make your moment & hassleblad friday, roll #20: the sonoma edition (& the difference between film & digital)

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This past summer, when we were spending time with my friend Mark, I pulled out my Hasselblad to take a few shots.

"So that's the camera, is it?" he said.  I smiled.

"Yup."

"Okay, so I have a question:  why is this such a big deal?  Like, is your Hasselblad that much better than your Nikon?  And is film that much better than digital?"

"Well, no, not better ... different," I responded.  And then I realized that describing the difference was more difficult than I expected.

I mean, there are certainly some personal, technical reasons that I love using the Hasselblad:  using a film camera that has no electronics whatsoever requires that I get really comfortable shooting manually.  The fact that film is relatively expensive means that I have to be way more mindful with how I shoot, since I can't waste any shots (unlike digital, where I can shoot dozens of frames in succession, and simply delete the ones I don't like).  Because the Hasselblad shoots in square format (that is, where the resulting images are square), as opposed to the rectangular format of my Nikon, means that I have to learn to frame and compose the shot in a different way. 

I love shooting with the Hasselblad because it requires me to exercise some photography muscles that I don't use often enough.

But then I went on to describe how film tends to feel different from digital -- and actually, said the same thing to Aimee when I was in California.  "Film has a dreamy quality to it," I said.  "For shots where I'm trying to capture exactly what a scene looks like -- when I'm in Africa with ONE, say, and I want the images to be as factually accurate as possible -- I like the Nikon.  But when I'm trying to capture what a place feels like -- like, for example, when I'm standing in the Sonoma countryside during the golden hour -- I think the Hasselblad does a better job.  Film is just misty and nostalgic.  It's all about emotion."

Sounds plausible, right?  Except as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I wondered if I was talking out of the side of my neck.  Could I just be imagining the difference?

As it happened, I had my Hasselblad with me in California, and since I had the vineyards of the gorgeous La Crema winery as a backdrop and it was, in fact, the golden hour, it seemed like a great opportunity to test this theory.  (Besides, I wanted to practice shooting into the sun, something "They" always tell you you should never do. I'm a rebel, I am.)  I took a series of shots with my Nikon, and then took the same shots, with the same camera settings, with the Hasselblad.  Once the film photos were scanned, I processed the shots  in almost an identical manner to the digital ones.  In theory, the only differences should be:

      • the NIkon shots are rectangular, and the Hasselblad shots are square; and

      • the Nikon shots were taken with a 50mm lens, and the Hasselblad shots were taken with an 80mm lens -- so the Hasselblad shots will look like I zoomed in a bit closer.

      The following are the results (film photos appear directly below their digital counterparts):

      digital #1

      digital #1

      film #1

      film #1


      digital #2

      digital #2

      film #2

      film #2


      digital #3

      digital #3

      film #3

      film #3


      digital #4

      digital #4

      film #4

      film #4


      digital #5

      digital #5

      film #5

      film #5

      So ... what do you think?   Do the film shots feel different from the digital shots?  If they do, how would you describe the difference?  If you sense a difference in mood, which mood do you prefer?

      And if you're a photographer who likes to shoot film, why? Do you have certain instances where you prefer to shoot with digital, and others where it's film all the way?

      (Incidentally, I'm totally open to being told I'm wrong, there's no difference; or, in the alternative, that there is a difference, but it's not the one that I think.)

      Let me know your thoughts below, friends.  And with that, as always, have a great weekend.

      SongDon't let me down by Solange.  Thanks to my friend Josh Cagan for turning me on to this one -- such a great, golden hour vibe.


      This post and my trip to Sonoma are kindly sponsored by the awesome folks at La Crema Wines, as part of their new Make Your Moment campaign.  La Crema celebrates the deliberate decision to create something fantastic, and invites everyone everywhere to create meaningful moments each day (something that I'm obviously very fond of doing).  Over the next few months, I'll be sharing some of my favourite ways to inject awesome, joy-filled moments to your life, so I hope you'll read along.