Back to Film

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM. Ilford HP5, Pushed to 1600.

I wrote a little about this in my last post. After some careful thought I decided to shoot a lot more film this year. Almost exclusively, actually. It isn’t something that is easy to do but, something I feel is necessary.

Iksan, South Korea. 

The first obvious question is why. Well, it isn’t easy to answer this either. It isn’t easy to answer without sounding nostalgic or even ridiculous.

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon LTM 50mm. Ilford HP5, 1600.

So, here goes the ridiculousness. It just looks better. It looks, so much better. To my eye, there is absolutely nothing better than a soft old lens on some pushed well-agitated film.

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM. Ilford HP5, 1600. 

It isn’t something I can explain. There isn’t anything scientific. I love it though. I love the fact that they aren’t perfect. I love the fact that things get dirty and dusty. I love that I can touch the negative or print.

Leica M3, 50mm LTM. Ilford HP5, Pushed to 1600.

I honestly don’t love the process. I don’t love developing. I don’t love that to get the grain I like I have to literally stand around shaking a tank for 16 minutes. I don’t love that I have to buy new film and new chemicals all the time. I don’t love the smell. I hate waiting for the film to dry.

I love the feeling when I first take the roll out of the tank.

Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM. Ilford HP5, 1600. 

There are lots of things I love. I love the cameras. I especially love this one, probably the single best camera ever made. The Leica M3. The original M. My M3 is dented, scratched, and losing its leather. It is from 1961 and works as if it was made yesterday. It is just a lovely, lovely thing.

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM. Ilford HP5, 1600. 
Iksan, South Korea.

Photos themselves are what they are. There is no way to mimic film no matter how hard one tries. My last post was about exactly this. I look at those photos and these simple ones and it is easy for me to decide which I think look better.

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, 50mm LTM. Ilford HP5, Pushed to 1600.

This is subjective, of course. Lots of people will say there is no comparison. For me, there isn’t. There isn’t a comparison to the nostalgic feeling I get from an overexposed 35mm photograph.

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon LTM 50mm. Ilford HP5, Pushed to 1600.

So, while my argument isn’t really one at all, I make no excuses. Film may not be the future of photography. It certainly isn’t such.


It is however, the future of my photography.

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon LTM 50mm. Ilford HP5, Pushed to 1600.


  1. Well done, Josh!

    Some tips:

    Stand development in Rodinal will free up your time, use less chemicals and give nice, sharp, grainy and contrasty results.

    Put your developed reels in a salad spinner and give them a good turn. They’ll dry much faster!

    And listen to good music while scanning. Makes for an immersive experience – but it remains somewhat annoying….

    And keep using film as these cameras reduce your choices and free up your mind!

      1. Heard that some months ago and it works! Just put 2 reels in the spinner even if you only develop one film. With just one reel the whole thing is wobbling like hell

  2. You shouldn’t have to buy chemicals all the time (unlike the digital cameras you reckon you have to keep buying) – maybe that’s just a throw-away line. As Frank suggests 500ml bottle of one-shot Rodinal should be good for 150 films with some to spare if you use semi-stand at 1:100 dilution, agitate for one minute and a second minute half way through. You can scan another film while you wait. As for smell, stop with water and fix with odourless such as Fotospeed and pour it back in the bottle after. Using a cheaper film than HP5 might also save you some money and achieve the same result. By the way, I think you meant to say you are “underexposing” by 2-stops in this case, not “overexposing” 😉

    1. I meant, I like the look of highlights that are blown in film. I know the meaning of pushing, ha, perhaps I could have stated more clearly what I meant. 😉

  3. Seeing you being unable to stick to one camera ( due to them breaking) , I’d say that don’t fight it. Go with the flow. Maybe you are not meant to. For me (an amateur), your photos looks consistent regardless of the equipment. There may be some minor differences but they are few. It’s okay to stick with film as long as you are happy with and can afford it. I’ve not used any so I won’t know.
    But still I like your photos and your blog.
    Thank you 🙂

  4. Hi man. I’ve got to tell you, that you are full of contradictions. I mean what your writing is full of contradictions, not your photography. It is like: ,I think there is nothing for me to go back to film” – I have seen that somewhere in your blog, and a few months later: ,this year I will be doing more film photography” :), or the idea of shooting with Epson camera only. I instantly knew you not gonna make it. In fact I was gonna write you about this… I thought back than that you should get a larger sensor for bigger prints, for exhibition. What you do is pretty close to how I see photography. You are a bit like a compass for me. So, I was thinking about getting xpro1 and a 23mm f2 lens, I mean I was prepared to get xe2 with the sensor of xpro1 and later I have seen that you are using xpro2 plus 23mm lens. In fact, thanks to your pictures I am not getting fujifilm xpro now. Not that I did not like your pictures from this camera, but these pictures were like an inch from what you are, and that’s enough. The same is with film cameras, digital photography is getting closer, some pictures looks close to as from 35mm film, but still that one inch, that little bit of salt makes a lot of difference. Anyways I am in love with South Korea, as I see something from my childhood there. So one day, who knows…

    1. You are certainly right about me being a hypocrite. To be honest though, I never set out to contradict myself. I always believe what I am saying at first and really do try to follow what I say. The problem is that I just am not strong enough to really follow though with anything. It sucks, but it is what it is. I’m glad to hear you like Korea. Let me know if you’re ever in the area!

      1. Nothing wrong with contradicting oneself, it’s not hypocritical at all, in fact it wouldn’t make us human. In fact I find too much consistency and fundamentalism of process to be more of a fault, contradictions make us interesting and our constant battle to resolve them. Settling on a process is like..well…settling…so changing and searching – it keeps your images interesting, finding fresh ways of seeing.
        You get results, and complete a lot of excellent work. The fact you may not be satisfied sometimes is a an excellent trait as well. Dig the shots…at least you are having a go with film, I gave up years ago, and only made half hearted attempts to return to it. All the best.

  5. Josh, slow down man. What you don’t want to hear from us is that it does not matter what you use to get there, analog, digital, whatever, the final result of your photography is always the same: the Josh signature look. What matters is what you shoot, how you frame it, your contrast choices. We see an image and instantly say: that’s a Josh. Your images speak about you and about Korea.
    So stop anguishing and keep shooting Josh, with whatever you have at hand and makes you want to shoot that day/week/month/year. We’re all waiting for your next post and set.

  6. This blog is so worth reading not only due to the texts and photos by Josh – also the replies have often a similar quality and are a valuable extension of the blog itself; e.g. like the last comments here with the thoughts about contradictions, changing and searching.

  7. I think it’s fine to contradict yourself. It’s what artistic freedom is about, the ability to be able to experiment to see what “works” for you. There’s enough conforming in life without extending it into your hobby.

  8. Hi Josh,
    Exactly as Speckled Speculations said, it is not about hypocrisy. I am here quite often because you think and let us feel your photography. Keep posting, as it is valuable niche photography, and not only photography content.
    I don’t think it is gonna happen any time soon, but if I will be in your area… If I would be in your area, I would definitely let you know. Cheers. Rob.

  9. Hey Josh, I’ve been thinking about developing my own B+W at home, but one thing has been worrying me; the scanning. What type of scanner do you use for your negatives? Also, is the scanning process similar to editing a digital photo? One of the main reasons I want to shoot more film is because I hate how many choices I have when it comes to editing a digital photo.

    1. Hi! I’m using a Nikon LS40 to scan my photos. I quite like it. I don’t edit them really, I just set up the scans to sorta be how I like so I don’t have to worry much about it later! Also, depends on how you develop the film.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s