Final thoughts about Analog vs Digital

Hello there!

Long time no see! It has been a long time since I wrote a blog post. Many things have been happening and I haven't created the time to write anything. I don't really know where to begin although I have a specific topic to talk about. Recently a member of the Film Shooters Collective asked how other members motivate themselves to keep shooting film. He had recently bought a Sony A7II and was very happy with it. He was a bit worried that we wouldn't shoot as much film as he used too. So I responded after several others who commented:

"..well it's a good question as Philip said. My mind has gone somewhat crazy thinking about this. I wrote a blog post about this.. not sure it might help, but the main thing is we all love to photograph. How we do it is less important than why we do it. What I found is that, for me, there isn't any ONE way to do it.. from time to time I will shift from analog to digital.. but once I go back to digital I miss analog.. 90% of the time I still shoot film but once in a while it's also nice to shoot some megapixels just to get it out of your system. You can read some of my short thoughts about it.. my blog is a bit of a mess but start here and then continue to newer posts."

Several days after this I had a discussion with my girlfriend about buying a Sony A7 for "scanning" my negatives. She has always been questioning my priorities within photography. Not in a bad way but with the best of interest for me and my photography. From time to time I get a bit depressed and tell her I spend too much money on gear and too little on photographic trips, workshops and developing my photographic expression or  speech.  She tries do guide me into spending the money on developing my photography and not  on photographic gear. She often looks up workshops and other activities and tries to make me realise that gear is not what I need. She is great! :)

Ricoh GR1,  Tri-x.

Ricoh GR1,  Tri-x.

© 2015 Photography by Joel Foo

Anyway we were talking today about what my priorities are or in what way a Sony A7 would make me a better photographer. I told her that it wouldn't, it's just another tool for my photography. It's something I need because my Pakon is failing me and my Epson V750 is crappy at scanning 35mm negatives. Then I tried to motivate my intentions and told her that I also could use the A7 as a camera and not just for scanning. I don't really remember how the discussion went on from here, but I came to realise something important.

It seems so obvious, but it took too long for me too realise it. Photography for me is not just one thing, it has two separate individual aspects! Photography, for me, is about capturing a moment in time to remember or tell a story, or capture/share something beautiful. It is an expression of my senses. But photography for me is also the experience shooting and processing the photo.  I have actually already said all of this in previous  posts but I hadn't really experienced the final step in my mind until now. 

Fujifilm X100

Fujifilm X100

© 2015 Photography by Joel Foo

As I said in an older post digital is great for learning not only the basics of photography but observing how I take photos and why. Analysing my photos helps me understand and develop my skills easier and faster. The main goal here is to develop my photographic sense and expression. Whereas shooting on film is all about the experience shooting and processing the photo. It is everything from metering the light, setting up you exposure, pressing the shutter release, developing the film, developing the negatives and finally doing a print. The digital and analog aspects of my photography are two separate things. Most of the time my photography has been focusing on the analog experience and less on the development of my photographic sense or speech. (can't find the exact words to describe it).  

At the end of the day it is as I told my film shooting friend on The Film Shooters Collective, "How we do it is less important than why we do it." Meaning we all love to photograph, that is the reason we do it. Wether it is analog or digital is not important for the image itself. I am only talking about the content that is being photographed and not the aesthetics of it.  Digital and analog are two ways of expressing the same world. Almost like telling the same story in two different languages or telling a story by writing a book vs. making a movie. Digital and analog will have their place within my photography at least at the stage of photography I am at now. I hope to develop my photographic expression with digital and develop my analog photography skills so that one day they will meet and exist  as one.  


Thanks for reading!

More color!

Hello again!

Well as I told you last time I've been shooting some Kodak Portra during this summer. After shooting my first roll of color film in the forest with my friends I went out with my girlfriend to take some more color shots. The Images below are shot on Portra 160. I really like the colours for this type of photos.

© 2014 Photography by Joel Foo

In July Jesper and me took the train to Västerås, Sweden. Just about an hour from Stockholm. Every year there is a big event held there. Power Big Meet is the biggest american car show in the world actually. Over 20.000 cars. Street Rods, Customs, 50's cruisers, 60's muscle cars, Corvettes, Mustangs and Camaros. It's all held outdoors on a huge airport field. People come from all over the world and show off their cars or but one. There is also a huge market selling all kind of stuff. It was really a hot day. Around 30-40 degrees Celsius. The only shade that could be found was the one created by their cars. These photos where shot on Portra 400. 

