From Digital Junkie to a Film Freak

M by Rivo Sarapik

I started capturing life as a digital junkie couple of years ago. It was around the time when those cheaper digital SLRs were starting to enter the market and I became a proud owner of Nikon DSLR.

Sure, the fuzz about film and it`s wider dynamic range and better details had reached me but it hadn`t got my attention more than a couple of times when watching someone else’s photos. It`s not enough to say I was little envy but I didn`t do anything because I thought film was going to die anyway, so why bother.

But when I saw an ad of a second hand Mamiya 645 on sale something happened inside. I hadn`t even dreamed about medium format before that day, now I kind of knew I wanted it. Bad.

I met the previous owner, who told that this was his romance and big love (he was deas serious telling me that) and met my Mamy for the first time. The first glance at it wasn`t promising – it looked big, rather ugly than pretty and its weight around a ton (when using the wide-angle lens, it adds another). I think my hands were shaking when reaching for it for the first time. Not because of the weight but proud and excitement.

I asked a friend of mine to clear her night and be a testing model for me to give Mamy a try. Knowing nothing about loading the camera, knowing even less about films – I tried loading the thing at home. I knew there was a light meter in the viewfinder but I wasn`t used to using it. So I measured light with my Nikon D200 and shot for a while.

16 frames later I was afraid that I had broken it because it refused to wind. It took little panic, some Google and the manual to find out it`s just the end of the roll, not the world.

I had to keep the exposed roll for around 24 hours to get it processed and scanned. Being a digital junkie I was about to experience something completely new – to carry a film with you all day and counting seconds to get out of the office. It was about the same around 15 years ago when we were waiting for Santa at Christmas with my brother.

I wish I had seen my face when I first received the prints. All the light I had for the set was just a regular bulb you use for reading etc. When pointed for example at someones face digital can produce rather good results for the light area. When it comes to shade, it doesn`t see…em… not too well. So I pushed the film and the camera to the limits.

Anyway, there I was, standing in the middle of the photo store, browsing through the first couple of shots in my hand and talking more to myself than to my friends next to me – oh my god, there`s detail even in the shade, the sharpness is absolutely amazing.

The second time I wish I saw my face was when I received the first positive film (actually I didn`t have any intentions to shoot slide but I didn`t know anything about films, so I did it accidentally). I don`t think there are a lot of people who take their slides out of the envelope in the store, stare at them in front of the window, ask for a loupe and just say “wow”. 10 minutes in a row.

It has been almost five months now since I purchased my Mamy but the feeling is the same every time I go out for shooting or receive some samples of a new film I have just tested. It`s still heavy and big and a head-ache (and a back- and neck-ache) to carry, I need a tripod to keep it steady and I get reactions “What on earth is that?!!” but it has never felt better to find something to frame and capturing it. And herby I say greetings to my D200 which has had quite a lot of rest recently.