Caught on Film

Caught on Film

I got out last weekend and tried out my new 1962 Leica M3 with a few roles of T-MAX ASA 100 and 400.  I have never shot a proper film camera and it is interesting how different the experience is.

I was reading a timely and interesting article on The Online Photographer talking about if there is really a need for a digital camera with a Black and White only sensor.  He has been writing about this for a while now but this is a timely debate with the current rumors flying around that Leica is launching one, and without an LCD screen!   Mike goes on to say that many people are missing the point that this is not a technical decision but what goes on in the photographers head when he is given this limitation

He goes on to talk about photographer Alex Webb who when photographing in the tropics realized that the harsh sunlight and high contrast would cause all shows to go black in this slide film.   Rather than shying away from taking pictures with shadows he embraced it as strong graphical elements in his photos making powerful and unique photos.    The idea here is your eyes see can’t see these things but rather your brain learns to know what the camera will see and how it will interpret the scene.

This is similar to the concept I have talked about in the past of forcing myself to shoot at 21mm for a week, then at 35mm, and then at 50mm.   You train your eyes to see the world in these fixed dimensions.   I have been out with people before and when I take a shot they say “How did you see that?”.

I imagine film is going to be very much the same for me as I learn how film interprets the scene in front of me.  I really enjoyed my first experience with film and I am very interested to see where this goes… now enjoy some of my world ‘Caught on Film’…

Jiyugaoka, Tokyo, Japan

Jiyugaoka, Tokyo, Japan

Jiyugaoka, Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

Ultra Man in Shibuya

Shibuya Station, Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

Popeye Camera in Jiyugaoka

Thanks for stopping by today!



  1. Hi, how much postprocessing did you do after scanning?

  2. …and you’ve never really shot film before huh? :) Looks very nice! I’m glad you’re finding the “film experience” fun and exciting. Pretty soon you’ll be joining the ranks of the guy from Tokyo Camera Style and developing rolls and rolls and rolls of film in your kitchen and annoying your family! Developing your own roll has it’s own level of fun and excitement. Looking forward to more!

  3. Honestly never… except for those instant film cameras when I was a kid. I do expect to be annoying the family soon!

  4. No processing Pim. I had the negatives developed and then simply scanned them on an Epson scanner.

  5. Dave,

    I think your “eye” is about the same. Your style comes through. Black and white film and B&W in general bring a more “classic” look to a photograph, more journalistic.

    I guess the question for me is how do you feel this process worked for you, did you your head and your eye capture that which you set out to capture?


  6. These look great! Think you’ll ever try develop your film and print your pictures yourself? ;) For me, it’s very satisfying when I’ve successfully developed my own film, but even more rewarding when I’ve managed to get the exposure on a print correctly. Sometimes, it takes me a couple of hours and pieces of paper to get one perfect print…

  7. Hi Dave. I’ve recently gone down the same route myself. What scanner do you use out of interest? I’ve been eyeing the v500 myself but haven’t had the chance to try one out yet.

  8. I got the Epson x970. It is a Japanese model so I think it is the same as the 750 Pro.

  9. Dave if you’re interested in learning to develop your own film let me know and I can meet you at Yodobashi camera some evening after work to show you what you’ll need to get started.

  10. Yes the B & W is different..but.. your m9 colored images a far superior. Have fun and enjoy, isn’t that what it is all about?

  11. It’s refreshing, isn’t it? When shooting a modern camera, or even a 1970’s SLR with a light meter, we are cyborgs – augmented beings, helped by an amount of external processing power. By contrast, when shooting a fully manual camera we are only human.

    I do agree with the comment that your style shines through, regardless of the camera. At the end of the day it is still about the brain-eye-lens system at work. I have an old photography handbook which says that a fancy camera doesn’t necessarily deliver better photos, only makes it easier to produce those better photos. Maybe in the days of film that was indeed the case.

  12. Dave, what a fantastic 1st set of film. Congrats. I only wish I had a little of your talent. Oh, and you’ve made more work for yourself. You need to update your ‘gear’ section as well!

  13. I find it amusing that now the people of the digital age all want to jump to the “film experience”. They seem to think that they can side step the “experience” part with technology and equipment. Film photography was a long process from seeing an image to print. A real balancing act of variables that could only be accomplished with luck, trail and error and experience. Most of us started with fixed focal length cameras so that eliminated one of todays variables. In B&W we had hundreds of film choices, buckets of chemical choices, (seems we all had a special soup), thousands of paper choices of grade, multigrade, vari-grade, texture and surface. The photo was not done until it was printed, and the darkroom is where the picture was made. That was where the real balancing act came in and that took experience. We didn’t have Photoshop. We had to rely on our notes and experience to make prints. Now you have a bag full of the best glass available, an excellent example of the M3 (brings back some fond memories), and a fancy scanner to convert your film images to digital. Now what? You can view them on your monitor and post them on the net and they look great. The photograph isn’t done until it is printed. And Dave I’m not knocking you. This is where technology has failed us. You have the best equipment in the world to get an image on film and convert it to digital. I have not seen the printer made yet to get that digital image to paper with that same feel, soul, and visual you get from photographic paper. The darkroom is where the images were developed. The cameras and lens where just the tools we used to get the printed image. You really have to go thru the whole process to get the “film experience”.

