on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Not So Trigger Happy

The Olympus OM-10

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It's been a few months since we sent the prize to David Langan, although with the task of having his first pictures put on show and the dubious honour of being forced to write about it, it may not have been quite the 'prize' he was thinking of. Here's David's report from his first roll of film.

It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I received the Olympus OM-10 from Tim through the post. Save for putting a roll of film through an old EOS Elan I have been exclusively a digital shooter so far. I knew I would be able to make pictures with the camera but never having used a film camera seriously coupled with having my efforts broadcast to the landscape photography community had me feeling decidedly nervous!

What if I couldn’t expose properly? What if they were all out of focus? What if I mucked it up completely? With all these questions running through my head I took the tiny little camera along with me on one of my regular visits to Grandhome Moss for my ongoing project. The camera was dwarfed by my EOS 5D2 and looked positively silly sat atop a tripod but I quickly got to know the camera (or so I thought!!) and began making pictures.

I had taken the camera with me on numerous outings to Grandhome Moss and on a trip to autumnal Perthshire. It had been a good few months since I had taken delivery of the camera and thought I must be getting close to using up the 36 exposures. A quick check of the counter dial had me sweating ever so slightly. It was on “E”. Hhhhmmm, that doesn’t seem right at all.

When I got back home I went into a cupboard and opened up the back of the camera in the dark. I wound the film on making sure it was feeding right. All seemed fine. Relief! Although I had no idea how many photographs were exposed? It then occurred to me that I should have been taking notes on each photo as I at least would have an idea. D’oh!

I am a reluctant photographer. Reluctant in that I do not commit many photographs to pixels/emulsion. In fact on a trip out with LF photographer Dav Thomas last year he joked that our roles were reversed as he was the one who was making many photos with his view camera whilst my 5D2 stayed mostly in the bag. How long was it going to be until I came to the end of this roll of film? Now into February it had been 5 or so months since I received the camera and began to feel the pressure to get the article written.

I got right into the swing of things getting the OM-10 out on nearly every outing. But I had no idea if any of the result were useable, no idea if the camera under or over exposed as there was not that safety net of instant playback and histograms etc.

Now the end of February I still had not got to the end of the roll and decided just to get the film out and get it developed to see what was happening. When I got the negatives back I was relieved to see that I had made useable photographs.

However, the last half the roll was not exposed. GGGRRRRR. It looks like I did not start the film off properly and only corrected what ever error had occurred when I opened the back up in the cupboard. A lot of pretty decent photos gone forever! At least mishap gave me something to write about rather than exposing the 36 frames correctly first time! (Keep telling yourself that!).

The camera itself is fun to use and the operation simple and intuitive. I will definitely keep the camera loaded with film and take it out with me and use it in the same way I use the Hipstamatic app on the Iphone; provide a bit of light relief from serious picture making. But taking so long to expose 36 photos sits uneasy with me. I like instant results. Or at least not having to wait months to see the results!

As I still very much want to make photographs on film perhaps it all lends itself to the inevitability of going large format one day (have been thinking about it ever since I saw some David Ward transparencies in Glencoe in January 2009 and then interest further piqued seeing Richard Childs develop his own stuff in Harris a few years back). At least then I will see the results a bit faster!

Response to the scans

I have now had a chance to peruse the scans (courtesy of Tim) and I am pleased with the results. Considering the cost of the camera and a lens is cheaper than the cheapest of DSLR lenses it is all the more impressive. And the 12 MB jpeg file from the scan is more than large enough for any printing I would ever consider doing.

I used a roll of Portra 400 for this article so you would expect the results to be grainy, and they are but still very useable images.

Now I can see what is capable from such a cheap set up it puts into context this tech race which inevitably means buying more equipment that you probably don’t need at steep prices. And for what? Are these cameras, laden with options like Active D-Lighting, in camera HDR, Auto Lighting Optimizer etc), actually helping make better pictures? Probably not. Are users of these cameras using the equipment to its maximum potential? Probably not. Are users of these cameras utilizing all those pixels printing huge pieces of work? Probably not.

So before you go and spend perhaps thousands of pounds upgrading your camera you might consider keeping what you have and invest in a cheap film system. You can get a quality camera with quality glass and have more than enough money to buy all the film you would ever need and still have £££s left over. You will be surprised with how good the results are and your images will have something that, currently, your DSLR can’t offer, that lovely filmic quality.

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