© 2014 Photography by Joel Foo

For those who don't know, I've been shooting BW exclusively for more than 3 years. After shooting in color at Power Big Meet I really enjoyed shooting and seeing the results. When I started doing photography I often converted my digital images to BW. I liked the BW look, but I also realised that my images became a bit less cluttered or busy in BW. In other words trying to compensate for my badly composed and/or lit photos. I'm not saying I'm a whole lot better now, but at least I feel aware of it and try to use it as best I can.

Color really adds at least two different dimensions to the photo. The first one being simply color, soft and subtle midrange colours like beige or green, or deep and saturated strong ones like red and blue. The second dimension is everything color creates. Atmosphere, warmth, cold, color combinations and different compositional alternatives where color is the main or complementary key. Shooting in color is very different from what I'm used to. Shooting in BW is all about light vs dark i.e. contrast. To make something interesting in BW you have to have a good relation and composition between light and dark. Whereas color gives the eye something additional to focus on. With the little experience in shooting in color I have I found myself shooting like I would with BW but trying to see and considering the colours. The light and dark ratio is in my opinion a tiny bit less important in color photography than BW. Since the color in combination or alone acts as contrast or light and dark itself. Nevertheless photographs are always created by light and therefore it is inevitable so consider the light and dark ratio. 

Further on in August me and my girlfriend traveled to Prague, Czech Republic. This is where I had a change of mind. Color film in contrary to a digital color image (RAW) is always balanced to a specific color temperature. This means, as you probably already know, taking a photograph indoors with artificial lights captured with daylight balanced film will give you a yellow or blue/green tint. Not only does the whole color palette change but so does the mood with it. Since our eyes and/or mind corrects these color changes automatically seeing them uncorrected as captured on film, or digital sensor for that matter, tells or our mind that the mood or colours aren't right. There is something "wrong".

© 2014 Photography by Joel Foo

These photos explain what I talked about above. Artificial lighting that isn't daylight balanced to around 5500K will give your daylight balanced film different color tints. The photos above are shot with the same film as I used in Power Big Meet, yet it creates a very different mood and color. The colours effect the way we perceive the photo. Of course the whole lighting situation is different indoors or outside at night but then again, colours do effect the photo. Probably as much as lighting does.

There are of course ways do correct this with tungsen balanced film of color correction filters but to me it seems just to be too much of a hassle. Note that I haven't tried color correction filters so I can't say this for sure. Maybe I'll try it one day or ask my color shooting friends to try it.

During the day the color temperature also changes but also depending on what the weather is like. The colours captured on film vary a lot depending on these factors since color film is always balanced to a specific color temerature. Here are some photos with the same film, Portra 400 but in different weather conditions and time of the day or in combination. Not the best examples but they are just a visual demonstration of my thoughts.

© 2014 Photography by Joel Foo

With BW film I can almost completely ignore the different color temperatures outdoors during the day and indoors at any time. I only have to concentrate on lighting and contrast. I like to shoot Indoors and in subways or on subway stations.  Been given the characteristics of color film, the variation in color really bugs me. Also I've lately found color too pretty, cute or "perfect". Almost like a fake reality. This is my personal opinion. Color is very complex. There is so much that has to be there in order to get the right mood or feeling.

I've been looking into other color films such as Fujifilm's PRO-series. The images I've seen on flickr and from my friends seem a bit cooler, as in colder, which I like. I've also looked into the less expensive films such as their Superia and AgfaColor's Vista. Personally I really like the results I've seen on flickr. I still have a roll of Vista in my Leica so I don't have any of my own photos to show you. But check out Yeow on flickr! He does some amazing stuff with Vista 200. I'll give it to you, yes, they are all shot in daylight, but still :P This is something I really like. Many of the known film photographers I admire shot on color film that doesn't exist any more. This is really sad but there is still hope for film. Just look at Cinestill and Ferraria! It's great that people can create new film in a digital age. 