  14. Tom – I am actually thinking of taking a ‘Dark Room Course’ or working with someone who develops their own to teach me the process, more out of interest than I will practically use it on any regular basis. It just isn’t practical for what I do and I honestly don’t have the time or space. I do believe there is still experience to be hand in slowing way down and getting back to the basics when capturing an image. The M9 is a major slow down to the 10 frames per second you can fire off on a standard DLSR and the M3 is completely another step slower. For me the experience, so far, has been slowing down using a camera for nothing more than setting shutter speed, film for setting your ASA and the lens for aperture and taking the time to get thoughtful enough to get all of these right without gauges telling me to push the shutter. I enjoy the feel of working with a mechanical camera. I enjoy losing the instant gratification of seeing my images and I am looking forward to seeing the images I shot last week when the film comes back next week. I get your points on entering the ‘darkroom’ but not sure if I am that committing to film.

  15. Take that Darkroom Coarse. There is nothing like the feeling you get seeing your first print emerge from a sheet of white paper. I will warn you that your first years in a darkroom can best be described as furstrating. Like I have said there are so many variables you eventually come up with the things that work best for you. But like you say in todays world it is just not practical any more. Having recently moved from film to digital I am really enjoying the instant gratification of digital and the electronic dark room. I have enjoyed a very unusual film career. When I was 18 years old I was in Camel CA climbing the rocks along the coastline taking pictures and a grumpy old man came out to run me off his property. I explained that I was a young Army recruit from Ft. Ord out enjoying taking pictures of the Camel coast. The grumpy old man turned out to be Ansel Adams. He invited me in to see some of his work and showed me the darkroom he was working with. I was hooked. Several years later I went back to Camel where he started the Friends of Photography Gallery. I would spend hours going thru the bins of photos and meeting the original old masters. I eventually ended up shooting with Hasselblad cameras and using his Zone system but I haven’t got that $50.K picture yet. I am a firm believer that film will make you a better photographer. As you are finding out learning film is not cheap. I used to figure it was about a dollar a shot just to proofs. You couldn’t afford to make a lot of mistakes. If you really want to understand about exposure shoot “Chromes” for 25 years. Even with todays technology photography is not an exact science. Some times you have to break the rules and go with your gut. The best thing I have found with digital is metadata. No more note pads. It is so cool to come home down load to my computer and check metadata. Metadata is also pretty interesting when you are using modern zoom lens to do the walking for you. This camera is pretty smart, that is the exposure that I would have used and that’s a 35mm frame. I guess at the end of the day all that really matters enjoying the photographic process. Shooting commercially for years I just got burned out. Now I only shoot for me, and the only person I have to please is me. I’m enjoying photography more now than ever before. Pictures are everywhere when you are not going for that money shot. I still would like to down size to Leica. I haven’t shot Leica since Vietnam and that was an M3. Keep shooting, I’m revisiting Japan thru your camera.

  16. Dave – where is the shot taken by Herbie?

  17. Nathan – Still being developed at Kodak. #film.

  18. What a great story Tom…I would love to meet a legend like that. Where you shooting in the Army for work or just for your hobby? I would love to see some of your images from then if you have them scanned.

  19. It all started as a hobby. When I joined the Army every base had a Photo Craft shop. Pretty well equipped Photo Labs. They had all the equipment and supplied the chemicals and most had some decent instructors. All you had to pay for was film and paper. When I was stationed in Belgium I went to Photokina 1966 and fell in love with the Rollei SL-66 and had to have one. That is when I was discovered working in a photo lab and ask to join the personal staff of Gen. L.L. Lemnitzer as a photographer. He loved photography and liked to present visiting dignitaries with an album of their visit. At that time the Army was supplying us with Speed Graphics so I had the hot ticket with the SL-66. I had also switched to a Nikon F for travel and slide work. When I went to Vietnam I was assigned to MGen J.F. Hollingsworth another photo nut. Then the Army issued me a Leica Camera kit, M3 with three lenses. I really enjoyed that camera. Just before I left Vietnam I had sent the Leica in for repairs and they issued me a replacement, the new Army Kit camera a Mamiya Super 23 Press. Not a bad camera, but not much good in the bush. Several years later I lost everything in a fire. That’s when I upgraded to Hasselblad and a Nikon F3HP. After I retired from the Army I opened a Studio in Germany and then relocated to Colorado and had a Studio there. In the early nineties I got burned out with photography and put away my film cameras. A couple of years ago after my second retirement I jumped into digital with both feet just taking pictures for ME. I’m having more fun now than ever before however after two years of lugging a big DSLR around I think that I’m about ready to go back to Leica. I really wanted a Leica when I got the DSLR but as you know the availably sucked and I couldn’t find one. The old instant gratification thing hit me and I ended up with Nikon. So that’s my story. BTW I do enjoy your blog. My last trip to Japan was the 1964 Olympics.


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