Why Film?

If we go back to 2002 a close photographic friend convinced me (against my better judgement) that film was a thing of the past, and that to hold my own in the professional photographic world I had to go digital. Eventual I succumbed to his argument and traded in my Leica film cameras (I had 4) and started on the dizzy road to digital photography.

In those days some fourteen years ago I thought it would be just like changing film brands: OK it may take a bit of getting used to a different colour balance but otherwise no problem at all. How wrong I was, and as I was shooting three weddings some weeks back then I had little time to learn. I reassured myself that I would be saving myself a fortune on processing even though my first 1gB card cost a staggering £240. Again how wrong I was because as cameras improved and software got better, I spent as much if not more.

The big plus point of the digital world is, of course, that my work gets viewed by thousands of people every week, and is available for purchase worldwide. You of course would not be viewing this blog if it were not for the digital world, and I would not be writing it sat in my favourite café drinking coffee.

I am now very happily, and finally, back shooting 100% Leica now that I am semi-retired and shooting stock and self-motivated projects, so that makes me more comfortable, if somewhat less well off! So why have I now also gone back to shooting some of my images with film – a retrograde step some would argue?

WARNING – this is where you have to get in the mind of a photographer who started shooting black and white street photography some 50+ years ago. I am going to talk about pre-visualisation. Pre-visualisation is where you look as a scene and know how it will look as a finished image. At the age of about 16 a dear school friend who I shared a darkroom with said “I hate you, you have the ability to see in black and white” and I realised he was absolutely right. I had that ability to pre-visualise any scene as a black and white image and shoot accordingly. I don’t know where it comes from, maybe looking at too many copies of ‘Life’ magazine as a child, but it was there. If i shot an image I knew how it would look as a black and white print, as simple as that!

Since shooting digital I have never been happy shooting street and after not doing it for a few years I realised it was because the next time I saw the image I had pre-visualised as black and white it was back in colour again, and I had to pre-visualise it all over again. And it just didn’t work!

The only answer for me was to buy a film Leica (in my case an M7) and start shooting black and white film again. But what about the processing etc. which I really didn’t want to get into under any circumstances? The answer was amazing simple – I would start shooting Fuji Neopan 400CN film which is conventional C41 colour process (so it can be processed anywhere in the world in a High Street lab) and yet it yields a monochrome negative which is virtually grain free and easy to scan. My prayers were answered, and I am back really enjoying my street photography type of work again. You can take look here https://spark.adobe.com/page/BO8By/, and I hope that speaks for itself.

If you have any questions about my work please feel free to contact me.

About Gerry Walden

I am a stock photographer with far more years of experience than I would care to mention. Located in Southampton (UK) I am sandwiched between two national parks and my home town is a major seaport. I shoot mostly people related images, and travel when I can. I am resident photographer at a major concert venue in the town which means I get to shoot a variety of musicians.
This entry was posted in 35mm Summarit, Black and White, Film, Leica, Leica, Leica M7, M7, Monochrome, photography, Street and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why Film?

  1. Dan Khong says:

    Hi Gerry
    I can relate to your recent post on Film photography. I am also a Leica M user except that when people were parroting, “Film is dead,” I decided to keep my M cameras. I am still using Kodak Tri-X film once in a while and develop and print them with my Kaiser 6×6 MG enlarger. Must admit that 90% of my colour pictures are now taken with digital, but the film part is so nostalgic that it has become a part of me.
    I can fully relate to your notion of “pre-visualization”. When I view a subject and even before I press the shutter, I can already see how the print will turn out in my developing and fixing trays.
    Thank you for starting this about film photography. There are not many like us left who have not gone fully into the “dark side”.
    My best
    Dan Khong

    • Gerry Walden says:


      many thanks for your comments on my blog post, and I am pleased you till enjoy traditional film photography from time to time. I used to do all my own b&w darkroom work, although I will readily confess I never enjoyed it, but my exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society and in America, Italy and France were all printed by me. I am pleased to say that I am now printing my film images digitally form a ‘light room’ and can happily sit watching squirrels play in the garden whilst the printer churns out another print – much more pleasant.

      Best wishes


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