After my vacation I started to shoot BW again. To my great surprise I just couldn't stop seeing in color! I was walking around town with my camera and all I could see was color images, combinations and compositions. This was a weird feeling and somewhat disturbing. But within time I started seeing in BW again. As always I'm a bit confused, but at least I've ventured into the realms of color film. Honestly I can say that I like color film but not as much as BW and certainly not all color film. My own preference is BW at least for the mood and type of photography I'm currently doing. I guess shooting color is just another way of playing the piano. 

Until next time.. Keep shooting!

First roll of color film


It's been a while, as usual. Just wanted to share some photos from this June I took when Philip, Jesper and me went hiking for two days just a few miles outside Stockholm. It actually was Jesper's idea just to get out of town and walk through the woods. So we rented a car and headed out. I normally don't shoot nature och landscape photography but I thought, what the heck. I love being outdoors so I figured maybe I'll actually shoot a roll of color film. I shot a roll of Portra 400 just because it's one of the most common films. 

© 2014 Photography by Joel Foo

I left my only color film roll at "Team Framkallning" where Veikko works. He processes most of Philip's and Jesper's color film and I have heard so much good stuff about him. He owns a small labb and darkroom where he processes color and b&w film. Since it's a small company he gives personal and good service. I got to know him during the summer when I shoot more color film. If I continue shooting color film I'll definitely leave my rolls with him.

So what was my first reactions to color film? Well, being an only b&w shooter until now I must say I really like it. The colors on film are so much more alive that what I'm used to on digital format and LR. I have tried to emulate the color film look but you just can't beat film. Also scanning color film is a pain compared to my easy breez-y b&w scanning but I think I got the colors right.

I also shot som Tri-x and Acros. Comparing the color shots with the b&w is like comparing apples and pears. They are simply two separate ways of capturing light. I do like both but I must admit I like color film more for this purpose more. It gives the photo so much more quality and dimension. All photos are shot with the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II and with either 50/4.5 or 110/2.8. 

© 2014 Photography by Joel Foo

I'll do another post soon about my summer shootning Portra 400 soon. Thanks for reading!




The past 4 months..

Hi everyone!

It's been too long since I wrote anything. Doing too many things at the same time, too little time and a pinch of laziness. Anyway..

So after Dubai and my rebirth or reincarnation I started experimenting with some of the thoughts and ideas that awoke. I wanted to eliminate all the technical aspects of my photography and just explore my creativity. I took out my Holga120N and a couple of other compact cameras and loaded the with film. I also acquired a Holga BC 135+flash and another Holga 120 with built-in flash. 

High in spirits and I went out and ventured the exciting and unknown. In the beginning it was a bit fiddly with the new gear, but it grew on me. Actually its just point and shoot.. well more or less. The great thing with the Holgas are that they creates a rather unique aesthetic to the photographs besides vignetting and light leaks. Using flash is something I haven't been doing within street photography. Mostly because I didn't have the guts to use it. But with the boost of confidence from my workshops in Dubai I was willing to give it a try. Here are some of the shots taken with my compact cameras. The cameras I used was the Holga 120N, Holga 120CFN, Holga 135 BC with Holga flash, Ricoh GR1/v and the Miolta Hi-matic GF, shot on Tri-x, Hp5+ and T-max.

As I wrote on previous blog post one important thing I learned from the workshops was that as a photographer you choose what to show and not show. This gives you great power in creating your own story. If you show too much you might reveal the whole story and the photograph might not be too interesting. But if you leave some of the more revealing bits out and just focus on the details or the abstract feeling the photograph may seem much more interesting and open to different interpretations.

Another thing I wanted to experiment with was hands and gestures. People express them selfs by facial expressions and body language apart from verbal expression. I find hands interesting. Maybe it's because we use them in so many ways that they have their own character. Soft hands, hard working hands, women's hands, dirty hands.. I know. It's a bit weird or even a bit of a fetish, but it's interesting to me.

All the above photographs are also black and white. Although my eyes opened to color in Dubai I still wanted to do this type of photography in black and white. The aesthetics and dramatic contrast worked best in this case. 

Shooting with point-and-shoot cameras or equivalent really freed me from some of the things that sometimes distracts me while shooting. I don't have to think so much about exposure or focusing correct. I had a little light weighted camera that didn't weigh me down, no distracting technical stuff to think about. I just felt a sense of freedom and very open minded as if I could do anything I wanted without getting judged on technicalities or what's correct or not. 

