I don't own a digital camera. Aside from the one on my phone, at least. I only have film cameras. 35mm and Medium Format. Analogue through and through.

My motivation to begin shooting film came from my younger brother. I was taking photos of my adventures around Yosemite National Park (where I live and work) using solely my iPod touch when my brother suggested that I use film to create a better image. Out of my feeling of sibling rivalry came the beginning of my explorations of a new photographic medium.

The idea of sticking only to film is very romantic, and today is even 'trendy." But, it also presents a whole host of challenges. The most obvious and commonly heard is that film is expensive. And yes, it is. Rolls of film are cheaper than development and scanning. Thus, my dresser always has multiple rolls of undeveloped film on it, waiting to be processed. The cameras themselves are also a creative challenge. They can be old and vintage, lacking all the convenient bells and whistles of a modern DSLR or mirrorless camera. My medium format Pentax 6x7 is heavier than a brick and has no form of automatic shooting mode. No autofocus, no aperture priority, it is an entirely manual shooter.

Despite the inconveniences, these challenges also present a wealth of artistic opportunity. The results film yields astound me. Unique colors produced by light sensitive chemicals in film completely blow me away. Film grain possesses a unique beauty and texture of its own. The ability to enlarge a medium format shot past what I expected without losing detail drives me to push through the obstacles presented along the way. Film draws me in helplessly with a gentle invitation I cannot resist.

I will never say that film is inherently better than digital. In fact, at some point in the future, I will likely purchase a more elite digital camera. But for now, film is my primary medium because it forces me to practice patience. In this world of increasingly common instant gratification, film forces me to slow down. Sometimes I have to wait two weeks or more between releasing the shutter and seeing the finished image. Film photography is a discipline that forces me to be very intentional, and I value that tremendously. If it still ends up beautiful in the end, that is just a bonus. With film, for me, the journey is really the destination. 


Andrew Upchurch
@andrewmupchurch
fieldmag.com/photo/yosemite-half-dome-diving-board-hike

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