When Everything is Digital, Why Photograph With Film?

Why I Fell in Love With Film Photography

My name is Ryan Bale and I am a 20-year-old Photographer living in Michigan. I photograph anything from beautiful landscapes anywhere, all the way to Rockets leaving Earth from Cape Canaveral, FL and Wallops Island, VA.

NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) in Florida // Photo: Me - shot on 35mm Portra 800 film

I started photography in late 2014, when I was 13 years old, and bought my first DSLR Camera, a Canon Rebel T6i. This camera is still the only camera that I use to take all of my photos, except when I rent a Canon 80D or Canon EOS R for when I photograph Rocket Launches.

Last year, my friend let me use his Canon Rebel 2000, a 35mm Film Camera, to setup at a launchpad to capture liftoff in November of 2018. This launch was delayed and I didn’t get to use it, but I held onto it to use at future launches, waiting for the first crewed mission from the US, SpaceX DM-2.

I wrote a separate article describing the importance of that mission, which can be read here: https://bit.ly/2YtBD1W

That launch occurred on May 30th, 2020 and I used the Film camera to capture the first Crewed launch from the US in 9 years on Kodak Porta 800 alongside my digital camera, but why didn’t I just shoot digital?

SpaceX DM-2 launching 2 Astronauts to the ISS // Photo: Me — shot on 35mm Portra 800 film

When I was born in 1999, Digital photography and videography was already starting to become more popular and more convenient than film. Shooting and developing Film started to become scarce and places that develop film started closing their doors, due to lack of demand. It started to become a lost art that not many kids know too much about nowadays, with digital cameras being in their hands for instant photos, 24/7.

After experimenting with film with my friend’s camera, I started to love shooting with it. To me, it makes you feel more connected to your surrounding and putting more thought into your photo, as you usually have less than 40 shots per roll. You can’t just take a picture and then review it right away to make sure it’s “perfect”, you just shoot and then continue on with what you’re doing, allowing you to focus on the more important things.

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Hiking along the dunes of Saugatuck, MI // Photo: Me — shot on 35mm Portra 800 film

The next thing I enjoy about it is the process. It takes a very intricate process to develop the film properly and have it exposed how you need it to be. You need to work with a few chemicals (depending on if you shoot color or b&w film) and have the temperature of those and the water just right. While I don’t process and scan my own film, I want to get the materials necessary to learn it first-hand. I send out my roll(s) to The Darkroom photo lab in California where they do all the processing and scanning, then upload the photos into your account online, then send you your developed film and a CD with your photos on it for archival purposes. All of that costs about $25-$30 depending on the options you select during checkout.

To sum all of that up, I enjoy shooting on film because it feels like you’re creating an image instead of just shooting hundreds of photos to get the perfect shot. I have a huge appreciation to the work that was put into film to make it the best it can be and lead us into digital photography and being able to capture our world around us in an instant.

If you want to see more photos I shoot i’m on Twitter @rbalephoto and upload my favorites to my website where you can buy them at https://www.rbalephoto.com.

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20-year-old Photographer // Meteorology Major // Owner of @NewsSpaceflight // Rocket Launch Photographer

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Ryan Bale

20-year-old Photographer // Meteorology Major // Owner of @NewsSpaceflight // Rocket Launch Photographer