Next post will be about me venturing to the world of color and maybe some more reflections about my photography and what has been going on in my head. Thanks for reading and please comment and give any kind of feedback. 

Keep calm and keep shooting!

GPP 2014, Part 3

On the first half day of Sara Lando's workshop we went through some theory. She explained how she works and thinks around a shoot. After lunch we hopped onto a mini bus and drove to her friends house for an on location shoot with two models. It was interesting to see how she interacted, directed and tried to built up an emotion and mood in the shot. She always told us that she did things messy, but at the end she got the shot. Not that she didn't know what she was doing but she was exploring what was in front of her. Trying to figure out what worked and what didn't. Also, getting to know the model and observing the reactions given.

The second day we were the ones doing all the work. We were randomly paired and got to spend the whole day with our partner. Two tasks were given. First one was to do a portrait of our partner and the second was to shoot a model for 30 minutes. For the shoot with the model we had to interpret a random word given to us by miss Lando. This shoot was a one shoot per attendee while the partner assisted. 

I didn't want to shoot a typical portrait with fancy lighting. Sara told us "This is a workshop! If you do it the way you normally would approach a portrait then you can stay at home. This is the time to explore other ways, screw up, do things you don't normally do!" So I got to know my partner a bit more. A middle aged motherly woman who liked to travel and explore new worlds. We went out in the hot sun just by the main road, near the hotel. I wanted to take a shot of her with all the movement and traffic in the background, waving and calling for a taxi. I took some shots that were ok, but they didn't seem right. Then a delivery guy stopped just nearby with his motorcycle. So she suggested standing beside it posing. It reminded me of my grandmother posing by various objects on her many trips around the world. Maybe it's an asian thing :P 

For my model shoot I got the word "Ethereal". I opened the folded paper on where it was written, made a funny face and thought to my self "oh crap, I don't even know what it means. I'm screwed!" I turned to Sara and was honest about it. She tried to explain the word but in the end I had to google it. With the googled index of images and the explanation I received from the friendly attendees I got the meaning.

I wanted a mysterious and little abstract photo, something spirit-like. So I really pushed myself here. I even tried a lighting technique I never tried before, slow sync with studio flashes. Also there was the time limit of 30 minutes. This was one of the few times I had a very clear idea of the image I wanted to get. I almost never do this since I'm used to the unknowingly street photography. Anyway these are my two favourite images from the 30 minutes shooting.

5 things I learned from Sara Lando:

  1. Don't be afraid to do something you're uncomfortable doing.
  2. Shoot or do something creative with every month. This will help you stay mentally alert, happy and not get bored/lazy throughout the year.
  3. Everybody sucks at photography at some point. Just keep it simple and keep doing what you love not what others think of you.
  4. If you are trying to find inspiration or creativity for a shoot, try thinking about every single word that is somehow connected to the emotion you're going for.
  5. Freak out! Let go of everything you know and let your heart speak. It's fun!

The next two days I spent with Eric Kim trying to conquer my fear of shooting people on the streets. It's a weird feeling when you meet some one you've only seen on youtube. I don't want to bore you with all the details, but we did some social experiments within the group just to loosen the tension a bit. It was fun :P So the first half day we had some theory about street photography and how some of the most known photographs were captured. The take away point for me here was to shoot more! Normally I shoot one or two photos of the same subject. Eric's point was to shoot more and work the scene. He explained that most of the iconic photographs within street photography didn't just appear. The photographer often shot about 12-36 shots of the same subject. He showed some of the contact sheets and explaining the process of the final image. I already knew this, but it was something in the very hands on way he demonstrated it that got to me.

The rest of the day we spent around the markets in old Dubai. We were challenged to take portraits of people on the street. The goal was to get at least five "yes:s" and five "no:s". That meant five people who let us take their portrait, and five people who didn't. The lesson learned was that it was a lot easier to get a "yes" than a "no" and people don't really react the way you think they would. I was challenged to do many things I normally wouldn't do on my own. For example I was asked to step into a small barber shop and take some photographs. Quite awkward but very exciting.

Day two was all about composition. We were out for 3 hours shooting. It was very interesting to see how other people shot on the streets. The approach, style and movements were very educational. Sometimes I didn't like the way Eric pushed me in to shooting stuff I didn't see or feel, but I take it as a way to explore things I'd never do otherwise. I get his message and for that I thank him a million times. I had a hard time shooting day two. Nothing seemed to work or feel right. Here are two shots that at least together made sense.

