Me: How did you cross path with film photography?
Dan: I’ve been in touch with film photography since 2015. Before that I usually take landscape photos with my digital Sony NEX-6. By that time, I was looking for a full frame digital camera for better image quality, but the price wasn’t affordable for an university student.
Coincidentally, my friend brought along his Nikon FM2n when we went camping. I was totally amazed by his photos, which have great texture and colour. Then I bought my first film camera, which is a Nikon FE2 with a Nippon Kogaku NIKKOR-S 50mm f/1.4 lens and started my film adventure.
Me: Not sure about you, but I have encountered a few occasions where people, including strangers, ‘arguing’ with me about why I should use digital and film is not good. Do you ever have to deal with this?
Dan: Luckily, I haven’t met such occasion. Most of the people I met have shown appreciation that I’m still using a film camera, no matter elderly or teenagers. I think both film and digital cameras have their own pros and cons and it’s hard to say which one is better.
I want to deny an argument that people who use film cameras must be a pro. After all, a camera should fit the photographer’s needs and make the photographer feels comfortable. Film camera is a better choice for me because I found it difficult to deal with a bunch of functions and buttons on a digital camera. When I’m using my Nikon FM2n, I just need to set the basic exposure triangle: ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed and then do the focusing and press the shutter. Nice and easy! 🙂
Same as you, Fan Ho is one of the masters from Hong Kong that I admire most (I saw your blog about Fan Ho!), his images recorded different aspects of Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960s with his talented and great photography skills. It was not only the framing or composition of the images that he was shooting, but also stories behind the scenes. His photos were just masterpieces and without doubt very impressive.
Me: What’s your usual photography essential when you go out for photo-walk?
Dan: First of all, since my photos are mainly focused on documentary and street (plus I’m just too lazy), I won’t go out with a bunch of heavy gears that would slow me down or make me feel tired. A camera with a lens and a roll of film and that’s all. Only if I am going camping and want to shoot star trails or sunrise, I’ll bring my tripod along. Otherwise, I prefer to bring as little as I can.
Me: What’s your personal goal in photography?
Dan: I’m just a beginner in photography and I still have a long way to go. At the moment, I am not aiming at becoming a master in photography. Of course I want my photos to impress the others, but I think it takes time to gain experience to achieve that. For now, my goal is simple. To capture every beautiful, interesting and special moment in my life and enjoy every moment when I press the shutter.
The reason I use ‘A’ mode is that it allows me to focus on the composition and it makes me easier to capture those “decisive moments”. If I’m shooting with my FM2n, what I usually do is to do the metering and set the aperture and shutter speed to the correct exposure while I’m approaching the light. As soon as I get to the right position, I do the focusing and shoot. I’ve tried once to push the Kodak Tri-X 400 to 1600, but I was not very happy with the high contrast and heavy grain. I’m not sure what the problem is so I can’t give you any suggestions on this. Anyway I’ll still try it out with different films or metering set up in the future 🙂
One of the main reasons for the film community to grow so quickly is that they can get a decent SLR with mint condition in many local film shops for around HKD1500, which is way cheaper than a DSLR and more affordable for teenagers or students. I think it’s definitely a good sign. At least photography has changed me a lot, I have learnt to be more patience and to appreciate the beauty that’s all around me.
Yes, I very much agree with Dan that film camera is for the minimalist. Just set the exposure triangle and you are ready to shoot.
If you are in Hong Kong, be sure to visit SHOWA and say hi to Dan (hopefully he’s on shift). If you haven’t got the chance to visit Hong Kong, please make add it to your bucket-list. I assure you that your camera will never get a rest when you are in a vibrant city that is a good place for photography of all genres.