Catalunya Through 35mm Film


Sian and I spent post-Christmas to mid-January in Catalonia, Spain. We spent the three weeks traveling between Barcelona, Sitges and Sant Pere de Ribes. 

As photographers, we obviously intended to take a few holiday photos. Now we’ve traveled with our cameras before and what usually happens, even on a small weekend away, you end up with a few hundred mediocre photos of a sunset or something else mundane, most probably taken on an iPhone but nothing of any substance to even be posted online, or used in our portfolio. Even if you commit to taking amazing travel photos, the editing proses can take long. It’s unlikely you’re going to be happy locking your self away for hours while on vacation to edit your pics. Even after arriving back, if you do ever get round to it, it could take days or weeks before you sift through the thousands of photos you take, and then edit them. 

This trip coincided with me researching into whether shooting film photography is not only better aesthetically but also financially. I frequently shoot digital and film and what does stand out to me cost-wise is that the starting cost of shooting digital and astronomically higher than the starting cost of shooting film and the rolling cost of shooting film is only ever a fraction of the budget for a photo shoot. On top of that, from the moment I drop a roll of film off to the time that they email me the developed photos is far less than half the time, it would take me to edit the same amount of photos. In fact, it’s quicker than the amount of time it takes me to turn my computer on, dock all the photos, and get them into Lightroom or photoshop ready to edit. This means, if I shoot film, I can have the photos ready to forward on to a client before I would even have the opportunity to start editing digitals. I also often edit digital photos to emulate 35mm film so, at the end of the proses, the digital photos, which took me longer to edit, would look, at best, the same as the film photos. 

With all this going on in my mind, I decided to see if shooting film is a better workflow. I only shoot film of this trip.

1. Sitges   2. Barcelona   3. Sant Pere de Ribes

I took 2 film cameras and 2 lenses with me.

The main camera is a Praktica MTL50 and cost £10

The Pentacon 50mm f1.8 cost £10

The Pentacon 29mm cost £20

The Olympus point-and-shoot cost £1

I took 7 Rolls of film with me and purchased 1 out in Spain. Some cheap at £1 each, some high end-ish. The cost of all the film came to £37. 

iPhone picture of the two cameras and two lenses that we took with us. 

iPhone picture of the two cameras and two lenses that we took with us. 

I choose not to be sparing with my photography. I wanted to make sure I didn't miss a good composition just because of the rolling cost of film. I could foresee that, if I was reserved with my shot count, I would regret not shooting digital and would instinctively write film photography off as a waste of time. 

Even without being sparing with my shot count, I only shot 228 photos on 7 rolls of film. This can be compared with the 675 photos Sian took only on her iPhone. I'd predict we would have taken thousands if we used our digital cameras. My shot count is so low compared to digital because, when shooting film, you are much more aware of what is a good photo and what is a waste of a frame. Though the amount of photos I took is possibly quite high for a single photo shoot on film, this is to document 3 weeks of travel. It is more realistic that the cost of  film and developing for a single photo shoot would be less than half of what I have stated in this blog.

A family enjoying the sunset in Sitges.

A family enjoying the sunset in Sitges.

For new years, we headed to La Rambla. A crowded artery of Barcelona, semi-pedestrianised and aligned with restaurants and canvas-covered table and chairs where you can sit and drink sangria. I chose to use the point-and-shoot camera as it has a built-in flash and also focus free which meant it would be easier to capture brief candid moments during the celebrations.

the usual disposable camera has a very stylistic shot which I do like. I like the look it gives when it's used at events and the hard light from the flash has a very energetic feel to it. Like how strobe lighting in a nightclub freeze-frames people mid-dance move. I've even seen some beautiful landscape photography done with a disposable camera.

I like how this point and shoot camera has the ability to change the film so you don't actually need to buy a new camera every time you what to use one but the problem is, I've never really liked the photos from this specific camera as much as I like usual disposable cameras. I find these photos have too much magenta to them. This is probably from the Fuji film I usually load into the camera. Also the fall off into the blacks and the amount of noise is to strong. what would possibly be better is a weaker flash and higher rated ASA film so we could see further into the blacks without blowing out the foreground. Also, even though it's focus free, anything closer than 4 foot will be slightly out of focus. the underperformance of this camera doesn't bother me that much as I do already have round 7 other interchangeable point and shoot film cameras to try out.

The photos taken on this camera are far from a masterpiece and miss that 'je-ne-sais-quoi' that disposable cameras usually have, but I possibly class these as the most successful photos taken on this trip. Theres a difference between travel photography and holiday pics. Travel photography is similar to a joke with a good punchline where everyone can enjoy it. Holiday pics are more like an internal joke where most people wouldn't find it amusing or any good, but to you and the small group of people you were with at a time, it will remind you of a certain moment and you can relive any emotions you felt.  

The cost of developing and scanning these onto a CD cost £42.

The entire cost of shooting film and film equipment came to £130 which is coincidentally the same price as my cheapest digital photography lens. 

What most surprised me were the speed in which all the photos were ready for me to collect. It took less than 2.5 hours for all 228 photos to be developed and put onto a CD. I could have had them emailed to me but the developers are only a short walk from my house. Editing 3 weeks of travel photos would have taken me several days. What the speed of film photography could enable me to do in a professional environment is shoot far more, possibly every day, or reduce the cost we would need to charge as editing time, which is by far the longest part of photography, wouldn't be needed to be accounted for. 

I’m still not %100 sold on film photography. In many scenarios, such as journalism, gigs, product photography, and many more, digital would be more suitable. I’ll continue to  do an amount of my photography with digital cameras but any photography which would mean me editing the photos to emulate film, I would definitely consider, why not shoot straight to film? 

Here are a few of the photos we took.

Lewys Mann