5 things I learned from Eric Kim:

1. Don't stop at one frame, keep shooting till you have the shot.

2. The shot doesn't always appear from nowhere. Try to work the scene, follow someone interesting until the decisive moment appears, look around you and be aware of your surroundings.

3. Don't be afraid. Shoot then think. If you hesitate, then the moment is gone.

4. Try shooting in color!

5. Pay attention to details. Less is more. The viewer only sees whats in the frame. Use this to make your photos more interesting (this was one of the most valuable lessons to me)

The week in Dubai was very intense. It was only when I waited about 10 hours for my flight in Istanbul, that I realised what actually happened. All the things I did and learned had sunk in. At the same time I was reading a magazine called "Black&White Photography". I was reading about different photographers, trying to find their way within their style. They all shot differently but yet they produced such amazing photographs with such soulfulness. One guy shot with a 35mm SLR with a waist-level-viewfinder. He only shot at 1/1000s and at f1,8, and always trying to put one of Londons many landmarks in the background. This made me think about Sara Lando's class. Doing something different, but simple. 

I suddenly had a feeling of awareness. It was as if I had been reborn. Suddenly I wanted to rethink and redo everything I had done up until now. My interpretation became more important than the viewers opinions. I have always had a need to please others before myself. Trying to fit in and to be accepted. Sara Lando had thought me to let go of all the rules and find my inner creative self. Eric thought me to be more confident and keep shooting! So combining these two made sense.

So I'm going through a phase right now. A change or transformation if you want. It might not show in my photography but inside of me there's a lot going on. In mind and in heart. This year is about exploring and keeping it simple. I hope to show you some of the progress and write about my thoughts going through my mind in the future.

Thanks for reading!


GPP 2014, Part 2

I've been struggling with confidence on the streets for sometime now, although it has got a lot better. I often miss shots I'd like to take. Either I'm to slow or thinking about the shot for too long. So I decided to go for one of Eric Kim's workshops about how to conquer your fear on the streets. I've been following Eric for quite some time. From his video about hip-shooting with his 5D to his very confident street photography today. He seemed like a very outgoing and positive guy, who might rubb off some of that onto me. I also wanted to go for one of Zack Arias' classes but couldn't get the time schedule to work. He has this very cool but humble thing about him, which makes street shooting look effortless and fun. Maybe next time, Zack!

Eric Kim

Eric Kim

Second I wanted to work on my portraiture, learn how to direct/interact with the subject and extract my emotions from it. I looked through the instructors and found Sara Lando. I didn't know much about her then so I googled her and found some very promising and creative stuff.

Sara Lando.

Sara Lando.

I arrived in Dubai two days before my workshops began so I had some time to go around the city. The first two days where a pain, for several reasons. This was my first time traveling alone, and being on my own. Dubai is not your regular city.. My expectations of Dubai changed the first hours from this cool big city with lots of people and stuff to do, to a big and empty city.

There are many photos of Dubai. To me this is one of those which gives me the same feeling as when I was there. 

There are many photos of Dubai. To me this is one of those which gives me the same feeling as when I was there. 

Dubai is not a city for people who are used to a walking city, that means the main city area is within walking distance. You need to take a taxi, bus or the metro to go anywhere. The metro system isn't as developed as in Europe, where you can ride it to town, get off and the whole city is within walking distance. After you get off a metro station in Dubai you need to take a buss or walk about 20-30 minutes to get anywhere. Even after getting out of the station the intuitive direction to start walking in wasn't very good. I've been to big cities before and there is always some sort of sign or sense of direction when you get out of the metro.

This is totally my opinion and experience of Dubai. Dubai is a very extraordinary city with its unique qualities, but at the time I didn't like it too much. The first two days were a very emotional ride for me and this effected the whole experience. I just felt lonely, empty and lost. "What am I doing in Dubai..?" I missed the security and feeling of home. But then in the evening of my first day I attended a free class at the GPP. David Alan Harvey had a talk about some of his experience shooting for over 40 years with National Geographic. Finally, I was at peace! Everything made sense! "This is why I am in Dubai, and I love it!"


To be continued..