We still use film.

Recently while shamelessly plugging my posts on the Sherdog forums, I came across a user who felt the need to tell me I couldn’t cut it as a model, and therefore became a photographer. Stupid me, I actually responded and defended myself but looking back, I didn’t need to say a thing because why should I justify myself to a random dude on the internets?

Today I also spent quite a few minutes validating my work and this site to potential “Fight Journal” subjects while pacing in my yard and in my head I wandered off, staring at the door where my darkroom waits. Soon enough, I’m off the phone and back fielding emails about who I write for and chit chat with Hywel, the editor at Fighters Only Magazine, over why an internationally published, glossy, high-quality publication like FO gets so little love. The person whom I was discussing video work with earlier, had never heard of Fighters Only. Bummer.

It made me wonder, in MMA, what qualifies you, what makes you legit? I may not be a legitimate journalist but as douchey as this sounds, Casey and I are filmmakers, and I am a photographer, and yes I do this full time. In some circles, using film is what legitimizes you. I don’t think that’s true, but film is unforgiving, it requires the photographer to be exact. When my 5D broke, it became a film camera, I had to do exposure on my own and wouldn’t be able to see the images until I got home to process them. And I did just fine. It was slightly annoying, because I couldn’t format my cards or set manual white balance, but I got the same results.

When discussing photo work with my fellow fight photographers, I’ll whip out my little Yashica T4 or my rangefinder and snap a picture. I always get the same reaction, “Is that film?” I nod. “Why do you use such an old camera? Does that zoom?” Well, it’s an awesome little old camera with a Zeiss lens and no, it does not zoom, that’s why it’s so good. So I thought I’d share a few things I’ve taken with my handy dandy film cameras on various stocks from black and white to color.

This Kimbo shot I took during my short stint as his “personal photographer” — in quotes because I use the term very loosely, and it’s on Ilford Delta 3200 BW, a black and white stock that’s actually 1600 but pushes itself in developing.  The grain structure is exquisite.


This is the first print I ever made in my garage darkroom.

This is me and Inflatable Josh Barnett on Fuji Natura 1600, shot on my Yashica T4

Me and Inflatable Baby Faced Assassin

Me and Inflatable Baby Faced Assassin

JZ Cavalcante by Casey

JZ Cavalcante by Casey

Mo's Girls

Mo's Girls


Not fight related, Fans dancing at a Limp Wrist show.

Does anyone still use film anymore outside of us nerdy enthusiasts?  Sometimes I look at digital photos made black and white and I get upset because they just desaturate them without playing on the contrasts and tones that true black and white film render.So while I don’t think film is necessarily the litmus test, I do still think it’s important to know and my time in the darkroom has taught me many things I can’t even verbalize.  It’s also taught me not to overshoot and despite having something like 16 levels of brightness latitude in a RAW image, I still aim for accurate and intentional exposure.

2009/04/16 | Filed under MMA, Other Photo, Photo and tagged with , , .

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  • you know what, having haters is a sign that you’re doing good for yourself.. so dont worry about it.. You’re very talented, and everybody knows that. :)

  • Interesting post. The top bit makes me sad but the bottom bit warms my photography cockles.

    I haven’t shot film for over a decade now. Can barely remember what a darkroom looks like (dark, maybe?)

  • Hi Esther, awesome post and i agree with weoweoweo. As a fellow shooter im going to have to disagree with you on one point:i find film much more forgiving than digital due to the lack of exposure latitude inherent with digital sensors. Dealing with highlights is a total bitch with digital! I still shoot film for my personal work on my mamiya rz and its still gorgeous! I havent been in the darkroom for years however, all my film is scanned and worked on in PS. Anyways, gotta go! Keep up the wicked work esther!

    • Vien,
      I shoot RAW and can salvage anything, really anything. When I under expose in digital, I can still bring something out of it. When I underexposed on film, the neg was too thin, I had nothing to bring up in the darkroom. So I’d still say film is less forgiving. Film is more forgiving of overexposure, as that is the nature of the emulsion, because to a digital camera, white is no information, as is black — but the latitude is greater for most pro digital cameras.

      Thanks for checking out my work!

  • Limp Wrist! Haven’t thought of them in a long, long time.

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