Recently the BBC showed a programme about one of Britain’s last hermits’; The Hermit Of Treig’.
Made by BBC Scotland, it was a fascinating insight into one man’s life. Which over roughly the last 40 years, has resulted in a solitary lifestyle in the wilds of Scotland.
You might be wondering why this is of interest on my photography training site?
Very early on in the program to my complete surprise, he was shown taking photographs. Not something you would expect from a person living a reclusive existence, with no electricity or modern appliances to speak of.
And within what seemed a nanosecond from within my subconscious, I recognised it as a Zenit (Zenith) camera. Why is this relevant?
Well, simply the fact that as I have often mentioned over the decades on my events, knowing what I now know, I think that learning photography and developing into a photographer, was in retrospect easier when you started with basic film equipment.
Of course you can do the same with digital, but the sheer simplicity of shooting film with such a basic camera design, although a hard slog at the first stages, rapidly became a progressive learning curve. And your thinking developed first and foremost as a photographer. No hiding behind automation as you developed real skills. Clarity and concentration also came from having limited shots per roll of film.
Digital Growing Pains.
In comparison, it is harder with digital simply because you are faced at the very first stages with a multitude of options that a digital camera provides. It can if you allow it simply get in the way. And because there is so much more to get to grips with, let alone fully understand the fundamentals of photography such as exposure, composition, focusing skills and lighting, digital is a longer learning task. Albeit an enjoyable one.
In fairness, many feel it seems that being a capable photographer is just about knowing the menu system of your camera, some ‘auto’ options and a few sliders in a post capture software package. Nothing wrong with using photography that way, and getting pleasure with this quick route. Everyone is entitled to that. But there is so much more to being an accomplished photographer, which those following the above do miss out on.
Photography is not just about the kit, far from it. But a developed and practised mind set. So with digital, moving beyond being led by the technology is important if you wish to develop yourself as a photographer.
There is still something quite refreshing about shooting film, be that 35mm, medium format or large format. Even if it is just a rare occurrence.
And yes it does come with its frustrations, for many costs and time, logical reasons why hardly anyone will choose to learn photography this way today. Along with no instant feedback – an obvious strength of digital capture – there is no denying the amazing technical capabilities of digital.
I had one of those mechanical manual exposure only Zenit 35mm film camera (Russian made) for a little while. It was my first 35 mm camera along with a 50 mm lens. Lenses were attached using what is known as the Pentax 42mm screw thread. Widely utilised by that company, it became a universal attachment across other brands. So when I then started studying photography, we were not provided with new shiny Nikon’s or Canons or Pentax cameras for example. No it was Pracktica MTL-3 cameras, using the 42mm mount, and again mechanical and manual exposure only. You learned and grew photographically speaking.
The program is still available on BBC iPlayer. But think how this man mastered his camera, enjoys his photography, and how good a value that product has probably been? It makes you wonder how many of today’s cameras will still be working fully say in 40 years? Manufacturers are only obliged to keep spare parts for what seems like a diminishing number of years after a product discontinuation.
But who knows, some products are made to exceedingly high standards today, and people over an even longer time frame may be enjoying them far into the future. But that bar has been set high by many of the fully mechanical cameras of yesteryear., many of which are still going on, and on and on.