’ll ever part with it – I’ll just live in hope of dragging it all out again one day! I have used digital SLRs over the last 7 years but have never quite got over the longing for a medium format camera. Last year I picked up a beautiful little TLR and this year I have obtained a pinhole camera (takes 120 roll film) and I am really enjoying using film again (especially making 6×6 negs – so satisfying after all that time wanting to do so).

    My little pinhole camera is the joy of my life! It is so basic and simple, yet it can produce the most amazing images that would be impossible to make with my DSLR. I also really enjoy the slowed down process and the fact that it records the scene over periods of time. I absolutely love the fact that my camera and I have sat there together for 15 or 20 minutes sometimes, taking in the scene, and that it has recorded that whole chunk of time into one dreamy image. There’s something very wonderful about that 🙂

    Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts – I am so pleased to have found this little corner of the internet!


  17. Hi, Berin;

    You raise some really, really interesting questions/thoughts in your comment… thanks!

    I think we’re in the middle of one of the most interesting times in the history of photography… there are more possibilities and more opportunities now than there ever have been. I think the “hybrid” form of doing photography now is really, really exciting and I see so many people doing things like making “perfect” digital negatives and then using them to make platinum prints, for example.

    I also agree that we’ll likely see traditional film-based products become more niche-like… there will be great materials available, though it might be expensive and will certainly be different. But… for anyone who wants to do anything with any sort of material, the opportunities will (mostly) persist for some time to come.

    I think your caveat about how we store this data is another really useful thought… what will happen to this stuff over time as things change and media are discarded in favor of newer, ‘better’ media?

    We all have to be ever-diligent!


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